Three Main Types of Therapies

There are three types of irregularities originating in the improper activities of three supersensible bodies – ego, astral body, and etheric body – which are manifesting on the level of the physical body as hereditary chronic diseases, acute diseases, and acute chronic diseases. Because of different causes the healing of each kind of disease has to be approached by a different type of treatment – that is, by psychological therapy, by dietary treatment, and by plant or mineral remedy.

Nowadays a great number of therapies are available which are aimed at helping people who are confronting a multitude of modern illnesses. Besides modern methods there exists various traditional methods and alternative approaches to healing. The question which is obviously in the mind of the person who becomes ill is: What is the most efficient therapy for my disease? Here is presented a spiritual-scientific division of illnesses into three main groups [1] – based on the knowledge of the FOURFOLD HUMAN BEING – which serves as general guidance for the choice of the most appropriate therapies. However, one needs to be aware that "things are not so clear cut in the world, even though you can draw clear lines when you want to make observations." [2]In life we can always find intermediate states and unusual combinations of specific influences and for that reason one cannot keep to any form of one-sidedness in the search of the origins of illnesses and also in the search for the most appropriate therapies.

Psychological Therapies for Irregularities of the Ego

We will start with the group of illnesses which are expression of an irregularity in the working of the ego. The first group of "illnesses that are chronic originate from the physical point of view in the blood and from the spiritual point of view in the ego. Those are chiefly the illnesses that are in the proper sense hereditary, and these are the illnesses that can only be understood by those people who look at the being of man from a spiritual point of view. Here and there are people who are chronically ill, who are, in other words, never really fit; they always have one or another thing the matter with them. To get to the bottom of this, we must ask ourselves what the actual basic character of the ego is like. If you understand what life really is, then you will know that definite forms of chronic illnesses are connected with one or another basic soul character of the ego.

The first thing you have to ask yourself when somebody comes and says he has been suffering from this or that for years, is what kind of person is he fundamentally? You have to know what basic character type his ego is, otherwise you are bound to go wrong with ordinary medicine, unless you are lucky. The important thing in curing people of these illnesses is to consider their whole surroundings – in so far as they can have a direct or indirect influence on the ego – and to try to find the setting that will have just the right effect on the character of the ego. To find the right cure, you need, in particular, a wide experience of life, so that you can enter into the person's character and can say: For this person to recover, he must change his job. It is a matter of pinpointing what is necessary from the point of view of his soul nature.

If it is necessary to send a person to another place, you will not be able to help him as a rule if he is tied to a job and cannot move. Instead the psychological method is indeed always effective. What is called the psychological method works best of all when the illness is actually in a person's ego being. Thus when a chronic illness of this type occurs, one that is in the blood, psychological remedies are justified. And if they are carried out in the right way, their effect on the ego will entirely compensate for what impinges on him from outside. Wherever you look you will be able to see the subtle connection between what a man experiences in his soul when he is habitually working behind a work bench and when he gets the chance to enjoy country air for a short while. The joy that lends wings to his soul can be called a psychological method in the widest sense. Then, if the therapist is carrying out his method properly, he can gradually exercise his own influence in place of this. Psychological methods have their strongest justification for this form of illness and should not be overlooked, because most of the illnesses come from an irregularity of the ego being of man. These are the things that apply to the kind of illnesses that appear externally as chronic illnesses, and that are connected physically with the blood and spiritually with the ego." [3]

In the group of psychological therapies that are the most suitable for hereditary chronic diseases we can count all those 'therapies' which empower the individuals to take more responsibility for their own life and health. Among them are:

Nutritional Therapy for Irregularities of the Astral Body

"Now we come to those illnesses that have their spiritual origin mainly in irregularities of the astral body and that appear in certain disabilities of the nervous system in one or another direction. Now a large part of the common acute illnesses are connected with what we have just mentioned, in fact most of them. For it is sheer superstition to believe that when someone has a stomach or heart complaint or even a clearly perceptible irregularity somewhere, the right treatment is to deal directly with the symptom. The essential thing could be that the symptom is there because the nervous system is incapable of functioning. Thus the heart can be affected simply because the nervous system has become incapable of functioning in the area where it ought to support the movement of the heart. It is quite unnecessary to maltreat the heart or, as the case may be, the stomach, for they may, in principle, have nothing directly the matter with them, for it is only the nerves that provide for them which are incapable of carrying out their job. If in a case like this the stomach complaint is treated with hydrochloric acid, it would be a mistake comparable to tinkering with an engine that is always running late because you think something is the matter with it – yet it still runs late. For you would find, on closer examination, that the engine-driver always gets drunk before driving; so you would do better to deal with the engine-driver, for the train would be punctual otherwise. So it could well be that with stomach complaints we have to treat the nerves that provide for the stomach instead of the stomach itself.

But it is not just a matter of saying that with stomach symptoms you have to deal with the nerves first. This achieves nothing. You only achieve something when you know that the nerve is the expression of the astral body and seek for the causes in the irregularities to be found there. The question is, what is the main thing? The first thing to consider in the treatment of this sort of complaint is diet and finding the right balance between what a person enjoys and what is good for him. What matters is his way of life, not with regard to externalities but regarding what has to be digested and worked through by him. Although purely psychological methods can be used, they certainly lose their greatest value, therefore they are seldom used for these. Dietary remedies apply here." [5] Modern expression for such an approach is 'nutritional therapy' or 'nutritional healing' and those who give such kind of professional advice are called nutritional therapists.

In regard to acute illnesses we need to clarify that while from a spiritual-scientific perspective they are a manifestation of the irregularities of the astral body, the mainstream medicine describes them as diseases with a sudden onset, often requiring urgent treatment. Both descriptions indicate an upset balance in the internal environment of the human organism where cause and effect are very close together, timewise (if we compare with chronic diseases), and often accompanied by quite dramatic symptoms, similarly as is the case of an injury or poisoning.

Medicines for Irregularities of the Etheric Body

Lastly we have the group of "illnesses, partly chronic and partly acute, which are connected with the human etheric body, and which therefore come to expression in man's glands. As a rule these illnesses have nothing to do with heredity, but a great deal to do with nationality and race. So that in the case of the illnesses originating in the etheric body and appearing as glandular complaints, we must always ask whether the illness is occurring in a Russian, an Italian, a Norwegian or a Frenchman. For these illnesses are connected with the national character and therefore take quite different forms. Above all we must know that the human organs that work under the influence of the etheric body, and which can fall sick as a result of irregularities of the etheric body, have quite definite relationships with one another. In occult medicine these things are also described by applying the images of the planets to the constellation of man's organs. Thus the heart is the Sun, the brain the Moon, the spleen Saturn, the liver Jupiter, the gall Mars, the kidneys Venus and the lungs Mercury. If you study the mutual relationships of the planets you have an image of the mutual relationships of man's organs in so far as they are in the etheric body. You have to know the interconnections of the organs when there is an etheric illness, and yet these are principally those illnesses for which specific remedies are to be used. This is the place to use the remedies you find in the plants and minerals. For everything belonging to the plants and minerals has a profound importance for everything to do with the human etheric body. So when we know an illness has arisen in the etheric body, and it appears in a certain way in the glandular system, we must find the remedy that can correctly repair the complex of interconnections among the human organs.

These types of illnesses are actually the first in which we are justified in using external medicines to assist the course of recovery. If we see man as the complicated being he is, the treatment of illnesses will also be a broad-minded one, and one-sidedness (and controversies) will be avoided" [6] in the field of medicine. Thus we can see that plant and mineral remedies are not suitable remedies for all kinds of illnesses, for there are two other groups of illnesses where the most efficient therapies are psychological methods and nutritional therapies. Of course, there can be situations where it is reasonable to combine all three types of therapies. However, we can also understand that the heavy dependence of mainstream medicine to mineral remedies which are used for all kinds of illnesses must have serious drawbacks. This does not include only those negative side effects which are recognised by medical profession itself but also hidden supersensible effects on our four bodies – on the physical body, on the etheric body, on the astral body and on the ego organisation.


  1. In the lecture which is the main source of this grouping there are actually presented five types of illnesses, but for the other two types no specific therapies are given. Nevertheless, the range of therapies presented here covers the broad spectrum of holistic therapies on offer nowadays.
  2. Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, 10.11.1908;
  3. As above
  4. The use of artistic therapies is one of the main characteristics of anthroposophical medicine. Among them are painting, sculpture, music, and speech therapy and curative eurythmy.
  5. See note 2
  6. See note 2

Three Main Types of Therapies
By Brane Žilavec