Fundamentals of Anthroposophical Medicine
28 October 1922 p.m., Stuttgart
In these lectures we are naturally able to present only a few indications as to a method of approach to therapeutic issues, as revealed by spiritual scientific study. The short time at our disposal makes it impossible to enter into details. My own opinion, however, is that at the beginning of the work that it is spiritual science's aim to carry through in the domain of medicine, the most important thing is to make our viewpoint quite clear. This viewpoint has been carefully applied in certain specific details in the preparation of our remedies. It may not be immediately evident how this more general viewpoint can be extended to specific cases, but in describing certain principles of method today I will do my best to suggest thoughts that may help in this direction also.
The human organism in its states of health and disease — or, to say it better for our purpose today, in its states of being healthy and becoming healthy — cannot really be understood unless the so-called normal functions are regarded as being, fundamentally, simply metamorphoses of the functions that must be called into action in order to combat pathological conditions. We must always take into account the fact that the processes within the human organism are different from those unfolding in the outer world. To begin with, we must remember that everything the human being takes into his digestive tract from outside in the plant world, for instance, must be worked through so that man can further enliven it. The process of vitalization, the enlivening, must be an activity of the human being himself; indeed the human organism could not exist without undertaking this enlivening.
We must be clear from the outset that the plant covering of our earth is passing through the opposite process from that which takes its course within the human being. When we speak of a process of vitalization along the path taken by human nourishment through the organism, we have to do with an ascending curve, a curve ascending from the essentially inorganic, as it were, to the state of vitalization — to the living state — and from there to a condition that can be the bearer of sensation and finally to a condition that can be the bearer of the ego organization. When we speak of working through our nourishment up to the point where it is received into the astral organism, to the point where it is received into that which bears the world of sensation, we are speaking about a process of increasing enlivening of what is taken in through nourishment.
The reverse occurs in the plant. In all the peripheral organs of the plant, that is to say in the development of the plant from below upward, in the production of the leaf and blossom processes, we have a process of devitalization, fundamentally speaking. The vitality is preserved for the seed alone. If we are speaking about the initial plant — for the seed in the ovary really represents the next plant that will come into being, that which is stored up for the future plant — if, as I say, we are speaking of the initial plant, vitalization does not take place from below upward. The vitality is sucked up from what is stored by the earth out of the forces of the sun's warmth and light from the previous year. We find the strongest life force in the root nature, and there is a gradual process of devitalization from below upward.
When we reach the flower petals of plants that contain strong ethereal oils in their blossoms, we have an expression of the most powerful devitalizing process of all. Such a process is often connected with an actual working through of sulfur, for instance. Sulfur is then contained, as substance, in the ethereal oil of the blossom, or it is at least near the ethereal oils of the blossom and is actually responsible for the process whereby the plant is led over into the realm of the most weightless inorganic substance — which is still, however, on the borderline of the organic, of the living. It is exceptionally important to realize what we are bringing into our organism when we introduce plant substances. The plant is engaged in the opposite process from that which occurs in the human organism.
If we proceed from this and turn to consider actual illness, we must say to ourselves that the plant element — and it is the same with other substances in the outer world, and to a much higher degree with the animal element — is really opposed to what unfolds in the human organism as a tendency to call forth this or that process. When we look into the process of nourishment in the human being without prejudice, therefore, we must admit that all food introduced into the human organism is something that this organism must utterly transform, reverse. Fundamentally speaking, therefore, all nourishment is the beginning of a kind of poisoning. We must be clear, then, that actual poisoning is only a radical metamorphosis of what arises in a mild form when any food is brought into contact, let us say, with the ptyalin. The further course of the digestion, particularly what is brought about by what I have described to you as the kidney activity, is always a process of eliminating the poisoning. Thus we pass through the rhythm of a mild poisoning and its elimination when we simply eat and digest our daily food. This represents the most mild metamorphosis of the process that arises in greater intensity when a remedy is introduced into the organism. That is why it is nonsense to be fanatical about medicine that is “free from poison.” It is nonsense, because the only point at issue is this: in what way are (we intensifying what already happens in ordinary digestion by introducing something to the human organism that is more foreign to this organism than what we ordinarily digest?
Real understanding of the human organism is necessary before we can estimate the value of an external remedy for this organism. Let us begin with something that is continually present within the human organism as a remedy — the iron in the blood. The iron in the blood continually plays the role of remedy, protecting us from our innate tendency to become ill. I will describe this to you, to begin with, in a primitive way. You know that if our brain were to rest upon its base with its weight of some 1,500 grams, the cerebral blood vessels there would obviously be crushed. The brain does not rest upon its base but floats in the cerebral fluid and, in accordance with the principle of buoyancy, loses as much of its weight as the weight of the volume of fluid displaced. Thus the brain presses on its base with a weight of only about 20 grams instead of 1,500 grams.
This is a fact of fundamental importance because it shows us that the force of gravity is not the determining factor in what underlies the functions of the brain, in ego activity, for instance. This ego activity and also, to a great extent, conceptual activity — in so far as it is not will activity but purely conceptual activity (I am referring now to the physical correlate of this, the brain activity) — is not dependent on the gravity of the substance in question but on the force of buoyancy. It relies on the force that wants to alienate substance from the earth. With our ego and with our thoughts, we are living not in gravity but in levity, in buoyancy. This comes to light in a powerful way when we study the matter.
The same thing that is true for the brain holds good for much else in the human organism — above all, for the iron bearing blood corpuscles floating in the blood. Each of these corpuscles loses as much of its weight as the weight of the volume of fluid displaced. Now, if we live with our soul-being in a force of buoyancy, just think what having more or less of these iron-bearing blood corpuscles must mean for the whole life of feeling, indeed for the whole life of the human organism. In other words, if in a given case there is an irregularity in what is going on in the blood simply as a result of the buoyancy of the iron-bearing corpuscles, we know that iron must be introduced in some way, but in such a way, of course, that makes it possible for the iron to unfold its proper activity in the blood and not elsewhere.
In terms of spiritual science, this means that the relationship of the etheric organism to the astral organism of the human being is bound up with the iron content of the blood. And if you understand how the heart-lung activity leads over into everything that is taken up in the human being in the vitalizing process, and how the kidney activity in turn leads what has been vitalized over into the astral organism, you will not be far from the insight that balance must prevail here. If balance does not prevail, if either the etheric or the astral activity becomes too intense, the whole organism is bound to fall into disorder. You can provide the means, however, of calling forth the appropriate balance, of enabling the organism to lead the necessary amount of food into the domain of the kidney activity, by regulating the iron content in the blood. And by imbuing the actual dynamic element in the blood either with weight or with buoyancy — according to how you regulate the iron content — you regulate the general circulation of blood, which in turn reacts upon the kidney activity. In adding to or decreasing the iron content you bring about an essential regularization of the blood circulation, that is, of the relation between the etheric and astral organisms of the human being.
Now let us take a concrete case. Suppose we have flatulence as a primary symptom. I am choosing a crude example for the sake of clarity. What does flatulence indicate to one who has insight into the human organism? It indicates the presence of aeriform organizations in which the astral organism is working too strongly and that are not being dissolved quickly enough. They are effects of the astral organism — which works, of course, in the gaseous being of man — and they conglomerate instead of forming and dissolving in the regular way. Thus we have a predominance of the astral organization's activity, which expresses itself physically in the airy aspect of the human being. This is what is happening when flatulence is present. Because the astral activity is too strong, it influences the whole activity of the senses, especially the activity of the head. The astral activity becomes congested and does not distribute itself properly in the organism; hence it does not work into the metabolism as it should but recoils on the nerve-sense system with which it is more closely related. We soon find something amiss with the nerve-sense system too — or at least we may assume that we have a complex of symptoms in which the nerve-sense system is not working properly.
Now I must say something in connection with the irregular activity of the nerve-sense system. Physiology really speaks nonsense about this nerve-sense system. Forgive me for saying this — I am expressing myself radically simply so that we may understand each other better. You must naturally take such statements with the familiar grain of salt, but if I compromise too much in what I say we will not find it as easy to understand these things. Supersensible observation of the human organism reveals that any given function that can be demonstrated by sense-oriented empiricism is, from the higher point of view, the sense-perceptible reflection of something spiritual. The whole human organism is the sense-perceptible reflection of something spiritual. But the interaction between the soul-spiritual realm and the physical-organic in the human organism is by no means as simple in the case of the nerve-sense system as is generally imagined.
If you look only at the physical organization of the human being, it is not true — as many people would like to assume — that with the exception of the nervous system and the senses the physical organization constitutes one whole, and that the nervous system is inserted into this structure in order to serve the life of soul separately. It is not usually described quite so radically, of course, but if we come down to the practical considerations underlying the physiological theory, something of this sort comes to light. This is why it is almost impossible today to form any rational opinion of what are often called functional diseases, nervous disorders and so on. There is nothing in the human organism that does not belong to the entire organism and that does not interact with other organs. The rest of the organism is not simply left to its own devices while a separate nervous system is inserted, heaven knows by what divine power, in order that the organism can bear a soul.
If you look for evidence of what I am maintaining here you will find it in a twinkling! The nervous system is primarily that from which the formative, rounding-off forces of the organism proceed. The form of your nose, the form of your whole organism is shaped, fundamentally, from the nervous system. The kidney system rays out the forces of matter in a radial direction, and the nervous system is there to give the organism its forms, both inwardly and outwardly. To begin with, the nervous system has nothing to do with the life of soul; it is the shaper, the form-giver of the human organism, inwardly and outwardly. It is the sculptor.
In the early stages of individual human development, a certain portion of nerve activity that the organism does not use for formative functions separates off, as it were, and the soul element increasingly adapts itself to this position. This is secondary, however. If we notice this separation of a part of the nerve process in very early childhood, and the adaptation of the soul life to these formative principles, then we really get down to the empirical facts. There is no question of the nervous system being incorporated into the human organism as the result of some kind of divine ordinance in order to form the basis for the life of will, feeling, and thought. The nerve-sense life is born through a sort of hypertrophy, part of which is preserved; to this preserved part the activity of the soul then adapts itself, while the primary function of the nerve-sense system is formative. All the organs are shaped from the nerve-sense system.
If you want to verify this empirically, begin by taking the senses located in the skin, spread out over the entire skin — the senses of warmth and of touch — and try to see how the whole form of the human organism is sculpturally formed by these senses, whereas the forms of the special organs are shaped by other senses. That we are capable of seeing is due to the fact that something remains over from the formative force proceeding originally from the visual tract for building the cerebral organs, and then the soul elements we develop in the faculty of sight adapt themselves to this “something” that has been left over.
We shall never have real insight into the human being if we do not realize that as metabolism is going on within us continually, day by day, year by year, our organs must first be provided for by what rays out from the kidneys in a radial direction and is then sculpturally rounded off. The substance that is radiated out by the kidneys must be continually rounded off sculpturally. Throughout the whole span of man's life this is done by the nerve organs that extend from the senses toward the inner parts of the human organism. Higher sense activity, image-forming activity and the like, are simply the result of an adaptation of the soul element to this particular tract of organs.
This should convince us that if the astral organization is working too strongly in the complex of symptoms of flatulence, the excessive astral activity is tending in the direction of the formative forces of the senses. Thus there is a congestion of astral activity in the upward direction and toward the periphery of the human organism; not only do we find congestion, but there are actually gas bubbles that are rounded off still more completely, which are really striving to become organs. In other words as the result of excessive kidney activity, a continual attempt is being made in the upper human being to hold back the ego organization above and to prevent what passes into the organism through the blood from returning in the proper way. Associated with this complex of symptoms, then, we often find cramps that are due to the fact that the astral forces are not passing in the right way into the rest of the organism. If they are congested above, they do not pass into the rest of the organism. In the rest of the organism, then, we notice cramp-like phenomena that are always due to the fact that the astral forces are being held back. By studying inwardly a complex of symptoms of this kind, looking at it with the help of the super-sensible, we can eventually relate what we behold outwardly to what can be beheld inwardly.
Think of it: the astral is held back above, and as a result the entire metabolism is drawn upward; the astral body is not making proper provision for the kidney organs and even less for the stomach; the stomach, which is receiving too little from the astral organization, begins to fend for itself. What you see outwardly is colic and cramp-like conditions of the stomach; cramps may also arise in the sexual organs because they are not properly permeated by the astral organization, or there may be stoppages of the menstrual periods, due to the fact that the ego activity is held back above.
Now let us ask ourselves: how can we influence irregularities of this kind? If you want to be clear about this it is best to realize that the magical names given to illnesses merely serve the purpose of conventional understanding. What is really essential is to see what groups itself together and interweaves the individual symptoms. But we must be able to appraise the importance of these symptoms.
Suppose we are considering the function associated with a flower containing sulfur. If a flower contains a certain amount of sulfur, this means that a process is strongly on its way to the inorganic, a process that is still akin to the organic. If we introduce into the human organism a remedy prepared from such a flower, or even from the sulfur itself, the processes in the digestive tract will be stimulated to greater activity. The stomach and especially the intestinal activity will be stimulated by a decoction of flower petals containing sulfur, because, as I have already said, a process of devitalization that must be reversed is taking place in the plant. The irregularity that has appeared in relation to the kidney activity is indirectly stimulated to a strong reaction, and we have, to begin with, the possibility of counteracting the congestion above by means of a strong counterpressure from below. (The forces working here are for the most part only fleeting in their effect, but if we give temporary help to the organism, in most cases it will begin to help itself.) The astral organization will again be drawn into the digestive tract, as it were, and the result will be a cessation of the attacks of colic and stomach cramps. Of course such a remedy by itself will suffice in only a few cases. It will probably be adequate when the stomach cramps are slight. We must never over-stimulate the organism; whenever it is possible to use a weaker remedy we should avoid a stronger one.
Suppose we encounter a complex of symptoms like the one I have just described. The disturbance being very severe, we will assume that demands are being made on the over-active astral body by an excessive kidney activity. The astral body works with undue strength into the sense organization, which is thereby weakened and undermined in a certain way. It is not really undermined as a sense organization, but the astral organism is working in it so strongly that the formative forces of the nerve-sense organization are drowned, as it were, by the mere activity of the astral organism. The sense organs or the nerve-sense organization in general is not less active, but it does not work in its own characteristic way as nerve-sense organization. It takes on the organization of the astral organism, as it were, and is active in the way that the astral organism is active. This means that it is not performing its form-giving functions properly. We must use a remedy here through which the astral activity is lifted out of the nerve-sense organization. We can only do this if we use a remedy that stands in closest connection with the outer world and that works upon the nerve-sense organization which, as organization within the human being, is nearest of all to the inorganic.
The physiology of the senses is fortunate because in the sense organs there are so many inorganic, which is to say so many purely physical or at most chemical, elements to be explained. Think how much in the eye lies in the domain of pure optics. A great deal in the eye can be depicted beautifully if it is treated merely as a kind of photographic apparatus. In saying this I only wish to indicate that we are coordinated with the outer world precisely through the sense organs, and that in our senses we have channels through which the outer world flows into us by way of the inorganic.
Now when we need to give support to this specific nerve-sense activity, we can do so very well by introducing silicic acid into the human organism, for silicic acid has an affinity for this inorganic aspect at the periphery. We drive the astral organization out, as it were, by means of everything that underlies the silicea, which inclines very strongly, even outwardly, toward the inorganic. When you find silicic acid in a flower, you invariably discover that the flower is thorny, bordering on the inorganic. Thus we can relieve the sense organs by administering this silicic element on the one hand, and on the other hand by supplying the organism with more sugar than it ordinarily has. Sugar, too, is a substance that is worked through in the human organism in such a way that it finally closely approximates the inorganic. Thus everything we introduce by way of sugar relieves the sense organs. If you are able to, you may also strengthen this process by the administration of alkaline salts, which are particularly able to relieve the nervous system of astral activity. These things must be verified by a series of empirical investigations.
Spiritual science thus enables us to arrive at guiding principles. In the activity developed by intuitive knowing, for example, we can see the aftereffects of sugar, particularly in those parts of the human nervous system that run from the central nervous system to the senses; the aftereffects of silicic acid tend toward the peripheral activities unfolding in the senses. These things can all be verified and proven. When a severe complex of symptoms such as I have described is present, it will therefore prove beneficial to administer remedies composed simply of alkaline salts, which work very strongly to relieve the nerve activity of the astral nature, of sugar (not, of course, administered in the ordinary amount but in an unusual one), and, as I have suggested, of silicic acid.
The best remedial effects of these substances will be obtained if you simply administer the roots of camomile boiled in the appropriate way. It may surprise you that I speak of the root, but the different aspects under consideration here intersect, and we must realize that when the symptoms are severe, blossom products are not enough. What we really need is a substance that is still contained in a highly vitalized state in the plant, so that the long process it has to undergo will make the reaction vigorous enough. If we introduce into the digestive tract a suitable dosage of these substances as they are found in the root of the camomile, the reaction in this case will not be strong enough to allow the vitalization to take place at the point of transition from the intestines to the blood; what is contained particularly in the sugar and silicic acid, but also in the alkaline salts, will simply be forced through in an untransformed state. Thus the kidney activity has a chance to absorb it into its radiations, and the substances absorbed in this way are then impelled by the kidney activity toward the nerve-sense activity, which is thereby relieved of the astral functions.
If we really have insight into these matters, if we realize that this way of proceeding therapeutically leads to the most healthy results, much can be discovered. Furthermore, we can very easily be led to other things. We can see how what is absorbed is transformed in the human organization, how the activity of the kidneys sets to work, receiving what is supplied to it by the channels of the blood and radiating it out; we can see how the plastic activity then reacts in its turn. Then we begin to see how this plastic activity in its pure form is restored by the administration of silicic acid, sugar, and alkaline salts. To super-sensible vision, silicic acid, alkaline salts, and sugar, mixed in the right proportions and viewed intuitively, form a kind of human phantom. Something like a phantom is there before us if we picture these substances in their formative force. They are pre-eminently sculptors, these substances; they bear the plastic principle within them. This is evident even in their outer formation through intuitive vision.
The strong effect of silicic acid is due, in the first place, to the fact that when the substance appears in the inorganic realm it has the tendency to shape itself into elongated crystals. The same results attainable with silicic acid could not be achieved with substances that have the tendency to develop into rounder, less elongated crystals. With such substances it might conceivably be possible to cure a hedgehog but not a human being, whose very principle of growth shows tendencies to elongation.
Those who have no sense for this artistry in nature — an artistry through which the organism is shaped, shaped chiefly by the nerve-sense activity — cannot discover in any rational sense the relationships between substances in the outer world and what is taking place in the human organism. Yet there is indeed a rational therapy — a therapy that is simply able to perceive processes that take place in the outer world, that are broken down in the human organism and can then be radiated out by the kidney activity and taken hold of by the plastic activity of the nerve-sense organism.
Let us take another example. Suppose that the radiating action of the kidneys, instead of being too strong, is too weak — that is to say, too little nourishment is being sucked up into the astrality. Everything I described in the previous complex of symptoms is due to excessive working in the astral organism, because it is active particularly in the upper human being and holds itself aloof from the activities of digestion, heart, and lungs. As a phenomenon accompanying this complex of symptoms, we find the formation of phlegm and the like, which is quite easy to understand. Thus in this complex we have to do with an excessive astral activity. Now suppose that the astral activity is too weak. The radiating activity of the kidneys is too weak, so that the astral organism of the human being is not in a position to supply what it should to the formative forces when it penetrates into their domain. The formative force cannot then work itself into the astral organism, because the latter does not reach sufficiently to the periphery. The result is that no active contact is established between the formative force and the force proceeding from the circulation of the food substances and their distribution. The substance is distributed without being taken in hand by the formative force. Not enough of the plastic force is present, and the substance is abandoned to its own life; the activity of the astral body remains too fleeting and does not work properly in the transformation of the substances.
We can certainly regard such a state of affairs as a complex of symptoms. How does it express itself? Above all, what is coursing through the blood vessels will not be absorbed in the proper way by the weak kidney activity, that is, by the astral organization working insufficiently. It collapses, as it were, resulting in hemorrhoids or excessive menstruation. The contact fails, and the metabolism lapses back into itself. In this condition of the organism it is particularly easy for a state of “fever of unknown origin” — as it is called — to arise, or even a condition of intermittent fever.
Now the question is: how can we approach this complex of symptoms? The activity of the astral organism is too weak. We must stimulate the renal activity so that through this activity enough substance may be drawn up into the astral organism. Something occurs now to which I have already pointed. The best thing to do here is to restore the balance between the etheric and astral organisms. Then, simply due to what passes from the digestive tract into the system of lungs and heart, we get the proper transition to the activity. We obtain a kind of balance, and in many cases we can control it precisely by regulating the iron content in the organism, which governs the circulation. This will now stimulate a strong, inner kidney activity, which will be evident outwardly in a change of excretions of urea, both through the kidneys and through the perspiration. This will be quite evident. But of course in many cases we must realize that this balance is always very unstable and that only in the crudest cases will the remedy in question here, which we already bear within us, be of assistance.
In the digestive tract substances containing sulfur in some form are the most effective, and in the nerve-sense system (which we now understand as the formative principle) substances such as silicic acid and alkaline salts are most effective; it is pure metals that are the substances to regulate the balance between gravity and buoyancy. We must only explore how best to apply them in order to restore the disturbed balance in the most varied ways. We begin with iron. According to the complex of symptoms, the most suitable metal may be gold, or perhaps copper. If we determine the form of the disease of the human organism, we will be able to achieve the most important results with the pure metals. If in the interplay between the functions of form-building and breaking down form there is too little form-building and this state of affairs becomes organic — if, therefore, the primary cause of the trouble is that the relation between the heart-lung system and the kidney system is upset — we will achieve the best results with iron.
If as a result of lengthy disturbances in these processes the organs themselves are already impaired, however, and have already suffered because the plastic activity has not been able to reach them — if the organs are already formed incorrectly due to an inadequate amount of plastic activity — we may have to apply mercury. Because mercury already contains the forces of form, the durable metallic drop-form within itself, it has a definite effect upon the lower organs of the human being. In the same way we can discover definite connections between metals and organs of the head that have been attacked and formed incorrectly, for instance when the nervous system itself has been attacked. In such a case, however, we must not confine ourselves to simply setting up a stable balance in opposition to the vacillating balance. This is extraordinarily difficult. This balance is just like a very sensitive pair of scales: we try in every possible way to bring the beam of the scale into balance, but it is very difficult. We shall approach it more easily, however, if we concern ourselves not merely with the beam but with the pans of the scale themselves. We can achieve a state of balance, for instance, by supporting the effect of the iron, introducing something sulfurous into the digestive tract and providing a counteraction in the nerve-sense organism by means of alkaline salts. Then in the middle, rhythmic system of the human being iron will be at work, which in this situation distributes itself beautifully; in the nerve-sense organism potassium, calcium, or alkaline salts will be at work, and in the rhythm of digestion sulfur will be at work. This way of attempting to restore the balance is better.
The remarkable thing is that we find the very opposite in the leaves of certain plants. If, for instance, we prepare the leaf of urtica dioica, the ordinary stinging nettle, in the right way, we have a remedy composed of sulfur, iron, and certain salts. But we must really know how to relate the devitalizing force that is present in the plant to the vitalizing force that is present in the human organism. In the root of urtica dioica, the whole sulfur process is tending gradually to the inorganic. The human organism takes the opposite course and transforms the sulfur by way of the protein in such a way that it gradually brings the digestion into order. The iron in urtica dioica works from the leaves in such a way that in the seed (and thereby in next year's leaves) this plant shatters the very thing that brings together the rhythmic process in the human organism — the process in the stinging nettle is the opposite. In fact, the stinging power of the nettle leaves is this destructive process that must be overcome if the rhythmic process in the human organism is to be regulated. Again, the alkaline salt content of the plant is least of all transformed into inorganic matter. Therefore it has the longest way to go, going right up to the nerve-sense organization; it goes up quite easily because, with the complex of symptoms we are now considering, we know that the kidney activity is asleep, is suppressed. In the human organism we actually have the opposite of what is expressing itself outwardly in the formation of the plants. But there is no need to confine ourselves merely to plant remedies; synthetic remedies may also be prepared and cures effected by combining in a suitable dosage the substances I have characterized.
These are matters that will gradually transform therapy into a rational science, but a science that is really an art, for without art, therapy cannot become a complete science any more than a person who is not an artist can be a sculptor. An individual may have a splendid knowledge of how to guide his chisel and how to mold the clay, but there must always be something leading over into the realm of the artistic. Without this, true therapy is impossible. We must really achieve the right touch — in a spiritual sense; of course — for determining the dosage. This will not suit those who would like to turn medicine into a “pure” science, but it is true nevertheless.
And now let me describe another possible situation. There may be a disturbance of the appropriate interaction between the inorganic element that the human organism produces as a preliminary to leading it over into organic life, and the subsequent intervention of the etheric body, of the heart-lung activity. The older an individual is, the more apparent is this disturbance in human development. In this case the digestive tract and the vascular system are not working together properly. When this happens, we must remember that the consequence will be an accumulation of the products of metabolism. If the substances are not being distributed properly in the organism, the natural result is an accumulation of the products of metabolism. Here we come to the whole domain of diseases of metabolism, from very mild cases to the most severe forms. We must realize that in such cases something is also amiss with the kidney activity due to the fact that because of the preceding congestion the kidneys receive nothing to radiate out.
This gives rise to highly complicated forms of disease. On the one hand the activity of digestion and the kidneys provides no material upon which the plastic, form-giving activity can work, and on the other hand, as the result of a stultification of this plastic activity, we have a disturbance of the organic balance from the other side, so that the plastic force, too, gradually ceases to function. The products of metabolism spread themselves out in the organism but fail, little by little, to be received into the field of the plastic activities and used as modeling material. When this happens, certain metabolic diseases arise that are very difficult to treat. The proper approach to treatment here is to stimulate in the digestive tract, and then also in the heart-lung tract, everything that is akin to elements that are on their way to the inorganic state — akin, that is, to the sulfuric or phosphoric elements in the blossoms of plants, connected with or bordering on the ethereal oils. By doing this we stimulate a renal activity in the organism and thereby help the plastic forces. In this type of disease it is very important to bring influence to bear on the digestive apparatus.
The kidney activity and the excretion of sweat are in a certain sense polar opposites, and they are intimately connected to each other. If the kidney activity is disturbed as a consequence of what I have described, we will always find that there is less perspiration. Great attention should be paid to this, for whenever there is a decrease in perspiration, we may be sure that something is amiss with the kidney activity. When perspiration decreases, what is happening as a rule is that the kidneys operate like a machine that has nothing to work upon but continues to act, while the products of digestion are already congested and are spreading improperly in the human organism. We may succeed in getting the better of these metabolic diseases if we apply sulfur treatments either inwardly or outwardly (for we can work just as well from the skin as from the kidneys themselves). By doing this we may succeed in stimulating the digestive tract to such an extent that it in turn stimulates the heart-lung activity so that material is again supplied to the renal activity; then this material does not lie fallow without reaching the renal activity.
In all these matters, however, we must be quite clear that the human organism does not wish to be absolutely cured but only to be stimulated to unfold the healing process. This is a fact of supreme importance. In the state of illness, the human organism wishes to be stimulated to unfold the healing process. If the healing is to endure we must actually limit ourselves to giving a mere stimulus. A cure that apparently takes place immediately leads much more readily to relapses than a cure that merely stimulates the healing process. The organism must first accustom itself to the course of the healing process, and it is then able to continue it through its own activity. In this way the organism binds itself much more intimately to the healing process, until such time as the reaction again sets in. Before this happens, however, the organism settles down. If the organism can be made to adjust itself to the healing process for a certain length of time, this is the best possible cure, for then the organism actually absorbs what has been transmitted to it in the healing process.
I have only been able to give you certain hints as to method here, but you will realize that with what I call a spiritual scientific illumination of physiology, pathology, and therapy, we are trying to understand that the human being is not an isolated being but belongs to the whole universe. We must also see that with any process taking place in the human being in an ascending curve, let us say, we must seek outside the human being in nature for the descending curve. In this way we will be able to modify curves that are ascending too abruptly, and so forth. Medicine demands knowledge of the whole world in a certain sense. I have been able to offer only a tiny fragment, of course, but this fragment should make clear to you that there must be an entirely different understanding of the nature of urtica dioica, colchicum autumnale, or indeed of any other plant, the plants themselves must tell us where their descending tendency is leading.
When you approach the colchicum autumnale, the autumn crocus, you must understand that the time of year in which it appears is not without significance for its whole structure, for this brings about a certain relation to the vitalizing process. That the devitalization is very slight in colchicum autumnale you can see from the very color of its blossom and the time of its flowering. If you then experiment with colchicum autumnale as a remedy, you will find that the organism must exert itself to a very high level to bring about the opposite vitalization, that is to say — if I may express it crudely — to kill the plant and then make it alive again. Indeed, this whole process unfolds right up into the human thyroid gland. Now you have the basis for a series of investigations with colchicum autumnale as a remedy against enlargements of the thyroid gland.
Let me assure you once again that there is no question here of a wasteful and amateurish abuse of modern scientific methods. Instead we are giving guidelines that will actually lead to more tangible results than pure experimentation. I am not by any means saying that such a pure experimentation cannot also be fruitful. It does indeed lead to certain goals, but with this method a great deal passes by us completely, especially many things we can learn by observing nature. Although it is fine to produce synthetically a preparation composed of iron, sulfur, and alkali, it is good to know how, in a particular plant, all these substances are synthetically brought together in a certain way by nature herself. Even in the production of synthetic remedies we can learn a great deal by understanding what is going on outside in nature.
It would be fascinating to enter into many things in detail, and I think that some of our doctors will have done so in other lectures. A great deal, too, can be found in our literature, and there are many subjects that I hope will soon be dealt with there. I am convinced that as soon as these matters are presented in a clear, concise form and people are not afraid to go straight ahead, they will take this point of view: “I must above all heal if I want to be a doctor, and so I will turn to what appears antipathetic to me at first. If it really helps, I can only try to profit from it as well as from what is to be found in the standard literature.”
I think it would be good if as soon as possible we could produce literature of a kind that would offer a bridge between spiritual science and modern sense-oriented science. It would encourage the opinion that these remedies help, so they cannot after all be such utter nonsense! I am quite sure that when our work is properly in motion, the verdict will be that it does indeed help. And here I will conclude. Try these things and you will see that they help. This too will be significant, for many things that are used in orthodox medicine do not help when they are applied. Everything that we would like to introduce from the viewpoint of spiritual science can unfold in the struggle between what does and does not help.