I thought it was time to bring up a little more anthroposophy, after too many silly little posts! That, and my paying work has slowed down. So, here are some recent thoughts about warmth.
Springtime is here, and the weather is warming up. However, despite the sunny skies around here, it’s still chilly for most of the day. I’m fighting daily battles with SillyBilly, who wants to wear his shorts and t-shirts and sandals, to get him dressed warmly enough. And we are all still snorting and hacking our way out of that nasty cold virus we had last weekend.
Rudolf Steiner and other anthroposophical writers have said a lot about warmth and the human being. Steiner linked warmth and the blood directly to the activity of the human ego, also known as the “I” (this is distinct from the Freudian ego — here we are referring to the immortal spirit of the individual). In the young child, warmth allows the physical body to develop properly, with good structure and function:
If the ego is to be able to perfect the organs so that they endure in good health throughout life, there must be a well-maintained deep body warmth. For…it is the warmth organization wherein the ego works….[In the adult] the ego is fully incarnated and is able to control the body temperature, whereas [in the child] the ego is in a process of incarnation and is not yet fully in charge.
–Joan Salter, The Incarnating Child
Steiner also described the 12 senses: the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, and the seven senses of warmth, life, self-movement, balance, word, thought, and the I and Other. We can see that in a baby, the sense of touch and warmth are pre-eminent, in the toddler the sense of self-movement leads to walking and the sense of word leads to talking, while older children work on balance in their see-sawing and tree climbing.
Young children do not have a mature sense of warmth, clearly seen in the child who is blue with cold yet refuses to come out of the swimming pool! Adults must help the child by providing appropriate clothing and environment. On another level, the sense of warmth relates to the emotional and spiritual atmosphere or mood: cold, impersonal and insincere, or caring, loving and genuine.
As adults we know how uncomfortable it is to feel cold and how it prevents us from working properly either physically or mentally. A baby feels even more uncomfortable and yet he cannot complain….The soul and spirit need sufficient warmth for their work of moulding and remoulding the body.
–Wilhelm zur Linden, When a Child is Born
I have read (not experiencing the difference myself as I have never traveled abroad) that Americans are particularly guilty of underdressing. I do remember that in Sacramento many times I would be wearing a wool sweater on a winter’s day, and see other people running around in shorts! And certainly even on snowy days here in New York, not everyone wears a warm hat or even a coat. What are we doing to our health with this? I believe being chronically cold leads to bad health, because the body is too busy keeping up its internal temperature to do its other work, like immune functions, properly.
In the child, illness that may be brought on by being cold is often resolved via fever. The body brings on an elevated internal temperature in order to kill, or prevent proliferation of, the virus or bacteria. However there are other physical as well as spiritual aspects to fever:
Thermoregulation and fever also have a soul-spiritual aspect. Heat is more than just a quantitative factor measured with a thermometer. As such, warmth also manifests in the activity of the human soul and spirit. We “feel warm inside” when we meet a good friend or revisit the familiar landscape of our childhood….Conversely, fear anger, or great sorrow, or even hate, envy, or discontent in our surroundings, makes our blood “run cold.”
Fever helps a child’s I adapt its inherited body to its own purposes, making it a more suitable vehicle for self-expression….From a purely outer perspective, the rapid regaining of weight lost during a feverish illness is an indication that the body is being organically remodeled. The child has deconstructed some aspect of her inherited body and is rebuilding it under the independent direction of her own warmth organization.
–Michaela Glöckler, Wolfgang Goebel, A Guide to Child Health
So, here’s what we do. My kids wear thin, soft wool underwear on all but the hottest days, and most nights. They wear long sleeves and pants through three seasons. When they go to daycare, and often at home, they wear slippers or booties to keep their feet warm. They wear hats most of the time outdoors (sunhats in summer of course). Tummy aches bring out the hot water bottle, one of our dearest friends! When the kids get a fever, we do not suppress it with medication — we address any discomfort by sponging down or wrapping their calves with tepid lemon water cloths, and make sure they have extra fluids and rest. We make an effort to make their surroundings beautiful to warm their souls.