“Renewing the Medical Mysteries”
The Summer Intensive in Trigonos, Snowdonia, North Wales July 2016
An article Published in
THE ANTHROPOSOPHICAL SOCIETY IN GREAT BRITAIN Newsletter September 2016
by SUE PEAT
We came from the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Iran, Israel, Nepal, Pakistan, and Russia. We brought with us a rich heritage of Buddhist, Chinese, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Zorastrian cultures and medical practices – ranging from purely allopathic to profoundly mysterious. Our specialities, interests, working environments and experience of anthroposophy varied greatly; some met as longstanding friends, and some for the first time. Some were finishing their three-year anthroposophic medical training, and some experiencing a ‘taster’ prior to the next.
So what united us? We all felt a deep desire to experience the anthroposophic approach to medicine, and to integrate this into our various medical practises. In short we wish to connect to the original pioneering medical work of Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman, and – whilst not being too presumptuous – work on possible ways to carry this forward. We worked together over five days in the wonderfully supportive environment of Trigonos in North Wales. Each evening we gathered round a log fire, listening to history’s wisdom and harp music, and each morning we gathered to share our ‘echo’ of the previous day’s experiences. Much of our five intensive days together was spent working with two medicinal plants, valerian and yarrow, which grow in the grounds. The first stage seemed easy – whilst suspending all possible previous knowledge we simply looked at them, describing what we saw to each other, and making more and more enthusiastic discoveries. Of course we became adventurous – feeling, smelling and tasting, and could not resist digging a few up to take back with us to study.
Presented with pencil and paper, could we draw what we had seen? Did we ‘know’ the plant well enough to draw it as a whole, or even just a tiny detail? Even more fun: could we draw them with our eyes closed? Next, using ‘clues’ from what the plant had shown to us, could we imagine how it grows through the seasons and draw that? A bit of a jump maybe – but not as much as the next one: what impressions do we get of the ‘gesture’ or ‘personality’ of the plant?! If it met us as a ‘being’, what sort of ‘being’ would reveal itself? Questions perhaps best approached in an artistic way, by drawing coloured pictures. After a few minutes quiet contemplation and some note taking we shared our impressions and artwork. Focusing our experiences to a few words for each plant was surprisingly easy, leading to very different ‘characterisations’ being developed for each.
Fascinating and rather unexpected for plants that at first sight might even be mistaken for each other! Now the next BIG jump – what do we imagine these plants might be used for? With the majority of us still to discover their names, and any ‘knowers’ sworn to secrecy and speaking last, we began making a list of possible medical indications and contraindications together. Then the moment of truth – the plants were named, and the task of researching their traditional, herbal, homeopathic, allopathic and anthroposophic uses was divided between us.
Much internet searching, and a little flicking through of old books followed. And guess what? We as a group had discovered, directly from our own observation and work, the vast majority of the traditional and anthroposophic uses of these plants. What’s even more exciting is that our work together led to agreement on possible new indications that might be helpful to our patients.
Maybe it was not without significance that these plants, chosen simply because they are growing in the grounds at Trigonos and flowering at this time of year, are those used for making the first and last of the biodynamic compost preparations. We certainly had a very nourishing and fruitful time working with them! One of us summed the experience up as follows: “Through the place, process and group it was possible for me to grow a deepening of my investigative abilities and a more profound combining of meeting the being of the plant with studying and interpreting its form and gesture. By reflecting on and interpreting somatic experiences deliberate measurements of the energetic aspects of these plants can be undertaken.”
Our work in smaller groups included experiencing the elements, which were provided in abundance by the ever-changing weather and the lake’s invitation to dip ourselves in it!
Another small group studied a lecture given by Ita Wegman at Michaelmas 1928 at the opening of the second Goetheanum. It was clear that we, coming from many parts of the world, had arrived seeking instruction just as those who came to Ephesus had, and within our carefully structured programme and free dialogue we were learning profound truths together. We experienced a little of how Ita Wegman expressed this in a lecture: “For anthroposophy is not a dead body of teaching, but rather an awakening body of wisdom for anybody who knows that it is mystery- knowledge newly arisen.”
Of course a trip to North Wales is not complete without following in Steiner’s footsteps and visiting the stone circles at Penmaenmawr. As we walked up the hill a faint impression of a rainbow appeared, developing into a complete double bow arching over the stones by the time we reached them. Amazing!
Coming back down to earth, and reflecting on the conference, we were reminded of the many serious challenges we face – particularly in the current political climate. However, anthroposophic medicine is developing and increasingly contributing to science.
The next part-time three-year medical course starts on 2nd December 2016 in the UK, and there is a new clinical foundation course starting in 2017 in the Filderklinik in Germany2. Doctors and medical students from all backgrounds will certainly be very welcome to these lively and forward-looking initiatives!
Do contact Michael Evans for details: T: 01453 750097
Written by Sue Peat on behalf of participants and faculty of the British Postgraduate Training in Anthroposophic Medicine