The ordinary mode for acquiring knowledge of remedial agents – namely, merely by experience during practice – cannot be termed studying the medicines, and no directions are required for it.
Much time and labor may be expended in this mode without ever attaining a complete command of the medicinal agents. Many a homeopathic practitioner will find himself in the situation of walking on a treadmill – setting machinery in motion, without moving from the spot.
He who trusts solely the experience and observations of others, and thinks that by means of published collections of cases he will also attain accuracy in the selection of medicines in individual cases, or find a similar accuracy in his general views of medicinal agents – such a one constantly remains in a state of dependence, moving merely in the narrow circle which others have chalked out.
In another country amidst other customs, and at other times when a different character of disease is present – indeed, during the prevalence of individual epidemic diseases – he stands helpless and bewildered. His pockets are full of paper money that is not current there, and his hands are destitute of any available coin.
Personal favorite remedies will frequently be given where they are not of the slightest use
He who relies only on his own experience for knowledge of medicines can only attain a very limited understanding. His personal knowledge will be quite imperfect as regards individual remedial agents. If, perchance, one or other property appears peculiarly prominent, then the others will be but seldom or never attended to.
For example, consider the case of Aconite, which certainly is of frequent use in inflammations, but much more often in cases where no inflammation exists. Or consider Belladonna, which is frequently employed where it does not answer at all, and where Hyosc., Arsen., Bryon., or some other remedy, should be used instead.
So understanding acquired only in this way will be imperfect, in fine, as regards our whole materia medica – because by this method the knowledge of materia medica cannot but always be very deficient. Only a small number of favorite remedies will be retained in memory – merely such ones as are known, or thought to be known, to possess some general determinate properties which render their selection easy.
In the greater number of cases that come under daily observation, these favorite remedies will very frequently be given where they are not of the slightest use. A number of remedies will be employed for merely single symptoms. And a large number will never be prescribed at all.
Sometimes many remedies seem to be equally indicated, so it is difficult to make a selection from among them
In cases of a more serious and rarer description, even where the most careful research is employed, it is often all in vain. For sometimes many remedies seem to be equally indicated, so it is difficult to make a selection from among them. At other times no single remedy seems applicable.
The more intimate our acquaintance with the medicines, the more seldom will such cases occur, and the nearer is the physician to the attainment of complete mastery of his subject.
Tyros, who have merely glanced at the remedies, imagine that it is not possible to become acquainted with a single remedy which has such a vast number of symptoms – just as a country clown on coming to town is at a loss to conceive how the people know which way to go among such a number of houses. And yet, in the course of time, he himself finds no difficulty in doing this.
Let us observe how this happens. It may help us a little in studying the materia medica.
It is well known that a person who has been in many large towns can much sooner find his way than other strangers who have not. This is true without there being much resemblance between the towns. He must unconsciously have invented some method by which he becomes quickly at home in every new town.
In like manner, many homeopaths have unconsciously adopted a method of studying the materia medica. Our present object is to make this method known.
To acquire a foreign language, what good would it do to learn the dictionary from beginning to end?
Learning the materia medica "by heart," would be a highly absurd plan – and not only impossible on account of the extent of the undertaking, but even if possible, still, utterly useless. In order to acquire a foreign language, what good would it do to learn the dictionary from beginning to end?
One who could repeat the list of symptoms of a remedy in their regular order would not thereby possess knowledge of the combination of symptoms – and it is that knowledge of which we stand in need.
In practice, we never make use of the whole range of symptoms, but only of a particular combination of a small portion of them. To the general symptoms of every form of disease, corresponding ones may be found in a large number of remedies – and every remedy contains the indications of a vast variety of diseases.
Modernized translation by WholeHealthNow © 2004