THE IDENTITY OF HAHNEMANNS “VITAL FORCE” WITH THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND


Orthodoxy we have always with us, in science as well as religion. Reactionaries always with us, in science as well as religion. Reactionaries always resent and react against any word, expression or action which tends to enlarge the boundaries they have arbitrarily set in their creeds, customs or codes. Hence the ridicule and criticism to which Hahnemann and his followers have been subjected to for using certain words that are “taboo” in scientific circles.


In collating the references in the “Organon” to the vital force a peculiar fact not hitherto noticed is brought out.

They fall naturally into two classes which may be roughly characterized as respectful and disrespectful.

In the first class Hahnemann describes the vital force as “spiritual,” “spirit-like,” “invisible,” “immaterial,” “known only by its effects,” “omnipresent in the body,” “indefatigable vital principle,” etc.

“In the healthy condition of man,” he says, “the spiritual vital force )autocracy), the dynamis that animates the material body (organism), rules with unbounded sway, and retains all the parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation, as regards both sensations and functions, so that our indwelling, reason-gifted mind can freely employ this living, healthy instrument for the higher purposes of our existence.” (Par. 9. sixth edition).

“The material organism, without the vital force, is capable of no sensation, no function, no self-preservation; it derives all sensation and performs all the functions of life solely by means of the immaterial being (the vital principle) which animates the material organism in health and disease.” (Par. 10 sixth edition).

“When a person falls ill, it is only this spiritual, self- acting (automatic) vital force, everywhere present in his organism, that is primarily deranged by the dynamic influence upon it of a morbific agent inimical to life; it is only the vital principle, deranged to such an abnormal state, that can furnish the organism with its disagreeable sensations, and incline it to the irregular processes which we call disease; for as a power invisible in itself, and only cognizable by its effects on the organism, its morbid derangement only makes itself known by the manifestation of disease in the sensation and functions of those parts of the organism exposed to the senses of the observer and physicians, that is by morbid symptoms, and in no other way can it make itself known.” (Par. 2, sixth edition.).

The material organism and “the instinctively perceiving and regulating dynamis,” like the interior “morbidly deranged dynamis” and the totality of the external signs and symptoms of disease, constitute a unity-in each case are one and the same- “although in thought our mind separates this unity into two distinct conceptions for the sake of easy comprehension”.

Life, therefore, considered by Hahnemann as an entitative power or principle, a real being, corresponding to the modern scientific conception of Energy (except that he recognizes the energy as endowed with intelligence, which only a few, and those the greatest of modern scientists, will admit), is not only the basis of all activities of the organism, but is the active agent itself manifesting through all the body in both health and disease-a far-reaching conception of tremendous importance and absolutely fundamental in the homoeopathic healing art.

Here it should be noted that in some passages Hahnemann uses the terms “life,” force” and “vital force” interchangeably. In other passages. especially in the sixth edition of the “Organon,” he distinguishes between life (the entitative power or principle), and the life force, by naming the life principle “the Dynamis,” or simply calling it the life principle. In these latter cases life is the thing that acts, and “the life force” is the action of the thing, abstractly considered.

To Hahnemann, as to all substantialists, life is a real being or thing, not a mere state or condition, the cause, not the effect, precisely as “energy” to the physicist is a real thing, a being, a power or principle that acts. Of course, it is invisible, intangible, immaterial (using the word in the ordinary sense), but none the less real, substantial and powerful. All forms of energy, including life, electricity, radio-activity and the ether are invisible and immaterial and known to us only by their phenomena in connection with or through matter and material things and organisms.

It was in the endeavor to make this scientific fact clear that Hahnemann, in describing the life force, unfortunately used the words “spiritual” and “spirit-like”-unfortunate, not because they were not perfectly legitimate and illuminating words to use, but because the use of theological words in a scientific discussion shocks the delicate sensibilities of the average scientist today almost as much as the use of a scientific word shocks the equally delicate sensibilities of the average orthodox theologian.

Orthodoxy we have always with us, in science as well as religion. Reactionaries always with us, in science as well as religion. Reactionaries always resent and react against any word, expression or action which tends to enlarge the boundaries they have arbitrarily set in their creeds, customs or codes. Hence the ridicule and criticism to which Hahnemann and his followers have been subjected to for using certain words that are “taboo” in scientific circles.

Consider now the multitudinous and enormously complicated and delicate organic processes involved, over which the conscious mind appears to exercise no control and which yet are all performed with intelligence and purposefully. Think of growth, nutrition and repair; of digestion, assimilation, and excretion; of respiration and circulation. Hahnemann is not a materialist. He recognizes the spiritual character of life constantly and does not hesitate to use the right word to describe it.

He ridicules, with biting sarcasm, those petty materialists who imagine that disease is in some way material and endeavor to remove it from the organism by derivatives, sudorifics, cathartics, etc. He declares, with starting boldness, that “disease is a nonentity.” This is not to say that it is non- existent, but only that it is a condition and not a thing or entity. He recognizes, moreover, the vital importance and superlative value, for therapeutic purposes, of mental and psychical symptoms in disease, based upon the intimate relation between the mind, the body and the vital force, all of which constitutive a unity.

Attaching paramount importance to Life as the entitative power or principle; recognizing so clearly its field of activity, and expressing his profound and reverent admiration of its work, as we have seen, we are surprised to find Hahnemann using another cases of expression in regard to the vital force in which distrust, lack of respect and almost contempt is expressed. These occur mostly in the introduction, but also in the body of “The Organon,” when he speaks of the operations of the vital force in disease.

It is now “this unreasoning life-force,” “this unintelligent vital force, this blind guide,” this “crude, unreasonable automatic vital energy,” which “cannot, like a skilful surgeon, heal a wound by first intention by co-adapting its gaping edges; which does not know how to adjust and replace the divergent ends of a broken bone, notwithstanding its ability to furnish (often superabundantly) osseous matter; which cannot tie a wounded artery, but exhausts all its energy in causing a wounded person to bleed to death; which does not know how to reduce a dislocated humerus , but, on the contrary, prevents human art (as if the vital force were not human) from accomplishing reduction by speedily producing a swelling around the joint; which, in order to remove a splinter from the cornea, destroys the whole eye by suppuration”.

“Nay”, he continues, “this unreasonable vital force rashly receives into the body those chronic miasms (psora, syphilis, sycosis), the greatest tormentors of our earthly existence, the source of innumerable diseases, under which humanity groans for hundreds, nay, for thousands of years, and utterly unable to even palliate one of these, this same vital force is utterly incapable of removing such diseases from the organism of its own accord but suffers them to rankle in the system until death closes the eyes of the sufferer after a long life of sorrow”.

This is a formidable indictment of the vital force. How is defense to be made? Apparently there is contradiction and inconsistency here. How is it that this “immaterial being” which was so trustworthy in health is so untrustworthy in disease? How is it that that which was so expert and skilful in the performance of its duties while the person was in health is such a stupid bungler now? That which required only the simplest co- operation and was worthy of the highest confidence on the part of the “rational mind” in health is now a blind guide and utterly untrustworthy. How are these statements to be reconciled?.

But hear Hahnemann again:

“The vital force, which of itself can only act according to the physical constitution of our organism is not guided by reason knowledge and reflection, was not given to man to be regarded as the best possible curative agent to restore those lamentable variations from health to the normal condition, and still less that physicians should imitate its imperfect morbid efforts,” etc. Reasoning and reflection are functions of the intellect, the “higher human mind” of Hahnemann.

“What sensible man would imitate the efforts of the organism for its own preservation? These efforts in reality are the disease itself, and the morbidly affected vital force is the producer of the visible disease”.

“That exquisite power innate in the human being, designed to direct in the most perfect manner the operation of life while it is in health, equally present in all parts of the organism, in the fibers of sensibility as well as in those of irritability, that unwearying spring of all the normal, natural functions of the body, was not created for the purpose of affording itself aid in diseases not for the purpose of exercising effective work, the attribute of the healing art worthy of imitation.

No! the true healing art is that higher power of human intellect, of unfettered judgment and of reason selecting and determining on principle in order to effect an alteration in the instinctive, irrational and unintelligent, but automatic energetic vital force, when it has been directed by disease into abnormal action”.

From the modern psychological standpoint there is confusion here in the use of terms, but it is clear that Hahnemann as a distinct conception of two phases or aspects of that organic unity which is man, both of which are endowed with the attributes of mind, and which act and react upon each other.

Man is to him both matter and energy, physical and spiritual, body and mind, a “higher mind” and a “lower mind,” the one being conscious and rational and the other, which Hahnemann sometimes calls “the dynamis,” unconscious, instructive and “unreasoning.” Both as unites, are endowed with intelligence, but each, as we shall see later, manifests a different kind or form of intelligence.

It is inherently improbable, it is absolutely unthinkable, that a blind, unintelligent force, acting automatically, or mechanically, could do any or all of the things attributed to its agency, or be to the ego and its material organism what it manifestly is: doing things that require for their performance the exercise of intelligent choice and selection, and the adaptation of means to ends, even when the means are sometimes faulty and inefficient. There is much here requiring explanation.

It is clearly evident upon observation and reflection that all the phenomena and operations of normal life proceed in an orderly and intelligent manner.

Intelligence is perceptible in every functional operation in organized beings. Where and what is this intelligence?.

We are accustomed to speak of the vital processes as being “automatically” performed, but close observation of the phenomena shows something more than mere automatism. It is possible to watch some parts of these operations under the microscope, and observers have repeatedly testified to their to their astonishment and fascination as they have watched protoplasmic cells moving about, selecting their course and performing their duties exactly as if endowed with intelligence. In the building up of tissues, the repair of injuries to organic structures there is constantly manifested the power of choice and selection and the intelligent adaptation of means to ends. These are functions of mind.

Pabulum is conveyed to needy parts and transformed into new tissue and waste material carried away under the very eye of the observer. Individual cells are seen wending their devious way through tortuous channels, avoiding obstructions, never interfering with each other, until their selected destination is reached and their work accomplished. Everything moves with precision.

We know that these wonderful processes are going on within our own bodies constantly, and yet we are not conscious of directly influencing or controlling them. Because we were not conscious of such control we have thought that they were independent of our mind and thought, although related in some way to us through that mysterious, intermediate, apparently unintelligent and unreasoning something which we call life or life force. Even the effect upon these processes of depressing mental emotions,although often observed, has had no special significance for us. The true character of the relation has escaped us.

Reason tells us that wherever work or activity proceeds systematically and intelligently there must be a mind directing it; that where there is law there must be a lawgiver; that behind the manifested or expressed thought there must be a thinker; that back of motion must be the moving force, and in the last analysis, back of force, will. Will is an attribute of mind-of intelligence-whether it be manifested in the life-energy of a cell, an organ or a whole organism, individual or cosmic, for the universe is an organism, instinct with life.

The rational, conscious mind of man responds to every thought presented to it by another mind. Mind responds only to mind. Proving drugs upon the healthy, according to the method of Hahnemann, demonstrates that there is that in man which responds, in some way and under certain conditions, to the impressions of every element or combination of elements in the universe.

That which responds. Hahnemann calls the Dynamis, adopting the old Greek word for power. That which makes the impression he calls “the spirit-like power (or dynamis) concealed in drugs.” He goes on to show that the only basis of this correspondence between organism and drug is their fundamental similarity of nature and character. Both are “spirit-like,” or “dynamic.” If there is life force in the organism of man there is also a corresponding life force in the organism of the plant from which the drug comes, and, by a further extension of the same argument, in the so-called “inanimate” drug substance also.

Dr. Paul Carus says:

“There is no absolutely dead matter. But every atom is freighted with the potencies of life”.

All elementary substance is either living substances or capable of being transformed into living substances. Guided by the law or reciprocal action according to which like only responds to like, are we not justified in saying that all elementary, principle of life was not potentially presents in Silica could it responds to or impress the living organism? That in the Silica which responds to the life principle of the human organism, when they are brought into proper relations through the laws of Similia and Potentiation, is its “dynamis,” as Hahnemann calls it, and that is potentially a living being.

All energy in the last analysis is living energy. The action of Silica is not primarily chemical upon the organic matter of the organism, but dynamical upon the protoplasm or living substance, disturbing or restoring physiological harmony, as the case may be; and this takes place under dynamical laws, acting alike in the silica and in the organism.

Life or mind, in the cosmic sense, is the sum total of all the powers or forces in the universe. But it is more than that. It is the primal substances itself from which all things evolve and contains within itself all the elements of being. Life in the individual being is the sum total of all the elementary organic forces, derived from and inseparably united with the universal or cosmic life or being. In the individual, life is a continuous influx from the life of the Universal and Infinite Being, and finds its perfect manifestations through organism, in spiritual and physical harmony or health.

Health, in the physiological sense, is a state of the organism in which, by means of a normal susceptibility to the action of the elementary forces and substances, they are continually received in proper manner and adequate amount to maintain the organism in its integrity.

So long as man is master of himself through knowledge of the laws of his being, all goes well. The life force holds all in “admirable harmonious sway.” But let him lose this mastery through violation of those laws and he falls from his high estate. That delicate poise and adjustment of his relations, when disturbed or lost, brings sickness, suffering, and death.

We have traced the organic processes in health and disease to life. We have seen that mind is involved in these processes.

Where is it located, and what is the relation between life and mind?.

A few years ago Professor Elmer E.Gates, psychologist and scientist, formerly identified with the Smithsonian Institution of Washington, established a large and elaborately equipped laboratory, especially designed for the investigation and study of the phenomena of biology and psychology. At his researches and conclusions bear directly upon the subject under discussion. I shall let him speak for himself in liberal quotations from his published papers.

From an elaborate series of observations of phenomena in his own person, under all measurable environmental conditions, in which he recorded, four times a day for a period of two years, all measurable bodily conditions and all mental activities, he drew “an important conclusion, namely, that our mental life, in all its acquisitive and productive capacities, is not merely directly all its acquisitive and productive capacities, is not merely directly influenced by every environment and bodily condition, but that our mental power and processes are the results of a functional interaction between the organism of the individual being and the large organism of the cosmical environment.

That is, mentation is the result of two factors: First, the activities of the animal organism, and second, the activities of the cosmic organism. The relation between the two is functional. The significance of this will be seen later on when it will be shown that all physiological functionings are psychologic in their character, and that the difference between an animate and an inanimate body consists in the fact that the animate body possesses mind. The human organism is not only materially and dynamically part of the universe, but, as these experiments, show, it is psychologically part of the whole”.

In pursuing the course of investigations which led to these conclusions Professor Gates invented an “art of mentation” by which he was able to argument the quantity and quality of his originative work in invention and research. He practiced this art in himself as follows:

“In applying this art to myself for the promotion of my researches I first made a classified synopsis of every verified datum from all of the sciences which had any bearing upon the broad question of the study of the relation between body, mind, and environment, and then, under the previously determined bodily and environment conditions which were found favorable to productive mentation, I passed each datum understanding through my mind, and continued doing so, over and over again several hours each day for some weeks, believing that by so doing I would not only render each of these data equally vivid in my apperceptive consciousness, but that I would also, by this repeated refunctioning of certain groups of brain structures, promote the growth and associative activity and elaborative processes of these structures and thus bring about superior mentative conditions more highly favorable to originative ideation and invention.

Having been told, by a critical observer of my work, that there existed no proof that mental activity leaves any chemical or anatomical changes in the brain, I at once proceeded to experimentally determine the facts in the case as follows:

“As has often been described in public print, I conceived the idea of giving one group of animals an excessive training in the use of some one definite mental function, and of depriving another group of animals, of the same age and species, of the opportunity to use this same mental function and then, after a year of such deprivation and training, to kill both groups of animals and contrast their brains, both chemically and microscopically, to see if in those cortical areas where that function is located there would be any structural differences.

I found that in the seeing areas of the cortex of an animal which has been confined for one year in a darkened room there was no further appreciable development at the moment of birth, and that in an animal of the same species, that for the first year of its life had been trained in the extraordinary use of the seeing functions, there was a far greater number of brain cells than there was a far greater number of brain cells than there were to be found in an untrained animal of the same age and species that had not been deprived of light, and these brain cells were larger and more complex.

By this special process of mind training, which it is the purpose of a special volume to describe, I succeeded, not merely in giving that animal more brain cells in that part of its brain than any individual of that species had ever before had, but I also gave it more mind, in that particular direction, than any number of that species had ever before possessed.

Similar training with other functions corroborated these conclusions, and the experiments teach what is the functional localization in the brain of any mental faculty, and demonstrate that each conscious mental experience creates in some part of the brain a definite chemical change and structural embodiment of that experience, the functioning of that structure being essential to the remembering of that experience. This led to the beginning of an art of brain-building for the purposes of embodying more mind.

Stuart Close
Stuart Close