Dornach, 13th September, 1924
Rudolf Steiner: Good morning, gentlemen! Does anyone have a question?
Question: Has Mars' proximity to the earth anything to do with the weather? The summer has been so unbelievably bad! Have planetary influences in general any effect upon the weather?
Dr. Steiner: The weather conditions which have shown such irregularities through the years, particularly recent years, do have something to do with conditions in the heavens, but not specifically with Mars. When these irregularities are observed we must take very strongly into consideration a phenomenon of which little account is usually taken, although it is constantly spoken of. I mean the phenomenon of sunspots. The sunspots are dark patches, varying in size and duration, which appear on the surface of the sun at intervals of about ten or eleven or twelve years. Naturally, these dark patches impede the sun's radiations, for, as you can well imagine, at the places where its surface is dark, the sun does not radiate. If in any given year the number of such dark patches increases, the sun's radiation is affected. And in view of the enormous significance the sun has for the earth, this is a matter of importance.
In another respect this phenomenon of sunspots is also noteworthy. In the course of centuries their number has increased, and the number varies from year to year. This is due to the fact that the position of the heavenly bodies changes as they revolve, and the aspect they present is therefore always changing. The sunspots do not appear at the same place every year, but — according to how the sun is turning — in the course of years they appear in that place again. In the course of centuries they have increased enormously in number and this certainly means something for the relationship of the earth to the sun.
Thousands of years ago there were no spots on the sun. They began to appear, they have increased in number, and they will continue to increase. Hence there will come a time when the sun will radiate less and less strongly, and finally, when it has become completely dark, it will cease to radiate any light at all. Therefore we have to reckon with the fact that in the course of time, a comparatively long time, the source of the light and life that now issues from the sun will be physically obliterated for the earth. And so the phenomenon of the sunspots — among other things — shows clearly that one can speak of the earth coming to an end. Everything of the earth that is spiritual will then take on a different form, just as I have told you that in olden times it had a different form. Just as a human being grows old and changes, so the sun and the whole planetary system will grow old and change.
The planet Mars, as I said, is not very strongly connected with weather conditions; Mars is more connected with phenomena that belong to the realm of life, such as the appearance and development of the grubs and cockchafers every four years. And please do not misunderstand this. You must not compare it directly with what astronomy calculates as being the period of revolution of Mars, (see Note 21) because the actual position of Mars comes into consideration here. Mars stands in the same position relatively to the earth and the sun every four years, so that the grubs which take four years to develop into cockchafers are also connected with this. If you take two revolutions of Mars — requiring four years and three months — you get the period between the cockchafers and the grubs, and the other way around, between the grubs and the cockchafers. In connection with the smaller heavenly bodies you must think of the finer differentiations in earth phenomena, whereas the sun and moon are connected with cruder, more tangible phenomena such as weather, and so on.
A good or bad vintage year, for example, is connected with phenomena such as the sunspots, also with the appearance of comets. Only when they are observed in connection with phenomena in the heavens can happenings on the earth be studied properly.
Now of course still other matters must be considered if one is looking for the reasons for abnormal weather. For naturally the weather conditions — which concern us so closely because health and a great deal else is affected by them — depend upon very many factors. You must think of the following. Going back in the evolution of the earth we come to a time of about six to ten thousand years ago. Six to ten thousand years ago there were no mountains in this region where we are now living. You would not have been able to climb the Swiss mountains then, because you would not have existed in the way you do now. You could not have lived here or in other European lands because at that time these regions were covered with ice. It was the so-called Ice Age. This Ice Age was responsible for the fact that the greatest part of the population then living in Europe either perished or was obliged to move to other regions. These Ice Age conditions will be repeated, in a somewhat different form, in about five or six or seven thousand years — not in exactly the same regions of the earth as formerly, but there will again be an Ice Age.
It must never be imagined that evolution proceeds in an unbroken line. To understand how the earth actually evolves it must be realized that interruptions such as the Ice Age do indeed take place in the straightforward process of evolution. What is the reason? The reason is that the earth's surface is constantly rising and sinking. If you go up a mountain which need by no means be very high, you will still find an Ice Age, even today, for the top is perpetually covered with snow and ice. If the mountain is high enough, it has snow and ice on it. But it is only when, in the course of a long time, the surface of the earth has risen to the height of a mountain that we can really speak of snow and ice on a very large scale. So it is, gentlemen! It happens. The surface of the earth rises and sinks. Some six thousand or more years ago the level of this region where we are now living was high; then it sank, but it is now already rising again, for the lowest point was reached around the year 1250. That was the lowest point. The temperature here then was extremely pleasant, much warmer than it is today. The earth's surface is now slowly rising, so that after five or six thousand years there will again be a kind of Ice Age.
From this you will realize that when weather conditions are observed over ten-year periods, they are not the same; the weather is changing all the time.
Now if in a given year, in accordance with the height of the earth's surface a certain warm temperature prevails over regions of the earth, there are still other factors to be considered. Suppose you look at the earth. At the equator it is hot; above and below, at the Poles it is cold. In the middle zone, the earth is warm. When people travel to Africa or India, they travel into the heat; when they travel to the North Pole or the South Pole, they travel into the cold. You certainly know this from accounts of polar expeditions.
Think of the distribution of heat and cold when you begin to heat a room. It doesn't get warm all over right away. If you would get a stepladder and climb to the top of it, you would find that down below it may still be quite cold while up above at the ceiling it is already warm. Why is that? It is because warm air, and every gaseous substance when it is warmed, becomes lighter and rises; cold air stays down below because it is heavier. Warmth always ascends. So in the middle zone of the earth the warm air is always rising. But when it is up above it wafts toward the North Pole: winds blow from the middle zone of the earth toward the North Pole. These are warm winds, warm air. But the cold air at the North Pole tries to warm itself and streams downward toward the empty spaces left in the middle zone. Cold air is perpetually streaming from the North Pole to the equator, and warm air in the opposite direction, from the equator to the North Pole. These are the currents called the trade winds. In a region such as ours they are not very noticeable, but very much so in others.
Not only the air, but the water of the sea, too, streams from the middle zone of the earth toward the North Pole and back again. That phenomenon is, naturally, distributed in the most manifold ways, but it is nevertheless there.
But now there are also electric currents in the universe; for when we generate wireless electric currents on the earth we are only imitating what is also present in some way in the universe. Suppose a current from the universe is present, let's say, here in Switzerland, where we have a certain temperature. If a current of this kind comes in such a way that it brings warmth with it, the temperature here rises a little. Thus the warmth on earth is also redistributed by currents from the universe. They too influence the weather.
In addition, however, you must consider that such electromagnetic currents in the universe are also influenced by the sunspots. Wherever the sun has spots, there are the currents which affect the weather. These particular influences are of great importance.
Now in regard to the division of the seasons — spring, summer, autumn, winter — there is a certain regularity in the universe. We can indicate in our calendar that spring will begin at a definite time, and so on. This is regulated by the more obvious relationships in which the heavenly bodies stand to one another. But the influences resulting from this are few. Not many of the stars can be said to have an influence; most of them are far distant and their influence is only of a highly spiritual character.
But in regard to weather conditions the following may be said. Suppose you have a disc with, let's say, four colors on it — red, yellow, green, blue. If you rotate the disc slowly, you can easily distinguish all the four colors. If you rotate it more quickly, it is difficult but still possible to distinguish the colors. But if you rotate the disc very rapidly indeed, all the colors run into each other and you cannot possibly distinguish one from the other. Likewise, the seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter can be distinguished because the determining factors are more or less obvious. But the weather depends upon so many circumstances that the mind cannot grasp all of them; it is impossible, therefore, to mark anything definite in the calendar in regard to it — while this is obviously quite possible in regard to the seasons. The weather is a complicated matter because so many factors are involved.
But in old folklore something was known about these things. Old folklore should not be cast aside altogether. When the conditions of life were simpler, people took an interest in things far more than they do today. Today our interest in a subject lasts for 24 hours ... then the next newspaper comes and brings a new interest! We forget what happens — it is really so! The conditions of our life are so terribly complicated. The lives of our grandparents, not to speak of our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, were quite different. They would sit together in a room around and behind the stove and tell stories, often stories of olden times. And they knew how the weather had been a long time ago, because they knew that it was connected with the stars; they observed a certain regularity in the weather. And among these great-grandparents there may have been one or two “wiseacres”, as they are called. By a “wiseacre” I mean someone who was a little more astute than the others, someone who had a certain cleverness. Such a person would talk in an interesting way. A “wiseacre” might have said to a grandchild or great-grandchild: Look, there's the moon — the moon, you know, has an influence on the weather. This was obvious to people in those days, and they also knew that rainwater is better for washing clothes than water fetched from the spring. So they put pails out to collect the rainwater to wash the clothes — my own mother used to do this. Rainwater has a different quality, it has much more life in it than ordinary water; it absorbs bluing and other additives far better. And it wouldn't be a bad idea if we ourselves did the same thing, for washing with hard water can, as you know, ruin your clothes.
So you see, these things used to be known; it was science in the 19th century that first caused people to have different views. Some of you already know the story I told once about the two professors at the Leipzig University: (see Note 22) one was called Schleiden and the other Fechner. Fechner declared that the moon has an influence on the earth's weather. He had observed this and had compiled statistics on it. The other professor, Schleiden, was a very clever man. He said: That is sheer stupidity and superstition; there is no such influence. Now when professors quarrel, nothing very much is gained by it and that's mostly the case also when other people quarrel! But both these professors were married; there was a Frau Professor Schleiden and a Frau Professor Fechner. In Leipzig at that time people still collected rainwater for washing clothes. So Professor Fechner said to his wife: That man Schleiden insists that one can get just as much rainwater at the time of new moon as at full moon; so let Frau Professor Schleiden put out her pail and collect the rainwater at the time of the next new moon, and you collect it at the time of full moon, when I maintain that you will get more rainwater. Well, Frau Professor Schleiden heard of this proposal and said: Oh no! I will put my pail out when it is full moon and Frau Professor Fechner shall put hers out at the time of new moon! You see, the wives of the two professors actually needed the water! The husbands could squabble theoretically, but their wives decided according to practical needs.
Our great-grandparents knew these things and said to their grandchildren: The moon has an influence upon rainwater. But remember this: everything connected with the moon is repeated every 18 or 19 years. For example, in a certain year, on a certain day, there are sun eclipses and on another day moon eclipses; this happens regularly in the course of 18 to 19 years. All phenomena connected with the positions of the stars in the heavens are repeated regularly. Why, then, should not weather conditions be repeated, since they depend upon the moon? After 18 or 19 years there must be something in the weather similar to what happened 18 or 19 years before. So as everything repeats itself, these people observed other repetitions too, and indicated in the calendar certain particulars of what the weather had been 18 or 19 years earlier, and now expected the same kind of weather after the lapse of this period. The only reason the calendar was called the Hundred-Years' Calendar was that 100 is a number which is easy to keep in mind; other figures too were included in the calendar according to which predictions were made about the weather. Naturally, such things need not be quite exact, because again the conditions are complicated. Nevertheless, the predictions were useful, for people acted accordingly and did indeed succeed in producing better growing conditions. Through such observations something can certainly be done for the fertility of the soil. Weather conditions do depend upon the sun and moon, for the repetitions of the positions of the moon have to do with the relation of these two heavenly bodies.
In the case of the other stars and their relative positions, there are different periods of repetition. One such repetition is that of Venus, the morning and evening star. Suppose the sun is here and the earth over there. Between them is Venus. Venus moves to this point or that, and can be seen accordingly; but when Venus is here, it stands in front of the sun and covers part of it. This is called a “Venus transit”. (see Note 23) (Venus, of course, looks much smaller than the moon, although it is, in fact, larger.) These Venus transits are very interesting because for one thing they take place only once every hundred years or so, and for another, very significant things can be observed when Venus is passing in front of the sun. One can see what the sun's halo looks like when Venus is standing in front of the sun. This event brings about great changes. The descriptions of it are very interesting. And as these Venus transits take place only once in about a hundred years, they are an example of the phenomena about which science is obliged to say that it believes some things that it has not actually perceived! If the scientists declare that they believe only things they have seen, an astronomer who was born, say, in the year 1890 could not lecture today about a Venus transit, for that has not occurred in the meantime, and presumably he will have died before the next Venus transit, which will apparently take place in the year 2004. There, even the scientist is obliged to believe in something he does not see!
Here again, when Venus is having a special effect upon the sun because it is shutting out the light, an influence is exercised upon weather conditions that occurs only once about every hundred years. There is something remarkable about these Venus transits and in earlier times they were regarded as being extraordinarily interesting.
Now when the moon is full, you see a shining orb in the sky; at other times you see a shining part of an orb. But at new moon, if you train your eyes a little — I don't know whether you know this — you can even see the rest of the new moon. If you look carefully when the moon is waxing, you can also see the other part of the moon — it appears bluish-black. Even at new moon a bluish-black disc can be seen by practiced eyes; as a rule it is not noticed, but it can be seen. Why is it that this disc is visible at all? It is because the part of the moon that is otherwise dark is still illuminated by the earth. The moon is about 240,000 miles from the earth and is not, properly speaking, illuminated by it; but the tiny amount of light that falls upon the moon from the earth makes this part of the moon visible.
But now no light at all radiates from the earth to Venus. Venus has to rely upon the light of the sun; no light streams to it from the earth. Venus is the morning and evening star. It changes just as the moon changes but not within the same periods. Only the changes are not seen because Venus is very far away and all that is visible is a gleaming star. Looked at through a darkened telescope Venus can be seen to change, just as the moon changes. But in spite of the fact that Venus cannot be illuminated from the earth, part of it is always visible as a dull bluish light. The sun's light is seen at the semi-circle above — but this is not the whole of Venus; where Venus is not being shone upon by the sun, a bluish light is seen.
Now, gentlemen, there are certain minerals — for instance, in Bologna — which contain barium compounds. Barium is a metallic element. If light is allowed to fall on these minerals for a certain time, and the room is then darkened, you see a bluish light being thrown off by them.
One says that the mineral, after it has been illuminated, becomes phosphorescent. It has caught the light, “eaten” some of the light, and is now spitting it out again when the room is made dark. This is of course also happening before the room is dark, but the light is then not visible to the eye. The mineral takes something in and gives something back. As it cannot take in a great deal, what it gives back is also not very much, and this is not seen when the room is light, just as a feeble candle-light is not seen in strong sunlight. But the mineral is phosphorescent and if the room is darkened, one sees the light it radiates.
From this you will certainly be able to understand where the light of Venus comes from. While it receives no light from this side, Venus is illuminated from the other side by the sun, and it eats up the sun's light, so to say. Then, when you see it on a dark night, it is throwing off the light, it becomes phosphorescent. In days when people had better eyes than they have now, they saw the phosphorescence of Venus. Their eyes were really better in those days; it was in the 16th century that spectacles first began to be used, and they would certainly have come earlier if people had needed them! Inventions and discoveries always come when they are needed by human beings. And so in earlier times the changes that come about when phosphorescent Venus is in transit across the sun were also seen. And in still earlier times the conclusion was drawn that because the sun's light is influenced at that time by Venus, this same influence will be there again after about a hundred years; and so there will be similar weather conditions again in a region where a transit of Venus is seen to be taking place. (As you know, eclipses of the sun are not visible from everywhere, but only in certain regions.) In a hundred years, therefore, the same weather conditions will be there — so the people concluded — and they drew up the Hundred Years' Calendar accordingly.
Later on, people who did not understand the thing at all, made a Hundred Years' Calendar every year, then they found that the details given in the calendar did not tally with the actual facts. It could just as well have said: “If the cock crows on the dunghill, the weather changes, or stays as it is!” But originally, the principle of the thing was perfectly correct. The people perceived that when Venus transits the sun, this produces weather conditions that are repeated somewhere after a hundred years.
Since the weather of the whole year is affected, then the influences are at work not only during the few days when Venus is in transit across the sun but they last for a longer period. So you see from what I have said that to know by what laws the weather is governed during some week or day, one would have to ask many questions: How many years ago was there a Venus transit? How many years ago was there a sun-eclipse? What is the present phase of the moon? I have mentioned only a few points. One would have to know how the trade winds are affected by magnetism and electricity, and so on. All these questions would have to be answered if one wanted to determine the regularity of weather conditions. It is a subject that leads to infinity! People will eventually give up trying to make definite predictions about the weather. Although we hear about the regularity of all the phenomena with which astronomy is concerned — astronomy, as you know, is the science of the stars — the science that deals with factors influencing the weather (meteorology, as it is called) is by no means definite or certain. If you get hold of a book on meteorology, you'll be exasperated. You'll be exclaiming that it's useless, because everyone says something different. That is not the case with astronomy.
I have now given you a brief survey of the laws affecting wind and weather and the like. But still it must be added that the forces arising in the atmosphere itself have a tremendously strong influence on the weather. Think of a very hot summer when there is constant lightning out of the clouds and constant thunder growling: there you have influences on the weather that come from the immediate vicinity of the earth. Modern science holds a strange view of this. It says that it is electricity that causes the lightning to flash out of the clouds. Now you probably know that electricity is explained to children at school by rubbing a glass rod with a piece of cloth smeared with some kind of amalgam; after it has been rubbed for some time, the rod begins to attract little scraps of paper, and after still more rubbing, sparks are emitted, and so on. Such experiments with electricity are made in school, but care has to be taken that everything has been thoroughly wiped beforehand, because the objects that are to become electric must not even be moist, let alone wet; they must be absolutely dry, even warm and dry, for otherwise nothing will be got out of the glass rod or the stick of sealing-wax. From this you can gather that electricity is conducted away by water and fluids. Everyone knows this, and naturally the scientists know it, for it is they who make the experiments. In spite of this, however, they declare that the lightning comes out of the clouds — and clouds are certainly wet!
If it were a fact that lightning comes out of the clouds, “someone” would have had to rub them long enough with a gigantic towel to make them quite dry! But the matter is not so simple. A stick of sealing wax is rubbed and electricity comes out of it; and so the clouds rub against one another and electricity comes out of them! But if the sealing wax is just slightly damp, electricity does not come out of it. And yet electricity is alleged to come out of the clouds — which are all moisture! This shows you what kind of nonsense is taught nowadays. The fact of the matter is this: You can heat air and it becomes hotter and hotter. Suppose you have this air in a closed container. The hotter you make the air, the greater is the pressure it exerts against the walls of the container. The hotter you make it, the sooner it reaches the point where, if the walls of the container are not strong enough, the hot air will burst them asunder. What's the usual reason for a child's balloon bursting? It's because the air rushes out of it. Now when the air becomes hot it acquires the density, the strength to burst. The lightning process originates in the vicinity of the earth; when the air gets hotter and hotter, it becomes strong enough to burst. At very high levels the air may for some reason become intensely hot — this can happen, for example, as the result of certain influences in winter when somewhere or other the air has been very strongly compressed. This intense heat will press out in all directions, just as the hot air will press against the sides of the container. But suppose you have a layer of warm air, and there is a current of wind sweeping away the air. The hot air streams toward the area where the air is thinnest.
Lightning is the heat generated in the air itself that makes its way to where there is a kind of hole in the surrounding air, because at that spot the air is thinnest. So we must say: Lightning is not caused by electricity, but by the fact that the air is getting rid of, emptying away, it's own heat.
Just because of this intensely violent movement, the electric currents that are always present in the air receive a stimulus. It is the lightning that stimulates electricity; lightning itself is not electricity.
All this shows you that warmth is differently distributed in the air everywhere; this again influences the weather. These are influences that come from the vicinity of the earth and operate there.
You will realize now how many things influence the weather and that today there are still no correct opinions about these influences — I have told you about the entirely distorted views that are held about lightning. A change must come about in this domain, for spiritual science, anthroposophy, surveys a much wider field and makes thinking more mobile.
We cannot, of course, expect the following to be verified in autopsies, but if one investigates with the methods of spiritual science, one finds that in the last hundred years human brains have become much stiffer, alarmingly stiffer, than they were formerly. One finds, for example, that the ancient Egyptians thought quite definite things, of which they were just as sure as we ourselves are sure of the things we think about. But today we are less able to understand things in the winter than in the summer. People pay no attention to such matters. If they would adjust themselves to the laws prevailing in the world, they would arrange life differently. In school, for instance, different subjects would be studied in the winter than in the summer. (This is already being done to some extent in the Waldorf School.) (see Note 24) It is not simply a matter of taking botany in the summer because the plants bloom then, but some of the subjects that are easier should be transferred to the winter, and some that are more difficult to the spring and autumn, because the power to understand depends upon this. It is because our brains are harder than men's brains were in earlier times. What we can think about in a real sense only in summer, the ancient Egyptians were able to think about all year round. Such things can be discovered when one observes the various matters connected with the seasons of the year and the weather.
Is there anything that is not clear? Are you satisfied with what has been said? I have answered the question at some length. The world is a living whole and in explaining one thing one is naturally led to other things, because everything is related.
Question: Herr Burle says that his friends may laugh at his question — he had mentioned the subject two or three years ago. He would like to know whether there is any truth in the saying that when sugar is put into a cup of coffee and it dissolves properly, there will be fine weather, and when it does not dissolve properly there will be bad weather.
Dr. Steiner: I have never made this experiment, so I don't know whether there is anything in it or not. But the fact of the sugar dissolving evenly or unevenly might indicate something — if, that is to say, there is anything in the statement at all. I speak quite hypothetically, because I don't know whether there is any foundation for the statement, but we will presume that there is.
There is something else that certainly has meaning, for I have observed it myself. What the weather is likely to be can be discovered by watching tree frogs, green tree frogs. I've made tiny ladders and observed whether they ran up or down. The tree frog is very sensitive to what the weather is going to be. This need not surprise you, for in certain places it has happened that animals in their stalls suddenly became restless and tried to get out; those that were not tethered ran away quickly. Human beings stayed where they were. And then there was an earthquake! The animals knew it beforehand, because something was already happening in nature in advance. Human beings with their crude noses and other crude senses do not detect anything, but animals do. So naturally the tree frog, too, has a definite “nose” for what is coming. The word Witterung (weather) is used in such a connection because it means “smelling” the weather that is coming.
Now there are many things in the human being of which he himself has no inkling. He simply does not observe them. When we get out of bed on a fine summer day and look out the window, we are in quite a different humor than when a storm is raging. We don't notice that this feeling penetrates to the tips of our fingers. What the animals sense, we also sense; it is only that we don't bring it up to our consciousness.
So just suppose, Herr Burle, that although you know nothing about it, your fingertips, like the tree frogs, have a delicate feeling for the kind of weather that is coming. On a day when the weather is obviously going to be fine and you are therefore in a good humor, you put the sugar into your coffee with a stronger movement than on another day. So the way the sugar dissolves does not necessarily depend upon the coffee or the sugar, but upon a force that is in yourself. The force I'm speaking of lies in your fingertips themselves; it is not the force that is connected with your consciously throwing the sugar into the coffee. It lies in your fingertips, and is not the same on a day when the weather is going to be fine as when the weather is going to be bad. So the dissolving of the sugar does not depend upon the way you consciously put it into your coffee but upon the feeling in your fingertips, upon how your fingertips are “sensing” the weather. This force in your fingertips is not the same as the force you are consciously applying when you put the sugar into your coffee. It is a different force, a different movement.
Think of the following: A group of people sits around a table; sentimental music, or perhaps the singing of a hymn, puts them into a suitable mood. Then delicate vibrations begin to stir in them. Music continues. The people begin to convey their vibrations to the table, and the table begins to dance. This is what may happen at a spiritualistic séance. Movements are set going as the effect of the delicate vibrations produced through the music and the singing. In a similar fashion the weather may also cause very subtle movements, and these in turn may influence what happens with the sugar in the coffee. But I am speaking quite hypothetically because, as I said, I don't know whether it is absolutely correct in the case of which you are speaking. It is more probable that it is a premonition which the person himself has about the weather that affects the sugar — although this is not very probable either. I am saying all this as pure hypothesis.
A spiritual scientist has to reject such phenomena until he possesses strict proof of their validity. If I were to tell you in a casual way the things I do tell you, you really wouldn't have to believe any of it. You should only believe me because you know that things which cannot be proved are not accepted by spiritual science. And so as a spiritual scientist I can only accept the story of the coffee if it is definitely proved. In the meantime I can make the comment that one knows, for instance, of the delicate vibrations of the nerves, also that this is how animals know beforehand of some impending event — how even the tree frog begins to tremble and then the leaves on which it sits also begin to tremble. So it could also be — I don't say that it is, but it could be — that when bad weather is coming, the coffee begins to behave differently from the way it behaves when the weather is good.
So — let us meet next Wednesday. (see Note 25) After that, I think we'll be able to have our sessions regularly again.