I was recently working with a patient suffering from dry eyes. The patient would wake at night unable to open his eyes, and said the condition was ameliorated by cupping his hands gently over his eyes. Among the symptoms – worse during sleep, worse in artificial light, sensation of dryness and burning in the eye, unable to open the eye at night. I had given Rhus Tox which had helped somewhat but it was stalling. And we homeopaths expect more from our remedies – don’t we now…
I used the rubric worse for uncovering as an expression of the hand-cupping amelioration but based the center of the case on all the other symptoms and modalities where the rubrics were more precise. I reviewed everything again and saw that only two remedies covered all the symptoms – Rhus Tox and Hepar Sulph. I looked closely at the provings of the two remedies, thinking that if Hepar Sulph didn’t look like a better match I’d go up in potency on the Rhus-Tox. The eye symptoms were very well represented in the Hepar proving, but I could not find clear mention of hand-cupping ameliorates.
So I went on an obsessive hunt for the symptom – even though I knew I didn’t really need it. I found it in Kent’s repertory – but no Hepar. The only remedies there were Aur-Mur and Thuja. I went through the books I used many years ago, in the olden pre-TPB days – Phatak, Kent, Clarke, Boger Synoptic and others, and finally tracked down the symptom in Vermeullen’s Prisma given as Eye, pain, better for lightly covering eyes with hand. But where did it come from?
I looked in Schroyen’s Synthesis, and there I found Eye Pain, covering eyes, hand with, amel with the previous suspects from Kent – Aur mur and Thuj. And then – Eye pain, covering eyes, lightly, amel – Hepar.
Various materia medicas do report that some light covering amel with Hepar. Vermeullen is the only one I found in my search who specifically states the symptom, and the source is unclear. It appears in the Rubrics section of his Prisma, which he writes gives symptoms taken from the Synthesis, and further states that he made corrections and additions in this section where he felt symptoms had been misinterpreted or overlooked. So no certainty there…
And as I was on this hunt which was unnecessary as I could already see that Hepar was indicated but by this time I couldn’t stop – I realized that this was a kind of reversed engineering of the way I used to work, a way that has become completely unnatural for me.
I started out on my homoeopathy studies with an impressive (and heavy) hardcopy of Schroyen’s Synthesis, in a scholarly dark red binding with gold lettering. I studied out of town, and this huge book, together with other weighty tomes, were my constant companions and back-straighteners (in a reinforced backpack for hikers). I would take symptoms, rummage around in the Synthesis to repertorize the case, and hunt through Kent, Phatak, Tyler, Boger, Vermeullen, Sankaran et al to see if I could make a case for a remedy. The work was imprecise and frustrating. There was no certainty, no clear path through all this literature – even though eventual purchases of a laptop and software eased the back pain somewhat but little else…
Which brings me to a conversation I had recently with a colleague (this is the “rant-in-a-teacup” part). I had mentioned that I was thinking of putting together an online course for the study of provings. Wake up, he said, don’t you get it? No-one is interested in provings. And I had to admit he was right. I can see from the interest in various posts on the IHM sites. Readers of our sites really like the articles on vaccinations, and damning materials quoted from other sources. Scandals in the conventional medical world are a particular favourite. Readers, hopefully many of them homoeopaths, like case presentation and analysis, methodology, posology, repertorization, and even discussion of materia medica, and this is good. IHM rants are quite popular as we can on occasion be quite amusing… But while articles on provings have their devotees (thank you, you know who you are), they garner much less interest in the world of modern homoeopathy.
But then I thought further. If the mass of people in this field are not interested in provings, then they are also not interested in doing homoeopathy properly. Because the principle of like cures like rests on provings, without provings homoeopathy as a scientific medical method would not exist.
Until you’ve read a remedy proving you really know very little about it, about its diversity, potential for healing. You will be forever mired in the prejudices passed from teacher to student, prescribing Pulsatilla for needy, weepy blonde women with blue eyes, and Hepar only where the patient is extremely chilly. Men and children would never be given Sepia. Everything would rest on what was learned from teachers rather than primary sources. And so much would be lost.
And if you start with software, speculative materia medica, and the mass of material from the older homoeopaths which has simply been copied from work to work as can be seen from the exact repeats in wording – it’s a mess. You don’t know what symptoms come from provings, clinical or poisoning. What is central and certain and what is at best confirmatory. You don’t know where to start and where to finish. And in my obsessive sleuthing, when I started with the proving and ended with the synthesis, I realized just how little these materia medica reflect the proving, how disconnected the investigation became.
Since I had started out on this rather senseless quest with Hahnemann’s provings on Hepar and Rhus Tox, and with Boenninghausen’s therapeutic pocketbook which is based on primary sources and not on a cacophonous centuries-long game of Chinese Whispers and creative writing, I recognized that my sleuthing was, for the most part, a waste of time. I was confident that Hepar would help my patient. My process today, for which I am totally grateful to P&W and the IHM, is much easier, and more sure-footed. But it also reminded me of those early days, how literally back-breaking it was to rely on these hefty tomes which just didn’t seem to add wisdom, only to dilute it, to shatter what little knowledge they contained into tiny unrecognizable fragments.
Homoeopaths should be interested in provings. Homoeopaths should want to go to original sources, and to have the ability to do so. But I have come to the point where I feel I have to recognize and accept the reality. Very few (undeniably intelligent) homoeopaths are interested in provings.
Unless I’m wrong? Whether I do an online course on the study of provings or not – I would be delighted to be proven wrong.