AH: How did you first get interested in Homeopathy? What event or events shaped your interest?
BG: As a child I was very idealistic. I decided I wanted to be a doctor at 8 years old-a real white coat image. My heroes were people like Albert Schweitzer. I was raised in Southern California. In high school, I did research at CalTech with someone who later won the Nobel prize. I later went to UCLA as a Bacteriology major. Then I was accepted into Stanford medical school, even without great grades. While at Stanford, I found it cold and impersonal. To me, it was a spiritual battleground. I was disappointed in what medicine was doing. I was not sure if we were doing more harm than good. There was no consideration for what was least toxic or alternatives to toxic treatments.
In my junior year, I decided I would drop out, but postponed my decision until I received my medical degree. I did a good internship, obtained my license in 1970, but decided to drop out of medicine. I had not heard of homeopathy up to this point, but even in the beginning, the idea of more harm than good was an issue. For example, in my early training in a cardiology clinic, there was a man with preinfarction angina. These were the days before bypass surgery. I went in to examine him with a professor. How was he helped? He went off all medication and went on vitamin E.
In my internship, a surgeon taught us how to do manipulations for whiplash injury. These were chiropractic type of manipulations, which I was trained to have a prejudice against. I started doing this and saw some great results. So, after I received my license, I had a bias for things that worked that were non-toxic.
If there was a cure for cancer with, for example, lawn grass, the entire institution of medicine would debunk it, because it would be cost effective, and destroy the pharmaceutical industry. By then I was looking for non-toxic, but effective alternatives. I was seriously looking at acupuncture when I came across an article on homeopathy and the National Center of homeopathy in Millersville in 1971. This got me started. After a month of training, I was making a living at Kaiser while at the same time trying to set up a practice.
There was a flu epidemic at Kaiser, and I could see remedy pictures of Bryonia and Gelsemium. Of these afflicted, I started to see people homeopathically if they were willing to come to my house. The only provision was that they would report back to me. The results were that out of 40 cases, 37 were cured within twelve to twenty four hours of a normally two-week flu. Of the three that weren’t cures, I visited their house, and found that it reeked of moth balls. This convinced me that homeopathy works. There was no denying that it worked, though I didn’t know how. So, I started a practice in 197l, and gradually shifted over to full time as I gained more knowledge and experience.
AH: You are well known for being the first American to study with George Vithoulkas. How did you first hear of him, and how did this experience develop?
BG: George had written the book Homeopathy, Medicine of the New Man. The National Center had brought him to Washington. He was kind enough to talk to young doctors of homeopathy. I brought 20 cases and presented them to him. He had brilliant ideas, which showed me that there were dimensions to homeopathy that I didn’t understand. He also taught me about coffee and its antidoting effects. Despite its controversy, I still believe coffee antidotes. By 1975 I was still not satisfied with my practice results compared to what I saw in the books. That is what led me to want to spend some time with George Vithoulkas. I went to Greece two consecutive summers for one month at a time. I finally decided that if I was going to really learn homeopathy I needed to go to Greece and study with George. I closed my practice, figuring to be there for three years. I spent two years there.
George gave me much personal attention in Greece. I ended up “ghost writing” The Science of Homeopathy which was good because I learned so much from him, and as a student, I knew what students wanted and needed to know. He gave me the training to get me started, and to eventually bring this knowledge back to the U.S.
AH: Could you share a little more about the 2 years in Greece with George Vithoulkas. How did that effect you both personally and professionally?
BG: He gave me the comprehension that we shouldn’t just be keynote prescribers. Before this experience, if we had a few keynotes and a strange, rare, and peculiar symptom, that was it. What we used to do for acutes is the way we approached chronic cases. George showed a whole dimension of understanding, especially for chronic disease. His concept of an “essence” is what really transformed me. All of this mass of homeopathic information, or data, made sense when understood from an “essence” point of view. The other important thing is that it humanized the process. It all of a sudden got really exciting. This was the human medicine that I wasn’t seeing at Stanford. I was dissatisfied with how depersonalized medicine was. Homeopathy looked at the whole person. But at first it was a mass of seemingly unrelated data points we were using, and our human understanding wasn’t the factor. What George showed me was that’s not the way it is. Master homeopaths are looking at the whole person.
His clarity of the definition of health is the other major contribution. With this yardstick, I could reliably tell whether a person is getting better or worse. It makes the most sense of what patients are actually looking for in themselves. George and I became good friends, and he had a big influence on me. I had a little apartment near the clinic. I would go to the clinic and see patients. At first, I’d follow him. He would translate for me. After awhile, I began to visit him at his house where he’d do his consulting work. We would discuss patients, and wrote chapters of the Science of Homeopathy. At the end of my training he gave me cases to study for almost a year. It was a complete failure for a long time. I never came up with the right remedies. I would do analysis, go back and tell him. He would say yes or no. If it was wrong, I would go back and study the case again. The stack of failed cases got bigger. So if there is a lesson for beginners, it is not to despair, as we learn much in failing. Many times I thought I’d have a handle on it. After two or three tries George finally told me the correct remedy. The “click” of an inner clarity would happen. He taught me the subtleties of casetaking, and that there is no magic way to analyze cases. This is still the way it is even now.
At the end of my training, we went through a typical day of 50 cases of the 26 doctors that were at the clinic. His day consisted of clinic doctors taking the case and handing him the paper case. He would study it, give the answer, and hand it back. My remedy choices agreed with him in almost all the cases. These were challenging cases. So, in the end, I felt confident in my prescribing. What I realized both then and now is that no matter how much you know, you will always get cases just beyond the level of knowledge you have. The level of frustration in homeopathy stays the same, you just learn to accept it. For beginners who are frustrated, remember that what you are doing is better than what the patient may get elsewhere.
So I finished my stay in Greece in 1978.
AH: You came back from Greece, and you were the first American to have thoroughly studied with George Vithoulkas. You had a big influence on other homeopaths here. You are considered the “Dean” of homeopathy here in the United States. Do you want to share how that was for you?
BG: It was a challenge. The level of homeopathy I learned from George was something that needed to be imparted, and the U. S was an important place to do it. I started training courses, it spread around the country, and it led to the IFH (International Foundation for Homeopathy). There were political battles with the powers that be and myself with the new slant on things.
AH: How was it difficult?
BG: There was still allopathic resistance. There were still people caught in the low vs. high potency controversy, and using keynotes only. Many were suspicious of the idea of “essences” or misconstruing these concepts. Also, there were egotistical jealousies. It was clear to me in the 70s that the Flexner report had killed homeopathy in the U.S. Maisie Panos, Henry Williams and others did a heroic job, but the standard of homeopathy wasn’t where it needed to be. With the holistic movement of nutrition, holistic health, exercise, etc., it was clear that there was going to be a resurgence of homeopathy. There was no way to control what kind of resurgence it would be except by setting as high a standard as we could. I was very strident in those years, alienated people along the way, but inspired others. I do think this helped, but the work to establish a standard was stressful. I got ill in 1981. It was a heart attack/stroke situation. The dramatic thing about that is that after being treated by the best acupuncture in the world (and it greatly helped, perhaps saved my life), I wasn’t on my feet. A friend paid for me to go to Greece, where George treated me. After that, I was jogging in 3 days after 9 months’ disability. One thing I learned from this was the fallacy that I was indispensable. I learned to be more low-key.
AH: So what was your life like after that point?
BG: Through the 1980s I continued to teach in a variety of settings, including the Hahnemann clinic, where I was a cofounder of the college and clinic. Also, I did teaching in Europe during these years. Then a hereditary ailment that plagued both sides of my family reared its ugly head in the form of alcoholism. It is a disease. I could blame stress, etc., but I was in typical denial. Through the 80s this accelerated. In 1989, it became so unmanageable that I ended up in the hospital intensive care unit. That was a turning point in my life. I realized I was an alcoholic. I went into a treatment center and vigorous recovery. I was able to not drink for over 4 years. But, I thought I could drink one more time-a classic mistake. After a successful teaching event, I had one drink on an airplane. This was 1994. I relapsed, and I was in and out of the hospital and halfway houses for two years. This was a nightmare of struggling for survival. I came close to death a few times.
Some of what I’m talking about might be of benefit to others. 15% of the population have this problem. There is a way out, a solution. I was graced by coming to my knees and saying, “God please help me!” I was completely broken and desperate at this point. My career and everything I valued in life was over if I couldn’t overcome alcoholism. I couldn’t do it alone and I prayed for help. That’s when things turned around. Then it was finally recovery. It was sobriety, not just abstinence. It’s a different way of life. Now there are spiritual tools to live with. I learned these tools in April 1996.
AH: What led you finally to that point?
BG: I was in an excellent treatment program. But the healing comes from grace. Without this would be death. I can’t say what specific thing made the difference, but it was a change of spiritual heart.
AH: How is daily life and practice different since you’ve gone through this?
BG: I lost enough connection with the homeopathy movement that I’m in a scramble to catch up with the knowledge explosion that has been happening since that time. There are many powerful and effective new teachings. At first I was resistant to new concepts. How we present these new ideas to the public is important. Students can be misled. I’m very much a student now and trying to incorporate the new ideas of Rajan Sankaran, Massimo Mangialavori, Jan Scholten, Louis Klein, and others. My internal orientation is different. In sobriety, I see my function as a homeopath with more balance. I’m not so desperate to be right all of the time. I’m doing the best I can. Magic happens with people almost in spite of me, rather than because of me. Learning happens that way also. This is a big difference. It is very challenging to know how much is out there, and how much there is to know before we can have a minimum feeling of accomplishment, when confronted with demands of patients. One step at a time is a good way to live, and to practice.
AH: Can you comment on the role of homeopathy in relation to alcoholism?
BG: Now, in practice, I’m better able to recognize the problem of alcohol and drug addiction than before. I’m able to help people in this situation much better. A double blind study, a research project, has been done on the effectiveness of homeopathy vs. placebo before detoxification from alcohol and drugs and aftercare for a period of 18 months. The relapse rate was 72% with the placebo. The relapse rate was 32% of those that had an actual remedy given, one dose only at the onset of treatment. So homeopathy alone is a big help. But I always steer a patient into a program for spiritual support.
AH: Other than George Vithoulkas, or before George Vithoulkas, who were your teachers or influences?
BG: Maisie Panos, and Henry Williams, who was on the faculty at the Millersville course. I did a preceptorship with Panos and sat in while she did cases. That was it until going to Greece. Kent was a major influence. I suggest that a student read Kent’s materia medica 3 times. The first time to learn to listen to the wide range of symptoms that human beings can have, not even trying to understand remedies. The second time is to learn to cluster symptoms of remedies. The third time would include asking the question of what other remedies to think of. This will facilitate flexibility of mind and how to differentiate remedies. This one exercise could make one a good prescriber. This is why I was so open to George Vithoulkas. He was very Kentian.
AH: How do you take a case differently now than in your earlier years right after studying with George Vithoulkas?
BG: With George, I learned to go beyond the words into the way a person thinks and expresses himself. This is still primary. Now under the influence of other homeopathic teachers, in the interview I intervene less and less. I just listen with a faith that what needs to come out will come out. I have to be open enough to receive. Whether or not it fits into repertory or materia medica language is actually a limitation of freedom on my part. If I can understand the patient and then make the homeopathic translation, then that is fine. If I keep a patient in a box, then I won’t have a good response. I am learning all over again this process of casetaking, especially learning the smaller remedies. My instincts tell me this whole range of things in homeopathy now is correct.
AH: What is your vision, or plans for your future? Are you planning to teach again?
BG: Right now I’m in a student phase, but I’m sure I’ll be teaching again. I’m already doing some teaching now. I have just completed writing a book that will be out in 1999. It is aimed for the general public, a documentation of modern science that validates homeopathy. It discusses the quantum dynamics of water and how that applies to homeopathy. There is excellent science out there for the skeptics. Writing is something I may do more of in the future. Having been in recovery, the most significant thing in my life has been getting married a little more than a year ago to Victoria, an artist and dancer whom I met soon after my return from the treatment center in 1996. This is a major change for me. We have our family, the two of us and our dog Bapu. (Bapu means father in Hindi).
I’ve got a big interest in computers and the potential of technology. I see great potential in distance learning and homeopathy. It is possible to use website assisted distance learning as a university. For example, one can get basic training in homeopathy through the computer and then when coming to conferences there will be a high level of clinical understanding right away. It can bring excellent teachers into instant contact with one another. The possibilities of video conferencing are great. The technology is here and affordable to do desktop video conferencing. If I can have a camera on me and a patient can also, we can see patients through video conferencing.
AH: What do you see as the future of homeopathy?
BG: As for the future of homeopathy, that’s a good question. Homeopathy can be viewed as a scientific way of investigating the universe. What we are tuning into are resonances between a sensitive prover and a sick person with the medium of a substance. It is, in a sense, drawing all the energies available in the universe to a focus for the sake of healing. It’s a kind of shamanistic perspective. If we can create an environment where the resonance that is needed from the universe can come in contact with the patient, then healing occurs. Now there is solid science on physical electromagnetic field theories that is even acceptable to regular science. So homeopathy is not only a method of healing, but is an investigation into the universe. The key as a homeopath is to be open enough and skeptically grounded enough that all possibilities can be there when a patient presents with a particular situation, and we can draw from all possibilities. What will apply in this case will not apply in the next case. I think we can learn from everyone. Homeopathy requires a scientific approach, not purely speculation. It is grounded because we have to get results and have standards on what we mean if we say patients are better.
In teaching, I like teachers that teach from cases. If we can establish methods of communication of our cases on the Internet, we can then devise a standard template that can be generally accepted as a way of presenting cases. We could throw it in as a huge database, like ReferenceWorks. If we had this giant database, research would be solidified much better.
I’d like to say something about students. The level that homeopathy is achieving now is potentially overwhelming to students. Teachers need to be careful how to present material so we don’t skew information or ideas in one direction or another. To make all this information accessible, they need a grounding of knowing basic remedies, a frame of reference. It is hard to think about “new” remedies if we don’t know some remedies solidly. Students should be walked through basics, and proceed to a graduate level. To throw everything at them right away could be potentially misleading. This is a question that I have. I’m not worried about standards. I’m worried students may develop habits to prevent them from gaining what they need later on. You can’t develop your thinking and go deep enough without the basics. It’s too confusing. I think there are basic systematic principles. Perhaps starting from polychrests and building from there. It starts simple and gets more complex. That’s how I would approach it as a teacher.
AH: It is obvious that teaching and homeopathic education is still important to you. You have always been well regarded as a homeopathic educator. How would you like to see homeopathic education develop, especially regarding clinical internships?
BG: The weakness of our education has always been clinical experience, and we still haven’t come up with a practical solution. The student video process has been difficult. We need teaching clinics with someone starting from scratch with a supervisor giving instant advice. This would be very important. We need to start with cases right from the beginning. I used to have a different philosophy about this. Learning to listen to what the student is going through is important. How we set this supervision up so that the patients are getting benefits, as well as potential legal issues, can be a challenge. Having a setting of closed circuit TV, where a case is taken and observed by a group is one way of expanding our clinical education. Also, a graded mixture of experience in the educational setting is a good thing, not just one professor and one level of students. Learning is exciting for me also.
AH: How do you foresee the political or legal direction of homeopathy? What would you like to see the parameters be?
BG: The opposition from the allopathic profession I saw in the 1970s is insignificant now. There still are some doctors with attitudes, but the medical profession has learned to be polite. I don’t anticipate clashes as at the end of the last century. MDs are struggling enough with their own managed health systems. I’ve always thought from the start that it is somewhat of a handicap to have an MD. Reductionistic thinking has to be unlearned. It is good to have professional training to develop a way of thinking that has some standards. I have no problems training lay people if they are willing to go through the rigors of what it takes to learn homeopathy. My feeling is that as we develop the profession itself, we will develop real professional standards. The professional model I like best is the English system. There, common law has prevented allopathy from having a monopoly. They have thousands practicing at a high standard without political problems.
AH: Would you like to see everyone who calls themselves a homeopath take an exam, or eventually have a Board, as do MDs, Dentists, Acupuncturists, etc.?
BG: This is a difficult question. I can see as a practical inevitability that there will have to be some standard evaluation for licensing or certification. But I have difficulty with a profession with a system of peers sitting in judgment of qualifications of other peers. This stifles possibilities for growth. However, as a practical reality, this issue is going to be with us. The ultimate strategy is for schools to have the highest standards. Then, we are going to have to make these examinations match the standards of schools. It is the schools that have to create the standard. My strategy has always been to focus on the schools.
The next century will see homeopathy becoming mainstream. It will be undeniable, the effectiveness.
Homeopathy is a prism of how we can look at personalities of plants, animals, and minerals. We know this from provings and cured cases. This has dimensions and meanings that I can’t predict where it will go. There are soul dimensions of these things, and the relationships between these entities are so subtle. It is possible to teach students fundamental concepts, basic themes, such as fear of abandonment, family problems, work issues, etc., and you could cluster remedies around these themes. This is better than teaching materia medica from A to Z. This would draw from all of the kingdoms. For example, sexual problems may tend to draw more from the animal kingdom than the plant kingdom. Problems with work productivity may cluster around metals. Sankaran, Scholten and others have already investigated this.
Teachers have to present the material in a way that is manageable. We don’t want students so ungrounded that they don’t know what is a high standard and what isn’t. I think there is a real danger in this area. This will be a challenge. I think the bottom line is cases. Being close to cases, watching results, a real result from a mediocre result. That is the tool to evaluate all the teachings that are out there. Up to now, some of our training dis-enables the student or homeopath to understand the truth in a case. For example, if we bring what we know into a case, this is already a prejudice in some ways. What people say and what is behind the words is profound. Learn to listen to the range of possibilities (like reading Kent for the first time). I used to say that polychrests were 80% of my practice, and I got good results. Now, looking back, I doubt some of the results at that time. I’m not sure that optimum curative results were that common. Now, my practice is shifting more to “smaller” remedies, and polychrests are more rare.
Sometimes it still happens that I’ll see three cases in a row of the same remedy. By the third time, I think there is something wrong with my perception. But I see it, and still get good results. It isn’t just that it’s a new remedy I learned last week but a mystery to the process, a shamanistic-like experience, a nexus point of forces, so when a patient is drawn with a certain need, you are drawing in from your knowledge and it matches there.
AH: What other interests do you have besides homeopathy and telecommunications?
BG: Much is focused on work now, but I’m interested in recovery type activities, being in good physical shape, and spending time with my wife Victoria and our dog. We also like to fly gliders. I’d like to travel and spend time with international homeopaths. With video technology, I could live anywhere, but I’m happy in Saratoga. I’m creating a Website also, www. billgrayhomeopathy. com.
AH: Is there anything you would do over again if you could. Do you have any regrets?
BG: I wish I had the knowledge I had now and could apply it that way from the beginning. But, of course it was necessary to do it the way it was at the time. I think we did what was needed to get to a level of depth we have now. It is a building block of experience so you can’t really regret the past. Knowledge is exploding, and it’s exciting.
I also couldn’t have gotten to my alcohol rehabilitation any other way that it happened. It happens when we are ready. I thought I recovered once and relapsed. I could not have recovered any other way. We evolve from our understanding.
Victoria: Bill’s recovery from alcoholism has helped him be more open now, to receive and contribute in the way he has, and to be able to make his contribution now, in “honesty, openness, and willingness.”
BG: We need to take care of ourselves. One thing I, in the past, epitomized was not taking care of myself. We need to balance our lives so we don’t burn out. This article could be good for those who were influenced by me. That is how it was then, this is how it is now. We don’t really make mistakes. We learn from them. Homeopaths need the balance of not working all the time. We should follow what is exciting in life and be human at the same time. Teachers tend to burn out, because the demand is very high. If we don’t take care of ourselves we do not grow.
AH: Could you comment on how you see homeopathy and society at large, and the evolution of culture?
BG: If people learn to relate to the environment with the energies that are there, and we can do this with some precision, then we can heal ourselves. We play a role as homeopaths. All of these forces co-evolve with us. We are interacting with everything all the time; with plants, animals, and minerals. For example, maybe plants have evolved and are different now, and we only need the orientation to see that. That is a spiritual evolution in itself. We can best learn from a patient the deep action of a remedy. For example, Massimo Mangialavori feels that to really know a remedy, we need to see a deep level of cure of at least 2 years in a male, a female, and a child. If we can stick to this basic, we will be fine. If we started a course on this level alone, I don’t care how we structure the curriculum. The student would learn individual remedies, and we could structure the course in creative ways. Understanding a remedy isn’t only action on a patient. We must draw from the life of the substance itself, with the bottom line being the alteration of the patient.
We evolve our understanding to a critical mass when there are enough students and practitioners with experience that have seen similar phenomena and can communicate on another level, and know everyone has given an opinion of what that is, this is a critical mass of communicating experience. With this, we are not just isolated entities, we are sparking off of each other. I don’t think the steps to our evolution of knowledge could have been done any differently.
AH: How did you first get interested in Homeopathy? What event or events shaped your interest?