Homeopathy Book Reviews

The Elements of Homoeopathy – Volumes 1 and 2 by Dr. P. Sankaran – Reviewed by Vatsala Sperling.

Written by Vatsala Sperling

The Elements of Homoeopathy Vols. 1 and 2 by Dr. P. Sankaran (father of Rajan) are reviewed by Vatsala Sperling. These volumes cover many aspects of practicing homeopathy.

Title: The Elements of Homoeopathy Volumes 1 and 2
Author: P. Sankaran
Edited by Rajan Sankaran
Published by: Homeopathic Medical Publishers, Mumbai, India
Year of publication: 1996, volume 1, 422 pages plus index, volume 2
303 pages plus index – hard cover
Reviewer: Vatsala Sperling

Though many children are known to follow into their parent’s profession, there are but few who get to edit books written by their parent. Dr. Rajan Sankaran is one of those few and he has edited two volumes that contain the essence of  that he had  grasped directly from his father.

As an editor, Dr Sankaran recalls that during his father’s time,  was rather simple and had just two schools of homeopathic practice: the keynote (Calcutta) and the Kentian (London).  was based on symptoms found in patients and remedies and behind this simplicity lay the great understanding of homeopathic philosophy and the nature of remedies.

The practitioners of past, including Dr. P Sankaran, had the luxury of experiencing and experimenting. They studied long and hard, and much of what they studied was somehow printed clearly and retained in their mind. When a testing moment appeared, they were able to draw from the work of great masters, check it against their own experience and clinical findings, and then help their patients.

Such hard-driven old-school is unheard of these days. The younger generation  comes into  saucer-eyed, is drawn to charismatic teachers and styles, and when they are let loose on the unsuspecting public, as newly-minted practitioners, their foundation in  is rather foamy like a super-fluffy sponge cake or shaky like a jell-o!!

For this very reason, these two volumes edited by Dr. Rajan Sankaran are important. These   books build a bridge between the style and substance of the masters of earlier centuries with a practitioner who had taught in more recent times, during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Dr. P Sankaran studied, experienced for himself in his practice and then taught history to research, pharmacy to philosophy, case-taking to repertory, proving to potency. And in short, these are the lessons Dr. Rajan Sankaran began learning while he still was in his cradle, so to speak. In editing the two volumes, in an introduction, he lays it out that these no-nonsense teachings from his father created the foundation for his own education and adventure.

In volume 1, Elements of Homeopathic Pharmacy is an interesting chapter as it tells us about the subtle workings of a pharmacy that produces homeopathic remedies. Mostly, we are used to purchasing remedies and not involving ourselves with the inner workings of a pharmacy.

Apparently, once a container comes in contact with homeopathic potentized medicine, it continues to carry the drug-energy till it is exposed to dry heat at 160 degrees Celsius. THAT IS THE POWER OF “NOTHING”. The historical anecdotes of potentized remedies retaining their viability over several decades is also interesting – when properly handled, the potentized remedies do not have an expiration date!

In the next chapter, we are asked to view books of materia medica and repertories as the roadmap, time-table and guidebook of the power at our disposal. The work and insight of the past masters, Clarke, Kent, Dunham, Farrington and others has distilled the dreary account of drug provings into living, vibrating, throbbing images of the drugs.

The drugs literally emerge with a personality. How could we ever do without these? Oversimplification of old-school materia medica will go only so far. We still have to study a great deal and retain a living image of the drugs in our mind so that we may be able to identify it on the bedside of a patient.

While writing down random notes on some remedies, Dr. P Sankaran has handled 25 different remedies, mostly well-known poly-crests. The very first remedy, Alumina, begins with a note about increasing use of Aluminum pots and pans in cooking.

As a homeopath, he was practicing in a time when the mainstream had not yet woken up to the environmental factors as affecting our wellness, and very obviously, he was way ahead of the mainstream in connecting the symptoms of Alumina to overuse of Aluminum in daily life. All remedies are brought to life with precision, brevity and a few ultra-mini cases.

Apparently, Dr. P Sankaran was not shy of using nosodes as often as necessary and he writes about 25 of them. Nosodes are some of the most abused, unused and misused remedies in the homeopathic materia medica (Goldberg). Application of nosodes (identical moribific agent) led to formation of a branch in Isopathy, and in many learned circles, nosodes are considered as oral vaccines.

In the same vein, sarcodes, prepared from healthy tissues, are invaluable to us as curatives. Those amongst us who are hesitant to use nosodes, should print out the ten indications for prescribing nosodes, pages 126-127, volume 1, and have it pinned to the notice board in our offices, and we must also include clues about how to use bowel nosodes.

The correct style of case-taking, and analysis are explained in depth. Though the author has masterfully used repertory for finding remedies throughout his practice, he does mention that each of the homeopathic drugs have vast potential. Each drug is like an ocean. Our vision, understanding and experience are so limited that we cannot fathom any drug fully, even though we may choose to commit our lifetime to studying a drug.

The limits of our own knowledge must motivate us to be more diligent in using the repertories for solving our cases. A full chapter is devoted to various disease conditions that have been resolved beautifully with intelligent choices of rubrics that led to curative remedies.

This volume also includes a concise pocket repertory with a vast sphere of utility.

A very interesting chapter is on using remedies for prophylaxis which is defined as “action taken to prevent disease, especially by specified means or against a specified disease.”

The author admits that though the efficacy of homeopathic prophylactic remedies for various conditions has not been proved by controlled studies and statistical records, yet generations of homeopaths have used these remedies to prevent these conditions and they claim to have done it successfully.

However, since our opinions on use of homeopathic remedies as well as their dosage and potency, for prevention of disease conditions are not unanimous, the remedies are not deployed for large scale immunizations. This chapter includes a list of conditions for which homeopathic prophylactic drugs are mentioned.

Now we are on to volume 2. If life was simple and by following the philosophy and materia medica thoroughly, we could all be assured that we will never run into any difficulty in our practice, then perhaps, Dr. P Sankaran would not have the need to begin volume 2 with a chapter on “Difficulties in practice”.

But he knew that our practice could stumble despite our fine knowledge and intentions to help the sick and relieve them of their suffering, and so, let us see what he shares with us by way of helping us get around the difficulties in our practice.

Apparently, as it is now, so it was back then during Dr. P Sankaran’s time: there is a lack of definitive guidance regarding choice of potency. And even now, a war can erupt over whether to give high or low potency and though various masters of the past have given their opinions and shared their experience, the choice of potency is quite dependent on the prescriber’s own experience.

Some interesting tidbits that jump out of the pages are use of mixture of dilutions, for example, 30c, 200c, 500 and 1000 all given together and starting treatment with high potency, repeating it as necessary, and following it with low potency. Twelve tentative rules for potency selection can be useful when we are trying to make up our mind about potency.

I would have loved to see what Dr. P. Sankaran had to say about poly-pharmacy – even remedy manufacturers of high repute are creating combination remedies using several different potencies and several different remedies. Many of these can be purchased over the counter. But I did not find any comment on this topic.

A similar conundrum is repetition of the dose: The author saw in his own practice that during acutes, repetition of an indicated remedy several times even after improvement had occurred, did not create any aggravation or relapse of symptoms.

What to do for chronic complaints? Here I would like to quote from the author, “No doubt, Hahnemann’s clear advice in the 5th edition, that a remedy should be repeated only when the effect of the previous dose has been completely exhausted, was implicitly obeyed and the wisdom of this teaching repeatedly confirmed by his great followers like Allen, Boger, Clarke, Dunham, Farrington, Kent, Lippe, and many others.

But we must remember that these masters did not have access to the later teachings of Hahnemann. They knew that Hahnemann was making some radical changes in his methods but since the 6th edition of the Organon was not published till as late as 1921 – thanks to intransigence of Madame Melanie Hahnemann – though it was ready as early as in 1842, these masters had no idea about the new methods.

They naturally faithfully followed and endorsed the original teachings of Hahnemann…..the final teachings of Hahnemann went unknown, and therefore untested, unpracticed and unendorsed. With 88 years gap between publication of the 5th and the 6th editions of the Organon, homeopaths by and large, even today, have remained loyal to Kentian style of prescribing a dose and waiting instead of repeating a dose.

What about the dietary do’s and don’ts during homeopathic treatment? The author’s experience indicates that strict restrictions are rather unnecessary and the medicinal and highly aromatic substances like spices and coffee do not diminish the medicinal effect of the homeopathic remedies.

In fact, homeopathic potentization develops in the drug dilutions an extraordinary amount of the specific drug energy, a curative force which is so all-powerful that it not only seems to antidote all morbid influences, past and present, but it restores the vital force to its normal equilibrium and removes all evidence of sickness, at times even in the face of apparent obstacles to recovery.

This experience of the author is very reassuring because, in the modern day and age, though people love to follow this or that diet, the discipline around eating habits are disappearing fast and a Starbucks café is just around the corner! Yoo-hoo, remedies still work.

To answer the question, what to do when the indicated remedy fails, the author uses humor and asks us to find out if the remedy was really and correctly indicated at all. An indicated remedy could quite be based on our opinion or the set of data we have managed to gather and a fresh perspective on the case could elicit another ‘apparently indicated remedy’.

And, as practitioners, we must also accept that our trade has its limits but when cases do not improve, we are left wondering whether it is useless or the practitioner is incompetent. But Dr. P Sankaran does not leave us doubting if we are competent practitioners. He actually devotes a full section to “How to become a successful homeopathic physician”. I really love this section.

He states that a physician is much more than a mere prescriber. There can be brilliant prescribers who are poor as physicians and there can be very great physicians who are not so good as prescribers. Since simply being a great prescriber is not enough, the author comes up with qualities that we must inculcate in ourselves if we are aiming to become good physicians.

The very first of these qualities is patience – unlimited patience. We must also be alert and attentive and develop a strong power of observation. Developing a sympathetic but sincere / honest character and we should “cure sometimes, relieve often and comfort always…” (Osler).

We should acquire a broad knowledge base by studying extensively other subjects so we may keep ourselves up to date. Showing and working in a hurry is a trap, so is false prestige and vanity. Besides being intelligent, industrious and thorough, we must also be good listeners and never blame the patient for our flaws.

Though being polite and well-mannered are good traits to inculcate, if we are naturally endowed with a cheery disposition and a sense of humor, even better, because cheerful humor melts the ice and brings down the walls between people.

Good communication skills and an ability to explain the homeopathic process as well as disease process to the discerning patients is a plus.

We should also try to be hopeful, encouraging and reassuring to our patients and never criticize them though they may be full of faults and failings. In summary, he asks us that all our expressions and actions should always be guided by the best of intentions. We must speak, act and do what is necessary and beneficial for the patient and make it psychologically acceptable to him. This way lies the road to success.

Now, this bit about how to be a better physician truly stole my heart – more so than how to be a better prescriber by reading and mastering for the rest of my life. The former is about developing my character, and the latter is about developing my intellect.

Other practitioners and students of homeopathy might have a different aspiration and that is fine too, because  –  AS AN ART AND A SCIENCE THAT IS ROOTED IN IRREFUTABLE NATURAL LAWS AND PHILOSPHY – has room for great prescribers as well as great physicians. Whatever we lean toward will no doubt end up benefitting a few of our patients and enabling them to enjoy freedom from disease – which is the ultimate reason why we have chosen to study.

I would urge you to read these books by Dr. P. Sankaran and benefit directly from his wise words.

About the author

Vatsala Sperling

Vatsala Sperling, RSHom (NA), CCH, MS, PhD, PDHom was the Chief of Clinical Microbiology services at a children’s hospital in Chennai, India, when she published extensively and conducted research with WHO, Denmark. On moving to the USA to start a family, Vatsala pursued an education in Homeopathy with Misha Norland’s school. She is a published author of ten books including her latest, The Ayurvedic Reset Diet (www.InnerTraditions.com). Journals from US and abroad frequently publish articles and papers written by Vatsala Sperling on topics including spirituality, health and homeopathy. Vatsala continues to study with several teachers and practices classical homeopathy. She has served on the board of directors of NASH and currently she serves as a volunteer with NCH. She can be reached via her website (www.Rochesterhomeopathy.com)

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