Archetypal Themes in Anthroposophical Medicine



I. What are the intentions of our new medical method?

The new medical method here imparted to the world distinguishes itself from the old one through a different understanding of man.

With the old method, based on the natural - scientific conceptions of the modern age, we gain knowledge of man by dissecting the physical organization and building

it up again in thought. But man is not merely a physical organization. He is also a supra - physical one.

The latter reveals itself in the experiences and activities of his soul and spirit.

As the physical organization is the basis of the organization of soul and spirit, so the soul and spirit, in turn, fashion and vitalize the physical organization.

Without insight into this interrelationship, we cannot attain a real comprehension of the healthy or the ill human organism.

Therefore, this new medical method adds to the knowledge of the physical nature of man that of the supra - physical.

The essential nature of the method consists in the fact that it attains the insight that spiritual processes  - developing in the human organism in relative separation from

the physical ones-  present the true nature of man, but become at once detrimental if they enter into a wrong connection with the physical processes of the human organism.

The physical organization of man, in the course of his growth and development, arrives at a state that makes it capable of bearing the soul and spirit.

It must not, however, enter into a connection with these soul and spirit elements which exceed a certain measure. If this happens, man be comes ill.

That man is subject to illness is attributable to the fact that he is a being of spirit and soul.

Only through observation of the spiritual in the physical do we attain knowledge of the nature of illness.

In the physical organization abnormal processes are recognized only as changes that are subject to natural laws in the same way normal processes are.

(That is, both normal and abnormal processes are natural processes. Ed.) We recognize abnormal processes in their particular nature as processes of illness only if we can pass over from the observation of the physical to the supra - physical.

It may sound paradoxical, but a human being becomes ill if something in his physical organization develops too strongly toward the spiritual.

Only out of such a knowledge of illness can real therapy arise.

All extra - human substances and processes are in a distinct relationship to man.

If one introduces such an extra - human substance or an extra - human process into man, then that which acts physically outside of man acts supra - physically within man.

This is in contrast to the fact that everything acting physically within man acts supra - physically outside of him.

On the basis of a real knowledge of man’s relationship to the outer world, one can always find a substance or a process in the extra - human world that transforms a wrong relationship of the supra - physical and physical within man into a right relationship.

But such a knowledge can be attained only through insight into the supra - physical aspects of man.

Therapy without a knowledge of the supra - physical in human nature is not true therapy.

This is the reason for the unsatisfactory character of customary medical practices which want to base everything upon the physical human being.

Physical science is beneficial only as the basis of lifeless technology; therapy needs a science aiming for the spiritual.

The medical method recommended here provides such a science.

Its essential nature lies in the fact that it offers remedies that are based on a physical and a spiritual knowledge of man.

And only through the latter is it possible to recognize the curative forces of substances and processes.

By testing these remedies, one will become aware of how the ill human organism changes under their influence, and thereby one will gain faith in them.


II. Pathology and Therapy According to the New (Anthroposophical) Method

The Nature of the New Remedies

Processes in the human organism are not the same as those in extra - human nature.

We cannot, therefore, learn to know them in the same way we learn to know the latter.

Only when the human being becomes a corpse do the processes take place in him that can be known through sense observation and the intellectual operations based on it.

As long as man lives, senses, and thinks, he continually wrests his organism from mere nature processes. Processes take place in him that cannot be comprehended by knowledge of external nature.

To consider knowledge of external nature as the only possible means of cognition is equivalent to renouncing insight into man’s essential being.

This knowledge of external nature may be contrasted to another one. It is based upon spiritual perception, which needs to be developed in the human soul.

The capacities for this perception are slumbering in everyday human nature in the same way that the soul forces appearing in later life are slumbering in the young child.

A first faculty that may be developed is the capacity of thinking and the force of memory.

Thinking and memory may, purely spiritually, be enhanced through exercise, as muscular strength can be enhanced through exercise.

This enhancement may be achieved by inwardly concentrating, again and again, upon very clear thoughts.

In so doing, one imparts strength to thinking itself out of the depths of the human being.

One must, however, direct all attention to the inner thought faculty itself.

One must have thoughts not in order to picture a thing or process of the external world, but in order to live in a thought with all one’s inner strength.

One then experiences that thought allows a force to stream into itself from one’s inner nature. Previously, thought permitted this force to sink down into the depths of

the subconscious in order to contain nothing in itself, and thereby to be able to receive the impressions of outer nature into itself.

This submerged force can be rediscovered in inner experience. Thinking becomes something that fills man like the muscular force.

One senses a second human being within oneself.

Once one has inwardly experienced this “second man,” one has also experienced a “second world” within the entire world.

Let us here call it the etheric world.

*Here we shall speak only of man.

To be sure, one can learn much about the human organism by observing the animal organism.

To begin with, however, here we shall not take such observations into consideration.

Man stands within this etheric world with his etheric organization as he stands with his physical organization within the physical world.

The etheric, however, has laws entirely different from those of the physical world.

The substances that man takes in by way of nutrition are on the path to passing over into purely physical nature.

They may be, from the outset purely physical substances such as, for instance, table salt.

But also what man consumes from the plant or animal kingdom is on the way to becoming purely physical.

As a matter of fact, it is subjected to purely physical processes by dissolving, cooking, and so forth.

This purely physical element must then, in man, enter on the path to revitalization.

This happens as it is taken up into the working of the etheric organization.

In the etheric organization purely physical effects cease.

Growth, nutrition, and so on, are supra - physical processes, taken care of by the etheric organization.

If the etheric part of the organism is strong enough to carry out the transformation of the physical forces to a sufficient degree, then it is healthy.

If the etheric organization is too weak, the organism becomes ill.

It then contains substances and processes that are appropriate to extra - human nature, but within the physical organism they represent a foreign element.

The study of pathology consists in the recognition of these foreign elements in man.

If the organism is unable to bring about, through itself, the transformation described, it must be supported through external means.

An example will demonstrate how this can work.

Let us suppose that the etheric organization is too weak to give to certain substances the constitution they must have in order to incorporate themselves into bone formation in a way that enables the bones to stand in a right relationship to the entire life process.

The bones then withdraw too strongly into their own being. They withdraw their life from the organism.

If this is correctly observed and if one introduces lead in very small amounts into the organism, the effect will be that the forces of the etheric organism are strengthened in the very direction in which they were deficient.

The therapeutic aspect of medicine consists in the knowledge of the extent to which the foreign element in man can be overcome, so that the transformation of the physical can take place in the proper way.

One does not yet know man completely, however, if one has grasped only the etheric organization besides the physical one.

Beyond thinking, we can develop other soul forces for spiritual perception.

If one has experienced strengthened thinking leading to the ether world, one may then suppress it by the inner force of the soul.

In normal life, such an inner happening will produce sleep.

But through exercise one may succeed in preventing the soul from falling asleep when it suppresses strengthened thinking.

Consciousness then persists despite the cessation of impressions from the outer world. To this consciousness a real spiritual world reveals itself.

Perception of a spiritual world is added to that of the ordinary world. In this spiritual world one recognizes a third human organization, a “third human being”.

We call this the astral organization.

In conscious or semiconscious life, the sensations emanating from the organs, the dim feeling of life, the indefinite sense of the organism in general, proceed from this astral organization.

Hunger and thirst, the feelings of satisfaction, fatigue, and so forth, also proceed from this astral organization.

Furthermore, one recognizes not only that this astral organism is the bearer of these conscious or semiconscious conditions, but also that this is only one side

of its activity, namely, that which is inclined toward the consciousness of the soul.

The other side reaches down into the subconscious organic processes. The same astral body that, for instance, makes man conscious of fatigue, lives in the organs producing fatigue. Now, however, the proper relationship must be established between these two sides of astral activity.

This can occur only if the etheric organization places itself properly between the activity of the astral and that of the physical organization.

If the etheric organization is too weak, then it is incapable of keeping the astral sufficiently away from the physical; the astral then interferes too strongly with the physical.

For normal human life it is necessary that the astral be kept forcefully enough away from the physical and that it act only as a soul element.

For if the soul element joins with the physical too strongly, then processes in the physical will approximate the extra - human processes.

The human organs themselves will become foreign bodies that will then act like something foreign that penetrates into man and cannot be transformed by the weak etheric organization.

Man owes to the astral organization the lower part of his soul capacities; however, he is also exposed to illnesses through it because, in certain cases, this organization is not separated strongly enough from the physical organization and thereby, in a wrong way, implants something foreign into the physical organization. One has to know the extra - human substance or the extra - human process that drives the astral out of the physical.

This substance or process constitutes a remedy.

Accordingly, all healing rests upon the ability to see into the connections of the physical and the supra - physical in the human organization and, if these connections take on

an abnormal character,

to find in extra - human nature the means to counteract the abnormal.

There is a polar contrast between the purely physical and the etherically oriented processes in the organism, and those processes consciousness depends upon.

The stronger the former, the more the latter have to retreat.

The physical - organic element, through its own forces and laws, suppresses consciousness.

The bodily processes that underlie consciousness cannot continue to be active in their way and according to their laws if consciousness is to arise.

They must be held back, somewhat paralyzed in themselves, indeed, their intrinsic character must be destroyed.

What in spiritual terms is known as astral organization paralyzes the etheric organization.

In order to shape the indefinite semiconscious and subconscious experiences, the life processes dependent upon the etheric organization must be subdued.

These elements still do not encompass the whole human organization. Spiritual perception that takes hold of the astral organization can proceed further.

Then a fourth organization, a “fourth man”  -  the ego - organization  -  arises before spiritual vision.

This ego - organization acts for the physical organization in the same way that the astral acts against the organization dependent upon the ether - organism.

In man, physical substance must continuously take on a living shape. Thus springs forth the activity of the physical and etheric organisms.

The etheric carries on its processes by dissolving in the fluid element that which wants to take on solid forms.

The astral organization paralyzes the life - producing activity. This takes place by transformation of the fluidic into the aeriform.

An example of this activity is the breathing process.

It carries the living fluid of the organism over into the inhaled air and thereby subdues it to such a degree that it may become the bearer of the semiconscious or subconscious soul processes.

The ego - organization participates in these processes.

But it carries everything that happens here still further.

It immerses all the processes taking place in the solid, fluid and aeriform states into the differentiations of warmth in the organism.

In the warmth processes taking place in diverse ways in the organism, the ego - organization is constantly transforming all the substances and all the processes of the organism in such a way that the organism can become the carrier of a soul life conscious of itself.

If the force bringing about this transformation becomes too strong or too weak, illness occurs.

It is then a question of recognizing through diagnosis how remembering oneself does one experience the continuity of self - awareness and hence the self as such.

This element, spiritually developing, spiritually enduring, spiritually observing itself, is not just a mere member of being, but at the same time also the very center of being.

And only a being like this is capable of such human activities as thinking and willing. Through the power of remembrance and of thinking  -  something only a being with memory is capable of  -  such a “center of being” may rise to a point that is god - like (plants cannot do this).

Goethe has expressed this in the following words: “As soon as man perceives the objects around him, he regards them in relation to himself; and rightly so, for his whole fate depends on whether they please or displease him, attract or repel, serve or harm him.

This quite natural way of looking at objects and evaluating them appears to be as easy as it is necessary and yet man is subject to a thousand errors which often shame him and make life bitter for him.

A far more onerous task is taken on by those whose active thirst for knowledge drives them to observe the objects in nature by themselves and in their relations

to each other; for they soon forget the standard which helped them when as human beings they observed the objects in relation to themselves.

They do not have the yardstick of like and dislike, of attraction and rejection, of usefulness and harmfulness.

They are to do entirely without this; as indifferent and more or less god - like beings they are to search and examine what is, not what pleases.

And so the true botanist is not to be moved by the beauty or usefulness of a plant, he is to examine its structure, its relations to the rest of the plant kingdom; and like the sun who calls them forth and shines upon them all, he is to regard them all with the same impassive eye, see them all together, and take the standard for this knowledge, the data for evaluation, not out of himself, but out of the world of the objects which he is observing.

”The god - like sphere which comes to life in man when he uses his faculty of memory is that of the spirit.

By perceiving himself as a being, by being able to experience things entirely outside himself which just are there, not merely pleasing or troubling him  -  in that respect man is a human being and not merely animal.

Spiritual comprehension of self leads to experience of the ego, developing the sense of ego which is needed to comprehend the highest member of man’s being.

It is through the ego that man is man. Just as a stone cannot be changed by any process of death, nor the plant by a process of going to sleep, so the animal cannot be changed by any process of forgetting; forgetting and remembering do not determine its existence, but they do in man.


The processes of dying, of going to sleep, and of forgetting perform an “analysis of existence” on the different forms of being on earth, demonstrating that there are different “members of being.”

The mineral has a physical body.

The plant consists of a physical and an etheric body (life - body).

The animal possesses a physical, etheric and astral body (soul - body).

Man has a physical, etheric and astral body, and beyond this is a spiritual world which may show itself to him when he develops spiritual organs, just as the development of physical sense organs allows him to take part in the physical sensory world.


To find thyself in the infinite, thou must differentiate, and then combine.

Goethe, Wolkengedicht

Analysis should be immediately followed by synthesis, otherwise one may well hold the parts in one’s hand, but the spiritual bond is lost.

After all, mineral, plant, animal and man are all in one common world, existing together and for each other, intertwined and interwoven in a thousand ways.

The purpose here is to show the healing relations between plant and man, and therefore it is necessary to show up the synthetic power, the archetypal unity, that which makes the kingdoms of nature into a whole, and archetypal entity from which the individual beings in nature are derived as variations.

The key must be found which opens up the mysteries of the archetypal relationship of all kingdoms of nature.

This archetypal being and archetypal motif of earthly existence is man himself.

Just a brief outline shall be given of how the spheres of being below man can be seen as variations of the archetypal motif of his fourfold nature.

In the ego, man comprehends himself as a spiritual being.

The ego is the impulse center from which he can unfold free creativeness.

With this, he can develop spiritual powers of perception, to discover and know the spiritual not only within himself, but also all around him.

Man can become a spiritual scientist.

In discovering the spiritual all around him, he first of all perceives the nature of his fellow men.

(The starting point for such a faculty of knowledge is the power of love, and the capacity for selflessness.)

If such a person directs the spiritual senses he has developed at the animal, it becomes apparent to him that the animal, too, is not without spirituality,

without a form of ego.

But this form of ego is not given to the individual animal, but is part of a “group - spirit,” or “group - ego” belonging to all the animals of a species.

The group - ego does not embody itself in the body of the individual animal, and so this cannot become a true individual.

The group - ego remains in the spiritual realm.

In it lie the impulses, the instincts, the way of life of the group of animals concerned.

To perceive this is the crowning achievement of a “study of animal nature” truly deserving of that name.

The group spirit of animals does not go through life and death; the birth and death of the individual animal therefore mean something quite different to it than all these aspects of life mean to man.

In the animal body, therefore, physical, etheric and astral elements are present; but not the group - ego, for that remains in the spiritual world.

For someone able to perceive spiritual entities in the way just described, the plant, too, has both soul and spirit (astral element and a form of ego).

But it is even less able than the animal to house these higher members of being in its body; they remain worlds away from it, unborn, in the spiritual realm.

But contacts and impulses are constantly passing to and from between the physical - etheric body of the plant and its astrality as well as the plant ego.

It is impossible to gain a fully comprehensive picture of the plant in its relations with the fourfold human being unless one takes into account the fact that the plant, too, is a fourfold being.

In this “relatedness to man” must be sought the causes for the plant’s actions on all four members of man’s being.

It is not the intention here to develop a study of mineral nature, but just to round out the picture it may be mentioned that to a natural science which takes into account the spiritual aspect, the mineral, too, has connection with etheric processes, astral actions, and a spiritual element.

But in the physical world we have only the physical body of the mineral.

The three higher members of its being remain, eternally unborn, worlds away from it, in the spiritual realm.

But in the fourfold nature of the mineral lies also the reason why it has such manifold relations to the fourfold being of man.

Out of this, one can understand why it is possible to influence the total constitution of man with mineral remedies, and not only its mineral aspects, or those directly related to the mineral.

From what has been given, the following aphorism, daring but nevertheless justified, may be permitted: The whole earthly world is man.

It is built up in a fourfold way, according to the basic pattern and archetypal motif of man.

And it is thanks to this structure that the different earthly beings are able to exist together in one, common earthly world: at the same time with, on, in and through each other.

The harmony of creation lies in this fourfoldedness.

From such a point of view, as ancient Greek wisdom has also expressed it: Man is the measure of all things on earth.           


The Four Members of Man and the Four States of Being Embodying them

The mineral, its body being dead physical substance, finds the best expression of its nature in the solid state.

The crystalline form, definite and characteristic for every type of mineral, can only exist in its richly structured form because of the properties of the solid state.

A change to the fluid or gaseous state will at once cancel this form.

The solid state alone makes it possible for the mineral to have this form, fixed in three spatial dimensions, laid down once and for all.

The plant, however, needs a further state of being for its embodiment: the fluid.

It has to embody not only a physical, but also an etheric entity.

Its forms do not arise from the physical nature of the substances it consists of, but from the etheric nature of the plant.

Because of this, it does not express its being in permanent form, but in a constant metamorphosis of form  -  as described in the first chapter.

This flowing change of form with its laws of metamorphosis needs a state of being which is just as ready to take up form as to give it up at once and without resistance, if the life principle (the etheric body) should demand it.

This requirement is met by water, fluid water, the main component of the plant body.

The solid parts of the plant only serve to give contour to the liquid, to hold up the formative flow for a time, to hold a shape for a short period, to emphasize it; but the solid element in the plant does not produce any form of its own, it merely becomes the vessel of the life - form and of the life – formative forces.

Where the plant grows too hard it has previously used a process of devitalization, has withdrawn life and at the same time water from its bodily substance, or brought them

to a standstill  -  for instance in the formation of wood and bark, but also in the development of seeds.

Man and animal also need the fluid element, in so far as they, too, are living beings, in order to develop the activity of the etheric bodies.

The more alive, the more fluid; the more dried out, solid, the more dead: This applies to all forms of life, in plant, animal, or man.

This “fluidity in all that lives” is, of course, borne by the physical substance of living protein, but then this protein is a colloid containing extremely large amounts of water.

Its marvellous properties, impressionable from all sides, the plastic material for that inexhaustible sculptor the etheric body, can only attain its burgeoning life in conjunction with the watery element.

In every one of its physical properties, creation has intended water for life.

On the other hand the plant is not yet able to form its own air and warmth organisms.

It is aired through and warmed from its surroundings, with its breathing, its warmth determined and regulated by an external, cosmic process.

Making the gaseous, the airy element part of oneself in an inner breathing organization is something that is only possible  -step by step, and more and more so, from the lower to the higher-  to the animal, and fully so only to man.

The process has many aspects.

The most important one is that together with the airy element the soul - like, the astral body, enters into the body.

This gives rise to a world of internal organs, an organic cosmos, which from the inside takes over actions which the external cosmos performs for the plant.

Together with the air, an external cosmos is incorporated and interiorized.

With the pneumatization of the body, right into its finest ramifications, pneuma, the soul principle, enters into the bodies.

The airy now enters into the fluid, dissolving in it, combining with and separating from it; at the same time, however, the actions of etheric and astral body

combine and separate rhythmically.

Lower marine animals with their dulled soul - life breathe the air dissolved in water. Correspondingly the etheric then has greater influence than the astral.

Insects must send their body fluid outwards to meet the air; here the astral is still to a high degree in contact with the outside world, not yet “tied off” in the individual animal as much as it is in the higher animals.

Because of this, the insects are still living in a very close relationship with the etherically determined plant world.

The development of true lung organs means an important step forward towards interiorization of the soul.

In the gaseous state of physical substance, the supersensible soul principle finds the form and properties which enable it to enter the physical body.

The gas has given up any formative will of its own, it resists all limitation.

The force of earth gravity has been overcome in it, levity has replaced it.

Infinitely open to light, responding to every warmth impulse by expanding strongly, fully open to cosmic impulses, and placed as an outer mantle (in the atmosphere) between earthly and cosmic existence, the gaseous is a physical state to which the physical side of earthly life adheres only in remnants, having been largely overcome.

Expansion and contraction, tension and relaxation, highs and lows, storm and calm, wafting and slackening, extending and compression: These express the nature of the airy element, but also of the soul.

Only in the breath of an ensouled creature does the being of air achieve full expression.

Its highest form and gestalt, the sound of speech, is air gestalt, but at the same time the most perfect physical expression of the innermost soul.

In the air, speech may become expression of the universal word of creation, making known that which has created the whole world.

Even more impossible than having an air organization of its own is for the plant to gain possession of the warmth element, as a warmth organization, an autonomous warmth - being.

The plant - being finds for itself this or that condition of warmth and climatic zone, it exposes itself to stronger or weaker warmth - impulses.

But the center of the warmth - impulse always remains sun - like for the plant, worlds away.

The lower animals, too, right up to the mammals, are determined by external conditions of warmth and bound to certain regions of the earth by their nature, dependent on conditions arising from the relation of the earth to the cosmos.

Man alone rises completely above such conditions for warmth and this enables him to live anywhere on earth, whatever the climatic conditions.

Man has gained ascendance over fire within himself; because of this, he is the only being on earth who also rules fire externally.

With the power of heat it is possible to rule over every physical state of material substance, to form and transform it at will.

In conjunction with the element of warmth, the human spirit, the ego, finds the possibility to live in a material body, rising above the captivity and fetters of the forces and laws of the earthly world; for in warmth lies the power to overcome them, rule and master them.

In man, this warmth is borne by the blood process.

The polarity between blood pigment and leaf pigment also indicates the opposite directions in which one must look for human ego and plant spirituality, particularly also with regard to the centers of their warmth - impulses.

(The blood process holds within itself the blood temperature of about 37°C, or 98

6°F, and holds on to it hard; the process of assimilation in the green foliage of the plant has to rely on external conditions of warmth, but again it is most  intensive at an external temperature of about 37°C).

The highest form of warmth, however, is the warmth of enthusiasm, and this can inflame the human will.

In conclusion let us put once more in tabular form what has been said, however briefly, about the four members of being of the four spheres of earthly existence, and the states of being they use to embody themselves.

Physical members of being, State of Present in the spiritual, present in the sphere of the being supersensible sphere senses

Mineral                                       Physical body                               Solid                   Etheric, astral,        form of ego

Plant                                            Physical body, etheric body        Solid, fluid         Astral element,       form of ego

Animal                                        Physical body, etheric body         Solid, fluid         Group - ego            astral body              airy

Man                                             Physical body, etheric body        Solid, fluid,         astral body, ego     airy,                            warmth - like


“In - Between Forms” in the Plant Kingdom

The plant has been represented from certain points of view as an in - between being between the mineral kingdom below it, and the animal kingdom above it.

This made the root organization the member which grappled with the mineral, earthly sphere and overcame it, and the flower organization on the other hand the member which grappled with animal nature, and was clearly defined against it.

Being chiefly determined by etheric forces, the plant being stands between the dead mineral kingdom governed by physical forces, and the ensouled animal kingdom which is determined by astral forces.

However, if one allows one’s eye to wander over the whole abundance of living plant forms one will find some very strange in - between and transitional forms where plant life shows a tendency towards the mineral, taking up the earthy element more strongly than usual; but also forms where the plant combines more of an animal nature with its formative forces  -  mineral - plant on the one hand, animal - plant on the other.

Many of the succulents (Cactaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Mesembryanthemum, Crassulaceae), which live on particularly dead, mineral soil, have a form showing an almost crystalline rigidity.

The living, moving spiral progression of normal leaf formation has here become a rigid rib - formation.

Some of these plants even look like stones.

Another way in which mineral laws reach across into the life processes of plants may be seen in many salt plants, particularly those on the sea shore, such as Salicornia, Halopeplis, Salsola; here the shoots look like swollen stems of blown - out roots growing above ground which have never developed leaves.

In all these forms the life processes, and with them the fluid organization, have been congested into highly vital, but little - formed and differentiated structures which seem to want to swell into spherical shape; the flowering processes are greatly delayed, forced back, even atrophied.

The plant formation cannot separate from the salt and root process, remains fixed to it.

In the first example it resembles the dead, solid, crystalline element, in the second the dead, fluid, drop - shaped element.

Another instance of mineral, earthly laws entering into the plant element is the formation of trees with the tendency to lignification.

According to an aphorism by Rudolf Steiner, a tree trunk may be regarded as turned up earth.

The tendencies to tree formation increase considerably towards the tropics.           


Relations between Geographical Zones and the Major Processes of Plant Life

Just as every physical plant, and altogether the physical aspect of every living being, is based on an etheric organism, a body of formative forces, so the whole earth is surrounded by a huge sphere

of formative forces.

This enables the earth to be a place not only of death, but also of life.

Rudolf Steiner has explored this world of formative forces in many respects, and his followers have described it in relation to the various kingdoms of nature.

This world of formative forces makes the earth a member of the cosmos as a whole, for the formative forces are cosmic in nature.

(Through the world of physical forces, every bit of earthly substance is a part of the earth.) We can only comprehend what goes on on earth if we see it all as

based on an infinitely varied interplay between physical, earthly and etheric, cosmic forces.

The tropics:

Here the interaction between earthly and cosmic forces is particularly close. In the tropics, the earthly element proliferates towards the cosmic; the cosmic on the other hand is drawn down into

the earthly, it is made earthly.

At the poles:

Here the early withdraws into itself; the cosmic is pure and strong in its action, though not wanting very much to combine with the earthly.

The earthly is just like a mirror here, taking nothing in, throwing everything back.

In the temperate zones:

Here a balance has been achieved between earthly and cosmic laws.

It is obvious therefore: With regard to its organization of formative forces, the whole earth is just as threefold in structure as the plant itself.

And it is due to this threefoldness that the plants of the tropics, the polar regions and the temperate zones differ so characteristically from each other.

In the tropics, the boundaries of earth and cosmos dissolved into each other; the root element proliferates upwards, giant trees develop, with wood hard as iron.

The earth does not stop with the soil, and its forces rise up into the air; roots hang from branches; they find their element in that air, an indication that the air there bears within it something that

is “earthy.

”Many other plants wind upwards like lianae”.

On the other hand, the cosmic sphere and the flowering process connected with it penetrate deeply.

Certain plants become nothing but flowers, their other organs being atrophied, and have to grow as parasites on other plants.

In others the flowers break forth from the stem, even from the root.

Scent and color, otherwise properties of the flower, appear in leaf, wood, bark.

The colors of flowers become strident, the flower - forms animal - like, the scents heavy and overpowering.

The number of poisonous plants increases greatly. (In the poisonous plants - and this will be discussed in more detail later - cosmic, astral spheres of being break overwhelmingly into the physis of the plant concerned, breaking through the etheric forces.) In the plants of the polar regions, on the other hand, the root element is strongly bound to the rocky soil, the plant may be said to be creeping back into the root, so that this is the largest organ of the plant.

Leaves tend to be tiny, but the flower – forms are pure and large, with wonderfully dear and glowing colors.

What in the temperate zones is a tree becomes a shrub here, often just a tiny, creeping growth; for instance the polar birch.

But the aroma is incomparably strong and noble.

(A similar contrast like that between polar and equatorial regions exists between high mountains and lowland country, and also between winter and summer.) The temperate zones again represent the balance; in them the pure plant element is least distorted.

In the cycle of the year, spring and autumn correspond to them, and it is only in these regions that these two seasons develop fully.

The Evolution of the Earth and Its Earlier Forms

The four natural kingdoms on earth represent four stages of being.

According to anthroposophical spiritual science these came into being through four acts of creation.

Not one, but four acts of creating the world were necessary to obtain these four stages.

The symphony of the world’s creation may be said to have four movements.

It took its origin in the decisions and creative powers of high spiritual beings.

Every physical fact that is finally open to perception is preceded by a purely spiritual cause.

How the evolution of the world is described by anthroposophical spiritual science may be seen from the detailed descriptions given by R.S. and his followers.

It is not possible to reproduce them here, but only to give a brief outline.

A first, but very comprehensive orientation may be found in Rudolf Steiner’s Occult Science.

In it, the four stations of world creation are represented as the creation of the Old Saturn, of the Old Sun, the Old Moon, and of the Earth.

The first three are preliminary to the creation of the Earth, and without them the Earth could not have evolved.

As to the creatures of these four stations of creation, a different natural being was created on each: on the Old Saturn the human germ, but this only developed to the level of mineral organization. The Old Saturn was a world of warmth.

The second station, the evolution of the Old Sun, which arose after the death of Old Saturn as a new impact of creation from the spiritual world, raised the human germ to the level of plant being; it now had not just a physis as on the Old Saturn, but this physis was given an etheric body; the building material at its disposal was a physical substance condensed into an airy, gaseous state, filled with light processes.

As a second kingdom of nature, there existed on the Old Sun a “remnant” of warmth - and - mineral being which had remained at the level of the Old Saturn.

The next station of creation, the Old Moon world, raised the human germ to the level of animal being.

The creative sacrifice of high spiritual beings gave of their own substance of being to provide man with a soul quality, the astral principle.

With this, the Moon substance condensed as far as the fluid state.

As “remnants” of the earlier creations, two natural kingdoms below that of man continued to exist, a plant one and a mineral one.

Then came the creation of the earth.

By filling the human germ with spiritual substance from the sphere of spiritual being itself, raised it to a spiritual able to comprehend itself, a bearer of  Ego.

As remnants of the three preceding creations, the three kingdoms of nature below man have remained.

Man therefore is the first - born of creation, its key – note - even though he is the last to make his appearance, as the apex of humanity.

He never went through the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms existing today; these are only remnants which could not be transformed into human beings, cast - offs, one might say on the road to human development.

Continuing the studies that are the aim of this book it is necessary to study the evolution of the Old Moon which immediately preceded the evolution of the earth.

The Old Moon had three natural kingdoms.

From these arose the four natural kingdoms of the earth.

Those three natural kingdoms of the Old Moon world were of a peculiar nature, however.

They were not mineral, plant and animal in the present - day sense, but in-between beings which were in - between the natural kingdoms of today.

In them rested the germs of development of the earth world lying ahead of them. Otherwise they would not have been capable of true development.

The highest kingdom was that of an animal - man—beings higher than the animal of today, but with no ego and therefore lower than man of today.

The second kingdom represented an in - between sphere between the plant and animal beings of today.

Here one must speak of animal - plants and plant - animals.

The lowest kingdom on the Old Moon was a mineral - plant or plant - mineral kingdom somewhere between the plant and the mineral of today.

There was no dead, solid, stony mineral ground on the Old Moon. “We have to imagine the whole ground and body of the Moon consisting of this plant - mineral substance, just as the earth today consists of rocks and stones, arable soil, etc.

As here and there rocks protrude from the earth today, so in the Lunar mass, harder portions also were embedded.

These might be likened to forms made of hard wood or horn. Moreover, as plants today spring from the mineral soil, so was the ground of the Moon bedecked, and also penetrated, by a second kingdom, consisting of a kind of plant - animal.

Their substance was softer than the basic mass, and more mobile in itself.

Once one has come to accept the idea of this Old Moon world with its “in - between beings,” it is possible to understand how as relics of that ancient evolution the natural kingdoms of the earth have within them the tendency to develop in - between forms, though now only as abnormalities.

As we are primarily concerned with the plant kingdom, this may help us to gain a better understanding of the half mineral, half plant phenomena in plant life, as well as those showing an interplay between plant and animal.

In marshy regions and swamps one will see and comprehend forms reminiscent of the lowest kingdom on the Old Moon, their consistency somewhere between solid and fluid: On those soils actual animal - plants also tend to arise, like the carnivorous plants for instance.

The many different parasitic and semi - parasitic plants also bear reminiscence of the Old Moon world.

They are not able to grow on the earthy soil of today, but only on a living or half - living basis.

On the other hand these plants often tend to animal - like processes, they hypertrophy in this direction, producing flower forms resembling animal forms.

Orchids, Bromeliaceae, Rafflesiae are a few of these.

Another aspect which is illuminated through this point of view are the numerous instances of symbiosis between animals and plants.

Many bonds still exist where once there was a complete life - unit.

Plants today have “their” animals, animals “their” plants; at one time they were complete animal - plant beings.

Only the general principle is outlined here, details will be discussed under the plant families concerned.

*In Sensitive Chaos (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1965), Schwenk describes these dynamics in a different, but complementary manner in relation to fluids.

He speaks of the tendency of fluids to form a sphere and of the effect of gravity upon fluids.

When these two forces interact over time, spiral and meandering forms arise.


[Ira Cantor]

Archetypes of Form in the Human Organism

This article arose out of a fascination for the forms and gestures of eurythmy, and their relationship to various physiological and psychological processes.

This sparked an interest to discover the forms and gestures within human anatomy, and then to attempt to build a bridge to the eurythmy gestures.

In this article, I will limit myself to discussion of the first part; that is, the archetypal forms within the human organism.

Preliminary Thoughts

If one views the body externally, there are certain simple, yet none the less striking observations that can be made.

To begin with, we note a contrast between the head, which is more or less spherical, and the limbs, which are linear.

To understand the significance of this, we must ask ourselves the question, “What are the typical qualities of a sphere, of a line?” A sphere has the quality of being complete within itself at rest, whereas a line implies directionality, or movement from one point to another.

If we then view what lies under our skin, we’re struck by the image of how the nerves from all the different parts of our body are drawn together into a single organ, the brain.

The polarity to this is seen below our diaphragm, where there seems to be a separating tendency, without any obvious ordering principle, into the many different organs of our abdominal cavity.

We can see how the quality of convergence appears in our nervous system, whereas separation, or divergence is present in our abdominal organs.

Further light is thrown on these observations if we ask the question of how different forms arise in the body.

The finished forms arise from particular shaping tendencies.

From a certain viewpoint, we can say that there are two different dynamics at work in the creation of forms.

These can be described as forces which radiate in a linear fashion from a central point (centrifugal) and those which come tangentially from the periphery and tend to form surfaces and spheres.

The forces radiating from a center push out and tend to separate things whereas those coming from the periphery limit and force the form inwards and back on itself.

The study of physiognomy affords numerous instances to see these shaping forces at work.

The forehead has, for instance, a predominance of the peripheral, surface-forming forces, whereas the chin has a predominance of the central radiating forces.

Of course, both chin and forehead demonstrate the interaction between both of these forces.

What happens when these two shaping tendencies meet in a rhythmical, repeating manner? In that situation rhythmically oscillating curves arise.

First one is predominant, then the other. The wonderful curves that one sees in the nose and ear arise this way.

The heart muscle is also formed in this manner.

* In looking at the threefold picture of the human being (nerve-sense, rhythmic, metabolic-limb systems), we can make certain preliminary statements, based on

the above observations.

The head has a concentrating, or converging tendency, and the predominant shaping force is the peripheral, surface-forming one.

Our limbs, as a polarity, tend to divergence or expansion, and have a predominance of the raying-out forces.

Our rhythmical system demonstrates the rhythmical meeting of these two, and therefore develops oscillating curves.

We will now proceed to look at these three systems in detail.

Our procedure will be fundamentally the same in each situation.

In this way, the similarities and differences will appear more clearly.

Nerve-Sense System

In looking at the skeleton, we notice an interesting relationship between the skeleton and the organs.

In the head, the skull surrounds the primary organ, the brain, which is located inside the skull.

In the limbs, the opposite relationship occurs.

The chief organs, the muscles, lie outside the structure.

What kind of movement tendency is there is the nerve-sense system?

There is really very little actual movement, but our previous observation of the convergence tendency can help us.

Our senses are always aware of our environment.

This environment can be outside, as in the sense of sight, or it can be inside, where, for instance, the sense of the life processes is active.

One can perceive that these sense impressions come into our brain from all directions.

They not only come in, but we can have a sense that they’re drawn, almost sucked in, by our brain.

When we see an object, not only are we drawn to it in our vision, but in order to cognize it, we “draw” it into our consciousness, and thereby have a conscious, inward experience of it.

The nervous system is relatively symmetrical (compared to the rest of our body).

Nevertheless, it is questionable if we are ever completely symmetrical, or if complete symmetry is even possible for a conscious earthly being.

This relative symmetry is connected with what is the dominant form gesture of the nerve-sense system; the crossing of nerves form one side, over the midline, to the other side.

These crossings, as shown in the diagrams, are not only right to left or left to right, but also inside (medial) to outside (lateral).

This is also shown by the fact that in the brain, the gray matter (cell bodies) is more lateral, whereas in the spinal cord, the situation reverses, and the white matter (axons) is more lateral.

As with all things, exceptions often help us to understand the rule, and there is an exception to this crossing over.

This is seen in the reflex arc.

In this singular situation, the nerves don’t cross over the midline.

What is of importance about this is that the reflex arc doesn’t involve any conscious mediation.

The crossing over tendency must be deeply connected to consciousness.

As an additional point, we should look at the directions of front and back.

Indications of their importance are seen in the spine and the brain it self.

In the spinal cord, we have the anterior columns, connected with the so called motor nerves, whereas in the posterior columns, we have sensory nerves.

In our brain, the area anterior to the central gyrus is the motor cortex, while posterior is the sensory cortex.

Our relationship to language shows this division as well, as our speech center is anterior, while our auditory center is posterior.

Disregarding the question of whether there is such a thing as a motor nerve, one can see that the structures located posteriorly (posterior columns, sensory cortex, auditory center) have more of a pure perceiving function, while those located anteriorly (anterior columns, motor cortex, speech center) are intimately related to will and movement activities.

In summary, we can say that the nerve-sense system has a tendency to be enclosed, to converge, or be “sucked” inwards.

It has strong relation ships to directions in space, with crossings its most impressive gesture.

The posterior has a clear sensory quality compared to the anterior, which has an intimate relationship to will and movement.

Rhythmic System

In studying “form” in our rhythmic system, we must realize that we can only understand a part of the reality.

This is because the element of time begins to play an important role.

Whereas the forms in the nerve-sense system are relatively fixed, our rhythmic system and metabolic limb system are always changing, in very particular ways.

In our nervous system, we function in three directions, while in our rhythmic system, time, the fourth dimension, appears.

We will follow the same sequence of observations as in the nerve-sense system.

We begin with the relationship of our skeleton to the organs. We notice an alternating relationship, best seen in our ribs.

First they’re outside the lungs, then there’s an open space, then again a rib, an open space, etc., until finally the ribs disappear, and the organs are on the outside.

We see a transition between the situation in our head, where the brain is enclosed by our skull, and our limbs and abdomen, where the organs are exposed.

The quality of movement in the rhythmic system is one of alternately moving towards a center (as in the heart’s contraction), and then to the periphery (as in the heart’s relaxation).

We should note that the dynamics of the heart and lungs in these movements are very different; in fact, almost polar.

The heart has an active contraction and a passive relaxation, whereas the lungs are actively expanded and recoil passively.

The difference between the heart and lungs is understood more deeply by exploring the quality of symmetry.

Though the lungs are not totally symmetrical, there is a tendency towards symmetry.

The heart, on the other hand, deviates markedly from symmetry.

It moves out of the midline, lies at an angle, and the left side is much more developed than the right.

Here we can see that the lungs are related more closely to the nerve-sense system with its symmetry, whereas the heart tends more towards the asymmetric metabolic system, those organs below the diaphragm.

Our respiratory system begins with our nose, where we note the curves we spoke of in the first section.

We then go through our pharynx, which we share with our digestive system, and come to our trachea.

Here the rhythmic element shows itself in our tracheal rings.

These are arranged in a regular, somewhat fixed pattern.

This regular segmentation persists until we come to the terminal bronchioles.

We then come to the alveoli, which surprise us by their totally unexpected shape.

The form of the alveoli, as we shall see, is very reminiscent of those shapes found in our metabolic system, in our glands.

Here one of the great mysteries of the lungs appears, as embryologically, the lungs develop as an outpouch from our intestine, our primitive digestive system.

This mystery is revealed especially in the shape of the alveoli, which are glands (as are all of our digestive organs), secreting the substance surfactant.

If we further contrast the heart with the lungs, we note the differences in how they move.

The lungs have no inherent ability to move.

The muscles of the chest wall expand, and the lungs passively follow. Then the chest muscles relax, and the lungs passively recoil.           

The heart, in contrast, has an inherent ability to contract and relax.

Our respiratory system begins with our nose, where we note the curves we spoke of in the first section.

We then go through our pharynx, which we share with our digestive system, and come to our trachea.

Here the rhythmic element shows itself in our tracheal rings. These are arranged in a regular, somewhat fixed pattern.

This regular segmentation persists until we come to the terminal bronchioles.

We then come to the alveoli, which surprise us by their totally unexpected shape.

The form of the alveoli, as we shall see, is very reminiscent of those shapes found in our metabolic system, in our glands.

Here one of the great mysteries of the lungs appears, as embryologically, the lungs develop as an outpouch from our intestine, our primitive digestive system.

This mystery is revealed especially in the shape of the alveoli, which are glands (as are all of our digestive organs), secreting the substance surfactant.

If we further contrast the heart with the lungs, we note the differences in how they move.

The lungs have no inherent ability to move .

The muscles of the chest wall expand, and the lungs passively follow.

Then the chest muscles relax, and the lungs passively recoil.

The heart, in contrast, has an inherent ability to contract and relax.

The lung shows two form tendencies - one of somewhat rigid segmentation (tracheal rings) and the alveoli with a budding form.

The heart shows totally different forms.

These appear as spirals and vortices.

Can we discover any other archetypal forms in the rhythmic system?

We find lemniscates everywhere we look.

Looking at the embryo-logical development of the lung, we see the lemniscate appearing.

If we look at the spinal cord, we note lemniscate forms in the nerve patterns.

The muscle fibers of the heart wind around in the form of a lemniscate.

Lastly, if we take any circulatory circuit, between the heart and any organ, this is always the form of an irregularly shaped lemniscate.

Summing up our observations of the rhythmic system, we see a rhythmical, alternating relationship between center and periphery.

Curves, especially spirals and vortices, are found.

The predominant form gesture is that of the lemniscate.

The lungs are more closely related to the nerve-sense system and show their rhythmical quality in somewhat rigid structures, while the heart

tends towards the metabolic side and shows its rhythmical quality in a more dynamic, flexible way.

Whereas the lungs still have polar elements of the nerve-sense system (symmetry and rigidity) and the metabolic-limb system (alveolar buds),

the heart has harmonized these to a far greater degree.

Metabolic-Limb System

Our nervous system deals extensively with the three dimensions of space.

Time becomes an element in dealing with our rhythmic system.

Our metabolic-limb system is involved with the transformation of substance, for example, the digestion and metabolism of food.

In this process, the original form of the substance is broken down, and a kind of “chaos” prevails, until a new form appears.

This polarity of the “chaos” of our metabolic system, in contrast to the fixed immobile structures of our nerve-sense system, points to the difficulties in understanding “form” in the metabolic system.

At first glance, one could despair at ever finding a unifying principle of form, as there is such a diversity of seemingly unrelated forms in our abdomen.

We’ll begin our observation, as before, with the skeleton.

Except for the vertebral column, our abdomen is almost devoid of skeletal structures until we come to our pelvic bones, which partially enclose our reproductive

organs and lower urinary tract.

Here we have a sense that we  must distinguish between those organs above and below our pelvis.

We will return to this point in our further discussion.

Our abdominal organs, therefore, display a polarity to our nerve-sense system, in their being exposed, while the nerve-sense system was enclosed.

The skeletal relationship is similar to what we found in our limbs, where our muscles are exposed.

If we proceed to the question of symmetry, we’re struck by the total lack of it.

The liver is on the right, the spleen on the left; the intestine is incredibly asymmetrical.

Symmetry, however, begins to reassert itself when we come to the genito-urinary system.

Here again, we see that the kidney and reproductive system must be considered as organs very different from those purely metabolic organs (liver/pancreas).

In the rest of the discussion, when we speak of metabolic organs, we will be referring only to the latter.

The form of the kidneys and reproductive organs betray, as is well known, their deep relationship to the nerve-sense system in anthroposophical medicine.

(In this article we cannot go into more detail regarding this relationship of the kidneys to the nervous system.

One can find a detailed discussion in Wolff-Husemann, The Anthroposophical Approach to Medicine, Anthroposophic Press; also in H.P. Vogel, The Kidneys.)

Regarding movement, we noted a “sucking inward” in our nerve system.

In our rhythmic system, there was a movement to and fro between center and periphery.

In our metabolic system, there is a movement, taking place slowly over long periods of time, which can be best characterized as budding, or sprouting.

We can understand this if we study the embryological development of our metabolic system.

All our metabolic organs develop as outgrowths from our primitive gut, our intestine.

They’re actually described as buds (liver bud, spleen bud, lung bud).

All of our metabolic organs are glands.

What is a gland? A gland is an amorphous structure that secretes substances.

Embryologically, when these secretory cells increase in number, they separate off from the intestine, but remain connected by a long tube, called a duct.

What is the typical form of our abdominal organs? There is none! They simply fill the space that’s there.

The liver has its form because the diaphragm is above, and limits it from outside.

The intestine, with all its winding, is simply the best way to fit a long tube into the space available.

This changes somewhat when we come to the kidney and reproductive organs which have more clearly defined structures.

The surface-limiting force, mentioned in the beginning of the article, is almost absent in the metabolic organs.

One finds it to a small degree in the peritoneal coverings, which, interestingly enough, are the sensitive part of our metabolic organs.



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