Anne Vervarcke established ‘The Centre for Classical Homeopathy’ (CKH) in Leuven, Belgium, which organizes a five year training course, a Postgraduate course, a yearly seminar and an International Training. She created the programmes and was teacher and director for 15 years. Currently she is co-ordinating international trainings and gives seminars in many different countries, specialising in live case taking.
KS: Welcome to Hpathy, Anne! We are delighted to have you in our Hotseat and look forward to all the interesting thoughts you are going to share with us. You were originally trained in arts and graduated in Oriental Philology and Anthropology. How did your journey with homeopathy begin?
AV: Maybe with the first positive experiences with my children when they were still very young (they are 40 and 37 now) and suffering from common things: earaches, diarrhea, snotty noses. Not too serious, but enough to go to the doctor regularly and giving antibiotics to no avail. One homeopathic remedy and yearlong problems vanished never to come back! I think this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
KS: Yes, which mother wouldn’t agree! After many years of practicing, teaching and investigating homeopathy you developed your own approach based on Sankaran’s method. What led you to look for something beyond the classical approach?
AV: By the time I finished my first study in 1986, Vithoulkas was the great Innovator and everybody loved his Stolen Essences. It was so much more fun than studying those endless lists of symptoms in our classical Materia Medica. But in the beginning of my practise it turned out that, in a hall of homeopaths, all having a different idea of the suitable remedy for a particular case, the one with the most convincing rhetoric ‘won’. I could see how one knowing his MM well could make a Lachesis of a Lycopodium. It was just a matter of picking the right set of symptoms out of the thousands the polychrests we have. I could do it too If I wanted to. And from the 300 remedies we had to study for the exams, always the same three were prescribed for men (Lyc, Nux vomica, Sulph), three other ones for women (Lach, Natr mur and Sepia), the grief cases got Ignatia, the suppressed ones Staph and all the others Carcinosinum, since that remedy fits half of the population. In other words, I was disappointed. After all those years of intense studying this seemed to be the daily procedures of many homeopaths at that time. There was no system, no logic, no method. Actually I was ready to leave practice… until I saw Sankaran.
KS: As for your and Sankaran’s approach, both approaches developed over the years. In which way is your approach different from Sankaran’s method?
AV: Let me make clear first that I was a dedicated pupil of Sankaran’s ideas until the sensation method came up. Although I consider this a milestone in homeopathic development, the people who didn’t follow Sankaran’s thinking before and just bumped into the sensation method, tend to be overenthusiastic. They disregarded all the rest of homeopathic knowledge; there was sensation and sensation only and honestly speaking that kind of attitude made me distance myself. In my daily practice I could see where the sensation method was valid and where it went wrong. So I took what I considered the good things in it, namely that the cause of the disturbance, the state of the patient so to speak is not a product of the mind but beyond…on sensation level. What was discouraging my students though was the idea they had to bring the patient at sensation level, and if they failed they had a worthless case. This ‘sensation-or-nothing’ attitude I tried to change with my approach. Because even when it is correct that the cause or source of the disturbance is ‘beyond mind and body (by the way this is the title of another book of mine, published in Dutch, see www.thewhiteroom.be Publicaties) it expresses with ‘signs and symptoms on mind and body’, as Hahnemann says. Hence I focused on spotting the expressions of the vital or sensation level on all levels. Other differences are the case taking, where I taught my students to listen to their patients and not to lead them to presumed sensations.
KS: The good news for many skeptics is that your Vital Approach to homeopathy shall be in accordance with Hahnemann’s laws and principles. So the so-called “classics” are important to you?
AV: They are the foundation. If you don’t know your basic skills, you’ll never be able to make sensible prescriptions. It’s like with playing an instrument. If you don’t learn solfeggio and practice 10.000 hours on your instrument, you won’t be able to improvise. Students don’t like to study for long hours the classic books; they have their computers and they have these attractive new methods, but they are absolutely worthless in the hands of somebody without the foundations. I’ve seen students who attended a few sensation seminars and read Sankaran’s schemes and when I took a case in public, they couldn’t even determine the Nux vomica or the Coffea, even though the patient’s gave us all of the rubrics….because they don’t know the classical symptoms of the remedy! Can you imagine! They are unable to prescribe Cocculus because ‘it is not in Sankaran’s Scheme’. That is not Sankaran’s fault. To the contrary, I think he realized to his horror that this was the result of his new insights. He himself is well marinated in the classical knowledge so I had no doubt that he knows what he is doing, but the students often wrongfully think they don’t need this old knowledge anymore. I even heard people saying that a good training should only teach the Sensation method, because this was systematic and otherwise the students would be confused and bored. I can predict that leads nowhere. It’s like a musician saying, “Let’s start with the 9th of Beethoven, we’ll do the notes later.”
My approach is Hahnemanian for sure! I’ve read the Organon at least 20 times and taught it for over 16 years in my training and the more I read it, the better it became. I admit having my own reading but everybody has. The book is full of inner contradictions, so disputes are guaranteed! In fact one can boil down homeopathy to ‘strange, rare and peculiar’ on all levels, aphorism 153, yes indeed. All these expressions come forth from the source which is on the vital level. And they form a coherent pattern. Basically homeopathy is pattern matching… the pattern of the disturbance with the similar pattern of the remedy.
KS: Kingdoms and miasms play a major role in analyzing cases according to your approach. In which way?
AV: The theory on kingdoms I consider utterly helpful. We have so many remedies that it is almost impossible to find your way to the suitable one for the patient. We all know the benefits but also the shortcomings of the repertory; some remedies are over-represented, some underrepresented. But if we can determine quite in the beginning of the case to which kingdom the patient belongs, we have an idea of the direction we are heading in. Or, if we repertories, we can filter the outcome according to the kingdom the patient belongs to. Often we even know the subkingdom and then our search becomes even more directed. If we know the kingdom for sure, we often can even prescribe an unknown remedy with the same certainty we prescribe a polychrest. For instance, we understood the patient needs a mineral remedy of the 4th row and the 4th column; we can prescribe Titanium with confidence even if we don’t have many rubrics to substantiate this. And in my Vital Approach I give a lot of pointers, tips and tricks to spot the kingdom; not only Plant, Animal and Mineral but also Monera, Fungi and ‘imponderables’.
Miasms according to Sankaran’s understanding of delusions are helpful as far as I am concerned, only in plant cases. Why that is so, I don’t know, but in minerals we have the 18 columns and in animals miasm and sensation are mostly confused. I don’t mean that all the other but Plant cases don’t have a miasm, it’s just that they are sometimes hard to determine and of no help to pick a remedy.
The way Sankaran understands miasms is completely different than the Hahnemanian view. The former considers the miasms as a classification of delusions and thus situated on the mental level. The latter considers miasms as underlying inherited or acquired tendencies, more or less what we would call today susceptibility or constitution, and thus on the physical level. It is confusing that we have one word for different concepts, but this is explicable from a historical point of view.
KS: The possibility of identifying the vital remedy on all levels makes the approach also applicable for patients who can’t express their symptoms, like little children and animals. Nevertheless, I think these kind of patients remain a challenge. What do you recommend to the homeopathic practitioner when working with them?
AV: People who don’t express well with words will express nevertheless, because you can’t but express who you are. In those cases observation is more important. I call it the ‘context’ of the interview, as opposed to the ‘content’. We tend to overemphasize the content, like the words the patient speaks, and indeed in paper cases, we almost rely totally on this. Nevertheless we use information from the ‘context’ if we are aware of it or not. The context is the totality of all our observations: the way the patient looks, is dressed, his style, his behavior, the pace of the interview, the flow, the ease or unease, whether he talks spontaneously or waits for questions, his body language, facial expression, hand gestures, tone of his voice, impression he “wants to” make on us, all of that. We benefit from this if we make the information so gathered explicit, which we train our students in at The Center for Classical Homeopathy. With small children we have the behavior of the child together with the observations of the parents and some ‘objective ‘information about the child’s habits. Usually this suffices to make a Vital prescription.
KS: Considering the deeper aspects of your approach, and especially if the 5th level remedy is given, where do you see the scope of cure by homeopathy?
AV: As ideal health doesn’t exist, I would say ‘maximum health’ for this person. We obviously can’t make a 20 year old from a 60 year old, but the simillimum helps to make the ‘best version of yourself’ as I would call it. This means that on all levels we see harmony and coherence coming in the foreground. The physical symptoms fade away, the energy level is optimized, the emotions calm down and become less important and the mind comes to rest as there are no worries anymore. If we have no worries, there isn’t much to think of or at least our unwelcome thoughts vanish. That is why patients say they feel peaceful, more relaxed, calm, careless and joyful after the remedy. The ego noise goes down as one feels more and more OK within himself, without conditions. And if you accept yourself, you don’t have to defend yourself; all of a sudden all the people around you seem to become easier to get along with. We all know this phenomenon! In short, the simillimum makes a person healthy and happy!
KS: Homeopathy is a science and art as well. Did your previous education help you in mastering this healing art?
AV: Everybody has his or her interests and skills outside homeopathy that might bring in a particular flavor or style. In my case probably my interest in philosophy, psychology, linguistics and art brought in my particular influences.
KS: In your first English book “The Charm of Homeopathy,” you explain your view on the vital disturbance and how you developed your approach. When is the Charm of Homeopathy at its best?
AV: Best is to read the book of course, but in short, in that book I touch a few basic assumptions on homeopathy. It dawned on me that we are not dealing with ‘products of nature’, but rather with products of our imagination, intuition and symbolism. I try to make that clear in that book.
KS: In your second book “The Postgraduate Annual 2006” you describe the fundaments of your approach and it’s value in daily practice. In which way did your practice change over the years?
AV: You could say that my development was as well in the width as in the depth; this means my knowledge of the remedies expanded and at the same time my understanding of the philosophy grew. All of this is a natural evolution. This reflected in daily practice in a better understanding of case taking and of case management. In short, I would nowadays be very careful not to direct the patient in any way, not pick a subject the patient didn’t come up with in the first place, never ask a direct question. Because if you do, the answer becomes unreliable, there is no way to discern whether this is something vital from the patient or he was just answering a question like all people with an average intelligence are capable of. I understood the importance of the ‘context’ of the interview, which in itself almost always suffices to determine the kingdom. I’m trusting my method to stick to the remedy long enough, because the first prescription is based on the first encounter, the one and best chance to be surprised by the strange, rare and peculiar of the patient.
KS: Your latest book “Homeopathy: Strange, Rare and Peculiar” just appeared. What is it about?
AV: It is out, in fact, since a few weeks and in it my latest insights are put into a dialogue with An van de Moortel. This makes it more casual and easier to digest than more philosophical explanations. We go over the philosophy in short, then the latest ideas on homeopathic practice, and then some ideas about the future. It is quite daring, if I may say so.
KS: Teaching has been a path which you followed passionately quite early in your career. What are your courses at the ‘The Centre for Classical Homeopathy’ (CKH) in Leuven, Belgium, about?
AV: I created a 5 year training based on the development of the students understanding. In the first two years they get a lot of Organon and the classics (Kent, Boericke, Phatak, Hering, Clark, etc). It takes about two years to make this paradigm shift and they will need this firm foundation for the rest of their homeopathic life. If they miss it, it’s like an artist who never practiced his technique. He will never be able to make a decent painting later. These two years, I call level 1 and 2, the body of homeopathy. Then in the 3rd year the first practical applications are practiced, and this is mostly an emotional level job. The 4th and 5th year the students are exposed to all kinds of approaches, but are trained in case taking and analysis up to level 5. They work more and more independently and finish their training with a thesis. After that it would be best to follow at least two years of Master Class, while already having their own practice.
KS: On October 15, 2012, you started your Walk for Homeopathy. What inspired you to do this Walk?
AV: Becoming 60 I asked myself what I would really like to do. The idea behind it was, “if you don’t do it now, then when?” It doesn’t mean I didn’t like what I was doing, on the contrary, I loved seeing patients, teaching homeopathy and in my personal life, having the grandchildren coming over. But all this didn’t leave much time or space for myself. So, my first idea was, “I want to go walking!” As I don’t want to roam aimlessly and as I’m a homeopath in flesh and bones, I thought about a way to combine the two. My aim was to be able to treat people on my walk. And as homeopaths have offices and patients, I thought it would be a good idea to combine these. And while I was pondering over the possibilities, more and more ideas came up. I want to link homeopaths and tell them to overcome their little disputes and join forces. Homeopathy is in a bad position in almost every country. It’s not because we don’t deliver good work, on the contrary, so we shouldn’t let ourselves be divided and made weak, but regain our self-esteem and ask for the freedom of treatment, the availability of alternatives therapies (not only homeopathy), natural products, objective information as a basic human right, just as organic food, clean water and air is.
You see, I come with a message, and with presents for the homeopaths who host me. And I take their message if they have one. My dream is that my action, which is called The Next Step, will inspire people to undertake something as well… to walk, talk, heal, communicate, share, donate, support, organize, write, anything. Everybody can do something and contribute to what I hope will become a wave of awareness. It is my gift to the homeopathic community and I feel this is the most sensible thing I can do to celebrate my 60th year.
KS: Could you tell us about your experiences and how your idea was perceived around the world?
Here are some impressions about the Walk:
A woman with a mission!
Anne Verwarcke, taking the train in Leuven the 14th of October.