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Spiritual Science and Medicine
GA 312

Lecture XIV

3 April 1920, Dornach

I have carefully considered for some time whether or not to include today's chapter in this lecture series, for its subject matter can only be presented in outline. But I have decided to include it, even if only to prove once more how greatly such things may be misunderstood. For on the one side, some people have long endeavoured to prove that Anthroposophy and its doctrines are muddled nonsense. Recently, however, it appears to have dawned on some other people that this opinion can no longer be held, but that Anthroposophy appears to correspond with the results of additional research into the ancient mysteries. So the attack is now from the other side: I am represented as a betrayer of the mysteries. Thus people can always find a possibility of accusation and attack, whether on one score or the other. If they can no longer state that these things are false they can at least maintain that it is extremely wrong to say them.

I must first of all repeat that the exclusively physical study of man only surveys a part and a comparatively small part of human nature This is for the simple reason that man contains the etheric body, the astral body and the ego, which are constantly working upon and moulding the physical organism, yet entirely inaccessible to external physical judgment—I use this term with intention and reference to what follows. At the same time it is not impossible for the human being to educate himself and evolve (granting steadfast effort) to the point of acquiring and assimilating a certain degree of clairvoyance into the operation of intellect and judgment. This will not yet mean the attainment of a proper clairvoyance associated with definite visual images, but it will be possible to attain a type of judgment capable of strong and reliable coincidence with the results of clairvoyance.

Now consider this. Let us begin with the ego—as it were the opposite extreme from the physical. The ego works upon the other human vehicles, and at the present stage of evolution its main sphere of action is on the physical body. In mankind today the ego has as yet comparatively little capacity for governing the etheric body. During childhood, it has such power strongly but unconsciously. This ceases later on. Only in those who retain in later life a vivid imagination or fantasy, is there a strong ego influence over the etheric body. In general, however, in all persons who develop their intelligence as distinct from their imagination and become dry intellectualists, there is a strong ego-influence over the physical body and only a slight influence over the etheric.

If you try to visualise this influence over the physical body, you will not need to go much further in order to picture in your minds as the work of the ego an intricate framework extending throughout the bodily organism; a delicate, weblike scaffolding. This scaffolding in the physical body, like a kind of phantom of man, is always present. We human beings carry with us through life, a framework imprinted into us through our ego-organisation; its structure is most delicate, and indeed it is the forces of the etheric body that insert it into the physical. But in the course of our lives, we gradually forfeit the power of consciously contributing to this structure. Only in people with creative imagination we find a half-conscious, dreamlike remnant of such power.

As you will have easily conceived, this weblike framework which the ego “timbers” into the organism of man is actually in some sense a “foreign body.” And there is a constant tendency to resist it. Every night during sleep, the human organism seeks to tear down this structure. Although we remain unaware of it in everyday waking life, do not let us forget this tendency. For this continuous tendency on the part of the ego-framework to break up, to fall to pieces in the organism, is the secret and permanent source of inflammatory conditions.

The concept of this kind of phantom-structure inserted by the ego into the human organism is of great importance, as is the realisation of the constant organic defensive reaction against it as a “foreign body,” and its continuous tendency to break up within the physical organisation. You will arrive at a visualisation which helps your judgment if you study psycho-physiologically the organisation of the human eyes. For all that takes place as between the eye itself and the external world, that is to say, between the soul and the external world by means of the eye, represents par excellence the erecting of this scaffold. There is an intimate interaction between the ego-framework proper and the results of the interplay of the eye with the world around it. I have often had occasion to study this interaction of eye and ego, in blind-born persons and in those who had lost their sight. Such cases reveal very plainly the mutual reactions of that phantom—normal to most people—which becomes incorporated in the organism by the mere fact of sight, and the other phantom which is the result of the ego's activity in the organism.

Suppose that an attempt be made to represent all this in graphic form. Through sight, through the visual process, a phantom is incorporated into the organism: and the other ego-structure lies a little deeper within, a little more inward. (See Diagram 25. Yellow portion and white portion.) The latter, more deep-seated structure is so constituted as to be perceptibly tinged with physical forces. It is an almost physical phantom that the ego inserts and erects; a real scaffold, but what the eye transmits is still etheric. And here we come to a striking difference between short-sighted and long-sighted people. In people of short sight, these two frameworks approach one another; the portion coloured white in the diagram moves inwards, closer to the yellow. In long-sighted persons, on the other hand, the white framework moves outwards, away from the yellow. In fact, if you study the organisation of the eye in any human being you will have the material for a sound judgment of the person's etheric body; the etheric body which is so like what I have just termed a framework. You cannot better train yourself to divine something of the nature of an individual etheric body, than by attentive study of the organisation of the organ of vision. Having once grasped this, you will find that the rest will be easy. Acquire the habit of observing whether individuals focus their gaze at a distance or near by, and let this impression work on you; and you will cultivate a sensibility to the perception of the etheric body. Call meditation to your aid, and it will no longer be so difficult to ascend from a devoted attention to the effects of the eye-organisation to the contemplation of the etheric body itself.

Diagram 25

This will convince you that the process linked with the eye organisation is continuous, and it is the normal form of a process which may appear in an abnormal form. It is normal in the life of everyday, and it has its abnormal counterpart in cases of inflammation, indeed in all inflammatory conditions. So that you are justified in stating that a too vigorous development of this framework (which in the physical body is similar to the etheric) give rise to inflammations and to all the sequelæ of the inflammatory states. You can confirm your convictions in this matter by the external use of an animal product, formic acid. The best manner of studying the application of this substance is in its highest possible dilution, e.g., sprinkled in bath water. If the mildest dilution of formic acid is made to work on the human being through bath water, you will cause a consolidation of the ego-scaffold coloured yellow in the Diagram. (See Diagram 25). This consolidation takes place because by means of the formic acid the ego is forcibly compelled to approach the framework so that it becomes penetrated with the ego. And thus it is possible to counteract the tendency to inflammation for the framework only inclines to disintegrate in the inflammatory process if it is not properly permeated by the ego and restrained by it; for the ego and this framework belong together. They may be brought together by the use of bath fluid, but in extremely high dilution—for this stimulates the peculiar properties of formic acid.

A certain amount of attention to symptomatology is necessary, if you wish to enter into these matters. For instance: observe carefully in treating inflammatory conditions, whether or not they appear in persons with a concurrent tendency to obesity. For it is only in such cases, where you find both sets of symptoms, the tendency to inflammations and also to adipose deposits, that any real benefit can accrue from the external formic acid treatment just described. You will always attain extremely good results, if you have sound reason to believe in the disintegration of the ego-framework—which may be deduced from other symptoms, to be described presently—and if there is a simultaneous tendency to excessive fat.

For Spiritual Science is aware of something that shocks and offends contemporary mankind in its simple enunciation. It knows that what has to happen in the human organism, in order that the eyes shall be formed, and formed in the manner indispensable to human evolution—of course in the long run of this evolutionary history—is really a permanent process of inflammation, which is continually transferred into the normal and does not break out. Think of the processes inherent in inflammations, think of them held up, slowed down, and telescoped together, so to speak, and you will have before you the formative process of the human eye in the human organism. You are even able to obtain an idea of individual tendency to inflammatory conditions, or the reverse, by looking at the person's eyes. It is possible to see this if one trains one's judgment. Indeed the experiences we may meet with regard to human sight are closely linked with the observation of the etheric body of mankind. In referring to the existence of the etheric body and its conscious perception, we must distinguish two methods of approach. There is of course that inner process which leads to genuine clairvoyance, by way of meditation. And there is also an educative process working from outside. If we take the trouble to see and estimate the processes of nature aright, we shall acquire a visualisation of these things which is based on judgment. The actual organs of clairvoyance must be developed from within; but judgment is developed in contact with the world outside ourselves. If we develop the finer shades of judgment in the external world, this highly evolved judgment will come towards that more intimate process which passes outwards from within, in meditation.

Perhaps some of you will ask—and quite justifiably ask—“Well, but cannot all these manifestations and reactions be observed in the animal world?” My friends, the fact is simply that the things that concern man cannot be found through the study of animals. I have often stressed this difference in public lectures, and should like to emphasise it still more here. People are in the habit of thinking: an eye is an eye, an organ is an organ, lungs are lungs, a liver is a liver, and so forth. But that is not so, the eye in man is the organ which also exists in the animal world as eye, but with a modification: it is changed by the fact that in man the ego has been incorporated. The same is the case with all other organs. And for the occurrences within the organs, especially in cases of disease, the permeation by the ego is of much greater importance than what happens in the animal's organs, where there is no such permeation. This essential difference is still far too little regarded and men persist in off-hand pronouncements of this sort: “here I have a knife; well, a knife's a knife, isn't it? One knife is the same as another, so both, being knives, must have the same origin.” But suppose that one of these “identical” knives is a table knife, the other a razor. In that case the simple proposition that “a knife's a knife” becomes untenable. It is making the same mistake to explain the human eye and the animal eye by the same methods and terms. It is simply nonsense to seek for the explanation of anything in its mere external aspect; moreover such an approach is entirely barren as a foundation for study. Study founded on animal “material” simply hinders the adequate study of certain conditions in mankind; for it is only possible to form a just estimate of the dissimilarity here, by realising that in man it is precisely the peripheral organs which are the most permeated by the ego and moulded by it.

In a completely different way is the human ear formed. It is possible to train oneself to a discriminative grasp of the human ear, just as in the case of the eye. And in this manner we then approach the clairvoyant apprehension of the etheric body. We can train ourselves to understand the fact that the ear is incorporated into man as it is in animals, but that its structure is permeated by the human ego. If with this faculty we study the formation of the ear we shall find that it is connected with a process in the deeper interior of the human organism, in the same manner as the eye formation of the etheric body is connected with some more peripheral process. Thus we arrive at the insight that the ego is concerned in the formative process of the ear, just as in that of the eyes. The ego incorporates yet another framework into the organism, differing somewhat from that already described; and akin to this framework is the whole process lying at the base of the ear formation. In order to keep these separate frameworks distinct, I will colour the one just mentioned blue; it lies more inward than the yellow, and it extends less into the limbs, so that if it could be extracted and revealed to the light of day, it would have only stumps in the place of arms and legs. Thus we might say that this framework in its formation has remained at the stage of childhood. It is also much less differentiated towards the head than is the other one. But we shall find that it corresponds to the basic principle underlying the formative forces of the human ear and the whole process of hearing. This latter principle I will color violet in the Diagram. (See Diagram 25). This framework has also its specific characteristic in the human organism. It can become abnormal if the ego works too strongly; i.e., if its activity works too much internally. We have already touched on the reverse case, when the ego's activity is too strong in the periphery.

The following suggestions may be of use, in the study of the problem before us. Again take the external symptoms as a starting point: consider cases where the tendency is to become more or less thin, and never put on fat. In these cases you see before you human beings in whom the ego works too strongly internally, and intensifies this latter framework. This framework, however, has a different tendency from the other one: the tendency to internal exuberance. The first framework inclines to disintegrate or to splinter itself; the last to exuberate internally.

The treatment of this scaffold can proceed on two lines. Firstly, it can be so developed that exuberance does not ensue, because the ego as it were, shimmers out of it. For both exuberance and disintegration of the scaffolds always arise from the inadequate permeation by the ego, from it shimmering away from it. If the ego does this and at the same time is strong enough to keep itself at work within the organism, there arise certain consequences for the soul and the body. The consequence for the soul is hypochondria; for the body, constipation and similar phenomena.

This is the one aspect. On the other hand it may be that the ego is too feeble to hold itself together when it glitters away from the scaffold, that it collapses in its essential quality as ego; and not owing to the faults in its physical vehicle, the scaffold, but to its own. Consider how strange this is: the ego is so feeble that its debris as it were become embedded in the organism. And this occurs because individuals of this particular constitution, when they fall asleep, are not able to take with them the whole of what shimmers and glitters away. Thus the debris remains within the body and proliferates as a sort of soul-like ego. And this type of individual constitution with these exuberations of the soul-like ego, which develop especially during sleep, is one that inclines to tumorous formations. This process is of infinite significance. Persons with tumorous tendencies are those who do not sleep properly, for the reason that remnants of the ego remain after they fall asleep. These remnants and debris are the real excitants of tumours, including malignant growths, and these growths are linked up with the whole complex of symptoms which I have just enumerated. It is a fact that we are faced on the one hand by hypochondria and constipation, and on the other hand, if the organism cannot help itself by making the individual suffer from hypochondria and constipation, it exuberates inwards and the most malignant growths appear. We shall deal with this subject further, but for the moment we are considering merely the general principle.

You can reach the conviction that this is how things stand from a study of the external side, in indications given in a preceding lecture. As I have already remarked, it is possible to deal with the formative tendencies to inflammation by the use of very highly dispersed animal formic acid, in bath water. That is an external application; now try the same substance, suitably diluted, internally, and observe the effects it will have on thin people. It will disperse the tumorous tendencies in thin persons, and counteract the formation of growths.

These matters must be observed macroscopically and they afford striking proof of the need to acquire this macroscopical view. One must learn to have a comprehensive vision of the whole stature and physique of a man, and the many marks of his individual constitutional type, and combine this with all the phenomena emerging in sickness. Thus we shall acquire also a sense of how to divide the treatment into external and internal respectively. To test and trace the effects of the same substance by the two different routes, will furnish most interesting information. Here again, spiritual science reveals something extremely enlightening in respect of these two parts of the organism. It knows that all the formative forces of the human ear are at an early stage on the same path of development as those forces which, finally, when they are allowed to go too far lead to the formation of internal tumours.

The fact that we have a human auditory organ, is due to a process which is kept normal because the tumour-forming force has emerged in the right place. The ear is an internal tumour extended into the region of the normal. Just as the evolutionary process of the eye's formation is akin to the process of inflammation, so that of the ear's formation is allied to the tumorous. It is indeed a wonderful relationship between disease and health in man; for the processes are the same in both, only in the case of normal health they proceed at the right rate, and in the case of disease at an abnormal rate. If the inflammatory process were abolished in nature, no living creature would be able to see. Living creatures have the power of sight only because the inflammatory process is inserted into the whole of nature. But it has a certain velocity, a definite tempo. If it proceeds at a wrong speed then the abnormal process of inflammation results. Similarly, the process of tumorous formation has its significance in nature, at the right rate of development. If it were abolished no being in the world would be able to hear. If the rate is wrong, there results all that happens in cases of myoma, carcinoma, sarcoma. We will deal with this later.

Those who are not in a position to find and recognise the healthy counterpart of every morbid process, cannot understand its place within the human organisation. For the human organisation is founded on the fact that certain processes dispersed throughout the periphery of nature become interiorised and centralised in man.

Many things are discussed in our physiological text books: we should fix our attention elsewhere, on subjects whose existence is admitted but whose significance is constantly under-rated. Here is one instance. You are able to observe—quite macroscopically and as it were in a commonplace way—that the epidermis covers the human body, and has various inward folds or pockets; and its continuing membrane lines the parts situated to the interior. This is very important—the reversal of functions, as, e.g., we find it in passing from the cheeks and the external parts of the face, over the edge of the lips to the interior. There indeed one finds, in the external formation of man, the vestige of the process which where all development really proceeds by means of folding inwards and invaginations. In following up the differences in the reaction of the upper epidermis and the internal mucous membrane to preparations of formic acid, and fully realising the delicate differences in these results, one would reach tremendous results. For all the facts I here set before you are really nothing but specialisations of the elementary structural principle indicated. The study of these facts will bring before you the whole polar opposition of that external lining (also etherically) of the human organism and that which goes inside and becomes central in the same organism.

This is of importance in the following. To what corresponds the second phantom indicated in the rough sketch? (See Diagram 25). The blue phantom is that physical framework within the organism, which tends to exuberate unduly. Its normal form is associated with the formation of the ear. Educate yourselves, train yourselves in the study of man so far as to have regard to this ear organisation and especially its interiorisation, and at the same time to the characteristics of the organ of sight. Then remember that the process of sight occurs in the etheric, the process of hearing in the air. This is a considerable difference. All that lies comparatively low in the ascending scale of ponderable and imponderable is associated and linked with the more deep-seated organs and functions in the interior of man's organism. All that is more akin to the etheric and imponderable, is situated towards the surface and periphery.

The outlines coloured violet (See Diagram 25) define nothing less than that which lives in the human astral body. If you train your power of judgment, through the study of the ear, for the observation of man, you get a kind of substitute or preliminary apperception for the clairvoyant vision of the astral body. To learn to observe sight is training for the observation of the etheric body. To learn to observe hearing is training for the observation of the astral body.

The most interesting observations can be made in persons who have been deaf from birth or have lost their sense of hearing; deeper connections of nature are then revealed. I suggest that you should try to study children who have been born deaf: if they had not been born with that defect, they would develop the most terrible tumours even at that early age. We stand here before outlets supplied by nature itself, and they are rooted not only in the single individual organisation between birth and death; but they reach out into and must be understood from the repeated earth lives in which the compensation is brought about. If we follow up these phenomena beyond a certain point, we shall arrive at some apprehension of repeated lives on earth.

If you attempt to stimulate the peripheral areas in man, you will reinforce what has been dealt with in explaining the relationship of the ego to its framework. If you find it necessary to reinforce the human ego, there is a choice of methods; therapeutic or educational. Wherever it is possible to observe a tendency to inflammation, you will find that it will be necessary to re-invigorate the ego's activity in the individual. If this be done, the ego will insert itself in the proper way into its phantom, its framework; for this framework will not disintegrate where the ego adequately takes hold of it.

An appreciable reinforcement and stimulus to this activity of the ego may be obtained, e.g., by baths containing a very finely distributed solution of rosemary—that is, of the juices extracted from the leaves of the rosemary. This solution stimulates the periphery to such a degree that the ego can act and function better in that which approaches man through the finely distributed rosemary juice. The results are quite remarkable.

Now let us consider the human eye, and its specific insertion into the human organism. The process of sight depends on the power of the human ego to penetrate this isolated part in our organism. There is very little of the animal process in the eye, the sense of sight depends on the fact that man with his soul and spirit nature penetrates a region which has ceased to be animal; so that man can identify himself with the external world, not only with his internal processes. If you identify yourself with a muscle, you identify yourselves from inside, with the formative process of man. But if you identify yourself with the eyes, you really identify yourself with the external world. For this reason, I have already called this organ a gulf which the external extends physiology to neglect the facts, thereby engendering those foolish fairy stories of “subjectivity” and so forth. For it is the fashion today to ignore the fact that “objectivity” is intruded upon us and that within this “objectivity” we share in a part of the processes of the external world. For the last century and a half, every sort of sensory physiology has been founded upon subjectivity because there has been no inkling of the entry of the external world into these organic gulfs, by which we participate, through our senses, in the processes outside ourselves. To understand this rightly means also to understand the action of some foreign substance in this fine dispersal.

Take the human skin, and its pores and all the processes linked with the pores. (See Diagram 26). Sprinkle very mild dilutions of rosemary juice in a bath, immerse the patient in it and you will not be surprised to know that a sensory interaction is set in train between the skin and the minute drops of the Rosemary juice. Through this stimulation, an effect is produced upon the sensory process. This stimulation of the sensory process works on the human ego and it becomes more closely inserted into its framework. A further benefit may accrue from the same method, if it is used in time and not postponed till too late. If the skin of the head is exposed to the stimulation of diluted rosemary juice, you may be able to arrest the peripheral process of loss of hair. Only, of course, it must be applied in the correct manner. Well, there again you have something active on the surface and periphery of the human organism.

Diagram 26

Let us suppose now, that the collaboration of the ego with the human organisation suffers a rupture from the outside world. The ego is, of course, not only a point, but a point active around itself; and this working abroad signifies the formative force of the whole human organisation; the ego-organising force spreads throughout the human organisation, permeating it throughout. Let us suppose that an external injury is inflicted on some area, interrupting this mutual action of ego and human organisation; in such cases it will be necessary to attract to this place something springing from the astral organisation (which stands a step below the ego-organisation); something which, working from out of the astral organisation, may so permeate the human organism as to enable the ego to develop its curative forces at the seat of the external injury. The astral body as I have indicated (See Diagram 25) lies nearer the centre of the total organism. Call it to your aid; not this time by means of immersion in any bath, but by a compress of arnica in woolen cloths—a proper arnica compress. The application of arnica compresses to any sprain or dislocation or similar lesion ‘ wherever the injury may have been inflicted—which impairs the efficiency of the ego's function, summons the astral body from inside; calls to it to come to the aid of the ego, and has a compensating effect on the peripheral area.

In these phenomena we have a standard for comparison of the different substances available in the external world. They may have a great tendency towards expansion, and thus be of benefit to the peripheral regions, if administered in baths, for the support of the ego's action. Or again, they may belong to the group which includes especially arnica and are thus indicated when we wish to summon the astral body and draw on its power for the indirect support of the ego.

It is impossible to understand the operation of such substances except as summoners of help from the ego and astral body. To recognise this principle must be indeed fundamental for a theory of therapeutics. both for internal and external treatment.