The Special Therapeutics of Bruce Barwell

by Glaisyer Mary

Quick Overview

We are thrilled to bring you the publication The Special Therapeutics of Bruce Barwell compiled and edited by Mary Glaisyer. Mary has done a wonderful job, undertaking this massive project over the last few years, compiling Bruce’s notes, thoughts and homeopathic tips. The book is also available from Mary Glaisyer in Nelson to order Email:


FOREWORD AND COMMENTARY ON CONTEXT OF THIS VALUABLE VOLUME by Susanna Shelton Firstly, I wish to acknowledge the labour of love and tribute to the life's work of Bruce Barwell compiled here by Mary Glaisyer. And my thanks to all those former students and patients of Bruce's who have supported Mary's efforts to create this resource. It is all the more valuable as time passes since Bruce's death and some of his students are retiring from teaching or practice. To appreciate this volume, it is worth describing the clinical history and context into which it speaks. Primarily, Bruce's approach to homeopathic practice is what has often been characterised as a "therapeutic approach". This methodology has had many exponents since the earliest days of homeopathy but alongside its exponents it has had many vociferous detractors. Debates about the philosophical purity of the "therapeutic approach" raged during the time that Mary and I were both students at the College of Homeopathy in London in the 1980s. Our most influential teachers of the time were Robert Davidson, Martin Miles, Barbara Harwood and Sheilagh Creasy. It was a time when George Vithoulkas' interpretation of "classical" homeopathy was ascendant and the search for the exact simillimum for every patient was a Holy Grail held up as attainable if only the practitioner were thorough in case taking, did an exhaustive repertorisation and prescribed a single remedy (in highest potencies) and waited long intervals between prescriptions. This 'classical' method was purported to be the antithesis of the (heretical) "therapeutic approach" and was lauded as the "highest ideal" by many of the most influential teachers of the day. These two seemingly mutually exclusive methods, "classical" vs. "therapeutics", were taught at college and seminars. As students and new practitioners we were quite torn between the strident (nearly evangelical) claims of different methodologies and the inference that an opposing methodology was a form of heretical - if not unethical - practice. Some of our teachers warned against prescribing for specific or acute conditions in the fear that it would interfere with "constitutional" treatment. Some colleges did not include any therapeutics teaching in their curriculum - even first aid therapeutics - focusing exclusively on equipping practitioners to treat chronic conditions from a "constitutional" philosophy. Some very experienced clinicians like Robert Davidson and Sheilagh Creasy presented cases whereby they integrated the seemingly mutually exclusive methodologies. They were thereby able to demonstrate how to address specific conditions with therapeutic remedies (often obscure ones) and stimulate the deeper constitutional well-being (often with the use of polychrests and nosodes). Further exploration of therapeutic approaches to treatment were discovered by those of us who read classics such as Clarke's Prescriber and Dewey's Therapeutics or the works of James Compton Burnett, O.A. Julian or Donald Foubister. When Mary and I arrived in New Zealand (she in 1988 and I in 1991) we found the methodological divides between "classical" and "therapeutic" that we'd experienced in England (and my native USA) alive and well in the New Zealand Homeopathic community. Bruce Barwell was by far and away the most senior clinician in the country and President of the NZ Homoeopathic Society. Bruce had received formal training in homeopathy while travelling in India and his clinical practice was very much influenced by his teachers, Dr Diwan-Harish Chand and B.K. Bose (a student of James Tyler Kent), and also the writings of Hahnemann, Boenninghausen, Kent and other great homeopaths of the 19th and early 20th century. The theoretical and practical experience he gained in India was the foundation for what became a lifetime of research and experimentation. Bruce's keen intelligence, infinite curiosity, compassion for the suffering of all sentient beings, and his tremendous physical stamina made him a very effective practitioner of the science and art of homeopathy. Bruce read voraciously - the homeopathic classics and the lesser known journals and minor writings. He slept little and he read widely. He spoke 15 languages, including Chinese - all self-taught. He studied all the major faith traditions, committing to memory many of their sacred texts. He translated a significant canon of Buddhist teachings used around the world. He studied tropical fish, botany and music of all kinds and had an incessant curiosity about life and the natural world in the areas of chemistry, bio-chemistry, nutrition, Chinese medicine, botany, pharmacology, psychology and psychiatry - all things medical and medicinal. His vast knowledge base and clinical experience (calculated at over 12,800 clients by his wife Ruth who diligently assisted him in running the practice and dispensary from premises in the Gifford's Building, Vulcan Lane, Auckland) combined to effect very focused clinical case taking and some unique prescribing practices. Bruce would typically conduct a patient interview and prescribe in a very efficient manner. This was in contrast to the typical constitutional case-taking approaches taught in classical homeopathy colleges of the day. The brevity of his case taking was made possible by Bruce's focus on the disease at hand (pathology) and ability to quickly isolate the most important (often strange, rare, peculiar or atypical) symptoms on which to prescribe. He used all published repertories but the greatest reference was his own internalised repertory. Bruce's lectures, writings and clinical teachings were ways in which he conveyed snippets of the therapeutic gold mine that was his internalised repertory. Students of Bruce's over the years furiously wrote down the snippets of cases and indications for his prescriptions for specific conditions and strategies for case management. Mary Glaisyer has collected these clinical gems and given a good description of Bruce's philosophy and how he applied it in the Introduction to this volume. It is essential to read and understand this in order to get the most benefit from the repertory she has created from the extant material of his teachings. As a student and colleague of Bruce's I commend this skillfully distilled, useable repertory and clinical index for homeopaths everywhere. I hope that the use of Bruce's therapeutics will continue to help thousands of people and all sentient beings. That would be a fitting and appropriate continuity and legacy to the compassionate and creative clinical work of Bruce Barwell. Susanna Shelton, BA, MDiv, RCHom, ADH Former Principal & CEO: Bay of Plenty College of Homeopathy, New Zealand Sydney College of Homeopathic Medicine, Australia Past Co-President & National Executive Member, New Zealand Council of Homeopaths