No Time to Waste
Joe Kellerstein, DC, ND
Some weeks ago, after having spoken on the” Homeopathic Method” during a webinar, I received a thought-provoking question from a student in the audience. It occurred to me that the question is symptomatic of today’s homeopathic education and that a response might clarify Hahnemann’s basic stance.
“In the presentation of Hahnemann’s Aphorism210, and its footnote, Dr. Kellerstein argued that, as homeopaths, we are not in the business of accelerating a person’s evolution; that the only purpose of homeopathic treatment is to restore the person to a state of health prior to the presentation of a disease state (even if the person was a “miserable S.O.B.”).
However, how does such a position of healing relate to and compare with Hahnemann’s writing in Aph. 9 where he clearly writes of the importance of the spirit of a person to be engaged in their higher purpose? Hahnemann continues to expound that the vital force can only be sustained when this occurs. Aph. 208 is related to this as well, where it is listed all the predispositions that are obstacles to cure. It follows that when a person is self-aware, self-reliant and self-responsible, (as implied in Aph. 9 and Aph. 208, and I’m sure in other aphorisms), such a state of being serves as an ideal vehicle and vessel that engenders health and healing.
Therefore, the argument and comments about Aph. 210run counter to this essential notion, so clearly advocated by Hahnemann himself.”
The questioner here emphasizes certain premises:
- That I have assumed a position in interpreting Aphorism 210 which runs counter to Hahnemann’s true meaning.
- That together Aphorism 208 and 9 imply:
- That the vital force can only be sustained where the spirit is engaged in the higher purposes of life.
- That somehow self-awareness, self-reliance and self -responsibility create an ideal vessel for healing.
First, let’s look at the footnote to Aphorism 210
“How often, for instance, do we not meet with a mild, soft disposition in patients who have for years been afflicted with the most painful diseases, so that the physician feels constrained to esteem and compassionate the sufferer! But if he subdue the disease and restore the patient to health – as is frequently done in homoeopathic practice – he is often astonished and horrified at the frightful alteration in his disposition. He often witnesses the occurrence of ingratitude, cruelty, refined malice and propensities most disgraceful and degrading to humanity, which were precisely the qualities possessed by the patient before he grew ill. Those who were patient when well often become obstinate, violent; hasty, or even intolerant and capricious, or impatient or desponding when ill; those formerly chaste and modest often become lascivious and shameless. A clear-headed person not infrequently becomes obtuse of intellect, while one ordinarily weak-minded becomes more prudent and thoughtful; and a man slow to make up his mind sometimes acquires great presence of mind and quickness of resolve, etc.”
Here Hahnemann clearly gives examples indicating that cured individuals whose mental nature changed in illness go back to their previous state of relative normalcy and not to an idealized more “enlightened” elevation.
In order to discover what things in the patient’s life might tend to increase his malady, or to what extent they could favor or hinder his treatment, the physician should take into consideration the patient’s: 1) age, 2) lifestyle and diet, 3) occupations, 4) domestic situation, and 5) civic relations, etc. In the same way, his mode of thought and emotions should be considered to determine whether it hinders treatment, and to determine whether it should be psychologically guided, fostered or modified.
The Aphorisms 204-209 guide us in the treatment of chronic diseases in general terms. This particular piece is talking about management of the patient so as to remove obstacles to cure. The reference to emotion and mode of thought has to do with strategies. That is, will the patient’s personality be an obstacle, and if so, how can we guide his thinking so as to comply with beneficial treatment?
In the healthy human state, the spirit-like life force (autocracy) that enlivens the material organism as dynamic, governs without restriction and keeps all parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, 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.
This aphorism is Hahnemann’s beautiful definition of health. He marvels at the integration of the complexities of the body that are so wonderfully integrated by the healthy vitality that mind can use this tool towards the higher purposes of living.
Here the mind (indwelling rational spirit) and the vital force are very different. In the introduction to “Chronic diseases” Hahnemann tells us the vitality is instinctive.
He also solves the riddle of the higher purposes alluded to by telling us they are simply to improve one’s own life and the lives of those around us as much as possible.
I agree with the student that the qualities she espouses are valuable, but hardly a necessary condition of health.
If they were, then all deviation from this ideal would be a degree of illness and I venture to guess we would all be very sick puppies and so the meaning of the word symptom would be impossibly blurred.
Further, it is important to understand that Hahnemann’s idea of the vital force was not spiritual but spirit-like. This means immaterial or invisible. In the footnote to Aphorism 11 he compares it to the pull of the moon on the earth giving us tides.
When you blithely mentioned the “pseudo-spiritualism” active in the realm of homeopathy, what did you mean by that? Is this a reference to the approach of homeopathy as is practiced by the Bombay School, Montreal Institute of Classical Homeopathy (MICH), Anne Vervarke, Alize Timmerman, amongst others?
I have not studied these authors sufficiently to comment as an expert. Let me distinguish my opinions in this way.
Homeopathy as defined in the Organon and its predecessors has very clear foundations.
- It is supposed to be completely congruent with nature. No speculative systems.
A speculative idea is one that may be philosophically beautiful. Perhaps one we would wish to hold true due to our liking of it. However it cannot be rendered vulnerable to falsification. The periodic table, multiple miasms, various kingdoms, vital sensations, etc. are examples of speculative ideas. The antithesis of Hahnemann who said in the introduction to the second edition of the Organon:
“Unaided reason can know nothing of itself (a priori), can evolve out of itself alone no conception of the nature of things, of cause and effect; every one of its conclusions about the actual must always be based on sensible perceptions, facts and experiences if it would elicit the truth. If in its operation it should deviate by a single step from the guidance of perception, it would lose itself in the illimitable region of phantasy and of arbitrary speculation, the mother of pernicious illusion and of absolute nullity. In the pure sciences of experience, in physics, chemistry and medicine, merely speculative reason can consequently have no voice; there when it acts alone, it degenerates into empty speculation and phantasy, and produces only hazardous hypotheses, which in millions of instances are, and by their very nature must be, self-deception and falsehood. Such has hitherto been the splendid juggling of so-called theoretical medicine, in which a priori conceptions and speculative subtleties raised a number of proud schools, which only showed what each of their founders had dreamed about things which could not be known, and which were of no use for the cure of diseases.”
The footnote to the first Aphorism is testimony to the view of Hahnemann.
He wanted a practice of medicine founded only on the fully observable with no speculative filters in the way of pure observation.
I say that using a mental filter of kingdom or miasm, or any other mental construct well beyond a proving or its repeated clinical verification, is speculative.
There must be nothing prior to the totality of symptoms arrived at through pure observation in deciding upon the remedy. No speculative filters.
A symptom according to Hahnemann is “that which is undoubtedly diseased”.
This does not mean to impute anyone or deny that their practice is not even more effective than my own.
I am merely trying to begin the process of clearly delimiting homeopathy from other homeoptherapies (therapies using homeopathically prepared medicines in non-homeopathic ways) so as to allow students the right to choose a path.
Life is short, the art is long and judgment is difficult. Why waste time?
Joe Kellerstein, DC, ND graduated as a chiropractor in 1980 and as an ND in 1984. He graduated with a specialty in homeopathy from the Canadian Academy for Homeopathy, and subsequently lectured there for two years. He also lectured in home-opathy for several years at CCNM; for eight years at the Toronto School of Homeopathic Medicine and for two years at the British Institute for Homeopathy. Dr. Kellerstein’s mission is the exploration of natural medicine in a holistic context, especially homeopathy and facilitating the experience of healing in clients.