In paragraph 9 of the Organon Hahnemann states that the healthy organism is maintained in dynamic harmony by means of sensation and function. In paragraph 10 he explains that aberrations of sensation and function are the primary manifestations of disease. It therefore makes sense that in investigating the subtle roots of disease we should first look to these qualities.
What are sensation and function? From their names we can understand that they are closely related to the nervous system. The nervous system is the most dynamic aspect of human physiology, and as such it is the closest physical manifestation of the dynamic vital force.
Sensation and function are attributes of sensory and motor nerves respectively. This is the body’s principal means of maintaining constant homeostasis, the harmony of health. Sensations inform us of any change in the internal or external environment, and functions serve to balance that change with an immediate and efficient response
Thus if we sense cold, our function is to heat ourselves by increasing blood flow or trembling. If we sense hunger, our function is to balance by eating or slowing the metabolism. Sensation and function oppose each other, maintaining a dynamic balance. These operations are circular in nature, and are usually controlled by feedback mechanisms.
The first expression of disease is in distortion of ‘sensations and functions’. A person may feel cold in warm weather, or tremble when they do not feel cold. They may feel hungry after eating, or eat when not hungry. Homeostasis is disrupted and ill health ensues.
Sensation and function are a more holistic way of describing pathology than emotions, feelings or delusions, because they pertain to the whole organism. Pathological sensations are the delusions of the whole person, and functions are the physical, general or emotional response. Experience shows that the same basic stuck sensation and function run through all levels of the organism. As such we can use them to find correlations between the physical, mental, emotional realms and the invisible dynamic force.
Primary pathology, the subtle origin of disease, manifests as a stuck sensation and function, meaning a fixed erroneous perception of the environment resulting in repetitive misplaced action. Or, vise versa, a fixed erroneous action may result in a perverted sensation. For example, a person may have a continuous erroneous idea that their left side is longer, causing them to lean to the left. Or they may lean to the left due to a perverted function such as scoliosis. The pathological disruption may occur anywhere in the cycle. At times it is difficult to tell if the pathology lies in disrupted sensation or disrupted function, as the result (leaning to the left) is the same. But as a circular mechanism it does not really matter. Sensation leads to function leads to sensation; a snake biting its own tail. We cannot say that one is compensation for the other, because that would suggest that one is primary. It is a ‘chicken and egg’ situation.
Dynamis means motion, the basis of life. In a state of health we are free to perform any motion at any time, and will choose the right action in response to accurately sensed situations. Thus we adapt perfectly to change. In pathology we become confined to a fixed sensation or function, true in one particular circumstance, but misplaced in every other situation.
Pathological functions repeat the same actions and are therefore easy to perceive. Grammatically, these symptoms are expressed as verbs. For example, in the symptom ‘My green nasal discharge alternated sides’, alternate is the verb, discharge is the noun and green is the adjective. The verb ‘alternate’ is the most dynamic expression of the case, and these dynamic symptoms are often the characteristic. Most strange, rare and peculiar symptoms are verbs rather than nouns, due to their dynamic nature (e.g. Feels hot so he must coverâ€”Camph).
I have therefore called this system of synthesis ‘The Verb’. It is a description of the constant stuck action in which a person is imprisoned. In health people are free to respond with any possible verb. In pathology they are confined to a single function that indicates loss of freedom. This restricted verb pervades the whole organism. As a stuck repetitive action, people often express this verb as ‘must’, ‘have to’, should’, ‘need to’ etc. For example a Silica patient may feel that they must ‘push through’, both mentally and physically. This is a constant and misplaced function, resulting from a sensation of being blocked, i.e. constipation, suppressed perspiration, delusion he will fail). Every action will express difficulty pushing through against this block (bashful stool, difficult dentition, abscess, splinters, obstinacy etc.). In order to fulfil the constant need to push through, Silica will be compelled to begin the process, retreat and start pushing through again (bashful stool, yielding and obstinate, inserting and expelling splinters, undertaking nothing lest they fail). Thus the function (verb) becomes an ongoing repetitive cycle.
One of the most accurate places to perceive this cycle is through the simple original language of the proving. The Silica sensation and function may be perceived in the following symptoms of Silica:
‘Sensation as if a bubble of air were pushed through eustachian tube and burst in middle of ear.’
‘Nosebleed after inserting the finger.’
‘Obstruction of the nose in the morning, followed by coryza during the after part of the day.’
‘Difficulty of swallowing; she imagines that she has swallowed pins’
‘Silicea taken during the menses seems to suppress them for four days, afterwards they flow for four or five days and then remain away for six weeks.’
‘He woke with great anxiety about midnight, could not move in spite of every effort, and imagined that thieves were breaking in; on rising he became quiet, after lying down the anxiety returned.’
The fixed verb is a constant factor in any good proving or case, repeating on every level. I remember a Silica child who had a repeated pattern of peeking slowly through the door and then hastily retreating. In pathology a person will tend to excel at performing their main verb, while failing at everything else. Silicas are world champions at the initial stages of pushing through and immediately retreating, but will falter when it comes to going all the way. Germanium, which resides in the same group as Silica in the periodic table, has a similar verb of repeatedly trying to push through a block, but in a more intense manner. When they finally succeed everything bursts out, and then the cycle starts again.
Sensations are generally more difficult to perceive than functions, as they demand accurate describing and perceptive listening. They may often be understood from the simple spontaneous expressions and idioms used in the case, or from dreams. Poor provings and poorly taken cases will not reveal well-defined sensations.
The ‘verb’ of a case or remedy is its most dynamic expression, equalled only by its invisible counterpart, the sensation. It is interesting to note that certain aboriginal societies have no nouns, only verbs (river being expressed as ‘rivering’). As pathology advances it becomes progressively more static, just as all verbs flow into nouns. Nouns (arthritis, tumour, neurosis) are the end result of a pathological process that began dynamically and ended as a fixed entity.
As homoeopaths dealing with dynamic forces, we should pay much more attention to verbs than to nouns. But we often focus on the more attractive nouns and their adjectives (green discharge, blue monster, hot anger). This is particularly true in dreams. In a dream of a huge black and white dog with purple eyes and yellow teeth jumping over a fence, the jumping is primary, though most of us are drawn to focus primarily on the multicoloured dog.
For example, in the symptom ‘My red eruption wanders rapidly’ eruption is the noun, the most static and least useful part of the description. Red is its adjective, slightly more dynamic and descriptive. But the most interesting and indicative parts of the symptom are wandering (the verb) and rapid (the adverb), which echo the stuck vital force.
Western physiology and pathology focus on nouns. In homoeopathy, these nouns are termed affinities. Systems of analysis such as the four elements (or Chinese five elements), focus on adjectivesâ€”colour, taste, temperature etc. Verbs run silently behind these components, lending them motion and life. From verb to noun is the true progression of hierarchy. In formulating the sensation and function of a case or remedy it is preferable to begin with generals and physicals rather than with mentals. The mind can be a minefield, leading us down the path of speculation.
An example is the remedy Sepia: We can speculate on many mental themes. It would be more accurate to begin from characteristic physical sensations and functions. We recall the Sepia prolapse with a need to cross the legs or hold on with her hands – sensation “falling out”, function “must hold on”. We then find the Sepia symptom “Must hold on to something or she will scream”. This is a stuck function, something she ‘must do’. She has two options, either scream or hold on, i.e. expel forcefully or prevent this expulsion.
We can now scan Sepia to see if there are any other examples of this verb.
On the emotional level we recall Sepia’s avarice, a need to hold on to money. Looking to the reciprocal sensation, we observe Sepia’s great fear of poverty, a fear that the bank account will be empty. We can conclude that it is a fear of emptiness that leads Sepia to hold on so tightly. Thus the consistent sensation is of emptiness. Emptiness of uterus, of bank account and the well-known description of ‘all gone empty sensation’ in the stomach. We find the same emptiness in the head, rectum and chest. It is only now that we can understand the true nature of Sepia’s emotional state. Drained by child care, menses and stress, she is empty of emotions to husband, children and life.
To perpetuate the cycle of emptiness and holding on, Sepia must expel, as in scream, prolapse or extravagance. This becomes a cycle of expulsion until empty, then hold on until full. Function leads to sensation leads to function in a circular way. We can summarise the verb of Sepia as ‘Must expel till empty, then hold on’. The sensations, driving the functions, are inherent within, i.e. ‘feels empty, then full’.
Function and form follow each other. It is interesting to note the form of Sepia, an empty vessel with tentacles for holding on, forcefully expelling ink. Sensation creates function, function creates form, form begets sensation.
It is not essential to discern exactly which is sensation and which is function. The important thing is that this understanding is not based on speculative analysis of emotions, but on well described physicals and generals. When searching the mentals, it is much easier to find the ‘verb’ of the case or remedy from original expressions. In the Sepia proving we find the following expressions: ‘She is filled with concern about her health’; ‘As if he would pine away if he did not kill himself’; ‘Ideas fly from me’; ‘Vent my ill-humor’; ‘Oppressed in sultry weather, but become more cheerful when it thunders and lightens.’ Bloatedness of abdomen…never during walking or dancing’. These simple expressions describe the dynamic process of filling and emptying.
Formulating ‘the verb’ for a remedy or case requires careful and diligent study of original language and provings. It cannot be found by lightly skimming third generation material medicas that have moved to essences and keynotes. These later material medicas often have become static, losing dynamic verbs to physical or emotional nouns.
Verbs calcify into related nouns, just as the subtle origins of disease result in hard pathology. Naturally it is preferable to perceive and match the whole range of grammatical expression in a single symptom. For example, in the symptom ‘He suddenly (adverb) exploded (verb) in hot (adjective) anger (noun), each part of the expression links to its neighbour to form a whole, yet in the dynamic hierarchy, verb is primary to noun. Many remedies are angry, but only some are explosive in character.
In my experience the ‘verb’ has been the most useful method for perceiving the essence of remedies and cases, and more importantly, of matching the two. Its value lies in its simplicity and accuracy, in its proximity to the source, and in the fact that it encompasses body and mind.