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Similarities Between Hahnemann and Paracelsus

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Similarities Between Hahnemann and Paracelsus


“The charlatan is always the pioneer. From the astrologer came the astronomer, from the alchemist the chemist, from the mesmerist the experimental psychologist. The quack of yesterday is the professor of tomorrow. Even such subtle and elusive things as dreams will in time be reduced to system and order…no longer be the amusement of the mystic, but the foundations of a science.” [Doyle, 1922]

This slim volume from Dr. John Henry Clarke [1853-1931] conveys his own admiration for Paracelsus [1493-1541] and Hahnemann [1755-1843]. Dr. Clarke was a complex man, given to many strong views within and outside of medicine. Though originally a protégé of Dr. Richard Hughes [1836-1902], he especially came under the influence of Dr. James Compton Burnett [1840-1901] and two other Cooper Club members, Dr. Thomas Skinner [1825-1906], and Dr. Robert T Cooper [1844-1903].

The so-called ‘Cooper Club’ continued to meet into the 1930s, chiefly under the guidance of Drs Clarke and Wheeler. This phase of British homeopathy, which ran roughly from 1880 to 1930, was undoubtedly an inspiring renaissance of renewed experimentation and inventiveness. It might have been a coincidence that Burnett, Cooper, Skinner and Clarke turned out to be such intelligent, inventive and daring people, who set up a movement within a movement in their own right. Yet, it was widely apparent that British homeopathy had passed its peak and was in decline after about 1880, and entering a phase of stagnation. Yet, the very active and inventive ‘Cooper Club’ comprised a challenging phase of iconoclastic and experimental work. It was also a time of splits and factions, of turmoil and new ideas; rather a fertile, ‘melting-pot situation’.

Burnett, for example, was strongly influenced by Rademacher and Paracelsus in that, as a Gold Medal anatomist, he appreciated the body organs and systems as interacting parts of a whole. This was very close to the medieval viewpoint of these two thinkers. To Burnett this was pure holism. To him the idea of Rademacher’s ‘organ remedies’ was not an unholistic and anti-Hahnemannian blasphemy at all, but a profoundly insightful and pragmatic reality, which could be yoked into practice and brought to bear upon any case. It enriched one’s homeopathy when used correctly. Likewise, he had great respect for the plant and mineral remedies of Paracelsus and for the old plant remedies of English herbalism.

Burnett seems to have been the biggest influence on Clarke’s views, and upon his general attitudes within homeopathy. Their approach was deeply experimental and pragmatic; evidence driven rather than dogma driven. Burnett was deeply eclectic in his views and in his practice. He questioned things at a very fundamental level and refused to accept any dogma if it did not work out in practice. He was just as happy using high potency nosodes and conventional homeopathics [mostly in very low potency] as he was using herbal simples like Walnut and Acorn. So wide was his view, that he could equally admire Rademacher [1772-1850] and Schuessler [1821-1898], as well as Paracelsus. Clarke eagerly took up this bright torch of eclecticism and forged ahead, leaving all far behind.

Thus, it is important to view Clarke against a backdrop of Burnett, who was his greatest teacher. Clarke eventually came into his own. However, he was a man of strong views and short temper and had little time for the ‘old guard’ in the BHS [what was later the Faculty]. They were mostly low potency Hughesian homeopaths like Dudgeon [1820-1904] and David Dyce Brown [c.1840-1911], who controlled the movement until about 1910. He felt they were far too conservative and restrictive to one’s practice. They disapproved of nosodes, of higher centesimal potencies and just about anything experimental. Clarke soon came to detest them, and after several arguments, left the BHS in disgust in 1908, never to return to the fold. Instead, he soon turned his attention to his practice and to writing. He threw himself into both with enormous energy.

Cooper (1844-1903) was influenced undoubtedly by Paracelsus in his ideas about the nature of forces within plants (his ‘arborivital medicine’) and it is possible that he was aware of the work of Goethe or Steiner, as he clearly believed cancers to be the result of hidden forces within the person very similar to the growth-force in trees and other plants. This influence was pervasive and general, whereas in the case of Burnett the link to Paracelsus was mainly about organs and systems, rather than the healing forces within plants.

He declared that there was

‘…existing in plant-remedies a force…which acted by virtue of a power in all respects similar to a germinating power in the human body.’ [Cooper, 1900, p.2]

‘…in the living plants we get a force which, if applied…to disease, will arrest its progress and even cause its dispersal’ [ibid, p.3].

It is clearly like a form of ‘signatures’ to believe that the healthy force from the plant can then be utilised against the unhealthy force in the diseased person. It is clearly related to the law of similars. It is also close to the concept – and probably contains it – that disease is powered by an invisible growth-force that is present in the diseased organ and which can be `trapped’ in the form of sarcodes and nosodes, prepared therefrom which can then be used as a healing agent against similar diseases.

‘Cooper’s hypothesis was that a curative ability or action is inherent in all living plant material, and that this does not require trituration, succussion or dilution to be effective….Cooper directed that the tinctures should be administered in single drop doses, and that these remedies should be given time to act fully before being repeated. The dose was administered in powder form with a single drop of the tincture on to a dry tongue and on an empty stomach’

‘He was influenced by the Doctrine of Signatures and relied on observation of plant structures and characteristics…Cooper claimed that arborivital remedies were most suitable in crises which were incurable by any other means, and this includes homoeopathic methods’ [Bonnard, 1994, p.23]

Dr. Clarke had begun to establish himself as a very successful and highly influential London homeopath in early 1880s. However, he ‘fell out’ with figures like Hughes and Dudgeon, who controlled the movement, to the extent that all offices soon became closed to him, except the editorship of The Homeopathic World, which he retained to the end. He thus became a powerful ‘loose cannon’ and effectively divided the movement. This was so for two main reasons.

Firstly, he was wholly disenchanted with the direction English homeopathy had taken. He disliked the way it eventually failed to continue challenging allopathy or winning many new converts to its dwindling ranks – especially after 1900. It came to occupy an all-too-cosy niche within Victorian society, conveniently devoting itself to serving solely the rich upper classes. Clarke commenced to teach laypersons all about homeopathy, towards whom many of his books were directed, and he became increasingly convinced that its future lay with them rather than with servile doctors who had ‘sold out’ to allopathy. This very radical viewpoint turned out to be an astonishingly accurate premonition, really, as subsequent history has shown.

Single-handedly, by the 1920s, Clarke had created a completely divided movement, composed of doctors on the one hand, and lay practitioners on the other. And it was mainly the latter who carried British homeopathy forward throughout the dismal 1930s, 40s and 50s, their light never dimming. Yet, the two strands had little contact with, and only contempt for, each other. Even in the 1960s, homeopathy was still very much a ridiculed medical minority and deep in the doldrums. Not until the late 1970s, did it start taking off again.

It is quite true that Clarke was also a typical early-century right-wing fascist and an anti-Semite, which does not endear him to anyone today. How weird, therefore, that he formed such a fruitful allegiance with J Ellis Barker, who was a left-winger? Barker [1869-1948] was handed the editorship of the Homeopathic World in the spring of 1932, just after Clarke died. Clarke was anti-Jew and wrote tracts for the British party run by Sir Oswald Moseley [1896-1980]. It is not known for certain, however, to what extent this interest developed. He died before the movement really took off in the 30s, and thus, cannot in any sense, be held responsible for any of its unpleasant activities at that time. It is also noteworthy that strongly polarised political views were very common at that time – a case of ‘communism vs. nationalism’ persisted in most of Europe , and elsewhere too.

Thus, we can justly regard Dr. Clarke as the single most important English homeopath of this century and very much the darling of the movement. In terms of bold and experimental ideas and methods; for his writings; for his fierce independence; his great energy, which he poured into homeopathy with abandon; as a political force within the movement; and finally for his deep radicalism re lay practice, he towers like a colossus over all the rest. From him flows nearly every tradition or strand within the fabric of modern British homeopathy, other than Kentianism.

Unlike many modern homeopathic dogmatists [classicalists] but very like his mentor, Dr. Burnett, Clarke liked Paracelsus as well as Hahnemann, and clearly saw many parallels between them. This brings us to a comparison of Hahnemann’s similia principle with Paracelsus’ law of signatures. It is clear from what Clarke says in this book, that he could see very little difference between them. In addition, presumably, that was also Burnett’s perspective, and doubtless from whence he got it.

Burnett and Clarke were at once the most heretical, the most interesting and the most deeply critical and experimental homeopaths of their generation and the finest figures in British homeopathy at the turn of the century –not only in their own opinion but also in that of their immediate successors like Wheeler, Blackie, Tyler and Weir. They were traditional Hahnemannians, but who somehow retained a critical and open-minded attitude about all new developments taking place in the wider field of medicine in general.

Clarke later described the other leading members of the Cooper Club as ‘the three most potent influences on the evolution of British Homoeopathy today’, and wrote in 1901: ‘It is not too much to say that during the last twenty years, Burnett has been the most powerful, the most fruitful, the most original force in homoeopathy.’ [Clarke, 1901]. Clarke was himself a physician to be reckoned with, and in time the author of a medical encyclopaedia, which rivalled that of Hughes.

Clarke graduated in Edinburgh in 1877 and then studied homeopathy in Liverpool , under Berridge. Burnett had also settled and practised near to Liverpool before moving to London in 1881. The ‘Cooper Club’ continued to meet even after the deaths of Skinner, Burnett and Cooper, into the 1930s, mainly with Clarke, Wheeler, Tyler and Weir.

For centuries, the medicinal qualities of a drug were decided by astrological considerations, such as reference to planetary rulers. For example, fruits, nuts and other nutritious or sweet-scented plants were deemed to be ruled by Venus; reddish and peppery plants by Mars; yellow or orange plants by Jupiter; dark, poisonous and bitter herbs were ruled by Saturn; silvery, white and watery [succulent] plants came under the Moon’s rulership [see Culpeper].

“Paracelsus was also a firm believer in the doctrine of signatures, and in illustration of it explained every single part of St. John’s Wort [Hypericum perforatum] in terms of this belief “…the holes in the leaves mean that this herb helps all inner and outer orifices of the skin…the blooms rot in the form of blood, a sign that it is good for wounds and should be used where flesh has to be treated.” [Griggs, 1981, p.50]

Yet, to many, there is an important difference here between signatures and provings:

‘There is, afterall, an important difference between the selection of a medicine on the basis of its ability to reproduce, in a healthy person, the symptom complex manifested in a patient, and the selection of a medicine on the basis of some physical resemblance between it and the organ affected…’ [Nicholls, 1988, p.8]

Homeopathy has a range of clearly traceable origins, but chiefly began as a reaction against the Heroic overdrugging, bleeding and cupping of 18th century medicine. Even here though, the reaction was chiefly against the inefficacy rather than the barbarity of those methods per se. The medical approach of homeopathy can be traced back to some of the theoretical ideas of medieval alchemists like Albertus Magnus [1193-1280], Agrippa von Nettsheim [1486-1535], and especially Theophrastus Paracelsus [1493-1541]. It also contains elements from the early Greeks, especially Hippocrates [468-377BC] and the English physician, Thomas Sydenham [1624-1689]. Yet, it is not until the work of Hahnemann that all these separate threads were combined to form the homeopathic system of medicine, as we know it. As the name implies, its key feature is the use of the similars principle [similia similibus curentur] rather than the entrenched Galenic principle of opposites [contraria contraris] in disease.

Ever since Hahnemann’s time, homeopathy has been both a medical theory and a medical method. The primary goal of homeopathic philosophy is not theoretical, but pragmatic – to deepen, enrich and guide good practice. While homeopathy is, unquestionably, a philosophical system in its own right – and has had a life of its own as such – that is not its primary quality or function. It is primarily a clinical method, aimed more at curing sick folks, rather than winning adherents to its creed. Thus, theory should never dominate or smother method. Method always comes out top, and should always be the dominant force. Method is paramount, as Hahnemann was primarily a medical experimentalist.

However, it is also true that theory is still a very important element. It must be yoked in with method. Indeed, you can easily take the opposing view, that without an underlying philosophy; method is just shooting in the dark. Theory tends to keep method pure and ‘on track’. If you ditch theory then method tends to degenerate into allopathised mongrel forms. If you ditch method then theory tends to ossify into dogma. Both are necessary and complement each other. The ideology of homeopathy is thus highly relevant to its method, but the two work best when yoked together.

Hahnemann did not really start out as a theoretician, pontificating from high ground about the best and ideal form of medicine or its philosophical basis. His clinical experiments probably came first and these were then followed at a later stage by his theoretical rantings. Importantly, those rantings were always derived from practice and underpinned by it. Thus, he was never speaking from a purely theoretical level, but always based upon the sound bedrock of practice, of clinical experience. Thus, he provided, created and perfected chiefly a clinical method, but greatly enriched, underpinned and supplemented by theoretical ideas. This also reflects an aspect of the man: he was both an excellent experimental scientist and a powerful thinker and writer.

In Hahnemann’s case, it is very difficult to know with certainty to what extent he really leaned upon Paracelsus. He left behind scant evidence of any substantial interest in occultism or mediaeval medicine, so it is likely that he devised homeopathy partly through practice and partly through his own mind just thinking things through. In addition, there is abundant evidence right through his life – he had a brilliant, searching and restless inventiveness to his mentality. It therefore remains unlikely that he copied Paracelsus. In addition, it is usually impossible to trace back to its source an idea that has taken root in someone’s mind and then borne fruit many years later.

Hahnemann tragically learned for himself the appalling ineffectiveness of allopathic practice. As a physician, as a compassionate man and as a father of young children, that fact depressed him very greatly. However, working on a theoretical level this inspired him to search out and identify the underlying reasons for its ineffectiveness. That could only be revealed through clearly identifying and enunciating its underlying creed or philosophy. He must have spent a great deal of time just thinking and reflecting about allopathic medicine – its methods and its whys and wherefores. He must have done that to arrive at the conclusions he came to.

Hahnemann resolutely believed that a rational form of medicine could be formulated and he meticulously searched it out. Many would have just given up and done something else, but he soldiered on, translating medical texts from many languages, unearthing data from the past and experimenting on a practical level. Though it is true that he gave up medical practice for a time, he never gave up the hope of finding a medical path superior to allopathic drugging.

His critique asserts that allopathy is based, chiefly, upon three ideas: polypharmacy, strong doses, and the law of contraries. He identifies all four as the root causes of its ineffectiveness. Then he chooses an opposite medical creed – single drugs, small doses and similars, which he provisionally identifies as comprising the most likely features of an effective and superior medical path. What is so interesting is that he uses the very creed of his enemy – allopathy – as the basis for first setting his feet down onto clean Paracelsan sand! By then replacing signatures with the proving, he was able to create an entirely new system.

His clinical practice therefore both suggested and confirmed his theoretical ideas. He felt fully justified in vilifying allopathy, because at both levels he could see that it was fundamentally incorrect. Incorrect as a method, because it did not work, and therefore incorrect as a creed. What is so striking and modern about his approach is that he attacked a method that didn’t work and then decided that it must contain innately suspect principles that underpin the technique and which form the root cause of why it didn’t work. That whole approach is so modern and so scientific that it has gone unnoticed. Thus, through his powerful analysis of allopathy he came to conceive an outline sketch of the most probable qualities of a superior method – similars, small doses and single drugs. He then tested this method and found it very useful.

Through continued experiment, he became increasingly convinced that it was the better of the two – what he termed a ‘rational healing art’. This increased his confidence and widened the gulf with allopathy. This is why Hahnemann criticised so forcefully both the methods and the ideology or creed of allopathy. He had successfully unearthed its essence and shown it to be incorrect through testing its opposite creed and showing that the latter was both more effective and more predictable. No-one before Hahnemann had done this. No-one before had so clearly identified, dissected and lain bare the underlying creed of allopathy and chosen from its basis an opposite creed and then systematically investigated it and pushed it through into a new system. That was a remarkable achievement.

Some people say that Paracelsus had done much the same thing 250 years previous. This is a claim we need to look at more carefully. It is not quite true that Paracelsus had done the same thing. Paracelsus had certainly criticised allopathy both at a theoretical level and as a method, and he adopted and stressed a range of unorthodox ideas [e.g. law of similars], but unlike Hahnemann, he had mainly done all that emotionally, irrationally, chaotically and unsystematically – which was his way. A way that was peculiar to him and valid for him – and a way that is still valid for some. However, he failed to articulate any clear, rational or well-reasoned alternative to allopathy. Much of what he wrote is very obscure and contradictory and can in no way be regarded as a tidy medical system with a consistent and rational philosophy. Moreover, it is only understandable and of interest now in the light of Hahnemann and homeopathy which came later. It was neither of interest nor understandable to medics at the time. Therefore, it was not a clear system that predates homeopathy as a well-argued and rational ideology. It was a mixed bag. If it had been a clear system, it might well have been adopted more widely. The fact that it was not is one damning piece of evidence against it.

It might more realistically be seen as ‘a preparation for Hahnemann’, a clearing of debris, levelling of ground and the building of foundations for homeopathy. Nevertheless, it never went any further than that. It was a foundation for a new house that was never actually built. There were no walls, no rooms and no roof. On a theoretical or ideological level it is perfectly true that Paracelsus predates Hahnemann and forms a sound basis of ideas upon which Hahnemann built his ‘house of homeopathy’, but it is misleading to then say that Hahnemann copied Paracelsus or that he derived homeopathy from Paracelsan medicine. In a sense, he did do that. In another sense, he just made parallel discoveries (mainly through direct insight and experiment) and built up a system with strong similarities to Paracelsus. His system was built up chiefly through experiment based upon some ideas from Cullen and Paracelsus, amongst others, and from his critique of allopathy. Nevertheless, it is oversimplistic and misleading to say that homeopathy was first produced by Paracelsus and then perfected by Hahnemann.

It probably is true that Hahnemann magicked the ‘white dove’ of homeopathy out of the ‘black hat’ of Paracelsan medicine, but it is very much Hahnemann’s white dove and not that of Paracelsus. I stress this point at some length because it has been an oft-repeated claim, even in his lifetime, that Hahnemann was a copier and imitator of Paracelsus – a charge he vigorously denied. If it was true, he might have admitted it. That he denied it repeatedly indicates that it was probably more of a coincidence. That he became angry at these accusations does suggest that he may have been denying something. Of course, to those who swim in the wider river of history of ideas it is difficult to deny some link between Paracelsus and Hahnemann – they are profoundly similar people – and Hahnemann knew about Paracelsus in depth, but that does not inevitably mean that there is a strong causal link between them.

Yet, Hahnemann never even mentions Paracelsus, who is most widely regarded as the originator of a form of homeopathy i.e. a system of medicine based almost exclusively upon the law of similars and small doses. However, why should he have mentioned Paracelsus? Only by introducing the proving of drugs – his own original idea – did homeopathy become a reality.

The question has often been asked if Hahnemann copied Paracelsus. The answer is ‘yes’ in the sense that he used the law of similars and knew that others in medicine [including Paracelsus] before him had also used it. The answer is ‘no’ in the sense that what Paracelsus used was not homeopathy in the Hahnemannian sense, because Paracelsus did not conduct provings and nor did he, as far as we know, attenuate the dose. These latter two techniques were developed exclusively by Hahnemann and form unique components of the homeopathic system, which he created. However, Paracelsus apparently did do something with dosage and did use small doses compared with his medical peers.

Paracelsus can thus be regarded as Hahnemann’s most ‘homeopathic’ predecessor, as he is the most famous physician before Hahnemann to make extensive clinical use of the law of similars:

“Paracelsus felt that diseases should be classified as diseases of lead, silver, gold, Saturn, moon, sun or some other substance according to the cosmic patterns that correspond to and activate them.” [Whitmont, 1980, p.10]

Paracelsus did not conduct provings of drugs in the Hahnemannian sense, but he was very interested in their poisonous effects, and he seemed to perceive the same link that Hahnemann made, between the toxicity and the therapeutic action of a drug. However, he did not, as far as we know, attenuate the dose. The proving and the attenuation of the dose were developed exclusively by Hahnemann and form unique components of his homeopathic system. Paracelsus did, however, do something unusual with remedy preparation. Perhaps he glimpsed but dimly the underlying principle, which Hahnemann was later able to clarify in much greater detail. Yet, even Paracelsus used contraries and was rarely reliable or consistent in his approach.

Hahnemann undoubtedly knew of and built upon the work of Paracelsus. However, it is the size and extent of his debt that is difficult to quantify. Some [e.g. Danciger, 1987 Gutman, 1978] have suggested that Hahnemann’s debt to Paracelsus was great, that he was a member of Western Esoteric traditions [or drew heavily upon them] and that he was very familiar with the metaphysical views of his near-contemporary, Goethe [1749-1832], Western Esoteric traditions like the Freemasons, Knight’s Templar and the Rosicrucians. This may be stretching the point somewhat, as Hahnemann himself goes no further than mentioning Hippocrates as using the law of similars. Similar points are made by Neagu [1995] and Bradford [1895].

It is peculiar that Hahnemann never mentions the medical rebel and doyen of similars, Paracelsus. Perhaps he felt that Paracelsus was too controversial a figure to be linked with his new therapy. He was also complex and contradictory. He may have felt that accusations of plagiarism would have been made against him. It is well-known that Hahnemann was a lifelong Freemason, and perhaps he was under a vow of silence about the influence of Paracelsus and other Esotericists on his new system of therapy.

However, Hahnemann was opposed to the pure and unbridled use of signatures:

“The…virtues of medicines cannot be apprehended by…smell, taste, or appearance…or from chemical analysis, or by treating disease with one or more of them in a mixture…” [The Organon, v.110]

“Paracelsus’s system…was a rude form of homeopathy…but it was not equal in value to Hahnemann’s system…” [Dudgeon, 1853, p.14]

Hahnemann definitely rejected the doctrine of signatures. In his Materia Medica Pura we read under Chelidonium:

‘The ancients imagined that the yellow colour of the juice of this plant was an indication (signature) of its utility in bilious diseases…the importance of human health does not admit of any such uncertain directions for the employment of medicines. It would be criminal frivolity to rest contented with such guesswork at the bedside of the sick.” [Hobhouse, 1933, p.138]

Hahnemann seems not to have hesitated even for a moment in boldly brushing aside centuries of entrenched dogma in favour of the known effects of drugs on real people. That is a measure of his great rationality and empiricism. However, he did not have to wait very long for time to teach him the painful consequences of disagreeing with all the professors of medicine at that time. What Hahnemann clearly did was to replace Paracelsus’ inaccurate and unpredictable ‘doctrine of signatures’ with the more scientific and more reliable technique of the proving. In addition, it was a move in keeping with the times.

Hahnemann perhaps discovered similar ideas to Paracelsus but from a different route, through his own experimentation and research and thus wished to stress the originality of his own work. This important aspect of influences upon the early Hahnemann is discussed in depth in Haehl, 1922, [Vol. 1, p.11& pp.21-24, & Vol. 2, pp.9-10] in which he specifically rejects any link with Paracelsus. Yet, this remains a somewhat unconvincing viewpoint.

Hahnemann’s link with Paracelsus was again emphasised in a paper given at the Stuttgart Conference on the History of Medicine [April 1995] by Dr. Michael Neagu, about the history of homeopathy in Rumania [Geschichte der homoopathie in Rumanien]. The post that Hahnemann took in Transylvania at the beginning of his career [1777-79], as a cataloguist to the medical library of a patron, Baron Samuel von Brukenthal at Sibiu is crucial, because that library in which he spent two years, contained a large collection of original works by mediaeval alchemists and physicians including a large collection of works by Paracelsus. It also contained the esoteric Medicina Spagyrica Tripartita [1648] of Jean Pharamond Rhumelius [c.1600-c.1660], which Neagu describes as ‘a fundamental esoteric work, relying on the principle of similia similibus curentur.’ [p.25 of his paper; p.259 in Dinges, 1996].

The story goes that Hahnemann could not fail to have been inspired by the contents of that collection and probably picked up some therapeutic ideas while there, if only unconsciously. Neagu goes on to add that one of Hahnemann’s direct disciples, Honigberger, ‘was a speaker of the Rumanian language and had practised homeopathy in all three Romanian principiates.’ [p.25]. Nevertheless, we might say, this still does not prove that Hahnemann read these works, had any interest in them or obtained ideas from them. However, it does increase the likelihood of an influence which had previously been dismissed or even underplayed.

The truth is, of course, that Hahnemann behaved every bit like a second Paracelsus, but he felt he had to hide this fact. Both mercilessly derided their contemporaries, rejected the medicine in which they were trained, used small doses and emphasised the law of similars. Both also made extensive use of minerals, acids and metals. Both also obtained brief university teaching posts, but got sacked after abusing their position, ‘indoctrinating’ their students, castigating the medical system of the day and teaching heretical forms of medicine. How similar to each other can you get? In addition, both were thoroughly castigated by their orthodox brethren. Their biggest difference is that Hahnemann used purified drugs, while Paracelsus tended to use unrefined natural products. Likewise, Paracelsus loved Alchemy, astrology and mysticism, while Hahnemann appears to have loathed all three. Paracelsus was a real problem for Hahnemann about whom he must have thought a great deal: how to shake himself free? Yet, he never mentions him in all his writings. One reason is obvious: guilt by association, which had to be avoided at all costs.

Perhaps he decided early on that the only ‘mud that would stick’ to him was that of plagiarism and that homeopathy might be seen as just a rehashed form of Paracelsan medicine. In addition, to an informed historian, this is a very valid claim, and almost impossible to refute. One way, however, to rebut the claim was not to use natural minerals, but rather to use refined ones, not to use mixtures of herbs, but to use them separately, and to minimise any fanciful or spiritual overtones, mystical formulae or astrological symbolism, thus keeping to the spirit of his contemporary scientists. In this way, he was sure to give homeopathy a clean start and to successfully dissociate it from medieval medicine in general and Paracelsan medicine in particular.

The point here, of course, is that Hahnemann was far more widely read than any other doctor of his day was. He knew medical history intimately. Indeed, some of his works contain references in Greek, Latin and Arabic from authors before the Christian era [e.g. On the Helleborism of the Ancients, Lesser Writings, Jain Edition, pp.569-617]. He translated works from English, French, Spanish, and Italian, as well as Latin, Greek and Arabic. His linguistic skills were truly astonishing. Of course, he knew about Paracelsus, but he kept quiet. It cannot be a coincidence that he put people off the trail leading to Paracelsus by never even mentioning him. The two systems of therapy are unmistakably similar. It is amazing that he is never mentioned. Indeed, many of the metals, acids and minerals in use in 18th century medicine, and later proved by Hahnemann, were actually introduced into medicine originally by Paracelsus, including Mercury, Arsenic, Sulphur, Tin, Lead, Gold, Iron, Copper and Salt.

One hopes that this essay provides a good introduction to this short text by Dr. Clarke, and hopefully, that it provides a context to supplement the many good points that he makes herein about this fascinating subject. It also comes at a time when many modern homeopaths are looking afresh at the rich seam of ideas within Paracelsan medicine, and allowing themselves to think anew about remedies, disease states and their patients. It is a time when there is renewed interest amongst homeopaths in the symbolical and subtle aspects about all three. There are subtle links between Clarke and Burnett and the distant work of Paracelsus. Further links can be seen to Steiner and Goethe. Coming down from all these we find Anthroposophical medicine and the esoteric tradition of Alchemy. Hahnemann himself was a lifelong Freemason. All these many factors can be pieced together into a meaningful framework, as Clarke himself attempts in this small volume.

“Hering’s Law of Cure, Kent’s Hierarchy of Symptoms and Compton-Burnett’s elaboration of Paracelsian Organopathy are all practical employment of the principle of recursion or fractal stages inherent in all life processes….these three major contributors to homoeopathy were powerfully influenced by the philosophy of Swedenborg, and Hering and Burnett were also students of Paracelsian principles as well. It is doubtful that these three would have made such profound contributions without the influence of Paracelsus and Swedenborg…quite simply and profoundly, it is the recursive-fractal structure of the inner and outer nature of the universe and of humanity that both Paracelsus and Swedenborg expounded.” [Whitney, 1994, p.22]


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BHJ, 1932, Dr. Clarke an Appreciation, from April 1932 BHJ

Bonnard, Jean, 1994, Robert Thomas Cooper and Arborivital Medicine, Student Homeopath #21, 10 Sept 1994, pp.22-24

Bradford, Thomas L, 1895, Life and Letters of Hahnemann, USA

Clarke, John Henry, 1901, Life and Times of Dr Burnett

Clarke, John Henry, 1907, The Life of Thomas Skinner

Close, Stuart, 1924, The Genius of Homeopathy, Lectures and Essays on Homeopathic Philosophy, New York

Concise Dictionary of National Biography, 1995, Oxford Univ Press, UK

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Author: bashirmahmudellias

I am an Author, Design specialist, Islamic researcher, Homeopathic consultant.

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