From Mammoths to Mediums
VII. Effects of relative star positions on the earth and on human beings
25 June 1923, Dornach
Question concerning earthquakes.
Rudolf Steiner: You probably mean the earthquakes they have in America at the moment? With regard to questions like this, volcanic phenomena are especially important that are not so intense, I'd say, not so immediately powerful, but show in their details that something is also happening in the course of time from the cosmos that surrounds the world. And here I'd like to draw your attention to something else, something that may be less striking, but something that is much more of a personal experience for many people than those single events which have, of course, been terrible for the people in the area, but really are of less concern for the greater part of humanity. Just remember that in recent years one could really say that weather conditions have been unusual. We cannot deny that we have not had the proper, long summers, especially not in our part of the world. But this applies to a large part of Europe and beyond.
When the subject comes up, people will usually talk of vast icebergs in the northern oceans and of waves of cold coming from those mighty floating icebergs. You'll perhaps also remember that when there were such cold periods last year, mariners reported that these gigantic floating icebergs were to be found everywhere if they set their course just a little to the north in the Atlantic Ocean.
We have to understand that things like these certainly do not come from the earth only, but have to do with the whole of cosmic evolution. And so we have to ask ourselves what the situation really is with the distribution of heat and cold on our earth.
Here I'd like to draw your attention to something which I may well have mentioned before, but in a different context, something that may be important in considering this question. You'll probably have heard that above all in northern Siberia, that is over yonder in Asia, soil conditions are rather special. To put you in the picture, let me just say the following. If we have the map of Europe like this [drawing on the board], you get Norway here, then the north coast of Germany, and going on to Holland, and so on; this would be Ireland, England, and there, on the other side of this large peninsula, we'd already be in Asia. This is the border between Asia and Europe. This is Russia. Here we come to Asia and this would be Siberia. Over yonder is the Arctic Ocean, as it is called. I've merely drawn this to give you an orientation. A long time ago, animals rather like elephants 26Mammoths were found in the soil of Siberia. They no longer exist today, but they did exist on earth a very, very long time ago. And you know, of course, that there are no animals like elephants living by the Arctic Ocean today. Animals like elephants belong to much hotter regions. But the strange thing is that when these elephant-like creatures were found deep down in the soil, they were still so fresh that one could have eaten the meat even today, providing one likes elephant meat. The creatures were there in the icy ground as if people intended to eat the meat today and had kept it there to preserve it. So for millennia these animals have simply been preserved, as one says, there in northern Siberia, keeping the meat fresh.
Now you see, gentlemen, it is impossible for this ever to have been a slow process. For if the animals living up there had simply died and got into the soil, they would of course have rotted away long since, and the most one would find today would be bits of bones, the way one also does else114 where. But there one finds whole fresh animals. The only possible way in which this could have happened was that a wave of ice came over the creatures that lived there with tremendous speed, enclosing them, so that they were preserved for millennia in just that state, with the meat still fresh. So you can see that there must have been a situation on earth at one time when a powerful push came from the south, throwing the water up into that region of ice. The water froze instantly, the creatures were instantly in that vast Siberian ice cellar, and were preserved there for millennia.
Now you'll all admit that the earth doesn't have any reason, of course, to do such a thing all of a sudden. For where in the earth would the energies to do such a thing come from? Such things can only happen under the influence of heavenly bodies beyond the earth. So if you imagine that this is the earth [drawing on the board], and these are the southern regions, the equatorial regions — southern only with reference to the north, of course — then the stars must have been in particular positions here at one time, and this simply threw the water up here. So it was due to the position of the stars that this water was thrown up there, freezing immediately and burying these creatures. You can really see from such things that the relative positions of the stars have a tremendous influence on the distribution of land and water and ice on earth.
Now the other day27See lecture of 2 June 1923 in this volume. I spoke of the way volcanoes, too, come from things beyond this earth, with matter that is below ground being fetched up from the inner earth. So we can also say that if, for example, there is now a tremendous eruption from Mt Etna, things are not thrown out from below, but the stars are in a position up above that will bring those fiery masses up from the inner earth.
We see from this that very many things act together today, and on the one hand that is the reason why we have these cold periods. The cold periods are therefore definitely caused by things outside this earth. And volcanic eruptions and earthquakes also come from there. But we can never wholly judge such a situation unless we understand that the human being himself is closely connected with all the conditions that exist beyond this earth.
You see, I'm sure you've heard of people having haemorrhages, with the blood no longer going the way it should inside them but coming out of their mouths instead. That's called a haemorrhage. Such haemorrhages happen particularly when people are at a particular time of life. We have to ask ourselves: 'What exactly is the connection between a haemorrhage and something that happens outside?' Now if you remember that the human being consists not just of a physical body, which we may touch with our hands, but of a physical body, ether body and an astral body and I-body, you'll have to say to yourself: 'Yes, of course, the physical body is something we can lay aside. It is heavy, a heavy mass, and is connected with the earth. But the ether body is connected with the surrounding world.'
Looking at things the way they are in the human being. we find that the moon in particular has a powerful influence on the human being. But the way things are now, the moon does not have such an influence on man, and we have to go back again to very early times. In early times, the moon had a tremendously powerful influence on man. People had to do something specific when the moon was waxing, and they had to do something specific when it was waning, and so on. And above all human procreation depended very much on the moon in those earlier times. It is so interesting to see how people who still preserve ancient traditions think about these things. And the moon then also influences the whole of human development, but in such a way that the human being has these moon influences inside himself. So it is not a direct influence when there's a full moon, or the like; but we see the moon wax, wane; at one time this had an influence on human beings, and this has remained and still continues. So it is not the present-day movements of the moon that have much of an influence, but something that is similar to the earlier movements of the moon. It is an old hereditary element that has a great influence. And so we can certainly say that the moon does have some influence.
But we would not have any blood at all in our head if this moon were not there. We'd all go about with absolutely pale faces, horribly pale faces, if it were not for the influence of the moon. The moon draws the blood in our body up to the head. That is the moon influence, that the blood actually consents to go up into the head. This is extraordinarily interesting. The blood only goes up into the human head because the influence of the moon is there. Otherwise it would always go down. When someone grows so weak in his whole body that he can no longer offer sufficient resistance to the powers of the moon that draw the blood up to the head, the blood rushes up into the head too powerfully, and this causes the haemorrhage. We always have to have that influence, but if it gets too strong, the blood rushes too strongly up into the human head and the blood then comes out.
And you see with this haemorrhage in the individual human being we have the same principle as with the kind of business, for instance, where water rushes up there [pointing to Siberia] or things come out of a volcano in the natural world outside. Only in that case it is not the influence of the moon, but of other heavenly bodies. You have to imagine that we are continually exposed to other influences simply in our development as human beings. Let me illustrate this for you. Once again imagine this to be the earth [drawing on the board]; here is the moon moving around the earth. I'll draw it the way it looks. So there the moon moves around the earth, and initially has a powerful influence on the human being. But beyond the moon are the other stars — Venus, Mercury, there's the sun, Mars, Jupiter and so on, and then the fixed stars. Now you have to understand that there's a difference when, let us say, Mars is behind the sun, or has already moved on and is beside the sun. When Mars is behind the sun, it has less influence on the earth, because the sun blocks out its influence. When Mars is in this position [beside the sun], it has a greater influence on the earth. And so it always depends on the positions of the stars how much the earth is influenced. This science of the positions of the stars has been very little developed today, and people therefore only consider what is happening on earth — icebergs and so on — and they do not look out at the stars.
Now it actually is not possible to explore these things from the earth, and we must understand that these things have to be explored by considering the human being. These things must definitely be investigated via the human being. Now I'd like to tell you something. If you follow the evolution of humanity in more recent times, you'll see enormous changes in it. We won't go very far back, but let us go back, say, 600 years. Going back 600 years — it is now 1923 — we come to 1323. Now you have to consider that if you had lived then, you'd have had no idea that places such as America, Australia exist. People did not know any of this. They only knew about Europe and Asia and a little bit of Africa, a very small bit of Africa. Six hundred years before our time, therefore, people only knew about a small part of the earth. And above this earth they saw the moon rise and go down, the sun rise and go down, the stars, and everything was such that the whole of life was lived within a small space. Yes, gentlemen, people knew little of the earth then, and they also had no idea of the movements of the heavenly bodies. But they did know something about the spiritual influences of the stars. This was because they lived in such a limited area. People were influenced by those limited conditions.
Now you know that not long after this, in 1492, Christopher Columbus of Genoa 28Christopher Columbus (1451-1506). set out with a number of ships, and he believed one could go right round the world. Christopher Columbus actually did not intend to discover America, but it was his opinion that the earth must be spherical. Before that, people had thought the earth was flat. In his opinion, the earth had to be spherical. And so he fitted out a number of ships. There was resistance, but he did get those ships from the government, fitted them out, and believed he could go round the earth. That is what he thought. He said to himself: 'If we go from Europe over to the East, we find Asia there [pointing to the drawing], down there is peninsular India, and there's Indo-China.' He knew, therefore, that going that way by land one would come to India. He now wanted to go round the earth from Spain and reach India from the other side. That was his intention. He wanted to go round the world, for he was hoping to see the first practical use made of the earth's spherical nature. He wanted to go round and discover India from the other side. So he set out and came to America and absolutely believed it to be the other side of India. That is also why this area was called the West Indies, a name still used for part of it today. So you see that the earth's spherical form gradually became knowledge through human thinking, and people only gradually discovered that they had reached the other side of America and that this was not India but a new continent. It was therefore in 1492, 431 years ago, that America was discovered.
But the discovery of America also meant something very, very different. To understand what it means, please consider the following. You see, as I told you, it was in 1493 that Christopher Columbus first set out and discovered America. In 1543, Copernicus 29Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). His theory, first developed in 1507, was published in 1543. first presented the view that the sun stood still and the earth moved around the sun like the other planets. Something every child learns at school today has therefore only been known from that time. Just think — how many years would that be? It's only 380 years! So it is only since then that people have had the merest inkling of something which is taught in primary school today. Before that, people knew nothing of all this. But they gave all the more thought to the moon's influence on the human being. They knew that the moon drives the blood to the head, as I've just told you. They perceived the influence on the human being.
Now you have to consider what the discovery of America really meant. You see, people talk about things without giving it much thought and in history it is also presented like this: discovery of America; a stroke of genius! Yes, gentlemen, but you have to think of it also in a very different way. What kind of people do you think lived in America at the time when Columbus got there? Less than 500 years ago, copper-red native Americans lived there, and these American Indians did not think the way you do today in Europe, for example. They knew a great deal about the influence of the stars. So there was a population in America at that time who knew an extraordinary amount about the influence of the stars. They lived entirely according to the influence of the stars. And then the Europeans arrived, civilized humanity. Now you see, even in the nineteenth century the American Indians would still say that the Europeans always brought along such a strange thing, something white with tiny spirits on it. But those, they said, were very harmful spirits, terribly harmful spirits, and the Europeans would use them to cast spells on the Americans. That was what the American Indians thought. And do you know what it was that they were so afraid of and which made them think the Europeans were such dreadful people, causing such havoc with it? Those were books — pages of white paper with letters on them. The American Indians saw them, believed them to be magic, and said: 'These people use them to cast spells on us.'
That was how human beings encountered one another. And there followed the eradication of the American Indians. But where did the people come from who eradicated the American Indians? They came from Europe! And if the people who had lived in Europe would have got to America in 1323, their views would have been much more like those of the American Indians. For in 1323 people in Europe still knew about the influence of the stars. They would have had much more in common. But the people who actually went there later on no longer had anything at all in common with the American Indians, and all they could do was to eradicate them. And European people then lived and developed in the place where the American Indians had been. So you have to consider this. The Americans who developed there are really Europeans. You see, the ideas people often get from what they learn at school are sometimes really quite idiotically stupid.
I'd just like to draw your attention to one thing. Today people talk a lot about the French. But the people who live around Nuremberg today are still called Franconians. The French are simply ancient Germans who migrated there and adopted a variant of the Latin language. So all the things people keep saying when they do not know how things have come about, and the angry things they say because of the way things are taught in history lessons are sometimes extremely foolish, infinitely stupid. And in that case, too, we have infinite stupidity. People fail to consider that people from Europe, people who developed in Europe in the last three centuries, went over to America. The really major immigration only came much later, in the eighteenth, nineteenth centuries. That was when the settlers went to America. And what kind of people went there? Well, illiterate people also went, but they did not have much of an influence. The people who went there and had a major influence were people who had been educated in Europe, above all in science, people who had learned the Copernican theories, and took a completely different view of the stars.
Just think how it all fits together in world history. On the one hand the earth was shown to be spherical, and people found that it was possible to go round the earth. And on the other hand it was shown that the sun did not rise there and then went down again, but that there was space everywhere and the earth moved around the sun; that the earth was not flat, that the sun did not go down into the water at night but that the earth moved around the sun.
You see, people do not give thought to the connection between the discovery of America in 1492 and Copernicus' new view of the stars in 1543. There is a close connection. Please do not think that what happened could have happened unless the stars had an influence on human beings The stars played a role when Columbus thought: 'Now I'll go west.' You just have to consider how nebulous it all was. He did not know he was going to discover America. He merely wanted to go round the earth. It's just like a blind hen finding a grain. We can't say it was his rational mind that did it, for in such a situation people are driven by influences. And it is the influence of the stars that drives them. So we also have to say to ourselves when we ask ourselves why Copernicus thought about the stars: 'We must look for the reasons in the influence of the stars.' There was a time during the Middle Ages — I told you it was still like this 600 years ago — when people's ideas still related to a very small world. And then they suddenly had ideas that went right round the earth and went right round in the heavens. All their ideas floated apart. Yes, gentlemen, there we have to think a bit more deeply about what is going on in the human being. We have to go into these things in a truly scientific way. I have by now told you many things about the human being. I'll now tell you something that has been thoroughly confirmed again, so that you may see how things are.
An Austrian poet, Robert Hamerling, 30Robert Hamerling (1830-89). The event described by Rudolf Steiner has been published in an essay by Hamerling entitled 'Was mir bei einer Hellseherin begegnete' (Hamerlings samtliche Werke in sechzehn Banden, hg. v. Michael M. Rabenlechner, Leipzig o. J., 16. Bd, S. 67 ff, bes. S. 70-73). See note 7. was appointed to teach at a secondary school in Trieste at a particular time, in 1855. He took a great interest in everything that went on. This Robert Hamerling was also very interested at the time in all kinds of swindlers who would always be passing through Trieste, people who produced abnormal things and were called mediums. He liked to go to such meetings, not being at all superstitious, but he really saw the swindling and cheating that went on with most of these things. But once, when he saw someone with a particularly remarkable medium, he thought he'd really check this out. Now before Hamerling went to Trieste he knew a young girl in Graz, where he then lived, and this girl died soon after. He had a lock of her hair. He'd made the lock of hair into a small circlet, tied it and fixed it to a small piece of paper which he put into a little box. He kept this as a memento. It had become quite precious to him when the person concerned had died. He had taken it with him to Trieste among other things. No one knew about it. He never told anyone about it — he remembered this very clearly — and had actually never shown the little box to anyone. Conditions were such, anyway, that he would not have liked to show it to anyone. It was something he felt rather embarrassed about. So he had a secret little box, as it were, with the memento inside it. He put this in his pocket when he went to the meeting with the medium. And what happened was that people would give the medium all kinds of things, putting them into envelopes or boxes. The medium would take this in her hand, touch it and tell what was in the box. Now there is often a lot of cheating going on with such things; one must have a very open mind in such cases.
I was at a meeting once, for example, when a medium was also brought in, and the person called the manager went around among the audience and asked them to write all kinds of things on bits of paper. He'd take these, but stay where he was. The medium wore a blindfold. And as he went on standing there he'd just say: 'What have I got in my hand?' and the medium would immediately say what it was. So if someone wrote down his own name and gave it to the manager, he'd read it and then crunch up the piece of paper. The medium could not see anything, but she'd say what it said on the piece of paper. Now you see the people around the table where I was sitting were terribly curious — for they were truly amazed — and they decided we should write something down that the fellow would not be clever enough to communicate; for they all thought he was communicating with the medium by some kind of signs. So I wrote the name Spinoza and the title of a work by Spinoza, the Ethica, for the people thought the manager would not know, of course, who Spinoza was. But he accepted Spinoza and his Ethica just as well, and the medium promptly gave the correct answer. People were really amazed by this. But, you see, the matter was quite simple. The manager was a ventriloquist, and the medium only pretended to answer as the manager spoke from his stomach in the medium's voice. Things really are like this and one simply must not allow oneself to be deceived. I have to stress this again and again. One must not allow oneself to be deceived. And that is exactly the difference between superstitious people who easily believe anything, and people who are able to form an opinion about these things.
But Hamerling took his little box and no one knew anything about it. He handed this little box, which no one knew about, up among all the other things. The medium was sitting at a table and he handed the box up. Now the other things were dealt with first. The medium did it quite briskly. And the moment she came to his little box, she picked it up and flung it away. Hamerling thought that they probably had some kind of arrangement with all the other things, whilst in his case there could be no arrangement, so the medium could not discover what was in it and therefore flung it away. He then went and said he would nevertheless like to know what was inside. The little box was picked up once more. The medium flung it away again. It was picked up again. And then the medium said, in something of a stammer: 'A lock of hair and a small piece of paper.' Now it was for him to be surprised, of course. There could be absolutely no question of cheating. So he asked why she'd flung it away again and again. And she said: 'Because it comes from a dead woman.' He was even more amazed then. So that was a case — I am only speaking of cases which you find in the literature, otherwise there'd be hundreds more I could mention — where there was no question of heating.
What was behind this? At the time, the medium must not know what is there, but has to search for it from her unconscious. A quite specific influence was behind this. I once told you that the influence of cooked buckwheat in the basement may sometimes still show itself on the third floor. You'll remember my telling you about this. Such an influence lies behind this, which only affects the head. And the medium will then say what's inside — why? Because the medium is someone whose blood is more subject to the influence of the moon than other people's are. The influence is not so strong that a haemorrhage will occur, but the blood is drawn towards the head, more so than in other people. This has a powerful influence; this is how such an influence can be there.
Considering this, you'll say to yourself: 'Yes, the mighty influences from the stars do of course affect the human being all the time.' And everything Europe has experienced in relation to America and the whole earth has been under the influence of the stars. But what is the nature of this influence? Well, gentlemen, you have to consider the following. Imagine this to be the earth [drawing on the board]. There was that small part of the earth which was all people would know in earlier times. Above it were the stars — I'm of course only showing this schematically. People were under the influence of these stars. It was the time before the discovery of America. People had very definite ideas. If you look at the pictures and portraits of the aldermen of those times, you can see how definite their ideas were, how firmly they stood with both feet on the ground. That was because the relative positions of the stars were such at the time that the stars were close together. Since then the relative positions of the stars have changed. If this is the earth, the stars are much more at an angle, as it were, again drawn in a highly schematic way. If one were to draw it in detail, each would of course stand out, as it were. You'll say: 'But surely the fixed stars have not changed?' But they have, though not as much. So you see from this that the spaces in between have increased during the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The ideas have dissolved. And now a time is coming when the spaces in between are getting less again, with the stars coming more closely together. This is only a very little bit so with the fixed stars, but it is the case, nevertheless. If one draws the fixed stars one can see that they, too, must change their relative positions. And people are exposed to this, having acquired ideas under the influence of stars that were far apart. Now they have to get ideas under the influence of stars that are closer together again. The relative positions of the stars in the world are quite new now. You can see this if you have been wide awake in life from the last century into the present century. You see, I was born in 1861, and have therefore known the times of the 70s, 80s, 90s and now the twentieth century. Yes, it was very different when I was a boy than it is today. When I was a boy people simply did think differently from the way they do today. Everything has changed, and it has changed particularly in one area. When I was a young boy of 12,1 did not have much money to buy books, but we were given a school programme every year as a present; it gave the most important ideas used in physics in those times. Now at first I really had to knuckle down to this. They were really hard to grasp. I had to study differential calculus in order to understand these things. But I do know the ideas which were then used in physics.
Today things are completely different. Someone studying physics at the university learns something completely different from what we would learn when we were boys. And it is possible to see from what has happened there that the ideas used in physics have dissolved. Today's physicists simply no longer know what ideas to work with. In those days we spoke of space and time as two different things. Today physicists speak of four dimensions, taking the first, second and third to be dimensions in space and the fourth dimension to be the equivalent of time. Most people have no idea of what is taught today. People outside the universities still live with the ideas I learned when I was a boy. But today's physicists are talking about something completely different. It shows that the ideas have been thrown into confusion. The modern physicist has not the least notion as to what he should do. Everything has become confused.
Well, gentlemen, the things going on in the human head show you that the relative positions of the stars are different now. For the situation is that modern people all have more blood in the head than people had in their heads for centuries, the moon now being supported by stars that once again are more close together. So if we study the evolution of man, we find that a wave of blood has gone up to the head because of the relative positions of the stars. But this wave exists not only in the human being but on the whole earth. And it is the same influence through which cold was once pushed up from south to north in the distant past, burying the mammoths in a kind of vast ice cellar, so that their meat is still fresh in Siberia today. And just as that cold was thrown up north in those times, just as the blood is driven up into the head by the moon, so today's volcanic eruptions are thrown up by the stars. We thus have the effect of the relative positions of stars today that comes from the other side of the earth. It passes across through North America, through Greenland, pushes the cold air across, so that vast masses of cold air are today thrown from west to east because of the relative positions of the stars.
And as I have told you, 31See note 7. going to Italy all one needs to do in some places is to light a piece of paper and vapours will rise from the ground. It is not the earth which throws up the vapours, but they come up because I heat the air above and so make it thinner. And now the relative positions of the stars are pushing air masses from west to east. We an exposed to this here, and this creates the climate we now have. It goes like this from west to east. And because of this the soil down below is made to throw up its masses, its fiery masses. They are first of all thrown up over there in America, where they have huge volcanoes, enormous earthquakes. Now it is moving further east. Etna, Vesuvius are all starting to be active, for the wave is going that way, and things become elastic down below. It is not pushed up from below, but brought to the surface by the relative positions of the stars. In human beings the blood is pushed up into the brain, and on earth air masses are pushed across and transported to other places. It is the same thing. It all comes from the stars.
If people understood why they are now thinking differently, they would also understand why Etna is spewing fire and flames. But then people must first of all also know that this is not something one can consider on its own; it has to be seen in connection with the whole universe. That is indeed how it is. And people have completely forgotten how to consider things within the universe. It is really interesting that the animals are much more intelligent in this respect than people are, as I have told you before. Animals usually go away before there is a volcanic eruption or the like; people stay put. Why do the animals move away? Yes, when the different influence comes, the different influence from the stars, it is like this with the animals. An animal is essentially made in such a way that it has its legs there [Fig. 15], there its spine, the spinal vertebrae, and there its head. As the stars move along there, the whole spine is always exposed to the stars, vertebra by vertebra exposed to the stars, and they belong together; they belong together so much that we have 28 to 31 vertebrae in the spine and the moon takes 28 to 31 days to complete its orbit. The connection is as close as that.
But humans walk upright. With them, only the head, this little bit of head, is exposed to the starry heavens. Their spine has been lifted out. So in humans only the blood is exposed to the star influence and not the nervous system. In animals, the nervous system is exposed to the star influence. This is why an animal will notice the star influence much sooner than a human being does and move away when earthquakes or volcanic eruptions are about to happen. The human being stays put. The very fact that the animal is able to move away, thus showing us that the influence of the stars affects it, is proof that we are not dealing with waves arising from the earth in some way, but that the stars are bringing their influence to bear from outside. Man is not just a creature of this earth, he is a creature relating to the whole world of the stars.
Now this will of course also make us understand that humanity, having lost its old knowledge of the stars, must gain it anew. So I'd say that it is truly the case that with anthroposophy we must give the human race something again in a new way which they need, otherwise they'll remain in a state of confusion. For the stars which are now closer together no longer fit the ideas held in earlier times; only the kind of ideas anthroposophy is able to give will fit.
I was actually given four questions today. We'll try and move on with these the next time we meet. I may have to be away on Wednesday and I'll then ask people to tell you when we'll have our next session.