Ecological medicine

Ecological medicine

25 August 2020 | Matthias Girke

Medicine has become alienated from nature: while earlier medical approaches found their remedies in nature, today’s are mostly technologically ‘constructed’, ‘optimized’ and ‘designed’. While these drugs are often a blessing, they are also an increasing burden on nature.

Anti-inflammatories, analgesics, antibiotics, psychotropic drugs, hormone preparations – they are all found in the groundwater. Even anaesthetics have an impact on the climate: one hour of general anaesthesia can result in emissions comparable to driving 250 to 450 miles in a modern car (Deutsches Ärzteblatt 117/25). A new ecological thinking in medicine is crucial: the medicine of the future needs to unite the healing of human beings with the healing of the earth.

Why do we get ill?

Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman posed this question in their book Extending Practical Medicine (GA 27). The cause for somatic diseases lies in the fact that we are beings of spirit and soul. Our being conscious means that forces are withdrawn from our organization that are needed for regeneration and recuperation. We know that mental stress, trauma and illness often go together. The downside of the development of human consciousness is the possibility of illness.

In nature, these life forces have not been awakened to consciousness; instead they work in immensely wise ways in nature’s generative and formative processes. This is why natural substances – once they have been pharmaceutically processed and made effective – can be used in therapy in order to counteract the weakening of the human organization. We need to live in solidarity with nature: not only do we owe our food to nature but also the forces that heal us.

The nature of healing

Healing promotes human development. The central healing principle relies on human freedom: we can ‘relieve’ patients of disease processes with the help of therapies. According to Rudolf Steiner, the health-giving forces become effective ‘as in a reflex’. Healing is therefore always human activity and a developmental step. The extent to which this step is successful or can be taken up is determined, among other things, by destiny, by the “wisdom of the higher self” (Christian Morgenstern). In medicine, the will to heal and karmic will come together.

A new ecological medicine needs to look to the macrocosm and to the realms of nature, because there the healing forces originate that place themselves in the service of human development. The spiritual development that can result from esoteric training or from going through an illness can enhance these healing forces. The word ‘meditation’ derives from the Latin ‘mederi’: to heal. Meditation enhances the healing process in the fourfold human organism. Rudolf Steiner recommended patient meditations from early on.

But this new medicine also contributes to the healing of nature. The way we think about nature becomes its destiny. A utilitarian approach that understands nature as a complex mechanism carries destructive forces into nature’s life processes, while living thinking and moral ideals can enhance nature’s evolving forces and future potential. Our spiritual and moral development depends on the healing of both the body and the earth.

Matthias Girke MD, born 1954 in Berlin (DE), specializes in internal medicine, diabetology and palliative medicine. He has been head of the Medical Section at the Goetheanum since 2016 and a member of the Executive Council of the General Anthroposophical Society since 2017.