Friday, August 16, 2019
Rudolf Steiner: "To be able to grasp the difference between the plant's etheric body and man's, which, in addition to the qualities of the plant's etheric body also has the capacity to develop memory, we shall have to become clear about the fundamental difference between a plant and a human being. Imagine planting a seed in the earth; out of it a quite definite plant will arise. From a grain of wheat a wheat stalk and ears will grow, and out of a bean will come a bean plant. You will have to admit that the plant's development is in a certain way irrevocably determined by the nature of the seed. It is true that the gardener may bring his influence to bear on it and alter and improve the plant by means of all sorts of horticultural methods. But that is really an exception to the rule, and is only of minor significance compared with the fact that a particular seed will produce a plant of a definite shape and growth. Is this also the case with man? Up to a point this is certainly so, but only up to a certain point. When a human being arises out of the embryo we see that his development is also enclosed within certain limits. Black children come from black parents, white children from white parents, and we could add various other examples to show that human development, just like the plant's, is also enclosed within certain limits. This limit, however, only extends as far as the physical, etheric, and astral nature. Certain things can be traced in the permanent habits and temperamental nature of a child that show similarities with the temperament and instincts of his ancestors. But if the human being were just as enclosed within the limits of a certain form of growth as the plant is, then there would be no such thing as education, as the development of soul and spiritual qualities. If you imagine two children who have different parents but who are very similar with regard to ability and external characteristics, and then imagine that one of these children is neglected and does not have much education, while the other is carefully brought up and sent to a good school where his capacities are properly developed, you could not possibly say that this development of the child's capacities was already there in embryonic form as with a bean. The bean grows from the seed in any case without our needing to educate it. That belongs to its nature. Plants cannot be educated, but human beings can. We can pass something on to the human being and put something into him, whereas we cannot put anything of the kind into a plant. Why is this? Because the etheric body of the plant always has a certain finite number of inner laws which unfold from one seed to the next and have a definite round beyond which they cannot go. Man's etheric body is different. Besides the part that is used for growth, which is that part of his being that is also enclosed within certain limits like the plant, man's etheric body has as it were another part too, a free part, which does not have a natural use unless the human being is taught all kinds of things through his education, and things are thereby put into his soul which this free part of the etheric body deals with. So there is actually a part of man's etheric body that is not used by his organic nature. Man keeps this part of the etheric body for his own use; he uses it neither for growth nor for his natural organic development, but keeps it as a free organ with which he can take in the ideas of education."