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Book Review—Alla Selawry
Metall-Funktionstypen in Psychologie und Medizin: Zur Therapie mit Silber, Merkur, Kupfer, Eisen, Zinn, Blei und Gold (A Functional Typology of Metals in Psychology and Medicine: Therapy with Silver, Mercury, Copper, Iron, Tin, Lead and Gold), 2017, augmented reprint of the 1991 2nd edition; both are based upon the first edition of 1986 by Dr. med. Alla Selawry; 550pp; 78 Euro; 6.5″ x 9.5″; hardback; ISBN: 978-3-9815535-6-7; Salumed-Verlag.
Alla Selawry (23 August 1913 to 27 July 1992) was a theologian, physician, medical researcher and pioneer in the development of the anthroposophical approach to medicine. Yet beyond that, she was arguably one of the foremost advocates for the therapeutic use of metals in the treatment of disease and in the maintenance of health.
Alla was born in Russia but, in 1922, the family (Oleg was her younger brother; 1924–1999) moved to Germany. From 1926 to 1933 she attended the Stuttgart Waldorf School, which became an important environment of nurturance for her. She graduated in 1938 with a medical degree from the University of Tubingen and continued to pursue an ever-deepening relationship with anthroposophy. As her interest was medicine, she studied, as it is now called, anthroposophically extended medicine (a-em) with such luminaries as Ita Wegman, MD (1876–1943), Eugen Kolisko, MD (1893–1939), Hans Kruger (1898–1988) and Wilhelm Pelikan (1893–1981).
Alla spent time in Dornach, Switzerland, which is considered the epicentre of anthroposophy. In 1939 she became a member of the General Anthroposophical Society. This international anthroposophical organisation has its headquarters there, specifically in the Goetheanum—a multipurpose building designed by Rudolf Steiner, PhD (1861–1925), and named for the noted German philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832). While in Dornach she studied and collaborated with Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, MD (1899–1961), on the blood crystallisation method of disease diagnosis and treatment. With pharmacist Hans Kruger, she studied a similar subject, plant crystallisation.
During the decade of the 1940s, she further deepened her work and commitment to a-em by helping to found a working group (study group/circle) of anthroposophical doctors. From 1946 to 1953, she gave many lectures of a seminal nature to young physicians in Stuttgart and Schwabisch Gmund.
Later still, her researches led to new insights into the role that seven metals play in therapy. Steiner had previously spoken of this but, as was so common during his life, it was left to others to expand upon his suggestions and innovative ideas.
Alla wrote several articles and books, one of which is the subject of this review. The following quote is from the 1986 review that Dr med. Friedrich Lorenz (1911–1987) wrote concerning Selawry's book:
‘This extensive book gives a broad overview and a deep insight into the properties, behavior, virtues, and nature of the seven metals … Tables and graphical representations provide a good over-view of the treated … A treasure trove for the doctor. Medical records enliven the above … This is a book that can help you … to get to know the world of metals thoroughly’ (Merkurstab, 5/1986).
Included within is a preface by Markus Sommer, MD, a biographical sketch by Michaela Glöckler, MD, a section that reviews Selawry's life and work and a bibliographical section of her writings (books and articles). The foreword, which Dr Selawry wrote for the 1986 edition, is also included. At the end of the book, there is a small 15-page index and several sections devoted to her literature and the literature of other authors (including Paracelsus), and a section devoted to a listing of Steiner's pertinent medical lectures. There are many illustrations (89!) and tables and charts, which prove to be quite useful. This hardback book is very well produced in all aspects.
It is a human trait to explore and then to categorise to better understand our world and experiences. This attitude is also present in medicine, specifically in homeopathy—the grouping of remedies.
Look at what has recently taken place. Jeremy Sherr, in the late 1980s, introduced the periodic table as a way to understand and group substances. Jan Scholten has, too, conducted vast and seminal studies, studies that have taken on a predictive element. For instance, even though Vanadium has not undergone a proving, it is possible to surmise some of its actions based on its location in the fourth row of the periodic table, as many of those fourth-row remedies have been proven—produced symptomatology and cured patients. Misha Norland introduced the mandala and circle analysis and Vega Rozenberg introduced his ‘boxes’ that, too, grouped remedies.
Many other modern-day notables, for example, Rajan Sankaran, Franz Vermeulen and the Joshi's, have made and created methodologies out of their discoveries and ideas. All have developed innovative ways to approach the understanding of remedies and illness. Also, worth mentioning are our homeopathic ancestors who have also taken on the task of ordering remedies, for example, ‘Teste Complementaries’ developed by the French homeopath, Alphonse Teste, or the ‘Boyd (Emanometer) Groups’ developed by British homeopath, William Ernest Boyd, MD etc.
This has also happened within the anthroposophical realm but in a more encompassing way. With the impetus of Rudolf Steiner, a comprehensive system utilising the therapeutic activity of metals, seven of them, has emerged. These metals are associated with the planets, with our organs, with myth, psychologies and other aspects of spiritual nature.3
The therapeutical use of metals, particularly seven metals, is foundational to the spiritual scientific approach to medicine as elucidated by Steiner, who brought forth this information in the early 1920s. In a series of lectures and just before his death in 1925, he worked with Ita Wegman, MD, a close confidant and colleague, to produce a book, Fundamentals of Therapy, which was published shortly after his death. Before that period, he had given many medical-related lectures of a general nature and, in his daily working life, consulted with and inspired many physicians to take up impulses and ideas that he frequently offered. Steiner gave over six thousand lectures in his life-time, in all of the aforementioned fields, in addition to writing several books.
Steiner proposed and developed other remedies, for example, vegetabilised metals. Discussing these remedies is beyond the scope of this paper. Many of the metals employed are anthroposophically unique as they were suggested by Steiner and others and often not proven in the homeopathic sense. Some of the metal salts can be found in the homeopathic Materia Medica. When administered as a pure metal, they have a different method of production. For example, if the patient requires silver, he will receive a very pure form of the metal called silver praeparatum (‘silver praep’).
Dr Salawry was one of those doctors profoundly influenced by Steiner's thought, especially on this subject. Her efforts over the years eventually produced a cogent gem, Metall-Funktionstypen in Psychologie und Medizin. This contribution is academic, sober and detailed. Also, due to generational considerations, one is afforded an opportunity and pleasure to come closer to her thought processes and the milieu of those early, formative years. These aspects can be enlightening and add a further dimension to this study.
As I just mentioned, others have addressed this subject. One very recent example is Dr med. vet. Henning M. Schramm who wrote The Healing Power of Planetary Metals in Anthroposophic and Homeopathic Medicine (2013). In this important and seminal work, the reader is introduced to this field in a simple, concise and artistic manner. Artistically? Yes, as Schramm ploughs fresh ground and comprehensive understandings with the help of fairy tales.
To understand this topic, one should ideally have some basic knowledge of anthroposophy. To this end, I suggest that the reader obtain a copy of Henk van Oort's opus, Anthroposophy: A Concise Introduction to Rudolf Steiner's Spiritual Philosophy (2008). In a brief hundred pages, one is easily and precisely introduced to the subject: it is highly recommended.
According to Steiner, the human being is more ancient than one has previously been led to believe. Man is the product of evolution from the very beginning, billions of years ago. When one understands this one can appreciate that, for instance, lead is associated with Saturn and its evolution and in the human being with the development (evolution) of his spleen. Furthermore, you will come to an understanding that silver, lead's opposite and associated pair, evolved in tandem with the Moon and in the human being with the development (evolution) of brain/nervous and sexual systems (in both genders). The dictum, ‘as above, so below’, is present in man: the planets and their characteristics can be seen in the microcosm of man, his organs and organ systems. It is as if man's internal environment is a mini-solar system.
The remainder of the metal pairs are tin–mercury and iron–copper, while gold holds the balance or middle position. Lead, tin and iron are above (associated with planets above the sun) and copper, mercury and silver are below (associated with planets below the sun), while gold holds the central position.
This book is divided into three sections. The first part (100 pages) discusses, in a broad fashion, the function and processes of each metal in the cosmos, earth and man. It describes the seven planetary archetypes and character systems and how these aspects can be seen in the metals. Topics include: planets and the metals; metallic processes in the human being; planetary and soul forces; health and illness in light of the metallic processes.
According to those who follow this approach to the therapeutic use of metals, it is accepted that certain cosmological relationships exist between organs, organ systems and processes.
As the human being, more specifically the ‘I’ (soul), makes its way to Earth (the incarnation process), it passes through the planetary spheres in succession gathering or absorbing those particular planetary influences and characteristics. Thus, by the time the person is re-born (reincarnated) on the Earth, he has acquired much that will be needed for a new life. At this point, all that remains is the integration of the hereditary influences from the parents. Man continues his evolution during his Earthly existence until, again, he dies—transitions back into the heavenly spheres to learn more lessons and continue evolving. All of us are so unique and karmically different, yet participate in this same basic evolutionary pattern.
Certainly, what acts on man is not the physical embodiment of the planet/s but the unique planetary processes and the forces of those associated higher spiritual beings. These forces are active in particular organs and processes and are responsible for the materialisation of the metals on Earth. The foundational relationships are: lead (spleen, Saturn), tin (liver, Jupiter), iron (gallbladder, Mars), gold (heart, Sun), copper (kidneys, Venus), mercury (lungs, Mercury) and silver (brain/nervous and sexual systems, Moon).
The second part (300 pages) of this book systematically discusses, in detail, the respective typologies and therapeutic options or pharmacology for organ diseases. This section discusses each metal separately, in this case silver, covering each of the following topics: silver forces in the cosmos, earth and in the living world; silver processes in the human being; silver and its areas of activity; silver and the psyche; silver processes—balanced and disturbed; and silver therapy.
The third part (70 pages) concerns the metal and disease processes as depicted in the pictures produced by the copper chloride crystallisation method.
As I have a very limited knowledge of the German language, I was unable to read this book in my usual critical manner. Thus, the purpose of this paper is twofold: to create in the reader an awareness of this important book, and offer an introduction to this subject matter—the seven planetary metals. This book does deserve to be translated into the English language. If you are fluent in the German language you will appreciate this volume, especially if you supplement it with Schramm's work and the references mentioned in footnote 5.
There are two other works that you should be aware of: Internal Medicine: Foundations and Therapeutic Concepts of Anthroposophic Medicine (2016; Dr. med. Matthias Girke; ISBN: 9-783981-553581) and Individual Pediatrics: Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Aspects of Diagnosis and Counselling, Anthroposophic-Homoeopathic Therapy (2014; Georg Soldner, MD, and Hermann Michael Stellmann, MD; translated by David Martin, MD, PhD; ISBN: 978-1-4822-0729-3). Both are large and comprehensive, yet scholarly and practical texts. I reviewed these two for Homeopathic Links 30:3, p. 211, 2017; and 30:1, pp. 62–64, 2017, respectively. Two years later, in ‘A Brief Look at Anthroposophy Through Three Book Reviews’ (Homeopathic Links, 32:3, pp. 200–204, 2019), I reviewed Warmth: Living Element and Healing Substance (2016; Bertram von Zabern, MD), Compendium for the Remedial Treatment of Children, Adolescents, and Adults in Need of Soul Care: Experiences and Indications from Anthroposophic Therapy (2009; Bertram von Zabern, MD) and Compendium of Anthroposophic Medical References by Rudolf Steiner (2004; Adam Blanning, MD).
Victor Bott's Anthroposophical Medicine: Spiritual Science and the Art of Healing (1984; Thorsons; translated by F. L. Wheaton and G. Douch, revised by Michael Barton; this title contains the same material as Anthroposophical Medicine: An Extension of the Art of Healing, which was first published in 1978) is a fine introductory volume and enters deeper water than Gloeckler's introductory book.
The three volumes produced under the guidance of Drs. med. Friedrich Husemann and Otto Wolff, The Anthroposophical Approach to Medicine, are excellent but difficult to obtain. Volume I is fortunately available as a Kindle eBook.
As a next step, it would be ideal to have an understanding of the major organ systems and to that end see Dr. med. Walter Holtzapfel's The Human Organs, Their Functional and Psychological Significance (2013, Floris Books; translated by Roland Everett), Olaf Koob's If the Organs Could Speak: The Foundations of Physical and Mental Health: Understanding the Character of Our Inner Anatomy (2018) and Dr. med. Karl Koenig's section, ‘The Meteorological Organs’, in his excellent, Earth and Man (1982). Bott's book contains discussions on the organ systems as well.
Article published online:
08 April 2021
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