Homoeopathy – Its Nature and Origin

Small doses, then, speaking comparatively, is an essential element of the Homoeopathic method. But that such dosage should be what is known as infinitesimal that it should habitually deal with fractions from millionth upwards to this Homoeopathy does not compel either logically or practically. There are and always have been multitudes of its warmest adherents and most eminent practitioners who never employ these attenuations. I shall hereafter, indeed, have to exhibit the activity of infinitesimal quantities as a discovery of Hahnemann’s to discuss the evidence for it and the theories which have been put forward to account for it. But, whatever be its value, it stands on its own merits, its connection with Homoeopathy as method is historical, and not vital.

The sum of what has now been said is thus: Homoeopathy is a therapeutic method, an instrument for the selection of the most suitable remedy for each case of disease. Hahnemann is to it that which Watt was to be steam-engine and Arkwright to intellectual sphere that which Bacon was to induction by graduated generalisation. He is the author of the method: To him belongs the merit of all it has accomplished, and with his name it must ever be indissolubly connected. But in adopting this method of Hahnemann as our chief guide in Therapeutics, we do not necessarily become followers of his, in other departments of thought: We are Homoeopathists, not Hahnemannians.

He was more than a therapeutist, and so are we; but in those wider regions he is but one master among many, and we may as I confess I do prefer the guidance of Fletcher in Physiology and of Tessier in Pathology to his. Nor must his METHODUS MEDENDI itself be conceived of as insusceptible of improvement. The steam-engine of today is not altogether that of Watt. Homoeopathy, like the candlestick of the Hebrew tabernacle, has been shaped by hammering not by casting; or rather, it is a vital thing, growing as the years go on, and legitimately influenced by its environments. It is in our hands somewhat different from what it was when it dropped from Hahnemann’s; but it is Hahnemann’s still. All study, exposition, practice of it must start from him: and the results it achieves must be accounted a monument reared to his honour.

It is with such a mind that I invite you to follow me in my attempt to expound the Principles of Homoeopathy.


Note I, Page 2.

It is not easy to say how the alteration of “curentur” into “curantur” came to be made. Hahnemann used the former in the “Organon,” from its First Edition in 1810 onwards; and again in a letter written in 1835 to the French Minister of Public Instruction,”(MONTHLY HOM. REVIEW, FEB., 1802.) these being the only two places in which the formula is employed by him. The change occurred in his life-time, for Mr. Everest, his English pupil, stated that he was much annoyed by the substitution of “curantur” which is not surprising, since this is (as I have said) obvious Latin, as well as a misrepresentation of his intention.

He may be said to have condoned it, however; for among the articles we found on his body when we exhumed it in 1899, to give it more fitting sepulchre, was a gold medal presented to him by the French Homoeopathic Society, which bore the formula in its later form. That was certainly the current phase when Homoeopathy began to flourish in this Island, and was accordingly adopted as its motto by the BRITISH JOURNAL OF HOMOEOPATHY on its appearance in 1843.

In 1862, Dr. Ryan who was a fine classical scholar took exception (BRIT. JOURN. OF HOMOEO., xxxviii., 64.) to the phrase, and urged a reversion to Hahnemann’s original wording. The then editors of the BRITISH JOURNAL opposed the change (BRIT. JOURN. OF HOMOEO., xx., 314.) but their argument throughout proceeds on the assumption that “curantur” is generally understood to mean “are treated,” whereas there can be no doubt that nine hundred and ninety-nine persons in every thousand would render it “are cured.” I was myself convinced by Dr. Ryan’s reasoning: and in my “Manual of Therapeutics” published in 1869, expressed my preference for “curantur,” which I have ever since adopted. (The “curantur” on pp. 2 and 45 of the Fourth Edition of my “Pharmacodynamics” was a would-be improvement of the printer, made after the return of the last proof. It has been corrected in subsequent editions of like origin, is doubtless the “curantur” which Dr. C. Wesselhoeft has been made to put into Hahnemann’s mouth in his translation of “Organon.”

Of late, the “curentur” having been espoused and defended by the weighty authority of Dr. Dudgeon, more attention has been directed to it. The displeasure which has been evinced by the more ardent Hahnemannians at the proposed return to its use may have arisen from the mistranslation I have already adverted to. Thus Dr. Reinke, of Jamaica, in the UNITED STATES MEDICAL INVESTIGATOR for March 24th, 1883, asks “Why do some of our doctors say CURENTUR? Are they not sure?” His question would have been spared had he understood that the subjunctive is used in its imperative force. The true reading has now however, been irrevocably affirmed written with an iron pen, and graven in the rock for ever. The Committee which have erected in Hahnemann’s honour the tombstone of Pere Lachaise and the cenotaph which adorns the city of Washington have both been convinced that SIMILIA SIMILIBUS CURENTUR was what the Master wrote, and have inscribed it accordingly upon those memorials of his fame.

Note 2, Page 2

In writing thus, I was referring to an Article in the NORTH AMERICAN JOURNAL OF HOMOEOPATHY for August, 1878, by my venerable friend Dr. P. P. Wells, of Brooklyn. He has long ago gone to his rest, and his pronouncement on the subject is probably forgotten; but as it may express the thoughts of many others I briefly notice it here. Dr. Wells stigmatized the reduction of Homoeopathy to a mere rule of practice as a “crime for which our language fails to give a designation sufficiently condemnatory.”

In maintaining it to be a law, however, he confuses the sense in which science uses this term and that which belongs to it in the sphere of ethics and politics. He says “It is an important element in the nature of law, that it is wholly mandatory. It commands, it neither solicits nor permits.” Now this is true enough of a moral or a criminal law, but it is entirely incorrect when applied to a so-called law of Nature. The latter is simply an expression of a certain general fact which we perceive in the order of the universe; and it takes the form, not of a mandate but of an affirmation. “Thou shalt not kill” here is the law of conscience and of citizenship: The law of Nature is such as that all matter attracts all other matter in direct proportion to its mass and in inverse proportion to the square of its distance. The real question is whether Homoeopathy is such a law as that of gravitation.

It is an inference from certain observed facts: Shall we state the inference by an affirmation, universal, exclusive, unchanging, that “likes are cured by likes,” or by a practical conclusion, admitting of qualification and exception “let likes be treated by likes?” Dr. Wells, and those who think with him, declare for the former alternative. I must follow Hahnemann himself in thinking the latter the utmost for which we have warrant. It requires a vast number of observations and experiments are we can formulate a law of Nature, while a rule of art can be deduced from a very few particulars its application being a speedy test of its validity. I cannot think we are justified in affirming that all morbid states are curable by their similars or better cured thus than by any other means: I can only feel borne out by the facts when I affirm that my practical wisdom lies in following the rule “let likes be treated by likes” as fully as I am able.

Richard Hughes
Dr. Richard Hughes (1836-1902) was born in London, England. He received the title of M.R.C.S. (Eng.), in 1857 and L.R.C.P. (Edin.) in 1860. The title of M.D. was conferred upon him by the American College a few years later.

Hughes was a great writer and a scholar. He actively cooperated with Dr. T.F. Allen to compile his 'Encyclopedia' and rendered immeasurable aid to Dr. Dudgeon in translating Hahnemann's 'Materia Medica Pura' into English. In 1889 he was appointed an Editor of the 'British Homoeopathic Journal' and continued in that capacity until his demise. In 1876, Dr. Hughes was appointed as the Permanent Secretary of the Organization of the International Congress of Homoeopathy Physicians in Philadelphia. He also presided over the International Congress in London.