by Dr. André Saine, D.C., N.D., F.C.A.H.
Annual Address to the Deutscher Zentralverein homöopathischer Arzte, Hamburg May 24, 2001
In Paragraph 53 of the Organon, Hahnemann says that “the pure homeopathic method of healing is the only correct one, the only one possible to human art; it is the most direct one, just as certainly as there is but one possible straight line between two given points.”
The question, which naturally arises, is what constitutes this pure homeopathic healing art? Hahnemann repeatedly uses the word pure in reference to experience, experiments, observation, the effects of medicine and the materia medica. He constantly emphasizes that without meticulous observation and experimentation the practitioner would be left at the mercy of mere guesswork. This is most important in regards to the materia medica as he unequivocally writes in paragraph 144 “that all conjecture, everything merely asserted or entirely fabricated, must be completely excluded from such a materia medica; everything must be the pure language of nature carefully and honestly interrogated.” It is only with a true and pure materia medica that we physicians can practice with full confidence.
Hahnemann writes in the preface to his Materia Medica Pura that “it is only of such substances that the pure effects can be ascertained whereby we may be able to say beforehand whether this one or the other may be of use in a given case. But what conscientious man would consent to work haphazardly on a sick person hovering between life and death with tools that possess powers to hurt and destroy, without an accurate knowledge of their powers? No carpenter would work upon his wood with tools whose uses he was ignorant of. He knows every one of them perfectly, and hence he knows when to use the one and when the other, in order to effect with certainty what he intends to do; and it is only wood he works upon, and he is but a carpenter!”
He continues, “In the Organon of Medicine I have taught this truth, that dynamically acting medicines extinguish diseases only in accordance with the similarity of their symptoms. He who has understood this will perceive that if a work on materia medica can reveal the precise qualities of medicines, it must be one from which all assumption and empty speculation about the reputed qualities of drugs are excluded, and which only records what medicines express concerning their true mode of action in the symptoms they produce in the human body. Hence the practitioner will rejoice to find here a way in which he can remove the maladies of his fellow-creatures surely, rapidly, and permanently, and procure them the blessing of health with much greater certainty.”
In his Examination of the Sources of the Common Materia Medica, Hahnemann says that “the first source of the materia medica that attempts to set forth the general therapeutic virtues of drugs is mere guesswork and fiction.” The second source, writes Hahnemann “is alleged, a sure foundation, viz., their sensible properties, from which their action may be inferred. We shall see, however, what a turbid sources this is. I shall spare [its promoters] … the humiliation of reminding them of their folly of determining the properties of drugs by their signature.”
In 1887, Drs. Walter James and Edmund Lee, two close students of Lippe, wrote as editors of the Homœopathic Physician that “the homeopathic materia medica is the basis of homeopathic practice. Without a pure materia medica there can be no homeopathic practice. Therefore the purity of the materia medica is simply a question of life and death to all true homeopaths.” 1)
Pure homeopathy is therefore characterized by purity in observation and experimentation. It is an attempt to observe nature without prejudice and at the same time to ensure nothing pertinent that is actually present should escape our senses and to report accurately what has been observed without adding any fancy.
The ones who claim to practice this pure homeopathy of Hahnemann are called Hahnemannians. These Hahnemannians have confirmed that this is the most successful way of practicing homeopathy and, by the same token, medicine. They have obtained the best-recorded success in the history of medicine and this fact by itself speaks of the value of pure homeopathy.
The early Hahnemannians made up the Old Guard as they were the guardians of this pure homeopathy of Hahnemann. They defended pure homeopathy from every departure and misrepresentation: the polypharmacists, the physiological and pathological prescribers, the alternists, the isopathists, the eclectics, Grauvolglism, Schueuslerism, etc.
The Old Guard was not only successful in preserving Hahnemann’s homeopathy by relentlessly denouncing the pretenders who never ceased to pop up within our profession, but moreover, confirmed the immutable value of the whole of Hahnemann’s work and further developed homeopathy. They expanded greatly the materia medica by pursuing Hahnemann’s method of conducting reliable provings. They also explored further the use of the high potencies, confirming their superiority, and the limits and possibilities of homeopathy. Some of the most illustrious members of the Old Guard were Adolph Lippe, Clemens von Bœnninghausen, Constantine Hering, Carroll Dunham and P. P. Wells.
Never was homeopathy in better hands than in the care of these giants. Unfortunately, since these masters of the past have gone their way, the teachings of Hahnemann have become more vulnerable to the false teachings of impostors. Never has homeopathy been in a worse state as it is today. How often have we heard that in front of a class or a seminar, a professed homeopathic teacher took the case of a patient with a chronic disease in fifteen or twenty minutes; that the teacher could perceive the totality through a partial case; that the patient was prescribed a remedy from an association made with the clothes worn by the patient at the time of the visit (e.g., that a patient wearing a white shirt with black stripes was prescribed Lac zebrenum, or a patient with black pants and a yellow and black striped shirt was prescribed Apis mellifica)? What are we to think of provings conducted by giving the remedy to half the people attending a weekend seminar but including in the proving the symptoms experienced by everyone in attendance as if non-provers were affected by some sort of “group mind”? Or provings in which symptoms experienced two weeks prior to a proving are also considered part of the proving as it is said that the subconscious of these provers already knew that it would come in contact with the remedy; or provings done by putting the remedy under the pillow? At other times teachers go as far as falsifying follow-ups to demonstrate the cleverness of their prescribing. We have heard such stories from many quarters. Some teachers teach as illuminated gurus possessed with mystical knowledge. What a farce they are making of Hahnemann’s homeopathy. Things don’t seem to have changed much since Hering said, “The teaching has becoming a trade by which the profession is degraded, traders are profited and the public injured.”
When devoid of the rigor taught to us by Hahnemann and left to speculation, what is left of homeopathy easily turns into its antithesis. The materia medica taught by these modern teachers is mostly the invention of their brilliant minds. Unfortunately for homeopathy and for the sick, the great majority of the practicing homeopaths today are influenced by these false teachers, leaving the profession in a very confused and precarious state. Few know what Hahnemann’s homeopathy stands for or fully understand its true value among the display of very attractive and charismatic teachings offered by an entire generation of “illuminated” teachers.
History keeps repeating itself. While a small minority understand the spirit of the homeopathic healing art by constantly studying the work of Hahnemann and obtaining the results promised by him, the great majority follows impostors which is disastrous both for homeopathy and the innocent patients seeking true homeopathy.
Hahnemann and his faithful disciples denounced with great vigor every misrepresentation and departure with the objective of preserving the purity of our noble art. In the nineteenth century impostors like Hemple and Hughes were teaching along the lines of physiological and pathological prescribing which was greatly popular among the materialistic minds which have always dominated medicine. Nowadays the pendulum has swung the other direction in homeopathy. Poetic fancies and the most imaginative speculations characterize modern teachings that its originators dare to call homeopathy. This new wave made its appearance in the early part of the twentieth century when Kent mixed Swendenborg’s doctrine into his teachings. This opened the door to the anthroposophists and their ethereal speculations. Little damage was done to homeopathy until the last thirty years when some teachers became progressively more audacious in formulating their imaginative and creative materia medica and fantastic way of prescribing and became popular among the lazy and hungry masses of students. All these fantastic castles eventually crumble and disappear, leaving instead confusion, disappointment and disillusion among their followers. The false teachings of these impostors last but a moment in history while the work of Hahnemann and his true followers will last forever. What was true yesterday will continue to be true until the end of time. We quickly learn in life that the road to knowledge is very narrow and usually beset with difficulties. Some of these difficulties are often the result of personal weakness in letting ourselves be attracted to sirens, such as in the Odyssey when Ulysses and his sailors were called to the reefs of perversion. The ones who will have the intelligence and discipline to follow the path drawn by Hahnemann will reach the promised land as did his two most worthy disciples, Lippe and Bœnninghausen.
The legacy left to us by these two great masters of homeopathy is the confirmation that Hahnemann’s medical approach is the best way of practicing medicine. They demonstrated that pure homeopathy, which is based on indisputable, unmistakable facts as discovered by pure observation and experimentation, is the foundation of success in medicine.
The question then arises, what specifically have these two great masters done to achieve their legendary success? The two most important keys to their success were:
Both Bœnninghausen and Lippe learned to master the method and its tools. Lippe described in 1864 what Bœnninghausen had done to become the great prescriber he was: “As a friend and pupil of Hahnemann his unbounded admiration increased daily by his intercourse with him, and after the great master’s death he studied all his writings, and by these he became still more penetrated by and convinced of the truth of Hahnemann’s observations and the great work accomplished by him.” 2) In the 1880’s, Hahnemannians started forming local societies to study the Organon. Their main purpose was to develop a deeper understanding of homeopathy for better dealing with their difficult cases. In Philadelphia it was led first by Lippe and then by Kent, in New York city by Wells, Bayard and Carleton, in Boston by Bell and Wesselhœft, in Rochester by Biegler, in Toronto by John Hall. If these very experienced and successful prescribers felt the constant need to study the Organon to improve their results, why would our modern teachers not follow the same path of success? Edmund Lee, who knew the practices of Hering and Lippe very well, said in reference to them curing many chronic cases which other physicians could not help in the least, that “these men had no secret methods of practice, no secret remedies; they had nothing more than the humblest of us may acquire, a profound knowledge of Hahnemann’s Organon, of his Chronic Diseases, and of the homeopathic Materia Medica. Cannot we all obtain that knowledge also, and having it, cannot we, too, use it to cure these scourges of the human race as they did?” 3)
In 1911, after about thirty years of homeopathic practice, Kent wrote about the study of the Organon that “the masters of these living doctrines and the materia medica have been constant readers of this great work. Not one of the great prescribers has ever claimed a discovery not fully set forth in this work, but all in their greatest accomplishments have said that they based their success upon the Organon. It is the first book for the student to read, and the last for the old and busiest physician to ponder over. When Lippe, Wells and scores of others advocated a continuous reading of this book during their long careers, should we not likewise look upon it with a feeling of profound respect? Should we not crave the hidden truths that have made these faithful followers of law so successful? To whom would a rational man apply for light when desiring to follow law in healing the sick and measuring out uses to man? Naturally to Hahnemann and his faithful adherents, and not to those who smile at what they choose to consider the ravings of an aged man.” 4) Lippe, homeopathy’s most successful prescriber, said in 1883 that “it is now over 50 years since I first read the Organon. I just begin to comprehend it.” 5) How can we expect homeopaths to understand and practice according to Hahnemann’s teachings if their own teachers do not do so? In 1912, Kent wrote that “homeopathy is making wonderful strides in curing chronic miasms but they are upon the lines laid down by Hahnemann. The author has no discovery of his own to introduce to the world. He has learned to be faithful to, and contented with what has been handed down. The Law of Similars will direct to curative remedies for all that are curable and comfort such as are incurable, if we can keep our selfish ends in subjection.” 6)
How can we achieve the same mastery as Lippe, Bœnninghausen and the other masters of the past?
Thus becoming master of the method and its tools taught to us by Hahnemann and confirmed by his most worthy disciples.
The Hahnemannian method being the key to this mastering homeopathy, the question arises: what are its basic aspects?
1. First, and basic to all our endeavors in homeopathy, is adherence to the strict inductive method of Hahnemann which consists of drawing the right conclusions only after having carefully observed all that can be observed without leaving anything out or adding anything that cannot be observed. Induction is not a matter of mere guesswork but a precise instrument of inquiry for arriving at the most plausible and best available answer. This is in sharp contrast with most of the current teachings in homeopathy which are based as a rule on speculation—opinions, fancies and theories. Lippe said because the pioneers of homeopathy strictly followed the teachings of Hahnemann they “have met with success—such a success, as to our knowledge, no other mode of practice could ever claim. We desire to show the great necessity of and the advantages derived from the strict adherence to the principles taught by Hahnemann… and how a faithful adherence to these principles will guide us on to an invariable success.
And if all persons professing and pretending to practice Homœopathy were consistent, if they exercised that fidelity to the principles of a school to which they profess and pretend to belong, then such a paper like this would be out of place; but as a great many of the professing and pretending Homœopathic practitioners not only practice but even teach a multiplicity of erroneous but plausible opinions, and as they very modestly claim that their own individual opinions, quite unsupported by any argument, but thrust at the profession merely as ‘my opinion’ must be accepted for the time being, and as it is desirable to establish a certainty of medicine, and as this desirable certainty is at our command, offered to us and to all mankind capable of comprehending any logical argument and deductions from indisputable facts, I offer to testify to the correctness, applicability and results of Hahnemann’s great teachings,… fidelity to principles is and must be followed by success, and that success is our only and sole weapon against error.
It is admitted that success must be followed by the full acknowledgment of the superiority of Homeopathic practice over all other modes of practice, and that this success is invariably coming to us if we are true to the principles of our school… Why dare, I ask, do men professing and presuming to be homeopathists, venture upon 'new departures'? It is that they found the laws and practical rules when applied practically leading to failures?” 7)
2. The second principle, which is a corollary to the first one, consists of conducting a thorough examination of the patient in full detail as described specifically in paragraphs 82-104 of the Organon. Today modern teachers who teach how to know patients and their sicknesses through the most fanciful and delusive exercises of their imagination are grossly ridiculing this art. Didn’t Hahnemann consistently teach that “the true and thorough physician never replaces observation with guesswork” but rather “examines the patient in all its expression”? 8)
3. To search only through the reliable materia medica for the remedy which is the most similar to the totality of the characteristic symptoms of the disease.
4. To prescribe the most similar remedy in the optimal posology.
5. To remove all obstacles of recovery by eliminating the causa occasionalis and improving the mental and physical hygiene of the patient so that recovery is permanent. Then, Hahnemann tells us, the physician knows how to treat thoroughly and efficaciously, and is a true physician.
Today few physicians are following Hahnemann’s advice in taking a thorough and complete case in all its detail. Some modern teachers are demonstrating how to take a chronic case in 15-20 minutes and letting their intuition do the rest. Using homeopathy as an outlet for creative expression may be very exciting, but definitely not good for the art and science of homeopathy when devoid of principles. Devotion to homeopathy without guidance and principles is like sailing without a rudder and a compass. A good homeopath will learn to optimally use his creative and intuitive skills, but with complete respect to the fundamental principles of homeopathy.
In terms of the materia medica, few physicians read Hahnemann’s materia medica, which is still the most detailed and reliable of our materia medica. Instead, many modern teachers feed their students with pleasant and attractive stories they invent about the different remedies. Hahnemann wrote about his materia medica that “as regards my own experiment and those of my disciples every possible care was taken to insure their purity, in order that the true powers of each medicinal substance might be clearly expressed in the observed effects.” 9)
In fact, few homeopaths can claim having read the essential works of Hahnemann and his worthy disciples, particularly Bœnninghausen, Lippe, Dunham, Hering and Wells. How can we expect a tree to yield its appropriate fruits when it is cut off from its roots? The legendary success of the masters of the past was the direct result of practicing pure homeopathy. Their experience was unanimous that any modification to the strict inductive method of Hahnemann resulted in failure. It is the duty of every Hahnemannian to stand united by the teachings of Hahnemann.
Some want us to believe that this old method of Hahnemann is a thing of the past and we must evolve from it. For the ones not familiar with history, it is important to understand that the inductive method is what brought medicine out of its chaos. If the fundamental principles of homeopathy were true yesterday they will continue to be true until the end of time. Others want us to combine both methods, Hahnemann’s homeopathy with the speculative approach. It is impossible to advocate both as they are as opposite as day and night, or as truth and falsehood.
Today, many professed homeopaths exercise complete freedom in developing the materia medica or in teaching and practicing homeopathy contrary to the teachings of Hahnemann. The point must be very clearly made that everyone has the liberty to practice medicine as they choose to within the limits of the laws of the land, but honesty obliges that no one has the license to call homeopathy what is not homeopathy. This is simply misrepresentation. Hahnemann clearly defined homeopathy and all its underlying principles and warned us against misrepresentations. In 1832, in his fight against the “half-homeopaths” of Leipzig, Hahnemann wrote, “Should any false doctrines be taught under the honorable name of homeopathy… may you depend upon it that I shall raise my voice aloud, honestly and to its utmost. In all the public papers far and near I shall warn a world already weary of deceit against such treachery and degeneracy, which deserves to be branded and avoided.” 10)
Hahnemann made it clear that departures from pure homeopathy simply cease to be part of the homeopathic method and should therefore cease to be called homeopathy. In his preface to the Organon, Hahnemann writes that “what is clearly pure in doctrine and practice should be self-evident, and all backward sliding to the pernicious routinism of the old school that is as much its antithesis as night is to day, should cease to vaunt itself with the honorable name of Homœopathy.” 11)
In 1870 there was also a plea for freedom of medical opinion within the homeopathic community. Lippe vigorously warned the profession against this movement. He said that “there are true and good men among us who erroneously believe and endeavor to establish the opinion, that any person professing to be a homeopathist, and who bases his pretensions on the fact that he is a member of a homeopathic society, must be allowed full freedom of medical opinion and action, and that therefore he is at liberty to accept, reject, or modify any or all of the principles constituting homeopathy; that, in fact, he may consistently enjoy multiplicity of opinions, and do just what he has a mind to do;… the liberty to accept homeopathy surely does not include the freedom to reject, modify, or alter any or all of its fundamental principles.”
He adds that if we accept the teachings of Hahnemann “we shall never for a moment advocate any of the modern departures—we shall scorn them; and there will be not the slightest danger that the advocates of unlimited liberty, and of that fallacious cry for the supremacy of individual judgment over the application of fixed immutable principles, will ever pervert Homœopathy into Eclecticism which, in reality, seems to be the aim of every healer who discards Hahnemann’s teachings, and claims for his own individual judgement superiority to any fixed principles.” He adds that Hahnemannians “claim the liberty of following Hahnemann, his tenets, and remain a homeopathic healer; and also the liberty to help to develop our healing art, to cure the sick and report such cures.” 12) Indeed, liberty to practice and teach homeopathy is not license to change any of its fundamental principles. Lippe concludes this point with the following quote: “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” This is a small price to pay if our institutions and responsible individuals want to preserve homeopathy intact for future generations.
The circumstances in the homeopathic world of today are very similar to 1833 when Hahnemann said how necessary it had become to gather his “true pupils” around him “in order to separate the sheep from the goats” and to 1844 when, following Hahnemann’s death, Bœnninghausen wrote that “unless the signs deceive me, we are now at the commencement of a new epoch, marked by the death of our master, whose genius hovers around us, an epoch when the unity of the school shall be restored, when the excrescences shall have been chopped off, and the genuine metal separated from the dross.
Let us henceforth be more firmly united, all of us who desire the good, but let us exclude from our ranks with unrelenting severity anyone who sneers at the good cause, schismatics and all those who attempt to substitute opinions and hypotheses for careful observations. But let us at the same time honor the memory of the great reformer in medicine, by subjecting his doctrines, results of fifty years observation, to repeated and comprehensive examinations and trials, and by candidly communicating our experience one to another. This would be the best mode of preparing the monument which the great man has merited by the services he has rendered to suffering humanity.” 13)
The same year, in 1844, the pioneers of homeopathy in America founded the American Institute of Homœopathy (AIH) for the following two purposes: “1st. The reformation and augmentation of the Materia Medica” because the state of the materia medica was “such as imperatively to demand a more satisfactory arrangement and greater purity of observation which could only be obtained by associate action on the part of those who diligently seek for truth alone. 2nd. The restraining of Physicians from pretending to be competent to practice homeopathy who have not studied it in a careful and skillful manner” because “the state of public information respecting the principles and practice of Homœopathy is so defective as to make it easy for mere pretenders to this very difficult branch of the healing art to acquire credit as proficient in the same.” 14)
The pioneers were well aware of the danger the various departures represented for the recognition and survival of their profession. In spite of such measures, the AIH as well as most of the other homeopathic institutions became infiltrated and controlled by the ones who had not studied homeopathy “in a careful and skillful manner.” The abandonment of principles yielded very bitter fruits for homeopathy in the nineteenth century when most of our institutions departed from Hahnemann’s method to eventually disappear. Likely homeopathy would have been remembered as medical folklore similarly to Hydropathy, Eclecticism, etc., if it had not been for the Old Guard.
To save homeopathy, a few of the last surviving members of the Old Guard founded the International Hahnemannian Association (IHA) in 1880, which permitted homeopathy to survive through the twentieth century. P. P. Wells recalled in 1886 the motives for creating the IHA. He said that “the IHA originated in deep convictions in the minds of many members of the American Institute of Homœopathy, that that body had drifted so far away in its practical work, from that of its founders, and from the motives which gave it birth, that it no longer represented that for the advocacy and inculcation of which it had been created… Elucidation or advocacy of the Homœopathy of Hahnemann this body had neither.
These had so almost entirely disappeared from its sessions, that little was found in them characteristic of the homeopathic law and its corollaries… It was Homœopathy, as contained in these principles, which the Association, at its birth, pledged itself ‘to illustrate and defend.’ To illustrate by a practice founded on these principles, and to defend whenever and by whomever attacked, by all the just means and powers possessed by the body. They called this, and rightly, pure Homœopathy, by this term intending to distinguish it from the pretensions of quasi homeopathic practice and teaching… Devotion to the interest of the great truths of the philosophy they had accepted and believed was the characteristic which marked the occasion, and made it memorable among remembered assemblages of doctors. Personal interests or ambitions had no place there, but only what is truth? And love for all who loved this for its own sake.” 15) The members of the IHA met every year from 1880 until 1959, and in publishing all their proceedings, not only have they left us with a wealth of experience but also, most importantly, handed down the traditions of the masters of the past.
Has the time now come again where we need an organization like the IHA to defend Hahnemann’s homeopathy from impostors? Or will our current homeopathic institutions and the individuals in a position of authority step forward and prevent the present generation of false prophets from leading homeopathy astray? Doesn’t the legacy we have inherited, at the very least, demand this from us? In the interest of the profession and the patient, mustn’t we stand united by the teachings of Hahnemann? Is the task needing to be accomplished today so different from the one that called for the creation of the AIH and IHA in the nineteenth century?
Edmund Lee wrote that the work undertaken by the IHA “is a noble one, and a great one. It is to stem the torrent of eclecticism which threatens to wash away all the old, safe, reliable landmarks left us by Hahnemann. This work necessitates the increase of the Materia Medica, and its purification from all errors, clinical, pathological, or hypothetical; the regeneration of its medical schools; the instruction of its physicians and the exposure of false theory and erroneous opinion of many of its professors and leaders. This task the International Hahnemannian Association proposes to accomplish by a strict adherence to the law and its corollaries and by a full and clear explanation of them.” 16)
As a profession we have responsibilities toward the community. Will our institutions and individual members stand up and fulfill them? Or shall we allow impostors continue to represent our profession and teach false doctrine without objection? The current state of tolerance existing towards non-Hahnemannian teachings can not be in the best interest of homeopathy. Regarding the tendency that our homeopathic institutions have had to tolerate departures from Hahnemann’s teachings, Lippe wrote, which was later proven to be true, “let the curtain drop. Behind the scenes—a grave, both for Homœopathy and the poor sick.” He writes that “we have to correct errors taught and disseminated, and we shall expose these errors which must lead our school astray, without fear or favor.” We hope that our institutions will stand up and perform this unpleasant but vital duty.
We are now in the same position as when Lippe said in 1860 that “the conflicting doctrines held by the various practitioners of medicine, calling themselves Homeopathists, make it not only desirable, but imperatively necessary to determine the fundamental principles of Homœopathy first… It is a duty we owe ourselves, the community, and the memory of Hahnemann to agree on positive fixed fundamental principles… The community has a right to know, and should know, what constitutes Homeopathy and a homeopathic practitioner. The community which is to be benefited by a progressively developed art, find conflicting, uncontradicted statements brought before it, with no support but the delusive or idle assertion of irresponsible individuals.” 17)
In 1861, Jahr founded a journal in Paris which he called L’Art de Guérir (The Art of Healing). In the foreword of the new journal, he writes that he has omitted the word homeopathy from its title as the practice of pretend-to-be homeopaths had given it such a bad reputation that its name alone had become the main obstacle of its own development by discouraging scholars and conscientious practitioners. 18) By not learning from the mistakes of our past, we condemn ourselves to relive them. As a profession we must clearly take a stance and convey to the public that a homeopathic physician is one who understands the method of Hahnemann and practices accordingly. The road that Hahnemann led us down may be narrow, rugged and beset with many difficulties, but is worth all our effort as it leads to true knowledge and success. I hope that this paper will be a call to action for the urgent need to understand and protect, and further develop the legacy we have inherited from the masters of the past.