Dynamic Materia Medica: Syphilis - Jeremy Sherr
The purpose of this book is to amalgamate a number of parallel concepts into a unified and holistic composition that reflects the intrinsic nature of homoeopathy. The first concept is to create multidimensional remedy pictures. Using a left and right brain approach, this book weaves old and new provings, toxicology, physiology, clinical experience, poetry, stories, alchemy, ancient text amd modern film into a holistic materia medica. Each remedy is presented in a different way to demonstrated the many facets of materia medica.
The second concept of this book is to study remedy synthesis. In every case or remedy investigation, it is important to conclude with a synthesis of what is to be cured. A method of synthesis using grammar and geometry is clearly shown throughout this book.
The third concept of this book is a search for the core of the syphilitic miasm. By looking for the common denominator of eleven syphilitic remedies, a simple synthesis of the miasms is found.
- Author: Sherr Jeremy
- 280 pages
- Printed in UK
- ISBN: 9781901147049
Reprinted with the permission of The Society of Homeopaths (from "The Homeopath" magazine, January 2003 edition):
Reviewed by Nick Hewes:
All homeopaths are secretly fascinated by the syphilitic miasm - it's our very own slice of tabloid prurience, tantalising us with lurid tales of sex and violence, which offer us temporary relief from the psoric (prosaic?) grind of our daily working lives. So perhaps it is no accident that Jeremy Sherr, a marketing genius, has chosen the third miasm, syphilis, as the starting point of his examination of the miasms. The logical place to have begun would surely have been psora, but the latter has none of the enticing allure of syphilis: - the fact is, that as we sail westwards from psora, through sycosis and thence to syphilis, the miasms appear to become progressively more interesting, more tormented and more sexy. It may not be top shelf material, but it will definitely sell.
The book comes not in a brown paper bag, but rather with handsome hard covers, and superior binding , having been stitched into robust sections. (One wonders why the other Dynamis books, especially the two volumes of provings, which are after all designed for constant reference, are not also bound in this way.)
In the opening chapter Jeremy introduces us to his use of 'the verb' as a method of analysis - "As homeopaths dealing with dynamic forces we should pay more attention to verbs than to nouns" he says, noting that conventional medicine deals mainly with nouns, in its attempt to frame every dynamic state of illness within the static confines of a fixed label. 'The verb' simply represents the repeated pattern of a patient's 'life action', or function, which resonates on all levels, mental, emotional and physical. This faulty function is mirrored by a pathological sensation, or feeling. In this way, sensation and function create each other, with the returning logic of a ball bouncing off a wall.
This explanatory chapter is important because, at the end of each of the later chapters describing the various (carious?) syphilitic remedies, an attempt is made to find the relevant verb of the remedy under discussion. The chapter on Aurum, for example, ends with this summary:
"Sensation: too high, too low. Function: Must climb up to fall down."
As someone who has always struggled with using 'the verb', I only wish Jeremy had published this chapter separately as an instruction manual ten years ago, as it really does project his ideas with crystalline clarity.
The bulk of the book then goes on to examine a dozen or so of our main syphilitic remedies. In order to draw out the dominant themes of that miasm, Jeremy employs various innovative and colourful methods, the most obvious of which is the use of poetry. Many of these are by Jeremy himself; all of them are readable, some are very good, and two or three are stunning. Some of the poems appear in a "split frame" format, which allows the verse on one side to be complemented by a remedy's proving symptoms on the opposite page. Take, for example, these lines on Aurum:
"Love of dejection Savouring pain Resuming the journey I'm climbing again."
On the opposite page, we find this proving symptom from Hahnemann: "He imagines that he finds everywhere some obstacle in his way." Although our eyes have to track back and forth from verse to prose, a process that slightly interrupts our assimilation of the poem, the reader benefits because one is forced to understand the remedy from both left and right sides of the brain. At the very least, it's an enjoyable way of studying a proving. (Incidentally, regarding these lines on Aurum, why was there absolutely no mention in the book of the Greek figure, Sisyphus, who, as a punishment for cheating death, was condemned to endlessly roll a huge rock up a hill, which was always doomed, Aurum-like, to roll back to the bottom again? His name, after all, is closer to the word 'syphilis' than almost any other word in our language.)
Apart from his own poems, Jeremy uses quotations, images and archetypes from many other sources, so that we may have cherries with our medicine. The portrait of Androctonos for example, is given a vivid splash of contemporary colour with a discussion of that extremely dangerous scorpion, Saddam - "cold hearted, cruel, cunning and violent". There are also extensive quotations from the poem that gave syphilis its name, Girolamo Fracastoro's Syphilis Sive Morbus Gallicus. Although a renaissance work, Fracastroro's poem serves to remind us that syphilis has ancient, biblical roots, which penetrate to a distant, Arcadian past.
In his remedy descriptions Jeremy writes skilfully, often embedding particular key words within a text in an encoded, almost cryptic style. When discussing Syphilinum, for example, he writes of "the need to fill gaping holes in our materia medica." On Kent's mention of razors in his Hepar sulphuris lecture he writes: "This well known and cutting quote from Kent has caused some contention. Sensibilities are offended." The pinnacle of the book though, is the short lecture on Platina. Without wishing to abase myself with spaniel-like gestures of self-obeisance, I have to say that I have not read a better dissection of that remedy, anywhere.
One of the most striking innovations in Syphilis is the use of geometric shapes and forms in order to help us to understand miasmatic disease processes. In Syphilinum, for example, the central image is of parallel lines that can never join, "doomed to travel an endless, lifeless path, without so much as a curve...there is no end". (We see these lines of course in the bilateral syphilitic headaches.) The opposing function of this linear separation is "to converge to a point", which we see delineated in Mercury's "desire to kill with a knife", in Platina's feeling of being cut in two, in Hepar's throat-slashing barber, in the eye-stabbing needles of Androctonos, and in the ulcerated triangles of tibia and nose.
This use of geometry is dextrous and convincing, but it has the paradoxical effect of slightly undercutting Jeremy's earlier insistence on the primacy of "the verb" as an analytical tool. For, is it not possible, as Sheldrake states in A New Science of Life, that form (in this case triangles, lines and points) is primary to energy and action? It is certainly the case that images and forms tend to be more recognisable and memorable than actions, and therefore may be of more use to homeopaths. In the end though, form and action must always come together, as a package (see the Organon, aphorism 15, on the duality of the body and the vital force: "...the two constitute a unity, although in thought our mind separates this unity into two distinct conceptions...").
At the end of the book, the striking points of the various syphilitic remedies are drawn together, in an attempt to find the 'synthesis' of the miasm. The breathtaking conclusion is that syphilis is merely an acute form of psora - the parallel lines of syphilis are really only extensions of the tedious psoric split of male from female, whilst the "converging to a point" is the compensatory compulsion to join right and left (sometimes also known as sex), expressed even by the desperate, endless hand washing of Syphilinum. In the end then, after all the lurid pages of tabloid sleaze, we return once more to the old, psoric story of a boy and a girl who wander, unthinking, into an orchard, and pick the wrong apple from the wrong tree: - there is, after all, "no new thing under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). This connection between the two miasms reminded me of my own lightweight theorising from a couple of years back, which went something like this: - psora implies a desire for others to die (due to a feeling that one must struggle to survive), whilst syphilis manifests as a desire to kill them (because the imperative to survive has become much more desperate and compelling).
What is there to say in criticism of Syphilis? On a personal level, I felt deeply affronted that there was absolutely no mention of Hull, my home town: - this is, after all, the place where archaeologists recently discovered irrefutable lesions on the disinterred shinbones of thirteenth centuary monks, thus proving that syphilis existed in Europe long before Columbus' voyage to the Americas. Hull, still deeply syphilitic, is, on the face of it, a filthy, wretched place, and the city could well have benefited from a public relations campaign, exalting its glorious past as 'European Cradle of the Pox'. A re-branding opportunity has definitely been missed.
Another possible minus point is the amount of space given to a new proving of Phytolacca - fifty pages in all. Although this part of the book offered some startling insights into our favourite tonsillitis remedy, the proving could surely have benefited from some discrete but ruthless editorial slashing. One reflects fondly upon Timothy Allen's 'mind' section of the proving of Arsenicum album: - its three pages tell us all we will ever need to know about the mental state of that remedy, a fact that will always slightly undermine the flatulent verbosity of the average modern prover.
Thirdly, there are perhaps too many silly typographical errors - lower case where there should be higher case, semi-colons where there should be colons - that seem out of place in a work which is otherwise of such high quality.
On the whole, though, Syphilis is a lovely book. At times it seems to give unearthly glimpses of a potential higher reality - an intimation of the spiritual radiance that enlightens our alchemical journey. One realises that homeopathy can no longer be bracketed simply as a form of medicine, because it has the potential to be art, science, drama, philosophy and more, containing all of life's forms within itself. The idea of confining homeopathy within purely medical framework seems sadly narrowing and retrograde, especially when seen against the open spirit of Jeremy's innovative work, which invites us, rather, to
"Rise together Through the clouds As on wings."
Second review. Reprinted with the permission of The Homeopathic Link magazine, Volume 15, Winter 2002:
Reviewed by Francis Treuherz, UK:
Here is an exciting, challenging, essential and original book on one of the three traditional yet misunderstood miasms. Take a look at your shelves and do you have a recent textbook on the miasms which you have studied, understood, and enjoyed reading? I doubt it. For example many people have Ortega's Notes on the Miasms translated from the Spanish by Harris Coulter in an Indian facsimile of the Mexican edition but few have ever finished it from cover to cover. We have grappled with Hahnemann's 'Chronic Diseases' in the 1896 Tafel translation and never seen the 1845 Hempel version, and we have been forced into studying dry textbooks by Allen, Kent, Close, Roberts or Vithoulkas. There have been brave but speculative attempts at characterising how miasms may be detected in varied clinical situations: how a skin ailment or an emotional crisis could be diagnosed as being Psoric, Sycotic or Syphilitic by Banerjea. There are 'new' miasms like Cancer or Tuberculosis, and there are even newer miasms like the Leprosy or Ringworm of Sankaran. But there has been nothing as deeply and firmly rooted in our history and in our classic methodologies as this. I was really absorbed while reading this book; I placed sticky notes all over it on pages I want to read again. I understood the Gestalt of one of the provings I never really grasped before. I want to read the volumes on Sycosis and Psora next but I am sure he has not yet written them. I wonder if he will write one on Rabies, the half-acute miasm?
Dynamic symptoms are more characteristic. There are many more dynamic themes in this introductory chapter, illustrations from poetry, including his own original poetry, quotes from the 'Organon', from Galileo, and much more. Some themes are in a thread through the book on coloured pages, pale blue with dark blue print, a left brain and right brain approach. There are extracts from the epic poem on Syphilis by Fracostoro first published in 1530. Another feature is clean artistic and symbolic diagrams. There are many more subtle and even hidden aspects, as subtle as our materia medica.
Then there are the materia medica chapters, relying on every homeopathic source imaginable from provings through cases and toxicology, and always with blue pages and a dynamic summary: Androctonus, Aurum, Haliaetus, Guaiacum, Hepar, Mercurius, Phytolacca, Platina, Stillingia, Syphilinum - of course, Thallium, and finally the Syphilitic Zone from Iridium to Plumbum. Some of our materia medica books read like a railway timetable; this one is a contribution to our literature.
At the end of the book is an account of the disease by Tina Quirk that relies on modern sources. She cites Quetel, Niki-foruk, McNeill, Coulter and Karlen among other authors, I thought I was eccentric in having studied these works, but I can now review this chapter as first rate. I always go for the bibliography when I start a book. I also read this chapter right away after the bibliography. This certainly helps us understand Syphilis as few of us have clinical experience of active Syphilis even if we have seen AIDS. Jeremy is generous with his acknowledgements to colleagues who have helped with this book. The production standards are high, but there is no index.
This is a work of maturity. Jeremy has transcended the more prosaic yet necessary methodology of provings and the arduous work involved in creating published provings. He has begun a synthesis of the deeper possibilities of homeopathic healing. He has taken the tedium out of studying the miasms, the parallel lines have begun to converge, and this book will be the roots of the tree of life and knowledge.