Many physicians, including Indian Ayurvedic, Chinese classical, Tibetan, Native American, and traditional African, treat their patients as complex beings whose reality encompasses more than the merely physical. They use different models of the human constitution, depending on their cultural background, but agree in principle that human beings cannot be reduced to mechanisms of flesh. Although some interest is now being shown in the wisdom of other cultures, it is often dismissed as "primitive" by modern, technologically oriented Westerners who do not recognize a rational basis to those systems of thought and medicine. Cultural differences compound the difficulties. There is, however, a rational Western medicine that shares the nonmechanistic, nonreductionist view of humanity.
Following the principles of Hippocrates (c. 460 B.C.) and Paracelsus (1490-1541), German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) published his Organon of Rational Medicine in 1810, which elucidated and systematized an ancient form of healing through the principle of similars. Homeopathic cure is effected by medicinally inducing symptoms which are "exactly similar" to the totality of symptoms produced by the disease. On being stimulated to cleanse itself of the symptoms induced by the medicine, the organism simultaneously cleanses itself of the disease symptoms which are "exactly similar." Hahnemann worked with Nature to stimulate the organism's natural defensive ability to cleanse itself of the initial imbalancing cause.
The composite nature of human beings is one of this system's basic assumptions. Concerning "Vital Force" he wrote:
In the healthy condition of man, the spiritual vital force (autocracy), the dynamis that animates the material body (organism), rules with unbounded sway, and retains all the parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation, as regards both sensations and functions, so that our indwelling, reason-gifted mind can freely employ this living, healthy instrument for the higher purposes of our existence.
The material organism, without the vital force, is capable of no sensation, no function, no self-preservation;* it derives all sensation and performs all the functions of life solely by means of the immaterial being (the vital principle) which animates the material organism in health and in disease.
*It is dead, and now only subject to the power of the external physical world; it decays, and is again resolved into its chemical constituents. -- Organon of Rational Medicine, pp. 33-4.
Homeopathic medicine is respected and practiced in most areas of the modern world, especially in Europe. Physicians in India, including many trained in modern technological medicine, practice it as a radically effective medicine that fits comfortably with their traditional view of man as an essentially spiritual being.
Contemporary Greek homeopath George Vithoulkas has written in depth on the interdependence of human spiritual, mental, emotional, vital, and physical aspects and the necessity for healing to occur on all levels if an individual is to be truly healthy or "whole." According to homeopathic understanding, symptoms of disease are interpreted as an outward expression of internal disorder. In The Science of Homeopathy Vithoulkas explains this perspective in the light of our complex human nature by drawing on his extensive experience based on that model and on generations of homeopathic practice since Hahnemann's time (cf. George Vithoulkas, The Science of Homeopathy, passim).
Examples of sickness or incapacity on one level and health on other levels abound. Stephen Hawking, the brilliant British astrophysicist, is a case in point; his intellect is keen but his body is almost completely crippled, the antithesis of the usually good physical health of those hospitalized for emotional or mental illness. Vithoulkas points out that on the rare occasion when an emotionally disturbed individual does come down with a physical illness such as a cold or flu, his emotional symptoms clear up for the duration only to recur when the physical problem is resolved.
Theosophists have commented on the complex nature of humans as it relates to health and cure:
The idea should be not to dam back the disease or force it into latency, but to bring it out, to lead it out as easily as possible; and the medicine of the future will realize this so keenly . . . that the physicians of those . . . future times will be able to lead out a disease carefully and gently so that the body will scarcely be hurt, certainly not wrecked as unsuccessful experimentation in medical treatment often wrecks the body today. -- G. de Purucker, The Dialogues of G. de Purucker, 2:19
"Mind-cure" and "metaphysical healing" . . . throw[s] back into our inner, hidden planes of life diseases otherwise passing down and out through the natural gateway, our bodily frame.
. . . Mind is the container of the efficient causes of our circumstances, our inherent character and the seeds that sprout again and again as physical diseases as well as those purely mental. . . .
When these seeds sprout and liberate their forces they show themselves in diseases in the body, where they exhaust themselves. . . .
The seeds of disease being located primarily in the mind, they begin to exhaust themselves through the agency of the inner currents that carry the appropriate vibrations down upon the physical plane. If left to themselves -- aside from palliations and aids in throwing off -- they pass out into the great crucible of nature and one is free from them forever. Therefore pain is said to be a kind friend who relieves the real man of a load of sin. -- William Q. Judge, "Replanting Diseases for Future Use," The Path (7:7, 225-8), October, 1892; Echoes of the Orient, 1:274-6
Do our thoughts and emotions affect the rest of our being? Try an experiment. Recall a time when you thought something terrible was going to happen. The simple thought of "something" waiting to "get you" triggered a powerful emotion of fear which in turn triggered measurable changes in the chemical balance of your body, causing you to break out in a cold sweat, your heart to race and your whole "fight or flight" reaction to manifest in full force. All this, even though there was no "boogie man" hiding anywhere . . . except in your mind. If a sudden, short emotion can affect us so strongly, what imbalances can an habitual emotion produce in our bodies? This simple experiment shows the reality of the thinking and feeling portions of our complex being and how they affect and are affected by other aspects of ourselves.
Reactions like these are considered significant by classical homeopaths who have developed principles of medical practice based on a holistic perspective. Constantine Hering (1800-1880), father of homeopathy in America, understood the manifold, hierarchical nature of humans. He formulated the homeopathic Law of Cure which states in part that disease must progress from the inner, more vital aspects (including and emphasizing the emotional and mental) to the outer or physical aspect, otherwise mere palliation -- or worse, suppression -- rather than cure takes place. This centrifugal aspect of cure is fundamental to homeopathy and applicable to all therapeutic modes that propose to cure radically and/or holistically. In order to cure from within out we must know something is within and begin to understand it, to seek its meaning.
In lectures, and in his book Psyche and Substance, Edward Whitmont, psychiatrist and medical doctor, links Albert Einstein's field theory, theoretical physicist David Bohm's concept of implicate order, and biologist Rupert Sheldrake's theory of morphic resonance to the homeopathic approach of Hahnemann. Dr. Whitmont identifies our thoughts as the root of our disease processes, as do Buddhist, Hindu, and other systems. He says "illness is a critical impasse in the dramatic order of things . . . When meaning is understood, health intervenes." ("On the Psychosomatic Aspects of Healing," Homeopathy Today (9:8), September, 1989; see also Psyche and Substance, 1980.) This psychosomatic approach to health sees humans as incredibly complex beings whose essential characteristics are nonphysical. We think and feel ourselves into dis-ease or imbalance, and our imbalances of mind and feelings (the two aspects of ourselves where we find the most meaning in our current state of evolution) must be corrected before "health intervenes." Anything less is not cure but a simple changing of symptoms and a putting off of the inevitable.
There is an essential difference between humans and the other beings with whom we share the planet: humans have evolved the need and capacity to seek to understand more complex and complete meanings than other creatures. If seeking meaning in life -- meaning that is vitally, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually satisfying -- is inherent in our nature, then perhaps the insights of Dr. Whitmont and his homeopathic colleagues can provide a practical basis to develop a more fulfilling life. Testing of those insights might also prepare us to understand the assertions of the sages of all times that humans are composite creatures whose root is divine nature.
We say so much and consciously experience so little of the spiritual aspect of ourselves. Absorb and contemplate great works of the spirit: The Bhagavad Gita, Tao Teh King, The Voice of the Silence, Bible, Vedas, Upanishads, beautiful works of art and music (even the perception of a flower, cloud, or sunset holds beauty and meaning for the human soul). The tradition chosen is not as important as the choosing of one to root ourselves in. Will we experience changes in our mind, desires, energy, and body? Those who have done it say we will -- subtle but definite changes in how we perceive the life of the world and our individual experience as an essential part of that life.
Classical homeopaths do not claim to have a panacea or the answer to all questions about health and life. They offer a perspective not at odds with our need for rationality and yet see man as an inner directed, multifaceted being whose life takes place on many levels simultaneously. This perspective could help us extricate ourselves from thinking in strictly mechanical terms and the concomitant seeking for physical gratification that now rules so much of our lives.
Experience of spirit and beyond is sacred to those who realize it. We each have our own path to trace in the great mystery and miracle that is Life. But this is often seen as speculation or wishful thinking by modern, hard-nosed rationalists. Regardless of how we choose to model or name the various facets of our experience, is there some objective, rational approach to prove to ourselves the complexity of human being? Homeopathic physicians, whose main concern is the physical well-being of their patients, tell us that by applying the principles elucidated by Samuel Hahnemann the experience of cleansing ourselves of disease, from inside out, will convince us that we are much more than just a physical mechanism.
Being human is too complex a process to be reduced to the mechanics of a strictly physical existence. However we choose to explore the heritage of our state it is imperative that we begin and persevere. The seemingly increased security of our physical well-being has been purchased at the price of cramping or denying other, more essentially and specifically human, aspects of ourselves. Our current experience shows that we ignore the complex interdependence of life at great peril to ourselves and our world. What do we wish to bequeath to those who will follow us? Is our current vision, void of spirit -- which many are beginning to see as simplistic and sterile -- sufficient, or do we wish our now and future world to be one which enjoys a vision of an infinite, interdependent life process with each aspect supported by and supporting all others? The choice is ours. As we make ourselves so will we make our world.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1990. Copyright © 1990 by Theosophical University Press.)