By Major A. Taylor Smith, R.A.M.C. (Johannesburg) Lecture to Medical Officers Society, 130, Military Hospital. SINCE joining the staff of this hospital recently I have had many private enquiries in this subject. So I have to thank your secretary and say how grateful I am for his official invitation to address you in public to-night. But let me say at the onset that it was by no means easy to decide on what was the best type of thing to give you. What would say had you been confronted with the request to give a short but comprehensive lecture on your own system of therapy. Think for a moment on just what that implies, and I feel sure you will all agree that it would not be easy.
Because of the shortness of time my idea is to give a short talk and so allow for a long discussion-where everyone can join in. I feel this will give a chance to clear individual points of difficulty and so make a better appeal as well as proving the most useful. It is proposed, therefore, to confine this lecture to giving you only a very short outline and only in a general way on homoeopathy.
This is probably a strange subject to most of you and this very fact would tend to make you why of it. It is human to shun the unfamiliar. It is very likely that quite a few of you may not have ever heard of this method of therapeutics at all. It may simply be a name. But whatever the degree of your acquaintance with it-you cannot help being interested in such a lecture as this, because homoeopathy is a proved method of practical therapy.
It is not a theory. In introducing this name to you-I feel that you will soon realize that there is not a great deal that will be altogether new-I warn you that I am not going to startle you with very much that is outside what knowledge you all already possess as medical men. Apart from the novel way that the homoeopathic school prepares its drugs-any newness I may present will be in the way of approach to the sick, and the way it tackles the problem of setting about the search for a cure, and the way it applies it in actual practice.
Like all new subjects-one of the most important and necessary things to be clear about is the question of definition. You will want to know just what the word “Homoeopathy” means. The classical scholars among you will of course recognize that it is derived from the Greek. Now I have to draw your attention to the fact that a distinction has to be between two rather closely related words.
Confusing these two words has led to a considerable amount of misunderstanding. The first word is “homo” which means “identical or the same” and the other word is “homoeo” meaning “similar or resembling the object.” You will agree that words so closely related as homo and homoeo can easily be confused if caught unawares. Bearing then the distinction in mind-we arrive at the exact translation when we say homoeopathy means “similar suffering.”
Before enlarging on this-you can see how wrong is that quite popular conception of homoeopathy when it is referred to as giving “a hair of the dog that bit you.” Now quite apart from Homoeopathy-it is just this sort of loose thinking that is at the root of much of the misunderstanding and so much of the troubles not only in our private lives, but in the world at large to-day. And it is dangerous because there is a sort of half truth in it. No sensible scientist would be so foolish as to deny that the dog could not carry its own antidote.
Science in fact affirms that this is a biological law affecting all living things. Life itself-as you know-depends on a continual adjustment taking place and brought about by this very mechanism. You cannot fail to recognize that this mechanism is in the nature of two processes-one that results in upsetting the balance and the other in restoring that balance. And I feel sure everyone will agree that the actual force needed to initiate either process must be very minute. In some cases for instance, the tiny activity liberated by a few bacteria is sufficient upset the balance. Now when it comes to restoring it-surely it can only need some activity of the same order of minuteness-and here we arrive at one of the very basic ideas of the homoeopathic school.
You will all agree that a disease can produce a certain picture of suffering as a result of some upsetting process and this picture can be very definite and clear cut. You will also agree that just as definite a picture of suffering can be produced by a drug as a result of its own upsetting process. Now, the homoeopathic school maintains that it is only a matter of searching to find a drug picture of suffering that matches the disease picture of suffering. It is possible to get similar pictures of suffering. And so one not only begins to see how the meaning of homoeopathy “similar suffering” is brought out, but also how another basic fundamental of the homoeopathic school is arrived at, i.e. matching to get similar suffering pictures.
I must make it quite clear that the only difference between the homoeopathic school land ordinary medicine is the actual method of therapy. In all other aspects the two schools are exactly alike. It is only a matter of therapeutics and materia medica. The homoeopathic school has its own method of preparation of drugs and its own way of using them-and it has its own materia medica. So you see this school is simply ordinary medicine with frills. Homoeopathy is an extension to ordinary knowledge. It makes ones medical wisdom richer. It has made a very special and extensive study of drugs and has become in consequence very expert in their use. This has resulted in its own very special system of treating sick people.
You will be interested to hear the views of one of Londons leading medical men. Alec Bourne echoes probably a universal medical voice in his opening sentences of an article in a fairly recent Practitioner. He says “It is probably true that present day knowledge and application of the methods of diagnosis have outrun the capacity of the profession to carry our treatment.” I think it safe to say none of you will quarrel with this. You must all agree that modern science is A1 but that modern therapy is only C3.
As a result it is not surprising to find that there are a few of the profession actively trying to find out ways of altering and helping this state of affairs. But the vast majority are merely restless and waiting for a lead. It is not unnatural that the few have to treat warily. They run the risk of having to face all the criticism-alone. Still it is a pity that progress can be so hindered by prejudice-bias, and fear-that so many of the active few are so reluctant to extend their quest into the field of homoeopathy, for this, it is suggested, offers a rich and interesting reward, not only from a research angle but also as offering a very practical answer to the concern voiced by Dr. Bourne.
It is of course very difficult to get out of the rut-it has been worn so deeply by so many feet. And yet it is being increasingly recognized that all the gems of new discoveries lie outside the rut. This fact has lured a small number into exploring Homoeopathy. Those few who have been dissatisfied and so sought better remedies and better ways of treating the sick. There is no doctor on record who has retreated from this exploration-quite the reverse, in fact for once he has adopted this method of therapy he had never relinquished it.
When one realizes that the very aim and object of all medicine is to try and cure-it does seem strange-you will agree-that the medical world is so reluctant to explore all available avenues to this end. When it comes to knowledge of the exact and detailed properties of drugs and other agents used in the healing of the sick-the homoeopathic school has a most valuable contribution to make. So valuable indeed is this contribution, that no medical man can afford to ignore it. In fact one might go further and say that if any contribution to the curing of suffering humanity be valuable then it is expected that doctors be conversant with at least some knowledge of it. The public indeed have almost a right to expect this.
It is most unfortunate for suffering humanity that so few ever get their attention drawn of this fact. It could be said that the science of Homoeopathy is practically wholly concerned with making the actual knowledge of drug action more exact and more extensive. The methods used to acquire this knowledge are along most scientific lines. All experiments are carried out with only single drugs.
No mixtures are ever used. It may interest you to know too, that whole drugs are used and not the so-called active principles. As you all know, more and more virtue is being discovered in the wholeness of things. It would be entertaining to explore this wholeness idea into the modern views on vitamins and drugs used in ordinary therapy, but that would need another lecture.
It is easy to see however, how vital is this knowledge of specific action of drugs-and how necessary it is to know for certain what drugs can do by actual test carried out in a practical way. All findings are based on actual experiment, and carried out on the human being. In this way what we call “provings” were recorded in great detail. This gave a series of drug pictures or if you prefer it “toxic pictures” as it affected the healthy human of all ages and in all aspects.