Nature of Symptoms
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$153 is the one that teaches more particularly how the process of individualization or discrimination shall be carried out. It treats of characteristics, it treats or grades. The homoeopathic physician may think he his case written out very well, but he does not know whether he has or not until he has mastered the idea of this paragraph. He may have page after page of symptoms, and not know what the remedy is, and if he takes the record to a master the master will say: “You have no case!” “Why, I have plenty of symptoms.” “But you have no case.
You have left your case out; you have left the image of the sickness out, because you have failed to get anything that characterizes it. You have plenty of symptoms, but have not anything characteristic. You have not taken your case properly.” Now, after you have mastered this paragraph you will know whether you have taken your case properly, you will know whether you have something to present to a master, a likeness of something. The lack of this knowledge is the cause of non-success with the majority homoeopathic physicians. There are a great many homoeopathic physicians that prescribe and tinker a long time with their cases, and will ask you what a characteristic is, and if it is some one peculiar thing that guides to a remedy. The idea of a keynote comes to the mind of many.
I do not mean that all or any part of what you have written is useless, but it is necessary to have individualizing characteristics to enable you to classify that which you have, to perceive the value of symptoms, and, if you must settle down to a few remedies, to ascertain which of these is more important than another, or most important of all. You cannot individualize unless you have that which characterizes. The things that characterize are things to make you hesitate, to make you meditate.
Suppose that you have been acquainted with a large number of cases of measles, for instance, but along come one of which you say to yourself, “That is strange; I never saw such a thing as that before in a case of whooping cough. It is peculiar.” You hesitate, you meditate, and at once recognize it as something individual, because it is strange and rare and peculiar. You say, I do not know what remedy has that symptom. Then you commence to search your repertory, or consult those of more experience, and you find in the repertory, or upon consultation, that such a medicine has that thing as a strong feature, as a high grade symptom, and it is as peculiar in the remedy as in your patient, though you have never seen it before.
You may have seen a hundred cases of measles without seeing that very thing. That peculiar thing that you see in measles relates to the patient and not to the disease, and as the sole duty of the physician is to heal the sick that peculiar thing will open the whole case to the remedy. When you find that the remedy has that symptom, along with the other symptoms, you must attach some importance to it, and when there are two or three of these peculiar symptoms they form the characteristic features.
What would you think would constitute a common symptom? We shall at once see that the common symptoms are those that appear in all cases of measles, that you would expect to find in measles. It would be strange to have measles without any rash; that would be peculiar. We know that the absence of rash is a striking state of affairs and means trouble, and is peculiar. Either it is not measles, or the absence of the rash is a serious state. Suppose it is a fever.
The patient has intense heat, an ordinary fever coming in the afternoon and running through the night, with hot hands and feet, high temperature, dry tongue, etc. What would you say concerning the presence or absence of thirst? You would say it is common if he has thirst, because almost anybody who has fever would want water. Nothing is so natural to put fire out with as water, and the absence of thirst in a fever is strange, is rare and uncommon, peculiar and striking. You would ask yourself at once, is it not strange that he does not have thirst with such a high temperature? You at once strike to the remedies that are thirstless. You would not think of hunting up a remedy that has thirst.
So the absence of the striking features of disease constitutes a peculiarity that relates to the patient. Well, then, that which is pathognomonic is common, because it is common in that disease, but an absence of the pathognomonic characterizes that peculiar disease in that patient, and therefore means the patient, and in proportion as you have that class of symptoms just in that proportion you have things that characterize the patient, and the specific remedy for the patient will be the simillimum. It is necessary to know sicknesses, not from pathology, not from physical diagnosis, no matter how important these branches are, but by symptoms, the language of nature.