The distinct, independent, yet intimately connected nervous centres, contain the corresponding vital principles, which combined make up the life of man. These are the ganglionic, the spinal and the cerebral systems. Of these, the lowest or ganglionic, rather than the highest or cerebral, is the original seat of life.
True the peculiar life of the ganglionic or sympathetic system, whose centre is the solar plexus, being purely instinctive and analogous to the life of the lowest invertebrate species, is lower than that of the spinal system and still lower than that of the cerebral. This fact, profoundly interesting to the physiologist, is so essential to the investigation of the hereditary disposition to and transmission of disease, that we take the liberty of prefacing the discussion of the main subject of this paper, with a brief abstract of the phenomena and experiments which are relied upon to prove it.
“The sympathetic nerve consists in an uninterrupted chain of ganglia, extending on each side of the vertebral column, from the first cervical vertebra down to the coccyx, and moreover extending upwards towards the cranial vertebrae, and occupying spaces between the bones of the cranium and those of the face.” *[See Braithwaite's Retrospect, No. 22, page 52, for a full discussion of this oint.] The sympathetic nerve is found in the foetus before the brain and spinal marrow. These ganglia and nerves could hardly have been formed before the brain and spinal marrow but for the sake of the organs whose growth they promote, whose life they sustain and whose functions (with the exception of the genitals) are as perfect at birth as at adult age. The locomotive powers of the spine and the still higher mental powers of the brain are seen to be still more slowly perfected. And as the ganglionic system is both prior to and constructive of the spinal and cerebral systems, so the solar plexus, being the first formed in the embryo, becomes the source of development of the whole ganglionic system of which it forms the central and most important part. From this organic nervous system, not only the organs themselves, but even the brain and spinal marrow are developed.
Muller, in his Physiology, says that Ackerman asserts that the sympathetic nerve is the part first formed in the foetus. Roland declares what has usually been considered the first traces of the vertebrae at the sides of the spinal column in birds, to be the ganglia of the sympathetic nerve. The assertions of Ackerman“ and Roland acquire great strength from the testimony of such men as Blumenback and Gall; both add the authority of their illustrious names, and confirm the former named physiologists in their opinions. Blumenback says, “that the nervous system,” meaning the organic nervous system, “of the chest and abdomen are fully formed, while the brain appears still a pulpy mass; and refers to Gall's writings in confirmation of the same views.”
In an acephalous monster, in which the brain was wanting, all the functions of organic life were successfully maintained; the breathing, motion and temperature were natural; it discharged urine and feces and took food.
A still more remarkable case, cited by Dr. M. Hall, of a foetus born without either brain or spinal marrow, proves the ganglionic organic functions to be independent of as well as distinct from those of the spinal and cerebral systems. The intra-uterine life was perfect, but upon being born it died; not because the brain or spinal marrow is essential to the vitality of the ganglionic system, but because of the absence of the motor nerves by means of which this system carries on the vital process of respiration.
After the removal or destruction of the brain and spinal marrow, the heart still continues to act and the blood to circulate, provided respiration be artificially supported, while the removal or destruction of the solar plexus inevitably causes speedy death. A slight blow on the epigastrium, over the solar ganglion will sometimes instantly kill a man; while extensive injuries of the brain or spinal marrow are not unfrequently borne with comparative impunity. After the separation of the spinal nerves, and even after the entire removal of the posterior portion of the spinal marrow, by which the corresponding extremities of dogs and frogs have been completely paralyzed, wounds of the flesh and even fractures of the bones of those limbs heal as readily as in ordinary instances. In the lower class of animals, such as the poly pus and oyster, which have neither brain nor spinal marrow, the organic, vital functions, such as absorption, secretion, circulation, digestion and assimilation, are as perfectly carried on as in man. Thus the sympathetic system alone appears competent to maintain animal life in the lower species. Why then may not it be equally competent alone to maintain the animal life of the more exalted species, which differ from the lower only in being endowed with additional principles or higher forms of life?
But while advocating the ganglionic system as the fundamental form of life, common alike to the lowest and to the highest species, we must not take too low a view of it as if it were altogether material. Instinct, which manifests itself with remarkable clearness in the invertebrate species, must in the absence of a brain and spinal cord, be regarded as the specific immaterial function of the ganglionic system. But the active exercise of instinct, which may be termed the natural soul of the sympathetic system, may be traced in the higher animals and even in man, in whom it resides in the same ganglionic system. Thus, persons affected by violent emotions, especially by fright, are seen to place the hand over the precordia, thus instinctively seeking to protect the cardiac or solar plexus from danger; and perhaps by such instinctive laying on of hands they may complete and strengthen the magnetic and vital current in the very center of life.
This lowest form of life, the source of all animal life, whether cerebral, spinal or organic, ganglionic as to its nervous seat and instinctive as to its immaterial qualities, which is all the infant possesses, and is overladen in the higher orders of animals by intelligence which, it holds in common with the molusk and anillidan, and understanding; and to these are superadded the pure reason, the crowning glory of the adult man, and that still higher moral faculty and intuitive perception which is the exact spiritual analogue of his material instinct. These higher and secondary forms of life may and do obscure, but do not extinguish the lower and primary. The former are founded upon the latter. The spinal and cerebral systems still depend upon the ganglionic, from which they derived their original existence, and from which they constantly draw their continued support and the power of performing their respective functions. Nutrition, growth, reproduction are the essential functions of the ganglionic system; and these embrace as well the substance of the spinal marrow and brain as that of all other organs. The nutrition of any and of all portions of the body involves the continued exertion of the same constructive energy whose developing influence originally produced them.
With the higher, spinal and cerebral forms of life, we have in the present argument no direct concern. Our object being simply to show that the lowest, instinctive form of life, or vital principle peculiar to the ganglionic system, is originally constructive and constantly sustaining of all the rest. Hence the conclusion, all that is meant by constitution, so far at least as it relates to vital power, to the purity of organic life and to the perfection of organic function, must belong to the ganglionic system, which in immediate relation to the seminal embryo, precedes both spinal and cerebral organization. In those obscure recesses of nature, the minute individual and collective ganglia of the sympathetic system, lie concealed the subtle but persistent germs of health and longevity on the one hand and of disease and premature decay on the other. Here amid the primary and most secret springs of life, ready to flow with them into all the vital organizations, and into the spinal and cerebral systems, and to perpetuate itself in procreation and conception, lurks the latent miasm, the agrea tophana of scrofula, or of that hereditary, hydra-headed psora, which since Hahnemann's time has been as great a quoesstio vexata to the physician, as the doctrine of depravity to the theologians.
This of course is not the place for moral or metaphysical speculations; but just as many disbelieve the doctrine of depravity, so many homoeopathic physicians reject and even ridicule the Hahnemannian doctrine of psora. And yet as hereditary dispositions to evil, if not actual evil dispositions exist in the moral world, so hereditary dispositions to disease and even actually diseased constitutions appear in the physical world of man; both too obvious to be overlooked or explained away, and each the complement of the other. And just as evil cannot be removed unless it be known, and cannot be known unless it appear, so disease cannot be remedied unless it be recognized and cannot be recognized unless it manifest itself or at least discover its type. And as disease itself may be latent or manifest, so its manifestation may be dynamic, sensational, functional or structural. And so incurable is chronic hereditary disease, in most of its ultimate forms, that it becomes the great object of the skilful physician to recognize its type and anticipate its development at the earliest possible moment. In the broad field of pathogenesis may not what we already know, though gross and crude and overladen with much extraneous matter, lead us to higher and still more valuable results in this desired direction? As the provings with massive doses produce innumerable low forms of symptoms common to many drugs, in addition to those peculiar to each, the former at once outnumbering and greatly obscuring the latter, may we not hope by accurate and scientific provings with the lower and even higher homoeopathic preparations, not only to eliminate the gross and worthless symptoms and verify those known to be characteristic, but also to make some real advance in obtaining a higher class of symptoms corresponding to the dynamic and primary symptom of hereditary disease? Prevention is better than cure! And may we not hope that the faithful physician will thus be enabled more than ever before, by anticipating and preventing disease, to experience the proud satisfaction of conferring benefits upon his fellow men which are none the less real because seldom recognized and never repaid? It is in this direction we believe the disciples of Hahnemann will make advances worthy of their illustrious teacher, and at the same time keep step with the ever advancing spirit of the age. Here opens a wide and glorious field in which indeed the physician must plough deep, but from which he will gather rich fruits; a field especially suitable to the high potencies, in which they will at the same time find reduplicate and transcendent proofs of the homoeopathic law and confer the most inestimate blessings upon mankind in the prevention and gradual extinction of disease.
Ridicule is the ingratitude of little minds. And it is just as natural for such men to deride great principles which they cannot comprehend, or which are attained by intellectual processes beyond their ability to follow, as it is for similar persons to return hatred for benefit which they cannot repay. The method by which Hahnemann arrived at his psoric theory may seem insufficient, as the limits within which he proposed to restrain it were too narrow. But his far seeing mind overleaped some of the intermediate steps in the chain of reasoning, and as if by a sublime intuition seized at once the mighty principles of hereditary disease, the master-key to all that is abnormal and obscure in the physical history of man. What though he erred in attempting to limit that disease to a single form and to indicate its single original type? Not more certainly does the law of the similars reveal the homoeopathic nature of medicine, than does his doctrine of psora, pure and simple, roll back, as with a flash of electric light, the darkness of ages from the true nature of chronic disease!
Instead of being limited to an “itch” suppressed in the person of the sufferer himself or in some of his ancestors, psora may be regarded as an hereditary taint of constitution, which may have been immediately derived from one or both the parents, which may have been increasing or diminishing in virulency from age to age, which may have skipped an entire generation, which in different generations, and run in different periods of individual life, may have assumed different forms of development; and whose substantial type can be discovered only by a careful study of all its forms.
Doubtless the skin is the primary and preferred form of development of all chronic as of all acute disease. This is confirmed by the fact that eruptions on the skin constitute almost the only form of disease which we have mentioned in the earlier history of man. As the poison of hereditary syphilis is said sometimes to overleap an entire generation, so the hitherto latent psoric miasm, by a sort of vital exosmosis, or like light through a transparent substance, passing directly through the intermediate organs secures their entire immunity by developing itself on the skin.
The relation between the sympathetic ganglia and the spinal cord, though well known to be profoundly intimate, is still but imperfectly understood. Disease in the Great Sympathetic occasions tenderness of the spinous processes, which is sometimes mistaken and unavailingly treated for spinal disease. It may be that a careful study and comparison of the morbid phenomena, resisted by the light reflected from a purer homoeopathic pathogenesis, will ere long enable us to distinguish the one class from the other. The ganglionic system, as the primary and fundamental seat of life, must contain all the hereditary elements of health and disease, which latter may be considered as latent till they begin to be transmitted to some of the organizations which this system supplies. But as the ganglionic system supplies to each of the involuntary vital organs all that is involved in their nutrition, structural and functional life, it must at the same time impart to them the germs of its own constitutional dyscrasia. Then that which for the briefest space only may be supposed to have been absolutely latent in the solar plexus, may be apparently latent in the vital organs for a longer or shorter season, or passing harmlessly through them, be ultimated on the skin. And many forms of organic disease, which, from an accompanying tenderness of some corresponding spinous processes, have commonly been attributed to “spinal irritation,” are thus seen to be the direct result of the psoric miasm flowing into these organs with the vital currents from the ganglionic system. And it is believed that the germs of the hereditary dyscrasia, latent in the sympathetic ganglia, may be discovered in the form of minute tubercules in the involuntary organs, in the spinal marrow and in the brain. Will it be possible for microscopic pathology to discover such germs in the ganglionic centre of life itself?
|The American Homoeopathic Review Vol. 04 No. 04, 1863, page 146-152
|The Sympathetic and Spinal Systems in Relation to Psora.
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