Homeopathic Education Needs A New Perestroika-1

Words: Dr Douglas FALKNER

For decades, homeopathy has been undergoing a kind of renaissance, whereby homeopathic academicians attempt to bring clarity and order to the complexity of modern-day homeopathy.  In an effort to refine and build upon Dr Samuel Hahnemann’s teachings, leaders in homeopathic education are advancing new systems and methods all the time. Such new understandings are quickly making their way into practitioner training programmes as well.

One of the main goals that propel this renaissance of new ideas seems to be to provide a grounding and semblance of order to the ever-expanding pool of information daily entering into the homeopathic databases. Arguably, these innovators and pioneers are attempting to further the scientific basis of homeopathy, with the intent of sharing the benefits resulting from their vision and hard work.  But, if you speak with students the world-over, there is widespread concern, as training for years often does not lead to high-level clinical proficiency and consistent results in practice.  Their complaint — they still can’t find the simillimum, the most ‘similar’ remedy for the given patient, after many hours and many dollars spent on courses.

It is my contention that superb, high percentage positive results are, indeed, quite possible, without the need of devising intricate systems, methodologies, and categorisations of our Materia Medica.  What is needed for training and eventually mastering homeopathy is not more, but actually less. Filling our minds with copious amounts of information, diverse and extensive strategies in case observation and analysis, and increasing in-depth study of Materia Medica is not, and will not, lead us to the so-called ‘Holy Grail of Homeopathy.’

Review Outcome 

A cursory review of student performance in current seminars and training programmes reveals some surprising facts. Attend any homeopathic school, or seminar, where live cases [or, video cases for that matter] are presented and you will see not only a curious lack of consensus over which remedy best fits the case, but you will also witness wide disagreement as to potency selection and case management issues.   Even more disconcerting, one will discover often that a high percentage of live cases seen in follow-up will have not responded particularly well to the remedy chosen by the instructor.

Reproducibility of outcomes establishes a discipline on solid scientific footing and serves to enhance its public reputation as being sound and reliable.  On the whole, I am not certain that most of our current methods used in training homeopaths are succeeding in the basic requirement of reproducibility and demonstrable proficiency.

As a vitalistic tradition, however, a purely scientific basis is insufficient when working with cases in homeopathic medicine.  While many of the basic principles and methodologies of homeopathy rest on a solid scientific foundation, vitalistic medicine, involving living human beings, will forever and invariably remain of discipline requiring the application of both science and art.  For science does not concern itself with immeasurable things, and the human experience will always contain aspects that are inherently immeasurable.

Though the physical, human body is fully accessible to scientific inquiry, description, and measurement, the human soul is not.  Because, we human beings are an amalgam of body and spirit, we defy absolute scientific reductionism.  According to the homeopathic doctrine, the major cause of human disease is rooted in a disturbance of the spirit, what Dr Hahnemann referred to as the ‘vital force.’ The fundamental nature of such dynamic disturbances simply defies pure scientific analysis.  The effects can be observed and cognised, but the source itself cannot be measured as far as we know. 

Power Of Observation 

To cure disease states dynamically, at the level of the source, we must learn to correctly identify those hallmarks of observable signs and symptoms that result from these spiritual disturbances.  To achieve this, one must acquire the skill of objective observation.  For objective observation, more than a keen mind is required. To be reliable, such observation involves participation of the heart as well. Essentially, both faculties of perception, the mind with the heart, need to be honed and integrated for mastery in homeopathy. In this context, training competent homeopaths is not so much about teaching them what to see, but rather how to see. We all have an innate capacity for objective observation. For many, these faculties of perception are simply under-functioning, or underdeveloped.

To my knowledge, most curricula and training programmes bring little substantive direction as to how to engage the mind and heart, without which high-level proficiency can be quite elusive to the student.  Homeopathy has and always will be more than a mechanistic science.  As a vitalistic healing discipline, complete mastery of homeopathy necessitates evolving one’s own being alongside intellectual growth. Homeopathy is a medicine not only of facts, but of meanings. Meanings, as such, must be experienced and felt. The cold, impartial lens of mental observation alone is not enough.

My proposition is this: the alchemy of healing, which involves mind, body, and spirit, is, and always must be, one predicated on both science and art.  To be most effective, objective observation is best informed by a blending of art and science. Its accomplishment, borne by clinical experience, must involve more than the use of the mind alone. It also requires a compassionate activation of the feeling sides of healing, stemming from the heart.

Unless we learn to develop and harmonise these two central aspects of ourselves, namely our mind and heart, and bring them skilfully to bear on our working with patients, all the external systems, books, computer programmes, and new philosophies will fail to deliver at the highest level that we are striving for. The answers we need are not found somewhere outside of us. Wisdom, understanding, and true discernment, which result from knowledge and life experience, coupled with a balanced function of mind and heart, reside within. The trick is learning how to access and apply them appropriately, always with a scientific grounding.

With the burgeoning number of available proven remedies and rapidly growing repertories, it is mind-boggling just how to make this unwieldy complexity accessible to the student and practitioner.   Information overload has long ago become a very real concern. Classifications and groupings of remedies according to new theoretical frameworks have become the contemporary norm, though no universal agreement has yet been reached. Whether such schemas will be workable for newer practitioners and gain universal acceptance remains to be seen.

The Difficulty. Also Dichotomy 

New methodologies for understanding our cases are also being widely proposed, while students struggle to apply them with the reliability and success they envisioned after observing them in action at courses and seminars.   Didn’t Dr Hahnemann, in his footnote to Aphorism 1 of the Organon, exhort us “not to spin so-called systems from fancies and hypotheses” that do not have scientific validation or verification?  How scientific and valid are these new approaches? How easily are they taught and integrated into the foundation of the homeopathic art and science?

In theory, many of the currently taught systems sound intellectually plausible and are aesthetically appealing. Yet, in actuality, they leave many students disappointed when they attempt to apply them on their own. These teachings arise out of an individual’s creative inspiration and insight, rooted deeply in their own personal homeopathic experience and perspective. Most often, such concepts only get formulated after decades of clinical work.  Such pioneers create their new vision upon a solid foundation in the classical methods, philosophy, and extensive clinical exposure to patients. What works for the masters may not come so easily to the student, or intermediate practitioner, if it ever comes at all. Again, without the acquisition of the kind of perception that leads to innovative ideas, their application generally remains very inconsistent.

Case Example 

As an example, I saw a case not long ago where the patient had not seen much change after taking several remedies from her previous homeopath. This individual had a life-long fascination with dolphins, loved the ocean more than anything else in the world, and demonstrated nurturing, security issues with her mother. The previous homeopath gave Lac delphinum [dolphin’s milk], purportedly based on the above stated factors, but it had no observable effect whatsoever. The remedy that worked unarguably in this case was Baryta carbonica [barium carbonate], which precisely matches this patient’s symptom profile, including emotional and intellectual ‘backwardness,’ demonstrable insecurities, and frequent embarrassment, amongst several of the other observed characteristics.

This example shows how applying theories without having both feet planted solidly on the ground can lead to missteps, and ultimately to the selection of ineffectual remedies. Our artistic side must necessarily have a voice in our work, but not at the expense of leaving the grounding and stabilising influence of our science behind. Again, proper training must establish a proper balance between science and art, mind and heart.

In our training, we all want to have been prepared to not only succeed in the majority of cases, but to do so with enjoyment, satisfaction, and, even the thrill of wonderment and awe. When I interview homeopathic students, from far and wide, to ascertain whether the promise of true proficiency in practice is actually being delivered by our programmes — which, by the way, is certainly widely accomplished in conventional medical training — it seems that we are missing the mark.

By honestly examining the success rates in the private practices of our homeopathic graduates, it is rare to find that they are achieving a high percentage of long-term cures [meaning at least 80 per cent, or higher]. Most practitioners, when carefully evaluated, are finding the curative remedy inconsistently, even after many return visits. Frustrated by what can feel like very lacklustre results, students and practitioners are drawn to study more and study harder.  In the end, this ‘go harder and longer’ strategy yields diminishing returns.

In my opinion, the most basic answer to the students’ dilemma lies in Aphorism #3 of the Organon, where Dr Hahnemann states: “If the physician clearly perceives what has to be cured in disease, i.e., in each individual case of disease [knowledge of the disease ], if he clearly perceives what it is in medicines which heals, i.e., in each individual medicine [knowledge of medicinal powers ], if he applies in accordance with well-defined principles what is curative in medicines to what he has clearly recognised to be pathological in the patient, so that cure follows, i.e., if he knows in each particular case how to apply the remedy most appropriate by its character [selection of the remedy],  prepare it exactly as required and give it in the right amount [the correct dose], and repeat the dose exactly when required, and, lastly, if in each case he knows the obstacles to cure and how to remove them, so that recovery is permanent, then he knows how to treat thoroughly and efficaciously, and is a true physician.” [NB: To read the concluding part of this piece, published October 23, 2023, go to: ‘Homeopathic Education Needs A New Perestroika-2′].

Dr DOUGLAS FALKNER, MD, is a graduate from Dartmouth College, US. He completed his medical studies at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, followed by a three-year Emergency Medicine Residency Training in Cleveland, Ohio, and served as an attending physician, training medical residents at a Level I Trauma Center in Cleveland. He is a certified homeopath, a renowned teacher and healer. He lives in Blue Hill, Maine, US. This article is ©Dr Douglas Falkner.

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