Baltimore Homeopathic Study Group

Steve Messer, ND gave a talk entitled "Thinking Homeopathically" at the 1995 NCH convention. Although the title might make it sound like a dry and abstract presentation of ideas, Steve presented a lively and interesting talk on the core ideas of homeopathy.

Steve started by explaining that even though Hahnemann said in the Organon the purpuse of medicine is to cure and not expound theories, some theory of homeopathy is still necessary. Otherwise we run the risk of cognitive dissonance, when homeopathic practice does not fit in with allopathic philosophy, which we all carry in the back of out heads. So we need to understand the difference between the homeopathic and allopathic way of thinking about illness and healing.

First, homeopathic thinking is holistic. Allopathy treats the patient as a sick organ or a sick tissue. When a person is ill, he or she may bounce from specialist to specialist. Homeopathy, on the other hand, treats the entire person. It's the difference between seeing the person as a collection or amalgamation of parts and seeing the person as a synthesis. Although other forms of alternative medicine call themselves holistic, there is a difference in meaning to the term. As Bill Gray has said, a lot of holistic medicine has to do with filling in the holes. While other forms of alternative medicine may address the larger social and emotional problems left unaddressed by allopathic medicine, often they address them separately. Homeopathy instead addresses all the problems as a single unit. This is why homeopathy gives a single medicine to treat a disease, because it believs that all the problems a person may suffer from stem from a single underlying problem.

And what is the underlying problem? Homeopathy teaches that all disease is disorder of the vital force. This is the second point in homeopathic thinking. Homeopathy is vitalistic instead of being reductionistic. Steve illustrated the difference between the two approaches by telling us about an article in a magazine that caught his eye several years ago. In it a biochemist said that we are close to understanding the chemical basis of life and once we understand biochemistry we will understand everything there is to know about human beings. This is the reductionistic approach to medicine. Homeopathy instead takes the vitalistic approach, which says there is more to a person than chemistry and physics and even if completely understood the chemical processes involved in life we would not understand the person. So homeopathy says there is something else than chemistry that is needed to explain the person and calls this something else the vital force. Other forms of medicine have a similar concept and use the terms chi, ki, or prana. But still the exact nature of the vital force is a mystery. Perhaps it's just that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Or perhaps there is some indefinable energy involved with life. While different homeopaths may have their own beliefs on the nature of the vital force, homeopathy leaves its exact nature undefined.

Steve said the reductionistic approach to medicine is stupid. A patient may go to an allopathic doctor complaining of depression. On the reductionistic model, the patient's complaint stems from some chemical imbalance, perhaps with seratonin. So the doctor who follows the reductionistic approach gives a pill to boost seratonin levels. But, Steve said there's so much more going on in depression than body chemistry. It's a problem that needs to be addressed at the level of the whole person and not at the level of chemistry.

The third point of homeopathic thinking is its definition of health. Allopathy says that health is the absence of disease or symptoms. Homeopathy defines health in aphorism nine of the Organon, where it says health is the ability to fufill our spiritual purpose, to reach the highest goal of our existence. Steve spoke of some patients he has seen who were taking beta blockers for hypertension. According to allopathy the patients were better because their blood pressure had come down. But the patients told him that they felt like the walking dead. So from the homeopathic point of view, the patients hadn't been restored to health, they had been made worse.

The fourth point of homeopathic thinking is its notion of disease cause. Diseases can have two causes: external and internal. Allopathy puts its emphasis on treating external causes of diseases, while homeopathy emphasizes the internal. Steve gave strep throat to illustrate the two kinds of cause. The external cause of strep throat is the strep bacteria. The internal cause is the succeptibility to strep throat. A healthy person will be able to throw off the bacteria without coming down with strep throat. For example, during cold season a doctor may see ten children a day who have strep throat. The doctor is exposed to the bacteria all day by coughing children, but the doctor does not come down with step throat unless his or her vitality is diminished by stress.

The succeptibility to disease is in the whole person, not in the particular organ affected by the disease. Homeopathy works on the level of the whole person to increase vitality and reduce the succeptibility to disease. In modern medicine bacteria and viruses have taken the place that demonic posession held in medieval medicine. In both cases the goal of treatment is to drive the invader out. Allopathic medicine is filled with violent metaphors for medical treatment and these metaphors color its approach to treatment. Homeopathy says that healing comes from the self healing force of the organism, while allopathy views the patient as helpless to cure the disease on their own. Steve said he sees patients who are frightened by stories in the news of this flesh eating bacteria or the immunity that many bacteria are developing to antibiotics. What these stories rarely mention is that only sick people are vulnerable to these bacteria. A healthy person has the power to throw off these bacteria without being affected by them. The body's innate power to fight off disease was holding off these killer bacteria for millions of years before antibiotics were invented and if antibiotics became ineffective tomorrow that same power would still function in healthy persons. Steve mentioned the case of the boy in Texas who was born without a functioning immune system and raised in a sterile environment. At age thirteen he was forced to go outside into an unprotected environment, but soon died despite all the antibiotics the allopathic doctors gave him. This case and the more recent cases of persons who have had their immune system destroyed by diseases like AIDS show that it's the body's own self healing force and not antibiotics which is the major factor in the cure of disease.

The fifth point of homeopathic thinking is individualization. Homeopathy says that all person with the same conventional disease do not have the same problem nor should they all be treated in the same manner.

At this point Steve was forced to interrupt his talk because the time allotted had run out. Obviously he could have talked at greater length on homeopathic thinking and there were several places in his talk where he said that he could say more about a topic but didn't have the time. It certainly would be interesting to hear him present his ideas on homeopathic thinking again in a forum where he is able to discuss the subject at greater length.

Steve Messer
NCH Summer School