Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Pastoral Medicine
GA 318

Lecture IV

11 September 1924, Dornach

Dear friends,

Today I would like to insert into our studies a chapter of anthroposophy that we need for our examination of healthy responsibility and pathological irresponsibility as the physician and the priest must know them.

First of all it is important that we look into the question: What is really inherited by a human being? What is not inherited and must come to the human being in some other way? In evaluating healthy and sick individuals, a great deal depends upon whether one can differentiate between these two ingredients. Human beings come out of the spiritual, super-sensible worlds into the sense world: that means, they combine what is given them by heredity with what they bring from earlier earth lives and from life between death and the new birth. Then we see how they develop as a children, from day to day, from week to week. But if one does not perceive that they are four-membered beings, with physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego organization, one is not in a position to understand their development, for one does not see what part each member is playing in this development. They have different origins; they come from different worlds.

First, human beings have their physical organism. The most striking phenomenon in the physical organism is that in the first period of life they have what we call “first teeth,” which last until the time we call “change of teeth.” The teeth are only the most obvious thing that is changed at this time. For the fact is that human beings only keep the physical substance they received at birth until the change of teeth. They are constantly stripping that physical material from their form.

The process is, of course, more complicated than is implied in the brief statement that in the course of every seven or eight years a person pushes off all physical substance and replaces it. The truth is near to that, but one need only look at the change of teeth itself to realize that this picture must be modified somewhat. For if this abstract assertion were correct, we would have new teeth every seven years. We get new teeth only once. The teeth are changed once and do not undergo any other renewal. They belong in this category in the most extreme sense. As a matter of fact, the course of human life is such that the older one becomes, the more one retains of old physical substance. A replacement of by far the greatest part of the substance does indeed take place in seven- to eight-year periods; but we must distinguish what remains behind. At the seventh year it is only the adult teeth that remain. After each subsequent period there remain also certain parts of the substance that are not replaced, although the greater part is indeed replaced in the course of seven or eight years. Thus a basic statement can be made for the first seven years. Human beings strip away all the physical substance they had when they were born, keeping none of it, keeping only the forces that have lived and worked in it during those years. These forces have so appropriated the fresh new substance that was constantly being aquired that at seven the physical body has been completely renewed, even to the teeth. And from that statement the understanding must follow that the principle of heredity as our current natural science conceives of it really holds good only for the first seven years of life. Only for those first seven years is it true that a person's characteristics come from parents and grandparents. The physical body of those first seven years provides, in a certain sense, a kind of model from which the artist working in the human being (who consists now in these years of etheric body, astral body, and ego) fashions a new physical body. We see how what we bring down from spiritual worlds—our individuality, our own being—and what we receive from heredity work together in artistic reciprocal activity. If a human being is an inwardly strong individual and brings an intensely strong inner astrality and ego nature, which in turn makes the etheric body strong, then we will see a young person shooting up who from inner strength keeps very little to the model, only copies it for the general form. Naturally, the universal human model must be preserved, and therefore an affinity is already there for the inherited human form; features of it definitely remain beyond the change of teeth. Still, to thoughtful observation it will be apparent that in the case of inwardly strong individuals important changes come after the change of teeth because such individuals follow only slightly the model they inherited.

If we investigate such an individual as St. Teresa, we find that these particularly strong individualities resemble their parents very closely in the first seven years, but then in the ninth and tenth years they develop in surprising ways. Then the real individual is emerging. In the strongest sense of the word, heredity only holds good for the first life period. What seems to appear later as heredity is not really heredity but must be recognized as a copy of the inherited model. The copy may be more or less exact; even so, it is not heredity; it is a copy of the inherited characteristics. The ordinary natural scientist considers this to be simply the principle of heredity carried further. But someone who really studies the nature of humanity will perceive that there is a complete qualitative difference between the resemblance to parents before the change of teeth and the resemblance after the change of teeth. Before, the forces of heredity are active. After, the forces that copy the model are active. To be exact, one can no more say that a human being has inherited what is carried between change of teeth and puberty than one can say of an artist copying the Sistine Madonna in the Dresden Gallery that the painting has caught the qualities of the Madonna through heredity!

You can see the particular kind of work the etheric body has to do. For in the years up to the change of teeth, the astral body and ego organization participate very little. The etheric body forms a new physical human body in accordance with the model. Why? Because, like the child during the first seven years, it is not yet able to receive other than a very special kind of impression from the outer world. Here we come upon an important secret of human evolution, a secret that answers the question: What does a child really perceive? The answer lies far away from present-day ideas.

We live, shall we say, between death and a new birth (or conception) in the spiritual world. In the spiritual world we are surrounded by realities very different from those found here in the physical world. We come out of that world into the physical world and continue our life in a physical body that we receive. Now in this physical world the same forces work further, although they are hidden from human sense perception. If you look at a tree, the same spiritual forces are working in it as those you encounter between death and new birth, only they are covered over, veiled, by the physical material of the tree. Everywhere in the physical world in which we live between birth and death, spiritual forces are active behind the sense-perceptible physical entities. We can think of the activities of the spiritual world continuing into this world in which we live between birth and death.

Now in the first seven years of life the child's whole being cannot unite with anything except this spiritual reality in all the colors, all the forms, all warmth, all cold. The child is fully aware when entering this physical world of the continuing spiritual activity. This awareness gradually diminishes up to the change of teeth. A sense impression is quite different to a child than to an adult. This fact is never recognized. To a child the sense impression is something entirely spiritual. For this reason if a child's father has a fit of anger, the child is not conscious of the angry gestures but of the moral state behind the gestures. It is this that passes into the child's body. During this time, therefore, the child is working with the forces that build a physical body in accordance with the child's own model—the body that will now be the child's own—and during this time is turned entirely toward spiritual foundations and works out of spiritual forces.

What does that mean? What is really working when spiritual forces are working? Obviously colors, forms, warmth, cold, roughness, smoothness work upon the sense perceptions. But behind all that, what is the fundamental force that is working? In reality, whatever has to do with an ego nature. Only invisible spiritual beings make an impression on the child, beings who have something to do with an ego nature, above all, beings of the spiritual hierarchies higher than human beings, but also the animal group-souls, and the group-souls of the elemental beings. In reality, all this is working upon the child. And out of these spiritual forces, out of these mighty spiritual dynamics the child forms a second body from the original model. It grows and is finally present as a complete second body when the change of teeth takes place. This is the body that the human being has built for itself since birth, the first body that is it's very own, a physical body built out of the spiritual world.

Thus we have in this first life period very special laws working within all that activates the child, in all the awkwardness and uncertainty that are in the soul and with which it moves. They come from the fact that constant adjustment is having to be made to the physical world, since the child is still dreamily and half-consciously immersed in the other surrounding world: the spiritual world. Someday when medicine reaches a proper spiritual outlook, this interplay between the spiritual and physical worlds during the first seven years of life will be seen as the true cause of the so-called “children's diseases.” Then we will have the explanation for a problem that today is solved in the medical books by empty words and formal elucidations that do not lead to any reality.

The etheric body has a great deal to do in these first seven years of life. It works quietly and steadily to develop the faculties that it will possess in the second seven-year period: independent faculties of memory leading toward the intellect. Whoever has an eye for it can see the greatest transformation in the child's soul-life when the first life period goes over into the second. The etheric body is now relieved of the work it had to accomplish—in the full sense of the word—to build the second body. It is relieved, freed. How it is freed, one can only realize if one perceives that at fourteen years not only the teeth remain but still more that had to be renewed, like the teeth, in the first life period. This now remains in the physical-material substance. What remains frees the etheric body—itself becomes free in the etheric body. Quantitatively it is a small thing, but qualitatively it is something of tremendous importance. It is what now becomes tremendously active as soul attributes, soul characteristics. What the human being saves by not having to create a third set of teeth (and much else that is taken care of by evolution in the same way as the teeth) enables something of the etheric body to be “left over.” What flowed during the first seven years into the physical development and is now “left over” from the physical development works now purely in the realm of soul, its nature depending upon the individual. With the faculties upon which you call as a teacher in school, the faculties you train, the child accomplished the great change from milk teeth to second teeth, and much else. With the forces that are saved by not having to form a third set of teeth, the child begins to develop soul faculties. This takes place in the depths of human nature. During the first seven years these soul forces had been entirely embedded in the physical development. We have to comprehend physical development as a soul-spiritual activity just as much as a physical activity. We see a spiritual entity active in the body in the first seven years of the human being, in the fullest sense of the word.

How does this relate to general human evolution? Those forces with which the human soul works in the first seven years of life are in the cosmos; they are sun forces. It is not only physical-etheric rays that stream down from the sun: in those physical-etheric sun rays, forces are streaming down from the sun that are identical with the forces by which our etheric body renews our physical body in the first seven years of life. It is the Sun Being (Sonnenentität) that works there. Look at the child—how the child works at a second physical body, copying from the model! The child is absorbing pure forces from the sunshine. One must understand that—how humanity stands within the cosmos! And when the child has certain etheric forces released at the change of teeth, they then work back upon the astral organization and ego organization. Then in the second life period human beings have access to what could not reach them at all in the first period. They now have access to the moon forces.

The etheric forces in the first seven years of life are sun forces. At the change of teeth we have access to the moon forces; these are identical with the forces of our astral body. Thus at the change of teeth human beings move from the sun sphere—in which, however, we also still remain, for it remains active in us—into the moon sphere. And now between change of teeth and puberty we work on ourselves with the moon forces. With the moon forces we now build our second own body (the third earthly body), in which not so much is replaced as in the first life period, but even so a great deal. Again forces remain behind, but they are now of an astral nature, and they are now transforming the soul. They were freed from their work on the body when we reached puberty. We have now reached a period in which we manifest certain forces that are now free in the soul, forces that had to work in the physical body between the ages of seven and fourteen.

So we work entirely in the first life period with what comes to us from the sun. And with the school child between change of teeth and puberty, it is sun forces that have now become free for soul activity. That is the great powerful fact we find in human evolution, that if one is educating a child's soul between change of teeth and puberty, one has to do purely with sun forces. The child-soul is so intimately related to what lives in the sunshine! One's heart can rejoice in such knowledge. The knowledge really sheds light on the relation between humanity and cosmos.

Moon forces are active in this second life period in the bodily development; they are not yet freed for the soul-life. They become free at puberty, and then they join the work on the soul. The change that takes place in the soul-life at puberty is caused by the fact that moon forces are now impressing themselves into the soul-life. So what a young person does in all kinds of behavior after the onset of puberty is a working together of sun and moon forces.

Thus we see into the depths of human evolution. We will stay clear of speaking of heredity in the crude sense in which natural science speaks of it. We will look in the opposite direction, to see what lives in the human activity of the child. It is the sun that lives in all the human activity of the child, and in the child's human thinking.

It is the sun that streams to us from the stone—for a stone has no light of its own, it can only reflect the sun's light to us. The natural researcher grants you that fact—but that is the very smallest, the most abstract detail! The child also reflects the sun forces back to us, between the seventh and fourteenth years. Just as we can designate the light reflected from the stone as sunlight streamed back to us, so we can designate what the child does in the second life period as “sun.” Sun is not merely there where it seems to be concentrated. This physical notion, that the sun is only there is like the notion of someone who looks at the soup in a soup bowl and sees a blob of fat floating on the top of it and thinks that the blob of fat is the soup.

Yes, our physical ideas are often very childish, and if one uncovers them and shows them for what they are, then people laugh. One could wish there were the same reaction to much that is happening today in the name of science, because it is pretty laughable. When someone takes the blob of fat to be the soup itself, that's the same as when that gold ball up there above us is regarded as the entire sun. In reality the sun fills the whole world.

Now let us look into the connection between the moon forces and the forces of reproduction. The forces of reproduction now gradually form the child's own second body that is built up between the seventh and fourteenth years and is finished when puberty begins. The human being takes in the reproductive forces during this time; this is plainly moon activity. These forces relate entirely to moon activity. They are the result of moon activity.

And now we reach the life period in which we must form our own third body (the fourth when counted from an external view), the time from puberty to the beginning of the twenties. The division of time in the later years is no longer so exact as the time between change of teeth and puberty. Now there is always more physical substance remaining behind; it stays fixed in the human being, it becomes permanent structure. Gradually a great deal of permanent structure accumulates. The older a person becomes, the less material is stripped away from the bones and replaced. Also in the rest of the organism certain parts need a longer time to separate off. And one can see a simple fact in connection with the teeth: that once one has got one's second set of teeth, whether one still has them later depends upon how long they last—just as with a knife, one only has it as long as it lasts. The knife can't renew itself. Teeth can't renew themselves either, really.

Obviously everything is in flow: there is renewal in the first place, but then it goes over into the state of nonrenewal. The teeth maintain their life process at a much slower tempo than the rest of the organism, so far as intensity is concerned. But therefore in reverse, the tempo is faster so far as quality is concerned, for they actually become bad before the other parts of the organism—for the reason that the other parts can always renew themselves. If the teeth were subject to the same laws as many other parts of the human organism, there wouldn't have to be any dentists. On the other hand, if the other parts of the organism were subject to the same laws as the teeth, we would all die young in this modern civilization of ours.

But now to go on. We are active in our organism in the first seven years of life with the forces of the sun, in the second seven years with the forces of the moon. In this second period the sun forces remain and the moon forces combine with them. In the third seven-year period, from puberty into the twenties, much more delicate forces are taken in, coming from the other planets. These other planetary forces appear in the human growth process, and because they work much less strongly than the sun or moon, their influence is outwardly much less visible. They had been working in the body between the fourteenth and the twenty-first years. Now at twenty-one, although it is hardly noticeable, they begin to work in the area of soul and spirit. Whoever has insight can see this remarkable change. Up to that moment only sun and moon have spoken out of human deeds. Now planetary forces modify that sun and moon activity. Actually people's coarse methods of observation afford very little capacity for grasping this change. But it is there.

Knowledge of these connections is necessary for someone concerned with the human being in health and in illness. For what do we really know of a human being, shall we say in the eleventh or twelfth year, if we don't know that the moon forces are working there? After that period, even though there are continually fewer parts to be renewed, the person must still renew them. Up to the twenty-first or twenty-second year, the sun, moon, and planets are working in succession into human growth. Then from the twenty-first to the twenty-eighth year the constellations of the fixed stars work. To be sure, this escapes ordinary observation. Only mystery wisdom tells of the entire zodiac playing into the human being between the beginning and the end of the twenties. Then the world becomes severe. It no longer wants to work into a person; it becomes harsh. Of this strange new relation of the human being to the world in the twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth year—that the world hardens toward us—of this, today's science hardly knows anything. Aristotle taught it to Alexander when he told him that we push against the crystal heaven and find it hard. Thus “the crystal heaven,” beyond the sphere of the fixed stars, acquires meaning for human comprehension. And one begins to realize that when we come to the end of our twenties, we find no more forces in the cosmos for our own renewal. Why do we not die, then, at twenty-eight years? Well, the surrounding world does in fact let us die at twenty-eight. It is true. Whoever sees humanity's relation to the world, whoever looks consciously out into the world, must say, “O world, in reality you sustain me only until my twenty-eighth year!” Only when one realizes this does one finally begin to understand the real nature of the human being.

For now what happens when the world withdraws its formative forces—forces that previously we had always been free to use to build ourself up? At this remarkable moment, when in the twenty-eighth year we begin to show clearly that the earlier forces of growth are now completely gone, some people begin to die off. Some hold on a little longer to the forces of growth that are flowing away. But even Goethe had grown smaller when he measured himself carefully. This was when he began to work again on the second part of Faust. Earlier he had already begun to fade. From the moment when the world deserts us, we have to manage our renewal ourselves, out of forces we have received up to that moment. Certainly when the parts of our organism that can be renewed are becoming fewer and fewer, we cannot work to give ourselves a new body in the same glorious measure that children use up to the change of teeth, when they are forming their first very own body from the model. But we have collected many, many forces from sun and moon and stars which we are carrying within us and which we need when at twenty-eight we have to begin to renew our physical-material body ourselves. This is the moment in earth-life when we find that we are now given complete responsibility for our human form. This moment of our life when we are put entirely on our own is the point of time toward which we have been striving, and from which we must go on. (Plate III, middle) We strive from childhood when we are receiving many cosmic forces, strive more and more toward a point lying at the end of our twenties, when we no longer build our growth out of cosmic forces. Whatever we do after that moment, we do from forces out of our own body. In the middle is the point at which we stop working with cosmic forces and begin to develop forces out of our own body.

We often find a premature activity happening in some child from forces out of the child's own body. We become aware of it from certain pathological symptoms the child shows from the bones, for instance, becoming brittle, and particularly from becoming fat. But the connection between these things is not easily seen. In every moment of life a person is either striving toward this twenty-eighth-year point or away from it. You must realize that it is a kind of zero point, a kind of hypomochlion, a zero moment in time when we stand between ourselves and the world. Always in our inner dynamics we are striving toward it or from it. Whatever is happening in us is a striving toward a zero or away from a zero, something we do toward or away from nothingness. We are striving toward the point where the world is no longer active and we are not yet active. Between the two conditions is a kind of zero. There is something in us that is oriented toward nothingness. It is this that makes us free beings; that is why we can hold responsibility. It is rooted in the human constitution that we are responsible free beings, because at the moment of transfer from the world to ourselves we go through a point of zero. Just as the beam of a pair of scales goes through a point of zero from right to left, from left to right, and that point does not follow the laws to which the rest of the scales is subject. You can think when you have a pair of scales, (Plate III, right) here the mechanical laws you have learned are in force; this gives the scales an exact form—either this above and that below or the opposite. That is the law of scales, the law of leverage. You can carry the scales around; their relation remains the same everywhere, subject always to those mechanical laws wherever you take them—except at this point. This point is free. You can carry the point around as if it were not connected to a pair of scales: the scales remain unchanged. And so it is, when you take hold of yourself in your soul experiences at that point toward which first you strive, from which afterward you strive away: first the world is active, afterward you yourself, and here nothing is active. With the tendency toward and the tendency from, here where a hypomochlion sits, here can live freely that human capacity which is determined neither by nature nor by the world. Here is the point of origin of human freedom. Here is where responsibility is born.

If, therefore, one wants to be able to judge the degree of responsibility in, for instance, a person thirty-five years old—and I mean professionally, not merely a layman's opinion, or that of a dilettante—then one must ask oneself, has too much, perhaps, worked over from this person's abnormal development up to the point at the end of the twenties? Is the point moved more toward youth or more toward age? A person is properly responsible if the point is normal, if judging the whole individual from external life one can decide that the point is normal. If it lies too far back toward youth—that is, if the world ceased too soon to give its forces to some person—one may perhaps find that the person suffers easily, even though to a small degree, from compulsive ideas. The soul is becoming rigid and cannot be held fully accountable for its deeds.

If the point comes late, the question will be whether that person is hindered by his or her inner nature from developing complete freedom of soul and is too rigid physically, and for that reason cannot be held fully responsible. The physician and the priest are the ones who are competent to form this judgment, in the finest sense of the word. They will know that they can judge pretty accurately from people's appearance what their development has been, whether they are in balance, whether their life-hypomochlion is at the right spot, that is, at the right point of time, or is too early or too late. We will discuss physical appearance later, for even an intensive study of physiognomy belongs to pastoral medicine.

These are things that in the old mystery wisdom were regarded as very important for judgments of human life. They are things that have been forgotten and that must be brought again into our knowledge of the human being if that knowledge is to have any beneficial influence, if it is to be active in the right sense in medical and pastoral activity.

More about this tomorrow.