Friday, May 20, 2016
Heredity; Hemophilia; Antimony; Albumen; The Homunculus. Spiritual Science and Medicine, lecture 19 of 20
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, April 8, 1920:
In these two final lectures I shall try to deal with as many as possible of the questions before us. In a preliminary outline such as has been offered in this series, the main purpose is to learn more accurately, in the way that can be given by Spiritual Science, the path taken within the human organism by substances external to man, and also their counter-effects. If we have a complete bird's-eye view, as it were, of the way in which any substance operates, we have at the same time an indication of its therapeutic value, and can use our own judgment. To use individual judgment is far better than to keep to prescriptions which say "that is for this and the other for that." On this occasion I shall again start from something apparently remote, in order to reach something very near to us all. Among the written questions put to me, one continually reappears, and it must, of course, be of interest to you all — the question of heredity in general. Both in judging healthy — or at least relatively healthy — persons and the sick, it plays an extremely important part.
In the materialistic biology of the present day this heredity is only studied in a very abstract manner. Certainly it is not studied in such a way as to provide much practical use in life. But if we give it earnest and careful study we shall find it remarkable (at least to the exoteric student, whereas the esoterist knows it as an obvious law) that all that mankind needs to know about the world and its relations reveals itself somewhere in an externally visible form. There is always something that reveals externally those secret but — for mankind — most effective forces of nature. And if we investigate heredity we must keep that very specially in mind, for on the other hand all the factors associated with heredity are continually confused and concealed by illusions, so that sound judgment becomes most difficult. If a judgment is formed on a question of heredity, there are always other phenomena to which it does not apply. For indeed the facts of heredity are wrapped in the most powerful illusions, which spring from the character of its law. But the very nature of this law implies that its regularity does not always become obvious. The manifestations of heredity follow a pattern of law, but one very hard to regulate. Just as the horizontal position of the arms of a balance depends on a special law, but is upset by adding to the weight of one side or the other, so that the law is difficult to regulate — so is it also, we may say, with the operation of heredity. It is similar to that of the horizontal tendency of the scales; but it is sealed through a wide range of varying manifestations. This is due to the fact that always in heredity different elements, male and female, play their parts. The male always transmits what man owes to earthly existence, what he owes to earth-forces; whereas the female organism is more apt to transmit the cosmic influence from beyond the Earth. We might express this difference as follows. Earth makes continual demands on the man; the Earth organizes his forces. Earth is the cause from which the male sexuality originates. On woman the heavens, as it were, make continual demands; they cause her shape, and prevail in all the internal processes of her organization. This contrast may remind you of something already touched upon in these discussions. Now there follows this result: suppose a female being comes into existence through conception, and develops; it is inclined to become more and more attuned to the extra-terrestrial processes, to be taken up as it were by the heavens. If a male being develops, it becomes more and more inclined to be taken hold of by the Earth. Thus heavens and Earth actually cooperate, for neither acts exclusively nor on one sex alone, but in the female the arm of the scale rises toward the heavens and in the male it inclines to the terrestrial. It is a strict law but is subject to variation, and hence arises the following result. In woman, the organism includes internal tendencies which wage permanent contest with the terrestrial elements. But the strange thing is that this only holds good with regard to her own individual organism, and not in the terms of life and the seed. This contest between cosmic and telluric forces is restricted in woman to all the processes apart from the formation of the ovule, that is to say from the organs which serve the functions of reproduction. Thus woman continually withdraws her organization from the inherent forces of reproduction; the organs surrounding the reproductive tract are continually kept back. And we might say that there is a tendency to transmit through the male what is contained in the reproductive forces and can therefore be inherited. In woman there is a tendency to withdraw from this heredity — and concurrently in her own oogenous powers there is the stronger tendency of inheritance.
So we must ask how the human community can counteract the destructive forces of heredity. For we know, do we not, that heredity finds no barrier between the spiritual and the physical. For instance, in families subject to mental disorders, these may alternate in successive generations with diabetes; there is thus a metamorphosis which swings to and fro. Therefore it is a matter of immense urgency to find out how to shield mankind from the ravages of heredity. The chief preventive measure is first and foremost to do everything to preserve and improve the health of women, for in that case, the extra-telluric influence is drawn more actively into our Earth process, and those processes which work continuously to transmit the harmful influences of heredity through the germ can be combated through the maternal organism. Thus a community which gives thought and care to the health of their women wages war against the harmful influence which springs from the Earth-forces in heredity, by means of an appeal to the forces proceeding from outside the Earth and acting as a counterbalance. For these cosmic celestial forces have, as it were, their earthly accumulator solely in the organism of the woman. This is most important, and holds good for all forces of telluric and cosmic origin; it is universally true. It becomes conspicuously evident in the case of hæmophiliacs, of so-called “bleeders.” It would be well if there were less vague talk about heredity, and more study where concrete facts point unmistakably to its operation. Observe this as shown among “bleeders.” You will find a striking phenomenon, known to you all, and illustrating what I have just pointed out. In the family descent among hæmophiliacs, bleeding itself only appears in males, but the transmission of the illness occurs only through females. A woman whose father was a hæmophiliac, though she does not exhibit the disease herself, is liable to bequeath it to her male descendants. She gets it because she is part of the family. The males, however, become bleeders. But if these marry women free from hæmophiliac descent, the disease is not transmitted.
If you analyze the aforesaid facts you will find a striking concrete expression of my statements, and indeed the facts of hæmophilia are far clearer proofs than all the recent experiments by Weismann, etc., of what happens in heredity. And they are also important for the general judgment of the human bodily organization; this organization must be to some degree estimated in the light of that which is apt to influence it.
What is the actual basis of hæmophilia? This can in fact be detected by superficial consideration. The blood does not coagulate properly, so that the slightest external scratch or prick may cause the hæmophiliac to bleed to death; they may die from attacks of nose bleeding, or the extraction of a tooth, for what would lead to coagulation in other persons does not do so in the case of a hæmophiliac. So the blood of these persons must possess some constituent or quality which counteracts the power of coagulation. If this quality exists in too potent a degree it is not neutralized by the external forces which begin to work from outside when the blood coagulates. For coagulation of the blood is caused by forces working from outside. If the blood possesses a quality which does not allow these external forces to prevail, there is an excessive tendency to fluidity of the blood.
It is easy to detect that a strong tendency to excessive fluidity is connected with the whole formation of the human ego. And not superficially but deeply, and with that which manifests in the human ego as will, not with that which manifests as “ideation.” The constitutional tendency to excessive fluidity in the human blood is associated with all that either strengthens or debilitates the human will. And there is a fine historical example which proves that certain of nature's secrets are accessible to a proper interpretation. Both history and science are aware of the Engadine case; you will probably know it — the case of those two young girls of the Engadine district who have furnished us with a light on some profound — and medically helpful — aspects of human nature. Both of these young women came of hæmophiliac stock, and both formed and kept the steadfast and courageous resolution to refrain from marriage. So they have their place in history as personal champions of the fight against hereditary hæmophilia.
Of course we must lay stress on the real core of this case. It is certainly not peculiar to all the girls in hæmophiliac families to withdraw in this way from propagation. For such a course of action a strong subjective will must be developed — just the kind of strong subjective will that operates in the ego, and not in the astral body. Such a peculiar willpower must have distinguished both of those young women. They must have both had something in their egos, in their power of will, that was connected in some manner with the forces operative in bleeders. If such forces are augmented in a conscious way, this could be done more easily in such cases than in persons who are non-bleeders. A just estimate of this interaction leads us to look into the specific forces and properties of the blood and their interplay with the extra-human world. And in studying those properties of blood that are associated with the conscious will, we can learn something of the general connection between the human will and the forces external to man. Certain of these external forces have a particular inner kinship with the forces of the human will, a kinship based on the course of evolution — for the very last to be separated out in the natural realm has been all that is connected with the conscious will of mankind. That is the latest precipitation to emerge in the realm of nature.
Let us now study something in external nature which is among the creations by which nature framed mankind, and which shows by its inherent qualities its association with that formative process of humanity. A substance of that description has long been a subject of study, and there are great difficulties in surveying the results because it is hard to make the forces preserved by atavistic medicine, into the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, active still in the intellectual modern man. The substance thus studied was antimony and all that is linked with it. Antimony is a most remarkable substance; it has attracted the most profound attention from all who have had much to do with it, including the legendary Basilius Valentinus. Certain attributes of this substance will reveal the peculiar manner in which it is interwoven with the whole process of nature. Consider, for example, what is perhaps the least of antimony's attributes: its extraordinary affinity to other metals and other non-metallic substances, so that it often appears in combination with other substances, especially with sulphur compounds. Now, we have already touched on the specific operation of sulphur in this respect, and antimony tends to appear together with the sulphur compounds of other substances. This inclination of antimony shows how it is interwoven in the nature-process. Yet another quality is even more significant. Whenever possible, it forms sheafs of needle-shaped crystals. That is, its urge is along a straight line, outward and away from the Earth. Whenever antimony collects longitudinally, we behold the lines along which the forces of crystallization are directed from outer space to the Earth. For the formative forces in crystallization, which generally work in more regular patterns, produce in antimony the spear-shaped and sheaflike structures. In this way antimony reveals how it is inserted into the whole of nature. The characteristics of the smelting process also indicate antimony as revealing — or betraying — the forces of crystallization. By means of the smelting process we can obtain antimony in a delicately fibrous form.
Then there is this further quality: if antimony is exposed to temperatures, it can oxidize — burn — in a peculiar manner. The white smoke that forms from it reveals a certain kinship to cold bodies and attaches itself to them. The well-known “flowers” of antimony produce something in which the force of crystallization as it were discharges itself in contact with other bodies.
And the most remarkable of all antimonial properties is its peculiar form of resistance to all the forces which I have grouped together as sub-terrestrial in a certain sense: those forces that play through electricity and magnetism. Suppose that we treat antimony with electrolysis, bring it to the cathode, and touch the antimonial deposit on the cathode with a metal point — the antimony produces tiny explosions. This active resistance of antimony to electric processes — if the substance is given a little stimulus — is most characteristic and distinctive, revealing its real position in the whole process of nature; no other substance reveals its interactions so emphatically.
We can only interpret the lessons so graphically presented by that substance on the supposition that the forces present in nature are working throughout, are in fact ubiquitous; and that if certain substances show their operation to a marked degree, it is because the forces are especially concentrated in those substances. What operates in antimony is present throughout nature; the antimonizing power — if we may coin the term — is everywhere. It has also a regulative action in man, so that in normal conditions human beings draw the antimonizing force from the extra-telluric sphere. That is to say, mankind draws from the cosmos what in concentrated form is manifested as antimony. In normal conditions man does not have recourse to the antimonizing force as present on Earth and in its specific concentrated form, but turns toward the external, extra-telluric antimonial force. So we must obviously ask: What is the extra-telluric form of this antimonizing force?
Speaking in terms of the planets, it is the cooperation of Mercury, Venus, and the Moon. If these three do not operate separately but together, their action is not specifically of the nature of mercury, copper, or silver, but is comparable with the action of antimony in the Earth. And of course this can be and must be investigated, by observing and registering the effects of such constellations upon man — constellations, that is to say, in which the three forces of Moon, Mercury, and Venus neutralize each other, through the aspects of opposition or square. If all three are in such an aspect of neutralization, there is the precise interaction which in the case of antimony is laid hold of by the Earth. In all the antimony in and on the Earth, the same force is exerted from our planet itself as is exerted by these three planetary bodies upon the Earth.
Here it is necessary to warn against a mistake. The constitution of the Earth is such as to make it erroneous to refer piecemeal, so to speak, to such substances as antimony. All the antimony on the Earth is a unity in the Earth's structure, just as all the Earth's stores of silver or of gold are unities. If you remove separate lumps of antimony from the Earth you are simply extracting or amputating a part of that antimonial body which is incorporated into the Earth. We have now attempted to delineate all the perceptible effect of antimonial action; and here, as everywhere in nature, actions meet counteractions. This oscillation between action and reaction is just what gives rise to bodily form.
Let us then look for those forces which act counter to the antimonial forces. They reveal themselves if we are able to detect that the antimonial forces act on man at the moment in which something presses outward which is regulated while within him. It is these antimonial forces which are operative in the coagulation of the blood. Wherever the consistency of the bloodstream shows a tendency to coagulate, the antimonizing force is active. Wherever the blood tends to withdraw from coagulation, the counteracting forces are at work. So that hæmophiliacs manifest the forces antagonistic to antimony, curiously enough. And these anti-antimonizing forces are identical with those for which I should like to coin the term “albuminizing forces” — the albumen-forming forces, which work in such a health-giving way that they promote the formation of albumen. For, let us emphasize once more: the forces that hinder coagulation are the albuminizing forces.
Thus we arrive at some knowledge of the relationships between the antimonizing and albuminizing forces in the human organism. In my belief, careful study of the interplay of these two processes would reap very important harvests of knowledge as regards disease and its cure. For what are the processes which form albumen — the albuminizing processes? They are those by virtue of which all that is plastic and formative in nature is incorporated into the human or the animal organism, in order to supply its actual substance. And the antimonizing forces are those which, working from the outside, so to speak, take the part of the artist, the sculptor, giving the substance which builds the organs its form.
Thus the antimonial forces have a certain kinship to the internal organizing forces of the organs. Please take as a concrete example one organ: the alimentary canal. It is of course internally organized. You are able to follow up its inner structure without considering the purpose it serves or the manner in which foodstuffs are carried along it and worked upon. It is possible, that is to say, to separate in the abstract the internal processes of the organ and those that take place in working upon the substance introduced from outside. This is an important separation, for the processes are indeed different. In the organ itself, the antimonizing force works in man. For man is actually antimony, if we disregard all the ingredients brought into him from the external world. Man himself is antimony. But the internal organic formative force must not be overloaded with the antimonizing force in the normal course of life, for the effect would be excessively stimulating — in fact, a form of poisoning. But if strong stimulation is necessary, we may supply antimony to the organism — which normally must not be supplied. The effect of antimony, owing to these peculiar properties, varies greatly according as it is applied from within or without. If it is administered from within it is necessary to dilute it so far as to make it absorbed by the upper bodily sphere of man. If you are thus able to introduce antimony into the upper sphere, it will have an amazing stimulant effect on disturbed organ formations and internal organic processes. Thus very fine potencies of antimony can be most useful in certain forms of typhus or typhoid.
In the other case the effect is somewhat different, and is achieved by using lower potencies of antimony externally — in ointments, salves, and so forth. There may be occasions when it is desirable to have recourse to higher potencies in external application, but as a general rule, external application will have their beneficial effect in lower potencies.
This remedial substance is an extremely useful remedy in many different directions. It is at work within the law of polarity just referred to, yet shows constant slight oscillations. Thence arises a rule that should not be disregarded. Antimony should be administered internally, by preference, in the treatment of individuals of very strong willpower, and externally, by preference, in treating persons of weaker will. Here is a first line of differentiation. Antimony represents, within the mineral realm, a substance with an inner kinship to the human will; that is to say, as the human will becomes more conscious, it feels more inclined to call forth the counter-effects to antimonial action. Human will has a destructive effect on all the forces, previously described, constituting the characteristic operation of antimony. On the other hand, all that builds up the human constitution under the influence of thought, and especially of unconscious thought — including the still unconscious thought-forces at work in the child — all these are supported by the antimonial forces; antimony is, as it were, their ally. Thus if antimony is introduced, by any route, into the human organism and is thus able to exert its own properties, it forms a strong phantom (scaffolding or network) within the body. The internal organic forces are thus stimulated, and there is nothing left for cooperation with the substances brought into the human organism. There follow fits of vomiting and diarrhœa — showing that the effect is confined to the organs, instead of including their surroundings. The same is true in the counteracting process. You will be able to counter injurious effects of antimony in yourself by the methods instinctively employed by people when they want to keep their own circulatory and rhythmic processes regular. They drink coffee, through which the rhythmic processes are made even and harmonious. Please note that I am stating a fact; I make no recommendation here, for it may be very harmful in other ways to relieve the ego of the task of regulating these human rhythms. If man is not strong enough in his soul to regulate his rhythmic processes, then coffee can bring about a certain harmony. And so in cases of antimonial poisoning coffee acts in some degree as an antidote, restoring the rhythms between the working of the inner organic forces and their surroundings. For there is a regular interplay through rhythm. Indeed the real reason for drinking coffee is to establish a continuous regulation of rhythm between our internal organs and what is happening in their vicinity to the foodstuffs we have consumed.
From this point we are led to inquire into the albuminizing processes. These are reinforced — that is to say, all those processes are reinforced that lie on the other side of the dividing line, where there is no longer the inner organizing force of the organs, but where they unfold their external digestive activity. All the mechanical processes of the movement of the intestines, and of the other digestive activities, are closely interwoven with the albuminizing forces, which are virtually the formative forces of albumen, i.e., the complementary polar opposites of the antimonizing forces.
Now I must once more refer to something already dealt with — that is, the instructive object of study — or subject, if you like — of the shell formation of the oyster. To a somewhat less degree the same occurs in the calcareous secretion in the egg. What is the key to these phenomena? What precisely is an oyster shell and egg shell? It is a product that the oyster, or the essential substance of the egg, must eject, because were it retained it would kill them. This shell formation is necessary for the preservation of life. And so, when eating oysters, we consume that life process which is manifested externally in the formation of the shells. (I put the facts to you in these simple terms; if I sought to impress current science, more intricate and technical terms would of course be necessary.) In eating the oyster we eat this albuminizing process, a process which is the antithesis to the antimonizing process. Through its absorption we promote and stimulate all that leads in man to typhoid manifestations. The consumption of oysters is an extraordinarily interesting operation. It activates the formative force, that is the albuminizing force, within the human abdomen. This relieves the head, drawing certain forces downward, so that after eating oysters man feels much less burdened by the forces which tend to work in his head. Oysters empty the head, in a sense. And we have need of developing the albuminizing forces continually, for we cannot let our head continually be charged with formative forces. But the habitual epicure in oysters exaggerates this, and strives at all costs for an empty head. By so doing, he increases the possibility of a downward eruption of certain forces toward the abdomen, as I have already described — that is to say he promotes the tendency in the lower organic sphere to diarrhœa and typhoid. And as you will readily perceive, such a condition demands antimonial treatment. There would be good results in stimulating the forces to which appeal must be made if the typhlitic tendency is to be combated in its innermost stronghold, by administration of antimony externally and internally at the same time; especially rubbing with antimonial ointment and simultaneously taking by mouth antimony in high potency. These would be mutually regulated and thus react beneficially on the typhlitic tendency.
Such are treatments that attempt to realize man within his whole universal surroundings. The significance of such a method is shown if you investigate man's relationships and reactions to such manifestations in nature as arise from a certain defensive resistance to the direct telluric forces. Plants are able to defend themselves against these direct telluric forces; they store up much of their formative power for their seasons of blossom and seed. Our most frequent type of plant structure, of which most edible plants are examples, is based on the employment of a definite amount of telluric power for the formation of the plant itself. If, however, the plant has a defensive attitude to these telluric forces, it becomes exposed to the extra-telluric forces when the final processes of fructification and seed-formation ensue; and thus the plant becomes something with an urge to contemplate the world from the same vantage point as the higher beings of the realms above the vegetable. The plant shows an urge to perceive. But the plant has no specialized structures for that purpose: it remains a plant, and yet it has the urge to develop something analogous to the formation of the human eye. But no eye can develop in what is, after all, neither a human nor an animal body but the body of a plant. And so the plant becomes a deadly nightshade, Atropa Belladonna. I have tried to show by means of pictures what takes place in the emergence of the belladonna fruit. That plant has already in its roots the force culminating in the growth of its black berries, and with this it becomes akin to all that urges in the human organism toward moulding the form and beyond. It urges toward things only possible in the sensory sphere, lifting man out of the world of his organization into the sphere of the senses. A process of extraordinary interest occurs if small potentized quantities of belladonna are administered. This is because it bears a striking resemblance to the process of awakening from sleep which is still interwoven with dreams. In such an awakening, interspersed with dreams, the process is within the limits of normality. In awakening, when perception has not yet begun but when sense perception is still inwardly potentized to the permeation of the consciousness with dreams, there is actually always a kind of deadly nightshade activity in man. And belladonna poisoning consists in the provocation of this same process that occurs when, in awaking, dreams still hold their sway; but the process called forth in man by belladonna poison is made lasting, not taken up into consciousness, but the transition phenomena remain. This is the interesting point, that the processes which are caused in man by toxic action are of such a nature that at the right tempo they are part of the whole human organization.
As I have already described, the birth of the belladonna means a frantic and excessive urge toward becoming man. And further, it might be said that the awakening from sleep in man has something of the nature of an urge toward atropa belladonna — but an urge held in leash and tuned down: confined to the moment of waking. Now suppose you wish to relieve the body of the internal albuminizing processes, influencing the organism so that the too powerful albuminizing is retarded and the bodily event, so to speak, deflected toward the soul, so that the bodily processes become hallucinations — then give potentized doses of belladonna. Thus you will lift something into the soul, something of which you wish to relieve the body. This is the essence of what we meet in the usual macroscopic operation of belladonna — although here again full of perplexities and illusions, as I have already pointed out. Of course, if you give the human being a shock that prevents the normal passage over from the state of awakening to that of full waking consciousness, and makes permanent the transitional state — well, you kill him. For man is always in danger of death during that brief transition of awakening — but we awake so rapidly that we escape that peril. Such are the interesting interactions between what is accepted as normal, and is sound in measure and tempo, and what becomes anti-normal as soon as it exceeds that measure and tempo.
It seems to me that these were the processes that the physicians of old time sought ever and again to pursue. If they spoke of the creation of the homunculus, they did so because their surviving clairvoyant faculties revealed something resembling the phantom of antimony. For there appeared to them, in the forming process which they carried out in their laboratory when antimony unfolded its forces, something projected into it by their own nature, which fights against the power of antimony as albuminizing force. That appeared to them as a definite force. That which normally remains concealed within the human organism they projected externally, and thus they beheld the homunculus, who appeared during the various metamorphoses of antimony. What appeared in the interplay of these processes and metamorphoses they saw as the homunculus.