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Insanity from the Standpoint of Spiritual Science
GA 55

31 January 1907, Berlin

Translator Unknown

Spiritual Science especially must have something to say about the so-called spiritual illnesses (diseases of the mind), Firstly the name is not chosen correctly—one should not speak of spiritual diseases Further, the greatest errors have spread in the lay-world, especially in this sphere, both in learned and unlearned circles, and their literature. The phenomenal forms are regarded as the things themselves. One speaks of illusions of grandeur, persecution, religious mania, etc. These ideas all designate symptoms. No one can become demented through a religious idea. One can e.g. read the extraordinary sentence—Hölderlin was diseased through the discord between the modern and antique world-view. If Hölderlin had not been a poet, the same dementia would probably have come over him, only it would have expressed itself differently, in different ideas. If one lives in religious ideas, and then becomes ill, his religious ideas are distorted. If he lived in materialistic ideas, then these are confused. The bases for spiritual diseases lie deep in human nature. The medicines of to-day create nothing positive in this sphere. It has only hypotheses, doubts, surmises. Of course, it is difficult indeed impossible, for materialists to get clarity in those questions. Many things which the Doctor no longer regards as mental disease, yet belong to it, e.g. frantic complaining, also religious sectarianism, and fanaticism. The latter live under an idea, as if under a fixed idea (compelling idea), which exercises a great suggestive power on weak natures, so that fashionable (?) diseases and thought-epidemics arise.

How can such things as insanity root itself in the being of man? For this we must keep in mind the four lower members of man; physical body, life body, astral body, and ego. The ego works at the other three members of man's being. Above all it ennobles and purifies the astral body by compelling it to follow its own impulses no longer blindly. But the ego also works into the life body and especially through the great impulses of life, especially through ART. As in the astral body, through the work of the Ego: 2 parts arise, a purified and impurified, so the life body also now becomes two-fold. And gradually that part which has been worked over by the ego becomes ever greater and greater. The ego also works in the physical, but unconsciously. Only a higher pupil of the Initiates can do that consciously. In order to be able to answer our question now we must call to mind re-incarnation. On sleeping, something similar happens to us as is the case of death. The astral body and the ego separate from the physical body in sleep.

All impulses and feelings then sink into an unconscious dark. The physical and etheric bodies remain behind in the bed. The etheric or life body also separates from the physical body at death. In the next hours while man's being remains in the etheric body, the former life passes before the soul in great pictures for such a time, until the etheric body also is released from it and. passes over into the general world-ether. But only the substantial part of the etheric body dissolves. The memory picture remains as an essence for all following times united with the astral body and ego. At first it passes over into the Kamaloka condition with them. Kamaloka, the place of desire is the condition in which everything is stripped off the astral body which still clings to earthly life.

Everything which has not yet been ennobled, dissolves. The rest is taken up into all future time. Parts of the physical body also go thus in quite a small measure, but only with very noble human beings. On re-incarnating, man takes to himself again the unennobled parts, in order to work further at their purification. The more often man appears on earth, the firmer becomes his character; the more refined his conscience, his talents and powers all the greater and more numerous.

We need above all the Hermetic Basic Sentence for the explanation of mental diseases. Everything above is as below, and everything below as above. The cheerfulness of man expresses itself to us in the smiling countenance without anything further. Tears announce inner grief of soul. Cheerfulness and grief in this case we will call “the above.” laughter and tears, which represent the material image cheerfulness and grief, “the below.” A rightly educated man sees the whole world differently. A flower is for him the expression of the grief or joy of the Earth-Spirit. And that is just as little merely a poetical thought. The Earth-Spirit lies at the base of the earth as “the upper.” All material is condensed spirit, just as ice is merely condensed water. As one can melt ice and it becomes water, so one can also transform matter so that it becomes spirit. We distinguish the following physical parts in man, which correspond to his upper members:—

  1. Purely physical, which is built according to purely physical laws, above all the sense-organs.
  2. Everything connected with growth, digestion and procreation. That which builds crystals could also build the human body, but it would then be a dead organism. The etheric body is the architect, which builds organs of digestion, etc.
  3. Nervous system (brain and spinal cord). The astral body is its architect.
  4. The blood. The ego dwells in this and is at the same time the architect of the blood-system.

Blood circulation ------------------ Ego.
Nervous System ------------------- Astral Body.
Procreation ------------------------- Etheric Body.
Physical ---------------------------- Physical Body.

Everything physical is subject to the laws of physical heredity; but also, the procreative organs, nerve system and blood circulation. The individuality must unite itself with the physical body. The ego with its ennobled astral and etheric bodies, indeed even parts of the physical body, must harmonise with what is inherited; together they must form a harmony. Almost always a harmony also is really formed, for the physical adapts itself to the spiritual (transforms itself). How, if such an adaptation is not possible? How, if the astral body gets a nervous system which it cannot employ straightway?—as a rule, we do not reckon sense-illusions among mental illnesses. A book of the Vienna criminal anthropologist BENEDICT can here offer us many interesting things although it is not written in an Anthroposophical sense. Benedict there gives us his own experiences. He had a partial cataract in the left eye so that he saw with some irregularity. If he looked in the dark in a quite definite direction, he saw ghosts of a quite special kind. He was once so horrified that he took up arms. This is to be explained thus: a healthy man is not conscious of the inner constituents of his eye. Whoever has irregularities in the eye will become conscious of them in such a way that they appear to him externally in mirror-images. We will now extend that to the entire human being. We are not at all conscious of our own inner being, but only of what is transmitted to us from outside. If harmony prevails between the ABOVE and the BELOW, then man is not at all conscious of inner processes. If one has, e.g. an unwieldy head which the astral body cannot use, then this disturbance which the astral body suffers expresses itself outwards just as the disturbance in the eye does. Then the astral body will become conscious of itself because it is disturbed. It then sees itself projected outwardly, hopes, wishes, desires, meet it in forms from outside. Delusions, manias, hysteria, are connected with this everything where man cannot bring his FEELINGS into harmony with the outer world. But the etheric body too can suffer inner abnormalities. It is the bearer of image-like ideas. If the etheric body is unconscious of itself, then the images of the outer meet him truly. If the disturbances of the etheric body reflect. the images externally, then delusive ideas (paranoia) arise. If the physical body itself is diseased, (which should be in harmony with the physical environment,)—if the physical body becomes conscious of itself, then idiocy appears. If the physical body is too heavy so that the astral body cannot dominate it,—cannot leave it, then what one calls dementia appears. If the physical organs are too moveable so that they cannot clearly express the soul—activity, then paralysis arises. Yet there exists here a multiplicity of oases which can have quite different origins, especially Ideas of delusions:

  1. Out of the projection of the astral body.
  2. Out of disease of the same.

then the effects become so strong that frenzy, delirium arises. These imprint themselves in the etheric body, and hence arise delusions. These delusive ideas are like scars on the wound in the astral body. They are much more difficult to cure than delirium. Cataract of the pupil is a preparation for mania. Only the fewest doctors know all this.

We will now call to mind that man is born more than once. At first physically but then at the change of teeth, the etheric body is born, then at puberty the astral body. It can how happen that first with the birth of the astral body, the discord is noticeable between the ABOVE and the BELOW. Previously the surrounding astral veil-maintained HARMONY. After the astral birth, the astral body is left to itself and now appears the discord between it and the physical body. This kind of insanity expresses itself by the young person often giving the same answer to quite different questions. He can also suffer with fixed (compelling) ideas. One calls this disease “Youthful imbecility.” Yet this does not appear suddenly, but slowly prepares itself from the age of 11 to 12. Conditions of depression, liability to fatigue, not getting on with one's environment, headaches, disturbances in digestion and sleep are the forerunners. It is sad if one considers that most parents still punish their children for such ills, while they regard these conditions as “peculiarities.” It is just this youthful imbecility that is most difficult of all to cure. But the spirit, as such, cannot be ill; for it is always healthy.

It is only disturbed when the BELOW does not accord with it. If one looks at oneself in a distorting mirror, one sees a caricature of oneself. No one concludes however from the caricature that his true likeness is also distorted, thus it is also with spiritual diseases. The forms of mania are caricatures of the spirit in the physical. Hence a healing is never possible on the path of logic, of abstract thoughts. Such endeavours are utterly worthless. Even our bodily organs are condensed spirit, even if not our spirit. And empty logical forms stand furthest removed from the spirit, condensed to the physical; nearest of all, however, are the imagelike ideas of Imagination, saturated with Passion. These can drive from the field the disease-producing power of other images. One must give counter-ideas through the force and power of another personality. One cannot demonstrate the illogicality to the diseased through propositions, but one can work through living presentation. The power of the personality must prove to the diseased that, e.g. he yet CAN do what he believes he cannot.

In this sphere of the so-called mental diseases (spiritual illnesses) ordinary science will one day have to unite with Spiritual Science. An exhaustive study is necessary to have always ready the necessary counter-ideas. Spiritual Science is not devoid of deeds, it does not creep away to distant worlds. It will co-operate practically. Because spiritual forces lie at the basis of the world, we must learn to know them if we will work in the world. Our material world is a copy of the spiritual. We must get to know this, in order to understand the physical. Heldenbach indeed says: What does all this spirit-stuff concern us? We, however, will say: Yet this human stuff does concern us and since human beings are united with the SPIRITUAL WORLD, we will find the bridge between the two.