Becoming a homoeopath is a process of personal potentisation. We begin as mother tinctures and slowly raise our consciousness by succussion and dilution. Succussion is akin to the hard grind of study. After a period of being knocked about comes a phase of dilution, of realisation, as we let ourselves go and our consciousness expands.
AH: You have become known for your many provings. Do you feel that these are your main contribution to Homeopathy?
JS: The provings are a very important part of my work, but I would not say that they are the main thing. My main efforts have been in post-graduate education.
AH: What are the guiding principles of your post-graduate education?
JS: As you know homoeopathy is a life long study. When a student finishes school, this is just the beginning of the journey. The schools put a lot of time into teaching basic principles and materia medica, but there is much more to be learnt. We can go deeper into every aspect of homoeopathy-philosophy, materia medica, cases. Homoeopathic learning is not linear, it is more like a spiral, we come back to the same paragraphs and remedies again and again, each time from a higher perspective. Becoming a homoeopath is a process of personal potentisation. We begin as mother tinctures and slowly raise our consciousness by succussion and dilution. Succussion is akin to the hard grind of study. After a period of being knocked about comes a phase of dilution, of realisation, as we let ourselves go and our consciousness expands. Too much dry study becomes boring and mechanical, while too much dilution leads to theorising and speculation. Homoeopathic education should consist of a fine balance of both these processes. As we become dynamised by succussion and dilution, our perspective changes. With each rising potency we perceive finer aspects of cases and remedies, we see things in a simpler and more profound way.
This process is a bit like the process of cure during homoeopathic treatment. Similars and provings, like succussion, provide a learning experience, whereas the simillimum provides an expansion of consciousness akin to dilution. After a good remedy the patient might have the same problems as before, but he sees them from a different point of view, they become smaller and less significant.
For this reason it is important to have periods of continuous education with one teacher, so that the student can be potentised to a higher degree. It is a bit like the old system of learning by apprenticeship. This is especially important in clinical work. It is of little benefit to see a case taken with no follow up, or with one follow up. The true nature of treating chronic disease, of the second prescription and case management, can only be demonstrated in long-term case work, a minimum of three years.
Once the students have mastered a particular approach, they can adapt it to who they are, to their own individual style. Then it is beneficial to have a period of integration and rest before learning another approach.
I put a lot of emphasis on philosophy, but I believe that philosophy should have practical application. I like to say that we should have our head in the clouds with our feet firmly on the ground, and hopefully, keep the two connected.
AH: How do the provings fit in?
JS: The reason I do so many provings is that they are an essential part of homoeopathic education. I would go so far as to say that a homeopath who has not experienced a collective proving has not yet fully become a homeopath. It is a right of passage into our profession, it completes the circle. Every class I teach is asked to undertake a proving, and until today every class has agreed. After the proving the students are always amazed at the difference in their homeopathic understanding. There is an enormous leap of perception and ability. As a direct result of the proving, materia medica, philosophy, repertory and technique become clearer and more precise. An added bonus is that the class becomes a much tighter unit, which is important for the future of homoeopathy as well as for the fun factor.
Our sensitivity as provers is not a matter of how loud the symptoms shout, it is a matter of how well we listen to whispers.
AH: How many provings have you done?
JS: Hmmm not sure- about twenty. Ten have been published: Androctonus, Hydrogen, Chocolate, Adamas, Eagle, Brassica, Germanium, Neon and Iridium (proved by the Darlington Collective). I have recently published the proving of Plutonium nitricum, which includes a toxicological materia medica and repertory of radioactive substances. I have quite a few other provings in various stages of production. The noble gases are nearly ready to go- Helium, a new Neon, Argon and Krypton. Salmon is more or less finished, as are Yew tree and Olive. Next in line are Gallium, Polaris Americium and Jade. Lots and lots of work, but I have many helpers. Without them this work would be impossible, and I would like to thank them all.
AH: What needs to go in to a proving to make it complete?
JS: The proving itself is only the initial and easy stage, the pregnancy. The important factors at that stage are organisation, intention and awareness. It is important to use provers and supervisors who have spent some time together. Close supervision is essential, as are group meetings. Otherwise, provers tend to miss an incredible amount of symptoms. Proving symptoms are, and should be, very delicate and fine sensations. Provers often mistake symptoms for their normal sensations, but once they are supervised they realise that these are highly unusual events for them. Our sensitivity as provers is not a matter of how loud the symptoms shout, it is a matter of how well we listen to whispers. Most homoeopaths, over the course of their homoeopathic treatment, have done many provings of their ‘constitutional remedies’, but they attribute these proving symptoms to life events, bad luck, aggravations or ‘everything coming out’.
Most provings never make it to the next stage, they get lost in the bottom of someone’s hard disk. It is after the proving that the real work begins, and it can take years. On my Web site I have a database of current provings (www. dynamis. edu). There are nearly 900 now, but I think only about 5% have been published. People aren’t prepared for the amount of work needed to complete a proving. After the proving comes the extraction, sifting the valid symptoms from the invalid symptoms, uniting them into one person format, arranging and editing. Most of my provings go through 40-50 edits. It would be a lot easier to publish the provings as Prover 1 day 11, day 21, day 31 etc, but really they should be united to ‘as if one person’ in order to reflect the totality.
The symptoms are then arranged in hierarchical order, i.e. pain upper extremity, pain shoulder, pain arm, elbow, wrist, hand, etc, each with modalities in alphabetical order and following chronological development. Then come the various types of pain-burning, cutting, lancinating etc, each with its sublocalities, modalities and chronology. It’s very tedious, especially with sections like extremities and head. After that the Generals must be extracted from the particulars- times, modalities, pain types. For instance, if there are sharp pain in the abdomen head and elbow, we can enter sharp pain as a general.
After this everything must be arranged in themes. This is where dreams are most difficult as they contain many themes and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The next stage is to repertorise the proving, which is a very lengthy and delicate process. In the early provings I tended to repertorise every little symptom, but I found that I had flooded the repertory with Hydrogen. This has happened with other people’s new provings too-often the first proving, where the homoeopath is over zealous and keen to represent every minor nuance. But we need to maintain a balance with the rest of the repertory. I became a bit more careful, so that Germanium is probably under repertorised.
The next stage is the layout and publication. So it is no wonder that many provings don’t see the light of day. The problem is that those people that the proving gets stuck with can tend to become ill. I have seen it many times. Once the force of a substance is unleashed by the proving, it doesn’t like to be blocked. The remedy must be used.
In the near future I hope to publish whole provings on the web, both my own and from others, so as to simplify the publication process.
AH: What are the most common pitfalls in provings?
JS: One problem is the desire to fit the proving into a central theme to match the substance. Another is finding the fine balance between including nothing and including everything. Too much conventional science will kill a proving. For instance, some homoeopaths feel that for a symptom to be valid, it should appear in at least three provers. What this achieves is a flat proving with only common symptoms and no peculiars, no character. The materia medica and repertory are composed mostly of symptoms experienced by single provers, for instance the haughtiness of Platina, the isolation of Camphora, the divine vengeance of Kali-brom. By definition peculiar symptoms are experienced by single provers. An interesting side effect is that the more peculiar a symptom, the less points it will have in the repertory, so that we cannot infer that a bold type symptom is always more important than a low type symptom.
By definition peculiar symptoms are experienced by single provers. An interesting side effect is that the more peculiar a symptom, the less points it will have in the repertory, so that we cannot infer that a bold type symptom is always more important than a low type symptom.
On the other hand we should be careful not to include incidental occurrences that happen during the proving and do not really belong to it. It is often difficult to tell what is proving and what is not, especially as a proving cannot produce a symptom that is not potentially part of the prover. It is a very fine balance. In the end it is safer to include a controversial symptom so that it has a chance to be confirmed or denied clinically. Time and again I have been amazed that symptoms which I was very skeptical about were later confirmed as important parts of the proving. For instance, the desire to live in the country of Chocolate seemed to me to be an incidental and unrelated symptom, but it has proved to be an essential part of the remedy. With every proving I do, I trust the symptoms more. Homeopaths who participate in provings are not out to cheat or invent symptoms, they are generally trustworthy. The process works.
Another issue is the amount of doses. It seems that the less a prover takes, the more powerful the proving will be. Retaking the remedy often weakens the proving, as Hahnemann himself observed.
AH: What about the placebo provers?
JS: All those who have undertaken provings have found that placebo provers get symptoms that are highly related to the proving. This is because a proving is an artificial epidemic. Once the infecting dynamic force takes hold of the group, it will effect everyone who is involved. This is because of the proximity principal. It is similar to a bottle of Arnica that has one tablet left inside. If we fill it with sac lac all the tablets will become Arnica. A strong dynamic force will affect a group of people who are connected in some way, either by physical proximity, or by spiritual proximity, or any other connection. This is why provings are much more powerful in a group that is united in some way. When a class has studied together for a while, they begin to develop a communal vital force. When you infect this class with a proving, it is as if you have connected it to a powerful amplifier. This is the reason that provings with random groups of unconnected provers are less impressive. Once the proving force is unleashed, anyone in the group circle can get infected. Of course, this depends on susceptibility, but the force is very strong. An epidemic of cholera will affect most people, regardless of individual susceptibility. In fact, it has been a recurring observation that placebo provers or non-participating members of the group can develop the most powerful symptoms. I have often observed this in people who have a strong fear of taking the remedy and avoid it somehow, they seem to get the strongest effect, often in a curative manner. It seems that the more you try to block the force, the more it will get you. Nevertheless, I do not include the symptoms resulting from the placebo experience among the proving symptoms of the remedy as a proving is a pure scientific document. These placebo symptoms may be included in an anecdotal section for those who are interested.
Provers will sometimes experience the symptoms via friends or family, while nothing seems to happen to them personally. I remember one instance during the Salmon proving, which was, of course, double blind. A few days into the proving, this guy’s girlfriend takes a strong aversion to him and smears the whole house with baked salmon. It was everywhere- in the bed, bath, remedies, and VCR. She totally “salmoned” him out, but he himself experienced no personal symptoms, apart from fishy smells.
AH: Can provings be dangerous?
JS: Of course they can, people do suffer. But generally most provers benefit. After every proving I have asked each member of the group how they felt they were affected. The statistics seem to be that about 80% feel better or that they have learnt something. 5-10% feel worse, and 10% feel nothing. But we cannot take a proving lightly. They often go on for months and sometimes years. The most important factor is to take the case of each prover and sift out those with a low dynamic factor, those who can’t ‘bounce back’ from life’s events, be they physical or emotional. If they tend to get stuck on issues for a long time and in a bad way, they shouldn’t prove.
AH: Some homoeopaths feel that provings are not valid.
JS: Strange, isn’t it. The whole concept of homoeopathy is based on provings. Without them it does not exist. We use our classic remedies every day, and all that data comes from provings. So I find it difficult to understand how any homoeopath can invalidate them. It is possible that they feel that the proving protocol isn’t tight enough, or doesn’t fit their idea of a protocol. If that is the case, they should produce provings and cases according to their methodology to validate their opinion.
Any examination will show that most new provings have a much, much, tighter methodology than the old ones. Many of the old provings, especially the later ones, were extremely loose, with no double blind, no placebo, no sifting and editing of symptoms, no supervision and poor detail on the mentals. Many of them were casual affairs. Kent said that since Hahnemann you could not count twenty-five decent provings, yet these homeopaths don’t hesitate to use them. There is no comparison of quality, yet they will use the old and shun the new. So it is a prejudice, a fear of change and renewal. But without new provings homoeopathy will stagnate. Some homoeopaths feel that we have enough remedies already, but if our patient needs a newly proved remedy this is no excuse.
The best proof of provings is in the pudding, and by that I mean cured cases. I have received clinical confirmations of my provings from hundreds of homoeopaths with thousands of cases from all over the world. Successful cases that had not been cured with other remedies. What else could I wish for-it is a wonderful feeling and the ultimate validation of the homoeopathic process. How and why anyone would deny these successes is beyond me. Homeopaths are putting a lot of hard work into these provings, and getting great results. Nuala Eising, Rajan Sankaran, Nancy Herrick, Lou Klein, Bernd Schuster, Anne Schadde, Misha Norland, Steve Olsen, Jurgen Becker and many others. Interesting that it is often those who have done no provings that protest the most. Yet it is true that we should be very careful when incorporating new data. It is important to keep a high standard and to confirm the process clinically.
AH: Which of your remedies seem to be used most?
JS: The more they are published, taught and repertorised, the more useful they are. People tell me of many wonderful cases of Androctonus (Scorpion) and Hydrogen. Next in line are Chocolate, Diamond, Salmon and Plutonium. But the most amazing of all has been Germanium, which I would not do without. Interesting, because it was a difficult experience.
AH: Why does Germanium seem important?
JS: Probably because it is a remedy that produces extreme lack of importance, which is very important. It fills a huge gap in the materia medica. One of the main ideas is a lack of self-esteem and feelings of failure, which are so common today. There may be a lot of suppressed anger and suppressed emotions, they just can’t come out, yet all external influences seem to flow inwards. This is the principle of a semi-conductor. There may be anxiety about the opinion of others, easy offence, estrangement and alienation. Take a common case of dyslexia for instance. Though the kid is probably very bright, he feels stupid and a failure, worries about everybody’s opinion of how inadequate he is, which results in a lot of suppressed emotions. Of course, this is only one example, and it should not be used routinely. But the picture is a very common one.
AH: Many people have difficulty reading provings.
JS: I can understand that, but studying provings is by far the best way to know materia medica, because you get the exact unabbreviated symptoms. It is often that word or expression in a proving that will lead one to the remedy. It is much easier if they are arranged in convenient themes, or when the master prover explains it, because they understand the concept. This is why I produced the videos of Androctonus, Diamond and Germanium, so that people without access to my seminars would get to use the remedies.
AH: What about learning new remedies from cases and families?
JS: This is interesting and useful, but provings are much more precise. One proving is like twenty cases, each from a different point of view. In a proving there is no doubt about the prescription. The problem in forming remedy pictures from cases rather than provings is that the remedies the pictures are based on may often be similars and not simillimums. We cannot be sure that the whole case relates to the remedy. Both methods are useful, but the best is a proving followed by cases.
AH: What is the relationship of provings to epidemics?
JS: They are essentially the same things, one artificial, one natural. This is why I teach epidemics at the same time as I do a proving. Epidemics are a conflict between the collective and the individual. The force of a collective disease is usually much greater than individual susceptibility, so that most people will be affected. For example, you are going about your life peacefully, and your only concern is your unfinished PhD. Suddenly, there is a change of regime. The fascist right wing party comes to power and institutes martial law. This is going to affect your life, because the collective has more power. Some it will affect greatly, some less, but it will touch everyone’s lives. You will probably forget all about your PhD while you spend time cleaning guns and barricading your house.
This is also the connection between stronger dissimilar disease and epidemics. A stronger dissimilar disease is usually an epidemic, which knocks the individual over, suspending his private life, and disease until it blows over. It looks like an unfortunate and unrelated random event, but we all belong to some collective and are affected by it (unless we are a noble gas!).
AH: What is the importance of understanding epidemics?
JS: The subject of epidemics is essential. Until now homoeopaths have been dealing with the individual, we had to master that part of the craft. But now we need to move to a higher level, to the level of the community. Once viewed from the collective point of view, individual prescriptions reach deeper and further. This can be seen clearly in family dynamics, for example in the case of a difficult child. True cure can only be achieved if the child is viewed through the collective of the family, bringing the parents’ issues into account, and possibly treating the parents too.
The subject of epidemics is essential. Until now homoeopaths have been dealing with the individual, we had to master that part of the craft. But now we need to move to a higher level, to the level of the community. Once viewed from the collective point of view, individual prescriptions reach deeper and further.
The knowledge and technique of treating epidemics are about to become essential to the homoeopath, because epidemics as we once knew them are about to return. The big infectious diseases have been suppressed by allopathy, and have gone into hiding for decades, but they cannot be suspended forcefully for an indefinite period of time. When they resurface, they will, unfortunately, be more violent and more difficult to suppress
The real doctrine of treating the individual via the collective was pioneered by Hahnemann in his system of treating epidemics. His discovery is totally radical and was a stroke of pure genius. No other system of medicine, as far as I know, has such a sophisticated method of treating epidemics.
AH: What is so special about this system?
JS: The amazing thing about Hahnemann’s method is that it brings both into account, the individual and the collective, but in the right sequence. Hahnemann understood that when a disease is collective, be it epidemic, endemic or sporadic, it becomes a whole entity, a giant organism. It is a bit like prescribing for a hive of bees. It would be ridiculous to prescribe for each bee separately, we need to understand the nature of the hive first. But we cannot give all the bees the same remedy, because there are workers, soldiers, a queen etc, and they are all essentially different. Trying to prescribe for each bee separately would be ignoring the collective, the larger totality. Prescribing for the collective only would be ignoring the individual, which is not in accordance with homoeopathic thinking.
There are basically two ways to treat an epidemic. One is in serial and one is in parallel. The serial system is to treat each patient as they come along, and to hope to get closer and closer to an accurate prescription. The chances of finding the right remedies are much reduced. In a difficult epidemic there will not be much success with this method, because each patient is only a small part of the totality. It is difficult to perceive the whole, just as if we were trying to treat a patient by prescribing for his fingernails one at a time.
The second system, prescribing in parallel, is to take the case of many patients, and then combine all the generals and particulars until they become more and more defined. For instance, one patient has a sore throat, the next has a sore throat at night, the next has cutting pain in the throat, the next has cutting pains in the throat at 3 AM, the next has throat pain at 3 AM. It becomes clear that cutting pain in the throat at 3AM is the common denominator. This is similar to seeing one patient over many consultations and coming to know the precise nature of their disease. Once enough symptoms are collected we can find the few remedies that make up the genus epidemicus.
We may then think that it would be right to give a combination of these remedies to all the persons suffering from the epidemic, but this would be crude and imprecise. We now go back to the individual and find out which of the remedies suit them according to the peculiar symptoms. Thus the individual prescription is made via the collective eye. If we were to prescribe a remedy that is not part of the genus epidemicus, it would help the individual to a certain extent, but suppress the epidemic, just as if we prescribed for a person’s knee without taking the whole case. The knee may get better but the patient would be suppressed.
The knowledge and technique of treating epidemics are about to become essential to the homoeopath, because epidemics as we once knew them are about to return. The big infectious diseases have been suppressed by allopathy, and have gone into hiding for decades, but they cannot be suspended forcefully for an indefinite period of time. When they resurface, they will, unfortunately, be more violent and more difficult to suppress. A homoeopath who will attempt to treat these epidemics in series, i.e. one at a time, will have limited success at best. Imagine trying to take the cases of a million people, one by one. These teachings about epidemic theory should become a part of every curriculum, in a practical as well as a theoretical way.
There are quite a few ramifications to the homoeopathic doctrine of treating epidemics, most significant of which is the nature of miasms. I will not discuss miasms here, as this knowledge is useless until a homeopath has worked with quite a few epidemics and practised for quite a number of years. Suffice to say at this point that studying miasms without reference to Chronic Diseases is like seeing the movie “Prince of Egypt” and imagining that you know the Bible.
Another ramification is in the treatment of individual pathology. If we prescribe only for the psychological or general picture, it is akin to finding the genus epidemicus and not proceeding to individualise. In treating a single case we should often follow the sequence of treating epidemics, i.e. , collecting the particulars (including mentals), forming a totality, choosing a group of remedies, returning to the main characteristic and selecting a particular remedy from the group that covers the totality. This keeps ones feet on the ground without losing the overview.
Another result of the epidemic concept is political and commercial. From the political point of view we can devise a system of government that respects the individual while taking the collective into account. This system would not be an anarchy nor a democracy, which is a dictatorship of the majority, but a combination of the two.
Commercially, it is time for homeopaths to move into corporate prescribing. This may be done in various forms. One could take the case of a company as a whole, and prescribe for management and interested individuals from the viewpoint of the totality. One could take on a company as a wholesale project, for instance, treating any interested workers for one day each week. It would be easy to prove that homoeopathy can reduce work loss, increase satisfaction and productivity, promote creative harmony. Once we have the statistics from one company, it would be easy to convince others. This would take homoeopathy to a higher lever of social involvement and provide occupation for more homoeopaths, who could consequently treat more people. Naturally, one would hesitate to treat the Pentagon, as this demands a miasmatic approach. But treating the Apple computer company could be fun!
Finally, we must develop the homoeopathic answer to epidemics, posidemics. This means working collectively in research. There are many collective diseases that will not be solved correctly unless we unite forces by collecting large numbers of cases from many practitioners and searching for the common denominators and remedies. Epidemics like AIDS and anorexia need a collective approach.
AH: Prescribing by kingdoms has gained much popularity lately. What are your views on the kingdoms?
JS: Understanding kingdoms is very useful in prescribing, but it is important not to use this doctrine too simplistically. We cannot say that what looks like an eagle is always an eagle. Helium also looks like an eagle; Hyoscyamus looks like a wolf, Cimicifuga like a caged rat. Brassica produces the flat-billed platypus. Marble looks like a cat. Isopathy, or what I call WYSIWYG homoeopathy [What You See Is What You Get-ed.], is a cruder form of similarity. The world of analogies, or simple substance, is not linear.
AH: What is your future vision for homoeopathy?
JS: My dream is that we will have full time, six-year homoeopathic medical schools, which teach true medicine from a homeopathic and holistic point of view, using the best teachers available. The colleges we have today are great beginnings, but they are insufficient. In the fourth and fifth years, students would treat in hospitals, and would visit third world countries for practical experience. In the sixth year one could teach miasms. All we need is collective goodwill and sponsors and this will become a reality. Then we can make a real difference to the world.
AH: Finally, what other projects are you working on?
JS: I’ve nearly finished two books. One on the nature of the syphilitic miasm, which is a collection of essays on syphilitic remedies. I wrote it in a somewhat different mode, experimenting with various literary styles, so I call it ‘The Joys of Syphilis’. The second is on the homoeopathic classification of disease, a philosophy book. Of course, The Dynamis School is working towards publishing Dynamic Provings, Volumes 2 and 3 in late 2000.