Published in Homoeo-Times (April 2007)
Hahnemann was "one of the earliest, if not the very first," to advocate a "treatment of the insane by mildness rather than coercion,"
As Dudgeon tells us, Hahnemann "settled for a time in 1792," [Dudgeon, xxiii] in Georgenthal, and it was while residing there that he "accepted an offer of the reigning Duke of Saxe-Gotha to take charge of an asylum for the insane," and it was here that Hahnemann was able to "pursue his painfully interesting investigations," [Dudgeon, xxiii], eventually establishing a dramatic cure of a patient, Herr Klockenbring. The account of this cure was published in 1796 [see Lesser Writings, 243-49]
This single incident undoubtedly provided Hahnemann with some pioneering ideas about the nature of mental disease and how sufferers ought to be treated.
Hahnemann possessed an extraordinary understanding for the nervous and mental activities of his patients…and [possibly] considered psycho-therapy in certain cases to be more important, more applicable than the use of homeopathic medicines. He also seems to have been far in advance of his time in this province. Everyone seems to be agreed that he exhibited a fine understanding…for the unfortunate victims of mental derangement, and he acquired a reputation for the same, attracting many patients with mental problems.
At the time of Hahnemann's incursion into this field, the insane were "treated like wild animals…chained in dungeon-like cells". The usual treatment at the time was by violence…whipping and dungeons. Haehl states that Hahnemann "acquired knowledge of psychiatry…”
During the two years following his translation of Cullen's Materia Medica, and the epochal Cinchona bark proving in 1790 that derived from it, Hahnemann "continued to experiment upon himself and on his family and certain of his friends with different substances", but he had not yet tested the truth of this new principle on the sick. The insanity of Klockenbring gave him the opportunity. However, for the first few weeks Hahnemann simply observed Klockenbring without giving him any medical treatment, Klockenbring had been Hanoverian Minister of Police and Secretary to the Chancellery…[and] in his fast life, he developed great eccentricity, but he became the subject of a satire claiming he was a close associate of drunken brothel keepers and that he had "the most dangerous venereal disease and moral vices ranging from drunkenness to fraud,". As a public figure and family man who could not stand such accusations, he "became violently insane".
In June 1792 he was brought to Georgenthal, being so violent that he was escorted by two well-built men to keep him under control. His face was covered with large spots, was dirty, and imbecile in expression. Day and night he raved. He was afflicted with strange hallucinations…would recite Greek…actual words of Hebrew text…he destroyed his clothing and bedding, took his piano to pieces…and exhibited the most perfect forms of excitable mania. Yet, Hahnemann had succeeded in curing him by "March 1793".
In the Organon, Hahnemann on so-called ‘mental diseases’
Hahnemann integrated his understanding of theology, philosophy and psychology into "The Organon of the Healing Art." The main sections on homoeopathic psychology and the treatment of mental disorders are found in aphorisms 210 to 230. There are, however, many other references to the use of mind cure. In §17, note 17a, he points out that disease mistunements can be caused by imagination, and therefore, can be cured by similar imagined remedies. In §26 the old homoeopathic psychologist echoes his early observations recorded in the Materia Medica. Vide Organon.
As a mesmer, Hahnemann was aware of mind cure, suggestology, trance and altered states of consciousness and bio energetics. The early mesmers looked on the human soul as a potentized bio-magnet with positive and negative polarities, lines of force and centers of energy. We have eyewitness accounts of Hahnemann performing a combination of magnetic healing and psychology on a number of patients. The mesmerists work to infuse life energy and to balance the circulation of the vital force and use hypnosis to induce altered states of consciousness to release trauma and guide the individual through different levels of awareness though suggestion.
Hahnemann was not unaware of the controversial nature of Mesmer's work. Specially prepared areas with magnets and magnetic waters, padded rooms with hysterical and mentally disturbed individuals going through catharsis, and others receiving treatments in altered states of consciousness was a bit too much for the orthodox establishment. Nevertheless, Hahnemann saw that the inevitable fanaticism and mysticism associated with the Mesmerists was no obstacle to true cure if the operator was compassionate. Vide Organon §288.
For management of the mental patient Hahnemann suggests the use of balancing qualities (raging with quiet fearlessness, silence with attention, disgusting behavior with inattentiveness, etc. Vide §228), but for cure, he points to dynamic psychological similars and homoeopathic remedies. This is similar to the management of patients suffering from physical conditions. The homoeopath covers up those who are cold, gives water to the dehydrated and feeds the malnourished as these are merely physical potencies of the natural world. The spirit-like mistunements of the vital force and mind however, need spirit-like dynamic homoeopathic remedies. Such psychologically dynamic remedies must be applied in a single remedy, given in small potent amounts, and not repeated unnecessarily. All the rules of The Organon apply.
Boericke, W & Dudgeon, R E translation, The Organon, combined 5th/6th edition
Close, Stuart, The Genius of Homeopathy, Lectures and Essays on Homeopathic Philosophy
Dudgeon, Robert E, Lectures on the Theory & Practice of Homeopathy
Haehl, Richard, Samuel Hahnemann His Life and Works, 2 volumes