Book review: Survival - The Reptiles by R. Sankaran and M. Shah
These days, it is almost unthinkable to prescribe a homeopathic remedy without a firm understanding of its origins. Modern homeopathy indeed has made great strides in revealing the underlying patterns that bring the seemingly disparate symptoms into a coherent whole. What seemed ‘revolutionary’ some time ago, now seems purely logical: we should look to nature herself to show us the bigger picture, so that we are no longer working in the dark but can clearly recognise the pattern of illness in our patients. It is encouraging to see how, by using approaches based on a search for the source rather than on a collection of symptoms, it is possible for several homeopaths to reach the same conclusion regarding a remedy, as it is revealed before their eyes, and to see the astounding results of such accurate prescriptions. To this end, it has been necessary to have relevant information on the families of remedies concerned; in the case of animals, one needs to know their individual characteristics. As much as possible, one needs to know how it would be to be living in the skin (or the shell, as may be the case), of a particular creature, and to be able to perceive their world through their eyes. An excellent proving can bring out the most salient features related to that animal, and the task of a proving co-ordinator is to render these symptoms in such a way that they help us to deeply understand the ‘world’ of the substance that has been proved.
Rajan Sankaran’s newest books on materia medica, “Survival, the Reptiles” fulfill all of the above criteria. The bulk of the work has been done by Meghna Shah, who has spent three years researching the reptiles, including a stay in the Reptile Park in Chennai, where she observed them firsthand and consulted the park’s herpetologists. The depth of this preparatory work is evident throughout the two volumes.
This book is based on the concepts described in Sankaran’s previous books, on the sensation method, notably “The Sensation in Homeopathy”, “Sensation Refined” and “Homeopathy for Today's World”. For making best use of this material, it is crucial to first understand these underlying ideas. As the authors point out, it is not enough to hear “fear of snakes” or “dreams of crocodiles” to prescribe an animal remedy, let alone to prescribe either of these remedies. One must go beyond the delusion level to the constant level of inner experience of the patient, to that part in him that guides his actions and responses. Only if he holds to a reptilian pattern at this level, will he require a remedy from the reptile realm. Throughout the book, many of the possible pitfalls one can encounter in the sensation method are highlighted, and one is shown how to avoid them in order to delve deeper into that which needs to be healed.
First, a resume is given on how to recognise the “animal song” in a patient. Then, an explanation of the specific “reptile” aspect is offered. Finally, an overview of the various reptiles in homeopathy is proposed. Extensive descriptions of the animals concerned are given: their appearance, anatomy, habitat, behaviour and habits, including modes of attack and defence, as well as important proving information and possible expressions of the animal’s state in our human patients. The remedies are illustrated not only by stunning photographs, but also by convincing case histories drawn from a wide range of experienced homeopaths from around the world. The first volume presents creatures not commonly used in homeopathy until the advent of the sensation method, such as turtles, lizards, crocodiles, alligators, and iguanas. The second volume presents the snakes, as well as the dinosaurs and the tuatara. One is given a thorough insight into these much maligned creatures and their perspective on life; their various ways of dealing with feelings of abandonment (many reptiles have no family life) and maltreatment, and their ways of reacting to their circumstances. It is interesting to note the “hidden” element of the snakes, for instance, and to read that this aspect often lies hidden in our patients, exactly because of the fact that this element is often regarded with distaste, distrust or fear. Whereas a dog or a cat might be fairly easy to recognise, some people needing a snake remedy might have spent a considerable amount of time and effort (and often psychotherapy!) learning to disguise their darker traits. It would seem that we can prescribe heavy metals, such as Mercurius, to those patients who feel that “everyone is against them,” whereas on looking deeper, a snake might lie hiding in the grass. Patients who feel maligned and battered, whether in reality or not, might need a remedy from an animal which is mistrusted and badly treated.
This is such an extensive work, and so thoroughly researched, that one might be tempted to assume that it is all that one requires once one has settled on prescribing a reptile remedy to a patient. For me, it has indeed proved invaluable in gaining information and confirmation in cases, such as Dendroaspis (Black mamba), beyond the proving material alone. It is tempting to start looking around for crocodiles in my practice! On the other hand, in making a differentiation between some of the snakes, for instance, it has been necessary to supplement this information with other sources which tend to delve more deeply into the possible emotional expressions of the patient. The reptiles are, after all, so foreign to our more “acceptable” modes of expression that they do not give up their secrets easily.
As always, the cured cases themselves provide us with valuable insights into the remedies. Keeping this in mind, we can realise that no materia medica will ever be “complete”, and that we all need to work at building up a reliable data base of information. These two volumes go a long way in providing a foundation from which to work.
Keywords: Sankaran, reptiles, materia medica