Cosmic activity is indeed the greatest of artists. The cosmos fashions everything according to laws which bring the deepest satisfaction to the artistic sense.
26 October 1923, Dornach
We have studied certain aspects of the connection between earth-conditions, world-conditions, animals and man. We shall continue with these studies during the coming days. Today, however, I wish to find the transition to those wider spheres which we shall have to consider later. I should like, in the first place, to draw attention to what has already been described in my “Occult Science” as the evolution of the Earth in the cosmos — beginning with the primordial Saturn-metamorphosis of the Earth. This Saturn-condition must be thought of as already containing within itself everything belonging to our planetary system. The separate planets of our planetary system, from Saturn onwards to the Moon, were at that time still within old Saturn — which, as you know, consisted only of warmth-ether — as undifferentiated world-bodies. Saturn, which had not even attained to the density of air, but was merely warmth-ether, contained in an undifferentiated etheric condition everything which later took on independent form, becoming individualized in the separate planets.
We then distinguish as the second metamorphosis of earth-evolution, what, in a comprehensive sense, I have called the Sun-condition of the Earth. Here we have to do with the gradual formation — from the fire-globe of Saturn — of the air-globe, the light-permeated, light-irradiated, glittering air-globe, Sun.
Then we have a third metamorphosis, out of which, after the ancient conditions had been recapitulated, there took form on the one hand all that was of a Sun-nature, which at that time still comprised the earth and moon — all this is described in “Occult Science” — and on the other hand all that was already externalized, and to which Saturn in its state of separation belonged.
At the same time, however, during this period of the Moon-metamorphosis, we meet the fact that the sun separated from what was now a blend of earth and moon. I have often described how the kingdoms of nature which we know today did not then exist, how the earth did not enclose a mineral mass, but was, if I may so express myself, of the nature of horn, so that the solid constituents freed themselves, forming rock-like projections of horny substance, jutting out from the Moon-mass, which was now of the consistency of water. And then there arose the conditions of the fourth metamorphosis, which are the Earth conditions of today.
Now when we depict these four metamorphoses in their sequence, we have first the Saturn-condition, which still contained dissolved within it everything later contained in our planetary system; then we have the Sun-metamorphosis, the Moon-metamorphosis, and the Earth-metamorphosis. These four manifestations fall into pairs.
Just consider how things were during the evolution of Saturn and on into the Sun-epoch, where even then substance had only advanced to a gaseous state! Evolution takes its start from the globe of fire; the fire-globe becomes metamorphosed, densified to a globe of air, which is, however, imbued with light, glittering with light. Here we have the first part of evolution.
Then we have that part of evolution in which the Moon first plays its own role. For it is the role played by the Moon which enables it to fashion those horny rock-formations. And during the Earth-metamorphosis the moon separates off, becomes a subsidiary planet, leaving behind for the Earth the inner-earth-forces. The forces of gravity, for instance, are essentially forces which, in a physical connection, have remained behind from the Moon. The Earth would never have developed the forces of gravity had not the residue of what was contained in old Moon been left behind; the moon itself departed. The present moon is that colony in cosmic space about which I spoke to you from its spiritual aspect only a few days ago. Its substantiality is quite different from that of the earth, but it left behind in the earth what, speaking in the widest sense, may be called earth-magnetism. The forces of the earth, namely the earthly forces of gravity, the activities described as the effects of weight, these have remained over from the moon. And thus we can say: on the one hand we have (Saturn-and-Sun-condition) the essentially warm, light-irradiated metamorphosis, when the two conditions are taken together; on the other we have (Moon-and-Earth-condition) the moon-sustained, watery metamorphosis, the watery condition which evolved during the Moon-metamorphosis, and which then remained during the Earth-metamorphosis; the solid element is called forth by the forces of gravity.
These two pairs of metamorphosis differ from each other to a marked degree, and we must be clear about the fact that everything present in an earlier condition is again inherent in the later one. What constituted the ancient fire-globe of Saturn remained as warmth-substance in all the subsequent metamorphoses; and when today we move about in the regions of the earth, and everywhere encounter warmth, this warmth which is everywhere to be found is the remains of the ancient Saturn condition. Wherever we find air, or gaseous bodies, we have the remains of the ancient Sun-evolution. When, having imbued ourselves with feeling and understanding for this epoch of evolution, we look out into the sun-irradiated atmosphere, we can say to ourselves with truth: In this sun-irradiated atmosphere we have remains of the ancient Sun-evolution; for had this ancient Sun-evolution not taken place, the relationship of our air with the rays of the sun, which are now there outside, would not have existed. Only through the fact that the sun was once united with the earth, that the light of the sun itself shone in the earth which was still in a gaseous condition — so that the earth was an air-globe radiating light into cosmic space — only through this could the later metamorphosis appear, the present Earth-metamorphosis, in which the earth is enveloped by an atmosphere of air, into which the sun's rays fall from outside. But these sun-rays have a deep inner connection with the earth's atmosphere. They do not, however, behave — as present-day physicists somewhat crudely state — as though projected like small shot through the gaseous atmosphere; but the rays of the sun have a deep inner relationship with the air. And this relationship is actually the after-effect of their one-time union during the Sun-metamorphosis. Thus everything is mutually inter-related through the fact that the earlier conditions ever and again play into the later conditions in manifold ways. But during the time in which, speaking generally, earth-evolution took its course — as you find in “Occult Science”, and as I have briefly sketched it for you here — everything on and around the earth, everything also within the earth, has been evolved.
And now we can say: When we contemplate the present-day earth, we have within it what produces the solid element, the inner moon, actually anchored in earth-magnetism; the inner moon, whose action is such that it is the cause of the solid-element, the cause which produces everything which has weight. And it is the forces of weight which form the solid element out of the fluid. We have next the actual earth-realm, the watery element which appears in manifold ways — as underground water, for instance, but also in the water which is present in the rising mist-formations, in the descending rain clouds, and so on. And further we have in the circumference what is of the nature of air. Moreover all this is permeated by the element of fire, the remains of old Saturn. So that we also have to ascribe to our present-day earth what, there above, is Sun-Saturn or Saturn-Sun. We can always say to ourselves: Everything which is present in the warm air, which is irradiated with light, is Saturn-Sun. We look up and actually find our air imbued with what is Saturn-activity, what is Sun-activity, evolving in the course of time into the actual atmosphere of the earth, which, however, is only an after-effect of the Sun-metamorphosis. Broadly speaking, this is what we find when we direct our gaze upwards.
When we direct our gaze downwards, it is more a question of what arose from the last two metamorphoses. We have what is heavy, the solid element, or better expressed, the working of the forces of weight into what is becoming solid; we have the fluid element, we have the Moon-Earth. These two parts of earth-existence can be strictly differentiated from each other.
If you read “Occult Science” again with this in mind, you will see that the whole style alters at the place where the Sun-metamorphosis passes over into the Moon-metamorphosis. Even today there is still a kind of sharp contrast between what is above, what is of the nature of Saturn, and what is below, what is of the nature of Earth-Moon-watery condition.
Thus we can quite well differentiate between the Saturn-Sun-gaseous element and the Moon-Earth fluidic element.
When someone who sees into these things with initiation science contemplates the general course of earth-evolution — everything also which has developed along with the earth, which belongs to it — his gaze falls first upon the manifold variety of the insect world. One can well imagine that the very feeling engendered by the fluttering, glittering insect world would bring us into a certain connection with what is above, with what is of the nature of the Saturn-Sun-gaseous condition. And this is indeed the case. When we look at the butterfly with its shimmering colours, we see it fluttering in the air, in the light-flooded, light-irradiated air. It is upborne by the waves of the air. It hardly contacts what is of an Earth-Moon-fluid nature. Its element is in the upper regions. And when one investigates the course of earth-evolution, it is a remarkable thing that just in the case of the small insect one arrives at very early epochs of earth-metamorphosis. What today shimmers in the light-irradiated air as the butterfly's wings was first formed in germ during old Saturn, and developed further during the time of old Sun. It was then that there arose what still today makes it possible for the butterfly to be in its very nature a creation of light and air. The sun owes the gift of diffusing light to itself. The sun owes the gift that its light can call forth in substances what is fiery, shimmering, to the working-in of Saturn-Jupiter-Mars. The butterfly-nature cannot indeed be understood by one who seeks for it on the earth.
The forces active in the nature of the butterfly, must be sought above, must be sought in Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. And when we enter more exactly into this wonderful evolution of the butterfly — I have already described it, in its connection with the human being, as what may be called the cosmic embodiment of memory — when we enter into this more exactly, we find in the first place the fluttering butterfly shimmering with light, carried up above the earth by the air. It then deposits its egg. Yes, the crude materialist says: “The butterfly deposits its egg”, because, under the influence of present-day unscientific science, the things of greatest importance are simply not studied. The question is this: To what does the butterfly entrust its egg when it deposits it?
Now investigate any place where the butterfly deposits its egg; everywhere you will find that the egg is deposited in such a way that it cannot be withdrawn from the influence of the sun. The sun's influence upon the earth is in fact not only present when the sun is shining directly on to the earth. I have often drawn attention to the fact that in winter peasants put their potatoes into the earth, cover them with earth, because what comes towards the earth during summer as the sun's warmth and the power of the sunlight, is, just during winter, within the earth. On the surface of the earth potatoes become frosted; they do not become frosted but remain really good potatoes if they are buried in a pit and covered with a layer of earth, because throughout the winter the activity of the sun is inside the earth. Throughout the whole winter we must look for the sun-activity of summer under the earth. In December, for example, at a certain depth within the earth, we have the July-activity of the sun. In July the sun radiates its light and warmth on to the surface. The warmth and light gradually penetrate deeper. And if in December we wish to look for what we experience in July on the surface of the earth, we must dig a pit, and then what was on the surface of the earth in July will be found in December at a certain depth within it. There the potato is buried in the July sun. Thus the sun is not only where crude materialistic understanding looks for it; the sun is actually present in many spheres. Only this is strictly regulated according to the seasons of the year in the cosmos.
The butterfly never deposits its eggs where they cannot remain in some way or other in connection with the sun. Consequently one expresses oneself badly when one says that the butterfly lays its eggs in the realm of the earth. This it does not do at all. It lays its eggs in the realm of the sun. The butterfly never descends as far down as the earth. Where ever the sun is present in what is earthly, there the butterfly seeks out the place to deposit its eggs, so that they remain entirely under the influence of the sun. In no way do they come under the influence of the earth.
Then, as you know, out of this butterfly's egg creeps the caterpillar. When it emerges, it remains under the influence of the sun, but it now comes under another influence as well. The caterpillar would be unable to crawl did it not also come under another influence. And this is the influence of Mars.
If you picture the earth with Mars circling around it, what emanates from Mars in the upper region pervades everything, and remains everywhere. It is not a question of Mars itself being anywhere in particular, but we have the whole Mars sphere, and when the caterpillar crawls in some direction, it does so in the sense of the Mars sphere. Then the caterpillar becomes a chrysalis, building around itself a cocoon. We get a cocoon. I described to you how this is a sacrifice to the sun on the part of the caterpillar, how the threads which are spun into it are spun in the direction of the line of light. The caterpillar is exposed to the sun, follows the rays of light, spins, stops when it is dark, spins on further. The whole cocoon is actually cosmic sunlight, sunlight which is interwoven with matter. Thus when you have the cocoon of the silkworm, for example — which is used to make your silk garments — what is present in the silk is actually sunlight, into which is spun the substance of the silkworm. Out of its own body the silkworm spins its matter in the direction of the sun's rays, and in this way forms the cocoon around itself. But that this may happen it needs the intervention of the Jupiter activity.
And then, as you know, the butterfly creeps out of the cocoon, out of the chrysalis — the butterfly which is upborne by light, radiant with light. It leaves the dark chamber into which the light only entered as it did into the cromlechs, in the way I described this to you, in the case of the cromlechs of the ancient Druids. The sun, however, comes under the influence of Saturn, and it is only in conjunction with Saturn that it can send its light into the air in such a way that the butterfly can shine in the radiance of its variegated colours.
And thus, when we behold that wonderful sea of fluttering butterflies in the atmosphere, we must say: That is in truth no earthly creation, but is born into the earth from above. The butterfly nowhere goes deeper with its egg than to where influences come to the earth from the sun. The cosmos bestows on the earth the sea of butterflies, Saturn bestows their colours. The sun bestows the power of flight, called forth by the sustaining power of the light, and so on.
Thus I might say that we actually have to see in the butterflies little creatures, strewn down, as it were, upon the earth by the sun, and by what is above the sun in our planetary system. The butterflies, the dragonflies, the insects in general, are actually the gift of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and Sun. And not a single insect could be produced by the earth, not so much as a flea, were it not that the planets beyond the sun, together with the sun, bestow upon the earth the gift of insect life. And we do in truth owe the fact that Saturn, Jupiter, etc. could so generously allow the insect world to flutter in upon us to the first two metamorphoses experienced by earth-evolution.
And now let us look at the way in which the two last metamorphoses — the Moon-condition and the Earth-condition — have played their part. In view of the fact that the butterfly's egg is never actually entrusted to the earth, it must be pointed out that at the time when the Moon-metamorphosis, the third condition, was in its beginning, the butterflies were not as yet as they are today. The earth, too, was not so dependent upon the sun. At the beginning of the third metamorphosis the sun was actually still united with the earth, and only later became separated. The butterfly, therefore, was not so averse to entrusting its germ to the earth. When it entrusted it to the earth, it was at the same time entrusting it to the sun. Thus here there arose a differentiation. In the case of the first two metamorphoses one can only speak of a primal foreshadowing of the insect world. But at that time to entrust something to the outer planets, to the sun, still signified entrusting it to the earth. Only when the earth condensed, when it acquired water, acquired the magnetic forces of the moon, did matters change, and then it was that a differentiation appeared.
Let us take everything to do with warmth-air as belonging to what is above; and let us take what is below: water-earth. And let us consider those germs whose destiny it was to be entrusted to the earth, whereas others were held back and not entrusted to the earth, but only to the sun within the earthly.
Now let us consider these other germs which were entrusted to the earth at the time when the third metamorphosis, the Moon-condition, arose. These germs, you see, now came under the influence of earth-activity — of the watery earth-moon activity — just as the insect germs had formerly come under the influence of the sun-activity and of what is beyond the sun. And through the fact that these germs came under the influence of earth-water-activity, they became the plant-germs. And the germs which remained behind in the upper regions, these remained insect-germs. When the third metamorphosis began — through what at the time was of a sun-nature becoming transformed into what was of the nature of moon-earth — the plant-germs came into being, during this third metamorphosis of earth-evolution. And what you now have in the butterfly, under the development of the extraterrestrial cosmos, this whole development from the germ, through the caterpillar, through the chrysalis to the butterfly — this you are now in a position to follow in the plant. In that the seed became earthly it was not the butterfly which developed; but when the seed became earthly, entrusted to the earth — not now to the sun — the plant root developed, the first thing to arise out of the germ. And instead of the caterpillar creeping out, under the influence of the forces which proceed from Mars, the leaf arises, creeping upwards in spiral formation. The leaf is the caterpillar which has come under the influence of what is earthly. When you see the creeping caterpillar, you have, in the upper regions, what corresponds, below, to the leaf of the plant; the leaf develops out of what became root through the fact that the seed was transplanted from the region of the sun to the region of the earth.
Proceeding further upwards, we find contracted to the calyx what is of the nature of the chrysalis. And finally the butterfly develops in the blossom, which is coloured, just like the butterfly in the air. The circle is completed. Just as the butterfly lays its egg, so does the blossom develop within itself the new seed for the future. So you see, we look up towards the butterfly, and we understand it to be the plant raised up into the air. What the butterfly becomes from egg to full development under the influence of the sun with the upper planets, the plant becomes here below under the influence of the earth. When the plant comes into leaf (see diagram) we have from the earth-aspect the influence of the moon, then the Venus-influence and the Mercury-influence. Then there is a return to the earth-influence. The seed is again under earth-influence.
We can, therefore, place before ourselves two verses, which give expression to a great secret of nature:
Behold the plant:
It is the butterfly
Fettered by the earth.
Behold the butterfly:
It is the plant
Freed by the cosmos.
The plant — the butterfly fettered by the earth! The butterfly — the plant freed from the earth by the cosmos! 1Coleridge describes the butterfly as Flos libertus vel libertinus. Ed.
If one looks at the butterfly, indeed at any insect, from the stage of the egg to when it is fluttering away, it is the plant raised up into the air, fashioned in the air by the cosmos. If one looks at the plant, it is the butterfly fettered to what is below. The egg is claimed by the earth. The caterpillar is metamorphosed into leaf-formation. In what is contracted in the plant we have the metamorphosis of the chrysalis-formation. And then what unfolds into the butterfly itself, in the plant develops into the blossom. Small wonder that such an intimate relationship exists between the world of the butterflies, the insect-world in general, and the world of the plants. For in truth those spiritual beings which are behind the insects, the butterflies, must say to themselves: There below are our relatives; we must have intercourse with them, unite ourselves with them — unite ourselves with them in the enjoyment of their juices, and so on, for they are our brothers. They are our brothers who have wandered down into the domain of the earth, who have become fettered to the earthly, who have won another existence.
And again, the spirits who ensoul the plants can look up to the butterflies and say: These are the heavenly relatives of the earthly plants.
You see, one must really say that understanding of the world cannot come about through abstractions, for abstractions do not attain to understanding. Cosmic activity is indeed the greatest of artists. The cosmos fashions everything according to laws which bring the deepest satisfaction to the artistic sense. And no-one can understand the butterfly, which has sunk down into the earth, unless he metamorphoses abstract thoughts into artistic sense. No-one can understand the nature of the blossoming plant, which, as the butterfly, has been uplifted into the air by the light and by cosmic forces, unless once again he can bring artistic movement into abstract thoughts. Nevertheless there always remains something immensely uplifting when we turn our minds to the deep, inward connection between the things and beings of nature.
It is a unique experience to see an insect poised on a plant, and at the same time to see how the astrality holds sway above the blossom. Here the plant is striving outwards from the earthly. The plant's longing for the heavenly works and weaves above the iridescent petals of the blossom. The plant cannot of itself satisfy this longing. Thus there radiates towards it from the cosmos what is of the nature of the butterfly. In beholding this the plant realizes the satisfaction of its own desires. And this is the wonderful relationship existing in the environment of the earth, namely that the longings of the plant-world are assuaged in looking up to the insects, in particular the world of the butterflies. What the blossoming flower longs for, as it radiates its colour out into world-space becomes for it fulfillment in knowledge when the butterfly approaches it with its shimmer of colours. Out-streaming warmth, out-streaming longing: in-streaming satisfaction from the heavens — this is the interplay between the world of the blossoming plants and the world of the butterflies. This is what we should see in the environment of the earth.
Having thus established the connection with the plant-world, I shall now be in the position to extend still further in the near future the studies which lead from the human being to the animals. We can already include the plant-world, and thus we shall gradually come to man's connection with the whole earth. But for this it was necessary to build, as it were, a bridge from the fluttering plant of the air, the butterfly, to the butterfly firmly rooted in the earth, the plant. The earthly plant is the firmly rooted butterfly. The butterfly is the flying plant. Having recognized this connection between the earth-bound plant and the heaven-freed butterfly, we have now established the bridge between the animal-world and the plant-world, and thus we can now look down with a certain unconcern upon all the trivialities which are always saying how spontaneous generation, and the like took place. These prosaic concepts will never lead us into those regions of the universe to which we must attain. Those spheres are only reached when prosaic concepts can be led over into artistic concepts, so that we may then arrive at the picture of how, from the heaven-born butterfly which is only entrusted to the sun, the plant later arose through this butterfly's egg becoming metamorphosed in such a way that, whereas it was formerly entrusted to the sun, it now became entrusted to the earth.