AH: One of the things I am inspired by is your knowledge of the homeopathic materia medica. Can you tell me how you learn about a remedy?
Mangialavori: I have learned the most important things about remedies from my own cases. What I like most is to have a living picture of a remedy. The material we have in our books and in the repertories is mostly very “cold” and not so instructive, at least apart from the so-called polychrests. When I was first learning, most teachers gave just their opinions, which often were mere repetitions of repetitions of repetitions. Very few teachers were able to deliver authentic and reliable information, which I believe are necessary steps to a deeper understanding of a remedy picture.
I was astonished to see how little connected to the reality of cured cases the teaching could be. I have been to many seminars where people had very strange ideas about certain remedies. They were able to speak in an amazing, brilliant and fantastic way about these ideas but mostly what they taught was not attached to the reality of cured patients. I insist that it is more important to have good cures than to have brilliant ideas. These cures should be documented. This is what Hahnemann taught us.
I consider a well-documented case to be the story of the patient, the patient’s suffering and the patient’s healing process, reported over a long time (at least one to two years), in the patient’s own words and not simply the connection of symptoms. I am very disturbed when I read case reports that are nothing but a list of symptoms. I totally disagree with this. I think that this is allopathic, not homeopathic thinking. We criticize the allopaths for making their diagnosis only on some pathological symptoms; but it is exactly the same attitude when you come to a homeopathic remedy by saying this patient has a fear of thunderstorms, a desire for salt and a desire for ice cream and therefore it is a case of Phosphorus. It is like saying “there is this or that amount of red blood cells, protein, sodium, etc.” It is exactly the same as allopathic thinking. From this you cannot derive any understanding of the patient. I believe the only way to get a vivid experience of a remedy picture is to collect well-documented cured cases. Until you have seen a cure from a remedy, using all your senses to see what was really healed-what the process was-how can you have a clear experience of such a remedy? This is the only way in which everyone of us can develop a clear experience with a remedy.
Until you have seen a cure from a remedy, using all your senses to see what was really healed-what the process was-how can you have a clear experience of such a remedy?
So, to come back to your question, I have collected those of my cases, where the remedy had worked in both the patient’s chronic and acute conditions, and for a long time. Then I studied this material thoroughly for a better (and more often for a first) understanding of a remedy. I tried to find out what was common in the cases and in the stories of the patients, in their words, explanations and descriptions of their state and the history of this state. This, I believe, is crucial and absolutely necessary if you want to develop as a homeopath rather than relying on very dry second-hand information. Your own work is your best teacher.
AH: You have spoken about the importance of studying well-documented cases. You mentioned that you are working on the Delphi Project?
Mangialavori: Yes, it is something I am seriously involved with because I have to say that I am really fed up with this mass of material that we have and which contains just copies of copies of copies of other books. I think this is totally useless. I don’t understand why homeopaths need to write books on remedies that don’t belong to their own range of experience. It’s stupid and it is also risky. If you have good ideas and good experiences about some remedies, it is better to write about them and nothing else. Thus, much good old information becomes diluted and further diluted until it’s just a watery soup.
In our Delphi Project, which is still in its initial phase, we are collecting cured cases where both the case report and the follow- ups are carefully documented. What our time needs most is authentic and valid information about experiences with remedies in cured people. After a certain number of cases have been collected the aim is to review them and to publish the essentials or themes which could be derived from such cases. This alone can be the material of a real materia medica viva.
AH: You talked about developing a vivid picture to learn remedies. What would you suggest to students for studying materia medica?
Mangialavori: The best way to study materia medica is to study well-taken and well-treated cases. You can call yourself lucky if you find a teacher who follows this very practical model of teaching.
Secondly, it is very useful to have an idea what the remedy substance is. I don’t think you can use Aurum successfully without knowing that Aurum is gold; you can’t use Bufo without knowing that Bufo is a toad. Unfortunately, our homeopathic literature gives very little information about the substances, therefore you have to find sources yourself. We do have a lot of very useful biological, chemical, physiological, pharmacological and-what is also very important-anthropological and medical historical information about the relation of all these minerals, plants and animals with human life. All this information is of the utmost interest to us and can very often lead directly to the center of a much deeper understanding for the use of a homeopathic remedy. These studies must include all relevant material wherever it may come from and without any prejudice. Old mythological narration and fairy tales which center around a plant, for example, can be very instructive. Very often you can detect an essential focus of a remedy in the history of its use or in its name. You might get very precious information about indications for a snake remedy through studying the life of these animals.