Natural Processes and Healing
Translated from the original German by Harold Jurgen and printed by permission of the Medical Section of the School for Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland. Copyright of this translation ©1991 Mercury Press.
In the estate of Dr. Ita Wegman an undated manuscript, handwritten by Rudolf Steiner, entitled "Natural Processes and Healing," was found which we here publish. Content and style lead to the surmise that it may well have been a draft of a chapter not used in the book Fundamentals of Therapy. Since this manuscript originally carried the then crossed out title "Introduction," because it concerns itself with the fundamental nature of illness and healing, one can imagine that it had been planned for the place taken now by Chapter II: "Why Does Man Get Ill?"
It is revealing to compare the concept of illness developed in that chapter with the following. In both cases illness is considered as an excessively intense (or too loose) a connection of the soul-spiritual with the corporeal. But while chapter II starts out with consciousness and shows how this can be enhanced and takes hold of regions normally remaining in the unconscious resulting in pain, or how it can loose its influence on certain body parts and resulting in paralysis, in this manuscript we are directed to a temporal process. In the human organism a past spiritual stage of development has been retained which the surrounding nature, in its progressive process of densification, has left behind. An illness process then arises when the human being either also enters the path of nature and solidifies his organs excessively and if he, in the opposite direction, tends too strongly toward his spiritual origin.
One looks for the cause of illnesses in disturbances of the organism which are brought about through all kinds of influences, and to which it cannot adapt itself through its own activity. One says that life processes and the activities of parts of the body are reduced in this way.
This opinion will suffice as long as one is only interested in becoming familiar with the symptoms which occur in man's physical body during the course of an illness. But it is no longer adequate if one wants to heal the disease. For there is nothing in the influence of one physical substance upon another which is analogous to a healing process. These actions of one substance upon another occur in the physical world. Changes can thereby occur in these substances, but the concept of healing does not apply here at all.
This is because the material composition, form, and the kind of activity of the whole organism and of the individual organs is not completely explained by the action of the physical parts of the healthy or sick organism.
One can observe man's physical body with the currently available instruments. But one can not understand it in this way. One can only understand it if one considers physical processes to be the expression of spiritual ones. The sense perceptible part of a physical organ is the manifestation of something standing behind it which can only be grasped by spiritual means.
A healthy organ is one in which the physical component can be a complete expression of the spiritual element which stands behind it. Illness occurs if there are physical processes occurring in an organ which are not the expression of a spiritual element, or if the spiritual element in it is working so strongly that the physical organ cannot keep up with it.
Therefore both the sick and the healthy organism must be understood by means of man's spiritual members. This fact is being ignored in conventional medicine today. A medical method is introduced here which is trying to understand both the healthy and the sick organism by means of spiritual elements. This is the only way in which a real knowledge of the connection between disease and healing can arise.
The presupposition for this is that one really investigates the nature of the spiritual element in the human being. By "spiritual element" we do not mean the one which is experienced within the soul. This latter one is relatively independent of the body. Its laws belong to the moral, aesthetic and logical realm. When one is dealing with these one doesn't ask about what is going on in the body, but one treats the soul as if it were independent of the body.
But there is something spiritual underlying all corporeal things, whether they are inside or outside man. The reason that people either don't accept this fact concerning physical things at all, or that they think that the idea of spiritual elements in physical things is something which cannot be dealt with scientifically, is that one obtains almost all of one's scientific knowledge from lifeless or inorganic nature today. And one also clings to this knowledge when one contemplates living, sentient, and conscious things. One simply tries to discover how the processes which are observed in the inorganic realm continue to work in plant, animal and human organisms.
Thereby one succumbs to scientific illusion. It is true that one cannot immediately discover anything spiritual in inorganic objects. But the inorganic things were created at some point. And if one looks at their creation with spiritual faculties one will find that the spirit was active in this.
Take arsenic for example. When one looks at the botryoidal or nephroidal native element it does not manifest anything spiritual. Its phenomenal forms prove to be the result of processes which are an expression of something spiritual. This spiritual element helped to shape the earth in the past. Arsenic's physical shape is the only thing which remains of this activity. It stands there like a memory of a past spiritual activity.
This spiritual activity is still present in the human organism today. It is as if the prehistorical arsenic action, which occurred during the formation of the earth, had been preserved in this organism.
Certain organs, which assume clearly outlined shapes in the organism, emerge from its fluid and gaseous parts in which they exist without firm outlines. The force through which this occurs is the same as the one which worked at the creation of arsenic. These human organs are in the process of becoming like the lifeless arsenic outside the human being. The reason they do not turn into this is because they are inside the organism, and therefore they do not take the arsenic-forming process to completion.
Two things can now occur. An organ can lose its connection with the spiritual part of the organism while it is in the process of becoming arsenic. Then it advances too far in the direction of becoming arsenic. If for example, one then supplies proteins to the organism in a certain way, one can thereby reestablish the connection of the physical-organ process with the spiritual forces of the organism. The proteinaceous substances then prove to be a remedy.
Or the spiritual element can work upon the organ too strongly. Then the organ or its processes don't get far enough on the path towards becoming arsenic. If one now supplies arsenic to the organism, it reinforces this transformation into arsenic. The latter accumulates in the organ in a supportive way. The retarded physical process is accelerated to the extent which is necessary for the organism. Here the arsenic shows itself to be a remedy. It presses the spiritual element away from the organ to a certain extent.
Without knowledges of the kind mentioned above, one cannot arrive at a knowledge of the pathological process, and still less at the selection of a remedy. The modern natural science which is oriented entirely towards the inorganic world can be used as the foundation for technological work but not for the healing of diseases. For the essence of an illness is to be found at the place where the spiritual and the corporeal elements are connected. If one says that natural science is the only possible science, and that it cannot arrive at the spirit because of its boundaries, then one also has to say that any real medicine is impossible. In order to acquire spiritual knowledge one has to have the inner courage to add active cognitional forces to the passive ones. Contemporary natural science has lost this courage, because it always looks for sense perceptible supports whenever valid knowledge should be developed. It cannot be a science which gives medicine any support. This is why a medical method is being developed here which is based on an insight into spiritual existence.