Our bookstore now ships internationally. Free domestic shipping $50+ →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Nature and Spirit Beings
Their Effects in Our Visible World
GA 98

Part II

V. Group Souls of Animals, Plants, and Minerals I

2 Feb 1908 am, Frankfurt

It has to be emphasized repeatedly that Theosophy must be lived, that, by way of Theosophy, the human being not only learns this or that, but that he learns to think differently, to feel, to perceive emotionally in regard to his whole environment. This will become a reality for someone who accepts the theosophical impulses in the right spirit. He has to learn to feel empathy, to experience living with all beings, but mostly this needs to apply in relation to other human beings. However, we learn best to empathise with human beings when we first learn to do this with the rest of the world.

Slowly man learns to know the whole world that surrounds him. He slowly learns, that he is surrounded everywhere by spiritual beings, that he walks through spiritual beings everywhere. He learns to understand this in regard to feeling and in regard to sensation. He learns to know what surrounds us in the three realms of nature. He learns to know the beings in the mineral realm, the plant realm and the animal kingdom. He strides differently through the meadows and forests, over the fields and open country from someone who has not gone through theosophical training.

When looking at the other beings, one could at first believe that the animal beings do not have a soul like human beings. The Ego of man, man’s soul, is certainly different from an animal’s Ego, in that the Ego of man lives on the physical plane. When we look at an animal as such, then each individual animal has a physical body, an etheric body and an astral body. Human beings have in addition to these three bodies an Ego. During his waking state man’s Ego is contained in him. The animal, however, does not have an Ego on the physical plane. For this, we have to go a bit deeper into the so called astral world. On the astral plane we will find a population of animal Egos, just like we have a human population here on the physical plane. Just as one man meets another here, a clairvoyant is able to meet self-contained personalities on the astral plane—these are the animal Egos.

One has to imagine it thus—imagine the ten fingers of a human being stretched through a wall. They are moving. We can see the ten fingers moving, but not the human being himself. He is hidden behind the wall. We are not able to explain to ourselves how the ten fingers can get through the wall and move. We have to assume that there is some being to which they belong. It is the same with animals in the physical world. All animals of similar shape have one group-Ego. Here in the physical world we see the animals roam about, and what we are seeing has a physical body, an etheric body and an astral body. If we see here in the physical world, for example, lions, then these lions are externalized organs of those lion-Egos that live in the astral world. The lion-Ego, the group-Ego of physical lions, is a similarly self-contained being on the astral plane as we are self-contained beings here. Thus each group of animals has an Ego on the astral plane: a lion-Ego, a tiger-Ego, a vulture-Ego are on the astral plane. The single animals exist here in the physical world like fingers stretched through a wall.

When we observe the individual animals here, many of them appear to be extraordinarily smart. These animals are being managed from the astral plane where the animal-Egos, the group-Egos, are located. The population of the astral plane is much more clever than human beings. The animal group-Egos on the astral plane are very wise beings. Observe the bird-migration, whereby the birds migrate through the various regions, how their flight is arranged, how during autumn they move to warmer regions and how they gather together again in spring. If we deeply look into these wise arrangements, we have to ask ourselves: who is hidden behind the wall, who arranges all of this?—These are the group-Egos. When we watch a beaver building, then we will see that the beaver built more wisely than the greatest engineering art.

One has observed the intelligence of bees at work by giving sugar instead of honey to them. Then they were watched. They cannot take along the sugar, so they go and fetch other bees. First they fly to a source of water, from which each bee carries a drop of water, drenches the sugar with it and transforms it into a kind of syrup. This is then carried to the hive. The spirit of the beehive is behind the work of the bees. The individual bees belong to a single bee personality, just like our limbs belong to us. Only it is the case that each bee is more separate from the others, and our individuals limbs are closer together, more compact. We walk everywhere through entities invisible for us, through the animal group-Egos, who evade physical observation.

As we begin to empathise with beings of which man has not the slightest idea, we can also empathise with the plant souls. The plant-Egos live in an even higher world than the animal-Egos. The plant-Egos, those self-contained group-Egos, to each of which a series of plant belongs, are on the so-called Devachan plane. We can also tell the place where these plant-Egos actually are—all plant-Egos are at the centre of the Earth. The animal Group-Egos are circumventing the Earth like the trade-winds, while the plant-Ego’s are in the centre of the Earth. They are beings that all penetrate each other. In the spiritual world the law of permeability holds sway—one being passes through another. We see the animal group-Egos pass across the Earth like the trade-winds and observe how they, out of their wisdom, perform what we consider to be the deeds of the animals. When we observe the plants, then we see the head of the plant, the root, is extended to the centre of the Earth, because there, at the centre of the Earth, is their Group-Ego.

The Earth itself is an expression of soul-spiritual entities. The plants appear to us, from a spiritual viewpoint, to be something like the nails on our fingers. The plants belong to the Earth. One who observes the individual plants, can never see them completely. Each plant belongs to the sum of entities, that make up the plant-Egos. Thus we can immerse ourselves into the feelings and emotion of the plants themselves. The part of the plant that grows out of the earth, that strives from within the earth to the surface, has a different nature from what grows under the earth. If you cut off the bloom, stalk and leaves of a plant, then that is something different from pulling out the root. If you cut off a plant this will create a certain type of well-being, like a pleasure for the plant soul. This pleasure it similar to what is felt, for example, by a cow whose young calf suckles at its udder. The plant part that grows out of the earth really is something similar to the milk of animals.

When we walk through the fields in autumns and the stalks are falling under the scythe of the reaper, when the scythe strikes the sheaves, then feelings of well-being, akin to ecstasy, breathe across the fields. It is something immensely significant when the reaper goes through the field with his scythe, and we not only can watch the falling sheaves with our physical eyes, but we can see feelings of pleasure stroking the Earth.

However, when you rip out a plant by its root, this causes pain for the plant soul. The laws that apply in the physical world are not the same as those in the higher worlds. We will gain different insights when we ascend to the spiritual worlds. Sometimes also here in the physical world the principle of beauty contradicts the principle of pain or joy. It is possible that someone, driven by beauty concepts, rips out a few white hairs, although it will hurt him. This applies to plants too. It might look more tidy to rip out a plant by its root, it might be more beautiful, but it will still hurt the plant.

The stones are also lifeless only in the physical world—in the higher worlds they too have their group-Egos. In the upper areas of Devachan, the group-Egos of the minerals exist. They too experience joy and pain. We will not find out anything about this by way of speculation, but only through the Science of the Spirit.

If we observe a worker in a quarry breaking up stone by stone, we could believe that this would cause pain to the stone soul. But this is not so. Just when a stone is blasted, then feelings of pleasure burst forth from the stone in all directions. Out of the quarry, where rock is blasted apart, strong feelings of well-being stream out on all sides. When we have a glass of water and add salt to it, and the salt dissolves, then feelings of desire and pleasure will stream through the water. Joy streams through the water when the dissolution of salt is being observed from a spiritual viewpoint. But if we allow the dissolved salt to settle and harden again, then this happens under pain. Likewise, it would cause pain to the stone soul if we could amalgamate the rock again that was blasted apart.

In their secret writings, in their religious scriptures, the seers have always shared their secret knowledge with human beings. But the people have lost the ability to understand these secret scriptures. Let’s imagine ourselves back into the ancient periods of time of our earthly evolution. We see the stones of our solid mountain ranges, that are built up from various clay strata, basaltic stones and so on. When we go even further back, we find that things on Earth become more and more soft. Then we come back to a time, where the Earth was filled with mighty masses of fiery warmth, where the iron, where all metals, all minerals, were dissolved in the spiritual. The human being was also a spiritual being at that time. To allow man to develop further, to receive his current shape, those soft masses needed to solidify. The mountain ranges emerged, the mineral masses dissolved out of the soft substance, and the Earth became the dwelling place of today’s human beings. The lifeless rock masses crystallised themselves out of the fiery liquid Earth like the salt out of the salt solution. Everything shaped itself so that the firm masses were formed out of the liquid state. This did not happen without pain. The whole hardening process of the globe was connected with the pain of the stone soul.

In the future Earth will become spiritualised again. The Earth will again fragment, as is already indicated by radium today. The process of dissolution of the Earth will begin, a spiritualisation, a deification, an adoption in the place of children will happen. Let us hear what the Apostle Paul says, “The whole Earth, all beings, are sighing under pain, waiting to be adopted as children”.1St Paul says, “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain.” In Luther’s translation it literally says: “The creatures are fearfully awaiting the revelation of the children of God”, Letter to the Romans, VIII,19

What we have got here is a representation of what happens on Earth, where the stone soul suffers under pain until the condition occurs when the stone soul will be adopted in place of a child. One could feel pain within one’s soul when those, who are announcing the religious scriptures to man, dream all sorts of things into them, because they do not want to make an effort to penetrate deeply into these records. Those people who are leading mankind are really violating their duty if they do not want to penetrate deeply into the religious scriptures.

The apostle Paul knew what the processes on Earth meant. Theosophy must lead mankind in our modern time into the depth of religious scriptures. It is sad if those who are called upon to be the representatives of the scriptures, make no effort to immerse themselves in them—they do not even have the will to understand them. All the arrogance of the present that says, “we’ve finally made such magnificent progress”,2Goethe, Faust I, Scene 1, night; “Excuse me, but it is a great delight, On the spirit of the ages to set our sight, To see how wise men have thought before us, and we’ve finally made such magnificent progress.” must disappear. There are so many who believe that our ancestors knew nothing! Then people come and interpret the scriptures of Paul—religious scriptures—as they want to, but filled with arrogance they feel that they know more than our ancestors. But how do these words affect us, “All creatures are sighing under pain, awaiting to be adopted as children”? when we allow the insight of the feeling stone soul to affect us, how it awaits in pain to be adopted in place of a child? Human beings with a materialist mindset believe that when they walk outside they walk through air, wind and fog, through oxygen and nitrogen. But a person who has spiritual knowledge, knows that he is walking through spiritual beings everywhere, that with every breath he takes in spiritual beings and absorbs them.

So we have seen, how the animal-Egos circumvent the Earth like the trade-winds, how the plant-Egos are gathered together in the centre of the Earth, how the Earth itself feels something when we rip out plants, and how the Earth itself is alive and ensouled and has feelings. Everything outside is ensouled and imbued with life.

In the same way as the physical body is born out of the physical substances and powers, our spiritual limbs are born out of the vast cosmos. Then we begin to see a small world within us that rests inside the vast world. This creates a blissful feeling in us. Only when we learn to empathise with the minerals, plants and animals, will we learn to feel how our Ego rests within the whole cosmos.

Thus we can see how Theosophy leads us into the spiritual foundations of existence. It is something that transforms our sense of life, our life impulses in such a way that through it we become different human beings. The theosophical concepts are seeds, will-impulses for real experiences.