Tracing the origins of Homeopathy over time is an arduous task, because not much has come to us about the beginnings of this healing method.
Its founder, discoverer or whatever we want to call him, the German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), was rather sparing in his explanations as to the origins of his discovery. What we find is broad brush strokes, not details. We do not know if this was due to the fact that he himself could not really go back to these origins, or that he kept silent for reasons we cannot fathom –prudence perhaps.
In the introduction to his main work “Organon” he says:
Because the truth is coeternal with the omniscient and kind Deity…
These words may suggest that Hahnemann intuited or even knew that the healing principle “like cures like” would have been given to mankind by the Providence at the dawn of history. Yet, apart from a passing reference to Hippocrates and naming several later physicians who would have had a hunch that healing by analogy could be successful, Hahnemann believes that only one eighteenth-century Danish military physician named Stahl would have briefly approached the beginning of the similia similibus principle.
What can be traced is the existence of two schools and medical theories going back at least to the time of the Greek physician Hippocrates (460 BC), who is credited with the “Law of Healing” which states:
The disease is produced by the equals, and by the application of the equals it is cured.
The other current derives from the teachings of the Greek physician Galen (2nd century AC), in which he treats the disease through the administration of what has been called “the opposites.” With the passage of time, this last current will prevail over the first, pushing it, apparently, to oblivion.
What we do know for certain is that Hahnemann was a physician who did extensive reading, proficient in an impressive number of languages –Greek, Latin, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Chaldean and Sanskrit (Elinore C. Peebles, Hahnemann and Homoeopathy, New York, 1955). Given his profound linguistic background, we are more than convinced that Hahnemann had access to texts that were difficult to access for the general public and that this would have enabled him to find the knowledge concealed from the ordinary physicians and scientists of his time. On the other hand, we must not forget that he lived in a time where the knowledge of alchemy and esoteric texts which survived the fall of Al-Andalus was still simmering. This underground current would have been reduced, however, to small circles on pain of being exposed to the accusation of heresy and ending up as fuel of the flames of the European Inquisition. Bearing this in mind, it can be assumed that he could have been familiar with the term “Spagyria” (broadly speaking –the art of herbal tinctures), coined by the Swiss physician Paracelsus (born Theophrastus von Hohenheim, 1492-1541), describing the practice well known to Andalusian doctors long before under no particular name. In Spagyria one can see certain parallels with Hahnemann’s homeopathy. However, the alchemical and astrological symbolisms of the former were entirely eradicated from the latter. Nevertheless, the principle of treatment by means of analogy formed the basis both of the practice in Al-Andalus and that of Spagyria.
Hahnemann would have definitely accepted certain concepts transmitted by Paracelsus:
Even the ignorant know that man has heart and kidneys, brain and liver and stomach; but think that each of these organs is separate and independent and has nothing to do with one another, and not even our most educated doctors are aware of the fact that these organs are only the material and bodily representations of invisible energies that pervade the whole system and circulate through it; thus, for example, the real liver is a force that circulates through all parts of the body, and has the organ that we call the liver as its invisible head.
(Paracelsus, De Viribus Membrorum.)
Magnificent manifestation of the unity of the human and at the same time a fundamental contribution to the very essence of homeopathy. Furthermore, Paracelsus maintains that to be able to cure effectively a sick outer body the treatment of the inner body is indispensable. This treatment should be achieved by means of the appropriate “inner bodies” of medicinal substances, that is, their subtle essences, in which their healing powers reside. If we had not mentioned the name of the author, we could say that the aforementioned exposition was by Hahnemann himself. When Paracelsus mentions extracting the “quintessence” of substances through processes that “purge” the matter, we can see the parallelism of this process with that of dilution and succussion of homeopathic medicines in order to extract the medicinal power those substances contain.
The “vital principle” spoken of by Hahnemann in his “Organon” is what Paracelsus calls “Archaeus”.
As we can see, the common points Hahnemann had with the work of Paracelsus, beneficiary of the alchemical and the Andalusian legacy, will be reflected later in his own research. However, Hahnemann will introduce terminological changes more in line with the scientific theories of his time, but that ultimately will belong to the same underground current that has been permeating the history of medicine throughout centuries in opposition to the materialist, mechanistic and reductionist counter vision that has been predominant over the last centuries up till the present day and which is the basis of medicine in the West.