The ancients took it that Aphrodite-Venus was in some sense the inner quality and being of the metal copper. The old story told of the birth of Aphrodite from the sea-foam. Ouranos or heaven lay every night on Gaia or mother earth. All her children he concealed in folds of her body when they were born. At last she managed to contrive with the youngest, Chronos or Saturn, that when Ouranos came at night Chronos would come out of hiding and with a sickle cut off his father's genitals. This he did and threw the members into the sea. From the foaming gradually appeared the form of a most beautiful girl.
According to some stories she frolicked for ages in the sea with a beautiful boy companion but eventually sailing upon a cockle shell came to land first on the island of Cytherea and then to Cyprus at the bay of Paphos. There she was quickly decked out with clothes and jewels by the Hours and led to the assembled Gods of Olympus who promptly fell in love with the ravishing beauty. She is thus a goddess of very ancient origin who assumed her customary image of an overwhelmingly lovely and irresistible girl on her adoption into the family of the Olympians. On her stepping ashore at Cyprus nature blossomed into springtime, and this gives us a first key to her nature; she manifests in all the blossoming of nature. Further, in other stories such as her seduction of Anchises, the father of Aeneas, we hear how at her coming all the wild animals paired off two by two and lay themselves down in shady places. Her portion of honour amongst men and gods is "girlish babble and deceit and sweet rapture, embraces and caresses."
Art has expressed these stories in incomparable images; Botticelli's Birth of Venus, and the relief in the Terme Museum in Rome showing the goddess rising from the sea are just two of the most lovely. She is the spirit of enchantment of blooming nature. "Thou, goddess, thou dost turn to flight the winds and clouds of heaven, thou at thy coming; for thee earth, the quaint artificer, put forth her sweet-scented flowers; for thee the levels of ocean smile, and the sky, its anger past, gleams with spreading light." She was patroness of safe voyages and sailors on return to port have always been wont to celebrate her festivals. The Homeric hymn begins: "Muse, tell me the deeds of golden Aphrodite, the Cyprian, who stirs up sweet passion in the gods and subdues the tribes of mortal men and birds that fly in the air and all the many creatures that the dry land rears, and all that the sea: all these love the deeds of rich crowned Cytherea." Alone amongest the immortals three goddesses could withstand her power - Artemis, the young preadolescent maiden, Athena, goddess of wisdom and Hestia, the maiden-aunt of Olympus.
The miracles of grace and charm, sheer beauty, are the manifestations of Aphrodite; they inspire, excite, enchant, filling with desire. It is the charm which attracts and then yields rather than the wild pursuit itself in which it is Eros who comes to expression. Mostly her impacts on men are kindly and bring good luck but on women she can bring disaster as the stories of Medea and Phaedra told. It is dangerous to reject her influences for then she can indeed exact terrible punishments for being scorned. Her true worship, openness and gratitude for beauty, brings blessing, the scorn of beauty as in our modern civilization, brings the curse of violence and crime as punishment.
How do these imaginative responses of the psyche to the Aphrodite-Venus archetype relate to the metal copper and to the corresponding organ in the human organization, the kidney? For to the ancients these were all expressions of one and the same reality and it is our heuristic endeavour to enquire what value is to be found today in such a viewpoint.
It is commonly held that copper acquired its name from the island of Cyprus. Copper mines were worked there from at least 2600 BC and it was a main source of the metal throughout the Bronze Age for Egypt and the eastern Mediteranean. But from what did the island of Cyprus derive its name? Some have connected it with the Greek name for the henna plant which grew extensively there. At Paphos in the southwest of the island was one of the main sanctuaries and cult centers of the goddess. There she had come ashore.
Copper itself is a warm reddish golden metal. In nature it becomes combined with all acids, and assumes wonderful greens and blues as well as yellows and reds. In fact no metal appears in such wonderfully coloured ores as does copper. Copper pyrite shines golden yellow, then azurite is blue, olivenite and malachite green and borinite delights the eye with all colors of the rainbow. The metal is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, second only to silver, and when melted it greedily sucks in gases such as hydrogen, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide only to expel them again in spattering little explosions as it hardens, a phenomenon reminding us of the behavior of silver with oxygen. The wonderful colors with which copper salts and ores shine forth proclaim that here heavenly beauty is brought to earthly form, truly a deed of Aphrodite.
Chemically we find copper salts crystallizing with much water. Indeed, without this water of crystallization the color vanishes and the crystals disintegrate into powder which, however, quickly reabsorbs water and regains its color. To the realm of water, the realm of life, copper brings color. It is a painter. Soul qualities are brought to expression in the otherwise merely living, vegetative realms. It is a lively, chemically active element. It forms multitudes of different salts and complex organic compounds. It, so to speak, ensouls the fluid and living realms with lively movement and transforms the vegetative and merely growing nature into blossoming and color. Desire, love and yearning are added to growth and form, inward experience is added to outward growth. Copper is happy to enfold, to form vessels or to cover domed roofs, it is easily hammered into such forms imitating the invaginating forms which characterize the animal development.
Alloyed with tin it gives rise to bronze. Now in Homer we find another story of the birth of Aphrodite from the marriage of Zeus and Dione. However, it appears that this is a cover-up for the actual marriage of Zeus and Aphrodite herself. Can we see here in picture form the origin of the Bronze Age, which was that age of which Homer sang? And Homer was the creator of the Olympian gods almost wholly purged of those earlier stories of strange births such as the more primitive stories of the birth of Aphrodite.
Traces of copper are essential for healthy growth of the higher plants; it is an essential trace element. But unicellular plants, low types of mushroom, algae are killed by minute traces of copper. These are all plants which cannot attain to flowering.
In animals we find first of all that copper forms the basis of the blood pigment haemocyanin which in certain invertebrates enables the oxygen breathing process to be mediated. Many molluscs and anthropods depend on this copper compound, whereas the vertebrates make use of the iron containing haemoglobin. Gastropods and cephalopods in particular depend on the haemocyanin, though a few gastropods living in very poorly aerated media have developed haemoglobin. The sedentary Lamellibranchs mostly do without breathing pigments. Very small amounts of copper are necessary for haemoglobin synthesis but additional supply of the metal is not required in practice. In a similar way small amounts of iron are of course also required for the synthesis of chlorophyll, a pigment which contains magnesium instead of iron. There is therefore a close functional relationship between iron and copper in physiology; both can form pigments mediating the respiratory function. Through breathing, oxygen is taken up and carbonic acid eliminated, the reverse of the process in plants. We can see here, yet again, the importance of copper in the transformation from vegetable to animal life, the animating, ensouling transformation.
Aphrodite-Venus and Ares-Mars were always falling in love; every nice girl loves a soldier. Ares was related to iron and the Iron Age replaced the Bronze Age as did haemoglobin haemocyanin. Can we discern any significance from the evolutionary-psychological standpoint in this movement from copper to iron in the bloodstream, a movement approximately parallel to the movement from invertebrate to vertebrate? Does it not represent a further stage in the ensouling process when iron strength of will, the courage to fight and wage war is added 10 the more feminine soul qualities of yearning, love, charm and beauty? And Aphrodite's husband was Hephaistos, the lame artist craftsman who according to some accounts was a dwarf but of supreme ability to forge the very weapons used by the votaries of his wife's lover. Hephaistos is the shadow of Ares.
How are we now to relate the function we are beginning to discern in the archetype Aphrodite-Venus to the function of the kidney? What has an organ whose function is usually confined to the elaboration and excretion of urine together with its role in maintaining the balance in the electrolytes, acid-base balance and so on in the blood, to do with ensouling the organism?
We can make a start with certain, as it were, gestures associated with the kidney and its functions. Firstly, we may mention the descent of the kidney from the phonephros to mesonephros and the ascent of the uterus. Does this find its mythological expression in the story of the origin of Aphrodite from Ouranos, who from the heavens descended to earth, and then in the symbol of his genitals to the sea? From there she arose again to earth which blossomed at her coming. But with this descent of the kidneys must be associated the ascent of the lungs, and as Konig has shown these two, lungs and kidneys, come to mirror each other. This too may find expression in the old story of Hermaphrodites.
Secondly, the kidney is related intimately to nitrogen metabolism and to the excretion of urea and uric acid, end products of that metabolism. We get a hint of the role of nitrogen in the contrast between carbohydrates, the characteristic stuff of plants and protein, the characteristic stuff of animals. That element in animal nature which brings about sense perception, desire and movement, the essential characteristics of animals, brings about also the incorporation of the nitrogen, its interiorization. Where in plants proteins do occur, it is often obvious that this same element, sometimes called the astral, has touched the plant. For instance, in the leguminosae with their rich protein bearing seeds we can also see their butterfly-like flowers. Nevertheless, we can perceive that these vegetable proteins are distinct from the animal, the astrality has touched from outside only, not worked from inside to incorporate the nitrogen as in the animal.
Thirdly, the kidney plays a miraculous role in maintaining the balance of the body fluids. It senses the fluids, it tastes the constituents and responds by reabsorbing from the tubules fluid and constituents exactly in amounts to maintain the fluid, electrolytic, acid-base balances. One can follow Konig's suggestion that the glomerulus, like an eye, sees into the fluids, the tubule like a tongue tastes them.
Fourthly, we must understand that the kidney irradiates the organism, lifting it up from mere vegetative life, to blossoming, sensing, motion, as did Aphrodite when she came ashore at Paphos. Some aspect of this irradiation acts through the renin and other products released by the kidney into the bloodstream. But even more important may be the two suprarenal glands which sit so significantly on top of the kidneys to catch the radiation and transform them into the adrenal hormones. We can also grasp the active agents in the action of these hormones as immaterial radiations which only require the hormone substances as slippers with which to gain entrance to the different organic realms. We can indeed say that these active principles are astral forces which do not themselves belong to the space of Euclid, but with the help of the hormone substances as catalysts can work into the physical spatial organism.
These kidney radiations, to which Steiner drew attention, can be regarded as the backthrust into the organism corresponding to the effort expended in separating and excreting the urine from out of the living whole of the body fluids.
We can in another way approach the nature of these phenomena through the contrast between a patient with Addison's disease and one with Cushing's syndrome. Addison's disease may arise through the destruction of the suprarenal glands and then, in the absence of the hormones, the kidney radiation cannot find a foothold with which to work into the organism. What do we see? A patient reduced to an almost vegetative state. Too fatigued to move or stand erect, pale and pigmented, a dangerously low blood pressure and a reduced level of sodium in the blood as against the potassium. Potassium belongs to the world of plants, whereas sodium belongs to the animal organism. As against this picture we have the patient with Cushing's syndrome which may come about through overactivity of the suprarenal glands due to a tumor. Then we find a patient red, florid, over-active, a bit obese and with a high blood pressure, restless and excited, full of inner anxiety.
To the action of the kidney radiations, mediated by hormonal substances, in many physiological processes, we must add an important role in the nutritional processes and the upbuilding of protein. Again we are indebted to Steiner for most fruitful suggestions as to the synergistic action of four principal organs in these processes. We must look for these actions in a generalized dynamic sphere rather than in localized structures. These four organ systems are the heart, kidney, liver and lung. The nutrition stream has to be enlivened by the liver, aroused, ensouled by the kidney, raised to be a fit ground for the ego-individuality by the heart and related to the earth through the lung. Of the essential chemical elements in protein we can then relate oxygen to the liver, nitrogen to the kidney, hydrogen to the heart and carbon to the lung. Again, it should be clear that we refer here to the dynamic processes rather than to merely inorganically conceived atoms.
In these ways, very briefly sketched, we can see the indications of the ways in which the kidney organ plays an ensouling function, arousing the organism from vegetative sleep to animal dream. When the kidney system is overactive then great restless anxiety comes about which may go so far as visual hallucinations and schizoid states. When it is inactive, apathy and sleep and inertia come about. The polarity in the action of coffee and barbiturates, which are both closely related in their molecular structure to urea, confirms these indications; coffee arouses, awakens; barbiturates sedate and put to sleep.
We must now approach the drug picture in the homoeopathic materia medica and then enquire into further extensions of the therapeutic use of copper.
When we search through the items recorded in the materia medica we find a theme running throughout. It can be characterized under cramps, or spasms, or convulsions. These terms must be understood as gestures. We find the cramps may appear mostly in the limbs or even in the peripheral arteries. But they also may occur in the uterus as dysmenorrhoea or in severe cramping colic. In the severe colicky pains of cholera, copper is a most valuable remedy. In the stomach the pain may be associated with gastric ulceration. Continuing our ascending study through the organism we find that copper can prove valuable in angina pectoris, cramping pain in the heart, and in asthma where the cramp is in the airways. It has been found one of the important remedies for the spasms of coughing in whooping cough and in laryngismus. Then there are various convulsions, jerking, chorea and in the mental and behavioral field, impulsive actions, piercing shrieks, delirium or melancholic sullen withdrawal. These extreme mental disturbances are also recorded: mania with biting, beating, tearing, foolish gestures of imitation and mimicry, full of insane spiteful tricks, illusions of imagination, does not recognize his own family. There is a further symptom recorded: the tongue darts in and out rapidly like a snake.
Of other features noted, one stands out as significant. Deeper disturbances develop when a rash or fever are suppressed or fail to develop or when emotions are suppressed.
All in all it is a picture of some violence and suddenness, ranging through cramps, including tetany, severe colicky pains and violent diarrhoeas, asthmas and whooping cough to spasmodic coughs which may culminate in unconsciousness. The mental spectrum seems to range from temper tantrums to full-blown insanity whilst also, at the polar extreme, appearing as apathy, perhaps boredom, rather than real depression. Restless excitability stands against lethargy and lassitude.
We record here in briefest statement the symptoms attributable to cuprum in homoeopathic provings and in clinical experience. Can we relate this picture to the image of charm and beauty that we found in the stories of Aphrodite. In these we meet the charm of early womanhood arousing sweet desire, and inducing springtime loveliness, gentleness, harmony and calm of season and the elements. Surely this grace bestowing being is what comes to mind when we think of the Sanguine temperament. The temperaments belong properly not exactly to the realm of psychology but rather to the living world of physiology. They impress themselves both into the soul world of behavior and into the more structural world of the physical body and even skeleton. The sanguine temperament is essentially the airy temperament. It represents therefore within the fluid living realm of physiology, sometimes called the etheric, the impress of the soul which finds its home in the airy element. It can therefore color, as a painter, the living realm and bring all the colors of the rainbow to play in the personality. The beauty and charm which a sanguine woman spreads around her is the working of Aphrodite and finds its organic basis in the kidney system. When slighted Aphrodite becomes a demon of destruction driving to madness and disaster. She speaks the prologue to Euripedes' Hippolytus and exposes this extremity of her nature, charm turned to revenge and jealousy. Is this the meaning of the peculiar symptom, the tongue flickering in and out like a snake's? This strange symptom is found again in the drug picture of Lachesis, a snake-venom.
It has been found clinically by Treichler amongst others that copper and its salts are important remedies in the treatment of schizoid and even fully schizophrenic conditions.
The restless, excitable conditions arising out of the overactive kidney radiations can also pass into the hyperthyroid processes of Graves' disease. In these conditions also copper as Cuprit D3 has been found of great use.
Of recent years attention has been repeatedly drawn to the phenomena of hyperventilation. Some patients are very prone under stress to overbreathe, and washing out too much carbon dioxide from the blood, upset the acid base balance and chemistry of the blood. We have indicated the close relationship between the lung and kidney systems which Konig has depicted in more detail, showing the importance of the kidney and bladder for the dynamics of respiration. The over-breathing of these patients would, from this viewpoint, seem to have its origin in the kidney system, and such patients can usually be found to be of sanguine temperament. A causative treatment should then be aimed at this system, in addition to symptomatic retraining of the breathing. The symptoms recorded as provoked by hyperventilation cover almost the whole field of "psychosomatic" and "psychoneurotic" phenomena.
Returning to the homeopathic experience, we find that Cuprum is associated by Paterson with a group of remedies around the bowel nosode "Proteus," of which he gives as keynote "Brain-storms." The other remedies included in this group besides Cuprum are Natrum muriaticum and the other chlorides, Ignatia, Secale (Claviceps purpurea, from which ergot derivatives are obtained). Apis, Borax, Conium and to these on clinical grounds should probably be added Belladonna and Chamomilla. The linkage of these remedies with the kidney is established by Natrum muriaticum (sodium chloride). Not only is the kidney concerned with maintaining the proper concentration of salt in the blood, but the sodium ion is intimately involved in the level of the blood pressure. Further, the homoeopathic indications for the use of natrum mur as a remedy include periods of severe strain and stress and grief. In this way the connection with the suprarenal glands and the stress adaptation syndrome of Selye is also established. Apis, the venom of the bee, is related to the kidney and produces diuresis. Actually, all the insect remedies used in homoeopathy have a relation to the kidney. The ergot derivatives have a spectrum of application or action very similar to that of cuprum itself. It ranges from spasm of peripheral arteries, through contractions and cramps of the uterus and smooth muscles of the alimentary canal to those peculiar cramplike phenomena in the circulation associated with migraine, to the full schizophrenic-like trip of LSD.
Paterson saw the main action of this group of remedies, in which he found the organism Proteus appearing in the bowel as a marker or indicator, to be sudden disturbances in the brain and central nervous system. This is an interesting observation and raises one more question. How is the central nervous system dynamically related to the kidney system? This question leads us again to consider that system of forces which are sometimes called astral. It is this system of forces which gives rise to the animal form by repeated gestures of invagination or interiorization. Hence arises the central nervous system, a main organ of these astral forces, which from and through it act formatively, sculpturally on the organism. Their action from the nervous pole is primarily paralyzing and katabolic. It is these same forces which are switched by the kidneys into constructive anabolic forces playing their part in the upbuilding of the protein. In these two modes of action we see the play of polarity which always characterizes these forces and which we experience also in their expression in the feelings. The emotional life plays between sympathy and antipathy, love and hate, pleasure and pain, all of which originate out of these astral forces in their development.
One further feature of the kidney corroborates these connections with the nervous system. It is the lack of regenerative capacity and the very high oxygen consumption they both share. These astral forces are opposed to the regenerative merely living forces and only their very high oxygen consumption keeps these organs alive. They are quickly damaged beyond repair by quite short periods of oxygen lack.
So we see the brain and central nervous system with which the voluntary muscles are connected, even if not in the way still commonly believed, stand opposed to the kidneys and the involuntary muscles and inner movement. The role of the central nervous system is rather to paralyze and sculpt purposeful movements from out of the vast ocean of potential movement. From the kidney system in its full sense arise the inner impulse and stimulus to movement, happily in gracious and charming gesture, unhappily in restless excitement and violent irrationality. Something of all this was present in the old use of the word for the kidneys, the reins: "My reins instruct me in the night season." Psalm XVI 7. "My reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things." Proverbs XXIII 16. And in Shakespeare we find,
Be true; do not give dalliance/Too much the rein. (The Tempest, IV 1 52)
Cold as if I had swallowed snowballs for pills to cool the reins. (The Merry Wives of Windsor, III 5 24)
I have begun,/And now I give my sensual race the rein. (Measure for Measure, 11 4 160)
When she will take the rein I let her run;/But she'll not stumble. (The Winter's Tale, II 3 51)
Some of these quotations refer to the reins with which we guide and control a horse and some more to the kidney. And now giving rein to our imagination, are not these two meanings related? Do not the reins draw down the nervous excitableness from the horse's head and bring it under control, as the kidneys were drawn down from the head region to the abdomen? Are the horse's reins and the uterus related?
Leaving aside these speculations, we can, however, see that the confusion which arose biologically long, long ago when the kidney system fell downwards and assumed excretory functions and became connected with the genital system, still persists to trouble us. It is more difficult on anatomical grounds for men than women to distinguish the excretory from the reproductive function, the profane from the sacred. Today the sacred is profaned and Aphrodite is dragged through the mire and mud. She takes her revenge, drives us into restlessness, nervousness and cravings for sensations and drugs - even into mad, destructive violence. Art and beauty alone cannot help us to restore her to her true function as the bestower of grace, charm and the freshness, loveliness of a new springtime, perhaps to flower now in a new spiritual culture in the souls of individual men and women and children.
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