Fundamentals to Understanding Anthroposophic Medicine
The anthroposophic medicine is not an alternative to natural scientific medicine, but an expansion of it.
The presentation of the basic relationship of anthroposophy to the natural sciences can be found in works of Dr. Rudolf Steiner,
such as "Grundlinien einer Erkenntnistheorie der Goethe´schen Weltanschauung" ("Fundamentals of epistemology of Goethe's World View"), "Wahrheit und Wissenschaft" ("Truth and Science") and others. Without the knowledge of these and other works the formation of an opinion about the scientific nature of the anthroposophic human image and its application in medicine is not possible.
A so-called holistic perception must consider the human being as a differentiated self-contained oneness of body, mind and spirit.
Only in this overall context, can health, disease and treatment become fully comprehensible.
The comprehension of the physical human being, also in Steiner's view, can only be won through the natural scientific methods of the present time. The comprehension of the human higher substances and elements, however, is only possible through adequate spiritual research.
In modern medicine the life processes are interpreted as mechanisms occurring like a chain reaction. For the sake of consistency, one would have to consider these chains fully in line with their designers.
The impetus and the forces for correctly regulated functions, however, cannot be explained on the basis of the links of these chains themselves. In this context science uses chance as an explanation. But chance explains nothing. In case of the mechanism of a machine the instance of realization comes from the outside. With an organism, however, law and force for its realization have “taken possession” of it, are integrated into it. The organism contains the inherent construction within itself – as the so-called “body of formative forces” (Bildekräfteleib) or “ether body” (Ätherleib). Such an ether body remains active in every living organism until its death and is responsible for all manifestations of life such as growth, procreation, reproduction and healing processes.
A second and third area for such an expansion from natural science and psychology concerns the human as a being with soul and spirit. Through the embodiment of inorganic substances the human being is related to the mineral kingdom.
Through the organic (ether) forces it is related to the botanic kingdom and through its soul with the animal kingdom.
However, through its Self (its spiritual essence) the human being distinguishes itself from the three other natural kingdoms.
Animal life does not fulfil itself in mere vegetating like plants, i.e. in the organic design of substance, but this design is oriented towards spiritual life as a higher purpose. As a name for this essential element Rudolf Steiner generally uses the expression “astral body” (Astralleib).
The human being not only possesses soul, but is also gifted with a unique and individual mental element.
The physical and organic design of the human is not only oriented toward spiritual qualities but also towards mental functions.
Thus, a higher instance is attached to the astral organization, i.e. the Self-Organization (Ich-Organisation).
In accordance with anthroposophic epistemology, the human being is thus composed of four integrated elements or members, consisting of physical body, ether body, astral body and self. What is observed at the physical level, with regard to health or disease does not constitute the complete process but is the result of the interaction of the physical and the trans-physical (ether, astral, self).
The anthroposophic medicine attempts to do justice to this human wholeness, right up to individual therapeutic measures whereby, besides mineral, plant and animal remedies, also artistic therapies are introduced such as painting, plastic art, eurythmy, linguistic design, and rhythmic massage.
Content by Dorothea Schlaepfer MD
Translation by Dr.hc. C. Eigl