Medicine, Mythology and Spirituality. Recollecting the Past and Willing the Future
21 December 2017 (online)
R. Twentyman, Forest Row, UK, Sophia Books, ISBN 1-85584-182-7, 2004
With his new book ‘Medicine, Mythology and Spirituality’ Ralph Twentyman has produced the perfect companion for his previous work ‘The Science and Art of Healing’. We are fortunate that his wife Annelie encouraged him to get his thoughts down on paper and her artistic contribution to the cover makes this a handsome volume. ‘Medicine, Mythology and Spirituality’ comes at a time when there is great interest in consciousness and spirituality, as witnessed for example by the astonishing number of papers published on the power of prayer. A visit to any local bookstore reveals a staggering number of titles examining these subjects. Twentyman has an extraordinary capacity to write about the wholeness of man and also provides a remarkable reading list to stimulate for many years.
Many readers will have enjoyed Twentyman's lectures and I clearly recall how he would delight his audience with interesting and challenging expositions. It is a tremendous achievement that in his 90th year he has offered his homeopathic colleagues such a thought provoking and stimulating book. He is very generous in his willingness to share the fruits of years of thought and study.
I first met Ralph Twentyman whilst doing the long course at Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital in the mid-1980s. Every Friday afternoon the class would gather in the Library at Powis Place. Ralph, friendly and imposing with a ready smile and a wonderful laugh, would take us on a remarkable tour through natural science, mythology, the history of medicine and homeopathy. He had the happy knack of turning the world upside down. He is a free spirit not fettered by convention who delights in tackling the difficult questions that most of us shy away from. He is an excellent observer with a formidable intellectual curiosity and zest for life. He deals with complexity in an expansive and coherent way yet remains diligent with the detail.
‘Medicine, Mythology and Spirituality’ is a serious book and will repay repeated reading and digesting. Twentyman has a wonderful turn of phrase and his literary quotes add to the pleasure of his book. It is small with 118 pages but the content is broad and deep, containing an overview of the history of medicine and the evolution of consciousness as well as numerous myths and quirky, illuminating scientific observations and theories.
The central problem the book tackles is the crisis facing humanity today and our collective inability to come up with creative solutions to solve this crisis. The book explores the paradigms underpinning our medical and scientific culture. As a young man Ralph Twentyman was struck by the realization that medicine was based on the study of death and not on the study of the vital flow of life. Early in his career he recognized the need to reintegrate the mind and the body. At the age of 21 he had the good fortune to come across ‘Exploring the Unconscious’ by George Groddeck. This opened a new world to him and subsequently he met Dimitrije Mitrinovic who introduced him to the work of Rudolf Steiner.
The 15 chapters in the book gently guide the reader through the evolution of consciousness and thought. It is fascinating to reflect on how our ancestors saw life in everything including the heavens. Nature was a loving goddess. People in the past lived with an awareness of natural forces and ancestral spirits and in unconscious unity with each other. With the Greeks came an awareness of logic and this began the gradual demise of the ability to sense the spirit world. Aristotle bequeathed to western civilization the tools for the technological development that we now enjoy. The other side of this advancement has been the loss of the ability to see our world as a whole and we have become fixated on the material aspects of our existence. This has serious consequences.
Twentyman gives numerous examples of how we have become lost in materialism. The publication of Vesalius’ illustrated anatomy in 1543 began a long tradition of looking at the corpse for answers to disease. Much of medicine is based on the study of death and has followed the path of reductionism so that today we understand disease at a molecular level. In pursuing the study of lifeless mechanisms we lose sight of the whole vital person who is unwell. This fragmented or point-wise study of our world, both in medicine and in science, is reflected macroscopically in society with the cult of individualism. We are now emancipated from the unconscious unity with each other that the ancients enjoyed. The consequences of this loss however, are that we are isolated and lonely. We are awake but life is random and meaningless. This situation has led to the catastrophic problems that the planet is facing and a devastating rise in mental and degenerative disease.
The solution proposed by this book is the integration of the material and spiritual realms. His book is full of fascinating examples of how to look at our world differently. Goethe, a contemporary of Hahnemann, espoused the view that with imagination it was possible to see the living metamorphosing ‘idea’ of a living organism. This may be the interface for the action of homeopathic medication with living organisms. With our reliance on sense perception, we see only the dead material ‘stuff’ that fills the immaterial spiritual form and practices such as homeopathy are anathema to this world view.
In summary humanity is in crisis. We are however awake. The task is to continue to evolve and ultimately to enjoy conscious unity with each other. We can learn to experience the spiritual world and in doing so our egos will gather the courage that will allow us to hold the balance between disease and health. The illnesses that are troubling mankind at this time are the birth pangs of a new consciousness, and to quote Twentyman: ‘among such reborn egos new communities would arise based on the recognition and love of other individualities, unique beings as real as my self.’
‘Medicine, Mythology and Spirituality’ will appeal to practitioners who are interested in history and not afraid of new and different ideas. Other recent titles which I have enjoyed and which complement this volume are ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckart Tolle,’ Anatomy of the Spirit’ by Caroline Myss and ‘The Heartmath Solution’ by Doc Childre and Howard Martin. These books offer practical guidance for the integration of mind, body and spirit.
The experience of reading this book is like settling down to a very good conversation with a wise and well-read friend. I would highly recommend this book. It is stimulating and infused with an obvious love of knowledge.