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Rhythmical Massage



Ita Wegman, Founder  

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What is Rhythmical Massage?

Dr. Ita WegmanRhythmical Massage strives to restore harmony in the individual by overcoming imbalances caused by stress and illness. It supports the process of healing and aids in the prevention of illness by working with life sustaining processes such as warmth, rhythm, and breathing. The gentle rhythmic quality of touch, which is central to the massage, penetrates deeply. Rhythmical massage works with levity instead of gravity harmonizing the bodily rhythms of the individual.

The Rhythmical Massage Therapist develops and implements a treatment based on an understanding of the individual patient's condition from an anthroposophical point of view. The therapist chooses what quality of touch to use and what areas of the body to address. More than mere technique, Rhythmical Massage Therapy also requires both consistent professional development and self-development resulting from the knowledge gained through anthroposophy.

Dr. Ita Wegman developed rhythmical Massage Therapy in the 1920s. Dr. Wegman, who was a medical doctor as well as a physiotherapist and massage therapist, worked closely with Rudolf Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy, in creation of the Anthroposophical approach to healing. Dr. Wegman established a clinic in Switzerland, where Anthroposophical medicine was first practiced. It was at this clinic, now called the Ita Wegman Clinic, that she applied the Anthroposophical spiritual scientific understanding of the human being to Swedish massage.


Dr. Margarete Hauschka

When Dr. Margarete Hauschka joined the clinic, she and Dr. Wegman collaborated for twelve years to further develop this new approach to massage therapy. Drs. Wegman and Hauschka taught this massage to the physicians and nurses at the clinic. It wasn't until later that Dr. Hauschka named this new massage "Rhythmical Massage as indicated by Dr. Ita Wegman," thereby including both its character and the name of its founder. In 1962, Dr. Hauschka opened a School for Rhythmical Massage in Boll, Germany.

From 1979 to 1990 Frau Irmgard Marbach, who had been Dr. Hauschka's colleague for many years, traveled to North America to offer introductory orientation courses to interested American students and to provide continuing education to those who had trained in Germany. She had been the director of the Hauschka School since the death of Dr. Hauschka in 1981. At present schools exist in Germany, Holland, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, and North America.


What is Anthroposophical Medicine

Recognition of the enormous achievements of conventional medicine has, in recent years, been accompanied by a growing awareness of its limitations and the undesirable side effects of many of its methods of treatment. Patients are less prepared than they were to accept the doctorís prescription without an explanation, and they prefer to have the opportunity to discuss any options which might be available. This more critical appraisal of conventional medicine is reflected in the rapid growth in popularity of alternative approaches, such as homeopathy, herbalism and acupuncture. Most of these are based on philosophies which considerably predate conventional medicine, but they nevertheless benefit many patients.

The conventional approach has advanced medicine in some respects but is based on a limited, materialistic view of the human being which has failed to produce a comprehensive understanding of illness. Some forms of alternative medicine have distinct spiritual philosophies which predate natural science, the study of material phenomena. Turning to these in search of what is lacking in conventional medicine is like trying to turn the clock back, ignoring what has been gained from natural science. What is needed is not a return to the past, but an extension of conventional medicine to take into account both the spiritual and physical sides of the human.

Rudolf Steiner circa 1918Precisely this is offered by anthroposophical medicine, one of a number of practical applications of the work of the Austrian scientist and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the founder of anthroposophy. The name is derived from the Greek anthropos (human) and sophia (wisdom), which gives something of an indication that anthroposophy involves the development of spiritual wisdom through human self-knowledge. In practice, it is a science of the spirit, extending our knowledge and understanding beyond the foundations laid down by natural science.

Steiner recognised the achievements of natural science in building a picture of the physical world, but sought to go beyond the limits of materialism by rigorously researching the spiritual humans as beings of body, soul and spirit, and anthroposophical medicine came about as a result of a group of doctors recognising that this extended physiology had remarkable implications for medical treatment.

During the later years of Steinerís life, people from various professions approached him for guidance on how they might apply the principles of anthroposophy to their particular fields. As well as medicine, this gave birth to new forms of education, art, architecture, caring for the handicapped, agriculture and economics, all of which are now practised worldwide. In the case of medicine, Steiner was invited to address a group of about thirty doctors and medical students who were familiar with anthroposophy. In 1920 he gave a course of lectures which contained insights into human pathology and approaches to therapy, though this could not be considered a systematic introduction to an anthroposophical medicine.

It was through Steinerís collaboration with a Dutch doctor, Its Wegman (1876-1943), that the foundation for a new medicine was laid. Together, they wrote a book for the medical profession, Fundamentals of Therapy, and Dr Wegman opened one of the first anthroposophical clinics at Arlesheim, Switzerland, near the worldwide centre for anthroposophy at Dornach. She later became the first leader of the Medical Section of the School of Spiritual Science at Dornach.

As Steiner was not a medical doctor, he worked with qualified practitioners in the development of anthroposophical medicine. He insisted that it should extend conventional practice rather than become an alternative. To that end, all anthroposophical doctors must qualify first in conventional medicine, then do further study to gain an understanding of the human being in health and illness from a spiritual scientific point of view. This widens the scope of their work beyond conventional practice, and means that anthroposophical doctors can be consulted about any medical problem.

The main aim of anthroposophical medicine is to stimulate the natural healing forces in the patient. These are the life forces which maintain the physical body and oppose decay. They comprise a body of non-physical formative forces, called by Steiner the etheric body, and are particularly active in growth and nutrition. Humans are also conscious beings, aware of their environment and emotionally responsive. This awareness comes from having a third body, called the astral body, which is particularly active in the nervous system. Finally, people also know themselves to be independent conscious beings, and have the power to change themselves inwardly. This points to the fourth element of the human: the spiritual core, or ego, which particularly expresses itself in muscular activity and the blood.

These four elements interrelate to form a whole, which must be treated as a whole if the patient is to be helped. Anthroposophical doctors seek to understand illnesses in terms of the way the four aspects interrelate. For example, there is a perpetual tendency towards ill-health because the activity of consciousness has a catabolic, or breaking-down effect on the physical body. The anabolic, or building-up, forces of the etheric body must constantly combat these effects for good health to be maintained. However, if the etheric forces are themselves too powerful, the imbalance again results in illness. Good health is dependent on these opposing tendencies being kept in equilibrium.

The highly complex picture of the human which emerged through Steinerís work can be difficult to grasp. After all, anthroposophical medicine starts with conventional teaching about the physical body and extends this picture with three further elements. But it can easily be understood that everyday experiences of thoughts, feelings and will-power call for an extension of the natural scientific model, simply because natural science excludes anything not physically measurable. This is where spiritual science can build on the understanding of the physical realm gained through natural science, and extend the frontiers of our knowledge.

Physical perception is limited by the bodily senses, but thinking has no such limits. For example, the concepts of mathematics are not sense-perceptible. The spiritual realm might not be a perceived directly with the bodily senses but, with careful observation and disciplined thinking, anyone can gain an understanding of spiritual science. However, it is possible to go further. Steiner describes how higher forms of perception can be developed which enable people to perceive the spiritual realm directly. It was through his own development of these faculties that he was able to do the researches on which his descriptions of the spiritual realm were based.

Steiner had the ability to perceive spiritual phenomena in addition to the faculty of perception of the physical environment with which most people are born. He maintained that everyone had latent organs for spiritual perception which they could develop through their own efforts. At present, most people are cut off from direct experience of the spiritual realm in much the same way that visual images of the physical world are denied to the blind. However, just as the blind can have other experiences of the physical world, and can compare these with concepts reported by sighted people, so can those without developed powers of spiritual perception compare their experiences with anthroposophical knowledge.

For example, the ideas that anthroposophical medicine adds to conventional practice might seem strange to someone whose education was based on natural science. But this should encourage neither blind faith nor blind disbelief. If the ideas are thought through with an open mind, they can be assessed on their own merits. The achievements of anthroposophical medicine in practice can also be assessed.

Healing For Body, Soul And Spirit by Dr. Michael Evans and Iain RodgerAt present, anthroposophical medical work is most widely developed in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, where there are several hospitals and many general practitioners. All are fully recognised and funded by state and private medical insurance schemes. In the English-speaking world, it has taken longer for Steinerís work to become widely known, although interest in this approach is growing steadily. In the UK, anthroposophical medicine is practised both within the National Health Service and privately.

Taken from the introduction to Healing For Body, Soul And Spirit by Dr. Michael Evans and Iain Rodger.  Published by Floris Books.  1992 ISBN 0-86315-306-2



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