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Fundamentals of Therapy
GA 27

XIII. On the Essential Nature of Illness and Healing

Pain, which may occur somewhere in the organism, is experienced in the astral body and the ego. Both of these—the astral body and the ego, each in its own way are appropriately engaged within the physical and etheric body while man is in the waking state. When sleep takes place, the physical and etheric body carry out the organic activities alone. The astral body and ego are separated from them.

In sleep the organism returns to the activities which belong to the starting point of its development, namely, to the embryonic periods and early infancy. In waking life those processes predominate which take place at its conclusion—in aging and dying.

At the starting point of man's development the activity of the etheric body predominates over that of the astral; then, gradually in the course of life, the activity of the latter grows more intense while that of the etheric body retreats. Nor does the etheric body regain, even in sleep, the intensity it had at the beginning of life. It preserves the degree of intensity it has developed in relation to the astral in the course of life.

In every age of life, to every organ of the human body a certain intensity of etheric activity is properly assigned and corresponds moreover to a certain intensity of the astral. It depends upon these relationships whether or not the astral body can properly engage itself with the etheric. If through a lowering of etheric activity it is unable to do so, pain ensues, if on the other hand the etheric body becomes active beyond its normal measure, the mutual penetration of astral and etheric activities becomes unusually intense. Pleasure and comfort ensue. We must however bear in mind that pleasure enhanced beyond a certain point passes over into pain, likewise pain into pleasure. If this were not borne in mind what is here said might seem in contradiction with some former explanations.

An organ becomes ill when its proper etheric activity cannot unfold. Take, for instance, that metabolic action which is continued, from the actual digestive process, into the organism as a whole. If the products of metabolism are transmitted everywhere without residue into the activity and substantial formation of the organism, it is a sign that the etheric body is working appropriately. If, on the other hand, substances are deposited along the paths of metabolism without entering into the general action of the organism, it shows that the etheric body is impaired in its activity. The physical processes normally stimulated by the astral body, processes which serve the organism only when confined to their own sphere, exceed their proper limits and infringe on the etheric sphere of action. Thus processes arise, the existence of which is due to the predominance of the astral body. They are processes which have their proper place when the aging and disintegration of the body sets in.

The point now is to bring about a proper harmony between the etheric and the astral activity. The etheric body must be strengthened, the astral weakened. This can be done by bringing the physical substances, which the etheric body has to assimilate, into a condition wherein they lend themselves more readily to its influences than they do in the disease. Likewise the ego-organization must be supplied with added strength; for the astral body, with the animal orientation of its activity, is held more in check when the ego-organization is made stronger in its human organizing power.

The way to penetrate these matters with clear knowledge will be found when we observe the kind of effects which a particular substance unfolds along the paths of metabolism. Take sulphur for example. It is contained in protein. It is indeed fundamental to the whole process which takes place in the absorption of protein food. It passes from the foreign etheric nature, through the inorganic state into the etheric activity of the human organism itself. It is found in the fibrous tissues of the organs, in the brain, in the nails and hair. Thus it finds its way along the paths of metabolism out to the periphery of the organism. In all these ways, sulphur proves to be a substance which plays an essential part in the reception of proteins into the domain of the human etheric body.

Now the question arises, does sulphur also play a part in the transition from the domain of etheric action to that of astral, and has it anything to do with the ego-organization? It does not combine appreciably with inorganic substances introduced into the organism so as to form salts or acids. Such a combination would provide the basis for a reception of the sulphur processes into the astral body and ego-organization. We see, therefore, that sulphur does not penetrate into these regions. It unfolds its activity in the realm of the physical and etheric body. This is also shown by the fact that an increased supply of sulphur to the organism gives rise to feelings of giddiness, reduction of consciousness. Sleep, too, i.e. the condition of the body when the astral and ego-organization are not working as soul being, grows more intense when the supply of sulphur is increased.

From all this we can see that sulphur, introduced as a medicament, will make the physical activities of the organism more inclined to submit to the active intervention of the etheric than in the diseased condition.

With phosphorus the case is different. It is present in the human organism as phosphoric acid and phosphoric salts, in albumens in the fibrous tissues, in the brain and in the bones. Its tendency is towards the inorganic substances, the importance of which is in the realm of the ego-organization. It stimulates the conscious activity of man. Thereby it also conditions sleep, though by an opposite process to sulphur, namely, by previous stimulation of conscious activity, while sulphur favours sleep by enhancing the unconscious activities of the physical and etheric. Phosphorus is present as calcium phosphate in the bones, i.e. in those organs which are subject to the ego-organization, not where it works from within in processes of growth, regulation of metabolism, and the like, but where it uses the outer mechanism of the system for the movements of the body.

As a medicament, therefore, phosphorus will be effective when the diseased condition is a hypertrophy of the astral domain over the ego-organization and the latter needs to be strengthened in order to repress the astral.

Consider rickets. The disease is due, as was explained before, to a hypertrophy of etheric-astral activity, it leads to a defective action of the ego-astral activity, it leads to a defective action of the ego-organization. If it is treated first with sulphur in the proper way, the etheric activity is strengthened in relation to the astral, and if after this has been done, a phosphorus treatment is made to follow, the healing effect which has been prepared in the etheric organization is led over to that of the “ego”; and the rickets is confronted from two sides. (We are aware that the efficacy of the treatment of rickets with phosphorus is disputed; but none of the cures hitherto attempted have anything to do with the method described here.)