The Study of Provings

Every drug Hahnemann proved after China, established the law of smilia more and more, and every drug that he proved added one more remedy to our Materia Medica, which we now recognize as Hahnemann’s Materia Medica Pura and the Materia Medica of the Chronic Diseases….

It may be well for you to review thoroughly the first portion of the study of the Organon, containing the doctrines in general that may be hereafter found to be useful in the application of Homoeopathy, including the oldest established rules and principles.

The first step may be called theoretical Homoeopathy, or the principles of Homoeopathy after which we take up the homoeopathic method of studying sickness. In this way we have found that the study of sickness in our school is entirely different from the study of sickness under the old school. But up to this time the doctrines have not exhibited their purpose; we only get their purpose when we come to the third step, which deals with the use of Materia Medica.

We have seen that we must study sickness by gathering the symptoms of sick patients, relying upon the symptoms as the language of nature, and that the totality of the symptoms constitutes the nature and quality and all there is that is to be known of the disease.

The subject we will now take up and consider is, now to acquire a knowledge of the instruments that we shall make use of in combating human sickness. We know very well that in the old school there is no plan laid down for acquiring a knowledge of medicines except by experimenting with them upon the sick.

This Hahnemann condemns as dangerous, because it subjects human sufferers to hardship and because of its uncertainty. Though this system has existed for many hundreds of years, it has never revealed a principle or method that one can take hold of to help in curing the sickness of the human family. His experiments in drug proving were made before he studied diseases.

In other words, Hahnemann built the Materia Medica and then took up the plan of examining the patient to see what remedy the sickness looks like. Whereas now, after Homoeopathy has been established, and the Materia Medica has been established, the examination of the patient precedes, in a particular case, the examination of the Materia Medica. But for the purpose of study they go hand in hand.

Before Hahnemann could examine the Materia Medica you may say he had to make one, for there was none to examine, there were no provings as yet; we now have the instruments before us to examine, we have the proved remedies. When the fallacy of old school medicine fully entered Hahnemann’s mind; when he became disgusted with its method at the time his children were sick; when he placed himself in the stream of Providence and affirmed his trust that the Lord had not made these little ones to suffer, and then to be made worse from violent medicines; then his mind was in an attitude for discovery.

It was a discountenancing of and disgust for the things that were useless, and this brought him to the state of acknowledgment of not knowing and that everything of man’s own opinion must be thrown away. It brought him to state of humility and the acknowledgment of Divine Providence.

The state of humility opens man’s mind. You will find so long as man is in a position to trust himself he makes himself a god; he makes himself the infallible; he looks to himself and does not see beyond himself; his mind is then closed. When a man finds out that in himself he is a failure, that is the beginning of knowledge in any circumstance; the very opposite of this closes the mind and turns man away from knowledge.

I have been teaching long enough to observe, and I will tell you some things I have observed. I have observed quite a number of young people turn away from Homoeopathy after once confessing it, and professing to practice it, and after seeming able in a certain degree to practice it. I often wondered why it was that after they had made public profession of it they turned away from it, and I found in every instance that it was due to lack of humility.

The great mistake comes from turning one’s attention into self and relying upon self, with an attention that closes the mind and deprives one of knowledge and prevents clear perception. Man takes himself out of the stream of Providence when he becomes dissatisfied with himself and thinks “now that I have done so many things I have nothing more to study.” This is a wrong attitude; for anything like self-conceit will blind a man’s eyes, will make him unable to use the means of cure and will prevent his becoming acquainted with the Materia Medica.

The homoeopathic physician, as much as the clergyman, ought to keep himself in a state of purity, a state of humility, a state of innocence. So sure as he does not do that he will fall by the wayside. There is nothing that destroys a man so fast in the scientific world as conceit. We see in old-fashioned science men who are puffed up and corpulent with conceit. The scientific men who are in the greatest degree of simplicity are the most wise and the most worthy, and you need not tell me that those who are innocent and simple have not had a tremendous struggle in order to keep self under control and to reach this state of simplicity.

Extensive knowledge makes a man simple, makes him gentle. Extensive knowledge makes a man realize how little he knows, and what a small concern he is. A little knowledge makes a fool of man, and makes him thin he knows it all, and the more he forgets of what h has known the bigger man he feels he is. The smaller he feels is the more he knows, you may rest assured. In order to do this, he must study and keep himself in a state of gravity and in a state of innocence.

In the scientific world we have all those horrible jealousies and feelings of hatred to those who know more than we do. A man who cannot control that and keep the down is not fit to enter the science of Homoeopathy. He must be innocent of these things; he must put that aside and be willing to learn of all sources, providing the truth, flows from these sources. In this frame of mind, and this frame of mind only, can the physician proceed to examine the Materia Medica.

We have already said that Hahnemann had no Materia Medica to start with. He could not go to books. and read, and meditate, and find remedies in the image of human sickness. He had no such remedies to study, and hence it was necessary to build up the Materia Medica. We can imagine that Hahnemann must have been almost in a state of despair, and inclined to say there is no knowledge upon the earth.

He felt in his own mind that we should never know anything about Materia Medica so long as we perceived its effects only in human sickness, but that a true and pure Materia Medica must be formed by observing the action of medicines upon the healthy human race. Hahnemann did not commence to feed these medicines to others; he took the Peruvian Bark himself, and felt its effects upon himself.

He allowed it to manifest its symptoms, and when he had thus proved Peruvian Bark (which we call China) it might be then said that the first remedy known to man was discovered, and that the first drug effect was known and that China was born! Hahnemann searched the literature of the day to to find out what other effects of China had been discovered accidentally, and accepted such as were in harmony with what he had discovered.

We have already referred to the fact that Hahnemann was able, after proving China, to see that in its action it closely resembled the intermittent fevers that had existed through all time; that there was the most abundant relation of similitude between China and intermittent fever. Do we wonder, then, that Hahnemann said to himself, can it be possible that the law of cure is the law of similars? Can it be possible that similars are cured by drugs that produce symptoms like unto the sickness?

Every drug he proved thereafter established the law more and more, made it appear more certain, and every drug that he proved added one more remedy to the instrument that we call the Materia Medica, until it came to be what we now recognize as Hahnemann’s Materia Medica Pura and the Materia Medica of the Chronic Diseases. This work was simply enormous and very thorough, but many additions have been made to it since the time of its publication, and these form the instruments we have to examine.

The best way to study a remedy is to make a proving of it. Suppose we were about to do that; suppose this class were entering upon a proving. Each member of the class would devote, say, a week, in examining carefully all the symptoms that he or she is the victim of, or believe himself or herself to be the victim of, at the present time, and for many months back. Each student then proceeds to write down carefully all these symptoms and places them by themselves. This group of symptoms is recognized as the diseased state of that individual.

A master-prover is decided upon, who will prepare for the proving a substance unknown to the class and to all the provers, known only to himself. He will begin with the first or earliest form of the drug, it may be the tincture, and potentize it to the 30th potency, putting a portion of that potency into a separate vial for each member of the class. The provers do not know what they are taking, and they are requested not to make known to each other their symptoms.

James Tyler Kent
James Tyler Kent (1849–1916) was an American physician. Prior to his involvement with homeopathy, Kent had practiced conventional medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. He discovered and "converted" to homeopathy as a result of his wife's recovery from a serious ailment using homeopathic methods.
In 1881, Kent accepted a position as professor of anatomy at the Homeopathic College of Missouri, an institution with which he remained affiliated until 1888. In 1890, Kent moved to Pennsylvania to take a position as Dean of Professors at the Post-Graduate Homeopathic Medical School of Philadelphia. In 1897 Kent published his magnum opus, Repertory of the Homœopathic Materia Medica. Kent moved to Chicago in 1903, where he taught at Hahnemann Medical College.