Homeopathy and Jazz

They both have tradition in which various individuals have influenced the direction and evolution of the science and art of the form. These individuals stand out as great exponents of the form yet the form is greater than any one of them. Perhaps homeopathy is slightly different in that it began with one man, whereas jazz evolved out the mix of African and European cultures in the United States. But otherwise, the similarities are there.

Both have always existed somewhat on the margins of popular culture, experiencing various levels of success and recognition through the ages, and both are continually debating about the future direction of the form and the defining of what is and what is not jazz and homeopathy.

As both jazz and homeopathy have room for individual expression within the form, which is inherently subjective and personal, then inevitably the interpretation and defining of the boundaries of each form will be open to dispute. This is happening in both jazz and homeopathy, which in itself in not a bad thing. It just has to be seen for what it is.

In jazz over the last few years, there has been much debate over the definition of jazz and the writing of jazz history. Two main schools have developed. One spearheaded by Wynton Marsalis has been attempting to define the canon of jazz music, looking back at the old masters like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong and give them a near mythological status in the history of jazz. The focus is on recognizing the tradition of jazz and in so doing to use this tradition to question the direction of modern jazz, to attempt to define some boundaries of interpretation. In his role as Director of Jazz at the Lincoln Center in New York and also because of his family heritage in jazz and his own virtuoso playing both jazz and classical music, his influence has been phenomenal.

On the other side, you have many of the more avant-garde artists who have taken jazz into new areas, creating a fusion with other music styles, delving into more subjective, individualistic interpretations of the music, challenging the boundaries of the form, some truly exploring the edges of the jazz universe, others dissolving over the edge into other definitions or non-definitions of music.

In his seminal PBS series (shown on American TV) on the history of Jazz, Ken Burns explored the history of jazz and produced an excellent document. However, one of his prominent advisors was Wynton Marsalis and as a result he was criticized for not giving more attention to more modern exponents of jazz and in giving major weight to the traditionalists in jazz history. His response was that as this was a history of jazz, more modern styles and exponents of jazz in the modern era are not yet ready to be included in such a document. For many though, the omission was political, with such jazz heavyweights as Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Weather Report, Archie Shepp, Wayne Shorter and others being given short thrift. Even Miles Davis work after the seminal fusion album "Bitches Brew" was scantily covered.

Many people in the jazz world even criticize the influence of Wynton Marsalis own music. Even though he has achieved extraordinary recognition in both the jazz world and mainstream society, it is said his playing doesnt take jazz anywhere new. In one of the most extraordinary books written on Jazz "But Beautiful", the author Geoff Dyer writes that what The Marsalis brothers have been doing is mainly re-exploring ground in jazz that has ostensibly already been covered, but taking it a stage further. He says that Marsalis is technically one of the best trumpeters ever and is nothing less than exhilarating when performing live. While he does not share the common criticism of Marsalis that he is simply duplicating what has been done before, "some doubts nevertheless creep in while listening to virtuosi like Marsalis and John Faddis." He spoke of jazz evolving in a way that in the process of answering questions it simultaneously raised new ones. "(Faddis) and the Marsalis brothers are providing superbly articulate answers: they are not raising many questions."

So, what does this have to do with homeopathy. Well, perhaps quite a lot. As homeopathy develops, new forms of thinking will be explored and then debated whether to be included into the structure of homeopathic methodology. This is inevitable. We are all different and our experience will be different. However, we all share the common definition and label of being a homeopath, this is what we do and what we have committed a large part of our lives to. As homeopathy has embraced the subjective world, that is, the subjective expression of health and disease, then inevitably more interpretation is required from the practitioner. The experience of the practitioner becomes part of the process. It cannot be separated. This dichotomy, between the subjective and objective, science and art, interpretation and pure experience is the very heart of the tension that we are now disputing and debating, both in jazz and in homeopathy. A similar debate is occurring in psychology and anthropology, between those attempting to objectify human behavior and consciousness and those that accept the idea that consciousness is more than just brain functions that can be measured, predicted and objectified and that a fundamental subjective reality exists unique to that person that is more than just brain function.

Homeopathy, more than most other healing systems has integrated the mind-body relationship as an essential part of our understanding and application. Whereas conventional medicine has accepted the Cartesian split of mind and body, with obvious results, other alternative modalities have only understood this link partially. Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Herbalism, Psychotherapy etc all accept the connection but it is not intrinsic to their work. In homeopathy, seeing the body as a metaphor for the mind and vice versa is what we do. That is why we can get to the remedy through the big toe or through a dream. It is all ultimately the same. Therefore, the apparent division between "illumunist" interpretation of the hidden or spiritual cause of disease with that of the "hahnemannian" style of emphasizing the overt symptoms is often an abstraction. In practice, most decent homeopaths are doing somewhat similar work. The difference to some extent can be attributed to the practitioners interpretation of what is happening. Although the final arbiter of any debate is the light of pure experience, we all bring our own perspective, prejudices and personality to our work. Our own personal journey is manifest through our work and our experience and we attempt to rationalize and understand this experience. As homeopathy has been a history of individuals expressing their own way of seeing, each a personal view into the objective fact of homeopathic action, we have to accept that we will see things differently. Our interpretations of our experience challenge the concept of objective truth, even in the supposedly clear reality of health and disease. That is why it is beholden on each of us to be honest, to speak honestly of our experience and to reflect on the implications of this experience. This is easier said than done. None of us are perfect. What we see is mixed with who we are. The thing we have to be careful of is not to insist that our experience is the only true experience, that what we do is homeopathy, whereas what others do is not. In other words, my truth is the truth.

In the beginning to the book "But Beautiful" Geoff Dyer gives two quotes:

"Producers of great art are no demigods but fallible human beings, often with neurotic and damaged personalities." Theodore Adorno.

"We hear only ourselves." Ernst Bloch

Who owns homeopathy? Is it Hahnemann? Do we need to follow what Hahnemann said and did or do we follow our own inspiration? Can we define homeopathy by what has already been set down? Can we accept that homeopathy has room for different interpretations and expressions, that as individuals we can bring our own experience that contributes to the whole?

We have to remember that each of us has given much of ourselves to homeopathy. Our arguments and debates are not merely academic but highly personal, as our own sense of integrity is being challenged. Why, because we are committed to what we do, and because this is our journey into the complexity of life. Inevitably, differences occur but that is part of the journey of exploration. We can easily feel challenged when new ideas arise as our own investment is challenged. We are all fallible. The key is to accept this fallibility, to recognize our limitations and still strive for honesty in our work and how we communicate this to our patients and other homeopaths.

Jazz musicians all developed their own style by first imitating musicians that preceded them but then moving on to develop their own unique style. All the great musicians have created their own signature. The same could be said of the writings of many homeopaths and their contribution to homeopathic knowledge, though there are many great homeopaths that have quietly done their work with little fuss.

Charlie Parker said "Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom, if you dont live it, it wont come out of your horn."

To be great in any field, you have to give everything, you have to be present, open and available. You have to challenge your own limits, your preconceptions of how things work. In homeopathy, we have guidelines to help us, certain basic principles to help interpret the action of our remedies. However, the greater challenge lies in being emotionally available, to not allow preoccupations and preconceptions to hinder our expression. We have to accept the paradox of the subjective expression of our work as homeopaths, fraught with our own interpretations, and also strive toward the reality of the results of our work as an objective fact. Both can actually co-exist, without being at the exclusion of one another. That is why in the ongoing debate on the definition of homeopathy, we have to recognize that we do bring our own personal subjective view to the debate, that the debate is bigger than any one position and that as long as each of us is working honestly, with commitment and using the homeopathic law, there is ample room for all and homeopathy will continue to grow and develop, just like jazz. And just like jazz, when exploring the boundaries of the form, new questions will arise that will lead us a deeper and broader expression of our art, one that reflects the shifting consciousness of the planet as a whole and in which we are all an intrinsic part of this whole.