Dear Friends, today we have with us in our Hot-Seat, one of the most ‘elemental’ contemporary homeopaths – Jan Scholten! Jan needs no introduction, still I would like to share with you that he is a pioneer who has worked extensively on the periodic table and has authored many books like Homeopathy and Minerals, Homeopathy and the Elements, Repertory of Elements, Secret Lanthanides etc. He has also founded Stichting Alonnissos, a foundation that promotes homeopathy by the publication of books, organizing seminars, promoting research and supporting clinics.
MB: Jan, welcome to Hoacuoidep! It’s great to have you with us today. I am looking forward to a thought-provoking, exciting and illuminating conversation with you. But before that I would like to start this interview on an informal note. I hope you won’t mind that.
Nearly everyone in our community today knows about you through your work. But very few among us actually know the ‘person’ behind the name and the work. Can you walk us through your childhood and education? May be we will be able to see ‘The Man’ in the making!
JS: There is not much special in my youth. I grew up in a small town in the south of the Netherlands. I went to school as everyone else. There is a medical tendency in my family; my father was a veterinary doctor, 2 brothers are vets and my third brother is also a doctor, a general physician.
The most peculiar things are more internal. I have always been wondering about life and people, what drives them. I have always been in search for the essence of life. Maybe that is why a test showed that for me the study of biochemistry was indicated, so I started studying that. The testers discovered my interest in science and life and combined the two in biochemistry.
However it later turned out that for me biochemistry was too “dead”, it lacked life, the essence of life. So I went almost to the opposite study: philosophy. But after a few years I discovered that the professors were more interested in nice theories than really questioning the essence of life. So I left.
After that I studied medicine. The theory was nice, but the practice often did not feel good. I often had the feeling that patients would have been better off not being in the hospital. At least, I would not have liked what was being done to the patients. This was especially the case in the cancer clinics. I also asked several oncologists if they would like to be treated the same way and most said they would not. Maybe I was too critical, but it was a long time before I encountered homeopathy.
After graduating I decided to study as a general practitioner, as I definitely did not want to work in a hospital, for the reasons mentioned. During that time I followed some courses in alternative medicine: acupuncture, orthomolecular medicine and later homeopathy. I choose homeopathy as the last because I had the idea it was too far off. But when I studied it I discovered that it was real medicine. Stories of patients feeling young again, feeling their old self coming back: that is healing.
Since that time I have only worked as a homeopath. In homeopathy, it all came together, it was as if coming home. In homeopathy one can find what moves people, how a body works and reacts to stress, how it expresses the problems. Homeopathy is, in a way, a combination of medicine, psychology, mythology, physics, philosophy, and sociology. In a way, it in encompasses all sciences.
MB: I have heard so many people say the same thing about cancer treatment. I wonder why the current protocols of chemotherapy and radiotherapy are allowed? Anyway, what was your first introduction to homeopathy like? What ‘kind’ of homeopathy were you first exposed to?
JS: The school I followed was the classical one, based on the ideas of Kunzli and Kent.
MB: Were you attracted towards homeopathy as a career choice just because of its philosophy or did you witness some miracle cures quite early during your homeopathic education?
JS: I saw the miracle cures in literature. That was what attracted me.
I did not have miracle cures in my practice in the beginning, as one can hear from some other homeopaths. In a way I had to be quite stubborn to go on, because my initial results as a homeopath were quite poor. Or maybe my standard was too high.
MB: Was there any resistance at home when you decided to make this unconventional switch?
JS: No. I just made my choice.
MB: What was your early homeopathic education like? Did you attend a full time college or chose a personal mentor? Who were your early teachers and how did their teachings and works influenced your journey as a homeopath?
JS: I studied at the school for homeopathic doctors in Holland, the SHO.
I also followed many other courses: A course in the French homeopathy by Dolisos, a Spiekeroog seminar by Kunzli, many course by Alphons Geukens and George Vithoulkas.
MB:Kunzli, Geukens, Vithoulkas ..all great teachers. Was there something in their teachings that pushed you to explore new territories ..something that prompted you to ask questions about the ‘natural’ relationship between medicinal sources, especially the minerals?
JS: The only thing that pushed me to explore further was that their teaching was insufficient. The first 5 years of being a homeopath I just absorbed whatever there was in the homeopathic world, all kinds of ideas, theories and Materia Medica.
But after that I still could not cure the majority of my patients. Every seminar gave me something more, but not a complete set of ideas to cure everyone. And the Law of Similars does not say that it will only work sometimes. The way it is formulated means that one can cure everyone with the simillimum. If that is true time will tell, but what was striking for me is that every newly learned remedy helped me to cure one or two patients more. So a logical step for me was to think that by learning more remedies one can cure more patients, which is in accordance with the Law of similars.
When I started learning homeopathy, I followed the teaching of Kent and Kunzli, which focused on about 50 polychrests that should cure almost everyone, but that was not my experience. On the contrary, I had the most beautiful results with so called “small” remedies.
I realized soon that in principle every substance is a remedy. This is because every substance will give intoxication when taken in the necessary quantity. And in the world there are thousands of salts, whereas homeopathy was using only a few hundred. There are about 250.000 species of plants. 1000 of them were known at the most in homeopathy, the majority of those only in a small part. So there was a huge gap.
What pushed me the most were the “uncured” or “incurable” patients. When the normal remedies do not work, maybe an “abnormal” one will do. I once stated this in the form of a rule “In an unknown case, one has to prescribe an unknown remedy.” This is a direct consequence of the Law of similars.
MB: When I first read your books Homeopathy and Minerals and Homeopathy and the Elements, the fact that there are so many empty spaces in our periodic table was like a realization of sorts. When and how did you become interested in exploring the mineral kingdom to fill these empty spaces?
JS: As stated above I soon realized that every substance is a remedy. So the gaps of the periodic table where also just remedies. The problem was how to get them known. Proving was one possibility, but that takes a lot of time. And my patients do not like to wait for 3 or 5 years.
What I did first was look at the analogies, for instance, between Aurum, Platina, Plumbum and Mercury as they are in the same row. The symptoms they have in common will also be there in remedies like Iridium and Tungsten, also being in the sixth row, the Gold series.
MB: Why did you chose to fill the empty spaces synthetically rather than by conducting systematic provings?
JS: Provings take too much time. Hahnemann had developed 100 remedies in his life by hard work. The periodic table has 100 elements and combined with about 10 to 20 salts that will give 1000 to 2000 remedies, enough for 10 lives to do the provings.
A second reason is that it does not give much understanding. Most provings lead to a bunch of symptoms that seem to be totally unconnected. Such Materia Medica is hard to read, and even more difficult to remember. I have discovered that when one reads pages out of it in a seminar, everyone gets bored within 2 minutes.
Remedies, though, have a cohesion. Symptoms are connected to themes and in the end an essence. Learning those makes the remedies understandable and easy to handle in actual cases. This aspect of remedies has to be discovered gradually, which in the end can be done the best by Group analysis such as the Periodic Table theory.
But what led me the most is a scientific attitude. A real scientist believes that there is order, simplicity and beauty behind the multitude of phenomena we see. Einstein has expressed that as something like: science is making a simple theory that explains the most of our experiences. So I tried to find a theory that explains the most our Materia Medica, which is the theory of the Periodic System for the Mineral Kingdom. I wanted to bring homeopathy to a higher level of science.
MB:By what process did you determine the life conflict or theme of each element, series and stage. Was it a distillation of available literature or a more intuitive process?
JS: It was mostly a combination of 3 things.
- Materia Medica
- Cases: my cured cases (and also cases of colleagues and seminars) gave me an understanding of the remedy. It made clear what the problem was, the essence was, why symptoms where there, what their meaning was.
- Analysis: Analysis transferred the basic building blocks of remedies from just symptoms to themes. For instance when a remedy is dictatorial it means they want to be a leader, the boss. In our Materia Medica we mostly find the dictatorial aspect, not the “boss”. But it must be there too. The ultimate “theme” of a remedy is its essence. The essence makes it possible to deduce the whole remedy picture in a logical way, at least in principle.
Of course there have also been intuitive moments. But they came the most and the best by hard work on the issues as stated above.
MB: There has been a lot of debate on the use of medicines that have not been proved yet. What is your take on this issue?
JS: There is a lot of misunderstanding about provings and Materia Medica. It seems that many homeopaths think they are identical. And many Materia Medicas are like that, for instance the ones of Hahnemann.
But provings are just a means to discover the real remedy picture. And that means is not perfect, far from it. This can be concluded from several facts:
- Two provings of the same remedy will not be identical.
- There are many symptoms in provings that come from the provers and not from the remedy.
- Most provings produce symptoms, but seldom an essence.
This leads to the situation where the remedy pictures have to be discovered in a process, a process in which provings can be a part. Another means is analyzing cured cases. A third means is Group analysis as I have discussed in another article in this magazine.
Group analysis is rejected by some homeopaths as a valid means, but I think it is essential as a science. Classification is an essential step in every science to develop further as I have discussed in “Homeopathy and Science” and “Homeopathy and Classifications”, both published in Homeopathic Links and Secret Lanthanides.
Even with purists the remedy pictures used in practice are not proving pictures. For instance the remedy picture of Lycopodium has many keynotes that cannot be found in the provings as I have discussed in “Dogmatism in Homeopathy” (Homeopathic Links).
MB: You gave the essence, themes and expected symptoms of many unknown, unproven remedies in your works. How many of the remedies that were unproven at the time of writing your books have now been formally proved?
JS: I do not know. I am not so concerned with that aspect. When I know a remedy, a proving is not so interesting anymore. I know Jeremy Sherr proved Scandium and one of the conductors was surprised that some striking symptoms in my book were reproduced in the proving.
MB: Have you been able to confirm your synthesis of some unproved remedies later through the proving symptoms and are there any new provings which presented data very different from your own ideas/remedy pictures?
JS: As stated above I do not check that so much. My check is cured cases. When a remedy works very well it can only do that because it is the simillimum, or at least very near. So the picture of the patient is the remedy picture. When you have seen a remedy work a few times, you do not doubt anymore, especially when one sees the huge amount of similar cases of other homeopaths in journals like Homeopathic Links and Interhomeopathy.
It is even more convincing when one reads cases that have all the aspects of the Periodic system theory but none of them have been used in the analysis of the case.
MB: Since your focus is very much on the cured case, I would like to ask – How do you evaluate whether a remedy has acted curatively or not for the long term? What are the criteria for determining whether a remedy or a series of remedies is taking the patient in a curative direction. At what point in time would you consider a patient cured?
JS: First one has to consider that cure is not an absolute thing but relative. Life is a process, a development. When one problem is solved another will arise after some time, in order to go into a further evolution.
The criteria are to help the person in his evolution. A basic aspect of this is to help a person to become freer, freer from his thoughts, limitations and burdens. Patients often express this in the phrase, “The situation is the same, but I am not frustrated by it anymore.” So the mind healing is for me the most important. This is in agreement with the idea that the origin of disease is in the mind. So the mind has to be cured first and the body will follow later. It is also one of the expressions of Hering’s Law.
Together with this healing one sees a patient becoming happier, more creative and more energetic. There is more energy because less energy is going toward the original problem.
The complaints have to disappear after some time too.
Is a patient cured then? For the moment, till some new problem arises, but in this process one sees a patient becoming lighter and clearer.
MB: My next question is in relation to your statement above that when a remedy is dictatorial it means they want to be a leader, the boss. In the repertory, medicines from the mineral kingdom that are listed against the rubric ‘dictatorial’ are:
Mercurius solubilis hahnemann, Arsenicum album, Causticum Hahnemanii, Cuprum metallicum, Ferrum metallicum, Gallicum acidum, Ozonum, Palladium metallicum, Phosphorus, Platinum metallicum, Sulphur.
Fairly varied group, not even falling in any single group or series. How do you make any sense of it? Are all these medicines ‘bossy’ in your opinion? What would be the difference in the ‘dictatorialness’ of these medicine based on the themes that you have evolved?
JS: Here we see the problem with words. I think that remedies like Causticum, Cuprum, Ferrum, Ozonum and Sulphur are not dictatorial as such, but they can be headstrong in their pursuits. That is something different. Really being dictatorial means that one wants to be a leader.
Of course it all depends on how one uses the word dictatorial.
MB: In the same rubric there are many remedies from other kingdoms:
From Animal Kingdom
Androctonos amurreuxi, Apis mellifica, Lachesis.
From Plant Kingdom
Dulcamara, Lycopodium clavatum, Arnica montana, Bambusa arundinacea, Chamomilla vulgaris, Chelidonium majus, China officinalis, China rubra, Conium maculatum, Lilium tigrinum, Nux vomica, Veratrum album.
Again a very varied group. What relationship does the ‘dictatorial’ nature of the mineral remedies hold to these groups and what relationship do these remedies from the other kingdoms hold within themselves?
JS: Here again one can discuss if these remedies really belong there. In my experience the repertory is often incorrect. A Dutch group has done research on some symptoms and found out that about 50% of the entries in the Repertory are incorrect.
That does not mean that Apis will never be dictatorial once, but that it is not a typical thing of Apis.
MB: But if we assume that 50% of entries in our repertories our invalid, it will shake the very foundations on which we work. If we reject proving data and start looking for synthetic coherence, wouldn’t it make homeopathy less logical, less scientific and less acceptable to the general scientific community?
JS: I think it will do the opposite. Working with incorrect data is unscientific.
Assuming that our repertories are correct would lead to a very scientific dilemma: how can something correct lead to something incorrect, as many repertorizations will lead to the incorrect remedy.
The problem is how to know what is correct and incorrect. That can only be done by looking at cured cases and analysis of the pictures.
Hahnemann encountered the same problem. His solution was to say that every symptom during a proving is from the remedy. He did not substantiate this idea. I think it is wrong.
In the provings that I have done I have seen a lot of symptoms coming from the provers and the situation in which the proving was done. And I think it cannot be avoided.
One can minimize the “noise”, for instance, by giving strong toxic doses. Then most people will react more or less the same. I see this procedure as unethical.
Another way is to select very sensitive and clean provers. How to do that? And then it can still happen that the remedy is similar to the blind spot of the provers.
MB: There has been a lot of controversy and discussion regarding the method of conducting provings in the last few years. There are people who insist that provings should start with material dose and then higher potencies should be proved in the more sensitive provers. On the other hand there are people who recommend that all provings should be done in 30C. What in your opinion is the right way of doing a proving? And how do you know what is the symptom of a remedy and what is the ‘noise’?
JS: There is no right way, there are many ways. This can be seen from the fact that many different forms of provings lead to (parts of ) the remedy picture. In secret Lanthanides I have written a chapter about provings. The basic idea is that the remedy can be seen as a sender, the prover as a receiver. The trick is to get as pure and full a signal without noise. There are many ways to improve it, not just one way. The article “Theory on Provings” will be published in the October issue of Interhomeopathy:
MB: Jan, one of the basic tenets in homeopathy practice is that the physician should be as unprejudiced as possible. If while taking a case, we find that the person is a ‘manager’ or a ‘leader’ in an organization, we assume that his remedy belongs to the Aurum series and we start looking for a remedy in the Aurum series which fits the person best. Don’t you think this is a prejudiced way of finding a remedy instead of looking at the totality at the onset and then trying to find the simillimum? Also because in this approach the person more or less shuts his/her eyes to remedies from other kingdoms.
JS: In this question many different problems are hidden:
- It is incorrect to prescribe a remedy from the Gold series just for the reason that someone is a leader. That should only be done when leadership is connected to the problem. That would be the same as prescribing a muriaticum because the patient has a mother.
- When one decided the problem is a “leader” problem, this does not say anything about the kingdom yet. The theme of the Gold series can be found in the plant and animal kingdom just as much as in the mineral kingdom. And many animals and plants contain those elements. When one knows the connection it is even helpful. For instance when the Silver series is indicated one can think of Rubiaceae (China, Ipecacuanha) or Loganiaceae (Gelsemium, Nux vomica and Ignatia).
- The third problem is that the question represents a superficial way of thinking and analyzing. Case taking and analysis is a working process. One has to go to the essence of the problem in order to know what it is. Going to the essence is by no means straightforward. The essence is always hidden, sometimes more, sometimes less, so one has to discover that essence. Mostly the patient wants to go away from it, because it is painful. So the doctor has to guide the patient to it, by gently softening the pain in the consultation. How much one needs to see of the essence depends very much on how well one knows the problem of the patient. When it is a well know remedy, one can recognize it with some hints.
- Case taking is something that has to be learned. What guides me is the question “What is the problem here?”, “Why should this patient produce those symptoms?”. In the past I was a symptom gatherer as a homeopath. Now I have become a problem analyzer. These are two very different things. One has to go into the depth of the patient by asking further and further, till one comes at the end where there is nothing further. But that is often much further than one thinks, as I have seen in supervising homeopaths.
- One has to be very careful especially as a homeopath not to project one’s own thinking. Too easily we are tempted to think we understand the patient, by seeing an analogue with things that have happened to ourselves. But most of the time the experience of the patient is different. So one has to keep on questioning like “What do you mean?”, “Can you tell more about it?”, “What happened to you then?”, “What did you feel?”, “What did you do?” ,”Why did you do that?”.
- Very important is the fact that the patients infrequently talk about the Stage. The Stage is what they do themselves. Most often patients talk about what others do to them. It is also an aspect of going away from the problem; talking about others is easier. So the homeopath has to probe especially into the question of the Stage. The Stage is the attitude, the doing, it is expressed in verbs. Our Materia Medica and repertories do not cover this aspect of remedies very well, to put it mildly. Verbs are lacking.
MB: This clarifies the approach a lot. But the young students still often relate the occupation (manager) with the ‘series’. Do you think that the methods being developed by you, Dr. Sankaran, Mangialavori etc. should be taught to the students right from the beginning or should these methods, which are at times more subjective or need better analytical skills, be taught to post-graduate students or practicing homeopaths?
JS: Yes, they should be taught right from the beginning. Not doing so is like teaching chemistry without telling about atoms and the periodic table. It makes things much more difficult. The new ideas bring order in the chaos of the Materia Medica.
According to my experience it is not the students that have problems with the new ideas. Most often they welcome them and feel it is enlightening their task of mastering the knowledge of homeopathy. It is the teachers who have problems with the new ideas most of the time. The ideas are often not taught at the schools due to lack of experienced teachers. So the students pick up the knowledge here and there, without proper guidance.
The problem of simplification, like matching “manager” with Gold series, is a problem of beginners, not of a system. Beginners simplify the knowledge always, later on they will refine. Teaching the old way has the same problem of simplification, like all blonde, yielding women need Pulsatilla, or all people with “suppressed emotions” need Staphysagria.
MB: How should the students go about mastering your approach/work?
JS: It all comes down to one’s own experience. So it is from theory to cases and vice versa. When you have a good case, see what fits in the theory and try to understand the case from the point of the theory. When you have a case try to analyze it with different theories.
An understanding of the Stages is important. It means that one has to go deeper than just the words and concepts. When one understands the Stages as such, the concepts are just handy grips.
MB: To a question above, you said that the theme of the Aurum series can also be found in the plant and animal kingdom. These days I have read similar thoughts at other places too that one can find the simillimum in any kingdom. Do you think that there can be more than one simillimum?
JS: What I meant was that the themes of the Gold series, and all other series, can be found in the plant and animal kingdoms, but they will express themselves there differently. I don’t want to say that the simillimum can be found in any kingdom. That was an idea or hypothesis of Kent, but I think it is incorrect.
MB: You have said above that a lot depends upon case-taking and case-analysis. What significance do you attach to potency selection and case-management in leading a patient to cure? Is finding the simillimum enough?
JS: The choice of the potency is of minor importance, compared to the selection of the simillimum.