There is a hospital not far from where I live that treats cancer patients with a six-million electron volt radio therapy linear accelerator. Another treatment is a drug called Fluoroucil which carries this warning: “gastrointestinal haemorrhage and death may result . . . even in patients in relatively good condition.”
What assumptions about life, illness, healing, and immunity gave rise to such treatments? And what are the corresponding assumptions in homeopathy, that led it in the opposite direction?
Allopathic medicine starts with the reductionist idea that living things can be explained purely in terms of their chemistry. We are complex biological machines, but machines nonetheless. Like any machine, we are no more than the sum of our parts. If you understand the parts, you’ll understand the whole. Life is about stuff.
You can see these assumptions on many levels. A huge transplant industry has evolved, with its attendant need for parts (and the knotty questions about who gives them and who gets them). There is talk about “farming” them from baboons and other un-consenting life forms. Probably the ultimate expression of life as a machine is the growth of the biotechnology industry with genetic “engineering” and the patenting of life forms.
The allopathic philosophy can also be seen in the approach to research. With powerful microscopes and sophisticated tests, scientists explore increasingly smaller parts of the organism; the cell, cell membrane, nucleus, mitochondria, DNA etc. The presumption is that if you know how the parts work, you’ll understand the whole and be able to manipulate it. An immense research business has developed.
If life and disease are about chemistry, allopathic medicine must treat disease at the physical, chemical level. If the body is a machine, without volition, healing must be accomplished from without. You have to make the body get better. This leads to aggressive treatments with powerful and toxic drugs and radiation. From this perspective, the patient’s state of mind is not relevant to treatment.
The immune system (seen as being made of cells and proteins) gets little emphasis. It is known to be able to prevent illness, but is not much use once you get sick. Then allopathy prescribes strong medicine. It’s also an inconvenience when it stimulates allergies or if you happen to have an organ transplant. In fact, because of their work with transplants, allopaths know a lot more about how to suppress the immune system, than how to stimulate it.
In the few areas (e.g. interferon) where the immune system is explored, the focus is on isolating some factor and using it by itself. This again leads to side effects since it bypasses the body’s feedback system.
Allopathy is unsurpassed in treating mechanical or structural problems and modern surgery has relieved much suffering. Where allopathy falls short, is in dealing with metabolic disturbances, especially those resulting in chronic disease. Here, there is little talk of cure, and treatment is symptomatic. The disturbances which cause chronic disease are so subtle, that the scalpel and the drug are blunt instruments, and homeopathy, with its wholistic / vitalist view, must be embraced.
The science of homeopathy assumes that all living things, aside from their chemical or mechanical nature, are infused with a life force or vital principle. This “vital force” gives life to the inert ingredients . . . the collection of atoms and molecules. It is energy with volition, . . or the organism’s intelligence. This is an old concept which is known in India as Prana and in China as Chi. Wilhelm Reich referred to it as the Orgone. In this model, life is directed by harmonious energy and disease is a disturbance of the harmony. Since disease is a disturbance of energy, you are not going to find it by looking through a microscope or doing a blood test. What you will find are the effects of disease, the symptoms and signs. Pathologies, such as cancer, nephritis, emphysema, are not the disease, but the result of it. The disease was the imbalance that gave rise to them.
Since the vital force exists in the whole organism, any “sick” part must have arisen from the disharmony of the whole. A corollary is that, whatever you do to one part will affect all the other parts. Therefore, to cure, you must treat the whole person. In homeopathy, the smallest unit of life is the whole organism.
Because disease is a disharmony in a subtle force, homeopathy uses another subtle force to correct it. It has evolved remedies that operate on an energetic, rather than material level. Consequently they are safe and without chemical side effects. Treatment also focuses on the whole person. A remedy must be chosen which resonates to the essence of this person. It is made from a substance which mirrors the disturbance in the vital force. Since feelings, perceptions, and mental state are the central aspects of a person, the homeopath must understand his patient in a most intimate way. This leads to an empathetic relationship between doctor and patient.
Homeopathy assumes that the organism has an intelligence and a volition, allowing it to actively heal itself. Therefore the remedy doesn’t make the person get well, but like a good therapist, it interacts with her to evoke a healing response. Rather than simply fighting pathogens, homeopathy addresses the immune system by constitutional treatment, with a remedy matched to the whole person. In this way it enhances that system in the broadest, most meaningful way.