Mental diseases (1 of 3)

It is folly simply to use the expression “mental disease”; the spirit is always healthy, and cannot fall sick in the true sense of the term. To talk of mental diseases is sheer nonsense. What happens is that the spirit’s power of expression is disturbed by the bodily organism, as distinct from a disease of the spirit or the soul itself. The manifestations in question are symptoms, and symptoms only.

Now one must sharpen one’s eye for the concrete separate symptoms. Perhaps you will be in a position to see the primary tendency or disposition, and then the further development of, for example, a religious mania: — of course the technical terms here are none of them precise. There is great confusion of terminology in this field, but let us for the moment use an accepted term. As I have said, these manifestations are only symptoms. But let us assume that this condition develops — we must be able to form some picture of how it develops. And, having found this picture, we shall require to keep a sharp look-out for any abnormalities in the formative process of the lung of those individuals who display this symptom of “religious mania.” Note; not anomalies in the process of breathing but in the process of lung formation, in the pulmonary metabolism.

For even the current term “brain disease” is not wholly correct; “mental disease” is a wholly false and misleading term, and “brain disease” at least half mistaken; for all phenomena of cerebral degeneration are secondary. The primary elements are never manifested in the upper organic sphere, always in the lower. The primary factors always lie in the organs belonging to the four main groups or systems, the liver, kidneys, heart and lung systems. In the case of an individual inclined to those forms of insanity in which all interest in the external world and active life dies out, and man begins to brood and follows delusions, it is before all things necessary to obtain precise knowledge of the pulmonary process. This is extremely important.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 312 – Spiritual Science and Medicine: Lecture XIII – Dornach, 2nd April, 1920

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What is it that is not well in a mentally ill person?

What is unwell in a mentally ill person?  In the case of someone who is mentally ill it is the body that actually is sick; the body is unable to use the soul and the spirit in the right way. In the case of someone of whom it is said that he is mentally ill, it is always the physical body that in reality is ill; when the brain is not able to function in the right way it is understood that the person concerned will not be able to think normally. In the same way the feelings of a person with a sick liver cannot function in the normal way.

And so to call someone “spiritually ill” (in German it is called Geisteskrank) is actually the most incorrect expression to use. Someone, of whom it is said that he is mentally ill, actually suffers from a bodily ailment. The body is so ill, that the spirit, which is never ill, cannot be utilised in the right way.

Above all, you must clearly understand that the spirit is always healthy. Only the body can get sick in such a way that it cannot take hold of the spirit in the right way. If someone has an ailing brain it is the same as when someone uses a hammer that keeps on breaking when he uses it. If I call someone who does not have a hammer lazy and tells him he is incapable to function as a woodworker, it goes without saying that I am talking nonsense. He might be able to function as a woodworker if he had a hammer at his disposal. In the same way it is utter nonsense to say that someone is mentally ill. The spirit is perfectly healthy, but his body, his tool, lets him down.


Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 350 – VORTRÄGE FÜR DIE ARBEITER AM GOETHEANUMBAU – Dornach, 28th June 1923 (page 144-145)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on July 6, 2015

Present-day knowledge considers only the outside

In relation to obtaining knowledge of the human being nowadays, it must be said, that it is as if people attempt to understand how a watch works, by only looking at it from the outside. One can learn how it indicates time by looking at it, one can also get to know whether it is made of gold or silver, but one cannot become a watchmaker by observing it from the outside. What we currently call biology, physiology or anatomy, is still only knowledge obtained by way of observing the human being from the outside. A true understanding of human nature will only arise through observing body, soul and spirit. And only then can the human being be treated according to knowledge of body, soul and spirit.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 303 – Die gesunde Entwickelung des Menschenwesens -Eine Einführung in die anthroposophische Pädagogik und Didaktik – Dornach, January 2,  1922 (page 199)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on August 1, 2017

Theories have no practical value

Nowadays people feel pleased with themselves when they hear Goethe’s maxim: matter in spirit, spirit in matter. – It is good that people feel comfortable with this saying, because after all, it really corresponds to reality. But for those who are used to seeing the spiritual and the physical together everywhere, it can also be a triviality, if one exhorts him to recognise that which is a matter-of fact truth. And when people feel so pleased with such a theoretical aphorism that is drawn up for them, it just proves that they do not themselves possess the reality that is expressed in the theory. As a rule, categorically stated theories are proof that we have not made it our own in practical life, as history shows. People only started to discuss theories about the Lord’s Supper, when they no longer could muster the necessary feeling for it in practice. Theories are generally drawn up for what we do not have in life, not for what we do have.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 303 – Die gesunde Entwickelung des Menschenwesens -Eine Einführung in die anthroposophische Pädagogik und Didaktik – Dornach, 28 December 1921 (page 103-104)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on July 8, 2017

The theories are very ingenious and astute, but cannot grasp reality

These days human beings speak of the soul and the spirit, for sure; they speak of the body and its physical qualities. And then great philosophies on the relationship between soul and body are engendered. There exist comprehensive theories by the cleverest people. The theories are ingenious, very perceptive, but they cannot grasp reality, for the simple reason that the only way to grasp reality is when the whole human being, the all-inclusive human being, can be seen in direct perception, when the interweaving activity of both the spiritual-psychic and corporal-physical is considered. And the person who truly contemplates contemporary perceptions grasped by humanity, will likewise discover how grey and hazy both outer and inner human knowledge is.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 303 – Die gesunde Entwickelung des Menschenwesens – Eine Einführung in die anthroposophische Pädagogik und Didaktik – Dornach, 28 December 1921 (page 102-103)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on June 21, 2017