Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Biodynamic Healing: Awakening Soul Forces in the Practice of Medicine. Lecture 1 of 2
Rudolf Steiner, January 8, 1924 [Course for Young Doctors, lecture 7 of 8]
We will spend the first part of the time today in answering questions which do not belong to the general category of which I have already spoken. We will then continue the theme of yesterday's lecture in order, tomorrow, to come to the esoteric conclusion.
Most of the questions fit into what I have said to you in general. There are only a few questions which call for a specific answer and we will take these more or less at random.
Question: Are there definite exercises for strengthening the so-called magnetic healing forces, and what are these exercises?
This, of course, necessitates a few words about the nature of the forces of magnetic healing. The magnetic healing forces are forces which play, essentially, between the etheric body of the one person and the etheric body of the other. You must picture to yourselves that the efficacy of what goes by the name of healing magnetism is based on the following: suppose somebody has a very strong character, that is to say, it is possible for him to unfold his will very strongly. Indications can be given to such a person. I can, for instance, say to him when he is suffering from some illness or other: Every morning at eleven o'clock you should think about the sun; think that the sun warms your head first, and then that the warmth of your head passes to your upper arm, lower arm, hands, so that your own power is strengthened; then, when you have strengthened your own power, try to make a clear mental picture of what you feel about your illness, in order, then, through the power of your will, to get rid of it.
This procedure may help, when the illness is not connected with damage to a specific organ, whereby the damage can naturally extend itself to all four parts of the elemental body: the solid, fluid, aeriform, and warmth elements. Although I do not say that it will invariably help, for there is always something problematic about these things.
Through the indications given him, the astral body of the patient has been stimulated. The indication which he has put into practice, this picturing of the sun, the warmth in his head, and so on, which has still further strengthened his will — this has worked upon his astral body. The astral body has worked upon his etheric body and the etheric body in turn has worked in a healing way on his physical body and has been able to adjust, to nullify, the trouble which is not a deep, organic one.
It cannot be said that such healing can only occur in what modern medicine calls “functional” disturbance in contrast to organic disturbance, where there is an actual disturbance of the organs themselves. This difference is, as a matter of fact, quite inexact. It is impossible to say where functional disturbances cease and organic disturbances begin. In functional diseases there are always slight organic disturbances as well, only these latter cannot be proved by the crude methods of physiology and pathology today.
In a case like that which I have described, we are not applying the forces of magnetic healing, but we are calling upon the patient's power to heal himself, and this method, when it can be used, is the best, under all circumstances. We thereby strengthen the patient's will as we make him well.
The following is also possible. Out of our own astral body, without the patient exerting his own will, we can influence our own etheric body in such a way that our own etheric body works upon the etheric body of the patient in the same way as, in the previous case, the astral body worked. It is in this that healing magnetism consists. The magnetic healer does this unconsciously; he influences his own etheric body with his astral body. Instinctively, he can then so direct the forces he unfolds that as he passes them on to the patient they strengthen the patient's forces.
You must realize that if it is to be a question of healing, the magnetic healer must use means that are able, somehow, to bring it about. If we have a patient who is weak, of whose will we can expect nothing, the forces of healing magnetism may sometimes be applied. But I want to say, with emphasis, that magnetic healing forces are pretty problematical and are not equally useful in all cases. The instinctive faculty of activating one's own astral body in order thereby to influence one's own etheric body and then work over into the etheric body of the patient — this instinctive faculty is an individual one. There are people in whom it is strong, others in whom it is weak, others who do not possess it at all. There are people who are, by nature, magnetic healers — certainly there are. But the important thing is this: that the faculty is, as a rule, of limited duration. The natural magnetic healers have this magnetism, as it is called. When they begin to apply it, it may work very well; after a time it begins to wane, and later on it often happens that magnetic healers, after this faculty has died down in them, go on acting as if they still had it, and then charlatanism begins.
This is the precarious element when magnetic healing becomes a profession. This kind of healing really cannot be made into a profession. That is what must be said about it. The process of magnetic healing — when a person has the faculty for it — is only unconditionally effective when it is carried out with genuine compassion for the patient, a compassion that goes right down into one's organism. If you practice magnetic healing with a real love for the patient, then it cannot be done as a profession. If real love exists it will always be able to lead to something good, if no trouble arises from another side. But it can only be done on occasions, when karma leads us to a person whom we are able, out of love, to help; then the outer sign may be a laying on of the hands, or a stroking, and then what is happening is that the astral body is passing on its forces to the etheric body, which then works upon the ether body of the other person.
Something must still be said from another aspect about what goes on here. The healing always proceeds from the astral body — either from the patient's own astral body or from the astral body of the magnetizer. The reverse is the case in therapy where medicaments are used. When you give medicaments you introduce into the physical body substances which then work partly upon the inner forces and partly upon the rhythm of the physical body in such a way that the etheric body of the patient is influenced.
The healing always proceeds from the etheric body.
If you influence the etheric body from the astral body — which is a psychical healing — this lies in the realm of magnetic healing and is somewhat problematic, having a humanitarian, social element in it, something to do with the relations of one human being to another. Rational therapy must proceed from intervention by means of medicaments which proceed from the physical body and pass into to the etheric body. Always, however, the healing proceeds from the etheric body. It is a complete illusion that the physical body, when it has become ill, can itself bring about any healing. The physical body has, precisely, the basis of illness within it, and the cause of healing must always come from the etheric body.
Question: What relationships are there between the heart and the uterus and its position, on the one hand, and experiences of the soul such as pain or joy, on the other?
There are direct relationships. In the first place, even though they are not in physical contact, heart and uterus belong together as closely as sun and moon. Sun and moon belong together in such a way that both of them throw the same light on an object. Sometimes the sun throws the light directly, at other times by the indirect way of passing first to the moon and being reflected back from there. The organ of the heart contains direct impulses for the human organism. It is the organ of perception for the blood circulation which goes on in the normal organism. The uterus is so constituted that it is the organ of perception for the circulation that comes about after fertilization. That is its purpose. It is just like the moon reflecting the sun's light; the uterus reflects what the heart perceives in the blood circulation; it radiates it back. They belong together as sun and moon inasmuch as what these organs perceive are like direct and reflected influences. When a human being is once in existence, he needs the heart forces; when he first begins to develop he needs reflected heart force and this comes from the uterus.
These organs, together with certain others — lungs bring it more down to the etheric-physical body — these organs, heart and uterus, are, physically, nothing else than that which, seen from the spiritual, is the soul nature of the human being.
Perhaps I may put it as follows: suppose you develop imaginative cognition. When you have developed imaginative cognition and look at a human being, you actually get the picture of sun and moon when you look at heart and uterus. That is the corresponding spiritual reality which the human being experiences in his soul. There is a real correspondence between what goes on in the heart and in the uterus — goes on, that is, in the half-unconscious region of the soul, for generally speaking the life of soul is otherwise influenced by thoughts. A delicate process is unveiled in imaginative cognition, namely, an intimate connection of heart and uterus. But those who can only observe a little can see how, half-consciously or half-unconsciously, shall I say, the activity of the heart develops under the influence of the physical environment. A person whose life is such that he constantly receives shocks through his profession, let us say, has in his subconsciousness an exact counterpart in his life of soul of the heart activity which is there set up, and this reflects itself — in the case of woman — in the uterus. We can then see how what takes place there is transferred to the constitution of the embryo.
Question: Here is a question that is difficult to answer because it must either be answered superficially, that is to say as a mere communication, or one must go into it thoroughly. The question is: How does the wearing of pearls and precious stones work upon individual organs?
There is an effect, certainly, but the effect can only be judged when one is able to look into the spiritual world; the effect has to be judged according to the individual. It can quite well be said, for example: Sapphire works upon a certain temperament, upon a choleric temperament, but really only in an individual case. There certainly are effects, but to answer the question completely one would have to enter into deeper things than is possible today.
Question: This next question: “How can one get insight into karma in cases of individual illness?” can only be answered out of what I have said in the lectures.
Much will have resulted from what has been said and much will come out of what I still have to say.
Question: Here is another: Are there favorable connections between the degree and length of time of the post-mortem processes of decay (Verwesungsvorgänge = processes of decay) and the destiny of the individual in the spiritual world?
There are really no connections which would have any significance for us as human beings. The process of decay is not, of course, the purely physical process which it is usually considered to be by chemistry. There is something deeply spiritual connected with it. This was felt in the days of the old, instinctive knowledge. It was said: The innermost kernel, or essence, of a thing is the real or essential being (Wesen) and the prefix ver always means the movement towards something. If, for example, you say, “to have a sudden rapid movement (zucken),” that is a movement. But if you say verzücken, that is the tendency, the movement towards a sudden rapid movement. If you say verwesen (to decay), this means a movement towards Wesen, towards real being, a rising into real being.
Man is not an entirely self-enclosed being. Spiritual beings work and create in him. Spiritual beings are within our physical, etheric, and astral bodies. It is only in the ego organization that we are free. These spiritual beings within the physical, etheric, and astral bodies are bound up with what happens in the physical body after death. The question of cremation and decay is closely connected with this. But all these things are bound up with human karma. One can only say this: So far as the individual human being as such is concerned the question is really not of very great importance.
Question: Has a post-mortem examination any influence on the destiny of the dead from a certain point of time after death?
It has no influence at all upon the destiny of the dead.
Most of the questions have been answered in the lectures. But here is still one that has a certain importance.
Question: Are the healing faculties possessed by a physician of a purely personal nature or are they affected by community, that is to say, not only by connections between physician and patient but by community among physicians? Is it conceivable that the individual physician could acquire, through such community, powers that cannot be his if he works all by himself? Does not this happen, for example, in the communities of priests?
This is certainly the case, as it is with all communities of human beings. Forces can flow to an individual from every community of human beings, only the community must be real — it must be felt, experienced. What I have described to you and shall do more clearly still tomorrow is of such a nature that it can build a community among you in connection with us here, even if for the present we can only communicate by means of correspondence. It is meant to unite you in such a way that when you are alone you will feel that forces flow to you not only by way of the intellect but also by way of the spirit.
Question: Is there any value in iris diagnosis, graphology, chiromancy?
The ideal would be that you should be able to observe the general state of a human being from a small piece of his fingernail which you cut off. This is quite possible — a very great deal can be learned from this. Equally you can learn a great deal from one hair of a human being. But here you must remember how different, how individual is the hair of each person. Some of you are fair, some of you have black hair. What underlies this? Those of you who are dark have in the blackness of the hair an iron process which is going on in the hair. Blondeness comes from a sulfur process which is particularly strong in those people who have red hair. These things are of the very greatest interest. I have actually known people of whom it could be said that they were really fiery, with their bright red hair. A very strong sulfur process is present here, whereas in black hair there is a comparatively strong iron process. You must remember that this emanates from the whole human organism. A person who has red hair is always producing something that is a highly combustible substance — sulfur — and his hair is permeated with it. The other person who has black hair secretes iron — a substance that is not combustible but of a different character. This reveals a deep-seated difference between the two people in their whole organization. In individual cases, much can be learned about the whole human being from the kind of hair he has.
If this is so, why should it not be possible to learn about a person from the constitution of his iris? But you must remember that a very high form of knowledge is required for these things, not the nonsensical knowledge which the diagnosticians possess about the iris. That, of course, is dilettantism. The way to real knowledge of these things which rest on true foundations comes only at the end, just as the way to astrology comes only at the last stages of spiritual knowledge. Before that stage has been reached, astrology is terrible dilettantism. The same applies to chiromancy and graphology.
For graphology, genuine inspiration is necessary. The way a human being writes is entirely individual. At the very most there are indications, but they are quite crude. Inspiration is necessary before anything about a human being can be deduced by graphology. The strange thing about graphology is that from the handwriting of a person we can more or less get at the condition he was in seven years previously. Anyone, therefore, who wants to know something about a person as he is now will have to take a circuitous path; he gets at the inner conditions which were there seven years previously and then, if he has the necessary vision, from what he perceives of seven years ago, he can arrive at a more fundamental knowledge than would otherwise be possible. So, you see, something can actually be accomplished.
As it is with the hair and the iris, so it is with chiromancy. For that you must have inspiration — not the superficial principles that are customarily given. A very special talent which someone or other may possess is necessary in order to be able to get to the bottom of the lines in the hand. The lines are, it is true, closely connected with the development of a human being. You need only compare your own hands and look at the lines in the left hand and in the right. Even in ordinary life there is a difference, for one person writes with his right hand, another with his left. With inspiration we can read the karma of a person from the lines in his left hand. In the right hand one usually sees the personal capacities and industriousness which a person has acquired during this life. His destiny has fashioned this earth life and his capacities lead him on into the future. None of these things is without foundation, but it is exceedingly dangerous to represent them in public because here we come to a region where seriousness and charlatanism border very closely upon each other.
At the end of the lecture yesterday I said that out of the very nature of the world processes, medicine must be bound up with deep-seated morality of the soul. For I told you that real, true knowledge of a medicament to a certain extent deprives the knower himself of the power of this medicament; there is something in the knowledge of the medicament which excludes from the knower the possibility of being healed by its means. Naturally, the purely chemical working is not excluded, but that is not real knowledge. Just think of the following: the muscular system of man is understood through imagination, as I said yesterday. We learn to know what is working in a muscle when we attain to pictorial, imaginative cognition. But if we want to know what has a healing effect in some organ that is of the nature of a muscle, then the therapeutic knowledge must also be imaginative. True knowledge of an inner organ is of the nature of inspiration; that is the real knowledge; it is not chemical knowledge. If you really know that some medicament works upon the muscular system in a certain way, then you have this knowledge through imagination. Yes, but imaginative knowing is not like the knowing which we usually visualize today. The latter kind of knowing does not go very deeply into the human being. It really exists only in the head, whereas imaginative knowing simultaneously takes hold of the muscular system. Therapeutic knowledge that is also imaginative is of such a nature that you actually feel this knowledge in your muscles. What matters is that you shall take these things in real earnestness.
In order that you may fully understand, I want to say something paradoxical on this subject, but the paradox here happens to be the truth. My Philosophy of Spiritual Activity has been little understood because people have not known how to read it. They have read it just as they would read any other book. But The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity is not the same as other books. It weaves in thoughts, but in thoughts that are truly experienced. Abstract, logical thoughts such as are current in science today are experienced in the brain. The thoughts to which I have given expression in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity — and here comes the paradox — are experienced by one's whole being, in the bony system. And let me say something still stranger. It has happened—only people have not noticed it because they did not connect the two things — it has happened that when people have really understood this book, that often in the course of reading, and especially when they have finished the book, they have more than once dreamed of skeletons. This is connected in the moral sphere with the position of The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity in regard to the freedom of the world.
Freedom, or spiritual activity, consists in this: that from out the bones the muscles are moved in the external world. The unfree person follows his impulses and instincts; the free person directs himself in accordance with the demands and exigencies of the world which he must first love. He must acquire a relationship to the world. This expresses itself in the imagination of the bony system. Inwardly, it is the bony system that experiences the thoughts when they are truly experienced. They are experienced with the whole being, with the whole of the earthy man. Thoughts, then, that are truly experienced are experienced with the bony system. There have been people who wanted to paint pictures after reading my books and they have shown me all kinds of things. They have wanted to bring the thoughts in The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity into the form of pictures. If one really wants to paint what it contains, one would have to produce dramatic scenes, performed by human skeletons. Free spiritual activity is something in which we must get rid of everything that is purely instinctive; similarly, what a person experiences when he has the thoughts of free spiritual activity is something in which he must unburden himself of his flesh and blood; he must become a skeleton, he must become of the earth. The thoughts must become earthy in the true sense. This means that one must free oneself by dint of hard work.
I mention this in order that you may realize that even ordinary thoughts generate something that lays hold of the whole being of man.
If we pass on from thoughts to imagination, we experience imagination in the muscular system. Inspiration is experienced when we experience our own inner organs. When it is a matter of inspirations, however, we must not forget the saying: Naturalia non sunt turpia (the natural is not despicable). For under certain circumstances the most wonderful inspirations are experienced with the kidneys or with other organs in the lower part of the body.
Higher knowledge, therefore, is something that involves the whole being of man, and those who have no knowledge of imaginations and inspirations do not know that the activity of imagination is a labor that is quite like physical labor because it puts a strain on the very muscles. Real imagination is like actual physical labor. There is a relationship between physical labor and imagination. If I may be allowed to say something personal, I have always found that imagination was helped a great deal by the fact that when I was a boy I used to hack wood, dig potatoes, work with a spade, sow seed, and such things. I do not want to blow my own trumpet by saying this, but to have done these things did help to exert the muscles and so made imagination easier. If you have exerted the muscles in youth, imagination will be easier for you in later life.
But remember this: movements that do not involve exertion, that are not real labor, are of no use; play is of no use at all for imagination. I am not saying anything against play in itself, for you need only read what I say about educational subjects to find that I have nothing whatever against play. What imagination does is to bring the resting muscle—for this must naturally take place while the muscle is at rest — to bring the resting muscle to an experience that is similar to actual physical labor.
If you embark on the medical path in association with us here, you will learn about these strange things and you will realize that the knowledge of these therapeutic matters takes hold of your muscular system; and this will be of significance in your own karma.
Let us take a specific case. I will construct quite an idealistic one: the true therapy of smallpox. Real smallpox calls up a very strong inspiration, with intuition as well. And the knowledge that comes to you here, when you are real therapists in this domain, works much more strongly upon you — when it is real knowledge — than does a vaccination; in a different sense it works much more strongly; and in studying the therapy of smallpox as a physician you will bring about a kind of healing in yourself in advance, prophylactically, and will therefore be able, when you understand the connection, to go among smallpox patients without fear, and full of love.
Of course all these things have their other side too. As I have said, if the knowledge of a medicament is a true imaginative or inspired knowledge, then the healing forces are there; it need not even be one's own imagination, it may be that of someone else. In itself it has healing forces. Even to have the idea of a medicament has an effect, and it works.
But it works only so long as you are without fear. Fear is the opposite pole to love. If you go into a sick room with fear, none of your therapeutic measures will help. If you can go into a sick room with love, without thought of yourself, if you can direct the whole of your soul to those whom you have to heal, if you can live in love, in your imaginative and inspired knowledge, then you will be able to place yourselves within the process of healing not as a knower who is a bearer of fear, but as a knower who is a bearer of love.
Thus medicine is impelled into the realm of the moral not only from without but also from within. This is true to a high degree in the sphere of medicine, as it is true in all spheres of spiritual knowledge. Courage must be developed. I have told you that courage is all around us. Air is an illusion; it is courage that is everywhere around us. If we are really to live in the world in which we breathe, we need courage. If we are timid or cowardly, if we do not live together with the world but exclude ourselves from it, we breathe only in semblance. What is above all things for medicine is courage — the courage to heal. It is indeed so: if you confront an illness with the courage to heal, this is the right orientation which in ninety percent of cases leads you right. These moral qualities are most intimately connected with the process of healing.
Thus it should be as I have said: A first course for medical students should consist in creating a basis through knowledge of nature and of the being of man, knowledge of the cosmos as well as of man. Then, in a second course, there would come the esoteric deepening, the deepening of esoteric knowledge of the working of the healing forces, so that medicine would be regarded as I described in the fourth lecture and will speak of again tomorrow. A final course would aim at bringing therapy into connection with the development of the true moral faculties of the physician. If such a final course were able to produce these moral qualifications, then diseases would become, for the physician, the opposite of what they are for the patients; they would become something that he loves — not, of course, in order to be enhanced and cultivated so that the patient may remain ill as long as possible — but loved because illness only acquires its meaning when it is healed. What does this mean?
To be healthy means to have the so-called 'normal' qualities of soul and spirit within one; to be ill, to have some illness, however, also means that one is being influenced by some spiritual quality. I know, of course, that learned men of the modern age will say, on hearing this: "Ah, now comes the old doctrine of being possessed." Yes, but it is really a question whether the old doctrine of being possessed is worse than the new. Which is worse—to be possessed by spirits or by bacilli? It is a matter there of examining the relative values. Modern physicians with their theories acknowledge the fact of such "possession"—only their mentality is more suited to preach a materialistic kind of possession.
The truth is that when a person has an illness, he has a spiritual quality within him which, in the ordinary course of his life, is not present. Yet it is a spiritual quality. Here again I must voice a paradox. I am going to speak now of a reality in connection with the Zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces. Now there is a colossal difference between these upper seven constellations and the five lower constellations. If you can reach to imagination, you get a picture of a male being in the cosmos for these seven upper constellations, and the picture of a female being for the five lower constellations. So that in imaginative vision, male-female in an enclosed serpent form is spread over the Zodiac.
Nobody can have this imagination without going through the following experience. Think of the illness of smallpox which reveals itself in physical symptoms. But suppose you were able to do the following: picture to yourselves a person suffering from smallpox who in his astral body and ego organization had the power today to draw out the whole illness and to experience it only in the astral body and in the ego, so that in that moment his physical and etheric bodies would be well. Suppose such a thing were hypothetically possible. What I have said cannot actually happen, but if you want to have this imagination you must do the same thing as I have described as a hypothetical case, without your physical body and etheric body having smallpox. In the astral body and ego organization, free from the physical and etheric bodies, you must experience the illness of smallpox. In other words: you must experience, spiritually, a spiritual correlate of physical illness. The illness of smallpox is the physical image of the condition in which ego organization and astral body are when they have such an imagination. You will realize now that in smallpox there is proceeding, but in this case from the human being himself, the same influence out of which, in spiritual knowledge, the heavenly imagination comes.
You see, my dear friends, how closely illness is related to the spiritual life — not to the physical body; illness is closely related to the spiritual life. Illness is the physical imagination of the spiritual life, and because the physical imagination is in the wrong, because it ought not to imitate certain spiritual processes — therefore that which in the spiritual world may be something very sublime is, under certain circumstances, illness in the physical organization.
In trying to understand the nature of illness we must say to ourselves: Were it not possible for certain spiritual beings to be brought down into a realm where they do not rightly belong, then these beings would not be present even in the spiritual world. The close relationship of true spiritual knowledge with illness is clear from this. When we have spiritual knowledge we have knowledge of illness. If one has a heavenly imagination such as that of which I spoke, one knows what smallpox is, because it is only the physical projection of what is experienced spiritually. And so it is, really, with all knowledge of illness. We can say: If heaven, or indeed hell, take too strong a hold of the human being, he becomes ill; if they only take hold of his soul or his spirit, he becomes wiser, or cleverer, or a seer.
These are things which you must inwardly digest, my dear friends, and then you will realize what the task of Anthroposophy is in connection with medicine, for Anthroposophy reveals the true, divine archetypes of the illnesses which are their demonic counterparts. But this can lead you more and more deeply to the recognition that what is necessary today as a reform of medical study is to be sought in the domain of Anthroposophy.