Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The kingdoms of nature in relation to the higher worlds

Figure 8

The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature. Lecture 8.
Rudolf Steiner, Helsinki, Finland, April 11, 1912:

It will be well at the very beginning of today's lecture to speak of how far the physical world system, the physical cosmos, that we considered yesterday in relation to its parts, is of significance to our human outlook, to our perception and knowledge. We spoke yesterday of the life of the comet, of the life of the fixed star — the solar life; of the life the moon — the lunar life; and of the planetary life. In speaking of these heavenly bodies from the standpoint of ordinary consciousness, we naturally refer to the heavenly bodies visible to our eyes. Now, in the course of our lectures we have, so to say, substituted something else for this system of heavenly bodies; we have substituted the study of the corresponding spiritual beings whom we have recognized as members of the various hierarchies. Perhaps what has actually been said will be made still clearer if we state the following: We found the category of beings standing immediately above man to be the Angeloi, or Angel-beings; we have also shown how, if a man really wishes to obtain a view of the spiritual supersensible world he must, in a sense, organize himself up to these beings next above him; must, as it were, learn to see the world with the kind perception possessed by the Angels. Now, we can raise the question: if such a being of the next higher category in the ranks of the hierarchies acquires a consciousness of the cosmos through his perception — which we call manifestation — how does the cosmos appear to him? If this question is answered what I intended to convey will be clearer to us. Such an Angel-being would really see outside in the cosmos nothing of all we see, and which as we know is maya, an illusion only called up by our human view. An Angel-being would see nothing of all this in the same way as we do; we must be quite clear as to this. But the Angel-being would instead see and perceive in his own way, in the manner described, the various cooperative activities between the beings of the hierarchies. Instead of saying “Over there is Mars,” he would say: “Over there cooperate [in the way we have described] certain beings of the higher hierarchies.” This means that to those beings, to the Angels or Angeloi, the whole cosmic system directly appears as a sum of spiritual activities. How then would the planets and other bodies visible to our eyes appear to such a being? We may venture to speak of these matters, for indeed we could not speak at all of the whole supersensible world which lies behind the planetary system, the heavens or cosmos, were we not able, through occult schooling, to translate ourselves to some extent into the consciousness of such a being. For clairvoyance simply means calling forth within us the possibility of seeing the world as such beings see it. Thus to clairvoyant consciousness those forms, those light-forms visible to ordinary sight as the heavenly bodies, actually disappear; they are no longer there. On the other hand, clairvoyant consciousness gains — and so too does the consciousness of an Angel-being — an impression of that which corresponds to the physical heavenly body. Clairvoyant consciousness cannot perceive the Moon or Mars as they appear to a dweller upon Earth, seen physically; but it is nevertheless able to know what exists there. I should now like to call up within you an idea of the kind of knowledge clairvoyant consciousness has of such a heavenly body.

You can gain an idea of this, at first theoretically — for occult training can alone provide the practical knowledge — if you call up in your mind a memory-picture, a recollection, a picture-concept of what you experienced yesterday or the day before. This picture concept which lies in your soul differs from the picture-concept of an object which is immediately before your eyes. You only look at that with the necessary intensity. If you remember this rose tomorrow, you will have a memory picture of it. Now if you clearly realize that in your mind, in your soul, the mere memory-picture differs from that which arises as a perception-picture through a direct impression, it will then be possible for you to understand how clairvoyant consciousness perceives the heavenly bodies. Thus it transports itself clairvoyantly into the cosmos, and if, for instance, it transports itself into Mars, into the Moon, it does not know directly what would appear to sight if one were to observe the heavenly body physically, but by thus transporting itself it has something within it which cannot be described other than as a memory-picture, a thought-picture. And so it is with everything which our ordinary normal consciousness encounters as physical heavenly bodies in the cosmos. To clairvoyant consciousness everything appears in such a way that we have a direct knowledge that whatever we see there is actually something past, something which has had complete life in the past, and which, as it appears in the present, is not really in its original, living form, but is — so to speak — like a snail-shell from which the snail has gone. The whole physical system of heavenly bodies is a testimony of past times, telling of past occurrences. Whereas we, on our Earth, are contemporary with the things which appear before our physical eyes, what we see in the starry heavens is actually maya, for it does not represent an existing condition, but had its full significance in the past, and has remained behind. The physical world of heavenly bodies represents the remains of the past activities of the corresponding beings of the hierarchies, the after-effects of which still enter into the present.

Let us examine the matter still more closely by means of a concrete example. When we observe our own Earth's  moon by clairvoyant consciousness (which has withdrawn from everything else and, so to speak, fixed itself only upon the Moon) we get the remarkable impression that the external physical Moon disappears, and in its place something appears which gives the impression of being like a memory-picture. One has the impression that that which otherwise appears to the physical eye (and which, of course, is there physically, though everything physical is a maya) gives the impression of telling of a past, just like a memory-picture. And if we allow this impression which begins to tell us past things to work upon us, it says: “If that which now actually appears to our occult vision were to be active, if its activity were not paralyzed by other things, our Earth in its present form could not have endured the proximity of what we see there.” To our occult consciousness the Moon tells of something which should not take place as it shows itself there, if our Earth-life is to be at all possible. If that which is there represented to us were not now paralyzed, so to speak, by other things, man could not possibly live his present life, because of what the Moon tells us about herself. On the other hand, the present-day animal life on the Earth, nor the plant life, nor the activity in the mineral world would be specially influenced. Certain beings of the animal and plant kingdoms would certainly have to be quite different in form — that we know this directly from the forces which work upon us from the Moon with such vehemence — but substantially, though animal, plant, and mineral life upon the Earth would be possible, human life would not. Thus the Moon as we see her tells of a condition which, if it were active, would exclude human life from the Earth.

I am trying to describe these things as concretely as possible, as seen by occult vision; I do not wish to speak in abstractions, which would enable me to relate all sorts of things; I only wish to relate things as they appear to occult vision. The impression one then receives can only be compared with the following: — If, let us say, all the ideas a man of thirty had when he was fifteen years old were suddenly to arise within him, and all the concepts which he had been able to work into his soul since his fifteenth year were to cease, the inner soul-life of his fifteenth year would then be represented to his own consciousness, as it were, objectively; but he would be obliged to say: “If I now had within me only what was contained in my soul at that time, I could not think all I now think. The condition of soul in which I now am would not be possible.” Man would find himself forced back to his fifteenth year and he would see clearly that, although what he then experienced as the content of his soul could not bring about his present-day self, yet it has to do with what he has become. In this way we can in a certain sense describe the impression we receive from the Moon. We can say: “Before us is something which really points to no present, but speaks of a past. Just as if I, in my thirtieth year, could only perceive the contents of my soul at my fifteenth year if I think away everything which has developed within me since, so must I now think away the possibility that there really is an Earth; for the Earth as it is now, comprising the requirements of human life, is not possible if that which is represented by the Moon were to be realized." Now, as soon as this impression appears to clairvoyant vision, it is then possible so to school this vision that we can gain an idea, a conception, of what existed before an Earth could possibly exist. For what we there see was possible before the Earth, and that which later led to the production of the Earth only became possible after the condition thus perceived had disappeared.

You see, I have now described what the clairvoyant must do to travel back in the Akashic Chronicles to an earlier condition of our planetary system; for by fixing occult vision upon the Moon, we have recalled an earlier condition of our planetary system. If we now try to describe that, we can speak of the condition of our planetary system before our present Earth existed. And because we must so proceed that we can only learn about conditions before the origin of our present Earth by fixing our attention on what has remained upon the Moon as a sort of memory — we have also become accustomed to call the preceding condition of our Earth, a Moon condition. We can, however, only gain a complete elucidation of the whole circumstances if we leave the clairvoyant state which we have developed for the purpose of obtaining a sort of memory-picture of the planetary condition, and passing from this into the ordinary condition of consciousness try to make clear to ourselves wherein the difference lies. The difference is ascertained by trying to bring the two impressions into a sort of harmony; and this bringing into harmony is only possible by first looking away from the Moon; for the ordinary external vision of normal consciousness does not tell us much about the Moon. You know indeed that external astronomy tries to tell us all sorts of things about the Moon, but external observation in general does not tell us much. Rather for the sake of comparison we must make use of a certain clairvoyant observation of our own Earth as it is at present, as a heavenly body upon which we ourselves wander. If we shut off everything physical which appears before our eyes in the various kingdoms of nature and observe our Earth clairvoyantly, we see that this Earth beneath our feet and around us, as a physical planet, discloses itself as a further development of what existed as the Moon. When we compare the two impressions, we may ask: How has the one condition grown out of the other? And then arises before clairvoyant vision, so to speak, the work which has been accomplished in order that the old condition of our Earth might pass over into our present Earth condition. We then have the impression that this transition has been brought about by one or several of those spiritual beings whom, in the ranks of the hierarchies, we have called the Spirits of Form. Thus do we gain a possibility of penetrating into the growth of the planet, into its earlier conditions. The question now is: Can we look back still further?

We must go into these considerations, for only by so doing shall we understand in the right sense the spiritual beings who participate in the work on these heavenly bodies.

As a second attempt of occult observation we must once more look away from our Earth — and also from our Moon, from all that is of the Moon-nature in the whole planetary system; and as far as we can, transfer ourselves into the conditions of one or several of the other planets, and compare their conditions one with another. Now, I am referring to actual facts which can be apparent to our clairvoyant consciousness. Clairvoyant vision, even if perhaps not simultaneously (which the circumstances often do not permit), can be directed to other planets of our planetary system, can become aware of the impressions given by other planets of our system. If we thus observe a planet, or several together, we do not yet gain much, for we do not yet gain a clear conception of them; but we at once gain this if we proceed in a certain way with these clairvoyant impressions. I will once more give a comparison which will make clear what I actually mean. Suppose you were to remember something you experienced in your eighteenth year, and were to say to yourself: “In my eighteenth year I took up a standpoint with regard to this experience for which I was ripe at that time. I shall perhaps be clearer about the matter if I call to mind another experience. In my twenty-fifth year I experienced something else connected with the same fact — I will now compare the two impressions one with another.” Try to make clear to yourself what you can gain in life by comparing things which belong together but are apart from one another in time, and you then gain a general impression in which the one will always throw light on the other. By means of such a comparison you will actually call up and create a sort of arithmetical method, a quite new concept from the cooperation of your two memory-pictures. That is what the clairvoyant must do after succeeding in allowing his vision to be impressed — let us say — by Mars, Mercury, Venus, or Jupiter. He must now consider these separate impressions, not individually but in relation and connection with each other. He must let them work upon one another, bring them into relation with each other. If he undertakes this work he will gain the feeling that through the comparison of these impressions he again has something like a memory-concept of the planetary system. This again is not a condition possible at the present time, but one which must have been possible in the past; for it expresses itself as something which, as I described for the Moon-condition, was the cause of that which now exists in the planetary system. Now, the impression obtained in this way has really infinite peculiarities.

What must thus be related in what must seem to be very dry concepts is really one of the most wonderful impressions one can possibly have, but here again, if we wish to describe the characteristics of this impression, we can only do so by means of a comparison. I must admit that I could not well endeavor to describe this impression in any other way. I do not know whether you've ever had the following experience in ordinary physical life. No doubt there are times when you have been moved to weeping and sadness, in pity and sympathy for the beings around you in physical life. One may have yet another impression; certainly many among you know the impression which comes occasionally on reading an overwhelmingly arresting description in some work of art, or, for example, when you read a scene in a book of which you well know, if you would only consider a little, that there is no reality in it. Yet your tears flow abundantly; you do not stop to consider whether it is true or not, but you take that which is described into your thought and your perception, so that it works like a reality, and draws forth a flood of tears. Anyone who has had this experience has a faint conception of what is meant when it is said: “One is inspired by something spiritual, concerning which one has no opportunity of asking whether it is based on a physical reality; one is inspired to an impression about which one wants to know nothing, but which grieves one and throws one back upon oneself. It fills one inwardly; one is filled as by some normal act of perception of one's normal consciousness.” We must speak of such an impression if we are to describe the condition which overcomes us when we compare the impressions which clairvoyant consciousness receives from the individual planets. Everything we thus experience works through our inner being alone, like a soul-impression; we gain a quite definite idea of what an inspiration really is, when we know things for which the impulse of knowledge can only come from within. For instance, no one really understands the content of the Gospels unless he can compare the impressions they made on him with such an impression as has just been described. For the Gospels were written from inspiration — only one must go back to their original text. Even greater and more powerful is the impression received in the manner described through a comparison of the impressions made by the individual planets. This is the first thing I should like to say about this impression. The second thing is that we cannot gain this impression undisturbed and unchecked unless we are capable, at least for a few moments — in our present cycle of time scarcely anyone is capable of this for longer — of wholeheartedly feeling nothing but sympathy and love; of driving egotism utterly and completely out of the soul; for the smallest degree of egotism united with this impression immediately works deadeningly; and in place of what I have described, we immediately reach a kind of stupefaction, a deadening of the consciousness. Our consciousness is then immediately darkened. It is therefore one of the most blessed experiences to have such an impression.

If we are fortunate enough to have it, something very peculiar occurs. The Sun, as such, no longer exists for our consciousness, no matter what we may do. Just as surely as the Sun exists in our other conditions of consciousness, so it no longer exists in this. The Sun ceases to be something apart from ourselves; but when we begin to find our way about, we gain the impression: “We have before us a condition in which a separate Sun no longer has any meaning.” For we can only again have the whole which appears before our occult vision if we look away from our present-day planetary system, and only focus our occult gaze upon our present-day Sun — that is, when we extinguish the physical impression of the Sun. We can best do this if we try to have the occult impression of the Sun not by day, but by night. Naturally the fact that at night the physical Earth stands before the Sun is no reason for the occult vision to have no impression of it, for though the physical Earth is impenetrable by physical eyes, it is not so for occult sight. On the contrary, if we try in clear daylight to direct our occult vision to the Sun, the disturbances are so great that we can scarcely succeed, without physical harm, in gaining a good occult impression of it. Hence in the ancient Mysteries it was never attempted to allow the scholars to gain an occult impression of the Sun by day; they were taught that they might learn to know the Sun in its peculiar nature when it is least visible to physical eyes, namely, at midnight. The pupils were taught to direct their occult vision to the Sun, through the physical Earth, precisely at midnight. Hence among the many descriptions of the ancient Mysteries, you find among other things, which for the most part are no longer understood today — the sentence in the Egyptian Mysteries, for instance: “The pupil must see the Sun at midnight.”

What has not been brought forward by dilettantism to explain, by all sorts of nice, neat symbols, what is meant by “seeing the Sun at midnight”? People as a rule have no idea that the things imparted in occult writings are most correctly understood if no endeavor is made to explain them by means of symbols, but are taken as literally as possible. The modern man, as a rule, only feels himself drawn to  symbolic interpretations because the consciousness of today is no longer rightly organized for the understanding of these old facts. To those who reflect more closely it should be clear that in ancient writings it was the custom to speak accurately. I should like (in parenthesis as it were) to draw your attention to one thing which might have been added to the public lecture given yesterday, with reference to Kriemhilde. It was stated that after Siegfried was dead she took for herself the treasure of the Nibelung and did a great deal of good with it; but Hagen took it from her and threw it into the Rhine. When later on, in the kingdom of King Etzel, she demanded it again of Hagen he did not disclose to her the place where it lay. You see, this passage is given circumstantially in the Nibelung Saga, in order to throw light on certain things. In the symbolical explanations of the Saga I have found intellectual and very brilliant interpretations supposed to elucidate what it all signifies. The treasure of the Nibelungs has a quite different meaning in them all. I admit that the intellectual labor brought to bear on such explanations is sometimes overwhelming — the treasure of the Nibelungs is generally explained as being the symbol for something spiritual. But, in the first place, it is very difficult to heal the sick with mere symbols. In the second place one cannot conceal a symbol from anyone, even from Kriemhilde, by throwing it into the Rhine; at least I cannot very well imagine a symbol of the sort many expounders allege this to be, being sunk in the Rhine. Altogether it is very difficult for me to imagine how a thing which is only to be symbolically explained, could be taken away from someone externally. Everyone who understands these things knows it was a question of something very special, something we should now call a talisman — an entirely physical talisman, which was compounded in such a way that it was entirely composed of gold. This gold was, however,  only to be extracted from alluvial deposit left by the water in an estuary, and the whole power of this alluvial gold was compressed into the form — (and now comes the symbol) — into the form of this talisman, the effect of which on Kriemhilde produced in her the forces by which she could heal the sick, and so on. Hagen could actually conceal this talisman from her, and later, refuse to reveal the hiding place. Thus one has really to do with a physical thing, with a quite real thing; in which occult powers existed only through the special nature of its composition. I have given this as an example, to show you how one must often understand things in the old writings.

So we must take the expression “seeing the Sun at midnight” quite literally. Thus we can best acquire an occult impression of the Sun if we are not disturbed by physical impressions; that is, if we see nothing of the sunlight at all, but observe the Sun at night. We then gain an impression of the present-day Sun, which to a very great extent resembles what is obtained by the impression previously described. Through all that I have described to you there results an impression of a still earlier condition of our planetary system, to which our Earth too belongs, a condition when the Sun was not yet separated, but when the whole planetary system was, in a sense, Sun, and contained within it the substance of our Earth. This condition, which at the same time was that of our Earth, is therefore designated as the Sun condition. So that we say. Before our Earth became Earth it was in a Moon condition; before it was Moon it was in a Sun condition.

An approximate impression of a yet earlier condition of our Earth planet can be obtained if we try to gain an occult impression of that category of heavenly bodies of which we spoke at the end of our last lecture: the comets. To describe this more accurately would absorb too much of our time, but in method it is very like what has been already described. If we now compare what we gain through the occult perception of cometary life with the concept — (it is now a question of having to form a certain concept, for we cannot well compare the memory-concept thus obtained with anything at the present time) — we receive an immediate impression — beyond this one cannot go — of having reached a condition lying still further back than the Sun condition, which for certain reasons is called the Saturn condition. Thus you see that the inner experiences we may have about the planetary system are decisive for the occultist for the concepts he forms concerning it.

We will now for a little while leave the planetary system. Everything which I have till now brought forward has been mentioned with the aim and object of culminating in a general description of the modes of action of the spiritual beings in the heavenly bodies. As, however, the heavenly bodies are, as it were, built up from the kingdoms of nature, we must also create, at least approximately, an idea from the standpoint of the occultist of the immediate facts revealed to occult vision when we allow the separate kingdoms of nature to work upon us. Let us proceed to the consideration of the kingdoms of nature, beginning with man.

You know that when we observe man we find that he consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and what we call the “Ego-nature,” the “I” itself. Where is this four-membered human being to be found, according to anthroposophical observation? Well, this four-membered human being is in the physical world; for everything which has now been related of man takes place in the physical world. We will now pass over to the animal world. If we consider the animal, it is quite certain that we find the physical body of the animal in our ordinary sense-world, as we do that of man. Of that there can be no doubt. We must, however, also ascribe an astral and an etheric body to the animal; for we ascribe an etheric body to man in the physical world because it would not be possible for his physical body to exist alone in the physical world. This is evident directly a man passes through the gates of death. His physical body is then left alone in the physical world and falls to pieces; it is given over to its own forces. As long as man lives, there must be a combatant present to carry on a perpetual battle against the crumbling away of the physical body, and this combatant is the etheric body, which is really only visible to occult consciousness. The same circumstances also prevail in the animal, so that we must ascribe to it an etheric body in the physical world. Now, because it is clear to us that facts and things not only affect man but mirror themselves in him, calling up something which we may call an inner reflection, we therefore ascribe to man an astral body, which is visible to occult vision. It is exactly the same in the case of the animal. Whereas the plant utters no cry when an external impression is made on it, the animal expresses itself in a cry, that is, an external impression produces an inner experience. Occult vision teaches us that this inner experience is only possible when an astral body is present.

Figure 8

Yet to speak of an “ego” in the animal, as a phenomenon of the physical world, has no meaning except to certain modern natural-philosophers, who live entirely according to analogy. If one judged merely from analogy one can maintain all sorts of things. There are even certain theosophists today who were filled with respect when a certain well-known student of nature, Raoul France, ascribed a soul to plants, and did not differentiate between what we call a soul in the animal and in the plants. For instance he considered, and this is quite correct, that there are certain plants which, when a little insect comes near them, fold their leaves together so that they draw it in and devour it. This external observer then says to himself: “Wherever facts appear in nature externally, analogous to the taking in of nourishment and consuming it, there must be something resembling the beings which, from something of an inner soul-nature, take in such things and consume them.” Now, I know something which also attracts little creatures, but to this the modern natural-philosopher would certainly not ascribe a soul; I mean a mouse-trap, baited with bacon. This also attracts little creatures, and if we proceed according to the methods of these nature-philosophers, then, just as they attribute a soul to the plant called “Venus's fly-trap” so must we attribute a soul to the mouse-trap, for it attracts mice when well baited with bacon. — All these investigators, who do not merely judge by the external, ought not to lose the longing which exists in many spiritually minded people, and be content if very little is said of the spirit.

In this connection, in German literature — as many say — much of beauty has been brought to light; but, as the occultist would say; “A great deal of nonsense has been talked.” Just as little as we can speak of a soul-nature resembling the animal soul dwelling in the Venus's fly-trap, or any other plant, can one with unbiased vision say of any animal that it has an “ego.” The animal has no ego in that which meets us on the physical plane. Occult investigation could alone lead us to the ego of the animals; for this is not to be found in the same region as the ego of the human being. The animal ego is only to be found apart from the physical body; so that we actually become acquainted with a completely different world when with occult vision we ascend to the animal ego. If we do not care to make all kinds of diagrammatic divisions, and to begin by saying: The world consists of physical plane, astral plant, mental plane, etc., — because there is not much to be gained by such verbal designations — we must then proceed in other ways. I have found even in theosophical books a great deal said about the expression “Logos”; but I have not found any clear concept called forth of what the “Logos” really is. As a rule I found that the writers of these books only knew that this word “Logos” consists of five letters; but as soon as one tried to arrive at real definite concepts on which one could fix one's mind, the concepts disappeared in smoke. For by relating all sorts of things, such as that the Logos “spins,” etc., a consciousness desiring to be concrete does not know what to make of it. Whatever the “Logos” may be, a spider he certainly is not; neither can his activity be described as a web.

Thus, it is, not good to begin with abstractions, to call up concepts in speaking of things extending beyond the physical sphere of man. It is somewhat different when occult vision seeks in the animal for that which in man reveals itself in the physical world in all the actions and proceedings of man, namely, the ego. If he seeks that for the animal, he will find it not in the world in which are the physical, etheric, and astral bodies of the animal but in a supersensible world, which appears nearest to the sense-world as soon as one draws aside the veil of the ordinary world. So that we can say: In a world of a supersensible nature we can find the ego of the animals. There it appears as a reality; but in the physical world this animal ego does not appear to us as an individuality; we can only understand it here if we direct our attention to a group of animals — a group of wolves or of lambs, etc. Just as a single soul belongs to our two hands, our ten fingers, and our feet — a soul which has within it its own ego — so does a group of animals of one species possess such an ego as we do not find in our physical world; it only reveals and manifests itself in the physical world. The ordinary abstract materialist of the day says: That alone is a reality in the animal which we see with physical eyes — and if we form a concept of a wolf or of a lamb, these are just ideas and nothing more. For the occultist that is not so; these are not mere ideas which live within us, they are reflected pictures of something real — which is not, however, on the physical plane, but in a supersensible world. Now, with a little reflection, it is evident that even on the physical plane, beyond what can be perceived by the senses there still exists something which cannot be perceived in the physical world but yet has a meaning for the inner relations of the forces of animals. I should like those people who, for instance, take the concept of wolf as an idea which does not correspond to any reality, to attend to the following experiment. Suppose we take a number of lambs — the wolf is known to feed upon lamb — and feed a wolf with them long enough according to what natural science has ascertained for the whole physical matter to be transformed — so that the wolf, during the time in which his physical corporeality is being replaced, has been fed only upon lamb, that the wolf has nothing but lamb within it. All you then see as physical matter in the wolf proceeds from nothing but lamb; now try to find out whether the wolf has become a lamb. If it has not, you have no right to say that the concept which you have of the wolf is limited to that which can be perceived physically, for there is something supersensible in it. This cannot be met with until we enter the supersensible world; there it becomes evident that just as our ten fingers belong to the one soul, so do all wolves belong to a group-ego. The world in which we find the group-egos of the animals, we designate concretely as the astral world.

Now as regards the plants, a similar observation shows that in the physical world we find nothing of the plant but its physical and etheric bodies. Just because the plants have only their physical and etheric bodies in the physical world, they do not cry out when we injure them. We must therefore say: only the physical and etheric bodies of the plant exist in the physical world. If with occult vision we investigate, which we do by simply transplanting ourselves into that world in which is the group-ego of the animals, we find something very characteristic with regard to the plant-kingdom: we find that there is pain even in the plant world; this is certainly felt when we tear plants out of the ground by the  roots. The collective Earth-organism feels pain resembling that which we feel when a hair is pulled out of our body. Other life also, conscious life, is connected with the growth of plants. Try to imagine the sprouting forth — I have already touched upon this question during these lectures — pushing forth of the shoots of the plants from the Earth in spring; this springing forth corresponds to a feeling in certain spiritual beings, beings belonging to the Earth and participating in its spiritual atmosphere.

To describe this feeling we may compare it with the perception one has at the moment of passing at night from the waking-condition to that of sleep. Just as the consciousness then gradually dies down, so do certain spirits of the Earth feel, when the plants spring forth in spring. Again in the gradual fading and dying of the plant-world, certain spiritual beings connected with the spiritual atmosphere of the Earth have the same feeling as man has when he awakens in the morning. Thus we can say: There are certain beings connected with the organism of our Earth who have the same feelings as our own astral body has in falling asleep and waking. Only one must not compare these abstractly. It would, of course, seem much more actual to compare the springing forth of nature in the spring with the waking — and the dying down of the plant-world in autumn with falling asleep; but the reverse is correct: namely the beings we are now considering feel a sort of awakening in autumn, but a sort of falling asleep at the springing forth of the plants in the spring. Now, these beings are none other than the astral bodies of the plants; and we find them in the same region as the group-souls of the animals. The astral bodies of the plants are to be found on the so-called astral plane.

Now we must also speak of an ego of the plants, when we observe them occultly. We find this ego of the plants again in like manner as a group-ego, as something belonging to a whole group or species of plants, just like the group-egos of the animals; but in vain should we look for the group-egos of the plants in the same sphere as the astral bodies of the plants and the group-egos of the animals. We must pass into a still higher supersensible world; we must raise ourselves from the astral plane into a world which we perceive as still higher. Only in such a world can we find the group-egos of the plants. In investigating this world we may again give it a name. To us it is first of all characterized by the fact that the group-egos of the plants are there, although there is much in it besides these. We designate it — though names have nothing to do with the matter — as the Devachanic world.

Now, it is easy to see in the physical world that we have only the physical body of the minerals. Hence the mineral appears to us as inorganic, devoid of life; on the other hand, we have its etheric body in the same world in which are the group-egos of the animals and the astral bodies of the plants. But even here we can find nothing of the mineral nature which reveals sensation. Yet even the mineral reveals itself as living. We learn to know the long-enduring life of the mineral, its growth, and the self-development, so to speak, of the ores and the like — in short, on the astral plane we become acquainted with the various forms of mineral life on our planet. When we come across an individual mineral, we learn to recognize that it is not very different from our own mineral-like bones which yet are connected with our life. Thus everything mineral is also connected with a living being, but that living being is only to be found on the astral plane. The etheric body of the mineral, therefore, is to be found on the astral plane. Now, if we halt occultly, as it were, in that world in which are the group-egos of the plants, we observe that the mineral kingdom is also connected with something in which feeling is possible, something astral. When stones are broken in a quarry, no perception of this is noticed on the astral plane; but on the Devachanic plane it is immediately evident that when stones are pulverized and the parts fly asunder something like a feeling of well-being, a sort of enjoyment, actually appears. That is also a feeling; but it is in contradiction to the feeling which animals and men would have in such a case. Were they to be smashed to pieces, they would suffer pain; with the mineral the reverse is the case. When it is crushed it is conscious of a feeling of well-being. If we dissolve cooking salt in a glass of water, and follow with vision directed to the Devachanic world how the salt forms into crystals, we see that this causes pain: we feel that there is pain at the point of union. This is everywhere the case in mineral life when fluids, through crystallization, form into solids. This in fact is what happened to our Earth, which was at one time in a softer, more liquid condition. Solid matter has gradually been formed out of the fluid, and we now walk about on solid ground and drive our ploughs into it. In so doing we do not give the Earth pain; it feels it to be good. But it did not please the beings connected with the Earth, and which as astral kingdom belong to the planet, that they had to be compactly welded together in order that human life might become possible on the planet. The beings which as astral bodies stand behind the rocks had to endure pain upon pain. In the mineral kingdom the beings, the creation, suffer as the Earth progresses. It gives one a very strange feeling when, after recognizing this from occult investigation, one turns again to the celebrated passage written by an initiate: “All creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together, waiting for the Redemption; waiting for the adoption of the state of childhood.” Such passages as this, in the writings based on occult vision, are as a rule read carelessly, but when one reads them with occult vision, then, for the first time, one knows that though they yield a great deal to even the simplest mind, they give still more to those who can perceive all, or at least a great deal, of what is contained in them. The sighing and groaning of the mineral kingdom has to be, because the process of the civilization of our Earth needs solid ground under its feet; that is what St. Paul represents when he speaks of the sighing of creation.

All this takes place in those beings which lie behind the mineral kingdom as its astral body, and which we find in the Devachanic world. The actual ego, the real group-ego, of the mineral kingdom is to be sought in a higher world, which we will call the higher Devachanic world. Here only do we find the group-egos of the mineral kingdom. You must emancipate yourselves entirely from the conception of identifying what we call the astral body of a being with the astral world. With regard to the minerals, their astral body is to be sought for in Devachan; on the other hand their etheric body is in the astral world. The group-egos of the animals are on the astral plane, and the astral body of the animal on the physical plane. We must say of the world, as we know it: — We must not identify what we recognize as the individual principles of beings with the corresponding worlds, but must accustom ourselves to presuppose differentiations among the various beings. A more accurate occult discernment makes this quite clear. Thus provisionally we have to find only the group-souls of the minerals in a higher Devachanic region.

We have now spoken of the different beings of the various kingdoms of nature in their relation to the higher worlds, and this alone can give us a foundation for seeking the relations of these various kingdoms of nature to the creative beings of the hierarchies, who are active and working in the world, as we have now learnt to know them.

Source: http://wn.rsarchive.org/GA/GA0136/19120411a01.html

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