Spiritual Science and Medicine
5 April 1920, Dornach
You will now see the gradual emergence of the subjects on which you were good enough to put questions, in the course of these lectures. But there must be a certain foundation for rational answers to these inquiries. Now, it is my intention to start from the point to which we advanced yesterday, namely from the significance of splenetic functions in the human organism. These functions must be regarded as actually the main factors in regulating the subconscious life of the soul; so it is a misunderstanding of the whole nature of man, to regard the spleen as an organ of minor importance. This error may often occur, however, because of the case with which the spleen's functions can be taken over by its etheric equivalent, and this for the very reason that it is a highly spiritualised organ; and also because other organs may be called in to help do its work. Nevertheless the activity of the spleen becomes more remarkable, if raised out of the subconscious sphere into some degree of awareness. This brings us to the consideration of a remedial method which has aroused much interest of recent years. It is significant that we arrive at its consideration by way of the spleen. You may convince yourselves by experiment that mild massage in the region of the spleen regulates and benefits the instinctive activities in mankind. In a certain way, the patient thus treated obtains better instincts for suitable food and sounder and more beneficial organic habits;. Note that this method of local massage has strict and close limitations. In the moment that the massage becomes too vigorous it becomes apt to undermine completely the life of instinct. So that we must be most careful to observe the zero point. The gentle massage must not go too far.
Gentle massage of the regions round the spleen, brings something into those regions which is not there as a rule. In a sense, the consciousness of the person massaged is projected as it were into those regions. And very much depends on this displacement of consciousness, this letting it stream in, although it is often difficult to define these delicate workings of our organism in the crude terms of our speech. However strange the statement may appear, there is a powerful interaction between the unconscious activities of reason of which the splenetic functions rather than the spleen itself are the mediators, and the actual conscious functions of the human organism. What precisely are these conscious functions of the human organism? All those processes in the organism whose nature involves that their physical occurrences are accompanied by the higher processes of consciousness, especially by the conceptual processes, are toxic activities in the organism. This must not be overlooked. The organism poisons itself continually precisely through its conceptual activity; and counteracts these toxic conditions continually through the operation of the unconscious will. The centre for these conditions of the unconscious will is the spleen. If we stimulate the spleen and imbue it with a certain awareness, by means of massage, we take action against the powerful toxic effects caused by our higher consciousness. And this massage may be applied not only externally but from within as well. You may dispute the term massage in this connection, but you will understand what I mean. Let us take an individual case, in which we perceive an excessive inner organic activity caused by toxic conditions. The abnormal state of splenetic consciousness can be beneficially affected by the following advice, “Do not confine your intake of food to the chief meals of the day, but rather eat as little as you can at those meals, and take other nourishment in between meals; spread out your consumption of food, so that you eat little at a time but frequently, at short intervals.” The abnormal consciousness of the spleen can be influenced in this way. For to eat little and often is essentially an internal massage of the spleen, which considerably alters the activity of that organ. Of course, there is a “but”; all that concerns the organic processes under discussion has its “buts.” In our age of haste and hurry in which almost everyone is caught up in some exhausting external activity, the spleen and its functions are extraordinarily liable to impairment through this ceaseless round of work. Mankind does not follow the example of certain animals who keep themselves sound and “fit,” by lying down to rest after food, so that their digestive processes are not disturbed by external activity. These animals are really taking care of their spleen. Man does not take care of his spleen if occupied in some hurried activity at the expense of nervous energy. And therefore the splenetic function in the whole of modern civilised peoples gradually becomes thoroughly abnormal; so that especial significance attaches to its relief and recovery through the sort of remedies I have just indicated.
Such delicate processes as massage of the spleen, whether external or internal, draw attention to the relationship between those organs of mankind which transmit the unconscious experience. They illuminate the whole significance of massage. Massage has a certain definite significance and under some circumstances a powerful remedial effect, but above all it influences and regulates rhythm in man. The regulation of human rhythmic processes is the main office of massage. And to massage successfully, one must know the human organism well. You will find the way if you consider the following. Think for a moment of the immense difference between arms and legs in the human frame, as distinct from the animal. The arms of man, which are liberated from the oppression of weight and can move freely, have their astral body far less closely bound to the physical, than in the case of the feet. To the feet the astral body is closely bound. In fact we may say that in the case of the arms, the astral body acts from and inwards through the skin, enveloping arms and hands and working centripetally. In the legs and feet, the will works through the astral body very strongly in a centrifugal direction radiating powerfully outwards, from within. Therefore, if massage is applied to the legs and feet in man, the process is essentially different from that of massage applied to the hands and arms. If the arms are treated by massage, the astral element is drawn from outside inwards, and the arms become very much more instruments of the will than they would otherwise be. Through this there is a regulative effect on internal metabolism, especially on that part of the metabolic process taking place between intestine and blood vessels. In short, massage of the upper limbs acts to a great extent on the formation of the blood. If, on the other hand, the feet and legs are massaged the physical element is transmuted rather into something of a conceptual nature and a regulative action follows on the metabolism that is concerned with processes of evacuation and excretion. The extreme complexity of the human organism is most clearly revealed in these indirect and secondary effects of massage whether starting from the arms and mainly affecting the upbuilding internal processes of metabolism, or starting from the legs and feet and affecting the disintegrating processes of metabolism. If you investigate rationally, you will indeed find that every bodily region and part has a certain connection with other regions and parts; and that the efficacy of massage depends on an adequate insight into these interrelationships. Massage of the lower body will always be of benefit even to the function of breathing; a circumstance of special interest. And in fact the farther we go from above downwards, we find that the organs above the centre benefit progressively. For example, massage directly below the cardiac region influences respiration; if we go farther down, the organs of the throat are influenced. It is a reversed process; the farther we descend from the centre, in massage of the trunk, the greater the effect on the upper organs, and strangely enough, massage treatment of the arms is much helped by massage of the upmost region of the trunk. These facts illustrate the interlocking of the individual regions and limbs of the human body. This interaction of upper and lower organs, which may be quite distant but are nevertheless akin to another, is especially evident in such ailments as, e.g., migraine.
Migraine or sick headache is nothing but a transference to the head of the digestive activities in the rest of the organism. All conditions of special organic stress, such as the monthly period in women, are apt to influence migraine. When a digestive activity wholly foreign to the head thus takes place, the head nerves are loaded with a burden from which they should be, and normally are, free. If the normal digestive activity, i.e., only the absorption of substance, goes on in the head, then the local nerves are permitted to become sensory and perceptive. They are deprived of this character if there is a disorderly digestive activity in the head, as just indicated. They become, therefore, inwardly sensitive, and their receptivity for processes to which the internal organism should be quite indifferent is the basis of the pain typical of migraine and of its characteristic symptoms. It is easy to understand what the sensations must be, if someone is suddenly compelled to be aware of the interior of his own head, instead of the external environment. And true comprehension of the condition will mean that the best remedy can only be sought in “sleeping it off.” For all other “remedies,” which are applied and which one is sometimes obliged to apply, are actually harmful. Let us suppose you use the popular allopathic preparations; what is achieved is merely the culling and blunting of the sensitiveness of the over-stimulated nervous apparatus, that is to say, you lower its activity. Take an instance: suppose an attack of migraine occurs just before the sufferer has to appear in public, on the stage; he prefers to inflict some injury on himself rather than to break what should really not be blunted or dulled, can be especially well observed. In such cases it becomes obvious how extremely delicate our human organism is, and how we often through the pressure exercised by social life, are compelled to offend against the needs of our organism. That is an obvious and important factor which must not be forgotten and one is sometimes compelled to accept a harm, simply arising through the social conditions of the patient, and merely to cure its sequelæ.
The delicacy and sensitiveness of our bodily organisation become evident also by objective and systematic study of light and color treatment for disease. This use of light and color should be more considered in the future than it has been in the past. One must learn to distinguish here, between color which appeals exclusively to the upper sphere of the human being and light proper which has a more objective tendency and appeals to the whole human being. If we simply take the person into a room lit in a certain way, or even expose a portion of the body to the objective influence of color or light — we act directly on the human organs. We then have indeed an influence wholly external. But if the “exposure” is made in such a way as to affect consciousness through the sensation of color — as when instead of irradiation with colored light, the person is brought into a room draped and furnished throughout in a certain colour — the effect penetrates all the organs adjacent to those of consciousness. This “subjective color therapy” always works upon the ego; while in “objective color therapy,” the influence is primarily on the physical system, and through the physical vehicle on the ego, indirectly. Do not raise the objection that it is useless to bring a blind person into the environment of a room furnished in one color, because the patient can receive no visual impression and the result must be nil. Such is not the case. In such conditions the sensory effects which work under the sensory surface, so to speak, are very powerful. There is a difference to a blind person, according to whether a room is entirely red, or entirely blue. The difference is considerable. Take a blind person into a room with blue walls: the effect is to draw or deflect all functional activity from the head to the rest of the organism. If the same person is taken into a completely red room, the effect is reversed; the organic functions are deflected towards the head. From this it is evident that the main effect lies in the rhythm of changing the colour in the environment. The changes of color are the main factor rather than the colors themselves. The isolated influence of a blue room or red is less significant than the contrast in reactions, when the individual who has been in a red environment is brought into a blue, or after being surrounded with blue, into a red. This is significant. Suppose we see a patient, and diagnose the need of improving his upper organic sphere by stimulation of the functions of the head; we should take the patient into a blue room and afterwards into a red. If we wish to act indirectly, through the rest of the organism upon the head function, we should take the person out of a red environment into a blue.
In my opinion much importance should be attached to these methods in a not distant future. Color therapy, not only light treatment, will soon play a great part. The interplay of conscious and unconscious elements is important in itself, and should be given scope. Through this interplay, we shall also be able to form a sound judgment of the special effects of medicinal substances as administered in baths: there is a great difference according to whether the external application of any substance to the human organism produces the sensations of warmth or cold. If anything, whether compress or bath, acts in a cooling way upon me then the effect is to be ascribed mainly to the substance employed; if a cure follows, it will be due to the substantial remedy employed. But if the application produces a sensation of warmth, e.g., a warm compress, its effects are not due to the substance used, for that is almost a matter of indifference, but to the action of warmth itself; and the action of warmth is identical from whatever quarter it may operate. In applying cold compresses, care should be taken to mix the particular liquid employed, whether water or not with this or that substance. These substances can be made efficasious, if they are soluble at low temperatures, when used in cold water. On the other hand — with the exception of ethereal [etheric] substances which are powerfully aromatic and exercise their specific effects even at high temperatures — there will be little specific substantial effect in the case of materials which are easily soluble when in solid form. They do not easily operate even in warm compresses and hot baths. Substances which are phosphoric or sulphuric, as, e.g., sulphur itself, used as accessories to warm baths, exercise their peculiar healing properties most fully.
Such interactions as those I have just cited, must be minutely observed. And in this connection it will be of great service to you to establish a sort of “Primary Phenomena.” This method of establishing a kind of primary phenomena was much in use during the ages when the practice of medicine had its source in the Mysteries. Knowledge was not then expressed theoretically but in primary phenomena, as for instance: “If thou takest into thyself honey or wine, thou dost thereby strengthen from within the forces of the cosmos working into thee from outside.” This might be expressed in other terms: “by doing so thou strengthenest the actual forces of the ego”: — the meaning would be the same. This way of putting things makes them very easy to survey. “But if thou dost rub thy body thoroughly with an oily stuff thou dost weaken thereby the harmful action of the forces of earth”: that is to say, of the forces opposed to the action of the ego, within the organism. And these ancients, these physicians of old, have also said: “If thou findest the right measure between the strengthening by sweetness from within, and the weakening by oil from without, then thou shalt live long.” We might say: “Let the action of oil avert from your organism the harmful influence of earth; and if you are able to do so and not constitutionally too feeble, let the forces of your ego be strengthened with wine or honey; then you strengthen the forces that lead you to a green old age.” Such are the prescriptions and statements in axiomatic form. The aim was to guide mankind aright through facts, not doctrines. And we must return to this method. For among the multitudinous and various materials of the external world we can find our way far better in the light of primary phenomena than by abstract laws of nature, which always let the student down when he has to approach some concrete case.
Now some of these primary phenomena are most easily enunciated, and I should like to give you some examples; here is one: “Put your feet in water and you will stimulate forces in the lower abdomen, which will promote the formation of blood.” This is one which is full of suggestion. “If you wash your head you stimulate forces in the lower abdomen, which regulate evacuation.” Such rules are illuminating for they embrace law, reality. The human being is there, when I express something of this sort; for the things are of course meaningless unless one is thinking of the human being, and it is essential to keep man in mind in the case of all these things.
These matters are more connected with the spatial and regional interactions of forces in the human organism. There is, however, also an interaction in time which is unmistakably conspicuous in cases where a man has received such mistaken treatment during childhood or early youth, that throughout the whole of life, what should have been developed in childhood and youth, remains lacking, and only that is evolved which should be evolved in the adult. To put it in another way. It is the nature of man that he develops certain forces in early youth which then become formative for the organism. But not everything formed in the youthful organism finds its right use and place in life during the years of youth. We form and build up our bodies in youth, in order to obtain and conserve some things which can only be active and evident in later life. Thus, in childhood certain organs; — as I would call them — are built up, which are not meant for use during childhood; but in later life they can no longer be acquired. They are therefore held in reserve, so to speak, for use in adult age. Let us assume that no heed is paid to the fact that until the teeth are cut a child should be educated by imitation, and that after dentition, education and teaching should attach great importance to authority. If both imitation and authority are thus ignored, the organs which appertain to the adult may be used prematurely. Of course the materialistic attitude of today may deprecate the use of imitation or authority as principles of education. But their significance is great, because of their effects, and they reverberate throughout the organism. It must, however, be understood that the child must live with his whole soul within the act of imitation. Here is an example. Suppose you educate the child in liking and eating some wholesome food, by accustoming it to copy the adult's enjoyment of that food: in this manner you will combine the principle of imitation by action, with the cultivation of an appetite for suitable food. The imitative act is continued into the organism. The same suggestions holds good with respect to authority in education. If those organs (they are naturally subtle organisations) which should normally remain latent till the later age are called into activity during childhood, then the dreadful Dementia Præcox may result. That is the true origin of Dementia Præcox. And a sound objective education is a splendid remedial method. We are at present making efforts in this direction at the Waldorf School, but cannot as yet extend them to an earlier stage of growth before the sixth or seventh year. But when we are at last in a position to put the whole educational process at the service of the knowledge that spiritual science offers — on the lines of my booklet Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy, Dementia Præcox will be on the way to disappear. For such educational methods will avert the danger of premature and precocious employment of organs essential to the adult. So much for the general principles of sound education.
There is also the opposite phenomenon. It consists in this: we also tend to accumulate and conserve what should only be unfolded as an activity of the organs in youth. Throughout life there are, to be sure, calls on the organs which are destined to function mainly in childhood and youth; but this continued activity must become less vigorous, or harm may ensue. Here is the domain in which owing to different causes such theories as that of psychoanalysis have been able to confuse the whole of human thinking. Indeed it is true that the most harm in life is not done by the greatest mistakes, for such great errors can soon be refuted, but by conceptions containing a grain of truth, for this grain of truth is accepted, exaggerated and abused.
What are the facts which support the rise of conceptions of psycho-analytic lines? Because of the current habits of life today (which are in many respects opposed to nature, and in no way give man the necessary adaptation to the external environment) — much that makes a deep impression on the human mind in childhood, is not worked up. Thus there remain in the life of the soul, factors not adequately embodied by the organism; for all that operates in the soul's life, however slightly, has its continuance, or should have it, in some effect on the organism. Our children, however, receive many impressions so contrary to normal conditions that they remain confined to the soul, they cannot forthwith transmute themselves into organic impressions. Thus they remain, as it were, in the soul where they are and as they do not share in the whole development of man, they remain as isolated impulses of the soul. Had they kept pace with man's whole organic development, had they not remained isolated impulses, they would not take possession, at a later stage, of the organs which are destined only to function at maturity and which have no longer the task of turning to account the impressions of youth. Something wrong is thus brought about in the whole human being. He is obliged to let the soul's isolated impulses work upon organs which are no longer fitted for it. There then result the manifestations which may certainly be diagnosed by means of a psychoanalytic method, wisely employed. Careful interrogatories will bring to light certain things in the life of the soul which are simply not worked up, and which have a devastating effect on organs already too old for such working up. But the main thing for consideration is that by this route it is never possible to effect a cure, but only to diagnose a condition. If we keep to the purely diagnostic use of psycho-analysis, we are employing a method which has its justification when used with due discretion. Note well, with due and honourable discretion, so that there may be no such occurrences as I can testify have happened in some cases and for which there is corroborative written evidence. Such occurrences, for example as the employment of servants and attendants, as spies to furnish intimate particulars which are then used as bases for catechising the patients in question. That kind of thing happens sufficiently often to constitute a grave danger and gross abuse. But apart from this — for after all, in these matters so much depends on the ethical standard of the persons concerned — we can admit that from the standpoint of diagnosis, there is some truth in psycho-analysis. But it is impossible to achieve therapeutic results on the lines laid down by psycho-analysts. And that is again linked up with a characteristic of the present age.
It is the tragedy of materialism, that it leads directly away from the knowledge of matter; that it hinders the comprehension of the properties of matter. Materialism is in fact not so detrimental to the proper recognition of the spiritual as it is to the recognition of the spiritual in matter. The repudiation of the conception that spiritual activity is everywhere at work in matter, represses so much that must not be repressed if we are to form a sound conception of our human life. If I am a “materialist” I cannot possibly ascribe to matter all the characteristics we have discussed in these studies. For it is ruled out as merely preposterous to ascribe all those qualities to substances which they in fact possess. That means one is estranged from the knowledge of the material sphere. One no longer talks of phosphoric manifestations, saline manifestations, and so forth, because “all that sort of thing” is dismissed out of hand, as nonsense. This loss of the knowledge of spiritual factors in material substances deprives us of the systematic study of formative processes, and above all, it means the loss of the perception that every organ of man has actually a twofold task, one related to an orientation to consciousness, the other, its opposite, to an orientation to the purely organic process.
The recognition of this fact has been particularly obscured in a matter with which we must now briefly deal: in the study of teeth. From the materialistic point of view the teeth are more or less regarded as mere chewing implements. But they are more than that. Their double nature is easily apparent, for if they are tested chemically, they appear to be part of our bone system; but ontogenetically, they emerge from the skin system. The teeth have a double nature and office, but the second of the two is deeply hidden. Compare, for a moment, a set of human teeth with that of an animal. You will find most conspicuous in the latter what I pointed out in the first of our lessons here, the heavy down-draw weight, the massiveness characteristic of the whole skeleton, which I pointed out in the case of the ape. In man, on the other hand, the teeth themselves show in a certain way the effect of the vertical line. This is because our teeth are not only implements for chewing, they are also very essential implements of suction; they have a mechanical external action, and also an extremely fine, spiritualised inward sucking action. We must inquire: what is it that the teeth draw into the body by means of this suction? So long as they are able to do so, they suck in fluorine. Our teeth suck in fluorine. They are instruments of suction for that substance. Man needs fluorine in his organism in very minute amounts, and if deprived of its effects — here I must say something which will perhaps shock you — he becomes too clever. He acquires a degree of cleverness which almost destroys him. The fluorine dosage restores the necessary amount of stupidity, the mental dullness, which we need if we are to be human beings. We require constant dosage with fluorine in very small amounts as a protection against excessive cleverness. The premature decay of the teeth, which is caused by fluorine action, points to excessive demands on the process of fluorine suction. This indicates that man is stimulated to self-defence against dullness through some agency, with which we shall deal presently, although time forbids detailed treatment. Man as it were disintegrates his teeth so that the fluorine action should not go beyond a certain point and make him dull. The interactions of cause and effect are very subtle here. The teeth become defective in order that the individual may not become too stupid! Such is the intimate connection between what is of benefit to man on the one hand, and what tends to cause harm on the other. Under certain circumstances we have need of the action of fluorine, in order not to become too clever. But we can injure ourselves by excess in this respect, and then our organic activity destroys and decays the teeth.
I beg you to consider these suggestions thoroughly; for they are connected with things of the greatest significance in the human organism.