Dr. Ulrich Welte has practiced homeopathy for 30 years and worked as a homeopathic GP in Kandern, Germany, since 1983 together with Herbert Sigwart and since 1999 with Markus Kuntosch. In his practice he’s integrated the teachings of Hugbald Volker Müller, Rajan Sankaran and Jan Scholten. He’s published two books: “Colors in Homeopathy”, Narayana Verlag 2003 and “Handwriting and Homeopathy”, Narayana Verlag 2005.
Alan: I want to hear about all the concepts you’ve incorporated into your practice, including color preference and handwriting. But first, could you tell us what events of time and circumstance brought you to homeopathy?
Dr. Welte : In medical school, the first approach to living man was death. We had to dissect corpses in anatomy. It was a ghostly adventure combined with a kind of black humor, but it did not feel right. It was like taking a wrong course from the very beginning. So I looked for alternatives. I thought of getting a dissertation theme in this direction and asked the professor of history of medicine if he would consent. He liked the idea and suggested to see if homeopathy had anything to offer in psychiatry. He showed me the homeopathic section of his library. There I sat reading Chronic Diseases and Organon, because I thought it was best to start with the founder’s ideas. Wow! This was just what I was looking for! The identity of remedy and disease as presented by symptoms appealed to me. This was a very direct approach to cure. So I looked through the remedies and decided to take Nux vomica to put things to the test. It produced a circular skin eruption on the external throat, close to the removed tonsils. The thing seemed to work! After some weeks I took Calcarea for the sake of curiosity (put it in the pocket and gulped down some drops at leisure, every few hours), and next day got a headache which I never had before. So I checked the head symptoms of Calc in Hahnemann’s Materia Medica and found exactly this kind of headache. Well, well….
Alan: Well, you certainly started in the best Hahnemannian tradition, experimenting on yourself. Is that an approach you prefer?
Dr. Welte: One’s own experience is deeper than book knowledge.
Alan: Can you talk about the basic premise of using color preference in homeopathy? What amount of time and what kind of research went into that project?
Dr. Welte: The color preference is just another good symptom, like a food modality or a general or mental amelioration/aggravation. Every homeopath irrespective of school or doctrine can use it. It supplements the repertories.
The color preference is a clinical symptom and comes from good cases. Cases cured or deeply ameliorated by the same remedy have shown to prefer the same or similar colors. Hugbald Volker Müller conceived this idea and our group in Kandern has developed it further after his death by creating a color reference book, “Colors in Homeopathy” by Narayana Verlag (www.narayana-verlag.de). This color standard enables every interested practitioner to determine a color with sufficient precision and use it as a repertory rubric. We have worked along these lines for 17 years and have evaluated more than 2500 good cases accordingly. There is an international collaboration with interested colleagues too. I was urged to publish this color standard already by HV Müller in 1998, and Jan Scholten took an active part in its final shape. It took more than 5 years’ work to come into existence.
Alan: That was a huge undertaking, which you may not have anticipated in the beginning. In all those years, refining the method, did you discover factors that could influence a patient’s answer, so it didn’t reflect their true preference? And what about patients who fit under the rubric “indecision”. You show them the color chart and they can’t make up their mind what color they like? Is there a bit of an art to getting it right?
Dr. Welte: The process of taking the color and possible difficulties are described in the color book. Mostly it is quite easy, especially with children. Just make sure to get the patients’ full attention and concentration. If they are distracted, use gentle firmness and show them that it is important. It is like fine-tuning a radio station. Once they are tuned into the gross overview of all colors at the end of the book, you get at least a preferred area. Then go to these areas in the main charts and refine the choice as far as possible. Ask them to let go of purposes and just dive into the colors as such, choose one which feels good, which pleases the eye, where they like to dwell and get a feeling of well-being.
Sometimes it is indeed an art. Then it becomes quite like hunting a true sensation. You may get sidetracked several times and have to keep the attention of the patient focused until you feel he/you has really got it. Empathy is necessary; also YOU must feel that the choice was meaningful. Again, after choosing 2-3 different colors, let them compare these and rectify the sequence if necessary. Then I often ask what they feel when looking at the chosen colors, what comes up when they look at it intently. Usually the general themes of the respective colors come up, but sometimes there may come strange and seemingly meaningless things, which pertain only to the patient and have little to do with the color per se. This is quite like getting at Sankaran’s “nonsense” level, but I would not call this nonsense. It may make much sense in a higher sense. Then keep on asking about these findings, you may get unexpected clues to the case.
If you don’t get results at once, be patient. Scholten once gave the advice to have patience with the method for half a year. But let me repeat: mostly it is quite easy. I usually consider two colors as rubrics, even if the choice of the main color was sure. And if I feel the choice was unclear, I don’t take the color symptom. Color is just a symptom, and good remedies can be found in so many ways! There is no use in “fitting” a remedy if it does not mirror the true state of the patient.
The color preference is a basic emotional vibration. It reflects the emotional state of the patient. Physically, colors are frequencies of light. If you split white light (pure consciousness) by a prism (mind), you get the colors (emotions).
Alan: Practitioners who use color for healing, such as Peter Mandel in Germany and Julius Vasquez in the U.S., have associated colors with certain life themes. For instance, Vasquez associates violet with issues of trust and yellow with power and control. Have you found that the theme of a color chosen by a patient corresponds to their own life theme, or to the theme of a remedy?
Dr. Welte: Max Luescher showed specific connections of colors and emotions and verified this in a large number of people, even independent of cultural background. We could confirm his findings. Black brings up concepts like “I do what I want”, “independence”, “autonomy”, “hard”, “heavy”, “strong”, etc, Yellow brings up ideas like “free”, “light”, easy”, take off”, “joy”, etc. Remedies of one color share the basic qualities of this color. Once I had a very sensitive (and also very difficult) patient who said that looking at pure blue #15C, has the same effect on her as when she takes Dysprosium Nitricum, which helped her considerably (she had autoimmune Prince-Metal-Angina, Hashimoto and vitiligo; main complaint was pectanginous symptoms). So in her case the remedy and the color were virtually the same. But I don’t think this is true for all. The remedies are more specific than the colors. A certain color is like the general background and disposition of the remedy.
Alan: I recently had an injury (ankle) complicated by a burn, which ulcerated, became inflamed and refused to heal. Causticum, Kali bi, Hepar, Calc sulph, Pyrog. and Silica failed. The injury was becoming a concern to me. Then I took Calendula 200, which gave 80-90% improvement. The next day, I took my color preference from the chart in your book. Normally I prefer shades of indigo, but I was clearly drawn to a salmon color. I looked up the remedies associated with it and there was only one listed…..Calendula! Can a local symptom cause a shift in preference? Could taking the Calendula have altered my preference?
Dr. Welte: Very interesting information! Probably your latent state was activated by the injury, and Calendula has touched it, otherwise why should it help so nicely? I have not heard this often in other remedies. The Calendula case described in the color book also changed her color preference after the remedy. I would like to see more calendula cases; we have only 2 constitutional ones.
Alan: What new concepts have you incorporated into your work and how have they changed the way you practice?
Dr Welte: Apart from the use of color preference and handwriting as valuable new symptoms, the most helpful new concepts were Jan Scholten’s and Rajan Sankaran’s new systems. Also Massimo Mangialavori’s family concepts. The deepest change on our way of prescribing came by the use of Scholten’s stages. We are using them for all the kingdoms of nature, not only in minerals.
These three men were all seasoned classical homeopaths and masters in the old approach, knowing well its pros and cons, before they discovered a new systematic approach. This is quite in line with Hahnemann’s own personal development. He first collected valid data (symptoms) by provings. When he felt the limitations of having too few remedies, he began to prove more, and along with it he began to classify the bulk of symptoms by miasms. His theory of chronic diseases is the first attempt to find a superstructure in proving-symptoms. Classification is as necessary as is the collection of data.
The old ban on “theorizing” or “speculation” is a misunderstanding. Theory and practice always go side by side. Every thoughtful homeopath analyses his cases. You don’t just feed your computer with all the symptoms you get. You make a choice according to your understanding. The “hierarchisation” of symptoms is also nothing but using a theory on the bulk of symptoms. Only an intelligent use of the repertory will give intelligent answers and thus good remedies. Clinical evidence is the proof how far your view (theory) was right. This is a scientific approach. The choice of remedies on the basis of generally accepted systems like the periodic table or the botanical families has been very successful in our practice, and it is the merit of these great new pioneers who gave us a meaningful homeopathic translation of it.
It should be emphasized that this new approach does not exclude the old. It rather builds on its undoubted value. In my first 15 years of homeopathy I have become so familiar with the ideas of Hahnemann and Kent, also with Hering to some extent, that I am sure that at least two of these great old masters would pick up this evolutionary homeopathy if they were to live in our era.
Alan: You describe the new methods as “evolutionary” rather than “revolutionary”. This suggests a continuum, rather than a break with the past. And yet, some in the community fear that the new methods will undermine and ultimately replace Hahnemann’s teachings.They accept the value of the new methods, but have a concern about boundaries, without which, a thing ceases to exist. They would have the new methods called by some other name. Can you address those concerns? Is there some methodological or ideological line, which if crossed, leads us to something which should not be called homeopathy?
Dr Welte: Would new names really help? Do new names solve the problem? Or is it not just a new battle of words? This fight has created so many bad feelings, and not much good has come out of it as far as I can see. The great pioneers of our time have all been brilliant practitioners in the older methods and use them still. This is evolution. Who would not use the repertories? We all appreciate these beautiful tools. Who does not use the old materia medicas? Our heroes are these great men and women who wrote them. Our practical homeopathic knowledge is based on these values, and they prove their usefulness even today. But the times they are a-changin’. We find new perspectives and use repertories / materia medicas in a different way, we adapt old language to modern expressions, we add new clinical experiences, new provings, we fill up insufficient parts, change what has clinically proved wrong, etc. This is evolution. But if we begin to hate the new approach, excommunicate any new idea; or if we get aggressive towards the old-fashioned authoritarian figures, destroy the old images; in short if we look down upon each other, then we go wrong.
What do we gain by calling us “classical”, “genuine”, “process-oriented” etc? Again, if a good majority of reasonable people would feel that we should change the name of homeopathy and call it a better name, then let’s do it. But is there a real need for this? Say you inherit the beautiful old mansion “Green Meadows” of your forefathers. You may find its old coal-heating system unpractical and unecologic. You grew up with the coal-burning stoves, and they have kept you warm, but you feel that a modern solar heating system will be better. Then you change it. You do not tear down the house. You keep its beauty. You improve it and you are very satisfied with the result. But would you rename it for that reason?
Alan: Thank you for wading into those dangerous waters. You’ve made a good case for maintaining continuity. There’s obviously a need for the new methods, since many of our cases go unsolved. In modern society, people are subjected to many allopathic drugs, hundreds of chemicals, heavy metals and other pollutants. Life is fast paced and often depersonalizing. Do you think that taking a case is more complex now, than it was in Hahnemann’s time? Is that another reason the new methods are necessary?
Dr. Welte: The advocates of polychrests say that you better learn the big remedies well before you would deal with new remedies at all. If this were true, the polychrests should be superior to “small remedies”, but in my experience and that of many other seasoned homeopathic practitioners this is not so. In our files of good cases (including HV Müller’s cases) we have a total of about 3500 cases and about 900 different remedies. Just to pick out some at random: Sulphur: 25 cases, Bambusa arundinacea: 17, Cadmium phosphoricum: 4, Elaps corallinus: 14 cases etc. So is Sulphur a polychrest, because it surpasses the Bamboo cases by 8 and the Elapse cases by 9? Even in the olden days people like Boericke were strongly in favor of adding relevant clinical information and new remedies, and he kept the polychrests short enough to let their core shine up but not let them outshine the lesser known remedies. We still profit by this fearless and balanced approach. Otherwise why should his materia medica be so popular even today?
Yesterday I showed to a friend a photo of the hands of a man with severe palmar psoriasis of more than 30 years’ standing and asked her how she would feel if her hands had looked like this for such a long time. She was taken aback and said “terrible”. Well, this man had taken Europium Muriaticum LM6 daily for 2 months from the day of the first consultation, and his hands have become slowly close to normal by now. Also the nails have grown normal since this time. When I informed her about this change she said: “Then if homeopaths deny the usefulness of such new remedies, it shows that they are making light of curing their patients”.
I don’t know if case taking today is more complex than in the past, but I doubt it. In my experience, it has become easier, at least more understandable. Formerly I was mainly hunting for peculiar symptoms and characteristic keynotes; today I still use them but try to understand the clinical and emotional dynamics of a person first and then analyze according to kingdoms, families, series and stages. It is a reversed approach, quite like Boenninghausen did with symptoms, from general to particular. Kent also emphasized it, although many interpret him differently. Frequently I use keynotes and peculiar symptoms like I did before, and color preference and handwriting also, sometimes as pointers to the remedy, sometimes as confirming symptoms. But the understanding of a case became more important than the single symptoms. The essential symptoms should make sense in total, like the single parts of a puzzle giving a full picture.
Alan: Understanding the case from the bigger picture, over individual symptoms, seems like a more holistic approach. One of the ways you sometimes confirm a remedy is with handwriting, and you’ve written a book about that. Can you talk about the work that went into writing that book, and give us an idea how the method works?
Dr. Welte: Handwriting is indeed often a good confirming symptom, because it represents the frozen individual movements of the person. It shows the pattern of how they move their hands, quite like hand gestures. It is not by chance that a personal signature legally binds an individual. Forensic analysis can ascertain a person by a few handwritten lines, sometimes even just by a signature. It is a reliable expression of the personality. Isn’t this precisely what we want as homeopaths? To my surprise very few have picked it up so far.
To write this book consumed nearly two years daily work, perhaps 4 hours per day, with hardly any lapses. It was intense work because it meant going through all of our good cases. I had to evaluate the reliability of nearly 2000 case records. Only the reliable cases were taken as handwriting samples, to make sure that possibly no errors are published. The bulk of 2200 handwritings, including HV Mueller’s cases yielded 750 reliable cases, and these are shown in the book. 315 remedies are depicted, and so about 2 specimens with sufficiently similar pairs of handwritings of each remedy are shown. More than 100 brief case descriptions give a practical introduction how to use this symptom. But the book is primarily a reference work and gives a faithful 1:1 reproduction of the handwritings of patients.
How to use the handwriting: To look for possible similarities, we just look at the whole picture and rhythm of the handwriting, quite as we would look at a face; we do not analyze like graphology does. If you hold the sample of the patient’s writing next to the samples of the book, you should feel that reading a line in the book and a line in the patient’s script looks the same. This method is shown on the cover of the book, a pair of aqua marina and another of arsenicum album: http://www.narayana-verlag.de/book_info.php/cPath/152/books_ id/441.
We follow the usual homeopathic procedure: anamnesis, analysis, repertorization, selection of a few promising remedies. Then we look at the handwritings of patients cured with the remedies in question. If we get a confirmation by a similar handwriting of one of the remedies, we choose this remedy. Sometimes the similarity of handwritings of patients cured by the same remedy is so striking that it can be seen easily; sometimes it is less easy; some are rather vague. It requires time to get acquainted with it. Usually artistic and musical people and those with a feeling for forms find it easy to pick up this symptom.
Alan: I’ve always thought of handwriting as rather immutable. Does it change with whatever chronic layer is uppermost?
Dr. Welte: Handwriting does not change so easily. After a good remedy you can still recognize the basic duct, but you may see a better order and a more natural flow, perhaps also more creativity. This is especially true after a cure of mental diseases. There are some people who can write in different ways, but this is not common. In my book I have shown this exception with two Lac Leoninum cases. I have seen a case where Kali-p was a very good remedy for more than 5 years, with a typical Kali-p script, and then the patient changed her handwriting completely as if she were another person; this new script looked very much like a Sepia handwriting, and actually she was in a phase of denying her husband and did well with Sepia. But this is rare. In most cases, even after deep cures, the handwriting stays pretty much the same.
Alan: You’ve incorporated color preference, handwriting, periodic table, kingdoms, themes, stages and more, into your work. Are there any new developments on homeopathy’s horizons that you also find interesting? What might homeopathy look like in twenty years?
Dr Welte: Any original contribution is interesting, if it is verified clinically. For example Filip Degroote’s work feels original, but I have never met him. He has incorporated a kind of kinesiology and uses Weihe points as confirmatory symptoms. His materia medica feels authentic, not just the usual copy of copy of copies. I met a patient to whom he gave Ruthenium as a very good constitutional remedy after a consultation of only 8 minutes (he had no appointment and was treated as an emergency patient). I marveled how he could have found a deep-rooted remedy in such short time; it made much sense and worked well, curing a protracted facial neuralgia.
Future homeopathy? I hope we will take another approach on understanding remedies and not just add more symptoms. First see the family theme as a basic characteristic of a remedy and then its single symptoms. With this general orientation we can handle more single symptoms without getting lost. As an example, the mental and physical tension and its amelioration by motion are not only characteristics of Rhus-tox, but of the whole family of the Anacardiaceae. This approach will make it easier also for beginners. It is like studying the large map of a country first, before we go into its details. You will know where you are, and it is easier to understand the remedies. At the same time you have far more remedies at your disposal. With a good overview and more remedies you can individualize better with less complications. Isn’t this exactly what we want?
Alan: So, all this seems right in line with homeopathy’s goals. You’ve made an eloquent case for these new methods, and your enthusiasm is apparent. Would you say that the homeopath’s intuitive abilities and case management skills, are still just as important?
Dr. Welte: Certainly. There is nothing like vast clinical experience. It gives a good understanding of the natural pace and course of acute and chronic diseases, what you can expect and what is strikingly different. That’s why I would encourage homeopaths not to dodge from a clinical training in regular medicine and hospitals. You will also get inside knowledge of all its pros and cons. This clinical basis may facilitate good case management and other higher skills. And the intuitive abilities also bear best fruit if they build on medical education, training and experience. In my opinion, a good clinical training, understanding of series, families and stages, and an essential knowledge of materia medica should go side by side for a happy growth. And if you learn how to use a good computer program as a repertory and materia medica, you have access to the whole storehouse of homeopathic knowledge of 200 years. With the overview described before, you will not so easily get lost in these vast fields.
I studied Kent‘s materia medica intently in my younger years; he said that only after many years of practice would you be able to develop these higher skills. I was a bit disappointed, but I see now that this is true for me too. Anyway, I would have been more than glad to meet the new methods then and not only now. I am sure my growth would have been better and speedier. I spent so many years mugging up remedy pictures and felt the difficulty to memorize such seemingly incoherent material. I felt a great need for a more comprehensive approach even in the early eighties, but there wasn’t any. When I read Sankaran’s Spirit in 1991 and Scholten’s Minerals in 1993, it was such a pleasure for me; everything seemed to fall into place.
Alan: Sankaran’s and Scholten’s ideas provided you a model, to understand how everything fit together. And that really moved you forward. I think people reading this interview will welcome these ideas, since even the best homeopaths leave a trail of unsolved cases.
I want to thank you for sharing these exciting possibilities. Sometimes, struggling with a case, I often wish I had one more approach. Now, I look forward to trying your color preference and handwriting methods. I’ve enjoyed this interview and it’s been a pleasure getting to know you. Thank you.
Dr. Welte: The interview was a pleasure for me too, and it provided the opportunity to clarify some thoughts to myself by writing them down. Yes, many questions were solved, and new ones arose. Development never stops, and only a rolling stone gathers no moss. For example I work on a system for animal remedies. The actinides are elements with insufficient indications and provings and little clinical experience. Many dispositional symptoms like the color preferences are still mostly empirical clinical data, not fully integrated into the systems of periodic table and botanical and zoological families. Only some have become quite clear. For example the snake remedies prefer turquoise, the spiders orange and olive, most of the solanaceae dark blue etc. The color preference is still in a phase like homeopathy was before Scholten and Sankaran; a deeper understanding is lacking. So let us see what the future will bring?