A theoretical overview of the concept of health, disease and cure in current knowledge Vis a Vis with the homoeopathic concept of the same sketched from the Organon of medicine of Dr Hahnemann
The concept of health, disease and cure in homoeopathy and other therapeutic systems are different. This difference is largely philosophical. The philosophy of Homoeopathy rests on the pillar of vitalistic/substantiality school of thought whereas modern medicine has its footing on the theory of materialism. Homoeopathy defines and explains health, disease and cure in the perspective of life force. Other systems
The three words frequently discussed by the medical community is health, disease and cure. There are different therapeutic systems practiced world over. Definitions and interpretation of these words may vary according to the background on which each therapeutic system is erected. Here an overview of the concept of modern medicine and homoeopathy on health, disease and cure is made on their theoretical and philosophical perspective. The concepts reveal that homoeopathy has footings in vitality concept whereas all other therapeutic systems finds its base in materialistic ideas. So naturally, the starting point and conclusions of disease and cure are different in both the systems.
Concept of health, disease and cure by WHO
The definition of health by World Health Organisation is the most accepted one since its declaration in 1948. Call for modifying the definition of health become stronger when the spirituality concept has evolved in religion and culture. Nevertheless, a lack of consensus in defining the word spirituality in terms of religion or intangible life force disabled the amendment of the same in subsequent meetings of WHO in 1998.
The universally accepted concept and definition of health that appears in the preamble of the constitution of World Health Organisation prepared in the year of establishment,1948, reads ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of diseases or infirmity’ (1). Dr Andria Stamper proposed the idea for this definition, erudite in the field of social medicine in Croatia and one of the founders of WHO (2). This definition of health reflected the idea of social wellbeing apart from physical and mental wellbeing. On the proposal to amend the definition for a more inclusive one by the special group of WHO executive board in 1998 suggested ‘Health is a dynamic state of complete physical, mental and spiritual and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ as cited by Shukla (3). This can be seen in the agenda item 7.3 of 22nd January 1998 on review of the constitution of the WHO report of the special executive group. The proposal was to include the two terms dynamic and spiritual in the definition of health (4). But due to various conflicts and also due to the difficulty in defining the new terms the definition proposed was not in force and was not amended (5).
Concerning the knowledge of the disease, it starts with two terms dis and ease and it means lack of ease. It is defined as an abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure or function of all or part of the organism, and that is not due to any immediate external injury. They are associated with specific signs and symptoms. It is defined that ‘an abnormal condition of a part, organ or system of an organ resulting from various causes such as infection, inflammation, environmental factors or genetic defect characterised by an identifiable group of signs, symptoms or both’ (6). The current idea about the cure is ‘a method of course of treatment used to restore health.’
Careful verification of the idea of health, disease and cure shows that the idea of present-day medicine rests on the materialistic viewpoints and fails to grasp the idea of the concept of wellbeing is the dynamic and spiritual level.
Homoeopathic concept of health
The homoeopathic concept of health, disease and cure is centred on the concept of the vital force or life force. Homoeopathy as a therapeutic system has found no strain in comprehensively defining and explaining the phenomena of health, disease and cure because it stands on the concept of life force. Homoeopathy considers life force as ‘dynamis’ and spiritual. Unlike the current knowledge, homoeopathy and its founder Hahnemann had no confusion in interpreting the word spiritual vital force.
He categorically said that spiritual vital force is immaterial energy capable of permeating the entire material organism and is powerful to coordinate all the functions of the human body to preserve the health of the person. Definition of vital force according to Hahnemann in the Organon of Medicine is “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 part of the organism in an admirable harmonious, vital operation, as regards both sensation and function so that our indwelling, reason gifted mind can freely employ this living, healthy instrument for higher purpose of our existence.” (7)
In short, the concept of health in homoeopathy starts from the animating life force (dynamis) which makes life existing and that health is primarily a balanced state of life force which is reflected as harmonious functioning of the human being in all three levels of life via body, mind and spirit (8). It also satisfies the criteria of WHO on elements of physical and social wellbeing by making it equipped for the higher purpose of existence.
Homoeopathic concept of disease
The disease is the primarily deranged state of vital force manifested as altered sensations and functions in three levels of a human being. Homoeopathy has its concept of the dynamical theory of disease and the dynamical mechanism of disease production. Hahnemann says the disease is the result of the action of a dynamical inimical agent on the dynamical vital force. It is stated explicitly based on primary action and secondary action proposed in aphorism 63 and 64 of Organon of medicine. The primary action is expressed by Hahnemann is as follows “ every agent that acts upon vitality, every medicine deranges more or less vital force, and cause a certain alteration in the health of the individual for a longer or shorter period” Hahnemann(7). For the production of disease, the person should show a dent on the two criteria’s such as susceptibility and predisposition as per the insight of Hahnemann as noted in aphorism 31. To the context, Hahnemann (7) says, “We are made ill only when our organism is sufficiently disposed and susceptible to the attack of a morbific cause that may be present and to be altered in its health, deranged” (p. 42). Apart from these aspects, the morbid agent should be capable of producing an impression on it and at the same time strong enough to alter the vital force to effect a change of state. This change of state of vital force from healthy to deranged and the resultant signs and symptoms caused by the combined effect of the causative agent and inherent predisposition is called as a disease in homoeopathic perspective.
To start with a dynamic inimical agent, it can be a psychical or a physical agent having ‘dynamis’ or existence, acts on the dynamical vital force of the human body. It can act and produce an impression only if the patient is susceptible to the action of that agent. If not it is incapable of producing any effect and repelled altogether. If that patient is susceptible to that disease agent, the vital force will allow it to act upon it. According to Aphorism 64, Hahnemann is saying that the vital force will take only a passive or receptive role during the primary action of the disease agent. Thus in this stage, it can produce an impression on the vital force. This impression and thereby the change of state of the dynamical vital force is influenced by two factors, via the quality of the influencing agent and the genetic predisposition of the host. In homoeopathic parlance, the predisposition is depended on several factors like the constitution, genetic and hereditary influence, and diathesis. The miasmatic background of the person (9) also influences it. Along with the production of the impression, if the combined effect of both these forces is strong a change of state of vital force is the result. This is called as diseases per se by Dr Kent or in plain words the primary dynamical alteration of vital force.
It is a rule that whenever vital force is altered its reflection will be produced. Initially, alteration affects in the constitutional level and that is considered related to the spiritual level where there may be no external manifestations. The persistence of this state will produce reflection in the mental and emotional level and the patient will start experiencing subjective sensations and he starts saying “I feel..”. (10). subsequently, the stage comes where the patient starts experiencing physical symptoms initially of reversible nature due to changes in physiological and biochemical imbalances. The persistence of this stage without any proper and careful intervention first result in reversible pathological changes and later on ultimately in irreversible pathological changes. The symptom thus produced is an image of the inner altered vital force that is influenced solely by the constitutional factors and miasms especially in chronic diseases. However, in acute disease the symptoms are in tune with the constitution and the causative factors. This is the way by which and manner through disease and production of the disease has explained in homoeopathy.
Homoeopathic concept of cure
The cure is the restoration of altered vital force into normalcy to make the functions normal in all the three spheres such as body, mind and spirit. Cure according to Hahnemann (7), in aphorism 2 of Organon of medicine is “The highest ideal of cure is rapid, gentle and permanent restoration of health, removal or annihilation of disease in its whole extent, in the shortest, most reliable and most harmless way, on easily comprehensible principles” (P.31).
The cure is made possible by the application of similar medicine in homoeopathy. The modus operandi of homoeopathic cure is dealt with in aphorisms29. It is substantiated with the help of aphorisms 26, 31, 33, 45, 63, 64, 245, 279 and 280. The natural law of homoeopathy says to produce a cure two things have to be satisfied, one medicine should be similar and the other it should be stronger. It is said in aphorism 26 of Organon of medicine as “A weaker dynamic affection is permanently extinguished in the living organism by a stronger one, if the latter (whilst differing in kind) is very similar to the former in its manifestations” (7 p. 40).
The similarity is confirmed in the diathesis or genetic dispositional level, mental level and physical level as far as possible because the alteration of vital force is reflected in these levels. A similar drug is a drug substance that in its proving on healthy human being has produced similar affection and manifestation in all three levels. Homoeopathic medicine is made stronger than the disease agent is by adjusting the dose and potency enabling it to overpower the disease agent. According to Hahnemann as per aphorism 33, living organism show increased susceptibility to medicine compared to natural disease. The homoeopathic medicine is prepared in such form to reach and act in dynamical level through a peculiar process.
The modus operandi in homoeopathy starts with the administration of similar medicine. This produces an impression in vital force due to its primary action. Being similar it can act in the same line of disease force regarding predisposition, susceptibility, the capacity of alteration of vital force and manifestation thereafter. Being stronger it will produce its impressions strongly. The vital force will show the selective affinity or vital affinity to the medicinal force because the medicinal force is strongly making an impression most similar to that of the disease agent. Therefore, at this moment the susceptibility and predisposition of vital force are for the medicinal agent. Now the stronger medicinal agent will overpower and extinguish the disease force and take hold of vital force. It is a rule in the dynamical level that no two similar forces can exist in the same plane as per Hahnemann’s revelations in aphorism 45. Now the patient is experiencing a medicinal disease as the natural disease force is eliminated and extinguished. Being the medicinal force is stronger and similar the vital force will be deranged in a more intensified manner resulting in more discomfort in manifestations. This seeming intensification of already existing symptoms immediately after the administration due to the primary action (aphorism 161) of a correct homoeopathic medicine is called as homoeopathic aggravation. This is considered a good omen in homoeopathy.
The rule of dosage in homoeopathy is that minimum quantity of medicine for cure. It is mentioned by Hahnemann in aphorism 280 that a homoeopathic dose is that much quantity of medicine capable of overpowering, annihilating and extinguishing the disease force from the vital force to produce a scarcely perceptible homoeopathic aggravation. For that purpose, the repetitions of medicine are not done as and when a favourable response has witnessed unlike in other therapeutic systems. So naturally, when the homoeopathic aggravation has witnessed medicinal dose is not continued so that the effect of the medicine is reduced. That means the intensity of primary action has reduced. This is the time when the vital force reacts to the primary action of homoeopathic medicine powerfully. The secondary action gains an upper hand. The secondary action is the reaction of vital force against the primary action of the disease agent or the primary action of a medicinal agent. In the case of homoeopathic medicine, it produces an artificial disease that is in the same line of natural disease. Therefore, during the secondary action, the vital force reacts against the primary action of the medicinal agent now. By this way of reaction, the vital force will be brought back to a state of normalcy. This state of restoration of vital force into normalcy is designated as a cure in homoeopathy.
In this way hypothesised and explained the homoeopathic way of interpreting disease, disease production, regaining normalcy of vital force in cure in letter and spirit. Hahnemann himself confessing in aphorism 28 that he cannot demonstrate all the phenomena as in a laboratory experiment but his experience and knowledge has proved him to think in this way with utmost prudence, faithfulness and diligent adherence to homoeopathy.
The sum and the substance are that the starting point of the state of health, disease and cure is not the cells and the physiological functions but it is the animating harmonious life force and its derangement as well as in its restoration in homoeopathy. The idea of homoeopathy rests on the vitalistic more precisely substantialism viewpoint of health, disease and cure (11). The restoration of life force to normalcy is attained through the administration of medicine based on symptom similarity in such form that it is capable of reaching a dynamic level.
The modern medicine starts diseases with physiological as well as perceptabily visible changes of state of health and considers cure as the annihilation of it through materially acting substances and quantity.
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