This book review is reprinted with the permission of the American Institute of Homeopathy
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Organon of Medicine Sixth Edition
Samuel Hahnemann, MD
Translated by Dr. J. Kunzli, A. Naude, P. Pendleton.
Reviewed by Daniel Cook, MD
The sixth edition of the Organon has had a clouded history. Hahnemann published the fifth edition in 1833, which was translated into English by Dudgeon in 1849, six years after Hahnemann's death. This was the last edition of Hahnemann's work available in any part of the world until 1921. Hahnemann's closest associates knew through personal correspondence that he was working on a 6th edition at the end of his life. Initially written in French, it remained unpublished, and subsequently disappeared without a trace. He then wrote a sixth edition in German, but did not publish it. His widow admitted to possessing it and getting it ready for publication, but she kept it unpublished for unknown reasons, and it passed to the Boenninghausen family at her death.
The Boenninghausens guarded it "almost as a sacred relic" and would let no one even see it, according to Dr. Richard Haehl, a German homeopath and biographer of Hahnemann. In this way the homeopathic world was denied any knowledge of the sixth edition for nearly 80 years after its writing. On a visit to Haehl in 1891, Dr. James Ward and Dr. William Boericke, having read allusions to Hahnemann's later correspondence of his being at work on a 6th edition, inquired about the work, and when Haehl told them of its possession by the Boenninghausens, they offered to purchase it.
Twenty-nine years later the Boenninghausens, ruined by World War 1, accepted their offer and in 1920 gave up the manuscript to Haehl, acting as intermediary. Haehl apparently kept if for some time, then had it delivered to Dr. Boericke. The manuscript, which is now in the library of University of California San Francisco, is a printed German fifth edition with handwritten additions and corrections neatly placed in the margins.
Haehl published the German sixth edition in 1921. Boericke, using a Dudgeon fifth edition translation as the main body of the work, amended the Dudgeon text wherever there were handwritten changes in the German text. This he published as the translated sixth edition in 1922. After Dr. Pierre Schmidt translated the German sixth edition into French, he realized that the Boericke edition contained not only all the unevenness and in exactness of an amended translation from two different authors of different centuries, but contained also serious errors of translation which could not be tolerated in such an important work. Schmidt expressed his concerns to one of this new edition's translators (Mr. Naude), who with Dr. Kunzli and Mr. Pendleton translated the Hahnemann manuscript integrally and correctly into English for the first time in 1982. This translation, never reviewed in the JAIH, is being reissued by Cooper publishers after being out of print for a number of years. The Organon of Medicine is the most important book in homeopathy. The translation by Kunzli, Naude, Lind Pendleton is the only integral English translation of the final edition of' this work. It is brilliantly translated. This book is indispensable. Hahnemann's noble and beautiful 19th Century German has been put into noble and beautiful 20th Century English, thus preserving the book's grace and tone, which would have been lost in his long sentences, cumbersome and arduous to the modern ear, had not been carefully divided. All the errors of the Boericke edition have been corrected. There may be some disagreement about the precise rendering of a few words, but never is Hahnemann's teaching altered thereby. Important clarifications of weights and measures are given. A comprehensive and extremely useful index is added for the first time in any English translation.
Why is this book still an essential textbook for homeopaths today? Unlike every other medical system in the West, which owing to poor results undergoes continual modification and revision (euphemistically called "development") so that its texts and practices are discredited and replaced every few decades, the laws and methods discovered by Hahnemann are as true today as when he first wrote them. The degree of completeness to which Hahnemann brought Homeopathy in the span of one lifetime is illustrated by the astonishing fact that Hahnemann's personal medical kit contained in 1840 the same medicines, given for the same indications, that homeopathic physicians carry in such kits today! It is difficult to find anything comparable to this in the history of human endeavor. Did Isaac Newton, after discovering the laws of mechanics, develop dozens of machines still manufactured today? The Organon, in which Hahnemann defined the system of medicine we call homeopathy, established in virtual completeness nearly all the principles and procedures that a homeopath Must adhere to today. They are unchanging laws of nature, and they must be known and rigorously followed. Is there anyone better to study them from than the greatest genius in the history of homeopathy?
One asks oneself many questions about this sixth edition. It is the last edition, but is it the final conclusion of Hahnemann's thought? Unlikely. Hahnemann was constantly experimenting until the end of his life. Had he lived longer, there would certainly have been a 7th, 8th, 9th edition. What notable differences do we find between the 5th and 6th editions? The main difference between the 6th edition and all the previous editions is Hahnemann's introduction of the quinquagintamillesimal potencies (named variously LM or Q potencies). This is much more than a different way of potentising remedies. Hahnemann was seeking a convenient procedure of making higher potencies that would act more forcefully yet without aggravations, so that the patient would be cured more quickly. His ceaseless experiences in this direction led him to publish no less than five different methods of preparing remedies in the last ten years of his life: smelling remedies; taking them dissolved in water; giving each ascending potency ten succussions, later two succussions, later 20 to 50 succussions; triturating on the centesimal scale; triturating on the quinquagintamillesimal Scale. (footnote 3). Each of these methods was published with Hahnemann's full conviction, only to be criticized by him a few years later when he introduced its successor. His experiments with the quinquagintamillesimal potencies took place in the last few years of his life. His last casebooks show that he used them only infrequently. Since Hahnemann wrote the Organon only after more than 10 years of continuous investigation, and since similarly more than 10 years of study preceded his writing of the Chronic Diseases, it seems odd that the LM potencies were included in the Organon 6th edition with such little prior study and experience.
Today, 70 years after their public introduction in 1921, the LM potencies have not been adopted. Dr. Kunzli, who investigated them extensively and intended to champion their use, ultimately found only a very limited and conditional place for them in his practice. The reasons for this are clear. The great development of' homeopathy in America in the late 19th Century, based as it was on the 5th Edition, saw the investigation and establishment of an immense range of centesimal potencies produced easily by machine, plus an accurate knowledge of the forcefulness and duration of these potencies (the so-called Kentian scale) up to CM and beyond. This development fulfilled all aims that Hahnemann was trying to achieve with his LM potencies, with none of the pitfalls of over frequent dosing. The fact is, the homeopathy of Hering, Lippe, Nash, H. C. Allen, Kent, Gladwin, Weir, Tyler, and Pierre Schmidt is the homeopathy of the 5th edition of the Organon. The conclusion and extension of Hahnemann's thought and its systematization into the cohesive whole which we call Kentian or classical homeopathy - this body of knowledge proceeds entirely from the 5th edition.
Lastly there is the question of the authenticity of the UCSF manuscript. Dr. Josef Schmidt has made a study of the handwriting in the 6th edition manuscript, and it seems it is not all Hahnemann's. Apparently among the succession of people who held the manuscript during its 80 years of secrecy, not one but several of them could not keep their pens off it. Haehl appears to be one of the main offenders. But whatever questions may arise about the authenticity of the German text, the fact remains that this is Hahnemann's Iast edition of the Organon, and this is the only text we have of it. Therefore a correct English translation of it is absolutely indispensable, and this one is it. Even if we reject the 6th edition in favor of the 5th edition, it is essential that we know what we are rejecting and why. For this additional reason this translation is indispensable.
1 Ward, James W., MD. Principles and Scope of Homeopathy, San Francisco, 1925, p. 15-16.
2 Haehl, Richard, MD. Samuel Hahnemann: His Life and Word, Vol 1, Indian edition, Jain, 1992, p. 180 ff., p. 316-330. [N.B. Many of the original sources, such as Hahnemann's introductions to the individual volumes of the are not generally available in English.]
JAIH Winter 1993-94, Vol. 86, No. 4