New York School of Homeopathy Provings
Musca domestica: a proving of house fly
by Susan Sonz, CCH and Robert Stewart, CCH
Summary of Musca domestica
community has recently suffered the loss of two very important contributors;
David Kent Warkentin and Michael Quinn. David’s visionary creation of
MacRepertory and ReferenceWorks has inspired a revolution in modern homeopathic
thinking and practice. David changed homeopathy for everyone,
forever. Today's innovative and progressive work in homeopathy would
not be possible without his ingenious software programs. His gentle
spirit and sweet smile will be sorely missed by all of us who knew him.
founder of Hahnemann Laboratory and Pharmacy, was among the most loved and
respected figures in modern homeopathy. Besides being an innovator of
pharmacy procedures, Michael was a leader in the scientific study of
homeopathy. For many years he generously assisted homeopathic provings by
creating the remedies from the original substance. Michael leaves a legacy of great dedication
and integrity in his field and in his life.
Modern homeopathy has been profoundly influenced and advanced by
of the work of these two men. Their achievements will live on, as we
remember their enthusiasm for homeopathy and their invaluable contributions to
our wonderful profession.
"If thought is life
and strength and breath
and the want
Of thought is death
Then am I
A little fly
If I live
Or if I die."
The common house fly is ubiquitous. Wherever you find human habitation, you will hear its infernal buzz. It is as close to humanity as is the mammal. It is therefore surprising that it has never been proven before. During the last century, an ambitious homeopath proved a parasite of the fly (Trombidium), but until now no one has thought to prove the host.
Insects are a strange world. Voiceless and fully armored, they don't really have limbs as much as they have tools -- an assortment of saws and scissors, hammers and hooks. It is an awkwardly-jointed, segmented world where a mother may as dispassionately eat its young as it may eat its mate. It is a world that comprises over three-quarters of the total animal world. As the great naturalist, Maurice Maeterlinck, whose work on
the ant is a classic, put it: "Something in the insect seems to be alien to the habits, morals and psychology of this world, as if it had come from some other planet, more monstrous, more energetic, more insensate, more atrocious, more infernal than our own."
Musca domestica belongs to the family, muscoidea, the order, diptera, the class, insecta and the phylum, arthropoda. In the homeopathic materia medica, the chordates are represented by the milks mostly. There is a large grouping of arthropoda represented by the spiders. From the order, coleoptera, we have the important remedy, Cantharis. There is only one other member of the fly family in the materia medica, the mosquito (Culex),
whose name is actually an illiteration of muscoidea.
The common fly is incredibly prolific. In one season, beginning in April, one fly may produce more offspring than the entire human population by a factor of four. Luckily, the fly is a great food for many other insects. This is especially true for the spider, its most natural enemy. There is even a traditional poem to that effect.
The fly, like all members of the class, insecta, and unlike the vertebrates (the chordates), has no internal skeletal system but is encased in an external support, called the exoskeleton. The so called wings are not real limbs like in the bird but are a kind of skin growing out of the thorax that vibrates to produce flight. The wings have to be continually cared for or they become unusable.
The head is dominated by two large eyes composed of hundreds of hexagonal lens each which permit 360 degrees of fractured vision. Between these complex eyes are three smaller eyes.
All members of the muscoidea family, like the butterfly, a distant cousin, go through complete metamorphosis. While most insects merely increase in size, periodically shedding their exoskeleton, flies, butterflies and moths become totally
and magically transformed from one stage to the next: egg -- maggot/caterpillar -- pupa/chrysalis -- fly/butterfly. The butterfly has been called, for this reason, an apt symbol for the soul at death. The common house fly, however, has never shared in that distinction.
The fly has very unique feeding habits. For one thing, it is capable of tasting with its legs as it walks over the surface of potential food. On the other hand, it has no real mouth, no chewing apparatus, and is, therefore, unable to digest solid food. It drinks its food. It extends a long, soft proboscis which emits a saliva that literally dissolves the material and the fly then sucks it up like a straw. Favorite sources
for food material are garbage dumps, trash cans, fecal matter, unprotected cooked vegetables and meats, and spoiled and rancid food in general. Flies don't discriminate. They are often thus vectors for disease.
(Note: Interestingly, we did not have the digestive issues in the proving that we expected. We assume this is because the fly that was potentized had just been hatched and had not eaten yet.)
Science made great strides when it overcame an anthropomorphic interpretation of the natural world. The same must be extended now to homeopathy. Neither nature nor our patients are served by a facile "zoo-pomorphic" clinical judgment. Because she is endlessly busy, is given to a sarcasm that stings and has a regal bearing is no justification for a prescription of Apis mellifica. We must always collaborate intuition
with reliable symptomology from the provings. There are, however, a few characteristics of the life habits of the fly that have been confirmed by the proving and by (a limited) clinical experience.
1) Unlike most insects, which seem to exist in a milieu of dry warmth and air, flies have a connection to the wet and the earthly. Wherever you will find animal moisture, you will find flies. You see them collect en masse along the edges of wounds and on the eyelids of all farm animals. They seem to have an insatiable thirst. This is because, as noted before, they are unable to eat food -- they must drink
it. Many provers had dreams of water. Water was a theme that kept repeating itself in many ways.
4) All insects are encased in an exoskeleton. They have no real skin. The fly is especially attracted to wounds and abraded skin. (Some flies species even bury their eggs in skin of live animals; when the eggs hatch, the maggots feed on the flesh and a terrible ulcerative patch forms.) Many skin eruptions appeared in the proving. Musca domestica may be indicated in recurring herpetic eruptions.
5) Filth, trash, decomposing flesh, garbage and fecal matter are areas of special interest to the fly. So, too, with the provers. One prover thought the was being followed by garbage. There was a theme of corruption and decay. "Proverted" images appeared in life and in dreams. Many provers experienced disgust with their surroundings.
6) As mentioned before, flies are incredibly prolific. Many provers experienced an increased libido. But there was this caveat: the proclivity for a specific gender seemed to be ambiguous. Homosexuality and pornography were recurring themes throughout the proving and appeared in dreams and in delusions.
7) Finally, flies have always been connected with Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies. They say that when the devil is abroad there's a smell of sulphur in the air, of something burnt, of something rotting. With some of the provers, there were either delusions of smell or increased sensitivity to smell in general.
2) Flies are attracted to sweets. This is what attracts them to fly paper. Over five provers had a craving for sweets, specifically for chocolate.3) Flies are very sensitive to cold. They move more slowly as the temperature drops, bumping stupidly into windows and walls. With the first frost, they drop "like flies". Almost all the provers experiences an increased sensitive to the cold.
When THE NEW YORK SCHOOL OF HOMEOPATHY decided to conduct a Hahnemanian proving, we reached out to the larger homeopathic community in New York for both provers and supervisors. Why did we select the common housefly? Because we wanted to expand the materia medica from the animal kingdom and we wanted to prove a very common substance. What better choice than a common pest that has plagued mankind from his beginning?
And so, after much amusing fly gathering and attempted storage, we realized instead, that a pupa should be sent to Michael Quinn at Hahnemann Pharmacy so it would be easily classified. As a promoter of provings, Michael generously made 12 vials of 30c potency for us. (It should be noted that there was no way for Michael to know whether it was male or female, and we are not sure whether or not this is important.)
We followed the instructions laid out in Jeremy Sherr's The Dynamics and Methodology of Homoeopathic Provings, and printed separate pages of instructions for provers and supervisors to be handed out at our first meeting on January 27, 1999. There was one supervisor for every prover and they were asked to communicate daily. The remedy was distributed on February 10, after two weeks of journal entries in order to help establish previous states. Each prover was asked to call the supervisor after each dose of the remedy- and they were told not to take even a second dose if they felt any symptoms at all.
Needless to say, some provers took more of the remedy than they needed, and perhaps some took less. One prover took the remedy in the midst of a terrible cold, and so we eliminated her from the proving as it would have been difficult to know which symptoms to attribute to the remedy. Another prover discovered she was pregnant shortly before remedy distribution, so we only allowed her to put the vial under her pillow. We were now left with 10 viable provers. As Master Provers, one of us was concerned that there would be no symptoms, and the other was afraid there would be overreact ions. The truth is that with most provings, the results lie somewhere in between. We had one prover who experienced a remarkable cure of her pain from rheumatoid arthritis. And yet, at the other extreme, we had a prover who suffered terribly from the mumps.
When hearing information of this sort, it is important to remember that, as Hahnemann said, no matter what the results of the proving, we are all in a higher state of health or awareness from the experience. Not only have we helped to expand our materia medica, but one is a healthier person as a result. The kind of introspection that one experiences during a proving alone is a mind expanding treat. So, rather than feel as though it is some form of Russian Roulette, be confident that whether you temporarily suffer or not with unusual symptoms, somehow, you will be a better person for the experience.
Some of the general reactions were quite interesting- some provers got angry with their supervisors, and some were angry with us, the master provers. One prover who had seemed to enjoy every moment of the proving got quite upset after finding out it had been "a grotesques substance". At the extraction meeting six weeks later, almost all the provers said they would take part in another proving. Both of us, the master provers, slept with the remedy under our pillows and experienced strong symptoms- Robert Stewart called it a feeling of being a depressed Nux Vomica. Irritability was a strong factor for everyone. As always there was a lot of guessing as to the substance they were proving. Not surprisingly, there were some close guesses- one prover thought it was a cockroach, another prover's wife believed it was a fly.
At the extraction meeting, there was a lot of talk about putrification, rotting garbage, maggots, corruption. excrement, toilets, sewers, tunnels and dirty water. There were many dreams of water, it was probably our most common symptom. There were lakes, oceans, beaches, dirty, dreary beaches, public bathhouses- two provers dreampt of Mediterranean scenes by the sea. There was floating on water, swimming in water, falling into water and so on. The case that follows was based somewhat on the numerous dreams of water along with other fly symptoms.
There were many other vivid dreams; dreams of tunnels, houses underground, trap doors, cellars and tree roots. There were dreams of the dead, dreams of fire, dreams of houses and dreams of floating, flying and lightness. One prover dreampt of being covered in excrement (flies lay their eggs in excrement), and another dreampt of being a baby elephant covered in mud or oil.
There were many sexual dreams and we found it interesting that the repertory does not cover sexual dreams. Four of our provers had recurring sexual dreams, one more dreampt of rape, and three others had recurring dreams of gay men or homosexual issues. And there were dreams of committing unlawful acts or being the victim of a crime, as well as threatening dreams. One prover also dreamt of imprisonment, while two dreamt of the police and two others of soldiers.
Among the other mind symptoms that were revealed at the extraction meeting was a general confusion of mind. It seems this is a common symptom in provings, possibly because of the introspection and the common expectations of symptoms. In this case though, there was some interesting gender confusion. One young child who's parent's had both taken the remedy, called his mother, Daddy and his father, Mommy. Our most reliable prover had strong feelings of lurking homosexuality. He felt men were watching him, touching him and were attracted to him. He admitted to a homophobic reaction, one that he believed was an entirely new symptom.
There was an unusual fastidiousness- three provers said that they could not stop cleaning until everything was in its place, and this was for them a definitely new symptom. The other strong mind symptom was a sensation of isolation, which is listed as a rubric in the Complete Repertory, but without remedies within the rubric. It was a strong feeling within the group- one supervisor said she only wanted to communicate via email (this was against our instructions), another supervisor stopped communicating in any way at all, leaving that prover feeling completely isolated. Many others expressed this sensation, in this language. In addition, those same provers expressed feelings of self pity- its not clear if these two ideas would exist separately or if they fed on each other. The feeling was strong enough for us to use the rubrics, pities herself and forsaken feeling, (or delusion forsaken).
Physically, the most common symptom was a heaviness in the limbs (heaviness, externally), and for some a heaviness alternating with lightness. Going along with this was an awkwardness in the extremities- seven out of ten provers felt one or both of these sensations. There was also numbness of the extremities, particularly the arms. And, there were many skin eruptions. Every prover who had ever had herpetic eruptions, had an outbreak during the proving. The good news is that these same provers had the longest period of relief ever, following the proving. It is clearly a useful remedy for herpetic eruptions as you will see in the following case.
Lack of vital heat and a desire for chocolate must also be mentioned, as well as a kind of constipation that did not include the urge to go (urging absent?, must strain?, insufficient?, incomplete?, unsatisfactory?). The physical symptoms (and mind symptoms) that have been mentioned here were shared by at least four out of ten provers, and therefore seem unmistakably part of this remedy. But what does a master prover do with the symptoms from one really sensitive prover?
After much deliberation, we decided that every one of his symptoms was valid. We came to this conclusion after recalling the way Jeremy Sherr spoke of his especially sensitive prover- a woman who was able to get so close to the remedy he was proving that she almost became one with the remedy (his description of the Eagle proving was a very powerful explanation of this phenomenon). For us, prover #5 was just such a prover. Even before he took the remedy he was having sensations (he smelled the remedy and it smelled like "quite ripe peaches"). He was drawn to garbage and the brackish water in the subway, he constantly used language like "being surrounded by corruption and decay", he saw garbage "moving", in fact he said he believed the remedy was about garbage and that the remedy was degrading and decomposing.
A week into the proving he opened a new book to a random page and it was about maggots cleaning pearls- and he knew this was important enough to write up in his journal. His wife (who got a bit fed up with all his new symptoms from the proving) tells him that it is a sea worm or a fly. He had many skin eruptions, though after the proving his herpes did not erupt for at least another year, and his TMJ of one year duration resolved completely. Our magic prover felt like an "animal with his eyes darting about", and he had visions of a dead squirrel with beetles and wasps burrowing into its collapsed eyes. Lots of other images (listed below) haunted him, and he was the prover who had many fears and obsessive thoughts about homosexuality. Every symptom that he mentioned seemed relevant- and it was clear to us at the extraction meeting. He enjoyed the experience- you could tell by the way he made his report. He seemed to feel that he had been possessed temporarily and it was an interesting trip. He enjoyed being a fly.
Before we list the rubrics that Musca Domestica should join, we must mention the two provers at the extreme ends of reaction. Prover #1 took the remedy and a few days later found himself quite ill with the mumps. Did this remedy give him the mumps? Its such an interesting question- and quite an unanswerable one. It certainly pushed him over an edge. He must have been exposed to the mumps (he is a school teacher), and it is not a stretch of the imagination to assume that the remedy helped the disease develop. Would he have gotten the mumps without the remedy? We will never know. But it is particularly interesting that Culex Musca (mosquito) has "pain as if he were going to have mumps" (Kent). And then there is prover #2 who had been suffering with severe arthritic pains for 15 years. She tested positive for Rheumatoid Arthritis and her main complaint was that she felt heavy, tired and old with the pain. When she first took the remedy she fell asleep for a nap and dreamt that she was flying from room to room, flying all over her house. When she woke up, her pain was gone. Throughout the proving,she experienced many other symptoms as well, but her pain never returned. It was probably not a simmillimum (her case is not "cleared") but it was obviously curative on this level.
A proving is a journey- an honorable journey for all involved. It should be embarked on with care and caution but without fear. We hope to encourage many more Hahnemanian provings, not only to increase and strengthen our materia medica, but to increase awareness and strengthen the homeopathic community.
NEXT: Musca domestica Rubrics
© 2012 New York School of Homeopathy. All rights reserved. Telephone: (New York City) 646-796-3860