The Old Masters
Autumn 2022 Old Masters
Spanning four workshop webinars during Autumn 2022, the Society's Old Masters series celebrated the work of Bönninghausen, Burnett, Borger, Boericke and Kent.
Below is a review of the series by Society registered member Allan Pollock.
Only Boenninghausen knew Hahnemann personally. Karen Allen, drew on this fact, to re-imagine them as 21st century online correspondents as “Sam” and “Clem”. Karen clearly much admired Boenninghausen’s precision and focus in case taking, and his appreciation of the materia medica of the time.
Theirs was a pre-Freudian world (1856 to 1939) and consequently the psyche has less prominence in the prescribing. Boenninghausen perceived its worth, but judged the difficulty of interpretation could mislead. Boger subsequently undertook the not inconsiderable task of updating Boenninghausen’s Repertory throughout including enhancing the mental symptoms chapter.
Boenninghausen, as a titled Dutchman, served in the Royal Court for some time until the country was annexed by Napoleon, thereafter shifting his focus to botany. Serious illness threatened to cut his life short, but homeopathy brought recovery, from which his interest in the subject grew. It was from his knowledge of botanical classifications that the structure of an index to the materia medica ( a repertory) grew. His was not the first attempt, but it was the first repertory to find practical use, and it has stood the test of time (with Boger’s help). His theory of Grand Generalisation (analogy) broke new ground. For example, if a modality (e.g. “worse for motion”) was typical of a medicine (e.g. Bryonia) was extended through the theory of analogy to symptoms beyond those appearing in the proving. Thus “worse for motion” becomes a generalised statement for Bryonia applicable to any aspect of the patient.
In taking the case, Dr Boenninghausen sought answers to “Quis?; Quid?; Ubi?; Quibus Auxilis?; Cur?; Quomodo? and Quando?”. It is then to “Clem” that we homeopaths can credit the familiar mnemonic CLAMS to which the latinate of the good Baron aligns.
He observed that many remedies have opposite symptoms in their proving, but that one would be the more dominant, an approach that underpins Frei’s Polarity Analysis.
The baton then passed to Tim Shannon, who demonstrated Polarity Analysis using the Frei software (which you can try for “frei” - then you have to pay a little! http://www.heinerfrei.ch/polarity-analysis).
Tim lamented the poor appreciation of Homeopathy in the USA, and its declining presence. In his opinion, time constraints in clinics and the ever increasing complexity - not to mention number - of methodologies are a barrier to entry for most medical and naturopathic doctors, such that homeopathy is not even “on the radar”. He believes that the relative ease and success or the Boenninghausen / Frei method - which can be learned in a relatively short period of time - could be a real catalyst for revival.
In the next webinar, Dr Ashok Borkar from India (Pune & Goa), delved into the work of Dr Cyrus Boger, whose name has already been mentioned in connection with Boenninghausen. Dr Boger is recognised for his book, Synoptic Key of the Materia Medica, which sets out the “general expression of genius” of each remedy. The task for the practitioner is, of course, to match the genius of the remedy with the genius of the patient. Dr Borkar emphasised the importance of the patient’s own story and establishing the contours of the disease picture, which encapsulate its causation and its course, modalities, subjective and objective elements and so forth.
A key element reiterated by several of the speakers in this webinar series was the importance the seat of the disease in remedy selection. This he demonstrated in a case of hepatic encephalopathy, where as the diagnostic term infers, the liver was centre stage and a remedy with affinity to that organ was required (Leptandra). Other challenging cases followed.
When faced with a case with paucity of symptoms, Dr Borkar would focus on individual and family history, the tissues affected and subjective sensations as an entry point. Drawing on Boger’s classic text, he counselled practitioners to change potency before changing the remedy unless there was a clear cause to do so, Should results disappoint, yet the remedy be well selected, the presence of an underlying miasmatic influence should be considered.
The next speaker, Dr Gajanan Dhanipkar also from India (Ambernath, Mumbai) took Dr William Boericke as his guide and mentor. Boericke was of Austrian origin but emigrated to the USA. His Materia Medica with Repertory hardly needs introduction, and the italicised remedy characteristics therein are a sure guide in speedy clinical practice. However, Dr Dhanipkar wanted to encourage closer study of William Boericke’s work, especially those ‘smaller’ remedies and their relationship to the endocrine system. One illustration concerned a recurring case of hypothyroidism which failed to respond to the remedy that was initially successful (Ignatia). In reconsidering the case Dr Dhanipkar reflected on also the life course of the patient since the initial consultation some years before. The menopause was the significant change in the picture. The remedy Ferrum Iodum has “Exophthalmic goitre following suppression of menses” and brought about the desired results.
The focus of the work of Dr Boericke is the physiological - and clinically proven - action of a given remedy, to include the coincident influence of other physiological systems (akin to Boger’s “Genius”?). Dr Dhanipkar further illustrated his hypothesis in several challenging cases where remedies such as Formalin, Sulfonal, Apocynum-andro., Arbutus and Scirrhinum proved effective.
Drs Borkar and Dhanipkar shared the first half of the webinar and were followed by well known Society member and author Dion Tabrett whose passion is Dr James Compton Burnett. Burnett was notable in his use of organopathic remedies (following Rademacher - 1772 to 1849) either in low potencies or tincture form. Dion gave examples of liver, spleen and heart organopathics.
Drawing on his excellent book Burnett Rediscovered, we were reminded of the importance of the “pathological” as well as the “symptomatic” similimum (Totality). In short, the therapeutics must address the seat of the disease (“Specificity of Seat”). Remedies have a “Stop Spot” and “Seat of Action” which, should it exclude the underlying pathology, warrants the support of adjunctive organopathic treatment.
A remarkable feature of Burnett’s prescribing was his sequencing of different remedies, variably described as a “ladder”, “constellation” or moves on a chess board to attain the goal of cure; this to include treatment of miasmatic and iatrogenic elements (e.g. primarily what Burnett termed Vaccinosis). Such an approach did not cast aside the single remedy principle in homeopathy, instead it was a recognition that specific remedies were indicated for different aspect of the case, hence Burnett’s term ‘Scientific Alternation of Remedies”.
Webinar three moved to the American Dr James Tyler Kent, for whom no introduction is needed, with David Mundy in the presenter’s chair. David Mundy’s keywords on Kent were “Magnet” and “Mirror”. Kent, as David revealed, was a follower of the Christian mystic and polymath Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) who advanced a theory of “correspondences” between the spiritual (immaterial) and natural (material) worlds; an inflow from the spiritual to the natural world (“as above, so below”). This might be envisioned as a sort of ladder extending from the physical to the heavenly plane. Kent’s appreciation of the immaterial world shifted his emphasis on the totality to the familiar Mentals, Generals, and Particulars, and the concept of “simple substance” (aka Vital Force) interconnecting soul and body. His teachings influenced a new generations of homeopaths such as Margaret Tyler and Sir John Weir. Kent also championed the use of higher potencies in ascending scale, further reflecting his vitalist beliefs. His influence contrasted and in time eclipsed the more pathological approach of such luminaries as his near contemporary in England, Dr Richard Hughes (1866 to 1902).
David, perhaps harking back to his pre-homeopathic days as an acupuncturist, presented a schematic showing the ascending classical elements of Earth, Water, Air, Fire, making correspondence with C1 to C4 triturations, Air (C3) and Fire (C4) representing Mirror and Magnet respectively.
Kent’s Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy were David’s introduction and therein Dr Kent makes reference to man’s “Will” and “Understanding”; respectively the “Magnet” (Will = desire / loves) and “Mirror” (Understanding = intellect / belief). “Will” and “Understanding” in Kentian thought, represent man’s innermost (spirit), contrasting the physical (organs) which comprise the outermost. Reflecting on the validity of Kent’s hypothesis, David creatively drew on sources from antiquity, via the fictitious Star Trek crew (the thinker, Spock; the intuitive, Kirk), to the great minds of Jung (the unconscious mind) and Einstein (“What we call matter is energy…there is no matter”).
Homeopathy’s “totality” is the outer image expressing the inner essence of the disease (Organon - Aphorism 7). We are attracted to that which aggravates us, but also cures. Yet we filter out our reality; we cannot see ourself (blind spot). The challenge, then, for the practitioner is to resonate with the patient’s experience and seek that which is most striking (Organon - Aphorism 153).
David concluded his entertaining and wide ranging talk with some representative cases.
The final webinar of the series saw Shilpa Bhouraskar consider the applicability of different approaches in a clinical setting. She proposed four stages.
In brief, Stage 1 might encompass simple organotherapy; the use of low potencies or tinctures to stimulate an organ. The French lament,“Mon foie!” (my liver), might be a simple example where Chelidonium 3x could benefit? This is pathological / diagnostic prescribing and not so far from the allopathic model.
Stage 2 is a first step on the road to identifying a totality / similimum that incorporates generals, concomitants and modalities; the evolution of the “genius” of the remedy. Moving to Stage 3, the mental / emotional state gains prominence alongside a deeper understanding of the disturbed vital force and the value of higher potency prescribing; treating the person rather than the disease. Stage 2 / 3 prescribing would be the home of most of the old masters in this series of webinars and I dare say for many (as Miranda Castro has put it) “jobbing homeopaths” today.
Finally, Stage 4 brings us into recent times and the work of the new masters whose names and work are familiar to us. Their hypotheses (sometimes controversial) push ever further our understanding of the human condition and the vital energy that animates us.
In conclusion, this was an excellent series of webinars, and all credit to the presenters and organisers alike.
Recordings of the individual webinars can be purchased from the Society's main website