One of the main differences between men and mammals (with whom we share the physical body) is the capacity man has to symbolize. Animals may have a rudimental ability for it but people do it most of the time. A child at age one is capable of understanding that an object that is out of sight still exists. This means he can grasp the idea of absent things and people and he can even recognize abstract images of it. A toddler can look at a picture, an image, a drawing, a TV play and recognize the ‘rabbit’, be it two dimensional, big or small, in any color, speaking or moving, talking or being dressed up, in whatever material it is made. He even can use a symbolic sound to point to that rabbit and knows it is the same thing as his cuddly toy or the animal in the garden. To be precise: it is not the same but it is similar enough to be recognized as belonging to the same category. We know that nothing is ever the same, there are no two identical snowflakes, but to make communication possible, we use the same symbol for things that are similar enough to be considered as belonging to the same category, symbol or word.
For us it is such a normal phase in evolution that we don’t notice how absolutely incredible this is. A small child, hardly capable of walking and feeding himself, already has the mind power to understand such complex processes and learns with amazing speed to fill his inner map with symbols. This is what we call education: the symbols are exchanged and communicated. This means we agree on a certain version of reality. We learn how to be human among humans. If a child is left with wolves, it will grow up to be a wolf. The potential to be human is there but when unformed in the growing up phase, or rather replaced by another formation of the inner map, it becomes impossible to correct later in life. The wolf children never managed to learn to speak if they missed this development at an early age.
Of importance for us now is the observation that we recognize representations or symbols of a thing or an idea on the basis of similarity. As long as the representation carries enough characteristics, we identify it as the image of a certain object or phenomenon. With ‘enough characteristics’ we mean with minimum and meaningful characteristics.
A tree can be depicted with two parallel vertical lines and a circle on the upper part of this: symbols for the stem and the crown. Even a small child will draw a tree like this or recognize the symbol, yet in reality it has little to do with the complexity of the real tree or the enormous variety in trees. The symbol is not much but it is enough. Another example is the representation of a man: a few lines with a circle on top will do: two lines for the arms, two for the legs and one in the middle for the body. This carries enough meaningful characteristics to represent or symbolize a human being with its enormous complexity!
This is the way we use symbols and in this way we make groups. All categorizing is based on enough similarity to put related phenomena into a group.
This is done in science. This is what we also do in homeopathy.
The peculiarity with homeopathy is that the body of knowledge first started with the detailed data and later developed larger categories, whereas in science the domain is first divided into large groups or areas and then into subgroups and finally into species. It’s possible that the reason for this may be the fact that science is based on the outer gaze of the objective observer looking at what the phenomenon looks like and does, while homeopathy is based on the inner experience of what the phenomenon feels like and means.
The larger groups in homeopathy are founded upon proving symptoms and rubrics. The last three decades homeopathy took a quantum leap due to the understanding of inspiring teachers and the new possibilities afforded by computer software.
As all progress starts with the right questions, some homeopaths asked themselves whether homeopathic remedies that belong to the same chemical groups or biological families have similar drug pictures. The answer was that they do: the kingdoms proved to have common characteristics, as well as miasms.
The first observation was that remedies belonging to the three main kingdoms: plants, animal and minerals show common characteristics. The other kingdoms: Monera, Fungi and ‘Imponderables’ were examined and common traits also found.
It is often impossible to find these characteristics reflected in the separate rubrics: kingdoms are only to be determined on the fifth level: they are rooted in the experience of the self, hence the vital sensation.
This means that the same event can be felt in a different way according to the kingdom to which the person belongs. It is clear that this as a tremendous help in finding the similimum: once the kingdom is clear, only remedies from this group need be considered.
But as these kingdoms in themselves are not yet listed in the repertory rubrics, the homeopath must put the right questions to the patient and understand the kingdom before he refers to the repertory. Then the search may be limited to the kingdom to which the person belongs. It is clear that this means the search for the remedy is directed and is based on the pattern of disturbance of the patient, instead of being based on the amount of remedies that the homeopath masters. In the first case the outcome can be any remedy, (known or unknown to the homeopath), in the latter the patient is fitted into the boxes, which the homeopath has at his disposal. This clearly makes a fundamental difference in solving a case.
Let’s say the homeopath knows 30 polychrests. Probably he claims he can help 80 % of all his patients. Which is absolutely true. If he had only 9 remedies, he would also be able to help 80% of his patients. We can make our categories as large or as small as we want: people will always fit in. The two first categories are the gender: only two. Then for instance we can divide according to astrological sign: 12 possibilities. Or according to the types from the Enneagram: 9 boxes plus combinations. Or in Psychological Types: 8 basic types with combination pictures. Or in 12 polychrests: archetypical images. We all fit in many boxes and all those characteristics are part of our overall make up. But in homeopathy our aim is to prescribe for the individuality of the patient. In its logical consequence this means we should give a different remedy to each patient. Of course this is impossible to accomplish and the topic is covered in my book ‘The Charm of Homeopathy’.
The homeopath who works very hard can master more than 100 remedies, he can familiarize himself with a few hundred maybe, but still it is a very limited number of the remedies listed to date (some 13.000) and it is impossible to keep up with the ‘new’ remedies and provings that appear every day. Even though having a vast knowledge of remedies is a huge help in solving cases, it still takes a good method to know what will fit the patient. It is like having an enormous vocabulary and no grammar to make sense of it or on the other hand, having a thorough knowledge of the grammar and a poor vocabulary makes the outcome very limited and impersonal.
I’ll go into more detail on the patient based search in the chapter on anamnesis and analysis.