August 25, 2013 | Posted in Concepts in Anthroposophic Medicine, Digestion / Liver

Explaining life remains a black hole in medical thinking, despite enormous technological advances. A significant and mostly untapped contribution from Rudolf Steiner is to take up this important task, explaining life.

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Etheric body: Image of person silhouette in waterLiving things have life by virtue of having etheric bodies. The etheric body is an organized unity of capacities for growth, spatial size, differentiated order, relation to time, and potential for movement. The four ethers of warmth, light, tone, and life carry these characteristics.

Etheric forces originate in the cosmos around us and are in contrast to earth forces, such as gravity.
When Newton sat under the apple tree, and an apple fell on him, he reasoned the existence of gravity. Gravity is the force from a mass body (earth) which pulls something else with weight (apple) toward the earth’s center. Gravity is therefore a ‘centric’ force, pulling toward the center.

Gravity works on non-living (rocks, cars) and living (apples, people) things.

Newton did not ask a second question (as far as we know): how did the apple get up there in the first place?*   If gravity is the only force active, why do trees stand upright all over the globe?

There are forces of levity from outside the earth (from the cosmos around us) which are forces of lifting. These forces are ‘peripheral’ forces, because they pull things to the periphery, lifting away from the earth.

These ‘etheric’ forces work on living things, plants, animals, and humans.  Rocks do not have levity.

Levity works through liquids, such as the phloem inside a plant, or the blood and lymph in animals and humans. We see evidence of the cosmic pull on the oceans, when we witness changing tides.  In the human being, a healthy liver is often related to a strong etheric.  See Astral body, soul  to read the myth of Prometheus, and see the relation between the liver / etheric, and consciousness.

Living things are between the two forces, gravity pulling downward, and levity lifting upward. Gravity and decomposition could be seen as forces of death, and levity and light as the forces of life.

etheric_body_footprintsThe etheric body allows not only growth but delicately tuned relationships among the forms and processes in the living being. The etheric body is related to time: the rhythmic events of life are seen in our biorhythms, which relate to the sun and the moon, and possibly other celestial bodies.

The sum of these capacities is witnessed in the maturation and transformation in living things: an acorn becomes an oak tree, a baby becomes a rocket scientist. We never see a Volkswagen becoming a bigger Volkswagen (growth) nor does a Volkswagen become a Boeing 747 aircraft (transformation). These capacities that belong to the living alone are due to the etheric body.

It is in striving to understand the full nature of the etheric, and the ethers of warmth, light, tone (or sound or chemical), and life, that a true medicine of the living can begin. The human is healed not just by the physical milligram amounts of a chemical, but by the life forces in a physical substance, such as an herb. Homeopathically prepared plant, mineral, and animal remedies release the capacities for ordering, growth, light, and warmth to bring healing to the human being. The therapies – compresses, baths, eurythmy, music, painting, speech formation, etc. – are treatments for a living being, which is what the human being is.

Please see Picture of the human being, and descriptions of the other parts of the human being from the view of anthroposophic medicine:   Ego, Self, I,  Astral body, Physical body.

This study is complex and fascinating. Please enjoy The Etheric Body, Wolff, Otto, Mercury Press, 1990

*Otto Wolff MD PhD,  Wilton NH, Physicians Association for Anthroposophic Medicine, 1992 conference

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Resources

The Etheric Body, Wolff, Otto, Mercury Press, 1990

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