Dear friends, today we have with us in our Hot-Seat, the famous ‘facial-analysis’ couple, Grant Bentley and Louise Barton. Grant is the Principal of the Victorian College of Classical Homeopathy in Melbourne, Australia. Both Grant and his partner Louise have done intensive research into miasms and their influence on facial features. This research has been applied clinically since 1999 and is now a recognized diagnostic method to determine a patient’s miasm.
Dr. Bhatia – So Grant and Louise, before we start the serious discussion on miasms and facial analysis, let’s start on a lighter note. Tell us something more about yourself, how you got interested in homeopathy, and what the journey has been like?
In my twenties I started studying Naturopathy which would be the most common introduction to Homoeopathy for Australian Homoeopaths. I had already qualified and was practicing Psychotherapy but felt I needed something more to complete my practice. My first book was Classical Homoeopathy by Margery Blackie and I became an instant convert on my first read. I was fascinated with Homoeopathy and its structure, something I thought was sadly lacking in Naturopathy and appreciated the quality of its author. By the time I had finished the book I knew that’s what I wanted to do and I began studying Homoeopathy the next year. The journey has been an interesting one. After graduating and practice I began teaching and soon afterwards was offered the position of principal at the Victorian College of Classical Homoeopathy(VCCH), a position I still hold nearly fifteen years later.
Because my wife Louise is also in practice and is co-administrator of the college, Homoeopathy is more than a job, it is a common bond we both share. The college training I received was grounded and thorough. The patron of the college was Dr Subrata Banerjea who helped the original founder Denise Carrington-Smith, formulate a curriculum grounded in the classics. This stood me well and gave me the foundation I needed to understand Homoeopathy in a practical and clinical way. I now look on this training I received as invaluable and I consider myself fortunate to have had such teachers. Modern Homoeopathy in the west can be extremely interpretive and I feel blessed that my training was based on the solid unshakable platform supplied by Hahnemann, Kent, Allen, Roberts and the teachers I just spoke about.
I got started later than Grant. Like many other students in Australia I had already started working in a different field – personnel management. After ten years I wanted to expand my horizons – luckily I came to Homoeopathy straight away and not via any other modality – I didn’t have any unlearning to do! I had been seeing a Homoeopath and was impressed with the results and the philosophy behind it. I read a few Homoeopathic books, left my job and signed up for training. In the early nineties there wasn’t much choice in regard to Homoeopathic training in Melbourne – only naturopathic colleges with Homoeopathy as an elective. In retrospect I am so glad I chose VCCH as although it was small it was dedicated to Homoeopathy and quickly I became a passionate convert. As part of my training I went to India in 1995 and spent some time studying with Dr Subrata Banerjea who always made such a point of using miasmatic knowledge in prescribing. After I graduated in the mid nineties, I set up my own clinic and later began working at VCCH in an administrative role. Soon I was helping Grant with his research, running the student clinic and doing some first year training in Homoeopathy. By the late nineties we were partners, had a blended family and our own son was on the way. Somehow we still had time to talk about Homoeopathy and what became Grant’s major interest – the miasms.
Dr. Bhatia – You both have had very interesting lives and it’s great to see that your work has only flourished more after the two of you came together. My wife, Manisha, is also a homeopath and I don’t have enough words to tell how helpful it becomes at times to have a life partner who understands your work, passion and eccentricities! Do you think your work on miasms would have been any different if the two of you were not partners in work and life?
Yes it would have been vastly different if Louise had not been involved. When I was developing this system, I thought about it, spoke about it and wrote about it 24 hours a day. I would even wake up dreaming questions to ask myself! If I didn’t have anyone to bounce these ideas off, particularly someone as skilled as Louise there is no way this system would have developed as quickly and perhaps it may not have developed at all.
There is no doubt that this work is Grant’s work but I feel proud to have been involved and if I can claim anything it is that I asked challenging questions! We both belong to opposite miasms and bring different qualities to the work. Grant is more abstract in his thinking whilst I am more linear. He thinks and writes about broad concepts while I streamlined the system. I suggested that each feature should get one point to help determine dominance and I came up with the triangle. I like to see things visually and like systems, so that helped to pull it all together. There is no doubt that the passion we both have for Homeopathy brought us together and has fuelled the rapid development of Homeopathic Facial Analysis (HFA). We are both amazed that it has come to this point and we are happy that so many practitioners are beginning to use it in their clinics.
Dr. Bhatia – Today you teach about miasms to everyone, but how did you learn about this very controversial theory of Hahnemann? Who were your teachers and what was your initial impression about this theory?
While Hahnemann’s work on the miasms was a stroke of genius, it can also be very difficult to work with. In fact I must confess that I was like a number of people who during their training found the miasms so complicated and to some degree so unnecessary, that I contented myself to drop all thought of them and to concentrate my focus on finding the simillimum. After all the simillimum represented the underlying miasm anyway, therefore to focus on one was to focus on the other. This is not the case but I did not know that then. In the years following my graduation I had more failures than successes but enough successes to keep me going. Like many Homoeopaths I adopted essence prescribing as my principle method of achieving greater constitutional results. My focus on constitutional prescribing was necessary because chronic disease did and continues to make up more than ninety percent of my practice. Unfortunately essence prescribing is rooted in the belief that extremely subtle differences between remedies exists. Therefore the focus was entirely on materia medica and the extraction of how the indignation of Staphysagria is slightly different than the indignation of Nat Mur, which is different than the indignation of Calc Carb. Because I’d already done Psychotherapy I found this area fascinating and seductive. Later I was to learn that even though it sounds good the results never reached expectation.
One of the good things about teaching undergraduates was that I got to reread the Organon every year. And each time I picked up a little bit more valuable information. Around 1998 when I was reading the Organon once again, I was struck by Hahnemann’s conviction regarding the miasms. Of course I had heard this story a number of times before – I had read it nearly ten times myself, but for some reason this time I was really taken by it. His conviction and his willingness to stake his reputation on the truth of the miasms convinced me that I should not be giving it the lip service I had been doing in the past. Nobody knows Homoeopathy like its founder and if Hahnemann says that the miasms should be central to every chronic disease prescription, then that’s what should happen. So I guess that’s how it started – by believing in Hahnemann’s belief yet at the same time acknowledging that I had no way of applying it.
Dr. Bhatia – Your comment about results never reaching expectations with the essence theory is interesting. But I will come back to that later. So Louise, what about your initial experiences with the theory of miasms?
As part of our studies we had to do a lot of research on the miasms and write an essay on the topic. After reading Chronic Diseases, Allen, Roberts, Ortega, etc., I remember feeling really confused and decided (like Hering) that it really didn’t matter which miasm it was as long as the totality was covered. When Grant mentioned that he really wanted to understand what Hahnemann meant and reread every book on the subject I was thinking – oh miasms are boring!
Dr. Bhatia – When and how were you convinced that the theory of miasms is still relevant but needs more work for clinical application?
One of the reasons miasms remain so controversial was because of the way Hahnemann himself explained them. Obviously he knew what he was talking about, but to take such a large abstract concept and try and put it into words for everyone to understand can be an extremely difficult task, and I’m not sure he did this successfully. My understanding of Hahnemann’s miasms really didn’t take shape because of Hahnemann but because of the writings of Allen and Roberts. For example if I read and try to make sense of psora the way that Hahnemann wrote about it, I fail to pick up any patterns and put the book down with the belief that it can cause anything and everything but that’s not really individualizing. Allen and Roberts on the other hand are the authors that begin to categorize Hahnemann’s three miasms into more easily recognizable groups. These authors talk about the hypo function of psora, the hyper function of sycosis and the dysfunction and degeneration of syphilis. Now I can see trends forming and now I can see differences and how each miasm is a dissimilar disease in its own right.
Grant has always considered that everything Hahnemann did had to have some importance. It was really Grant’s personal mission to try and understand why Hahnemann spent twelve years on the topic and why mostly since that time miasms have only been given lip service.
Dr. Bhatia – This is very strange! Allen and Roberts had access to exactly the same texts from Hahnemann as we all do. Then how were they able to give a structure to the theory of miasms while we see a chaos with 90% of the problems ending up in Psora? Does that mean that Allen and Roberts have not merely interpreted Hahnemann’s work, they have given their own version of it? That will make the theory even more controversial. Do you have any idea on what basis early homeopaths like Allen and Roberts were able to classify the miasms in the way in which most of us understand them today?
No I don’t and I look forward to the day, where I have a little more time, so I can begin an historical research to try to find out how Allen developed the construct he did. So far I have not seen any previous author that has been the “missing link” between Hahnemann and Allen but if anyone reading this knows more about this subject and would like to share it with me, I would eagerly await their reply. I know that Roberts followed Allen but perhaps we underestimate the genius of Allen to be able to restructure and interpret Hahnemann where nobody else could. In my mind Allen is one of Homeopathy’s most unsung heroes. Most of what we understand about psora, sycosis and syphilis, even the tubercular miasm comes from Allen. So he must have been able to see trends and patterns in chronic disease. Is it controversial? No I don’t believe so. The reason for this is because historically it has stood the test of time. Many practitioners have made successful prescriptions based on the foundations that Roberts and Allen have put into place. Nothing proves truth like success. Allen’s observations may have begun their life as interpretations, but their continuing and repeated success raises them above controversy.
Dr. Bhatia – But don’t you think that the interpretation of later homeopaths varies from that of Hahnemann? If you read ten different books on miasms, you will get a difference in either the classification or in interpretation of ‘what miasms are’ or in symptom classification. How do you find a common working ground in all that?
Dr Bhatia that is the best question I have been asked in years. I make the claim that facial analysis is based on Hahnemann’s concept of the miasms but in truth this is only partially accurate. Hahnemann’s concept of the miasms included psora, sycosis and syphilis and he stated in the Organon the foundations of natural law that would allow the joining of miasms to create complex groups. However Hahnemann’s interpretation of the miasms is for all intents and purposes almost unusable. Take psora for instance, if 94% (I think that’s what he claims) of the world’s population is psoric and psora accounts for the vast majority of chronic disease regardless of form, where does that leave us? And how do we use it? I think it would be fair to say that while the foundation of HFA is Hahnemann, it is Allen and Roberts who create the working model through their understanding. For example Hahnemann never mentions that psora is about hypo-function, nor does he say that sycosis is inflammation and hyper function predominantly. These observations are first purported by Allen and developed even further by Roberts and it is this in which HFA is based. Hahnemann made no reference to facial structure as best I understand it. Allen is the first to do this. The trouble with Hahnemann’s miasms is that while he himself understood them in theory, he couldn’t teach that theory in any meaningful way to other Homeopaths. We know this because of the lack of miasmatic application that runs through early Homeopathic history. The only reason miasms are such a hot topic now is because Allen and Roberts made them clear. If they could take Hahnemann’s work and see the patterns running through it and successfully utilize them, then Allen and Roberts should be the base and following their lead has proved immensely successful for me. Kent says that miasms are the inherited predisposition towards disease, at least psora is. Allen makes the further claim that both sycosis and syphilis are predispositions rather than actual diseases. The problem for Hahnemann was that he was still seeing it in a physical sense rather than a vital predisposition. He saw psora as the consequence of suppressed and mistreated leprosy rather than an inherited predisposition that we would today call genetics. Allen and Roberts believe the miasms are genetically linked. Otherwise they could not talk about miasms, pathology, character and facial structure as all one and the same thing.
In regard to symptom classification I have not found pathology to be either credible or reliable indicators of the underlying miasm. Boenninghausen, Hahnemann’s greatest supporter, states himself how poor pathology is as a miasmatic indicator. In developing HFA the focus was always on facial features, never on pathology. It is true that we have seen certain pathological trends such as allergies and psora, reproductive problems and sycosis and bone pain and syphilis, but none of these are exclusive. What we have found is that the generals laid down by Hahnemann, Allen and Roberts have been far better indicators than pathology. For instance the worse at night of syphilis is a better indicator than pathology itself.
Dr. Bhatia – OK, let me now ask you the Big question – What is a Miasm? Hahnemann gave three; J. H. Allen added the fourth one, after which people have added Cancer, Typhoid, Ringworm, Chickenpox, Malaria and Leprosy according to their own understanding. Miasms have been called a predisposition, genetic susceptibility, suppressed and maltreated infections, a sin, reaction to a situation and what not! What do YOU understand by the word ‘Miasm’?
In a way this is the ultimate question. When Homeopathy first started Hahnemann was trying to treat acute diseases and fevers, which he did successfully. When it came to the treatment of chronic disease he was not so successful. Hence the study into why – which became Chronic Diseases. Hahnemann believes the miasms to be infectious agents of microbial origin, leprosy, gonorrhea and syphilis. I understand why he would believe this. After all Hahnemann must have treated more than one generation of families over his 88 years. He saw children of syphilitic parents being born with traits and characteristics similar to the infected parent. If syphilis as a miasm, that is a tendency, was passed on to future generations and had a microbial origin, then the other miasms would also. The fact is that when we are dealing with chronic disease we are dealing with far more than infection. Hahnemann’s continuance of the belief that miasms belong to micro-organisms has not been fruitful in the treatment of chronic disease, therefore I question its validity. As I said earlier the easiest thing to prove is the truth because the truth is what is provable. The fact that miasms are so controversial and confusing, is because the truth behind the miasms is not as accurate as it should be. Personally, I have come to believe that miasms are something totally different to how Hahnemann interpreted them, and find myself at odds with contemporary theory. In a nut-shell this is my understanding of the miasms.
The miasm is the way we describe the workings of the immune system we inherit – essentially there are three primary ways our immune systems cope with stress and disease. Firstly it can meet the germ head on, by attempting to create an impassable barrier forbidding the germ’s entrance into the body. This is the psoric miasm and when in balance, it is effective at protecting its host. Out of balance however, it will begin to reject everything as foreign thereby creating allergies and reactions so typically seen in psoric patients. Secondly an immune system can choose to conserve energy by not meeting force with force but rather encapsulating and imprisoning any invading microbe, thereby restricting it’s impact and stopping it from becoming systemic. This is the sycotic miasm and it accounts for the tumors, cysts, warts and fibroids it characteristically is known for. Thirdly is the submissive immune system that conserves energy by monitoring a microbe’s progress through the system, and allowing it to pass through unimpeded thereby limiting its impact. If however the microbe or infection gets out of control, it will draw on its reserves of energy to fight. This is the syphilitic miasm and accounts for why syphilis traditionally is the miasm that has pathology more deeply imbedded and central than the others.
However, even here we are still talking about infection and response, but chronic disease extends into the individual and this means that miasms must also influence the general make-up and character of the individual. Let me explain what I mean. To me a miasm is another term for a survival instinct and we apply the same pattern to microbes as we do to human beings in social circumstances. Remember as Hahnemann said, the vital force cannot tell the difference between stresses so all stress is treated as the same stress, he writes this in the Organon, in reference to disease and drugs and how the vital force cannot tell the difference. A survival instinct is how we protect ourselves and what we project on to the world around us in order to acquire the things we value and need to keep us safe. If we take psora for example, the psoric immune system is confrontational and competitive. When we look at the major psoric remedies such as Sulphur and Lycopodium, it should come as no surprise to find they have a dictatorial and dominating nature. This means they survive by out competing those around them. Have a look at which remedies are involved in business and power and you will see that most of them such as Sulphur, Lycopodium, and Bryonia are all traditionally psoric. Sycosis on the other hand has fixed ideas. Sycosis feels trapped and imprisoned just like their immune response and this also means that sycotic people will have a controlling element in their character, because taking charge of situations is how they become needed. This makes them protected because others need them around. The need to feel secure is the outward expression of the internal securing of infection. Syphilis on the other hand is submissive. Their survival instinct makes them lenient and yielding by nature and this protects them because they are so well liked that others are willing to act in their defense should the situation arise.
I do not believe in the contemporary model that each miasm is a step further downward from the one it leaves behind. That is, that sycosis is worse than psora and syphilis is worse than sycosis. It is not a downward progression but rather a difference. Life is built around diversity, the miasms just show that human beings also have this same diversity.
Much is made of progressing back up through the miasmatic scale after appropriate homeopathic remedies have been given, but the truth is that people under stress always revert back to their weakest point. Stress if it is strong enough, will throw people back into positions they thought they left behind years before. I have had patients that will claim after a break-up of a marriage or a business failure or something equally as distressing, that they begin to suffer complaints such as migraines or asthma for the first time in twenty years. Does this mean they have suddenly acquired the same layer of infection they had twenty years ago? Of course not. It simply means that under a certain amount of pressure, migraines or asthma will present themselves in this person, but they have been absent because the person has not been under enough pressure to elicit them until recently. This opens up a whole new paradigm of prescribing. The base line is that I do not believe even under the best homeopathic remedy that cure means the eradication of all previous symptoms forever. Rather, I see cure as a balance between stress and response. Homeopathic remedies build a buffer zone between how much stress a person can endure before the same response begins again.
This makes absolute sense to me now, that there can only be seven miasms or seven responses. Using the three basic ways that a person or immune system can respond, that is outwardly, inwardly or sticking to a fixed position (psora, syphilis and sycosis), only four other miasms can exist alongside those primary miasms. When two dissimilar diseases of equal strength join together – tubercular (psora & syphilis), syco-psora, syco-syphilis and cancer (psora, sycosis and syphilis of equal strength) from the three primary responses come a total of seven. It is just simple math. We have taken pathologies out of the equation so typhoid, malaria, chickenpox, etc., just can’t exist as miasms in their own right. They may be illnesses that occur but they don’t describe a miasm as an independent response state.
Grant worked backwards to get to this point but when a system is true it will explain everything; and put simply, our world is three dimensional, there are three particles (electrons, neutrons and protons). There are the three forces of outward, fixed and inward and the three measurements of height, width and depth. Psora, sycosis and syphilis represent the Homeopathic view of this natural construct. These same forces shape our facial structure – they shape every part of who we are, how we see life, how we respond to stress, how we look, absolutely everything. Homeopathy is so clever and yet so simple!