The November Journal of Science (London) contains an interesting review of Dr. Parkin's new work "Epidemiology, or the Remote Causes of Epidemic Diseases in the Animal and Vegetable Creation," which is well worth reading. Dr. Parkin's theory is that "there occur certain 'pestilential epochs,' during which the world is at frequent intervals devastated by epidemics which travel in a determinate direction from Central or Eastern Asia to the west of Europe and even to America; that during such epochs all diseases, even those not considered as communicable from one person to another, increase in frequency and violence; that these epochs are further marked by Epizoötics and by 'blights' or widespread diseases in the vegetable world, and are attended by a general intensification of earthquakes, storms, floods, droughts, fogs, seasons of abnormal heat or cold, and other convulsions of inorganic nature. Such an epoch is generally ushered in by the appearance of new diseases, or the reappearance of maladies that had become obsolete." The last great pestilential term, Dr. Parkin thinks, began about the seventh century, and the fatal wave or current rolled westward without check to the beginning of the eighteenth century. During this time a succession of epidemics raged, among them the fearful plague or Black Death. In 1803 an epidemic of yellow fever at Malaga carried off 36,000 persons. The plague visiting London in 1665 destroyed, between the months of June and December, 20,000 persons, or one-third of the then whole population. According to Sydenham it had invaded England every thirty or forty years. In 1770 it was at Marseilles, in 1771 and 1772 at Moscow, in 1815-16 in the Neapolitan dominions. But despite its frequent challenges to medical science the best authorities have confessed that of its treatment little is known (see Am. Cyclo. XIII, 369). Nor, in fact, is anything definite known as to the causes of epidemics in general. The author of the medical articles in the Cyclopedia just named prophetically (A.D. 1859) says: "The progressive sciences of meteorology and physical geography will probably soon throw additional light upon these difficult questions." Dr. Parkin's new work comes almost as a fulfilment of this prophecy. He seems to have conclusively disposed of two pet popular theories, that of the sanitary reformers that dirt is the primal cause of epidemics, and the notion that they are propagated by contagion. Such is also the opinion of the reviewer in the Journal of Science, who admits that the historical facts mentioned by Dr. Parkin "are decidedly opposed to both." As examples he cites the facts that "the cholera has been known to travel steadily for hundreds of miles in the teeth of a strong monsoon. It often works up a river, showing that it is not occasioned by infectious matter draining into the current." And he adds significantly, "alike in epidemics of plague, cholera, and yellow-fever, it has been found that classes of people who from occupation or habit were most exposed to the air suffered most, whilst those who kept themselves shut up escaped. How ill this agrees with the teachings of the sanitary reformers!"
But we have not referred to this subject merely to show the helplessness of Western scientists in face of one of these mysterious waves of death that flow around the globe at intervals. The immediate cause is the bearing they have upon the subject of compulsory vaccination in India. We have before us an interesting public document 1 kindly sent us by the learned Dr. Leitner, President of the Government University College, Lahore. The opinion of the Anjuman upon the Bill making vaccination compulsory having been asked by the Punjab Government, that body after a sensible and temperate debate, advised against the adoption of the compulsory clause. The Hindu members especially, and Dr. Leitner himself, pointed out that if the ignorant Hindus should once learn that the vaccine lymph is obtained from ulcers on the teats of the cow, there would be a general protest, perhaps forcible resistance, to the enforcement of the Act. For, while certain products of the cow are regarded, upon the authority of Shastras, as holy, all others, including blood and its impurities are regarded as most impure and unholy. And any one who should knowingly permit either of them to enter his body in any manner, would lose caste. We are not aware what action was taken by the authorities in the premises, but if it is not too late perhaps those in charge of the subject will be interested in the following extract from the same article ("The Sanitary Millennium") in the Journal of Science:
Amongst the diseases which had become less frequent and less severe, but which have since resumed an epidemic and highly dangerous character, a prominent place is due to smallpox, especially as its alleged preventive, vaccination, has taken rank among the political questions of the day. We are told that if this disease no longer carries off its victims by tens of thousands, as in the dark ages, the change is due to vaccination. But there can be not a shadow of doubt that small-pox had begun to decline long before the discovery of Jenner was introduced into practice.
In 1722 Dr. Wagstaffe wrote that the mortality among children did not exceed 1 per cent of the cases. From 1796 to 1825 there was not a single epidemic of small-pox in England. Yet, according to a report published by the College of Physicians in 1807, only about 1½ per cent of the population were vaccinated. Now if we admit that the immunity gained by this operation is absolute and permanent, how is it possible that three vaccinated persons out of every 200 would protect the remaining 197? At the present time about 97 per cent of the population are supposed to be vaccinated. Yet so far from being able to protect the residual 3 per cent it is considered that they are imperilled by the obstinacy or neglect of this small minority. We have the lamentable fact that, whilst vaccination has become all but universal, small-pox has reappeared among us not in isolated cases but in epidemics succeeding each other at short intervals, and each more deadly than the foregoing. Thus in the epidemic of 1857-58-59 the deaths were 14,244: in that of 1863-64-65, 20,059, and in that 1870-71-72, 44,840. Thus in the first interval the deaths from this cause had increased 50 per cent, whilst the population had grown only 7 per cent. In the second interval the deaths from small-pox have risen by 120 per cent, but the population only 10 per cent. Another ugly fact is that the number of persons who have been vaccinated but who are subsequently attacked with small-pox is steadily on the increase. At the Highgate small-pox hospital from 1835 to 1851 the previously-vaccinated formed 53 per cent of the total small-pox cases admitted. In 1851-52 it rose to 66.7 per cent; in 1854-5-6 to 71.2 per cent; in 1859-60 to 72; in 1866 to 81.1 and in 1868 to 84 per cent. How are such facts to be reconciled with the orthodox theory that vaccination is a safeguard against small-pox'? What would be the conclusion formed by an unprejudiced statistician if these figures were laid before him? If a grows more common as b increases in number and general distribution no man in his senses will argue that b is a hindrance to a. The very opposite conclusion, that b is causally connected with a would seem more legitimate. How the credit of vaccination is to be saved is not apparent. We cannot cut the knot by supposing that modern medical practitioners are less careful and skilled in the performance of the operation or less scrupulous in the selection of vaccine lymph. There remains, then, merely the conclusion that small-pox, too, has had a period of cessation during the latter part of the past century and the first quarter of the present; – that the apparent success of vaccination was mainly due to its coincidence with this temporary lull, and that the disease is now rapidly regaining its old virulence and reassuming the pestilential proportions which it displayed in the days of our forefathers.
It is but fair to remark that our esteemed colleague, Dr. D.E. Dudley, President of the Bombay Theosophical Society, takes exception to the accuracy of the above statistics of mortality, and but for the exigencies of his rapidly growing practice would have added a note. Possibly he may find time to do so next month. Meanwhile let us hear from native medical practitioners, astrologers, and pandits what the Shastras have to say as to the cause of epidemics and other abnormal phenomena.
And here is another matter upon which Europe would like to be informed about by them. It is taken from Spiritual Notes (London).
According to Dr. Vincenzo Peset y Cervera the crystals of haemoglobulin obtained from the blood of different animals have forms so distinct and characteristic that the origin of a sample of blood may thus be determined! All that is required is to mix the blood with a little bile, when crystals not exceeding 0.003 metre in size are formed in the mass. The shapes of the crystals are said to be as follows: Man, right rectangular prisms; horses, cubes; ox, rhombohedrons; sheep, rhombohedral tables; dog, rectangular prisms; rabbit, tetrahedrons; squirrel, hexagonal tables; mouse, octahedrons, &c. Commenting on these allegations the Journal of Science sagely suggests that "if they are confirmed they may serve for the solution of a most important question raised by Dr. Lionel Beale. If the theory of Evolution be true, the crystals obtained from animals which are nearly related should be either identical or such as are in form easily derived from each other. Should the haemoglobulin crystals – e.g., of the horse and the ass, of the dog and the fox, of the rabbit and the hare, or of the rat and the mouse – belong respectively to different systems, it will supply a serious argument in favour of independent creation.
The Theosophist, March, 1881
H. P. Blavatsky
1 Proceedings of the Anjuman-i-Punjab, in connection with the proposed Vaccination Bill, etc.
back to text