Reprinted from the journal of the american institute of homeopathy, spring, 1998.
What we, as homeopaths and healers, ask of ourselves is that we relieve suffering; not by interfering with the process-blocking pain, dulling the senses-but by bringing order to the organism, bringing harmony and balance so that the organism need no longer express itself in a distorted fashion. To accomplish this end we cannot rely on superficial means, on set routine formulae, on simple predetermined approaches-‘for this symptom you give this remedy.’ Our task as homeopaths is not to fix the nails, skin, or bowels, but to free up more vitality, to release the obstruction to the free flow of vitality at the deepest level we can reach. What is called for is that we take into account the whole, the organism as a unity, from the deepest to the most superficial.
The point of departure for this view, the organic unity of expression of suffering, is indicated by Hahnemann in Paragraph 7 of the Organon: “So it is the totality of symptoms, the outer image expressing the inner essence of the disease, i.e. , Of the disturbed vital force, that must be the main, even the only, means by which the disease allows us to find the necessary remedy.”2
The idea of totality as an “outer image expressing the inner essence” needs further exploration. In the taking of any case, in the formulation of any analysis, this combination or grouping of symptoms that expresses the inner essence of the disease is indeed the object of our search. Stuart Close, in The Genius of Homeopathy, expresses the idea as follows:3
“Hahnemann calls the totality, ‘this image’ (or picture). The word used is significant and suggestive. A picture is a work of art, which appeals to our aesthetic sense as well as to our intellect. Its elements are form, color, light, shade, tone, harmony, and perspective. As a composition it expresses an idea, it may be of sentiment or fact; but it does this by the harmonious combination of its elements into a whole-a totality. In a well-balanced picture each element is given its full value and its right relation to all the other elements. The elements which go to make up the totality must be definitely and logically related. The Totality means the sum of the aggregate of the symptoms: Not merely the numerical aggregate-the entire number of the symptoms -but their sum total, their organic whole as an individuality. The totality must express an idea. It is the numerical aggregate plus the idea or plan which unites them in a special manner to give them its characteristic form.”
Thus, we are searching for this “idea” or “plan,” this blueprint that underlies and unites the mass of symptoms presented before us. This concept is directly related to that of the ‘Essence’ of remedies, as formulated by George Vithoulkas. 4
‘Essence: That by which a thing is what it is; its unique individuality’. 5
The retention of form, of a specific shape that identifies you or me, a rock, a spider, or a flower, that allows the condensation of energy to repeat over and over again the same shape, is a great mystery of nature. The forces which hold together the pattern or shape of the thing, those forces which make it what it is, may be called its essence. Now, in a way, we cannot (in our present state) experience the essence of a thing directly. We cannot become one with it. We have to ponder its outer aspects, the signs by which it makes itself known. Beginning where we are and using all the knowledge available to us, we can search, however, for that central thread that brings unity to the diversity of manifestations; the central thread that resolves the peripheral manifestations into a comprehensible unity.
Beginning where we are and using all the knowledge available to us, we can search, however, for that central thread that brings unity to the diversity of manifestations; the central thread that resolves the peripheral manifestations into a comprehensible unity.
As an illustration of this search, it will be helpful to take a familiar and commonplace substance such as salt-sodium chloride, known to homeopaths as Natrum muriaticum-and see what parallels can be drawn between what is known of the substance itself and its homeopathic symptomatology. The first and most outstanding characteristic is its basic chemical composition. By definition, a salt is composed of two substances which come together in a fixed manner to form a relationship. Relationship is the most essential ingredient of a salt. Now, sodium has such a strong need to combine that it cannot be found in nature in an isolated state. Thus, sodium salts have a particular intensity with respect to relationship.
The unique emphasis of Natrum Muriaticum-the particular individuality of this salt- is exemplified by the rubric: MIND; AILMENTS from; disappointment, deception; old : NAT-M. (addition by Pierre Schmidt). 6 That it is inherent in the nature of salt to dwell on negative events, to be trapped in memories of past events, was known at least as far back as biblical times, as reflected in the story of Lot.
“And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”
[MIND; DWELLS on; past disagreeable occurrences; grieve therefore, to (1): nat-m]
The use of salt as a preservative is common knowledge. Talmudic commentary speaks further of the nature of salt:
“Rashi in Parshas Korach, in the context of the covenant with the Kohanim, mentions two aspects of salt. Salt is strong itself, and it gives strength to other substances. It doesn’t spoil or decay, but endures forever. A covenant must be unbreakable; it must be preserved forever.” 7
We can say this touches on both the strength of Natrum Muriaticum (its dignity, impartiality, and silent grief ) and its great vulnerability to the breaking of marriage vows, deceptions, etc.
One further point may be made concerning the chloride or muriaticum component of salt. It contributes in its capacity as a halogen the element of bitterness, of resentment. The talmudic commentary continues:
“When you taste salt by itself, it is bitter, very bitter. It also burns certain things, and destroys them. On the other hand, salt is a preservative. It also sweetens food, makes it taste good. ‘Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt?’ (Job 6:6)”
The relationship of Natrum Muriaticum to bitterness is well represented in the repertory both in the taste and food desires sections.
Sodium chloride is found most abundantly in solution in the sea. Thus, symptoms indicating a disturbance of fluid balance must be considered a reflection of the essence of Natrum Muriaticum. Along similar lines, salt is obtained by the evaporation of sea water. This gives rise to ailments from exposure to the sun, to heat, from dehydration. These examples are but an indication of what might be considered the outer form of the inner essence of the substance. Thus it might be said that a true totality of symptoms would be that configuration which reflects most closely the essence of the remedy.
The importance of remedy essence also helps to clarify the emphasis placed upon the mental state of a remedy. Although we might reasonably expect the essence to be reflected in every true symptom, there is something in the state of the mind, in the state of the feelings, which in certain instances allows for a more direct contact with its nature. Hahnemann himself understood something of this:
“The condition of the disposition and mind is always altered; and in all cases of disease8 we are called on to cure, the state of the patient’s disposition is to be particularly noted.”
“This holds good to such an extent, that the state of the disposition of the patient often chiefly determines the selection of the homeopathic remedy, as being a decidedly characteristic symptom which can least of all remain concealed from the accurately observing physician.”
“The Creator of therapeutic agents has also had particular regard to this main feature of all diseases, the altered state of the disposition and mind, for there is no powerful medicinal substance in the world which does not very notably alter the state of the disposition and mind in the healthy individual who tests it, and every medicine does so in a different manner.”
“We shall, therefore, never be able to cure conformably to nature-that is to say, homeopathically-if we do not, in every case of disease, …observe, along with the other symptoms, those relating to the changes in the state of the mind and disposition, and if we do not select, for the patient’s relief, from among the medicines a disease-force which, in addition to the similarity of its other symptoms to those of the disease, is also capable of producing a similar state of the disposition and mind.”
The symptoms are merely an expression of the state and should serve only to illuminate it for us, to fill out its exact nature, its image. We are not interested in mental symptoms but in mental states.
Note that Hahnemann speaks of “the state of the disposition of the patient”-not mental symptoms, but mental state. It is not on the mental emotional symptoms that we place our emphasis, but on the mental emotional state. The symptoms are merely an expression of the state and should serve only to illuminate it for us, to fill out its exact nature, its image. We are not interested in mental symptoms but in mental states. It may well be said that this is a fundamental error of the uninitiated, this “mistaking the finger which points to the moon for the moon itself.”
Thus we must of necessity turn towards the question of how to go behind the mental symptoms, how to allow them to reveal the underlying state from which they arise and of which they are the characteristic expression. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘disposition’ as “Turn of mind; Mood; The state or quality of being disposed to do something.” Looking up the word ‘attitude’ we also see reference to disposition or posture. I think we can better understand the notion of disposition if we use the word attitude. The attitude or stance that someone takes in any situation is conditioned by their perception of the situation, how they experience what is taking place in their surroundings, the interpretations they make, given the evidence of their senses. It is just here, in this interpretation, in this distortion of inner perception, that the basis for this “altered state of the disposition and mind” exists. I think it is fair to say that if in any moment the perception of what is taking place differs substantially from reality, then this perception may be called a delusion. To what extent can the current mental state of the patient be understood as arising from a central misperception of reality, from a single fundamental distortion of perception in the thinking or feeling apparatus? If the essence of a thing is “that by which a thing is what it is; its unique individuality,” then this must apply to the consciousness of that thing as well-to the unique attitude of its thought and feeling, to the unique and characteristic distortion of its perceptions.
A common and fundamental error in the understanding of symptoms, especially with respect to delusions, is to expect to find this basic perceptual distortion or delusion literally represented in the repertory in the section on Delusions. In some cases it is, but in most instances, we have to search behind the symptom for the attitude which is its cause.
This may be illustrated by enlarging our investigation of the nature of Natrum Muriaticum. From our experience of this remedy, from our contemplation of the idea of its essential features, we can come to the sense that its central delusion, its essential distortion of perception, has to do with relationship and the suffering that is consequent upon its dissolution. The feeling state is entrapped in the misery of the past. The state of suffering is preserved, the emotions are fixed in the past, and all current experiences are interpreted in this light.
MIND; DWELLS on; past disagreeable occurrences; grieve therefore, to.
MIND; WEEPING, tearful mood; tendency; past events, thinking of.
MIND; DREAMS; remorse, of; past mistakes, for.
Thus we can formulate the central delusion, the underlying fundamental distortion of reality, as follows: “I have suffered the loss of the only relationship that has ever mattered and things will never be the same again. This pain will be with me always.”
Natrum Muriaticum has relatively few delusions listed in the repertory. Most of them are common to other remedies. There are only two which count as unique to it. The first is: MIND; DELUSIONS, imaginations; dead; mother. His mother is gone and will never return. Life’s primary relationship, this fundamental source of love and nourishment, is gone forever. The second single-remedy delusion complements this well: MIND; DELUSIONS, imaginations; pitied on account of his misfortune and he weeps, he is. This is from Hahnemann himself. The original text reads: “From the looks of everyone, he concludes that people pity him for his misfortune, and he weeps.”9 The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘pity’ as “a feeling of tenderness aroused by the suffering or misfortune of another, and prompting a desire for its relief.” Thus, Natrum Muriaticum feels: “I have suffered this terrible loss and they know it and they feel sorry for me and wish that I could feel better; but this sadness will never be gone.” Along these same lines is another very strong characteristic of this remedy: the aversion to and aggravation from consolation. If we take the dictionary definition of ‘console’ as “to free from the sense of misery,” it does not take too much interpretation to see that the intention to console clashes head-on with the delusion that ones state of suffering is fixed, preserved, and cannot be changed.
…in the same way as the Essence is the center of the Totality, the Central Delusion is the center of the Essence.
Thus it may be said that, in the same way as the Essence is the center of the Totality, the Central Delusion is the center of the Essence.
1 Based on a lecture given at Hahnemann College of Homeopathy, Berkeley, California, August 1997.
2 All references to Hahnemann’s Organon were extracted from the Dudgeon translation with the Zizia search program distributed by Kent Homeopathic Associates.
3 Zizia Philosophy, Kent Homeopathic Associates.
4 Materia Medica Viva, Volume 1, p. XV11, Health and Habitat, Mill Valley, California 1992. “The Essential Features, which I consider to be the heart of the remedy…the singularity-the specific element, the peculiarity of the remedy-which sets it apart from every other remedy.”
5 The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1977.
6 All repertory extractions are from The Complete Repertory v 4.5 by Roger van Zandevoort , IRHIS 1997, and were extracted using MacRepertory v5.3.
7 Extracted from an Internet search.
8 My emphasis.
9 Extracted from Materia Medica Pura, ReferenceWorks, Volume D, Kent Homeopathic Associates, 1997.