Symptomatic vs. Pathologic Prescribing.
Continuing our account of the views of early homoeopaths on the theory and practice of homoeopathy, we come to Gottlieb Rau (1779-1840), who practiced allopathy for twenty years before he adopted the new method of healing. Like Hahnemann, he advocated the use of the simplest remedies and gave free play to the healing power of nature. In all doubtful cases he preferred as far as possible to let nature take its course without the use of medicines. His one stumbling-block to complete acceptance was the smallness of the dose.
However, by careful experimentation, at first in cases not serious, he was convinced of the power of infinitesimals and became a most zealous defender of the new doctrine. Through his unusual ability and great personal charm his reputation spread far and wide.
Rau sets forth his interpretation of the theory and practice of homoeopathy in his “Organon of the Healing Art.” This excellent book remained on a shelf in my liberty for many years before I even opened it. I took for granted that it was a plagiarism of Hahnemanns work bearing the same title. The perusal of a few paragraphs changed my opinion. While Rau differs from Hahnemann upon many important issues, in the main he has written a very creditable exposition of homoeopathic philosophy and method.
In fact, he goes into some phases of the philosophy of cure more deeply than did Hahnemann, and quotes many authorities for and against his contentions. In the preface he states that he was induced to devote himself “for seventeen years to the study of propagation of the new doctrine by an intense conviction of its high worth.” He says: “My gratitude to Samuel Hahnemann, the author of the new doctrine, has not allowed me, however, to close my eyes to its existing imperfections.
I have called this work Organon, not because I considered it the last development of homoeopathy, but simply because it is a record of my own experience. I am convinced that homoeopathy is capable of progress and consider it as anybodys right to proclaim his honest and earnest meditations.” Space forbids more than a brief account of the authors most striking statements and a few instances wherein he is at variance with the teachings of Hahnemann.
Rau declares that similia represents the only true healing principle. He teaches that disease is not an entity but an internal dynamic alteration of the vital force, “which manifests itself to our senses by symptoms, which ought not to be confounded with the proximate cause.” Since the vital force cannot be divided, there can be no local disease. He queries, “Has nosology been so far of any real use in the treatment of disease? I should rather say no.” However, he believes that it would be useful to divide disease into genera, species and varieties according to their general differences; such as, sthenic, asthenic, etc.,
But attempts to treat diseases upon this basis alone have resulted in “enormous mistakes. The great use of pathological anatomy,: he says, “cannot be doubted; we should guard, however, against attaching too much importance to it.” He believes that the physician should study pathology and symptomatology in what he calls their true relations. To make his meaning clear, he describes the difference between aconite and belladonna in their action on the circulation.
Yet, he says, there are many pathologic conditions which cannot be explained; as for instance, shuddering in the pit of the stomach as ice-cold water were poured over it, a characteristic of phosphoric acid; forgetfulness with ischias, coldness of the parts affected with rheumatic pains which were cured by cocculus indicus. It is his opinion that the term “specific” treatment is preferable to “homoeopathic” and that Hahnemann was wrong in designating the old school systems of medicine by the collective name of “allopathy.” “The revulsive method is similar to the homoeopathic, inasmuch as its object is, in many cases, to excite similar affections, though in different parts of the organism.”
But he is convinced that the combination of the old and the new schools would constitute “a miserable abortion.” Still, he thinks that “the idea of antipathic treatment should not be rejected generally as has been done by some vehement members of the specific method. It is not difficult to understand that a disease might be cured antipathically, provided we knew its proximate cause, but a treatment which is directed only against isolated symptoms, is always incomplete and frequently pernicious.