Dear Students of Homeopathy,
This editorial is dedicated just to you …and today I want to share some parts of my own student life with you.
Most of us start our career in homeopathy not by choice but by chance. We are either pushed into this mysterious world by witnessing a ‘miracle’ cure, or in countries like India and Pakistan, by the rat-race of becoming ‘doctors’. When we enter college, most of us have no idea about what quality and quantity of education we are going to receive. The lack of uniformity and standards in homeopathic education makes the task of evaluating the education even more difficult. Some of us (very few), are lucky enough to get good mentors who show us the right path. For most others, learning homeopathy is an uphill and often very frustrating journey.
In India, the focus of homeopathic education is more on ‘allied’ subjects (Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology etc.) and even after spending five and a half years in a college, most students come out ‘raw’, as far as ability to practice ‘homeopathy’ is concerned. Clinical education is often missing or students get to witness single-symptom prescribers, who see 100 patients in a day, or they are exposed to multi-remedy and combination prescriptions right at the onset. It is a mad ‘rush’ – you go from one class to another, from one lecture to another, from one doctor to another with loads to study for every exam. There’s lot of stress on becoming a ‘doctor’ but hardly any focus on teaching the real art of case-taking, which needs ‘patience’ and ability to ‘observe’. The mind is not trained to see ‘beyond’ the allopathic diagnosis or the ‘keynotes’ of polychrests. There is so much focus on rote learning that most students spend nearly 6 years in colleges and still do not get a grasp on the most basic works of Hahnemann, Boenninghausen, Farrington, Kent, Lippe etc. And a large proportion of them have no idea about the works of Vithoulkas, Dr Shepper, Little, Sankaran, Sherr, Scholten, Massimo Mangialavori, Ramakrishnan and the like.
Outside India, the story is not very heartening either. There are courses that vary in their duration from part-time ‘weekend-only’ course to 6 year regular courses. The curriculum is often designed by individual homeopaths, with hardly any uniformity in teaching. There are schools that teach you ‘first-aid’ homeopathy, others that focus on so-called ‘classical’ homeopathy, still others that are heavily influenced by one ‘school of thought’ or one ‘author’ or ‘method’ – be it Boenninghausen, Kent, Sankaran, Scholten, Facial Analysis etc. The teaching of general medicine is often nonexistent. So here again, most of us come-out of our schools ‘half-baked’!
My story is also no different. I was pushed into homeopathy by fate. Just like every other medical aspirant in India, I also wanted to become an allopathic doctor. Although my father used to give us homeopathic remedies, I hardly had any idea about ‘what is homeopathy’. But once the fate pushed me into this stream, I started enjoying it. I loved Organon and devoured it eagerly – probably dozens of times during my college years. But in general, I also became part of the same ‘race’ to become a ‘doctor’. Cramming Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Forensic Medicine, Gynecology, Medicine and all other routine medical subjects year after year. Teaching of homeopathy was limited to ‘mugging’ materia medica for exams and going through ‘question-answer’ notes for Organon and Repertory.
As a student I had a unique advantage, in that I had access to computers, Internet and International journals from my early student days. This led me to learn more about ‘modern’ authors and works that were not taught in our college. In fact, I was probably the only one in my college at that time, who was aware of the ‘existence’ of George Vithoulkas, Rajan Sankaran, Jeremey Sherr, Jan Scholten, A.U. Ramakrishnan and other ‘popular’ homeopaths of modern times. Looking in hindsight, for most other students, it was like living in a homeopathic well, whose walls were made up of our curriculum and the ‘ideologies’ of our teachers. We were not allowed to experience the world outside that well.
Anyway, let’s move ahead. I was always ranked as a meritorious student, among the best in my class. Plus, I had better knowledge (as compared to others in my class) of Hahnemann’s work as well as of most modern authors. Clinically also, I apprenticed with homeopaths who were very ‘successful’ and used to see up to 120 patients/day. All this made me believe that I will be fairly successful. I thought I knew it all. I was so confident of my clinical success that before opening my first clinic, I once told my father – ‘Dad, you just wait and see. In six months, there will a line of people in my waiting room!’
I was wrong. The first 30 days of my independent clinical practice made me realize that ‘curing’ people is an entirely different ball-game. The ‘practice’ is not as easy as the ‘theory’ is. The ‘cures’ are not as frequent as we are made to believe. Case after case, I faced problems in remedy selection, potency selection, repetition, evaluating remedy response, case management and everything homeopathic. At the end of the first month I felt that I had wasted all my years in college and that I hardly knew anything about how to cure and how to manage a case successfully. I felt a darkness around me …and I lost most of my patients in the first 6 months!
What saved me in such hours of confusion, anger and frustration was – The Organon. Every time I felt low, every time I felt confused, I read The Organon. And every time I came back to my clinic with more vigour. I read more …about Hahnemann’s work, all other classics and even most modern literature. I started learning from my failures. Each case started teaching me that which my teachers couldn’t. It was just my obstinacy in not wanting to use complex remedies, that made me work harder on my homeopathic roots. I wanted to ‘cure’ and not just ‘palliate’. I had loved Hahnemann’s philosophy right from my very first year as a student. And seven years down the lane, I wanted to experience it in practice or I didn’t want to practice!
The obstinacy and hard-work started to pay off. Among the loads of failures, came some glaring successes – still far and few in between. Then in search of better results, I tried to use every ‘new’ method in my practice. When I first attended a seminar by Dr. Sankaran, I was very impressed by his video cases and his ‘interpretation’ of gestures and themes. I tried to use Dr. Sankaran’s detailed case taking and evaluation methods in my practice. The first consultation was always wonderful for me as well as for the patient …but my long-term results did not improve. I explored Dhawale’s methods, used Vijayakar’s theory of suppression and theory of acutes, Patel’s Tautopathy, Ramakrishnan’s Cancer Protocol, ‘New’ remedies; I tried the ‘single remedy, high potency‘ protocol, ‘start with low dose and watch for reaction‘ protocol, ‘30 potency, thrice a day‘, ‘200 potency once a week‘, ‘200 potency thrice a day‘ and what not! – everything that gave me hope for a better prescription and better results.
Every time I started working on a ‘new’ method, I felt elated and enlightened …but after that came the phase of disappointment and disillusionment. It took me some years to realize that the answers to my problems were not outside, they were within me. I realized that my failures came from my own incapacities. I cannot practice like Sankaran just by reading his books. I was not at ‘his level‘. The same goes for Vijayakar and others. I realized that these people were getting results from their ‘approaches’ because they had a very solid grounding in the basics of homeopathy. Their knowledge of Materia Medica, Repertory and Case-Taking were far superior to mine ..and it was probably after 20-30 years of practice that these people were able to do what they were doing.
I realized that before I worked on the higher level, I had to strengthen my roots at the lower level. I started observing my patients more closely, went back to my repertory and materia medica – started practicing in a more ‘basic’ way ..and my results started to improve. I was able to see why my medicine was working and why I failed in some cases. At that juncture, I came across the works of David Little and Luc De Schepper. These two men influenced my practice greatly through their works. They made me see the words of Hahnemann more clearly. It was like someone had lifted the fog. I became less worried about the ‘limitations’ of the classical method and became more confident about my results, due to much better case-managment. Then I started using liquid solutions and LM potencies and suddenly there was a marked shift in the results that I was getting. I had never experienced anything so positive before. I realized the true horizons of classical homeopathy, the polychrests took a different meaning and using smaller remedies was far easier now. The ‘art’ gave way to ‘mathematical precision’.
I saw my first patients more than 10 years ago. In these years, I have evolved a lot as a homeopath. Today I am able to use the newer methods, be it of Sankaran, Scholten, Sherr, Bentley, Ramakrishnan or anyone else, with ease, because I feel confident about my ‘classical’ roots. I am able to use the method, which suits the case most. I may give a case five minutes for a consultation or two hours …but the remedy selection is much more clear and managing the case is far easier because I know that my feet are well-grounded in the basics.
There is a lot more to my homeopathic story, but that I will share at some other time. The reason I have shared so much about myself with you, is that I do not want other students to grope in the dark like me. I do not mind accepting my shortcomings and failures and you can learn from my mistakes. You do not need to go through the same uncertainties. Homeopathy is not as ‘complicated’ as it sometimes appears due to the different schools of thought. There is a definite way of learning and practicing homeopathy that guarantees good success. Here is what I believe will give you a good chance to succeed as a homeopath:
- Read every word of Hahnemann and the old masters, many times over. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING can replace the basics and the wisdom of the founders. Their methods still work with MOST cases. You do not need fancy ideas to do miracle cures.
- Get a good mentor. Find a person who DOES NOT see 100 cases per day. Find someone who gives time to his patients, who can teach you the importance of patience and observation, who can teach you the value of humility, who can help you evolve as a human being, who himself is a good human being, a gentle soul – A real guru!
- Get a good grounding in the basics of modern medicine. It will give you confidence to deal with complicated cases and differentiate common from uncommon.
- ‘Understand’ (not just ‘learn’) the common remedies well. They still cure a large majority of our patients. Plus you are a fool if you try to study the essence of Compositae family while you do not even remember the basics of Arnica and Bellis-p.
- Understand every rubric in our repertories. It is hard-work but it pays in the end. With more than 100,000 rubrics and 3000 remedies in our repertories, you won’t be able to cure many cases if you don’t know which are the right rubrics for a given case and where to find the right information in our repertories.
- Learn the art of case-taking and evaluation under guidance.
- Learn ‘What do you do after giving the remedy?’ – the case management. You will fail in the majority of your cases even if you give simillimum and do not manage the case properly.
- Keep it simple. When you start your practice, keep it simple. Remember that the methods of Hahnemann and our core group of remedies have cured millions of people in the last 200 years. Don’t go fancy right at the beginning.
- Once you are confident of your basics, only then explore the newer methods, systems and works. They are tools that add to your armour, they do not and can not replace the basics of homeopathy.
- Do not try to follow just one person or school of thought. Most modern works have their own place in our tool-kit. Be open. Adjust your method of case-taking, evaluation and remedy selection as per the needs of the case-in-hand. Learn to individualize!
- If you have to follow a new development, learn it well from the source or someone who has practiced it for long. Do not experiment with your patients after reading a new book or attending a weekend seminar. The newer methods work only if you are well-versed in them. Otherwise you are inviting frustration.
- Last but not the least – Keep learning from your failures. Don’t shut your eyes to them, don’t hesitate in accepting your failures, don’t feel shy in taking a second opinion on your difficult cases. Don’t bask in the glory of few accidental cures. Remain humble and healthy. A good homeopath has to be a ‘healthy’ human being first. A sick person can not impart health to others.
A homeopath’s journey never ends, not till he hangs his boots. Even after years of practice, you continue to get those ‘Aha!’ moments. I am still learning, but today I am much more confident of my work and my system. I hope you will learn from my mistakes and follow a path which will fill your life with satisfaction, happiness and peace.
I wish you lots of success in your journey towards becoming a better human being and a better homeopath. You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org