The concept of unprejudiced behavior is a cornerstone of homeopathic practice as stated by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in the Organon of Medicine (Aph:6). He rightly identifies the central problem of perceiving in homeopathic practice as that of prejudice. “this … demands of the physician nothing but freedom from prejudice … in tracing the picture of disease”. (Aph: 83)
As a homeopath and a teacher of homeopathy functioning in various roles, I have always experienced an urgent need to understand clearly what prejudice is. The selection of this topic for my dissertation has given me a much needed opportunity to explore my learning in this area.
What is prejudice? What is its link to perceiving? How is perceiving linked to perception? Are perceptual niceties and difficulties linked in any way with niceties and difficulties of perceiving? We will explore this at the outset.
Perception and Perceiving
The link between perception and perceiving, we can say, is observation. Let us observe the two pictures below and see what is revealed.
What do you see in Picture 1?
If we carefully observe it, we can see horses camouflaged in the background. There are 5 such horses that can be seen distinctly. All one needs is careful observation so that the details may not be missed, as the images may be inseparable from their background. With partial observation, one may miss the 4th or the 5th horse.
Picture 2 should now be easier to observe and comment upon.
What do you see now in Picture 2? Many people beautifully describe the picture as a romantic couple standing on the seashore near a weird shaped tree, probably very old. The couple is watching the sunset and admiring the mountains on the horizon. My son asked me whether I could see an infant in it. I searched but could not find it. Even the small stone lying near the couple was not it. My wife standing next to me could see the infant in no time, but it took me 24 hours to see the infant in the picture.
Can we not see, like the picture hidden in the picture, a meaning hidden behind the surface in the complaints of the patient? Or can we not see, like in the picture, the story of the Observer unfolding behind the evaluation of the patient?
Prejudice and Its nature
Now that I am in the sixth decade of life, I have taken this opportunity to revisit the areas in Life and Living (1981) to understand the deeper meanings of the unprejudiced observer in general and homeopathy in particular.
More often than not, what we call our beliefs and our knowledge are our prejudices, and we are not even aware of this fact, let alone being able to overcome them. Prejudice is not at the conscious level but subconscious and still deeper into the unconscious and its recognition becomes the first step in overcoming it.
The Practical Meaning of “Unprejudiced”
Sometimes one can say with affirmation that one is aware of one’s prejudices. One knows of other people who are this aware, and they take care that it does not affect their functioning in any area of life – family, work or social life. When this state is achieved, then the person can be said to be free from prejudice, i.e. unprejudiced. This can be understood as the practical, working definition of the unprejudiced observer – different than given in books, and is the most stable position to achieve.
The key to this achievement is our ability to observe. We learn to observe – others first and then ourselves. Finding our way through the errors of mal-observation and non-observation we gradually learn to be objective in our assessment so that we perceive the patient truly and well. This is taken up further through the cases.
Prejudice and State of Health
While living our life, we are constantly faced with questions like:
Who am I?
What am I doing?
Why am I doing what I’m doing?
Am I evolving or am I stagnant?
Am I enjoying health, happiness, harmony and peace?
Or am I dissatisfied, unhappy, having ill health?
Having examined both the states in my life, I have understood the cost of health. I have understood how a prejudiced (faulty) lifestyle results in production of disease. This teaches us the deeper impact of prejudice on ourselves. Therefore I felt the need to explore this subject in detail and present a way by which it can be dealt with and hence reduce its ill effects.
Dr. ML Dhawale
The late Dr. ML Dhawale from 1968 onwards was actively involved in translating the concepts of homeopathic philosophy into practice. After a thorough study of the Organon, he concluded that Hahnemann had given all the directives regarding education and training in the first six aphorisms of the Organon, as follows:
Aim of education and training – Aphorism 1,2
Curriculum of education and training – Aphorism 3,4
Methods and Techniques – Aphorism 5,6
Passing through this process helps him to understand the meaning of prejudice, recognition of prejudice and freedom from prejudice. The learner evolves the professional competence to meet the demand of homeopathic practice.
Group discussion makes the learner aware of his prejudices and he deals with them through the different roles, like an observer in the clinical session and then through the sharing of experience in the role of guide, supervisor and evaluator in the group session. Learn, analyze and evaluate self and others, and in the process know thy self and heal thyself.
Life and Living (Dhawale, 1981): He made clear the demands of homeopathic practice. “Life and Living” was his favorite book, a creative one, which has brought the sensitive artist which got reflected in poems expressing pain, conflicts, suffering and pathos.
Perceiving 1 (Dhawale, 2000): Portrait of Disease: How to perceive totality – what, where, how to perceive. Pg. 16. Enter and evaluate the people in the homeopathic Materia Medica.
We need to heal ourselves first, make ourselves whole through efficient resolution of our problems, before we can ever hope to help others. Hahnemann directs : Follow my methods and report your failures. It is imperative that the healer is healed first, is rendered whole, before he embarks on the task of healing.
Physician! Know thyself for what you are. Claim not what you are not.
Worship the patient for the courage he displays in placing his most precious possession, his life, in your hands.
Work is worship: it confers health
All education and training begins with perceiving. We come face to face with ourselves: we get frightened of the monster we have seen and tend to run away! We find the monster traveling with us! We recognize him, finally. It takes us long to settle our scores with him. Till then, we are locked in a long-drawn-out battle. All education and training ends when we have learned well the art of perceiving without prejudice: we become the master observer.
All the master homeopaths are agreed on the importance of the physician being an unprejudiced observer of the patient in his circumstance, so that he can give the appropriate treatment. However it was left to Dr. Dhawale to work out a program for the training of the observer.
Below are two of the methods he developed for evolving ‘unprejudiced’ homeopathic physicians. Each is highlighted by a background case
A) Training of the Observer
B) Group discussion
A) Training of the Observer: Diagnoses of prejudice and acquiring freedom from it
I was fortunate enough to work with the late Dr. ML Dhawale as a clinical assistant or as an observer, as he called it. I would attend the interviews that he or one of the other assistants conducted and later we would have a discussion on the same.
The following case is an example of my experiences as an observer taken by one of my colleagues. An excerpt of the interview is presented.
The patient was an MBBS doctor age 25 years. Fair looking, red lips, brown hair, a smartly dressed and successful practitioner well known in that area. He suffered from bronchial asthma for the last 2 years. Before we asked him any questions he told us, “Doctor, ask me anything else, but do not ask me anything about love affairs. I have been to so many different homeopaths who have asked me, “Did you have disappointment in love?”
Below is an excerpt of the conversation that followed
|Did you have disappointment in love?||(surprised) no!|
|Tell me the truth.||But I’m telling you the truth!|
|No, tell me really. I am asking you on the basis of knowledge of psychosomatic illness. A person suffers from asthma when he is deprived of love and you are suffering from asthma.||No, I’m telling you the truth, there is nothing like that.|
The physician remained fixed to his point.
As an observer, I remained silent, just listening and recording the transaction.