Introduction to Understanding the Human Being in Anthroposophic Medicine

Every medical system is based on a concept of the human being, and the contemporary conventional approach to medicine has adopted a bio-psycho-social view. Anthroposophic Medicine aims to understand the human being as a physical, ensouled and spiritual being, and accordingly, to base diagnosis and therapy on a comprehensive understanding. As a result, Anthroposophic Medicine does not just recognize the existence of the physical body, it also acknowledges the reality of life, soul and spirit in the human being.

Initially, the levels beyond the physical are not directly accessible to sensory experience, but are literally “supersensible”. They each require an independent methodology to be understood. A causal-analytical approach appears to be a form of cognition that is primarily useful for understanding the somatic dimension of existence. It already fails to do justice to the realm of the living. Simple cause-effect relations cannot describe an organism. A similar limitation in understanding applies to the nature of soul and spirit, which cannot be viewed in terms of size, number and weight in the manner appropriate to the physical. Consequently, an anthroposophic understanding of the human being requires a different type of cognitive activity for each realm of being.

One’s view of the organism as a whole, but also of each single organ, will only then be complete when these four levels are reflected in it. The same applies to the anthroposophic understanding of disease and therapy. The activities of each of these four levels of human existence become the basis for therapeutic action and illuminate the relationship between the human being and the different realms of nature.

Chart: The levels of human existence as they relate to the realms of nature

Girke M. Menschenbild und Krankheitsverständnis in der Anthroposophischen Medizin. Einführung. Verfügbar unter https://www.anthromedics.org/BAS-0231-DE (04.06.2015).

Girke M, Matthiessen PF. Medizin und Menschenbild. Hohenwarsleben: VAS – Verlag für akademische Schriften; 2015.