Anthroposophical Approach to Medicine
Stuttgart, 28 October, 1922
In these lectures, of course, it can be a question only of describing certain ways of approach and therapeutic methods, as revealed by Spiritual Science. The short time at our disposal makes it impossible to enter into details. My own opinion, however, is that at the beginning of the work which it is the aim of Spiritual Science to carry through in the domain of medicine, the most important thing is for our point of view and our method of approach to be made quite clear. In certain specific details this point of view has been carefully followed in the preparation of our remedies. How we can proceed to form more general conceptions in special cases of illness will perhaps not be so immediately evident, but in describing certain principles of method to-day I will do my best to indicate matters which will help in this direction also.
The human organism in health and in disease — or rather in its state of health and in its approach towards health — is really unintelligible unless the so-called normal functions are regarded as being, fundamentally, metamorphoses of those functions which must be called into action in order to combat pathological conditions. And here we must always take account of the fact that the human organism is inwardly filled with processes which are not the same as those in the outer world. To begin with, let us remind ourselves that everything man takes into himself from the plant world, for instance, must be worked upon by the digestive system before it can be carried to a higher stage of life. The process of vitalization must be an activity of the human being himself; indeed, the human organism could not exist without it. Now it must be clear to us from the outset that the plant-covering of our earth is passing through the opposite process from that which takes its course within the organism of man. When we speak of a process of vitalisation along the path traversed by the foodstuffs in the organism — that is to say of a curve ascending, as it were, from the essentially inorganic to the state of vitalisation, from there to a condition which can be the bearer of feeling and finally to a condition which can be the bearer of the Ego-organisation — when we speak of the transformation of the foodstuff up to the point where it is received into the astral organism (the bearer of feeling), we are describing a process of increasing vitalisation of what is taken in through the food.
The reverse occurs in the plant. In all the peripheral organs of the plant, that is to say in the development of the plant from below upwards, in the production of the leaves and blossoms, we have, fundamentally speaking, a process of devitalisation. The vitality per se is preserved for the seed only. If we are speaking of the actual plant itself — for the seed in the ovary really represents the next plant that will come into being, that which is stored up for the future plant — if, as I say, we are speaking of the plant, it is not a process of vitalisation that is taking place from below upwards. The vitality is drawn from what is stored up by the earth out of the warmth and sunlight of the previous summer. The strongest life-force inheres in the root-nature, and there is a gradual process of devitalisation from below upwards.
In flower-petals which contain strong ethereal oils, we have an expression of the most powerful devitalising process of all. Such a process is, for instance, often connected with the actual production of sulphur. The sulphur is then contained, as substance, in the ethereal oil of the petals — or is at any rate closely akin to it and is responsible for the process whereby the plant is led over into the realm of the most delicate inorganic substance — which is still, however, on the borderline of the organic. It is essential to realise what it is that we are bringing into the human organism when we introduce plant-substances. The plant is engaged in the opposite process from that which occurs in the organism of man.
If we start from this and turn to consider illness and disease, we shall say to ourselves: Plant-substance — it is the same with other substances in outer Nature, and to a much higher degree with animal-substance — plant-substance is really opposed to that which unfolds in the human organism as a tendency to generate this or that process. So that when, without any kind of preconception, we study the process of nourishment in man, we must admit that all foodstuff introduced into the organism is something which this organism has utterly to transform. Fundamentally speaking, all nourishment is the beginning of a certain poisoning. Actual poisoning is only a radical metamorphosis of what arises in a mild form when any foodstuff is brought into touch, let us say, with the ptyalin. The further course of the digestive process, namely what is brought about by the activity of the kidneys which I described to you, is always a process of eliminating the poisoning. So that we pass through the rhythm of a mild poisoning and its elimination simply when we eat and digest our daily food. This represents the most delicate metamorphosis of the process which arises in greater intensity when a remedy is introduced into the organism. That is why in the nature of things it is nonsense to be fanatical about medicine that is ‘free from poison.’ It is nonsense because the only point at issue is this: In what way are we intensifying what already happens in ordinary digestion by introducing something into the organism that will give rise to a process more foreign to this organism than ordinary digestion?
A very profound understanding of the human organism is necessary before we can estimate the value for it of an external remedy. Let us begin with something that is always present as a remedial agent in the human organism — the iron in the blood. The iron in the blood unceasingly plays the role of a remedial agent, protecting man from his innate tendency to disease. I will describe it to you, to begin with, in a primitive way. You know that if the brain, with its weight of some 1,500 grammes, were to rest upon its base, the cerebral blood-vessels there would obviously be crushed. The brain does not rest upon its base but swims in the cerebral fluid, and in accordance with the principle of buoyancy, loses as much of its weight as the weight of the volume of fluid displaced. Thus the brain presses on its base with a weight of only about 20 grammes, instead of 1,500 grammes. This is a fact of fundamental importance because it shows us that the force of gravity is not the determining factor in that which underlies the functions of the brain, in Ego-activity, for instance. This Ego-activity and also, to a great extent, conceptual activity — in so far as it is not volitional but purely conceptual, ideative activity — is not dependent on the gravity of the substance in question but on the force of buoyancy. (I am speaking here entirely of the physical correlate, namely, the brain activity.) It is dependent on the force which strives to alienate the substance from the earth. In our Ego and our thoughts we do not live in the element of weight, but in the force of buoyancy.
The same thing holds good for much else in the human organism — above all, the iron-bearing corpuscles swimming in the blood. Each of these corpuscles loses as much of its weight as the weight of the volume of fluid displaced. And now, if our soul-being lives in the force of buoyancy, just think what this possession of iron-bearing blood corpuscles must mean for the whole life of feeling and perception, indeed for the whole life of the organism. In other words: If in a given case there is irregularity in what is going on in the blood simply as a result of the buoyancy of the iron-bearing corpuscles, we know that iron in some form or other must be introduced, but in such a way, of course, that the iron will unfold a right action in the blood, and not elsewhere.
In terms of Spiritual Science, this means that the relation of the etheric to the astral organism of man is bound up with the iron-content of the blood. And if we understand how the activities of heart and lungs lead over into the realm of life all that is taken up by the organism, and how the kidneys in turn lead this over into the astral organism, we shall not be far from the realisation that balance must reign here. If there is no balance, if either the etheric or the astral activity becomes too intense, the whole organism is bound to fall into disorder. The possibility, however, of promoting the corresponding balance, of enabling the organism to lead the necessary amount of foodstuff into the domain of the kidney activities, is provided by regulating the iron-content in the blood. And by imbuing the actual dynamic element in the blood either with weight or with the force of buoyancy — according to how we regulate the iron-content — we are thereby regulating the whole circulation of blood, which in turn reacts upon the kidney activities. In adding to or decreasing the iron-content we have brought about a fundamental regularisation of the blood circulation: that is, of the interplay between the etheric and astral parts of man.
And now let us take a concrete case. Suppose we have flatulence as a primary symptom. I am choosing a crude example for the sake of clarity. What does flatulence indicate to one who has insight into the human organism? It indicates the presence of aeriform organisations in which the astral organism is working with excessive strength and which are being dispersed too slowly. They are formations which have been brought about by the astral organism — which works, of course, in the gaseous being of man — and they conglomerate instead of forming and dissolving in the regular way. That is what is happening when flatulence is present. Now because the astral activity is excessively strong it influences the whole activity of the senses, especially the activity of the head. The astral activity congests and does not properly distribute itself in the organism; hence it does not work as it should into the metabolic processes, but turns back to the system of nerves and senses with which it is more closely related. And so we shall very soon find that something is amiss with the system of nerves and senses, too — or at all events we may assume that here is a complex of symptoms where the nerves and senses are not working in the right way. And now I must add something in connection with the irregular working of the nerves and senses.
Physiology really talks nonsense about the nerves and senses. Forgive me for saying this — I am expressing myself radically only in order that we may understand each other. You must take such statements with the familiar ‘grain of salt,’ for if I compromise too much in what I say we shall not find it so easy to understand these things.
Supersensible observation of the human organism reveals that any given function which can be demonstrated in the sense of objective empiricism, is, from the higher point of view, the material reflection of something spiritual. The whole human organism is the material reflection of Spirit. But the interaction between the Spirit and soul and the physical-organic nature of man is by no means so simple in the case of the system of nerves and senses as is generally imagined.
Take the physical organisation of man. It is not true — as many people would like to assume — that with the exception of the nervous system and the senses, the physical organisation constitutes one whole, and that the nervous system is inserted into this structure in order independently to serve the life of soul. That is putting it rather radically, of course, but if we come down to the practical considerations underlying the physiological theory, something of the sort comes to light. That is why it is almost impossible to-day to form any rational opinion of functional diseases, nerve-troubles and the like, as they are often called. There is nothing in the human organism that does not belong to the whole organism; that does not interact with other organs. It is not a question of the rest of the organism being left to its own devices and an independent nervous system being inserted, heaven knows by what divine power, in order that the organism may become soul! Look for evidence of this and you will not need to look far. The nervous system is primarily that from which the formative, rounding-off forces of the organism go out. The form of the nose, the form of the whole organism is shaped, fundamentally, by the influences proceeding from the nervous system. The kidney system radiates out the forces of matter, and the nervous system is there to give the organism its forms, both inwardly and outwardly. To begin with, the nervous system has nothing to do with the life of soul; it is the moulder, the form-giver of the human organism, inwardly and outwardly. In short, the nervous system is the sculptor.
In the early stages of individual development, a certain portion of nerve-activity which the organism does not use for formative functions separates off, as it were, and to this the being of soul adapts itself more and more. That, however, is secondary; we must observe this separation of a part of the nerve-process in very early childhood, and the adaptation of the soul-life to these formative principles, if we are to get down to the empirical facts. There is no question of the nervous system being laid into the human organism as the result of some kind of divine ordinance to form the basis for the life of volition, feeling and thought. The life of nerves and senses comes into being with a sort of hypertrophy, part of which is preserved, and to this the activity of the soul then adapts itself. The primary function of the system of nerves and senses is formative, form-giving. The forms of all the organs are sculptured by the system of nerves and senses.
If you want to verify this, begin by taking the senses that have their seat in the skin, are spread out over the whole skin — the senses of warmth and of touch — and try to envisage how the whole form of the human organism is plastically moulded by these senses, whereas the forms of the special organs are built up by other senses. Sight itself is due to the fact that something remains over from the formative force proceeding originally from the visual tract for the building of the cerebral organs, and then all the psychical elements developed in the faculty of sight adapt themselves to this “something” that has been left over.
We shall never have real insight into the being of man if we do not realise that as metabolism goes on unceasingly within us, day by day, year by year, our organs must first be provided for by all that radiates out from the kidneys, and then rounded off. The substance that is radiated out by the kidneys must continually be rounded off, worked upon plastically. Throughout the whole span of man's life this is done by the nerve-organs which extend from the senses towards the inner parts of the human organism. Higher sense-activity, image-building mental activity and the like, are simply the result of an adaptation of the being of soul to this particular tract of organs.
Now, if flatulence in the complex of symptoms confirms the fact that the astral organisation is working too strongly, this shows that the excessive astral activity is tending in the direction of the formative forces of the senses. In the upward direction and towards the periphery there is not only a congestion of astral activity, but these gas-bubbles, which are really striving to become organs, are rounded off still more completely. In other words, as the result of excessive activity on the part of the kidneys, a continual attempt is being made in the upper man to hold back the Ego-organisation above and not to allow what passes into the organism through the blood to return in the proper way. Hence, associated with the complex of symptoms of which I am now speaking, we shall often find cramp-like conditions, even fits, which are due to the fact that the astral forces are not passing rightly into the rest of the organism. If they are congested above, they do not pass into the other parts of the organism. In these other parts of the organism we notice cramp-like phenomena which are always due to the fact that the astral forces are being held back. In such cases the astral nature is being checked, and by studying a complex of symptoms of this kind in the light of the super-sensible, we can eventually relate the outer facts to their inner causes.
Think of it: the astral is held back above, and as a result the metabolism is drawn upwards; the astral body is not making proper provision for the kidneys, and even less for the stomach; the stomach which is receiving too little from the astral organism begins to fend for itself. Outwardly, there will be colic and cramp-like conditions of the stomach. Again, spasmodic conditions may arise in the sexual organs because they are not properly permeated by the astral organisation, or there may be stoppages of the periods, due to the fact that the Ego-organisation is held back above.
Now let us ask ourselves: How can we influence irregularities of this kind? The best thing, to begin with, is to realise that the magical names given to illnesses merely serve the purpose of conventional understanding; the essential point is to observe what really groups itself together and interweaves among the several symptoms. But we must be able to judge of the nature of these symptoms. Suppose we are considering the function attaching to a flower containing sulphur. If a flower contains a certain amount of sulphur, this means that an active process is on its way to an inorganic state which is still akin to the organic. If we introduce a remedy prepared from such a flower, or even the sulphur produced by the flower, into the human organism, the processes in the digestive tract will be roused to greater activity. The stomach, and subsequently the intestinal activity, will be stimulated by a decoction of flower-petals containing sulphur, because, as I have already said, a process of devitalisation which must be reversed is taking place in the plant. And again, indirectly, the irregularity which has appeared in the action of the kidneys is stimulated to a strong reaction, and we have, to begin with, the possibility of counteracting the congestion above by means of a strong counter-pressure from below. (The forces working here are for the most part only fleeting in their effect, but if we give temporary help to the organism it will usually begin to help itself.) The astral organisation will, as it were, again be drawn into the digestive tract, and the result will be a cessation of the attacks of colic and gastric convulsions. Such a remedy by itself, of course, will suffice only in the rarest cases. It will probably be adequate when the gastric trouble is slight. The organism must never be over-stimulated; whenever it is possible to use a weaker remedy we should avoid a stronger one.
Suppose we have before us a complex of symptoms such as I have just described. The disturbance being very severe, we will assume that demands are being made on the overactive astral body by an excessive activity on the part of the kidneys. The astral body works with undue strength into the sense-organisation, which is thereby weakened and undermined. As sense-organisation it is not really undermined, but the astral organism is working in it so strongly that the formative forces of the nerves and senses are, as it were, smothered by the activities of the astral organism. Neither the sense-organs nor the system of nerves and senses as a whole are in themselves less active, but they do not work in their own characteristic way. They take on, as it were, the organisation of the astral and become as active as the astral organism itself. This means that they are not rightly performing their form-giving functions. We must apply something whereby this astral activity is lifted out of the system of nerves and senses: namely, a remedy that works upon the system of nerves and senses which stands in closest connection with the outer world and which, as organisation, is nearest of all to the inorganic state.
The physiology of the senses is fortunate because in the sense-organs there are so many inorganic, so many purely physical and chemical elements. Think how much in the eye lies in the domain of pure optics. A great deal in the eye can be beautifully depicted if one treats it merely as a kind of photographic apparatus. In saying this I want only to indicate that we are co-ordinated with the outer world precisely through the sense-organs, and that the senses are channels through which the outer world flows into us by way of the inorganic.
Now when it is a question of giving support to this particular activity of the nerves and senses, we can do it very well by introducing silicic acid into the organism, for silicic acid has an affinity with these inorganic activities at the periphery. We drive the astral organisation out, as it were, by means of the forces inherent in everything that underlies the formation of silicic acid, for this inclines so very strongly, even in outer appearance, towards the inorganic state. When silicic acid is present in any flower you will invariably find that the flower is brittle or prickly, pressing on to the inorganic state. Thus we can relieve the sense-organs by administering silicic acid, and also by supplying the organism with more sugar than it has in the ordinary way. Sugar, too, is a substance that is so worked upon in the human organism that it finally comes very near to the inorganic. Thus everything we introduce by way of sugar relieves the sense-organs. If conditions allow, this process can also be strengthened by the administration of alkaline salts, which are well calculated to relieve the nervous system of astral activity. These are matters which should be verified by a series of empirical investigations.
Spiritual Science thus enables us to arrive at guiding principles. With the faculty developed by intuitive knowledge we can perceive, for instance, the after-effects of sugar, particularly in those parts of man's nervous system which run from the central nervous system to the senses; the after-effects of silicic acid tend towards the peripheral activities unfolding in the senses. These things can all be verified and proved. And so, when a severe complex of symptoms such as I have described, is present, we shall find the following of benefit: remedies composed simply of alkaline salts, which do much to relieve the nerve-activity of the astral nature; of sugar (not of course administered in the ordinary amount but in an unusual one); and of silicic acid.
The best remedial effects of these substances will be obtained simply by the administration of a proper preparation of the roots of chamomile. It may surprise you that I speak of a root, but the points of view intersect and we must realise that when the symptoms are severe, sulphur and blossom-products are not efficacious. What we do need is a substance that is contained still in a highly vitalised state in the plant, so that the long process it has to undergo will make the reaction vigorous enough. If we introduce a suitable dosage of these substances, as they are found in the root of the chamomile, into the digestive tract, the reaction in this case will not be strong enough to allow the vitalisation to take place at the point of transition from the intestines to the blood; what is contained particularly in the sugar and silicic acid, but also in the alkaline salts, will simply be forced through in an untransformed state. This gives the kidneys a chance to absorb it into their radiations, and the substances so absorbed are then impelled by the action of the kidneys towards the sphere of activity of the nerves and senses, which are thereby relieved of the astral functions.
If we really have insight into these matters, if we realise that this mode of therapeutic procedure leads to the best results, much can be learnt. Moreover, we can very easily be led to other things. We can see how what is absorbed is transformed in the human organisation: thereupon the activity of the kidneys sets to work, receiving what is supplied to it along the channels of the blood and radiating it out; the plastic activity then reacts in its turn. Then we begin to perceive that this plastic activity in its pure form is restored by the administration of silicic acid, sugar and alkaline salts. To super-sensible vision, silicic acid, alkaline salts and sugar, in the right proportions, form a kind of human phantom; something like a phantom is there before us if we think of these substances in regard to their form-building forces. They are pre-eminently sculptors; they bear the plastic principle within them — as is evident even in their outer formation.
The strong action of silicic acid is due, in the first place, to the fact that when the substance appears in the inorganic realm, it has the tendency to form itself into elongated crystals. The results obtainable with silicic acid could not be reached with substances which have the tendency to develop into rounder, less elongated crystals. With such substances it might conceivably be possible to cure a hedgehog but not a human being, whose very principle of growth shows tendencies to elongation.
Those who have no feeling for this artistry in Nature — an artistry with which the organism is moulded chiefly by the activity of nerves and senses-cannot discover in any rational sense the relations between substances in the outer world and what is taking place in the human organism. Yet there is indeed a rational therapy — a therapy which is able to perceive processes which run their course in the outer world, are broken down, as it were, in the human organism, and can then be radiated out by the kidneys and taken hold of, finally, by the plastic activity of the organisation of nerves and senses.
Let us take another example. Suppose that the radiating action of the kidneys, instead of being too strong, is too weak — that is to say, too little of the foodstuff is being drawn up into the astral organisation.
All that I described in the previous complex of symptoms is due to excessive working of the astral organism. The astral organism is active particularly in the upper man and holds itself aloof from the activities of digestion, heart and lungs; and as an accompanying phenomenon we shall find the formation of phlegm and the like, which is quite easy to understand. Thus in the previous case we have to do with an excessive astral activity.
Now suppose that the astral activity is too feeble. The radiating activity of the kidneys is unduly weak, so that the astral organism is not in a position to supply to the formative, plastic forces what it ought to give them when it enters their domain. The formative force cannot then work itself into the astral organism because the latter does not reach sufficiently to the periphery. The result is that no active contact is established between the formative force and the force proceeding from the circulation of the food-substances and their distribution. The substance is distributed without being taken in hand by the formative force. Insufficient plastic force is unfolded and the substance is abandoned to its own life; the activity of the astral body is too fleeting and does not work properly in the transformation of the substances.
Such a state of affairs may certainly be regarded as a complex of symptoms. How it will express itself? Above all, that which is coursing in the blood-vessels will not be taken up in the proper way by the feeble action of the kidneys; that is, by the astral organisation which is working with insufficient power. It collapses, as it were, resulting in hæmorrhoids or excessive menstruation. The contact fails and the metabolism lapses back into itself. In this condition of the organism it is specially easy for a state of ‘fever of occult origin’ — as it is called — to arise, or a condition of intermittent fever.
And now the question is: How can we attack this complex of symptoms? The activity of the astral organism is too feeble. We must stimulate the action of the kidneys in order that sufficient material may be sent up into the astral organism. The best thing to do here is to restore the balance between the etheric and astral organisms. Then, simply on account of what passes from the digestive tract into the system of lungs and heart, we get the proper transition to the activity of the kidneys. We obtain a kind of balance, and in many cases we can control it precisely by regulating the iron-content in the organism which governs the circulation. This will now stimulate a strong, inner activity of the kidneys which will be demonstrated outwardly in a change in the excretions of urea through the kidneys, as well as through the perspiration. This will be quite evident. But of course in very many cases we must realise that this balance is always very delicately poised, and that only in the crudest cases will the remedial agent in question here, which man already bears within him, be of assistance.
Whereas in the digestive tract substances containing sulphur in some form are the most effective, and in the system of nerves and senses (the formative principle) substances such as silicic acid and alkaline salts, pure metals are the substances which regulate the balance between the forces of gravity and buoyancy. We need only try out how they must be applied in order to restore the disturbed balance in the most varied ways. We start from iron. According to the complex of symptoms, the most suitable metal may be gold, or perhaps copper. If the form of disease makes us sure of our ground, highly important results will be obtained from the pure metals. If the interplay between the functions of form-building and the breaking-down of form is such that there is too little form-building and this state of affairs becomes organic — if, therefore, the primary cause of the trouble is that the relation between the system of heart and lungs and the kidney system is upset — we shall achieve the best results with iron.
But if, as the result of lengthy disturbances in the processes, the organs themselves are impaired, and have already suffered from a lack of plastic activity because the plastic forces have not been able to reach them, we may have to apply quicksilver. Because quicksilver already has the forces of form, the durable metallic drop-form within itself, it has a definite effect upon the lower organs of man. In the same way we can discover definite connections between metals and the organs of the head that have been attacked and injured, for instance when the nervous system itself is involved. But here it will be a good thing not to confine ourselves to setting up a stable balance as against the vacillating balance. This is extraordinarily difficult. This balance is just like a very sensitive pair of scales. We try in every possible way to make the scales balance and it is almost impossible. We shall get at it more easily, however, if we do not merely concern ourselves with the balancing, but with the pans themselves. We can give support, for instance, to the working of the iron by introducing sulphur into the digestive tract, and providing a counter-action in the nerves and senses system by means of alkaline salts. Then in the middle, rhythmic system of man we shall have iron at work; potassium, calcium or alkaline salts in the nerves and senses, and sulphur in the rhythm of digestion. That is the better way to set about restoring the balance.
Now the remarkable thing is that we find the very opposite state of affairs in the leaves of certain plants. If, for instance, we prepare the leaf of urtica dioica, the ordinary stinging-nettle, in the right way, we have a remedy composed of sulphur, iron and certain salts. But we must really know how to relate the devitalising force that is present in the plant to the vitalising force that is present in the human organism. In the root of urtica dioica it is indeed true that the whole sulphur-process is tending gradually to the inorganic state. The human organism takes the opposite course, and so transforms the sulphur by way of the albumen that it gradually brings the digestion into order. The iron in urtica dioica works from the leaves in such a way that in the very seed, and thereby once more in next year's leaves, this plant thrusts apart the very thing that brings together the rhythmic process in the human organism. In fact, the stinging power of the nettle leaves is this destructive process that must be overcome if the rhythmic process in the human organism is to be regulated. Again, the alkaline salt content of the plant is least of all transformed into inorganic matter. Therefore it has the longest way to go. It goes right up to the nerves and senses organisation; goes up quite easily because, in any case, with the complex of symptoms we are now considering, the activity of the kidneys is asleep and suppressed. In the human organism we have actually the opposite of what is expressing itself outwardly in the formation of the plants. But there is no need to confine ourselves merely to plant-remedies; synthetic remedies may also be prepared and cures effected by combining the substances I have mentioned in a suitable dosage.
These are matters which will gradually transform therapy into a rational science, but a science that is really an art, for it can no more exclusively be science than a man who is not an artist can be a sculptor. He may have a splendid knowledge of how to guide his chisel and how to mould the clay, but there must always be an element leading over into the realm of art. Without this, true therapy is impossible. We must really get the right touch — in a spiritual sense, of course — for determining the dosage. This will not suit all those who would like to turn medicine into a pure science, but it is true, nevertheless.
And now let me indicate, merely by way of example, another state of affairs that may arise. There may be a disturbance of the interaction between what the organism produces by way of inorganic material, as a preliminary to leading it over into the realm of organic life, and the subsequent intervention of the etheric body and the action of heart and lungs. A disturbance may arise here. The greater the age of a man, the more apparent is the disturbance. The digestive tract and the vascular system are not working properly together. When this sets in, we must remember that the consequence will be an accumulation of the products of metabolism. If the substances are not being properly distributed in the organism, the natural result is an accumulation of the products of metabolism. And here we come to the whole domain of diseases of metabolism, from the very mild to the most severe forms. We must realise that in such cases something is amiss with the activity of the kidneys, too, for the reason that because of the antecedent congestion the kidneys are receiving nothing which they can radiate out.
This gives rise to highly complicated forms of disease. On the one hand the action of the digestion and the kidneys provides nothing by way of material upon which the plastic, form-giving activity can work, and on the other, as the result of a stultification of this plastic activity, we have a disturbance of the organic balance from the other side. The plastic force, too, gradually ceases to function. The products of metabolism spread themselves out in the organism but fail, little by little, to be received into the field of the plastic activities and used as modeling material. And then there arise certain metabolic diseases which are so highly resistant to treatment. The proper course is to stimulate in the digestive tract, and then also in the domain of heart and lungs, all that is akin to elements that are on their way to the inorganic state — akin, that is, to the sulphuric or phosphoric elements connected, in the blossoms of plants, with the ethereal oils. We attempt to stimulate this in the digestive system and in the system of heart and lungs; also we stimulate the activity of the kidneys and thereby help the plastic forces. In this type of disease it is of great importance to bring influence to bear on the digestive apparatus.
Now the activity of the kidneys and the excretion of sweat are in a certain sense polar opposites; in other words they are intimately related to one another. And if, as a consequence of what I have described, the kidneys are not acting properly, we shall always find that there is less perspiration. Great attention should be paid to this, for whenever there is a decrease in the perspiration, we may be sure that something is amiss with the action of the kidneys. What is happening, as a rule, when the perspiration decreases, is that the kidneys are like a machine which has nothing to work upon but continues to act, while the products of digestion are already congested and are spreading unduly over the organism. If by the outer or inner application of sulphur treatments (for we can work just as well from the skin as from the kidneys themselves) we succeed in stimulating the digestive tract to such an extent that it, in turn, stimulates the activity of heart and lungs so that material is again supplied to the kidneys, instead of lying fallow before it reaches them, we may also succeed in getting the better of these diseases of metabolism.
But in all these matters we must be quite clear that the human organism is something that does not want to be absolutely cured, but only stimulated to unfold the healing process. This is a fact of supreme importance. In the state of illness, the human organism wants to be stimulated to unfold the healing process. If the healing is to be permanent we must actually limit ourselves to giving a mere stimulus. For a cure which apparently happens at once leads much more readily to relapses than a cure which merely stimulates the healing process. The organism has first to accustom itself to the course of the healing process, and is then able to continue it by virtue of its own activity. In this way the organism binds itself much more intimately to the healing process, until such time as the reaction again sets in. If for a certain length of time the organism can be made to adjust itself to the healing process, that is the best possible cure, for then the organism actually absorbs what has been transmitted to it.
I have been able only to give you certain hints as to method, but you will realise that in what I call a spiritual-scientific enlightenment of physiology, pathology and therapy, it is a question of understanding that man is not an isolated being but that he belongs to the whole Cosmos, further, that in connection with any process taking place in the human being in an ascending curve, let us say, we must seek outside man, in Nature, for the descending curve. In this way we shall be able to modify curves that are ascending too abruptly. Medicine indeed demands in a certain respect a knowledge of the whole world. I have given only a tiny fragment, but it indicates that there must be an entirely different understanding of the nature of urtica dioica, colchicum autumnale, or indeed of any other plant. The plants themselves must tell us whither their descending tendency is leading.
Take the case of colchicum autumnale, the autumn crocus. First you must perceive when you approach this plant that the time of the year in which it appears is not without significance for its whole structure, for this brings about a certain relation to the devitalising process. That the devitalisation is very slight in colchicum autumnale, you can see from the very colour of its petals and the time of its flowering. If you then experiment with colchicum autumnale, you will find that the human organism must exert itself up to a very high level to bring about the opposite vitalisation, that is to say — if I may express it crudely — to get the plant dead and then alive again. Indeed, this whole process plays right up into the thyroid gland. And now you have the basis for a series of investigations with colchicum autumnale as a remedy for enlargements of the thyroid gland.
Let me assure you once again that there is no question of a profitless, amateurish abuse of modern scientific methods, but rather of giving guiding lines which will actually lead to more tangible results than mere experimentation. I do not by any means say that this cannot also be fruitful. It does indeed lead to certain goals, but a great deal passes us completely by, especially many things we can learn by observing Nature. Although it is not difficult to produce a synthetic preparation composed of iron, sulphur and alkali, it is a good thing to know how all these substances are brought together by Nature herself in a particular plant. Even in the production of synthetic remedies we can learn very much by understanding what is going on in Nature outside.
It would be fascinating to enter into many things in detail, and I think that some of our doctors will have done so in other lectures. A great deal, too, can be found in our literature, and there are many subjects which I hope will soon be dealt with there. I am convinced that as soon as these matters are presented in a clear, concise form and people are not afraid to go straight ahead, they will take this point of view: “Yes, I must above all heal if I want to be a doctor, and so I will turn to what, in the first place, seems rather against the grain. If it really helps, I cannot do otherwise than try to profit by it.”
In this sense I think it would be a good thing if as soon as possible we could produce literature of a kind that would be a bridge between Spiritual Science and modern material science. It would encourage the opinion that these things help and so they cannot after all be such utter nonsense! I am quite sure that when our work is properly in train, the verdict will be that it does indeed help. — And here I will conclude. Try it all out and you will find that it will help. That too, will not be without significance, for many things that are used in orthodox medicine do not help. And between what does and does not help there must play all that we would like to introduce from the side of Spiritual Science.
London and Weston-super-Mare