2009 May

Chemical Algebra: part three

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

Part Three
This is the third part of a four-part article.

The Combinatorial Approach, continued

The combinatorial approach is not only the basis upon which Jan Scholten’s books are founded and the core of ‘analyzing the constituent parts,’ it arises as soon as we think in chemical – or, indeed, in constituent - terms:

‘The materia medica of the [mineral salt combination] remedy has been presented as a simple combination of the symptoms of each original remedy, and symptoms particular to the remedy itself. But I think that if you look deeply into these cases or have treated enough patients with each of these remedies, it becomes clear that there are at least three subtypes of symptoms associated with each of these combination remedies: those nearer to one remedy, those nearer to the other remedy, and those more in the middle that share equally from each parent remedy…
Many cases will look a great deal like one of the remedies, let’s say Sulphur, and yet when you give the remedy it does not act. That’s because the patient needed Natrium sulph, but has 90 percent of the symptoms in the Sulphur pole and only 10 percent in the Natrium pole. Even with most of the symptoms pointing to Sulphur, Natrium sulph is the needed remedy…
[Homeopaths] often tell me that they missed the remedy because they expected to find a 50/50 split of both remedies in order to consider a combination remedy. It never occurred to them to look for a 90 percent majority of one root remedy and a 10 percent portion of the other.
And, just to make things a bit more complicated, Natrium sulph is a combination of three root remedies: Natrium muriaticum, Sulphur, and Medorrhinum.’

Paul Herscu, 1992 IFH Case Conference, pp. 69-70

How could this mineral substance have caught a sexually-transmitted disease - where does the Medorrhinum aspect come from? We ask such (odd) questions in the attempt to assimilate Dr. Herscu’s clinical insights. We ask with the intent of undoing certain prejudices in whose grip we may unconsciously be held.

One prejudice relates, firstly, to whether the world will be arranged ‘like my textbook version of it, with one list of themes on the left and another list on the right…’ Dr. Sankaran’s case (of this ‘same’ remedy, Natrium sulph - see Part One of this essay) extended this challenge into a question of how many thematic columns there should be on the page (answer: sometimes more than two, but Jan Scholten’s inclusion of Ammonium already told us that).
Secondly, Paul Herscu’s insights should remind us,
a), that ‘miasm thinking’ was the first (and still, in part, contested) version of thematic (group) thinking and,
b), that there needs to be a ‘column’ on the page for miasm grouping that is neither on the left nor on the right of the page and may not even be aligned in that direction at all… (The position taken up within Rajan Sankaran’s algebra of ‘family crossed with miasm’ is, of course, related to the matter at hand. As has been suggested elsewhere, however, the model drawn from the Periodic Table following Scholten, of a precise and exclusive intersection or crossroads, as of two axes at right angles, does not necessarily describe the complexities of the natural world. As many myths and some musicians have warned us, more things happen at the crossroads than can be predicted…)

The combining of themes is a form of scaffolding from which, in every instance, various buildings, each particular, can emerge. In chemical algebra, the themes of ‘Natrium’ and ‘Sulphur’ combine and one building emergent from this scaffolding is the building we call “Natrium sulph” which, it turns out, is an example of the sycotic style of architecture (as observed by Paul Herscu, et al) and which, it turns out, also has an ‘Oxygen’ dimension (as observed by Rajan Sankaran). Who’d have guessed it from the scaffolding? Well, fortunately it is possible, initially, to practice homeopathy by looking at the scaffolding, at the ‘chemical address,’ with a bit of help from Wikipedia! However, although helpful, this can all play out merely at the ‘technical’ level (Technetium?). The combining of constituent themes must gradually lead the attentive mind – one willing to marry left and right brains, or perhaps ‘male’ and ‘female’ aspects - toward a deeper understanding of that which is emergent and particular.

‘Emergent properties are ubiquitous in nature. The classical example of emergent properties concerns the individual properties of hydrogen and oxygen as atoms versus the unique properties that emerge when hydrogen and oxygen unite and become the molecular system called water. The unique properties of water expressed as a liquid at room temperature cannot be predicted by studying the behavior of hydrogen and oxygen independently (i.e., un-united) as separate gases at room temperature. ... [The] properties that are unique to water can only be revealed (i.e. discovered) when the particular components are allowed to interact as a unique, integrated system.’
Daniel B. Fishman et al, Paradigms in Behavior Therapy: Present and Promise, Springer, New York, 1988

‘I don’t believe at all that if a remedy is combined by two substances that you can take the symptoms of the one and the symptoms of the other, mix them together and have the symptoms of the combination. Knowing the single substances can give you good suggestions on the mixture but not more. I remember my first cases of Ars sulfuratum flavum: Every time I had clear symptoms of Ars and clear symptoms of Sulphur, and I had very good results prescribing Ars sulfuratum flavum. But at the end, after six or seven patients like this, I arrived at the point of having very good information of the remedy itself.’
Massimo Mangialavori, Interview, Links, 1996, vol. 9 (4)

Within thematic homeopathy, then, what rules can we apply to our combinatorial or algebraic thinking which might best allow our thought to evolve, as Mangiavalori’s did regarding Ars-s-f and as Herscu suggests we evolve, instancing Nat-s? The answers to this question are a work in progress but, in addition to the systematic implications of Herscu’s comment above, we have already been offered some pointers:

‘… [The] basic theme that emerges in the metallic salts is (like other salts already studied) the combined feeling of the two components. This “combined” feeling has an intensity and depth which lies in between the two, not greater – this is my experience.’
Rajan Sankaran, The Substance of Homeopathy, Bombay, 1994, p.196

‘This alternation between positive and negative is a sign of a salt. Being one way one time and changing completely is a salt.’
Rajan Sankaran, Structure, Mumbai, 2008, p.333

‘NH: So you’re looking for a structure in the periodic table?
JS: A structure, yes absolutely, not emotional pictures or something like that, but the deep inner structure, the verb, the motion. It’s there, if you’ve got the end of each period you’ve got the key to the grid, and if you’ve got all the nobles, you’ve got the key to what changes from period to period, not only within the period but also how all the seven develop from one to the other. But to do that, the way I work, I need to see the proving, because I’m looking at the inner structure of what makes a remedy tick. And that’s something that’s collected through physical symptoms, through generals, through mentals, all the way along… But the only way to find a common denominator is to go to the most simple element, you have to go simple because complex will never be a common denominator. Like if you’ve got 1/32 + 3/16 + 7/8, you can’t add them together unless you come to the most simple. So it really means potentising the understanding to simplicity.’

(Jeremy Sherr, interviewed by Nick Hewes)

‘Basic symptoms have three parts: the subject part, the object part and the relationship or action part.’
(Jan Scholten, Secret Lanthanides, p.22)

Viewing all these statements together – just those cited in this article from Herscu, Mangialavori, Sankaran, Scholten, and Sherr – we find seemingly opposite intents, either implicit or explicit. As the physicist Niels Bohr observed, “The opposite of a correct statement is an incorrect statement, but the opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth.”

The other voice to which we must attend is the voice of our own experience. I know, for example, from my own clinical experience, a), that there is a combination and an alteration of constituent elements in the behavioural presentation of an individual for whom a mineral combination remedy is homeopathic. And, b), I have also confirmed for myself that particularity is an emergent quality – where the particularity ‘n,’ is not exhaustively described by data at the previous level, ‘n-1’ - when striving to understand many aspects of life, including one’s own behaviour or that of another individual. Accordingly, from these two simple observations confirmed by experience, I make a cognitive leap, as follows: the evolutionary flight of metaphor, taking us to ever higher levels, must coexist with the runway of algebra. As noted in the previous part of this essay, constituent and emergent co-exist even though they pull in different directions.

‘A thousand years ago, the masters of the Sufi brotherhood known as the Ikhwan al-Safa (Brethren of Purity) or Khillan al-Wafa (Friends of Sincerity) were articulating the same message. In their writings they tell the story of a disillusioned worshipper who is brought to the point of attributing malice to God for ordering his creation in this way. Seeing that he is pulled apart by opposing forces, all equally embedded in God’s creation he cries out, “O God, Thou hast brought together contradictory elements, mutually pulling and repelling forces! I know no more what to do or how, lost as I am between them!” God responds first by pointing to the moral faculties he has given man that enable him to steer a middle course in life. He then reminds man of the Namus, the revealed law, which he has sent down to man through his prophets. But, as for the deepest and most fundamental contradictions of existence, he instructs man that they have been placed there not to be resolved but to be lived in full consciousness of their contradictoriness.’
Jacob Needleman, Consciousness and Tradition, Crossroads

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

Categories: Theory
Keywords: Paul Herscu, Daniel B. Fishman, Massimo Mangialavori, Rajan Sankaran, Jeremy Sherr, Niels Bohr, Jacob Needleman, Combinatorial Approach


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