Illness and recovery

If there is an imbalance in the threefold organism this can trigger disease processes. Mental tension, paralyzing depression and insufficient physical exercise can lead to the frequent diseases associated with the western lifestyle (such as diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome) and be associated with ones-sided degenerative processes (such as sclerosis, e.g., arteriosclerosis). This is usually the neurosensory system predominating.

If the opposite functions of the motor-metabolic system dominate, then inflammatory, warming processes can develop. Every physical movement is accompanied by warming and other phenomena that are closely related to inflammation. Finally, inflammation itself is an intensive metabolic process which immunologically recognizes and “digests” what is “foreign” in the organism (e.g., tissue necrosis, foreign bodies, antigenic structures).  

Inflammation and sclerosis are polar opposite diseases within the context of this background of functional threefolding. They also manifest at opposite ends of human biography: childhood is mainly associated with inflammatory diseases, while old age is associated with sclerosis and degenerative diseases.

Conversely, this functional threefold structure of the human organism results in fundamental possibilities for therapy. For example, patients with acute fever need rest, but patients with sclerotic diseases require an activation of their motor-metabolic system, which can already be promoted by an active lifestyle and various forms of heat application. From these connections it becomes clear why anthroposophic physicians inquire about previous febrile diseases and discover therapeutically important connections and patterns in the successive diseases of their patients. The human organism is defined by these polar opposite effects. Health, and thus the possibility of developing one’s individuality, depend on their proper interaction.

Returning and shaping one’s destiny

Human development is inseparably linked to repeated earth lives. Just as people awaken in the morning, take up the threads of the previous day and realize new impulses, so does the human spirit, having crossed the threshold of death, “awaken” to life on earth once again when it is reborn. In doing so, the individuality matures and finds its destiny in its interaction with other human beings. Consequently, the Central European view of repeated earth lives, as formulated by Lessing, for example (1), is not based on the idea of salvation, but on the idea of development.

The challenge for health practitioners is to approach this thought in a cognitive way in order to transform it from a hypothetical into a “possibility”. Deeply rooted life convictions can arise from continuing to work with this idea, which we initially treated just as a possibility. We can be astonished at how many patients report experiences that not only touch on life after death and life before birth, but also describe experiences that are decidedly illumined by the idea of repeated earth lives. This can already be the case with children and with young people. Serious diseases, especially at this age, thus appear in a larger context and with a different perspective, especially with regard to the future of those affected. Everyone knows how much the experience of suffering and misfortune can also contribute to the development of new abilities, compassion and a new attitude towards life. The idea of repeated lives on earth (reincarnation) thus opens up a necessary ethical-spiritual dimension in contrast to the genetic viewpoint, with its assumed randomness of genomic mutations happening over the course of purely survival-related evolution. The idea of repeated earth lives enables us to find meaning, which also includes new meaning that can be found in illness and disability.

Young children often still have memories of living before birth and sometimes mention their desire to be born into their chosen family. Children speak about their life before birth even in regions that do not have a cultural or religious conviction of this pre-existence (2).

At the age of 23, in an epitaph, Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) formulated the idea of repeated lives on earth in the following way: “The Body of B. Franklin, Printer; Like the Cover of an old Book, Its Contents torn out, And stript of its Lettering and Gilding, Lies here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be wholly lost: For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more, In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and Amended By the Author” (3)

19-year-old Christian Morgenstern described it poetically:

How many times have I walked
on this globe of sorrow,
how many times have I transformed
the fabric, the shape of the garment of life?

How many times have I gone before
through this world, from this world,
to start again over and over,
swelling with fresh hope?

The waves rise and fall –
and we too live without rest;
impossible that they should rise up
without sinking back down – to the ground. (4)

1 Lessing GE. Die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts. Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam jun.; 1980.

2 Emmons NA, Kelemen DA. I’ve got a feeling: Urban and rural indigenous children’s beliefs about early life mentality. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 2015;138:106–125. [Crossref]

3 Franklin B. Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/franklin/bf-trans61.html.

4 Translated from: Morgenstern C. Werke und Briefe. Band I – Lyrik 1887–1905. Stuttgart: Verlag Urachhaus; 1988.