The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Origin and Destination of Humanity
GA 53

XXII. The Medical Faculty and Theosophy

25 May 1905, Berlin

Note: The transcript of the four “faculty” lectures are deficient. It shows not only noticeable gaps; the author of the transcript is also not familiar with the topic of the lectures. He often made summaries in haste as far as he understood the lecturer. That is why some connections shifted. Although notices of other participants were used, the deficiencies of the text could not be essentially corrected except for some big misunderstandings.

It is a preliminary work of theosophy to illumine all fields of the present spiritual life comprehensively and to show how theosophical thoughts and ideas can work in every field of this modern spiritual life if they are accepted. Then they can prepare a full understanding of that which theosophy has to say in every field of our spiritual life. The modern human beings live in images and suggestions of the public life which, of course, influence them strongly, images that directly counteract our views and would gradually undermine them unless the ideas of theosophy flowed into these views. Fichte says that ideals cannot be applied directly in life, but ideals should be the propelling forces of life. Theosophy aims at this.

The doctor who has set himself the task to heal is freer than the lawyer. He is not restricted by prejudices and authorities and, hence, some doctors are found who co-operate with us. However, we do not want to interfere in the quarrel of the parties, this would be a subjective behaviour; we want to explain quite objectively only what theosophy has to say concerning the medical science. And we want always to bear in mind that theosophy can be hard understood, very hard by those who have lived under the constraint of studies. Only someone who freely stands there does not find any conflict between true science and what theosophy wants. Theosophy completely acknowledges the tremendous progress which the natural sciences have done during the last centuries and particularly in the last decades.

There are in all fields of culture big cyclic laws which refer also to the negative and to the positive sides of culture. If also in the medical science so much is uncertain today, we have to realise that the basic cause of this uncertainty is deeply rooted in our ways of thinking. These ways of thinking are rooted deeper than all theories which one acquires in any science. And they cannot be simply altered, but only replaced bit by bit with others. Today the materialistic, mechanistic thinking of our time influences all these ways of thinking.

How does the modern doctor despise medical science of the Middle Ages and antiquity; and, nevertheless, the future doctor could learn a lot from the history of the medicine of those ancient times. He could learn some other views than they prevail in the present medicine. The fewest doctors today know the theories of Galen, two to three centuries AD, for example, and the medical scholasticism of the Middle Ages. One looks wrongly down at this ancient medical science. If the modern doctors wanted to get to know them, they would be able to get to know something valuable. The Hippocratic doctrine, which teaches that the human being is composed of four elements earth, water, air and fire, excites sneer. If is spoken there of black and white bile, phlegm, blood and their relations to the planets of our solar system, are this no such theories as one puts up theories today. However, these theories have made the medical intuition fertile which gave old doctors the possibility to carry on the medical profession in quite different way than the modern doctor can do it.

The shamans of savage tribes have a principle that is accepted only by few reasonable persons. It is the same principle that also forms the basis of the oriental medicine, namely that the doctor, who wants to heal, must have absorbed qualities in himself which enable him to understand life from quite another side.

It may be an example of that what I mean if we look at a people that does not belong to the present cultural nations, to the Hindus. The doctors of the Hindus apply a principle which forms the basis of immunisation, the vaccination, as we know it, with an antiserum. They combat a certain form of disease, applying the cause of the disease as a remedy. The Hindu doctors heal snakebites, while they work on the wound with their saliva. The saliva is prepared by training, the doctors have immunised themselves against snakebites, against snake venom, exposing themselves to snakebites. It is their view that the doctor can also cause something bodily by something that he develops in himself. All remedial effects of a person on a person are based on this principle. With the Hindus a certain initiation forms the basis of this principle. You know that the human being becomes a different person by a certain training. The forces which another human being does not have are developed with them completely just as a piece of iron develops its strength by touching with a magnet.

The young doctor would receive quite different feelings with respect to healing if he became engrossed in the real history of medicine. Nevertheless, the words whose sense he cannot find out nowadays contain a deep sense, even if he denies it with a sneer.

It is pitiful that our whole science is infiltrated with materialistic imponderables; thus it is hardly conceivable that anybody frees himself from them and learns to think independently. Our whole scientific foundation of anatomy, physiology, comes from this materialistic way of thinking. In the 16-th century, Vesalius (Andreas V., 1514–1564, Belgian anatomist) gave the first teachings of anatomy, Harvey (William H., 1578-1657, English anatomist) gave the teachings of the blood circulation in the materialistic sense; according to this system the 17th and 18th centuries taught. The human being had to think materialistically for some centuries to do all big discoveries and inventions which we owe to these times. This way of thinking taught us to produce certain substances in the laboratory we owe Liebig's (Justus von L., 1803–1873, German chemist) epoch-making discoveries to it-, but it also led to regard the human cover as the only one. It is difficult to reconcile what we call life with the concept which the materialistic doctor has of it. Only someone who knows by intuition what life is can really penetrate to the understanding of life. And somebody like this also knows that the effectiveness of chemical and physical laws in the human body is controlled by something the term of which is absent, which can be recognised only by intuition. Not before the doctor himself has become another person, he can realise this. With a certain training he has to acquire the concepts and then the insight of the mode of action of our etheric body. The usual reason, the usual human intellect, is incapable to understand the spiritual; as soon as it should advance to higher fields, it fails. Hence, without intuition everything in the medical field is only discussing; one does not touch reality. Higher, subtler forces are necessary that must be developed by the doctor, then only a thorough healing of certain damages is possible.

We theosophists know, for example, from occult investigations that vivisection works deeply damaging in certain respect. What happens in this field is deeply damaging. We theosophists cannot appreciate the ostensible merits of the vivisectors. Indeed, we would not be understood if we expounded the reasons why we refuse vivisection; without getting involved in theosophical concepts, one would not understand just these reasons. Vivisection originated from the materialistic way of thinking which is destitute of any intuition which cannot look in the works of life. This way of thinking must look at the body as a mechanical interaction of the single parts. Then it is quite natural that one takes the animal experiment where one believes that the same interaction takes place as with the human being to recognise and combat certain illness processes. Only who knows nothing about the real life can do vivisection.

A time comes when the human beings figure out the single life of a creature in connection with the life of the whole universe. The human beings get reverence for life. Then they learn to realise: any life that is taken away from a living being, any harm that is caused to a living being lessens the noblest forces of our own human nature because of a connection which exists between life and life. Just as a quantity of mechanical work can be transformed into heat, something changes by the homicide of a living being in the human being, so that he becomes unable to have an curative and beneficial effect on his fellow men. This is an unbreakable principle. Here everything nebulous, everything unclear is strictly impossible. Here rules mathematical clarity.

If the human beings got involved in that which forms the basis here, they would also see the influence that must be exercised to be able to heal, to be a healer as a doctor. If the person concerned wants to be a doctor and a healer, he must improve and purify his nature at first. He has to develop it to that stage where only certain sensations and feelings can appear to us. Here it depends on trying! There one has to learn to realise first that the usual reason can be extended, can be spirtualised. It is a triviality saying: here and there are the limits of our knowledge methods. There are still other knowledge methods than those are which our reason uses. But, unfortunately, few persons realise this. Here it depends on wanting to defer to the theosophical attitude. Not before the sense-perceptible facts of anatomy and physiology are not only taught, not before one approaches them with “the eyes of the spirit,” as Goethe says, another study of the human body takes place. And only then all discoveries of the last decades concerning the medical science receive the correct light to recognise, for example, certain relations of the thyroid gland with other functions.

Not before one approaches theosophical knowledge, one sees every matter in its right hue and receives quite different values. The knowledge of the spiritual that connects the facts in these fields is still missing in the search for knowledge. Certain concepts which one has obtained may be absolutely correct, but the methods of application may be wrong. Often two great authorities of a certain field say just the opposite about the same subject. Where from do such things result? From the fact that thinking itself has been urged in a certain one-sided direction with each of these authorities.

You may ask now: would it not be possible that the human being if he always lives a healthy life develops the things in himself that make him immune against illnesses, and could he not educate his organism to be able to endure illnesses? You have to bring the thinking into another direction, then truths appear in this field, and you get another direction of researching. The modern thinking has something absolute, final and is penetrated with the confidence in its infallibility; you can realise something papal in the way someone acquires such concepts. Research is determined by the way how one puts the questions to nature. If one asks it wrongly, it gives wrong answers. The experiments, the questions to nature bear a peculiar imprint in the 19-th, 20-th centuries: that of coincidence. You can often notice all possible attempts that are put next to each other grotesquely. This comes from the lack of intuition, especially in the medical science. However, it is really also possible to come to a free thinking within the medical science.

The modern doctor who has left the university and is unleashed on the suffering humanity is often in a unenviable state. The medical study has thrown him into a confusion of concepts where he cannot form an opinion. Then he finds a way of thinking with his patients, which does not want to get involved in thoroughness, they regard that as a Gospel which refers to any authority. The doctor often suffers hard from the prejudices of the patients. The doctor is only capable of something if he studies the subtle processes that happen in an ill body with the aid of life itself; but the patient must also assist.

Certain illnesses are connected with certain cyclic developments and conditions; certain illnesses are based on [gap in the shorthand] and occur according to certain physical laws. This appears to somebody who investigates certain illness forms with theosophical spirit. Big lines are developed in such thinking, which are the guidelines of life itself. And they give that certainty which is connected with a relentless striving and fulfils with confidence. Some regular world relations were revealed to someone thinking that way which fulfil the soul with deep, religious feelings at the same time. The Tübingen doctor Schlegel (Emil S., 1852–1935) is a typical and symptomatic example of all those who seek for a way out from the labyrinth of modern medicine. This doctor is at the beginning of a big career; he has some intuitions of a natural medicine, and he dares to connect religion and healing power with each other.

A human being whose thinking is spiritual can never take part in those attempts symptomatic for our present in the medical field. For he knows: all single attempts are only really effective if one gets down to the root of the evil, to the core of the thing. All polemic cannot cause any radical reversal; only a quite different thinking is capable of it.

A materialistically trained person cannot understand this. But we human beings must not misunderstand ourselves in this world. The theosophically thinking person understands that the materialistically minded person does not understand him because he is not able of it. Goethe expresses what is meant here saying: “a wrong doctrine cannot be disproved, because it is based on the conviction that the wrong is true.” The ways of thinking of our time must experience a radical reversal; then an improvement of the feelings and sensations results completely by itself up to intuition. Not before the medical science gains this, it will have something again that works in a salutary way, then only a religious feature inspires it again and then only the doctor is that which he should be: the noblest human friend who feels obliged to bring up his profession by his own perfection as high as possible.