Hahnemann’s personality peculiarities and pathology – Vangelis Zafeiriou MD

Author Vangelis Zafeiriou, M. D., homeopath, psychiatrist


Comparative analysis of the character of S. Hahnemann and the description of the pathogenetic features of the remedy Arsenicum Album. This is a superbly done work of the Greek homeopathic doctor, psychiatrist Vangelis Zafiriou, who noticed the peculiarities of our Teacher’s character, thanks to whom it was possible to create a coherent system of therapy, and also to make a discovery that nature itself provided to humanity. Humanity, which still so ineptly disposes the gifts of nature.

T. Pokatova


One of the babies that was born on 10-4-1755 happens to be the reason for our meeting today and the cause of the restoration of health for millions of people in the past and billions in the future. This baby was given the name of Samuel Hahnemann. Eighty-eight years later, he completed his mission on earth, providing an invaluable offering to humanity and we can read his own statement on his grave: ‘I have not lived in vain.’

It is impossible to experience the complete beauty of his discovery without walking in the path of his internal life: his passions, motives, sufferings, obstacles, loves and visions. Hahnemann himself is an inseparable part of the science of homoeopathy. Based on the principle that all creations contain the picture of their creators, we will try, in this work, to find any existing similarities between Hahnemann’s personality and pathology and the characteristics of the science that he discovered.

According to Hahnemann’s autobiography, letters, biographers and other writers in homoeopathy, the Teacher seemed to be serious, self-controlled, austere, a domineering personality, orderly, focused on minute detailed matters, a family type, aggressive, absolute, scientifically-minded, accurate, restless, distant, not emotional, honest, concerned a lot about money and duty, with a strong sense of right and wrong in life, enjoyed knowledge more than human relations or anything else, intelligent, religious,  industrious, critical, observant, collective, well-disciplined and had a penetrating mind.

Homeopathically, all the above characteristics point towards a remedy picture, which ‘accidentally’ occupies more pages in his Materia Medica than any other remedy. At the age of 84, he chose to devote his last contribution to the Materia Medica, writing a preface to that remedy: ‘The mentioning of Arsenicum Album calls up powerful recollections in my soul‘ (T. Bradford, ‘Life and Letters of Hahnemann’, p. 396). He used this remedy upon himself at least once for cure. Hahnemann was a serious man. We read in Bradford’s biography about ‘the serious exterior which he exhibited in everyday life’ (p. 114). In Haehl’s biography we read that Hahnemann’s face looks sympathetic ‘in spite of its severity’ (B, 385). Arsenicum Album is the only capitalized remedy in the rubric ‘serious’.

Hahnemann was as avaricious and concerned about money as an Arsenicum Album can be. We read from Bradford that: ‘His only faults were mistrust and avarice’ (p. 114). and also: ‘Patients who could not pay the regular fee never saw Hahnemann, but only his partner’ (p. 442). In a letter to Rummel, dated 19-5-1831 he suggested that the homeopath ‘should take from the poorer persons some payment at each visit… even these small fees if they are paid at every visit and never neglected, accumulate to a considerable sum’ (Bradford, p. 249). Rummel refused to practice Hahnemann’s payment suggestions. ‘He has even been reproached with avarice and harshness against the poor ones’ (Haehl, A. 134). ‘Why not imitate me and demand your fees from rich and poor?… No one enters my house without the money to pay me at the time…'(Haehl, B. 401-402).

Hahnemann was also very avaricious about his time. He dedicated his time only to what he considered to be useful and to nothing else. If it was not so, one life would not be enough for the precious work he created. According to Coulter, ‘Arsenicum Album demands much but can also give much in return’ (p. 293). Hahnemann gave back too much and too greatly. Hahnemann was fastidious, precise, orderly, and concerned about details. 

Peter Crocket in his book ‘The Unfolded Organon‘ refers to ‘Hahnemann’s style being pedantic’. There is a whole page in Bradford’s biography under the title ‘The accuracy of Hahnemann’ (p. 169).

‘An accurate and detailed investigation of diet was an important part of his work… He prescribed carefully how his patients should eat and live…On each occasion he would give exact orders regarding the amount of water to be added to the wine’ (Haehl, A. 271). Bradford refers to Hahnemann’s ‘excessive carefulness in the matter of expressing his exact meaning’ (p. 169). C. Coulter mentions the ‘verbal exactness’ of

Arsenicum Album. Vithoulkas refers to Arsenicum Album’s ‘passion for order’ (M. M. Viva, Vol.3, p. 157) ‘Hahnemann’s day was strictly regulated with accurate order’ (Haehl, B. 149). ‘Hahnemann’s routine of daily work was very strictly regulated’ (Bradford, p. 445).

In his autobiography he wrote: ‘I read little (!) but correctly and classify (=put in order) in my mind and portion’ (Haehl, A. 10).

Hahnemann writes that the doctor should be ‘a friend of order’ (Haehl, A. 280).

Arsenicum Album-type preciseness is necessary in homoeopathy: 1) to make a repertory, 2) to use the repertory, 3) to make differential diagnoses, 4) to find the remedy in the Materia Medica, 5) to explore the individuality of suffering of each patient. If Hahnemann had not been fastidious, the provings and the Materia Medica would not be as reliable as they are. Accuracy and order are absolutely necessary in our science. Vithoulkas writes in his Materia Medica Viva about Arsenicum Album’s ‘keen perception’ (M. M. Viva, vol. 3, p. 556).

Hahnemann’s biographers refer to ‘his keener than most people’s power of observation’, his ‘quickened sense of observation’ (Haehl, A. 267), and refer to him as an ‘acute thinker and observer’ (Haehl, A. 301). His keen perception was obviously important for the discovery of homoeopathy. In Haehl’s biography there is a page entitled ‘The Uncertainty of Contemporary Medicine’.

On this page Haehl writes:

‘Hahnemann experienced with growing horror how uncertain were the remedies and palliatives which were then used’ (A. 267). It is well known how easily the uncertain conditions excite the Arsenicum Album’s key feeling of insecurity. It seems that it was exactly this insecurity that made Hahnemann stop practicing allopathic medicine. 

Haehl describes him as a ‘researcher resting on secure foundations’ (A. 301). His insecurity was a factor that contributed greatly to the discovery of the secure laws of healing.

The restless characteristic of Hahnemann is not difficult to recognize: obviously he had a restless mind. His wife, according to Bradford, was trying ‘to soothe his busy mind’ (p. 158). He was a heavy smoker. Bradford writes that ‘he was smoking constantly, from morning to night’ (p. 443). Haehl writes: ‘he continuously changed his dwelling place, nowhere he could find a resting place’ (A. 43-44). 

Hahnemann’s tendency for collections is expressed by the totality of his scientific work (collection and classification of symptoms, substances, plants, insects, remedies). He also possessed a ‘large collection of maps’ (Bradford p. 150), a large collection of his patients’ letters ‘arranged into volumes’ plus a repertory of the letters, containing names and dates (Bradford, p. 20). His tendency for collections of all kinds served our science greatly.

 Knowledge was Hahnemann’s main or only love in life. According to C. Coulter, Arsenicum Album is one of the three main remedies for scientist. Most possibly it is the first one for the exclusive love of knowledge, similar to Lycopodium’s love of power.

 ‘It was usually only scientific objects that could excite him’ (Bradford, p. 110). ‘Once Hahnemann cried out in despair: ‘If we had only escaped the war, the grave of science’ (Haehl, A. 44). The worse part of the war for Hahnemann was its effect on science! Bradford writes: ‘In his opinion it was sufficient to live for science…’ (p. 448-449). Haehl adds that, ‘intellectual work was one of the first necessities of his life’ (A. 44) and we can be certain that it was the first one. Without this love for knowledge in all those different sciences, the discovery of homeopathy would be rather impossible.

Hahnemann was a workaholic. Arsenicum Album is the same. Coulter writes: ‘Arsenicum Album- not only does he love to work, but he loves to overwork’. In his autobiography, Hahnemann comments that he was often overtaxed and became ill from study. He proved 90 remedies, wrote 70 original works on medicine and chemistry and translated 24 works. ‘There are for him neither days off nor Sundays’ (Bradford, p. 439, 291).

In old age he wrote I am 81 and naturally desire at least to rest and to give up all medical practice, but he never did; 86 years old, two year before his death he writes: ‘I have consultations at my house only (!) from 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, plus visits to patients in bed in the evening till midnight’ (Bradford, p. 420).

Hahnemann himself followed strict dietary rules and suggested the same to others (Haehl, A. 271). Goethe wrote in 1835: ‘….my diet, almost Hahnemannian in its strictness….’ (Haehl, A. 271). Vithoulkas writes for Arsenicum Album that ‘in the interest of attaining better health he will attend to his diet in a very meticulous almost hypochondriacal way, severely calculating the range of allowable foods’, exactly as did Hahnemann. In the same way he wrote from Paris: ‘ We live here free from street noises, in the purest air’ (Bradford, B. 347). There is a whole chapter about Arsenicum Album’s ‘sensitivity to the environment’ in Coulter’s Materia Medica. In Hahnemann’s own Materia Medica Pura he wrote about Arsenicum Album that ‘everything seems to him too strong and too loud’.

Hahnemann was aggressive, critical, unforgiving, and authoritative: well-known qualities of Arsenicum Album. His statement to opponents, ‘I will send my thunders‘ is very characteristic. In Haehl’s biography we read that, ‘Hahnemann declared open war on the whole of the rest of medicine….and was dominated by the spirit of antagonism‘ (A. 107). ‘Arsenicum Album can display a strong competitiveness and has an authoritarian nature’ (Coulter, p. 260, 265). ‘Everything in him expressed authority‘ (Bradford, p. 13).

His sharp and unexpected attack’ against the homeopaths that started the first Homeopathic Hospital in Leipzig in 1833, was ‘the most painful fact in the whole history of homeopathy’ (A. 206).

Harsh attacks on those who diverged from his opinion in one way or another’ (A. 229).

…He appears before us as a virile fighter taking up the battle against a whole world of enemies’ (A 301). In Vithoulkas’ essences Arsenicum Album is presented to have a sense of being ‘in a hostile universe’.

‘His language often becomes as a stream of lava against the enemies and opponents.’ (Bradford, p. 296). ‘Hahnemann could not forgive the opposition to his views by Dr. Caspari, although afterwards he appeared as a faithful follower of Hahnemann’ (Bradford p. 158). He obliged his son to leave the house because he did not approve his way of life and never mentioned him again (Bradford p. 120). ‘Hahnemann demanded strict obedience from his children‘ (Haehl, B. 187) and his patients also: ‘You are not doing as I told you- I do not want you’ (Haehl, B. 151).

In Coulter’s Materia-Medica we find seven pages under the title ‘Arsenicum Album as a Commanding General’ (p. 277-284).

According to Bradford, Hahnemann in discussions used ‘strong language’ (p. 447). Coulter writes for Arsenicum Album that ‘even in friendly everyday conversations may express his views in strong terms’ (p. 237).

Vithoulkas writes that ‘Arsenicum Album is a remedy that is very controlled’ (Celle Seminar, p. 169). Hartmann, one of Hahnemann’s students, wrote about his teacher: ‘He never took the symptoms we gave him for true and faithful, but always reviewed them once with us, to be sure that we had used just the right expression and signs, and had said neither too much nor too little’ (Bradford, p. 112). In a letter to a patient Hahnemann wrote: ‘the animal part of us requires constant supervision and strict control’ (Haehl, B. 389). To another patient he wrote ‘nothing is more important than to restrain our physical inclinations (Bradford, p. 217).

Vithoulkas, in his book ‘Essences’, describes Arsenicum Album as ‘very materialistically minded’ (p. 33). In Haehl’s biography we read that Hahnemann ‘would only occupy himself with reality‘ (B148), that he had an ‘inclination for the practical side of medicine’ (A. 11) and an insight into technical matters of chemistry: construction of apparatus, ovens, utensils etc.’ (A. 268).

Obviously, he was a family type:  Eleven children, two marriages. In a conversation with M. Anquier he stated that ‘marriage is a general specific for body and mind’ (Haehl, A. 222). Arsenicum Album cannot live alone. Coulter describes Arsenicum Album as ‘exceptionally family-minded’.

Hahnemann suggested that homeopaths have the light on the patient and keep themselves in the dark side of the room, so they can observe without being observed. Arsenicum Album is the only capital remedy in the rubric ‘Looked at, cannot bear to be’.

To complete the description of his personality, Hahnemann was very honest, extremely straight and sincere. These characteristics are of great importance for the teaching and the research in homeopathy

Hahnemann’s handwriting was small. According to graphology, people with small handwriting are creative, pedantic, thoughtful, studious, strongly inclined to detail, critically minded, realists, observant, conscientious, have economy of mind and power to assimilate. (Peter West, Graphology, Patricia Marne, Graphology).

 His face being small compared to his big skull, is a sign of small ability for human relations and great ability for mental functioning. The face is the part of the head that enables us to relate with the world and mainly with people.

In the magazine ‘L’ Homeopathie Francais’ of 1912 we read: ‘I am surprised at the striking contrast between the cranium and the face’ (Haehl, B. 384-385).

Hahnemann took Arsenicum Album in 1830 when he became ill after vexation (‘immense amount of vexation’) from a letter sent to him by Rummel. (‘Staphysagria and Arsenicum Album several times in alteration set me right’, Bradford, p219). Arsenicum Album is in italics in the rubric ‘Ailments from anger – vexation’ and probably he chose into account by taking into consideration several other Arsenicum Album symptoms of himself. Staphysagria was most possibly chosen because it is the main remedy for certain symptoms alone (keynote prescribing)

Hahnemann suffered for twenty years before his death from periodical attacks of asthma, (Bradford, p. 321). Arsenicum Album is the only capital remedy in the rubric. The physical diseases that we have information about fit as the same remedy’s picture as well.

Homeopathy itself is a detailed collection of symptoms and modalities, classified very carefully both alphabetically (Repertory) and also according to their sources (Materia Medica) and needs a keen perception to understand each patient exactly as he is and also make the necessary differential diagnosis. 

To study and practice homeopathy successfully, one needs a critical and penetrating mind, a scientific mind, hard work, devotion, attention to minute and details thing, classification ability precision, acute observation, circumspection, distance (otherwise observation cannot function), knowledge about the parts and the totality, discrimination about the significant and the insignificant, honesty and discipline. All of them seem to beautifully paint the picture of the Arsenicum Album mentality.

and wide knowledge Hahnemann had in many fields of science and languages, along with his critical mind, his preciseness, industriousness, ability to observe, emotional deficiency, love for knowledge and his aggressiveness for imposing homeopathy upon the hostile scientific community and the public.

Every human being tends to create or discover a part of reality similar to, or a picture of, his own self. The discovery of homeopathy presupposed identical characteristics of both science and its founder, Samuel Hahnemann. It seems it would be impossible without this fortunate similarity.

In the previous work of mine, I referred to the ignored usefulness of disease on both the individual and the society. Freud was the first one who stated that all civilization (art and sciences) is a result of man’s disease and suffering. The usefulness of Hahnemann’s pathology to society was the great discovery of homeopathy.

 Historically, this discovery happened on a borderline time point: it would have had difficulty taking place much later because of the rapid, noisy and glamorous evolution of physics, technology and consequently medicine, that dramatically reduced man’s relation and interaction with nature and its phenomena. ‘Accidentally’ and luckily, Hahnemann was given to humanity exactly at that borderline time point. Catherine Coulter wrote about Arsenicum Album’s ‘creative drive, the drive of an artist who must open up and shape new fields according to his own vision’. 




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  2. Coulter, C: Portraits of Homeopathic Medicines, North Atlantic books, Berkley, CA, 1986.
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  16. West, P: Graphology, Greek Edition and Translation, Didimi, Athens


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