Robert Davidson - A Personal Tribute by Ian Watson


The death of a person who has played a significant role in your life creates an opportunity for reflection, recollection of times spent together and appreciation for the gifts they shared. On hearing of the recent death of Robert Davidson, I wanted to share a few personal memories of this unique individual who touched so many lives.

I first met Robert in 1985 when I enrolled on the new full-time homeopathy training in London that he and Barbara Harwood were just about to launch. I told him I only had enough money to pay for one term, having saved up a year's fees for the part-time training, and then switching at the last minute when I discovered there was a full-time option available. "Don't worry about it", he said, "if you sign up, the money will come". Little did I know that my training with Robert had already begun, and it was going to be about a lot more than homeopathy!

As pioneer groups tend to be, we were a boisterous and unruly bunch, and Robert was reveling in the opportunity to whip us into shape. He told us right from the start: "I'm not training you to be practitioners, I'm training you to be teachers". He was deeply concerned about the state of homeopathy and the direction it was taking - trying to gain recognition and approval on the one hand, and getting caught up in ideological battles about the 'right way' to practice on the other hand.

Robert could see that in the short to medium term, it was going to be a difficult period for homeopathy, and he wanted to plant something in our minds that could withstand the coming storms. At that time, he spoke with reverence about his mentor and teacher Thomas Maughan, who, as well as being Chief Druid, had nurtured a small group of students and turned them into homeopaths at a time when it was almost a lost art, at least in the U.K. There was a sense of Thomas Maughan having kept alive a barely-flickering flame of truth, and Robert felt a kind of moral responsibility to carry that flame forward so that it could ignite a future generation of healers and homeopaths.

One thing that was both shocking and admirable about Robert was his total disregard for other people's opinions. He could be charming, rude, arrogant, contentious, provocative, all in the space of twenty minutes. Most memorably, though, he was inspirational. When Robert was in full flow, you were held spellbound, and would come out of his lectures a different person, without even being able to recall what he had spoken about. He was a true visionary, who could see far beyond the everyday horizons, and he seemed to accept the inevitable isolation that goes with that role.

As I got to know Robert over time, he took me under his wing and would hire me to do all kinds of jobs in exchange for paying off my course fees. I ran the college book-store for several years, helped him to move his house and clinic, he even had me decorate his new home one time. He would tell me at short notice to pack my bag, pick me up in London in his old hand-built Bristol classic car, and we would hit the road to Devon in the evening. He would set the cruise control to 95mph, light up a big fat cigar and play ZZ-Top full-blast on the stereo all the way.

Looking back, I can see that many of the best things I learned from Robert were taught indirectly - he had a way of stretching you and opening you up that wasn't always obvious at the time and yet had a deep and lasting impact. He would, for example, suddenly stop the car and take me to what looked to me like an expensive restaurant. Reading my mind, he would hand me the menu and casually say, "Don't look at the numbers, just order what you want." And he would get a huge kick out of watching me squirm and struggle to accommodate this new, mind-blowing possibility.

It was Robert who opened my eyes to the fact that what we believe shapes our experience of life - and that we don't give up our beliefs easily, even if they are limiting or restricting us in some invisible way. It could often seem as though he wanted to be right and for everyone to think the way he thought, but I didn't experience him that way. For me, his primary concern was that people should wake the hell up and learn to think for themselves, rather than blindly following what they had been told.

As far as his approach to homeopathy was concerned, Robert was essentially eclectic and pragmatic. He thought it ludicrous that practitioners were more concerned with following the rules and practicing the 'right' way than they were with helping people to heal. To counter this tendency, he coined the term 'appropriopathy' and created a methodological framework that freed the practitioner to use whatever approach made sense to them for a given patient. My book A Guide to the Methodologies of Homeopathy could not have been written had Robert not created a context for it that didn't previously exist.

Just as Robert had intended, myself and many of my colleagues went on to become teachers and to run our own homeopathic training schools and colleges. I think it's fair to say that the template he created has been replicated throughout the U.K. and beyond, and that at least some of what he imparted to those of us who were fortunate to learn from him has continued to infuse and inform our work. His legacy is such that, even those in the homeopathic community who never met him or heard him speak are nonetheless reaping the benefit of the seeds he planted and nurtured.

I met Robert one final time quite a few years after our paths had diverged and we had gone our separate ways. Knowing of his fascination with the idea of physical immortality, I teased him on how well he was ageing. He responded by calling me something unrepeatable. He loved dark, sarcastic humour, and there was no malice in it.

We quickly got into a deep discussion about the state of homeopathy, and I mentioned some of the political things that were happening at the time. He stopped me and looked me right in the eye. "We're context warriors, Ian" he said. "It's not our job to get involved in all of that." Like many of the things he would spontaneously come out with, I wasn't at all sure I understood what he meant, but I knew that it was true.

R.I.P. Robert Davidson 1946 - 2018