Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Samuel Hahnemann, a Compassionate Man of Service dedicated to Truth

Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy as it is frequently practised today, was a man made up of many noble qualities. He had 11 children in a time when child-mortality was high, and the means to provide for children small. Despite this and against the wishes of his first wife, he gave up his work because of his conscience which told him he could not live up to his Hippocratic Oath to "Do no harm".  He was an orthodox trained medical doctor working in a time where medicine was mostly poisonous and treatments were mostly harmful to health. For example, Syphilis was treated with Mercury and when people died of Mercury poisoning, it was said the Syphilis had killed them. Cupping and leeching were common and weakened people so much that they were overcome by their illness. 

  • In those days, people's understanding of illness was very limited yet Hahnemann knew that  mental and emotional states affected people's health
  • he knew that everyone was individual in how they experienced an illness and the signs and symptoms could vary tremendously despite a uniform diagnosis 
  • he knew that certain types of illness had the power to develop immunity in a person and protect against further illness
  • he knew that some illness was caused by germs and bacteria which could not be physically seen
  • he knew that illness would not exist in life without a cure being possible (he believed in a just God and that illness was not a punishment but had a sense and reason and meaning behind it. He was also aware that ignorance about how to live and take care of ourselves was often the cause of bad health)
  • he understood the harm that certain substances could cause and advised people on a proper diet and lifestyle as part of preventing and /or curing illness
  • he warned about intellectual speculation and varying theories of the cause of disease as he thought that this intellectualising did not lead us closer to cure but instead could actually obstruct cure
  • he knew that spiritual healing and energy healing could heal and help sickness and respected  people who had those gifts 
  • he thought that the ultimate reason and purpose behind having good physical health was in order to find one's purpose in life and live it.
Samuel Hahnemann upset and enraged people with his personally-expressed convictions. He announced that all doctors should make their own medicines as that was the only way to guarantee safety and efficacy and also that was the only way to get medics to take personal responsibility and more care with their prescribing of treatments. Of course, all the apothecaries rose up in objection as they could see their profits and livelihoods being threatened by some sort of self-appointed moral guardian. 

Hahnemann said that in trying to cure illness we had "thoughtlessly overlooked and misjudged the spiritual nature of our life"

Hahnemann was a talented man, being able to speak 12 different languages so he took to translation work as a way to earn money while he struggled with facing the system of medicine which he had once believed in and was now disillusioned with. (How many doctors suffer the exact same experience today?)  The rest, in relation to the discovery of homeopathy, is history!

Hahnemann sacrificed many things which today can only be imagined by a whistle-blower. His marriage suffered and it was made very difficult for him to provide for and protect his family, he was hounded from place to place always having to keep moving. He was dependent on rich supporters of his work and forward-thinking patrons, who offered him the chance to help and heal themselves and their families and wider social circles while providing him with a means and a sphere of activity to work unhindered. He eventually had to quit his country of origin, Germany, and moved to France. It was only in France towards the end of his life that he experienced any respect, income, comfort, acknowledgement and the freedom to develop his insights. Yet despite his moral battles and the material hardship of his life, Hahnemann lived into his 80's at a time where many people died half his age.  To many people he sounded arrogant, dismissive, and sure of himself and he was unpleasantly irritable in his passion. In the spirit of enquiry, he  regularly followed up on seemingly crazy ideas but then because he was a scientific man at heart - he would drop these ideas quickly when they were not borne out by experience. At one stage, when Hahnemann made a large leap forward in his understanding of illness and the development of the system of medicine which is homeopathy, he lost two thirds of his own followers. These followers began to believe he had lost the plot completely and this split exists even today, amongst practitioners of homeopathy. 

Ultimately Hahnemann was a complex and flawed person who nevertheless lacked nothing in courage, conviction and ultimately love. He actually loved and cared for people and wanted to make them well. His attitude was one of service. He placed his mind, his keen perception and his heart to work for the benefit of humanity. His words at the beginning of his pioneering work  "Organon of the Medical Art" are : Aude Sapere. Dare to know.

Homeopathy has a worthy history, it does reach back before Hahnemann's time into the history of ideas and a time when these ideas took two different roads. The difference between intellectual materialism and spiritual holism. One set of ideas did become dominant in the world today. Reason against spirit.There should be no split between the two as intellectual ability serves our spiritual core.  The two abilities should unite in our person as they did in Hahnemann. In Hahnemann, reason balanced by love and humbled by the understanding of something greater than ourselves, led to a profound discovery and help for humankind. Imagine what could be achieved if we were all to live like this? Suffering arises from ignorance but can lead to discovery and to helping us find the way back to Truth.  However, like Hahnemann's life, is not an easy road to take. 

In his Materia Medica Pure Volume II, I found these words of Hahnemann which speak to me and I would love to share them with you: 

"I know full well that it requires heroic courage in order to cure ourselves of prejudices grown almost into mental infirmities, which have become sacred to us on account of their hoary age, and that it demands a very uncommon strength of mind to eradicate from our memory all the absurdities that have been imprinted upon our youthful suceptibilities as oracular deliverances, and to exchange them for new truths.

But the oak-garland with which a consciousness of acting right crowns us, rewards these victories over ourselves a thousand-fold!

Do old, antiquated untruths become anything better - do they become truths - by reason of their hoary antiquity? Is not truth eternal, though it may have been discovered only an hour ago? Does the novelty of its discovery render it an untruth? Was there ever a discovery or a truth that was not at first novel?"

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