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Early and Recent.* [Suggested by a Repertory or Systematic arrangement and analysis of the homoeopathic Materia Medica, parte I. and II., by Drs. Dudgeon, Drysdale, Atkin, and Stokes. Manchester: Henry Turner, 41 Piccadilly. London; T. Sanderson, 77 Fleet Street-1869. Price ten shillings.]


The Introduction to a valuable Repertory which is being issued under the auspices of the Hahnemann publishing society, opens with what appears to be an apology for leaving out some of the modern provings. The logic is approximately this:

The followers of Hahnemann have doubled their armory, but not their execution: their success in combating disease with a double number of weapons, is either less or not proportionally greater than that of the early homoeopathic practitioners. This can arise only from one of two causes: defects in modern practice or in modern provings; or, to return to the metaphor-a fault in the mode of wielding the weapons, or in the process by which their capabilities are primarily eliminated.

As we have in some degree modified their argument, and made a statement rather more comprehensive and more in accordance with our own views, we quote the following:

The greater practical success of the earlier practitioners can arise only from one of two causes:-1. They had no Repertories, and were obliged to study the Materia Medica closely, and thus become thoroughly acquainted, not only with the details of the pathogenesis of each medicine, but also with its genius and sphere of action. Their successors, it is to be feared, too often content themselves with a cursory examination of a repertory, and neglect the systematic study of the Materia Medica. 2. The provings of the new medicines may be imperfect or incorrect, and thus lead into error, not only by giving false information respecting themselves, but also by diverting attention from the better and more accurately proved medicines.

These are the only two causes formally acknowledged as possible; but the subsequent recognition of the advantage of more attention to the careful adaptation of a medicine to disease than to the number of patients, and more self-gratulation on the former than on the latter, hints at another defect of modern practice not exclusively referrible to labor-saving machines. A country tavernkeeper just commencing business, is said to have carted horse-excrements under his shed for the purpose of exhibiting palpable evidence of his success in business. A similar motive may impel a young practitioner to a premature display of horses and equipage, and the circulation of exaggerated reports of income. The number of patients and dollars is better adapted to popular comprehension than the strictness and relative curative tendency of medical treatment.

We are confident that another prevalent cause of defective practice is bibliophobia. There are many physicians who seldom dare to use books, few who use them habitually, publicly and fearlessly. They are afraid it may seem to imply a deficiency of knowledge, to be seen consulting either repertories or materia medicas. The non-use of both operates incomparably more than the exclusive possession and use of either, to render modern homoeopathic practice null-void of curative efficiency. The young physician requires to be emboldened, and the public mind enlightened, until this fatal evil is removed. Who would trust a legal practitioner in the management of a complicated case, unless he consulted his books ? Are medical cases, in view of- all the particulars requisite to be taken into consideration in a successful homoeopathic treatment, less complicated than those of the other profession ? The homoeopathic practice cannot in the present state of knowledge, be securely based on few facts and much generalization; and to affect to carry all the requisite pathogenetic facts in the head, ready for use at any moment, savors of charlatanism.

We are satisfied that the physicians who make most use of repertories are the very men who most zealously and perseveringly study the materia medica in its other forms. The man for example, who most frequently consults Jahr's repertory recurs to the first volume or volumes of the same author oftener than the man who neglects the repertory altogether. The former usually has his brain better stored also by the previous study of the materia medica. He who neglects to take suitable books to the bed-side of the patient, must frequently omit many points of the case essential to a safe homoeopathic treatment. Yet how few have the moral courage to jeopard their popularity, to encounter the sneers of their non-reading medical associates, and the public prejudices based upon the observed inadequacy of domestic book guidance, and upon long experience in allopathic generalizing precedent. Any one old school practitioner is in the daily use of but an exceedingly small number of remedies and has little need of a vade mecum. The books used by domestic prescribers are generally so defective, that a good physician could derive little or no aid from them.

A good repertory, to a man who knows how to use it, is more valuable than a whole library of “domestic physicians,” than the whole collection of family books that have been published. Indeed a good repertory will often give a better knowledge of the relative value of medicines in a given case and of the probability that a certain one is the best, than even the materia medica alone, in any reasonable time.

We have aimed to show that there are unfounded popular prejudices against the extemporaneous use of books, which nearly suppress their public use, and that it is the want of study more than the invention of repertories, that has contributed to the decadence of success.

In this respect the youth of our school may be compared to that of an individual practitioner, i e; one recently converted. It has been remarked by several physicians, that Providence seemed to grant them special success at the commencement of their new career. Would not He equally foster an infant and beneficent reformation ? We believe that at least in accordance with laws operating similarly upon those who originally aided in the commencement of the reformation, and those who have recently engaged in its propulsion, Providence has promoted signal success. Physicians so situated have the zeal and industry of young converts, the leisure for adapting their prescriptions to each particular case. They make each case a special study and are often rewarded by results not attainable by those who have become hurried, lazy or self-confident, and flatter themselves that they can see through every case by intuition, and select the medicine by the same, or at least by their memory or reason.

Another cause which more than any other has impaired the success of modern as compared with ancient homoeopathic practice, is the extensive declension from the purity which characterized the practice of Hahnemann and his earlier disciples. This result is precisely what this Master himself predicted in case of such departure, and should excite no surprise, nor any undue, much less exclusive, searching for other causes of failure. Here some of our previous remarks have a bearing. We add: There has arisen in certain quarters a want of confidence in the proper homoeopathic potencies, even a distrust of the universality of the Hahnemannian law, a prevalent use of the crudest preparations, a vain attempt to accomplish cures by brute force instead of skill, by extensive mauling rather than definite adaptation. This pseudo-Homoeopathia resorts to allopathic generalization, and by a natural and necessary transition, to eclectic and allopathic medication.

Without being tedious on this point, we must conclude that the statement of the authors, that the relative inferiority of modern homoeopathy can arise only from the introduction of repertories or the defect of modern provings, was made without due consideration. The more comprehensive statement with which we started, that it is owing either, to defects in practice, or to defects in modern provings would, we think, be nearer the truth.

The authors assume that the second is a vera causa, and then proceed to expunge such modern provings and such parts of them as they deem unsatisfactory.

We appreciate the difficulties which they must encounter in making this discrimination. If the whole materia medica, as arranged, had been constructed on the same plan as Rhus Radicans, the symptoms of which are printed in several kinds of type, denoting the number of provers agreeing in any one symptom, it would be much easier to judge of their relative reliability. No symptom of this drug, however severe, was emphasised in any degree, without a corresponding verification in the number of provers by whom it was experienced. It was not italicised without the concurrence of two provers, nor printed in small capitals without that of four, nor in large capitals without that of six. It has long been a principle in the professions of Law and Divinity, that “ in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established;” and we see no reason why the influence of personal idiosyncrasy should not also, as far as possible, be eliminated in that of Medicine. Caeteris paribus, the greater the number of selfobserving witnesses to any symptom, the stronger the evidence of its value. Has the prover of Rhus toxicodendron left us any clue to this important element of the relative value of its different symptoms ? If not, how can a modern or future proving of it in which the value of this element is expressed in regard to the different symptoms, be combined with Hahnemann's, in such a manner as to exhibit the total number of verifications for each symptom ?

It was this consideration as well as some uncertainty in re-regard to the absolute identity of the medical properties of the Toxicodendron and the Radicans, which determined us to give the latter a separate arrangement. “We thus left it in a state to be further investigated and confirmed on the above plan.

We believe the unemphasised symptoms to be genuine, as we do those of Hahnemann, but we have no means excepting cures, of distinguishing the relative value of such in our provings or his. They await the verification of future provers The transcendant genius of Hahnemann, and the numerous confirmations which we are continually observing in practice, give us great confidence in the Materia Medica which he has bequeathed, and we would be far from claiming equal authority for any living prover. But as there are many symptoms of Rhus Radicans, even emphasised, which are not found in the Toxicodendron, some of which belong to a part of this new Repertory in which they are not found, we must consider these omissions to be made without due consideration If the symptoms are regarded merely as additions to the proving of the Toxicodendron, they deserve at least to be credited to it. “We proved the climbing Rhus, collected where it was indigenous, and hence perhaps more perfect, Hahnemann the non-climbing, collected in Europe where it had been introduced.*[We feel ourselves compelled ta allude to a note on Rhus radicans at p. 641 of the 2nd Vol. of Dr. Hempel's edition of the Symptomen, Codex in the Appendix. If none but personal considerations were involved, we would gladly allow it to sink into that oblivion which its weakness and absurdity would ensure. But as it purports to be an amendment of the description of the radicans given in the body of the work and even of that particular specimen used by the provers, and as it is got up in the usual erratum style of “strike out,” and “add instead,” there would be a natural inference on the part of the reader, that this was done by the author of the previous description-thus leaving the whole subject of the identity of the plant in confusion, and affording a reason for neglecting the proving. There is a point beyond which forebearance ceases to be a virtue. This note in the Appendix was inserted without the knowledge or consent of the author of the article on radicans, and on the authority of a correspondent living three hundred miles in the interior, neither himself nor the editor, who is presumed to have made these spurious errata, having ever seen the particular specimen whose description was thus improperly corrected. The absurdity of this needs no comment.

All botanists who describe Toxicodendron and Radicans represent “trifoliate” as a character common to both.As one of the above spurious and false errata, represents Radicans as “generally quinquefoliate,” the correspondent on whose authority it was inserted must have mistaken for it some climbing vine of a species radically different-or if we may use a back-woods expression-he must have “barked up the wrong tree.” If he collected the vine from it, there is no reason to wonder that he gives no account of any poisoning from this, as he does from that of the trifoliate plant the Radicans under a different name. The collector of the Radicans should depend more upon this trifoliate character of the leaves, and upon the other specific and generic characters, than upon the form of the margin of the leaflets which is liable to occasional variations. The The climbing character should never be neglected. The vine is well known here as the poison ivy]

In conclusion we beg leave to add a few words on the plan of the Repertory which suggested the foregoing remarks.

It is designed to be comprised m two octavo volumes, and yet it will contain a far greater amount of information than any that has been published. The names of the physicians engaged in the work, and our confidence in English perseverance, lead us to anticipate a successful completion of the Work.

The Introduction is by Drs. Drysdale and Atkin, Eyes and Ears by Dr. Dudgeon, Nose and Smell, Face and Neck and Teeth and Gums, by Drs. Drysdale and Stokes.

The appearance in successive parts will enable the reader to familiarise himself with its peculiar language, by employing it first in particular departments, for example: in treating the organs of sense; and he will thus be less likely to indulge in despair of mastering its arbitrary signs than if the whole were at once presented.

Letters, Roman, Italic and Greek, and Numerals, Arabic and Roman, must stand as the representatives of words and phrases; we know of no alternative if we would have the advantage of so much knowledge in so small a compass. This is not merely serviceable in regard to the portability of the volume, but in affording an almost simultaneous view of the contents of each paragraph. But like most other accounts, this has two sides, Dr. & Cr. Among physicians too indolent for Jahr, how many will commit a thousand arbitrary characters? If Jahr has chastised them with whips, Dudgeon and his associates will do it with scorpions: their little finger will be made bigger than his loins.

But the labor of using the repertory is not as great as appears at first glance, and many will be induced to persevere in the effort, finding themselves considerably rewarded at the outset, and the way that appeared blocked up, like a crooked road among mountains, gradually opening as they advance. We have never regretted our two dollars for the first and second parts.

The plan is judicious, and in several respects original; the introduction evinces a commendable reliance on the homoeopathic law; and the execution of the first and second parts is in the main excellent, so far as our imperfect attainments in this modern language enable us to judge. One happy feature of the plan, part of which is credited to Jahr, is expressed as follows:

Under the cardinal word of the leading symptom, which is put down in its proper alphabetical place, all symptoms which are varieties or modifications of this leading symptom are arranged, and all the conditions, concomitants, and other ways of distinguishing varieties of symptoms, are brought together, so that at a glance the particular symptom sought for may be discovered, without the waste of time caused by hunting through all the letters of the alphabet, under which any possible variety of symptom might be placed.

This is a judicious combination of the alphabetical and philosophical method. One peculiar feature of this repertory is an exhibition of the course and progress of symptoms. “We regret that want of space and time compels us to refrain from noticing several other ingenious, original and useful expedients, which can be properly appreciated in no other way than by the practical use of the book in actual medical treatment.


Source: The AMERICAN HOMOEOPATHIC REVIEW Vol. 01 No. 09, 1859, pages 418-425
Description: Homeopathic practice and provings.
Author: Joslin, B.F.
Year: 1859
Editing: errors only; interlinks; formatting
Attribution: Legatum Homeopathicum
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en/ahr/joslin-bf-homeopathic-practice-and-provings-158-10531.txt · Last modified: 2013/03/25 13:29 by legatum