The Law of Similars Similia Similibus Curentur: Like Cures Like

homeopathic remedies for slipped disk or intervertbral disc prolapse

Homeopath Martha Derbyshire presents her in-depth understanding of the Law of Similars.


This paper explores the law of similars and the premise that ‘like cures like’ as the operating principle of the medical art form of homoeopathy. The homoeopathic principle of similars operates on the invisible interior state. This principle will be related to the dynamic between practitioner and patient, to transpersonal psychology, energy transmission and finally to the spiritual models of duality and presence. Similarities between the modalities of my professional practice of energy medicine which include homoeopathy, ‘laying on of hands’, and transpersonal psychology will be identified.


I was introduced to homoeopathy in the early 1980’s. Fascinated by the concept that the energetic dilution of an apparently offending substance could cure a condition with similar characteristics, I decided to treat my husband’s yearly outbreak of poison ivy with the homoeopathic remedy made from the poison ivy plant. Instead of progressively worsening, the poison ivy rash and irritation cleared quickly; twenty-five years later, he has never had poison ivy again. A remedy made from poison ivy cured the menacing reaction of an exposure to the crude form of poison ivy! The homoeopathic precept of ‘like cures like’, or the law of similars that acted in a curative manner in the preceding example is the basis of this paper.

My study of homoeopathy developed for ten years before I began practicing professionally. I felt constrained by the western approach of intellectually determining remedies, and had a passion for learning about energy, consciousness, and what is not apparent to the common senses. I had witnessed in many patients how homoeopathy could affect change on subtle levels and cure illness, so I decided to explore the feasibility of a similar transformation happening through an awareness of consciousness. I expanded my education and practice of energy medicine by including intentional interaction with the human energy consciousness system. Work with the human energy consciousness system, ‘laying on of hands’, and ‘hands on healing’ are descriptors of similar energy healing strategies. Defining and describing energy healing is beyond the scope of this paper, but will be referred to. Homoeopathy is the arm of energy medicine this paper will focus on. As I integrated the energy healing modalities in my clinical practice, the parallels between homoeopathy and ‘hands on healing’ became evident. This writing will demonstrate how the law of similars applies to both forms of energy medicine.

The transpersonal is that which is beyond the personal or conventional and delves into the profound aspects of human behavior. It includes not only the normal facets of psychology but also the higher aspects of human experience, unusual states of consciousness, spiritual experiences and transformation (Braud & Anderson, 1998; Scotton, Chinen, & Battista, 1996). Homoeopathy and its law of similars are specific to the innermost being of a human, to that which is more internal than physical organs. The dimension homoeopathy affects is invisible yet energetic, and this plane includes but is beyond both the medical and psychological norms. Homoeopathy is spiritual in form, employs alternate ways of knowing and is less recognized as a medical science than most. This writing will address how the practice of homoeopathy and the application of its principles are considered a form of healing art. Homoeopathy is mysterious, paradoxical, and is surely transpersonal in nature. My life long curiosity about affecting change with the profoundly subtle, including intention, attention and compassion, has been further sparked by this investigation.

After a summarizing definition of homoeopathy, this paper will discuss the law of similars, the dynamic life force and energy field that homoeopathy affects, and how the law of similars applies to the patient/practitioner relationship. The relationship of transpersonal psychology, morphic resonance and duality with homoeopathy will be discussed. This compilation will be used as a springboard for future research on the transformative potential of energy medicine.

Homoeopathy Defined

The homoeopathic approach is phenomenological in nature. German physician, Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), developed theories of homoeopathy based on his observations. While translating medical texts and studying the toxicology of Peruvian bark, he noticed the similarity between the characteristics of the bark, which was used to treat malaria, and those of malaria itself (Vithoulkas, 1980; Whitmont, 1980). The resemblance between the substance and the disease led him to consider the paradox that this similarity might not be coincidental but the basis of the healing effect (Whitmont, 1980, p.1). To explore his theory, Hahnemann ingested the bitter bark himself and recorded his mental as well as physical reactions. He experienced the toxic effects of the South American bark. Finding that malaria symptoms were produced by his consumption, he continued experimenting by giving the bark to people with malaria. Hahnemann confirmed that the Cinchona (Peruvian bark) produced malarial type symptoms in healthy people and relieved malarial symptoms in those who were ill (Weil, 1988, p. 16).

After years of experimenting with ingesting a variety of substances, and testing them on other people, he confirmed the principle that “any medicine will cure the particular kind of disease the symptoms of which happen to be most similar to those symptoms it produces upon healthy persons when consistently ingested” (Whitmont, 1980, p. 1). “It is this insight which is the fundamental pillar of the science of homeopathy: ‘Similia Similibus Curentur’, as it was coined by Hahnemann—’Like Cures Like’. Any substance which can produce a totality of symptoms in a healthy human being can cure that totality of symptoms in a sick human being” (Vithoulkas, 1980, p. 92).

Plant, animal, mineral, and imponderable (such as the vibrations of cell phone, x-ray, the moon, etc.) substances were given to healthy people in order to determine the physical, mental and emotional effects they would produce. “Medicinal actions must be studied by observing what alterations of condition are brought forth in healthy persons by moderate amounts of single medicines” (O’Reilly, 1996, p. 144). This technique is known as a proving—proving the remedy on well people results in a collection of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical characteristics that this substance may arouse in a well person or cure in an ill person. Just as each person is individual in his reaction to life or disease, so does each substance have a particular profile, personality or set of distinct attributes. The compiled lists of these proven characteristics of homoeopathic remedies become Materia Medica, which is like an encyclopedia of remedies. As new remedies are proven, new materia medica is assembled. Homoeopaths refer to this ever-growing library of remedy profiles for prescribing.

The word homoeopathy comes from homeo, meaning similar, and pathos, meaning suffering. Presenting symptoms in an ill person are matched with a proven substance with the most similar characteristics. The symptoms of the disease are the guide to the correct remedy (Kent, 1900). “To find the resonant frequency of the entire organism and therefore strengthen the entire dynamic plane of action, one must record the totality of all deviations from normal on all three levels in all details of their individualizing character” (Vithoulkas, 1980, p. 93). The close correspondence between the mental, emotional and physical signs and symptoms of the patient with the idiosyncrasies of the remedy is the key to successful homoeopathic prescribing. This demands a skilled observing practitioner, who notes the patient without interpretation or bias. Just as every individual is unique, “every medicine exhibits particular actions in the human body which do not come about in exactly the same way from any other medicinal substance of a different kind” (Hahnemann, 1900; O’Reilly, 1996); each medicine acts in a unique way.

Hahnemann and his colleagues continued experimenting on themselves since self-provings give a most reliable experiential understanding of the effects of the medicines (Hahnemann, 1982; O’Reilly, 1996). Applying the law of similars clinically, they discovered that medicines chosen for their similarity to an illness could also have toxic effects. On the basis of this observation, Hahnemann began experimenting with diluting the substances in water and activating the dilution by forcefully shaking or succussing it (Whitmont, 1980, p. 4-5). This is called attenuation. Another apparently paradoxical finding emerged: the repeated dilution of the crude substances created a more powerful therapeutic action and led to the concept of “less is more”, or the Law of Infinitesimals. Count Amadeo Avogadro (1776 -1856), who was a contemporary of Hahnemann’s, calculated that dilutions beyond a certain range “are unlikely to contain even a single molecule” (Weil, 1988, p.33-34) of the original substance. While homoeopathically prepared medicines go well beyond the Avogadro limit, their efficacy is on the dynamic or immaterial plane rather than the physical; “trituration (grinding into a powder) and succussion (forcibly shaking) unlock the natural substances, uncover and reveal the specific medicinal powers lying hidden in their soul” (Hahnemann, 1982 p.190).

Rather than seeing bacteria or an outside agent as the cause of illness or as something to be eliminated or suppressed, the homoeopath sees the symptoms as a manifestation of a disturbance on the dynamic plane within. By exploring and studying the symptoms, the homeopath looks for the “resonant frequency” of the distress and treats this frequency with a diluted and potentized substance of a similar frequency (Vithoulkas, 1990). The action is on the level of frequencies or vibrations. The vibration or energetic frequency resonates with the patient to affect change on the physical, mental and emotional levels.

Close (2005) suggests Hahnemann’s scientific system was developed based on the philosophy of Francis Bacon who established inductive methodology for scientific inquiry of natural phenomena. With this inductive methodology, reasoning proceeded from fact to law through experience and observation, not opinion. We could also apply Bohm’s (1980) concept of the implicate order as a multidimensional reality to homoeopathy. Comprehending one aspect of a person flows to the inseparable other qualities of that person–the mind enfolds the body and the body enfolds the mind. Bohm (1980) goes on to say that the more inward or deeper actuality is not mind or body but a higher dimension that is beyond yet includes both mind and body. From this we infer that the mind and body are ultimately one; the mind will affect the body and the body will lead us to understand the mind. The body’s symptoms lead the homoeopath to understand the mind of the patient; conversely, the patient’s mental symptoms, beliefs, and delusions help the homoeopath understand the etiology of the physical distress. Homoeopathy deals with the body, mind, heart and spirit as one and inseparable.

Homoeopathy came to America in 1828; welcomed and successful, it grew to be accepted in hospitals and teaching centers. However, the American Medical Society, formed in 1846, adopted ethical codes that discouraged physicians whose practice was based on specific dogma, including homoeopaths. Some homoeopaths conformed but by the middle of the 20th century there were few homoeopaths left practicing in America (Weil, 1998). There has been a resurgence of homoeopathy in the last thirty years with a parallel increase in complimentary and alternative medicine. It is interesting that this coincides with the development of transpersonal psychology as well as the advent of new physics. Homoeopathy and transpersonal psychology share elements of spirituality, holism and profound subtlety.

In the early 1800’s Samuel Hahnemann experimented with ingesting substances to find they caused the same symptoms to occur in healthy people as they could potentially cure in ill people. Based on the law of similars, he developed the medical art of homoeopathy. Portraits of plant, animal, mineral and imponderable substances are rendered by provings with healthy people. The remedies are attenuated to match the frequency of the internal state upon which they act. Homoeopathy is holistic in nature as it works with the body, mind, spirit and heart.

The law of similars

The curative virtue of medicines thus depends on their symptoms being similar to those of the disease, but stronger.

It follows that in any particular case, a disease can be destroyed and removed most surely, thoroughly, swiftly, and permanently only by a medicine that can make a human being feel a totality of symptoms most completely similar to it but stronger.

Since this natural law of healing is confirmed in all objective experiments and authentic experience in all the world, it is established as a fact. Scientific explanations of how it works are of little importance, and I see little value in attempting one. Nevertheless, the one that follows proves itself the most likely, because it is founded on experience. (Hahnemann, 1982, p.28-29)

Physicist David Bohm (1980) asserts that a fact is established and is not likely to be nullified since it has been rigorously tested. He continues that this is only relative, as facts may also be refined or even radically changed as a result of further investigation. Bohm (1980) considers thought as an art form that gives rise to new perception. The development of homoeopathy was rigorously tested; it did not conform to the scientific facts of the time; it was a pioneering study that is now considered a medical art form. It is a relatively young science, one that appears open to further investigation. It was Hahnemann’s curious mind that instigated his investigation, and led to his new perceptions.

The law of similars is not only a homoeopathic concept, but is a natural occurrence in many arenas. Comedians make people laugh by pointing out the obvious, often foolish, things we commonly do—the proclamation of our very own silliness is what makes us laugh with delight. The artist brings attention to the familiar things around us through still life, landscapes, portraitures and even the abstract. These depictions of the artist’s reality, of things that are similar in our own lives, bring us pleasure. Artists, poets, actors and musicians are not necessarily bringing in new vibrations, but are waking up in us what we already know; we are comforted by the similarity. We tend to be attracted to others who are like us, and who share values on some level. These are a few simple demonstrations of the law of similars at work—bringing awareness to that which can be experienced with the physical senses, and feeling ease or spaciousness with the similarity.

Hahnemann’s original writing of homoeopathic theory is presented in his book The Organon of Medicine. He did not speculate but discovered the precepts through experimentation and recognized their importance. He acknowledged that others had put the concept forward throughout western history, beginning perhaps, with Hippocrates who said that disease might be cured either by opposites or similars (Kent, 1900; Vithoulkas, 1980). A contemporary Indian homoeopath, Rajan Sankaran (1992), reminds us that the principle of similars was revealed by the ancient Indian poet Kavi-Kalidasa: “Shruyate hi pura loke, vishasya visham audhadham”. Translated, this reads: “It has been said of old time in the world that poison is the remedy for poison” (p. 1). There is a story from the Trojan War where Achilles gave Telephus a wound that would not heal. An oracle informed Telephus “he that wounded shall heal”, but Achilles claimed no medical knowledge. It was Odysseus who recognized the spear as inflicting the wound; pieces of the spear were scraped off and applied to the wound, which then healed (Wikipedia, 2008).

Vital disorder cannot be turned into order except by something similar in quality to the vital force. It is not similitude in quantity that we want, in weights, and measures, but it is similarity in quality, in power, in plane, that must be sought for. (Kent, 1954, p.99)

James Tyler Kent (1954), professor of homoeopathy, who lectured widely on the principles of the Organon, explained that homoeopathic medicines could not affect the subtle interior plane of the physical body unless they are raised or attenuated to a plane of similar quality. Vithoulkas (1980), a world leader in homoeopathic practice and philosophy, clarified that in order to affect the dynamic plane in a person, we must find a substance similar enough not only in its characteristics, but also in frequency or strength. If a substance is capable of producing a similar symptom picture in a healthy organism, then the likelihood of its vibration rate being very close to the resultant frequency of the diseased organism is good. Increasing the vibration through attenuation, the frequency becomes stronger and therefore a powerful strengthening of the defense mechanism can occur – through the principle of resonance (Vithoulkas, 1980).

Homoeopathically prepared substances have characteristics similar to the presenting signs and symptoms of the patient; the remedy must also be similar in quality and intensity. The energetic frequency of the attenuated physical substance is the active force. O’Reilly (1996) explains this notion of similarity and intensity by examples in the physical realm: one can placate olfactory nerves that have been insulted by foul odors by instilling yet a stronger odor. Music will not placate our olfaction because it appeals to a different sense or exists on a dissimilar frequency. We must affect a similar and stronger sense of the same frequency in order to affect change. On the emotional realm, another whose grief is greater may soothe a person who is mourning—there is a likeness but a stronger expression of the grief. When a person is crying and another begins to sob, it is likely that the one crying gives way to the one who is sobbing. When the similimum, or the most similar homoeopathic remedy, resonates on all levels (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual), with a matched intensity of acting on the subtle, interior plane, the life force will no longer feel the weaker disease.

Close (2005) saw the law of similars as the application of Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion, which states that action and reaction are equal and opposite. The influencing action of the law of similars can go both ways. Hahnemann (1982) observed that repetition of unsuitable medicines actually created new diseases that were associated with the said medicine. If the medicine isn’t similar in nature to the presenting disease state, the condition could be complicated and a new dissimilar disease results. A dissimilar remedy may evoke symptoms, or aggravations, that are not common to the treated disease or person. Close (2005) poses this as apparent in our practice of vaccinations. When a live vaccination is given to encourage the immune system to build antibodies against that same disease, it is not uncommon for a dissimilar disease to result. Two diseases that are very similar will not exist next to each other; the stronger one destroys or predominates the weaker. By its somewhat greater strength, it transforms the vital principle’s sensation of the natural disease condition. Because there was no disease present that is similar to the one being vaccinated against, if the vaccination is dynamically stronger, it will predominate. A dog of mine got a rabies vaccination when she had a skin ulcer. The next day she died, not of the skin ulcer (which was an acute disease that left her compromised) but of the domination by the rabies vaccine, which caused a dissimilar, and fatal disease.

Studies of protoplasm’s reaction to stimuli have led to a universally accepted biological law that states: “The same agent which in relatively large quantities damages or destroys activity, will in relatively small quantities stimulate it”. (Close, 2005, p. 69 – 70). The law of similars can be recognized in contemporary medicine: we know there are damaging effects from large doses of drugs upon a healthy being, and that small doses of the same drug have a more moderate effect. This is demonstrated in the case of a current patient of mine who was taking conventional medication for anxiety. At the prescribed dose, the medication worked to reduce her distress, but when she took it upon herself to increase her medication, the same symptoms that the medication was meant to reduce became extremely aggravated. While the medication could suppress certain symptoms with a moderate dose, in a large dose, it caused exacerbation of the same symptoms. The law of similars works in a similar fashion to the concept of equal and opposite action and reaction.

The principle of similars has been at work all around us for centuries from comedians who make us laugh to Hippocrates and the Trojan War, to traditional contemporary medicine. The law of similars was coined by Hahnemann to explain the basic premise of homoeopathy. To put it very simply—that which is similar on the physical plane and on the dynamic plane, is healing, especially if it is more powerful.

The invisible interior state – the vital force

A further similarity between the ways of the physicist and mystic is the fact that their observations take place in realms which are inaccessible to the ordinary senses. In modern physics, these are the realms of the atomic and subatomic world; in mysticism they are non-ordinary states of consciousness in which the sense world is transcended. (Capra, 1991, p. 305-306).

The immaterial is responsible for life functions, and without it the material organism would die. The law of similars assumes that the immaterial must be treated with like immaterial force to effect change. Homoeopathic remedies act dynamically, or between the dynamic of the original healing substance and dynamic force of the person (Hahnemann 1982, Kent 1900, O’Reilly 1996, Vithoulkas, 1980). “This is akin to the force of a magnet whose influence on a nearby piece of steel or iron happens by means of its own immaterial, invisible, spirit-like energy—the interaction is dynamic” (O’Reilly, 1996, p. 67). It is not from external things that man becomes sick, not from bacteria or the environment, but it is the disorder of the internal, immaterial, or a lack of harmony in the vital principle in man that causes illness. The external causes of disease or suffering, like tumors, can be removed externally with surgery, but natural disease is produced by a spirit-like power that upsets the spirit-like vital principle and results in suffering (Hahnemann, 1982). The cause of disease that Hahnemann is addressing is internal. The causes are invisible but are known to us through symptoms. The exciting cause of disease is immaterial and flows from the inner most center of the human being to the material and presents in symptoms in the mind, the emotions or the body (Kent, 1900). The symptoms are the signposts to and the representation of that internal state.

Tulku (1979) proposes that a human is the embodiment of his consciousness; what a human is inside is the same as what he is in the physical realm: “A person’s characteristic behavior patterns—his obsessions, his dullness, his unhappiness, or his feelings of great fulfillment—are all manifested on the physical level”(p.87). It is what transpires internally that is ultimately manifested on the external, or in the physical realm. The physical signs and symptoms of suffering, then, can lead us to understand the internal state of being. It is this internal state that holds the etiology of disease and by addressing this internal being, by stimulating it with a similar frequency, healing can occur.

Kent (1900) purported that everything in the universe has an aura or an atmosphere and that this aura is an important sphere in the study of homoeopathy. He suggests that the consciousness between two substances, or auras (or auric fields) is where affinities and repulsions are known. Humans tend to be in harmony or antagonism; this is evidenced in the atmosphere or aura between them. Just as the cause of harmony or antagonism is invisible, and not perceivable by our ordinary senses, the cause of disease is subtler than can be seen with the human eye. Kent (1900) suggests it is possible to perceive the innermost, or the realm of cause, through understanding and through the spiritual eye; we can then bring that spiritual understanding to the physical realm. Just as the physical symptoms of disease can lead us to the internal state of being, so can that internal, invisible state help us to understand the physical manifestation.

I have often wondered if homoeopaths with whom I have studied were actually figuring out remedies to prescribe based solely upon their intellectual knowledge of matching symptoms with remedies (repertorization) and materia medica. While they taught the mental, linear approach to prescribing, it seemed to me there was a deeper, more refined knowing that was occurring. Perhaps intuition, profound insight, or a telepathic knowing informed the masters. Could it be this is what Kent meant when he suggested we might understand through a spiritual eye? Is the spiritual eye an attunement with the practitioner’s own inner being, or a resonance with the inner being of the patient? There was no acknowledgment of a higher perception or an attunement to the inner realm from my homoeopathic teachers. One can use the intellect to understand physical symptoms to a certain degree, but I believe it is beneficial in understanding the subtle realm if one can access that realm through perception or harmonizing with the subtle realms in themselves. I suggest being receptive to and bringing consciousness to the aura of and the interaction with the patient may enable facilitation of the correct prescription of a remedy, and may also have therapeutic value in and of itself. The vital force is the vehicle for human expression; it is the energy vehicle that motivates, builds and maintains the physical body (Miles, 1992,).

The dynamic plane is the plane of the essence of life, the plane on which disease originates, as well as the plane of the origin of the defense mechanism. It has exactly the same relationship to the physical body as electromagnetic fields have to matter. (Vithoulkas, 1980, p.87)

According to Vithoulkas (1980) the first disturbance of disease occurs on the dynamic electromagnetic field of the body. Addressing imbalance on the dynamic plane, with a matching dynamic force is a therapeutically sound approach. Vithoulkas goes on to say acupuncture, ‘laying on of hands’ and homoeopathy are three healing strategies that affect the electrodynamic field with vibrational levels that are similar enough to resonate with one another and have healing potential. Herbs, minerals and other substances can also effect change and encourage healing because there is an affinity with the condition of the patient. But, it is the potentization or attenuation (dilution and succession) of substances that liberates and intensifies the energy of the substance making it more available to interact on the dynamic level (Vithoulkas, 1980).

Material forms conform to the laws of time and space. Materialists see what is beyond the material mind as mysterious, and tend to look for cause only in the material world. Material entities never cause anything and have no creative influence (Miles, 1992). When Hahnemann (1982) refers to homoeopathic remedies as being stronger, more intense or more powerful than a disease, he is not referring to the material form but to the internal state. “The more internal it is the more intense, the more it approaches the first substance, so that intensity as to cause means higher or more internal, higher in the sense of subtleness or fineness” (Kent, 1900, p. 103). Homoeopathically prepared substances are potentized to achieve this higher intensity, a more subtle substance will meet and interact in the realm of cause, on a deeper level, a more inner level rather than on a physical level. “The influence of medicines upon our organism is exerted dynamically, as if by contagion, without the transmission of the slightest particle of the material medicinal substance” (Hahnemann, 1982, p. 18). The transmission between the remedy and the person happens on the dynamic plane.

About the author

Martha Derbyshire

Martha Derbyshire

Martha Derbyshire has studied homeopathy around the world and practiced Classical Homeopathy for over 30 years. She is the co-founder of the Maine Association of Homeopaths and is certified by the Council of Homeopathic Certification (CCH). She has been a member of the North American Society of Homeopaths (NASH) since its inception and completed the HMC course with Louis Klein. Martha has a master’s degree in Transpersonal Psychology (M.T.S.), a master’s degree in Educational Administration and is a graduate of and was a faculty member at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. Her private practice of Homeopathy, Energy Healing and Spiritual Psychology is in Camden, Maine, USA. Visit her at


  • Dear Martha,
    thanks for publishing this highly informative and well written article, it’s my personal favorite on this subject!

    Great job!

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