Man as Symphony of the Creative Word. Part 3. Lecture 7 of 12.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
The Plant World and the Elementary Nature Spirits: Gnomes, Undines, Sylphs, and Fire-Spirits [Salamanders]
Man as Symphony of the Creative Word. Part 3. Lecture 7 of 12.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, November 2, 1923:
To the outwardly perceptible, visible world there belongs the invisible world, and these, taken together, form a whole. The marked degree to which this is the case first appears in its full clarity when we turn our attention away from the animals to the plants.
Plant-life, as it sprouts and springs forth from the earth, immediately arouses our delight, but it also provides access to something which we must feel as full of mystery. In the case of the animal, though certainly its will and whole inner activity have something of the mysterious, we nevertheless recognize that this will is actually there, and is the cause of the animal's form and outer characteristics. But in the case of the plants, which appear on the face of the Earth in such magnificent variety of form, which develop in such a mysterious way out of the seed with the help of the earth and the encircling air — in the case of the plant we feel that some other factor must be present in order that this plant-world may arise in the form it does.
When spiritual vision is directed to the plant-world, we are immediately led to a whole host of beings, which were known and recognized in the old times of instinctive clairvoyance, but which were afterwards forgotten and today remain only as names used by the poet, names to which modern man ascribes no reality. To the same degree, however, in which we deny reality to the beings which whirl and weave around the plants, to that degree do we lose the understanding of the plant-world. This understanding of the plant-world, which, for instance, would be so necessary for the art of healing, has been entirely lost to present-day humanity.
We have already recognized a very significant connection between the world of the plants and the world of the butterflies; but this too will only come rightly before our souls when we look yet more deeply into the whole weaving and working of plant-life.
Plants send down their roots into the ground. Anyone who can observe what they really send down and can perceive the roots with spiritual vision (for this he must have) sees how the root-nature is everywhere surrounded, woven around, by elemental nature spirits. And these elemental spirits, which an old clairvoyant perception designated as gnomes and which we may call the root-spirits, can actually be studied by an imaginative and inspirational world-conception, just as human life and animal life can be studied in the sphere of the physical. We can look into the soul-nature of these elemental spirits, into this world of the spirits of the roots.
These root-spirits, are, so to say, a quite special earth-folk, invisible at first to outer view, but in their effects so much the more visible; for no root could develop if it were not for what is mediated between the root and the earth-realm by these remarkable root-spirits, which bring the mineral element of the Earth into flux in order to conduct it to the roots of the plants. Naturally I refer to the underlying spiritual process.
These root-spirits, which are everywhere present in the earth, get a quite particular sense of well-being from rocks and from ores (which may be more or less transparent). But they enjoy their greatest sense of well-being, because here they are really at home, when they are conveying what is mineral to the roots of the plants. And they are completely enfilled with an inner element of spirituality which we can only compare with the inner element of spirituality in the human eye, in the human ear. For these root-spirits are in their spirit-nature entirely sense. Apart from this they are nothing at all; they consist only of sense. They are entirely sense, and it is a sense which is at the same time understanding, which does not only see and hear, but immediately understands what is seen and heard, which in receiving impressions receives also ideas.
We can even indicate the way in which these root-spirits receive their ideas. We see a plant sprouting out of the earth. The plant comes, as I shall presently show you, into connection with the extraterrestrial universe; and, particularly at certain seasons of the year, spirit-currents flow from above, from the blossom and the fruit of the plant down into the roots below, streaming into the earth. And just as we turn our eyes towards the light and see, so do the root-spirits turn their faculty of perception towards what seeps downwards from above, through the plant into the earth. What seeps down towards the root-spirits, that is something which the light has sent into the blossoms, which the sun's warmth has sent into the plants, which the air has produced in the leaves, which the distant stars have brought about in the plant's structures. The plant gathers the secrets of the universe, sinks them into the ground, and the gnomes take these secrets into themselves from what seeps down spiritually to them through the plants. And because the gnomes, particularly from autumn on and through the winter, in their wanderings through ore and rock bear with them what has filtered down to them through the plants, they become those beings within the earth which, as they wander, carry the ideas of the whole universe streaming throughout the earth. We look forth into the wide world. The world is built from universal spirit; it is an embodiment of universal ideas, of universal spirit. The gnomes receive through the plants, which to them are the same as rays of light are to us, the ideas of the universe, and within the earth carry them in full consciousness from metal to metal, from rock to rock.
We gaze down into the depths of the earth not to seek there below for abstract ideas about some kind of mechanical laws of nature, but to behold the roving, wandering gnomes, which are the light-filled preservers of world-understanding within the earth.
Because these gnomes have immediate understanding of what they see, their knowledge is actually of a similar nature to that of man. They are the compendium of understanding, they are entirely understanding. Everything about them is understanding — an understanding however, which is universal, and which really looks down upon human understanding as something incomplete. The gnomes laugh us to scorn on account of the groping, struggling understanding with which we manage to grasp one thing or another, whereas they have no need at all to make use of thought. They have direct perception of what is comprehensible in the world; and they are particularly ironical when they notice the efforts people have to make to come to this or that conclusion. Why should they do this? say the gnomes — why ever should people give themselves so much trouble to think things over? We know everything we look at. People are so stupid — say the gnomes — for they must first think things over.
And I must say that the gnomes become ironical to the point of ill manners if one speaks to them of logic. For why ever should people need such a superfluous thing — a training in thinking? The thoughts are already there. The ideas flow through the plants. Why don't people stick their noses as deep into the earth as the plant's roots, and let what the Sun says to the plants trickle down into their noses? Then they would know something! But with logic — so say the gnomes — there one can only have odd bits and pieces of knowledge.
Thus the gnomes, inside the earth, are actually the bearers of the ideas of the universe, of the World-All. But for the earth itself they have no liking at all. They bustle about in the earth with ideas of the universe, but they actually hate what is earthly. This is something from which the gnomes would best like to tear themselves free. Nevertheless they remain with the earthly — you will soon see why this is — but they hate it, for the earthly threatens them with a continual danger. The earth continually holds over them the threat of forcing them to take on a particular form, the form of those creatures I described to you in the last lecture, the amphibians, and in particular of the frogs and the toads. The feeling of the gnomes within the earth is really this: If we grow too strongly together with the earth, we shall assume the form of frogs or toads. They are continually on the alert to avoid being caught in a too strong connection with the earth, to avoid taking on earthly form. They are always on the defensive against this earthly form, which threatens them as it does because of the element in which they exist. They have their home in the earthly-moist element; there they live under the constant threat of being forced into amphibian forms. From this they continually tear themselves free, by filling themselves entirely with ideas of the extra-terrestrial universe. The gnomes are really that element within the earth which represents the extra-terrestrial, because they must continually reject a growing together with the earthly; otherwise, as single beings, they would take on the forms of the amphibian world. And it is just from what I may call this feeling of hatred, this feeling of antipathy towards the earthly, that the gnomes gain the power of driving the plants up out of the earth. With the fundamental force of their being they unceasingly thrust away the earthly, and it is this thrusting that determines the upward direction of the plant's growth; they push the plants up with them. It accords with the nature of the gnomes in regard to the earthly to allow the plant to have only its roots in the earth, and then to grow upwards out of the earth-sphere; so that it is actually out of the force of their own original nature that the gnomes push the plants out of the earth and make them grow upwards.
Once the plant has grown upwards, once it has left the domain of the gnomes and has passed out of the sphere of the moist-earthly element into the sphere of the moist-airy, the plant develops what comes to outer physical formation in the leaves. But in all that is now active in the leaves other beings are at work: water-spirits, elemental spirits of the watery element, to which an earlier instinctive clairvoyance gave among others the name of undines. Just as we find the roots busied about, woven-about by the gnome-beings in the vicinity of the ground, and observe with pleasure the upward-striving direction which they give, we now see these water-beings, these elemental beings of the water, these undines, in their connection with the leaves.
These undine beings differ in their inner nature from the gnomes. They cannot turn like a spiritual sense-organ outwards towards the universe. They can only yield themselves up to the weaving and working of the whole cosmos in the airy-moist element, and therefore they are not beings of such clarity as the gnomes. They dream incessantly, these undines, but their dream is at the same time their own form. They do not hate the earth as intensely as do the gnomes, but they have a sensitivity to what is earthly. They live in the etheric element of water, swimming and swaying through it, and in a very sensitive way they recoil from everything in the nature of a fish; for the fish-form is a threat to them, even if they do assume it from time to time, though only to forsake it immediately in order to take on another metamorphosis. They dream their own existence. And in dreaming their own existence they bind and release, they bind and disperse the substances of the air, which in a mysterious way they introduce into the leaves, as these are pushed upwards by the gnomes. For at this point the plants would wither if it were not for the undines, who approach from all sides, and show themselves, as they weave around the plants in their dreamlike existence, to be what we can only call the world-chemists. The undines dream the uniting and dispersing of substances. And this dream, in which the plant has its existence, into which it grows when, developing upwards, it forsakes the ground, this undine-dream is the world-chemist which brings about in the plant-world the mysterious combining and separation of the substances which emanate from the leaf. We can therefore say that the undines are the chemists of plant-life. They dream of chemistry. They possess an exceptionally delicate spirituality which is really in its element just where water and air come into contact with each other. The undines live entirely in the element of moisture, but they develop their actual inner function when they come to the surface of something watery, be it only to the surface of a water-drop or something else of a watery nature. For their whole endeavor lies in preserving themselves from getting the form of a fish, the permanent form of a fish. They wish to remain in a condition of metamorphosis, in a condition of eternal, endlessly changing transformation. But in this state of transformation, in which they dream of the stars and of the Sun, of light and of warmth, they become the chemists who now, starting from the leaf, carry the plant further in its formation, after it has been pushed upwards by the power of the gnomes. So the plant develops its leaf-growth, and this mystery is now revealed as the dream of the undines, into which the plants grow.
To the same degree, however, in which the plant grows into the dream of the undines, does it now come into another domain, into the domain of those spirits which live in the airy-warmth element, just as the gnomes live in the moist-earthly, and the undines in the moist-airy element. Thus it is in the element which is of the nature of air and warmth that those beings live which an earlier clairvoyant art designated as the sylphs. Because air is everywhere imbued with light, these sylphs, which live in the airy-warmth element, press towards the light, relate themselves to it. They are particularly susceptible to the finer but larger movements within the atmosphere.
When in spring or autumn you see a flock of swallows, which produce as they fly vibrations in a body of air, setting an air-current in motion, then this moving air-current — and this holds good for every bird — is for the sylphs something audible. Cosmic music sounds from it to the sylphs. If, let us say, you are traveling somewhere by ship and the seagulls are flying around it, then in what is set in motion by the seagulls' flight there is a spiritual sounding, a spiritual music, which accompanies the ship.
Again, it is the sylphs which unfold and develop their being within this sounding music, finding their dwelling-place in the moving current of air. It is in this spiritually sounding, moving element of air that they find themselves at home; and at the same time they absorb what the power of light sends into these vibrations of the air. Because of this the sylphs, which experience their existence more or less in a state of sleep, feel most in their element, most at home, where birds are winging through the air. If a sylph is obliged to move and weave through air devoid of birds, it feels as though it had lost itself. But at the sight of a bird in the air something quite special comes over the sylph. I have often had to describe a certain event in man's life, that event which leads the human soul to address itself as “I”. And I have always drawn attention to a saying of Jean Paul, that, when for the first time a human being arrives at the conception of his “I” it is as though he looks into the most deeply veiled Holy of Holies of his soul. A sylph does not look into any such veiled Holy of Holies of its own soul, but when it sees a bird an ego-feeling comes over it. It is in what the bird sets in motion as it flies through the air that the sylph feels its ego. And because this is so, because its ego is kindled in it from outside, the sylph becomes the bearer of cosmic love through the atmosphere. It is because the sylph embodies something like a human wish, but does not have its ego within itself but in the bird-kingdom, that it is at the same time the bearer of wishes of love through the universe.
Thus we behold the deepest sympathy between the sylphs and the bird-world. Whereas the gnome hates the amphibian world, whereas the undine is unpleasantly sensitive to fishes, is unwilling to approach them, tries to avoid them, feels a kind of horror for them, the sylph, on the other hand, is attracted towards birds, and has a sense of well-being when it can waft towards their plumage the swaying, love-filled waves of the air. And were you to ask a bird from whom it learns to sing, you would hear that its inspirer is the sylph. Sylphs feel a sense of pleasure in the bird's form. They are, however, prevented by the cosmic ordering from becoming birds, for they have another task. Their task is lovingly to convey light to the plant. And just as the undine is the chemist for the plant, so is the sylph the light-bearer. The sylph imbues the plant with light; it bears light into the plant.
Through the fact that the sylphs bear light into the plant, something quite remarkable is brought about in it. You see, the sylph is continually carrying light into the plant. The light, that is to say the power of the sylphs in the plant, works upon the chemical forces which were induced into the plant by the undines. Here occurs the interworking of sylph-light and undine-chemistry. This is a remarkable plastic activity. With the help of the upstreaming substances which are worked upon by the undines, the sylphs weave out of the light an ideal plant-form. They actually weave the Archetypal Plant within the plant from light, and from the chemical working of the undines. And when towards autumn the plant withers and everything of physical substance disintegrates, then these plant-forms begin to seep downwards, and now the gnomes perceive them, perceive what the world — the Sun through the sylphs, the air through the undines — has brought to pass in the plant. This the gnomes perceive, so that throughout the entire winter they are engaged in perceiving below what has seeped into the ground through the plants. Down there they grasp world-ideas in the plant-forms which have been plastically developed with the help of the sylphs, and which now in their spiritual ideal form enter into the ground.
Naturally those people who regard the plant as something purely material know nothing of this spiritual ideal form. Thus at this point something appears which in the materialistic observation of the plant gives rise to what is nothing other than a colossal error, a terrible error. I will sketch this error for you.
Everywhere you will find that materialistic science describes matters as follows: The plant takes root in the ground, above the ground it develops its leaves, finally unfolding its blossoms, within the blossoms the stamens, then the seed-bud. Now — usually from another plant — the pollen from the anthers, from the pollen vessels, is carried over to the germ which is then fructified, and through this the seed of the new plant is produced. The germ is regarded as the female element and what comes from the stamens as the male — indeed matters cannot be regarded otherwise as long as people remain fixed in materialism, for then this process really does look like a fructification. This, however, it is not. In order to gain insight into the process of fructification, that is to say the process of reproduction, in the plant-world, we must be conscious that in the first place it is from what the great chemists, the undines, bring about in the plants, and from what the sylphs bring about, that the plant-form arises, the ideal plant-form which sinks into the ground and is preserved by the gnomes. It is there below, this plant-form. And there within the earth it is now guarded by the gnomes after they have seen it, after they have looked upon it. The earth becomes the mother-womb for what thus seeps downwards. This is something quite different from what is described by materialistic science.
After it has passed through the sphere of the sylphs, the plant comes into the sphere of the elemental fire-spirits. These fire-spirits are the inhabitants of the warmth-light element. When the warmth of the earth is at its height, or is otherwise suitable, they gather the warmth together. Just as the sylphs gather up the light, so do the fire-spirits gather up the warmth and carry it into the blossoms of the plants.
Undines carry the action of the chemical ether into the plants, sylphs the action of the light-ether into the plant's blossoms. And the pollen now provides what may be called little air-ships, to enable the fire-spirits to carry the warmth into the seed. Everywhere warmth is collected with the help of the stamens, and is carried by means of the pollen from the anthers to the seeds and the seed vessels. And what is formed here in the seed-bud is entirely the male element which comes from the cosmos. It is not a case of the seed-vessel being female and the anthers of the stamens being male. In no way does fructification occur in the blossom, but only the pre-forming of the male seed. The fructifying force is what the fire-spirits in the blossom take from the warmth of the World-All as the cosmic male seed, which is united with the female element. This element, drawn from the forming of the plant, has, as I told you, already earlier seeped down into the ground as ideal form, and is resting there below. For plants the earth is the mother, the heavens the father. And all that takes place outside the domain of the earth is not the mother-womb for the plant. It is a colossal error to believe that the mother-principle of the plant is in the seed-bud. The fact is that this is the male-principle, which is drawn forth from the universe with the aid of the fire-spirits. The mother comes from the cambium, which spreads from the bark to the wood, and is carried down from above as ideal form. And what now results from the combined working of gnome-activity and fire-spirit activity — this is fructification. The gnomes are, in fact, the spiritual midwives of plant-reproduction. Fructification takes place below in the earth during the winter, when the seed comes into the earth and meets with the forms which the gnomes have received from the activities of the sylphs and undines and now carry to where these forms can meet with the fructifying seeds.
You see, because people do not recognize what is spiritual, do not know how gnomes, undines, sylphs, and fire-spirits — which were formerly called salamanders — weave and live together with plant-growth, there is complete lack of clarity about the process of fructification in the plant world. There, outside the earth nothing of fructification takes place, but the earth is the mother of the plant-world, the heavens the father. This is the case in a quite literal sense. Plant-fructification takes place through the fact that the gnomes take from the fire-spirits what the fire-spirits have carried into the seed bud as concentrated cosmic warmth on the little airships of the anther-pollen. Thus the fire-spirits are the bearers of warmth.
And now you will easily gain insight into the whole process of plant-growth. First, with the help of what comes from the fire-spirits, the gnomes down below instill life into the plant and push it upwards. They are the fosterers of life. They carry the life-ether to the root — the same life-ether in which they themselves live. The undines foster the chemical ether, the sylphs the light-ether, the fire-spirits the warmth ether. And then the fruit of the warmth-ether again unites with what is present below as life. Thus the plants can only be understood when they are considered in connection with all that is circling, weaving, and living around them. And one only reaches the right interpretation of the most important process in the plant when one penetrates into these things in a spiritual way.
When once this has been understood, it is interesting to look again at that memorandum of Goethe's where, referring to another botanist, he is so terribly annoyed because people speak of the eternal marriage in the case of the plants above the earth. Goethe is affronted by the idea that marriages should be taking place over every meadow. This seemed to him something unnatural. In this Goethe had an instinctive but very true feeling. He could not as yet know the real facts of the matter; nevertheless he instinctively felt that fructification should not take place above in the blossom. Only he did not as yet know what goes on down below under the ground, he did not know that the earth is the mother-womb of the plants. But that the process which takes place above in the blossom is not what all botanists hold it to be, this is something which Goethe instinctively felt.
You are now aware of the inner connection between plant and earth. But there is something else which you must take into account.
You see, when up above the fire-spirits are circling around the plant and transmitting the anther-pollen, then they have only one feeling, which they have in an enhanced degree, compared to the feeling of the sylphs. The sylphs experience their self, their ego, when they see the birds flying about. The fire-spirits have this experience, but to an intensified degree, in regard to the butterfly-world, and indeed the insect-world as a whole. And it is these fire-spirits which take the utmost delight in following in the tracks of the insects' flight so that they may bring about the distribution of warmth for the seed buds. In order to carry the concentrated warmth, which must descend into the earth so that it may be united with the ideal form, in order to do this the fire-spirits feel themselves inwardly related to the butterfly-world, and to the insect-creation in general. Everywhere they follow in the tracks of the insects as they buzz from blossom to blossom. And so one really has the feeling, when following the flight of insects, that each of these insects as it buzzes from blossom to blossom has a quite special aura which cannot be entirely explained from the insect itself. Particularly the luminous, wonderfully radiant, shimmering aura of bees, as they buzz from blossom to blossom, is unusually difficult to explain. And why? It is because the bee is everywhere accompanied by a fire-spirit which feels so closely related to it that, for spiritual vision, the bee is surrounded by an aura which is actually a fire-spirit. When a bee flies through the air from plant to plant, from tree to tree, it flies with an aura which is actually given to it by a fire-spirit. The fire-spirit does not only gain a feeling of its ego in the presence of the insect, but it wishes to be completely united with the insect.
Through this, however, insects also obtain that power about which I have spoken to you, and which shows itself in a shimmering forth of light into the cosmos. They obtain the power completely to spiritualize the physical matter which unites itself with them, and to allow the spiritualized physical substance to ray out into cosmic space. But just as with a flame it is the warmth in the first place which causes the light to shine, so, above the surface of the earth, when the insects shimmer forth into cosmic space what attracts the human being to descend again into physical incarnation, it is the fire spirits which inspire the insects to this activity, the fire-spirits which are circling and weaving around them. But if the fire-spirits are active in promoting the outstreaming of spiritualized matter into the cosmos, they are no less actively engaged in seeing to it that the concentrated fiery element, the concentrated warmth, goes into the interior of the earth, so that, with the help of the gnomes, the spirit-form, which sylphs and undines cause to seep down into the earth, may be awakened.
This, you see, is the spiritual process of plant-growth. And it is because the subconscious in man divines something of a special nature in the blossoming, sprouting plant that he experiences the being of the plant as full of mystery. The wonder is not spoiled, the magic is not brushed from the dust on the butterfly's wing. Rather is the instinctive delight in the plant raised to a higher level when not only the physical plant is seen, but also that wonderful working of the gnome-world below, with its immediate understanding and formative intelligence, the gnome-world which first pushes the plant upwards. Thus, just as human understanding is not subjected to gravity, just as the head is carried without our feeling its weight, so the gnomes with their light-imbued intellectuality overcome what is of the earth and push the plant upwards. Down below they prepare the life. But the life would die away were it not formed by chemical activity. This is brought to it by the undines. And this again must be imbued with light. And so we picture, from below upwards, in bluish, blackish shades the force of gravity, to which the impulse upwards is given by the gnomes; and weaving around the plant — indicated by the leaves — the undine-force blending and dispersing substances as the plant grows upwards. From above downwards, from the sylphs, light falls into the plants and shapes an idealized plastic form which descends, and is taken up by the mother-womb of the earth; moreover this form is circled around by the fire-spirits which concentrate the cosmic warmth into the tiny seed-points. This warmth is also sent downwards to the gnomes, so that from out of fire and life, they can cause the plants to arise.
And further, we now see that essentially the earth is indebted for its power of resistance and its density to the antipathy of the gnomes and undines towards amphibians and fishes. If the earth is dense, this density is due to the antipathy by means of which the gnomes and undines maintain their form. When light and warmth sink down on to the earth, this is first due to that power of sympathy, that sustaining power of sylph-love, which is carried through the air, and then to the sustaining sacrificial power of the fire-spirits, which causes them to incline downwards to what is below themselves. So we may say that, over the face of the earth, earth-density, earth-magnetism, and earth-gravity, in their upward-striving aspect, unite with the downward-striving power of love and sacrifice. And in this inter-working of the downwards streaming force of love and sacrifice and the upwards streaming force of density, gravity, and magnetism, in this inter-working, where the two streams meet, plant-life develops over the earth's surface. Plant-life is an outer expression of the inter-working of world-love and world-sacrifice with world-gravity and world-magnetism.
From this you have seen with what we have to do when we direct our gaze to the plant-world, which so enchants, uplifts, and inspires us. Here real insight can be gained only when our vision embraces the spiritual, the supersensible, as well as what is accessible to the physical senses. This enables us to correct the capital error of materialistic botany, that fructification occurs above the earth. What occurs there is not the process of fructification, but the preparation of the male heavenly seed for what is being made ready as the future plant in the mother-womb of the earth.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Emily Dickinson, in a letter to her brother, describing their father's reaction to a recital by Jenny Lind in Northampton, Massachusetts:
'Father sat all the evening looking mad, and silly, and yet so much amused you would have died a laughing--when the performers bowed, he said "Good evening Sir"--and when they retired, "very well--that will do," it was'nt sarcasm exactly, nor it was'nt disdain, it was infinitely funnier than either of those virtues, as if old Abraham had come to see the show, and thought it was all very well, but a little excess of Monkey!'
Not that there's anything wrong with that...
'Father sat all the evening looking mad, and silly, and yet so much amused you would have died a laughing--when the performers bowed, he said "Good evening Sir"--and when they retired, "very well--that will do," it was'nt sarcasm exactly, nor it was'nt disdain, it was infinitely funnier than either of those virtues, as if old Abraham had come to see the show, and thought it was all very well, but a little excess of Monkey!'
Not that there's anything wrong with that...
Man as Symphony of the Creative Word. Lecture 6 of 12.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, October 28, 1923:
Before we proceed to the study of the other members of the animal, plant, and mineral kingdoms, which are connected with man, we must first cast a glance at the development of man himself, and call to mind various descriptions already familiar to us through books or lectures in a comprehensive survey.
If we go for instruction to present-day science, we are usually told that it is necessary to investigate how the higher beings — the so-called higher beings — and human kingdoms have evolved out of what is lifeless, out of so-called inorganic substances or forces.
A true conception of evolution reveals something essentially different. It reveals — as you will have been able to gather from my Occult Science — that man in his present form is the being who has the longest evolution behind him, an evolution which reaches back to the time of ancient Saturn. We must therefore say that man is the oldest creation within the evolution of our Earth. It was only during the Sun-period that the animal kingdom was added, then during the Moon-period the plant kingdom; and the mineral kingdom, as we know it today, is in fact only an Earth-product, something which was only added during the Earth-period of evolution.
Let us now consider man in his present form, and ask ourselves: What is the oldest part of man according to his evolutionary history? It is the human head. This human head received its first rudiments at a time when the Earth was in the Saturn-metamorphosis. It is true that the Saturn-condition was composed entirely of warmth-substance, and the human head was then actually flowing, weaving, surging warmth; it then acquired gaseous form during the Sun-period, and fluidic form during the Moon-period, when it became a liquid, flowing entity; and only during the Earth-period did it receive solid form with its bony casing. We must therefore say that a being of which it is difficult to gain a conception through external forms of knowledge existed during the time of ancient Saturn, and of this being the human head is the descendant. And simultaneously with the formation of man's head — this can be gathered from my recent descriptions — simultaneously with this rudimentary origin of the human head during the Saturn-period, the first rudiments of the being of the butterflies also came into existence. Later we shall make a more exact study of the nature of the other insects, but to begin with let us strictly focus our attention on the being of the butterfly. When we follow the course of evolution from the ancient Saturn-period onwards until today, until Earth-existence, we must say: At that time the rudiments of the human head came into existence in a form of very delicate substantiality; and at the same time there arose everything which now flutters through the air as the world of the butterflies. Both these evolutions proceeded further. Man developed his inner being, so that to an ever greater degree he became a being manifesting a soul-nature, which works from within outwards, a being whose development depends upon a radiating from within outwards [a diagram was drawn]. The butterfly, on the other hand, is a being upon whose exterior the cosmos may be said to lavish all its beauties. The butterfly is a creature upon which everything of beauty and majesty in the cosmos — as this has been described to you — has, as it were, alighted, together with the dust, on its wings. We must, therefore, picture the being of the butterfly as a mirror which reflects the beauties of the upper cosmos. The human being takes up into himself, encloses within himself, what is of the nature of the upper cosmos, and thus becomes inwardly ensouled. It is like a concentration of the cosmos which then streams outwards, itself giving form to the human head, so that in the human head we have something formed from within outwards. But in the being of the butterfly we have what is formed from outside inwards. For one whose clairvoyant vision can look directly at these things, there is something really tremendous to be learned if he sets to work in the following way. He says: I wish to fathom the mysteries, the most ancient mysteries, the Saturn-mysteries, of the human head; I wish to know the true nature of the forces which have held sway inside the skull. He must then let his attention be directed to what is everywhere to be seen outside, to what everywhere streams inwards from outside. To learn to know the nature of man and the marvel of thine own head, study the marvel of how the butterfly came to be outside in nature. This is the great lesson imparted by the study of the cosmos through direct spiritual observation.
Evolution then proceeded from the Saturn-period to the Sun-period, and now a being came into existence possessed of a further development, an air-development, an air-metamorphosis, of the head; but to this there was added in very delicate substance what later became the breast-system, became the breathing-and-heart systems of man. In Saturn we have as the essential metamorphosis what produced the human head. When we come to the Sun-period we have the head-breast-man; for it was now that man's breast-system was added. At the same time, however, there already came into existence, in the later part of the Saturn-period and the earlier part of the Sun-period, what must now be seen as having its representative in the eagle. The bird kingdom arose in the first part of the Sun-period, and in the second part of the Sun-period there arose the first rudiments of that kingdom of the animals which are in fact breast-animals, as, for instance, the lion — other breast-animals, too, but the lion as their representative. So that the first rudiments of these animals go back to the time of old Sun.
From this you can see what a stupendous difference is present between the evolution of even the higher animals and that of man. In the future I shall still have to speak about the transitional animals, to which belongs the world of the apes, but today my intention is just to gather things together into a general concept. You see what an immense difference exists between the formation of man and the formation of the higher animals.
In the case of human evolution it was the head which first took form. All the other organs are, as it were, appended; they may be said to be appended to the formation of the head. In cosmic evolution man's development proceeds from his head downwards. On the other hand the lion, for example, first came into existence during the old Sun-period, during the second part of the old Sun-period, as a breast-animal, as an animal with a powerful breathing-system, but with a head still very small and poorly developed. And only in later times when the Sun separated from the Earth, working from outside, only then did the head develop out of the breast. Thus the development of the lion was such that it evolved from the breast upwards, whereas the human being evolved from the head downwards. This constitutes an immense difference in evolution as a whole.
And when we now proceed to the Moon-metamorphosis of the Earth, because the Moon represented the water-condition, because the Moon was fluidic — though it certainly developed a horny substance in its later period — it was only then that the human being needed a further extension downwards. The rudiments of the digestive-system took form. During the old Sun-period, while man possessed only what was of the nature of air, undulating, scintillating with light, all he required for the purpose of nourishment was a breathing apparatus shut off from below; man was head-and-breathing organism. Now, during the Moon-period, he acquired a digestive system, thereby becoming a being of head, breast, and abdomen. And because everything in the Old Moon was still watery substance, during this Old Moon period the human being had outgrowths which buoyed him up as he swam through the water. Arms and legs can first be spoken of only during the Earth period, when the force of gravity was working, giving form to what is primarily adjusted in accordance with the directions of gravity, namely the limb system. This therefore belongs only to the Earth period. During the Moon period, however, the digestive system was formed, though still quite differently constituted from what it later became; for man's digestive apparatus did not as yet need to assimilate all that serves the free, independent mobility of the limbs. It was still an essentially different digestive system; this was later metamorphosed into the digestive apparatus appropriate to the Earth. It was, however, during the Moon period that man first acquired his digestive system.
And then it came about further that to the descendants of the butterflies, of the birds and of such species as are represented by the lion, those animals were added which are predominantly adapted to digestion. Thus during the Moon period we have the addition of those animals which are represented by the cow.
How then did the development of the cow proceed in contradistinction to that of the human being? Here matters were such that in this Old Moon period it was first and foremost the cow's digestive apparatus that was formed; then, only after the Moon had separated, the breast-organs developed out of the digestive system, as did also the peculiarly formed head. Whereas man began his development with the head, adding to this the breast, and finally the digestive organs; whereas the lion began with the breast-organs, adding to these the head, and then, during the Old Moon period, acquiring the digestive organs together with man; in the case of the animals represented by the cow, we have first, as primary origin, the digestive organs, and then, growing out from these as further development, the formation of the organs of breast and head. So you see, man developed from the head downwards, the lion from the breast both upwards and downwards; the cow developed breast and head entirely from the digestive organs, developed, that is to say — if we compare the cow with the human being — entirely in an upwards direction, developed towards heart and head. This is the correct view of human evolution.
Here the question naturally arises: Is it only the cow which was, as it were, the companion thus associated with man's evolution? This is not entirely so, for whenever one or other planetary metamorphosis takes place, the earlier creatures develop further, while at the same time new ones come into existence. The cow already came into being during the first phase of the Moon metamorphosis. Then, however, other animals were added, which acquired their very earliest rudiments in the last phase of the Moon metamorphosis. These could not, for example, take part in the departure of the Moon, for it was already outside. Nor could they participate in what this departure brought about, namely the drawing forth, as it were, from the cow's belly of the organs of heart and head. These creatures, which made their appearance later, remained stationary at the stage which is determined in man by the digestion, the stage which man carries with him in his abdomen.
And just as the eagle and the butterflies are constituted in relation to the head, the lion in relation to the breast, the cow in relation to the abdomen (though it is the animal which was also able to develop all the upper organs at a later period of evolution), so the amphibians and reptiles, such as toads, frogs, snakes, lizards, are distributed, if I may put it so, among the lower organs of the human being, those of the human digestive system. They are simply digestive organs which came into existence as animals.
|BUTTERFLIES||BIRDS, LIONS||COWS, REPTILES, AMPHIBIANS, FISHES|
These last creatures appeared during the second Moon period in an extremely crude form, and were in fact walking stomachs and entrails, walking stomachs and intestinal tubes. And only later, during the Earth period, did they also acquire a still not particularly distinguished-looking head-system. Only look at the frogs and toads, or the snakes. They came into existence simply and solely as animals of digestion, at a late period, at a time when man could still only append his digestive apparatus to what he had already acquired during an earlier period.
And in the Earth period, when man acquired his limb system under the influence of gravity and earth-magnetism, the tortoises — we may take the tortoises as representative animals in this — actually stretched their head out beyond their armoured shell in a manner more like an organ of the limb-system than a head. And now we can understand how it is that in the case of the amphibians and reptiles the head is formed in such an uncouth way. Its form is such that one really has the feeling — and rightly so — that here one passes directly from the mouth into the stomach. There is hardly any intermediary.
When we study man in this way and apportion his being among his animal contemporaries, we must assign what is comprised in the reptiles and amphibians to the human activity of digestion. And one can actually say: Just as man carries around in his intestines the products of his digestion, so does the cosmos carry around — indirectly by way of the Earth — the toads, snakes, and frogs in the cosmic intestine which it formed in the watery-earthly element of the Earth. On the other hand, all that is more connected with human propagation, which appeared in its earliest rudiments in the very last phase of the Moon period, and only developed fully during the Earth metamorphosis, with this the fishes are allied, the fishes and still lower animals. So that we have to regard the fishes as late arrivals of evolution, as creatures which only joined the company of the other animals at a time when man added his generative organs to those of digestion. The snake is the intermediary between the organs of reproduction and digestion. Rightly viewed in regard to human nature, what does the snake represent? It represents the so-called renal canal; it originated in world evolution at the same time as the renal canal was developed in man.
Thus we can follow in a correct way how the human being, beginning with his head, evolved downwards, how the Earth drew forth from him the limb system, providing what this limb system required in order to establish itself in the Earth-equilibrium of gravity and magnetic forces. And simultaneously with this evolution downwards the different classes of the animals took form.
In this way we get a true picture of the evolution of the Earth with its creatures. And in accordance with this evolution these creatures have developed in such a way that they present themselves to us as they are today. When you look at the butterflies and the birds you certainly have earthly forms; but you know from previous descriptions that the butterfly is really a light-being and the earthly substance has, as it were, only alighted upon it. If the butterfly itself could tell you what it is, it would announce to you that it has a body formed of light, and that, as I have already said, it carries about what has alighted upon it in the way of earthly matter like luggage, like something external to itself. Similarly one can say that the bird is a creature of warm air, for the true bird is the warm air which is diffused throughout its body; all else is its luggage which it carries with it through the world. These creatures, which even today have still preserved their nature of light and warmth, and are really only clothed with a terrestrial, an earthly, a watery vesture — these beings were the very earliest to arise in the whole of Earth evolution. The very forms, too, possessed by these beings can remind one, who is able to survey the time which man passes through in the spiritual world before his descent into earthly life, of what is experienced in the spiritual world. Certainly they are earthly forms, for earthly matter has alighted upon them. But if we conceive rightly the fluttering, weaving being of light which is the real butterfly, thinking away everything of an earthly nature which has alighted upon it; if we think away from the bird everything of Earth which has alighted upon it; if we picture the assembly of forces which makes of the bird a being of warm air, taking account also of the nature of its plumage — in reality just shining rays; if we imagine all this, then these creatures (which only look as they do because of their outer vestment, and of their size appropriate to this outer vestment) remind us of the beings which man knew before his descent to the Earth, and of the fact that the human being has made this descent to the Earth. Then one who can thus gaze into the spiritual world says to himself: In the butterflies, in the birds, we have something reminiscent of those spirit-forms among which man dwelt before he descended to the Earth, of the beings of the higher hierarchies. Looked at with understanding, butterflies and birds are a memory — transformed into miniature and metamorphosed — of those forms which man had around him as spirit-forms before he descended into Earth evolution. Because Earth-substance is heavy and must be overcome, the butterflies contract into miniature the gigantic form which is in reality theirs. If you could separate from a butterfly everything of the nature of Earth-substance, it would be able, as spirit-being, as a being of light, to expand to archangelic form. In those creatures which inhabit the air we have the earthly images of what exists in higher regions in a spiritual way. This is why, in the time of instinctive clairvoyance, it was the natural thing in artistic creation to derive from the forms of the winged creatures the symbolic form, the pictorial form, of the beings of the higher hierarchies. This has its inner justification. And looked at fundamentally the physical forms of the butterflies and the birds are really the physical metamorphoses of spiritual beings. It is not the spiritual beings themselves which have undergone metamorphosis, but these forms are their metamorphosed image-picture; naturally, the beings themselves are different.
You will, therefore, also find it comprehensible if, returning to something which I have already discussed, I again draw what follows in a diagram. [* earlier diagram of cosmic memory & thinking with butterfly, bird, and bat] I told you that the butterfly, which is essentially a being of light, continually sends spiritualized Earth-matter out into the cosmos during its lifetime. I should now like to call this spiritualized Earth-substance, which is sent forth into the cosmos — borrowing a term customary in solar physics — the butterfly corona. Thus the butterfly corona continually streams forth into the cosmos. But into this butterfly corona there rays what the bird kingdom yields up to the cosmos every time a bird dies, so that the spiritualized matter from the bird kingdom is rayed into the corona and out into the cosmos. Thus in spiritual perception one beholds a shimmering corona emanating from the butterfly kingdom — in accordance with certain laws this is maintained in winter also — and in a more ray-like form, introduced into it, one beholds what streams out from the birds.
You see, when the human being has the impulse to descend from the spiritual world to the physical world, it is the butterfly corona, this remarkable outstreaming of spiritualized Earth-substance, which first calls him into earthly existence. And the rays of the bird corona, these are experienced more as forces which draw him. Now you perceive an even higher significance in what has its life in the encircling air. In what lives and weaves in physical reality one must everywhere seek for the spiritual. And it is only when one seeks for the spiritual that one first comes upon the significance of the individual categories of beings. The Earth entices man back into incarnation by sending forth into world-space the shining radiance of the butterfly-corona and the rays of the bird-corona. It is these things which once again call man back into a new earthly existence after he has spent a certain period of time between death and rebirth in the purely spiritual world. It is therefore not to be wondered at if man finds it difficult to unravel the complicated feelings which he rightly experiences when beholding the world of the butterflies and the birds. For the true reality of these feelings dwells deep in the unconsciousness. What really works in them is the remembrance of a longing for a new earthly existence.
This again is connected with something I have often explained to you, namely that the human being, when he has departed from the Earth through the portal of death, actually disperses his head, and that then the remainder of his organism — naturally in regard to its forces, not in regard to its matter — becomes metamorphosed into the head of the next earthly existence. Thus man is striving towards his head when he is striving towards his descent. And it is the head which is the first part of the human embryo to develop in a form which already resembles the later human form. That all this is so is due to the fact that this directing of the formative element towards the head is intimately connected with what works and weaves in the world of the flying creatures, by means of which man is drawn out of supersensible into sensible existence.
When the human being, during the embryonic period, has first acquired his head organization, he then forms out of earthly existence, moulding it within the mother's body, what is connected with the digestive organization, and so on. Just as the upper part, the head-formation, is connected with what is of the nature of warmth and air, with the warmth-light element, so what is now added during the embryonic period is connected with the earthly-fluid element and is a reflection of what man acquired later in evolution. This earthly-fluid element must, however, be prepared in a quite special way, within the mother's body. If it took its form only from what is distributed outside in the tellurian world, in the earthly world, it would develop only the lower animal-forms of the amphibians and reptiles, or of the fishes and even lower creatures.
The butterfly rightly regards itself as a being of light, the bird as a being of warm air, but this is impossible for the lower animals — amphibians, reptiles, fishes. Let us first consider the fishes as they are today, as they come into existence subject to external formative forces which work upon them from without, whereas they work from within upon man. A fish lives primarily in the element of water. But water is certainly not just the combination of hydrogen and oxygen which it is for the chemist. Water is permeated by all possible kinds of cosmic forces. Stellar forces enter into water. No fish would be able to live in water if it were merely a homogeneous combination of hydrogen and oxygen. Just as the butterfly feels itself to be a light-being, and the bird a being of warm air, so the fish feels itself as an earthly-watery being. But the fish does not feel the actual water which it sucks in as its own being. A bird does feel the air which it inhales as its own being. Thus the bird actually feels what enters into it as air, and is everywhere diffused through it, as its own being; this air which is diffused through the bird and warmed by it, this is its being. The fish has water within it, yet the fish does not feel itself as the water; the fish feels itself to be what encloses the water, what surrounds the water. It feels itself to be the glittering sheath or vessel enclosing the water. But the water itself is felt by the fish as an element foreign to it, which passes out and in, and, in doing so, brings the air which the fish needs. Yet air and water are felt by the fish as something foreign. In its physical nature, the fish feels the water as something foreign to it. But the fish has also its etheric and astral body. And it is just this which is the remarkable thing about the fish; because it really feels itself to be the vessel, and the water this vessel encloses remains connected with all the rest of the watery element, the fish experiences the etheric as that in which it actually lives. It does not feel the astral as something belonging to itself.
Thus, the fish has the peculiar characteristic that it is so entirely an etheric creature. It feels itself as the physical vessel for the water. It feels the water within itself as part and parcel with all the waters of the world. Moisture is everywhere, and in this moisture the fish at the same time experiences the etheric. For earthly life fishes are certainly dumb, but if they could speak and could tell you what they feel, then they would say: “I am a vessel, but the vessel contains the all-pervading element of water, which is the bearer of the etheric element. It is in the etheric that I am really swimming.” The fish would say: “Water is only maya; the reality is the etheric, and it is in this that I really swim.” Thus the fish feels its life as one with the life of the Earth. This is the peculiar thing about the fish: it feels its life as the life of the Earth, and therefore it takes an intimate part in everything which the Earth experiences during the course of the year, experiencing the outgoing of the etheric forces in summer, the drawing-back of the etheric forces in winter. The fish experiences something which breathes in the whole Earth. The fish perceives the etheric element as the breathing process of the Earth.
Dr. Wachsmuth [*See The Etheric Formative Forces in Cosmos, Earth, and Man by Gunter Wachsmuth.] once spoke here about the breathing of the Earth. This was a very beautiful exposition. If a fish had learned the art of lecturing, it could have given the very same lecture here out of its own experience, for it perceives all that was described in that lecture from having itself followed all the phenomena in question! The fish is the creature which takes part in a quite extraordinary way in the breathing-life of the Earth during the cycle of the year, because what is important for the fish is the etheric life-element, which surges out and in, drawing all other breathing processes with it.
It is otherwise with the reptiles and with the amphibians — with the frogs, for instance, which are remarkably characteristic in this respect. These creatures are less connected with the etheric element of the cosmos; they are connected to a greater degree with its astral element. If one were to ask a fish: “How are things with you?” it would answer: “Well, yes, here on Earth I have become an earthly creature, formed out of the earthly-moist elements; but my real life is the life of the whole Earth with its cosmic breathing.” This is not so with the frog; here matters are essentially different. The frog shares in the general astrality diffused everywhere.
In regard to the plants, I told you — and I shall speak further of this — how the astrality of the cosmos above comes into contact with the blossoms. The frog is connected with this astrality, with what may be called the astral body of the Earth, just as the fish is connected with the Earth's etheric body. The fish possesses its astrality more for itself. The frog possesses its etheric body very strongly for itself, much more strongly than does the fish; but the frog lives in the general astrality; so that it actually shares in those astral processes which play their part in the year's course, where the Earth lets its astrality play into the evaporation of water and its re-descent. Here the materialistically minded person naturally says that the evaporation of water is caused by aerodynamic forces — or, if you will, aero-mechanical forces — of one kind or another; these cause the ascent. Drops are formed, and when they become heavy enough they fall downwards. But this is almost as though one were to put forward a similar theory about the circulation of the human blood, without taking into consideration the fact that in the blood-circulation life is everywhere. In the same way there lives in the circulation of water, with its upwards and downwards urge, the astral atmosphere of the Earth, the earth's astrality. And I am telling you no fairy-tale when I say that it is just the frogs — this is also the case with the other amphibians, but to a less pronounced degree — which live together with this play of the astrality which manifests in weather-conditions, in meteorology. It is not only that frogs are accepted — as you know — in a naive way as weather-prophets, but they experience this astral play so wonderfully because they are placed with their own astrality right into the astrality of the Earth. Certainly the frog does not say “I have a feeling,” but it is the bearer of the feelings which the Earth has in wet spells, in dry spells, and so on. And this is why in certain weather conditions you have the more or less beautiful (or ugly) frogs' concert. For this is the frogs' way of expressing what they experience together with the astral body of the Earth. It is really true that they do not croak unless they are moved to do so by what comes from the whole cosmos; they live with the astrality of the Earth.
So we can say that the fish, living in the earthly-watery element, naturally participates to a great degree in the life of the Earth: thus we have in the fish earthly life-conditions; in the frogs, earthly feeling-conditions — as also in the various species of reptiles and amphibians. Further, if we wish to study the human digestive organism, we must say that it has developed from within outwards. But if we wish to study how it functions, we must turn to the world of amphibians and reptiles, for to them there comes from outside what permeates the human being as inner forces through his digestive apparatus. It is with the same forces by means of which man digests that the outer cosmos, outer nature, forms snakes, toads, lizards, and frogs. And whoever wishes to make a correct study — excuse me, but there is nothing ugly in nature, everything must be spoken about objectively — whoever wishes to study the inner nature of, let us say, the human large intestine with its power of excretion, must study the toads outwardly; for there comes to the toads from outside what works from within outwards in the human large intestine. Certainly this does not lend itself to such beautiful descriptions as what I had to say about the butterflies; but in nature everything must be taken with objective impartiality.
In this way, you see, you also gain a picture of how the Earth, from its side, shares in the life of the cosmos. Turn your attention to what may be called the Earth's excretory organs: the Earth excretes not only the nearly lifeless products of human excretion, but it excretes what is living, and among its actual excretions are the toads. In them the Earth rids itself of what it is unable to use.
From all this you can see how the outer in nature always corresponds with the inner. Whoever says “No Creative Spirit penetrates the inner being of nature” simply does not know that everywhere in the external world this inner quality is present. We can study the entire human being in regard to his inner nature if we understand what weaves and lives outside in the cosmos. We can study him, this human being, from head to limb-system, if we study what is present in the outer world. World and man belong together in every respect. And one can even say that this could be represented in a diagram, showing the circumference of a large circle concentrating its force in a point. The large circle forms a smaller circle within, produced by a raying outwards from the point. The smaller circle again forms an even smaller small circle; this is again produced by a raying-outwards of what is within. This circle again forms another such circle. What is comprised in the human being streams still further outwards. Thus the outer of the human being comes into contact with the inner of the cosmos. The point where our senses come in contact with the world is where the part of man which reaches from within outwards comes into contact with what reaches in the cosmos from outside inwards. In this sense man is a little world, a microcosm over against the macrocosm. But he contains all the wonders and secrets of this macrocosm, only in the reversed direction of development.
It would be something very adverse to the further evolution of the Earth if things were only as I have so far described them; then the Earth would excrete the beings of the toads, and would one day perish just as physical man must perish, without any continuation. So far, however, we have only considered man's connection with the animals, and have built only a slight bridge over to the being of the plants. We shall now have to penetrate further into the plant-kingdom, and then into the kingdom of mineral-being, and we shall see how the mineral-being arose during the Earth-period — how, for instance, the rock-formations of our primeval mountains were laid down, bit by bit, by the plants, and how, bit by bit, the limestone mountains were laid down by the subsequent animals. The mineral kingdom is the deposit of the plant and animal-kingdom, and it is actually the deposit of the lowest animals. The toads do not contribute very much to the mineral element of the Earth; the fishes, too, comparatively little; but the lower animals and the plants contribute a very great deal. The lower creatures, those plated with flinty and chalky armor, or having merely chalky shells, deposit what they have first formed from their own animal — or their plant — natures, and the mineral then disintegrates. And when this mineral substance disintegrates, a power of the highest order takes hold of just these products of mineral disintegration and from them builds up new worlds. The mineral element in any particular place can become of all things the most important.
When we follow the course of Earth-evolution — warmth-condition, air-condition, water-condition, mineral-earthly condition — the human head has participated in all these metamorphoses, the mineral metamorphosis being the first to work outwards in the disintegrating skeleton of the head — though it still retains a certain vitality. But this human head has participated in the earthly-mineral metamorphosis in a way which is even more apparent. In the center of the human head within the structure of the brain there is an organ shaped like a pyramid: the pineal gland. This pineal gland, situated in the vicinity of the corpus quadrigemina and the optic thalamus, secretes out of itself the so-called brain sand, minute lemon-yellow stones which lie in little heaps at one end of the pineal gland, and which are in fact the mineral element in the human head. If they do not lie there, if man does not bear this brain-sand, this mineral element, within him, he becomes an idiot or a cretin. In the case of normal people the pineal gland is comparatively large. In cretins pineal glands have been found which are actually no larger than hemp seeds; these cannot secrete the brain-sand.
It is actually in this mineral deposit that the spirit-man is situated; and this already indicates that what is living cannot harbor the spirit, but that the human spirit needs the nonliving as its center-point, that this is above all things necessary to it as independent living spirit.
It was a beautiful progression which led us from the butterfly-head-formation, the bird-head-formation, downwards to the reptiles and fishes. We will now re-ascend and study what will give us as much satisfaction as the kingdom of the animals: the kingdoms of the plants and the minerals. And just as we have been able to gather teachings about the past from the animal kingdom, so shall we be able to derive from the mineral kingdom hope for the future of the Earth. At the same time it will naturally still be necessary in the following lectures to enter into the nature of transitional animals from the most varied aspects, for in this survey I have only been able to touch upon the animals of principal significance, which, so to say, appear at the key-points of evolution.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Piercing Nature's Veil of Maya: Butterflies (Memories), Birds (Thoughts), and Bats (Dreams). Michael and the Dragon
Man as Symphony of the Creative Word. Lecure 5 of 12.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, October 27, 1923:
These lectures deal with the inner connection between appearance and reality in the world, and you have already seen that there are many things of which those whose vision is limited to the world of appearance have no idea. We have seen how every species of being — this was shown by a number of examples — has its task in the whole nexus of cosmic existence. Now today, as a kind of recapitulation, we will again consider what I said recently about the nature of several beings, and in the first place, the butterfly. In my description of this butterfly nature, as contrasted with that of the plants, we found that the butterfly is essentially a being belonging to the light — to the light in so far as it is modified by the forces of the outer planets: of Mars, of Jupiter, and of Saturn. Hence, if we wish to understand the butterfly in its true nature, we must in fact look up into the higher regions of the cosmos, and must say to ourselves: These higher cosmic regions endow and bless the Earth with the world of the butterflies.
The bestowal of this blessing upon the Earth has an even deeper significance. Let us recall how we had to say that the butterfly does not participate in what is directly connected with earthly existence, but only indirectly, in so far as the Sun, with its power of warmth and light, is active in this earthly existence. Actually a butterfly lays its eggs only where they do not become separated from Sun activity, so that the butterfly does not entrust its egg to the Earth, but only to the Sun. Then out creeps the caterpillar, which is under the influence of Mars-activity, though naturally the Sun influence always remains present. Then the chrysalis is formed, and this is under the influence of Jupiter-activity. Out of the chrysalis emerges the butterfly, which can now in its iridescent colors reproduce in the Earth's environment the luminous Sun-power of the Earth united with the power of Saturn.
Thus in the manifold colors of the butterfly world we see, in the environment of Earth-existence, the direct working of Saturn-activity within the sphere of the earthly. But let us bear in mind that the substances necessary for Earth-existence are in fact of two kinds. We have the purely material substances of the Earth, and we have the spiritual substances; and I told you that the remarkable thing about this is that in the case of man the underlying substance of his metabolic and limb system is spiritual, whereas that of the head is physical. Moreover in man's lower nature spiritual substance is permeated with the activity of physical forces, with the action of gravity, with the action of the other earthly forces. In the head, the earthly substance, conjured up into it by the whole digestive process, the circulation, nerve-activity and the like, is permeated by supersensible spiritual forces, which are reflected in our thinking, in our power of forming mental pictures. Thus in the human head we have spiritualized physical matter, and in the metabolic-limb-system we have earthized — if I may coin a word — earthized spiritual substantiality.
Now, it is this spiritualized matter that we find to the greatest degree in the butterfly. Because a butterfly always remains in the sphere of Sun-existence, it only takes to itself earthly matter — naturally I am still speaking pictorially — as though in the form of the finest dust. It also derives its nourishment from those earthly substances which are worked upon by the Sun. It unites with its own being only what is Sun-imbued; and it takes from earthly substance only what is finest, and works on it until it is entirely spiritualized. When we look at a butterfly's wing we actually have before us earthly matter in its most spiritualized form. Through the fact that the matter of the butterfly's wing is imbued with color, it is the most spiritualized of all earthly substances.
The butterfly is the creature which lives entirely in spiritualized Earth-matter. And one can even see spiritually how in a certain way a butterfly despises the body which it carries between its colored wings, because its whole attention, its whole group-soul being, is centered on its joyous delight in the colors of its wings.
And just as we marvel at its shimmering colors as we follow it, so also can we marvel at its own fluttering joy in these colors. This is something which it is of fundamental importance to cultivate in children, this joy in the spirituality fluttering about in the air, which is in fact fluttering joy, joy in the play of colors. The nuances of butterfly-nature reflect all this in a wonderful way: and something else lies in the background as well.
We were able to say of the bird — which we regarded as represented by the eagle — that at its death it can carry spiritualized Earth-substance into the spiritual world, and that thereby, as bird, it has the task in cosmic existence of spiritualizing earthly matter, thus being able to accomplish what cannot be done by man. The human being also possesses in his head Earth-matter which has been to a certain degree spiritualized, but he cannot take this earthly matter into the world in which he lives between death and a new birth, for he would continually have to endure unspeakable, unbearable, devastating pain if he were to carry this spiritualized Earth-matter of his head into the spiritual world.
The bird-world, represented by the eagle, can do this, so that thereby a connection is actually created between what is earthly and what is extra-earthly. Earthly matter is, as it were, gradually converted into spirit, and the bird-creation has the task of giving over this spiritualized earthly matter to the universe. One can actually say that, when the Earth has reached the end of its existence, this Earth-matter will have been spiritualized, and that the bird-creation had its place in the whole economy of earthly existence for the purpose of carrying back this spiritualized Earth-matter into spiritland.
It is somewhat different with butterflies. The butterfly spiritualizes earthly matter to an even greater degree than the bird. The bird after all comes into much closer contact with the Earth than does the butterfly. I will explain this in detail later. Because the butterfly never actually leaves the region of the Sun, it is in a position to spiritualize its matter to such a degree that it does not, like the bird, have to await its death, but already during its life it is continually restoring spiritualized matter to the environment of the Earth, to the cosmic environment of the Earth.
Only think of the magnificence of all this in the whole cosmic economy! Only picture the Earth with the world of the butterflies fluttering around it in its infinite variety, continually sending out into world-space the spiritualized earthly matter which this butterfly-world yields up to the cosmos! Then, with such knowledge, we can contemplate the region of the world of the butterflies encircling the Earth with totally different feelings.
We can look into this fluttering world and say: From you, O fluttering creatures, there streams out something still better than sunlight: you radiate spirit-light into the cosmos! Our materialistic science pays but little heed to things of the spirit. And so this materialistic science is absolutely unequipped with any means of grasping at these things, which are, nevertheless, part of the whole cosmic economy. They are there, just as the effects of physical activities are there, and they are even more real. For what thus streams out into spirit-land will work on further when the Earth has long passed away, whereas what is taught by the modern chemist and physicist will reach its end with the conclusion of the Earth's existence. So that if some observer or other were to sit outside in the cosmos, with a long period of time for observation, he would see something like a continual outstreaming into spiritland of matter which has become spiritualized, as the Earth radiates its own being out into cosmic space; and he would see — like scintillating sparks, sparks which ever and again flash up into light — what the bird-kingdom, what every bird after its death sends forth as glittering light, streaming out into the universe in the form of rays: a shimmering of the spirit-light of the butterflies, and a sparkling of the spirit-light of the birds.
Such things as these should also make us realize that when we look up to the rest of the starry world we should not think that from there, too, there only streams down what is shown by the spectroscope, or rather what is conjured into the spectroscope by the fantasy of the expert in optics. What streams down to Earth from other worlds of the stars is just as much the product of living beings in other worlds as what streams out from the Earth into world-space is the product of living beings. People look at a star, and with the modern physicist picture it as something in the nature of a kindled inorganic flame or the like. This, of course, is absolute nonsense. For what we behold there is entirely the product of something imbued with life, imbued with soul, imbued with spirit.
And now let us pass inwards from this girdle of butterflies — if I may call it so — which encircles the Earth, and return to the kingdom of the birds. If we call to mind something which is already known to us, we must picture three regions adjoining each other. There are other regions above these, and again other regions below them. We have the light-ether; and we have the warmth-ether — which, however, actually consists of two parts, of two layers, the one being the layer of earthly warmth, the other that of cosmic warmth, and these continually play one into the other. Thus we have not only one but two kinds of warmth, the one which is of earthly, tellurian, origin, and the other of a kind which is of cosmic origin. These are always playing one into the other. Then, bordering on the warmth-ether, there is the air. Below this would come water and earth, and above would come chemical ether and light-ether.
The world of the butterflies belongs more particularly to the light-ether; it is the light-ether itself which is the means whereby the power of the light draws forth the caterpillar from the butterfly's egg. Essentially it is the power of the light which draws the caterpillar forth.
This is not the case with the bird-kingdom. The birds lay their eggs. These must now be hatched out by warmth. The butterfly's egg is simply given over to what is of the nature of the Sun; the bird's egg comes into the region of warmth. It is in the region of the warmth-ether that the bird has its being, and it overcomes what is purely of the air.
The butterfly, too, flies in the air, but fundamentally it is entirely a creature of the light. And in that the air is permeated with light, in this light-air existence, the butterfly chooses not air existence but light existence. For the butterfly the air is only what sustains it — the waves, as it were, upon which it floats; but the butterfly's element is the light. The bird flies in the air, but its element is the warmth, the various differentiations of warmth in the air, and to a certain degree it overcomes the air. Certainly the bird is also an air-being inwardly and to a high degree. The bones of the mammals, the bones of the human being are filled with marrow. (We shall speak later as to why this is the case.) The bones of a bird are hollow and are filled only with air. We consist, in so far as the content of our bones is concerned, of what is of the nature of marrow; a bird consists of air. And what is of the nature of marrow in us for the bird is simply air. If you take the lungs of a bird, you will find a whole quantity of pockets which project from the lungs; these are air-pockets. When the bird inhales it does not only breathe air into its lungs, but it breathes the air into these air-pockets, and from thence it passes into the hollow bones. So that if one could remove from the bird all its flesh and all its feathers and also take away the bones, one would still get a creature composed of air, having the form of what inwardly fills out the lungs, and what inwardly fills out all the bones. Picturing this in accordance with its form, you would really get the form of the bird. Within the eagle of flesh and bone dwells an eagle of air. This is not only because within the eagle there is also an eagle of air. The bird breathes, and through its breathing it produces warmth. This warmth the bird imparts to the air, and draws it into its entire limb system. Thus arises the difference of temperature as compared to its outer environment. The bird has its inner warmth, as against the outer warmth. In this difference of degree between the warmth of the outer air and the warmth which the bird imparts to its own air within itself — it is really in this that the bird lives and has its being. And if you were to ask a bird how matters are with its body — supposing you understood bird language — the bird's reply would make you realize that it regards its solid material bones, and other material adjuncts, rather as you would luggage if you were loaded, left and right, on the back and on the head. You would not call this luggage your body. In the same way the bird, in speaking of itself, would only speak of the warmth-imbued air, and of everything else as the luggage which it bears about with it in earthly existence. These bones, which envelop the real body of the bird, these are its luggage. We are therefore, speaking in an absolute sense when we say that fundamentally the bird lives only and entirely in the element of warmth, and the butterfly in the element of light. For the butterfly everything of the nature of physical substance, which it spiritualizes, is, before this spiritualizing, not even personal luggage but more like furniture. It is even more remote from its real being.
When we thus ascend to the creatures of these regions we come to something which cannot be judged in a physical way. If we do so, it is rather as if we were to draw a person with his hair growing out of the bundle on his head, boxes growing together with his arms, and a rucksack growing out of his back, making him appear a perfect hunch-back. If one were to draw a person in this way, it would actually correspond to the materialist's view of the bird. That is not the bird; it is the bird's luggage. The bird really feels encumbered by having to drag his luggage about, for it would like best to pursue its way through the world free and unencumbered, as a creature of warm air. For the bird all else is a burden. And the bird pays tribute to world-existence by spiritualizing this burden for it, sending it out when it dies into spiritland — a tribute which the butterfly already pays during its lifetime.
You see, the bird breathes, and makes use of the air in the way I told you. It is otherwise with the butterfly. The butterfly does not in any way breathe by means of an apparatus such as the so-called higher animals possess — though these in fact are only the more bulky, not in reality the higher animals. The butterfly breathes in fact only through tubes which proceed inwards from its outer casing, and, these being somewhat dilated, it can accumulate air during flight, so that it is not inconvenienced by always needing to breathe.
The butterfly always breathes through tubes which pass into its interior. Because this is so, it can take up into its whole body, together with the air which it inhales, the light which is in the air. Here, too, a great difference is to be found.
Let us represent this in a diagram. Picture to yourselves one of the higher animals, one with lungs. Into the lungs comes oxygen, and there it unites with the blood in its course through the heart. In the case of these bulky animals, and also with man, the blood must flow into the heart and lungs in order to come into contact with oxygen.
In the case of the butterfly I must draw the diagram quite differently. Here I must draw it in this way: If this is the butterfly, the tubes everywhere pass inwards; they then branch out more widely. And now the oxygen enters in everywhere, and spreads itself out through the tubes; so that the air penetrates into the whole body.
With us, and with the so-called higher animals, the air comes as far as the lungs as air only; in the case of the butterfly the outer air, with its content of light, is dispersed into the whole interior of the body. The bird diffuses the air right into its hollow bones; the butterfly is not only a creature of light outwardly, but it diffuses the light which is carried by the air into every part of its entire body, so that inwardly too the butterfly is composed of light. Just as I could characterize the bird as warmed air, so in fact is the butterfly composed entirely of light. Its body also consists of light; and for the butterfly warmth is actually a burden, is luggage. It flutters about only and entirely in the light, and it is light only that it builds into its body. When we see the butterflies fluttering in the air, what we must really see is only fluttering beings of light, beings of light rejoicing in their play of colors. All else is garment, is luggage. We must gain an understanding of what the beings around Earth really consist, for outward appearance is deceptive.
Those who today have learned, in some superficial manner, this or that out of Oriental wisdom speak about the world as maya. But to say that the world is maya really implies nothing. One must have insight into the details of why it is maya. We understand maya when we know that the real nature of the bird in no way accords with what is to be seen outwardly, but that it is a being of warm air. The butterfly is not at all what it appears to be, but what is seen fluttering about is a being of light, a being which actually consists of joy in the play of colors, in that play of colours which arises on the butterfly's wings through the earthly dust-substance being imbued with the element of color, and thus entering on the first stage of its spiritualization on the way out into the spiritual universe, into the spiritual cosmos.
You see, we have here, as it were, two levels: the butterfly, the inhabitant of the light-ether in an Earth environment, and the bird, the inhabitant of the warmth-ether. And now comes the third level. When we descend into the air, we arrive at those beings which, at a certain period of our Earth-evolution, could not yet have been there at all; for instance at the time when the Moon had not yet separated from the Earth but was still with it. Here we come to beings which are certainly also air-beings, living in the air, but which are in fact already strongly influenced by what is peculiar to the Earth: gravity. The butterfly is completely untouched by Earth-gravity. It flutters joyfully in the light-ether, and feels itself to be a creation of that ether. The bird overcomes gravity by imbuing the air within it with warmth, thereby becoming a being of warm air — and warm air is upborne by cold air. Earth-gravity is also overcome by the bird.
Those creatures which by reason of their origin must still live in the air but which are unable to overcome Earth-gravity, because they have not hollow bones but bones filled with marrow, and also because they have not air-sacs like the birds — these creatures are the bats.
The bats are a quite remarkable order of animal-life. In no way do they overcome the gravity of Earth through what is inside their bodies. They do not, like the butterflies, possess the lightness of light, or, like the bird, the lightness of warmth; they are subject to Earth-gravity, and they experience themselves in their flesh and bone. Hence that element of which the butterfly consists, which is its whole sphere of life — the element of light — this is disagreeable to bats. They like the dusk. Bats have to make use of the air, but they like the air best when it is not the bearer of light. They yield themselves up to the dusk. They are veritable creatures of the dusk. And bats can only maintain themselves in the air because they possess their somewhat caricature-like bat-wings, which are not wings at all in the true sense, but stretched membrane, membrane stretched between their elongated fingers, a kind of parachute. By means of these they maintain themselves in the air. They overcome gravity — as a counter-weight — by opposing it with something which itself is related to gravity. Through this, however, they are completely yoked into the domain of Earth-forces. One could never construct the flight of a butterfly solely according to physical, mechanical laws; neither could one the flight of a bird. Things would never come out absolutely right. In their case we must introduce something containing other laws of construction. But the bat's flight: that you can certainly construct according to earthly dynamics and mechanics.
The bat does not like the light, the light-imbued air, but at the most only twilight air. And the bat also differs from the bird through the fact that the bird, when it looks about it, always has in view what is in the air. Even the vulture, when it steals a lamb, perceives it as it sees it from above, as though it were at the end of the light sphere, like something painted onto the Earth. And quite apart from this, it is no mere act of seeing; it is a craving. What you would perceive if you actually saw the flight of the vulture towards the lamb is a veritable dynamic of intention, of volition, of craving.
A butterfly sees what is on the Earth as though in a mirror; for the butterfly the Earth is a mirror. It sees what is in the cosmos. When you see a butterfly fluttering about, you must picture to yourselves that it disregards the Earth, that for it the Earth is just a mirror for what is in the cosmos. A bird does not see what belongs to the Earth, but it sees what is in the air. The bat only perceives what it flies through, or flies past. And because it does not like the light, it is unpleasantly affected by everything it sees. It can certainly be said that the butterfly and the bird see in a very spiritual way. The first creature — descending from above downwards — which must see in an earthly way is disagreeably affected by this seeing. A bat dislikes seeing, and in consequence it has a kind of embodied fear of what it sees, but does not want to see. And so it would like to slip past everything. It is obliged to see, yet is unwilling to do so — and thus it everywhere tries just to skirt past. And it is because it desires just to slip past everything that it is so wonderfully intent on listening. The bat is actually a creature which is continually listening to its own flight, lest this flight should be in any way endangered.
Only look at the bat's ears. You can see from them that they are attuned to world-fear. So they are — these bats' ears. They are quite remarkable structures, attuned to evading the world, to world-fear. All this, you see, is only to be understood when the bat is studied in the framework into which we have just placed it.
Here we must add something further. The butterfly continually imparts spiritualized matter to the cosmos. It is the darling of the Saturn influences. Now call to mind how I described Saturn as the great bearer of the memory of our planetary system. The butterfly is closely connected with what makes provision for memory in our planet. It is memory-thoughts which live in the butterfly. The bird — this, too, I have already described — is entirely a head, and as it flies through the warmth-imbued air in world-space it is actually the living, flying thought. What we have within us as thoughts — and this also is connected with the warmth-ether — is bird-nature, eagle-nature, in us. The bird is the flying thought. But the bat is the flying dream, the flying dream-picture of the cosmos. So we can say: The Earth is surrounded by a web of butterflies — this is cosmic memory; and by the kingdom of the birds — this is cosmic thinking; and by the bats — they are the cosmic dream, cosmic dreaming. It is actually the flying dreams of the cosmos which sough through space as the bats. And as dreams love the twilight, so, too, does the cosmos love the twilight when it sends the bat through space. The enduring thoughts of memory, these we see embodied in the girdle of butterflies encircling the Earth; thoughts of the moment we see in the bird-girdle of the Earth; and dreams in the environment of the Earth fly about embodied as bats. And you will surely feel, if we penetrate deeply into their form, how much affinity there is between this appearance of the bat and dreaming! One simply cannot look at a bat without the thought arising: I must be dreaming; that is really something which should not be there, something which is as much outside the other creations of nature as dreams are outside ordinary physical reality.
To sum up, we can say: The butterfly sends spiritualized substance into spiritland during its lifetime; the bird sends it out after its death. Now what does the bat do? During its lifetime the bat gives off spiritualized substance, especially that spiritualized substance which exists in the stretched membrane between its separate fingers. But it does not give this over to the cosmos; it sheds it into the atmosphere of the Earth. Thereby beads of spirit, so to say, are continually arising in the atmosphere.
Thus we find the Earth to be surrounded by the continual glimmer of outstreaming spirit-matter from the butterflies, and sparkling into this what comes from the dying birds; but also, streaming back towards the Earth, we find peculiar segregations of air where the bats give off what they spiritualize. Those are the spiritual formations which are always to be observed when one sees a bat in flight. In fact a bat always has a kind of tail behind it, like a comet. The bat gives off spirit-matter; but instead of sending it outwards, it thrusts it back into the physical substance of the Earth. It thrusts it back into the air. And just as one sees with the physical eye physical bats fluttering about, one can also see these corresponding spirit-formations which emanate from the bats fluttering through the air; they sough through the spaces of the air. We know that air consists of oxygen, nitrogen, and other constituents — but this is not all: it also consists of the spirit-emanations of bats.
Strange and paradoxical as it may sound, this dream-order of the bats sends little spectres out into the air, which then unite into a general mass. In geology the matter below the earth, which is a rock-mass of a soft consistency like porridge, is called magma. We might also speak of a spirit-magma in the air, which comes from the emanations of bats.
In ancient times when an instinctive clairvoyance prevailed, people were very susceptible to this spirit magma, just as today many people are very susceptible to what is of a material nature, for instance, bad-smelling air. This might certainly be regarded as somewhat vulgar, whereas in the ancient instinctive time of clairvoyance people were susceptible to the bat-residue which is present in the air.
They protected themselves against this. And in many Mysteries there were special formulas whereby people could inwardly arm themselves, so that this bat-residue might have no power over them. For as human beings we do not only inhale oxygen and nitrogen with the air, we also inhale these emanations of the bats. Modern people, however, are not interested in letting themselves be protected against these bat-remains; whereas in certain conditions they are highly sensitive, let us say, to bad smells, they are highly insensitive to the emanations of the bats. It can really be said that they swallow them down without feeling the least trace of repulsion. It is quite extraordinary that people who are otherwise really prudish just swallow down what contains the stuff of which I have spoken. Nevertheless this too enters into the human being. Certainly it does not enter into the physical or etheric body, but it enters into the astral body.
Yes, you see, we here find remarkable connections. Initiation science everywhere leads into the inner aspect of relationships; this bat-residue is the most craved-for nutriment of what I have described in lectures here as the Dragon. But this bat-residue must first be breathed into the human being. The Dragon finds his surest foothold in human nature when man allows his instincts to be imbued with these emanations of the bats. There they seethe. And the Dragon feeds on them and grows — in a spiritual sense, of course — gaining power over people, gaining power in the most manifold ways. This is something against which modern man must again protect himself: and the protection should come from what has been described here as the new form of Michael's fight with the Dragon. The increase in inner strength which man gains when he takes up into himself the Michael impulse as it has been described here, this is his safeguard against the nutriment which the Dragon desires; this is his protection against the unjustified bat-emanations in the atmosphere.
If one has the will to penetrate into these inner world-connections, one must not shrink back from facing the truths contained in them. For today the generally accepted form of the search for truth does not in any way lead to actuality, but at most to something even less actual than a dream: to maya. Reality must of necessity be sought in the domain where all physical existence is regarded as interwoven with spiritual existence. We can only find our way to reality when this reality is studied and observed as has been done here in the present lectures.
In everything good and in everything evil, in some way or other beings are present. Everything in world-connections is so ordered that its relation to other beings can be recognized. For the materialistically minded, butterflies flutter, birds fly, bats flit. But this can really be compared to what often happens with a not very artistic person, who adorns the walls of his room with all manner of pictures which do not belong to each other, which have no inner connection. Thus for the ordinary observer of nature, what flies through the world also has no inner connection; because he sees none. But everything in the cosmos has its own place, because just from this very place it has a relation to the cosmos in its totality. Be it butterfly, bird, or bat, everything has its own meaning within the world-order.
As to those who today wish to scoff, let them scoff. People already have other things to their credit in the sphere of ridicule. Celebrated scholars have declared that meteor-stones cannot exist, because iron cannot fall from heaven, and so on. Why then should people not also scoff at the functions of the bats, about which I have spoken today? Such things, however, should not divert us from the task of imbuing our civilization with a knowledge of spiritual truths.