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Energy and the Doctrine of Signatures
Homeopaths know that homeopathy is energy but it is easy to forget. We live in a material world but our world is also an energetic world. Patients worry about expiry dates which must be put on bottles by regulation industries that have no idea what homeopathy is. They worry about the quantity of dose, when frequency is the only concern.
Energy medicine is quite different to chemical medicine. Both affect the body and can make physical changes but one revitalises while the other changes the negative outcome but doesn’t address the negative cause. Revitalising the body allows for the body’s natural healing properties to work more effectively.
Energy is hard to see, to measure, to evaluate – yet it is all around us. When we sleep, we revitalise but the actual process still eludes science. When we meditate, we revitalise but that process is unknown too. When we walk in a beautiful forest, we feel at peace and content – but why? Alternatively, when we surround ourselves with technology, with stress and a fast-paced life, we begin to suffer. Minor symptoms at first but with time a pathology will develop. The continual electronic waves from a computer, the light waves from our ever-lit homes, the noise and pace of modern life are all energetic. We know they exist and we know that too much of all of them makes us tired and run down. Scattered erratic energy makes us sick – calming energy makes us well.
A homeopathic remedy chosen well can turn around a patient’s health and for some, begin to change their life. The relationship between a person and a remedy is an interesting one. Each remedy has vast amounts of information gathered from provings and clinical outcomes. Homeopaths have gathered this information for 200 years and our repertories are filled with thousands of symptoms – for each remedy. So much information, we have had to come up with many ways of sorting and differentiating it. From studying the mind, to every unusual symptom that may differentiate a remedy. Materia medicas are full of images of the character of remedies – yet each remedy can present in so many ways, these interpretive characterisations can lead us astray. There are many challenges for the homeopath, yet the wonderful outcomes keep us searching and learning.
Structure is an interesting and exciting way to find successful remedies for patients. Hahnemann warned against using the doctrine of signatures to match remedies to patients and their symptom picture and particularly to specific pathologies. So, what is the doctrine of signatures?
The doctrine of signatures was an important aspect of folk medicine from the Middle Ages until the early modern period. Often associated with the work of herbalists and wise women, it drew upon the belief that natural objects that looked like a part of the body could cure diseases that would arise there. (1)
Theophrastus von Hohenheim (Paracelsus) was a Swiss physician, alchemist and astrologer of the German Renaissance. Paracelsus was a supporter of the doctrine of signatures.
A shape of medicine that directs it to the appropriate place of action without any further guide. For nature by virtue of its 'alchemy' has carved out this shape from formless 'prime matter', converting it into 'ultimate' matter endowed with a specific 'form. (2)
Hahnemann did not believe in the doctrine of signatures, yet it is widely believed that he developed his ideas of homeopathy at least partly from the works of Paracelsus.
Peter Morrell and Sylvain Cazalet write an extremely interesting article on this subject from which the following quotes arise.
However, Hahnemann was opposed to the pure and unbridled use of signatures:
"The...virtues of medicines cannot be apprehended by...smell, taste, or appearance...or from chemical analysis, or by treating disease with one or more of them in a mixture..." [The Organon, v.110]
"Paracelsus's system...was a rude form of homeopathy...but it was not equal in value to Hahnemann's system..." [Dudgeon, 1853, p.14]
Hahnemann definitely rejected the doctrine of signatures. In his Materia Medica Pura we read under Chelidonium:
'The ancients imagined that the yellow colour of the juice of this plant was an indication (signature) of its utility in bilious diseases...the importance of human health does not admit of any such uncertain directions for the employment of medicines. It would be criminal frivolity to rest contented with such guesswork at the bedside of the sick.'' [Hobhouse, 1933, p.138] (3)
Homeopaths (rightly) from Hahnemann to now, have relied on provings to determine the properties of remedies. The subjectivity of interpretation via spurious methodologies from the doctrine of signatures through to characterising remedies as personalities, only leads homeopathy away from its scientific base.
How then can structure be employed (at any level) in the clinical application of homeopathy? Homeopathy is based on provings and looking at the shape of a substance (or a patient) seems to have no scientific basis or link to clinical methodology. Yet, the Homeopathic Facial Analysis (HFA) project (1999 to present) has shown that clinically, structure is extremely important, clinically useful, and scientific.
Determining the structure of a patient (or a remedy) may be seem to be spurious but it is anything but. Because we are not type casting patients (or remedies). We are looking at specific underlying patterns that group both patients (and remedies) into one of seven groups. Traditionally these groups would be called miasms but they are not miasms as homeopaths (from Hahnemann on) would consider them to be. These groupings show the underlying energetic pattern grouping of both the patient (and a group of remedies) rather than any specific link to disease or symptoms or a single remedy. So, nothing like the doctrine of signatures where the shape and/or colour of a remedy was attempted to be matched to a specific illness or body part.
The patterns that under lie both patients and substances are profound and universal. They are not direct links that match patients and remedies. They are an energetic blueprint that places a patient into a group. These groups form from three universal energies. Outward energy (psora), circular energy (sycosis) and inward energy (syphilis). Homeopaths recognise these patterns in specific remedies. Outward energy (Sulphur), circular energy (Thuja) and inward energy (Mercury).
Each of these three energies can combine.
· Outward/circular (psora/sycosis)
· Outward/inward (psora/syphilis or tubercular)
· Circular/inward (syco/syphilitic)
And lastly, in some cases, all three will combine
· Outward/circular/inward (cancer)
There are seven groups that patients can belong to. The energetic pattern of the patient is analysed from the facial structure. This group is their miasm or their defence mechanism as determined by the energy that precedes that same structure.
This idea is extremely simple yet sophisticated. Every substance in the universe is formed from one of these three energies or a combination of them. Every substance (including us) is driven by one of those seven energies. When we match the energy of the patient to the energy of the remedy, healing occurs.
But it isn’t as simple as one group/one remedy. Remedies may have the same underlying energetic force as each other – as for example with both Sulphur and Lycopodium – both of which are dominated by psora (outward energy) – but they are still different remedies. The choice of which remedy may suit the psoric dominant patient best is made through repertorising the symptoms (from the provings) to differentiate the remedies.
Then why bother with finding this underlying energetic force and placing patients into one of these seven groups at all? Isn’t just repertorising enough? The answer is no – it isn’t enough. Repertorising is the best and most consistent way of finding remedies but as any homeopath knows, no matter which way they choose rubrics, often many remedies will cover all symptoms. It is common for as many as 15 or more remedies to cover the symptom picture. This is why going back to the materia medica after repertorising is advised. Yet, the materia medica pictures are just précised versions of the repertories. After reading 15 pictures, the next move is nothing more than a guess. The homeopath doesn’t really know which remedy is best and hopes through extensive reading and experience with previous patients given those remedies, to find the best remedy as soon as they can.
Knowing which group your patient belongs to and knowing which remedies belong to those universal groups, means that the process is speeded up by seven times. It becomes common to find a deep acting remedy first time – and in 80% of cases, within 4 remedies. Patients deserve this degree of accuracy and homeopaths deserve the speed and accuracy that HFA can bring to the clinical process.
Female aged 38
This case is not complex but interesting in that the patient is never met, her symptom picture is not extensive, yet the homeopathic process works very well. She fills out a standard health proforma and sends a set of facial photos. Her case is a typical one sided case which can often be difficult to work with because there are so many remedies that match cases with small numbers of symptoms all located in the one area of the body. She suffers with chronic sinus problems but is otherwise relatively healthy. She eats well and has removed and changed many dietary items to try and fix her problem. However, despite all efforts, she is in her third year of repeated infections and has had sinus/respiratory problems for most of her life. Her nose is either constantly running or blocked and on occasions green discharge will form. She likes all food except cheese, her bowels are irregular and her sleep restless. She suffers with some anxiety but is otherwise a normal balanced person who gets on with her life managing her family.
On further questioning it turns out she is very busy most days, has a slight cough on waking, dust affects her and her scalp itches.
When repertorising cases – as per Hahnemann and Boenninghausen’s instructions – we try to keep the rubrics to factually what we know. Nothing subjective or deep – no interpretations. Not only is this an accurate way to repertorise, it saves a lot of time.
Rubrics (using Complete Dynamics – Master Edition)
· Mind – busy (133)
· Head – itching, scalp, external (247)
· Nose – coryza, discharge, with fluent (396)
· Cough – on waking (111)
· Sleep – restless (707)
· Generals – discharges, secretions, green (460)
· Generals – dust, agg, foreign bodies (106)
Remedies – Aconite, Kali Bich, Sil, Apis, Bry, Sulph, Rhus T, Calc Carb, Sul Ac, Lach, Sep, Ferr Ph, Nux V, Arg Nit, Lyc, Phos, Bell, Dig
Time could be spent on differentiating these remedies further – or the first remedy that matches the patients facial structure group can be chosen.
Her facial structure analysis takes a few minutes and shows she is psoric (outward energy) dominant. Bryonia is the first psoric remedy out of the 18 remedies. Bryonia 30C once a day is given. Bryonia, (through materia medica) is known for its dryness, and considering the dominant symptom of this case is chronic nasal secretion, this remedy is probably not the first one a classically trained homeopath would consider. But if the repertorisation says the remedy covers all symptoms – and the facial structure shows the patients is psoric – and the remedy is psoric – then it is given.
Four weeks later she reports that on day 2 of the remedy the flow stopped and the nose cleared. Also, after four weeks on the remedy, the patient reports she can manage her time better, is sleeping better, feels more energised and has not felt any anxiety plus her scalp has stopped itching. The ongoing case management is a different topic (we advise daily doses till the case stabilises) but to date (six months) on this one remedy, this patient continues to do well. A true constitutional response. Deep, fast and covering totality.
Homeopathic Facial Analysis has been tested clinically since 1999 and a philosophical explanation has also been developed. (5, 6)
From Hahnemann and Paracelsus by Dr. John Henry Clarke – A Preface
by Peter Morrell
Ever since Hahnemann's time, homeopathy has been both a medical theory and a medical method. The primary goal of homeopathic philosophy is not theoretical, but pragmatic - to deepen, enrich and guide good practice. While homeopathy is, unquestionably, a philosophical system in its own right - and has had a life of its own as such - that is not its primary quality or function. It is primarily a clinical method, aimed more at curing sick folks, rather than winning adherents to its creed. Thus, theory should never dominate or smother method. Method always comes out top, and should always be the dominant force. Method is paramount, as Hahnemann was primarily a medical experimentalist.
However, it is also true that theory is still a very important element. It must be yoked in with method. Indeed, you can easily take the opposing view, that without an underlying philosophy; method is just shooting in the dark. Theory tends to keep method pure and 'on track'. If you ditch theory then method tends to degenerate into allopathised mongrel forms. If you ditch method then theory tends to ossify into dogma. Both are necessary and complement each other. The ideology of homeopathy is thus highly relevant to its method, but the two work best when yoked together. (4)
After eighteen years, Homeopathic Facial Analysis is both a theory and a method. It meets all Hahnemann’s criteria for good homeopathic practice and is an indispensable method in the clinic.
(5) Soul & Survival (2008) Grant Bentley
(6) How Aphorism 27 Changed The World (2012) Grant Bentley
Louise has been practicing homeopathy since 1996. She graduated from the Victorian College of Classical Homeopathy and has been the training and administrative manager since 2001. Alongside her partner Grant Bentley, she has been instrumental in the development and promotion of the Homeopathic Facial Analysis (HFA) project. This has included the production and editing of the four HFA books, the creation of HFA software, the development and management of the college’s three websites and clinical training program, and management of the college’s online training program.
Louise was taught classical homeopathy and spent her first years in practice as an essence prescriber. Like many other VCCH graduates, she transformed her clinic through introducing HFA principles and practices to her patients and saw the consistently reproducible and deep acting results that surpassed any of the previously learned methods she had worked with.