Homeopathic Theory of ‘Vital Force’, and Modern Scientific Understanding of ‘Vital Processes’
The concept of ‘vital force’, on which the whole philosophical system of homeopathy is built up on, stands as a formidable stumbling block in its way of harmony with modern science and its methodology. The theoretical basis of Hahnemannian homeopathy is based on the some what spiritual oncept that there is an abstract ‘vital force’ alien to the physical body, existing as a part of ‘universal force’ which enters the body and possesses to enliven it, and leaves it with the advent of death. Homeopaths percieve diseases as disordered states of this ‘vital force’, and believe that it is only on the level of this ‘vital force’ that the cure of diseases might take place.
It is not here intended to convert the ongoing scientific discourse of therapeutics into a dialogue between the divergent philosophical world outlooks of spiritualism and materialism, and hence, I do not here endeavour to question somebody’s right to believe in the existence of a ‘universal’ ‘vital force’ as such. But, at least when dealing with a science of therapeutics, we have to reach a consensus to replace the concept of ‘vital force’ with a more rational expression, ‘vital process’, if we could discuss homeopathy as a system of scientific medicine. ‘Vital force’, what ever it may be, expresses itself in a living organism only through ‘vital processes’, the complex chains of interconnected molecular interactions known as biochemical pathways. It has been already explained that a state of disease is created through some or other deviations in these normal biochemical processes. Hence, according to our scientific perspective, every pathology starts as an error at the molecular level. We cannot proceed further with our scientific discourse on homeopathy, without a consensus at least about this fundamental position of modern science. Scientists belonging to various disciplines, engaged in the study of various natural phenomena, adopt such a practical stand even if ideologically they happen to be absolute spiritualists. It is impossible even for a most ‘spiritualist’ nuclear physicist to engage himself in his particular research activities, viewing the atoms, sub-atomic particles or forces as mere ‘spiritual entities’. The homeopathic theoreticians also should at least follow this example. They should be able to deal with phenomena of life, disease, therapeutics, and medicinal substances primarily as material substances and processes. It would be better for homeopathy at large, if these ‘masters’ and ‘gurus’ of homeopathy could confine themselves to a scientific vocabulary, refraining from mixing it up with unnecessary spiritualistic and philosophical jugglery of words such as ‘vital force’ and ‘non-corporeal’ ‘dynamic power’, while talking about a scientific theory of therapeutics.
Even if we subscribe to the concept of ‘vital force’ at the ideological level, we have to answer the question: “How that vital force expresses in a living organism?” Only as molecular level ‘vital processes’. Using medicinal agents of material qualities, we can deal with these ‘vital processes’ only at the material level. It is an absurdity to think that as physicians, we are dealing with an ‘immaterial’, ‘spirit-like’ ‘vital force’, that too, using instruments and medicinal agents of purely material nature. If homeopathic physicians were dealing with ‘immeterial dynamic forces’, instead of using ‘material medicines’, they could have done it better through prayers, ‘pujas’ and other occult practices!
The argument that homeopathic drugs act not by their ‘material qualities’, but by an ‘immaterial’ medicinal force, called ‘dynamic force’ is nothing but absurdity. Would these theoreticians agree that this so-called ‘dynamic power’ of individual drugs’ are determined by the specific ‘material’ properties of their constituent molecules? It is undeniable fact that this so-called ‘dynamic power’ varies from drug to drug, depending up on their molecular level structure and composition. If we were dealing with an immaterial ‘vital force’ and ‘dynamic power’, why should we use all those different types of drugs existing in homeopathy? While talking about ‘immaterial’ ‘spirit-like’ ‘dynamic healing power’, ‘liberated’ through potenization, which can be carried in corked bottles and swallowed as sugar pellets, we should be aware, how much homeopathy would become a laughing stock in the eyes of scientific community. If we still continue to claim that there is a ‘spirit-like’ force in homeopathic medicines, independant of their material qualities, a ‘force’ that is soluble in water and alcohol, can be transferred from bottles to bottles, acts on the ‘vital force’ when applied on tongue, lost when subjected to physical forces such as heat or electricity, how can we engage in a scientific dialogue? What type of ‘liberated’ ‘non-corporeal ‘dynamic force’ is we talking about?
We have to be well aware that the theory of ‘vital force’ was adopted by Hahnemann from the vitalistic philosophy then existed in Europe. Since modern material science was only in its rudimentary stage, he was not able to explain the phenomena he observed, in scientific terms. Due to inescapable historical limitations, he was naturally compelled to accept some sort of vitalistic explanations for his new inventions.
Now, we live in a new era of enlightenment, totally different from that of Hahnemann. Modern science has unravelled the molecular processes of life and diseases to such a level that we can logically explain the fundamental principles of homeopathy on a new scientific basis. It is an unpardonable injustice done to the great genius of Hahnemann, if we still continue to stick on to his obsolete unscientific explanations. We should exhibit the intellectual courage to mercilessly discard the evidently irrational parts of Hahnemannian homeopathy. Same time, we should safeguard its inner kernel of the great natural therapeutic law of ‘similia similibus curentur’ and therapeutic application of ‘molecular imprints’, which our master called ‘potentized’ drugs. We should bravely replace the concept ‘vital force’ with scientific understanding of ‘vital process’.
As long as ‘classical’ homeopaths continue to cling to their unyielding stand that homoeopathy is a ‘complete-in-itself’ philosophical and therapeutic system, beyond any scope for change and development, I find no chance for a meaningful scientific dialogue to happen. Claiming homeopathy to be a ‘science beyond science’, or ‘post-modern science’ may help somebody to appear fashionable, but they should realize that all these exercises contribute a lot in enstranging this great therapeutic system from main stream science.
The main challenge we face when attempting to offer a scientific explanation for homeopathy is that these homeopathic theoreticans make the situation more and more complicated by mixing up the basic concepts regarding life, disease, drugs and therapeutics, with their idealistic philosophical speculations and unscientific spiritualistic world outlook.
From the very onset, we have to adopt following fundamental factors as the basis of our intellectual inquiry:
1. ‘Vital force’ exists only through ‘vital processes’, which are complex chains of molecular level biochemical interactions purely material in nature.
2. A state of pathology is created by some or other deviations happening in these biochemical processes due to molecular errors of pure material nature.
3. Therapeutics is possible only through materialistic intervention in these biochemical processes.
4. Medicines are the material means for such an intervention.
5. It is due to the peculiar material properties of medicines that they are able to intervene in biochemical processes.
Therapeutics is a totally materialistic activity. If we do not agree upon at least this much of fundamental propositions, no meaningful discussion will be possible regarding scientific understanding homeopathy.
Since we are now competent to offer a scientific molecualar interpretation of ‘similia similibus curentur’, and ‘potentization’, the main fundamental principles of homeopathy, there is no need for relying upon the obsolete vitalistic explanations and speculations of Hahnemann, based on the concept of ‘vital force’ and ‘non-cprporeal’ ‘spirit-like’ ‘dynamic medicinal force’. Instead of repeating the unscientific concept of ‘dynamic medicinal force’, we can now logically explain the homeopathic potencies on the basis of ‘molecular imprinting in water’.