in the Work of Rudolf Steiner
Edited and Translated by Daniel Hindes
Collected in this book are all of Rudolf Steiner’s statements on vaccination. Spanning over twenty five years, these extended excerpts are drawn from 15 separate volumes of the Collected Works. Several of these statements have never before been published in English. Newly translated from the latest German editions, they serve as an invaluable resource for anyone interested in exploring Steiner’s views on the topic of vaccination..
Overview & Preview
19 Excerpts with introductions
At various times in his career Rudolf Steiner touched upon the themes of vaccination. Generally the references were incidental, but a few were either directly to questions, or in the context of medical lectures. Further, many of his anthroposophical remedies had preventative uses.
This book includes every reference to vaccines in the Collected Works, and also contextual material to help the reader understand how Steiner approached the topic.
All of these indications are present in this book in fresh translations. This volume is an helpful background material for people looking to understand the medical, ethical, and moral implications of vaccination in light of anthroposophy.
Medical School and Theosophy
This lecture was held on the 25th of May 1905 in Berlin. Like the previous lecture, it was part of a series of public lectures to promote the Theosophical Society. It was reconstructed by the editors from a combination of partial stenograms and various listener’s notes, and first published in a newsletter in 1957. It was subsequently included in the second, expanded edition of CW 53 in 1981, from which this translation was made.
Now there are great cyclical laws in all fields of endeavor, which refer to the shadow as well as to the light sides of culture. If so much is uncertain in medical science today, we must be clear that the root cause of this uncertainty is deeply, deeply rooted in our habits of thought. These habits of thought are rooted deeper than all the theories that are acquired within a science. And they cannot be simply changed, but only gradually replaced by others. The materialistic, mechanistic thinking of our time influences all these habits of thinking of people today. What contempt the physician of today has for the medical science of the Middle Ages and antiquity; and yet the aspiring physician could learn much from the history of medicine of those ancient times. They could learn many a different outlook from that which prevails in present-day medicine. The theories of Galen, two to three centuries after Christ, for example, and the medical scholasticism of the Middle Ages are known to very few physicians today. Unjustly, people today look down upon this ancient medical science. If today’s physicians wanted to get to know it, they would be able to learn many valuable things. The Hippocratic teachings, which show the composition of the human being from the four elements of earth, water, air and fire, arouses sneers today. An example of what I mean may be if we look at a people who do not belong to our present cultural milieu, the Hindus. The Hindu doctors apply a principle that is the basis of immunization, of vaccination as we know it, with a healing serum. It is that of combating a certain form of disease by applying the pathogen itself as a remedy. Hindu doctors cure snakebites by treating the wound with their saliva. Through training, the saliva is prepared. The doctors have made themselves immune to snakebites, to snake venom, through snakebites on their own bodies. It is their view that the physician can also affect something in the physical body of someone else through something that they develop within themselves. All healing effects from per-son to person are based on this principle. For the Hindus, this principle is based on a certain initiation. They know that a person can become another person through a certain training. Powers, which another person does not have, are developed in them just as a piece of iron develops its power by being brushed with a magnet. The young doctor would have quite different feelings towards heal-ing if they delved into the real history of medicine. Words from which they cannot find any meaning nowadays nevertheless contain a deep meaning, even if they sneeringly deny it. It is lamentable that our whole science is interspersed with materialistic imponderables; thus it is hardly conceivable that someone can free themself from them and learn to think independently. Our whole modern scientific foundation for anatomy and physiology is built upon this materialistic way of thinking. In the 16th century the first anatomy doctrine was taught by Vesalius. Harvey taught of the of blood circulation in the materialistic sense. According to these systems the whole 17th and 18th century was educated. People had to think materialistically for several centuries in order to make all the great discoveries and inventions that we owe to these times. This way of thinking has taught us to produce certain substances in a laboratory – we owe the epoch-making discoveries of Justus von Liebig11 to it – but it has also led us to regard the human physical body as the only thing. Life, what we call life, is difficult to reconcile with the concept which a materialistic physician has of it. Only someone who knows by intuition what life is can really advance to the comprehension of life. And such a person also knows that the effectiveness of chemical and physical laws in the human body is under the rule of something for which we our-selves lack the word, which can be recognized only by intuition. civilization, de-pends on his discoveries. Only when the physician themself has become a different person can they realize this. Through a certain training he must first acquire the concepts and then the insight into the workings of what we call our etheric body. The ordinary mind, the ordinary human intellect, is incapable of comprehending the spiritual; as soon as it has to move up into higher realms, it fails. Therefore, in the medical field, without intuition, everything is only talk; one does not touch reality. Higher, finer forces are necessary, which must be developed by the physician. Only then a thorough healing of certain kinds of illness is possible.
Question: How does anthroposophy judge vaccination as a means of protection against epidemics? Rudolf Steiner: In terms of content, this question fits somewhat poorly with what was said earlier. But I will try to say something. For it is like this: Of course, as has already been said today, you must by no means believe that anthroposophy is polemicizing against the justified successes that have been achieved in the newer fields of natural science and medicine.
When you recognize that certain illnesses have something to do with the soul characteristics of the human being, that they are in a certain respect an overcoming of what a person was not able to achieve in a previous life on earth, and that these physical processes of illness, which you have to endure, are a balancing out—the process of an illness is also connected with soul phenomena— then you can also understand why, out of a certain unconscious, instinctive feeling, some people have an aversion to this healing elixir, the vaccine.
And the smallpox vaccine? Here you are dealing with a peculiar case. You see, if you vaccinate someone, and you have the person in an anthroposophical context and you educate them anthroposophically, it does not do them any harm. It only harms those who grow up with predominantly materialistic thoughts. In that case the inoculation becomes a kind of ahrimanic force; the person cannot elevate themselves from a certain materialistic feeling.