A Brief Look at Anthroposophy Through Three Book Reviews
13 December 2019 (online)
Warmth: Living Element and Healing Substance (2016) by Bertram von Zabern, MD. 5”x8”; 115pp; paperback; ISBN - 978-1-935136-24-8; $20
Mercury Press. www.mercurypress.org
Compendium for the Remedial Treatment of Children, Adolescents, and Adults in Need of Soul Care: Experiences and Indications from Anthroposophic Therapy (2009) by Bertram von Zabern, MD. 5”x8”; 168pp; quality spiral bound; ISBN - 978-0-936132-29-7; $20
Mercury Press. www.mercurypress.org
Compendium of Anthroposophic Medical References by Rudolf Steiner (2004) by Adam Blanning, MD. 5”x11”; 260pp; plastic spiral bound; ISBN - 978-0-929979-90-8; $30 Mercury Press. www.mercurypress.org
‘We ourselves are the being of warmth!’—Rudolf Steiner
All of us want comfort, don't we?[a]
Whether it is foods of comfort, pleasant soothing music or a hug; it's all concerned and involved with warmth.
But where does warmth, in such ubiquitous quantities, arise from? Ever thought about that? Where does warmth come from?
In Warmth: Living Element and Healing Substance, anthroposophical doctor Bertram von Zabern, explores and attempts to answer this query. He takes us from warmth as a ‘Primeval Element’ in Chapter 1 to the penultimate chapter, ‘Healing Through Warmth’. In between, there are four other essays: ‘Knowledge of Warmth’, ‘Rudolf Steiner's Teachings on Warmth’, ‘Warmth Substances and Processes’ and ‘Healthy and Ill Processes in the Warmth Organism’.
The first half of the book consists of several historical discussions devoted to this subject as engaged by Hermes Trismegistus, Jabir ibn Hayyan (also known as Geber), Paracelsus, Goethe and Hahnemann. Soon thereafter the author offers some of Steiner's thoughts and the cosmological insights of anthroposophy—some of it not easy going. For example:
‘Warmth is the pure manifestation of the being of time reaching from its spiritual origin into the outer world to return to the inner world...’—p. 39, and:
‘We have, therefore, in the warmth processes the direct expression of the activity of the blood as the instrument of the ego, of the highest level, below which the physical human organism is found. Below this are the other processes, uppermost is the warming process, and in this, there takes hold directly, the activity of our soul and our ego. It is for this reason that we feel with so many activities of the soul what we may call ‘the transmutation of our soul activities into a kindling of inner warmth,’ and this may extend its effects even to a becoming physically warm in the process of the blood...'—p. 40.[b]
Warmth can be looked upon as a bridge spanning the gulf between an inner world of spiritual experiences to the outer world of perceptions. This can be noticed when one blushes: what precedes the physical sensations is an inner spark from soul activity which in turn initiates the blush and accompanying warmth and perhaps perspiration. How pronounced our bodily reactions are depends upon the individual's sensitivity and soul make-up.
To be comfortable with this illusory explanation requires that one acknowledge the existence of spirit and perhaps an acceptance of reincarnation.
A bit later the good doctor discusses a number of substances and their processes, for example, sulphur/phosphorus, silica, carbon, hydrogen/oxygen, nitrogen and copper/iron. Later still, he compares the sulphur-rich and sulphur-poor constitutions, the effects of smoking tobacco, warmth in massage, warmth and the will to heal, healing through warmth and cool colour, the warmth of bee venom and warmth therapy in cancer before ending with warmth in the treatment of epilepsy. Included in this latter is a brief discussion of Arcanum vitrioli, a remedy which Paracelsus suggested as an archetypal remedy for epilepsy. This naturally occurring complex substance consists principally of copper sulphate in combination with small amounts of ferrous sulphate. Paracelsus called it ‘a spiritual remedy to heal not only symptoms but the root of the falling illness’.
After all of this can we really, in a succinct manner, define warmth and where it comes from? I think not yet it is my hope that what has been offered will stimulate and, of course, warm your thoughts a bit to pursue this topic further.
‘...warmth is in truth, inner motion, motion that alternates constantly from the realm of pressure effects to the realm of suction effects’—p. 41 (Rudolf Steiner).
Bertram has written two other books. Organic Physics: In Search of a Science of Life (1999; Mercury Press; an anthroposophical interpretation of the physical sciences) and Compendium for the Remedial Treatment of Children, Adolescents, and Adults in Need of Soul Care: Experiences and Indi-cations from Anthroposophic Therapy (2009).[c]
A large question arises when we attempt to help persons with developmental and life inhibiting psychological issues, for example, epilepsy, autism, hydrocephaly, deformities and disorders of speech. Often referred to as ‘special needs patients’ how do parent and physician alike address, for example, a Down syndrome child who has entered their lives.
Anthroposophical medicine (AM) answers this question in a unique and powerful way. However, one of the problems which AM has is its jargon and an associated steep learning curve. The reason for this is because anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner's body of work, is so permeated with spirituality that another terminology has arisen in order to explain it.
The soul, as anthroposophy defines it, is that subtle aspect of the human being consisting of sensations and feelings—the world of the senses, of which there are twelve.[d]
If one continues in this direction, karma enters into the equation as Steiner felt there to be links between illness and karma. Steiner of course acknowledges hereditary and environmental factors as well.
This all too brief foregoing discussion, perhaps opens a door to understanding the term ‘soul care’ or more commonly special needs. Though AM is viewed as an extension of medicine as it is practiced today, this is an aspect which addresses the care of soul or karmic or hereditary illness.
Chapter 1, ‘Syndromes of Embryonic and Genetic Development,’ examines the extensive experience which AM has in the treatment of the Down syndrome patient:
‘Basic therapy according to H. Haubold, modified by K. Koenig [consists of] the ‘catch up maturation treatment’ [and] is based on the knowledge that children with Down's syndrome did not complete their embryonic development. Detailed reasons are given in Koenig's book.[e]'.—ibid, p. 11.
Aside from homeopathic and anthroposophical remedies, for example, Hypophysis 4x, Thyroidea 4x, Ferrum sidereum/Pancreas, Plumbum mellitum, Apatite and Cinnabar, nutritional recommendations are offered. Additionally, various external applications are often employed in AM and can be especially useful[f]:
‘Rubbings: Oxalis or copper ointment over the liver, possibly in alternation with Wala Copper ointment over the kidneys’.
‘Baths: Sea salt’.
‘Massage: Careful incarnation treatment, beginning mainly with the lower back, calves and feet, and then the abdomen. Later on, bring everything into rhythm with a variety of treatments. One should act in a carefully activating and incarnating way and pay special attention to grip qualities (combine the cosmic and the terrestrial in the middle)’.
‘Oil: Dr. Hauschka Blackthorn body oil, Hypericum oil’.—ibid, pp. 13,14.
Additionally, art therapy and therapeutic eurythmy have their treatment roles.[g]
The remainder of this chapter is devoted to four other developmental syndromes, foetal alcohol syndrome, fragile X syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome and Angelman syndrome.
Chapters 8A and 8B deal with the sulphur constitution yet in an unfamiliar way. Steiner suggested that overly strong or weak sulphur processes can, in a constitutional sense, give rise to not just physical problems but psychological disorders as well. In regard to the sulphur-rich constitution, he offers a number of ideas including:
‘...[Steiner] describes the blond and red haired children as sulfur rich, also the albinos. Phenylketonuria and other metabolic disorders belong to this type. The sulfur processes in the protein are too strong, whereas the iron is elaborated weakly. This ‘sulfuric’ constitution can be the basis for the fact that external impressions are not regularly transformed into memory... As a result, a state of painful inner excitation with external apathy results, depression comes about. The thorough description of this context and its curative educational approach can be found in the Curative Education Course [by Steiner] and in the elaborations of W. Holtzapfel and other authors'.—ibid, p. 71.
The end of this quote contains a number of citings. This is an especially good feature as each chapter contains many references of a fundamental and specific nature.
Chapter 18, ‘Childhood Milieu Damage,’ concerns psychological impoverishment resulting from situations of prolonged abuse, that is, a broken family or long-term hospitalisations. If this occurs during infancy or early childhood, the results can be permanent. This ‘sickness’ is quite common in the world today, especially in the West where materialism has supplanted the nourishment once provided by unstressed parents and other family members. I am certain that you encounter this disheartening aspect in your clinical practice, in your daily life and in interpersonal relationships.
When a young child or infant does not receive adequate love a general backwardness results which has physical ramifications, too.
‘A result of the neglect is a seeming psychological precocity for the outer life, which has a soul impoverishment behind itself...’—ibid, p. 144.
This, don't you think, is a telling quote.
The author recommends numerous remedial measures including external applications (massage and baths), art therapy and eurythmy. von Zabern references R. Shaliv's article ‘The Abused Child and Its Mission for Individuals and for Humanity’ (Fall 2009, Journal of Curative Education and Social Therapy).
The usefulness of baths is stressed and an appendix on the subject is included. Steiner, in lecture 5 of his lecture series entitled ‘Spiritual Science and Medicine,’ gave indications on substances to be used in baths. For example, salt baths are incarnating and awakening to the nerve-sense system. Sulphur and/or flower-oil baths nurture warmth processes and activate the metabolism. Baths can be especially helpful if the indicated substance is dispersed into the bath water by an oil dispersion device, that , the one pioneered by Franziska and Werner Junge (see The Oil Dispersion Bath, 1980; Mercury Press). A review of this methodology may also be found in E. Phethean's ‘Therapeutic Oil Dispersion Baths’ (Journal Curative Education and Social Therapy, January 1986).
Other subjects presented in the Appendix include massage therapy, art therapy and colour shadow therapy. This latter therapy in combination with music was introduced into clinical practice by Karl Koenig, Carlo Pietzner and Edmund Pracht in 1949. Christof-Andreas Lindenberg of Camphill (Beaver Run, PA) is another important figure in this field which he helped to develop further.
The main reason why I highly recommend this Compendium is because of the revelations and innovations found on nearly every page. Even if one doesn't fully understand Steiner's approach or his pharmacology, which is rooted in his highly developed clairvoyance, ones thinking is stimulated and broadened. This latter point is reason enough to purchase this book.[h]
These two books are not for the beginner, yet if one becomes reasonably acquainted with the concepts of anthroposophy, the practitioner will be rewarded with a great amount of therapeutic guidance, knowledge and understanding.
Another book to consider is Adam Blanning's MD Compendium of Anthroposophic Medical References by Rudolf Steiner (2004).[i]
In the early 2000s, Dr. Blanning saw the need for an alphabetical compilation of topic definitions sourced from Steiner's medical writings: that is exactly what this book is. It is not a clinical medical reference but more of a study guide and anthroposophical medical-term index. Remedy and botanical names are indexed as are topics such as digestion/nourishment, diet, dexterity, diabetes mellitus, sulphur, tin, antimony, curative education, etheric, arnica and head/sculptural forces. Each topic, in fact each paragraph comes referenced to either one of Steiner's lectures or to his (and Ita Wegman's MD) book, Fundamentals of Therapy. A couple of examples include:
‘“Solidago”: “The healing process thus initiated was further enhanced by measures designed to make astral and ether body particularly sensitive to the influence of the I-organization. Using a rhythmic diurnal sequence, baths were given with a decoction of Solidago”. (EPM19, Case 4)’ ibid,—p. 235, and
‘ “Pineal Gland”: “This tension [upper and lower organic spheres] also manifests itself...through the forces concentrated in two organs; the pineal gland and the so-called pituitary gland. In the pineal, all those forces are focused and marshaled which are contrary to those of the pituitary, the hypophysis cerebri, that is to those of the lower organic sphere. It is a mutual relation of opposing tensions”.
(3.24.20)’—ibid, p. 188, and
‘ “One property of sulfur that has been mentioned a couple of times is that it is effective in the area of the organism where circulation and respiration meet, that is, in everything that comes from the lung. (EPM20.5)”’—ibid, p. 240.
By now you must be aware that to have an understanding of Steiner's approach requires a fluidity with the involved terminology and a good understanding of his ideas. It was Steiner who introduced the concept of the ‘three-fold human being.’
Man has three natures working at all times, the nerve-sense, the metabolic and the rhythmic. The first is situated principally in the head region, the second in the limbs, digestive and sexual areas and the rhythmic concentrated in man's central area consisting of the respiratory and circulatory systems which mediate the other two. Here man is likened to a upside down plant—the roots are related to the nerve-sense system, flowering apparatus to the metabolic and reproductive systems and stem and leaves to the rhythmic sphere. The human being also possesses a fourfold nature which is thought more of in an energetic and spiritual sense. Here man has a physical aspect, an etheric, an astral and finally an I-organisation make-up. This, too is difficult to grasp and one needs to become familiar with it in order to make sense of, well, for example:
‘ “[Sulfurous girl] a normally abnormal child. Our chief concern must be to see that the astral body receives the right form and configuration that will enable it to fit itself into the ether and physical bodies in a harmonious manner. To acheive [sic]this end, we always give arsenic baths -that is, we use arsenic externally; and occasionally we administer arsenic internally as well. The treatment has the effect of harmonizing the relationships of astral body, ether body, and physical body”. (7.4.24)’—ibid, p. 13.
This volume does have several drawbacks in regard to layout and production. It's size makes it rather unwieldy, a sans-serif font is employed throughout and the text is single-spaced. It is spiral-bound using flat plastic material instead of the more manageable and durable plastic or metal spiral-wire (my book has already begun to unwind and detach—I'll have to have it punch-holed and placed in a three-ring binder).
Despite these drawbacks the author has compiled a unique and useful anthroposophical medical terminology reference/index; now all it needs is the right packaging.
There are any number of good books about the life of Rudolf Steiner, many of them short and several quite lengthy. If one would like a brief yet adequate introduction consider Frederick Amrine's excellent essay, ‘Discovering a Genius: Rudolf Steiner at 150’ (being human, #1, 2011, pp. 6-17; this article can be accessed at https://anthroposophy.org).
See also: Individual Paediatrics: Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Aspects of Diagnosis and Counselling, Anthroposophic-Homoeopathic Therapy (2014; Georg Soldner and Hermann Michael Stellmann) (HPL 2017; 30:1, pp. 62–64) and Internal Medicine: Foundations and Therapeutic Concepts of Anthroposophic Medicine (2016; Matthias Girke) (HPL 2017; 30:3, p. 211).
About the Author
Mr. Yasgur has been involved with homeopathy since the mid 1980s. He was the first to offer certified continuing education credits in homeopathy to pharmacists when he presented an evening lecture to the Pinellas County Pharmacists Association in 1985.
‘Yasgur's Homeopathic Dictionary,’ a popular reference, has served the homeopathy community since it was first published in 1990. He is in the process of finishing an encyclopedic version of that work which is estimated to be six times as large. His site is: www.yasgur.net.