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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

VI. Group Souls of Animals, Plants, and Minerals II

2 February 1908 pm, Heidelberg

Certain facts that we come to know through Occult Science, show us that the world is becoming quite different through Theosophy or Occult Science. First, let us talk about how the different realms of nature, the world around us, is imbued with souls. Theosophy illustrates how the human being consists initially of four limbs—the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body and the Ego. Then there are also three higher limbs that are developments of these four.

If we say that the mineral has a physical body in common with all of lifeless nature, and, in addition, plants have an etheric body, animals an astral body, and the human being has the “I am”, then this statement applies to our physical world. On the physical plane, when looking at a mineral even the most developed eye of a clairvoyant is not able to perceive anything apart from a physical body. When looking at a plant, a physical and an etheric body can be seen, and looking at an animal, in addition to these an astral body becomes visible; whilst looking at a human being all of these bodies and the “I am” can be seen in the physical world.

Observation of these entities in the higher worlds reveals that the plant does not only have a physical and an etheric body, but it presents itself to us as quite a complicated entity. If we first examine the plant, we find it with its roots under the earth, and it sticks out of the earth with its stem and shoots out of this leaf by leaf. Looking with a clairvoyant eye at the astral world above the plant, we will see above it a glowing astral light that envelopes the blossom of the plant. If we were able to check the view from the Devachan world as well, we would find something curious. There the plant is as if enclosed by a sheath that extends to the centre of the Earth, where it has its top. In reality this is the whole plant. We can see these glow-lights in the astral world when we observe the entire plant cover of the Earth.

The etheric body of the plant is a vital strength body. It has a very particular function in plant life. Its task is to push forth leaf by leaf in a kind of repetitive routine. If a plant only had an etheric body, it could never come into bloom. It would only sprout out leaf by leaf. The etheric body is the principle of repetition. We can also observe this in the human being, who consists of the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body and the “I”. Not all parts of the human body are equally participating in these four “limbs”. There are parts from which the astral body has withdrawn again. It no longer intervenes in some of these organs, as it has no strength there. It has withdrawn from the top of the head. There, only the etheric body is active with repetition—creating hair by hair repeatedly in the same form. At a different point, we can see how the principle of the etheric body passes into the principle of the astral body. The etheric principle is active in the vertebrae of the spinal cord. At the bottom end of the spinal cord the astral body intervenes and drives the vertebrae upwards towards the cavity of the head.

The glow-light above the plant is also substantially astral but here it must be penetrated by the spiritual power of the Sun’s rays. Here, the power that borders and surrounds the plant is activated by the sunlight’s spiritual strength. The astral principle intervenes and transforms the etheric body’s principle—expressed in the repetitive sprouting out of the leaves—into the emergence of blossoms. Such an intervention by the astral is a hindrance. When we then follow the sheath of the plant into the interior of the Earth, we will find the Ego of the plant there. None should argue that not all plant-Egos would find space in the centre of the Earth. In the spiritual, the principle of permeability holds sway. All plant-Egos are together in the centre of the Earth. Seen from this perspective, the Earth appears to us not only as a globe in the universe, but also appears to be imbued with souls. The individual plants grow out of the Earth like the fingernails out of our organism. Inside the Earth, many plant-Egos are together. Not every plant has an Ego, but whole groups of plants share a common Ego. This is also the case with animals. There too whole groups share a common Ego. It doesn’t matter if a lion is in Africa and another one in a menagerie, they are the limbs of the one lion-Ego. Imagine your hand stretched through a screen. We must tell ourselves: an Ego must belong to those fingers. In this way all lions on Earth belong to one single Ego, all tigers on Earth belong to one tiger-Ego. All lions, all tigers are limbs of a common group-Ego.

First of all, it is interesting to familiarise oneself a little with those animal-Egos. A person who observes the world from a materialistic standpoint believes that he only walks through material substances. But this is not so. The animal group-Souls, like the trade winds, are going around the Earth on the most diverse routes. They are circling around the Earth; they go through the spinal marrow of animals. The main characteristic of these group-Egos is the following: The astral plane has self-contained beings, only they do not possess a self-contained body. But, for example, an astral self-contained being belongs to all lions These beings form a population on the astral plane. The animal group-Egos are much smarter than the human-Egos—they are wiser. Every wise establishment that exists in the animal kingdom stems from the animal group-Egos.

When we see birds flying in autumn towards the South, when we observe the beaver at work on his lodge, then we see the animal group-Egos at work. The individual beaver is not clever, but the beaver group-Ego is wise. When we reach such self-contained beings on the astral plane, we are entering a world of wisdom and intelligence. Essentially, it is just very good to communicate with these beings. They know much more than we do about the wisdom of the world. The plant-Egos are located in the centre of the Earth. If we visit them, we will learn there about the joy and pain of the plants. What the plant shoots out onto the surface of the Earth, even if it is green, even if it is firm, can still be compared to the milk that is secreted by an animal. Indeed, it is as if the whole Earth organism sends out something like milk that is secreted by animals. Plucking a plant causes a delightful feeling for the plant-Soul, similar to a cow’s feelings when the calf suckles on the udder. If someone empathizes with the plant-Soul, then he can share in the knowledge of all nature and feel with it. If we make ourselves confidants of the whole of nature, then our Soul will be tuned to also empathize with the other human beings.

One learns to recognise that something like a whiff of well-being streams across the fields in autumn when the reaper scythes the fields, mowing down stalk by stalk and sheaf by sheaf. It is a wonderful observation to see that when the farmer mows, whiffs of delight are wafting across the Earth. However, if someone rips out plants by their roots, then he causes pain to the plant’s soul. What applies to our physical plane does not always apply to other worlds as well. Someone might pluck out their white hair because this appeals to his sense of beauty, but it still hurts. In the same way, it hurts the plant when it is ripped out by the roots, even though from the perspective of the physical plane one might think this is the right thing to do. We must not believe that we can prevent pain, even if we know that here or there pain is caused in nature.

Now we have seen how the human being, by gaining insight into nature, learns to empathise with his fellow beings. The souls of the stones too feel pleasure and pain. When we observe a quarry and see how the workers blast stone by stone apart, then we could believe that as the stones are chipped off, this would cause pain to the rock. This is not the case. Whole streams of delight are splintering off together with the stones and pouring out of the quarry. If you take a glass of water and dissolve salt in it, the clairvoyant can see that at the dissolution of the salt whole streams of wellbeing are distributed. When the water cools down and the salt becomes solidified again, that causes pain.

If we light a matchstick and burn something, then this causes a soul-being involved in the burning process to experience whole streams of inner delight. The light that streams through the universe distributes itself not only as a physical essence but with it streams of bliss are disseminated. The spiritual beings who live in the light enjoy sharing out the light—this is a feeling of bliss. They feel blessed by the streaming forth of the life in the light. In this way, we learn to know the whole world inwardly. If we thus gain more and more spiritual insights into the life that surrounds us, then indeed we will learn to know wonderful secrets of human evolution through this.

Let us return to earlier times when Earth was at such a high temperature that all metals, all minerals, were dissolved. We can look back to a condition where everything was dissolved in warmth. At that time, the human being was connected to the Earth as a spiritual being. How has Earth in its present form become the setting for modern man? The substances of the Earth had to become firm and crystallise together. This process has been undergone on Earth. In the future, the Earth will go through this process in reverse. The Earth and all human beings will spiritualise themselves. For physical life to spiritualise means to disperse into its smallest parts. If after long periods of time a world-body has fulfilled its task, then by and by small parts of this world-body dissolve. There is an ongoing alternation between the conglomeration and the dissolution of matter.

Already we can see from the radium that the Earth is beginning to scatter apart, to spiritualise. Starting with the beginning of the Earth’s evolution, we find the Earth in a fiery state, then the compression of matter into rock, the conglomeration. There the mineral-Souls had to experience pain. Only when the world-body once again approaches spiritualisation, then a feeling of pleasure and well-being will emerge through the fragmentation.

The initiate has expressed this in profound words: St Paul said, “All creatures are sighing in 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 This means that they are waiting for the moment where once again everything will be transformed into spirit. In this way the intellect teaches us best to understand the religious scriptures again—then we will gain the right feeling for these texts. Today’s materialistic man who says, “We have finally made such magnificent progress,”2Goethe, Faust I, Scene I, night—Wagner: “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.” doesn’t know anything about this evolution.

Today, these Pauline words are often interpreted in an endlessly trivial way. But shivers of awe will once again penetrate the human being who looks at the Earth in this (Pauline) way. Not only our Earth, but all individual parts of the cosmos are not only physical worlds but are ensouled spiritual worlds.

When the human being walks through the portal of death, he must spend some time in a purely spiritual world to then return to a new incarnation. Here on the physical plane, the human being manufactures his instruments, his tools, and so on. Is it the case that the soul-nature of man between death and a new birth is only busy with itself?—The soul is neither idle then, nor is it in a different world from our own. The beings who are experiencing this state are really all around us and are all working. Once the human being has died and reappeared on the surface of the Earth in a new incarnation, then he usually finds the Earth with a new physiognomy.

You only need to realise how Earth is changing its face. Just think of how the climatic conditions, plants and animals, and cultural conditions are nowadays completely different from how they were at the time of Jesus Christ. When one really learns to know history, he knows how everything is changing on Earth. Who then changes the face of the Earth externally, physically? That which changes the Earth, is what we make ourselves in between death and a new birth, but certainly under the guidance of higher beings.

Thus, the clairvoyant sees the plants continually buzzing with the souls of humans, who are preparing the bed for their new incarnation. Higher beings are directing this whole process. But we ourselves are participating in this conversion of the Earth. The human being himself is the worker, the modifier of the construction of our Earth. In this context, a wonderful life on this Earth comes together for us when we look at the Earth in its entirety. This is also how we recognise that we live under the guidance of higher beings who are in contact with our Earth, but who do not descend as far as to a physical incarnation.

Our Earth also goes through embodiments, just like an individual human being. The Earth has gone through earlier embodiments and in the future will go through other ones. If we would stir our present Earth together with the current Moon—we would get the old Moon. In an even earlier embodiment, the Earth was the Sun planet. If today, we would stir together the Earth, Moon and Sun, then we would get the old Sun planet. In the future, Earth will be embodied as Jupiter, Venus and as Vulcan. Each of those existences are connected with spiritual beings. Earth proceeds from embodiment to embodiment. Whenever a planet proceeds on to further embodiment, spiritual beings are developed to higher heights in the course of this.

When the old Moon developed itself, first one body appeared—then two bodies emerged. When our Earth evolved, there stepped out of the darkness of the cosmos a world body. Then first the one world body split into two. Then the Moon split out of the Earth again, so that we got three world-bodies: Sun, Moon and Earth. Humanity was also connected with all of these embodiments. The rudiment for a physical body was created on Saturn. The rudiment for an etheric body was created on the Sun, and the rudiment for the astral body on the Moon. Higher beings are standing above the human being. When the Earth was still connected with the Sun and the Moon, these higher beings were unable to proceed further in their more rapid development. Therefore they needed to separate themselves off and extract the best substances so that now the Sun is populated by these sublime entities, who we are calling the divine creators of the human being. They inhabit the Sun. That which is streaming along with the light resides on the Sun—experiencing the bliss that is felt when the light is streaming out.

On the Moon, however, there were lower beings at first. During the earlier evolution, beings existed who did not have the opportunity, so to speak, to raise themselves up to the solar existence. They could not endure being on the Sun, because this was reserved for higher beings. But they could not be on Earth either, as this was not advanced enough for them. On both world bodies they were unable to live. For this reason, the Sun had to split off two more planets, where these beings live. These are Mercury and Venus. On Mercury, beings reside that are similar to human beings but do not know death. Life on Mercury proceeds, so to speak, in such a way that a transition like death is only like a transformation, just as we change the body between birth and death. This is how the souls of Mercury beings live when they put on their spirit bodies and lose them again, but they do not know death. Also, on Venus beings reside who stand between the human beings and the Sun-beings. They inhabit Venus and are even able to be active on Earth. They become effective within the human body. We call these beings Luciferian beings. In a way, their home is on Venus. For this reason, Venus is also called Lucifer.

When we direct our gaze toward the stars, then the stars reveal themselves to us in such a way that we can recognise spiritual beings in them. We will only know the world once we advance from the physical to the spiritual everywhere . How completely different will it be, when we as human beings walk over this Earth in a conscious way, once we learn to empathise with all that surrounds us! Our life will be enriched endlessly by this, and we ourselves will become spiritual collaborators. Knowledge only acquires value when it comes to live, when we learn to live differently,and not just to know something.