David Nortman, N.D
Homeopathic and Naturopathic Doctor
In this article I will describe a basic aspect of homeopathy’s spiritual understanding of health and disease: the view that disease arises from a fixed adaptation to a past situation that no longer exists in the present.
Homeopaths view health and disease as states of being that are either appropriate for the situation (healthy) or inappropriate for the situation (unhealthy). The state of being that we adopt from moment to moment can be regarded a ‘posture’ that is either suitable or unsuitable for the present moment of existence. An unsuitable posture kept for too long manifests as chronic disease, whereas a short-lasting one causes acute symptoms or weakens the organism until it is susceptible to infectious influences.
Disease arises from memory of a past state that no longer exists
Conventional medicine is based on a materialistic view of life. Health is compared to a well-functioning machine, while disease is viewed as a malfunction in some part of the machine.
Homeopathy is based on a spiritual view of life. Health is the ability to respond freely and creatively to all situations encountered throughout life, whereas disease is any restriction on this ability. Samuel Hahnemann, the originator of homeopathy, discovered through lifelong clinical observation that disease could often be traced to a ‘mistunement’ created during a past stressful episode in the life of the organism or its ancestors. He concluded that the memory of this past state was the real cause the suffering that we experienced through physical and psychological symptoms.
Health is the flexibility to successfully adapt to all life situations
Rajan Sankaran writes in The Spirit of Homoeopathy that disease is an “unsuitable posture… adopted by the organism in order to survive in a perceived situation.”
What is a “perceived situation”?
To answer this, let’s first look at Sankaran’s example of a real situation:
If you are lifting a heavy bag and you have to walk with that heavy weight, in order that your back does not break, you have to bend in the direction opposite to the bag. So, your body adopts a posture to survive in this situation. This posture is healthy, it is going to do you good, in this situation it is needed, and as long as the bag is heavy, the posture has to be maintained.
Hence, we see that posture is an adjustment. As long as this adjustment is in proportion to the existing situation, as long as it is suitable to this situation, and as long as the situation or exciting factor remains, this adjustment cannot and should not be corrected.
Life can be viewed as a series of adaptations: one situation flows into another, and each time a different posture is adopted to suit the new situation. Health is the flexibility to correctly adapt to any situation that arises throughout our life journey.
An unhealthy posture arises from adaptation to a perceived situation that is not really present. This adaptation can be either inappropriate for the situation or appropriate for the situation but of disproportionate intensity. Sankaran illustrates these possibilities as follows:
When a man is being chased by a lion, the posture of running fast, being afraid, etc. is appropriate since his survival depends upon it. However, if a man is in the same state without a lion chasing him, or he adopts the same posture even if a little dog chases him, or he is in such a pain that he cannot think (a reaction far in excess of what is needed in the situation) then this state is to be removed by treatment.
The unsuitable posture is hidden behind physical and psychological symptoms
So long as an unhealthy posture is held over from the past, the person is precluded from adopting an appropriate posture for the present situation. This is considered a state of disease in homeopathy, whether or not there are clear physical or psychological symptoms that warrant medical treatment. This means, on the one hand, that homeopathy is a powerful healing tool in cases where the patient feels distress yet there are no discernible medical abnormalities.
On the other hand, during the clinical encounter between patient and homeopath the disease state does not automatically reveal itself as an unhealthy posture. In most clinical situations the patient will present with vague discomfort or with one or more physical and psychological complaints. During the homeopathic intake the homeopath must therefore ask many questions in order to lead the patient to reveal the unsuitable posture that he or she continuously adopts in all life situations.
This posture, which most of us do not have a direct awareness of, is the underlying reason for the existence of the clinical complaint that induces people to seek homeopathic treatment in the first place.
How do unsuitable postures arise?
An unsuitable posture originates from an adaptation to a past situation that is maintained even though it is no longer applicable to the situation. This happens when the past situation has exceeded the organism’s resilience. Such situations generally fall into one of the following categories:
• a past traumatic event,
• childhood or cultural habits that have powerfully impressed themselves on the organism, or
• inherited spiritual impressions (‘miasms’) that long ago left their mark on one’s parents or earlier ancestors.
Resilience can be understood by analogy with a steel spring: just as a steel spring can be bent and absorb many small shocks and still recover its original form, a person can absorb many stresses yet maintain his underlying state of health throughout the stressful period. But beyond a certain threshold, excessive stress deforms the spring and causes it to lose its elasticity. A person exposed to excessive stress will likewise carry the spiritual impression or ‘deformation’ due to the past stress and will no longer be fully ‘elastic’ and responsive to the present situation.
Homeopathic treatment frees us from unsuitable postures
We all continuously adopt postures in order to survive in different life situations; this is a normal function of all living organisms. Because of our individual life paths, and because we also create rather than merely encounter life situations, we each adapt differently even to apparently identical situations. In any case, if we remain fixed in a posture that is no longer appropriate for the situation (for any of the reasons cited above) to the point that we are unable to respond appropriately other situations, we may then become aware of an uncomfortable sensation at the level of our spirit. If we do not free ourselves of the fixed posture eventually we experience more obvious psychological discomfort, physical symptoms, or both.
In Sankaran’s words:
Disease is thus seen as an affection of the whole person, as a posture adopted as a survival mechanism to suit a particular situation which does not exist at the moment. This posture makes us react to the present in an unsuitable way due to our false perception of it. Such an unsuitable and disproportionate reaction to the situation naturally causes a constant stress on the organism, and the stress aggravates the pathology or brings the tendency to a particular pathology into activity.
Health is the ability to feel OK in all situations. A posture is an adaptation for feeling OK under a specific situation. Unless one is able to switch postures freely from moment to moment, a person will only feel OK when the fixed posture happens to coincide with (be suitable for) the situation.
In terms of the model I’ve just presented, homeopathic treatment releases the hold of the unsuitable posture that prevents free-flowing adaptation to the present moment. By raising awareness of the inappropriateness of the fixed posture to the point that a person can choose to abandon it in favour of another, homeopathic remedies assist in the release of inappropriate postures and habits that manifest physically or psychologically. Once this happens, full resilience is restored and the person is able to handle life as it comes — adopting appropriate postures as needed and shifting away from them as soon as the situation is over — without undue stress.
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