Dornach, 9th September, 1924
Rudolf Steiner: Good morning, gentlemen! Are there any questions?
Written question: Mars is near the earth. What effect does that have upon the earth? What is known about Mars?
Dr. Steiner: There has been a great deal of talk recently about the nearness of Mars to the earth, and the newspapers have made utterly futile statements without even a rudimentary understanding of what this means. We must not attach prime importance to these external circumstances in the planetary constellations due to the relative positions of earth and sun, because the influences arising from them do not really amount to very much. It is interesting that there has been all this talk about the proximity of Mars, because every planet, including the moon, is constantly coming nearer to the earth, and the planets are undergoing a process that will finally end in all of them uniting again with the earth, forming a single body.
Of course, if it is imagined, as most people imagine today, that the planets are solid bodies just like the earth, the expectation could well be that if they were to unite with the earth, this would mean the end of all life on our globe! But no such thing will happen, because the degrees of density of the various planets are not the same as that of the earth. If Mars, for instance, were actually to come down and unite with the earth, it would not be able to lay waste the land but only to inundate it. For as far as investigation is possible — it can never be done with physical instruments but only through spiritual science, spiritual vision — Mars consists primarily of a more or less fluid mass, not as fluid as our water but, shall we say, more like the consistency of jelly, or something of that kind. There are also dense components, but they are not as densely solid as those of our earth. Their consistency would be more comparable to that of the antlers or horns of our animals, which form out of the general mass and dissolve back into it again. So we must realize that the constitution of Mars is entirely different from that of our earth.
Now a great deal is said about “canals” existing on Mars. But why “canals”? There is nothing to be seen except lines, and these are called canals. (see Note 18) In one sense that is correct, but in another, incorrect. As Mars is not solid to the degree that the earth is solid, one cannot, of course, speak of canals as we know them on the earth. But it can be said that on Mars there is something rather similar to our trade winds. You know that the warm air from the Torrid Zone of the earth, from Africa, streams toward the cold North Pole, and the air from the cold North Pole streams back toward the central region of the earth. So that if looked at from outside, such lines would indeed be seen, but they are the lines of the trade winds, of the air currents in the trade winds. There is something rather similar on Mars. Only everything on Mars is much more full of life than on the earth. The earth is a dead planet in a far stronger sense than Mars, on which everything is still more or less living.
I want to mention something that can help you to understand the character of Mars' relation to the earth. We know that the sun, to us the most important of all the heavenly bodies, is the sustainer of a very great deal on the earth. Think of the sun as we know it from day to day. At night you see the plants drawing in their blossoms because the sun is not shining on them. By day they open again to be irradiated by the sun. Very many things depend upon the spread of sunlight over one part of the earth and the spread of darkness over another part when the sun is not there. But if you think of a whole year, you could not conceive of the plants growing in the spring if the sun's power did not return. Again, when the sun loses power in the autumn, the plants fade away, all life dies and snow falls.
Quite obviously, life on the earth is connected with the sun. Indeed, we humans would be unable to breathe the air around us if the sun were not there, if the rays of the sun did not make the air suitable for us to breathe. The sun is undeniably the most important heavenly body for us. Just think what a different story it would be if the sun were not-as it appears-to go around the earth every twenty-four hours but instead took twice that time! All life would be slower. So all life on earth depends upon the revolution of the sun around the earth. In reality, of course, the sun does not revolve around the earth, but that is how it appears.
The influence of the moon is of less significance for man, but nevertheless it is there. When you remember that the tides ebb and flow according to the moon, that they have the same rhythm as the moon's revolution, you will realize with what kind of power the moon works upon the earth. And then it will also be clear that the time of the moon's rotation around the earth has a definite significance. If you were to investigate how the plants develop when the sun has shone upon them, you would also find evidence of the influence of the moon. Thus the sun and the moon have a tremendous influence upon the earth. We can recognize the lunar influence from the time of the rotation, that is, from the time it takes for the moon to become full moon, new moon, and so on. We can recognize the influence of the sun from its rising and setting, or from the fact that it acquires its power in the spring and loses it in the autumn.
And now let me tell you something. You all know of the existence of the grubs of cockchafers. These little worm-like creatures are particularly harmful when they eat up our potatoes. There are years when the potatoes are unharmed by these troublesome little maggots, and then there are years when simply nothing can be done because the grubs are everywhere at work. Well now, suppose there has been a year when the grubs have eaten nearly all the potatoes — if you wait now for four years, the cockchafers will be there in great numbers, because it takes them four years to develop from the grubs. There is a period of approximately four years between the appearance of the grubs — which, like all insects, first have a maggot form before becoming a chrysalis — and the fully developed insect. The grub needs four years to develop into the cockchafer. Naturally, there are always cockchafers, but if there are only a few grubs some year, four years after that there will only be a few cockchafers. The number of cockchafers depends upon the number of grubs that were present four years earlier.
We can see quite clearly that this period of time is connected with the rotation of Mars. The course of propagation of certain insects shows us the kind of influence that Mars exercises upon the life of the earth. But the influence is rather hidden. The influence of the sun is quite obvious, that of the moon not obvious to the same extent, and the influence of Mars is hidden. Everything for which intervals of years are needed on the earth — as in the case of grubs and cockchafers — is dependent upon Mars. So there you see a significant effect of Mars.
Of course someone may say that he doesn't believe this. Well, gentlemen, we ourselves can't possibly make all the experiments, but anyone who doesn't believe what I've said should do the following: he should take the grubs he has collected in a year when they are very numerous and force their development artificially in some container. Within the same year he will find that the majority of them do not develop into cockchafers. Such experiments are never made because these things are not believed.
However, we come now to the essential point. The sun has the most powerful influence of all. But it exerts its greatest influence upon everything on the earth that is dead, that must be called to new life every year — while the moon influences only what is living. Mars exerts its influence only upon what exists in a more delicate form of life, in the sentient realm. The other planets have their influence upon what is of the nature of soul and spirit. The sun, then, is the heavenly body that works the most strongly; it works into the very minerals of the earth. In the minerals the moon can do nothing — nor Mars. If the moon were not there, no animal creature could live and move about on the earth; there could only be plants on the earth, no animals. Again, there are many animal creatures that could not have intervals of years between the larva-stage and the insect if Mars were not there. You see how closely all things are connected.
For instance, we might ask ourselves: When do we human beings become fully grown? When do we stop in the process of our development? Obviously very early, at the age of about twenty or twenty-one. And yet even then something continues to be added. Most people do not actually grow any more, but something is added inwardly. Until about our thirtieth year we do really “increase”; but then, for the first time, we begin to “decrease”. If we compare this with happenings in the universe, we get the time of the rotation of Saturn.
So the planets exercise their influence upon the more delicate conditions of growth and of life. Hence we can say: When, like all the planets, Mars comes near the earth, we must not attach primary importance to this outer nearness.
What is of far greater importance is how things in the universe are connected with the finer, more delicate states and conditions of life.
You must remember that the constitution of Mars is quite different from that of the earth. As I said, Mars is not densely solid in the sense in which today the earth is solid, But I described to you quite recently how the earth too was once in a condition when mineral, solid matter took shape for the first time, how there were then gigantic animals which, however, had as yet no solid bones. Mars today is in a condition similar to that of the earth in that earlier epoch and therefore also has upon it those living beings, those animal beings which the earth had upon it at that time. And “human beings” on Mars are as they were on the earth at that time — still without bones. I described this to you when I was speaking of an earlier period of the earth. These things can be known. They cannot become known by the means employed in modern science for acquiring knowledge; nevertheless it is possible to know these things. If, then, you want to have an idea of what Mars is like today, picture to yourselves what the earth was like in a much earlier age: then you will have a picture of Mars.
You know that on the earth today, the trade winds blow from the south to the north, from the north to the south. These streamings were once much denser than the air; they were currents of fluid, watery air: so it is on Mars today. The air currents on Mars are much more full of life, much more watery.
Jupiter consists almost entirely of air, but again somewhat denser than the air of the earth. Jupiter today represents a condition toward which the earth is now striving, which it will attain only in the future.
And so in the planetary system we find certain states or conditions through which the earth also passes. When we understand the planets in this sense, we understand them rightly.
Has anyone something else to ask about this subject? Perhaps Herr Burle himself?
Herr Burle: I am quite satisfied, thank you!
Question: In one of your last lectures you said that the scents of flowers are related to the planets. Does this also apply to the colors of flowers and colors of stones?
Dr. Steiner: I will repeat very briefly what I said. It was also in answer to a question that had been asked. I said that flowers, and also other substances of the earth, have scent — something in them that exercises a corresponding influence upon man's organ of smell. I said that this is connected with the planets, that the plants and, similarly, certain substances, are “big noses,” noses that perceive the effects coming from the planets. The planets have an influence upon life in its finer, more delicate forms-here, once again, we must think of the finer forms of life. And it can be said that the plants really do come into being out of the scent of the universe, but this scent is so rarefied, so delicate, that we human beings with our coarse noses do not smell it.
But I reminded you that there can be a sense of smell quite different from that possessed by man. You need think only of police dogs. A thief has stolen something and the police dog is taken to the spot where the theft has been committed; it is conveyed to him in some way that a thief has been there and he picks up the scent; then he leads the police on the trail and the thief is often found. Police dogs are used in this way. All kinds of interesting things would come to light if one were to study how scents that are quite imperceptible to a human being are perceptible to a dog.
People have not always realized that dogs have such keen noses. If they had, dogs would have been used earlier to assist the police. It is only rather recently that this has been discovered. Likewise, people today still have no conception of what indescribably delicate noses are possessed by the plants. As a matter of fact, the entire plant is a nose; it takes in the scent of the universe, and if its structure is such that it gives back this cosmic aroma in the way that an echo gives back a sound, it becomes a fragrant plant. So we can say: The scents of flowers, of plants in general, and also other scents on the earth, do indeed relate to the planetary system.
It has been asked whether this also applies to the colors of plants and flowers. As I said, the plant takes shape out of the aroma of the universe and throughout the year it is exposed to the sun. While the form of the plant is shaped by the planets out of the cosmic fragrance, its color is due to the sun and also to some extent to the moon. The scent and the color of plants do not, therefore, come from the same source; the scent comes from the planets, the color from the sun and moon. Things don't always have to come from the same source; just as one has a father and a mother, so the plant has its scent from the planets and its colors from the sun and moon.
You can see from the following that the colors of plants are connected with the sun and moon. If you take plants that have beautiful green leaves and put them in the cellar, they become white, they lose every trace of color because the sun has not been shining on them. They retain their structure, their form, because the cosmic fragrance penetrates everywhere, but they don't keep their color because no sunlight is reaching them. The colors of the plants, therefore, undeniably come from the sun and, as I have said, also from the moon, only this is more difficult to determine. Experiments would have to be made and could be made, by exposing plants in various ways to moonlight; then one would certainly discover it.
Does anyone else want to say something?
Herr Burle: I would like to expand the question by asking about the colors of stones.
Dr. Steiner: With stones and minerals it is like this. If you picture to yourself that the sun has a definite influence upon the plants every day, and also during the course of a year, then you find that the yearly effects of the sun are different from its daily effects. The daily effects of the sun do not bring about much change in the color of the plants; but its yearly influence does affect their color.
However, the sun has not only daily and yearly effects; it has other, quite different effects as well. I spoke to you about this some time ago, but I will mention it again.
Imagine the earth here. The sun rises at a certain point in the heavens, let us say in the spring, on the twenty-first of March. If in the present epoch we look at the point in the heavens where the sun rises on the twenty-first of March, we find behind the sun the constellation of the Fishes (Pisces). The sun has been rising in this particular constellation for hundreds of years, but always at a different point. The point at which the sun rises on the twenty-first of March is different every year. A year ago the sun rose at a point a little farther back, and still farther back the year before that. Going back through a few centuries we find that the point at which the sun rose in spring was still in the same constellation, but if we go back as far as the year 1200 AD. we find that the sun rose in the constellation of the Ram (Aries). Again for a long time it rose in spring in the constellation of the Ram. Still earlier, however, let us say in the epoch of ancient Egypt, the sun rose in the constellation of the Bull (Taurus); and earlier than that in the constellation of the Twins (Gemini), and so on. So we can say that the point at which the sun rises in spring is changing all the time.
This indicates, as you can see, that the sun itself moves its position in the universe; I say it moves its position — but only apparently so, for in reality it is the earth that moves its position. That, however, does not concern us at the moment. In a period of 25,915 years, the point at which the sun rises in spring moves the whole way around the zodiac. In the present year — 1924 — the sun rises at a certain point in the heavens. 25,915 years ago, that is to say, 23,991 years before the birth of Christ (25,915 minus 1924) the sun rose at the same point! Since then it has made one complete circuit. The sun has a daily circuit, a yearly circuit, and a circuit that takes it 25,915 years to complete. Thus we have a sun-day, a sun-year and a great cosmic year consisting of 25,915 years.
That is very interesting, is it not? And the number 25,915 is itself very interesting! If you think of the breath and remember that a man draws approximately 18 breaths a minute, you can reckon how many breaths he draws in a day. Eighteen breaths a minute, 60 x 18 in an hour = 1,080 breaths. How many breaths, then, does he draw in a day, that is to say, in 24 hours? Twenty-four times 1,080 = 25,920, which is approximately the same as this number 25,915! In a day, man breathes as many times as the sun needs years to make its circuit of the universe. These correspondences are very remarkable.
Now why am I telling you all this? You see, to give color to a plant, the sun needs a year; to give color to a stone, the sun needs 25,915 years. The stone is a much harder fellow. To bestow color on a plant the sun makes a circuit lasting one year. But there is also a circuit which the sun needs 25,915 years to complete. And not until this great circuit has been completed is the sun able to give color to the stones. But at any rate it is always the sun that gives the color. You will realize from this how widely removed the mineral kingdom is from the plant kingdom. If the sun did not move around yearly in the way it does, if it only made daily circuits as well as the great circuit of 25,915 years, then there would be no plants, and instead of cabbage you would be obliged to eat silica — and the human stomach would have to adjust itself accordingly!
Question: Do the herbs that grow on mountains have greater healing properties than those that grow in valleys? If so, what is the explanation?
Dr. Steiner: It is an actual fact that mountain-plants are more valuable as remedies than those that grow in valleys, particularly than those we plant in our ordinary gardens or in a field. It is a good thing that this is the case, for if the plants growing in the valleys were just like those on the mountains, every foodstuff would at the same time be a medicine, and that would not do at all! The plants that have the greatest therapeutic value are indeed those that grow on the mountains. Why is this? All you need to do is to compare the kind of soil in which mountain-plants grow with that in which valley-plants grow.
It is a very different thing if plants grow wild, in uncultivated soil, or are artificially cultivated in a garden. Think of strawberries! Wild strawberries from the woods are tiny but very aromatic; garden strawberries have less scent, are less sharp in taste, but they can grow to an enormous size — why, there are cultivated strawberries as large as eggs! How is this to be accounted for? It is because the soil in the low-lying ground of valleys is not so full of stones that have crumbled away from the rock of the mountains. It is on mountains that really hard stone is to be found — the real mineral. Down in the valleys you find soil that has already been saturated and carried down by the rivers and is therefore completely pulverized. On the mountains there is also, of course, pulverized soil, but it is invariably permeated with tiny granules, especially, shall we say, of quartz, feldspar, and so on. Everywhere there are substances which can be used for healing. Very, very much can be achieved if, for example, we grind down quartz (silica) and make a remedy of it. We are then using these minerals directly as remedies.
The soil in low-lying valleys no longer contains these little stones. But on the mountains the stones are all the time crumbling from the rocks, and the plants draw into their sap the tiny particles of these stones, and that makes them into remedial plants.
Now the following is interesting. The so-called homeopaths — they're not right about everything, but they're right about a good many things — these homeopaths take substances and by grinding them finer and finer, obtain medical remedies. If the substance were used in its crude state it would not be a remedy. But you see, the plants themselves are the most precious homeopaths of all, for they absorb tiny, minute particles from all these stones, which otherwise would have to be refined and pulverized when a medicine is being prepared. So because nature does this far better than we could, we can take the plants themselves and use them directly for healing purposes. And it is a fact that the plants and herbs growing on mountains have far greater healing properties than those in the valleys.
You know, too, how the whole appearance of a plant changes. I spoke about the strawberry: the wild strawberry absorbs a large quantity of a certain mineral. Where does the wild strawberry thrive best? Where there are minerals that contain a little iron. This iron penetrates the soil and from that the strawberry gets its fragrant smell. Certain people whose blood is very sensitive get a rash when they eat strawberries. This is due to the fact that their blood in its ordinary state has sufficient iron and it is getting too much when they eat strawberries. If, then, some people with normal blood get a rash from eating strawberries, one can certainly advise someone whose blood is poor, to eat them! In this way their remedial value is gradually discovered. As a rule, the soil in gardens where the giant strawberries are growing contains no iron; there the strawberries propagate themselves without any impetus from iron. But people are rather short-sighted in this connection and don't follow things up for a sufficiently long time. It is a fact that by growing strawberries in soil that doesn't contain much iron, one can get huge berries, for the reason that the plants do not become fully solid. For think of it — if the strawberry has to get hold of every tiny bit of iron there may be in the soil, then it must have plenty of leeway! But that is a characteristic of the strawberry.
Suppose you look at soil. It contains very minute traces of iron. The strawberry growing in the soil draws these traces of iron to itself from a long way off, for its root has a strong force and attracts the iron from some distance away. Now take a wild strawberry from the woods. It contains a very strong force. Put this strawberry into a garden: there is no iron in the soil, but the strawberry has acquired this tremendous force already, it has it within itself. It draws to itself everything it possibly can, in the garden cultivation too, from a long way away, and nourishes itself exceedingly well. In a garden it does not get iron, but it draws everything else to itself because it is well able to do so. And so it becomes very large.
However, as I have said, people are very short-sighted; they do not observe things thoroughly. So they do not notice that although with garden cultivation they can produce huge strawberries for a number of years, this will only last for a certain time. The fertility then dies away, and they must bring in new strawberry plants from the woods. Fertility cannot be promoted entirely by artificial means; there must be knowledge of things that are directly connected with Nature herself
The rose is the best illustration of this. If you go out into the countryside you will see the wild rose, the dog rose, as it is called, Rosa canina. You know it, I'm sure. This wild rose has five rather pale petals. Why is it that it has this form, produces only five petals, remains so small and at once produces this tiny fruit? These reddish rosehips — you know them — develop from the wild rose. Well, this is due to the fact that the soil where the rose grows wild contains a certain kind of oil — just as the soil of the earth in general contains different oils in its minerals. We get oils out of the earth or out of the plants which have themselves absorbed them from the earth. Now the rose, when it is growing wild out there in the country, must work far and wide with its roots in order to collect from the minerals the tiny amount of oil it needs in order to become a rose. Why is it that the rose must stretch out so far, must extend the drawing power contained in its root to such a distance? The reason is that there is very little humus in the country soil where the rose grows wild. Humus is more oily than the soil of the countryside. Now the rose has a tremendous power for drawing oil to itself.
When the rose is near soil which contains humus, this is fortunate for it; it draws a great deal of oil to itself and develops not only five petals but a whole mass of petals, becoming the luxuriantly-petalled garden rose. But it no longer develops real rosehips because that would need what is contained in the stony soil out in the country. So we can make the wild rose into the ornamental garden rose when we transplant it into soil that is richer in humus, where it can easily get the oils from which to produce its many petals. This is the opposite of what happens with the strawberry: it is difficult for the strawberry to find in the garden what it finds out in the woods. The rose finds a great deal in the garden that is scarce along the roads and so it develops luxuriant petals; but then in fruit formation it remains behind.
So when we know what a particular soil contains, we know what will grow on it. Naturally, this is tremendously important for plant cultivation, especially for the plants needed in agriculture. For there, through manure and the substances added as fertilizers, the soil must be restored so that it will produce what is required. Knowledge of the soil is of enormous importance to the farmer. These things have been more or less forgotten. Simple country farmers used to apply the proper manure by instinct. But nowadays in large-scale agriculture not much attention is paid to the matter. The consequence is that in the course of the last decades nearly all our foodstuffs have greatly deteriorated in quality from what they were when those of us who are now elderly were children.
Earlier this year there was an interesting agricultural conference at which farmers expressed their deep concern for what will become of the plants, of the foodstuffs, if this tendency continues. And indeed, gentlemen, it will continue! In the coming century foodstuffs will become quite unusable if a certain knowledge of the soil is not regained.
We have made a beginning with agriculture in the domain of anthroposophical spiritual science. Recently I gave a course of lectures on agriculture near Breslau, (see Note 19) and an association has been formed that will take up this work. And we too have done something here to help the situation. We are only at the very beginning but the problem is being tackled. Thus anthroposophy will gradually penetrate into practical life.
There are still some sessions to make up, so let us meet again next Friday. (see Note 20)