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 Anthroposophical Medicine: Depression: The Dark Night of the Soul  
 
Olaf Koob MD ©
A dramatic landscape, with heights and depths, mountains alternating with valleys, is probably more fascinating to the eye than the plain. Which biography would you prefer to read...the person whose life takes a harmonious and regulated course, or the one in which pain and happiness, crisis, and perhaps, upheaval alternates? It would not take me long to decide. In life, development means polarity: yin and yang, day and night, winter and summer, heights and depths, joys and sorrows, birth and death. This ancient necessity rules the human soul as well. Complete harmony within ourselves and the world and the enjoyment of a sort of "superhealth", is the longed-for unattainable paradise. If we were to obtain it, we would sacrifice our freedom and self-determination.

All pain is separation and distance, and at the same time heightened self-awareness and consciousness. The body that is sick is more restless, and therefore, more willing to learn, more sensitive, and therefore, more alert and closer to death, to the spirit. Looking at human development, and to the diseases which accompany it; we find that the "price" of attaining independent thinking and self-consciousness has been the estrangement from the divine universe and from nature. We have even lost the true knowledge of ourselves. This estrangement is the suffering of our time, bearing within it epidemically spreading fear, isolation, despair and depression, often compensated for by the dependence on alcohol and drugs.

In ancient Greece, physicians recognized the natural tendencies of darkness, isolation, cold and paralysis, and related them to our bones, to earthly matter and to gravity. They also related them to the planet Saturn. These same tendencies began to emerge in l8th century Western society as psycho-social disturbances exactly at the time when rapid technological advances were breaking apart old traditions. Medical literature of the day documented these new "nervous" illnesses, as "spleen", "hypochondria", "ennui" (boredom). "People are dispensable" was first coined then.

Treating depression, which means knowing that there is a tiny new light laboring to be born out of darkness, means countering the Saturn propensity. Physicians look for forces of life, light, warmth, movement, and sun. Our tools are psychotherapy, 'enlightened dialogue', and various medicines from the realm of nature. Among those are phosphorus (Greek: 'lightbearer'), flower essences, chlorophyll, magnesium, and oil-bearing plants such as rosemary and St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum).

St. John's Wort is a wonderful example of an anti-depressant remedy. It has a strong relationship to light through its blossoms and oil, and a formative, consolidating quality by virtue of its bitter tannins. It can be used as an external rub or as an internal homeopathic remedy to treat nervous ailments, concussions and depression. A remedy such as St. John's Wort can help remind us of our light-filled origins, overcoming the death of the soul and its concurrent accompanying earthly weight, especially when accompanied by the caring love of family and the heart-warmth of the administering physician.

Olaf Koob, M.D. is an internationally recognized author and lecturer. In private practice since l982, he is also the founder of a substance abuse clinic. He has written four medical texts, most recently "The Dark Night of the Soul - Ways Out of Depression" (Verlag Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart, l994.)

(Excerpted from Lilipoh)
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