Hering's Law: Law, Rule or Dogma?
by Dr. André Saine, D.C., N.D., F.C.A.H.
Presented at the Second Annual Session of the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians in Seattle, Washington, April 16-17, 1988.
In homeopathy today, Hering's law is widely recognized as the second law of cure, the first law of cure being similia similibus curantur, or like cures like. Hering's law pertains to the direction in which the symptoms of the patient will disappear during a cure under homeopathic treatment.
In his second lecture on homeopathic philosophy given in 1900 to the Post-Graduate School of Homopathics, Kent said:
Here Kent does not differentiate between acute and chronic disease in the application of the law. It is reasonable to assume, because of the lack of precision, that he meant all diseases, acute and chronic of venereal and non-venereal origin, would disappear in the direction described above.
When first studying homeopathy, I listened to the teachers and read the "classic" modern works, and assumed, like my fellow colleagues, that Hering's law had been an irrefutable fact recognized by Hering and the many succeeding generations of homeopaths, and that all patients, (All italics used throughout this paper indicate my own emphasis of pertinent points.) acute and chronic, without an exception, would, at all times, be cured in the afore-mentioned direction under careful homeopathic treatment.
Later as a practitioner, I carefully applied myself to put the general homeopathic training I had received to the test. Since then, I have been able to substantiate most but not all of the rules, principles and laws contained in the homeopathic doctrine promulgated by several generations of homeopaths.
So far, however, I have been unable to substantiate Hering's law. Indeed, very rarely do I see, for instance, in a patient with chronic polyarthritis, the symptoms disappearing from the head first and then to the hands and feet. More often, the pain and other joint symptoms disappear in the reverse order of their appearance, even if it is from below upwards. In other words, if the arthritis manifested itself, as it happens at times, first in the knees and then in the ankles, the ankles would get better before the knees.
Or in a patient affected by a complex of essentially functional complaints such as fatigue, anxiety, irritability, difficult digestion, joint pain and acne, rarely would I see the disappearance of the emotional disturbance first, then the poor digestion followed by the joint pain and lastly the acne. With the simillimum most symptoms begin to improve simultaneously and disappear in the reverse order of their appearance, and not necessarily from above downwards and from inside outwards. In fact it is not uncommon that in such cases the acne, the last to have appeared, would disappear readily and the emotional state (the oldest symptom) would be the last to completely disappear.
While treating a patient with an acute febrile disease that had progressed in the first stage from chills to fever, then to perspiration and lastly to weakness, I would observe a rapid and gentle recovery but without the patient re-experiencing the perspiration, then the fever and lastly the chills. While recovering from acute diseases under homeopathic treatment, the patient does not re-experience the original symptoms one by one in the reverse order of their appearance. Many more troublesome exceptions similar to the above could be cited.
What was wrong with Hering's law as quoted above from Kent's Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy? Had I misunderstood the law?
According to Webster's dictionary, a law is defined as a sequence of events that occurs with unvarying uniformity whereas a rule permits exceptions, and a dogma rests on opinion. Was this lack of confirmation of the said law due to "suppressive" homeopathic treatment as suggested by a number of theoretical and perhaps dogmatic homeopaths? If so, why have these so called "purists" not stood up and proven that all their cured cases followed the said law? To my knowledge this proof has not been forthcoming.
Was I the only practitioner in this position?
I questioned teachers and colleagues, some with many years of experience. Few could answer my questions and none has been able to substantiate from their own experience without the shadow of a doubt that Hering's law was a true law of nature. It seems that most were in the same situation as me, even the supposed authorities would discuss the matter but in private with the author. It seems that we all had classic cases of cure from above downwards, from within outwards, from more to less important organs and in the reverse order of appearance of symptoms. But these absolutely "perfect" cases were only occasional. The majority of cured cases did not fulfill all the four citedcriteria.
So I decided to go back to the sources.
On one hand, neither Kent, in his Lectures on Homopathic Philosophy of 1900, nor Stuart Close, in The Genius of Homopathy of 1924, nor Herbert Roberts, in The Principles and Art of Cure by Homopathy of 1936 while discussing the above law, refer to it as Hering's law. (1-3) None of these three authors makes any reference to Hering in their lectures on the law of direction of cure. On the other hand, Garth Boericke, in A Compendium of the Principles of Homopathy of 1929, refers to it as Hering's rule but not as a law. (4) Confusing, isn't it? Did Hering ever formulate a law on the direction of cure? If he did, why was his name not clearly associated with the law and was it as a law or a rule? Why was the literature so ambiguous?
At this point, I realized that the sources had to be explored further. The answers would all have to be within the literature of the nineteenth century. After a thorough examination of this literature I have so far been unable to find any of Hering's famous contemporaries and close colleagues discussing or making any reference to a law of direction of cure. Writings of Boenninghausen, Jahr, Joslin, P.P. Wells, Lippe, H.N.Guernsey, Dunham, E.A. Farrington, H.C. Allen, Nash, etc, were all silent.
When Hering died in 1880, colleagues all over the world assembled to pay tribute to the great homeopath. His many accomplishments were recalled. Strangely, none made any mention of a law of direction of cure promulgated by Hering. (5) Arthur Eastman, a student who was close to Hering during the last three years of the venerable homeopath, published in 1917 Life and Reminiscences of Dr. Constantine Hering also without mentioning a law pertaining to direction of cure. (6) Calvin Knerr, Hering's son-in-law, published in 1940, 60 years after Hering's death, the Life of Hering, a compilation of biographical notes. (7) Again no mention is made of the famous law. Not only confusing, but also puzzling.
Obviously, the sources had to be further explored. Here are the fruits of this exploration.
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