In an early chapter I mentioned that the infinitesimal dose has become in the popular mind the most characteristic feature of homœopathy, though the word “Homœopathy” itself in no way includes “infinitesimal” in its meaning. Its use arose in this way. When Hahnemann began to employ drugs with the precision his method required, he found that the ordinary doses acted much too powerfully, and caused great aggravation of symptoms before the cure took place. He then by degrees reduced his doses until he could get the curative effect without aggravating. In some instances he found that the attenuating process actually developed and increased the curative powers of the medicine. The method he adopted was dilute tinctures in the proportion of 1 to 99 of rectified spirit, and to grind insoluble substances with sugar of milk in the same proportions. For the higher attenuations the process was repeated, the same proportions being observed at each step.
The importance of the invention of this method of preparing drugs is very great, scarcely second, in my opinion, to that of the discovery of the law of similars itself. It is highly probable that but for the question of the infinitesimal dose, homœopathy would have been recognised by the profession at large long ago. But homœopathy (though it may be practised by those who never use anything but material doses) never can be dissociated from a knowledge of the power of the infinitesimal, and never could have been developed anything like the perfection and power in which Hahnemann left it, apart from the use of infinitesimals. Hence the popular association of the two ideas of homœopathy and infinitesimal is fundamentally true, though it may be etymologically faulty.
It will be seen that in Hahnemann’s centesimal scale, each step of the process divides the original quantity by 100, and hence each higher number represents a higher degree of attenuation. But the attenuation is so graduated that no matter to what high figure it is carried, something of the original substances must remain, though it may be far beyond the power of chemistry to detect its presence.
Homeopaths have also used a decimal scale of attenuation. This makes each remove a divisor of ten. This is noted by the letter “x,” 1X being 1/10th, 2X being 1/100th, 3X being 1/1000th and so on. Graduated attenuation is the essence of the method, and the result is development of power.
John Tyndall (1820-1893) Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894) William Crookes (1832-1919)
The researches of Faraday, Tyndall, Helmholtz, Crookes and, later, of the Curies and other investigators of the phenomena of radio activity, have made it easier to conceive of infinitesimal quantities and their powers, and the infinitesimal of homœopathy should not therefore prove such stumbling blocks to its friends and foes as they have done heretofore. When we find Helmholtz saying that at the period when our planetary system consisted of a sphere of nebulous matter reaching to the path of the outermost planet, it would require “several millions of cubic miles of such matter to weigh a single grain ;” and when Faraday tells us that ” each atom extends, so to say, throughout the whole of the solar system,” it is plain that the everyday conceptions of matter and its possibilities will have to be revolutionised There is nothing more worthy of investigations by masters of physical science than the facts connected with the action of homœopathic infinitesimals. The human body is a much more sensitive reagent than anything known to natural philosophy, and in conceiving and demonstrating the powers of infinitesimal quantities Hahnemann was as much ahead of his time as he was in demonstrating the existence of the law of similars.
The quotations I have just made are taken from a pamphlet entitled The Science of Homœopathy, by Mr. Buist Picken, in which the author seeks to apply the known facts of the phenomena in the world of physics to explain the fact of Homœopathic cures. To this pamphlet (which the late Prof. Tyndall characterised as “marked by extreme ingenuity’) I contributed a short introduction, summarising the argument, and it may be interesting to quote a passage therefrom. It will serve at once to show the line in which a scientific explanation of the apparent paradox of “like” curing “like” may be found, and of the other paradox of a smaller quantity of the right remedy being actually more powerfully curative than a larger one would be.
Here is my summary of the argument :-
Robert Koch (1843-1910) “The forces of the human organism are identical with the forces of nature, and obey the same law. Health and disease are dynamic or spiritual in nature, and originate in molecular and atomic motions. The law of motion applies to the phenomena of health and disease, and the action of remedies is identical with the phenomena of ‘interference’ recognised in the natural sciences. As equal waves of water proceeding from different directions intersect each other (‘interfere’), and either increase (as summit corresponds to summit), or annual (as summit corresponds to furrow), the motion of the molecules of water, so a medicine (whose power is dynamic) acts in disease. When the molecular disturbance of the organism corresponds to the molecular motion of the medicine given, the intensity of the disturbance is either aggravated or annulled, according as the action is in the same or the opposite direction. The action of the curative agent is like in appearance, but contrary in direction.” This is the main thesis of Mr. Picken’s article, but there are several other points brought out which well deserve serious attention. For instance, the author shows that each substance possesses the property of absorbing any motion which corresponds to its own molecular motion (illustrating the like-to-like formula). He brings forward the fact that (in Prof. Tyndall’s words) “the waves which are most effectual in shaking asunder the atoms of compound molecules are frequently those of least mechanical power. Billows, to use a strong expression, are incompetent to produce effects which are readily produced by ripples” – as showing a possibility of elucidation a law of dosage on the grounds of physical science. He contends that, as Boscovich says, atoms are to be regarded as “centres of force ;” or, according to Faraday, that “force constitutes matter ;” – that there is no “space” other than some quality of matter between the particles of vapours, liquids, and solids alike ; – that, for example, “water is not two particles of oxygen and hydrogen side by side, but the two spheres of power mutually penetrated, and the centres even coinciding ; ” or, as he puts it in another place, “Gravitation is a property of matter dependent on a certain force, and it is this force which constitutes matter. In this view, matter is not merely mutually penetrable ; but each atom extends, so to say, throughout the whole of the solar system, yet always retaining its own centre of force.” “What do you know of the atom,” asks Faraday, “apart from its force ? You imagine a nucleus which may be called a, and Surround it by forces which may be called m ; to my mind the a, or nucleus vanishes, and the substance consists in the power of m : “- which provides the highest scientific authority for the suggestion that it may be impossible to reach the limit of the attenuation to which Homœopathic medicines may be carried.
The conception of the action of infinitesimal provides a serviceable working basis ; but it need not be regarded as either essential or final. It is an attempt to provide an explanation of the facts, but the facts are in no way dependent on its correctness.
Mr Pasteur et la Rage – Le Grelot – 1885 Many old-school authorities have adopted Homœopathic remedies into their text books but the effect on general practice has not been great, principally for the reason that they have not had the courage to adopt Homœopathic dosage. They reduced their own doses very far-as far as one-tenth or one-hundredth of a grain, or a drop of some remedies – but they have not gone far enough. Pasteur and Koch, who have been working on Homœopathic lines, have spoiled their work for the same reason. If Pasteur had simply taken, the Homœopathic preparation of hydrophobic virus, which has been in use since 1833, and which was prepared without any resort to cruelty, he would have gained no kudos, it is true ; but he might have advanced science, and saved himself from the reproach of having killed numbers of persons with laboratory hydrophobia. Koch, again, if he had taken the tuberculin of the homœopaths [See Dr. Burnett’s New Cure of Consumption], and adopted the Homœopathic dosage, might have spared himself the trouble of experimenting on guinea-pigs, and have saved Virchow the trouble of making a number of post-mortem examinations on the bodies of human beings who died before their time in consequence of his tuberculin treatment. Koch reduced his dosage as for as he dared -down to milligrammes – but these doses proved powerful enough to kill, and to scare most practitioners from ever using the drug again. Homœopaths, however, use it with perfect safety in their own dosage, guided by the effects it has produced on persons who took it in the trails that were made with it at first, and by the symptoms of Homœopathic provings.