In this first part of the interview, Harry van der Zee tells the fascinating tale of how he decided to pursue a life in homeopathy. He then discusses the emergence of his thinking about the homeopathic miasms and how they manifest themselves in the human life cycle. By integrating insights from Jungian psychology and Stanislav Grof’s Holotropic therapy with Hahnemann’s miasms, Dr. van der Zee offers a fresh look at the role of miasmatic states as constructive forces in the birth process and subsequent life journey. His books on the topic are “Miasms in Labour” and “Homeopathy for Birth Trauma”.
H: What actually motivated me to go into the healing profession is the huge gap that there is between human potential for happiness and health and the actual situation in the world. The amount of suffering is huge, it’s enormous. And it’s a very sad thing to know that what’s being done in healthcare is often even adding to this suffering instead of reducing it. So, homeopathy is a gift to the world, you could say, and it’s actually connected to the very basis of the healing principle in the world, which is resonance.
D: We’re here today with Dr. Harry van der Zee. Could you start by telling us about yourself, a little bit about yourself, how you got to know homeopathy?
H: Actually I started as a civil engineer, but already during the studies I felt that that would not be the kind of life I would lead, in either constructing buildings or designing them. And in that period, I got more and more interested in, you would say, human affairs: spirituality, psychology, religion, mythology – all those related aspects that actually all are very important in homeopathy. And I didn’t know what to do with that yet, but I knew my life would be around human development. And I felt then that probably the study that would give me the broadest opportunity to work with that would be medicine. So after finishing my studies as a civil engineer, I started other studies: medicine. I didn’t know what I would specialize in later. And when I had finished my studies and had done some other studies in transpersonal psychology and things like that, so I started having consultations with patients to kind of determine what was really the matter with them, what’s the story behind their complaint.
H: And although people were happy with that, and in many cases we really got to something which was very essential for them and that could help them further in their life, I felt that I was kind of missing an instrument. And I had no idea what that would be. So I then decided to just withdraw for some time. I went to a monastery, just took water and apples, and told them not to disturb me and just leave me alone. And I brought some paint and some ink and some paper and just to write down my thoughts, my dreams, whatever. And that was an amazing experience, because every night I would wake up 5 or 6 times with very impressive dreams. So all day I would be working them out, painting them, writing about them. So the last night I was going to be there in that monastery I decided to specifically dream on a direction in my professional life. And so, in that night I again had a series of 5 or 6 dreams, waking up each time and writing them shortly down so that I would remember them the next day. And they were focusing more and more closely on homeopathy, which I wasn’t seriously considering at all, because I wasn’t interested in a granule for a runny nose, you know. But the dreams I had were getting so… I was following footsteps in the sand made by a homeopath – that was one of the dreams.
H: And then there was another dream, and I was looking at a beautiful forest, a bit like we’re living here but more like in the tropics. And the beautiful forest was full of colors, and out of that forest came like a firework of even more colors, just going up like that. And like in a car commercial there was this ‘No. 1’ coming up, and underneath it said ‘Homeopathy’. And so when I woke up from that dream I thought: this is serious, I really need to look into this. And what I had then, I think it’s the only time in my life that that happened, is that while awake I had another dream. There was another image coming up, and there was this big, old tree, close to a very clear stream of water, and under this tree there was this kind of cave, where I was sitting like in a lotus position, and I had found my place. And so I realized that this direction like homeopathy was to be taken very seriously. And so I ed this homeopath I had dreamt about whose footsteps I had been following in the dreams.
D: A specific homeopath?
H: Yeah. And so I asked her: You need to tell me more about homeopathy because there must be something about homeopathy that I don’t know. And then I heard about this whole development that homeopathy had gone through in the last decades, with George Vithoulkas, on the essence of the remedy and the essence of a case. And I just realized that I had been working on essences with patients but hadn’t translated that into remedies yet. And so that’s when the whole adventure with homeopathy started, and I just fell in love with it. It was just wonderful, all these different pictures of remedies, and these patients. I mean patients were already very interesting, but now you could relate them to remedies, and remedies could also help you find out the deeper level in a patient, because of certain combinations of symptoms, there could be a story behind it of whatever. So, yeah, this was fascinating, and I went to every seminar I could go. I mean, homeopathy is a fascinating journey of learning about all the aspects of Creation. You’re kind of investigating God in all its expressions, or something like that. So this whole journey of individualizing a case as much as possible and as specifically as possible has been a fascinating journey for me. And to a certain extent it still is.
But at some point, I realized there were other aspects to homeopathy, to treating individuals. And that started with my analysis of the birth process. Before starting with homeopathy I had been meeting with Stanislav Grof, I had been working with him, I had used his method of Holotropic Therapy with groups in Holland but also abroad, which was a fascinating journey as well. Anyway, what he had done, he had made a very fascinating analysis of the human unconscious, and discovered several levels in it. And you could say that the first level of experience is a very superficial one, like if you would use a drug, the colors might become more intense or whatever, but it has no meaning. But at another level behind that is that you get into biographic experiences. People start re-experiencing things that they have experienced before in their lives. And what was interesting in his observation is that physical trauma is often much stronger than psychological trauma. And then you enter another realm, and that’s the re-experience of birth. And his analysis of that, after having seen thousands of cases, and the levels of the different birth experiences, just based on the biological phase you go through: there’s the onset of birth, there’s the dilatation phase, there’s the expulsion through the birth canal, and there’s the actual moment of birth. And so I figured, if it’s true, it should be certainly true for those remedies that we say are polychrests for a certain miasm. So I analyzed those remedies and just compared them with the analysis of the birth phase that I saw the connection with. And in the beginning I assumed that the sequence should be from Syphilis to Sycosis to Psora and then being born, because you move towards a healthy phase. The sequence in life is you start with Psora, you could say, Sycosis, and Syphilis, and you die. In a healing process you would rather go the other way.
D: And you saw birth as a healing process?
H: Well, yeah, birth is leading to life and life is leading to death, so I was kind of assuming it would be the other way around, also based on some of the symptoms that I had analyzed, and I just couldn’t fit it.
D: How did you chose to relate… to think miasmatically in the first place?
H: Well I wouldn’t say I was thinking it, this is one of the things you hear about in homeopathy, and in treating cases, and in cases that don’t fully get cured by just this one simillimum, and you need to get to another phase, then miasmatic thinking comes into existence.
D: So could you explain your order of miasms: I guess that’s something you introduced in your book Miasms in Labour, your first book… how you understand miasms function in terms of the human development process and the birth process?
H: In my first book, Miasms in Labour, I focus mainly on the three miasms as Hahnemann has described them, and I am very much convinced there are many more, and that probably the miasms he has described also include some others, so that there might be subdivisions and things like that. But in general, you could say that there is something you could call a pre-miasmatic state, which is connected to before the onset of birth. You could say that these are those people that somehow have never incarnated: they’re around and you see them acting and you hear them talking, but in a way, they’ve never really entered into this realm. And you can think about remedies like Hydrogen: so these people have… they’re missing substance, you could say. They can sound very spiritual because they still have a kind of connection to the beautiful qualities that you can relate to Paradise. But the ability to apply these in the flesh – like incarnation – and to materialize it and use it in life, that’s very difficult for them. So they’re just floating around, you could say.
D: What about Psora, the psoric miasm?
H: So, when you have this pre-miasmatic state in which there is no duality, you could say Psora has to do with leaving Paradise and with starting to experience the need for all kinds of things. So the psoric condition has to do with learning to take care of yourself, which starts with very simple, basic things: How can I live as a human being? Having food, shelter, how to string my own shoelaces. And in that process, which Jung calls the formation of the persona, you make a deal. You make a deal with your parents, you make a deal with your surroundings: if I am like this, if I behave like that, if I put on a shirt when I’m in front of a camera, if I don’t walk naked in the street, if I don’t do this, if I say “Yes Sir,” use two words, and whatever – you learn how to behave as a person, and you benefit through learning that, because in that way life, community, society will support you.
D: Right. You’re able fully to incarnate.
H: Yes. But it has a price, because certain parts of yourself you’ve learned not to show. Certain qualities you might even not see as a positive quality but as something bad that you’d better hide. So in the formation of the persona, as a consequence you also form what Jung has called a shadow: parts of you you’d rather not show. And the shadow has a lot to do with sycosis, with the sycotic phase. Sycosis has to do with the split, the split between good and bad, light and dark, God-Devil. The split you will find in the homeopathic sycotic remedies very strongly. In Thuja there’s this idea of ‘I’m bad, and I’m just looking to the outside world to behave because that’s the good way’.
H: So, at some point in development you have to encounter your shadow. I mean, you cannot avoid it, it’s there. And when it’s there and you’re not aware of it, you feel being a victim of life, and you don’t feel you can do anything about it. The sycotic phase has to do with the dilatation phase, and so spiritually, psychologically speaking, first there is no experience of an exit, but at some point the os uteri, the opening of the womb, starts to open up, and once you start being aware of your own role and responsibility and opportunities there, then freedom arises. And that’s when you start moving into what we call the syphilitic miasm, where you have, kind of, in the darkness… it needs to get very dark for some people, or perhaps for all of us, to kind of at some point identify our own light and the light of the qualities that we own and that we have hidden very deeply away because we felt they were not okay. So we kind of dive into the depth of the earth and delve up these qualities, and then bring them up and can use them creatively in life. And that’s what syphilitic miasm is about. And when people use these in a harmonic way they won’t suffer: you’re just a creative person that can take on responsibilities and it’s just a great asset for the world. Whereas the syphilitic tendency to use these abilities for your own good and to experience the rest of your world as your enemy is the pathological side of the same process.
D: So for you Syphilis is hope and creativity as opposed to what is typically associated with it: hopelessness?
H: Yeah, there is a transition here, and in this transition, there are several miasms actually which play a role there. The main one is the Cancer miasm, which is between Sycosis and Syphilis. So the syphilitic miasm is just fighting its way out. So if you look at the birth experience as a blueprint of actually every process you can move through in life, then you can say that the syphilitic phase has to do with fighting your way out of a situation. And so it has a lot to do with ability, creativity: if we look in the materia medica at syphilitic remedies, we find remedies like Aurum, which have to do with responsibility, abilities, leadership, and whatever. But if you use these abilities to just have as much as possible for yourself, and when you get into the syphilitic hardened position, then you alienate yourself from the rest of the world. The world becomes an enemy, because they might get from you what you want for yourself. And then you get these extremes that we all know, and we know where this can lead to. Because, I mean, a simple farmer losing his mind, you could say, might ruin his family, but a leader losing his mind might draw a whole continent into a war.
D: Right. Can you expand a bit about Stanislav Grof and his work on this birth process?
H: So, what Stan Grof did is he recorded hundreds and thousands of experiences of people that have re-experienced birth, found out that there were specific phases in this birth process which are clearly connected to a biological state. Very interesting, if you look at Grof’s analysis and at the experience of many people, that in the syphilitic stage of birth and in the syphilitic stage of any human, there is this ultimate moment of failure. Ultimately we will all fail: every story ultimately fails. And for the syphilitic person that is strongly identified with his ego – so we’re talking about pathology here – this failure is a huge threat, because when you’re identified with the ego, and the ego would kind of be crushed or dies, it would mean the end of everything. And that is something that came very strongly forward in Grof’s analysis. And we know this from the homeopathic syphilitic remedies also, this idea that it will end with death, destruction. And what Grof found in those people that he had been working with, is that in this experience… so you fight for your life, you try to get through this birth canal, which is a dangerous situation to be, but it’s better than just suffering inside of the womb that is crushing you. At least there’s a way out: you might make it, you might not make it. And so ultimately, in the experience you’ve given everything, and ultimately you fail, and there’s this feeling like: I’ve given everything but it has been in vain. And he calls this the ‘death-rebirth experience’, because in dying the person gets reborn. Like in the birth experience, actual biological birth, what we see is there is this moment of relaxation before actual birth. So there’s pushing and pushing out this baby, and there’s this moment: wait, no more pushing, and then it kind of… birth comes. It’s like the Phoenix bird: there has been this fire, which is hatched, and it has killed the bird which hatches the egg. So there is death and rebirth within the experience. And so what it is, is just seeing the light: you come from the darkness, you go through the birth canal, and then you enter into the light. So that’s what I connect to the acute miasm, if you can call it like that. And at least with the acute remedies, if you analyze remedies like Belladonna, Stramonium, etc., they have lots and lots of symptoms that you can just easily attach to the birth moment – the actual birth moment. And so what happens, then, is that the individual, having given everything, dies, comes to life, and then there is… if it’s good, there is the ‘good breast’ as Grof called it. There’s the mother, the reuniting with the mother, and actually going back to the experience like it was in the womb before, but now in a different way.
So before birth, being in the womb is like Paradise: you don’t know opposites, it’s never cold, it’s never hot, it’s always perfect – and this is true for everything, if we’re talking about a normal pregnancy. Then you’re kind of being kicked out of Paradise, you enter as it were the opposite of it, Hell: no exit, just suffering, and also there’s this strong opposition between mother and child here. The mother is hurting the child and the child is hurting the mother, and both have the experience like this is never going to end, it’s like eternal Hell. Then the situation changes, in that there is the awareness of a way out, and something to fight for. You fight for your life, lose it, get reborn, and then again you experience this unity. But the unity inside the womb is the unity, like Grof calls it, ‘oceanic unity’: there is no difference between you and me, there’s just oneness. Whereas the unity after the birth experience – and to me that is just similar to after the individuation process – is where you reunite as a baby with the mother, but actually as an individual with life in its totality. So the syphilitic built-up ego: that is being scattered, and then you experience unity. And instead of when the ego is dead that’s the end of everything: no, that’s when life begins, because then you can experience unity with everything, but you are still there as an individual with all your abilities. Whereas within Paradise you’re just one with the mother, one with the womb, and that’s it: it’s not differentiated. At the end of the process there’s this creative individual that reunites, if you wish, with God, with everything, with eternity, with the mother…
D: …and returns to Paradise but more in the sense of an enlightened state, [the] Paradise of a grown, conscious being.
H: Yes, perhaps Heaven would be the word for that, I don’t know: it would be Heaven on earth if you could live like that, yeah. And that’s in essence the potential of human beings, and there are human beings that live it, and homeopathy is one of the ways to kind of support that process. A disease is a collection of symptoms, so on another level a disease is also a sign of health, of an individual trying to move through a certain phase in his life, and to make a certain step in its development. And on a larger level, miasms have the same purpose for the collective. So you can look at it from the individual point of view: you can move through a certain miasm and this can be completely something you move through in your individual life. But it can also happen on a collective level, like with epidemics, or with collective trauma.
D: OK. So this is, then, the overview of your first book, Miasms in Labour, which you published in 2000. Now, more recently, in 2007, you published Homeopathy for Birth Trauma. So could you tell us about this book, why you published another book on seemingly the same subject: What’s the difference and what do you wish to convey in this second book?
H: What I realized by studying many cases and by also looking into the literature, is that the way we deliver babies into our world today has a lot of influence on how society develops, and that the choices we make in this all have consequences. Now if you go through it just phase by phase… The whole situation of conception: there are many people that have problems in getting pregnant, many women. If I look at my cases where this has been the case, there was very often an issue involved that had to be solved first. If you just let medicine induce a pregnancy and not solve the issue which might have to do with motherhood or whatever it is, or with abuse in the past, or whatever – if you don’t solve it, it means that the child is being fathered, and will enter into these ‘miasms’, as you could say, and could just be the next carrier of whatever this information is. And I’m very convinced that the way a person is born is an expression of this individual already. And if we already start by inducing birth, we cannot overrule the person – that’s the first step to overrule an individual. If you can allow the natural process to just take place as it will do, that’s wonderful. And with homeopathy, in each phase of birth you can help a woman to go through that phase. And it doesn’t only mean that she goes through it on a physical level, but that which kind of withholds her to, for instance, relax during dilatation – that could be something traumatic from her own past – if you can treat it before, or during, it will help. So it will not only help a healthy labour, it will also help on the psychological level, to move through a certain trauma or pain or memory or whatever is there. And the sooner you can treat this the better. So ideally you have a completely healthy individual before you even start with conception.
D: But even you would say that somehow their soul chose that experience?
H: I’m not able to know. But what I’ve found, for instance, in the birth experience, is that if you look at the pattern in a person’s life, and if you’re able to analyze their birth experience, either because they have re-experienced it or – what I’ve done a lot more – is by just asking the mother about the birth experience, pregnancy, conception, the whole thing. What you see is that the pattern later in life is already present in the birth experience. And if you can go further back than that, then you find the same pattern already during pregnancy, or even around conception, or in some people that either have memories or re-experiences of it, or dreams about it, in past lives, or what seem to be past lives. So it’s not the idea of a tabula rasa, of a completely blank sheet, and when this person is being born then the birth experience, the parents, the school, etc. start filling in the empty spots. No, there is already a pattern there, and the birth experience is an expression of it.
D: Could you expand on the notion of synchronicity, which I guess comes from Jungian psychology?
H: Synchronicity ties in with the fact that life is endlessly more connected than we as humans are aware of. We have this idea of this separate me, and I go from here to there, or I sit on this couch and I talk to this other person, and there is a light bulb here, and my wife is gone, she is doing something else, and this is all separate. But I think the interconnectedness is so much more than we are aware of, and that synchronicity is just happening all of the time. The only thing is that, being aware of it – that is something we usually are not. So what I’ve noticed is that I notice synchronicities a lot more when I’m kind of balanced within myself. And whether synchronicity also occurs more in that situation, I don’t know: either I notice it more, or it also occurs more. It’s like things go without friction: synchronicity is part of that. So it’s the right person at the right time.
D: And also things having a meaning, events having a meaning as opposed to being coincidences?
H: Yeah. When we just accept life as it is, every moment, in the here and now, all of the time, we don’t suffer. What is there is exactly what it should be, and once we are aware of the option to reduce the suffering due to it and move through it in a more gentle way: not by removing it but just letting it be what it is, and perhaps accepting the lesson which is connected to it. That’s what we can promote with homeopathy, and that’s beautiful. So life is perfect all the time, actually. We don’t suffer from the actual situation. We suffer from the idea that it should be different.