In reply to the first question, he gives rules for the examination of the patient; to the second, for the proving of medicines upon the healthy; to the third, for the determination of similarity, the choice and repetition of the dose, the preparation of drugs, the diet and regimen to be observed, and so forth.
This is, in the author’s own words (crabbed and gnarled, yet weighty with thought), the ground-plan of the `Organon’. Of course, each position needs justification on its own merits; and this we shall enquire, as we proceed, how far we can award. But I would first call your attention to the simplicity of Hahnemann’s conception, to its entire freedom from hypothesis and completeness within itself. All other medical systems had been based upon certain doctrines of life and disease: Hahnemann’s method was utterly independent of them. His whole argument might be conducted, as indeed it is in the first three editions of his work, without any discussion of Physiological and Pathological questions.
I would again impress this fact upon such of his disciples as represent Homoeopathy to be a complete scheme of medical Philosophy; who would make the dynamic origin of all maladies a plank of the platform on which we must stand, and call the Psora-hypothesis “the Homoeopathic doctrine of Chronic Disease.” This is an entire mistake. There are certain, views in Physiology and Pathology which seem more harmonious than others with Homoeopathic practice; Hahnemann thus came to hold them, and most of us tend in the same direction. But they might all be disproved and abandoned, and Homoeopathy would still remain the same: we should still examine patients and prove drugs and administer remedies on the same principle and with the same success.
But I would commend this consideration also to Hahnemann’s critics. He has had critics from the first, (An answer to one of them, Hecker, was written nominally by Hahnemann’s son, Friedrich, actually by himself. It has lately been Englished by Dr. Dudgeon (Philadelphia; Boericke and Tafel, 1896). In it Hecker survives as does Celsus’ attack on Christianity in the pages of Origin’s defence of it.) though nothing is wide of the mark than to speak of “the contempt which experienced physicians felt and freely expressed for him and his whimsical doctrines.” Not thus did Hufeland and Brera and Trousseau and Forbes write of the new method and its author. But the first-named of these made a remark which is full of significance: He said that if Homoeopathy succeeded in becoming the general medical practice, it would prove “the grave of science.”
Now this I make bold to claim as an unintentional complement; for it describes our system as being true medicine, which is not science, but art. This is a truth very much forgotten now-a-days. Hahnemann, in the opening paragraph of the `Organon,’ proclaims that the physician’s high and sole mission is to restore the sick to health to cure, as it is termed. It is with this direct aim that he is to study disease and drug-action, and the relation between the two. He is not, primarily, a cultivator of science: He is a craftsman, the practiser of an art and skill, rather than knowledge in his qualification. His ART, INDEED, LIKE ALL OTHERS, HAS ITS ASSOCIATED SCIENCES. PHYSIOLOGY AND PATHOLOGY ARE TO IT WHAT CHEMISTRY IS TO AGRICULTURE AND ASTRONOMY TO NAVIGATION. So FAR AS THEY BRING REAL KNOWLEDGE, THE MORE VERSED THE PHYSICIAN IS IN THEM THE BETTER FOR HIMSELF AND FOR THOSE IN WHOSE AID HE WORKS. But he was before they had being, and his art should have a life of its own, independent of the nourishment they bring. They must, being progressive, consist largely of uncertainties working hypotheses and imperfect generalisations, destined ere long to be superseded by more authentic conceptions. Medicine should not vary with their fluctuations, or hold its maxims at the mercy of their support. While grateful for any aid they bring, it should go on its own separate way and fulfill its distinctive mission.
One great value of the method of Hahnemann is that it dwells in this sphere of art. It is “the grave of science”; for science as such, has no existence here it dies, and is buried. But its corpse enriches the ground which covers it, and thereon grass springs up and fruits ripen for practical use. On the other hand, the great weakness of the general medicine of today is that, so far as it is more than blind empiricism, it is an applied science rather than an art. It shifts from heroism to explanatory, and from spoilation to stimulating, with the prevailing conceptions of the day as to life and disease.
Maladies are studied with the eye of the naturalist rather than of the artist; and the student is turned out thoroughly equipped for their diagnosis, but helpless in their treatment. Hence the Nihilism of so much of modern teaching; hence, at the Congress I have referred to, the miserable half penny-worth of therapeutic bread to the gallons of scientific sack. It would have been well for its three thousand members if they had gone home to meditate the words of the man they ignored “the physician’s high and sole mission is to restore the sick to health”; if they would recognise Medicine as the art of healing, and cultivate it accordingly.
I must adjourn the further consideration of the `Organon’ for our next meeting.