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Susceptibility

“The inimical forces, partly psychical, to which our terrestrial existence is exposed, which are termed morbific noxious agents, do not possess the power of morbidly deranging the health of man unconditionally;  but we are made ill by them only when our organism is sufficiently disposed and susceptible to the attack of the morbific cause that may be present, and to be altered in its health, deranged and made to undergo abnormal sensations and functions ? hence they do not produce disease in everyone nor at all times.”

Aphorism 31

If illnesses were merely a question of bacteria and viruses invading the human organism and conquering it, then everyone who is exposed to that contagion would inevitably succumb. There are countless people in the world who are constantly exposed to morbific agents who do not succumb.  We all know that the air we breathe  contains a profusion of potentially harmful organisms, but we are not struck down by each and every one of them.

It is frequently observed that only one member of a family escapes a virulent influenza virus (or perhaps only one member DOESN’T develop the symptoms!). Why then are some people sometimes open or susceptible to these influences whilst others are not?

Certain diseases, whether acute or chronic, affect certain people at certain times in their lives.  “I’m prone to colds” or “If I’m upset my stomach always feels it first” are common cries.  Our ‘normal’ reaction is just to say that that person is susceptible to ‘this or that’ and to generally leave it there.  However, as homeopaths, it is necessary for us to begin to consider this question of susceptibility of an organism to disease, and the predisposition of individuals, families and races to certain diseases.

Susceptibility

The various recurrent symptoms people experience throughout their lives (chronic diseases) arise from individual susceptibility, from enduring ‘constitutional’ weakness.  Likewise, in order to determine the ’cause’ of an infectious (acute) disease, it is necessary to take into account both the virulence of the infectious agent and the resistance offered by the patient’s defense mechanism. The resistance to contagion is based upon the susceptibility or ‘host resistance’ of the organism; it is largely determined by the miasmatic inheritance of the individual.

For a flow chart explaining the relationship of preformative and existing causes to susceptibility or predisposition to disease, refer to figure 7.4 below.

The Susceptibility of Plants and Animals

Plants and animals are susceptible to their environment, as, of course, is the human organism.  Certain plants require certain kinds of soil in order to thrive. They also need certain kinds of climatic and atmospheric conditions.  You wouldn’t see a banana tree growing at the North Pole, for example!  Plants will attempt to adapt to changing environment but some adaptation is too extreme.

Animals also adapt to their habitat in order to survive and in so doing they develop a protective immunity.

“Animals from certain parts of the earth’s surface develop peculiarities of their own which are entirely different from their close relatives elsewhere.  They can withstand certain influences and hold their own under adverse conditions which would be fatal to another of the same species developed under differing circumstances.  In other words they develop a protective immunity against their environmental conditions.

The polar bear is immune to the rigors of the Arctic, but is susceptible and soon succumbs to the influence of warm climates.  The Bengal tiger thrives in the humidity of the Indian jungles: other members of the tiger family have adapted themselves to the latitude and rarefied atmosphere of the slopes of the Himalayas and searching winds of those heights;  either is susceptible to the ravages incident to a change in temperature.”

H.A. Roberts M.D.

The Susceptibility of the Human Organism

The human organism may react to influences in its environment, on a mental, emotional or physical level.

If a person is not assimilating salt within his body, or if he is, in fact, healthy but sweating profusely in a very hot climate to which he is not accustomed, he may well develop a craving for salt, as his body is crying out for that need (or lack) to be met.

Some people thrive on pressure and react well in a situation of continual stress, e.g. the business tycoon who does not have ulcers or heart pathology!  In him there is a need for excitement, and he is exhilarated by the thrill and uncertainty of his profession rather than daunted by it.  Some of us can play three sets of tennis in the scorching heat, whilst others of us wilt in the shade on a warm summer day.

It has been noted that some people have such a strong constitution that they can smoke 60 cigarettes a day, drink half a bottle of whisky, burn the candle at both ends and still live to be ninety!

H.A. Roberts wrote “Everything that has life is more or less influenced by circumstances and environment.”  Disease or disharmony results when the organism cannot readily adapt to morbific agents (viruses, environmental pollution, grief, jealousy, etc.) and where that organism, because of constitutional weakness, is open or susceptible to adverse effects from the external influences.

The Morbific Agent

We have learned that as dynamic organisms we are affected initially on a dynamic level, and this original disturbance eventually results in the production of symptoms on the mental, emotional or physical levels of the organism.

“The one who is made sick is susceptible to the disease cause in accordance with the plane he is in and the degree of attenuation that happens to be present at the time of the contagion. The degree of the disease cause fits his susceptibility at the moment he is made sick.”

? J. T. Kent

It could be said that any living organism, including bacteria and viruses, has a dynamic energy or quality, a level of vibration or frequency which so far cannot be measured by scientific instruments.  When this frequency is within the range or frequency of any given human organism (and therefore compliments it) it is able to produce an effect on the dynamic level of the organism. In health, no symptoms of any consequence will be produced.

H.A. Roberts describes it as a vacuum in the individual which attracts and pulls to it things which are most needed that are on the same plane of vibration as the want (or deficit) in the organism.  (If the body is deficient in a substance it will crave that substance in order to fill the need.)  He says that “in analysing susceptibility we find it is very largely an expression of a vacuum in the individual.  The vacuum attracts and pulls for the things most needed, that are in the same plane of vibration as the want in the body  …  the vibrations of the sick individual call aloud for something to meet the need.” In this state of lowered resistance the body attracts that which may fulfil an inner need.

Let us illustrate the point by considering the emotional needs of children.  For example:

A child presents with dreadful behavioural problems. His behaviour is so bad that his parents must keep close watch on him in order to prevent his outbursts of anger and destruction, but as busy professional people they find it hard to do this.

It is not hard to see in some cases that some children do not receive the love and attention they need and crave , and so some way is masterfully found by the inner being to fill the need (the lack).  It is not uncommon for attention seeking behaviour to develop in such cases as a means , at least, of getting some attention. Any attention is better than none, and so an attempt is made to satisfy the emotional need in the best way possible in the given circumstances. This is merely a generalisation and is used simply to illustrate a point.

Childhood Contagious Diseases

Once the vacuum has been filled, the need is met and the system is satisfied.  This can be well illustrated by using the example of childhood contagious diseases.

In childhood, before contagion, the state of health in constitutional terms displays a need or lack. This need may be because of the child’s inherited tendencies to disease.

Roberts says that:

“The human economy has inherited many tendencies from the accumulations of its ancestral heritage. These tendencies show themselves in childhood in the great number of so called children’s diseases, which are nothing more or less than an inward turmoil of bringing to the surface and expelling certain conditions;  again, these eruptions are a lack of ability on the part of the patient to create a similar state within his own economy to satisfy the susceptibility  …  Nature steps in with the laws of susceptibility and an influence is attracted which blooms forth as an infectious or contagious disease, so as to most fully satisfy this susceptibility.”

Kent describes the meeting of a constitutional need as “stemming the influx”.  He says:

“Now at the beginning of disease, i.e. in the stage of contagion, there is a limit to influx, for if man continued to receive the cause of disease (if there were no limits to its influx) he would receive enough to kill him, for it would run a continuous course until death.  But when susceptibility is satisfied, there is a cessation of cause and when cause ceases to flow into ultimates, not only do the ultimates cease but cause itself has already ceased.”

Susceptibility to Maintaining Causes

An individual can be merely indisposed by the effects of business failure, unrequited love, stress, overeating, poisoning, etc., but as soon as the maintaining cause is removed the individual returns to health.  A maintaining cause will lead to indisposition;  prolonged indisposition will require treatment, and symptoms will reveal themselves according to the idiosyncrasies of the individual patient.

Constitutional Weakness

Some people can lead an orderly existence, eat good wholesome food, have no obvious maintaining causes, yet display symptoms that express a serious inner disorder.  We must now consider the element of constitutional weakness with regard to susceptibility.  The human economy does not start afresh at the time of conception;  it is the product of imperfect parents, each with his and her own susceptibility and maintaining causes.

Not only the physical impediments of the parents, but also their mental dispositions at the time of conception, their diets, whether they are under the influence of alcohol, drugs or suppressive medication, etc., are all possible ways in which an invisible weakness can be cultivated in the economy of the foetus. So, even at that early stage, it is only able to make imperfect, ineffectual resistance to some morbific influences.  In other words, for those reasons alone, it may not be a potentially healthy human being, with the ability to adapt to its environment effectively.

Furthermore, some weaknesses may be transmitted from previous generations.  Hahnemann called these transmitted weaknesses MIASMS, which means a taint or pollution ? an inherited tendency to the deviation of flow of the vital force from its normal state.  (Miasms will be considered in detail in Unit 8)

Family Susceptibility

Whole families can be susceptible to certain diseases.  Our ancestors are connected to us like links in a chain, the first being connected to the last by the intermediary connecting links.

The tendencies towards cancer, tuberculosis, epilepsy, heart disease, arthritis, schizophrenia, etc., are frequently seen to span the generations of a family.  Ambition, the desire for power, for excitement or adventure, can also often follow this course (although the polar opposite may present instead, and the business tycoon may have a ‘drop out’ son or daughter.)

Racial Susceptibility

Racial groups can be susceptible to particular diseases and have immunity to others.  Roberts says “It is because the similar condition has remained unsupplied through generations and the laws of attraction and susceptibility are manifesting their powers.”  When eventually satisfied, immunity will be established which will produce changes in the economy that bar out any more influx.

Conclusion

Inherited constitutional weakness will render the individual susceptible to a deviation in flow of his vital energy, which is then open to the possible attraction of morbific agents, as there is not the vital power with which to resist them.

Maintaining causes will further debilitate the organism’s dynamic energy, increasing its susceptibility and lowering the resistance to attack. This in itself weakens the organism’s ability to adapt to its ever changing environment.

Susceptibility to Medicines

We are all susceptible to external and internal influences and have suffered suppression of one kind or another.  A health inducing therapy would strive to lower the patient’s level of susceptibility to any given morbific agent, rather than to merely try and remove the symptoms that might appear as the result of the original constitutional weakness, thereby rendering the patient susceptible to the maintaining factor.

Morbific agents do not produce symptoms in all people at all times, but it is quite a different case with artificial morbific agents, i.e. orthodox medicines.

Every real medicine, namely, acts at all times, under all circumstances, on every living human being, and produces in him its peculiar symptoms (distinctly perceptible, if the dose be large enough) so that evidently every human organism is liable to be affected, and, as it were, inoculated with the medicinal disease at all times, and absolutely (unconditionally), which, as before said, is by no means the case with the natural diseases.

? Aphorism 32

Furthermore, it must be remembered that the greatest susceptibility to influence is to the simillimum!

Susceptibility or Predisposition to Disease

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