and Epidemics in the Work of Rudolf Steiner
Edited and Translated by Daniel Hindes
Collected in this book are all of Rudolf Steiner’s statements on viral illnesses and epidemics. Spanning over forty years and arranged in chronological order, these extended excerpts are drawn from 35 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 health and illness in relation to pathogens and infectious diseases.
Overview & Preview
35 Excerpts with introductions
In the middle phases of his lecturing activity he turned his focus more towards the cosmic origin of infectious diseases. In these examples pathogens are consequence of the deeds of cosmic beings as these play in to their role supporting the gradual independence of humanity..
Beginning in 1918 and continuing through 1924 Steiner looks more practically at the cause of outbreaks, locating their origin and timing and cosmic events. He repeatedly stresses that pathogens carry illness, but are not the primary cause. The cause of infection are weaknesses in the physical and etheric. These must be present for a pathogen to generate an illness. Asymptomatic carriers are the evidence that the pathogen cannot be the primary cause. Steiner elaborates this in a number of ways in lectures to medical doctors and to the general public in the 1920s.
All of these indications are present in this book in fresh translations. This volume is an essential background for people attempting to understand the current pandemic in light of anthroposophy.
Health, Spirituality, Materialism, and Nervous Disorders, 1906
January 29th, 1906
Contained in volume 96 of the Collected Works
This excerpt is from a lecture in Berlin to members of the Besant Branch of the Theosophical Society, which Rudolf Steiner and Marie von Sievers had founded a year earlier in 1905. What would become Steiner’s Anthroposophy was at that point unfolding within the context of the Theosophical Society, hence the terminology. The regular audience would have been familiar both with general Theosophical concepts, and with Steiner’s approach to presenting them. The text is reconstructed from the notes of Franz Seiler and Walter Vegelahn, and supplemented by any extant notes of other listeners. Both Seiler and Vegelahn employed stenography, though neither was a professional, and they were not at the time trying to create a permanent record, just notes for personal use.
The lecture was reconstructed by Marie Steiner by blending all the available sources, and was published in German for the first time in a periodical in 1947.
The text below is translated from the revised 1989 edition. You may notice that the text is full of declarative sentences in a style that is quite different from Steiner’s speech patterns in later lectures, where we have word-for-word reconstructions. In the full transcripts he tends to qualify his statements more. This is the earliest reference to nervous disorders and their connection to materialism.
Now we will touch on one of the important secrets that lies dormant in our present age. I have already pointed out here and there why there actually is a Theosophical movement, why it is necessary. Whoever can look into the spiritual world knows that everything that exists outwardly and materially has its spiritual origin; comes from the spiritual. There is nothing material that did not originate in the spiritual. And so what people have externally as health and illness comes from their mindset, from their thoughts. It is true that what you think today, you will be tomorrow. You must be aware that, if one age has bad, depraved thoughts, the next generation and the next age will have to pay for it physically. It is the truth of the saying: The sins of the fathers will be visited upon so and so many generations.2 Not with impunity did the people of the 19th century begin to think so crudely materially, turning their minds away from all spirituality. What people thought at that time will come true. And we are not so far away from the fact that strange diseases and epidemics will appear among humanity! What we call nervousness will take terrible forms in half a century at the latest. Just as there was once plague and cholera and leprosy in the Middle Ages, so there will be epidemics of the soul life, diseases of the nervous system in epidemic form. These are the real consequences of the fact that people lack a spiritual core in life. Where there is awareness of this core, where this core is at the center of life, a person becomes healthy under healthy influence of a true and wise worldview. But materialism denies the soul, denies the spirit, hollows out man, points him to his periphery, to his surroundings. There is health only when a person’s deepest inner core of being is spiritual and true. The real illness which follows the hollowing out of the inner being is the spiritual epidemic we are facing.
In order to give people a consciousness of their spiritual core, we have a Theosophical Society. Its main purpose is the recovery of humanity, and not merely so that one or the other person knows this or that. Whether you know that there is reincarnation and karma—I mean, whether you just know it— that is not what matters. What matters is that these thoughts become the blood of the soul, the spiritual core of your being. Because they are healthy. Whether we prove them or not, whether we can establish a science that strictly mathematically demonstrates reincarnation and karma, is not important. There is only one proof of the spiritual-scientific teachings, and that is life. The spiritual-scientific teachings will prove to be true if a healthy life is created under their influence. This will be the true proof of the Theosophical teachings. Whoever wants a proof of Theosophy must experience theosophical realities; then it will prove to be true. Every step and every day must gradually bring us proof of the spiritual-scientific teachings.
In all the esoteric schools of Europe, it is taught that all the infectious diseases of modern times have a similar origin. The infectious diseases are traced back to their spiritual origin. This is an esoteric tradition among the Rosicrucians and in other esoteric schools where these things are taught.
There is nothing material that did not originate in the spiritual. And so what people have externally as health and illness comes from their mindset, from their thoughts. It is true that what you think today, you will be tomorrow. You must be aware that, if one age has bad, depraved thoughts, the next generation and the next age will have to pay for it physically.
If you want to understand health and illness, you have to keep in mind that many things work together. The causes of illness need not be just individual karma. There is also folk karma with regard to diseases.
Now what is formed in the etheric body forces its way into the physical body in the next life, so that not only good inclinations, character traits, and efficient habits of life have an effect on a healthy physical body in the next life, but also unproductive traits, bad habits, and corrupt inclinations are expressed in the organism of the next incarnation as a tendency towards sickness. This is not to be understood as if a specific illness is the result of a certain characteristic, but rather as a disposition to illness.