Anthroposophical Spiritual Science and Medical Therapy
Dornach, April 16, 1921
I said yesterday that these studies are intended to lead us on to a clarification of the essential nature of the remedies we have proposed, and we will continue to pursue this theme. Today I would like to begin by mentioning something that can suggest a great deal regarding our method of working.
In approaching an illness or a complex of symptoms with imaginative observation, we frequently receive a direct, intuitive knowledge of the remedy. Then we obviously attempt to think about the matter in accordance with judgments connected with the matter by external scientific knowledge, and we find we are wrong, that it cannot be so. This is an experience frequently encountered by one who is able to make occult investigations, and it also applies to domains other than therapeutics. Only on thinking more about the matter, pursuing it still further, does one come to see how correct one actually was. What is discovered by imaginative investigation followed by intuition is always correct, provided, of course, that it is based on sound powers of cognition. But one's judgment activity must first wrestle through — if I may put it so — to what one comes to know in this way.
It must first be realized that this human organism is complicated to the highest degree, so that in fact an intellectual grasp of it presents the greatest conceivable difficulties, especially if one tries to relate this human organism to the outer world again. This is especially noticeable if we examine more closely the function of nitrogen in the human organism. Earlier in these lectures, I reported that nitrogen is found in greater quantity in exhaled air than in inhaled air and materialistic thinking can hardly help regarding the difference as unimportant. The reason for this is that the materialistic view of the human being is basically unable to discover the function of nitrogen. This is possible only if the following is considered:
You know that the most varied theories exist about nutrition and that, accordingly, investigators often hold diametrically opposed views regarding the question: ”What is the function in the human organism of protein in food? Why does the human organism need protein?” Some say that the structure of man's protein organism is constant, or at least relatively constant, and that the protein absorbed undergoes rapid disintegration and has little significance for the plastic, constructive forces of protein in the human organism. Others hold the view — regarded somewhat out of date today — that the proteinaceous body of the human being is continually disintegrating and built up again from the protein absorbed. These diametrically opposed theories are put forward in the most varied forms, but both miss the essential point, because they compare protein with protein in a one-sided way without considering the human organism as a whole.
In this human organism we have to do with an opposition between the head formation, and therefore the formation of nerves and senses, and the formation proceeding from the metabolic-limb system. This is a polar opposition within human nature, and we cannot pay enough attention to it. Without taking into account what I have just said, we cannot understand the sequence of stages in the build-up of man that are so important in therapeutic deliberations. For instance, one will not be able to understand the real relationship of the lung to the entire human organism unless one's investigations begin in the following way. If we are considering the head organism, certain forces obviously predominate there. Next we have the chest organism containing the lungs. The lung is an organ that also has forces of head formation within it, though to a lesser degree. The whole human organism has everywhere these same forces, but in varying intensities. And if we investigate how the ego, astral body, and etheric body work in the whole plastic formation and deformation of the organs, we are brought to the paradoxical statement that the lung formation is a less intensive head formation. The lung formation is a metamorphosis of the head formation, only it is arrested at an earlier stage. The head advances further with regard to the same formative forces that are present in the lung but remain there at an earlier stage.
Because the lung has remained a kind of retarded metamorphosis of the head formation it is adapted to its own function, i.e., breathing. If the same forces that remain retarded in the lung, making it suitable for breathing, develop further, they render the lung more and more head-like. A consequence of the lung becoming more and more head-like is that it takes in thought forces — the organic forces of thinking — and strives to become a thinking organ. In trying to become a thinking organ, taking up too strongly the forces properly seated in the head, the lung becomes disposed to tuberculosis.
Pulmonary tuberculosis can only be understood in this way, proceeding from the entire human being. It can certainly be understood if we realize that in a tuberculous lung breathing strives to become thinking. In the head, breathing is metamorphosed, and all functions of thinking, even the processing of perceptions, are nothing but breathing developed further in an upward direction. The head is an advanced respiratory organ, having moved beyond the lung stage, but it represses breathing and, instead of taking in air, takes in etheric forces through the senses. Sense perception is nothing but a more refined — which means extending more into the etheric — respiratory process. Thus head and lung breathe. There is something else in the human being that is also breathing, something that remains at a still lower stage in this process of metamorphosis: the liver. The liver is a lung that has not reached its final development, it is a head formation not fully developed. It also breathes, but now the other metamorphosis, the polar metamorphosis of the sense perceptions — that is, taking in food and working it through — predominates in the liver. Therefore lung and liver formations lie in the middle between the stomach and the brain and head formations.
If you lay a foundation with such thoughts, you will not be far from understanding what I have to say about certain human organs really being organs of respiration. All those organs that are shaped like the brain, lung, and liver are at the same time organs of respiration, but they have a tendency to breathe out. Thus they also excrete carbon dioxide externally. Such external excretion of carbon dioxide is the essential thing in breathing. These organs absorb oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, and this holds good not only for the lung but for the entire organism, for every organ. It is essentially an activity of the astral body, which develops its activity in sympathy and antipathy. Sympathy as a force corresponds to inhalation; antipathy as a force corresponds to exhalation of the astral body. In the description of the astral body given in my book, Theosophy, you find that it is permeated by the forces of antipathy and sympathy. It works in the human being in the whole breathing process according to antipathy and sympathy. This must be regarded as the inner activity of the astral body.
And now we come to the final point of these considerations. The proteinaceous content present in the human being, in so far as it belongs to the organs described, is essentially for the support of breathing and manifests outwardly through breathing. But everything that manifests outwardly also expresses itself inwardly. This is how I would sketch it schematically. If you have here a human organ rich in protein and belonging to the group of organs I mentioned, it manifests outwardly by developing the activity of breathing (see drawing, red). But in breathing outward, it unfolds another activity within, the polar activity to breathing, namely, the activity liberating the soul, liberating the spirit. An activity freeing the soul: in breathing out, in unfolding the act of breathing in an outward direction, you unfold inwardly a soul-spiritual activity. This does not require space, of course; on the contrary, in space it disappears continually, passing out of three-dimensional space. This activity manifests within, however — in an inward direction — and to develop this activity within is essentially the function of human protein. What functions as an activity in the head enters from outside by way of the senses. Hence the head organs are the organs containing least of what is spiritual. They absorb the spirit from outside, acquiring it for themselves by means of the senses. The head is the least spiritual organ in the human being.
By contrast, man's spirituality — that is, the development of spirit within, the development of spirituality in the body, of real spirit, not abstract spirit — begins in the pulmonary system and works from outside inward in contrast to breathing. The most spiritual organs are those belonging to the liver system. These are the organs that develop the most spiritual activity in an inward direction. This also explains why “head men” are often materialistic, because only the external spirituality can be worked through with the head, and in this way one is wrongly led to believe that everything spiritual that is developed is received from outside, from the world of the senses. If a person is a real intellectual, then he becomes at the same time a materialist. The more one is a “head thinker,” the more one is disposed to become a materialist. On the other hand, if the whole human being struggles to attain knowledge, if a person begins to develop a consciousness of the way the entire human being thinks, including the organs situated further back, materialism ceases to be justifiable.
The activity manifesting in breathing is also revealed outwardly in the excretion of carbon in carbon dioxide. But the inward activity of spiritualization is bound up with nitrogen. The nitrogen that has been used in spiritualization is eliminated, and the degree to which nitrogen is eliminated is a measure of the inner work of the human organs in the direction of spirituality. You can conclude from this that one who does not believe in such spirituality will obviously have to remain very unclear about the absorption of nitrogen in the human organism. The role played by nutrition can be clarified only if one knows how in all protein formation there unfolds an activity directed outward and one directed inward. If you study this process, which is essentially a breathing process with its polar opposite, you will realize that nutrition and digestion border everywhere on the breathing processes, that nutrition and digestion everywhere encounter the processes of breathing and spiritualization.
In this process of spiritualization, and therefore on the other side of breathing, are found the real shaping, plastic forces in protein formation: there we find everything that shapes the human being. From this you will also be able to see that what is active here points to an interaction between the astral and etheric bodies. The astral body is active in breathing by means of sympathy and antipathy; the etheric body is active through encountering in its activity the sympathies and antipathies of the astral body. Everywhere the etheric body with its activities hits up against the breathing process in the human organism. These etheric activities have their primary point of attack in the fluid constituents in the human being. As you know, at least two-thirds of the human body consists of water, and in this water-organism the etheric body is chiefly active. The etheric forces express themselves physically in this water-organism. The forces of breathing find expression in the air organism built into the human being. Thus we may regard what takes place between the astral body and the etheric body as an interaction between water forces and air forces.
This interaction of air and water forces is continually ongoing in the human organism. Of course, neither completely suppresses the other; hence we always inhale traces of water vapor with the air. There the etheric element encroaches on the breathing. Similarly, the breathing activity encroaches on the digestive and nutritive organs. In so far as you are formed out of protein, you also breathe. Thus these activities always overlap, and we are always faced with a predominance of one activity or another in one organ or another. There is nothing here that can be described in a one-sided way. We can never describe this or that organ as being exclusively a respiratory organ. If we maintain this about the lung, we are in error. The other activity is always there, even if to a lesser degree. Nutrition takes place primarily through an activity that impresses itself on the fluid-etheric and on the solid-physical. Therefore nutritive and digestive activities occur primarily in the ethericfluid and the physical-solid, whereas the main respiratory activity is developed in the astral-airy, and the main ego activity, the actual spiritual activity, unfolds in the warmth conditions connected with the ego itself. Spiritual activity within the physical organism is a cooperation of the ego with warmth conditions, i.e., with all those organizations where warmth can work into the physical. The ego must always go hand in hand with warmth, must always operate through warmth. If we put a patient to bed and tuck him in, this is simply an appeal to the ego to make use of the warmth generated in an appropriate way.
These considerations provide insight into human nutrition in general. Nutrition is an interaction between tissue fluid — i.e., the watery constituent in which nutrition and elimination chiefly take place — and the protein organism of the human being. The latter is, relatively speaking, extraordinarily stable; it is labile in a certain respect only during the period of growth, then becomes stable and undergoes a kind of disintegration during the second half of life. In the tissue fluid there is a continual assimilation and disintegration of the protein in food. It is in this activity that attacks are made on that which wants to remain stable in protein formation: the human being's inner proteinaceous organs generally; they want to remain stable. This is because they wish to liberate soul-spiritual activity inwardly, to isolate it within. What is achieved through the process of nutrition is this continual interaction between the extraordinarily mobile play of forces, constituted by this active assimilation and disintegration of protein, and the play of forces striving towards rest that arise in this interplay of the inner protein in the human being. Hence it is partly a superstition, partly correct, to say that the human being builds up his body through the substances he absorbs from his food. It is a superstition because the constructive forces are already present in his proteinaceous body simply by virtue of the fact that a human being is a human being; on the other hand, the human being unfolds an activity from the other pole, which conducts a continual attack on this stability of his own proteinaceous formation.
We may say then that it is incorrect to believe that human life is maintained only by the consumption of food. This is simply not correct. It would be just as correct to say that life is maintained by the active interplay of forces in the tissue fluids. When you give food which stimulates this activity in the tissue fluids, you maintain life. This does not happen by merely introducing food substances into the body but by the encounter with the stable forces of its own proteinaceous constituents. This is a process that you stimulate by absorbing food, and this process is the most fundamental factor in the maintenance of life. Here, too, we find that we have to look at the process. It can be, for example, that substances we know to be effective in children do not necessarily act in the same way in an adult; for a child is developing his body and needs the introduction of substances and the unfolding of their forces in an inward direction. If you know that something is effective as substance in a child, it will not be similarly effective in the adult. In an adult, it may be much more necessary simply to maintain and stimulate the forces in his tissue fluids that are striving toward rest.
If you now study everything that takes place in the human organs with a backward orientation, as it were (the head is also such an organ), everything taking place in the lungs and liver, and then turn your attention to those more embedded in this activity of the tissue fluids, you will find the heart enclosed by the lungs as the archetypal organ. The human heart is entirely formed out of the activity of tissue fluid, and its activity is no more than the reflection of this inner activity.
The heart is not a pump! I have often said this; it is rather an apparatus for sensing or registering the activity in the tissue fluid. The heart is moved by the circulation of the blood; it is not the pumping action of the heart that moves the blood. The heart has no more to do with human circulation than a thermometer does with the production of outer heat or cold. Just as the thermometer is nothing more than an instrument for registering the degree of heat or cold, so your heart is nothing more than an apparatus for registering what takes place in the circulation and what flows into this from the metabolic system. This is a golden rule that we must heed if we wish to understand the human being. In the belief, that the heart is a pump driving the blood through the blood vessels, we can see how modern natural science reverses the truth. Anyone believing in this superstition about the heart ought to be consistent and believe that it is warmer in his room because the thermometer has risen! This is the consistent conclusion of such an approach.
You can see to what results one is led by views that simply do not take into account what is by far the most significant aspect of man's being: the soul and spirit. Such views ignore the mobile, the dynamic aspects and proceed from what is merely material, trying to draw from the substance itself those forces that are only imprinted on the substance. Such views want to attribute to the heart the forces that are only imprinted upon it by the dynamics, by the play of forces in the human body.
In the heart activity and in the heart organ we really have the most advanced organization of what is placed over against respiration and the liberation of the spirit in man. This may now be called a polar metamorphosis, in contrast to a mere transformation. In the head, lung, and liver, you have various stages of metamorphic transformations. But as soon as you study the heart in relation to the lungs, you have to speak about a polar metamorphosis, for the heart in its formation is the polar opposite of the lung.
All those organs that develop in a more forward direction — for example, the female uterus, which is the most prominent example — are then further transformations, step by step, of the heart formation. (I speak of the “female uterus,” because there is also a “male uterus,” but this is only present in the male as part of the etheric body.) The uterus is nothing other than a transformed heart. With this method of studying things, we can gain all that is necessary to understand this organization in the human being.
The fats and carbohydrates now intervene in this other activity that has its center in the heart — if I may put it so — and comes to rest in the heart's movement. The fats and carbohydrates exert their activity here. Of course, this extends over the whole body, because the whole body deposits substance and is a functional outcome of systems of forces directed toward combustion, just as the whole body breathes and develops what is spiritual.
This sheds some light on pulmonary tuberculosis and we will see how such an inner study of the human organism leads us further and further toward therapeutic matters. What was formerly called consumption — and has now been labelled tuberculosis for purely theoretical reasons — is really due to man's being cut off from the extra-terrestrial and confined to the earthly through various influences such as poor housing and so on. All descriptions of pulmonary tuberculosis can be summed up by saying that the patient is being cut off from the sun and cosmic space and is drawn toward what is cutting him off. He is drawn toward that which paralyzes his delight in the extra-terrestrial. This delight depends essentially on sense perception. The patient's soul cannot penetrate to the senses and retreats down into the lungs, so that the lungs strive to become an organ of thought, to become a head. This is, in fact, revealed clearly even in the pathological manifestations. In wanting to become a head they take on a form and one can see that the forces tending to ossify the human head then come to expression in the lungs, resulting in indurations, consolidations, tuberculomas, and the like.
How can this tendency be opposed? If you want to work against this tendency of the lung to become “head,” you must realize first of all that we have to do with a weakening of the required astral activity and with an excessive strengthening of the ego activity. This activity of the ego begins to overpower the astral activity. This must be remedied. Sense impressions from outside especially stimulate ego activity, but sense impressions from outside pass into the whole human organism by bringing about salt depositions. These are not properly regulated in a person with a tendency to pulmonary tuberculosis. Hence you must help in such a case by using rather strong salt rubbings to try to oppose, at the right moment, what the lung can no longer oppose. Salt rubbings, applied from outside, oppose the consolidating processes acting from within. Of course, one must form the whole treatment in such a way that the organism is inclined to receive what is introduced in the effects of salt from outside. The patient could also take salt baths, strong salt baths, but then the organism must be led to become disposed to work upon the salt within, i.e., to respond from inside.
Here we can be led to the following considerations, which follow partly from our discussions last year. If you wish to stimulate the organism to develop an activity from within that interacts with and regulates certain outer organizing forces, you must give mercury in small doses, i.e., in doses approaching the homeopathic. Mercury is an important remedy in this direction, an important means for regulating this. Here you will have to take into account something of general importance regarding dosages. Putting together all I have presented, you can conclude that the system most similar to outer nature is the metabolic-limb system. If something is lacking there, you must use the lowest potencies. As soon as you have to deal with the middle system, you need intermediate potencies. When you have to work with the head, when something has to do with the spiritual in the head, you have to work with the highest potencies. But in this case we are dealing with the lung activity, i.e., with a part of the middle human being, and an intermediate dosage of mercury must be used.
Whenever one intends to work primarily upon the head organization and from there back upon the entire organism, the highest potencies are required. These will be particularly beneficial in cases where one believes that something can be achieved with compounds of silica. Silica compounds require the greatest dilution by their very nature, for they always rise toward the head and the periphery of the body, which belongs to the head system. On the other hand, when you have occasion for other reasons to administer calcium compounds, you will usually do right not to use the highest potencies but lower ones. In short, the potency required will be determined by whether, in your view, you have to act on the metabolic-limb organism, the middle, rhythmic organism, or the head organism. You must bear in mind, of course, that the head organism works powerfully upon the whole organism from the other direction. For example, you may believe a patient to be suffering from a foot disease, but actually this may be a disguised head disease, having its origins in the head. In such a case you will have to effect a cure not from the metabolism but from the head. Thus one must use high — but not too high — potencies of a substance perhaps known to be valuable in lower potencies in cases that have to be treated from the metabolism. Gradually a rationale can be introduced into these deliberations, and this must be done. The details will become clear only when you consider precise observations yielded by experiments. The investigations must pursue these details in the directions I have suggested.
Only an individual who can carefully retain in his memory all that his experience has taught him will be able to speak about healing in detail. Every individual experience is obviously instructive and bears fruit for further experiences. If you consider then what I have said, it will no longer appear so puzzling that there are diseases that, for instance, attack the brain and the liver simultaneously, for the liver is only a metamorphosed brain. If you therefore find deterioration of the liver together with degeneration of the cerebral ganglia, these conditions run in the same direction, and you have a form of disease that is an intensification of what causes pulmonary tuberculosis. It is only an intensified metamorphosis of pulmonary tuberculosis. Hence internally you will have to give stronger doses of mercury. Regarding external treatment, you should not be content with salt rubbings and with baths of table salt (sodium chloride); instead you will have to use calcium salts.
You see now, however, that sources of error are everywhere, and one really finds what is right only if the human organism is studied from within. Imagine that someone can go and say, “Here is a disease that I will cure with mercury,” he may achieve some success. The disease, however, may have nothing to do with syphilis, but at some point this person got the idea that when mercury effects a cure, the disease must be connected with syphilitic processes. This is not necessarily the case at all. You will now better understand what I said last year when I spoke of "mental illnesses." Of course I meant paralytic disease when I spoke a few days ago of softening of the brain, but the description is not so vivid if one uses the word “paralysis.” One always has the feeling that one is dropping into a description of the outer complex of symptoms.
Questions now arise regarding what I said last year about the actual causes of psychological diseases. As I said then, these have to be looked for in deformations of the organs. One gets nowhere if one merely takes into account the psychological symptoms. Similar psychological complexes can even be traced back to totally different causes of illness. Especially in so-called mental illnesses we are led more and more to deformations of the organs, to an organ that is not functioning properly, and then the question arises as to why the organ is not functioning properly. It is because the stable — not the variable — forces in protein formation have become defective. Something in the patient is therefore continually striving to destroy the original plastic structure of the affected organ. Therefore it does no good to look for the cause in what is going on in the tissue fluid, which presents the other pole, the metabolism. If we proceed from the symptoms, it will not help us to study what is presented by the metabolism itself within the organism. Instead it is exceptionally important in trying to gain knowledge of mental illnesses to study the excretions. An important reference point will always be found there. It is of tremendous importance to investigate the excretions of mental patients, for — as I said last year — in certain forms of mental illness there is a compulsive tendency to form imaginations, inspirations. This is what “freeing the spiritual within” signifies.
This tendency is there because the organ has become defective. If the organ were not defective, if it were constituted normally, it would indeed form imaginations, but these would remain unconscious. When the organ has become defective, it is not able to form imaginations correctly. On the one hand, the organ is defective and the tendency to form imaginations arises; on the other hand, imaginations remain uncovered by the organ, and hallucinations arise. You could say then, that when we have an organ with imaginations developing within it (see drawing, red) which radiate through the rest of the human organism (see drawing, bright) and become perceptible, we are dealing with a deformed organ. The formation of imaginations (red) cannot unfold properly in its plasticity. As a result, because the imaginative activity is abnormal, it intrudes upon consciousness, and visions and hallucinations arise. On the other hand, the organ is damaged, and this gives rise to an urge to form correct imaginations. Only by seeing through these things from within can they be explained.
We will proceed tomorrow to answer individual questions that have been posed and to an explanation of our remedies.