A discussion of the philosophical roots of homeopathy which Dr. Samuel Hahnemann expressed through various aphorisms in his “Organon of the Medical Art”.
Hahnemann and Homeopathy
Homeopathy is a 200 year old system of healing developed by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Although the concept of “like curing like” had been recognized for thousands of years, Hahnemann was the first to expand on this principle as he developed a comprehensive philosophy of health and disease. Hahnemann continued to refine and perfect his approach over a number of decades, and his “Organon of the Medical Art” was revised five times during the course of his lifetime.
Hahnemann’s first aphorism is as follows:
“The physician’s highest and only calling is to make the sick healthy, to cure, as it is called.” This aphorism, while seemingly uncontroversial, is actually a profound statement which exhorts physiciansto clarify personal motivations as they work to facilitate healing.
Hahnemann then defines true health and what it offers the individual:
“In the healthy human state, the spirit-like life force that enlivens the material organism, governs without restriction and keeps all parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, and vital operation, as regards both feelings and functions, so that our indwelling, rational spirit can freely avail itself of this living,
healthy instrument for the higher purposes of our existence.”
Fundamental to homeopathic philosophy is the idea that the person’s body, mind, and emotions work as
an integrated whole. In a state of health the person is able to adapt to and rebound from intrinsic or extrinsic stresses of everyday life. However, in situations where stressors are too strong or too prolonged, the person becomes ‘stuck’ in an adaptive response and is no longer able to return to a state of relative health and balance. The adaptive response, while perhaps useful in the short-term for dealing with stress, ultimately manifests itself in physical, mental, and emotional ‘dis-ease’.
The signs and symptoms of physical disease are simply the most tangible indications of how the ‘whole person’ has become imbalanced. The full extent of disease is seen on mental and emotional levels as well. The adaptive response, recognized and defined as disease, is considered to be the ‘best effort’ of the whole person to protect against even further limitation. For example, muscle tension is a bothersome symptom for many people, but generally does not restrict one from getting through the day. Alternately, anxiety is considered a higher level of limitation which can limit a person from activities they might otherwise want to pursue.
Homeopaths consider a ‘continuum’ of health and disease in which a person can move towards greater freedom or greater limitation. This concept suggests a hierarchy of health and disease–during times of disease a person’s life may be more or less limited on physical, mental, and emotional levels. Therefore simply eliminating physical symptoms does not mean one has rid oneself of the greater imbalance or susceptibility to disease. One must also see that the person is moving in a direction of greater freedom.
In conventional medicine a physician/provider works to discern those common symptoms which lead to a particular diagnostic category (and a particular group of medicines used to treat such conditions). In contrast, a homeopath works to discern what is unique about an individual’s symptoms in order to match a specific corresponding remedy. Because each person responds to the events and challenges of life in a unique way, the homeopath carefully listens to each person to learn what is ‘characteristic’ about them and their particular complex of symptoms. Differing patterns of symptoms, reflecting the unique response of each individual to stressors, will require respectively different homeopathic remedies for treatment.
“By adding the patient’s mental and emotional state (accurately observed by the patient’s relations and by the physician himself) to the patient’s somatic symptoms, a complete image of the disease is put together. In order to homeopathically cure the malady, a medicine must be sought which is capable of arousing aptly similar symptoms, and especially, the similar mental derangement.”
There are over 2,000 homeopathic medicines made from substances in the plant, animal, and mineral kingdoms. Each of these substances possesses its own unique potential for producing particular symptoms in healthy individuals, and for curing those same symptoms in a sick person. The expectation is that with the stimulus of a correctly chosen remedy, the system’s ‘best effort’ is matched and strengthened so completion of healing will occur.
Homeopathic remedies offer a safe, effective, and non-toxic approach to the treatment of many first-aid, acute, and chronic medical conditions. Their popularity in the U.S. has continued to increase over the past 10-20 years. It is generally easy to select a homeopathic remedy for first aid conditions, and most acute, self-limited conditions respond quickly to homeopathy as well. Long-standing conditions such as allergies, asthma, chronic headaches, eczema, menstrual complaints, attention-deficit disorder, and
mental/emotional problems are best treated by consulting a well-trained classical homeopath, as this will require an extensive interview and careful follow-up care. Homeopaths are hopeful they’ll work in increasing cooperation with conventional medical practitioners so the greatest strengths of each system can be realized.