Homeopathy and Jungian Psychology: Kindred Spirits

We can see that the mirror metaphor, the basis for genuine healing, is active in both modes of healing, homeopathy and Jungian psychology. Note here that the healing in the service of totality relates to conscious totality as opposed to the earlier unconscious totality or “wholeness”.

The symptoms which patients bring to us as homeopathic care-givers, representative of their suffering, are not accompanied by conscious awareness of their meaning, but rather are manifestations of the mis-tuned vital force, that “spirit-like dynamis” which animates us (Organon, §9-17)12. This “dynamis” is not visible to us in consciousness except in its generation of symptoms. Likewise the unconscious is not visible to us except in its manifestation of symbols. They are our bridge to the archetypal world. In depth (Jungian) psychology, if symbols are lived, or “acted out”, without being made conscious, they become symptoms of illness. For example in the Lachesis archetype, it can happen that a pattern of fears and dreams of snakes (which can symbolize agents for transformation, as in the Adam and Eve legend) can be instead conjoined with a behavior of unconsciously acting out their cold-blooded serpentine behavior of desiring what is not theirs and lashing out at those of whom they are jealous.

“To the extent that one is unaware of the symbolic dimension of existence, one experiences the vicissitudes of life as symptoms.  Symptoms are disturbing states of mind which we are unable to control and which are essentially meaningless—that is, contain no value or significance.  Symptoms, in face, are degraded symbols, degraded by the reductive fallacy of the ego. (the reductive fallacy reduces all symbolic imagery to elementary, known factors. It operates on the assumption that no true mystery, no essential unknown transcending the ego’s capacity for comprehension, exists. It assumes there are no true symbols, only signs—summarized from an earlier paragraph)  Symptoms are intolerable precisely because they are meaningless. Almost any difficulty can be borne if we can discern its meaning. It is meaninglessness, which is the greatest threat to humanity.13

In homeopathy the path to the treasure (the similar remedy) is illuminated by consideration of the striking, unique and peculiar symptoms of the patient [Organon, §152-154]14, such as desire for hot drinks during a fever, desire for motion in an injured part, or other striking generals, modalities, mental or clearly defined and consistent particular symptoms. In Jungian/depth psychology, the symbols from dreams or active imagination that are most vivid, striking and unusual show the way to the archetype that is wanting to be understood and expressed in consciousness.

“At the beginning of an analysis, when one is gathering the anamnesis…we are most interested in knowing about those aspects that have libido (psychic energy) intensity, either positive or negative, because those spots of intensity will be indications of where the Self is touching the ego’s developmental process. The same thing is true in analyzing the events of everyday life. Intense desires or reactions of all kinds are crucial, whether they be positive, creative and constructive, or devilish and dangerous. Either way, they are from the Self and are the things to which we need to pay most attention.”15

An individual’s conscious association with a particular image or symbol, such as a beautiful parrot, a rose in a vase in a dark hallway, or a relative or acquaintance who has a particular meaning in that person’s life, is then incorporated into the totality of symbols occurring in a particular dream. When the dream, in its symbolic nature, is now viewed as a whole, the meaning begins to become apparent as it is reflected to the patient. Again, this is very much like the (energetic) reflection process taking place in homeopathy with the administration of the similar medicine based on the striking symptoms in the context of the totality. In Whitmont’s example of the asthmatic child and her dreams of the “goat-people” who were interfering with her reaching the island, this aspect of the mother’s denial of her instinctual nature was inhibiting her child’s ability to breathe freely, because of mother’s tight controls. This is another instance of an unconscious psychological conflict being “acted out” as a symptom.

Edinger quotes another example of a symbol being acted out rather than experienced consciously, in a man who had a compulsion to wear women’s underwear, which made him feel more confident and effective. Without the awareness of meaning of the associated symbol, the man was in a state of shame and compulsion. When he became aware of the symbolism of men wearing women’s clothing as related to honoring the feminine archetype, he transformed a symptom into a conscious symbol, which allowed him to see himself as a participant in collective human enterprise. His awareness came from learning of the legend of Odysseus wearing the enchanted veil of Ino allowing him to survive swimming to shore in a huge storm on the sea, generated by Poseidon. Odysseus required the help of the feminine archetype in time of stress, but was told to cast the veil back into sea (back to the goddess) when he arrived safely on land.16

The area of inquiry related to the connection and correspondence of psyche and soma is still very much unexplored. How much do physical symptoms correspond with psychic states, how much are physical symptoms an “acting out” of a psychic conflict? Considering that the majority of systems in our physical body are not under conscious control, including the autonomic nervous system, the immune system, the processes of respiration, digestion, hormonal function, etc., we have justification for intuiting a substantial connection between the unconscious and those countless physiological processes.

We have frequently experienced such correspondences with the remedy, Ignatia, with its conversion states related to grief and unexpressed emotions. Numerous other homeopathic medicines are well-known for their physical symptoms in response to incompletely expressed anger (Staphysagria, Colocynthis, etc.) and suppression of emotions of fright (Opium), grief (Natrum Muriaticum, Aurum, Phosphoric Acid, etc.), reaction to bad news (Gelsemium), and so on. The question remains, how much of the other physical symptoms and disease states are related to psychic issues? Whitmont, in The Alchemy of Healing: Psyche and Soma17, explores some of these issues from an inclusive perspective.

Some of the other areas of commonality of the disciplines of homeopathy and Jungian psychology are:

Their use of inductive reasoning—drawing inferences from careful observation of phenomena versus deductive reasoning’s hypothesizing followed by conduction of experiments to confirm or deny the hypothesis.

Awareness of “dis-ease” as dynamic at its source and origin rather than material: a matter of subtle energies. The “spirit-like” vital force as described by Hahnemann, and the “world spirit” of the collective unconscious/ or archetypal psyche, as described by Jung.

Careful case-taking or anamnesis (the detailed recalling of one’s own story) exists  in both, in the process of addressing a disease process which is hidden from view. Jung elaborated a description of categorization of people which he called typology18. It is extensive and worth exploring. Briefly, he delineated four major types: Feeling, Thinking, Sensation and Intuition, with each type being either predominately introverted or extroverted. This is the basis for the popular Meyers-Briggs analysis. Of course there are individuals with classical qualities of each, and many with mixtures and shadings. These individual ways of accessing and reacting to their world affects, just as do the various homeopathic archetypes, how they will appear and react in case-taking as well as follow-up visits. Certainly the anamnesis is the indispensable basis for learning the details of an individual’s uniqueness: the foundation upon which the therapy is built. If the details of the homeopathic case are not elucidated, important details may be lost, such as a single peculiar particular symptom or modality. Likewise, the whole medical, social, personal and family history must be elicited. In the depth psychology patient, the personal history is emphasized, including details regarding family and other relationships, personal history, including the individual’s reaction to major events in their life. Remember Edinger’s earlier comments regarding aspects having intense psychic energy attached to them.  Again, we find  the awareness of archetypes in both, the very basis for the tools and processes by which homeopathy and Jungian psychology promote healing.

We see the importance of amplification in both, in the process of elucidating symbols in psychology, or elucidating and confirming the intensity of individual prescribing symptoms in homeopathy. In Jungian psychology the amplification is aimed at connecting with the archetype which is trying to manifest. Gestalt techniques may even be used to intensify the experience of the patient in relation to the symbol which has arisen. Also in behalf of this aim, mythological images are sought which resonate with the symbol which is being acted out or which appears in a dream. In the instance of the man compelled to wear women’s underwear, the amplification came by way of identifying the image of Odysseus and the veil of Ino, as described previously. The result is the transformation of a symptom (unconscious) into a symbol (conscious). Interestingly, in Jungian exploration of the symbolic language of dreams, there is a feeling/emotional element in the patient which confirms that the reflective process is on the right track.

The simultaneous relief of suffering with attainment of an added degree of consciousness is also common to both. Some examples: a woman in her 50’s with a “wall of protection” her whole life, total loss of sexual desire and anger at a daughter who “baited” her each time she tried to communicate with her. After the similar medicine, the sexual desire returned, the woman had insight about her own anger in relation to her daughter and was able to confront her without the passion of anger, with resulting realignment of boundaries for them both. She also became aware of her tendency to overload herself, contributing to her emotional wall of protection.

A man with an unexplained constellation of debilitating gastrointestinal symptoms, in the course of homeopathic treatment experienced a diminution of those symptoms in parallel with an increasing awareness of his lifelong difficulty in allowing himself to be loved. Another woman who had an array of physical symptoms, primarily musculo-skeletal, had chronically poured herself into a state of codependency with an alcoholic husband and his relationship with their daughter. Following the administration of the remedy and what she described as “a tornado going through my body”, she—in conjunction with an improvement of her physical symptoms—began to gain insight into her (realistically) limited role in the working-out of both of those family situations. The case files of every homeopathic caregiver contain countless other such examples.

Alchemical correlates In Jung’s resurrection of the relevance of alchemy, he portrayed the parallels of common alchemical processes or “operations” on the prima materia (the crude substance to be transformed and refined) with similar processes undergone by the human psyche in the process of maturation and growth and recognition of its true nature (the process of individuation). “Calcinatio”, the process of calcination or burning a substance into ashes is parallel to the process of totally “incinerating” a belief or delusion or way of behaving which is no longer valid in the life of the individual. Initially devastating synchronicities in the outer world which correlate with the inner state can occur, such as in the fiery consumption of one’s home or possessions. “Mortificatio” or “Putrefactio”, the process of death or rotting is sometimes necessary in the death and rebirth of an attitude. “Sublimatio”, or the heating of a substance in the alchemical retort until it turns to a gaseous state and then condenses inside the top of the vessel corresponds to such psychological changes as “getting above” the problem and seeing it more objectively, or a distillation of an essential characteristic from that which is no longer valid in one’s personality. “Coagulatio”, roughly the converse of sublimatio, cooling a liquid back into a solid form, or precipitation of a substance from a liquid, has to do more with a process of “bringing down to earth”, as in an individual who is ungrounded and unrealistic in his/her way of being in the world. Just by their names, one can roughly intuit an aspect of other operations (alchemically and psychologically) such as Solutio, Separatio and Coniunctio. (This is the briefest skimming of a very complicated and rich topic that adds to the understanding of the human psyche)19,20. A patient I’m seeing had multiple dreams in which alchemical operations were symbolized in very accessible form, some with multiple processes. It was interesting also, as an indication of its origin in the collective unconscious, that she had no prior knowledge of alchemy or alchemical processes.

Besides our being able to observe in our patients their need for, or the experiencing of, the above operations before and after the administration of the medicines; we have, in homeopathy, an additional kinship with alchemy. Hahnemann was aware of this by virtue of his own extensive studies. Salt, Sulphur, Mercury, Lead, Iron and others were substances involved in alchemical transformations21. Jung says of salt: “…the most outstanding properties of salt are bitterness and wisdom…the factor common to both, however incommensurable the two ideas may seem, is, psychologically, the function of feeling. Tears, sorrow and disappointment are bitter, but wisdom is the comforter in all psychic suffering. Indeed, bitterness and wisdom form a pair of alternatives: where there is bitterness wisdom is lacking, and where wisdom is there can be no bitterness.” (the correlation with a central feature of Natrum Muriaticum is obvious).22 Further, it was apparent to Jung that the life of the alchemist, devoted to these chemical operations, changed and richened as he progressed through this work. There is indeed a parallel in the life of the homeopathic or Jungian caregiver: They both must progress along the path of individuation, as their work progresses.

Suppression This is rampant in humanity, in the psychological sense. Any time we are unwilling to experience and relate to symbols which come from the Self (the archetypal psyche), we are suppressing the process of our inner life. The more the suppression occurs, the more the unconscious material is acted out in projection rather than brought to consciousness. (I fear that anti-depressants promote this state).* An example:  An individual whose childhood experiences led him to not trust anyone has dreams in which he is on a precipice and begins to slip over the edge, when he is picked up and carried to safety in the talons of an eagle. We could see the dream as suggesting that there is an eagle power within himself that—if accessed—can save him from destruction caused by his mistrust. He could deny this possibility, not trust the dream, and experience projection of that power in others but not be able to claim it in himself (this would be another example of a positive projection). Another individual with a similar problem could have a dream of his car heading toward a brick wall at a high speed and have a hand come out of the darkness to steer the car to safety, but he pushes the hand away. His dream could be seen as a reflection of his rejecting help to avert a disastrous outcome. He could either heed it or he could continue to figuratively push the hand aside and project the absence of a helping hand onto others in his environment, i.e., “Help is available for everyone else, but no one wants to help me.” Again, what is denied in consciousness is then constellated more strongly in the unconscious and becomes acted out in projection.

We’re all familiar with suppression in physical or mental illness in our patients, especially in their histories. The “reflection” of the similar homeopathic remedy begins to unravel this process.

Transference and Countertransference, described earlier, in the interaction of patient and professional in homeopathy and depth psychology: The relationship is an intimate one, and both patient and caregiver may be affected deeply as a result of the interaction. In Jungian psychology, the relationship is a long one, and these issues are of more intense importance. The longer and more difficult the relationship in the homeopathic system, the more likely it will be that these issues will need to be addressed on an ongoing basis. Suffering, then, is commonly thought to occur only in the patient, but it can frequently occur in both, especially if progress is not occurring or if there exists an unacknowledged transference-countertransference situation which affects not only the patient but also the caregiver23.

By now, it’s pretty apparent that we’re all in this together. Whether we’re patient or caregiver, we can’t escape the necessity of doing our inner work.

In the Jungian model, the suffering of conflicting opposites (usually involving ego desires opposing the impetus of the Self) can generally go one of two ways: the individual can become identified with the position of the ego or with an emotion in relation to the conflict, or he/she can persist in “holding the tension” between the opposite inclinations, not becoming identified with either, until the situation transforms. Crucifixion is an apt metaphor, with the cross representing the crossing of the opposites, and the crucifixion as bearing the tension that results. The metaphor extends to the Christ figure as exemplifying suffering in the service of conscious redemption (refer back to the earlier discussion of unconscious wholeness, “original sin”, etc.)

It’s like a tilting pool table: the pockets representing identification with a particular position or emotion and the cue ball being the ego. If the table is not allowed to tilt too far in any one direction, the ego doesn’t disappear into identification with one emotion or position, while the Self works out a transformation. This is not a passive process, but an actual “cooking” of the emotions, as if in the alchemical retort. The cooking is the voluntary experience of feeling the feelings.  This can be, as many have experienced, an extremely intense process. As this is done, and attention is paid to the symbols which emerge from the unconscious (the self), the archetypal world cooperates in the process of transformation. The point is that suffering may be done consciously or unconsciously. The more consciousness we can have as we all undergo our inevitable sufferings, the more the meaning can become clear, making the suffering more bearable. It’s akin to facing the adversary (and potential transformative agent) as opposed to having it invisible and behind us.

Hegel described the opposites as thesis and antithesis, which when borne in somewhat of a balance, results in a synthesis, which transcends and is different from both. (The synthesis then becomes the thesis of a new round and the process continues). The synthesis was referred to by Jung as the transcendent function, the factor which transforms the impasse. Suffering the tension of the opposites can happen on a small scale many times in each day, and can also be in effect for months in more global conflicts within individuals.

In the Jungian model, the transcendent function results from holding the tension of the opposites and attending to the symbols brought forward by the archetypal psyche/Self.  In the homeopathic model, the transcendent function is supplied by/catalyzed by the similar remedy. Therein lies the beauty of this wonderful art with which we are blessed. Once again we see the parallel between symptoms and symbols as leading to the healing process.

Again the disciplines of homeopathy, Jungian psychology and alchemy are brought together in a quote in Jung, by Gerhard Dorn, an alchemist: “In the human body is concealed a certain metaphysical substance known to very few, which needeth no medicament, being itself an incorrupt medicament…the Philosophers (alchemists), through a kind of divine inspiration, knew that this virtue and heavenly vigour can be freed from its fetters; not by its contrary…but by its like. Since therefore some such thing is found, whether within man or outside him, which is conformable to this substance, the wise concluded that like things are to be fortified by like, by peace rather than by war.”24

An example of holding the tension in a minor conflict: Your teenage daughter is dating a character who seems “iffy” as far as his integrity and his intentions for your daughter. You express your concerns before she leaves for a date with him on Saturday night and she becomes very angry and says she hates her life because you don’t understand or trust her. You feel scared for her welfare, angry at her response to your concern, you entertain a feeling of despair about the harmonious working-out of the situation. Holding the tension would entail acknowledging all the feelings, and in fact letting them “cook” in the alchemical retort, but without allowing yourself to become identified with any of the emotions and thereby become hardened in any one of the states.

In a major conflict situation, an individual may consciously and privately acknowledge his or her homosexuality, after struggling with the feelings over a long period. Feelings of fear, despair, sadness and perhaps anger might be intermediate feelings which would (again) require being “cooked” as the individual came to terms with how this will change their life. Not holding the tension might entail identifying with the initial shame or fear and considering or committing suicide, or becoming hardened into a state of identification with fury at parental attitudes which might be perceived as contributing to their gender identity issues.

Dr. Ronald Whitmont—one of our contemporaries—son of Dr. Edward Whitmont, published a case in the American Journal of Homeopathic Medicine, entitled “Psychosomatics and Homeopathy”. He described a frustrating experience of not finding the similar medicine in a patient with mixed connective tissue disorder. Eventually, through persistence of doctor and patient, the patient experienced a dawning of consciousness of her psychosomatic connections, which led—in conjunction with a subsequent homeopathic prescription—to dramatic resolution of her symptoms. It illustrated not only the significance of conscious suffering—becoming aware of the meaning of one’s suffering, and transforming a symptom into a symbol—but also the physician’s and patient’s ability to deal with the tension of the opposites in not succumbing to despair in the treatment process.25 This highlights also the crucial notion that, just as in alchemy, in the process of the work toward achieving transformation in the patient (and in the alchemical vessel), there are also changes taking place in the operator—the caregiver. The interaction in the transformational process leaves no one untouched.

Hasidic Tale An old Rabbi once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and day had begun.  “Could it be,” asked one of the students, “when you can see an animal in the distance and can tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?”  “No,” answered the Rabbi.  Another asked, “Is it when you can see a tree in the distance and tell whether it is a fig or a peach tree?”  “No,” answered the Rabbi.  “Then what is it?” the pupils asked.  “It is when you can look on the face of any man or woman and see that it is your sister or brother.  If you cannot see this, it is still night.”26

“…the recovery of our lost wholeness can only be achieved by tasting and assimilating the fruits of consciousness to the full.”27 (Once again, the entreaty, “Aude Sapere”.

We must continue to keep the symbolic world alive for our children and grandchildren, in myths, fairy tales, fantasies; and we must encourage them to engage in spontaneous play that doesn’t involve a TV or computer screen, for therein lies the bridge to the archetypal world which will nourish them for a lifetime.

When we think, in whatever discipline we are working, that we have “cured” someone for life, Dr. Jung has these words for us:

“The serious problems of life…are never fully solved. If ever they should appear to be so, this is a sure sign that something has been lost. The meaning and purpose of a problem seems to lie not in its solution, but in our working at it incessantly. This alone preserves us from stultification and petrification.”28

“Ring the bells that still can ring…forget your perfect offering.  There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.”  Leonard Cohen

“There is a subtle excitement behind it all, as if my soul is in on a joke that my consciousness hasn’t gotten yet.” Jyoti Wind By Grace’s Edge.

“Sickness will surely take the mind where minds don’t usually go; come on the amazing journey and learn all you should know.”  The Who, from the rock opera

Tommy

“You can’t always get what you want, but you just might find…you get what you need.” The Rolling Stones

(Seen on a bumpersticker) “My dogma was run over by my karma”

Nicholas Nossaman, M.D., D.Ht.

Graduated from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, 1968, Internship at Hennepin County General in Minneapolis, 1968-1969.  Indian Health Service 1969-1971 on the Navajo Reservation, Crownpoint, New Mexico. He has been practicing homeopathic medicine since 1976 in Denver, Colorado.  Board Certified in homeopathic medicine, former board member and president of the National Center for Homeopathy, former board member and president of the American Institute of Homeopathy and member of the Rhus Tox study group of Homeopatia Internationalis for over 20 years. His other interests include Jungian psychology, photography, watercolor, golf, pantomime, music and poetry.


* “The dogma that “mental diseases are diseases of the brain” is a hangover from the materialism of the 1870’s…let us hope that the time is not far off when this antiquated relic of ingrained and thoughtless materialism will be eradicated from the minds of our scientists.”  (written in 1948!) Jung, Collected Works, Vol. VIII The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, ¶. 529.


References:

1 Hahnemann, Samuel. Organon of Medicine. 6th ed., translated by J. Künzli, A. Naudé, and P. Pendleton. J.P. Tarcher, Los Angeles, 1982.

2 Jung, C.G., Collected Works. Vol. XII, ¶ 44, Bollingen Series, XX, Editors H.Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.,1974

3 Perera, Sylvia B. The Scapegoat Complex. Inner City Books, Toronto, 1986. p. 118.

4 Whitmont, The Symbolic Quest, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1969. p. 43.

5 Robert A. Johnson. We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love. Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1945.

6 C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections (Autobiography of C.G.Jung, recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffé, Random House, New York City, New York, 1961.

7 J. Sams and D. Carson. Medicine Cards. Bear and Co., Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1988.

8 Perera, op. cit.. p. 118.

9 Whitmont, op.cit., p. 269.

10 Edinger, Edward, Ego and Archetype. Penguin Books, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, 1973, p.102.

11 Edinger, op.cit, p. 130.

12 Hahnemann, op. cit.

13 Edinger, op.cit., p. 117.

14 Hahnemann, op.cit.

15 Edward Edinger. The Aion Lectures: Exploring the Self in C.G. Jung’s Aion. Inner City Books, Toronto, 1999. p. 108.

16 Edinger, Ego and Archetype, p. 115.

17 Whitmont, E.C., The Alchemy of Healing, Psyche and Soma. , North Atlantic Books and Homeopathic Educational Services, Berkeley, California, 1993.

About the author

Nicholas Nossaman

Nicholas Nossaman

Graduated from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, 1968, Internship at Hennepin County General in Minneapolis, 1968-1969. Indian Health Service 1969-1971 on the Navajo Reservation, Crownpoint, New Mexico. He has been practicing homeopathic medicine since 1976 in Denver, Colorado. Board Certified in homeopathic medicine, former board member and president of the National Center for Homeopathy, former board member and president of the American Institute of Homeopathy and member of the Rhus Tox study group of Homeopatia Internationalis for over 20 years. His other interests include Jungian psychology, photography, watercolor, music and poetry.

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