trio of book reviews by iain marrs
Homeopathy Unveiled: An Explanation of How It Really Works Written and Illustrated by Giri Wescott, RSHom(NA), B.R. C.P. (Hom.) Satyam Publishing, Napa, California, 1994; 63 pages; $9
Homeopathy: Beyond Flat Earth Medicine: An Essential Guide for the Homeopathic Patient
Timothy R. Dooley, N.D. , M.D.
Timing Publications, San Diego, California, 1995; 111 pages; $9
What the hell is homeopathy?
Jacob I. Mirman, M.D.
New Hope Publishers, New Hope, Minnesota, 1994; 36 pages; $4.95
These three introductory books show the individual how to be a patient of classical homeopathy. I shall consider each singly.
Giri Wescott is true to his word, -he does indeed unveil and reveal the workings of homeopathy; the hour spent reading this book will, as with a homeopathic interview, give benefits long after. As an introduction to homeopathic principles and thinking, the beauty of Giri’s book is its clarity and conciseness. In common with Sheilagh Creasy’s tradition of teaching, he begins by introducing the eight principles regarded as central to homeopathic medicine, -Vital Force, Susceptibility, Similars, Provings, Succussion, One Remedy at a time, Direction of Cure and Miasms, -and then discusses each at greater length. He offers particular insight regarding the curative action of the remedy, covering the issues of primary and secondary action, suppression vs. cure and the much misunderstood issue of antidoting. He completes the book with a discussion of patient expectations and offers the patient a guide for observing their own symptoms. This is a clear and concise book that is well thought out and useful for ‘seeding’ deeper discussions with patients; it includes an extensive glossary of terms. Here is an excerpt from the chapter, ‘Obstacles and Antidotes’:
“Homeopathic treatment emphasizes individuality. If a patient has a susceptibility to a particular substance and if the susceptibility is sensitive enough and the influences of the substances great enough, a temporary, acute reaction may be produced. This acute state may ‘antidote,’ or to use Hahnemann’s words, ‘overwhelm and extinguish’ the action of the previous dynamic remedy, as the acute state is dissimilar to it in terms of its symptom picture. Therefore, the chronic state is temporarily suppressed (see Primary and Secondary Action, p. 23). This is similar to the suppressive action of an acute illness. An acute self-limiting disease, when present, suppresses the chronic state until the acute state completes its natural course. It should be noted, however, that in any chronic state there are certain parameters within which the dynamic, fluctuating vital force may move, without leaving the chronic state.”
“When the vital force returns to the expression of the chronic state, it is as if a constitutional remedy were never given, and the chronic symptoms which were temporarily suppressed by the acute state then arise. At this point, the chronic remedy is repeated in order to carry on the chronic treatment uninterruptedly. This is the case with all acute, self-limiting symptom manifestations, whether triggered by contagion or by allergen. Acute pain, fright, grief or toxic substances can cause a similar reaction. All are capable of producing an ‘extinguishing’ action if the susceptibility is great enough and the influence strong enough.” (pp. 36-37)
Upon reading this excerpt, remember that the author has defined each of the homeopathic terms in the previous pages and also provides the reader with a glossary. Thus, Giri Wescott systematically builds the building of homeopathy from clearly stated principles, creating Homeopathy Unveiled for any who appreciate both homeopathy and clarity, or who, having one, need the other. Giri has studied homeopathy since 1980 when he was working in Calcutta at a home for destitute children. He has taught at a number of colleges in England and the U.S.
Timothy R. Dooley’s Homeopathy: Beyond Flat Earth Medicine is the most reassuring of these three volumes. The reader is introduced to the necessary themes but within the overarching idea of paradigm shift, -from ‘flat earth’ to spherical. “Eventually this conflict was resolved when the flat view was understood to be encompassed within the more comprehensive spherical view. The flat view works to a point, but is only a limited perspective of the same spherical earth” (p. 3). Framing the discussion within this well-accepted paradigm shift reflects Dr. Dooley’s overarching strategy, -to make the change from allopathic (flat earth; diseased part) thinking to homeopathic (spherical; whole person) thinking as non-threatening as possible. To the same purpose, there are illustrative cases, autobiographical fragments and reported conversations, interspersed with history, philosophy and advice to patients. The different registers bring the ideas and the problems alive: there is nothing gentler to learn from than a story in which a person other than oneself makes a mistake or underestimates what is possible…
‘The experience of successfully navigating the earth’s oceans without falling off the edge was required to convince themselves that it was so. These sailors had been raised with the belief that the earth was flat. Many had relatives who had sailed off the edge, that is, set out across the seas never to return. So, in spite of themselves, when they personally set off to challenge this flat-earth dogma, they found their knees shaking, their hearts pounding, and cold sweat forming on their brows.”
“After a voyage or two they found they had changed. They now not only intellectually knew the earth was a sphere, but, through their experience, this knowledge had become a part of them. Homeopathy may be new to you, but to many others it is well-known. Their knowledge and experience is available to guide you, should you choose to pursue it.” (p. 97)
Similarly, a case history (in the patient’s own words) (pp. 24-33) is used to illustrate concepts of individualizing the prescription, dosing, and the respective utility of homeopathy, antibiotics and counselling. Tim Dooley relates homeopathy to conventional medicine, to alternative therapies and to ‘special situations’: repeatedly he situates homeopathy (the unknown) with regard to what the reader already knows, clarifying the limits of the latter and thus the solution which homeopathy represents. Dr. Dooley also provides an appendix on potentization, an extract from materia medica as an example, along with some resource lists of organizations, remedy suppliers, and recommended books. Like the other two authors, he is to be congratulated on having presented an introductory volume which is unified by his own particular approach, -it will work well when indicated. Dr. Dooley, N.D. , M.D. , opened his naturopathic practice in 1978, and returned some years later to investigate allopathic medicine: “I learned a great deal in my medical training and met many fine people, but the wonder and enchantment of natural healing were nowhere to be found. I came to realize that no conventional medical specialty could satisfy me, that I would return to homeopathy” (p. 11).
Dr. Jacob Mirman’s concise booklet, What The Hell Is Homeopathy? offers the patient a third and different introduction. Jacob’s story begins with his conversion from skeptical, allopathic doctor to ‘accepting the impossible.’ His initial training was with the Faculty of Homeopathy, followed by a series of preceptorials with several renowned homeopaths. He continues his studies (as does Dr. Dooley) with ESSH, the School of Homeopathy formed by Vega Rozenberg. Jacob’s booklet is best introduced by quoting from a closing chapter written in the question-and-answer format which deals with various loose ends:
Q: Are homeopathic remedies all natural?
A: If you haven’t read the entire book, this answer may not make sense to you. The point is, who cares what the remedies are, if the healing is natural. The remedies don’t really have any effect on the body other than to trigger the Vital Force to react. Once it reacts, healing takes place from within, directed by the Vital Force. That is, we heal ourselves, and that is the most natural kind of healing.
If you still insist on the answer -most are indeed natural. Whether this should prompt you to use homeopathy is another question. You should decide to use it for completely different reasons. [There follows a list of remedies from the three kingdoms after which Dr. Mirman continues: -] “And then there are other things I don’t care to mention as an unaware reader might have an inclination to vomit. Of course, all of these things are natural and therefore good for you, right? Right! But only if well-prescribed and given in the appropriate homeopathic form, and not because they are natural.” (p. 27-28)
From the title onwards, what this booklet offers is a ‘gloves-off ‘ introduction to homeopathy. A couple of chapter titles can underline this, -‘Payment: there is No Free Lunch’ is a consideration of Hering’s Law and the importance of not suppressing the return of old symptoms; the final chapter, ‘Safety: Don’t Play with Fire,’ openly and categorically states that, in careless hands, homeopathic remedies can do harm. Thus, Jacob’s approach is refreshing because it breaks out of a self-serving presentation of homeopathy as ‘nice’ (read ‘green,’ ‘natural,’ ‘new age’ or whatever). This homeopathy is difficult, classical and to be treated respectfully; such a homeopathy has no halfway stages, -combination remedies or whatever. Dr. Mirman’s book offers the public not only the truth but also, finally, the whole truth, marking the end of homeopathic half-truths (mongrel truths), -in time a day always dawns when truth is welcomed home. Dr. Mirman gives illustrative cases with the benefit of full medical diagnosis and he includes an appendix with abstracts of articles offering scientific confirmation of homeopathy (the epigraph to this section is from Mark Twain, -“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please”). Jacob is relentlessly aware of the rational, doubting mind and he has transmuted some of his own into humor; the reader gains from the story and from the voice that is the product of this conversion.
Which of these books should you offer to your patients? The answer to this is the answer to every question in homeopathy, -offer the one which is remedial for that particular person at that particular time in homeopathy. Timothy Dooley teaches by illustration, with stories or reported conversations using a stand-in or substitute for the reader, -someone to make clear mistakes and misreadings of homeopathy; Giri Wescott organizes his book by clear consideration of first one principle and then the next; Jacob Mirman offers the reader a voice which moves deftly between skepticism, humor and cured cases. Best is to cure what most deeply needs to be cured.
Each of these books is reasonably priced, easily readable and may aid in the process of education that every homeopath can (should) offer his or her patients. And why should we offer homeopathic education to patients? One answer is that every homeopathic patient is learning to be a student of the vital force. Treat these learners well and you may aid in the growing not only of healthy individuals but even healthy new students of homeopathy, -the science of the vital force. Likewise, you yourself will grow as a homeopath as you study how to dispel different forms of darkness (ignorance regarding the nature of light). In Hahnemann’s words, the sick vital force acts in an ‘uneducated way,’ ‘like an allopath,’ -in other words, that which we do not understand we oppose and approach allopathically. God forbid that we should earn a living as a homeopath and yet still act in an uneducated way…
Underlying Hahnemann’s approach is the premise that the healer enables the sick person to learn how to rid him-or her-self of ignorance (sickness); the homeopath and the remedy are learning aids in this process. Hahnemann believed that only if the homeopath is receptive toward the vital force can a remedy be found that will help the vital force of the person learn how to be healthy. Students (patients) learn from how the teacher (healer) approaches ignorance (sickness), -from the remedy but also from the homeopath’s own way of being. It is the task of he or she who would be a homeopath to learn how to learn, practice and teach homeopathy ever less allopathically (filling the empty learner with supplements, surgically excising ignorance, prescribing the same learning to every individual) and ever more homeopathically (following the vital force of each learner, offering a loan of consciousness in the dialogue that forms teaching and learning). Hahnemann’s motto was Aude sapere; the customary translation is ‘dare to be wise,’ but I would suggest as equally accurate, ‘dare to learn how to learn,’ for how else can one build the foundation of wisdom (the ability to prescribe remedy, teaching material or experience appropriately)? The books briefly reviewed here offer the patient preparatory material for such a path, and are the fruits of three homeopaths who know their own paths.
trio of book reviews by iain marrs