[David A. Johnson]
Developing a sense of the ocean and sea remedies is akin to looking into the subconscious and collective unconscious within ourselves, in the present moment of our lives. The very environment of sea animal remedies -aqua marina = sea-water- has a sense of being observed, watched, of being “looked at” or “into”, as well as a desire to “shut the doors”. As we peer into Neptunian depths, staring back
at us is a continuum of the most basic- and generally subconscious-patterns of survival. As Melville wrote in the classic novel Moby Dick, . . . “it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in . . .”
Looking into the sea is a metaphor for Carl Jung’s “shadow” of unresolved conflicts. “Fear of water” is seen in Lyssin.x and the Solanaceae.x, where one experiences disturbing “breakthroughs” of primary instincts into waking consciousness. Universal fears relating to survival, abandonment, persecution and violence are all seen in the sea animal remedies, and in turn, understanding these remedies requires
us to “step back” from those fears, and perceive from an ever-more primal stillness within ourselves, “prior to” adopting the coping strategies of the sea.
To start, it’s helpful to think about the most common elements within seawater itself:
The first element of the sea is hydrogen, with a central proving conflict between ‘earthly and otherworldly existence’, ‘do I want to incarnate or not?’. A sense of betrayal, forsakenness and isolation is strong in hydrogen, and one’s ties to the earth are weak. And yet there’s also a sense of universal consciousness and connection, the feeling of oneness with the totality, which the vast ocean represents.
The next element is oxygen, and similar to hydrogen gas, it’s “ungrounded” and “unbounded”. Oxygen needs to bond with other elements during the process of “oxidation” or “respiration”, leading to “release” of stored energy from other elemental compounds. Oxygen is closely linked with “inspiring”, and is central to one of life’s most fundamental processes the burning of fuel for energy.
A high school theater director complained of feeling scattered, distractible and hypersensitive to her environment. She’s also highly intuitive. She described how all her work was unpaid and that her husband wanted her to find a “real” job. Yet she also stated how much she enjoyed presenting ideas for plays to her students, then ‘turning them loose to work on the project’ so she could ‘feed off
all that high school energy’. She responded very well to an initial dose of Oxyg. 1M, and then a second dose about 6 months later.
Besides the hydrogen and oxygen of water (H20), the next element of the sea is muriaticum (chloride). As with halogens in general, muriaticum’s bonds to other elements are tenuous. The most common bond of animals is that of “mother.x”, and muriaticum.x experiences themes of mothering vs. not mothering, connection vs. disconnection, disappointment, sadness and feeling alone and separate.
‘Am I connected to motherhood? Is motherhood connected to me?’ ‘Do I connect or not?’, Sepia carries many of these same muriaticum themes.
Natrium.x (sodium), the next element, is very polar, and feels the longing for deep 1:1 connection, as well as emotional safety and protection. They may hide that need when relationships are perceived as emotionally unsafe. “Ailments from disappointed love” and “silent grief” are well-known characteristics of Nat-m. Reflecting its generally salt-water environment, one of the main proving symptoms of salmon (oncorhynchus) was a longing for and persevering in a return to its true home.
Magnesium has been described as the “orphan remedy”, and those who benefit from magnesium can experience a sense of abandonment, and interact with others in ways to avoid “becoming an orphan”. Pleasing and peacemaking behavior results in suppression of one’s needs and identity, as well as suppression of toxic emotions at the liver.
Sulphur.x signifies the rudimentary development of ego strength. Self-determined, self-directed behavior is conditioned by the desire for acknowledgment and appreciation.
Calcarea (calcium) structures confer support and protection against vulnerability. Most shells in the sea are made of calcium carbonate, and turtle shells are made of calcium phosphate. Calcarea is a very important element to understand, as many of the sea’s invertebrates use some sort of variation on a shell for survival, and many of these “shell remedies” express slight variations of the main Calc.x
themes. To experience the role of calcium in its relation to primal protection against vulnerability, simply close the eyes while simultaneously opening the mouth-widely!
Finally, carbon.x takes on the tasks of life’s energy is either stored up or released from bonds in carbon “chains”, in the creation of “value” and “self-worth”, and being “productive”. Expenditure of energy can also lead to depletion states.
All of the other natural elements are also found in the sea, but the more common ones above provide a general perspective of themes one may find in a sea remedy history, eg., incarnation and desire for connection, vulnerability and defense. Set against the “backdrop” of Aq-mar.x/Nat-m.x/Spong.x/Calc. Sep. provide well-known signposts for understanding the other remedies, which can be compared and contrasted with these three.
(Note: The following remedy information has been derived from Jo Evan’s excellent book “Sea Remedies: Evolution of the Senses; Massimo Mangialavori’s Sea Remedy 2002 seminar notes, and the author’s clinical experience.)
Chinese medicine describes how a person with poor “boundaries”, overextending themselves, acquiescing to others, or existing in a “co-dependent relationship”- may experience problems with their lungs. In feeling one’s entire being as a sponge (porifera family), one senses its open boundaries and vulnerability the sea’s corollary to complete dependency without a womb. The child, only recently released from the womb, experiences boundary problems through the lungs, and Spong. is best known for the dry cough of croup. Reflecting doctrine of signatures, the sponge is a metaphor for the ventilatory passages of the lungs: ‘I’m dependent on my environment, but there’s so much coming in to process. My life process expansion # opening and retraction and closing. I must stay in the spot where I am ”there’s more than enough threat right here’. The mental and emotional state may be one of high anxiety and openness, similar to a phosphorus state (expansion) alternating with a “shut-down” state of withdrawal (retraction).
Interesting Spong. rubrics and sensations:
Mental symptoms < being in open air
Thoughts intrude and crowd around each other upon closing eyes
Paroxysmal anxiety in croup, heart and throat disease
Cheerfulness # anxiety
Weeping, tearful mood # cheerfulness, irritability, liveliness
Sadness, despondency, depression, melancholy after excessive mirth
The red coral is a close cousin to the sponge. Cor-r.x may be thought of as a sponge that’s sharpened itself with calcium, but nevertheless experiences an inner fragility and lack of strength relative to its environment. While Cor-r. can be verbally abusive, they can’t back that up with physical intimidation. Like coral on the reef, a diver can be cut if they happen to brush against it, but so too the coral’s often broken in the process. Like Spong., Cor-r. is an excellent croup and spasmodic cough remedy, with the added feature of outward pressure: redness of the face, and sometimes even nose-bleeds during the cough. The coral reefs also represent the value of community in survival, and may be chosen if a person with chronic cough also seeks safety through creation of community wherever they move.
Interesting Cor-r. rubrics and sensations:
Fear of suffering, pain
Delusion has been poisoned
Morose, sulky, cross, fretful, ill-humor, peevish
Quarrelsome, scolding with pains
Abusive, insulting with pains
Restless, nervous, tossing about in sleep
The coral is taxonomically related to the anemone and jellyfish, as a member of the cnidarians (ny-DAR-ee-enz). Cnidarians rely on primitive nervous systems for survival. In most cases the anemone is tied to a sandy bottom or rock, so has developed tools for predation and survival apart from movement. Unlike coral, anemones don’t necessarily work in community, and can either repel or engulf a perceived “invader”.
Stichodactyla haddon.x = Haddon’s Sea Anemone:
As mentioned above, the anemone has limited ability to move, but quickly retracts into itself when threatened. It also employs stinging poison in its tentacles for predation and defense.
Proving symptoms include confusion as to personal boundaries, sensation of no defense or protection, about to be injured, sensation as if on drugs.
Interesting anemone rubrics and sensations:
Heightened senses; sensitive to sensual impressions, pain, rudeness
Quivering, trembling, electric shocks, internal sensitiveness
Pains: shooting, burning, stinging, itching, biting, rawness
Sadness from disappointed love
Forsaken, homesick, sentimental, self-pity
Medusa.x = Jellyfish also gracefully move with the currents, not actively pursuing prey, but rather creating a gentle pulsating current to draw plankton into their “mouths”. Although not engaged in active confrontation, both anemone and jellyfish employ electrochemical means for survival and defense. Medusa and anemone are essentially unstructured, and share symptoms of hypersensitivity alternating with numbness, as well as many characteristics of the better-known sepia. There’s a desire for movement, along with sensitivity to their environment and a desire to “escape” from family and friends.
But where Sep. is usually shut down, medusa is “alive”, even if “alive” means restless and irritable! Medusa is also known for distress at times of major transition. Mangialavori: clients’ gestures may also be graceful, similar to the innate graceful movement of a jellyfish in the sea.
Interesting medusa rubrics and sensations:
Restlessness, nervousness; internal, tremulous
Irritability from trifles
Lashing out verbally or physically and cutting off people emotionally
Industrious, mania for work
Indifference, apathy to agreeable things
Desire for rest
Eating ameliorates mental symptoms
Aversion to change
As mentioned above, shells made from calcium provide animals with structure and protection against vulnerability. Some of the more common “shell animals” include mollusks (Calc. and Sep.), echinoderms (asterias), arthropods (homarus and Lim.), and reptilia (sea turtles). Each embodies a slightly different theme related to a “chosen” but confining protection as compared to freedom and mobility and at the cost of increased vulnerability.
The best-known shell remedy Calc.x experiences fear of being observed-that others will see into their “confusion” and vulnerability. Calc. is impressionable and susceptible, and may include a fear of dark and their own “shadow”, the subconscious. For Calc.. the external shell of structure (home, stable occupation and income) provides safety, and there’s a desire to maintain structure for that reason. Calc. represents the child’s or adult’s desire for stability (and even stasis) as one engages in “tasks” of life, because outside the shell exists a threatening world full of motion and change.
Interesting Calc. rubrics and sensations:
Fear her condition will be observed
Sensitive, oversensitive to sensual impressions
Delusions, imagines is away from home
Desires to go home
Cannot be independent
Along with Calc., three other closely related remedies bear mentioning Venus. (clam), Conch. (mother of pearl), and Mytilus edulis pearl (pearl from a mussel):
Whereas the oyster (Calc.) spends most of its life on top of the ocean floor, venus (clam) spends most of its life buried in the sand. Deep disappointment, disgust, and pessimism in life’s circumstances cause the person to distance themselves, hiding away and protecting themselves against penetration and invasion.
Interesting Venus mercenaria.x rubrics and sensations:
Delusion, imaginations that he is separated from the world
Dreams death, disease, murder, violence
Irritability in company, from noise
Ennui, boredom; Indifference, apathy
Dragging pains; lymphatic congestion; swelling of lower legs and feet
Conch.x (mother of pearl), the innermost layer of the oyster shell, is a beautiful form of calcium carbonate, and many times stronger than the middle layer, from which Calc. is derived. If Calc. is concerned that others might observe their confusion, Conch. has the feeling ‘How am I seen?’ Conch. had a limited proving, but is better known for its propensity towards bone and joint inflammation, as well as benign bone tumors. Conch. is the “secretion” which ultimately creates the oyster pearl.
Interesting Conch. rubrics and sensations:
Concern over one’s appearance
Desire to clean up one’s personal environment
Dreams of being in her own womb
Catarrh, bronchial tubes (secretion @ internal surface)
Abscesses, suppurations, joints (secretion @ internal surface)
Mytilus edulis.x pearl can experience the feeling of an idyllic space having been penetrated or invaded by an unwanted outsider, and the person works to wall off their thoughts or experience of the person. Pearl is known for the depth of the experience deep, deep, deep to the extent that a person may either feel very “connected” to someone or something, but to the extent their connection has been “sullied”, they can feel very isolated and alone.
Interesting pearl rubrics and sensations:
Weepy out of proportion to cause (secretion in response to slight “invasion”)
Things are not as they were before; “out of sync”
Great sense of depth, very long-held emotions
Source of connection feels lost
Enormous pride and nobility; great purity in everything
Remedy for those who are too crystallized and inflexible
“My girlfriend and I had broken up, and then we decided to get back together. During the time apart she was in another relationship. I felt waves of tremulous emotion anger to sadness. There were tidal waves of distress I didn’t know my nervous system could handle this much stress. There were a lot, a lot of tears I was weeping all day long. I felt a sense of revulsion, invasion and violation. I had these idyllic expectations, but then there was this whole other book of information to process. It was almost like being haunted by a ghost, someone in the energetic mix I didn’t invite. It’s like a Trojan horse that sneaks in, like a virus. I kept saying, ‘something smells funny’. I feel haunted, poisoned. We had a connection, a rapport, and now there’s a whole other dynamic. It’s almost like a hygiene issue an emotional hygiene. I feel sullied. I’m obviously vastly superior to this person, our relationship had been vastly superior, but now it’s been brought down to something vulgar. There’s a consuming desire, wanting to be fulfilled, a grasping heart. I can be very self-sufficient, self-contained, okay with being alone, but I’ve been feeling very cut-off and disconnected. Through the break-up, I discovered there was this whole other depth of love, a feeling as if life isn’t long enough . . . everything up to now has been preliminary where am I going to live, work, etc. When you’ve met those needs you can focus on your life’s work, fulfilling my potential, my destiny, doing something with my life instead of being self-centered and reactive.”
Sep.x the other well-known mollusk, has only a shell remnant, and so sacrifices a degree of safety for increased mobility with tentacles. A “conflict” exists between the shell (safety and stasis) and the tentacles (exposure and mobility). In this context we can understand the rubrics “antagonism with herself”, “contradiction of will”, and “aversion to company, yet dreads being alone”. Sep. is supported
by the remnant shell structure, and yet has become “thin-skinned”, and desires to escape. The following is a helpful description for sepia:
‘ . . . The world has become too strong, too overpowering for the Sepia patient. She has been overcome by the world, and finds herself defeated. The light is too bright, the sound too loud, the children are too noisy, the husband is too rough; everything is stronger than she, and constantly attacks and overcomes her. The world has become nothing but an attack; and now she needs sepia (ink) as the cuttlefish and kraken (octopod) need it when they want to protect themselves and escape from the importunity of their enemies. Sepia darkens the waters because then the enemy can no longer see their figures; then they are as safe as their brothers the snails, who can hide in their houses, and like the mussels who breathe safely within the protection of their shell . . . ‘ (excerpt from “Sepia” by Konig, BHJ, April 1960).
Interesting Sep. rubrics and sensations:
Actions are contradictory to intentions; intentions are contradictory to speech
Full of cares and worries about domestic affairs
Anger with himself and others
Wants to give up her responsibility; Cannot handle things anymore, overwhelmed by stress
Indifference, apathy to everything; to relations, family, her children
Rejects affection; aversion to sympathy
Dreams pursued, must run backwards
Nautilus.x is a lesser-known remedy, but will likely attract more attention in future materia medicas. An intermediate step between Calc. and sepia, this mollusk benefits from the protection of the shell even as it “motors” slowly underwater. One of the defining nautilus qualities is the ability to use more or less air in the shell to regulate buoyancy. The rubrics “ailments from upward or downward motion” as well as “ailments from loss of social position” are important characteristics of the nautilus state. The person may “temper” their moods from being too high or too low, resulting in a sort of “ennui” or apathy neither too excited nor to depressed and similar to the old psychological term “dysthymia”. The person who needs nautilus may hide within their shell, and at other times desire freedom. A long-time homeopath described how one of her clients benefited for years from sepia, natrum muriaticum, and aqua marina, but ultimately experienced the best results with nautilus.
Interesting nautilus rubrics and sensations:
Delusion great person; dignified though destitute after loss of social position; desire to regain social position
Dreams boundaries, disconnection (the shell)
Dreams must jump over a fence to protect oneself (the shell)
Dreams unsuccessful efforts to go around a curve or bend in the road (e.g. the shell)
Dreams being exposed in a changing room (opening in shell)
Dreams reconnaissance, spying (nautilus eye peers out from shell opening)
Aversion to her children
“I’m just coming out of a depression. I also have problems with sinus drainage it’s about ready to drown me’. I worry all the time. Some thought gets in my head and goes around and around. I’m walking around like my body is a puppet. I make it move; no one knows what’s going on inside. I used to be very free and open with people. Now I’m on the inside looking out. I wouldn’t like working for someone else I need the ups and downs. When someone is bipolar, there’s nothing more fun than when they’re up, and nothing worse when they’re down. I’m almost afraid people will find out ‘who is this shell on the outside, and who’s on the inside?’ It’s almost a physical feeling of looking out from behind my eyeballs, making my body move. I’m tired of living up to who people think I am. It feels up and down; there’s a lot of up and down in me. When I’m depressed, there’s a bubble inside me, and I know it’s going to rise. That bubble’s going to rise and I’m going to be fine it’s my ‘mental health bubble’. I have a lack of passion, but I also don’t feel the lows people talk about.”
Murx.x, the sea snail, also finds protection within the structure of the shell, and yet can never completely close the opening to the outside. The loss of boundary creates exhaustion as the person seemingly can’t help but over-extend themselves eg., excessive talking and “doing, doing, and more doing”. At other times the person may feel their space “invaded” by others’ demands they can’t completely get away. “Exposure” to the outside world may cause innocent interactions with others to be interpreted as sexually suggestive.
Interesting Murx. rubrics and sensations:
Cannot say no
Thoughts, lasciviousness, lustful when touched
Dreams of the sea
Asterias rubens.x is the red starfish, a member of the echinoderms. It moves by hundreds of tiny “feet” powered by “water hydraulics.” Pulsations of water into the feet allow for sequential motion: congestion, engorgement and “heat” alternate with relaxation, flaccidity and “coldness.” Asterias, known for a heightened libido, can also experience sexual problems males with troublesome erections, females with decreased sexual desire. In other words, asterias experiences “hot and cold” - congested and engorged vs. relaxed and flaccid. Heightened libido alternates with diminished sexual desire and weeping. Examples of asterias symptoms of alternating pressure include: congestion of blood with sensation as if head would burst; fear of stroke; contraction/constriction in forehead as if crushed; sucked in, pressurized, trapped, under control of outside influence; and something outwardly or inwardly drawing on one’s life force.
Asterias is also a breast cancer remedy, and malignant tumors are often “fixed” to underlying structures. Tiny muscles between plates in the outer “shell” allow starfish legs to grasp firmly onto surfaces for long periods. The pressure applied in sequential motion is the same pressure employed for fixed connection. Asterias is also known for rather cold-hearted, numb and self-destructive pursuit of their goals, Other asterias symptoms include: weakness from over-activity; a feeling of offensive odor; redness, burning, inflammation, itching; breast nodules; degenerative diseases and cancer.
Interesting Asterias rubrics and sensations:
Anxiety with pulsation in chest
Sadness, despondency, depression, melancholy alternating with exuberance
Despair from sexual craving; weeping, tearful mood from sexual excitement
Irritability after coition
Moral affections; want of moral feeling; numb to experiencing symptoms
Delusion is away from home
Fear hearing bad news, evil, fainting, misfortune
Sensitive, oversensitive to moral impressions
Homarus.x, the lobster, is a member of the arthropod family. Its menacing pincers and protective shell belie its sense of vulnerability. Periodically, it sheds an outgrown shell for a new one and during this time feels this vulnerability most strongly. Hiding in the sand as the new shell thickens, homarus waits until the more overt vulnerability passes. In doing so it sheds the restriction of its former cage it’s outgrown it and assumes the even more “threatening” appearance of the new shell. Homarus is known for problems with milk-intolerance, as digestive juices used for the proving caused milk to curdle. If a small shell is good, a big shell is better, and homarus has been described as hiding in the shadow of an ever bigger, ever more powerful external shellâ€”for example, relying on the support of a stronger partner, or a stronger “superhuman entity”.
Interesting Hom. rubrics and sensations:
Polarity between angry, domineering, anarchist vs. timid, surrender
Fear of pain, laughed at., ridicule
Delusions, imaginations, he cannot move; sensation of being obstructed, immobile
Dreams handcuffed, police, tricked, crushed by a weight
Conserve their energy
Pains burning, stinging, smarting, itching needles and pins, sharp, stabbing, darting, cramping, grinding
Limulus.x, the horseshoe crab, is another member of the “sea arthropods”, and is recognized for its blue-colored, copper-containing blood and lymph fluid. The copper (cuprum) in Lim. expresses itself with cramping symptoms, a prominent physical complaint. Cuprum tendencies also work to over-ride an inner awareness of vulnerability (i.e., without the protection of the shell) with an outer display of how “strong” they are. The copper circulating in the Lim. “blood” (hemolymph) also contributes to perseverance (“pertinacity”) in tasks that might otherwise be boring. A horseshoe crab is actually not a crab at all, and is more closely related to spiders. Similarly, the restless activity of spiders is seen in Lim., and along with their persevering drive they can feel mentally and physically depleted. Whereas Hom. seeks support by someone (or something) stronger, Lim. tends towards the opposite relationships with “weaker” individuals who by contrast emphasize Lim. “strength”.
Interesting Lim. rubrics and sensations:
Pertinacity in performing irksome duties
Pressure and constriction (cramping)
Sudden, violent cough; suffocative breathing (cramping)
Sudden appearance and sudden disappearance of pains (cramping and release)
Dullness, sluggishness, difficulty of thinking and comprehending
Memory, weakness, loss of
Weakness, enervation, exhaustion, prostration, infirmity
In summary, sea remedies include themes of connection vs. disconnection, boundaries vs. vulnerability, numbness vs. sensitivity, stasis vs. motion, restrictive protection vs. freedom. One can start with the most primitive animal, the sponge, and then compare it to coral. Coral can be compared to its unstructured relatives, the anemone and jellyfish. One can move on to the oyster shell and pearl. Venus is similar to oyster but buries itself away from the world; Murx. can’t completely close its shell. Sepia has a shell remnant yet wants to move; Naut.’ tentacles are smaller, and it employs its shell for protection, buoyancy and ballast. The Asterias = starfish, runs hot and cold with “hydro-congestion and release”; the Homarus = lobster and Limulus = horseshoe crab, counteract feelings of vulnerability through the strength of outside structures.
The homeopathic understanding of the ocean and its inhabitants is truly in its infancy. Our understanding will never be complete, but the animals above provide a starting point for perceiving the most fundamental themes of life. As one writer stated, “The ocean, though vast and mysterious, is also a place of being accepted of being able to relax, to let go, and to flow in a place too great for the mind to imagine . . . There are the feelings of a mother of attracting, receiving, giving birth and nurturing . . . forces which give birth to and nurture all life on our planet.”
Similia - The Australian Journal of Homoeopathic Medicine .
December 2009 - Volume 21 Number 2
Sense and Sensibility in the Sea Remedies: The Sense of Touch
Is the evolution of marine invertebrates’ sensory structures reflected in the symptoms of the corresponding homoeopathic remedies?
Why do the excitable jellyfish remedies, like the mythical Medusa, easily lose their head?
Why is it that a prover of the sea anemone remedy Anthopleura xanthogrammica felt she had a prehistoric brain? Does the apparently sessile sponge, from which we obtain Spong., cough when it senses an obstacle in its respiratory passages?
In an abridged extract from her forthcoming book, Sea Remedies, Evolution of the Senses, Jo Evans explores how the development of the sense of touch in sea creatures offers clues to the healing potential of animals such as the sponge, jellyfish, sea anemone, starfish, lobster and mollusc as homoeopathic remedies.
The Sense of Touch
Aristotle believed that perception of touch was the most basic property of living organisms and that without this sense of contact, living beings would die. We do thrive on touch. Massaged babies gain weight 50% more easily than unmassaged babies and are better adapted to other sensory stimuli, such as noise. In Aristotle’s sensory physiology, a touch sent warm waves of impressions via the blood to the heart, and blood was the carrier of the soul. We now have knowledge of the nervous system, and recognise that the sensation of touch occurs by means of chemical and electrical messages passed to conscious awareness by receptors in the skin; but there is something about Aristotle’s proposal that still feels right, given a little poetic licence. Touch and inner feeling are, as he suggested, inextricably bound up.
Our skin connects us to other and outside; to those we love, and to the elements of earth, water, air and fire. But it also protects us from the environment, to the best of its ability.
Skin is the heaviest and visually the most expansive organ of the body; we rely on this sensitive barrier, stretching across all the curves and points of our skeletal structure, to help us gauge and respond to inner and outer weather fluctuations, whether emotional, mechanical, pathological or meteorological.
Skin without bone is quite another thing. If one watches footage of an octopus squeezing through an extremely narrow tube, there is the sense that this entirely boneless creature has become ectoplasm; it appears to liquidise and then re-form. Physically, invertebrates span all of this: from the degree of liability shown by the octopus, to the static limestone structures of coral reefs, thousands of years old. The reconciliation of softness and hardness occurs in the flaccid sea snail, hiding in its rigid shell.
For marine invertebrates, as with us, the skin is a form of physical defence, to feel pain and sense physical threat, as well as to find and engage with the pleasures of food, shelter and mates. The sense of touch arises from stimulation of nerves on the surfaces of the body: membrane, skin, hair, spine, scale, antennae and shell, and this stimulation may be from direct contact or from water pressure. For many of the early animals, perception of sensory stimulus other than touch also takes place by means of receptors dispersed across the body covering. Unlike our skin which senses pain, tactile stimulus,
Regeneration: Porifera (Spong./Bad.)
Human skin renews itself every 28 days. Impressive as this is, in the invertebrate world the ability to regenerate life and limb can be even more astonishing by comparison.
One of the earliest invertebrates, the sea sponge, possesses a remarkable ability to regenerate. When pulled apart, or even mashed up in a blender, a sea sponge can recover and re-grow; cells from the same species will even re-group. Archeocytes are the Ur-cells of the sponge. Known as omnipotent cells, they possess the ability to transform into any one of the sponge’s specialised cells;
in this, they are something like human stem cells. Stem cells are Ur-cells of the human body, still at a mutable stage. In a sponge, non-archeocyte cells can return to being archeocytes when they are required to perform a different function. Archeocytes in the sponge, and stem cells in humans, are able to adapt their end-function and turn into many different types of cell, which is why medical researchers are experimenting with stem cells to repair and replace diseased, traumatised and lost body tissues. Similarly, marine sponge extracts are being used to prevent organ rejection in human transplant operations.
Sponges pass sensory messages by means of chemical signalling. No intracellular gaps or junctions have yet been found in sponges; these are present first in the Cnidarians (hydra, jellyfish, coral and sea anemones) and onwards in evolution. Intracellular junctions allow electrical currents to be passed between cells. So, the sponge, a mass of cooperating cells, does not have a nervous system, but perhaps perplexingly it will contract its body on contact. Sponges live fixed in one place but they move their bodies in order to feed and breathe, partly by means of special contractile cells called myocites, similar to smooth muscle cells.
Pliny, 1st century AD: noted in his Natural History that sponges must possess intelligence, since they contracted when they sensed the presence of a sponge diver about to tear them from the rocks.
Modern research bears this out: “Although not explicitly muscular or neural, sponges exhibit coordinated contraction as well as coordinated cessation of pumping. Thus, a view of sponges as more active is replacing an older perception that held sponges to be virtually ‘inanimate’.”
Marine biologists have likened the contractions of a sponge to a coughing mechanism, as this reaction serves to remove foreign bodies from the sponge’s pores, the many channels through which they breathe, eat, excrete and reproduce. Correspondingly, one of Spong.’s main actions in homoeopathic form is as a cough remedy; another strong feature of the remedy is the sensation of an internal plug or foreign body lodged inside.
The main sensations of the remedy Spong. include expansion and contraction; there is a sensation of swelling and bursting, with the opposite feelings of cramping, contraction and tightness. This comparable to the pumping Action and contractile behaviour of the sponge in nature. These sensations are generally felt in association with the glands and respiratory system, but can also occur in the circulatory system. In general, the Spong. patient is highly sensitive to touch, which they find aggravates them greatly; such is their sensitivity, they even experience the sensation as if they are being touched when not.
All sense and no brain: Cnidarians (jellyfish, coral and sea anemones)
Although Cnidarians, such as jellyfish, do not have a brain, the decentralised nerve net sends messages all over the body via the sensory lappets (touch-sensing organs) located in the control centres for their senses, called the rhopalia. The rhopalia also house light detectors (ocelli), balance detectors (statocysts) and receptors for smelling and tasting chemicals in the water. The nervous system (simple neurons with several axon-like processes) operates slowly because every signal has to pass through the whole circuit of neurons, as opposed to a few neurons with long axons. Every reaction to stimulus is felt as a whole-body experience.
Since the jellyfish has no brain, it is subject to tropisms: whole-body reactions.
Patients benefiting from remedies in this group will be highly sensitive emotionally and have a tendency to overreact. Like the mythological Medusa, whose name and story is bound up with this animal phylum, they metaphorically lose their head.
A participant in the proving of the giant green sea anemone, Anthopleura xanthogammica, unaware of the proving substance, reported: “It’s as if I just respond to impulse.” There was a feeling of pretending to be human, “when every cell in my body wanted to stay on my level, low plane, by myself.”
One prover reported feeling as if she had a prehistoric brain. There is a strong affinity with the muscular and neurological systems in this remedy group.
In the homoeopathic remedies made from jellyfish, coral and sea anemones, a common sensation is a feeling as if there is a distortion of the limbs. In several remedies belonging to this family, the size of the limbs is felt to be distorted, in others there is a sensation of amputation or dislocation.
Provers experienced the sensation as if their bodies were made of jelly, and as if the spinal cord were broken. Characteristic pains of this remedy group are electrical tingling, pins and needles, numbness, burning and stinging, stabbing and pulsating; these may be accompanied by oedema and neuromuscular symptoms affecting the limbs and heart muscle. The sensations correspond with those of being stung by a member of this class of animals, particularly jellyfish.
The all-important stinging cells, cnidocytes, of these animals are innervated, able to respond to touch and stimulation. Sensory cells have been found to be concentrated at the base and tips of tentacles. However many tentacles a jellyfish possesses (typically eight in a Scyphozoa such as Medusa, and four in Cubozoa, such as Chironex fleckeri, box jellyfish) each tentacle alternates with a rhopalium (sensory control centre).
This has led to discussion as to whether tentacles could be classed as actual sense organs, or if they are purely sense bearing structures.
Genetic research in the field of evolutionary biology appears to support the idea that there is a link between the appendages, or limbs, and sensory function. Sensory organs are found around the joints on the limbs of animals earlier in evolution, just as the jellyfish has a sensory organ between each tentacle, and the fly hears with organs located at the joints of its legs.
Headless and legless: Echinoderms (Asterias rubens, Acanthaster planci, Toxopneustes pileolus)
In the echinoderm phylum - starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers - regeneration of life and limb is not limited to the starfish’s ability to regrow arms. In a process called autotomy, sea cucumbers can cast off body parts at will.
A sea cucumber of the genus Thyone has the ability to eject its intestines when under attack, thereby offering an amuse bouche to its assailant. After being nibbled on, it gathers back the remains of its gnawed guts and regenerates any lost parts.
The various species of sea cucumber can either blow out their entrails or break apart their skin, releasing the intestines and other organs, all of which will grow back.
There isn’t yet a homoeopathic medicine made from the sea cucumber, but perhaps there ought to be.
Among echinoderms, all starfish can grow back lost arms, but the Linckia starfish can grow a completely new body from one detached arm. Other marine invertebrates with the power to grow back detached limbs are lobsters, crabs, and some species of octopus. In these cases, the lost body part again provides a replacement snack for a predator, allowing the damaged animal to escape and regenerate. Although we cannot regenerate lost limbs, the human equivalent of these regenerative powers is, again, the stem cell.
The starfish, possessing radial symmetry, has a ring canal system of nerves running around its mouth, and extending along its arms. The arms are central to action and motivation, being the bearers of many sensory messages: smell, taste, light, a tactile sense, and mechanoreception. It is thought that one arm can become dominant at any time. This means that the centre of control may change at any time, being juggled from arm to arm according to circumstance, and that once one arm is dominant, all the others must cooperate.
This is a key factor in survival, hunting and mating. The arm that first senses an enticing odour of food or mate, and moves towards it, will take charge. And, if one arm is cut off, since no one arm permanently dominates, the other arms can easily cope while the new arm grows back. Starfish effectively have the potential to possess as many primitive brains as they have arms, although they use only one ‘brain’ or arm at a time.
Unlike the Cnidarian group, whose tentacles are generally passive receptors, starfish have a more sophisticated nervous system and muscular control, allowing them to manipulate objects and move in a more complex and deliberate manner. Beginning with the starfish, these are more like limbs as we know them.
In the homoeopathic remedies of the Echinoderm family, one finds a cluster of unusual symptoms relating to the limbs, fingers and toes. A patient in need of Aster. may experience the strange sensation as if one leg is too long, as if one leg is shorter; there may even be the sensation that one leg is growing. Redness, blistering, itching, and burning of the toes, and gout affecting the big toe are characteristic symptoms.
Neurological symptoms include numbness, burning and stabbing pains, stumbling and lameness, as well as contraction of muscles and tendons.
Acanth-p. experiences the symptoms of cracked soles and fingertips, blistered feet, and ulceration of the extremities. Neurological symptoms include numbness of the fingertips, generalised burning and stabbing pains, and a sensation of general expansion and tension in the body.
Toxo-p. experiences heat in the big toe, cold extremities, swollen feet and pain in the small joints. Neurological symptoms include a general feeling of muscular weakness, sensation as if being pulled downwards, stabbing and burning pains, and generalised numbness.
Fittingly for a many-armed creature, the best word to describe the psychological profile of the Aster. Is touchy; they are ultrasensitive to criticism and easily irritated.
They may live in fear of having a stroke, and feel as if their head will burst. The Acanthaster planci patient has the sensation of an abscess in the brain, which is imagined as rotting and dissolving. Toxo-p. in the same family, has the sensation as if something is loose in the brain and a general feeling of sensory confusion.
Clam up: Bivalves (Calcarea carbonica, Pecten, Venus) and Gastropods (Cypraea, Murx.). In bivalves, such as the oyster or the clam, the nervous system is less centralised than in other molluscs. The most developed sensory structures for the bivalves are found on parts exposed to the exterior environment, such as the edge of the mantle and the tentacles or cilia of the siphons. Here light and touch or vibrations can be perceived, sending the message to close or open the valves of the shell.
So sensitive is the oyster’s sensory system, oyster dredgers report that a bed of oysters will close from the first hint of the shadow of a boat passing overhead.
In gastropods, paired ganglia (knotted masses of nerve cell bodies that collectively function as the central nervous system) enable the functions of eating, moving and protection.
These serve the oesophagus, the foot and the muscles used to close the shell. In effect the gastropod has eight, simple paired brains which coordinate specialised functions.
As remedies, the bivalve and gastropod molluscs’ psychological profile reveals a tendency to wall off and hide, due to their oversensitive natures. They retreat into their shells, or clam up, closing the valves. Some of the characteristic physical sensations of the remedy group are compression, tightness, constriction.
Murx., Tyrian purple dye from the spiky, whorled shell, Cypraea eglantina, the dog rose cowrie, and Venus mercenaria, the clam, all feel strongly < being touched.
These mollusc remedies may also experience numbness, or loss of sensation in the limbs, Venus mercenaria being most representative of this sensation. More common is the feeling of inner detachment and dissociation, and a notable absence of emotional feeling. In Cypraea eglantina, this can be expressed as a physical sensation of icy coldness as well as on the emotional level.
Since polarity is always a feature of any remedy, it should be noted that this group of remedies has a great capacity to love, and desires to be loved. However, past disappointments in love, and the deep scars that remain, often result in self-imposed isolation and emotional walling off. Generally, in this group of calcium-dependent animals, the remedy portraits reveal a sensation of weakness of the musculoskeletal system, with a feeling in particular that the bones are weak or crumbling.
Just as there may be ambivalence about being open or closed emotionally, there may be double-sided physical symptoms.
A prover of Cypraea eglantina experienced the sensation as if her body were divided: soft on the left side and hard on the right. And in connection with being fully in touch with what is ‘self’ and what is ‘other’, Calc. and Cypraea eglantina both experience the interesting symptom “mixes subjective and objective”.
Sensors on stalks: Arthropods (Hom., Lim.)
The lobster does not officially have a brain, but a massed collection of ganglia, connected to the ventral ganglia, running the length of the body, under the abdomen. In its symmetrical body system, each segment of the body is served by a ganglion which is paired or mirrored on the other side of the body.
Touch is sensed via the antennae and the tiny hairs that cover the whole of the shell; these are visible in close-up images.
While they are touching, lobsters often simultaneously taste and smell the environment. One can see the evolutionary link between appendages and the senses; not just that of taste but sight too:
“In every fishmonger’s shop we may see that the eyes of a lobster are carried on pedicles; and when the lobster casts off its shell, the outer coat of each eye, being continuous with the epidermis of its pedicle, is thrown off along with the rest of the exoskeleton. This pedicle, which gives the name of stalkeyed Crustacea to a large group, is, strange as it may seem, a transformed limb.”
And, while the lobster’s claws aren’t jaws (the jaw did not evolve until the appearance of vertebrates) they do have teeth-like structures on them. Lobsters, like starfish, can also voluntarily lose a limb and regenerate it as an alternative to greater injury.
The main sensation of remedies made from those animals with armoured shells, the arthropoda, Hom. the lobster, and Lim. the horseshoe crab, is a feeling of over-fullness and cramping. A correspondence with the lives of the animals can be seen in the repeated growth and moulting cycles these animals endure as they grow too big for their shell. Lobsters in nature fight aggressively to maintain their territory, and will seek small hiding places when moulting. A Hom. case revealed that the patient felt distinctly uneasy in large rooms and spacious houses, preferring small, enclosed places.
The Hom. patient has the sensation as if he or she suddenly cannot move and Lim. the feeling of being somehow possessed or taken over. Skin symptoms of both are sensations of burning, smarting and itching. Neurologically, Lim. experiences numbness of the soles of the feet, and Hom. has tingling pins-and-needles sensations generally.
Tentacular cephalopods (Sepia, Onychoteuthis banksii, Eledone, Nautilus)
It seems the marine invertebrates find many uses for limbs: as brains, carriers of sense organs, and even as adaptable sexual organs. A cephalopod - cuttlefish, squid, octopus or nautilus - has the ability to modify a tentacle to become a penis or sperm depositor.
Cephalopods’ sense of touch is perceived by means of mechanoreceptors, the lateral line analogue and pressure receptors. Mechanoreception takes place in the statocysts (paired balance and vibration sensing organs situated in the cartilage near the brain), and these provide information about gravity and acceleration, allowing for orientation, and stimulating necessary body adjustments to maintain balance and direction.
A statocyst is comparable to the human inner ear, as surgical removal or destruction results in dizziness and disorientation as well as visual disturbances. In decapods -crustaceans such as lobster, prawn and crab, having ten legs- there are three maculae [part of the statocyst which indicates changes in gravity and linear acceleration] in each statocyst, while in the octopus there is only one.
An octopus has about 240 suckers per arm, the most of all the cephalopods, and these have sensory functions in smelling and tasting objects while touching. Smelling, tasting, feeling textures, and using their well-developed eyes would appear to be the strongest senses for the octopus. Octopuses may be observed continually picking up small objects, placing them under the spaces between the arms, moving them towards the mouth and then quite often discarding them; they sample items by taste and touch combined.
Though it has eight limbs, the octopus is thought to have a poor sense of proprioception, probably due to the single statocyst, though perhaps also a result of its neurological wiring. This means it lacks fine coordination when it comes to having a clear simultaneous sense of all the parts of its body in motion, and lacks a clear understanding of the weight, shape and size of the objects it is touching.
While some sources explain that the octopus has difficulties with three-dimensional coordination, other experiments have shown that an octopus can learn quickly, visually discriminate between objects, and display a memory. For learning that remains for several days after a test has been completed. Octopuses are thought to be able to clearly perceive variations in texture and to know when and where a limb is stretching.
In the proving of the remedy Eledone cirrhosa, lesser octopus, there is a sense of intense physical activity, coupled with dreams of travelling and motion. The dreams are characterised by lagging behind, motor accidents, losing one’s way, labyrinths, driving backwards perilously by car, and being in the dark while driving dangerously.
This repeated theme of fast motion, of being uncoordinated, and unable to navigate or keep up in situations where lack of these skills will result in danger or accidents, corresponds with the octopus’ underdeveloped sense of proprioception in nature. The image of a tangle of uncoordinated tentacles, moving perilously in a dark cloud of ink, emerges.
Other cephalopods, Sepia, the cuttlefish remedy, Nautilus, and Onychoteuthis banksii, the squid remedy, also experience the sensation of clumsiness and lack of coordination.
Hanlon and Messenger, in their analysis of cephalopod behaviour, note that in octopuses the nervous system of the arms contain more neurons than the whole of the central brain and appears to be curiously divorced from the rest ofthe brain: “Many of the arms’ actions are performed without reference to the brain.” As with the starfish, the arms appear to have a life of their own.
Cuttlefish and squid achieve a sense of three-dimensional perception by means of a primitive version of the mechanoreceptive lateral lines, found first in fish and amphibians. In fish the lateral lines, running the length of their bodies on both sides, sense movement and vibration in the environment by means of hair-like structures suspended in jelly, again, similar to our inner ear. Electrical impulses and magnetic fields can also be sensed through the lateral lines.
The lateral line allows for an accurate perception of threedimensional objects in water, whether moving or static, and is the means by which fish perform the aquatic ballet of shoaling.
Squid, octopus and cuttlefish all have touch and pressure receptors but not much is known about general pressure sensitivity in cephalopods. An octopus can withstand enormous atmospheric pressure as it has neither bones nor swim bladder. Knight-Jones and Morgan (1966) state that juvenile Loligo forbesi moves upwards in response to increased pressure as does Nautilus (Jordan, Chamberlain & Chamberlaine, 1988).
The remedies Sepia and Onychoteuthis banksii (clubhook squid), Onychoteuthis banksii, the squid remedy, also experience the sensation of clumsiness and lack of coordination experience a strong sensation of pressure and compression as well as the sensation of being pulled downwards. The natural inclination of the group, both
physically and psychologically, is to be bursting with energy, with the desire for physical activity, yet they feel somehow as if they are being impeded or restricted.
This tension, and the desire to break free from the feeling of restriction, results in tearing, bursting and ripping sensations, seen in the remedies Sepia and Eledone (octopus).
In a direct link with pressure changes, Sepia is a remedy with an affinity for burst, suppurating eardrums. Eledone feels pressure all over the body, even < pressure of clothing.
The rise and fall of the night-feeding Nautilus. The Nautilus’ rhythm, like that of much of sea life, is to rise from the depths to feed at night. Its whole body system, with chambers to adjust air and gas balance, is geared towards
altitude regulation. The Nautilus needs to be able to endure great changes in atmospheric temperature as well as pressure, and be able to live and move in the dark.
At the first show of light, it will descend once more. Correspondingly, in the Nautilus proving there were dreams of diving. Upwards and downwards motion < the Nautilus patient physically and generally, affecting the limbs and joints, and intensifying the headaches. On a psychological level, the Nautilus patient will have concerns regarding upward and downward social mobility. On a spiritual level, the Nautilus patient wishes metaphorically to go deep, and to go high;
they are driven to devote time to spiritual pursuits, desiring to escape the more mundane or superficial aspects of daily life.
Konrad Z. Lorenz, winner of the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1973, and author of many studies of animal behaviour, as well as Analogy as a Source of Knowledge, wrote: “Ethologists are often accused of drawing false analogies between animal and human behaviour. However, no such thing as a false analogy exists: an analogy can be more or less detailed, hence more or less informative.”
Correspondences between psyche and substance are familiar to us as homoeopaths, and are not limited to animal remedies; plants and minerals reveal their own signatures too. The author’s thesis, in researching the marine invertebrate remedies from an evolutionary and sensory point of view, has been to see if this group of early animals might reveal deeper levels of correspondence, or analogy, between patient and medicine. We carry, in evolved and adapted forms, the sensory structures of ancient sea creatures within us. The bones of our middle ears evolved from the gill arches of reptiles and the origins of our sensory organs, nervous system, brain and immune system also find their antecedents in forms of sea life.
It is the author’s conclusion, based on a detailed study of marine invertebrates, that the sea remedies, particularly when studied from an evolutionary and sensory point of view, reveal healing potential for some of our deepest existential conflicts.
In relation to the sense of touch, the affinity with neurological disorders is unquestionable. The newer remedies made from sea urchins, sea anemones, jellyfish and starfish particularly invite research in this area.
Marine Invertebrate Remedies: Common
Distortions of size of body or body parts (delusions smaller, bigger, taller);
Delusions as to the nature of the body: disfigured, distorted, disabled, dissolving, without substance/backbone/structure.
Sensation of being pushed downwards, compression, or pulled backwards.
Numbness or Oversensitivity. Electric shock sensations.
Pins and needles. Stabbing/stitching. Full/tight/bursting or empty/loose/light.
Soft, weak, spineless or hard and inflexible.
Extreme weakness of musculoskeletal system and diseases of the neurological system.
Marine Invertebrate Remedies: Common Skin Conditions (Urticaria/hives. Vesicles. Herpes. Eczema. Ulceration: Red or copper coloured itchy, dry eruptions. Pustules/pimples. Warts)