20 years ago: The British Homoeopathic Journal, January 1985
13 December 2017 (online)
The two faces of homoeopathy
This is a nine-page report of the Richard Hughes Memorial Lecture, which Dr A C H Campbell gave, for the second time. In his first lecture, he reviewed the main features of Hughes’ teaching, and concluded that there was much that we could gain from reconsidering some of his ideas. This second lecture gives his conclusions after much thought on these ideas in the intervening years.
Campbell's thesis was that there are two faces or aspects of homeopathy, the scientific and the metaphysical; and that many of the problems confronted at the time arose because the existence of the two faces was not generally recognized. These two aspects originated with Hahnemann himself, who combined them more completely than any subsequent homeopath; not simultaneously, but sequentially. The author gave a brief biographical sketch to demonstrate this; showing how the theoretical, the so-called ‘metaphysical’ theories, vitalism, dynamization or potentization, and miasms, developed in Hahnemann's later life. Campbell used Karl Popper's terminology, according to which a theory is metaphysical if it cannot be tested, and so can never be disproved. (This does not necessarily mean it is of no value. Popper instances Freudian theory as metaphysical, since any conceivable behaviour can be explained in Freudian terms.) Campbell elaborated on the metaphysical aspects of Hahnemann's later theories in this context.
Richard Hughes was very much on the scientific wing of homeopathy; using low potencies and pathological prescribing; rejecting ‘metaphysical’ concepts; he was always concerned with attempting to build bridges between homeopathy and orthodox medicine. He hoped for a future where ‘the rivalry between “homoeopathic” and “allopathic” practitioners would no longer embitter doctors and perplex patients’. However, another part of the same quotation probably led to his posthumous ostracism by the majority of homeopaths: ‘Do our brethren know what would be the result of such generous policy? We would at once cease to exist as a separate body’. This is what happened in the USA, where the low potency wing was absorbed by orthodox medicine. Campbell described at length how a minority group, including Constantine Hering and James Tyler Kent were deeply influenced by the Swedish mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg; for whom the idea that there is a mystical correspondence between the spirit world and our own was fundamental. Campbell not only saw Hahnemann's later theories as congenial to the Swedenborgians, but also the idea of correspondence as fitting in with the similia principle. This group not only became the mainstream there, but transformed the British scientifically minded mainstream, represented by Hughes, after Margaret Tyler and several colleagues went to the US to study under Kent. The result was the almost complete isolation of British Homeopathy within the British medical scene. From the writings of homeopaths at the time, most appeared to be quite indifferent to this, some even actually rejoicing in their differences. There were some notable exceptions, such as Charles Wheeler. Campbell cited the materia medica of Margaret Tyler as a good example of the change, considering it more like an art form than science.
After this historical review, Campbell considered the current situation, with its probable implications for the future. He saw a greater diversity of views, with some homeopaths closer to what might be called a neo-Hughsian position, He outlined the essentials of this position thus: The similia principle is not to be regarded as a law of nature, but simply as a rule of thumb that has given rise to some medicines that seem to work. The potency idea is something to be investigated scientifically and accepted, modified or rejected according to the evidence that turns up. Metaphysical ideas such as vitalism and psora are not essential. Modern medical and scientific knowledge should be incorporated where relevant and should be taken into account in prescribing; which may entail a reappraisal of the materia medica, including the provings.’
The author thought that this version would probably appeal to some doctors, although others would probably feel that it omitted much of what makes homeopathy distinctive, and that this would be the view of nearly all lay homeopaths. This would also apply to patients, especially to younger people, who were suspicious of scientific medicine and attracted by the metaphysical aspects of homeopathy. In the past, medicine and religion were closely linked; the priest and physician were often one and the same. Today the physician finds himself the uneasy heir to two quite different traditions: expected to be a scientist, using the tools and methods of science; but also a healer, providing answers to the deepest questions. Campbell saw it as a major problem that our society lacks any agreed metaphysical framework, and accepted that metaphysical homeopathy, for all its serious shortcomings, filled a psychological need.
In conclusion, he stated ‘The doctor, of course, is not apart from society, but faces the same dilemmas and contradictions as everyone else—indeed perhaps with unusual acuteness. The subject has been finely discussed by the psychiatrist J Dominion in an article in the British Medical Journal (1983;287:1925) called “The Doctor as Prophet”, which I strongly recommend to your attention. There are no easy answers, but it is vital that we face up to the questions, which face all doctors, whether homoeopathic or not’.