“Kali-Yuga: In Hinduism, the last of the four ages that make up one cycle of creation. The Kali-Yuga, in which Hindus believe we are now living, is characterized by wickedness and disaster, and leads up to the destruction of this world in preparation for a new creation and a new cycle of yugas”. For all my travels over the years, I’ve never had any aspirations to go to Florida. Although I am sure there are many interesting and truly beautiful places there - I’ve heard St. Augustine is lovely, the Space Center and Epcott Center must be fascinating, and there ought to be something of the natural habitat left to visit in the Everglades, to say nothing of spring training and a host of places unknown - it was something of a personal point of pride to have never set foot in the state.
Perhaps it is just a personal disconnect that belies my ‘counterculture’ roots. Even the sunniest of skies and mildest of weather isn’t enough to overcome my (perhaps inaccurate) image of strip malls, motels and low slung housing tracts. It sounded so vapid and soulless.
This used to be a point of contention in our household. When my kids were of the age when a trip to Orlando was a cultural imperative seemingly experienced by every sentient being - or at least every sentient being who counted - save themselves, my steadfast refusal to set foot in the Sunshine state was not only a point of discontent but proof positive that our family was hopelessly ‘different’.
Now, for the past several years, this is the season when I’m packing my bags to go off to India to participate in a homeopathic course - and revel in the chaotic exuberance of a culture that is the very definition of ‘soulful’. This year, there was a change of venue - Mumbai was replaced by, of all places, Fort Lauderdale. Disappointing as this turn of events was to me and despite the fact that I was gripped by indecision for several months, it turned out that presented with something truly alluring, my resistance collapsed and I decided to head off to Florida in mid-October.
When the conference was originally arranged both the organizers and participants were vaguely cognizant of the fact that October was ‘off season’ in South Florida, that means availability, good rates and hurricanes. This was just over a year ago, before the hurricanes of 2004, the tsunami and Katrina, when concerns about enduring a hurricane and an awareness of the havoc it might wreak was relatively low.
But as the date of the conference approached, our consciousness about natural disasters had been raised considerably. The week before it was scheduled to take place, we were indeed faced with the prospect of hurricane Wilma sweeping across South Florida during our stay. A flurry of emails amongst the organizers, participants and colleagues local to Fort Lauderdale exchanged information and opinions. In the end, it was decided to go on as planned and those who wished to withdraw would be fully refunded.
We convened on Friday morning, October 22nd at a large, 7-story ocean front hotel. It was close to a full house, perhaps only 5 -10% of the participants had decided not to come. Homeopaths, if nothing else are a determined - some might say fanatical - lot and this was a rare North American appearance of one of the world’s most renowned homeopathic thinker.
For my part, I had faith that the both the hotel where the conference took place and the one where I was to stay some 10 minutes away by car, would be able to provide adequate protection and have emergency generators in case of power outages. Besides, it was my understanding that Wilma would weaken as it hit land on the west coast and swept eastward to where we were.
In retrospect, I was wrong on almost all accounts and, even worse, woefully ill-prepared. Aside from a raincoat, it hadn’t even crossed my mind to bring a flashlight, batteries, candles or any other emergency supplies. At any rate, the first 2 days of the conference proceeded as scheduled. Since most people were staying at the conference hotel, we planned to meet as scheduled on the third day when it was forecast that Wilma would arrive.
That was Monday, October 25th. I woke early, hoping to drive over to the conference before the full fury of the storm hit. By 6 am, I was on the road. Aside from a forceful wind and some downed palm fronds blowing across the otherwise deserted streets, at that point there was little to suggest what was to come.
Arriving safely, I waited in the lobby where the conference attendees and hotel guest began to gather as the winds started to pick up. Hotel personnel were out in force, battening down the hatches and alert to any emergencies that might occur. There was an excitement mixed with anticipation in the air.
The fury of the wind and intensity of the rains were increasing quickly. By 7:30 or so, Wilma had arrived. We could see awnings being ripped off the hotel, many signs and roofing tiles had also torn loose and some were swirling down the street. The palm trees began to buckle or just plain snap off at the top.
Wilma turned out to be much more devastating than anyone had predicted. Landfall hadn’t diminished its strength. In fact, contrary to expectation, it increased from a category 2 to 3 as it swept across the state. (Later, I was to hear veterans of many Florida hurricanes describe Wilma as one of the most destructive ones they had ever experienced.)
The unrelenting force of the winds was taking a toll on the hotel building itself. Many windows on the upper floors were imploding. I heard one person who had a room on one of the upper floors describe how the windows in the neighboring room had imploded and his he his vain efforts to keep the rain soaked wall between the two rooms from collapsing.
It took 7 hours to pass over us, including the hour or so lull when we were in the eye of the storm. In retrospect, it seems more than a bit odd that despite being in the midst of a hurricane, we tried to proceed with the conference - that ‘fanatical’ factor again. But, in reality, there wasn’t a whole lot else that we could do anyhow, so why not talk homeopathy?
Early on in the storm, we had lost power (It turns out that some 6 million people in southern Florida had also.) All the equipment was being run off generators. So, we sat in the semi-dark carrying on as best we could. It went well for a while, but our focus was broken when the hotel manager informed us that as soon as the storm passed, everyone needed to be evacuated. Aside from the damage the building sustained, without electricity there was no way the hotel could provide water and food.
We couldn’t stay, but there wasn’t an option of leaving either. The airports had sustained considerable damage and were closed. Gas was also unavailable because the stations couldn’t pump gas without electricity. Almost all the hotels were in the same miserable condition as ours. Where were we going to find accommodations in the vicinity for 80 people - let alone go on with the conference...
Between my first and second years in college, hitchhiking across a good part of the Pacific Northwest on the way to Eugene, Oregon, I got stuck overnight in a seedy bus station in Spokane. The state police were not allowing pedestrians to remain by the highway where my last ride from Idaho had dropped me off. So, as a last resort, I ended up spending a few precious dollars on a ticket for the next morning’s Greyhound out of town.
One of the reasons that night was so memorable was that an apocalyptic Christian sect known as the “Children of God” was trolling the bus station for any lost souls who might be persuaded by a cup of coffee and a vision of salvation to join up. Boredom mixed with curiosity motivated me to engage these earnest missionaries who described at length how the world was going to end in a few months and how only those who had withdrawn into the wilderness to live a pure holy life - i.e. only the Children of God - were going to survive the imminent destruction and establish an eternal heaven on earth.
That was the first of many such prophecies I have heard since. From the revelation that a conflict in the Mideast will set off a nuclear holocaust to the foretelling of earthquakes and tidal waves dissolving large portions of the continental land masses to the warnings of pestilence (avian bird flu is only the latest) ravaging humankind to the predictions of Y2K, there are any number of these cheerful scenarios that I have contemplated over the years. After a while, since none of this hell, fire and brimstone actually came to pass, a sort of “end of the world fatigue” set in and I came to dismiss them all with a shrug and ‘what use is it to worry anyhow?’ attitude.
But in the last year or so, my complacency has been shaken by a growing foreboding that, in fact, we are witnessing the beginning of a calamitous change that will challenge our capacity to survive. The lesser part of this disquietude is fed by a doubt that with India, China and Brazil, amongst other nations, rapidly burgeoning into economic powerhouses, the earth’s resources can sustain our increasingly voracious appetites for water, oil and other raw materials necessary to stoke the engines of development.
The greater part is fed by the increasingly apparent consequences of the ways we have altered our micro and macro environments in order to attain maximal material security and comfort. In this pursuit, humankind is too clever by half.
For not only have we polluted the air and water, we are inextricably altering the genetic structure of our food without understanding what the long-term consequences might be. We find ourselves awash in a sea of plastic and other artificial substances, which severely disturb the delicate physiological balance of many living organisms. Even commonly accepted medical procedures and public health measures serve to increase our exposure to toxic substances like mercury, chlorine, fluoride, radiation and any number of synthetic drugs.
While many of these effects are insidious and not readily apparent, the effects of using carbon-based fuels are becoming increasingly obvious. Some years ago, a homeopathic colleague, whose husband is a senior analyst specializing in the ‘global carbon cycle’ (i.e. global warming) at a leading research institute, first related to me how scientists were predicting that global warming will not only cause the ice caps to melt and glaciers to recede, but that there will be an increase in frequency and ferocity of hurricane and other weather systems.
It felt like I had borne witness to this prediction coming true in South Florida. It might be surmised that residents of Alstead and Keene didn’t have to travel so far to witness the same thing. Was the foot or so of rain that fell on southwestern New Hampshire a fluke or one of those ramped up weather systems?
Finding a local facility to take us in was not easy since there was no power in the entire area. But by some great stroke of luck (or fate), a nearby Hilton hotel was able to accommodate us. They had an emergency generator that provided minimal but adequate light, meals were provided in the form of cold cereal, salad and tuna fish ad nauseum. They even provided every room with a flashlight! But it was enough to enable us to go on.
It was in this setting that the conference presenter, a highly renowned Indian homeopath with a brilliant philosophical mind, lectured us on the homeopathic equivalent to the ‘Kali Yuga.’
We are used to conceiving of time as a linear, progressive phenomenon. One moment gives way to the next; the past gives way to the present that will become the future. That the past will forever remain so, that the present will inevitably recede into the past, and that the future will become the present and fall into the past is so imbedded in our perception of reality that rarely can we even ponder anything else.
But it actually doesn’t take much pondering to realize that perhaps our commonly held beliefs about time are not true. Consider this recurring dream which began in childhood and continued for decades that a patient of mine told me many years ago: She is walking on a long pier extending out into the ocean, carrying what she believes to be an earthen pot. As she gets to the end of the pier, she is about to step down into some type of boat, at which time the dream abruptly ends. This dream only stopped recurring after the funeral of her Navy veteran husband when she found herself walking down this same pier, carrying his ashes in an urn, stepping into a boat to disperse the ashes at sea. What were past, present and future in her dream and in her life?
In Hindu philosophy, time is understood as being cyclical. It doesn’t move forward in a straight line, but moves around in a wheel to come back to a starting point. Each turn is one cycle of creation, development and eventual destruction divided into four stages, known as “Yugas”. Each successive Yuga lasts for a shorter time ranging from a 1,700,000 years for the first down to about 400,000 for the fourth.
Accordingly, it is thought that we are now at the end of the 4th and last stage, about to begin the cycle again. This stage, known as the Kali Yuga, is a period when human awareness is predominantly focused on the physical aspects of existence and there is great concern with material survival. Consequently, it is an era marked by power and authority along with a disengagement from nonmaterial, spiritual understanding. As it approaches its end, the material world begins to come apart. This last phase is characterized by disaster and destruction, leading to the disintegration of our world in preparation for a new creation and a new cycle of Yugas.
Though not a Hindu nor inclined to interpret such doctrine literally, I have a great deal of appreciation for the sagacity of these ancient philosophical insights. How better to understand the ascendancy of science and the pursuit of material comfort?
And, it is becoming increasingly clear that as we have brought our intelligence to bear on revealing and manipulating the structure of our physical world, so too have we inexorably altered it, causing great havoc in both the macro-environment of our planet and the micro-environment of our own bodies as well as other living organisms. Whether this will result in the total destruction of our world remains to be seen, but the recent upsurge in natural catastrophes is not an encouraging sign.
Curiously, there is a remarkable correspondence between aspects of this ancient religious philosophy and aspects of modern homeopathic thinking. As a system of medicine, homeopathy relies on the administration of a single medicinal remedy to affect a curative reaction in the patient. The selection of one out of thousands of potential possibilities is often a complex task.
In order to facilitate this task, many contemporary homeopaths classify remedies according to the nature of the original substance from which they are derived. The most basic classification divides them into the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms, and subsequently into smaller subkingdoms. While animals and plants are categorized into various botanical and zoological families, the minerals are organized according to the periodic table - a chart of 7 horizontal rows and 18 vertical columns based on the increasing atomic number of the mineral element.
Over the last 15 years or so, leading homeopathic thinkers have made great advances in understanding how homeopathic preparations of all the elements on the periodic table can be applied clinically. Below I present an outline of some of the teaching of one of these thinkers, Dr. Rajan Sankaran, who, perhaps not so coincidentally, presented some of this material in the midst of hurricane Wilma this past October in southern Florida.
One of the most important concepts related to homeopathic mineral remedies is that their sequence starting from the upper left corner with Hydrogen (atomic mass of 1) in the first column of the first row down to the radioactive elements (atomic masses of 87 and above) that occupy the seventh row, parallels the physical and spiritual development of a human being from the point of conception to the point of death. Moreover, each row of remedies shares common developmental characteristics.
For instance, the first row is concerned with incarnating into a physical body, i.e. conception. People who need either of the two remedies Hydrogen and Helium found in this row have a strong ambivalence about having been born and taking on physical existence.
The second row contains 8 remedies whose central issue revolves around the need to separate to become an individual entity, i.e. the need to leave the womb. For the 16 remedies in the third row, the problem is to establish an identity in relation to others now that there is separation from the mother.
Once this identity is formed, then the question becomes how to be safe and secure in the world. This is central dilemma of the 16 remedies in the fourth row where the focus is on finances, work, shelter, and health. When the security is established, then the next challenge is to go out in the world. The remedies of the fifth row are concerned with exploring the new, learning and creativity. The question for the sixth row is how to utilize this capacity to learn and create to take responsibility for oneself and others. In this row, power is an essential tool and it is important to be able to exercise authority to organize and control the material world.
But as the weight of this responsibility becomes too great, it becomes impossible to maintain and there begins a process of disintegration. This is the 7th row - and it speaks very much to the issues of our present day world.
Humankind has exercised great power over the physical world, and we have reached great heights in marshaling material resources and manipulating physical matter for our own needs, dominating other species and fellow humans in the process. But this has resulted in a world filled with tremendous violence and an environment that is degraded to such an extent that the sustainability of our way of life is questionable.
Like the Kali Yuga, the 7th row of the periodic table relates to the turn of the wheel when there is a fall from the heights of materialism into destruction and disintegration. With that there is a release of great energy and the emergence of a different kind of power, the command of the nonmaterial world. And, ultimately, there is the promise of rebirth into a new cycle of Yugas and a return to the top of the periodic table.