Peter Morrell wrote this imagined discussion-debate between the two masters, Paracelsus and Hahnemann. It takes place long after they’ve gone on to their rewards, giving them the opportunity to hammer out some significant issues in the world of healing and medicine.
Peter has stated, “These essays were mainly written to enrich and clarify my own understanding, but I am glad that they might be appreciated by others too.” Lucky us!
Paracelsus – Ah, Dr Hahnemann, nice to meet you, I have admired from afar your system of homeopathica, but I at times despair that you perhaps threw away so much that was useful in previous systems.
Hahnemann – Yes, that is fair comment, but so each man is to the age he lives in. Your age gave us your complex system; my age of enlightenment and science produced me. My system is the first true science of therapeutics, based upon clear and rational principles and grounded solely in experiments .
Paracelsus - I disagree, of course. This so-called science is but make-believe. How can one practice medicine and understand the sick without a knowledge of the Christian universe we live in, God, the Devil and the causes of Sin? This is the problem with the medicine of today, they seem obsessed with evidence, but they only define it in chemical or physical terms ; they ignore the inner man, the spirit and the spirit in nature that can be brought to bear upon this complex matter. They talk of causes yet know nothing of the cause of disease. The true causes are internal not external, they are moulded into the mortal souls of individuals . We come to this world with already pre-formed within us the predispositions to certain diseases. They are our specific and individual inheritance. They shadow our life. I despair they ignore so much that would benefit the sick.
Hahnemann – Your system, as I said before, was the product of your world and your times. Those times, that world, have been swept away forever since the reformation and the enlightenment. New worlds and new times came upon us. No-one could understand your system and your copious writings; there was no clear plan or message. You recommended different things on a whim, for no clear reason. The thread was lost and medicine became degenerated. By 1750, there was merely a vast panoply of conflicting systems, all vying with each other and verily none could claim the truth. Most physicians were fools, and very dangerous and incompetent fools at that. Looking for guidance, the intelligent man could find nothing in the past of much service . My system was devised through experiment and thus, as it works along clear principles, I feel justified in claiming it is scientific.
Paracelsus – Yes, you are probably right and thank goodness, you got rid of those mixed drugs and high doses, which carried many poor souls into a premature meeting with the Reaper. However, I think you misunderstand my methods and ideas. Much of my writing was scribbled in a hurry and when travelling and I did not have time to consolidate, organise and reflect on it in old age, as I would have liked. The time given to me was but brief. This much, at least, the Lord decides. My system of medicine was very like yours, but it was rooted in the philosophy of Christ, Our Saviour, shot through like gold.
I think it was the English poet Milton who spoke of ‘man’s first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree that first brought death into the world and all its woe’  – such is the basis of true therapeutics. Disease comes from sin and accords in its nature with the nature of the sin and affects the parts in which the sin was committed and forgiveness by Our Lord is the highest art of medicine; we physicians are mere handmaidens, midwives of Christ who dispense things plucked from His Garden. We do well to observe the nature of plants and their parts in order to discern God’s secret will. What is more obvious than this? The plants and minerals of this earth are God-given to the physician .
Hahnemann – Yes, that is all very well, but does it work?
Paracelsus – It works after a fashion and according to His design for each mortal soul. Sometimes miracles are performed but most days progress is very slow.
Hahnemann – Exactly, physicians are entitled to more accurate knowledge and clear principles. That is what medicine since 1800 has been about. Much clearing of rough ground had to be undertaken, and the removal of encrustations of belief and superstition before establishing clear principles and practical methods that work.
Paracelsus – Systematically removing the metaphysical! Because you could not understand or use it, you arrogantly assumed it was wrong and you were right. Is this sound logic?
Hahnemann – Medicine has been subject to the same changes as other disciplines. You seem keen to downsize science for the wrong reasons. Nothing useful has been thrown away; quite the reverse. Everything useful has been retained. What has been thrown away is the centuries-old baggage of claims, superstitions and beliefs that could not be substantiated and which contravened clear principles . For example, venesection. That was abandoned because it was clearly dangerous and it did not conform to any rational principle. It is simply untrue that being drained of a quart of blood does a sick person any good whatsoever . That is how progress has proceeded.
Paracelsus – But what of the four humours? They are integral to our understanding of the functions of the body. How can you dispense with such a superb and simple idea?
Hahnemann – Because it was dangerous in routine use and also untrue. It did more harm than good; well, no good at all!
Paracelsus – You seem just about as simplistic as these modern clinicians with all their instruments and chemical tests, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Hahnemann – I am proud to say I am a scientist and you should be more respectful of its achievements.
Paracelsus – I do not see how you can separate medicine and theology . That is the main problem. You were the first to divorce medicine from theology. I watched you do it!
Hahnemann – what has theology got to do with it?
Paracelsus – It has everything to do with it. What has happened in recent centuries is this severing of the material from the spiritual and a rupturing of the natural order of things. As Plato said, there is always an inner and an outer, invisible ‘noumena’ lie behind the visible ‘phenomena’ ; thus, any physical medical system is useless if it does not address the inner side of man also. Today, they have so-called psychologia but it seems like a mass of conflicting theories that amount to nothing but baseless and changing opinions, which all deny spirit anyway. What possible use is there for such a thing?
As I understand it, in some respects, your homeopathica does address both sides of man, because your remedies hit many spots in the organism at the same time – mind, body, emotions, sleep, etc. Thus, some lip-service is paid to the inner, or spiritual, but I am sorely aggrieved that you chucked out all my alchemy and astrology , and the 7 metals  and thus the inner has been cast aside, and all you kept is the husk of the great seed. You kept the husk thinking it was the living seed. You threw aside the best part, the nutritious inner kernel. That is the problem with life since my passing. I can see now that the wrong direction has been taken. Human souls need deep remedies for their ailments, not chemicals and not just your potentised plant extracts.
Hahnemann – Oh yes, I agree with you that there is no spirit in modern medicine, none whatever. I was the last in the great line of vitalists. Myself and Stahl were the last of a distinguished lineage . Vitalism was finally banished in the 1800s once the idea of germs and vaccines had finally taken hold in the minds of these simple fools who call themselves physicians. Ever since that time, ever since Koch and Pasteur, the only things to interest physicians have been the molecule and the infectious agent . Every other cause of disease, internal or external, has been ridiculed, denied, ignored completely or relegated to the sidelines. It is a woeful business.
Paracelsus – But this is such folly. This ignores the soul and its conduits in the subtle body. Lately, I have been studying the Chinese and Tibetan systems. They are so close to my own intimations that I am amazed such great minds must have walked this earth so long before us. The flow of this vital fluid, vital energy in the channels of the spirit is truly spectacular. That is verily the source of disorder. What Mesmer called magnetism, is the same as your vital force and the Qi energy of the Confucian scholars. It all goes back to Pythagoras , of course, and the thrice great Hermes.
Swedenborg also made a creditable contribution in his day , reviving my doctrines and inspiring the poet and artist, William Blake , as well as many of your own homeopathists in the New World, such as the gifted Dr Kent of Chicago . Drs Dudgeon  and Clarke , in England, also gave good accounts of my work. I am also pleased that fragments of my esoteric teachings have flowed down to inspire other great minds like Goethe, Steiner and Emerson. It is all most gratifying.
Hahnemann – Yes, I studied such matters after graduating. I spent the best part of two years studying all the esoteric medical systems under the tutelage of von Brukenthal in Transylvania . His extensive library was the finest collection in the whole of Europe on astrology, alchemy and secret arts. Outside of the forbidden texts in the Vatican, his library was unsurpassed. I studied your writings and those of Rhumelius  much of the time. I am sorry to say it made little impact upon my thinking. It made little sense to me.
Paracelsus – I disagree. I think you copied me.
Hahnemann – I have been accused of this before by several physicians , but in honesty, I say to you that I did not plagiarise your works. Even Goethe called me ‘this new Theophrastus’ . It is merely that I came to similar views through experiment and reading the literature. Mostly I was inspired through the study of poisonings.
Paracelsus – The whole concept of disease as an imbalance of natural energies, and cure as a re-tuning or re-harmonising of the whole organism, which the Confucian scholars contend, is completely in harmony with my own ancient system. The Ayurvedic system of the Indians and the principles of self-purification in nature cure are also of great interest. There is great merit and wisdom in these ancient healing systems. Why are they completely ignored by modern clinicians?
Hahnemann – Regarding the other healing systems, I agree with you that they all possess some features, which modern physicians could usefully adopt or adapt. There is much to be learned from them. The problem is that these modern clinicians are entirely focused on what they call material evidence of efficacy. They have dispensed with holism and want to lead a clinical life dealing solely with specifics – specific drugs and specific diseases. They ramble endlessly about the precise nature of each condition as if each were a real entity separate from the patient, not realising that they speak of constructs that are really phantasms, visible only‘through the spectacles of their own hypothetical conceits’ . We speak a completely different language. It does not matter how many times you tell them that there are no ‘conditions’, there are only patients, it makes no sense to them.
Paracelsus – I despair that medicine, the holiest of arts, is now so debased these days. They are such literal-minded simpletons. They should seek to improve healthy functioning not just to palliate symptoms. Their drugs seem merely to juggle symptoms around the body. It is mere window-dressing at best; no fundamental cure occurs. Illness cannot exist in a pure body, in a pure mind. It is impossible. If only they could see. The causes of disease lie within, not in the germs or molecules. Of course, disease is a punishment from God for our sins – we live in a moral universe, a God-given matrix. True cure is a process of purification of the soul and body of man. How could it be otherwise?
I would often say to the weeping and wailing who consulted me – I can only do so much, more lies in God’s hands; this is earth – it is by no means Heaven. Even the Muslims agree that this life is by no means Paradise. The Buddhists also assert that life is filled with suffering. Such being the case, there are certain limits upon medicine – theological limits imposed by the Almighty. Some truly are born to suffer. Look to Job and behold this simple fact. Even our individuality is an illusion. We come streaming out from God and stream back in at death. He is the vastness of the heavens and the inner silence of the human heart combined. That is who we are. We are parts of God, parts of a continuum. Thus, illness fulfils part of God’s purpose for each one of us.
Hahnemann – Yes, that was Berkeley’s philosophy too . However, times have changed and we do not believe all that tosh these days!
Paracelsus – But what of the seven metals, the seven planets, the inner and the outer, the cosmos, that resonance that must exist betwixt all the layers of correspondences? You can cure a Mars person with Mars or Iron drugs or you may occasionally use Venus drugs. This is why your ‘similia similibus’ is incomplete – Galen was right in certain cases – ‘contraria contrariis’ – and Hippocrates also knew this. You just took similars as the ONLY principle, when in fact BOTH are of use.
I admit similars is the higher principle, the ideal, but not for every case. Likewise, with doses. Your tiny doses which caused such uproar! Even the physician to an English Queen called your infinitesimal doses ‘an outrage to human reason’!  However, small doses are not always applicable. For certain people, and in certain cases, a material dose can do wonders. As with similars, so with doses, you have only half the picture. This vile impulse to concretise and make into fixed dogma that which is merely a guiding principle comes from the flesh, the worldly side of man, not from the spirit. It is to be avoided. It has taken hold of everything in the modern world. It has virtually destroyed medicine. The esoteric concepts are vital – ‘as above so below’ – surely Brukenthal told you these hermetic doctrines?
Hahnemann – Oh yes, but it was lost on me. I could never fathom what he was rambling about. However, your ideas of the three basic drugs and their corresponding maladies did come in useful. In my time, I discovered that your Natrum, Salt, was akin to my Sycosis, the gonorrhoea taint or miasma. Your Mercury became my Syphilis miasma; and your Sulphur corresponds to my Psora, or miasma of the Itch, suppressed inwards through topical salves like Petroleum or crude Sulphur ointment. These inherited predispositions or dyscrasia form the main elements of my Miasm Theory of chronic disease . I feel this discovery greatly improved and extended your work.
Paracelsus – I must admit to feeling disappointed that only fragments of my teaching have survived into modern times and that the full teaching was very poorly understood at best. I am quite stunned, Hahnemann, I do not mind telling you, that there is no soul in modern medicine. This is its major failing. It is lop-sided and a mere halfling.
Hahnemann – Oh no, there is no soul in it any more. It is an outdated concept. No-one ever mentions such an idea. It would be regarded as a medical blasphemy today. There is no soul according to biochemistry. If it cannot be seen or felt or detected, then it does not exist for them. In my system, however, as you know, I retained your ‘vis medicatrix naturae’ as the ‘vital force’ or ‘élan vital’ . It is without doubt a good concept as it explains much that can be observed. Modern physicians find it absurd. I think the path modern medicine treads is wrong. Much that was hastily thrown out centuries ago now needs to be brought back in.
Paracelsus – I would say they have cut away too much of the important metaphysical element from medicine and thus it has become corrupted by materialism. Like a rudderless ship, it veers this way and that, with no direction and bereft of any true principles. The path home for medicine is the true purpose of the holistic therapies. It seems inevitable that they will become increasingly important. All future roads lead back to the ancient systems and back into greater holism. I feel that reductionism has run its course and is now all but finished.
Hahnemann – At least we can agree to end our discussion on such a positive sentiment!
“Paracelsus felt that diseases should be classified as diseases of lead, silver, gold, Saturn, moon, sun or some other substance according to the cosmic patterns that correspond to and activate them.” [Whitmont, C, 1980, Psyche and Substance, N Atlantic Books, USA, 10]
‘[Paracelsus’s]…next step would have been to administer metals and minerals in a systematic way to healthy persons [as had been suggested by Galen]. This step was in fact taken by Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathic medicine, possibly through inspiration from Paracelsus.’ [Coulter, Vol. 1, 442]
‘…the heathen teachers and philosophers, who follow the subteleties and crafts of their own inventions and opinions. Such teachers are Aristotle, Hippocrates, Avicenna, Galen, and the rest, who based all their arts upon their own opinions. Even if, at any time, they learnt anything from Nature, they destroyed it again with their own fantasies, dreams, and inventions, before they came to the final issue. By means of these, then, and their followers, nothing perfect can be discovered.’ [Paracelsus, Concerning the Spirits of the Planets, Wisconsin, 4; see also Paracelsus, 1987, Alchemical Medicine, Wisconsin]
‘I found that the medicine I had learned was faulty, and that those who written about it neither knew nor understood it. They all tried to teach what they did not know. They are vainglorious babblers in all their wealth and pomp…[Paracelsus in Das Buch Paragranum, quoted in Coulter, Vol. 1, 346]
‘Paracelsus…[introduced]..a number of mineral remedies…iron, saltpetre, ammonia of sulfur [liver of sulphur], bicarbonate of soda, sufuric acid, and red and black pulvis solaris [mercurial and antomonial compounds]…[and] he appears to have added several new one: flower of sulphur, calomel, blue vitriol, and other zinc, copper, arsenic and lead compounds…’ [Coulter, Vol. 1, 350]