Nucleus of the Remedy
In a bubble not connecting, therefore uninhibited working without respite, restlessness separation from danger, therefore recklessness.
Lack of communication, dreams in foreign languages, of not being understood.
Violence outside - shock and paralysis. Terratorial issues. (Barrier, disconnection.)
Claustrophobia. Constriction, band sensations.
Cosy, calm and still. Skin symptoms. (The skin represents the barrier between within and without.)
Introduction by Misha Norland
The decision to prove latex arose out of the AIDS research and writing which Peter Fraser had been immersing himself in over the previous year. It was, as Peter suggested, a missing link. I had not been as enthusiastic as he about undertaking this proving, although I immediately conceded to the good sense of doing it. My initial reluctance rested upon the abiding intuition that the proving would be no joy ride and I was reluctant to put my students and myself through it. I believed that it would have symptoms in common with Sulphur and Rajan Sankaran's proving of plastic, Polystyrenum. The key concept here is "insulation". Furthermore, I had in my minds eye the image of a monoculture of rubber trees, sliced and "bleeding" almost to death, their sap running into rusty tin cans twined to their trunks. The substance signature held out the promise of an altogether loathsome experience. The elements of this are: insulation, disconnection, lack of feeling, lack of sensation, sex without conception. Also rubber is associated with work, so, work without feeling, work for the sake of work. Just think of the billions of tyres taking us to and from work. Themes of Sulphur would doubtlessly emerge. In the case of latex Sulphur is the binding agent, turning soft sap into the tough, elastic material, which we find so useful. Apropos of which, vulcanisation of latex constitutes the major demand upon the world's Sulphur resource. So, as well as itch, skin symptoms and problems at orifices, muco-cutanious borders, stomach, intestines, etc., we might expect problems with relationships to arise. The "glue" which Sulphur is to hydrocarbon molecules, as it is in rubber, might express itself in the psyche of the provers as relationship breakdowns (lack of glue) as well as insulation, lack of connection and indifference. Latex is used in the manufacture of baby teats and dummies therefore it could have a place in the treatment of bottle fed babies, further amplifying the theme of disconnection/disgust, those who have suffered neglect rubber in the place of nurturing nipple and sweet breast. Since physical contact is mediated by skin, it follows that these symptoms should have a particular meaning within the context of patients who had been bottle fed babies.
Another aspect of Sulphur and rubber is fire and stench. How rubber burns! Thus I was expecting symptoms of heat, of sweating, of foulness. I imagined that provers could get into self-loathing. Latex has a protective function: it provides a covering for a plant wound, rather as fibrinogen does for animals in the formation of scar tissue. I wondered whether this aspect would emerge giving us a "wound remedy", or whether the latex bleeding (almost to the death of the trees) would "translate" into non-healing, or whether Latex might prove useful for all manner of exhausting discharges. Given the attack upon the trees, I wondered whether provers would develop imaginations or dreams of attack and images of knives and cutting. Alongside this, I figured that there might be feelings of receiving or perpetrating violence, of exploitation, and finally, in a decompensated state, of guilt. In short a veritable dogs dinner of homeopathic delights! As it has turned out much of this and more has emerged resulting in some provers striving to end the proving prematurely. Because of the intensity of the symptoms a clear image of the remedy and its wide therapeutic range has been evidenced.
Introduction by Peter Fraser
My work on the AIDS Nosode and other provings had led me to an interest in the concept of an AIDS Miasm. I felt that many unproved substances might make plausible remedies for an inclusion in a study of the Miasm; however, one substance, Rubber or Latex, seemed to me to be of particular importance.
The key theme of AIDS as a disease, as a Nososde and as a Miasm is the breakdown of boundaries. In the world of AIDS latex has taken on some of the roles of those lost barriers particularly the role of the immune system in protecting the body from germs and disease. The latex glove had been common in surgery, principally to protect the patient from the surgeon's germs. In the 1980s it quickly became mandatory for all health workers and its use was as much about protecting the worker as the patient.
In the 1960s and 70s the condom was seemingly destined to become an historical curiosity as the pill offered a new style of reproductive prophylaxis and readily available antibiotics made sexually transmitted diseases a minor inconvenience. In every field boundaries were dissolving and the throwing out of this barrier seemed to be a part of the spirit of the times. Yet as the 70s came to a close and the 80s began, first genital herpes and then AIDS made sex dangerous again and the condom was suddenly a necessity. What had been a dirty secret was being advertised by the government on TV. It became an icon for the struggle against HIV, a position it still holds, especially within the HIV community. To talk about condoms was still taboo yet it was a taboo that had to be broken if humanity was to survive this new disease. Its duality as symbol of immorality and as necessary saviour has still not been resolved, particularly by the Catholic Church.
In homopathy a symptom or a concept that is contradictory, in which two opposing principles are equally important, are almost invariably the most important ones. This contradictory nature is particularly strong in Rubber. The rubber tyre insulates the car or bicycle from the roughness of the road but it must also keep the vehicle in the closest possible contact with the road. The latex glove insulates the wearer from the patient's possibly poisonous blood and separates the patient from the surgeon's germs. At the same time it must not interfere in any way with the surgeon's delicate touch. It must feel as if it is not even there. The same applies to the condom which must act as a complete barrier not only to spermatozoa but also to bacteria and to the tiniest virus. Yet the ideal is sensitivity. Condoms are called things like Featherlite and Gossamer and the aspiration is that there should be as if nothing between sexual partners. In Rubber, and particularly the rubber of the condom, there is a dynamic tension between the barrier to disease and semen and the lack of a barrier to feeling and touch. This tension is likely to make Rubber a powerful remedy.
Latex is a substance that is increasingly ubiquitous and which causes a strong allergic skin reaction in a substantial and growing number of people. This has become a particular problem for health workers, many of whom have become sensitised to latex. It has even been postulated that much of the enormous increase in atopic infant eczema and asthma may be the result of neo natal sensitization to the latex gloved hands that now welcome almost all western babies into the world.
Rubber is a very sexual substance, even apart from its use in condoms, it is a favourite material for fetish wear as it covers and conceals yet is so expressive that it becomes a second skin encompassing both the sexuality of nakedness and the titilation of concealment at the same time. This reflects the nature of fetishistic sex in general where sex becomes more direct more powerful and extreme, often as a way of avoiding intimacy, real contact and the issues that arise in intimate relationships. Rubber clothing also has the contradiction of binding, constricting and holding yet it gives and stretches more freely than any other substance.
The history of the collection of latex is one of unimaginable cruelty. There is the cruelty to the tree which is slowly bled to death, but there is also a cruelty to those that collect the material. This cruelty reached its nadir and possibly the nadir of cruel slavery itself in the Belgian Congo during the reign of King Leopold the Second. Native people were forced to become slaves to the Belgian enterprises and were given unattainable targets for the amount of rubber they had to collect. Any failure to meet targets was met with extreme cruelty. The soldiers working for the Belgians would kill and eat the entire populations of villages before burning them. There most effective tactic was to remove the hand and or foot of the children of anyone who had not brought in their quota of rubber. The tales of this cruelty were not believed in Europe and America in spite of the campaigning of Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad and others until the pictures of missionaries like Alice Harris, the first effective photojournalists, brought home the horror of what was happening.
Rubber is a disposable substance that we use and throw away but it does not just go away. It persists as mountains of burning tyres or as condoms washed up on polluted beaches.
My first instinct was to use samples of several different forms of rubber to obtain a representative substance from which to make the remedy. In the end I decided to use a sample taken from a condom as the form of latex in which the contradictory aspects of the substance were most clearly expressed. In the event I was surprised by the way in which both the non-latex issues of the condom, particularly sexuality and sterility, and the more general aspects of rubber, particularly the sulphurous physical symptoms, found expression in the proving.
Natural rubber is found as a colloidol suspension in the latex produced by a number of plants. Rubber is a polymer whose basic monomer is Isoprene (C5H8). Natives of South America used rubber to make clothing and footwear water resistant. The Spaniards and other Europeans observed this but were unable to make use of the rubber. In 1770 Joseph Priestley discovered that pencil marks could be erased by rubbing with a piece of rubber and so gave it its name. In 1791 Samuel Peal patented a process of waterproofing cloth with rubber and in 1823 Charles Macintosh set up a factory to produce the rainproof garments that still bear his name. Untreated rubber becomes soft, sticky and smelly in hot weather and hard and brittle in the cold. In 1834 Ludersdorf and Hayward discovered that the addition of sulphur to rubber reduced the stickiness of the rubber. In 1839 Goodyear discovered that heating the rubber and sulphur together, a process called vulcanization, gave the rubber increased strength and elasticity and reduced its sensitivity to temperature.
Almost all the rubber used today, except the crepe soles of some shoes, is vulcanized. Sulphur is still the main vulcanizing agent though the metals selenium and tellurium are also used. A great number of other chemicals are used to strengthen, harden, colour or otherwise manipulate the final material. Thin rubber goods such as gloves and condoms are formed on porcelain moulds and then cold vulcanized by exposing them to sulphur chloride vapours. Many synthetic rubbers are now produced by the polymerisation of hydrocarbons. The proving showed the remedy to have many properties, particularly skin symptoms that could undoubtedly be described as "sulphurous".
Latex is collected by making a cut in the bark of the tree. The diagonal cut leads into a bowl where the latex is collected. As the latex dries the cut heals up and it has to be extended downwards on a daily basis. When it reaches the ground the tree is left to heal and some time later a new cut is made.
Rubber is found in the latexes of many different plants. Several species of compositae including guayule and Russian dandelion have been used to produce rubber. Several trees in the sapodilla family have also been used including gutta percha and chicle (which produces the gum used in chewing gum). However, the purest and commercially most important latexes are collected from trees in the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) and in particular Hevea brasiliensis.
In An Insight Into Plants, Sankaran looks at the Spurge Family, the Euphorbiaceae, and concludes that the vital sensation of the family is one of being bound and unbound, tied and untied. Many of the symptoms and sensations he describes make great sense for Rubber. The sensation of the band, probably a rubber band, and the idea of being tightly held and of being released are what one would expect of rubber and the feeling of being hidebound makes you think of rubber clothing and of the condom. Symptoms that are in tune with this vital sensation were, not unexpectedly to be found in the proving.
Feel like my body trying to force something out - band in centre of body tight like a wasps body. 02P 03 XX.XX NS
I kept switching from being relaxed to becoming very tense and tight inside and feeling that I should be working on something. 08P 03 XX.XX NS
It seems that Rubber might encompass many of the feelings of the whole family.
There are a couple of other remedies in the Materia Medica that use the latex of the plant to prepare the remedy. One of these is Hura brasiliensis but as it is also a member of the Spurge Family and comes originally, like Hevea, from Brazil it is very difficult to tell whether the similarities between the remedies, of which there are a great many, come from the family relationship, their geographic origins or from the fact that they are both latex remedies. The other major latex remedy is Opium and as it is from a very different family it seems more likely that feelings of shame and an analgesic effect that insulates and isolates which are found in Opium, Hura and Rubber might be related to latex. The word latex is cognate with lac and describes the milky appearance of the substance. It seems likely that latex remedies may also have a relationship to the Lacs.
The remedy was prepared by Peter Fraser, following Hahnemann's instructions in the 5th and 6th edition of the Organon.
A grain of latex from a non spermicidal condom that had been cleaned of any traces of lubricant was cut into small pieces and triturated in a porcelain pestle and mortar with milk sugar.
My experience of potentising the remedy was much stronger than I have ever experienced in running up a remedy and as it seemes to fit with the symptoms evinced by the proving it is worth recording.
Within 5 minutes of beginning the trituration it was announced that the first air strikes had been made against Afghanistan.
The trituration to 1c took more that two hours as it was necessary to break down the very resistant substance.
I was hot and perspiring. Trembling.
The substance was hard and stubborn and my reaction was of a similar quality.
Felt a tendency to become obsessive/compulsive as I worked at the trituration.
The smell was nauseating, this went right on into the 3c trituration.
I was belching and felt nauseous, almost, but not quite to the point, of vomiting.
I had a sick head ache.
Felt that the skin on my head was tightening.
Heat in the forehead.
Felt rushed and hurried, carried away with the process.
Became aggressive and violent.
Felt so sick that I had to take two long breaks in the process.
Was clumsy and dropped and smashed things.
Times given are the actual time of day, not time from taking the remedy. XX.XX indicates no specific time was noted.
Days are numbered from 1, the day the remedy was taken. Day 0 indicates a symptom that was general and not tied to a particular date.
Provers 21 and 22 were aware of the substance being proved.
Information from provers who did not take the remedy are included and clearly indicated. The reasons for this are outlined in Group and Proving Phenomena, Observations by Misha Norland, An Article published in Issue 72 of The Homoeopath, Winter 1999. The reader should make up his or her own mind as to how to treat these symptoms.
NS A new symptom never before experienced.
OS An old symptom previously experienced, but not in the preceding year.
RS A recent symptom experienced within the last year.
AS An altered symptom, one previously experienced but with at least one quality changed.
CS A cured symptom, a symptom that was removed during the proving.
IOS An old symptom that is felt with significantly greater intensity than before.
Themes of the Remedy
There would appear to be three major themes in the remedy.
One group of symptoms are grouped around the idea of containment and restriction, of being enclosed. Another group, probably the largest, are about barriers, disconnection and separation. The last group are concerned with the need for artificial barriers because the natural ones are weak or absent.
The remedy is one in which the idea of being enclosed or held is important. This can seem positive in a feeling of calmness or cosiness. But it can be a more obviously negative feeling of being restricted and can become claustrophobic.
The imagery of the bubble or balloon, which clearly relates to the substance, contains both a feeling of being contained and of being separated from the world.
The theme of separation and disconnection was manifested in many different ways.
There was a feeling of disconnection from people. Communication and difficulties in communicating were important. There was a disconnection from feelings, both from the feelings of others and from the provers' own feelings. This can lead to being unfeeling, which is expressed in ruthlessness or selfishness.
Imagery was often sexual or concerned with death and birth, but it could also be sterile.
There was also a disconnection from the self. This could be manifest in distortions of the provers' perception of themselves. The prover can even feel as if he or she is invisible.
Provers also felt disconnected from their environment and from the events going on around them. This disconnection allowed provers to act unaffected by events, to go with the flow, whether for good or ill.
Violence was common around the provers but there was again a feeling of not connecting with it. This disconnection could be described as a state of shock and provers sometimes felt paralysed by it. Provers felt safe (safe is a slang term for a condom) and this could make them brave, or less positively, reckless.
The distancing from the distractions of the world and events allowed an unusual degree of focus. However, when this focus became combined with a lack of boundaries it could run on with nothing to stop it becoming excessive.
The lack of boundaries was felt by many and led to a need to create them.
There was a sense of vulnerability that often went further and some felt suspicious or paranoid that they were being attacked, harassed or persecuted.
The openness to the environment resulted in sensitivity and so to irritability.
There was also a sensitivity to the opinion of others and many felt shame and guilt.
There was also a lack of boundaries with other worlds resulting in clairvoyance.
Just as the disconnection led to an ability to focus so the lack of boundaries led to difficulty in concentrating to confusion and to clumsiness.
The confusion and disorientation combine with the hyperactive nature of the remedy to produce a feeling that they or the world are out of control.