A Letter from Hahnemann
Liga News 2014; No. 11 (April): 4-5.
The following letter from Hahnemann is part of a long series of letters he wrote to the same patient between 1793 and 1805. It is interesting to note that Hahnemann provided many advises to this 40 year-old patient who would eventually live to the ripe age of 92. Conrad Wesselhoeft, who translated this letter, commented, "Was not this a triumph of a physician whose advice to a patient was to live calmly in order to attain old age?" Even though Hahnemann was only 44 years old when he wrote this letter he was obviously and already a very wise man. I retain the following six remarkable sentences from this letter:
- "… a worried mind destroys the body."
- "If you are a philosopher, you may become healthy, and live to be old."
- "Enjoyment, peaceful mental and bodily enjoyment,—that is what man is created for upon earth; and only to toil hard enough to procure this enjoyment, but not make a slave of himself."
- "One who can keep calm and cool, and can take things easily, will better accomplish his object; he will live more quietly and healthfully, and grow old. At the same time, a calm person of this kind may sometimes succeed in giving a much more favorable turn to his worldly affairs by a single lucky hit, or a serious original thought, than would be likely to occur to a busybody who never allows himself to collect his wits."
- "You will not be a man until you have first acquired a certain degree of equanimity, coolness, and careless indifference."
- "Thus one day follows another with measured pace, until the last day of great old age puts an end to your well-spent life, and you are permitted to awake as calmly in the other world as you lived calmly in this."
Just imagine if we, as well as our patients, would learn to seek equanimity in every step of our lives. Remember what Pierre Schmidt would tell his students, "If you are only, you are not," or in other words, if you only study homeopathy you can't be a good homeopath.
Hamburg, July 27, 1800
My DEAR MR. ___, It is true that I am about to remove to Hamburg, but it need not trouble you. If you do not object to a few groschen of postage, I shall be at your service there with my advice. By simply addressing me at Hamburg, the postman will know how to find me.
But now I must tell you that you are pursuing: the best course for the recovery of your health, and that most obstacles to that end have been removed. But one obstacle still remains, and this has caused your last relapse. Man (that is, the very destructible mechanism of man) in this world is not intended to overwork himself, nor to go beyond the measure of his strength by exaggerating the rate of his activity. If he does so, either from ambition or avarice, or from other good or evil motives, he acts in opposition to nature, and his body declines and deteriorates; especially in the case of a body already weakened. Finish in two weeks whatever you cannot finish in one. Those who will not wait cannot be so unfair as to expect you miserably to drag yourself to the brink of the grave by toil, and to make a widow of your wife and orphans of your children. You are injured not alone by working more rapidly and by greater bodily exertion, but far more by the greater mental strain; for a worried mind destroys the body. If you do not provide yourself with a goodly store of equanimity (a motto: first live for yourself, and then for others), your recovery will not amount to much. When you are buried, people will still wear clothes; though, perhaps, not so tastefully made, yet they will make themselves comfortable.
But if you are a philosopher, you may become healthy, and live to be old. Do not listen to vexatious talk. If any thing is too hard for you, do not attempt it. If they hurry you, go slowly, and laugh at foolish people who seek your misfortune. Finish only what you can do with ease. Do not trouble yourself about what you cannot accomplish.
Our temporal circumstances are not improved by rushing work; for, if you use up all you gain in that way, you will have nothing left after all. Economy in cutting down every thing superfluous (of which the hardest worker often enjoys the least) places us in a position to live in greater comfort, that is, more rationally, carefully, naturally, cheerfully, calmly, and healthfully. This would certainly be more to our credit, and a much wiser course, than the breathless hurry and tension of our nerves far beyond their natural endurance, destroying the most valuable treasure of our lives,—a cheerful disposition and good health.
Be wiser, my dear sir, and be sure to think first of yourself, and let all other considerations be of secondary importance. Even if people should: by attacking your sense of honor, endeavor to compel you to go beyond your strength of mind and body, do not, for God's sake, allow yourself to be cajoled to act against your own interest. Turn a deaf ear to all attempts to bribe you by praise, and keep cool as you go along leisurely and calmly, like a wise and sensible man. Enjoyment, peaceful mental and bodily enjoyment,—that is what man is created for upon earth; and only to toil hard enough to procure this enjoyment, but not to make a slave of himself.
The covetous hurry and strife of blind humanity in pursuit of wealth and position, and its eagerness to win favors, are the ordinary causes of ruin of our true welfare; and these are the common causes of the early decline and premature death of many young people.
One who can keep calm and cool, and can take things easily, will better accomplish his object; he will live more quietly and healthfully, and grow old. At the same time, a calm person of this kind may sometimes succeed in giving a much more favorable turn to his worldly affairs by a single lucky hit, or a serious original thought, than would be likely to occur to a busybody who never allows himself to collect his wits.
Mere swiftness is not endurance. You will not be a man until you have first acquired a certain degree of equanimity, coolness, and careless indifference. Possessing these, you will be astonished to see how your health improves while obeying the other directions. For then your blood will flow gently through your arteries, without pressure or heat; no frightful dreams will disturb your nerves when you have gone to sleep without nervous excitement. Free from cares, you will awake in the morning without anxiety concerning the manifold duties of the day. What do you care, as long as the joy of living takes precedence in your mind? Refreshed, you will begin your moderate task, and at mealtimes nothing (neither rush of blood, nor cares, nor deep thought) will prevent you from enjoying to your heart's content whatever the good Giver of life has provided for you. Thus one day follows another with measured pace, until the last day of great old age puts an end to your well-spent life, and you are permitted to awake as calmly in the other world as you lived calmly in this.
Now, my dear Mr. ___, is not this wiser and more reasonable? Do not trouble yourself about those restless people who in their self-destructiveness are ruthlessly and murderously waging war against themselves. Let them be fools if they want to; but take a wiser course yourself, and do not suffer me to preach worldly wisdom to you in vain. I have your welfare at heart.
Farewell. Follow my precepts, and even in the midst of happiness,
Dr. S. Hahnemann
P.S. — Even if you had your last two groschen in your pocket, you should be happy and cheerful. Providence guides our steps and permits us to find compensation for losses. How much do we mortals need in order to live to replenish our strength with food and drink, and to protect our bodies against cold and heat? We need scarcely more than good courage; the rest of less necessary comforts are then obtained without much trouble. A wise man needs but little. Strength which is saved needs not to be replaced by medicines.
1. This series of letters was published by Dr. Bernard Schuchardt in 1886 (Briefe Hahnemann's an einen Patienten: aus den Jahren 1793-1805. Bisher noch nicht veröffentlicht. Mit Einleitung und Anmerkungen herausgegeben von Bernhard Schuchardt. Tübingen: Laupp, 1886.). The one reproduced here was undated. However, as Hahnemann move to Hamburg about in September of 1799, we can assume that it was written in the summer of 1799.
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2. Samuel Hahnemann. A letter of Hahnemann. Translated by Dr. Conrad Wesselhoeft. New England Medical Gazette 1887; 22: 104-107.