Printed in the German Archives, Vol. 22, 1845. Translation by Calvin B. Knerr, M.D.
CONSTANTINE HERING, M.D.
One might think Hahnemann must have been inspired when one reflects and considers the many details upon which he built his new doctrine; the particulars being as astounding as the whole.
Take the word homoionpath, from the Greek, familiar as it has become through long usage, is yet so happy a choice, so strikingly to the point, that the more we think about it the more we marvel at its aptitude and feel gratified.
One need but hark back to the time when the word was not yet chosen and Hahnemann himself not yet able to see clearly. He did not say harmonious, agreeing, corresponding, adequate, analogous or identical; not congruous, nor covering, although he did make use of “cover” (decken) in other places; he purposely did not use the word like or ison, although he insisted upon the greatest possible likeness of symptoms, and surely never discarded a remedy by reason of its too great similarity or complete likeness.
But he said homoios and translated it by similar before he could know that the word, in later scientific development, would come to stand as the one correct and approved term. Pathy, and the word allos or alloios, besides enantion (enantiopathy) were chosen later to favor homoion. The word homoion, the more we examine it, expresses the fundamental idea of the new doctrine better and more clearly than any that could have been chosen. It is the one true and right word, which has served, and will continue to serve through all time.
Our short history has already furnished several examples of the enemys attempts to substitute another name and hoist another flag, but our banner still proudly streams and is mightiest. Short as is our history, that of the other side is still more brief. All oppositions trying to hook on, were, if not exactly stillborn, yet so weazen as soon to fade, or at most to hover about like spectres in dark corners. We are still alive. So it was and ever will be; for it is not the word but the spirit that abides in the word, the spirit of truth which keeps us alive. It is in the nature of the truth to endure forever. All other power is scattered by it like dust.
The Greeks made a distinction between ison and homoion, but none between homon and homoion. I am not speaking of grammarians, but of Greeks. They use the word ison where things equal, totally alike, are compounded; equal measure, angles or leg of an angle, sides, equal values, weight, equal parts, import, also equality of birth, standing, rank. On the other hand homoion is employed for equality of character, manner of living, feeling, opinion and disposition; the same with color, form and tone; in short, where we use the word similar. In this difference of usage we recognize a vital difference.
In the New Testament ison is only used in a sense of perfect likeness, for example, “he deemed himself like unto God”, etc. Not homos. On the other hand homoion is used in the parables; for instance “the kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed”; and again, “like a merchant”, etc.; also in Revelations where corresponding imagery is concerned. Also in the parallel passage in Matthew 22, 39, “and the second is like unto it”, which Luther quite correctly translated by like.
Later I will again refer to these passages by which my remaining doubts of the true meaning of similar were dispelled. Homoios in all of these means likeness in difference of kind, in different domains, always in cases where together with likeness there must be the thought of a difference.
We surely know that Hahnemann did not borrow the word from the New Testament. Not even should he have read the passage in Acts 14, 15, where Paul rends his garments and cried out, “We are homoeopaths, (sufferers alike) and will not sacrifice oxen.” Nor would this have deterred him from adopting the name. It was not Hahnemanns way to long hesitate over a choice of words.
In choosing the remedy for a particular case he took all the more time because it was his aim and purpose to cure. Moreover there was no authority to influence him in the least in his dietetics; yet when he had gradually perfected this he had come up with Moses without suspecting it. He had the desire to heal, for which reason Nature revealed herself to him and through him to us. In this sense we may say he was inspired.
I make particular mention of this because I was always puzzled to understand the reasons which guided Hahnemann in making choice of drugs for his provings. Certain it is used that he always took the biggest catch away from the rest of us when it came to fishing for important drugs to prove. This, to say the least, is remarkable. He never appeared willing to talk about, or make answer to this; and I know that what is being written in the present would not have induced him to give reasons for making his selections, thereby giving us guidance in our work for the future. Reflect upon the large domain of the vegetable kingdom alone and make a survey of the materia medica of his time and observe how, in making his selections, he was always sure to light upon the best.
If, with Belladonna and Nux vomica, his choice was influenced by the poisoning cases, there were hundreds of other drugs equally poisonous. If he chose Chamomilla on account of its general use in the home, there were innumerable other home remedies he might have chosen; and later very little of importance came from this source.
Hahnemann lost no time in selecting the obsolete Aconite, the Pulsatilla which had been overlooked, and the forgotten Arnica. I am putting the question to everyone: What would Hahnemann and young homoeopathy have done without these remedies?.
The provings of Ignatia and Angustura, with a few others, were undertaken casually; the choice of Oleander was a mere fancy. He made several almost purposeless provings with Leontodon, Cyclamen, Verbascum, Chelidonium and some others. At least none of these, so far, (1845) has found its way into daily practice. In spite of all he found the more important remedies and gave them prominence. Later provings, made by other physicians, were still left far behind.
Gross, with Platina, surpassed Aurum; Helbig gave us Nux moschata, which, if not more important, takes equal rank with Nux vomica. Stapf, by placing Tartar emetic in our hands, gave us a remedy of like applicability with Aconite and Bryonia, put Coffea on a par with Opium, surpassed Thuja with Sabina, and Crocus with Drosera, etc.; Seidel went beyond Ledum with his Rhododendron, beyond Capsicum with Senega, and G.F. Muller opened up a remedy in Hypericum of equal importance to Arnica. While skipping many other valuable contributions to materia medica, mention might be made of Lachesis which though not exactly on a level with those mentioned, still outstripped Moschus in symptomatology and its frequent use in practice. But what does it amount to compared to the masterly work of Hahnemann? As surely as Lachesis far surpasses all other animal medicines, how poor and incomplete it stands beside the Sepia of Hahnemann!.
Strangest of all is how Hahnemann, with his antipsoric theory, and after his discovery of potentization found also the more important antipsoric remedies. They seemed to fairly snow in upon him. Not the ones he took up later and classed with the antipsorics but the ones with which he began.
Who, at the time, would have placed the least confidence in the action of any of these drugs, several of which have since become our most important remedies? Many will remember the time when charcoal was jeered at as being thoroughly inert, and we were told to select poisons only, and powerful ones at that.
It was evident that Sulphur and Phosphorus would prove important medicines, but who was not surprised to find in Silicea, Lycopodium, and Sepia, and then in Natrum muriaticum, remedies of such enormous value? Was this chance? Then why was the lucky hit so often repeated? Proof by the mathematical law of probabilities fortunately is at hand, as was the case with the Pleiades and the old English astronomer. Repetition eliminates chance. Was there a scientific reason? Which? If we but knew, so that we could follow in the same course, the way by which Hahnemann won the heights through all three natural kingdoms the world over! He concealed nothing, yet nowhere mentions reasons for his choice. What then remains but inspiration?.
It is not our purpose to add to or to subtract from Hahnemann. His greatness is sufficiently attested by the quality of his researches. His purpose was to heal, and to give freely to all of what seemed to him of greatest importance. For this reason he put out all of his remedies in the form of monographs. It did not seem to trouble him whence the remedies came; he simply alluded to their origin that others might know from what source they were obtainable. Possibly he did not give it a thought that Pulsatilla and Aconite were both Ranunculaceae, or that Staphisagria and Hellebore belong to the same family. And what good would it have been to him? What good to his patients?.
Materia medica assumes a different aspect to him who approaches it from without, intent upon taking the fortress. The study of natural history occupied me from my earliest years, and having learned the importance of signs and characteristics, the desire grew within me to see the whole brought into an orderly system. It was therefore quite natural that my first private undertaking in homoeopathy (in the fall of 1821) was the making of a synopsis of proved remedies in tabular form showing their classification according to natural orders and indicating the important gaps and omissions. To fill some of these gaps I introduced new remedies, collected symptoms from poisonings, and began to make provings.
The aim of my society of provers was to contribute original material, and preference was given to such remedies as were intended for publication; three in each issue, one from each of the kingdoms. The Cryptogamia, of which we had none, were chosen, also the animal products, Moschus, at that time, being the sole example; this being done to make the series more complete. It was not so much the effects from individual drugs that I was after, but a knowledge of the different kingdoms, classes and families. This course I have pursued hitherto, as my contributions to the Archives will show.
All provings were particularly intended to place our materia medica on a level with the natural sciences; to furnish a new side to minerals, plants and animals, a matter which belongs to natural history as much as do form, color, habits, etc. For this reason I desired always, and with all remedies, to have an eye to their origin, and to where they belong. Of course many others
have done the same; in other ways I merely make mention of this for the benefit of those who have not followed the same course, that they may understand this departure.
It naturally follows that one who devoted more time to study than to general practice, aimed to get a grasp on materia medica in a diagnostic way. In natural history all is done by comparison of similarities and differences, the purpose being to become acquainted with peculiarities. Like minerals are arranged in steps for comparison, plants laid side by side to ascertain their genus and their species by comparing their greater or lesser features. So we can, and must do, with remedies, which of course is far more difficult, at least now, but the hard work must be done to make it easier in the future.
I remember with great satisfaction the time when I saw Hartlaubs comparative study of Nux vomica, Ignatia and Pulsatilla in manuscript, and remarked: “If Nux and Ignatia are similar in action this is quite natural because they belong to the Strychniae, but if both resemble Pulsatilla, which belongs to the Ranunculaceae, to which the other two do not bear the least resemblance, is this then unnatural?” It would appear that I then picked up a rough stone, without, at the time, attempting to polish it. But I kept it in my pocket. Years passed before I reached the conclusion that it must be that in the first two the differences are of most importance, and in the latter the agreement. Years passed before I placed myself before the grindstone to polish my stone.
Let us concentrate upon the law of sequences as it is to be observed in practice. If remedies follow better the more similar they are, not only to the case, but among one another, we should not hesitate to prescribe such, if at all suitable to the case. Under like circumstances I promptly, and with a light heart, prescribed one mineral acid, one base, one metal, and one of the Solanaceae after the other; the same with the Ranunculaceae, Colchicum, Veratrum and Sabadilla were found to make splendid following, likewise Nux vomica and Ignatia; for all their similarity these often seemed indicated in the same case, of course to be prescribed only when symptoms fully corresponded.
In a large number of cases, for all my painstaking, I had poor success and had to look lively for other remedies. In nearly all instances the symptoms were decidedly aggravated, or the case spoiled. This, to say the least, was annoying. It put one in mind of one, who trying to start a fire by heaping wet leaves upon a bed of live coals, blows and blows until the biting smoke fill his eyes and lungs, coughs, chokes and he has to run for fresh air.
I had made a collection of real antidotes for my own use. Camphor and Spiritus nitri dulcis I did not consider to be proper antidotes. I also made a list of such remedies as were known to follow well. I then saw that but very few remedies that bore a close resemblance were to be found contiguous in nature (natural order). On the contrary the most general antidotes and the best following remedies came from sources far apart. I was in the position of one camping out, who, turning to his fire and finding the little flames crackling and leaping from between dry leaves and fagots quickly makes preparation for roasting his potatoes for which the keen mountain air has sharpened his appetite.
The discovery, with the best of intentions, was promptly communicated, but totally disregarded or misunderstood, and by some contradicted. It might have been that my potatoes were underdone, burned on the outside, since no one wished to partake of them. Believing the fault to have been mine, I, for several years, zealously continued my experiments, to find the rule to be true and constant, without an exception. All depends upon how the rule is conceived and applied. I could not possibly have overlooked the fact that, often antidotes are found in close natural relation, as for instance with Belladonna and Hyoscyamus which also follow well, also Mercurius and Aurum, and some others.
Some years ago, attention was called (in the Archives) to the nearness (closeness) of antidotes, the plant acting against the poison obtained from its fruit or leaves, bile against saliva, etc. It was this antidotal variation running through all nature that gave the impulse to my investigations and led to the discovery of the law by which medicinal forces in nature are distributed.
The best antidotes stand widely apart in the natural order of things, which experience will readily teach, even from a superficial examination of a table of antidotes. Some few antidotes stand very close, close as possible. This, to some, might have the appearance of a contradiction. Should we, on this account, no longer believe in rues? That would be stupidity. The problem must be solved.
I am not surprised when practitioners become hopeless in the face of such obstacles and express themselves in favor of selecting remedies according to the old plan, taking what seems most similar to them while believing that subtleties are confusing and that the future of homoeopathy will be assured when we have grown sufficiently in age, wisdom and experience – that it has always been the same with all new doctrines, etc., etc. It would be absurd to regard some close antidotes as exceptions and others as coming under the rule. It is a poor rule that swarms and creeps with exceptions, as we all know.
There are experiences cited where there is a similarity between remedies called antidotes, and another similarity by which they are not antidotes, where the similar remedy causes an aggravation. If, however, there exists a two fold similarity, one in which the remedies mutually wipe out one another, and another in which they do not efface, but strengthen one another, the case might, indeed must, be that the same thing can happen between symptoms of the drug and symptoms of the disease. Hence there may be a similarity by which the remedy for the disease is wrongly chosen and will aggravate instead of relieve. Such cases every practitioner has known; I confess to having met many in former years, and it was but poor comfort to say that the remedy was wrongly chosen. Wherein lay the mistake?.
It is to be hoped that everyone will clearly see that all attempts to raise homoeopathy to the ranks of a real science must depend upon the manner by which the fundamental principle similia similibus is defined. That this principle is lacking in scientific accuracy can readily be seen. Our learned opponents, to be sure, did not make mention of this, nor did anyone else as far as I know; and if they had they would not have put it to practical use.
Anyhow they were blinded, and like poor finches kept whistling the same tune over and over, for it was still night for them in the forest. The only exception, one Comfort by name, dilated somewhat upon the subject, but to cover his speculation he denied having read the Archives, reminding one of the poor fellow who confessed to having taken money, but declared upon his honour that he had not removed any from the middle drawer of the till.
Before proceeding any further with our research we must finish with those who dubbed it “mere dealing in words while trying to define what is similar”. These, to be sure, must have held a quite different opinion of science, if any at all. The point in question amounts to no less than the foundation of all therapeutics. I am, of course, well aware that we practising physicians have found, do find, and, it is to be hoped, will find the right remedy many times more in the future, each in his own way of looking for the similimum. All of which, however, does not satisfy science, which deals with sound reasons only. Should we not then apply a bit more of printers ink, by way of a lubricant, to our creaky door hinges to make them work smoother?.
“Comparisons and propositions concerning similarities,” says a celebrated empiric investigator (Berzelius, Part 4, P. 13) “depend upon the individuality of things to be compared; the comparison which best corresponds with the individuality of most of the things to be compared, is naturally the one to be followed”. In our art, homoeopathy, where everything depends upon similarity, shall we rest content with this much and stop at individualities? We might, then, as well admit that any old woman knows as much of what is alike.
Old women often do know, as in the case of a newly born infant, one declaring it to be like the father, another like the mother, and a third that it resembles no one in particular, thus leaving the matter open for gossip. Consult any portrait painter and hear what he has to say about peoples opinion of what is, or is not, a likeness. I myself, know of a woman who positively refused to see a likeness to her husband in his daguerrotype, because anyone could see the wart on his face was on the wrong side! Another person, looking wise, gave assurance that the matter could not be otherwise, because “optically the rays of light,” etc., etc. And yet the woman was in the right.
Again I know of a man who sanctioned the mending his wifes teakettle with her daguerrotype because, In the first place, he said, “she looks as dark as a mulatto in the picture, and secondly, it shows a hand not unlike a ham, thirdly, she looks made enough to bite me; while everyone knows my wife has a beautiful, fair complexion, a neat little hand, and is always sweet and kind!”.
Maybe the matter rests with instinct; a mysterious coming to light of the creative artistic genius; the born physician sprung ready made from the hand of his Maker, like a bee from its cell, always ready to do the trick. Is it mechanical instinct or mysterious divination that gives the experienced practitioner that nice sense of perception by which he practically smells out the suitable remedy? It is not my purpose to interfere with the practitioner who appeals to instinctive selection for I have a strong leaning to that way myself. Anyhow there are many things under the sun, likewise the moon, not dreamt of by our philosophers; all I ask is that such like talk should be kept out of science. If such an evil were allowed to spread it would soon put an end to all system and order, since everyone has his pet opinion, his own instinct, and marks time in his particular way. Who then is to know who is right?.
For an answer let us first turn to the mathematicians, to whom first rank is conceded, and next to the philosophers who pretend to a kind of superiority; next to good common sense, to balance things, to the naturalists, who, in a way, share our difficulties, and finally make appeal to our own experience as to what is meant by similar.
What is called similar, like all else in mathematics, is sufficiently definite but can be of little use to us unless it is raised to universality. Mathematically speaking like means that which is the same in respect to size; sometimes also when differing in size, but congruous where both are in accord and two figures cover each other. Although, at first sight, it may seem of little use to us, it yet appears that the doctrine of congruence might be here applied. Since we call like all that which is alike in substance, and similar what is alike in respect to form, it must follow that the similar, which is conditioned by form, must include a likeness of that which determines form. By the rule of like proportions we may reach conclusions as to unknown quantities. Mathematicians have found the law of analogy of the very greatest use; likewise pathologists and other natural scientists. We should be able to do the same in materia medica and in therapy, a matter which needs further elucidation.
The definition of similarity as “likeness of that which is essential, important, intrinsic, determinative”, after all, would fit into other provinces of mathematics. Like relations are always similar. For the same reason I never could become interested in the quarrels over theories concerning parallels, because obviously a higher conception of similarity, applied to lines, explains the parallels, be they straight or crooked, thereby making superfluous both straight as well as crooked proofs.
In conclusion I must make mention of the controversy between philosophers in reference to analogy and deductions by analogy. Reasoning by analogy I have always claimed to be the only correct method. It is the golden theory of Pythagoras, by which heaven and earth are unlocked. Nevertheless, like the law of quadrature of triangles, it has been dubbed Pons asinorum by dunces. The statement that deductions by analogy are untrustworthy is ridiculous. If the result is wrong, the fault is not in the method of reasoning but because it is misapplied, which holds good in all things.
It strikes me in a manner as if one should not use ones eyes, because, as it is foolishly expressed,our senses deceive us, when all the while our mistakes happen because we draw faulty conclusions through our sense impressions; or again as if one would say we should discard the rule of three because schoolboys sometimes fail to get right results when doing their examples. Obviously analogous is the same as that which mathematicians call similar, meaning intrinsically alike. If our angles and corresponding sides are properly placed we will be able to take measurements into distance with the same accuracy as does the geometer. It come to the same as with the simple rule of three. As surely as anyone having three lines can find the proportional fourth, or so to speak, the fourth term, just as surely must it come our right in our reasonings by analogy if the premises are right.
This brings us to Part Second, namely, the question addressed to philosophers: What is similar?.
If I begin my task with a sign I must beg that this be put down to my ignorance of the subject. After all manner of research among philosophies I have found nothing but nothings. Every now and then I came across a something which turned out to be nothing, and then again a nothing which claimed to be something. Hollow spectres arose on all sides to dishearten me.
Is it any wonder I lost my temper with the old dame? No doubt there are many learned men to whom I should do reverence, cap in hand; several more who command admiration in more ways than one, to whom I pay my modest tribute, for after all it is not my purpose to throw everything into the same pot promiscuously, but I cannot be expected to spare the entire party for the sake of a few notables. It cannot be helped, for they not give us the truth as we physicians need it. This without exception.
Now, in 1840, with the goal in sight, after a period of twelve years of research in which the daily question has been, “What is the true meaning of similar?” without claiming to have read all, I find myself shuddering at the things I have read. I have followed many a circuitous route, mostly leading nowhere, through all manner of sciences and their encyclopaedias, studying dictionaries, conversation and other lexicons trying to find out what is similar, what like, and what contrary, looking first for explanations, then for corroboration of my own conjectures. I gathered much, but least of all from philosophers; from them in fact nothing, unless it were how NOT to do the thing. As far as I know, no philosopher ever took the trouble to explain these simple concepts. At any rate these learned gentlemen seem to have cared more for words than their meanings.
Philosophies hang upon the tree of science very much like nests of tailor-birds, artfully constructed form fibres and threads of bark; only the birds have no technical terms. Examine such a nest carefully, as I have often done; you will find it ingeniously hanging together and firmly fastened to the tree, but either empty or containing a few eggshells, or possibly a couple of timidly peeping, naked, little objects, sorry representatives of the grand ideas of nature. Over premises which philosophers should take for granted, as do mathematicians by their axioms, they vex themselves in their efforts to prove; and that which we desire to have explained they dismiss with an hypothesis. From this nothing sensible can come.
If I am be permitted to refer to the fruits of my earnest labors so often published in a humorous way, I can give assurance that my fun is to be taken seriously.