The mode of propagation of the asiatic cholera – Hahnemann, 1831

Two opinions, exactly opposed to each other prevail on this subject. One party considers the pestilence as only epidemic, of atmospheric-telluric nature, just as though it were merely spread through the air, from which there would in that case be no protection. The other party denies this, and holds it to be communicable by contagion only, and propagated from one individual to another.
Of these two opinions one only can be the right one, and that which is found to be the correct one will, like all truths, exercise a great influence on the welfare of mankind.
The first has the most obstinate defenders, who adduce the fact that when the cholera has broken out at one extremity of the town, it may the very next morning be raging at the other extremity, consequently the infection can only be present in the air; and that they (the physicians) are in their own persons proofs of the non-contagious character of cholera, seeing that they generally remain unaffected by it and in good health, although they are daily in personal communication with those dying of cholera, and have even tasted the matter they ejected and the blood out of their veins, lain down in their beds, and so forth. This foolhardy, disgusting procedure they allege to be the experimentum crucis, that is to say, an incontrovertible proof of the non-contagious nature of cholera, that it is not propagated by contact, but is present in the atmosphere, and for this reason attacks individuals in widely distant places.

A fearfully pernicious and totally false assertion!
Were it the fact that this pestilential disease was uniformly distributed throughout the atmosphere, like the influenza that recently spread over all Europe, then the many cases reported by all the public journals would be quite inexplicable, where small towns and villages in the vicinity of the murderously prevalent cholera, which, by the unanimous efforts of all their inhabitants, kept themselves strictly isolated, like a besieged fortress, and which refused to admit a single person from without-inexplicable, I repeat, would be the perfect exemption of such places from the ravages of the cholera. This plague raged fiercely over an extensive tract on the banks of the Volga, but in the very middle of it, Sarepta, which had strictly and undeviatingly kept itself secluded, remained perfectly free from the cholera, and up to a recent period none of the villages around Vienna, where the plague daily carries off a large number of victims, were invaded by cholera, the peasants of these villages having all sworn to kill any one who ventured near them, and even to refuse to permit any of the inhabitants who had gone out of the villages to re-enter them. How could their exemption have been possible had the cholera been distributed throughout the atmosphere! And how easy it is to comprehend their freedom from it, seeing that they held aloof from contact with infected individuals.
The course followed by the cholera in every place it traversed was almost uniformly this: that its fury shewed itself most virulently and most rapidly fatal at the commencement of its invasion (evidently solely because at that time the miasm encountered none but unprepared systems, for which even the slightest cholera miasm was something quite novel, never before experienced, and consequently extremely infectious); hence it then infected persons most frequently and most fatally.
Thereafter the cases increased, and with them at the same time, by the communication of the inhabitants among each other, the quantity of diluted miasm, whereby a kind of local sphere of cholera-miasm exhalation was formed in the town, to which the more or less robust individuals had an opportunity of becoming gradually accustomed and hardened against it, so that by degrees always fewer inhabitants were attacked by it and could be severely affected by it (the cholera was then said to take on a milder character), until at last all the inhabitants were almost uniformly indurated against it, and thus the epidemic was extinguished in this town.

Did the miasm only exist in the general atmosphere, the cases could not be less numerous at last than they were at the commencement, for the same cause (said to be the general atmospheric constitution) must have remained identical in its effects.
The only fact brought forward by Hufeland against my proofs (viz., that on board an English ship in the open sea, about the latitude of Riga, that had had no (?) communication with the town, two sailors were suddenly seized with the cholera) proves nothing, for it is not known how near the ship came to the infected town, Riga, so that the sphere of the miasm-exhalation from the town, although diluted, might yet have reached and infected the sailors, who were still unused to the miasm, especially if they, as is often the case, were rendered more susceptible to it from intemperance.
The most striking examples of infection and rapid spread of cholera take place, as is well known, and as the public journals likewise inform us, in this way: On board ships-in those confined spaces, filled with mouldy watery vapours, the cholera-miasm finds a favourable element for its multiplication, and grows into an enormously increased brood of those excessively minute, invisible, living creatures, so inimical to human life, of which the contagious matter of the cholera most probably consists-on board these ships, I say, this concentrated aggravated miasm kills several of the crew; the others, however, being frequently exposed to the danger of infection and thus gradually habituated to it, at length become fortified against it, and no longer liable to be infected. These individuals, apparently in good health, go ashore, and are received by the inhabitants without hesitation into their cottages, and ere they have time to give an account of those who have died of the pestilence on board the ship, those who have approached nearest to them are suddenly carried off by the cholera. The cause of this is undoubtedly the invisible cloud that hovers closely around the sailors who have remained free from the disease, and which is composed of probably millions of those miasmatic, animated beings, which, at first developed on the broad marshy banks of the tepid Ganges, always searching out in preference the human being to his destruction and attaching themselves closely to him, when transferred to distant and even colder regions become habituated to these also, without any diminution either of their unhappy fertility or of their fatal destructiveness.

Closely but invisibly environed by this pestiferous, infectious matter, against which, however, as has been observed, his own individual system is, as it were, fortified by the long resistance of his vital force to its action, and by being gradually habituated to the inimical influence surrounding him, such a sailor (flying from the corpses of his companions on board) has often gone ashore apparently innocuous and well, and behold! the inhabitants who hospitably entertained him, and first of all those who came into immediate contact with him, quite unused to the miasm, are first most rapidly and most certainly attacked without any warning, and killed by the cholera, whilst of those who are more remote, such only as are unnerved by their bad habits of life are liable to take the infection. Those who are not debilitated, and who have kept at some distance from the stranger who is surrounded by the cholera miasm, suffered only a slight attack from the miasmatic exhalation hovering about in a more diluted form; their vital force could easily ward off the weaker attack and master it, and when they subsequently came nearer it their system had by this time become somewhat habituated to the miasm, retained the mastery over it, and even when these persons at length approached nearer or quite close to the infected stranger, their vital force had thus gradually become so fortified against it, that they could hold intercourse with him with perfect impunity, having now become completely uninfectable by the contagious principle of the cholera. It is a wonderfully benevolent arrangement of God that has made it possible for man to fortify himself against, and render himself unsusceptable to, the most deadly distempers, and especially the most fatal of them all, the infectious principal of cholera, if he gradually approaches it ever nearer and nearer, allowing intervals of time to elapse in order to recover himself, provided always be have an undebilitated body.
When first called to a cholera patient, the physician, somewhat timid as yet, as is but reasonable, either tarries at first in the antechamber (in the weaker atmosphere of the miasmatic exhalation) or if he enter the patient’s room prefers keeping at some distance, or standing at the door, orders the nurse in attendance to do this or the other to the patient, he then prudently soon takes his departure promising to return again shortly; in the meantime he either goes about a little in the open air, or goes home and has some refreshment. His vital force, which at the first short visit at some distance from the patient, was only moderately assailed by the diluted miasm, recovers itself completely in the meantime by this recreation, and when he again comes into the patient’s room and approaches somewhat nearer to the patient, it soon by practice comes to resist more powerfully the more concentrated infectious atmosphere that exists closer to the patient, until at length, from frequent visits and a nearer approach to the patient, it attains a mastery over the assaults of the miasm, so that at last the physician is completely hardened against even the most poisonous cholera miasm at the bedside, and rendered quite uninfectable by this pestilence; and the same is the case with the nurse who goes as cautiously and gradually to work.

Both the one and the other then boast, because they can come into immediate contact with the patient without any fear and without any ill consequences, that they know better than to call the disease contagious; it is not, they say, the least catching. This presumptuous, inconsiderate, and perfectly untrue assertion has already cost thousands their lives, who in their ignorance, and quite unprepared, either approached the cholera patient suddenly or came in contact with these cholera physicians (who do not treat with camphor) or the nurses. For such physicians and nurses, fortified in this manner against the miasm, now take away with them in their clothes, in their skin, in their hair, probably also in their breath, the invisible (probably animated) and perpetually reproductive contagious matter surrounding the cholera patient they have just visited, and this contagious matter they unconsciously and unsuspectingly carry along with them throughout the town and to their acquaintances, whom it unexpectedly and infallibly infects, without the slightest suspicion on their part of its source.
Thus the cholera physicians and nurses are the most certain and frequent propagators and communicators of contagion far and wide; and yet amazement is expressed, even in the public journals, how the infection can spread so rapidly the very first day, from the first cholera patient at the one end of the town to persons at the other end of the town, who had not come near the patient!
And thus the flame for the sacrifice of innocent persons breaks out in all corners and ends of the town, lighted up by the sparks of the black death scattered in every direction by physicians and their assistants! Every one readily opens the door to these plague-propagators; allows them to sit down beside him, putting implicit faith in their confidently declared assurance: “that it is ridiculous to call the cholera contagious, as the cholera pestilence is only diffused epidemically through the air, and cannot, therefore, be infectious”-and see! the poor cajoled creatures are rewarded for their hospitality with the most miserable death.

To the very highest people of the town and of the court the cholera angel of death obtains access, in the person of the physician who gives this evil counsel, enveloped by the fresh miasm; and no one detects the concealed, invisible, but, for that reason, all the more dangerous enemy.
Wherever such physicians and such nurses go (for what all-seeing eye could perceive this invisible danger on these healthy miasm-bearers?)-wherever they go, their presence communicates the spark, and mortal sickness bursts forth everywhere, and the pestilence depopulates whole towns and countries!
If physicians would but take warning, and, rendered uninfectable by taking a few drops of camphorated spirit, approach (ever so quickly) the cholera patient, in order to treat him at the commencement of his sickening with this medicine (pure, unadulterated camphorated spirit) which alone is efficacious, and which most certainly destroys the miasm about the patient, by giving him, as I have taught, every five minutes one drop of it, and in the interval assiduously rubbing him on the head, neck, chest, and abdomen with the same medicine poured into the hollow of the hand, until all his giddy faint powerlessness, his suffocative anxiety, and the icy-coldness of his body has disappeared, and given place to reviving animation, tranquillity of mind, and complete return of the vital warmth-if they would but do this, then every patient would not only be infallibly restored within a couple of hours (as the most undeniable facts and instances prove), but by the cure of the disease with pure camphor, they would at the same time eradicate and annihilate the miasm (that probably consists of innumerable, invisible living beings) in and about the patient, about themselves, even in the clothes, the linen, the bed of the patient (for these all would be penetrated by the vapour of the camphor if it were employed in this way) in the very furniture and walls of the apartment also, and they themselves (the physicians and nurses) would then carry off none of the contagious principle with them, and could no longer infect persons throughout the town.

But these physicians, as we see, despise this; they prefer going on killing their patients in crowds by pouring into them large quantities of aqua-fortis and opium, by blood-letting, and so forth, or giving the camphor mixed with so many obstructing and injurious matters, that it can scarcely do any good, solely to avoid giving the simple, pure (efficacious) solution of camphor, because the reformer of the old injurious system of treatment (the only one they know), because I, from conviction, recommended it in the most urgent manner in all countries of Europe. They seem to prefer delivering over all mankind to the grave-digger, to listening to the good counsel of the new purified healing art.
But who can prevent them acting so, as they alone possess the power in the state to suppress what is good?
However, bountiful Providence has provided a beneficent remedy for this state of things (for these physicians are protected, even in their ill-deeds, by antiquated injurious laws).
Thus, the cholera is most surely and easily and almost miraculously curable, but only in the first couple of hours from the commencement of the sickening, by means of the employment of pure camphor, and that before the physicians in larger towns that are summoned can attend. But on their arrival they may even then, by the employment of unadulterated camphor-spirit, if not cure the cholera completely (for the lapse of a few hours generally makes it too late to do so) yet annihilate the whole of the contagious principle of this pestilence on and about the patient, and adhering to themselves and the bystanders, and cease to convey the miasm with them to other parts of the town. Hence the families of non-medical persons, by means of this employment of camphor, cure the members of their families by thousands in secret (the higher classes alone, must, on account of their station, be under the necessity of calling in the physician, who, in defiance of the philanthropic reformer of the healing art, and his efficacious system of treatment, not unfrequently, with his improper remedies, dispatches them to Orcus).

It is members of a family alone that can most certainly and easily mutually cure each other with camphor spirit, because they are able instantaneously to aid those taken ill.
Will physicians ever come to comprehend what is essential, and what will at once put a stop to the devastation and depopulation of two quarters of the globe?
Dixi et salvavi animam!

  • Cöthen, the 24th October, 1831.