Schools of the asclepiadae
The first of these theories, that of coction and crisis, is founded on the capital observation that there exists in the organized body an intrinsic force, diffused in all its parts, creating a mutual sympathy, and harmonizing their various functions for a common end, by a kind of instinct. One of the most distinct characters of this force is its
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The four elementary forms of matter described in the chapter before the last, are so well determined, and so constantly referred to in all these works, that it would be impossible to mistake them ; beside, no ancient author has attempted to deny their existence ; but some have assumed that only two of them are primitive elements, or even one alone, the others being regarded as secondary.
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We have seen, in the preceding chapter, synthesis pushed to its utmost limit, and all the phenomena of the animal economy assimilated to each other, and united by the bond of a common cause, notwithstanding their infinite variety and enormous differences. But in order to arrive at that, to perceive in the formation of man, in the development of his parts and the exercise of his faculties, only the various modifications of one single agent, such as air or fire, it was necessary to clothe this material agent with imaginary faculties - to suppose it possessed of instinct,
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After the theory of coction and crisis, that which prevails the most in the Hippocratic books, is the doctrine of the four elements, or the four elementary qualities, heat, cold, dryness and moisture, and the four cardinal humors, blood, bile, atrabile and phlegm. This doctrine was supposed to be an invention of the father of Greek medicine. Such is the opinion of all the commentators and historiographers, among others Galen, who extended and perfected it in his manner, and it reigned, exclusively, after him. The theory of four elements and four humors, harmonizes very well with
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The physiologists who see in the animal economy only one element, do not pretend to say, by this, that man is formed of a unique substance, diversely modified, but they wish to inculcate, that among the elements that enter into the constitution of man, there is one which predominates over the rest, by its energy or its activity, and concurs in a preponderating, if not exclusive manner, to the production of physiological and pathological phenomena. To establish the unity of the active forces of nature, has been the dream of many physiologists and physicians ; but up to this time, all the hypotheses conceived to this end, have been Utopian.
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The theory which prevails the most universally in the Hippocratic works, is that of coction and crisis. It is met with at every step, sometimes isolated, sometimes combined with others ; but especially is it united to the system of four elements and four humors. It forms an integral part and is the most characteristic trait of the ancient Dogmatism, and it is retained even in our time, while all its cotemporaneous doctrines have been abandoned.
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This theory, one of the most simple that can be imagined, is regarded as being anterior to Hippocrates. It is predominant in two treatises, viz., those on the Regions in Man, and on the Glands. A few extracts from these two books will give us a sufficient idea of the doctrine.
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Now, after having considered the state of Medicine under the Asclepiadae, in the isle of Cos, in an exclusively practical manner, and, in some sort, material also, it remains for us to examine it in a theoretical point of view to seek the invisible bond that unites all parts of their doctrines, and connects them to a common principle, as the branches of the same tree.
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