The Materia Medica of Milk
This book contains a wealth of information from provings, cases and group analysis on lacs in general and fourteen lacs in particular: Lac asinum, Lac caninum, Lac caprinum, Lac defloratum, Lac dolphinum, Lac equinum, Lac felinum, Lac humanum, Lac lupinum, Lac leoninum, Lac maternum, Lac owleum and Lac ovis.
The following internally well known authors and teachers have contributed articles to this book: Divya Chabra, Kees Dam, Patricia Hatherly, Nancy Herrick, Jessica Jackson, Linda Johnston, Jacques Lamothe, Patricia LeRoux, Anne Nidecker, Manish Panchal, Uta Santos, Joan Scott Lowe, Tinus Smits, Annette Sneevliet, Alize Timmerman, Frans Vermeulen, Jorg Wichmann, Anne Wirtz, Ananda Zaren and Harry van der Zee.
- Author: Homeopathic Links
- ISBN: 9789080710320
- 260 pages
- Printed in The Netherlands
Reprinted with the permission of The Society of Homeopaths (from "The Homeopath magazine April 2003 edition):
Reviewed by Ilana Dannheisser:
This is the first book to be produced by the publishers of Homeopathic Links, the international jounal for classical Homeopathy. A unique journal, Links is published in several languages and contains contributions by Homeopaths from all around the world. All the articles in this collection first appeared in magazine form in this highly esteemed quarterly journal. The first - a piece on Lac felinum by Divya Chhabra - dates from March 1995. A number of the others appeared in one edition, in April 2002. If you are a subsciber to Links, the book is not essential reading, as you would already have all the articles in the journals; it is, however, valuable to see the remedy pictures side by side, in one publication: because the book is the work of many different authors, the feeling is of one collective consciousness. The advantage is that each author illuminates a particular facet of the subject with a different colour and feeling.
It is interesting to compare the differences and similarities of ideas and styles. For me this is a valuable exercise, because a book like this is not just about materia medica, though that is the basic premise. Underlying any discussion of the various remedies, lies the philosophy of provings, and the entire underpinning of our homeopathic practice. So while it contains a wealth of rich information, profound insight and considerable detail, there is work to be done in the evaluation and sorting of this information. Part of the result of this eclectic approach, is that there is some variation in attention to detail and rigour; there is a range of 'woolliness'. Whether or not that detracts from the meaning or the content, I think, is up to the reader. What is 'woolly'? Floating vague ideas, making generalisations based on limited substance, using concepts without explanation. Some authors are guided (it seems) mainly by intuition and spirit, others focus primarily on listing the symptoms of the provings, and a few achieve a balance with exquisitely grounded insight. What does it matter? Advances occur through creative, right-brain, divergent processes; sometimes we have to strive to be open, while at other times we need to work towards refinement and clarity - qualities which are the very opposite of wooley.
Animals represented are: donkey, dog, goat, cow (lac defloratum), dolphin, horse,cat, human (lac humanum and lac maternum), lion, wolf, sheep, pig and owl. Yes, OWL. No, I didn't think owls had milk either. For some reason this was where I started reading... heading straight for the strange, rare and peculiar. Apparently, when this article (written by Uta Santos-Konig, Jorg Wichmann and Harry van der Zee) first came to the editorial board of Links, they did not know whether to take it seriously. In the book's preface for the article, you are invited to judge for yourself. We witness, "The dawning of a remedy" - Lac owleum. This is actually made from a secretion of the rump gland, which the owl applies to wounds, especially when the young are injured. And it is indeed called 'owl's milk' by hunters. But more importantly, we hear about a very different kind of homeopathy: the idea for an 'owl' remedy came in a dream "at a time when I was thinking deeply about a good remedy for a patient of mine, for whom I had been mainly thinking about snake poisons" (writes Jorg Wichmann). This is homeopathy based on dream, meditation, insight, intuition. What follows is a tale of cases, of synchronicity, and generally speaking 'dances with owls'. More details I will leave for you to discover for yourself. Harry van der Zee reflects: "What does all this teach us? ...a conclusion I would like to draw is that we have no idea of the energies we are working with, of the laws that govern them, nor of the forces or beings behind them. We can call it synchronicity, but that is no explanation in itself..." Plotted on the continuum of spirit - matter, this was pure spirit. Needless to say you will not find Lac owleum represented in a current edition of the Repertory.
The first article, "The Lacs"; a group-analytical and signature view (by Kees Dam, April 2002) serves well to introduce and summarise the general ideas of the book: as the milk remedies are a subgroup of the animal kingdom remedies, they can be studied through a group analysis (after Jan Scholten's method), which will yield the common themes of all the milks. Once the themes are adduced, the remedies can then be studied individually, in order to differentiate the unique themes of each one. There are clearly a number of common basic feelings arising from all the milks, but the coping mechanism (or compulsion', following Sankaran's notion) varies according to the way the different mammals appear and behave in their situation in nature. The doctrine of signatures plays a vital role in helping us to recognise this, as it reveals some of the most important clues about the nature of each substance.
Further to that, symbolism, archetypes, fairy tales, and the study of animal behaviour all contribute to the synthesis of themes which help us to delineate the energetic essence of each remedy. Both the analyses of milk themes, and the descriptions of reactions to basic feelings (symptoms, that is, of disease calling for a milk remedy), are based on the homeopathic remedy pictures, as they are currently understood from provings and cases.
Here, though, come some of the generalisations I alluded to earlier. The ideas concerning the nature of milk, and the common basic feelings of all the milks (the 'signature'), show profound wisdom and insight. But I had difficulty when a correlation was suggested between a 'milk theme' and a pathological expression. For example: "Milk, growth - failure to thrive; when the milk is bad or too little, this leads to emotional consequences and a physical developmental arrest in growth." Yes, milk is about growth and nurturing, but does that mean that a case of 'arrested growth' must need a milk remedy? Or when someone is feeling forsaken, with a sense of separation, must it mean that something has gone wrong with bonding during breast-feeding? Is the author suggesting that a milk remedy is always indicated for these situations? (In which case we would hardly ever need any other remedies to cure our cases.) Or is it that whether or not a patient actually experienced a difficulty during breastfeeding (we may or may not know the true circumstances), their expression of dis-ease shows a feeling 'as if he or she did. I do wonder, though, if this can be taken too far: "Content, sufficient - not enough, jealousy; when the baby has had enough, he feels satisfied and content, and surrenders himself to an upcoming sleep. The opposite is a baby that doesn't get enough and cannot be content; this can be a fertile soil for poverty consciousness and jealousy." For me, huge concepts such as 'poverty consciousness' can mean so many different things and arise from a number of circumstances. Food for thought, in any case.
Another example, from the discussion of physical manifestations as reactions to the basic (conflicted) Lac feelings: 'Alternating symptoms', meaning 'sides alternating', is seen in the cases and provings of the Lac remedies. "Maybe this has something to do with the procedure of breastfeeding -first the baby drinks at one breast, and when it's empty is goes to the other and at the next feeding it starts again with the first one." An interesting idea, but it is still 'maybe'. Maybe though, it doesn't matter.
The group analysis themes of the Lac remedies vary in degrees of generality and precision: feelings such as "anxiety, forsaken, depressed" are very general, as they are common to a wide range of remedies throughout materia medica; whereas "loathing, dirty, jealous, cleaning, sex" lead us towards animals themes in general; then we have such themes as "mamma, child, cold, ice, contact aggravates, eating disorders, falling, not grounded" which seem to me to be more direct and precise expressions of the substance of milk.
Is it important to differentiate between what aspects of a case are animal in general, mammal in particular, and species-specific? If we can do this, we will have advanced our understanding even further. For example, Sankaran says that the idea of 'dirty', which we see so strongly in Lac caninum, is really general to all animal remedies, and expresses the conflict between our human and animal natures. (Sankaran and the Bombay School have done the most, in my view, to clarify the general indications for the kingdoms, including the animal remedies.) In Lac caninum, the degree of subjugation and domination is highest, because the dog is the most subjugated animal, and therefore the degree of dirtiness and self-disgust would be most prominent. Cats choose to be dominated, for their survival, and so the emphasis shifts to that of choice/no choice, which is why 'prostitute' is an image associated with Lac felinum. After Wichmann prescribed Lac owleum, he realised how much owls and snakes have in common: large staring eyes, connection with wisdom, predators, catching their prey with swift action, the laying of eggs. But which theme is truly, deeply, owl-specific? The first case when Lac owleum was given was for a man who sat on a tree for hours before dawn. Now, that does sound like an owl.
In the most straightforward article about proving of Lac asinum, Jacques Lamothe (France, June 2001) outlines the proving symptoms following Kent's schema (Mind, Vertigo, head, etc). This is prefaced by an explanation of how the proving was carried out, and the key ideas and symbolism of the ass. He also expresses the general view about the need to do animal provings: "We think there is something animal in man, and that in some men there is a great deal of some animals, as some patients have their animal equivalents." It is interesting to note the physical sensations: pains, pins and needles, paraesthesia in head, trunk and limbs, and a feeling around the eyes 'like a blindfold' or 'carnival mask'. Again, when interpreting the data, whether physical, psychological or from dreams, my question remains: what part is animal, what part is milk, and what part is donkey? As Lamothe comments, with only 124 symptoms "it is difficult to talk about clearly ... This work is only a beginning and demands further experiment." There are no cases presented.
There are four articles on Lac caninum, our best-known milk. The first is a superb exposition by Vermeulen, discussing the main themes through the dog's anatomy, behaviour, social life, relationship to man and cultures' symbols. (Vermeulen gives an equally thorough treatment of Lac defloratum as well). This article is followed by three cases: of a girl with anorexia (by Annette Sneevliet, Sweden), of a middle-aged woman, with depression (by Ananda Zaren, USA), and of sexual abuse in children (by Patricia le Roux, France), which also contains a useful comparison with other abuse remedies. It just goes to show how much there is to learn, even about a remedy that has been in use the longest of all the ones in this book.
Without doubt, my most enjoyable read was "The story of the cat, A Lac felininum proving" (by Divya Chhabra, India, 1995). We are taken through the process of the proving, the stages along the way, with stunning clarity of imagery, philosophy, purpose, reasoning, intuition and honesty. This proving was the second 'land mark" in the history of current provings. Divya discloses her initial doubts: "Can a single dose really change anything in the patient? Are all these symptoms in the repertory and materia medica really correct? After experiencing the complete change of state that followed Magnesium sulphuricum 30c (her first proving experience) there was no doubt." Thank you, Divya, for putting it so directly.
What Divya is so good at is taking you through the stages of discovery: after the first few dreams (and this proving is largely based on dreams) she realised "we had plunged into the world of animals". What she understood or did not understand at the beginning, unfolds during the proving, until the full picture is attained, as if pieces of a puzzle are falling into place. The first themes to come through are "sensuous, not being given due respect, intolerance of hunger, a dirty, disgusting feeling, sexuality" - all these are general themes of the animal kingdom. But then the defining, particular idea presents itself: to submit oneself to save a relationship, or for money, "The feeling arising from a conflict and a choice." Research into cats' nature reveals that the cat is the only animal to domesticate itself, unlike dogs and cattle, which were domesticated for man's needs. "I felt quietly grateful for the part of the universe that had opened before me that I had touched and experienced. I looked at the cat with new eyes, I understood their delicate fastidiousness, their moodiness, their clinging to their independence, their allowing themselves to be stroked when they like, their sudden bursts of ill temper, and unsheathing their claws for no apparent reason ... They made a choice, gave up their wildness, their freedom, their respect for food, for survival. Was it worth it? The unresolved conflict remains in the universe around. We carry it with us and its remedy is Lac felinum".
Furthermore, on the philosophy of provings in general, Divya writes: "I realised that the proving speaks the unspoken feeling of the substances in our universe to us, of both animate and inanimate substances. Their secrets, their spirit, their unresolved conflicts are revealed to us in the proving. Is this the root of all dis-ease? Is what we have around us unresolved conflicts of the process of evolution? Every thing gained, every change has a price that must be paid. Does every substance that evolves one step leave a conflict, which crystallises as disease? Is that what we must resolve to move ahead?"
It seems to me that these ideas, and the way they are put, form the centre of the circle around which the rest of the book revolves, synthesing proving symptoms, the doctrine of signatures, and clinical experience.
To different degrees each remedy in the book opens and reveals itself like a character in a novel, whether from a proving or a case, and we see both the remedy and the animal with renewed perception. For me the most satisfying articles are the ones in which the cases bring to life the characteristics of the remedy, through the patient's language and story. Where there is a list of proving symptoms, on the other hand, the information A remedy picture is, surely, much more than the sum of its parts, or the totality of its symptoms; there must be a relationship between the central conflict of the remedy and its manifestation.
In addition to those articles already mentioned, there are five articles on Lac caprinum, including two provings, two cases and an article about the character of the goat (the real one, on the hill); two on Lac defloratum, comprising a case, and a discussion of the substance and symbolism of milk; the proving, and a case, of Lac delphinum; four cases of Lac equinum; five further cases of Lac felinum; two articles on Lac humanum, including a general discussion of breast feeding; two cases of Lac leoninum; a case of Lac ovis (sheep's milk), where the prescription was made on the basis of group analysis, rather than from a proving; and lastly, the proving of Lac suis (pig).
So as you can see, there is plenty here to consume, savour and digest in the fullness of time.