SIMILIA SIMILIBUS CURANTUR


A foreign factor that in some way influences the even swinging of the pendulum, the uniform turn of the scales, must logically produce changes in the normal course of both of the mechanical appliances. In like manner does each extraneous disturbing influence act on the life process of any organ. It is force out of the normal physiological latitude of its life activity.


May I not assume that my readers, too, have gained the impression that in this quotation almost the same thoughts are expressed – “only with slightly different words”-as were previously taught in the days of long ago by Galen?.

Over all these different opinions and views which, when all was said still dealt with reality and resulted from conclusions reached by the consideration of facts and experiences, but was guided throughout solely and alone by the law of “contraria” – over all these swayed, to cap the climax, the science of natural philosophy. For natural philosophy instead of being guided by conclusions based upon facts erroneous as they might be, considered the “WORD” as conclusive. What resulted from this, I wish to show by a few short quotations. I take them from the “Fundamentals of the Science of Natural Philosophy” by Heinrich Steffens. Steffens was a follower of Schelling, the champion of natural philosophy.

He was considered an able man in the scientific world and indeed was highly esteemed by Schelling himself. I infer this from a passage in Schellings polemic against the “Jenaische Allegemeine Literaturzeitung” (“Jena Magazine for General Literature”) in the year 1800. Steffens published his “Principles” in 1806, “for the purposes of his lectures.” In this, one finds the following, page 192: “The relative projection of space into time corresponds to hearing; the projection of time into space corresponds to sight. Through the essential principle of hearing and seeing, however, is the antithesis between both removed”.

Page 200 : “Poison is the phenomenon of the universal counterpoint of an individual function or of the individual counterpoint of a universal function, or, finally, the phenomenon of an external difference as counterpoint of an internal indifference”.

Page 203 : “Health is the transparency of the body for the soul, the complete identity of the soul and the body”.

But diseases are, as one can read on page 198 : “Only to be understood from the total tension of the organisation.” They “arise either because the relative-external (vegetative) tension becomes an internal (animal) tension or because the vegetative stirs in the animal.” And to conclude: “Disease is the effort of a single function to absorb the total form of the organisation in its potency”.

I think these few illustrations will suffice. One can imagine the plight of the unhappy students of science who were obliged not only to listen to but also to memorize this sort of nonsense delivered to them ex cathedra. It was impossible to understand such absurdities.

When one considers that at that time, the entire field of medicine and therefore its practitioners also, food stood under the inhibitive influence of all the movements of which I have just tried to give a short description, it gives one a feeling of great relief of realize that, despite these influences, men appeared who would not allow themselves to be championed from first to last that which they looked upon as true and actually existing, developing their field of research without being restrained by the cult of system. I will mention only two names : Karl Gren and William Hufeland!.

Who still speaks of them today? Especially Karl Gren is probably now completely forgotten. In 1894, I published a sketch of his life in Number 47 of the Berlin Clinical Weekly and endeavored to give an account of the views on the nature of medical science which our colleague from Halle, who died at an early ate in 1789, advocated during the short period of activity allotted to him.

Grens “System of Pharmacology or the Doctrine of Remedies, Studied Critically from their Natural, Historical, Pharmaceutical, and Therapeutical Side” appeared in 1791. As the title plainly shows, this publication of Grens was based on an essentially different conception from that of natural philosophy. In order to give a better idea of the nature of its contents, I will quote Grens own words as to his ideas concerning experience in medicine: “Experience alone can determine the absolute and the relative effect of remedies on the human body.

If, however, the application of experience in determining the healing power of a substance is not to be misleading; if we would, by this means, be absolutely convinced that the results observed really are derived from and by the use of a certain drug, one test is not sufficient but it is necessary that the drug should have the same effect in many instances and under varying circumstances; furthermore, that the resulted observed should not be capable of receiving any other explanation, and that all other circumstances that could cause similar results should be excluded. The real, but also the most difficult knack of observation lies in the ability of the physician to differentiate the actual effects of the drug from incidental, co-operating causes.

W J Sweasey Powers