“What is to give light must endure burning.”
Health and illness follows certain foundational laws of cause and effect. Falling from some height (like a tree) risks breaking a bone; smoking increases rates of cancer. Those are fairly straight forward links that are easy to understand. We could say, the horse is clearly pulling the cart.
But there are other situations where two results seem to come parallel to each other, like the “horse” is walking just in front of, or just behind the “cart.” For example, it has been demonstrated that having heart disease puts you at higher risk of depression, and that having depression puts you at higher risk of heart disease. Also, that depression puts you at higher risk of developing diabetes, and diabetes puts you at higher risk of depression. Hmmm—which is now the proverbial horse and which is now the cart? Medicine is filled with many similar examples of parallel development. What we can say from a holistic view is that “parallel” illnesses arise from a common source. A hidden imbalance unfolds which results in either heart disease or a depression characterized by grief, rage, excessive conscience. A slightly different process manifests in diabetes mellitus and/or a depression characterized by heaviness and inertia (anthroposophically there are different kinds of depression). With “parallel” developments we can often address both processes by meeting and addressing the root source.
There is yet another variation, one which speaks most strongly to the stress of our times. It asks: “Does the cart ever come well ahead of the horse?” The answer is yes. If we work to understand illness at the levels of body, soul, and spirit, we realize that there are definite situations in which have the illness first. Why have an effect before a cause? Because sometimes we need the chance to wrestle with a process and build better understanding through that struggle, in order to develop a capacity for something we will meet in the future. This demonstrates a karmic lawfulness that is not punishing but preparatory.
Illness or challenge is not always a loss. Sometimes it is also an opportunity to learn. Then we can say: “I am being asked to really work through ____ (an illness, a crisis, a loss, chronic pain, sadness or disorientation) so that I can learn to be ____ (kinder, more courageous, more generous, more appreciative, more self-aware) so that I can act differently in future.” Such magnified encounter in the present yields fruit for the future.
Here is a very helpful verse given by Rudolf Steiner, who helped found Anthroposophic Medicine, to remember that insight and to give us strength.
May it be helpful to all of us in the coming year:
The wishes of the soul are springing
The deeds of the will are thriving
The fruits of life are maturing
I feel my fate, my fate find me
I feel my star, my star finds me
I feel my goals in life, my goals in life are finding me
My soul and the great world are one.
Life grows more radiant about me
Grows more arduous for me
Grows more abundant within me.