Portions of this article are excerpts from a book on Archetypal Materia Medica currently being written by the author. Copyright 2010 Jane Tara Cicchetti All rights reserved.
Understanding what a substance can cause and cure is a very important aspect of homeopathy. This is discerned primarily through provings and clinical experience, but there are many other ways to understand the curative powers of remedies. We can learn much about what they can cure by studying the substance itself, its chemical makeup, attributes, and how it has been used in ancient and modern medicine. From my point of view, the more familiar we are with a substance the greater chance we have of benefiting more people. I would like to share some of the ways that I utilize my understanding of Jungian psychology to explore our materia medica.
This paper will cover the following: the relationship between some principles of Jungian psychology and the symptoms displayed by the homeopathic patient, a discussion of the remedy Cathartes aura, Turkey vulture, from an archetypal perspective, and finally, some short excerpts from three cases that were successfully treated with this remedy.
Symbolism in Provings
Homeopathic provings provide us with physical, general, and mental symptoms but also contain symbolic material that point to the deeper levels of the psyche. A great deal of this symbolism comes from dream images of the provers, but can also be contained within repeated or strange, rare, and peculiar ideas or themes. When these symbols are linked to the ancient symbolic themes associated with the substance, they can show us what effect the remedy can have on the deepest levels of the human psyche. These symbols are not ultimately significant for their meaning but because they point to a greater, unknown reality. Working with archetypal symbols allows for the possibility of healing that goes beyond what is expected or conceived of from a more limited perspective.
In my experience, when physical and mental symptoms have been deeply suppressed, as so often occurs in modern practice, it is necessary to use information from the symbolic realm, i.e., from dreams and unusual themes. Researching the symbolism, from provings and the substance itself, reveals the role that a particular remedy plays within the human psyche of an individual and more generally within the collective unconscious.
The Collective Unconscious
The idea of the collective unconscious and how it affects humanity was one of Carl Jung’s great discoveries. He observed that patients had dreams and fantasies of mythological themes and ancient symbols of which they had no conscious knowledge. Furthermore, he saw that his understanding of and respect for these motifs and images played a crucial role in the healing process of these patients.
From this observation, Jung deduced that there was a level of the psyche that was beyond the individual, but had a profound effect on the behavior and health of the patient. His clinical research, (Jung based all of his ideas upon his work with patients) revealed that the symbolism of the collective unconscious was stimulated by what he called archetypes.
Definition of Archetypes
The archetype is a subject that has become surrounded with much fantasy and confusion. For the concept be truly useful for the homeopath, it is important to define what Jung meant when he used this term.
Jung likened the archetype to the invisible presence of the crystal lattice in a saturated solution that has the potential to form a crystal. Likewise, the archetype is invisible potential, and once crystallized into an inner image, displays a process that is occurring within the human psyche. The purpose of the formation of this inner image is to have a strong or compelling effect on consciousness – i.e., it is attempting to get one’s attention.
While there are unlimited numbers of archetypes, there are some that show up repeatedly in clinical practice, including the archetype of the shadow, the male/female polarity of anima/ animus, and the archetype of the father, the mother, and the child. Each archetype represents a core pattern within the collective unconscious. It is an unconscious force that has a profound effect on the personality, moods, and inclination of the individual. It can also affect the body, and plays an important role in stimulating interests, intentions and the specific direction of the mind.
Polarity of the Archetypes
One of the goals of Jungian analysis is the reconciliation of opposites – the conscious retrieval of parts of the psyche that have been relegated to the unconscious. Jung felt that it was important for as many people as possible to achieve this goal. This is because the suppressed material of each individual builds up within the collective unconscious, a phenomenon Jung called the collective shadow, and can eventually erupt in violent outbursts. Conversely, when each person takes responsibility for his or her shadow material by making it conscious, that clears a small part of negative energy from the collective unconscious. It is possible for a motivated client to achieve the reconciliation of opposites through homeopathic treatment, especially if the homeopath has some knowledge of the structure of the psyche and knows how to work with dreams. Whenever a remedy stimulates a deep level of healing, it is likely that some reconciliation occurs even if the homeopath is not consciously engaged in that process.
All that exists in the physical world as well as the world of the psyche is two sided – positive/negative, light/ dark, masculine/ feminine. Thus archetypes have a negative as well as a positive side. While the ego must not attempt to imbue itself with the full force of an archetype, a situation that can cause inflation, it is often necessary to integrate aspects of archetypal energy into individual consciousness. Otherwise, the archetype continues to have a powerful effect on the health and well-being of the person who is possessed by this energy. It is more common for the negative aspect of the archetype to be buried in the collective shadow, so much of the work requires conscious acceptance of the shadowy, negative pole of the archetype. This is part of the process of the reconciliation of opposites; bringing together what was unconscious with what is conscious.; accepting what was once unacceptable in order to create wholeness.
Jungian Definition of a Complex
Jung’s definition of a complex is an emotionally charged group of ideas or emotions that accumulate around an archetype. The complex interferes with the individual’s conscious activity and has, so to speak, a mind of its own. It can be caused by shock, trauma, or any other experience that sets up a conflict within the individual psyche.
While the idea of the complex is not unique to Jungian psychology, what is unique is the idea that the core of the complex is connected to the collective unconscious through an archetype. This is a very important point for the homeopath to note, as the simillimum is more often similar to this archetypal core than it is to the peripheral symptoms.
Hopefully, this definition of the archetype and its complex will help the homeopath understand that most of the information that is gathered in case taking is the display of an archetypal influence. Just as the anamnesis of one person may reveal a very clear remedy picture and others are murky and confused, the archetypes are sometimes clearly seen and other times are extremely undifferentiated. Archetypes do not exist individually but are always cross contaminated by one another. The less conscious the individual, the more contamination exists.
Because unconscious archetypal forces play such a primary role in the development of symptoms and the conscious state of an individual, it can be useful to study materia medica from that perspective. It is then possible to match, not only the physical, general, and mental symptoms in the case, but the archetypal influences as well.
In some cases, there are not many symptoms on the conscious level but the archetypal influence is quite strong. Certain remedies seem to lend themselves more to this type of prescribing and one of these remedies is Cathartes aura, turkey vulture.
In his proving of Cathartes aura, Todd Rowe considers the theme of “Catharsis” to be central to the remedy. “Twelve of the eighteen provers described catharsis followed by feelings of calmness and peace. A number of individuals pursued meditation or yoga, which they either had never done or not done for years” 1 Catharsis also appeared as feeling like an exorcism had taken place, physical cleansing as in the draining of boils, pus coming out of the body, dreams of evacuation, and a vision of a phoenix arising from the ashes indicating rebirth.
Another theme is that of “Guardian/ Care Taking”. The provers experienced dreams of being taken care of or caring for children or animals. While there are many other themes in the proving, I would like to address these and one final theme, that of “Invisibility”. Provers felt as if they did not exist or like they were transparent.