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Cosmic Workings In Earth and Man
GA 349

II. Life on Earth in Past and Future

Dornach, 17th February, 1923

(Questions were asked about Colours and Primeval Rock.)

DR. STEINER: I will first deal with the question about rock, as that can very well be brought into connection with the things we have been considering lately.

Now you know that when a building is put up on the earth, great attention has to be paid to the laws of weight, gravity and many others — the laws of elasticity, for instance, of which we shall speak presently.

Imagine that one builds a tower, a tower, let us say, like the one on Cologne Cathedral, or that one builds something like the Eiffel Tower. It is clear, of course, that it must be built in such a way that it does not fall. If one has accurate knowledge of the laws of gravity there is no need for the whole thing to fall down. Still, the highest towers on earth can only be built on a base, and if you carry upwards to a height about ten times the base — that is, one to ten, you can get the highest towers.

So with the ratio of one to ten the highest towers can be built — otherwise the motion of the earth, wind storms, etc., would make them fall.

But in addition one must take care that the towers are in themselves somewhat elastic. The top always rocks to and fro slightly. Attention must be paid to what is called the force of gravity. The tower will always rock, but as soon as it rocks too violently it collapses. The Eiffel Tower rocks quite considerably at the summit. But care must be taken that it does not get thrown out of its base.

Now if you look at — let us say — a blade of wheat, you find at once that these laws are not observed at all. A blade of wheat is really nothing but a tower, yet it has a tiny base. A wheat blade with its tiny base goes up high aloft, and if we reckon out the ratio it is certainly not one to ten, which must always be used in mechanical building. The ratio is much more like one to four hundred, and in many cases one to five hundred.

By the mechanistic laws we use on earth, such a tower would quite definitely have to fall down. For when it is shaken by the wind its elasticity forces cannot be understood at all by the laws that a mechanist must obey.

If you tried to set up something else quite heavy on the Eiffel Tower, you would find that it simply could not be done! But at the top of this tower, this blade or stalk, there is still the ear, and it moves to and fro in the wind. That, you see, contradicts all the laws of the builders.

Now when one investigates the substances of which this blade consists, one first finds wood, that is to say, one gets a woody substance which you all know as bast. You see it in trees. And next you find in it a real building material: silica, quartz, real silicic acid. But it is harder quartz than is found in the Alps, in granite, for instance, or gneiss. This quartz, then, forms a scaffolding.

Besides these it contains a fourth substance — water. Thus this mortar made from wood, bast, water and quartz enables the stalk to contradict all terrestrial laws. A blade of grass is also a tower built entirely of substances. It can be tossed in the wind, does not break, rights itself when the wind ceases or the weather is favourable and calmly stands upright again, as of course you know.

But forces such as these, forces which can build something like this out from the ground, are not to be found on earth, assuredly not. And if you ask: Well, where do they come from? — this answer must be given: The Eiffel Tower is dead, the blade of wheat is alive. But it does not get life from the earth, its life comes from the whole surrounding universe. [See Fundamentals of Therapy, by Rudolf Steiner and Dr. Ita Wegman. Chapter III, “The Phenomena of Life.”] On the Eiffel Tower, gravity works purely downwards, drawing it down. The blade, however, does not grow by supporting itself on what is below. If we build the Eiffel Tower we must lay one material upon another and what is beneath will always be the support of what is above. With the blade this is not the case; the blade is in fact drawn out towards universal space.

So if you picture the earth (a sketch was made on the blackboard) and there the blades of wheat, then because the universe is filled by a very fine substance called ether which lives in the plant, [See Etheric Formative Forces in Cosmos, Earth and Man, by Dr. G. Wachsmuth.] the wheat blades are all drawn out towards the universe. But life does not come from the earth, it comes from cosmic spaces, and we can say: life simply comes out of the universe.

In the same way, when the egg is formed in the body of the mother (I have spoken of this before) this body only provides the substance. It is the whole cosmos that works upon the egg and gives it life. In all that lives, you see, the whole of universal space is working.

Now if you consider the plant, it grows, to begin with, under the earth. (A sketch is made.) If that is the earth, the plant is growing within it. But the earth is not some sort of neutral lump, it is really miraculous. It contains all sorts of substances, but three were of quite special importance in ancient times.

One of the three is a substance which we call mica. Only a small amount is to be found in plants to-day, but even so it is extraordinarily important. If you have already seen mica, you can perhaps remember that it is formed of thin plates, so thin that they sometimes look transparent. And once upon a time the earth was interwoven by such little mica plates. They went in this direction (sketch). As long as the earth was soft, such forces were still in it. Opposing them were other forces: they went so (sketch) and thus there was a real grating of lattice-work in the earth. These other forces are to-day contained in quartz.

And in between is yet another substance — clay. This clay unites the two, it fills in the lattice-work, so to speak. As a rock it is called feldspar.

Thus at one time the earth was composed in the main of these three kinds of primeval rock. But it was all soft, like pulp. There was the mica, which was really at pains to have the earth formed of thin plates in a horizontal direction. Then there was the quartz, radiating in this direction, and then the feldspar cementing the two together.

We find these most essential constituents to-day when we take the clay soil that is everywhere in the fields. At one time they were all intermingled inside the earth, now they are to be found outside in the mountains. If we take a piece of granite, it is quite granular, simply composed of little scales. These scales are the thin places of mica broken into splinters. Then there are very hard grains in it — that is the quartz; and then combining grains — the feldspar. These three bodies are broken down, made granular and are to be found outside in the mountains. They form the base of the hardest mountain ranges.

Thus since the earth was soft they have been pounded and broken to bits by all manner of forces which work in the earth. But remains of these old substances, particularly remains of their forces, are still to be found everywhere in the earth and the plants are built up from them by the universe.

We can say therefore that when they are working to-day out there in the mountains, they can create nothing more. These rocks are broken up, crumbled away, crushed into grains and are too hard to become plant. But since the plant always gives its essential substances and forces to the seed, what is within the earth can still be used for building up the plant out of the universe.

Such a view as this, where one takes into account how the whole of cosmic space works together to produce life, is not found at all in modern science. You may have read of the lecture recently delivered in Basle where an explanation was given of how life must actually have arisen on earth. The lecturer said: Yes, it is difficult to imagine that through mere intermixing or chemical combinations of substances, life comes about on earth. Then it must have come out of the universe — but how?

Now it is interesting to see how a modern scientist pictures to himself the way in which life can have come out of the universe. He says to himself: Well now, if it is not on the earth it must have come from other stars. The nearest star which perhaps once threw off substances that then flew towards the earth is so far away that what was split off would take forty thousand years to reach the earth. One has to imagine that the earth was once a fiery-fluid body. There could be no life on it or else of course it would have been burnt up. But it cooled down and then it was able to absorb life if it had flown to it from the nearest star. Now one cannot imagine — said the lecturer — that a life germ, a little germ of life wandered for forty thousand years through cosmic space, especially as this has a coldness — not warmth — of minus 220 deg. C. This germ then would arrive at the earth and then life on earth would originate. Earlier, no matter how many germs had flown into it, they would have been burnt up. And when the earth had sufficiently cooled down they would have thriven. But this simply could not have come about, said the lecturer. Therefore we don't know where life comes from!

But one can see quite clearly that life comes out of the universe. One sees in reality that in everything living, not only earth-forces are at work. We use only the forces of the earth for the Eiffel Tower and so on. But in such a tower as this (blade of wheat) there work indeed not only the earth's forces but the forces of the whole universe. And when the earth was still soft, when mica, feldspar and quartz or silica, swam through each other in the fluid condition, then the whole earth was under cosmic influences; it was a giant plant. When you go out to the mountains to-day and find granite there, or gneiss — which differs from granite in being more rich in mica — they are the remains of this ancient giant plant. And just as when to-day the plant decays and gives over its mineral constituents to the earth, so, later on, the whole earth body as plant gave over its mineral constituents. And thus to-day you have the mountain ranges. For our hardest mountains originated from the plant nature, when the whole earth was a kind of plant.

I have already told you how the earth looked when this primeval rock had ceased to be in a plant condition, but all was still soft. Our present animals and men were not then in existence, but the Megatherion and all the creatures I described to you. But before all this came about, the earth was a giant plant in cosmic space. And if you observe a plant to-day and enlarge it, you find even now that it resembles the mountain formations outside. For the universe only acts on the plant as a whole; its minutest parts are already stone. Thus, briefly, the earth has once been alive and what we find to-day in the hardest mountain rocks is the remains of a living earth.

But the earth's solid, mineral matter has originated in yet another way. If you go out on the ocean you find island formations. Here is the sea (sketch) and at a certain depth under the sea there live tiny creatures in real colonies — the coral-insects or polyps. These coral polyps have the characteristic of continuously secreting chalk. The chalk remains there and the island is finally covered by their deposited chalk secretions. And then sometimes the ground sinks in here, is submerged and a lake is formed. There is a ring of chalk which the coral insects have left behind. Now the earth as a whole is continually sinking in the very regions where these polyps are depositing their chalk. They can only live in the sea itself, so they go down deeper and deeper, while the chalk is left behind up above.

Thus one can still find in the sea chalk deposits which are derived from living creatures, namely, the coral polyps. Formerly there was animal life where now in the Juras we find limestone or chalk. The limestone is the deposit of former animal life.

If you go into the central Alpine region where the hardest rocks are, there you have the deposited plants. If you go into the Juras, there you have what is deposited by animals. The whole earth has once been living; originally it was a plant, then an animal. What we have to-day as rock is the remains of life.

It is simply nonsense to imagine that life is built up from dead substances through chemical combination. Life comes out of the ether-filled universe. It is nonsense to say that dead substances could unite and come to life — what is called “original creation.” No, it is precisely the dead substances that are derived from the living, are deposited by the living. As our bones are separated out — in the mother's body they are not there at first — so is everything, our bony structure, etc., formed out of the living. The living exists first and only afterwards comes the dead. The ether surrounds us and it draws everything upwards just as the earth's gravity draws everything down. It draws upwards but it does not bring death, as gravity does. The more you inhale gravity, the more you become gouty or diabetic or something of the sort. To that extent we become dead. And the more the upward forces prevail in us, the more living we become.


I now come to a part of the question which Herr B. has asked. Let us imagine then that I have someone before me who is ill, and I can say to myself: What is wrong with him is that he has not enough of the forces that work outside in the universe. He has too much of the forces of gravity — everything imaginable is deposited in him. Now I remember! Yes, I say to myself, it was quartz, silica, that at one time let forces stream out into the universe. If I prepare silica in such a way that the original forces become active again, that is, if I make a preparation from silica, mix it with other substances by which the silica element gets etheric force again and give this as a remedy, then I may be able to make a cure. Very good results can come from a silica preparation. And so in medicine one can make use again of forces which at one time existed in silica in living form. Great achievements in medicine can be secured if one reflects upon the condition of the earth when it was fully alive, when the silica was still under the influence of the universe.

Therefore when too little is living in a patient and he needs a connection with the universe, i.e. gives him substances which lie hardened outside and which one can very well employ as medicaments.

The head projects most of all into the cosmos, therefore it is most easily healed with silica; the abdomen tends most towards the earth, hence it is most easily healed with mica. And that which lies more in the centre — lungs, etc. — that one heals very well with feldspar when one prepares it in the right way.

So now you see that when one understands nature, one also really understands what are healing forces in human nature. But one must have a real feeling for the fact that the universe acts upon our earth.

Now it is always only possible to explain certain things at certain times. And so I can explain to you the flight of birds from another aspect than the one I took before, when we were not so advanced. Our modern science thinks very abstractly about the flight of birds in autumn and spring. In spring the birds leave their warmer haunts and in autumn, when it gets colder, they desert the more northerly regions. But there are birds which fly over the ocean in a south-easterly direction and they fly very fast and make no halt in between. One can prove this because it can be shown that there are no islands at all on the routes such birds sometimes take. Moreover they fly very high and it is not possible, on the lines of ordinary science, to answer the question: what do they breathe up there! For one could only think that so high up they would be stifled.

Nor can people make out how these birds find their direction. It is sometimes said: Oh, well, that is an inherited faculty; the young ones have always inherited it from the older ones, and the old birds instruct the young and then it works very well — the young ones can also do it. So when autumn comes, the older swallows organise a school, the young ones are instructed, the old ones fly in front, the young ones behind and copy them. This is what people have imagined.

But not all birds of passage do this. In the case of migratory birds in South Africa, for instance, when spring comes here with us, the older birds fly away first and come back here. The young ones can hold out longer there because they are still strong. The old birds get away earlier from the dust and leave the young ones behind. They don't instruct them at all, don't act as guides; the young have to find their way quite alone.

Some people have said: Oh, well, birds see to a great distance. In fact if it is a case of Africa they would even have to see through the earth! One doesn't get very far with these things. But I will give you an example by which you can see how the matter really lies. There is something else about which one can wonder how it makes its way — namely, a ship. How does a ship find its direction if it is to sail from Europe to America? It takes its direction from the compass. When as yet there were no compasses it went rather badly with the ships; they had to find their direction from the stars. So they steer their course by the compass, that is to say, by forces which are invisible, which are present in the ether. These are the very forces by which the birds find their direction! Only we men have no longer a sense for these invisible forces. The birds, however, have a sense for them, they have an inner compass. What we only learn laboriously, by observing the etheric forces with compass, magnet, etc., a bird has within itself. It flies by the ether, by what is working in universal space.

And so we can say: the earth is everywhere surrounded by ether and the ether contains life-forces. They come from the universe, take hold of earthly substances and from them bring about the living.

But something always remains within as remains of life. When, for instance, you take coral chalk, there is always something left that a little recalls life, something that has branched off from the living. So it is possible to find all sorts of things within it still, which can be administered as quite a good remedy.

And if, as I said, you take silica, which has already become terribly hard, and make use of it as a medicament, you can heal head ailments very effectively.

Thus life is still within it. The whole of it has once been alive. We cannot say that minerals are still living to-day, but they have lived once. They were once constituents of life. There is a remnant left in them which we can extract by all sorts of means and through which they can serve very well as remedies.

So this question as to whether there is also life in stone has been answered. If people only calculate with the forces acting on earth, then they proclaim that the earth looked different millions of years ago. They take no account in this of heavenly space. I said to you lately that if one takes into account what comes from the heavens one does not arrive at anything like such vast numbers of years.

One discovers, however, that here in our regions everything was still frozen and covered with ice, while over in Asia there was already quite a high degree of civilisation with much wisdom spread among the inhabitants.

But one comes to see that in a certain way our earthly life depends on the life outside, the life in the universe. When one goes back six, seven, eight thousand years, the earth with its mineral rocks was quite different from what it is to-day; not so much externally, but internally quite different. And then one goes back farther and farther to the soft condition of the earth. If we want to direct ourselves by the cosmos, we must observe it in the right way.

Now one can observe the cosmos by observing the position of the sun's rising. At the present day the sun in spring rises on the morning of 21st March with the constellation of Pisces behind it. But if one goes farther back — for instance, into the times before the Birth of Christ, the sun rose, not in Pisces, but in the constellation of Aries. That means the vernal point has moved along. If the sun rises in spring on 21st March in Pisces, then about 2,160 years ago it rose in Aries, still earlier in Taurus, still earlier in Gemini. There are twelve such constellations.

Thus the rising position of the sun is always moving in a backward direction; it moves round a whole circle, so that the vernal point goes quite round the earth. Is that understandable? It is always moving farther round from west to east.

One therefore arrives at the fact that formerly the sun rose in Aries, earlier in Taurus, still earlier in Gemini, then in Cancer, Leo, Virgo, then in Libra, in Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and then, as to-day, in Pisces. So when we go back 2,160 years it rose in Aries, another 2,160 years in Taurus, another 2,160 in Gemini, still another in Cancer, another in Leo. Then we come round again until at one time it was rising in Pisces. We come right round. (Sketch.) In 25,920 years the sun makes a revolution round the whole universe.

That is very interesting, and by such a course of the stars one can see how everything on earth changes. With the conditions brought by our present vernal point, we have our high mountains with the dead granite masses, containing feldspar, quartz and mica. It is all dried up, devastated. So it was, too, 25,920 years ago: similar conditions then prevailed on earth. But in between it was all different. For instance, the sun rose at one time in spring in Libra, between Virgo and Scorpio. Then the whole earth was alive, soft, was in fact a kind of plant. We need not go back more than 15,000 years at most, then through the quite different position of the sun the earth had a plant nature, and later an animal nature. We should be able to follow from the sun's course how the influences coming in from cosmic space have altered conditions on the earth.

You must think to yourselves, as you go back in time: the rock in the primeval Alps which is quite hard and solid to-day begins to flow, somewhat as iron flows in an iron foundry. It is naturally not quite the same, for when we go back the flow is reversed, as it were, it is in process of becoming solid. And if we go forward into the future, we shall again have the sun in Libra — for now it rises in Pisces, after 2,160 years in Aquarius, then in Capricorn, Sagittarius and once more in Libra, the Scales. At this future time when the sun rises once more in the Scales, the whole primeval Alpine range will have dissolved. The dense quartzes will have become fluid again, the earth will once more be plant-like and men and animals return to the condition in which they formerly were. In the meanwhile, however, they have absorbed all that they could take in on the earth.

So everything really goes in a circle. We look back to an earlier time when the earth and its hardest formations were fluid. Then the cosmos above brought forth such creatures as I once described to you; they arose through the in-working of heavenly forces and died out. Then all cooled down, solid formations arose and gradually there came the life of to-day. But it all goes back again. The granular quartz and granite, etc., are dissolved and former conditions return, but at a higher stage of evolution.

If you take in your hand a piece of granite containing quartz, you can say: This piece of granite with its quartz will at a future time be alive again. It has lived in former ages and to-day it is dead. It has formed solid ground upon which we can walk about. When we did not need to walk, the solid ground was not there. But one day it will come to life again.

In fact we can say that the earth sleeps as regards cosmic space — only the sleep is long, 15,000 years at least. When the earth was alive it was awake, it was in connection with the whole universe and the life forces of the universe brought forth upon it the great beasts. Later, as solidity was reached, these forces brought forth the human beings. Human beings nowadays have a pleasant time of it on earth — of course in regard to the universe too — they can go about on solid ground. But this solid ground will wake up again — it is really only asleep — it will wake up again and become active life.

If we take a piece of chalk, limestone, just an ordinary bit from the Juras, it is the remains of a portion of life. It is deposited from life, but someday it will be alive again, it is between life and life and is really only asleep.

Now we can use chalk, or calcium, very well as a medical preparation when, for instance, we find that children cannot absorb proper nourishment. This is particularly the case in Germany to-day — it is dreadful there now. When I recently went to Stuttgart to inspect the Waldorf School again, I visited the first Class. We have twenty-eight children in this Class, of whom only nineteen were present, the others were all ill. In another Class, fifteen were ill. And when one goes into it one finds terrible conditions. They brought a little boy into my consulting room and asked: What is to be done with him? He can no longer eat and the doctor has given him up.

Through persistent undernourishment, the digestive organs gradually form the habit of not being able to digest and they refuse everything. People can no longer eat, no matter how much one gives them. You can give them Quaker meals (The Society of Friends supplied the Waldorf School with food gifts) and everything possible, but nothing can help the child because his organs have ceased to act. He looks rather fat and greyish-yellow. What is to be done? The organs must first be made fit again to take in nourishment. Here one is well served by the little bit of life that is in calcium. When calcium is rightly used as a remedy, one can reawaken these sleeping digestive forces so that the child can live. One must give a mixture of calcium with other substances as it does not work by itself alone; it must be made to pass over into the organism. The calcium is absorbed if it is given in 5 per cent dilution.

But what is one using in giving calcium in this dilution? One is using the forces which once, in earlier times, were life forces in the chalk. They are still in it and can be used to reawaken life. But if one uses calcium in high dilution, in homeopathic doses, as one says, not 5 per cent but 5/10,000 — not even 5 per 1,000 but 5/10,000 — this, mixed with the other substances, acts on the head. It immediately becomes a remedy for the head.

If one gives the calcium allopathically it acts on the digestive organs, but in a quite high dilution it acts on the head and one can vary one's treatment in this way. It is also possible to ask: what is one using in the high dilutions of calcium? Here one is using the forces of the future which are still in it and will come into existence again in future ages.

You see, we must know nature in this way and then it can give us remedies. For there was once life everywhere and will be so again; death only stands between two lives. From primeval rock it is possible to use both past and future life forces in the right way.

This makes us realise something else. We find in our modern world both allopaths and homeopaths. The allopaths cure allopathically and the homeopaths, homeopathically. Well, but as a matter of fact many illnesses cannot be cured homeopathically, many must be cured allopathically. Remedies must be prepared differently. One cannot be a fanatic who swears by words, one must administer the remedies out of a full knowledge — sometimes so, sometimes so. Anthroposophy does not go in for catchwords — allopathic — homeopathic — but it studies the matter and says: the allopath works principally on the stomach, intestines, kidneys; there he is successful. Homeopathy is successful when the source of the illness is in the head, as in influenza. Many illnesses have their origin in the head. One must know how things really take their course in nature. People invent catchwords to-day as they no longer have real knowledge. Catchwords are always invented when things have ceased to be understood.

It is naturally not easy to arrive at the truth, for the allopath says: I have often cured such and such ... and the homeopath says: I have often cured such and such. ... Of course they always leave out the diseases they have not cured!

But take a man like Professor Virchow of Berlin, a doctor and professor who certainly could not be accused of not standing completely in modern medicine, who has even been called a genuine Liberal by the Free Thought Party. Yet with regard to cures he has been obliged to admit the following: “When a doctor in our modern medical world can show that he has cured one hundred people, the truth really is that fifty of these would have got well without him, and 20 per cent would have recovered even if he had used quite different remedies. So 70 per cent of cures are not to be attributed to modern medicine — 30 per cent at most.” This is what Virchow calculated and he stood fully within the world of modern medicine.

It can definitely be stated that the right remedy, rightly employed, is effective; everyone can convince himself of that. Quicksilver, for instance, although it has after-effects, is nevertheless efficacious. And so one must just find the right thing. Sometimes it is terribly complicated, sometimes the organism has even become too brittle to stand the cure. But in a certain sense, through a real knowledge of what exists in nature, we can see how the various substances work. As dead substances they are really only in the middle between two periods of life and we can see their effect on man. But it is essential to have a real knowledge concerning their life.

Now the peculiar thing is that if one wants to understand anything, one must always start from life. Even in regard to colours we must take our start from life.

Sometimes when one sees modern pictures one has the feeling that there is no flesh behind, but that wood has simply been smeared with colour. Modern painters are quite unable to reproduce the tint of flesh-colour, because they have no living feeling that flesh colour is created out of the human being. Nowhere does it appear on any other material. One has to understand flesh colour and then the other colours can be understood. I will speak more about this on another occasion.

The child that they brought to me in the Waldorf School and who had been treated with calcium by the school doctor had completely lost the flesh colour and had become yellow from within outwards ... let us hope that people don't say that a proper remedy was not used! Living activity is inherent in colour and we are therefore experimenting in using the less dead for colours. So when we painted the Goetheanum we used plant colours as they come more from the living. In colour too you must go to life.

You see, the question as to whether rocks also have life was not so foolish, in fact it is quite intelligent. It has given us the opportunity of considering how the rocks are alive in the course of the earth's evolution, become dead again, and so on, and how human life is related to this.