Hygiene - a Social Problem
This is the 1st of 15 lectures given by Rudolf Steiner at Dornach in 1920. The series of lectures is entitled: Physiological Therapy Based on Spiritual Science. Another name of this lecture is: Health Care as a Social Issue.
7 April 1920, Dornach
It is never doubted that the Social Question is one of the problems that is looming largest in the thought of the present age. Wherever there is any understanding at all of the events that occur in the course of the evolution of human history, of the sinister or incipiently fruitful impulses for the future — all these matters are included under the “Social Question.” It must, however, be said that the point of view from which these social problems are regarded and the way in which they are handled at the present time, suffers from the basic evil inherent in so many spheres of our mental and moral life — I mean the intellectualism obtaining in our age. For these problems are indeed so often limited by the angle of intellectualistic study. No matter whether the social question is approached from the “left” or “right” wing, the purely intellectualistic nature of the different conceptions is revealed in the fact that people start from certain theories: this or that ought to be done, this or that ought to be stamped out.
Little account is taken of the human being himself. Human beings are treated just as if there were one generality — “Man.” No attention is paid to the personal and distinctive qualities of individual human beings. And this is why our whole conception of the social question has become abstract, so seldom grasping the social feelings and sentiments playing between man and man. This lack of social observation becomes most clearly evident when we turn to a special domain like that of hygiene — a domain which possibly is more prone than many others to be the subject of sociological study, inasmuch as it is a public affair, concerning not the individual human being alone but the whole of society.
True, there is no lack of advice on the subject of hygiene, no lack of treatises and writings on the subject of the care of health as a public concern. Yet one cannot help asking: What is the real attitude of social life to all these injunctions and regulations about hygiene? And the answer is, that when the conclusions reached by medical or physiological science on this matter are made public either by the written or by the spoken word, it is the trust reposed by man in a “profession,” the inner nature of which he is not able to put to the test, which is supposed to be the basis upon which such precepts may be accepted. Wide circles of people whose concern it is — as indeed it is the concern of everyone — accept simply on authority all that finds its way on the subject of hygiene, from medical laboratories to the outside world. But those who are convinced that in the course of modern history during the last four centuries a longing has arisen among mankind for a democratic ordering of affairs, find themselves faced with the entirely undemocratic nature of this “trust in authority” that is demanded in the sphere of hygiene. In short, this undemocratic attitude confronts the longing for democracy which has reached its height to-day, although frequently in a highly contradictory form.
I know that what I have just said may seem paradoxical, for people do not place the unquestioning acceptance of everything related to the care of health side by side with the democratic demand that affairs of public interest concerning every mature man and woman shall be arbitrated by the people in general, either directly or indirectly through their representatives. True, it may be impossible to apply essentially democratic principles in the sphere of public hygiene, because these things depend on the judgment of specialists. But on the other hand one cannot help asking: ought not an attempt be made to apply such democratic principles as are possible in modern conditions to a sphere like that of public health which so intimately concerns both the individual and the community?
A great deal is said to-day about the necessity for proper air, light, nourishment, sanitation, and so forth, but the regulations laid down in regard to these things cannot, as a rule, be tested by those to whom they apply. Now please do not misunderstand me. I do not want to be accused in this lecture of taking any particular side. I have no desire to uphold ancient superstitions of devils and demons passing in and out of human beings in the form of disease, nor to support the modern superstitions that bacilli and bacteria cause the different diseases. We need not consider to-day whether we are really faced with the results of the spiritualistic superstitions of earlier times, or with the superstitions of materialism. I want rather to consider something that permeates the whole culture of our age, especially in so far as this culture is determined by the convictions of modern science. We are assured to-day that the materialism of the middle and last third of the nineteenth century has been overcome, but this statement does not pass muster with those who really know the nature of materialism and of its opposite. The most one can say is that materialism has been overcome by a few people here and there. These people realise that the facts of modern science no longer justify the general explanation that everything in existence is merely a mechanical, physical or chemical process taking place in matter. But the fact that a few people here or there have come to this conclusion does not mean that materialism has been overcome, for it is equally true that when it is a question of concrete explanation or concrete thought, even these people — and the others as a matter of course--still reveal a materialistic tendency. True, it is said that atoms and molecules are only convenient units of calculation (and here what is implied is that atoms and molecules are made of the substance of thought) — but the mode of observation is nevertheless atomistic and molecular in character. When we are explaining world-phenomena from the behaviour and relations of atomic and molecular processes, the point is not whether we conceive any thought, feeling or activity to be inseparable from material processes in atoms or molecules. The point is the orientation of the attitude of our soul and Spirit when our explanation is based upon the atomic theory — the theory of smallest entities. The point is not whether verbally or mentally a man is convinced that there is something more than the material action of atoms, but whether his mind and spirit can give explanations other than the atomic basis of phenomena. In short, the essential thing is not what we believe, but how we explain — in a word, our attitude of soul. And here it must be said that only a true Anthroposophical Spiritual Science can help to get rid of the evil of which I have spoken.
I want to prove concretely that this is so. There is hardly anything more confusing than the distinctions which are so often emphasised to-day between man's bodily nature and his nature of soul and Spirit, between physical diseases and so-called psychical or mental diseases. The concrete distinctions and relations between such facts of human life as a diseased body and an apparently diseased soul, suffer from the materialistic, atomistic mode of thought. For what is the real essence of the materialism that has gradually come to be the world-conception of so many modern men, and that far from being overcome, is to-day in its prime? The essence of this materialism is not that people observe the material processes in the body and reverently study the marvellous structure and functions of the nerves and other organs, but that the Spirit has departed from the study of these material processes. People look into the world of matter and see only matter and material processes.
What Spiritual Science must emphasise, however, is briefly this: Wherever material processes are presented to the senses — and these are the only processes which modern science will admit as valid and exact — they are but the outer manifestation, the outer revelation of active spiritual forces lying behind and within them. Now it is not typical of Spiritual Science to observe a human being and say: “There is his physical body — a sum-total of material processes — but he does not consist of this alone. Independently of this he has an immortal soul.” It is far from being characteristic of a spiritual conception of the world to speak like this and then build up all manner of abstract, mystical theories about this immortal soul that is independent of the body.
We can only be spiritual scientists in the true sense when we realise that this material body, with its material processes, is a creation of the Spirit and soul. We must learn to understand in every detail the way in which the soul and Spirit — which were there before birth, or rather, before conception — are fashioning and moulding the structure and the “material” processes of the human body. We must be able to perceive the immediate unity of the body and the soul-and-Spirit, and realise that through the working of these principles the body as such is gradually destroyed. The body undergoes a partial death with every moment that passes, but it is only at actual death that there is a radical expression of what has been happening to the body all the time, as a result of the working of the soul-and-Spirit. We are not spiritual scientists in the true sense until we have concrete realisation of this living interplay, this living interaction between the soul and every single part of the body, and are able to say: The soul and Spirit descend into concrete processes, into the functions of liver, breathing, the action of heart, brain and so forth. In short, when we are describing the material part of man, we must know how to portray the body as the direct offspring of Spirit. Spiritual Science is able to place a true value on matter because, in the different concrete processes, it does not merely observe what is there before the eye or conjectured by the abstract concepts of modern science, but because it shows how the Spirit works in matter, and it looks with reverence at the material workings of the Spirit.
That is one essential point. The other is that such a conception guards man against all the abstract tittle-tattle about a soul independent of the bodily nature — for so far as the life between birth and death is concerned, man can only spin fantasies about this. Between birth and death (with the exception of the time of sleep), the being of soul and Spirit is so utterly given up to the bodily activities that it lives in them, manifests in them. We must be able to observe the being of soul and Spirit outside the range of earthly life, realising that existence between birth and death is but the outcome of the soul and Spirit. Then we can behold the actual unity of the soul and Spirit with the physical elements of the body. This is Anthroposophical Spiritual Science, for we know in very truth that the human being as we perceive him with all his organs and structures has been created by the soul and Spirit. Mystical and theosophical ideas may evolve all manner of high-sounding theories about a spirituality that is free of the body, but such ideas can never serve the concrete sciences of life. They can only pander to an intellectualistic or psychic craving which would like to be rid of outer life and then weave fantasies about the soul and Spirit in order to induce a state of inner satisfaction.
In this Anthroposophical Movement of ours it behoves us to work earnestly and sincerely to develop a Spiritual Science which will be able to bring life into physics, mathematics, chemistry, physiology, biology, anthropology. No purpose is served by making statements in a religious or philosophical sense to the effect that man bears an immortal soul within him, and then working in the different branches of science just as if we were concerned merely with material processes. Knowledge of the soul and Spirit must be applied to the very details of life, to the marvellous structure of the body itself. You will come across many mystics and theosophists who love to chatter about man being composed of physical body, etheric body, astral body and Ego. And yet they have no idea what a wonderful manifestation of soul-life it is when one blows one's nose! The point is that we must see in matter a manifestation of the Spiritual. Then we have healthy ideas of the Spirit — ideas that are full of content, and with them a Spiritual Science that may be fruitful for all the ordinary sciences of life.
This again will make it possible to overcome elements which, on account of the materialistic trend of scientific knowledge, have led to specialisation in the various branches of science. Now I have no desire whatever to deliver a philippic against specialisation, for I am well aware of its usefulness. Certain domains of life must be dealt with by specialists simply because they need a specialised technique. The point I would make is that a man who holds fast to the material can never reach a conception of the world applicable to the practical details of life when he becomes a specialist in the ordinary sense. For the range of material processes is infinite, both outside in Nature and within the human being. We may devote a long time — as long at any rate as professional people devote to their training to the study of the nervous system in man, for instance, but if material processes are all that we see in the working of the nervous system — processes which are then described according to the abstract concepts of modern science — we shall never be led to any universal principle or to anything upon which a conception of the world can be based. Directly we begin to study the nervous system in the sense of Spiritual Science we shall inevitably find that the Spirit we see active there, leads us to the soul and Spirit underlying the systems of muscles, bones and senses and so forth. For the Spirit does not “separate off” into single parts as does the material. Very briefly expressed, the Spirit unfolds like an organism. Just as we cannot truly study a human being if we merely look at his five fingers and cover the rest of him up, so in Spiritual Science we cannot observe a single detail without being led by the soul and Spirit within this detail, to a Whole. If we should happen to become brain or nerve specialists, we should then still be able, in observing the single part, to form a picture of the human being as a whole. We should reach a universal principle able to form part of a conception of the world, and then we could begin to speak of specialised subjects in a way intelligible to every healthy-minded, reasonable human being.
This is the great difference between the way in which Spiritual Science is able to speak about the human being and the way in which materialistic science is bound, by its very nature, to speak. If as men and women who in the ordinary course of things do not know very much about the nervous system, you try to read a scientific text-book on the subject, you will probably soon lay it aside. At all events you will not learn much that will help you to realise the worth and dignity of the being of man. If, however, you listen to what Spiritual Science has to say about the nervous system you are everywhere led to the whole being of man. Such illumination is cast on the nature of man that the idea arising within you suggests the worth, the essence and the dignity of the human being.
We realise the truth of this not so much when we are observing merely a single part of the healthy human being, but when we are observing the man who is ill — where there are so many deviations from the so-called normal condition. Now if we can observe the whole human being under the influence of some disease, all that Nature reveals to us in the sick man leads us deeply into cosmic connections. We understand the particular constitution of this human being, how the atmospheric and extra-earthly influences are working on him as the result of his particular constitution, and we are then able to relate his organisation to the various substances of Nature that will have a remedial effect. When we add to our understanding of the healthy man all we learn from observation of the sick man, profound insight into the deeper connections and meaning of life will arise.
And such insight becomes in turn the foundation for a knowledge of man that is intelligible to everyone. True, we have not as yet accomplished very much in this direction, for Spiritual Science as we intend it, has only been in existence for a short time. The lectures given here therefore must only be thought of as a beginning.1Dr. Steiner is referring to a number of lectures given by various scientists during the Medical Course at the Goetheanum. But, by its very nature, Spiritual Science is able to work upon and develop what is contained in the several sciences in such a way that a knowledge which everyone ought to possess of the being of man, can really be offered to the world.
And now think what it will mean if Spiritual Science succeeds in transforming science in this way — succeeds in developing forms of knowledge relating to men in health and disease that are accessible to ordinary human consciousness. If Spiritual Science succeeds in this, how different will be the relations of one human being to another in social life! There will be far greater understanding in the relation of human beings to each other than there is to-day when men pass each other by without either having the slightest understanding of the individuality of the other. The social question will be lifted away from its intellectualistic character when the several branches of life are based upon objective knowledge and concrete experience. This applies very specially to the domain of health and the care of health. Think of the effect which a true understanding of health and disease in our fellow-men would have in social life. Think what it would mean if the care of health were taken in hand by the whole of humanity with understanding! Of course there must be no scientific or medical dilettantism — most emphatically not. But if understanding for the health and ill-health of our fellow-beings can be awakened — understanding that grows from a true conception of man think of the effect it would have in social life. Then indeed it would be realised that social reform and reconstruction must proceed in their different branches from real knowledge and not from Marxian theories and the like. Such theories lose sight of the human being as such, and want to organise the world on the basis of purely abstract concepts. Healing can never spring from abstract concepts, but only from a true knowledge of the different spheres of life. And hygiene, the care of health, is a very important domain, for it leads us immediately to all the joy that falls to the lot of our fellow-men when their mode of life is healthy and to their sufferings and limitations when the elements of disease lie within them.
When those who are concerned in developing a knowledge of man in health and disease, and those who actually become doctors, have this attitude towards social life, they will be able to shed light on its problems, for they will have true understanding. The position of the doctor nowadays is that those who are not his personal friends or relatives go to his surgery to fetch him when someone is in pain or has broken a leg. When men have knowledge of the kind I have described, the doctor will be a teacher who is continually giving instruction and indicating means for prophylactic hygiene. The doctor will not only be called in to heal when disease has reached a point where men realise they are ill, but he will always be working to keep them healthy — so far as this is possible. In short there will be a living, social relationship between the doctors and the rest of the community. And, moreover, this healthy influence will make itself felt in the domain of Medicine itself.
For the very reason that materialism has also spread into the medical conception of life, we have developed extraordinary ideas about illness. On the one side we are faced with all the physical diseases. They are investigated by observing the different organs, or the various processes which are thought to be of a physical nature and are to be found within the confines of the human skin. Then the goal is to seek to rectify what is wrong. In this case, thought about the body of men in its normal and abnormal conditions is wholly materialistic.
Then there are so-called psychical or mental diseases. As a result of materialistic thinking these are considered to be diseases of the brain or nervous system, although efforts have been made to find the causes in other organic systems of the human being. But because people are quite ignorant of the way in which the Spirit and soul work in the healthy body, they are unable to connect these diseases of the Spirit and soul in a rational way with what is actually taking place in the human organism.
Spiritual Science is able to show in every detail how all so-called mental and psychical disease has its source in disturbances of the organs, in enlargements and contractions of the organs in man. A so-called mental or psychical disease is always the result of some irregularity in an organ, in the heart, the liver, the lungs and so on. A Spiritual Science that has developed to the point of knowing how the Spirit acts in a normal heart, is also able to discover in the deterioration or irregularity of the heart, the cause of a diseased life of Spirit or soul.
The greatest fault of materialism is not that it denies the existence of the Spirit. Religion can see to it that due recognition is paid to the Spirit. The greatest sin of materialism is that it gives us no knowledge of matter because, in effect, it only observes the outer side of matter. What is lacking in materialism is that it has no insight into matter! Take, for instance, psycho-analytical treatments, where attention is wholly directed to something that has taken place in the soul and is described as a “complex” — a pure abstraction. Whereas the right way to proceed is to study how certain impressions which have been made on the soul of the human being at some period of his life and which are normally bound up with a healthy organism, have come into contact with defective organs, with a diseased instead of a healthy liver, for example. And it must be remembered that this may have happened a very long time before the moment when the defect becomes organically perceptible.
There is no need for Spiritual Science to be afraid of showing how so-called mental or psychical disease is invariably connected with some organic phenomenon or other in the body of man. Spiritual Science must show with all emphasis that when a “soul-complex” — a deviation from the so-called “normal life of soul” — is studied, the most that can be achieved is a one-sided diagnosis. Psycho-analysis, therefore, can never lead to anything more than a diagnosis, never to a real therapy in this domain. In mental or spiritual diseases therapy must proceed to administer a cure for the body and for this reason there must be exact knowledge of the ramifications of the Spiritual in the material. We must know where to take hold of the material body (which is permeated with Spirit) in order to cure the disease of which abnormal conditions of soul are but the symptoms. Again and again it must be emphasised by Spiritual Science that the root of so-called mental or psychical diseases lies in the organic system of the human being. But it is only possible to understand abnormal organology when the Spirit can be traced in the most minute parts of matter.
And again: phenomena of life which seemingly affect or function in the element of soul, all that is expressed in the different temperaments, for instance, and the activity of the temperaments in the human being, in the way in which the tiny child acts, plays, walks — all this is to-day merely studied from a “psychological” point of view, but it also has its bodily aspect. Faulty education of the child may come to expression in later life in the form of some familiar physical disease. In certain cases of mental trouble we must often study the bodily constitution and look for the cause there, and again in certain cases of physical diseases, we must study the Spiritual before we can find the cause. The whole essence of Spiritual Science is that it does not speak in abstractions of a nebulous Spirit, like people of a mystical or theosophical turn of mind, but traces the Spirit right down into its material workings. Spiritual Science never conceives of the material in the sense of modern science but always presses on to the Spirit, and so it realises that an abnormal soul-life must inevitably express itself in an abnormal bodily life, although the abnormality may, to begin with, be hidden from external observation. On all sides to-day people form entirely false ideas of true Anthroposophical Spiritual Science and there may be a certain justification for this when they listen to speeches of those who do not seriously penetrate to the heart of the teaching but give utterance to abstract theories — man consists of such and such, there are repeated earthly lives, and so forth. All these things are of course full of significance and beauty, but the point is that we must penetrate to the heart of the particular subjects and the various spheres of life of which we speak.
In the very widest sense, the Spiritual-Scientific mode of thinking leads to a social, communal consciousness among men. For when people are able to perceive, on the one hand, how a soul that is sick sends its impulses into the organism, when they really understand the connection between the organism and the soul that is sick, and when they know how the general ordering of life affects the health of human beings — then the position of each individual in the community will be quite different. A true understanding of his fellow-creatures will arise in man and he will treat them quite differently. He will make allowances for the particular characters of those around him, knowing that the one possesses certain qualities and the other quite different qualities. He will learn how to respond to all the variations, how to make the best use of the different temperaments in human society and above all how to unfold and develop them in the true sense.
One domain of life in particular will be healthily influenced by such a knowledge of human nature — I refer to the domain of education. Without a comprehensive knowledge of the human being we simply cannot, for instance, measure the consequences of allowing our children to sit in school with bent backs so that they never breathe properly, or never teaching them to utter the vowel and consonant sounds clearly and definitely. As a matter of fact, the whole of later life depends on whether the child at school breathes in the right way and whether it is taught to articulate clearly and consciously. This is merely said by way of example, for the same thing applies in other domains. It is, however, an illustration of the application of general hygienic principles in the sphere of education. The whole social significance of hygiene is revealed in this example.
It is also apparent that instead of further specialisation, life is calling out for the specialised branches of knowledge to be brought together to form a comprehensive conception of life. We need something more than educational rules according to which the teacher is supposed to instruct the child. We need something that makes the teacher realise what it means if he helps the child to speak articulately and clearly, or the consequences that will ensue if he allows the child to catch its breath after only half a sentence or line has been spoken, and does not see to it that all the air is used up while the sentence is being uttered.
There are of course many such principles. A right appreciation and practice of them will only develop when we are able to measure their full significance for human life and social health — for only then will they give rise to a social impulse.
We need teachers who are able to educate children on the basis of a conception of the world that understands the true being of man. This was the thought underlying the Course I gave to the teachers when the Waldorf School at Stuttgart was founded. All the principles of the art of education as expounded in that Course strive in the direction of making men and women out of the children who are being educated — men and women in whom lungs, liver, heart, stomach, will be healthy in later life because, in childhood, they were helped to develop their life-functions in the right way, because, in effect, the soul worked in the right way. This conception of the world will never give a materialistic interpretation of the old saying, Mens sana in corpore sano. Interpreted in the materialistic sense this means: If the body is healthy, if it has been made healthy by all kinds of physical methods, then it will of itself be the bearer of a healthy soul. Now this is pure nonsense. The only real meaning of the phrase is this: a healthy body bears witness to the fact that the force of healthy soul has built it up, moulded it, made it healthy. A healthy body proves that a healthy soul has worked within it. That is the right interpretation of the phrase — and only in this sense can it be a principle of true hygiene.
In other words: it is not enough to have, as well as the school teachers who are working merely from an abstract science of education, a school doctor who turns up perhaps once a fortnight, goes through the school and has no idea how really to help. No, what we need is a living connection between medical science and the art of education. We need an art of education that teaches and instructs the children in a way conducive to real health. This is the element that makes hygiene a social question. For the social question is essentially an educational question, and this in turn a medical question — but only in the sense of a medicine, of a hygiene permeated with Spiritual Science.
These things lead us on to something else of extraordinary significance in our theme. For when we really enter Spiritual Science, when it becomes concrete in us, we know that we receive from it something more than the intellectualism of natural science, history or jurisprudence. (All sciences to-day are intellectualistic; even if they claim to be based on practical experience this simply means that they interpret intellectually the results of the experiences of the senses.) Now the content of Spiritual Science differs essentially from these intellectualistic results of natural science and other branches of modern culture. We should be in a sorry plight if all that lives in our intellectualistic culture were not merely a picture but an actual power working deeply into human beings. Intellectualism remains merely on the surface of man's being — and I use this phrase in its comprehensive sense. There are people who only study Spiritual Science intellectually, who make mental notes — there is a physical body, etheric body, astral body, Ego, reincarnation, karma and the like. They put it all into pigeon holes as is the custom in modern natural or social science but they are not sincerely devoting themselves to Spiritual Science when they think like this. They are simply carrying over their ordinary mode of thought to what they find in Spiritual Science. The essential thing about Spiritual Science is that it must be conceived, felt and experienced not in an intellectualistic way, but quite differently. It is for this reason that by its very nature Spiritual Science has a living, vital relation to the human being in health and disease, but a relation altogether different from what is often imagined.
People must by now have realised to their cost the powerlessness of purely intellectual culture to deal with those who are suffering from so-called mental disease. The sufferer will tell you, for instance, that he hears voices speaking to him. No matter what intellectual reasoning you use with him — it is all useless, for he will know how to make all manner of objections. You may be sure of that! Even this might be an indication that in such a case one has to do, not with a disease of the conscious or unconscious life of soul but with a disease of the organism. Spiritual Science teaches, moreover, that one cannot get to grips with these so-called mental and psychical diseases by the kinds of methods that have recourse, for instance, to hypnotism, suggestion and the like, but that one must approach mental disease by “physical” means — by healing the organs of man, and this is exactly where a spiritual knowledge of the human being is all-essential, Spiritual knowledge recognises that so-called mental diseases cannot be affected by methods that are of a “spiritual” or “psychical” nature, because, in effect, this kind of illness arises from the fact that the spiritual member of man's being has been pressed outwards (as is otherwise the case only in sleep). As a consequence, the spiritual member is weak and we must proceed to cure the bodily organ in order that the soul and Spirit may be received into it again in a healthy way.
Now Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition which proceed, not from the intellect alone but from the whole being of man as the outcome of Spiritual Science — penetrate into the whole organism. In short, true Spiritual Science penetrates with health-bringing force into the physical organisation of man.
The fact that certain dreamy people feel ill or showsigns of the reverse of health in their spiritual-scientificactivities is no proof that this statement is false. There are so many who are not really spiritual scientists at all but who simply amass with their intellects collectionsof notes upon the results of Spiritual Science. The promulgation of the real substance of Spiritual Science is in itself a social hygiene, for it works upon the whole being of man and regularises his organic functions when they show signs of deviating from the normal either to the side of morbid dreaming or the reverse. Here we have the essential difference between the content of Spiritual Science and that of merely intellectualistic science. The concepts arising in the domain of intellectualism are muchtoo “bloodless” — because they are merely analogies to get to grips with the being of man and work healthily upon him. The concepts of Spiritual Science, on the other hand, have themselves arisen from a knowledge of the whole being of man. Lungs, heart, liver the whole being and not the brain alone — have collaborated in the building up of spiritual-scientific concepts. Inherentwithin them, penetrating them with a plastic formativeforce, are elements which proceed from the whole beingof man. And this is the sense in which Spiritual Sciencecan enter and give direction to hygiene as a social concern.
In many other ways too — for I can only indicate certain examples — Spiritual Science will be able, when it gains a firm footing in the world, to lay down guiding lines for the life of humanity in the sphere of health.
Let me here give just one brief indication. The great difference between the human organisation in waking and sleeping life is one of the subjects to which Spiritual Science has again and again to return. Howthe Spirit and soul act in waking life, how and when they permeate each other in the body, soul and Spirit of man — how they act when they are temporarily separated fromeach other in sleep — all these things are conscientiously studied by Spiritual Science. Here I can do no more than refer to a certain principle, but it is nevertheless a well-founded deduction of Spiritual Science.
Certain epidemics appear in life — illnesses that affect whole masses of the population and are therefore essentially a social concern. Ordinary materialistic science studies these illnesses by examining the physical organism of man. It knows nothing of the tremendous effect which the abnormal attitude of human beings to waking and sleeping life has upon epidemics and the susceptibility to epidemic diseases. Certain things take place in the organism during sleep and if they run to excess, they strongly predispose the human being to so-called epidemic diseases. Men and women who set organic processes in action as the result of too much sleep — I mean processes that ought not to take place, because waking life must not be broken up by such lengthy periods of sleep — these people have a much stronger predisposition to epidemic diseases and are less able to resist them.
Now you can well realise what it would mean to explain the right proportions of sleeping and waking life. These things cannot be dictated. You can of course tell people that they must not send children with scarlatina to school, but you cannot tell them in the same way that they ought to get, say, seven hours of sleep. And yet it is much more important than any prescription, that people who need it should have seven hours of sleep and others for whom this is not necessary, should sleep much less — and so forth.
These matters, which are so intimately connected with the personal life of human beings, have a very great bearing and effect upon social life. How the social effects come about, whether a larger or smaller number of people are obliged owing to illness to be absent from their work, whether or not a whole region is affected — all these things depend upon the most intimate details of man's life. Hygiene here plays an immeasurably important part in social life. No matter what people may think about infection or non-infection — this element is none the less a factor in epidemics. And here external regulations are of no avail; the only thing that will avail is to educate, within human society, men and women who are able to meet the doctors who are trying to explain prophylactic measures, with understanding. This can give rise to an active co-operation for the preservation of health between the doctors who understand the technique of their profession, and the laity who understand the nature of the human being. ... It is, of course, not the laity nor the amateurs who will do the healing, but reasonable human beings will bring understanding to meet the professional medical men who tell them this or that. If he understands the human being — and this understanding can be developed in social life in collaboration with the doctor — the layman can form an intelligent idea of technical science and then, in democratic Parliaments he can say “Aye” with a certain understanding and not because of the pressure of authority. The sphere of hygiene can become a social concern in the true sense if it is made fruitful by a science of medicine enriched by Spiritual Science. In short, hygiene can become in the real sense, and to a high degree, an affair of the people, of the democracy.