There are many levels at which a homeopath can prescribe a remedy. A world of difference lies between the action of a remedy quickly chosen to relieve symptoms, and the action of a remedy carefully selected to address the deepest levels of illness at a causal level.
Originally, homeopathy was not such a complicated endeavor. In its early stages, experimentation and clinical experience led to a set of about one hundred medicines, whose curative actions were well known. Around the turn of the 19th century, the illnesses with which patients presented were generally less chronic and complicated (though no less lethal). Homeopaths of that era became masters at using these medicines to handle their patient’s infirmities, especially the deadly infectious diseases that the other medical systems of that day dealt with so ineffectively.
Entering the modern era, changes in the nature of society as well as the effects of the industrial revolution and post-industrial technology corresponded to the development of ever more complex and chronic, degenerative illness.
Homeopathy, too, evolved. The number of remedies available to practitioners grew from a hundred to several hundred to several thousand. The range of potencies of remedies increased as well. Reference materials based on ongoing experimentation, clinical experience and theoretical developments also became more extensive. The advent of computer technology and the development of homeopathic databases and related programs accelerated this process many times over.
As a result of these two trends, the increase in chronic disease and the proliferation of homeopathic information, the practice of homeopathy has in some ways become more complex and more of a challenge than it was initially. To meet these challenges leading modern homeopathic thinkers and practitioners have endeavored to advance its theoretical principles and practical applications.
Primarily, homeopathy is a matching game, predicated on the practitioner’s ability to elicit and recognize patterns related to the patient’s state of well being. Once the pattern is perceived, it is matched to a homeopathic remedy that shares the same pattern.
Today, with thousands of remedies at our disposal – and new ones being added to our ‘materia medica’ or database of medicines – homeopaths have been greatly assisted by computer programs that allow us to organize, access and analyze information in ways that were once impossible. Computer technology also has in part facilitated a theoretical evolution in homeopathic thinking – the classification of both homeopathic remedies and patients into various groups or families which share certain characteristics.
The categories of classification closely parallel the organization of organic and non-organic substances in the natural sciences. The largest and most fundamental division is into the three kingdoms – plant, animal and mineral – that encompass all existent matter.
Each of the three kingdoms has its own distinctive nature and the task of the homeopath is to perceive to which kingdom the patient belongs. A plant remedy, and by extension, a person in need of a plant remedy, is characterized by great sensitivity and reactivity. This person experiences strong sensations and reacts to them accordingly. Structure and maintaining the integrity of structure are the concepts that define a mineral remedy and person. Finally, competition and the struggle for survival characterize animal remedies and the people who need them.
In order to truly understand the nature of a patient and the remedy he or she needs, it is essential for a homeopath to understand the perceptions, feelings and attitudes underlying the information related by a patient. Only then is it possible to understand to which kingdom the patient belongs.
For instance, we might imagine a person seeking homeopathic treatment with the chief complaint of recurring headaches. When asked what is the worst thing about the headaches, a person in need of a plant remedy will tell of the terrible pain: how it, for example, feels like a tight band or like an unendurable pounding in the temples or like a knife stabbing behind the eye. The sensation of the pain and attempts to accommodate or relieve the pain will occupy the patient’s attention.
A “mineral patient” who experiences a similar type of headache, when asked to describe the worst aspect of the symptoms, might mention the sensation of the pain, but will eventually turn his attention to how the pain makes it impossible to work or difficult to support his family. The mineral patient might say something about the pain making it difficult to concentrate, which results in a lack of confidence to make appropriate decisions at work or home.
In other words, the headache brings out in the mineral patient a basic issue or concerns about his capacity to function, to perform adequately or otherwise maintain the structural integrity of his life. Depending on which particular mineral remedy is needed, the specific issues related to capacity and structure will vary.
In contrast to these two, animal remedy patients respond quite differently. First, the manner of response often will be the initial clue. They tend to be – no pun intended – more animated with gestures and descriptions; their speech, in general, more florid. They may use terms like “the pain is killing me” or sprinkle their speech with similar words like “torture” or “murder”.
In effect, patients in need of an animal remedy will convey the feeling that the symptoms or the disease are doing something to them, that they are victims. Stories about their lives, whether concerned with family, work or friendship, most often detail how someone or something is doing something to someone else – most often to they themselves.
The division of remedies and patients into the kingdoms is the most basic and general form of categorization. Once the kingdom is determined, further questioning and analysis will assist the practitioner to find out to which plant family, what area of the periodic table, or what type of animal the patient belongs. Again, on determining the family, the next step is to understand which specific plant, mineral or animal the patient needs.
This method is quite different from the standard or ‘classical’ approach to homeopathic where the patient’s symptoms are matched directly to a remedy without any classification process.
The method of categorization can give a unique perspective on the energetic state of a patient while also making it possible for the practitioner to utilize a wider number of homeopathic remedies.
Each of these 3 kingdoms will have a characteristic Vital Reaction. The plant remedy/patient is characterized by a Reaction that is literally a physical sensation – as in the case described above, and is thus a true Vital Sensation. Each family of plants will have its own distinctive sensation, which usually is expressed a pair of opposites: heavy/light, contracted/expanded, connected/detached, etc.
The mineral remedies experience the Vital Reaction in relation to a sense integrity of the structure of some aspect of life: to form relationships, to provide for themselves, to take responsibility for others, amongst other things. Their Reaction is often expressed in terms of capacity, confidence, competence or the lack thereof.
The Vital Reaction of an animal remedy and patient is expressed in terms of survival in a competitive world. There are feelings of attacking or being attacked, winning or losing, freedom or confinement, sexuality and attraction.
The concept of the Vital Reaction in homeopathy is a relatively new development and as such is still neither well known nor universally understood in the field. But an appreciation of its significance opens the way to new ways of perceiving the underlying disturbances that cause disease and treating them.
A third theoretical development is the delineation of different ways in which people perceive, interpret and communicate experience. Known simply as the “Levels”, this concept is broadly applicable not only to homeopathic or medical situations, but to just about any human experience.
Dr. Rajan Sankaran, an Indian homeopath who has developed most of these concepts, has differentiated 7 Levels which follow one after the other:
Name | Fact | Feeling | Delusion | Sensation | Energy | Seventh (No name)
As an example, when we listen to a piece of music, we relate to it or experience it through a mixture of the Levels. Most superficially, we use a name to signify it. Then we might describe it by how long the piece is, what instruments are used, when it was written and many other facts related to it. At the next level, we are moved by it because it evokes certain emotions in us. At the “delusion” level, our imagination takes over and we become transported by the music to a scene either real or imagined. We actually feel a physical sensation at the 5th level, such as a warm flush on the skin or increased beating of the heart. The 6th level is more rarefied and abstract, where we relate to the music directly through patterns of light and sound or other energetic phenomena. The final level – one that has not been given a name – is a transcendent experience that defies description.
In the field of medicine, especially homeopathy, people relate to their condition through the various Levels.
|Level 1. Name||I have a headache.|
|Level 2. Fact||It is in my temples and begins after I wake in the morning.|
|Level 3. Emotions||I feel irritable and don't want to talk with anyone when I have it.|
|Level 4. Delusions||It is like someone is stabbing me with an ice pick.|
|Level 5. Sensation||The pain is sharp, piercing deep into my skull.|
|Level 6. Energy||The pain is a quick, narrow force that I experience as a blue color.|
|(There is no application of the 7th Level here.)|
Depending on the nature of the person, they will relate to their headache focusing on one level more than another. For instance, one person will describe in great detail how the pain actual feels, while the next person talks more about how irritable it makes him feel.
One of the fundamental differences between homeopathy and conventional medicine is that the two systmes focus on different levels. Conventional medicine focuses on the first two: the name or diagnosis and the symptoms or facts. Without clear information about them, it is impossible to offer any treatment.
While they both are important for the homeopath, the deeper levels are often of greater significance in finding a truly curative remedy. Especially at the 5th or sensation level, where the mental and the physical aspects of the body most directly connect, the Vital Sensation expresses itself as reliable reflection of the vital force. This manifestation of the vital force provides a deep insight both into the nature of the illness and the curative remedy.
True to a tradition of diversity within the profession, some homeopaths have embraced these new ideas while others rely on more traditional ideas. In the world of homeopathy, there is value in both points of view. Both the preservation of tradition and the advancement of our understanding are essential if our science is to remain dynamic and relevant.