Homoeopathy: What we know and what we don’t know

booksWhat we know and what we don’t know.

I’m writing this post in response to comments made on Gary’s post here:

There are homoeopaths who describe the process with a certainty as if they know everything.  Then there are homoeopaths, as in the comments, who state that they don’t know – that those who say they know are merely speaking from a deluded zeal of quasi-religious conviction.

Well, lets take a look at what Hahnemann knew and didn’t know, and where he knew it from.

And just because I like definitions – here’s the Merriam-Webster definition of EMPIRICAL: “originating in or based on observation or experience”

There is a natural law of similars – meaning, just as what goes up usually must come down, what produces a disease-like symptom picture in healthy people usually must cure a similar disease symptom-picture in sick people.
Sources:  Hippocrates, Paracelsus, Hahnemann’s writings
Hahnemann’s experiments on himself and others
Nature of the knowledge: empirical

Substances can be active even when highly diluted
Source:  Hahnemann’s experiments on himself and others, provings and treatments over 200 years
Nature of the knowledge: empirical

Succussion acts to increase the potency of remedies
Source:  Theory – Hahnemann’s Lesser Writings (see my article on the subject of potentisation)
Practice:  Hahnemann’s experiments on himself and others, further experimentation, provings and treatments over 200 years
Nature of the knowledge: empirical

Different substances produce different disease-like symptom pictures in healthy people
Source:  Hahnemann’s provings and those of others over 200 years, reports of poisonings
Nature of the knowledge: empirical

There are many other definitely, conclusively known factors involved in homoeopathic treatment, and the homoeopath must base treatment on the known – otherwise homoeopathy falls into the “hit-or-miss”, “trial-and-error” format that has more in common with allopathy than homoeopathy as originally formulated.

So what don’t we know?

Not known:  how cure through similars takes place inside the organism

In Aphorism 28 of the Organon, Hahnemann states (bold text from original):

“As this natural law of cure manifests itself in every pure experiment and every true observation in the world, the fact is consequently established; it matters little what may be the scientific explanation of how it takes place; and I do not attach much importance to the attempts made to explain it.  But the following view seems to commend itself as the most probable one, as it is founded on premises derived from experience.”

The “following view” referred to is Hahnemann’s assessment of how homeopathically prescribed medicines effect cure in the organism – something he developed from his experience with the method and observations resulting from this process.  This is what is presented in the Organon from aphorism 29 onwards – Hahnemann’s self-stated theory which he saw actualized in practice.  Since the whole Organon is an invitation to try the method out, it is also an invitation to examine the validity of his theory.  But he himself defines it as “the most probable one”.  Please note – not exactly the same as a religious epiphany or commandment…

Hahnemann stated frequently that the actual internal mechanism is not known.  See also the note to Aphorism 12

“How the vital force causes the organism to display morbid phenomena, that is how it produces disease, it would be of no practical utility to the physician to know, and will forever remain concealed from him.. “

Some have assumed that Hahnemann, when referring to the unknown, intangible or immeasurable, is referring to the spiritual – but he states categorically that this is not the case.  In the footnote to aphorism 31, he states:

“when I call disease a derangement of man’s state of health, I am far from wishing thereby to give a hyperphysical explanation of the internal nature of diseases generally, or of any case of disease in particular.  It is only intended by this expression to intimate, what it can be proved diseases are not and cannot be, that they are not mechanical or chemical alterations of the material substance of the body, and not dependent on a material morbific substance, but that they are merely spirit-like (conceptual) dynamic derangements of the life.”

My personal favourite quote of Hahnemann’s acknowledgement that he does not know “how it works” appears in a footnote towards the end of the theoretical part of Chronic Diseases.  Here Hahnemann states categorically (bold is religiously mine…):

“this true theorem is not to be reckoned among those which should be comprehended, nor among those for which I ask a blind faith.  I demand no faith at all, and do not demand that anybody should comprehend it.  Neither do I comprehend it; it is enough that it is a fact and nothing else.  Experience alone declares it, and I believe more in experience than in my own intelligence.

For the full quote, click here.

Many prescriptions today are based on assumptions of “how it works”, rather than based on the known information, whether about the method, the remedies, and the patient’s case itself.  In addition, many remedies are prescribed based on assumptions of what symptoms they can cure, often based more on the Doctrine of Signatures rather than anything else.  That is not a known.  Homeopathy today is often misunderstood to be based on these and other assumptions – rather than on the empirically based method developed by Hahnemann.  Hahnemann presented the Organon as a method of how to work based on the known – with what he felt was a probable explanation of how the cure is effected.  His “most probable” explanation forms a small part of the Organon – the bulk of which deals with intensely practical instructions on how to work based on the known, rather than preoccupation with the speculative.  It is a sign of the times that in many courses offered today the Organon is referred to as the basis for homoeopathic philosophy and taught as such – whereas it really is the Users Manual for homoeopathic practice.

Personally, I find it difficult to agree that knowing the exact nature of how the organism effects the cure would not help.  The greatest difficulty homeopaths experience in treatment is often not the prescriptions themselves, but the case-management and understanding the significance of each response to remedies along the path in order to determine the next steps.  Having said that, many many times difficulties in case-management can be traced back to unreported obstacles to cure, to incomplete or ineffective case-taking, to lifestyle and allopathic interventions and medications.

This post is inevitably a short “out-take” of a much larger picture.  However some elements are clear:

  1.  The Law of Similars is empirically known, and is the basis of the homoeopathic method.
  2. Use of remedies based on the Law of Similars is empirically known.
  3. Hahnemann has presented a picture of how cure takes place in the organism based on his observations – although initially theoretical, eventually empirically demonstrated, especially when compounded with  200 years of experience.
  4. Prescription of remedies not based on the Law of Similars is not based on the homoeopathically known.  (this does not invalidate clinical experience, merely defines that it cannot be a certain starting point for the homoeopath working based on the known foundations of homoeopathy as a medical therapeutic)
  5. Assessment of how homeopathically prescribed remedies effect cure in the organism is essentially theoretical, possibly empirically demonstrated, but ultimately not known.

One response to “Homoeopathy: What we know and what we don’t know

  1. Pingback: Empathy in case-taking | Vera Resnick. Homoeopathic Consultant I.H.M

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