In accordance with the work of C.G. Jung, Dr Bernard Long explains how homeopathy can escape the law of causality in some aspects by relying on meaning through meaning : synchronicity.
French version of this article
It would be tempting for many reasons to bring homeopathy into the field of experimental medicine by means of conventional explanations and methods.
The validity and effectiveness of dilutions could certainly be demonstrated through statistics and experiments. However, one can ask oneself the question of the limits of such an approach because homeopathy does not have the same theoretical bases or paradigms as experimental medicine for the simple and obvious reason that it precedes it historically and that its field of application is not the same.
Does this mean that homeopathy is worthless ? Not necessarily. Its logical system is coherent. In the context of this reflection on scientific paradigms, it seems (among other things) that the law of causality, so esteemed by experimental medicine, is not always relevant to homeopathy.
In principle, every phenomenon has a cause : this is the law of causality.
In the East, as in the West, this law reigns supreme.
Hinduism and Buddhism advocate the law of cause and effect.
Plato and especially Aristotle accept the law of causality. The classical philosophers did the same, except Hume who criticized it. Edgar Morin speaks of complex causality.
The principle of causality is based on several hypotheses :
- that two events are unambiguously separated from each other and have their own independent existence ;
- that some contact, force, or influence flows from one body or event to the other ;
- that there is a clear flow of time with the cause occurring in the past and the effect in the present.
Claude Bernard specifies that the definite and elementary conditions of phenomena can only be known by one way : the experimental analysis. This analysis successively breaks down all complex phenomena into increasingly simple ones until they are reduced to just two elementary conditions, if possible.
However, modern science acknowledges contingency and moves away from the deterministic version. While many laws of nature conform to the statistical law, there are exceptions. Natural laws are statistical truths, which means that they are completely valid when they are dealing with macrophysical quantities. In the realm of the infinitely small quantities prediction becomes uncertain because the very small quantities no longer behave in accordance with known natural laws.
It must be recognized that causality is often difficult to define because of the multiple causes and conditions of a phenomenon, which are impossible to take into account in their entirety. The consideration of a simple, even simplistic model is undoubtedly too reductive in relation to reality.
It happens that, in nature, many phenomena do not correspond to the law of causality. Are they to be excluded from the field of science, and therefore from our interests ?
There are unique or rare events that are therefore not considered by science. The descriptive sciences, and above all biology in the widest sense, are familiar with these unique specimens and in their case only one example of an organism, no matter how unbelievable it may be, is needed to establish its existence. This is the case, for example, in paleontology, where brilliant hypotheses are based on isolated samples. This is also the case with the side effects of drugs : effects that are sometimes rare but intense enough to prevent them from being marketed (although they do not fit the usual statistical criteria).
In the case of side effects of drugs, an irrefutable proof of a causal link is not always possible. The marketing of one drug can even be stopped, as a precautionary principle, because the effect is probable but not sure (and the legal consequences could be serious).
Carl Gustav Jung, together with the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, was interested in those « unique occurrences », which are not statistical. As an example, Jung tells this anecdote :
« I shall mention an incident from my own observation. A young woman I was treating had at a critical moment a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me this dream I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, like a gentle tapping. I turned round and saw a flying insect knocking against the windowpane from outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in Il was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab that one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (cetonia aurata), which contrary to its habits had evidently felt an urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment. »
Undoubtedly one can say that something happened. But this something is not included in the field of statistical law ; it seems difficult to carry out a proof with a counterproof. This kind of event does not make sense in the mechanical world.
Causality cannot be ruled out in the study of this event. The patient’s dream may have an apparent cause and have cooperating causes, just as the irruption of the scarab is related to causes and conditions. This is indeed a « multiple cause and condition » phenomenon. This does not imply the inherent existence of the phenomenon which does indeed appear in a conventional way to our ordinary consciousness but which has no ultimate existence because of impermanence, multiple causes and conditions which make it an elusive event because it is empty of its own existence (the main notion of emptiness according to Nagarjuna).
The problem is the meaning of this meeting between two distinct phenomena.
Does this meeting have sense, is it fortuitous or causal ? A priori there is no cause for this event ; nor can it be said that the two elements of this encounter are connected by the same entity, because if they do indeed appear simultaneously to different sensory consciousnesses (the dream is a mental consciousness and the perception of the scarab is a visual consciousness), the disappearance of one would not cause the disappearance of the other. They are simply connected by meaning. The phenomena, a priori, are non-causal and are not linked to the same entities.
Is this type of event really a coincidence event whose causality would escape us because the multiplicity of causes and conditions would prevent us from knowing its key ?
What is it about more precisely ? Should we ignore these facts under the pretext of « so-called exact science » ?
For Jung, the connection of events may in certain circumstances be other than causal, and requires another principle of explanation. The suspicion that this must be a case of meaningful coincidence, i.e. an acausal connection, is very natural. Jung speaks of synchronicity :
« I am therefore using the general concept of synchronicity in the special sense of a coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same or a similar meaning, in contrast to synchronicity, which simply means the simultaneous occurrence of two events. »
The dream of the scarab is a conscious representation arising from an image already present in the unconscious : the dream narrative and the concomitant irruption of the scarab…. In all these cases and in others like them, it seems that we are in the presence of a pre-existing knowledge, inexplicable by causality, concerning facts that cannot yet be known by consciousness.
« Synchronicity therefore consists of two factors :
- an unconscious image comes into consciousness either directly (i.e. literally) or indirectly (symbolized or suggested) in the form of a dream, idea, or premonition ;
- an objective situation coincides with this content. »
The link that unites the worlds through which synchronicity passes is a link of meaning :
If, as it appears clearly, the meaningful coincidence, the « cross-connection » of events cannot be explained by causality, then the connecting principle must lie in the equal significance of parallel events.
It was left to Carl Jung therefore to emphasize what truly differentiates a synchronicity from a mere coincidence in its inherent meaning. For this reason, synchronicity has been called « an acausal connecting principle » by Jung. But an acausal connection is exactly what was proposed by Wolfgang Pauli in his exclusion principle.
A simultaneous and acausal connection of meaning does indeed differentiate the world of synchronicity from the usual scientific scheme :
« The causality principle asserts that the connection between cause and effect is a necessary one. The synchronicity principle asserts that the terms of a meaningful coincidence are connected by simultaneity and meaning. So, if we assume that the experiments on extrasensory perceptions and numerous other observations are established facts, we must conclude that besides the connection between cause and effect there is another factor in nature which expresses itself in the arrangement of events and appears to us as meaning. Although meaning is an anthropomorphic interpretation, it nevertheless forms the indispensable criterion of synchronicity. »
Synchronistic events are perhaps only the actual special cases where the observer is able to recognize the tertium comparationis : an identity of meaning. This meaning depends on the observation of each individual ; the same phenomenon will not be recognized by all individuals.
Synchronicity allows us to build a bridge between two worlds, that of the psyche and that of matter.
It is difficult to accept the world of synchronicity for Western minds nourished since youth by the idea of causality which seems all-powerful in our culture.
In 1929, while lecturing to a group of students, Jung said : « Synchronicity is the prejudice of the East, causality is the modern prejudice of the West. However, Greece had a concept that is related to synchronicity. This is the notion of kairos (καιρός), which represents the « opportune moment ».
Tibet also knows a related term : it is the term tendrel. According to tendrel, phenomena obviously come into being through a relationship of dependence with other phenomena, and at some point there is an opportune time, creator of harmony, where the unconscious can meet.
The world of homeopathic medicine
The homeopathic consultation
The meeting between the patient and the homeopath is not fortuitous.
Of course, this meeting is the result of many causes and conditions. But at the moment when the therapist is truly listening, not in an academic way, but with his being, at the moment when the patient explains almost spontaneously a particular symptom and is heard, it can be considered that it is then a particular, timely, privileged, unpredictable and significant space where consciousnesses meet and from which an informative space arises that inhabits the two protagonists.
Homeopathic proving experience
The main experiment in homeopathy dates from 1790 : the Quinquina Experiment (1790). Hahnemann took drops of cinchona tincture twice a day. At the end of this experiment, he concluded :
« The Peruvian bark which is used as a remedy in intermittent fever, acts because it can produce symptoms similar to those of intermittent fever in healthy subjects. »
On the basis of this experience, Hahnemann believes that :
« There is no other way of obtaining reliable knowledge of the peculiar power by virtue of which drugs affect and alter human health ; i. e., there is no other safe, or more natural method of accomplishing this object, than to administer each drug separately, and in moderate quantity, to healthy persons, by way of experiment, in order to discover what changes, symptoms, and signs of its effect, that is, what elements of disease each is able to produce, and inclined to excite by itself in the condition of the body and mind. »
In fact, one only observes an effect but where Hahnemann speaks of an effect produced, one cannot really speak of a relation of cause and effect because there is only probability and non-certainty of an authentic effect due to the meeting of a substance and an individual.
Samuel Christian Hahnemann
Content of proving
Provings are carried out on the basis of :
- symptoms resulting from the absorption of doses with molecules ;
- symptoms resulting from the absorption of subtle doses (diluted beyond 11° CH) where the probability of the presence of molecules is infinitesimal, if not zero.
The proving contains banal symptoms, useless in homeopathy, and also what Hahnemann calls rare and personal symptoms, called « idiosyncratic ».
Many symptoms obtained by massive molecular intoxication conform to statistical laws. It is quite certain that phosphorus administered in large doses to 1000 individuals will significantly cause toxic hepatitis. Hence the systematic use of phosphorus in viral hepatitis by certain « homeopaths » ! Here we enter the controversy of the choice of homeopathic symptoms.
However, some toxic symptoms are not statistical and must be dealt with by specific decision trees to « reduce uncertainty » (cf. the decision tables used for side effects). This is a departure from the classic law of causality. Yet (as we have already pointed out) rare side effects have led to the marketing of certain drugs being stopped : the number of retroperitoneal fibroses induced by precool, which was stopped from being marketed, certainly did not correspond to a statistical law.
The « idiosyncratic » symptoms are mostly the result of a few subtoxic cases, and also of dynamizations that are still « material » (lower than 11 -12 CH) and especially of experiments carried out with « subtle » substances diluted and dynamized beyond 12 CH.
The idiosyncratic symptoms only appear in subjects who are able to be in resonance with the vibration of the dynamized substance. The problem is to know if a causal relationship can be demonstrated between the intake of the dynamized substance and the symptoms that appear or if the relationship is of another nature : of an acausal type. The sensitive subject is not an inert box, but a living impressionable device where the « mirror-remedy » and the patient enter into vibration because they are in phase, they have the right tendrel.
« Some symptoms are frequently produced by drugs in many healthy persons who try them ; others are produced in but a few ; others, again, are extremely rare. The so-called idiosyncrasies may be said to belong to the latter class. This term is applied to peculiar constitutions which, though otherwise healthy, are inclined to be more or less morbidly affected by certain things which appear to make no impression, and to produce no change in many other individuals. »
But what is a good proving, if not the collection of essentially idiosyncratic symptoms, i.e. rare symptoms that appear in receptive subjects ? These symptoms do not meet statistical criteria. We can never affirm the causal link that caused them ; we can only reduce the uncertainty that exists between the effect and its triggering cause.
The idiosyncratic symptom is potentially owned by the prover, it is the expression of his self.
Homeopathy and synchronicity
In the same way that we have discussed the possible synchronicity between the therapist and the patient, we can speak of frequent phenomena of synchronicity between the remedy and the patient.
The homeopathic remedy is a medicine that carries meaning. The homeopathic remedy is information.
Agnès Lagache proposes a new paradigm of meaning :
« Therefore, let me introduce to you my suggestion for a new paradigm of meaning, or paradigm of signifiers. It differs from the mechanistic paradigm by its object, which is not matter but information, and because the interactions are positive effects of meaning. »
Thus, the homeopathic remedy is an informative remedy. The paradigm is no longer a mechanistic paradigm of matter, as in classical pharmacology, but a paradigm of meaning, of information.
While linear causality may work well enough for restricted, mechanical, and well-isolated systems, in general something much more subtle and complex is needed to describe the full richness of nature.
Synchronicity begins with the very fact of meaning in life or in nature. Its strength lies in its power to address the subjective side of experience and its value involves the possibility of combining the subjective meaning of phenomena with objective explanations. By combining the objective and subjective elements together, synchronicity has something to say to both the artist and the scientist. Furthermore, synchronicity is concerned with patterns between dissimilar forms and structures and with connections made between physical processes and mental states. Synchronicities are manifestations, in mind and matter, of the unknown ground that underlies them both.
The idiosyncratic symptom is by definition a rare and personal symptom that does not fit into the causal universe easily :
A It does not correspond to classical statistical laws.
B Most of the time it is the result of infinitesimal doses.
C It belongs to the world of meaning.
D It occurs between two different and a priori foreign worlds : that of the prover and that of the remedy.
This idiosyncrasy is not part of a mechanistic causal universe. It is an informative living system inhabited by « meaning ». It can be explained by a synchronicity between the dynamic universe of the prover and between the homeopathic remedy.
We are in the presence of two worlds :
- the dynamic and sensitive world of the prover ;
- the dynamic world of the remedy.
A priori, these two worlds are foreign. However, their « dynamism » resonates, vibrates, through and according to the « meaning » that runs through them and animates them. They are « significant » worlds. The link that unites them is not a causal link, but a world of « meaning ».
It may be a phenomenon of synchronicity
What is notable is the meeting of the subject with the substance. As for the effect, there is no causality in the mechanical sense of the term but a probable vibratory sense link between two different worlds in affinity.
Obviously, the world of the prover, the patient, the therapist and the remedy are all individually inhabited by cause and effect phenomena, but the homeopathic sequence itself, that of the meeting between two worlds, the one that reveals the idiosyncratic symptoms and the one that receives them, that which makes the meaning of the remedy coincide with the dynamized substance, is a phenomenon of significant coincidence, like the one Jung describes in relation to the scarab. It is not a mechanistic phenomenon.
Idiosyncratic symptoms can be seen as largely escaping the law of causality, as they are merely the instantaneous expression of a synchronistic projection of the prover’s self problem.
The self is the totality of the conscious and unconscious psyche.
« This assumption involves a certain curious principle that I have termed synchronicity, a concept that formulates a point of view diametrically opposed to that of causality. Since the latter is a merely statistical truth and not absolute, it is a sort of working hypothesis of how events evolve one out of another, whereas synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers. »
Thus we can think that there is a relationship of meaning, of information, between mind and matter. Both consciousness and matter may be discovered to evolve out of a common order, where the processes of matter and the activity of information are two sides of the one reality.
In this theoretical framework, we can think of Sheldrake’s morphogenetic fields, which represent a type of memory that acts like a formative pattern with regard to material structures and patterns of behavior, and which could be thought of as formative fields of the collective unconscious. In this sense they are related to Jung’s archetypes.
Homeopathy and Self
The medical diagnosis of a disease is the result of a scientific observation formatted in a schematic nomenclature. In no way it (in any system) reflects the totality of the « real » observed.
The disease is expressed through pictures, which can certainly be identified and reproduced in classifiable prototypes. But it is also expressed in a personal and particular language dotted with synchronicities. It expresses a profound reality through the diversity of these symptoms : this is the very choice of « homeopathic » symptoms, a kind of caricature of characteristic symptoms.
Homeopathic symptoms are a kind of writing of the patient‘s Self and, in a synchronous mirror, in the remedy. This surreality is supported by meaning, hence the importance of the search for the problem of the remedy expressed through that of the prover during proving.
This reality can be an archetypal reality if there is synchronicity between the medicinal substance and the spirit of the remedy : for example, there is synchronicity between the luminous phosphorus and the problem of the phosphorus light. The luminous problem of phosphorus is of an archetypal nature : if the subject is phosphorus, his surreality is that of light, his problem is linked to that of light.
The two approaches, that of mechanistic medicine and that of homeopathic empiricism, are not irreconcilable ; they are complementary and indispensable to each other. It is « heart and reason ».
This idea of synchronicity should not immerse us too much in a schema of homeopathy strictly modeled on quantum physics. Even if there is an analogy between these two worlds, the world of homeopathy remains original.
In the phenomena of synchronicity, there is a « meaning » that appears to be independent of consciousness and transcendent to it. It manifests itself in the form of pictorial elements and its irruption seems to be linked to the momentary activation of an archetype that emerges simultaneously in the psychic and physical realms in the form of an acausal arrangement. This is the expression of the Self, not simply in the immunological sense, but in the sense of the Self of depth psychology.
This text has been translated from French into English by the author.
- D. Peat – Synchronicity. The bridge Between Matter and Mind – New York : Bantam Books ; 1987. p. 41. ↑
- C.G. Jung – Synchronicity : an Acausal Connecting Principle – Collected Works – vol. 8 – London : Routledge & Kegan Paul ; 1960. p. 421. ↑
- ibid. p. 422. ↑
- ibid. p. 438. ↑
- ibid. p. 421. ↑
- ibid. p. 426. ↑
- ibid. p. 441. ↑
- ibid. p. 447. ↑
- ibid. p. 482. ↑
- D. Peat – op. cit. p. 10. ↑
- ibid. p. 16. ↑
- C.G Jung – op. cit. p. 485. ↑
- M.L. von Franz – Number and Time – Stuttgart : Ernst Klett Verlag ; 1970. Northwestern University Press, 1974. ↑
- D. Peat – op. cit. p. 22. ↑
- R Heal – Samuel Hahnemann, his life & work, New Dehli, Jain Publishers, 1985. p.37. ↑
- S. Hahnemann – Organon of the Art of Healing. translated by C. Wesselhoeft – New York Philadelphia : Boericke & Tafel ; 1870. § 108. ↑
- ibid., § 116-117. ↑
- One who experiences proving. ↑
- A. Lagache – Echos du sensible – Paris, Atelier Alpha Bleue, 1988. p.168. ↑
- M. Bastide, A. Lagache – The Paradigm of Signifiers – Paris, Atelier Alpha Bleue, 1992. p.12. ↑
- D. Peat – op. cit. p. 52. ↑
- ibid. p.114. ↑
- ibid. p.115. ↑
- C.G. Jung – Psychology and Alchemy – Collected Works – vol. 12 – London : Routledge & Kegan Paul ; 1953. p.172. ↑
- G. Jung – Foreword to the I Ching ; http://www.iging.com/intro/foreword.htm.↑
- D. Peat – op. cit. p. 167. ↑
- ibid. p.166. ↑
- Marie-Louise von Franz, – op. cit. ↑
- M. Bastide, A. Lagache. The Paradigm of Signifiers – Paris : Atelier Alpha Bleue ; 1992. ↑
I studied literature and medicine at the university of Montpellier, and soon became interested in the history of medicine, both traditional and alternative.
Influenced by the more holistic approach to medicine (Vitalism) at this particular university (Montpellier), I decided to go into homeopathy. As I had already discovered and been influenced personally by the work of Jung, my encounter with the Tibetan world opened further doors for me.
I realized with excitement how obvious the links between Jungian philosophy and Homeopathy are.
As early as 1990, I intuited links between Homeopathy (its theory and rich materia medica), and dreams, the notions of synchronicity and quaternity, and Alchemy. These fields of study, different at first sight, originate in the same realm : that of the interdependence which can exist between matter, the emergence of affects and symbolization.
I don’t mean to distance myself from medicine. I am in no way a homeopath acting as the psychotherapist that he is not. My approach is to remain a physician, faithful to Hahnemann (the founder of Homeopathy) and his indispensable experience of proving. I would like to enrich this sometimes abstruse and tedious world through Jungian imagination, without ever losing sight of the fundamentals of classical Hahnemannian homeopathy.