AS: We’re honored and delighted to have you with us today. I recently asked several homeopaths who they would seek out if they had a health problem. Each one said “Nancy Herrick”. Can you tell us what originally inspired your passion for homeopathy?
NH: It was very simple. I was attending a 5 day yoga course in Washington DC around 1970 and someone said there was going to be a talk on something called ” homeopathy” at lunch time in the adjoining room. I thought “why not” and went in there and it changed my life. I knew immediately that I was going to take on homeopathy as my life’s work. Funny isn’t it…I just knew. I had just one month prior finished my masters degree in psychology and was running a small school for autistic children at the time. I felt homeopathy can do more for autistic children than all that training and work I am doing now. One month later I returned and took a seminar on homeopathy and I have never looked back.
AS: That was quite a dramatic shift in careers. Did you bring something to homeopathy from your years of studying psychology?
NH: Definitely, yes I did bring psychology to homeopathy and was frustrated for many years by the lack of attention we paid to the mental and emotional symptoms. Of course when I began we only had Boericke, and Kent repertory and material medica. NO teachers, no cases to study, no one with experience. Imagine that! We even asked a very elderly group (mostly 90’s) of MD homeopaths in SF if we could quietly attend one of their meetings just to listen and learn and they refused! They had agreed to not teach anyone in exchange for the right to practice homeopathy and keep their medical licenses.
So we took our own cases and struggled to find the remedy and prescribed very strictly on repertory and tried to match it to Kent’s descriptions on his materia medica. The amazing thing is that we did have success. As a study group we labored over cases and we did get some correct prescriptions. This was in 1973-1975. Then we boldly decided to open a clinic and began treating hundreds of patients. We were busy beyond our wildest dreams from the very first day. We had a rule. You had to consult on every case with one other homeopath in the clinic. So we met in the back room. It was abuzz with activity. We also made little papers with remedies in them and hand fed them to our patients.
When we started seeing so many patients we could not help but pay attention to the mental and emotional states of our patients….they would not let us avoid it!! Then we heard of George Vithoulkas and Bill Gray went to study with him in Greece and suddenly emotions were a big part of the case.
AS: A real pioneering “learn as you go” introduction to homeopathy. Once you discovered the importance of mentals, did it add another dimension to case taking? Psychologist Carl Rogers taught that the relationship with the client is the healing dynamic in psychotherapy. What part does relationship play in the case taking interview?
NH: Relationship in case taking is really important. Roger and I have noted over the years that the really successful homeopaths are not necessarily the very best technical homeopaths but the people that really care about their patients as human beings. I think it helps a lot to know yourself and to do some deep inner work on yourself. Then you are more available to be there for the patient. You literally have the space inside your head to really see and hear the other.
AS: So it’s our own blind spots and projections that may keep us from “experiencing ” the patient’s remedy. Sankaran seems quite adept at creating that space to experience the patient. How has he influenced your work?
NH: Rajan Sankaran has been by far the most influential teacher in my homeopathic career. I went to sit in with him for a month in 1994 and it revolutionized my work. At that time he was working on animal, vegetable, mineral….now patently obvious to us all. But then it was a dramatic breakthrough. I had been prescribing Naja for many years but did not even know it was from a snake much less the cobra. Homeopaths all over the world were doing the same. Now, though many criticize him and his methods, the entire landscape of our work has changed and it is due to his absolute brilliance and creativity.
The latest work on sensations and hand gestures has been the icing on the cake. Going into the patient’s space with hand gestures and following sensations is something that I believe, with training, most of us can do. It gives us a very clear direction and IF we can stay with it (the most challenging part) we are often graced with the deepest simillimum. I have found remedies this way for people who have been treated for many, many years without success.
So yes, this system allows the homeopath to by-pass his or her own blocks or blind spots. Up until now we were stuck with trying to heal them first!
AS: In contrast to Sankaran’s very subjective approach, is Jan Sholten’s analysis based on periodic table. It seems to be an attempt to move toward more objectivity. Can these methods ever complement each other?
NH: The methods complement each other very nicely. Jan is the originator of the basic ideas on the mineral kingdom using the periodic table. This has been a powerful contribution to homeopathy and is now used all over the world. In fact I envy the new homeopaths coming into all these well developed ideas on the kingdoms and miasms. They have such a head start in their studies. Rajan, of course, also uses the periodic table. He has just completed an in-depth book on the subject called “Structure”.
I believe that we all need a combination of intuition and objective knowledge and facts to be a good homeopath. I just taught a wonderful case of an 8 year old girl with Juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis who was in a lot of pain and misery. Both of her parents were orphans and adopted. Her mother said of her that she “acted like an orphan”. She also had a craving for salads which we know is unusual in a child. She had hot feet. No other symptoms. This is a simple case from a pure materia medica perspective. Salads and orphan are Magnesium and hot feet is Sulphur. Mag Sulph worked beautifully for her and she is well 10 years later. The students were a bit confused and some were trying to read more into the case. We still need to know basic information and have facts at our fingertips. Rajan, in fact, has the most access to this knowledge of basic materia medica facts than anyone I have ever met. Just try it sometime and ask him to tell you the remedies in a good rubric. He will know them by heart.
When I teach with Roger or in my clinic with a patient, I am always dancing with all the information and all ways to access it, that I have at my disposal. But I will tell you one thing for sure. My ability to get the correct remedy has been vastly improved by using the sensation method. I am stunned over and over as the patient comes to the exact sensation of the kingdom and the miasm and then, even, if you are very patient, the exact source of the remedy.
AS: Our materia medica was shaped by decisions about what substances to prove. Who would have thought club moss would be a major remedy? Your provings range from Ayahuasca and Anahalonium to rat’s blood and dinosaur bone. So how do you decide what substances to prove?
NH: I decide on what substances to prove based on what I believe has influenced mankind the most in his growth and development. What man loves and hates, what he uses ritually and what he fears. It seems that we have a passion for dinosaurs, having endless movies, books, toys and images of the subject. Yet we know them by their bones.
We mostly hate rats, yet some absolutely love them and keep them as pets. Ganesh rides them and so does the goddess. My daughter Naomi recently went to a rat temple in India where they are worshipped and given special foods and people walk around barefoot as the rats run helter-skelter. Ayahuasca is the amazing shamanic combination of two plants that provides the herbal instrument for a vast number of people in South America to reach deeper understanding of the truth of their being. This is done in the context of a church, officially recognized, called Santo Daime. “Anhalonium is the smallest of all cacti and has been a major religious and spiritual influence for Meso-American culture since pre-columbian times.” (“Sacred Plants, Human Voices” by Nancy Herrick). Its true, Lycopodium is a much used remedy but it is probably not one that I would have picked to prove. I am glad someone else did!