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Repertories today and yesterday

How are they structured? Which are most valuable?

The printed
introduction to most repertories adequately discusses the reasoning and logic
behind each author's choice of structure and format. Unfortunately, most people
dive into the book without reading the introduction. Got a repertory? Read the
     Hahnemann suggested that to take a good case from
a patient, you need to know the location of the problem, the sensation of the
problem, and the modalities related to it, that is, what makes it better or worse
and when.

From specific to general, or vice versa
Bönninghausen described the above as a "complete symptom." He was a master of
generalization. He could look at several symptoms in the provings, see the "thread" that
ran between them, and summarize it in a single rubric. If the same modality or
sensation occurred in the proving in different parts of the body, and was clearly
expressed in several provers, he called it a "red string symptom" and suggested
that the remedy could cure that symptom anywhere in the body.
     Since a "complete symptom" has a location, a sensation,
and a modality, Bönninghausen's repertory was essentially built to ease the finding
of those specifics. If a stitching [sensation] in the forehead [location] is
aggravated by stooping [modality], one has to look in three different parts of
his repertory: Location, Sensation, Aggravation. This method moved from the specific
to the general.
     Kent, on the other hand, believed that the modality
belonged to the part. So one would look for the above symptom under the single
rubric, "Head, Pain, Stitching, Forehead, stooping." This method looked at the
specific symptoms.

Which repertory: Bönninghausen or Kent?
At the turn of the 19th century, there were a handful of people who were using
the Bönninghausen repertory, with Cyrus M. Boger being the leading advocate.
Since the major education in homeopathy was being done by Kent at his Post-graduate
School in Philadelphia (and in Chicago after 1900), his pupils were those who
were really using the method with diligence, and because of their influence,
Kent's Repertory slowly became the standard.
     By 1922, most of the homeopathic schools in the
U.S. had closed. The American Foundation for Homeopathy (AFH) took up the education
of the handful who wished to learn at the post-graduate level. In 1931, two of
the teachers treated the class to a "repertory duel"—Frederica Gladwin
used Kent's Repertory, and Cyrus Boger used Bönninghausen's—to find
the simillimum for a case. Boger finished about a minute earlier than Gladwin.
Both came up with the same remedy.
     Although still championed by H.A. Roberts and a
number of his pupils, the Bönninghausen method ceased to be taught as the practitioners
who understood it passed away, and Kent's Repertory became the standard.
The last course in the use of the Bönninghausen Therapeutic Pocket Book was
offered by Dr. Allan Sutherland at the AFH School (now under the auspices of
the National Center for Homeopathy) in 1979.

Repertory users speak out
With Kent's Repertory often considered the "leader" among repertories,
we forget that there are many other repertories and each has its own value. The
Kent book was not always held in such high regard.
     Said Dr. Alfred Pulford (1863--1948): "Kent's Repertory … is
indispensable to us, but I never rely on prescribing on it. We have three repertories,
Kent, Bönninghausen, and Knerr. Kent is the most readily available and the least,
to me, reliable. Bönninghausen is less available, but more reliable. Knerr is
the least of all available and the most reliable."
     Said Dr. H.A. Roberts (1868--1950): "Repertories
are tools, nothing else. It has been said in order to understand a repertory
properly, you must know how to use that tool. I believe I have forty-three different
repertories in my office."
     Dr. Royal E.S. Hayes (1871--1952), discussing the
habits of Dr. Erastus Case (1847--1918), said: "Apparently he used all repertories
... not accepting the belief that Kent's swallowed all the others. He dropped
remarks to me about them at various times. Of Gentry he said, 'I use it sometimes,
but you do not have to buy it.' Of Lippe's, 'It is very good, but not as complete
as I would like.' Of Jahr's, 'You can find things in there that you can find
nowhere else.' ... Of Bönninghausen's, 'I use Kent's every day at my desk, but
for hard chronic cases I always go to Bönninghausen.' Of the Symptom Register,
'Yes, you should have it. It is rather awkward to use. You have to get acquainted
with it.' He also used the As If repertory and chuckled about the things he found
in it sometimes."

Most-used repertories
When I compiled the repertory section for my book, The Heritage of Homeopathic
, I found 118 repertories that had been published in English.
     So keeping in mind the remarks above about the
many repertories used by Dr. Erastus Case, which repertories are now the most
     Kent's Repertory, of course, is the
mainstay. Although it has many faults in spelling, changes in remedy grades,
mistakes in remedy abbreviations (e.g., mixing "bor" for "bov"—something
that is probably a typo), it still has served us well for over 100 years. If
it did not help us in our practices, we would have noticed it, and the book would
have been abandoned long ago.
     The two main modern repertories now in use are
the Complete Repertory and the Synthesis Repertory.
The Complete Repertory, first released in 1992, was developed by Roger
Van Zandvoort from Holland. The Synthesis Repertory was developed over
a number of years by the University of Namur in Belgium, and is now under the
editorship of Frederik Schroyens, MD.
     Both were developed for use as computer programs,
and then extracted and printed as books. The Complete is available through
several of the repertorial computer programs. The Synthesis is the main
repertory of the RADAR program.
     The structure of these two books is slightly different,
and a careful reading of the introductions to them will give an outline of how
each was constructed. Although they both follow the general structure of Kent's Repertory,
some sections have been rearranged (Food Desires and Aversions are no longer
under Stomach, but rather under General symptoms), and most of the errors found
in Kent's work (spoken of above) have been corrected.
     In 1993 the Homeopathic Medical Repertory by
Robin Murphy, ND, was published. The information is in alphabetical order rather
than following Kent's format, and the book contains modern terminology and new
diagnostic/therapeutic rubrics. There are many additions to Kent's information
which appear to be largely taken from the Complete Repertory, but they
are not identified; no "source" key is included, making it impossible to differentiate
which remedies came from Kent's Repertory, which were added from the Complete,
and which were Murphy's additions.
     This book is loved by some and disliked by others.
Many beginners and home prescribers like the alphabetical structure, clinical/diagnostic
category additions, and modern terminology. Other practitioners criticize it
for its lack of "sources" as well as for its alphabetical arrangement. They contend
that the arrangement may make it easy to find possible rubrics for a symptom,
forgoing the need to search for, perhaps, a more inclusive one. As a result,
rubrics found might be "close enough" but not necessarily the most precise rubric
needed for a successful prescription. For example, the repertory includes a rubric
for "Schizophrenia" which could easily be referenced for a patient who says, "I've
been diagnosed as 'schizophrenic,'" without delving further into the exact nature
of the problem the person is experiencing.
     In my experience teaching the use of Kent's Repertory,
I have found that although the arrangement of the Kent book might seem confusing
at first, constant use of it inculcates a sense of exactness in rubric selection
which may be obviated by an alphabetical arrangement.
     An old standby is the 1906 edition of the Homœopathic
Materia Medica With Repertory
, by William Boericke, MD, with a repertory
added by his brother Oscar Boericke, MD. The repertory is constructed differently
than that of either Kent or B?nninghausen, and takes a bit of work to become
familiar with. Nevertheless, its small size and fairly complete coverage—especially
for acute disease states—makes it a most popular book to this day.
     Because the book contains both a materia medica
and repertory, and is pocket-sized as well, I thought it would be an ideal book
to use at the National Center for Homeopathy Summer School introductory course
some 20 years ago. Realizing I was going to have to teach the use of this repertory
to the students, and knowing that Henry N. Williams, MD, often used the book
when on house calls, I phoned him to ask if he had any pointers about the construction
of the repertory or any helpful hints about its use. His laconic reply (which
is excellent advice): "The structure becomes very clear after you use it for
a few years."
     A work found useful by many is the Concise
, edited by Dr. S.R. Phatak, and first published in 1963. It
is an alphabetized reworking of the work of Boger (the repertory section of his Synoptic
Key of the Materia Medica
) and B?nninghausen (Therapeutic Pocketbook).
The author says, "No originality can be claimed except for presentation."
     Two of my favorites are the repertories of "sensations
as if." In 1937, Dr. H.A. Roberts updated Sensations As If, which
was originally written by Dr. A.W. Holcomb and published in 1894. Roberts drew
information from an interleaved copy of Holcomb's work that was compiled by Dr.
W.A. Yingling, as well as from the works of Hering, Clarke, and Allen. The book
is dedicated to Samuel Hahnemann, "the first to evaluate subjective symptoms." Roberts,
aware of the shortcoming of this type of repertory, cautions to "Beware of the
keynote that is not backed up by knowledge of, or reference to, the materia medica." It
is a very useful work. Although most of it has now been absorbed into the larger
repertories, it works best as a stand-alone volume, when you're looking for that
unique sensation described by a patient. (See case below.)
     In 1939, James W. Ward, MD, issued The Unabridged
Dictionary Of Sensations As If
. A compilation of three books—Hahnemann's Materia
, Allen's Encyclopedia, and Clarke's Dictionary, it is
divided into two sections: Pathogenic symptoms (those from the provings), and
Clinical symptoms (those verified through clinical experience). The book has
an index of the sources for each symptom, allowing the symptom to be referenced
as to its exact source.
     Last but not least is B?nninghausen's Therapeutic
Pocket Book
. Although still in print from India as the 1892 version edited
by T.F. Allen, it has been recently updated and corrected by a team from Germany,
and is available in German (edited by Dr. K-H. Gypser of Germany) and in English
(edited by George Dimitriadis of Australia).
     As mentioned previously, the Bönninghausen method
is very different from the Kent method, but those now relearning the method,
have found excellent results with the use of this wonderful repertory.

"It feels as if ..."
Unique repertory holds the key
by Julian Winston

A number of years ago, a friend sought my help with a bad cough she was experiencing.
Had I been more observant, I might have seen clearly what remedy she needed.
But I wasn't. I did not see that she was chilly. I did not see that the coughing
exhausted her so, that she had to sit down after coughing. She did not tell me
that when she coughed her chest burned. All those symptoms (chilliness, burning
pains, and the least exertion causing exhaustion) point clearly to Arsenicum.
     What my friend did say was that she coughed because
she had a sensation as if she had a ball of mucus in her throat. I tried finding
that symptom in Kent's Repertory to no avail. She was adamant. It was
not a "plug" of mucus, but rather a "ball" of mucus.
     I looked in H.A. Roberts' repertory, Sensations
As If
. I turned to the Throat section, and then alphabetically to "ball." There
it was! "Ball; of mucus lodged in the throat." It had a single remedy: Arsenicum.
     My friend's symptom picture all became crystal
clear to me then. A single dose of Arsenicum 30C cleared all her symptoms within
two hours!

unusual repertory

An Illustrated Repertory of Pains in Chest, Sides, and Back:
their direction and character, confirmed by clinical cases

by Rollin R. Gregg, MD, 1879

Surely one of the most unusual repertories published. This slim volume (97 pages)
contains charts of the torso showing the location, direction, and character of
the pain. Pains are described in the text and then illustrated. For example,
in the plate shown here, an arrow from the left side of the patient's chest extending
to the umbilicus and ending in a shape like pincers is labeled "Agar." and indicates
that the homeopathic remedy Agaricus has pinching pains in the place and direction

About the author:
Julian Winston has been Editor of Homeopathy Today since 1984. He is currently
a Board Member Emeritus of the NCH, having been on the NCH Board since 1982.
He is the past-Dean of the NCH Summer School(1988--1992), as well as author of The
Faces of Homeopathy
(the book and the video) a homeopathic bibliography, The
Heritage of Homeopathic Literature
, and two instruction books concerning
pedal steel guitar. He moved to New Zealand in 1995 where he lives with his 2000+
volume homeopathic library and co-directs the Wellington College of Homœopathy
with his wife, Gwyneth Evans. He can be reached at