Sue Young Histories

George Bernard Shaw 1856 - 1950

July 06, 2008

George Bernard Shaw 1856 –
1950George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics, and the Nobel Prizewinner for Literature in 1925. Born in Dublin, he moved to London at the age of twenty and lived in England for the remainder of his life.

George Bernard Shaw defended and explained homeopathy (George Bernard Shaw, Dan H Laurence (Ed.), The Bodley Head Bernard Shaw: collected plays with their prefaces, Volume 5, (Bodley Head, 1972). Page 263) at a time when allopaths were only interested in money, not the health of the people. Shaw pointed out that ”All great truths begin as blasphemies”. Shaw was a patient of Raphael Roche, and he was a friend of Harley Granville Barker, Annie Wood Besant, Alexander John Ellis (on whom he based his character Henry Higgins in Pygmalion), Sir John Weir, Almroth Edward Wright,

George Bernard Shaw corresponded with Maurice Ernest, and he knew Raphael Roche who treated him for a hydrocele. Annie Wood Besant helped to launch his career through her Journal, Our Corner. Shaw also knew homeopath Sir John Weir and his wife Charlotte received treatment for blood poisoning from Sir John Weir (Bernard Shaw, Dan H. Laurence (Ed.), Collected Letters: 1926-1950, (Reinhardt, 1988). Page 396), and he wrote to describe this to his close friend Thomas Edward Lawrence.

‘… During the epidemic of 1881, he caught smallpox which, as he expressed it, ’… left him unmarked but anti vaccinationist for ever…’…’ (Archibald Henderson, George Bernard Shaw: His Life And Works, a Critical Biography, (reprinted by Kessinger Publishing, 31 Dec 2004). Page 491).

Shaw was involved in the campaign against smallpox vaccination : ’… during the last considerable epidemic at the turn of the century, I was a member of the Health Committee of London Borough Council, and I learned how the credit of vaccination is kept up statistically by diagnosing all the revaccinated cases (of smallpox) as pustular eczema, varioloid or what not - except smallpox…’ (Walene James, Immunization: The Reality Behind the Myth, Volume 3, (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995). Page 41, See also Elanor McBean, The Poisoned Needle, (originally published by Mokelumne Hill, CA Health Research 1956, reprinted by Health Research Books, 1 Jun 1993). Page 64).

In his play The Doctor’s Dilemma in 1906, Shaw argues that homeopathy was attacked by allopaths solely on the basis that it cost them money. The tiny doses used in homeopathy strangled the lucrative profits of the allopathic druggists (this point was first made by Joseph N McCormack, MD, a physician from Kentucky who was ”the driving force behind the 1903 reorganization of the American Medical Association.”:

In the face of such economic pressure as this, it is silly to expect that medical teaching, any more than medical practice, can possibly be scientific. The test to which all methods of treatment are finally brought is whether they are lucrative to doctors or not.

It would be difficult to cite any proposition less obnoxious to science, than that advanced by Samuel Hahnemann: to wit, that drugs which in large doses produce certain symptoms, counteract them in very small doses, just as in more modern practice it is found that a sufficiently small inoculation with typhoid rallies our powers to resist the disease instead of prostrating us with it.

But Samuel Hahnemann and his followers were frantically persecuted for a century by generations of apothecary-doctors whose incomes depended on the quantity of drugs they could induce their patients to swallow.

These two cases of ordinary vaccination and homeopathy are typical of all the rest. Just as the object of a trade union under existing conditions must finally be, not to improve the technical quality of the work done by its members, but to secure a living wage for them, so the object of the medical profession today is to secure an income for the private doctor; and to this consideration all concern for science and public health must give way when the two come into conflict.

George Bernard Shaw continues:

Nobody supposes that doctors are less virtuous than judges; but a judge whose salary and reputation depended on whether the verdict was for plaintiff or defendant, prosecutor or prisoner, would be as little trusted as a general in the pay of the enemy.

“To offer me a doctor as my judge, and then weight his decision with a bribe of a large sum of money and a virtual guarantee that if he makes a mistake it can never be proved against him, is to go wildly beyond the ascertained strain with human nature can bear…

“But just as the best carpenter or mason will resist the introduction of a machine that is likely to throw him out of work, … so the doctor will resist with all his powers of persecution every advance of science that threatens his income…

“It unluckily happens that the organization of private practitioners which we call the medical profession is coming more and more to represent, not science, but desperate and embittered anti-science: a state of things which is likely to get worse until the average doctor either depends upon or hopes for an appointment in the public health service for his livelihood…

“It does happen exceptionally that a practicing doctor makes a contribution to science; but it happens much oftener that he draws disastrous conclusions from his clinical experience because he has no conception of scientific method, and believes, like any rustic, that the handling of evidence and statistics needs no expertness.

“The distinction between a quack doctor and a qualified one is mainly that only the qualified one is authorized to sign death certificates, for which both sorts seem to have about equal occasion.

“All that can be said for medical popularity is that until there is a practicable alternative to blind trust in the doctor, the truth about the doctor is so terrible that we dare not face it.

George Bernard Shaw goes on to criticise vaccination for the ’dirty, dangerous and unscientific method it really is..’, and he grasps the isopathic truth behind homeopathy and he explains that ’all of the modern antitoxins are, like homeopathic remedies, the hair of the dog that bit you‘.

At present, intelligent people do not have their children vaccinated, nor does the law now compel them to. The result is not, as the Jennerians prophesied, the extermination of the human race by smallpox; on the contrary more people are now killed by vaccination than by smallpox.“—George Bernard Shaw (August 9, 1944, The *Irish Times)*

During the last considerable epidemic at the turn of the century, I was a member of the Health Committee of London Borough Council, and I learned how the credit of vaccination is kept up statistically by diagnosing all the re-vaccinated cases (of smallpox) as pustular eczema, varioloid or what not — except smallpox.’

George Bernard Shaw asked Almroth Edward Wright, the hero of _The Doctor’s Dilemma_, to investigate homeopathy, who initially skeptical, became a convert to Samuel Hahnemann’s methods.

Almroth Edward Wright was a close friend of homeopath Sir John Weir, and Almroth Edward Wright did admit that homeopathy influenced his work:

Almroth Edward Wright noted with concern how massive doses of vaccine in therapeutic treatment led to local infections. He called this the ‘negative phase‘, which Samuel Hahnemann had identified earlier and called an ‘aggravation‘.

Almroth Edward Wright’s opsonic index incorporates Samuel Hahnemann’s views on repetition of doses and his ‘collateral immunisation‘ uses the homeopathic notion of similars.

In the allopath’s use of the “similar” medicine these procedures are akin to homeopathy. But in one major respect they have not followed the homeopathic procedure: no effort is made to individualize.

This is especially true of vaccines against the disease of childhood (whooping cough, measles, mumps) which are prescribed across the board with no effort to check out beforehand whether the child will react violently or not.

The outcome has been a major plague of adverse reactions to these vaccines about which Almroth Edward Wright wrote extensively.

George Bernard Shaw also wrote:

“I have already explained that the savage opposition which homeopathy encountered from the medical profession was not a scientific opposition, for nobody seems to deny that some drugs act in the alleged manner.

“It was opposed simply because doctors and apothecaries lived by selling bottles and boxes of doctor’s stuff to be taken in spoonfulls or in pellets as large as peas; and people would not pay as much for drops and globules no bigger than pin’s heads.

George Bernard Shaw was attacked by Anthony Comstock, who was a latter day quackbuster and moral crusader, who bragged about driving fifteen people to suicide in his mission to “save the young.”

Anthony Comstock also delighted in attacking homeopaths.

George Bernard Shaw came to Anthony Comstock’s attention when his play Mrs. Warren’s Profession violated the Comstock Law.

Far from being intimidated by Anthony Comstock, George Bernard Shaw retorted:

Comstockery is the world’s standing joke at the expense of the United States. Europe likes to hear of such things. It confirms the deep-seated conviction of the Old World that America is a provincial place, a second-rate country-town civilization after all.’

Such is the retort to self appointed quackbusters everywhere! Way to go Mr. Shaw!

An ardent socialist, Shaw wrote many brochures and speeches for the Fabian Society.

He became an accomplished orator in the furtherance of its causes, which included gaining equal political rights for men and women, alleviating abuses of the working class, rescinding private ownership of productive land, and promoting healthful lifestyles.

Shaw married Charlotte Payne Townshend, a fellow Fabian, whom he survived… Along with Fabian Society members Sidney and Beatrice Webb and Graham Wallas, Shaw founded the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1895 with funding provided by private philanthropy, including a bequest of £20,000 from Henry Hunt Hutchinson to the Fabian Society.

One of the libraries at the London School of Economics is named in Shaw’s honor; it contains collections of his papers and photographs…

In a letter to Henry James Junior dated 17 January 1909, Shaw said:

"I, as a Socialist, have had to preach, as much as anyone, the enormous power of the environment. We can change it; we must change it; there is absolutely no other sense in life than the task of changing it.

“What is the use of writing plays, what is the use of writing anything, if there is not a will which finally moulds chaos itself into a race of gods.”

Thus he viewed writing as a way to further his humanitarian and political agendas…

Shaw joined in the public’s unreasoning attack on vaccination against smallpox, a dire disease that nearly killed him when he contracted it in 1881.

In the preface to _The Doctor’s Dilemma_ he made it plain he regarded traditional medical treatment as dangerous quackery that should be replaced with sound public sanitation, good personal hygiene and diets devoid of meat.

Shaw became a vegetarian while he was twenty five, after hearing a lecture by Horace Frank Lester

In Back to Methuselah, George Bernard Shaw wrote Homeopathic Education:

In truth, mankind cannot be saved from without, by schoolmasters or any other sort of masters: it can only be lamed and enslaved by them.

It is said that if you wash a cat it will never again wash itself. This may or may not be true: what is certain is that if you teach a man anything he will never learn it; and if you cure him of a disease he will be unable to cure himself the next time it attacks him.

Therefore, if you want to see a cat clean, you throw a bucket of mud over it, when it will immediately take extraordinary pains to lick the mud off, and finally be cleaner than it was before.

In the same way doctors who are up to date…, when they want to rid you of a disease or a symptom, inoculate you with that disease or give you a drug that produces that symptom, in order to provoke you to resist it as the mud provokes the cat to wash itself.

Now an acute person will ask me why, if this be so, our false education does not provoke our scholars to find out the truth. My answer is that it sometimes does. Voltaire was a pupil of the Jesuits; Samuel Butler was the pupil of a hopelessly conventional and erroneous country parson. But then Voltaire was Voltaire, and Samuel Butler was Samuel Butler: that is, their minds were so abnormally strong that they could throw off the doses of poison that paralyse ordinary minds.

When the doctors inoculate you and the homeopathists dose you, they give you an infinitesimally attenuated dose. If they gave you the virus at full strength it would overcome your resistance and produce its direct effect.

The doses of false doctrine given at public schools and universities are so big that they overwhelm the resistance that a tiny dose would provoke.

The normal student is corrupted beyond redemption, and will drive the genius who resists out of the country if he can. Lord Byron and Percy Bysse Shelley had to fly to Italy, whilst Castlereagh and Eldon ruled the roost at home.

Rousseau was hunted from frontier to frontier; Karl Marx starved in exile in a Soho lodging; John Ruskin’s articles were refused by the magazines (he was too rich to be otherwise persecuted); whilst mindless forgotten nonentities governed the land; sent men to the prison or the gallows for blasphemy and sedition (meaning the truth about Church and State); and sedulously stored up the social disease and corruption which explode from time to time in gigantic boils that have to be lanced by a million bayonets.

This is the result of allopathic education.

Homeopathic education has not yet been officially tried, and would obviously be a delicate matter if it were. A body of schoolmasters inciting their pupils to infinitesimal peccadilloes with the object of provoking them to exclaim, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’ or telling them white lies about history for the sake of being contradicted, insulted, and refuted, would certainly do less harm than our present educational allopaths do; but then nobody will advocate homeopathic education.

Allopathy has produced the poisonous illusion that it enlightens instead of darkening.

The suggestion may, however, explain why, whilst most people’s minds succumb to inculcation and environment, a few react vigorously: honest and decent people coming from thievish slums, and sceptics and realists from country parsonages.

For Annie Wood Besant, politics, friendship and love were always closely intertwined. Her decision in favour of Socialism came about through a close relationship with George Bernard Shaw, a struggling young Irish author living in London, and a leading light of the Fabian Society.

Annie Wood Besant was impressed by his work and grew very close to him too in the early 1880s. It was Annie Wood Besant who made the first move, by inviting George Bernard Shaw to live with her. This he refused, but it was George Bernard Shaw who sponsored Annie Wood Besant to join the Fabian Society.


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