The Inner Healer of Man

Each human being has an inner healer which is constantly striving to maintain the healthy balance between the spiritual activities of the attainment of knowledge and the earthly activities of movement and transformation of matter. This inner healer is the rhythmic system which is mediating between the polar processes of breakdown and upbuilding which needs to work inside the limits of a healthy balance. Everything a person does, feels and thinks has its effect upon these processes. Therefore it is of outmost importance to support our rhythmic system with those activities and substances that are contributing to the healthy equilibrium rather than those that generate imbalances which pave the way to the emergence of a disease.


Anthroposophical spiritual science identifies in man the existence of three physiological systems which perform very specific tasks in the human organism: [1]

The reason why the metabolic system and limbs are put together can be seen in the fact that “the metabolism is more lively when the limbs are active.” [2] This means that both are involved in movement; in the first case we have the inner movement of nutritive substances, while in the second the movement of limbs.

Although we arrived with this division into three distinct systems we need to be aware that “these three organisms work into one another. We may say that the organism of nerves and senses has its principal activity in the head. But the whole human being is, to a certain extent, functionally head. And the same may be said of the other systems, that of the rhythmic organism and that of the trunk, limbs, and metabolic activities.” [3]

But spiritual science doesn’t stop at this. Because it “aims everywhere for wholeness of view, it must also build the bridge between the bodily constitution on the one side and the life of soul on the other. A really penetrating study of human nature is able to build a bridge between man’s external constitution and what it unfolds, through self-consciousness, in his inner life. As a rule no such bridge is built, or only very inadequately built, particularly in the science current today.” [4] In opposition to this spiritual science confirms that in “describing the realm of consciousness that is dependent upon our bodily organization, one is correct in membering it into mental picturing (thinking), feeling, and willing.

The bodily counterparts of the soul element of mental picturing are to be found in the processes of the nervous system, with its extensions into the sense organs on the one hand and into the internal organization of the body on the other. Just as one must relate mental picturing to nerve activity, so one must also relate feeling to that life rhythm which is centred in the breathing activity and is connected with it. In doing so one must bear in mind that one must follow the breathing rhythm, with all that is connected with it, right into the most peripheral parts of our organization. One need only see the physiology of the breathing rhythm in the right light and one will arrive at a comprehensive recognition of the statement: The soul has feeling experiences by basing itself upon the breathing rhythm in the same way it bases itself, in mental picturing, upon nerve processes.

And relative to willing one finds that it is based, in a similar way, upon metabolic processes. Here again, one must include in one’s study all the pertinent ramifications and extensions of the metabolic processes within the entire organism. Just as, when something is mentally pictured, a nerve process occurs upon which the soul becomes con­scious of its mental picturing, and just as, when something is felt, a modification of the breathing rhythm takes place through which a feeling arises in the soul; so, when something is willed, a metabolic process happens, which is the bodily foundation for what is experienced in the soul as willing.” [5]


The threefold division of the human nature presents the starting point for many insights into the relationships to three fundamental spheres of human activities:

Nowadays when we are faced with the modern epidemic of illnesses it is of utmost importance to became aware of the source of healing inside us. But for this purpose “we have to become inwardly flexible; then we can correctly discover these three mem­bers of the human organization and how they work together to create a healthy equilibrium. Then we also learn to recognize how a disturbance of this equilibrium leads to all kinds of illnesses and to discriminate, in a living way, between the causes of health and illness in human life.” [6]

It is essential that we are aware that in the human being the three worlds – physical, soul, and spiritual worlds – meet and interact with each other. Even more important is to be able to distinguish three kinds of laws that are governing these three realms of existence. A real education or a real nutrition, or “a real medicine can therefore only exist when it penetrates into a knowledge which embraces man in respect to all three – in respect to body, soul and spirit.” [7] For “processes of illness and health are continually taking place in the human organism, and everything a person does or is guided to do has its effect upon these processes.” [8] And it is not just what a person does that has an effect, but also what (s)he feels and thinks. Therefore it is of crucial importance to keep in mind that everything has an effect on a person – either it is an activity we perform or substance that we take in through breathing or through skin or in the form of medicine or food.

How can we then distinguish between the processes of illness and health? For this purpose we need to know that “the forces which build man up, which cause growth and the process of nutrition do not bring him to the condition where he can feel and think. On the contrary, to be able to feel and think, something in the organism must be destroyed.” [9] These breakdown processes are entirely normal because our body is not just build up once and stays forever the same, but is continuously renewing itself. And “just as we take matter in, we are also continuously losing matter to the outside. Just think for instance of your nails and your hair. Starting from this you can easily observe how the human body constantly loses matter and is completely rebuilt in the span of about seven years.” [10] This renewal is the outcome of continuous interaction of the upper and lower systems with their polar processes of breakdown and upbuilding which needs to work inside the limit of a healthy balance. In reality, these processes are the source of constant small irregularities which “are continuously taking place everywhere in the human organism, and these are brought into balance by the rhythmic processes.” [11]

Accordingly, the processes of illness are those which seriously exceed their lawful range of action, while the processes of health are the same processes which stay where they have to be and are evolving in proper rhythms. For in the human being there is nothing that is not necessary if it works at the right time in its right place. And the system that takes care for this is the rhythmic system. “In fact, the whole rhythmic system is a doctor[12] because it mediates in a rhythmical manner between two polar systems which represent two different worlds – the spiritual world above and the physical world below. Therefore we can identify the rhythmic system as the healing system. “This rhythmic system is the mediator between the cosmic and the earthly in man.” [13] And “just as plant and animal life, in its external form, takes its course rhythmically, so does the life of the physical body. The heart beats rhythmically, the lungs breathe rhythmically, and so forth. All this proceeds so rhythmically because it is set in order by higher spiritual forces, by the wisdom of the world.” [14]

If we want to really grasp all this we should be quite clear that “our powers of understanding and our faculty of judgment can never come about through expert knowledge in some particular branch of science, but only through the all-embracing knowledge of the spirit. The construction of concepts and representations necessary for spiritual science, and peculiar to it, does not qualify us to become experts in any particular sphere, but it gives us the power of judging” [15] anything that affects our being.

The picture of the threefold human being constitutes the foundation for the work of teachers, doctors, various therapists, and cooks. It also enables the farmers and people processing and preparing food to understand why the quality of food is so important for the wellbeing of the people who eat it. For if we want to improve the health of the people we need the participation of teachers, artists, doctors, therapists, farmers, cooks, bakers and other food producers with the aim to support and stimulate the forces of the inner healer of people. This will be truly holistic health care that will serve all three members of the human constitution – the body, soul and spirit – in the most suitable and efficient manner.


  1. For another description see the THREEFOLD HUMAN BEING
  2. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 28.12.1921; Soul Economy, Anthroposophic Press, 2003
  3. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 31.12.1922; Reverse Ritual, Floris Books, 2001
  4. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 18.12.1920; Course for Young Doctors,
  5. Rudolf Steiner, Riddles of the Soul, Mercury Press, 1996
  6. See note 2
  7. Rudolf Steiner, Arnhem, 21.07.1924; What Can the Art of Healing Gain through Spiritual Science?,
  8. Rudolf Steiner, source unknown
  9. Rudolf Steiner, Arnhem, 24.07.1924; What Can the Art of Healing Gain through Spiritual Science?,
  10. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 20.07.1923; What is Anthroposophy?, Anthroposophic Press, 2002
  11. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 09.10.1920, am; Physiology and Therapeutics,
  12. Rudolf Steiner, Stuttgart, 16.10.1923, afternoon; Deeper Insights into Education,
  13. See note 7
  14. Rudolf Steiner, Berlin 07.12.1905; Esoteric Development,
  15. Rudolf Steiner, Zurich, 10.10.1916; How Can the Destitution of Soul in Modern Times Be Overcome?,

The Inner Healer of Man
By Brane Žilavec