History of Homoeopathy

History of Homoeopathy and biography of Hahnemann in relation to the development of homeopathy science….


The importance of the discovery and established by Hahnemann of the Homeopathic truth, and its acceptance by so large a number of the profession and the public, in spite of the erroneous judgment of his labours and the malevolent opposition he encountered, render it a sacred obligation to dissipate the misconceptions, which in many cases, have arisen respecting him and his work. These have proceeded in several instances from ignorance, and in many more have been intentionally spread, without regard to the fact, which is patient to those acquainted with the period at which he lived, that Hahnemann held the first place among the physicians of his time.

SAMUEL HAHNEMANN was born on the 10th of April 1755 at Meissen in Saxony. The father’s means were limited, but he laid the foundation of a good education, so that the boy, who was eager for learning, was in his twelfth year admitted to the State Latin School in the town; and the same tenacity and perseverance, the same ardour which Hahnemann exhibited throughout his whole life, he already showed as a lad making him the favourite of all his teachers. In his fifteenth year, at the boy’s earnest desire, he was sent to the celebrated Prince’s School at Meissen.

Here he received a classical education which gave him that clearness of method on which the foundation of his important philosophical and practical knowledge was laid; and here he learned to employ his mother tongue with a finish and perfection which enabled him to acquire an excellent knowledge of foreign languages, and a brevity and power of expression of his own which has hardly been suppressed to the present day, and in this acquisition of foreign language he obtained a through knowledge of the medical authors of the time.

In the spring of 1775 he left this school with honorable distinction, and went to the University of Leipzig with very insufficient means for entering on so expensive a career, so that he maintained himself in a scanty manner while at the University by translating English works into German and by giving lessons. Few have imagined that the founder of homoeopathy was a poor man from great diligence, must often have suffered want almost to his sixtieth year, and that it was not till his old age that he first began to reap the harvest of his exhausting labours. After two years study at Leipzig he went on foot to Vienna to enjoy the clinical teaching of the them famous Dr. Quarin, who was private physician to the Emperor and of whom he afterwards always thought with gratitude. ” I am indebted to him” he said “for all that a physician could have taught me”.

Owing to his being cheated of his fee by a bookseller to whom he furnished translations, he was, at the end of twelve mouths, compelled to relinquish his studies ar Vienna, and to take an engagements as private physician and librarian to the governor of Transylvania. In this position he found the time requisite to perfect himself both theoretically and practically, and on the 10th of August 1779 to take the degree of doctor of medicine at the University of Erlangen; and his thesis on this occasion, on the causes and treatment of cramp, Confectus adfectum spasmodicorum oetiologicus et therapeutics, shows that his thoroughly scientific, which his enemies have sought to disparage, is incontestable.

After obtaining his degree, he was engaged in busy practice in various States of Germany for ten year, and during this period he had adequate experience of the miserable condition of the practice of medicine and the finally experienced such aversion to the prevailing methods that he almost entirely relinquished active practice, occupying himself in the literary world in the provinces of chemistry and pharmacy, and succeeding in a brief time to a not unimportant reputation as an author.

Thus, his work on poisoning by Arsenic was declared by universal criticism to be “an excellent and classical work”; another work, on the Distinction between Genuine and Adulterated Drugs, was without hesitation proclaimed “indispensable to the medical and pharmaceutical knowledge of the time”; his Druggist’s Lexicon become esteemed as “classic”; his Guide to the Treatment of Suppurating Wounds and Ulcers was praised by Critics as “thorough and well written”; not less his Instruction to Surgeons on Venereal Disease was noted as”the work of a man of intelligence and education” and as exhibiting “wealth of knowledge and maturity of judgment”.

In the province of chemistry he also displayed practical skill and discovered a method for the detection of the adulterations of wine which become known as Hahnemann’s wine test; and one of the best preparations of mercury to this day nears his name as Mercurius solubilis Hahnemanni. Turning over the pages of the scientific journals of that time one finds Hahnemann always mentioned by his contemporaries with not only the greatest respect but even the highest commendation, as, for example,”the meritorious, estimable Hahnemann”, this famous scientific chemist”, “this physician matured in experience and judgment, “this skilled observer, and able and successful physician’; and this occurred as a time when it was said that greater enmity existed among professional men than could be found at any previous or subsequent period.

But by degree, as he progressed with his reform, this hatred in advance so obstructed Hahnemann in his independence become very obnoxious to the private physician of the recently deceased Emperor Leopold the Second of Austria, when Hahnemann openly charged him with being the cause of his death from the employment of excessive blood-letting in pleurisy. Hahnemann was called unjust and unprofessional, but no physician of the present day would venture to make four copious bleeding within twenty-four hours from an old man like the Emperor Leopold, and everyone must now agree with Hahnemann. Beside this, he protested against the practice at that time employed with the insane, whom the doctors and attendants treated as wild beasts. He announced “that he would never punish a maniac with blows or any other painful corporal punishment for invalids of this description required pity, and their disorders instead of being benefited, were always much aggravated by cruelty.” This opinion, enunciated by Hahnemann nearly a century ago, has it is well known, only met with universal medical acceptance for about thirty years.

In addition to this, he opposed the medical traditions of his contemporaries, and called on them “to free themselves from the shallowness, the indecision and the fallacies of the ancient teachers of materia medica and to throw off the yoke of ignorance and superstition.” Above all, he insisted the physician should not prescribe several remedies mixed together, but should ascertain with exactitude which medicines should be ordered in each case and prescribed only that one at a time. “The mind of man” said he “can only grasp one single object at once. How then can it bring the art of healing to a certainly if against one diseases alone a compound of various powers in intentionally employed, of which not one ingredient has its action by itself pound prescription is therefore an obstacle to the art of healing.”

The physician does not sufficiently distinguish between each individual case of diseases, and hence seeks help in a combination of remedies, where with the little light he has become thick darkness. Can this be the royal road to the temple of truth?” In addition to this Hahnemann particularly condemned the practice of bleeding, which at that time was in use in so many disorders;he protested against the use of purgatives, and challenged his contemporaries to obtain information of the action of medicines by testing on healthy persons. These attempts at reformation become by degree more objectionable to the profession, and if Hahnemann was not met with open contradiction, the press, which had previously extolled him, become silent.

He however, proceeded undeterred on his path, and proclaimed these novel and important propositions.

1. What is the pure action of each medicine in its different doses in health on the human subject?

2. What does the observation of this action teach in each case of simple and of complicated disease?

He thus required a physiological materia medica. BUt the setting up of the law of similars as a basis for treatment, he had not yet arrived at; he demanded, instead of the purposeless methods in vogue, an investigation of the action of each medicine obtained on the healthy human subjects as well as its relation to each organ of the body as regards the primary and secondary action; and he hoped by these proving to the obtain the correction of many accepted errors which had existed respecting the mode of action of drugs.

Thus for example, m he investigated the action of peruvian bark as a proof of his theory, for it was at that time believed that its curative influence in ague resulted from tonic action on the stomach; Hahnemann, on the other hand, asserted that “Substances which excite a species of fever, as very strong coffee, arsenic, ignatia & c, destroy the types of ague.” This assertion depended on practical experience, for with four drachms of Peruvian bark which he had taken he had produced symptoms resembling those of intermittent fever, but he expressly observes “without actual cold shivering”; he did not say the the produced an actual fever by, “beating in the head, palpitation of the heart, redness of the cheeks, dullness of the senses hard and rapid pulse, depression & c.”

These observations of Hahnemann are always incorrectly quoted, and it was always been affirmed by his opponents who have never investigated the history of the discovery of homoeopathy that Hahnemann said that Peruvian bark produces an artificial ague when administered in health. But homoeopathy stands on the principles of the employment against disease of a remedy which has produced similar symptoms in health. It is impossible to produce an artificial ague in healthy persons in the strongest doses of Peruvian bark or of quinine, and it is erroneous to ascribe such teaching to homoeopathy at any time.

In fact, it needs no elaborate explanation, for many patient who have taken a full dose of quinine have had precisely the same symptoms appear as Hahnemann observed, and probably considered buzzing in the ears. For, although the temperature of the body had not at the time been taken by the thermometer, the appearance of cold shivers preceding heat was regarded as characteristic of ague, and Hahnemann had not noted cold shivers as produced by Peruvian bark.

Besides this, Hahnemann was far removed from forming his doctrine on one experiment alone, but carried on his investigation with other remedies, and arrived at the conclusions the one medicine at a time should alone be administered in order to act directly on the disease part and support the healing power of nature, while his contemporaries “sought to relieve congestion, expel, accumulated and inflamed blood, by alternative, resolvents tonics and astringents,” which mode of treatment Hahnemann described as “taking, in a dark wood, a path which ends in a precipice.”

By degrees his labours took definite form for the employment of medicine and in the year 1796 there appeared in Hufeland’s Journal his thesis, which may be taken as the precursor or foundations of the homoeopathy of to-day ” to employ that remedy in a disease which is found from observation to produce the nearest possible resemblance to it when taken in health.”

This, however was not the doctrine of homoeopathy, for until the year 1808 he indicated the method of treatment with the action of drugs proved in health as that of “specific” remedies, specific against supposed entities of disease,, but this gave way to the terms ” Homeopathy” and “Homoeopathic”. It even almost appears as if these terms were in the first place used by his opponents and then accepted by him with the same signification, as with a well known composer the term ‘music of the future” was similarly received.

After hahnemann had prepared his contemporaries by a significant publication adapted to the desired reform, he stepped forth resolutely, and published in 1805 a work in two volumes Fragments de viribus medica menatorum positive, sive in sano corpore observatis, and in Hufeland’s Journal vol. 22, his Medicine of Experience. This last work is the actual forerunner of his Organon of the Healing Art.

In this he enunciated his theory of the action of medicines; that two irritants which have great resemblance to one another cannot exist together in the living body, but that the stronger destroys and expels the weaker, and hence, against the existing unnatural irritant of disease, another disease -producing power of similar action to that the disease exhibits, must be opposed. ‘And for this purpose, in order to know the action of medicine, it is necessary for physician to have them thoroughly investigated by careful proving on a large number of persons in health, and that by this and no other mode could knowledge be obtained of their action.

Thus by the inductive method, is the key discovered, which alone is valuable at he bedside, and which raises treatment with homoeopathic specific remedies to n exact method; here lies the central point of Hahnemann reform while all farther opinion attached to it, although in harmony with the spirit of the times in which he lived, were but secondary or erroneous. As for instance the view he assumed, that by taking a similarly acting medicine a similar medicinal disease, —- an artificial disease is set up in the patient and that it first attacks the locality of the disease and is then easily removed by the organism.

This view completely resembled the neurapathological doctrines of the theoretical physician at the beginning of the century, and if Hahnemann had formed any other he would probably have made a similar concession to the spirit of the times; and in fact he later on changed this opinion, when as seen in the fifth edition of the Organon, he speaks (Aphorism 29) of an increased energy of life- power by means of the simile. And the later declarations is the only one permissible, and is besides, particularly one of our opponents in reference to confirm3d experiments with single remedies.

His doctrine of the “specific ” action of drugs was not apprehended by his contemporaries, for they understood by it, as is understood at the present day by the profession, medicine which are in reputation for treating disease known under assigned names, as, for example, rheumatism of the joints, gout, & c. But with Hahnemann the term does not signify the general application of the name ion old physic, but a something special which is subordinate to the individuality of the case, and on this ground he repudiated the use of names assigned to diseases for, to him, disease was simply life under altered conditions, a disturbance of the equilibrium between the various organs, an abnormal mode of action of the vital functions to which no formal designations can be applied; and so much specific remedy has no influence.

This it is which has been so little understood both by his contemporaries and by the opponents of homoeopathy since his time, for to-day as it was then, the physician who is not homoeopathist finds in diagnosis rather than in cure the chief labour of his calling. Hahnemann truly observed that of the names of disease which were employed at the beginning of the century only a few are still in use; and it may also be noted that many of those which were generally current twenty years ago, and were esteemed scientific are to-day obsolete; similarly will the majority of the terms in the present nomenclature which refer to pathologico-anatomical products be discussed in the future.

And Professor Virchow states in his Efforts for Unity in Scientific Medicine that twenty years ago the pathological system was but a makeshift and superfluous, and in the transactions of the Medical Society of Berlin in 1884, he observed that the well known term Croup has fallen into destitute and that the continence of the employment of the term Diphtheria is only a question of time because a morbid process may have very various causes and by mistake only one of the theses may have suitable treatment. He adds” The pathological system belongs to the past; the system of morbid conditions is the only one possible and Guerin’s demand to aim at aetiological medicine (the doctrine of causes) is entirely justified.

For it diseases is no other that life under changed conditions, then cure signifies no more than the restoration of the usual normal conditions of life or her restoring of the ordinary state by removal of the cause of derangement “. So that the very idea for which Hahnemann so earnestly strove is revived, in oblivion of the fact that the doctrine of an artificial aetiological basis for the mode of treatment is already to be found in his works; that his first offense against recognized medicine was in this respect; and that for seventy years a foundation has existed as the standpoint for medical science as a biologic-medical method of treatment. For in all those cases, be they either medical or surgical, where a palliative is not necessary to mitigate some existing suffering, medicines can do act only on the law discovered and maintained by Hahnemann;and this is wholly independent of the restorative power of nature unaided by medicine, and of the result of the physiological application of remedies, or other non-homoeopathic methods.

Hahnemann did not, however, merely limit himself to stimulating this reform of the theory of medicines, but he also undertook the practical task of proving a series of remedies, sixty-one in number, on himself and his friends. The result of these proving is contained in his Pure Materia Medica, a work in six volumes which appear during the years 1811 to 1821, at the same time that he was engaged as a private teacher in the University of Leipzig; and it is important to note the conditions under which the proving were made :

a. The proving of medicines must only be made on such persons as are bodily and mentally healthy and who have the ability to express themselves clearly.

b. The proving must take place on as many persons as possible of both sexes, and of all ages, and who have very different habits and customs.

c. The state of health of each prover must be thoroughly ascertained by a physician, and especially whether mind and body have the normal balance; and the prover must farther engage, during the continuance of the proving to continue his or her ordinary mode of life.

d. The temperament and character must be accurately observed, because various medicines largely increase or depress the emotions.

e. After taking each course of medicine, the prover must remain a considerable time under the same regimen, until the action of the medicine be expended.

f. Only those medicines which are prepared according to the instructions given by Hahnemann in his writings are to be employed.

On reading the provings in the named work in appears remarkable how technical medical terms are carefully avoided. It is written in honest German. Hahnemann was not satisfied to state that a remedy produced the symptoms of inflammation of the lungs& c., but he noted conscientiously every symptoms which appeared after medicinal substances had been taken into the human organism. No subjective symptoms complained of by a prover failed appear in the list; and their appearance in order of time is carefully noted.

The number of single symptoms, especially when proved on a large number of persons, is therefore very important and to the beginning in studying the provings, extremely difficult in fact, so much so as to appear almost impossible. There are those who have formed only a superficial acquaintance with homoeopathy to whom subjective symptoms ascribed to definite localities, especially if they relate to the mental emotions always appear stranger, but it should be remembered that Hahnemann pursued a practical design in this provings – that the physician practicing according to his method should not fluctuate, as in the old school, with the ever varying views of diagnosis.

Some of the provings of to-day are of an additional character; we are endowed with registration of the temperature, of the wave of American physician;and it is desires to add the pathological condition of the bodies of poisoned animals & c., In this form it now appears acceptable to many non-homoeopathic physicians, but the next generation may be similarly dissatisfied with it as several of the physicians of the present day are dissatisfied with the labours of Hahnemann, for very many biological questions cannot at the present time be thoroughly answered, because of the yet very imperfect foundations of the majority of the science auxiliary to medicine.

The thread is well in hand but the complete connection fails. Pictures of homoeopathic provings such as non- homoeopathist imagines are rational and authentic models, have either no value, or at the best but a very slight one; for the detailed primary action in wanting, and the secondary action with its pathological changes in various organs of the poisoned animals under investigation, and which are deemed so essential to the experimentalist, cannot be the single thread for the treatment of disease. We teach for instance, that the process of degeneration of the kidneys in chronic phosphorus and arsenic poisonings cannot be distinguished from one another; but phosphorus and arsenic are very different bodies, and it can occur to no intelligent physician to confound them clinically, and this is the case with regard to many other remedies.

Emilia Foster-Spinelli