Fourfold Nature of the Human Being

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By: J. J. Kuehn, M.D.

Anthroposophically extended medicine, based as it is on a spiritual view of illness and the human being, employs some basic tools as aids in diagnosis and treatment. In the last issue we spoke of the threefold nature of the human organism (nerve-sense system, metabolic-limb system and rhythmic system). Today we would like to de­scribe a fourfold membering that can be objectively perceived, described and experienced.

The physical body is determined by material chemical laws. This body would immediately decompose without its partner, the etheric- or life body. This latter is the repository of life, as manifest in the functions of regeneration, growth and reproduction. It continu­ously maintains the form of organs and limbs, in spite of constant tension between build­ing up and breaking down. The etheric body remain largely in the unconscious except as a general feeling of the body's state of wellbeing. Some etheric forces are transformed and used for thinking and memory.

A third membering is expressed as the domain of the astral, or soul body. Degrees of sympathy and antipathy are expressed in the astral. Many of these feelings remain in the realm of partial or sub-consciousness although they do also rise to consciousness. This body has the ability to effect disintegration in the organism and can be viewed as a partial internal causator of illness and death.

Finally, the human being, possessing the above three members in common with the animals, is endowed with a fourth and crowning member—the ego. This is the spiritual kernel which enables unique self knowledge, characteristic to each individual human being. No one says "I" to me; only I can call myself so. In the exercise of understanding the laws of the world, the spirit within this member lights up.

These four members interact and influence each other intensely.

The life body animates the physical body to grow, maintain itself and carry out rhythmic functions. Etheric body and physical body are inextricably entwined, and only separate at death. To varying degrees both of them are interpenetrated and molded by the astral body and the ego. The stronger the ego's influence is, the more individu­ally formed and controlled is the astral.

During sleep, ego and astral body withdraw from physical and etheric (in the nerve-sense region), only to return at the moment of awakening. Because they are withdrawn the etheric body is free to restore the physical body during that time.

In nature we find the same four forces working harmoniously together. The life­less mineral realm contains laws and forces also active in our physical organization. In plant processes we observe an interpenetration of physical/mineral forces with life principle enabling growth, regeneration and reproduction. In the animal realm a third principle is added to the duality of physical/mineral and life. It is the soul body which imbues animals with feelings (pain, sadness, joy). The fourth principle, the ego, is found in humans alone.

Insight into these connections allows for an understanding of illness, and the treatment of illness. In a future issue we will elaborate on the connection between threefold and fourfold functions.

Dr. Kuehn is one of the physicians at the Lukas Cancer Clinic in Switzerland where be is involved in patient care and research.

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