Interview of George Vithoulkas to Manish Bhatia about Materia Medica Viva
August 6, 2010
MB: George, welcome once again to the Hpathy Hot-seat! It was exactly three years ago when we had our last exchange for Hpathy and this time around I want to focus on the academics - specifically on your contribution to the homeopathic Materia Medica. I recently received the 12th volume of your Materia Medica Viva and that is where I want to start from.
The first volume of Materia Medica Viva was published way back in 1992 and now you have reached the 12th volume. Can you narrate for our audience the journey so far? What prompted you to take on this mammoth work? What inspires you to continue with it and how has been the journey so far?
GV: It is true that this was an enormous task that I undertook, ignoring the implications and complications that proved to be more troublesome than I could imagine at that time. The work was prompted by the enthusiasm and insistence of some of my students of those years. Realities proved to be different than I had imagined.
The first blow came when a contract appeared out of the blue that had been forged by one of the secretaries I had during those times. In the forged contract it was stated that I was supposed to give all the rights of all future books - including the MM VIVA - to this person with a royalty of 2.5%! It was the first blow!
My first thought at the time was that I would stop writing the MMV. It was such a deep disappointment. Then I had second thoughts. I approached an American lawyer concerning this forgery who assured me that this was a big offense in the American legal system drawing a huge punishment but I have to prove it. I asked him how and he directed me to the best graphologist in the UK, who was also working for the Intelligence service. He confirmed the forgery. After many journeys to UK and extensive correspondence and legal aid (which was all expensive), the result was that her lawyer suggested to spare her and not go to the court. In the meantime I had stopped writing for about two years as this painful experience transpired.
Later on, I received a loan from a German foundation with the contract to return 50% of my royalties to this foundation. In the meantime, I found out soon that only few people were really interested to buy the book, most tried to get it through illegally downloading through torrents etc. Out of 1500 volumes that Archibel printed for the first 3 volumes, four years later, we were left with 1000 copies unsold, which I bought from them for $1 each volume.
We still have unsold volumes from these 1500 initial volumes! Why? Because people would either download it for free from the Archibel website or they would buy illegal digital copies available as download “torrents” for a very small price.
In spite of all this, I kept up the work in order to give to the profession what I perceived was a reliable piece of information that also contained my experiences in the form of the Materia Medica Viva.
MB: George, this is shocking! People can really stoop to any level for money. But I am full of praise and admiration for you that you decided to continue with this work despite the hurdles faced. You yourself probably cannot fully appreciate the legacy that you are developing for the future homeopathic generations through this extra-ordinary work. Before we move forward, I would like to make an appeal to the whole homeopathic fraternity to financially support the development of Materia Medica Viva by ordering a copy right now! (see the links at the end)
Coming to our next question now: Apart from the size and scope of the work, what is the fundamental difference between your earlier work ‘The Essence of Materia Medica’ and Materia Medica Viva? Has your understanding of the 51 remedies described in the Essence of MM changed over the course of years and has their presentation changed?
GV: There is no end to the modifications and additions that could manifest in conjunction with the human symptomatology and the variety of symptoms that a remedy can cure in different individuals. I had always maintained that a remedy picture could be synthesized by three areas:
1. The symptomatology that results from either sub-toxic effects in provings and also from accidental poisonings from toxic doses.
2. By provings in high potencies and
3. By the feedback we receive from cured cases.
Nobody can claim that a reliable symptom picture could result ONLY from one of these sources alone. I left out, of course, as ridiculous, the idea that a proving could also come from the “imagination of a person”, as Jan Scholten suggested in his book. Anybody can easily assess what kind of symptomatology will result if 50 “fantasizing provers” try to imagine the possible symptomatology of a remedy! You will get 50 different variations of a remedy. When such ideas are proposed in the homeopathic community and are accepted by a part of the community, I feel really disappointed and disheartened that such notions have any place in our science.
I say all this in order to explain what I did when I was asked -many years ago - to give lectures on Materia Medica. The first two conditions - provings on low and high potencies - were already established and I had nothing to add; the provings were recorded clearly in our books. I then thought that what was missing was the third condition - that of the feedback from cured cases, especially on a psychopathic level. I felt that if I tried to describe what I had seen in my practice in thousands of cases, if I could summarize my experience from follow-ups in the deviations of the mental-emotional picture of the patients under the remedies prescribed, I might be able to add some new information that could be useful to the profession. That is how the Essences were developed. These were overview information on the psychopathic area of the patients.
These were misunderstood later by a lot of my students for two reasons:
a. They thought that these were the only symptoms that should be taken into consideration in prescribing, and that was wrong and
b. The students thought that I was describing “personality types” and started giving information of different personalities that they were encountering in their practice.
These original Essences were reproduced by certain people in the form of a book, which they called “The stolen essences” and was published without my name, which was really audacious!
The most amazing thing was that in 1983, while I was a speaker on an International Congress in Washington DC, somebody approached me and asked me if I wanted to buy a fantastic book on Materia Medica. He showed me a hand typed book in a copying machine without any publisher! I looked and I recognized my lectures in it. I asked the price and he said it was $30! Later on I found the same book in England again without my name and was mentioned that the book was written by… “Gnomes, fairies etc!”
Some people were making money, but in what a filthy way!
By the time I was so busy giving lectures and new information to the profession that I did not have the time to take care of such matters. More and more essences and details on the levels of health, of the follow-ups and analysis of cases were being synthesized. Yet I felt that people were stealing my ideas without ever paying any tribute to my name. On the contrary they were starting to spread rumors that Vithoulkas’ teachings were old fashioned, dogmatic etc. in order to cover their own stealing of ideas.
These were the kind of ethics we had adopted in our profession!
For years I did not say anything to stop this situation and let things evolve, in a wrong direction of course, as I found out much later.
In any case, to complete my answer to you concerning transference from the “Essences” to the Materia Medica Viva : I tried to give whatever information was already established, from the classic books of MM, filtered as reliable according to my understanding and experience, plus the “Essences” of the big remedies and the “Essentials” in smaller and lesser known remedies.
As I stated in the beginning, the complete picture of a remedy will not be apparent before a lot of cases have been systematically organized and their follow ups of the patients are carefully evaluated.
MB: Very true! The old knowledge base cannot be replaced with anything. The clinical data does impart a greater understanding of our remedies but how much focus do you put on the provings? Do you go through the drug proving before writing about a remedy for MM Viva?
GV: Before answering your question I would like to expand a bit on the idea of the provings. Unless they have been done in a correct way I do not trust them. And I consider the ‘correct way’ the one in which they collect symptoms by -
1. A proving with material doses.
2. If the substance is toxic, then from accidental poisonings.
3. From high potencies on sensitive individuals.
4. Information that originates from cures on clinical cases and correct evaluation of the follow-ups.
This last source of information, though it can be very crucial, has become a source of misinformation in our contemporary western societies, where a lot of so-called cures are only placebo effects due to the disturbed collective affectation on the mental emotional part of the inhabitants of USA and old Europe. A lot of hysterical reactions, a lot of mentalising and despair coming from depression that affects a great part of our societies, are some of the reasons that in a follow-up of a patient, the information given should be carefully evaluated to exclude the possibility of self-suggestion. I give all such details of placebo effect and their respective parameters in order to be recognized in my new book “LEVELS of HEALTH” that has just been published by the IACH in the beginning of May 2010. http://www.vithoulkas.com/content/view/1994/lang,en/
In my Materia Medica, I have tried to give the information coming from all those 4 parameters in the way I have seen and experienced in the 50 years of my practice.
Yet one has to be aware that for only one individual, in a restricted length of time of his life, it is not possible to give everything that is potentially to be extracted from the source of the thousands of remedies already existing in our Materia Medicas. There was a lot more information coming from my practice, but it was not possible to confirm for long enough to include all the symptoms that were cured by the remedies.
I despise superficiality and exploitation of the naiveté of some people in the west that believe everything and anything. In India you are more practical and more matter of fact in these issues.
As an example of misinformation I can give you the following: In my lectures in Celle Germany in 1990 I have said that if we knew the symptomatology that each element of the periodic table can produce then most probably we would not need more remedies. Jan Scholten was following me at that time and surely heard this and a few years later he presented the symptomatology of the elements of periodic table, saying that you do not need to have provings, but to…. imagine the possible symptomatology!
The MMV is down to earth information that has been useful to me in treating thousands of cases without the need of the “elements” or the superficial provings coming from people in a state of excitement, if not hysteria.
If a proving was made in a serious way and if I had used it with success, I will include it.
These were the ground thoughts that made me construct the MMV.
MB: Our provings, especially those of polychrests, have thousands of symptoms in them. Yet most books on Materia Medica list either a few dozen or at most a hundred or two hundred symptoms for even large remedies. How do you filter from the provings what needs to be included as characteristic for the remedy?
GV: If a master of our science can give the keynotes or the essence - as I called it in the beginning - of the polychrests, he would be doing a service to the community. This does not mean that the rest of the information is useless and could be ignored. Such details could be searched each time in the repertory and then in the full MM.
But if a novice pretends to know everything and gives from his own experience the “essence” of the remedies, surely he will drive the students astray. The essence of the remedy is understood only after you have seen thousands of cases and several ones from each remedy cured that you may start forming an idea of what is essential in a remedy.
If people think that curing with homeopathy can become an easy task, bypassing the hard work by tricks, they will be utterly disappointed after having damaged of course, the patient and also homeopathy.
MB: One of the methods of study of homeopathic material medica has been group-study of closely related remedies. People like Kent, Hering, Farrington etc, have all noted the similarities in various groups of remedies derived from the same mineral group or related species. There are texts available which describe the gist of the ‘Kali family’, ‘Natrum family’, ‘Lac remedies’, ‘Snake remedies’, ‘Papaveraceae family’ etc. There have been characteristics described as common for animal remedies, plant remedies or mineral remedies. What is the role and relevance of such group study and derivative information based on comparing materia medica or rubrics of different remedies? Do you ever use this methodology while teaching or writing MMV?
GV: No I do not use the group methodology. The reason is not that I believe that study of group remedies is necessarily wrong, but that such study will be a waste of precious time as it will give information not according to the facts but mostly according to one’s own projections, rather than concrete facts on which one can base a prescription.
In some instances there is a possibility that by chance a different remedy of the group could be chosen at random and may act but this is not a science, it is a lucky strike. If provings are done properly and if such provings are put into practice and prove effective, then we can be talking about similar qualities of different drugs belonging to the same family or group. But we have to remember that each remedy has its own individual characteristics even belonging to the same group and therefore we cannot generalize, in the same way that different sufferers are having their own personal characteristics of their disease. This is the best way to success. Bypassing hard work of studying remedies properly in order to find easy ways for prescribing, will finally prove disappointing to both the homeopath and patient.
I am a practical man and I want to see real effects when I prescribe and I am considered a good prescriber -as all those who have attended my courses can confirm- yet I can assure the homeopathic community that out of this 90-95% of successful prescribing, I have never used remedies that were considered as new and proved in a superficial way. This means that if one learns properly the remedies already available, he will have no great need for new unproved remedies.
To the question whether we need new provings in order to cover a small percentage of cases that are outside our usual remedies, the answer is yes, we do need new provings, but to teach that those new unproven remedies are the basis of modern homeopathy to the novices, is a disaster.
MB: Twelve volumes of MMV and you have just covered remedies till Iris V. How many more remedies and in how many more volumes, do you wish to cover the rest of it? Is there any timeline that you have set for yourself for the next volumes?
GV: I am expecting another 6 volumes to cover all the remedies I want to cover.
MB: Has MMV been translated in many languages? Or is it available only in English?
GV: Translations have already started in Italian, German and Spanish.
MB: You have dedicated your MMV to your wife in very special words:“Dedicated to the only person I know who has really sacrificed her life for Homeopathy: my wife Zissula”Please share with us her role and influence in your homeopathic life?
GV: My wife provided for me the environment and the care I needed to accomplish my work, which I consider as a mission and dedicated almost all my time to it. She was always caring for my needs, even before I expressed them, always considering, never complaining, never demanding, always working in silence with unlimited love and patience, sharing with me all my sorrows and disappointments, providing the warmth of a family that I lost while I was very young, during the second world war.
I feel that the Gods have given her to me as a present. I do not think that I could have ever accomplished what I did without her presence.
MB: Before we part, please tell our readers from where they can buy their copy of MMV?
GV: The 12 vol. of MM Viva are available from the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy for 270 euros.
MB: Thank you ,George, for these insights into the development of Materia Medica Viva. I look forward to an early completion of the remaining six issues. It has been a pleasure to have this exchange with you. Thank you!