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Pastoral Medicine
GA 318

Lecture X

17 September 1924, Dornach

Dear friends,

There is something that is always overlooked in this present age, something that has to do with the working, and the wanting to work, of the spiritual world. It is this: that total spiritual activity must include the creative activity to be found in human thought and feeling. What really lies at their foundation has been completely forgotten in this age of materialistic thought; today humankind is fundamentally entirely unaware of it. That is why in this very field a kind of evil mischief is perpetrated throughout our present civilization. You surely know that from every possible center, whatever it may be called, all kinds of instructions go out to people telling how they can enhance their thought power, how their thoughts can become powerful. In this way seeds are strewn in every direction of something that in earlier spiritual life was called—and still is called—“black magic.” Such things are the cause of both soul illnesses and bodily illnesses, and the physician and priest must be aware of them in the course of their work. If one is alert to these things, one already has a clearer perception of the illnesses and symptoms of human soul-life. Moreover one can work to prevent them. This is all of great importance. The intent of instruction about thought power is to give people a power they would otherwise not possess, and this is often used for pernicious reasons. There is every possible kind of instruction today with this intent—for instance, how business executives can be successful in their financial transactions. In this area a tremendous amount of mischief is perpetrated.

And what is at the bottom of it all? These things will simply become worse unless clear knowledge of them is sought precisely in the field of medicine and in the field of theology. For human thinking in recent times, particularly scientific thinking, has come enormously under the influence of materialism. Often today people express their satisfaction over the fact that materialism in science is on the decline, that the tendency everywhere is to try to reach out beyond materialism. But truly this is slight satisfaction for those who see through these things. In the eyes of such people, the scientists or the theologians who want to overcome materialism in a modern manner are much worse than the hard-shell materialists whose assertions gradually become untenable through their very absurdity. And those who talk so glibly about spiritualism, idealism, and the like are strewing sand in people's eyes—and it's going into their own eyes as well.

For what do Driesch13Hans Driesch (1867–1941). Scientist and philosopher. and others do, for instance, when they want to present something that is beyond physical-material events? They use exactly the same thoughts that have been used for hundreds of years to think about the material world alone, thoughts that indeed have no other capacity than to think about the material world alone. These are the thoughts they use to think about something that is supposed to be spiritual. But such thoughts do not have that capacity. For that, one has to go to true spiritual science. That is why such strange things appear and today it is not even noticed that they are strange. A person like Driesch, for instance, recognized officially by the outer world but in reality a dilettante, holds forth to the effect that one must accept the term “psychoid.” Well, if you want to ascribe to something a similarity to something else, that something else must itself be around somewhere. You can't speak of apelike creatures if there are no apes to start with. You can't speak of the “psychoid” if you say there's no such thing as a soul! And this silly nonsense is accepted today as science, honest science, science that is really striving to reach a higher level. These things must be realized. And the individuals in the anthroposophical movement who have had scientific training will be of some value in the evolution of our civilization if they don't allow themselves to be blinded by the flaring-up of will-o'-the-wisps but persist in observing carefully what is now essential to combat materialism.

Therefore the question must be asked: How is it possible for active, creative thinking to arise out of today's passive thinking? How must priests and physicians work so that creative impulses can now flow into the activity of individuals who are led and who want to be led by the spirit? Thoughts that evolve in connection with material processes leave the creative impulse outside in matter itself; the thoughts remain totally passive. That is the peculiar characteristic of our modern thought world, that the thoughts pervading the whole of science are quite passive, inactive, idle. This lack of creative power in our thinking is connected with our education, which has been completely submerged in the current passive science. Today human beings are educated in such a way that they simply are not allowed to think a creative thought—for fear that if they should actually entertain a creative thought they wouldn't be able to keep it objective but would add some subjective quirk to it! These are things that must be faced. But how can we come to creative thoughts? This can only happen if we really develop our knowledge of the human being. Humans cannot be known by uncreative thoughts, because by their very nature they themselves are creative. One must re-create if one wants knowledge. With today's passive thinking one can only understand the periphery of the human being; one has to ignore the inner being.

It is important that we really understand the place humanity has been given in this world. Today therefore, let us put something before our souls as a kind of goal that lies at the end of a long perspective, but that can make our thoughts creative—for it holds the secret for making human thought creative.

Let us think of the universe in its changing and becoming—say in the form of a circle. (Plate VII) We may picture it like this because actually the universe as it evolves through time presents a kind of rhythmic repetition, upward and downward, with respect to many phenomena. Everywhere in the universe we find rhythms like that of day and night: other, greater rhythms that extend from one Ice Age to another, and so forth. If first we confine our inquiry to the rhythm that has the largest intervals for human perception, it will be the so-called Platonic year, which has always played an important role in human thoughts and ideas about the world when these were filled with more wisdom than they are now.

We can come to the Platonic year if we begin by observing the place where the sun rises on the first day of spring, the twenty-first of March of each year. At that moment of time the sun rises at a definite spot in the sky. We can find this spot in some constellation; attention has been given to it through all the ages, for it moves slightly from year to year. If, for instance, in 1923 we had observed this point of spring, its place in the sky in relation to the other stars, and now in 1924 observe it again, we find it is not in the same place; it lies farther back on a line that can be drawn between the constellation of Taurus and the constellation of Pisces. Every year the place where spring begins moves back in the zodiac a little bit in that direction. This means that in the course of time there is a gradual shift through all the constellations of the starry world; it can be seen and recorded. If we now inquire what the sum of all these shifts amounts to, we can see what the distance is from year to year. One year it is here, the next year there, and so on—finally it has come back to the same spot. That means after a certain period of time the place of spring's beginning must again be in the very same spot of the heavens, and for the place of its rising the sun has traveled once around the entire zodiac. When we reckon that up, it happens approximately every 25,920 years. There we have found a rhythm that contains the largest time-interval possible for a human being to perceive—the Platonic cosmic year, which stretches through approximately 25,920 of our ordinary years.

There we have looked out into the distances of the cosmos. In a certain sense we have pushed our thoughts against something from which the numbers we use bounce back. We are pushing with our thoughts against a wall. Thinking can't go any further. Clairvoyance must then come to our aid; that can go further. The whole of evolution takes place in what is encircled by those 25,920 years. And we can very well conceive of this circumference, if you will—which obviously is not a thing of space, but of space-time—we can conceive of it as a kind of cosmic uterine wall. We can think of it as that which surrounds us in farthest cosmic space. (Plate VII, red-yellow)

Now let us go from what envelops us in farthest cosmic space, from the rhythm that has the largest interval of time that we possess, to what appears to us first of all as a small interval, that is, the rhythm of our breathing. Now we find—again, of course, we must use approximate numbers—we find eighteen breaths a minute. If we reckon how many breaths a human being takes in a day, we come to 25,920 breaths a day. We find the same rhythm in the smallest interval, in the human being the microcosm, as in the largest interval, the macrocosm.

Thus the human being lives in a universe whose rhythm is the same as that of the universe itself. But only the human being, not the animal; in just these finer details of knowledge one finally sees the difference between the human and the animal. The essential nature of the human physical body can only be realized if it is related to the Platonic cosmic year; 25,920 years: in that span of time the nature of our physical body is rooted. Take a look in An Outline of Esoteric Science at the tremendous time periods, at first determined otherwise than by time and space as we know them, through the metamorphosis of sun, moon, and earth. Look at all the things that had to be brought together, but not in any quantitative way; then you can begin to understand the present human physical body with all its elements.

And now let us go to the center of the circle, (Plate VII) where we have the 25,920 breaths that, so to speak, place humanity in the center of the cosmic uterus. Now we have reached the ego. For in the breathing—and remember what I said about the breathing, that in the upper human it becomes a finer breathing for our so-called spiritual life—we find the expression of the individual human life on earth. Here, then, we have the ego. Just as we must grasp the connection of our physical body to the large time interval, the Platonic cosmic year, so we must grasp the connection of our ego—which we can feel in every breathing irregularity—to the rhythm of our breathing.

So you see, our life on earth lies between these two things—our own breathing and the cosmic year. Everything that is of any importance for the human ego is ruled by the breath. And the life of our physical body lies within those colossal processes that are ruled by the rhythm of 25,920 years. The activity that takes place in our physical body in accordance with its laws is connected with the large rhythm of the Platonic year in the same way that our ego activity is connected with the rhythm of our breathing. Human life lies in between those two rhythms. Our human life is also enclosed within physical-etheric body and astral body-ego. From a certain point of view we can say that human life on earth lies between physical body-etheric body and astral body-ego; from another point of view, from the divine, cosmic aspect, we can say human life on earth lies between a day's breathing and the Platonic year. A day's breathing is in this sense a totality; it relates to our whole human life.

But now let us consider from the cosmic standpoint what lies between human breathing, that is, the weaving life of the ego, and the course of a Platonic year, that is, the living force out in the macrocosm. As we maintain our rhythm of breathing through an entire day of twenty-four hours, we meet regularly another rhythm, the day-and-night rhythm, which is connected with how the sun stands in relation to the earth. The daily sunrise and sunset as the sun travels over the arch of heaven, the darkening of the sun by the earth, this daily circuit of the sun is what we meet with our breathing rhythm. This is what we encounter in our human day of twenty-four hours.

So let us do some more arithmetic to see how we relate to the world with our breathing, how we relate to the course of a macrocosmic day. We can figure it out in this way: Start from one day; in a year there are 360 days. (It can be approximate.) Now take a human life (again approximate) of seventy-two years, the so-called human life span. And we get 25,920 days. So we have a life of seventy-two years as the normal rhythm into which a human being is placed in this world, and we find it is the same rhythm as that of the Platonic sun year.

So our breathing rhythm is placed into our entire life in the rhythm of 25,920. One day of our life relates to the length of our entire life in the same rhythm as one of our breaths relates to the total number of our breaths during one day. What is it, then, that appears within the seventy-two years, the 25,920 days in the same way that a breath, one inhalation-exhalation, appears within the whole breathing process? What do we find there? First of all we have inbreathing-outbreathing, the first form of the rhythm. Second, as we live our normal human life there is something that we experience 25,920 times. What is that? Sleeping and waking. Sleeping and waking are repeated 25,920 times in the course of a human life, just as inbreathing and outbreathing are repeated 25,920 times in the course of a human day. But now we must ask, what is this rhythm of sleeping and waking? Every time we go to sleep we not only breathe carbon dioxide out, but as physical human beings we breathe our astral body and ego out. When we wake, we breathe them in again. That is a longer inbreathing-outbreathing: it takes twenty-four hours, a whole day. That is a second form of breathing that has the same rhythm. So we have a small breath, our ordinary inhalation-exhalation; and we have a larger breath by which we go out into the world and back, the breath of sleeping-waking.

But let us go further. Let us see how the average human life of seventy-two years fits into the Platonic cosmic year. Let us count the seventy-two years as belonging to one great year, a year consisting of days that are human lives. Let us reckon this great cosmic year in which each single day is a whole human life. Then count the cosmic year also as having 360 days, which would mean 360 human lives. Then we would get 360 human lives x 72 years = 25,920 years: the Platonic year.

What does this figure show us? We begin a life and die. What do we do when we die? When we die, we breathe out more than our astral body and ego from our earthly organism. We also breathe our etheric body out into the universe. I have often indicated how the etheric body is breathed out, spread out into the universe. When we come back to earth again, we breathe our etheric body in again. That is a giant breath. An etheric inbreathing-outbreathing. Mornings we breathe in the astral element, while with our physical breath we breathe in oxygen. With each earth-death we breathe the etheric element out; with each earth-life we breathe the etheric element in.

So there we have the third form of breathing: life and death. If we count life to be our life on earth, and death to be our life between death and a new birth, then we have the largest form of breathing in the cosmic year:

  1. Inhalation-exhalation, the smallest breath.
  2. Sleeping-waking, a larger breath.
  3. Life-death, the largest breath.

Thus we stand first and foremost in the world of the stars. Inwardly, we relate to our ordinary breathing; outwardly, we relate to the Platonic year. In between, we live our human life, and exactly the same rhythm is revealed in this human life itself.

But what comes into this space between the Platonic year and our breathing rhythm? Like a painter who prepares a canvas and then paints on it, let us try painting on the base we have prepared, that is, the rhythms we have found in numbers. With the Platonic year as with smaller time rhythms, especially with the rhythm of the year, we find that continual change goes on in the outer world. Also it is change that we perceive; we perceive it most easily in temperatures: warmth and cold. We need only to think of cold winter and warm summer—here again we could present numbers, but let us take the qualitative aspect of warmth and cold. Human beings live life within this alternation between warmth and cold. In the outer world the alternation is within the element of time; and for so-called nature, changing in a time sequence from one to the other is quite healthful. But human beings cannot do this. We have, in a certain sense, to maintain a normal warmth—or a normal coldness, if you will—within ourselves. We have to develop inner forces by which we save some summer warmth for winter and some winter cold for summer. In other words, we must keep a proper balance within; we must be so continually active in our organism that it maintains a balance between warmth and cold no matter what is happening outside.

There are activities within the human organism of which we are quite unaware. We carry summer within us in winter and winter within us in summer. When it is summer, we carry within us what our organism experienced in the previous winter. We carry winter within us through the beginning of spring until St. John's Day; then the change comes. As autumn approaches, we begin to carry the summer within us, and we keep it until Christmas, until December 21, when the balance shifts again. So we carry in us this continual alternation of warmth and cold. But what are we doing in all this?

When we examine what we are doing, we find something extraordinarily interesting. Let this be the human being (see drawing below).

We realize from simple superficial observation that everything that enters the human being as cold shows the tendency to go to the nerve-sense system. And today we can point out that everything that works as cold, everything of a winter nature, works in the building up of our head, of our nerve-sense organization. Everything of a summer nature, everything that contains warmth, is given over to our metabolic-limb system. If we look at our metabolic-limb system, we can see that we carry within it everything summery. If we look at our nerve-sense functions, we can see that we carry in them everything we receive out of the universe that is wintry. So in our head we always have winter; in our metabolic-limb system we always have summer. And our rhythmic system maintains the balance between the one and the other. Warmth-cold, warmth-cold, metabolic system-head system, with a third system keeping them in balance. Material warmth is only a result of warmth processes, and material cold the result of cold processes. So we find a play of cosmic rhythm in the human organism. We can say that winter in the macrocosm is the creative force in the human nerve-sense system centered in the head. Summer in the macrocosm is the creative force in the human metabolic-limb system.

This way of looking into the human organism is another example of the initiatic medicine of which I spoke when I said it has a beginning in the book14Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman, Extending Practical Medicine (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996). that Dr. Wegman worked out with me. The beginning is there for what must more and more become a part of science.

If we climb the rocks where the soil is so constituted that winter plants will grow in it, we come to that part of the outer world that is related to the organization of the human head. Let us suppose that we collect medicinal substances out in the world. We want to make sure that the spiritual forces appearing in an illness that originates in the nerve-sense system will be healed by the spirit in outer nature, so we climb very high in the mountains to find minerals and plants and bring them down for medicines for head illnesses. We are acting out of our creative thinking. It starts our legs moving toward things we must find in the earth that correspond to our medical needs. The right thoughts—and they come out of the cosmos—must impel us all the way to concrete deeds. These thoughts can stir us without our knowledge. People, say, who work in an office—they also have thoughts, at least they sometimes have them—now they are impelled by some instinct to go off on all sorts of hikes. Only they don't know the real reason—but that doesn't matter. It only becomes important if one observes such people from a physician's or a priest's standpoint. But a true view of the world also gives one inspiration for what one has to do in detail.

Now again, if we have to do with illnesses in the metabolic-limb system, we look for low-growing plants and for minerals in the soil. We look for what occurs as sediment, not for what grows above the earth in crystal form. Then we get the kind of mineral and plant remedies we need. That is how observation of the connection between processes in the macrocosm and processes in man lead one from pathology to therapy.

These connections must again be clearly understood. In olden times people knew them well. Hippocrates was really a latecomer as far as ancient medicine is concerned. But if you read a little of what he is supposed to have written, of what at any rate still preserved his spirit, you will find this viewpoint throughout. All through his writings you will find that the concrete details relate to broad knowledge and observation such as we have been presenting. In later times, such things were no longer of any interest. People came more and more to mere abstract, intellectual thinking and to an external observation of nature that led to mere experimentation. We must find the way back again to what was once vision of the relation between the human being and the world.

We live as human beings on the earth between our ego and our physical body, between breathing and the Platonic year. With our breathing we have a direct relation to the day. What do we relate to with our physical body? How do we relate physically to the Platonic year? There we relate to totally external conditions in the evolution of large natural processes—for instance, to climatic changes. In the course of the large natural processes human beings change their form, so that, for instance, successive racial forms appear, and so forth. We relate qualitatively to what happens in the shorter external changes, to what successive years and days bring us. In short, we evolve as human beings between these two farthest boundaries. But in between we can be free, because in between, even in the macrocosm, a remarkable element intervenes.

One can be lost in wonder in pondering over this rhythm of 25,920 years. One is awed by what happens between the universe and the human being. And as one contemplates all this, one realizes that the whole world—including the human being—is ordered according to measure, number, and weight. Everything is wonderfully ordered—but it all happens to be human calculation! And at important moments when we are explaining a calculation—even though it is correct—we always have to add that curious word “approximately.” For our human calculation never comes out exactly right. It is all absolutely logical; order and reason are in everything, they are alive and active, everything “works,” as we say. And yet there is something in all of it, something in the universe that is completely irrational. Something is there so that however profound our awe may be, even as initiates, when we go for an afternoon walk we still take an umbrella along. We take an umbrella because something could happen that is irrational. Something can appear in the life of the universe that simply “doesn't come out right” when numbers are applied to it. And so one has had to invent leap years, intercalary months, all kinds of things. Such things have always had to be used for the fixing of time. What is offered by a well-developed astronomy that has deepened into astrology and astrosophy (for one can think of it in that way) is all destroyed for immediate use by meteorology. This latter has not attained the rank of a rational science; [This lecture was given in 1924.] it is more or less permeated by vision, and will be, more and more. It takes an entirely different path; it consists of what is left over by the other sciences. Modern astronomy itself lives only in names; it is really nothing more than a system for giving names to stars. That is why even Serenissimus came to the end of his knowledge when newly found stars had to have names. He would visit the observatories in his country and let them show him various stars through the telescope, then after seeing everything he would say, “Yes, I know all that—but how you know what that star's name is, that very distant star, that's what I don't understand.” Yes, of course it's obvious, the standpoint you've adopted at this moment when you laugh at Serenissimus. But there's another standpoint: one could laugh at the astronomers. I'd rather you'd laugh at the astronomers, because there's something very strange going on in the world as it evolves.

If you want to inquire into the old way of naming things, Saturn and so forth, you should think back to our speech course,15Rudolf Steiner, Speech and Drama (Hudson, N.Y.: Anthroposophic Press, 1986). and recall that in olden times names were given from the feeling the astrologers and astrosophers had for the sound of some particular star. All the old star names were God-given, spirit-given. The stars were asked what their names were, because the tone of the star was always perceived and its name was then given accordingly. Now, indeed, you come to a certain boundary line in the development of astrosophy and astrology. Earlier they had to get the names from heaven. When you come to more recent times when the great discoveries were made, for instance, of the “little fellows” (Sternwichten), then everything is mixed up. One is called Andromeda, another has another Greek name. Everything is mixed up in high-handed fashion. One can't think that Neptune and Uranus are as truly characterized by their names as Saturn was. Now there is only human arbitrariness. And Serenissimus made one mistake. He believed the astronomers were carrying on their work similarly to the ancient astrosophers. But this was not so. They possessed only a narrow human knowledge, while the knowledge of the astrosophers of olden times, and astrologers of still older times, came directly out of humanity's intercourse with the gods. However, if today one would return from astronomy to astrology or astrosophy, and thereby have a macrocosm to live in that is rational throughout, then one would reach Sophia. Then one would find too that within this rationality and Sophia-wisdom meteoronomy, meteorology, and meteorosophy are the things that “don't come out right” by our human calculation, and one can only question them at their pleasure! That's another variety of Lady! In ordinary everyday life, one calls a lady capricious. And the meteorological Lady is capricious all the way from rainshowers to comets. But as one gradually advances from meteorology to meteorosophy one discovers the finer attributes of this world queen, attributes that do not come merely from caprice or cosmic emotion, but from the Lady's warm heart. But nothing will be accomplished unless in contrast to all the arithmetic, all the thinking, all that can be calculated rationally one acquires a direct acquaintance with the beings of the cosmos and learns to know them as they are. They are there; they do show themselves—shyly perhaps at first, for they are not obtrusive. With calculations one can go further and further, but then one is getting further and further away from the true nature of the world. For one is only reaching deeds from the past.

If one advances from ordinary calculation to the calculating of rhythms as it was in astrology for the harmony of the spheres, one goes on from the calculating of rhythms to a view of the organization of the world in numbers, as we find them in astrosophy. On the other hand one finds that the ruling world beings are rather shy. They do not appear at once. First they only present a kind of Akasha photography, and one is not sure of its source. One has the whole world to look at, but only in photographs displayed in various parts of the cosmic ether. And one does not know where they come from.

Then inspiration begins. Beings come out of the pictures and make themselves known. We move out of “-nomy” - but just to “-logy.” Only when we push through all the way to intuition does the being itself follow from inspiration and we come to Sophia. But this is a path of personal development that requires the effort of the whole human being. The whole human being must become acquainted with such a Lady, who hides behind meteorology—in wind and weather, moon and sun insofar as they intervene in the elements. Not just the head can be engaged as in “-logy,” but the whole human being is needed.

Already there is a possibility of taking the wrong path in this endeavor. You can even come to Anthroposophy through the head—by coming from anthroponomy, which is today the supreme ruling science, to anthropology. There you just have rationality, nothing more. But rationality is not alive. It describes only the traces, the footprints, of life and it gives one no impulse to investigate details. Yet life really consists of details and of the irrational element. What your head has grasped, you have to take down into the whole human being, and then with the whole human being progress from “-nomy” to “-logy,” finally to “-sophy,” which is Sophia.

We must have a feeling for all this if we want to enliven theology on the one side and medicine on the other through what can truly enliven them both—pastoral medicine. But the essential thing is that first of all, at the very outset of our approach to pastoral medicine, we learn to know the direction it should take in its observation of the world.