Popular Science Monthly/Volume 23/October 1883/Homoeopathy as a Science
MANY of the most important discoveries of the psychologists were rejected by the physiologists, because they could not be proved by their law—and conversely with the psychologists. These contending forces have been brought into lasting alliance by Professor Calderwood. It is believed that as close a relation can be established between Nature's laws and those of homœopathy.
Vaccination, as the sole and sure preventive of small-pox, is one of the great, dominant, fixed facts of the old school. Here is the open and avowed application of tbe law of cure by similars, similia similibus curantur. If it be a law of cure in one case, by what logical process can it be demonstrated to fail in all others? Those most conversant with Nature's laws assert, and truly, that she makes no exceptions: the law of gravity; that water seeks its own level; that the pressure of water is equal in all directions; that sound ascends; that heat expands. It was this universality of the law of Nature which enabled the great naturalist, Cuvier, to construct a whole skeleton from two or three bones. So, with equal certainty, if necessary, could the skeleton of the homœopathic law be evolved from this single bone of its structure—vaccination. Starting from different stand-points, the old and new schools have progressed in the same direction, to diminished doses, both in size and repetition. This is concededly due in the old school to the influence of homœopathy, in the new it is the growth of its own experience.
Messrs. Bell and Laird, in their admirable monograph on diarrhœa, say: "There is indeed a somewhat prevalent opinion that the strength of the dose makes up for want of due care or knowledge in selection. This may be stated in mathematical terms, as follows: If the thirtieth potency of arsenic is equal to a complete knowledge of the drug, one fifth of a grain of arsenious acid is equal to complete ignorance of it. Stated in this, its true form, we grant it."
Homœopathy, as a science, is the law of the vital force; the body is but the mechanism upon which it operates. The dissecting-knife has laid bare to the astonished gaze of the student a perfect organism, while the operating-table presents the companion picture of an organism in total ruins dominated by the vital principle. What, then, is disease—typhoid, pneumonia, scarlet fever? No; disease is the impairment of the equalization of the vital force, and it finds expression where the organism is weakest.
What is cure—to take physic for typhoid or scarlet fever? No; to cure is to locate the center of the disturbance, the diseased nerve cell, and restore the equilibrium.
How do you do this? In spite of its many ramifying influences, the nerve-cell preserves, to the close and exact student, its individuality, often veiled under the apparently familiar features of others, but still recognizable by the differentiating mind. It is this similar of state and remedy which the homœopathic physician, who knows and applies the law, seeks in the patient and in the materia medica; when found, the means of restoring the equalization of the vital current is found with it.
As there is but one nerve-center of a disease, so is there but one remedy.
The system has always a tendency to resist, by reaction, the morbific cause which disturbs it. The similar stimulates reaction. When you put your hot hand into hot water, and take it out and wipe it dry, by the law of reaction it becomes cool. So, if to the frost-bitten ear or hand you apply snow or ice, by the law of reaction the frozen part burns under its stimulus. The power of resistance, which is reaction, is the strength of the constitution, or is the constitution itself. It is this law of reaction under which homœopathy works, by its similars stimulating the additional resistance necessary to aid in nature's cure.
If you go out into excessive cold, and the power of resistance is equal to the demand, you turn red; if not, and this power is overwhelmed, you turn white. And the same difference is markedly observable among those who take sea-baths. By the law of reaction they vary in color from that of a boiled lobster to the livid hue of death, graduated and shaded off by the loss of the power of resistance. All cures are sought by homœopathy under this law, and depend for their success upon this power of resistance, and it is of vital importance that this power be not diminished, for without it there can be no cure. Outside of medicine this law of reaction in the system is recognized as an accepted fact. It is the law of cure, and the study of this law is a science, and that science is homœopathy.
The reason why scarlet fever, measles, chicken-pox, and small-pox do not, as a general rule, recur in the system is that, at the first attack, the system has reacted so strongly against these diseases as to be proof against a second attack. The reaction has so strengthened the system to resist the particular form of morbific influence that it will not readily yield to it again.
"Homœopathy is another form of quackery," says a writer in the June number of "The Popular Science Monthly." It might be objected to his method of treating the subject that no a priori argument can suffice in the forum of reason where practical tests and material results may be had, by any one so in love with the truth as to seek it, by going frankly to eminent homœopathic physicians and obtaining permission to study their treatment in a given number of cases, and, with a mind disabused of prejudice, carefully examining and noting each case and giving the results of such observations. There would then, at least, be some facts which would give currency to the alloy of mere argument.
There is certainly no more reason, viewed from a logical standpoint, why the inducing of symptoms or sufferings different from those produced by disease should prove more efficacious in cure than a remedy which produces similar symptoms. It may be so; but the mere assertion does not establish it. The question is one of fact; it does not belong to the domain of reason. However absurd the theory of one school may appear to a disciple of the other, the question remains, Which system cures?
It is asserted that infinitesimal doses, a decillionth part of a grain, can not cure. This statement is based upon the assumption that a dozen, or twenty, or more grains, given by the allopathic school in single or quickly repeated doses, are necessary to effect a cure, and that so given they do cure, which is to assert that allopathy is the only true standard and measure of cure, and that any material deviation therefrom is error. But, if the premise be denied, the conclusion fails.
Of the uncertainty of cure by allopathic remedies, let one of the most eminent of that school speak—that man of attainments and ability, Sir John Forbes. In his work entitled "Nature and Art in Disease," a solemn legacy to his younger brethren, he says:
"And yet what is the character of the results obtained under this system" (homœopathic) "of imaginary medication in the cure of diseases? When fairly weighed do not these results exhibit, if not quite as large a proportion of cures as ordinary medicine, still so large a proportion as to demonstrate at once the feebleness of what we regard as the best form of art and the immense strength of Nature in the same office. . . .
"The favorable results obtained by the homœopaths—or, to speak more accurately, the wonderful powers possessed by the natural restorative agencies of the living body—demonstrated under their imaginary treatment, have led to several other practical results of value to the practitioners of ordinary medicine. Besides leading their minds to the most important of all medical studies, that of the natural history of diseases, it has tended directly to improve their practice by augmenting their confidence in Nature's powers, and proportionately diminishing their belief in the universal necessity of art, thus checking that unnecessary interference with the natural processes by the employment of heroic means, always so prevalent and so injurious. It has been the means of lessening in a considerable degree the monstrous poly-pharmacy which has always been the disgrace of our art, by at once diminishing the frequency of administration of drugs and lessening their dose. . . .
"In a word, almost every drug in our overflowing materia medica, whether inert or active, has been on one ground or another copiously prescribed in every variety of disease under the supposed sanction of this pseudo-specific on empirical indication. Nor let it be supposed that this empirical practice is one of the past day only. It is at this very time in as great vogue as ever, although its employment may be often veiled under the technicalities of newer science.
"Nor is it confined to the ignorant or inexperienced among us, but adopted and followed by men of the greatest abilities and greatest eminence in the profession. . . .
"As in religion and politics, and in those departments of knowledge which are not of a positive or demonstrable kind, early and long continued education, comprising not merely direct instruction, properly so called, but the influence of habitual example, deference to seniority and superiority, unconscious imitation, etc., induce conventional belief of the strongest kind—strong as demonstrated truth itself—and create a sort of wizard circle of power, beyond which the mind of the disciple, however bold, scarcely ever dares to wander. So in medicine, the great majority of practitioners retain the same doctrines and pursue the same practice which they learned in the schools, or, if changing both doctrine and practice, as time and fashion dictate, hold fast, at least, the great fundamental doctrine impressed upon the very core of their professional hearts—viz., that the interference of Art is essential in all cases, and therefore never to be foregone. It need not, therefore, surprise us that it is only a very small minority of medical practitioners who, in ordinary circumstances, can see in disease the true workings of Nature through the artificial veil which conventionalism and professional superstition have thrown over them. . . .
"The conviction of the great autocracy of Nature, in the cure of diseases derived from this source, is much more widely spread among the senior members of the profession than is at all believed by the great body of practitioners. . . . The number of cases that recover and would have died had Art not interfered is extremely small."
These trenchant words from Sir John Forbes carry great weight as a commanding critic in his own profession. Had his strictures upon his brethren and their practices come from an alien pen, they would undoubtedly have been attributed by the allopathic school to malevolence and ignorance; and, doubtless, Sir John Forbes will not escape the same fate, because, if his statements are true, those of whom they are spoken are incapable of perceiving or admitting their truth.
But, conceding the allopathic to be a correct or a possible system of cure, it by no means follows that because it requires large doses to create different symptoms or sufferings, it likewise requires doses of equal quantity to create similar symptoms to those to which the system is already so greatly predisposed.
The atomic dose will, however, bear a much closer and more severe test than has been applied to it. It is an approved and well-known fact that a person of iron will will battle long and successfully with a disease which baffles the aid of the most skillful physician, and it is said that his will sustains him. By that is not meant that he leans upon his will as upon a staff, nor that the immaterial, the will, comes in actual contact with the material, the disease; but that the will, acting through the brain, rouses up in the system material resistance to the disease, and effects a cure or prolongs the fight. How much brain would one have to eat in order to obtain a decillionth part of a grain of the will-power which operated in the system in effecting a cure or battling with the disease? The will operating through the brain moves one joint of the little finger, then two, then three, and so on until it moves by one operation of the will the whole fourteen joints of the five fingers, which act in unison at one motion. Yet it is clear that each additional joint moved resulted from the impression made upon a larger area of the nerve-centers in the brain. Assuming for the sake of argument that the correct method of cure is to arouse in the system a direct reaction against disease, and that this can only be accomplished through the brain, it follows that the remedy, which in form is best adapted to act upon the brain, is the best so far as mere form is concerned; and if the immaterial, the will, can produce such positive physical results, the quantity of the medicine operating upon the brain is not required by any law of physics (or physiology) to be many times greater than the nerve-cell, which is the body to be operated upon; especially must this be true when the object sought is not to overwhelm the nerve-center, but simply to stimulate it to increased action.
Professor Calderwood, in his "Relations of Mind and Brain," says of the nerve-cells in the brain: "These are so numerous as to baffle calculation. From the number seen within a small section under the microscope, it is reckoned that there must be many thousands of them in the human brain." Of the nerve-fibers he says: "In the brain itself they are sometimes as minute as a twelve-thousandth part of an inch," and that the smallest of the nerve-fibers in the eye are from 3000 to 50000 part of an inch in diameter. As an adaptation of means to end, a decillionth part of a grain, broken up into many still more minute particles, does not appear to be so much out of proportion to the nerve-cell or to the ducts, the nerve-fibers, as the two, four, six, or more grains given by the allopaths.
The stench contained in a few drops distilled by a skunk attains a potential existence in the air for not less than five hundred feet in every direction. Taking one thousand feet cubed as a minimum, we have one billion cubic feet of air saturated with the smell. Not only is this space filled once, but it is kept filled for an hour, radiating out indefinitely into space; from which it is clear, according to our critic, that a passer-by, an hour afterward, deceives himself by a supposititious shock to the sense of smell caused by the decillionth part of the drop of skunk-odor. But the involuntary clapping of the hand to the nose affords conclusive proof that both the sensor and motor nerves have been sensibly affected.
That in a chemical laboratory there is no appliance so sensitive as a diseased nerve, does not argue the inefficacy of the atomic dose, but proves the want of adaptation of the chemical apparatus to deal with the subject.
Hahnemann's method of trituration is urged as an argument against his principles, without showing that it has anything to do with the principles, or that it fails to accomplish the object sought. The work is now done with great exactness by machinery.
It is said that since the discovery of the Sarcoptis hominis, or itch insect, the dogma about psora being such a powerful factor in the causation of diseases has fallen to the ground; that is to say, that those who supported this theory have been, by this discovery, forced to abandon it. Why? Evidently because the theory is inconsistent with the itch-insect. But who proves it? Is the disease the cause of the insect, or the insect the cause of the disease? Do maggots breed carrion, or carrion maggots? Was Hamlet trying to shift the responsibility of Polonius's death from himself to the worms?
"Now, Hamlet, where's Polonius?"
"At supper! Where?"
"Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms are e'en at him."
That is, the worms killed Polonius.
But it is clear that Hamlet was not so mad as that, for he said, "For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god-kissing carrion—"
So will psora breed the Sarcoptis hominis, but so will not the insect breed the itch. Being but the effect, it can not produce the cause. It is not its own causa causans.
Homœopathy has suffered, and is likely to suffer, more from its friends than from its enemies.
Persons who adopt it as an easy means of gaining a livelihood are apt to fail, and fall back upon the allopathic school, with its nosology and procrustean prescriptions. Few are those in any calling who have either the frankness to confess or ability to perceive the cause of failure to be from within. The convenience of a name for every disease is apparent. It relieves from further investigation. How little Dr. Shepherd knows of the laws of homœopathy may be demonstrated by a single sentence. He says: "Hahnemann paid no attention to pathology or cause of disease, but only sought for symptoms. For instance, in a case of dropsy, the cause, whether it be from the heart, the kidneys, or the liver, is not inquired into, but the symptom dropsy is treated."
It is clear that the writer here uses the term "cause of disease" as synonymous with the part affected, which is to confound cause and effect, and he substitutes his own nosology "dropsy" for the group of symptoms which indicate, not dropsy, but the remedy to be selected. The fact that the heart or kidneys or the liver is affected does not indicate or prove that the one affected is the cause of disease. It proves that the disease has affected that part, and it follows by an inexorable law that the part affected can only be cured by removing the cause. It is this inversion of cause and effect, of disease and its point of attack or expression, this ignorance of Nature's laws, which induces the allopath to attempt to cut out the core of what he calls cancer; thus trimming the branches of this mighty disease, to strengthen it at the roots, seated deep down in the system. It is like cutting down a locust, and producing a forest from the roots. How can a school, which has been a thousand years dissecting dead bodies to discover the vital principle, hope to free itself from its dogmas? As well might it be expected to discover the electric fluid by dissecting a yard of telegraph wire. Professor Calderwood, who is not a homœopathist, demonstrates, as a scientist, from the discoveries of the foremost physiologists and psychologists, that, by tracing up all of the group of symptoms along the nerve-fibers, we will reach a common nerve-center in the brain, differing in area and location with differing groups of symptoms. This nerve-center is operated upon by certain sensor nerves. The whole object of the homœopathic physician, who is true to the law, is to trace these symptoms to a common nerve-center, and then to select a remedy which, acting upon that nerve-center, will, on the line by which Nature cures, stimulate a reaction, and thus restore the equilibrium, which is perfect health.
The law of Nature's cure is, by rousing up reaction against disease, to restore the disturbed forces to their exact counterpoise, where action and reaction are equal. The allopathic method of creating a new disease to cure the old one is a violation of this law, and at the very outset the regular school must begin by an apology or an excuse, either that Nature has denied to men the means of executing her laws, or that man is ignorant of the means she has placed at his disposal.
As an abstract question, preference must be given to that method of cure which creates the least disturbance in the system, and, as a consequence, leaves it less liable to relapse or a second attack; which does not by antagonizing the vital forces reduce or destroy its economies; which does not work by rule of three; as the remedy is to the disease, so is the constitution to the condition of the patient when the disease shall have left it. Convalescence in homœopathy commences when the correct remedy begins to act. In allopathy, when the remedy and disease have left the patient prostrate, then Nature takes the matter in hand. It is a common error with the ignorant traducers of homœopathy that the higher the potencies or its remedies the weaker they become, as one weakens wine by adding water. It is sufficient answer to quote the following high authority, who discloses the true purpose and effect:
"If it be conceded that the vital principle is identical with electricity, the action of dynamized medicaments becomes easy of comprehension; for in these preparations we have material substances subdivided to a degree that enables them to penetrate the most delicate tissues of the body."—(Dr. Currie's preface to Jahr's "Homœopathic Manual.")
The writer's assertion, that "homœopathy, being a system utterly void of any scientific foundation, is now dying a natural death," receives, to say the least, doubtful support from the animated debate which has been progressing so vigorously in the New York County Medical Society of the regular school in reference to consultation with homœopaths, where the exclusionists accused the more liberal brothers of having an itching palm for the fat fees which now find their way, without chance of tax, to the pockets of the homœopathic physicians, while the argument by the liberal members is that as now homœopathy has progressed and its disciples have a thorough medical education, there is no longer any reason why they should be treated as quacks and impostors. So far as noted, the alleged moribund condition of homœopathy had escaped their observation.
What shall be said of the pretensions to be enrolled with the sciences of that school which has progressed from one stage of universal disease or cause and remedy to another—typhoid, malaria, miasm germ, bleeding, calomel, morphine, quinine—by discarding nearly all that its pioneers held most dear; which, before it can build, must tear down; which retreats from the necessary labor of that scientific investigation which by great diligence and skill eliminates every remedy but one as useless or hurtful, to take refuge in a nauseous mixture of several powerful drugs, administered upon the hit or miss blunderbuss principle—those drugs which are neither allopathic nor homœopathic to the disease, doing more potent injury than the one (which by hap-hazard has some relation) can do good, as Sir John Forbes says, "the monstrous poly-pharmacy which has always been the disgrace of our" (the allopathic) "art"?
It may well be doubted whether homœopathy will ever have enrolled under its banners the same number of practitioners as the regular school. The nearer we approach to an exact science, the fewer are its votaries. The conditions admit fewer. In it there are no formulated diseases nor formulas for prescriptions. It is differentiation as opposed to classification or generalization. The effect, expression, or impression of disease, is not mistaken for disease as a cause. Subject one hundred persons of both sexes and various ages to a cold rain and then to a burning sun, and you will have as many different states as persons. The disturbance of the vital force has found expression in a hundred different forms. It is in the province of the homoeopathic physician to locate the center of disturbance, and then to select as the remedy, by a process of elision from the many similars in the materia medica, the one which most nearly coincides with the expression of the disease or symptoms. When this process sometimes involves the most experienced and skillful physician in a profound study of one, two, and three hours and of re-examination as the expression changes, requiring due weight to be given to each symptom, both relatively and positively, and then to assume the grave responsibility of administering a single remedy and awaiting the result, it will be readily seen that those who are faithful to the law, and able to administer it, will be few.
By operation of the will a strong man liberates from a nerve-center of his brain nerve-energy which, acting along the motor nerves, liberates in its turn sufficient muscular energy to fell an ox. Here the immaterial, the will, has produced a most powerful material result. Suppose for a moment that the nerve-energy had been misdirected, as in case of shock from mental causes, and had all been expended within the man, who would answer for the result?
In the heroic struggle which Nature, unaided, makes against disease, the assistance from Art necessary to speed the cure may in a great majority of cases be set down in decimals, as follows:
and it will be pretty safe to say that, whenever the proportion is against Nature, there will be no cure.
It is the 1000 which Art is called upon to throw into the scales and make them equal. If she adds more, she destroys the balance.
The atomic dose is adjusted to restore the balance. It is the infinitesimal fraction Nature needs to make the unit health.
If you accept the germ-theory of disease, and attribute to the atomic germs, floating impalpable in the air, or carried long distances through the mails on highly calendered writing-paper, from mere contact with the hands of diseased persons, the power of communicating disease and completely overwhelming the vital power, causing death, you can not logically deny to the atomic dose all aid to the vital power in resisting and defeating the attack of the atomic germ of disease simply because the dose is atomic. Nature, unaided, in a vast number of cases, successfully resists those diseases which are attributable, by those who maintain the germ-theory in disease, to atomic germs. The number of disease-germs does not matter, as is evidenced by the communication of disease by letter where the number must necessarily be limited. The atomic dose is but a stimulus to Nature. Nature cures, aided or unaided. The atomic dose but excites in a greater degree those powers of reaction and resistance of Nature already set in motion by disease—which is a disturbing cause. Nature always seeks to restore the equilibrium of her forces.