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Spiritual Science and Medicine
Lecture II

Schmidt Number: S-4039

On-line since: 10th March, 2000


LET US now continue our inquiry on the lines already laid down, and attempt to elucidate the nature of man by observing certain Polarities governing the human organism. Yesterday we found ourselves obliged to combine the weighing down forces found in the animal with certain vertical forces to form a parallelogram, and to consider an analogous phenomenon in the chemical reactions of the muscle. If these ideas are followed up in the study of the bone and muscular system and are supported by all the resources of practical experience, we might make Osteology and Muscular Pathology of greater value for medicine than has hitherto been the case. Special difficulties arise, however, if we try to connect the knowledge of man with the needs of medicine today, in our consideration of the heart. What in Osteology and Myology is only a slight defect becomes an evident defect in Cardiology. For, what is the common belief about the nature of the human heart? It is regarded as a kind of Pump, to send the blood into the various organs. There have been intricate mechanical analogies, in explanation of the heart's action — analogies totally at variance with embryology, be it noted! — but no one has begun to doubt the mechanical explanation, or to test it, at least in orthodox scientific circles.

My outline of the subjects for consideration in the next few days will afford piecemeal proof of my general point of view. The most important fact about the heart is that its activity is not a cause but an effect. You will understand this if you consider the polarity between all the organic activities centering round nutrition, digestion, absorption into the blood, and so on: follow, passing upwards through the human frame, the process of digestion up to the interaction between the blood that has absorbed the food, and the breathing that receives air. An unbiased observation will show a certain contrast and opposition between the process of respiration and the process of digestion.

Something is seeking for equipoise; it is as though there were an urge towards mutual saturation. Other words, of course, could be chosen for description, but we shall understand each other more and more. There is an interaction in the first place between the liquefied foodstuffs and the air absorbed into the organism by breathing. This process is intricate and worth attention. There is an interplay of forces, and each force before reaching the point of interplay accumulates in the heart. The heart originates as a “damming up” organ (Stauorgan) between the lower activities of the organism, the intake and working up of food, and the upper activities, the lowest of which is the respiratory. A damming up organ is inserted and its action is therefore a product of the interplay between the liquefied foodstuffs and the air absorbed from the outside. All that can be observed in the heart must be looked upon as an effect, not a cause, as a mechanical effect, to begin with. The only hopeful investigations on these lines, so far, have been those of Dr. Karl Schmidt, an Austrian medical man, practising in North Styria, who published a contribution to the Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift (1892, No. 15), “The Heart Action and Curve of the Pulse.” The content of this article is comparatively small, but it proves that his medical practice had enlightened the author on the fact that the heart in no way resembled the ordinary pump but rather must be considered a dam-like organ. Schmidt compares cardiac action to that of the hydraulic ram, set in motion by the currents. This is the kernel of truth in his work. But we need not stop short at the mechanical aspect if we consider the heart action as a result of these symbolic inter-penetrating currents, the watery and the airy. For what is the heart after all? It is a sense organ, and even if its sensory function is not directly present in the consciousness, if its processes are subconscious, nevertheless it serves to enable the “upper” activities to feel and perceive the “lower.” As you perceive external colours through your eyes, so do you perceive, dimly and subconsciously through your heart, what goes on in the lower abdomen. The heart is an organ for inner perception.

The polarity in man is only comprehensible if we know that his structure is a dual one and that the upper portion perceives the lower. The following too must be considered: the lower functions — one pole of the whole human being — are considered through the study of nutrition and digestion in the widest sense, up to their interaction with respiration The interaction goes on in a rhythmic activity; we shall have to consider the significance of our rhythmic system later. But linked up with and belonging to the respiratory activity there is the sensory and nervous activity, which includes all that appertains to external perception and its continuation and its being worked up in the nervous activity. Thus, respiration and sensory and nervous activity form one pole of the human organism. Nutrition, digestion, and metabolism in its usual sense, form the other pole of our organisation. The heart is primarily that organ whose perceptible motion expresses the equilibrium between the upper and lower processes; in relation to the soul (or perhaps more accurately in the sub-conscious) it is the perceptive organ that mediates between these two poles of the total human organisation. Anatomy, physiology, biology can all be studied in the light of this principle; and thus light is thrown, and only thus, upon the human organisation. As long as you do not differentiate between these two poles, superior and inferior, and their mediator the heart, you will not be able to understand man, for there is a fundamental difference between the two groups of functional activity in man, according to whether they pertain to the upper or the lower polarity.