Alchemy of Healing: Psyche and Soma by EDWARD C. WHITMONT MD


Edward C. Whitmont, MD


Edward C. Whitmont, MD (1912-1998) was one of America’s leading Jungian psychiatrists and homeopathic physicians.

In this book, Dr. Whitmont again enlightens us with perhaps the most profound writing on healing. Drawing from knowledge of the ancient principles of healing, archetypal patterns, new physics, and his own clinical experience as a homeopath and Jungian therapist, this book provides a deep perspective on health, healing, and life.

People who are interested in this book will also love Whitmont’s other books, especially Psyche & Substance: Essays on Homeopathy in the Light of Jungian Psychology.

This book review is reprinted with permission from Homeopathic Links (Homoeopathic Links – Summer 1994)
Reviewed by Misha Norland

“We go from success to difficulty, from failure to mastery, from health to illness, and from illness to healing or death. In life, impasses, states of being hemmed in, disturbances of ‘ease’ as well as critical ‘diseases’ are all necessary to provoke action and change, if everything continued ‘happy ever after’ we would remain in an undisturbed and permanently dulled state. No development would be possible, there would be no life play. A disturber of the peace is necessary to ‘get the play going’. It must function as a ‘Lucifer’, a bringer of light, of new in formation and awareness. Initially the disruptive element will tend to be perceived as evil, and the disturber who personifies it will be rejected and made a scapegoat. Although this element brings forth what needs to come into existence, the personifier will be blamed because it is felt to be painful or repellent”.

These words by Whitmont are an example of the challenge which his 81 years of experience of the human condition, his enquiry and his wisdom, hold in store for the reader. Once again taking up the torch which C. G. Jung handed to him, and which gave rise to the lectures and subsequent book, Psyche and Substance, Whitmont has penned us a volume out of his depth of experience, and offers us the fruits of searching beneath the surface of things to find ‘hidden’ meanings and, in particular, the book pays attention to and honours, the principles of homoeopathy. His sources range from Aristotle to the alchemists, as well as classical and modern writers and poets, and include the data of the ‘new’ physics, the findings of biologists and analytical psychologists. Myths, stories and case histories are interpreted with subtlety. The book is well referenced and contains many quotes refering to the tradition of human enquiry, to Eastern as well as Western thought and religion. Occasionally it is well to read a paragraph over a few times in order that the full meaning may emerge! As each cell is to the body, so each individual and their particular process (including their pathologising) is a part of the body and destiny of the Earth. Thus Whitmont’s vision includes an understanding of disease in terms of ‘divine’ entelechy.

I find myself in total accord with Whitmont’s speculations, however there are aspects of his appreciation of how homoeopathy works which I question. For example on page 105 it is stated: The substance-derived field [of the homoeopathic remedy, Ed] addresses itself directly to biological or somatic code systems and may secondarily affect psychological, emotional and mental functioning. The reverse is true of psychic induction, which operates from the psychic to the somatic. I have observed from my practice and also from homoeopathic provings that such distinctions do not in fact occur; that the influence produces discernible changes at whichever level . I should also comment that the general level of homoeopathic, and in particular materia medica, insight is less than the otherwise very high level of philosophical and psychological understanding. In conclusion, although The Alchemy of Healing would be a book more accessible to the reader of psychological literature rather than the ‘just’ homoeopath, the ‘just’ homoeopath would benefit enormously. Let us give the last words to Whitmont. “In the core of what eventually manifests as illness and pathology is encoded the universally human ‘basic fault’ (as the experience of a frightened and traumatised child with its sense of helplessness, shame and anger in the face of what is felt to be overwhelming odds). In the midst of all the fault lines, whirlpools, eddies and dissipative forces of our earth and the cosmo-embedded flow of our life stream, our sense of individual identity remains vested in the reality of our early childbody selves that persists in everybody, hidden behind defences and rational insights. While basically afraid and frightened by previous wounding, this childbody self is also that which wants and is able to grow. It strives to reconstruct itself, to be reborn out of the misery, ‘mortification’ and apparent senselessness of every suffered conflict, every seeming ‘no exit’ impasse. It responds to the call of its entelechy and – whether we realise it consciously or not strives to mature and grow through the wisdom extracted from the experience of being tossed about, succussed’, shaken and carried by the stream of life’ through the phases of sorrow and joy, death and birth”.


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