Out of which forces does the healing of man arise?

Author's draft of a lecture at the medical conference in Driebergen, August 4-10, 1985. Translated by A.C. Barnes, with the assistance of the author, of M.L. Barnes-VanDriel and of G. Feder.

Rudolf Steiner once gave a lecture (Nervositat und Ichheit, January 11, 1912, GA 143) to members of the Anthroposophical Society, in the course of which he advised them how to cure, to overcome the pathological symptom of nervousness that occurs so frequently in our time. He recommended to them a set of seven exercises.

The first exercise concerned the strengthening of the memory. When one finds that one is continually forgetting where one has put a particular object, one should form a picture in one's mind of the place where one is putting the object when one puts it down. The second exercise is changing one letter of the alphabet in one's handwriting. The third exercise is to im­agine events (a day, a play, a piece of music etc.) in reverse order. The fourth exercise is to perform an ordinary, everyday action in a different way, e.g., doing the washing-up with the left hand, walking with a different gait. What is one doing in these exercises? One is engaging the etheric body. In the first two it involves making pictures: a picture of the spot where one has put something, a picture of the letter one is forming. For this the image-forming powers of the etheric body are necessary. For the third exercise one uses the power of memory, which resides in the etheric body, and puts it to the test. The fourth exercise involves the formation of a new habit. Not doing something once, but doing it for a long time with such deep incarna­tion that the etheric body is altered. The etheric body becomes stronger and healthier through these exercises.

The following three exercises involve summoning up the Ego. The first is to forego the fulfillment of wishes, provided that this causes no social problems. The second is, when one is intending to perform particular ac­tivities, to consider the pros and cons before one puts them into action. The third is to refrain from passing judgment on people and situations. Many judgments prove to be self-protective. Nine judgments out of ten, says Rudolf Steiner, can quite properly be omitted without it causing any problems in one's life. Three exercises involving holding something back: in the first, sympathy; in the third, antipathy; in the second, keeping yes and no side by side before acting. This strengthens the Ego. Nervousness is cured by these seven exercises. By the power of the etheric body, by the power of the Ego. These are the two gateways through which recovery sets in. They enclose the astral body, from which the disturbance emerges.

Two gateways

This evening's question: "Out of which forces does the healing of man arise?" is answered in a preliminary way by this lecture. Healing forces flow on the one hand through the gateway of the Ego and on the other hand through the gateway of the etheric body. Both give access to worlds where forces for health reside.


We are familiar from experience with the force that can work curatively in the patient's Ego. I should like to describe an example which possesses an archetypal quality. A long time ago I was greeted by a very old patient with the words: "Have you heard that Dr. Zeylmans died?" I asked her to tell me something of her memories of him. She had a daughter who had been ill for three years, the last three months bed- ridden. She was examined by various specialists but none of them was able to find the answer to the question posed by her illness. It was obvious that she was gradually falling into a decline. Dr. Zeylmans visited the woman and talked alone with her for an hour. Then he came back to the mother and said: "Your daughter can recover. Tomorrow she should get up briefly and do some light housework. She should take a pinch of this powder three times a day." In three months the woman had recovered and she became a valuable member of the com­munity. What had happened in the consultation? From what the mother told me I noticed that there had been one key sentence in the consultation. At one particular moment Dr. Zeylmans had asked: "Madam, have you ever had an ambition?" She had thought about it and suddenly her face had lit up and she had replied: "Yes, I always wanted to be a nurse, but it was not possible financially with so many children in the family." To which Dr. Zeylmans had responded: "But haven't you still got the chance to do it even now?" She at once took up his suggestion. The warm enthusiasm made her penetrate into her body again, cure herself and finally become a well-liked district nurse in Haarlem. The sentence "Madam, have you ever had an am­bition?" is a key sentence with many possible variations.

The will to become healthy and the will to make healthy

In the Course for Young Doctors this awareness aspect of the healing process is described from a particular aspect as the patient's will to become healthy. This is awoken by the will to heal of the doctor or therapist. The will to heal is fed by awareness and this must be of a high quality, otherwise he cannot awaken the patient to (so to speak) incarnate again from the top down.

A patient can feel that he is being addressed in a special way if he knows that he is enclosed by a therapeutic circle, a community of people such as is possible in a therapeuticum or a hospital. "It is really as if I have a fan club," as a patient once expressed it. But a group of people will function as a community only if they grapple in a concerted effort for insight into the riddle of the patient's illness. Then the higher consciousness that the group can achieve can get to work on the patient's will to recover, blessing and awakening it.

The path of training

For modern man the way to a higher consciousness is given by Rudolf Steiner as lying through the development of imagination, inspiration and in­tuition. For the physician he specified this by saying:

—the diagnosis becomes possible through imagination, 

—access to the remedy is gained by inspiration,

—the proper therapy is found by intuition.

This is a long way, but one can take the first steps upon it.


I want to try to describe which first steps are fruitful in my experience, from the work of the therapeuticum in which I participate. At the first con­sultation patient and therapist are together. Usually the patient tells his story together with the doctor: the current complaint, the past history and review of systems and finally a short biographical sketch. Thereafter either can ask further questions, as a rule about constitution—sleeping and waking, the preferred taste, and other data that can give an insight into the constitution. After that the circle splits up again. Until the next session (a week later) the task of everyone in the circle is now to recall the image of the patient each day, usually in the evening. One allows the figure to form again in one's mind; the shape of the face, the position of the lips in relation to one another, the chin, the hands. One tries to re-experience the voice, whether it is low-pitched, whether it is modulated, whether it comes out or stays inside. It is particularly these precise, easily observable data that are used for this constructive activity in the evening. As the days go by the image becomes clearer and more intense. After, for example, four days one tries, once the image has been constructed, to let it gradually fade without allowing other image-contents to intrude into the mind. And then one lis­tens to the mood that is there. This mood can be a feeling: heaviness, purity, doubt. It can also have a touch of pictorial quality: yellowness, angularity, etc. The following day one can repeat the same procedure. The last two days one listens as the whole patient with all his phenomena is again built up and then fades away, to see whether a new image takes its place. One must be open-minded during all this and not push aside the images that appear but accept them as true, even if one does not yet understand them. Teachers have far less difficulty in doing this than therapists do and bring to it a heal­thy naivete. We tell each other these moods and images at the meeting a week later. I still remember vividly the first time that this method of work­ing was used in connection with the observation of nature over successive days. There was some diffidence on the part of the participants at the begin­ning. Finally someone plucked up the courage to take the first step. And while he was talking an expression of surprise could be seen to appear on some of the faces; they sat up and could hardly wait to speak themselves. The first said, "You've told my image" and the second "I have a follow-up on that." Very often the images seem to overlap to a great extent. How does this come about?

Observation is an active occupation; it is a movement of the will. The will is actively involved in the outward gaze and arrives at what is being ob­served. It really is of decisive importance how the will-directed soul inter­acts with what is being observed. Whether it gets pleasurably involved in what it is doing and seeks out the things that it likes and whether it withdraws to a distance while looking and passes judgment. Or whether it conforms and is obedient, unselfish and chaste. Goethe spoke of the Nachah­mungstrieb (urge to imitate). The power that a small child has, before it is shackled by memories or a capacity for making judgments.

If this surrender of the will comes to life (and one can acquire it by prac­tice), it will eventually happen that our will does not act but is acted upon, so that what is observed directs our will (just as our eardrums are acted upon). And then comes the movement of the mind that arises in us very close to the creative movement made by what we observe. And then the mood that we have after the image has faded away is the first expression, the still dreamy experience of the movement that has been awakened in us. This same movement then creates in us the new image that we get. Al­though we make this image so far as the substance is concerned ourselves (from the data that have come to us in the course of the biography), the ar­rangement of it and the selection of the substance can to an important extent come from the observation.

Let me mention a few images from a consultation with a young female patient. Someone sees a beach, the water gradually withdraws, then there is a place that moves up and down and finally disappears under the sand. A second person sees a hippopotamus and their attention is drawn to its foot with its armor-clad plates. The third has a heavy sensation that finally con­denses into the image of a tortoise. This was one category, one group of im­ages. A second category: a stall in a market-place with brilliant yellow lemons. A portrait of the girl in the style of Van Gogh with a hard yellow as background. A black castle without moat or vegetation in a yellow desert.

The next thing is to read these images. And it then turns out that you must have ideas. Observation without thought is in any case impossible. Without mental images observation is blind. In his anthroposophy Rudolf Steiner has given many anthroposophical images, typologies, and it can happen that the observational images draw forth one such typology as a magnet attracts iron. One of the most fruitful Gestalt-ideas of Rudolf Steiner is the conception of the threefoldness of man. In the case of this girl the im­ages spoke very clearly in the direction of the hardening, stiffening nerve-and- sense-organ processes, of the pressing upon the foreground of the desiccating yellow. And this provides the start of a dynamic diagnosis of the relation of the sheaths of man. So much for experiences with diagnosis and imagination.

A diagnosis is in itself something detached. It is a judgment that is being made. But in the judgment a strong inner force can be awakened: the force of astonishment, of "Staunen".Of the exceptional, superb fact that someone has such a long neck or lives so exclusively in the middle sphere. But then comes the second step that can redeem the judgment­--empathy, objective compassion with the patient. To be able to feel what it would be like to have such a long neck or to be almost unable to move with rheumatism. And then you go on to experience what someone has taken upon himself by put­ting on such a jacket for this incarnation. For someone's illness or constitu­tion is not the person himself but is the envelope, the jacket that he has put on. You can achieve a deep respect for the higher being of the patient if you experience in this way, by empathy and compassion, the task he has set himself. And then comes the third inner movement. That one says yes to this illness and the will and conscience awake to work through and over­come this problem together with the patient. Astonishment, compassion and conscience, these are the steps that begin to be taken already at the time of diagnosis.


The step from diagnosis to remedy is a difficult one. The reverse of this often happens: that one finds the way from a remedy to a patient. One is oc­cupied with a particular plant or metal, gets a feeling for the processuality, the dynamic that is active in it, and suddenly one sees before one the patient for whom this can be the therapy. And sometimes it even happens (every physician is familiar with this) that patients turn up in surgery hours who are appropriate for the remedy with which one has achieved a relationship. One could call this a form of anticipatory therapeutics. It is of supreme im­portance for the physician that he not only be occupied with the current health problems that his patients bring to him, but also that he keep himself continually occupied with the healing forces that lie hidden in the world.

Access to the remedy, says Rudolf Steiner, is found through inspiration­al consciousness. What is inspiration? Being able to use the astral body as an organ of observation quite separate from the physical and etheric body. This is the situation into which every person comes when he falls asleep. Then the astral body (together with the Ego) functions separately from the physi­cal-etheric, that remains lying in bed. In the Course for Young Doctors, in the fourth lecture where he introduces the meditation of healing spirits, Rudolf Steiner goes into this nocturnal situation in detail. Every night we penetrate with our astral body into the world that surrounds us and experience the healing forces that are active there.

Another image can here surface into memory: the image of the temple-dream from the Greek healing-mysteries. As you know, there were two kinds of dream that the patient could have. The diagnostic dream and the dream of the therapy. In the case of the first kind of dream the astral body was still joined to the physical-etheric and portrayed its own constitutional situation: this was the diagnosis. In the second kind of dream there occurred what appears in real inspiration and in further sleep: the astral body had left the body, expanded into the environment and there experienced something of nature. A specific part of nature. Why did it arrive at that particular spot?

One could say: the astral body was as it were "tuned" by the impression it had received from the etheric body, it had been given a very definite tone. Something was wrong. There was a lacuna, a disharmony. With that im­pression the astral body left the etheric body and went into the world of na­ture. The astral body at night, the astral body in its spiritual reality, commands a view of the totality. The separate entities become "legible" in their mutual relationship. The astral body notices what is lacking in the lacuna, observes the tone in the totality of the surrounding world which can bring the disharmony back into harmony. For the astral body is our "rela­tional body." It is known from phenomenological studies that it is fruitful to study not one plant but two together, e.g., an oak and a beech. The reason is that it turns out that the two plants throw light on one another. A direct con­versation can develop between the two plants. An interval sounds. A music. For the astral body is also our musical body. That is why it is a good idea when studying remedies to try to start from the totality of a particular area. Not to study one metal, but always this metal in its relationship to the other six. One will discover that Rudolf Steiner very often applies this method of working. He will seldom speak of lead without dealing with silver as well.

In the eighth lecture of the Course for Young Doctors he deals with the triad of lead-gold-silver. With silica the polar activity of calcium is brought in at the same time. Twenty years ago in the doctors' circle we discussed plant families with Bernard Lievegoed: the labiates, the solanaceae. The in­dividual members of the family became clear only when one sets them be­side their brothers and sisters. Only then did the genius of a Solanum dulcamara, for instance, become visible—or rather "audible." It turned out to be the Mercury of the solanaceae.

Everything that is practiced in the manner during the day is preparation for the night. It is as it were the entry-permit for the kingdom of the night, where our astral body sees everything in a different light and can perceive in its totality whatever we have tried to establish a preliminary relationship with during the day. Then the will to heal (Heilerwille)comes into being. It is not unimportant for us to consciously involve the night in our life in this way.

For only by this means does it become possible to execute the third step. The step to therapy proper.


The diagnosis is found by imagination. Inspiration gives access to the kingdom of the remedies. Intuition establishes the connection between diag­nosis and remedy and leads to therapy.

Just as inspiration is possible through the feeling that lives in the astral body, so has intuition to do with the will and the Ego. During intuition the will becomes an organ of observation. And the will an expression of the Ego, it is Ego-substance. During intuition the path of training becomes in­dividualized, it becomes a matter of individual responsibility. Intuition only becomes possible when one makes one's moral will available. And then, as it were, the path of training turns into a reverse direction. One seeks to con­nect back to the earth what one experiences. One has to do it.

When experiencing inspiration one enters the general spiritual world, the world of the night, one could say. In intuition the task is set to bring the experiences of the "night" back into the daylight. For Ita Wegman with what Rudolf Steiner describes as her "wonderful inspirational-intuitional capabilities" ("wunderbare inspirativ-intuitive Fahigkeiten") it was necessary, when she had had such an intuition, to make it true for herself, to under­stand it, so that she might be responsible for it. It is an ongoing to-and-fro process.

A case history

An experience of my own may serve to illustrate the above- mentioned steps. A patient who had to contend with what is called post-concentration­ camp syndrome. Twenty or twenty-five years after people have been in a concentration camp they can suddenly develop all kinds of psychological and physical complaints: particularly abdominal and heart complaints, fol­lowed by insomnia, anxiety, hypersensitivity, fits of temper. This patient also had that and life became almost unbearable for him and those around him. I had tried to make him incarnate, particularly in his metabolism, but without much noticeable result. At one particular moment I had to consider calling in assistance from a psychiatric hospital. He had not worked for three months. It was an existential situation.

I then built up an image of the patient over a number of evenings and asked myself what the trouble really was, without directly giving a final answer to the question. With that I fell asleep. A few days later while on my rounds the idea came to me that this patient had to have Iscador®. I did not understand this but took the idea seriously. In the course of the day the in­sight began to mature.

Iscador is the specific for carcinoma. In carcinoma the situation arises that the higher components of the individual, the Ego and the astral body, do not work fully incarnating. A carcinoma is a sense-organ in the wrong place. In a sense-organ the Ego and the astral body are almost completely free from the organ. What happens in a concentration camp? People con­tinuously experience shocks, greater and smaller. They cannot deal with these shocks, for then the problem only becomes bigger. They cannot incar­nate. Under a shock one excarnates. Ego, astral body and even the etheric body come free to some extent. In a concentration camp this becomes a per­manent state, something that remains. This can last for twenty or twenty-five years and then comes the reaction. Iscador helps one to incarnate again. Now it was beginning to become clear.

The problem in this case had not yet become physical, not yet a car­cinoma. It was situated on the border between the astral and the etheric body. Hence it was necessary to give the Iscador not in massive doses but in a higher strength, e.g., St. 7. And to follow the rhythm of the astral body: the weekly rhythm. On the next visit the patient was given Iscador P St. 7. A week after the first injection he said: "I feel a bit better." After the second in­jection: "I'm beginning to be happy again, I've laughed for the first time in ages." And after the third week he reported: "Tomorrow I'm going back to work." The injections were given six times and repeated after six months. This treatment proved effective also with other patients and when given by other colleagues.

The first step was to look at the illness afresh with an open mind, with astonishment: taking the first step, diagnosis, in daytime consciousness. This tunes the mind, which empathizes, which possesses the objective power of compassion. The power of feeling gives the astral body wings to enter the kingdom of night with a specific direction and there to behold the remedy. Of course one finds only those remedies with which one has built up a relationship. The third step: bringing the treatment back from the night into the daylight. "Seizing hold" of the insight. This takes place only when the situation has become existential. When the unreal personal things, the wishes, vanities and fads, have been burnt away by the fire of reality. When you have become unselfish. Only then can you observe (with your will) what the situation requires, and then the conscience can speak.

If one tries to put into practice anthroposophical medicine in this way, training oneself, putting one's own inner instrument into the service of heal­ing, one thereby opens the gateway from which the healing forces flow: the gateway of the Ego.


The second gateway for healing is the etheric body. I shall give briefly a few points of view for it.

The Hermetic or Mercury-mysteries

When in the southern mysteries a person was conducted into his own being by the initiate, it was priests of Hermes or Mercury who accompanied the aspirant upon his entry into his etheric body. The first experience that appeared there was that one entered into time—the etheric body is the time-body. One came backwards into the flow of time and passed through the gateway of birth. First one saw oneself and then in the course of time one saw many generations, of which one had the impression that these were one's ancestors, until the moment when this experience ceased. The mystagogue made clear that from a particular moment on, one is occupied via one's ancestors with working on one's own etheric body with its heredity, until it possesses the quality that one requires in one's earthly life. This was called the heavenly part, the upper part of the etheric body. That which ac­companies one from the spiritual world to the earth.

After that the neophyte became acquainted with something else besides. He encountered something that was at first strange to him but which the Hermetic priest explained to him that it nevertheless belonged to him. He became acquainted during regression with the etheric body as it was when he passed through the gateway of death the last time. That was the moment when reincarnation became a reality for the aspirant. And karma too. For the essence of that previous etheric body lives on in his present etheric body. And in it he met the lower part of his etheric body. The terrestrial, chthonic part. That part harbors the disturbances which stem from the pre­vious and earlier earth-lives. These are a source of illness. The Mercury in­itiate is concerned with the etheric body. He must as it were transpose everything into etheric terms. The ultimate cause of illness lies in the astral body. But the unresolved situation from earlier lives lies hidden in the etheric body. And so it is a typical Mercury-sentence when the second chap­ter of Fundamentals of Therapy*, 'Why is Man subject to illness?' (Warum erkrankt der Mensch) ends with the sentence: "Thus healing must consist in the treatment of the etheric organism" ("Heiler muss daher in der Behandlung des aetherischen Organismus bestehen").

Elementals and the Cure of Illness

How is a cure set in motion? The Course for Young Doctors gives an elevated point of view on this and speaks of healing spirits ("heilende Geister").

In the meditation suggested there it is very clearly the elementals that are associated with the plant-world. Elementals are descendants of the hierarchies. They are the messengers of the third, second and first hierarchy, who allowed themselves to be banished into condensation when the world came into being.

The world arose from warmth. At the moment when the warmth begins to work in such a way that on the one hand light arises and on the other hand air or "smoke", some of its spiritual power is transmitted to both spheres. Spiritual beings must associate with the smoke. And similarly an enchantment of spiritual beings is associated with every materialization. Everything that is material is "smoke". Rudolf Steiner then poses the ques­tion: can we do anything for these enchanted elementals? Elementals enter into us when we observe nature. But if we observe nature in such a way that we try to penetrate to her very being, or, more concretely expressed, to the beings that work in her, then we release the elementals and then they find, when we die, the way back to their origin. By his inward warmth man forms fire again from the smoke. Before the inner eye the image of the old customs of sacrifice can loom up. In the smoke of the sacrifice the priest sends his prayers and thereby leads the spirit linked to the smoke back to the spiritual world.

But the elementals were not only banished in space at the beginning of the world, but also in time. The rhythm of the day, month and year became possible because elementals made the sacrifice of allowing themselves to be banished to the darkness of the night, the new moon and the dark winter. Rudolf Steiner also provides inner activities of man for the release of these elementals (see second lecture of Spiritual Hierarchies and their Reflection in the Physical World, GA 110.).

Preparation of Remedies

In one of the conversations Rudolf Steiner had on his sick bed with Ita Wegman, he made the suggestion that a spinnable fibre be made from peat. This would release the elementals banished to this mummified plant-sub­stance. They would thereafter protect man from harmful influences that in the future will increasingly threaten him from the earth's atmosphere as a result of technical developments. One could make clothing from the spin­nable fiber. From this background Rudolf Hauschka developed the prepara­tion Solum Uliginosum.

This story is an archetypal image for the preparation of remedies and the operation of elementals as "healing spirits" (heilende Geister).

We know that the essential aspect of anthroposophical remedies is their preparation. Natural substances are not of themselves strongly efficacious remedies. They become so by undergoing preparation. A substance becomes curative when it is brought along the road to the spirit. One can also say: only when it is conducted into the realm of the etheric, when it acquires a relationship with the etheric body. Roughly speaking there are two possible ways of bringing this about.


The first way is that of warmth-treatments. Cold extractions, digestion, distillation, infusion, decoction, carbonization and ash-preparations. This is cooperation with and release of the first group of elementals.


The second way is to bring the substance into relationship with our time-body, our etheric body. This begins already when one takes into ac­count the time of day when one gathers the substance: at the beginning of the day, for instance, the leaf (in the "Blattermorgen"), somewhat later the flower, at the end of the day the root. But also the time of year is important: belladonna in the summer, when it is in full bloom, oak-bark when the first leaves appear, etc. When one has gathered the primary substance one can go further in working with the rhythms of time. For example, by adapting oneself to the forces of blessing of the morning and the evening, as is the case with the Rh preparations of Weleda and many Wala preparations. There is here even a matching of rhythm and warmth-treatment. Beside the daily rhythm the yearly rhythm also has its place in the preparation of remedies. One may think of the vegetabilized metals that undergo their development through three yearly cycles. Or of Iscador, in which summer and winter saps are combined. In these rhythm-treatments the other elementals stand in the background, particularly those of the day and the year. Day and year have their reality in the relation between earth and sun. Working with these rhythms brings sun-quality into the remedies.

The Hermetic or Mercury-priest inspected in the earthly, the chthonic part of the etheric body the unresolved spots, the "islands" in the current. Wherever something had dropped out of the healthy rhythm or where it threatened to become too much "smoke". Remedies which have become substances on the way to the spirit provide the possibility of resolving such stoppage or disharmony and to restore a proper development. The elemen­tals become "healing spirits" because man carries nature a step farther. They become helpers, servants of Raphael.

Michael and Raphael

The question was once put to Rudolf Steiner: how can one achieve a linkage with Raphael? His answer was surprising. "That cannot be done without something else. First one has to make an acquaintance with Michael. For Raphael is in a realm at whose gateway Michael stands." ("Das geht nicht ohne weiteres. Da muss man zuerst Bekanntschaft mit Michael machen. Denn Rafael ist einem Reich an lessen Pforte Michael steht.") Of the seven arch­angels who (so the Tobias story tells us) stand before God's throne, most work in deep unconscious levels of man's being. The fact that there are many legends about Michael, whereas the other archangels are scarcely known in this way, is an expression of the fact that Michael stands the closest to our consciousness. Michael is the inspiring force in every battle to keep the spiritual horizon free, to stand open before the future. Whichever archangel one seeks access to in our times, we always go via Michael. The first step must always be a step in consciousness.

Man's etheric body has two sides. One side is at the disposal of con­sciousness, the other part works tied to the body, organ-directed. One could say that the free part of the etheric body, the consciousness part, is the sphere in which Michael works. The organ-bound sphere is the realm of Raphael.

In the consciousness part, the cultural side of the etheric body, man can work healing if he does it by the power of his free Ego. If he lives by ideals, if he is active artistically creating, if he trains himself inwardly, then this is simultaneously health-making. The Ego is then the gateway through which health-making forces are awakened in the etheric body. In this sense one can also understand that Michael stands at the gateway of the realm where Raphael is.

We have spoken of two routes by which the healing forces can flow into Man. The image can now arise:

—at the Ego-gateway stands Michael and shows the way with his il­luminating sword,

—at the etheric gateway stands Raphael and there brandishes rhythmi­cally his staff of flaming fire above the abyss.

Fundamentals of Therapy, R. Steiner, I. Wegman, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1967.