Fr Keith Augustus Muller S.J., 1841-1910
“My God,” said Dr Lobo, “you haven’t heard of Father Muller’s Hospital?” Dr Lobo arrived in Castlebar in the early nineties from India. He thought Mayo General Hospital was part of the more prestigious Mayo Clinic in America. It was a good mistake as Dr Lobo contributed much to the people of Mayo. And yes, I had heard of the great Fr Muller but not his institutions. When I travelled to India in the late eighties I brought with me Father Muller’s book of homeopathic therapeutics.
Fr Muller wrote four books on homeopathy, all still in print, began a charitable institution, the Homeopathic Poor Dispensary in 1880 in Mangalore. Today it is a 1000 bed hospital (750 beds kept for the poor who don’t pay) with homeopathic, allopathic and nursing colleges and a homeopathic pharmacy and dispensary.
Born in Westphalia Germany into a wealthy family he was always sickly. Ironically his grandfather taught Dr Hahnemann the founder of homeopathy. Always hard-working, at 20 he completed his college education before working on a farm. He then set sail for America in 1861.
It was in America that he heard the call of God and the same year joined the Society of Jesus planning to be a missionary.
At the time there was an epidemic of malaria and water-borne diseases to which thousands succumbed. Despite his own frail health he joined the novitiate for two years followed by six years at St John’s College, Fordham (now Fordham University).
At St John’s he completed his MA in maths then taught maths at St Mary’s College, Montreal, Canada.
While in Canada he was attacked with severe malaria and dysentery. Local doctors failed to help. Finally homeopathy came to his rescue. The following is his testimony in his own words:
… During my six years of teaching at Fordham, I was subject to constant attacks of malarial fever, severe liver complaint, obstinate constipation and continuous severe headaches. I went to bed with a headache and woke with a headache. The seventh year I spent teaching in St Mary’s College, Montreal.
The change of air did me much good but the next year I was sent for my philosophy and theology studies to Woodstock College, Maryland. Here the old troubles returned. At the end of the fifth year some advised me to see the famous homeopathic doctor, MacManus senior, whose treatment, during the short time I followed it, did me much good and cured me of many of my complaints. Unfortunately for me the New York doctor decided a change of climate would be good and I was sent to Le-Puis, Vals, France.
Here the allopathic physician of the house tried his best but after six months of treatment confessed to the rector of the house he could do nothing. A fellow theology student of the house, hearting how homeopathy had helped before wrote to Dr Alexis Espanet of Paris. I got an answer in a few days from the good doctor along with the medicines I was to take. Medicines were sent regularly, once a month, in paper packets in an envelope. The result was that within six months, my fever, liver complaint, headaches and constipation were all cured.
Fr Muller had always been concerned with the poor and their welfare. He had searched for decades for a good system the poor could use to help themselves in sickness. Allopathy (conventional medicine) was too dangerous due to the possibility of toxic dosages. Here at last there was no danger of poisoning patients.
“I applied myself assiduously to the study of homeopathy under Doctors Espanet and Joseph Bechet and practised accordingly for 20 years in India.”
But Fr Muller found proper Classical homeopathy difficult to practise as each patient had to be carefully treated as an individual which was time consuming and he was treating some 200-300 patients daily plus more than 20,000 by post in his first twenty years in India.
Reconsidering his approach, he tried a simplified version of homeopathy by Count Mattei but to no avail. Then Monsignor Soleri and his nephew Doctor Bellotti worked out a system for missionaries and common people could prescribe homeopathic medicines as needed. “After twenty years I found what I had been looking for,” said Fr Muller.
He developed “specifics” mixed with Schussler’s tissue salts. Even in leprosy, leucoderma (vitiligo), consumption, cancer, loss of hearing due to perforation, specifics can’t cure but have received very favourable reports from patients.
“Many tried my specifics and found them equal: the most prominent of the Matteis, Dr Stoddart Kennedy of London, Dr Heusserr, Brooklyn, N.Y., Rev Augustine Filardi, Buenos Aires and Pastor Stocker, Germany.
“This isn’t to boast but to reveal to missionaries and common people alike a few remedies they can use without danger,” he explained.
When he began studying in France in 1875 with Drs Espanet and Bechet, they taught him all he needed to know about remedies (materia medica), pharmacy, medical philosophy and all the medical sciences over a three year period. This gave him the opportunity to acquire all the medical stock to begin a pharmacy and dispensary as well as acquiring an extensive library of books and reviews in English, French and German.
Call to India
Providence compelled him to join the first Jesuit missionaries from Milan and he arrived in Mangalore on 31st December 1878, joining the staff of the newly established St Aloysius College as a maths teacher. He made India his home for the next 32 years and is regarded as one of the founding fathers of homeopathy in India. (Homeopathy in India is huge and highly respected. Homeopathic doctors can equally apply for jobs in ordinary hospitals.)
When Fr Muller arrived in India he brought a chest of remedies from the famous homeopathic pharmacy Catellan in Paris. This remedy chest is still available to see in the Fr Muller medical archives.
Prior to his teaching post he was posted to a Carmelite house in charge of a mostly Anglo-Indian parish at Calicut. Aided by Fr Sani who had accompanied him, he transformed the place and began visiting parishioners by horseback. The dedication and hard work weakened his health once again so was then transferred to teach at the college.
St Aloysius he encouraged hard work and responsibility and introduced sports he had come across while in America, notably cricket, swimming, baseball, football, tennis and athletics. He served on the staff for ten years.
At St Aloysius his homeopathic practise took off after he began treating students under a banyan tree. Soon his fame spread and the poor pestered him but he never turned them away, ministering to all.
By 1880 he had two dispensaries, one at the school (then located at the Coadiabail campus and after school at Kankanady using a little booth. Later when the school moved to Lydiah Hill, the school stage became his dispensary.
The next step was a small building opposite the Academy Hall. All the time the patients kept coming and growing in number. Though there were many doctors in the area, Fr Muller was by far the busiest due to his cures.
His medicines he imported as needed from the U.S. and Europe, most were donated by friends and admirers.
Along with his teaching and medical work, Fr Muller was in charge of two schools: one boys and one girls, in the parish of Milagris. This was a heavy workload consisting of some 16 hours daily. In Milagris he left his mark as a confessor and spiritual director.
Muller had a huge love of the poor and was especially kind to poor students who received a good education then employment which meant they were then able to return and benefit their communities.
Inauguration of the Homeopathic Poor Dispensary
So as to provide a better service to the growing numbers who came for his homeopathic treatments, in 1881 Muller moved his clinic to Kankanady which he renamed The Homeopathic Poor Dispensary. He was seeing on average 250 patients each day and if a poor person offered money he never took it, instead only asking them to pray. He would however take donations from wealthier patients.
In 1890 a further development occurred. We are told, “Fr Muller’s humane work for the leprosy patients began in 1883 when he was asked to try homoeopathy for the mother of two men who abandoned her to the care of the Jesuits. He took her to Kankanady and thus was born St. Joseph’s Leprosy Hospital. Fr. Muller tried homeopathy, and then allopathy. Thus allopathy and homeopathy came into coexistence at Kankanady.”
There were no organised hospitals in south India at this time so Fr Muller had shown great initiative. But because leprosy was difficult to treat he introduced allopathic medicine to suppress the symptoms and so he opted for both systems to ease this malady.
There was no stopping this man! Soon he purchased land at Kankanady for the expansion of the hospital. His work and his reputation were widespread and in 1884 when Lord and Lady Wenlock visited she wrote in the visitors’ book,”Lord Wenlock has seen many leprosy homes and he tells me that in none has he seen the condition of the patients so much alleviated, whether this is due to the medicines, the bathing, the diet or other treatment, the fact remains that their condition is much improved and infinite praise is due to Fr Muller for his unselfish devotion.”
The Soleri Bellotti Specifics
In 1897 Fr Muller received a secret formula from the Italian doctor, Soleri Belloti. These were known as homeopathic specifics: specific medicines for specific diseases. This is not proper classical homeopathy as taught by Dr Samuel Hahnemann but in the circumstances his system of complex homeopathy was convenient. He improved upon them and they became a huge success.
His specifics were non-toxic and simple enough for a layman to use. He began manufacturing in 1897 and from the start he received orders from all over India and abroad. He also produced 5 lotions and 4 ointments for external use. They are still famous.
The demand for his care and treatments required an expansion of the hospital and with donations from foreign friends and wealthy Catholics in the region he was able in 1895 to establish a general hospital. Today that hospital has 1000 beds, 750 available to the poor without charge.
Pope Leo XIII made a note in his diary, “The good missionary looking after the poor stricken children of Mangalore.”
When bubonic plague struck in 1902 approximately 1 million died. Fr Muller was not found lacking. He plunged to work to help the afflicted. Despite the monsoon he constructed the first plague infirmary within a record time of just 4 weeks. This building still stands in the Father Muller Complex, Mangalore, today.
Father had successfully saved many lives. Within the district alone 200,000 had perished. He worked around the clock, forgetting meals, his own comfort and even sleep, his concern only to help the suffering. He comforted the dying and encouraged the living, his presence alone bringing “peace of soul.”
While blockbuster movies have been made about lesser men his contribution was acknowledged, not that he needed it. Father Muller was awarded the prestigious Kaiser-i-Hind medal in 1907 by the governor of Madras, Sir Arthur Lawley. The citation states,
“The Church to which you belong has, decade after decade, been a practical and living exposition of the teaching of Christ: self-sacrifice, self-obliteration, devotion to others and, ladies and gentlemen, no exponent of these doctrines has been more faithful, more conspicuous than Fr Muller.”
Books and Correspondence
You’d think he had little else to do but Fr Augustus still managed to write four books on homeopathy, diet and lifestyle, helped we are told, by his phenomenal memory. Guide to Health on homeopathy, diet baths etc; The Manual of Homeopathy, a compilation of the best authors of the day; Guide to Specifics, a booklet guide to his 33 specific remedies and his Schussler’s Twelve Tissue Remedies was authoritative.
In his 30 years he treated an estimated 30,000 by correspondence alone. The in-patient and out-patient numbered over a million. Patients travelled from as far as Bombay (now renamed Mumbai), Madras on the opposite coast of India, Hyderabad, Trivandrum and Cochin.
Man of Prayer
Augustus was a man of strong faith. Whenever he ran out of money, which was surely often, he’d gather his staff around and all would kneel and pray. (Nurses have been struck-off for a lot less in Britain in recent times!) “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of,” he would say and he always received what he prayed for.
In his spare time he would take staff for a cricket match or a stroll on the seashore. Never did he lose his sense of humour. Once during a match they endured a constant drizzle of rain. Finally he took a statue of the Blessed Virgin, placed it in the open ground and said, “you’re making us wet, see how you feel.” Surprisingly, the rain stopped. He had great devotion to our Blessed Mother we are told and she never failed him.
The Administrator and Fundraiser
At Fordham he had learnt some useful management and administrative skills which he put to great use in running the hospital. Everything was accounted for and accounts were made available for public scrutiny. Any surplus was returned to the hospital for improvements.
In-patients and out-patients were treated for free while anyone he appealed to for help gave – and he had a great knack for obtaining donations!
Strength of Character
Muller loved to swim and taught others to swim by tying hollow coconut shells on either side of the chest as floats. He would stand beside the student and sternly say ‘don’t touch me’ so they would resist being carried by the tide.
Once when the government moved the post office to seminary Road against his protests, Fr Muller stopped having any dealings with the new post office. Instead he hired a bullock-cart and sent all parcels to Head Office. Without business for the new post office the government was forced to reinstate the old one. Presently it is located within the Father Muller Complex.
On another occasion a consignment of wine reached Mangalore. It was to be used for preparing his Biochemic Tonic.
The customs officers, in spite of being shown the original invoice, insisted on having it checked and measured. They brought in copper vessels for the purpose. Fr Muller threatened that if the wine was spoiled in such unclean vessels he would sue for damages and replacement. The vessels were sent back and the wine released.
“The cornerstone of a long and happy life is moderation and self-control. He who keeps these virtues keeps his liberty and independence for any diseases are the consequence of not listening to one’s conscience and over filling the stomach.”
He was aging and neglectful of his health. For Muller, the most sacred mission was to help the poor and in his will he expressed the wish for the poor to be treated for free.
Dogged determination, faith in God and zeal for the poor were his guiding principles and was never found wanting in his care, once with a shortage of water he had a well sunk under his own supervision, going down into the well until water was struck.
He prayed for what he needed and prayer never failed him.
By the early eighties, 65% of income from manufacturing remedies was funding the hospital. Ironically, homeopathy was funding conventional allopathic medicine.
In early June 1910, nearing his 70th year, an attack of cardiac asthma was followed bycardiac failure. On 5th August, while reading the Madras Mail, at 9.00am he fainted and dropped his paper, it was “a stroke of apoplexy”.
By September he had rallied and went on a sea voyage to Columbo, Calcutta then Darjeeling where he spent a few days with his friend Dr Kanoy. The cold Darjeeling air was his downfall.
After arriving back in Mangalore on November 1st he passed away peacefully.
His funeral procession of 10,000 was testimony to his great work. The whole stretch of road for miles was beautifully decorated by Catholics at their own expense, as far as the chapel of the leper asylum.
Arriving at the asylum, the coffin was lowered to afford the poor lepers the comfort of looking one last time, at the remains of their sole support in life. They gathered around and cried inconsolably.
It was here the good Father Muller was laid to rest. “After the customary commital service of the Church, the coffin was deposited in a vaulted grave at the foot of the altar, before which the dear old father had loved to make his thanks-giving after mass and weep and intercede for many suffering souls whom day to day Providence had sent him. There by his express desire he rests at St Joseph’s Chapel, among lepers, the outcasts of the earth, whom like his Divine master, he cared with a tender love.”
Anyone can visit his grave and pray in the chapel.
Fr Augustus Muller Fondly Remembered on His Death Centenary Mass
Mangalore, Nov 1: Father Muller Charitable Institutions celebrated the death centenary (1910-2010) of its founder Fr Augustus Muller, SJ on Monday Nov 1.
On the occasion, the newly built hi-tech laundry at Father Muller’s was inaugurated and the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the new building for Father Muller College of Nursing was held. The Father Muller Museum was also inaugurated on the occasion.
Seemanth Kumar Singh, IPS, city commissioner of police, was the Chief Guest. Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza, Bishop of Mangalore and chairman of FMCI presided. – As recorded in daijiworld.com here and the photo album of Fr Muller’s death centenary here
Fr Muller’s Institutions
FMCI Hospitals: Father Muller Medical College Hospital, Father Muller Homeopathic Medical College Hospital, Father Muller Homeopathic Pharmaceutical Division (HPD), St Joseph Leprosy Hospital, Father Muller Rehabilitation Unit, Father Muller De-addiction Centre
FMCI Educational Institutions: Father Muller Medical College, Father Muller Homeopathic Medical College, Father Muller College Of Speech & hearing, Father Muller College of Allied Health Sciences, Father Muller College Of Nursing, Father Muller School Of Nursing, Father Muller College of Distance Education
Other links on Father Muller and his Institutions:
Bibliography: Joe A. Lewis; The Homeopathic Heritage, 1993
Father Muller Homeopathic Medical College: YouTube video: http://youtu.be/VpfVpkx4b40