When I was asked to write something about inspiring a sustained commitment to learning homeopathy, many questions came to my mind. For most of them, I got the answers from looking at my own career. What motivated me to pursue, in depth, for so many years, first traditional Chinese medicine and then my long lasting love, homeopathy? Was it something or someone that had inspired me to deviate from allopathic medicine? Even after attending two allopathic medical schools (in Belgium and in the USA), I could not be derailed from my pursuit of a true, natural healing modality. What motivated me might also motivate others, and with that in mind, I investigated my own past.
This article’s title could be misleading because the greatest expectation is on the educator – that he is solely responsible for training masterful practitioners. Why then, among all the students I’ve taught do some become outstanding practitioners while others, even after years of training, act like they’ve never heard any of my lectures. They all were present at the same lectures, but the results are quite different. But can you sit on a stool with one leg?
Only a three-legged stool forms a successful education: the teacher, the student, and the successful application of what is taught in the program (the science and art). If any of these three is unsatisfactory, it becomes a weak link, and the stool will not hold up. A free fall or failure is unavoidable. Equal strength of these three parts is ideal. Otherwise, you might be able to sustain sitting on the stool, but eventually, the weaker part will crack under the expectations of the other two parts. And one strong leg is no match for the weight, which equals success for your future enterprise and interventions. What is the first leg?
I have no doubt in my mind that any sustained commitment has to start with the student. And the ideal student (and this is equally true for the teacher) must possess several characteristics besides a moderate intelligence and memory.
A person should become a homeopath because he loves homeopathy and people. Unlike many other careers, he has a supreme chance to make his life exciting, never routine. For him every patient is an individual, a new puzzle – new and different even at each step of that person’s ongoing treatment. It is the homeopath’s special role to disseminate the truth without compromise and without regard for his or anyone else’s (pharmaceutical companies!) interests. This work can never be boring. We are in touch with the innermost lives of our patients, with emotions deeply rooted in man’s existence as a human being.
Patience is another factor important to mastering homeopathy. Anyone who has ever tried to master an art knows that great patience is required if you want to achieve anything. If you are after quick results, you will never become a master. For modern man, patience is as difficult to practice as discipline and concentration. In fact, our world loves and thrives on the exact opposite. We have publications entitled “The One-Minute Chef,” “The One-Minute Tennis Teacher,” and “The One-Minute Healer.” The latter obviously refers to the magic pill, prescribed after a one-minute conversation with the allopathic physician. There has not been, never will there be, a booklet, “Learn Homeopathy in Two Days.”
Homeopathic case taking, however, is never a battlefield or a one-sided opinion as is so often the case in allopathic consultation. Case taking implies a genuine exchange between two people who are interested in truly conversing (the word literally means turning over), where indeed the chance of voicing an opinion is turned over from one partner to the other. Brilliant formulations do not bring breakthroughs; rather, addressing what is relevant to both parties – that which genuinely concerns the patient – does. This process takes time and patience. Modern man thinks he loses something when things aren’t completed quickly; yet he doesn’t seem to know what to do with his free time – except kill it.
That concentration is a necessary condition for the mastery of an art is hardly a moot point. Even more than self-discipline, however, concentration is a rare commodity in our culture. Everybody does lots of things at once: reading, preparing food, watching TV, talking, smoking, listening to the radio, etc. A distracted homeopath or student, instead of concentrating like Sherlock Holmes, lets his mind drift to other events in his life. Worrying about his future, his family; trying to defuse the anger of the argument he just had with his spouse; thinking about his investments now being worth much less since the fall of the “dot-coms,” etc. This lack of concentration is clearly shown in our unease with being alone. Sitting still – without talking, smoking, reading, TV, or drinking something – is almost impossible for most people. They become fidgety and nervous, they must do something with their hands or mouth – like lighting up a cigarette, which occupies hands, mouth, eyes and nose. Anyone who tries to be alone will discover how difficult it is.
You must learn how to concentrate on everything you do, and for the homeopath, this means that the patient and the practitioner become one. For the student, this means that the homeopathic science and art is an all consuming process, that he can question and investigate in the true spirit of the scientist: “Do not accept anything without investigation, but still less, do not reject anything without trying it.”
Other characteristics are expected from the student-homeopath if he is not to become the first obstacle to the making of an excellent healer. The practice of any art, and especially of such a difficult and intricate one as homeopathy, requires discipline. I shall never be good at anything if I do not practice and study it in a disciplined way. Anything I do only “if I’m in the mood” may be fine as a hobby, but I shall never become a master of that art. This does not only mean studying and practicing homeopathy a certain number of hours everyday – it also means immersing oneself in this healing art.
Plenty of people could be called disciplined if you count working eight hours a day. In fact, the majority of people fall into this category. But modern people, and indeed most modern homeopaths and students, have little self-discipline outside of the sphere of work. When a person is not working, he wants to be lazy or, to use a more polite word, relax. This wish for laziness is largely a reaction against the feeling of living in a rut. Since most people find themselves trapped in a situation where they expend their energy on purposes not their own, on the needs of a job to which they have not given their whole heart, they become almost rebellious.
Without discipline, life becomes shattered, chaotic and lacking in concentration, but being disciplined need not be “painful.” The East has
long recognized that what is truly good for man – for his body and his soul – must be agreeable and fun, even though at the beginning some resistance and “pain” may need to be overcome.
A final condition for someone wishing to become a good homeopath is a supreme concern with the mastery of the art. If the art is not something important in his eyes, the apprentice never will learn it. We do not have to elaborate on the importance of homeopathy as a healing system since it imitates mighty Nature in a very gentle way. Many homeopaths, not making their art a true priority in their lives, remain beginners, good dilettantes, but never a master. I know homeopaths who have “been in practice” for 25 years and still sin against the cardinal principles of homeopathy, bringing disgrace to our beautiful science.
If the student does not possess the above qualities, how will even the best teacher in the world, and the truly natural superior healing method that homeopathy is, make an interested and ultimately successful student?
What is the motivation of this homeopathic student? Is it ease of life he is after? Does he look for approval from the medical world? Are financial concerns his ruling emotion? Does he look for a science that is easily mastered? If those are his motivations, it’s probably best to learn something else!
My own motivation was simple: fresh out of medical school, after three months in practice, I was bored and totally dissatisfied with the “promised” results of the allopathic world. “Promised” cures turned into a masterful art of suppression, which painfully delayed the patient’s demise. I could see very few changes on the horizon, and 30 years later, this has proven to be true. What brought me to the traditional healing path was my greatest desire to make a difference in people’s health, and to quote Hahnemann’s immortal words, “I did not live in vain.” To this day I have not regretted this change. On the contrary, I feel that I have earned far more gratitude and appreciation from my patients and derived far more satisfaction than I ever could have dreamed of if I had remained an allopathic practitioner.
“It is only by sustaining the sharpest kind of work that you will keep up your reputation,
and be able to cure people.” — Kent
Kent’s aphorism reflects the first quality of a good teacher. A teacher able to inspire his students has already made a reputation in practicing homeopathy and obtaining consistently good results. He is not just a bookworm or an academician, he has been on the front lines and has been confronted with many kinds of human suffering. He does not shy away from any case. And no patient, rich or poor, knocks in vain at his door. Characteristics that make him a good practitioner as well as a good teacher are important to investigate.
The first factor is sympathy, which is inseparable from love for humanity. A practitioner who is in touch with the patient as a person is able to discover many symptoms, which would escape a purely intellectual attitude. Sympathy is akin to intuition, and instinct is sympathy: we perceive a great deal instinctively before we grasp it intellectually. Much of the art of prescribing lies in the quality of sympathy. This is one factor that cannot be taught to the student. I had students who excelled in their academic environment, but were unable to connect with their patients for lack of sympathy. Maybe it was an active syphilitic miasmatic state that prevented them from doing so. Maybe the student/practitioner could not find the strength to look at his shadow side in order to further his individuation process as Jung called it. “Heal Thyself” should be in order first! And the balanced teacher shows the way through his own example, which is often more powerful then his words!
This connects with another important quality of the teacher: objectivity toward his patients, his students, and toward himself. An objective vantage point allows one to observe from above and from the outside. Without objectivity, we are blind. An investigation driven by misplaced emotions such as pride and egotism prevent us from truly connecting with the student. The practitioner must truly know himself. In order for this to be, we must untangle ourselves from the constant pull of emotions, the threads that tie us to misplaced desires, opinions and thoughts, which seduce us like the siren’s song. Our minds must be forceful and clear enough to resist this pull and gradually rise above it.
However, the most outstanding quality of a teacher must be his in-depth knowledge of his science and art. This seems to be a misnomer. Why do most practicing homeopaths and teachers act like homeopathy is frozen in time around 1828. Most of the techniques used and taught are from Hahnemann’s work prior to 1828! Although Hahnemann’s personal practice grew immensely beyond the stage of the 4th edition Organon, homeopathy as a whole did not. This is more than strange because the next 14 years of Hahnemann’s career were the most productive of his life.
Many teachers fail to heed Kent’s advice. He warns us to teach first the science, and only then the art! What are the results if the teacher ignores such advice? We often see cases presented in journals and at conferences in which the remedy is selected based on no observable or educated principles, only by matching one or two uncommon or peculiar symptoms with a remedy. The result for the student is bewildering and overwhelming; it seems that an encyclopedic knowledge of materia medica is necessary before even beginning a homeopathic practice.
Even live cases or video cases, in which the student can watch the instructor examine the patient and select the remedy, are not instructive unless the student has first learned solid principles of case-taking, potency selection and symptom analysis. I have been with 150 students who were in total despair after a seminar, thinking that the teacher was a “genius” and “that there was no hope for them ever to become a decent homeopath.” Is this what teaching is all about? Is teaching an opportunity for some teachers to demonstrate how they “see” things that you, the simple and mortal student, can only dream of seeing? Yet, these same teachers, driven by misplaced egotism, fail to follow the most sacred and logical principles of homeopathy, which are outlined in the 5th and 6th editions of the Organon, not the 4th! I wonder if they’ve read each page of the 5th and 6th editions. And, do they see any differences? These teachers would benefit from reading the different editions of the Organon and Hahnemann’s article, On the choice of a family physician (Hahnemann, 1990, p. 236). And then apply what Hahnemann said about being a good practitioner.
Another kind of teacher to question is the one who always sings the manta, “Homeopathy did not stop with Hahnemann. I want to do my own version of homeopathy and Hahnemann would have been proud of my experiences!” Yes, it is the duty of every generation to go beyond the last one. Hering once said, “It is the duty of all of us to go further in the theory and practice of homeopathy than Hahnemann has done. We ought to seek the truth, which is before us and forsake the errors of the past.”
Homeopathy has evolved considerably in the last 150 years. Nevertheless, homeopaths still have much to learn from what Hahnemann taught in his works. I doubt he would be proud if we are sinning against and omitting basic laws and rules. I do agree that too much dogma is always counterproductive and that an open mind is an important part of growth. I can hope that we all can progress beyond Hahnemann’s knowledge, but we are not going arrive there by denying that the Organon had anything to do with it. The Organon is the text on which homeopathic healing is based. I never thought it was a religious document to be followed blindly, but I treat it with the utmost respect, because without it there would be no homeopathy. Insults from homeopaths, such as “religious dogma,” “stuck in the past,” and “that old bible,” will undermine the careful observations of several generations of experienced homeopaths. To “modernize” homeopathy by ignoring its legacy is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. It would be more fruitful for us to thoroughly study the Organon. The foundation for the hard works of countless men and women who came before us and dedicated their entire lives to the enrichments of homeopathy is the Organon. The speed of light has not changed over the centuries, and neither have the homeopathic laws of healing.
I have no problem with new theories as long as they don’t contradict our sacred laws. But before you think you have discovered something new, study Hahnemann! You will most likely find that he already tried it. To the many speculative theories set forth by new guru teachers, I can repeat Hahnemann’s words to the allopaths:
Even the student was taught to think he was master of the art of discovering and removing diseases, when he had stuffed his head with these baseless hypotheses, which seemed made for the express purpose of distracting his brains, and leading him as far as possible away from a true conception of disease and its cure. (Hahnemann, 1990, Speculative Systems of Medicine, p. 490)
These words apply also to the many students of these new guru teachers, who would benefit from studying the different editions of the Organon alongside the editions of Chronic Diseases.
All this leads us now to the third part necessary to create enthusiasm, confidence and motivation in future homeopathic students – homeopathy’s tools and methods.
The Science and Art: The Tools and Methods
Wherever I teach, whoever the audience, two observations remain constant. First of all, most students have no idea that methods exist for finding the simillimum. As some students said me after my lecture in Durban, South Africa (where they attend a six-year, full-time school), “Before you came here, we had given up on the idea that we had to find one simillimum for each case.” I have been at seminars where students labored over their computer to find the simillimum, hoping that the computer would fill in what they lacked: a systematic and comprehensive approach to the simillimum. Of course, the computer disappointed them: “Garbage in, garbage out!”
I have been in seminars where the same teacher comes back every year for 10 years in a row, and the vast majority of the students still have no idea how to approach a case. Several methods are available, but they have one thing in common: they are all based on homeopathy’s laws and principles, with provings as the crown jewel. Whether you use the von Boenninghausen method, a miasmatic analysis, or Periodic Table approach, you must resolve the case by using the symptoms of the patient according to their value (which was promoted by Hahnemann and Kent). All these methods have one thing in common – they do not rely on speculation or hypothesis! I am unwilling to let patients suffer through aggravations if a better solution has already been proposed and thoroughly tested for many years by countless practitioners.
The second observation is that the art of homeopathy is rarely taught. I refer here to managing the patient. What we mostly read or hear is, “This is the remedy given in such and such potency, and six months later the patient is much better!” We usually see use of the 4th edition Organon, “Watch and Wait” method. Is this what the practitioner and student find in the practice?
I would like to hear the details about what happened during those six months. What did you do when the patient showed accessory symptoms, similar aggravations, new symptoms or healing reactions? This is the reality in practice and something the student must be acquainted with if he ever hopes to be successful. Show me how good you are at managing cases, and I will know whether you are a good homeopath.
One way teachers can motivate students and instill a sustained commitment to learning homeopathy is to present new cases. Don’t present old cases with known outcomes. Take a new live case, unknown to you, in front of the class, and see these patients in subsequent classes. You can teach students how to manage these cases based on what’s happened. Such successful treatment in front of your students will arouse their enthusiasm and desire to practice homeopathy. Try to get new cases that will return for follow-up appointments in order to maximize the learning opportunities.
The only thing that stimulates anyone in any profession is the true real successes they achieve. For the homeopath (as it should be for any health practitioner), it is the true natural cure of true chronic diseases (those belonging to Aphorism 78: “The true natural chronic diseases are those that arise from a chronic miasm…”).
The answer to our beginning question is simple: look for a teacher who is well versed in the true principles of homeopathy; who knows the importance of continued study; who recognizes that advancement can only be obtained through hard honest work; and who is introspective and looks at his own shadow side. The methods he uses should be sound and supported by the infallible natural laws set forth by Hahnemann. We hope that such teachers find students who are motivated by a sincere desire to help people, because they love people; and for which studying this science and art becomes their life, independent of outside interests. This was all I needed to become a homeopath. This work can never be boring. Bring the three legs of the stool together, and you can sit on it with confidence, hope and the reassurance that your life, indeed, was not in vain!
- Hahnemann, S. 1990. The Lesser Writings of Hahnemann. Translated by R.E. Dudgeon. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
- Hahnemann, S. Organon of the Medical Art. Sixth Edition. Translated by J. Kűnzli, A. Naudé and P. Pendleton. Washington: Cooper Publishing.
- De Schepper, L. 2004. Achieving and Maintaining the Simillimum. New Mexico. Full of Life publishing.
- Hahnemann, S. 1997. The Chronic Diseases: Their Peculiar Nature and Their Homeopathic Cure. Translated by L.Tafel, edited by P. Dudley. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers, Pvt, Ltd.
About the Author: Dr Luc De Schepper is the founder and sole teacher of the Renaissance Institute of Classical Homeopathy since 1993. He is the author of over 15 books.