Which Materia Medica?

Attractive Woman with Her BooksI recently saw a question asked on an e-mail list by a newcomer to homoeopathy, who wanted to know which materia medica to buy.   The responses ranged from everything… to more or less everything. Hahnemann’s Materia Medica Pura and Chronic Diseases got a minor look-in. And one commenter did mention that it was not wise to go straight to Materia Medica without passing “Go” – or reading up on the Organon, prescribing principles and similar much overlooked material… (anyone else forced to play many rounds of Monopoly on rainy afternoons? No-one else will recognize the reference..).

The discussion threw me back into my hectic (and expensive) student book-buying days.   The initial shopping list included essentials like Vithoulkas’s “Essences” (which even Vithoulkas did not fully acknowledge as his offspring), old chestnuts such as Kent and Phatak, a copy of the Synthesis repertory about the size and bulk of a small infant, with the optional recommendation of Sankaran’s earlier works of “Soul” and “Spirit”. The 6th Organon was on the list, as was Stuart Close. Hahnemann’s provings did not get a mention, honourable or otherwise.

I was dazzled. Every new author drew me – every new idea that could resolve the seemingly impossible puzzle of how to work with homoeopathy. Teachers declared the method to be simple. Students groaned. More books were obviously needed. Homoeopathy according to colour, dream, meditation; posology according to emotion, age, nature; case-taking according to hand-gestures, colour of clothing, shape of face… it was never-ending. Predictive, prescriptive, perceptive…you name it.

Homoeopathy is very forgiving. The substances cause a wide range of symptoms in healthy people as witnessed by all those who have ever read a remedy and announced, shocked, “but that’s me! That’s sooo me!” – and then read another and had the same reaction… Since the default of nature is that substances which cause symptoms in the healthy can cure similar symptoms in the sick, chances are some people will improve during treatment, however sloppy the prescribing.

But I realized that something was missing – despite my overloaded bookshelf and depleted wallet. There was something the multitude of books, seminars and courses had not explained.

“Take only what has changed,” the irascible ghost of Hahnemann muttered impatiently into my ear one exasperating day, accompanied by a whiff of stale tobacco. “Why does no-one read the Organon? Why does no-one read the provings?… And why doesn’t anyone listen to me?” he added plaintively.

After my computer was stolen quite a few years ago together with my homoeopathic software, I found myself bereft, stranded in a sea of physical books, forced to work with patients using the many volumes I’d purchased. Which for the most part proved to be useless. The Synthesis did not seem to make sense with its mishmash of rubrics and remedies, and I was thrown back on the smallest, least unwieldy (not to mention cheapest) prescribing tome left on the shelf – Allen’s edition of Boenninghausen’s Therapeutic Pocketbook – bought out of curiousity after seeing discussions on the internet. I went back to reading the Organon, and Hahnemann’s provings (another curiousity purchase), began to take only what has changed, and homoeopathy became a whole lot clearer…

And life became a whole lot cheaper…

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