Today we have with us a person, who started his journey as a musician and moved on to become a person keenly interested in science, research, alternative medicine and homeopathy. He is well known in homeopathic research circles for his constant efforts to explore and understand many research issues related to homeopathy. Please welcome – Dr. Lionel Milgrom.
MB: Dr. Milgrom, welcome to the Hpathy Hot-Seat! It is our pleasure to have a leading researcher like you with us today and I look forward to a riveting discussion on various research issues related to homeopathy.
But before that let me ask you – from professional musician to chemist to being a homeopath and now a homeopathic researcher – how would you describe your journey?
LM: Thank you Manish….yes, I see what you mean by the Hot Seat. Such kind plaudits (these days, I’m more used to brickbats and abuse from all those naughty sceptics of homeopathy….) followed by questions like this can make one feel quite uncomfortable, and not just in the posterior….! And because one is suddenly asked to review one’s life as a sequence of apparently connected events – when as far as I can tell they represent moments when I may have been more or less conscious or aware (consciousness/awareness, you understand, being something that fluctuates – lawfully – from moment to moment) – then the effort to ‘join up the dots’ into something ‘rational’ can produce a certain kind of inner vertigo like looking down the wrong end of a telescope….Well, I am digressing, and we haven’t even started yet!
Okay, describe my journey….we could call it interesting? Too vague, perhaps….but even though there appears to be some diversity in the subjects I have been – still am – interested in, they do connect, though it might take several months to try to explain exactly how. What I can say is that I feel nothing I have ever done has been wasted: experiences in one field can produce metaphors for helping me to understand what might be happening in another…which is NOT an invitation to get me to explain how music might be a metaphor for homeopathy. I suppose what I am trying to say is that interest in something has to be more than just mental or intellectual. It has to be emotional as well, and that is what turns any subject into a real roller coaster. So, how would I describe my journey so far? What a ride….! And long may it continue.
MB: Yes! Long may it continue…because I have many pointed questions to come! 😉 . I understand that you do not want to share all those little secrets of your musical and chemical life, but you won’t get me choking in the web of phrases like ‘inner vertigo like looking down the wrong end of a telescope‘. What’s that? I have never even looked at the right end of a telescope! Never mind! Let’s discuss about just ONE dot in your life. What was your introduction to homeopathy and what pushed you into the realm of professional homeopathy from the world of chemistry?
LM: Oh well…perhaps that was a metaphor too far…! But you really should get out more, Manish and treat yourself to a good look at the heavens through a telescope. So, what got me into homeopathy was when my wife and I moved to London (from Liverpool….now that is an interesting story….), back in the late ’70’s and we signed up with our local NHS GP who was also a medical anthroposophical homeopath. He said we could be treated conventionally or with homeopathy. I didn’t know what it was but we elected for homeopathic treatment and whatever ills we suffered from at the time seemed to be cured. I never really questioned what was happening until my wife contracted pneumonia after bronchitis shortly after our son was born. She had several courses of antibiotics which didn’t touch her and only made her weaker. Then he prescribed these tiny white pills – Bryonia, I think it was – and she started to improve. At which point, he also suggested that she learn with a teacher to do the anthroposophical movements called eurhythmy. From that time till this, she has never had bronchitis or pneumonia again.
It was then that I asked my GP what was in those little white pills. What he told me didn’t only just blow me away: it was also an affront to everything I had learned (or thought I’d learned) as a scientist, about chemistry, matter, molecules, etc, etc. My GP didn’t mind, and he observed my perplexity with wry amusement. So, I had a problem: the evidence of my own eyes (repeated again and again over the years with my three children and now with my patients – some of the time….!) demonstrated that what was supposed to be ‘nothing’ was clearly ‘doing something’. Yet every chemical bone in my body as it were, was screaming that this had to be impossible. Just what the hell was going on?!
So, I made a decision towards the beginning of the 90’s that I would spend some time trying to find out how homeopathy ‘worked’. Notice, I have put this in inverted commas. Because part of the problem here is the everyday language that we use in describing the world…but maybe we’ll get onto that later. However, it took several more years before I could devote my attention to this ‘problem’. I was still trying to carve out an academic career in chemistry, my parents fell ill, and my kids were growing up.
Perhaps in the end, this was all to the good because having quite a few years to consider how to start, I began to realise that trying to attack this ‘problem’ with a purely scientific mind-set would not be enough. Something else was needed. It was then that I decided to train as a professional homeopath in London – to learn how to ‘walk the walk, and talk the talk’ of homeopathy. But then that had to be put off for another year, when my father died and my mother had to be taken care of. Eventually however, I started my 4-year part-time course of homeopathic study at the (sadly now defunct) London College of Homeopathy, and qualified in October 1999….
I should point out that there was another entrance to my homeopathic studies. Several years before I started to train, I was approached by the wife of a friend of mine. She was working in the remedy production facility of the famous homeopathic pharmacy Ainsworths in London. She wanted to know if I could provide small amounts of pure inorganic compounds – salts etc – as starting materials to make potentised remedies. As a chemist, of course, I could do this quite easily and this brought me into contact with Ainsworths’ owner in London, Tony Pinkus. He is a qualified pharmacist and so we began what became a series of interesting exchanges around homeopathy. I provided more compounds and Tony very generously provided many of the books I needed for my homeopathic studies. Later, towards the end of my homeopathy course, we embarked on a research project to see if it would be possible to use a powerful spectroscopic technique, called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), to look at the potentisation process. After three years, this provided one or two surprises – some not altogether pleasant – but it resulted in the first published paper (see LR Milgrom, KR King, J Lee, and AS Pinkus. On the investigation of homeopathic potencies using low resolution NMR T2 relaxation times: an experimental and critical survey of the work of Roland Conte et al. British Homeopathic Journal 2001;90:5-13).
So you see, it wasn’t quite that I was pushed from one world into another – from chemistry into homeopathy. What has really happened is that these worlds for me have come into contact…. or perhaps collision might be a better way of describing it! Remember, I said nothing is ever wasted….so as well as studying homeopathy and learning how to practice it with real suffering people (as opposed to just thinking about it academically), it has also resulted in a change in how I understand chemistry and science….indeed, how we look at the world.
MB: Yes, homeopathy changes the way you look at life. I think nearly every person who is passionate about homeopathy became a convert after seeing some radical cures – myself included. And I can easily understand how your ‘chemical bones’ must have felt on realizing the implausibility of what we are dealing with, because my metaphysical bones felt exactly the same way, when I tried to understand the science behind homeopathy.
Now this leads to four questions:
1. Where do I buy a good telescope …something close to Hubble? Or do I need a bigger one?
2. Do you provide any grants for buying telescopes to people whom you suggest to get a telescope?