Petr Zacharias is the founder and main teacher at the Prague College of Classical Homeopathy. He studied with George Vithoulkas at the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy and has conducted seminars with Dr. A. U. Ramakrishnan, Dr. S. K. Banerjea, Dr. Jorgos Kavouras and Erik van Woensel. He shares his passion and philosophy of practice in this interview.
AS: In 2008 you founded the Prague College of Classical Homeopathy, which is now very successful. What first inspired your desire to learn homeopathy? How did you start learning?
PZ: In my case, homeopathy was a great love at first sight. I suffered from atopic eczema since the age of two and my father took me to a physician who told me about homeopathy. I remember this day as if it were yesterday. When I heard the word “homeopathy” I was almost hypnotized, and later tried to learn everything about it. The homeopath cured my eczema which disappeared and never returned. Other maladies also disappeared. Since that moment I felt that this was what I wanted to do until my last days. The next day I went to a bookstore, but found only one book about homeopathy and that was written by a physician who was against homeopathy! He had devoted himself to destroying this method. But for me it was a starting point and I can say he failed in his purpose because he did not give good arguments and rather he triggered my passion for homeopathy even more. I bought all the books that were available at that time (1998) including A Brief Course In Classical Homeopathy by Elizabeth Hubbard Wright, Kent´s materia medica and his lectures on homeopathic philosophy and Organon and Science of Homeopathy byProf. George Vithoulkas.
AS: It sounds like homeopathy was your destiny. You’ve known a number of important homeopaths, includng Dr. Pavel Dufek, Jiri Cehovsky, Dr. S.K. Banerjee, Dr. Au Ramakrishnan and Prof George Vithoulkas. What was different about the IACH that helped move your knowledge to a higher level?
PZ: I organized seminars for Dr. Ramakrishnan and Dr. Banerjea in the Czech homeopathic community. My first teacher was Mgr. Jiri Cehovsky of the Czech Homeopathic Academy. At that time I felt I needed clinical training which was not part of the studies. Then I met Dr. Dufek who was an experienced homeopath and he took me into his clinical training group. That quickly came to an end as I was the only one who was coming there! I liked it very much but I was a homeopath without a real teacher until I met Prof. Vithoulkas, but that did not happen overnight. I had been studying at the Homeopathic Academy for five years, but since my first with homeopathy my mind has been producing questions but nobody knew the answers. To some questions I found the answers and to some I did not. Then I started to read The Science of Homeopathy (Vithoulkas) and after I read just a few pages I knew I had found what I was looking for. I thought “This person really understands homeopathy. He knows the answers to all of my questions.“
It was late one evening when I was struggling with the theory of miasms and I wrote a long paper with my current understanding, and sent it to George Vithoulkas. He didn‘t know me at that time but he answered me, saying that some of my ideas were correct and some not, but that I could be a very good homeopath. It was such an important letter for me, because he quickly explained some things that I had been trying to understand for the last eight years! Finally I joined the complete three year course at Alonissos and then PG courses with George every year until now. For me, he is the only teacher I have ever had, because he just changed my life…. not only by his teaching but also because he helped with my very serious health problems, which nobody before was able to do.
AS: It’s wonderful that found your vocation and your teacher and were also healed. Can you share some of the important concepts you learned from Prof. Vithoukas, that led to your deeper understanding?
PZ: The most important question for me, was whether the concept of the one constitutional remedy was really correct. Since the very beginning of homeopathy in my country they have always taught the concept of the one remedy. That was something my mind was unable to accept, because if you think practically, you will come very quickly to the conclusion that it cannot be true. I was struggling with this concept, trying to figure out if there are layers of remedies, or just one remedy for each patient. I spent years of my life just thinking about it and then George´s theory of the levels of health explained it very easily. Both concepts are possible. There are patients with a very strong organism who can remain within the picture of the one remedy for their whole lives, although they go through several pathologies or diseases. For their entire lives their local symptoms are changing but if you look at the bigger picture, their organism generates keynotes of one remedy. On the other hand there are people who possess weaker defence mechanisms and those people need more than one remedy (of course not in a mixture but in a correct sequence of remedies, each given at the proper time). So his theory of Levels of health and its practical value had a profound effect on my understanding of the whole concept of classical homeopathy.
AS: You also developed a passion for teaching. How did that come about? What was your goal in teaching students?
PZ: I opened my first course in 2006. It was my big wish to open clinical training (taking live cases and making regular followups) because nobody did it here, although it is so essential for every homeopathy student. At that time my first teacher, Jiri Cehovsky, offered me the chance to do a brief lecture for his students. I gave a three hour lecture and went away. After three days students from the class somehow found my email and wrote me, stating that they liked the lecture very much and wanted to see me more often. I called Jiri and told him about it, but he could not offer me regular lectures. I told the students that the academy could not offer me regular lectures but they insisted on seeing me again. Finally one girl from the group gathered six people who wanted to work with me in addition to their studies at the academy. We met one weekend each month and I taught them. So that was the begining of the study group. The course became very popular because I was the only one offering clinical training. The next year I had two study groups, each with ten students.
AS: You emphasized clinical experience from the beginning. How did you arrange the clinical experience?
PZ: Yes, the clinical training is the core of my teaching. Students are sitting in the class while I am taking a case. All students observe the patient and when I finish the interview, they ask them whatever they want to confirm their ideas. Then the patient goes away and I analyze the case with the class. I am focused not just on remedies chosen by students, but on the way they are thinking. Actually the way they think when taking a case is much more important, and you can recognize who is on what level just by observing this. The thought process is the skill needed for finding the remedy. The specific mode of thinking is the ability to connect things, to see the bigger picture from the facts, not from the imagination. You can accidentally come to the right remedy but you can never acidentally think in the correct manner. For me, the way they analyze a case is the core of everything. I am very demanding of my students and they know it. Most of our graduates have very successfull practices. They become so skilled that most of them, when they came to Greece, were able to perceive the right remedy (the same as George) even without a repertory. It sounds like a boast but I am just very proud of them as they are doing a very good homeopathy, and that is my goal. I want to engender good practitioners who are down to earth and humble at the same time.
Regarding patients, we have more patients than we can take because they receive very good treatment for free, including regular followups. On the other hand I am very strict regarding patient followups. If they dont come just because they feel better or don‘t want to pay the ticket to Prague, we do not continue to treat them. I want them to come regularly, because for students it is very important to see the effect of homeopathy and learn how to evaluate remedy reactions, how to manage follow ups, etc.
Petr with some students
AS: Are miasms a part of your teaching? Do you find the use of Kingdoms and the classification of animal and plant remedies useful concepts in remedy selection?
PZ: Yes, I teach about miasms because they must be understood correctly to use this knowledge in practice. But it is very important that we don´t select remedies according to a miasm but according to symptom similarity. In other words, if Sulphur will be clearly indicated by symptoms in a sycotic case, it will act correctly. By the way, all polychrests cover symptoms of all miasms. There are some cases which cannot be solved without an understanding of miasmatic theory and there are cases where this theory is useless regarding the selection of the correct remedy. Every case is differrent and we adjust our strategy of finding the simillimum according to the type of case. Regarding kingdoms and plants classification, I don´t have much to say about it as I don‘t use it. I consider myself as old school homeopath.
AS: When you‘re teaching, what do you find are the most common mistakes students make?
PZ: The most common mistake of students is that they don‘t have a concept of what has to be treated. They just go after the remedy. They look at the patient and their mind is fixed on one or two remedies and they try to make the patient fit the remedy. I think this mistake occurs because they feel stressed. They don‘t know a lot of remedies and cannot relax during the proccess of case taking. They’re anxious and hoping that the simillimum is one of the remedies they already know. Therefore they fix attention on remedies they know, which prevents them from seeing the patient as a whole. The more they know the materia medica in depth, the less they tend to do this. So if they keep studying, this mistake will pass by itself. All of us probably made that mistake at some time.
The second mistake I see very often, is that students are too focused on diagnosis, trying to find all those small details which are actually useless, while ignoring SRP symptoms (strange, rare and peculiar). This mistake is much more difficult to ovecome, because its roots lie in specific types of thinking. It leads to the inability to connect things and to see the bigger picture. It could be partly ovecome by experience and honest work. It is hard to eradicate completely in people who generally percieve things separatelly. I do my best to refine this ability in every student.
AS: You teach your students the use of Radar Opus. What are some of the important concept s you teach about repertory and making the best use of it?
PZ: We teach them basics, like how to find the relevant rubric very fast, how to use filters, how to confirm reliability of the remedy in the corresponding rubric (cross-checking with materia medica). We teach them about repertory and its structure, and different repertorization strategies, but our school is not too much focused on the repertory. I dont like if a homeopath is too dependent on technologies. Most important is that I teach them to not depend on the repertory too much, to use it as a tool but that´s all. True homeopaths like Kent, Lippe, Geukens, Vithoulkas, they became known because of the ability to take the case just with paper and pen, sometimes even without paper and pen, and those people should be a main motivation for us in this overcomputerized era. I teach the students to think as homeopaths and to avoid mechanical work with symptoms as much as possible. Methods like “put all symptoms in the repertory and use the remedy which is in first place” – that is not homoepathy, at least in my eyes.
AS: According to the levels of health concept, which patients should not be given a simillimum, but rather palliated?
PZ: According to the theory of the Levels of health, there are patients who are curable and patients who are incurable. What has happened in those incurable people is that the pathology has progressed so far that it eventually led to tissue and structural (irreversible) changes. In other words there is some point until which the defence mechanism is working actively to maintain the best possible balance and the disturbance remains functional. At this stage the correct homeopathic treatment provides the best results. But once this point is crossed and the organism begins to change on the level of organs and tissues, the defence mechanism starts to give up and we see the final product of the disease. The closer to death the patient is, the less individual symptoms we see, as the defence mechanism is giving up (it is too weak).
Now in all cases (curable or incurable) we are looking for peculiarities and trying to match symptoms of the patient with the remedy as much as possible. It is not us but the defence mechanism which decides if the reaction to such remedy will be curative or palliative. Of course we can palliate the symptoms in a patient who is curable but this happens when we give a wrong remedy. But if the remedy is correct, the incurable patient will react not curatively (not initial aggravation followed by long lasting amelioration) but rather you will see immediate amelioration which will not last long, and then symptoms will change and the patient will need another remedy to keep the good palliation going.
AS: Homeopaths today determine potency of the remedy based on a variety of theories. Could you summarize how you determine the correct potency?
PZ: This is very difficult question and you are right that there are a lot of theories when it comes to potencies. According to Prof. Vithoulkas there are some parameters we can use practically which is the level of health of the patient, clarity of symptoms and depth and character of the pathology. The potency selection should take into account all these factors. In my experience I have seen very impressive results with very high potencies from 1M to 50M even in very serious conditions like multiple sclerosis or psychosis when the symptoms were very clear (they clearly pointed to the one remedy).
Although this is not the case very often, one may ask how is it possible that the organism in such a severe condition still has the ability to produce such a clear picture. On one hand, those cases are mostly ones who developed these conditions after very great stress but before they experienced such stress they had been quite healthy. On the other hand they dont have a strong family history of those diseases which is the factor that makes the prognosis much better. The next thing we can often see in such people is the recent history of high fever during acutes, so they still have this ability to produce high fevers which is even better. This is exactly what George Vithoulkas says and which clinically confirms his theory of the levels of health. All these parameters we use for the potency selection are only indicators that show us how strong the defence mechanism of the patient is. Anyhow, there are patients who react on a specific range of potencies only (e.g. from 30C to 200C) and everything below or above this range does not affect the organism. Is there any way to recognize this spectrum before we begin to treat such patients? Or even better, is there any way to recognize the best potency for each patient? These questions have not been answered so far but if somebody can come up with a practical theory, it could catapult this science to the next level.
AS: Thank you Petra. It’s been pleasure chatting with you. Your students are very lucky to have such a passionate and knowledgable teacher.
Editor’s note: You can find some of Petr’s carefully worked cases and quizzes here: http://hoacuoidep.info/author/pzacharias/