Spiritual scientific physiology

From Anthroposophy

Page to be developed


Schema FMC00.160 gives an overview on the main organs and their interrelationships, with an analogy to the planets of the solar system not shown here (lungs mercury, heart sun, kidney venus, gall mars, liver jupiter, spleen saturn)


Schema FMC00.157 illustrates the blood circulation through the upper four organs (Holtzapfel, see references below)

Schema FMC00.160 maps the planetary influences to the life functions of the human etheric body.

Lecture coverage and references


  • A basis is 1911-03-GA128: An Occult Physiology (8 lectures)
  • a second foundational basis is given in the 8 lectures of 1922-10-GA314: Anthroposophical Approach to Medicine (though that GA volume includes more beyond this in a therapeutic context). However for especially the two lectures (AM and PM) of 1922-10-27-GA314 provide an overall general coverage, so they are provided below. This coverage can be taken together with another description of just five days before, see 1922-10-22-GA218.
  • furthermore see also - to initialize one's understanding, the four key lectures proposed for initializing study on Threefold working in Man

Reference source extracts


(SWCC), see Schema FMC00.160

[Nourishment - introduction]

Let us look at Man simply, as he stands in life from day to day and needs nourishment to sustain himself. He has to take up into his own organism what we call substances from nature, from the animal, plant, and also partly from the mineral kingdom. But what Man takes into himself from the outer environment undergoes a very powerful change inside his organism.

  • The first one is that when we take up food we receive it ordinarily — at best prepared by cooking — as it is outside in nature, maybe just made ready in some way.
  • Besides that we receive the air through breathing again'in that state as it exists in our environment.

Let us look at first other things, which basically are still more important, as for example light, which we also receive from our surroundings. But also the foodstuff and the air must undergo powerful changes inside our organism, so that they can satisfy and become human, so to say, inside our organism.

Described externally the process is well known: We take up the food, perhaps somewhat prepared already. Next we inwardly digest particularly through the excretion of the glands, through the other digestive apparatus. We take it into us, wash it, saturated with a substance called ptyalin, which is excreted by the salivary glands of the mouth. We then bring the food farther into our digestive apparatus.

I don't have to characterise here the way the whole process is taking place. By taking articles of food into ourselves and assimilating them, they will already be somewhat changed in regard to what they are in our surrounding outside. The foodstuffs never could become through outer proceedings what they become inside our organism.

When we bring food stuffs into our stomach and from there into our digestive apparatus, these change over into something entirely different from what they were outside.

[Killing the life in food we take in]

First every trace of life is extinguished, so to say. People eat meat. This is taken from the outer surrounding, from the animal kingdom. But by eating it man drives out right away just through the first stage of digestion (varverdauung) I would like to say — and through further digestion all that what these substances present in the body of the animal. Also, all what the vegetable foods — since they were part of a living being in the plant — have as life in themselves, has to be driven out. Only the real mineral particles we take up as outer material substances. Where we add to our meals salt, which is already of an outer mineral substance, if we add sugar, which through outer preparations — though originally it might come out of the organic has been driven so Far, that it has become dead, we have taken up something already dead. These underlie the least transformations in us; they really undergo only a transformation, which one could accomplish already also in an exterior way inside a laboratory. But everything that gets into our organism from the animal or plant kingdom, has to be thoroughly killed, if I want to express myself that way.

In our cooking we accomplish also a sort of advance killing by subjecting the food to heat and so on. This is done more thoroughly through our digestion, so that — where our foods have undergone a certain inner development until they get into the bowels, where they have approached these lower digestive organs — essentially all has been driven out what they are externally by being, for example subjected to the etheric body of the plants, by being subjected to the astral body of the animal etc. Consequently it must first be achieved on the way from the mouth to the bowels, that all foodstuffs are dead.

Because, when now the foodstuff gets to the glandular organs, which transmit the articles of food from the bowel into the lymphatic glands and then into the vessels of the blood, on this way back a reviving of the food must take place. The food at first must become dead in us and then must be revived again. We cannot tolerate in our human organism a continuation of that kind of life, which exists in the animal or the plant from which we take the food. We can at most take up the inorganic nature so that it presents us our own laws. We cannot, let us say, eat cabbage, cannot let it arrive during the digestive process at our villous intestines so that the same etheric forces would be present there, which the cabbage has, because it is a plant. The etheric, the astral, what the foods have, these must be first removed. Then, what we receive this way must be taken hold of by our own etheric body, so that it can be revived again. Life of the nourishment inside us, must come from us. And this happens on the way from the intestinal organisation through the vessels toward the heart. So that you can have the picture: where the foodstuffs coming from the mouth reach the intestines, the last traces of the outside world gradually have been lost (see drawing 1, red) but here they will be revived anew on the way to the heart. Being enlivened anew means, that they are taken up by our own etheric body.

[The earthly dimension .. enters oxygen]

But now they would have too little of a character of the earthly, if only would happen what I have described to you up to now. Namely we would have to be beings who have a mouth — and a digestive apparatus only up to the heart, and then we would have to begin to be angels, because our ether body would take up the foodstuffs and completely dissolve them. We would not be able to be earthly beings. We would be a kind of mouth flying about with an esophagus attached to it. We would still have a stomach, intestines and heart and then you see, all that would be taken up by our ether body. But then we would be just an ether body and in the ether body the food would then dissipate. We would be able to be earthly beings.

That we can be earthly beings is brought about by oxygen which is taken up now from the air. Thus, into what has been permeated by the ether body as foodstuffs, oxygen of the air is taken up. Therefore, the possibility stays with us to be earthlike (flesh-like) beings here on earth between birth and death (diagram 1, white). It is oxygen that makes us again into an earthly substance that otherwise would dissipate in our ether body. Oxygen is that kind of substance which brings into the earthly state, what other wise by itself would form only as something etheric. The heart would not yet make us into an earthly human being but would bring us only far enough that we would unite our heart with the ether body and fly around on earth as such angels. But since the heart is connected with the lung and takes up oxygen the food that is taken up is not only etherised but also made earthly.

Now the necessity arises that what is taken up by our ether body and is saturated by oxygen, so that we can be earthly human beings, has to be inserted into the astral body. So far, it was not taken up by the astral body, only by the ether body. Now an activity has to be developed that everything that had been formed up to the heart-lung activity, will be taken up by the whole organism; but in such a way that also the astral organism has something to do with it. This is mediated by the human kidney system, which excretes now, what cannot he used of the matter that had been taken up, but leads the remaining into the whole organism on paths which today's physiology does not really describe at all, but which do exist.

And now the whole pulp — if I may express myself that way which now already stays alive — it was only completely killed inside the intestinal canal and has now been revived, and saturated by oxygen — is forwarded into the astral body through the activity of the kidney system which extends over the whole organism and radiates everywhere, so that this' astral body can cooperate in the further configuration of all that, what is effected in us through the food. (see diagram 1, yellow)

[Kidney-system and head-system]

This astral organism in so far as it receives its impulses from the kidney system is in turn connected with the head-sense-system, which, so to say, is like a ceiling above. Kidney-system and head-system together work continuously, so that all which is liquid and dissolving through the activity of the heart, will be formed now into the special organs. We would not have firm organs if only mouth, stomach, intestines, heart and lung were there. But the stomach itself would have to be a dissolving organ movable in itself, the same with the heart, the lung. All that could not be firm. These organs get their configuration through the kidneys, and the kidneys are helped by what comes forth from the head.

These organs have not only to be formed during childhood, but continuously because our organs are continuously destroyed. Such an organ as the stomach is completely destroyed in the course of 7–8 years. Its substance is completely demolished, altogether removed, and is always renewed again. There have to be always form — giving forces existent, which renew these organs. Still much more has to be worked on this in childhood. But later on these form — giving forces are also there.

This happens as follows: (diagram 2). The kidney system, which radiates forth these forces on one side would bring these organs about only in a one-sided way. Or, for example, it would form one lobe of the lung in a way that it would be quite well defined backward, but in the front it would dissipate. Here the force of the head must come and meet, so that the frontal surface will be formed by the head; so that the single different forms of the human being are always formed in a way that the kidney radiates forth the forces and that from the head then the forces come and restrain, in order that the organs get contours, that they are rounded. By the head the surfaces are formed at the exterior. But the kidney delivers a kind of radiation into the organism. It is approximately somewhat as if I wanted to build something plastically. I take mortar, or any soft substance, into the hand and then I teach myself to throw the mortar upward (see diagram 2a, yellow — red)

and to smooth it out with the other hand. The one, the throwing upward, corresponds to the activity of the kidneys — above I smooth out and get this way these organs, which really radiate and are formed. It is in such a way that the organs are formed by the kidney-system in connection with the head system and in there the forces of,the astral body are working. This is then something that proceeds under the extraordinarily strong alteration of nitrogen. Here nitrogen is already not any more what it is outward, because the nitrogen that still retains a similarity with the outer nitrogen goes off through the uric acid and the urea. But what radiates forth from the kidneys and is worked through this really is a nitrogen changed in its inner nature right into the effective forces of the astral body, and that is something entirely different than the outer nitrogen.

[Upto now was astral .. now to the I .. ]

Here you have what man receives, as nourishment driven to the point where it is taken up into the astral body of the human organism. These processes, as I have described them to you, take place also in the animal, though somewhat differently. The animal also has these processes going even still farther in the higher animal. But only indications take place in the lower animal of what is coming now. The higher animals have it, because they were branched off from the human race, they still have it, but it is deformed and degenerated with them.

Now something else is radiating into all that which is being formed there.

  • First we have the foodstuff driven to the point where they are killed.
  • Then we get approximately so far that we have the pancreatic gland as one of the last glands which bring the foodstuffs far enough that, while being pushed towards the lymph and being revived, they can be taken up by the ether body;
  • so that then through the communication from the heart towards the kidneys the whole can he driven into the astral body.
  • But now the I also must be engaged. Everything we have in our organism must be occupied by the I.

I have shown you now how that which unites itself with us is claimed by the etheric and astral organism, how it is taken up by the kidney system, radiating into the astral, and how with the help of nitrogen it is made into an earthly thing. Otherwise we would have to become angels again, if nitrogen were not working in us, which maintains us through the astral body within the earthly realm through the kidney system. But all this would not give us a configuration in which the ego takes part in the whole, if the liver-system would not be there. (see diagram 1)

  • The absorption through the lymphatic vessels is still something that belongs to the heart. As a rule, the heart is that organ, which together with the lung is driving the outer substances into our own etheric organization.
  • From thereon it is the kidney system, which drives them into our astral organization.
  • And then only the liver system with its gall excretion drives the whole into our very I.

The gall and liver-system is also found only in the higher animal kingdom, not with the lower animals, not even the gallic acid will be found with them in the bodily substances. Thus the liver-system then with its peculiar construction of the portal vein and so on — one can also verify this anatomically in every part — conducts the whole now so, that it is taken hold of by the ego. If only that what is radiated out by the kidney were there inside the body, it would be taken up only by the astral body. Because of the liver being there and the gall being excreted by the liver and mixed already with the chyme inside the intestines and the whole is permeated already by the liver products (diagram 1, blue), all this is driven into the ego organism. This way also our ego organism takes part through the liver, which has as its representative essentially hydrogen, in the whole building of the human organization. Man, in fact, has to take up nothing living, nothing astral from outside. All this he has to transform first inside his own organic system in such a way that it can be taken up into his astral and his own etheric being and into his ego-system.


[parenthesis 1 - Variances to normal functioning – illnesses]


[The spleen]

Ordinary physiology and medicine don't have much to say about the spleen. You will find in all corresponding textbooks the notation: about the spleen one does not yet have anything to say today. You will find that everywhere, if you look it up. That is not very surprising. You see, the speech genius is really wiser in this respect than science. In this case, — in other cases it is the German speech genius which is extraordinarily wise, — it is the English speech genius who designates the (Milz) as “spleen”. And that is an extraordinarily favorable designation, because the spleen is connected with all those activities of man which go beyond the ego, which approach the spirit-self. The spleen is even directly the organ of the spirit-self. It enters fully into the spiritual realm. Only one must be able to stand. it. Most people cannot take the real spiritual element. Therefore they are not in any way animated through the activity of the spleen to an activity that is spiritual, but become “spleeny”. In reverse, they are tuned down. The “spleen” is nothing other than a spirit which, instead of going into the head, twists itself into the bowels. Therefore “spleen” is an extraordinarily good designation, which points directly towards the spirit, for which the spleen is the corresponding organ.

The spleen is effective in bringing about a balance, as presented in the pamphlet, — which has been worked out in our institute of physiology particularly by Fr. Dr. K., — where the activity of the spleen is presented in relation to the formation of the development of membranes and the whole digestive process.

Indeed we can understand the human organism only if we understand its higher organization. You see how these things have to fit together. There is something out of order in the organism, if something which does not proceed in the right way works into the astral organism, because in that moment the kidney does not work in the right way, then all the phenomena that follow up a kidney which does not work rightly will appear.

[parenthesis 2 - Changes in importance organ activities over time]

But this is not so for man in general, instead, this changes from one era to another. The organization of man is an extremely fine one, but it is not always the same.

  • If we go back a few centuries only — a couple of centuries are not much for the whole of evolution, it seems — then we come to a time where our present age, the real epoch of development of the consciousness soul, has begun. We go back from the 15th, 14th, and 13th centuries into the post-Christian time. It has been so, — as grotesque as this might appear to man today, especially in the civilized world, — that approximately during the whole time from the 4th until the 14th century the activity of the kidney was most important.
  • Since then, the activity of the liver has become that which is most important for the entire nature of Man. The anatomy and physiology of Man really changes in the course of centuries, and especially of millenniums. One cannot study history if one does not enter into the fine structure of man, so that one knows how such transformations regarding outer phenomena in civilization, such as that from the middle ages into recent time, are also connected with a transformation of the whole human organization.


You see, around the turn of the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries an attitude comes about in Europe, which I have already characterized from very different sides. It is expressed in the legend of the Grail, in the Parsifal legend, in all that has been written by poets like Wolfram von Eschenbach, Hartman von der Aue, Gottfried von Strassburg, and so on. There the motifs emerge. In the Parsifal epic, in the true Parsifal epic one motif especially arises. It consists in the sudden desire, to now present how man has to develop himself towards something one called at that time “Sälde”. It is the feeling of a certain inner sensation of happiness — Sälde — related to what we would call “bliss” but it is not the same. Sälde means being penetrated by a certain feeling of happiness. This emerges and dominates the whole civilization of the 13th and 14th century. All poetic motifs, but in particular the Parsifal motif, are permeated by it and everything strives towards it. One strives towards this Sälde, towards this inner feeling of bliss, which should not be irreligious, or perhaps a state of blissful comfort, but a state of being ensouled with the divine forces of the Creator.

Why does this arise?

It arises because the transition from the kidney activity to the liver activity takes place.

You will be able to understand this if you are aided by physiology. The earlier physiologists, of course, were better physiologists in many respects than the materialistic physiologists of today. Those, I mean, were the writers of the Old Testament, where one, for example, said, if one had had bad dreams — I have already drawn attention to this — “the Lord has punished me this night through my kidneys.”

The knowledge of certain connections of an abnormal kidney-activity with bad dreams continued, and in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries, for example, one was still deeply permeated by the conviction, that one becomes heavy through the activity of the kidney. The activity of the kidney had developed into something like heaviness for man. Of course, one spoke outwardly only about something that became heavy for man. One couldn't quite get out of it. One was stuck to the earthly.

And then one sensed that one became penetrated by the gall from the physical side — but in a way that was connected with being “inwardly permeated by Sälde” — as a deliverance, an inner redemption — but it was an inner God-filled feeling of bliss, — a striving away from the dullness of the kidney. It is so, that the kidney also develops an activity of thinking.

  • The kidney develops the dull thought-activity in Man via the detour of the ganglious system.
  • This is then connected through induction with the system of the spinal cord and the system of the brain.

It develops in particular that kind of thinking which has also played a direct role in the middle ages. One called it at that time “dullness”, (Tumpheit). And this development from Tumpheit to illumination, Sälde; this was what became the motif of Parsifal. Parsifal develops from dullness to Sälde.

One must not only look at this in an abstract manner, but one must also look at it with feeling and a sensitivity. In the beginning Parsifal is as one arising out of a culture that has become heavy. One cannot quite get him in movement. Only later, after he has passed through his doubting, does Saelde permeate him. This doubt in him arises through being jolted by the heart-lung system. After he has gone through that, he finds the entry into Sälde.

It is possible to follow up into the members of the human organism what has gone on in the larger history of the world. One can say: leading individualities, like those who have fashioned the Parsifal-motif, they were pioneers, the first precursors of the modern human corporeal organization, which has proceeded from the old kidney-activity to the newer liver activity.

One must not feel contempt for something like that. One must not say: that is only the lower sensual nature. Even God did not despise the creation of lower matter — in fact, He was its Creator! By the same token we are obliged through cognition, to pursue the divine activity of the creator into the outermost ramifications of what is material. One should not be a dignified historian who describes Parsifal and says: If one describes Parsifal, one must not look at the same time at something so low as the physiological activity of man.

The world is a unity, and to understand the great historical connections, one has to be able at the same time to illuminate the different human connections. Men of ancient times, and even up until the Middle Ages, still had traces of such knowledge. You can follow that up in descriptions as that of “Armen Heinrich”, where we see that healings of a moral nature are still occurring, and so on.

These matters discussed today should be a preliminary indication of the fact that all human cognition presents a great unity. One can descend from what has to be conceived as the highest religious ideas to something that people often regard as being so low, that they don't want to look at it. Present-day science is guilty of such an attitude, because it does not at all realize that one must follow the spirit into the outmost ramifications of matter. But only then does one learn to understand the world. Only then does one also learn to strive upwards towards a true religious comprehension of the world. Otherwise one generally has just an egotistic point of view, which speculates on the egotistic motives of man, but does not enter into cognition and will lead us into decadence, instead of a renewal of civilization.

A new arising of civilization is connected with people receiving Light into themselves and contemplating the world in this Light, and not in darkness. Today's physiology and anatomy, just places people on the dissecting table and looks but at those symptoms which can still be observed in sick people by materialistic science. But this never attains to a real understanding of man.

[Back with recap, and spleen]

One can say:

foodstuff taken up, killed, revived, astralized, transformed into the I — only then one understands ptyalin, pepsin, in the food that has been taken up and killed, and then transported into the lymphatic glands conveyed to the heart, fired by the heart.

The kidneys then radiate through it, and all is astralized, taken up by the liver functioning and conveyed to the I.

Then the whole can be caught up by the activity of the spleen and then, under certain circumstances

  • the person will be made into an enthusiast, one who receives strength from the spiritual world through the activity of the spleen,
  • or otherwise he will be made into a “spleeny”, depressive person — one without the will to hold his head upright — through the activity of the spleen — one who only wants to sit on his chair and prefers not to he permeated by the spirit, who does not want to do any thinking. There are many people like — that today. They sit on their chairs, really only a big lump, as if they did not have a head at all. The activity of the spleen, which could be something lofty in man, really has a crushing effect on these people. Instead of enthusiasm, they have “spleen” and the “spleen” appears today already in a variety of forms.

But what one needs today is the kind of work that transforms spleen into enthusiasm, into fire so that men do not have a sleepy, but rather a wakeful civilization.

[link spiritual science]

This is what should come forth from anthroposophy: to be awake, to have enthusiasm, to transform cognition into true activity, into deeds, so man does not only know more but will become something through anthroposophy. Only then has anthroposophy a goal and can such a goal be truly attained. But to become sleepy through anthroposophy means that one gives much too much respect to the physical quality of the spleen and that one does not fructify the high spiritual nature of the spleen.

This points towards something that present-day mankind sorely needs. Men need fire, they need enthusiasm, they need to be inspired about something.

As long as we cannot do that, as long as we think only about ourselves, we are placing too much value also on that which is excreted by us as urea, uric acid, which is not meant to be contained in the sphere of a cell, of protein — but should be brought into the state of fluctuating protein, which we are in our whole being. Basically we are something like a living, but large cell-like being, that stays in continuous, vivacious movement.

  • Because we have carbon in us, we receive oxygen through the etherisation of the food,
  • we get nitrogen, because the food substances are radiated through by the activity of the kidneys.
  • We receive hydrogen, because the activity of the liver plays into it,
  • and in connection with the activity of the senses, we do also receive sulphur — either the unsuitable one, which is the one mostly discussed today — or the proper sulphur.

We really get what is necessary, so we are a living being who consists of protein — carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and also sulphur — but it must be the proper sulphur.

But man must be alive through and through, through and through ensouled, through and through permeated by spirit. This is something one also can learn, especially if one observes this in the outermost ramifications of matter. Only then will we get a physiology, then also will we get something which can really approach therapeutically the nature of man



If I were asked to map out a course of medical study to cover a certain period of time, I should begin — after the necessary scientific knowledge had been acquired — by distinguishing the various functions in the organism of Man.

  • I should feel bound to advise a study, both in the anatomical and physiological sense, of the transformation of the foodstuffs from the stage where they are worked upon by the ptyalin and pepsin to the point where they are taken up into the blood.
  • Then, after considering the whole alimentary canal concerned with digestion in the narrower sense, I should pass on to the system of heart and lungs and all that is connected with it.
  • This would be followed by a study of the kidneys and, later on, their relation to the system of nerves and senses — a relation not properly recognised by orthodox science today.
  • Then I should lead on to the system of liver, gall and spleen, and this cycle of study would gradually open up a vista of the human organism, leading to the knowledge which it is the task of spiritual science to develop.

Then, with the illumination which would have been shed upon the results of empirical research, one would be able to pass on to therapy.


When we speak of the physical organisation of man, this includes everything in the organism that can be dealt with by the same methods that we adopt when we are making experiments and investigations in the laboratory. All this is included when we think or speak of the physical organisation of man. In regard to the etheric organisation that is woven into the physical, however, our mode of thought can no longer confine itself to the ideas and laws obtaining when we are making experiments and observations in the laboratory. Whatever we may think of the etheric organisation of man as revealed by super-sensible knowledge, and without having to enter into mechanistic or vitalistic theory in any way, it is apparent to direct perception (and this is a question which would be the subject of lengthy study in my suggested curriculum) that the etheric organisation as a whole is involved — functionally — in everything of a fluid, watery nature in the human organism. The purely physical mode of thought, therefore, must confine itself to what is solid in the organism, to the solid structures and aggregations of matter. We understand the organism of man aright only when we conceive of its fluids as being permeated through and through with life, as living fluids — not merely as the fluids of outer Nature. This is the sense in which we say that man has an etheric body. It is not necessary to enter into hypotheses about the nature of life, but merely to understand what is implied by saying that the cell is permeated with life. Whatever views we may hold — mechanistic, idealistic, animistic or the like — when we say, as the crass empiricist also says, that the cell has life, this direct perception to which I am referring shows that the fluid nature of man is likewise permeated with life. But this is the same as saying: Man has an etheric body. We must think of everything solid as being embedded in the fluid nature. And here already we have a contrast, in that we apply the ideas and laws obtaining in the inorganic world to the solid parts of man's being, whereas we think not only of the cells — the smallest organisms present in man — as living, but of the fluid nature in its totality as permeated with life.

Further, when we come to the airy nature of man, it appears that the gases in his being are in a state of perpetual permutation. In the course of these lectures we shall have to show that this is neither an inorganic permutation nor merely a process of permutation negotiated by the solid organs, but that an individual complex of law controls the inner permutation of the gases in man. Just as there is an inner law in the solid substances, expressing itself, among other things, in the relationship between the kidneys and the heart, so we must postulate the existence of a law within the airy or gaseous organism — a law that is not confined to the physical, solid organs. Anthroposophy describes this complex of law, which underlies the gaseous organism, as astral law, as the astral organisation. These astral laws would not be there in man if his airy organisation had not permeated the solid and the fluid organisations. The astral organisation does not penetrate directly into the solids and the fluids. It does, however, directly penetrate the airy organisation. This airy organisation penetrates the solids and the fluids, but only because the presence of an organised astral nature gives it definite, though fluctuating, inner form. A study of the aggregate conditions thus brings us to the following conclusions: In the case of the solid substances in man we need assume nothing more than a physical organisation; in the case of the living fluidity which permeates the solid, physical organisation, we must assume the existence of something that is not exhausted in the forces of physical law, and here we come to the etheric organism — a system that is self-contained and complete in itself. In the same sense I give the name of astral organisation to that which does not directly penetrate into the solids and fluids but first of all into the airy organisation. I prefer to call this the astral organism because it again is a self-contained system.

And now we come to the Ego-organisation, which penetrates directly only into the differentiations of warmth in the human organism. We can therefore speak of a warmth organism, a warmth ‘being.’ The Ego-organisation penetrates directly into this warmth being. The Ego-organisation is a super-sensible principle and brings about the various differentiations of the warmth. In these differentiations of warmth the Ego-organisation has its immediate life. It also has an indirect life in so far as the warmth works upon the airy fluid and solid organisations.

In this way we gradually gain insight into the human organism. Now all that I have been describing expresses itself in physical man as he lives on the earth. The most intangible organisation of all — the Ego-warmth-organisation — works down indirectly upon the gaseous, fluid and solid organisations; and the same is true of the others. So that the way in which this whole configuration penetrates the constitution of man, as known to empirical observation, will find expression in any solid system of organs, verifiable by anatomy. Hence, taking the various organ-systems, we find that only the physical

— I mean the physically solid system — is directly related to its corresponding (physical) system of laws; the fluid is less directly related, the gaseous still less directly, and the element of warmth least directly of all, although even here there is still a certain relation.

Now all these things — and I can indicate them here only in the form of ultimate conclusions — can be confirmed by an extended empiricism merely from the phenomena themselves. As I say, on account of the short time at our disposal I can only give you certain ultimate conclusions.

In the anatomy and physiology of the human organism we can observe, to begin with, the course taken by the foodstuff. It reaches the intestines and the other intricate organs in that region, and is absorbed into the lymph and blood. We can follow the process of digestion or nourishment in the widest sense, up to that point. If we limit ourselves to this, we can get on quite well with the mode of observation (and it is not entirely mechanistic) that is adopted by natural science to-day. An entirely mechanistic mode of observation will not lead to the final goal in this domain, because the complex of laws observed externally in the laboratory, and characterised by natural science as inorganic law, is here functioning in the digestive tract: that is to say, already within the living organism. From the outset, the whole process is involved in life, even at the stage of the ptyalin-process.

If we merely pay heed to the fact that the complex of outer, inorganic law is involved in the life of the digestive tract, we can get on well quite, so far as this limited sphere is concerned, by confining ourselves merely to what can be observed within the physical organisation of man. But then we must realise that something of the digestive activity still remains, that the process of nourishment is still not quite complete when the intestinal tract has been passed, and that the subsequent processes must be studied from a different point of view. So far as the limited sphere is concerned, we can get on quite well if, to begin with, we study all the transformations of substance by means of analogies, just as we study things in the outer world. But then we find something that modern science cannot readily acknowledge but which is none the less a truth, following indeed from science itself. It will be the task of our doctors to investigate these matters scientifically and then to show from the empirical facts themselves that as a result of the action of the ptyalin and pepsin on the food-stuff, the latter is divested of every trace of its former condition in the outer world.

We take in foodstuff — you may demur at the expression ‘foodstuff’ but I think we understand each other — we take in foodstuff from the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms. It belongs originally to these three realms. The substance most nearly akin to the human realm is, of course, the mother's milk; the babe receives the milk immediately it has left the womb. The process enacted within the human organism during the process of nourishment is this: When the foodstuff is received into the realm of the various glandular secretions, every trace of its origin is eliminated. It is really true to say that the human organisation itself conduces to the purely scientific, inorganic mode of observation. In effect, the product of the assimilation of foodstuffs in man comes nearest of all to the outer physical processes in the moment when it is passing as chyle from the intestines into the lymph and blood-streams. The human being finally obliterates the external properties which the foodstuff, until this moment, still possessed. He wants to have it as like as possible to the inorganic state. He needs it thus, and this again distinguishes him from the animal kingdom.

The anatomy and physiology of the animal kingdom reveal that the animal does not eliminate the nature of the substances introduced to its body to the same extent, although we cannot say quite the same of the products of excretion. The substances that pass into the body of the animal retain a greater resemblance to their constitution in the outer world than is the case with man. They retain more of the vegetable and animal nature and proceed on into the blood-stream still in their external form and with their own inner laws. The human organisation has advanced so far that when the chyle passes through the intestinal wall, it has become practically inorganic. The purely physical nature comes to expression in the region where the chyle passes from the intestines into the sphere of the activity of heart and lungs.

It is really only at this point that our way of looking at things becomes heretical as regards orthodox science. The system connected with the heart and the lungs — the vascular system — is the means whereby the foodstuffs (which have now entered the inorganic realm) are led over into the realm of life. The human organisation could not exist if it did not provide its own life. In a wider sense, what happens here resembles the process occurring when the inorganic particles of albumen, let us say, are transformed into organic, living albumen, when dead albumen becomes living albumen. Here again we need not enter into the question of the inner being of man, but only into what is continually being said in physiology. On account of the shortness of time we cannot speak of the scientific theories as to how the plant produces living albumen, but in the human being it is the system of heart and lungs, with all that belongs to it, which is responsible for the transformation of the albumen into living substance after the chyle has become almost inorganic.

We can therefore say: The system of heart and lungs is there in order that the physical system may be drawn up into the etheric organisation. The system of heart and lungs brings about a vitalising process whereby inorganic substance is raised to the organic stage, is drawn into the sphere of life. (In the animal it is not quite the same, the process being less definite.) Now it would be absolutely impossible for this process to take place in the physical world if certain conditions were not fulfilled in the human organism. The raising and transformation of the chyle into an etheric organisation could not take place within the sphere of earthly law unless other factors were present. The process is possible in the physical world only because the whole etheric system pours down, as it were, into the physical, is membered into the physical. This comes to pass as a result of the absorption of oxygen in the breath. And so man is a being who can walk physically upon the Earth because his etheric nature is made physical by the absorption of oxygen. The etheric organisation is projected into the physical world as a physical system; in effect, that which otherwise could only be super-sensible expresses itself as a physical system, as the system of heart and lungs. And so we begin to realise that just as carbon is the basis of the organisms of animal, plant and man (only in the latter case in a less solid form) and ‘fixes’ the physical organisation as such, so is oxygen related to the etheric organisation when this expresses itself in the physical domain.

Here we have the two substances of which living albumen is essentially composed. But this mode of observation can be applied equally well to the albuminous cell, the cell itself. Only we widen out the kind of observation that is usually applied to the cell by substituting a macroscopic perception for the microscopic perception of the cell in the human being. We observe the processes which constitute the connection between the digestive tract and the system of heart and lungs. We observe them in an inner sense, seeing the relation between them, perceiving how an etheric organisation comes into play and is ‘fixed’ into the physical as the result of the absorption of oxygen.

But you see, if this were all, we should have a being in the physical world possessed merely of a digestive system and a system of heart and lungs. Such a being would not be possessed of an inner life of soul; the element of soul could have its life in only the super-sensible; and it is still our task to show how that which makes man a sentient being inserts itself into his solid and fluid constitution, permeating the solids and fluids and making him a sentient being, a being of soul. The etheric organisation in the physical world, remember, is bound up with the oxygen.

Now the organisation of soul cannot come into action unless there is a point d'appui, as it were, for the airy being, with a possibility of access to the physical organisation. Here we have something that lies very far indeed from modern habits of thought. I have told you that oxygen passes into the etheric organisation through the system of heart and lungs; the astral nature makes its way into the organisation of man through another system of organs. This astral nature, too, needs a physical system of organs. I am referring here to something that does not take its start from the physical organs but from the airy nature (not only the fluid nature) that is connected with these particular organs — that is to say from the airy organisation that is bound up with the solid substance. The astral-organic forces radiate out from this gaseous organisation into the human organism. Indeed, the corresponding physical organ itself is first formed by this very radiation, on its backward course. To begin with, the gaseous organisation radiates out, makes man into an organism permeated with soul, permeates all his organs with soul and then streams back again by an indirect path, so that a physical organ comes into being and plays its part in the physical organisation. This is the kidney system, which is regarded in the main as an organ of excretion. The excretory functions, however, are secondary. I will return to this later on, for I have yet to speak of the relation between the excretions and the higher function of the kidneys. As physical organs the kidneys are excretory organs (they too, of course, have entered the sphere of vitality), but besides this, in their underlying airy nature, they radiate the astral forces which now permeate the airy nature and from thence work directly into the fluids and the solids.

The kidney system, therefore, is that which from an organic basis imbues man with sentient faculties, with qualities of soul and the like — in short with an astral organism. Empirical science has a great deal to say about the functions of the kidneys, but if you will apply a certain instinctive inner perception to these functions, you will be able to discover the relations between inner sentient experience and the functions of the kidneys — remembering always that the excretions are only secondary indications of that from which they have been excreted. In so far as the functions of the kidneys underlie the sentient faculties, this is expressed even in the nature of the excretions.

If you want to extend scientific knowledge in this field, I recommend you to make investigations with a man of the more sensitive type and try to find out the essential change that takes place in the renal excretions when he is thinking in a cold or in a hot room. Even purely empirical tests like this, suitably varied in the usual scientific way, will show you what happens. If you make absolutely systematic investigations, you will discover what difference there is in the renal excretions when a man is thinking either in a cold or a warm room. You can also make the experiment by asking someone to think concentratedly and putting a warm cloth round his head. (The conditions for the experiment must of course be carefully prepared.) Then examine the renal excretions, and examine them again when he is thinking about the same thing and cold compresses have been put on his feet.

The reason why there is so little concern with such inquiries to-day is because people are averse from entering into these matters. In embryological research into cell-fission, science does not study the allantois and the amnion. True, the discarded organs have been investigated, but to understand the whole process of embryonic development the accessory organs must be studied much more exactly even than the processes which arise from the division of the germ-cell. Our task here, therefore, is to establish starting-points for true investigation. This is of the greatest significance, for only so shall we find the way, as we must do, towards seeing man, not as a visible but as an invisible “giant” cell.

To-day, science does not speak of the cell as it speaks of the human being, because microscopy does not lead so far. The curious thing is that if one studies the realm of the microscopic with the methods I am here describing, wonderful things come to light — as for instance the results achieved by the Hertwig school. The cell can be investigated up to a certain point in the microscope, but then there is no possibility of, further research into the more complicated life-processes. Ordinary empiricism comes to a standstill here, but with Spiritual Science we can follow the facts further. We now look at man in his totality, and the tiny point represented by the cell grows out, as it were, into the whole being of man.

From this we can proceed to learn how the purely physical organisation is connected with the structure of carbon, just as the transition to the etheric organisation is connected with the structure of oxygen. If, next, we make exact investigations into the kidney system, we find a similar connection with nitrogen. Thus we have carbon, oxygen, nitrogen; and in order to trace the part played by nitrogen in the astral permeation of the organism, you need only follow, through a series of accurate experiments, the metamorphoses of uric acid and urea. Careful study of the secondary excretions of uric acid and urea will give definite evidence that the astral permeation of man proceeds from the kidney system. This will also be shown by other things connected with the activity of the kidneys, even to the point where pathological conditions are present — when, let us say, we find blood corpuscles in the urine. In short, the kidney system radiates the astral organisation into the human organism. Here we must not think of the physical organisation, but of the airy organisation that is bound up with it. If nitrogen were not present, the whole process would remain in the domain of the super-sensible, just as man would be merely an etheric being if oxygen were not to play its part. The outcome of the nitrogen process is that man can live on earth as an earthly being. Nitrogen is the third element that comes into play.

There is thus a continual need to widen the methods adopted in anatomy and physiology by applying the principles of Spiritual Science. It is not in any sense a matter of fantasy. We ask you to study the kidney system, to make your investigations as accurately as you possibly can, to examine the urea and the excretions of uric acid under different astral conditions, and step by step you will find confirmation of what I have said. Only in this way will the mysteries of the human organism reveal themselves to you.

All that enters into man through the absorption of foodstuff is carried into the astral organism by the kidney system. There still remains the Ego-organisation. The products of digestion are received into the Ego-organisation primarily as a result of the working of liver and gall. The warmth and the warmth-organisation in the system of liver and gall radiate out in such a way that man is permeated with the Ego-organisation, and this is bound up with the differentiations of warmth in the organism as a whole.

Now it is quite possible to make absolutely exact investigations into this. Take certain lower animals where there is no trace at all of an Ego-organisation in the psychological sense, and you will find no developed liver, and still less any bile. These develop in the phylogeny of the animal kingdom only when the animal begins to show traces of an Ego-organisation. The development of liver and gall runs absolutely parallel with the degree to which the Ego-organisation unfolds in a living being. Here, too, you have an indication for a series of physiological investigations in connection with the human being, only of course they must cover the different periods of his life. You will gradually discover the relation of the Ego-organisation to the functions of the liver.

In certain diseases of children you will find, for instance, that a number of psychical phenomena, tending not towards the life of feeling but towards the Ego-activities, are connected with the secretion of gall. This might form the basis for an exceedingly fruitful series of investigations. The Ego-organisation is connected with hydrogen, just as the physical organisation is connected with carbon, the etheric organisation with oxygen and the astral organisation with nitrogen. It is, moreover, possible to relate all the differentiations of warmth — I can only hint at this — to the specific function carried out in the human organism by hydrogen in combination with other substances. And so, as we ascend from the material to the super-sensible and make the super-sensible a concrete experience by recognising its physical expressions, we come to the point of being able to conceive the whole being of man as a highly complicated cell, a cell that is permeated with soul and Spirit.

It is really only a matter of taking the trouble to examine and develop the marvelous results achieved by natural science and not simply leaving them where they are. My understanding and practical experience of life convince me that if you will set yourselves to an exhaustive study of the results of the most orthodox empirical science, if you will relate the most obvious with the most remote, and really study the connections between them, you will constantly be led to what I am telling you here. I am also convinced that the so-called ‘occultists’ whom you may consult — especially ‘occultists’ of the modern type — will not help you in the least. What will be of far more help is a genuine examination of the empirical data offered by orthodox science. Science itself leads you to recognise truths which can be actually perceived only in the super-sensible world, but which indicate, nevertheless, that the empirical data must be followed up in this or that direction. You can certainly discover the methods on your own account; they will be imposed by the facts before you. There is no need to complain that such guiding principles create prejudice or that they influence by suggestion. The conclusions arise out of the things themselves, but the facts and conditions prove to be highly complicated, and if further progress is to be made, all that has been learned in this way about the human being must now be investigated in connection with the outer world.

I want you now to follow me in a brief line of thought. I give it merely by way of example, but it will show you the path that must be followed. Take the annual plant which grows out of the earth in spring and passes through its yearly cycle. And now relate the phenomena which you observe in the annual plant with other things — above all with the custom of peasants who, when they want to keep their potatoes through the winter, dig pits of a certain depth and put the potatoes into them so that they may keep for the following year. If the potatoes were kept in an ordinary open cellar, they would not be fit to eat. Investigations have proved that the forces originating from the interplay between the sunshine and the earth are contained within the earth during the subsequent winter months. The dynamic forces of warmth and the forces of the light are at work under the surface of the earth during the winter, so that in winter the after-effects of summer are contained within the earth. The summer itself is around us, above the surface of the Earth. In winter, the after-effects of summer work under the earth's surface. And the consequence is that the plant, growing out of the earth in its yearly cycle, is impelled to grow, first and foremost, by the forces that have been poured into the earth by the sun of the previous year. The plant derives its dynamic force from the soil. This dynamic force that is drawn out of the soil can be traced up into the ovary and on into the developing seed. So you see, we arrive at a botany which really corresponds to the whole physiological process, only if we do not confine ourselves to a study of the dynamic forces of warmth and light during the year when the plant grows. We must take our start from the root, and so from the dynamic forces of light and warmth of at least the year before. These forces can be traced right up into the ovary, so that in the ovary we have something that really is brought into being by the forces of the previous year.

Now examine the leaves of a plant, and, still more, the petals. You will find that in the leaves there is a compromise between the dynamic forces of the previous year and those of the present year. The leaves contain the elements that are thrust out from the earth and those which work in from the environment. It is in the petals that the forces of the present year are represented in their purest form. The colouring and so forth of the petals represents nothing that is old — it all comes from the present year.

You cannot follow the processes in an annual plant if you take only the immediate conditions into consideration. Examine the structural formations which follow one another in two consecutive years — all that the sun imparts to the earth, however, has a much longer life. Make a series of experiments into the way in which the plants continue to be relished by creatures such as the grub of the cockchafer, and you will realise that what you first thought to be an element belonging to the present year must be related to the sun-forces of the previous year. — You know what a prolonged larval stage the cockchafer passes through, devouring the plant with relish all the time.

These matters must be the subject of exact research; only the guiding principles can be given from the spiritual world. Research will show that the nature of the substances in the petals and leaves, for instance, is essentially different from that of the substances in the root or even the seed. There is a great difference between a decoct ion prepared from the petals or leaves of plants and an extract of substances found in roots or seeds. The effect of a decoction prepared from petals or leaves upon the digestive system is quite different from that of an extract prepared from roots or seeds. In this way you relate the organisation of man to the surrounding world, and all that you discover can be verified in a purely material sense. You will find, for instance, that disturbances in the process of the transition of the chyle into the etheric organisation, which is brought about by the system of heart and lungs, will be influenced by a preparation decocted from the petals of plants. An extract of roots or seeds influences the wider activity that works on into the vascular system and even into the nervous system. Along these lines we shall discover the rational connection between what is going on within the human organism and the substances from which our store of remedies may be derived.

In the next lecture I shall show that there is an inner connection between the different structures of the plants and the systems of nerves and senses and digestion in man.


As we begin more and more to view the human organism in the way which I have unfortunately been able to indicate only very briefly, many things not otherwise appreciated in their full significance assume great importance. Very little heed is paid nowadays to what I have called in the appendix to my book, Riddles of the Soul, the threefold organisation of the physical being of man. Yet a right understanding of this threefold organisation is of the greatest significance for pathology and therapy. According to this threefold organisation of physical man, the system of nerves and senses is to be conceived of as being localised mainly in the head, only of course in this sense the head-organisation really extends over the whole being. The nervous and sensory functions of the skin, and also those within the organism, must be included. We cannot, however, arrive at a well-founded conception of the modes of activity in the organism unless — theoretically in the first place — we differentiate the system of nerves and senses from the rest of the organism as a whole.

The second, or rhythmic, system includes, in the functional sense, all that is subject to rhythm — primarily, therefore, the breathing system and its connection with the blood circulation. In the wider sense, too, there is the rhythm that is essentially present in the life of man, although he can break through it in many ways — I mean the rhythm of day and night, of sleeping and waking. Then there are other rhythms, the rhythmic assimilation of foodstuffs and the like. These latter rhythms are constantly broken by man, but the consequences have to be brought into equilibrium by certain regulative factors which are present in the organism. As a second member of the human organisation, then, we have the rhythmic system; and, as a third member, the metabolic organism, in which I include the limb-formations because the functional processes that arise as a result of the movements of the limbs are inwardly connected with the metabolism in general.

When we consider this threefold nature of man, we find that the organisation described in the last lecture as being mainly connected with the Ego has a definite relation to the metabolism in so far as the metabolic system extends over the whole being. Again, the rhythmic system has a definite connection with the system of heart and lungs. The functions of the kidneys, the forces that go out from the kidney system, are related to the astral organisation of the human being. In short, in his threefold physical nature man is related to the different members of his super-sensible being and also to the several organic systems — as I showed yesterday. But these relationships must be studied in more precise detail if they are to prove of practical value for an understanding of man in health and disease. And here we shall do best to start from a consideration of the rhythmic being of man.

This rhythmic organisation is very frequently misunderstood in respect of a very definite characteristic, namely the relation that is set up between the rhythm of the blood circulation and the rhythm of the breath. In the grown-up person, this relationship is approximately in the ratio of four to one. This, of course, is only the average, approximate ratio, and its variations in individuals are an expression of the measure of health and disease in the organism. Now, that which reveals itself in the rhythmic man as a ratio of four to one, continues in the organism as a whole. We have again a ratio of four to one in the relationship of the processes of the metabolic system (including the limbs) to the system of nerves and senses. This again can be verified by empirical data as in the case of other things mentioned in these lectures. Indeed, so far-reaching is this relationship that we may say: All the processes connected with metabolism in man take their course four times more quickly than the work done by the nervous and sensory activities for the growth of the human being.

The second teeth which appear in the child are an expression of what is proceeding in the metabolic system as a result of its coming continually into contact with the system of nerves and senses. All that flows from the metabolic system towards the middle, rhythmic system, set against that which flows from the nerves and senses system into the rhythmic system, is in the ratio of four to one. To speak precisely, we may take the breathing system to be the rhythmic continuation of the system of nerves and senses, and the circulatory system to be the rhythmic continuation of the metabolic system. The metabolic system sends its workings, as it were, up into the rhythmic man. In other words, the third member works into the second, and this expresses itself through the rhythm of blood circulation in daily life. The system of nerves and senses, again, sends its workings into the breathing system and this is expressed through the rhythm of the breath. In the rhythmic being of man we can perceive the ratio of four to one — for there are some seventy pulse-beats or so to eighteen breaths. In the relationships of the rhythms, the rhythmic being of man represents the contact between the system of nerves and senses and the metabolic system; and this can again be observed in any given life-period of man by studying the relation of all that proceeds from the metabolism in the general organic processes to all that goes out from the head system — the system of nerves and senses. This is a relationship of great significance.

In the child's second teeth there is an upward thrust of the metabolic system into the head, but the point about this meeting between the metabolic system and the system of nerves and senses is that the latter, to begin with, gets the upper hand. The following will make this clear to you. The second dentition at about the age of seven represents a contact between the metabolic system and the system of nerves and senses, but the nervous and sensory action dominates. The outcome of this contact of forces — which proceed from the nerves and senses on the one hand and the metabolic system on the other — is the development of the second teeth.

Again, in the period when the human being reaches puberty, a new contact occurs between the metabolic system and the system of nerves and senses, but this time the metabolic system dominates. This is expressed in the male sex by the change in the voice itself, which up to this period of life has been, essentially, a form of expression of the system of nerves and senses. The metabolic system pulses upwards and makes the voice deeper.

We can understand these workings by observing the extent to which they embrace the radiations in the human organism which originate in the kidney system and the liver-gall system on the one hand, and in the head and skin organisations on the other. This is an exceedingly interesting connection, and one which leads us into the deepest depths of the organisation of man. We can envisage the building and moulding of the organism thus: Radiations go out from the system of kidneys and liver, and they are met by the plastic, formative forces proceeding from the head. The forces from the system of kidneys and liver (naturally they do not only stream upwards but to all sides) have the tendency to work in a semi-radial direction, but they are everywhere thwarted by the plastic, formative forces which proceed from the head. We can thus understand the form of the lungs by thinking of it as being organised by the forces of the liver and kidneys, which are then met by the rounding-off forces proceeding from the head. The whole structure of man comes into being in this way: radiation from the systems of kidneys and liver, and then the rounding off of what has been radiated out by the forces proceeding from the head.

In this way we arrive at a fact of the greatest importance and one which can be confirmed empirically in every detail. In the process of man's development, in his growth, two sets of forces are at work: (1) forces that proceed from the systems of liver and kidneys, and (2) forces that proceed from the system of nerves and senses, which round off the forms and give them their surfaces. Both components play into each other, but not with the same rhythm. All that takes its start from the systems of liver and gall has the rhythm of metabolic man. All that proceeds from the head system has the rhythm of the man of nerves and senses. So that when the organism is ready for the coming of the second teeth, at about the seventh year of life, the metabolic system, with all that proceeds from the liver and kidneys (which is met by the rhythm of the heart), is subject to a rhythm that is related to the other rhythm, proceeding from the head, in the ratio of four to one. Thus not until the twenty-eighth year of life is the head organisation of man developed to the point reached by the metabolic organisation at the age of seven. The plastic principle in man, therefore, develops more slowly than the radiating, principle — in effect, four times as slowly. Connected with this is the fact that at the end of the seventh year of life, in respect of what proceeds from the metabolic activities, we have developed to the point reached by growth in general (in so far as this is subject to the system of nerves and senses) only at the twenty-eighth year.

Man is thus a complicated being. Two streams of movement subject to a different rhythm are at work in him. And so we can say: The coming of the second teeth is due in the first place to the fact that everything connected with the metabolism comes into contact with the slower, but more intense plastic principle, and in the teeth the plastic element dominates. At the time of puberty, the metabolic element preponderates the plastic influences withdraw more into the background, and the whole process is expressed in the male sex by the familiar phenomenon of the deepened voice.

Many other things in the being of man are connected with this: for instance the fact that the greatest possibility of illness occurs, fundamentally speaking, during the period of life before the coming of the second teeth — the first seven years of life. When the second teeth appear, the inner tendency of the human being to disease ceases to a very great extent. The system of education which it was our task to build up compelled me to make a detailed study of this matter, for it is impossible to found a rational system of education without these principles which concern the human being in health and disease. In his inner being, man is in the healthiest state during the second period of life, from the change of teeth to puberty. After puberty, an epoch begins again when it is easy for him to fall a prey to illness. Now the tendency to illness in the first period of life is of quite a different nature from the tendency to illness after puberty. These two possibilities of illness are as different, shall I say, as the phenomena of the second dentition and the change in the male voice.

During the first period of life, up to the change of teeth, everything goes out from the child's organisation of nerves and senses to the outermost periphery of the organism. The system of nerves and senses still has the upper hand at the change of teeth. You will be able to form a general conception of pathological phenomena during the first seven years of life if you say to yourselves: It is quite evident here that the radiations from the system of liver and kidneys are rounded off, stultified in a sense, by the plastic principle working from the system of nerves and senses. This plastic element is the main field of action of everything which I have described in these lectures as being connected with the Ego-organisation and astral organisation of man.

Now it may seem strange that I previously spoke of the Ego-organisation as going out from the system of liver and gall and the astral organisation from the kidney system, and that I now say: everything connected with the Ego and astral organisations emanates from the head. But we shall never understand the human organism with all its complexities if we say baldly that the Ego-organisation proceeds from the system of liver and gall and the astral organisation from the system of kidneys. We must realise that in the first life-period, up to the change of teeth, these radiations from the system of liver and kidneys are worn down by the action of nerves and senses. This rounding-off process is the essential thing. Strange to say, the forces supplied to the Ego and astral organisations by the systems of liver, gall and kidneys reveal themselves as a counter-radiation, not in their direct course from below upwards, but from above downwards. Thus we have to conceive of the child's organisation as follows: The astral nature radiates from the kidney system, and the Ego-organisation from the liver system, but these radiations have no direct significance. Both the liver system and the kidney system are, as it were, reflected back from the head system and the reflection in the organism is alone the active principle.

How, then, are we to think of the astral organisation of the child? We must think of the workings of the kidneys as being radiated back from the head system. What of the Ego-organisation in the child? The workings of the system of liver and gall also are radiated back from the head system. The physical system proper and the etheric system work from below upwards, the physical organisation having its point of departure in the digestive system and the etheric organisation in the system of heart and lungs. These organisations work from below upwards and the others from above downwards during the first epoch of life. And in the radiation from below upwards works the rhythm which is related as four to one to the radiation working from above downwards.

It is a pity that the indications here have to be so brief, but they really are the key to the processes of childhood. If you want to study the most typical diseases of children, you may divide them into two classes. On the one side you will find that the forces streaming from below upwards meet the forces streaming from above downwards with a rhythm of four to one, but that there is no co-ordination. If it is the upward-streaming forces with their rhythm of four that refuse to incorporate themselves into the individuality, while the inherited rhythm of the head system (representing the one) is in order, then we find all those organic diseases of childhood which are diseases of the metabolism, arising from a kind of congestion between the system of nerves and senses and the metabolic system. I mean that the metabolism is not quite able to adapt itself to that which radiates out from the system of nerves and senses. Then we get, for example, that strange disease in children which leads to the formation of a kind of purulent blood. All other children's diseases which may be described as diseases of the metabolism arise in this way.

On the other hand, suppose the metabolic organism is able to adapt itself to the individuality of the child, and the hygienic conditions are such that the child lives healthily in its environment — if, for example, we give the proper kind of food. But if, as a result of some inherited tendency, the system of nerves and senses working from above downwards does not rightly harmonise with the radiations from liver, gall and kidneys, diseases accompanied by fits or cramp-like conditions arise, the cause of them being that the Ego and astral organisations are not coming down properly into the physical and etheric organisation.

Diseases of children, therefore, arise from two opposite sides. But it is always true that we can understand these diseases of the child's organism only by directing our attention to the head and the system of nerves and senses. The metabolic processes in the child must not only be brought into harmony with outer conditions but also with the system of nerves and senses. In the first period of life, up to the change of teeth, a practical and fundamental knowledge of the system of nerves and senses is necessary, and we must observe that while in the child everything radiates from the head organisation, it is none the less possible for the metabolism to press too far forward, if it so be that the metabolism is normal, while the head organisation through hereditary circumstances is too feeble.

Now when the second life-period, from the change of teeth to puberty, sets in, it is the rhythmic organism which is the centre of activity. The astral and etheric organisations are essentially active here. Into the astral and etheric organisations between the change of teeth and puberty, streams everything that arises from the functions of the breathing and circulatory systems. The reason why the organism itself can afford the human being the greatest possibility of health during this period of life is that these systems of breathing and circulation can be regulated from outside. The health of school-children of this age is very dependent on hygienic and sanitary conditions, whereas during the first period of life external conditions cannot affect it to the same extent.

The tremendous responsibility resting upon us in regard to the medical aspect of education is that a true knowledge of man tells us that we may have dealt wrongly with the tendencies to disease which make their appearance between the seventh and fourteenth years of life. During this period the human being is not really dependent on himself; he is adjusting himself to his environment by breathing in the air and by means of all that arises in his blood circulation as a result of the metabolic processes. Metabolism is bound up with the limb-organisation. If children are given the wrong kind of drilling or are allowed to move wrongly, outer causes of disease are set up. Education during the Elementary School age should be based upon these principles. They should be taken into strictest account through all the teaching.

This is never done in our days. Experimental psychology — as it is called — has a certain significance which I well appreciate, but among other errors it makes the mistake of speaking like this: Such and such a lesson causes certain symptoms of fatigue in the child; such and such a lesson gives rise to different symptoms of fatigue, and so forth. And according to the conditions of fatigue thus ascertained, conclusions are drawn as to the right kind of curriculum. Yes — but, you see, the question is wrongly put. From the seventh to the fourteenth years, all that really concerns us is the rhythmic system, which does not tire. If it were to tire, the heart, for instance, could not continue to act during sleep through the whole of earthly life. Neither does the action of breathing cause fatigue. So when it is said: heed must be paid to the degree of fatigue arising from an experiment — the conclusion should be that if there is fatigue at all, something is amiss. Between the seventh and fourteenth years our ideal must be to work upon the rhythmic system of the child and not, primarily, upon the head system. In effect, education must be imbued with the quality of art. Then we shall be working upon the rhythmic system, and it will be quite possible to correct all the conditions of fatigue arising from false methods of teaching. Excessive strain on the memory, for example, will always affect the breathing action, even though it be in a mild way, and the results will appear only in later life.

At puberty and afterwards, the opposite holds good. Causes of disease may then again arise in the organism itself, in the metabolic-limb-system. This is because the food substances assert their own inherent laws, and then we are faced with an excessively strong working of the physical and etheric organisms.

In the organism of the very young child, therefore, we are essentially concerned with the Ego-organisation and the astral organisation working by way of the system of nerves and senses; in the period between the change of teeth and puberty we are concerned mainly with the activity of the astral and etheric organisations arising from the rhythmic system; after puberty we have to do with the predominance of the physical and etheric organisations arising from the metabolic system. Pathology confirms this, and I need only call your attention to certain typical diseases of women; metabolic diseases proper arise from out of the inner being after puberty — metabolism has the upper hand. The products of metabolism get the better of the system of nerves and senses instead of duly harmonising with its activities. In diseases of children before the change of teeth there is a wrongful predominance on the part of the system of nerves and senses. The healthy period lies between the change of teeth and puberty; and after puberty the metabolic organism, with its quicker rhythm, begins to dominate. This quicker rhythm then expresses itself in all that is connected with metabolic deposits which form because the plastic forces from the head do not make a right contact with them. The result of this is that the metabolism invariably gets the upper hand.

I am very sorry that I can speak of these things only in a cursory, aphoristic way, but my aim is to indicate at least the final conclusion, which is that the functional activities in the human being are the primary factors, and that formations and deformations must be regarded as proceeding from these functional activities. In the outer sense this means that up to the seventh year of the child's life the plastic, rounding-off forces work with particular strength. The plastic structure of the organs is brought to such a point by the forces arising from the system of nerves and senses that the plastic moulding of the teeth, for example, up to the time of the second dentition, is an activity that never occurs again. As against this, the permeation of the organism with forces coming from the metabolism enters upon an entirely new phase when — as happens at puberty — some of the metabolic activities are given over to the sex organs. This leads to an essential change in the metabolic processes.

It is all-important to make a methodical and detailed study of the matters I have indicated to you. The results thus obtained can then be co-ordinated in the truly scientific sense if they are brought into line with what I told you at the end of the last lecture, and related to the working of the Cosmos outside man.

How then can we approach therapeutically all that radiates out so complicatedly from the kidney system, from the liver system? We have simply to call forth changes by working on it from outside. We can approach it if we hold fast to what is observable in the plant — I mean, the contrast between the principle of growth which is derived rather from the preceding year or years, and, on the other hand, those principles of growth which come from the immediate present. Let us return once more to the plant. In the root and up to the ovary and seed-forming process we have that which is old in the plant, belonging essentially to the previous year. In all that develops around the corona we have that which belongs to the present. And in the formation of the green leaves there is a working together of the present and the past. Past and present, as two component factors, have united to produce the leaves.

Now everything in Nature is interrelated, just as everything is interrelated in the human organism, in the intricate way I have described. The point is to understand the relationships. Everything in Nature is interrelated, and by a simpler classification of what is revealed in the plant we come to the following.

In the terminology of an older, more instinctive conception of medicine we find constant mention of the sulphurous or the phosphoric. These sulphurous or phosphoric elements exist in those parts of the plant which represent in the blossom — not in the ovary and stigma — the forces of the present year. When, therefore, you make a decoction from these particular organs of the plant (thereby extracting also what is minerally active in them) you obtain the phosphoric or sulphurous principle. It is quite incorrect to imagine that the doctors of olden times thought of phosphorus and sulphur in the sense of modern chemistry. They conceived of them in the way I have indicated. According to older medicine, a decoction prepared from the petals of the red poppy, for instance, would have been “phosphoric” or “sulphurous.”

On the other hand, in a preparation derived from a treatment of the leaves of a plant, we get the mercurial principle, as it was called in ancient terminology. This, of course, means the mercurial nature, not the substance of quicksilver in our sense. (To use pine-needles, for example, is quite a different thing from using, say, the leaves of cabbages).

Everything connected with root, stem or seed was called the salt-like in older medical terminology. I am saying these things only for the sake of clarity, for with our modern scientific knowledge we cannot go back to older conceptions. A series of investigations should be made to show, let us say, the effects of an extract prepared from the roots of some plant on the head organisation, and hence on certain diseases common to childhood.

A highly significant principle will come to light if we investigate the effects of substances drawn from the roots and seeds of plants on the organisation of the child before the change of teeth. Again, for illnesses of the kind that come from outside — and, fundamentally speaking, all illnesses between the change of teeth and puberty are of this kind — we obtain remedies, or at least preparations which have an effect upon such illnesses, from leaves and everything akin to the nature of leaves in the plant. I am speaking in the old sense here of the mercurial principle, which we meet in a stronger form in quicksilver itself. The fact that mercury is a specific remedy for certain sexual diseases, externally acquired, is connected with this. Sexual diseases are really nothing but the intensification of illnesses that may arise in an extremely mild form in the second period of life, from the seventh to the fourteenth years. They do not then develop into sexual diseases proper because the human being is not yet sexually mature. If it were otherwise, a great many diseases would attack the sexual organs. Those who can really perceive this transition from the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth years, on into the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth years, will realise that at this age symptoms that arise in earlier life in quite another form express themselves as abnormalities of the sexual life.

Further, there are diseases which have their origin in the metabolism. In so far as the metabolism is bound up with the physical and etheric systems of man, we find diseases which must be considered in connection with the workings of the petal nature of plants.

The cursory way of dealing with these matters which is necessary here may make a great deal appear fantastic. Everything can, nevertheless, be verified in detail. The obstacles that make it so difficult to approach orthodox medicine are really due to the fact that, to begin with, it all seems beyond the range of verification. We have to reckon with such intricate phenomena in the human organism as the particularly striking example of which I spoke at the beginning of this lecture, describing it in such a way that it was apparently irreconcilable with what I said yesterday. It clears up, however, when we realise that what goes out from the system of liver and kidneys emerges first in the reactions it calls forth, and in this sense it represents something quite essential for the Ego-organisation and astral organisation of man. In this case it is especially evident. But there is a similar principle of immediate co-operation and counter-action between the rhythms of the blood and of the breathing. Here, too, many an influence that proceeds from the rhythm of the blood must first be looked for in the counter-beat of the breathing rhythm, and vice versa.

And now connect this with the fact that the Ego-organisation really lives in the inner warmth of man, and that this warmth permeates the airy, gaseous being. In the forces proceeding from the Ego and astral organisms, we have, from a physical point of view, something that is working primarily from the warmth organisation and the airy, gaseous organisation. This is what we have to observe in the organism of the very young child. We must seek the cause of children's diseases by studying the warmth and airy organisations in the human being. The effects that appear when we work upon the warmth and airy organisations with preparations derived from roots or seeds, are caused by the fact that two polaric forces come into contact, the one stimulating the other. Substances taken from seeds or roots and introduced into the organism stimulate all that goes out from the warmth organisation and the airy organisation of the human being.

Now in the influences working, so to speak, from above downwards, we can discern in the human being, from the very outset, a warmth and air vibration which is strongest of all in childhood, although in reality it is not a vibration but a time-structure of a living kind — an organic structure in the flow of time. And on the other hand we have that in the physical-etheric organism which goes from below upwards — that is to say, the solid and fluid organisation of man. Moreover these two are in mutual interaction, inasmuch as the fluid and gaseous organisations permeate one another in the middle, bringing forth an intermediate phase by their mutual penetration, just as there exists in the human organism the well-known intermediate stage between the solid and the fluid. So likewise in the living and sentient organism we must look for an intermediate phase between the fluid and the gaseous, and again a phase between the gaseous and the element of warmth.

Please note that everything I am saying here in a physiological sense is of importance for pathology and therapy. When we observe this intricate organism of man we find, of course, that one system of organs is perpetually pouring out its influences into another system of organs. If we now observe the whole organic action expressed in one of the sense-organs, in the ear, for example, we find the following: Ego-organisation astral organisation, etheric and physical organisations are all working together in a definite way. The metabolism permeates the nerves and senses; rhythm is brought into this by the processes of breathing in so far as they work into the ear, and by the blood circulation. All that I have thus tried to make plain to you in diverse ways, threefold and fourfold (in the three members of the human being and in the fourfold organisations which I explained) — all this finds expression in definite relationships in every single organ. And in the long run, all things in man are in constant metamorphosis.

For instance — that which occurs normally in the region of the ear, why do we call it normal? Because it appears precisely as it does in order that the human being as a whole, even as he lives and moves on earth, may come into existence. We have no other reason to call it normal. But consider now the special circumstances, the special formative forces that work here in the ear by virtue of the ear's position, notably by virtue of the fact that the ear is at the periphery of the organism. Suppose that these circumstances are working in such a way that a similar relationship arises by metamorphosis at some other place in the interior of the body. Instead of the relationship which is proper to that place in the body, there arises a relationship among the various members similar to what is normal in the region of the ear. Then there will grow at this place in the body something that really tends to become an ear — forgive this very sketchy way of hinting at the facts. I cannot express what I want to say in any other way, as I am obliged to say it in the briefest outline. For instance, this something may grow in the region of the pylorus, in place of what should arise there. In a pathological metamorphosis of this kind we have to see the origin of tumours and similar formations. All tumour formations, up to carcinoma, are really misplaced attempts at the formation of sense-organs.

If, then, you bear in mind that the origin of a morbid growth is a misplaced attempt at the formation of a sense-organ, you will find what part is played in the child's constitution — even in embryonic existence — by the organisms of warmth and air in order that these sense-organs may come into being. These organs can indeed be brought into being only through the organisms of warmth and air by virtue of the resistance of the solid and fluid organisms, which results in a formation composed of both factors. This means that we must observe the relationship existing between the physical organism (in so far as this expresses itself in the metabolism, for example) and the formative, plastic organism (in so far as this expresses itself in the system of nerves and senses). We must, so to speak, perceive how the metabolic system radiates out the forces which bear the substance along with them, and how the substance is plastically moulded in the organs by the forces brought to meet it by the system of nerves and senses.

Bearing this in mind, we shall learn to understand what a tumour-formation really is. On the one side there is a false relationship between the physical-etheric organism in so far as it expresses itself in the radiating metabolic processes on the one side, and between the Ego-organisation and astral organism on the other (in so far as the Ego and astral organisations express themselves in the warmth and airy organisations respectively). Ultimately, therefore, we have above all to deal with the relation between the metabolism and the warmth organisation in man, and in the case of an internal tumour — although it is also possible with an external tumour — the best treatment is to envelop it in warmth. (I shall speak of these things to-morrow when we come to consider therapy). The point is to succeed in enveloping the tumour with warmth. This brings about a radical change in the whole organisation. If we succeed in surrounding the tumour with warmth, then — speaking crudely — we shall also succeed in dissolving it. This can actually be achieved by the proper use of certain remedies which are injected into the organism. We may be sure that in every case a preparation of viscum, applied in the way we advise around the abnormal organ — for instance around the carcinomatous growth — will generate a mantle of warmth, only we must first have ascertained its specific effect upon this or that system of organs. We cannot, of course, apply exactly the same preparation to carcinoma of the breast as to carcinoma of the uterus or of the pylorus. Further, we can be sure that no result will be achieved if we do not succeed in producing the right reaction — namely, a state of feverishness. The injection must be followed by a certain rise in the patient's temperature. You can at once expect failure if no condition of feverishness is produced.

I wanted to tell you this as a principle in order to make you understand that these things depend upon a ratio; but the ratio is merely a regulating principle. You will find that the statements based on this principle can be verified, as all such facts are verified by the methods of modern medicine. There is no question of asking you to accept these things before they have been tested, but it is really true that anyone who enters into them can make remarkable discoveries.

Sense organs


eye and ear

Evolution of sense organs


sense organs on Old Moon


future senses eye, ear, touch


Various notes

1/ Removing the spleen (milt) is called splenectomy <-> premature death


Related pages

References and further reading

  • Walter Holtzapfel: 'The human organs' (1993 in EN)
  • Heinz Hartmut Vogel: 'Die vier Hauptorgane Herz - Niere - Leber - Lunge: Anthroposophisch-menschenkundliche Gesichtspunkte zur Entwicklungsgeschichte, Pathologie, Psychosomatik und Therapie' (1995)
  • Peter Selg: Vom Logos Menschlicher Physis: Die Entfaltung einer anthroposophischen Humanphysiologie im Werk Rudolf Steiners (2000)
  • Dennis Klocek: 'Esoteric physiology' (2016, based on lectures 2010)