August 25, 2013 | Posted in Concepts in Anthroposophic Medicine

The picture held of the human being is of critical importance in any system of healing.

Modern medicine does not discuss its picture of the human being, but implies through its statements that the human being is a machine. For example ‘the eye is a camera, the brain is a computer, the heart is a pump.’

Image © Hannu Viitanen |

In fact, the human being pre-existed and invented each of these–camera, computer, and pump–and more. The inventions of humanity are modeled on aspects of The Inventor Him/Herself, not the reverse.

This creative being – Man and Woman – is fourfold, made of

  • (1) physical body, (see Physical body)
  • (2) a system of life forces that makes the physical body living, (see Etheric body, ethers)
  • (3) awareness and a personal inner feeling life (or soul), and (see Astral body, soul)
  • (4) an individual essence that makes each person different from every other human being, and that is eternal. (see Ego, Self, I)

What kind of healing system comes from the ‘Man is a Machine’ paradigm?

What kind of healing system is possible from seeing each human as living, conscious, unique, and eternal– within his/her physical body?

Modern medicine fixes the machine with masterful surgical repair and replacement of broken mechanical parts. Its deep understanding of physics corrects the aberrations of sense organ anatomy (eye laser procedures, ear cochlear replacement, even radioablation for aberrant heart conduction) with astonishing benefit.  Modern medicine’s mastery of mechanics and physics is a great accomplishment that serves humanity in many ways.

However, modern medicine stumbles addressing life processes and consciousness. The mechanical picture doesn’t work so well on living chemistry or on inner soul life. Drugs and vaccines are primary tools of modern medicine outside the high-tech surgery realm.  These address the problems of consciousness and life processes in an incomplete way, and can have no effect, or side effects, or interactions. These impersonal tools fall short of providing treatment that is both effective and meaningful.  They can make a person feel dependent on an external substance which has no relation to his / her life experience.  Healthcare can become an experience of alienation, and distrust in one’s physical body.  A medicine that attempts healing out of a mechanical picture of the human being is shallow, powerful in a limited way, but unable to comprehend and address the full human being in health and healing.

The full picture of the human being is complex.  What is as ancient as the human being is certain to be complex. If we want to deal with reality, we enter the depths of the complexity, and are rewarded with rich opportunities to bring healing to human beings.

dreamstime_m_32549794The life force in the human being is called the Etheric Body. Humans share this life force with other living beings: plants and animals. Levity exists here, to balance gravity. Here reside the capacities for growth and rhythm. Here also is the enormous, wise, unconscious capacity to heal. Treatments derived from substances in nature and from the arts can directly support the life force of living beings. See Physical body,Etheric body, ethers.

The Astral Body is the force from which consciousness, personal feeling, instincts and movement arises. Plants do not contain astral bodies, but each animal and human has an astral body, carrying its awareness, instincts, and capacity to move. Treatments may also be devised from substances, and the arts, to address this aspect of human make-up. These therapeutic approaches are based on understanding the commonalities shared by minerals, plants, animals with the astral nature of the human being.  See Astral body, soul.

The Ego (or Self or I or Spirit) is the unique eternal individuality of each human being. The practitioner acknowledges this when he/she carries an attitude of reverence and respect for individual freedom for each patient the practitioner sees. Once again, understanding the commonalities which the human “I” shares with other aspects of creation is key to supporting its healthy development through therapeutic measures.  See Ego, Self, I.

Treatments made of substances from nature place the patient at the center of a wise and ordered world. Chemical treatments often have no relationship to nature, and can communicate a message of alienation and weakness to a patient, whose machine is broken (in the modern paradigm). Meaning is critical to human life, and that includes during the experience of illness. This meaning is specific to the feelings and individual destiny of the patient who is ill.

When the full accurate picture of the human being underlies the approach to healthcare, all methods are able, cooperatively, to attempt to approach true healing.  This is the ultimate goal of practitioners on all paths of healthcare.

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