Mike Bridger is the Principal of The Contemporary College of Homeopathy in Bristol, U.K and co-director of The Orion Postgraduate Training Course held annually in London. The college provides various homeopathy courses for beginners to professional homeopaths. He has been practicing and teaching for thirty years and has taught at most of the colleges in the U.K, as well as in Ireland, the U.S.A, Iceland, and Finland. He is a highly sought out lecturer because of his down to earth wisdom and humour.”
AS: Kent, Farrington, Hering and Boenninghausen had an ability to hold massive amounts of detail in their heads. They had no computers but worked out complex cases. Were they smarter pound for pound than our best homeopaths today?
MB: Well I can’t use a pencil sharpener without needing the manual so I’m not the person to ask re computers. They are not encouraged at my college until the final year. They can make you lazy and stop you thinking about the case. To differentiate remedies you can simply put in another symptom not minding if it is common or not appropriate to the case. The other danger is that the clever kids like to eliminate the major remedies and look for some minor remedy that no-one has heard of and behold you can run a days seminar showing how clever you are because no-one ever thought of it. I once did a conference speech and talked about Phosphorus and people said they would have been more interested if I had done smaller remedies. More often than not small remedies are small because they aren’t often indicated and therefore not used a lot. The fashion seems to be to come up with remedies that are not often used in practice. The hard work in using the repertory as a book is that it pays in the end because you look at a case and quickly identify what needs to be cured. You learn to do this for the sake of time and economy. Overall, like any tool, it all depends on the user.
AS: There are lots of esoteric remedies being proven, sometimes with meditative provings or group provings, and young homeopaths are opting for those when the case shouts out for a polychrest. Could you comment on that?
MB: Well I have written and spoken about this many times and it makes me unpopular! I once spoke at the Irish Conference and did a presentation of a mock proving of ‘The magic Mirror’ from the story of ‘ Snow White’. –a sample of which I pretended to have obtained from a friend who worked in Disney Land. I asked seven hecklers in the audience (set up by me) to come down to the auditorium and take the remedy. At the end of my talk I got them to shout from the back that they had taken the pills and nothing had happened. Then I got them to walk down to the front, and they were dressed as the seven dwarves. Now everyone was crying with laughter for a while but then I was ‘sent to Coventry’. People I knew wouldn’t speak to me. I had broken the unspoken rule not to be critical.
It is of course madness. The idea that a bunch of people can sit around and picture in their heads a unicorn and come up with the symptoms of a substance that doesn’t exist or play a piece of Beethoven to a phial of liquid and find the symptoms of Beethovens 5th Symphony seems to most reasonable people, grounds for calling the emergency services. Then we have those enlightened folk who are told by spiritual guides (usually an ex- red Indian chief) what a substance will do and write books about it. Usually the substance chosen gives the game away. It won’t be a piece of rotting meat like Pyrogen, or a flea (Pulex) but some tail feather of a mythical bird, or the legendry city of Atlantis. Now don’t get me wrong. I have met some powerful healers who work in these ways but we have to be clear that it is not homeopathic. Homeopathy is a therapeutic system and not a spiritual path for the chosen few. It is a system of simplicity and is available to all , not just to be used for those more evolved/deluded (delete as appropriate) than the rest of us. The language of course is appealing to students. It is poetic and seductive and eliminates the need for a repertory, a knowledge of material medica, an understanding of how the body functions (anatomy and physiology, pathology etc) In fact it takes away the need for the poor student to even have a brain.The problem is that as homeopaths we are setting ourselves up to deal with people who are sick and in pain. We either adhere to the principles and succeed or we muddle up our thinking with this junk and fail. By fail, I mean we fail to relieve our patient of their pain and suffering and that to me is inexcusable.
When we have been given the honour, by luck or circumstance,tohold the torch high for homeopathy (which is so brilliant,inspiring and so much for the good) and then extinguish the flame of that torch, by ego –disguised as ‘spirituality’ then we are no better, indeed worse, than those elements in orthodox medicine that we rail against. Our job is to get people better and that is all. We are moving to a kind of thinking (or lack of) where the analysis of a case is interesting primarily for its poetic themes or some unintelligible analysis rather that how the patient did. I saw a case recently in a journal where the means of analysis was so convoluted and exhaustive, lasting over a year of consultations, that you would be forgiven for thinking the case might be the revival of a relative pronounced dead. No, the end result of this obscure analysis was that the patient’s hay fever was somewhat improved. Somewhat improved? If that was my case I would have given up and got a job as a window cleaner!
AS: There seems to be a movement toward psychologising all cases, looking for some deep seated mental at the expense of concrete symptoms. Is this moving homeopathy to a higher level, or are we going off the track?
MB: Well this used to be a tendency of the ‘classical’ cult over here and was more prevalent in my early years in practice. I look upon this interpretation of homeopathy with nostalgia, now given the latest trends discussed above. But look, we are not psychotherapists. We are primarily clinicians. Neither is our job to define our treatment by speculative causations in the mental and emotional realm. It is really clear in ‘The Organon’ , our job is to deal with what is there and that is all. We don’t need to know the causation at all! We do need to know and observe the consequences, the reaction of the patient as defined by symptoms. ‘Perceived externally’ is Hahnemann’s comment here; Not chiselled out of the patients inner psyche and then mixed into a pot of the prescribers beliefs and speculations. Homeopathy is brilliant because it asserts that cause and effect are one and the same thing. Hey, spiritual people out there, what I am saying is: ‘what is above is below, ‘what is out is in’. How about that for guru speak!
Kent is much maligned in this respect. He is misrepresented when he is used to justify this idea that you must find mental symptoms to prescribe. Look at his cases and read what he says about prescribing on pathology.
AS: Most of the homeopathic hospitals in the UK have either closed or been downgraded and now the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, the last one with full service is under attack. After 200 years of magnificent cures and lives saved during epidemics, all it takes is for some ignorant official to say “The remedies are too dilute to be effective” and suddenly once great hospitals are defunded. What’s going on here? How does homeopathy keep from getting buried under lies?
MB: Well there will always be ignorant officials and always be lies. There will always be homeopathy too. There is a lot of vested interest behind this media inquisition of alternative medicine and it is pretty obvious who is stirring the wooden spoon. Things go in circles. The hospitals reached their zenith during the great untreatable epidemics and then antibiotics came in. Now the antibiotics aren’t working and when the epidemics return , which they will, the hospitals will be open for business again.
Personally, I have great faith in the intelligence of most ordinary folk. They know what makes sense. ‘The divine right of kings’ crumbled to dust. The same is happening to politicians, priests and the medical profession. They are on a downward slide. Power can’t stay power if it is a lie. Look at the Blair/ Bush war. All the media and powers that be were trying to convince us that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. With schoolboy amateurism, and evidence as thin as cellophane, they got the media behind them. Other governments were forced to join in this charade too, and yet mass demonstrations were held throughout Europe and other countries. People knew it was all rubbish. People aren’t stupid. They can be misinformed but they aren’t stupid. As Kent says, the vital force is imbued with intelligence.
AS: Do case presentations with clever magic bullet cures distort the reality of actual practice? Should we present more failed or “stuck” cases for teaching?
MB: It can do. Actually we need to show the process of someone getting better. This is hardly ever a one- remedy shot. This ‘magic bullet’ cure is only good for teaching first year students an illustration of a remedy for materia medica purposes. It is not great if the agenda is showing how clever the prescriber is. We don’t teach enough how remedies move from one to the other and how patients shift likewise. We need to focus more on follow- ups and less on the initial prescription
AS: A lot of research effort and resources goes into what I call defensive homeopathy, trying to prove to sceptics that it works. Is that money well spent?
MB: I am against being defensive because it is a waste of energy. I am for research for its own sake. I love the sceptics and I find them very entertaining. I spent weeks on a blog with them and had such fun. I picture these sad nerds sitting in their rooms, still living with their mum, living off crisps and waiting for a cheque to drop through the post from some pharmaceutical agency, so they can buy some goods waggons for the train set.
I had a great conversation with a sceptic on a radio programme and asked him to explain how farm animals got better with homeopathy. He said ‘placebo’. I asked him for the evidence. He referred me to a trial. I checked it and it was for a trial on kids with measles! I asked him how this was evidence for placebo in animals. I gave an example of my sister phoning me up about her horse lying on its back in a field with colic. She has no belief or otherwise in homeopathy. I suggested China which she gave and within 5 minutes the horse was up and about. Neither my sister nor the horse were advocates of homeopathy, and besides, the horse could not hear me on the phone to my sister. I accepted that there was a slim possibility that the horse had leapt out of the field and spied on my sister and listened to the phone conversation, but then the the sceptic would have to prove that and also prove that the horse spoke English. (I would want proper clinical trials as evidence of this.)
Now the man was getting frustrated on the phone and suggested that sometimes owners think their animals are better when really they are not. I asked him if he was seriously suggesting that my sister was jumping around the hills thinking she was on a horse when really the animal had died. Did he really think this was possible? Was this a serious scientific assertion on his part? The phone went dead.
No, I feel sorry for the sceptics or laugh at them but don’t take them seriously.
AS: Do you have a favourite hypothesis about how homeopathy works? How important is the answer to that age old question?
MB: Well, just for once I am going to play guru, Alan. Yes I do know the answer to that question and when you are ready to hear it Alan, then you will hear it yourself. Ha!
AS: Hahaha! I think I hear the sound of one hand clapping. Thanks for sharing with us today. I enjoyed it and I know our readers will also.