Miasms and Mythology: Part 1 of 3
The miasms at their most basic level are archetypal energy patterns ranging from very rapid, intense, and generalized symptoms, to slow, insidious, and pathological symptoms. Follow Homeopath Luke Norland on a journey from Acute to Syphilitic.
The Acute Miasm
The Acute Miasm corresponds to the fight or flight response and is the body’s instinctive choice for defending itself. The Acute Miasm is highly effective at ensuring survival so long as the vitality of the person can withstand and tolerate the intensity of the inflammatory process. Somebody who responds to life according to this miasm is apt to fly into panic, fear, and anxiety over seemingly innocuous events to which they may respond by fleeing or becoming aggressive. It has a very primal energy pattern, typified by the remedies of the Solanaceae family: Belladonna, Stramonium, and Lyssin. In the latter, the rubric – anger followed by quick repentance – is a very good example of the kind of reaction an Acute Miasm manufactures. First, there is the exciting cause which brings about panic- even predicting the time of death in the case of Aconite- then there could be a reaction of trying to escape or facing and fighting off the danger. When the threat has passed, the person can quickly return to their normal and more balanced manner unless the miasm has become so strong over the person’s vital force that they get stuck in this heightened adrenal state all the time. This could happen because the person is oversensitive to both external and internal impressions, or if they are locked into a situation which repeatedly ‘pokes’ them on their area of susceptibility.
In the Acute remedies, it can be easy to confuse them with the Syphilitic end of the spectrum as they can appear to have similar themes of violence, fear, death, and annihilation. The difference is that the Syphilitic Miasm is much heavier, and the signs more pathological- leading to actual tissue degeneration and necrosis. In the Acute miasm, a person will bounce from one extreme to the other, from light to dark, hot to cold; and the states although highly polarized, are more fleeting rather than of chronic duration. One can see this as being reminiscent of the Greek god Hermes who is a winged messenger who can move between realms. Hermes is a god of boundaries who can descend to the Underworld, where he takes mortals to their death and carries messages from Olympus to Earth. He can enter what appears the Syphilitic realm of Hades- death, decay, and destruction- but he always returns unscathed. This is similar to the nature of acute episodes which appear life-threatening, intense, and come with sudden violence; but, as long as the vital force has enough potency it will usually result in survival. Acute remedies, therefore, seem to oscillate between the heavenly realm of fire and the dark forces of elemental air.
The Typhoid Miasm
The Typhoid energy pattern lies between the rapid pace and shallow depth of the Acute Miasm and the constant low-grade struggle of the Psoric Miasm. When the body is healthy and following its instinctive vital process, the Acute Miasm is the best way to deal with a stressor. It combats the problem quickly and without sacrificing a particular organ to the inimical agent. It acts swiftly, flying into battles like Ares the god of war or the Zodiac sign Aries; but it expends a lot of energy and if somebody is overexposed to situations that touch their sensitivity, their vital power will diminish. Then they will move into another miasmatic expression that represents a partial retreat from the front-line, sacrificing the first line of defense and erecting a protective barrier to ensure the survival of the most important parts of the kingdom.
“Also known as the Subacute Miasm, remedies for the Typhoid Miasm were originally used for typhoid fever – that is high, unremitting fever often associated with prostration from violent diarrheas or other infections. The infections are slightly less rapid in their onset (like all our descriptions of Bryonia) than the remedies in the Acute Miasm… The patient feels himself to be in an urgent, life-threatening situation requiring his full capacity to survive. The patient is willing to use any means to return to a secure position: Violence, scheming, flight, lying, etc… The feeling is, ‘If I can just get through this crisis, I have it made, and I can rest.’ He seeks rest and a secure position.” ~Roger Morrison, M.D.
I find Nux vomica is a very useful remedy with which to characterize the Typhoid rhythm. Nux works very efficiently to achieve their goals; they are driven and ambitious, using stimulants to keep themselves going. Eventually, all this effort (the Psoric component of struggle can be seen here) leads to anger, irascibility, and brain fag from having too many irons in the fire and not being able to switch off from thoughts about their tasks. They become hurried, quick to anger, and have the delusion that someone is in their bed and there isn’t enough room for them in it. They want to reach a position of comfort as does Bryonia, who also prattles about work, but their place of repose has been stolen. When the Sub-acute pattern relapses, there is a sense of crisis that has to be dealt with right now and it will require a lot of effort.
Sankaran mentions crisis management as being very much of the Typhoid essence. As one patient put it:
“To keep pushing- project manager- keep managing myself. Right, did that; what’s the next thing? Quite fast, busy, and hectic! It’s a lot of pressure, so I’m spinning loads of plates and I’m consumed by it. I’m one of those people who appears calm and capable, so I get asked to do more. I’m feeling overwhelmed with life and I’m not managing it all. Generally, I feel a bit racy inside. There has been a niggling feeling- that feeling like after a roller coaster ride, it’s not really severe- it’s exciting, scary, thrilling, fearful, and you’re not sure what to expect. It’s like the thrill of being out of control, like that jump in your stomach when you’re going really really fast.”
The Greek god Ares is a good counterpart for the Typhoid Miasm. He is very eager to fly into battle, full of blood lust and violent rage. He is the god of war. His nature is simple, and he is driven by the more primitive urges of sex and violence. He was caught in the act with Aphrodite, ensnared by a golden net forged by Hephaestus, and ridiculed for his rather unsubtle approach-warmongering and debauchery being his two well-known attributes. This is very similar to the Choleric Pole on the Mappa Mundi.
The Psoric Miasm
The Psoric Miasm is Hahnemann’s gift to the homeopathic community. It lays the foundation for all the other miasms. In this way, it can be seen as the bedrock of human suffering; so, it can be useful to look at mythology here as well. Prometheus is an interesting figure with which to relate to the Psoric Miasm. He was a Titan god, whose love for humankind led to mischief that would bring down the wrath of Zeus. He stole fire from Olympus and gave it to the human race. In his rage, Zeus offered mankind the gift of Pandora’s Box, out of which came all the sufferings and toils of mankind, and at the bottom of which lay hope. This ties in rather nicely with the hopeful struggle of Psora. Prometheus himself was banished and chained to a rock where an eagle would come and peck out his liver by day, and by night he would regenerate owing to his divine immortality. The theme we can take from this story is that there is always struggle and toil for those with a Psoric Miasm, but there always remains the possibility of hope lying at the bottom of Pandora’s Box. Mankind and Prometheus are both punished, but they will both still survive.
The miasm expresses itself in the form of hypofunction or lack, and in this way, it has an opposite quality to Sycosis. The ability to properly assimilate becomes impaired, leading to a lack of nutrition and delayed development, as in the case of Calcarea and Lycopodium. Psorinum represents the heart of this miasm and has a strong delusion of poverty, a feeling that everything will fail- he feels so poor that even his body parts don’t belong to him! There is of course great itchiness, crawling sensations with weakness, debility, and a sense of being unwashed or polluted. Sankaran describes Psora as an “intense struggle with a problem from the environment. This problem is nonspecific in the case of Psorinum; it can be a religious problem, a problem with money, a problem about love… It has an undifferentiated character.”
Psora is the simple peasant, who toils the land ceaselessly for scant financial reward and yet he is that ‘salt of the earth’ type who has few concerns about wealth and status (as would the Sycotic person). Psora is like the first line of defense after the power to throw an Acute has diminished. There is a resignation to the fact they must now struggle on with limited capacity, but it has not got so bad for them to lose hope of overcoming the problem by maintaining their efforts. They can still see the hope offered at the bottom of all the hardships inflicted by Pandora’s Box.
With Psora comes the illusion of separateness; Kent equated it with original sin. As the manifestations of the disease itself are on the boundary of the self-the skin and mucous membranes- the formation of the ego and the illusion of being separate are contained within the myth of Psora. According to Plato, human beings were once complete, spherical individuals; containing both the male and female anatomy- they wheeled around happily until Zeus became angered and split them asunder. This illusion of being separate leads to the desire to form bonds with others in order to feel complete again. It is the absolute bedrock of the human condition and feeds the delusion of the egoic mind. In this way, Psora can be seen as having something in common with the mineral kingdom, lacking completeness by oneself so needing to form a bond to compensate for that weakness. I think this correspondence demonstrates that both Psora and minerals are the building blocks of more complex natural structures. I can see a relationship between Psora and the Earth Aspect of the Mappa Mundi, where there is a drying up or solidifying process, wanting to find a place within the structure. Ailments manifested in the Earth realm are less serious than the fire or air polarity.
The Sycotic Miasm
The Sycotic Miasm impels the individual to keep up appearances, maintain the facade or veneer of their image. They don’t like others to see the shameful aspect of themselves that is being kept under wraps, like the Conifer that grows so abundantly on the exterior that the interior is starved of light and goes into a state of decay. This brings the other theme to light. It’s that of over-growth and excess, which can be seen in the extremes of behavior in Medorrhinum, from piety to partying and performing. Zeus (Jupiter) was the patriarchal god who ruled Olympus. His reign was benevolent, and he was a symbol of masculine strength. He was an extremely unfaithful partner to Hera, having many sexual conquests with both mortal and divine women and giving rise to the birth of a plethora of different sons inhabiting the earthly and godly realms. There are some overlapping themes here with Sycosis, connecting to the fig-wart growths of gonorrhea, the disease you get from an unprotected sexual encounter. Jupiter is also a massive planet which ties in with the Sycotic trait of growth, excess and overdoing it. This tendency to overgrowth can also be seen in physical attributes, such as excessive hair, full lips, and big facial features, with the tendency also being to put on weight. Sankaran adds the idea of accepting the situation as it is because they know they cannot struggle against it anymore. In Psora there would still be a struggle, but with Sycosis there is a hiding away of the inner weakness (guilt, shame or ugliness). As long as they can cover it up, the coping mechanism is more or less working. They do this by compensating. E.g., there is a fixed feeling inside of being fragile and sensitive to external influences. They cover this up with bravado and confidence (Medorrhinum). In Thuja, they imagine that nobody can love them if they knew the ugly person they feel themselves to be, they compensate by maintaining a very fixed image of themselves as being very honest, caring, and kind. This perspective becomes brittle and fragile the longer it goes on for, and there is a feeling of being split in antagonism with oneself.
Sycosis seems to have a broad spread across the Mappa Mundi where one can see aspects of the phlegmatic temperament in the fixed idea of weakness in himself that makes him of a yielding disposition. He opposes the choleric aspect of masculine strength and bravado to cover up his inner weakness.
The Malarial Miasm
The Malarial Miasm is between Acute and Sycotic. Like the Typhoid Miasm, there is a periodicity to the Malarial Miasm as it oscillates between the fixed phase (of Sycotic origin) and the acute flare-up, which feels tormenting. It’s as if the person is persecuted and harassed by a mosquito. Sankaran says it goes between excitement and acceptance, and these can be seen as the more positive expressions of the Acute and Sycotic. Migraine headaches fall into this category, with periods of acceptance that looks like covering up the weakness or fragility. They do this through habits and routines, making sure they don’t eat or drink things that might trigger the migraine. If they overdo it (Sycotic) or eat the wrong food, or have a stressful day at work, these triggers form the acute side of the miasm to vent off some of this buildup of tension. In this period of flare up, the person is utterly overcome. They often have to lie motionless in a dark room to avoid aggravating the intense disturbance of the migraine. The situation Sankaran gives to explain this miasm is being the employee of an irate boss- you’re stuck and dependent (Sycotic) on the job; but you also feel persecuted, harassed and undermined by them.
Natrum muriaticum has this experience in the realm of Row 3 which is issues of the relationship. Natrum has a stage 1 expression of feeling as though they absolutely need the other person to make them feel secure and whole (acute), whereas Muriaticum has a stage 17 of feeling betrayed and let down and used by their partner. They react to this by withdrawing, brooding, and hiding the turbulence of their emotions. They seek a tumultuous ocean or a wild love affair with which to excite and rouse themselves again (Sycotic). However, the drama inside will eventually seek an outlet that could be somaticized (e.g. migraine) in order to vent the pent-up emotions inside.
The myth of Aphrodite’s forced marriage to the lame smithy god Hephaestus has some resonance with this miasm. As a dependent upon Zeus, she was forced into this dull marriage (fixed, acceptance); but she had many passionate liaisons (excitement) with Ares to make up for this boredom.
 Roger Morrison M.D., has been practicing homeopathy for over 30 years. He is Co-founder of the Hahnemann Clinic and the Hahnemann Homeopathic Medical School. He is known for his books, A Desktop Guide to Homeopathy, A Desktop Companion to Homeopathy, and Carbon, A Homeopathic Study.
 Sankaran R. The Soul of (Homeopathic) Remedies. India. Homeopathic Medical Publishers; 1997.
 James Kent (1849-1916) was an American physician best remembered as the forefather of modern homeopathy. His book Repertory of Homeopathic Materia Medica was published in 1897.