I : In the Beginning
I begin a series of articles that seeks to explain Hahnemann’s ‘Theory of Miasms’ as well as the philosophy of Homeopathy as detailed in the ‘Organon of Medicine’ from a standpoint of Christian Philosophy. I hope this will interest all homeopaths including the Christian/Catholic community of patients and homeopaths at large. This is a continuation of my earlier articles on miasms, as the understanding of miasms remains one point of contention among homeopaths today. To read a view that addresses this aspect from a general background, I request readers to refer to David Little’s article “In Search of the Vital Force“. My attempt here is to explain how Homeopathy is, first and foremost, a system of healing that is scientific and in accordance with the Laws of Nature which fits in with Christian Spirituality. This means that I have to start at the very beginning!
What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is an art of healing disease in an individual by using remedies that are capable of producing a similar expression of symptoms when given to a healthy person (Similia Similibus Curentur). The practice of Homeopathy is based on scientific methods and principles.
Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann (1755 – 1843) coined the word ‘homeopathy’ from the Greek: homeo = similar, pathos = suffering. Already an MD of the old school of medicine, he was disillusioned with a system of therapeutics prevalent in his time, which did not heal but only produced a worse scenario of disease. He then sought an answer to true healing of body and soul while he stopped practising medicine. To make a living, he began to translate scientific and medical writings instead. The inspiration for his discovery of the system of homeopathy occurred while he was translating a document by William Cullen on Cinchona Bark and its usefulness in the treatment of malaria. Cullen had stated that Cinchona cures because it is bitter. Hahnemann, a qualified Chemist in addition to medical training, thought that this was strange. He knew of many other substances that were more bitter that the Cinchona Bark but they did not cure malaria! This started him on the discovery of homeopathy.
Two foundational books written by Dr. Hahnemann, minutely detail his experimentation, observations and conclusions. These two books form the basis of homeopathic study and practice, and till today remains the cornerstone of homeopathic treatment. The two books are:
1. The Organon of the Medical Art, which went through 6 editions during his lifetime, and is still today the indisputable ‘Bible of Homeopathy’ 200 years after its inception. It contains detailed explanations and guidelines for every aspect of homeopathic practice. Hahnemann’s ideas are perhaps more relevant today than ever before.
2. The Chronic Diseases, which details his innovative conceptualization of chronic diseases, their cause and progress — a work that matches with futuristic potential the study of epidemiology today. It is here that Hahnemann used the term ‘miasm‘ to describe microorganisms and their inappropriate treatment as one of the cause, maintenance, and transmission of disease, a concept unheard of in the year 1828. The microscope had not yet been invented, and Koch would not discover the bacilli that cause cholera for another 50 years (Stuart Close, The Genius of Homeopathy, p. 98).
What is fascinating about homeopathy is, first and foremost, the ‘Concept of Health and Disease’ and hence it’s ‘Philosophy of Healing’ which is entirely different from that of modern medicine we are so familiar with. In fact, homeopathy requires a paradigm shift in one’s thinking and understanding of health and disease, to be able to perceive the beauty of this true art of healing. I will take a little time to explain this later (in subsequent articles) along with definitions for specific words used in explaining these concepts. Another fascinating aspect of homeopathy is its therapeutic method; that is, how remedies in their infinitesimally small quantities reached through successive dilutions have the power to bring about healing in a suffering person in a harmless and gentle way for every disease known to humankind. It is an accepted view that the shortcomings in homeopathy are due to the limited capacity of the homeopath to perceive, rather than to any shortcoming of the system of healing.
Concept of Health and Disease
Let us first understand the basic Philosophy of Health and Disease in homeopathy. We understand health to be a state of well-being and balance – physical, mental and social. When any of these aspects is unbalanced, and there is an alteration in one’s sense of well being, one begins to move into a state of disease with the expression of symptoms. Early on in this imbalance, these symptoms are “functional” which means that changes in pathology have not yet begun to appear in the body; later, they begin to have obvious pathology detectable by various investigative procedures. If this state of alteration is transient, and one can return to health spontaneously, this is termed a state of indisposition. This is simple and is something that we can all relate to.
We understand now that there are various reasons why one’s state of well being or health begins to be compromised. Some of these that Hahnemann noted were: improper living conditions and diet, one’s turn of mind and morality, errors in one’s education and habits, extraordinary hardships (both physical and emotional), exposure to miasma (germs) followed by improper and exhausting treatment by drugs that are not able to cure disease. All this predisposes the person to develop chronic disease that progresses throughout one’s lifetime. Unless the similimum (the remedy that can cause the most similar symptoms to those of the chronic disease) is given, these symptoms of disease can only be, at best, palliated (temporarily removed) for a while, and, at worst, will continue to progress into more complex and serious disease. (Aphorism 48)
What are these remedies (similimums) that are used according to the principle of Similia Similibus Curentur? Hahenmann discovered the like cures like principle quite by chance while translating an article on the benefits of Cinchona Bark, from which the drug quinine is extracted, in treating malaria. This prompted him to begin ingesting this drug (Cinchona) in small (crude/material) doses to find out what exactly it would do. To his surprise, he began to develop the symptoms of malaria including fever with rigors (severe chills) followed by perspiration, and other associated symptoms. Once Hahnemann stopped taking the drug, its effect wore off and these symptoms stopped.
Hahnemann then decided to request some family members and friends to take the drug as well. They all began developing malarial fever as well as other associated symptoms. Hahnemann kept a careful log of the symptoms in each of these persons and found, to his astonishment, that they represented a common group of symptoms, similar in many respects. This seemed to represent a picture of this drug. He concluded that Cinchona Bark not only cured malaria, but could also produce a picture of malaria when it was ingested in crude doses.
Hahnemann then decided to test his developing theory using other known substances used for “allopathic” treatment in his day. Along with a group of trustworthy friends, he began the procedure of testing various substances that is today termed ‘provings‘ from the German “Preufung” which means ‘test’. This means that every remedy that has to be used for therapeutic purposes, has to be ‘proved’ i.e: Healthy persons intentionally [take] small doses of drugs and carefully [observe] and [record] their effects under the direction of trained observers. [The Genius of Homeopathy, Stuart Close, p 115]. Once this begins to produce symptoms the substance is stopped. Both physical and mental symptoms, however insignificant they may appear to be, are noted down carefully and faithfully in a daily log. Once no more new symptoms are generated, the results of the logs kept by the provers are analyzed.
Hahnemann found that the provers who worked with him produced almost identical sets of symptoms. These symptoms characterized that particular remedy and was known as the remedy picture. Hahnemann was later able to determine through clinical results that healing occurred when a remedy was chosen to treat a patient based on the greatest similarity of its remedy picture (determined in the provings) to the disease picture found in the patients. The symptoms obtained in Hahnemann’s early ‘provings’ have been repeatedly ‘proved’ over the last 200 years and found to be authentic. The results of this are stored in books that homeopaths study and refer to, known as the Materia Medica .
Hahnemann realized that when a person came to the clinic for treatment, one had to carefully note down all the symptoms of that patient in a detailed case history. These symptoms were not simply symptoms for a disease diagnosis he realised, so he included symptoms that were apparently unimportant, e.g. expressions of the state of mind and emotions. This patient history (also called anamnesis) is analyzed in order to form a picture of characteristic symptoms of a totality, also known as a homeopathic portrait of disease. This picture is then matched with a remedy from the Materia Medica that produces a similar picture in ‘provings‘. When one finds a perfect match, that remedy is termed the Similimum and is prescribed in the minutest possible i.e minimum dose that will match the vitality of the patient. This similimum CURES the patient of the very same symptoms that it can produce gently, rapidly and permanently.
The Curative Similimum
How does this homeopathic healing happen? This remains the million dollar question, which scientific thought, still in its infancy stage, today (would you believe it?) has not (yet) been able to explain effectively. The development of Nanotechnology in the future may have answers for us. An introductory idea of the effect of homeopathic remedies has come with recent scientific developments in what is termed “Digital Biology“. This is a term coined by the late Dr. Jaques Benevineste, a French MD, who discovered certain scientific properties of water, which represented something called “Water Memory”. Even today, studies are being carried out in Japan as well as in the US, to confirm this discovery . These observations haven’t yet gained the acceptance of the scientific community, as they demolish many long held scientific beliefs and shake up traditionally held Laws of Physics that simply cannot explain or support these observations.
But let’s see how Hahnemann sought to explain this phenomenon. To explain his concepts and observations, Hahnemann had to coin a number of new terms. One of the main terms he coined was “Vital Force” or “Life Principle“. In Aphorism 9 of the Organon, he describes this energy prevalent in every living being, as the “spiritual vital force” that animated the living organism and ruled with unbounded sway, in order to keep the body working in perfect harmony. This ‘perfect harmony’, in scientific terms means maintaining homeostasis. When a person is healthy, this vital force functions at its optimum resulting in perfect homeostasis.
When one’s vital force begins to be stressed out by various conditions mentioned earlier, it begins to weaken. At this point, an external agent (usually some microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites) that comes in contact with it, produces disease symptoms. Hahnemann held that these organisms did not simply have a physical effect, which is the concept of modern medicine today; but, he believed that they also had a dynamic effect, an energy effect that was detrimental to the vital force. The vital force so deranged then reflected these imbalances in the form of disease, which manifest externally in physical and mental symptoms. The concept of vital force and its derangement was a logical conclusion to help understand the persistance of chronic disease, because it could explain why such minute energy doses of the indicated similimum could produce healing/ recovery.
A remedy made from natural sources could produce a similar expression of symptoms during a ‘proving’ by affecting a temporary change in this vital force dynamically, to simulate a disease state. Often these remedies were not potent (releasing energy) in their natural state but they all contained inherent energy by virtue of their atomic and nuclear energy and movement of electrons, protons, etc – a well known fact in physics. The theory is that these natural substances have to undergo a process of dilution and potentization wherein kinetic energy used in this process helps release the potent energy within. This is what affects the vital force and produces the proving effects. These proving effects have subtle medicinal value.
When this was matched with the symptoms of the vital force deranged by disease, and when administered in the appropriate minimum dose, it would bring about cure. This observation Hahnemann termed Similia Similibus Curentur, which means, “a similar substance cures a similar disease”. He postulated that the vital force was unable, in its weakened state, to fight effectively against the dynamic affection of the disease and hence only required a little help and guidance. Help for this was obtained from a similarly vibrating energy of a remedy so potentized, in a very, very minute dose, which simply stimulated the vital force in a LIKE manner, guiding it to respond appropriately and correct itself. This resulted in throwing off the dynamic derangement and it attains balance again. Once this occurs, the external symptoms of the mind and body begin to resolve rapidly and the person is cured.
This phenomenon has been repeatedly observed countless of times over the last 200 years, and is thus confirmed by experience and observation rather than by science, still in its infancy. Hahnemann states that we don’t need to rely on scientific discovery to explain or to begin to use this phenomenon to cure the sick. In his footnote to Aphorism 12 in the Organon, he carefully notes that though it was not yet possible to prove exactly how this phenomenon occurred, “what is necessary for him (the physician) to know of the disease and what is fully sufficient for enabling him to cure it, the Lord of Life has revealed to his senses“. Again in footnote to Aphorism 17 he writes, “It is only thus that God the Preserver of mankind, could reveal His wisdom and goodness in reference to the cure of the diseases to which man is liable here below, by showing to the physician what he has to remove in diseases in order to annihilate them and thus re-establish health.”
The good news is that science has now begun its foray into Nanotechnology, which I personally believe is going to ultimately prove and understand the existence of energy in homeopathic potencies. Dr. Jaques Beneveniste’s experiments, observations and legacy will finally be realized.
Moving to Questions of Faith:
Let me now look at homeopathy from the perspective of faith. I do this since Hahnemann spoke of ‘Lord of Life’ and ‘God’ and ‘soul’. Clearly, the spiritual dimension of humankind was not missing from Hahnemann’s study since he was interested in ‘holistic healing’, which would certainly involve all the dimensions of the humanum – physiological, psychological, intellectual, emotional, social, moral and religious. Moreover, in India, one simply cannot ignore the religious-faith dimension since the ordinary Indian is deeply religious and religion permeates every pore of Indian life. Consider this ‘personal experience’ in the realm of religion:
Last April ’04, a Catholic friend who’d been taking homeopathy for over 15 years and whom I’d helped with homeopathic remedies, came over and ‘dumped’ her stock of remedies on me. “Use them as best you can!” said she, after being informed by some religious person that homeopathic medicines contained ‘occult forces’. She explained, “I don’t want to take anything that’s wrong by standards of Christian morality, and I don’t intend continuing with a system of healing that dabbles in the occult!” This shocked me. Obviously, I too did not want to subject anyone whom I loved to anything that could jeopardize his or her faith and relationship with God.
This episode happened at a particularly traumatic time and made me question whether I was to practise homeopathy at all! Thus began an investigation into why my Catholic friend came to such a drastic conclusion and how I could help her, and others like her. The ensuing soul-searching quest has led to a life-giving experience of understanding more clearly my own faith vis-Ã -vis homeopathy, and especially how the spiritual understanding of healing in the Bible (that I experienced, internalized and lived since childhood) blended so beautifully with what I learned as a homeopath. Let me trace out the trajectory of my soul-searching exercise.
First, I clarified why my friend decided to do what she did. She handed me some pamphlets denouncing ‘homeopathy’ and Hahnemann (including his religious views) in strong terms. The pamphlets’ denouncement was apparently based on views of “The Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue” (Vatican, Rome), which had issued a document on the ‘New Age Movement’ entitled “Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life“.
I procured and read through this Vatican Document in detail. Moreover, I also asked a priest friend to scrutinize it carefully for me. We concluded that this Document only alluded to homeopathy as being “potentially dangerous” (not occult). I fully endorsed this view since homeopathy can be potentially dangerous if the basic principles of practice enunciated in the Organon and The Chronic Diseases are not faithfully followed. (Note that I will be elaborating this aspect further in subsequent articles from the perspective of Christian philosophy that has developed clear perspectives of dialogue between different religions, faiths, and the sciences ever since the time of the Vatican Council II in the mid-1960s).
Then, by reexamining the basic principles of homeopathy in the light of Biblical insights, I became convinced that it is possible to develop a ‘spirituality of healing‘ that would support and sustain whatever I did as homeopath. Of course, as a Christian, I recognized this to be what is known in Christianity as “the work and power of the Holy Spirit.” It is with the awareness of this power that I make bold to outline some relevant facts of my faith that might help others in their spiritual quest, albeit within the larger universal horizon and awareness that all homeopaths can be ‘human healers of God-given power’ as well as, fundamentally, ‘servants of Life’
As an example of my belief, that will serve to explain this point, consider the following inspired Biblical passage:
From Saint Paul’s Letter to Romans (12:1-2) – Sacrifice of Body and Mind: “I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship [your reasonable service (different translation)]. Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
A Christian like me is expected to make a choice, to become a ‘living sacrifice” for God. This means that a personal relationship and deep dependence on God is essential, in order to become:
1. Pleasing and perfect: Christians see Jesus Christ as the fullness of God’s revelation and thus, becoming “pleasing and perfect” implies becoming more and more like Christ by making good use of God-given powers, talents, and gifts (namely, the Grace of God). By doing so we have the ability to reach, at some point in this life journey, our ultimate Spiritual Potential.
2. To discern God’s will for my life: This means discerning one’s destiny planned by God in order to achieve our ultimate human potential. Vital to this is a relationship with God that is fostered in/by/through deep human relationships based on true love, truth, joy, justice and peace. Ultimately, this will entail even a readiness to offer the supreme sacrifice of one’s life, as did Jesus, who died on the cross as an outcome of His love, concern, healing and solidarity with the suffering and the sick (morally, physically, psychologically, etc.).
God’s will is that humankind be blessed, be happy, be whole and be healed of all infirmities. God’s will is also that each and every living creature experience God’s Love and compassion through his children, i.e., all human beings. Through the various institutions of education, healthcare, hospitals, social service centres and other services, the mission of the Church is to strive to make God’s life, love and liberation present while working for others in a self-sacrificing spirit of love and service. This is with special preference for the poor, the sick, the suffering and the socially outcast. Christians believe that through the humility of Christ, we glorify God in our mind-heart-spirit-soul by doing this for a person of any creed, caste, colour and culture.
In the next article, I will explain how the principles and practice of homeopathy encompass this very sentiment of being transformed by the renewal of one’s mind without conforming to this age.
Dr. Leela D’Souza
1. Organon of Medicine 6th Edition, by Dr. Samuel C. Hahnemann
2. The Chronic Diseases, by Dr. Samuel C. Hahnemann
3. The Holy Bible (The New American Bible)
4. Excerpts of Articles from David Little’s Site:
5. The Genius of Homeopathy, by Stuart Close, MD
6. Dhawle’s ICR Symposiums (Volume C), Mumbai
7. Theory of Suppression, Predictive Homeopathy Part I, by Praful Vijaykar, LCEH
8. The End of Myasumtion of Miasms, Predictive Homeopathy Part III, by Praful Vijaykar, LCEH
9. An Insight into Plants, by Rajan Sankaran, LCEH
10. The Sensation in Homeopathy, by Rajan Sankaran, LCEH