Time flies! When I last wrote a lecture on the aphorisms, I had promised the next lecture the following month. I knew my lecture was overdue, but when I started writing today, it struck me that nearly seven months have passed since then! But better late than never!
I would like to begin this lecture by summarizing what we studied in our previous lecture that discussed aphorisms 19 to 25. In those aphorisms we discussed the curative power of medicine and how to ascertain it. In summary, we had discussed:
- Disease is an altered state of health. So the curative power of a medicine must lie in its power to alter the ‘altered state of health’.
- The curative power of medicines can only be ascertained by experience, by testing them on healthy human beings.
- Since the effect of a medicinal substance on the healthy human body is manifest only in the form of symptoms, this ability to alter the healthy state of a human being, must be the curative property of the medicines too.
- Medicines can alter the human state in two ways – by producing similar or opposite symptoms.
- Experience has shown that medicine do not give curative results in chronic diseases, if they produce opposite symptoms.
- Symptoms when suppressed by allopathic treatment, after an initial phase of amelioration, rebound more strongly.
- Therefore we can affect a cure only by giving a medicine which produces the most similar symptoms (artificial disease) when given to a healthy individual.
- The greater the similarity in symptom picture and dose, the more radical and permanent is the cure.
After elaborating on what is the curative property of our medicines and how to ascertain it, Hahnemann moves on to explain why the similar remedy is able to affect a cure. Let’s read what he has said:
This depends on the following homoeopathic law of nature which was sometimes, indeed, vaguely surmised but not hitherto fully recognized, and to which is due every real cure that has ever taken place:
A weaker dynamic affection is permanently extinguished in the living organism by a stronger one, if the latter (whilst differing in kind) is very similar to the former in its manifestations.1
So he says that the similar remedy is able to cure the patient because in nature too it has been observed that a weaker disease is automatically removed if the patient contracts a similar but stronger disease. He calls this phenomenon – The Homeopathic Law of Nature or The Nature’s Law of Cure. The conditions for this law to become applicable are:
1. Both the affections should be dynamic in nature.
2. They both should be similar in their manifestations.
3. But they should differ in kind.
4. The later one should be stronger than the former one.
Here it is necessary to understand what is meant by ‘dynamic in nature‘ and ‘differing in kind‘. A dynamic affection is one, which primarily starts as a derangement of the vital force or a disturbance in the thermodynamic equilibrium of our body. Sickness arising from injury or accidents may need allopathic or antipathic intervention. Take this statement with a pinch of salt. It does not mean that homeopathic remedies will not work in ailments arising from injuries. They will often do but in many cases non-homeopathic primary intervention may be required. Nothing wrong with that! Even Hahnemann has clearly written in the Organon that sometimes surgery and antipathic measures are required to save the life of a person.
Hahnemann has qualified the need for similarity with ‘whilst differing in kind‘ to differentiate Homeopathy from Isopathy. In isopathy the substance that produces an ailment is said to cure it too. It is the use of ‘same’ influence and not ‘similar’. Homeopathy is based on the similarity of the dynamic affect and the symptoms. Hahnemann has written at length about the difference between Isopathy and Homeopathy in the introduction of Organon of Medicine. At one point he has given a very interesting example about this difference:
So, to give another example from physical action, the injury resulting from a blow on the forehead with a hard substance (a painful lump) is soon diminished in pain and swelling by pressing on the spot for a considerable time with the ball of the thumb strongly at first, and then gradually less forcibly, homoeopathically but not by an equally hard blow with an equally hard body, which would increase the evil isopathically.
This is a mechanical example to give a broad understanding of the concept. He has basically qualified his expression to stress on the fact that the effect of the medicine should be similar to the effect of the disease but it should be derived from a different source. Only then it will work according to the Nature’s Law of Cure.
Now two questions need further explanation:
1. Why the two dynamic influences need to be similar?
2. Why the later one has to be stronger?
I have already answered the first question in part and we will discuss both these questions in detail when we study aphorism 44 to 46.
So in aphorism 26, he is basically saying that homeopathic medicines are able to cure because they work the way nature works. But does it really happen in nature? Where are the examples? I’ll come to that soon but let us first read the footnote to this aphorism:
1 Thus are cured both physical affections and moral maladies. How is it that in the early dawn the brilliant Jupiter vanishes from the gaze of the beholder? By a stronger very similar power acting on his optic nerve, the brightness of approaching day! – In situations replete with foetid odors, wherewith is it usual to soothe effectually the offended olfactory nerves? With snuff, that affects the sense of smell in a similar but stronger manner! No music, no sugared cake, which act on the nerves of other senses, can cure this olfactory disgust. How does the soldier cunningly stifle the piteous cries of him who runs the gauntlet from the ears of the compassionate bystanders? By the shrill notes of the fife commingled with the roll of the noisy drum! And the distant roar of the enemy’s cannon that inspires his army with fear? By the loud boom of the big drum! For neither the one nor the other would the distribution of a brilliant piece of uniform nor a reprimand to the regiment suffice. In like manner, mourning and sorrow will be effaced from the mind by the account of another and still greater cause for sorrow happening to another, even though it be a mere fiction. The injurious consequences of too great joy will be removed by drinking coffee, which produces an excessive joyous state of mind. Nations like the Germans, who have for centuries been gradually sinking deeper and deeper in soulless apathy and degrading serfdom, must first be trodden still deeper in the dust by the Western Conqueror, until their situation became intolerable; their mean opinion of themselves was thereby over-strained and removed; they again became alive to their dignity as men, and then, for the first time, they raised their heads as Germans.
In this footnote Hahnemann has tried to explain the concept of how a strong similar affection overshadows or annihilates a weaker similar affection. He has given examples of bright Jupiter disappearing when the sun shines and how a strong snuff makes the bad odours in surrounding atmosphere disappear. One may argue that although Jupiter is not visible when the sun shines, it is still there. Similarly, you cannot perceive the bad odour when you take a snuff, but the odour is still there. Yes, I agree! These are not perfect examples. These are just similes to make one understand the concept in a very basic and simple way. Hahnemann probably did it knowingly because it is easy to understand a more complex similar relationship among diseases, if one understands the basic concepts of similarity and how ‘strength’ plays a role in perception. The actual examples of the homeopathic law of nature are given in aphorism 46 of the Organon of Medicine:
Many examples might be adduced of disease which, in the course of nature, have been homoeopathically cured by other diseases presenting similar symptoms, were it not necessary, as our object is to speak about something determinate and indubitable, to confine our attention solely to those (few) disease which are invariably the same, arise from a fixed miasm, and hence merit a distinct name.
Among these the smallpox, so dreaded on account of the great number of its serious symptoms, occupies a prominent position, and it has removed and cured a number of maladies with similar symptoms. How frequently does smallpox produce violent ophthalmia, sometimes even causing blindness! And see! By its inoculation Dezoteux1 cured a chronic ophthalmia permanently, and Leroy2 another. An amaurosis of two years’ duration, consequent on suppressed scald head, was perfectly cured by it, according to Klein.3 How often does smallpox cause deafness and dyspnoea! And both these chronic diseases it removed on reaching its acme, as J. Fr. Closs4 observed.
Swelling of the test-icle, even of a very severe character, is a frequent symptom of small-pox, and on this account it was enabled, as Klein5 observed, to cure, by virtue of similarity, a large hard swelling of the left test-icle, consequently on a bruise. And another observer6 saw a similar swelling of the test-icle cured by it. Among the troublesome symptoms of small-pox is a dysenteric state of the bowels; and it subdued, as Fr. Wendt7 observed, a case of dysentery, as a similar morbific agent.
Smallpox coming on after vaccination, as well on account of its greater strength as its great similarity, at once removes entirely the cow-pox homoeopathically, and does not permit it to come to maturity; but, on the other hand, the cow-pox when near maturity does, on account of its great similarity, homoeopathically diminish very much the supervening smallpox and make it much milder8, as Muhry9 and many others testify.
The inoculated cow-pox, whose lymph, besides the protective matter, contains the contagion of a general cutaneous eruption of another nature, consisting of usually small, dry (rarely large, pustular) pimples, resting on a small red areola, frequently conjoined with round red cutaneous spots and often accompanied by the most violent itching, which rash appears in not a few children several days before, more frequently, however, after the red areola of the cow-pock, and goes off in a few days, leaving behind small, red, hard spots on the skin; – the inoculated cow-pox, I say, after it has taken, cures perfectly and permanently, in a homoeopathic manner, by the similarity of this accessory miasm, analogous cutaneous eruptions of children, often of very long standing and of a very troublesome character, as a number of observers assert.10
The cow-pox, a peculiar symptom of which is to cause tumefaction of the arm11, cured, after it broke out, a swollen half-paralyzed arm.12 The fever accompanying cow-pox, which occurs at the time of the production of the red areola, cured homoeopathically intermittent fever in two individuals, as the younger Hardege13 reports, confirming what J. Hunter14 had already observed, that two fevers (similar diseases) cannot co-exist in the same body.
The measles bear a strong resemblance in the character of its fever and cough to the whooping-cough, and hence it was that Bosquillon15 noticed, in an epidemic where both these affections prevailed, that many children who then took measles remained free from whooping-cough during that epidemic. They would all have been protected from, and rendered incapable of being infected by, the whooping-cough in that and all subsequent epidemics, by the measles, if the whooping-cough were not a disease that has only a partial similarity to the measles, that is to say, if it had also a cutaneous eruption similar to what the latter possesses. As it is, however, the measles can but preserve a large number from whooping-cough homoeopathically, and that only in the epidemic prevailing at the time.
If, however, the measles come in contact with a disease resembling it in its chief symptom, the eruption, it can indisputably remove, and effect a homoeopathic cure of the latter. Thus a chronic herpetic eruption was entirely and permanently (homoeopathically) cured16 by the breaking out of the measles, as Kortum17 observed. An excessively burning miliary rash on the face, neck, and arms, that had lasted six years, and was aggravated by every change of weather, on the invasion of measles assumed the form of a swelling of the surface of the skin; after the measles had run its course the exanthema was cured, and returned no more.18
So you can see why Hahnemann was so confident about his findings. He had excellent knowledge of many historical medical texts and he was able to relate the cures seen in nature with the phenomena related to the similarity of symptoms that he had observed through provings. We do not see such examples in nature very often because there are very few diseases in nature that have very similar symptomatology. Then it would be highly coincidental that two diseases that are similar, meet in an individual at the same time and the later one is stronger too! Also, the examples given by Hahnemann are historical (smallpox doesn’t even exist today!) and very difficult to verify during our times. Are you aware of any such modern day examples? If yes, please share them with me at [email protected]
While nature has shown us the way, it has its limitations too. Apart from the rarity of natural similar cures taking place, the natural phenomena also has many drawbacks. In a natural display of this law, the later disease might remove the former disease, but that disease can be more dangerous than the former one. The body cannot regulate the later disease for its benefit. It has to just wait for it to go. And that is where homeopathic medicines fill the void. We can produce similar artificial states and we can regulate their strength through manipulation of dose. Plus, the second dynamic disease also passes away more swiftly, without causing any pathological abnormalities. So we put into use the gift of nature more effectively than nature itself!
Hahnemann has also mentioned in this aphorism that this law of nature was known to many people before him, but it was not given a formal shape and was not put into practice systematically. Hahnemann has given many examples of the historical ‘awareness’ of simila in the introduction to his Organon of Medicine.
After stating that nature also cures by the law of similia, Hahnemann reasserts in aphorism 27 that the curative power of medicines depends solely on their ability to produce similar, but stronger symptoms and by giving such a remedy in a case, the disease is removed permanently, rapidly and totally – the ideal cure!
The curative power of medicines, therefore, depends on their symptoms, similar to the disease but superior to it in strength (§ 12 – 26), so that each individual case of disease is most surely, radically, rapidly and permanently annihilated and removed only by a medicine capable of producing (in the human system) in the most similar and complete manner the totality of its symptoms, which at the same time are stronger than the disease.
The one thing that needs some attention here, are the words ‘each individual case of disease‘. Once again Hahnemann stresses on the individualization of the case. Mere similarity with the common symptoms of a nosological disease entity will not suffice. The medicine must cover the individualizing characteristic symptoms of the case. Only then it will work as a similar remedy. This again prompts me to warn the young students that they should not prescribe on the basis of therapeutic affinity blindly. The books on homeopathic therapeutics should be used as a filter to find the simillimum and not as a definite guide for remedy selection. The remedy for an individual case might not even be listed among the therapeutics of the disease that the patient is suffering from. You should learn NOT to prescribe Arnica for every injury and Rhus-tox for every muscle ache. Learn to individualize. The case quizzes put up by Elaine Lewis in each issue of Homeopathy for Everyone, are a great exercise for the young minds to hone their individualization skills. I would encourage all young students to visit the online archives of Homeopathy for Everyone and try to solve Elaine’s case quiz every month. Once you have done your work on a case quiz, you can read the answer in the next issue of Homeopathy for Everyone. It would prove to be a great learning experience for you.
So this is what Hahnemann has said about Nature’s Law of Cure and how it relates to the homeopathic principle of Simila Similbus Curantur. In our next lecture we will discuss how the weaker dynamic affection is replaced by the stronger one, and why we are more susceptible to the action of medicines when we are sick.
Dr. Manish Bhatia