Prisma Materia Medica

Language
English
Type
Hardback
Publisher
Emryss Publishers
Author(s) Frans Vermeulen
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$84.87

Prisma: The Arcana of Materia Medica Illuminated is a fully expanded version of Synoptic One, containing the same remedies, and also an encyclopaedic amount of information on the source, zoology, chemistry, physics, distribution, folklore, mythology and history of the remedies. This contextual material is absolutely fascinating reading, bringing the medicinal substances vibrantly to life. Whereas Synoptic One and Concordant Materia Medica are vital books for the student and the practitioner alike as clinical reference texts, Prisma is all this, plus bedtime reading too.

More Information
ISBN9789076189079
AuthorFrans Vermeulen
TypeHardback
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2002
Pages1438
PublisherEmryss Publishers
Review

This article is reprinted from The Homoeopath with permission from Nick Churchill of The Society of Homoeopaths.

Reviewed by Nick Hewes

The development of Frans Vermeulen's series of 'synoptic' materia medica (as distinct to his encyclopaedic Concordant Materia Medica) over the last ten years is, in a way, a faithful mirror of the great changes that have occurred in homeopathy in
that relatively short space of time. The first volume, entitled simply Synoptic Materia Medica is really Phatak with garlic, relying as it does on the refinement and virtuosity that George Vithoulkas and Vassilis Ghegas brought to a moribund homeopathy in the mid 1970s. This neat little book was originally intended as a remedy summary for Finnish and Irish students. Its main virtues were simplicity and brevity, along with a very adept synthesis of quotations from a wide range of authors, which helped to evoke the characteristics of our main remedies in a really succinct way. In every age authors have striven to simplify and condense the literature from the wide expanses of the past, and in the last century each generation of homeopaths produced its own, favourite masters of the synoptic art, among whom were figures such as Boericke, Boger, Clarke, Tyler, Phatak and lastly of course, Vermeulen himself, whose razzy silver volume probably replaced Phatak's Materia Materia upon the desks of many homeopaths.

Vermeulen's Synoptic Materia Medica II originally set out to cover those 'small' remedies not included in the first book, but somewhere along the line it turned into a completely different venture, due to the inclusion of a great deal of remedy information that was from non-homeopathic sources, such as, (to quote directly from the preface to volume two), "chemistry, metallurgy, botany, and biology" as well as imagery from "fairytale, legend and myth". This fascinating but extraneous information went
under the heading of "Signs", a category which was entirely absent from volume one, where each remedy had been described under traditional titles like: "Region/Modalities/ Leading Symptoms" (the latter an obvious reference to Nash, one of our most gifted and yet ignored writers). In order to compare the difference in approach between the first and second volumes, let us
take as an example the first line on Conium in the earlier book:

"Region: NERVES. MUSCLES. GLANDS [MAMMAE; ovaries]. Sexual organs. Respiration. RIGHT SIDE. Left side."

This format would have been recognisable to all homeopaths from all ages, going back to the days of Boenninghausen and Jahr in the first half of the 19th century. Compare this however, with Vermeulen's treatment of Luna in the second volume, where any discussion of the symptoms of that remedy are held in abeyance for well over a page, whilst the writer discusses the moon
goddesses Hecate and Selene, the tides of the ocean, insanity, fertility, and menstrual cycles, all of this under the "Signs" heading. This striking difference in approach tells us that, between volume one (1 992) and volume two (1 996) something very fundamental happened to Vermeulen's homeopathic worldview. That fundamental something was possibly the publication of Jan Scholten's Homoeopathy and Minerals in 1993, a revolutionary work because it suggested that the characteristics of a remedy could be deduced from studying its place in the natural world, from its uses, and from its identity in history, myth and literature, and not merely from a homeopathic proving. Without Scholten's work, Synoptic Materia Medica II would probably not exist in its present form.

Prisma (Dutch for 'prism', perhaps because the book aims to concentrate a vast and diverse spectrum of knowledge into one single text) simply returns to those same remedies that were so expertly summarised in the first volume in order to add extra information, the most obvious of which relates to their signatures. It's a bit like Godfather Part II, where Coppola goes backwards in time, and explores the childhood of Don Corleone, in order to explain the adult who dominated the first film.
Maybe Prisma should be subtitled Synoptic Materia Medica two and a half.

As in both earlier volumes, the use of quotations to illustrate the remedies is done superbly well. Vermeulen borrows from whatever sources he can, from Hahnemann to Vithoulkas, and the result is top quality homeopathic gossip, straight from the masters' mouths. His three volumes show that an apt quotation is by far the best form of summary. A real advance is the employment of footnotes to illustrate the sources of all these utterances. One frustrating aspect of both the earlier books was
the unexplained absence of sources for some of the tasty quotations contained therein. The mystery is that some quotations were sourced, and others were not, a curiously unscholarly arrangement, given the author's reputation for superhuman industry. The use of footnotes in Prisma overcomes these former, minor annoyances.

One quite bizarre feature, in a book that otherwise exudes all the virtues of scholarship, is the complete omission of any kind of bibliography. A full bibliography does exist (the publishers will send you one if you email them), but apparently the printers forgot to put it in. Oh well, that's the benign charm of Holland for you: - sometimes the home-grown is just too strong!

One other change from volume two is the subdivision of the "Signs" section into various smaller categories of information, whereas formerly all the non-homeopathic information appeared within one heading, without an differentiation. Thus the
section on Carbo vegetabilis, for example, is divided into the subheadings: "Constituents/ Uses/Activated charcoal/Absorbent/ Medicinal/ Carbon cycle/ Black". These subdivisions have the effect of further elevating the importance of the "Signs" section
within Vermeulen's hierarchy.

A closer look Carbo vegetabilis shows just how potent this influx of new information is, as an example of how it may help us to give new shape and colour to our existing portrait of that underused remedy. Vermeulen's discussion of the carbon cycle is particularly fascinating, since it describes at length the mechanism of global warming, implying of course that Carbo vegetabilis
may once again become a very important polychrest, as we drive merrily onward towards an inevitable appointment with our tubercular nemesis.

Also of interest is the examination of the colour "black", invoking as it does images of darkness, death and the underworld, thus confirming the reputation of Carbo vegetabilis as the great corpse reviver. (incidentally, this is of synchronous interest, as it relates to an article on Eileen Nauman in the current issue, in which she discusses the importance of a remedy's colour in understanding its uses.)

The obvious question we need to ask is "how important is the doctrine of signatures to the kind of homeopathy we practise?"
As students we were told that there were really only three main sources of materia medica: provings, clinical information, and poisonings.Occasionally a lecturer would use a remedy's signature to illustrate its therapeutic characteristics, but this was
usually delivered as a pretty conceit, rather than as a primary teaching method. Now of course, things are so different, with some eminent homeopaths stressing that the proving is merely one method among many of understanding a remedy's healing identity. Take Nick Churchill's interview with Massimo Mangialavori in issue 75 of the journal: "It's important to gather information from pharmacological and toxicological sources, or from the traditional use of the substance, and even about our delusions, our human projection - what in psychoanalysis is called the 'archetype' - of certain substances. All this is as important as the proving." Massimo's high estimation of non-homeopathic information - whether it is archetypal or scientific - is aeons away from Hahnemann's strictures against the doctrine of signatures in his Examination of the Sources of the Materia Medica, (cl825). This really has to be quoted in full, so that we can fully appreciate the wonderfully humorous tone of his withering diatribe:

"I shall spare the ordinary medical school the humiliation of reminding it of the folly of those ancient physicians who, determining the medicinal powers of crude drugs from their signature, that is, from their colour and form, gave the testicle-shaped orchis-root in order to restore manly vigour; the phallus impudicus, to strengthen weak erections; ascribed to the yellow turmeric the power of curing jaundice, and considered hypericum perforatum, whose yellow flowers on being crushed yield a red juice (St John's blood), useful in haemorrhages and wounds &c; but I shall refrain from taunting the physicians of the present day with this absurdity, although traces of it are to be met with in the most modern treatises on Materia Medica."

To be honest, any debate over the place of signatures within homeopathy is only of academic interest (and therefore perhaps a waste of time), so widespread has the employment of this doctrine become in the daily practice of the majority of homeopaths. This is mainly due the teachings on kingdoms, families, groups and so on, by, principally, Jan Scholten, Rajan Sankaran and, latterly, Massimo Mangialavori. To argue for the traditional position, however, one is always happy to know that, as one shuffles anxiously and chaotically through the repertory in search of that elusive nothing we call the remedy, one always has the
option of referring to the Materia Medica Pura, to The Chronic Diseases, to the twelve volumes of T.F Allen's Encyclopaedia of Pure Materia Medica, to the mere ten volumes of Hering's Guiding Symptoms, and lastly, to the mini-epidemic of properly overseen modern provings that have been conducted since Jeremy Sherr's Androctonos in 1983. A good proving is the crucible: - it gives us the genuine alchemical identity of a substance, and this information stands for all time, as a testament to both the essence and the portrait of a remedy.

To return to Prisma (this is supposed to be a review, after all) the book is a delight, and should be - will be - taking its place in the library of most homeopaths within the next two or three years. Prisma is a celebration of knowledge, of science, art, mythology, theology: - whatever you are interested in you'll find something here to engage you. Its diverse content takes us way beyond the clinical practice of homeopathy; the book will be of interest to the metallurgist, the geologist, the student of comparative religion, to the psychologist, the art historian and the Shakespearian scholar, as well as to the homeopath. Vermeulen has condensed information from so many sources, that the £47- you spend on it is really a snip, because it'll save you lashing out hundreds of pounds on the Encyclopaedia Britannica. At the end of the day, it could even help you find the correct remedy.

 

This book review is reprinted with permission from Homeopathic Links.

Reviewed by Guido Mortelmans, MD, Belgium

Is there really a need for still another materia medica? When I started with homeopathy, I dreamed of having all the materia medicas in my consultation room.With all that knowledge, I would help the patients tremendously, I thought...

Now, twenty years later I have hundredsof homeopathic books one mouse-click away. And maybe the time is not far off that our homeopathic repertory will be updated automatically every time we start our computer. So why this new materia medica from Vermeulen? He already wrote the 'Concordant Materia Medica' (1994) and the 'Synoptic Materia Medica', part 1 (1992) and part 2 (1996). It seems even stranger when I notice that exactly the same 195 homeopathic remedies (and one addition) are studied in this new book as in part I of the Synoptic Materia Medica. Who still needs to buy this 'Prisma Materia Medica'? The first edition appeared in March 2002. And in August, five months later, a second edition already appeared! This book is a great success and a lot of homeopaths buy it. What is so special about it?

Let us just open the book and study a remedy in detail.

When I look at Ambra grisea in this Prisma Materia Medica it looks at first glance almost the same as in his former materia medica. The section 'region' is now named 'affinity' and the section 'leading symptoms' is now called 'main symptoms'. But there are important differences: the main symptoms are enlarged and revised. I will give an example.

In the SMM (Synoptic Materia Medica) we read a quote from Kent: 'Asks many questions, never waits for an answer'. In the Prisma Materia Medica more information is added: 'Especially is it indicated in those persons who manifest a momentary, fleeting inquisitiveness, jumping from one subject to another'. Even another quote (Farrington) about this symptom is added.

Also additions from modern authors are present. Under the symptom 'aversion to smiling faces (suspicion, delusion being laughed at)' we find 'They have a disgust at the laughter of others; esp. if people are telling jokes about sex or other bodily functions which would embarrass them' (Thompson).

New information from journals about Ambra grisea as from Linda Johnston in Homeopathic Links (3/96 and 4/96) is present.

In the 'Rubrics' section we find more rubrics and sometimes more detailed. The rubric 'Vertigo, lying necessary', becomes now: 'Vertigo: must lie down (2); and weakness in stomach (1/1). New rubrics are present: 'Dreams: of being abused, and too weak to defend himself (1/1).

We find also some new food additions: aversion fat food (1) and desire for salt (2), fish and seafood, (additions from Thompson).

The 'Nucleus' of the remedy as we saw in the SMM is removed from the Prisma Materia Medica. With this 'Nucleus' Vermeulen summarised in a few lines the most interesting symptoms of the remedy.

This Prisma Materia Medica is very personal. Which authors and which books do you choose out of the huge homeopathic library? Of course the great homeopaths from the past are present. You simply have to use Hahnemann, Allen and Hering. But which of the other 'old masters' do you prefer? Especially Nash but also Lippe, Royal, Dunham, Dewey are seldom quoted, On the contrary Hughes is quoted very often, a fact not many Kentians will like. Kent was very negative about Hughes' Materia Medica: a Cyclopedia of Drug Pathogenesy. 'As a pathogenesy it is a travesty', he wrote.

Sometimes Vermeulen found mistakes in the materia medica and corrected them as we see in the translation from Bellis perennis and Calcarea fluorica by Stephenson from German to English. Inaccurate repertory symptoms are corrected.

In a lot of materia medicas, the homeopaths after Kent are almost forgotten. It is a pleasure to see that Vermeulen uses the great English homeopaths as Tyler, Blackie, Wright-Hubbard, Foubister, Borland and others.

Also the German speaking homeopaths are present: Leeserand Mezger but also Stubler and even Voegeli, Dorsci and Gawlik. The French homeopathic community is well represent in this book with names as Julian, Voisin, Vannier, Lathoud, Julian, Horvilleur and Charette and others.

From India we find only a few classical authors. Of course you could say that not all these authors are so reliable, but because in the Prisma Materia Medica the source is mentioned you can decide for yourself to use it or not. I hope that in the computerised version of this book it will be possible to choose which authors you want and which not. It is amazing how many authors Vermeulen uses.

But he also has his limits: from the Spanish speaking homeopaths I find almost no information. There is Eugenio Candegabe (because his book was translated?) but where is Paschero, Ortega orMasi Elisalde?

AndreSaine, the Canadian homeopath, is very enthusiastic about the 'old masters'. Vermeulen consulted a lot of old journals to obtain more information. But he didn't stop there and went further till the present time.

He knows the English speaking contemporary homeopaths well and what they have to say about certain remedies. This new information about a lot of remedies is very interesting. Here are some of this jewels: Aethusa (Vithoulkas), Anacardium (Zaren), Bufo (Geukens), Cuprum (Smits), Ferrum (Shah), Mandragora (K.J.Muller), Rhododendron (Konig / van der Zee), Sanicula (Eberle), Spigelia (Ghegas), Strychninum (Shore), Thuja (Gray), Apis (Morrison)but also Shah and Dimitriadis) and many more, This is one of the most positive points of this book. Sometimes I miss an author: Aurum without Sankaran or Wulfsberg and Stramonium withoutHerscu.

The materia medicas of Allen and Hering are just a sum of symptoms. Vermeulen now has made an interesting materia medica with quotes from many good homeopaths but also clinical symptoms, exact phrasings of proving symptoms, fragments of cases, contemporary concepts and correlations.

Of the modern books Philip Bailey is used a lot, much more than Catherine Coulter is. Rajan Sankaran of course is one of the most quoted modern authors. And there is Scholten. But then I realised there is something terribly wrong with Scholten: although there are some quotes from his first book, I find very little from his second book 'Homeopathy and the Elements'.

I must conclude that Vermeulen thinks that the content of that book is not certain enough. This also happens with other authors. If the information is 'good' Vermeulen will use it, otherwise not. In the preface of his 'Concordant Materia Medica' he quoted St. Paul's maxim: 'Prove all things and retain what is good'. So he uses a fine description of the Alumina personality by Frans Maan, but nothing more of Maan's book: 'Homeopathy in Reflexive Perspective'.

Some authors are awfully absent: Masi Elisalde, Jurgen Becker, Martin Bomhardt, Peter Raba, Eileen Nauman... A small
exception is 'Die homoopatische Arzneien, Band 1,Wesen und Essenz'van Hadulla and Richter.

The C4 homeopathy, dream provings or meditative provings are not found in the Prisma.

In his introduction Vermeulen writes that the Prisma Materia Medica wants to point out parallels and similars between homeopathic drug pictures and the substances from which they are derived. Prisma is Greek for prism, a crystal structure that refracts light. A beam of white light is separated by the prism into a rainbow of colours. This book contains information from many disciplines, which is then expanded and refracted into a vibrant spectrum of information. Vermeulen paraphrases Grimmer: 'Since it is our sole duty to heal the sick we cannot afford to ignore intelligent help from any source so long as this aid available is based on law and common sense'. Further he says: 'Interviewing a substance means gathering all possible information, from every available source about the substance... '

Every remedy is introduced with a quote or a quip. This can be very serious or lighthearted. Here some examples:
'Too much rest itself becomes a pain' (Homer) - Rhus toxicodendron.
'Your friend is the man who knows all about you and still likes you' (Elbert Hubbard) - Sarsaparilla

After the quote, a never before seen quantity of information is present. Some examples will make it clearer. Aconite, a plant, has the following headings: classification, distribution, name, features. Then we find the constituents of the plant, toxicology, and effects. All this is very scientific. Then follows another part with themes as mythology, witches, rituals, and folklore. At the end, the known old and new provings of the remedy are mentioned exactly. Plumbum has the following headings: classification, grades, properties, uses, sources, paint, toxicology, disabilities, physiology, function, behaviour, alchemy, symbolism and saturnalia.

The scientific part is good and detailed. Sometimes the headings are a little bit short so that you don't know what is meant exactly. Under Hypericum we find the heading: 'medicine'. It is about the use of Hypericum as herb in old folk medicine. A better heading would have been 'Folk medicine'. Under Iodum we find 'uses'. What is meant is the 'industrial use', which would have been a better header. Under Mancinella I even find a header 'Mancinella'. What follows is an explanation about the toxic plant.

New findings and studies of allopathic medicine are also mentioned: the use of St. John's Wort (Hypericum) as an anti-depressant. Under Ipecacuana he calls attention to the misuse of Ipecacuana syrup in cases of Munchausen syndrome.
Sometimes the information is a little bit confusing and a better explanation would be good. Under Ignatia I read: '... It is never a remedy for conditions of excitation of the nervous system, but its keynote is atony'.

Vermeulen loves the drug remedies and writes extensively about them: Anhalonium (25 pages), Opium (16 pages), Coca (13 pages). He even talks about the not so well-known experiences of Freud with cocaine or even Sherlock Holmes! Freud started his career as a medical researcher. One century ago he published 'Die Traumdeutung'. ('The interpretation of dreams'.) There are still discussions today about if Freud was right or wrong in his interpretation of dreams. Vermeulen has found no way how to add the dreams to this Prisma Materia Medica. Only very few dreams are mentioned. In Bambusa he gives, as an exception, twelve dream symptoms. But in the repertory additions from Schuster (who proved the remedy) there are 61 dream symptoms! The dream about a journey to China is mentioned, but the. dream about a cruise around the world not. It is not clear why certain dream symptoms are selected and others not.

Vermeulen is good in giving rational information (left-brain) but has difficulties with the right brain information. If the information is not scientific enough it is not given.

Vermeulen also uses mythology and legends. Under Belladonna we read: ' According to old legends, the plant belongs to the devil who goes about trimming and tending it in his leasure, and can only be diverted from its care on one night in the year, that is on Walpurgis, when he is preparing for the "witches" sabbath'. It is a pity that information from legends and fairy tales as mentioned by Jurgen Becker and which is also written down in the 'Symbolische Materia Medica' of Bomhardt is not mentioned at all. Other interesting connections and correlations between homeopathic remedies and certain themes as in Bernhardt are not present: clothing, profession, appearance, colours, hobbies, literature, music, way of speaking, writers, films, tarot, personalities, astrology, sports.

In my experience the therapy which is the closest to homeopathy is the Flower essence therapy. Vermeulen sometimes describes part of a Bach flower remedy (Aesculus), but no other flower essence material (California, Alaska, Findhorn, Australia, etc.) is used. Also some knowledge of the tissue salts of Schussler and antroposofical knowledge (Pelikan and others) is present. I find nothing about the use of the five elements theory in homeopathic remedies or the relation between remedies and the chakras. And astrological medicine is not mentioned at all. Galen, one of the founders of the western medicine wrote a long time ago: 'Any physician who doesn't know astrology is worse than a criminal'. For the record: I disagree with Galen.

Nowadays we have a lot of homeopathic literature at our disposal and we need methods to order and understand this information. Frans Vermeulen has succeeded in ordering this information in a very good manner. He uses the old materia medicas, but also journals, provings, cured cases and recent homeopathic material and besides that a lot of other information and he has made a new standard in materia medica. This is a book that most homeopaths will want to have. Until now anybody who wanted to study a remedy needed a lot of books. Now many will start with the Prisma Materia Medica and thengo further. The subtitle of this book is 'the Arcana of Materia Medica illuminated'. An Arcanum is a profound secret. Unfortunately I didn't find any deep secrets in this materia medica. But I believe that Vermeulen wants to unlock more secrets of our homeopathic remedies.

Knowing a homeopathic remedy goes much further and deeper than a rational understanding. We need to study the remedy, but we also need to prove it, meditate about it and dream about it. Yes, we have to make the connection with the substance or the plant in nature. Maybe Vermeulen already knows this. In the beginning of this beautiful book he quotes Hering: 'Things in nature are words and colour in form, a language which expresses itself to those who can read... What they mean is reading without a book.'

Review

This article is reprinted from The Homoeopath with permission from Nick Churchill of The Society of Homoeopaths.

Reviewed by Nick Hewes

The development of Frans Vermeulen's series of 'synoptic' materia medica (as distinct to his encyclopaedic Concordant Materia Medica) over the last ten years is, in a way, a faithful mirror of the great changes that have occurred in homeopathy in
that relatively short space of time. The first volume, entitled simply Synoptic Materia Medica is really Phatak with garlic, relying as it does on the refinement and virtuosity that George Vithoulkas and Vassilis Ghegas brought to a moribund homeopathy in the mid 1970s. This neat little book was originally intended as a remedy summary for Finnish and Irish students. Its main virtues were simplicity and brevity, along with a very adept synthesis of quotations from a wide range of authors, which helped to evoke the characteristics of our main remedies in a really succinct way. In every age authors have striven to simplify and condense the literature from the wide expanses of the past, and in the last century each generation of homeopaths produced its own, favourite masters of the synoptic art, among whom were figures such as Boericke, Boger, Clarke, Tyler, Phatak and lastly of course, Vermeulen himself, whose razzy silver volume probably replaced Phatak's Materia Materia upon the desks of many homeopaths.

Vermeulen's Synoptic Materia Medica II originally set out to cover those 'small' remedies not included in the first book, but somewhere along the line it turned into a completely different venture, due to the inclusion of a great deal of remedy information that was from non-homeopathic sources, such as, (to quote directly from the preface to volume two), "chemistry, metallurgy, botany, and biology" as well as imagery from "fairytale, legend and myth". This fascinating but extraneous information went
under the heading of "Signs", a category which was entirely absent from volume one, where each remedy had been described under traditional titles like: "Region/Modalities/ Leading Symptoms" (the latter an obvious reference to Nash, one of our most gifted and yet ignored writers). In order to compare the difference in approach between the first and second volumes, let us
take as an example the first line on Conium in the earlier book:

"Region: NERVES. MUSCLES. GLANDS [MAMMAE; ovaries]. Sexual organs. Respiration. RIGHT SIDE. Left side."

This format would have been recognisable to all homeopaths from all ages, going back to the days of Boenninghausen and Jahr in the first half of the 19th century. Compare this however, with Vermeulen's treatment of Luna in the second volume, where any discussion of the symptoms of that remedy are held in abeyance for well over a page, whilst the writer discusses the moon
goddesses Hecate and Selene, the tides of the ocean, insanity, fertility, and menstrual cycles, all of this under the "Signs" heading. This striking difference in approach tells us that, between volume one (1 992) and volume two (1 996) something very fundamental happened to Vermeulen's homeopathic worldview. That fundamental something was possibly the publication of Jan Scholten's Homoeopathy and Minerals in 1993, a revolutionary work because it suggested that the characteristics of a remedy could be deduced from studying its place in the natural world, from its uses, and from its identity in history, myth and literature, and not merely from a homeopathic proving. Without Scholten's work, Synoptic Materia Medica II would probably not exist in its present form.

Prisma (Dutch for 'prism', perhaps because the book aims to concentrate a vast and diverse spectrum of knowledge into one single text) simply returns to those same remedies that were so expertly summarised in the first volume in order to add extra information, the most obvious of which relates to their signatures. It's a bit like Godfather Part II, where Coppola goes backwards in time, and explores the childhood of Don Corleone, in order to explain the adult who dominated the first film.
Maybe Prisma should be subtitled Synoptic Materia Medica two and a half.

As in both earlier volumes, the use of quotations to illustrate the remedies is done superbly well. Vermeulen borrows from whatever sources he can, from Hahnemann to Vithoulkas, and the result is top quality homeopathic gossip, straight from the masters' mouths. His three volumes show that an apt quotation is by far the best form of summary. A real advance is the employment of footnotes to illustrate the sources of all these utterances. One frustrating aspect of both the earlier books was
the unexplained absence of sources for some of the tasty quotations contained therein. The mystery is that some quotations were sourced, and others were not, a curiously unscholarly arrangement, given the author's reputation for superhuman industry. The use of footnotes in Prisma overcomes these former, minor annoyances.

One quite bizarre feature, in a book that otherwise exudes all the virtues of scholarship, is the complete omission of any kind of bibliography. A full bibliography does exist (the publishers will send you one if you email them), but apparently the printers forgot to put it in. Oh well, that's the benign charm of Holland for you: - sometimes the home-grown is just too strong!

One other change from volume two is the subdivision of the "Signs" section into various smaller categories of information, whereas formerly all the non-homeopathic information appeared within one heading, without an differentiation. Thus the
section on Carbo vegetabilis, for example, is divided into the subheadings: "Constituents/ Uses/Activated charcoal/Absorbent/ Medicinal/ Carbon cycle/ Black". These subdivisions have the effect of further elevating the importance of the "Signs" section
within Vermeulen's hierarchy.

A closer look Carbo vegetabilis shows just how potent this influx of new information is, as an example of how it may help us to give new shape and colour to our existing portrait of that underused remedy. Vermeulen's discussion of the carbon cycle is particularly fascinating, since it describes at length the mechanism of global warming, implying of course that Carbo vegetabilis
may once again become a very important polychrest, as we drive merrily onward towards an inevitable appointment with our tubercular nemesis.

Also of interest is the examination of the colour "black", invoking as it does images of darkness, death and the underworld, thus confirming the reputation of Carbo vegetabilis as the great corpse reviver. (incidentally, this is of synchronous interest, as it relates to an article on Eileen Nauman in the current issue, in which she discusses the importance of a remedy's colour in understanding its uses.)

The obvious question we need to ask is "how important is the doctrine of signatures to the kind of homeopathy we practise?"
As students we were told that there were really only three main sources of materia medica: provings, clinical information, and poisonings.Occasionally a lecturer would use a remedy's signature to illustrate its therapeutic characteristics, but this was
usually delivered as a pretty conceit, rather than as a primary teaching method. Now of course, things are so different, with some eminent homeopaths stressing that the proving is merely one method among many of understanding a remedy's healing identity. Take Nick Churchill's interview with Massimo Mangialavori in issue 75 of the journal: "It's important to gather information from pharmacological and toxicological sources, or from the traditional use of the substance, and even about our delusions, our human projection - what in psychoanalysis is called the 'archetype' - of certain substances. All this is as important as the proving." Massimo's high estimation of non-homeopathic information - whether it is archetypal or scientific - is aeons away from Hahnemann's strictures against the doctrine of signatures in his Examination of the Sources of the Materia Medica, (cl825). This really has to be quoted in full, so that we can fully appreciate the wonderfully humorous tone of his withering diatribe:

"I shall spare the ordinary medical school the humiliation of reminding it of the folly of those ancient physicians who, determining the medicinal powers of crude drugs from their signature, that is, from their colour and form, gave the testicle-shaped orchis-root in order to restore manly vigour; the phallus impudicus, to strengthen weak erections; ascribed to the yellow turmeric the power of curing jaundice, and considered hypericum perforatum, whose yellow flowers on being crushed yield a red juice (St John's blood), useful in haemorrhages and wounds &c; but I shall refrain from taunting the physicians of the present day with this absurdity, although traces of it are to be met with in the most modern treatises on Materia Medica."

To be honest, any debate over the place of signatures within homeopathy is only of academic interest (and therefore perhaps a waste of time), so widespread has the employment of this doctrine become in the daily practice of the majority of homeopaths. This is mainly due the teachings on kingdoms, families, groups and so on, by, principally, Jan Scholten, Rajan Sankaran and, latterly, Massimo Mangialavori. To argue for the traditional position, however, one is always happy to know that, as one shuffles anxiously and chaotically through the repertory in search of that elusive nothing we call the remedy, one always has the
option of referring to the Materia Medica Pura, to The Chronic Diseases, to the twelve volumes of T.F Allen's Encyclopaedia of Pure Materia Medica, to the mere ten volumes of Hering's Guiding Symptoms, and lastly, to the mini-epidemic of properly overseen modern provings that have been conducted since Jeremy Sherr's Androctonos in 1983. A good proving is the crucible: - it gives us the genuine alchemical identity of a substance, and this information stands for all time, as a testament to both the essence and the portrait of a remedy.

To return to Prisma (this is supposed to be a review, after all) the book is a delight, and should be - will be - taking its place in the library of most homeopaths within the next two or three years. Prisma is a celebration of knowledge, of science, art, mythology, theology: - whatever you are interested in you'll find something here to engage you. Its diverse content takes us way beyond the clinical practice of homeopathy; the book will be of interest to the metallurgist, the geologist, the student of comparative religion, to the psychologist, the art historian and the Shakespearian scholar, as well as to the homeopath. Vermeulen has condensed information from so many sources, that the £47- you spend on it is really a snip, because it'll save you lashing out hundreds of pounds on the Encyclopaedia Britannica. At the end of the day, it could even help you find the correct remedy.

 

This book review is reprinted with permission from Homeopathic Links.

Reviewed by Guido Mortelmans, MD, Belgium

Is there really a need for still another materia medica? When I started with homeopathy, I dreamed of having all the materia medicas in my consultation room.With all that knowledge, I would help the patients tremendously, I thought...

Now, twenty years later I have hundredsof homeopathic books one mouse-click away. And maybe the time is not far off that our homeopathic repertory will be updated automatically every time we start our computer. So why this new materia medica from Vermeulen? He already wrote the 'Concordant Materia Medica' (1994) and the 'Synoptic Materia Medica', part 1 (1992) and part 2 (1996). It seems even stranger when I notice that exactly the same 195 homeopathic remedies (and one addition) are studied in this new book as in part I of the Synoptic Materia Medica. Who still needs to buy this 'Prisma Materia Medica'? The first edition appeared in March 2002. And in August, five months later, a second edition already appeared! This book is a great success and a lot of homeopaths buy it. What is so special about it?

Let us just open the book and study a remedy in detail.

When I look at Ambra grisea in this Prisma Materia Medica it looks at first glance almost the same as in his former materia medica. The section 'region' is now named 'affinity' and the section 'leading symptoms' is now called 'main symptoms'. But there are important differences: the main symptoms are enlarged and revised. I will give an example.

In the SMM (Synoptic Materia Medica) we read a quote from Kent: 'Asks many questions, never waits for an answer'. In the Prisma Materia Medica more information is added: 'Especially is it indicated in those persons who manifest a momentary, fleeting inquisitiveness, jumping from one subject to another'. Even another quote (Farrington) about this symptom is added.

Also additions from modern authors are present. Under the symptom 'aversion to smiling faces (suspicion, delusion being laughed at)' we find 'They have a disgust at the laughter of others; esp. if people are telling jokes about sex or other bodily functions which would embarrass them' (Thompson).

New information from journals about Ambra grisea as from Linda Johnston in Homeopathic Links (3/96 and 4/96) is present.

In the 'Rubrics' section we find more rubrics and sometimes more detailed. The rubric 'Vertigo, lying necessary', becomes now: 'Vertigo: must lie down (2); and weakness in stomach (1/1). New rubrics are present: 'Dreams: of being abused, and too weak to defend himself (1/1).

We find also some new food additions: aversion fat food (1) and desire for salt (2), fish and seafood, (additions from Thompson).

The 'Nucleus' of the remedy as we saw in the SMM is removed from the Prisma Materia Medica. With this 'Nucleus' Vermeulen summarised in a few lines the most interesting symptoms of the remedy.

This Prisma Materia Medica is very personal. Which authors and which books do you choose out of the huge homeopathic library? Of course the great homeopaths from the past are present. You simply have to use Hahnemann, Allen and Hering. But which of the other 'old masters' do you prefer? Especially Nash but also Lippe, Royal, Dunham, Dewey are seldom quoted, On the contrary Hughes is quoted very often, a fact not many Kentians will like. Kent was very negative about Hughes' Materia Medica: a Cyclopedia of Drug Pathogenesy. 'As a pathogenesy it is a travesty', he wrote.

Sometimes Vermeulen found mistakes in the materia medica and corrected them as we see in the translation from Bellis perennis and Calcarea fluorica by Stephenson from German to English. Inaccurate repertory symptoms are corrected.

In a lot of materia medicas, the homeopaths after Kent are almost forgotten. It is a pleasure to see that Vermeulen uses the great English homeopaths as Tyler, Blackie, Wright-Hubbard, Foubister, Borland and others.

Also the German speaking homeopaths are present: Leeserand Mezger but also Stubler and even Voegeli, Dorsci and Gawlik. The French homeopathic community is well represent in this book with names as Julian, Voisin, Vannier, Lathoud, Julian, Horvilleur and Charette and others.

From India we find only a few classical authors. Of course you could say that not all these authors are so reliable, but because in the Prisma Materia Medica the source is mentioned you can decide for yourself to use it or not. I hope that in the computerised version of this book it will be possible to choose which authors you want and which not. It is amazing how many authors Vermeulen uses.

But he also has his limits: from the Spanish speaking homeopaths I find almost no information. There is Eugenio Candegabe (because his book was translated?) but where is Paschero, Ortega orMasi Elisalde?

AndreSaine, the Canadian homeopath, is very enthusiastic about the 'old masters'. Vermeulen consulted a lot of old journals to obtain more information. But he didn't stop there and went further till the present time.

He knows the English speaking contemporary homeopaths well and what they have to say about certain remedies. This new information about a lot of remedies is very interesting. Here are some of this jewels: Aethusa (Vithoulkas), Anacardium (Zaren), Bufo (Geukens), Cuprum (Smits), Ferrum (Shah), Mandragora (K.J.Muller), Rhododendron (Konig / van der Zee), Sanicula (Eberle), Spigelia (Ghegas), Strychninum (Shore), Thuja (Gray), Apis (Morrison)but also Shah and Dimitriadis) and many more, This is one of the most positive points of this book. Sometimes I miss an author: Aurum without Sankaran or Wulfsberg and Stramonium withoutHerscu.

The materia medicas of Allen and Hering are just a sum of symptoms. Vermeulen now has made an interesting materia medica with quotes from many good homeopaths but also clinical symptoms, exact phrasings of proving symptoms, fragments of cases, contemporary concepts and correlations.

Of the modern books Philip Bailey is used a lot, much more than Catherine Coulter is. Rajan Sankaran of course is one of the most quoted modern authors. And there is Scholten. But then I realised there is something terribly wrong with Scholten: although there are some quotes from his first book, I find very little from his second book 'Homeopathy and the Elements'.

I must conclude that Vermeulen thinks that the content of that book is not certain enough. This also happens with other authors. If the information is 'good' Vermeulen will use it, otherwise not. In the preface of his 'Concordant Materia Medica' he quoted St. Paul's maxim: 'Prove all things and retain what is good'. So he uses a fine description of the Alumina personality by Frans Maan, but nothing more of Maan's book: 'Homeopathy in Reflexive Perspective'.

Some authors are awfully absent: Masi Elisalde, Jurgen Becker, Martin Bomhardt, Peter Raba, Eileen Nauman... A small
exception is 'Die homoopatische Arzneien, Band 1,Wesen und Essenz'van Hadulla and Richter.

The C4 homeopathy, dream provings or meditative provings are not found in the Prisma.

In his introduction Vermeulen writes that the Prisma Materia Medica wants to point out parallels and similars between homeopathic drug pictures and the substances from which they are derived. Prisma is Greek for prism, a crystal structure that refracts light. A beam of white light is separated by the prism into a rainbow of colours. This book contains information from many disciplines, which is then expanded and refracted into a vibrant spectrum of information. Vermeulen paraphrases Grimmer: 'Since it is our sole duty to heal the sick we cannot afford to ignore intelligent help from any source so long as this aid available is based on law and common sense'. Further he says: 'Interviewing a substance means gathering all possible information, from every available source about the substance... '

Every remedy is introduced with a quote or a quip. This can be very serious or lighthearted. Here some examples:
'Too much rest itself becomes a pain' (Homer) - Rhus toxicodendron.
'Your friend is the man who knows all about you and still likes you' (Elbert Hubbard) - Sarsaparilla

After the quote, a never before seen quantity of information is present. Some examples will make it clearer. Aconite, a plant, has the following headings: classification, distribution, name, features. Then we find the constituents of the plant, toxicology, and effects. All this is very scientific. Then follows another part with themes as mythology, witches, rituals, and folklore. At the end, the known old and new provings of the remedy are mentioned exactly. Plumbum has the following headings: classification, grades, properties, uses, sources, paint, toxicology, disabilities, physiology, function, behaviour, alchemy, symbolism and saturnalia.

The scientific part is good and detailed. Sometimes the headings are a little bit short so that you don't know what is meant exactly. Under Hypericum we find the heading: 'medicine'. It is about the use of Hypericum as herb in old folk medicine. A better heading would have been 'Folk medicine'. Under Iodum we find 'uses'. What is meant is the 'industrial use', which would have been a better header. Under Mancinella I even find a header 'Mancinella'. What follows is an explanation about the toxic plant.

New findings and studies of allopathic medicine are also mentioned: the use of St. John's Wort (Hypericum) as an anti-depressant. Under Ipecacuana he calls attention to the misuse of Ipecacuana syrup in cases of Munchausen syndrome.
Sometimes the information is a little bit confusing and a better explanation would be good. Under Ignatia I read: '... It is never a remedy for conditions of excitation of the nervous system, but its keynote is atony'.

Vermeulen loves the drug remedies and writes extensively about them: Anhalonium (25 pages), Opium (16 pages), Coca (13 pages). He even talks about the not so well-known experiences of Freud with cocaine or even Sherlock Holmes! Freud started his career as a medical researcher. One century ago he published 'Die Traumdeutung'. ('The interpretation of dreams'.) There are still discussions today about if Freud was right or wrong in his interpretation of dreams. Vermeulen has found no way how to add the dreams to this Prisma Materia Medica. Only very few dreams are mentioned. In Bambusa he gives, as an exception, twelve dream symptoms. But in the repertory additions from Schuster (who proved the remedy) there are 61 dream symptoms! The dream about a journey to China is mentioned, but the. dream about a cruise around the world not. It is not clear why certain dream symptoms are selected and others not.

Vermeulen is good in giving rational information (left-brain) but has difficulties with the right brain information. If the information is not scientific enough it is not given.

Vermeulen also uses mythology and legends. Under Belladonna we read: ' According to old legends, the plant belongs to the devil who goes about trimming and tending it in his leasure, and can only be diverted from its care on one night in the year, that is on Walpurgis, when he is preparing for the "witches" sabbath'. It is a pity that information from legends and fairy tales as mentioned by Jurgen Becker and which is also written down in the 'Symbolische Materia Medica' of Bomhardt is not mentioned at all. Other interesting connections and correlations between homeopathic remedies and certain themes as in Bernhardt are not present: clothing, profession, appearance, colours, hobbies, literature, music, way of speaking, writers, films, tarot, personalities, astrology, sports.

In my experience the therapy which is the closest to homeopathy is the Flower essence therapy. Vermeulen sometimes describes part of a Bach flower remedy (Aesculus), but no other flower essence material (California, Alaska, Findhorn, Australia, etc.) is used. Also some knowledge of the tissue salts of Schussler and antroposofical knowledge (Pelikan and others) is present. I find nothing about the use of the five elements theory in homeopathic remedies or the relation between remedies and the chakras. And astrological medicine is not mentioned at all. Galen, one of the founders of the western medicine wrote a long time ago: 'Any physician who doesn't know astrology is worse than a criminal'. For the record: I disagree with Galen.

Nowadays we have a lot of homeopathic literature at our disposal and we need methods to order and understand this information. Frans Vermeulen has succeeded in ordering this information in a very good manner. He uses the old materia medicas, but also journals, provings, cured cases and recent homeopathic material and besides that a lot of other information and he has made a new standard in materia medica. This is a book that most homeopaths will want to have. Until now anybody who wanted to study a remedy needed a lot of books. Now many will start with the Prisma Materia Medica and thengo further. The subtitle of this book is 'the Arcana of Materia Medica illuminated'. An Arcanum is a profound secret. Unfortunately I didn't find any deep secrets in this materia medica. But I believe that Vermeulen wants to unlock more secrets of our homeopathic remedies.

Knowing a homeopathic remedy goes much further and deeper than a rational understanding. We need to study the remedy, but we also need to prove it, meditate about it and dream about it. Yes, we have to make the connection with the substance or the plant in nature. Maybe Vermeulen already knows this. In the beginning of this beautiful book he quotes Hering: 'Things in nature are words and colour in form, a language which expresses itself to those who can read... What they mean is reading without a book.'