Face To Face With Catherine Coulter
NATIONAL JOURNAL OF HOMOEOPATHY 1993 Jul / Aug Vol II No 4.
Dr Vishpala Parthasarathy.
How did you come to Homoeopathy?
CC: I had numerous allergies and when I was in France in 1960 I visited an old homoeopathic doctor and he gave me 20 little packets of pills to take during the course of the day, leaving me no time practically for meals. But the pills helped me. When I came back to New York and wanted to take homoeopathic therapy, it turned out that Dr. Elizabeth Wright Hubbard lived just around the corner. Eventually we moved away and then I started experimenting on myself and my children, with gratifying results. Beginners luck!
I never consciously decided to become homoeopath. Then after I practiced on myself, family and friends, I came in contact with young doctors who wanted to learn homoeopathy. There was no proper training at that time, in the 1960s. They asked me to teach them.
Did you have any training?
CC: No, never except books and only a very few books. The first seven years I only had Boerickes Repertory and Materia Medica. The mental pictures in Boericke had to be expanded and I had to form my own pictures and portraits. Thus I formed my own way of thinking. Later I acquired Kents Repertory, Tylers Drug Pictures and the 10 volumes of Hering. I started to teach small groups in the late 60s. Then for 11 years I lectured at summer schools for doctors, ever refining and adding to my portraits. In the final stage I went back to the classics, I wanted to be scholarly and give the books a scholarly depth. Otherwise the portraits might appear too impressionistic. I wanted to confirm my portraits with quotations from the classics (Hahnemann, Hering, Kent and others)
Did your literary background help you in homoeopathy?
CC: It has helped me tremendously. Analyzing a book is the hardest work in the world; what is an author really trying to say? You have to get into his mind, as you have to get into the minds of your patients. You have to read in between the lines; what are they leaving out. I never regret that my training was not medical. Not being good at science, I could never have passed medical school. Literature was my passion. Later I enlisted in a Psychology course but after two weeks I dropped out. now I can read Jung in small doses, in so far as he interests me. But this doesnt expand my knowledge of homoeopathy. Only patients do. A lot of Vithoulkas disciples (Morrison, Herick, Shore, Zaren) are coming from America to Europe to teach; do you have any contacts with them?
CC: No, you forgot that I am of an older generation and
anteceded the Vithoulkas era, I started lecturing long before he was heard in the US.
Also, I never liked being a part of any group. Everybody has to learn his own way of
thinking and develop his own style. I am essentially not interested in what somebody else
is doing but wish to form my own ideas. The best way to do this is to observe your own
patients and try to form your own associations - not read what others say. It is hard to
sense the gestalt of a remedy. It took me 20 years to define even a few remedies in depth
and there are plenty left to be done. My portraits are offering a methods for others to
continue. For portraits you see a critical mass of patients and then a gestalt begins to
emerge; what are the common denominators? What are the archetypical characteristics that
change after the remedy? So I have my own mission. But I am delighted that good people
come here and train you.
My own advice to students is "Go back to the classics. Choose only a few books that are congenial to you and learn them thoroughly. Dont try to know everything. That will leave you more free to make your own associations.
My book is written for practicing homoeopaths because so many, who have
been prescribing for years still do not recognize an obvious Lachesis. But it is also
written for the intelligent layman who wants to treat his family. It is the laymen who,
historically, have kept homoeopathy alive and they deserve information.
You do not consider it a problem when lay people read your book, recognize themselves (or a family member) in a portrait, by the remedy and start treating?
CC: The worst thing that can happen is that they will have an aggravation and hopefully will learn from that experience. I dont honestly think that remedies can harm them (if taken only once and not taken repeatedly). Its far better to venture than to remain ignorant. You cannot keep information away from people because you are afraid that they might use it incorrectly. (If people want to misuse it, you cant stop them anyway.) You have to respect peoples intelligence.
Also when therapists from other disciplines like psychotherapists
start giving remedies to those clients they recognized in your book? What if they give
CC: How often have you really harmed the patient by giving the wrong remedy.
You have to see things in the proper perspective. Many people you help. Now and then you give a wrong remedy. If you adhere to classical prescribing and only give a remedy once - then wait - you cant harm that much. Did you ever see a case irredeemably disrupted by giving a wrong remedy once? Temporarily, yes. But the beauty of Classical Homoeopathy is that mistakes are not fatal and you can learn from them. Yes, you will occasionally give wrong remedies and your patient will be a little uncomfortable for a while. But in the long run you are going to learn and help him.
I have quite a different policy of teaching. Trust the remedies; use the common sense (i.e., be on the alert for a patient that is needing more than homoeopathy); observe carefully and dont worry about those hypothetical dangers. Beginning homoeopaths dont trust themselves enough due to alarmist teachings. If they do not try they cannot learn. Good teaching is bringing out what is best in a pupil and building up his confidence - not impressing him with difficulties and dangers of homoeopathy.
Your next book?
CC: My next book will be - The Portrait of a Homoeopath. What are the obstacles he must overcome? What are the depths he has to acquire? What are the sacrifices he has to make? How to keep on the straight path? It takes time to mature. I would educate homoeopaths differently than is being done because I have different ideas. Ultimately, the best education is self education. Because in that way you can cultivate your own style and build your self-confidence which you will never acquire listening to others telling you what to do. If you have that confidence, nothing is going to shake you; you can build on that. For students who want to learn their own way, the preceptorship method is the best one by far. For then, a pupil can observe and judge for himself, he sees the results, there is no pretence or false claim of cure. That is what the next book is going to be about.
How important is it to know or have found your own constitutional
CC: To know thyself is the root of all wisdom. I am very grateful that I learnt to prescribe on myself and my family. Some say that a physician who treats himself is a fool. I dont agree - provided, of course, that he is not in a mentally unstable condition. One knows oneself well enough to have some ideas, probably too many ideas. Then it is most beneficial to sit down and work out what is most essential in ones picture; then one takes a remedy and finds out first hand! It is not an easy way to learn but an effective one. My philosophy is that homoeopathy has a beautiful lucidity, clarity and simplicity. One should not muddy it up with too many rules. Obviously, the longer you practice the more skillful you grow. So just do it and try to gain experience. I am sure that it is all banal stuff I am saying but it is not what people are taught; to go out, observe practice and learn from their experiences. To my students and perceptees I do say if you want to sit with me and learn, dont ask me many questions, just observe. Draw you deductions and conclusions; form your own pictures. Some students are fantastic, they can start where I left off. Others, amazingly enough, after a year they just dont have it. I have trained 15 doctors who now sit in with me from nine months to one and a half year. It took me 20 years to learn what I can teach a student now in one and a half year because I had to work out many things for myself. so in theory they should become far more experienced homoeopaths than I am.
Which books you like to refer to?
CC: Only a few books; you dont need many. When you want to work in depth you better concentrate on a few books. Boericke and for mental I like to go back to Hering more than Kents Lectures. Every important point has been said by the masters but you have to know how to read them. Much of what I am doing (my books) is interpreting them. Sometimes a symptom doesnt mean anything to us until. It is wonderful! You have a case that went very well; you go back to the classics and in 3-4 short words it was there but only now you suddenly understand what the old masters meant and see the psychic phenomena behind. It is all there in the provings.
What do you think of proving remedies on yourself?
CC: When I am writing a remedy, I always take a high potency of that remedy hoping that some aura will seep through. I spend a year on every remedy. I dont know if they influence me, yet with some remedies I experienced things I never felt before. But for me observing my patients teaches me more than proving a remedy myself. If others want to stretch their knowledge by provings, they are of course, more than welcome to do so.
How do you start case-taking?
CC: I dont start with the mentals, I end with them, like the icing on the cake. It is absolutely essential to have the physicals. If patients talk too much about mentals, the physician has too little ground to stand on. I love modalities, times, temperature and food cravings. The mentals come through the whole picture any way, without the patient realizing it. You dont have to ask an Arsenic: "Are you anxious?" you have to see that. He might even say "No". In the end I often ask patients something about their hobbies. Much useful information emerges in their answers.
How many remedies you use for 90 percent of your cases?
CC: I like to know a few remedies well. With a smaller remedy, one has too little information to know its depth. One just uses it. Thank God you dont have to know Arum-triphyllum or Caulophyllum. That is what the repertory is for. I dont know what kind of personality Arum-trip is. You need dozens of patients showing the same trait to be sure of the archetype. You just dont get that opportunity with the small remedies. To be quite honest I dont think anybody will come up even in a hundred years with the portrait of a small remedy. Have they seen it in 24 patients? You cannot generalize from a few patients. If you prescribe once or twice a small remedy and it worked wonders that doesnt mean you know the personality. I have never used more than 200 remedies, I doubt even if I used 200. Some homoeopaths like to start out with a small remedy instead of a polycrest, thats fine with me, but that doesnt mean a polycrest wouldnt have worked just as well.
Do you still discover new aspects of polycrest you already wrote
CC: You always do because you get new patients, the picture is always growing. For instance new observation Sulphur I put (as a nice contrast) in the Nux-vom chapter of my next book. I have written on comparative materia medica (Indignation, Indifference), which people did not like as much as my portraits. Thats understandable but I needed to do it for myself as an experiment in genre. Comparative materia medica is not what people want to now. They prefer me to paint single pictures, portraits; thats what they remember the best. So I shall try to accommodate. I have several more portraits in mind.
In the chapter of Phosphorus you mention that Ann Karenina and Madame de Bovary are both Phosphorus. Jacqueline Barbancy, the French psychiatrist says in her book Pratique homoeopathique en psychopathologie that both are Platina. We think that Karenina is Phosphorus and de Bovary is Platina.CC: People are complex and are made of many remedies. I prescribed Phosphorus aspects, Barbancy stressed the Platina side. If you prescribe either of the two remedies, on some level they would affect. True, only with the similimum everything falls into place. How often it happens that you dont have the right remedy on hand but you have to do something. You give a closely related remedy and it works fine also. However, generally people do not want to hear that. They want the one truth given to them, but the truth isnt one, you live it and create it yourself. The only truth or words of wisdom I have offer is - "There is so little wrong a homoeopath can do if he only observes his patient carefully, repertorizes thoroughly, and remains sensitive and responsible to his individual needs - above any rules or doctrine; and there is so much good he can do".
This sounds like a perfect conclusion and we dont want you to miss
your plane. Is there a last word you would like to add?
CC: I thank you both for your interest and kind attention. And I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to Dorothea Bijl and Homoeovisie for making this interview possible.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the editor of SIMILIMA, a publication from Amsterdam written in Dutch.