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Kuzniar, Alice. The Birth of Homeopathy out of the Spirit of Romanticism.

Kuzniar, Alice. The Birth of Homeopathy out of the Spirit of Romanticism. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2017.223 pp. $20.95 (paperback).

While homeopathy is a treatment that began in the Romantic period in Germany, it is still a debated form of treatment in the present day. Kuzniar's study is not focused on whether homeopathy is a successful form of treatment, but outlines in remarkable detail how homeopathy is "a child of its time"--that is a child oi Romantic thought. Kuzniar's study of Samuel Hahnemann's creation of homeopathy outlines for the first time the stages of his medical innovations within the complex historical contexts of medical, scientific, philosophical, and literary ways of thinking that were emerging during the Romantic period. Kuzniar provides an amazingly rich and detailed analysis of new conceptions of medical treatment, of beliefs in the vital life source, of the philosophy of nature and self, and of the Romantic notions that aligned with and provided a stage or foundation for Hahnemann's homeopathic laws. Kuzniar provides an historical contextualization of homeopathy that foregrounds why and how homeopathy emerged during that time period and addresses not only which earlier medical ideas led to its development, but also brings attention to which specific contemporary ideas across disciplines bolstered its popularity during the Romantic period. Kuzniar's historical contextualization of homeopathy as Romantic is thoroughly unique and field transforming in several ways. Her research addresses the historical development of medical treatment, science, philosophy, and literary representations as they emerged and promoted similar beliefs concerning the importance and essential characteristics of self, subjectivity, nature, and life force. Kuzniar brings this multi-historical conceptualization of homeopathy to the table for the first time and her study provides field-transforming analyses that are essential for physicians, scientists, historians, scholars of Romanticism, and anyone interested in homeopathy.

In Chapter 1 Kuzniar addresses Hahnemann's development of the Law of the Similiars. Hahnemann's theory was that like cures like and that the best medical treatment was one that produced a similar artificial disease that would cure the original disease. She begins this chapter with an outline of Hahnemann's numerous articles contesting the traditional medical treatments of his day including purgatives, opium, alkalis, and bloodletting and his rejection of the notion that a cure would occur if the medicine produced the opposite effect. In this context, Kuzniar connects Hahnemann's concerns about medications that could be extremely injurious with debates before and in his time about the use of opium and contextualizes his concerns in align with other physicians and scientists including Waldschmied, Stahl, Hufeland, Humboldt, and Reil. Kuzniar then outlines how Hahnemann's idea of like curing like also coheres with similar notions in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Goethe's Lila play. While both of these authors address different issues and audiences, like Hahnemann they stress how like cures like. Kuzniar points out further that while Hahnemann adhered to the eighteenth-century paradigm of data collection about his patients, he also went beyond that format by stressing the importance of the individual symptom a patient has and the physician's need to single out the symptom to cure in order to select the right remedy. In addition, Kuzniar demonstrates Hahnemann's focus on the physician's interpretation of the symptoms--that is, his "reading" of them, and his following decision on how to cure them. Kuzniar then astutely outlines how this notion of individual reading and subjective interpretation was also essential to the Romantic understanding of reading that was promoted, for example, by Novalis, Schlegel, Eichendorff, and Herder.

In the second chapter Kuzniar outlines Hahnemann's development of the Law of the Single Remedy through which he establishes that each patient should be given only one treatment that is specific to the person. Kuzniar also highlights that Hahnemann's focus on the individual patient and the patient's narrative of the ailment was in opposition to the standard medical practice of his lifetime and that Hahnemann was against the practices of many physicians such as Reil, Aldini, Burdach, Neumann, Muller, and Brandis, who used electric shocks, bloodletting, and cold baths for treatment. Kuzniar also provides thoroughly convincing contextualization of Hahnemann's foregrounding of the person/person's feelings and each one's individual sickness as specific to that one person, and its adherence to the Romantic idea of Bildung promoted by writers such as Goethe, Ritter, Novalis, and Humboldt. Indeed, while Hahnemann stressed the importance of patient narratives, Romantics also insisted on the importance of one's own experience and self-investigation through confessions, journals, travelogues, etc. As Kuzniar demonstrates throughout this chapter, major literary, philosophical, and scientific thinkers of the Romantic period realized, as did Hahnemann, that they could not separate objective observations from intuitive, subjective, affective, and creative evaluations. By bringing multiple medical, scientific, philosophical, and literary discourses of the Romantic time to the table, Kuzniar demonstrates how the evolving idealizations of the individual, harmony between body and soul, creativity, Bildung, and subjectivity were concepts that were emerging within and across various disciplines and that foreground Hahnemann "as a child of his time" and as a Romantic scientist/physician.

In the third chapter Kuzniar addresses Hahnemann's Law of the Minimum and how he emphasized, in contrast to the prevalent medical practices of his day, the effectiveness of small doses for treatment, that the homeopathic remedy is potentized by dilutions, and that the living spirit in the remedy becomes stronger through dilution. Kuzniar demonstrates convincingly that this notion of the Law of the Minimum and Hahnemann's focus on the living spirit in the remedy, in the human body, and throughout nature, coheres with the Romantic notions of "Lebenskraft." Kuzniar outlines how many scientists and physicians of the time (including Hufeland, Roschlaub, Wilmans, Kilian, Walther, and Reil) focused on the importance of the healing powers of nature, but that Hahnemann was unique in stressing not only the life force in the human body and throughout nature, but also in the remedy. Like the Romantics, such as Novalis, Fichte, Holderlin, and Schlegel, Hahnemann agrees with Goethe's statement that: "Matter never exists without spirit, and spirit never without matter." Kuzniar also astutely outlines Hahnemann's support of mesmerism in this context, because he saw mesmerism as a means to manipulate "Lebenskraft" and positively affect the dynamic flows of the body. In addition, Kuzniar highlights how homeopathy parallels Romantic discourses of the time, including those of Novalis, Fichte, and Holderlin, in its foregrounding of the significance of receptivity, susceptibility, impressionability, and sympathy. And Kuzniar also demonstrates that Hahnemann, like Schelling, absorbs spirit into nature and nature into spirit and like Goethe's Faust, he wants to reveal "was die Welt/ Im Innersten zusammenhalt."

Throughout her study, Kuzniar brings a totally new and fascinating historical understanding of Hahnemann's homeopathy to the table and presents to us for the first time the birth of his homeopathy out of the spirit of Romanticism. Kuzniar outlines how the foundations of homeopathy arose simultaneously in and across multiple disciplines during the period of Romanticism and demonstrates how cross-disciplinary studies, like this one, can lead to totally unique, field-transforming, congruent, and multi-faceted understandings of cultural, medical, and scientific developments.

Susan Gustafson

University of Rochester
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Author:Gustafson, Susan
Publication:The German Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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