Sometimes, one’s personal study notes turn into much more. They start out as one’s unique way of organising lecture material, and if they are recognised by others as useful study tools, they are soon in demand, copied, and passed from student to student. They take on a life of their own, and sometimes end up as books in their own right.
Such has been the path of the Materia Medica trilogy written by Alicia Lee, a former student of the Auckland College of Classical Homeopathy. As one of the requirements of the college, she created mind maps, bringing order to the mass of information presented. Encouraged by her tutors, who quickly realised the value of her work, she began revising and updating her data in preparation for publication. The result is a joy to behold – three ring-bound books printed on high quality paper for durability, in a format that makes the information easily accessible.
Each of the kingdoms has its own book, which starts with a mind map of the distinguishing features of that realm. Within the kingdoms, each subkingdom also has a page, highlighting the characteristics of that family, often completed with a differential diagnosis of various members of that family. Sometimes, various related substances are listed, such as tree products: fruits, nuts, berries, seeds, and parasitic trees. Definitions are given when applicable.
Each remedy has a full page, a map which charts the territory of that substance and makes its essence visible. Beginning with the deepest mental beliefs and delusions at the top of the page, the arrows then point to the emotions that arise out of those beliefs, and then to the physical pathology that arises out of the emotions. The picture thus unfolds in a cohesive manner as one progresses along the page. The remedies are illustrated by well-chosen photos, helping the essence of the remedy to stick in one’s mind. For Oxygenium, for example, there is a photo of a man lying in the street, and for Lac caninum, a hungry-looking dog next to a rubbish bin. Not all photos are of the substance itself, but sometimes of the type of patient one might expect to benefit from the remedy or from the atmosphere evoked by the substance; there are stunning photos of seascapes and ancient statues as well. Accompanying each remedy picture is a description of the source, as well as its usage and its place in history, mythology, and folklore, thus giving fascinating glimpses into the depth of the remedy. Sometimes, an excerpt of a poem or a quote from literature provides another view into the realm of that remedy, such as the passage from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” referring to the fairy queen, beside the photo of a dreamy-eyed young girl on the Primula page.
It is amazing how much information can be packed into one page and still come across as clear and uncluttered. The author makes it very clear that she in no way intends these charts to replace the bulkier materia medica or to provide an easy short cut for those unwilling to do the hard work of studying the remedies; these images are intended as study aids, not as replacements for our libraries. One does not find lists of rubrics or remedy symptoms, one finds a map of the natural world, seen through many different lenses, in such a way that the remedies are seen in their natural context.
The remedies covered are not exhaustive but they include all the well-known remedies and many lesser-known ones, such as waters from various sources. What comes across strongly, however, is an oversight into the energies of the different families, for which the specific remedies serve as illustrations. One gains, for instance, insights into the bear family, the bird family, the insects, the metals, the liliaceae, the fungi, the trees, and sea remedies, all with their own way of being.
This is the work of an orderly mind, someone who knows how to draw our attention to the essentials while maintaining an oversight. At the same time, it is a work of art, a treasure trove of insights and beauty. I sincerely hope that it will find its way onto the desks of many homeopaths, as it has already found its way onto mine.
Keywords: book review