Good evening everyone; how I wish Anne and I were in India, enjoying your warm weather, the beautiful environment of Camphill Bangalore and the company of you and all the community friends; but that is not possible, so we will have to do our best with technology. I must acknowledge at the outset the support I have received from Anne: she drew the diagrams from the rough drafts I had sketched, and she has steered me though the challenge of these zoom meetings and the technique of incorporating the diagrams in this Zoom session, so, thank you dear Anne!
To be quite honest, working in this manner takes me outside my comfort zone, and for that reason I will have to read this lecture from my written notes, which is not my preferred mode of lecturing.
Our theme this evening is Polarities and I will begin by describing what we mean by a polarity:
How can one define a polarity? Polarities are structures and/or processes that have opposite functions which at their extremes can become pathological. A simple example of a polarity would be constipation and diarrhoea; two important additional characteristics of polarities should be noted in that simple example: firstly, between those two extremes of constipation and diarrhoea digestion is normal and healthy, and secondly it is normal for babies to have diarrhoea and old people to suffer from constipation. So, polarities are not fixed or stable, but are dynamic and change with outer circumstances, such as age and level of activity: rest or exercise, wake or sleep.
A third characteristic of polarities is illustrated in the polarity of the head and the metabolic limb system: the head is the carrier of our brain, the centre of our nerve sense system, and thinking, which the bony skull contains. The abdominal organs of metabolism and the limbs sustain our life, movements and actions. However, there are also blood vessels and sufficient metabolism in the skull to maintain the life of the head and nerve sense system. Equally there are nerves in the limbs and abdomen. So in fact, both functions are present in both poles, but one is dominant, the other purely supportive.
It is somewhat complex, as polarities can be either fully expressed in all three of those characteristics, or partially expressed to differing degrees. Finally, polarities are an aspect of higher living organisms of the animal kingdom and in humans, and they are also partially expressed in the plant kingdom in their roots and the flowers or fruits. (describe)
Why is it important to know of and understand the concept of polarities?
It is important, because this is one of R.S.’s most significant contributions to science, particularly in the fields of human development, pedagogy, curative education and medicine.
Compared with the reductionist, analytical approach of Natural Science, R.S introduced and extended that model with the concept of polarity, an holistic approach, arising from an understanding of life as a developmental phenomenon.
I would now like to follow Steiner’s lead and explore Polarity in the context of human development over the lifespan; starting with the phase before conception, and extending into old age, which will incorporate the important polarity of inflammation and sclerosis
1. Let us start by exploring preconception in relation to femaleness and maleness; if we consider to begin with the female ovary: It is located internally, held within the warm, dark depths of the woman’s abdomen, from which a single non-motile ovum is normally shed rhythmically every month into the corresponding fallopian tube of the mother’s reproductive tract. The ovum, is the largest cell in the human body; it is spherical and translucent and suspended in the abdominal cavity like the full moon to whose monthly menstrual cycle it is tethered.
Note that a sphere is the most simple archetypal form that can possibly exist, and from it every possible form can then develop. Within the ovum is the spherical nucleus, containing a copy of all of the mother’s genetic substance. Because it is not independently mobile, once the ovum is shed into the abdominal cavity, it is carried passively down the fallopian tube through the beating movement of the countless tiny hair-like cilia, that line the inner surface of the fallopian tubes; eventually once the ovum has been fertilised and carried the length of the fallopian tube it passes into the uterus (womb).
1. The male testes, in contrast, are external to the man’s body, and are held within the relative coolness of the scrotum. They produce a continuous stream of countless spermatozoa from puberty until old age; most of these spermatozoa die and are reabsorbed within the testes if they are not ejaculated or expelled. Unlike the spherical ovum each sperm has a distinct bipolar structure, consisting of a rounded head, which contains a copy of all the genetic material of the father, and a long lashing tail, which propels the sperm from the vagina where it is deposited at intercourse, through the cervix and into the womb. Through some mysterious manner the spermatozoa then continue to stream up into the actual fallopian tube down which the ovum is being transported, where a single sperm then penetrates and fuses with the ovum. Repeat/expand as a picture The fertilised ovum is then carried down the rest of the fallopian tube by the beating hair-like cilia, and into the uterus (womb) where it embeds itself into the lining of the womb and begins embryonic development.
Thus, In summary, the female ovary is located deep within the warmth and darkness of the abdominal cavity, whilst the male testes are suspended in the cool scrotum, external to the body; a single round non-motile ovum, the largest cell in the human body is shed rhythmically every month in the woman, whereas in the male, countless tiny bipolar sperm, each with a body and long tail, and highly motile are continuously produced from puberty until old age
Note that these gender differences in men and women are only partial expressions of polarity, but in their totality they point strongly to its presence.
Having described the feminine and masculine qualities around conception, we will now move on to human development over the life course. We need to reflect first on the phenomena of infancy and childhood, where fluid, warmth, softness and roundness are in the foreground, (a new-born infant is apparently around 85% fluid by weight). During these times, bouts of childhood infections and fevers are common; thus, this phase of life can be characterised as inflammation, which we can contrast with the sclerosis of old age, which is the term used to describe the hardening that occurs within the body as people age, people also become progressively slower and more stiff in their physical bodies, and there is a loss of fluid in the tissues; Thus, the proportion of fluid in a healthy elderly person is less than 60%, compared to over 85% in a new-born baby. Infections and fevers are also less frequent and at times, an increasing rigidity in the life of soul, can also occur in dementia, which is itself associated with hardened sclerotic plaques, scattered throughout the brain tissue
Inflammation and Sclerosis is thus the fundamental polarity in the life course of human development, determining much of our health and illness; They are not of themselves pathological, but can become so. They are also the basis of the three-fold constitution of the human being described by R.S. in Lecture 5 of the Curative Course and elsewhere, where the metabolic -limb system, centred in the abdomen and limbs with all the digestive processes is seen as the inflammatory pole and the nerve sense system centred in the head is seen as the sclerotic pole, where the nerve cells are constantly dying: together, they represent a true polarity. Between them, the rhythmic system provides the health-bringing balance between the two extremes which is a further characteristic of the polarity. This three-fold image of the human being is another of the great gifts which R.S. has contributed to furthering our understanding of the human being.
In (Fig1). I have illustrated most of this diagrammatically; the red refers to the inflammatory element (the blood and muscles and organs), and the blue refers to the bony sclerotic element. The solid lines indicate the dominant element in the polarity, while the broken line indicates the lesser, polar, element. In the spectrum between childhood and old age, I have illustrated the changing balance of mainly inflammation in childhood to the reverse arrangement in old age, where sclerosis is dominant. Note also how in the head pole, the hard sclerotic bone of the skull is on the outside of the head as described in Lecture 5 by R.S., protecting the soft, fragile, and vulnerable brain, whereas in the limbs, the bones are at the centre of the arms and legs, supporting the muscles, which makes movement possible, and in the trunk, the spine is in an intermediate position along the surface of the back (indicate) .
What I also could not illustrate in the diagram is the situation in the rhythmic system between them where in the bony rib- cage, the bones are interspersed with muscles: thus the rib-cage is also an intermediate stage between the two poles of the head and metabolic-limb systems.
The diagram also does not indicate that the nerve-sense pole is the seat of our thinking. Please note, that this does NOT mean that our thinking is produced in the head or brain, as we know from our study of Lecture 2 where Steiner clearly states, that our brain is what Steiner calls the mirror in which our cosmic thoughts are reflected as dead thoughts, that we depend on in our everyday life. The rhythmic system, then is the seat of our feeling life, and the metabolic-limb system is the seat of our will and actions; these different soul elements of course contribute a further aspect to the polarity. I hope all that is clear; if not we can look at the diagram again at the end, with any questions you wish to bring.
Polarities also feature very strongly in Curative education: in fact, many of the conditions described by R.S. in the Curative Course are themselves polarities. Karl Konig illustrated this diagrammatically in what is sometimes referred to as the diagnostic clock (Fig2). The diagram names 4 polarities, and each line represents one polarity: thus the line labelled 1-2 represents
1. The child with the large-headed and the child with the small headed constitution.
The line labelled 3-4 represents the child with the “hysteric” or oversensitive constitution, and the child with epilepsy and/or an insensitive constitution.
2. The line labelled 5-6 represents the child with the so called Iron, and the child with the so called Sulphur constitution.
3. And finally, the line labelled 7-8 represents the child with the dull and slow constitution, and the child with the so called manic or hyperactive constitution.
In this adapted figure, I have also indicated in which lectures in the Curative Course, R.S speaks of these polarities, so please note that his description of the polarity of the large and small headed child was described in the Pedagogical lecture course for the teachers, not in the Curative Course. However, it is an important polarity to keep in mind for curative educators too! Each of these polarities is in fact of fundamental importance in understanding and working with children with intellectual disabilities in curative education. In fact it is even useful for those Social Therapists supporting adults to be aware of the phenomena of polarities as an aid to understanding differing ways of being. Unfortunately, it is not possible to describe any of these polarities today, as each would require a lecture in itself to be comprehensively described.
The diagram also indicates two other important features: firstly, where each line between two polar conditions passes through and crosses the blue coloured center,(point) the child would be “normally” incarnated, not manifesting symptoms of either polar extreme.
And secondly, the two darker un-numbered lines represent genetic conditions many of which occur very infrequently, but in which the genetic difference determines some of the features of those conditions: whereas all the other polarities are solely due to the differences in their four fold constitutional incarnation.
There is a further interesting element to mention in the lectures of the Curative Course: Surprisingly perhaps, many of the lectures themselves have a degree of polarity in how they are structured, As we have discussed Lecture 2 in some detail over the past two days, I will only briefly touch on this now:
Thus, having first dealt with the negative influence of Wulfenn’s contribution ( in par’s 2-9), in the following 8 paragraphs of Lecture 2, up to paragraph 17 (Fig 3). Steiner mainly speaks about questions relating to the normal development of thinking and how the balance of hereditary and individual factors affect healthy child development.
Then, in paragraphs 18-21, which represent a turning point in the lecture, he turns to the question of diagnosis.
In the second part of the lecture, in Par’s 22-27 R. S. then speaks about healing, starting with the importance of the Curative teacher having complete confidence in his. (R.S’s.) diagnostic indications. In par’s 22-27 he continues by mainly speaking about the pedagogical law, where the higher four fold member of the teacher must support the weakened lower member of the child: thus, for example, the teacher’s healthy etheric body must be active working within the frail physical body of a child. These aspects of the lecture will be dealt with in much more depth by Sabine on Thursday and Friday, so I will not stray into her territory today. However, from that brief description and the diagram (3) the polarity should be obvious, even though the polarity of this lecture is less obvious than in some of the other lectures in this Course.
R.S. then goes on to speak about the role that karmic factors can play, and how spiritual insights are magic: what he calls “white” magic when applied responsibly; black magic when applied irresponsibly, and how such intervention in Karma requires courage, as it is intervening in the work of Gods! Finally, he goes on to say that: “Knowledge derived from Spiritual Science is significant and should be received as a daily meditation”.
So, with that comment of Rudolf Steiner, I would finally like to refer to the curative educational meditation which R.S. gave in Lecture 10 for active Curative Educators to use as their morning and evening meditations
Thus, in the evening, before going to sleep, one meditates: IN ME IS GOD (yellow point in blue circle), and in the morning when one has woken up, one meditates: I AM IN GOD (blue point in yellow circle) This meditation illustrates in the clearest possible manner, the working of polarities, and in the text of Lecture 10 in par’s 26-31, Rudolf Steiner gives detailed information about how that meditation is to be understood and worked with, which I will attempt the challenging task of briefly summarising now: Steiner describes that to work fruitfully with this meditation, one has to bring the meditation to life, and try to experience how the point of the head becomes the circle in the metabolic system; how one must also become clear that the two figures are actually one, and that they are not different, but only appear to be different from the outside as they are diagrams of the head and of the body. Steiner remarks that it is not sufficient merely to think this, it must become an inner, feeling of reality.
He adds, that meditation is not comfortable and easy, but that one has to plunge into reality, which requires attention to detail and humility, avoiding every trace of vanity. Personally, I would add that one must be prepared to work conscientiously and regularly for a long period of time if one really wishes to work with this meditation; it is not a meditation for the “fainthearted”!
However, I would suggest that if you plan to work in this field, you take time to really familiarise yourself with this truly remarkable meditation by studying the text of Chapter 10 in the Curative Course and then consider including it in your daily practice.
We still have time for questions if you have any.
The plan is that I will return to the subject of Anam Cara later in the week.
Thank you and take care.