Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Our Teeth; Diet and Nutrition; Spiritual Science and Medicine
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, April 6, 1920:
On the foundation of the material of the preceding lecture I must summarize some things calculated to throw light on the whole of what we considered and indeed to make it fruitful. Although all this can only be a preliminary outline, it is well that we are able to give two days to this study. In continuing yesterday's subject which referred to the development and retrogression of the teeth I want to put before you some facts which should throw light on man in the state of health and sickness. It is inadvisable to take such explanations on too materialistic lines; for we should really regard such external occurrence as, for instance, dental decay as the visible symptoms of a certain inner process; this process hides itself from external perception, but has consequences which are externally visible.
You will understand the whole process of dental formation if you view it in the light of other processes in mankind which appear quite remote; for instance, the phenomenon with which you are well acquainted but whose correct significance can only be judged in connection with tooth formation. Girls and young women have good teeth — and after their first confinement and childbirth their teeth are defective. This circumstance should help to explain the connection of toothache and defective teeth with the whole bodily constitution. There is another very interesting connection, between dental processes and the tendency to hæmorrhoids or piles; this also needs study. A study of these things proves that what has the most mineralizing effect in the body of man — for dental formation is our most mineralizing process — is also closely associated with the general process of organization and shows this association and interdependence in the human area most distant from the mouth and teeth. Here is a significant fact with regard the process of dental formation, which cannot be disputed. The completion of this dental formative process — the external cusp of the tooth which projects from the gums — is a region of the human frame which is given up to the external world as something mineral. Here the substance of the external layer (enamel) merges into the mineral world; nutritive processes are eliminated and a piece of inorganic substance is left. I indicated yesterday that the progressive development of dental structure is perhaps less important than the process of decomposition which accompanies the formation of the teeth throughout life. For on the one hand it must be admitted that at this pole of the organization at which the extremity of the tooth develops, the internal organization cannot contribute very much to the formative process. But we must not forget that this internal organization is closely involved in the destructive process, and therefore the more important and urgent question is how to retard the tendency in man to the destruction of this process. It would be a complete mistake to believe destruction and decay are purely the result of external injuries. My remarks yesterday on the function of fluorine in the formation of our teeth refer mainly to the period of childhood, in which the formative process takes place from inside toward the surface and is in its preparatory stage. For it prepares itself deep in the interior of the whole organism before the second teeth appear. This formative process of fluorine reaches its culminating point in a stable equilibrium — brought about in the substance on the surface of the teeth; the fluorine becomes fixed here to the substance and is, as it were, at rest. But this rest is disturbed by the regressive development of the teeth, which approach gradual decay. This is a subtle process, starting from the tooth and connected with a formative process caused by the fluorine extending throughout the body, and yet continued throughout the whole life of man.
What I have just maintained sets the stage for the whole prophylaxis of the condition. Now I could say something of this sort: a considerable part of what is included in the educational methods of our Waldorf School, besides other things promoting health, is the prevention of early dental decay in those who attend the school, for it is indeed remarkable that just in relation to the peripheral structures and processes very much depends upon the right education in childhood. It is regrettable that we are only able to work upon the child at a time — even at the Waldorf School — when it is somewhat too late for the prophylactic treatment necessary to dental formation; we ought to be able to start this work on younger children. However, as teeth do not appear all at once, but gradually, and the internal process is of longer duration, it is still possible to do something with children from six to seven years of age. Something — but certainly not enough. For it is advisable — as I have already emphasized — to ascertain the exact individual dental type. As soon as the first tooth makes its appearance of course it is possible to raise the objection that the dental formation is already prepared and that the crown of the tooth is perfected and only thrusts itself into the light. Yes, that is true, but it is possible to judge dental formative process from other indications than the teeth themselves. If a child of from four to six years old is clumsy and awkward with arms, hands, legs, and feet — or cannot adapt himself to a skillful use of his arms and legs and especially of his hands and feet — we shall find that he is inclined to an abnormal process of dental formation. The behavior of limbs and extremities reveals the same constitutional type as is shown in the dental formative process. Therefore a great influence is exercised on dental formation if we teach children as early as possible to run with dexterity, with intricate movements of the feet such as a kind of modified hopscotch in which the rear foot is brought with some force against the heel of the front foot, or similar exercises. If this is connected with an acquirement of skill in the fingers it will promote the tooth formation very considerably.
Go into our needlework classes and handicraft classes at the Waldorf School, and you will find the boys knit and crochet as well as the girls, and that they share these lessons together. Even the older boys are enthusiastic knitters. This is not the result of any fad or whim, but happens deliberately in order to make the fingers skillful and supple, in order to permeate the fingers with the soul. And to drive the soul into the fingers means to promote all the forces that go to build up sound teeth. It is no matter of indifference whether we let an indolent child sit about all day long, or make it move and run about; or whether we let a child be awkward and helpless with its hands, or train it to manual skill. Sins of omission in these matters bear fruit later in the early destruction of the teeth; of course sometimes in more pronounced forms, and sometimes in less, for there is great individual diversity, but they are bound to manifest themselves. In fact, the earlier we begin to train and discipline the child, on the lines indicated, the more we shall tend to slow down and counteract the process of dental decay. Any interference with dental processes is so difficult that we should carefully consider such measures even if they seem to be far-fetched.
Now this question is before me: How is fluorine absorbed into the organism — through the enamel, through the saliva, through the pulp, or by the blood channels?
Fluorine in itself is one of the formative processes of man and it is somewhat beside the mark to speculate about the precise manner of its absorption. As a rule, we need only consider the normal nutritive process of everyday, by which substances containing various fluorine compounds are incorporated. Now follow this normal process of nutrition, which distributes fluorine to the periphery in the directions and to the regions where it is to be deposited. It is important to know that fluorine is much more widely distributed than is generally supposed. Much is contained in plants of the most different varieties — that is, comparatively speaking, for very little is required by man. But the process of fluorine formation is present in plants, even when fluorine itself is not chemically demonstrable; we shall refer to this presently in greater detail. Indeed fluorine is always present in water, even in our drinking water, so there is no difficulty in getting at it. It is only a matter of our organism being so constructed as to master and perform the highly complicated process of fluorine absorption. In the customary terminology of medicine, one may say that fluorine is carried to its destination through the blood channels.
Then I come to the inquiry whether the enamel of the teeth still receives nutrition after the teeth have been cut. No, this is not the case, as may appear from what has already been stated. But something else takes place, to which I would now call your attention. It might be expressed as follows: from the standpoint of spiritual research, around the growing teeth there is a remarkable activity of the human etheric body which is freed from the physical organization or only loosely attached to it. This activity, which can be quite distinctly observed, forms as it were a constant etheric movement of organizing around the jaws. Such a free organization does not exist in the lower abdominal region; in that area it unites itself most closely with the physical organic activity, and thence arise the phenomena to which I have already referred. Thus, when there is a separation of the etheric body's activity from the physical organization, e.g., during pregnancy, immediately at the opposite pole of the organism pronounced changes in the teeth are brought about. Hæmorrhoids are another consequence of separation between the etheric and physical bodies, each “going their own way.” But the fact that in this extremity of the human frame the etheric body becomes independent implies that at the other pole the etheric body is drawn into the physical organization, and destructive processes come into operation. For all things which increase organic activities — as for instance in the normal way in pregnancy, and in the abnormal way in diseases — all things which are stimulants to healthy functions have on the other hand concurrent effects on the dental structure, where they work destructively. This is what should be especially noted.
What we do as an interplay between feet and hands is the macroscopic aspect of the fluorine workings. The constitution arising if the fingers and the legs become supple and skillful is the working of fluorine. This is fluorine — not what the atomistic theorists imagine, but what is made manifest on the surface of the human organism and is continued and extended inward. This internal continuance of the process at the periphery is the essence of fluorine working. But if the external fluorine workings are disturbed, then the complexity of the human organism requires us to supplement education with therapeutics. For we not only perceive the result of defective or mistaken education in the condition of the teeth, but also in the child's being awkward and helpless. In such cases we must bring prophylactic influences upon the organism, and it is very interesting that a regulative action on the preservation of the teeth may be possible — of course if it has not been started too late — by means of an aqueous extract from the husks of horse chestnuts; that is to say Æsculin extract, in very high dilution and administered by the mouth.
This is again an interesting connection. The juice of the horse chestnut contains something of the same principle as that which builds up our teeth. There is always some substance out in the macrocosm with an internal organizing effect. In Æsculin there is a force which ejects the “chemism” from the substance in which it is active. The chemism is so to speak rendered ineffective. If a beam of light is projected through a dilution of Æsculin, the chemical effect is obliterated. This obliteration is again perceptible if the aqueous dilution of Æsculin is taken internally; but note that it must be a very mild dilution and in a watery medium. Then it becomes evident that this overcoming of the chemism and trend toward pure mineralization are essentially the same as the organic process which builds up the teeth, only the obliteration in the external experiment is permeated still with the organizing forces which are inherent in the human organism.
In a similar direction, but by another method, we may use common chlorophyll. The same force that is localized in the husk of the horse chestnut and some other plants is also contained in chlorophyll, though in a somewhat different formation. But in order to use it we must try to extract as it were the chlorophyll in ether and use it not by internal dosage but externally as a salve for the lower part of the body. If we rub the lower abdomen with etherized chlorophyll we shall produce the same effect on the preservation of the teeth, indirectly, through the whole organism, as is produced by the oral administration of Æsculin. These are things which need to be tested and which would certainly make a great impression on the general public if their statistical results could be made available. If the whole pulp of the tooth is “dead,” an attempt should be made to adapt the whole organism to the absorption of fluorine. This is no longer a matter of mere dental treatment.
So you see how greatly dental treatment — in so far as dental treatment is still practicable — is related to all the growth-forces of the human organism. For what I have explained with reference to Æsculin and chlorophyll leads to the recognition of forces connected with very delicate processes of growth-processes tending toward mineralization. The fact is that mankind has to pay for its higher evolution in the direction of the spirit with a retrogressive development of the formative teeth process. And phylo-genetically the same is true: compared with the process of dental formation in the animals, our human process is one of retrogression. But it is not singular in that respect; this character of retrogression in the formation of the teeth is only one of many others in the organization of the human head.
With this we have reached forms of thought which may be of great importance for our judgment of the whole process of dental formation. More insight will still be attained when we add some other facts which form a basis for it. I shall therefore include here a section which may not seem immediately to the point, for it will treat of questions of diet — which are, however, closely related to our present theme.
Questions of diet are so important because they have social as well as medicinal implications. One may spend endless time in discussing whether the dietetic rules of Mazdaznan or other special schools and creeds have any justification or significance. But in all the arguments pro and con, and the prescriptions which are given in these schools, we must admit that a person is treated as an unsocial being. But social problems combine with medical. The more we are compelled or advised to have some extra kind of food, something special to ourselves alone — and not only in matters of food but in things from the external world — the more unsocial we become. The significance of the Last Supper lies in this: not that Christ gave something special to each of his disciples, but that He gave the same to all. The mere possibility of being together with others, as we eat or drink, has a great social value, and all that might tend to repress this healthy natural tendency should — if I may say so — be treated with caution. If man be left alone in individual isolation, not only as regards conscious processes but also in all organic activities, he develops all manner of appetites, and anti-appetites. Attention to these individual appetites and anti-appetites need not be given the importance usually bestowed. I am speaking now with reference to the whole constitution. If a man has become able to endure something naturally distasteful to him — that is to say, if an anti-appetite (in the wider sense, speaking of the whole organization) has been conquered, then that person has gained more for the efficiency of his organization than the constant avoidance of what is antipathetic. The conquest of something distasteful means the reconstruction of an organ which has been ruined or, in relation to the etheric, is a new organ; and this in no symbolic sense, but in fact. The organic formative force consists in nothing less than the conquest of antipathies. To gratify appetites beyond a certain limit is not to serve and strengthen our organs but to hypertrophize them and bring about their degeneration. To go too far in yielding to the antipathies of the organism causes profound damage to the whole organization — while on the other hand gradually to accustom a man to that which seems unsuitable to him always strengthens the constitution.
Almost everything we need to know in this division of our subject has been covered over by our modern natural science. For the external principle of the struggle for existence and natural selection is really purely external. Roux has even extended these concepts to the strife of the organs within man. But that too is really quite external. Such a principle can only become significant if what happens internally is actually observed and recorded. The strengthening, however, of a human organ, especially an organ in the phylogenetic line, always results from the overcoming of an antipathy. The formation, the actual organic structure, is due to the conquest of antipathies, whereas the continued growth of an organ already in being is due to indulgence in sympathies.
But there is, of course, a definite limit. Sympathy and antipathy are not only on the tongue and in the eye, but the whole body vibrates through and through with sympathies and antipathies; every organ has its special sympathies and antipathies. An organ can develop antipathy to the very forces that built and formed it at a certain stage. It owes its upbuilding to the very thing to which it becomes antipathetic when it is completed. This leads us deeper into the phylogenetic realm; it leads us to take into account how the influence of the external world provokes an antipathetic reaction from inside; there is an internal resistance — a discharge, so to speak, of antipathy. But by this very reaction the progressive perfection of the organization is brought about. In the realm of the organism he succeeds best in the struggle for existence who is best able to conquer inner antipathies and to replace them by organs. This conquest is part of the process of further development of the organs.
When we consider this aspect we are offered an important clue for the further estimate of actual dosage of remedies. You see in the process of organ formation itself a continuous oscillation between sympathy and antipathy. The genesis of the bodily constitution is dependent on the production of sympathy and antipathy, and their interplay. Moreover, smaller dosages of substances used pharmaceutically have the same relation to highly potentized dosages as sympathy has to antipathy in the human organism. High potency has the opposite effect from low potency. That is bound up with the whole organizing force. And in a certain sense it is also true that factors with a definite action on the organism in the early periods of life turn their effect into the opposite in later periods — but these effects in the organism can be shifted out of place. On this displacement is based on the one hand dementia precox, as I have already stated, and, on the other, the formation of isolated “soul provinces” which at a later period of life wrongfully encroach on the organization.
These matters will only be viewed aright if our science itself becomes somewhat spiritualized and we reach the stage of ceasing to try to cure so-called mental disorders by way of the spirit and the soul, but ask ourselves: Where is the organic disorder or inadequacy as this or that so-called mental or soul-sickness becomes apparent? And vice versa — however strange this may sound — in a sickness of a so-called physical kind there is even more need to examine the conditions of the soul than in a case of sickness of the soul itself. In the latter class, the phenomena exhibited by the soul help little beyond the diagnosis. We must study these soul phenomena in order to guess where the organic defect can lie. The Ancients have provided for this in their terminology. It was not without purpose that these men of old time connected the picture of that mental disorder "hypochondria" with a name that sounds wholly materialistic: the bony or cartilaginous character of the abdomen. They would never have sought for the primary cause of the psychological unbalance — even when the hypochondria develops to actual insanity — anywhere except in some sickness of the lower bodily sphere. We must of course progress to the point of being able to regard all so-called material things as spiritual. We suffer severely today simply because materialism is the continuation of medieval Catholic asceticism in the region of thought. This asceticism despised nature, and sought to attain to spiritual realms by an attitude of condemnation. Those who hold the modern world conception have extracted from the ascetic point of view just what they find convenient, and have no doubt that all the processes of the lower abdomen are crudely material and need not be seriously considered. But the truth is very different: the spirit works in all these things — and we need to know just how the spirit works there. If I bring the spirit which works within the organism together with the spirit acting in some external object or substance, the two spiritual forces collaborate. We must cease to despise nature, and learn again to regard to the whole external world as permeated with the spirit. For is it not an arresting symptom — and one of great value for the whole reform of medical thinking — that just at the high tide of materialism there has arisen the custom of using hypnotic and other forms of suggestion in treating abnormal conditions in the individual? Things which seem at the opposite pole to materialism have come into favor in the materialistic age, when people had lost the possibility of learning the spiritual aspects of quicksilver, of antimony, of silver, and of gold. That is the crux of the matter: the loss of the power to learn about the spirit of material things; and from this loss arises the attempt to treat spiritual ailments as spiritual only, just as in the psychoanalytic doctrines, where it is attempted to direct the spirit as such. Sound views must again prevail on the subject of the spiritual attributes of matter.
It is one of the chief services of the nineteenth century to have held alive this acknowledgment of the spiritual permeation of external material things. One of the most important services; for external medicine of the allopathic school has unfortunately tended more and more to believe that one is only concerned with material — i.e., external-material effects and processes — in the “extra-human” substances. Today, on the one hand, in the diagnosis of so-called physical disorders, attention should be given to the state of the soul, and on the other, i.e., in abnormal soul states, the physical disturbances should be examined. Physical sicknesses should always prompt the inquiry: “What is the temperament of the person in whom they appear?” Suppose we find the sufferer is of a hypochondriacal nature: that alone should be an indication for treatment of the lower organic sphere with materially effective remedies, that is with low potencies. If we find that, apart from the illness, the patient is of an active mind or “sanguine,” it will be necessary to use high potencies from the outset of treatment. In short, the state of the soul is something that needs study and coordination when we consider bodily sickness. The total constitution of the soul is, up to a certain point, already obvious in the child: dementia præcox will not easily supervene if the child does not exhibit a phlegmatic disposition — that is to say the temperamental tendency appropriate to a much later stage in life, and then only to a limited degree. But still more important is it to recognize the disposition to inner activity or inner passivity. Only consider: if we work through so-called psychic treatment by means of suggestion, we are placing the human being wholly in the sphere of influence of another. We repress his activity. But suppression of activity and of inner initiative gives rise to something even in outer life which is important for the whole course of life. It appears externally in childhood and reacts on the whole dental condition, in later years as well. We shall deal further with this subject tomorrow.
Now I can come to the conclusion that for myself as an individual it is necessary to avoid certain foodstuffs, and to partake of others; I can choose a certain diet for myself — and it is important to bear this in mind, following what has already been said regarding the choice of food. And that diet can do me much good. But there is a very appreciable difference according to whether I adopt this diet as a result of individual experiment or simply accept what the doctor prescribes for me. Please do not take offense at this rather blunt statement. For the materialistic approach it may well seem a matter of indifference, and equally beneficial, whether the diet that suits me has been instinctively chosen by myself, has been worked out experimentally by myself — perhaps at the physician's suggestion, but with individual initiative — or else has been prescribed for me by a physician. The ultimate result is seen in the fact that the diet prescribed by the physician will be of benefit in the beginning, but will have the disadvantage of leading in old age to mental degeneration more easily than would be the case with an active collaboration in questions of diet; this helps to keep the mind active and mobile into old age — of course, other factors play their part. The interplay of activity and passivity is much impaired in all “treatments by suggestion,” for such treatments imply not only giving up judgment and doing what another prescribes, but also even the direction of the will itself. The guidances and impact on the will should only be employed in cases where we can assure ourselves that the impairment is not an injury to the person in question, because of other factors — and in fact that it is doing them a greater service to treat them for a while on “suggestive” lines. In general, however, spiritual science finds it necessary to emphasize the healing elements and effects in the material substances, in the atmospheric conditions, and in the movements and functions of the human organism itself — in short in all that cannot be termed spiritual influence proper, but must proceed actively from the consciousness or subconsciousness with the initiative of the patient himself. All these considerations are so crucial because they are the most of all sinned against in the age of materialism, and because the prevalent attitude has been so infectious as to have extended to pedagogy, where we may already experience the terrible abuse of all manner of hypnotic and suggestive tendencies. Their introduction into pedagogy is of appalling augury; and perhaps one will only be able to see clearly in this direction by answering the question: What is the effect of such exercises on the human organism as stimulate it to an awakening, instead of lulling into sleep? Just as when man falls asleep, movements are carried out in his imagination which are not followed by the will, just as the sleeper sinks into repose so far as the external world is concerned, while his consciousness is in motion, so the exact opposite occurs in the case of Eurythmy. In Eurythmy the reverse of the sleep condition is brought about: the consciousness awakens more vividly, as compared to its usual state. The hypertrophies of imagination typical of the dream are dispersed, and in their stead a sound and vigorous current of volition is sent through the limbs. The organized will is driven into the limbs. Study the different effects of Eurythmic vowel forming on the lower and the upper human being respectively, and then again observe the effect of Eurythmic formation of consonants on the upper and lower man, and you will realize that we may also seek a valuable therapeutic element in Eurythmy itself.