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Element theory by Jan Scholten
When the first glimpse of Scholten theory appeared in his Homeopathy and the Elements book, there was just one simple paragraph on page 29 hesitantly stating the outline of his proposition.
The eighteen stages are stages in a cycle. Each cycle consists of the beginning of a project. The successful accomplishment of this project and then its eventual decline and final breakdown. It describes the rise, the fall of any undertaking, project, business or kingdom.
The stages could be seen as separate moments fixed in time in this overall process. They describe the continuing process as if consisted of different steps that can be lifted out separately. The stages are the same for each series, so they can be applied to all of them.
Thus, according to Jan Scholten, each Period in the periodic table forms what he labelled a “cycle” whereas each Group represents various “stages” that form those “cycles.” Basically, the “theory” states (as I understand it) that the various properties of the simple and complex substances from which the homeopathic drugs are produced depend on the relative position of the corresponding elements in the periodic table. These various “therapeutic properties” rise to the peak of their expression in the exact middle of the periodic table, while on the left side these “properties” spring up from nowhere and evolve, while on the right side they gradually deteriorate and degenerate. These properties are not even clearly defined, they could be anything really: “project, business, or kingdom.” Take your pick! Eventually, after a few years of “development” by various dedicated practitioners these “properties” morphed into pseudo-psychological profiles of remedies.
Each and every declaration in the above paragraph from the Homeopathy and Elements contains at least one novel proposition, and not one of them is justified, if not by an experimental observation, then at least by some kind of logical reasoning. I have a theory of my own here. I think that when Scholten wrote this book, he had no idea he had “discovered” anything of any significance, especially not something that could pass as a law. It was only after this little paragraph of his was noticed, picked up, used, and disseminated by Rajan Sankaran— which came on the heels of the American homeopaths discovering Sankaran himself—that Scholten decided, in hindsight, it can be presented, termed, and promoted as a grand theory. Here is what this theory evolved into at the hands of Sankaran. In his book Structure: Experience with the Mineral Kingdom, Sankaran “develops” the “elements theory” much, much further:
The current thought (after Scholten) is that there is a gradual development of a particular quality (specific to each row) from the left to column 10 where there is optimal development and then from the right side onwards after column 10 there is gradual decline and loss of that quality.
- Elements on the left will have a feeling of a lack or deficiency of structure. Their efforts will be toward building more and more.
- Elements on the right side will have a feeling of losing or loss of structure. Their effort will be to conserve and maintain what is left. This can be misleading as the elements on the left side will also show a fear of loss. . . .
- For example Arsenicum, with the sensation of loosing security, becomes extremely careful with his health and very avaricious with money in order to build more and more security. Plumbum, with the sensation of complete loss of power, wants to accumulate the entire power in his hand so he can become an absolute autocrat. (emphasis added, H.C.)<l/li>
Well, there you go: a seemingly seamless and perfect reasoning, which neatly includes the well-known remedy pictures, advances the new Sankaran’s idea that the variable “properties” Scholten had been talking about could very well be “structure.” As a reader, I can only assume he is talking about either the molecular or subatomic structures of the substances containing the elements in question. But then, there is this talk of “fear” and other emotions. To further confuse the students and to advance the fraudulent theory Sankaran literally minces the words and goes back and forth between dissimilar entities such as “structure” and emotion. Am I to assume that the salt of arsenic used for the remedy Arsenicum has trouble maintaining its internal structure? Am I to assume that the metallic lead has no crystal structure at all? This is preposterous! Can I possibly believe that substances existing here on earth in their solid states (like arsenic and lead) can possibly have no internal structure? That they lack structure in the same way that gaseous substances were believed in the past to lack any cohesive internal structure? Well, nowadays it is postulated that even the gases have certain structure. But tightly packed solids always have it, even if they are non-crystalline, like glasses! We are ever so lucky in our homeopathic community that the sceptics and the real scientists have never got their hands on these books. There would have been such an extraordinary public outcry against us if any of them did read these pseudoscientific publications!
The two-volume Structure is a fine exemplar of the cluster of misunderstanding and confusion typically found in the writings of Scholten’s followers. It is devoted to the “analysis” of the homeopathic remedies containing certain elements of the periodic table following Scholten’s ideas. Rajan Sankaran has a few employees who all day long sit in front of a computer searching the Internet for information that he can be use in his publications and seminars. If the information is needed for the remedies that belong to the “animal kingdom” then these people find out peculiar quirks or habits of animals of his interest. If it is the “mineral kingdom” that they pursue in their quest for information, then bits and pieces of the data about certain metals or rocks are copied chaotically into Sankaran’s register. Here is an example of his study of Rhenium, an unknown entity in the homeopathic pharmacopeia, but one that seems so enticingly exotic to a lay person. “The elements in the column 8 are the toughest in the periodic table,” writes Sankaran. Then he adds: “They are very hard and persistent.” (emphasis added, H.C.) And further down: “The elements in this column are also good conductors and cannot be bent or molded. Ruthenium is especially very hard, brittle and inflexible. This column is easier to understand because Ferrum is a part of it.” This, in turn, is followed by a list of twenty five “keywords” that have the typical Scholten’s logic behind it: it is a creative medley of terms borrowed indiscriminately from both the mechanics and psychology, with the emphasis on toughness, hardness, and resilience under pressure. It is hard to argue with the “soft science” of pop-psychology, but as far as basic chemistry and mechanics are concerned the information collected so carelessly from the Internet is erroneous to the extreme degree. As any chemist would know, the properties of ruthenium and osmium have very little in common with the properties of the metallic iron! It so happens that Nature designed her elements in quite a different fashion. In her wisdom that is a total mystery to humans, She decided to place iron (Ferrum) in the horizontally arranged iron-cobalt-nickel triad and she made the properties of these three metals exceptionally similar indeed—which is also a well-known fact in metallurgy, not just in chemistry. Osmium and ruthenium, on the other hand, have very different set of properties as Nature placed them in the vertical platinum group of noble metals. Again, any chemist, metallurgist, goldsmith, and jewellery designer knows that platinum, silver, gold, iridium, niobium, and osmium are all considered to be precious metals and all come mixed together inseparably in their ores (I did try to tell that to Roger Morrison once, but it didn’t make a tiniest dent in his “silver series” presentations, unfortunately). By way of repetition: there is not much in common between the properties of metallic iron and the other members of the “column 8.” It is a well-known fact that, unlike ruthenium and osmium, the metallic iron is not hard, brittle, and “inflexible.” Metallic iron is one of the softest and—most importantly — one of the most malleable metals and it is iron’s malleability, precisely, that made it such an important element of the human culture! (the term “malleable” designates the mechanical property of being able to deform without breaking, i.e. being able to withstand considerable elastic and plastic deformation—a direct the opposite of “inflexible.”) Furthermore, iron alloys (various steels) are very strong and tough, not hard and brittle like glass. Metallic iron has very fast rates of oxidation and can only be stored under the protective cover of oil (or paint, if it is your car). I use this example to pinpoint the completely chaotic and pseudoscientific way of presentation of facts that is so typical for all Scholten’s follower’s publications (two more examples of the homeopathic authors who publish utter nonsense about metals are: Patricia Le Roux and Rajesh Shah).
Sankaran’s discussion of the “column 8” is not an exception, but a rule. I chose this example because there are only three elements mentioned by Sankaran for this “column.” * And yet he managed to get completely confused between toughness and hardness—the two almost opposite qualities in both the mechanics and homeopathy— because the consultants who go on the Internet fishing for these bits of information obviously lack any scientific background while Sankaran apparently just doesn’t care. The fact, however, that this kind of pseudoscience is deliberately poured over the heads of poor homeopathy students is a crime! Since the remedies made out of such incredibly rare and expensive metals as ruthenium are not properly proven, at least these people could have been more informed in their speculations about their therapeutic properties. Furthermore, none of these metallic substances is present in pure enough states for a homeopath to be able to deduce their properties! In their ores, all these metals exist in each other’s solid state solutions in exquisitely complicated forms, which are not even metallic. Had it not been for the electronic industry’s quest for the highest purity, none of these metals would have been available to homeopathic pharmacists. Why would any physician wish to make their drugs out of substances so expensive to produce and not readily available in earth’s crust? Why would Mother Nature hide her remedies from her children so hard and for so such a long time?
Here is an interesting quote from one of the followers of Scholten and Sankaran, Sunil Anand. Without an iota of shame Anand presents to his readers a historical lie, a lie that nonetheless would advance his cause because it states that Hahnemann was analysing the elements from the periodic table.
Hahnemann was the first to introduce the analysis of the remedial powers of the periodic table of elements and three kingdoms using “analogy in accordance with experience.” He is also the first to combine the symptoms of two mineral elements making a synthetic prescription. Hahnemann also spoke of comparing the symptoms of remedies in the plant families. There is no denying that this is the origin of such ideas. He also cautioned against going too far by using too much speculation when studying families.. . ” Sunil Anand Jan 4, 2011
Here is a response to this quote by George Dimitriadis, a Hahnemann scholar who obviously has little trouble denying Anand’s completely unsubstantiated proclamation:
Sunil Anand is spinning a yarn—telling a tale—creating an illusion. He must distinguish between his interpretation, and the experimentation by Hahnemann. But just as an example to evidence that Hahnemann did not mix medicines, even after Hahnemann’s Versuch in 1796, which itself marks the birth of Homœopathy as a system of medicine, we read this in his own (translated) words (Are the obstacles to certainty and simplicity in medicine insurmountable? 1797, in HLW321-2):
Dare I confess, that for many years I have never prescribed anything but a single medicine at the one time, and have never repeated the dose until the action of the former one had ceased; a venesection alone – a purgative alone – and always a simple, never a compound remedy, and never a second until I had a clear notion of the operation of the first? Dare I confess, that, in this manner, I have been very successful, and given satisfaction to my patients, and seen things which otherwise I never would have seen?
I could give many other similar examples from Hahnemann’s own words which demonstrate his attention to “one thing at a time”. Hepar sulf., whilst a mixture of elements, had its own proving upon which it was to be homœopathically prescribed. Hahnemann did experiment with mixtures at one stage, but abandoned them within a year. He never approved of them—quite the opposite. Hahnemann was very clear to oppose the idea of “signature”, and he opposed in no unclear terms the idea that a similarity in structure, appearance, genus, etc., could be used to base a homœopathic prescription upon. In Search of a New Principle, we read:
. . .yet my conviction compels me to give this warning, that, be the number of genera ever so many whose species resemble each other very much in their effects, the lesser number of very differently acting species should make us distrustful of this mode of drawing inferences. . .*
- Conclusions relative to similarity of action betwixt species of a genus become still more hazardous, when we consider that one and the same species, one and the same plant, frequently shows very varied medicinal powers in its different parts. How different the poppy head from the poppy seed; the manna that distils from the leaves of the larch from the turpentine of the same tree; the cooling camphor in the root of the cinnamon laurel, from the burning cinnamon oil; the astringent juice in the fruit of several of the mimosæ, from the tasteless gum that exudes from their stem; the corrosive stalk of the ranunculus from its mild root. Hahnemann, HLW258. 1796
So, we see, the conclusions drawn by Sunil Anand are his own, as Hahnemann repeatedly tells us the only way is to undertake methodical experiment in the form of provings. George Dimitriadis. 2011
Elements and substances
Anand does not really say that Hahnemann was actually using the periodic table as it was clearly not invented during Hahnemann’s lifetime, but he cleverly uses the word “elements” to confuse his reader. The concept of the “element” did not exist in the eighteen century either; presently, however we differentiate between elements and substances as well as between basic substances and simple substances. The difference is more philosophical than chemical. Some chemists have also tried to define elements as “natural kinds” placed into natural groups of elements with similar properties. In creating his periodic table, Mendeleev stressed the more metaphysical notion that the elements are basic substances. What do the symbols in the periodic table represent: the actual substances that exist on earth or their abstract symbols? Scholten and his followers avoid the difficult question all together, which makes their “theory” even more counterfeit.
It is useful in this sense to make a clear distinction of an element as a separate homogeneous substance, and as a material but invisible part of a compound. Mercury oxide does not contain two simple bodies, a gas and a metal. Neither mercury as a metal nor oxygen as a gas is contained in mercury oxide; it only contains the substance of the elements, just as a steam only contains the substance of ice, but not the ice itself, or as corn contains the substance of the seed but not the seed itself. The Principles of Chemistry Mendeleev, D.R..
Strictly speaking an element as a basic substance possesses no properties but as Mendeleev suggested it should be attributed just one characteristic—atomic weight, or in present day terms—atomic number. Eic Scerri. Journal of Chemical Education, “The Role of Triads in the Evolution of the Periodic Table.” Vol.85, 2008 (emphasis added, H.C.)
Homeopathic drugs, of course, are not made up of any abstract, metaphysical elements; moreover, most of them are not made out of simple substances either. Our mineral remedies are manufactured from complex substances such as metal alloys, oxides and other ceramic materials, salts, even rocks. Most of the elements of the periodic table do not actually exist in the physical world except for gold, diamonds, and a few other substances like them. There is, for example, no such substance as O, instead we have oxygen, O2 , here in our atmosphere. Likewise, there is no As, rather there exist several different minerals that contain arsenic. Our remedy Arsenicum was created out of one of those complex minerals. We know Arsenicum’s therapeutic properties from its provings, detailed poison reports, and thousands of clinical verifications. Yet Scholten insists that the abstract elements of the periodic table actually represent people and their pathological symptomatology. He asserts that because the element As is placed into the “15th row” and the “4th column” of the medium-long periodic table due to its atomic number, Z, being 33, the remedy Arsenicum and the patient requiring Arsenicum, both have certain characteristics. This assertion is so blatantly unscientific that it takes a special kind of the public to take it seriously. It appears that the twenty first century homeopathic society is such a gullible public.
Homeopathic Periodic Table by Scholten
Whether or not Jan Scholten’s “element theory” is of any scientific value, it appears to have one more major problem: it is ultimately dependent on the positions of the elements in the periodic table. If they are in the middle of it, they represent one remedy type, if they are on the left or on the right side then their “therapeutic properties” and “psychological dimensions” are something else entirely. According to Scholten, it is not the elements per se nor the simple substances they represent that have those “certain therapeutic properties,” rather it is their relative position at the crossroads of the columns and rows that determines the properties. Therefore, the position is of the utmost importance. Jan Scholten rearranged the popular medium- long periodic table to satisfy his theory. Or at least it seems so. Because I do not understand why Scholten had to move the elements around the periodic table for the sake of his vision of homeopathy. Not only these re-arrangements defy all scientific logic because the elements are moved away from their natural positions, which are determined by their atomic number and their four quantum numbers (n, l, ml, ms and especially by the n+l rule), the re-arrangements in themselves do not really help to explain his “element theory.” The sheer audacity, however, of anyone doing this to the periodic table is quite astonishing. Apparently, Scholten treats chemistry the same way he treats homeopathy, which is by completely disregarding the basic tenets of both sciences. Here is what he did:
1. Moved carbon & silicon from the p-block to the d-block
2. Moved boron & aluminum from the p-block to the d-block
3. Destroyed the Periodicity of the table and disregarded the n+l rule
1. Both carbon (1s2 2s2, 2p2 elements. It appears that Scholten thought he needed this move to make his estimations of the “psychological” profiles of carbon’s and silicon’s “homeopathic personalities” to be more congruent. Once they are in the exact middle of the table one can then make use of the “element theory.” The fact that the p-block element cannot possibly be in the IIIB group because all the elements in a group must have the same electronic configurations is apparently not important here.
Moreover, Scholten has placed carbon where no elements is supposed to exist. No elements from the second and third period occur in group 10. There are no elements there because in our Universe Nature did not create elements that fit this space (and the solutions to Schrodinger’s equation confirm this fact; that is, there are no solutions here). It becomes clearly obvious if one looks back at the old Mendeleev’s short table and then recalls why the medium-long table was created in the first place: to be able to display the transition metals. The transition metals start in period 4, not 2 or 3. Carbon and silicon are tetravalent non-metallic substances, not metals; they are not related to either nickel or palladium which are not tetravalent. Even though carbon has been promoted to God the Father by Scholten, it still cannot move around the universe and change its structure.
2. The placement of boron and aluminum that are both p-block elements on top of scandium that has a d-block structure (4s23d1 is also very problematic. Even though aluminum does have some similarities to scandium no one has ever moved it. Boron, on the other hand, simply has no placement in group 3; none of its chemical or physical properties suggests such a placement.
3. The periodic table is a model constructed to graphically represent the Periodic Law. The Periodic Law is based on the atomic number, Z, increasing one value at a time to represent the gradual filling out of the electronic “orbits,” as chemists call them. Once carbon, silicon, boron, and aluminum are moved the way Scholten did the whole thing stopped being contiguous with respect to Z; which really means it ceased to be a periodic table. By moving them around the periodic table Scholten created a discontinuity of the periodicity. If the atomic numbers do not follow each other in numerical sequence uninterruptedly, filling up the adjacent spaces, the sequence is not periodic. It is this simple! Scholten’s table is not periodic therefore his claiming that he uses periodic law to derive the homeopathic properties of the remedies from it is completely misleading!
Forms of the Periodic Table
There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of different periodic tables. Why then did Jan Scholten choose the IUPAC version of the medium-long table? For two obvious reasons: he has a background in chemistry and he is European. As I already mentioned last year, the form of the periodic table that Scholten chose is but a simple human convention, not a law of nature. It is also, as one of the major scientists of the periodic table, Eric Scerri, writes, a serious political issue.
The structure of the Periodic Table is directly or indirectly under the aegis of IUPAC whose governance has extended back to 1919. Re-drawing the Periodic Table means getting approval through a process governed by IUPAC. This may be a formidable task, since acting on a legislative initiative in a parliamentary body of several thousand scholars is at best a long drawn out process. Previous Periodic Table changes involving smaller technical issues took many years to resolve; in any case the IUPAC process has never been receptive to Periodic Table evolution. This could well be the first time that scientific theory is validated through the legislative process.
The Periodic Table does not have a “real” physical description like the three dimensional structure of a molecule. Physical entities like molecules have tangible forms which have been realized through instrumental analyses, giving them a physical existence. In contrast the Periodic Table exists entirely as a mental construct; it is the sum expression of centuries of an experiment and theorizing about relationships among the chemical elements. Assessing these relationships is actually a fitting game whose rules are subject to the predilections of chemists, rather than to the protocols of crystallographic analysis, for instance. It would seem that eventually the process of paradigm shift would take over when facts become overwhelming, but here the tools of consensus are of a psychological nature. Eric Scerri (emphasis mine, H.C.)
Scerri, who is a very influential periodic table academician, had been a proponent of a certain form of a medium-form periodic table called the left-step table. He has recently changed his mind and is now advocating a different version.
I suggest that the habit of ending the periods with a closed shell of electrons is not an essential feature of the presentation of the periodic system. As Philip Stewart has recently reminded us in proposing his spiral periodic system, the elements form a continuous sequence. Similarly, the habit of displaying metals on the left side of the table and non metals on the right side is just that, a habit or a convention and also not an essential aspect of representing the periodic system. The left-step table for example dispenses with both of these conventions as does my newly proposed table. (emphasis mine, H.C.) Eric Scerri. http://www.meta-synthesis.com/webbook/35_pt/pt_database.php?PT_id=20
Dear reader, please consider this: since the entire “elements theory” and all the follow up phantasmagoria totally and completely depend on one historically significant but perishable form of the periodic table and since this form is about to be replaced with another, or maybe a series of other, forms, the “element theory” cannot possibly represent any laws of nature! It is going up in smoke because the new periodic tables will not have the same arrangements of elements that Scholten claims represent “stages” and “cycles.” The left-step table, for example, has an entirely different arrangement.
Deductive method and reductionism
The 1981 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, Roald Hoffmann, has spent his career using quantum theory to gain insight into molecular structures and reactivity. Yet, in his publications he argues against reductionism in chemistry:
Scientists have bought the reductionist mode of thinking as their guiding ideology. Yet this philosophy bears so little relationship to the reality within which scientists themselves operate. And it carries potential danger to the discourse of scientists with the rest of society. . . .
There are vertical and horizontal ways of understanding. The vertical way is by reducing a phenomenon to something deeper—classical reductionism. The horizontal way is by analysing the phenomenon within its own discipline and seeing its relationships to other concepts of equal complexity. . . .[T]here are concepts in chemistry which are not reducible to physics. Or if they are so reduced, they lose much that is interesting about them. . . .
Those constructs have a tendency to wilt at the edges as one tries to define them too closely. They cannot be mathematicisized, they cannot be defined unambigously. But they are of fantastic utility to our science. The Same and Not the Same. Roald Hoffmann, 1995
While Scholten and his associates repeatedly state that in their impact on the “development” of homeopathy their “discoveries” are of the same nature and magnitude as those of the 20th captive audiences that the use of the laws of physics in biology, chemistry, economics, sociology and other sciences that deal with extremely complex subjects, are reductionist in nature. All across the scientific world the reduction of complicated matters to physics is being rejected en mass. Even the idea that reductionism has achieved great strides in science is now being questioned by many. Homeopathy seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Scholten refuses to see that the use of the data presented in the periodic table in finding a drug for a sick human being is nothing less than reductionism.
Complexity is now in fashion. Books, meetings, even whole institutes are devoted to complexity. It is a recognition that the long traditions of reductionist science, so successful in the past, are increasingly inadequate to cope with the systems we are now trying to understand and influence. The great errors and failings of attempts to apply science to matters of urgent concern have come from posing problems too narrowly, too linearly, too statistically. Infectious diseases did not disappear as was predicted thirty years ago. Pesticides increase pest problems, antibiotics create new pathogens, hospitals are foci of infection. Food aid increases hunger. The straightening and “taming” of rivers increase floods. Biology under the influence. Dialectical essays on ecology, Agriculture, and Health. Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins. 2007.
The Western medical sciences pretend as hard as they can that they are in possession of the most intimate laws of biological nature. This is one of their major flaws and an obvious self deception, of course. It is exactly here, in the life sciences, then, that we need holistic and integrated understanding of the entire process. It is precisely here that we need to avoid our temptation to look at the deceptive mirage of the ever decreasing tiny bits of matter. The brilliant discovery of “provings” by Hahnemann, who was a scion of the emerging empirical scientific tradition of the 18th century, presents to medicine a perfect shortcut to access the “messy” holistic human data. The new breed of scientists, such as the famous biologists Steven Jay Gould, Richard Lewontin, Richard Levins, and Ruth Hubbard, a prominent philosopher and geographer David Harvey, and many others are re-developing the old science of holism. They are open to homeopathic concepts; they could be our best allies—unless, of course, they find out about the “Sensation” method and the periodic table fantasy.
. . . the problem of reductionism arises from a confusion between the process of knowing and the process of physical determination. By reductionism, we mean a (ontological) commitment to the view that more complex phenomena are, in fact, the consequence of determination by the processes at “lower’ level; that is, the properties of societies are determined by the properties of the individuals, whose properties, in turn, are determined by the interaction of their genes and autonomous environment, whereas the properties of the genes are determined by the properties of the DNA, and so on down to quarks. . . .
There is a program of the study of nature, which we may call reduction, that asserts that the truth about nature can be uncovered only by studying the details of processes. Biology under the influence. Dialectical essays on ecology, Agriculture, and Health. Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins. 2007.
As the whole world literally turns around and the ground is shaking beneath our feet, presented with life’s colossal existing problems the humanity is searching for new ways to sustain its civilization. The official western medicine is increasingly being perceived by people as an epitome of a yet another failing corporate endeavour. This moment in time could be a perfect entry point for homeopathy—a truly people’s medicine. But homeopathy itself is divided—torn apart—by an internal subversion that threatens its very survival. At the time when the sciences of chemistry and biology are themselves revolting against the ruling dogmas of reductionism and seeking ways to create their own integrative and holistic bases, our best-trained homeopathic practitioners turn around and abandon the entire homeopathic enterprise. They deceive their students and their patients by pretending to teach and practice Hahnemannian homeopathy.
The literature produced by many of these authors almost always bears the unmistakable signs of propaganda pieces. The reader is inevitably being presented the peculiar yet easily recognizable admixture of half-truths, historical lies, and missing pieces of information; there is a jumble of fragmented facts—some borrowed from popular science, some from mythology; there is science fused to pseudoscience, fables, and even religion, occasionally there is a glimpse of some exceptionally complex scientific detail—albeit often misinterpreted and twisted—all being thrown into the mixing pot to create a facade behind a false doctrine and made to appear to support it, to be derived from it.
Helen Landau Cohen, Toronto