Warmth as Medicine

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By: Margaret Rosenthaler, R.N.

We live in a time when there is urgent need to concern ourselves with the question of warmth in the human organism and in social relationships. Because we are educated to believe that warmth is a re­sult of the vibrations of molecules, and therefore a by-product of matter, a con­sideration of this subject must be pref­aced by some clarification as to just what warmth is.

For the ancients, warmth was the highest of the physical elements because it formed a bridge by which the soul/ spiritual could descend into and work in a physical body.

In ancient times such preliminary discussion would not have been neces­sary. The Greek, for instance, recognized four elements, or states of matter: fire, air , water, and earth, behind which they perceived the workings of differentiated spiritual principles. "Earth" included anything solid. For instance, frozen wa­ter was "earth." "Water" described any liquid substance (water and mercury be­ing the only inorganic liquids of which I am aware which one would experience in nature), "air" was any gaseous sub­stance and "fire" anything made of warmth or heat.

The earthly element was always the element of death. For a substance to be "earth" it must have been abandoned by all the other spiritual principles. Take, for instance, the human body. There are only very limited circumstances in which you would perceive a human "physical body" without its being penetrated by the other three principles; this you would see only in the corpse. The whole mineral realm is, from this point of view, a corpse of something which was once living and from which life has been withdrawn.

The forces of life find their home, or perhaps better stated, their medium or their field of activity, in the watery ele­ment. Our folklore recognized this in tales about the "the water of life." All living plants and creatures are formed out of these forces of life which use fluids as their vehicle.

Other invisible forces become active in the ele­ment of the air. As we walk out of our doorstep in the morning that which most strongly meets us, aside from the tempera­ture, is a mood brought about by various condi­tions in the air and light. We experience the raging anger of a storm, the op­pressive sultriness of a hot humid day, and the quick­ening effect of clear, light-filled air. All this has to do with feelings, awakeness, and move­ment (soul characteristics which distinguish the animal from the plant). Just so, we experience our feelings mainly in our chest region where we breathe.

The warmth element carried a higher principle still than the air. Consider how we experience warmth. We feel that a thing is hot or cold depending on its temperature in relation to our own bodily warmth. We can experience tem­perature through touch on virtually every surface of our body.

The other three elements are not perceived by us in the same way. Only warmth is perceived outwardly and inwardly.

There is another aspect of warmth. We have all experienced a "warm greet­ing" or walking into a room with a warm, inviting atmosphere as opposed to a cold one. It is not uncommon to describe a person as being "warm" or "cold.” These qualities are readily perceptible in the soul atmosphere around us but not perceptible to our physical senses. How­ever, an interplay can exist between the soul and physical levels. Being interested in something or filled with enthusiasm can physically warm us, whereas we have all experienced the chilling numbness of fear.

For the ancients, warmth was the highest of the physical elements because it formed a bridge by which the soul/spiri­tual could descend into and work in a physical body.

Our science acknowledges only three states of matter and denies the fourth - the warmth. Significantly, sci­entific dogma which denies the spiritual also is unable to recognize the signifi­cance of warmth. This has resulted in cultural ignorance regarding the proper care and nurturing of that warmth and is leading to many aberrations both physi­ological in terms of illness, and on the level of individual and social soul expe­rience.

Modern medicine plays a crucial role in contributing to this dysfunction. Think of the drugs given for acute ill­ness: antipyretics (against fever), anti-­inflammatories, anti-diarrhea drugs, ste­roids, antihistamines, and antibiotics. These have their consequences. We tend to think that human immunity is some­thing we are born with, but actually, the protection we have at birth is our mother's (we carry her antibodies). Our individual immune system is only gradu­ally developed over the course of time out of our interaction with the world. In­creased warmth, fever, or inflammation is characteristic of the enhanced activity of our immune system. Our immune func­tion works in the warmth and serves our individuality or the spiritual part of us. It recognizes what is "ours" and protects the domain of the "I". It also distin­guishes what is "not us" and removes it from our organism.

An inflammation in the body is a kind of gesture of enthusiasm (over-en­thusiasm perhaps). The effect of repeat­edly extinguishing it through suppressive treatment has the ultimate effect of "cool­ing us down" both on the soul and bodily level. Its ultimate effect is that the spirit of the human being finds it harder and harder to express itself in the physical body and to fulfill its tasks on earth. We see it expressed in the "cool" attitudes of our adolescents (who in earlier times were more full of the fire of idealism), and in the increasing difficulty of human relationships. Also, balance in the realm of soul warmth is lost so that it often gives way either to coolness or indifference or goes to the opposite extreme in exces­sive sexual activity.

Physiologically we see an escalation of illnesses which are the result of inap­propriate cooling. Auto-immune ill­nesses of increasing variety are on the rise; immune deficiencies, blood dyscrasias, chronic fatigue conditions, and other chronic illness are all increas­ing. Children are not dressed warmly enough. Literally because of a "fear of fire" one has great difficulty finding natu­ral fiber clothes for children, particularly of wool.

A new way of looking at illness must be learned. Obviously, the object is not that a person should seek to have a fever all the time. But if febrile illness and inflammations are an attempt by the hu­man individuality to take better hold in the organism we should try to find a way to support the sick person without inappro­priate use of suppressive treatment so that a greater state of health can be attained after recovery.

Margaret Rosenthaler is a member of the Anthroposophical Nurses' Association of' America. ANAA offers week long courses for nurses, therapists, care givers, and the general public in this type of healing. For more information contact the Association at: 25 East Main Street, Elkton, MD 21921.

NOTE: It is particularly important to seek a physician who is supportive of your philosophy of treatment.

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