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Course for Young Doctors

Young Doctors Course: Introduction

On-line since: 10th September, 2008

Introduction

The first specialized course for medical practitioners given by Rudolf Steiner took place at Easter, 1920. Several medical students also participated: Helene von Grunelius (18971936), Manfred von Kries (1899-1984), Henk and Madeleine [‘Maddy’] van Deventer (1888-1983). At an advanced age, Madeleine van Deventer wrote an article in which she recorded her memories: Die anthroposophisch-medizinische Bewegung in den verschiedenen Etappen ihrer Entwicklung [The Anthroposophical Medical Movement in its Various Stages of Development] (Arlesheim, 1982). The following material was taken from her article and also from Wer war Ita Wegman [Who was Ita Wegman] Volume I, by J. E. Zeylmans van Emmichoven, 1990.[1]

From the beginning, a number of medical students took part in the medical courses. [...] During the third course which took place in the autumn of 1922 in Stuttgart, there were about fifteen students. We often gathered in the cafés of Stuttgart. Intense conversations took place there. It had been clear to us for quite some time already, that although Rudolf Steiner's medical lectures satisfied our need for knowledge, they did not meet our humanity. We had repeatedly asked the physicians of the Stuttgart Clinic to request of Rudolf Steiner that he give other lectures to deal with the more human-moral aspect. The answer was: “We can't do that because we haven't yet fully understood the value of what he has already given us.” Where-upon we answered: “We can't wait for that. Who knows how long Rudolf Steiner will still be among us.” We knew, with that assurance which youth may have, that his time was measured, and that it would be unpardonable if he did not hear the questions which would enable him to deal with the more intimate aspect of medical work. When we realized that the path via the ‘older physicians’ led nowhere, we decided to appeal to Rudolf Steiner directly. So after discussing it amongst ourselves we decided to submit the following question at the end of the Stuttgart Course, during the time set aside for questions: “Is it not possible to show us students a way of becoming anthroposophical physicians even while we are still students?” The paper with the question on it was ignored by the discussion leader. It floated down under the table. Rudolf Steiner asked, “What is that note?” He was told, “It is a question from some students.” The only thing left to us was to turn to Rudolf Steiner directly. After the discussion we asked for a meeting with him and were asked to come the next day. Of the fifteen students, only four of us were present the next day (October 29, 1922) in front of Rudolf Steiner's apartment [...]

We brought forth our concern as well as we could. We said quite openly that we weren't able to do much with the lectures in this cycle; they seemed to us to be directed entirely toward the older physicians. We hoped to be able to understand more later, but for now we were unable to find our way there. We were searching more for what was human and moral. One of us mentioned medical school experiences. To get anything positive out of the negative aspects of university teaching, a high level of spiritual knowledge was already necessary. Another voiced the hope that there might be lectures concerning what was generally human with the subtheme of ‘Medicine’, just as there had recently been the Pedagogical Youth Course [The Younger Generation, GA 217] which had dealt with the generally human from the perspective of world history.

Rudolf Steiner listened intensely and then said: “If you want to form a humanitarian group of people, effective in the culture as the pedagogues want to be, that is a contradiction in terms. You see, for the pedagogues, the pedagogy itself could be completely absorbed in what is generally human. That is not possible in your case. You can gather either as a humanitarian group with general cultural tasks, or as medical practitioners and physicians. Both together cannot exist in this form. You may not forget the purely medical within the purely human. Also, the pedagogues are in quite a different situation: through their profession they have maintained a much stronger connection to the living human being, the child. Through their work they really cannot lose touch with the human being. But the academic medicine of today is entirely dead, has no connection at all to the human being and has no idea what happens when it concerns itself with a sick person.

In your case it is actually an entirely different matter. You feel in yourselves a vast abyss across which you have to find a bridge. You must find the bridge from the medical-scientific to that which is moral, loving. You see, if, for example, I speak of that which I call the warmth organization of the human being, then for the moment that is an abstraction for you. But you must find the bridge, so that you experience this warmth organization in such a way that out of the experience of this warmth differentiation in the individual organs, you find your way to what is morally-warm. We will have to arrive at the point where that which we call a ‘warm heart’ can be felt into the physical realm itself. You must find the way out of the scientific-physiological into the spiritual-moral and out of the spiritual-moral to the anatomical-physiological. Such a group of people, that have a ‘warm heart’ and who know right into the physical sphere how the ego in themselves works on the warmth organization, such a group will then be able to affect its surroundings out of much deeper warmth forces; it will be able, through these forces of love, which work into the physical realm, to affect the culture. On the other hand, if such people sink down, in spite of all, to the level of philistines, of narrow-mindedness, then it will become clear that sclerotic and other forces will become effective in a most radically destructive manner, much more destructive than for others!

Gather up fifty, sixty, seventy medical students who share your attitude, and bring them to me and I shall talk to you more of this. Naturally, they will have to be younger medical people, for you see, to the older ones, I really cannot speak of these things. But gather up fifty, sixty, seventy young medical students for me, they must be medical people, and young, of course not schematically according to age; for, indeed, there are old people, too, who are still young. Well, you understand what I mean, bring them to me and I will give a course for you to which one might give the theme: ‘The Humanizing of Medicine.’ ” (The quotations are unfortunately not exact. They were recorded later from memory.)

With that we were dismissed and the search for the young medical people began. [...] All inquiries flowed to Helene von Grunelius who carefully filtered and appraised them.

1923 saw several additional conversations with Rudolf Steiner in connection to our goals. I remember a meeting in the carpentry shop with Rudolf Steiner, Ita Wegman and the assistant physicians from the Clinic. Besides myself and my brother there must have been one or two other students there. The theme was Rudolf Steiner's indication that we ought to take a notebook and on the left hand side write what the professor says, or a good case history, while on the right hand side we were to transpose the medical symptoms into the language of the human sheaths. As an example, Rudolf Steiner gave the following: ‘The patient has edema of the lower half of the body’, would be transposed into: ‘Weak etheric in the lower half of the body’. It was advice which we did not follow enough, for we lacked confidence. [...]

Helene von Grunelius was, as van Deventer put it, ‘the soul’ of this group. That this was so can also be surmised from her invitation for medical students to the planned course which was to take place in Dornach in January, 1924:

 

Arlesheim, August, 1923

In the meantime you will have heard more about the incredibly significant lecture cycle held by Dr. Steiner from June 10 to 17, 1923, in Dornach [The Anthroposophical Movement, GA 258]. Through these lectures we anthroposophists should be moved to self-awareness. Why did we become members of the Anthroposophical Society, and are we conscious of the responsibility we have thereby taken on in relation to the spiritual world? If a society like the Anthroposophical Society is to be truly vital and capable of fulfilling its task in the world, then it must always follow a straight path toward its goals. That means that everything that is wanted and worked for in such a society must arise from the heart, the very center of Anthroposophy itself. Dr. Steiner emphasized this most particularly when he came to speak of the scientific tendencies which have sprung up within the anthroposophical movement in the last years. This is where our self-awareness must begin.

For a long time now, we younger physicians have felt that our medical movement is proceeding along a strongly intellectual track. We became particularly conscious of this during the medical course held in Stuttgart in October, 1922 [in Fundamentals of Anthroposophical Medicine, GA 314, Mercury Press]. With the exception of Dr. Steiner's lectures, these lectures, as regards the direction of their thoughts, might just as well have been given at any university. Inwardly, we rebelled against them because we perceived that the human being was not considered in his totality; warmth of heart and the pure will forces were ignored. We, however, really wanted to be able to stand within medicine as anthroposophists, meaning, as complete human beings. We perceived that all our medical work would get the proper impetus only if it arose directly out of the basic impulses of the anthroposophical movement.

We will find our way to true healing in the present time only if we really recall the core of what is anthroposophical. First of all, we must become conscious of our true humanity, and as physicians, especially of our will to heal. It is just Anthroposophy that gives us the possibility of acquiring those capacities which reveal the relation of every single thing in the outer world to the human being, so that we are then able to direct the forces of the outer world to the sick human being, so that they support his own forces of healing.

Another, no less important, task of the physician will be to accompany the human being as steady advisor, showing him how he can overcome the tendencies toward illness slumbering in him because of his onesided soul development, only by unfolding his entire human nature. For ruling the individual human being as well as all of contemporary culture are the destructive forces of the brain and of the intellect, striving toward decline. But if we want to be effective in the ascent of development we must develop in ourselves forces of the future, forces which will make us capable of true healing. We can only acquire perceptions of the human being which are necessary for such working by deepening our studies of the physical and chemical processes on the one hand, and on the other hand, by attempting to grasp, in a living way, the soul-spiritual in the other human being. Only then will we gain a real view of how these realms relate to each other in the human being. Then we will be able to see and to show how the soul-spiritual works into the physical structuring and differentiating, and how this physical in the human being can and must, in turn, be transformed into the soul-spiritual through the efficacy of moral impulses in the warm force of heart.

The task which we physicians must carry within the anthroposophical movement is so great, that only if we unite all our forces can we even attempt it. With the rebuilding of the Goetheanum, a new medical science must also be rebuilt, a humanizing of medicine.

If you would like to work with us in this way, please inform us in detail soon, so that we may begin our work together as soon as possible and meet during the fall or the Christmas holidays.[...]

On November 1, 1923, Helene von Grunelius wrote to her friend Madeleine van Deventer in Utrecht:

[...II was in Arlesheim from Friday evening until today (Thursday). I went there to inquire about the course, since we are now up to thirty-five people. After talking it over with Dr. Wegman, Dr. Steiner committed himself for eight days immediately after the Delegates Conference at Christmas (it will last from December 24 to January 1) in other words from January 2 to 9. I think this will be an opportune time for everyone. I gave him the list. He had no comment (about the names). Dr. Wegman thought he would consider it more closely in a few days, and comment on the individuals and ask questions. So he might cross people off the list if he has the impression that their attitude is not active enough and they're not really ready to follow through courageously on all he intends to bring (at least that's my impression). He expects total work from us. He said: initiative is necessary. There probably are individuals who have it, but it ought to come about that an entire group develops initiative. And that ought to be possible with a group of young people. Then he said how much the continuation and success of our work depends on its being spread in the outer world. We are now at a stage in the medical movement when it is mostly enthusiasm that can be effective, for we haven't much to show yet by way of success in healing.

[...] We can't say anything to the people yet about the course, because we have to wait to see whether Dr. Steiner will have anything to say about the list in the next few days. In any case, only people who have been invited by us or Dr. Steiner can take part in the course (we've already invited Steffen and Wachsmuth). If others ask us, we will say that we are not dealing with a 'medical course' but a particular study amongst a small group with Dr. Steiner. I gave my point of view about the Stuttgart physicians first and also mentioned how the medical conference in September had affected us, whereupon Dr. Steiner said: yes, they would actually be disturbing, if they were present. This judgment was very clear, as was the whole opinion he had of them, which wasn't exactly lofty. We agreed that we would not say anything about this statement, and if the Stuttgart physicians are insulted or complain, we, ourselves, will take the responsibility. I will try to prepare them as carefully as I can for the fact that we will not invite them to the course. [...]

Grunelius' unadorned language reflects the mood clearly. How things stood with those taking initiative for the first ‘Young Doctors' Course’ is evident. Their resistance to the older physicians was no doubt intensified by Dr. Steiner's remarks. On December 5, she wrote another letter to van Deventer with quotations from a letter of Ita Wegman's which show her attitude toward these students.

Dear Maddy, [...] Enclosed is the final (meaning, from our point of view, just about final) list. [...] Names underlined in red are those who have definitely committed themselves to the course. People responded very quickly and enthusiastically. [...] In the meantime, I did hear from Dr. Wegman. She says that, as regards the list, it is very difficult for her and also for Dr. Steiner, since both of them don't know all the people, to say whom they want and whom they don't want. Actually the organizers, meaning you and Maddy van Deventer, should choose the people, invite them and take responsibility for making sure that the people you have invited really understand what it's all about. [...] “What I gather from Dr. Steiner is that the emphasis of the course will be on the morally-human and the anthroposophical in medicine, in other words, mainly for those still studying, and for the young physicians, who, during their studies and the beginning of their practice did not find what they sought as satisfaction in their profession and their studies. So the main focus will be on this not-being-satisfied. Therefore, you must choose people who are really asking and seeking in this way. From what I can tell, not much by way of therapy will be given in this course.” [...]

By the way, we did not send a form letter, instead I wrote personally to everyone. In this case it surely was better and more effective. [...]

At the moment I am circulating the December, 1920 lectures [of December 17, 18 and 19 in GA 202, The Bridge between Universal Spirituality and Physical Man][2] and Hygiene [Health Care As a Social Issue, April 7, 1920 in GA 314][3] amongst the people, so that everyone will have read them by the time the course starts. [...]

Regarding The Bridge lectures [included in this volume] M. P. van Deventer has this to say:

In discussions between Helene von Grunelius and myself, we realized the significance of the lectures we had both heard in December 1920, which were later published and became known by the title The Bridge. The role of the warmth organization as mediator between soul and body appeared to us to be of fundamental significance. The Bridge lectures were available only in the Archives. However, upon being asked, Rudolf Steiner immediately gave us permission to duplicate and distribute them to all future participants for common preparation.

In late summer Rudolf Steiner asked me about the state of the preparations. In the course of the conversation he suddenly became very serious and requested that I tell him exactly what we really wanted. He demanded utter clarity of consciousness. I attempted to speak about the path which we already wanted to embark upon during our studies. I was too reticent, however, to speak about meditative practices. Afterwards I had the feeling as if I had failed an exam. I immediately wrote to Helene von Grunelius and asked her to go to Dornach as soon as possible and continue the discussion.

This continuation took place in late Fall 1923. Helene complained that it was impossible for her to follow the advice of keeping a notebook because she wouldn't know whether what she wrote on the right side was correct. Rudolf Steiner answered: “That doesn't matter. In the course of time you'll correct yourself; besides, you can send the notebooks to me. However, if you would like to gain greater certainty, I can give you a meditation.” Then he gave her the Warmth Meditation and told her that she could pass it on to all future participants. He himself would give it to Dr. Wegman. He called it a chain meditation (passed on from person to person by word of mouth), not a circle meditation. And he desribed it as the path of the physician towards beholding the Etheric Christ. [...]

In Dec. 1923 we could again report to Rudolf Steiner. By then we had unfortunately only found 30 participants. “Why shouldn't I speak to 30 people,” he said. As a date he gave us the week immediately following the Christmas Foundation meeting, beginning January 2. We wrote this to all participants and invited them at the same time to come already December 24 to participate in the Christmas Foundation meeting.

In this way, all were immediately united with the new stream which began with the new founding of the General Anthroposophical Society and the founding of the High School for Spiritual Science. The ‘Course for Young Doctors’ was thus the first event of the High School for Spiritual Science at the Goetheanurn in Dornach.

 

Notes:

1. The English translation of that book, and thus much of the text in this introduction, was done by Dorit Winter and has been published in 1994 by Mercury Press.

2. These three lectures are included in this book starting on p. 221.

3. Available from Mercury Press




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