Saturday, May 21, 2016
Our human constitution and the external world. Spiritual Science and Medicine, lecture 20 of 20
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, April 9, 1920:
If the study of medicine is to be continued in a way that gives benefit to mankind, a place must be found for what I have tried to indicate in these chapters: the “thinking together” of the whole human organism, in both sickness and health, with the forces, substances, and processes in the external world. Only thus can a bridge be built between the trend of natural science, which becomes more and more exclusively diagnostic, and the attempt to provide therapeutic methods and preparations. In order, however, to do this successfully, we must first acquire a general view and conception of man, must illuminate him, as it were, through spiritual science, from the point where man as he is today stands in a certain relation to the outside world. This relation is most highly evolved in the interplay of the external senses with the environment and they have relatively little to do with the internal physical processes of our bodies, as for instance the sense activities of the eye. But as soon as we enter the domain of the lower senses such as smell and taste, we at once perceive how what is external in man connects itself inwardly with the surrounding world. For up to a certain point, man's digestion is nothing but a transformation and continuation of sense-activity. Up to the point where the foodstuffs are passed from the intestinal process to the action of lymph and blood formation, all that occurs is fundamentally a metamorphosis of sense-activity, which is the more organic in its manifestations the lower its evolutionary grade. So that up to the point I have denoted, we must recognize that the digestive process is a continuation of the sense of taste.
Now, if such a fact were estimated at its true value, the ground would be prepared first of all for a whole system of dietetics, and then for the recognition of wholesome and necessary methods of treatment in this region. Gradually, too, we should be able to recognize injuries and impairments there. Consider, for instance, the following fact. Follow the operation of, for example, ammoniac salt on the human organism. The adherent of current natural science will say that salts of ammonia, if administered in the form of salmiac, act primarily on what such current theory obliges him to call the muscular motoric nervous system of the heart.
But this whole nervous system which is supposed to be motoric is an absurdity. As I have sufficiently emphasized, there is no difference between the sensory and the motor nerves. The whole conception of such a distinction is absurd. The matter in question is entirely different. So long as the ammoniac salts retain their efficacy — let us say within the area of the body between the processes of taste and of blood formation — there is also a continuous process of taste in the interior of the organism. This continued process of taste is at the same time a process in the astral body and releases a reflex action in that body, which is manifested in perspiration. If you can accept the whole of the earlier stages of our digestive activities as a continued process of taste, you will see right into the very core of the sebaceous process, and to some extent of the urinary excretion as well. For let me ask you to consider this: if we observe the main activity of this area, we find that essentially it has to do with an absorption of foodstuffs taken into the body secretion of the organism. That is the essence of what happens. All the processes in question reduce themselves — more or less — to this dissolving effect of the bodily fluids upon the foodstuffs. And this dissolving process has its counter-process, which consists in the special activities of the liver and the spleen. Thus in our earlier discussions the hepatic and splenetic activities had to be associated, in the main, with aqueous and fluid activities. But, in contrast to the dissolving effect in the first region of the digestive process, the liver's action operates as encapsulation, encirclement, and re-transformation of what has been done in the first part of the digestive process. One may obtain a picture of what happens if one looks at the effect produced by throwing a handful of salt into warm water. The salt disperses and dissolves — this is an image of the action in the digestive tract, until the foodstuffs are absorbed into the blood vessels and lymph channels. Now let me place beside the salt and water some little globules of quicksilver, with their imperative urge to roundness, to completion, to organizing and shaping. This is an image of the action which begins after the absorption of foodstuffs into the blood and lymph channels, and is controlled from the liver, with its close association with man's astral body.
We must look into the processes of life from this standpoint. For then we pass naturally to the study of the external world as revealed, for instance, in the structure of salt and of mercury formation respectively. We can read from the facts of the external world the gist of what must happen within the organism. But man must always be observed in connection with this external world.
Now follow further these ammoniacal salts; and note that if they pass into the formation of the blood, they have an alkalizing effect. They have gone far enough on their appointed path to extend their operation into the upper human sphere from the lower, and to provoke reactions in that upper sphere. The significant fact here is, however, the complete reversal of processes that takes place. What happens may be stated as follows. The upper sphere in man is normally urged to act through sense perception in the lower digestive tracts, that is, to perceive through the sense of taste; but now the whole process is reversed — the lower sphere inclines more toward conscious perception, and the upper inclines toward that which works upon perception. The result is that whereas formerly there was a reflex action that I have characterized as proceeding from the astral body, there is now a reflex action from below, that is to say, of an action which originates in the upper sphere. So that — to use a technical term — the ciliary epithelia, for instance, vibrate more rapidly and the pulmonary secretion increases. There is a reversed action. At first, the dissolving process stimulates the liver's activity, and then, through this encapsulating hepatic activity, the dissolving operation of the region above the liver — namely of the lungs — is called into action, with the secretion of the upper organs instead of the dissolution in the lower. That is the path in the human organism: from the intake of the substance, through dissolution or liquefaction, through saline processes, to formative processes and, concurrently, the processes of dispersal, which are comparable to combustion and evaporation. Now let us think on the one hand of drops of quicksilver, and boiling liquid on the other, in constant evaporation, giving forth steam — which we might term phosphoric-sulphurous action, a process in which, as it were, inorganic matter is kindled. Then one has the activity developed in the opposite group of organs, that is to say in the lower sphere — but also in all that is associated with the lungs in the upper man.
If we have grasped the main currents of this internal activity, we have the key to what it can incorporate from the external world. If you will call to mind our very recent lectures, you will realize that all the stages of dental formation are a very peripheral activity of the human organism. They soon, therefore, become wholly external, tending to mineralization, as has been pointed out. I hope this term will not be misunderstood; there has been, I think, some misinterpretation. I said that because the process of dental formation is so extremely peripheral, it is justifiable to use external technique, including the mechanics of dentistry because other forms of external help are impracticable, if the trend to mineralization has gone too far, and the teeth are decaying. In such cases, it is only possible to apply mechanical treatment to what has mineralized externally. And mechanics here include all manner of dental repairs. Such external aid is necessary and justifiable if the teeth have become defective beyond the point at which they can no longer get what they need from within. But care must be taken of the supply from within of this process of fluorine formation, which the whole organism also needs. When the teeth cannot carry out their fluorine activity, a substitute must be created for the process of fluorine in the organism. The replacement can be supplied in a certain way, but we must duly consider the reversal process — which has just been outlined.
What is the reality of this whole emergence of the teeth? It is nothing less than a movement of the mineralizing process from within outward. When the second teeth are all through the gums, this pushing outward of the mineralization has reached completion. It is opposed by the process of sexualization, which drives from outside inwards; and these two opposite processes act and counteract one another, as in a rhythm. In the same measure as the process of dentition becomes complete, the process of sexualization proceeds apace at the opposite pole. And in recognizing this you will also become aware of another process directed inward and backward, and also a polar opposite to dental formation and function, and actually closely associated with it: namely the peristaltic motion of the intestines. Here, then, are two intimately connected processes. Thus all that appertains to intestinal peristalsis is closely associated with what on the other hand builds up the teeth. This peristaltic movement is inwardly connected with the utilization of fluorine in the human organism. It may be said that whenever the intestinal peristalsis proceeds more rapidly and with greater vigor than is consonant with the individual's constitution, there is a reactive effect detrimental to the teeth, and especially to all the normal function of fluorine in the human organism. So it will be necessary in cases where the teeth are extremely defective, for the dentist to suggest a slackening of the whole intestinal function. This may be done externally by prescribing rest, should this be practicable for the patient, or by the administration of sedatives to the digestion, thus diminishing the vigor of the intestinal movements somewhat, though not to any great extent.
The regulation of these functions is of special significance; it is promoted by means of the limb exercises which I have already mentioned These exercises follow regular rules and apply to arms, hands, legs, and feet. Especially beneficial is the control of movement through eurythmy — because eurythmy permeates movements with soul. If however the gymnastic exercises lie too much in the merely physiological realm, the pendulum swings too far on the other side and the results may easily be the reverse of what is desired. This is the reason why, for example, the excessive amount of ordinary dance movements that many young girls are expected to undergo may react harmfully on dental formation, and why one need not ask why girls who dance so much have, as a rule, more defective teeth than boys. The point is that dancing should not be exaggerated and should be permeated with soul. And what of the hands? The movements proper to knitting and crochet work can be and often are performed to excess, and in such cases we find results diametrically opposed to the benefits which a sound employment of this handicraft can bring to mankind.
Thus even in the sphere of mechanical, ostensible movement there is a reversal of processes. In the first place the dental process is a reversal of the digestive. Moreover the human power of locomotion, of forward movement from place to place in the external world, is a reversal of the movement interiorized in the process of digestion. It means very much for the constitutional health of mankind that man moves forward but that the digestive processes are mainly directed from front to rear. This is extremely important, and it is possible to do something for the alleviation of inert digestive processes by accustoming the patient to practice walking backward, as a form of gymnastics. There will be a stimulating effect on the function in question. Such empirical observations, based on collections of case notes, become coherent and unite into an understandable totality if we turn the light of spiritual science upon the whole constitution of man.
Another point may be brought to your attention. There is no doubt whatever of the remarkable effect of nux vomica on man. On what does the action of nux vomica depend? Let us observe its action under special circumstances, and we shall have a glimpse into its inherent operations. Study the effect of an administration of nux vomica in what is known as a “hangover”: this will give you the key to its effect. There is a real reversal of all human organic activity under the after-effects of alcohol. For a hangover is the continuation of a process which is vividly at work in the upper digestive tract. It occurs if the natural internal activities following indulgence in wine, beer, or champagne, which are normal up to the incorporation of these substances in the formation of blood and lymph, pass the boundary line and affect these latter processes. If that occurs, the regions of the human organism which have as their proper office the liquefaction and dissolution are changed into a kind of sense organ, and instead of the man turning his main sense attention and activity to the world without, and communicating with that external world and all the phenomena of earth, he is obliged through the damage done by drinking to perceive his own interior. For his own organism now contains processes strongly resembling those of the whole external world. Beyond the intestinal activities, into the very lymph and blood activity, there has been inserted an internal replica of the Earth's processes, an external world in miniature, an external world within the organism. The man thus makes himself inwardly into an external world, and most painfully and unpleasantly perceives inside himself that which does not disturb in the least if perceived in the external environment. For the human interior is not adapted to become an Earth in miniature, but should withdraw from the Earth's processes. The man, however, in such conditions makes a little Earth in his own interior; something which would be far better placed if it could be removed outside into full observation and surrounded with the apparatus of sense perception. He is now, however, compelled to perceive and receive sensation by means of an interior, so to speak, “turned inside out.”
Nux vomica counteracts all these phenomena, by suppressing the sensitivity to this artificially external-internal state, until natural recuperation asserts itself, which is generally soon after excessive alcoholic indulgences. By suppressing this sensitivity, the interiorized external process is not disturbed; and nux vomica has a healthy effect, by modifying and reducing the continuation of the metamorphosed process of taste. When much modified, this metamorphosed process of taste no longer acts disturbingly on what lies beyond it. Thus some measure of cure is brought about.
Now, assume that the exact contrary occurs. Instead of an enhancement of the continued process of taste — namely of liquefaction — the process is weakened, so that the food substances are insufficiently dissolved. Assume the following: instead of the liquefaction of food-intake at the normal rate and amount, and instead of the food being taken up into the saline process, the interior of man proves too weak to carry this through. In this case the upper digestive tract works in the same way as though nux vomica were administered; it operates by itself, with the help of another process; and the insufficiently dissolved foodstuffs will try to adapt themselves to this change. They cannot pass over the boundary between the activity that causes taste and the activity that builds up the blood, and they therefore seek an outlet in the opposite direction. Thus that condition arises which can be combated by quickening the dissolving process, whereas it is slowed down through the effect of nux vomica. And all that seeks the wrong outlet may be combated by administering thuya. There you have the polar opposition between nux vomica and thuya, developed out of the functions of human nature itself. This is another proof of the need to regard constantly the totality of the human constitution, for these inherent polarities of the human organism are of inestimable significance.
All the activities whose trend is to force the processes of the lower organic sphere of mankind into the upper are enhanced during sleep. It is necessary to take great care in describing sleep. Sleep is indeed one of the best of remedies, but only if employed to the right amount, neither too much nor too little, so that it suits the particular human individuality. Too much more sleep than the individual in question can sustain is not curative, but toxic. During a too long spell of sleep, the internal barrier to which reference has been made lets through a continuous infiltration: too much passes through from the first digestive area into the region of blood and lymph formation. Man is exposed to this danger quite generally; the lower organic sphere is in a permanent state of sleep, so that man is always in danger of harmful effects on the blood through the processes of the lower organic sphere. But man also carries the antidote to this toxic process, an antidote proportioned to the normal conditions of our organism. The normal human organism tends to auto-intoxication through sleep; but this tendency is counterpoised and held in leash through the iron content of the blood. For iron is first and foremost the metal of most importance to the interior of man. Iron operates so as to restore the balance in case of an excessive impact of the first process on the other. Just as diseases can be understood through the deficiency in the blood, from the points just emphasized, you will have a curative effect on the organism if you administer iron in much diluted form, so that it is truly akin to the continuous homeopathizing process of the upper human sphere; you will help the organism to master the disturbing processes which pass upward from below. The other essential metallic processes of importance to man are, as you have seen, replaced by our human functions themselves.
In this connection I want once more briefly to recapitulate the conclusions to be drawn from the whole spirit of these lectures. Today we have again referred to the blood and lymph formative processes in man. This activity is polar to what arises in the mineralizing process in the case of copper. There is thus an affinity between these processes and the metal copper. We must clearly realize that these processes belong to the lower organic sphere, although in its uppermost portion, and that the affinity with copper is such as to constitute a powerful attraction toward the copper-forming force itself as we find it upon the Earth. For all that appertains to the lower organic sphere in man has kinship with the telluric processes. Therefore if we aim at influencing that region by the administration of copper, we should make it a golden rule to administer copper here in low potencies, so that its action resembles that in the telluric sphere, and of course not in doses large enough to cause harm.
A similar kinship as between the inner process of blood and lymph formation and copper is present between all processes leading the outer digestive process into the internal metabolism that forms blood and lymph, with the liver on the one hand and the metal mercury on the other. Just as the former process has affinity to copper, so the other process is akin to quicksilver or mercury. But we must remember the spherical qualities — i.e., the rounded and balancing qualities — of quicksilver; it is therefore linked up with the interactions between these two processes. But the processes which man must unfold in order that not too much digestive matter should pass into the blood, and which are activated by the effects of nux vomica and combated by the effects of thuya, are in their turn regulated by the forces of silver.
Thus we have the field clear before us, and are in a position to examine external nature according to these constituents, conceiving it, so to say, as a human being spread out and displayed, so that we are able to fit man into the environment, whether in health or disease; for the lower organic sphere is in particularly close connection with the environment. The processes which ascend from the lower to the upper sphere in man through their kinship with the forces of copper are regulated and balanced by copper's opponent: iron. Thus iron is an absolute necessity for man; there must always be a surplus of ferrous processes, to use a chemical term. All other metallic processes are present within us as processes: mankind is as it were a sevenfold metal. Iron alone is within us in its typical iron state; the other metals are only present as processes.
Just as all that collaborates with blood and lymph formation in our organs is akin to copper, so all that opens outward from lungs to larynx, with its starting point in the lungs, is akin to iron. Furthermore, the regions associated with those portions of the brain which serve internal functions, which in fact are more similar to the digestive activity of the brain, and correspond alternately with the transitional processes from the intestines to the channels of lymph and blood — these are allied with the processes that form tin. These tin-formative processes have the effect, so to speak, of ensouling and regulating the digestive functions in the particular tracts and stages mentioned. Finally, all that is more connected with the nerve fibers, and the organs of the upper human sphere that may be regarded as continuations of the senses, have lead as their affinity; and this also corresponds to the liquid secretions or excretions, whether sebaceous or urinary.
Such are the affinities and correspondences illuminating the nature of man, and at the same time indicating how we can extract remedial effects from counter-processes in the substances of the external world. But we must keep one point quite clearly in our minds. Spiritual science must point out particularly that so-called “mental diseases” in many respects have their main seat in the bodily organs, while, concurrently, “organic diseases” are closely interwoven with spiritual and soul factors. This is a chapter of peculiar difficulty. The materialism of today explores and handles so-called physical sickness on wholly chemical or mechanical lines, treating man more or less as an apparatus. At the same time, in its diagnosis of so-called mental sickness, it is reduced to a mere description of psychical symptoms, because this contemporary materialism has lost any comprehensive view of the connection between the soul and spiritual nature on the one hand and the bodily and physical nature on the other.
This close association reveals itself particularly if we study concrete cases of the interplay between the soul state and the bodily health condition. Let us inquire into what promotes mental diseases. If an individual falls ill, subjective symptoms appear at first — pains, unusual sensations, etc. These manifestations, which are most conspicuous in acute cases and change their nature if the condition becomes chronic, are the initial actions of the soul and spirit in response to any organic injury; soul and spirit withdraw from the organ in question. The pain that is felt is the retirement or withdrawal of ego and astral body from the physical and etheric bodies. This process may coincide with a withdrawal of the etheric body from the physical, but the main and essential origin of pain is located in the ego and astral body. As a rule the ego is still strong enough to be aware of the whole subjective counter-process, the conscious counter-process, of what happens in the bodily organs. If an illness becomes chronic, the process gradually falls away from the ego, so to speak, and as a result the soul's processes are restricted to the astral body, and the ego no longer shares in the sufferings of the astral together with the etheric body. And so organic disease may become chronic, the acute condition become permanent. Here we have to do with soul symptoms that withdraw from consciousness. If we are to become symptomatologists we must go below the surface in man. Instead of asking the patients how they feel, and where they suffer pain, we should inquire whether they sleep well and are ready for work. That is to say, in chronic states of illness we must look for symptoms in conditions which cover greater spaces of time and are related to man's general development, whereas in acute illnesses we may consider momentary subjective sensations as significant. In chronic cases we should have more regard to the whole course of the life in question than to the individual clinical symptoms.
Ordinary physical illness of chronic type arises if the whole morbid condition can be so retained in some organ that the astral and etheric bodies can both take their due share of the organic effects and contribute as much force to the parts in question as is necessary. The patient may be of an individual constitution able to endure an irregular function of the astral body working through the etheric into the organ affected. If such is the case, and the patient is able to bear such abnormal operation of the astral body on the liver, for instance, and to carry it beyond a certain critical point so that, as it were, the liver ceases to feel that the astral body operates abnormally, the organ recovers, but at the cost of habituation to abnormal and irregular action of the astral body. If such action goes on long enough, it begins to choose the other way into the soul sphere: what the liver should take up into the physical body is shifted into the soul region, and we have the symptoms of depression. Thus, if the man surmounts chronic illness beyond a certain point of abnormal relation with the astral body, a disposition has been established toward so-called mental disease.
To regard the subject in this light would bring us further than the mere pathological description. There is much talk today of the irregular course of concepts, of the irregular course of the action of the will, and so forth. But so long as science does not know how the remarkable collaboration of liver, spleen, and other abdominal organs actually support what finally emerges in its highest soul form as the human will, so long will it fail to discover the relevant physical correspondence for pathography. It should be possible to introduce the physical treatment in so-called mental cases. It seems indeed paradoxical that it should be left for spiritual science to advocate physical treatment for so-called mental diseases and to emphasize the importance of the soul as a factor in the cure of bodily ills. But this apparent paradox is due to the powerful antithesis between the upper and lower spheres in man. With this reversal is connected what happens if the sensory activity set in train from outside becomes an internal sensory activity, as in the continued process of taste, mentioned above; or again, as in cases where what is within discharges itself externally through the vibration of the ciliary epithelia, or in the tendency to such epithelia vibration. In the interactions of the upper and lower bodily spheres lies a clue which can show the way to certain results, if it be read aright.
Now, my friends, I have tried to put many considerations on many subjects before you in these twenty lectures. Before I began the course I told myself, in viewing all the subject matter, that it would be a difficult thing to do — for where could one begin? If one were to start with the elementary facts, it would be impossible to get very far in the allotted space and time; no farther, in fact, than would furnish a guide, or a rough guiding thread. If, on the other hand, one starts at the apex, so to speak, with purely occult facts, it becomes almost impossible to build any bridge to the medical science of today. This would require even more time for explanation and argument. And indeed, wherever the far-reaching ravages of materialism have been recognized today, one also sees the need to counteract these injuries from another approach. I beg of you to take what I say in the most friendly spirit, and not as propaganda or as ex parte statements. I do not wish to “take sides,” but simply to put before you the facts as they really are. One thing alone may and must be stated: in reviewing contemporary medicine of the allopathic school, we become aware of one inevitable consequence of that path, namely, the tendency to judge the sick person according to certain by-effects of the disease, as exemplified in the bacterial theory: the diversion to secondary issues. If bacteriology were treated as an aid on the way to knowledge, it would be of great service; much may be learnt from the specific types of micro-organisms regarding the illness in question, for each specific kind of bacillus appears under the influence of quite definite primary causes. There is always opportunity for verifying this. But this pronounced tendency to take what is secondary for what is primary and basic — as shown, for instance, in the investigation of the effects of bacteria on the separate human organs instead of the study of the totality of the human organism as a potential soil for bacteria — is an error which not only makes its appearance in the accepted bacteriology of allopathic medicine, but lies implicit in the whole attitude and point of view. In this way harm is done which it would be superfluous to enumerate in detail, as you will have had ample occasion to perceive it for yourselves.
On the other hand, however, I must ask you to forgive me if I point out that a scrutiny of homeopathic medicine does not always furnish satisfactory results. True, homeopathy attempts to handle the human being as a whole; it forms a comprehensive picture of all the symptoms, and attempts to build a bridge to therapy. But the professional literature of homeopathy brings to light something else calling for comment. At first glance one is almost in despair, for especially in the therapeutic literature we find the remedies enumerated one after another and each recommended for an entire legion of illnesses. It is never easy to discover specific indications from the literature, for everything is beneficial for so very much! I will admit that for the present, perhaps, this is unavoidable. But it is also a source of danger. And this danger can only be avoided if we proceed as we have sought to do here, even if on elementary lines, and by indications rather than in detail. Therefore I have selected elementary facts as the content of these lectures, and not — so to speak — the very summit of the finished structure. This can only be remedied if through such an inner study of human and extra-human nature one ascends to the narrowing of the compass of a medicinal remedy, to its delimitation. But this can only come about if we not only study the effects of a remedy on both the sick and the healthy, but gradually endeavor to view the whole universe as an integral unity, and man as involved in it. For example — as I tried to show yesterday — we should trace the whole antimonizing process, in order to learn the effects of antimony in the external world, and to correlate these results with the effects of antimony within the human interior. Through this method, certain circumscribed areas — so to speak — are defined in the external world, which then have their interconnections with man.
Such were the reasons why I put the elementary considerations into the foreground of these twenty lectures. Nature therapy, since it instinctively tries to revive in man the remedial forces contained in himself, makes it necessary to point out the true origin of these forces. Their true basis and origin is the interaction of the telluric with the extra-telluric sphere. And nature therapy must above all avoid drifting into materialism; for we have come to such a pass today that every party program, so to speak, has a materialistic tendency. This is a feature common to all of them. And thus there is an urgent need for a spiritualization of this whole field. The world of today, however, very much opposes these things. It is in fact essential that the cure for materialism should appear in the very field of medicine represented by experts and specialists. For what has been attempted here and is perhaps even now in its first stage of development must not be confused with any furtherance of dilettantism. I attach the greatest importance to the cooperation of those who are able to testify to our effort to work on proper scientific lines: to their cooperation and support in fighting the very harmful prejudice against us on the score of encouraging dilettantism in any direction. We have already availed ourselves of all the achievements of modern science and taken them into account. There is but little desire, however, to see our actual aims and intentions.
This is the note on which this series of lectures can fitly close. It may induce you to regard the series with all indulgence as a beginning, an introduction; and, in the outset of this introduction, as I said to myself, it was indeed hard, for the reasons already recapitulated, to know where best to begin. But now, my friends, that we have reached the end of this beginning, I confess that it is harder still to conclude. Yes, indeed, not to tell you all that there is yet to say is more painful still.