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Archive for April, 2006

Classical clashes

Saturday, April 22nd, 2006

“We have actually touched the Borderland where Matter and Force seem to merge into one another, the shadowy realm between the Known and Unknown … I venture to think that the greatest scientific problems of the future will find their solution in this Borderland, and even beyond; here, it seems to me, lie Ultimate Realities, subtle, far-reaching, wonderful.”
Sir William Crookes, 1879

This one’s for homeopaths …

Dr Luc de Schepper puts his finger on a fascinating and frustrating phenomenon in this month’s edition of the energetic e-zine Homeopathy 4 Everyone. He says, “After many years of experience I now know that it is extremely difficult to discuss true classical homeopathy at public meetings or seminars. There are so many misconceptions of the matter, so many prejudices against the latest Hahnemann views, that it is almost impossible to reach mutual understanding in a public discussion. Yet, a question that I heard with increasing desperation among homeopathic students and practitioners alike is, “Why is it that there are so many different opinions regarding the practice of homeopathy?” It indeed must look as a dark, obstructing evil to the student when he is confronted with so many contradictory opinions where Hahnemann has supplied us with so many clear and logical instructions.”

He goes on to say “It is my firm conviction that no one is competent to form an opinion on the matter of homeopathy until he has studied the basic writings of the homeopathic school. Only then, will we see that these endless fights among homeopaths, which are the sole cause of non-progression of homeopathy, are absolutely unnecessary.”

The first point – “that no one is competent to form an opinion on the matter of homeopathy until he has studied the basic writings of the homeopathic school” – is sound common sense (although it unfortunately doesn’t seem to prevent countless “authoritative” pronouncements on the subject by people who have never given the Organon of Medicine so much as the time of day). The second point, while at first glance appearing equally sensible, isn’t.

This seems to be one of the thorniest problems presented to us as we step out of the conventional model of health and disease and into the homeopathic one. The very clarity of Hahnemann’s writings are in some ways their own undoing. His exposition of the homeopathic system is so clear, so sensible, so accessible, that it becomes relatively easy for anyone not completely welded to a materialistic conception of existence to take his perspective on board. It all rings so true.

Yet homeopathy also comes packaged as a system in itself. It’s apparent completeness can lull both the student and the experienced practitioner into thinking that it can be seen in relative isolation and that all they need to do is master the basic tenets, and they have found the one true answer to all the world’s ills. This tends to encourage the mere exchange of one medical system for another without considering that the underlying mechanisms at work in homeopathy would appear to lie more in the realms of quantum mechanics and chaos theory than they do in the Newtonian paradigm which still governs much of our prevailing rationalisations about how the world works.

We really do need to get it into our heads that deterministic predictability is largely illusory. Physics taught us that nearly a century ago now, yet so far it’s a fact that’s failed miserably to find its way into our daily lives to any significant degree. And the fact that it patently does not obtain in any kind of generalised fashion in the real world of homeopathic practice should perhaps alert us to an error in an assumption somewhere, but instead the prevailing rationalisation seems to be that the failure of homeopaths to agree on the nature of the one true way must come down to a failure to grasp the “true” nature of what Hahnemann was on about. Of course, it goes without saying that those who favour such opinions are usually also of the opinion that they themselves have grasped the essential Hahnemann. And no doubt the phenomenon of sympathetic resonance, like resonating with like, has more than a passing role to play in the confrontational, irascible and self-righteous qualities evident in many of these debates.

This whole phenomenon seems to hinge on our interpretation of the feeling that there is indeed “one true way”. Feelings themselves are always valid, but are frequently misattributed, misplaced or misinterpreted. All the evidence, not to mention the fundamental individualisation inherent in the therapy, suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach is simply untenable. Yet equally well it’s clear that there is only one simillimum in each case. This would seem to suggest that the “one true way” we’re driven to seek is the one true way for each of us as individuals; ie. the individual way that is true to ourselves. In the same way that each and every one of us represents an ultimately unique expression of the fundamental principles of existence, so too each and every homeopath evolves a unique expression of the fundamental principles described in Hahnemann’s work. And just as each of us are valid as living beings, each of us discovers a valid interpretation of the Organon that works for us in practice.

James Tyler Kent is a case in point. Kent believed fervently, and taught, that his own perspective on the Organon was exactly where Hahnemann was coming from. His methods have thoroughly infused the revival of homeopathy in the English-speaking world to such an extent that a large number of homeopaths don’t even realise they’re reading the Organon with Kentian spectacles on. But what appears to be an identical fit is not necessarily what is one. It’s extraordinary just how many ways there are to read and interpret even the clearest of guidelines – see the discussion of Kent’s methods and assumptions in the article Bringing Back the Baron – because it all hinges on what underlying assumptions you personally bring to your reading of those guidelines. It’s what’s implicit rather than explicit that makes the difference. Yet Kent’s version of homeopathy has proved time and again that it’s valid and successful, as have the methods of others who’ve evolved their own vision of the Organon to varying degrees. Whether the method relates clearly and closely to the Organon or whether it appears to play fast and loose with Hahnemann’s principles, all methods appear to work for some of the people some of the time, and not one of us has a 100% success rate or even anywhere close. What seems to distinguish the more successful practitioners is the fact that they have honed their practice until it becomes a true expression of their own individuality. It is how the Organon rings true for them.

The mistake we appear to make is in assuming that what works for one individual – whether Hahnemann, von Bönninghausen, Kent, Vithoulkas, Sankaran, Sherr, Mangialavori, Klein, Scholten, whoever – will work for every other homeopath; that any of these unique perspectives on Hahnemann’s principles is somehow the only “true” one. The fact that this assumption is patently contrary to the principles of homeopathy somehow entirely escapes us. Yet to the extent that each teacher of method discovers something that throws more light on the fundamental principles, and attracts students of similar resonance to him/herself, there is validity and value in passing on perspectives and techniques. However, so much emphasis on the method itself seems misplaced. Few students find they have as much success with someone else’s method as the method’s originator, and again the prevailing assumption seems to be that they’ve somehow “failed” to fully grasp it or have otherwise got it “wrong”. That rationale is rather unsatisfactory. It doesn’t seem to fit what actually happens very well. What seems far more likely is that each of these homeopaths have not yet discovered their own unique homeopathic voice. It’s been said by others of a similar viewpoint that it generally takes around a decade of practice for that voice to emerge, which seems about right.

This is where our cherished notions about deterministic predictability fit in. It does indeed exist to some extent, but it’s relative, subjective, and contingent. It is not objective and absolute. (See the essay Holed in One for more on this subject.)

The widespread idea too that “success” or “failure” hinges purely on a combination of a deterministically predictable methodology and a proven materia medica that includes the “right” remedy seems to be guilty of leaving almost as much out of the equation as conventional approaches do, as well as being hidebound by the same Newtonian/Laplacian mindset. There is far more than just the methodology at work. Luc de Schepper draws attention to the practitioner’s own condition which is certainly part of the equation, but still falls prey to the assumption that deterministic predictability is valid on a generalised basis.

It seems to me that this continual castigation of each other for our collective “failures” to understand what Hahnemann was teaching really amounts to little more than an expression of “my way is the only way”, which in turn is a sophisticated abstraction of primate-ive and testosterone-fueled tribe-forming behaviour by dominant males. The fact that it’s behaviour that’s almost exclusively evident in the male members of the profession, Hahnemann included, speaks for itself. If we really care about healing people with homeopathy, we might be better putting our energies into exploring our very diversity and by so doing, draw some understanding of what’s really going on in the healing interaction.

“Let us admit what all idealists admit – the hallucinatory nature of the world. Let us do what no idealist has done – let us search for unrealities that confirm that nature. I believe we shall find them in the antinomies of Kant and in the dialectic of Zeno . . . ‘The greatest wizard (Novalis writes memorably) would be the one who bewitched himself to the point of accepting his own phantasmagorias as autonomous apparitions. Wouldn’t that be our case.’ I surmise it is so. We (that indivisible divinity that operates in us) have dreamed the world. We have dreamed it as enduring, mysterious, visible, omnipresent in space and stable in time; but we have consented to tenuous and eternal intervals of illogicalness in its architecture that we might know it is false.”
Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Other Inquisitions’

Thanks to the current insanity revolving around homeopathy in this country, in both media and blogosphere, it's become necessary to insult your intelligence by explicitly drawing your attention to the obvious fact that any views or advice in this weblog/website are, unless stated otherwise, the opinions of the author alone and should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you choose to take anything from here that might be construed as advice, you do so entirely under your own recognisance and responsibility.

smeddum.net - Blog: Confessions of a Serial Prover. Weblog on homeopathy, health and related subjects by homeopathic practitioner Wendy Howard