• 24 Chapters in Homoeopathy

Subtitled 'With the Addition of Introduction to Systems'. 1993 hardback.
First and only edition.  Lovely edition.

Not distributed widely when first published and hence a neglected title. 

High quality production. Gilt lettering stamped on green leatherette.
Joseph Reves is a strong Hahnemannian homeopath based in Israel. He has also produced a version of Kent's Repertory that slots in the materia medica. This appeared in a huge leatherbound six volume edition as well as a three volume edition.
He has also published his own edition of the Organon.

Joseph Reves was a considerable influence on many of the leading lights of homeopathy eg Jeremy Sherr and David Mundy

 

 

REVIEWS: JOSEPH REVES: 24 CHAPTERS IN HOMOEOPATHY 
with the addition of Introduction to Systems 
Published by Homoeopress Ltd., Haifa, Israel; 1993. 257 pages, with an index; hardbound in green with gold lettering. 
Review by lain Marrs 

What catches the reader's immediate attention, first and foremost, about 24 Chapters, is that Joseph Reves does not make contemporary choices with regard to style, language or presentation. Overlooking these, for the moment, and looking behind the peculiarities or idiosyncrasies of style, we find a substantial departure from the modem, - an unwavering note, struck throughout, of certainty. Reves' goal is clearly to present the subject matter of homeopathy from the very beginning or 'basics,' yet the material is presented in a style most resonant of James Tyler Kent's Swedenborgian homeopathy ('Without this interpretation, it is hard to imagine understanding Hahnemann's principles today' [p.2].) It is the book's solution to this combination of motives which is idiosyncratic yet classical. Joseph Reeves writes a book introducing homeopathy 'from the beginning' by founding his presentation upon that place of unity from which all begins, - the mystical premise presented by Kent (with the help of Emmanuel Swedenborg, without whom there would be no Kentian homeopathy) and by Hahnemann, 'as if he ... [had] studied Paracelsus' (p.6). Joseph Reves stands somewhere which appears to be upstream of where many contemporary writers begin to unfold the matter of homeopathy. The customary, modem approach is to present fact upon fact, to show the multiplicity of its applications, to mention some scientific experiments that may or may not provide contemporary evidence for the truth of homeopathy, and to follow the history of some individual homeopaths who have contributed to this accretion of homeopathic information. Instead, Joseph Reves begins with unity and sails majestically downstream towards multiplicity. Reves clarifies at the start of Chapter 2:

Kent brought us a wonderful way of thinking. He gave us a general key to understand the philosophy of Hahnemann as written in the Organon of Medicine. The language of the Organon is not the most difficult to understand, but without the principle of the Homoeopathic doctrine it is not possible to understand, follow and practice the true healing art, the rational, quick and permanent way to restore the sick to health. Kent's outline of the Celestial Influx, which animates the material world, gives us the understanding of the way that the Homoeopathic Proving and Cure take place. ... The Influx, which has many levels of gradation, is the causation of all being. The end result of the Influx is the world, as it appears to our senses; the end result (our world) is dependent upon the permanent flow. ... The different potencies relate to different levels of the Influx.

The order of the Influx is an hierarchical order. Every level in the scale of potencies is giving the causality to and is the ruler of the one below it. The hierarchical order is continuous, lasting from the highest potency to the lowest. (p. 19 - 20)

This quotation well represents the author's approach from the 'mystical' face of experience; the following are good examples of the approach from the 'ethical' face:

There is a MORAL contract between the patient and the physician, the laws of which are all written in 'The Organon'. It is also the moral right of the patient to get his simillimum. (p. 172)

Everything in this world has a definite purpose, definite work to perform, within a definite given time. ... The moment the Man stops performing his dudes, he enters the World of Diseases....The moment the fish is out of the water, its death begins. There is only a tolerance of time, how long can the fish be out and still get back to the water for its life to be continued, the way is no longer reversible. His death does not come, as we would like to think, because he left the water, it is beyond that. The fish got out of the water because he had not fulfilled his role. ... In the world of the Senses it really looks as if the cause of death was because the fish left the water. The world of Causes does not appear logical to people when their logic comes from the study of the world of Results, the World of the Senses. (p. 22 - 23)

We can add that these two quotations also present, on the one hand, the movement downwards from above, the Influx, (which "starts from the Creator, as we understand from the Footnote to paragraph 17 of The Organon. It is a simple pure light which has to penetrate to the physical world" p.137) and, on the other hand, the possibility of evolution upwards, an expression of the Will, which "expresses the loves of man, the uppermost of Man" (p. 24). The Kentian, which is to say Swedenborgian, schema then proceeds from the Will to the Understanding, and thence to the Fluids, to the Internal Organs, and finally to the External Organs. To the extent that there is interference at any level, the Influx will be inhibited from reaching and regulating the levels beneath. Because of where Reves stands ("A healthy person is not a person who is not sick, but the sick person is someone who is stopped from being healthy; the state of health is primary." [p. 35]), he is able to present, at any one time, both a text that explicates how reality must be, - given the truth of homeopathy, - and also offer advice to the homeopath on how to proceed. The author presents a reality where mysticism, the study of health and illness, and ethics, are indistinguishable. This is because his thought is founded upon a place of simplicity and certainty:

Kent says that Man has one single task in this World; to be wise. To make the effort uninterruptedly to study and become wiser, through this he will get the knowledge to discern between good and evil. The fool does not know that. Every time the Homoeopath takes care of the Man and helps him to be cared in the Homoeopathic way, and the sick person is cured, the Homoeopath will become wiser. One who does not work in this way, after every effort to cure, will be more foolish than before. (p. 27)

Reves works through, at each level, the repercussions of his 'mystical philosophy' (my apologies to him: this is not, I think, a phrase he would use). He rarely falls into a presentation of something merely as the 'opposite' of homeopathy, the bad foil to its good, whether discussing agriculture ('In agriculture people pick fruit before it is ripe and afterwards put it in gas ovens to ripen.... Why allow people to eat fruit that looks ripe in its external appearance, but in its internal essence remains in a 'frozen' state'? p. 176), or refrigerators ('the refrigerator suppresses putrefaction,' p. 62) or allopathy ('The principle of the allopathic doctrine is [to] try to understand the workings of part of the external, part of the internal, and part of the fluids. The allopathic doctrine knows very little about the work of the Intellect and nothing about the Will.' p.132). Rather, he shows how the particular manifestation of something fits into the hierarchy of levels which he portrays.

It would be feasible, but useless, to list the layers within this deep volume. It would be feasible because all the areas would be recognizable by name to the reader (provings, repertory work, taking the case, selected materia medica, the chronic diseases, vaccination, - the reader can be assured that every major topic is covered) but useless, because the issue is, instead, how this familiar scenery appears when presented from the central, simple certainty, the thread through all the layers, from which Reves writes.

As may already be apparent to the reader of this review, however, the language of the book is often stilted, under-punctuated and in a 'translated' English. Often it just misses the proper order of words or the correct idiom and it often lacks classificatory punctuation in difficult sentences. This will probably not, however, be the issue which convinces many prospective readers against this volume. The problem is indeed one of translation but not merely at the level of individual words and phrases. It is pointless hiding the truth: the problem for the contemporary reader, on opening this book, is the veritable culture shock involved in transporting themselves into this view of reality. The homeopathic reader knows the scenery, and has traveled on this train before, may even have looked out of the windows on either side, but how different the experience is when you are sitting alongside an engine driver, looking straight ahead, directly along the rails, and there lies the whole landscape, undivided before you. That is the positive aspect of the culture shock.. Joseph Reves has such a vision. The negative aspect lies in the author's tone which can be somewhat like a patriarch (engine driver!); it is the kind of tone we accept in Hahnemann and in Kent, who have their historical times as an alibi. It may be said in reply that Joseph Reves has his subject matter as an alibi, - that to bring into homeopathy the mystical and ethical approach requires a somewhat patriarchal tone. Current writings on these areas, - for example, the feminist and humanist approach to ethics within Miranda Castro's writings, or the Taoist approach taken by Jeremy Sherr, - may show the limits of such a plea, and indicate the limits of the patriarchal to me.

Will the book gain a wide readership? We must bear in mind Joseph Reves' view, with regard to homeopathy, that "only a few have the ability to penetrate and succeed to enjoy the beautiful, exact and simple principles" (p. 11). Only by ridding oneself of one's prejudices will one proceed. "Thought comes instantaneously like a spark. Every true thought brings Man to a 'new room', there are people who have not seen a 'new room' all their lives. A lack of development of Man as a human being brings him to a situation of sickness" (p. 37). The contemporary reader would appear, then, to be in a tricky position: if he or she finds any aspect of what Reves says offensive, the book implies that, in this, we may see the reader's own sickness. If the reader instead accepts what Reves says, he or she will depart drastically from the set of beliefs currently acceptable, especially within North America, - something that, unfortunately, many people do not like to do. This book espouses hierarchy as a natural law, clearly rejects any popular [mis-]understanding of equality or democracy and, just as clearly, asserts strong moral values. Despite the author's tone, the catch-all label 'religious fundamentalist' could never stick when Reves can write the following:

In a corrected form of a group [of] individuals, the help and the support for the weakest ones will be the way for the group to elevate itself, to reach the highest spiritual form of life. When a Man is running to the deck of a ship by pushing his fellow men aside, he wins nothing, the ship will sail only after the last passenger is present on board. In a sick society the strong get stronger and the weak get weaker, but the society is not advancing and will not reach the goal; the goal for which this society has been formed. (p. 23)

Reves has uncomfortable things to say about a lot of things but they are not excitingly uncomfortable: they are straightforward and ethical and, - most likely,- true. Is the contemporary reader attracted to mysticism and to ethical critiques of contemporary culture? Almost certainly! Is the contemporary reader attracted to the assertions of non-scientific certainty? Almost certainly not! Joseph Reves is probably not the type of guru (homeopathic or otherwise) most often followed in contemporary North America. He isn't exciting, flamboyant, or mysterious. He writes with certainty and tends to use pre-modern terminology and a tone of voice that is not currently acceptable (politically correct ?). A combination of these 'drawbacks' will most likely hinder this book's popularity. This would be to under-use the work of a deep thinker.

If it is necessary to choose between two books, one is easy to understand and demands exertion in order to understand, the sick person will choose the easy book and the healthy will choose the book that demands exertion. (p. 125)

We can expect, then, to find parts of his work offered to us by any insightful students of his who have taken the time and effort to comprehend Reves' thought, - offered, you might say, either in a form more palatable to our delicate constitutions, or in a language and style that is more contemporaneous. For example, the circle technique of analysis offered here is used masterfully, - and with all due acknowledgment to his teacher, - by Jeremy Sherr. Reves here draws out of 'analysis by circle' its applicability to a diagnostic use of the elements ('almost every element perverts the fire, water, air, and earth in a different way', p. 68), the qualities (hot and cold, humidity and dryness), time, death (fire: burning; water: drowning; air: suffocation; earth: fossilization), and other themes. Further, in a section entitled Introduction to Systems, the author situates the circle, using text and diagram, with regard to a 'reservoir system' of the four elements. It has been said that what Freud did for sex, Jung did for the number four. Reves' work is, in this, similar to Jung's. He combines a four element theory with a version of systems analysis, presenting tools that correspond to input, output, gate function, cyclical continuity, system and sub-system. Here is a lengthy selection.

The Vital Force is the vice-regent of the Soul and is in charge of the construction of the central library (where the standards are), the Vital Force sets up a Chief Performer. There are two types of data in the chief library, one is the data of the construction and the second is instructions for the construction. The Chief Constructor (the Soul) is taking care through the vice-regent and is responsible for the construction of the sub-libraries.

The systems are serving the Chief Constructor in accordance with its orders. Every act or function of the systems, that is not according to the orders, brings a displacement in the center which transmits the message 'pleasure' or 'pain.' There are different stages of 'pain' and 'pleasure.'...

When one of the libraries is damaged in the first stage there will appear signs, sensations and symptoms of functions that are disordered. In the second stage comes the period of compensation. The effort to repair comes from the central library, and this is followed by the repairing processes which are accompanied by symptoms. Harm that occurs in natural disease or in proving deletes one of the lists from the library or cuts the connection between the local library and the central library, which creates an inability to perform. The process is dynamically informative, and there is absolutely no primary harm in natural disease or proving in the material body.

The library is not inanimate, its contents are not constant, they are composed of fluent information which comes from the Influx and is influenced partially by the will of the Man. In the central library the information is abstract while the translation when it is 'coming down' to the local libraries is more concrete. For example, if the idea 'shame' is brought into the central library, it could be translated into the digestive system as 'thirstless' on the material level. In the genitalia system it will be translated as 'want of sexual passion / desire' ...

In curing we are connecting the central library with the Influx and the result is that the symptoms will disappear, this means 'we are fulfilling the missing pages.' (p. 208- 211)

Here we see that homeopathy's central metaphor, for Reves, is that of translation. (It is, therefore, ironic that the English of the book unfortunately has a 'translated' feel to it.) It is this metaphor which lies behind his understanding of homeopathy: translation was the key to the creation, as levels, of the hierarchy that is the real, and so it can only be through the process of translation that the homeopath can comprehend the trajectory of, and come to the aid of, the one who has fallen into sickness.

Rather than attempt to summarize any other of the major areas Reves discusses, I believe the only way to convey this way of thinking is to give a few quotations, at times lengthy, that follow a particular thread through the book.

The sick person gives details about the things that disturb him and exist in his outermost layer. If he is given enough time he will bring things out from a deeper layer. ... He is not aware of the fragment which connects between the jump from one subject to the other subject. Afterwards he dives deeper and again makes a connection between what he is telling and one of the external things mentioned before. To an outside observer it seems as if the narrator does not have order in his thinking and that he jumps from one subject to another without order, but practically, the chronological order of the events that happened to him have connections and points towards the suitable remedy which should be curative for him. (p. 81)

In a state of ideal health Man lives in the centre, in this place he absorbs the complete Influx. After the primary deviation of the Will the Influx is narrowed and as a result an internal deficiency occurs. This internal deficiency flows outward and gives expression to the external deficiency. In order to fulfill this deficiency, which does not enable him to live in the center anymore, Man is directed outwards to fulfill the deficiency but in this case not directly from the Influx as before, but from the external world. The journey from the center outwards causes suffering and with it morbid phenomena appear that express the direction of the journey.

In the process of recovery Man must, after receiving the suitable Remedy, start his journey 'back home.' On this journey he will pass 'pictures of scenery' that he saw when he departed. (p. 49; accompanying a diagram of a circle with a line leading away from its centre)

During the proving (and during any natural sickness), the man is taken in a centrifugal direction away from the centre. In the time of cure the man is taken in a centripetal direction towards the centre. (p. 61)

Man falls ill, he falls and the animal ascends. Part of the Man starts to behave and react like an animal. Animals cannot distinguish between good and evil, this ability was given to Man. (p. 146)

When we want to have a measure for the amount of 'health' a person has, we have only to know the time-lapse between the first awakening of the will in Man, and the final manifestation of that will in practice. As the degree of purification (achieved through a real treatment) increases, this time dimension will be shortened. (p. 25)

In the healthy man there will be no difference in time between the sensations and the functions. The time between question and answer will be short. The longer the time between sensation and function, the greater is the indication that a system is not functioning properly. Every episode that happens in the outside world presents Man with a question. (p. 175)

The Repertory is the result of a separation between sensation and function. This point is brought out in paragraph 9 of "The Organon". In health there is no division between sensation and function. (p. 178)

The principle of the Vital Force shows that the person has an internal Vital Force which gives the opposite answer to all the external forces that 'try' to unbalance the state of health of the person. When an 'ill-making' force attacks a healthy person, the Vital Force creates an opposing force in order to neutralize the effect of the external force. This action causes the systems to stay in balance and brings them to a state of stability. The power that is created by the Vital Force opposes the direction of the external force and is stronger than it. This process, which functions throughout the person's life, helps to preserve life, and the result will be the preservation of good health. When the vital force is inhibited, even though it develops a force opposing the Inimical Force to Life, it is not able to overcome the external force. In other words, it gives an answer in opposition but it is weaker than the 'ill-making' force. The discrepancy between these two forces in the sick person will be expressed by morbid phenomena, symptoms. After the injury, the Vital Force will try to eradicate the internal sickness and will direct the disturbances towards the outside. The phenomena brings on suffering and it is of this that the patient complains. Actually, what is the person complaining about? This is the opposite of rationality. The person should have been complaining about his internal distortion and not about the results of the correction of the Vital Force. We can say, however, if he was healthy he would be rational, and if he was rational he would not fall ill, and if he did not fall ill, he would have nothing to complain about. The sick person is already irrational and all he wants, is to remove the results of the sickness that are making him suffer. (P. 108)

The symptoms people complain about when they come to a Homoeopath demonstrate one simple thing, that there is a deficiency in giving an answer, for if the person was healthy he would have the opposite answers to questions. When the answers to questions exist, the Vital Force does not have to provoke the symptoms and certainly does not have to bring suffering. (p. 175)

Here, then, Reves shows us what is behind that shadow play engaged in by the vital force and why the circle of opposites is so well fitted to mapping it. This volume offers many such insights. Not the least of these are to be gained from Reves' enlightening use of diagrams throughout. (I am reminded that within various schools of mysticism it has been held that some knowledge can hardly be understood separate from the use of pictures, either metaphorical or actual.)

So, again, the question is, will this book be widely read?

The delight that the Homoeopath has when he observes people who are being cured, is a delight that cannot be substituted. To be a Homoeopath one needs patience and the ability to give attention to another, the rest is written in books. Errors are made from not being able to listen to another, there is no patience. What is patience? Patience is the ability to keep oneself in one place for an unlimited time, even though one suffers in that place. Patience is to be without movement. The most difficult thing in the world is to be patient and to think. (p. 85)

How many would-be readers of this book will have the patience and the tolerance to read it? Some of the reader's suffering is inevitable and even essential; but some suffering is because, in its passage into an English language text, the wording of the text has itself suffered. Be that as it may, this volume can offer a means of comprehending Kentian (that is to say, Swedenborgian) homeopathy and thence classical Hahnemannian homeopathy. It is full of practical advice which could, as usual, and to its detriment, be read as if separate from the author's deeper standpoint, - what teacher of worth does not have this done to his or her work? The book has its idiosyncrasies and it is not written in a style that is easy for the contemporary reader, but Joseph Reves' presentation of homeopathy shows a deep concern with origins and with those principles of translation that underlie levels of reality and of sickness. On the one hand, the book is undoubtedly and without a shadow of a doubt written with a purity of intent and a single-mindedness; it attempts to say things which have always been difficult to put into words and there are innumerable insights for the reader who perseveres. On the other hand, the problem of user-friendliness that readers already face with regard to many of the older texts is to some extent replicated by Reves' style.

An additional note: 24 Chapters has since been followed, firstly, by an edition of the Organon, with an extensive commentary (which, I am told, expands greatly on all the subjects covered in the book reviewed here), and secondly by a three volume Repertory, derived from Kent, printed parallel with appropriate sections from materia medica. All these volumes are now available. At first glance it appears that, of all these, the most appropriate format in which to read Joseph Reves' work may be that of the commentary. The structure of the Organon may thus provide the reader a well-known terrain across which to accompany Joseph Reves. I understand that Jeremy Sherr thinks highly of Joseph Reves' Commentary on Samuel Hahnemann's Organon. The Organon commentary by Reves comes highly recommended by Jeremy Sherr. The Organon commentary is priced at around US $ 80; the repertory at US $ 560. In addition to these books, there is also a computer software package.

SIMILLIMUM / Spring 1995 Volume VIII No. I

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24 Chapters in Homoeopathy

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