AS: When and how did your journey with homeopathy begin?
RV: My parents were never ones for doctors and drugs, raising me on fresh and simple foods, mostly from our own garden. I’ve always been sensitive to drugs and when I began to get sick in my late twenties, I started with diet and nutrition, but as I got sicker, and found that the allopathic system had nothing to offer, I remembered my parents talking about homeopathy and the fact that their family doctor in Holland used homeopathy. I had also been exposed to homeopathy on an acute basis when I visited family members in Holland while on a trip to Europe in 1970, who tried to help me with headaches and digestive issues using homeopathic medicines. For some reason, I became intrigued by this and wanted to know more. A stay in Europe in 1977-79 exposed me further to the general use of homeopathy there.
On my return to Canada, I came across a small ad in the local newspaper, seemingly by accident. The ad offered homeopathic treatment. This was the first I had ever seen any mention of homeopathy in Canada. I called and said that I wanted to know more about homeopathy and we agreed to meet. He turned out to be a homeopath from India and was the brother of the then homeopathic physician to the President of India. He told me that he had come on a mission to bring homeopathy to Canada. Much of what he said I no longer remember, but I vividly recall that on my leaving he reached behind his desk in the very small apartment he was living in and handed me two books. “Keep them,” he said. “They will get you started.” One was Kent’s Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy, and the other was Boericke’s Materia Medica and Repertory. I still have both books, well used and dog-eared. I didn’t really do much more with them, but began some acute prescribing for myself and my family once I discovered that a pharmacy in town had once sold remedies and the new pharmacist owner had discovered them and had started selling them. Then I came across an ad for courses on homeopathy at a local naturopathic college. I signed up and at that point began my more intensive and serious study and practice of homeopathy.
I had little idea how far signing up for that one course would take me down the road laid down by Dr. Hahnemann. For me it was initially an interest, a hobby, a promise of better health, but it eventually became a vocation and a life’s pursuit, one that I am still very much engaged in.
You could say that I started with homeopathy, but through it discovered Heilkunst, the more complete system of medicine bequeathed by Hahnemann, but which had lain dormant and hidden from view all these years. I stumbled on this by accident, and the real credit for the rational unveiling of Dr. Hahnemann’s complete medical system, which he named Heilkunst, must go to one of the true geniuses of our time, Steven Decker, who has created the only true and faithful translation into English of the Organon der Heilkunst.
But before we get to that part of the story, I first set to learning the foundations of what is now often termed “classical homeopathy.” I read almost everything there is to read, ordering books by the box-load from India (who could resist the cheap prices even if the paper was also very cheap!). I also came across an early innovation at the start of the internet and the world-wide web, known as Homeonet. Instead of feeling isolated and alone, I discovered a world of homeopathy at my doorstep. Homeonet was a life-line for those like me scattered around the world, but who hungered and thirsted to talk about homeopathy and Dr. Hahnemann’s legacy with like-minded souls. It was through Homeonet that I also met my wife and partner, Patty Smith. She was then co-director of Homeonet with David Warkentin (creator of MacRepertory and ReferenceWorks). For that I am forever in David’s debt both personally and because of the deep love for and knowledge of materia medica she gave me. My interest has always been more on the matter of philosophy and principles. In a way, you could say that I tended to favor Kent’s Lectures to Boericke’s Materia Medica in the initial gift of homeopathy from the Indian homeopath who started me on my studies, and that, through Patty, I have been able to find a better balance in my practice.
AS: You find classical homeopathy, discover a more complete version of it, which becomes your vocation, find kindred spirits and meet your soulmate. Sounds like a very rewarding journey. Part of this journey was your evolution to Heilkunst. How did that come about?
RV: I threw myself wholeheartedly into my studies of homeopathy, and read everything I could get my hands on. My training in history and philosophy, as well as science generally, provided the means for me then to try to understand and assimilate what I was reading. I also studied more formally and according to the generally received wisdom of what homeopathy was and meant. Two things initially stood out from my studies, readings and general experience: one, there was a big gap between theory and practice – there was a wide range of practices that came within the general purview, but could not really be fit into the accepted meaning of homeopathy (the application of a remedy based on provings according to a similarity between proving and symptoms of the disease); and two, that the actual success of homeopathy was poor. Even the “masters” admitted that success was at best 10-15%. What then could a mere student and apprentice hope to accomplish?
I knew that there was something valid about homeopathy and kept searching. In my search, I discovered two unsettling facts: one, that the teachers of homeopathy didn’t like questions, and the standard answer seemed to be “that’s just the way it is;” and two, that most teachers and practitioners had not bothered to read even the Organon in its entirety, much less the Chronic Diseases and the collection of articles and essays packaged as the Lesser Writings (a misleading title indeed, as I would discover). My intense reading of these works raised many questions in my mind that conflicted with what I was being taught. I then discovered that what was being taught as homeopathy was really the teachings of Kent, which teachings were based on only the 4th edition of the Organon. Neither the work of Dr. Hahnemann since the 4th edition (which includes the Chronic Diseases), nor the earlier seminal works, such as the various essays leading up to the 1810 Organon were used.
I also began to study many things within the ambit of homeopathy, but not strictly homeopathic, such as tissue salts, flower essences, drainage, homotoxicology, diet, nutrition, biotherapies, to mention the main ones, and struggled with reconciling these with the formal tenets of homeopathy as taught, and increasingly referred to as classical, to distinguish it from the myriad of claims to the title “homeopathic.”
At about this time, in the early 1990s, I came across the works of Dr. Elmiger in Switzerland, published in French in a book called La Medicine Retrouvee. My French language skills came in handy as it was to be some time before this book was translated into English (as Real Medicine). It was again one of those serendipitous and defining moments in a person’s life. Suddenly, a light bulb went on. What Dr. Elmiger offered was an approach to complex, chronic conditions that was causally-based, logical in sequence and simple in remedy choice. It made sense, and also held the promise of relating and including rationally the seemingly disparate aspects of “homeopathy.” However, it went against the received wisdom.
My enthusiasm for what I had found in Dr. Elmiger’s work led to me present these ideas on Homeonet and in various articles for homeopathic and natural health publications. I wasn’t prepared for the reaction. I expected to be questioned, but also to be welcomed for offering something valuable and interesting. What I got was an avoidance of the issues raised, and personal attacks. I was treated like a heretic, and the tenets of classical homeopathy became more and more to appear like dogma and not science.
Two important things happened next. First, I was asked to leave HomeoNet after an extraordinary meeting of the director with three disgruntled members (this had never been done in the history of HomeoNet). The co-director, Patty Smith, whom I had gotten to know as a friend, was told to delete me from the group. Despite this, we remained friends and eventually formed a spiritual and professional partnership. At this point, the two of us struggled to present the new insights we had gained from practicing Dr. Elmiger’s system of sequential treatment of shocks and traumas, as well as the use of drainage and detoxification measures with remedies. Our ability to challenge the received wisdom was hampered by the fact that we could not rationally explain why what we knew intuitively to be true to be consistent with Dr. Hahnemann’s writings and teachings. The classical approach had effectively monopolized the field of debate. Our actions were more like guerilla raids and tactics, much like the early Continental army against the well-entrenched and armed British troops and government in colonial America.
At this point, the most defining moment for the transformation of homeopathy to Heilkunst occurred. We received a call from a Steven Decker in California who wanted us to come out and give a seminar to students and practitioners. This was in late 1995. Our meeting with Steven Decker opened a door into an understanding of Hahnemann’s works, based on his close study of the German orginals, that provided the rational basis to explain both homeopathy in its proper context, and also to explain all of the previously hidden teachings of Hahnemann, teachings that explained and corroborated the seemingly disparate approaches on the fringes of classical teaching and practice.
Steven brought a deep knowledge of the German language of Hahnemann’s time, as well as a broad and profound knowledge of the context within which Hahnemann was writing, what he called the Dynamic system of thought, which included Bacon, Goethe, Coleridge, Saumarez, Brown, John Hunter, as well as more recently, Wilhelm Reich and Rudolf Steiner. What Steven’s scholarship had revealed is that the Organon had been badly translated. Part of this reason was simply poor translation, but most of the problem lay in the fact that the translators did not understand many of the terms that Hahnemann used. For example, where Hahnemann used the terms “lebenskraft,” “lebensenergie,” “dynamis,” and “lebensprincip,” the translators had conflated all of these terms into the one English term “vital force.” To make matters worse, this put Hahnemann in the discredited camp of 19th century vitalism, a mystical and misguided concept that had nothing to do with Hahnemann’s concept of a living power within the human organism.
To understand Hahnemann’s terms and then to translate them required the depth of understanding of the evolution of human consciousness that Steven brought to the task. Steven had been studying such things since his late 20s, more than 30 years at that point.
Steven’s translation provided the basis for the O’Reilly edition of the Organon, the best at that point, but Steven also published (in electronic form) his triune translation, which is even “more perfect;” it allows one to put the German original, and the word-for-word literal translation into English alongside of the final English rendition. For once and all, the reader can see what is being translated and why.
Thus began a fruitful collaboration that led eventually to our publication of Homeopathy Re-examined, and then the more complete and polished treatise on the Organon and the rest of Hahnemann’s works, entitled The Dynamic Legacy.
The purpose of the collaboration is to provide a concise terminology and scientific basis for the complete system of medicine left us by Dr. Hahnemann. Homeopathy is only one part of that system, and the classical understanding of even that part is seriously flawed as a result of a failure to fully understand Dr. Hahnemann and his very detailed, rich and precise terminology.
As a result of the general failure of existing homeopaths and homeopathic schools to incorporate the insights set out in The Dynamic Legacy into their programs, we founded the Hahnemann College for Heilkunst, which currently provides a four-year program internationally to train practitioners in Heilkunst, of which Steven Decker is the Chancellor.
AS: You mentioned the importance of Dr. Elmiger’s work in showing you the new path. How is Heilkunst different from the Sequential Therapy of Elmiger?
RV: Heilkunst includes and expands on the work and research done by Dr. Elmiger.
AS: Could you give us some concrete examples of how knowledge of Heilkunst would change the way a “classical” homeopath approached a case?
RV: There is a treasure trove of insights in Hahnemann’s writings that go beyond homeopathy. Indeed, the classical version of homeopathy is, based just on a clear reading of Hahnemann’s own writings, seriously flawed.
Let’s take a case of a child with autism. The classical homeopath will take all of the symptoms of the patient and try to find a remedy to match that symptom picture. There are several problems here. The patient is treated as if all of the symptoms belong to one disease. Disease is seen as an abstraction, and no consideration is given to the multiple tonic diseases in the patient, such as are engendered from drugs, vaccines, accidents, surgeries, birth traumas, and all of the chronic miasms. How can we assume that the symptoms of the patient are related to a given disease? How can we know that some of these symptoms are not due to poor nutrition or toxins, or metabolic dysfunctions? Classical homeopathy just assumes that it somehow owns all of the symptoms. What of the case of the arthritic patient who drank four cups of coffee a day and no water and worked as a landscaper? Reducing coffee and drinking water removed the arthritic condition.
Most often the symptom picture that the classical homeopath puts together is false and fails. Where the symptoms chosen are acute, or where the immediate or exciting cause is known, such as in the case of a bee sting or an acute disease, such as chickenpox or measles, or food poisoning, the success rate is higher because an obvious disease can be identified. However, in complex, chronic cases, with very general symptoms, it is almost impossible to link symptoms with a real disease picture. In some cases, the remedy given will have a positive effect, as the symptom-picture used happens to be correct, but this remedy will seldom affect a major change. Yes, there are lots of cases out there of brilliant successes. If as a busy practitioner I see 1000 different patients in a year, then with a ten per cent success rate, I will have 100 cases to go on the lecture circuit with. But what about the other 900? No one really talks about those.
Classical homeopathy essentially teaches using case example. Hahnemann refused all of his life to teach this way, giving only two at the very end reluctantly for his followers. As he states in Aphorism #2, the issue is principles, and to understand how to apply them. Classical principles tend to be abstract and flawed. Take the simple example of “the totality of symptoms:” no one really does take the full totality; the symptoms used are always selected and mostly by methods intuitive to the prescriber but largely hidden to the observer. Take also the tenet, “one remedy at a time.” Is this one remedy per disease or per patient? Hahnemann made clear that the thing treated by the remedy was the disease, that the remedy annihilates the disease (not “supports the immune system” as you often hear). What is the time frame? We are told to wait before giving another dose or remedy until the action of the first remedy/dose is finished. But which action: the initial action of the remedy on the generative power of the life force or the healing reaction of the sustentive power of the life force to restore balance after the curative action of the remedy? Hahnemann’s dictum was not to give a second dose or remedy within the initial action only. A second remedy or dose can be given after that, even if the healing reaction to the first remedy continues. If the link is remedy-disease, then what if you have several diseases in the patient at one time, as Hahnemann stated could well happen?
Most of the “classical” remedies for first-aid are not chosen based on symptoms, but on cause. Thus, after a bee sting, one does not take the symptoms but gives Apis. Apis is always going to be the remedy regardless of the case. This is a constant nature disease that has a constant specific remedy. Now, in some cases it may happen that the initial disease (bee sting) triggers a secondary disease in a patient. This disease will need to be treated using only the symptoms that arise – this is the realm of homeopathy. Apis for bee stings is not homeopathic, but homotonic prescribing.
It is hard in this small space to go into too much detail, but anyone interested can read more in the articles I have written for your e-zine, or better yet, can go to the website www.heilkunst.com and read the numerous articles there. The best would be to order the book, The Dynamic Legacy, and read it in full detail, all meticulously documented in Hahnemann’s writings and those of others. Julian Winston wrote of our initial book, Homeopathy Re-examined, that it was the first serious review of Hahnemann’s genius since Kent and deserved careful study. To date we have not had a single person show us where our logic and understanding of Hahnemann’s legacy has been in error. We have had a lot of criticism and personal attacks, but no refutation of what we have put out publicly.
The conclusion I have come to is that “classical homeopathy” is more like a belief system to be defended, than a science open to critical discussion. The series of articles for your e-zine were written to try once again to establish, through rational debate, a principled basis for considering Hahnemann’s legacy. The logic of the examination compels one to the conclusion that the “classical” view of Hahnemann in his entirety, not just the homeopathic part of his writings, is seriously limited and flawed even within those limitations. To use Hahnemann’s own characterization, any approach to medicine not based on “clearly realizable principles” is only another form of allopathy.
AS: Yes, amazing cures in case conferences create the illusion that we’re almost perfect, far from the truth. I guess that helps maintain orthodox views. You’ve written about Heilkunst in this journal and discussed the two aspects of the of living principle: the “sustentive”, which maintains homeostasis and the “generative” which does the curing of disease. You have also written about constant (tonic) and variable (pathic ) diseases. What other ideas does Heilkunst encompass?
RV: Heilkunst, in its essence, provides a solid foundation in natural law and principle for the rational ordering of therapeutics on a basis that is empirical (but not empiricist, because it is grounded further in natural law principles). Without this foundation, any approach to medicine is without principle (allopathic) and will have the potential to cause great harm as a result, either directly (such as with drugs) or indirectly (by not properly removing disease). Heilkunst provides a means to incorporate in a truly integrated manner the myriad of therapies and substances designed to help the organism heal, largely found in the natural health field and so-called alternative and complementary medicine.
The radical nature of Heilkunst lies in the very explicit recognition, for the first time in the history of medicine, of the polar nature of the Living Principle (Lebensprincip) or Dynamis, that is the generative and sustentive side; the dynamic or energetic nature of disease (as opposed to the prevailing material or mystical views); and the use of medicines on the basis of their dynamic or energetic (not simply biochemical) effect.
Dr. Hahnemann, unlike any medical practitioner before him or since, made a fundamental distinction between disease, which is a dynamic impingement of the generative side of the Living Principle or Dynamis, and imbalance, a disturbance of the sustentive power (what traditionally was termed the vis medicatrix naturae or inner healer). He also provided a clear distinction between the initial action (Erstwirkung) of the disease agent, which involves an almost imperceptible impingement of the generative power (Erzeugungskraft) of the Living Principle, and the counteraction (Gegenwirkung, Nachwirkung) of the sustentive side (Erhaltungskraft), which produces the various symptoms we associate with disease, but which is really the effort of the Living Principle or Dynamis to rid the human organism of disease.
The cure of disease involves the use of a medicinal agent (artificial disease) according to the law of similar resonance and there are various levels of similitude identified by Hahnemann (homeo, homo, iso) according to the nature of the disease agent.
Heilkunst also includes the use of the law of opposites, which involves the healing function of the sustentive power in such realms as diet, nutrition, lifestyle, energy work and psychotherapy, drainage and detoxification, all of which are contained in one form or another in the above noted works.
From this we find a clear distinction between the act of curing (destruction of the disease itself), which is what the therapeutic agent accomplishes through its power to affect the generative power wherein is lodged the disease, according to the natural law of resonance (similar or opposite), and healing, which is what is accomplished by the sustentive power reacting to this artificial disease agent (medicine), and which can be supported where there are imbalances in energy flow, nutrients, blockages, etc.
While one aspect of Heilkunst, the medical application of the natural curative law of similars (similia similibus), is widely known, it is only known regarding one particular application, namely based on the overt symptom picture (totality of characteristic symptoms) of the patient, that is pathic prescribing, to which Hahnemann gave the name, homeopathy from the Greek words homoios (similar) and pathos (suffering).
At the same time, other important aspects of Hahnemann’s complete medical system, involving the application of the second natural law, the law of opposites (contraria contrarius) are even less known, if understood. This encompasses the entire realm of regimenal measures designed to bring the human organism back into homeostasis, through working with the sustentive side of the Dynamis, the natural healing power.
There also remains a profound misunderstanding of Hahnemann’s disease nosology, which has produced confusion regarding the action of medicines in homeopathy, as well as the basis for their selection.
All this has led to the term homeopathy being used to refer to Hahnemann’s system of medicine, when it properly only applies to one aspect of the application of medicines according to the law of similar resonance.
Disease is also of two fundamental types: disease that has a largely fixed, constant nature (essence or Wesen), and disease that is of a more variable nature or essence. The latter Hahnemann termed “pathic” as the curative medicine can only be determined through the symptoms (suffering or “pathos”) produced by the disease in the patient. The former are referred to as “tonic” diseases and the curative remedy is determined by the particular jurisdiction the disease falls into and the principle governing that jurisdiction. Heilkunst also involves several tonic disease jurisdictions: homotoxic (toxins), homogenic (physical and emotional traumas), pathogenic, iatrogenic and ideogenic (spiritual diseases engendered by false belief, which he termed our “highest disease”).
Hahnemann identified two specific principles, a thermal disturbance pattern (often seen overtly in specific fevers), which is characteristic of pathic disease, and an altered state of mind, which is characteristic of tonic (fixed diseases) disease. This polarity between the tonic and unific state of mind, and the pluritic and pathic thermal imprint provides a further duality between the “highest disease” realm (ideogenic) and the deepest disease realm, which we term the “chthonic” realm (fromt the Greek word for “earth”).
Hahnemann stated that a person could have more than one disease at a time, each of which might be contributing to the symptom picture of the patient. Hahnemann set out clearly right from the beginning of his new system of medicine that the practitioner should first seek to treat the constant nature diseases, as these can more readily be identified in most cases (by cause, e.g., Arnica for contusion disease) and since they are fixed in nature, they are always treated with the same medicine, thus simplifying treatment. The homeopathic approach to the remaining pathic diseases could then more easily be used.
A fundamental principle of Heilkunst is that there can only be one remedy for a given disease state. However, because it was possible for there to be more than one disease at a time in the human organism, this opened the possibility of the prescribing of more than one remedy at a time to the patient. Out of this understanding, and from his knowledge of the dual nature of disease, Hahnemann, through his own work with intercurrent and alternating remedies and the experiments of a close pupil, Dr. Karl Aegidi, used and worked with dual remedy prescribing. Initially (1833-36) he gave two medicines in the same solution (simultaneity of ingestion), but due to political pressures and misunderstandings swtiched to the use of two medicines within the action of the other (simultaneity of action).*
In the light of difficulties treating more complex cases, Hahnemann undertook further research and developed his theory of chronic miasms, which are fixed nature diseases of the pathogenic type (originally infectious, but also inherited) which give rise to all the (secondary) chronic diseases, which are pathic in nature. Hahnemann identified three chronic miasms: syphilis, sycosis, and psora, and there is evidence that he also discerned a fourth that is now termed tuberculosis. Subsequent research has revealed four “bridging” miasms: Malaria (between Psora and Tuberculosis); Ringworm (between Tuberculosis and Sycosis); Cancer (between Sycosis and Syphilis) and Lyme (after Syphilis). Dr. Elmiger of Lausanne, Switzerland uncovered a specific sequence to these miasms, which confirms and extends what Hahnemann himself wrote and taught, and which he termed the Law of Succession of Forces. This allows for a more effective and systematic treatment of various disease conditions that have an inherited component, even when that component is latent or not readily recognizable in the symptoms of the patient.
Hahnemann also gave indications as to when the practitioner could tell that the disease had been cured by the similar medicine and healing was underway (the complete process termed “heilen” or remediation). Constantine Hering, often called the Father of Homeopathy in the US, further developed these guidelines, which are often referred to as “Hering’s Law or Principles.”