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  From the Work of the Anthroposophic Dermatology Group

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By: Lueder Jachens, M.D., Arno Triebkom, M.D.
pgs. 79B-83B.doc(Original title: Aus der Arbeit des anthroposophisch-dermatologischen Arbeitskreises. Merkurstab 1995; 48:194-7. English by A. R. Meuss, FIL,) 

The third meeting of the Group was held in Stiefenhofen on 26 and 27 November 1994. As part of our endeavor to develop a basis for extended dermatology, we started work on the 2nd lecture in Rudolf Steiner's Geisteswissenschaftliche Gesichtspunkte zur Therapy (GA 313). Below, the main points of the lecture are given, followed by details of the discussions held at the meeting.

Rudolf Steiner spoke of the activity of the physical body, an activity which in its pure form exists only in the head. Here, ether body, astral body and I create an image of and for themselves which frees them for thinking, feeling and will activity. These images of the higher aspects are mobile, however; in the head the I creates its image in warmth, and in the metabolism it does so in the system of balance and dynamic forces.

The same situation can be seen in organic processes. Whereas the intestine produces new tissues in the mucosa and in the related lymphatic system throughout life, the neurosensory system is fully developed during the embryonic period and in early childhood, only waiting to become functional as life progresses. A tool is created at an early stage which can then be taken hold of by the higher aspects and used for independent activities in soul and spirit. The physical body also creates its image in the head, but only in the course of life. Goethe held this in his hands when he looked at Schiller's skull in the charnel house.

In the lecture, Rudolf Steiner then spoke of the differentiation of the general ether into warmth ether, light ether, chemical ether and life ether. The human experience of seeing in the light is the outstanding aspect of the light ether. However, both light and warmth ethers not only act through external light and heat but, for instance, also influence human beings through local climatic conditions throughout the year. In the case of the chemical ether we realize that the ether forces are always in polar opposition to the forces active in physical matter. Chemical analysis thus leaves behind an ether body consisting of synthesized ether forces. The life ether enlivens unenlivened matter.

In modern science it is impossible to think of an action that does not have a physical source. On the other hand, matter dissolves into energetic states if analysis is taken far enough; here the general approach used today takes us to the limits of knowledge. Ether activities come in centripetally from the periphery. Matter forms at the center; its actions are centrifugal. Chemical ether activity is revealed in the analytically-determined "bio-chemical pathways". A law becomes apparent: highly complex physical processes are based on simple spiritual forces; an uncomplicated physical body has a highly differentiated spiritual creator. Elsewhere Rudolf Steiner considered the question as to whether in spiritual terms chemical analysis relates to homeopathic potentization at a spiritual level, with external separation into parts resulting in a concentration of activity in the diluent.(1)

According to Rudolf Steiner, the ether creates an image in the fluid, watery part of the human head, which makes the head permeable to the ether. Thus the eye is a creation of the light ether and permeable to it. The head is mainly permeable to the higher ethers which ray in from all directions. From there, the light ether pours into the organism and organizes the whole human being. Humans take in the lower ethers from the earth sphere through metabolism and limbs. From there they ray upward in the human being, towards the higher ethers. Both kinds of ether must be kept distinct in an orderly way in all parts of the organism.

The skin as an organ arises from the interaction of the two kinds of ethers. As a sense organ the skin provides entry for warmth and light ethers coming from the periphery; it is created and shaped by the digested higher ether, which has passed through the organism, and built up by the lower ether streaming up from below. This throws a light on the work of Croatian dermatologists who established advanced age and life-long high-level exposure to UV light as the major risk factors for basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, with sebum secretion and susceptibility to skin inflammation playing a secondary role. Individuals with greasy skin and a history of acne were less likely to develop these cancers. If the organism is able, therefore, to oppose strong light with sufficient lower ether, the higher ethers are less likely to erupt through the boundary, resulting in tumor development. A healthy skin can be seen to be a well-balanced organ that will immediately signal predominance of higher or lower ethers. Work done elsewhere has indicated that individuals on a low-fat diet show a lower incidence of actinic keratosis. The fact that a diet rich in animal proteins and fats encourages sclerosis also relates to this. Nutrition provides an example of external activities (diet) taking effect inside (intestine to liver to skin), sunlight an example of external activities taking effect on the outside (skin).

Sunlight activity differs in summer and winter. Summer sun provides us with both higher ether and the lower ether of the earth's ether body which extends beyond the earth's surface; neurodermatitis and psoriasis may heal. Winter sun brings the higher ethers "naked" to the human periphery; this is apparent in desiccated eczematous conditions. The effect of the light ether in sunlight can be seen in the skins of country and seafaring people, which is dry and strongly formed out. Polar activity is openly displayed: light ether expands to infinity, physical skin principles contract. The different effects of alpine and marine climates on humans can be understood if we consider the different relationship between the ethers. The higher ethers dominate at higher altitudes, producing a stimulating climate. By the sea, the lower ethers are also powerful; a seaside climate is calming, making people tired and increasing their appetite. The relationship of St John's wort to light is evident from its medicinal actions: taken internally it helps with winter depressions (lack of light in the soul sphere); used externally, with the oil applied to the fontanel, it is helpful in treating rickets (lack of light in the physical sphere).

Ether is taken up into the human organism, the lower ethers mainly via foods and the intestine, the higher ethers mainly through the senses. Both kinds must be equally well digested and made our own. Thus external light must be transformed into inner light which gives form and shape in the organic sphere and "brightens" the soul sphere.(2) At heart, people's hunger for light today is doubtless a longing for the inner light of higher perception. Sunlight tolerance changes depending on whether someone sleeps, stands, walks or actually works in the sun. The more active the person, the less the harmful effect of the sun; the action of the I within the organism is also different in each given case.

Rudolf Steiner spoke of the disorganized actions of the ethers leading to the polar morbid tendencies of malnutrition and softening of the brain. Excessive activity of the higher ethers leads to poisoning and rigidity; excessive activity of the lower ethers to softening, dissolution.

This provides flexible concepts for the general morbid tendencies at the functional level that underlie a specific dermatosis without actually determining it. The tendency to malnutrition would thus be underlying neurodennatitis, the tendency to softening of the brain, wet eczema, acne and psoriasis. Softening of the brain is an image for pathological extension of digestive activity "in the direction of the head". Here we think of all the dermatoses of people with reduced digestive powers in whom digestion and elimination proceed via the skin, in the wrong place. Accompanying phenomena such as migraine and postmenopausal hormone substitution also come under this heading ("rejuvenation treatment," R.Steiner). In women the lower ethers are more powerful, and they are more liable to develop urticaria, rosacea, sarcoidosis, annular granuloma, lupus vulgaris and necrobiosis lipoidica than men are. The higher ethers predominate in men who are more liable to develop Hodgkin's disease of the skin, mycosis fungoides, hemochromatosis and peripheral atherosclerotic disease. Faulty diet may have a negative effect on the relationship between higher and lower ethers. Thus milk from farms with pastures that have had an excess of nitrogenous fertilizer and dehorned cows(3) may cause the organism to be flooded with "lightless" protein in which lower ether activities are dominant.

Bees are particularly open to warmth and light; honey, therefore, provides excellent support for the higher ethers, especially in older people.(4)

Rudolf Steiner spoke of the differentiated, fluctuating interaction of the two types of ethers as occurring in vortices. The human form arises from the vortical interaction of the different ethers. Innumerable vortices are to be found in the human organism. The hair lies in vortices in different skin areas. Rudolf Steiner spoke of these vortices as a center for lead-overcoming forces.(5) Considering the relationship between Saturn and the higher ethers,(2) it is the lower ethers that create the vortices. Atopic subjects often have a vortex on the forehead; on the other hand many hyperkinetic children show numerous vortices in the hair on the head. Blood is vorticed most strongly in the heart; the muscle fibers of the heart runs in vortices.

After our work on the lecture, a pediatrician spoke of her clinical experience with anthroposophic medicines in India. Vitamin A deficiency causes children and adults suffering from malnutrition to have friable, vulnerable skin. Walking barefoot and poor hygiene promote infections (scabies, bacteria pyodermia, worms). Premature aging is common, and digestive powers are reduced, as evident from bloated bellies and colorless stools due to protein deficiency. On the other hand the children show remarkable enthusiasm and cheerfulness when playing; they show patience and endurance, waiting for long periods in a disciplined way. Children and adults are free from any intellectual braininess. Clinically the enormous rapidity of recovery was remarkable when anthroposophic medicines were used. The question arose whether malnutrition creates good conditions for the action of potentized medicines and phytotherapeutic agents. With reduced food intake, nutrition via the senses, the influence of the higher ethers, becomes more powerful. The wide-awake ability to perceive quickly indicates good digestion of sensory perceptions. Fluid intake is generally very low in India. Parallels to the Schroth cure used in Germany, with reduced food intake and both non-drinking and drinking days, come to mind. One reason for the observed signs may be that digestion ties up energies in the lower human being. The aim of digestion must be to remove all foreign nature from the food and overcome the lower ethers taken in with it. Fasting, on the other hand, opens body and soul to the cosmos; the higher aspects of the human being will then respond better to treatment and treatment is able to support physiologic homeopathization in the digestion more effectively. According to a statement Rudolf Steiner made to one of his pupils, the poor quality of present-day foods actually impedes spiritual development.

To gain a firsthand experience of the different types of ethers, we did a watercolor exercise. The arnica plants we had visited in June had disappeared, leaving only a few withered leaves. The next workshop will be in Sdefienhofen on 13 and 14 May 1995, when we shall continue work on the same lecture.

Lueder Jachens, M.D.
Oberthalhofen 25
Stiefenhofen (Allgaeu)

Arno Triebkom, M.D.
Bahnhofstr. 3
Gaggenau, Germany


1 Steiner, Rudolf; Spiritual Science and Medicine, lecture of 22 March 1920.

2 Steiner, Rudolf; Pastoral Medicine, lecture of 15 Sept. 1924.

3 Steiner, Rudolf; Agriculture, lecture of 10 June 1924.

4 Steiner, Rudolf; Nine Lectures on Bees, lecture of 26 November 1924.

5 Steiner, Rudolf; Eight Lectures to Doctors, lecture of 4 January 1924.

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