Ah, just, subtle and mighty opium!
Relief Balm and the hearts of the poor and the rich alike,
For the unhealed wounds for the torments that incite rebellion of the spirit.
Opium eloquent! Only you will bestow such gifts to man, you possess
the keys of Paradise.
Ah, just, subtle and mighty opium!
— Thomas De Quincey
Opium (Papaver somniferum) is perhaps one of the most complex remedies of the Materia Medica. As a substance, it has been used since ancient times to different and varied purposes. The references to the pharmaceutical use of poppy juice are very old. In the third century B.C, Theophrastus had already mentioned its virtues. Arab doctors favored the use of opium in pills that sometimes had the label “Mash Allah”, which meant “present of God”. In Rome, Opium as well as flour had a set price that was not to be speculated with. Arab traders introduced the substance in the East, where it was used for dysentery. Paracelsus popularized the use of opium in Europe, which had fallen into disuse because of its toxicity. The term opium derives from the Greek word opion (juice), since it is obtained as poppy juice. Opium contains more than 20 different alkaloids; its principals are papaverine, tabain, morphine and noscapine.
Hahnemann was the first to conduct the proving of Opium as a homeopathic remedy, and pointed out that “It is much more difficult to estimate the action of Opium than probably any other medication”
Its popularity reached across Asia to America. In its name powerful wars were started, and its reputation still stands in many countries.
Just as complex and similar to Opium, dragons those mythological and magical creatures who appear in writings and pictograms in almost all cultures, are full of meanings and questions that have inspired many to write, paint or create philosophies that will last until the end of time. If you look in Kent’s Repertory under the rubric “illusion of dragons” you will find that Opium appears as the only remedy, but if looked for in Radar’s electronic repertory you will find Opium as well as Cann-i.
In this paper I will attempt to understand the essence of the remedy through the rubric of “illusion of dragons” because many times the analysis through comparisons or symbols is a valuable tool to understand the image of a remedy and its profound suffering.
There was an old dragon under gray stone;
his red eyes blinked as he lay alone.
His joy was dead and his youth spent,
he was knobbed and wrinkled,
and his limbs bent in the long years to his gold chained;
in his heart’s furnace the fire waned.
To his belly’s slime gems stuck thick,
silver and gold he would snuff and lick:
he knew the place of the least ring
beneath the shadow of his black wing.
Of thieves he thought on his hard bed,
and dreamed that on their flesh he fed,
their bones-crushed, and their blood drunk:
his ears drooped and his breath sank.
Mail-rings rang. He heard them not.
A voice echoed in his deep grot:
a young warrior with a bright sword
called him forth to defend his hoard.
His teeth were knives, and on horn his hide,
but iron tore him, and his flame died.
Etymology and Analysis
The word “dragon” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1966), is derived from Old French, which in turn derives from the Latin “Dracon” (snake), which in turn is derived from Greek “Spakov” (snake). Opium has also the symptom of “illusion of serpents” and a dragon is none other than a winged snake. Dragon also derives from the Greek aorist verb, δρακεῖν – Spakelv (to see clearly). It relates to many other ancient words related to sight, such as: Sanskrit: darc (see), Avestan: darstis (view); Old Irish: Derc (eye), Old English: torht, Old Saxon: torht, and High Ancient German: zoraht, and all mean clear, or bright.
Opium has symptoms such as “admonition”, “mental clarity”, “clairvoyance”, and “visions with illusions”. The eye and vision being something closely related to the main suffering of Opium makes us now understand some particular symptoms such as: “closing eyes aggravates”, “see faces when closing eyes”, “insanity for ocular inflammation”. In the repertory in the chapters of Eye and Vision it has 144 symptoms. An interesting symptom of an Opium patient is: “illusion of enlarged parts of the body”, which is on one hand related to the many symptoms that Opium has concerning the feeling of enlarged body parts (and it needn’t be mentioned the size in which Dragons are usually represented), and on the other hand it is said that one of the mental characteristics of Opium is the making of giant plans. Besides the relation of vision and sight, the eye also means understanding, and the Opium patient is said to not understand.
Spakelv as seen before meant “to see clearly” according to the Greek aorist, and the Oxford English Dictionary indicates that Spakelv is derived from the Greek root (Spak) which means strong. The connection between dragon’s strength and Opium is obvious, and by analogy we can relate this strength with the ability to resist external aggression and to bear pain; this is exactly where we can link the remedy in its effective ability to not feel pain which means analgesia and anesthesia both physical and mental.
Opium has symptoms like “indifference to pain“, “indifference to suffering“, “inability to feel“, “indifference to joy”, “indifference to nice things” and” indifference to pleasure”. He is incapable of feeling anything throughout his whole being from the mental to the most superficial like the symptom “Skin – Painless ulcers“.
In mythology and fantasy, it is known that Dragon Skin has an ability to avoid injury. As described by Tolkien, or the famous Scandinavian legends, the dragon does not feel pain, his skin is impenetrable. It is even curious that in the US, a company created the most resistant bulletproof vest on the market basing its design on the supposed arrangement of the scales of a dragon, called Dragon Skin. Opium does not cause in its primary action one single pain.
It is interesting to deeply analyze this inability to feel. According to the Indo-European Etymological Dictionary of the Spanish Language, “to feel” comes from the root sent, which means take a course or choose a path, and Opium cannot give meaning to his life, he doesn’t want to take the path to growth. Dr. Horacio Monsalvo says: We imagine Opium as that teenager who doesn’t want to go into his adulthood, doesn’t want responsibility, particularly the responsibility of living. It is a character between boy and man, playing non innocent games in every act of his life even in business, and those around him must deal with its consequences.
In Hahnemann’s proving he says “Feeling of courage and merriment, so that he is as if he would carry out what was required with energy, without repugnance or fear, with a peculiar feeling of voluptuousness (but lasting only a few minutes) (aft. 1/4 h.); immediately afterwards dullness in the head”.
So, Opium, at any age in life, is riding between a childhood without responsibility and the adult world that’s full of it, but he doesn’t want to be a participating member. Opium is the eternal child in an adult world who feels that the world is always against him. Opium does not tolerate contradiction, but Opium has to face the world. Just as the dragon has sharp senses and nothing escapes him, he lives an alternating anguish. There are moments when he prefers not to think about what is asked of him and who he is, and he rejoices for the simple fact of being alive. But then he suddenly becomes aware of his responsibilities and he becomes anxious, afraid, fearful, dull or directly indifferent to everything.
Another aspect that can be observed between the remedy and the dragon is that Opium has acute senses. Tolkien says in his book The Hobbit, “Smaug, the most majestic character which you cannot help but mention. Greedy, has a huge richness, the most feared dragon of shiny scales with embedded gems and gold pieces, has an exceptional sense of smell and can even sleep with one eye open, his sense of hearing is even more acute when he sleeps.” An image that very well describes the senses of an Opium patient.
The dragon as a demonic symbol, as mentioned above, identifies itself with the serpent. For instance, the heads of broken dragons and destroyed snakes prove Christ’s victory over evil. In addition to the familiar imagery of St. Michael and St. George, Christ himself is sometimes depicted treading dragons. Zen patriarch Huei-neng also sees in snakes and dragons symbols of hatred and evil. For Schneider, dragons are the symbol of sickness, usually represented as vengeful soulless creatures without any hint of mercy. Opium is suspicious, spiteful and appears on the hatred and revengeful rubrics of the Repertory. What awakens the violence within him is its incapacity of fitting into the environment around him. It is a permanent lack of confidence in himself, but he cannot bring that violence to its fullest. Instead he acts like a spoiled child that feels offended, wants to go home where he will reproach himself and cry, have aversion to company, will not want to be talked to and won’t answer.
Some symptoms related to lie and deceit are:
Misleading, false, uncertain in its promises, lying, liar – never tells the truth and lack of moral sense. Peñalver says Opium deceives himself; he treats others as he thinks others treat him. It is said that Opium cannot fulfill his promises or his gigantic plans because that would only be possible in his unreal world. This is why he lies. It is as if the world won’t allow him his realization. Yet again it is a curious analogy of the fight against the dragon and Opium fights to remain in his fantasy world.
The dragon appears to us essentially as a severe guardian or as a symbol of evil and demonic tendencies. It is indeed the guardian of hidden treasures and as such is the adversary that must be overcome to access them. In the Western world he is the guardian of the Golden Fleece and the Garden of Hesperides. In China in T’sang’s tale he is the guardian of the Pearl; Sigfrid’s legend confirms that the treasure guarded by the dragon is immortality. According to Diel, the generic Chinese dragon symbolizes the sublimated and overcome perversion, in other words a “tamed dragon”. Opium has a very interesting symptom if we compared the idea that the dragon is the ultimate enemy to defeat: “illusion that people want to execute him“.
The symbolism of the dragon is ambivalent, which is expressed in Oriental imagery as the two opposing dragons, also seen in medieval art, and particularly in the European and Muslim secrecy where this confrontation takes an analogous form of the caduceus. It is the neutralization of the adverse tendencies, also in the Far East; the dragon shows various aspects as an aquatic, land and sky being, all at once.
Opium struggles between the two forces that are contained within him; on one side his instincts, his violence, his wild rage, his immaturity of being yet evolved and to cling to childish things. On the other side he tries to understand, his sweetness, his mental capacity for understanding or evolution and maturity of being.
According to the “Money in the Homeopathic Materia Medica” by Dr. Bronfman the most notable is this bipolarity of Opium, that exists between satisfaction and stormy suffering, between the sublime Oriental dragon and the evil Western dragon. Thus we see symptoms “such joy alternating with sorrow”, “joy alternating with concerns”, “anger alternating with joy“, “anger alternating with exhilaration“, “joy alternating with grief“, “gladness followed by irritability“, “anger alternating with mirth“, “mischief games alternating with sadness“, “joy alternating with sadness”, “hope alternating with discouragement“, “face – red discoloration alternating with pallor“, “rectum – constipation – alternating with diarrhea”, “alternating, humor” “industrious “, “indolence with aversion to work” and “neglect of business“, sweet and hard, benevolent yet it may be cruel, ruthless and unscrupulous, fearful but at the same time reckless and brave and bold.
This inner struggle must exist in the patient, a disagreement that leads him to think the unwanted, or express words he didn’t mean to say or to perform acts opposite to his will. He faces stressful situations that make him doubt, hesitate, make him unstable and sometimes even paralyze him. This antagonism should not be confused with ambivalence. These conflicting emotions coexist on the same plane with the same intensity; it is more common in the emotional level: attraction-rejection, love and hate. In antagonism rivalry occurs in different instances of the psyche.
In Opium we find exactly opposite conditions (Nash). Just as the symbolism of the western dragon and the superior Chinese dragon, Opium always shows us two alternating states, two extreme opposite states, like narcosis, stupor or coma, the paralyzing effect, suspended peristaltic activity or insensitivity these are the main indicators for homeopathic use of this medicine.
And the opposite state with delirium, eyes wide open, mental excitement, vivid imagination, twitching, insomnia with heightened auditory acuity. The first category of symptoms are drug action and the latter represent the efforts of nature against this action. Such excitement irritability and spasms in no way can be influenced by the drug action of Opium unless this state is preceded by drowsiness, stupor, numbness etc. Without this condition, the remedy will not be able to be homeopathic for that matter (Nash).
In conclusion we can say that the image of Opium and the Dragon have many similarities that can help us to create an essence and allow proper prescribing and patient management. Always remember polarity, antagonism, violence and peace, lethargy and hyper arousal, anesthesia or numbness and intense pain, etc…The constant change between the Eastern dragon and Western.
- Thomas De Quincey – Confessions of an Opium-Eater Penguin Inglés Inglés Library EL 61 Published 1971, reprint 1973
- S. Hahnemann – Materia Medica Pura – Opium
- Joseph Amedee Lathoud – Homeopathic Materia Medica – Editorial Albatros 2009 – 1st Edition, 5th reprint
- JRR Tolkien – Adventures of Tom Bombadil – Houghton Mifflin (T) (October 1978)
- JRR Tolkien – The Hobbit – Editorial Minotauro 2002
- Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Of The Spanish Language – Barbara Pastor, Edward R oberts, Alianza Editorial, 2001
- Dr. Mario Draiman – Opium.Its Homeopathic personality – Homeopathy AMHA Vol 75 2008
- Dr. Colli, Dr. Monsalvo Dr. Cumaldi – Ateneo Opium – Acta EMHA Sep-December 1999
- Dr. Paula Noailles – A History of Opium – Act No. 64 May-Aug 2000
- Dr. Monica Müller – Opium as a model of primary and secondary action – Homeopathy AMHA Vol.63 1998
- Cowperthwaite – Materia Medica and Therapeutics
- GHG Jahr – New Manual Of Homeopathic Medicine – B. Jain Publishers, 2004
- William Boericke – Homeopathic Materia Medica
- John Henry Clarke – Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica VOL III – B.Jain Publisher 2005
- Juan-Eduardo Cirlot – Dictionary Lookup – Edit. Siruela, 1997
- JC Cooper – Illustrated Encyclopaedia Of Traditional am Symbols
- Zalman Bronfman – Money in the Homeopathic Materia Medica – Editorial Study Club 1999
- Radar Archibel 10