The Rough Guide to the History and Development of the Repertory


The late Rebecca Preston was my homeopathic colleague and friend. Although miles apart geographically we spoke quite regularly by phone and of course email. We would see each other a few times each year at homeopathic seminars and especially the annual conferences. Rebecca was an avid supporter of my original work with the CARA software and then the ISIS Vision software. She worked on the Dictionary that is included with each software system.

The article included here was originally a speech that she gave to the UK Society of Homeopaths annual conference in 2004 or 2005. I remember she was very nervous about giving the speech and she would phone me up regularly to check facts and to proof read the speech. She was a repertory expert, teacher and very involved with proving new remedies, working with Jeremy Sherr on several provings, for example Hydrogen and Amethyst. She also co-wrote the book 'The Mind Defined' with Laurol Part. 

This article first appeared in a 2005 issue of the Homeopathic Informer e-magazine. I have decided to update it with new information since that time - and my additions to Rebecca's original work are marked in blue.

David Witko FSHom

Development of Repertory
The subject of the repertory is vast and complex, and this Rough Guide does not have the scope to cover it all - 117 repertories are documented in Julian Winston’s book ‘The Heritage of Homoeopathic Literature’ - but [this article] will illustrate the broader shape and logic of it’s development, and the ongoing quest for the perfect repertory.

Samuel Hahnemann’s handwritten, alphabetical ‘Symptomenlexicon’, produced in 1817, and derived from his own ‘Materia Medica Pura’ and ‘Chronic Diseases’, was the first index of symptoms – the first repertory.

He had formed the Leipzig Group of Collaborators for the Proving of Drugs in the early 1800s, soon realised the need for some sort of index to the ever-growing mass of materia medica, and so began collating the material that would eventually grow to 4 volumes of symptoms. However, it was never completed or published as it just became too huge and unworkable!

By the 1820’s and early 30’s, Hahnemann and other homoeopaths, including Hering, Jahr and Boenninghausen, were carrying on the quest, occupying themselves with the frightful task of organising and constructing the best way to present and access the myriad symptoms of the materia medica.

Two main schools of repertorial thought eventually developed -- the ‘Literal’ and the ‘Analogical.’

Hering and Jahr were two of those biased towards the literal. They believed in recording each symptom in its entirety, as closely as possible to it‘s description in the provings or clinical cases. This method resulted in a large amount of very specific rubrics containing a relatively small number of remedies. An index of this kind is very precise, and remedies can be narrowed down quickly, but it suffers from being inflexible if the symptoms of the case do not exactly match those of the index. This literality of inclusion also led to very, very bulky books.

George Heinrich Gottlieb Jahr produced his ‘Jahr’s Manual’ in 1834. This combination materia medica and a repertory, separately titled, ‘Systematic Alphabetical Repertory’, was based on Hahnemann’s work. The following year, on the other side of the Atlantic, Constantine Hering edited and translated ‘Jahr’s Manual’. His ‘Repertory to the Manual’ was the first repertory published in the English language. It may have been the first, but by 1841, A. Gerald Hull had revisited Jahr’s original - retranslated, revised and edited it, and published the result as the ‘New Manual of Homoeopathic Practice’. ‘Hull’s Jahr’, as it everywhere came to be known, was the most commonly used repertory of the period. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science Movement, was alleged to carry only two books – The Bible and ‘Hull’s Jahr’.

The journey towards the analogical model began with Clemens Maria Franz von Boenninghausen in the mid-1830s. After creating his first two repertories – the ‘Repertory of Antipsoric Medicine’,’ ( Published in 1832, it had been the first repertory to appear in print) and the later ‘Repertory of Medicines that are not Antipsoric’, he started work on the project of constructing a new concise general repertory, using the same basic format as the first two. He found, however, that like Hahnemann’s Symptom Lexicon, it was becoming much too big and clumsy, and so decided on a new approach.

Boenninghausen believed that remedies had certain aspects of symptoms, their characterising dimensions, that were not limited to single symptoms, but ran right through the remedy picture: for instance, ‘burning’ as a characteristic sensation running through the remedy Arsenicum.

These characterising dimensions were sensations, location, modalities and concomitants and together formed a complete symptom. He further believed that once a dimension was definitely established as being characteristic of the remedy, it could then safely be separated from its specific context and be given a place in the index in its own right -- moving from the particular to the general.

Hahnemann, Hering, Jahr and others had recognised and included these characterising dimensions in their works, but it was Boenninghausen who divided up the symptoms into their parts, and in 1846 published his ‘Therapeutic Pocketbook (For Homoeopathic Physicians, to be Used at the Bedside of the Patient and in Studying the Materia Medica Pura)’. This is the book that gave rise to the so called ‘Boenninghausen Method’.

Underpinning this analogical school of thought is the concept that complete symptoms can be built by analogy from the combination of the parts, reflecting the totality in a flexible way, and resulting in a repertory with far fewer, more generalised but more flexible, partial rubrics.

Before publishing the pocketbook, Boenninghausen had tested it for about two years. Some suspect that Hahnemann may have been involved in this process, though no records have been found to substantiate this. Boenninghausen finally published it three years after Hahnemann’s death, but Hahnemann did say, according to Boenninghausen, that it was “…excellent and eminently desirable”. It was thought to be so valuable that Erastus Case (President of the International Hahnemannian Association in 1901) copied all of one by hand when he could not find the book in print!

Alongside his move to complete generalisation, Boenninghausen also drastically reduced the number of mental symptoms in his repertory because he felt that they could easily be misinterpreted by beginners.

Hering, however, was not happy with the reduction in the number of mental symptoms included in the Boenninghausen Pocketbook, and subsequently published his own repertory, ‘The Analytical Repertory of the Symptoms of the Mind’. In this, he included the mental concomitants to physical symptoms, and physical concomitants to mental symptoms. He quotes, in justification, aphorism 211 of the Organon which says that “…the state of the disposition of the patient often chiefly determines the selection of the Homoeopathic remedy…”

Continuing Repertory Development

By this time, at the end of the 19th Century, another 73 repertories had been published. Many were very small and only published in journals. Notable repertories include ‘The Repertory to the More Characteristic Symptoms of the Materia Medica’ by Constantine Lippe; Timothy F. Allen’s ‘Symptom Register’ -- the index and repertory to ‘Allen’s Encyclopedia’; and Calvin Knerr’s, (Hering’s student and son-in-law), ‘A Repertory of Hering’s Guiding Symptoms of our Materia Medica’, from Hering’s 10 volumes.

Later, Jean-Pierre Gallavardin published ‘Psychisme et Homoeopathie’. He believed that homceopathy could improve a person’s personality and psyche. Examples of his rubrics are: "quack; quack and liar; quack but sincere" etc. He also believed that you could use remedies to change the physical characteristics of people, and so devoted the second part of his book to a small ’Repertory of Plastic Medicine’. In this he stated that the remedy should be given during the increasing moon, if you wanted to make a part bigger, and during the decreasing moon if the part should become smaller! Examples of rubrics from this ‘Repertory of Plastic Medicine’ are: Buttocks very big: Nux–vomica, and Cheeks very fat: Calc-c., Sulphur and Pulsatilla’.

At the same time, in the United States, Gentry’s 6 volume ‘Concordance Repertory of the Materia Medica’ arrived on the bookshelves. Gentry, however, was a colourful character and had soon turned his back on homoeopathy in favour of divine healing. By the turn of the century, he was preaching his gospel: “That Jesus Christ is the great physician that never lost a case”.

Some of the many repertories of the latter 1800’s devoted themselves to just one part of the body or one condition. Two examples are William Jefferson Guernsey’s ‘Repertory of Haemorrhoids’ and ‘A Repertory of Gonorrhea’ published by – wait for it - the appropriately named Otis Clapp.

Describing this period, Homoeopathic historian Julian Winston has stated that “Homoeopathy was foundering without strong leadership, divided among many factions.

As with other places and other times, a leader often emerges when needed. In this case, the masked man rode in from the west.” [Winston] was referring to Philadelphia’s James Tyler Kent. The first edition of Kent’s ‘Repertory of the Homoeopathic Materia Medica’ was published in 1897, 80 years after Hahneman’s handwritten Lexicon of Symptoms and 50 years after Jahr and Boenninghausen’s first printed repertories.

Kent’s repertory is the basis for most of the repertories used today. The first edition of his repertory closely followed that of Knerr and also included larger main rubrics in general and sub-rubrics that included particularizations.

It is a synthesis of material from a wide variety of sources, unlike a lot of the preceding repertories that had been based on a specific materia medica – like Knerr’s repertory and Hering’s ‘Guiding Symptoms’.

The general belief that Kent always opposed Boenninghausen is not really true. Kent used and praised the ‘Therapeutic Pocketbook’ early on in his practice and used many of Boenninghausen’s rubrics in his repertory – notably in the generalities section.

Kent set himself up in opposition to Boenninghausen only after he adopted the Swedenborgian hierarchy of ‘discrete degrees’, which holds that “man’s mind is created in ranks or platforms one above another”, into his Homoeopathic philosophy. Kent stated that, “All my teaching is founded on that of Hahnemann and Swedenborg; their teachings correspond perfectly”. However, it is hard to understand how Kent came to this conclusion as Hahnemann’s thinking was largely non-hierarchical, embracing the totality of the organism.

Kent’s hierarchical view created the need to distinguish between the patient and the particulars. In his hierarchy, the emotions, corresponding to Swedenborg’s ‘will’, were raised above the intellect, which corresponded to Swedenborg’s ‘understanding’. Below the emotions and the intellect came the physical generals, with the physical particulars at the bottom. It has been argued that he was not able to deal with modalities of individual parts and modalities of the person as a whole if they were in opposition, because his hierarchy created an artificial separation between them. Once this divide was incorporated into his homoeopathic philosophy, it was difficult for Kent to use the ‘Therapeutic Pocketbook’ and the (so-called) Boenninghausen method. By the time Kent had produced his own repertory, he had become openly critical of Boenninghausen and his method, and because of Kent’s influence as a teacher, the use of Boenninghausen rapidly declined towards the turn of the century.

20th Century (First Half) Repertories
In comparison to the large number of repertories published up to 1900, only 18 new repertories were created over the next 50 years. Of note amongst these are: ‘The Characteristics and Repertory of Boenninghausen’, published by Cyrus Maxwell Boger in 1905, which was an amalgamation of all of Boenninghausen’s work into a single volume, enlarged with Boger’s own notes. Others include Oscar Boericke’s, ‘Homoeopathic Materia Medica with Repertory’ and Herbert A. Robert’s ‘Sensations As If’, an enlarged edition of a work begun by Dr. A. W. Holcomb.

Another 20th Century phenomenon was the plethora of card repertories. Of note are Dr. Jughal Kishore’s card repertory, and Boger’s card repertory, ‘The General Analysis’. Even Margaret L. Tyler attempted a card repertory in 1912, but it met with Kent’s extreme disapproval and she abandoned the project. Kent said, in a letter written to Tyler, "Your cards will destroy the highest ideal of Hahnemann…. The card system destroys growth and progress ….these machines are useful in everything but art… “. Yet, as we will see, the card repertory was the forerunner of the computer repertory of today.

20th Century Repertories - Second Half
Repertories continued to appear during the second half of the 20th Century. Dr. S. R. Phatak produced his well-respected ‘A Concise Repertory of Homoeopathic Medicines’ in 1963. Ten years later, ‘The Synthetic Repertory’ was edited by Horst Barthel and Will Klunker. In 1980, Pierre Schmidt published ‘The Final General Repertory’. This re-edited and corrected version of Kent’s Repertory used Kent’s own hand-annotated Repertory and Kent’s own copy of Hering’s ‘Guiding Symptoms’, again with handwritten annotations, and was produced in collaboration with Diwan Harish Chand.

Bizarrely, as part of this story, a Dr. K. H Mittal from India visited Schmidt and copied all Kent’s corrections into his own repertory, but when he left, also absconded with Kent’s original. Fifteen years later, Dr. Ahmed Currim located Mittal, who confessed that he had taken the original, cut it up and buried it. Later, Currim was able to retrieve the book, but it was now in several thousand pieces, which Currim gamely tried to put back together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Additions to Kent’s Repertory, by George Vithoulkas, had been privately produced in typewritten form and often pirated. It contained additions to Boger’s work from Gallavardin and Vithoulkas’ own practice and finally made it into print in 1989.

Around the same time, Jost Kunzli produced his ’Kent’s Repertorium Generale’, containing many additions to Kent’s Repertory based on the experience of Kunzli himself, as well as of his teacher, Pierre Schmidt.

A few years later, Robin Murphy ND completed and published the first edition of his  ‘Homoeopathic Medical Repertory’. This was originally derived from the computer edition of the ‘Complete Repertory’, version 3.0, Murphy added about 3% of his own additions and placed the rubrics in alphabetical order. [and created new chapters to sub-divide the larger Kentian derived chapters used in the Complete]. Murphy continued to develop his repertory through 3 editions, the last of which dates back to 2008.

Bringing ourselves up to date, [at time of writing] Jan Scholten has released, ‘The Repertory of the Elements’, based on his books, ‘Homoeopathy and Minerals’ and ‘Homoeopathy and the Elements’.

A 'Contemporary Repertory of the Meditative Provings' was also published in book form and is offered in the ISIS Vision software.

And, finally, looking to the future, Jeremy Sherr is currently working on an exciting new concept repertory which will, probably, be called ‘The Dynamic Repertory’.[regrettably this repertory has never been published - David]

Computer Repertories
The logical step from card repertories was finally realised in the 1980s with the development of personal computers. There were, and are, a number of Homoeopathic software programmes on the market, some perhaps not so highly developed, but used by many. But, within a few years of each other in the mid eighties, 3 new Homoeopathic software programmes arrived to gain prominence in the U.S. and Europe.

These were: ‘CARA’, by David Witko of Miccant in the U.K., which has now evolved to his new programme, ‘Isis Vision’; ‘Radar’, by Frederick Scroyens of Belgiums’s Archibel; and ‘MacRepertory’, by [the late] David Warkentin of Kent Homoeopathic Associates in the U.S.A. [now known as Synergy and owned by Raja Sankaran in India]

Three new repertories evolved out of these main Homoeopathic software programmes by making additions to or building on the already-incorporated Kent’s Repertory.

These were: ‘Synthesis Repertory’ within the Radar programme; ‘Complete Repertory’, edited by Roger van Zandvoort in the MacRepertory programme; and ‘Combined Repertory’ within CARA and ISIS vision.

Frederick Schroyen’s ‘Synthesis’ evolved to version 9.1. [as of 2007] since re-printed in book form but not enhanced in book or software form since 2009.

Roger van Zandvoort developed a new repertory, The ‘Repertorium Universale’. [since discontinued]. The Complete Repertory is under continual active development and has been hugely expanded.

These Kentian-derived modern computer repertories have come full circle in their separate ways to try to integrate Boenninghausen rubrics with Kentian ones to give us, as practitioners, the best of both worlds – the ability to combine in our work the flexibility of the analogical approach with the precision of those of the literal camp.

To bring everything fully up to date Jeremy Sherr has published (in software form only) his 'Repertory of Mental Qualities' (or QRep). This is a collection of 34 qualities that Jeremy feels offers practical and regular use in practice that removes the need to search for and combine similar rubrics for these leading 'qualities'

So the search for the perfect repertory and structure continues and, with use of computer data bases, integration of conflicting concepts is now possible. Literal and analogical approaches come together and one can choose to move from the general to the particular or the particular to the general, or both!