A reply to Amir Cassam’s article ‘Was Kent a Hahnemannian’?
I consider myself fortunate to be practicing homeopathy today, for we are experiencing an exciting expansion in the depth and range of both theory and practice of our cherished healing art. Homeopathy is changing, growing, expanding, and differentiating.
As practitioners we have both the opportunity and the responsibility of assessing the validity, utility, and practicality of new ideas, of exploring new methodologies and new provings for those patients who have not been helped by tried-and-true techniques and understandings. As a whole, the homeopathic community has been fractured by the varied responses to these changes. At one extreme are practitioners, sometimes inexperienced, who embrace a new technique unquestioningly and practice it without real depth or understanding. At the other extreme are those who condemn new ideas without taking the time to properly explore them.
Cassam’s article “Was Kent a Hahnemannian?” (Hpathy Ezine Feb. 2006) is an excellent example of the latter. Cassam appears to be a bright, intelligent, and committed homeopath, but this article seems singularly successful in embodying almost everything that is divisive, negative, and retrogressive within our homeopathic community. Furthermore, the valid points he makes are superseded by much greater truths of which he seems unaware. Cassam commits the absurdity of condemning Hahnemann himself for deviating from “true Hahnemannianism” in his later years.
Citing Anthony Campbell as his source, he writes that Hahnemann increasingly lost his way into metaphysical homeopathy as he grew older. He then goes on to castigate Kent for having the prejudices of his time (Christian moralism) and for importing into homeopathy irrational and dogmatic spiritual and metaphysical assumptions.
He concludes his article with an attack on some contemporary homeopaths for placing too great an emphasis on the mind aspects of a case and ignoring “objective” and pathognomonic signs of disease.
The questions we ask are often more indicative of our state of mind than the answers we give. Why would a homeopath ask the question “Was Kent a Hahnemannian?” Kent, of course, was a Kentian, and I hope that Cassam is in the process of becoming an even better Cassamian! Just as there is no one-and-only path to God that contains all human spirits, there is no one-and-only path to the correct remedy that will serve all homeopaths in all times and settings. Hahnemann was our art’s founder and our inspiration; he should not be taken as a model for inauthentic imitation. All of us need to develop along our own paths to become even better at being ourselves, and even better at healing homeopathically.
Let me propose the following corrections to Cassam’s one-sided assessment of Kent’s incredible contributions to homeopathy and to his conclusions.
1) Both Hahnemann and Kent, in spite of their differences in social, religious, intellectual, and personal temperaments, were profoundly awed by the ultimate sway of nonmaterial forces in the health and consciousness of their patients. Whether it was called “vital force” or “simple substance”, neither would have been concerned that “objective evidence” for this reality could not be found by the “crude empiricists” like Campbell.
2) No one who has studied Kent’s rich Lectures on Materia Medica can accuse him of ignoring physical symptoms and diseases.
Let’s turn to the issue of “relying too much on mental symptoms.”
While it is true that somatic manifestions of an individual’s state cannot be ignored, it is even more important to recognize that physical disease and the mental/emotional state of the patient are two indivisible aspects, two related manifestations, of the same underlying state. It is by understanding the relationship of the language, perceptions, behavior, and outlook of the patient to his or her experience of pathology that leads the way to the correct remedy. “Pathognomonic” signs of disease are allopathic keynotes that lead algorithmically to pathological diagnoses. They do not lead to a subtle, sophisticated understanding of how this specific pathology resulted as an expression of the patient’s state.
In contemporary society we find the center of gravity of most cases to be in the emotional and mental sphere, and it is here that our patients often are most articulate about their inner state. But whether the chief complaint is physical or emotional or mental, it is incumbent upon us to arrive at an understanding of how EVERY symptom of the patient, at every level, is a manifestation of the underlying state.
Homeopathy itself is a dynamic, evolving, revolutionary discipline that radicalizes the perceptions and understandings of all those who truly seek to come to grips with its implications regarding the nature of reality. Nobody who witnesses the kind of radical healing that goes on in our consulting rooms can fail to feel awe and wonder. What do we do with this awe and wonder? Do we use it to fault our predecessors and our contemporary thinkers from deviating from the 18th century methods of our forbears? Do we criticize Hahnemann himself for changing his ideas as he continued to grapple with the implications of his own discoveries? Or rather do we seek to contribute in a positive way to our ongoing development as a community? For we are not only a community of healers in a broken and troubled world, we are a community of healers who ourselves need to be healed.
It is curious to me that some of the same homeopaths who cry out that homeopathy is a science (and not shamanism nor mysticism) are those who are also most resistant to exploring new ideas, experimenting with new remedies, or trying out new methodologies. What exactly is science? Does it not require an open-ness to wonder, to question, to discovery, to change?
Science demands rigor, yes, but rigor is not the same as stasis! Homeopathy needs to preserve its inner core of truth, absolutely! But let’s not equate that inner core of truth with one particular methodology, one age’s set of remedies, or one kind of proving. The truth of homeopathy goes much deeper; its message is far more subtle, and its message and meaning is much richer than the language and understanding of any one of its practitioners.
Would we respect physics as a science if physicists sought to discredit their colleagues by asking the question: “Was Heisenberg an Einsteinian?” Or: “Was Einstein a Newtonian?” Physics is evolving, and is giving us breathtaking new insights into the nature of reality.* Homeopathy is evolving as well, with not only equally breathtaking insights, but even more importantly, greater opportunities to cure.
While it is important that we not accept every new idea unquestioningly, it is far more important that we not condemn what we don’t understand, that we thoroughly listen to our colleagues and try to understand their ideas, that our criticisms are constructive and not based on a prejudice against a methodology, but upon a failure to achieve a deep cure or perceive an unattended aspect of a case.
Doug Brown, CCH, RSHom(NA), FNP
Portland, Oregon, USA
*For a discussion of the implications of quantum physics on homeopathy see