In the light of passing events and by the exercise of a little imagination, it is conceivable, metaphorically speaking, that the “gold and jewels” of homoeopathy will eventually be sought by adventurous spirits upon some far “Treasure Island,” where they have been buries long before by bloody pirates who despoiled the owners and forced them to “walk the plank.” In that event the rollicking strains of R.L.S.s gruesome ditty, paraphrased as above, may once again be heard.
Not to press the metaphor too far, is it not evident that something analogous to this has been going on for a long time? Is not homoeopathy being robbed of its jewels and murdered by those in its own ranks who scorn, ignore or pervert its cardinal principles in their practice and ridicule its theories; who advocated cutting out from the materia medica the greater part of its remedies, stopping the use of all potencies above the twelfth, and dropping its distinctive name? Is not this a species of piracy?.
The typical pirate, literally or metaphorically, always buries his stolen treasure. That is the only way he knows of disposing of it, for he cannot use it as the only way he hopes to escape the law and enjoy his ill-gotten gains at some future time. But that time never comes. His treasure in its original form is a burden and a terror to him. He thinks that when he can dig it up and turn it into currency he will be able to spend and enjoy it. He does not realize, poor fool, that the currency would be as much of a curse to him as the gold and jewels, for the does not know how to use it. So his treasure always remains “buried” for him.
About once in a blue moon the editor of a journal like this gets a letter which reveals frankly and without circumlocation what is going on in the minds of the usually silent “rank and file” of homoeopathy, as the following letter will show. Such a letter deserves a reply, even if the view it presents is that of one who evidently is not widely read in homoeopathic literature, not to mention THE HOMOEOPATHIC RECORDER itself, in which he might have found answers to all of his questions if he had read it attentively.
Allowance must be made, however, for one who can read a foreign language only with difficulty and who therefore probably skips what seem to him the more difficulty and who therefore probably skips what seem to him he more difficult or obstruse articles. Nevertheless he has read with a purpose and written accordingly. But to the letter itself:.
“Kumla, Sweden, Aug. 1, 1927.
THE HOMOEOPATHIC RECORDER,.
I read your RECORDER with much interest and now I shall try to write a few lines to you. I cannot write English well, but I hope you may get some understanding of my letter.
I read in THE RECORDER for July: “several letters have come to us taking issue with us upon the question of sectarianism and the proposed dropping of the title “homoeopathic” , etc., and: “So far as we have been able to see, German homoeopaths balk at the use of high potencies, etc., and: Many of us have wandered of after strange gods, etc.
What is the reason of all this? I can tell it in a few words. It is the many medicines and the high potencies. In the Repertory I find for toothache, for example, several hundred remedies. It is all nonsense! I have every day some coming for relief of toothache and I give them all and every one Aconitum 4 D and Belladonna 4 D, and 90 percent get well in from 1 hour to 2 days. How tiresome would it not be if I should use the Repertory!.
One lady here got headaches with such dizziness that she must stay in bed, for seven weeks. Was under the care of one allopath 2 weeks and then under the care of another allopath 5 weeks. She did not believe in homoeopathy. Now since nothing had helped her, she sent for me. I gave her Cimicifuga 2 D, e pilules every hour for five or six times that afternoon. After she had taken 15 pilules the headache was gone. The day after the dizziness was gone and she was all right and healthy.
One 40 years old woman came to me with pain in her sexual organs. She said: I have had pain for two years and I have seen every allopathic doctor in the city, but I can get no help.
Can I get help from you? I must take my life if I cannot as I I can not stand it longer.
I gave her Schusslers Magnesia Phos. 4 D, 1 powder every hour for 5 or 6 times that night. The next day she was all right.
One man had Sciatica since 18 months and had seen many doctors and specialists without any help. He got Nux 4 D and Lycopod. 8 D, and was well in 3 weeks.
I cannot understand why You in America should bother with these many remedies and high potencies. Dont you see that your RECORDER and your school is by and by getting all alone? The doctors are going over to allopathy, eclecticism, osteopathy, etc.? I say this for the sake of homoeopathy, which method or system I love.
My dear RECORDER! teach us homoeopathy with low potencies, 3-4- 6-12 D and homoeopathy will again prosper in the U.S.
If I could write English well I would have a whole lot more to say, but I must close my letter and hope you will excuse my writing.
Can you in the RECORDER gives us, your readers, a good reason for the many remedies and the high potencies?.
Have you any evidence to prove that high potencies are nay better for the sick than the low potencies?.
Why were the old homoeopaths so successful with their low potencies? Why could we not have a repertory with our best forty remedies, including Schusslers twelve?.
Why are you losing hold of your doctors and the people by holding on to your high potencies and bewildering repertories and many remedies?.
There you have it, the honest expression of a well-meaning physician who believes in homoeopathy as far as he knows it and avows he loves it; who sees the school declining, deplores it and thinks he sees the reason for it, but is entirely unaware that he is a perfect type of those who have caused the “Decline and Fall” of homoeopathy-who are themselves the fallen ones! And how great has been their fall!.
To come directly to the gist of it, there is some truth in what our Swedish colleague says: that the trouble is “many remedies and the high potencies.” Dr. Ekholm is “in the right church, but the wrong pew”.
“In the repertory, for toothache, several hundred (Sic) remedies. Its all nonsense!” he exclaims in righteous indignation.
As an unqualified statement it is all nonsense and everybody who understand homoeopathy knows it. The homoeopathic physician who regards “toothache,” or any other similar symptom, as a pathological entity to be names, classified in the repertory and treated as such with a hundred remedies, or one remedy, is-not to mince words-an ignoramus.
He has a pathological mind and a very narrow one at that. He is so imbued with allopathic pathological ideas, so biased, that he cannot see that “toothache” (using the word metaphorically as well as literally) is merely a single symptom, anatomically classified in the repertory for convenience of reference, and never intended to be regarded or used as anything more than a never intended to be regarded or used as anything more than a very small part of the totality-the case as a whole-which is the sole basis of a real homoeopathic prescription.
It is true the experienced prescriber may and often does prescribe “off-hand”successfully for “toothache”; and he will be very apt, like our Swedish friend, to give Aconite or Belladonna, since they probably cover the majority of the kind of case for which help is sought from a physician. The potency used is a matter of relative unimportance. Dr. Ekholm has cure 90 per cent. of his cases, he tells us, in from one hour to two days with Acon. 4 and Bell. 4. I have cured cases in ten minutes with a single dose of Acon. or Bell. in the 200th potency-but not always. So both high and low potencies cure-when rightly selected.
But how and why are such cases cured? Is it because Aconite and Belladonna, singly, mixed or in alternation (Dr. E. does not tell us how he uses them) are specifics for “toothache”? Is Dr. E. successful in 9- per cent. of this toothache cases because he employs only two remedies in low potencies? And has he therefore an advantage over the man who employs (if need be) any one or more of the “hundreds of remedies” listed for toothache in the repertory, using them in high potencies? (remember, we are using “toothache” figuratively. The line of argument applies equally well to any pathological or diagnostic symptom regarded as an entity).
First, then as to the why and how of such cases.
Dr. Ekholm perhaps does himself scant justice as an observer when he conveys the impression that his prescription is based upon the patients simple statement that he has a toothache. He may think he is prescribing for a single condition or symptom, but (if he uses his two remedies singly) how does he choose between Aconite or Belladonna? Something governs his choice. He can not be an experienced physician without observing, consciously or subconsciously, several things about the patient who presents himself with toothache. The human mind is a wonderful thing, more or less mysterious in its operations. Not all of its activities are consciously realized or expressed, yet they go on just the same.
Dr. E. hears the patient say he has a toothache. His mind accepts that as a staring point and begins to act subconsciously. He observes, for example, that the patient has a flushed face and a countenance which expressed pain, anxiety or excitement; or it may be pale and drawn. Perhaps the face is swollen on one side or the other. The mouth may be open or closed, revealing the kind of reaction of inspired air upon the painful tooth, or to pressure. The lips may be dry, moist or wet from deficiency or excess or saliva.
The position and status of the head and the bodily attitude are significant. The effects of of rest, position and motion are deducible from attitude, gait and movement. The state of mind and mood are revealed by the manner and tone of speaking and address, etc.
All of these and other sings and symptoms will be perceived almost instantly by the experienced observer without conscious effort of the mind, and these are the real basis of this homoeopathic prescription, whether it be made offhand or by the longer process of systematic study. Simultaneously a process of reflection and reasoning goes on. The homoeopathic mind compares the symptoms thus observed and rapidly makes a choice between remedies known to be similar.
So-called “snap-shot,” “off-had,” or intuitional prescriptions are made in this manner whether the prescriber realizes or not. There is always a background of knowledge and experience, a subconscious memory of previous teaching which becomes active on occasion and sets the mental machinery in motion.
Doubtless this is the “why” and “how” of DR. Ekholms cures, even if the does use only two remedies for toothache. Perhaps he has a better mind than he thinks he has. If so, he should not set such narrow limits to its operation. He should set it free and enlarge the scope of its operations in materia medica. He may be able to handle a hundred remedies as well as two if he tries, and so gain something which he now lacks-the ability to cure that embarrassing ten per cent. of cases in which he modestly admits he now fails.
But to return to the “many remedies” about which the Doctor complains:.
From the common point of view DR. E. may be justified in his strictures. Apparently there are too many medicines in the materia medica. But no one is compelled to use or even pretend to use them all-a point which is overlooked by those how calmor for “elimination.” Anyone is free to choose and use such as he likes, and every one does so. Listening to the hue and cry one might think the occupants of the materia medica were a bad of blood- thirsty desperados, lying in wait to pounce upon unwary doctors and slay them. On the contrary, they are a host of gentle spirits patiently waiting to be evoked by the physician for the cure and mitigation of human ills.
By the same token there are too many words in the unabridged dictionary. The well-educated man does not ordinarily use a hundredth part of them. But he may want to use more of them and he likes to feel and know that they are all there, perhaps because he is interested in the origin and development of language, or because he takes pleasure in the thought that they afford material for enlarging his vocabulary if he wishes to do so. A very small dictionary that he can slip in his pocket will serve his ordinary purposes. The unabridged dictionary is for his library table, always at hand when needed.
So with the homoeopathic material medica. It embodies and preserves the records of the laudable labors of many men who have contributed their shares to the general encyclopedia of therapeutics, now available to all students and investigators, to use, select from, or let alone as they choose.
The homoeopathic materia medica, like the unabridged dictionary, thus becomes very good reading for one who brings to it a little knowledge and imagination. For ordinary or personal use it may and several times has been condensed into a very small volume, both as to the number of remedies treated and the amount of space assigned to each. Dr. Ekholm mentions forty (including Schusslers twelve-which leaves twenty-eight others) as his ideal number of remedies. Why not fifteen?.
We shall not quarrel about the number. I venture to say that the major part of the cures by our best prescriber are performed with about forty remedies and that, on a pinch, they could get along pretty well with less than that number. I know I could. Individual lists would differ, but there would be a pretty general agreement among them. They would all include a majority of the “Old Reliables,” our friends the polychrests. With these an expert can perform miracles. The point is, that every man may and does make his own working materia medica-even Dr. Ekholm- without diminishing the source of supply nor depriving others of the same privilege.
But note: I said “the major part of the cures.” With only forty remedies there would be some cases we could not cure. Toothache, for example, may be incidental to many strange and peculiar cases and its cure depends upon finding a remedy for the individual. There are no specifics for “toothache,” Dr. E. and his apparent assumption to the contrary notwithstanding. Aconite and Belladonna in the “4 D” or “200 C,” will not cure all cases, although they may cure the the majority. What is to be done for the remainder they may cure the majority. What is to be done for the remainder- the peculiar, unusual, puzzling cases?.
Here come in the “hundreds of remedies,” the encyclopedic materia medica, the “bewildering repertory” which Dr. E. does not know how to use, having never been taught. Confronted by such a case and recognizing its character, the competent homoeopathician supplements his first, perhaps cursory, inspection with a thorough, systematic examination of the patient.
With the written record of his observation he sits down with his rich materia medica and repertory and calmly works out the case, finding the indicated remedy among the less frequently or rarely used medicines. He gives it and cures his patient-not only of toothache, but of the general or local morbid process of which it was an incident or a product. Dr. E., on the contrary, would be “stumped.” Failing with his Acon. and Bella. he must resort to palliatives, blindly experiment, or send his patient to the dentist with orders to sacrifice what may be a perfectly good tooth.
What would you, my Children? With the worlds market at our doors, would you have us cut down your larder to the “Hog and Hominy” which many of our pioneer ancestors had to subsist upon? Would you sacrifice all the luxuries and refinements of life and live like anchorites? Would you deprive yourselves of all the comforts and conveniences of civilization? Would you abolish literature, art and science-everything that makes for and represents culture, progress and development?.
If that is your spirit and purpose, then, as homoeopathic physicians, abolish the great materia medica and its repertories and substitute for it a meager little digest of fifteen or twenty medicines and a list of the diseases they are “good for,” like the old-fashioned “Domestic Physician.” But if not, keep the materia medica as it is-a record and repository of the facts of experimentation with drugs-and learn how to appreciate and use it, Improve it, correct it, clarify it, develop it, condense or abstract it for personal, practical purposes, verify it by clinical experience, but cherish it as a precious heritage. If destroyed it will never be replaced nor reproduced, for the men who made it have passed on. “And there were giants in those days”.
What has been said of remedies and the method of using them is in principle equally applicable to high potencies. No one is compelled to use them. But there is as great an advantage in having a large scale of potencies as there is in having a large number of remedies. Different potencies, or developments of drug powers, act differently in different cases and individuals at different times and under different conditions.
All are or may be needed. No one potency, high or low, will meet the requirements of all case at all times. The exclusive devotee of one or the other stamps himself as a narrow minded individual who deprives himself and his patients of benefits which might accrue if he broadened his mind and learned how and when to use the agents which he now neglects.
Proof of the efficiency and sometimes superiority of high potencies, which our Swedish friend asks for, exists in reams and volumes in homoeopathic literature-the accumulation of a century and a quarter. Proof for the individual waits only upon his willingness to put high potency of individual medicine to the test of experience. The next time Dr. Ekholm meets a case which indubitably calls for Aconite or Belladonna let him give a dose or two of the 200th or 1000th potency and watch the result. Unless he is like the Scotchman who was “willing to be convinced, but where is the man who can convince me,” he will not need many such illustration to bring him to a better mind on the subject of high potencies.
One more phase of the subject suggested by our friends strictures remains to be touched upon: the relation of materia medica to the decline of interest in homoeopathy and the drift to other schools and methods, for which there are many reasons. It is admitted that there is a relation, but the real reason is commonly over-looked. It is not primarily in the size of the materia medica nor the number of remedies, but in the manner in which materia medica is taught and studies.
The evils of the pathological, or empirical method, by which a few remedies are more or less arbitrarily associated with “diseases,” or pathological entities, have already been alluded to. This plausible and seductive (because seemingly simple) method has led more students of homoeopathy astray than any other. It violates or perverts every principle of the Inductive Method of Science upon which Homoeopathy is based and is fatal in its results.
The opposite method, which teaches the mere thoughtless, mechanical matching of the symptoms of diseases with the symptoms of remedies by means of repertories or indexes, is almost if not quite as bad; but as it has appealed only to a few superficial formalists who pride themselves on being governed by what they take to be the “letter of the law,” the mischief it does is not so widespread.
The usual method of teaching materia medica followed by nearly all teachers is so well known that it requires no lengthy description. The drug is described, its characteristic symptoms are pointed out, comparisons with other drugs and clinical suggestions are made and the student is expected to memorize as much of its as he can. Study of the materia medica by this method is utterly dry, bewildering and uninteresting. No appeal is made to reason. No logical explanation of the why and how of drug action is or can be made.
The student learns by rote, assisted by such other aids as he can devise to fix the symptoms in his memory. And this is the fundamental objection to the method-that it deals only with the memory and sets before the student a task which he at once perceives to be utterly impossible of accomplishment, since no one is capable of memorizing the entire materia medica, either from a book or the lips of a teacher. No wonder the average student quickly loses any interest he may have had in the subject and turns away from it to something that seems more rational. Only the exceptional student continues to plug along, absorbing and retaining as much as he can, but really assimilating only a small part of his unbalanced ration.