With the world disrupted spiritually, socially, physically; with plenty of talk of peace and little chance of achieving it soon; with sporadic effort in the right direction by the finest of people, but no adequate leadership; we must conclude that we are nearing the end of one age and seeing scattered attempts to bring in another.
The medical profession finds itself in the same situation. Medicine is chaotic too, with any number of experiments, each heralded as something fine, each treatment, based on such experiment, discarded for something new, said to be better, and, in its turn, proving unreliable and disappointing.
As in most aspects of this topsy-turvy world, medicine lacks adequate leadership. Sporadically, long, hard, earnest labor is in the direction of lasting order, of peace and progress, but such efforts are not coordinated or even clearly understood. Here too a new age is coming in, for now there are glimpses oftener in current medical literature. All along there has been talk of this and that remedy for a disease. Lately comes creeping in mention of the patient as an individual, mention of the sick man to be treated, suggestion that too much attention has been given to his organs and tissues and too little to the man himself. And what is all this but homoeopathy which has treated the sick man himself for a hundred and fifty years?.
A new age is coming in our profession. At the risk of repetition of much that we all know, let us rehearse past history with the idea of fitting it into the threshold of a new epoch in medicine.
Let us trace homoeopathys path to peaceful progress. First comes the background of the path, the muck of blood-letting, leeching, cupping, prescriptions of vile nostrums compounded of revolting substances, all aimed at driving the disease, as a physical entity, out of the body.
In this messy swamp homoeopathys feet, named law and order, were planted firmly, making mud fly in all directions. At first the footsteps were nearly erased by the unstable character of the earth beneath them, but soon they were seen more clearly and the ground harder as more and more physicians and patients were benefited by the new principles. Trees grew up along the way, trees of faith, knowledge, and gradually many called provings. These were supported by a luxuriant undergrowth of materia medica.
But outside of this dense supporting border of the path, was a large murky area of adverse criticism, slander, vituperation, persecution which could not help exerting a most deleterious effect on the border of our path, even threatening to undermine its existence. As usual in such cases, however, one evil killed another so that beyond this unstable area some few strong stands of real earnest investigation developed marvellous results from the study of cell tissue under the microscope, a recent acquisition in medical fields. These studies formed a path of their own, at some distance from homoeopathys path, but going in somewhat the same direction.
Another path was started too when antisepsis began to reform surgery; this one and the microscope path eventually met and formed one very strong highway of medical progress.
Once in a while some researcher in the fields of surgery and microscopy would wander until he discovered the path of homoeopathy and, finding peace and contentment, stayed on it, but the two paths remained, for the most part, entirely separate in the first thirty or forty years. The laboratory-surgery path had heard of homoeopathy but was too intent on pursuing its own way to learn really anything about it.
The morass of evil intent and ignorant slander between these two paths, however, was active all along until it succeeded in filling the workers on the laboratory-surgery highway with prejudice and the will to fight those advancing along with homoeopathy. After all, medical education by this time required students to walk on the laboratory path and the leaders of students began to teach them to fight those walking in any other direction.
The ground now, was very firm under both paths and the supporting growth heavy enough to be not only a barrier but an aid to confusion and misunderstanding. The way led into rocky ground and many of those on each path began to hurl stones at the other.
Fifty to sixty years had been consumed when rocks were placed across the path of homoeopathy, large enough to stop all progress, for these doctors were told they must leave medical schools, medical societies, hospitals, etc. The idea was to force homoeopathic physicians to quit practicing medicine, but, as often happens, the strength of the opposition created greater strength in the group and nothing was lost. However, the effort to move those great rocks off the path was too great for the homoeopathic group. Opposition had created resentment and this interfered with clear vision until the greatest mistake was made since the start of the pilgrimage.
In the beginning, when the great rocks could not be moved, those on the path moved around them and went straight on, saying that they would have their own schools, societies, hospitals, etc. They tried it, but gradually the path was bent in the direction of the laboratory-surgery path because they discovered it to be impossible to give a student the required medical education of that day and homoeopathy too. Since requirements persisted in following the laboratory path, students were more and more inclined to forsake homoeopathys path, now become a slanting way, to go over to the laboratory path of experiment and experience.
This was a sad mistake, for when the great rocks blocked homoeopathys path completely, there was a way out of the difficulty without danger of weakness or compromise.
Those on the path should have made their way around the rocks to take a firm stand on the other side. They should have explained to their colleagues of different faith that homoeopathy never was and never could be a whole school of medicine, that it claimed to be only a method of prescribing drugs for sick people, that all it wanted was to add this knowledge to a general medical education.
It would go along beside the other path with permission to carry on its traditions and beliefs in the field of the drugs therapy alone. It would depend for recruits on clinical success until such time as the wider laboratory path might invite the path of homoeopathy to join it unmolested. This would have allowed clear vision on both sides and the chance for lessening adverse criticism and prejudice.
But it was not done, the mistake was made, so all these ninety years since have been a struggle for homoeopathy in the midst of misunderstanding not only on the part of the laboratory path people, but of those who bent homoeopathys path toward that one.
The first thirty years of this struggle were most unhappy and vision became more clouded. It was almost impossible to see the path ahead for the clouds of dust and falling rocks of jealous vituperation. Then sixty years ago a few decided the reason the path was so difficult was that it was bent. So they said they would try to straighten it even if that should prove a most difficult task.
A small group started out in the original direction saying that the first footsteps were law and order, the next were principles and corollaries based on law and order, that if nothing else should be allowed to enter that path, again, the first great success in homoeopathic prescribing ought to return. And they did! Moreover, the dust cleared away as the group toiled on, vision became clear, the path entered upon a slow ascent toward more and more brilliant accomplishment in curing the sick. This gentle ascent still continues, courage is high, vision is clear, objectives are plain, but the group is still small, too small to impart to others its accomplishment, its faith, its ultimate goal.
Each member of the group is too busy with patients to have time for much spreading of the news. This keeps the path narrow long after it should have become broad.
Now at nearly 1940 what has become of the broader path that began to be bent in 1840? Why, it actually can be seen slowly curving toward the straight narrow path above it on the way! What has become of the laboratory-surgery path? It too, is beginning to turn a corner, executing a sharp slant in the direction of the straight narrow path!.
We began by noting an age of turmoil, the end of one age and the beginning of another. We are living now where voices do not ring out clear, where adequate leadership is lacking. But subdued voices here and there on the two paths, which are bending toward the straight one, are none the less heard by those who will listen intently for them. As we said in the beginning, these voices are advocating treatment of man as an individual instead of treating his tissues as groups of cells. “After all,” they say, “it is the man himself who is sick.” Yes, and this is the principle upon which the straight path people have been curing patients all these hundred and fifty years. It looks as if there might be a cooperative path to peace.