Polarities, An Introduction

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By: Jesse A. Stoff, M.D.
Applying the concepts of polarities to medicine dates back at least five thousand years to the Chinese and is reflected in their image of the T'ai-chi T'u (symbol of the yin and yang). They felt that the wholeness of Man was maintained in health by the diametrically opposed and yet balanced forces of the Yin and Yang. Each of these forces or processes may then be further divided and understood by the intricate balance for the elements. Thus a paradigm of man could be constructed wherein force is opposed by force, process by process. When all is in balance, a state of health reigns.

Dating back to antiquity, Western physicians, too, tacitly understood the delicate processes, and their polarities, within the being of Man. Hippocrates and Galen taught these concepts as basic tenets in the understanding of Man as is reflected in their knowledge and discussions of the four humors.

Later, in the Middle Ages, Culpepper and Paracelsus described in great detail the overwhelming importance of this basic concept in the understanding of Man and in the treatment of his ills. Paracelsus described a basic polarity of Sal (salts) and Sulfur with a mediating-balancing effect by Mercury. Culpepper detailed a broader perspective based upon the known planets and the signs of the Zodiac, each representing a force which had a balancing counterpart.

More recently. Dr. Rudolf Steiner described different perspectives of the being of Man: a four-fold image, a seven-fold picture, etc. Each of these insights is characterized by balanced polarities and mirrors processes found elsewhere in nature. On a grander scale, this insight creates a correspondence between Man and nature, spiritual and physical worlds. These polarities exist not in the sense of an antithesis but as parts of a whole.

Studying the four-fold image of Man leads to a very basic and important foundation of insight into the being of Man. The unfolding of the Ego-organization, Astral body, Etheric body and Physical body (and the polarities within each member) may be further understood by looking for examples of similar processes in nature. Dr. W. Pelikan, like Dr. R. Steiner, explored this insight by relating the four members of Man to the four elements (thus the polarities of fire-water, earth-air) and to four important plant groups. He related Warmth to the Labiatae, Air to the Umbelliferae, Water to the Cactaceae and Earth to the Chenopodiaceae.

Dr. R. Steiner stated that man is a "seven-fold metal." With this insight he related the different organ processes of man to the seven major celestial bodies of our solar system and to the seven metals that reflect these processes. One can go into great detail about these polarities, and certainly Dr. Steiner does. For the purposes of this brief paper a mere sketch will serve as an introduction to further the understanding and relationships of these polarities and to shed some light upon the following articles.

There are many references to be found in regard to the basic polarities of Man. Initially, one can start with those given by Dr. Steiner in Spiritual Science and Medicine, Lectures to Young Doctors and Occult Physiology.

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