Before I start this dialogue, I would like to remind the readers that I have just launched a blog on my website www.lookingbackmovingforward.com for discussions about how we feel about our profession, how we feel about what is discussed in the interviews, for us to share our experiences and to create an international place to meet and chat in the matrix. Feel free to come and visit and contribute your thoughts.
And now for your monthly slice from my book Looking Back Moving Forward (www.lookingbackmovingforward.com). This time I have chosen international teacher and successful London practitioner for the last thirty years, Misha Norland, to inspire you.
Saturday 26 February 2005 brought me to Yondercott to visit with Misha Norland, his school, his family home and his chickens. I wandered around the gardens and woodland at Yondercott prior to our half ten in the morning meeting time. The students had started their morning classes and I had some time on my hands, some space to gather my thoughts and get into the groove of the School of Homeopathy. It was a cold morning, but here in Devon they had escaped the snow that had been falling constantly all week further north where I had come from. I was already in love with this place. Misha and I found each other near the allotment, his greeting accompanied by the sound of the ducks chatting away; he was gathering eggs.
After a warm hug, we made plans to take Bear, their dog, for a walk up in the hills before conducting a more formal interview in his clinic room in the quiet of the upstairs of the house. When I say ‘more formal’, we did in fact sit on the floor. Misha has a wonderful way of relaxing his companion, and I felt like I had known him forever. The interview was really more of a conversation which was inevitable as we were already familiar and relaxed with one another from our rambling around the fields. I immediately admired Misha’s warm and empathetic way. Since the interview Misha has now handed down the role of principal to his son, Mani.
ROWENA: So tell me Misha, why do you think someone should choose to learn homeopathy at the School of Homeopathy?
MISHA: It certainly is possible to vision homeopathy and homeopathic education in different ways. My approach to say, materia medica studies, is through an appreciation of how archetypal energies and signatures manifest in nature. For example, we study the spider. The spider is nothing but a representation at the physical level of an archetypal way of being. The disease, as we call it, if it is similar, is nothing other than the energy of a particular spider acting out through the afflicted person.
That person becomes its mind, its sense organs, its limbs, and acts out its essential being. See that and you see what needs to be cured. The vital being of the spider is expressed in its form and behaviour; it is its signature. So any teacher, or any book that can take me to that understanding, is where I would like to be learning. I would hope that people would come and study with me because that was what fascinated them. This in turn probably implies that not very many people are going to come to the School of Homeopathy. Not everybody is excited by an archetypal approach.
ROWENA: What do you think other people are excited by? What motivates them?
MISHA: When you go out and give talks on homeopathy, the questions you are most likely to be asked are to do with therapeutics. How would you fix the arthritis, how would you fix the bruising, tell me how you would use Arnica in the home, etc. It is a fix it mentality. Most people are searching for a series of formulae and methods that can help them to alleviate the pain. Generally speaking, in a group of twenty or thirty people, there may be one or two whose interest ranges beyond therapeutics.
I had a scientific education. E = mc2 is a formula that has been familiar to me for a long time, and here in homeopathy we see it in action. This is another illuminating aspect to homeopathy. The potentised remedy represents a similar transformation. There is both a scientific and an artistic aspect to being homeopathic in your vision and to bringing about cure. The disease and the remedy should match at the archetypal level of signature – the art of seeing – while the potency should match the vital force – the science. My parents were artists, painters, and their vision represented a similar, archetypal way of seeing. John Damonte’s vision encompassed all of that, so he was the right teacher for me.
ROWENA: Why did he die young?
MISHA: He had a heart attack. At a physical level, he suffered a congenital weakness, he was overweight. At an emotional level, he had a younger wife and two sons, one of who was marching into his teenage years. Like many a man of his generation, John Damonte was authoritarian while being a gentle and loving husband and father. As I understand it, both his older son and his wife were struggling to break away and gain some independence.
At a spiritual level, John Damonte was a man who primarily transmitted knowledge through devotion. This provided a gentle learning environment, because students quite naturally developed openness and trust. It is easy to learn then, because you are not threatened and you don’t put barriers up. However, the family feeling within the homeopathy class was insufficient to make up for what may have felt like a shortfall in the home. At the time of his heart attack, the physical structure of his house was also under threat. The roof was under repair. Chaos in the home was the disorder of the day. As I see it, these were the salient factors.
ROWENA: Do you transmit knowledge through devotion? Do you set it up like that here?
MISHA: I don’t set it up; I am it. I am like John Damonte in that respect.
ROWENA: I have to say, immediately I feel a complete trusting space with you, so if your students all feel that, then I can understand what you are saying. So other colleges that don’t have those central figures, that are called gurus, how do you think it works for them?
MISHA: I don’t know and I don’t understand how it works. Often all I see is trouble. From my perspective, when trust breaks down things become dysfunctional. Families become dysfunctional when trust breaks down.
ROWENA: Who else was a key teacher, a guru?
MISHA: John Damonte was my major teacher, because he gave a vision of healing as well as a vision of homeopathy. He wasn’t that experienced as a homeopath himself, so there was an element missing around the techniques of homeopathy. The basic philosophy was in place, but finding rubrics, repertorisation and differential analysis were not focused on. Because of the spirit of homeopathy, which John Damonte seemed to embody, we felt bereft when John died. We all knew that we needed more, so our first move was totally logical; we went to John’s primary teacher, Thomas Maughan.
We sat in on Thomas Maughan’s ongoing homeopathy class. This was in the early seventies. There was a wonderful crew of people including Peter Chappell, Robert Davidson, Martin Miles and Kaaren Whitney. Thomas was really hot on esoteric teachings – he felt that these underpinned homeopathy because true practise requires wisdom. If you just practise homeopathy as a technician and don’t underpin it with the perennial philosophy, it is one dimensional. So he was really strong on bringing in that second dimension.
He invited the lot of us to become Druids and to follow their teachings. Not many of us stayed with it including me. My heart wasn’t in it, not because they aren’t valid and wonderful teachings, they are. However, within druidic practices is considerable reliance upon ritual. While this is fabulously powerful, it had been poisoned for me. If I search for a ‘reason’, I would have to look to the Third Reich. This was so embedded in ritual; I feel it infused it with great power and to such destructive ends.
John Damonte’s other teacher was Donald Foubister, who brought our attention to Carcinosin. He was a fine homeopath rooted in the notion of signature, looking for the deeper picture and prescribing constitutionally.
Thomas Maughan believed that Kent was right, but he also had many ancillary methods. He said you should start most cases off with Sulphur 10M to clear out past drugging, but before that give Morgan 200C the bowel nosode, because this is like the snowplough that preclears the way. Then, when you give Sulphur it will do really good work and that will throw up the constitutional picture upon which you may prescribe. In the meantime, you can also use certain formulae; he liked triads, putting together three remedies and using them as specifics for this, that and the other. So you can see how the practical approach could have germinated and been nurtured in the nursery bed of Thomas Maughan’s teaching.
ROWENA: Where did he get that from?
MISHA: He made most of the triads up himself; he liked to do that, his creativity went there. Hahnemann, putting his theory of Sulphur being the greatest antipsoric to the test, was the first to give this as a first prescription to patients, only later prescribing the homeopathically obtained specific. As for putting Morgan before Sulphur or Gaertner before Calcarea carbonica that is the work of Paterson and Bach , they found that there was a relationship. You will recall, they discovered that stool cultures of patients under treatment, with say Sulphur, showed a preponderance of the Morgan strain of Gram-negative staining bacteria.
I tried all those things in my practice and got terribly confused, so my next great teachers were my patients. I figured, and this comes from basic science, if you are unclear about things, you can remove as many variables as possible and simplify down to basics, to first principles. The first principle of homeopathy is the simillimum principle.
MISHA: I have a clear view about the kind of homeopathy that I like to practise and model for my students. However, that doesn’t mean I am not appreciative of the other camps. Dismissing what others believe in would be like saying I really don’t like slugs, I wish there weren’t any in the world, I wish slugs were banished. But we know that diversity is the key to success and health. Diversity in homeopathy is just wonderful. There is a slight problem I guess, keeping a term like homeopathy, if one is actually practising something that is very different from what Hahnemann wrote about. But I think most of us are guided in a fundamental way by the Organon.
I do fervently believe in empiricism; in a process of evaluating results and modifying practise according to what one finds. I also believe in Continuous Professional Development, especially at this time when homeopathy is developing rapidly and extending its therapeutic range.
I have a sort of prayer to the universe, a wish list, for homeopathy. The wish is that those who practise homeopathy should keep on looking; keep on looking at the world out there and the world inside themselves. I know we are always amazed at the stories that our patients tell us, and if we get tired of that we shouldn’t be practising. The looking I had in mind goes further than that: we are told the story, but the question is what is driving that story. Keep on looking. What is the thing that keeps it going; where is that coming from?
In terms of ill health, where is the vital energy being held and stopped, how is that expressing itself? Here’s a simplified analogy: there is a river, this represents the energy flowing and there’s a rock in the river, which the water gurgles round. This obstruction is the disease. The eddy pools are incredibly interesting. That pattern is what we are looking for and the remedy has that pattern too. We match that pattern to the remedy pattern and the obstruction dissolves.
ROWENA: How do you teach remedies?
MISHA: Through signature. It is what it is. Be with the being of that particular manifestation and you have got it.
ROWENA: I have been reading about The Secret Life of Plants – that they have a spirit. This concept makes perfect sense to me. What do you think?
MISHA: They are manifestations of spirit, obviously.
ROWENA: I always thought then when we die our spirits would go off to the astral plane, which would be here or somewhere else. Maybe they are in the plant world as well?
MISHA: Absolutely, why would it be different, there is a different awareness and consciousness of course, but in terms of planes of existence, these ‘lower’ astral realms are there for all of us – through them we manifest, to them we return when our manifestation ceases.
ROWENA: Do you think we can move into plant and come back in a human form?
MISHA: Well, we do as diseases, don’t we? What happens, I wonder, when creatures go out of existence, for example, the Bengal Tiger? Its days are numbered but nothing can go out of existence at an astral or spiritual level, just the physical form has gone. So the energy that represents tiger has got to live somewhere and where better than as a co-inhabitant of a human. Maybe there will be more human tigers around the place as the animals go out of incarnation. It is a speculation.
One of the things that is endlessly reinforced by patient’s stories, is that we all have an unconscious theme in our lives; a theme which repeats itself. Going back to the analogy of the river and the obstruction, well it’s obviously the same river, because that’s life. That won’t change, but the obstruction also has an unerring way of remaining fixed. The eddy pools can vary because of changing life circumstances, but basically they represent the same pattern of deviation. It is a golden thread/river that runs through. The expressions may change but the thrust is the same. This unconscious stuff is what we should focus upon because that is where the obstruction resides. The expressions, and they are usually compensations, can change, but the basic unconscious material remains the same.
If that is true then there is one basic remedy that will be appropriate for that person rather than many. So when we keep on looking, what we are doing is searching to find the nature of that unconscious, basic obstruction and the remedy that most closely matches it. One lifetime is very small and short in the evolution of human consciousness. If we think of each human as being like a cell in the body of humanity, which is itself evolving, and we know that we are a very young species, then we notice that individually we have a long way to go. One lifetime of one individual human allows the possibility to work over a particular form, shape and disturbance and that’s enough!
ROWENA: Even with my classical training I was taught the concept of layers.
MISHA: I don’t think that’s true. I think it appears to be true and therefore it is modelled. I don’t actually think that is what happens.
ROWENA: So we are this one remedy, like when you have your astrological chart made for you? The picture that is created at birth of your whole life is reflected in the chart?
MISHA: Exactly like that. Like the natal chart, it tells you everything. There is one natal chart and there is one remedy.
ROWENA: Does that mean that people don’t move on? Let us say I was given Natrum muriaticum and it clears my disappointed love. If I kept having that remedy repeated over time is it just making me feel better and boosting my immunity?
MISHA: Yes, but let us go back to the river and the obstruction. If you are looking at the eddy pools, you note that Natrum muriaticum covers some of these eddies. So if these eddy pools appear and I take Natrum muriaticum, the river flows with less obstruction, so it’s good. I don’t knock it. What I am suggesting though, is that if you prescribe a remedy for somebody, even by accident, and you see the miracle of cure at the deepest level, not just some but all the eddy currents disappear.
It is the Holy Grail of homeopathy; it is the quest. It is a model that keeps us on the search for more remedies and more provings because as we develop our materia medica, we also increase our capacity to find simillima, not just partial remedies, and this in turn moves our practice away from a layer model and towards a single remedy practice.
1. Bach, Edward and Wheeler, Charles, Chronic Diseases, A Working Hypothesis, H K Lewis, London, 1925
2. Tompkins, Peter and Bird, Christopher, The Secret Life of Plants – a fascinating account of the physical, emotional and spiritual relations between plants and man, Perennial, 1989 and then 2002