Installment 14 of a series on case analysis
© Will Taylor, MD 2001 (bio)
Reflections on Historical Provings
Reflecting on the provings that make up the essential ground of our understanding of our homeopathic remedies, two truths are simultaneously evident:
- There are woeful inadequacies in our historical provings; and
- Our provings represent incomparably precious contributions to the art of healing.
To bend an old expression, we can despair that our glass is half-empty, or rejoice that our glass is half-full. I'd like to look closely at some of the issues that surround our historical provings, to simultaneously appreciate their half-emptiness and half-fullness. Hopefully these reflections can assist us in the use of our existing knowledge, and guide us in future explorations of our materia medica.
Fidelity to Recording
the Expressions of our Provers
We find recorded in the Synthesis Repertory, for Lycopodium, the symptom:
MIND - FEAR - destination, of being unable to reach his: lyc(1/1)
Searching our literature for the source of this symptom, we find in Allen's Encyclopedia of Pure Materia Medica, the proving symptom:
Weariness and exhaustion while walking, so that he feared that he would be unable to reach his destination, at 5 P.M. (twenty-first day), [Emil Köller]
The description of this symptom has come under some historical criticism. Here is a prover, afraid he might not get where he wishes to go, because he is weary and exhausted from walking.
Is this symptom then "fear, of being unable to reach his destination"? - or should this be recorded more properly as the purely physical symptom "weary and exhausted from walking"? It has been recommended by some strict Hahnemannians that we take the latter interpretation. This would seem to be supported by other records of the provings of Lycopodium, including:
Sudden weariness at times in all the limbs,
with fretfulness [Hahnemann]
Great weariness of the body [Huber]
Yet here we have the prover Emil Köller, weary and exhausted from walking, reflecting on his situation. He did not record merely "weary and exhausted from walking", nor "weariness and exhausted while walking, which led him to despair about the degradations of aging" or "easily exhausted, leading to anxiety regarding the state of his heart and peripheral circulation". His concern in his exhaustion was a fear of being unable to get where he needed to go. Frederik Schroyens described this well, in his discussion on a Lycopodium case:
I would like to describe the earnestness of Lycopodium as it applies to adults. Imagine a person sitting there, looking so earnest and serious. He's looking off into the distance.
He's thinking, wondering, and worrying : "Will I get there? Will it work out?" In the repertory under the rubric
- MIND, fear, of being unable to reach his destination
...Lycopodium is the only remedy listed. This gives the feeling of a kind of uncertainty, a kind of worry.
- from Frederick Schroyens
Several cases of pneumonia
in Small Remedies and Interesting Cases;
Proceedings of the International Foundation
for Homeopathy Case Conference, 1990
In understanding our provings, as well as understanding our patients, we are admonished by Hahnemann to be carefully observant physicians; which requires not only fidelity to recording the symptoms of our provers exactly without speculation or unwarranted interpretations, but also recording the symptoms of our provers exactly with due attention to the nuances and details of their words and expressions.
Even when describing so-called somatic symptoms, the prover - and the patient - have no choice but to reveal symptoms of the mental/emotional state.
Next: Safety in Numbers