This is just but a short excerpt of the full aphorism 7, which says:
Now, as in a disease, from which no manifest exciting or maintaining cause (causa occasionalis) has to be removed, we can perceive nothing but the morbid symptoms, it must (regard being had to the possibility of a miasm, and attention paid to the accessory circumstances – aphorism 5) be the symptoms alone by which the disease demands and points to the remedy suited to relieve it – and, moreover, the totality of these its symptoms, of this outwardly reflected picture of the internal essence of the disease, that is, of the affection of the vital force, must be the principal, or the sole means, whereby the disease can make known what remedy it requires – the only thing that can determine the choice of the most appropriate remedy – and thus, in a word, the totality of the symptoms must be the principal, indeed the only thing the physician has to take note of in every case of disease and to remove by means of his art, in order that it shall be cured and transformed into health.
Hahnemann certainly loved long sentences, packed with meaning!
Symptoms as a guide to the inner essence of disease & remedy selection
In this aphorism, Hahnemann begins to outline the importance of symptoms themselves in the understanding of disease, and for identifying a therapeutic medicine.
Hahnemann’s proposition is that the totality of the patients symptoms (not a single symptom, but the sum or entirety of symptoms) are the outwardly reflected picture of the internal essence of the disease.
So to know the essence of disease, all that needs to be understood is this totality of symptoms. And this, in turn, can guide selection of a homeopathic medicine.
Correctly understanding the significance of symptoms
Hahnemann mentions three qualifications for understanding the disease essence through symptoms. These are that:
- any exciting or maintaining cause have been removed, and therefore, the symptoms experienced are not attributable to these aggravators. In the footnotes to this aphorism, Hahnemann gives the example of removing a foreign body on the eye to halt the inflammation it’s exciting. In many ways, these symptoms are ‘noise’, clouding the underlying symptom pattern reflective of disease.
- ‘accessory circumstances’ are understood, such as those due to the patients lifestyle. For example, it would be natural to expect someone with an occupation with high demands to be experiencing at least a little stress; these symptoms aren’t due to the disease, but rather to the circumstances.
- some or more of the symptoms may be attributable to a ‘miasm’ – the deeper roots which predispose us to disease, such as genetics.
Totality of symptoms
The concept mentioned above of the totality of symptoms is very important in Homeopathy. Hahnemann states that this is the ‘principal or the sole means, whereby the disease can make known what remedy it requires’. So symptoms are information rich and meaningful for the homeopath.
In the footnotes to this aphorism, Hahnemann is critical of medicine where only a single symptom is treated, as he considers this antagonistic to the goal of cure, which requires an understanding of the complete symptom picture.
He states that ‘a single one of the symptoms present is no more the disease itself than a foot is the man himself’.