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Excerpt from "Sane Asylums"

From “Introduction: The Dead Sea Scrolls of Homeopathy and Psychiatry”

by Jerry M. Kantor


Has psychiatry gone astray? It appears so, with corporate greed as the primary cause. Despite what some consider state-of-the art psychiatric treatment, rather than declining, the number of identified disabled mentally ill has tripled in this country in the last twenty years. Ever more patients with intractable and increasingly dire diagnoses requiring medication continue to appear. In turn, the need to counter the side effects of these same medications has escalated.

As Robert Whitaker shows in Anatomy of an Epidemic, simply not using psychiatric medication enables the poorest and least developed countries in the world to consistently outperform the United States across all measures with regard to short- and long-term schizophrenia outcomes. Need one doubt that a craving for market expansion propels the skyrocketing census of depressed and bipolar individuals? Or that this is the reason why healthy youngsters are suddenly earmarked for psychopharmacology’s tender mercies?

Psychiatry need not have gone down this road. In fact, for a quarter of a century throughout much of the United States, alternate and well-traveled routes for humane and effective psychiatric care existed. Whether mentally or physically ill, people flocked to homeopaths because these physicians listened to, rather than condescended to their patients. Whereas conventional physicians of that era prescribed on the basis of often dubious biological suppositions directing them to ply a patient with toxic mercury or bleed them repeatedly, their homeopathic counterparts prescribed gentle medicines attuned to the stresses and influences responsible for their patient’s symptoms. Which doctor would you have chosen?

Are the utopian homeopathic asylums of the turn of the nineteenth century a myth? One might think so based on a dearth of their mention in contemporary historical medical literature. Readers of influential texts such as Madness: An American History of Mental Illness and Its Treatment will puzzle over why author Mary de Young’s chapter on asylums declines to mention homeopathy’s numerous mental hospitals. The omission fosters a preferred reality in which the hospitals never existed. In fact, many American hospitals and medical schools had homeopathic founders and boasted countless homeopathically directed activities, mention of which has been scrubbed from most history.

I consider the information Sane Asylums presents to be a corollary to the Dead Sea Scrolls, which illuminated a wide spectrum of ancient beliefs and practices; this information, however, is only a few centuries old, as opposed to two thousand years. It was not smuggled from the caves of Qumran but secreted in wilted letters and journals; the minutes of physician organizations; bygone texts; rare offerings of publishers Forgotten Books, Kissinger Publishing L.L.C., and the Wentworth Press; and the University of Michigan Library’s digitalization of dusty archives. Still, the material will enlighten.

Medical historians accustomed to hailing French physician Philippe Pinel as the first doctor to replace brutal care of the mentally ill with psychologically oriented humanitarian (or what Pinel called “moral”) care will have to reconsider. What I am terming the “Dead Sea Scrolls of homeopathy” reveal these contemporaries must share credit. Pinel made human changes in treatment, but it was Samuel Hahnemann who pioneered homeopathic remediation in an asylum in Georgenthal, Germany in 1792.

Online searchers, unaware that shills for the pharmacology industry have commandeered the Wikipedia homeopathy page, take the website’s disparaging account as gospel truth.1 Shown otherwise they will scratch their heads. So too might visitors to the website of the American Medical Association (AMA), where an exalted account of the organization’s origins is given the lie by economist Dale Steinreich’s sordid revelation: “AMA’s initial drive to increase physician incomes was motivated by increasing competition from homeopaths. . . . In the year before AMA’s founding, the New York Journal of Medicine stated that competition with homeopathy caused ‘a large pecuniary loss’ to allopaths.”2 And in 1872, one allopath embroiled in the controversy at the University of Michigan, where a professorship in homeopathy had been established since 1855, argued that the university was “throwing discouragements in the path of the graduates in scientific medicine and rendering the struggle for existence more arduous and unremunerative.”3

FURTHER REVELATIONS

Homeopathy’s popularity in the nineteenth- and early twentieth century is evident from its celebrated advocates, including luminaries William James, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathanial Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Daniel Webster, William Seward, Horace Greeley, Louisa May Alcott, and journalist William Cullen Bryant (who served for a time as president of the Homeopathic Medical Society of the State of New York).4

There have been more than one hundred homeopathic hospitals and twenty-two homeopathic medical schools in the United States. These included forerunners of Drexel University College of Medicine (representing the legacies of two historic medical schools, Hahnemann Medical College and the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania), Boston University, Stanford University, New York Medical College, University of Michigan, and more than a thousand homeopathic pharmacies.


Sane Asylums by Jerry M. Kantor © 2022 Healing Arts Press. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com

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