By Pierre Schmidt
Although he wasn’t very demonstrative, Kent adored his wife. He was very much affected when she became ill in 1878. Neither he nor any of his most competent allopathic or eclectic colleagues had the slightest success with the asthenia, weakness, persistent insomnia, and anemia which obliged her to keep to her bed for months on end. As time went by her condition deteriorated.
His wife then asked him to consult a homeopathic doctor who was already quite old and who had been recommended to her as being very knowledgeable. Kent didn’t like this idea, because he had already consulted everybody who had any kind of reputation in Saint Louis, and for a condition which seemed to him more and more serious he thought it would really be grotesque to consider something like Homoeopathy, with “its ridiculous little doses.”
Dr. Richard Phelan, “with his white beard and black coat,” (A picture of Phelan in his obituary showed him with a dark moustache -He was 66 years old. At the time Phelan met Kent, he was a bit over 40 years old, so with “white beard” might be a romantic exaggeration) …came one afternoon in his carriage, and remained for more than an hour questioning the patient and “asking silly questions,” which seemed to Kent so unrelated to her illness that he couldn’t help laughing mockingly behind his whiskers as he leaned against the end of her bed.
The doctor asked about her mental state, her fears, her desires, her preferences in food, with many detail, while quite obviously she had no digestive disturbance. He asked her about her indispositions, her reactions to cold, to heat, to climactic and seasonal influences, etc… He auscultated and examined her, and asked Kent for a glass of water, which he brought.
When Kent saw him putting a few tiny little globules into the water, telling her to take a teaspoonful every two hours until, what a nerve, she fell asleep -when she hadn’t even closed an eye for weeks -Kent decided that the man was a fool or an impostor, and showed him to the door very unceremoniously.
He was in his office in the room next door to his wife, preparing one of his lectures and, not wanting to make her feel bad, went two hours later to give her little spoonful of medicine, without any conviction. But after this second dose he was so absorbed by his work that he forgot to return to her room. He only remembered four hours later, and what was his stupefaction, on entering the room, to see his wife profoundly and peacefully asleep -something that hadn’t happened for a very long time, in spite of many drugs conscientiously administered. The old doctor came back every day and little by little the patient improved until she recovered.
What no professor of medicine, however famous, had been able to do, this simple homeopathic physician had accomplished: promptly, gently, and permanently restoring his wife’s health. Kent was profoundly impressed, and since he was fundamentally straight and honest, he felt obliged to apologize to his colleague, confessing his skepticism and complete lack of confidence on his first visit, and his total conversion after the remarkable improvement in his wife’s condition.
Such a result, the evolution of which he had seen day after day, couldn’t possibly be mere chance. Could Homoeopathy be a really valid system? He was so stirred up by the cure that he resolved to study this therapy thoroughly.
Under the doctor’s guidance he studied the Organon of Hahnemann, the fundamental work on Homeopathy, and worked day and night, reading everything he could lay his hands on about this paradoxical method. We are told that he even stayed up for nights on end, for weeks on end, with his great coat over his shoulders to keep him warm, devouring every scrap of literature that had ever been published in America on this subject. He was so bowled over that he resigned first of all as professor of anatomy and then as a member of the National Society of Eclectic Medicine, and from that moment on he was completely converted to Homeopathy.
Henceforth he devoted himself body and soul to this new doctrine, the profound truth and value of which he started to perceive. He understood especially, comparing it to all the other methods he had learnt, that it was the only one offering a law and principles which could be followed as a guide in therapy.
All the other systems seemed to him risky and inconstant, changing their instructions all the time. The allopathic and eclectic schools acted on end results, whilst the most important thing about Homoeopathy was that it came as near as possible to fundamental causes. And he had seen that when one treated end results, even if they were quite near the beginning in the sequence of causes and effects, one never really achieved any lasting help or improvement, let alone cure.
He had noticed that any therapy acting on end results only brought about complications, and this was one of the reasons why he had abandoned his practice to become a professor. And here, suddenly, his wife’s illness had showed him a new direction. His study of Homeopathy brought him such certainty and conviction that he was not satisfied until he had equipped himself to apply it with all the conscience and strictness which the doctrine demanded. It was during this time that he was able to observe the difference between every other therapy, and Homeopathy practiced according to the precise indications of its founder.
He started taking patients again, but this time, enlightened by everything he had learnt from his homeopathic colleague and from his own relentless work; he proved to himself by many documented cures the perfect truth of the law of similars, the necessity to individualize, and, thanks to the method of potentization discovered by the founder of this method, Samuel Hahnemann, the unbelievable value of the infinitesimal dose.