Wednesday, April 20, 2016
The living working of planetary forces in the Earth's substances and in the human being
Spiritual Science and Medicine. Lecture 7 of 20.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, March 27, 1920:
I have drawn your attention to certain fundamentals in human adaptation to telluric and cosmic conditions. The indications referred mainly to space, but we must relate space to time. For man must be considered as a whole: the whole human being is, so to speak, child, adult, and old man, and is so organized that these three time-members of his being are present in every individual. The results of our present inquiry we shall have to combine with the results of supersensible research, and then we shall be in a position to proceed to more special studies.
Just as educational theory and practice for the young have to take note of the different epochs in the child's life — i.e., from birth to the change of teeth; from this to puberty, and so forth — so also must medicine contemplate human life and constitution as a whole from birth until death. In dealing with this I shall begin by using the anthroposophical terminology familiar to us, and then consider how this vocabulary may best be rendered for a more unprepared audience. It will be easier for us to translate thus after having proceeded further in our inquiry.
It is most important to grasp that in childhood the functional content of both the ego proper and the astral body — to use our terms — has to be fitted into the human being. During the period of childhood this functional content becomes fitted into the organism, so that later on it can really work with the supple and plastic organic substance. Therefore it can occasion no surprise that the disturbances associated with this permeation of the higher human elements into the lower occur in childhood, especially from the seventh to the fourteenth, fifteenth, or sixteenth year, for at this period the etheric body has to struggle for its right place in relation to the physical body, so that sexual maturity may come about. And there is a frequent risk of the elasticity of the physical and etheric bodies not coinciding. To equalize and balance these two comparative elasticities is in the main the duty of the astral body. If they do not work harmoniously together, the astral body often has to intensify its energies; and if its forces are insufficient for this extra call, morbid symptoms result, which must be met by external measures, and so you will find that in childhood there are forms of illness which break out in physical manifestations, as, for instance, in chorea. All diseases and disturbances culminating in this complex of symptoms, that is, accompanied by psychic disturbance in addition to the organic manifestations, are linked up with the unaccustomed effort and strain on the astral body in the task of bringing about an equilibrium between the elasticities of the etheric and the physical bodies.
If you observe in pregnant women symptoms of the same kind as in chorea, you will be well able to understand their origin, for the harmony of elasticity in physical and etheric bodies is of course interfered with by pregnancy, and the astral body has to shoulder the same extra responsibility as fell to it in childhood. Therefore it will be necessary to reinforce and stimulate the whole range of the astral body's activity in the illnesses peculiar to the early years of life, and sometimes synchronizing with the pregnant state as well. We must see that the functions of the astral body are so directed as to act as a balancing factor between the elasticity of the physical and that of the etheric. (The necessary measures will be discussed in the lectures to follow.)
On the other hand — and this is why I have emphasized the need of taking age into consideration — you will find that diseases tending to polyarthritis and the like generally appear from the fourteenth, fifteenth, or sixteenth year, till the end of the twenties. In this period of life the astral body has to put itself into the correct relationship with the physical and etheric, and if it has not been adequately prepared for this by the necessary treatment in childhood, it will not be able to establish the correct relationship. The result will be the appearance of morbid symptoms, either in the period from the middle teens to the end of the twenties, or in the following period. The important point is, to give great weight to the time-factor in the study of disease, and — if I may express myself in a somewhat superficial manner — not to assume that nature has made the human organism with a special eye to our convenience, so that we may easily and conveniently read off from it the curative measures necessary. But the human organism has not been made with a view to ease and convenience in the discovery of cures. And there is too much inclination to assume that such is actually the case. Of course there is a certain truth in the axiom “Like is cured by like.” But it may happen that the main group of symptoms — which is taken to be the “like” to be cured by “like” — has arisen in another period of life: for instance, a complex of symptoms may be present before the age of twenty, possibly provoked by external measures; and these same external measures which provoked the morbid process at the earlier age may become a remedy, to some extent, after the twenties have been left behind.
In visualizing the general health of any individual, we must bear in mind that man lives in two life-epochs, which are in some respects polarized. In youth he is under other influences than he is later on. The dominant influences in youth are those of the outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, and in later life the inner planets, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon, to give them the titles already mentioned. But the earliest and most conspicuous influence of all is that of the Moon.
Thus we have to complete the consideration of space by the consideration of time. Only by these means can we learn correctly to estimate and appreciate certain phenomena of human life and constitution. We shall, when we go more into detail, give some indication of how to proceed if one wants to see the facts in the light of the true knowledge of man.
The influences that mould man begin their work before birth, and indeed even before conception. In the course of my investigations I have often wondered why so many morbid processes have been described as “of unknown origin” in current medical literature; that is, as matters whose origin cannot accurately be determined. The cause of this uncertainty is the neglect of that whole complex of forces which we have recognized as extra-telluric, which is already at work while man approaches not only his birth but his own conception. Acting thus on man, they also provoke opposite reactions later on, so that certain processes that actually antedate conception have reactions after conception or after birth. Sometimes it is only possible to observe and record the postnatal effects, which are a species of defensive reaction against what was present before conception in the whole system of nature.
These considerations apply particularly to all the processes of ossification and sclerosis. Not only sclerosis, but bone formation in itself is a reactive process: both react to processes operative before conception. They are quite normal contrary or defensive reactions included among the formative forces and counteracting the processes of dispersal and diffusion that act in man before conception. It is extremely important to bear that in mind. It is impossible to control the tendency to sclerosis without reference to extra-telluric factors working from birth or from conception onward, and without referring this tendency to an extra-human and extra-telluric process dating from before the time of conception.
All these processes are liable to go over a certain limit, to swing over their normal level, as it were. Ossification or sclerosis, e.g., swing toward a medium position, and can overleap it and become too strong. They then take the form of “dispositions,” which reveal much that is most significant in the inner being of man. When the particular factor that manifests itself normally in bone formation or sclerosis, and only becomes abnormal with advancing age, in its own sphere, swings over to the opposite half and works into other organs outside its proper sphere, then indeed we have a symptom that is the morbid antithesis of a pre-natal process, and that manifests in the various kinds of carcinoma formation.
It is only by including man's whole course of being and becoming in our sphere of vision, that we can grasp these phenomena. For otherwise the development of carcinoma must always remain a mysterious factor in the life of man, if we cannot relate it to some process necessarily at work in man that exceeds its limits and invades other regions.
Another phenomenon can be considered in a similar way — the cases of hydrocephaly we often observe during childhood. We all have the tendency to become hydrocephalous, and this tendency is a necessary one; otherwise we could never attain adequate development of our brain and nervous system. For these must, as it were, be formed from out of the fluid element present in man. Thus we can observe a prolonged struggle during childhood between hydrocephaly and another factor that enters the human organization in order to oppose the hydrocephalous tendency. We ought to have a definite term for this polar opposite, as well as for hydrocephaly itself; the opposite is a deficiency of liquid in the brain. It is neglected as a morbid condition today, but it is the antithesis of hydrocephaly. As young children, we oscillate perpetually between hydrocephaly and its unnamed antithesis which appears later on.
But we may be liable to overlook an important factor in time: the exact moment, which always exists, even if not apprehended, in which the hydrocephalous tendency may be allowed to cease. (We shall deal later with the therapeutic aspect.) Ignoring this time factor, we may remove the hydrocephalous tendency too soon, either through education, or dieting, or special treatment in childhood, and especially in early infancy. Thus a normal tendency is obliterated too soon. And the results illustrate the harm of too short a view of the whole course of human life.
Legions of medical doctoral theses could be produced if adequate study were devoted to the association between the course of hydrocephaly in infancy and childhood, and syphilis, or the disposition to this disease in later life. The search for microbes is not really helpful here. Help and light come from consideration of the factors already mentioned. It would be of immense help to the prophylactic treatment of syphilis if attempts were made to immunize man in earliest childhood against the forces that later on may manifest in the various symptoms of syphilis — for these are various, as we shall find.
In diagnosis it is particularly necessary to remember these relations and to refer back to the proper causes, which lie in the whole process of man's coming into being. Here is another matter of extreme significance. The whole organic process, as it were, advances against the heart, both from the upper bodily sphere, and from below upward through the hypogastrium. The whole formative process of man presses toward the heart, from both sides; the heart is the real barrier, or organ, acting as a dam. This organic pressure on the heart takes place at different ages. Let us consider the symptoms which appear at an early age and may reach a culmination in pneumonia or pleurisy in youth.
If we consider carefully all that contributes toward them, they will be perceived as a process that has been advanced, the same as that which in still earlier youth manifests itself as hydrocephaly. Hydrocephaly has simply been shifted downward in the body, and appears here as a disposition to pneumonia or pleurisy, together with all the effects related to these in childhood.
These manifestations in childhood have their contrary processes in later years; they may recur later on, but do so in their polar form. And in the case of endocarditis, e.g., even in acute cases, the physician would do well to inquire whether there were any morbid symptoms at an earlier age, having any connection with pneumonia or pleurisy. And the lesson should be: beware of suppressing such phenomena as pneumonia and pleurisy in children by hasty and intensive treatment. Of course, it is obvious that parents and teachers are most anxious that such symptoms should vanish; but it is highly advisable to leave them to take their course. The medical man should watch over the case and avert possible harmful by-effects, but allow the process to “work itself out.” Particularly in such cases, a kind of “physical” treatment, or, as it is now termed, Nature-healing, is to be recommended; this may be desirable in other cases, of course, but in none more so than in diseases of the type of pleurisy or pneumonia during childhood. This means that one should try to ensure the most normal course of the process of disease; the course is neither accelerated nor stopped too early.
If such a process is shortened before the proper time, the result is a comparatively early disposition to cardiac diseases with all their accessories, especially a susceptibility to polyarthritis, so it is urgently necessary to beware of interfering with the process of disease in this region. The tendency to cardiac diseases would be removed in many individual cases if what we may term the intention of pneumonia or pleurisy were not disturbed.
In all these instances we can see the inter-relationships in the whole process of man's growth and development. In this connection one should also remember the case in which the patient is only slightly affected and in which a cure is easier, but in which it is sometimes impossible to be sure whether it has been achieved or not. In such a case one may be compelled to tell the patient not to be anxious, that his condition will soon be relieved, etc., for it would also be of the greatest benefit if we did not try to cure so much! The cure of disease as such is certainly an excellent thing. But it should be borne in mind that there are many people who have passed through every sort of disease — according to their own account, at least — and have also tested every method of treatment. These people, when they have reached a good age, are not easily satisfied by another remedy for their complaints, for they are always “invalids,” It would be a good thing to make people aware that most of them are really not so ill as they believe. Of course there are drawbacks in such an attitude. But it may well be brought forward in the present connection.
All these things must be considered in the light of the complexity of man's being. He has, to begin with, his physical organization; then his etheric organization, which takes such great trouble to work its way into the physical organism between the seventh and fourteenth years. This etheric body is expelled again during certain processes, such as gestation. After the fourteenth year there begins the active installation of the astral body, and later that of the ego itself.
The ego must not be visualized, however, as external to the body in previous stages of growth. It is never external to the body in the waking state, but its “installation” means that the collaboration becomes intensified. Therefore every organic disturbance occasions difficulties and obstructions for the ego in maintaining its position. Contemporary medical science, without knowing it, even shows in diagrams and graphs these difficulties of the ego in coping with the other three vehicles. Of course, living and moving in a materialistic age, one does not fully see this combat in these diagrams. But whenever you trace a proper “fever curve,” you are recording an exact expression of this struggle of the ego. For studying this struggle, therefore, there is hardly anything more instructive than the temperature chart. Of course this may be less significant for therapy than for pathology. But we must know of these matters and understand them, at least in their main outlines. For we can only gain a true insight into the nature of, e.g., pneumonia or abdominal typhus if we can visualize the course of its temperature curve. Let us suppose we are studying the two main types of temperature curve in pneumonia, and comparing the curve in critical cases and in less serious cases. How different in the two cases is the effort of the ego whose intervention in the organization is impeded! How differently does the ego carry out its counter-attack! In pneumonia, for instance, the temperature curve shows first the struggle, and then the collapse to a temperature below normal, in critical cases. (See Diagram 12).
It becomes possible to carry out the counter-attack because of the previous efforts and exertions. In the other type (the lytic case), it is less possible to counter-attack out of the forces of the individual; so the more irregular drop of temperature is actually more dangerous.
The temperature curve in typhus is still more illuminating as regards the working of the ego upon the three other human vehicles. It presents a graphic and definite record of what the ego has to surmount. Such examples can prove how the introduction of natural-scientific methods into medicine compels us to know about the manifold human organization. The confusions that have arisen in medical science originated in the materialistic phase, which made science limit its observation to the physical body. These processes in the physical body, however, are never autonomous, and above all they are never all of equal significance. For some of these manifestations may be due to the action of the etheric body, others again to that of the astral body, or the ego. They are all physical processes, but specialized and differentiated according to their origin. Their character differs widely, according to which of the higher members of man is operative within the physical body.
Now, if you bring together all that was said yesterday as to human dependence on the extra-telluric and telluric forces, and what I added today about human development extending into time, you will be able to form a conclusion that may be of help in the investigation with which we are now concerned. You will be able to postulate that certain forces are continually in action on man. These forces (if we consider the physical and etheric bodies) are extra-telluric as well as telluric, which work against them. They may be subdivided into those of the outer planets, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars; and those of the inner planets, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon. These latter forces, as a matter of fact, change into telluric influences. (See Diagram 13, arrow pointing outwards.)
The interaction of Earth and Moon is complex and deceptive in certain ways, and easily misinterpreted. Man is apt to think: there is the Moon, above, whence its influence must descend. But this view is incomplete. The Moon is not merely Earth's satellite circling around her; the same force that dwells within the Moon and works upon the Earth is also contained within the Earth itself. The Earth has its own lunar principle working outwards from within. (See Diagram 14).
Physical manifestations such as the tides and many allied phenomena are not essentially telluric, but lunar; nevertheless they are not directly due to lunar influence (as recent theories claim), but to the lunar principle in the Earth itself. There is an apparent correspondence between these effects and the Moon, but there is, at least generally, no immediate connection in time. So when we trace the influence of the inner planets, we must look for their counter-image in the Earth itself, so that the physical effect, the effect upon the physical, comes via the Earth. And on the other hand, to the outer planets must be ascribed effects in the realm of soul and spirit.
We may define the Moon's action thus: it throws, as it were, certain formative forces down to the Earth, and they manifest themselves in the human activities, especially those of creative fantasy and imagination. The lunar influence on the imaginative and creative powers of the soul is immense. These things should be studied; they are, of course, not adequately investigated and recorded in this age of materialism. But that they exist is irrefutable. The Moon affects directly the soul and spirit, promoting creative imagination. The Moon's counterpart, the lunar influence on all organic life, starts from the Earth, and from there acts on the human organization. This (twofold) action must be taken into account. The same rule holds good for the inner planets, which lie beyond the Moon.
Thus man is affected in the most diverse ways, by telluric forces — call them terrestrial if you so prefer — and by extra-telluric forces. If we wish to study these forces, we must look at the result of their cooperation in the whole human entity. They cannot be traced in any isolated part of man, and least of all in the cell — please note especially, in the cell least of all. For what is the cell? It is the element that obstinately maintains its separate existence, its own separate life and growth, contrary to the whole of human life and growth. Picture to yourselves, on the one hand, man built up in his whole frame by the telluric and extra-telluric forces, and on the other hand, the cell as that element which intervenes in the operation of these forces, upsets their ground-plan and conception, and even destroys their working by developing its own urge toward independent life. Actually we wage a ceaseless war in our organism against the life of the cell. And the most impossible of conceptions has just arisen in that cellular pathology and cellular physiology which find cells as the source and basis of everything, and regard the human organism as an aggregate of cells. Whereas, in truth, man is a whole in relationship with the cosmos, and has to wage perpetual war against the independent life and growth of the cells.
In fact the cell is the ceaselessly irritating and disturbing factor in our organism, not the unit of construction. And if such fundamental errors enter into the general scientific view, it is not to be wondered at if the most mistaken conclusions are drawn regarding the nature of man in all its implications.
So we may say that the formative process of man and the process of cell formation represent, as it were, two opposite sets of forces. The individual organs are right amid the action of these forces; they become liver or heart and so forth according to whether the one or the other set of forces prevails. They represent a continuous balance between two poles. Some of the organs tend toward the cellular principle, and the cosmic factors have to counteract this tendency. Or again, in other organs — which we shall presently specify — the cosmic action dominates the cellular principle. In the light of this knowledge, it is especially interesting to observe all the organic groups that lie between the genital tract and the excretory tract on the one hand, and the heart on the other. These organs, more than any others, resemble the actual state toward which cellular life tends to develop. This resemblance is noticeable in comparison with all the other organs of man. And we must draw the following conclusion as to the essence of the cell. The cell develops — let us exaggerate somewhat, but consciously, and in order to make our point clear — an obstinate and antagonistic life, a life of self-assertion. This obstinate life centered in one point meets the resistance of another force, external to it. And this external element, counteracting the cellular process, takes away the vitality from its formative forces. It leaves untouched its globular shape as of a drop of liquid, but sucks the life from it, as it were.
This should be an elementary piece of knowledge familiar to all: Everything on our Earth that is globular in form, whether within or external to the human frame, is the result of the interplay of two forces, one urging toward life, the other drawing life away.
If we examine the concept of the mercurial in ancient medicine we learn that it was held that the mercurial has been deprived of life but retains the globular form. This means that the mercurial element must be visualized as tending obstinately to the condition of a living drop of matter, i.e., to a cell, but as prevented by the planetary action of Mercury from being more than a corpse of a cell — that is to say, the typical quicksilver globule. Here is the condition midway between the saline and phosphoric; and here is also a glimpse of the very intricate road we must follow in order to understand the living working of planetary forces in the earth's substances. Were it not for the planet Mercury, every drop of quicksilver would be a living thing. And all the parts of the human frame which tend most definitely to the cellular principle — that is, the region specified above — need more than any other to receive the proper influence of the planet Mercury. This means that the region below the heart and above the organs of evacuation depends very much on the preservation of a certain inherent tendency to maintain the cellular process, without letting it get so out of hand that it is quite overwhelmed by life forces. That is, it depends on making the cellular process remain under the devitalizing, life-paralyzing Mercury condition; otherwise the activity of the organs under discussion would at once tend to become exuberant.
Now to follow up these facts, further and further, to the relationship between these organs and the metal mercury, or quicksilver: the representative of the mercurial condition. As you will observe, this path you are following represents a perfectly rational train of thought, and what has been found through supersensible vision will have to be confirmed by external and sense-perceptible facts, for the humanity of the present and future. Therefore it is advisable to follow up in clinical observation and in literature the detailed effects upon the human organism of the minerals and metals themselves, and of the minerals and metals contained in plants or animals. We can begin such an investigation with some particularly significant and characteristic facts. Thus I have already referred to a tendency originating before conception, that has to be counteracted by the process of ossification or sclerosis. But there is a complete counterpart to sclerosis and ossification; to produce it one would only have to induce lead poisoning in a man. Of course the experimental tests must not go so far as to set up serious plumbism for the purpose of studying arterio-sclerosis. But it is most important to be able to follow up cases in which nature itself makes the experiment, in order to find out the inner relationship between lead and the phenomena produced in the human organism through the same forces as are formative in lead. It is possible to trace by close study the correspondence between the process working in lead, and the process of ossification and sclerotization in man.
A parallel study could be made of the inter-relationship of the processes inherent in the metal tin and all that I have already described as the balance between hydrocephaly and its counterpart. This would reveal that this whole complex in childhood, which tends to establish the right ratio of density between the bony part and the soft parts of the head, is due to the action of the same forces as those belonging to tin.
As we have seen, this process moves toward the lungs in later life, So we come to this: that we need only collect and collate material that has been recorded in medical literature for centuries, in order to see the deep relationship between this process, with its accessory symptoms in pneumonia and pleurisy, and the forces proper to iron. Then we have to follow this relationship to the normal process that comes about through the normal action of iron in the blood. You can follow up the same process working between iron and the blood, until it approaches the lungs and their accessories, and you will get an intuitive conception of the efficacy of iron in cases where the balance between hydrocephaly and its opposite has progressed, as it were. Thus do these forces work with and into one another. Only by recognizing this continuous interaction, and by reference to the extra-human processes, can we be in a position to ascertain the healing effects of remedial substances.
It it were actually found worthwhile to consider human nature from this angle, the observer would indisputably develop a sense of intuition of great importance in all diagnosis. For diagnosis really depends on the “seeing together” of so many elements. In every diagnosis, the physician should visualize the position and attitude of the patient to the world; the manner of his earlier life, his probable future way of life. There is already in the man of today the germinal disposition of what he will live through and experience, especially in the organic sphere, during the rest of his life.
The connection between what we have stated as to the effects of lead, tin, and iron on the human organism, and the effects of the influence of other metals, is to be found in the polarity between the metals referred to and the workings of copper, mercury, and silver.
What I have said does not mean any “pushing” of certain remedies. But it has to be presented to you, in order to establish the very definite inter-relationships between the configurations of forces in the metals — and of course other substances — and the formative forces of the human organism. This is why certain forces, as, for instance, those inherent in copper, work in a particular way against those inherent in iron. We must bear this opposition in mind, so as to know what substances to apply or use, if a certain type of force — e.g., that of iron — becomes too active and predominates. In some diseases the forces of iron are obviously too strong; there we must have recourse to copper or copper products, which can also be derived from the vegetable kingdom, as you will see later on.
Perhaps with this survey I have asked you to assimilate too much in many respects. I hope, however, that if you examine my statements in detail, you will recognize the need of following up these things and the possibility of very fruitful results for the transformation of the study of medicine and the whole medical practice and life.