It is now over 200 years since Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (17551843) gave up the practice of allopathic medicine and began, in the nature of all genius, the long, arduous and often lonely search for a better way to restore the sick to health, which is commonly termed homeopathy, although his system of remediation, which he termed Heilkunst (the art, literally, of making people whole), extends beyond the proper meaning of this term.
In these intervening years, as during much of his life, there has been little understanding of the complete aspects of this new system of medicine, and, as a result, the secondary homeopathic literature, as well as the various translations of his works consist of confusion rather than clarity, misconceptions rather than understanding and in some cases, deception rather than perception of the truth of what is written in the legacy bequeathed to mankind by Dr. Hahnemann.
Because of the failure of generations of followers to fully understand the nature of genius as embedded in Hahnemann’s writings, in particular, the Organon der Heilkunst (Organon of the Art of Remediation), which is linked to numerous of his other works, such as Chronic Diseases and occasional articles (collected under the misleading title, Lesser Writings), students and practitioners alike of his system remain confused about basic concepts critical to the proper and effective application of therapeutic medicine according to Hahnemann’s insights.
The purpose of this book is to provide a systematic analysis of Hahnemann’s occasional writings leading up to the Organon using the collection of articles edited and published as The Lesser Writings. A proper knowledge and appreciation of these writings is necessary to a genuine practitioner of Hahnemann’s remedial art. The analysis is based on new insights revealed by a new inter-linear translation of the extended Organon (that is, including its full references) by Steven Decker.
The reader is also referred to the public material available on the Internet through the website, .
Part 1: Disenchantment and Discovery
Our story begins with Hahnemann’s growing disenchantment with the practice of medicine as he had been taught at medical school. He could no longer stand idly by and watch the practices of his day do more harm to his patients than apparent good. His strong sense of justice and ethics led him as early as 1787 to criticize his colleagues in rather harsh language.
A number of causes, which I will not recount here, have for several centuries reduced the dignity of that God-like science, practical medicine, to a wretched breadwinning, a glossing over of symptoms, a degrading commerce in prescriptions – God help us! – to a trade that mixes the disciples of Hippocrates with the riffraff and medical rogues, in such a way that one is indistinguishable from the other.
How rarely does an honest man, occasionally, succeed in raising himself, by exceptional knowledge and talents, above this swarm of quacks… (Haehl, Vol. I, p. 33)
This deep and abiding sense of honesty and integrity would also eventually lead him into fierce conflict with the apothecaries (pharmacists). Hahnemann was as heavily critical of the all too common practice of adulteration of medicines for greater profit as he was of the tendency of doctors to rush as many patients through their offices as possible for the same motive.
Finally, shortly after moving to Leipzig in September 1789, Hahnemann came to the decision to cease the practice of medicine as his conscience would no longer allow it. Because of his scruples, his allopathic practice had never been particularly large, but this was, nonetheless, a difficult decision for a young doctor with a growing family to feed. As a result, he felt obliged to move to a small village outside Leipzig for a year to save expenses and to provide his children with a healthier environment.
What I now earn – little as it is – more than suffices here. I cannot reckon much on income from practice. This I know from fourteen years’ experience, and my sensitive temperament forbids me to put myself forward; I am too conscientious to prolong illness, or make it appear more dangerous and important than it really is. Pity, or love of peace, make me reticent in my claims – I am therefore constantly the loser, and I can only look upon my practice as food for the heart. (Haehl, Vol. I, p. 23)
Hahnemann was now relying solely on his translations and medical and scientific writings to feed his family of three children. However, he decided eventually to move back to Leipzig in order to further his work once his children’s health had improved. It was here that he wrote his first major work on a new approach to medicine, Friend of Health, which deals in detail with the matter of diet and lifestyle (what we can subsume under the term therapeutic regimen and is based on the use of the natural law of opposites).
He also continued to attack his colleagues for their continued use of injurious methods. We can see from a comment that he made in a translation of a medical book in 1790, that he had begun to discern that there was a problem with the material conception of disease, which attempted to scour out the patient, even if this was by seemingly moderate means. Later, this material conception would lead to Pasteur’s germ theory, in contrast to Hahnemann’s more dynamic conception (involving the supersensible Wesen of the infectious microbe). We can see, as well, that Hahnemann must have had some foreshadowing of the one-sided view of the human being inherent in the idea of simply removing offending disease matter (that is, that this was an attempt to imitate nature’s own crude efforts to remove disease matter, but an effort that was never successful in removing disease, as is shown in chronic disease – leading later to his conception of the dual nature of the Living Power that animates us.
Blood-letting, fever remedies, tepid baths, lowering drinks, weakening diet, blood cleansing and everlasting aperients and clysters form the circle in which the ordinary German physician turns round unceasingly.
Disenchantment and Discovery
One can only imagine the inner conviction required to abandon the safe confines of authority and to seek, virtually alone and unaided, a better manner of helping suffering humanity, this despite the heavy responsibility of providing for a growing family. Only a deep sense of compassion and commitment to the truth could have induced such behavior and kept him faithful to his decision despite ever-present financial constraints and the enmity of his colleagues. This enmity increased all the more as Hahnemann intensified his criticisms of the excesses and fundamental theoretical bankruptcy of the existing system of medicine, backed by centuries of authority. Hahnemann could call on no authority other than his own conscience and the knowledge obtained from careful observation of nature coupled with the precise application of his reason to the results of his research.
The power of this Old School thinking, as Hahnemann labeled it, is identified in an article he wrote in 1797. The mode of thinking that is derived from authority and not from nature herself, he labeled a disease, and one that is extremely tenacious and dangerous to health (a foreshadowing of his later identification of moral diseases, namely those derived from ignorance and superstition).
Why should we complain that our science is obscure and intricate, when we ourselves are the producers of this obscurity and intricacy? Formerly I was infected with this fever; the schools had infected me. The virus clung more obstinately to me before it came to a critical expulsion, then ever did the virus of any other mental disease. (Lesser Writings, p. 320)
Did I not know that around me there are some of the worthiest men, who in simple earnestness are striving after the noblest of aims, and who by a similar method of treatment have corroborated my maxims, assuredly I had not dared to confess this heresy. Had I been in Galileo’s place, who can tell but that I might have abjured the idea of the earth revolving round the sun! (Lesser Writings, p. 322)
An example of his fearless attack against that which he perceived as wrong was Hahnemann’s acerbic comments on a bulletin issued after the death of Kaiser Leopold II of Austria. This monarch had come to the throne in 1790 and his wisdom in averting war with France gained him the admiration of many, including Hahnemann, who saw war as a grave threat to science and health. When the Kaiser died suddenly in 1792, suspicions were aroused. In order to allay these, the Kaiser’s personal physician issued a bulletin. Hahnemann replied in public under his own name to the official explanation that effectively “everything had been done that could have been done.”
The bulletins state:
‘On the morning of February 28th, his doctor, Lagusius, found a severe fever and a distended abdomen’ – he tried to fight the condition by venesection [blood-letting], and as this failed to give relief, he repeated the process three times more, without any better result. We ask, from a scientific point of view, according to what principles has anyone the right to order a second venesection when the first has failed to bring relief? As for a third, Heaven help us!; but to draw blood a fourth time when the previous three attempts failed to alleviate! To abstract the fluid of life four times in twenty-four hours from a man, who has lost flesh from mental overwork combined with a long continued diarrhoea, without procuring any relief for him! Science pales before this!
‘…but the following night was an extremely restless one, and reduced the strength of the monarch very much’ (think of it! the night, and not the four times repeated venesection, reduced his strength so much and Dr. Lagusius could see so clearly â€”) ‘so that on March 1st he began to vomit with terrible convulsions, and to return all that he took’ (and yet his physicians left him! so that no one was present at this death, and one of them even declared him out of danger when they left him). ‘At 4.30 p.m. he passed away while vomiting, in the presence of the Empress.’ [Hahnemann here challenged the doctors to justify themselves publicly](Haehl, Vol. I, p. 35-36)
Despite Hahnemann’s attacks, at this point in his career he still saw some value in blood-letting and some other of the old practices in certain cases. It was not until around 1800-1803 that he came to the firm conclusion that this procedure, as with others, was involved in simply seeking to remove disease matter (materia pecans) and did not lead to cure. At this point, he ceased completely their use and advocation. As he told his students in 1833:
For forty years now I have not drawn a single drop of blood, opened one seton, used pain-producing processes, or applied vesicatories. I have never employed aquapuncture or cautery, weakened patients with hot baths, abstractedfrom them their vital humours by sudorifics, or scoured them out with emetics and laxatives. (Haehl, Vol. I, p. 304)
What seems to have caused this finality in his approach was his growing discernment of the dynamic nature of human life and the role of blood as a carrier of this dynamis at the physical level. Since the traditional medical approach was convinced that disease was material in origin, then the blood and lymph (according to the old humoral theory) were the locus of disease and any alteration of these fluids needed to be removed. Crude postmortems that found black blood in the heart or blood where it should not be, simply confirmed this view. In this light, venesection, phlebotomy or blood-letting as it was commonly called, became the established medical procedure to the point that to neglect its use in treatment was tantamount to mal-practice. On such false bases is medicine often founded and harmful procedures continued despite evidence of harm. With such shibboleths doctors are able to wash their hands of death with the plaintive cry that “everything possible was done to save the patient.”
Thus it becomes understandable that for centuries phlebotomy had been regarded as the chief instrument in rational treatment of the sick and had become as it were the main pillar of any medical treatment. To heal without the aid of blood-letting seemed to be impossible, and to attempt to heal whilst purposely omitting phlebotomy was a punishable offence, a crime amounting almost to murder. (Haehl,Vol. I, p. 303)
We can see here that the particular idea of disease very much dictates treatment even in the face of the evident failures. What Hahnemann first objected to was the evident excess of use, much as reform minded and caring doctors today tend to criticize excesses in the use of antibiotics or chemotherapy. However, these efforts do not change the system nor the critic’s adherence to them as “necessary,” albeit in a more moderate way. What is required for radical reform (change at the root) is a change in the organizing idea, and this is what happened to Hahnemann next.
In 1796, he gives us an indication that chemistry, with which he had become most familiar and which was emerging as the base for medicine, could not furnish much in the way of answers as the living organism did not obey the same laws as that of the laboratory experiments.
These few examples show that chemistry cannot be excluded from a share in the discovery of the medicinal powers of drugs. But that chemistry should not be consulted with respect to those medicinal powers which relate, not to hurtful substances to be acted on immediately in the human body [poisons], but to changes wherein the functions to the animal organism are first concerned, is proved, inter alia, by the experiments with antiseptic substances, respecting which, it was imagined that they would exhibit exactly the same antiputrefactive power in the fluids of the body, as they did in the chemical phial. But experience showed that saltpetre, for instance, shows exactly opposite qualities in putrid fever and in tendency to gangrene; the reason of which, I may mention, though out of place here, is, that it weakens the vital powers. (Haehl, Vol. I, p. 252)
Initially, Hahnemann’s criticism of medicine (drugs) was a practical one, namely that doctors gave drugs without knowing what their true curative powers were. What knowledge existed was for certain constant disease forms wherein the specific remedy (curative drug) had only been discovered by chance and had been preserved in folk medicine. However, beyond these few diseases, there was no knowledge of the curative power of drugs, either singly or in the mixtures then commonly prescribed. When Hahnemann examined the existing materia medicas, he found only hoary authority, careless recounting of successful disease cases (such that no one could ever reproduce the results), and fanciful recipes based on no solid knowledge of the curative properties of the medicines used.
Then he rediscovered the validity of the ancient law of similars in the famous experiment in 1790 with Cinchona bark (quinine). This led him to undertake more experiments (provings) with substances to discover their disease effects, which then became their curative properties. In this context, he also became aware of the dual nature of each medicinal substance in the form of a direct (initial) action and an indirect (counter-action). At that point medicine, using the law of contraries, had been mainly concerned with the direct effects of drugs, seeing the counter-action as a worsening of the disease. Thus, coffee would be used to stimulate the patient, and the later tiredness would simply be a call to repeat the crude dose. Hahnemann’s discovery here, as we will see, is a profound one, still not fully recognised within homeopathy, much less medicine more generally.
Hahnemann was now able to put the two aspects (dual action of the medicine and the law of similars) together: the curative power of a drug, that is, its counter-action, could only be found by its disease effects (artificial) on a healthy person according to the law of similars.
Nothing then remains but to test the medicines we wish to investigate on the human body itself. The necessity of this has been perceived in all ages, but a false way was generally followed, inasmuch as they were, as above stated, only employed empirically and capriciously in diseases…They teach nothing and only lead to false conclusions. (Lesser Writings, p. 263-264)
It was here not a matter of authority, but pure experiment (provings) based on law and principle. We can then see a series of discoveries (1790-1801/2), based on careful observation of nature and clear thinking of what he was observing, directed by an emerging idea of disease, and all informed by his growing awareness of the functional duality of nature.
What follows is an historical study of the ideas Hahnemann discovered and developed leading up to the publication of his formal call for medical reform, the Organon, in 1810, as well as the evolution of his thoughts between then and his death in 1843.
————————————- For a fuller discussion of this term and others with which the reader is not familiar, see The Dynamic Legacy: from Homeopathy to Heilkunst or other books in this series.
# # #
Rudi Verspoor is Dean and Chair Department of Philosophy, Hahnemann College for Heilkunst, Ottawa. He has written extensively on homeopathy and created the only college in the world offering a full program of study in Hahnemann’s complete medical system, Heilkunst. More details on studying Heilkunst can be obtained from .
Rudi founded the National Association of Trained Homeopaths (NUPATH) in Canada, as well as the Canadian/International Heilkunst Association (C/IHA). He has advised the Canadian government on healthcare issues, made presentations to various federal and provincial governments on homeopathy, and has written for various journals as well as lectured around the world.
His publications include: Homeopathy Renewed, A Sequential Approach to the Treatment of Chronic Illness (with Patty Smith); A Time for Healing; Homeopathy Re-examined: Beyond the Classical Paradigm (with Steven Decker); The Dynamic Legacy: Hahnemann from Homeopathy to Heilkunst (with Steven Decker)
The website at has more articles and resources about Heilkunst.