What is “Disease” in Heilkunst?

If a system of medicine is going to focus on curing and preventing disease, then it needs to have a clear definition of what that is in the first place. It is fair to say that conventional medicine is rather confused on this point, as we see by the multiple terms used as apparent synonyms, such as : disease; disorder; illness; condition; and syndrome. Likewise, when we examine the general field of natural medicine, we’ll see that the focus is almost entirely not on disease, but instead on correcting imbalances. It is here where you’ll often see the term ‘dis-ease’, which is actually a way of referring to an imbalance rather than a true disease, as it implies a lack of ‘ease’, which needs to be rebalanced.

Dr. Hahnemann, in establishing his principles of Heilkunst medicine, provided a very clearly articulated definition of disease, as well as a system for identifying diseases of different types and origins. He realized early on that the conventional system of medicine, which he had been trained in, employed a system of disease identification and naming which was virtually useless. It continues to be true today that the conventional system of identifying disease is merely collecting together a group of some seemingly related symptoms under an arbitrarily chosen condition label.

Hahnemann’s insights illuminated for him several things about what disease actually is, and how to correctly diagnose and treat it. The first issue we need to clarify is which part of the human organism is actually being affected when we contract a disease. Fundamentally, we are looking at how our living power, or life force, is what governs every one of our functions both in health and in illness. Our physical body left purely to its own devices wouldn’t amount to anything more than a corpse, as it were.

Our living power expresses itself through two distinct aspects : the sustentive power, and the generative power. The sustentive power (think of the word ‘sustaining’ to remember this term) is responsible for maintaining all of our life functions in a balanced, harmonious way, as well as restoring balance when it has been disturbed. This is the basis for everything involved in the term ‘homeostasis’, where the name of the game is to continually maintain or restore balance. The generative power, on the other hand, governs all aspects of reproduction, including the biological forms of cellular and sexual reproduction, and the psychological forms of creativity, including the production of brand new thoughts. Everything involving the creation of new life forms, whether it’s our own cells being replaced, or the procreative act of making a baby, comes from the generative power. The term ‘palingenesis’ describes the function of the generative power, and is rooted in the idea of “rebirth” or “regeneration”.

Hahnemann was the first to make this critical distinction, and it allows us to make the further distinction between an imbalance and an actual disease. An imbalance is more of a quantitative shift, where something is literally moved out of place, and needs to be moved back (such as when a chiropractor adjusts our spine to re-align the vertebra to where they’re supposed to be), or there is an excess or deficiency of something, such as a vitamin or mineral which needs to be supplemented to get the levels to where they’re supposed to be.

A disease is not the same as an imbalance. You may want to write that previous sentence down somewhere where you can see it constantly, until the concept sinks in. A disease is more of a qualitative change, and directly involves our generative power, where it is as if we have literally been penetrated by the unique nature of a given disease, and which has resulted in a type of unwanted pregnancy within our living power.

The moment we contract a disease, then, is like a ‘conception’, and is an invisible moment which we are generally not aware of. We only become aware later on, when the sustentive power kicks in, and tries to rid us of this foreign entity. As you now know, the sustentive power is not built to deal with disease, but only imbalance, and so it desperately tries to do what it cannot. It is at this point where we start to have symptoms, which are the direct result of the sustentive power’s attempt to rid us of the disease.

Symptoms, then, do not come directly from a disease, but are the result of our own sustentive power trying to get rid of it. The sustentive power uses all the tools it has at its disposal — sweating, coughing, sneezing, bowel evacuations, etc. — but it still cannot budge the disease an inch. This is why we can say that our sustentive power is our best friend in helping us with maintaining our health, but our worst enemy when we are suffering with a disease. The symptoms we experience are simply the sign that we are trying to fight off a disease, but strictly speaking, we cannot say that these symptoms belong to the disease. Hahnemann was highly critical of any medical approach which imitated the efforts of the sustentive power, which only help to speed up a patient’s condition deteriorating. Therapeutic methods which are designed to invoke any of our evacuation methods (such as sweating) are actually making the situation worse when our health issue is caused by an actual disease.

The fact that our sustentive power works against us in the situation of disease speaks to the historical stream of medicine which is based on a fundamental distrust of nature — and in this sense, they are correct. The natural healing movement, on the other hand, is correct in their trust and support of the natural healing power (ie the sustentive power), when they are dealing with pure imbalances. It is the historical lack of understanding of the differences between imbalances and diseases which has given rise to the rift between conventional and natural medical philosophy.

4 thoughts on “What is “Disease” in Heilkunst?

  1. Shawn

    So how would you reconcile the imbalance of yin and yang energies as characterized in Traditional Chinese Medicine? For example the label Parkinson’s disease is a collection of symptoms in western medicine and in TCM it is a severe deficiency or Liver/Kidney Yin that causes Liver Wind which is the process that causes the parkinsonium symptoms.

    So in homeopathy if someone has severe deficiency or Liver/Kidney Yin deficiency and Liver wind due to lifestyle i.e. major stressors, emotions, excessive coffee, over work, excessive alcohol, excessive sexual activity then how can homeopathy cure this person assuming that they stop all physical behaviors that led them to this state.

    Just curious how homeopathy would reconcile this situation as this is more of an imbalance in TCM terms (as oppose to a disease) but I’m not sure how you would classify this in homeopathic terms.

  2. Shawn

    So how would you reconcile the imbalance of yin and yang energies as characterized in Traditional Chinese Medicine? For example the label Parkinson’s disease is a collection of symptoms in western medicine and in TCM it is a severe deficiency or Liver/Kidney Yin that causes Liver Wind which is the process that causes the parkinsonium symptoms.

    So in homeopathy if someone has severe deficiency or Liver/Kidney Yin deficiency and Liver wind due to lifestyle i.e. major stressors, emotions, excessive coffee, over work, excessive alcohol, excessive sexual activity then how can homeopathy cure this person assuming that they stop all physical behaviors that led them to this state.

    Just curious how homeopathy would reconcile this situation as this is more of an imbalance in TCM terms (as oppose to a disease) but I’m not sure how you would classify this in homeopathic terms.

  3. jkorentayer Post author

    This is a good question, and helps clarify these concepts further.

    In practice, we would find that no two patients express “Parkinson’s Disease” in the same way.

    For every patient, their “Parkinson’s” may have a lot in common with other “Parkinson’s” patients, but truly be a unique mix of imbalances and diseases unique to that patient.

    The treatment for a given patient’s “Parkinson’s” would be a unique sequence of treatments, addressing each imbalance and/or disease behind the “Parkinson’s” in a way consistent with our clinical logic and experience.

    The key to understanding your question really has to do with the insight into the way that Western medicine gives names to diseases, and how this is nominalistic, which means that it is just applying a generic label to a case, which hides the unique differences of every case.

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