I’ve been following progress on “Blogging the Organon” , which at the time or writing has got to Paragraph 36 of the Organon – the principal work of the founder of homeopathy. Viewed as a historical document, it’s quite interesting.
First of all, you’ve got to put it in context. The Organon was published in 1810, when very little of modern medical science existed. William Harvey had demonstrated the circulation of blood in 1628. Edward Jenner (1796) had discovered the potential of vaccination with (mild) cowpox to prevent the (worse) disease of smallpox. However there was no understanding of its underlying mechanism – this was moved forward significantly by Louis Pasteur (1885), well after Hahnemann’s death. The germ theory of disease evolved in the 1850’s; Darwin published on evolution in 1859, and Mendel on inheritance in 1865.
It would be fair to say that in 1810, medical science was still in its infancy.
Hanhemann was well acquainted with the medical science of his day, and in the initial chapters he trashes much of it – probably with good justification. However he acknowledges the importance of surgery, of vaccination, and of basic procedures such as the removal of foreign bodies, parasites, and toxic agents – it’s a pity he didn’t know about bacteria.
He goes on to create what is – basically – a theory of “everything else”, which was the foundation of homeopathy. It postulates, among other things, that an invisible entity called a “miasm” causes disease, and that there is a divinely ordained symmetry between the symptoms of a disease and the indications of the substance which can cure it. He very carefully crafts his theory so that it doesn’t conflict with established medical practice.
And here the clock stops, as far as present day homeopaths are concerned – homeopathy does not seem to have moved on, or to have learned from developments in evidence based medicine in the subsequent two centuries. Homeopaths still seem to believe that modern doctors prescribe in much the same random way as their antecedents did in 1810; they don’t accept that bacteria can cause disease, and they have a completely bizarre and somewhat fatalistic approach to serious disease.
Would Samuel Hanhemann approve of this? He was an intelligent man, independent thinking and a pragmatist. He’s probably turning in his grave.