You may perhaps have had from time to time those little tracts thrust surreptitiously into your hand, bearing a double title such as “The Bent Hair-Pin” or “How Little Nellie saved the Night Express.”.
Similarly I might suggest as an alternative title to this paper “The Foresight of Hahnemann” or “The Longest Way Round is the shortest way Home.”.
With this old adage, Dr. Julian ended a lecture on Homoeopathy in this room not so many months ago, and if I may be permitted to follow in his footsteps, I should like to take up the thread of his discourse and use it as a text to this introductory lecture.
The history of medicine is very much a history of attempted short cuts.
In our passion for arriving at our destination ahead of schedule, it seems to be a deeply rooted instinct to take the first promising turning off the main road, in spite of the fact that previous experience should have warned us that all such hopes of short cuts are snares and delusions.
One of the first short cuts was invented by a Frenchman. Dr. Crookshank has described how de Sauvages in 1731 hit on the notion of classifying illnesses into diseases, and published a small book entitled the “Classification of Illnesses.” Diseases were to be classified into certain determinate kinds just as the botanists classified plants. The idea was accepted with enthusiasm, and as Dr. Crookshank states, the mischief was done, the medical profession started on a career of fitting square pegs, the patients into round holes, the diseases.
The standardisation of disease led to standardisation of treatment and medicine has suffered to this day from this tendency.
As Dr. Crookshank writes: “It seems as if Academic Medicine, with its formal nomenclature of diseases, is becoming regarded by the public and by no means the least intelligent section thereof as analogous to Heralds College, with its Tables of Precedence and the like”.
One of the most promising short cuts that diverted the progress of medicine was the discovery of bacteria. At once it appeared that further investigation into the nature of the organisms responsible for disease would necessarily lead to the cure of disease, and immediately a large number of workers devoted themselves to the isolation of the various organisms associated with various illnesses.
Having discovered the organism responsible for the illness the next step was to stamp it out.
Ehrlich evolved his famous idea of the sterilising dose, which should wipe out the invading bacteria.
And then the bacteriologists found themselves against an obstacle an agent which killed micro-organisms in vitro was practically valueless in vivo, unless used in such concentrations as were dangerous to the host. An immense amount of research was carried out in the hope of finding a drug which would annihilate the infecting organism without damaging the issues of the host Salvarsan was the 606th substance investigated in Ehrlichs laboratory. Gradually, Ehrlichs dream has been reluctantly abandoned, and it is being slowly recognised that all three factors in this eternal triangle must be taken into consideration the patient, the infecting organism and the remedy.
It is no good concentrating on the invading germ or on the antiseptic drug alone the tissues of the host must be respected as well. More and more, it is recognised that such drugs as antimony in bilharziasis, salvarsan in syphilis, the gold salts in tuberculosis, mercurochrome in septicaemia, do not act directly on the various micro-organisms concerned but through the agency of the tissues and fluids of the human body.
The late Professor Dixon admitted that bacteriological tests were no guide in assessing the curative values of these drugs. He reminded us that Ehrlich found atoxyl useful in syphilis after he had proved it had no lethal action on the protozoa in the concentrations used. So also Mercurochrome has cured gonorrhoea in concentrations well below the theoretical sterilising dose. Now investigators talk about the chemo-immuno-therapeutic properties of these drugs. That is to say they consider that these drugs, by altering in some manner, the chemistry of the body, stimulate the natural forces of recovery.
This however, is but a restatement of one of Hahnemanns fundamental points. Hahnemann wrote more than a hundred years ago: “Diseases are nothing more than alterations in the state of health of the healthy individual which express themselves by morbid signs, and cure is only possible by a change to the healthy condition of the state of health of the diseased individual.” Hahnemann claimed that medicines only act by stimulating the natural recuperative powers of the body the patient cures himself the drugs administered do not effect a cure except in so far as they set in motion the natural defence reactions of the body. As Dr. Todd said last year, “we know the cause of tuberculosis now and can reproduce the disease, but most of us have stopped trying to treat the disease, we treat the patient instead to his benefit”.
This particular short cut the annihilation of the invading organism, is now being abandoned by modern physicians Sir Walter Fletcher, Secretary to the Medical Research Council, has state that the search for specific remedies for specific disease must fail.
So we are brought back once more to the patient, rather than to the bacteria. This, unfortunately is a longer and more difficult task, for in spite of the great differentiation between the various species of bacteria, there is even greater scope for variation between patient and patient.
The study of the constitution has therefore been revived. Here again Hahnemann was far ahead of his times for he insisted on the individual study of each case, and the investigation of what he called, the totality of the symptoms. The totality of the symptoms was to Hahnemann the outward and visible signs by which he recognised the disturbance of the inward invisible “vital energies”.
Today various methods are in vogue for investigating the constitution. Separate functions of the body are investigated to discover anomalies of excretion or secretion. For example the acidity of the gastric juice may throw light on the tendency to duodenal ulcer or pernicious anaemia, or the reaction of the urine may demonstrate the possibility of nephritis or alternatively phosphatic calculus in the future.
On a more elaborate scale, the anthropometric measurements of Draper have shown the tendency of certain types of bodily configuration to develop certain diseases. Draper claims by measurements and comparisons of various cranial index and other measurements to determine the susceptibility of the patient to such illnesses, as rheumatic fever, gallstones, high blood pressure, enlarged prostate, diabetes.
But all these investigations require a pathologist, or a laboratory; they assist in prognosis rather than treatment.
Hahnemanns method of investigating the totality of the symptoms has the great value of being a simple clinical method equally applicable in the Consulting room or at the bedside.
At present our knowledge of physiology and pathology (even psychology) is far from sufficient to give us an interpretation of the mechanism by which the various symptoms are produced, but every year fresh discoveries reveal a pregnant meaning behind the various symptoms displayed by each patient.
Such phenomena as the effect of damp weather, of cold or heat, the time of day at which the patient feels worst, the effect of sleep in aggravating or ameliorating symptoms the tendency to perspire from the head only or the feet only the tendency for the menses to relieve or aggravate symptoms. All these throw a flood of light on the type of constitution we have to deal with, and give us information which we should still need, in spite of such instruments of precision as the sphygmomanometer, the electrocardiograph, the fluoroscopic screen,none of which any homoeopath would do without.
Modern medicine therefore is turning its concentration away from bacteriological factors to a study of the constitution of the patient, and the methods by which the tissues and fluids respond to noxious stimuli. But having gained this information, how is it to be applied? Once more Hahnemann was still many years ahead of the outlook in orthodox medicine.
Hahnemann realised that when it was a question of restoring health by stimulating the vital energies, a very delicate problem had to be solved. It was an axiom of his, that the cure should be effected without any considerable disturbance of these vital forces, and in his attempt to avoid the wholesale upset of patients produced by lavish medication current in his times, he employed smaller and smaller doses of medicines. This use of the micro-dose has been the occasion of much scorn and obloquy, but it is important to remember that this was not a fanciful idea of Hahnemanns, it was the outcome of practical research.
Each dose was to be allowed to call into play the defence mechanisms of the body, and until the action of that stimulus was exhausted no further dose was to be given. This of course is the modern conception of vaccine therapy. Warren Crowe in his famous work on the treatment of rheumatic conditions insists on the necessity of allowing each dose of the vaccine to stimulate the defence mechanism of the body, and not until improvement ceases, must another vaccine-dose be given.
Incidentally Crowe has repeated Hahnemanns observations, on the value of smaller and smaller doses; in his earlier work, he advised the use of doses containing millions of bacteria now he recommends the employment of such minute doses as a 100 bacteria.
But Hahnemanns work on micro-doses has been further confirmed by workers in the State Laboratories in Leningrad. There Dr. Persson has shown that mercury in potencies of 115 dilution, that is to say 10 to the power of 115 had the power of activating the enzyme amylase. Person repeated these experiments with many homoeopathic remedies on various ferments and found that many remedies has the power of activating various enzymes in dilutions up to 10-60.
This classical research demonstrates that various drugs in dilutions which we might term ultra-atomic, have the power of influencing the activity of the various enzymes or ferments, which constitute the basis of practically every vital process in the living cell.
So far I have demonstrated that Hahnemanns intuitive genius has forseen three most important developments in modern medicine:.
(1) That cure depends on the stimulation of the bodys natural defence mechanisms rather than by the artificial sterilisation.
(2) That successfully to stimulate the bodys natural forces, it is necessary to study each individual constitution rather than to treat a so-called disease.
(3) That such stimulation involves the use of drugs in micro- doses.
We have just celebrated the centenary of Faraday. Hahnemann was the Faraday of Medicine. Indeed, the two men had much in common. Hahnemann has often been called a quack, though he was a qualified man; Faraday had no degrees, from an academic point of view he was a quack. Both men had broad views as to the unity of natural forms; and in both men, these views were held with such conviction, that they were driven to investigation. Faraday said, “Without experiment, I am nothing.” We can imagine Hahnemann saying the same words. When one considers the enormous number of experiments involved in Hahnemanns provings, as published in his works, on “Materia Medica” and “Chronic Diseases,” we can but wonder at the energy which compelled Hahnemann to put his intuitions to the practical test.
I have no time to tell you, how Hahnemanns practice in many other branches of medicine foreshadowed modern therapy. This will you learn from others much better qualified than myself. As Sir Basil Blackett has written:.
“Again and again in human history, generation after generation has been content to go on using the most clumsy and indifferent means to serve necessary ends, while there was waiting for mankind round the corner as it were some utterly simple device, which once discovered made all previous methods appear inconceivably and ridiculously laborious and uncivilised.”
I claim for Hahnemann that his discoveries have been too long kept round the corner. I hope this introductory lecture has served to stimulate your interests in this teaching centre, the only teaching centre of Homoeopathy in this country for its establishment we are indebted to the generosity of believes in homoeopathy. The funds are vested in the Honeyman Gillespie. Trust, the Compton Burnett Bequest, the Sir Henry Tyler Scholarship Fund and the Tutorial Fund of the Hospital. Each of these concerns itself with part of the subject and together supply all that is necessary to enable any enquiring medical practitioner to equip himself for the practice of homoeopathy.
Finally I must tender my thanks to the Council of the B.H.A. for asking me to open the Session. Coming from the Wild West, I appreciate the honour all the more, and trust that those medical men and women in my audience have been sufficiently interested to study further the fascinating possibilities of homoeopathy.