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.
By this I mean that these pictures not only reflect the activity of the drug on mans physical make up, but also the result of its action on his mental and psychological plane. Let me remind you how very important are these two latter legs to mans tripod. One is apt to discount this in tackling so called physical ailments. The mental and psychological upset might easily completely overshadow the physical. And, of course, all these experiments were carried out on quite healthy subjects. No reliable, let alone accurate information, can possibly be based on the reactions of a diseased man.
All this was possible only because to totally new kind of preparation of drugs was discovered Obviously, ordinary drugs in their crude form could not be pushed to the extent necessary to give the extensive drug picture required. That would without a doubt have been far too dangerous to the life of the human guinea pigs. Of course many toxic pictures with a tolerable amount of detail have been recorded from cases of crude drug poisoning. Such cases have not been disregarded by any means.
And so you see how a series of drug pictures were obtained by actual tests on healthy humans. It is this series of drug pictures that goes to make up the homoeopathic materia medica. Though fairly extensive it is by no means complete, much research remains. In fact, only a fraction of possible remedies has up till now been explored. But you would be surprised just how extensive and valuable a materia medica has resulted, on what has already been recorded. Valuable because it offers a series of remedies that can be used with perfect confidence.
Need I say these remedies include a great variety of things. Although one has spoken of drugs up to now, it was solely for the sake of simplicity. But you will understand that many come from outside the chemical world. Much has been derived from the vegetable and mineral kingdoms. And then many extremely useful preparations have come from the venoms of various snakes and spiders, as well as insects and marine life. Again let me emphasize the fact that it is always the homoeopathic preparation that is used. For instance, gold, belladonna, digitalis, lachesis, or tuberculinum and so on, whatever it is, has been subjected to a process entirely peculiar to Homoeopathy in its preparation.
Now it may sound extraordinary, but one of my great difficulties is to try and make you appreciate just how different this homoeopathic special preparation is from the ordinary chemical preparation used in the medical would. It is quite outside ones ordinary scientific knowledge-as yet. And you will understand that this makes it a hard business to try and explain. It also makes it rather easy for you to condemn unheard almost, for nothing is easier to reject than anything outside out ken, and you all know the difficulty of breaking through ignorance.
Just pause and think for a moment how hard it would be to try and explain all about the subdivision of molecules and atoms that led to the famous atomic bomb. Ones conception of any explosive is a natural reflection of the ordinary science of chemicals-and that means a limitation to crude drugs and their actions. But as soon as one enters the field of minute subdivision, or what is called “splitting the atom” one finds oneself in a completely new and strange domain. All our ideas have to be re-adjusted and re- orientated; I admit that is rather difficult.
Now the homoeopathic school would never claim the atomic bomb-but it is something that very closely resembles the result of using the principle used by this school in its method of drug preparation. Both are the outcome of minute subdivision of crude chemical substances. In the case of the atomic bomb, it happens to be that the aim was destruction, but it will not be long before other and more useful aims are found. If the idea were extended it could mean that it could be applied to any drug-with about just as much potency.
If the idea, for instance, were directed to therapeutics just imagine how tremendously preparation to applied to human being-and just how tremendous its reactive power would be. Now do not misunderstand me, I do not for a moment say that the homoeopathic preparation is the result of splitting the atom. But I stress that the common basic idea is there behind both.
You will no doubt talk of radio-activity and you will probably be right. But I dare say it is not too much to say that everything has this radio-activity in varying degrees. Certainly every drug the homoeopathic school has proved possessed some such activity. It is not the drug per se but its activity that makes any drug useful-and in passing let me remind you this activity is quite specific. Now, this notion is not new but its extension probably opens up a new world to many of you when applied to the art of medical healing.
All that can be expected from the activity of any drug used therapeutically is the reaction it causes in a sick individual. Ones whole aim in the selection of a drug is to get an action that will produce some desired reaction in the patient. This is the utmost one can do. And this leads us directly to the question of dosage. The homoeopathic school maintains that the very minimum that can bring about this desired reaction is the optimum dose-and even if this dose be extremely minute-it is enough.
Now I realize that what worries you is the fact that this dose is carried to such lengths of minuteness that it looks absurd to the eyes of the ordinary chemically trained mind. This training is responsible for the idea of using drugs quite differently. One is taught to push the drug in its crude form to the patients tolerance-or at least to maintain it at a very high level-the so- called “concentration” and mark this, it is done with little or no regard as to whether any reaction has begin or not. And it is common practice to push it if it is apparently doing something- often with disaster.
Let me remind you that a modern definition of material is “condensed activity”. So the notion cannot be strange that if one could de-condense by subdivision to great lengths-then all that can remain is “activity”. Their activity the homoeopathic school maintains can be transferred to any medium-and in practice such things are commonly used as alcohol, water, and sugar. This is the very essence of the homoeopathic preparation. It is not a theory, it is reality. The experiment of putting any of these preparations to the acid test is open to anyone with sufficient ability and knowledge to prove out at the bedside.
There are a surprisingly great number who have associated the homoeopathic preparation with merely a simple dilution. These talk airily about a drop in a bath full of water and are remarkable for the firmness of this idea. And many are so rashly foolish as to base their criticism and whole and whole argument on this totally erroneous conception.
The homoeopathic preparation is of course nothing of the sort. It is the process of potentization that makes the preparation peculiar to Homoeopathy, just as the atomic bomb is not a dilution of an ordinary one, must is the result of its special mode of preparation. Of course, it is in both cases a smaller thing-but how foolish to think it is weaker on that score. So weak in fact, some are stupid enough to maintain that there cannot possibly be any activity or force left. They think it has been diluted out of existence-and overlook the fact that they are barking up the wrong tree-completely.
Let me once more stress this point. If a drug is going to be used in trying to bring about a cure-then the most accurate knowledge of that drugs action must be known. Nothing can be more importance. The choice of a remedy is a most serious affair indeed. A matter of life and death cannot be left to chance.
Now you will all probably have agreed and have more or less followed up to this point. Now you are quite naturally saying “yes, thats all very well, but how is it to be used-this homoeopathic materia medica, how does one go about applying it in practice?”
Well, there are some fundamental differences to the ordinary methods of treating the sick. You all have been brought up very scientifically. This very training leads you automatically to start fragmenting-analysing-classifying-and finally labelling. It is all essentially a purely impersonal affair. You get in the end an impersonal label and it is only natural then to attempt some sort of impersonal treatment on the owner of that label. The owner does not matter. It is the label of his disease that is so all-important, the varsity textbooks are full of treatments for such labels. One is taught, of course, of the diseases, and not of sick people.
Now things, are just the opposite in the homoeopathic school, here the aim is to co-relate everything. It tries to build up by fitting in all the signs and symptoms and so arrive at a picture that is comprehensive. It stresses that it is the signs and symptoms collectively-the sum of them-that represents the patient and one then prescribes for him as an individual. Treatment is directed not to the label of the disease but to a whole man that is sick, that is to say a biological unit.
And mark this vital point, the homoeopathic school asserts that any treatment to be successful must be intensely personal. You all know, of course, that by ordinary methods treatment cannot even begin without first establishing the label, i.e. the disease. It treats labels, while the homoeopathic physician has a sick man on his hands who presents a definite picture of signs and symptoms and he need not wait before starting treatment as he treats that sick individual.
You see the homoeopathic school maintains that there is no need to wait for gross changes of a pathological nature, because the very earliest signs and symptoms are recorded in its materia medica. And this early sick picture therefore can be matched by some drug picture. As therapy is simply a matter of this matching of pictures it means that even at the very earliest stages of illness a remedy can be found. In other words an antidote is available that may abort the illness.
It is not denied that in the majority of cases it is some particular lesion or local upset that makes a patient seek medical attention in the first place. But that lesion should only act as a pointer to draw the attention to the individual himself. Any remedy naturally must cover this local lesion-but it is not on the lesion that a remedy is selected. A remedy first a patient when the symptoms and signs of his general condition are found in that remedy. And no remedy can cure unless all the signs and symptoms agree.
And let me stress that a cure is reasonably sure, no matter what the morbid condition, provided pictures can be matched. The physicians task then boils down to searching for the drug picture that can match the disease picture his patient presents. You can understand that the fuller these pictures are the easier it should be. The drug that the materia medical reflects as giving the nearest similar picture would be the indicated remedy.