Leela: David we are delighted to have you in our Hotseat!
All of us who know you, admire your work for homeopathy and many have established a strong foundation in their homeopathic journey participating in your course and receiving guidance from you. Please tell us a little about yourself and how you chose homeopathy as your life mission.
David: I am very happy to be in the hotseat as I am in good company! I am an American who was born in 1948 and my upbringing was nothing out of the ordinary. At a very young age I saw an old black and while documentary on TV about India and yoga and from that time I had an interest in comparative religion and philosophy. As a young man in the late 1960s my interest in yoga and health grew into an active involvement with the healing arts. My first teacher was Manning von Strahl, who was a master of the manual arts, acupuncture, homeopathy and Mesmerism. He was in China in the 1930s and was a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda in California.
Manning was at the center of the health and consciousness revolution in the 1950s and was a close friend of Aldous Huxley. By the time I met him in the late 1960s he was an elderly gentleman of vast experience and I was a young fool just starting to walk the path. Manning took me in as his apprentice and trained me in the healing sciences. He was truly a great man, and by the end of his life, a very powerful spiritual healer who could perform miracles at times. I spent several years under his guidance and I owe everything I am today to him.
Leela: You must have had an experience of using various methods of healing with Manning. I tried to google and find out if there was any more information on him, but there wasn’t much on the net. So this is a good chance to have it available. The fact that homeopathy was practiced effectively in America in the 1960’s is very interesting. Could you tell us what his homeopathic practice was like?
David: Manning Strahl practiced before the resurgence in Homeopathy took place in the USA. Manning began practicing right after World War II, when he returned from serving in the Army in Europe. When he was running his clinic in Los Angeles, California he was using homoeopathy so well that the veterinarians in the neighborhood were all bringing their most difficult animal cases to him for treatment. By the time, I met Manning he was in semi-retirement. He practiced old style American Homoeopathy as this was before George Vithoulkas was invited to the USA and his students began the early Essence and constitutional movement.
These practitioners were very good with treating the diseases they saw, and although they paid careful attention to the mental symptoms, they did not over emphasize the mind like many modern practitioners. They were more grounded in medicine and practiced more like Hering, Lippe, Raue, Lilienthal, Kent and Boger. They worked with the mentals, generals and particulars and were very good with keynotes, redline symptoms, and the golden characteristics. I always wondered what it would have been like to study with Manning when I was a little older and more experienced. He was so advanced, and I was such a beginner, that I could only access a small percentage of his knowledge. Nevertheless, he opened the door to the healing arts and placed me on the proper path. I am very grateful to him.
After Manning passed away in the early 1970s I moved to Maui, Hawaii where I tried to put into practice what Manning had taught me and then in 1978 I finally came to India to study yoga and Homeopathy. Since that time, India has been my home. I live in the far northern region of Himalayas with my wife and children in an old British house at around 8000 feet. Over the years I have run many free clinics but in the last few years I have reduced my practice as I am focusing on finishing my literary legacy as I feel that will benefit more people in the end. After this project is finished I intend to reassess my life and enter new pastures.
Leela: Indian Spirituality and world view has been inspirational for so many people! It’s astounding how homeopathy (of European Origin) has come to be so closely associated with it. Please share with us a little more on how your decision to come & live in India impacted your practice of homeopathy and life mission.
David: India, like most countries, has two faces. On one side there is rampant superstition, Casteism and rigid dogmatism and on the other side there is a very scientific, open and universal view that transcends limitations. I find that the yogas are more of a science of life than a religion although it certainly has elements of both. Yoga depends more on personal experience than belief systems because it works directly with the vital forces that constitutes a human being. One can be of any religion, class or racial background and still practice yoga. India has been studying the vital force for millennia in a fashion that is unheard of in Europe and America. That a European named Samuel Hahnemann developed a system of medicine that works with the vital force was easily embraced by South Asians.
Leela: Yes we in India have seen the basic methods of yoga-therapy helpful to people of all religious backgrounds. In what way in your observation have the Indians studied the “vital force” more extensively? How would you advise anyone wanting to make yoga helpful in their homeopathic treatment?
David: When it comes to the study of medical powers on the vital force no one has looked at the subject quite as extensively as Samuel Hahnemann. His study of primary and secondary actions, accessory symptoms and antagonistic counter actions of the vital force is unparalleled. His understanding of how nature cures with similars and the way dissimilar diseases can produce layers of illnesses in the vital force are unique. He also excelled at understanding how medicines affect the mind and spirit. One will not find as detailed information on the actions of remedies on the vital force in India or China.
Where India and China excelled is in detailed knowledge of the centers and channels of the vital force and how they interface with different levels of consciousness. Hahnemann taught the vital force was instinctive, automatic and unintelligent and was as much of a problem as help in the process of disease. On one level this is quite true. Nevertheless, the Orientals discovered how to harness the power of the instinctive vital force and bring it under the control of the conscious mind. They learned how to control the autonomic processes of the vital force through the powers of the awareness and breathing. This opens the door to transforming the instinctive vital force from an unconscious, unintelligent energy into a conscious spiritual power directed by insight.
Although the Mesmer’s of the West like Hahnemann understood how to balance and transfer the vital force through the power of will they did not apply this energy in a full spiritual way for the attainment of higher consciousness in themselves. This is what the Orient has to offer the Occident. Hahnemann taught that a philosophical attitude, good diet, proper breathing and exercise were very important in the healing processes and to maintain health. His personal letters to patients are full of such advice.
Yoga is a very advanced life science that teaches all these subjects in an extremely effective manner that unifies logic and intuition. Yoga can be practiced as a way of life by anyone regardless of the personal religion or the cultural background in which they were brought up.
Leela: Yes, our professors advocated yoga therapy while on homeopathic treatment. So we do advise our patients who are open to it, to take advantage of opportunities available around them and learn at least the various techniques of relaxation and meditation. I see most people benefiting from this.
Do tell us some of your early experiences with practicing homeopathy.
David: I was originally trained in the tradition of James Kent and American Homoeopathy and I was used to 1 to 2 hour appointments in a one-on-one situation in the West. When I came to India all this was to change radically! At this time, my emphasis in case taking was on the psychology rather than the physical diseases as many of my patients in the USA were suffering from emotional difficulties related to dysfunctional relationships. I was using high potency Cs in the single dry dose and waiting and watching for a relapse of symptoms before contemplating any repetition. In these years everything was very dramatic. The cures were dramatic. The aggravations were dramatic. The successes were dramatic and the failures were dramatic. TOO dramatic! I was led to believe that in many cases the idea was “no pain – no gain”. I remember telling patients that aggravations were a good sign but I was never really comfortable with the idea.
Leela: Ahh, this reminds me a lot of my own early homeopathic days as well. My first experience of homeopathic aggravation was of my own, very sensitive dad, aggravating badly after 2 doses of Bryonia 200C. He was in agony, which initially due to my ignorance, I did not take seriously! It was only once he was given Nux Vomica 30 (which thankfully antidoted in a few minutes), did I realize what agony he was going through. I was really upset that these 2 doses could cause him so much of pain. Since then I have had this deeply uncomfortable feeling about anyone going through aggravations especially the sensitive ones.
So you were saying ….
David: Yes, when I first came to India I remember treating a few patients successfully and then suddenly a long line of patients appeared in the mornings. How was I going to treat all these people? I was used to seeing 4 or 5 patients in a day not 15 or 20. At the same time, I had to treat the most virulent acute miasms and the most chronic degenerative diseases I had ever seen. This was the first time I treated typhoid, malaria or tuberculosis and those near death. In the West most seriously ill persons are in the hospitals under the care of the allopathic doctors, but in India they were all on my front porch! I realized immediately that the methods I was using were not going to be appropriate for these cases under these conditions.
Leela: Isn’t this really exciting to see? That homeopathy is a system of medicine with “teeth”? It fascinates me how gently we can heal even serious disease conditions with homeopathy. It does take a leap of faith and courage with a good background of learning and experience though. But it is well worth the leap! Especially if one has committed support and team work.
David: Right, so I knew I had to make some changes and I had to make them fast. I realized that the diseases I was seeing, and the conditions in which I was seeing them, was very similar to what Hahnemann, Boenninghausen and Hering experienced in the 19th century. For this reason, I decided it would be best for me to start my studies all over again and return to the basics. This, of course, brought me back to the Organon and Chronic Diseases as well as introduced me to Hahnemann’s Lesser Writings. At the same time, I started studying modern pathology books so I could understand the nature of the diseases I was now seeing.
I thought that I best return to “beginner’s mind” but with the advantage of my years of experience. I knew I had to open up to new possibilities as well as old little known realities. I began to study the repertory and materia medica day and night so that I knew exactly where to find information on the most proven 300 remedies. More knowledge was the only way I could treat so many patients in a day. I was going to have to get to the most similar remedy much faster than I had in the past.
Leela: Where did you experience the Indian homeopathic practice first-hand?
David: I decided that I best tour the country and see how the Indian practitioners worked under the weight of such a patient load and treated such a wide variety of acute and chronic complaints. At this time, I studied with a Doctor Isaac who was the head of a homeopathic collage and hospital in Kerala, South India. I was absolutely thrilled to see a full homoeopathic hospital and out patient clinic in operation. I knew there used to be homoeopathic hospitals in the USA but they closed before I was born. During the first days in the outpatient clinic I suffered from severe culture shock as I watched Dr. Isaac and his students treat around 100 out patients and then do the hospital rounds in the afternoon.
Leela: Our readers would love to hear more of what you call the ‘culture shock’ of your Indian experience.
David: Dr. Isaac would sit at his desk with no repertory or materia medica with a long line of patients in front of him and a few chairs around his desk. He would quickly assess the patients in the line, prescribe a remedy, and then say “next”. Occasionally, he would pull a person out of the line and make them sit next to him so he could question them further at the same time as he continued to ask questions to those in the line in front of him. It was obvious that these were cases he wished to give a closer look. At times he would reach into his desk drawer and pull out an old battered copy of Kent’s Repertory and look up a few rubrics. As soon as he was satisfied he would write down the prescription and excuse the patient.
In this manner he would sit with a long line passing in front of him and 3 or 4 persons in chairs around him. Once in awhile he would tell the nurses to admit a certain patient in the hospital ward. In this manner he would examine several cases at once. As I looked around at the masses of suffering patients seeking help I wondered how anyone could treat so many cases effectively. I was used to taking 1 to 1-1/2 hours during a first consultation and now I was expected to prescribe in around 10 minutes!
One morning Dr. Isaac looked at a patient, asked him a few questions, and then wrote down Calcarea. I said, “Why are you giving him Calcarea?” He told me to take the patient aside and interview him more closely and see for myself. I took the patient aside and began to ask him questions. In no time out came symptoms like cold head sweats, coldness in spots, the desire for eggs and meat, longing for fresh air, the fear others will notice their decline, etc. I was quite surprised and went back to Dr. Isaac and asked him, “How did you know?”
Dr. Isaac looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes and said that after 40 years of sitting at his desk “patients were no longer just people standing in line. They were remedies waiting to be given!” I decided that I would do the follow ups on his new cases so I could see how well these patients were doing on remedies chosen so quickly. To my great surprise most of these patients were responding quite well to the first prescriptions. Those that were not doing well were taken out of the line in the outpatient clinic and put in the chairs next to Dr. Isaac. Now he would take their cases more carefully and give his second prescription if necessary. In this manner Dr. Isaac cured 10,000s of patients who came from far and wide to see him.
Leela: This must have been his honorary (free) work at the government hospital right? Did he practice privately as well?
David: Dr. Isaac also ran a private practice at his home on the weekends. Here the case load was much lighter and we had more time to examine each patient. He was treating a good number of mongoloid children and getting great results! I examined youths that were in their teenage years who did not even look like mongoloids. If one looked very, very closely one could see certain physical signs like high cheekbones and the Mongolian lids but nothing more. They were all doing very well in school and considered absolutely normal by others. These persons had been his patients since childhood.
Leela: How interesting!! Mongoloid Children leading a near normal life! This is what I was talking about with a colleague earlier. There has never been any clear documentation done in India of treatment of these types of (incurable) cases that make up a confident reference point for the young homeopath today. How did Dr. Isaac explain this improvement?
David: He told me that the key was to begin treatment when they were infants and stay with them throughout the early growing years and puberty. If this was done they would live a normal life. Those who came later in life showed significant but less dramatic improvements. I looked at the records of these cases and found no new fancy tricks or unusual remedies. Most cases were resolved with remedies like Bartya Carbonica, Bartya Muriaticum, Calcarea, Bufo, Phosphorus, Natrum Muriaticum, Medorrhinum, Syphilinum, etc. The major teaching I learned from Dr. Isaac was to learn the major characteristics of the most proven 300 remedies very well. In this manner one can do good work under even the heaviest patient load under the worst conditions.
Now it is 25 years later and I understand what Dr. Isaac was trying to teach me all those years ago. Now, I can work under the most difficult conditions with a large number of patients when necessary. I have treated up to 50 patients in one day with my assistants. Sometimes I hardly have time to look at the repertory or materia medica and must use my inner experience alone. I do not do my best work in such demanding circumstances but I can do good work because I have learned the basic materia medica very well.
Leela: We were constantly reminded in MedicalCollege to read and re-read the Materia Medica of the commonly indicated remedies every day of our professional lives. It was the only way to be an efficient homeopath.
Today we have computer software that makes the job easier for us. We tend to rely less on that ‘inner experience’. I think as homeopaths this reliance on our inner experience based on solid, factual Materia Medica, should be an aim to achieve in our homeopathic development, as we understand remedies and their symptomatic expressions.
David: The computer is a blessing. It allows the homoeopath to access and assess a great amount of data very quickly and easily. The digital medium is perfectly suited to a large data based system like Homoeopathy. I remember the old days when one had to depend on repertory sheets to assess the numerical value of rubrics. Much of ones practice was dependent on one’s study of the materia medica and how well they recognized the leading 300 remedies. We had to concentrate on learning the golden characteristics of the remedies and understanding how to observe them in various forms in patients. The repertory was often used to confirm a few important symptoms rather than to base ones entire case upon.
Leela: Yes many of our senior professors knew the Materia Medica like the back of their hands! They could tell you which page of Lippe or Boericke to turn to, to look for a particular characteristic symptom of a remedy! “Check page 352, in the top right hand corner, 6th line …”
David: With a computer today, it is much easier to find the smaller remedies one might have overlooked due to the difficulty of dealing with so much information mechanically. Nevertheless, the old computer maxim “garbage in – garbage out” was never more applicable. One must be very careful to judge the characteristic value of the symptoms they choose so that the symptoms they collect are of a high quality. It is much better to use a smaller number of characteristic rubrics of a high quality than collect a larger number of poor quality rubrics in the name of a false totality.
It is so easy to use 10 or15 symptoms of rather poor quality and come up with fictitious answers. One must be very careful to judge the characteristic value of the symptoms they choose so that the symptoms they collect are of a high quality.
Many homeopaths are forgetting how important it is to study the materia medica daily. There is a tendency to think of case taking solely as electronic information gathering and sorting rather than an application of the experiential materia medica to our patients. One must remember that the symptoms of the materia medica found in the repertory have been divided, redacted and redistributed. The original images and their complete symptoms with locations, sensations, modifications and concomitants have been broken up for easy indexing.
Leela: What is your advise in dealing with this new “electronic” situation in case taking and analysis?
David: One must remember to carefully rebuild the symptom segments found it the repertory in such a manner that they form complete symptoms as seen in the materia medica. If this reconstruction is not carried out in a careful manner the rubrics become fragmented. Then they do not represent the proving data or the symptoms collected from patients under treatment. One ends up using common symptoms segments that lack coherence and cohesion. For this reason, it is very important to understand how the symptoms are presented with in the materia medica and not overly depend on the (computer) repertory alone.
When using the computer repertory there is danger of thinking in a vertical manner where one symptom is placed on top of the other. One must also think in a horizontal manner by observing how the symptom segments fit together to make complete images with locations, sensations, modifications and concomitants. The repertory should be used to construct complete characteristic symptoms that show balance through interrelatedness. Otherwise it results in fragmentation without the integration necessary to reflect the essential Gestalt of the disease as found in the materia medica.
Leela: What you’re saying is that these different presentations are complementary and comparitive for remedy selection, as we relate the symptom picture with the image present in the materia medica?
David: Yes. The materia medica is based on collecting bits of data that are built into complete images for a grand overview. The repertory is based on breaking down complete images into segments and redistributing them for easy indexing as bits of data. When this functional polarity is used together it provides for access to the symptoms as segments as well as complete patterns. In this way, a case can be worked from both directions, i.e., from whole to the parts and the parts to the whole. This forms the complete system of homoeopathic information retrieval. One must balance the use of the repertorium and materia medica in such a manner that they present a greater whole.
Leela: One should exercise caution in using computer software for case analysis till this idea is properly understood.
David: Yes, one of the major dangers of the modern age is becoming completely “computer dependant”. There are some practitioners who cannot even take a case without their computer! If you take them out of the comfort of their private offices and 1 to 2 hour appointments and place them in a found-line clinic with a larger number of patients they do not know what to do. The problem is that they don’t really know the grand generals, keynotes and redline characteristics of the most proven 200-300 remedies very well. They have not committed these cardinal remedies “to heart” yet because they are more used to looking at a computer screen than living patients.
Some persons feel alienated when a homoeopath spends most of their time looking at the computer rather than at the patient. I once had a person tell me, “How can he know what is wrong with me when he didn’t even touch me and spend all this time looking at his computer”. If one is not careful to bond with the patient the computer can come between the practitioner and client. The old homeopaths were “hands on” practitioners that gave their patients a physical exam. This is not only essential for collecting symptoms but also brings in a element of human contact, touch and feeling. One must remember to look at and touch the patient during the process of case taking and not become overly obsessed with the computer.
In truth it is not the fault of the computer. It is the fault of our educational system. The computer is nothing but the digital images of our books in an easy to access format. The old homoeopaths used to quiz each other on the characteristic symptoms found in the materia medica all the time. Whether they were in the clinic, out for dinner or at a play they constantly questioned each other about the remedies reflected around them. They loved to make up jokes, songs, and poems about our medicines. They liked to find strange, rare and peculiar symptoms and their concomitant circumstances that others had yet to digest. One always had to be ready to guess the remedy by a few odd symptoms presented by a colleague. This kept everyone on their toes at all times until the images in the materia medica were no longer just words written in black and white in a books. These images came alive in the people, places and circumstances of every day life and remedies became the living persons around them.
Working in Asia has taught me that Homoeopathy does not have to be an exclusive medical system with a long drawn out affair that costs 100s of dollars. In the hands of experienced practitioners Homoeopathy can also be the medicine of the common person in the streets as well as the poor and downtrodden. I would love to see Homoeopathy readily available in the West for those who cannot afford to see a homoeopath as it stands today. This could be done if everyone offers a bit of their time to selfless service.