Saturday, April 22, 2017
Our kinship to the world of nature
Spiritual Science and Medicine. Lecture 9 of 20.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, March 29, 1920:
We discussed yesterday what may be termed the approximation of the human organism to the external world. One can see in the interplay between the two senses of smell and taste how human nature enters into a closer connection with the occurrences of extra-human nature. We make these investigations because it is important for spiritual science to coordinate remedial methods and human organic processes, as closely as possible. In healing, the main consideration is always the correct perception of the particular factors contained in what we apply to the body, whether by chemical, physiological, or purely physical measures; and which factors are contained in the healthy functions of the organism and are missing in the morbid state. One must “think together” both processes, that external to, and that within, the human organism.
These two processes approach most nearly in the perception of taste and smell. In all that concerns the remaining senses, they lie further apart. For example there is considerable distance within the human body between seeing and digestion — even using “digestion” in the more limited sense of what goes on between the chewing of the food within the mouth and its being worked up by the glandular activities in the intestines. The remaining region of the digestive apparatus I comprise within elimination, which may occur within the body (by absorption), and evacuation, which disposes externally of waste matter. The functions which occur below the great glands I would classify under the heading of elimination.
The sense of sight perceives those external objects which as it were lock up in themselves what comes to the surface in smell and taste. It is that element in the process of smell which leaves the extra-human nature in order to become perceptible to man. In other cases, this element locks itself up in the substance, and then we look at it from outside. If we contemplate the forms of visible things we have before us externally the formative principle which in the olfactory process reveals itself in substance only. I would even suggest that you follow up the phenomena revealed in smell, not only into the vegetable world but into the mineral kingdom as well. You will find that the same basic principle as appears in smell is at work in the formative processes outside us. Its polar opposite is the digestive process. This latter appropriates as it were the elements revealed to our sense of taste — and hides, secretes within our bodies, what is thus revealed in taste. It is significant that we have hitherto had to describe extra-human nature as being almost wholly situated in the unconscious region. True, the connections with the whole universe are present in man: man is related to Saturn, Jupiter, etc.; but the relations are concealed in the depths of our organization. At the risk of offending current modes of thought, I would suggest that the astronomical affiliations form the most deeply unconscious region in man: they are transmuted into the most secluded of his organic processes.
But we have also organs that open in a way our human organism from within, and thus bring man into relationship with what happens at a certain nearness to our Earth's surface — that is to say, into relationship with the meteorological world, in its widest meaning. And if we do not limit our healing efforts to mere substances with curative properties, but extend them to tracing the curative processes, we must include within our purview the relationships of man to the meteorological processes — again in the widest sense of the term.
We are already able to distinguish what is associated mainly with the astronomical world from what is associated mainly with the meteorological world, in our organism. This distinction, to be sure, needs a more delicate method of observation. At first, no doubt, these statements may shock your preconceptions, but I hope to convince you in time that the classification above mentioned is the best of foundations for curative treatment. As a general rule we find that the organs which open to the meteorological sphere are those farthest from the surface and most deeply internal. The chief among them is the liver, and all the vesicular structures, especially represented by the bladder itself, the bladder being extremely important pathologically, even one of the most important of our attributes for pathological purposes. Another member of this group is the lung, which opens externally in order to mediate breathing. Then again, we must include the heart in this group, and if you have correctly interpreted much that has been said in our previous lectures, you will easily understand this fact. And indeed all these organs are associated with special meteorological impulses. We can study them in detail only by going thoroughly into the problems of the human relationship to the world without, and especially into the connection of the human activities with the world environment.
I would urgently suggest that you make a thorough effort to trace back all the cases of cardiac lesions brought to your consulting rooms, to disturbance of human activity. Definite investigations should be made into the differences — and they are considerable — between the heart action of, for instance, a peasant, who cultivates his bit of land, and has very few occasions for getting away from it, and the heart action of persons whose profession implies a good deal of motoring or at least a good deal of railway travel. It would be of utmost interest to obtain adequate comparative data on this topic. For you will find the tendency to cardiac complaints mainly dependent on the sedentary immobility of the person who, while thus sitting still, is carried forward by forces outside himself, whether in a railway carriage or a motorcar. This passive abandonment to motion is the cause which as it were deforms all processes dammed up in the heart.
All this acting and reacting between man and the external world is dependent on the manner in which he develops warmth. Here you see the relationship of the heart's activity with the impulse of warmth in the world belong to man; and you conclude that if enough warmth is generated by man through his own activity, the sufficient amount of warmth developed in the process of life is itself the measure of the soundness of the human heart. Therefore it is important for the treatment of cardiac cases to provoke spontaneous movements that are fully permeated with life and soul. I am convinced that after perhaps no more than fifteen years have gone by, people will think more clearly and justly in these matters than they do today. They will say “It is certainly curious that cardiac cases have acquired sound heart action through the practice of eurythmy!” For eurythmic practice mainly regulates the spontaneous movements permeated with soul, and even according to law. So it is perhaps permissible to mention these truly remedial exercises derived from eurythmy (curative eurhythmy) in the treatment of all irregularities of the cardiac functions.
Now let us turn to all the manifestations of sub-normal vesicular action in man. What I am about to suggest may appear somewhat amateurish, but it is not so; it is built on foundations more scientific than what passes for science today. The bladder is mainly an organ of traction or suction; I might say that its operation is that of a cavity vacuum in the body: it draws in or sucks. Its function really depends on our organism being hollowed out in this very region; its action on the rest of the organism is exactly that of a gas globe in a vessel of water. If you have a gas globe — that is, a sphere containing a thinned-out substance — surrounded on all sides by water, a substance of greater density, the effect proceeding from this globe of tenuous substance is similar to that of the bladder on the human organism. This is why the essential functions of the bladder are disturbed in persons who have not the opportunity to perform their internal movements sufficiently — persons who, for example, do not take sufficient care to chew their food properly, who gulp it down instead of masticating it, thus unduly overtaxing the whole apparatus of digestion; or who do not take care to secure the proper mixture of movement with rest during the digestive process itself, and so forth. All that impedes the interior mobility also impedes and injures what might be termed the functional life of the bladder. Is it not the nature of man to accept and even try some form of movement permeated with soul if you prescribe for “heart trouble” — but he is unwilling to accept suggestions for regulating internal movements. You will, however, at once succeed with a patient who is not inclined to give the body the necessary rest and who devours his food and disturbs his digestion in some other way, if you cure him “meteorologically,” — i.e., by bringing him into an atmosphere richer in oxygen, so that his respiration becomes quicker and deeper and he must give more (though unconscious) care to the breathing process. This quickening and regulating of respiration passes over into regulation of the other organic processes, and you will find that “change of air” (whether by artificial means or, better still, by natural ones) into a more highly oxygenated atmosphere causes a certain improvement in cases of bladder disturbance, simply through this change of life habits.
Most important is the third organ, the liver, which is linked up with the external meteorological conditions in the widest sense. Although apparently secluded within the organism, the liver is in a high degree correlated to the world outside. A proof of this is the dependence of the liver's health and activity on the special quality of the water in a given locality. In order to comprehend the exact state of liver health of any local group of persons, the composition of the local water ought to be studied.
The activity of taste is beneficial to the healthy development of the liver, but if indulged to excess, degeneracy follows. Degeneracy of the liver is synonymous with too gross and too constant feeding. The internal enjoyment of taste, the prolongation within of sensations which should be limited to tongue and palate — whether the sensations be pleasant and attractive, or repelling — leads to degeneration of the liver. Therefore one should try, in the case of liver disturbances (which are often difficult to find out), to induce patients to cultivate the sense of taste, and try to distinguish flavors as such, and appreciate them. Of course there will be considerable difficulties in the thorough study of the relationship between the functional life of the human liver and the composition of the water in any particular locality; for the dependence is extremely subtle, and it must be borne in mind that in districts with a water supply full of lime, e.g., the whole life of the liver will differ from that of districts with water poorer in lime. It would be well to pay heed to these factors, noting that the functions of the liver are promoted by water from which the lime has been withheld. Of course, the ways and means to carry this out must be found.
And again, the lung and its life are closely connected with the conditions set up by the geology and geography of the given locality. There is a great difference according to whether the soil is mainly limestone, as here in Dornach, or siliceous, as in the mountains of “old rock”; that is to say, the lungs are essentially dependent on the earthy and solid structure of the region in question. One of the first tasks of any medical man beginning practice is to study the geology of his district thoroughly; for such study is identical with the study of its inhabitants' lungs. And it should be fully realized that almost the most unfavorable case is when the lung is totally unable to adapt itself to the environment.
Do not misunderstand the view just stated. I refer to the actual internal structure of the lung; I do not mean the function of breathing, although this function is, of course, in its turn affected by the adequate or defective structure of the lung. We are dealing with the dependence of the inner lung structure on environment; whether the lungs tend to encrustation (hardening) or to becoming mucoid (slimy) is mainly due to the nature of the environment. Moreover the lungs are peculiarly dependent on corporeal exertion, and are certainly injured in persons who are obliged to do physical work to exhaustion.
These are the relationships which lead us to the dependences of such organs which, as lungs, liver, bladder, and heart, open themselves to the influences of the “meteorological sphere.” Curative treatments of illness in any of this organic group should therefore be sought by “physical” methods. [Ed: i.e., open air, light, warmth, etc.] For the results in such cases are — I would say — in certain respects permanent. It is the greatest of services to a patient with weak lungs, and resident in an unsuitable district, to induce him to change his abode and move to a district which suits him more. Indeed those organs situated above the lungs are often helped in an extraordinary manner by complete change of locality and manner of life. Change of district and daily habit can do comparatively little to relieve morbid conditions in the sphere from the heart downward, but they are extraordinarily beneficial to the lungs and all that is situated above them. It must only be kept in mind that all functions in the organism are interdependent, and that one must find out whether or not a hidden interplay may be at work. For instance, we may find degeneration of the cardiac vessels: then we have to inquire whether there may not be a tendency to degeneration of lung in the same subject, and whether the cardiac symptoms should not be treated from the aspect of the pulmonary condition.
These are at least hints as to the meteorological dependencies of man. Behind the meteorological sphere, as it were behind a screen, there is hidden the astronomical domain in the external world as well as in the interior of man The distinctions here are as follows: the meteorological sphere within us comprises that which appertains to lungs, liver, bladder, and heart; in the external world, it comprises the solid earth and the realms of air, water, and warmth. Behind and beyond this region lie the formative processes in the plant and mineral realms; and to these formative processes — which are so closely akin to the extra-telluric, i.e. the astronomical domain — there is a polar opposite in man, viz., the organs situated more deeply within our body than the four systems of organs mentioned above. As the relation of the processes in plant and mineral to what lies behind lung, liver, etc., is not so obvious, the study of the healing processes in this realm becomes far more difficult. The rational path of investigation is the clear comprehension of man's organic tendency to perform and produce, somewhere, the exact opposite to the happenings of external nature.
Take, as a concrete instance, the processes proper to silicic acid (silicon). These processes are especially conspicuous wherever silicates are being formed, as quartz or similar minerals. They have their counterpart within the human organism. And it is these processes which extend their work to certain occurrences (which receive far too little attention at present) within the soil, between the arable soil and the siliceous element in the earth, on the one hand, and those plant organs which grip the earth: the roots. Again all the substances derived from the ashes of plants are closely related to the siliceous process outside ourselves.
This external siliceous process has its counterpart within us; namely in those organs situated — if I may so express myself — above the cardiac activity toward the pulmonary. I mean the inner organic formative activity which moulds the lungs and is directed upward toward the head region. In this formative activity that takes place above the heart we find the polarity to the formation of silicates in external nature. The particular internal organic process consists essentially in producing a high degree of homeopathic distribution — to use this term again — of the external siliceous process.
Suppose you are in charge of a case in which all the symptoms point to the seat of disease as situated above the heart — one of the obvious symptoms would be profuse secretion from the lungs, and meningitis is an equally pronounced indication. The results may be all sorts of other morbid manifestations in the body: for pulmonary disturbances act upon disturbances of the cardiac vessels, since everything in the organism is interdependent. Those disturbances which involve a tendency to inflammatory states of the brain may not manifest directly but can reappear in inflammatory conditions in the digestive apparatus or its ancillary organs, and it is all important to be able to locate the origin of all these symptoms; we shall have to deal with this in later discussions. In all such cases we must introduce something which disperses and dilutes the action of the external siliceous processes to the highest degree. This particular connection is extremely significant and characteristic, proving the necessity of transforming the siliceous process, which plays one of the leading roles in external nature, by dispersing, dividing, and triturating, in cases of marked symptoms in the upper portion of the body. But suppose we find injuries and morbid symptoms produced by organic interaction in the lower parts — as, e.g., in the heart itself? Then benefit may be derived from introducing the process already transformed by such plants as are rich in silicates, either by directly using the plant substance or through a further preparation of it. In all plants rich in silicates, careful investigation should be made to determine their effect on all the processes of our organism below the heart — those processes having, of course, their repercussions on the upper part as well.
The complete opposite of silicon formation is contained is all that we will term the process of carbon dioxide formation in external nature. The two are in certain respects true polarities. Therefore it is so necessary to follow up the carbon dioxide process in curative treatment of all cases of the opposite disturbance to that just dealt with, namely in everything connected with digestion or having its starting point in the digestive system. All carbon dioxide preparations have remarkable remedial success in this class of illness, especially if used in the form moulded by nature: namely, straight from the plants.
Here a certain connection must be kept in mind. Consider for a moment the substances with their characteristics of taste and smell: smell points to the outside visible world, taste to the hidden depth of the organism. Then examine the digestive process from this point of view and you will find that at the beginning of digestion, the substances merge together; they mingle and mix. But as the organic process goes on we are engaged in separating what again had been mixed; there is a renewed division, not so much of substances as of processes. This renewed division after merging and mixing is an outstanding task of the organism. First there is the principal bifurcation of excretion, on the one side through the bowels and on the other side in liquid form, as urine.
This bifurcation brings us to the consideration of an organic system which has more than any other to be approached by medical intuition in curing: this is the kidney system, with its remarkable ramifications which extend also to its special processes. We shall deal with these later on. Here I would only remind you of the interrelationship, already mentioned in these discussions, between intestinal evacuation or excretion and the activities in the head. There is a similar interrelationship between urinary excretion and all the processes that take place around the heart, in the cardiac system. The formative process of intestinal evacuation is, in effect, a human copy of the siliceous process, and the process of urine formation is a copy of the carbonic acid process. Such connections are able to build the bridge from the process happening in the healthy individual to the process in the unhealthy. Herewith we have laid special stress on the relation of the processes proper. But they must not be viewed in isolation. And we shall see that it is only through mastery of these correspondences and relationships that we can arrive at a proper use of what Dr. Sch. recently described in his extraordinarily illuminating address [Ed: A lecture delivered by a medical man attending Dr. Steiner's course.] as the Law of Similarity.
This Law of Similarity contains something very significant. But the Law must be constructed upon all the elements obtained by the taking heed of the relationships we are about to ascertain. For behind all the interactions to which reference has been made there lies the connection between man and the realm of metals. If we speak on the one hand of the silicon principle as the force which forms us, and of the carbonic acid principle as the force that dissolves us — this perpetual tendency to mould and to dissolve represents the process of life. In contemplating the formative forces of silicon we must not forget that the regions of our body most akin to silicon are those related to all the metallic group comprising lead, tin, and iron, and thus related for reasons already indicated in previous lectures. Indeed we may say that in considering the region from the heart upwards we must consider the workings in the human being of the silicon process on the one hand and of what is at work from the part of the metals lead, tin, and iron on the other. The iron forces are connected preferably with the formative process of the lungs, those associated with tin with the formative principle of the head, and those associated with lead with the formative principle localized in the bony skeleton. For the formation and the growth of the bones are determined from the upper organic sphere, and not from the lower.
Furthermore, one has to learn how to weigh the cooperating factors, e.g., how to blend a remedy containing silicates with a metal which must bear a resemblance to the three metals aforesaid: iron, tin, and lead. In treating the lower organic sphere, on the other hand, one must keep in mind the affinity with copper, quicksilver, and silver, and in applying carbonic acid processes we must consider how to combine in some way either these metals themselves, or those of similar nature, with processes yielding carbonic acid.
In this way we build the bridge between what is of metallic nature in the terrestrial sphere (conditioned by extra-terrestrial forces) and what is of non-metallic, rock-forming nature; just as we combine what is formed under the control of the carbonic acid principle and what is formed under the influence of the silicon forming principle. Thus we gradually become able to grasp concretely in external nature the substances which we have to introduce into the human organism in order to heal in a particular case.
Again, it should always be borne in mind that all substances working to a lesser extent on the lower senses — as, e.g., taste and smell — and thus not advertising their nature, so to speak, loudly and conspicuously, can for that very reason be effective in very strong dilutions, whereas much weaker dilutions are advisable where the substance proclaims its inner nature insistently to taste and smell. Substances of powerful odor and flavor are often excellent medicinally, without any additions or combinations, especially if their healing effect is not counteracted by the habitual diet of the patient concerned. We must only clearly understand what is the point in the curative effect.
Before we can penetrate still more into these matters, let us realize that every one of the senses in man has fine shades of differentiation, and that the best material for tests to ascertain the reactions here is the human being. Of course it is difficult to ascertain reactions to substances with no perceptible taste or smell. But may I draw your attention here to the possibilities of self-education — a form of self-education of great value for medical smell especially — which consists in developing possible capacities of sensation which may give a sensory response even to, for instance, the process of silicon formation in external nature. Consider that there must be a meaning in the fact that quartz exhibits very regular crystal formations, and at the same time that this mineral and its allies, so regular in their formations, tend nevertheless to the widest possible variety of crystallization, for there is immense diversity in the crystals of all the silicates. He who can grasp these things can also perceive the action of a dispersing element in the possibility of all these different formations. There must of course be a fundamental dispersive force if there is the potentiality of such structural diversity as external nature reveals in the silicates. This is an indication for the therapeutic use of silicates in a “scattered” form. It is desirable to develop a capacity of sensation in these matters; such a sense will lead to a certain valuation concerning remedies. On the other hand, man must educate himself to become a suitable reactive instrument, and acquire sensory capacities for the fact, for example, that the odors have a sevenfold classification just as the color sensations. We have only to acquire the sense of difference between the sweet smell, the pungent smell, and so forth to discover seven main nuances of smells, and the same is equally true of flavors. Moreover, if we acquire the power to differentiate all the odors in this olfactory scale — or olfactory spectrum, if it may be so termed — we educate ourselves in the perception, e.g., of all the manifestations of burning and combustible substances. We penetrate into their essential nature. We shall see tomorrow how this can be done. If we also cultivate our capacity of taste and can perceive the difference between the faintest degrees of sweetness and of saltiness in flavors — and all the five shades between — we grow akin to the salt-forming forces in external nature. And if we acquire this inner kinship we also get a direct sensation from the natural sensory impression as to which sphere or portion of the human organism this or that substance will benefit. Although the base must be careful and exact scientific investigations, it is most important that those scientific results should be accompanied by subjective perceptual experience, so as to develop a certain intimate feeling of kinship to the world of nature.