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  Abuse Pathology in Anthroposophical General Practice

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By: Unknown Author
This article grew out of experiences gathered over ten years in general anthroposophical and homeopathic medical practice in a large Midwestern city in the United States. My practice by no means specializes in abuse-related disorders or psychiatry. Nonetheless, it is impossible in our time to avoid encountering such pathologies on a relatively frequent basis. Injuries range from temporary, passing disturbances to severe disruptions permanently disabling the victims for the remainder of their lives just as offenses range from relatively simple improprieties, whose effects are quickly overcome, to the most heinous and destructive acts humans are capable of such as those connected with ritual abuse. The astonishingly great frequency with which such acts are now recognized to be taking place in western societies is evidence of the threshold situation that mankind faces at the end of the 20th Century.

Responsibility for dealing with these situations lies with all of us as anthroposophical physicians and should not be relegated merely to some group of "specialists." I would go so far as to say that it is impossible in the 1990's to follow the path of the anthroposophical healer without, from time to time, looking abuse pathology squarely in the face.

Rudolf Steiner's conceptualizations of evil

For the purpose of this discussion, a basic familiarity with Anthroposophy and its basic terms is assumed.

The Luciferic
The realm of amorous and erotic ventures has traditionally been thought of as a field over which Lucifer exerts his influence. To an extent, this is rightfully so since, by creating tension between the female and male genders, Lucifer has helped lay the foundation for individual human freedom and subsequent spiritual inner development. On the other hand, the "Seven Deadly Sins" of lust, greed, wrath, pride, sloth, envy and gluttony have come about as the shadow side of this freedom but can be overcome through individual human development. How these tinge human relations, particularly where love and sexuality figure prominently, is part of our daily experience and observation. Some aberrations of human sexual life, and most neurotic disorders with their unfulfilled wishes, bear clearly the stamp of the luciferic influence.

The Ahrimanic
When one human being begins to exploit and systematically use another for gain of sexual pleasure, he leaves the realm of mere luciferic influence and enters into Ahriman's dominion. This is particularly the case when a person in a position of dependence, such as a child or employee, is being victimized. In this sense, all systematic abuse of one human being by another bears the strong stamp of ahrimanic influence.

The Asuric
Rudolf Steiner speaks relatively little about a third order of evil beings known as the Asuras. The most complete description of their working is found in an early lecture given in Berlin on 22 March 1908, with only scant references to the topic after that time. Several characteristics are described about the asuric beings who, "in the time that is about to come will insinuate themselves into the consciousness soul and therefore into that which is called the human Ego." "The Asuras will develop evil with a much greater force than even the satanic powers during the Atlantean or the luciferic powers during the Lemurian time.... These asuric spirits will bring about that, that which has been grasped by them, which is man's innermost core, the consciousness soul with the Ego, will unite itself with the sensuality of the earth. Piece after piece will be torn out of the Ego, and, to the degree to which the asuric spirits become entrenched in the consciousness soul, man must leave behind on earth pieces of his being. What has fallen to the asuric powers is unredeemably lost." Whereas Lucifer can be redeemed through suffering, illness and death, and Ahriman through karma with Christ as Lord of Karma, there is no such "easy" redemption of the asuric influence during earth evolution.

Steiner goes on to describe how the asuric powers "seduce man to a kind of theoretical materialism." In its wake come "coarse passions of sensuality which descend more and more upon the earth," particularly if humans "become serious about the idea that man, in his whole being, is descended from the animal and then live accordingly.... This world view will not fail to come, and those who follow it will live like animals and descend into mere animal drives and passions. In much of what we can see - it does not need to be characterized further here - in large cities as vile orgies of purposeless sensuality, we- already see the grotesque, hellish gleaming of those spirits which we call the asuric."

In summary, the luciferic influence relates to the development of the sentient soul, the ahrimanic to that of the intellectual soul and the asuric to that of the consciousness soul. Three main characteristics of the workings of the asuric beings are brought out: firstly, the complete exclusion of, not merely opposition to, any spiritual perspective; secondly, a life completely given over to sensuality; and thirdly, the permanent and irredeemable loss to the human Ego and Consciousness Soul. The New Testament refers to this as the "sin that cannot be forgiven - the sin against the Holy Spirit."

Western culture at the end of the millennium
Steiner's main contributions on the work of the asuric beings are found in his early work between 1905 and 1911. After that time, he chooses to focus mostly on characterizing the works of Ahriman, particularly in the last year of his life following the Christmas Foundation Meeting where Michael's struggle with the dragon, i.e. Ahriman, at the end of this century becomes the central theme.

However, it is my belief that abuse pathology cannot be understood solely in terms of the luciferic and ahrimanic. To see the working of the asuric in our society, it is important to not limit one's view to crack houses, urban blight and remorseless serial killers. To what extent the silky-smooth sensuality and spirit-denying "survival of the fittest" ideology of contemporary "yuppie" culture show elements of what Steiner describes as characteristic of the influence of the asuric beings is an important question with many subtleties and nuances. However, there can be no doubt that these characteristics have increased considerably in the 1980's and 1990's. Negative counter-images of consciousness soul development can be seen throughout society from the devastation of inner cities to the spiritless pseudo-refinement of much of what is mainstream cultural life today.

Specific disease entities

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
This disorder is commonly encountered in individuals who have suffered significant abuse trauma. It is also increasingly recognized to occur after other kinds of emotional and physical injuries such as traffic accidents or wartime events. It represents, in a sense, the mildest, least profound disturbance encountered as a result of abuse experience. Its acute form, with symptoms lasting for a total of three months or less, may be viewed as the struggle of a basically healthy soul with the aftermath of a serious traumatic experience in which it ultimately succeeds. Here, one can say that the disturbance resides primarily in the astral body and is overcome in a matter of time through the strength of the Ego.

A more serious situation exists in the chronic form of the illness. Here, again, the disturbance has its seat in the astral body. However, the Ego fails in its integrative function, and order is not restored. This may be due to the excessive severity of the traumatic experience or the Ego may lack the strength to overcome the difficulty and effectively resigns itself to the subsequent defective state that ensues. Unremitting nightmares, states of panic and anxiety, impoverished emotional life and avoidance behavior (of situations similar to that in which the original trauma occurred) become chronically distressing and often disabling.

Yet the Ego, even though unable to assert itself properly under the prevailing circumstances, remains intact in its sense of itself and its relationship to external reality. A special case of this occurs in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder of delayed onset where months, even years and decades, may elapse between the traumatic event and the onset of the symptoms. Here, for a time, a "veil of forgetfulness" appears to have been laid over the traumatic event, often for the ultimate good of the patient who is spared confrontation with the illness until a later and, one would hope, more mature stage of her or his life.

Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder, although not strictly an abuse-related disorder, thrives in a milieu of uncaring and inconsistent parenting, substance abuse and chronic emotional trauma. The background is often characterized by exposure to sexual innuendoes and leering as well as lack of respect for personal boundaries. The victim, more often a woman than a man, grows up with a weakened sense of identity and an inner emptiness.

The symptomatology is dominated by extremes on both sides of the emotional spectrum, which is to say, the dynamic of the astral body. A lover, therapist or doctor is alternately "loved" and idolized or completely hated and loathed. These phases often follow in rapid succession, thus consistently undermining the formation of durable and meaningful relationships, whether these be personal relationships or relationships with doctors or therapists. In anthroposophical terminology, there is frequently an alternation or coexistence in the same individual of both an hysterical and neurasthenic tendency without apparent middle ground.

To the therapist, this presents a more serious situation than Post
traumatic Stress Disorder in its acute or even chronic variety. Individuals with this disturbance are recognized to frequently enter therapeutic relationships with a semblance of cooperation and trust building, only to subsequently abandon it, often with a good deal of drama and hostility. The Ego is further hampered in its integrative function. As a therapist, one often has a "split" experience where, on the one hand, the "normal" motions of forming a relationship are gone through while, on the other hand, the experience of inner warmth, which would usually attend the formation of such a relationship, is lacking. There are often undercurrents of hostility and manipulativeness.

It is frequently assumed that such individuals will continue to "bounce around" from therapist to therapist while continually sabotaging the therapeutic process and, thus, preempting any durable therapeutic results. However, it is possible in some instances to engage the patient's higher self in a therapeutic process and establish a relationship of reasonable quality with gradual advances made in the patient's development. This requires a greater-than-usual measure of compassion, patience, skill, and, particularly, vigilance. Borderline Personality Disorder, as an entity, is very much a child of our time with its widespread lack of enthusiasm and impoverished interpersonal relationships.

Multiple Personality Disorder (Dissociative Identity Disorder)
Most severe cases of this disorder that I have encountered were in women who reported being victims of ritual abuse. This included such practices as live interment and being forced to commit acts of violence against small animals or even infants before the age of seven. Close relatives were usually collaborators, if not perpetrators. While the occult significance of such practices must remain beyond the scope of this essay, it is probably fair to say that they occur more frequently than is commonly imagined.

It is clear even from the name of the condition that the unifying, integrating activity of the Ego is seriously impaired, depending on the severity of the condition. However, it must be kept in mind, as Marko van Gerven points out, that it is only the lower aspect of the personality that is split while the higher Self (the "indivisible" individual) remains one and intact. This may be the reason why many of these patients can very well be engaged in durable, lasting, long-term therapeutic relationships. The patient then may, often under the guidance of a therapist, engage in conversations with these different "personalities," which results in their emergence becoming a less and less distressing event in the patient's life as time goes on. The patient's own Ego then becomes the agent that learns to deal with these "personalities" on a one-on-one basis and reduces their influence.

Other personality disorders

This would be a fascinating area which I must, for the time being, leave for future study. In summary, one often has the experience in the abused patient that the trauma, particularly when repeated or serious, creates islands or inclusions within both the astral and etheric bodies. These often exist for long periods of time without being noticed by either the patient or her surroundings, only to erupt unexpectedly into serious symptoms that can be extremely disturbing to patient and therapist alike.

Abuse experiences as involuntary Initiation experiences
Undergoing an abuse experience always poses a serious threat to the individual's conception of the world and her/his role in it. Individuals and situations, previously believed to be trustworthy and safe, are no longer so. Moral fames of reference such as "good" and "evil" become annihilated as "love" and "trust," previously believed to be at the center of goodness, now serve to open gates to the most horrifying experiences. It is precisely such shattering of an individual's conception of reality that can lead to a "lifting of the veil" as new powers of cognition are opened.

This, of course, must be said with a great deal of caution. Many patients, in this day and age, will wish to speak about spiritual experiences, particularly when an openness is perceived on the part of the doctor or therapist. Claims of clairvoyance are common and well-recognized among the symptomatology of psychotic and personality disorders. These may be "presentiments" and a simple "sensing" of another person's unspoken moods and intentions or perceptions of beings of an elemental or angelic character.

When such experiences occur immediately following abuse or, which I have seen more commonly, at some point during the recovery, they may "break into" the affected individual's consciousness in a chaotic and overwhelming manner, which represents a serious crisis in this patient's life. In this case, they will often be mixed in with copious delusional material (resulting, in anthroposophical terminology, from preexisting organ deformations), or present as a violent "roller-coaster" of unprocessed astral emotion, a state that can persist for long periods of time, particularly when the therapy is unsuitable and, overtly or covertly, encourages prolonged reveling in one's own emotions.

I have been gratified to witness on a number of occasions, that the above-mentioned experiences eventually can become harmoniously integrated into the totality of the individual's personal development where the overcoming of this serious trauma stood at the beginning of a path of higher development. However, this is only possible to the degree that the affected individual eventually learns to accept the unfortunate event as part of her/ his destiny. This may be called a state of forgiveness. In practice, one sees moving examples both of forgiveness and of failure to forgive.

To what degree a positive turn is possible depends on a number of factors: maturity of pre-abuse development, severity of abuse suffered, presence or absence and quality of support system, sufficiency of treatment received, cofactors such as substance abuse or other, coexisting mental illness.

Therapeutic considerations - anthroposophical perspectives
From an anthroposophical point of view, the members of the human being requiring the most attention in abuse recovery situations are the etheric body and the Ego.

Many times, the etheric body comes in a very weakened and disordered state, requiring intensive attention through orderly living conditions, nutrition and remedies. Only when a certain state of stability has been attained can recovery truly progress. Potentized remedies are particularly indispensable when uncontrolled emotions, i.e. disordered astrality, have become established to such an extent that the etheric body is now affected. This is the case when a consistent or recurrent pattern of anxiety, depression and other emotional symptoms has been established.

Another means of supporting the etheric body is through rhythmical massage or other suitable forms of bodywork such as chiropractic. I have often wondered why many such patients appear to have an insatiable need for these modalities. It seems that such loving application of human hands helps restore to the Ego an experience of oneness that was lost through the shattering effect of the trauma.

It is obvious that curative eurythmy would be a valuable modality as it engages the will of the patient directly through the use of therapeutic gestures. However, I have not had it available in my current practice setting and, therefore, cannot speak from experience. Similarly, any of the other art therapies could be immensely helpful, through its own objective medium, in lifting the patient out of her absorption with her own trauma and pathology.

Unfortunately, much therapy today centers around uncovering guilt, proving guilt and then having the patient deal with the emerging feelings by various means, including confronting the perpetrator, cognitive therapy and a variety of behavioral techniques such as a punching bag to "abreact" anger, etc. It is quite common to meet patients whose lives have come to revolve, to a large extent, around the various therapies they are engaged in, at times to the virtual exclusion of other pursuits and activities.

A perspective which is lacking in such situations is forgiveness as a goal in the therapeutic process. Sergei Prokofieffs book. The Occult Significance of Forgiveness contains many deep insights into this pressing and delicate topic which can be valuable to the therapist. However, this should not lead one into discounting the seriousness of the patho-biographical event or disbelieving the patient. Yet, there comes a point where the patient must be led past the fixation on the wrong that has been committed. In a certain sense, one could say that attainment of forgiveness represents a culmination point in the recovery process as far as the Ego is concerned.

Attitude of the therapist

It is a truism that thoughts and feelings are as real in the spiritual world as chairs and tables in the physical. This is likewise true in therapeutic relationships where attitudes of patient and therapist toward one another profoundly affect the process. It is, however, nowhere more true than in dealing with the abused patient where hidden sympathies or antipathies can quickly prove destructive. It is a field where the qualities that we are called to develop on the anthroposophical path are called forth with heightened intensity; in fact, I would go so far as to say that we frequently receive either corroboration or correction from the patient as to where we are on the spiritual path. Our own will to heal and courage to heal must attain ever greater strength and objectivity if we are to continue to be helpful to our patients against all obstacles and seeming impossibilities.

Overcoming evil as a therapeutic task
All healing has a moral dimension, and in the process of healing we are called upon to become better human beings. This is actually as true for us as therapists as it is for our patients. In abuse pathology, this question of morality has added significance as we are dealing with the results of an evil done to our patient. In the therapeutic process, our aim must be to turn this evil into good, to the extent that this is possible under the given circumstance. We are seeing in our patients the "symptom-bearers" of a society increasingly diseased with violence as mankind stands at the threshold of the new millennium. In the darkness and destruction that we experience all around us, however, is the hope for light and new awakenings.

To this, all anthroposophically-trained physicians have a unique and valuable contribution to make.

1 Rudolf Steiner, Lecture, Berlin, 22 March 1908 (GA 107).
2 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Four Edition (DSM-IV). Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC.
3 Sergei 0. Prokofieff: The Occult Significance of Forgiveness, Temple Lodge Press, London, 1991.
4 Interview with Marko van Gerven by Judith Krischik. journal of Anthroposophical Medicine, Vol. 12,4, December 1995.
5 The New Testament: Matthew 12:32; Mark 3:28-29.

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