From Mammoths to Mediums
XI. Getting to be at home in the outside world. Questions relating to nutrition. Effects of potatoes, beetroots and radishes
18 July 1923, Dornach
There still remain some of the questions that were asked the other day. Just as the other day I started from an academic person's comment on dreams, so I want to take my starting-point today from something that seems to have proved quite a headache to the present-day scholar — we'll also get to our discussion this way — and that is the lizard's tail. You know if you have a fairly large lizard and want to grab it by the tail, the tail will break off. People say the lizard is brittle. And it is really very difficult to get hold of larger lizards by the tail; it'll break off and the creature runs off quite nimbly, without its tail. Scientists are doing experiments to establish if the animal's tail is actually torn out or if it is left behind by the creature. Modern science bases itself on materialism, and so people think that the animal has very weak muscles to hold this part of the tail together and is unable to hold these muscles together when it is caught.
There is a strange fact, however, and this is something people do not consider a great deal. This is the fact that lizards that have been caught and have been living in captivity for quite a long time lose this ability to drop their tail so easily. The tail grows stronger, and it cannot be torn out so easily; it'll stand up to more. This is a strange thing, that lizards easily lose their tail when they are out there and it proves stronger when they are in captivity. What can be the reason for this?
You see, people reflect for a long time how this might be brought about by the small muscles there in the tail. Yet the fact I have just described easily shows why it happens that the creature's tail is less easily torn off in captivity. It happens because the creature will be a little bit afraid when you want to catch it out there. It is not the usual thing for it to be caught out there. Something is happening to it for the first time. It will be the first time that a human being comes near it, and it feels afraid, and being afraid it grows so brittle that it loses its tail. When it gets used to people, being in captivity, where people come near it all the time, it will no longer be afraid and lose its tail.
Quite a superficial look will therefore tell us that the lizard's fear and terror plays an important role. Now we have to take things further and say: 'Yes, the fear the lizard has when a human being comes near it and wants to catch it only comes out in the creature when the human being catches it, but it is always there inside the creature, and it is this fear which holds the creature's matter, its physical substance, together and makes it strong.'
I am going to tell you of a very strange thing that happens in human beings. You'll have heard of people who are very dependent on their soul life and get diarrhoea when they feel fear. Anxiety causes diarrhoea. And what does this mean? It means that the material in the bowels is no longer held together. The question is, what did hold the stuff in the bowels together? You see, when fear goes up into the soul, it no longer holds the things together in the bowels. But when the fear is down in the bowels it holds the stuff together.
And that is how it is with the lizard. If we look at a lizard [drawing on the board], it is all the time full of fear, the whole of it, just like our own belly. It is filled with something that has soul quality. And the tail in particular is filled with fear. When the animal expresses its fear, the tail breaks, but the fear remains in the creature. When it is in captivity it does not feel the fear because it has got used to people, and the result is that the fear can then hold the tail together. So we see a quite specific soul quality having particular significance for the consistency of the body.
We humans also have fear in us. In our big toe, in the legs, in the belly — there's fear everywhere. It does not dare go above the diaphragm, however, except when we have nightmares. But the fear is there in us. The fear has its purpose, however. It holds our organism together. And we have more fear in our bones than anywhere else. The bones are so solid because there is a terrible fear in them. It is fear which keeps the bones together. The moment you feel your bones too much, you get softening of the bones. You'll see this confirmed in anxious individuals, people who were anxious even in their young days, when the bones had not yet hardened but the people were anxious. And it is also possible to cure children with rickets by influencing the soul, by finding a way of driving out their fear. But it would be quite wrong to say we thus have fear in us as a soul quality. We only need to take the fear up a bit higher and we'll gain higher insights. That would not be a good thing, for in that case we would make ourselves sick in soul and body.
You see, to gain insight into the world of the spirit — I have told you the other things that are needed — we must find our way properly into the outside world, really live in it. How do people find their way to the outside world today? This is something you could see most beautifully again these last few weeks. You'll remember, we were all of us ever so cold, and then we really sweated. This is the way most people live with the outside world, knowing no more but that on one occasion they get into a real sweat, and on the other they were ever so cold. But that is not the only way of living with the outside world. Instead one develops a particular ability, so that one does not just feel cold when it gets cold but points to the cold and gets a kind of fear, knowing that the fear will go when it gets warm. If one develops this inner faculty, that one has a kind of fear of the snow, and a certain feeling of well-being in the warmth of the sun, this is simply something that leads to higher insight; it is another quality in addition to those I have described to you. And the situation simply is that someone who wants to gain higher insight must feel something when he comes up to a piece of red-hot iron, and he must feel something when he comes up to a pebble. Coming up to some red-hot iron he must inwardly have the feeling: This is related to your own warmth; it does you good. But when he picks up a pebble this should give him an uncanny feeling; he should feel anxious.
Well, gentlemen, you can immediately see from this that it is no good fighting shy of things, as we put it today, if you want to gain higher insights, for then you'd drop the pebble as soon as you pick it up, because it frightens you. You have to have courage and bear the anxiety. On the other hand you should not be like the moth which takes such sensual pleasure in the light that it actually rushes into the flame and dies. Looking at the insect rushing to die in the flame you can see that the flame is related to the element of spirit and soul.
We are thus able to say that we need to acquire an inner feeling, an inner response to the natural world outside. What purpose will this serve? Well you see, gentlemen, in the first place the earth is solid rock [Fig. 21]. Materialists believe in this solid rock which is part of the earth, for they are able to walk on it. It is hard to the touch. Materialists put their faith in solid rock. But someone who is hoping to gain higher insight develops some degree of anxiety on coming face to face with this very rock.
This anxiety does not appear at all when we are in heated air. I'll draw this heated air above the solid rock. When we consider the heated air this anxiety does not arise at all, for the heated air — I'll show that it has heated up by making it a bit red — does not make us anxious. But one can also reach the point where the heated air makes one anxious. This will actually be the case when one tries more and more to cope with the feelings one has towards the heated air by liking it. Just think, you've got someone there who feels more and more at ease in the heated air. But now the heated air also begins to make him anxious! The more you feel at ease in it, the more does the heated air make you anxious.
So if one gets into the habit of feeling really at ease in the heated air, getting more and more used to the warmth, as it were — such things are necessary; you have to enter into the whole of nature to gain higher insight — the business begins to get really peculiar. Let me show it to you even more clearly. Most people want to cool down again when they feel hot. All they know in that case is that they'd like to be less hot. But if you put up with the heat, if you stay with it, and actually feel comfortable in it, the parts I have drawn rather schematically in the air here [Fig. 21, yellow] oddly enough begin to fill up with all kinds of images [white, at the top] and the world of the spirit literally begins to show itself, the world of the spirit which is always present in the air though people do not feel it in the air, perceive it in the air, because they do not want to bear the heat.
Once one has got used to seeing all these spirits that are present in the air, spirits people do not perceive because they do not want to put up with the heat in the air — once you have got used to seeing these spirits you will gradually also begin to perceive something peculiar where the solid rock is concerned. You'll find that if you say to yourself: 'Yes, a stone is hard if I put my clumsy paw on it. But if I begin more and more to perceive the things of the spirit, if I enter more and more into the realm of the spirit, if not only the things we perceive with the senses are all around me, but more and more also the things of the spirit, I'll not, of course, be able to slip into the soil with my physical flesh-and-blood body, but I can begin to slip into the soil with my astral body.' I've told you about this. This is most interesting. The moment one begins to perceive things of the spirit in the air, using all the means I have told you about, at that moment you yourself slip out of your body far enough so that you'll no longer feel the stones to be an obstacle but enter into the solid ground the way a swimmer does into water. You yourself enter in there [Fig. 21, red, down below]. This is extraordinarily interesting. You can't enter into the air in the spirit, because other spirits show themselves there. But it is easy to creep into the soil (this is actually empty as far as the spirit is concerned), you can immerse yourself in it like a swimmer.
And you see the middle state is that of water [blue]. The water goes up as it evaporates and then comes down again as rain. Lightning will often develop up there — this is something you've seen for yourselves [red, up top]. The water is between the solid ground and the air. It is less dense than the solid ground; it is denser than air. Now what does this mean? It means something you can best see by looking up at lightning. The academic view is that lightning is a spark of electricity. Why do academics see it as a spark of electricity? Well, you probably know it already — if not, I'll tell you now. If you take a stick of sealing wax and rub it with a piece of leather it becomes electrified, and if you have little snippets of paper they'll be attracted to the stick of sealing wax. And one can make all kinds of different bodies electrical by rubbing them or in other ways. This is something children are shown at school.
But there is something quite specific that is needed. For if your schoolroom is fusty, no stick of sealing wax will ever be electrified — nor any of the other things you then use in your experiments — for everything must first of all be thoroughly wiped with a completely dry cloth, since the watery element does not produce electricity. And then you can produce electricity. Now the academic people say: 'Up there you have the clouds, they form ranks and create the electrical spark, the lightning.' Yes, but gentlemen, any child might come along and say: 'But you actually have to keep the watery element away, for if you have even just q little bit of damp on your apparatus you don't get any electricity!' Any child might raise that objection. So that is the kind of nonsense people talk. It is, of course, absolutely out of the question that the clouds rub against one another up there.
But just think, when water evaporates and goes up there, it comes more and more into a region of spirituality, going further away from the matter which is lacking in spirit down below and entering into spiritual nature up there. And it is indeed the spirit which produces the electrical spark, the lightning. For as we go higher and higher we come into the region of the spirit. The earth only has matter near to it. Higher up it is surrounded by the spiritual element. So there we truly enter into the realm of the spirit. And the situation is that the moment the water vapour goes up and comes into the region of the spirit, lightning can arise out of the spirit. The water grows spiritual up there and comes down again condensed. In pursuing the study of nature one must therefore also come to the spirit. And it is only if one absolutely refuses to take account of the spiritual element that one arrives at all kinds of absurdities like those I've told you about — the dream of flying, or the lizard's tail, or the lightning. One simply always finds that it is not possible to explain the natural world unless one first enters into the realm of the spirit.
Now you can also understand the following. When we stand on the soil we are really always made in such a way from below upwards that we are related to the spiritual from below; we can enter into it, as a swimmer enters into water. So when we go out of the physical body and out of the ether body at night with our astral body and our I, we are really entering everywhere into our solid surroundings. We unite with the things that are solid, for we cannot enter into the airy element, and we literally move about in the solid element.
This wandering about in the solid element is very important, however. If we relate in the right way to heat, the way I have told you before, we come to see the spirits that are in the air. But when we go out of the body at night and as spirit connect with the earthly element, the situation may be that when we wake up again we still have something of what we experienced in the solid element of the earth. We still have something inside us there; we have something in our soul element.
Now this is something that is extraordinarily interesting. You will have noticed that one easily hears things as one wakes up. And if you pay careful attention on waking up you will have the strange experience where you'll say to yourself: 'Someone has just been knocking on my door!' This is a very strange thing. When you enter livingly into the air with your soul, you will see something; images will arise. But when you enter livingly into the solid element, into matter, with your soul, like a swimmer immersing himself in water, you will experience sounds. The extraordinarily important thing is that all solids are continually sounding, but we do not hear the sounds because we are not inside the solids. Every solid always has sounds in it, and you will still hear these as you wake up, because you are then still half inside.
But these sounds may certainly mean something, and it is absolutely true that if someone living a long way off has died, for instance, and someone else wakes up and hears something like a knocking on the door, this has to do witl the person who has died. Human beings are, of course, unable to interpret these things correctly. For just imagine all of you were unable to read, that is, interpret the black marks on paper, not having learned to read. And in the same way you are quite unable to interpret the marvellous thing that is afoot when you hear sounds as you wake up. You don't have to think that the person who has died is actually standing there and knocking at your door as if he used fingers. But the person who died, and who after all is still on earth during the first days after death, lives in the solid bodies. And this is something that need not seem at all strange and wonderful to you, that the very fact of uniting with the solid element creates sounds, which is what people have always been saying in the days when they still paid attention to such things. The fact that people have an inkling that someone has died far away has real significance. Someone has died. At first he is still connected with the solid earth in his soul. And the sounds then arise that come from him. The human being is resounding as he leaves the earthly realm. You can of course hear this just as well if you are a long way off, as you can read a long way off what someone has taken to the post office in America. A telegram can be read in America. Such long-distance effects based on earthly matter exist; they do exist on earth, they always exist. And in the days when people paid heed to such things, they certainly knew of the connection between the spiritual element and the earthly world. That is not just a tale, it is truly something people perceived in earlier times. As you can see we come to quite specific things here that are considered superstition today, and which can be scientifically proved just as other things can be scientifically proved.
However, you also have to know these things exactly. For you see, if one were to get to the point of perceiving the world of the spirit in the air, that is, if people were not quite such wimps as they are today — you know, the more civilized people get the more do they tend to be wimpish in some respect, and people who because of their work, let us say, have to live in a terrible rush do not have the time while they are working to perceive the world of the spirit — they would not fail to see the world of the spirit that exists in the air. But this seeing of spirits in the air would really be something fairly free from danger. Anyone could easily do it without getting into any danger.
But this hearing can be dangerous if it takes hold too much of people, and if they get too much into a state where they hear all kinds of things. The thing is this. There are people who gradually reach a condition where they hear all kinds of words. All kinds of things are said to them. These people are in the process of going mad. Now if one sees spirits by looking for them in the air, one is never really threatened by any danger. Why? Well, I have to tell you this by using an analogy. If you go in a boat and fall into the water you may drown. If someone pulls you out of the water, you may also experience all kinds of things, but you won't drown. It is just like that when the human soul goes out in an upward direction and sees all kinds of things. Nothing can happen to it. If it goes downwards, into solid matter, it may drown spiritually, I'd say. And this drowning in the spirit happens when people lose consciousness in such a way that all kinds of things are then told to them inwardly. And that is what is so bad. You see, when someone sees the spiritual element outside, it is just as it is when he walks about in the world, and just as he's not afraid of the chair he sees, so he'll gradually also not be afraid of the spiritual outside, but actually come to like it. But something people hear inwardly — we sink down into the solid ground with the whole of our spirit and the whole of our soul — anything we then hear inwardly will completely absorb us. You can drown in it most miserably. We must therefore always be a bit cautious when people say they are told all kinds of things inside. This is always a dangerous situation. Someone who has gained a really firm foothold in the world of the spirit and knows his way about will know what is actually being said there. He'll know that in that case it is not particularly sublime spirits who speak to one but really always spirits that are more of a lower kind. You see, gentlemen, I have told you these things quite openly so that you may see that as a human being one really needs to consider the outside world in a very different way if one wants to enter into the world of the spirit.
There are of course people who'll say: 'But why have the spirits made it so difficult for us to get to know them?' Yes, but just think what kind of human beings we'd be if we did not have to make any effort to enter into the world of the spirit, if we were always in it. We'd be absolute spiritual automatons. We only gain the right relationship to the spirits because we have to make an effort. And it does take the greatest inner effort to be able to do research in the world of the spirit.
It is of course easy to be the great scientist at the laboratory bench and make all kinds of experiments; it is easy to cut up dead bodies and discover all kinds of things. But it really calls for a great deal of inner work to enter into the world of the spirit in a real way. The educated people of today are too lazy for this. And it is really always out of this laziness that people say: I did the exercises given in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, but I did not see anything.' They think it should be given to them from outside and that they should not have to do inner work for it. Gentlemen, that is the problem! People want to have everything presented to them today. I told you before that they want to film everything today; they want to have films made of everything, so that it may come to them from the outside.
To make real progress in the spirit one must always see to it that anything one takes in from the world is worked through. People will therefore be more likely to get to the spiritual element if in future they avoid as much as possible having everything shown to them in films and instead try to think things through as much as possible when they learn anything about the world. And you see, I haven't shown you a film. There isn't the time for it, of course, but even if we had the time I would not attempt to show the matter to you in a film. Instead I made drawings that developed as we went on, and you were able to see what I intended with every line I drew and were able to think along with me. And this is also what we need in teaching children today — as few finished drawings as possible, and as much as possible to arise out of the moment, with the child seeing every line as it is drawn. The child then joins in the effort inwardly, and this encourages inner activity. The result will be that people find their way into the spiritual element more easily and develop an understanding for spiritual things again. You also should not present children with whole, complete theories, for this'll make them dogmatic. What matters is to get them to be active in themselves. This'll also make the whole body much more free.
I'd now like to go on to something else that is another part of one of the questions. You will no doubt have heard that the potato only came to Europe at a particular time. The people of Europe have not always been potato eaters.
A rather peculiar thing happened on one occasion. You see, there's an encyclopaedia 41Augustin Smetana (1814-51), canon regular of the Holy Cross and suppl. professor of philosophy in Prague. The full story is given in Geschichte cities Excummunicirten. Eine Selbstbiographie von Augustin Smetana. Aus dessen Nachlasse herausgegeben ... von Alfred Meissner, Leipzig 1863. which I actually also helped to write, though not the article I am now talking about. It says something very funny in that article, and that is that everyone believes a man called Drake brought the potato to Europe, which was a great merit for him. There's a Drake monument in Offenburg, which is now occupied by the French. Now it really felt very odd to me to look it up in the encyclopaedia one day and it really said: 'They put up a monument to Drake in Offenburg because he was reputed, wrongly so, to have brought the potato to Europe.' So when someone is reputed to have done something, he gets a monument in Europe! However, that is not what I want tc talk about. I want to talk about the fact that the potato wa; brought to Europe at a particular time.
Let us look at the potato. We do not really eat the roots of it [drawing on the board]. If that is the potato plant, the rootlets are like this. The potato itself is a stem tuber. So with an ordinary plant you have the root, and then the stem grows. But if the stem thickens the way it does in the potato, you get a tuber. It is really a thickened shoot, so that the potato is not a root but a thickened shoot or stem. This is something you should remember well. If you eat a potato you are eating a thickened shoot. You are essentially taking your nourishment from a thickened stem. We now have to ask ourselves what significance it had for people that they learned to eat what essentially is a thickened stem when the potato came to Europe.
Looking at a whole plant you have the root, the stem, the leaves and the flower [Fig. 22]. It is a strange thing with a plant. The root down there grows very similar to the soil, especially in containing a lot of salts, and the flower up top grows very similar to the warm air. Up there it is like a continuous cooking process in the heat of the sun. The flower therefore contains oils and fats, especially oils. Looking at a plant we thus have salts being deposited below. The root is rich in salts, the flower in oils. The consequence is that when we eat the root we get many salts into our gut. These salts find their way up to the brain and stimulate the brain. Salts thus stimulate the brain. And so it is quite good, for instance, for someone suffering from headaches — not migraine-like headaches but headaches that fill the head — to eat roots. You can see that many roots have a certain salty harshness. You can tell from the taste. But if you eat flowers, that is where the plant is really half-cooked already. Up there you already have the oils; that is something which above all greases the stomach and the gut; it has an effect on the abdomen. A physician has to take account of this when he prescribes a medicinal tea. If someone makes a tea from flowers he'll never get much of an effect on the head. But if he has the roots boiled and gets the patient to drink that, he'll get a powerful effect on the head. So you see, whilst we have to go from the belly to the head in human beings, from below upwards, we have to go the opposite way in the plant, from flower to roots. The root of the plant is related to the head. The flower of the plant is related to the gut and so on. If we consider this, we'll begin to realize something about the significance of the potato. For the potato has tubers, something that has not quite become a root. So when we eat many potatoes we are largely feeding on plants that have not quite become root. If one limits oneself to eating potatoes, and eats too many potatoes, one does not get enough food into the head. It stays down in the digestive tract. The situation is therefore that with their potato eating the people of Europe neglected their head, their brain. This connection is only seen when one works with the science of the spirit. Then one says to oneself that people's heads have grown less capable since the potato has come to be eaten more and more in Europe.
The potato will mainly stimulate the tongue and the gullet. Going down in the potato plant we do not go quite as far as the root. And it is the same with the human being. When we do not go quite as far as the head and stay with the tongue and gullet, these are specially stimulated by the potato, and people find the potato makes such a good part of a meal, a good side dish, because it stimulates the parts that are below the head and leave the head unmolested.
When we eat beetroot, gentlemen, we get a terrible longing to think a lot. We do this quite unconsciously. When we eat potatoes, we really get a longing to eat something again quite soon. The potato will soon make us hungry again because it does not go all the way to the head. Beetroot will soon fill you up, for it does actually go up into the head, which is the most important thing, and the head is the most important part, and it completely fills the head with activity when it goes right up into it. For people do of course find it most unpleasant to have to be able to think, and so they'll sometimes have potato rather than beetroot, because potato does not encourage thinking. It does not encourage thinking, you get lazy in your thinking. Beetroot on the other hand is a powerful stimulus to think, but it does it in such a way that you actually want to think, and someone who does not want to think does not like beetroot. If you need something to stimulate your thinking, you should particularly use the salty stimulus of radishes, for instance. This will be good for someone who is not very lively in the head, for it'll get his thoughts moving a bit if he adds radish to his food.
So you see we have this strange thing. We can say that radishes stimulate our thinking. And you need not be all that active in your thinking; eat radish and the thoughts will come, such powerful thoughts that they'll even create mighty dreams. Someone who eats a lot of potatoes does not get powerful thoughts; but he'll get dreams that make him heavy. And someone who has to eat potatoes all the time will really be tired all the time and always want to sleep and dream. It therefore plays an important role in the history of civilization what kinds of foods are actually available to people.
Now you might say, gentlemen: 'Yes, but the thing is that we really live altogether on matter.' That's not true, however. I have often told you that as human beings we have a new body about every seven years. It's renewed all the time. The matter we had in our bodies eight or ten years ago is no longer in there. It's gone. We cut it away when we cut our nails, cut our hair; it's gone away in our sweat. It all goes away. Some of it goes quite quickly, some goes slowly, but go it does.
Now how do people think this goes? You see, they imagine it is something like this. I'll draw it in schematic form now [Fig. 23], So that would be the human being [white]. He is all the time giving off matter and is all the time taking in new matter [blue arrows]. People therefore think that matter comes in through the mouth and goes out again through the anus and in the urine, and the human being is a kind of tube. He takes in matter with his food, keeps it for a time and then throws it out again. That is more or less how people think man is made.
But the truth is that nothing of the earthly matter enters into the real human being, none at all. That is just an illusion. The matter is like this. If we eat potatoes, say, this is not in order to take in something from the potato. The potato is merely something which stimulates us, stimulates us in the jaw, the gullet and so on. It is active just there. And then the power develops in us to throw the potato out again and, as we drive it out, the principle which builds up our body in the course of seven years comes towards us from the ether [white arrows], not from the solid matter. We actually do not at all build our bodies with earthly matter. We only eat the things we eat to get a stimulus. The whole idea people have of food coming in there and going out there, remaining inside for a while in between times, is quite wrong, therefore. We just get a stimulus. And there a power comes from the ether, and we build up our whole body from the ether. Everything we have as our bodies has not been created out of earthly matter. You see if you push and there comes an opposite push, you must not confuse that second push with your original push. You should not confuse the fact that we need food to stop us from getting lazy in restoring our body with the fact that we take this food into us.
Now the situation is that irregularities may of course occur. For if we take too much food the food stays inside us for too long. We then collect unjustifiable food in us, grow corpulent, fat, and so on. If we take in too little we do not get enough stimulus and do not take enough of what we need from the world of the spirit, from the etheric world.
But this is something most important, gentlemen, this fact that we do not build ourselves up out of the earth and its matter but that we build ourselves up out of something that is beyond the earth. If it is the case that the whole body is renewed in seven years, the heart will also be renewed [red]. So you no longer have the heart inside you now that you had eight years ago. It has been renewed, renewed not from the material substance of the earth but renewed out of the element that surrounds the earth in the light. Your heart is compressed light! You really and truly have a heart that is condensed sunlight. And the food you have eaten has only given the stimulus for you to compress the sunlight so far. You build up all your organs from the light-filled surroundings, and the fact that we eat, that we take in food, only means that a stimulus is given.
You see, the only thing our food gives us is to let us have something like a couch inside us. We sense ourselves and have a feeling of self in ordinary life because we have physical matter in us, physical substance. We get a feeling for ourselves just as if you were to sit down on a couch. Then you also feel the pressure of the couch. And that is how you sense your body as something that is all the time exerting pressure on something you have created out of the universe. You don't feel it when you're asleep because then you're out of yourself. You sense your body; it is a kind of couch made for you, harder for a bony person, softer for someone else. It is a kind of couch on which the real human being lies down, and we do of course also feel the difference between a soft feather bed and a wooden bench! And so the human being gets a feeling for anything that is hard in hirr and anything that is soft. But what he feels there is not the actual human being, for the actual human being is the something that sits there inside him.
The next time I'll explain to you what this has to do with gaining higher insight. The people who want to gain insight today do not in the least consider the human activity but only what the couch presents to them.