The term ‘Homeopathy’ was created by Dr. Hahnemann in the 18th century. The word comes from Homeo - Similar and Pathos - Suffering , thus meaning Similar Suffering. The word itself is based on an old known medical law which has been known by different names, but most famously it is known as ‘The Law of Similars’. The knowledge and use of this natural law is very old, and written accounts go far back into ancient times.
To understand the basic nature of Homeopathy and the Law of Similars, let’s do a crash course on the history of medicine:
The famed ancient Egyptian Physicians to the Pharaos wrote about the law of similars as far back as 1200 BC. Throughout the world this law has been used to cure, and to change the fate of the sick for thousands of years. Sometimes known under different names, sometimes no name of it was given, just simply the understanding of its use as a cure. Many of the ancient applied uses of curing were lost, and forgotten over time. It is known that the art of medicine has long been a secretive art. Used by the most privileged and often of an initiatory nature, the privilege of this knowledge was often jealously guarded. Only those deemed worthy were privy to its uses and even then only a few would practice. Often the rank of priesthood would coincide with physician. Medicine has been seen as a knowledge mostly reserved for extraordinary people, who have held a kind of ‘priestly’ air about them. In ancient times the art of curing and medicinal uses were seen as a holy art, and was only applied by those people who could understand the complex nature of man and disease itself. The secrets of diseases was passed down from teacher to student, and was mostly an oral tradition, with a few very fortunate exceptions. Without these few written accounts, it’s use would be even more hidden. So, for thousands of years, the field of medicine was solely the art of the few shamans, priests and medicine women/ men.
Enter the experimentalists
In the 18th century, medicine had gone through a huge change, schools of medicine had been created, and famous medical schools established. Ofcourse they all had to agree to a kind of curriculum to use, and to teach their students the medical arts, they would agree to particular practises of the day. Just like today, back in those days the schools arrogantly thought they knew all there was to know about the art of medicine and so they settled on a curriculum which would use just one system, which was the very popular humor ( Galen) system. Unfortunately this system operates on a very small margin and created a kind of ‘let’s see what happens’ system. This is where crude and dangerous practises, bloodletting, and above all marketing came about. Medicine became the realm of snake oil salesmen and cure alls. Medicine became something only approved and often wealthy male students, could study, unfortunately creating a kind of old boys club whose senior members would proudly pat each other on the back and proclaim authority on the subject. Medicine spiralled into the realm of arrogance, politics, authority and only approved material was applied. Of course it was all leading to a dead end. Medicine that is used with a narrow vision doesn’t have much of a chance to be successful, and soon, with a silent embarrassment looming over its members, the college approved medicine men, known as doctors, were quietly starting to try non-approved ‘new ideas’. Shock and horror..
Dr. Hahnemann was a curious medical student at Leipzig University, to put himself through school, he translated various medical text. Undoubtedly going through so much medical material, he would eventually come across a curious reference, a reference known as a natural law of cure, The Law of Similars. Very few doctors had even heard of it, it was not on the curriculum at any medical school. Paracelsus famously declared it the greatest way to cure any disease; alchemists, fringe physicians would mention it in their works over the course of the years. It eventually took a little known Scottish doctor to experiment with it once to see if it ‘did anything’. And so it did. The use was of quinine to be used in a malaria type disease. We know Hahnemann read that doctor’s account because he too wanted to use it. He used it and found it to be extraordinary. It peaked his interest and he set off to experiment with it on some of his incurable patients. Lucky for us, he was to study the Law of Similars for the rest of his life, refining the application of it to such a large degree, that we now have the understanding of potencies, an extensive Materia Medica , the proper applications and jurisdictions of its use, and above all, he was instrumental to bring back into the fold of medicine, that important insight of the complex nature of man and disease. He called this application of medicine Heilkunst, the art of making ‘whole’.
Medical colleges be damned, he went against the stiff upper lips ruling the schools and sought out for himself what medicine was about. Many years of discovery, first his own and then countless others, would create the path we now know as Heilkunst and Homeopathy. The Law of Similars is back again, rescued from the edge of our collective consciousness, and slowly making its way into the new medicine of modern times. Many other talented and curious Practitioners have pioneered on, notably Steven Decker ( a German language scholar) who was to translate Hahnemann’ s work, ‘Die Organon der Heilkunst’ into English version. Hahnemann left us an immense treasure which set in motion a new human perspective. What is disease? What is a cure? Simple questions with complex answers.