EDITORIAL. A basic conception is that the curative powers of any drug are best disclosed by finding and recording the manner in which this drug disturbs the health of healthy human beings. This concept led directly to the testing of large numbers of drugs by “provings” or experiments on healthy individuals.


Perhaps the most basic concept in Homoeopathic thought, stemming from Hahnemann himself, is that “disease” is always a sickness of the whole individual and never limited to a part.

This led to the “totality approach” in which everything pertaining to the patient as a whole was to be considered before making a prescription. Rather recent editorials in the Journal of the American Medical Association on “Totalistic Medicine” and “Holistic Medicine” tend to show that the leaders of the large medical majority are at least thinking along similar lines. We who, as a minority, have given wholehearted support to this concept for one hundred and fifty years should be encouraged.

Another basic concept of ours is that all exciting causes of disease depend on a reaction of a “living organism” for their result no matter how convinced one may be of the entire reliability of Koch’s postulates on causal relationship of bacteria to sickness. One man speaks in this connection of the “antique view of self action,” his thesis being that in all causation there is present a composite interaction of various, sometimes innumerable, forces. This factor of dependency upon “life” as a causative factor, concerned with activating all other factors, led C.Dunham to express it thus, that all sickness is primarily disturbed life.

A basic conception is that the curative powers of any drug are best disclosed by finding and recording the manner in which this drug disturbs the health of healthy human beings. This concept led directly to the testing of large numbers of drugs by “provings” or experiments on healthy individuals. The records of these provings make up our Materia Medica. There has been no general acceptance of this concept.

A corollary of this concept, and one that is of the greatest importance in that it has kept the results of most of our experimental provings valid to this day, has to do with the manner in which the disturbances of health in individual provers were recorded, namely in the factual everyday language of the prover. No attempt was to be made, at this basic level, to interpret the probable manner in which such factual findings came about. By keeping the interpretive ideas of the day out of the fundamental findings of the provers, we avoided the loss of the value of the experiment due to later developments in physiology and chemistry, etc., which …. destroyed the validity of the best interpretation possible at the time but could not upset the factual records at all. It is almost, if not quite, axiomatic that facts do survive any interpretation, no matter how erroneous it may be proven to be at some latter time. Much error in medical thinking results from the abandonment of facts because explanations have been found insufficient or wrong.

The Homoeopathic Etiologic Concept.

The very fundamental basis of our homoeopathic thinking is the fact of life. No interpretation of what it is, how it acts is involved. We know that “life” of “life force or “vital force” or “spirit-like force,” whatever may be the term used to describe it, is present; that while present the organism functions; in its absence the organism becomes a prey to its environmental surroundings and is totally destroyed.

Whatever life may be, it seemingly has no detectable locus in the body, it has no appreciable weight. It can only be recognized by its functions. When it functions normally, we have

what we recognize as health; when its function is disturbed we have what we term “disease.” This led our earlier writers to consider disturbed life as the primary cause of disease.1,2 without life we have pathology rather than disease. Thus the sheet anchor of our etiological chain of many links is the primary link that is connected with life itself. All the innumerable links in the etiologic chain depend from this number one link. Certainly, near this prime link, we must find a link for the hereditary factors and the susceptibility factors that, to put it simply, make “one man’s meat another man’s poison.” At the other end of this chain are all the innumerable exciting factors that we are constantly searching to avoid.

With life present in the organism, we have two basic sets of phenomena which we study as a basis for our therapeutic concept of similia. On the one hand, the phenomena of disease as it is found in nature; on the other, the artificial phenomena of disturbed health due to the taking of drugs. Both sets of phenomena are not the result primarily of the action of either disease entities or drugs, but, rather, reactions of the living organism to changes in its environment. The study of each set of phenomena may be continued indefinitely. Yet with the greatest advance of knowledge of each set, no inkling of a possible curative relationship becomes apparent from the two sets of facts. If there is some relationship …….of a curative nature between them, some hypothesis or rule or law is necessary to disclose it. This has always been the case in other sciences, notably physics and chemistry. Without such a general idea or hypothesis, no order is possible and the accumulation of such as great array of factual observations may actually interfere with scientific progress. 3 For example, the phenomenon of the falling body which Newton observed and which led him to formulate a natural law of gravitation, brought order out of the vast confusion that had resulted form the great mass of factual observation that existed concerning the behavior of the stars and planets and other bodies toward each other.

The law of similia applied to a relationship between these two sets of phenomena. It attempts to bring order into the selection of curative and / or helpful therapeutic measures rather than to depend entirely upon trial and error, empirical measures alone. This empirical method is probably the most ancient of all that doctors through the ages have used for the selection of their therapeutic measures. Progress under it is bound to be “capricious” and very uncertain.

Eugene Underhill
Dr Eugene Underhill Jr. (1887-1968) was the son of Eugene and Minnie (Lewis) Underhill Sr. He was a graduate of Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. A homeopathic physician for over 50 years, he had offices in Philadelphia.

Eugene passed away at his country home on Spring Hill, Tuscarora Township, Bradford County, PA. He had been in ill health for several months. His wife, the former Caroline Davis, whom he had married in Philadelphia in 1910, had passed away in 1961. They spent most of their marriage lives in Swarthmore, PA.

Dr. Underhill was a member of the United Lodge of Theosophy, a member of the Philadelphia County Medical Society, and the Pennsylvania Medical Society. He was also the editor of the Homœopathic Recorder.