Dornach, 9th February, 1924
DR. STEINER: I should like to speak of various matters to-day which can show you once more how the earth is connected with the whole universe — in which, as you know, it exists as a spherical body. From this aspect, then, let us consider the rivers and oceans.
You are aware that only a part of the earth's surface is solid land; for the most part the earth is a water-sphere, an ocean. And of the rivers it may be said that they have their source — they rise, as one says — somewhere on the earth and then make their way to the sea.
Let us take the Danube, for instance. You know that the Danube rises in the Black Forest. Or take the Rhine which rises in the Southern Alps. The Danube flows through various valleys into the Black Sea; the Rhine flows through various valleys into the North Sea. Now when we think of rivers and seas we generally only consider their course and where they flow out into the sea. Rivers give us a good deal of pleasure but we do not reflect on the great significance that rivers and oceans really have for the whole life of the earth.
We have as a rule more knowledge about the fluids in the human body. Man, as I have told you, consists for the most part of a volume of fluid, with the blood as a special kind of fluidity running through its veins. We also know that this flowing blood is of the greatest significance for life; it forms life, it maintains life. As physical men we are entirely dependent on the blood flowing rightly through the body and, moreover, taking a definite course. Were it to deviate from this course we should not be able to live. The fact that the arrangement of rivers and seas has just as great a significance for the earth is generally not considered at all. It is not usually realised that water actually forms the blood circulation of the earth. Why is this not realised as a rule?
Well, you see, the blood makes a more striking impression. It is red, it contains all sorts of substances and people say to themselves that blood is in fact a peculiar substance. As to water, one simply thinks — Oh, well, it's just water! It makes less impression and the substances which it contains in addition to hydrogen and oxygen, are not present to the same extent as, for instance, the iron in the blood. So people don't consider the matter again. Nevertheless it is true that the entire water-circulation is of immense importance for the life of the earth. Just as little as the human organism could live without a circulation of blood, could the earth exist if it had no circulation of water.
The water-circulation has a distinct character — namely, it takes its start from something that is quite different from that into which it enters when it finds its outlet in the ocean. If you follow up the rivers you find that they contain no salt: the water in the rivers is fresh water. The sea contains salt and all that the sea brings to maturity is founded on this salt-content. That is of extraordinary importance: water begins to circulate on the earth in a fresh, salt-free condition and ends in the ocean in a salty condition.
The subject is generally dismissed by the statement that such a river as the Rhine rises somewhere or other, takes this course (a sketch was made) and then flows into the sea. That in fact is just what is seen externally. But what is not considered is that whereas the river, the Rhine, for example, flows externally like this from the Southern Alps to the North Sea, there is a kind of stream of force under the earth, returning from the mouth of the river to its source. And what happens there (above the earth) is that the river is fresh water, contains no salt; what returns there (under the earth) is all the time carrying salt into the earth in the direction of the river. The earth acquires salts which actually come out of the sea. It would have no salt if the stream of salt did not return under the earth from the river's mouth to its source. The so-called geology which investigates the interior of the earth should always bear in mind that wherever there are river-beds, somewhat deeper in the ground there are deposits of salt.
Now, if there were no salt-deposits in the earth, no plant-roots would grow. For plant-roots only grow in the soil by obtaining the salt for nourishment. The plant is most salty in the root, above it gets less and less salty and the blossom has little salt. And if one asks whence it comes that the ground can bring forth plants, it must be replied: because it has a water-circulation. Just as in us the blood arteries go out from the heart and the veins return, bringing back the blue blood, so in the earth the arteries of rivers and streams branch out on the one hand, while below the earth the veins of salt return. Thus there is a genuine circulation.
Is there then some special reason for the fact that the earth consists on the one hand of a fluid salt-body, on the other hand of dry land, and that salt is continuously brought in from the sea while there is none in the fresh water rivers that course through the land?
Yes, you see, if one really investigates sea-water, one discovers that this salty sea-water stands in but slight connection with the universe. Just as with us, for example, the stomach is but slightly connected with the outer world — in fact, merely through what it receives — so there is very little connection between the interior of the sea and the heavens. Land, on the contrary, has a strong connection with the heavens — land through which the rivers flow, where plants are brought forth through the salty deposits, particularly, however, where there are flowing waters.
If we view the matter in this way then we approach the mountain springs in quite a different spirit! We delight in the rippling of the springs, in their beautiful flow, their wonderfully clear waters and so on. Yes, but that is not the only thing! Springs are in fact the eyes of the earth! The earth does not see out into the universe through the sea, because the sea is salt and that gives it an interior character like our stomach. The springs with their fresh water are open to the universe, just as our eyes look freely out into space. We can say therefore that in countries where there are springs, the earth looks far out into the universe; the springs are the earth's sense organs, whereas in the salt ocean we have more the earth's lower body, its bowels. It is naturally not the same as in the human body; there are not such enclosed organs, organs that can be delineated. It would be possible to sketch them, but they are not so evident. However, the earth has its bowels in the sea and its sense organs in the land. And everything through which the earth stands in connection with the cosmos comes from fresh water, everything through which the earth has its intestinal character comes from salt water.
Now I will furnish you with a proof that this is so. I once told you that the reproductive process in man and animal also stands in connection with the heavens. I said that it is not merely a development of the egg in the maternal body, but that forces from the universe work in upon it and bring about its roundness. We see the movement of the universe outside us as round, and thus this little egg is an image of the universe, because the forces work in upon it from all sides. And so where the reproductive process is at work, the heavenly is actually working into the earthly. You see the same thing in the eye, it is a sphere. I described the eye recently and how it is formed from the universe inwards. Sense organs and the eye are built in from the universe. If you observe the spleen you see that it is not spherical, it is formed more by terrestrial forces, the intestinal forces of the earth. That is just the difference.
If one only pays real attention to things then they give one proofs. I will presently give you a proof taken from sea and land, but first I will interpolate something else. I have told you that recently we have been making researches in our biological laboratory on the importance of the spleen. When we cannot eat regularly — we all eat more or less irregularly — the spleen is there to balance it all out: it is the regulator. We have produced the proof of this in our laboratory and there is a little booklet by Frau Kolisko (Not published in English.) which describes it all. While this experiment was being made we were obliged by the requirements of modern science to produce a palpable and evident proof. (This will no longer be necessary when science accepts super-sensible proofs, but it is still necessary to-day.) So we took a rabbit and removed the spleen and let the rabbit go on living without its being harmed in any way. This operation can be done with all care, and it was a complete success. Later the rabbit died from an accidental chill in no way connected with the operation. Then we dissected the body and were anxious to see the effect of the removal of the spleen. The interesting thing is ... now, what must be said by Spiritual Science? What remains when one has cut out the physical spleen? Well, now, if the spleen is here (a sketch was made) and one cuts it out, removes it, on this spot there still remains the etheric body of the spleen and its astral body. The spleen is given its form by the earth which has developed it. If one removes the physical spleen, leaving the etheric spleen, as was the case with the rabbit, what must happen? The following should happen. Whereas the physical spleen is dependent on the earth, inclines to the earth, the etheric spleen, which has now become free and is no longer hampered by the physical spleen, must come again under the influence of the heavens. And lo and behold, when we dissected the rabbit there was a small, round body, formed of fine white tissue! Thus there was complete confirmation. Something appeared which according to the expectation of Spiritual Science ought to appear. In a relatively short time a small webbed body about the size of a nut had arisen. Therefore you see that one only has to go to work in the right way and one finds proofs everywhere for the statements of Spiritual Science. You can gather from this that pronouncements made out of spiritual knowledge can enter quite concretely into the physical realm, if right methods are pursued.
Now just as the white body was formed here through the surrounding influences, so are the rudiments of man and animal formed spherically in the ovum through the influence of the heavens.
This knowledge makes us realise that fish are in a special situation, for they never actually come on to the land. They can at most gasp a little on land, but they cannot live on land, they must live in the sea. Hence fish are organised in a particular way; they do not come where the earth is open to the universe. It is therefore with great difficulty that fish develop sense organs and in particular the organs of reproduction, for the formation of these is dependent on the influence of the cosmos. Fish must make careful use of whatever light and warmth falls into the sea from without in order that they may breed and develop sense organs. But nature, as we know, attends to many things. You see it with the so-called goldfish: they use their whole skin for receiving the influence of the light and hence they become so golden. Fish take every opportunity of snapping up what falls into the water from the universe. They must lay their eggs wherever some light can enter, so that they may be hatched from outside. Thus fish are organised, as it were, to live under the water; they do not come out of the water.
What I am saying does not apply so very much to freshwater fish — fresh water can be penetrated from the universe — but it applies very much to sea fish. And these show that they are organised to make use of all that enters the salt water from the universe in order to be able to breed.
The salmon, however, forms a quite remarkable exception. It has in fact an extraordinary organisation. It must live in the sea in order to develop proper muscles and to give its muscles right nourishment it needs the earth-forces found primarily in the salt of the sea. But when the salmon lives in the sea it cannot breed. Its organism shuts it off completely from the universe and salmon would have long ago died out if they had had to breed in the sea. The salmon is an exception; whereas it becomes strong in the sea and develops its muscles, it is practically blind and it cannot reproduce its species there. The reproductive organs and sense organs get weak and stunted; on the other hand, salmon in the sea get fat. Now in order not to die out — we can see this by the salmon here in the North Sea — they make a journey every year up into the Rhine, and so get the name of “Rhine salmon.” But the Rhine makes the salmon thin, it loses its muscles again; the fat it gained in the salt ocean it loses in the Rhine. Yet in the Rhine the salmon can breed, for while it gets slender, the sense organs and in particular the reproductive organs, in both male and female, become well developed. Thus every year the salmon must journey from the salt ocean to the freshwater Rhine in order to breed. Then while the old are still alive and the young ones are there, they all make the journey back again to the sea in order to get rid of their slimness and regain their fat.
You see how this is all in full accord. Where the earth is salty the earth forces are at work upon the organs that are developed by the earth. Our own muscles are developed by the earth when we move with the forces of gravity. Gravity is the earth-force and works upon everything muscular, everything bony. The earth shares its salt with us and we get strong bones and muscles. With this salt excretion of the earth, however, we could do nothing for our senses and the reproductive organs; they would wither away. These must always come under the influence of extraterrestrial forces, the forces coming from the heavens. And the salmon shows what a distinction it makes between fresh and salt water. It goes into salt water to take up earth forces and get fat.
Thus the earth can be said to have a kind of circulation with respect to animal-life as well, as for instance, in the case of salmon.
This circulation drives the salmon alternately into the sea and into the river. They go to and fro, to and fro. The whole salmon community goes to and fro. One can see so clearly from the salmon how everything alive on the earth is in movement.
If we have learnt this from the salmon, it gives us the picture of something else, something that is always before our eyes and is such a wonderful spectacle: the birds of passage. They travel to and fro in the air, the salmon travels to and fro in the water. Salmon migration in the water is the same as bird migration in the air, except that salmon go to and fro between salt water and fresh water and the birds between the colder and warmer regions that they need. In order to come into the right earth-forces of warmth, birds must go to the south and there they develop their muscles. In order to have the forces of the heavens they must come into the purer air of the north; there they mature the reproductive organs. Such creatures need the whole earth. Only the higher animals, the mammals, and man, have become more independent of the earth, have emancipated themselves and reached a greater independence in their own organisation.
This, however, is only apparently the case. In reality we human beings are at the same time actually two people. We are still more — I have told you: physical man, etheric man, etc. But even in the physical man we are really two people, a right man and a left man. The right half of the body is vastly different from the left. I think the minority of you sitting here would be able to write with the left hand; we write with the right hand. But the part of the nervous system connected with speech is situated in the left half of the brain. There are strongly marked convolutions there but none in the corresponding place at the right side. In a left-handed person this is reversed; those who are left-handed have the speech-organisation on the right — not the external organisation, but the internal, which arouses speech. In this respect man is extremely different on left and right. But this is so elsewhere too; the heart is situated more to the left, the stomach is on the left, the liver on the right. But even organs ostensibly symmetrical are not wholly so. Our lungs have (here) on the left two lobes, on the right, three. So the right side of man differs very much from the left side. What is the reason of this? Let us start from something very simple. We do not, as a rule, learn to write with the left hand but with the right hand. This is an activity which depends more on the etheric body. The physical body is heavier and is more developed on the left, the etheric body more on the right. The left forms two lobes; the right, being more active, brings more life into the lungs and forms three lobes. On the left, man is more physical, on the right, more etheric. [See Dr. Steiner's lectures entitled: Anthroposophy, Psychosophy, Pneumatosophy, found in Wisdom of Man, of the Soul, and of the Spirit ] And so too with speech. For right-handed people more nourishment is required by the left part of the brain than the right. And so every possible arrangement is made for man to contain the earth-forces on the left, and more the etheric forces of the heavens on the right.
As our modern science is only willing to recognise matter, it is just material things about which it does not know very much. In the education of children it has introduced the harmful practice of making children learn everything with the left and right hand equally. Well, but man is not in the least organised for that! If that practice is carried to excess, education will make people half insane, for the human body is organised to be more physical on the left and more etheric on the right. But what does modern science care about physical, etheric? Both are the same to the scientists — left man, right man. We must be able to penetrate these things through spiritual science if we are to know anything about them. So on the left, man is more earthly, and on the right if the word is not misunderstood — more heavenly, more cosmic.
Man has however already largely emancipated himself, as I have said. He develops this left-earthly element, this right-heavenly element in such a way as to be able to carry it about as physical man. It is no longer remarked that on the left he has a tendency to the earth and on the right to the heavens. But there are people who have a greater tendency to the earth and they generally lie on their left side for sleep. People lie on the right side either when they are tired of the left or when they occupy themselves with forces inclining more to the heavens. Such matters are naturally difficult to observe since all sorts of other things come into consideration. When a person lies on the right side it may only be because that is the dark part of the room — that too could be a reason. And although one is not by any means bound to find it so, yet on the whole people tend to sleep on their left side, since that is the earth-side. But man has really emancipated himself from the earth and is independent in what he does. It can be observed however in the animal; one sees the secrets of the world everywhere revealed in a very remarkable way.
Imagine that the surface of the sea is here (drawing on blackboard); underneath is the salt sea-water with all sorts of substances in it. Now there are certain fish which are quite remarkably organised. They are organised with a very strong inclination to earth-forces, while other fish snatch eagerly at all the light and air that come into the water. They cannot breathe in the air as they have no lungs; they collapse and die in the air, but with their gills they snap at all the air and light coming into the water. But there is a fish called halibut in the larger variety and sole or plaice in the smaller variety which is very good for food. It has great nutritive value, more perhaps than any other fish, and this shows that it inclines to the earth, since foodstuffs come from the earth. The halibut sides with the earth, so to speak. So what may one expect from these fish? We may expect them to show by their habits that they side with the earth. And so they do; they lie down on one side and this becomes pale and white. And so thoroughly do they lie on the one side that the head is twisted round and the eyes are both placed on the other side. A sole looks like this from below (sketch); there it is quite flat and white, and on the other side, above, both the eyes are set and the head is turned round, because the sole always lies on the left side. The left side produces the nourishment and is pale and white. The other side takes on colour from the heavens, etc., becomes bluish, brownish and the eyes and head are turned away from the food side. So the sole is quite lop-sided, it has all the organs on the one side while the other is flat and pale. The halibut really produces a great deal of nutritive substance because it inclines to the earth. Some become over 600 lb. in weight. Halibut therefore give a clear demonstration: they always lie on one side since it is the earth that attracts them. If a man could lie just as forcibly every night on his left side, his head would twist round and he too would always peer out from one side. But it does not get as far as this with man; he has emancipated himself, as I have said, and maintains his independence.
Still, even man can be affected. One may find, for example, a person with a remarkable complaint: he sees with the right eye, or at any rate sees with one eye somewhat better than with the other. If this is not inborn, one can generally discover by questioning that he lies on the other side for sleeping. The earth-forces are working on the side upon which one very frequently lies and the eye becomes somewhat weak-sighted. It is not affected so strongly as in the case of the halibut, but still slightly. The eye that is turned away from the earth becomes somewhat stronger. You see how remarkable these connections are. I have said that nature somewhere or other shows us with what forces she is working. When one sees a sole — the smaller ones are to be seen in any fish market, the larger ones are in the ocean — one realises that the nutritive part can only be formed just where it is, it must be separate. If these fish need anything from the heavens they must always take on that direction and the reproductive organs can be developed. These fish go about it differently from the salmon; salmon migrate, they go from the North Sea to the Rhine in order to be able to breed. Soles always lie on the one side, so that the heavens work from the other side and in this way they can develop their senses and reproductive organs.
And the earth itself, what does the earth do Well, if there were only the salt sea, the earth would long ago have perished; it cannot exist by itself alone. There are not only the salt seas but the freshwater rivers and streams, and the freshwater receives from universal spaces the reproductive forces for the earth. The salt ocean can bring in nothing from the wide universe which will give the earth continuous refreshment. When you go to a spring and the wonderfully pure water is bubbling out, you will notice how green everything is near the spring, what a wonderful scent there is. All is so fresh. Yes, and what is so fresh there by the spring refreshes the whole living earth as well. The earth opens itself there as if through the eyes and sense organs to cosmic space. And one can observe how living creatures like the salmon and the sole make their way to where they can find this. They have a kind of instinct to attach themselves to the earth. The salmon seeks the fresh waters direct, the sole turns to the light by so arranging its body. It cannot come to the springs, but the springs are where the earth turns to the light. The sole, the fish, must turn direct to the light with its own body.
These things are immensely instructive, because they show us what is still present in man, but cannot be so well observed since he has broken away from the earth. And if one is not observant of such things one has really no understanding of the whole life of the earth. Indeed, if we look at the ocean and observe the sole, we can realise: Yes, by means of the sole the ocean opens itself everywhere to the heavens! Soles are a proof that the sea is thirsty for the heavens, since its salty content turns away from the universe. One can say that soles express the thirst of the sea for light and air. And if we look at our own circulation, we too, in fact, have fine sense organs, the organs of touch, at the places where we are saltier, where the muscles are situated. Here too man makes himself open to the outer world, though not directly, as through the eyes. These places correspond as it were to the places where soles are to be found in the sea. Soles make themselves open to the heavens and this gives them an extraordinary acuteness. Just as we become skilful when we are able to make good use of our external organs of touch, so the sole becomes skilful through the sea, because it makes itself open to the heavens. Look at what is underneath in the sea — it is heavy and clumsy. Soles, oh! they get terribly cunning, they become sly creatures just by turning away from the sea on one side. Although they turn to the earth-forces as well, they feel: the earth-forces are just for themselves. They accumulate nutritive material — up to about 600 lb. as I said — but soles have these fine sense organs through which they open themselves to the heavens. They eat other fish — smaller ones. But if a sole approached, the other fish would flee away from it on all sides as if from a spectre. For other fish consider it necessary to have eyes at the sides — a sole affects them exactly as if a human being were approaching. The fish would rapidly get away and soles would have nothing to eat if they were not cleverer than the others. But the other fish, those which have an eye at either side, are in fact not so clever as they do not turn so definitely to the heavens. A sole seeks out places where the sea has a sort of little shore in the shallower parts, and there it lies down. It bores into the ground with its flat body, uses its jaws to cover itself a little with sand and then whirls up sand, but so fine that a fish can swim through. Then come the fishes and crabs, do not notice the sole, and instantly when they have passed over, it snatches and snaps at them! The sole does it very cleverly indeed! But of course only a creature could do it which is linked in a close connection with the forces of the universe.
Such a creature then has developed its physical body on one side and on the other side it develops especially powerfully the invisible etheric body. We can see just by such things that the forces of intelligence in us are not derived from earthly forces. Earthly forces makes us muscular, give us salts; forces from the heavens give us forces which are at the same time those of reproduction and of intelligence.
You see, a man in a certain way is actually a small earth-sphere. Man too consists, as I have often said, of about 90 per cent of water. Man too is a fish, for the solid part which is only 10 per cent, swims there in the water. We are really all of us fish, swimming in our own water. It is even admitted by science that in essentials we are a small ocean. And as the sea sends out rivers, so does our sea, our fluid body send out salt-free juices. We too have our freshwater streams. They lie outside the muscles and bones. On the other hand, within the muscles and bones we have the same salt deposits as the sea has. Our nourishment is actually in the bones and muscles. We are therefore, in this respect too, a small earth-sphere: we have our salt sea in us.
If the fluidity, the freshwater streams become too strong — which can easily occur in children if the milk is not rich enough in salts — then the child becomes rickety, gets the so-called “English sickness.” When a person gets too much salt he becomes too much a sea, his bones become brittle and the muscles unwieldy and clumsy. There must always be a balance between our salt consumption and what is contained in other foods.
Now what is it that lies in other foodstuffs? Look at a plant: you know now that plants grow because there are salt streams under the earth, returning from the river-mouth, which spread out and make the plants grow. So the plant finds its salt within the earth, but when it emerges from the earth it goes on growing towards the blossoms. The blossom becomes beautifully coloured because it takes up the light. There in the blossom the plant absorbs the light, in the root it absorbs the salt. There outside it becomes a light-bearer, there beneath it becomes a salt-bearer. Down below it is like the sea-part of the earth, up above it is like the heavens. The root is rich in salt, the blossom rich in light. In earlier times this was much better known and what is in the blossom was called “Phosphor.” To-day when everything is materialistic, phosphor is only a solid body. Phos = light, phor = bearer, phosphor = light-bearer; phosphor was actually that in the blossom which carried the light. The mineral “phosphorus” has received its name because of the way it gives out light when it is ignited. But the real light-bearer is the plant- blossom. The plant-blossom is phosphorus. Therefore for those organs in our human body, which as it were contain the freshwater currents, we need light; for the muscles, the bones, for that in us which ought to become salty we need precisely salt and solid ingredients in our food. Between them there must be the right balance — each must be consumed in the right quantity.
And so it is too with the earth. However far you may have travelled you will not have seen — nor has the globe-trotter, nor the genuine world traveller anywhere seen that the earth has prepared itself a meal! But nevertheless it does nourish itself, substances are continuously being exchanged, the earthly element is ascending all the time through mist and fog. And you know that the rain-water which falls is distilled; it is pure water and contains nothing else. But the sea is nourished through the salt in rarefied condition from cosmic space. There is no need to keep to meal-times! It is only we men, who have broken away from the earth, who must procure our food from it. The earth is nourished by the fine substances to be found everywhere in the universe. It is fed continuously, but one does not notice it because it is such a fine and delicate process. You see, if you look at a man quite superficially, you do not notice that he is continually absorbing oxygen. So too with the earth, one does not notice that all the time it is receiving nourishment from cosmic space.
Now we human beings keep to our meal-times. There we take our nourishment, through the stomach into the lower body. This is quite obvious, extremely obvious. But in breathing it is less obvious. It is in respect of the obvious that social questions arise. One man is better off, another worse off. Men all want to be well off — social questions arise in respect of the obvious. But social questions are not so clear in respect of the air which we all inhale. There it is not so easy to say that one man deprives another — there is a little truth in it, but not very much. In the case of our lower body we differ entirely from the earth. In the matter of breathing we are more like the earth, our breathing is performed almost unnoticed. But in fact we are all the time absorbing iron through our hearing — not only do we hear — we are absorbing iron in a very fine state. Through the eyes we absorb light and other substances too. This can be discovered from those people who are lacking in these substances. Through the nose in particular we take in an immense amount of substance without noticing it! With our lower body we have broken away from the earth and made ourselves free. So there we can only absorb foodstuffs created by the earth, baked and made more solid. We can take in the air because it is in the cosmos, and with our head and the senses we do what the earth does. There we receive nourishment out of the universe in the same way as the earth itself. The head is not formed spherically without reason; it deals with the universe just as the earth does. Only down below gravity enters, there the human body is developed according to the earth; physical hands — this gravity draws downwards. Gravity has not such an influence on the head; that remains spherical. So there we must pass from the visible to the invisible. One must say: The soles would die in spite of feeding on fish and crabs — for they only eat these for the sake of the pale, flat under-body — if they were not to take in what comes from the universe through having made themselves one-sided. These are the fine, the delicate connections through which one looks into the laws and secrets of the cosmos.
This is what Spiritual Science must call attention to again and again, namely, that one must learn to know the true laws, not through crude superficial observation but through fine and delicate perception.