Monday, May 2, 2016
Hydrogen–Heart, Lungs–Carbon, Liver–Nitrogen, Kidneys–Oxygen
Spiritual Science and Medicine. Lecture 12 of 20.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, April 1, 1920:
Everyone who has the task to heal should acquire a fundamental feeling for the surprising connections between extra-human and intra-human facts. For significant intuitions can emerge from such study, particularly in Materia Medica and therapeutics. To take an obvious example, let me remind you of such substances as Roncegno water, or Levico water, which are as though compounded by some beneficent spirit — to speak figuratively — preparing ready for use in the world of nature so many diverse ingredients capable of acting favorably within us. We shall later on deal with these matters in greater detail, but if we bear in mind the remarkable manner in which the two forces of iron and copper blend and temper one another in the water from these spas, and the addition of arsenic, as though to make their mutual compensative operation even wider and more firmly based, we must say to ourselves: here in external nature is something just prepared for certain conditions in mankind. Of course it can happen that these substances have an extremely unfavorable effect on certain individual cases. But the general validity of the main principle is shown even in negative cases, and corroborated. It is advisable, especially at the present time, in dealing with these subjects to remember the possibility of meeting and counteracting such morbid symptoms as have not manifested themselves until our age. Do not let us forget that objective observers on all sides are recognizing that peculiar conditions are beginning to affect certain regions of the Earth's surface and bringing peculiar forms of disease in their wake. And do not let us forget another current development of great relevant interest: even such a disorder as grippe (influenza) has indisputably acquired strange features in its recent form: the power of rousing previously latent sicknesses to which the individual organism has a tendency, but which might otherwise remain hidden throughout life. These latent morbid trends are uncovered, as it were, when the patient is attacked by influenza.
These matters compose a bundle of questions, upon which I will base our next lectures. The most fruitful approach will be from the consideration of another remarkable circumstance, which perhaps only the spiritual scientist can fully appreciate. As you are aware, oxygen and nitrogen are mingled in our atmosphere; they are loosely mingled in a manner which cannot be exactly defined, either in the terms of physics or of chemistry. And we, as men and as earthly beings, are wholly enmeshed in the combined activities of these two elements, oxygen and nitrogen, and one can therefore assume from the outset that there is some significance in the relation of oxygen to nitrogen in our atmosphere, and in their normal ratio.
Spiritual science shows us this significant fact: every change in the composition of the atmosphere which alters the normal proportion of oxygen to nitrogen — in either direction — is associated with disturbances in the process of human sleep. That leads us to inquire into this hidden relationship more definitely. You know that in spiritual science we have found it necessary to state that man consists of the following four members: the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, and the ego. You know that we have been led by the facts themselves, further, to maintain that when sleep begins, ego and astral body separate, in a sense, from the other vehicles, though this separation takes place more in a dynamic sense, and return again when the individual awakens. Thus you must conclude: in the state of sleep there is a bond between the astral body and the ego, and another bond between the etheric and physical bodies; so even in the waking state, we must accept a less intimate connection between astral body and ego on the one hand and etheric body and physical body on the other, than between the ego and astral body or between the etheric and physical bodies. This looser link between the two groups — the upper human entity (ego and astral body) and the lower human entity (etheric and physical bodies) — is a true mirror-image of the loose admixture of oxygen and nitrogen in the external atmosphere. Both correspond in a remarkable and astounding way. The composition of the external atmosphere is of such a nature as to furnish the ratio for the connection between astral and etheric bodies, and concurrently between their partners, the physical body and the ego.
This will also naturally make us attentive as to how we have to act in regard to the composition of the air, how we must notice whether we are in a position to give men air or whether to deprive them of it. Now you are able to take a more physiological approach, and to note the working of this correspondence. Pass in review all the substances at present known to us and active in the human organism, and you will find that (with two exceptions) all these are found in combination with other substances within the human organism: as a rule we find compounds and solutions. Two only appear in their pure state within us: these are oxygen and nitrogen. So these main components of the atmosphere play also particular parts within our human bodies. Their interactions form as it were the very core of the substances in us. Oxygen and nitrogen are linked with the functions of the human organism; and they act as the only elements operating in their pure state, and not modified or deflected by other substances combined with them in the human organic sphere. So there is not only great significance in the actual presence of external substances traceable within the human organism; we must also follow up the manner of their occurrence, and consider whether their operation remains free, or is bound up with something else. For the peculiar thing is that within the human organism, matter acquires special affinities to other forms of matter, and specific kinship. So if we introduce a substance into the organism which already contains a certain other substance, these affinities can become apparent. Follow this up, and you will come to a quite definite revelation, which spiritual science must point out. You are aware that vegetable, animal, and human organisms are alike based on proteins, on albuminous substances. You know that, in the terms of contemporary chemistry, the main ingredients of albumen are the four main natural substances, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and, in addition, sulphur, as, so to speak, a homeopathic agent in the operations of the other four.
It is necessary to form an idea of how the internal function of albumen is brought about; how is protein made? Contemporary chemical science must obviously and conformably to its premises reply: Oh well, any such substance has the configuration proper to its inherent forces. It follows that one identifies things which are actually not at all the same, or that are not similar as much as is assumed. Sometimes a certain dissimilarity is recorded, and in any case the identity is invalid. In consequence of the application of atomistic theory to the structure of albumens, vegetable albumen and animal albumen have been viewed as very much alike, and up to a certain degree at least chemically identical. But that is absolutely not the case. A closer and more exact study of our human organism recognizes the fact that vegetable albumen neutralizes animal and more especially human albumen; that the two are in fact polar opposites, and that each annihilates in an intimate way the effects of the other. It is strange indeed that we must admit: animal albumen is of such a nature in its functions that these functions are impaired, abolished partially or even wholly abolished, by those of vegetable albumen. And this leads us to the question: Well, what is the exact difference between what appears as albumen in the animal organism, or especially in that of man, and what appears as the same substance in the organism of plants? It is in your recollection that I have had frequently to mention the important part played in relation to all extra-telluric meteorological processes by the four organic systems — bladder, kidneys, liver, lungs — and their complement, the heart. Those four organic groups are most important in determining how man is affected by the meteorological happenings in the external world. Now: What is the significance and office of these four systems?
These four organic systems are nothing less than the creators of the structure of human albumen. So we must study them, and not the atomistic and molecular forces in the albumen substance. In our inquiry “Why is albumen what it is?” we must conceive of its internal structure as the resultant of forces emanating from these four organic systems. Albumen can be called the product of this fourfold cooperation. With this we state a remarkable fact in respect of the interiorization of external forces within man. What contemporary chemistry looks for in the actual structure of the substance in question, we look for and find in the organic systems of the human body. Therefore the characteristic structure of human albumen cannot conceivably exist in the external terrestrial sphere; it cannot remain unless it is under the influence of these four organic systems. In other conditions it is bound to change its structure.
But it is otherwise with vegetable albumen. Vegetable albumen is, so it seems, not controlled by any analogous group of organs, but it is under another influence: namely, of the four elements oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon, and also under that of the meteorologically omnipresent mediator between these four main elements, namely sulphur. In vegetable albumen these four elements dispersing themselves throughout the atmosphere perform the same office as the lungs, heart, liver, and so forth, within man. External nature contains in these four substances the same formative forces as are individualized in the human organism through the four main groups. It is important to remember that in speaking of oxygen, hydrogen, and so forth we should not limit their meaning to the inherent forces and attributes recognized by modern chemistry, but that we should conceive these elements as possessing formative forces, with activities which affect one another mutually, and by which they contribute to the furnishing of the Earth sphere. If we consider them separately and in detail, we must identify the external operation of oxygen with the internal operation of the kidney and urinary system. What is done in the outer world by the formative forces of carbon we must identify internally with the pulmonary system — not regarding the lungs however as organs of respiration, but as possessing particular formative forces. We must identify nitrogen with the liver system, hydrogen with the cardiac system (see Diagram 22). Hydrogen is indeed the heart of the outer world; and nitrogen the liver of the external world, etc.
It would be well, my friends, for humanity today not only to let itself be persuaded to recognize these things, but to work them out for itself. For example, in recognizing the association of the heart system with the formative forces of hydrogen, you will readily admit the essential importance of hydrogen circulation for the whole upper bodily sphere in man. For with the metamorphosis of hydrogen toward the upper bodily sphere, the lower and more animal region is changed into the specifically human, tending toward the developing of concepts, etc. And I have already indicated that there we shall have to deal with an extra-telluric influence to be identified with the metal lead. You will remember that lead, tin, and iron have already been classified as forces possessing special affinities with the upper sphere in man. At the present time there is no great inclination to admit these interrelationships. Nor will there be, as yet, much wish to go outward from man into the external world, recognizing the specific working of lead as something associated with the fact that hydrogen is made ready by the heart, and then serves as carrier for the preparation of the apparatus of thought. Nevertheless the unconscious progress of human evolution is compelling mankind to recognize this fact. For today it is no longer possible to deny that lead plays some role in the external world, even if only from the functional standpoint, as lead has been actually found among the products of transmutation which Röntgenology has discovered; lead has been actually found as a final product formed by way of helium — not with the usual atomic weight, as a matter of fact, but still it has been identified as lead. Furthermore, as lead has been discovered, so shall we also find tin, and iron as well — iron, that as the only constituent of external nature impinges directly upon our human constitution. Surely today we need to give heed not only to the science of Röntgen rays, however wonderful as a guide and finger-post to the cosmos external to ourselves, because it speaks not only of the crude metallic ores within the Earth, but of the metal forces playing upon us from the extra-telluric sphere. That must be said nowadays. For the emergence of new types of disease shows the necessity of taking these factors into account.
What interests us here is the fact that the function performed in the external world by carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and their mediator, sulphur, is being individualized in man through the four organic systems. Correct estimation of this fact will lead you deep into the core of man. Then you will no longer find it strange to bring the involuntary elements in our nature — i.e., those which seem to be under the control of the spiritual functions — into association with the whole extra-human world. For on the other hand, observe this truth also. Man is so constructed as to have, for instance a certain system of organs which we know as the kidneys. But each of the four systems has an urge to become the whole man: the kidneys have an urgent tendency to become the whole man, the heart has the same tendency, so has the liver, so have the lungs. In order to convince oneself of such facts, it is helpful to turn one's eyes — or rather one's sensitivity — to observe certain workings of extra-human realities in one's being. It is hardly possible to avoid drawing your attention to the borderline where natural science passes over into spiritual science. For, indeed, if you continue your practice both in medicine and in meditation, and learn to put yourself more and more in tune with the life of meditation, feeling yourself as a meditating human being, you will gradually arrive at a concrete and real self-knowledge. Such a self-knowledge is not to be despised if it comes to such positive tasks as the cure of disease! If you attain further progress in meditation you will become aware of things in your own body which were originally quite beyond consciousness. You have only to become conscious of this new awareness in order to learn what it is as yet difficult to mention and describe in public lectures or even before lay audiences, because of the tendency which then arises. I shall presently refer to one of these elements, elementary as it is. But if these matters were to be broadcast indiscriminately in wider circles today, among mankind in its present moral condition, there would at once arise the query: “Well, why are these powers not utilized?” Followed by the conclusion: “Yes, I should have to practice meditation — and I can get the same result more easily by simply incorporating this or that substance.” It is more convenient to diet or inject than to practice meditation. By taking that course, mankind decides in a certain sense on moral ruin. But with their contemporary moral constitution, people would not hesitate — you will see the core of my argument presently — to reject meditation in favor of some external remedy, which would, we must admit, help them, on the first steps of the road, to results similar to the fruits of meditation. And it is certainly the case that such partial substitutes exist. For example, if you have practiced genuine meditation for some time, and are disposed to register its effects, you will observe that you have become aware of the radiating iron forces, just as you are normally aware that you have hands with which you take hold and feet with which you walk. It is indeed the case that the awareness of the iron working comes as clearly as the normal awareness of our legs and arms, or our heads, to move and turn, etc. Yes — what emerges is the consciousness of ourselves as a framework phantom of iron. The consequent danger to which I have referred is that most people would reason thus: “So far, so good: then it's possible to augment one's sensitivity to iron, the susceptibility to the iron within one's self, by means of some remedy, that will have the same effect as meditation.” Up to a certain point this is completely accurate. But there is danger in the experimentation on such lines, in order to attain what is termed clairvoyance easily. Such experiments have been made occasionally. If they are made as, in a sense, exploratory sacrifices on behalf of mankind, the case is different, but if they are made out of curiosity, they undermine the whole ethical structure of the human soul. Now Van Helmont was one of the sages who experimented widely and boldly on himself, in this direction, and discovered many things, through such experiments; and you can read these results in his writings, to this day. He differs from Paracelsus; for with the latter one feels that his understanding rose in an atavistic way from within and that he carried elements of the super-earthly world into the ordinary world. Whereas Helmont repeatedly received remarkable illuminations as a result of self-administration of various substances. This is shown by the way in which he presents his subject; moreover, I believe he makes quite definite statements to this effect, in some passages. This, then, is the first possible attainment (through meditation): the internal sensitivity for the radiant force of iron, for that unique working which comes forth from the upper bodily sphere, and ramifies into all the limbs. One gets the definite conception — I say expressly the conception — that one is dealing internally with iron, that is, with its function and its forces.
In attempting a graphic representation of this iron radiation, I must mention that by its very nature it is not adapted to act beyond the human organism. The feeling persists: what is radiating forth is nevertheless localized within us, and remains so. There is a counteracting force from all sides, which dams and (see Diagram 23) stores up the iron forces.
It is as though the iron rayed outward to the human periphery with positive force, and there met a negative radiance from something which hits back, advancing as it were in concentric spheres. This is what can be perceived; the one element radiating forth and the other coming to hold it up; we therefore feel that we knock against something and cannot pass beyond the bodily surface.
And gradually we realize that the negative and opposing radiance is the force of albumen. Thus the iron introduces into our organism a display of functions which are opposed by all that comes from the four organic systems to which I have already referred. These systems resist the iron rays; and the struggle goes on continually within the organism. This is as it were the first thing which becomes perceptible to the inner sight. When we begin to study the spiritual history of mankind, we can plainly see that the Hippocratic school of medicine, and even that of Galen as well, still used conceptions which are relics of such internal observations. Galen was no longer in a position to observe much in this way, but he recorded all sorts of traditions from earlier ages, still current in his day. If we can read him aright we shall find that the archaic atavistic medical wisdom, whose decline begins with the advent of Hippocrates, still shows through much of Galen's writings, and is the source of many valuable views on the healing processes of nature contained in them.
In pursuance of these phenomena, we find we must study on the whole these two polarities throughout the organism, these radiations and that which opposes them and dams them up. There is need to keep this distinction in mind, for all that tends to form albumen, in the manner described above, is associated with the damming up action, and all of a metallic nature introduced into our bodies has to do with the radiating forces. Certainly there are exceptions and characteristic exceptions, but they are so distinctive as to reveal other aspects of this whole amazing complex of forces, assembled from all the ends of the universe and focused in our human organism. In order to comprehend their scope it is necessary to follow up somewhat the indications already given here in outline, which you may work out in detail. Thus, I need only mention this fact: the carbon content of plants — for instance, the vegetable carbon already dealt with — is lacking in an ingredient which is generally — practically always — present in animal carbon: that is, a certain amount of nitrogen. This is the reason why animal and vegetable carbon react differently, especially when exposed to fire. This latter feature, in turn, makes animal carbon inclined to play a part in the formation of such substances as gall, mucus, and even fat. This difference in the action of vegetable and animal carbon, respectively, draws our attention to the further difference in the action of metals and non-metals in general within the human organism — in other words, the action of the radiating out and the damming up substances.
This polar interaction gives the clue to many important things. We have often had occasion to mention the various periods of human life: the period of childhood lasting till the cutting of the permanent teeth; the period between second dentition and puberty; and then the period from puberty to the beginning of the twenties. These periods are linked with intimate happenings within the human organism. The first period, ending with the cutting of the permanent teeth, means, as I have had occasion to point out, a concentration of the whole organic activity on the formation and insertion of the solid scaffold into the body; this process reaches its culmination in the teeth which protrude from the solid scaffold. Now it is evident that this crystallization of solid substance within the still largely fluid young human body must have to do with the whole building up of the human shape, especially toward its periphery.
We must attribute much of the result achieved to two substances, which receive far too little attention in their effects within the human organism: these are fluorine and magnesium. In the — so to speak — rarefied form in which they occur within us, both fluorine and magnesium play prominent parts, especially in the process of shape formation in the child, up to the change of teeth. The forming and fitting of the solid framework in the human organism takes place through continuous interaction between the forces of magnesium and fluorine respectively; in this interplay, the forces of fluorine act plastically, mould as a sculptor moulds, fill out contours and bar the way to the forces of radiation, while magnesium acts as a radiating force and constitutes the fibers of tissue, etc., into and along which the substance arranges itself. It is not a senseless phrase, but wholly in accord with the course of nature, to say that a tooth is formed thus: it is shaped, as far as its circumference and its cement is concerned, by the activity of the plastic artist “fluorine,” and magnesium pours into it the forces which have to be shaped to a plastic form.
So it is necessary to keep even balance between the supplies of these two substances in early childhood, and if this balance and proportion are not achieved it will always be found that the teeth become defective at an early age. As soon as the first tooth appears, the particular formation of the teeth should be noted carefully, and whether the child develops a weak enamel cover or the teeth are too small and sparsely set — we shall deal with these symptoms in detail, but at present we are approaching the subject gradually — any defects should and can then be counteracted by means of administering either magnesium or fluorine in suitable compounds.
This affords a direct glimpse into the formative process of man. Even in the earliest years of life there is this interaction between fluorine and magnesium — that is, an interaction in which the agents are of a decidedly extra-human character in the constitution of their substance — for during the first years of life, man is mainly a link inserted into the external world. So fluorine comes from the external world, to counteract the centrifugal radiance of the metal.
For the third vital epoch, a similar importance adheres to the even balance between iron and albumen, the whole formation of albumen. If there is not the requisite even balance, and there are not strong beneficial counter-agents against the effects of disproportion between iron and albumen, we have all the symptoms externally typical of anæmia. It simply does not suffice merely to note the presence of this symptom or that; decayed or misshapen teeth which have been directly caused by faulty conditions in early youth, for instance, or the blood chemistry characteristic of anæmia. We must penetrate into the secret depth of the human organism as a whole if we would understand what exactly happens to man in sickness.
You already know, more or less, the particular metals which share in the upbuilding — the interior upbuilding — of the human organism. They do not include — with one exception, namely iron — those to which I have referred as in some way the most important ones: lead, tin, copper, quicksilver, silver, and gold are not directly engaged in the functioning of the human organism, but have their part in us, nevertheless. Take, for instance, that substance which contributes to the peripheral formations of the human frame; we refer to silicon, with which I have dealt already. Now, the processes within us are not bounded by our skins; man is interwoven with the whole web of universal processes. Just as the substances mentioned above are of significance internally, so also the main metals enumerated here are effective upon man, although external to our organism. The part of the mediator is given to iron. Iron plays the mediating role between the sphere within the boundary of the human skin and that outside this boundary. We may therefore maintain that the whole pulmonary system — “pulmonary man,” possessing the urge to become a whole man — is strongly linked with the whole human relationship to the universal life of nature. If we regard only what becomes visible in dissecting the body, we are taking for the whole what is only a part. The visible body is not the whole, it is that part of man which is opposed to extra-human agencies — to the operation of lead, tin, copper, and so forth, which are external to our bodies. Even if we look at the human organization only from the point of view of natural science, we must never regard man as bounded by the epidermis. We must take into account not only the workings acting from within outward, but also all these workings which give a general direction to his organic processes. That the latter play an important part may be realized in the light of the following facts.
You know that certain substances operate in the human organism simply through being bound up with either bases or acids; or appear, to use the technical term, neutrally in the form of salts. Thus bases and acids act as complexes of antagonistic forces, which neutralize each other in salts. But this is not all. How does this triad — acids, bases, and salts — operate within the human system of organic forces? We shall find that all bases have a tendency to support such human processes as begin in the mouth and continue through digestion, i.e., from front to rear; and indeed all other processes with the same line of action. And as the basic substances have to do with this direction, so the acids are equally associated with the reverse. Only in studying the opposition of “front man” to “rear man” does one understands the polar opposition of bases and acids. And saline substances stand at right angles to the two opposites, pointing vertically earthward. All processes directed from above downward centripetally are those into which the saline element thrusts itself. Thus we must keep these three spatial directions clearly in our minds if we seek to determine how man enters into the triad of bases, salts, and acids. Here again is an instance of the manner in which the purely external chemistry of metals is linked with the physiological through the observation of man, for here you see clearly the directive forces. Here, too, you have the whole relationship of salt nature to the earth, as well as the direction of basic and acid substances. We can summarize the whole thus. If we imagine the Earth's surface, the saline substances tend downward toward the Earth, and bases and acids tend to spin around the Earth in circles. And simply by learning something of the spatial directions of the organic functions we are in a position to intrench upon them. Here an essential curative measure is the external application of remedies, through friction, by means of ointments, and so forth. One must find out what operates in a certain direction after external application. Under certain conditions the vigorous action of mustard plasters, or of certain metallic ointments — suitably compounded, of course — is as effective for the whole organism as is internal treatment. But — as you will deduce from what has been put before you — we must be careful to choose the right method of application. For it is not at all the same whether the plaster or ointment is applied to this or that part of the body. It is essential to choose the spot of application so as to stimulate counteraction against injurious forces. It is not always the most efficacious way merely to put the remedy directly onto the seat of the pain or irritation.