HOME    SOCIAL CRITICISM LIBRARY CATALOGUE    TABLE OF CONTENTS    NEXT CHAPTER


    

     

CHAPTER III

THE CREED OF HAHNEMANN

    CATEGORICALLY, and in accordance with a strict Allopathic rendering of the term, Homeopathy does not belong among the "Cults" any more than Allopathy belongs with them. For the word "cults," as applied to modern schools of healing, acquired its present significance through its employment by the so-called "Regular" school of medicine to designate any drugless therapy—which certainly Homeopathy has never been.

    Its founder, Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann, was a medical man of much riper scholarship and greater medical attainments than the average doctor either of his day or the present, can boast. Born at Meissen, Saxony, in 1755, he pursued the study of medicine both at Leipsig and Vienna, taking his M.D. degree at Erlangen in 1779. Wilder, in his "History of Medicine," tells us that Hahnemann after graduation returned to Leipsig in 1789, and engaged for some years in the translating of foreign medical books. "While employed in this way," says Wilder, "upon the works of William Cullen of Lanarkshire (professor of medicine at Glasgow and Edinburgh), he was forcibly impressed by a number of discrepancies as well as by contradictions falling under his own observation."

    Thus like many another honest and independent student of Medicine before and since, Hahnemann became dissatisfied with the system of which he was a part, and forthwith set about the task of reforming it from within. Taking a cue from Albrecht Haller, who first suggested (in 1771) testing the virtues of drugs by administering them to healthy human beings, Hahnemann experimented upon himself with various drugs and thus evolved his "law of similars" embodied in the cardinal doctrine of Homeopathy: Similia similibus curantur. He learned, for example, that taking quinine would produce in himself the symptoms of malaria, and he argued that this explained the efficacy of quinine in curing malaria—as the medical profession then and now affirm that it does. And thus he reasoned about the whole pharmacopoeia. The idea involved in the homeopathic formula, "like cures like," however, was not original with Hahnemann. Hippocrates was accredited with observations that might reasonably have culminated in genuine homeopathic practice; and the same doctrine was taught by Paracelsus and the alchemists among the Arabian physicians. But Hahnemann was the first to elaborate the concept into a distinct system and promulgate it to the world.

    The medical men of his day pursued the 'rule of contraries" established by Galen; that is, they administered the drug whose effect they believed to be exactly opposite to the effect of the disease for which it was given. Setting this aside, Hahnemann affirmed "the law of similars": that the medicine which would cause a certain morbific action in an otherwise healthy person, was the specific remedy for the disease of similar character.

    Again it was a pharmaceutical doctrine of that day, that combining several drugs in a prescription increased its efficacy, since each drug was supposed to be auxiliary to the others. Often a score of ingredients would be included in the dose, some of them so nauseous and filthy as to be unnamable. Hahnemann changed all this by directing only a single medicine at a time; and since thus only could the specific effect of a specific drug be determined, whatever of value or credit there may be in the system of "Specific Medicine," justly belongs to Hahnemann as its original founder.

    Nor did this strong, courageous intellect rest content with innovations in the healing art that were chiefly negative. He pushed his way into a new field with a different sky and atmosphere—where comparatively few go and fewer tarry. Hahnemann propounded the theory of drug attenuation, by means of which the body of each drug should be reduced to minuteness while retaining its virtue as a remedy. This was effected by trituration, succussion, and dilution, and these processes, Hahnemann taught, brought into operation "the spiritual power which lies hid in the inner nature of medicines." Administered in bulk this would not and could not be, and the condition of the patient would only be made worse, according to this new homeopathic teaching. But in the attenuated form, no medicinal disease would be produced, and at the same time "the subtle cause of the evil would be encountered on its own ground in the interior nature," said Hahnemann.

    These sayings gave rise to the allopathic charge that the Hahnemann philosophy dealt with spiritual rather than physical forces. "To him disease was chiefly a matter of spirit," says Fishbein in "Medical Follies." Dr. John B. Newman, in his work on "Fascination," pronounces homeopathy "a disguised form of mesmerizing," describing the homeopathic manipulation of drugs as "mesmerizing them," and citing a direction of Hahnemann's: "In serious cases stroke the patient downward with the palm of the hand until relief is obtained." Since Mesmer was already on the allopathic "Index"— (Fishbein describes him as "the prince of impostors," though how he was ever able to choose between Mesmer and the late Dr. Albert Abrams for this crowning distinction, is beyond us)—to connect the Hahnemann faith with Mesmerism in any wise, was one of the surest ways of discrediting it.

    The Third cardinal tenet of Homeopathy, namely, that chronic disease is the result of suppressed "psora," or itch, led one of the best known nature-curists of America, Dr. Henry Lindlahr, to pronounce Homeopathy "the complement of Nature Cure." The psoric miasma as defined by Hahnemann was an evil spirit pervading the body and manifesting on the surface in the form of an eruption or itch. And it was Hahnemann's idea that the outward manifestation was a safety-valve for the relief of the inner condition.

    This is essentially the Nature-Cure doctrine that every acute malady—recognized by symptoms—is a cleansing, purifying process, which if permitted to take its cleansing way unmolested, represents "a healing crisis of toxemia" that precedes a return to health. But if this friendly reaction of Nature to rid the organism of its self-created toxins be inter fered with and suppressed, the effect is to drive the systemic poison back into the cells, and add to it the drug, serum, or vaccine poison used in the suppression. It would then be just a question of time until another "crisis of toxemia" would be precipitated, of graver character than the first, which after a few more efforts at suppression or "cure," as the allopaths say, takes the form of a "chronic" or "incurable" affliction.

    Yet though touching Nature Cure at this point, and approaching" the drugless standards in the minuteness of its dosage, Homeopathy in theory and practice can hardly be termed the "complement of Nature Cure." Its founder and all of its pioneer teachers and workers were regularly trained and ordained medical men, while the majority of homeopaths of the present—in their beliefs and practices —are not appreciably different from the "regulars" of the old school.

    This much is admitted by homeopaths themselves. One of these, C. A. Harkness, of Chicago, writing in the Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, December, 1925, voices his resentment against the inclusion of Homeopathy in Morris Fishbein's "Medical Follies" chiefly in attempts to show that his school had retained all the elements of "regularity" in the midst of its irregularity. Dr. Harkness, who writes not only M.D. but F.A.C.S. (Fellow of the American College of Surgeons), after his name, says: "Homeopathy has never been one of the Cults. The graduates from its schools have been on an equal footing legally with those from any medical college, and they have enjoyed all the rights and privileges granted by State Legislatures to medical graduates. We have not had to resort to subsidizing nor chicanery to secure these rights. They were given to us as a part of the great medical profession."

    In his eagerness to establish the regularity and reputability of his branch of the healing art, Dr. Harkness puts modern Homeopathy on record as subscribing loyally to all the fallacies and barbarities of modern Medicine, even borrowing some of its bigotry. Thus he continues his defense against the Fishbein libel:

    "We know that the homeopathic profession has been at the head in demanding that the highest standards be required of those who desire to treat the sick. The first medical college to have microscopes for the study of tissues and organisms producing disease, was a homeopathic institution. . . . Medicine has advanced, and the homeopathic physician, being a leader and not a follower, has recognized that antiseptics are required and that physiological action of drugs is a necessity at times. For this reason he is not ashamed nor afraid to use morphine to relieve pain, or salvarsan to kill the spirochete, or vaccines to build up immunity." (The italics are all mine.)

    Dr. Harkness checks up further inaccuracies in the Fishbein account of Homeopathy, such as the date and place of founding of the first homeopathic college in America, placed by Fishbein at Philadelphia, in 1848, and by Harkness at Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1833. Wilder, probably a more reliable historian than either of these, in his "History of Medicine," page 317, relates that Dr. Henry Detwiler, a Swiss, and Dr. Constantine Hering a German, both immigrants to the New World, "established at Allentown, in the State of Pennsylvania, in 1835, a seminary for the instruction of medical students, by the modest title of the 'North American Academy of Homeopathic Medicine.' The new institution was successful in attracting attention, but received only moderate support. It was in no sense American, and its instructions were given in the German language."

    According to this historian, Dr. Hering later moved to Philadelphia, and in 1848 procured from the State Legislature an act of incorporation for the "Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania." This became a flourishing institution, and in 1869 its name was changed to the "Hahnemann Medical College" which Wilder says became "the parent school of Homeopathic Medicine for both hemispheres, and in its appointments and facilities, it ranks fairly with the first medical colleges in America."

    This appears to contradict the statement of the Fishbein chronicle—that Homeopathy declined in this country, and homeopathic colleges closed their doors from the date (1901) the Journal of the A. M. A. began turning the light of publicity on all medical colleges by listing their requirements and pointing out their deficiencies. The author of "Medical Follies" (page 41) says:

    "The poor schools began to wilt and fade—and many of the homeopathic schools were poor ones. By 1905 their graduates were fewer n number than in any year since 1880. In 1907 there were but 17 homeopathic schools left, in 1908 but 16, in 1909, 14; in 1912, 10; in 1915, 8; in 1921, 5; and in 1925, there remain but two, and one of these carries a low classification. Altogether during 1923, there were just 49 homeopathic graduates. . . . Students who observed the gradual decline of Homeopathy began to seek Regular schools; in fact many a young man who had been doctored in early youth by a homeopathic physician, was advised by that very physician not to enter a homeopathic college.

    The fact is, indeed, that homeopathy died from within. The very disciples of Hahnemann, and most of the more enlightened practitioners of homeopathy since Hahnemann's time, when they came into practice, found their system unavailing in the face of serious illness. They then availed themselves of the right of every practitioner of medicine to use any treatment that may be for the good of his patient. They informed themselves of scientific medicine, and prescribed drugs in doses that would work." (Italics mine.)

    Rather different from Dr. Fishbein's testimony on this point, is that of Dr. William James, who says when he was a medical student at Harvard in the late 6o's, "We sneered at homeopathy by word of command, and not one of us would have been caught looking into homeopathic literature. But it was an indisputable fact, that homeopaths lost no more of their patients than the allopaths." This may be another rendering of George Bernard Shaw's famous saying: "The only practical difference between a duly qualified doctor and a quack, is, that only the former can sign death certificates, for which they both have about equal occasion!"

    Dr. Harkness strenuously combats historian Fishbein's claim that the homeopath did not avail himself of "his right to use all that was known to medical science until after 1901," and offers in evidence to the contrary, that the American Institute of Homeopathy—organized in New York City, in 1844—adopted at its second meeting the rule that to become a member of it "one should be trained in all that was known in the best of the medical schools, and in addition should pass an examination in Homeopathy."

    It is nevertheless true that the influence of Homeopathy as a distinct school of medicine declined in this country from the beginning of the present century, and that its score of once thriving colleges have dwindled to two. The reason for this, however, is not necessarily the one assigned by historian Fishbein. Historian Wilder says: "In Germany, as in America, there arose in the first half of the nineteenth century, a movement among the less scholarly but more numerous grade of physicians, to suppress rival modes of practice by arbitrary measures. Persecution was kindled against Hahnemann, who was finally forbidden to prepare or dispense his medicines, and in 1821 he left Leipsig to become physician to the Grand Duke of Anhalt-Kothen. In 1835 he moved to Paris where he was consulted by patients of every country and in all walks of life. His death occurred in 1843."

    Wilder tells us that in this country Homeopathy was derided and scoffed at as "the quackery of the drawing-room"—after its espousal by such eminent scholars as Channing and Gram, of Boston and such conspicuous social figures as Gray and Hull of New York—to distinguish it from the Botanic or Herbalist school affected by the plain people. Herein is revealed an interesting side-light on the extraneous things which enter into the public's estimate of therapeutic values. Once concede that disease is a mysterious entity—invading the body on the wings of the microbe or some other obscure, subtle agent—demanding special training and technical knowledge for its understanding and treatment, then only those equipped with such knowledge and training will be accounted competent to deal with it.

    For many centuries, by means of its great repute for learning, the Allopathic School of Medicine has hypnotized the laity into a belief in its great efficiency, and through its political power acquired in this way has been able to strike off the head of every other therapeutic sect arising to dispute its sway. Historian Fishbein attests the truth of this in saying, "If scientific medicine to-day is withstanding nonchalantly the assaults of a myriad systems, cults, and quackeries, it is merely repeating the history of other periods."

    The weapons so "nonchalantly" employed by the "regulars" for maintaining their supremacy in former times were the fagot, rack and thumb-screw, together with those being now so "nonchalantly" worked by Dr. Fishbein and others—scorn, ridicule, and misrepresentation.

    Finding itself unable to laugh Homeopathy out of court because of medical learning and scientific standing equal to its own, Allopathy resorted to more refined methods of persecution for the disciples of Hahnemann. "We sneered at homeopathy by word of command, and none of us would have dared to look into a homeopathic book," said William James of the Harvard Medical School; and what was true at Harvard, was doubtless true of all the Regular medical schools in the country. The ban was felt in other ways. Despite Dr. Harkness's statement—in repelling the Fishbein attack—that "homeopaths have enjoyed all the legislative rights and privileges granted to any medical graduate," many an aspiring young homeopath seeking to enter the army, hospitals, or public health service, found the way blocked.

    The Socialists have a dogma to which even non-Socialists pretty generally will subscribe: If you can put your finger on the economic factor in any situation, you can count its life-pulse. Every animal— including the human, like Napoleon's army, "travels on its stomach," and without food not even the most enthusiastic reformer can travel indefinitely. Brave, strong souls like Samuel Hahnemann and the pioneer "provers" of his therapeutic faith, could withstand the flames of persecution and survive. Their weaker brethren of later generations wearied of the unequal fight and finally surrendered to allopathic domination.

    In other words, homeopaths in America during the past thirty years abandoned their own standards and conformed more and more to those of the older school, not as Fishbein alleges, because they found their own inadequate, and the allopathic remedies more efficacious, but because the allopaths being everywhere in control of the state, it was easier to earn a living by enlisting under allopathic banners.

    This was very freely admitted in conversation recently with one of the better known homeopaths of New York, and this is no doubt the true explanation of the closing of so many homeopathic schools, and the final merging of the "law of similars" with the "law of contraries." It is only one of a number of instances wherein the allopathic lion has shown itself willing to lie down with any therapeutic lamb which was willing to lie down inside the allopathic lion! The Fishbein allegation, "homeopathy died from within," should be amended to read "from within the allopathic system"—as it deserved to die. Sooner or later this is the fate of all systems which sacrifice truth to expediency. Such fate is even now hanging over allopathy, as the successful rise of other "cults" since homeopathy very clearly foreshadows.

    Allopathic oracles of the Fishbein type may seek to stay its demise with specious propaganda, misleading statistics, and such bombastic claims as that found in "Medical Follies" (page 42), that "while homeopathy as a school had stood still and clung to its law of similars, scientific medicine had been sweeping onward with steady, sure progress!"

    A more temperate and perhaps more reliable allopathic witness on this point is Dr. Alexis Carrel, of the Rockefeller Institute, who, writing in the Scientific Monthly (July, 1925) on "The Future Progress of Medicine," says, "To-day medicine is a science in the making, and its progress all in the future." In this article Dr. Carrel makes the usual allopathic claim to having "conquered infectious diseases" through the Pasteur revelation; but he "doubts whether this victory has so far brought much happiness to the world." He asks: "Has it greatly modified the position of the average man as regards disease and death? Probably not. Although the adult individual has much fewer chances of dying from smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis or typhoid fever than fifty years ago, his expectation of reaching the age of seventy-five or eighty has not markedly increased. But he surely has more prospect of being tortured by some form of cancer, afflicted with slow diseases of the kidneys, the circulatory apparatus, the endocrine glands, of becoming insane, etc. Modern medicine protects him against infections which kill rapidly, but leaves him exposed to the slower and more cruel diseases and to brain deterioration."

    Evidently there is not a very close relationship between the "onward steady sweep of medicine" and the progress of the human race in health and happiness, according to Dr. Alexis Carrel of the Rockefeller Institute. This is a momentous confession from such a source, who says furthermore, "there is no great hope of immediate improvement in this situation, in spite of the remarkable advances, etc."

    No orthodox medical man ever omits mention of "the remarkable advances" made in modern medicine, of course; but it is seldom that one of Dr. Carrel's high standing lets the laity in on the real significance of such advancement. The average layman will now be able to decide whether he prefers to die by "quick infection" or by slow torture.

    It is regrettable that Dr. Carrel, having the ability to perceive, and the courage to declare, the fact of the rising tide of chronic and incurable illness under allopathic rule, had not also sufficient insight into the real nature of disease, to connect up the suppression or "conquest" of acute maladies with these chronic afflictions, as cause and effect. To see this and proclaim it, would mean the renunciation of allopathic faith and practice, however, and perhaps Dr. Carrel is not quite ready to renounce all the perquisites and advantages of Rockefeller Institute officialdom.

    It was Hahnemann's perception of this truth that is reflected in the homeopathic tenet that suppression of "psora"—or any eruptive miasm produces chronic disease. And herein Hahnemann proclaimed himself greater than the teachers of allopathy. There is no good reason for supposing that "the law of similars," or the "high potency" of the infinitesimal dose, had any solid basis of scientific fact; but the third cardinal doctrine of Homeopathy, that suppression is not cure, but only a deferred aggravation of the same or a worse malady, is not only borne out in practice, but is in line with the best modern scientific thought, including the latest comer in the therapeutic field—psycho-analysis.

    Hahnemann's broad, democratic spirit is registered in the Fishbein reproaches that "he did not confine his propaganda to the medical profession, but addressed the public as well"; and that "he received all students, all applicants for knowledge of his methods whether or not they had been previously trained in medicine."

    Dr. Fishbein appears ignorant of the historic fact, that a similar charge was brought against Galen, who lectured publicly in Rome on anatomy and hygiene, and so bitterly was he assailed by the Roman Fishbeins of that day that it required the powerful protection of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, to rescue him from the vengeance of the mob.

    By and large, in its concept, in its spirit, and in its practice, Homeopathy was a distinct advance over the traditions and methods of the Regular School. Its final recession into the older medical school, was an egregious blunder—if not a crime.

     

HOME    SOCIAL CRITICISM LIBRARY CATALOGUE    TABLE OF CONTENTS    NEXT CHAPTER