Mental Illnesses / Heredity

People are surprised that mental illnesses are hereditary. In fact, mental illnesses are always based on physical ailments; they arise from a malfunctioning of the body. Neither the spirit nor the soul can fall ill. Though mental illnesses are always rooted in physical problems, people wonder how they can occur through heredity, which indeed they can do. If a parent, particularly the mother, suffers from tuberculosis or another disease like arteriosclerosis, which admittedly occurs rarely in younger persons, the children do not necessarily become afflicted with these illnesses but instead can suffer from mental deficiencies. 

People are surprised about this, but need it puzzle us, gentlemen? Whatever the child can inherit must be inherited first of all from its head. Therefore, if the mother is consumptive, one need not be surprised that her condition is not passed on to the lungs of the unborn child, which, after all, are not even functioning yet. The condition is rather carried over into the head and comes to expression in the brain. 

Thus, nobody should be surprised that the disease inherited is quite different from that of the parent. Venereal disease, for example, can appear in children as an eye disease. It is no wonder, for when the child’s head is developing, its eyes are exposed to what afflicts the parents; its eyes are in an environment that’s venereally diseased! So it is not at all surprising.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 348 – Health and Illness I: Lecture II: Illnesses Occurring in the Different Periods of Life – Dornach, October 24, 1922

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Every human being has a different organ composition

Every human being has a different organ composition. Were the instruments we possess for purposes of research fine enough, we should discover that actually every human being has a different liver composition, a different spleen composition, a different brain composition. Liver is not merely liver. In every individual — naturally, in a very delicate way — it is something different. All this is connected with the same forces which cause the plants to grow. And in beholding the plant cover of the earth we must become conscious of the fact that what pours in out of the reaches of the ether, causing the plants to grow, works and acts also in us; it produces in us the original human potentiality which has a great deal to do with our destiny. For whether a person has received this or that liver, lung, or brain composition from the etheric universe is a matter profoundly connected with his destiny.

Rudolf Steiner – GA 235 – The karma Question and the Hierarchies: Lecture II: Karma – Dornach, February 17, 1924

Translated by Henry B. Monges

Previously posted  March 1,  2019

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Materialism

Materialism can never offer a satisfactory explanation of the world. For every attempt at an explanation must begin with the formation of thoughts about the phenomena of the world. Materialism thus begins with the thought of matter or material processes. But, in doing so, it is already confronted by two different sets of facts: the material world, and the thoughts about it. The materialist seeks to make these latter intelligible by regarding them as purely material processes. He believes that thinking takes place in the brain, much in the same way that digestion takes place in the animal organs. 

Just as he attributes mechanical and organic effects to matter, so he credits matter in certain circumstances with the capacity to think. He overlooks that, in doing so, he is merely shifting the problem from one place to another. He ascribes the power of thinking to matter instead of to himself. And thus he is back again at his starting point. 

How does matter come to think about its own nature? Why is it not simply satisfied with itself and content just to exist? The materialist has turned his attention away from the definite subject, his own I, and has arrived at an image of something quite vague and indefinite. Here the old riddle meets him again. The materialistic conception cannot solve the problem; it can only shift it from one place to another.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 4 – The Philosophy of Freedom: CHAPTER TWO: The Fundamental Desire for Knowledge

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About meditation and sleepiness

The chief characteristic of ordinary thinking is that each single act of thinking injures the nervous system, and above all, the brain; it destroys something in the brain. Every thought means that a minute process of destruction takes place in the cells of the brain. For this reason sleep is necessary for us, in order that this process of destruction may be made good; during sleep we restore what during the day was destroyed in our nervous system by thinking. What we are consciously aware of in an ordinary thought is in reality the process of destruction that is taking place in our nervous system.

We now endeavour to practise meditation by devoting ourselves to contemplation, for instance, of the saying: Wisdom lives in the Light. This idea cannot originate from sense-impressions because according to the external senses it is not so.

In this example, by means of meditation we hold the thought back so far that it does not connect itself with the brain. If in this way we unfold an inner activity of thinking that is not connected with the brain, through the effects of such meditation upon the soul we shall feel that we are on the right path. As in meditative thinking no process of destruction is evoked in our nervous system, this kind of thinking never causes sleepiness, however long it may be continued, as ordinary thinking may easily do.

It is true that the opposite often occurs when someone is meditating, for people often complain that when they devote themselves to meditation they at once fall asleep. But that is because the meditation is not yet as it should be. It is quite natural that in meditation we should, to begin with, use the kind of thinking to which we have always been accustomed; it is only gradually that we can accustom ourselves to give up thinking about external things. When this point is reached meditative thinking will no longer make us sleepy, and we shall then know that we are on the right path.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 152 – Occult Science and Occult Development: Lecture 1 – London, 1st May 1913

Translated by Dorothy S. Osmond

Previously posted on January 2, 2017

Worried thoughts

Much worry dries out and withers the physical brain. Worried thoughts make furrows in it and thereby make one think such thoughts repeatedly. Here the physical body becomes a hindrance to a man’s progress. Facial wrinkles reflect these groove[s]. Worries live in a certain astral substance; soters [sic] are highly developed individualities who take this sorrow substance upon themselves. The greatest man of sorrow was Christ. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 266 – From the Contents of Esoteric Classes – Berlin, 11th November 1908

Previously posted on May 31, 2016