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  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the Light of Anthroposophy

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By: Jesse A. Stoff, M.D.
We live in an age of revelation where personal insights and new levels of self awareness are becoming commonplace, accepted, and encouraged. As human beings, we travel our own path of personal growth and evolution. Over time our physical body changes and so, too, does our perspective of ourselves and the world around us. If these changes keep pace with each other, then one will grow old graciously and with wisdom. but if the processes are not in sync, then a state of imbalance, disease, occurs.

For many, the awakening of their own consciousness, in the absence of a spiritual framework to hold and understand it, allows new awarenesses to unfold in places where they do not belong, which are then interpreted as discomforts. If this awakening of consciousness is perceived only through a materialistic understanding of man, one might conclude, as Norman Cousins did, that we have become "a nation of hypochondriacs." On the other hand, when the unexpected appearance of consciousness and consequent perception of a physical symptom/ chronic disease are viewed from a spiritual perspective they provide an opportunity for personal growth and development, a realigning of one's own personal process of evolution. The mind/body continuum cannot be arbitrarily separated and studied. Much is known about the physical manifestations of disease. More is becoming known about the nature of the mind and its effects upon the body. In this paper, I will endeavor to describe a framework for understanding both and how to foster a realignment of them in the context of helping the sufferers with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to find their own creative path in life, and thus to heal.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome occurs in people who are suffering from overwhelming levels of stress for a prolonged period of time. By stress, what is meant is simply that the body is expending energy faster than it can be regenerated. This can occur for anyone of a thousand different reasons. On a cellular level, it doesn't matter what the stressor is. The result is that there is a net deficiency of "energy", a depletion of the etheric forces which causes physiological dysfunction. As the etheric forces ebb they become less and less able to support the forces and activity of the upper pole so that soon the inter-penetration and integration of the upper and lower poles is damaged. When the Ego forces are no longer able to fully express and imprint themselves onto the lower pole, then there is a progressive weakening of the immune system and with the weakened immune system comes the opportunity of a chronic viral infection to become established or to reactivate from a state of latency.

In the broadest context of the disease of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, we may say that it is a disease of the will. More specifically, it is a disease wherein the forces of the ego are unable to fully penetrate the etheric and express themselves through the will. There are many scenarios that can account for this sort of imbalance. Suffice it to say that the symptoms of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are those of a "burnt-out" (now more sclerotic) chronic inflammatory disease and the symptoms are in fact an attempt by the person's being to heal itself of this very fundamental imbalance.

When one is in a state of inflammation, it is a very powerful but sonsuming move towards health because the actual healing reaction to the process of inflammation (an upward displacement of the physical and etheric bodies into an area where it is perceived as foreign) can only occur as a result of an integration of the four members of man. Conceptually, the remedies, counseling and eurythmy are used to disengage and replace the ego from the generation of the process of inflammation and thus free it to continue along its path of growth and development, free of the pull and attachments to the instincts and impulses of the lower pole. The ego is of the upper pole of man (the nerve sense system) and it is often to this pole that viruses are drawn to help the ego accomplish its mission of the interpenetration and integration of the four members of man.

One of the expressions of the ego in our physical being is the manifestation of the immune system. The primary goal of the immune system is to distinguish self from non-self and then to respond accordingly. With the weakening of the penetration of the ego, we see the weakening of the forces of the immune system. More specifically, in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since we can observe a difficulty of the ego forces in penetrating the forces of the will, it is the B-cells (which are the metabolic, antibody factories of our immune system) where we most often see the reflection of this lack of penetration and integration in the form of damage and dysfunction. Most of the viruses that are associated with the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are B-cell viruses, or secondarily, will adversely affect the B-cells of the immune system. Thus, on a physiological basis, when we do a diagnostic evaluation, we can see abnormalities in the lymphocyte enumeration panel and B-cell subsets and more specifically, elevations of alpha-interferon, which as a lymphokine is crucial to the normal communication and functioning of the B-cells. In more advances cases, we can see problems with the T -<:ells if the virus remains unchecked and thus abnormalities in interleukin-l and 2. As the smoldering inflammation burns out, due to a lack of the etheric forces in supporting the balanced penetration of the upper pole, it evolves into the process of sclerosis. This is a particularly dangerous time, since an unchecked sclerotic process invites the risk of cancer as most of the viruses associated with the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are also known to be oncogenic.

If there is resistance to the penetration of the ego into the forces of the will, as can occur from various states of toxicity (which poison the etheric), sense of melancholia will ensue, which, too, is common for sufferers of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. An important manifestation of the will in the being of man is in the organ and function of the liver. Almost all of the patients who are suffering from the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome will manifest quantitative and/ or qualitative dysfunctions of their liver. In addition to the usual sorts of liver-function tests (AST, ALT, LDH etc., etc.), on can also do a urine test for D-glucaric acid (which reflects liver toxicity), as well as assessing the quality of the state of being of the liver by way of the sensitive blood crystallization test, a test that I find to be most useful in my practice.

Analysis of liver functions are the first place where I begin in my evaluation of the patient, since without a strong physical body, animated by the etheric forces, interpenetration by the form-giving upper pole is impossible. Therefore, strategies to support the liver, including nutritional and dietary strategies, are crucial in the beginning phases of treating somebody with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is most important to evaluate any underlying clinical toxicity, as this can greatly impede progress in healing if it is not dealt with. Often We find the state of the etheric forces to be fragmented and somewhat chaotic in their functioning so that there are fragments of them displaced into places where they do not belong which results in the manifestation of allergic symptoms and/or anxiety-panic attacks, which, too, are fairly common among sufferers of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Having assessed the quality of liver function, the next important area to assess is the ability of the person to become grounded, centered, and focused. Anything that might interfere with this process must be eliminated. Counter-ego forces would certainly include the use of "recreational" drugs and alcohol and arhythmic, disharmonious sleep/wake cycle. A regulated sleep/wake cycle is crucial in preparing the groundwork for the rhythmic incarnation/ excarnation of the ego organization into the being of man. Other counter-ego forces are those that pull the person" outside" of themselves; this is another form of stress. Whether it be sitting in front of a computer or TV screen all day long, marital strife or friction in the work place, these kinds of activities tend to bring one's focus of consciousness outside of themselves to the detriment of their immune system. Clearly, these are factors that need to be sought in history taking and dealt with appropriately through methods of psychotherapy or protective devices in their environment.

I have noticed that approximately 20% of the sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are in fact quite "healthy" in mind and body. Yet these patients feel quite ill and fatigued because they have a great reservoir of creative energy and potential that they are not mobilizing and developing. This is often due to fear or insecurity from past experience of ridicule by those they deem to be an authority. These people, on close examination, have a very functional and intact immune system, very functional and intact liver, and in fact complain of little other than severe fatigue and generalized weakness. I have often found that such a person is often working as a secretary, assembly line worker or a gas station attendant, when in fact they have the soul of an artist. It is this immobilization of these creative forces that is preventing them from manifesting their true potential with regard to the expression of their ego through their will and in their health.

One of the most difficult tasks of working with someone who has a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is to help instill within them a spiritual understanding of themselves and the world around them so that they can have a framework to hold their blossoming consciousness. I believe that Rudolf Steiner said it best when he stated:

"If we do not develop within ourselves this deeply rooted feeling that there is something higher than ourselves, we shall never find the strength to evolve to something higher. The initiate has only to acquire the strength to lift his head to the heights of knowledge by guiding his heart to the depths of veneration and devotion." (Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment)

Indications for one needing work and support on this level will be manifest by feelings of a purposeless existence, lack of fulfillment and struggles with such existential questions of "Who am I; why am I here?" These sorts of issues can be worked through with the help of a pastoral counselor.

Thus, to work with someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is to work with a being in need, a being in crisis. The crisis can extend over many levels: physical, etheric, astral, ego, and higher. To truly help someone onto their healing path requires a comprehensive integrated, multidimensional treatment strategy that can hold all of the nuances of these imbalances. Furthermore, we must help them to create the spiritual framework for themselves and for their ego to penetrate through their will so that it may blossom and manifest itself in the principles of love and freedom.

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