THE PHENOMENOLOGICAL VIEWPOINT
In his introduction to his book, Philosophy and the Concepts of Modern Science (1935), Oliver L. Reiser, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh, tells us that the one possible method of:
… integrating the vast and unwieldly masses of facts of the sciences into meaningful wholes the adoption of a phenomenological viewpoint is recommended. By phenomenology is meant a study of that which exhibits or displays itself: it is the descriptive point of view obtained by viewing the thing as a whole. Much of the trouble.. comes from an over-emphasis upon microscopic details. Thus it comes about that we can no longer see the forest for the trees.
One of the really great discoveries of recent times is what has been termed the principle of uniformitarianism by the geologists; that is, the theory that the forces now at work are identical in nature with those that produced changes in past ages.
If we take this phenomenological view of science to-day, we cannot help but see that Reiser’s comment on the over-emphasis upon microscopic details as being the source of multiplied data and chaotic theories of cause, action and effect is all too true. The strain of application of the micro-scope has produced a mental and philosophical astigmatism that permits each part to attain disproportionate focus in the whole.
Medicine, in particular, needs to view the whole and to take into consideration the principle of uniformitarianism. So far, as has been acknowledged by eminent authorities in the dominant school, homœopathy alone has offered such a unified theory that embraces the cause of diseased conditions, the course of the condition and its prognosis; and at the same time the method of approach to the remedial agent, and the prognosis of its action upon the patient based upon the knowledge of the patient, the knowledge of the remedy, and a comprehension of the laws and their expression in varying states of health and disease. This is another way of saying that the homœopathic concept of disease and cure is from the phenomenological viewpoint in that it considers the broad outlines of the whole rather than some of the minutes divisions compassed by microscopic vision, and at the same time embraces the meaning of which the microscopic vision demonstrates but a part.
It is safe to say that the revelations in science yet to come are even more vital and far-reaching than those already exhibited. The specialist in specific branches of medical investigation can furnish us vast and detailed information based on his microscopic findings; yet as homœopathic physicians we cannot permit ourselves to be hampered by details to the exclusion of the whole. We are privileged to view all these findings as a part of the universal application of a Law under which we work; for Man is naught if he be not a part of the Universe and subject to its laws.
Because man’s adaptation is highly specialized, we are able to correlate, through a study of his health variations and the fundamental laws of the universe (as far as we can determine these), our knowledge of each towards greater comprehension and applicability of the greater to the individual problem. Animal life, like vegetable life, has a high degree of adaptability to environment and proves the most delicate laboratory we have for our examination; yet the mineral kingdom furnishes us with an unsuspected link in our chain of evidence. Thus in conformity with statistical laws, we find again and again that the regular reaction of response of an individual is true of a group of individuals (with the necessary dedications for personal idiosyncrasies) and further, that what is true of a group of individuals may be true of any other group in nature under similar conditions, so far as we can measure the reactibility of these other groups. This uniformity of results is unquestionably due to what we term Universal Energy, which may be expressed again in very modern terms as those basic electrons, protons, neutrons, which are radiate, electric, magnetic-the very definition of potential energy.
While energy has a certain stability of reactivity, it has selective action. Every portion of the human frame has a selective action over its function: it is susceptible to certain influences, constructive and destructive, and reacts selectively. Each atom of the human frame has a potential susceptibility to certain influences, and has developed selectively and according to the principles of uniformitarianism; and we are now by means in a static condition, socially, economically or physically, any more than the geological formation of the present day is in a static condition, although both man and rocks may seem to be.
In reality, we are continually in balance between dynamical laws and statistical laws, which are defined by Reiser as follows:
This duality of natural law is stated in terms of contrast between dynamical and statistical laws. The first type, dynamical laws, are casual laws, giving rigid determination and predictability, and the second type, statistical laws, yield more probability and introduce indeterminism into the calculations. A dynamical or casual law eliminates contingency, and implies ability to visualize the mechanisms in operation. But in statistical laws, concerned with the calculation of mean values, the individual elements of the statistical ensemble are not studied… The atomic processes of microscopic mechanisms are reversible (sometimes periodically) and subject to necessary casual laws, whereas the macroscopic states represent the mean value of a large number of individual processes of a statistical aggregate…
It is in this balance between dynamical and statistical laws that we find our margin of error in the application of homœopathic principles to our patients. The Law of Least Action is one of the dynamical laws upon which homœopathy was postulated and by which it has been affirmed. We acknowledge this law along with the Law of Similars and various other casual elements having to do with basic and cyclic action in natural processes, which in turn explain the processes of homœopathic action.
It has been argued that if homœopathy is the application of natural laws, the results of our remedies should be uniform; there should be less variation in the details of provings; the length of action of any potency should be the same in all cases. No matter how careful the practitioner may be, he knows from bitter experience his failures, in spite of the most careful study and prescribing. There is no satisfaction in asserting that it is the failure of the prescriber; it is unsatisfactory to accept the statement that variation n living conditions may be the cause. We can allow a margin for hereditary tendencies, and again for psychic or other forces which we understand too little, that govern the threads of our life span; but beyond all this there are factors in the variation of remedy action that we are unable to understand. We may say that statistical laws authorize us to expect certain results from those dynamical laws which we attempt to utilize; that in turn these statistical laws presuppose conditions preexisting and perhaps unknown to us. But we may say, with more truth, that our incomplete understanding of dynamical laws causes us to assume statistical laws because it is a comfortable and convenient excuse; our danger here lies in practicing empiricism because of our dependence upon statistical laws.
Certainly we know that we have a variable force with which to deal in treating the sick. On the other hand, we question whether we have not a variable force with which to deal in our remedies. If the impulse of a force is equal to the change of momentum produced by it, as we are told in physics, we prove the power of our potentized remedies after administration by the clinical evidence, in direct proportion to the production of symptoms on the healthy human being.
Perhaps it is unfortunate that we have no measurable record of sickness or health per se. There is no determinable level of health. Our imperfect senses are incapable of perfect registration or infallible translation of symptoms. Our probability of error is doubled when we deal with another, the sick individual. We review our results by the clinical formula: The velocity of reaction is equal to the driving force divided by the resistance-unfortunately we cannot know with precision either the actual driving force or the resistance.
Yet within certain limited fields we begin to measure the reactibility of the substances -animal, vegetable, mineral- that form the basis of our potencies. Elementary work of this nature has been carried on, but it is far from having been perfected. It is enough to recognize that within the atom lies the solution to the problem of reaction of the various potencies. This is like stating that the atom is in structure much like the structure of the universe, and that the composition of the atom, like the universe, is made up of a similar “solar system” with planetary revolutions in their orbits. We draw the analogy that the atom offers the solution to universal physics, and that the universe itself offers aid in understanding our specific problems. Surely this is a phenomenological view of the homœopathic field!
Nevertheless, we suggest that these peculiarly pertinent questions are not elementary physics or chemistry; they partake of universal breadth and embrace our very reasons for existence.
Consider again the question of potency. This has been a stumbling-block to many since Hahnemann’s development of potentization. Modern science teaches that energy is automatically thrown off in proportion to the weight of the atom; those of high atomic weight -radioactive- give off their own peculiar energy in proportionately high degree, destroying themselves in the process. If the atomic weight is lower, there is less intrinsic radiation and it becomes necessary to apply force to release the energy, until, in the low atomic weights more energy may be required to release the potential energy than thrift warrants, the erg unit being the expended effort and result. Yet for curative purposes it is probable that we might find the raw atom (as we may express it) entirely unfitted for our uses, and that the energy expended to break up the atomic structure sufficiently to release the electric, electromagnetic and magnetic orbits into malleable form for our purpose to be a sound investment of time and effort.
Consider lime and its various material uses; consider how ineffective for physiological construction it is in its crude form, and indeed, how often it promotes rickets in children when introduced as lime water into the feeding formula. On the other hand, for countless conditions besides rachitic patients the homœopathic physician could ill afford to be without potentized calcium; and infinitesimal amounts exhibit astoundingly curative results.
Recent developments in the study of the vitamins have demonstrated that in the lower triturations these become well-nigh inert, but by raising them to higher potencies in fluid form their activity and potent influence is markedly increased.
This leads us to meditate upon the comparative value of trituration and succession as a means of stimulating the atom to a release of energy. It is impossible, of course, to attack the atom of lime by the same measures one employs to attack the molecular formation of plants. In some substances it is imperative to break down the bulk by trituration, while others are soluble in liquid and thus approach the state where the potential energy may be most readily release. If we were able to view the actual composition of the atom and its permeability, we might gain a fair idea of the reasons for energy release under different methods. This problem is allied equally to the construction of the atom and its destruction, with the result of wresting from it the greatest possible degree of its peculiar and intrinsic energy.
In viewing our potencies, we find the statistical laws govern in materia medica when we casually assume that remedy provings in the lower dilutions will be applicable in equal degree and unvaryingly, in the highest potencies. Again, we assume that any potency, say the 200th, is always to be depended upon for uniform results, in spite of widely varying methods of development. To be sure, experience has taught us that certain remedies have certain symptoms, which are more or less fixed in all provings and which act with greater or less regularity -sufficient as a basis for statistical observations- when applied clinically. Herein lies our art in homœopathy, but just here we lay ourselves open to criticism as being the scientists we claim to be.
Millikan tells us that under bombardment by alpha rays, an element may be built up to a higher atomic level; at the same time neutrons may be thrown off, as a by-product of artificial transmutation. “These neutrons are presumably constituents of all nuclei except hydrogen, and many nuclear transformations throw them out.” Neutrons carry no electrical charge, yet they are themselves weapons that may be hurled into atomic targets, making the atom unstable. This instability tends to step the atom down one degree and a proton-nucleus of hydrogen-flies out. Millikan tells us further that the neutron does not require great energy to get into a nucleus to transform it; if it does so with violence the result is to shatter the nucleus and thus produce several substances of smaller atomic weight than the struck nucleus itself. On the other hand, it tends to “fall in… more easily and oftener when they have slow speeds than when they try to force their way in with violence… In this way it adds its mass to that of the nucleus, so that the process results in the quiet building up of a heavier atom.”
So far no technique has been devised to determine what the relation of trituration and succussion to energy release really means to the homœopathic preparation of remedies; whether we actually change the character of the elements with which we deal, and if so, whether or not this is in a fixed ratio, is a problem for the homœopathic physicist. This is a field not yet developed, but one that offers a challenge to homœopathy. Here is an open question to intrigue the mind of science, a problem that, if solved in its elementary aspects, would place homœopathic principles on a footing with the field attained by the foremost scientific pioneers in physics!
Here we are faced with another problem in physics which has to do with the single remedy or polypharmacy. There is a reason for the single remedy even more profound than that practical one first advanced by Hahnemann and his followers: that since we know from careful provings what the single remedy will do, we can depend upon its uniformity (within certain limitations), but no one can predict the action of more than one remedy in combination or in alternation or in close proximity to each other. This is an observation, not an explanation.
Modern physics may give us the solution in the “wandering neutron;” and neutrons are evidently loosed when certain elements of low atomic weight are combined even with an infinitesimal weight of radiations of an element of high atomic weight, and these neutrons in turn readily combine with other elements with which they come in contact; and while these elements of the third state do not necessarily become changed, they become unstable and again subject to further changes. Millikan quotes the case of “a bit of beryllium mixed with an infinitesimal amount of radium emanation…” where one of the neutrons released enters the nucleus of an atom of silver and thus raises the atomic weight of the silver one unit, the silver becoming extra heavy, still retaining its chemical properties, but becoming unstable and proceeding to throw out a negative electron and transforming itself into cadmium. To be sure, these changes were the result of experimental procedures, but we cannot be assured that any combination of elements might not produce just as profound changes, either constructive or destructive. This would be particularly true when we consider the methods we employ to release the inherent energy in seemingly inert substance. In our methods are sufficient to release energy we cannot be assured that they might not be transmuted.
A further problem in potentization presents itself to our inquiring minds. If our methods are sufficiently practical to release these energies (and we must admit that the potential powers of our high potencies often startle us with their reaction) we may well inquire to just what degree the atoms of the elements are broken up in these substances. Unquestionably there is some definite ratio of energy release from the various elements, but to what extent trituration or succussion touches the atomic structure itself we do not know. If we could know that our application of force to these substances actually broke up the atom, we would recognize as a corollary that the destruction of the elemental atom and the consequent release of protons and neutrons tended toward the actual formation of different elements, with different atomic structures, and that these in turn had their own rates of energy which might be stabilized or unstabilized under certain conditions and combinations.
This suggests further study of the composite substances, such as the plant remedies. It has not yet been demonstrated that living substance contains radioactive elements, but when we consider the implication of such experiments as those cited by Millikan we may question the reaction set up by breaking down elements of various atomic weights even in the lower registers and their interaction. Further, the reaction of these changing energies upon the molecular construction of the individual is something upon which we may ponder.
Seemingly, these problems are beyond the scope of the physician. We feel impelled to know some of our materia medica and a few simple principles for the administration of our remedies. In other words, we naturally take a near-sighted view of our work. If we take the wider view -the phenomenological view- we see that these problems demand a more thorough understanding of our work; they express only a proper appreciation of our science and art.
Even the United States Department of Public Health is recognizing the fact that there selenium is found near the surface -which occurs in only a few places in this country- the impaired health of the community makes continued habitation impractical and dangerous. Selenium ranks 34 in the scale of atomic weights, between arsenic and bromine, and falls considerably below those radioactive elements that have long been known to be dangerous neighbours.
The series of aeroplane accidents on our Pacific Coast in 1936-7 has been attributed to the influence of uranium fields where the deposits approach the surface in certain places in California. Uranium is one of our very heaviest elements, number 92 in the scale; it is highly radioactive, and it is believed that these radiations disturbed the delicate instruments so they were useless, hence the tragedies occurred.
Consider the patients with a heart condition, who cannot endure high altitudes. We recognize this important modality, and blood for the profound reason behind it. We are told that cosmic rays are five and one-half times as destructive at an altitude of 14,000 feet as at sea level. Cosmic rays are essentially destructive to all elements, especially the radio-active. Subjecting a patient hampered through his circulatory system, his vital balance already impaired, to forced known to be destructive might easily be fatal. It may be significant that these heart conditions often fall into the class of those conditions we recognize as being syphilitic or sycotic in origin (using syphilitic and sycotic in the sense of either the acquired disease or the inherited dyscrasia). The remedies applicable in these conditions, as we have pointed out previously, are remedies that in the majority are rated in the radioactive group.
On the other hand, the patient who suffers from atmospheric pressure and the dampness of sea level flourishes at higher altitudes. We have previously discussed the problem of sycosis as a probable over-stimulation of growth and development of certain body cells. If this individual is exposed to increased bombardment by the cosmic rays, this tends to balance the diseased state, and the patient enjoys a more stable equilibrium.
Here in the field of the atom lies the final answer to our questions of sickness and health -the problems of conception, growth, vital balance, decay. Here lies the answer to our problem of cure- maintenance of normal development, retention of vital balance, insurance against premature decay. This is a challenge to the scientist with an understanding of the homœopathic principles and their application, or to the homœopathic scientist who comprehends the phenomena of the structure of the universe. Not in a study of the individual sick cells, but of the universe and universal law, reflected in the universal structure of each elemental atom, shall we find our clarified view.