TYPES, TEMPERAMENTS AND CONSTITUTIONS –
REPORT ON A SYMPOSIUM
Michael D. JENKINS, (BHJ, Vol. LXV, 2/1976)
A Symposium on the subject, “Types, Temperaments and Constitutions” was recently held at the Royal London Homœopathic Hospital. Dr. RALPH TWENTYMAN was in the chair. In his opening address he pointed out that the notion that homœopathic prescribing is treating the individual, is not strictly true. He maintained that the homœopathic physician is in fact treating, for example, the “Sulphur disease”, as it manifests in the individual. He said that a person’s constitution should be regarded as that which is normal for that person and therefore not something that should, in itself, be treated. On the other hand, he went on to say that the scientific medical approach was to instigate treatment largely on the basis of statistical groups, with little regard for individual variations.
Dr. TWENTYMAN then introduced the first speaker, Dr. HARLING, who gave a paper on “The French approach to constitutions”. She confined herself to the more conventional lines of thinking on the matter. She quoted Dr. VANNIER’s view that the constitution is that which is “given” to the individual and that probably one should not attempt to change it. The temperament, on the other hand, changes with the times. She then went on to discuss various attempts at classification of constitutions: HAHNEMANN did not actually define constitution, but did attempt to define types through the doctrine of the Miasms; Syphilis, Sycosis and Psora. Secondly, v. GRAUVOGL described the triad of the Hydrogenoid, Oxygenoid and Carbo-Nitrogenoid constitutions. Later on, NEBEL classified people into Carbonic, Phosphoric and Fluoric types corresponding to Calc.carb., Calc. phos., and Calc. fluor. The Carbonic type was described as short, stocky and reliable, with small extremities, good dentition and a characteristic inability to straighten the elbow beyond an obtuse angle. They are prone to congestive disorders. In contrast, the Phosphoric types are tall and thin, beautiful people who love play and hate work. The teeth tend to be long and rather yellow, and the fully extended arm is perfectly straight. The third type in this classification, the Fluoric, can be any shape or size and is said to be crooked and irregular in mind and body. They are often double-jointed and have poor, irregular dentition.
Dr. HARLING then discussed the classification of Dr. H. BERNARD, who described a Phosphoric, thin-skinned “demineralized” ectomorphic type, a Carbonic congestive endomorphic type with a thick, orange-like skin and thirdly a “normal” Sulphur type in the middle. This Sulphur group could be subdivided into thin and fat types with a tendency towards one of the other two groups. An extension of this classification relates Sulphur to Psora and the Choleric temperament; the Carbonic constitution to Sycosis, and the phlegmatic temperament; the Fluoric constitution to the Syphilitic Miasm and the melancholic temperament, and finally the Phosphoric constitution to the Tuberculinic Miasm and the sanguine temperament.
Finally, Dr. HARLING made a series of points: firstly, that we should attempt to see the constitution within the individual rather than put the patient into a particular classification, secondly that we should consider what are the legitimate objects of medical treatment and thirdly, on the basis of her original hypothesis, adjustments will take place in the temperament rather than the constitution.
The second speaker was Dr. CLOVER. She approached her subject which she entitled “Ontology” from a much more psychological and esoteric viewpoint. She started by discussing the meaning of words and the way in which we use them and then went on to describe an analysis of the individual in terms of the physical constitution, feeling and temperament, thinking and formulative function and understanding and comprehension. Dr. CLOVER then considered the apparent duality of the psyche and the physical, the meaning of the word dis-ease and the relationship between that which is essentially the individual himself and those things that he has acquired through life. This was an erudite and at times poetic exposition and one hopes that we shall hear more of Dr. CLOVER’s work in the future. The excellent discussion which followed indicated the level of the questions she had raised.
The third contributor, Iain BEGG, spoke on the subject of Jungian types. He described these as modes of being which everyone has within him and which should be viewed more as a compass than as a map. In addition to Jung’s well known division into Introversion and Extroversion, Dr. BEGG described two other groups, each with two poles. These are firstly, the judgemental or rational functions of Thinking and Feeling and secondly, the perceptional functions of Intuition and Sensation. The combination of these with Introversion and Extroversion gives eight possible modes. For example, the predominant mode among Western males is the Extrovert-Thinking-Sensation mode whilst among Western females the Extrovert-Feeling-Intuitive mode predominates. Dr. BEGG then systematically considered the different modes, giving thumb-nail descriptions of each. For example, the outstanding Extrovert-Thinking type is more the academic philosopher whose principles arise from his own subjectivity. The Extrovert Intuitive he described as entrepreneurial, ruthless and easily bored with routine, whilst the Introverted Intuitive is always seeking to understand what is behind everything. In discussing the mode of sensation, Dr. BEGG regarded the Extrovert as the average sensual man, well adapted to the world and able to compromise. The Introvert Sensation mode common among artists and craftsmen lacks overt reaction, but nevertheless there is much happening beneath the surface. Finally he put forward the interesting view that predominant modes correlated with the points of the compass: Thinking in the North, Feeling in the South, Sensation in the West and Intuition in the East.
Dr. BEGG’s well formulated exposition was followed by an excellent paper by Dr. WEIHS on the Temperaments. He pointed out that one could not have any knowledge of the objective world other than through subjective experience and therefore types and constitutions can be regarded as modes of experiencing. He also pointed out that classifications into three types have a polarity and an equalizing group which one tends to regard as the normal, whereas the classifications into four groups have no such polarity. Then, after a discussion on the relationship of the four classical elements of earth, water, fire and air to the properties of dryness, cold, wet and heat, he went on to consider in some detail the four temperaments of Melancholic (Earth), Choleric (Fire) Phlegmatic (Water) and Sanguine (Air). He said that all of us carried all of these elements in ourselves as a microcosm of the world and defined health as being at one with the world.
The final speaker from the platform was Dr. DEGENAAR, who spoke on the subject of the temperaments and the organs. This paper was interesting and entertaining, but at times was difficult to follow for those not well versed in the philosophical background. He started from the premise that we live at the junction of the inner and outer worlds and that the frontier between the two is constantly shifting. As an example, he said that in the act of standing up, one conquers gravity, but when the outer world of matter gains, then everything drops. However, to do this, the lead has to be in the form of a salt, it has to have been processed. Dr. DEGENAAR then put forward the idea that when a substance is introduced into the body as a potency it is the process and not the matter which is introduced. As a further example, he considered the snakes which, making no effort to rise against gravity, produce the neurotoxin of Naja and the haemotoxic poison of Lachesis.
In his discussion of the temperaments and elements, Dr. DEGENAAR considered them in relation to forms in nature which can be used in homœopathic therapeutics. For example, he related the use of insect poisons in the treatment of neuralgic pains to the element of air. It was a lively if somewhat confusing discussion.
The Symposium was a great success and I am sure that all those present both enjoyed it and were a little enlightened by it. One hopes that it will be possible to organize further discussion groups on other aspects of the philosophies behind the art of healing.