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An Appreciation of Our Literature

The New England Journal of Homeopathy
Spring/Summer 2001, Vol.10, No.1

Richard Moskowitz, MD, DHt

Julian Winston is to be thanked and commended yet again for taking such pains to compile this monumental bibiliography of our homeopathic literature, which spans its entire history from Hahnemann to the present. You may ask why he does it, or whether it’s worth all that effort. After all, who really needs or uses all this stuff, other than a few antiquarians like myself, who like old vests and get their kicks browsing through used book-stores?

A few weeks ago, when told of some old homeopathic books looking for an owner, a colleague of mine felt only mildly interested in them, since so much of her library was already on computer that she saw little point in collecting old books merely to watch them continue moldering on her shelves. When Julian asked me to write something about his latest labor of love, I thought of her words and how I could answer them for the movement as a whole, since what we do is linked inseparably to the printed word, and also to how readers can gain access to it, from the leatherbound tomes of Hahnemann’s day to the advanced software of today.

Indeed, my own enduring fascination with homeopathy was kindled in no small part from its almost religious devotion to text. With our literature consisting essentially of glosses and emendations of Hahnemann, and even our arguments buttressed by scriptural quotations on every side, I realized early on that homeopaths are veritable “People of the Book,” like Jews with our Old Testament, Christians with the New, or Muslims with the Qu’ran, all of them deriving fresh inspiration from a set of quasi-eternal truths revealed to a distinctly human writer at a definite point in historical time.

Our homeopathic literature is thus no mere repository of information, but also the communal efforts of flawed human writers to approach the Divine, such that each book, even one that is no longer used, becomes a kind of historical monument to the Word, which if not quite immutable at least doesn’t change every year or two, as the concepts and methods of modern “scientific” medicine are explicitly designed to do. It tickles my fancy to imagine a day in the far-distant future when medicine as we know it no longer survives, and an archaeologist unearths a huge trove of artifacts—tools of incorruptible stainless steel, instruments for diagnosis and surgery and the like—while the only enduring traces of homeopathy will be the idea of it, as expressed in words and preserved for all time in these sacred texts.

On the other hand, a bibliography for today must also and above all be useful, not only to scholars and antiquarians, but also to students and practitioners, who bear the responsibility of applying the words to their Hahnemannian task of curing and healing the sick. That is why it need not and cannot include every last volume or article written on the subject, why it necessarily involves a selection.

It is here in particular that we are all most deeply indebted to Julian, who in addition to his many other talents is a splendid archivist, scholar, and librarian, in that his omnivorous appetite for all things homeopathic extends not only to hunting, gathering, preparing, and serving up all this stuff, but also to tasting, devouring, and digesting it for our benefit, quite possibly even more than his own. While he stops well short of including every last domestic manual, for example, there are more than enough here to satisfy every conceivable taste, and he’s earned my thanks for leaving the rest out.

The result is a leisurely guided tour down the main highways and through many forgotten back alleys of our literature, according to the inclinations of his fancy, the mature likes and dislikes of a conoisseur, and his own unashamedly personal opinions about everything and everyone you can think of, as well as quite a few you will discover for the first time. The travelogue is a perfect companion piece to The Faces of Homeopathy, his equally idiosyncratic ramble through our history, and it deserves to be savored just as he wrote it, with each section in more or less chronological order, as well as by sampling assorted tidbits, as in a book of reference.

Quite apart from its considerable entertainment value, its practical usefulness was brought home to me while reviewing Catherine Coulter’s new book on cancer, which is firmly rooted in the organopathic tradition, sorely maligned by classical fundamentalists from Hahnemann himself to many in our own time. From reading Burnett, a 19th Century prescriber, and Clarke, his student and disciple of a generation later, I knew that they had long ago successfully treated patients with cancer and other advanced organic pathology. Although they give only the most tantalizing clues and hints about how they proceeded, their books at least made me ready and eager to investigate Ramakrishnan’s method, much more than I might have been without knowing that history.

Not counting the Preface and Introduction, the bibliography proper is divided into fifteen sections (The Organon, Materia Medica, Repertory, Therapeutics, etc.), plus three appendices (all books arranged by date, by author, and Woodbury’s “five-foot shelf” of indispensable books, published in 1931). I can’t begin to enumerate even a small fraction of the wonderful snippets, tangents, anecdotes, and curmudgeonly rants contained in these pages. But I’ll mention a few surprises that caught my eye and made me want to read them, in some cases for the first time.

Several were in the section on Therapeutics, that neglected and despised bastard child of pure homeopathy and pathological diagnosis, which still does useful service in many more cases than most purists would care to admit. The crowning achievement of a long and illustrious career, Jahr’s Therapeutic Guide, also known as Forty Years’ Practice, was the digest of his clinical experience, and contains a lot of useful information that is still relevant today. It is the mature and perfected version of his earlier Clinical Guide (1850), used by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, who was quite a skillful prescriber and had homeopathic physicians visit her, by the back door of course, when she herself was ill. I’ve had copies of both books for years, and Julian’s mini-review has given me the impetus I needed to begin reading them at last.

Worthy successor to Hering’s Domestic Physician (1838), the first of its kind, Laurie’s Domestic Medicine went through at least twelve editions in less than fifty years, and helped many a pioneer family in their pilgrimage to the west by covered wagon. I have the 4th American edition (1849), and Julian’s plug for it has gotten me to take it off the shelf.

In the Philosophy section, A New Synthesis, by Guy Beckley Stearns and Edgar Evia (1942), was a cutting-edge essay into homeopathic research that prophesied and actually began the development of kinesiology, made original contributions to radionics, and dared to sketch out a philosophy of these still esoteric frontiers of homeopathy at a time when such matters were a lot further beyond the pale of respectable science even than they are today. I’ve already bitten off a lot more than I’ll most likely be able to chew, and these are only the beginning.

As perceptive and opinionated as ever, Julian is one of a very small and select group whose favorites and pet peeves, passions and prejudices are always worth paying careful attention to, because he has thought them through and given cogent reasons for what he thinks. Though they may infuriate some, his broadsides against Sankaran and other “illuminists” are often witty, always thought-provoking, and do make some attempt to give credit where it is due. But don’t expect a neutral, detached attitude. He’s passionate about homeopathy, he has a point of view, and isn’t afraid to play favorites and advocate for what he believes. That is precisely what makes this collection so valuable. Like any good librarian, he has included virtually everything of importance; like every discerning critic, he displays our subject through the medium of his own sensibility, and in doing so he reveals us to ourselves.

When all is said and done, I suppose that my friend and colleague was right to the extent that the new software does in fact contain the best of the old volumes, such that the originals are best preserved and stored for posterity in some museum where those of us who simply like the look and feel of them can kvell to our hearts’ content. The obvious bridge for keeping the old world of bound volumes connected with the new world of computer software would be the modern research library, equipped with the most up-to-date technology, and a well-trained professional staff to locate, reprint, and reproduce selected items from the literature for the benefit of scholars and practitioners alike, so the Word may continue to be made flesh as of old. If we ever get our act together to create such an institution, Julian should logically be its first librarian.

Richard Moskowitz, MD, DHt practices in Watertown, Massachusetts. He is the past president of the National Center of Homeopathy. He is the author of Homeopathic Medicine for Pregnancy and Childbirth as well as numerous articles of interest.

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