Editor’s Note: Elaine responds to Edward’s response to Robin Murphy’s interview. This is an interesting and passionate discussion. There is truth on both sides and many issues raised by Edward are legitimate. There are ses and minuses on both sides – conventional medicine as well as homeopathy. The discussion is not just about Murphy’s interview but about how homeopathy is practiced at large. We invite readers to post their comments in the comments section below, or send your thoughts to us at [email protected]
Edward De Beukelaer has written a response to Robin Murphy’s interview that we published last month. Robin has not been able to respond because he is very much on the go! So I will try to respond as best I can. My comments to Edward’s article are in blue and bold.
It was with great interest that I read Robin Murphy’s interview in the December 2010 E-zine. His passionate plea for homeopaths to tackle all problems that are thrown at them is very welcome and is indeed important for the survival and even progress of homeopathy. His willingness, and the efforts he makes to spread the word to all those interested, are a credit to him. His suggestion that we should learn from a number of different homeopathic schools is indeed very good advice.
Nevertheless, after reading the interview, there are a few points I would like to open up for discussion. I think they are important points for the understanding and progressive discussion between homeopaths from different schools and for the general presentation of homeopathy towards the official channels of medicine, which of course is nowadays mainly controlled by orthodox medicine, also called modern medicine or scientific medicine.
Scientific medicine? I think not! Guess who conducts the highly vaunted clinical “trials” everyone is so taken with? The very drug company which stands to profit from the approval of the drug! Oh, and guess what else? There’s no consensus on what the placebo has to be or what constitutes a placebo–it could be anything at all and it doesn’t have to be revealed to the judges or anyone! No surgical procedure has ever been subjected to a trial. There have never been any chemotherapy trials or vaccine trials (in the sense that: here is the unvaccinated group, here is the vaccinated group, now let’s follow them over a period of years and compare their health status at the end). Let’s take the average drug trial: If the drug does what it says it’s going to do, but ruins the patients’ overall health, it’s still a success since it only puported to act in a certain way. Everything else was a “side” effect (doesn’t count, apparently). There are only a few drugs in use 30 years ago that are still in use today! What does that mean? That the clinical trials of the drugs that are no longer in use were wrongly decided? Full of flaws? How then can future and present trial results be trusted? In homeopathy, we’re using the same medicines today that Hahnemann used 200 years ago! Which system seems more valid to you?
Before I start, I will briefly explain my background. I am a conventionally educated vet who still practises conventional medicine for a good part of his time. Luckily, I started studying homeopathy many years ago. Studying and practising homeopathy has certainly allowed me to become a much better conventional vet and it has of course also given me a fantastic tool (homeopathy) allowing me to help patients beyond that which conventional medicine cannot even dream of.
The type of homeopathy I was first taught was a mixture of Kentian homeopathy, clinical prescribing, French pluralism and a form of complexism (Kollitch). I learned to use the repertory and I walked away with lists of diseases and the remedies that were most likely indicated in these diseases. But none of my initial attempts to use homeopathy made much difference to my patients. Although I had understood and sensed the value and importance of homeopathy as a medical technique, after 3-4 years I had not got it, the remedies were nothing but lists of symptoms. Maybe this was because I did not study enough at the time. I certainly don’t have a very good memory for static information and I was probably too naive about all the new things I learned in the course.
Through luck, I stumbled into a school run by a vet (Mark Brunson) who gave me the keys to move forward. His way of studying remedies and of retaining a dynamic that allows the remedy to be used in various situations has been indisputably the principal factor that I still practise homeopathy. I walked away with a much better technique of repertorisation and armfuls of nuggets of knowledge about homeopathy in the real world. I started to produce the odd result and little by little I evolved by listening to many others to arrive at my current situation where clients come back or send their friends.
My patients don’t believe in homeopathy, and a number of my clients don’t either. In a way I purposely stayed in conventional medicine to make sure that when I practise homeopathy, results are not dependant on my clients beliefs, but because my patients clearly get better.
One thing that I never do is to prescribe conventional medicine and homeopathy within the same consultation. This has allowed me to progress in homeopathy and make a clear distinction between improvement of the patient due to any modern medication that may already be taken or due to my homeopathic prescription. Good homeopathic success usually allows many of the modern prescriptions to be dropped.
The first point I would like to pick up in Murphy’s interview is ‘philosophy’.
Firstly, I don’t think it is helpful to say that conventional medicine is devoid of philosophies. The problem is that it may have two philosophies.
I agree that modern medicine may have two philosophies and here they are:
1. Symptoms must be stopped, whatever it takes. It’s a little crazy because they know that the symptom is the body’s effort to heal itself, but, apparently they don’t take that very seriously.
2. The second philosophy is to make money. Whatever it takes to do that–look the other way, sell Rx drugs directly to consumers, shun every and any natural treatment that works, conduct clinical trials only on synthetic drugs, persecute parents who want to use non-drug treatments for their children…at the bottom of all these behaviors is the need to protect the power and profit interests of the medical/hospital complex.
One can even argue that there is a third philosophy: the philosophy of ‘business’ which has nothing to do with modern medicine but is how many medical professionals (and businesses) have appropriated the results of modern medicine’s efforts to tackle (word used on purpose) disease and respond to the demands of modern society. Suggesting that this third philosophy is central to modern medicine is a big mistake: it is certainly a by-product of modern society and its efforts to look for solutions on the medical front and is a driving force in the production of medicines, diagnostic tools, procedures and other medical organisations and businesses, but it is not central to it. The fact that it has developed some very skewed and damaging forms of medicine does not change this. The discussion on this subject should be taking place in socio-economical, political and philosophical contexts and are food for journalists and ethical committees. Of course I don’t expect many of these to start making much wind for the time being. Heavy economical pressures do weigh in here. Also, society wants top notch technical modern medicine which is very expensive to develop and use in any way. This is not a black and white issue.
But, let’s go back to the basic philosophies of modern medicine:
The first and central one is that before a disease can be treated, it must be scientifically examined and understood in such a way that a medicine and/or a technique can be developed
So, you’re saying their first philosophy is: understand, catagorize and give a name to a condition so that a drug can be created for it. OK, I’m with you so far.
that can be explained and proven to be efficient in that particular disease. To achieve this, all modern scientific tools available should be used. This driving force or central philosophy which was the start of modern medicine came about at the same time (or just a little before) that Hahnemann developed homeopathy as a medical principle, as a reaction (just like Hahnemann) against charlatan type medicine.
Because the scientific tools used for learning about life and disease have for a long time been like using boxing gloves to do lace embroidery by a poorly sighted person, the results of the scientific research did not benefit the refined intricate details and complexities of each individual patient. In the last ten or twenty years, some of the tools used have become much more refined, and some of medicine’s modern findings are approaching the need for individual treatment for each patient that can begin to compete with the individuality principle which is central to homeopathy. The problem is that the economical side-kick of modern medicine has lost interest in this progress because it may not be (is not) affordable for society or business or by the individual (or rather a mixture of these three) to develop this new, more individual, approach of modern medicine into practice (develop into treatments). There is no doubt in the world that we have made enormous progress in the knowledge of health and disease. This has led to a huge amount of progress in a number of narrow fields but were medicine has not made much progress is in the understanding of health and disease.
This takes us to the second philosophy of modern medicine, which in one way we could call the rescue philosophy of modern medicine. Because, even when we cannot scientifically determine what the best treatment is, it is possible to ‘discover’ a medicine (by accident or any poaching means) and through statistical analysis (and sometimes manipulation) determine in what condition(s) this medicine can be used so that sufficient patients can benefit from it. This happens while we wait (!?) for better answers from all the scientist who spend their entire lives, and more, on pushing modern research to more and more complex levels whilst many patients have so far not received any help at all.
Upon reflection, maybe I have this wrong: this second one is not really a philosophy, is it? This is more a convention between the governments who make the rules and the salesmen who sell the cures: if you can prove it works you can use it. In other words, they are the modern version of the old travelling salesmen of elixirs now working with a licence given to them by society.
Well, help! Because I didn’t understand what you just said at all: The second philosophy is … discovering the use of medicines by accident, is that what you said? Let me let this sink in. Philosophy #1: Make a drug based on the understanding of a disease. Philosophy #2: “Discover” a drug for a disease quite by accident. I guess that’s it.
What is the philosophy of homeopathy?
The philosophy of homeopathy is: the law of similars, the minimum dose, Hering’s Law of cure and potentization.
It is important to be clear about this when we criticise modern medicine to make sure we don’t make similar mistakes in our philosophical approach to the patient and prescriptions.
Edward, so far I haven’t heard you give a better definition of modern medicine’s “philosophy” than the one I gave at the top of the page, namely: oppose all symptoms and make money for the medical/hospital complex (which means, oppose any discovery that compromises established interests). All you have said about modern medicine’s philosopy so far is “study diseases and try to understand them so a proper drug can be made.” Well, that’s pretty much what we do too! We study an illness to see if it’s inflammatory and will respond to Belladonna, or septic and will respond to Pyrogen, or acutely emotional and will respond to Ignatia and so on. I don’t know that what you’ve said can only apply to modern medicine!
I suppose not many people will disagree when I say that the philosophy of homeopathy is individuality, similitude, minimum dose and remedy (medicine) testing on healthy provers (people).
Thank you, I forgot: testing on healthy subjects and individualization is part of the homeopathic philosophy too.
If we try to word this, one should say the following in order to understand better what these principles mean: first, substances have to be tested on healthy people and then studied to understand their homeopathic activity = indication/ effect/ nature/ essence/ picture or in one word: dynamic. When we want to help/treat a patient we have to prescribe a substance that is capable of causing a homeopathic activity or better dynamic when administered that is similar to the one present in the patient: the dynamic that determines the expression of the ‘disease’, symptoms and or suffering of the patient. The key to the dynamic in the patient and the key to the dynamic of a substance lies in the homeopathic symptoms that we and the patient (and/or the prover of a remedy) discover through careful observation and examination. This is the concept of homeopathic medicine.
This is where homeopathy is so different from conventional medicine: the examination of the patient is not aimed at understanding the disease and making a diagnosis which will determine the treatment but at finding the (homeopathic) symptoms that will direct the practitioner to find the best possible prescription for the patient/case out of the remedies that have been tested and are known to the practitioner/homeopathic community. Similarity between remedy dynamic and patient/disease dynamic is required for a remedy to be curative in a given case.
I pointed out earlier how modern medicine has made much progress in the understanding of disease. However a gap between this understanding, the possibilities arising from it, and the need to treat patients has created the need for (and a way of) developing/commercialising treatments irrespective of essential research into the understanding of disease.
As I said earlier, what modern medicine knows and what it does are two different things.
What they do at all times is prescribe drugs that oppose the symptom even when they know better, even when they know the drugs don’t work or are inappropriate. For example, they know antibiotics don’t work on viruses but they prescribe them anyway. They know people commonly get addicted to their nasal sprays but prescribe them anyway. They know that ear infection outcomes are the same whether antibotics are prescribed or not but give them anyway.
We have to acknowledge here, and start from the premise, that their fundamental thrust, their jumping-off point, so to speak, is wrong! Their foundation is wrong. Opposing symptoms does not cure, it palliates and then aggravates. So if your foundation is wrong, everything that springs from that is going to be corrupt, corrupted or corrupting and that’s pretty much what you’ve got. You’ve got a situation where they’ll do something brilliant in the life-saving department and then blow it in the follow-up because they don’t know how to keep the case moving because of reliance on toxic treatments going forward. This “belief” in drug therapy is solely the manifestation of their “money-making” philosophy, which actually disqualifies all real life-sustaining therapies which are ignored because of their unprofitability.
One can say that a similar gap exists in homeopathy:
No, I don’t think so. You can’t say that homeopaths know something to be true and then do the opposite; as in, we know that “like cures like” but we give Tylenol for fever instead of Belladonna. We make lots of mistakes for sure, but that’s not one of them!
a gap between the simple and profoundly efficient principle of using ‘like cures like’ and determining how to study remedies, how to remember them, how to distinguish between different remedies,
Edward, God knows we make mistakes! We’ve got a lot to learn; homeopathy is very hard! But it’s not the same as being taught and agreeing that symptoms are the body’s effort at self – healing, and then turning around and snuffing them out! It’s basically like saying, “Yeah, we have knowledge about something; but, we don’t really have the tools to do anything with our knowledge because all we’re allowed to use in treating patients are Big Pharma drugs!”
and which symptoms in the patient will guide one to the best possible remedy. This has led to the development of many different prescription techniques. At the two extreme ends of the scale these techniques range from prescribing remedies based on their herbal indications (like arnica for bruising for instance: very little individuality, just empiric experience), to the techniques where similarity is pushed as far as possible, to obtain the best possible similarity between case and remedy.
Well, this is a really good point because when the etiology is strong, as in blunt trauma, individuality becomes less relevant. You do not need to take a two hour case of a blunt trauma victim, you simply need to give Arnica and then see what’s left afterwards! You may need to follow with another remedy; but, everyone with blunt trauma is going to have bruising and swelling, hence Arnica!
Furthermore, to understand how much better the patient is doing after a prescription, homeopathy needs a philosophy of the patient and his or her disease.
This is where Hering’s Law comes in. How well is the patient doing after the prescription? An improvement on the mental plane coupled with an aggravation on a superficial plane means definitely the remedy was correctly chosen and healing is as per Hering’s Law. This is why Hering’s Law is so important to us–otherwise we might say, “Oh no! Wrong remedy! Patient is getting worse!” and we’d be making a big mistake looking for a “better” remedy.
A disease in the sense of modern medicine is a reasonably well (?) defined descriptive set of symptoms and diagnostic parameters. Disease in homeopathy is more a description of the state of the patient which is a mixture of the diagnosis (disease as defined by modern medicine) and other signs, symptoms and sufferings the patient presents, now and (possibly) in the past. Here a big evolution has taken place over homeopathic history from looking at the patient of the moment to looking at the patient in time (patient with their past).
Well, I just don’t understand this at all. After giving a remedy, we are looking for the signs of health; and this is what I learned from Robin Murphy. What are the signs of health:
1. Clarity of mind.
2. A feeling of calm.
3. Appetite returns to normal.
4. Sleep is refreshing
5. End to procrastination.
6. Copes better with stress/adjusts better to change.
7. Energy normalizes.
If we see any of these after giving a remedy, we stay with it, as this is proof that it has been correctly chosen, even if a worsening is noticed on a shallower plane–such as pains in muscles or joints, discharges, etc.
Not everybody agrees with this evolution of the conception of homeopathy which is fine as long as this is made clear.
Although I very much agree with many things Robin Murphy explained in his interview, he is not always clear where his concept of homeopathy is in relation to the above.
I don’t know what the “above” is. Do you mean Robin isn’t clear about whether he looks at the patient in the moment or over time? He looks for the signs of health, as I said. We all should. I wouldn’t know what else to look for.
This leads to confusion between the technique of making a prescription and the concept of homeopathic medicine/thinking which can be shared with as many homeopaths possible and also those people who do not practise homeopathy. When Robin Murphy explains how hygiene, nutritional and herbal techniques come into play in his daily practice this is an explanation of how one’s medical practice functions, not how to practise homeopathy.
According to The Organon, the homeopath must do more than just give a remedy. Look at aphorism 4: The physician has to know the things that disturb health and how to remove them. What does that mean in our society? It means warning people about their diet, the dangers of white flour and white sugar, sodas, microwaves, failing to breast-feed infants, over-consumption of meat and cooked food, packaged food, fast food; it means being aware of the use of tonics to re-establish lost stores of vitamins and minerals….Hahnemann’s “Aesclepius in Balance” was all about this, he said giving the remedy was only half the physician’s job.
Why am I making this fuss?
I don’t know!
Because it is important that homeopathy becomes a clear medical principle to all (in and out of the homeopathic world) and that everyone understands that differences between schools only exist because of the difficulty in applying this principle which gives way to the various attempts of many to create practical systems to make (successful) homeopathic prescriptions or even successful (helpful) medical practice. Is what the old masters did the only way of practising homeopathy? I don’t think so. Within the old masters there are differences in how they used homeopathic remedies just as nowadays there are differences between various schools in how they use remedies. That is why I agree with Robin Murphy when he says that it is important not to study one school only and to be sure to listen what others have to say and, from understanding their clearly explained concepts (which are not always available), decide how to best use various ideas to progress one’s own work.
Homeopathy in Haiti or the big town?
In any given situation one has to deal with what is presented: in Haiti you treat the people in Haiti with their problems in their situation and with the possibilities available. In the big town you prescribe for the people in the big town with their problems in their situation and with the possibilities available there. Surely one can learn much from prescribing in an area such as Haiti and apply it in the big town, and in a perfect world a whole homeopath should be capable of working in both situations. There are no grounds here to argue that homeopathy should not try to progress towards techniques that are more individual than those used by our predecessors: the only thing we do is push the boundaries of individualism or in other words develop/ refine the concept of homeopathy.
It is possible to practice good homeopathy with 75 remedies, but extending this number to 400 or even 3000 through improvement of the understanding of individuality of patients and the individuality of remedies can only benefit patients. This will place extra demands on the homeopath, but do we not owe this to the patient? For my own sake, life would be easier if I could stick to just 75 remedies. I would spend much less time studying and going to meetings and conferences. My experience is that one fails too many patients by so doing.
Robin Murphy is correct to say that one has to master as many prescription techniques as possible, but of course the modern additions to homeopathy are just extra tools one can learn and master.
Over a period of time, some of these newer approaches will prove to be merely new ideas, whilst others will be called progress of homeopathy by future generations.
Constitutional homeopathy and a few other loose observations.
I am not sure I really like the use of this word, as if there can be a difference between homeopathy and homeopathy. Is this not about opinions and arguments about what symptoms on which to prescribe and how to assess homeopathic improvement of the patient? Is this not just about trying to help the patient rather than solely address the reason for which he/she comes to see us; offer the patient more than maybe he/she expected because homeopathy is capable of doing more. Is this not about reducing the need for the patient to come and see us again the following month? Trying to make the cure as long lasting as possible, helping the patient to thrive within their situation?
If a patient comes with a gangrenous toe and that is what needs prescribing on because that is where the crux of the case is, of course one should prescribe for the toe.
You’re saying “of course” here, Edward; but, actually, we had a case in the ezine once where a patient with gangrene was given Veratrum alb. because he was thought to be “that” kind of a person, a “veratrum” person. When that didn’t work, only then was he given the proper remedy for a gangrenous condition–Secale! Why didn’t he get Secale right away? Because people are accustomed to thinking now that we have to find the constitutional remedy in every case! Robin is here to implore us to be more clinical. More often than not, a person who comes to us has a “condition” of some sort, some pathology. We have to let people know that in these cases, we have a reverse hierarchy! The top of the case is not the mentals anymore, as you’ve been taught–unless there is a mental concomitant. “Depression” is not a mental concomitant in a cancer case because it’s COMMON. But indifference/apathy, face-to-the-wall, on the other hand, might lead us directly to Phosphoric Acid! For the mentals to be useful in a pathological case, they have to be “strange/rare/peculiar/characteristic” as per paragraph 153 of The Organon. So, we should be asking ourselves the question, “What remedies are known to cure this condition? Breast cancer…hmm….Conium, Silica, Asterias Rubens, Phytolacca, Lac Caninum….” Can you come up with these remedies through “totality of symptoms” repertorization? If a breast cancer patient comes to you and you take a constitutional case, you might come up with Nat-mur, but that won’t cure her cancer.
If the improvement in the patient is not sufficient, another remedy can be found at a later date, if this is required (by the patient).
Should we distinguish between ethiology and symptom? Ethiology and symptoms are no different the one from the other: one has to prescribe on what is homeopathic in the case: sometimes that is a particular symptom, sometimes that is the ethiology. A homeopath should always be a clinical homeopath, and a clinical homeopath who is going to give all the depth possible he can to the patient in the given situation. Physical signs of a homeopathic quality (unusual, peculiar, striking) are often very reliable leads to find a very good remedy for the case.