Riding a train in India is always an experience. Exhilarating, harrowing, communal or deathly tedious - the experiences vary, but the ride is almost always memorable. Back in my old wanderlust days, after college and before children, I was hardy or foolish enough to withstand journeys spread over days in third class carriages fitted out with little more than padded wooden benches. I remember compartments brimming over with people and the remarkably courteous, almost genteel, way that we all cohabited in that tiny space. There were seemingly endless stretches of time when a train would stop in some barren, dry landscape. Of course, there were no announcements as to why or for how long. Local villagers would appear as if out of the shimmering air, bearing food and trinkets to sell to the passengers. Hours later, the train would give a lurch and resume its slow pace toward its destination.
One of the most remarkable homeopathic consultations that I have ever experienced was of a woman who was a panther. With a long history of extreme mood swings, periods of deep physical lethargy and a few other relatively minor complaints, the conventional medical diagnosis bestowed on her was ‘bipolar disorder’. She was medicated accordingly. But really she was a panther - in human’s clothing, so to speak. How could I tell? Well, it really wasn’t that hard. Once we got past the niceties of discussing some medical history and facts about her life, and began to explore how she experienced life, her nature just about pounced on me - so to speak.
For instance, it wasn’t five minutes into the interview before she mentioned a deep animosity she felt toward a particular person and started making gestures of clawing at her own throat. We spoke for nearly two hours, and at every turn of the conversation she spoke of competition to survive, being attacked with no warning, issues of physical safety, self-preservation, protecting her young, and repeated images of pouncing - ”a coiling up, ready to strike feeling”, or “crouching, ready to spring, powerful like a big cat with teeth.”
Alternating with this state of high alert were periods of profound lethargy, when, catlike, she would just wanted to lie around. And like the felines, nighttime was when she came alive. No matter how hard she tried to adjust herself to the early to bed and early to rise rhythm of her husband, it just never felt natural.
This is the panther, or more accurately the panthera pardus, commonly known as a leopard. (The Black Panther, with which this woman mostly closely identified is basically a leopard with a black coat.) Not as large as a lion, nor as fast as a cheetah - both of which are of the same genus, it is distinguished by its agility, tremendous strength for its size, powerful hind legs and capacity to pounce on its prey - sometimes even from a perch.
So, I prescribed a dose of a homeopathic preparation made from a drop of leopard’s blood. It acted fairly quickly to even out her moods and increase her energy. A year after initially meeting with her and several doses of the remedy at various intervals, she is feeling quite well, physically and mentally. The moods are stable, her marriage is working better, her social anxiety is gone as is the arthritis in her fingers.
Cases like this are pretty enthralling for the homeopath to experience and captivating for the layperson to hear about. They have what might be called ‘homeopathic sex-appeal’, attracting attention and stimulating interest in the energetic magic of homeopathy.
During a consultation when patients manifest their nature in such a direct fashion, when their core inner state rises to the surface, it is called ‘going to the source’. ‘Source’ meaning the source from which the remedy is made. More often than not, it takes time for a patient to ‘go to source’. It may take minutes or hours or not happen at all depending on any number of factors: the nature of the patient, how quickly it is possible to get beyond the superficial day-to-day activity of the conscious mind, how strongly the intellect imposes its rational perspective, the trust level, and the skill of the homeopath at establishing a rapport and facilitating the process.
Recently I saw a video of a case taken by a colleague where she sat with a patient for hours upon hours. The man was a highly educated and accomplished professional, but my colleague couldn’t get him to reveal anything more of himself than the facts about his illness and most rudimentary information about his own person. To her great credit, she was relentless and not easily intimidated, questioning and probing for some clue about his inner state. He sat virtually motionless, parrying every inquiry with a bland response that carried no energy whatsoever.
But at some point, something truly remarkable began to happen. The patient began to nod off. Still motionless except the heavy blinking of his eyes, one could see him start to fade away. Perhaps inspired by the image before her, the homeopath asked him about what type of animals he liked or disliked.
For the very first time, one could see him respond with a spark of true interest. He began to talk about snakes in great detail accompanying his words with mildly animated gestures. In a flash the entire case became clear: for hours this patient had lay hidden, refusing to be provoked into showing himself until finally falling into a reptilian stupor. It was just at this point, stimulated by the appropriate question that he finally revealed himself. And his pathology resolved with a dose of venom from the Coral Snake.
In contrast, when a patient goes fairly quickly and effortlessly to source - like our panther lady - it is very exciting and feels like a true gift. Unfortunately, not all cases are so exciting. Not all patients have such dramatic animal natures. Actually, relatively few do. The majority of patients don’t need remedies made from animal sources at all. There mineral sources, plants sources, and sources derived from diseased or health tissues. Somehow, taking a case of someone needing a dose of homeopathic cadmium usually just doesn’t have the same flare as a panther or snake or eagle...
Often, it is much more difficult to recognize the source language of these mineral and plant remedies. Identifying cadmium or bismuth or digitalis or aloe expressing itself in human form can be a more demanding task.
Recently, at a seminar I was teaching, a student asked why it was that particular remedy sources manifested in particular humans. Was it genetics, karma, the will of God, or just random fate? It was a good question. I have thought about it myself and heard it asked of my teachers too - but the answer is a mystery. Fortunately, that doesn’t stop us from doing our work.
17 years it took for me to get back there. And, from the moment of arrival, engulfed by the fetid smells and damp heat of the city, I started to ask myself, “Why did I wait so long?” It felt like I had come home. It is said that a visitor either loves or hates India, that there is little room for an indifferent attitude. Life unfolds unadulterated in front of you; extremes of order and chaos, wealth and poverty, the sublime and the base, the attractive and the repugnant, of joy and suffering exist in a proximity to each other that is at odds with our experience. Certainly, it is not everyone’s cup of tea.
I found myself immediately enthralled, invigorated and also quite comfortable. The streets of Mumbai (formerly known as “Bombay”) - like those of most Indian cities - are teeming with life. They were a source ceaseless source of curiosity and stimulation.