Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

RESEARCH is being done on the effectiveness of anthroposophical medicine, which treats the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions of the body. It claims that the body is made up of earth, air, fire and water, and health depends on a 'balance' between these and other things.

How the 5th-century Bc philosopher Empedocles must be cursing that he did not take out patents on this fourelement theory. The four elements were at the heart of ancient medicine, and gave rise to the four 'humours' (blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile) controlling physical health, which were then linked to mental health. Thus, too much blood (Latin sanguis) and you were 'sanguine', too much bile (Greek kholos) and you were 'choleric', and so on. Even Aristotle clung to the four-element theory, all matter in his view being made up of these elements and the qualities they represented (cold, dry, hot, moist). …

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