We left off in the preceding post after bringing up the subject of Miasms. The intention is that students of Homoeopathy obtain accurate understanding of Hahnemanns words and meaning, so as to be confident practitioners in the therapy.
Let us begin by giving you facts to consider.
Hahnemann published a pamphlet in 1831 regarding what he then thought to be the mode of propagation of the Asiatic Cholera (see Lesser Writings, page 753 Pages may vary in different printings.) In this work he used such expressions as “excessively minute invisible living creatures so inimical to human life of which the contagious matter of the cholera most probably consist. The physicians and nurses take away with them in their clothes in their hair, probably also in their breath, the invisible [probably animated) contagious matter surrounding the cholera patient”.
you cannot take Hahnemann’s conjecture resting on probabilities in 1831 to be his real conviction or his assumed foreknowledge of modern Bacilli to be the cause or spreading agent of cholera. Evidence shows that Hahnemann never repeated or confirmed by his subsequent writing up to 1843, (the time of his death) what he had tentatively written in 1831.
Hahnemann eschewed the materialism of his time and promulgated that it is the vital force, (Life Principle, Immune system) the immaterial, invisible force which keeps man alive, happy and prosperous in health to realise the higher purposes of his existence. but when deranged by the dynamic influence of morbific agents inimical to life, it produces disagreeable sensations in the organism and bends it to irregular processes which the physician can ascertain symptoms to render aid.
These disagreeable sensations etc. occur during an overpowering attack of immaterial miasm (infection) on the immaterial vital force on the invisible immaterial plane.
For infection takes place by affection of the Vital Force (Life Principle, Immune System) with immaterial, invisible, miasmatic (infectious) influences which lead ultimately to material changes, where you find Bacteria, Bacilli etc in the human economy.
The meaning of the dynamic influence has been clearly explained byHahnemann in the foot-note of aphorism 11 (6th edition Organon). There he writes, “The dynamic effect of the sick making influences upon healthy man as well as the dynamic energy of the medicines upon the vital principle in the restoration of health, is nothing else than infection and so not in anyway material, nor in any way mechanical, just as the energy of a magnet attracting a piece of iron or steel is not material or mechanical. It is purely specific, conceptual influence that communicates to a near child, small-pox or measles in the same way as a magnet communicates to the near needle, the magnetic Property . Again, if one looks upon something nauseous and becomes inclined to vomit, did a material emetic come into his stomach which compels him to this antiperistaltic movement? Was it not solely the dynamic effect of the nauseating aspect upon his imagination ?”
Thus we see, Hahnemann speaks of vital force, disease producing force and medicinal force—all these are invisible, immaterial, conceptual and spirit-like forces.
To drag him down to the material plane of Bacteriology, is an error which every thinking rational Homceopath should avoid religiously. To inaugurate the bacteria theory and infuse it into the minds of innocent students instead of susceptibility or vital weakness as cause of disease (as said by Hahnemann) is simply to axe out Hahnemannian Homceopathy.
Hahnemann’s statement from his Lesser Writings published in 1831 regarding the spread of Cholera occurring on board the ships in the river Ganges in India.
He is reported to have said: “In the confined spaces, filled with mouldy, watery vapours the cholera miasm finds a favourite element for its multiplication and grows [Please note here, the real meaning of The invisible cholera miasm” gradually developing into material form from internal, invisible, immaterial state
(as is natural in every infection) into an enormously increased brood of these excessively minute, invisible living creatures so inimical to life of which the contagious matter of cholera most probably consists. The cause of this is undoubtedly the invisible cloud that hovers closely around the sailors who have remained free from the disease composed of probably millions of the miasmatic (Means—developed from miasm, or resultant disease from an infection) animated beings which at first developed on the broad marshy banks of the tepid Ganges always searching out in preference the human being to his destruction. This pestiferous, infectious matter as he calls it, “which is carried about in the clothes, hair, beards, soiled hands, instruments of physicians, nurses and others seems to spread the infection and cause epidemics. “
Hahnemann never saw or admitted any material cause, Bacteria or Bacilli, as is clearly apparent from quotations from his subsequent writings in the Organon without any doubt 0r probability as shown above. Here, I should again draw the attention to the fact that this statement in the Lesser Writings naturally of lesser importance and authenticity was never referred to by Hahnemann in his future writings.
It was made, without actually seeing a case of cholera, without visiting India, without having a glimpse of the Ganges, without feeling the temperatures of the waters of the Ganges so pleasant and something more than pleasingly cool (Hahnemann described it as tepid) without having the good fortune of knowing the wonderful antiseptic properties of the cold stream which comes down from the Himalayas. But Hahnemann describes it as tepid for want of actual experience. Another wonderful feature of the statement is that it is qualified by the words “Seems”, “Probably”, “Most probably” as stated above. To make a passing remark without actually seeing a disease or anything connected with it, is one affair and solid opinion formed after close observation and handling it, is certainly essentially different. The theoretical assumptions are liable to be falsified by cool thinking, practical and repeated observations or experience extending over a length of time. Maybe the reality is that Hahnemann was passing through a doubtful state of mind but he never settled into a solid opinion as it appears from later writings.
But correctly speaking his assumption is due to misinterpretation.
In the preface of the the sixth edition of the Organon published in 1843 Hahnemann says: “It can easily convince every reflecting person that the diseases of man are not caused by any substance, any acridity, that is to say disease matter but they are solely spirit-like (dynamic) derangements of the spirit-like power [vital principle) that animates the human body (Aph 11.).
Here, please notice, there is no word “probably” etc. in the assertion of Hahnemann. This was written in 1833 and published in 1843, that is, at least two years if not ten years after Hahnemann’s observation regarding the probable affection and spread of Cholera published in 1831.
In the 11th para of Organon Hahnemann says—“When a person falls ill it is only the spiritual self-acting (automatic) vital force everywhere present in the organism that is primarily deranged by the dynamic influence of morbific agent inimical to life, it is the vital principle deranged to such an abnormal state that can furnish the organism with its disagreeable sensations and incline it to irregular processes which we call disease.”
Again in the 12th para he repeats the same thing “it is morbidly affected vital forces alone that produces the disease.”
In a foot-note to the 12th para Hahnemann says “How the vital force causes the organism to display morbid phenomena, that is how it produces disease, it would be of no utility to physician to know.”
This remark was made by Hahnemann here only because he had bitter experience in trying to explain how cholera spreads or affects persons with a probable, i.e., doubtful theory.
Now what was the bitter experience he had? It was the challenge by Dr. Hufeland, of his theory of the “Probable” cause of the spread of cholera. quoting from the Lesser Writings of Hahnemann,. At para 758 Hahnemann says:—
” The Only fact brought forward by Hufeland against my proofs that on board an English Ship in the open sea about the latitude of Riga that had no communication (?)with the town two sailors were suddenly seized with the cholera, proves nothing, for it is not known how near the ship came to the infected town of Riga so that the sphere of miasm exhalation from the town although diluted might yet have reached and infected the sailors who were still unused to the miasm (infecting agent) especially if they as is often the case were rendered more susceptible to it from intemperance.”
Here Hahnemann being cornered by Hufeland has been compelled to admit that sailors on board the ship near Riga were attacked with cholera not from infectious matter washed out from the town, a far-fetched idea, but was attacked with the miasm (infecting agent) of cholera being susceptible to it from the lowered vitality or vital weakness due to their intemperance, etc. Now everybody with common sense is bound to admit that sailors on board the ship in the Ganges were also affected with cholera, from the same cause of lowered vitality caused by intemperance, etc. The dismal unhealthy condition which helped the growth of cholera miasm (infecting agent) certainly lowered the vitality of sailors also on the Ganges. Of course, the bad odour, mouldy atmosphere, etc., added fuel to the fire in spreading the disease. So the meteoric or telluric influences causing sporadic or epidemic attacks of Acute diseases cannot be thrown overboard with bad logic or fallacious arguments. What Hahnemann had published in 1843 in Organon must have greater authenticity than what he gave out in his Lesser Writings.
The most striking example of infection and rapid spread of cholera as is well-known and as the journals inform us in this way:
“On board ships in the confined spaces filled with watery vapours the cholera miasm (infecting agent) finds a favourable element for its Multiplication, etc.”
If the sailors on the sea near Riga are liable to attack of cholera without any actual contact due to intemperance lowering the power of vital force to resist the disease miasm (infecting agent) the sailors on board the ship near the shore of the Ganges living under same unhealthy condition and character had their vitality lowered by intemperance. The same causes have been expressed in paragraph 73 of the Organon of epidemic diseases which prevail among thickly congregated masses of human beings. That calamities of war, inundations and famine also produce Acute diseases by lowering the strength of the vital force and thereby developing susceptibility to diseases when innumerable persons gather together and live under unhealthy conditions and privations, is readily understandable.
Morbific noxious agents do not possess the power of morbidly deranging the health of man unconditionally but we are made ill by them only when our organism is sufficiently susceptible to the attack of the morbific cause—(Organon aph 31).
The truth is unless the vital force is weak and susceptible, no acute or chronic miasm can ever affect the vital force.
To clarify further.
The second edition of Hahnemann’s “Chronic Diseases” was published by parts between 1835 and 1838. In that edition Hahnemann retained those passages in the body of his book, which refer to “the parasitic existence” of Chronic miasms (vide p. 9, para 2, Chronic Disease, Second Edition 1835) and not merely the very suggestive foot-notes In the sixth edition of Organon (the manuscript of which he was supposed to have completed in 1843 or in February1842, according to Haehl) in a foot-note to sec. 80 he refers the readers to the above-mentioned 2nd edition of “Chronic Disease”.
This shows that what he conceived of the nature of miasms was maintained by him till his death. During the Cholera Epidemic years of 1831 and 1832 Hahnemann was a resolute, clear thinking man of seventy-six. So his writings during this period came out of a mature brain and were not of “lesser” importance just because his scattered articles were collected and published in a book form by Dr. Dudgeon under the name “Lesser Writings”.
Dr. Dudgeon, for instance, charged Hahnemann with “frequent changes and repetition of the same thing, etc.” He certainly failed to reckon the necessities for introduction of a perplexing new thing in questions of life and death. Others with more profound knowledge found in Hahnemann’s huge writings which they mostly misunderstood unwarranted presumption, dogmatic assertion, obscure conception, undue generalisation, incomplete formulations and arguments in a vicious circle.
We point out that Hahnemann was a cautious scientist. How could he write otherwise in absence of positive visual observation? But his intuition and clear logic led him to hint about the invisible living beings which had something to do with incidence and spread of the Cholera disease in an epidemic form. Here a bit of medical history will clarify the situation. Long before Hahnemann’s birth the microscope was invented. The researches of Kircher, Malphigii, Leewenhoek, Hooker etc. (during 1626-1651) established the existence of microbes. But till Hahnemann’s time it was not definitely known whether pathogenic micro-organisms did exist or in the event of their existence whether they had any causal relation with the human organism in the production of diseases. The idea of infection by micro-organisms was also hinted at by G. Fracastoro when he published his book “De Contagione” in 1546 after the great plague epidemic in Europe. Hahnemann was a scholar and a voracious reader. He must have known about Fracastoro’s writings. During the Cholera epidemic the people and medical men were confronted with the same problems of checking the spread of the disease as during the previousplague period. Though Hahnemann, in the beginning was against all classification and nomenclature of diseases, the epidemic diseases where many persons were simultaneously attacked with a very similar type of disease set him thinking deeply and led him to conclude about the existence of “fixed miasms”—proofs of which are before our eyes in his writings of Sec. 73 (Organon, 6th Ed.). Hahnemann came to fix the nature of these “fixed miasms” as living micro-organisms. He wrote four letters concerning Cholera during June to October in 1831—where he not only gave clear hints about the nature of the causative agents, their mode of transmission, their curative treatment but also about the preventive steps to be taken to check the spread of that terrible disease. He wrote about sterilising the infected clothes with a heat of about 80°C; and certainly Hahnemann did not think of sterilising “immaterial, conceptual, spirit-like dynamic forces” with heat (Haehl’s Biography of Hahnemann).
The then medical profession including the great Dr. Hufeland stood for the atmospheric-telluric theory for the cholera epidemic and decried the preventive measures suggested byHahnemann. It was Hahnemann alone who stood for the microbic nature of infection which has been proved up to the hilt by systematic researches of Pasteur and Koch. That Hahnemannwas cornered by Hufeland in certain points proves nothing but the fact that the full and precise knowledge about transmission of infecting organisms was not known to the former. Hahnemann through sheer intuition and clear logic and correct observations anticipated their works.That Hahnemann meant by “miasm” what we mean by microbes is established beyond any doubt.
Negatively it is an action other than mechanical, physical or chemical. Positively it is a qualitative action. If the drugs can possess dynamic action, if the human organism can exert dynamic action, why not the living micro-organisms no matter whether they are visible or invisible ? Allopathy tries toexplain the modus operandi of the process of infection by the interaction of the chemistry of the body with the toxins secreted by the microbes. Hahnemann, on the other hand, claims that the chemico-physical processes just fall short of the total and complex living phenomena. As the drugs act on the living body through their essential qualities besides their physico chemical properties, so the living microbes can also act through their essential qualities (possessed by their life-force) to change the qualitative state of the organism. That’s all, where is the
difficulty to understand this simple thing? During Hahnemann’s time the word “miasm” was used loosely to express many things viz., morbific emanations from putrescent organic matter, animal or vegetable, and sometimes the effluvia arising from the bodies of those affected by certain diseases some of which were regarded as infectious and others not. Hahnemann fixed the connotation and denotation of this vaguely used word—miasm. From the Organon it can be clearly proved that Hahnemann included physical, psychic and these biological causes under the general name of morbific noxious agents. But all these agents act on the living organism through dynamic (i.e., qualitative) actions and interactions to alter the state of health of the organism. The inclusion of biological agents i.e., miasms (in old terminology) or microbes (in modern terminology) in the list of the morbific noxious agents i.e., “contagium Vivum” is the greatest contribution of Hahnemann in the field of medical thought. Dyna- mis means force and force is always invisible and imperceptible to our senses but their existence is inferred through their workings. The immaterial force must have a material vehicle. As substantial entity of a drug is the vehicle and carrier of its dynamic property, so the microbic body is the vehicle and carrier of their dynamic property. Where is the difficulty to understand this?
Hahnemann talked about “Dynamic influences of morbific agents”—and we tried to establish the identity of one group of the morbific agents. Bacteria etc., are living beings and not material substances. Bacteria belong to the group of fission-fungi of the plant kingdom. Hahnemann could not possibly know that but surmised that they must be living beings. He used the word “animated”.
Our human organism is an integrated indivisible whole of mentalised
living matter. It presents different aspects—material, vital and mental—which we take as distinctive entities for the facilitation of our comprehension (aph 15 of Organon 6th Ed.), but which are not so in factual reality. Here, again, we give credit to Hahnemann for anticipating the psycho-somatic conception of modern times. The truth is that the human organism is neither a machine nor a chemical factory nor a vital or psychic being, each to the exclusion of all others but it is a whole including all aspects and at the same time transcending them all. But towards the end of his life Hahnemann leaned more and more to the pure vitalistic school whereas the rapid advances in the knowledge of physical sciences tipped the balance on the side of the materialistic school. History reveals that he was more influenced by the theories of Stahl, Barthez and Hoffmann , who all belonged to the animistic and vitalistic school though
he tried to keep away from the irrational parts of their theories.
Comparative study of the successive editions of Organon shows that this allusion to “vital force” occurs first in the 5th Edition (1833) as “vital force” has often been substituted for the words “Organism”, body, state of health of the previous
edition. In the 6th edition he came to believe in the substantial entity of the vital principle. But this trenchant division into rival schools of thought has lost its significance as the latest development in the knowledge of physical sciences has served to dematerialise matter and found mass and energy to be convertible terms and as theoretical physics pushed to its extremes is on the point of losing itself in the realms of metaphysics. We feel a contradiction and conflict in Hahnemann’s ideas if we read sees. 11, 12, 13 with 15 of Organon, (6th edition). In sec. 15 we read the body-life as a complex indivisible whole, although “in thought our mind separates this unity into two distinct conceptions for the sake of easy comprehension. Here the factual reality is that the body and life are not two entirely separate substantial entities; whereas in aphs. 11, 12, 13 we are given to understand that it is only the vital principle which is primarily affected in disease and which leads to subsequent disorders in the material body. There is a mechanical view of cause and effect implicit behind this statement which Hahnemann shared with the sixteenth and the seventeenth century physicians that the living body did not work itself but it was tenanted by a principle that made it “live”, something immaterial that used the body as a craftsman uses a tool. But if life and body are inseparable and one cannot exist without the other what happens when a man dies ? Surely something which kept the organism alive is missing and the vitalistic school pounced upon this phenomena and asserted the independent existence of the life-principle.
Neither the science nor the philosophy of the West could explain this apparently anomalous phenomenon. For an explanation we have to delve deep into the
realm of metaphysics which is just the thing Hahnemann wanted us to avoid. That is why in a footnote to aph. 31 he wrote that he did not wish to give a hyper-physical (i.e., metaphysical) explanation of the internal nature of the disease or the essential nature of life-force in healthy or unhealthy condition. To him disease is just a state of alteration in health i.e., a qualitative change comprising sensational and functional changes which are perceptible to our senses. The human organism has a material part (body) which is also liable to change but it is the qualitative change which the patient feels and suffers therefrom. But here Hahnemann apparently forgets his body-life integration and like a pure vitalist asserts that this qualitative change is absolutely independent of physico-chemical alterations of the physical body.
This statement has served to make the confusion worse.. The real truth is that though life can never be adequately explained through physico chemical processes it is as futile and untrue to say that life does not consist of chemico-physical processes as to say that poetry does not consist of words. In our Surface-existence mind, life and body are integrated into an indivisible whole. To our senses are perceptible the phenomena of physical mind and physical life which do not exist apart from the material body. But the true mind and true life can exist apart from the body which go away in the event of death. ‘All diseases with which we medical men are concerned belong to our physical nature, whether in the gross physical or vital physical or the mental-physical level. We do not treat mind and life as such but as a mentalised living body. For in this world of matter everything is manifested through it. We do not see Life or mind existing by itself but always as a ‘bodied’ life and embodied mind. How the mind or life has come to be embodied is a metaphysical problem beyond our ordinary mental conception. Hahnemann referred to this fact in his foot-note No. 8 to sec. 12 of Organon, 6th Edition.
Hahnemann did not, could not, and wanted not to delve into these metaphysical questions. He stuck to the plane of phenomena on which he could tread with surer steps and he was satisfied to deduce only those conceptions which were warranted from his observations. Still he was a child of his times and leaned to vitalistic school in his later years. That is why Hughes regarded Hahnemann’s vital theory as a physiological hypothesis.
In aph 31 of Organon 6th Edition, Hahnemann writes that the action of drugs on the living organism is almost unconditional whereas the miasmatic infection is very much conditional, the susceptibility of the organism being a prior condition. As it takes two hands to produce a clap so we require the living body’s susceptibility on the one hand and the miasm, on the other for eventual pro- duction of disease. Leaving the miasm or microbe out of consideration and talking about the production of diseases only with the living body’s susceptibility is one-sided and incomplete. This distorted view axes out the Hahnemannian Homoeopathy. Hahnemann perfectly anticipated that the miasms (microbes) were not the absolute cause but only a conditioned cause in the production of diseases.
Bacteriology has solved the problem to a great extent of prevention of acute diseases, whether sporadic or epidemic; and Bacteriology has rounded off the theory of chronic diseases as propounded by Hahnemann. Whatever may be Hahnemann’s conception of the nature of the morbific agents his approach to the therapeutic problem is different from that of the Allopathic School.
Truth never cramps anyone’s mind; reception of truth leads to further mental expansion. The Organon is a critique of medical philosophy for all times.
A proper and accurate study of Hahnemann’s writing will never lead to difficulty but on the other hand will serve to clear away many misconceptions that have accumulated round the Homoeopathic philosophy.
- Samuel Hahnemann
- Richard Haehl
- Clements Boenninghausen