Course for Young Doctors
Dornach, 4th January, 1924
From tomorrow onwards I want you to think about what questions you would like to ask, and then give these questions to me so that I may remember them as these lectures go on.
Today I want to say something in direct continuation of what was said in the two preceding lectures about the nature of the human being and his relation to the world. In our anthroposophical studies here it is useless to bother about the ‘views’ — in reality they are not ‘views’ at all — that are held by modern science in connection with the human being. It would be equally useless to make up our minds to deviate as little as possible from things that have become customary and habitual. For the state of affairs at present is that in certain great and significant directions the truth deviates very considerably from what has become customary. It deviates in an extraordinarily high degree. And so those who are striving after truth today will also need to have the courage to acknowledge many things that modern science would consider quite absurd. On the other hand, if you really want to heal, it will be necessary for you — not here, but in other places — to mix with those who set out to heal today by the methods customary in the external world. You will have to have dealings with science as it is in the modern world. Otherwise, among all the errors of the times, you will feel insecure with the truth you possess.
The current idea today is that there are about seventy to eighty substances on the earth, with certain forces of attraction and repulsion. These forces are supposed to work through certain atomic weights and the like. A number of theoretical laws of nature are then evolved according to which people try to find out how the substances are formed, and then, out of the different forces whose origin is looked for in the substances, a phantasmal picture is built up which is supposed to represent “man.”
But the truth is that neither in his form nor in the forces which maintain his processes of growth and nourishment is the human being subject only to the influences proceeding from the substances of the earth. In speaking of the etheric body, we found that it is entirely under the influence of forces which stream in from the periphery, from the cosmos. Taking these two kinds of forces — those which proceed from the substances of the earth, and those which stream in from the periphery — you will realize that a balancing, a harmonizing of these two kinds of forces, is necessary for each organ in the body. The several systems of organs in the human being differ very considerably in the way in which this balance is established.
Let us now consider the human head from this point of view. To begin with, attention must be called — and I have often done this—to the weight of the human brain which is very largely eliminated because the brain, with its definite outline, floats in the cerebral fluid. The brain floats in the cerebral fluid which circulates through the spinal column. The actual weight of the brain is about thirteen hundred to fifteen hundred grams. But when it is within the human being, it weighs much less — at most, twenty grams. This is because it floats in the cerebral fluid, and, according to the Law of Archimedes, every body, when it floats in fluid, loses as much of its weight as is equivalent to the weight of the volume of fluid displaced. In the fluid, the brain is subject to buoyancy so that only about twenty to twenty-five grams of its weight remains, and this is the weight with which the brain presses downwards. If it were to press downwards with its full weight there could be no blood vessels underneath it; they would be crushed. The earthly quality of heaviness is actually taken away from the brain. It is not the earthly quality of heaviness that enables us to be alive in the brain, but the buoyancy, the force that is in opposition to heaviness. In the case of the brain, this earthly heaviness amounts to, at most, twenty grams. The force of attraction exercised by the earth upon the human head is very little.
We see from this that the earthly characteristic of the brain vanishes — vanishes because of the way man is organized. The human organization is such that the earthly forces vanish. The Law of Archimedes has taught humanity about buoyancy, but it is not always taken account of in technical contrivances. I am not sure whether people realize it, but it is quite obvious that they acknowledge laws which happen to suit them and ignore those which do not. What I have told you about heaviness disappearing applies not only to the human head but to the whole inner structure of the head. Something else happens as a result of the special
arrangement of the breathing process, of certain static conditions which hold sway between in-breathing and out-breathing. When we draw a breath, a force is exercised, and then comes a counter force when we breathe out again. The relationship between this force and counter force in breathing is similar to the relationship between gravity and buoyancy.
The curious thing is that when we are walking, the head, the brain, remains at rest. On account of buoyancy, the brain is not heavy, and its inner condition of rest, its inner static condition, is not changed when we are walking. Nor is this true only of our walking, but, in a curious manner, it is especially true also of the movement we make together with the earth. We only share in the movement with the rest of the body, not with the brain. The movement is quashed, so far as the brain is concerned. We may move the head itself as rapidly as the rest of the body, but even then the brain remains at rest. It is harder to conceive that something that is momentarily in movement is, in reality, at rest, than to conceive that something that is subject to gravity is, in reality, not heavy. But it is so, nevertheless. Thinking of the inner organization of the human being, we must say that the head remains at rest all the time. All the forces adjust themselves; there is a slight pull of gravity in the downward direction, in a proportion of twenty to fifteen hundred, and in the forward direction there is a very slight propelling force of movement. In essentials, however, the movement is balanced out.
We can, therefore, say that the human head, as regards its inner existence, is like a person who is sitting quietly in an automobile and not moving at all while the car moves forward. The experience of the human head is just as it would be if it had no weight. Neither does it move when the human being moves and when the earth is moving together with the human being. The head is, therefore, a very special organ, for it excludes itself, exiles itself from what is happening on the earth; the earth only participates to a small extent in the activities of the head. The head is an image of the cosmos. In its essential nature, it has nothing to do with the forces of the earth. The inner structure of the brain is an image of the cosmic forces. Its form cannot be explained from anything of an earthly nature but only from the in-working cosmos. I must speak rather crudely here, but you will understand me. The earth works only to this extent, that it breaks through the cosmic formation and inserts into the human being that which tends towards the earth. You can see this readily by looking at a skeleton. Take away the skull and you have taken away the part of the skeleton that is an image of the cosmos. The arrangement of the ribs is only half cosmic for here the skeleton is already impressed by the earthly forces. In the long bones of the legs and the long
bones of the arms, you have a purely earthly formation. The spinal vertebrae to which the ribs are connected have arisen from the condition of equilibrium between the cosmic and the earthly. In the head, with its covering skull you have a form in which the cosmos deprives the earthly forces of the possibility of taking shape; this form of the skull is an image of the cosmos. In this way we must study the forms of the human body.
When we study the forms of the human body in this way, knowing that the inner life of the head, the soft substances and fluids of the head remain at rest and in this state of rest are an image of the cosmos, we shall realize that anatomy and physiology, as presented today, cannot really be said to be true because they do not acknowledge the existence of cosmic influences. I have spoken of forces which proceed from the periphery and stream inwards. They stream in from all sides upon the human head. But it makes a difference if these forces are intercepted by the moon, by the sun, or by Saturn. There peripheric forces are modified by the planetary bodies standing in the heavens. The directions from which these forces stream in are, therefore, not without significance. The in-streaming is essentially modified according to the position of the constellation from which it comes.
This is a thought around which there is nothing but dilettantism today, but in olden times it was the basis of great astronomical wisdom. The dreadful treatises that exist on such subjects today give no picture at all of the reality. Understanding of what I have said is essential before we can have insight into the structure and make-up of the human being. For the fact that in his head the human being is subject entirely to the cosmos, and in the long bones of arms and legs entirely to the earthly forces, is an expression, right down into substance, of how the cosmic formative forces behave. You know that human bone contains calcium carbonate. But it also contains calcium phosphate. Both substances are very important for the bones. Through the calcium carbonate the bones become subject to the earth. If the bone substance was not permeated by calcium carbonate, the earth could not approach the bones. The calcium carbonate constitutes the substantial point of contact for the earth which is thereby able to shape the bones in accordance with its formative forces. The thigh bones could not have their extension from above downwards if this was not made possible by the calcium carbonate. But there would be no femoral head without CaPO3. This fact is not changed by the objection which anatomists will raise, that the quantities of CaCO3 and CaPO3 do not essentially differ in the shaft of a long bone and its neck or head. To begin with, this statement is not quite accurate, for minute research will reveal a difference, but something else comes into consideration here. The human organism must have within it both up-building processes and processes of demolition — processes out of which something is built up and processes by means of which what is not used in the up-building is separated off.
A very decided difference between these up-building forces and forces of demolition in substances themselves is shown, for example, by fluorine. The physiologist would say that fluorine plays a part in the up-building of the teeth and is also present in the urine. Fluorine, therefore, exists here and there in the human body. But that is not the point of importance. In the up-building of the teeth, the activity of the fluorine is a positive one. The teeth could not develop without fluorine. In urine, there is fluorine which has been broken down and is excreted. The essential thing is to distinguish between whether a substance is being eliminated at some place in the body or whether it is an absolute necessity in the up-building process. If part of a bone is built in from the cosmos, as it were, CaPO3 has here an up-building activity. In another part of a bone the CaPO3 is being eliminated. In the shafts of the long bones, CaCO3 builds up, but it is being eliminated in that part of the bone which is built in from the cosmos (head of the bone). The essential thing is not the actual presence, here or there, of a substance. The point of importance is what the substance is doing, what significance it has at some particular place in the organism.
I once tried to give a picture of these things by saying the following: Suppose I am going for a walk one morning at nine o'clock and see two men sitting together on a bench. At three o'clock in the afternoon I pass the bench again and the two men are together there again. These two facts in themselves really tell me nothing, because it may be that one of the men had taken his lunch with him and had remained sitting on the bench from nine o'clock until three o'clock, while the other had gone off for a walk and had come back again just before three o'clock. One of them is quite rested, the other terribly tired. In this respect there is an inner difference between them. The point of importance is not the presence of the one person or the other, but what each of them has been doing, how has life brought him to this particular place. Therefore, so far as understanding of the human being is concerned, the presence of some substance in an organ is not really a matter of importance. It is a question of knowing in what kind of process the substance is involved — a process of up-building or a process of demolition.
We shall never find the transition from the quality of a substance that is necessary to the human organism, to a remedy, unless we keep this process in mind. This is the only way which will lead to the realization that the distribution of substances in the cosmos is quite different from what is usually thought. It is a striking fact — a fact to which no thought has been given for five or six centuries — that while certain analytical processes prove the existence of iron in the human organism (it can be said quite certainly that there is iron in the blood), attempts to prove the existence of lead in the human organism will fail, if the organism is in a normal state. Lead is only known in the form of lead ores, or heavy lumps. But just think of it — all metals which exist in the coarse, lumpy form as earthly substances were once present during the epochs of Saturn, Sun and Moon, in the fluid condition, even in the condition of warmth ether. Now, the human being — in a different form of course — was already in existence on Old Saturn. He has been involved in all these processes, among them the process whereby, out of a fluid, delicate etheric condition, iron has become what it is today. Man has been involved in the whole process of the world's evolution.
The strange thing is that the human being has taken iron and also magnesium into his own structure, but not lead. He has united the magnesium process with his own being. But he threw out the lead process. So far as the magnesium is concerned, therefore, we see that there are working, within the human being, the same forces as are working in magnesium in the external world; the human being has to master them inwardly. But before man was enclosed in his skin, when he was still a structure that was involved in a process of metamorphosis and united with the cosmos, he overcame the lead process and still has within him the forces for the elimination of the lead process. He has within him the up-building forces of magnesium and the forces for the elimination of the lead process.
What does this mean, in reality? You need only study what happens to the human organism in lead poisoning. It becomes inwardly brittle, sclerotic. It is therefore correct to say that the organism cannot tolerate lead and when there is lead poisoning there is lead within the organism. The organism begins to fight against the process that is contained in the lead substance — substances are always processes. Lead spreads out within the organic process, and the organism, exerting itself in opposition, tries to drive out the lead. When it succeeds it gets well. If the lead proves itself to be the stronger, the organism does not get well, and the well-known process of decay that is connected with lead poisoning sets in, because the organism can only tolerate those processes which overcome the lead process. It cannot tolerate the formative forces of lead. If we now try to find out what it means to the human being that he will not put up with having lead in his organism, we are led to the following: man is a being of sense. He perceives things around him and then thinks about them. He needs both forms of activity. He must perceive things in order that he may be connected with the world; he must also think about them. He must repress the act of actual perception and then unfold his own, independent activity. If we were only to perceive, we should lose ourselves all the time in acts of external seeing. But by retreating from the things themselves, by thinking about them — thereby, we become a personality, an individuality. We do not lose ourselves in the things. If we study the human etheric body, we find that it has within it a center for the forces which throw out lead. This center, approximately, lies where the hairs grow in a kind of vortex at the back of the crown of the head. That is the center of the forces which overcome lead. They stream into all parts of the organism in order that the formative forces of lead may not get into the organism. The forces which the body has developed for the overcoming of lead have great significance, for they are the same forces which enable me, when I am looking, say, at this piece of chalk, not to be entirely caught up in the simple act of looking at the chalk. Otherwise I should identify myself with the object of perception. But I make myself independent, I dampen down the perception of the object observed by means of those forces which overcome lead. It is due to these forces that the human being can be a self-contained personality; these forces enable the human being to separate himself from the world.
I will now speak of something that is very striking in connection with the forces which overcome lead. Not only have they a physical-etheric significance but also a psychical and moral significance.
The human being takes certain metallic substances into himself, unites them with his own bodily organism; other metallic substances he overcomes and has them within him only in the form of processes of rejection, processes which are master of these substances. Now why is it that in the course of his long evolution from the Saturn period and the Sun period, man has separated off certain external substances and has received others into his organism? In that man has this process of elimination within, he is able to receive into himself independent moral forces. We can imagine that the human organism, as constituted presently, may be unable to make use of lead but contains certain forces which compensate for lead; we can imagine the organism containing lead in the same way as it now contains iron. If this were so the human being would bring into himself semi-moral qualities; for it is so with lead. He would then have a morbid affinity (we should call it a 'morbid' or pathological affinity) to the impurities existing in the outside world. Such a person would always be on the lookout for vile-smelling substances and like to smell them. If we notice that some child has perverted instincts of this kind — and there are children who are partial to everything that smells, — they will sniff petroleum, for instance — then we may be sure that the quality of the blood that rejects lead is not present. And it is then a matter of calling up this lead-rejecting power by clinical methods or even by medicaments. It is possible to do this.
And now let us think of magnesium, a substance which plays a significant role in the human organism. There is something very interesting about magnesium. When speaking about education I have said many times that the first period of life, the period which lasts to the time of the change of teeth, must be sharply differentiated from the following periods. The second period lasts from the change of teeth until puberty. Magnesium, as well as fluorine, is necessary for the development of the teeth. But the process of the development of the teeth is not localized in the upper and lower jaws — the whole organism participates in it. The magnesium process takes place over the whole organism. And this is the most important process of all up to the time of the change of teeth. After the teeth have changed, magnesium has no longer its former significance. For the magnesium forces in the human being harden the organism; they enclose it in itself. This consolidation of the organism, this incorporation of the forces and substances, comes to an end at the second dentition.
Until then, the magnesium forces are exceedingly important for the organism. This organism, so far as its development is concerned, must now be considered a self-contained whole. It must contain and it must enfold the magnesium process, for if this process were absent the organism would lack the necessary forces of consolidation. The organism cannot cease generating the magnesium forces. This goes on after the change of teeth just as it did before. The magnesium forces must be worked upon in the organism, and after the change of teeth the essential thing in regard to magnesium is that it must be overcome, must be thrown out. It enters particularly into the secretion of milk, is excreted with the milk. The secretion of milk is connected with puberty, so you have here a periodic process. Up to the change of teeth magnesium is consumed, as it were, by the organism; after the change of teeth, up to the time of puberty, it is thrown off, separated. And magnesium, now a substance to be secreted, is one of the forces which form the milk. After puberty there is a kind of rebound and the magnesium forces are used for the more delicate consolidation of the muscles.
Substances are only a combination of processes. Lead is only in semblance the heavy, gray substance — with which we are familiar. It is nonsense to say that lead is a piece of coarse substance. In reality, lead is the process that goes on within the boundaries which mark the extent of the spread of lead. Everything is a process. One cannot say, once and for all, that certain 'substance processes' are worked up in the human being, and certain others, like the lead process, for which we must always have the power of elimination, are thrown off. It is not correct to say this because there are other processes, like the magnesium process, in connection with which there is rhythmic alternation; in periods which alternate rhythmically we have to consume the magnesium process, and then again throw it out.
This will show you that it means nothing to say, as the result of mere analysis: the human organism contains magnesium. It means nothing, for in the twelfth year of life these substances have quite a different significance than they have in the fourth or fifth year of life. We unfold a real knowledge of the human being when we know the period during which certain substance processes are important in the human organism. If we want to know how substances outside in nature can work further within the human organism, it is of very little importance to study the chemical composition of these substances. We must study something that is hardly studied at all today. If we trace back the study of substances to the thirteen or fourteenth century, we find the beginnings of modern chemistry. These beginnings are to be found in the alchemical processes which are so often scoffed at nowadays. But alchemy contained something else too, of which there has been no continuation. It is what might be called today the doctrine of signatures. This Doctrine of Signatures was applied especially in the study of plants but also of minerals, and it has not been developed or continued.
The characteristic quality of antimony is its well-known spiky, crystalline formation. If you apply a certain metallurgical treatment to antimony, you get the familiar “antimony mirror” when the volatilizing antimony is precipitated on a cold surface. Antimony has the tendency to develop forms which reveal themselves very clearly as forms of the etheric body. The shapes taken by antimony are very similar to the forms of certain simple plants which have an affinity to the etheric body. When one studies antimony one has the feeling at once that this antimony is very sensitive to etheric forces. It has an affinity with etheric forces. Everyone can confirm this by bringing antimony to the cathode. There will be a series of slight explosions which show the relation of antimony to the etheric forces. This is a striking case, but at one time people had a great faculty for understanding these things. This faculty is now quite lost and no attention or respect is paid to such indications as I have given. And for this reason, certain significant observations leave people in complete perplexity.
Think of diamond, graphite, anthracite, common coal. They are all carbon, but yet so different from each other. Why are they different? If people were capable of not limiting their investigations to the chemical composition but of finding out about the ‘Signature’, as it was called in olden times, they would begin to understand what the difference is between common coal and graphite. Common coal came into being during the Earth evolution, graphite during the preceding Moon evolution. Diamond came into being during the Sun evolution. When you study these things in the cosmic aspect, you realize once again that what is of essential importance is not the substance itself but the conditions and times under which and during which a substance assumed a definite form. Physical reality is subject to the element of time, and time has a definite significance. If you think of what I have said, you will realize: common coal is a child, it has as yet no great age; graphite is a youth, but older than common coal; diamond, though not exactly ancient, is very mature. If you have to set a task which demands the power of maturity, you will not give it to a child. Everything depends on the age. So you will realize that simply because of its cosmic age, coal, in whatever form it appears, has a different task from graphite which is more mature.
Insight into cosmic processes is necessary if we want to understand the relationship of the human being to what is out there in the cosmos. Antimony has a particular connection with the human etheric body, and if you introduce it into the human organism as a medicament, you must understand what antimony is outside the human being before you can know what is stimulated in the etheric body by the use of antimony. You must study the delicate processes in nature if you want to understand how a medicament is to act within the human organism.