A Few Reflections on the Teachings of Rajan Sankaran
During the last few years Rajan Sankaran has presented to the world the results of his extensive studying of the materia medica in an effort to develop a method that guides the homeopath in his prescriptions. Others, like Scholten, Klein, Mangialavori and others have in conjunction, or in their own way, proposed similar approaches to the materia medica.
The method consists of establishing a classification of remedies in groups and subgroups. Following a thorough study of the materia medica, it appeared that common symptoms could be found for the remedies that belong to the same natural family groups and subgroups. Remedies originating from animal substances were found to display common characteristics and so did remedies originating from the plant kingdom and the mineral kingdom. There is now a widespread consensus on what these characteristics are.
Further within these kingdoms, the characteristic symptoms common to the remedies of subgroups have been determined; for instance, characteristics for umbellifers, for snakes or for a series in the periodic table.
When the characteristic symptoms of a group are discovered during case taking, the patient is said to belong to one of the three kingdoms. Thereafter, practitioners using these new approaches determine to which subgroup the patient belongs and finish by determining what the most appropriate remedy will be for the patient within the subgroup.
This system appears very ‘user friendly’ and has seduced many colleagues. It has also allowed for an increase in the variation of remedies used.
Sankaran has added to this organization of the materia medica a specific interrogation method that facilitates the use of this modern classification of the materia medica/remedies. Many homeopaths who have mastered Sankaran’s technique marvel at their increased rate of success.
One of the important points highlighted by these pioneers is the need for individualization. An effort is made to find what individualizes the patient in order to find the most appropriate remedy for this patient. This particularity and essential characteristic of homeopathic medicine cannot be repeated enough for the intention of those who want to study and master its technique.
In his new teaching, to achieve the highest possible individualization, Sankaran proposes to use a technique that ‘pushes’ the patient to reveal, during the consultation, what really matters to him/her and what therefore must lie at the essence or the origin of the patient’s own/individual disease or suffering. It is clear from the many published cases that the technique is very efficient in penetrating to the deeper feelings/sensitivities of the patient. There are nevertheless situations where the technique will let us down; in veterinary medicine, in pediatrics, in some cases of psychiatric medicine and in some cultures or traditions where there is a lack of time or a lack of acceptance by the patient to be interrogated in such a way.
Just for these reasons, only, we must see this new approach and Sankaran’s technique as an extra tool to our kit of techniques to prescribe successfully and not as the only valuable method. If a prescription method is only suitable for a certain class of patients, this method is either not developed enough or deficient.
It is true that Sankaran’s and his colleagues’ contributions to homeopathy are of great value but there are some points and questions that need to be raised to be sure that homeopathy does not loose its direction.
From daily practice…
There are a few anecdotes I would like to present in regard to the classification movement and in particular to Sankaran’s method. These are anecdotes only and I would not want to use them as general criticisms but I think they make interesting points to consider for those who are studying and using his method.
– A few years ago, during a meeting for homeopaths, a case was presented by an experienced pair of homeopaths who had just attended one of Sankaran’s courses and his latest conference. The colleagues had, based on Sankaran’s technique, selected Inula as a remedy for a person with long standing arthritis and personal issues. The remedy had been given daily in 200k. After 6 months of taking the remedy, some improvement was noted and the prescription presented as being successful. I am not sure whether Sankaran would agree with such a prescription and the overly confident conclusions made by the homeopaths with only a short feed back.
During the same meeting, as a group, we exchanged ideas about possible prescriptions for an unsolved case. (I would discourage everybody from discussing unsolved cases in groups because out of such discussions often arise semi certainties that are very difficult to verify. There is less danger when unsolved cases are discussed between a tutor and a pupil.) The same colleagues argued that the remedy for the discussed case could not be an animal remedy for various reasons and were adamant to brush aside any suggestion of animal remedy prescriptions from the group.
I have several times assisted at congresses where remedies for the presented cases were proposed by the audience before the solution was given. Suggestions about the kingdom of the remedy for the presented case made by people in the audience proved, in several cases, to be wrong afterwards, once the solution was presented. This makes me doubt that one can be 100% sure about the classification system and makes me uncomfortable when people express such absolute views.
These are of course only sporadic observations but I think it illustrates the danger of the promotion of a system that overshadows everything else homeopathy has done and still does. Because of the nature of its stature, some homeopaths may come to think that the new method is the truth and the only truth.
– Recently, I read an article of a colleague, vet, who had returned very enthusiastically from a fourteen day course in Bombay. He was full of praise for what he had learned and had already started to apply Sankaran’s method when he prescribed for the human patients he sees as part of his daily practice. He commented that he could not see, for the time being, how the method could be used for his animal patients.
Further he explained how the new technique had allowed him to use remedies he previously never would have found for his patients and gave an enumeration of 6 unusual and new remedies he had prescribed …. the week before he wrote his article.
There was of course no mention of what successes he had obtained because the feed back was only a few days. (I have no doubt that his prescriptions were genuine and that he would have had at least a few results from these prescriptions.)
Again, this is a further example of the excitement and confidence that arise from colleagues who discover Sankaran’s method. Such examples add to the impression of a revolution taking place. History repeatedly shows that revolutions are ok but that they also have their down sides.
This brings me to the following anecdotes:
– I was told by a colleague who participates monthly in a meeting of homeopaths to discuss solved cases that the largest part of the group had changed their prescription technique to Sankaran’s new method. The colleague in question still works using the Kent- Masi- French modern unicist techniques. She has found that her colleagues complain that they cannot understand and use her patient dossiers any more since they changed case taking and remedy selection techniques.
This observation illustrates the schism Sankaran’s method may cause in the modern world of homeopathy. If we forget what others have done before us for 200(two hundred) years with exactly the same medicines and patients, we may loose some of the gems ‘old fashion’ homeopathy still holds.
– It strikes me as odd that some people who promote these new classification approaches will write: ‘We have to determine to what kingdom a patient belongs in order to find the remedy.’ Every day, there are examples that show that it is possible to determine very good or even perfect remedies for patients without predetermining the kingdom to which the patient belongs. This is another illustration of the tendency of the overconfidence this ‘new’ approach tends to cause in the profession.
Individualism, yes but:
I mentioned earlier how much the necessity for individualizing the patient is put forward by the modern movement. But at the same time, to find the patient’s remedy using these modern approaches, we have to classify the patient: what kingdom, what species and what miasm (reaction mode).
To classify we have to look out for what is common in the patient: for what he/she has in common with another group, what he/she has in common with a kingdom, what he/she has in common with a specific family and the type of reaction he/she has in common with other patients. There is some element of individualization of the patient in this process to one particular remedy but to do this, a technique of classifying is used. When you classify, you establish groups. Establishing groups reduces individualization
By looking for what is common in a patient in order to determine in which group we have to look for a remedy, there is a possibility that practitioners will forget the essential characteristic of homeopathy: individualism through looking for the peculiar or peculiars in the patient.
Philosophically, this is an important point to raise. I would like the reader to refer to the interview of Marc Brunson to read a short insight into the evolution of homeopathic thinking and prescribing since Hahnemann.
In this interview, it becomes obvious that Sankaran’s new technique does not follow in the flow of the development of homeopathic thinking/prescribing. There was a continuity from Hahnemann, to P. Schmidt, to others like Gathac, Vithoulkas, Pascero, Ortega and Masi in developing the study of remedies. Over time the study of remedies (materia medica) evolved from an enumeration of symptoms to a synthesis of these symptoms and later to the search and continuous refinement of one central phrase or concept that encompasses the essentials, mind and physical, of each remedy.
The modern classifying method does not continue in the line of the progress built by these pioneers. Instead of increasing the individualization of each remedy, remedies are classified in groups by looking for what is common with other remedies. This illustrates further that the new method may cause a schism in the modern homeopathic world.
If we illustrate the evolution of homeopathy as a growing tree of which the stem represents the evolution towards more and more individualization of remedies, Hahnemann will represent the roots and the work of the likes of Schmidt, Gathak, Pascero, Vithoulkas, Masi, AFADH, Loutan, Brunson and others form the evolution upwards to increased understanding of each remedy. The modern, classification movement should be seen as a large branch springing away from the main stem, away from this movement and forming a new direction. Such a large branch may cause an imbalance in the growth of the tree if the central branch is neglected. Nobody knows what the result will be.
Another danger of prescribing through classification is that only one side of remedies will be highlighted or used. Everybody who seriously studies homeopathy knows very well how remedies can have very opposite symptoms. In some patients a remedy will show its kind side while in another patient the irritable side of a remedy can appear.
I understand that good case taking through the method will allow remedies to be used in these different situations but it is the study of materia medica that will suffer through it. Using a selection method based on pre-organized material reduces the need for thorough remedy study, unless you are the person or group working on the method. This will reduce the effort of many to participate in the study of remedies.
Some may think that this is a poor argument. I would strongly disagree. The study of remedies makes you a much more whole person from an understanding of the substances and therefore understanding of the ‘messages’ we prescribe for our patients. This is important in daily practice. We should never become robots who practice a grid led prescription method, risking overlooking of the richness of information captured in our remedies. Medical practitioners have to be aware that it is important never to become a mere dispenser of medicines. We only have to look at what happened to many of our conventional ‘colleagues’.
Some final thoughts
Sankaran and his colleagues have enriched homeopathic medicine with a seductive new method developed through thorough study of the materia medica. To do this, they used a filter. This filter allowed the classification of remedies. It is important that all who want to learn and use this method are aware of the existence of this filter and are also aware of the possible dangers of this approach. I know some very good homeopaths who use the system very successfully. They also keep their bag of tools open for other approaches to the patient and choose which tool they use depending on the patient or situation. They see the technique as an enrichment of their practice rather than the only way to go.
I think there is a danger that new/young homeopaths who are launched straight into these modern systems will loose sight of the other tools in the bag and will therefore find themselves deprived of the wholeness of the science of homeopathy.
This short article does not pretend to want to reverse the changes that are taking place in homeopathy. Its only purpose is to keep the discussion open in what seems occasionally to become a one-sided (r)evolution.