XI.THE NATURAL HEALING POWER.
THE vital force, or, as one also states in respect to diseases, the “natural healing power,” is a delicate field on which one has written so much the more, the less one knows about it. It withdraws from the experience of the senses and if one holds only that is the subject of natural scientific investigation which can be studied directly chemicophysically, then one can deny it or at least not consider it an exile it into the field of natural philosophy.
If, however, one knows modern investigation-I refer particularly to the famous investigations on the eggs of sea-urchins by Driesch-then one will point to the fact that effects can be demonstrated in exact studies on living organisms, which are not explainable parley chemicophysically, which on the contrary prove a “non-mechanical natural factor,” as Driesch has shown in a keen analysis.
Since the time of Hippocrates in medicine one has assumed a natural healing power (Ovrls-nature) which has been conceived very differently and about which one has debated considerably, but which was never eliminated from the discussion, even if eve again there is an attempt to deny this force which at that time one conceived usually as a special power (energy).
I mention in particular two physicians from Hahnemanns time who denied the natural healing power or at least esteemed it very little: Brown, who stressed that one should never rely upon the natural healing power, and Rowley(1788, see Neuburger: “Die Lehre von der Heikraft der Natur,” Stuttgart, 1926) who sought to prove in a particularly consequent and embracing way that to relinquish diseases to nature for the most part meant to let them remain unhealed.
As the opinions, so also the conclusions which one drew from the theories presented were also very different. Thereby it does not lack a certain irony that both the praise singers of the all-mightiness of natural healing as well as the disavowers tended to place their hands in their pockets. The first because they believed that if all is left to nature this is for the best; the others who were mostly strict mechanists, believed they could not influence the strictly mechanical course of events anyhow.
What I have indicated by the word “tended” must be interpreted that the distress of the patient often, however, compelled both parties to do something in single cases. That in the process of doing nothing the acclaimers of the all-mighty power of nature were the more consequent is evident because it is not apparent from a mechanistic standpoint why one should not be able to influence the chemicophysical course of events in living organisms.
Hahnemanns position to the natural healing power has been repeatedly the subject of discussions; in particular the opponents shave spoken with great sharpness of Hahnemanns “denial of the natural healing power, of Hahnemanns “denial of the natural healing power,” with sharpness which is amazing in several respects because usually the opponents stand on a mechanistic standpoint, which, logically carried through, should leave no space for such a teleologic conception and one often has the impression in these attacks as though Hahnemann began this calumniation originally and alone.
But, then, is it correct at all that Hahnemann tersely and clearly denied the natural healing power? This would already be doubly remarkable for the reason that he was a vitalist in other things. After all, exact consideration also shows that the facts do not lie s simply. One can judge the problem correctly only in considering Hahnemanns position from his early days and likewise by knowing his general conceptions.
As I have already said when quoting something out of the works above, it is remarkable that among the opponents the works of Hahnemann from his eighth and ninth decades along are considered and likewise historians form no exception. One cannot arrive at a correct estimation of the long life of a scientist in this way. Likewise from the other side Hahnemanns position is never followed from his first works up to his old age. Dozens of places could be cited a which he mentions affirmatively the vital power, “the natural healing power of nature,” of which one often spoke as of a person at the time.
In the “Medical Observations” (1782), he states in regard to “nature”: “Let us follow the footsteps of Hippocrates, Arectaeus, Sydenham, Sarcone, Lautter, Clekhorn, Huxham and Degner and take nature experience as guides” (p.3).
This citation from his earliest independent work shows that he considered nature as his instructor. Incidentally, it may also be noted from this sentence that he professed himself to be a student of the great masters of natural observation and took the careful empiricists as a model.
In his work “Old Damages. . . . .” (1784), nature is frequently mentioned. Only a few examples shall be quoted to show Hahnemanns views in a different light at this time.
Of a female patient Hahnemann relates that he had treated her in vain for a long time; only when she came under different better conditions of life, she soon recovered. To this he remarks: “she recovered as a confirmation of the great principle: nature is very simple in her requirements of only one offers them to her.” This simplicity of nature he stressed many times, so when he states: “Nature is extremely simple, particularly in the means for attainment of her final purpose, then we need only remove the obstacles to healing and nature completes her work” (p.62). Even here seems to be announced a trend of thought which we will much later find expressed more sharply.
He is not a proclaimer of the all-mighty power of the vital for her so that she may complete the healing. This critical position we find more strongly expressed when he states: “Ulcers, boils, and swelling are the forms under which at times nature releases the fluids remaining after diseases which then tend to provoke many damages.”.
He expressed himself similarly in “Instructions for Surgeons” (1789). On the self healing of gonorrhea he states on p.31:”But this endeavor of nature is often unreliable and difficult at least of disgusting tediousness.” Thus her also again we see a somewhat increased skepticism!.
When Munro praised the excellent effect of a remedy in chronic constipation and many other diseases, Hahnemann said: “What nature has done in so long a time itself, what the many drinks and other circumstances do in such a cure, were often the cause of the disease is either only imaginary or enshrouded entirely in darkness, or is often slight and inconsiderable, this is not brought into account here” (Munro,I, 147, 1791). So here he tends to minimize the action of a remedy in contract to other conditions and to attribute to the natural healing power also its also its share in the cure of chronic disease.
Now his expressions during the time at which he was occupied with the elaboration of his new doctrine are of great interest. In the work “On a New Principle. . .” (1796, in Hahnemanns Lesser Medical Writings, Edited by Stapf, Dresden, Bd.1,p..149),he speaks of nature in connection with the discussion on contrarium remedies: “In acute diseases which, when we remove the obstructions to cure even for only a few days, nature usually defeats, or, to which it surrenders if we cannot do this, I say, these application of remedies are proper, to the purpose and sufficient.. . . .”.
From then on we find stressed frequently that acute diseases are often led to cure of themselves also without the intervention of a physician.
He reproaches Brown sharply because he trusts nothing to the power of nature and because he either stimulates or weakens. “What blasphemy of nature!” explains Hahnemann (Stapf.I.p.119).
How he expressed himself some years later in the “Medicine of experience” (1805) we have already seen above. But we will not interrupt the line going from his earliest writings to those of his old age at this important point but once more let the “Medicine of Experience” speak! After he has mentioned reproachfully the endeavors of physicians aimed at excitation of excretions, either sweat, stools. urine, or blood as imperfect, he continues: “Just as if these imperfect and forced imitations were the same thing as what nature effects in the hidden recesses of vitality by her own spontaneous efforts in the form of crisis! Or as if such crises were the best possible method for overcoming the disease and were not rather proofs much more of the imperfection and therapeutic powerlessness of our unaided nature!” (Stapf,II,5.).
In the year 1808 the theme was varied in the following way” “Were not the poor who can secure no drugs often cured much sooner than the wealthy in the same type of illness where the rich patient fills all his windows with great flasks of drugs?” (Stapf, I, 49m, Nr.87.).
But remarkably, while in the last citation he permits nature to cure in the poor without “Ifs and buts ,” in the preceding he has markedly stressed the imperfection and powerlessness of nature. This difference is very noteworthy and will concern us later!.
A still more one-sided and sharper position we find, in this as well s other points in the Organon. He has discussed the vital force more expressly only in the fourth edition but the first edition will be considered here.
In the introduction (p.VI) Hahnemann writes: “In all ages were patients which were actually, rapidly, permanently and visibly cured by drugs-not through some other great event, not through the self-limited course of an acute disease, not through the lapse of time, not through the gradual preponderance of bodily energy,etc., were haled merely through the homoeopathic action if a remedy, although without knowledge of the physician”.
Observe! He speaks of “self-limited course, “lapse of time,” and “energy of the body,” all things which one could understand also without compulsion as the influence of a natural healing power, but he avoids mentioning it, a sign that he is less willing to recognize the actions of nature and preferred to put them down elsewhere.
From the “Materia Medica Pura” (Bd.I,III Aufl. 1830, p.172) one may cite the following place as indicative of Hahnemanns opinion” :”Only chronic diseases are the crucial test of genuine medical science because they do not of themselves go over into healing; rapidly developing illnesses pass with and without drugs-obviously through the intrinsic power of the overcome with striking rapidity and more permanently than if left alone, if it is to be called healing.” The citation in the second edition reads practically the same (1823).
In the fourth edition of the Organon he enters more expressly upon the natural healing power, stimulated through critics both from the allopathic as well as the homoeopathic side who were exercised about his depreciating attitude. (I use the almost identical wording of the fifth edition.).
The place usually cited stands in the introduction (p.30). As we saw earlier, he turns also here against the old school which strived to divert diseases to other places through irritants.
“They followed merely the rude instinctive procedure of nature in her endeavors at resistance which are effective to some extent only copied the sustaining power of life which, if left to itself in diseases, is incapable of exercising reasons and rests entirely upon the organic laws of the body, acting along according to these laws, without being capable of working to reason or deliberation.
They followed crude nature, who cannot, like a skillful surgeons, heal a wound by co-adapting and uniting its gasping edges; who does not know now to adjust and replace the divergent tends of a fractured bone, notwithstanding her ability to furnish, often super abundantly, osseous master; who cannot tie a wounded artery, but with will her energy causes the wounded person to bleed to death; who does not know how to reduce a dislocated humerus, but on the contrary, prevents human art from accomplishing reduction by speedily producing a swelling around the joint -who, in order to remove a splinter from the cornea, destroys the whole eye by suppuration; who, in spite of her efforts, is able to reduce a strangulated inguinal hernia only by gangrene of the intestines and death; and who, by transporting morbid processes in dynamic diseases, often makes the sick more miserable than they were before.
Still more: this unreasonable vital force receives into the body without hesitation those chronic miasms (psora, syphilis, sycosis), the greatest tormentors of our earthly existence, the source of innumerable diseases, under which tortured humanity groans for hundreds, yes, thousands of years and unable even to palliate one of these, this same vital force is utterly incapable of removing such disease from the organism of its own accord, but suffers them to rankle in the system, until death closes the eyes of the sufferer, often after a long life of sorrow”.
Somewhat farther along he states (p.46):.
“That noble innate power destined to govern life in the most perfect manner during health, equally present in all parts of the organism, in sensitive as well as in the irritable fiber, that untiring mainspring of all normal, natural fiber, that untiring mainspring of all normal, natural bodily functions was never created for the purpose of aiding itself in diseases, nor to exercise a healing art worthy of imitation”.
In the last sentence the expression “worthy of imitation” should be noted and stressed particularly. Thereby he of course indicates his new doctrine which does not seek to arrive at its goal through imitation of the crises but often does so in milder direct ways. If one does not consider this word and similar expressions, not rarely one will misunderstand Hahnemanns words and see contradictions where, in fact, none exist. He does not deny that the vital power is active in disease; however, he asserts that it can be only so imperfectly, usually by devious routes (crises) and with the sacrifice of much energy. Healing through the vital power for this reason is not “worthy of imitation”.
The following sentences from the foreword (V,p.vii; VI, p.Ixxvi) show the fact again for another aspect: “homoeopathy knows healing can only be caused by the counteraction of the vital force against the drug correctly chose,” 37 Italics by Tischner.
In this pamphlet “Allopathy” (1831) he comes to speak repeatedly of the vital force and its accomplishments and it is very instructive to hear what he has to say on the theme “Allopathy and the vital force”: “In the first place as regards their treatment of diseases of a rapid course (acute diseases), experience equally shows that patients affected with such maladies, who, without any allopathic interference, were left entirely much sooner and more certainly than when they have themselves up to the treatment introduced” (p.6). We see him here again having some confidence in vital power.
In his very old age in the fourth volume of “Chronic Diseases” (2 Aufl. 1833, pp.iv-vi), he once again occupied himself with this question in a short article “Glance at the manner in which homoeopathic healing proceeds”.
As often before he stressed at the beginning, that the vital power could not overcome acute diseases “without sacrificing a part of the fluid and solid constitutes of the organism through the so-called crises.” Of the chronic diseases he states further: “The chronic diseases, which spring from miasms, cannot be healed unaided, even by such sacrifices, nor can real health be restored by this force alone. But it is just as certain that even if this force is enabled by the true ( homoeopathic) medical science, guided by the human understanding overcome (to cure) not only the quickly transient but also the chronic diseases arising from miasms in a direct manner and without such sacrifices, without loss of body and life, nevertheless it is always this power, the vital force, which conquers.”
He turns to this thought once more and stresses again that it is the vital force which defeats the enemy,when it is supported by drugs. Alone it is not equal to the maladies. “As I have said above our vital force hardly opposes an equal opposition to the foe causing the the disease and yet no enemy can be overcome except by a superior force. Only homoeopathic medicine can give this superior power to the invalidated vital force.” 38 The italics in this and the preceding quotation are by Tischner.
Logically considered, the vital force plays accordingly the role of a “necessary condition”. Thus it indicates a marked misunderstanding if one makes “a necessary condition” identical with a “denial”! Do I deny the necessity of light for a plant, when I remark that is also needs water necessarily?.
In the following he expresses more closely how one can consider the occurrence of healing. In that we increase artificially the diseases with a similarly acting remedy, we also enlarge the vital force and its energy so that it is now stronger than the original disease and conquerors this, when the decline of the medicine effect occurs the seeming increase of the diseases has disappeared.
Here Hahnemann gives the healing of diseases a noticeably different significance than before and indeed he now ascribes an increased significance to the vital power. The vital power is the real remover of the disease with the necessary assistance of the (homoeopathic) drug.
If one surveys the whole matter spread out here completely, then in view of Hahnemanns vitalistic orientation we are not surprised that from the beginning he acknowledges the natural healing power insufficient he considered the natural healing power insufficient and in need of support. With nearly all physician of the time he regarded many processes which appeared in the course of disease, as “healing crises,” e.g., as bleeding, sweat, diarrhea, etc.; but the differentiates healing crises as unsuitable in many cases since they represent a devious route and cost the body much force which might better be spared.
This skepticism against the healing crises increases as he gradually becomes clear over his new way and gains the experience that the treatment according to the simile is often much more sparing than these healing crises and consequently the distrust against depletion treatment and treatment by means of diversion increases as they were crude imitations of an inadequate natural process, according to his view and as such are still more unsuitable.
Have we not in our time come nearer to the view point of Hahnemann on this point and do we not as present take a similar view of these eternal depleting cures as did Hahnemann? Thereby still to be noted is that the depleting cures customarily carried out before damaging materials “acridities,” etc., as they had been assumed in humoral pathology could be removed. Then this treatment was taken over but at each time another theory built under it, as that of “weakening,” “diversion” or the like. Theory is patient! Later Hahnemann went farther and viewed the healing crises still more skeptically in that he speaks of the “so called” crises (for example, Org. IV, p. 27 V, p.31, VI, p. 25). In contrast to most of his contemporaries, here also he supported views which we ourselves hold today.
One will understand Hahnemanns development in the following years only if one if one considers his constantly increasing opposition to allopathy, to which he would not leave a good hair. With this psychologic viewpoint his orientation is not accepted as factually correct but more understandable within his conception, and loses much of the contradiction which seems to be attached to it.
As time went on he became more skeptical about nature and the healing crises, perhaps confirmed in his own trend by the influence of Brown and Rowley; for this reason it lay near also to esteem slightly the imitation of the healing crises as performed by the medicine of the healing crises as performed by the medicine of the time and on the other side again, since in the course of the elaboration of his own doctrine he came into ever increasing opposition internally and externally to “allopathy,” also its teacher and ideal were more and more depreciated by him in a destructive circle.
From an opposite mental reason he tended, on the other side, to make the homoeopathic method the cure in which he often saw the cure come to pass in a more indulgent manner and which as direct healing he opposed to the indirect deriving and depleting, to make this cure and the improvement which followed, the result of his treatment to as great an extent as possible, and to ascribe to nature as little as possible or at least not expressly always stress its necessary participation.
For this reason, in his strongly empassioned position against allopathy, dissension entered into his deductions, according to the connection in which he came to speak of the natural healing power. He ascribed more influence to it when he spoke of allopathic cures than he did when speaking of homoeopathic.
As the citation from the Organon shows (V,p.46) in his later days he desires to ascribe to the vital force chiefly the task of directing the functions of of the healthy body while its activity in disease is not worthy of imitation. But this will also become comprehensible if one considers his dynamic views. Since he supposed the vital force itself to become ill-he can scarcely ascribe the role to it of dragging itself out of the swamp of disease-as did once upon a time Munchausen-by its own hair. Since it becomes ill, its endeavors will not be representative and it can reach its goal only by devious routes and imperfectly. So considered it can only consequent within his conception that he again strives to restore the dynamically acting remedies.