By D.L. Katchen, MD
The foundational picture of human health, healing, and well-being in a technological age needs to be presented as a conscious, ongoing process of resurrection.
As an introduction to this picture, one is invited to read Steiner’s lecture GA 1908-04-13, which provides a compelling construct.
We can look back through human evolution and see into humanity’s changes in the life of the soul. With today’s consciousness we alternate between wakefulness and sleep. At night, the astral and ego partially leave the physical and etheric bodies and we become enshrouded by darkness. In the morning, the astral and ego enter back into the etheric and physical bodies. Because the astral dives into the brain and nervous system we make use of our senses to perceive experiences in our physical environment.
Our day/night experience differs from that of humanity during the Atlantean epoch. The etheric body was less connected to the physical. Spiritual impressions by day and night surrounded the Atlantean. He sensed visions, colors, tones, smells, sounds, heat, and cold of the spiritual beings around him. These sensory experiences impressed themselves upon his looser etheric body.
Over the epochs, the etheric body has become firmly interlocked with the physical body. With this, much of humanity gradually lost the ability to see the innermost nature of his surroundings. The spiritual stream must now work upwards from materialism. Steiner notes that in our current stage of evolution we have been and are now undergoing a loosening of the etheric body.
He further states that this is the secret of our epoch. This activity must occur with clear thinking consciousness regarding the impressions we allow to imprint upon this loosening etheric body.
If, during this time, we immerse ourselves “entirely in the materialistic world we are in phantasy and illusion, vain imagination. This shows itself in man’s restlessness, his neurasthenic condition, his pathological fears.”
How, in a world with technology, do we reconcile these concerns?
We need a whole and flexible way to think which allows people the freedom to grow and work with technology in the context of their current lives.
As a family physician, I have found many people use technology to research their particular health concerns or conditions. Online they often find non-contextual information from innumerable sources. They discover various medical systems, diets, ancient practices, and physical modalities, which they hope, if implemented, will be effective in bringing health back to their lives. Often there is some benefit from the remedy they have tried but I have found much of it is short-lived. By the time they to come to my practice for advice and treatment, many people are understandably confused, frustrated, and often have spent significant money in the process. Of course, one needs to see their doctor and may require a thorough medical workup to exclude other medical conditions.*
How can information be contextual, economical, long lasting, flexible, and useful for one’s current life situation?A method which I have found helpful in educating people, is to use variations of a homuncular lemniscate image. This is based upon anthroposophical medical teachings and incorporates western medical language. There is also a third level of alchemical principles of salt, mercury, and sulfur. In this sense the word homunculus is used to present an interactive pictorial view of the human being.
Given this framework, how do we begin in a practical way?Initially, I suggest walking. Often the response is the person is too busy. In a joking manner, I suggest beginning by walking down the driveway, taking a moment’s pause to see the sky feel the sun and wind. This engages the limbs and will. Almost everyone smiles and says that they can do this and commit to do a bit more. A fifteen-year-old boy came to the office with sleeplessness and anxiety, doing well in school and with good family support. I drew the picture, and we went over the lemniscate. Months later I saw him for a routine physical and I asked how he was doing. He replied he was just fine, he uses the lemniscate. He reduced his use of the phone and computer in the evening, exercised a bit more and found he was able to sleep and his anxiety was less. To understand and use this at age fifteen is wonderful. It will adapt with him over his lifetime. Diet is an unending source of confusion and lack of balance for many people. Changing a dietary life situation abruptly can disrupt family, occupation, relationships, and budgets. When our diets are out of balance the MS is affected which is entwined with the PNS and SNS. If people cannot slow down at mealtime, I ask them to begin with digestible warm foods like soup and stews. Also, I suggest a pause before eating, for gratitude. This engages the PNS and decreases the stimulated SNS to help with digestion. However brief, we need to express thanks for those who prepare and grow our food. It gives way to appreciation for the magnificence of creation which most people understand at some level. Chronic NSS and SNS engagement can cause gastrointestinal gas, bloating, and cramps. The neurotransmitters of the brain parallel those of the gut. One example, among my patients, is a delightful lady, with two young children and a demanding job, who said to me after our meeting, “So to start I simply walk to the end of the driveway and eat minestrone soup.” That was her beginning and she noted she finally felt free. I helped her understand that food serves as remedies incorporating the basic principles of salt, mercury, and sulfur which correspond to the NSS, RS, and MS. She began with soups having more root vegetables (salt principle for the NSS). As she felt better, she naturally desired and added more leaf vegetables (mercury principle, RS) and finally included warming spices (sulfur principle, MS). She became less interested in the media, felt less bloated, began to lose weight, her sleep was more rhythmical, and she had more enjoyment with her family. Walking helps to bring the will system in play and enforces the decision-making process. Most importantly, she took ownership of her life and now uses technology in a more constructive fashion. This is an example of working with the resources one has in their current life situation. An individual has the power to work with and adapt to change. They can use technology as a more liberated, balanced, constructive force in their lives. With this process people will sleep and eat better and become less dependent on technology dominating their thoughts and consciousness. This allows an enlivening of technology as a food for soul consciousness. The vegetablized minerals become part of the process in the wonderful alchemy of food. It becomes a sort of resurrection for the mineral world. Now we can willfully begin to bring morally inspired technologies, that is using technology as a constructive tool for the bettering of oneself and those around us, which will impress upon the burgeoning etheric body in a wholesome fashion. As Steiner notes, this loosening etheric body is the secret of our epoch.
*The intent of the author is only to offer information of an anecdotal and general nature. In the event of using this information personally or for others the author assumes no responsibility for direct or indirect consequences. The reader should consult his or her medical, health, or other professional before adopting any suggestions or drawing inferences from this article.
“That which we seek is not there, it is in our hearts and we need to receive it in the correct way in full sunlight.” -Rudlf Steiner, April 22, 1924.
Debra Katchen has practiced family medicine for over twenty years and has enjoyed her association with anthroposophy for over ten years.