Homeopathic Philosophy

The impressive clinical record of classical homeopathy is due to its unique principles of healing, which provide the foundation for effective clinical practice.

Overview of Classical Homeopathic Philosophy

Classical homeopathy rests on a rich philosophical foundation first established by Hahnemann in his Organon of the Healing Art at the turn of the nineteenth century and refined over the past two centuries since.

Homeopathy is rare among systems of medicine in possessing a clear and thorough view of the dynamics of health and disease. In homeopathy disease is regarded as an affection of the spiritual core of the person, and the treatment of disease is guided by specific laws of healing.

The Law of Similars

First, the law of similars calls for the application of remedies made from substances whose pattern of illness best matches that of the person. This is the fundamental law of homeopathy, and the term homeopathy (“homeo” + “pathy”, from the Greek homoios [similar] and pathos [suffering]) derives from this idea. The pattern of illness is determined through a combination of sources including formal experiment and collected clinical data (as will be explored in future posts).

The Single Remedy

Second, the disease pattern encompasses the whole being of a person, so classical homeopathic treatment usually consists of prescribing one remedy at a time even when multiple symptoms are present, in order to address the (singular) spiritual cause of illness. A homeopathic remedy is a specially prepared formulation originating in some natural or synthetic substance and used in homeopathic treatment.

Individualization of Treatment

Because the single remedy depends on many factors and not just on the presenting complaint or medical diagnosis, the remedy is necessarily custom-fit to each and every patient. Thus homeopathy is said to offer an individualized prescription that cannot be predicted in advance of case analysis.

Suppression

Fourth, classical homeopaths are very attentive to the phenomenon of suppression, and carefully distinguish between it and true curative action. Suppression happens when symptoms disappear under some treatment but the person as a whole feels worse (more tired, depressed, or otherwise lacking in vitality). Many conventional and alternative therapeutic approaches rely on suppressive treatment (and sometimes suppression is necessary and even life-saving), but it is a harmful approach in the long term.

Order of Healing

Fifth, homeopaths note that usually healing under homeopathic treatment (or any other treatment that respects the natural laws of healing) takes place in a certain order of healing. During homeopathic treatment the following are positive indicators of correct (non-suppressive) healing:

  1. Past symptoms or sensations will frequently reappear (in weaker form and for a shorter period) before disappearing for good.
  2. In cases of deep pathology, symptoms relating to vital organs will improve first while superficial tissues (such as the skin) will improve later on.
  3. The head and upper body will tend to improve before the lower body and legs

Throughout treatment, it is essential for both the homeopath and the patient to respect this natural hierarchy of healing and not interfere with it.

The Minimum Dose

Finally, the ideal of minimum dose was the main reason that compelled Samuel Hahnemann (the founder of homeopathy) to establish a new system of medicine in the first place. Working as a conventional physician in late-eighteenth-century Germany, he was looking for a way of reducing the side-effects from the aggressive medical approaches of the time (which included the frequent use of mercury and bloodletting). Through this he was led to the serendipitous discovery that whenever there is a correspondence between remedy and disease state (following the law of similars), a medicinal effect will persist even if the original substance is diluted so much that it is no longer present in chemical form.

In summary, classical homeopathy rests on (1) the law of similars, (2) prescribing one remedy at a time in (3) individualized form, (4) avoiding suppression by (5) respecting the natural order of healing, and (6) prescribing the minimum possible dose required to achieve a therapeutic effect. This means that whenever a practitioner claiming to be practicing homeopathy does not respect one or more of these principles, he cannot be said to be practicing classical homeopathy, the original and still most-effective form of homeopathy.

How a Unique Diagnostic Method Results in Superior Clinical Effectiveness

You already know or at least assume that homeopathy is ‘holistic’ just like other forms of alternative medicine. Homeopaths will consider all of the patient’s complaints in their diagnosis, will strive to make the patient better on the whole, and so on.

This philosophical basis is of course the ideal foundation of all forms of natural medicine, and are embodied in the principles of naturopathic medicine. But there are features which further distinguish classical homeopathy even from many forms of alternative medicine. The following is one such feature.

Homeopathyic diagnosis leads directly to treatment

What makes the homeopathic perspective especially powerful is that the homeopathic diagnosis leads directly to homeopathic treatment. This is markedly different from conventional medicine where a clear diagnosis does not necessarily guarantee clear or effective treatment.

For example, in the case of the very common condition of hypertension, diagnosis is simple — three repeated blood-pressure measurements exceeding 140/90 are usually considered diagnostic — but treatment involves the permanent intake of drugs which do not resolve the underlying problem and cause side-effects of their own. Similarly, in autoimmune diseases such as asthma, allergies, arthritis and various skin conditions, diagnosis will often be obvious from the clinical signs, yet treatment is both usually complicated and frequently ineffective.

The homeopathic diagnostic method

Homeopathic diagnosis relies on a sophisticated and thorough clinical methodology. A typical first appointment lasts 1 to 2 hours or more, during which the patient is asked to describe his or her concerns in great detail (if needed, with the assistance of family members).

With the help of very specific yet open-ended questions the patient is led exactly to describe the symptomatology and own experience of the disease. Following that, areas which the patient has not already touched on are enquired about: major illnesses, traumatic events, childhood history, recurrent dreams, fears, food cravings or aversions, reaction to weather, etc. This allows for information from diverse aspects of the patient’s life to be used in determining the picture (recurrent pattern, morphology) of the disease.

The resulting diagnosis is only mildly dependent on the diagnostic label (‘flu’, ‘diabetes’, ‘depression’); rather, it is based mainly on many small details about the pathology (when did it begin in relation to stressful events in the person’s life? what is the exact sensation? what factors make it better or worse?) and about the person in general (stress factors, lifestyle and hobbies, physical constitution). So it may happen that two people with arthritis will receive completely different homeopathic treatment, and conversely that one homeopathic treatment can be effective for addressing multiple diseases.

This clinical approach, unique to classical homeopathy, results in superior clinical effectiveness by addressing much beyond the patient’s chief complaint. Homeopathic treatment typiclaly improves secondary complaints (in those who have more than one illness), and will increase energy, improve mood, and enhance overall vitality and joy-of-life

The Influence of Vitalism on Naturopathic Medicine

The philosophical perspective on which the naturopathic clinical approach is based is that of vitalism. According to vitalist philosophy, living beings are not machines running according to strict cause-and-effect relations, but are beings whose existence is guided by a single vital force.

This runs contrary to the “mechanistic” view underlying conventional medicine, which is based on the principle that it is possible to subdivide the body into components and analyze their function independently of the rest of the body. Following this subdivision, medical scientists commonly ‘put it all back together’ and assume that the models they have just created correctly represents real-life patients.

Sometimes their models are sufficiently true-to-reality, and conventional methods then prove effective. But often enough their models will not accurately represent the patients in front of them, and in such cases medicine will not provide adequate solutions.

What we’re made of (according to vitalists)

While vitalists admit that the mechanistic perspective of modern medicine is often very useful, they insist that it is limiting in many cases and ultimately incorrect. Vitalists claim that a more accurate way of analyzing people is by noticing their pattern of being.

Each of us is imbued with a vital force which guides and unifies our being. Its components are not body organs, tissues, cells, and molecules, but components such as:

  • heredity
  • early childhood environment
  • family relationships
  • social environment
  • temperament (psychological tendencies, strengths, weaknesses)
  • past medical interventions
  • past physical or psychological trauma
  • stressful life transitions
  • food intake
  • physical activity, and
  • exposure to environmental toxins.

Together these constitute the complex web of interacting factors that form the corporeal (physical) and spiritual (non-physical) self.

What vitality is (according to vitalists)

Vitalists and non-vitalists differ in their understanding of health. Mainstream scientists and modern medicine (following a non-vitalist philosophy) reject the non-physical self, while vitalists embrace it. Although many scientists believe in elements of the vitalist tradition, when they publicly discuss psychological phenomena they usually insist that they are talking simply of the operations of the brain. But vitalists analyze bodily illness mainly in terms of the spiritual factors that might be contributing to it.

In other words, the person’s spirit or vital force determines the health of the body in a very real way. Vitalists point to the fact that we often feel better or worse depending on the extent to which we are able to be the masters of our life, especially during times of stress. Disease, accoring to vitalists, is simply a more advanced stage of the stress that we exhibit when we persistently fail in the pursuit of physical and spiritual goals.

Clinical implications of vitalist philosophy

The vitalist philosophical perspective translates into naturopathic treatment methods that do not target symptoms directly but instead strive to shift the organism away from its current state toward a state of better overall health. In fact, interventions that target symptoms without addressing the underlying pattern are generally regarded as non-ideal or ‘suppressive’ and are used only as temporary measures.

Ultimately, the attainment better health commonly requires one to stop chasing symptoms as they arise but instead focus on fundamental, long-term improvement, even at the cost of short-term suffering. That this strategy is often capable of re-establishing a healthy state when conventional medicine has failed is regarded by vitalists (be they homeopathic or various naturopathic practitioners) as proof of the validity of their philosophy.

This is Why Homeopaths Emphasize Clinical Results over Theory

Classical homeopathy is first and foremost a clinical science concerned with the healing of living beings. As such its main concern is the practice of medicine, in contrast with conventional medicine where theoretical considerations (such as through what mechanism a medication exerts its effect) are primary.

What cannot be explained is nevertheless real

What is important for homeopaths is that their observations correspond with the reality of the clinic rather than with the rational-scientific point of view in which we are taught exclusively to think. This is because many things about people do not make sense rationally but are nevertheless real. This is simply because reason can explain only part of human reality.

For example, we regularly experience symptoms that cannot be explained physiologically, unusual sensations that we find hard to describe without first apologizing that “they do not make sense,” and strange phenomena we have experienced but likewise find embarrassing to tell others (or at least our doctor).

Respecting patients’ experience leads to better treatment

Conventional medical thinking is based on the view that what cannot be explained cannot be addressed, so it regularly excludes many ‘strange’ symptoms that patients complain about. In contrast, homeopaths seek to include all such phenomena in their investigation of the patient, with the goal of fully perceiving the patient’s own life experience rather than imposing an external interpretation of it.

Clearly the first approach has its advantages, and conventional medicine is indispensable under some situations such as emergencies. What homeopathy offers, in contrast, is a system of medicine that respects all of our experiences and successfully integrates them within the homeopathic diagnosis. In this way it is able to deal with medical situations that make no sense to the medical doctor, as well as to cure many conditions which doctors declare as incurable.

At its best, homeopathic treatment can address lifelong spiritual challenges (e.g. self-defeating behaviours), mental-emotional issues (e.g. persistent thoughts or feelings), and constitutional weaknesses (e.g. allergic tendencies from birth).

To read more about the principles of homeopathy, see Overview of Classical Homeopathic Philosophy.

Diving Into “The Spirit of Homoeopathy”

Classical homeopathy has continually grown in complexity ever since its inception over 200 years ago. Most notably, the number of homeopathic remedies in use has grown from around 100 in homeopathy’s early days to several-thousand in use today.

Over the years there have been various attempts at formulating some of homeopathy’s hard-to-grasp principles in simple and logical form, in order to equip homeopaths with finer tools for handling the growing volume of information they were faced with.

In his 1991 book The Spirit of Homoeopathy — note the alternate spelling sometimes used, with the extra “o” before the “e” — Dr. Rajan Sankaran, a homeopathic medical doctor from Mumbai (Bombay), India, began developing an in-depth understanding of homeopathic theory with the goal of making homeopathic diagnosis and treatment more effective. Since the publication of this book Sankaran has established himself as an innovative theoretician and synthesizer of his and other prominent homeopaths’ ideas.

Overview of the main ideas in The Spirit of Homoeopathy

Sankaran begins by recounting the problems he faced during his homeopathic studies. He describes his studies as having consisted of memorizing lifeless information about the symptoms of hundreds of remedies, learning mechanical methods for determining which remedy to prescribe, and relying on obsolete theoretical foundations.

Although hardly everyone in the homeopathic community shares Sankaran’s critical view, it is this dissatisfaction with the status quo that inspired him to compile in book form the theoretical advances he and fellow homeopaths had made through the 1980s.

Emphasis on mental and general symptoms

Sankaran and his colleagues noted that prescriptions that they made based on mental or general symptoms, as opposed to local physical or pathological symptoms, were more likely to lead to cure. In fact, many prescriptions in which the pathology — even when it represented the patient’s main complaint — was disregarded homeopathically (i.e., not used to determine which homeopathic remedy to prescribe) were treated successfully when the mental and general state of the patient exactly matched the features of the homeopathic remedy.

For example, a person who is fastidious (orderly and finicky to a fault), anxious about his health or physical security, and very sensitive to cold weather is very likely to require the remedy Arsenicum album, regardless of whether he suffers from a skin problem, heart disease, or asthma.

The observation that general and mental symptoms were especially important was not a new discovery, but Sankaran put much emphasis on this fact and made it the basis of an entire theory of health and disease, as follows.

The central disturbance and its components

Given that disease is not characterized by local pathology (following the perspective of western medicine) but by the general state of the organism on the physical and psychological levels, one may speak of disease as a central disturbance of the organism. This central disturbance can in turn be described in terms of components, which are the most characteristics general and mental symptoms of the patient.

Disease state arises from a life-situation

Even when relying on the patient’s most characteristic general and mental symptoms, it remains unclear how and why the individual components are related to each other. After all, every person has one central disturbance at any one time, and accordingly requires one remedy to address the illness (following the previously described principles of classical homeopathy), so the components must be related to each other.

The key insight in The Spirit of Homoeopathy is that symptoms can be related by postulating a life-situation which the patient wrongly perceives himself to be in. For example, a person who is anxious with a highly elevated heart rate and a sense of impending death may be perceiving the world as though he were about to be killed in a car accident. Such a person will frequently require Aconitum napellus (Aconite for short), a remedy whose central feature is an acute fear of death.

The Aconite state could occur following an actual recent event, as in a patient who has just witnessed or survived a car accident. In this case the disease stems from the fact that the actual event is past yet the person still perceives the event as ongoing. In other words, while the symptoms were an appropriate response during the event, their undue persistence after the event (a state that might conventionally be diagnosed as “acute post-traumatic shock”) is inappropriate and therefore treatable homeopathically. The same logic applies to a more chronic state, in which the person is permanently stuck in a false perception of reality.

Disease as delusion

When a person has the experience of living in a life situation in a state which does not correspond to reality, his disease state may be described as a delusion about reality. The term ‘delusion’ as used in homeopathy does not refer to the psychiatric state encountered under LSD intoxication or in schizophrenia, but simply to the fact that a person’s perceived life-situation does not correspond with reality. Many fully functional people (i.e., most of us) may be said to be suffering from some delusion in the homeopathic sense.

Disease in the homeopathic sense is thus a much broader concept than in other systems of medicine: it is a fixed perception of reality that is inappropriate under the present situation. It is like an imbalanced posture that the organism adopts in response to a subjective sense of reality that objectively does not exist.

Disease is therefore not confined to medical conditions, but includes complaints that may have no associated medical diagnosis. These may include non-pathological, ‘functional’ complaints such as low energy or various aches and pains, as well as subtle psychological or spiritual complaints. All of these are as treatable with homeopathy as are full-blown diseases in the conventional sense.

The root causes of disease

If a delusion refers to a reality not existing in the present, then where in the past did that reality arise? In acute cases such as the Aconite example above, the delusion refers to an obvious recent event, whereas in many chronic cases it is unclear where the disease has originated. But this is not a concern: as I’ve written in This is Why Homeopaths Emphasize Clinical Results over Theory, homeopathy only needs to deal with the what rather than the why or how of disease in order to provide effective treatment.

Insofar as homeopaths delve into the root causes of diseases, they have discovered that these may range from physical or psychological shocks encountered during one’s lifetime, to stresses experienced by the mother during pregnancy, to features inherited from previous generations.

Still, even if the homeopath fails to get any insight into the origin of the disease state in a particular patient, he or she can address the disease by fully understanding its present manifestation as the peculiar set of sensitivities or predisposition that characterizes every patient. This contrasts sharply with conventional medicine, where ignorance of the cause of a disease usually means that the disease can at best be kept under control rather than cured.

What is health?

The definition of health according to The Spirit of Homoeopathy can now be extracted from its novel definition of disease: Health is the freedom to experience every moment of life just as it is rather than through the lens of some perceived reality. The healthy person responds to reality with full and undivided awareness, does not need reality to be different from the way it is (except in the positive sense of thinking up an even better reality and acting to realize it) in order to feel comfortable, and is ultimately free to pursue the higher purpose of life, whatever it may be for each individual.

Sankaran’s ideas are controversial

Sankaran’s writings, which have included many professional articles and several books since the publication of The Spirit of Homoeopathy in 1991, have influenced many homeopaths while inciting much controversy within the profession. This is because what began as a reformulation of well-established theoretical principles has more recently become a full-featured clinical system that differs significantly from the traditional approach of homeopathy.

Many homeopaths have praised his ideas as revolutionary and have come to adopt them in their practice. But several prominent homeopaths claim that his ideas have distorted and debased classical homeopathy and that they are causing damage to the profession; others see his early ideas simply as reformulations of other homeopaths’ thought and therefore not as original as they are claimed to be; and others still find the ideas theoretically appealing, but argue against the novel clinical approach that he has developed over the years.

My own opinion of Sankaran’ system is generally positive, but with reservations. I use his ideas frequently, but at the same time find that his system is a stepping-stone rather than a destination: it is helpful in some cases but it doesn’t consistently contribute to an improved rate of success in the clinic. Perhaps this is because diagnostic skill is ultimately intuitive rather than systematic, and so a systematic diagnostic approach is limited by its very nature. Still, Sankaran is indisputably an excellent communicator who conveys complex ideas in an easy-to-understand, lucid manner, and as such he has made a positive contribution to the profession.

Further reading

The Spirit of Homoeopathy is available from Amazon or from Whole Health Now homeopathic bookstore. Although the book is written in simple and clear language, it presupposes some prior knowledge of homeopathy. A classic, in-depth introduction to homeopathy is available in The Science of Homeopathy by George Vithoulkas (AmazonWhole Health Now).

Medical Suppression of Symptoms and Its Homeopathic Cure

One of the most important contributions of homeopathy to the theory of health and disease is the concept of suppression of symptoms.

Both in conventional and in some alternative forms of medicine reduction of symptoms and alleviation of suffering are viewed as the towering goals of treatment.

The clinical philosophy shared by naturopathic and homeopathic medicine holds, in contrast, that a symptom is an expression of inner disharmony rather than a problematic thing in itself, and that the disappearance of a symptom may or may not be an indication of cure when health is considered holistically.

In homeopathy it is very important to distinguish between a curative and a suppressive effect because the goal of treatment is healing of the entire person at the deepest possible level. To achieve this the homeopath first needs to know the patient’s medical history in order to determine whether any past treatments have been suppressive; second, the homeopath needs to evaluate the response of the patient to homeopathic treatment, in order to determine whether or not the patient is progressing in the desired direction toward greater health.

Some common treatments that unnecessarily lead to suppression of symptoms include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory medications (especially corticosteroids)
  • Surgeries (tonsillectomies, nasal polypectomies, removal of benign skin lesions, and more)
  • Anti-fever medications
  • High doses of certain supplements
  • Homeopathic remedies used symptomatically (these include remedies prescribed with the help of machines, muscle testing, and complex formulations (mixtures) made by Heel, Dr. Reckeweg, and UNDA).
  • Improper long-term administration of single homeopathic remedies.

At best the symptoms thus ‘cured’ recur at some point in the future following such treatments (indicating a healthy vital force), and at worst they are seemingly cured but at a cost to overall long-term health — as I and other homeopaths routinely observe in the clinic. In addition, the use of these treatments during homeopathic treatment frequently slows down or completely stalls progress.

Such treatments may of course be necessary in cases of immediate danger to life or great suffering (as a last resort in intractable chronic situations): their availability is a blessing and not at all to be derided. But given alternatives such as homeopathy, suppressive forms of treatment should be avoided to the greatest possible degree.

A case example of suppression of symptoms caused by medical treatment

Dora, a patient in her thirties, came in for homeopathic treatment complaining of spells of extreme tiredness and occasional breathing difficulties. Her health history was unremarkable except for a diagnosis of eczema (a common skin inflammation, also known as atopic dermatitis) four years prior, which had appeared on both her forearms.

To treat her eczema Dora had received Betamethasone ointment. Betamethasone is a topical corticosteroid medication that acts as an anti-inflammatory to diminish or altogether eliminate eczematous patches. She applied the ointment on a daily basis until the patch faded away over a three-week period. To her relief, she needed to continue applying the ointment only occasionally (once or twice a week) to keep the inflammation under control, and after several months quit the ointment and has remained free of her complaint.

According to conventional medicine this had been a successful outcome. In fact, because eczema is often a chronic problem that tends to recur unless actively treated, this outcome had been preferable to the more typical scenario where the ongoing use of medication would have been necessary.

Now, four years later, Dora had eczema-free skin, but her well-being was compromised by spells of low energy and disconcerting breathing difficulties. Medically speaking, she used to have eczema and now had new symptoms requiring new diagnoses and treatments, and no relation between the two would normally be considered.

Holistically speaking, however, it was important to consider the potential connection between her present complaints and her past health and treatment history. Most holistic practitioners would aim in this situation to find the root cause behind both of Dora’s present complaints, aiming to improve her general condition using an integrated approach rather than prescribing two separate treatments (one for each of her complaints).

The homeopathic approach to Dora’s problem takes the holistic line of thinking one step further, arguing that by default (unless proven otherwise) a connection must exist between Dora’s present condition and her past ailments and the treatments that she received.

Suppression of symptoms, its consequences, and its treatment

The homeopathic principle of suppression of symptoms says that symptoms that are denied full expression at superficial level (commonly the skin or mucuous membranes in the respiratory or digestive tract) may later manifest at some deeper level (such as a vital organ). According to this principle, the suppression of Dora’s skin symptoms is a likely cause of her present symptoms, which manifest in her nervous and hormonal systems as well as in her lungs.

Homeopathic treatment was begun, and over the first several months Dora’s tiredness lessened and her breathing difficulties became infrequent. More significantly, however, on the seventh month of treatment her eczema (which had been gone for nearly five years by that point) reappeared on her forearms! This phenomenon, known as return of old symptoms, is recognized by homeopaths as a reliable sign of deep healing. The reappearance of Dora’s skin problem, concurrent with a improvement in her overall well-being, also corroborated the claim that the corticosteroid ointment had suppressed (rather than truly healed) her eczema.

To complete her treatment it was important for Dora to avoid returning to the use of Betamethasone ointment, lest this cause a stalling of her progress and a recurrence of the symptoms due to which she had come for homeopathic treatment in the first place. Armed with the knowledge that her skin problem would resolve if she persevered with homeopathic treatment, and that treating it with ointment would not benefit her overall health and could reverse her health gains, Dora bore the local skin discomfort (using the ointment only very rarely on especially uncomfortable patches) for several months before her skin finally healed.

Nowadays Dora is free of all medical complaints and reports feeling younger than she did several years ago, with greater reserves of energy and an overall better mood than she used to have through most of her life.

Homeopathy and the universal laws of healing

There are incontrovertible laws of healing that need to be understood and respected by any system of medicine in order for it to be capable of promoting true healing. Modern medicine unfortunately has a poor understanding of these laws—despite its brilliant and undeniable technical achievement—and its treatments often subvert them by suppressing symptoms even when the situation is not life-threatening and suffering is not unbearable.

Dora’s case example is not unique but is very typical of patients with chronic illness: conventional medical treatments that are considered successful — here an often-chronic skin condition was defeated with short-term medication use — cause more extensive illness and suffering down the road. This holds true not only with the treatment of eczema, but of many other conditions including asthma, allergies, recurrent respiratory infections, arthritis, thyroid and other hormonal problems, depression, ADHD, and more.

Homeopathic treatment requires patience and perseverance

Because homeopathy acts on the deepest level of the organism, it doesn’t always alleviate suffering as quickly as desired. It may take patience and perseverance to experience relief from bothersome symptoms. In addition, in chronic situations where the patient is already on conventional medications at the beginning of treatment, medications may have to be used concurrently for a long while before they can be discontinued. Both homeopath and patient must therefore be patient and not expect overnight relief of chronic conditions.

The rewards of diligently pursued homeopathic treatment are eventual freedom from medications, the permanent restoration of true health, and the opportunity of growing beyond lifelong physical, psychological, or spiritual limitations so that, in Hahnemann’s words, “our indwelling, rational spirit can avail itself of this living, healthy instrument for the higher purposes of our existence.”

Homeopathic treatment is thus not for the faint-hearted but is intended for those willing to sacrifice short-term comfort for the rewards of long-term health and fulfilment.

Health, Disease, and Adaptation to the Present Moment

In this article I will describe a basic aspect of homeopathy’s spiritual understanding of health and disease: the view that disease arises from a fixed adaptation to a past situation that no longer exists in the present.

Homeopaths view health and disease as states of being that are either appropriate for the situation (healthy) or inappropriate for the situation (unhealthy). The state of being that we adopt from moment to moment can be regarded a ‘posture’ that is either suitable or unsuitable for the present moment of existence. An unsuitable posture kept for too long manifests as chronic disease, whereas a short-lasting one causes acute symptoms or weakens the organism until it is susceptible to infectious influences.

Disease arises from memory of a past state that no longer exists

Conventional medicine is based on a materialistic view of life. Health is compared to a well-functioning machine, while disease is viewed as a malfunction in some part of the machine.

Homeopathy is based on a spiritual view of life. Health is the ability to respond freely and creatively to all situations encountered throughout life, whereas disease is any restriction on this ability.

Samual Hahnemann, the originator of homeopathy, discovered through lifelong clinical observation that disease could often be traced to a ‘mistunement’ created during a past stressful episode in the life of the organism or its ancestors. He concluded that the memory of this past state was the real cause the suffering that we experienced through physical and psychological symptoms.

Health is the flexibility to successfully adapt to all life situations

Rajan Sankaran (author of The Spirit of Homoeopathy) describes disease as an “unsuitable posture… adopted by the organism in order to survive in a perceived situation.”

What is a “perceived situation”? To answer this, let’s first look at an example he gives of a real situation:

If you are lifting a heavy bag and you have to walk with that heavy weight, in order that your back does not break, you have to bend in the direction opposite to the bag. So, your body adopts a posture to survive in this situation. This posture is healthy, it is going to do you good, in this situation it is needed, and as long as the bag is heavy, the posture has to be maintained.

Hence, we see that posture is an adjustment. As long as this adjustment is in proportion to the existing situation, as long as it is suitable to this situation, and as long as the situation or exciting factor remains, this adjustment cannot and should not be corrected.

Life can be viewed as a series of adaptations: one situation flows into another, and each time a different posture is adopted to suit the new situation. Health is the flexibility to correctly adapt to any situation that arises throughout our life journey.

An unhealthy posture arises from adaptation to a perceived situation that is not really present. This adaptation can be either inappropriate for the situation or appropriate for the situation but of disproportionate intensity. Sankaran illustrates these possibilities as follows:

When a man is being chased by a lion, the posture of running fast, being afraid, etc. is appropriate since his survival depends upon it. However, if a man is in the same state without a lion chasing him, or he adopts the same posture even if a little dog chases him, or he is in such a pain that he cannot think (a reaction far in excess of what is needed in the situation) then this state is to be removed by treatment.

The unsuitable posture is hidden behind physical and psychological symptoms

So long as an unhealthy posture is held over from the past, the person is precluded from adopting an appropriate posture for the present situation. This is considered a state of disease in homeopathy, whether or not there are clear physical or psychological symptoms that warrant medical treatment. This means, on the one hand, that homeopathy is a powerful healing tool in cases where the patient feels distress yet there are no discernible medical abnormalities.

On the other hand, during the clinical encounter between patient and homeopath the disease state does not automatically reveal itself as an unhealthy posture. In most clinical situations the patient will present with vague discomfort or with one or more physical and psychological complaints. During the homeopathic intake the homeopath must therefore ask many questions in order to lead the patient to reveal the unsuitable posture that he or she continuously adopts in all life situations.

This posture, which most of us do not have a direct awareness of, is the underlying reason for the existence of the clinical complaint that induces people to seek homeopathic treatment in the first place.

How do unsuitable postures arise?

An unsuitable posture originates from an adaptation to a past situation that is maintained even though it is no longer applicable to the situation. This happens when the past situation has exceeded the organism’s resilience. Such situations generally fall into one of the following categories:

  • a past traumatic event,
  • childhood or cultural habits that have powerfully impressed themselves on the organism, or
  • inherited spiritual impressions — known in homeopathy as “miasms” — that long ago left their mark on one’s parents or earlier ancestors.

Resilience can be understood by analogy with a steel spring: just as a steel spring can be bent and absorb many small shocks and still recover its original form, a person can absorb many stresses yet maintain his underlying state of health throughout the stressful period. But beyond a certain threshold, excessive stress deforms the spring and causes it to lose its elasticity. A person exposed to excessive stress will likewise carry the spiritual impression or ‘deformation’ due to the past stress and will no longer be fully ‘elastic’ and responsive to the present situation.

Homeopathic treatment frees us from unsuitable postures

We all continually adopt postures in order to survive in different life situations or in an attempt to create a reality that we imagine to be desirable. But if we remain fixed in a posture that is no longer appropriate for the situation (for any of the reasons cited earlier) to the point that we are unable to respond appropriately to situations that arise in the present, we may then become aware of an uncomfortable sensation at the level of our spirit. If we do not free ourselves of the fixed posture eventually we experience more obvious psychological discomfort, physical symptoms, or both.

In Sankaran’s words:

Disease is thus seen as an affection of the whole person, as a posture adopted as a survival mechanism to suit a particular situation which does not exist at the moment. This posture makes us react to the present in an unsuitable way due to our false perception of it. Such an unsuitable and disproportionate reaction to the situation naturally causes a constant stress on the organism, and the stress aggravates the pathology or brings the tendency to a particular pathology into activity.

Health is the ability to feel OK in all situations. A posture is an adaptation for feeling OK under a specific situation. Unless one is able to switch postures freely from moment to moment, a person will only feel OK when the fixed posture happens to coincide with (be suitable for) the situation.

In terms of the model I’ve just presented, homeopathic treatment releases the hold of the unsuitable posture that prevents free-flowing adaptation to the present moment. By raising awareness of the inappropriateness of the fixed posture to the point that a person can choose to abandon it in favour of another posture, homeopathic remedies assist in the release of inappropriate life habits that manifest physically or psychologically. Once this happens, full resilience is restored and the person is able to handle life as it comes — adopting appropriate postures as needed and shifting away from them as soon as the situation is over — without undue stress.