2009 March

Chemical Algebra: Enjoying the fruits (and salts) of Jan Scholten's invention: 1/4

by Iain Marrs
Chemical Algebra:
Enjoying the fruits (and salts) of Jan Scholten’s invention

‘Scientific revolutions are, in fact, metaphorical revolutions.’
Michael Arbib and Mary Hesse, Constructions of Reality, Cambridge, 1986.

‘Perhaps every science must start with metaphor and end with algebra - and perhaps without the metaphor there would never have been an algebra.’
Max Black, Models and Metaphors: Studies in Language and Philosophy, Cornell, Ithaca, 1962

Part One: Exploring the Algebraic concept:

At some point prior to 1993 Jan Scholten invented (re-invented?) an activity with which James Tyler Kent’s name has at times been associated disreputably – the algebraic combination of themes to comprehend mineral remedies. Such teachers as Paul Herscu has lately been teaching how to observe combination salts (I will reproduce a 1992 quote from Herscu in a subsequent section of this article) and then Jan Scholten expanded radically the whole universe (hydrogen!) of mineral combination for which we, who now rely upon this approach, remain in his debt.

It would be a caricature of Jan Scholten’s work to think of it as 100% systematic. The order followed in all of Scholten’s text is more artful than that, but that is the aspect with which we begin. The format of each book thus far is the exploration of a systematic and thematic reading of the Periodic Table. Accordingly, the head of each chapter and sub-chapter offers some ‘algebra’ and only after that do we come to any cases of the element or element-combination in question.

Although Jan Scholten introduced a largely two-term system, this is not a limit inherent within the approach. In accord with the chemists and their uses of the Periodic Table, his first book,Homeopathy & Minerals, Scholten also welcomed in such substances as "ammonia’"(in chemistry, NH4 and in homeopathy, Ammonium causticum). A combination that then goes on to combine with other elements. Just as NH4 acts as if it were an alkali (some chemists accordingly place it in between potassium and rubidium) at an interposed octave of stage 1; so do the inorganic chemists add in another pseudo-element, CN and place it at an octave in between chlorine and bromine. Scholten’s move in Homeopathy and the Elements) of aluminum over to the scandium group (his "stage three') has precedent and was also proposed by a metallurgist, F. Habashi (as Scerri informs us, The Periodic Table, p.278, along with the other information just cited). For all that it is a "metaphorical" move, following the spirit not the letter.

If we then read Scholten’s remedy descriptions we find two distinct types of information (even though one category can be sparse at times it becomes more common with Secret Lanthanides). The first type of data derives from the logic of themes algebraically crossed together. The second type of data derives from the cured cases that follow in his text. The latter is given a setting by the former. If one simply read the header text as proof of the descriptive power of the themes as given, then one might easily miss these additions derived from clinical practice and/or from a proving. The latter are not exhaustively explained (they are not ‘emptied’) by the themes as given, they offer individual particulars which develope (and, on the best of occasions, we might even say that they "provoke’") those algebraic themes, though we would likely use such phrasing only if we had spent too much time at stage 16.
The proving is the other pool drawn from. In Scholten’s Neon for example, we find "flood", "keyhole" and "Down’s syndrome", each drawn from Jeremy Sherr’s proving of Neon. The proving selection anchors, tests and illuminates the algebra. Thereafter, other teachers; for example Louis Klein, Clinical Focus Guide, (Neon, Volume 1, 2003, pp.205-11) or Jacques Echard’s case of Neon in Sankaran’s Structure (2008, pp.114-23) – confirm and further develop such themes (regardless of whether they are extracted from proving or foreseen by algebra) within clinical practice. The interaction between these two forces (on the one hand, the deductive and on the other the experimental from clinic or from proving) may lead to a new theme for a given element or mineral salt or again it may lead to a re-reading of a theme already given. This is a cycle of development, application, extension and review. In sum; Scholten’s work generates further material that may in any one instance transcend his algebraic terms for this or that remedy. From which point the story then continues on. The paradigm is further unpacked by the entrance of; for example, the case of Natrum sulph from Rajan Sankaran (see below) or by Roger Morrison’s extension of algebra to the organic groupings of the carbon-based remedies each group replete with specific themes; major and minor.

Alongside chemo-phobia, blocking some people’s path forward in the further exploration and usage of this material there is the "problem" of systems. There are those who abhor systems and those who adore them. There are some fleet-footed homeopaths, dancing with the tao, who almost seem to evade systematizing what they teach. There are others who offer tools that are, precisely systematic. These two groups always co-exist, the clinical practitioners who are dancers of experience and the clinical practitioners who are organizers of experience and the forces that they exert both work in conjunction on the rest of us who watch the two aspects and gradually try it out on the dance floor, learning to tango for ourselves. The combined effect is that we evolve in our ability to welcome and to comprehend greater ranges of experience; for a homeopathic practitioner this means we can help arrange things so that God and patient willing, more unwanted ‘stuff’ (polite word…) can be annihilated by the Annihilator of Disease.

A case from Dr. Sankaran and a book from Dr. Morrison

Chemical algebra has evolved swiftly within the culture of homeopathy, as is evident from the entrance of Roger Morrison’s immense book on Carbon remedies (Carbon: Organic and Hydrocarbon Remedies in Homeopathy, 2006). It also evolves, as ever, one case at a time and an example of such a case is presented by Rajan Sankaran in his Structure. Both these instances, as well as Jayesh Shah’s Into the Periodic Table for example, comprise a second generation of work, all developing from the foundations laid by Jan Scholten.
First, an aspect from Rajan Sankaran’s case of Natrum sulph (Structure, 2008, volume 1, p.368, author’s bold type):
“But how do we understand the issues of row 2 which comes up so strongly in her case? Then I looked in the internet and studied Natrum sulph. The chemical formula of Natrum sulph is Na2SO4! This was almost like cracking a jackpot!!! And very promptly the whole mystery seemed to straighten out. Then I understood the occurrence of all the features of row 2 (Oxygen) in a case of Natrum sulph, which is due to the predominance of the Oxygen element.”
The implication is straightforward, if a little unwelcome for those of us who are lazy: thematic lists for “Natrum sulph” have previously worked from the name of the remedy. The unstated rule thus followed has been this; "if the common name doesn’t feature the substance, then forget about it." That there is oxygen in “Natrum sulph” or that there are both oxygen and hydrogen in “Natrum phos” – this complicates matters. Indeed, it may be an aversion to complexity that causes us elsewhere, to under-prescribe substances with complicated names. (The naming-behaviour that we know from the world of popular music implies that, if Methylium aethyloaethereum wanted to secure more cured cases it should maybe make a call to Aether’s agent…) This state of affairs is a relative of that fallacy (or a bridge to cross) named"‘there are large remedies and there are small remedies". This fallacy (or a bridge to cross) is called "there are the simple named remedies and there are the complicated named remedies and the former are simple". Complexity can be revealed and brought out from behind any one of these too-simple names; revealed in homeopathic practice, such as in the above example by Dr. Rajan Sankaran.

Our second example is provided by Dr. Roger Morrison. There have been many books that combine homeopathic materia medica while also simultaneously offering an evolutionary leap forward for the whole culture of homeopathy. For example, Paul Herscu’s book on Stramonium was subtitled,"with an Introduction to Analysis using Cycles and Segments". Likewise, Joseph Reves’ title 24 Chapters in Homeopathy was completed by the phrase "with the addition of Introduction to Systems". Jan Scholten, in his revolutionary volumes, has offered a framework of theory by which to apply in practice the combination algebra of which he is the pioneer on the ground of the Periodic Table. Dr. Morrison offers another such development within his book on the Carbon remedies (Carbon, 2006): he describes thematically the various organic groupings within carbon-based chemistry. That is what he offers. I say that we are "offered" this, advisedly. It is even more disruptive to those of us who want an easy life than is Rajan Sankaran’s Na2S04 jackpot...but as Jeremy Sherr has pointed out, some cultures are not that fond of philosophy (theory) while others enjoy it immensely. This pre-existing terrain tends to determine the reception given to "theoretical" tools and instruments such as those accompanying all the books I have just named. Roger Morrison’s offer is assuredly being taken up by those who perceive its potential. I do not as yet have the clinical experience to comment in any depth on the whole, but one example did catch my eye – Hydrocyanic Acid (pp.459-72). Simply put, not only is there now no excuse not to know that this remedy is HCN but Dr. Morrison has also positively encouraged us to read this chemical shorthand. For the thematic mind already nurtured by Jan Scholten’s classes in algebra, Roger Morrison gathers the evidence from chemistry that cyanide (CN) acts like a halogen (stage 17-like); that parts of its toxicology have likenesses to tetanus, to pertussis and to cholera (all miasms which invite placement on the Stages schema and which find their places in, for example, Louis Klein’s forthcoming work on such miasms) that this acid binds selectively with gold, silver and copper (i.e., with three metals of stage 11); that this chemical inhibits an enzyme system which involves both iron and oxygen and that in homeopathic preparation Hydrocyanic acid acts like Iodum, as we can read again in the case which Morrison selects from the practitioner and teacher Deborah Collins (a case first published in Links), where the remedy homeopathic to the individual (HCN) was able to cure what appeared to be the trauma of a previous life which was destroying the patient’s present life.

Truly, we are living in a Golden Age.

Iain Marrs practices homeopathy in Vancouver, BC, Canada and - like all practitioners – in practicing he researches both its art and its science.

Categories: Theory
Keywords: Chemical Algebra, Jan Scholten, Paul Herscu, F. Habashi, Jeremy Sherr, Louis Klein, Rajan Sankaran, Jacques Echard, Roger Morrison, Jayaesh Shah, Joseph Reves, Deborah Collins


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