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MIND: Fear; information; lack of, cure is impossible. The challenge for repertories in the information age.

The fear that stalks the homeopathic student doesn’t fully abate after graduation. In a profession so dependent on precise information, both old and new, the idea that a case may go unsolved for want of a vital piece of information haunts even the experienced homeopath. There is no doubt that the profession breathed a collective sigh of relief when the days of computerized repertories finally arrived.

Repertories have been an essential tool for the conscientious homeopath’s search for the correct remedy for as long as homeopathy has existed. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, took the first steps in structuring the information he gathered into some kind of repertory, and in 1832, his disciple and collaborator, Clemens von Boenninghausen, created the first usable repertory. Over the years different authors have expanded on versions of this repertory, e.g. Allen, Jahr, von Lippe, etc. and some have created completely new structures, as did Gentry and Knerr, but it was James Tyler Kent in 1897 who published a repertory with a structure and a hierarchical logic that would stand the test of time. That Kent’s repertory has been the main homeopathic reference for almost a century is a testimony to the trust in its quality and reliability of the information that it contains.

Times have changed

As late as 1978 there was still a significant group of homeopaths who believed that Kent’s repertory was a completed book to which no additions should be made; that his repertory contained wisely selected information and that any additions would only risk the bias of too much information. One might be tempted to believe that this was also Kent’s vision, given his introduction to the third edition of his Repertory: “You will find all remedies of any value contained herein. The book is complete.”

However, a conversation has been reported shortly before Kent’s death, in which he contradicted his wife’s similar assertion and confessed to Dr. Frederika Gladwin that, the “…. job was almost done. If it had to continue, his students had to take care of it.”

Kent was aware that his repertory was neither complete nor perfect and must continue to evolve through clinical experience, provings, and diligent practice. He also knew that improvements and additions must be made cautiously, if the quality and reliability of the information, on which future generations of homeopaths would rely, was not to be compromised. Additions were to be considered with reluctance, and over the years more than a few homeopaths have argued long and hard that the best repertory is a virginal, untouched Kent, with no additions at all!

It may be no surprise that in the Information Age, homeopathy finds itself with an altogether different problem. A sudden exponential increase in homeopathic information, and a new ease of data collection and dissemination, has brought with it the temptation to consider that more is always better. Colleagues began to report hundreds if not thousands of additions based on their clinical experience, while peers in turn began to question the reliability of the data and note that in the homeopathic world at least, more is only better if that more can be fully relied upon. (Perhaps as a community, there is a need to treat each other’s “fever for additions”, and balance it with “fastidiousness about correct additions”!)

The Synthesis Project

In 1987, the time had come to improve, on a qualitative level, the language and structure that Kent had used, but within the hierarchical framework familiar to most homeopaths. At a time when increased information is often viewed as the de facto sign of progress, it quickly became a daily challenge to rein in the volume of potential additions; a constant struggle to resist the temptation to include material before it was deemed adequately tested, and necessary to continually reassert rigorous discipline and commitment to accuracy.

In the spirit of this commitment, each new version of the Synthesis has been the result of the collaborative efforts of thousands of homeopaths worldwide. Each revision includes the fruit of thousands of hours of dedicated labor, and is used millions of times by leading homeopaths in practice. Their critical minds check the rubrics and the remedies repeatedly before their feedback is integrated. Thus it is that each new version of Synthesis is limited to a 15-30% increase in information, a slow and steady expansion without compromise to the accuracy of the information and the efficacy of the results.

The evolution of Kent

Synthesis has managed to successfully maintain the hierarchical nature of Kent’s Repertory, while at the same time making thousands of corrections to the language and overall structure. The resulting creation of a logically structured repertory allows the homeopath to quickly locate a particular symptom, and a huge number of synonyms and cross-references help facilitate this process.

Close attention has been paid to groups of symptoms, the correct meaning of words, and the various types of ambiguities found in Kent’s Repertory. Since every language has ambiguous words and expressions, a great deal of time has been spent upgrading the language of Kent’s day into modern day expressions.

Seldom used words and expressions have been replaced with contemporary language, for everyday language as well as for medical expressions, e.g., “dipsomania” with “alcoholism”, “childbed” with “delivery after”. Clinical rubrics have been renamed according to modern disease names, e.g., “coryza – annual” is now “hay fever”. Many new clinical rubrics have been introduced, but with caution, as sufficient clinical verification is still lacking in most cases.

George Vithoulkas and his fellow homeopaths at the Clinical Center in Athens, estimate having reviewed more than 150,000 cases. From this extensive pool of clinical experience, Vithoulkas has personally collected more than 1,600 controlled additions for the ‘Mind’ chapter, and these are integrated into Synthesis. On his instructions, additions to other chapters have been added in successive versions of Synthesis, together with his indications on changes of degree (most often to a higher degree).

The challenge of Quality AND Quantity

It’s been a slow road….

It has been an intense challenge to balance the now technically possible, potentially infinite, abundance of available data with the ultra conservative insistence on the virginal Kent. All opinions, from one extreme to the other, are supported by at least some homeopaths somewhere.

When repertory additions are made too quickly, the expanded rubrics may bring out differences that can ultimately lead to confusion. Hastily introduced new information might be incorrect or irrelevant and a careful stepwise increase in information is deemed necessary to avoid chaos.
Because the primary focus of Synthesis has been on increasing and maintaining the highest possible level of quality, reliability and integrity, additions have been added in conservative increments.

It is clear that no repertory will satisfy everybody’s wishes and what one homeopath considers too many additions, will not be enough for another. The focus on quality that reassured one homeopath left another frustrated with the slowness of its evolution. The oft-quoted phrase: “Kent had a reason not to add that remedy” was soon replaced by: “Why don’t you have this addition yet?”

In book format, this challenge has been resolved by indicating the source material for every remedy in every rubric, permitting the homeopath to decide which sources are preferred.
For homeopaths using the RADAR program, an elegant new technology; the Repertory View Editor, resolves this issue completely. With just a mouse click, the View Editor enables the user to select from a series of built in Repertory options, ranging from the Full Synthesis (which incorporates all current additions, including for example Dream and Meditational Provings) all the way to the original virginal Kent and beyond. It is finally possible for a homeopath to consciously decide their comfort level at the point of analysis, and switch easily between the different repertory options to compare results. Taking this option to another level, homeopaths are able to customize design their perfect repertory. RADAR users can select precisely which authors, and exactly which books by those authors, should be included in their personalized repertory. With another mouse click they can further individualize Synthesis by making their own additions which are immediately available for their use. In one simple interface, homeopaths can choose quantity when they need it, or quality that can be absolutely relied upon.

It is this level of determination for accuracy, witnessed in Hahnemann, in Kent, in Boenninghausen and others, to which Synthesis has aspired and which might give us reason to pause for thought at this stage in our history. Our homeopathic forebears understood that without accuracy, reliability and the ability to check and assess sources, homeopathy is destined for a cul de sac. In our practice, we must rely on the integrity and accuracy of our data.

Anyone who has painstakingly checked information in the original Materia Medicas, or added a new proving to the Repertory, will know that while the process of making the additions can be a simple computer keystroke, checking the quality of the information and locating its specific position in the repertory is tremendously time consuming. The understanding that we can now create repertory tools that Kent could never have imagined possible, gives all collaborators the will to recommit day by day.

An open invitation

Synthesis is truly a worldwide project, designed to incorporate the efforts of homeopaths of all countries and all languages, be it their personal additions, their work in the literature, or their comments and corrections.

“Blueprint for a New Repertory” found in the Synthesis, describes the complete concept of the project and is an open invitation to discuss how best we can structure our homeopathic knowledge, so that it may be easily readable, transparent, and consistent.

Alfons Geukens, M.D. describes it thus: “a living, breathing document. Synthesis is a work in progress, continuously being updated, verified, and redefined.

Synthesis represents the fusion of the past with the present. It combines the tried and true historical findings of homeopathy with today’s influx of new findings by the homeopaths of today (and tomorrow). Synthesis is unique in that a key fundamental philosophy is to never sacrifice quality for quantity.”

No repertory can be called complete – more work will always be needed to further improve the quality and increase the content of Synthesis. It is certain that this job will never be finished and collaboration is invited from anyone in the field.

The most productive contributions are made when everyone does what interests him or her: the remedy he needs, the author she likes, etc. but nonetheless a few suggestions.

* If you plan to undertake a big job, check to see that the work has not been done or already started by someone else.

* It is beneficial to recheck encoded additions, as we have done for some earlier additions.

* The priority set by most of our collaborators is to encode all information of the so-called classical authors (Hahnemann, Kent, Allen, Hering, Clarke and Boericke).

* We should continue to give priority to the most reliable information. Written sources and confirmation of existing material will remain the best choice for a long time. It is more valuable to have a confirmation by someone not belonging to the same school as the one whose information is to be confirmed!

The most reliable symptoms are found when you use the source in the original language.

Please join us in the creation of the constantly evolving Synthesis


Frederik Schroyens MD
Creator of the Synthesis Repertory, core of the powerful homeopathic software RADAR.