Homeopaths often grumble about how as a profession, it is difficult to make a living out of practicing. This is often explained away by blaming the media. True – the media is now so infected by a powerful lobby of so-called skeptics but these are really an odd mix of comedians, magicians and odd folk led by a fanatical group of scientists and journalists who have more in common with religious fanaticism than anything scientific. Their fundamentalism is more akin to superstition than science. Their attempts to adhere strictly to a perverse sort of logic lead us up paths so illogical that they are probably best ignored.
Stupidly, rather than heed my own advice, I must have been very bored one day and decided to converse with one such ‘scientist’ either on a blog or on the radio (I forget which!) He was arguing that homeopathy was no more than placebo. When I asked him his views on the treatment of animals he stated that the animals got better because the owners thought they had got better. I was once told by a military man that if you are fighting a battle then it is a good idea to wear the same uniform as the enemy so I asked my skeptic friend for the evidence of his assertion in the form of a double- blind trial. Silence. I then told him how my sister had telephoned me for a remedy for her horse which was rolling around a field with colic (which can kill) and that minutes later the horse was up and free of pain. In his strange world this was merely an illustration of how an owner can believe an animal to be better but isn’t really. I asked him if he was suggesting that my sister was riding around The Downs on a horse that she hadn’t realised was actually now dead. All went quiet. This only goes to prove that some cases are probably more suited to the care of a psychiatrist rather than to a homeopath.
This kind of person is more a danger to themselves rather than a threat to the profession. The problems facing homeopaths lie not outside the profession but from within the profession itself.
Homeopathy is, above all, simple and all embracing. It is egalitarian. It is not a therapy that works exclusively in the hands of ‘experts’ and ‘professionals’. The creed, ‘the patient knows best’; fits perfectly with the system of homeopathy. It is a system which holds sacred the simple language and the simple expression of the patient. It should not be spoken in Latin, intellectualised, mystified, ‘ego-fied’ and turned into something it isn’t. If this happens, then people will turn away from us and rightly so. I am sorry to say, this is happening. Instead of a coherent and credible voice we are steadily turning into a veritable dawn chorus of approaches, systems, and methods that sit uncomfortably under that umbrella we call ‘homeopathy’. It is a cacophony of noisy speculations, so singly indefinable that it is almost impossible to raise a critical objection to any one. If they do, the questioner risks being taunted and accused of obstructing other people’s views by being critical, right-wing, right-brained and probably in the pay of Swiss drug companies to boot. We should be careful. Ironically, the veneer of that all-embracing, ‘lovey-dovey, kisses and cuddles’, Californian approach, that so marks the alternative scene, actually masks a hidden and tyrannical agenda.
Nothing is quite so dictatorial and controlling as the rendering of meaning into meaninglessness. The American military read Orwell’s ‘1984’ and applied it; ‘Neutralise’ means ‘kill’; ‘Precision bombing’ means killing lots of innocent people precisely. There are two types of dictatorship; one form controls and regulates a rigid inflexible system; the other is so fluid and undefined that it is impossible to oppose or criticise because it has absolutely no substance. It is like trying to catch the mist. When I ask a proponent of the so-called ‘imponderable’ remedies what they are, I am simply told they are imponderable. This is really not an answer. It is a dismissal. Many things in life are best left to mystery. I am still angry with the Americans for landing on the moon because until then the moon was for me a thing of magic and enigma. However with homeopathy we are dealing with sick patients. I need to know what I am doing, what I am using and why I am using it. Once we become so ‘open’ we are in danger of believing that ‘anything goes’. If the unwritten rule is not to question because questioning is seen as being critical then nothing can change or progress. No one has to publicly burn the books; you simply defy the inane and render critical thought unfashionable. Politically, this is a sophisticated form of authoritarianism; medically and clinically, it is the seeds of psychosis.
It is becoming hard now to define homeopathy with any kind of precision. More worrying, either nobody wants to or they are too scared to vocalise a definition or map out the boundaries. Some trends in homeopathy defy substantiation or any clear rational on the basis that logical thought is a little passé. Unless a prescription is ‘intuitive’ or whispered in the ear by a spirit guide (usually a Red Indian chief) then no one’s interested. If the spirit guide dare suggest a polychrest rather than a small unproven remedy then he’s likely to get the sack and be replaced by a brave from another tribe.(I am not suggesting that spirit guides are all male, by the way). This is not an indication of a spiritually evolved practitioner but evidence of a necrotic brain. How do we as a profession deal with this? We deal with it rather as if we are at a pleasant little school reunion cocktail party, when suddenly a chariot pulls up outside, the class nerd walks in waving a sword and dressed as a gladiator, declares he is Julius Caesar and asks if there any Christians who would like to be a bite to eat. No-one says much, and as he drags two of your best friends off to the coliseum, you mutter vague excuses about them probably having met in a past life and that they had it coming anyway. It is very difficult to treat madness and even more difficult to point it out, but as a profession, if we are to survive, we need to.
I read articles written by homeopaths that astonish me in their alien-ness. I can hardly believe that the writers really do the same job as I. I can hardly teach my pet subject of case and remedy mapping now without being asked what method I use. I even hear people refer to case mapping as ‘the Mike Bridger method.’ The number of ‘methods’ now available to us are not far off the number of items on the average Chinese take-away. Most of them I do not understand.
Methods have a place in trying to illustrate some complicated facets of homeopathy but they are a tool to be used for the purposes of clarification only and not to bemuse and confuse. Fundamentally, taking a method or methods and applying them literally is contrary to the principles of homeopathy. Homeopathy is the treatment of the totality of the characteristic symptoms of the individual expressed in their own unique way. That treatment is broad based, unique and ought to be defined by the expression of the patient and not by any ‘method’. There are many ways a patient expresses disorder and it is reductionist, if not allopathic, to limit the way by which we treat that expression.
To be a good homeopath is not to adhere to any particular methodology. Clarke stated:
‘There are many different kinds of similarity as well as of degrees and every kind is available for the prescribers use.…all these and other kinds of like-ness are available for the prescriber to find his correspondence in: and he is no friend of Hahnemann, or of Hahnemann’s system who would tie up practitioners to any one of them.’
There are trends that have been creeping into homeopathy which implicitly suggest that the perceptible signs and symptoms of an illness are merely symbolic of an internal causation (usually spiritual, mental or emotional). This encourages the idea that somehow we must prescribe on something ‘deep’ within the patient. Working in this way may make us feel unjustifiably clever but can leave the patients with a nasty taste in their mouth. The consequences for example in case taking, can result in an approach best described as amateur psychotherapy and at its worse, abusive.
To suggest to some homeopaths that the word ‘deep’ in homeopathic terms, means that it covers tissue change only and has nothing to do with a spiritual prescription is akin to telling the North Korean government about the importance of human rights. It is an alien and a shocking notion to the listener. The fact that this definition comes from James Tyler Kent is particularly disturbing to those who insist on Kent being a ‘constitutional method prescriber.’ Such seeds were originally sown by those who purported to adhere to ‘The classical method’ some years ago. This methodology consisted of rooting out the mental symptoms of the patient irrespective of what was happening physically and irrespective of whether such symptoms were really present or were in fact speculation on part of the practitioner. Prescribing on physical symptoms was at best superficial and at its worst suppressive, leading the patient towards the devils doorway. The result was that often patients would have an aggravation that would take them back to their justifiably irritated doctor. At one time it was fashionable not to prescribe on acutes at all as if health was a process of purging and pain to be got through rather than the gentle process that Hahnemann insisted upon. It is an uncomfortable truth for such practitioners that both Kent and Hahnemann, where they used mental symptoms at all, would often use them to confirm a prescription rather than have such symptoms define the chosen remedy. A cursory glance at Kents’ cases will confirm this.
When I talk about case and remedy mapping, it is not a ‘method’ and neither is it original. I am expanding the observations of those that went before me. Many homeopaths seem to me to be often overwhelmed by contradictions, categories, confusions, and ‘isms’ of all kinds to the point that they can lose their confidence and clarity. This is not their fault. The culture of homeopathy is increasingly riddled with woolly thinking. If we aren’t clear or defined about what we do then how can we expect patients to have confidence in us or in homeopathy?
If the seeds were planted by this distorted interpretation of classical homeopathy then rest assured that the vegetation that sprang forth from such mis- informed thinking are with us still and proliferating wildly. Of course many of these methods are partial truths. By implication a partial truth is not the whole truth. Applying the concepts of ‘constitutional’, ‘essence’, ‘sensation’, ‘central delusion’ will work in some cases but I suspect applying these methods in the case of a three month old baby or someone in a coma, is likely to fall short. The only method I am aware of in such cases is more often ‘the method of desperation.’
The wonder of homeopathy is that it concurs with the old Egyptian law that ‘what is above is below’ or we can equally say:’ what is innermost is outermost.’ In other words spirit, mind and body are one and the same thing. They are all interwoven threads of the same tapestry. Hahnemann turned this idea into a therapeutic system and that was his genius. That is why he emphasises that the work of the homeopath is to perceive externally alterations in the health of our patients and by removing these ‘perceptible’ signs we would remove the disease or disturbance in its entirety. He makes it clear that the homeopath should not:
‘…construct so called systems, by interweaving empty speculations and hypotheses concerning the internal essential nature of the vital processes…’
Putting it crudely, if I prescribe on a patient with migraines who says she loves salt, hates fatty foods and is better by the sea side then this is good enough. I don’t need to know that the migraines started after her divorce for the remedy to work. If she wants to tell me this then all well and good. If she doesn’t want to tell me then I should respect that. What is outside is a reflection of what is inside, that is all.
As a patient, if I have an agonising toothache what sort of homeopath do I want to go to? I might not want to look at what it is I might want to bite or attack, or what it is I am afraid to get my teeth into. I would like to know what the problem is, what I can take to ease the pain and how long will it take to work. I would like to go to a homeopath who is conversant with Clarkes’ ‘The Prescriber’ and the section on ‘toothache.’ Let us suppose for a minute that in fact the toothache is a manifestation of some mental disturbance. Then the chances are that the indicated remedy for the toothache may well cover the mental causation. Let us suppose it doesn’t. Rather than speculating or supposing anything, the good homeopath will see that the remedy is either doing nothing or merely palliating and will take this as a guide to further exploration. This is very different from assuming that the toothache is symbolic of a spiritual or emotional disturbance and that treatment should be aimed primarily at these regions of the ‘innermost’.
It is a question of observing the remedy reaction that will tell us where or what we need to explore further and not the speculations of a prescriber addicted to enforcing one method or another upon us.
If we believe that what we have to treat is the spiritual, mental or emotional cause (the innermost) of the patients dis-ease, then the temptation is to see symptoms as symbolic and secondary to the inner problem. We remove those symptoms that are extraneous to our self written ‘theme.’ The analysis of the case becomes increasingly poetic and the choice of remedy becomes correspondingly more bizarre. Instead of prescribing Sulphur for the patients agonising burning piles we prescribe a meditative proving of a painting by Van Gogh because the patient once had an ear ache years ago which was so painful, the patient says, they would have happily cut their ear off. It is perfectly possible to go to seminars and hear this kind of thing. These seminars will be packed. The poor homeopath who has been in practice for sixty years and wants to share his understanding of Lycopodium by holding a seminar is more than likely to be playing to an empty house. Such is the state of affairs at the moment and a sorry state it is. The ultimate irony of all this is that when we start treating symptoms as secondary to our analysis and symbolic rather than actual then we are moving not as we might think, towards ourselves as guru, shaman or spiritually enlightened being (delete as appropriate) but moving instead towards the welcoming arms of allopathy which also regards symptoms as secondary and symbolic to the final diagnosis of the named disease.
We need to define our homeopathy clearly again and in simple language. Of course we must experiment and expand the frontiers of homeopathy but not to the point of downright stupidity. There’s a Greek story about a Minotaur. This monster lives in a maze where anyone who enters is likely to get lost and eaten by the Minotaur. A rash fellow named Theseus ends up in this tricky situation largely because he is dizzy with love. Luckily for him his beloved has suspected that he is not quite himself and gave him a ball of thread. He fastened one end to the entrance so that wherever he went and whatever happened he could always return from whence he came.
It seems a metaphor for present day homeopathy. We are becoming so fragmented and uncertain of what we are doing or meant to do that it is time we followed the thread back to our roots. The Minotaur, the monster about to consume us, the very thing we are running away from, is neither allopathy, skeptics or drug companies but merely a manifestation of ourselves. The sooner we go home the better, for fear of becoming the thing we hate.