Hahnemann on the highest principles of medicine

This first excerpt below from Hahnemann clearly explains the need for a rational, rather than empirical medical science, as well as the fundamental importance of treating the cause of disease first, whenever possible, rather than ignoring it in the name of trying to temporarily calm down the symptoms, (and falsely attempt to gain popularity by trying to please the patient superficially), while the disease meanwhile embeds itself more deeply into the human organism. The ethical choice here is clearly to address the deeper cause of disease, when possible.

The second excerpt below is from the Organon of Heilkunst (aphorisms 64 and 68), where Hahnemann explains why some healing reactions are gentle, and others can be quite dramatic. Essentially, he points out that in the cure of a natural disease, the life force is able to draw on the exact opposite state, which is available to draw on from nature, and therefore there is no noticeable healing reaction. However, in the case of a non-natural disease (such as a shock or trauma, use of a prescription drug, or a false belief that has impregnated that human organism, etc.), since there is no opposite state in nature of such a disease, the life force must instead exert its superiority over the disease (stimulated by the remedy based on similar resonance), and can be quite dramatic by comparison. By analogy, think of the difference between the gentle maintenance that is needed on a well-treated car, when the owner follows the manufacturers’ suggested schedule, versus the major repairs that would be needed on a poorly treated car, which was driven to the point of the engine seizing.

In other words, it is not Hahnemann’s blueprint for cure and its methods which are to blame for some of the more dramatic or uncomfortable healing reactions that can be experienced, but the exact nature of how disease affects the human organism. In other words, Hahnemann didn’t make up these rules, but only observed them in their pure form in nature.

It is OK on a personal, individual basis to choose any healing modality that is deemed most suitable and desirable (individual freedom of choice and responsibility for consequences), however, it is inexcusable from an ethical, rational scientific point of view for the medician to ignore the laws of nature and how they operate in a given state of ill health, and what is called for in the highest good of the patient when they are seeking specific advice from a medician. Of course, informed consent is always requisite here.

Without further ado, let’s hear from our guest of honour:

From The Curative Powers Of Drugs by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann:

If I mistake not, practical medicine has devised three ways of applying remedies for the relief of the disorders of the human body.

The first way, to remove or destroy the fundamental cause of the disease, was the most elevated it could follow. All the imaginings and aspirations of the best physicians in all ages were directed to this object, the most worthy of the dignity of our art. But, to use a Spagyrian expression, they did not advance beyond particulars; the great philospher’s stone, the knowledge of the fundamental cause of all diseases, they never attained to. And as regards most diseases, it will remain for ever concealed from human weakness. In the mean time, what could be ascertained respecting this point, from the experience of all ages, was united in a general system of therapeutics. Thus, in cases of chronic spasms of the stomach, the general weakness of the system was first removed; the convulsions arising from tapeworm were conquered by killing that animal; the fever arising from noxious matters in the stomach was dissipated by powerful emetics; in diseases caused by a chill the suppressed perspiration was restored; and the ball was extracted that gave rise to traumatic fever. This object is above all criticism, though the means employed were not always the fittest for attaining it. I shall now take leave of this royal road, and examine the other two ways for applying medicines.

By the second way, the symptoms present were sought to be removed by medicines which produces an opposite condition; for example, constipation by purgatives; inflamed blood by venesection, cold and nitre; acidity in the stomach by alkalis; pains by opium. In acute diseases, which, if we remove the obstacles to recovery for but a few days, nature will herself generally conquer, or, if we cannot do so, succumb; in acute diseases, I repeat, this application of remedies is proper, to the purpose, and sufficient, as long as we do not possess the above-mentioned philosopher’s stone (the knowledge of the fundamental cause of each disease, and the means of its removal,) or as long as we have no rapidly-acting specific, which would extinguish the variolous infection, for instance, at its very commencement. In this case, I would call such remedies temporary.

But if the fundamental cause of the disease, and its direct means of removal are known, and we, disregarding these, combat the symptoms only by remedies of this second kind, or employ them seriously in chronic diseases, then this method of treatment (to oppose diseases by remedies that produces an opposite state) gets the name of palliative, and is to be reprobated. In chronic diseases it only gives relief at first; subsequently, stronger doses of such remedies become necessary, which cannot remove the primary disease, and thus they do more harm the longer they are employed, for reasons to be specified hereafter.

I know very well that habitual constipation is still attempted to be cured by aloetic purgatives and laxative salts, but with what melancholy results! I know well that efforts are still made to subdue the chronic determination of blood of hysterical, cachetic, and hypochondriacal individuals, by repeated, although small venesections, nitre, and the like; but with what untoward consequences! Persons living a sedentary life, with chronic stomachic ailments, accompanied by sour eructations, are still advised to take repeatedly Glauber salts; but with what disastrous effects! Chronic pains of all kinds are still sought to be removed by the continued use of opium; but again, with what sad results! And although the great majority of my medical brethren still adhere to this method, I do not fear to call it palliative, injurious, and destructive.

I beseech my colleagues to abandon this method (contraria contrariis) in chronic diseases, and in such acute diseases as take on a chronic character; it is the deceitful by-path in the dark forest that leads to the fatal swamp. The vain empire imagines it to be the beaten highway, and plumes himself on the wretched power of giving a few hours’ ease, unconcerned if, during this specious calm, the disease plants its roots still deeper.

But I am not singular in warning against this fatal practice. The better, more discerning, and conscientious physicians, have from time to time sought for remedies (the third way) for chronic diseases, and acute diseases tending to chronic, which should not cloak the symptoms, but which should remove the disease radically, in one word, for specific remedies; the most desirable, most praiseworthy undertaking that can be imagined. Thus, for instance, they tried arnica in dysentery, and in some instances found it a useful specific.

But what guided them, what principle induced them to try such remedies? Alas! only a precedent from the empirical game of hazard from domestic practice, chance cases, in which these substances were accidentally found useful in this or that disease, often only in peculiar unmentioned combinations, which might perhaps never again occur; sometimes in pure, simple diseases.

In order to ascertain the actions of remedial agents, for the purpose of applying them to the relief of human suffering, we should trust as little as possible to chance; but go to work as rationally and as methodically as possible. We have seen, that for this object the aid of chemistry is still imperfect, and must only be resorted to with caution; that the similarity of genera of plants in the natural system, as also the similarity of species of one genus, give but obscure hints; that the sensible properties of drugs teach us mere generalities, and these invalidated by many exceptions; that the changes that take place in the blood from the admixture of medicines teach nothing; and that the injection of the latter into the blood vessels of animals, as also the effects on animals to which medicines have been administered, is much too rude a mode of proceeding, to enable us therefrom to judge of the finer actions of remedies.

Nothing then remains but to test the medicines we wish to investigate on the human body itself. [Hahnemann goes on to explain the importance of doing provings on healthy human beings, rather than gathering sporadic information empirically, as cures occurred by chance, when the remedy properties cannot be accurately determined from a sick individual, as when tested on a healthy human being.]

64. During the initial-action of the artificial disease Potences (medicines) upon our healthy body,
our Living Power appears (as seen from the following examples)
to comport itself purely conceptively (receptively, passively as it were)
and thus, as if forced, to allow the impressions of the artificial Potence
impinging from without to take place in itself,
thereby modifying its condition,
but then, as it were, to rally again
and a) to generate the exact opposite condition-state,
when there is such a one (counteraction, after-action),
to this impinging action (initial-action)
in equal degree to that which the impinging action (initial-action)
had on it by the artificial morbific or medicinal Potence,
and according to the measure of the Living Power’s own energy,
— or, b) when there is not an exact opposite state to the initial-action in nature,
the Living Power appears to strive to assert its superiority
by extinguishing the alteration actuated in itself from without (by the medicine),
in place of which it reinstates its norm (after-action, healing-action).

68. Experience shows us that in homeopathic cures
following the uncommonly small medicinal doses (§275-287)
which are necessary in this curative mode,
and which were just sufficient, by similarity of their symptoms,
to tune-over the similar natural disease
and to expel the natural disease from the Feeling of the Living Principle,
some small amount of medicinal disease still continues on alone initially
in the organism occasionally after extirpation of the natural disease,
but, because of the extraordinary minuteness of the dose
the medicinal disease disappears so transiently, so easily and so quickly by itself,
that the Living Power has no more considerable counteraction to take up
against this small artificial mistunement of its condition
than the counteraction of elevating the current condition up to the healthy station
(that is, the counteraction suitable for complete recovery),
to which end the Living Power requires but little effort
after extinguishment of the previous morbid mistunement.
(See §64 B)

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