(From vol. ii, 3rd edit., 1833.)
To the ordinary mechanical, materialistic, and atomisitic heads – and there is a vast number of such – it seemed not only paradoxical, but childish and incredible, that, according to the homoeopathic, medical doctrine, the administration of doses of only very minute fractions of a grain of the more powerful medicines could be of use.
I grant that it may certainly be more convenient to regard all diseases as accumulations of gross impurities, and active drugs as rough levers and brooms, or as chemical reagents, consequently as palpable alterations of the being of living creatures (diseases) as pure dynamical powers, as they are in reality, and to set about curing according to these views.
If we do not adopt these true views, but adhere to those ordinary material ones, the curative powers of medicines must be estimated according to their bulk and the weight of their dose; and hence the scales must determine the efficacy of the dose. But in that case we first ascertain the weight of the disease, in order to be able to reckon whether a disease weighing so many pounds (it has, indeed, been hitherto not unusual to employ the phrase “Grave illness”) could be prized out, as with a lever, by such and such a weight of medicine. (The theraputic aims, according to the ideas of REIL, ACKERMANN; REICH, and others (they call them systems), appear to be more refined but they are not less mechanical and atomistic. For how heavy must not these substances be, which, employed as medicines, have to put to rights the altered form of the simple parts in a diseased body weighing a hundred and fifty pounds? What quantity of oxygen, hydrogen, or nitrogen will be required in order to supply in mass and weight one of these substances presumably deficient in a collection of morbid humours weighing forty or fifty pounds? Or can medical chemistry at otherwise in the diseased body than with masses, by the addition or subtraction of material substances according to measurement and weight? )
I willingly abandon to those collegues of mine such atomistic views, by which the business of treatment can be carried on very comfortably, even when half asleep; for as we all know; to us poor mortals nothing is more easy of comprehension than the material, ponderable. Palpable, and sensible, because much thinking (and observing), as an Israelitish teacher says, is a weariness to the body. I cannot suppose them capable of regarding diseases as immaterial alterations of the vitality, as pure dynamic derangements of our state of health, and medicine powers as merely virtual, almost spiritual, forces. It is impossible to disabuse them of the idea that for such a weight is required, seeing that they could point to the traditional practice of thousands of years, when palpable quantities of medicine must always be poured into the patient from large bottles, pots, and boxes, in order that any effect should be produced in serious diseases, and yet even this did not usually succeed. I can readily believe this: the effect of the ordinary treatment of all times fully corroborates it! But how can they reconcile it with the atomistic, materialistic notions they entertain respecting the action of medicines and their curative powers, that a single imponderable spark from a Leyden jar gives a shock to the strongest man, and yet no ascertainable ponderable substance is communicated to his body? How can they reconcile with their atomistic, materialistic notions, the enormous power of mesmerism, when a powerful man with strong will to do good approaches the point of his thumb to the pit of the stomach of a nervous patient? How can they, finally, reconcile with their atomistic, materialistic notions respecting the actions of medicines the fact that a carefully-constructed magnetic steel rod effect such a powerful derangement of our health, even when it is not in actual contact with the body, but may even be covered with some thick material (such as cloth, bladder, glass. &c.), so that we suffer therefrom violent morbid affections; or, what is equally remarkable, that a magnetic rod can quickly and permanently cure the most severe disease for which it is the suitable medicine, when it is brought near the body, for but a short time, even though covered as above described? Atomist! You narrow-minded wiseacre! Tell me what ponderable quantity of the magnet entered the body in order to effect these often enormous changes in its state of health? Is not the centillionth of a grain (a fraction of a grain that has 600 ciphers for its denominator) still infinitely too heavy to represent this absolutely imponderable quantity, the kind of spirit that emanated from the magnetic rod into this living body? Will you now continue to express your amazement at the homoeopathic doses of powerful medicines of the sextillionth, the octillionth, the decillionth of a grain, which are gross weights compared with this invisible magnetic power?