Anthroposophy, derived from the Greek words: anthropos=man, sophia=wisdom represents a way of dealing with science, and life issues in general, in a most-comprehensive holistic way. Anthroposophy is rooted in the Western (scientific) tradition; it has a Western perspective. It incorporates all fields of modern science into a spiritual and comprehensible approach. Therefore, Anthroposophy is synonymous with “Spiritual Science”(Geisteswissenschaft).
The Anthroposophical Society, as it exists today, was founded by Rudolf Steiner in 1923, and has its headquarters in the Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland. The Goetheanum is the seat of the administration of the Anthroposophical Society, and the School for Spiritual Science (Freie Hochschule für Geisteswissenschaft). The School for Spiritual Science is divided into several “sections” to serve various fields of research and training. The Medical Section supports and coordinates all activities in the (para-) medical field. Regular national and international conferences are held in the Goetheanum by the specific sections.
Rudolf Steiner, PhD. (1861 – 1925)
Ita Wegman, MD, (1876 – 1943)
The Founder of Anthroposophy was Rudolf Steiner, PhD, an Austrian natural scientist and philosopher, who was born on February 27, 1861, at Kraljevec in what is now part of Croatia. He entered the University of Vienna at age 18 and studied natural history, mathematics and chemistry. He read extensively in philosophy and attended philosophy lectures by Karl Julius Schröer, a leading philosopher and scientist of that time. Due to Professor Schröer, at age 22, Rudolf Steiner began to edit Goethe’s Natural Scientific Writings. At age 25, he wrote his Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception. From 1890 to 1897, Rudolf Steiner lived in Weimar, Germany, where Goethe had lived most of his life and where most of Goethe’s writings are kept in archives. In 1891, Rudolf Steiner received his PhD at the University of Rostock. His thesis was: Die Grundfrage der Erkenntnistheorie (The Fundamentals of a Theory of Cognition). Rudolf Steiner became a leading scientist in the field of Erkenntnistheorie (Theory of Cognition, or Theory of Knowledge). In 1894, Rudolf Steiner wrote his first “anthroposophical” book, “Philosophie der Freiheit”, or, as it is currently translated “Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path”.
Also in 1894, a series of personal meetings with Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) took place in Weimar, where Nietzsche also lived, and at his home in Berlin. Rudolf Steiner died in his small studio in Dornach, Switzerland, in 1925. (“The Essential Steiner” by Robert A. McDermott., 1984. Harper San Francisco. ISBN 0-06-065345-0, gives a wonderful and thorough overview of the person and work of Rudolf Steiner).
Rudolf Steiner was not a physician. He therefore founded Anthroposophical Medicine and the Medical Section at the Goetheanum in association with the Dutch physician Ita Wegman, MD, (1876 to 1943). Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman co-wrote the basic book on Anthroposophical Medicine, “Fundamentals of Therapy”(Mercury Press, Spring Valley, New York, 1999, ISBN 0-929979-75-3).
Anthroposophical medicine has achieved a growing reputation for its methods of treatment and offers a new approach to meeting the demands of a rapidly changing world. Anthroposophical medicine is firmly based on the knowledge and experience of conventional (Western) medicine and fully recognizes the values of conventional medicine. Anthroposophical medicine therefore cannot strictly be seen as a form of alternative medicine and should rather be viewed as an “extended” or “integrative” medicine.
Anthroposophical medicine treats both acute and chronic diseases, taking into account both the physical and the non-physical (spiritual) elements of the patient. Working with such elements to extend the range of conventional practice does not make Anthroposophical medicine vague or imprecise. All Anthroposophical doctors and other health care providers must first qualify in their conventional training before they can effectively study, and then practice Anthroposophical medicine. Also, in preventive medicine Anthroposophical medicine has lots to offer. What is now called “Life Style Changes” play an important role in Anthroposophical medicine.
Western academic medicine, as we know it, is derived from natural science, the study of material phenomena, where things can be weighed, measured or counted (ponderable values, the world quantities). In the last 500 years, natural science has hugely expanded our understanding of the world around us. Although many of the early scientists were persecuted for their systematic thinking and discoveries, they were inspired by this new method of inquiry, as they no longer had to rely on traditional religious and philosophical teachings, dogmas and traditions. For us today, this spirit of independent inquiry is as important a legacy as the brilliant achievements of natural science in technology and medicine.
The modern, scientific view of the world has gradually been evolved by building one set of discoveries upon another. The pioneers made their greatest contributions in the field of astronomy and physics, producing formulae to describe the apparent movements of the planets in relation to the sun.
Anthroposophical medicine seeks to understand the physical and the non-physical (ponderable and the imponderable), and apply the results of its research to health and healing.
Health, or well-being, might be an example of something imponderable. There are many definitions of “health”, all of which are an effort to objectify, to describe what is so complex, that it is difficult to capture it in words alone. Two North-American national organizations – the American Holistic Health Association (AHHA), with its headquarters in Anaheim, California, and the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA), located in Raleigh, North Carolina – have each referred to the traditional philosophical dualism of “part/whole”, directly addressed in the field of holistic health in the following way:
According to the American Holistic Health Association:
“Rather than focusing on illness or specific parts of the body, holistic health considers the whole person and how it interacts with its environment. It emphasizes the connection of body, mind, and spirit. Holistic Health is based on the law of nature that awhole is made up of interdependent parts. The earth is made up of systems, such as air, land, water, plants, and animals. If life is to be sustained, they cannot be separated, for what is happening to one is also felt by all of the other systems. In the same way, an individual is a whole composed of interdependent parts, which are the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. When one part is not working at its best, it will impact on all other parts of that person. Further, this whole person, including all other parts, is consistently interacting with everything in the surrounding environment.”
According to the American Holistic Medical Association:
“Wellness is defined as a state of well-being, in which an individual’s body, mind, emotions, and spirit are in harmony with, and guided by, an awareness of society, nature, and the universe…. [It] encompasses all safe modalities of diagnosis and treatment, including the use of medications and surgery, emphasizing the necessity of looking at the whole person.”
Since the establishment of the first Anthroposophical clinic in Arlesheim, Switzerland, in 1923 several large community and university hospitals have been established throughout Europe and other continents. Some of which are:
Husemann Clinic – an Anthroposophical mental hospital
Filder Klinik in Stuttgart, Germany – General hospital and community clinic
University teaching hospital Herdecke, Germany – general and community hospital
Teaching hospital Öschelbronn near Stuttgart: general and community hospital
Medical Center Cologne, Cologne, Germany: general clinic with emphasis on oncology. University teaching clinic.
General and community hopital in Jaerna, near Stockholm Sweden
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