THEOSOPHY, Vol. 25, No. 11, September, 1937
(Pages 514-516; Size: 10K)



[THEOSOPHY reprints herewith a brief essay by Herbert Spencer. The text is copied from his last published work, Facts and Comments, originally issued in 1902.

The passage of time has served to emphasize the questions raised by the great English philosopher. Although compulsory vaccination still obtains in many quarters, and although laymen, even more than the medical fraternity, are avid for serumization against many other diseases -- still there is evident a rising tide of protest and even of alarm over the ascertained and suspected sequential dangers and damages from this source. The "miracle notion," once confined exclusively to theological and popular religion, has spread far and wide under other names into other fields -- nowhere more injuriously than in the vast domain of medicine.

Theosophists should find in Mr. Spencer's essay not only material for their own thought and use, but a model of dispassionate consideration and utterance on moot and disputed subjects. --Editors.]

"WHEN once you interfere with the order of Nature there is no knowing where the results will end," was the remark made in my presence by a distinguished biologist. There immediately escaped from him an expression of vexation at his lack of reticence, for he saw the various uses I might make of the admission.

Jenner and his disciples have assumed that when the vaccine virus has passed through a patient's system he is safe, or comparatively safe, against small-pox, and that there the matter ends. I will not here say anything for or against this assumption.(1) I merely propose to show that there the matter does not end. The interference with the order of Nature has various sequences other than that counted upon. Some have been made known.

A Parliamentary Return issued in 1880 (No. 392) shows that comparing the quinquennial periods 1847-1851 and 1874-1878 there was in the latter a diminution in the deaths from all causes of infants under one year old of 6,600 per million births per annum; while the mortality caused by eight specified diseases, either directly communicable or exacerbated by the effects of vaccination, increased from 20,524 to 41,353 per million births per annum -- more than double. It is clear that far more were killed by these other diseases than were saved from small-pox.(2)

To the communication of diseases thus demonstrated, must be added accompanying effects. It is held that the immunity produced by vaccination implies some change in the components of the body: a necessary assumption. But now if the substances composing the body, solid or liquid or both, have been so modified as to leave them no longer liable to small-pox, is the modification otherwise inoperative? Will any one dare to say that it produces no further effect than that of shielding the patient from a particular disease? You cannot change the constitution in relation to one invading agent and leave it unchanged in regard to all other invading agents. What must the change be? There are cases of unhealthy persons in whom a serious disease, as typhoid fever, is followed by improved health. But these are not normal cases; if they were, a healthy person would become more healthy by having a succession of diseases. Hence, as a constitution modified by vaccination is not made more able to resist perturbing influences in general, it must be made less able. Heat and cold and wet and atmospheric changes tend ever to disturb the balance, as do also various foods, excessive exertion, mental strain. We have no means of measuring alterations in resisting power, and hence they commonly pass unremarked. There are, however, evidences of a general relative debility. Measles is a severer disease than it used to be, and deaths from it are very numerous. Influenza yields proof. Sixty years ago, when at long intervals an epidemic occurred, it seized but few, was not severe, and left no serious sequelae; now it is permanently established, affects multitudes in extreme forms, and often leaves damaged constitutions. The disease is the same, but there is less ability to withstand it.

There are other significant facts. It is a familiar biological truth that the organs of sense and the teeth arise out of the dermal layer of the embryo. Hence abnormalities affect all of them: blue-eyed cats are deaf and hairless dogs have imperfect teeth. (Origin of Species, Chap. I.). The like holds of constitutional abnormalities caused by disease. Syphilis in its earlier stages is a skin-disease. When it is inherited the effects are malformation of teeth and in later years iritis (inflammation of the iris). Kindred relations hold with other skin-diseases: instance the fact that scarlet fever is often accompanied by loosening of the teeth, and the fact that with measles often go disorders, sometimes temporary, sometimes permanent, of both eyes and ears. May it not be thus with another skin-disease -- that which vaccination gives? If so, we have an explanation of the frightful degeneracy of teeth among young people in recent times; and we need not wonder at the prevalence of weak and defective eyes among them. Be these suggestions true or not, one thing is certain:-- the assumption that vaccination changes the constitution in relation to small-pox and does not otherwise change it is sheer folly.(3)

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


Experience is not at fault; it is only our judgment that is in error in promising itself from experience things which are not within her power.

Wrongly do men cry out against experience and with bitter reproaches accuse her of deceitfulness. Let experience alone, and rather turn your complaints against your own ignorance, which causes you to be so carried away by your vain and insensate desires as to expect from experience things which are not within her power!

Wrongly do men cry out against innocent experience, accusing her often of deceit and lying demonstrations! 


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(1) Except, indeed by quoting the statement of a well-known man, Mr. Kegan Paul the publisher, respecting his own experience. In his Memories (pp. 260-1) he says, respecting his small-pox when adult, "I had had small-pox when a child, in spite of vaccination, and had been vaccinated but a short time before. I am the third of my own immediate family who have had small-pox twice, and with whom vaccination has always taken."
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(2) This was in the days of arm-to-arm vaccination, when medical men were certain that other diseases (syphilis, for instance) could not be communicated through the vaccine virus. Any one who looks into the Transactions of the Epidemiological Society of some thirty years ago, will find that they were suddenly convinced to the contrary by a dreadful case of wholesale syphilization. In these days of calf-lymph vaccination such dangers are excluded: not that of bovine tuberculosis, however. But I name the fact as showing what amount of faith is to be placed in medical opinion.
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(3) A high authority, Sir James Paget, in his Lectures (4th ed. p. 39) says:-- "After the vaccine and other infectious or inoculable diseases, it is, most probably, not the tissues alone, but the blood as much or more than they, in which the altered state is maintained; and in many cases it would seem that, whatever materials are added to the blood, the stamp once impressed by one of the specific diseases is retained." Here is a distinct admission, or rather assertion, that the constitution is changed. Is it changed for the better? If not, it must be changed for the worse.
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