The physician’s highest calling, his only calling, is to make sick people healthy — to heal, as it is termed.
– Aphorism 1, Organon of Medicine [Kunzli, trans.]
With this opening shot, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann begins his treatise on the healing art. It may not seem like a critical statement at first, and many of his contemporaries probably thought nothing of it. But in a footnote Hahnemann goes on to say what the physician’s calling is not.
It is not to speculate as to the inner processes of the body, which are too complex to ever grasp fully. It is not to theorize about the origins of disease. It is especially not to take such speculations and theories and create medical systems based on them. The physician’s calling is not to impress others with his verbiage “while the world in sickness cries in vain for help.” Instead, Hahnemann calls for physicians to start “really helping and healing.”
Hahnemann will go into a lot more detail about the specifics of healing, but what is interesting to note in this first sentence is the quiet premise that he will go on to develop with the remaining 290 aphorisms of his seminal work: Why would universities have endowed chairs of theoretical medicine, to which Hahnemann specifically objects, if standard medicine had a true understanding of health, disease and healing? Why would it be necessary to speculate as to the inner workings of the body, as to the origins of disease, if medicine wasn’t so poorly developed that it did not understand these most fundamental things?
If you don’t have a central principle upon which the body works, if you don’t have a principle of disease and a principle of cure, well of course you want doctors who are willing to theorize! If you haven’t hit on a theory that works, something that organizes and clarifies your approach to healing, you want bright minds trying to work out these problems.
Hahnemann’s premise in this first paragraph is that these problems have already been solved! We don’t need speculation because we already have a medical system that works. We don’t need people weaving “so-called systems from fancy ideas and hypotheses.”
We already have what we need to heal the sick.
Quotes from Hahnemann, Dr. Samuel, Organon of Medicine, 6th ed.; J. Kunzli M.D., Alain Naude, and P. Pendleton, translators; United States (1982).