The Wikipedia page on Homeopathy is an interesting study. Clearly, it is not written by someone with a good understanding of Hahnemann and his writings. Here is one example:
Hahnemann advocated 30C dilutions for most purposes (that is, dilution by a factor of 1060). In Hahnemann’s time, it was reasonable to assume the remedies could be diluted indefinitely, as the concept of the atom or molecule as the smallest possible unit of a chemical substance was just beginning to be recognized. The greatest dilution reasonably likely to contain even one molecule of the original substance is 12C.
What is the implication of this statement? It is that in Hahnemann’s time, science was not well enough advanced for Hahnemann or other advocates of homeopathy to understand that a dilution beyond 12c will not contain any of the original molecule. Therefore, we can excuse them of their ignorance, and move on from Homeopathy.
But was Hahnemann (and were his fellow doctors) ignorant of this concept? Here is a quote from the Organon of Medicine (an explanation of homeopathy which is about 150 pages, written by Hahnemann) regarding just this concept:
What is dynamic influence, – dynamic power? Our earth, by virtue of a hidden invisible energy, carries the moon around her in twenty-eight days and several hours, and the moon alternately, in definite fixed hours (deducting certain differences which occur with the full and new moon) raises our northern seas to flood tide and again correspondingly lowers them to ebb. Apparently this takes place not through material agencies, not through mechanical contrivances, as are used for products of human labor; and so we see numerous other events about us as results of the action of one substance on another substance without being able to recognize a sensible connection between cause and effect. Only the cultured, practised in comparison and deduction, can form for himself a kind of supra-sensual idea sufficient to keep all that is material or mechanical in his thoughts from such concepts. He calls such effects dynamic, virtual, that is, such as result from absolute, specific, pure energy and action of the one substance upon the other substance.
So first, he is trying to develop the idea in the reader that not all forces in the Universe are material, they do not all require material substance. Today, think of your cell phone or your radio – they transmit information through energy. He continues:
For instance, the dynamic effect of the sick-making influences upon healthy man, as well as the dynamic energy of the medicines upon the principle of life in the restoration of health is nothing else than infection and so not in any way material, not in any way mechanical. Just as the energy of a magnet attracting a piece of iron or steel is not material, not mechanical. One sees that the piece of iron is attracted by one pole of the magnet, but how it is done is not seen. This invisible energy of the magnet does not require mechanical (material) auxiliary means, hook or lever, to attract the iron. The magnet draws to itself and this acts upon the piece of iron or upon a steel needle by means of a purely immaterial invisible, conceptual, inherent energy, that is, dynamically, and communicates to the steel needle the magnetic energy equally invisibly (dynamically). The steel needle becomes itself magnetic, even at a distance when the magnet does not touch it, and magnetises other steel needles with the same magnetic property (dynamically) with which it had been endowed previously by the magnetic rod, just as a child with small-pox or measles communicates to a near, untouched healthy child in an invisible manner (dynamically) the small-pox or measles, that is, infects it at a distance without anything material from the infective child going or capable of going to the one to be infected. A purely specific conceptual influence communicated to the near child small-pox or measles in the same way as the magnet communicated to the near needle the magnetic property.
Now he puts forward the idea that contagion and infection can occur in this same fashion, energetically. Mind you, he does not deny the importance of cleanliness in preventing the spread of disease. But he believes that an illness is an energy. He then moves on to medicines:
In a similar way, the effect of medicines upon living man is to be judged. Substances, which are used as medicines, are medicines only in so far as they possess each its own specific energy to alter the well-being of man through dynamic, conceptual influence, by means of the living sensory fibre, upon the conceptual controlling principle of life. The medicinal property of those material substances which we call medicines proper, relates only to their energy to call out alterations in the well-being of animal life. Only upon this conceptual principle of life, depends their medicinal health-altering, conceptual (dynamic) influence. Just as the nearness of a magnetic pole can communicate only magnetic energy to the steel (namely, by a kind of infection) but cannot communicate other properties (for instance, more hardness or ductility, etc.). And thus every special medicinal substance alters through a kind of infection, that well-being of man in a peculiar manner exclusively its own and not in a manner peculiar to another medicine, as certainly as the nearness of the child ill with small-pox will communicate to a healthy child only small-pox and not measles. These medicines act upon our well-being wholly without communication of material parts of the medicinal substances, thus dynamically, as if through infection. Far more healing energy is expressed in a case in point by the smallest dose of the best dynamized medicines, in which there can be, according to calculation, only so little of material substance that its minuteness cannot be thought and conceived by the best arithmetical mind, than by large doses of the same medicine in substance. That smallest dose can therefore contain almost entirely only the pure, freely-developed, conceptual medicinal energy, and bring about only dynamically such great effects as can never be reached by the crude medicinal substances itself taken in large doses.
So here, he states that medicines also have a specific energy. Looking at his concepts, the person has an energy (he called this the vital force), an illness has an energy, and each medicine has an energy. According to Hahnemann (and most indications are that he came to this belief through his own experience treating patients, verified by further clinical experience of hundreds of homeopaths), the energy of the medicine more readily effects individuals when that medicine has been prepared through dilution and succussion (diluted and then shaken vigorously, many times over). He adds:
It is not in the corporal atoms of these highly dynamized medicines, nor their physical or mathematical surfaces…that the medicinal energy is found. More likely, there lies invisible in the moistened globule or in its solution, an unveiled, liberated, specific, medicinal force contained in the medicinal substance which acts dynamically by contact with the living animal fibre upon the whole organism (without communicating to it anything material however highly attenuated) and acts more strongly the more free and more immaterial the energy has become through the dynamization.
In the last paragraph, Hahnemann is proposing something. He is proposing that it is not in the material atoms that homeopathic medicines get their strength (for if it was, they would have little or no strength at all), but that through the process of homeopathic dilution and succussion (called dynamization) the energy of the substance is liberated and transmitted to the liquid (which can be taken directly, or placed on a sugar pill). Why is Hahnemann bothering to say this? He is simply trying to explain the mechanism by which homeopathic medicines in high dilutions have an effect. Because his explanation was ridiculed at the time by those doctors and other individuals of the materialist point of view, he goes on to say this:
Is it then so utterly impossible for our age celebrated for its wealth in clear thinkers to think of dynamic energy as something non-corporeal, since we see daily phenomena which cannot be explained in any other manner? If one looks upon something nauseous and becomes inclined to vomit, did a material emetic come into his stomach which compels him to this anti-peristaltic movement? Was it not solely the dynamic effect of the nauseating aspect upon his imagination? And if one raises his arm, does it occur through a material visible instrument? a lever? Is it not solely the conceptual dynamic energy of his will which raises it?
In the above paragraph, Hahnemann is arguing against the purely materialist point of view. Hahnemann, like many great physicians and scientists through the ages (including our age!) was a Vitalist. He is (in my opinion) rather elegantly arguing his point, that people should be able to conceive of pure energy (as something without matter). Think of your thoughts, as an example.
But my larger point in this post, is to look at the Wikipedia article. Why does it misrepresent Hahnemann and the early homeopaths, when the source material is there? If I can find a way, I will update the page.
It is also interesting to note, that Hahnemann’s detractors in the early 1800’s had the same arguments as his detractors in 2014. As such, his responses to them (though written in a formal, antiquated style) still apply today.