Dornach, 27th October, 1923
Iron, Sodium, Carbon, Chlorine
(Dr. Steiner asks if anybody has a question.)
Questioner: I believe that we are expecting Dr. Steiner to make some further remarks about the stars.
DR. STEINER: Well, I will just try to connect my remarks with what I said last time and then build further on it. I will go over it again very briefly. We heard that everything which takes place with regularity in the universe, for instance, day and night, the course of the sun or the sequence of the seasons, is all connected with what is necessary in human life. The regular intake of food is necessary within the rhythm of sleeping and waking; the regular rhythm of breathing, circulation of the blood, and so on, is necessary. When we consider all this, we see that it is connected with what can be calculated through Astronomy. On the other hand, all that which happens less regularly — which certainly can be calculated but still happens less regularly, for example, comets and meteors — all these phenomena are connected with what is free will in man, with what gives rise to free will in man.
First and foremost we must turn our attention to a substance which is particularly important, which is abundant on the earth and indeed in the universe, and is present in the meteors which fall on the earth. This substance is iron. Iron exists in such abundance on the earth that the whole of our modern culture and civilisation may be said to be based on it. Just think of all the purposes for which iron is used! It is only quite recently that people have begun to manufacture all sorts of things from substances other than iron. During the last two centuries all the great advances, as well as our social conditions, have been due to iron. We must assume that iron is everywhere present in the universe because when anything falls to the earth from the heavens, it is found to be of iron.
Now let us consider the iron in our own bodies. It is very remarkable that at the beginning of his earthly life the human being drinks a substance which contains practically no iron — namely, milk. The mother's milk contains hardly any iron. So we can say: it is only in the course of his life that man begins to take in iron with his food. What does this mean!
Think of a baby: it kicks a lot and certainly dreams; but it has neither independent thought nor any free will in the real sense. In the measure that it attains freedom of will, its instincts call for iron. Iron is really necessary for free will. And if you come across a man who is hoarse or has a very weak voice and you want to know what is really the cause of it, you must above all find out if he is getting enough iron, for a man who gets too little iron shows this in the lack of will as expressed in speech. When you come across a man who can literally bellow when he is talking, you need not worry whether he is getting enough iron. But in the case of a man who can hardly make himself heard, you are perfectly right to consider how far iron is lacking. Man's need of iron for his free will is shown outwardly. We can therefore easily understand that the iron which is everywhere present in the universe and in the earth is connected with man's free will.
Now everything that happens influences everything else and we must be clear that iron alone does not form us or the universe — otherwise we should be iron men ... which would certainly make for strength, but if we were iron men we could not do many other things. So we must look for something which can form compounds with iron.
I told you recently that soda is especially important for everything in us that has to do with thinking. For soda is sodium carbonate and sodium carbonate has a stimulating effect upon the head. Everything that is connected with our thinking, with our head, with our inner light, has to do with soda. You will remember that I recently explained this.
In order that a substance like soda may be present in us, we must take in the oxygen contained in the air. This we do in breathing, for the air consists of oxygen and nitrogen — of many other things too but they play a less important part. We take in the oxygen with our breathing. What about the carbon? We form carbon in ourselves out of the food we take. Carbonic acid is formed and we then get carbonate of soda. Soda is very important for our heads. We have sodium carbonate — soda — within us, and it is all the time passing into our heads. In propagation, too, it has its part to play as I once told you. So you see soda is of great importance to us.
And now I will tell you something else. I spoke to you once — it was some time ago — about colours. The chief colours are to be seen in the rainbow: violet, blue, green, yellow, then orange and then red, in order. These are the colours of the rainbow. Nature creates these colours in the rainbow, but man can also create them by admitting just a tiny shaft of light through the window of a dark room. (Sketch.) Here is a window, here a small hole where the shaft of light enters. Here you place a glass prism so that the light passes through it and in this way you can get the colours as in the rainbow. You can then project them on a wall.
Now this succession of colours, this spectrum which appears here in the prism, as in the rainbow, has this peculiarity: it is only properly shown when one uses a glass prism, or sunlight. When one uses other bodies, one does not get this sequence of colours but only single colours. For example, under certain circumstances it can be dark everywhere, except for a fine yellow line in the middle. How is this? If you put sodium into a flame and let it burn in the flame, then you get this yellow line, not the red line, but the yellow. Thus when you take a flame, let the light pass through a small hole and take a prism, you do not get a spectrum of the sun, but a yellow line. When you take a tiny bit of sodium and bring it into this large space (sketch) you get the fine yellow line. There need not be much sodium — everywhere there are these fine yellow lines — even the very tiniest amounts of sodium give these yellow lines. ... Sodium is widely, very widely spread in the universe. If you ask yourselves, why is sodium so widespread, then you must answer: in order that this sodium carbonate, this soda, can come into existence. It is spread everywhere in order that human heads can exist. Iron is everywhere present in the universe in order that we can have free will. Sodium is everywhere in order that we can have heads. Were sodium not present in the universe, it would be quite impossible for us to have heads.
Now what must be present in order that we, as human beings, can have heads? There must be carbonic acid, that is to say, carbon and oxygen; and there must be sodium. Sodium, as I have told you, is present everywhere in the universe. Carbon we have in ourselves. It is all the time being created in us from our food; only it is transformed because we do not want to be dead carbon men, but living men, who destroy substance and then re-create it. And especially we create carbon. Thus we have the carbon ourselves, we take the oxygen from the air and the sodium from the universe. These must be present, in order that we may have heads.
You see now that in this way, if these things were present which I have described, we could have heads and we could have our free will. But how would this free will help us as earth-men if we had not arms and legs so that we could use it? We must also be able to nourish ourselves. In order that we can be built up from the materials of the earth, we must be able to take in food. This depends on the fact that we have in our lower organs something similar to what we have in our breathing. We breathe in oxygen; we breathe out carbonic acid gas. If we did not breathe out this carbonic acid, then the plants would not have carbon, for it is taken from the carbonic acid of men and animals. Thus plants are formed by what is breathed out by men and animals. Moreover, the oxygen takes our carbon away — it combines with our carbon. But first we must produce the carbon, we must first have it. To this end we must take food. Oxygen is frightfully greedy for carbon. If we did not give up our carbon to the oxygen, we should at once get fits of suffocation when the carbon cannot get out — that is to say, when the carbonic acid cannot get out. We should suffocate at once. Oxygen is really greedy. Our stomach must also take in food. Just as the oxygen takes up carbon and carbonic acid is formed, so must our stomach greedily take in carbon. Our stomach literally craves for food.
Now we might imagine that if oxygen were in our stomach, it could get out through the mouth and nose. The oxygen is there inside: it absorbs the carbon. There must thus be something in the stomach which also serves the process of the taking of nourishment. And so there is: a substance very like oxygen is in the stomach and is continuously being secreted, namely, chlorine.
I have told you already that soda is used for bleaching and especially for washing. But chlorine is also used for bleaching, is in fact, contained in washing blue. It also is a material which has light in itself, which carries light. Chlorine is very similar to oxygen.
In the breathing organs it is the oxygen of the air which continuously extracts the carbon from our bodies. In the stomach there is chlorine which, because it is greedy, frightfully greedy, similarly attracts to itself all hydrogen. And together with the hydrogen it forms hydrochloric acid.
This hydrochloric acid flows about in our stomach and it is greedy for food. When we take food into our mouths it must first be dissolved by the acid in the saliva — ptyalin. This ptyalin is similar to hydrochloric acid. Then, when the food gets to the stomach, there is pepsin, which is somewhat similar to hydrochloric acid. But pepsin is hydrochloric acid which is alive. It absorbs food greedily. If a man has too little hydrochloric acid he has a bitter taste in his mouth. Why? Because hydrochloric acid takes up all foodstuffs greedily and dispatches them to all parts of the body. So when the hydrochloric acid does not work properly, the food which a man has eaten remains in the stomach. Then he has a bitter taste in the mouth when it comes up as gas, and a coated tongue. Some hydrochloric acid must always be active inside us, especially if we are to build up our limbs.
And so we can say: Iron would not really help us unless we could use it in the operations of free will. We must build up our limbs. In order to do this, chlorine and hydrogen must combine to form hydrochloric acid. We must have this in us.
Now consider: Apart from all else, you have everywhere in your bodies hydrochloric acid, and carbon, and much else. You must look at man like this. If this is a man (sketch), there is hydrochloric acid everywhere. This must take up tiny particles of iron from the blood. Then a man can develop a free and powerful will. So much depends upon how a man combines the iron in himself with what comes from the hydrochloric acid, from the chlorine. This process must always take place in the right way. Now it can happen that young girls at puberty have to expend so much energy that they have not enough left to combine the hydrochloric acid with the iron. Then, on the one hand, there is iron which makes them heavy and cannot combine with what comes from the chlorine because there is not enough energy to make this possible. It is useless simply to give iron to such a girl; for very likely she has enough iron already. She has anaemia, which young girls get, not because they have too little iron, but because the iron cannot combine with the chlorine. So you see this power to combine the iron with the chlorine must be developed in us.
Now think of iron and then look out into the cosmos. Iron is connected with Mars. Mars is really the creator of iron in our planetary system. Man is related to Mars and the forces of Mars in many ways. I have already spoken about these things and shall do so again. Iron is connected with Mars. When we ask: What is it that has a great influence on a man when he does not properly produce his hydrochloric acid, when his stomach does not function properly, we find that it is Mercury, the planet Mercury, which is connected with chlorine. So that in the case of a young girl who is anaemic, we can say: the Mercury forces (which should work on the stomach and its appendages) and the Mars forces are not working well together. Mars creates in us those forces which make it possible for us to have iron. Mars must be there in order that we may have the power to use iron. And iron must be there in order that we may have the power to exercise free will. Mars gives us the power of the iron; meteors, since they are all the time giving up iron to the air, supply the substance of iron. Mars is that body in the cosmos which enables us to use in the proper way that iron which the meteors and comets bring to us in an irregular manner. It is actually the force of Mars together with that of the comets and meteors which enables us to speak. ... People just take human speech casually, and see nothing special in it. They do not really think, indeed they cannot really think, because they turn their attention to something which is not reality. Quite trivial matters are evidence of this. Just recently we have had a fire alarm test here. Naturally in such tests everything is done as it would be in the case of an actual fire. The Catholic Sunday paper announced that there had been a real fire here which was soon extinguished. You see, people are willing to think about something that didn't happen but not about something that did! That is just what is peculiar to-day: people think about all kinds of things that have never happened and have no inclination to think about what did. But a man who is always thinking about things which haven't happened loses all sense of reality. And that is so general nowadays. It is crippled thinking ... after all, when people continuously lie what is it but crippled thinking!
Thus free will in man is produced by the Mars force and comet force. This, however, must work properly with the Mercury force within him. It is Mercury which causes in our stomach the right hydrochloric acid combination. Just as we make use of soda in our heads, so in our stomachs we use what comes from hydrochloric acid. Soda gives light to the head, and also to the embryo which is, for the most part, head. When the human being reaches puberty, the hydrochloric acid is taken over by those parts which are connected with the stomach. And if the hydrochloric acid combines with the soda which is everywhere present, we get ordinary salt. In our heads we need soda, with which we also bleach. In our stomachs we need ordinary salt. This is not only taken in with the food but is always being created, so that down there in the body too there may be light. For both soda and salt are carriers of light, are transparent to it.
Now it is not without purpose that we add salt to our food. We salt our food in order to adjust ourselves properly to nature because we always secrete rather too little of our own salt. Thus the Mars force and the Mercury force must work together properly; if this happens, the iron that is necessary in our limbs will be at the disposal of our will, and we shall be able to use them with healthy, free will.
You can see in the case of an anaemic girl, for example, that what comes from the stomach and depends on hydrochloric acid does not properly combine with the iron. Now we must investigate, and perhaps it will be found that the fault lies with iron — perhaps there is too little iron (which may well be the case in anaemia); or perhaps there is too little chlorine (which may also be the case). Then we must try to remedy this. But the trouble in most cases is that the two do not combine: Mars and Mercury in the human being do not combine. That is usually the cause of anaemia.
In modern medicine people always want to find a single cause of disease ... but diseases may look identical outwardly and inwardly be quite different! If a girl has anaemia we must not only ask: has she too little iron? too little chlorine? ... but we must also ask: or do they not combine properly? If the girl has too little iron, we must see to it that she is given iron in the appropriate form. Well and good, but that is not so easy as it seems. For if, as usually happens, iron is introduced into the stomach, the chlorine must have the inclination to combine with this iron, otherwise the iron is left in the stomach, passes away through the bowels and does not get into the organism. Thus a way must first be found of bringing the Mercury force, the chlorine force, into the human being. And so it is of great importance not simply to give the iron as iron, but to introduce the iron into the stomach in such a form that it may somehow be taken up by the chlorine. But for that purpose a special medicine must be prepared, for example from spinach. Spinach contains iron. One can also make a medicine from other things, for example from aniseed and so on; but especially from spinach — not as ordinary spinach though it may also help if eaten just as it is. ... A medicine must be prepared from the iron in spinach, for it is then in a form in which it can be properly taken up by the blood. So, in a case where one finds that there is too little iron, one must try in this way to introduce more. But the disease may also be due to the fact that there is too little fat in the stomach to create hydrochloric acid. A certain scientist has discovered that in anaemia too little chlorine is created and so the disease has also been given the name of Chlorosis. But the real connection is not understood. One must not just try to introduce hydrochloric acid into the stomach for perhaps there is already enough of this, especially if it is brought in from outside. But what is important is that the chlorine should be produced in the stomach itself, that the stomach should have the capacity to produce chlorine. Man needs his own chlorine, not that which is introduced from outside. And for this it is necessary to introduce into the stomach something prepared in a special way from copper. This will make the stomach more capable of creating chlorine. ... So you see, things must be looked at from all sides. Usually in anaemia it is not the iron which is lacking, or the chlorine, but the trouble is due to the fact that the two cannot combine. Mars and Mercury in man cannot come together.
In the cosmos, between Mercury and Mars, stands the Sun (diagram). Just as Mars is connected with iron, so is Mercury connected with quicksilver or with copper. If when there is a lack of chlorine one needs the Mars forces, and when there is a lack of copper the Mercury forces, so when the two cannot come together one needs to strengthen the working of the Sun forces which lie between them. For it is the Sun force in man which brings chlorine and iron together. And this Sun force can be stimulated by giving gold in tiny quantities. When one tries to cure with gold — naturally in specially prepared forms because otherwise it lies in the stomach and is not absorbed — one can bring Mars and Mercury together again.
So you see, in illnesses of this character three kinds of medicine come into consideration. One cannot cure the disease merely from its name, but one must give a preparation of copper or of iron taken from a plant, from spinach for example. Or gold — in the appropriate form — may be necessary to bring them together. It amounts to this — when one only knows what happens here on the earth, one can know nothing essential about man ... and things that outwardly appear to be identical are called by identical names. But that is just as if we wanted to use a razor for cutting meat, simply because it is a knife. ... Anaemia's are not always the same. One form is due to poverty of iron, another to poverty of chlorine; and a third form is due to the fact that they do not harmonize properly ... there are different kinds of anaemia, just as there are different kinds of knives — razors, table-knives, pen-knives. But people always tend to mix everything up. A man may say of the condiments on the table that they are all additions to food, and so he salts his coffee, since salt is a condiment and so is sugar! This is on a par with the people who proclaim to the world: anaemia is anaemia. It is just as nonsensical as saying: condiment is condiment. For when one tries to cure an anaemia that is due to disharmony by means of iron, one does the same as when one salts coffee.
You see, it is a matter of looking for something which is not just at the end of one's nose. It can be said with truth that our science has progressed a nose's length, for when one looks in a microscope, one always knocks one's nose! In life it is not so simple. It is said of a man who does not see something that he sees no farther than his nose. (Those people to-day who are always looking through microscopes, they also see no farther than their noses). ... But one must look up to Mars if one wants to see what is important in ordinary iron. Why? The connections can only be discovered by looking out into the cosmos. It is not poetical fiction to say that Mars has this or that power. It is not that one develops a sort of dim, vague clairvoyance which looks up to Mars, but one must get to know many things: one must learn to understand the Mars force in man and then one can really speak of Mars; otherwise not. And so it is with the other planets. We can for example say: it will always be found that when something is inwardly lacking in a human being — as in the case of anaemia when the iron cannot be assimilated — this is connected with an irregular working of Mercury in the organism. If something is outwardly lacking, this is connected with an irregular working of Mars.
There are, for example, girls who suffer from anaemia at puberty — this means that something is inwardly not as it should be. The Mercury force is too weak and we must strengthen it by means of the gold forces.
There are also boys — you know, with boys at puberty something happens outwardly, namely the change of voice; sometimes a hoarseness appears; while with girls something happens inwardly — the periods commence. This hoarseness corresponds to the anaemia of girls — boys of course may suffer from it too and in that case there is also something wrong inwardly. But when the change in the voice does not take place properly and a certain hoarseness appears, as is often the case, then the real culprit is not the Mercury force, but the Mars force. Although iron comes not only from Mars but from the meteors, one must in any case strengthen the Mars forces — and this may be possible with gold. You see, the onset of puberty expresses itself in quite different ways: with girls, in that they come more under the Mercury forces; with boys, in that they come more under the Mars forces and are inclined to get hoarse; or if they are not always hoarse they become so every winter.
These things must be investigated by Spiritual Science to-day. The other sciences have no idea at all of these things. When anaemia is caused by a poverty of iron, for example, it is a matter of introducing into the stomach in the appropriate way that which, in the plant, brings about the right divisibility of iron. We only really get to know the nature of man when we relate it to the whole of the cosmos. This is infinite, but we must realise that all the stars of heaven have their particular influence on man. This is of the utmost importance.
We will deal with other matters next time. Perhaps something will occur to you in connection with these things. You might also ask yourselves: How is the people's food related to their health? Something may have occurred to you in connection with prevalent epidemics, and so forth. We might speak about this. Think it over and perhaps by next time you will have found something you would like to hear about in connection with nutrition.