• Frans Vermeulen


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Vermeulen's Synoptic Reference 1 currently replaces Prisma -
View our YouTube presentation for more information

Prisma offers a thoroughly engaging way to learn about some of homeopathy's most important polychrests.

Filled with detailed descriptions of the substance in the natural world, the descriptions are enriched by insights from anthroposophy, folklore, mythology, toxicology and eclectic use.

1422 pp hb
ISBN 90-76189-07-2


Prisma, The Arcana of Materia Medica Illuminated - Similars and Parallels Between Substance and Remedy, by Frans Vermeulen, was published in 2002. This book is a collection of information on the mythology, herbal use and scientific aspects of the substances homeopathic remedies are comprised of.

Vermeulen points out parallels and similarities between homoeopathic drug pictures and the substances from which they are derived. In addition, he clarifies lesser-known aspects of smaller polychrests.

The structure of Prisma is as follows:

1. REMEDIES are each introduced with a quip or a quote, ranging from deadly serious to light-hearted.

2. SIGNS section contains [summarized] information about the substance from which the remedy is derived. Sources are documented.

3. MAIN SYMPTOMS is a revised and enlarged version of the 'Leading Symptoms' in Synoptic Materia Medica 1. Carefully selected narratives from the provings, cases or classical teachers expand the meaning of individual symptoms.

4. RUBRICS are taken from Synthesis, Edition 7.1.

Prisma is exquisitely produced and easy to read. Its diverse knowledge base-science, art, mythology, and theology-extends beyond the clinical practice of homeopathy. Some of the included material cannot easily be found anywhere else.

From the Book

(We begin with comments from Dr. Will Taylor)

This major new source and reference for Materia Medica is Frans Vermeulen's alchemic magnum opus. Information is concentrated from many disciplines and refracted in the luminous and high quality style you expect from Emryss Publishers.

Franz Vermeulen's Prisma is - first of all - a beautiful book. Care in creation is what we've all come to expect from a work of Vermeulen's, and this offering merely brings that expectation to a new level.

While the author's Concordant Materia Medica has become the gold-standard of a luggable reference to our medicinary - fodder for the "left brain" of our art - Prisma strikes off in a new direction, as a resource for the right-brained appreciation of our materia medica.

It is often far too easy for us to regard our remedies as little white pellets with unpronounceable names and incomprehensible lists of symptoms. Vermeulen counters this loss with detailed descriptions of the substance in the natural world, folding in generous volumes of insight from anthroposophy, folklore, mythology, toxicology and eclectic use.

While the Concordant is the hands-down winner for succinct comprehensiveness in describing the symptomatology of our remedies, Prisma turns to the task of bringing the most essential of these symptoms to life.

In the Main Symptoms sections, carefully selected narratives from the provings, cases or classical teachers expand the meaning of individual symptoms.

One can begin to imagine that Ernest Farrington, Constantine Hering or Margaret Tyler were reading over your shoulder and expanding on each point. Vermeulen's Concordant is one of the few books of which I own 2 copies -one at the office, one at home so as never to be without it. Prisma, I am certain, will join that honor.
Will Taylor, MD
Chair of the Homeopathy Department
National College of Naturopathic Medicine

Prisma represents a marvelous collection of information on the myth, herbal use and scientific aspects of the substances that remedies are comprised of. An essential reference for developing a deeper understanding or our homeopathic remedies.
Willa Keizer CCH RSHom
Director, Caduceus Institute

Prisma is Greek for prism. A prism is a crystal structure, often triangular, that refracts light. Shine a beam of white light into a prism and it becomes separated into a spectrum of colors.

A prism scintillates, it dances with a rainbow of color. The new Prism is a book which contains information concentrated from many disciplines(white light), which is then expanded and explained and refracted into a vibrant spectrum of information. Prisma illuminates Materia Medica by delving into the very source of each substance, illuminating all of the deep secrets of our remedies.

An Arcanum is a mystery, a profound secret! Now, through Prisma, the secrets of our homeopathic materia medica are unlocked.
This major new source and reference for Materia Medica is Frans Vermeulen's alchemical magnum opus. Information is concentrated from many disciplines and refracted in a luminous and high quality approach that brings new understanding to 200 homeopathic remedies.

PRISMA MATERIA MEDICA wants to point out parallels and similars between homoeopathic drug pictures and the substances from which they are derived. In addition, it wants to clarify and illuminate lesser known aspects of smaller polycrests. Much has changed since the time that Hahnemann and Hering undertook their provings, not only regarding the criteria of provings but also in terms of the information on substances.

We have much more information at our disposal today and it seems foolish not to use all available resources to build a better materia medica. Since it is our sole duty to heal the sick, to paraphrase Grimmer, "we cannot afford to ignore intelligent help from any source so long as this aid available is based on law and common sense."

The hot debate raging currently over the question whether homoeopathy is scientific or not, appears to make the doctrine of signatures its main scapegoat. In faithful imitation of Hahnemann, who considered it the "folly of the ancients", the doctrine of signatures meets with fierce opposition, being depicted as the folly of present-day homoeopathy and a major danger to scientific homoeopathy.

The word 'signatures' has indeed a medieval ring to it and may partly explain the sharply contrasting opinions about it. However, the question remains whether signature is alien to homoeopathy.

Hering observes that this very ancient doctrine "has much to recommend it on the grounds of similia" and Clarke states, in the introduction to Magnesia carbonica, that "it is often found that the physical characteristics of substances correspond with their dynamic influences."

Consequently, in the introduction to Magnesia phosphorica, he remarks that "there are other means besides provings of finding the keynote symptoms of remedies." Clarke touches here upon a delicate issue, for the common assumption that drug pictures derive from provings shows to be erroneous if we closely study the materia medica.

Approximately fifty percent of it comes from clinical cases. We seem to be so devoted to quantification and to explanation in terms of cause and result that we tend to overlook the significance of meaning, connection, and analogy, writes Twentyman in the British Homoeopathic Journal of Oct. 1974.

By believing that homoeopathy depends on the symptoms produced in provings and on the symptoms in which disease manifests itself, we may cut ourselves off from natural science.

Based on law and common sense, natural science constitutes the modem version of the ancient doctrine of signatures and here much information can be found about the peculiar features of substances.

New information, updated information, additional information, and information to confirm or correct existing drug pictures. It goes without saying that a drug picture should relate to the substance from which it is derived, at least partly, if not entirely.

On the other hand, the subjective personal factor can not be excluded in the production of symptoms. Hahnemann designed his provings in such a manner that they, he thought, would reveal the pure effects of substances. His sole aim was to find the "proper action of the medicines on the vital force", which he termed primary action. This could best be achieved with moderate doses of a substance because such experiments "almost never lead to a reaction of the vital force of the organism - secondary action."

In Hahnemann's view, substances can only cure homoeopathically the morbid states produced in their primary characteristic action. Hence, Hahnemann does not accept secondary actions as being part of drug pictures. Thus, the "observant physician" should, for instance, " refrain from its employment [of Stramonium] in cases where the patient is already suffering from ailments resembling those of the secondary action."

Scientific homoeopathy claims this rule to be its basic principle. The appropriateness of I what can cause can cure' as the basic definition of homoeopathy is, however, highly debatable.

Is a division into primary and secondary possible at all, and if we wish to make such a division, how are clinical symptoms then to be regarded? Moreover, it will necessitate an explanation for the appearance of opposite symptoms in provings.

For example, Hahnemann's proving of Bryonia yielded constipation as a local keynote, whereas in Mezger's Bryonia proving mainly diarrhoea was observed. Hahnemann's statement that "Opium is almost the only medicine that in its primary action does not produce a single pain" is inconsistent with the results of other provings, for example those conducted by Jorg in the 1820s, where frequently pains occur within minutes of the intake of Opium, even in its crude form. And so on.

In addition, provers participating in several provings will tend to produce an almost identical set of symptoms. Such symptoms belon- to their personality rather than to the proving substance. Should we consider them as primary or as secondary?

The most notorious example is Langhammer - a member of Hahnemann's provers union - who, irrespective of the proving substance, invariably comes up with symptoms such as "silent, reserved disposition", "want of trust in people" and varieties on these themes. No prover involved in a number of provings will be free from what may be called 'the personal factor'.

Even Hahnemann himself did not escape from it, since he, for instance, produced five times the 'delusion of being unfortunate' in as many provings. There is much to say for Clarke's opinion that "whether an action is 'primary' or 'secondary' depends on the prover or the patient."

Since primary and secondary represent the opposite poles of a polarity, it would make sense to study which polarities are active in a substance or activated in prover or patient.

Opposite poles have in common that they are part of the same polarity [issue]. Can it be so that the substance contains the issues and that the prover or patient, unconsciously or consciously, decides at which pole of those issues he is going to be?

Thesis or antithesis, hypo or hyper, uncompensated state or compensated state, psora or sycosis, flight or fight, fear or fascination, no matter how we label this mechanism, it all comes down to the same idea of polarity.

Investigating the inherent issues [characteristics] of substances consequently provides other means of finding the polarities of remedies. Such an investigation requires a serious approach.

That we, according to Clarke, cannot fail "to notice the curiously toad- like aspect assumed by the subject" during a characteristic epileptic seizure may help to understand the importance of Bufo in the treatment of epilepsy, but, on the other hand, represents only one aspect of the doctrine of signatures, and a rather superficial one for that matter.

To discover the characteristics of a substance, we should do a proper consultation with it, as we do with patients. 'Interviewing' a substance means gathering all possible information, from every available source, about that substance.

Bringing the information back to its essential features is the next step, corresponding with analyzing the material provided by a patient. Remarkable correspondences / parallels may reveal themselves.

For example, members of the Nightshade family [Solanaceae] that contain tropane alkaloids, such as Atropa belladonna, Datura stramonium, Hyoscyamus, and Mandragora, are known in botany as long-day plants - they flower only if the light periods are longer than a critical length.

In addition, they require a certain amount of sunlight for the optimal development of their typical constituents [tropane alkaloids]. The right ratio of light - darkness is one of their essential issues. In relation to the fact that Veratrum album is an inhabitant of mountainous regions, it is intriguing to note that the levels of the plant's toxic alkaloids depend on the height on which it grows: above a certain height the poisonous levels decrease.

Apart from providing numerous instances of such correspondences, PRISMA MATERIA MEDICA contains the results of many non-homoeopathic experiments which may extend or improve existing drug pictures.

The 'provings' of Bufo are simply ridiculous, to put it bluntly. However, modem research and experiments with toad poison open up new perspectives. Ditto with other substances of animal, mineral, or vegetable origin.

Another advantage is that prejudices can be counterbalanced by more accurate observations. This is of special interest when such prejudices are implied in the materia medica. As with the toad, the bushmaster [Lachesis muta] appears to lend itself readily for such purposes.

In his Studies of Homoeopathic Remedies, Gibson points out that there are correspondences between the character and behaviour of the "dreaded surucuccu snake of South America" and the characteristics of the Lachesis 'subject'.

Following older descriptions in homoeopathic literature, the snake is depicted as "an aggressive brute, attacking even human beings without provocation". The authoritative work on Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature, by biologist Harry W. Greene, however, shows that the bushmaster hardly ever bites, partly because it is unusually timid and partly because it is strictly nocturnal and doesn't come around human habitations.

Of some 8,300 snakebites recorded in South America for the years 1902-1965, only 16 were by the bushmaster!

According to Roger Caras, in Venomous Animals of the World, the bushmaster is slow to take offence and of a truly placid disposition. He illustrates this with a story about some people who "were dragging a large bushmaster along a dusty road on a leash they had fashioned from a shoelace. ... Periodically they would stop and push the reluctant snake along, for it was not very good about being walked like a dog."

Completion and addition are more good reasons for including data from natural sciences into the homoeopathic materia medica. A few examples. The recently discovered connection between boron and osteoporosis puts the Borax symptom 'fear of falling' into a new perspective.

The mind-picture of Manganum reveals hardly any specific symptoms. A phenomenon known as 'manganese madness'- which even has been connected with BSE [mad cow disease] - is not included. The bite by the black widow spider [Latrodectus mactans] may cause a syndrome named 'latrodectism', much of which is missing in the materia medica. Although belonging to entirely different plant families, Plantago [plantain] and Euphrasia [eyebright] have the presence of the rare biological substance aucubin in common. Aucubin is the main active ingredient of 'anti-smoking compounds'.

Plantago is in homoeopathic literature mentioned for that purpose - remedies to increase disgust for tobacco - but Euphrasia is not, despite the fact that two provers developed an aversion to smoking. Demographic studies have demonstrated the severe mental and physical effects of ergot poisoning [Secale cornutum].

Much of the mental symptomatology is not included in the materia medica. The psychoactive properties are thought to be related to the alkaloid lysergic acid, which naturally occurs in the fungus and from which LSD is derived.

Placed against the background of medieval beliefs, the alleged bewitchment by the devil would seem intensely 'bad trips' or, more accurately, acute schizophrenic attacks [which LSD is known to produce].

Structure of the book
Every remedy is introduced with a quip or a quote, ranging from deadly serious to light-hearted. Taken from every available source, the SIGNS section contains [summarized] information about the substance from which the drug is derived.

Sources are documented. Collecting the information for the SIGNS section was like making a journey through the colourful world of books, articles, internet texts, and websites. And yet there is still so much to discover.

The section MAIN SYMPTOMS is a revised and enlarged version of the 'Leading Symptoms' in Synoptic Materia Medica 1. Quotes are indicated by a black dot ; quotes include the exact phrasings of proving symptoms, as well as clinical symptoms, fragments of cases, contemporary concepts, and correlations.

The symptoms comprising the RUBRICS section are taken from Synthesis, Edition 7.1. By going through the proving reports in Hughes & Dake's Cycloppaedia of Drug Pathogenesy, I came across symptoms which have been overlooked or, in my opinion, misinterpreted.

These are added or corrected, respectively. References are given for all additions; additions without a reference are mine.

Many thanks to all who have contributed to the realization of this book. Many special thanks to my wife Maud, for gathering so much information; to Jenni Tree, for diligently proof-reading the manuscript and for her valuable additions; to Hanssjorg Hee, for putting his extensive homoeopathic library at our disposal; to Karl-Josef Muller, for exchanging ideas by e-mail; to Bert Breuker, for being Dutch and living in Sweden and for the hours of brainstorming; and to Arne Milan Vermeulen for installing powerful engines to search the net.

Frans Vermeulen
Molkom, Sweden
28 February 2002


Acon. -- 1
Aesc. -- 10
Aeth. -- 16
Agar. -- 22
All-c. -- 34
Aloe -- 39
Alum. -- 5
Ambr. -- 55
Am-c. -- 63
Am-m. -- 70
Anac. -- 74
Anh. -- 81
Ant-c. -- 107
Ant-t. -- 115
Apis -- 119
Aran. -- 133
Arg-met. -- 141
Arg-n. -- 149
Arist-cl. -- 156
Arn. -- 163
Ars. -- 169
Ars-i. -- 179
Arum-t. -- 182
Asaf. -- 186
Asar. -- 191
Aur. -- 195
Bamb-a. -- 205
Bar-c. -- 213
Bell. -- 221
Bell-p. -- 230
Berb. -- 238
Borx. -- 246
Bov. -- 254
Brom. -- 261
Bry. -- 269
Bufo -- 276
Cact. -- 292
Calc-ar. -- 299
Calc. -- 303
Calc-f. -- 314
Calc-p. -- 322
Calc-s. -- 327
Calen. -- 331
Cann-i. -- 338
Cann-s. -- 362
Canth. -- 369
Caps. -- 378
Carb-an. -- 387
Carb-v. -- 393
Carc. -- 400
Caul. -- 411
Caust. -- 414
Cham. -- 421
Chel. -- 429
Chin. -- 437
Cic. -- 449
Cimic.-- 455
Cina --464
Cist. -- 468
Clem. -- 472
Coca -- 479
Cocc. -- 492
Coff. -- 499
Colch. -- 515
Coloc. -- 524
Con. -- 530
Cor-r. -- 540
Croc. -- 546
Cupr. -- 553
Cycl. -- 566
Dig. -- 572
Dios. -- 581
Dros. -- 585
Dulc. -- 591
Elaps -- 596
Eup-per. -- 605
Euphr. -- 609
Ferr. -- 614
Ferr-p. -- 628
Fl-ac. -- 634
Gels. -- 646
Glon. -- 653
Graph. -- 657
Grat. -- 663
Guaj. -- 667
Ham. -- 672
Hell. -- 676
Hep. -- 682
Hydr. -- 687
Hyos. -- 693
Hyper. -- 703
Ign. -- 710
Iod. -- 716
Ip. -- 722
Iris -- 728
Kali-ar. -- 734
Kali-bi. -- 738
Kali-br. -- 743
Kali-c. -- 750
Kali-i. -- 756
Kali-m. -- 761
Kali-p. -- 765
Kali-s. -- 769
Kreos. -- 772
Lac-c. -- 778
Lac-d. -- 789
Lach. -- 797
Lat-m. -- 807
Led. -- 817
Lil-t. -- 822
Lith-c. -- 832
Lob. -- 839
Lyc. -- 845
Lyss. -- 853
Mag-c. -- 860
Mag-m. -- 870
Mag-p. -- 876
Manc. -- 879
Mand. -- 884
Mang. -- 895
Med. -- 901
Merc. -- 907
Mez. -- 920
Mosch. -- 925
Murx. -- 932
Mur-ac. -- 937
Naja -- 941
Nat-ar. -- 949
Nat-c. -- 953
Nat-m. -- 958
Nat-p. -- 967
Nat-s. -- 971
Nit-ac. -- 975
Nux-m. -- 982
Nux-v. -- 996
Olnd. -- 1001
Op. -- 1007
Orig. -- 1023
Ox-ac. -- 1029
Pall. -- 1036
Petr. -- 1041
Ph-ac. -- 1046
Phos. -- 1050
Phyt. -- 1060
Pic-ac. -- 1067
Plat. -- 1071
Plb. -- 1078
Podo. -- 1095
Psor. -- 1100
Puls. -- 1104
Pyrog. -- 1112
Rad-br. -- 1116
Ran-b. -- 1125
Rheum -- 1129
Rhod. -- 1133
Rhus-t. -- 1139
Rumx. -- 145
Ruta -- 1149
Sabad. -- 1156
Sabin. -- 1163
Samb. -- 1169
Sang. -- 1177
Sanic. -- 1184
Sars. -- 1190
Sec. -- 1198
Sel. -- 1213
Sep. -- 1222
Sil. -- 1232
Spig. -- 1243
Spong. -- 1250
Stann. -- 1256
Staph. -- 1264
Stict. -- 1272
Stram. -- 1278
Stront-c. -- 1291
Stry. -- 1297
Sulph. -- 1300
Sul-ac. -- 1309
Symph. -- 1312
Syph. -- 1316
Tab. -- 1327
Tarent. -- 1337
Tell. -- 1349
Ter. -- 1353
Teucr. -- 1356
Thea -- 1360
Ther. -- 1368
Thuj. -- 1371
Tub. -- 1379
Urt-u. -- 1388
Valer. -- 1394
Verat. -- 1399
Vib. -- 1405
Xan. -- 1410
Zinc. -- 1414

Frans Vermeulen

(1948 - )

Frans Vermeulen was born in July, 1948 in Den Helder, Holland. He graduated from teachers training college in 1970. He worked as a schoolteacher until 1978 and had already started to study homeopathy at Stichting Klassieke Homeopathie in Den Haag. He continued to study homeopathy until 1983 although he had been running his practice since 1979.

Frans started to translate homeopathic books for work and pleasure. Between 1983 and 1996 he translated English and German homeopathic books, including Kent, Allen, Hering, Boericke, Borland, Tyler, Vithoulkas, Voegeli, Whitmont, Miles, Morgan and Koehler.

In 1985 he wrote 'Kindertypes in Homoeopathie' (Children's Types in Homoeopathy), based on his experiences as both a teacher and a homoeopath.

In 1990 he was appointed managing director, teacher, and administrator of 'The School of Homeopathy' in Holland. In 1992 he wrote 'Synoptic Materia Medica 1' which originally emerged from remedy summaries made for the students in Holland, Ireland and Finland.

He followed this one up with the 'Concordant Materia Medica' published in 1994. Followed by a second edition of the Concordant, including Hering's Guiding Symptoms in 1997; a third edition was printed in 2000.

Out of his special interest in the small remedies, Frans wrote 'Synoptic Materia Medica 2'. In the completely revised edition of Synoptic 1, entitled 'Prisma', he introduces us to data from numerous non-homoeopathic sources as both reference material for the homoeopathic materia medica and as the source of potential symptoms. The significance and potential of such external data has been the subject of his numerous seminars in Europe, Israel and Australia.


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 wentunder 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.

Reprinted with permission from the Society of Homeopaths