Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

had but to propound his instructions “according to the ancient pillars of Hermes, which Plato and Pythagoras knew before, and from them constituted their philosophy.” Finding the same sentiments in the prologue of the gospel according to John, le very properly supposed that the purpose of Jesus was to restore the great doctrine of Wisdom in its primi. tive integrity. The narratives of the Bible and the stories of the gods he considered to be allegories illustrative of the truth, or else fables to be rejected from the reformed theosophy.

Among the disciples of Ammonius were Plotinus, Origenes and Longinus. To them we are indebted for what is known of the Eclectics. They were entrusted with the interior doctrines. Plotinus afterward accompanied the army of the Emperor Gordian to the East, for the purpose of being instructed directly by the sages of Bactria and India. Of Origenes little has been preserved. Longinus travelled for many years, and finally took up his abode at Palmyra. For some time he was the counsellor of the celebrated Queen Zenobia. After the conquest of that city, she sought to propitiate the Emperor Aurelian by laying the blame of her action upon Longinus, who was accordingly put to death.

The Jew Malek, commonly known as the distinguished anthor Porphyry, was a disciple of Plotinus, and collected the works of his master. He also wrote several treatises, giving an allegorical interpretation to parts of the writings of Homer. Iamblicus also wrote a work upon the doctrines taught in the Mysteries, and likewise a biography of Pythagoras. The latter so closely resembles the life of Jesus that it may be taken for a travesty. Diogenes Laertius and Plutarch relate the history of Plato according to a similar style.

The Eclectics flourished for several centuries, and comprised within their ranks the ablest and most learned men of their time. Their doctrines were adopted by pagans and Christians in Asia and Europe, and for a season everything seemed favorable for a general fusion of religious belief. The Emperors Alexander Severus and Julian were partial to the Philaletheans, and the celebrated Hypatia was also an adhe

rent. But the stormy times which came over the Roman Empire scattered them, and after the rise of Mohammed they disappeared from public view.

Some Observations Concerning Specific Therapeutics. *

BY OTIS M. HUMPHREY, M.D.

It has been, and still is the opprobrium of the Medical Profession in the esteem of physicists, that notwithstanding all the theories and dogmas of cure in medical practice, the most learned and skilful are reduced to almost unmitigated empiricism. It has even been deprecatingly claimed that a medical education is superfluous, since accomplishment in the natural sciences, which so cluster about and intimately pertain to- and instruct us in the animal body, normal or abnormal, and in the distinctive properties and powers of medicinal agents, has discerned little of the adaptation of the remedy to its certain or successful curative use. IIence, perhaps, the so common distrust of the art, and the renunciation by and the vagaries of many of its disciples.

I suppose there is no department of knowledge in our profession so utterly empirical (I use the word in its primary sense of experimental) and uncertain as the prevailing pathogenesis and therapeutics of medicines. The noble science of chemistry, which has given such a large array of available active agents, has taught or suggested little of their use, and that cliefly by analogies very uncertain in their proving. Iodine and bromine, intimately related in their chemical characters, are not similar, as might be expected, and as was formerly taught, in their action, or in that of their salts in disease. Castor, resembling musk in its source, mode of production and appearance, cannot be substituted for that article. One of the commonest and most annoying errors of medical botanists, has been attributing to a genus of plants similar in

* Extracts from a paper read before the Massachusetts Eclectic Medical Society at its last annual meeting.

form, habits, and sensible properties, the essential qualities of an individual among them, and rejecting the remainder as practically superfluous, which on subsequent investigation have proved to be medicinally different from and more valuable than the approved type. Until our most valuable veratrum viride was a few years ago investigated, the great Dr. Dunglison placed it with and following others of its genus, viz., sabadillo, white hellebore, and colchicum autumnale, with only this indifferent remark, “its properties are like others of its genus." Thus has the tendency been largely to reduce to a few representatives nature's vast and varied materia medica, and to limit the range of their use, by substituting for each a single principle derived therefrom, or from any other source yielding the same.

In view of our own not yet half-studied or understood vast American herbaria, what are we to think of those physicians whose pride and boast it is that they can enumerate the individuals of their entire armamenta medicorum on their fingers; or those who can reduce still further their agencies to three, viz., opium, ipecacuanha, and calomel, without inconvenience; or further, of such as would except from fishbait only the intoxicating poppy? “Worse for the fishes,"

, indeed, and better " for the world,” indeed, if medicine, without exception, from such hands be only “cast into the sea !" On the other hand, adopting the extreme idea of the specificity of medicine, another class have been prolific in tests by careful experiments of the drug effects of a great variety of medicinal substances upon the body in health, as an index to their power in disease. Without pausing to pass upon the reliability of this mode of proof (without experience, in which no man is entitled to an opinion, even, notwithstanding the obloqny and prejudice with which it has been favored), I am prepared to believe and admit that means and modes of cure, first suggested by this test, are among the most valuable accessions to sound, true medicine-accessions, I am sorry to say, that reluctant bigots have seized and adopted with no return of acknowledgment or honor. These investigators have been a class of keen-eyed workers and thinkers, and

whatever may have been extravagantly claimed or exaggerately believed in their preservation and pursuit of the idea of certain constant definite effects of medicine, they have kept in the true channel of progress which all must traverse who would attain to anything accurate or satisfactory in the field of therapeutics.

Without this line of inquiry, and largely previous to its adoption, our great, rich American materia medica has generally been found in and adopted from either aboriginal or domestic practice, or else discovered by accident-facts not very flattering to professional arrogance. We feel a patriotic pride in our vegetable pharmacopæia, so harmonizing in its varied wealth and magnificence with all the physical features of our land. And I believe there is coming a time in the not distant future, even more than now, when the men who shall, have achieved the accurate therapeutics of our fields and forests, will receive from the profession, at home and abroad, recognition of services more flattering than remain to be won in any other field of study. No honest phy. sician, knowing their exceeding richness and value, would practice a day and be deprived of their wealth. There are yet a great many incongruities and diversities of opinion concerning the powers and proper uses of remedies long in use. There is much yet to test and watch and sift down to demonstrable certainties.

The class of practitioners and students which you represent have been characterized-often stigmatized—as the champions of this work from the first. If others have brought the use of novel modes to prosecute your initiative, cease not to cultivate the exhaustless domain by the best methods that have been, or may be, irrespective of name or origin. And in all, never, never withhold from any their just meed of credit. And so shall we ultimately arm our profession with the power of certain, precise, definite physiological and pathological control of our cases, subject only and of course to degrees of vitality of our patients, and the will of Divine Providence.

I had commenced this paper with the intention (in com

pliance with the suggestion of your excellent and able Recording Secretary) of discussing the properties and uses of the Collinsonia Canadensis. I have, however, given so much time to general observations, that I can only attempt its consideration in brief; satisfied that if I may elicit the investigation of and experience of others, more truth will be evoked than any individual opinion or expression could convey. I omit the botanical description and history of the plant;—they can be found in the books. Its use was doubtless derived from the Indians, as Rafinesque found it in common domestic use a sort of panacea for all ailınents, external and internal, among the settlers of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Its ascribed virtues have attracted the notice of the profession, who have to a considerable extent used it in varions disorders, as each one has considered it adapted. In consequence, its range of use has been astonishingly wide and varied, so that referring to its officinally described properties, we find it accredited as a tonic, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, alterative and resolvent—a suspiciously comprehensive and all-healing reputation. I think we shall find it able to fulfil, in an eminent degree, all the remedial powers claimed for it, in one or two simple, vigorous modes of action.

I dislike this superficial manner of naming the properties of drugs after some physiological result of their use, and their consequent classification, for the same reason that I regard the symptomatology of drug provings on the healthy unsatisfactory; namely, because they satisfy our inquiry short of a radical philosophy of drug action, and tend to substitute a surface symptomatology, and a corresponding therapeutic nomenclature, for a sound pathology and for a comprehension of their constant fundamental laws of cure. The many symptoms and apparent effects of a medicine are often only the natural manifestations of, and should be our index and guide to its single, direct, circumscribed impulse, which, if we but recognize all its consequent or resultant symptoms or phenomena, no matter how various, become consequent and scientific deductions.

Collinsonia, early distinguished for its remarkable cures

« ForrigeFortsæt »