THE VITALISM OF THE HAHNEMANNIAN SCHOOL. The vital force or energy is immaterial, instinctive; it acts automatically, never has consciousness of its acts, and is subject to the laws of biology. It manifests itself from the ovular state in the womb of the mother till death and is subject to variations that are transmitted through heredity from an individual to another.

The physician is a collaborator with the vital forces tending to the recovery of health in every patient–Dr. M. Banuelos, University of Valladolid, Spain, Clinical Therapeutics, Vol. II, page 7, 1942. Vitalism one of the strongest pillars on which the axiom of Similia Similibus Curentur lies, is the highest philosophic theory of health, sickness and therapeutics.

This thesis was firmly propounded in all his works by the renowned Founder of Homoeopathy, Dr. Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann, an eminent physician, great clinician, linguist, philosopher, chemist, etc., who, together with his contemporaries, Skoda, Wunderlich, Rokitansky, Gall, Muller, Hufeland, Boerhaave, Stahl, Haller, Barthez, Bordeu, Bichat, Grimaud, Hoffmann, Cullen, Chaussier, Lordat, Lavoisier, etc., flourished in the nineteenth century.

Since it is impossible to enumerate in the present survey each of the different medico-philosophic theories from the beginning of medicine to the present day, I shall confine myself to mention those having great interest because of their vitalist substance in spite of their clearly materialistic precedence.

Hippocrates (460-370 B. C.), a great Greek physician and a descendant of the Asclepiades, who is regarded as the Father of Medicine, and a great philosopher endowed with a prolific, creative mind, founded the so-called “humoral” doctrine, recognizing vitalism with the name of “pneuma,” and established his therapeutics based on the axiom Natura Morborum Medicatrix.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), a renowned philosopher and Greek physician, called “entelechy” an intermediate force between soul and body and declared,” “The soul is the first act of the organic physical body, which has life in potency.”

Galen (131-201 A.D.), a great Roman physician and philosopher, of Greek birth, an Alexandrian by culture, and a Hippocratic in some some of his medical ideas, is considered to be the founder of scientific medicine in the Traditional School, and the Father of Pharmacy. His theory on pathology and therapeutics had as basis the pneumatic school, which was essentially vitalist, and he propounded his therapeutic law of Contraria Contrariis Curentur, that dominated the field of medicine until the eighteenth century.

Even in our own days the word “Galen” is sometimes used to mean physician. Paracelsus (1493-1541), physician, alchemist, astrologer, and a man of exceptionally queer personality, was one of the most terrible adversaries of Galen. He is regarded as the founder of chemotherapy. He admitted the Natura Medicatrix principle of Hippocrates and declared that chemical reactions and vital phenomena in living beings lie in an imponderable principle which he called “archeus.”

Van Helmont (1577-1644), who was later seconded by Franz Le Boe, known as Sylvius, established the iatro-chemical theory, which met some success in Germany, France, and England, where it was divulged by the great anatomist Willis.

Inspired by the ideas of the philosophers Bacon and Descartes, the Italian physician, Borelli (1608-1678), founded the iatro-mechanic theory, which was continued by Bellini, Baglivio, and several others. Boerhaave, a iatro-mechanicist, contended that the solids and fluids in the human body were ruled by mechanical, hydrostatic, and hydraulic laws.

The theories on life, health and sickness, as explained by chemistry, physics, mathematics and materialism, were abandoned, and later, with Stahl (1660-1734) and the Montpellier school, the animistic and the vitalistic ideas returned.

With the investigations of anatomists and physiologists appeared the new medical doctrines of irritability of Glisson; of spasm and atony of Cullen; of incitability of Brown, and those of counter-stimulus of Rasori, which, although modifying the therapeutic activities of the time, had an ephemeral life.

The vitalist ideas appear again with Bichat (1771-1802), who founded in France the anatomo-pathologic school, to which Broussais, Laennec, Andral, Trousseau, and many others belonged.

Broussais (1772-1838), a former disciple of Bichat, declared himself his enemy and established physiologic therapeutics employing his anti-phlogistic medication, which consisted of abundant bleedings and application of leeches, but the practices of this system were so disastrous that it soon lost credit.

The vitalist theories of Hippocrates, Stahl, Bordeu, Barthez and several others undoubtedly influenced the learned and renowned Founder of Homoeopathy, Dr. Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann (1755-1843), a physician of the Traditional School, graduate of Erlangen, Germany, August 10th, 1779, who, disappointed in the therapeutics of his time, carried out new investigations and in 1796 published in Hufelands Journal an article entitled “A New Principle for Determining the Curative Power of Drugs,” in which work, after six years of careful study and experimentation on himself and his collaborators, he disclosed the pharmaco-dynamic action and the curative power of the Bark of Peru (China officinalis) on malaria and feverish conditions.

This new theory on the modus operandi of China officinalis came to the privileged mind of Hahnemann in translating from English into German the treatise on Materia Medica by Dr. William Cullen; but it was not before 1810, that is, fourteen years after his first work in Peru Bark, that he published his masterpiece which he entitled Exposition Of The Homoeopathic Medical Doctrine or Organon Of The Art of Healing in which he definitely expounds his therapeutic axiom Similia Similibus Curentur and his openly vitalistic criterion.

Claude Bernard (1813-1878), considered by the Traditional School as the founder of modern scientific medicine, established his theory of “determinism,” having physiology and his experimental method on bases.

In spite of his materialistic criterion, he textually said, “Pathologic anatomy is not sufficient to explain every morbid alteration. Sickness is constituted by the derangement of a functional mechanism due to a vital perturbance,” and declared further, “In physiology, materialism leads to nothing and explains nothing; the manifestations of life are not the work of matter.” (BOINET: Medical Doctrines and Their Evolution, page 121-1908).

The scientific neovitalism of Heindenhain, the psychic neovitalism of Von Bunge, and the philosophic neovitalism of Chevreul, Gautier and Reinke were theories born of the ideas divulged by Bernard, but they had little effect and were short- lived.

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), a renowned French chemist, with the discovery of microbiology opened a new path to medicine when in 1877 he proved the pathogenic role of microbes. From that time to the present day, numberless followers have enriched the field of medicine in the branch of bacteriology, from which have come the new conquests of antisepsis, asepsis, preventive and curative serotherapy, vaccinotherapy, immunity, etc.

Properly speaking, serotherapy belongs to the field of Isopathy which is of strictly Hahnemannian origin.

These remarkable discoveries on the etiology and pathogenesis of sicknesses of a microbian origin gave an opportunity to Richet, Hericourt, Behring, Kitisato, Roux, Martin, Metchnikoff, Nicolle, Koch, Loffler, Pfeiffer, Labbe, etc.. to propound their several theories and interpretations on the action of microbes, toxins, antitoxins, antibodies, phagocytosis, etc., in the aggression and defense of the organism.

Again, the founder of microbiology, Pasteur, demonstrated his vitalist criterion when he said, “When the vital resistance of the subject is modified or weakened, all microbes in general will invade the organism giving rise to a definite disease. No organism is receptive to infectious agents as long as it preserves its vital attributes of natural health.”

Opotherapy, a therapeutics known from the time of Hippocrates, was scientifically sanctioned in 1859 by Brown Sequard, who is considered one of the founders of Endocrinology and Opotherapy or Organotherapy, a treatment which is meant to substitute, maintain or stimulate the organic functions of the patient, in accordance with the Natura Medicatrix principle, this being a strictly Hahnemannian concept.

Ehrlich (1854 -1915), who was convinced of the truth of the microbian theories, established a “chemical-resource therapeutics” and tried to obtain a “terapia esterilisans magna” with arsenic for syphilitic patients, seeking the sterilization of the subject in order to effect the destruction of the spirochaeta, or treponema palladium, of Schaudinn and Hoffmann.

This therapeutics, which is not free of danger because of the phenomena it is liable to produce with the Herxheimer reaction, nitritoid and white crisis of Millian, cerose apoplexy, etc., gives impressive results in syphilis and its several evolutional periods and provides a new orientation in therapeutics for the use of pharmacals having a bacteriotropic action.

Vitaminotherapy, which began its scientific period with Hopkins and was later reaffirmed by Funk, in 1911, has as its purpose to administer substances in infinitesimal quantities in defective diseases, whereby is proved the similarity of doses and their biological action in the form of catalytic agents for some vitamins as is the case with the prescription of homoeopathic medicaments in high dilutions.

Domagk, 1935, marks as important a date for the Traditional School as that on which Ehrlich published his investigations with the arsenobenzols.

Sulfamidotherapy won large numbers of proselytes throughout the world an sulfanilamides and their derivatives were obtained for therapeutics in white and red series under the names of Prontosil Rubrum, Rubiazol, Uliron, Albucid, Cibazol, etc. Following repeated and numberless hypotheses and laboratory verifications, the following conclusion was reached: All sulfanilamided products, in any of their series and derivatives, have a bacteriostatic, nonbactericidal action, since they alter the nourishment of bacteria, prevent their encapsulation, and neutralize their toxins. The organic defenses of the subject them act on elements of diminished virulence and altered vitality, which permits the destruction and elimination of pathogenic agents.

In view of the importance of sulfamidotherapy, several studies were conducted from the viewpoint of pure Hahnemannian experimentation, as well as clinical observations with cases of over-dosage and intoxication, and the works, of Dr. Tyler of London, and Drs. Sutherland, Roberts, Brown, etc., of the United States, and of the writer, in Mexico, were made known in 1943, obtaining pathogeneses for their application within the Similia law, clinical results being verified with 3X, 6X, and 200. potencies, whereupon the conclusion was reached that with these dynamically acting doses, satisfactory curative results are obtained, provided their prescriptions adhere to the Similia law.

Before this brief historical survey of the theories and therapeutic methods of medicine is brought to a conclusion, I will mention the doctrine of “antibiosis,” which, having been foreseen by Pasteur and his followers, culminated in 1928 with the discovery by Fleming of penicillin, a mold which has an anti-bacterial action on Staphylococcus Aureus and other pathogenic germs.

The term “anti-biotic” was first used by Waksman and by “antibiosis” is meant “the deadly fight of life against life” (DR. GABRIEL SANCHEZ de la CUESTA y GUTIERREZ: Therapeutic Ideas. Page 262. Seville, 1951).

With the works of Fleming, Woodruff, Thom, Chain, etc., the Traditional School obtains precise indications in therapeutics, specifying that there exist stocks and organisms that are susceptible or not susceptible to the antibacterial action of penicillin.

Well-known among the public are at present the numerous preparations on the market of penicillin and its compounds, which are specially indicated in pneumocosis, staphylocosis, streptocosis, gonocosis, syphilis, gangrene, etc., with surprising results in some instances.

Fleming himself, in his article “Systematic Administration of Penicillin”, published in The Lancet of London, September 9, 1944, declared:

The salts of penicillin for therapeutic use are active at a 1/100,000,000–1.250,000,000 dilution and I have succeeded in producing morphological changes in the germs of patients treated with these dilutions.

Finally, Von Kenel, who continued the work of Fleming, and his collaborators affirm that for an antibiotic such as penicillin, streptomycin, chloromycetin, aureomycin, terramycin, hydrocylin, etc., to be used in the therapeutics, the following requirements at least should be met by such antibiotic:

1st–To make difficult or inhibit the development of pathogenic micro-organisms, and 2nd–it should not interfere adversely with the vital state and functions of the patients organic cells.

Paul Joseph Barthez, of the Montpellier School, devised the term “VITAL PRINCIPLE” (GARRISON: History of Medicine, page 377, 1922. LAIN ENTRALGO: History of Medicine, page 347, 1954), and in his work Elements of Mans Science, 1778, he declared:

The knowledge of chemistry, physics, and mechanics is not sufficient to explain the phenomena of life; it becomes necessary to admit a vital principle which differs from the general properties of matter.

His theories won a number of proselytes among whom renowned vitalists appeared, such as Bichat, Bordeu, and Bouchut, each with a different point of view, but substantially maintaining the need for admitting an immaterial principle that assumes all of the functions proper to the living being, such as nourishment, growth, reproduction, morbid aptitude, sensibility, resistance to medicinal action, etc.

The different ideas on vitalism, as well as Hippocrates principle of Natura Medicatrix, gave rise in the mind of the famous sage of Meissen, Dr. Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann, to the need for carrying out a medical reform so as to include an propound therein his own ideas on vitalism and explain in a definite, concise manner his therapeutic axiom of Similia Similibus Curentur, for which purpose he published his Organon Of Rational Medicine, which in later editions was called Exposition Of The Homoeopathic Medical Doctrine or Organon Of The Art Of Healing, constituting a work of medical logic. The sixth edition of it consists of 294 paragraphs.

In paragraph 10, in respect to vitalism, the Founder of Homoeopathy has written: The material organism, deprived of vital force, cannot feel, or act, or do anything for its own preservation. It is to the immaterial element, which vivifies it both in the state of health and in the state of sickness, that it owes the performance of its vital functions (Organon , 6th German edition, 1842. Translation from English into Spanish by Dr. Romero, Mexico, 1929).

From the year, 1810, to our day, despite the opposition of famous adversaries to the Hahnemannian doctrine, such as Trousseau and Pidoux of Paris, Pedro Mata of Spain, Fenelon, Gabino Barreda and Ocaranza of Mexico, and several others of various countries in the world, academic discussions on vitalism, animism, and organicism, have been of a higher and higher import and at present the physicians of the Traditional School, departing from all doctrinary principles, are recognizing an openly eclectic therapeutics accepting a naturism of the Hippocratic type.

To prove the actualization of Hippocratism, Maranon, one of the most learned physicians of our times, declares in the work, Therapeutic Ideas, of Sanchez de la Cuesta, Seville, 1951, that present therapeutics (allopathic) should direct itself towards the ancient, magnificent doctrines of the Old Man of Cos.

Modern physicians and biologists, in an effort to adapt themselves to the present rules of biology, accept vitalism under the name of Neo-Hippocratism and scientific Neo-Vitalism, with Driesch, Reinke, Hertwig, Uexkull, Bertalanffi, Bergson, etc., as their main supporters. Moreover, one of the most renowned physicians of the homoeopathic school, Dr. Fortier-Bernoville, in his work submitted to the Budapest Congress in 1935, pointed to the need for directing the practice of modern Homoeopathy to Neo-Hippocratism. Similarly, Dr. Vannier, a famous and learned French physician, and his collaborators in the Homoeopathic Center of France, of which he is the Director, maintains in his work, Neo-Hippocratism and Homoeopathy, 1938, that it is necessary to apply in practice the principles of Hippocrates. Drs. Cawadias of London, and Allendy of Paris, both distinguished homoeopathists, share also in these tendencies. In short, for the Hahnemannian School, Neo-Hippocratism is a just and reasoned interpretation of the Vis Medicatrix Naturae principle of Hippocrates in all modern knowledge of medicine, adjusting it to the vitalist criterion of Hahnemann.

Morales Macedo, a biologist of the University of San Marcos, Lima, in his treatise Fundamental Biology, 1936, says:

Vitalism is the generic name used to designate the theories admitting the existence of a force that, acting on organized matter, has life as its result [Neo-Vitalism is] a new orientation of modern thought on the basis of ancient vitalism, accepting the new acquisitions of physics and chemistry in relation to vital phenomena.

Dr. M. Banuelos, professor of therapeutics in the University of Valladolid, Spain, in his book Clinical Therapeutics, Vol. II, Infectious Diseases, page 7, 1942, says:

Quinine in malaria, or arsenic, bismuth and iodine in syphilis, or sulfamides in diseases produced by bacterial cocci, would not be able to accomplish their curative actions without the presence of the vital forces of the living organism.

Dr. Gonzalo Castaneda, a renowned Mexican physician of the Traditional School, in his book Clinical Lessons, 1942, declares:

Clinics demonstrate a vital state, by virtue of which the symptoms appear. The directive idea will be to consider a local perturbance as depending on and bound to the vital union of the organism.

Present investigations in psychosomatic medicine are a further confirmation of the Hahnemannian Vital Principle and its philosophic interpretation in health and disease. (Dumbar, Paschero, Lain Entralgo, Rascovsky, Carcamo, Krapf, Salerno, Garcia Vega, etc.)

Dr. Seguin, of Peru, at the International Congress of Psychiatry, held in Santiago de Chile, December 1952, declares,

Disease in the last analysis is a manifestation of vital unbalance. And we should understand it as such, because in life the dynamic and uninterrupted inter-relation of the living being to environment should be regarded as fundamental.

Gil Sanz, Professor of Medical Pathology at the Central University of Madrid, Spain, in his treatise Orientation to Pathology, 1953, accepts the definition of disease given by Bauer, that is, “Sickness is an abnormal course of the vital process, that perturbs the individual and diminishes his aptitudes and defenses.”

The renowned Founder of Homoeopathy, Dr. Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann, drew a sharp line of difference between the three elements of Man, namely, the soul, the vital force or energy, and the material body.

The soul is immaterial, immortal, indestructible, and is endowed with thought, conscience, and will. It is not subject to weakness or decrepitude, or accessible to any influence from time, and is perfected by the exercise of its faculties.

The vital force or energy is immaterial, instinctive; it acts automatically, never has consciousness of its acts, and is subject to the laws of biology. It manifests itself from the ovular state in the womb of the mother till death and is subject to variations that are transmitted through heredity from an individual to another.

This vital force is autocratic, dynamic, because it is in continuous activity both in sickness and in health, and manifests itself in every organ and tissue of the body. It rules by itself every act of economy and, when keeping a perfect balance, it represents health, that is, the normal psychosomatic condition of the individual.

The material body is subject to the inexorable laws of physics and chemistry and as the renowned Founder of Homoeopathy rightly points out at the end of paragraph 10 of his Organon: The dead individual is subject to the influence of the outer world, becomes disintegrated and resolves himself into his chemical elements.”

Hence the vitalism of the Hahnemannian School shows and proves that, although physiological and pathological phenomena are controlled by vitality, health and sickness do not depend exclusively on the soul, or the vital force, or the material organization of the individual, but on the whole of these three elements which form the trisubstantial unity of man.


1–The Sage of Meissen, Dr. Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann, sought the union of philosophy and medical science to find the integral trinitary knowledge of man.

2–Hahnemannian therapeutics, which is based on the axiom of Similia Similibus Curentur, with its corollary, the Natura Medicatrix of Hippocrates, has as its purpose to aid in the efforts of Nature towards the re-establishment and maintenance of health.

3.–The vital force is the immaterial, dynamic element that unites the soul with the material body and that, under normal conditions of health, sustains the psycho-physical functional harmony of the individual.

4–In every disease it is the vital force–active and self- manifest in all the parts of the body–that first suffers the noxious influence of the agent that is hostile to life, its disharmony being manifested with symptoms of defense, reaction, resistance, or regression, and. 5–The vital force, described by a great man of science, who possessed the spirit of the modern physician, Dr. Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann, in paragraphs 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, etc., of his Exposition of the Homoeopathic Medical Doctrine or Organon of the Art of Healing has remained and will continue to be unchangeable in face of the medical and philosophic theories of all times.

Hilario Luna Castro