20 years ago: The British Homoeopathic Journal, October 1985
17 December 2017 (online)
The task of homeopaths
This paper, read at the Congress at Great Yarmouth in April, is an exposition of ‘The role of homoeopathy in contemporary medicine’ by Jeremy Swayne. As an avowed novice member of the Faculty, he exhibited boundless enthusiasm in presenting some wholly personal ideas about the present state and future prospects of homeopathic medicine. He believed that we needed to explore the role in an imaginative and wide-ranging manner; and said that, although much of what he had to say was simple, obvious and unoriginal, it was important to stress, as it has possibilities which we seem to be neglecting.
As an early beneficiary of the new growth in general practice, which invigorated the whole practice of medicine, he saw this as a model for our own endeavours. He acknowledged the importance of achieving scientific credibility, but was insistent that it was not necessary to wait for this before any authority could be established. He compared the role of science in its narrow, modern sense (which was of course an essential contribution) with science in its broad, old sense, perhaps defined as applied wisdom, underpinning the whole of it. He referred to E F Schumacher's A Guide for the Perplexed, which distinguished between two kinds of science, science for manipulation and science for understanding; the latter equating more or less with applied wisdom. Dr Swayne stressed that ‘If medicine becomes too subservient to science for manipulation, it will have lost its way. In our thinking and research in homoeopathy we must get the balance right, and in doing so can be a healthy influence within medicine.’
The author came now to the most important point which he had to make. The activity that above all had launched, stimulated and sustained the process of growth amongst general practitioners was the coming together in groups ‘to wrestle with the problems, challenges, perplexities and opportunities; to dissect and refine clinical experience and technique; to develop educational methods; to raise expectations and set new standards, and to strive to achieve them! It was this kind of exploration which gave general practitioners the courage of their convictions; gave them the realization that they had something to say that was entirely valid in its own right and required no apology’. The parallel with homeopathy is obvious. He emphasized that medicine needed the stimulus and nourishment which homeopathy can provide, but cautioned ‘We cannot begin to fulfil this role until we have become far more vigorous in the way we think and study and work together. We ourselves are lacking in stimulus and nourishment, and we cannot offer others that which we lack ourselves’.
In what was considered almost by way of an appendix (five pages!), the author suggested three areas and activities in which orthodox colleagues may become aware of the benefits of homeopathic therapeutics; areas of potential cross-fertilization with the rest of medicine; and activities by which we could develop this role. Under the last heading, he dealt with the need for good communication, contact with other doctors, and where possible collaboration. In these, he was insistent that we should have the courage of our convictions. ‘I suspect that many of us are perfunctory in our letter writing, if we communicate at all. This seems to be above all a failure of self respect’. He accepted that contact and collaboration could be difficult and meet with rebuffs, but again insisted that we must perhaps emulate the importunate widow of the gospel story, and keep knocking at the door because our cause is just’.
In his concluding remarks, Dr Swayne had more to say on his main theme: ‘I believe that we undervalue our discipline; almost, and this may seem an insulting thing to say, that we do not take it seriously enough. As a result, we diminish our expectations and our achievements. If we do not take it seriously enough, why should anyone else?’[ 1 ]
- 1 Swayne J.. The role of contemporary medicine. Br Hom J 1985; 74: 177-186.
- 2 Leary B.. Was Dudgeon right? A discussion of the theories of Hahnemann. Br Hom J 1985; 74: 194-201.
- 3 Warren A.G.. A homeopathic view of pain and stress in animals. Br Hom J 1985; 74: 207-210.
- 4 Thomas P.W.. The Faculty, its journals and its data. Br Hom J 1985; 74: 222-223.