Llewelyn Ralph Twentyman: 6 June 1914–29 April 2010
29 December 2017 (online)
“Spirit is never without Matter, Matter never without Spirit.”
Ralph Twentyman passed away peacefully at home shortly before his 96th birthday.
He was born on 6th June 1914 into a wealthy family living in the Wolverhampton area. Despite the First World War and the difficult economic times that followed, he had an idyllic childhood growing up in the country with loving parents and even a jolly butler. He was rather a shy boy who disliked parties and occasionally needed to withdraw – he was often found hiding in the bushes. His father, a successful businessman, had a reputation for being a great teaser. His mother was both artistic and musical and in addition a great teller of imaginative stories to her children.
He was a senior member of the medical staff of the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital (RLHH) for over 30 years until his retirement in 1979. For those who in later years knew him as a physician, teacher, mentor, boss and colleague, these influences in his early childhood, as well as those of his formative years, will come as no great surprise. We will never forget the booming laughter emanating from his consulting room audible all over the basement outpatient department, his challenging teaching sessions and his immense contributions, both clinical and non-clinical, to the development and survival of the RLHH before and after the Trident air disaster at Staines in 1972.
Ralph was privately tutored until the age of nine when he went to a preparatory school in Liphook. At the age of fourteen he went to public school at Shrewsbury. He gained a scholarship to Cambridge to read medicine. However, once there he became so dissatisfied with the lack of a human aspect to medicine and research that he interrupted his studies and went to London to become a follower of Dimitrije Mitrinović who became his spiritual mentor. Mitrinović was secretary of the New Europe Group and later started the New Atlantis Foundation. This group of young intellectuals was particularly interested in literature; mythology; social questions and the psychological approaches of Freud, Adler and Jung. It was Mitrinović who introduced Ralph to Anthroposophy, he remained a fatherly friend until his death in 1953. Ralph returned to Cambridge to complete his medical degree. He then worked at University College Hospital, London as a House Physician and then as Casualty Medical Officer and later Medical Registrar.
Mitrinović introduced Ralph to Karl König, the founder of the Camphill Schools which led to a fruitful working relationship and friendship. Ralph was trustee and Vice President of the Camphill movement until his death. König in turn introduced him to Dr Rita Leroi and Dr Kaelin who pioneered the use of mistletoe in the treatment for cancer (as proposed by Rudolph Steiner) in Arlesheim, Switzerland. For Ralph this opened up a whole new world of understanding about the human being. Having struggled greatly with the reductionist approach of modern medicine, he now found ways of answering questions regarding psychosomatic phenomena, and gained an approach to the Anthroposophical contribution to medicine.
In 1939 he married Jean Rutherford, the sister of a school friend, they had three children – Alex, Elizabeth and Philip. During the Second World War he joined the RAF Medical Service as was posted first as Physician to the RAF Hospital in Cairo and subsequently as Medical Specialist to the RAF Hospital in Habbaniyah, in Iraq. After returning in 1947, his marriage broke down and he was left with the care of his three young children. His close friends gave much needed support. It was probably his all-prevailing humour, so much part of his personality, which helped him to tackle life again. He would later use this humour, together with his empathy and deep interest in his fellow human beings, as a therapeutic tool to help his patients. His second marriage in 1949 was to Jean Grizzy, an ophthalmologist, they had a son, Orion. Grizzy, as she was generally known, lovingly brought up all four children.
Ralph took a course in homeopathy at the RLHH and was appointed Assistant Physician in 1948. In due course he was appointed Consultant Physician, a position which held until his retirement in 1979. In 1958 he was appointed editor of the British Homeopathic Journal which he then carried for 21 years until his retirement. He served as President of the Faculty of Homoeopathy from 1961–1964.
In 1956 he met Dr John Raeside, a colleague at RLHH. They became great friends and together, despite some internal opposition from more ‘classically-orientated’ homoeopaths, introduced an Anthroposophical approach and related remedies to the hospital
Ralph and Grizzy narrowly escaped death in 1972. They were due to attend the LMHI Congress in Brussels with John Raeside and a number of senior homoeopaths and colleagues from the RLHH. However Grizzy decided at the last minute that she wanted to go to Bruges with Ralph for a short holiday before the conference, so they rebooked their flight. When they arrived at the conference, they found that John, their friends, colleagues had all died in the Trident air disaster at Staines. There were no survivors. Ralph gave a moving address in memory of those who were killed (which is reprinted in this issue of the Journal) but this tragedy affected him deeply. Indeed, this event is still remembered by many today. Three years later Grizzy died.
In 1979, with his retirement, a new phase of life began; Ralph and Annelie Raeside, John’s widow, married and moved to Forest Row. For 15 years Ralph gave weekly medical lectures at Tobias School of Art and other UK Anthroposophical Institutions and also lectured in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A., Hawaii, Japan, Denmark and Ireland. He was always accompanied by Annelie who gave workshops at the same events.
During these years he also wrote two books. “The Science and Art of Healing”, was a compilation of previously published papers with some fresh contributions, published in 1989. His second book, “Medicine, Mythology and Spirituality”, published in 2004 when he was 90 years old, deals with disease as a human phenomenon rather than a chemical or physical error.
Ralph was very well read and had a tremendous library. His lecturing style was unscripted, spontaneous and packed with colourful imagery and classical allusions and at times flights of fancy. Even when one did not agree with him, one had to admire his style and eloquence and he made a lasting impression on all those who heard him speak. Ralph was a very clear, sharp thinker and Rudolph Steiner’s maxim: “Spirit is never without Matter, Matter never without Spirit” makes a most appropriate motto for his lifelong striving for knowledge and deeper understanding.
Until his very last days Ralph Twentyman remained sharp-witted in discussions and deep conversations. On the day he passed away (29th April 2010), at around lunchtime, he said farewell to his wife in a clear but non-verbal way. He wanted to die alone. When she came back into the room he had already crossed the threshold.
He will be remembered as a striving but humorous Anthroposophist and homeopath as well as an outstanding physician who adeptly appealed to both the light and serious sides of people and a great human being to have known.