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Physiology and Therapeutics
GA 314

Lecture II

8 October 1920, Dornach

Today I wish to make a link with what I said yesterday at the conclusion of the lecture. I pointed then to a personality who was driven by his philosophical instincts, as it were, from knowledge of the soul-spiritual into an intimation of the connection of this soul-spiritual with the physical-bodily existence of the human being. This was Schelling. I said that out of these instincts Schelling not only occupied himself with theoretical medicine but also with all kinds of therapeutic treatments. I do not know whether this resulted in greater or lesser satisfaction for the patient than is the case with many well-trained physicians, for this question of how much improvement in a person's condition can be attributed to therapeutic measures is, in most cases, a very problematic one if it is not looked at inwardly.

This instinct arose in Schelling out of the entire disposition of his soul, and from this he acquired a principle. It would certainly be good if this became a kind of inner principle for every physician, became an inner principle so that the physician would coordinate his entire practical conception of the nature of the healthy and sick human being out of this principle. I quoted Schelling's own words, which show a kind of daring. He simply said, “To know nature means to create nature.” Generally what is first noticed when a genius comes forth with such an expression is its quite obvious absurdity, for no one seriously believes himself capable, as an earthly human being in the physical body, of creating anything out of nature simply by knowing nature. Obviously in technology there is continuous creation, but there it is not a matter of really creating something in the way that Schelling meant; rather, by putting things together, by a composition of the forces of nature, nature in turn is given the opportunity to create in a particular way and through a particular arrangement, and so on. With this sentence, therefore, we have fundamentally to do with an absurdity that a man of genius laid at the foundation of all his thinking.

Yesterday I indicated another sentence that could be contrasted with, “To know nature means to create nature,” and this sentence would be, “To know the spirit means to destroy the spirit.” This last sentence was probably not expressed by Schelling in such a fundamental way. In modern times, however, a person who once again approaches a spiritual science, developing his own spiritual investigation, sees that both these sentences basically point back to an ancient knowledge from inspiration. Schelling, who certainly was by no means an initiate but simply a man of genius, could arrive at the first sentence out of his instinct. When a person pursues the kind of spiritual investigation that was not being done in Schelling's time, this sentence immediately recalls a resounding from ancient wisdom. Then one is carried over to the other sentence, which resounds in a similar way from ancient wisdom. Neither sentence can be comprehended with the customary modern intellectual knowledge that we apply in our sciences. Considered either in relation to each other or by themselves, these phrases are absurd. They both point, however, to something of the greatest importance in the human organization, something as important for the healthy condition as for the diseased condition.

When we consider outer nature in relation to the finished processes of nature, we can say nothing more than that “To know nature means at most to recreate nature in thoughts.” Therefore what we call our thoughts bring us no further than recreating nature since they lack the inner formative force; this is what we develop in our thinking, in the soul life permeated by thoughts, by mental images. It has been pointed out previously, however, that this soul life permeated by mental images is basically nothing but what emancipates itself from the physical-etheric organism at the time of the change of teeth, what the human being therefore has within the physical-etheric organism until the change of teeth.

What is active in the human physical-etheric during the childhood years, what truly engages in a creative activity, thus remains in a weakened form, toned down in the soul life as a world of pictures or a world of thoughts or mental images, in short, as a world force in thoughts and mental images, a force in its creative substantiality. It simply sits in our organism; what we know from age seven on simply sits within our organism in an organizing way. It creates there, but not at all, in the same as we are able to see it creating in outer nature; we see it creating within our own organism. Thus if a child were already a sage and were able to express himself not about outer nature but rather about what goes on within him, if the child were able to look within to his inner nature and penetrate nature there, he would say, “To know this nature means to create this nature.” The child would simply saturate himself with the creating forces, would become one with these creating forces. And in his medical instinct, in his physiological instinct, Schelling merely stated something that for the entire later life is absurd; he drew forth something from the age of childhood and extended it by saying, as it were: all this knowing in old age is nothing but a faint web of images; if one were able to know as a child, one would have to say that to know actually means to create, means to develop creative activity. We are able to see this creative activity, however, only in our own inner being.

What is it, therefore, that actually confronts us as creative activity in our own inner being, which is expressed in a genius such as Schelling as I have indicated? It is true, isn't it, that the nature of genius is generally based on the fact that the person retains a certain childlike quality in later life. Those people who age no matter what happens and who take up aging in a normal way, as it were, take it up appropriately never become geniuses. It is people who carry into later life something of a positive, creative-childlike element who bear the quality of genius. It is this childlike element, this positive creative element, this knowing-creative element that—if I want to express myself in a simple way—does not have time to know things outwardly because it turns the forces of knowledge inward and begins: to create. This is the heritage that we bring with us in entering physical existence through birth. We bring with us the forces of organization, and we can perceive them, as it were, through spiritual science. And a person like Schelling sensed them instinctively.

Anyone who acquires such perception knows that these soul-spiritual forces that permeate the organism in an organizing way in the first period of childhood do not completely cease being active with the change of teeth. They have undergone only one stage. They become suppressed, as it were, to a lesser degree of activity so that later we definitely still retain in us the organizing forces. We have conquered in ourselves, however, the memory-forming element that entered consciousness with the change of teeth, detaching itself thereby from the organization. We have taken memory from its latent state into its liberated state; we have received as a soul-perceptive force our growth force, our force of movement, our force of balance, which were active in a correspondingly heightened degree in the first period of childhood. You can see from this, however, that in normal human development, this organizing force, this growth force, must be transformed to a degree into something soul-spiritual, let us say, into the force of memory, into the thought-forming force.

Let us assume, now, that too much of this organizing force active in the first period of childhood were held back due to some process; picture a development in which insufficient forces of organization were transformed into the memory-forming force. These forces then remain stuck below in the organism; they are not carried properly into sleep each time a person falls asleep but rather continue to course through the organism between falling asleep and awakening.

If an individual engaged in medical, physiological-phenomenological research in the direction I can only suggest in this short course of lectures, he would be led to the insight that it is possible for forces in the human organism[,] that should actually enter the soul-spiritual at the proper turning-point in life instead[,] to remain below in the physical organization. Then what I spoke to you about yesterday occurs. If the normal degree of organization-forces is transformed with the change of teeth, then in later life we have the proper degree of forces in the organism to organize this organism in accord with its normal shape and normal structure. If we have not done this, however, if we have transformed too little, then the organizing forces that remain below appear somewhere and we encounter new formations, carcinomatous formations, about which I spoke yesterday. In this way—just as Troxler suggested in the first half of the nineteenth century—we can study the process of becoming ill or of illness that occurs in the moments of transition in later life.

We can then compare this with childhood illnesses, for obviously childhood illnesses cannot have the same origin, because they appear in an early stage of life when absolutely nothing has yet been transformed. If one has learned the origin of illnesses in later life, however, one has also acquired a capacity to observe what underlies the origin of illnesses in childhood. One finds the same thing, in a certain way, only from another side. One finds that there is too much of the soul-spiritual force of organization in the human organism when childhood illnesses arise. To an individual who has acquired the capacity to perceive along these lines, such things appear especially significant when considering the phenomena of scarlet fever or measles in childhood. With these he can see in the child's organism how the soul-spiritual, which otherwise functions in a normal way, begins to stir; he sees how it is more active than it should be. The whole course of these illnesses becomes comprehensible the moment one really sees this restless stirring of the soul-spiritual in the organism as the basis of illness.

Now, I beg you to consider my next sentence very precisely, for I never go a step further than is justified by the deliberations preceding it, even if much may be suggested only sketchily; everywhere I merely indicate how far one can go, so I am not drawing a conclusion here. I am simply saying that now one is not far from recognizing something that is extraordinarily important to recognize for a true knowledge. First we must arrive at the point of recognizing that in an illness of the human organism during later life, one that goes in the direction of new formations, there is too much of the organizing force that results in an island of organization, so to speak. When we have reached this point we are not far from saying that, if the later period of life points in this way back to earliest childhood, this indicates ultimately that what reveals itself in childhood points back to the time before birth or, let us say, before conception; it points back to the soul-spiritual existence of the human being before he was clothed with a physical body. A person suffering from childhood illnesses is simply someone who brought along too much of the soul-spiritual from his prehuman, pre-earthly life; this excess then lives itself out in the childhood illnesses.

In the future there will be no choice but to allow oneself to be driven beyond the fruitless, materialistic approaches in which physiological and therapeutic matters remain stuck today, to be driven on to a soul-spiritual approach. It will soon be seen that what arises in spiritual science does not occur because the spiritual investigator is too little grounded in physical research, because he is, as it were, a dilettante in physical research (though I must add parenthetically that many who call themselves spiritual investigators are, in fact, dilettantes, but this is not how it should be). It is not necessary for the spiritual investigator to be grounded too little in physical research in order to become a spiritual investigator; rather he must be even more immersed in physical research than the ordinary natural scientist. If he sees through phenomena more intensively, he will be driven by the phenomena themselves into the soul-spiritual, especially when it comes to illness.

The sentence, “To know the spirit means to destroy the spirit,” is actually an absurdity similar to the first sentence, yet this sentence also points to something that must be recognized, that must be penetrated. Just as the sentence, “To know nature means to create nature,” points us to the first age of childhood, and actually to life before birth—if we extend it in the right way—so the sentence, “To know the spirit means to destroy the spirit,” leads us to the end of a person's life, to what kills the human being. You need only hold to this sentence in a paradoxical way—“To know the spirit means to destroy the spirit”—and you will find how one must not follow it but how it nevertheless exists in life as something continually being approached asymptotically.

For an individual who doesn't simply grasp knowledge aggressively but develops self-perception in the right way, to know the spirit means to see continual processes of breakdown, continual processes of destruction in the human organism. When we look into the creative age of childhood in the same way, we can see continuous upbuilding processes, but upbuilding processes that have the peculiarity of actually dimming consciousness. Therefore we are dreaming, we are half-asleep in childhood; our consciousness is not fully awake. Our own earthly spirituality, namely the conscious spirituality of pressing back the growth activity, is what actually organizes us inwardly. The moment this force enters consciousness, it ceases to permeate us with organizing forces to the same degree as before.

In looking into the age of childhood one witnesses the work of upbuilding forces, though forces that weaken consciousness; in the same way one witnesses the breakdown processes when surrendering oneself to perceiving the developed thinking processes, but these breakdown processes are particularly suited to making our consciousness clear and luminous.

Modern physiological science pays little attention to this, although this is perfectly obvious in physiology's revelations, as obvious as can be. If you direct your attention to the real revelations of modern physiology, you will see that everything known about the physiology of the brain makes it quite clear that with soul-spiritual processes occurring consciously we do not have to do with any kind of growth forces or forces that take up nourishment; rather we have to do with processes of elimination in the nervous system, with breakdown processes, with a continuous slow dying.

It is death that is active in us when we surrender ourselves to what is spiritually active in our consciousness. And just as we look through the unconscious creating forces to the beginnings of life, so we look through the conscious conceptual forces that reveal themselves as destructive forces; they reveal themselves as what begins to take hold of us more and more as we grow into earthly life, to break us down, and finally to lead us to confront earthly death; we see through these forces to the other end of life, to death. Birth and death—or, let us say, conception, birth, and death—can only be understood by taking the spiritual into consideration.

And what wants to be expressed in the sentence, “To know the spirit means to destroy the spirit,” is this: if a person wishes only to gaze into the spirit, to take it up more or less naively, to take it up in the same way that outer nature is taken up, then that individual would have to dam up what is active in this thinking, conceptual, sensing and feeling activity; the breakdown would have to be prevented. This means that in such a moment a person would have to diminish, to weaken, the power over the spirit, the inner consciousness, to the point of unconsciousness, to a working of the spiritual in unconsciousness. He would have to come to the point of forming something spiritual out of himself, of pressing something spiritual out of himself, as it were. To do this, however, he could not remain conscious, because the organization cannot be carried into this breakdown process, into this spiritual process.

Thus we can say that on the one hand we have the processes of organization that consist of the fact that we have the form-skeleton of the human organism, as it were (see drawing a), into which the organizing force (drawing b, red) enters as something spiritual. (Of course this is now considered abstractly.) On the other hand, as I have described in the second case, we have the form-skeleton of the human organism, but we do not wish to allow it to be permeated by the organizing force, by the force that weakens our consciousness to a certain extent: instead we wish to drive out the organizing force, which we now want to know as spirit (see drawing c). We cannot go along with our ego, however, because this is bound to the organism.


We have the other side as well, the side in which man clearly begins to develop the spiritual, that is, to develop will activity in the spiritual. This permeation with will activity remains unconscious, sleeping, as it were, dreaming; based in this permeation with will activity is a soul-spiritual element that we actually bring forth from our organization without consciousness. Here we have the other side, the manic side, the frenzied side, in which the human being goes mad; we have the varying forms of the so-called mental illnesses. Whereas with physical illnesses we have a soul-spiritual element that does not belong in the physical organism (drawing b), with the so-called mental illnesses we have something in the psychological realm that drives out of the physical-etheric something that should remain within it (drawing c). Something is driven out of the organism.


Today we will see what we arrived at yesterday illuminated from the other side. This viewpoint can lead us still further. We will see tomorrow the fruitful therapeutic consequences that can be arrived at particularly from this viewpoint, consequences that can then be confirmed absolutely in life, proving themselves in the most outward practice of medicine, in practical therapeutic measures.

If we are looking for the cause of physical illness, we must ultimately seek it in the spirit going astray in the organism. This should certainly not be pursued abstractly. Anyone who does not understand the relationship between the soul-spiritual and the physical organism should really stay quiet about these matters. Only with knowledge of the soul-spiritual element can one come to know the specific aspects of this: where in one organ or another there is too strong a force of organization, a hypertrophied force of organization, as it were; these details can be arrived at only if one knows the soul-spiritual concretely. The soul-spiritual element is made concrete in the same way as the physical-bodily element in the liver, stomach, and so on, and one must know this soul-spiritual element (of which psychology has no intimation) with its constituents, its members, just as well as we know the physical-sensible. And if the relationships between the two are known, then one can often indicate—even out of the soul-spiritual findings encountered with the human being—where there is some kind of excessive organization in a particular organ. In every case that is not the result of an external injury, such an origin can be indicated.

On the other hand, if we are considering the so-called mental illnesses, we remain purely in abstractions if we believe that anything can be gained from a half-baked phenomenology, if we believe that simply by describing soul-spiritual abnormalities one can arrive at anything (though to describe them is, of course, most useful). With such descriptions one can naturally create a sensation among laymen, because it is always interesting to learn how a person who has gone mad deviates from life's normal standard. Anything unusual is interesting, and in our time it is still rare to deviate in this way from normal life. But to remain stuck in simple description should not be the important thing. It is particularly important not to press on from that point to the dilettantish judgment that in such cases the soul and spirit are ill and that the soul and spirit can be cured somehow by soul-spiritual measures, as is commonly dreamed up by those who remain stuck in abstractions.

Indeed not. Particularly with the so-called mental illnesses it is absolutely clear that in every case one can indicate where the diminished organization of some organ resides. An individual who truly wishes to know the nature of melancholia or hypochondria driven to the point of mental illness must not wade around in the soul element; he should rather attempt to determine, from the condition of the abdominal organs of the person in question, how the diminished organization is influencing the person's abdominal organization. He should attempt to determine how a force of organization that works less strongly than normal allows something to precipitate out, so to speak—just as in chemistry one precipitates something out of a solution so that a sediment occurs—how a diminished force of organization in the physical-bodily element, which would otherwise be permeated by the force of organization, precipitates something out and how this precipitate is then present in the organism as something physical-bodily, how it is deposited in what takes place in the liver, gall, stomach, heart, and lungs. These processes are not so accessible to investigation as one would like nowadays, when people prefer to stick to the crude aspects—for histology also remains at the crude level. Psychology is necessary to such an investigation, but in every case it is necessary to lead the study of so-called mental illnesses back to the bodily condition.

Of course such illnesses may seem less interesting as a result, but this is nevertheless the case. It naturally seems more interesting if a hypochondriac can say that his soul life is active in such-and-such a way in the soul-spiritual cosmos than to say that there is a diminished force of organization in his liver. It is more interesting to look for the causes of hysteria, let us say, in the soul-spiritual; it is more interesting than if one simply points to the metabolic processes of the sexual organs when speaking of hysterical phenomena or if one speaks of irregularities in the metabolism that spread throughout the organism. Little will be learned about these things, however, if the investigation is not pursued in this way.

Spiritual science is not always simply seeking the spirit. This can be left quietly to the spiritualists and other interesting people—interesting because they are rare, though unfortunately they are not rare enough! Spiritual science does not incessantly speak about spirit, spirit, spirit; rather it attempts really to lay hold of the spirit, and it tries to pursue its effects and succeeds by means of this in reaching the correct place for a comprehension of the material. It is certainly not so arrogant as to try to explain mental illnesses abstractly by mental means; instead it leads, particularly in the case of mental illness, to a material grasp of mental illness.

One may thus say that it points in a clarifying way to some interesting phenomena. One need not look back very far—perhaps still with Griesinger and others, or in the pre-Griesinger era in psychiatry—to discover that not so long ago psychiatrists also at least incorporated the bodily condition in their diagnoses. But what has become more and more common today? It has become commonplace for psychiatrists to flood us with descriptions of illness in their literature that merely describe the soul-spiritual abnormalities, so that here materialism has actually led us into an abstract soul-spiritual domain. This is its tragedy. Here materialism itself has led away from materialism. This is what is so remarkable about materialism, that in certain regards it leads to a misunderstanding, to a lack of comprehension of the material world itself. One who pursues the spirit as a real fact, however, also pursues it where it works its way into the material and where it then withdraws so that the material is deposited, as in the so-called mental illnesses.

I had to present these things as a foundation in order to offer guidelines in relation to the therapeutic aspect tomorrow. What we discover when the physiological therapeutic domain is fructified with spiritual science also has a social aspect. Life is remarkable in that everywhere we are driven into the social element if we are not seeking the scientific in an abstract withdrawal, in an academic existence estranged from life, but rather in the life-filled comprehension of human existence, of human community, if we are seeking with a truly living science. As an example, we have an extraordinarily interesting social phenomenon in recent evolution: through the split of humanity upward into a bourgeois aristocracy and downward into the proletariat, we can see how the one-sided aristocratic nature is taken hold of by a false seeking after the spirit, by materialism in the spiritual realm, while the proletarian nature is taken hold of by a certain spiritualism in the material realm.

What does that mean—spiritualism in the material realm? It means remaining stuck when seeking the origins of existence. The proletariat has thus developed scientific materialism as a view of life at the same time as the aristocratic element has developed the teachings of the spirit materialistically. While the proletariat has become materialistic, the aristocracy has become spiritualistic. If you find spiritualists among the proletariat, they did not grow out of their own proletarian soil; rather it is a mimicry, it is simply imitative, merely something that penetrated the proletariat by an infection—I will speak about infection tomorrow—with the aristocratic-bourgeois element.

And if you see among the aristocracy the development of materialism, coming to behold spirits materially as one looks at flames, so that materialism is carried into the most spiritual, wanting to see the spiritual materially, then we see this growing out of the original, decadent one-sidedness that emerged from the universally human, from the totality inclining to the aristocratic, to the bourgeois element, infected by the aristocratic element.

If what applies to the spirit is compelled to remain in matter, because it has not been drawn out by an appropriate education or the like, if in its spiritual seeking the proletariat is compelled to remain in matter, then materialism develops as a view of life. Materialism was developed by the proletariat as a view of life in the materialistic understanding of history, for example. Materialism was developed by more aristocratic people as spiritualism, for spiritualism is materialism, masked materialism, which does not even remain honest enough to acknowledge it; instead it lies and maintains that those who profess things materialistically are actually spiritual. After this divergence, we will continue tomorrow with our studies.