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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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From Crystals to Crocodiles
GA 347

VIII. On early earth conditions

23 September 1922, Dornach

We now have to go into more detail on the last subject I raised. Last time I talked about the strange creatures that inhabited the earth and how they lived. I also said that at one stage the earth itself was a living organism, a being.

In various museums we still have remains of ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, megatheria and seacows. When we study them, we find that all these animals have one thing in common. Their bodies were enveloped by an armour of scales, and they had strong, heavy forearms or paws. They were so large that you could have taken a walk on them. You could have hit them with a big hammer without really hurting them, because of their protective scale armour. All that is left of these ancient creatures, although in much smaller form, are turtles and crocodiles. Though they are much smaller, these animals are the descendants of those prehistoric creatures, which, as I said, wore an armour of horn plates.

Let us now try to get an idea of how they developed their armour of horn plates. In order to investigate this matter, we have to begin with the smallest details. Imagine that a dog is injured. Animals have remarkable healing instincts, and you have probably noticed what a dog does when it is injured. First of all, it usually licks the wound, insalivates it. Then the dog likes nothing better than lying in the sun and letting the sun shine upon the wound. What happens then? A kind of crust forms over the wound. We can picture it as follows. If the injury is here [see drawing, over], the dog will cover the entire wound surface with saliva and then let the sun shine on it. The sun works upon the saliva, and out of this concoction a hard crust forms under which the wound can heal. Dogs have remarkable healing instincts, out of which they take the right steps for healing themselves.

wound crusting over

Now we can enlarge on this. We can observe a strange phenomenon that will help us understand how the dog's wound heals. You know that we inhale air. In the process oxygen enters and spreads throughout our bodies; this enables us to live. Without oxygen we would suffocate immediately. What do we do in return? We are not very grateful to the air that gives us the oxygen. Inside our bodies we combine the oxygen with carbon to form carbon dioxide, which we then exhale. We are actually quite ungrateful to our environment and constantly pollute it. If we were surrounded only by carbon dioxide, we would suffocate. The fresh air is transformed inside us; we exhale the product and actually pollute our environment with it. We constantly exhale carbon dioxide, in which no human being or animal could survive. Thus you can see that animal life basically consists of inhaling life-sustaining substances out of the environment and giving back harmful ones in return.

Animal life would soon be in a bad state if all creatures behaved as 'indecently' as human beings and animals, who pollute the air. If all forms of life did the same, the earth would long since have reached a condition where nothing could live any longer, and the entire earth would be nothing but a huge cemetery. It is a good thing that the plants do not behave so indecently, but do the opposite. Whereas we and the animals inhale oxygen and poison the air with the exhaled carbon dioxide, the plants inhale carbon dioxide, retain the carbon and release the oxygen. Due to the existence of plants, especially of forests, life on earth can continue. If there were no forests, or if huge corporations were to cut down the trees, as they already do to some extent, life would become much more unhealthy. It is vital to understand that we need the forests. If we are merely interested in the lumber and cut down the trees, we gradually make life on earth impossible. We can say, then, that the way things stand on earth, human beings and animals actually behave badly because they pollute their environment, whereas plants and forests regenerate it.

You see, gentlemen, this is the way things are now; but they were not always like that. We must realize that the earth has changed and that it was quite different at the time I described a few days ago. If you went for a walk now, you could not come upon icthyosaurs, as you might have at that time. The earth changes constantly and will look different in the future. Yet what can you gather from all we have learned so far? You see that what we have inside ourselves and what we give off cannot sustain us. We must receive something in addition. At this stage in evolution, we must receive what the plants can give us if we are to live. We cannot exist solely on what we have within ourselves. It would destroy us.

You can see very clearly that what is useful and beneficial to us when we have it inside ourselves destroys us when it reaches us from the outside. For example, we would be in a bad state if we had too much oxygen in us. Yet we must constantly get oxygen from the outside. In other words, substances that are harmful when inside us are of benefit when they reach us from the outside, and those that are beneficial when inside us are noxious when they flow into us from the outside. It is very important to understand this. Now that we have understood that something has to flow into us that is different from what is inside us, let us return to the past again. In our imagination let us go back to the period when ichthyosaurs were half swimming and half wading all over the earth and when plesiosaurs were hopping around. You will remember what I said about those conditions. But there was also a period prior to this one. What were things like in very ancient times, even before the ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs?

Well, gentlemen, judging by the remains left by this distant past, the animals of that period were even more clumsy than the later ones. You know, you can study plesiosaurs in museums. You will see their gigantic size, their thick scale armour, heavy like a medieval knight's armour, and their awkward legs. You can imagine that these fellows were not nimble or graceful at all, but terribly clumsy. But with all their physical awkwardness, they still had fin-like feet, which enabled them to swim and to hold on to things. In a way, they were modern creatures compared to the ones before them. Still earlier animals, which preceded the ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and megatheria, were even more awkward because they had practically nothing but a soft body that was not very differentiated. There was something like a head up front, a fairly long tail at the back, and around everything an enormous scale armour.

If you have ever seen an oyster, you can think of it as a tiny dwarf compared to these ancient creatures. Its entire body is jellylike, slimy, and surrounded by a shell. If you now picture the shell slightly changed and covered with scales like a turtle's and picture a soft oyster body inside it, you will get an idea of the animals that inhabited the earth prior to the ichthyosaurs and the megatheria.

At that time the earth was of a thickish consistency, thicker than milk. The mountains we know today were still dissolved in it. The earth was a lump of fairly thick sauce in space. In it floated giant oysters, which would have dwarfed this entire hall. They were so enormous that you could have drawn all of France on their backs; all of France would have easily fit there. The older ones of these animals were so huge because the earth as well was still huge. So, there once lived on the earth gigantic creatures that consisted actually only of a jellylike substance and that could only move the way our oysters do, except that the latter require much thinner water. These jellylike creatures wore a gigantic armour like our turtles and swam around in the thickish liquid of the earth.

You can compare the earth of that period with a huge bowl of thick soup containing dumplings. These you must imagine so solid on one side that you would lose some teeth biting into them and very soft on the other. Just imagine that you could remove the hard portion like a hat. The other part was so soft that you could have eaten it; it was softer than the thick liquid earth in which these creatures were floating.

These ancient animals had something that you can still see today in certain small insects. For instance, you have probably all seen snails crawling along. You can follow their tracks because they leave a trail of slime. Nowadays the sun dries up the slime, and so it does not have much significance. But in those very ancient times, when the earth was not yet completely solid, the animals I described also left such slime behind, which then mixed with the thick earth soup. These creatures were therefore of benefit to the earth.

Nowadays you can observe only traces of such things. For instance, when you walk down a path after a good rainfall, especially around the Goetheanum here, on rainy days earthworms crawl around everywhere. Where are they the rest of the time? They live in the earth, where they make tunnels to crawl through. You see, if it were not for these earthworms, our fields would be far less fertile, for the substances they leave behind change the soil. We should never get the idea that anything in nature is superfluous.

The giant oysters in ancient times did something quite similar; they constantly excreted slime that renewed the liquid earth. But things are a bit different nowadays. No matter how much of these substances our snails and earthworms secrete and add to the earth, their excretions die off in the earth as it is now. We certainly profit from what earthworms and snails leave behind in the soil of fields and meadows; it is an excellent fertilizer when it sinks into the earth. But you see, what these animals give to the earth does not come alive; it does not have life forces.

But in ancient times when the giant oysters excreted substances into the liquid earth, something remarkable took place, something that occurs in a similar form even today. The fertilization process in most lower animals—and even in some more developed ones—is different from fertilization in higher animals and human beings. The females of fish, toads, and other amphibians, deposit a clump of eggs somewhere, and the males then drop their semen on these eggs and fertilize them. The fertilization thus occurs outside the female's body. In other words, the female deposits the eggs somewhere and leaves. The male finds them, fertilizes them, and leaves as well. The fertilization process is fully external and will come to nothing if the sun does not shine upon these fertilized eggs. Without the sun, they will die off. But if the sun shines on the fertilized eggs, they will develop into young animals. This process is still taking place in our time.

At the time when these giant oysters swam around in the earth soup, the slime they excreted made it possible for new huge creatures like this to develop again and again out of the earth. The old ones died, but new ones developed out of the earth. Thus the earth itself gave birth to these very clumsy, gigantic animals and in turn was fertilized by their secretions. You can imagine, then, that at one time the entire earth was a living organism, a living being. Its life had to be sustained through the slime these creatures constantly excreted. If the thick earth soup had existed by itself, these huge animals would soon have died too. They excreted the slime and thus constantly maintained the life of the earth, enabling it in turn to give birth to new creatures, which again fertilized the earth and so forth.

But they would have been unable to excrete the slime if it had not been for something else. I mentioned that the earth was like a thick soup. But the animals' slime was much thinner. How was it possible that the animals had slime of thinner consistency than the earth itself? At first glance we would think that it was impossible for lumps of thin slime to originate in the thickish liquid of the earth.

You see, gentlemen, if you dissolve salt in a glass of water, it may happen that some of it sinks down and forms a deposit at the bottom of the glass. Now the water has become thinner than before, when all the salt was still dissolved in it. The thinner solution is near the top, and the thicker liquid is near the bottom. If you now turned the glass upside down, the entire salt solution would of course run out, and there would be no deposit. But this imaginary reversal illustrates the conditions of the ancient earth. In this thick earth soup lived the huge oysters. They had a scale armour at the top and slime below. What did their shells actually consist of? They were nothing else than deposited earth matter. Just as some salt will precipitate out of the solution and settle at the bottom, so the material for the shells had separated out of the thicker earth substance; however, it moved upwards and formed a deposit there while the thinner matter remained at the bottom. So in a manner of speaking, the reversed glass, or head, could rise out of the water. Only the salt, as it were, rose to the top.

And what happened to this salt? Well, gentlemen, let us go back to what the dog does when it has a wound. First it licks the wound, and then it lets the sun shine upon it. The fluid on the surface thickens and kills something inside the wound. Otherwise bacteria would enter, enlarge the affected area, and the animal would die. You see, a sort of shell forms here, a crust forms out of materials from inside. The slime-like liquid the dog puts onto the wound comes from its insides. When the sun shines on this liquid, the warmth thickens it.

It was the same with ancient animals. The sun was shining upon this thick earth soup, and as a result certain areas within it thickened in the same way a scab develops upon a dog's wound. These became shells for the oysters. Underneath this thickened mass of the shells the slime was now thinner. This is how the giant oysters came about. Yet they would not have been there if sun had not been shining upon them. Without sunshine they could not have existed. We thus have the strange phenomenon that in the daytime the sun shone upon the semi-liquid earth, drawing forth these huge oysters.

But when it really comes down to it, it would not have benefited the earth that, while moving through this thick soup, the animals fertilized it by means of the thin slime they excreted. This by itself would not have been sufficient. The earth must have contained something else. It must have been similar to an egg. Only then could it have been properly fertilized. That is understandable, isn't it? Only if the earth had been like an egg could it have been fertilized.

To understand that condition when the earth was a thick soup, we must examine how an egg can be fertilized. We have discussed the male creatures in ancient times, the ones that fertilized the earth. But then the entire earth would have had to be the female counterpart, a huge collective egg. How could that have been possible?

If you wish to understand something like this, you have to observe the world around you closely. You will be surprised, but I have to draw your attention to something else for a moment, to something modern people no longer are fully conscious of. Yet, it is not just because they want to appear mysterious that poets depict lovers walking in moonlight when they want to describe persons in love. The moon has indeed always strongly affected human imagination.

You may think that this has nothing to do with our present topic. But it does. Moonlight activates our imagination. This is something quite remarkable. When the learned people of our time have an occasional burst of intelligence, they come up with some rather nice ideas. For instance, some time ago there was a learned man in Paris who realized that with all the medications we now have we can achieve only very little.1Ilya Ilich Mechnikov, 1845-1916, Russian zoologist and bacteriologist working in Paris. It is indeed quite remarkable that scholar in Paris finally found this out! He thought that in order to improve people's health, one should perhaps do something different. You will be surprised to hear what he said. He advised people to read Goethe's faust very thoroughly.2Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749-1832, German poet, dramatist and writer. One of the cultural leaders of his time. Faust (1808-32), a drama in verse, is his masterpiece. Rather than take in all sorts of things that merely involve the intellect, he said they would be better off reading faust because it stimulates the imagination, which is a good thing. Even such a learned man of the materialist school of thought encouraged people to read Goethe's faust, because it activates the imagination. He said that people nowadays are so clever and use only their intellect. But, he claimed, the intellect actually makes people ill. If they read faust and immerse themselves in all its images, they will be much healthier.

This learned man wanted people to imbue themselves with healthy vitality, with life forces. You see, an insight like that is a unique, light-filled moment, of which modern science does not have very many. Modern science here achieved a healthy understanding, healthy because its application helps us digest better. This is really true: when reading Goethe's faust we digest better than when studying all other learned, academic works. They ruin our digestion, but through faust our stomachs become ever healthier; and so do the other organs. Why is this so? Because this play sprang out of imagination, not out of the intellect. Just think of this for a moment: whenever people allow themselves to be influenced by the moon, their imagination is activated. More than anything else, the moon stimulates our growth forces, because these two are interrelated. Isn't it true that when we go for a walk in the moonlight, we feel a bit warmed through; in other words, we feel that our growth forces are being stimulated? Of course, nowadays this occurs only to a small extent.

Yet the fact remains that the moon is connected with all aspects of human life. Let me mention a detail here that strongly indicates that the moon is indeed connected with life. Nowadays we are often reminded of things people in earlier times used to know. For example, I told you about the Roman Head of Janus with its two faces; that will give you an idea that people used to know more than we do now. They were not more 'intelligent', but they certainly knew more. Nowadays, when all previous knowledge is buried under our 'intelligence', we say, for example, that the unborn child is carried in the womb for nine months. Well, medicine has not only preserved Latin words, but also some of the old concepts. Although modern doctors do not want to have anything to do with the concepts of the past, some of these ideas are still around. One of them is that the unborn child is carried in the womb for ten months. How can this be, gentlemen? Well, you can figure it out for yourselves: one moon month is approximately 28 days. Ten times 28 is 280 days. You obtain about the same number, namely, 270 days, if you multiply a calendar month of 30 days by nine. In other words, the nine months we have today are equivalent to ten lunar months. Both cover about the same period of time. In the past, the gestation period of the foetus in the womb was calculated in lunar months.

Why was this so, gentlemen? It was like that because people then still knew that the development of the unborn child was connected with the moon. They simply knew, and we can rediscover through anthroposophical research that only because of the moon can the foetus develop as a living being.

But the moon affects only the females of the human and the animal kingdoms, because their constitution makes them susceptible to it. The moon no longer affects the earth, no longer produces eggs there; true enough. And yet, if we study this matter carefully, we find that there is more involved than a delicate stimulus to our imagination and an activation of our growth forces when we go for a walk in moonlight. The moon has such a strong enlivening influence on the bodies of women and female animals that it alone bestows growth forces upon their children or young ones.

But the moon does not enable the earth itself to grow, because too much of our planet is already dead. If it was once possible for the earth to be fertilized, it must then have been much more alive than today. Now remember what I said earlier: whatever exists within us becomes harmful when we take it in from the outside. The moon now shining upon the earth can no longer produce life. Why? Because its light comes from the outside. This is as if the air we had just exhaled tried to get back into our bodies; it could not sustain life within us or enliven us. In our time the moon cannot work any longer on the earth itself; it can affect only the bodies of human beings and animals, because they are protected.

But where must the moon once have been in order to make of the earth itself a living being? The moon could not have done that while being outside the earth. It must have been inside it! Just as carbon dioxide cannot keep us alive when it is outside our bodies, but must develop in a living way within us, so the light of the moon must at some time have been inside the earth, not outside.

Therefore, you must imagine, gentlemen, that at the time of these giant oysters the moon was not separate from the earth, but dissolved in its thickish soup. It had no clear boundaries and just formed a sphere of slightly thicker material than the rest. Thus it made the earth as a whole into an egg. The moon, which in our time affects only our imagination and the bodies of women and female animals, was at one point part of the earth.

That means that at some time it must have moved away. You see, gentlemen, here we reach a tremendously important moment in the development of the earth. The moon, which in our time is always outside the earth, used to be inside it. Then the earth expelled it, and now the two are separate.

When we study the body of the earth we discover something remarkable. First of all we find that it consists of water in which continents or land masses 'float', just as these gigantic animals once swam in the liquid earth. Europe, Asia and Africa 'float' in water as these huge creatures once floated in the earth soup. When we study the forms of the various land masses, we see that they look different from each other. We also notice from the hollowing out of the earth in various places and from the receding continents that the moon once separated from the earth in the area now called the Pacific. The moon was once inside the earth and then was expelled. It hardened only after it was outside the earth.

Let us return to the old earth condition when it still contained the moon. Then the secretions of the moon gave the earth the function of mother, while the sun produced the 'fatherly' substances in constantly creating those lumps of slime and surrounding them with a thick coat of horn. These floating lumps of slime constantly fertilized what was underneath them in the earth soup, which was kept alive by the moon. The earth, then, was a huge egg, fertilized continuously by the influences of the sun.

Well, gentlemen, if this situation had continued, it would have led to a very uncomfortable condition. The moon would have been cast out; the earth would have become infertile, and everything would have died after all. What happened instead? True, the moon was expelled, and the earth died. But some of the old fertilizing qualities were preserved within the bodies of female humans and animals. Before this expulsion of the moon, there was no birth as we know it now. Just as you take some of the old yeast and put it in the dough if you want to make a new loaf of bread, so some of the old moon substance remained in female bodies so that they could be fertilized. The egg thus fertilized is merely a reproduction of the ancient earth egg. It is no wonder that pregnancy, the length of time the unborn child is carried in the womb, is calculated on the basis of the moon phases; after all, the moon is still involved in reproduction. If you are a baron's son, you must live within the terms of the legacy your father left behind. The same is true for the fertilized egg, which actually derives from the ancient moon soup. It must still live by the moon's terms, because it has inherited its substance from the moon.

In previous times people generally knew more about these things. I will tell you some time why this was so. People used to know more about these matters and said that the sun had masculine qualities. It does actually create the masculine gender of beings. This is revealed in a way in the Latin language, where sol, the sun, is masculine, while luna, the moon, is feminine. Sol, the sun quality, fertilizes luna, the feminine element. In German this is reversed, and the word Sonne (sun) is feminine and the term Mond (moon) is masculine even though in reality the sun represents masculine qualities and the moon feminine ones. Things got mixed up there. If we want to use language in the right way, we should give the word Sonne the masculine gender and the term Mond the feminine: der Sonne and die Mond.

Sun and Moon

Let me conclude today's lecture with a joke drawn from Latin. I want to indicate something here that will become clearer to us the next time. Let us say we first have the moon at the waxing stage [see drawing above]. It increases until it reaches the full condition. Then it begins to wane. You see, if you look at the corresponding terms within the Romance languages, for instance in French, which derives from Latin, you could compare the waning moon with a 'C' and the waxing one with a 'D'. And the 'C' brings us to croître, which means 'grow'. However, when it resembles a 'C' the moon is waning instead of waxing or growing. The phase in which it resembles a 'D' does not correspond to décroître either, because now it is waxing. When we look at the sky, the moon seems to say 'I grow' though in reality it is waning and vice versa. This is how the saying 'The moon tells lies' originated.

But this example has a more profound significance. People were embarrassed to talk about the moon because it is connected with human procreation. This subject gradually turned into something people did not talk about. In the process, they lost the capacity to speak about moon qualities in the proper way. That is why the moon supposedly told lies. When people looked at it, it no longer indicated what they were related to. Doctors gradually dropped the habit of saying that the unborn child is carried in the mother's womb for ten lunar months and instead spoke of nine sun months, which is approximately the same period of time. But in reality this length of time is ten lunar months, not nine sun months. It has to do with the moon and the fact that at one time the earth carried the moon in it, then gave birth to it and cast it out into space.

Basically, what I am telling you is not much different from what some people say about a primeval cosmic nebula, a kind of vapour, from which the earth eventually separated; still later the moon broke away from the earth. But all of this is the result of mechanistic and materialistic thinking! No matter how much substance flows out of a nebula, it could never become alive. You can produce as much steam in a kettle as you wish and then let some substances split off from it and be discharged—it doesn't matter. What I am telling you about, though, is not ancient vapour; what I am talking about leads you back to reality.

Yes, this is reality; not the nebula from which Jupiter and the earth are supposed to have separated, and the earth supposedly expelled the moon when it was still like Jupiter. The real moon is connected with growth, development and even with human reproduction, as I said. Furthermore, the earth at one time had its own reproductive energy and was fertilized by the sun and these huge animals. The moon forces in the earth were fertilized by the sunlight.

You see how we have gradually enlarged our scope in this lecture from the earth to the universe. I realize that I have been making quite some demands on your attention. But on the other hand you'll see that as a result one can learn something of real importance.