Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib
An Outline of Anthroposophical Medical Research
On-line since: 8th February 2007
ABRIDGED REPORT OF TWO LECTURES
WHATEVER may arise in course of time from
anthroposophy, in regard to
the sphere of medical knowledge, it will not be found to be in any
disagreement whatsoever with that which is understood to-day as the
orthodox scientific study of medicine. It is easy, in looking at the
question from the scientific standpoint, to be deceived about this,
because from the outset it is supposed that any study which is not
founded upon so-called exact proof, must be of the nature of
sectarianism, and cannot therefore be taken seriously by the
For this reason it is necessary to remark that it is just that point
of view which seeks to support medicine upon an anthroposophical
basis, which is the most appreciative of, and the most sympathetic
towards all that is best and greatest in modern medical achievements.
There cannot therefore be any question that the following statements
are merely the polemics of dilettantism, or unprofessionalism, leveled
against recognised methods of healing. The whole question turns solely
upon the fact that during the last few centuries our entire
world-conception has assumed a form which is limited by investigation
only into those things which can be confirmed by the senses
either by means of experiment, or by direct observation and
which are then brought into relation with one another through those
powers of human reasoning which rely upon the testimony of the senses
This method of research was nevertheless entirely justifiable during
several hundred years, because if it had been otherwise, mankind would
have become immersed in a world of dreams and fantasies, would have
been forced to a capricious acceptance of things, and to a barren
weaving of hypotheses.
That is connected with the fact that man, as he lives in the world
between birth and death, is a being who cannot truly know himself by
means of his physical senses and his reason alone because he is
just as much a spiritual as a physical being.
So that when we come to speak of man in health and in disease we can
do no less than ask ourselves: Is it possible to gain a knowledge of
health and disease only by those methods of research which
concern the physical body; purely with the assistance of the senses
and the reason, or by the use of instruments which extend the
faculties of the senses and enable us to carry out experiments?
We shall find that a real, unprejudiced, historical retrospect shows
us that the knowledge which mankind has gained originated from
something totally different from these mere sense-observations. There
lies behind us an immense development of our spiritual life, no less
than of our physical.
Some three thousand years ago, during the flowering of the most
ancient Greek culture, there existed schools that were very different
from those of to-day. The basis of these ancient schools consisted in
the belief that man had first of all to develop new faculties in his
soul before he could become capable of attaining to true knowledge
Now it was just because, in these ancient times, the more primitive
soul-faculties did not incline towards the fantastic, that it was
possible to experience, in the so-called mysteries, the spiritual
foundations from which all forms of learning arose.
This state of things came to an end more or less contemporaneously
with the founding of our Universities during the twelfth,
thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. Since that time we learn only in
a rationalistic way. Rationalism leads on the one hand to keen logic,
and on the other hand to pure materialism.
During the course of centuries a vast store of external knowledge has
been accumulated in the domain of biology, physiology, and other
branches of research which are introductory to the study of medicine;
indeed an amazing mass of observations, out of which an almost
immeasurable amount may yet be obtained!
But during these centuries all knowledge connected with man which
could not be gained without spiritual vision, sank completely out of
It has therefore become actually impossible to investigate the true
nature of health and disease.
In order to emphasise this remark, I may mention that even at the
present time (according to the descriptions given in my
[ Knowledge of the Higher Worlds,
An Outline Of Occult Science,
etc. e.Ed ] )
it is possible so to raise the faculties of the
soul that the spiritual nature of man may be clearly distinguished
from the physical, This spiritual part of man is, for the spiritual
observer, just as visible as the physical part is for the man who
observes with his outer senses; with this difference, however, that
our ordinary senses have been and are incorporated into our bodily
organism without our co-operation, whereas we must ourselves
develop the organs of spiritual sight.
This can be brought about if one unfolds within oneself an earnest
life of thought. Such a state of living, of resting in quietude
in thought must, however, be carried out so as to bring about a
methodical education and transformation of the soul. If one can, so to
say, experiment for a time with one's own soul, allowing it to rest
within an easily grasped thought, at the same time permitting neither
any traces of auto-suggestion nor any diminution of consciousness to
arise, and if one in this way exercises the soul as one would exercise
a muscle, then the soul grows strong. Methodically, one pursues the
exercises further and further; the soul grows stronger, grows
powerful, and becomes capable of sight.
The first thing that it sees is that the human being actually does not
consist merely of physical body, which can be investigated either with
the naked eye or with a microscope, and so forth, but that he also
bears an etheric body. This is not to be confused with that which, in
earlier scientific times, was somewhat amateurishly described as
vital forces. It is something that can really be perceived
and observed; and if I were to distinguish qualitatively between the
physical body and the etheric body, I should choose, out of all the
innumerable qualitative distinctions that exist, the following:
The physical body of man is subject to the laws of gravity; it tends
to be drawn earthward. The etheric body tends to be drawn towards the
periphery of the universe; that is to say, outwards, in all
directions. As a rule, our investigations are concerned with the
relative weight of things, but that part of the human organism which
possesses weight is the direct opposite of that which not only has no
weight but which strives to escape from the laws of gravitation. We
have in us these two opposing forces.
This is the first of our super-physical bodies. We may say, then, that
we have within us first of all the physical man, whose orientation is
centripetal and tends earthwards, and another man, whose orientation
is centrifugal and tends to leave the earth. It will be seen that a
balance must be maintained between these two configurations of the
human being between the heavy physical body, which is subject
to the laws of gravity, and the other, the etheric body, which strives
outwards towards the farthest limits of the universe.
The etheric body seeks, as it were, to imitate, to be an image of the
whole Cosmos; but the physical body rounds it off, and keeps it within
its own limits.
Therefore, by contemplating the state of balance between the physical
body and the etheric body, our perception of the nature of the human
being becomes real and penetrating. Once we have succeeded in
recognising these outward-streaming centrifugal forces in man, we
shall be able to perceive them also in the vegetable kingdom. The
mineral kingdom alone appears purely physical to us. In it we can
trace no centrifugal forces. Minerals are subject to the laws of
gravity. But in the case of plants we recognise their outer form as
being the result of the two forces. At the same time it becomes
apparent to us that we cannot remain at this point in our
investigations if we wish to observe anything that is higher in the
scale of organic life than the plants. The plant has its etheric body;
the animal, when we observe it, possesses life, and also sensation. It
creates, inwardly, a world; this fact arrests our attention, and we see
that we must make yet deeper researches. Hence we realise that we must
develop our ordinary state of consciousness still further.
Already, as I have shown, a certain stage will have been reached when
we are able to see not merely the physical body of man, but the
physical body embedded within the etheric body, as though in a
kind of cloud. But that is not all; the more we strengthen our souls,
the more we find greater and greater reality in our thoughts, and it
then becomes possible to arrive at a further stage, which consists in
suppressing these strong thoughts which have been made so powerful by
our own efforts.
In ordinary life if we blot out by degrees our faculties of sight, of
hearing, of sensation, and of thinking we fall asleep. That is
an experiment which may easily be carried out. But if one has
strengthened the soul in the manner described by the training of
thought, of the whole of one's life of concept and feeling, then one
can actually learn to suppress the life of the senses. One then
arrives at a condition where, above all things, one is not asleep but
is very much awake. Indeed, it may even be that one has to guard
against losing the power to sleep, while one is striving to reach this
condition. If, however, one sets to work in the way I have indicated
in my books, every precaution is taken to prevent any disturbances in
the ordinary life.
One succeeds then in being completely awake, though one cannot hear as
one hears with the ears. The ordinary memory, too, and ordinary
thinking cease. One confronts the world with a perfectly empty but
perfectly waking consciousness. And then one sees the third
human organism the astral.
Animals also possess this astral organism. In man it bestows the
possibility of unfolding a real inner life of experience. Now this is
something which is connected neither with the innermost depths of the
earth nor with the wide expanse of the universe, but rather it is
connected with a state of being inwardly penetrated by forces which
are seen as the astral body. So now we have the third
member of the human organisation.
If one learns to perceive this third member in the manner indicated
above, one finds that from the scientific point of view it is
indescribably illuminating. One says to oneself the child grows
up and becomes the man; his vital forces are active. But he is not
only growing physically, his consciousness is developing at the same
time; he is unfolding within himself an image of the outer world.
Can this be the result of physical growth? Can this be
accomplished by the same forces that underlie nutrition and growth?
When the organic forces that underlie the latter gain the upper hand,
the consciousness becomes dimmed. We need, therefore, something
which is connected with these forces, and which is actually opposed to
them. The human being is always growing and always being nourished.
But he has within his astral body, as I have described it, something
which is perpetually suppressing, inhibiting the forces of growth and
So we have in man a process of construction through the physical body
in conjunction with the earth; another process of construction through
the etheric body in conjunction with the Cosmos, and through the
astral body a continuous destruction of the organic processes in the
cell-life and the glandular life.
That is the secret of the human organism.
Now we understand why it is that man possesses a soul. If he were to
grow continuously like the plant, he could not have a soul. The
process of growing must first be destroyed, for it expels the soul. If
we had nothing in our brain but the process of building up, and no
processes of breaking down and destruction, we could not contain the
Evolution does not proceed in a straight line. It must retreat in one
direction; it must give way. Herein lies the secret of humanity
of the ensouled being.
If we go no further than the consideration of the organisation of the
animal, we find ourselves concerned only with its three principles
the physical, etheric, and astral. But if we proceed to the
observation of man, we find, when we have progressed yet further with
the training of our souls, that we spiritually perceive yet another
Our spiritual perception of the animal discloses that its thinking,
feeling, and willing are, in a certain sense, neutral in regard to one
another; they are not clearly distinct. One cannot speak of a separate
thinking, a separate feeling, and a separate willing, but only of a
neutral blending of these three elements. But in the case of man, his
inner life depends just upon the fact that he lays hold of his
intentions by quiet thought, and that he can remain with his
intentions; he can either carry them out in deeds, or not carry them
out. The animal obeys its impulses. Man separates thinking, feeling,
and willing from one another.
How this is so, can only be understood when one has carried one's power of spiritual perception far enough to observe the fourth principle of man's organisation the I am I or the Ego.
As we have just seen, the astral body breaks down the processes of
growth and nutrition; in a sense, it introduces a gradual
dying into the whole organism. The Ego redeems, out of this
destructive process, certain elements which are continually falling
away from the combination of the physical and etheric bodies, and
That is actually the secret of human nature.
If one looks at the human brain, one sees in those
lighter parts which lie more below the superficial
structures, and which proceed as nerve fibres to the sense organs
a most complicated organisation which, for those who can
perceive it in its reality, is in a continual state of
deterioration, although so slowly does this take place that it cannot
be observed by ordinary physiological means. But, out of all this
destruction, that which differentiates man from the animals,
namely, the peripheral brain, is built up. This is the foundation of
the human organisation. With regard to man, naturally, the
central brain (the continuation of the sensory nerves and their
connections) is more perfect than the peripheral brain, which is, as a
matter of fact, more akin to the metabolic processes than the deeper
portions of the brain are.
This peripheral brain, which is peculiarly characteristic of man,
is organised for these metabolic functions by the Ego-organisation
organised out of what otherwise is in a state of
And so the activity of the Ego permeates
the entire organism.
1 The Ego-organisation denotes the whole of those
attributes of the human being by means of which he attains his sense
of I am. As hearing, sight, taste, etc. each have their
organs of expression, so also has the Ego. In this case the
organ is the entire physical body in its self-conscious
contact with the outer world. TRANS.
The Ego redeems certain elements out of the ruin worked by the astral
body, and builds out of them that which underlies an harmonious
co-ordination of thinking, feeling, and willing.
I can of course only mention these things, but I wish to point out
that one can proceed with the same exactitude when making observations
spiritually as one can in any branch of external experimental science
and with a full sense of responsibility; so that in every case one
seeks for the agreement between what is spiritually observed and what
is discovered by empirical physical methods of research. It is
exactly the formation of the physical brain which leads one on to
apprehend the super-physical, and to attain knowledge by
Thus we have these four members of the human organisation. These, in
order to maintain health, must be in quite special relation to one
We only get water when we mix hydrogen and oxygen in accordance with
their specific gravity. In the same way there is a determinative which
brings about a normal relationship if I may say so
between the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, and the
We not only have four, but 4x4 relative states. All
these can be disturbed. An abnormal relation may arise between the etheric
and the physical bodies, or between the astral and etheric, or between the
Ego and one or another of these. All are deeply connected with one
another and are in a special relation to one another. The moment this
is disturbed, illness arises.
But this relationship is not uniform throughout the human being; it
differs in the different individual organs. If we observe, for
instance, a human lung, the physical, etheric, astral, and Ego
constituents of this lung are not the same as those of the brain or of
the liver. Thus, the entire human organisation is so complicated that
the spiritual and the material are differently related in every organ.
Therefore, it will be understood that, just as one studies physical
anatomy and physical physiology in accordance with external symptoms,
so when one admits the existence of this spiritual
investigation, and practises it one must study with the
greatest exactitude the health and disease of every separate
organ. In this way one always arrives at a complete and
comprehensive knowledge of the human organism. It cannot be so
understood if it is observed solely from the physical standpoint. It
can only be known through a knowledge of its four principles. One is
only clear about any illness when one is able to say which of these
four principles either predominates too strongly or is too much
suppressed. It is because one is able to observe these things in a
spiritual manner that one actually places a spiritual diagnosis
alongside the material diagnosis. Therefore what is gained by
anthroposophical methods in seeing through the fourfold constitution
of man, is gained in addition to all that it is possible to observe of
health and disease by ordinary methods.
And further, it is not only possible to behold man spiritually but
also the whole of Nature. One is now, for the first time, in a
position to find man's relation to the various kingdoms of Nature,
and, in medicine, his relation to the healing properties which these
Let us take an example. There is a substance which is most widely
distributed over the whole earth, and not only over the whole earth,
but also, in its finest form, throughout the air. This is silicic
acid. It is an enormously important constituent part of the earth. But
for those who are able to see these things with higher faculties, all
this silicious substance is revealed as the external manifestation of
something spiritual; and an immense and almost overpowering difference
is seen to exist between that which ordinary physical methods of
observation disclose with regard to silicic acid, or, for example,
carbonic acid gas, and that which spiritual investigation discloses.
By the latter method we see that quartz, or rock-crystal, such as we
find in the mountains in fact, all forms of silicious substance
provides a free path for something spiritual. Just as any
transparent substance allows light to stream through it, so all
silicious substance allows what is spiritually active in the entire
world to stream through it.
But we find quite a different relationship towards the spiritual when
we come to carbonic acid. Carbonic acid has this peculiarity (for
there is something spiritual in every physical substance), that
the spiritual that is in contact with carbonic acid becomes
individualised. Carbonic acid retains the spiritual in itself
with all its force. The spiritual selects carbonic acid as
a dwelling-place. In silica it has a transcending tendency a
consuming tendency but it inheres in carbonic acid as though it
felt itself at home there.
Carbonic acid processes are present in the breathing and circulation
of animals. The former are especially connected with the astral body.
The carbonic acid processes are related to the external physical of
the animal, while the astral body is that which is inwardly
spiritually active. The astral is therefore the spiritual element, and
the carbonic acid process is its physical counterpart and underlies
the animal's expirations.
The Ego-organisation is the spiritual inner element in man of that
which takes place in man as silicic acid processes. We have silicic
acid in our hair, our bones, our organs of sense, in all the
extremities and periphery of our bodies in fact, everywhere
where we come into contact with the outer world and all these
silicic acid processes are the external counterpart, the expression
from within outwards, of the Ego-organisation.
Now it must be borne in mind that the Ego must, in a certain sense, be
strong enough to manipulate, to control, the whole of this silicic
acid activity. If the Ego is too weak, the silicic acid is separated
out that is a pathological condition. On the other hand, the
astral body must be strong enough to control the carbonic acid
process; if it cannot, carbonic acid or its waste products are
separated out, and illness results.
It is possible, therefore, in observing the strength or weakness of
the astral body to find the cause of an illness rooted in the
spiritual. And in observing the Ego-organisation one discovers the
cause of those disturbances which either bring about a morbid
decomposition of the silicic acid processes in. the body, or which one
must deal with therapeutically by the administration of silicic acid.
What happens then is that the spiritual, which is never retained in
the material substance itself, passes through it and affects the
silicic acid deposited in the body. It takes the place of the Ego
itself. In the administration of carbonic acid as a healing agent, it
must be so prepared that the spiritual is present in it in the right
manner; in using it as a remedy one must be aware that the astral body
works in it.
Therefore: One can conceive of a form of therapy which does not only
make use of chemical agents, but which is quite consciously
administering a cure, in the knowledge that, if a certain quantity of
physical substance is given, or a particular solution is prepared as a
bath, or if an injection is given, at the same time something of a
spiritual nature is quite definitely introduced into the human
So it is perfectly possible to make a bridge from a knowledge of
purely physical means of healing to a knowledge which works with
That was the characteristic of the medicine of ancient times; some
tradition of it still lingers; it lingers even in some of the
recognised cures to-day. And we have to get back to this. We can do so
if, without in any way neglecting physical medicine, we add to it what
we can gain in spiritual knowledge, not only of man, but of Nature
also. Everything can be carried out with the same exactitude as is the
case with regard to physical natural science.
Anthroposophy does not seek to correct modern medicine, but to
add its own knowledge to it, because ordinary medicine makes demands
upon itself only.
What I have just briefly indicated is merely the commencement of an
exceedingly wide spiritual knowledge, in which, at present, people
have very little faith. One can quite well understand that. But some
results have already been attained in the sphere of medicine, and
these can be studied in practice at Dr. Ita Wegman's Clinical
Institute in Arlesheim, Switzerland. And I am convinced that if any
person would investigate this advancement and enlargement of the
medical field with the same goodwill with which, as a rule, they
investigate physical medicine, they would find it not at all difficult
to accept the idea of the spiritual in man, and the spiritual in
methods of healing him.
Quite briefly, I will give two examples that illustrate what I have
said. Let us suppose that by means of this kind of spiritual diagnosis
(if I may use such an expression) it is seen that in a patient the
etheric body is working too strongly in some particular organ. The
astral body and the Ego-organisation are not in a position to control
this super-activity of the etheric body, so that we are faced with an
astral body that has become too weak, and possibly also with an Ego
which is too weak, and the etheric body therefore predominates. The
latter thereby brings about in some particular organ such a condition
of the growing and nourishing processes that the whole organism
cannot be properly held together, owing to the lack of control by the
other two principles.
At this point, then, where the etheric body predominates, the human
organism appears as though too much exposed to the centrifugal forces
of the Cosmos. They are not in equipoise with the centripetal forces
of the physical body. The astral body cannot control them. In such a
case we are confronted on the one hand by a preponderance of the
silicic acid processes, and on the other by an impotence of the Ego to
This fact underlies the formation of tumours, and it is here that the
way is indicated for the true understanding of the nature of
carcinomatous processes (cancer). Researches into this matter have had
very good results and have been carried out in practice. But one
cannot understand carcinoma unless one realises that it is due to the
predominance of the etheric body, which is not suppressed by a
corresponding activity of the astral and the Ego,
The question then arises, what is to be done in order to strengthen
the elements of the astral body and the Ego which correspond to the
diseased organ, so that the superabundant energy of the etheric
organisation can be reduced? This brings us to the question of the
therapy of carcinoma, which shall be dealt with in due course.
Thus, through an understanding of the etheric body we are enabled
gradually to become acquainted with the nature of that most terrible
of all human diseases, and at the same time, by investigating the
spiritual nature of the action of the remedies, we shall discover the
means to combat it. This is just one example of how illnesses can be
understood through the etheric body.
But supposing that it is the astral body whose forces
predominate supposing that they are so strong that they
predominate practically throughout the entire organism, so that there
arises a kind of universal stiffening of the whole astral body due to
its excessive inner forces; what does such a state of things bring
about? When the astral body is not under the control of the Ego
which is to say, when its disintegrating forces are not cancelled by
the integrating forces of the Ego then symptoms appear which
are connected with a weakened Ego-organisation.
This results, primarily, in an abnormal activity of the heart.
Further, another occurrence due to a weakened Ego-activity, as
described above, is that the glandular functions are disturbed. Since
the organisation of the Ego is not sufficiently prominent and cannot
exercise enough control, in greater or less degree the peripheral
glandular organs begin to secrete too actively. Swollen glands appear
And we see further how, through this stiffening of the astral body,
the silicic acid processes, which should have a reaction inwards, are
being pressed outwards, because the Ego is not able work strongly
enough in the sense-organs, where it ought to work strongly. So, for
instance, the eyes become prominent; the astral body drives them
It is the task of the Ego to overcome this tendency. Our eyes are
actually retained in their right place in our organism by the
equipoise that should exist between the astral body and the Ego. So
they become prominent because the Ego element in them is too weak to
maintain the balance properly. Also, one observes in such cases a
general condition of restlessness. One sees, in a word, because the
Ego cannot drive back those organic processes which are worked upon by
the astral body, that the activity of the whole astral body
predominates. In short, the symptoms are those of exophthalmic goitre.
Knowing, therefore, that a disturbance of the balance between astral
body and Ego-organisation produces exophthalmic goitre, one can apply
the same principles in effecting a cure.
Hence it can be seen with what exactness one can pursue these methods
as regards both pathological conditions and therapeutical agencies,
when one investigates the human being in a spiritual way.
Before we pass on from the pathological to the therapeutical
and particularly in connection with the two examples mentioned
it would be well to touch upon some of the principles underlying the
assimilation of various substances by the human organism.
One only recognises the entire connection that exists between
so-called Nature and the human being when one perceives
not only that the latter is a physico-psychic-spiritual being
consisting of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and Ego, but
also when one further perceives that the basis of all natural
substances and processes is a concrete and comprehensible spiritual
one. But one must first be able to penetrate into this concrete
Just as, in the natural world, one must distinguish between minerals
and plants, so one must distinguish quite definitely between the
spiritual elements and beings that express themselves through them.
Suppose we take first the mineral kingdom.
A considerable part of our healing agents are taken from this kingdom,
and therefore what can be made use of in medicine out of spiritual
bases emanates from minerals to a very large extent. We find that the
spiritual element is connected in such a way with minerals that it
establishes a particular relation between them and the
Ego-organisation. It is credible that if a mineral substance is
administered, either by mouth or by injection, it works principally
upon the human organism itself, and makes for either health or
ill-health. But what really takes place is that the physical mineral,
as such, as it is regarded and handled by the chemist or the
physicist, actually does not work upon the organism, but
remains as it is. The physical substance itself, when seen by
spiritual observation, shows scarcely any metamorphosis when it is
absorbed. On the contrary, what is spiritual in the substance works
with extraordinary strength upon the Ego.
So one can say that the spirit, for instance of a rock crystal,
affects the Ego. The Ego controls the human being when it contains
something silicious that is, the spiritual element of silicic
acid. That is what is so remarkable.
Again, if we take the vegetable kingdom, plants do not only possess a
physical form, they possess also what I have characterised as an
etheric body. Suppose we administer some plant substance, either by
mouth or by injection, what is in the plant works as a rule solely
upon the astral body. (These things are described in a general sense;
there are always exceptions, which may also be studied.)
Everything derived from the animal kingdom, in whatever way it may be
manufactured out of fluids or solids when it is
administered, works upon the etheric body. This is most particularly
interesting, because in this spiritual-medical work results have been
attained by using for instance, in certain cases, animal products
derived from the secretions of the hypophysis cerebri. These
have been used successfully on rickety children or in cases of
child-deformity, and so on.
There are also other animal products that work upon the human etheric
body, either strengthening it or weakening it. In short, this is their
Anything injected out of one human being into another affects
only the physical body; here there is solely a working of the
physical upon the physical. For example, if human blood is transfused,
nothing comes into consideration save what can take place as a purely
physical phenomenon by means of the blood. A remarkable example of
this could be observed when, in vaccinations against smallpox, a
change was made from using human lymph to using calf-lymph. It was
possible to observe then how the human lymph worked only upon the
physical body, and how the effect went, so to speak, a stage higher
when calf-lymph was introduced, by its becoming transferred to the
Thus it becomes possible to see, by developing spiritual powers of
observation, how Nature works, as it were, in degrees, or steps, upon
human beings the mineral being made use of in a certain sense
by the Ego, the plant by the astral body, the animal by the etheric
body, and the human physical body by the human physical body. In the
latter case there is no longer anything spiritual to be described.
Indeed, even as regards the animal kingdom, we can no longer speak of
the spiritual in the animal product, but only of the
It is only through all these various connections that one can gain a
true conception of how man in both health and disease is
really immersed in the whole natural order. But one attains also to an
inner perception of a still further continuation of the workings of
nature in the human organism.
One may now ask, what is to be one's attitude towards cancer! We have
seen how the etheric body is able to develop over-strong forces from
itself in some particular organ. The centrifugal forces that
is, the forces that tend outwards into the Cosmos become too
powerful; the astral body and the Ego are too weak to counteract them.
Spiritual knowledge now comes to one's aid. One can now try either to
make the astral body stronger, in which case one administers something
from the plant kingdom, or one must restrain the etheric body, and in
that case one makes use of the animal kingdom.
Spiritual investigation has led to the adoption of the former course
that which relates to the astral body. In order to cure cancer,
the forces of the astral body must be made stronger. And it may now be
admitted that the remedy has really been discovered in the plant
We have been accused of dilettantism and so forth, because we make use
of a parasitic plant the mistletoe (which has been used in
medicine mainly for epilepsy and similar conditions) and
because we prepare it in a very special manner, in order to discover
the way which will lead to the healing of cancer.
If you have observed trees which bear a remarkable outgrowth upon the
trunk, resembling swellings, especially if you have seen them in
section, you will notice that the whole tendency of growth, which
usually has a vertical direction, has at these places a deflection at
right angles, becoming therefore horizontal. It presses outwards as
though another trunk were beginning to grow; and you find something
that is as though drawn out of the tree itself something
parasitic. More closely studied, one discovers that any tree which has
such an outgrowth is somewhere or other suppressed, restrained, in its
physical development. Sufficient physical material has not been
available everywhere, in order to keep pace with the growth forces of
the etheric body. The physical body remains behind. The etheric body,
which otherwise strives centrifugally to project the physical
substance out into the Cosmos, is, as it were, left alone in this
portion of the tree. Too little physical substance passes through it,
or, rather, matter that has too little physical force. The result is,
that the etheric body takes a downward direction to the lower part of
the tree, which is connected with stronger physical forces.
Now let us imagine that this does not happen, but, instead, the
mistletoe appears; and now there occurs through this plant, which has
also its own etheric body, what otherwise takes place through the
etheric body of the tree.
From this there results a very special relationship between the
mistletoe and the tree. The tree, which is rooted directly in the
earth, makes use of the forces which it absorbs from the earth. The
mistletoe, growing on the tree, uses what the tree gives it; the tree
is, in a sense, the earth for the mistletoe. The mistletoe, therefore,
brings about artificially that which, when it is not present,
results in the swellings which are due to a hypertrophy of
the tree's etheric organisation. The mistletoe takes away what the
tree only gives up when it has too little physical substance, so that
its etheric element is excessive. The excess of the etheric passes
out of the tree into the mistletoe.
When the mistletoe is prepared in such a way that this superabundant
etheric quality which it has taken from the tree is administered to a
person under certain conditions, by injection (and, since we are
observing all these facts in a spiritual manner), we gain the
following information: that the mistletoe, as an external substance,
absorbs what is manifest in the human body as the rampant etheric
forces in cancer.
[ i.e. it becomes a vehicle for the excessive etheric forces. TRANS. ]
Through the fact that it represses the
physical substance, it strengthens the working of the astral
body, which causes the tumour, or cancer, to disintegrate and break
up. [The astral body being the destructive principle.
Therefore we actually introduce the etheric substance of the tree into
the human being by means of the mistletoe, and the etheric substance
of the tree, carried over by means of the mistletoe, works as a
fortifier of the human astral body.
That is one method which can only be known to us when we gain an
insight into the way in which the etheric body of the plant acts upon
the astral body of the human being an insight into the fact
that the spiritual element in the plant, which in this case is drawn
out of it by the parasitic growth, works upon the human astral body.
Thus it can be seen how concretely what I have said may be verified
namely, that it is a question of not merely administering
remedies in the manner of the chemist in the sense in which the
chemist speaks and thinks of remedies but it is a question of
administering the spiritual, the super-physical, which the various
I have also referred above to the fact that in exophthalmic goitre
(Graves' disease) the astral body becomes stiffer, and that the
Ego-organisation is unable to deal with this condition. The symptoms
are as I have described. This is a case in which it is necessary to
strengthen the forces of the Ego. We must consider for a moment
something which plays quite an unimportant part in our ordinary
associations with the external world; but it is just such apparently
unimportant substances which, as regards their spiritual element, have
the greatest effect upon the spiritual in the human being. For
example, one finds
that oxide of copper has the greatest imaginable effect upon the
Ego-organisation of man; it really strengthens it. So, if one gives
oxide of copper to a person suffering from Graves' disease, the effect
is that one creates a strong Ego-organisation that dominates the
stiffened astral body; the oxide of copper comes, as it were, to the
rescue of the Ego, and the correct balance is thus restored.
I have quoted these two examples especially in order to show how every
product in all the expanse of Nature may be studied, and the question
asked: How does this or that product work upon the physical body
of man? how does it work upon the etheric body? and how upon the
astral body and the Ego-organisation?
It all rests, therefore, upon our penetration into the profound
secrets of Nature. This search into Nature's secrets into the
mysteries of Nature is the only possible way to combine
the observation of human disease with the observation of the healing
agencies. If I know how, let us say, a magnet will affect iron
filings, then I know what is taking place. Similarly, if I know
in what respect oxide of copper is spiritual, and on the
other hand what is lacking in the human being when he has the symptoms
of exophthalmic goitre, that is to permeate what is called medicine
with spiritual knowledge.
One can look back upon the evolution of humanity, that is to say upon
the evolution of the spirit of humanity which has given birth to the
various civilisations, and which brought forth knowledge also and
science; and if, in such a retrospect, one looks into a past so remote
that it is only possible to reach it by means of the spiritual vision
which I have described, one comes upon centres of knowledge quite
unlike our present-day schools, wherein men were led to penetrate into
a knowledge of Nature and of humanity, after their souls were first
prepared in such a way that they could perceive the spiritual in all
the external world.
These centres of knowledge, which we have become accustomed to speak
of as the mysteries, were not just merely
schools, but fundamentally they were representative of
certain things which are regarded quite separately from one another in
the life of to-day. They were centres of religion and of art, as well
as of knowledge concerning all the various departments of human
They were so organised that those who were set apart as teachers did
not instruct their pupils by means of mere abstract concepts, but by
means of pictures of imagery. These pictures, by reason of
their inner characteristics, represented the living relationships and
connections between all things in the world. Therefore this imagery
was able to produce its effects through ceremonial, as we should call
it to-day. In its further development this imagery became permeated
with beauty. Religious ceremony became artistic. And later, when what
had been gained not from arbitrary fantasies, but from out of
these images or pictures, which had been extracted from out of the
world-secrets themselves was expressed in ideas, it became, at
that time, science. The same pictures when presented in such a
way that they called forth an essential quality of the human will that
could be expressed as goodness that was religion. And
again, presented so that they ravished and exalted the senses, touched
the emotions, and lifted the soul to the contemplation of beauty
that was art.
The centres of art were indissolubly linked with the centres of
religion and of science. There was no one-sided appreciation of
anything through the human reason alone, or through sense-perception
alone, or through external physical experiment alone, but the whole
human being was involved body, soul, and spirit.
There was penetration into the profoundest nature of all things
to those depths where reality revealed itself; on the one hand
stimulating to goodness, on the other hand to the true expression of
ideas. To follow this path, which leads to truth, to beauty, and to
goodness, was spoken of, and is still spoken of, as the way of
initiation to the knowledge of the beginnings of
things. For men were aware that they indeed lived in these beginnings
when they conjured them forth in religious ceremonial, in the
revelations of beauty, and in the rightly created world of ideas; and
so called this attitude which they bore towards the things of the
world, initiation-knowledge the knowledge of the
beginnings from out of which alone man is able to grasp the true
nature of things, and so use them according to his will.
So men sought for an initiation-science which could penetrate into the
mysteries of the world to the beginnings.
A time had to. come in the course of human development when this
initiation-science withdrew; for it became necessary for men to direct
their spiritual energies inwards in order to attain to greater
self-consciousness. Initiation-science became as though dreamlike
instinctive. It was not at that time a matter of developing
human freedom, for such a development towards freedom has only
come about because mankind has been for a time driven away from the
beginnings; he has lost the initiation-vision, and turning away from
the beginnings, contemplates what is related more to the endings of
things to the external revelations of the senses, and to all
that, through the senses, may be discovered by experiment concerning
the ultimate, concerning the endings.
The time has now come when, having achieved an immeasurably extensive
science of the superficial if I may call it so which can
have only quite an external connection with art or religion, we must
once again seek an initiation-science; but we must seek it with the
consciousness which we have evolved in ourselves by means of exact
science; a consciousness which, in respect of the new form of
initiation-knowledge, will function no less perfectly than it does in
connection with the exact sciences.
A bridge will then be built between that world-conception which links
the human soul with its origins by means of inwardly conceived ideas,
and the practical manipulation of the realities contained in those
In the ancient mysteries, initiation-knowledge was especially bound up
with all that was connected with the healing of humanity. There was a
real art of healing. For indeed, the mystery-healing was an
art, in that it aroused in man the perception that the process of
healing was at the same time a sacrificial process.
In order to satisfy the inner needs of the human soul, there must once
again be a closer bond between healing and our philosophical
conception of the world. And it is this which a knowledge of the needs
of the age seeks to find in the Anthroposophical Movement.
The Anthroposophical Movement, whose headquarters are in Dornach,
Switzerland, does not interpose anything arbitrary into life; neither
does it stand for any sort of abstract mysticism. It desires rather to
enter in a wholly practical way into every sphere of human activity.
It seeks to attain with complete self-consciousness what was striven
for in ancient times instinctively.
Even though we are only making a beginning, at any rate we are
creating the possibility of a return to what, in the ancient
mysteries, was a natural, a self-evident thing medicine
existing in closest communion with spiritual vision.
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