A deeper understanding of inflammation

Dr. Weeks’ Comment:  Inflammation is the current “whipping boy” for modern medicine. But we need to recall that nothing is all good or all bad; furthermore we need to understand that there is a difference between chronic (dysregulated) and acute (adaptive) inflammation.  Rudolf Steiner and his students (Husemann and Wolff)  offer a deeper understanding and appreciation of inflammation. 


A Deeper Understanding of Chronic Inflammation

“In the picture of inflammation the catabolic aggressive character is the more imposing side so that the following anabolic formation of new tissue is less noticeable especially as this is more dominant in chronic processes. It is an essential characteristic of the higher organisms that any new formation can proceed only on the basis of a proceeding catabolism.”  

Husemann and Wolff  The Anthroposophical Approach to Medicine  vol 1 of 3 ; Chapter “Inflammation and Sclerosis as Basic Tendencies”  page 168 169    Anthroposophic Press  1982



“Special mention should be made of the unique characteristics of chronic inflammation.

In the great majority of cases the striking symptom of fever is absent, or the temperature stays within the sub-febrile limits. Even in local processes, any limited temperature increases inconspicuous. In addition pain is usually absent in chronic inflammation. When it does occur, it has a rather dull, in definite character, touching more on the sense of life, the sensation of living, then the shooting, piercing pain of acute inflammations that forces itself on the consciousness.”


But what is the meaning of the absence or insufficient development of these two striking symptoms, which ordinarily lend such drama to the inflammatory process? According to our expositions above, we can say that both the eagle fever and the astral body pain of us weekly involved in the process; these higher members being withdrawn from the whole process. Therefore, the etheric and physical bodies no longer receive the impulses needed to cause a healing process. Real healing involves restoration of the form or function of an organ or the organism, so that the ego can develop fully in its spirituality on the basis of this physicality. This is the reason why the ego involves itself so strongly in the first epoch of life, in order to transform the organism in such way that it will be in accordance with the ego.


In any case, the etheric and physical bodies do carry out the process of healing and transforming the organism but they lack the “architect” of the ego that is needed to structure and direct the process and the bring healing. When the involvement of the ego is missing in an inflammation, the reactions of the etheric and physical bodies proceed without direction, sense, or  aim.


Since the anabolic processes are the domain of the etheric body, we will not be surprised to find that chronic inflammation has an intensely productive or proliferative character; excessive granulation tissue is formed. As an expression of regeneration and healing, this anabolic growth processes indispensable to the organism. When the leadership of the ego is missing however this reaction overshoot the Mark and we have keloid formation, excessive granulations, etc.

If the tendencies of the physical body take two active apart in the process, the reactions will tend towards hardening and  “physicalization”. Thus, in the course of a chronic inflammation, in organ may be penetrated with scar or connective tissue, as in cirrhosis of the liver.


Now it can be asked why the ego holds back in a chronic inflammation. In many cases after an acute phase, it will be found that the underlying disorder (for example, a foreign body) cannot be overcome despite the efforts of the organism. The ego tires and withdraws, since it is unable to bring about healing and is more “interested” in the whole organism then in the part.


In other cases however there is a primary a lack of affinity of the ego to the metabolic system; it does not engage in the metabolic system so deeply in the first place and no acute febrile inflammation can arise. In this way, the organism ultimately comes under the sway of the processes at the opposite pole from inflammation: sclerosis deposition and induration. This is the case not only in primary chronic rheumatoid arthritis, for example, but also in carcinoma formation, in which there is little tendency to febrile reactions.


So we can also understand Rudolf Steiner’s indication that in chronic processes, the ego is not sufficiently “interested”. The approach we have described also makes clear why chronic diseases can often be healed only after the process has been activated or the entire metabolism has been transformed by an inter-current febrile disease. It is the art of the physician to reawaken the interest of the organism or ego in the chronic process (for example, phosphorus or heat therapy etc). and restore the disturbed balance between inflammatory and sclerotic tendencies in the organism.


The inflammatory process as a capacity accompanies man through his entire life; its appearance however is more frequent and pronouncing youth. After the middle of life, it decreases in importance though it remains to some degree until death.  


Husemann and Wolff  The Anthroposophical Approach to Medicine  vol 1 of 3 ; Chapter “Inflammation and Sclerosis as Basic Tendencies”  page 171-173   Anthroposophic Press  1982




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