New Years Greeting of the Medical Section

Last New Year’s Eve, the commemoration of the night that the first Goetheanum burnt down was celebrated in a dignified way by 2,000 people. Throughout the night, those present in and around the Goetheanum took part in readings, eurythmy performances, concerts, communal singing and much more. 

The seriousness with which this event was experienced, illustrates the responsibility that those close to anthroposophy have, to nurture and protect the Goetheanum. The transition into the New Year was celebrated with cautious optimism and in accordance with Rudolf Steiner’s words: «In love, we have worked on the Goetheanum, with love we have worked in it. This is how we shall continue.»

Dealing with Covid-19 Vaccination

Members of the Anthroposophical Society met on January 15th for a special general meeting. In addition to the topics on the agenda, there were others that needed to be discussed. As the leadership of the Medical Department, it had become clear to us that we were not making ourselves understood to some members in the way that we intended. This was mainly in relation to the Covid-19 vaccination issue, the WHO and ‹One Health›.

In January 2021, the question arose for us – and the International Federation of Anthroposophic Medical Associations (IVAA) – about our position on the novel mRNA and vector vaccines for Covid-19. From our international perspective, it was necessary to comment on this, although very little was known at the time about their short-term and long-term effects. Based on the data, the response awarded vaccination a possible benefit in the pandemic and was essential for many countries, for example in the South American region with high corona mortality, and in some countries even secured the existence of anthroposophic medicine. It goes without saying that individual decision-making has always been our priority and has been emphasised accordingly in all announcements, in which the burden of personal responsibility could not be lifted from the individual in view of all the uncertainties.

The pandemic was particularly threatening at the beginning, and so we tried to weigh up the arguments in favour of vaccination – for example, for people at risk – and against vaccination – for example, for children, young people, and healthy adults. As mentioned above, it was clear that the full extent of any potentially serious side effects of the vaccines would only become apparent over time. Therefore, at the beginning of the vaccination campaign, we also encouraged appropriate studies such as the ImpfSurv-Register by Professor Harald Matthes at the University Hospital Charité in Berlin. Above all, we strove to protect children before puberty from the compulsory wearing of masks and unwarranted vaccination recommendations. We have, for example, always been clearly opposed to compulsory vaccination for medical professions. However, it is also true that in our internal dialogue with our international colleagues we asked them not to withdraw from their patients if possible, and to maintain full respect for their individual decisions.

The collaboration of Anthroposophic Medicine with the WHO has caused great concern, worry and anxiety among many members. The enquiry about a collaboration came from the head of the WHO Department of Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicine after his visit to the Filder Hospital, which left a deep impression on him. It involved having our training curricula reviewed by his department and the authorities of all WHO member states with the aim of official recognition by the WHO. This offer met with undivided approval from representatives of the anthroposophical medical profession and all the healing professions of the Medical Department at the Goetheanum worldwide. Then, at the end of 2022, there was a positive review, and ‹Benchmarks for Training in Anthroposophic Medicine› will be be published by this department of the WHO in 2023.

These include exclusively the recognition of the training guidelines of anthroposophic medicine as developed by the Medical Department in collaboration with the professional fields of anthroposophic medicine. There is no contract between the Medical Department and the WHO, and the latter has no right to have a say in the content of training.

Our thoughts on this process are that we would like to be involved internationally and represent a medical view that focuses on the whole person – body, mind, and spirit – that places freedom of therapy at the center of treatment, and in conjunction with like-minded people from the WHO. The recognition of our training guidelines can be helpful for the acceptance of anthroposophic medicine in many countries and is of potentially significant importance for new initiatives (cooperation with universities, medical training, the founding of new clinics and others).

Position on the ‹One Health› Concept

A third topic that preoccupies many people is the question of ‹One Health›. Anthroposophically speaking, this is perhaps the longest running topic, as all of us have always been concerned with a holistic approach to health, in the way we treat the earth, plants and animals and, of course, with human beings themselves – always in awareness of our cosmic spiritual home, to which we all feel committed.

In the public sphere, this topic is pushing itself to the forefront, as more and more people realise that the entire development of the earth is under threat. However, the connection between the earth, human beings and the cosmos is not yet in the general consciousness in the same way, and this is where we see our task, that is, to build bridges. Given that anthroposophical agriculture, medicine, education, social science, and artistic work are working from a common basis, we can share with others health-giving ideas drawn from a wealth of experience and receive valuable suggestions in the process.

A problem that should not be underestimated in this context, and that has perhaps received too little attention so far, is the use of the term ‹One Health› with other objectives in various political and economic contexts, such as the World Economic Forum. These and similar questions will probably arise more often in the future if we want to have an impact on public life with an incentive based on spiritual science. The question will then always be: can we help to shape, define, develop such a concept and the way of life associated with it, or is it ‹lost› to us? In this context there are different ways of understanding, assessing, and experiencing the term ‹One Health›, which we would like to further work on.

Aerial view of an illuminated Goetheanum on New Year’s Eve 2022/23. Photo: Xue Li

We would like to enter a positive dialogue on all these topics, to incorporate concerns and thoughts from all sides. The Medical Department will offer a date every two months or so at which these and other current or burning issues can be discussed by all those interested after an introductory keynote presentation. In this spirit, we wish everyone a creative and constructive New Year, right up to the joint celebration of 100 years of the Christmas Conference, whose anthroposophical impulse we feel committed to and want to serve.

Translation Christian von Arnim

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