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[Delivered at the Homoeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania, October, 1864]

By Constantine Hering, M.D. Philadelphia, PA.

What should be our first consideration, when we strive to attain an end, particularly when we, in the relation of teacher and students, aspire to an object?

Clearly and definitely that which we are striving for must be fixed in our minds; the way in which we expect to reach the goal must be clear before us.

What is our object today, beginning lectures on Therapeutics? To heal the sick! That is all. It is a great end, truly a very great one.

Let us take for granted, everyone of us knows this, and everyone of us bears it constantly in mind, night and day. It is not your wish to become doctors only, to get a position in society, to attain honor before the people, to make a living, make money, get rich, etc., but it is solely and mainly to be a man able to heal the sick. Let us take this for granted as a matter of course. Now let us go to work and see what is hidden in these few words, to heal the sick.

Firstly: we must have means to do this, and these means we must know.

Secondly: we must know the sick and all that is to be known about them; and as every sickness is only a deviation from health, we ought to know what is health.

Thirdly: the connecting link between the first and second, how we must use the first, the means at our command; for the second, the sick, by what rule we must apply the means we have to the sick who come under our care.

The rule of Hahnemann is, like all great truths, plain and simple, but to apply it in life requires the greatest exertion of the human mind, and in fact we have to learn continually and never cease learning. Let us now glance over these great dominions of the empire in which we have to rule.

While we are spreading it out like a map before our eyes, let us remember that to heal the sick is an art, and remains an art, in spite of all that has been said and done to make it appear as a so-called science. It is an art to find in nature the means to heal, an art to prove drugs, an art to prepare them. It is an art to examine the sick before us. It is an art to apply the right means in every case. But there is no art without knowledge, and every art leads to knowledge. Therefore a physician is like a man who, when walking, first puts his left foot forwards, this is knowledge, then the right, which is art. Thus he continues and advances. It is only when knowledge is brought into order that we may call it a science.

Now let us overlook our first great domain.

If there are means to heal the sick, where are they? What may be used as such? How are they to be had? Where do they come from? What is said about them? What is really the fact, how do they act? What is the way, the sure way to find it out? How are they to be prepared, administered, etc?

To learn all this you must first have a knowledge of Chemistry, the great key to unlock the inner world of things. Chemistry will tell you all about the metals and the metalloids forming the mountains; tell you what is deposited as their foundation, what crystallizes in their veins, what is poured out in their fountains, and what is contained in the seas, and even what forms the ocean of air we breathe and live in. Without Chemistry you can understand neither the vegetable world, nor the animal, nor the formation of our body, nor its functions, nor the conditions of life, nor the causes of sickness, nor the ways and means to prevent or to heal it.

Further, you should have a knowledge of Botany. It was the beginning of the downfall of the old schools, to abolish the professorships of Botany in their Colleges. Since they had the impudence to declare Botany to be a study for girls, they began to murder methodically with Mercury and other metals, and to kill people by their alkaloids.

A true physician must have a knowledge of his tools, and without plants we cannot heal the sick. It was and shall be forever true, what is said of the tree of life: the leaf thereof shall be for medicine.

The next is Zoology. The number of animal medicines had been lessened very much, they were even disregarded and despised, since the remains of the middle ages had been shaken off; and it became the fashion to doubt as much as possible, in order to appear to be a wise man. Notwithstanding all this, Hahnemann has, by his researches, also opened the animal kingdom again to our art.

If you are sufficiently acquainted with the sources of Materia Medica, the next step, is to know how to prepare the drugs. A true master of his art must be independent and know how to help himself. It is not only to save the dollars; plenty will go to the apothecaries, and it is a blessing that we have such trustworthy assistants, but, if a good mechanic is able to make his own tools, should a physician not be able to do the same? The certainty we feel in handing a self-prepared medicine to our patient, is worth having. Let us at least now and then prepare a drug ourselves, following our great master also in this respect.

But the most important of all is the knowledge of the effects of our drugs.

In the good olden times of our school we considered it our duty to prove even newly prepared tinctures or triturations of Hahnemann's old medicines so as to be convinced of their efficacy, and many a useful symptom was obtained in this way. After potentizing a medicine we tried to convince ourselves of its efficacy, and took some of it ourselves; this kept us in the constant habit of observing, kept us on the lookout, like a sportsman walking through the woods.

And further, while we were preparing the so-called old medicines we never forgot our position as explorers of the unknown world of results, of effects; never forgetting the ground-work of our healing art, we prepared from time to time new medicines also; we made a regular proving at least once a year, often twice and even three times a year. These provings were the high feasts in our church, and you cannot consider yourselves true members of it without joining in these feasts.

Proving is a most wonderful thing, the world has never known it's like. We suffer, and we enjoy it; we sacrifice a little of our comfort, and gain abilities and power by it; we lose a part of a few days, and gain years of strength by it; we go to school to learn, and we increase the certainty of the healing art. At the same time, to prove drugs is of all other ways the very best, the nearest and the easiest to learn to master our Materia Medica. It is the way to learn; to observe the art of arts, the principal one, on which all others are based.

Thus if you ask an introduction into our Materia Medica, this is the most natural and the most effectual.

Our Materia Medica may seem to some like an impenetrable forest, but only to such as do not follow the example of our master. Suppose you live in the midst of a wilderness, and are not afraid to rise early, rain or shine, and go out to ramble through the woods; suppose you make the same exertion as a man who goes for the pleasure of shooting wild birds, the strange dark forest will very soon become a familiar hunting ground, where you easily find your way in and out again. Such an exertion we cannot expect of every one – I mean hunting in the woods, but the other exertion we have a right to expect everyone to make who intends to be a follower of Hahnemann.

We come to another division in our empire, we come to the bed-side of the sick, to the art of collecting and arranging the symptoms of a case before us.

At first sight, nothing seems to be easier for a Homoeopathician than the plain teaching of Hahnemann: take the symptoms, but all the symptoms. Either the patient, or, if it is a child, the mother or the nurse tells one symptom after another; the rest we see before us or hear, by sounding. Nothing seems to be easier, and it may be so sometimes, but a physician should be ready for all cases, not only for the easy ones as they occasionally happen to come in his way. And you will soon find the examination of the sick is not only the first thing you must learn, but you will find it the most difficult. Hahnemann's advice you will find is an entirely new one; never before taught. It will necessarily occupy the most of our time during the lectures on practice; and you will not only find that, as an art, it requires great skill, but it also requires of you, as a necessity, that you store up in your minds knowledge upon knowledge, science upon science; you have of course, in most cases, to complete the report given by the patient or nurse, by questions. But you cannot ask a single question, you cannot know what differs from health without knowing all about the healthy functions. Physiology is, in fact, the light yon must constantly have at hand, to shed its rays on every symptom; you can do nothing without it. At the same time, we can never complete the symptoms, never look to them as influencing each other, never bring them into order without knowing all that has been collected and stored up for ages under the name of Pathology. To understand something about the connection of symptoms, to know the importance of the one above the other, to inquire in such directions as will lead to the full knowledge of all the symptoms, to be able to give an advice with regard to the diet and manner of living, to be able to tell with some probability what we have a right to expect as the next or prognosis, in fact, everyone of our acts as physicians requires Pathology.

Our opponents have said and still say,“ Hahnemann denies all science, particularly the science of Pathology.” They have said so everywhere, all over the world, now these fifty years. As often as it has been said, it was a slander. It is not an error, not a misunderstanding, – no, it is a slander. No one that said so has ever tried to learn to examine the sick according to Hahnemann; they do not even know what is required to be able to do it nor what they must know before they can attempt it. Why is it that up to this day old-school physicians find it so difficult to learn to examine the sick according to Hahnemann? Why is it that most of them never learn it? It is so great a difficulty and for the majority insurmountable, that it has been the original cause of a split in the ranks of Homoeopathicians. Since thirty years a new sect of Half-Homoeopathicians has been started, some among them of even a lesser fraction than half, quarters, halves-of-quarters. This class of Homoeopathicians take as much Pathology as they can get hold of, fork it up, and put it down on the field of Homoeopathy; they push between themselves and their patients as many names of diseases as they have been able to commit to their memory; they take only a small number of the symptoms of a case, and give them a high ruling rank, and call them diagnostic symptoms, change them into a name and are ruled by such names, not by symptoms. It may be much easier for such doctors, it certainly is not for their patients. These halves or quarters call their doctrine an improvement; they call it the perfection of our healing art, whilst they turn the carriage back and downhill into the mud again, out of which Hahnemann had with his herculean power lifted it, and, after ages, was the first to turn the wheels of our art forward. They call this an improvement, because it makes the examination of the sick and all the rest of our art so much easier for them. They are exactly like the slaveholders in our times, the slaveholders who preach to the world this strange doctrine, that the most perfect state of society, in fact the only “respectable” one is to have a handful of men called the aristocracy, to form the “republic,” and to rule it; the rest of the inhabitants are either what is called “white trash” or black slaves. The former do not care to learn to read and write, and the latter are forbidden to learn it. Such a miserable imitation of the slavonic Asiatic nations they call an improvement! Call it the most perfect state of human society! With the same contradiction to common sense, such “would-be” Homoeopathicians call their half or quarter Homoeopathy the progressed, the improved, the most perfect system of medicine. They introduce a similar kind of aristocracy among the symptoms, where a few are to overrule the rest, and the same aristocracy they introduce into their revised and improved Materia Medica; for instance, fever and hot skin and quickened pulse – Aconite is to be given of course; difficulty in swallowing and redness of the skin, and of course Belladonna is the remedy; if both are to be found together or blended, of course both remedies are to be given in alternation, and as they pretend to be homoeopathic, they do not mix them in the same tumbler, but prefer to mix them in the same stomach.

Hahnemann's doctrine is to examine each case as if it were the only one, regard each sick person as the true sole object, and each case as an individual one. The healing art has according to Hahnemann the sick as its sole object, not the sickness.

A quarter of a century ago this main rule of Hahnemann's healing art was already expressed by his followers in these words: We have nothing to do with disease, we have only the sick to treat. Diseases are never an object of cure, only the sick. As we cannot plough the fields with the horse in natural history, but must have a real one out of a stable, just so we must have a real drug and know it's real symptoms, and likewise we must know the one sick patient and his real symptoms.

Five years ago the latest writer of a history of medicine told his astonished readers (Wunderlich, Gesch. d. Med. p. 360) the main idea, the ruling thought of the new intuition. “In the medical art of our age, the main idea is, the physician's calling is not to cure the diseases but the diseased.”

So says one of the bitterest opponents of Homoeopathy. He stole his remark, like all and every good one in his book, from others, this one from Professor Oppolzer, and Oppolzer had adopted it. Oppolzer is a great allopathist, but a reader of homoeopathic journals, and is famous for his good memory.

You see, there is hope, there is a beginning; the rays of the morning sun fall on the old school. It is high time for all of you to rally round Hahnemann and not remain behind the age like the quarter men; never forget, as they do, when examining a patient, that we have to heal the sick, and have nothing to do with diseases; never forget, that this is the main idea of our age.

This brings us to the third part of our bird's-eye-view, the shortest part in an Introductory, the longest in your life.

Suppose you have prepared yourself to know the means of healing, suppose you are properly informed in all the knowledge indispensable for the examination of the sick; suppose you are artistically skilled in it, by what rule must we apply the means we are master of, to the cases before us? We all know Hahnemann's answer in three words or even two words. It is our sole rule, it is the great law of nature. It will be the object of more than one lecture, to show you how such a plain, briefly expressed rule can be applied. In some cases it is easy enough, in others very difficult, and we must know how to meet all such apparent and real difficulties. You will find that it requires the skill almost of a general, of a good tactician. One little thing you ought to keep in mind from the beginning, from the very first hour. In the national meeting of the so-called allopathic physicians of the United States, a by-law was passed unanimously. All students of medicine, all physicians, whether they have studied medicine in all its branches for months or for years or not at all, are declared to be, if they follow a simple rule, or if they make a general law of nature their keystone, they are without exception declared to be quacks. Webster's dictionary must be altered and must give this “improved” definition, or else the whole body of physicians will reject it as imperfect. So they say. And you will have to make up your minds, in spite of all your learning, in spite of all your cures – to be quacks. They exclude us, because they would like to get rid of us, but there are two sides to the question. They did not ask us whether we wished to get rid of them.

Again, the case is exactly parallel with the southern states wishing to get rid of the Yankees and expel the six Yankee states, the main obstacle in their way, because they think they can easily rule the rest afterwards.

But there are also two sides to this question. The Yankees do not want to get rid of the union, and if they were driven to the necessity, they would come down from their mountains, invincible men, with money by the millions, and conquer the whole continent.

So it is with us. The Allopathists try their best to get rid of us, but we will not get rid of them. We will study all the sciences, all natural sciences, all medical sciences, every discovery they make, every invention, if it is really useful, we intend, as well as themselves, to master all they master, and our own art besides.

May our College be one of the means to increase the number of such as are really able to heal the sick. Let the fashionable schools try to exclude us in civil life, they cannot exclude us from the free empire of science, nor can they prevent our healing the sick. The time will come, when we will have “men and money” to rush down like an avalanche from our mountains and reconquer our domain – the whole continent of the healing art.


Source: The American Homoeopathic Review Vol. 04 No. 11, 1865, pages 481-489
Description: Introductory Lecture.
Author: Hering, C.
Year: 1865
Editing: errors only; interlinks; formatting
Attribution: Legatum Homeopathicum
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