At this time, were you and the Lycopodium group still involved with Imberechts?
Yes, our meetings with Imberechts continued until the mid 1980s. I’ll share some events of that period, the early 1980s. We had learned about these international congresses organized by the Liga that attracted the great masters. Imberechts’ idea was that we had to meet as many masters as possible to learn different strategies and figure out which way was best suited to us.
In those years, Imberechts had been running study groups like ours all over Europe. These eventually gathered under the umbrella Homeopathia Europea, of which he was the leader. Since we didn’t have any money, as Homeopathia Europea we organized what we called “multigroup” gatherings right before the Liga congresses so that the masters, who were going to be there anyway, could join us for one or two days without our having to pay for their travel expenses. At that time, we were still struggling financially because many of us were students and recent graduates. It didn’t help that very few people sought out homeopathy or even knew what it was. There was also a very strong ostracism, so our way of living this experience at times felt even a bit clandestine.
I imagine that, in spite of the challenges, these encounters with other European groups in the 1980s must have energized your commitment to homeopathy. Did you experience them in that way?
Yes, it was a challenging but also a very exciting time. There was a very important congress for European homeopathy that happened in Lyon in 1986 that brought together many of the homeopaths who would later become important figures in the history of homeopathy. In the early 1980s, many groups had been forming all over Europe – for example, in Spain, England, France, Germany, Belgium – and we had the opportunity to connect with them.
I spoke a bit of Spanish at the time so I was asked at the beginning of 1990 to accompany Imberechts to Spain. Those of us who did this kind of work were group leaders or coordinators of sorts who were called to organize these initiatives. For my part, I did this with Spain; in fact I still have great relationships with many homeopaths there because we met way back, at the start of their homeopathic journey.
A big turning point during that period happened when Imberechts referred us to Irene Bachas, a great student of George Vithoulkas. She was a medical doctor – at a time when a very strong distinction was made in the Liga between doctor and lay homeopaths – so we chose to work with her because we wanted to relate our homeopathy work to our medical training. She was a great point of reference for us until she died in 1985 – she was very close to us and we collaborated with her often.
Did you have connections with other groups or schools that were working outside the European context?
Yes. At the time, within the Liga, the Mexican and Argentinian schools were quite dominant and influential. We might think of them as the equivalents of today’s Sankaran, Geukens or Schroyens. At the time we were looking in particular to Tomas Paschero’s Argentinian School and Proceso Sánchez Ortega’s Mexican school, and we felt more aligned with the latter. Our group was called Homeopathia Europea because it was inspired by Omeopatia de Mexico, the organization led by Ortega. There was a conflict between the tendency of the Argentinian homeopaths to consider the patient’s entire biopathography, whereas the Mexican school prescribed based on what they called the hoy, the today of the patient. These were pretty big differences.
A pretty explosive event in this contentious situation was the arrival in Italy of Masi Elisalde who was of Argentinian origin and a follower of Paschero. Elisalde interpreted the latter’s vision in an even stricter and more narrow way. The modalities for a miasmatic analysis were very specific: he saw psora, for example, as existential anguish. We were supposed to look for the deep suffering within the person and to direct our remedy there – something often quite difficult if not impossible, and with results that were often less than ideal. According to Masi, either you did it this way or you were suppressing. Some homeopaths in Italy abandoned homeopathy as a result of this. In my opinion, if 90% of what you do is suppression, then you might as well stop being a homeopath.
Among the great masters of the time who came to the Liga congresses were also some Indian homeopaths. A very important one of these was Diwan Harish Chand, an advisor to the Indian Minister of Health with regard to homeopathy. My contact with Indian homeopathy also happened on numerous trips to India, where I assisted during patient visits at the clinics of Dr. Chand and Dr. Dhwale, among others. These presented very complicated situations for obvious language reasons (including the multiple dialects spoken), the need for translators, the long lines and the variety of pathologies that we don’t see as often in the West – tuberculosis, encephalitis and other serious clinical issues. I would visit hospitals and see thousands, not hundreds, of patients waiting for a doctor. This experience was very important because it taught me what it means to practice homeopathy in the trenches, in a sense.
All these experiences were based on a classical approach but they were very eclectic because we were trying to bring together the best from different teachers. We believed that we had to do things this way because we didn’t feel that we had one Master who could teach us everything, a master in every sense of the word. So our group’s orientation always reflected this.
Some of us got closer to Masi Elisalde, some to Ortega; some went to Argentina to follow Paschero and others the European current, for example Jost Kunzli, whose legacy was taken up by his student Dario Spinedi in Switzerland after his death. Some of us, including me, took Imberechts’ suggestion and went to London to take the exam at the Faculty of Homeopathy for the title of Member of the Faculty (M.F.Hom.).
Do any of these teachers stand out personally to you?
For our group and for me personally, the biggest turning point was our meeting with the Israeli homeopath Joseph Reves. We learned about him from a woman, Aviva Davidowic, who reached out to us through Irene Bachas. I learned that he was teaching a unique approach so I went to visit him in 1986. I proposed to our group that we go to him for a seminar, which we did, and we ended up working with him for about 10 years.
Reves was a very methodical person and his approach was very classical. His teachings were commentaries on the Organon, Chronic Diseases, and Kent’s lessons. With him we – and I in particular – researched the relationship between Swedenborg and Kent, thus deepening our understanding of Kent through a reading of Swedenborgian texts. We learned a lot from Reves. In my opinion, it was through him that we learned the core or center of homeopathy; it all came together for us there. Up until then, the pieces of our knowledge summed themselves together but hadn’t yet found coherence. With Reves, we developed a deeper kind of knowledge.
He was very sharp, and so was his method. I’ll share just an example of his way of working. At one point, he corrected over 20,000 typographical and other errors in the repertory. He compared every page with prior versions and other repertories to see if an abbreviation, for example, really referred to Colchicum, Calcarea or Colocynthis; if something should be in the second or third degree; and if a column had been incorrectly moved. He also spent considerable effort researching the meaning of words in the repertory.
Our long encounter with Reves catalyzed other developments. We were inspired to start a school because there still weren’t any. In 1989-90, we began the first year of the Lycopodium school – a three-year program with a required number of hours. Unlike schools today, we defined our own standards, which we imposed upon ourselves while, on a parallel track, we worked towards the recognition of homeopathy. It took years for us to arrive at the end of this journey and achieve it. But at least a kind of self-discipline started to emerge during this time, in the late 80s and early 90s.
At the personal level, I decided to leave Milan and move to Lucca – which was a momentous change in both my professional and my personal life. But I’ll get back to that because there is an intermediate chapter – an extraordinary one – that takes me there via Cuba…
Cuba is quite a detour. What took you there?
When I decided to leave Milan to relocate to Lucca, I decided to go on a one-year trip around the world. My wife and I stopped in Cuba for a good month and a half. We had previously been contacted with requests for medicine donations, so we collected homeopathic remedies before we left, without even knowing whether they used them. When we arrived, we had our first contact with the Cuban homeopathic world, which was still in the early stages of development, with small groups that were forming. They asked us to work in Santiago because, at that time in Cuba, everything stopped in Havana, as happens in many countries – everything is concentrated in the capital while other areas remain without resources.