Three Main Types of Therapies

There are three types of irregularities originating in the improper activities of three supersensible bodies – ego, astral body, and etheric body – which are manifesting on the level of the physical body as hereditary chronic diseases, acute diseases, and acute chronic diseases. Because of different causes the healing of each kind of disease has to be approached by a different type of treatment – that is, by psychological therapy, by dietary treatment, and by plant or mineral remedy.

Nowadays a great number of therapies are available which are aimed at helping people who are confronting a multitude of modern illnesses. Besides modern methods there exists various traditional methods and alternative approaches to healing. The question which is obviously in the mind of the person who becomes ill is: What is the most efficient therapy for my disease? Here is presented a spiritual-scientific division of illnesses into three main groups [1] – based on the knowledge of the FOURFOLD HUMAN BEING – which serves as general guidance for the choice of the most appropriate therapies. However, one needs to be aware that "things are not so clear cut in the world, even though you can draw clear lines when you want to make observations." [2]In life we can always find intermediate states and unusual combinations of specific influences and for that reason one cannot keep to any form of one-sidedness in the search of the origins of illnesses and also in the search for the most appropriate therapies.

Psychological Therapies for Irregularities of the Ego

We will start with the group of illnesses which are expression of an irregularity in the working of the ego. The first group of "illnesses that are chronic originate from the physical point of view in the blood and from the spiritual point of view in the ego. Those are chiefly the illnesses that are in the proper sense hereditary, and these are the illnesses that can only be understood by those people who look at the being of man from a spiritual point of view. Here and there are people who are chronically ill, who are, in other words, never really fit; they always have one or another thing the matter with them. To get to the bottom of this, we must ask ourselves what the actual basic character of the ego is like. If you understand what life really is, then you will know that definite forms of chronic illnesses are connected with one or another basic soul character of the ego.

The first thing you have to ask yourself when somebody comes and says he has been suffering from this or that for years, is what kind of person is he fundamentally? You have to know what basic character type his ego is, otherwise you are bound to go wrong with ordinary medicine, unless you are lucky. The important thing in curing people of these illnesses is to consider their whole surroundings – in so far as they can have a direct or indirect influence on the ego – and to try to find the setting that will have just the right effect on the character of the ego. To find the right cure, you need, in particular, a wide experience of life, so that you can enter into the person's character and can say: For this person to recover, he must change his job. It is a matter of pinpointing what is necessary from the point of view of his soul nature.

If it is necessary to send a person to another place, you will not be able to help him as a rule if he is tied to a job and cannot move. Instead the psychological method is indeed always effective. What is called the psychological method works best of all when the illness is actually in a person's ego being. Thus when a chronic illness of this type occurs, one that is in the blood, psychological remedies are justified. And if they are carried out in the right way, their effect on the ego will entirely compensate for what impinges on him from outside. Wherever you look you will be able to see the subtle connection between what a man experiences in his soul when he is habitually working behind a work bench and when he gets the chance to enjoy country air for a short while. The joy that lends wings to his soul can be called a psychological method in the widest sense. Then, if the therapist is carrying out his method properly, he can gradually exercise his own influence in place of this. Psychological methods have their strongest justification for this form of illness and should not be overlooked, because most of the illnesses come from an irregularity of the ego being of man. These are the things that apply to the kind of illnesses that appear externally as chronic illnesses, and that are connected physically with the blood and spiritually with the ego." [3]

In the group of psychological therapies that are the most suitable for hereditary chronic diseases we can count all those 'therapies' which empower the individuals to take more responsibility for their own life and health. Among them are:

Nutritional Therapy for Irregularities of the Astral Body

"Now we come to those illnesses that have their spiritual origin mainly in irregularities of the astral body and that appear in certain disabilities of the nervous system in one or another direction. Now a large part of the common acute illnesses are connected with what we have just mentioned, in fact most of them. For it is sheer superstition to believe that when someone has a stomach or heart complaint or even a clearly perceptible irregularity somewhere, the right treatment is to deal directly with the symptom. The essential thing could be that the symptom is there because the nervous system is incapable of functioning. Thus the heart can be affected simply because the nervous system has become incapable of functioning in the area where it ought to support the movement of the heart. It is quite unnecessary to maltreat the heart or, as the case may be, the stomach, for they may, in principle, have nothing directly the matter with them, for it is only the nerves that provide for them which are incapable of carrying out their job. If in a case like this the stomach complaint is treated with hydrochloric acid, it would be a mistake comparable to tinkering with an engine that is always running late because you think something is the matter with it – yet it still runs late. For you would find, on closer examination, that the engine-driver always gets drunk before driving; so you would do better to deal with the engine-driver, for the train would be punctual otherwise. So it could well be that with stomach complaints we have to treat the nerves that provide for the stomach instead of the stomach itself.

But it is not just a matter of saying that with stomach symptoms you have to deal with the nerves first. This achieves nothing. You only achieve something when you know that the nerve is the expression of the astral body and seek for the causes in the irregularities to be found there. The question is, what is the main thing? The first thing to consider in the treatment of this sort of complaint is diet and finding the right balance between what a person enjoys and what is good for him. What matters is his way of life, not with regard to externalities but regarding what has to be digested and worked through by him. Although purely psychological methods can be used, they certainly lose their greatest value, therefore they are seldom used for these. Dietary remedies apply here." [5] Modern expression for such an approach is 'nutritional therapy' or 'nutritional healing' and those who give such kind of professional advice are called nutritional therapists.

In regard to acute illnesses we need to clarify that while from a spiritual-scientific perspective they are a manifestation of the irregularities of the astral body, the mainstream medicine describes them as diseases with a sudden onset, often requiring urgent treatment. Both descriptions indicate an upset balance in the internal environment of the human organism where cause and effect are very close together, timewise (if we compare with chronic diseases), and often accompanied by quite dramatic symptoms, similarly as is the case of an injury or poisoning.

Medicines for Irregularities of the Etheric Body

Lastly we have the group of "illnesses, partly chronic and partly acute, which are connected with the human etheric body, and which therefore come to expression in man's glands. As a rule these illnesses have nothing to do with heredity, but a great deal to do with nationality and race. So that in the case of the illnesses originating in the etheric body and appearing as glandular complaints, we must always ask whether the illness is occurring in a Russian, an Italian, a Norwegian or a Frenchman. For these illnesses are connected with the national character and therefore take quite different forms. Above all we must know that the human organs that work under the influence of the etheric body, and which can fall sick as a result of irregularities of the etheric body, have quite definite relationships with one another. In occult medicine these things are also described by applying the images of the planets to the constellation of man's organs. Thus the heart is the Sun, the brain the Moon, the spleen Saturn, the liver Jupiter, the gall Mars, the kidneys Venus and the lungs Mercury. If you study the mutual relationships of the planets you have an image of the mutual relationships of man's organs in so far as they are in the etheric body. You have to know the interconnections of the organs when there is an etheric illness, and yet these are principally those illnesses for which specific remedies are to be used. This is the place to use the remedies you find in the plants and minerals. For everything belonging to the plants and minerals has a profound importance for everything to do with the human etheric body. So when we know an illness has arisen in the etheric body, and it appears in a certain way in the glandular system, we must find the remedy that can correctly repair the complex of interconnections among the human organs.

These types of illnesses are actually the first in which we are justified in using external medicines to assist the course of recovery. If we see man as the complicated being he is, the treatment of illnesses will also be a broad-minded one, and one-sidedness (and controversies) will be avoided" [6] in the field of medicine. Thus we can see that plant and mineral remedies are not suitable remedies for all kinds of illnesses, for there are two other groups of illnesses where the most efficient therapies are psychological methods and nutritional therapies. Of course, there can be situations where it is reasonable to combine all three types of therapies. However, we can also understand that the heavy dependence of mainstream medicine to mineral remedies which are used for all kinds of illnesses must have serious drawbacks. This does not include only those negative side effects which are recognised by medical profession itself but also hidden supersensible effects on our four bodies – on the physical body, on the etheric body, on the astral body and on the ego organisation.

Supersensible Effect of Mineral Medicaments

"A medicament from the mineral kingdom works in the first place on man's physical body. Now what is the significance of man giving his physical body a mineral medicament? Please note that we are not going to speak of any plant medicaments but purely mineral ones, what is prescribed in the way of metals and salts and so on. Now if someone has taken a mineral medicament, you can direct your clairvoyant vision to the mineral or metal that he now has within him. That is, you suggest away everything in him of the nature of bone, muscle, blood and so on, and turn your attention solely to the particular mineral substance that has permeated him. Something very remarkable presents itself to clairvoyant consciousness. This mineral substance has become very thinly diffused and has itself acquired the human form. You have before you a human form, a human phantom consisting of the substance taken in by the man. Supposing the person has taken antimony, you have before you a human form of very finely diffused antimony, and it is the same with every mineral medicament a man takes. You create a new man within you consisting of this mineral substance; you incorporate it.

Now let us ask ourselves what the purpose and significance of this is? The significance is that if you were to leave a man as he is and withhold from him the medicine he really needs, then because of certain bad forces in his astral body the astral body would work on the etheric body and the latter on the physical body and gradually destroy it. When you have put a double into the physical body, this works to prevent the physical body obeying the influences of the astral body. Imagine you have a bean plant. If you give it a prop it winds up it and is no longer blown by the wind. This double made out of the incorporated substance is a prop like this for the man. It attaches the physical body to itself and removes it from the influences of the astral and etheric body. In this way you make the human being's physical body independent as it were of his astral and etheric body. This is the effect of a mineral medicament.

But you will immediately see the bad side of it, for it has a very serious drawback. Since you withdraw the physical body artificially from its connection with the other bodies you have weakened the influence of the astral and etheric body on the physical body and have made the physical body independent. And the oftener you take such medicines the more the influence of the astral and the etheric body disappears, making the physical body a hardened, independent being, subject to its own laws. Imagine what people are doing who take mineral medicaments of this sort all their lives. A man who has in course of time taken a lot of these mineral medicaments has within him a phantom of all these minerals, a round dozen of them. It is as though the physical body were surrounded by solid walls.

And what kind of influence can the astral and etheric body still have on it? Such a person is actually dragging his body around with him and have very little power over it. If a man who has been dosing himself in this way for a long time applies for treatment to someone who wants to treat him psychologically and work especially on his finer (supersensible) bodies, he will discover that he has become more or less unreceptive to psychological influences. For by making his physical body independent in the first place, he has deprived it of the possibility of being affected by anything that might take place in his finer bodies. And this has happened mainly because the human being has so many phantoms in him that are not in harmony, that they pull him hither and thither. If the human being has deprived himself of the possibility of working from out of his soul and spirit, he need not be surprised if spiritual treatment is not very successful either. In cases of psychological treatment, therefore, you should always give consideration to the kind of person the patient is. If he has made his astral or etheric body powerless by making his physical body independent, then it will be very difficult to help such a person by means of spiritual treatment.

So now we understand how mineral substances affect a man. They create doubles in him that preserve his physical body and remove it from the possible harmful effects of his astral or etheric body. Because materialistic medicine is ignorant of man’s higher members, almost all our present-day medicine works in the direction of treating the physical body in some way or another only." [7]

Now we can understand that doctors who are only prescribing mineral drugs do not help people to really recover from a disease in numerous cases, because often the underlying causes are in their soul-spiritual imbalances and unhealthy habits. In fact, with the extreme reliance on mineral medicaments – which is one of the cornerstones of modern medicine – people have been removing themselves ever more from the soul-spiritual core of their own being.

Now we can also understand the value of traditional medicines based predominantly on plants and accommodated to specific national characters of people. If we do need mineral remedies then we can use homeopathic mineral remedies which do not have the above described side effects because they work directly on the etheric body due to the process of potentization used in their preparation. [8]

But there is another danger which we need to be aware of: an unjustified rejection of all mineral remedies. There are people who wish to heal everything with plant remedies or other forms of holistic therapies. But sometimes we do need the help of mineral remedies – especially in urgent or even life threatening situations [9] where we do not have enough time to address the soul-spiritual irregularities which have caused this dangerous condition of the disease. We need to acknowledge that mineral remedies are very effective in such situations. However, we need to be aware that with the use of mineral remedies we only 'buy time' which gives us later an opportunity to address underlying soul-spiritual causes of a disease in question.


  1. In the lecture which is the main source of this grouping there are actually presented five types of illnesses, but for the other two types no specific therapies are given. Nevertheless, the range of therapies presented here covers the broad spectrum of holistic therapies on offer nowadays.
  2. Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, 10.11.1908;
  3. As above
  4. The use of artistic therapies is one of the main characteristics of anthroposophical medicine. Among them are painting, sculpture, music, and speech therapy and curative eurythmy.
  5. See note 2
  6. See note 2
  7. Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, 8.12.1908;
  8. Potentization is the process of serial dilution of a chosen substance in alcohol or distilled water (in ratio 1 to 10) followed by rhythmical mixing. In this way we can reach the etheric state of the original substance when no actual physical molecule can be detected anymore by scientific methods.
  9. Sometimes the period of dangerous health situation can be longer, and if there are no proper circumstances a person might be in a need of support of this or that mineral medicament for a long period of his or her life. But even then we cannot completely rule out the possibility that such a person can be influenced by psychological or spiritual treatment. If you read precisely, you will notice that it is not claimed that in such a case it is not possible to use it, but only that it is more difficult to achieve results we want.