Homeopathy Papers

Miasms and Mythology

Last modified on October 21st, 2017

Luke Norland
Written by Luke Norland

Homeopathy student Luke Norland discusses miasma and mythology.

The miasms are, at their most basic level, archetypal energy patterns ranging from very rapid, intense and generalised symptoms to slow, insidious and pathological (acute to syphilitic). The Acute miasm corresponds to the fight or flight response, and is the body’s instinctive choice for defending itself because it is highly effective at ensuring survival so long as the vitality of the person can withstand and tolerate the intensity of the inflammatory process. Somebody who responds to life according to this miasm is apt to fly into panic, fear and anxiety over seemingly innocuous events, to which they may respond by fleeing or becoming aggressive. It has a very primal energy pattern, typified by the remedies of the Solanaceae – bell. and stram. and also lyssin. In the latter, the rubric – anger followed by quick repentance – is a very good example of the kind of reaction an acute miasm manufactures. First, there is the exciting cause which brings about panic, even predicting the time of death in the case of Aconite, then there could be a reaction of trying to escape or facing and fighting off the danger. When the threat has passed, the person can quickly return to their normal, more balanced manner, unless the miasm has become so strong over the person’s vital force that they get stuck in this heightened adrenal state all the time. This could happen because the person is oversensitive to both external and internal impressions, or that they are locked into a situation which repeatedly ‘pokes’ them on their area of susceptibility.

In the acute remedies, it can be easy to confuse them with the syphilitic end of the spectrum as they can appear to have similar themes of violence, fear, death and annihilation. The difference is that the syphilitic miasm is much heavier, and the signs more pathological, leading to actual tissue degeneration and necrosis. In the acute miasm, a person will bounce from one extreme to the other, from light to dark, hot to cold, and the states although highly polarised, are more fleeting rather than of a chronic duration. One can see this as being reminiscent of Hermes, a winged messenger and the Greek god who can move between realms, a god of boundaries who can descend to the Underworld, where he takes mortals to their death, carrying messages from Olympus to Earth. He can enter what appears the syphilitic realm of Hades, death, decay and destruction, but he always returns unscathed. This is similar to the nature of Acute episodes, which appear life-threatening, intense and with sudden violence, but as long as the vital force has enough potency, will usually result in survival. Acute remedies therefore seem to oscillate between the heavenly realm of Fire and the Dark forces of elemental Air.

The Typhoid energy pattern lies between the rapid pace and shallow depth of the Acute miasm and the constant low grade struggle of the Psoric miasm. When the body is healthy and following its instinctive vital process, the Acute miasm is the best way to deal with a stressor; it combats the problem quickly and without sacrificing a particular organ to the inimical agent. It acts swiftly, flying into battle like the god of War; Ares, or the Zodiac sign Aries. But, it expends a lot of energy and if somebody is overexposed to situations that touch their sensitivity, their vital power will diminish. Then they will move into another miasmatic expression that represents a partial retreat from the frontline, sacrificing the first line of defence and erecting a protective barrier to ensure survival of the most important parts of the kingdom.

“Also known as the subacute miasm. Remedies in this miasm were originally used for typhoid fever – that is high, unremitting fever often associated with prostration from violent diarrheas or other infections. The infections are slightly less rapid in their onset (like all our descriptions of Bryonia) than the remedies in the acute miasm… The patient feels himself to be in an urgent, life-threatening situation requiring his full capacity to survive. The patient is willing to use any means to return to a secure position: Violence, scheming, flight, lying, etc… The feeling is, “If I can just get through this crisis, I have it made and I can rest.” He seeks rest and a secure position.” Roger Morrison

I find Nux Vomica is a very useful remedy with which to characterise the Typhoid rhythm. Nux works very efficiently to achieve their goals; they are driven and ambitious, using stimulants to keep themselves going. Eventually all this effort (the Psoric component of struggle can be seen here) leads to anger, irascibility and brain fag from having too many irons in the fire and not being able to switch off from thoughts about their tasks. They become hurried, quick to anger and have the delusion that someone is in their bed and there isn’t enough room for them in it. They want to reach a position of comfort, as does Bryonia who also prattles about work, but their place of repose has been stolen. When the sub-acute pattern relapses, there is a sense of crisis that has to be dealt with right now, it will require a lot of effort.

Sankaran mentions crisis management as being very much of the Typhoid essence. As one patient put it, “to keep pushing project manager keep managing myself. Right, did that, what’s the next thing? Quite fast and busy, hectic, it’s a lot of pressure- so I’m spinning loads of plates- and I’m consumed by it. I’m one of those people who appears calm and capable so I get asked to do more, feeling overwhelmed with life- I’m not managing it all. Generally I feel a bit racy inside; there has been a niggling feeling like after a roller coaster ride. It’s not really severe; it’s exciting, scary, thrilling, fearful, not sure what to expect, like the thrill of being out of control,

that jump in your stomach- going really really fast”.

The Greek god Ares is a good counterpart for the Typhoid miasm. He is very eager to fly into battle, full of blood lust and violent rage. Ge is the god of War. His nature is simple, and he is driven by the more primitive urges of sex and violence. He was caught in the act with Aphrodite, ensnared by a golden net forged by Hephaestus, and ridiculed for his rather unsubtle approach- warmongering and debauchery being his two well known attributes. This is very similar to the Choleric Pole on the Mappa Mundi.

The Psoric miasm, Hahnemann’s gift to the Homeopathic community, lays the foundation for all the other miasms. In this way, it can be seen as the bedrock of human suffering, so it can be useful to look at mythology here as well. Prometheus is an interesting figure with which to relate to the Psoric miasm. He was a Titan god, whose love for humankind led to mischief that would bring down the wrath of Zeus; he stole fire from Olympus and gave it to the human race. In his rage, Zeus offered mankind the gift of Pandora’s box, out of which came all the sufferings and toils of mankind, and at the bottom of which lay hope. This ties in rather nicely with the hopeful struggle of Psora. Prometheus himself was banished and chained to a rock where an eagle would come and peck out his liver by day, and by night he would regenerate owing to his divine immortality. The theme we can take from this story is that there is always struggle and toil for those with a Psoric miasm, but there always remains the possibility of hope lying at the bottom of Pandora’s box. Mankind and Prometheus are both punished, but they will both still survive.

The miasm expresses itself in the form of hypofunction, or lack and in this way it has an opposite quality to sycosis. The ability to properly assimilate becomes impaired, leading to a lack of nutrition and delayed development, as in the case of Calcarea and Lycopodium. Psorinum represents the heart of this miasm and has a strong delusion of poverty, a feeling that everything will fail. He feels so poor that even his body parts don’t belong to him! There is of course great itchiness, and crawling sensations with weakness, debility and a sense of being unwashed or polluted. Sankaran describes Psora as an “intense struggle with a problem from the environment. This problem is nonspecific in the case of psorinum; it can be a religious problem, a problem about money, a problem about love… It has an undifferentiated character.”

It is the situation of a simple peasant, who toils the land ceaselessly for scant financial reward, and yet he is that ‘salt of the earth’ type who has few concerns about wealth and status (as would the sycotic person). Psora is like the first line of defence after the power to throw an acute has diminished. There is a resignation to the fact they must now struggle on with limited capacity, but it has not got so bad for them to lose hope of overcoming the problem by maintaining their efforts. They can still see the hope offered at the bottom of all the hardships inflicted by Pandora’s box.

With Psora comes the illusion of separateness; Kent equated it with original sin. As the manifestations of the disease itself are on the boundary of the self, the skin and mucuous membranes, the formation of the ego and the illusion of being separate are contained within the myth of Psora. According to Plato, human beings were once complete, spherical individuals, containing both the male and female anatomy- they wheeled around happily until Zeus became angered and split them asunder. This illusion of being separate leads to the desire to form bonds with others in order to feel complete again. It is the absolute bedrock of the human condition, and feeds the delusion of the egoic mind. In this way, Psora can be seen as having something in common with the mineral kingdom; lacking completeness by oneself so needing to form a bond to compensate for that weakness. I think this correspondence demonstrates that both Psora and Minerals are the building blocks of more complex natural structures. I can see a relationship between Psora and the Earth aspect of the Mappa Mundi, where there is a drying up or solidifying process- wanting to find a place within the structure. Ailments manifested in the Earth realm are less serious than the Fire / Air polarity.

The Sycotic miasm impels the individual to keep up appearances, maintain the facade or veneer of their image. They don’t like others to see the shameful aspect of themselves which is being kept under wraps, like the Conifer that grows so abundantly on the exterior that the interior is starved of light and goes into a state of decay. This brings the other theme to light; that of over-growth and excess, which can be seen in the extremes of behaviour in Medorrhinum, from piety to partying and performing. Zeus (Jupiter) was the patriarchal God who ruled Olympus, whose reign was benevolent, and who was a symbol of masculine strength. He was an extremely unfaithful partner to Hera, and who had many sexual conquests with both mortal and divine women, giving rise to the birth of a plethora of different sons inhabiting the earthly and godly realms. There are some overlapping themes here with Sycosis, which is connected with the fig-wart growths of gonorrhea, the disease you get from an unprotected sexual encounter. Jupiter is also a massive planet which ties in with the Sycotic trait of growth, excess, overdoing it.          This tendency to overgrowth can also be seen in physical attributes, such as excessive hair, full lips and big facial features generally, with the tendency also being to put on weight. Sankaran adds the idea of accepting the situation as it is, because they know they cannot struggle against it anymore. In psora there would still be a struggle, but with sycosis there is a hiding away of the inner weakness (guilt, shame or ugliness). As long as they can cover it up, the coping mechanism is more or less working. They do this by compensating. E.G, there is a fixed feeling inside of being fragile and sensitive to external influences. They cover this up with bravado and confidence (medorrhinum). In Thuja, they imagine that nobody can love them if they knew the ugly person they feel themselves to be. They compensate by maintaining a very fixed image of themselves as being very honest, caring and kind. This becomes brittle and fragile the longer it goes on for, and there is a feeling of being split- antagonism with oneself.

Sycosis seems to have a broad spread across the Mappa Mundi where one can see aspects of the Phlegmatic temperament in the fixed idea of weakness in himself that makes him of a yielding disposition; opposing the Choleric aspect of masculine strength and bravado to cover up his inner weakness.
Malarial miasm – between the Acute and Sycotic. Like the Typhoid miasm, there is a periodicity to the Malarial miasm as it oscillates between the fixed phase (of sycotic origin) and the acute flare up, which feels tormenting, as if the person is persecuted and harassed as by a mosquito. Sankaran says it goes between excitement and acceptance, and these can be seen as the more positive expressions of the acute and sycotic. Migraine headaches fall into this category, with periods of acceptance, covering up the weakness or fragility through habits and routines, making sure they don’t eat or drink things that might trigger the migraine. If they overdo it (sycotic) or eat the wrong food, or have a stressful day at work, these trigger off the acute side of the miasm to vent off some of this build up of tension. In this period of flare up, the person is utterly overcome, they often have to lie motionless in a dark room to avoid aggravating the intense disturbance of the migraine. The situation Sankaran gives for this miasm is like the employee of an irate boss- you’re stuck and dependant (sycotic) on the job, but also feel persecuted, harassed and undermined by them.

Nat-m has this experience in the realm of Row 3; issues of the relationship. Natrum has a stage 1 expression of feeling as though they absolutely need the other person to make them feel secure and whole (acute), whereas muriaticum has a stage 17 expression of feeling betrayed, let down and used by their partner. They react to this by withdrawing, brooding, hiding the turbulence of their emotions, and seeking a tumultuous ocean, or a wild love affair with which to excite/ rouse themselves again (sycotic). However, the drama inside will eventually seek an outlet that could be somatised (E.G. migraine) in order to vent the pent-up emotions inside. The myth of Aphrodite’s forced marriage to the lame smithy god Hephaestus has some resonance with this miasm. As a dependent upon Zeus, she was forced into this dull marriage (fixed, acceptance); but she had many passionate liaisons (excitement) with Ares to make up for this boredom.

The Ringworm miasm is characterised by an unequal struggle, whereby despite all your efforts to overcome the problem, eventually you realise it is bigger than you and you resign yourself to succumbing to its greater power. Sankaran goes on to say “I have understood the main feeling of this nosode to be that the task at hand is just beyond where the person can be sure of success. The main action of the prover or the patient is therefore trying to do something, trying to accomplish a task. He starts with a kind of lack of confidence, becomes hopeful, tries to accomplish the task and struggles at it. At some point however he decides that it is not going to work… So he gives it up, and accepts that he has to live with it… the pathology and symptoms all come and go in phases. There is often a history of fungal infection…  The symptoms never really become acute or destructive, and the person feels that he will have to live with the problem, although it would be better to try and get rid of it. He struggles periodically but when he fails, he just accepts it.”

The ringworm miasm is evident in almost everybody; it is ubiquitous where there is a tussle between striving toward one’s goals and giving up in the face of hardships that feel too strong to surmount. We’re all able to identify with this pattern, and it seems to be very fitting for the generation dubbed ‘the millenials’, a group now in their 30’s who are often still living with their parents, unable to earn enough money to get onto the property ladder and establish themselves fully in the adult world. They were born into an era of growth and possibilities, were told they should all go to University to get a good education and be guaranteed a good career, but the economic crash (a force much bigger than any individual) has put an end to these expectations, bringing things to a standstill. Within this pattern, one can see the initial period of hope and struggle and effort to get good enough grades to enter University. The struggle continues during this period as one tries to establish themselves in the wider world, proving their acumen and diligence to their course of study. After university, there is often a period where the individual returns home whilst they search for work, and there may be periods of striving to get job interviews- competing with many others- before accepting defeat and resigning themselves to a job that doesn’t really test their capacities or bring satisfaction. The resignation comes after the initial period of hopeful striving has run its course; when the limited resources of energy have been used up.

The Ringworm experience is of a striving towards a goal that is almost within reach but not quite. You never quite make it before your capacity runs out (Dreams- unsuccessful efforts). There is an obstacle in the way which is bigger than you, so unlike the Typhoid type- who has the strength to make a really big effort to overcome the problem, the Ringworm type has to accept his limitations and periodically give up on his goals. It is impossible to sustain the effort. Here we see that the vital force is diminished further than in the Typhoid or Malarial miasms, both of which have an acute element, representing the highest level of health; it is the body’s front-line defence against attack and doesn’t sacrifice any parts of the organism to the disease. Instead, the energy of this miasm lies between Psora and Sycosis- alternating between struggle and resignation, between hope and a fixed feeling of weakness that one has to cover up and hide.

There is a correlation between this miasm and the waxing and waning phases of the moon- each month you have the hopeful beginning of the journey towards the completion of full moon, and then you have the period of introspection and looking back when one recuperates and attends to the need for nurture of the lunar self. During the waxing phase, the person feels more hopeful as they move towards completing their task, this correlates with the taking up of new projects, having the energy to get things going, being motivated, sowing the seeds. This phase is associated with the goddess Artemis. She is a youthful goddess of the hunt, who has a bow and arrow- a weapon that enables you to meet your target from a great distance. This is like seeing your goal, and then having the energy and purpose to get straight to it, as would an arrow fly through the air to pierce its target.

As soon as was born, she helped her mother give birth to her twin brother, thereby becoming the protector of childbirth and labour. She asked her father to grant her eternal chastity and virginity, and never gave in to any potential lovers; devoted to hunting and nature, she rejected marriage and love.” ()                 

After this follows the period of the waning moon, when all the efforts need to subside to allow for rest and recuperation, and looking longingly to the past that was so full of promise. The goddess of witchcraft- Hecate- is associated with this phase of the moon. She was Persephone’s escort to and from the underworld as marking the shifting of the seasons. When a person’s vital energy cannot make a sustained effort (shifting like the seasons) and is perceived as holding them back, they can become indifferent to their environment- resigned to their failings and give up what they once began so hopefully. This correlates with the pace, depth and intensity of the ringworm miasm. It is an everyday kind of miasm- it frustrates the sufferer but does not lead to such isolation and despair as the heavier miasms, because it is not life threatening.

This role of Artemis also seems to fit in with the Lac-humanum picture very neatly, given the very direct link to the source of the bond between mother and child following birth. Problems at this early stage of connecting with one’s mother may indicate the remedy so long as it fits the totality of the case. With the connections to the Moon it seems appropriate that the Mappa Mundi placement for this miasm should be in the realm of Water, with its tides controlled by lunar phases. It is also opposite the fixed and durable quality of Earth (relating to Psora) followed by exhaustion and giving up (Sycosis)- there is no sustained effort within the changeability of elemental Water.

There is a typical family environment where one can paint a Ringworm miasm situation. There’s the Dulcamara mother, who is domineering and obsessive over little details especially with her Calc-silicata son’s progress at school, whose grades keep getting worse. A lot is expected of him and yet his achievements probably don’t amount to all that much. He goes on living with his parents well into his 30’s. It is like the situation of the “millennial” I already mentioned; they’re unable to get on the property ladder due to limited success in their careers and the discrepancy between wages and house prices. It’s more like snakes and ladders (Sankaran). Calc-sulph is listed under fear of snakes!

A lot may be expected of these young people, as they were born in the go-getting atmosphere of the 1980’s. Within Calc-sil, there is the desire to achieve success according to his family’s principles, maintaining the image and reputation of his good family (Sil.) combined with the hesitancy of Calcarea in the workplace- feeling unsure of oneself and staying passive, inert and observing others before feeling sure enough to give it a go oneself. The father in this scenario could be Kali-Sulph- a combination of the upright dogmatism of the Kali sense of duty to the family, combined with the scorned and rejected Sulphur, who needs to make a lot of effort to keep up appearances and compensate for his bruised ego.

Another situation of this miasm is like the one Sankaran describes of joining weight watchers- trying so hard for a period of time to change your diet and lose some weight with exercise, before eventually relapsing and bingeing on a load of cakes and chocolate. Sankaran also places several Sulphuricum salts into this miasm- Calc, Kali and Mag-s are all equated with Ringworm. He mentions appearance, ego and effort to prove oneself as being key themes of suphur- “The Magnesium sulphuricum woman has the feeling that in order to get the support that she needs, she has to make a big effort, do many things, appear proper, etc. She feels the need for appreciation by those on whom she depends for love, care and nourishment.”

Burnett mentions Sulphur and Tellurium as well as Sepia (alongside Bacilinum) in the efficacious treatment of Ringworm (the fungal infection itself). The ink from which Sepia is made contains a lot of Sulphur, whilst Tellurium is in the same column as Sulphur in the periodic table, corresponding to stage 16. Keywords of this stage according to Sankaran are- No capacity, No energy, Incapable, Not possible to work, Indifference, Neglectful, Forgetful. These really resonate with the waning phase of the ringworm miasm, when all efforts have been exhausted, and the fear of not being able to achieve the goal becomes overpowering, forcing the sufferer to give up hope. This lasts until the next phase begins and their confidence returns- the exuberance of the Sycotic miasm, or Jupiterian influence can re-ignite the ambitions.

Up to this point, the miasmatic range has gone from the sudden, intense panic and violence of the Acute, through the hopeful struggle of Psora to the resigned acceptance of a fixed limitation belonging to the Sycotic miasm. In between have been stops to the Typhoid, Malarial and Ringworm miasms which are all compounds of these 3. I can see a correlation between the personal planets in Astrology and these 6 miasms- namely:
Mercury– Acute- winged messenger, moves between the underworld, earth & heavens.

Mars– Typhoid- flies into battle without thinking of consequences. Rash, bold, impatient.

Sun– Psora, Apollo remained eternally youthful Sun god. Prometheus stole fire and opened Pandora’s box, containing hope but creating struggle and toil.

Moon– Ringworm, phlegmatic, waxing and waning, connecting to feminine image: Lac-h.

Venus– Malarial, the excitement of love affairs with Mars but stuck in boring marriage with lame Hephaestus.

Jupiter– Sycotic- Zeus- promiscuity, power and cruelty alternating with benevolence

The heavier, more isolated and increasingly desperate and disturbing states belonging to Cancer, Leprosy, Tuberculosis, Aids and Syphilis have more of a correlation with the outer “transpersonal” or generational planets. Respectively, these pertain to the Underworld, the previous Titan dynasty and the turbulent ocean in Greek mythology:

Saturn– Cancer, Kronos- hard taskmaster, demands structure and imposes limitations.

Uranus– Tubercular- Creative, revolutionary, erratic, sudden changes, idealism.

Neptune– Aids/ Leprosy- Dissolving of form, self-sacrifice, no boundaries, addiction

Pluto– Syphilitic- Destruction of form, Underworld, transformation, death, criminal, genius

The cancer miasm can be seen as being a tri-miasmatic state, combining elements of Psora, Sycosis and Syphilis. There is the Psoric element of struggle that has been amplified to such a level that the individual feels as though they must make a superhuman effort to overcome the task. They set themselves a goal that is so far out of reach it is almost impossible to get to without a near impeccable performance, they are striving for nothing less than perfection, and so they are pushed to great lengths, and take on a lot of responsibility from a young age. We can see how this could come about in a home environment that demands a certain standard of behaviour, where the spontaneity of the child is suppressed in favour of manners and achievement. The tumour itself is a result of a proliferation of cells (Sycotic excess) that continue to grow, replicating themselves, ignoring the code of healthy cells so they end up destroying existing structures (Syphilitic destruction of form). This polarity between conformity and rebellion can also be seen in the cancer miasm; if somebody is heavily suppressed for a long period of time, either they will want to break free from this restrictive structure, or their body will develop pathology that expresses this breaking free from the structure such as when a tumour metastasises.

About the author

Luke Norland

Luke Norland

Luke Norland grew up with Homeopathy all around him, sharing his home with the School of Homeopathy, run by his father Misha and now brother Mani. The three have recently collaborated on a software module to highlight polarities in case-analysis; with rubrics that correspond to the elements and temperaments of the Mappa Mundi. Luke is moving into his final year of study at the school, combining this with a busy massage practice whilst also representing Radar Opus in the UK. He has contributed to the School’s Provings, compiling rubrics for Carbon-60 and Meles Meles (Badger). Luke’s degree is in classical music and composition and he is still a dedicated French Horn player as well as student of Astrology. His fascination with Homeopathy is to understand the connections between people and nature, how psyche and soma are linked through shared characteristics and how we are bound together through repeating archetypal patterns.

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