Health and Illness II
IX. The Relationship of the Planets to the Metals and their Healing Effects
10 February 1922, Dornach
Dr. Steiner: Do any of you gentlemen have a question you would like to have discussed?
Question: I would like to ask what the world was like in primeval times. Had the planets Venus, Mercury, and so on deposited various metallic substances?
Dr. Steiner: If this is considered simply in the way it is frequently stated in old books — in the new ones nothing is said about it, except in our anthroposophical books — that the planet Venus has something to do with the copper deposited in the earth, for example, then this is merely a matter of belief. People gain nothing but a mental image of it by being told that though it was once known by men of old nothing is really known about it today. When something like this is to be discussed, one must really go into it in detail. I would like to call your attention to the fact that modern medicine also no longer knows much about these things. Only a few centuries ago when symptoms of illness appeared in people, the great majority of remedies were based on the use of a metal or one of the plant substances.
Nothing has remained of this knowledge except that for certain symptoms, which appear particularly in syphilis, quicksilver, or mercury, must be employed as a remedy. One therefore makes use of mercury. Please note that nobody in medicine today can really explain why mercury is effective; it is used simply because it has been seen to be effective. Regarding this effect of mercury on syphilitic diseases, one must also mention that in recent times a number of other medications have replaced mercury. The not entirely irreproachable effectiveness of the famous new remedies that have replaced mercury today has already been recognized, and medicine will soon return to the mercuric remedies.
You can be convinced in a remarkable way that the instinct for healing — not today's science but the instinct for healing — works in mercury in a very strong way. There are certain regions in which people who were not doctors but acted out of their instinct for healing treated a syphilitic illness in the following way (today this rarely happens, but three or four decades ago it still occurred). They took animals that live partly underground and that therefore take in some dirt along with their food, animals such as salamanders, toads, and similar creatures. People took these animals, dehydrated and pulverized them, and then gave this preparation to syphilitic patients. This was a kind of remedy.
Now, on the face of it, this is completely incomprehensible. It becomes comprehensible only when one knows that in some regions these toad remedies do not help syphilitics while in other regions they are most effective. When one investigates these regions where it is effective, mercury mines are found in them. It is curious that in regions where mercury is present, the animals absorb it with their food, and it is the mercury that effects the cure. It is not the toad but the mercury that the toad has consumed and assimilated into its body that has the healing effect.
You become aware of two things from this. First, that a remarkable instinct for healing is present in people who are not as yet spoiled by ordinary science; second, that if a living creature absorbs something — and a toad is indeed a living creature — it permeates its whole body, it spreads through its whole body. This is true to an even greater extent in the case of humans. Since we used the example of mercury-based remedies, I would like to mention the following.
Only in the last few decades have matters terribly declined in medicine as they have today. It was better when I was a little boy. In Vienna, there lived a splendid professor of anatomy, Joseph Hyrtl, who still knew a little — not very much, but still a little — of the more ancient medicine. When, in his clinic, he had the corpses of people available who at one time had undergone mercury treatments, he would break their bones open and show his students that little drops of mercury were deposited in them. This is how a substance that a person absorbs spreads throughout his body. It is the same in other living creatures, and so toads that had assimilated mercury into their whole bodies could be pulverized and used as a remedy against syphilis.
Now I will tell you how men hit on the idea of using mercury. for such illnesses in earlier times when science had a totally different character. When you observe the planetary system the way we know it from school, the sun is here in the center; near to the sun, the planet Mercury, a somewhat small planet, circles the sun. A little farther out, Venus circles the sun. Mercury is a small planet, and its orbit around the sun takes place in a short time, about ninety days. Then comes Venus, and it circles the sun more slowly. The next planet circling the sun is the earth. Beyond the earth is Mars. Then come a great number of tiny, miniature planets in orbit beyond Mars. There are hundreds and hundreds of these tiny little planets; they are in orbit. I would have to sketch a lot of planets, but they are not that important and lack the great significance of the larger planets. After these planets come Jupiter, circling the sun, and still farther out, Saturn. Then come Uranus and Neptune, but these two planets were discovered most recently. I need not sketch them, since they circle much farther out and their orbits exhibit such irregularities that in reality they cannot be counted among the planets even today. This is how the planets circle the sun, just as our moon circles the earth. It circles the earth just as the other planets circle the sun.
Now, astronomy today looks at such a planetary system without paying much attention to the influences that these planets have on the beings living on the earth. One calculates the position of a planet for a given time so that a telescope can be turned toward it. This can be calculated. One can also figure out how fast a planet moves. One can calculate all this. It is with these calculations that people are concerned today.
You see, however, that in the evolution of an entire universal system, a few millennia are not a long time, and it was only twenty-five to thirty-five hundred years ago that people looked upon the planets in a completely different scientific way. At that time the following was done. Illnesses, for example, appeared in which, due to thickened blood — I shall tell you why directly — people were afflicted with problems of the intestines. I can't go into detail concerning these critical illnesses now, because when these observations were made in ancient times, they were not as extensive as they are today. But in an illness of which observations were made in Babylonia, Assyria, Nineveh, and so on, even in Egypt, people became afflicted with an intestinal disorder that was due to thickened blood, to abnormal processes in the blood. Blood was present in the stools; typhoid-like diseases were after all much more common in ancient times than they are nowadays. Let's assume that the ancient doctors, who were also philosophers, had to study such diseases. They didn't wait until the patient was dead, because they knew that once a person had died, the cure was not applicable. So they did not examine those who had died of typhoid but proceeded differently. They noticed that patients suffering from cholera, typhoid, dysentery, or such felt better at certain times, and at others their overall condition took a turn for the worse. So they concluded that typhoid sometimes take? a good and sometimes a fatal course. There are some people who, when they fall ill with typhoid or cholera, occasionally undergo terrible attacks of dizziness almost to the point of losing consciousness; then events take a most critical turn. Some patients retain consciousness, however, and their heads remain clear. These patients can be helped.
Now, the ancient doctors maintained that man not only lives and depends on the earth but is also dependent on the entire universe. They therefore made the following observations. We can use here the planetary system taught us in school. Here is the earth with the sun's rays shining on it. The sun's rays fall on the earth. As you know, man depends much on sunlight, and we have always used this as a basis of our studies here. Now, these ancient doctors didn't put such great emphasis on the sun, because they felt that its effects were quite obvious, but they observed people who had severe diarrhea, for example, and they noted that some of them suffered attacks of dizziness at certain times; their heads became foggy. The heads of others who suffered from severe diarrhea remained clear, and they only became a little dizzy. These doctors realized that this difference was related to the time the illness occurred. At certain times, nothing could really be done for these patients; without fail, they became very dizzy and then died. At other times, the diarrhea took a lighter course.
So these doctors began to observe the stars and found that in those times when these typhoid-like illnesses took a good course, the planet Venus always stood in such a position that it was blocked by the earth. If the earth is there (see sketch on left), Venus can be located here. If a person is located there on the far side of the earth, no rays from Venus reach him. Since the light of Venus can't pass through the earth, the earth covers Venus for him. The ancients, of course, recognized this, since they could not see Venus, as it was blocked by the earth. Now, they continued their observations and discovered that the prognosis was good for a person ill with typhoid in the times when Venus was blocked by the earth. When Venus was not blocked, however, the typhoid patient was subject to Venus's light in addition to sunlight (see sketch on right). Then the prognosis was bad; the head became dizzy, and the typhoid could not be cured.
Having learned this, these doctors said that since Venus' shining rays pass through the earth, something must be contained in the earth that alters Venus' rays. Now they began to experiment, not with dead people but with patients who were still alive. Nothing happened to those ill with typhoid when lead was given. Regardless of Venus' position, remedies of iron also made no difference. When a typhoid patient was given copper, however, it had a remarkable effect. It offset the dizziness, and the patient began to recover. Aha, said these ancient doctors, copper must be contained within the earth somehow. This copper works within the earth and influences the course of typhoid in a way opposite to that of the detrimental influence of Venus' rays. When these rays hit a typhoid patient directly, they aggravate the effects of the disease, but when copper is given to them, it impedes the progress of typhoid. They now concluded that Venus in a certain way is connected with copper. It was not as if they had held seances and a medium had told them to use copper in cases of typhoid. Instead, they made observations of a kind no longer made today, which were based on an ancient instinct and functioned just as scientifically. So they concluded that in the earth there is copper. This copper is related to the force emanating from Venus. This is seen in the special effect it has on this illness.
They made other observations as well. Take, for example, the case of a patient with problems of vision, a disturbance in the eyes. People can get ailments of the eyes in which vision can become blurred; the pupils can contract. One can have any number of eye ailments. Now, the ancients again experimented and discovered that when the earth blocks Jupiter, eye problems improve more than if Jupiter shines directly on the earth. They explored further and asked what it is that is in the earth that counteracts Jupiter, and they found that it was tin, particularly when tin was extracted from plants.
Gradually, based on the effects on the human being, they thus discovered the correspondence between the planets and the metals contained in the earth. They found that Venus is connected with copper, Jupiter with tin, and Saturn with lead. They found that cases of bone diseases, which can also appear in lead poisoning, have something to do with the rays from Saturn; so, for Saturn, they discovered the effects of lead.
For Mars, which has something to do with ailments of the blood, it was easier to find the corresponding metal, iron. Therefore, Mars = iron. For the moon, which stands in a completely different relation since it orbits the earth, they discovered something similar, namely, silver: moon = silver.
Now, this way of looking at things was completely abandoned later on. Do not assume, however, that it was long ago that such observations were abandoned; it was only three or four hundred years ago that these observations were no longer made. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries these observations were still made. What was the conclusion? People told themselves that everything that is now separated into the different planets was once contained within one primordial mash [Urbrei], one universal mist. This concept is quite accurate; it is only wrong to picture that everything can develop out of such a universal mist without spiritual influences. Otherwise one imagines the great universal schoolmaster who controls everything, as I have told you earlier! No, but it was once known that everything was at one time dissolved in a kind of primordial mash. p here was no sun, moon, or earth; they were all dissolved in the primordial mash and separated only later.
Through the copper contained within the earth, the planet Venus still exerts an influence. When Venus was still dissolved in the primordial mash, it had a special affinity with copper. It was at that time that this bond between them arose. When the moon was still dissolved in everything, silver stood in a special relation to the moon. This knowledge was not a divine revelation, however, nor was it based on arbitrary, authoritarian dictation. Rather, it was founded on ancient observations.
It was due to special circumstances that syphilitic illnesses came into being; in modern centuries, the so-called civilized peoples came into contact with primitive peoples, and there was an interbreeding, a sexual interbreeding of the civilized with the primitive peoples. These syphilitic illnesses were less prevalent when the peoples of the earth were more segregated into races. The way illnesses have arisen, as with syphilitic illnesses, is that something first causes them, but then they reproduce themselves. They become contagious. Something originally must have caused them to arise. The syphilitic illnesses arose through individuals of different races interbreeding sexually with one another. A syphilitic infection cannot occur, for example, except through a small, concealed lesion or worn tissue through which the contagious substance may enter the blood stream. The contagious syphilitic substance can be smeared on the skin, but if the skin is completely impermeable an infection can't occur. An infection can arise only when the skin is so worn or broken in some spot that the infectious substance can enter through it. You can understand that the infectious substance of syphilis must first have originated where contrasting foreign bloods intermingled. After that, the poison naturally reproduced, but it arose originally when a great interbreeding increasingly occurred among different peoples. It would probably be interesting to explore the statistics of case histories of this illness in a certain part of Europe that employs various exotic peoples, since the occurrences of sexual excesses with them cannot always be prevented.
You see, isolated cases of syphilis have also occurred in the past, but the more numerous incidents are of recent date. They also occurred, however, in that age when something was still known of the ancient science. Observations then showed that syphilitic patients improve when Mercury is blocked by the earth. So it was discovered that quicksilver, or mercury, is related to the planet Mercury. In this way the metals were gradually assigned to the planets:
Mercury — quicksilver, or mercury
Venus — copper
Jupiter — tin
Saturn — lead
Mars — iron
Moon — silver
People told themselves that when everything was dissolved in the primordial mash, it was the Venus substance that caused copper to be deposited in the earth, and it was the moon that caused silver to be deposited in the earth.
You see, such observations can be extended. It is remarkable how, at a certain time, it became fashionable in particular circles to make a secret of this ancient science. To this day there are books that a person without knowledge of anthroposophy cannot really read, because he wouldn't be able to make anything of them. All kinds of things are written in them, but people no longer know how to read them today. A Swedish scientist, for example, obtained such a book by Basilius Valentinus, which is rather old, and, in writing about it from the standpoint of today's chemistry, he said that what Valentinus had stated was the purest nonsense. He is right to say this, of course, because chemists today use the terms mercury, iron, and so forth, in such a way that they have no reference at all to the human being. A chemist, therefore, though he may be a genius, cannot make anything of what is written in books such as those by Basilius Valentinus. He cannot help thinking that he is quite right in saying that it is complete nonsense.
This is not really so, however, because Valentinus still wrote in an age when, for example, it was known that a woman's period occurs every twenty-eight days, as does the full moon. The ancients were certainly clever enough not to attribute a woman's flow of blood to the moon's influence. They told themselves, however, that its rhythm was the same, so there must have been a connection somehow in earlier times. Now man has freed himself from this connection. This is something they knew, but they realized that a woman had a similar rhythm to that which the universe has in the moonlight.
They also knew that when a woman who is having difficulty giving birth and has been in labor for a long time is given a medication containing silver, the labor pains become less severe. This was known. It was also known that if there were no visible moon, it being blocked by the earth, as it were, a woman who might have a difficult time giving birth would not have such a painful labor. The influence of silver thus was seen to be connected with the moon.
In Basilius Valentinus' books, “moon” is often written in the place of “silver,” and “silver” instead of “moon.” When this Swedish scientist reads that, he obviously can make nothing of it, regardless of how well informed he is about silver and how it works in a chemical process. It is a complicated matter. You see, the one who wrote the works of Basilius Valentinus was a Benedictine monk. Such things as this science were nurtured to a significant degree in Benedictine monasteries in past times, and Benedictine monks were extraordinarily clever in such things.
Today, a Father Mager, who is also a Benedictine monk, travels from one German city to another giving everywhere the same lecture against anthroposophy. Everywhere in the German cities this Father Mager harangues against anthroposophy. Just recently he was in Cologne. The enemies of anthroposophy differ greatly from one another. When the Jesuits speak against anthroposophy, it differs from what the Benedictine monks say against anthroposophy.
Indeed, this is how it is today. The Church suppresses a science that reaches beyond the earth. Gentlemen, do you know what began in a particular time? In a particular time, the Church authorities began to conceal and gradually suppress this science that had flourished in the monasteries. Such a science requires a great deal of time, but the monks had this time; they cultivated this science and thereby were quite useful to humanity in the past. Gradually this was suppressed, however. This suppression of the spiritual science often came about in this way.
Today's secular scientists now condemn this ancient science without realizing that a direct line leads from such monks of the Church to them. When monists stand up against anthroposophy, they naturally also object to the Church, but they do not realize that they are its proper pupils. Today's scientists are, in a certain sense, truly Benedictine or Jesuit pupils. They never attended Jesuitical seminars, because such thinking really can be absorbed in the outside world. This is naturally something that must also be taken into consideration.
From what has been said, you can see that the earth on which we live and that yields its various metals to us was crystallized from the primordial mash. What we behold outwardly as the planets, however, has remained behind as metals in the earth. What the earth once did together with Venus has remained in the metal copper. To heal with copper — this is what is accomplished specifically through Venus.
Metals extracted from plants today are especially effective in healing. A metal deposited in the earth has hardened and has lost some of its potency, although it is still effective against head ailments. But copper from the leaves of a plant known to contain quite a bit of it — the amounts are always small, but one can say “quite a bit” — is especially effective. There are such plants in the leaves of which copper is dissolved. If remedies are then made from such plants, they are particularly useful in intestinal disturbances that are due to a thickening of the blood and that lead to typhoid, dysentery, and the like.
This is how healing is related to what can be known about plants. You can see that today things are no longer in order when even the thickest book on botany, although containing all kinds of information, nevertheless lacks the most important instruction medical men should have; that is, there is no mention in these books of the metals that are dissolved in blossoms or roots. If at all, they are noted only in passing. This is a most important point, however, because it shows us that a plant that still contains copper today, for example, is related in its growth process to the planet Venus; it actually opposes the force of Venus and develops its own Venus force by absorbing copper into itself.
We can thus say that once there was a connection between the earth and all the planets that circle the sun today, and this influence has remained behind in the metals. This is what can be said first in reference to this question.
From the foregoing, you can see how important it is to refer back to observations of this kind that existed in the past. We are no longer in the same position, however, that they were in then, because we no longer possess the instincts for healing they once had. Only oxen, cows, sheep, and other animals, not human beings, have really retained a marvelous healing instinct, and they avoid eating harmful things and pass up anything that wouldn't be good for them. This is no longer possible for a human being, since he no longer has the healing instinct. Today, by the roundabout way of a spiritual science, we must once again learn to recognize how everything in the planetary system and in the universe, is connected with the earthly plane. Here one must begin at the beginning, one must truly begin at the very beginning.
One must realize the following, for example. One must begin with illnesses that take hold of the human abdomen. If one has such an abdominal illness, one comes to know that the substances present in the blossoms or the highest leaves of plants are especially helpful. Good remedies can be produced for illnesses of the abdominal organs by extracting certain substances from the blossoms and leaves of plants.
Substances taken from the roots of plants, however, provide especially beneficial remedies for everything connected with the human head. Matters are reversed with plants and with the human being. With plants, the roots are at the bottom and the blossoms are at the top. Man, however, is an upside-down plant. What is root element in the plant is actually in the head of the human being, and the blossom element is more in his abdominal region. You can see this even in the external forms. Man has his head at the top, and his reproductive organs are below. The plant has its roots below, while the blossoms, containing the organs of reproduction, are above. This drawing will help you to understand this. Here is the human being; here at the head I draw the root of a correspondingly large plant; here are the stems and leaves. Then, with the blossoms, I come to the abdominal organs. An entire plant is contained within man. The only difference is that it grows from the top downward in him. In a certain sense, man is also a plant. Isn't this apparent? It really is so obvious that everyone must see it. The animal, however, is between the two; in it, the plant is in a horizontal position.
This is really not just a picture; the plant is truly contained within man. Of course, it develops in accordance with the human form. But imagine that I were to draw this plant in detail, sketching a real bulbous root and the various branches — in other words, a real tree. It would be inverted, however. Here it would have its branches, and the outermost tips would wither a little here and there; there you have the nervous system! The nervous system is truly an inverted plant within man that is continuously dying a little.
Now, we know that plants grow out of the earth. First, there is winter, then come spring and summer that coax the plants from the earth. Within the earth is the winter's force. Through this the plant forms its bulbous root and has its root force. Then comes the summer's force, and the plant is coaxed upward; it is from the earth's circumference that the plants are drawn forth. Within are the metals — copper, let us say. The sun cannot do anything but coax forth a plant from the earth. Then, once the plant has emerged, it defends itself against the Venus forces. The force of winter from the earth and the summer's force from the universe together make the plant grow.
The human being, however, must have this winter force within his head in order that this root of the nervous system grow downward throughout the year. Since a baby, for example, can be born at any time of year, this force must be present in man's head in summer as well as winter. In our day he cannot in summer receive from outside the winter force in his head. This really implies that in primeval times, when the earth was still one with the other planets in the primordial mash, the human being must have absorbed this winter force, which has been handed down to this day. Man owes the winter force in his head to those most ancient times. The head of man was really made in ancient times and today remains the same. So we again find that man's head must be related to what arose on earth in ancient times and today has become completely solidified.
Go out into the primal mountains of central Switzerland and you will find granite and gneiss to be especially prevalent. The most active element in granite and gneiss is silicic acid, which is present in quartz in pure form as silicic acid, or silica. It is also the oldest substance on the earth and must be related to the human head forces. This is why illnesses of the head can be most readily cured with remedies made of silica; one can approach the human head thereby. In the age when silica still played a particular role on earth within the primordial mash and was not as hard as it is today in granite and gneiss, rather flowing like a liquid, the force present in the human head was formed — the winter force — and it has been preserved ever since.
So one must really present information about the human being taking into consideration the natural history of the whole earth. This is still connected with the question you asked, gentlemen, and with what I wanted to tell you about it. So long!