Chemical Algebra: part four
Enjoying the fruits (and salts) of Jan Scholten’s invention
Not patched but whole
With the developments in thematic homeopathy examined in the previous three parts of this paper, the contemporary practitioner is not looking to revert to the mixology of the medieval compounders and their modern pharmaceutical inheritors, the purveyors of over-the-counter (OTC) ‘combination remedies’ (in that other crude and senseless sense of the word ‘combination’):
‘[Medicine] lies in the knowledge of what is inside and not in composing and patching up pieces to make it. What are the best trousers? Those which are whole; those patched up and pieced together are the worst ones. Who is so stupid as to believe that nature has distributed so much of a virtue to one and so much to another herb, and then commissioned you doctors to put them together?...Nature is the physician, not you; from her you take your orders, not from yourself; she composes, not you.’
Paracelsus, cited in Philip Ball, The Devil’s Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York, 2006
The homeopath must seek the emergent and particular individuality of that pattern which currently rules the individual (a pattern that can be approached by arranging together those themes that revolve around its central verb). It is this pattern that seeks to displace the patient’s human individuality with its own, riding it to ruin just as Louis Klein paints a picture of Mancinella ridden by the spirits of vodoun (Clinical Focus Guide, Volume 1), turning a potential human into the behavioural semblance of something much less so.
For these reasons, ‘combination remedies’ in the senseless (OTC) sense are not part of the homeopath’s high endeavour. Conversely, the use of combinatorial thinking, of thematic algebra and groups, rightly occupies a central place within our current renaissance, a star that has re-arisen within our contemporary vision.
With regard to the sales of OTC combinations named for disease categories, we find ourselves currently competing with an interest group that has a vested material interest in reading the practice of homeopathy at a few octaves lower than actually homeopathic practice. Like Hahnemann after him, Paracelsus (above) long ago focused on the crux of this matter, as have others whose thought and practice were also to influence our continuing evolution in understanding homeopathy:
‘Truth is... like a garment; when not being worn, it is merely pieces of material adapted for a body, but when it is put on, it becomes clothing with a human being inside it.’
Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, paragraph 150, cited in Wilson van Dusen, The Country of the Spirit, J. Appleseed & Co., San Francisco
Statements formulated according to the rules of thematic group, or algebraic, thinking are garments but, when we witness the individuality of a patient shining through these garments, such material becomes clothing. The homeopath who prescribes a curative remedy does so with the intent of enabling the patient to divest themselves of that which the patient may regard highly (at the very least they are ‘attached’ to it) but which we view as mere rags in comparison to what he or she, you or I, could be clothed in:
Rabbi Jechiel Meir of Gostynin had attended the Festival of Weeks with his teacher at Kozk. On his return home, his father-in-law asked him,
“Well, was the Law received in a different spirit where you were than elsewhere?”
“Certainly!” came the reply.
“How do you mean?” asked his father-in-law.
“How would you here understand, for example, the commandment ‘Thou shalt not steal’?” asked Rabbi Jechiel in return.
“Well, naturally,” replied his father-in-law, “one may not steal from one’s neighbor.”
But Rabbi Jechiel responded: “In Kozk they interpret it as follows: ‘One may not steal from oneself!’ ”
Buber, Tales of the Hasidim
The metaphor of clothes fits the subject matter of this essay well enough: the difference that makes a difference is when we learn to see, in our own practices, individuality shining through the combinations offered by the scaffolding of the algebraic material.
There are, as ever, those who will say, “Oh, a new fashion… You know what I’m like with new stuff…” (Generals, Environmental allergies; Mind, thought, averse new) and thereby keep themselves the much poorer – but it is only by actually wearing these new clothes that we manage actually to enrich ourselves, our practices and our patients.
What, then, can go wrong? Jan Scholten can help us here:
‘Seduction through presentation: clothes…
A game of fantasy: theorizing…
Another possibility is that they start to pay a lot of attention to their appearance, dressing up in beautiful clothes and parading in front of their loved one to try and impress them. They love beauty and harmony and order….
The other side of the coin is that they may neglect their relationship. They feel that is fine the way it is and they don’t have to make any effort to maintain or improve it…
Sometimes their fantasies run away with them and they lose all sense of reality. But they can also philosophise about elemental issues...’
(Sulphur, in Homeopathy and Elements, pp.296-98)
In sum, we are greatly aided by thematic group and algebraic thinking but, as ever this is only if we dare to know its fruits (and salts) in ourselves: thereafter we will be much better equipped to acquit our responsibility to our patients. What behooves us, also, is to continue to seek the most expeditious ways of using such tools (or theoretical instruments). Once the idea of combining themes is ‘on the map,’ as it indubitably has been for some time, then where one draws such themes from – how one reads experience metaphorically to derive themes and how, thereafter, one performs algebraic analyses upon those themes to form that runway which allows or enables the flight of metaphor to take off on its trajectory toward particularity – where one draws such themes from is not circumscribed by any text but that of Nature. It becomes, rather, a matter of developing the art of metaphor and algebra for oneself and then (by whatever means possible) communicating it, as Jan Scholten has done in his books and seminars, so that others may benefit and do likewise.
By way of concluding, some quotations on combining, correlating and connecting
‘In fact, what is mathematical creation? It does not consist in making new combinations with mathematical entities already known. Any one could do that, but the combinations so made would be infinite in number and most of them absolutely without interest. To create consists precisely in not making useless combinations and in making those which are useful and which are only a small minority. Invention is discernment, choice.
How to make this choice I have before explained; the mathematical facts worthy of being studied are those which, by their analogy with other facts, are capable of leading us to the knowledge of a mathematical law just as experimental facts lead us to the knowledge of a physical law. They are those which reveal to us an unsuspected kinship between other facts, long known, but wrongly believed to be strangers to one another.
Among chosen combinations the most fertile will often be those formed of elements drawn from domains which are far apart. Not that I mean as sufficing for invention the bringing together of objects as disparate as possible; most combinations so formed would be entirely sterile. But certain among them, very rare, are the most fruitful of all.’
Henri Poincare, ‘Mathematical Creation,’ Chapter III, Science and Method on the Foundations of Science, trans. George Bruce Halsted, Science Press, NY, 1929
‘If one studies the interconnections of living processes in nature, one soon finds that one cannot stop short at the rigid forms, nor allow oneself to be restricted by systems. Inner relationships and metamorphoses must be sought wherever they occur, for life is a whole, and illuminating connections are to be found even between the different kingdoms.’
Georg Grohmann, The Plant, Volume 2
‘The significant insights in therapy ... are not solutions but connections - connections drawn between previously unrelated events.’
Edgar Levenson, The Ambiguity of Change, New York, 1983
‘If one found a complex of, let us say, seven ingredients in a man’s motivation, the Freudian tendency would be to take one of these as the essence of the motivation and to consider the other six as sublimated variants... The proportional strategy would involve the study of these seven as a cluster. The motivation would be synonymous with the inter-relationships between them.’
Kenneth Burke, ‘Freud and the Analysis of Poetry’ reprinted in The Philosophy of Literary Form, New York, Vintage, 1957 [author’s italics]
‘The concept of science as fields of practice also highlights the importance of skills and best knowledge, which are often overlooked or suppressed when the purely theoretical is emphasized. Skills and tacit knowledge are modes of knowing the world that exemplify Wittgenstein’s forms of life. They depend on givens that cannot be spoken of, in the same way that you cannot explain how to ride a bike. If we had to wait for a theoretical explanation of bike riding, nobody would ever get on the saddle. If maps are shared examples of practice, perhaps science can be thought of as a compendia of maps, that is, an atlas, as an example of the way in which people have to work to make the whole hang together. Ultimately maps and theories gain their power and usefulness from making connections and enabling unanticipated connections. Science is an atlas not because all its theories are connected by logic, method and consistency. There is no such logic, method or consistency. Science is riddled with contradiction and disciplinary division. Science is an atlas because the essence of maps and theories is connectivity.’
David Turnbull, Maps are Territories: Science is an Atlas, University of Chicago, 1993 [my underlining]
‘The divine model of the earth corresponds to the heavens: everything is just as above. Rav Abba wept as he saw the fruit of a tree turn into a bird and fly off. If men knew what these things meant they would rip their clothes down to the navel – in grief, for having lost this wisdom. Even more so in relation to the rest of creation…
All things in this world have a mystery of their own. Since the divine one chose not to reveal it, he gave to each species a name; he made them, however mysterious, discrete.’
Zohar 2: 15b-16a, translated by David Rosenberg (cited in David Rosenberg, Dreams of Being Eaten Alive)
This is the final part of a four-part article.
Iain Marrs practices homeopathy in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and - like all practitioners – in practicing he researches both its art and its science.
Keywords: Paracelsus, Philip Ball, Louis Klein, Paracelsus, Emanuel Swedenborg, Wilson van Dusen, Buber, Jan Scholten, Henri Poincare, Georg Grohmann, Edgar Levenson, Kenneth Burke, David Turnbull, Zohar