Books » Elements of Homoeopathy by Gibson Miller » Basic Principles

Basic Principles

In the introduction of Elements of Homeopathy, D.M.Gibson explained the Basic Principles of Homeopathy given by Hahnemann and wrote that Homoeopathic treatment is a much more specific and personal matter than mere routine prescribing by label.


PERHAPS the most important fact about homoeopathy is that it is based on a conception of sickness and disease that is essentially rational, because it is in accord with natural law.

Sickness is not a local affair but involves the whole man-his psychological as well as his physical make-up. A man is not sick because he has this or that local disease. The local disease is there because the man is sick. He is sick because his cells and tissues are not healthy and because, in consequence, there is a state of disorder and lack of efficiency in vital function.

The sick state of the tissues, ultimately manifested in a local or organic lesion, is often widespread, thus making the whole man sick. It may indeed have been present for a long time, though perhaps undetected.

Sickness is a highly individual matter. What counts in every case is not only the nature of the causal factor but also, and perhaps even more poignantly, the personal, particular and pertinent reactions of the cells and tissue fluids of the individual. Moreover, individuals differ significantly in their reactive capacities.

Grave, prolonged, or chronic disease is the result of a failure on the part of the body’s defences to withstand hostile forces. There is failure to resist infection, to neutralise and eliminate toxins, to repair damage and to restore the normal balance and rhythm of physiological function.

One factor in the prolongation of chronic disease is thus a state of widespread toxicosis, often a residual intoxication from a previous infection, possibly antenatal.

Inasmuch as disease is a deviation from the normal, a disturbance of the balance and rhythm of metabolic processes essential to health, it is the living body itself that must undertake the task of reversing the disease process, repairing the damage and restoring normal function.

This being so, it should be the aim of the physician to stimulate, strengthen and enhance the natural curative powers of the body.

The may seem obvious to the enlightened twentieth century mind, but it must be remembered that when Samuel Hahnemann, who was born at Meissen in Saxony in 1755, put forward such concepts some 150 years ago the scientific world was ignorant of much that is common knowledge today.

The young physician Hahnemann was deeply dissatisfied with and disillusioned by the state of affairs prevailing at that time, and even contemplated changing his profession. But having the urge to heal, he set himself to study available medical literature in many languages. He read voraciously and translated much of what he read into his own tongue.

Hahnemann’s Conclusions

Thus he found himself arriving at such conclusions as the following :

“The physician’s first duty is to enquire into the whole condition of the patient-the cause of the disease, his mode of life, the nature of his mind, the tone and character of his sentiments, his physical constitution, and especially the symptoms of his disease.”

“The division of diseases into general and local seems to have been commonly observed. But the human body is in its living state a unity, a complete and rounded whole.”

“Every sensation, every manifestation of force, every interrelation of the material of one part is intimately concerned with the sensations, force-manifestations and inter-relations of all the other parts. No part can suffer without involving all the rest in suffering, greater or less, and in alteration.”

“No real cure of disease can take place without a strict particular individualisation of each case of disease.”

“The remedy specifically fitted for the general disease, of which the local manifestation is always but a part or symptom, relieves also the local affection which is far removed and apparently isolated.”

Humane and Rational Therapeutics:

It was one thing to arrive at a more or less rational concept of health and disease. It was quite another to discover an equally rational method of therapeutics which would be in accord with that concept.

Coercion by pharmacological force only too obviously carries with it the risk of causing damage to vulnerable tissues and disturbance of delicately poised vital functions.

This was recognised early and clearly by Hahnemann and he sought a way of healing that was more humane and less haphazard, as revealed in his statement :

“The highest aim of healing is the speedy, gentle and permanent restitution of health, or alleviation and obliteration of disease in its entire extent, in the shortest, most reliable and safest manner, according to clearly intelligible reasons.”

Even when the aim of treatment is directed against the causal agents of disease, it is often impossible to proceed without risk. In cases of infection, for instance, it is possible to lay down a barrage of antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents.

But when the opposing forces are already locked in mortal combat, the barrage procedure carries with it unpleasant possibilities of non-discriminating damage to the defending as well as to the attacking forces.

How much better, if possible, to concentrate on boosting the natural defences of the body, so helping them to defeat the hostile agents from within.

In the course of his extensive reading he had from time to time come across the dictum of Hippocrates “Like cures like”; that a substance capable of causing symptoms when introduced into the body could also be used to cure diseases manifesting similar symptoms.

He was working on the translation of a work on pharmacology by Cullen and queried in his own mind the validity of a passage relating to CINCHONA (Peruvian Bark), the source of quinine. To put the matter to the test he took a substantial dose of the bark and, to his astonishment and intense interest, found himself developing a typical attack of ague (marsh fever).

At once Similia similibus curentur came to mind, for “the bark” was a popular “cure” for marsh fever at that time. Here was a drug causing symptoms that it was known to cure or, at any rate, influence in the direction of cure.

Alternative to Drastic Drugging:

Here was the answer to his quest for a rational and at the same time safe and satisfactory method of treating disease that would not merely get rid of symptoms but would restore health and well- being, and do so without causing additional pain and distress to the patient.

Once gripped by the idea he set about putting his theory to the test and applied his new pharmacology to clinical practice with encouraging results. In the first two years he had accumulated data on some dozen drugs as to what symptoms they could cause, and was beginning to use these drugs as remedies in accordance with the principle of “similarity”.

But it was only after several years of patient and painstaking experiment that he put forward his claims publicly and in print. The notion that disease could be cured by drugs causing similar symptoms in a healthy person seemed so far-fetched and absurd to his contemporaries that his theory was discounted and his successes were ignored.

Rather unfortunately, he defended his claims with such withering denunciation and biting criticism of his contemporaries, that a fair hearing and a considered judgement were virtually ruled out by the passion and heat engendered in the dispute.

The idea that the body itself might be aided and abetted in its endeavours to cure the disorder and disharmony responsible for disease may have seemed ridiculous and scarcely worthy of attention to the men of Hahnemann’s generation. It is by no means so absurd today with out knowledge of immunology, allergy, molecular biology, even submolecular biology. Time and the advance of science have proved on Hahnemann’s side.

In other respects also Hahnemann was ahead of his time in his thinking. For instance he postulated the theory that disease was in most cases not merely local but systemic, that local symptoms were but outward and visible signs of inward metabolic dysfunction, that many so-called acute illnesses were but a flare-up or exacerbation of a deep-seated smouldering disorder or toxicosis.

In consequence he argued that in treating an illness it is the whole person who should be considered and not just the local manifestations of the trouble.

It is interesting to note that many diseases thought at one time to be local in nature have within recent years been found to be systemic diseases with local manifestations; to mention but three-Lupus Erythematosus, Grave’s Disease and Diabetes mellitus.

In general terms it can be said that the absorption of a foreign substance into the body results in tissue reactions or responses. The nature of these reactions is widespread, complex and elusive. In effect they may be helpful-health-protecting, health- restoring-or the reverse. If this reaction is adequate “health” will be maintained; if it is inadequate, damage, disorder and disease will result.

Homoeopathy suggests, and claims as the result of decades of clinical experience, that this vital protective and curative response can be boosted and enhanced by a medicinal substance capable of providing a stimulus similar to that which causes disease. Moreover, that the remedy most likely to induce this effect is one which can induce a “drug-disease” having similar symptoms, if given in sufficient dose.

The symptoms of which a sick person complains, or which can be detected by a trained observer, are the result of the various reactions occurring in the tissues. they constitute “the outward and observable signs of the inward metabolic disturbance”.

Further, all the varying details of the symptoms are a highly individual matter. These personal, and often peculiar, details reveal what is of extreme importance, the way in which the particular sick individual is reacting at any given time.

Another aspect of Hahnemann’s clear thinking was his realisation of the folly and fallacy of routine prescribing by diagnostic label. In other words the uniqueness of the individual calls for treatment suited to the individual sufferer. It becomes a problem of dealing with a particular illness in a particular person.

The details of symptoms differ from one case to another although a common label may be attached. It is these details which are personal and particular, that are important homoeopathically, for a remedy must be sought which possesses similar symptoms in its materia medica picture.

Further, these symptoms are present in a particular person, and it has been found that there is often a correspondence between the characteristics of a drug and the constitutional and temperamental characteristics of the individual sufferer.

It can become possible, therefore, to suit a remedy not merely to the particular features of the symptoms but also to the particular type of the sick person. All this makes for an accuracy in prescribing that is absent from treatment by rote.

That this method of therapy does give results in the cure of disease and relief of suffering is a matter of history, of innumerable factual records. To explain just how it achieves this is not easy. Hahnemann did not find it easy, and simply stated that the “drug disease” over-came the “natural disease” when suitably matched, which, of course, did not explain anything.

As a result of modern research along biochemical and biophysical lines certain phenomena have been brought to light, such as resistance, immunity, allergy and other forms of tissue activity and reactivity.

Much still remains to be revealed as to what really does go on in the living body in health and disease. But the possibility of a rational and more intelligible explanation of the action of the similar remedy does seem to have come nearer.

Homoeopathic treatment is a much more specific and personal matter than mere routine prescribing by label, which is based on common symptoms without consideration of individual variability in response.

Homoeopathy is not a panacea for all human ills. There are conditions which call for specific treatment, medical or surgical, perhaps with urgency. But over a very wide range of illness this branch of the healing art can offer good prospect of relief of symptoms, and also restoration of health and well- being.

Historically there is ample evidence to prove the efficacy of homoeopathic treatment in disease, both acute and chronic. The correctly chosen remedy, rightly administered, provides a reliable means of achieving maximum benefit with a minimal amount of medicament and with a minimum of concomitant risk and distress.

It has been said that an idea is the work of one mind but it takes many men and many minds to test the idea and try it out in order to prove whether it is false or true. The idea of curing likes by likes as a practical procedure in the treatment of illness took shape in the mind of one young man.

Physicians and others in many countries have been trying it out for a period of nearly two centuries. As a method of practical therapeutics homoeopathy has not been found wanting.