anthroposophical medicine and the breathed-in upwards syndrome (and a few words about rubella)

Mats Reimer wrote yesterday about a case study of a young woman with severe anxiety disorder who was treated with homeopathy and eurythmy. The study was a co-operation between anthroposophical therapists and researchers in Sweden and Germany and the woman was treated at the state-funded anthroposophical clinic in Järna, Vidarkliniken. The report about the study, which is in English, is fascinating to read, and details both the diagnosis of the woman as well as the treatments she received, that is, what homeopathic remedies she was prescribed and which eurythmy movements. It can be downloaded here. Nothing is extremely surprising, to be frank; for anthroposophical medicine, this is nothing out of the ordinary, and it ought not come as a surprise that an anthroposophical clinic works with anthroposophical diagnoses and offers anthroposophical treatments. There’s an interesting separate section of the text, called ‘Anthroposophic concept of the human organism and pathogenesis’. It’s important, and quite informative for anyone who’d like to understand how anthroposophical medicine differs from ordinary medicine, apart from the different treatments and methods. I mean by this how it differs in its ‘philosophical essence’, so to speak, in how it views the human being and illness and health. Worth reading — it begins on p 63. The above picture is a screenshot of one part — the oddest — of this section of the text.

Apparently, the patient is ok these days, but after being treated at Vidarkliniken she was diagnosed with OCD at another clinic and treated with a conventional drug.

Mats Reimer’s article cause some uproar on Twitter which was expected — presumably lots of people were hit by a sudden bout of the  breathed-in upwards syndrome — and at least one newspaper writes about it today, in the editorial blog.


This news about the above case study comes at a time when Järna is hit by another epidemic, this time rubella. (Earlier this year, it was measles.) 32 cases are confirmed to date, but the actual number of cases is very likely higher, as rubella is quite a mild disease for kids even if it’s dangerous for pregnant women. Pregnant women in the area are cautioned to check their immunisation status (apparently there’s some test for anti-bodies). Several newspaper editorials about this news have been published recently. As they are in Swedish, they may be uninteresting here, but I’ll mention them anyway: SvD, Aftonbladet, DT. Last year there was a debate about Vidarkliniken’s advice on how to treat measles. In that discussion, part of the focus was on the specific anthroposophical-spiritual reasons for abstaining from vaccination. This was very good, as it meant people are more aware that the anthroposophical motivations differ significantly from other strands of anti-vaccinationism (although these strands are present in anthroposophical circles as well).

This news too has led to harsh feelings and criticism in social media such as Twitter. Sometimes it gets a bit too hostile, in my view; I don’t believe in, e g, forced vaccinations, which I’ve seen the occasional call for. I think that inflicts a greater cruelty than is constituted by the risk it’s supposed to prevent. It’s quite a severe infringement of someone’s autonomy too, and needs to be justified properly — which I don’t think it can be. One must remember that vaccination coverage is very good in Sweden and the epidemic unlikely to spread beyond Järna and that any threat of force or expressions of hostility by the public are only likely to cause resentment rather than compliance. What people don’t always get is that for anthroposophists, i e those who abstain for anthroposophical reasons, it’s not really a question of ignorance about vaccines, stupidity or lack of information. (All these things may be present on occasion, of course. I’ve seen it…) It’s about taking the spiritual consequences utterly seriously.

8 thoughts on “anthroposophical medicine and the breathed-in upwards syndrome (and a few words about rubella)

  1. thank you.

    I feel I’m failing to take the situation with all the seriousness everyone else seems convinced it requires. I’ve felt that often, lately. But clearly the clinic is in some trouble, as it becomes increasingly difficult to defend political decisions to financially support it, and more people are asking that it is defended, justified, explained.

  2. Thank you.

    Did you know that in Swedish, rubella is called ‘red dog’? I assume you didn’t. Mr Dog and I are campaigning to have it renamed ‘red cat’, which we consider much more appropriate. Mr Dog is, after all, half red himself.

    To be serious for two seconds, there was a vaccination debate on television news last night — official disease prevention person vs anthroposophist doctor. If you can call it debate, a few minutes of something, bad and ignorant tv host, none of the anthro-specific issues even mentioned, which seems silly because they did have the anthro doctor, who should and does (I’m sure of it) know a lot of interesting things. Again, ignorance, incompetence, and, in all honesty, you can’t even blame the anthroposophist doctor for it (although she could have seized the opportunity to say something about karma and reincarnation… ah what am I thinking! I’m hallucinating that they’d do that voluntarily!). And too little time, of course. Pointless.

  3. >Mr Dog and I are campaigning to have it renamed ‘red cat’, which we consider much more


    You two are a menace :)

  4. And — the tiny problem that continues to haunt anthroposophists, whatever discipline they’re working in (education, health care, et c):

    when you ask someone else to pay for your activities, your sevices, your enlightenment, your therapies, your (supposed) knowledge, you do invite other people to criticize you, to object to them having to pay, you invite scrutiny, you make people look further and ask: does this work, is this ethical, is this ok at all? Do we want to vote for politicians who decide to fund this? Politicians who take money from what is essential, from basic health care, and allocates it to an unproven and most likely (as far as the so called real world goes) ineffective eurythmy therapy whose basis is the esoteric teachings of a long dead spiritual guru?

    And since other people are not anthroposophists, the answer to these questions is not necessarily ‘yes’.

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