This book review is reprinted from the British Homoeopathic Journal Volume 73, Number 1, January 1984, with permission from Peter Fisher, Editor.
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Organon of Medicine, 6th edition.
By Samuel Hahnemann.
Translated by J. Kunzli, A. Naude and P. Pendleton.
London: Victor Gollancz, 1983.
7.95 pounds (hardback) [Editor's note: As of August 1996 Minimum Price Books' price is $16.95 (paperback)]
This is a new translation of the 6th edition of the Organon. The writers explain that they have gone back to the original manuscripts and produced a fresh translation in English.
The book is particularly well set out, each of the paragraphs is clearly numbered. The foot-notes appropriate to each one are written in a type similar to, and immediately after, the text of the paragraph itself. They are slightly inset to distinguish them. The whole presentation makes for easy reading, both of the main paragraphs and the foot-notes. In the past it has been all too easy for the foot-notes to be obscured. As these contain many important expansions of Hahnemann's thoughts, they are an important part of the work. It is therefore good to see them given adequate prominence in this type of presentation.
The 6th edition of the Organon is thought by many people to represent a climax in Hahnemann's expression of his understanding of the philosophy relating to homoeopathy. This presentation of it is therefore an important and welcome edition to homoeopathic literature.
Hopefully, it will give new impetus to the attempts to understand what Hahnemann really taught.
It is a great pleasure to read Hahnemann's Organon again. It surely ranks as one of the finest medical treatises in existence and deserves much wider attention than it receives at present. Hahnemann was a complex character who comes over in the Organon as an inspired researcher and scientist, a compassionate healer, and as a man who certainly did not suffer fools gladly.
There are many translations of the various editions of the Organon in English from I-V, but this new book is apparently unique in being a direct English translation of the VIth edition which was completed by Hahnemann in 1842, the year before he died aged 88. It was not published until 1921. The standard English version has been the Vth edition with additions from the VIth, but this work has been translated directly from the original text of the VIth edition which is in the possession of the School of Medicine of the University of California in San Francisco.
The most apparent changes between the Vth and VIth editions are the incorporation into the VIth edition of material from the introduction to the Vth on the "Review of Medication until the present time". In places this is further expanded on, e.g. paragraphs 60(f) and 74(f) where he steps up the intensity of his tirade against the hapless Broussais!
Arguably the most important difference between the Vth and VIth edition is the simplification of the whole process of preparation of potencies and the manner of their repetition (Paragraphs 246 et. seq.).
There are, in addition, two particular points where Hahnemann develops his ideas on the nature of the action of pathogenic forces and healing potencies, and their relation to the vital force (paragraphs 11(f), 269(ff). The footnote to paragraph 11 especially is commendable for the almost poetic insight shown by Hahnemann into the nature of the forces of gravity and magnetism, which gives the reader a better understanding of how he arrived at his conclusions regarding the invisible origins of disease, conclusions which, to me, are still valid today, despite the undoubted advances in biochemistry, immunology, infectious diseases etc.
As to the book itself, the type is clear and of good size. The English translation is certainly far more readable than earlier translations of the Vth edition and yet appears to be a very accurate and scholarly piece of work, as can be testified by the inclusion of Know Thyself in Greek in the footnote to paragraph 141 - which was the subject of an interesting paper by Dr Hehr in a recent issue of this Journal.1 The index is comprehensive and refers to page numbers and not paragraphs. There is no listing of paragraph abstracts at the front of the book, as in most Vth editions, which I missed, and although a fair amount of material from the introduction to the Vth edition is incorporated into the VIth edition, there is still some left out which gives a very good background to the medical practices extant at the time in which Hahnemann lived and worked, against which his writings gain a clearer perspective. Whether Hahnemann himself dropped this introduction when he wrote the VIth edition, I do not know.
These are, however, minor points and in general I would recommend this new translation of the VIth edition to all students of homoeopathy, whether just beginning or well advanced in its practice. It occupies a position in its own right, adding meaning and depth to the Vth editions whether they be in the older translations, e.g. Dr Dudgeon,2 or more recent ones, e.g. Dr Hamlyn,3 both of which I have compared to this new translation.
It only remains for me to commend Gollancz for publishing this new translation and to hope that it reaches those parts that previous editions have failed to!
ANDREW H. LOCKIE
1 Hehr GS. Self awareness and homoeopathy. Br Hom J 1983; 72: 90.
2 Dudgeon RE. Organon of Medicine by Samuel Hahnemann. London: W. Headland, 1849.
3 Hamlyn E. The Healing Art of Homoeopathy. Beaconsfield, 1979.
British Homoeopathic Journal
Volume 73, Number 1, January 1984