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Author's Preface to The Guiding Symptoms of Our Materia Medica

This work will especially commend itself to the busy practitioner, because it is an attempt to give our Materia Medica in such a form as will make the selection of a curative medicine in any given case as easy as possible. It is a complement to all other works on our Materia Medica, being principally a col­lection of CURED SYMPTOMS. We could fill pages with quotations from our best practitioners in favor of their use in the selection of remedies. A cured symptom only, has never such an intrinsic value as one produced and cured, and yet, such a one should not be ignored; in course of time it may be added to the characteristics. Of course all characteristics will be found here, and many other symptoms produced and cured, which further experience may warrant us in marking up in degree until they attain the grade we denominate characteristics.

As so many peculiar views have been expressed in regard to what is meant by a characteristic, a few words on the subject may not be out of place. Some of our best observers have been sneered at by would-be critics, as if they had been guilty of manufacturing characteristics. This, of course, proves them to be sadly deficient in a knowledge of the Organon. Let us see what Hahnemann says there, in his masterly ad­vice how to examine the sick.

§ 95. In chronic diseases the investigation of all symptoms should be conducted as carefully and cir­cumstantially as possible, and made to penetrate the minutest details, because they are most peculiar and most unlike those of acute affections, and also because they never can be too accurately considered for the purpose of successful treatment. Again, chronic pa­tients are so inured to suffering, that circumstances, however characteristic and decisive in the selection of the remedy, are rarely, if at all, mentioned by them, but rather considered as a part of their unavoidable condi­tion. It rarely occurs to them that other small or great deviations from the healthy condition might be connected with the main disease.

§ 101. A physician accustomed to exact observation may approach the true condition of an epidemic so closely that he is enabled to construe a characteristic image of the same, and even to discover the appropri­ate homoeopathic remedy.

§ 102. By writing down the symptoms of several cases of this kind, the sketch of the disease will gradu­ally become more complete; without being enlarged by additional phrases, it will be more closely defined (more characteristic) and made to embrace more of the peculiarity of such collective diseases. General signs such as want of appetite, sleeplessness, etc., are speci­fied and defined. More prominent and special symp­toms will be made conspicuous by proper notation, and constitute the characteristics of the epidemic.

§ 104. When all the prominent and characteristic symptoms, collectively forming an image of a disease, have been carefully committed to writing, the most difficult part of the work will have been done.

§ 153. The search for a remedy consists in the com­parison of the totality of the symptoms (of the sick) with the symptoms of our proved drugs. In making this comparison, the more prominent, uncommon and peculiar (characteristic) features of the case are espe­cially and almost exclusively considered and noted; for these in particular should bear the closest similitude to the symptoms of the desired medicine, if that is to accom­plish the cure. More general and indefinite symptoms, such as want of appetite, headache, weakness, restless sleep, distress, etc., unless more clearly defined, deserve but little notice on account of their vagueness.

In paragraphs 164, 165 and 178 nearly the same is repeated.

For the benefit of all who may have an opportunity of comparing the master's first edition of 1810, we quote the paragraphs and pages where he used the word “characteristic.” § 74, p. 73, more fully ex­plained; § 129, p. 108; § 135, p. 114; § 152, p. 122; § 169, p. 132; § 183, p. 151.

Every word contained in his masterly advice how to examine the sick was new and unheard of in the history of medical science.

According to this practical advice of Hahnemann, we have endeavored to find out the characteristics of our drugs.

What are the ways our School has followed? The first is, we allow the possibility that symptoms may follow when a drug is taken in health, and that these symptoms are produced conjointly by the drug and the prover.

“Could Cinchona bark produce altered sensations on myself, if I took it now in health ?” This was the question which induced Hahnemann to make his first proving, in 1790. The answer was, he felt a group of symptoms exactly such as he had when he suffered from intermittent fever, twenty years before, in Siebenburgen. Was he satisfied with this observation? Certainly not. He repeated his experiment, and he repeated it several times with exactly the same result.“ I stopped taking it, and got well,” he says.

Throughout all, we see the fine result of the think­ing lessons given to Hahnemann by his father when a boy.

His very first step already refuted the slander which was subsequently flung at our school, that it was based on the conclusion, post hoc, ergo propter hoc. If the same or similar symptoms appeared in the proving of a drug on the healthy, they were considered as having been probably caused by it, and the oftener the symp­toms appeared in the provings, the greater became the probability. How anxiously the first builders of our Materia Medica looked for the printing of the provings, in order to compare their own with the symptoms of others, deriving enjoyment from each confirmation!

The next step was to look for physiological and pathological corroborations. But all this was only considered as magnifying the probability.

The next step was to give a drug to the sick, according to the symptoms it had produced on the healthy, and the cures made were the verifications.

Finally we obtained the CHARACTERISTIC, the ripe fruit hanging upon the tree.

We never selected the remedy according to the loose generalizations in fashion with many, and considered more scientific. We never walked on pathological stilts, but always took the symptom as a reality, on the one side observed by the prover, and on the other side observed on the sick.

Phrases of “grand starting-points” and “centres of action in the ganglionic nerve-centres” are vagaries of a scientific appearance which every tyro can manufacture anew according to the latest fashion.

The definition of a characteristic being “a symptom not found under more than one remedy” is quite erroneous. Such a unicum occurring among a large collection of symptoms should be looked upon with suspicion. On the contrary, all our most approved characteristics, as they have been corroborated time and time again, are never such as are found in one medicine alone.

Many years ago, for the benefit of the students at Allentown, the following little scheme was written on the blackboard in the lectures on Materia Medica:

The characteristic may be found in one or more of these. Three points of rest, according to mathematics, being enough to support any object, we may assume that three characteristics should be sufficient to make a cure very probable.

All the so-called dynamics have been omitted. Thus the various applications of heat and cold, the water treatment, the two electricities, light and the use of colors, especially the indispensable blue light, magnet­ism (the work of many years of our master), the con­tact of metals (lately taken up again by the Old School), the highly valuable mesmerism, and the movement cure; not as if one could be a physician without them, but because they ought to be treated of in a separate work. So also all medicinal springs have been left out for the same reason. Some of the drugs have not found a place in this work for want of trust­worthy cures.

Very little notice has been taken of the so-called “critics,” remembering the “razzia” of Roth in Paris, who had no other intention but to destroy our Materia Medica, and that by striking out, for the most trivial reasons, symptoms by the thousand. Like a Don Quixote, he was fighting with windmills, and was not without a Sancho Panza, who wrote a treatise to show that Hahnemann's quotations of Dulcamara were erro­neous, and that we had no right to give it for symptoms following exposure to cold. The poor critic did not know that there was scarcely a practitioner of homoeopathy who had not made such cures by the score.


The original text of Dr. Hering's arrangement has been modified to reflect the actual font types used in the digitalized version of the work. The additions are given in [].

Is the same as that in the “Analytical Therapeutics ” and in the “Condensed Materia Medica.” A more complete and concise review of the arrangement will precede the Repertory, which is to follow close upon the last volume of this work.

To facilitate the study of the relative value of symptoms, four marks of distinction have been adopted, |, ||, |, ||, which correspond to the four degrees in Bonninghausen's Repertory.

  • | Is the lowest, and designates an occasionally con­firmed symptom. It is omitted in most cases, and is sometimes used to mark a difference of value in the same line. [Normal type is used.]
  • || Symptoms more frequently confirmed. [Blue italics type is used.]
  • | Symptoms verified by cures. [Blue bold type is used.]
  • || Symptoms repeatedly verified. [Red bold type is used.]

indicates an approved characteristic [Red bold type is used.], but is seldom used, by reason of our not wishing to appear authoritative. It is to be hoped that the combined experience of many practitioners, solicited from all sides, will enable us in a future edition to designate many more symptoms with this mark.

θ The Greek letter “theta” stands between the cured symptom and the pathological condition, or the physi­ological general state, f. i., pregnancy or climacteric years. This by no means excludes the characteristic nature of the symptom in other forms of disease. [~ character is usead instead of theta]

: Such observations from the Old School or the New as are worthy of our consideration.

t. Toxicological.

r. Right. l. Left. [Right and Left are fully written instead of abbreviations, to facilitate the search.]

< Increase, or aggravation; worse. [agg. is used instead, to facilitate the search]

> Decrease, or amelioration; better. [amel. is used instead, to facilitate the search]

Π The Greek “pi” stands before symptoms observed only on the sick.

Like all employers with a good conscience, we are not governed by “strikers.”

It has been my rule through life never to accept anything as true, unless it came as near mathematical proof as possible in its domain of science; and, on the other hand, never to reject anything as false, unless there was stronger proof of its falsity.

Some will say, “ but so many things—a majority of all observations—will thus remain between the two undecided.” So they will; and can it be helped? It can, but only by accumulating most careful observations and contributing them to the general fund of knowledge.



Source: The Guiding Symptoms of Our Materia Medica Vol. 01, 1879
Description: Author's Preface to The Guiding Symptoms of Our Materia Medica
Author: Hering, C.
Year: 1879
Editing: errors only; interlinks; formatting
Attribution: Legatum Homeopathicum
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en/mm/hering/preface.txt · Last modified: 2014/02/10 22:22 by legatum