Schmid’s polar theory-Mosthaff’s antipathic theory-J.O. Muller’s antipathic theory-Koch’s substitutive theory-His imperfect definition of similar-His tendency to substantialize qualities of matter-Widenmann’s theory of stronger and weaker affinities-The phenomena of chemistry not analogous to the vital processes- Gerstel’s derivative theory-Facts against this theory-Schneider’s peripheral theory-Untenableness of views-Trinks’s neutralization theory-Mayrhofer’s blunted receptivity theory-Griesselich’s greater affinity theory-Trousseau’s substitutive theory- Hirschel’s four theories-Wunderlich’s eight theories-Curie’s assisting nature theory- P.P.’s odylic theory- Theory based on direct specific stimulation-Fletcher’s theory of homoeopathic cures-Homoeopathic remedies act antipathically-Correct views of Cl. Muller-Foreshadowing of homoeopathy by John Hunter-A true theory applicable to the explanation of all medicinal cures- Falsity of the view that disease is cured by the stronger overcoming the weaker.
EXPLANATIONS of the curative process founded on the known phenomena of polarity are by no means uncommon in our homoeopathic literature, and among those who have brought their learning and logical powers to bear upon the subject from this most dynamical point of view, we rather marvel to notice that George Schmid (2 Hyg., v., x., xi.) is one of the foremost. The very material notions of that worthy and learned gentleman with respect to the dose would have led us to expect anything rather than that his ideas of the creative process were so purely dynamical; but we see that in homoeopathy as elsewhere extremes meet, and no doubt Dr. Schmid can in his own mind reconcile his grossly material doses with his hyperdynamical conceptions of disease. Dr. Schmid thus formulizes his theory of the curative process:-
“The disease and the medicine selected for its cure according to the principles of Homoeopathy, act like two powers of opposite polarity, or like two dissimilar poles which, when brought to act and react on each other, equalize each other in such a manner as that not only the opposition subsisting between them is removed, but also that they mutually extinguish one another.”
To me this and similar attempts to liken the processes of the human organism, and more especially the curative process effected by means of medicinal agents, to the phenomena of external nature, seem so overstrained and far-fetched that I cannot enter seriously upon a refutation of them. The analogy that can be traced between the curative process and the phenomena of polarity is of the vaguest description, and all the learning that George Schmid brings to bear in defense of his theory can never hide its fundamental defects. (When we come to consider the question of homoeopathic posology we shall find that the laws of polarity have been employed by Dr. Atschul of determine the dose of the remedy or rather to vindicate the infinitesimal doses of our therapeutics, with what success will be hereafter seen). Another view of the subject, which has found an able defender in Mosthaff, in his work On Homoeopathy, (Ueber die Homoeopathie.) is that the cure of the disease according to homoeopathic principles depends on the circumstance that thought the symptoms of disease and remedy be similar there is a difference in the action of both, that is to says, that although the homoeopathic remedy acts on the same organ, it produces in it a precisely opposite state to that caused by the disease; in other words, it acts antipathically, and if this be true the system might be termed specific-antipathic. In support of this proposition the following arguments are adduced:-
1. Substance, it is alleged, whose fundamental action on the organism are essentially different, frequently give rise to similar symptoms.
2. Diseases are not unfrequently cured by medicines which produce similar symptoms, but a fundamental state quite different from that of the disease, e.g., syphilis by mercury.
3. Opposite conditions, such as anemia and plethora, present an array of symptoms in many respects very analogous..
Plausible as these arguments at first sight appear, they will not stand the test of strict investigation, for were we even to admit them with respect to certain cases, these must evidently prove the minority; for nothing is more certain than that from similar symptoms we may infer a similarity of pathological condition, and though some states, fundamentally different, do certainly offer many symptoms in common, yet they differ in the important, the peculiar, the essential, the characteristic symptoms. It is a mere truism to say that disease and Homoeopathic medicine differ in their action, though in no case does this difference amount to opposition, and the difference depends more on the essential difference betwixt the medicinal and morbific agents than the mode in which the organism is acted on. Thus mercury must produce similar affections in the same organs as syphilis to comply with the demands of the homoeopathic law, and accordingly we find that it does similarly affect the mucous membrane, the skin, the glands, the periosteum and the bones, and there is no truth whatsoever in the notion that it produces an opposite condition in these organs or parts. Again, anemia and plethora away present a few symptoms in common, just as pleurisy and scarlet fever present some symptoms in common, but these two latter disease are not more divergent in their essential and characteristic phenomena than are the former. Such being the case, we must refuse to adopt the explanation offered by Mosthaff, which halts throughout and is unsound in its premises.
A similar notion of the antipathic action of homoeopathic remedies seems to be entertained by the learned by mystical D. J.O. Muller of Vienna, if we may judge from the following passage in a paper by him on the Homoeopathic principle: (OEst. Ztsch.f. Hom., i.3,6.) “It is undoubtedly true that the physical conceptions, cold and warm, moist and dry, lax and dry, lax and tight, and so forth, are to appearance, therefore in a sensual point of view, opposites, but they are not so in the idea, nor yet in their dynamic relation to organic life. This is markedly shown in their employment as curative agencies in pathical processes. Here there occurs no mutual extinction of the opposites, because abnormal life react in a direction the precisely opposite to its own physiological laws. Hence the homoeopathic principle of cure is, as far as regards the reaction of the diseased organism, not a law of similarity but of direct opposition. As surely as health represents the diametrical opposite of disease, so surely does the does the internal factor in both react against he influence, according to the organic laws, in an opposite direction; and hence one and the same agency in opposite states of the health will display opposite actions.” This is a pretty safe way of stating the process of cure, and can scarcely be said to commit its author to any explanation, as it is more a prolix way of expressing a fact than an enunciation of a theory; for it is undoubtedly true that health and disease may be considered opposites, and that in disease the remedy acts in an opposite manner to what it does in health; for in the former case it produces the opposite of disease-health, whereas in the latter it produces health’s opposite-disease. It may be questioned, however, whether this opposition is not merely the apparent or sensual opposition which Dr. Muller alludes to in the fist apart of the quotation. Be this, however, as it may, it is quite evident that we get no insight into the curative process from this passage in Dr. Muller’s essay.
Of those who have sought to give a scientific basis to homoeopathy none has laboured more diligently than Koch, and in many numbers of the Hygea, but especially in his volume On Homoeopathy, (Die Homoeopathie, physiologische, pathologische und therapeutische begrundet oder das Gesetz des Lebens im gesunden and krank Zustande. Von A.W. Koch. Karlsruhe) he has brought all the acumen of a most philosophical mind to bear upon the subject, and in the system he has built up we are forced to acknowledge a completeness and a finish that we miss in many other works having the same object., In the work to which I allude, Koch does not confine himself to a mere disquisition on therapeutics, but he boldly attempts a complete reconstruction of physiology, pathology, and therapeutics, and I must confess that his book has all the attractiveness of a romance, but at the same time it bears the impress of much study, a thorough acquaintance with the modern sciences, great logical power, and a knowledge of those grand and starting physiological doctrines which issue from the brains of Germans only. Of all these great qualities of Koch’s work I would give you specimens, but I could not do so properly within the compass of lecture, and as I have several more notions on the subject of the curative process to lay before you, I must confine myself to a short and mutilated statement of Koch’s views upon this point alone.
Life and health, according to this author, consist in a continual attraction of the similar and rejection of the dissimilar. Disease is a dynamic- material operation, consisting in a formative faculty of an organ or system different from that originally assigned to it, produced by a new direction of the attraction of similar to similar. The mode of its production is this: -The morbific power or agent combines with the general or particular disposition to disease (Krankheiten- anlage), whereby a new product engendered in the organism arises, whose vital action or vitality is different from that of the organism itself. The disease plays the part of something generated, which finds its nutriment in some organ or system, and is itself capable of generating in tits turn. Dr. Koch’s “general disposition to disease” is the general liability of every organism to become deranged; his “particular disposition” corresponds to what we term the predisposing causes, and includes those of a congenital and hereditary character and those produced by age, sex, constitution, vaccination, and too large doses of medicine. Apropos of these causes he makes a number of very useful practical observations, which it would be out of place to dwell upon here.
Koch’s morbific agent (potential nocens) combines with the disposition to disease (krankheiten-anlage), to which it is a similar, and from the union of the two the disease is generated. the symptoms are produced, on the one hand, by the struggle of this so-produced disease to assimilated the organic matter according to its own peculiar type, and on the other, by the effort of the organism to resist this assimilative faculty.
The cure, according to Koch, is effected by the organism putting itself in the opposition of a similar as regards the diseased organ or system, and thus depriving the abnormal direction of the vitality of its nutriment. Then Dr. Koch enters into a detail of all the possible ways in which cure of and preservation from disease can be effected, but I need only allude to two of the. The artificial morbific cause to the disposition to disease existing in the organs, whereby an artificial medicinal disease is produced, which removes from the natural morbific cause the disposition (or susceptibility)to it, so that this natural cause finds nothing more in the organism to enable it to form a disease. This is done in the following way: a medicinal power is introduced into the organism which has an attraction for the disposition to disease, as like to like,. and this attraction must be stronger than that of the morbific cause for the same “disposition,” but must at the same time be capable of developing a less important (artificial) disease. Examples: Jenner’s vaccination, Hahnemann’s belladonna against scarlatina, AEgidi’s veratrum against cholera, Arnold’s sulphur against measles.
In order to understand the homoeopathic curative process, he considers the spontaneous curative process, that is, the process of natural cure in the case of disease that run a normal course and whose products are ejected or thrown off by means of what are called regular crises, to be as follows:-By the course of he disease all the disposable susceptibility or disposition to the formation of the disease is brought into action, and after it is completely saturated or acted on, the formative process must stop, and its products, when not too heterogeneous, are assimilated and ejected, and there upon the normal assimilative faculty is restored. In order to imitate this spontaneous curative process and thus promote the removal of the ideas, all we have to do is to convert the disposable susceptibility into another artificial morbid process which runs a course not dangerous to the organism, and by its artificial consumption to render a spontaneous curative process possible. And this is
effected by the homoeopathic remedy, which, though it produces a milder disease, has yet a great affinity for the disposition to disease in the organism.
From this explanation it will be observed that Koch’s formula for the homoeopathic cure is very similar to that of Hahnemann; if expressed in the aphoristic style of the latter it would stand thus; the cure is effected by substituting an artificial disease for that present in the organism. The difference is that Hahnemann says the medicinal disease is the stronger, whilst Koch states that it is the weaker, but the relatively greater power of the medicinal disease is owing to the medicinal powers having a greater affinity or similarity to that part of the organism where is seated the disposition to disease. Now, plausible and well argued as are. Dr. Koch’s theoretical views of the whole subject of life, health, disease and its cure, they are, I think, pervaded throughout by a fundamental error. And first we observe that, throughout, the word similar or like bears in Dr. Koch’s vocabulary a very over strained and out of the way meaning. In no sense that we usually or even unusually attach to the word can it be said that the ordinary vital operations consist in an attraction of the similar. Look at the act of nutrition; where is the similarity betwixt the potato, which will suffice for the nutriment of the body, a and the different organs and parts of which it is composed” Again, in medicine, where is the similarity betwixt the mercury and the liver; the skin, the bones and the mucous membranes on which it acts? Where the similarity betwixt the aconite and the arterial system and serious membranous? No doubt mercury has a special affinity for the one set of organs, aconite for the other, but the quality of similarity has nothing in the world to do with it. Dr. Koch has suffered himself to be led astry by a whimsical interpretation of a word and upon the text of similia similibus he would preach a new gospel to all the sciences of organic and inorganic life. Like to like is the grand shibboltch of his new creed, the “open sesame” that shall roll back upon their hinges those ponderous doors of obscurity that have hitherto kept us out from right views of the science of life under all its forms.
It is a pity that so much learning and industry have been expended in pursing a whim to the death; for if we can forget Dr. Koch’s fixed idea, and translate his tortured expression of like into the various meanings it stands for indifferent parts of his work, we shall find much to admire and many excellent ideas an beautiful reflections on the phenomena of health and disease, illustrated by many valuable practical deductions. Apart from this fallacy, that pursues us everywhere throughout Koch’s work, I must admit that his physiological and pathological views accord very much with what I deem to be the correct ones, and I only marvel that a man whom I consider so sound in his real views should have so spoilt his enunciation of them by such a glaring misuse of words. the is also another feature that strikes us throughout the whole of Koch’s theoretical explanation, and that is his tendency to substantialize or personify mere qualities of matter. Thus the susceptibility for disease, in place of being a state of being or quality of the organ or system, is something super added to it; and in the same way, the morbific influence is a material substance that forms an alliance with the susceptibility, and by their union the disease (also something material) is produced. the same is the case with the medicinal action and the combination of this with the susceptibility-the
resultant medicinal disease. He gravely talks about the assimilation or the ejection of he causa proxima. These modes of speech are certainly very inaccurate, and have a great tendency to give rise to erroneous notions. To consider these qualities of the organism in health and disease as something independent and self-subsistent is as though we were to do the same by the qualities of other substances; it is just as if we were to consider as self-existent and independent entities the qualities of hardness, elasticity, density, roundness, and opacity in an ivory ball.
But I think I have sufficiently shown that Koch’s theory or explanation is untenable, but before dismissing him I may observe that the views he promulgates in the large work from high I have quoted differ some what from those he expressed some years previously. His explanation used to be as nearly as possible as follows:-The susceptibility combined with or morbific influence and caused the disease, which in its turn formed a susceptibility for medicinal action, and these two latter in union formed the medicinal disease, which was easily expelled by he organism., and the harmony of the affected organ or system with the general organism, which had been interrupted by its presence, was restored by its ejection. The same objections which I have made to his later theory apply with double force to this his former one, so I need not enter into a detailed exposure of its fallacy.
I have already mentioned the points of similarity of Koch’s explanation to Hahnemann’s, and also shown where they differ. I next come to consider an explanation which occupies a middle place betwixt these two. According to Widenmann (Ueber das Wesen der Natur und die homoeopathie; also Hygea, xviii., p.457- 475) the homoeopathic cure takes place in the following way:- to the substratum or maternal soil in which the disease unfolds its action another power is presented, which is more greedily attracted by the said soil than the first morbific agency, and thus the proximate cause of the disease present is dispossessed and its activity put a stop to. He shows that medicinal agents and poisons must be reckoned among morbific agents that in virtue of their peculiar quality do not require the presence of any peculiar disposition on the part of the organism in order to produce a disease, and he considers in particular homoeopathic medicines as agents having an overpowering affinity to the substratum of the diease, because they, by the force of their noxious influence and without any particular special susceptibility on the apart of the organism, are able to develop in the body a disease extremely like that which arises from the action of the morbific influence where the disposition for it exists.
The arguments he uses to show the superior strength of the medicinal over the natural disease are not materially different from those of Hahnemann which I have formerly exposed, only they are more scientifically put and better expressed. He says, namely, that the homoeopathic medicine is so far stronger than the natural disease, that it has been virtue of its quality a strong affinity to the special disposition than the morbific cause, but as regards its quantum it must necessarily be weaker than the natural disease, else it would not go away of itself. In effect this is the same as Koch’s notion, only differently and perhaps more happily expressed, but in other respects Widenmann falls into Koch’s error of starting with the attraction of like to like as being the general law of the healthy and morbid life
of the organism, for through by straining a point we may look upon the phenomena of assimilation in the healthy organism as bearing out the supposed law, yet its absurdity is perfectly manifest when we apply it to the phenomena of disease; for what similarity is there between the contagions of scarlatina, measles and typhus, and the mucous membrane of the throat, respiratory organs, and small intestines, betwixt a chill and the morbidly affected pulmonary tissue, betwixt moist air and unwholesome food and the mesenteric glands? What resemblance has belladonna to the mucous membrane of the fauces, what digitalis to the motor nerves of the heart, cantharides to the kidneys, or secale cornutum to the uterus? The action of the homoeopathic medicine upon the morbid process might with greater plausibility be considered an attraction of like to like, as the medicine is capable of exciting in the healthy organism a state similar to this process; but wherefore go out of the way to resort to a mere hypothesis of the attraction of the medicinal agent by the affected organ, when the geater affinity of the medicine to the affected organ has already been proved? Moreover, if we look narrowly at the subject, we shall perceive that there is not a shadow of a reason for alleging that the process of cure takes place here by virtue of this supposed law of the attraction of likes, for the medicinal power, as such, has no resemblance at all to the morbid process, and these are the two factors in the business. The medicinal agent resembles the natural morbific agent in this, that they both produce similar morbid processes, but neither of the two can be said to resemble the morbid process occasioned by the other. John is like Thomas in that both can make a watch, but neither John nor Thomas is the least like Thomas’s or John’s watch. Of course there is no question of the direct action of the medicinal on the morbific agent here, for the morbid process, alias the disease, is the effect of the action of the morbific agent, and not that agent itself. Thus in Widenmann’s views we find the same confounding of states and qualities with concrete things as we notice in Koch’s explanation. The main difference between the two is that in Koch’s theory fictitious living beings were made to perform alternate actions, whereas in Widenmann’s the whole process of cure is a mere act of chemical decomposition. The homoeopathic medicine according to him, represents the stronger acid that decomposes the salt-which stands for the disease-by virtue of its greater affinity to the base (the susceptibility to disease), and its combination with the latter forms a salt more easily eliminable, and expels the weaker acid-the proximate cause of the disease. To this climax of overstrained analogies we may apply the remark of Widenmann himself on another occasion, as the Macedonian appalled from Philip drunk to Philip sober. “When,” says Widenmann-sober,” we have to do with the laws of vitality we ought to stick to the vitality, and leave to natural philosophy to explain the relations of different departments of nature. The mere borrowing of the laws of one department to apply them to the elucidation of facts of another is of no use.”