Criticisms of Group Analysis


[Ruth Heather Hull]

Levy, Ajjawi and Roberts (2010: 1322) argue that despite more than 200 years of continuous practice, little is known about the actual decision-making processes of homoeopaths and that significant tensions exist between advocates of different styles of homoeopathic practice.

The hostility between advocates of group analysis and their critics is one such example of this tension. The world-renowned classical homoeopath, George Vithoulkas (2008), refers to group analysis as one of the new “spurious theories” and says “with all these irrational and arbitrary new ideas the modern teachers are defaming homoeopathy and demolishing the corner stones that constitute its scientific edifice”. In an article against such methods he wrote, “This is essentially the old idea of signatures abandoned as useless hundreds of years ago, now presented as an enlightened modern solution for easily finding the indicated remedy”.

Other critics of group analysis have also associated it with the doctrine of signatures, a theory that the appearance of a substance suggests its healing properties. Mangialavori (2010: 4)

acknowledges that “had homoeopathic medicine adhered to this doctrine, it would have been ridiculed and never gained credence in scientific circles” and he argues that his work is not about simply applying the doctrine of signatures which is “often limited to superficial analogy”; rather, it is about discovering a “deep analogy between systems”.

To emphasise this point, Mangialavori (2010: 25) wrote: “Superficial isomorphism is not very helpful in studying the principle of similitude, whereas deeper structural analogies and system processes

are essential.”

Saine (2001), although no advocate of group analysis, argues in support of a possible deeper structural analogy existing between remedies and their sources. He writes: At the time of Hahnemann the

doctrine of signatures” meant simply and only that the shape of a substance could be used to determine the organ the plant was likely to help (for example a bean-shaped leaf applies to kidney ailments). This rudimentary doctrine was criticised by Hahnemann. But nowhere does Hahnemann criticise the idea that the source of the remedy has a bearing on the symptoms it produces. Why are nine of our snake remedies listed for fear or dreams of snakes? Why do numerous plant remedies have their aggravations at the exact hour when the species opens its flower Puls. at sunset, etc.).

Why are so many of our remedies made from creeping plants found to have dreams or desire to travel? Is this coincidence or is it possible that the life struggles and habits of the remedy source do influence the feelings of the provers? We cannot explain how this might take place but why should this concept be so implausible? ...

And if the physiology of the remedy source can give us clues, why would we ignore the possibility of using these hints? Would any responsible homoeopath use only this type of data in formulating a

remedy decision?

Decidedly not (Saine, 2001: online).

Another critic of group analysis is Chandran (2012). He finds group analysis “totally unscientific and illogical” and claims it “illustrates the pathetic level of scientific awareness that rules the propagators of the ‘Sankaran method”. He argues that this method “has nothing in common with classical homoeopathy, where symptoms belonging to mentals, physical generals and particulars, with their qualifications such as causations, sensations, locations, modalities and concomitants decide the selection of simillimum” and that “Sankaran’s method will result in gravely disabled incapacitated

homoeopathic practice, preventing homoeopaths from utilizing the unlimited potentials of our materia medica.”

The researcher feels that Chandran’s (2012)  unequivocal statements fail to take into account that Sankaran’s method does rely on the use of repertories, materia medica and the faithful recording of symptoms and their qualifications. Sankaran (2006: 20) says “any real progress in homoeopathy is impossible without a very firm footing in homoeopathic philosophy, the materia medica and the repertory” and as this study will show, the themes of a homoeopathic family or group are founded solely on information provided in repertories, materia medica and provings. The first step in Sankaran’s method is to extract from repertories all rubrics  pertaining to the selected remedies and use these as a base for data analysis. Group analysis is not based on the ‘old idea of signatures’ but rather on themes that have been developed through a thorough analysis of both materia medica and repertories. Scholten, Sankaran and Mangialavori have not developed their theories through simply looking at the source of remedies, but rather through countless hours of studying homoeopathic literature and analysing cured cases.

Furthermore, Chandran (2012) implies that Sankaran limits specific emotions or symptoms to specific kingdoms. He uses fear as an example, saying: “according to Sankaran, fear indicates the ‘vital sensation’ of ‘survival instincts’, which needs ‘animal remedies’” and asks:

“I want to know, from where Sankaran got the idea that only ‘animal remedies’ have ‘fear’ and ‘survival instincts’?”

Chandran (2012) repertorises the symptom FEAR and finds remedies listed from the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms. Hence he argues that Sankaran’s method is not sound. It is important to note here, that Sankaran (Cooper, 2006) defines his method as a “system approach, rather than a symptom approach” and does not allocate specific symptoms (such as fear) to one kingdom only. In group analysis, any remedy can experience fear. It is how they experience and express this fear that is important.

For example, ‘animal remedies’ may express it through aggressive, competitive behavior; ‘mineral remedies’ may express it through becoming excessively organised, fastidious and structured in their day-to-day life; and ‘plant remedies’ may express it by being unusually sensitive and reactive to situations.

The researcher feels that it is more the use and application of group analysis that is open to criticism rather than the methodology itself and she agrees with Traub (cited in Lewis, 2007) who wrote

the following: “It always saddens me when people take a brilliant concept and reduce it to ridiculous proportions in an attempt to simplify homoeopathy.

I have seen a homoeopath give Apis because the patient wore black and yellow stripes to the interview. I hardly think that this is what Sankaran intended”. In the words of Saine (2001), “If some

misuse the work, should we throw out the concept? Do some people carry these ideas too far? Yes, but let's us not throw out the baby with the bathwater”.

Even the ‘masters’ of group analysis caution homoeopaths in its use and application, stressing that it should not replace a systematic, logical repertorisation of symptoms or be used too subjectively.

Scholten (1993: 23) acknowledges that group analysis is not the most successful method for local, physical complaints and is best applied to the level of the mind.

Chauhan (2007), another well-recognized expounder of Sankaran’s method, explains how important it is for a homoeopath to treat the case as it is directly in front of them. In other words, if a patient has gangrene of the leg then the homoeopath needs to treat the gangrene first before looking for the patient’s simillimum.

Having completed their Master’s dissertations in group analysis, Wulfsohn (2005: 80), Vogel (2007: 128), Weston (2010: 152) and Chhiba (2013: 168) all caution homoeopaths in how they apply group analysis, saying that if it is applied carelessly or incorrectly it can lead to false, inaccurate interpretations and unreliable, misleading results. Experienced homoeopaths who have a profound knowledge of homoeopathic philosophy and materia medica combined with many years of clinical practice and case-taking, in which they have developed their own intuition, employ group analysis with great success. However, students and novice homoeopaths who are not yet proficient in homoeopathic philosophy, materia medica and case-taking need to apply it with caution.

According to Levy, Ajjawi and Roberts (2010:1323) “students and novices tend to store knowledge in a more disorganised and disjointed pattern and to retrieve it in a trial-and-error fashion.

They lack sufficient knowledge of homoeopathic materia medica (comprising over 3000 medicines) to make accurate pattern recognition decisions, and are heavily reliant on deductive reasoning”.

As Vithoulkas, in an interview with Bhatia (2010) says, “bypassing hard work of studying remedies properly in order to find easy ways for prescribing, will finally prove disappointing to both the

Homoeopath and patient”. Advocates of group analysis argue that one of its strengths is that it enables homoeopaths to use remedies that have not yet been proven but that may be an individual’s simillimum.

However, this apparent ‘strength’ is also often seen as its ‘weakness’. Vithoulkas (Bhatia, 2010) argues that if one learns properly the remedies already available, the homoeopath will have no need for new unproved remedies and that “to teach that those new unproven remedies are the basis of modern homoeopathy to the novices, is a disaster”. In direct contrast to Vithoulkas’s reliance on provings is Mangialavori’s (2010) belief that it is cured cases and not provings that are of the utmost importance. Sankaran (Cooper, 2006) argues 23 that the science of homoeopathy is constantly evolving and that homoeopaths need to evolve with it: “Hahnemann, in his own lifetime, changed the Organon six times, introducing new concepts, new ideas, and depths of understanding each time. So to remain stuck to what Hahnemann said, as the last and final word, is in a way going against his very spirit.

One has to go by what one observes and what one sees, and, following on the method of Hahnemann, using the logic, using observation, testing it out, testing the concepts, being self-critical, being

circumspect, one has to advance in order that we get better and more consistent results.”

The researcher believes that the most suitable conclusion to the debate on group analysis is embodied in Saine’s (2001) bold words: “Let ideas and clinical results speak for themselves”. She feels that more research needs to be conducted on group analysis, more cured cases applying this method need to be published and, most importantly, these need to be viewed and tested with open minds.


[Edward Peter Phahamane]

The Group Analysis controversy

In direct opposition to the modern trends in homeopathy are the views of Vithoulkas (2000), Olsen (1996) and Winston (2000), who express concern about the new ideas and theories. Their criticism lies in the perception that these ideas would limit the acceptance of homeopathy into mainstream medical practice. According to Vithoulkas (2000) the new concepts are based on imagination and magical thinking rather than on facts, while Winston (2004) believes that group and kingdom analysis are the ‘edges’ of homeopathy and entreats homeopaths to be fully grounded in the classical basics before venturing forth.

In his article “The Fundamentalist Controversy”, Moskowitz (2002) examines the controversy between what he coins ‘fundamentalism‘ and ‘innovation’ and the world wide opposition that has arisen to the ‘new teachings’. Regarding the accusation that the teachings were largely speculative in nature (Winston, 2000), Moskowitz (2002) comments: “……. while Scholten’s themes are not always identical to Sankaran’s, they overlap to a great extent, and their methodologies are similar. To discern the common features of a class, Sankaran uses a computerized study of remedies with newly developed hard and software, which has enough memory to access the vast homeopathic literature and to scan it at high speed. In addition he uses group analysis to deduce the symptoms of unproven remedies, not instead of proving them, but as a test of his thinking, precisely in the spirit of modern science, which judges hypotheses by the accuracy of the predictions they generate”.

Proving symptoms of remedies are recorded in a materia medica and most often accepted by homeopathic profession as a solid picture. Scholten (2005:17) expresses his view on the proving picture: “…...the longer one reflects about it, the more obvious it becomes that the descriptions are only approximations of what the real picture of a remedy is. The real picture is something abstract and

a proving can only elicit parts of it.

The development of the materia medica is a process, with the proving only being the start of it”. Further requirements for the development of a complete remedy picture are a definition of an essence, a verification of findings through clinical application and a comparison of remedies for the purpose of classification which Scholten (2005:17) considers to be the first real step into science and theory formation. “Classification is not impossible or leads to false conclusions, ……without classification all information is unconnected and cannot be put into theory” (Scholten, 2005:17).

Mangliavori (2005:33) agrees that a synthesis of the multitude of symptoms is vital to define the characteristic aspects of a remedy system. He emphasizes that “the essence”, “the nucleus”, “the core element”, “the spirit” were some of the terms used to describe a set of symptoms which needed to be present in a case for the prescription of a certain remedy. However when used in a reducing manner these concepts neglect interaction and connection of data and leave a remedy picture without structure. Only an appreciation of the coherence of symptoms can lead to a full remedy picture

or “Gestalt” (Mangliavori, 2005:33).

The concepts of Group Analysis are not in contradiction to the conventional Hahnemannian proving. A conventional proving forms an integral part in the process of the development of a complete remedy picture. Modern authors like Scholten, Sankaran or Mangliavori have according to the ever expanding knowledge during the last centuries merely gone a step further by adding a structure to the endless amount of data collected during a proving.

In order to progress as a science, homeopathy has to go through the stage of source description, development of themes, clinical confirmation, classification and theory formation (Scholten, 2005:17). As Einstein (2005:17) rightly puts it: “Science without epistemology is, insofar as it is thinkable at all, primitive and muddled”.

Sankaran’s concepts and methodology



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