Homeopathic Remedies for the Stages of Life
In the follow-up to his internationally acclaimed book, The Spirit of Homeopathic Medicines: Essential Insights to 300 Remedies, homeopathic paediatrician Dr Didier Grandgeorge has written a book that draws on more than twenty years of clinical experience to guide us along the journey of human life. Homeopathic Remedies for the Stages of Life begins at the unicellular stage and continues into childhood, progressing through to old age and the final moments of existence. Dr Grandgeorge explains the philosophical significance of each of the successive phases of life, referencing some of the most commonly experienced physical and psychological symptoms and their homeopathic remedies. The connections he makes are enlightening and practical and are illustrated by the fascinating case histories of his patients. Dr Grandgeorge's thoughtful observations will prove invaluable to anyone wishing to gain insights into child development and the workings of the human psyche.
- Author: Didier Grandgeorge
- ISBN: 9781556434099
- 145 pages
- Published in 1999
- Printed in United States
Reprinted with the permission of The Society of Homeopaths, (from "The Homeopath" Journal October 2002 edition). Reviewed by Nick Hewes.
This is without doubt the most difficult book I've yet reviewed, which is a strange thing, given that it is quite short, and intensely readable. The reason is probably due to the surfeit of amazing ideas that are packed into its 144 pages. There is simply so much here to talk about, that the biggest problem is knowing where to start.
Well, to do the traditional thing, and start at the beginning, I must tell you that Didier Grandgeorge's preface is the first piece of homeopathic writing in years to make me want to exclaim "Yes!" out loud. (If a piece of writing makes you want to shout, light a cigar, get down on your knees, or something like that, you know it must be good.)
In the preface, Grandgeorge asserts that "The human body and its various sicknesses...are nothing more than the result of the struggle that the spirit faces along its path towards the light, the Knowledge. Trapped within the matter that gives it motion, this spirit is the prey of the internal predators that push it to regress to the early selfish stages of development." This is essentially a restatement of the Gnostic truth, that life is often a journey of pain.
As student homeopaths we are all taught that life is perfectible, that total physical health is an achievable aim; to some extent, subconsciously, we all share the ghastly Cosmopolitan vision of our bodies as temples, or consumer items. But reality tells us that, on the contrary, the residence of the soul within the body may actually be anomalous, even unpleasant, sometimes making us feel that we are strangers in a strange land.
Grandgeorge has a deeply spiritual view of health and disease, reminding one at times of Kent's unifying philosophical purity and simplicity. He believes that our mission in life is to progress from love of 'I' (in the form of personal pleasure), through love of 'We' (family and community), finally to love of One' - universal). He frames this threefold image in the Trinity of Christian iconography. As we progress through life, we are presented with many and various challenges, which obviously change as we grow older. The purpose of Homeopathic Remedies for the Stages of Life is to trace these changes and challenges, and to suggest remedies that may help us to progress on our journey. The idea of identifying remedy types in the context of a particular stage of life confirms the simple reality of every homeopath's experience, which is that most patients need - different remedies at different times. Although our ideal of 'the perfect cure' is the patient who returns, year after year, always needing exactly the same remedy, which never fails to work beautifully, it is surely more realistic to expect our passage through this rough world to be buffeted by shifting pressures, and therefore to assume that our remedies will also change over time.
The really startling aspect of this book is the unity of the author's vision. In every patient, one feels, there is only ever one, single problem that needs to be corrected. If the remedy does not address that primary, simple flaw, then there is simply no hope of cure. Grandgeorge has the Shaman's gift of perceiving that very thing, that does its best not to be seen, and without which, our best efforts can merely palliate. He believes that the identity of an illness often resides in a single word, and that the beginning of all illness lies in "unexpressed words and feelings...When words remain unspoken, they are suppressed into the unconscious and can act like a curse affecting several generations, as they get handed down from parent to child.
"The second aspect of the book which is especially striking is the multiplicity of approaches that the author uses to interpret his subject matter: he seems to be equally comfortable with a tremendously wide variety of philosophical traditions, such as Freudian and Jungian analysis, Greek mythology, the Kabala ("The human body is like a vast temple, with the feet as its foundations and the head as its roof"), colour theory, the doctrine of signatures and more besides. What this tells us is that Grandgeorge is willing to use whatever method happens to come to hand, in his quest, to firstly, understand his patients, and secondly, to find them the best remedy. As an example, take this Cabbalistic reading of the word Ignatia: "literally meaning 'ignited by love' Ignatia Amara is the remedy for people suffering from disappointed or "unhappy love." Or his use of Greek myth to describe Arnica: "They are like the first marathon runner, who ran all the way to Athens to announce the Greeks' victory over Persia, but then immediately died from an overstrained heart." Knowing that the most felicitous path to the similimum is through metaphor, symbol and analogy, Grandgeorge shows us his dexterity in synthesizing ideas and myths from the world over.
He believes that the basis of much pathology, especially in childhood, is the refusal to progress from love of the 'I', with its desire for personal pleasure, to love of the 'We'. this often takes the form of a fear of separation from the mother. In order to illustrate this perennial theme, the author frequently invokes the Freudian theme of the Oedipus complex. as a result the book is positively stuffed with Oedipal images: for example, "Lachesis has murderous impulses - he wants to kill his father...he sees the husband as a parasite that needs to be killed." Or "Cenchris contortrix is for the morbidly curious child who secretly watches his parents and surprises them in the act of making love." Some of the chapters are even named with Freud's work in mind, for example "The Oral Stage", and, "The Anal Stage".
Now the Freudian model is used to good effect, in that it illustrates Grandgeorge's ideas very clearly. From a purely personal standpoint, however, it can seem jarring that so many remedies are seen in this way, because, at least from a homeopathic point of view, Freud is quite a dark figure; he spent much of his time looking down in the dirt, for the black beetles of the subconscious (much like the Cenchris child who spied on his parents), whilst his friend Jung was looking up at the passage of the soul through the clouds of eternity. One could even say that Freud's work has had a polluting effect on Western culture, dwelling as it does on the slime at the bottom of the basement. We all know that the slime is down there, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. In every homeopath there lurks a Hyoscyamus, searching zealously for dirt like any good detective. But we all need to take care not to dwell too much in the "j'accuse" mode. The Freudian approach, whilst it may help us in our detective work, may also, if we overuse it, sometimes lead us to see dirt where there isn't any, like those social workers who suspect a hidden history of childhood sexual abuse in every case, even when such suspicions are clearly unfounded.
Another criticism is that the author is sometimes apt to make startling leaps of logic. For example, after stating that cannabis "has the effect of brutally separating the unconscious superego from the Shadow", Grandgeorge concludes alarmingly this process will end in "car thefts, gang rape - literally anything goes". Cannabis abuse may cause people to forget to return their library books, but gang rape? Surely not. Or, writing on health-food fanatics, he states that: "Some people refuse all vaccinations, which I believe to be unreasonable. Among these abstainers, some put their trust in organic foods and a healthy lifestyle. This is the case with Calcarea silicata who as we've already seen, often remains attached to people who have long been dead..." Now, call me traditional, but I still can't see the connection between crusty vegan hypochondriacs and people who talk to the dead!
In a similar vein, sometimes the remedy pictures are simply too brief to be assimilated: Taraxacum is the pupil who does nothing unless there's someone behind him, urging him on all the while". Or: "lodum patients are the ones who tear a ligament while playing football...He seeks the third dimension, but never stands still long enough to find it..." On reading these remedy snapshots, one sometimes feels that this shamanistic acuity of vision, which Grandgeorge obviously possesses, is quite simply beyond the ken of most mortal workaday homeopaths. As he homes in like an arrow on the simillimum, we are still struggling with case-analysis, hierarchy of symptoms, rubrics, differential diagnosis, and so on.
On the whole, though, this is a refreshingly good book, thoroughly readable, even page-turningly readable! The author's use of poetic imagination in both unravelling the case, and also in finding the remedy, is, on the whole, stunning, to the extent that one even begins to wonder if the patients' improvement may be due more to the author's transformative vision and creative energy, than to the actual choice of remedy - if the imaginative vision of the therapist is powerful enough, maybe the remedy is not so important? After all, as Grandgeorge tells us again and again, "In the beginning was the Word", with the inevitable after thought that the curative remedy is merely one form of the Word). So, if you want to be shaken up a bit, and taken to a new and different corner of the homeopathic world, the 'Homeopathic remedies for the Stages of Life' will oblige in the most accessible way possible.
Reprinted with the permission of The Homeopathic Links Journal, Volume 16, Summer 2003. Reviewed by Dr Joseph Rozencwajg, MD, PhD, New Zealand.
I am a fan of Didier Grandgeorge; I read all his other books in French, so I could not miss the opportunity to review this one.
Grandgeorge is a classical homeopath and paediatrician with deep roots in psychology and psychiatry. He founded the Hahnemannian School in the south of France. He lives, practices and teaches in Marseille. I had the pleasure to meet him and hear him at an international congress a few years ago. He has a deep, intimate knowledge of remedies. Not the type where you know by rote - everything that is written about a remedy - but the kind where a remedy comes to life in front of you when he speaks about it. The kind of knowledge where a remedy becomes a living entity and you'll have a personal relationship with it.
In the first part of this book, Grandgeorge guides us through the human body and most of its organs, describing in his way, the main remedies he has found useful for those organs through his clinical work. At first reading, it might seem like a 'this for that' approach, especially as the number of remedies is limited and we know many other remedies that have an influence on the organs. But what he gives us here is the result of many years of clinical observation with cases, so this is an introduction to another way to look at remedies and their action. And what precision in the remedies! On page 35, here he writes about Chelidonium: 'Chelidonium falls prey to spiritual doubts and develops a bald patch on the crown, just like a monk'. What a way to explain the patchy baldness linked to Chelidonium, what a link to an intimate and unusual concept for what most of us consider a 'small' remedy!
The second part goes from conception to death and deals with most of the events that we encounter during our life, the hurdles, the stepping stones, the changes and the traumas. Each period again has a link to a few remedies that he has found most useful, and again there are some unusual and mind boggling descriptions of remedies. Page 103, Chapter 14, covering from age seven to puberty, the latency period, he describes Taraxacum as 'the pupil who does nothing unless there is someone behind him, urging him on all the while'. I never imagined I would consider using Taraxacum for a learning problem.
Grandgeorge does not attempt to give an exhaustive description of all the remedies that could be used for each and every event in the development of life. I wish he would do that in a later book, though. What he manages to do is to have us look at remedies through a totally different perspective. He knows what has worked for his patients; he has attempted to explain why it worked and tested the generalisation of his explanations on the following patients, and found them to be correct: that is real experimental science!
Still, this concept could be conceived as a shortcut, so I would not recommend it to students who do not yet have a good basic concept of how to approach a patient. Like Sankaran or Scholten's methods, Grandgeorge's more psychoanalytical and symbolic approach would be more useful to experienced homeopaths.
It is also a book well-written and easy to read, actually quite fun to read, as is most of what Grandgeorge writes.