The Rights and Duties of Homoeopathy
by F. Park Lewis, M.D., Buffalo, N. Y.
Presidential address before the Homoeopathic Medical Society of the State of New York, September 14, 1891
In the basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, at Rome, the curious or reverent pilgrim may stand on the very stones, where, nearly three hundred years ago, an old man is said to have stood, to receive his sentence for heresy; and, standing there, forced to recant his over-strange doctrine, threatened with imprisonment and torture if he spoke the truth that was in his heart he whispered to the coming ages, "It does move."
In his mind, if we could but follow, what thoughts might we perceive struggling with his hampered utterance! Yet under all, and stronger than all, that sure sense of law governing all things in this universe of ours, by which, reaching into the eternal verities, he was able to give his message to the world!
It has always been strongly impressive to me, the picture of the man Galileo standing there, knowing and realizing more than in this nineteenth century it is easy for us to realize, that this one man’s brain was set against the brain of the world, that he alone knew that it did move.
And not unlike this picture in its pathetic grandeur, is another, that of an old man, too, who, a century later, stood, not less convinced, or less secure, or less alone, "one man against all the world," as the other had been, saying to himself as that other had said: "There is nothing without law;" adding to the great fact of the rhythmical movement of the spheres another great fact, at that time only a theory, that in this wonderful, revolving earth, Nature had written a law, so plain that all who would might read, for the physical healing of the nations.
A law that has since been demonstrated, not by that one man alone, but by every homoeopathic physician living and practicing since his time, that law of cure which is the essential and distinctive mark of homoeopathic practice, and which gives to our school the right and dignity of an individual existence!
It is of this right and this dignity, together with the duties which these involve, that I wish to speak today.
The existence of schools of medicine, in the light of the nineteenth century knowledge, is an anomaly, I might say, an anachronism. The reason is this: Strictly speaking, "schools" and "sects" are only possible outside of the sciences, where, as in art, literature or religion, honest differences of opinion may exist concerning fundamental principles, because even the fundamental principles are not capable of demonstration but are mailers of opinion or belief.
Science means knowledge, not theory. It is progressive, but it must be founded upon law. That only is scientific which is guided by ascertained principles and not by empiricism.
Now, if a distinct law of therapeutic action can be demonstrated, medicine becomes a science, and remains so, whatever differences of opinion may be held upon minor points, so long as the fundamental proposition governing practice is a matter not of faith but of fact.
This has been done. The knowledge of homoeopathy has raised medical practice from an art to a science; not—from the nature of the complex elements entering into it—an exact science. No such system of medicine could spring, Minerva-like, perfect from the head of Jove. But since all our observation, all our experience, all our reasoning and our judgment are referable to law, and can be regulated and systemized by law—law which has been proven over and over again during the past half century—I say that our medicine is a science.
There should, therefore, be no "schools" of medicine. In years to come there will be no "schools" of medicine, for all medicine will be founded upon a rock—the Law of similia similibus curantur.
Let me reiterate. We have a law. The fact of our practice being based upon law makes our medicine a science. The fact of its being a science should preclude the possibility of the existence of any "schools" denying this law, unless the law can be disproved.
Now, in all other departments of thought today, the tendency is not towards dogmatism, but toward rigid investigation. We no longer dogmatize, we study. It is the spirit of the age, a spirit we are justly proud of. And this is the groundwork of my argument. When an important law, so important as to change the point of view of medical practice, and modify the deductions drawn from the "experience" upon which the old school practice is so largely based; so important as to deal with questions of life and death, so important as to make it a serious charge for a man to be ignorant of it if it were proven true; when, I say, a law so important has been laid down and said to be proven, by men who in other things are logical, scientific, truthful and trusted, what should be the attitude of educated men toward it?
Is it to be imagined that they would do less than inquire into its truth until at least its purport has been thoroughly understood?
And yet this one thing a great majority of our brothers in the medical profession have not done; will not do. We cannot look at things from their standpoint, they will not look from ours.
I wish, therefore, to throw the burden of the existence of homoeopathy as a separate school, upon the shoulders of the allopathists where it properly belongs. The attitude of the old school toward the new has been almost identical with that of the most puritanical and bigoted Calvinists toward the doctrine of evolution, with this difference, that neither Mr. Darwin nor any of his followers claimed for their beliefs that they were as yet not more than theories, while we offer to all who will take the trouble to investigate, an indisputable aggregation of proof. That it is an indisputable aggregation of proof, the allopathists, of course, deny, but denial without disproval has its weight only with a limited class of minds.
It must be remembered that homoeopathic therapeusis is a difficult and exacting study, as is all science properly so-called; that while the law is simple, the application of it requires the most trained judgment and nicest discrimination; and that to have a convincing proof of the principle, its truth must be carefully verified and clinically demonstrated.
But to question, in the light of today, that there is a law governing medicine, to denounce without disproving, is less enlightened than in the old days to have condemned Galileo with a contemptuous "The world does not move."
Without law there can be no progress. When we look out into the world with less pharisaic eyes, we shall see deeper than we now do, and more truly, and then we shall discern, not less law but more law. It is only when blinded by willfulness, arrogance or prejudice, that men fail to perceive that every smallest thing in this universe falls under some great law, which, if we could but humbly learn and understand, it would be well with us.
I hesitate, in addressing a body of homoeopathic physicians, to discuss facts with which all are perfectly familiar. It is like beating over old straw to define our position, and to give, again and again, reasons for the "faith that is in us." But the time has come when, if we must stand apart as a separate school, the people should know why.
Logically, we occupy the only tenable position. But the onward movement of the world meets with some opposition even today. We are often fiercely assailed by misrepresentation, and not seldom by bitter innuendo and abuse.
Our position falsely stated, does not make that position less secure, nor affect the truth of that which we believe. But those who look to us for healing, may with justice look to us also, not to defend our right to heal—our results do that for us—but to give them an intelligent understanding of what our healing science actually is.
We should institute an educational campaign, not for the profession but for the public. The people should know, those who care to know, what we believe and what we practice, what we are doing and what are the results, who constitute our practitioners, and who our clientèle.
Let it be known that our great law to which homoeopathy owes its right to be, relates simply to the therapeutic action of drugs; that it is founded on the belief that the only certain way to determine the action of drugs, is by trying them upon the healthy, and carefully observing what tissues are affected by them. The most advanced of the old school physicians are beginning to realize this truth also, and profit by its results, though they fail to apprehend the fact that its acceptance leads directly to the law upon which the homoeopathic school stands, that drugs will cure conditions similar to those which they produce when taken by the healthy. Only this and nothing more. We should emphasize the fact that all questions of dose and all theories as to the nature of disease, are extrinsic and are merely theories, that they have been and are to-day theorized upon by men of both schools, and that their acceptance or rejection is wholly independent of the law of homoeopathic practice.
"The allopathic mind," as one of our own able writers has said, "seems utterly unable to grasp and retain a knowledge of the fact that homoeopathic practice is not confined to the use of small and infinitesimal doses."
Let it be known also, that while our law of cure has been freely maligned by the old-school press and practitioner, it has, nevertheless, within the past few years materially modified their practice. We find them recommending, today, for certain conditions, remedies which we have found to be homoeopathic to those conditions, that is to say, which will cause exactly similar symptoms when taken by the well person. When the old school borrows from our therapeutics, however, the remedies are empirically and not scientifically given, and the results, as might be expected, are not always satisfactory.
Such facts as these we should let the people know, so that when the old school physician says that he gives homoeopathic medicine when his patients want it, they will know how he gives "homoeopathic medicine," and how much real homoeopathic treatment they are likely to receive.
Let them understand that, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as "homoeopathic medicine;" that no drug belongs by divine right to one school or to another school; that it is the principle upon which these drugs are prescribed, and that alone, that marks the homoeopathic school of treatment, and seals its immense superiority over any other school or schools whatsoever.
Define clearly and assert the fact that we expound a specific and comprehensive law of cure; that its demonstration makes therapeutics a science; its denial places all medicine on the insecure and fallible basis of empiricism:
That, therefore, there can be but two schools of medicine; all the practitioners of varied method and belief, called as they may be, allopathists, eclectics, hydropathists and what not, whose therapeusis is based upon empiricism constituting, on the one hand, the great body of irregulars, and, on the other hand, the also large and rapidly increasing body of medical practitioners, whose therapeutics are founded upon a demonstrated law, whose practice is, therefore, a science, and whose practitioners are consequently the regulars in the medical world.
Incidentally, let me say, regarding the question of dose, that a well-known pharmacist, one of the best in the country, came to me not long since, and among the drugs which he had commonly for sale were some put up in smaller quantities than I am in the habit of using, but which he explained were satisfactory to many of the old school physicians by whom they were used. I have had from still another reputable pharmacist, exactly similar statements. The fact is, that a few progressive old school physicians have opened their eyes and perceived that results can be obtained, and often better results, by giving drugs in small quantities, than would follow the administration of crude doses. They have, therefore, without being burdened by much rule or research, lessened their doses until they have out-Heroded Herod, and in some instances have given medicines in quantities smaller than are commonly used by the average homoeopathist.
For any member of the old school of practice, in the face of these facts, to revile us now on the subject of doses, is—unbecoming.
To return to our educational policy:
Let it be known that what we practice is medicine in its entirety; that our great law, while it may modify and govern our judgment on other points, relates only to the administration of drugs; and that every manual and technical point of surgery, every antiseptic or aseptic precaution, every method belonging to special practice, everything outside of the giving of medicine and sometimes inside, belongs as much to one school of practice as to another.
The old school has nothing that we may not have. Experience and judgment are not exclusive possessions. If we do not use all the methods that they do, it is only because experience has shown us a better way. The homoeopathists have access to all that the allopathists have, plus that which—I have statistics to show—has enabled them to save nearly twice as many patients in proportion to their numbers, in the city of Buffalo, during the past year, as those whose practice excludes a definite law of cure.
There are in the city of Buffalo, about two hundred and ninety-nine (299) old school physicians engaged in the treatment of acute disease. There are probably a good many less than that number, as many of the names in the City Directory are unknown to me. But in order that the estimate may be entirely fair, I have given the old school credit for every doubtful name.
There are forty-seven (47) homoeopathic physicians, every one of whom, I know to be treating the diseases upon which these estimates are made. I have taken five widely different diseases, in which the effects of intelligent treatment should be most conspicuous. My records have been taken from the Bureau of Vital Statistics, as filed with the Clerk of Erie County. The proportion of old school physicians is certainly not more, and is probably less, than six to one.
The following is the record of deaths under the treatment of the two schools for the year ending July 1, 1891:
Diseases Old School New School Proportion
|Diseases||Old School||New School||Proportion|
|Cholera infantum |
In other words, the total number of deaths from these five diseases recorded by old school practitioners during the past year is eleven hundred and sixty-three (1163), while those recorded by homoeopathic physicians were only one hundred and three (103). Multiply our record of deaths by six to make the proportion even—and that number is too large—and we still have a death-rate of but six hundred and eighteen (618) to their eleven hundred and sixty-three (1163), or a loss on their part of almost two to our one; while in such diseases as pneumonia and croup the proportion is very much larger.
What is true here is true everywhere. In the Melbourne, Australia, Hospital, the death-rate for the year 1889 was 17.8 percent. In the Alfred Hospital, also allopathic, the death-rate the same year was 15.1 percent. In the Homoeopathic Hospital in that city, the death-rate was but 9 per cent.
The class of cases treated in these institutions was similar, excepting that the Homoeopathic Hospital had a much larger proportion of typhoid fever cases than either of the others. Is it then to be wondered at that homoeopathy is growing with a rapidity phenomenally disproportioned to the increase in population throughout the country? I quote from statistics collected by the Bureau of Organization of the Society of Illinois.
"The population is increased during the last twenty years 51.5 percent. The number of homoeopathic practitioners has increased 93.5 percent. In Iowa, the population increased less than 60 percent, while the homoeopathic doctors grew 160 percent. In California, the inhabitants augmented 115 per cent, and the number of homoeopathists, 1655 per cent. In Missouri, against a 55 per cent, growth in the population is a growth of 250 per cent in physicians of our school." Records from other States tell similar stories.
Facts and figures such as these belong to the public as much as they do to us; in the interest of suffering humanity we should publish throughout the length and breadth of the land, the possibilities of scientific medicine.
Let it be known that among our physicians are as capable diagnosticians as any in the world; that our surgeons are fully as good in operative technique and manual dexterity; that our specialists in every department are as thoroughly equipped as are those of the old school, and this independent of their homoeopathic training; that our colleges, not satisfied with the requirements of the old school colleges, have always been foremost in demands for higher medical education. In Boston University, a homoeopathic college, the course of study was lengthened to four years, long before any allopathic institution had dared to limit its attendance by any such demands. There is not one allopathic college in the country, not even excepting the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, in which the requirements are more rigid, in which the curriculum is more complete, in which the examinations are more comprehensive than in the New York Homoeopathic Medical College.
In our colleges everything in medicine is taught. We have and demand for our students all that there is to know. Both homoeopathic and allopathic textbooks are used. In the old school colleges, on the other hand, everything appertaining to homoeopathy is, whenever referred to, misunderstood, misrepresented, or vilified.
Large numbers of our practitioners are graduates, also, of the old school of medicine, and in the great European clinics, the proportionate preponderance of American students are homoeopathists. Our physicians, as a rule, then, receive the broadest education, and are thoroughly instructed, always, aside from their own methods, in the principles and practice of old school therapeutics. The libraries of homoeopathic physicians are filled with the freshest and newest of old school literature; they read the best allopathic journals; they acquaint themselves with, and make use of, everything that is valuable in medicine of whatever school. On the other hand, it is so rare as to be almost unique, to find an allopathic physician who has ever attended homoeopathic lectures, who has anything more than a most superficial knowledge of homoeopathic principles, who ever reads homoeopathic books, or who has ever, at any period of his life, put in actual practice and tested the validity of the homoeopathic law of cure. Many of them pretend to understand it, and probably believe that they do, but their attempts to apply it in empirical practice, their public denunciations of homoeopathy in consequence of their inevitable failures, give abundant evidence of a profound misconception of its nature and its possibilities.
The public is sometimes in sympathy with their voluble and often amusing accusations and epithets; but the American people have a keen sense of justice, and, once roused to the realization of the insuperable right and dignity of our position, they are the only Cæsar to whom we need appeal.
There are today, among the adherents of homoeopathy, hundreds of thousands of the most intellectual, the wealthiest and the wisest people of America—the clearest headed and most practical people in the world—people who are not led in so serious a matter by sentimental notions, but who adopt the practice simply and solely because of its ascertained superiority over any other method of cure. There are in New York State alone, thirteen hundred homoeopathic practitioners and a million avowed adherents of the homoeopathic school.
Among the most eminent in every department of thought and in every sphere of life, have been advocates of homoeopathy. Archbishop Whately, the master of logic; Jean Paul Richter, the poet philosopher; Benjamin Disraeli, the astute statesman; Wm. Cullen Bryant, the poet of Nature; senators, governors, bishops and judges, among the most brilliant of the world's great men and women, have been those, who, seeing deeper than their fellows, have recognized the marvelous importance and far-reaching significance of an established and demonstrated law of cure.
The President of the United States at present is a homoeopathist; Garfield was a homoeopathist; Roscoe Conkling and Roswell P. Flower are homoeopathists. So is Ex-Governor Bullock, of Georgia, and so was Ex-Governor Robinson. But it is needless to swell the list I simply wish to re-assert, that aside from the scientific basis of homoeopathy, aside from its wonderful record of success as regards both numbers and results, aside from the unquestionable ability of its practitioners, the personnel of homoeopathy is such as to demand recognition and respect.
I am convinced that the large majority even of our own people, are ignorant of, or but faintly appreciate, the points which I have outlined, and which are to most of us an old story re-told.
Many of them wish to know, but there is very little, if any, literature, that gives briefly and clearly such information free from technicalities. And now, since we are, as a school, often grossly misrepresented, and our principles and practice set forth by those whose ignorance of both is only equaled by their audacity, I would suggest that some of our best men be asked to write as clearly and concisely as possible, short essays on matters appertaining to homoeopathy, that those who would like to know more of these things may have an opportunity to become informed.
We may as well face the fact that we cannot look for much fairness or fraternity from the majority of our professional brethren of the old school. However large minded, progressive and cultured the individual members of its ranks may be; however firm the grasp of friendship that we give and receive from these; however truly we appreciate the greatness of their devotion to their work of healing the sick and their largeness of intellect and of heart, we cannot in self-protection forget that such men are but small part, numerically, of the profession. In all modern literature, in all speaking and practice, everything looks towards a universal brotherhood. In medicine this growth is also exhibited, but the liberal tendency is toward men rather than ideas, and even this in many allopathic journals seems to be altogether and painfully lacking.
The only way we can gauge the leading thought of the school is by the leading journals of the school. They must be the gauge, the measure, the standard. The leading journals of the old school show themselves palpably ignorant of the principles upon which our school is founded, which means that the old school does not comprehend the first principles of homoeopathy, and I therefore charge them with ignorance. They do not wish to comprehend it; they are content to remain uninformed in regard to it; therefore, I say that they are criminally ignorant. For to be ignorant of that which might be known, when to know it would be the saving of human life, is not merely to be non-progressive, to be unscientific, it is, I repeat, to be criminal.
What I have said has received recent illustration in an article published in the Medical News, of Philadelphia. The Philadelphia News is certainly one of the most representative, as it is one of the most widely circulated and responsible of the allopathic journals, making with the Medical Record and Medical Journal, a trio of the most important periodicals of the school. The editor of this journal, with the files of the Philadelphia daily papers open to him, containing remarkably full and accurate reports of the Homoeopathic International Congress, held at Atlantic City, in June last, misstates and falsifies these records, and while commenting on this meeting, gives as facts, what neither occurred, nor was recorded in the daily papers to have occurred; at best giving only partial truths and in such a way as to warrant entirely erroneous deductions. Finally, he concludes with an astonishing summary of the articles of homoeopathic belief as follows:
"What, in brief, simple English, are these articles of the Hahnemannian homoeopathic creed?
"First. That disease is immaterial, spiritual, its causes not perceptible to the senses, and that no attempt need be made to find them out.
"Second. That all chronic diseases, except syphilis and sycosis, are due to the itch.
"Third. That the more you weaken or dilute a drug with water the stronger it becomes, until all that is necessary Is simply to smell the most diluted mixture, ‘even though you have no smeller.’
"Fourth. That to put out a fire you must add fuel to it, to cure disease give a medicine that would cause it."
These doctrines he characterizes as "idiotic drivel" which those who believe in the real principles of homoeopathy would be the last to deny. The editor subsequently charges the whole school with pretense and hypocrisy in so many words, and concludes as follows:
"The moral of it all is, that to indulge in good-humored contempt of these pestiferous doctrines and doctrinaires, to show them mercy, to be indifferent to them, to compromise and to play politics with them, is to be poltroon and renegade in the face of one's duty to science and humanity."
His summary of our creed reminds one of the students who, in describing a crab to his professor in natural history, said: "A crab is a little red animal that walks backward."
"The only correction that I would make," said the scientist, "is, that a crab is not always little, it is not red, specifically it is not an animal, and it does not walk backward."
I think that most fair-minded, thinking men, will uphold me in saying that willful misrepresentation is at least as bad as willful ignorance, and the latter, I claim in this instance, to be inexcusable. Further I say, and in this also I claim the support of the great mind of the public, that if the editor was ignorant, his denunciations put him on the low level of any man who, in whatever discussion, philosophical, religious or scientific, allows himself to launch wholesale abuse at his opponents without taking the trouble to inform himself as to the nature of that which he condemns.
While there are many broad and tolerant men in the old school of practice, that the editor whom I have quoted is by no means singular in the unjudicial, narrow and strabismic view which he takes of homoeopathy, the controversy recently carried on between the two schools through the columns of the London Times, abundantly proves; and warrants the conclusion which the impartial editor draws, that "An Odium Medicum does exist exactly analogous to the Odium Theologicum of a less enlightened age, no whit less capable of blinding men, otherwise honest and kind-hearted to the most elementary views of candor and justice."
It is, therefore, a logical sequitur, and an imperative conclusion, that self-preservation requires, and self-respect demands, that no supervisory control of any of our institutions be permitted to remain in the hands of an antagonistic and hostile board. This was recognized at the last Legislative Session, by the erection of separate Boards of Medical Examiners. It must be further recognized by the establishment of separate Boards of Charities.
The chairman of the Commission in Lunacy is an allopathic physician. His rulings during the past year have shown his unfamiliarity with, or his indifference to, the fact that the therapeutic methods of the State Hospital at Middletown are radically and fundamentally different from those of every other public asylum in the State. The law by which the one homoeopathic hospital is placed in the same apportionment with the old school institutions in the State and forced to fill its wards with poor unfortunates whose friends perhaps have no desire to place them under homoeopathic care, practically locks its doors upon hundreds of homoeopathists to whom it belongs, with whose money it was largely built, and to whom the faith of the State was plighted.
We demand as our right a separate Commission in Lunacy, or at least equal representation upon the one now established.
We want our own institutions for our own people throughout the entire State, unhampered and unimpeded by embarrassing restrictions; we will be satisfied with nothing less.
To accomplish this we need a united profession throughout the State. Nearly one thousand physicians within the limits of the State are not represented in our society. To many the importance of such a connection has not been made sufficiently clear. But since a new responsibility has been thrown upon the society by making it the censor of medical education in the State, there rests upon every practitioner in the State a new responsibility, that of a wise and judicious choice for the State Board of Medical Examiners.
With increased numbers, also, comes increased power, and to secure the rights of homoeopathy, the homoeopathists throughout the State should realize the dignity of their calling, and know and do their duty.
To the accomplishment of this end, I would suggest that the society consider the advisability of abolishing the initiation fee, and of making the dues as low as may be consistent with the absolute necessities of the society. The largely augmented membership which we might obtain would make such a reduction possible without embarrassment to the society.
Let us not forget that in geometrical proportion to our number is our power, and in direct ratio to our power is our responsibility.
It has been given to this school to discover and develop the principles of one of Nature's great laws. It becomes the duty, as well as the right and dignity, of this school, to illuminate and promulgate these principles until their acceptance shall become universal.
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