AS: A fascination with homeopathy has often sidetracked other careers. What was your path before, and what spark ignited your interest in homeopathy?
MA: My story is this. I was really floundering in falling short of connecting with what I might call my soul’s purpose. I was lost. As a child my family were all believers in Osteopathy, in fact my aunt was the first woman D.O. to qualify in the state of Pennsylvania, in 1924 I believe. Her aunts had introduced Osteopathy into the UK. I had heard throughout my childhood a great deal of ridicule of homeopathy, but had no idea what it was about, but I had ignored anything good I had heard about it. The first time in my life I visited a medical GP was when I was pregnant with my first child. Osteopaths in the UK are not the same as in the USA and I was brainwashed into thinking that if they were not registered doctors (D.O.’S) they were no good. Therefore I would have to go the allopathic route.
Growing up I had a very eclectic education with a degree in art history, then graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC, working with an improvisation group called The Second City, and with deaf children at the Lexington School for the Deaf. After both my parents died of cancer in 1965, I left New York and the theatre, but continued to yearn for something creative. I moved from the USA to the UK in 1967, Once in the UK and married, I began a course in Anthropology at York University but soon I was pregnant and gave it up. I raised two children living first in York in the north of England, and later in Brighton, on the south coast. Wanting to connect more with my new-land, I started out learning about wildflowers, and then about medicinal plants and eventually moved into having my own organic herbal business and self taught practice as a western herbalist.
I also became very involved in the grass roots preschool playgroup movement and helped to run a local playgroup in Brighton, fund-raising, play-leading and studying child development. I was also into animal behavior, plant ecology, archeology, and all growing things. I was so restless, and I knew there was something somewhere I was yearning for, but I knew not what.
To make a long story a little bit shorter, I became seriously ill with a burst ovarian cyst,(misdirected creativity?). It was wrongly diagnosed and led to emergency surgery and a near death experience. After months of a slow and painful recovery, a friend took me to an acupuncturist who had some small experience with homeopathy and recognized the extreme Sepia-state I was in. Twenty minutes after the Sepia hit my tongue, all my agonizing pain was gone, my energy returned and I was on course. It seemed everything I had done up to that point had led me to this astonishing new place.
So when you ask the question about being sidetracked it was just the opposite with me, I felt as if I had finally now found my central track, my major highway, my freeway. I felt as if I had found what I was here on this earth to do, and like a duckling discovering water, I took to homeopathy as if I had been born to it. Happily, I still hold the same passion for it as I did then. At this same time I became involved in the Women’s Peace Movement, which involved doing non-violent direct action against the escalating nuclear war machine. The connection between that work and the non-violent direct action of homeopathy were a perfect match for me. My yearning had finally stopped.
I wrote a poem about my Sepia experience and if you are interested I will include it here.
I was blind floating alone in the dark
Until you touched my hand
I knew at once
Here is my source
Here is my destiny
I was deaf wandering in the void
Until you whispered in my ear
And opened me to listen,
It was then I heard
The music of my soul
I had been
Like a fish caught
And pulled above the surface
Slowly dying as I sucked
With amazement at the burning air
Stroke by stroke
My body was remembering
Life cries out for
The lost parts of itself.
From nets that
Pull me to the surface
I remember, I cannot
Breathe in air
Falling back into the sea
I drink the dark ink
Now the sea is in me
And I am the fish
Below the surface
We dance a gorgon dance
Of many arms, ruffled gills
And rainbow coloured skin
We dive in deep
And vanish beneath
To ride the backs of wild seahorses
And become aquatic acrobats.
AS: Those are beautiful images. You use poetry in your lectures, which speaks to the intuitive aspect of our experience. How does your intuitive side affect your approach to case taking and analysis?
MA: That is a lovely question, and also a complicated one. I have written a lot of poetry about remedies and my experience with them, and yes I use them in my teaching and writing as a way of encouraging others to connect in this way.
Homeopathy has brought me a richness of spiritual connection within myself for which I am unendingly grateful. I am not just talking about my own treatment with remedies but being witness to my clients healing journeys, and connecting to the spirit of the substances we use. Conducting proofings (proving), and making plant essences has helped me see how everything is connected to Life and that there is a universal energy about which the scientific world has yet to get close to understanding.
“Intuition” is so often dismissed as being akin to good guessing, or co-incidence, or triggered memory. I guess my belief is that the life force is benevolent, and therefore wanting to reveal itself and its purpose to us. Our job is to listen. I have always been a very visual person, with perhaps an overly developed right brain. I often see remedies as pictures, and often the pictures are in vivid colours and are usually accompanied by emotional texturing.
I remember the first time I was aware of this was when I had just begun to study, and was living in a Peace Camp in England. I was called to see if I could help a woman who had dysenteric diarrhoea. I was trying to think of what remedies would have this sort of frequent watery stool, when I suddenly got a vision of an enormous wave crashing up against the wall of a damn. It was very vivid and quite violent. I had just learned Natrum mur the week before, and had felt the power of the ocean in the remedy during the lecture. The vision was overwhelmingly powerful, so I looked up Nat Mur in my trusty Phatak Materia Medica and sure enough there it was, “Painless watery diarrhoea: chronic”. I gave her 30C which was all I had, telling her to take another at bedtime. The diarrhoea stopped immediately, and the tears began. She revealed that her partner had gone off with another woman, and the same thing had happened to her mother when her father abandoned them when she was a child. She was able to talk about what had happened to her for the first time. She began to gain back her strength and was back in action in a few days. I learned so much from that encounter. I remembered her resentment at the sympathy she was getting from those around her, and the way she was “toughing” things out. She had built her damn against the huge wave of her grief. Her vital force had found a watery expression through the diarrhoea. You know, we refer to Nat Mur as “The English Remedy”, the stiff upper lip, but I think you will find that it is usually accompanied by a quivering lower lip.
Anyway, I have wandered off the subject. That first vision helped me to pay attention in a new way. I was able to notice subtleties of language, and the symbolism of symptoms much more. I also began to trust myself and my intuition in a new way.
I love talking to clients about their aspirations and dreams. I love working with clients who want to join in and help find the solutions. I think of us as being like two detectives figuring out the clues and patterns that will allow the mystery to unfold. It is so exciting to me when my clients figure things out for themselves. I encourage them to be part of the “case analysis”. I always tell them the remedy and why it has been chosen. In my teaching and mentoring, I try to encourage other practitioners to try this out.
I don’t like being in the driver’s seat all the time. I see homeopathy and healing as a process. A process where the receiver of the remedy responds in chorus with it as it allows the revelations to occur. If possible I encourage my clients to begin to trust their own intuition, and to learn to listen to their own voice. Empowering a client in this way has been one of the most rewarding parts of my life as a homeopath.
Perhaps revealing the remedy picture to them is a way of mirroring back their own story. They know they have been heard. They know they have been seen, and that in itself can begin the healing process. I was not surprised when neuroscientists discovered mirror neurons in our brains. It may have taken us a step closer to explaining how our magical medicine works.
AS: Yes, being heard is very powerful. For some people, the homeopathic interview is the first time they’ve ever been fully “received”. When a simillimum comes from an intuitive leap, as with your Natrum mur case, it’s quite magical. Of course we don’t solve all the cases. After so many years in homeopathy, could you say something about the reality of being in practice?
MA: The reality of practice is that it is such a mixture of things. It can be so enriching and so maddening. It can be both quite magical and quite mundane. It can be energising and it can be draining. After about 15 years, in practice I finally stopped secretly thinking of myself as a” baby” homeopath and realised I knew quite a lot, and that my successes were pretty good. In fact they had been for a long time but my self esteem took a while to catch up with it. We all bring our personal hang-ups with us into practice, and we have to live with our ghosts, and the old tapes still rewind.
One of the big things I learned when I finally accepted that I was an “almost grown-up” homeopath was that homeopathy does not always do everything. As much as we would like it to, Fate, or Karma, or the Gods, or just plain Biology may have other ideas. Yes I have seen it do miracles and I have always seen it lend a helping hand to ease those who are dying, and I have learned that there is a time to let go.
I have never believed that there is only ONE remedy, and even if the indicated remedy does not do it all, it so often helps, and then we go on to another one. My first teacher taught me that one should treat what is upper most. He called it “Appropriopathy”, and it is one of the ways I practice. I try to treat each case individually and not follow too much of a standard code in methodology. I think this helps me stay flexible. Yes, I have had total failures, a mixture of bad prescribing and the fact that sometimes it is hard for the client to find the will to do the work. If there is an expectation that it is only the remedy that does all the work, then the chances of betterment seem to be less.
Another helpful thing for me was that I stopped going to seminars that made me feel as if I was no good at what I did, because the person leading the seminar had just wowed the audience. I realised that it was not good for me to feel this way, so I chose seminars that empowered me., and started to go to only a few. I also got to the point when learning hundreds of new remedies was not helpful, and that perhaps I knew enough. Now that I am so old it feels good to know that I hold a treasure chest of knowledge that is unique to me, to my experience.
The best thing about my years with homeopathy is how it has enriched my spiritual beliefs. Doing proofings, seeing the spirit of remedies, matching their place in nature, and understanding that one of the miracles of homeopathy is this spiritual connection with all the beings with whom we share our universe: rocks, moonlight, waters, gases, elements, plants, animals, and others of our own kind. If the minutely potentised sub-molecule of a tree, or a flower, or whatever, can light me up and make me feel whole again, that is a miracle, and as homeopaths we see this happen every day. We are blessed indeed, and that is really the reality of practice.
AS: Homeopathy has given a lot to you, and you’ve given a lot back. Among other things, you’ve done provings of and helped develop Folliculinum, Lac Humanum, Placenta, Amniotic fluid, Vernix, Umbilical Cord and Luna. What drew you to these remedies and what impact have they had?
MA: Let me answer the second part of this question first.I was first drawn to Folliculinum, because I was looking for something that could address the hormonal abuse that was the result of isolating the hormone that gives us our earthly rhythm. I was treating so many women who had been damaged by its destructive and suppressive action. Through the use of allopathic hormonal treatment [sic]. When Oestrogen was isolated in 1938, by Sir Charles Dodd, it was thought it would be the answer to all female disorders. I guess this was similar thinking to the time the atom was split, as there was not the foresight to know their destructive power. Instead of the planned panacea, it unleashed a Pandora’s box of generational poisoning. “Artificial oestrogen would cure all women”, they said. Well as there was still the idea that all our illnesses had to do with our hormones, then this linear thinking made some sort of sense to them. It does add to our docility, helplessness, and passivity, perhaps this was thought of as a cure.
The pill came out around the time when women were waking up to their power. We thought it would liberate us, but instead it subdued us. So When I discovered the power of Folliculinum, I thought I was on to a homeopathic panecea. It’s been almost 25 years since I began to understand the incredible power of Folliculinum. Recently, since working with the Matridonal Remedies, and finding out about how oestrogen floods our bodies just before birth, it has taken me into an even deeper understanding of the remedy. This is not the place to go into that but it is all in my new book.
As for Lac Humanum, I was so struck by the fact that it had not been made into a remedy. If we had the other milks, which were only cat’s and dog’s and cow’s at the time, why not human? I made it from one of the eleven lactating women in my practice and chose her because she had an extraordinary bond with her baby. I was working with many clients who were HIV+ or had developed AIDS and had very compromised immune systems. It seemed only logical to use this remedy as a way to enhance their defences, as human milk is what helps us build an immune system in the first place. It worked some wonders in giving quality and extension of life, but I cannot say it saved anyone of them from the ravages of this horrible disease.
I have used it alternating with Carcinosin in breast cancer. I have found Lac humanum, Folliculinum and Carcinosin, to be kissing cousins. Over the years and through the proofings, I learned the deeper and profound metaphor of this remedy. This too is a Matridonal Remedy (a gift of the mother). In my new book you can read about how my ideas about proofings evolved. It is a long story starting with Wolf’s milk, and Silkworm until finally the model we call Enhanced Provings was developed, and used for the proofings of Octopus Ink, Venus, Amniotic Fluid (Aqua Amniota humana) Umbilical cord (omphalus), and last year DNA.
I am not sure how I came to create these substances, but each one had brought me a profound lesson. With hindsight I realise I must have been led by something pretty astonishing. I would happily make a bet with anyone that it was my Guardian Angel.
It has been a magical journey. This for me is the gift that has come down to me through all the people in the past who have stuck to the dream of homeopathy and passed it on. This is why I have come out of retirement. I feel I need to pass on these gifts to those in the future who will carry the torch into a new and ever more astonishing place.
Now I can answer the first part of your question:
Yes Homeopathy has given me a great deal. Through being a practitioner I have learned so much about the world around me, and how connected we are to it all. I have come to see that there are universal patterns woven into the fabric of our makeup. There is also the enrichment of my mental and emotional life that came through the sort of associative thinking that needs to happen when we connect client to remedy. I have learned to pay attention to things I would have dismissed in the past, for instance how metaphoric memory can be the clue to reach the amazing realization that the child is the author of our life-story. I have learned that that story is so important.
AS: Thank you Melissa, for sharing your story with us today.
Melissa Assilem MNCHM, RSHom, FBIH
Melissa Assilem began her involvement with homeopathy in 1982, when she was 40. She has been teaching for 21 years and practicing for 25. Her first book, “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”, explores how remedies reflect the way we relate to the homeopathic substance culturally and spiritually. Melissa has focused strongly on women’s health issues, and especially the harmful effects of hormone abuse. She developed the remedies Folliculinum (oestrone), Lac humanum, and Luna. Her second book “Women Ripening Through The Menopause” was an outcry against this rite of passage being treated as a disease.
She has conducted provings on Usnea, Apple, Silkworm, Lac lupaninum, Octopus, Venus, Amniotic Fluid, and Umbilical Cord. Her latest book, Matridonal Remedies of the Humanum Family (see review in this issue) focuses on the remedies Lac humanum, Folliculinum, Placenta, Amniotic Fluid, Vernix, and Umbilical Cord.
Melissa also created a distance learning course for the British Institute of Homeopathy, covering everything from conception to old age. During her stay on Lesbos she developed a series of flower essences, called the Greek Tree Essences. She’s currently working on producing the poems she’s written over the years about the remedies .
Melissa divides her time between California, London, and Lesbos. Her main home now is in California, where she is busy writing and teaching.
Visit Melissa @ her website: www.Melissaassilem.net