I had passed a year or two in active practice, learning to think under my father’s supervision, (receiving thought from others and thinking for ourselves are very different things,) when I came suddenly into contact with what I regarded as the most gigantic humbug of the day — Homoeopathy.
It was in this manner : I was called out one cold winter night to a fine, plump little boy, suffering with the worst form of membranous croup. I gave him an emetic : he grew worse. I put him in a hot bath : he became hoarser and hoarser. I repeated the emetic and the bath, with no beneficial result. His difficulty of breathing became frightful. He then sank into a stupid state, with hot head and dilated pupils. I became alarmed. I saw that unless a speedy change could be induced, death was inevitable. I determined to bleed him, to relieve his congested brain, and then trust his fate to broken doses of calomel.
When I announced my sanguinary intention, the poor mother burst into a violent paroxysm of weeping, mingled with exclamations that her child should never be bled. I remonstrated ; I explained the case— I entreated ; but all to no purpose. She exclaimed wildly, clasping the little fellow
to her heart, ” The blood is the life— it shall not be taken away ! ” The husband took me into another room, and told me that his wife had once been insane, after the death of a child, and was confined for months in a lunatic asylum, lie said he dare not thwart her will in so important and
delicate a matter— that the child must not be bled. He urged me to do something else — to do anything to save his child; but that I must not, should not bleed it. I explained to him, candidly, and with some display of professional dignity, that my opinion was worth more than his or his wife’s; that there was no hope for his child but in blood- letting and calomel, and that I would not retain the responsibility of a case in which I was not permitted to dictate the treatment. The upshot of it was that I was dismissed not at all sorry that I had escaped the charge of a death which I deemed inevitable. The angel of Life must have clapped his hands for joy as I receded from the door.
The next day I expected to hear of the death of my little patient, but no such rumor reached my ear. The morning after I looked in the daily papers for a general invitation to his funeral, but no obituary was to be found.
I was puzzled. “What doctor, capable of saving life under such circumstances, could have been called in after I left? How I envied him his knowledge or his good luck! Imagine my amazement when I saw the child playing in his father’s yard about the middle of the day ! My curiosity was piqued, and became too strong for my professional hauteur. I determined to know who my skillful successor in the case was. I rang the bell, asked for the lady of the house, and with some little embarrassment made my inquiries. I was informed that a Homoeopathic physician had been summoned ; that he put a towel, wrung out of cold water, around the child’s neck, and some little sugar pellets on his tongue. The pellets were repeated every fifteen minutes until the breathing became easy, the cough loose, and the patient roused up, from which time the convalescence was rapid.
A sensible mechanic who discovered that another mechanic executed some piece of work more rapidly, perfectly, durably and scientifically than himself, would be anxious to see how the new principles had been put into practice. In this case one would suppose that I said to myself,
” This is very remarkable. I will see this new doctor; I will learn what he gave this child, and why he gave it. We will at least amicably exchange ideas : I may learn something useful to myself and others.” That would have been common sense, but it would not have been Allopathic sense. That is what any sane man, who really enjoyed perfect freedom of thought and action, would have done ; but I was bound hand and foot by the invisible but powerful trammels of education, prejudice, interest, fashion and habit. I derided the treatment as the climax of folly, and had the effrontery to claim that the child was cured by my remedies, which began to act after I left. The lady dissented from this opinion, and was evidently a convert to Homoeopathy. My suspicion that the new system was a disgraceful imposture, now became a conviction, and not long after I refused to be introduced to the worthy gentleman who had saved my patient.
This Doctor Bianchini, who incurred my juvenile contempt, was a respectable graduate of the University of Genoa, venerable for his age and his experience. Seventeen years afterwards I met him under more agreeable circumstances. I had learned his secret of curing croup, and had employed it in hundreds of cases without a single failure.
Of course we saw each other in a different and better light, and we laughed together at my harmless Allopathic pomposity. Our meeting reminded me of the two Welshmen who were traveling at day-break on one of the wild mountains of their country. When they first descried each other their figures loomed up so vastly and grotesquely through the sea of vapor, that each exclaimed to himself, ” What a monster approaches ! ” As they came nearer together each discovered that the other bore the human shape, although strangely distorted by the dim mists of the morning. When they got face to face, behold, they were brothers ! Just such mists and vapors are all the creeds, and institutions, and conventionalities that separate man from man !
On reviewing the state of my mind at that period, and asking myself wonderingly why such a striking Homoeopathic cure should have made no impression whatever on my thinking faculties, I remember that I was laboring under two great, delusions respecting Homoeopathy, which prevented it from obtaining the least foothold on my faith. I was bitter because I was ignorant, as some animals are said to be fiercest in the dark.
In the first place, I regarded Homoeopathy as a doctrinal monstrosity and its practitioners as uneducated impostors. True, I had never read a single book or journal of the new school. I had never conversed with one of its physicians. I knew positively nothing about the whole matter, as is the
case to-day with nine-tenths of the Allopathic physicians in the United States ; my ignorance was the cause and measure of my intolerance. The “London Lancet,”* the mighty Hector of the orthodox hosts, was my oracle. I took every thing at second-hand — I saw every thing, like the Welsh-
men, through a rolling sea of vapor.
I needed some judicious, intelligent friend to show me what I now see so clearly — that Homoeopathy is the crowning piece, the cap-stone of medical science ; that it begins only where Allopathy ends. It is a grand philosophic reform in the highest and last-studied department of medicine — the application of remedies to the cure of disease.
The entire course of scientific instruction necessary to the accomplished physician is the basis from which the true Homoeopath must work upward and onward in his noble mission. Hahnemann stood head and shoulders above the crowd of his detractors.
Jean Paul Richter calls him ” that rare double-head of genius and learning,” and so he was.
The Germans who planted the new system on this continent — Hering, “Wesselhceft, Gram, Haynel, Pulte, and others — were in every instance gentlemen of extensive and varied erudition. Their first American disciples — the apostles of the school in our different cities — were in most cases
men of superior mental endowments, and of thorough classical and scientific culture. In New York city, for example, Gray, Wilson, Channing, Hull, Curtis, Bayard, and others of the early Homoeopaths, were men who would have added lustre to any of the medical or social circles in London or Paris.
Excerpt from the book – How I became a Homeopath: Dr. Holcombe