What Has Geology to Say About the Origin of the World?
9 February 1911, Berlin
It could weigh like a nightmare on the world-conception based on spiritual science if in all earnestness and truthfulness it were obliged to come into opposition to the well-founded results of the investigations carried out by natural science — investigations which in the course of the last centuries, and especially during the nineteenth century, have accomplished such great things and brought such blessings on mankind, not only in the field of knowledge but in the whole field of human progress. But it would be particularly depressing if spiritual science were compelled to take a stand in opposition to a branch of natural science which is comparatively one of the youngest, but which by virtue of its nature and its special tasks is able not only to arouse human interest in the deepest sense of the word, but also to open perspectives into the very coming-into-being of our planet, as well as into the origin and evolving forms of the creatures inhabiting it. This young branch of natural science is Geology, the science which, especially since the second third of the nineteenth century — but also already prior to that — has made such tremendous strides and achieved results of real importance, even though the great questions about which we shall have to speak still remain open. Our main purpose today will be to envisage the relationship in which spiritual science must stand to geology — and to answer the question, how much from the point of view of spiritual science — that knowledge which has always formed the base of our considerations here — has geology to say about the question concerning the origin, the gradual emergence and evolution, of the earth and its living organisms?
To answer this question we must first think briefly of the way in which the methods employed in the specific study of geology really work. It is, of course, well known that geology draws the content of its knowledge from the solid ground of our earth itself, and that out of what it finds there — within the earth's strata — it forms its conclusions concerning the way in which our planet may have come into existence and the changes it has undergone in the course of time. We know, if, for instance during railway-construction or work in stone quarries or mining-operations, any breaking-up of the ground gives us the opportunity of studying deeper layers of the earth in regard to their rock formations or other contents, that these layers present a different appearance from that of the ground on which we tread — which is the outermost surface. But within this surface-layer, too, we discover very manifold variations when we investigate the ground as to the nature of its rock-formations and mineral character. And it is perhaps also known that some of the most interesting studies are concerned with layers of the earth's surface whose character is clearly such that we can say: the material which covers the ground must originally have been dissolved in water or have been subject to the force of water in some other way, must once have been washed up as it were by the waters in times long past. We still see today how rivers carry accumulations of shifting rocky material far away and deposit them in other parts. We see the ground covered by such alluvial deposits and we must conceive that in the same way, in far distant times, successive layers of deposits were formed. Over one layer which originated in that way we have to imagine another covering it which, on examination, proves to be different in character from the one below. Thus in its successive layers, the earth shows us how the character of their rock-material differs. It stands to reason that the upper strata must be the latest, superimposed by the most recent occurrences on the earth. As we have occasion to penetrate more and more deeply and to study the lower parts of the earth's crust, we come to strata which are the deposits from earlier and ever earlier times, successively overlaid by the later ones. Likewise it is common knowledge that within these strata of the earth all kinds of forms have been embedded, originating, according to present-day concepts, from organic beings of the animal kingdom, from plants which, carried away by the waters and the alluvial layers, have met with their death, as it were, and by this natural process have become thus entombed, and then, more or less changed or unchanged, are to be found there in the rock-material as the remains of prehistoric organic beings. Nor is it difficult to come to the conclusion that a certain relationship must be presumed between such a layer of rock-material and the fossil remains of animals and plants within it. But we must not imagine that the younger strata have overlaid the older ones so conveniently over the whole face of the earth; on the contrary, there is clear evidence that sometimes older strata — recognisable by their character — extend to the surface, that in the course of the earth's development manifold disturbances have occurred through sets of layers having become intermingled, overlaid, upturned, and so on. So that it is by no means an easy task for the geologist to determine how one layer has been deposited over the subjacent layer. These are matters which can only be mentioned briefly here. In any ease we need not concern ourselves with the irregularities just referred to; we may assume that the geologists have access to the earth's strata with their fossiliferous constituents, and that from this they draw their conclusions as to the appearance of the earth at the time when the present top layer had not yet been deposited or successive lower beds did not yet exist, and that in this way it is possible to form some idea of the appearance which our earth must have presented in times gone by.
Moreover, it is an interesting and generally known fact that the upper layers — and therefore the youngest of our terrestrial material — contain fossils of more highly developed forms of animal- and plant-life, and that in the deeper layers we come to fossil remains of less developed forms of life, which today we are accustomed to count among the lower species and genera of the animal- and plant-kingdoms. We then come, as it were, to the lowest layers of the earth's crust, overlaid again and again by others; we come to the so-called “Cambrian” layer of our earth's development and find there only fossil remains of animals which did not yet possess a spinal column. We find other animals with a spinal column in the upper layers, which geology is therefore justified in regarding as the younger layers in earth-evolution:
Thus geology seems to be fully in conformity with what natural science knows today from other inferences, namely, that in the process of the earth's evolution the living creatures have developed by slow degrees from quite primitive to more perfect forms. When we now examine the Cambrian bed, namely, the lowest layer, and imagine that all the other layers had not yet come into existence, we shall have to assume that in the most ancient times there existed only the lowest animal forms, which as yet had no skeleton and were the first predecessors of the still undeveloped animals which were entombed in the deposits covering the lowest stratum of the rock-material. Then we must imagine that these beings have had descendants, that the latter may have underdone changes under the then prevailing, different conditions. In the next layer, which is again younger, we discover those animals in which there are already some indications of skeleton-like structures. And as we approach the younger layers we see evidence of more highly-developed animal species, until we come to the tertiary layers, where we already find the mammals, and then, in layers still younger than the tertiary layers, man.
As you know, there is a line of thought today which simply assumes that the lower animals of the Cambrian period have had descendants, some of which remained unchanged, while others developed towards vertebrate forms and so on; so that the appearance of more highly developed animals in the later, younger layers has to be explained by the assumption that the most primitive and simple forms of animal- and plant-life gradually evolved to higher forms. That would give a clearly outlined picture of the gradual development of life and also of the other occurrences on our earth — roughly as it might have presented itself to the eye of an observer who could have looked on during the billions and billions of years which geology has calculated for these happenings. Some idea of the methods applied and of the manner in which research is conducted may be gained from the following. — If, for instance, one observes how certain layers are still being formed today as alluvial deposits washed up by river-action or the like in the course of so and so many years, and if by measuring the thickness of such a layer a certain measurement is obtained by which it can be reckoned how many years it has taken for that layer to be deposited – then one can calculate how long the accumulation must have taken of all the layers we have had under review — provided that conditions were the same as they are today. As a result, the most divergent figures are obtained from the calculations made by the geologists. There is no need to enlarge upon contradictions which arise from this; for anyone who understands the contradictions will know that they have no essential significance, although they are really sometimes rather pronounced and amount to many billions of years according to the results obtained by different investigators.
When we contemplate all this we have, after all, only a picture of the course which, according to the ideas of geology (conceived and expressed precisely in the tone applied in the present description), the events in the evolution of our earth have taken during the later billennia. Moreover, geology compels us to presume that all these happenings have been preceded by others. For all these layers which contain remains of animal life rest, as it were, on others, and such others, having pushed through the overlaid layers, then protrude over the surface, form mountains, and thus become visible. The tenets of geology, therefore, lead to the conclusion that all fossil-carrying layers of our earth are resting on some other layer — a conception which takes us back, so to speak, to an age of our earth which preceded all “life.” For the composition of this oldest and lowest stratum of the earth's crust shows us that, when it came into being, there could not — at least according to ideas prevailing at the present time — have been on the earth any “life” as it is today. For geology finds itself compelled to assume that the lowest stratum owes its origin to a fire-process within which any possibility of life is unthinkable. Geology, therefore, would take us back in the process of our earth-evolution to olden times when as it were out of a fire-process the oldest rock-formations and minerals originated, while only later the basic foundation of the lowest layer was overlaid by the younger, fossiliferous layers through other events, events which occurred when, through radiating its warmth into cosmic space, the earth had cooled down sufficiently to make life possible. One has to envisage all this as being accompanied by processes of a physical and chemical nature, which cannot be described in detail.
If in this way we look back into those oldest times of our earth when a certain degree of cooling down had already taken place (for geology conceives the earth before the time of the first rock-formation as still in a state of heat), we find our globe, evolving towards the surface, possessed of a basic layer, and we observe how over this basic layer have spread those layers which with their fossilised remains provide living witnesses of the fact that life has existed on the earth for a very long time. When we consider those oldest layers upon which the life-carrying layers are resting, and study their rock-material which consists mainly of what is called granite, 1It must be pointed out that this lecture was given in the year 1911. Granite was formerly classified by geology as belonging to the archetypal rock-formations, as is also indicated in the descriptions given here by Rudolf Steiner. Today, the rocks included in the Archaean System are only old gneiss-formations and other crystalline schist-formations. It is held today that Granite is of eruptive origin and that there are various epochs of granite-formation. [The above statements refer in general to the actual archetypal rock-material, also when granite is spoken of. we envisage our globe in a form which, according to modern geology, still presents itself in a kind of lifeless condition. That is where the upper layers are open, and granite protrudes and forms mountains, so to speak, as a witness of the oldest times of our earth.
When Goethe, who besides being a great poet was also a great student of Nature and of natural philosophy, found this oldest rock-formation of the earth — granite — it was borne in upon him that this granular rock-material is something on which, as on the bone-skeleton of the earth, everything else rests. Intuitively, Goethe experienced this as the echo of a primeval quiescence of our planet — and it was with reverence that he regarded this rock-formation. A man of his calibre was bound to contemplate the occurrences within earth-evolution not merely with his intellect but also with his heart, searching for what these remains can reveal of the earth-being. Profoundly moving and leading more deeply into the secrets than all abstract thinking are the words spoken by Goethe when face to face with this “oldest son of the earth” as he calls the granite:
“... With such sentiments I approach you, you most ancient, most noble monument of the time. Sitting on a high, bare summit with a free view over a wide landscape, I can say to myself: There you are resting directly on ground which reaches down to the very lowest depths of the earth. No newer layer, no accumulations of alluvial deposits have interposed themselves between you and the firm basement of the primeval world; you do not walk, as you do in those fruitful, beautiful valleys, over a perpetual grave; these summits have produced nothing living, have devoured nothing living; they are prior to all life, above all life. – At this moment, as the inner attracting and moving forces of the earth are directly affecting me, as it were, while the influences of the heavens are weaving more closely about me, I become attuned to higher contemplations of nature; and as the human spirit vitalises everything, so too does a secret stir within me, a secret of a sublimity which I cannot resist. Such loveliness, I tell myself as I am looking down from this bare summit and hardly able to see some modestly growing moss far away on the river bank, such loveliness, I say, overcomes the man who wants to open his soul only to the oldest, the first and deepest sense of truth.”
Goethe: Abhandlung über Granit.
That is the mood which came over Goethe when he contemplated this rock-formation, which by its whole nature showed that it could not contain anything living, and consequently could not, like the overlying layers, have engulfed anything living.
Sketchy though it is, what I have been able to illustrate so far shows nevertheless — as if outlined in a rough charcoal drawing — the picture given us by geology today of the course of the evolution of the earth and its living creatures. It was not, however, always so conceived; this way of thinking has developed only very gradually. In the days of Goethe, for instance, when he occupied himself with geology, a certain dispute was raging about the origin of our earth — the dispute between the Plutonists and the Neptunists, as it was called. One of the principal supporters of the latter was the geologist Werner, who was also acquainted with Goethe. He held that, generally speaking, nothing that we are able to observe of the accumulated layers within the earth's crust can be traced back to any kind of action by fire, but that everything we can learn from investigations points to the earth having in effect consolidated out of nothing but a watery element, out of a watery form of the planet, that even the oldest strata are alluvial deposits from water and that, consequently, granite too owes its origin not to the action of seething fire, but to watery deposits — and only in the course of time, through later occurrences, underwent changes which make its watery origin less apparent today. Everything, so to speak, has originated from water — that was the basic conception of the Neptunists and especially of Werner. Contrary to this, the contention of the Plutonists was based on the assumption that the earth, together with the whole planetary system, had emerged out of a gaseous cosmic nebula in a state of high temperature, had detached itself through cooling down, that this process of cooling continued through radiating heat into cosmic apace, and that then the time came when heat-conditions made the formation of granite and perhaps of similar kinds of rock-material possible; but that through the radiation of heat only the surface-crust of the earth was cooled down, while the interior remained in a state of fiery fluid, and that volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are living witnesses that the interior of the earth beneath the crust remains in a fiery-fluid state. The adherents of the Neptunistic school, on the other hand, saw the cause of all volcanic phenomena in processes which, through pressure from within or through chemical conditions in the interior of the. Earth — by no means thought of as fiery — made it possible for mighty catastrophes to take place in the interior and erupt outwards. So that only at this juncture events occur which in their upward trend have the effect of pushing up whole mountain-massifs out of the interior of the earth. — In short, here we see a very interesting dispute being carried on as recently as the first half of the nineteenth century about the conception which, on the one hand, can be briefly put in the words used by Goethe in his “Faust:” “Everything has its origin in water,” as against the other contention that fundamentally all terrestrial formations are the result of fire-processes and that it must be imagined that on the surface of the outer crust — corresponding in its relationship to the interior to that between the egg-shell and the yolk of the egg — events have taken place through which quite a thin layer has remained in a cooled condition, forming, as it were, a covering sheet all round the mighty earth-volcano, which this planet under our feet was conceived to be.
Now we must ask ourselves: What has this external investigation to tell us? And what, with the means elucidated, in the lectures given so far, has spiritual science to reveal about the origin of the earth? (Concerning the present and earlier evolutionary stages of the earth, more detailed information can be found in my book “Occult Science.”) How far, then, does geology lead us? We will now put into plain words what geology can tell us. It is this: —
Look at the layer-formations to be found in the earth's upper crust. The order of their superpositions shows that alluvial deposits have formed — in any case, in most recent times — as a result of which animal beings have been entombed, whose descendants are still on the earth, but also those which have now become extinct and of whose existence as inhabitants of the earth we know only from the excavation of their remains. Then we are led to the lowest layer of the earth's crust; it still belongs to that part which is to the whole planet what the egg-shell is to the yolk of the egg, and shows signs that it might well owe its origin to fire-action. But those with deeper insight — Goethe, for example — are more cautious in their pronouncements — also when they are intent on thinking entirely in terms of geology. And it is interesting to hear what Goethe says about this lower layer:
“... In the innermost bowels of the earth it (this layer) rests, firm and unshaken; its back rises on high, where its summit was never reached by the all-surrounding waters. So much, and so little more, do we know of this rock-material. Composed in a mysterious way of known constituents, it does not entitle us to trace its origin to fire anymore than to water.”
Thus Goethe already points out that in the last resort neither fire-action nor water can be thought responsible for the mysterious formation of this oldest son of our earth — granite. If against the investigations of geology, which anyhow have reached a point from which they cannot lead us any further, we quite simply set down what spiritual science has to say, what clairvoyant investigation has revealed, it presents itself somewhat in the following way.
When with the eyes of Spirit — which can be sharpened by the methods repeatedly indicated in these lectures — we look at the prehistoric times of our planet, we observe what would have presented itself to our physical eyes approximately during the periods covered by geological research. We also see how in this research into the past, geological investigation had to resort to speculative phantasy. And looking backward from those beings which from our human point of view we call perfect today, we come to ever less and less perfect forms of life on the earth with a mixture, at times, of grotesque forms as, for instance, the various Saurian types such as Ichthyosaurus, Plesiosaurus, Dinosaurus, Archaeopteryx. We then find creatures without any vertebrate skeleton, and so, with clairvoyant vision, we do indeed come to a tellurian epoch in which we cannot find such beings as are now living on our earth. We must admit, therefore; that drawing from its own sources, spiritual-scientific research also reveals this gradual advance in degrees of perfection. When we now go back in time and clairvoyant research comes to the period connected by geology with granite, which according to the modern theory coagulated out of the tellurian mass already cooled but still subject to the effects of fire-action, we must ask: What has geology, what has spiritual science, to regard as prerequisites for conditions prevailing in an earlier time?
If in the field of geology we remain on really safe ground (and no student of natural science ought to doubt what I am now saying), geology has only suppositions in regard to what precedes the granite-age; likewise geology can have no more than suppositions about conditions in the interior of the earth. For the bores that have been driven into the earth by drilling-operations reach depths which must be regarded only as tiny pin-pricks. There are suppositions, hypotheses, and nothing else — at best some dim divination about conditions which preceded the weaving and surging processes in granite-formation and so forth.
Now spiritual science — with the specific outlook often characterised here — follows earth-evolution backward into prehistoric times and finds in the domain which eyes can observe ever less and less perfect beings as the forerunners of all forms of life on the earth at the present time. But, tracing evolution backward in this way, spiritual science finds that there is a stupendous difference in the earth's appearance as compared with what it is at present. When we go back to pre-historic times, the earth does not present itself in the very least as we know it today, as the mineral base on which we walk surrounded by air with its fog and cloud-formations and so on. A great number of substances which are now in the interior of the earth were still in the surroundings of the earth in earlier times and settled only by degrees. This must also be admitted by geology. But we find, the further we go back, that our earth appears more and more as an utterly different planetary body, becomes something totally different; as we go further back, what is now the surrounding air does in effect take on the character of a living entity; in the environment of our earth we do not find only such mineralised air and cloud-formations as we have them now, but in the most ancient times we find within all that belongs to our earth something like live members of a great living being. And as we go back in this way we can see ourselves as if we were quite tiny beings today, standing within a human organism: if, standing within it on a firm, bony base, we looked out into outer space, we should there observe the blood-system, the nervous-system and so on, like an outer world. Thus one who stood on the earth in the remote past and looked out into space would not have seen a weaving, mineralised air but intense, pulsating life. And the further we go back the more this would be the case. So that we could go back to the epoch to which we assign granite-formation and reflect: There the earth is essentially a mighty, living body, containing multifarious and varied life within it, not yet inhabited by such living beings as move today on its surface or live in the water, and so on, but having their life within it — like parasites of the entire living earth-organism, swimming as it were in its blood, as today masses of rain float through the air. And then we come to a period of which we must say: It is true that on the earth's surface the heat is so great that life cannot develop; but in the environment life is developing which wants to, but cannot descend. Why is it that it cannot descend? Down in the depths, through the fire-process, under conditions of intense heat — it is there that what the living organism of our earth segregates out of its system as our living organism segregates the hard parts, the bones from the soft parts, is first absorbed. And now we look at the granite-formation and say: Originally the material which the granite contains — quartz, feldspar and mica – is in a state of dissolution within the great living being “Earth.” The 1atter needs for its development the capability to discard these substances: it segregates them and lets them fall to earth. What is below absorbs these segregations, builds up a basic massif, a bone-structure in the living being “Earth.” And when we go still further back we must investigate the causes as to why the whole living earth segregates from its organism the substances which today, as chemical-substances, form our earth and which at the same time are not those which appertain to the animal, plant, or human organism. These chemical substances were at that time segregated in a similar way through the effect of fire or water action, and were then transformed into the bone-structure of the earth.
When we now reflect how it is that there are these substances which were eliminated from the living earth-being and form a solid foundation from which life has departed, and when we search for the causes which could have brought this about — then we come to something which, if spoken of as part of the development of our earth, is still apt to cause wide-spread annoyance today — not indeed among the thinkers in natural science (for they ought to acknowledge it) but especially among those who on the strength of a few preconceived ideas want to build up a world-conception. But a true picture must be given of the facts established by the investigations of spiritual science. They show that these processes — the segregation of the rock-materials — have been preceded, within the living being of the earth, by a process which in terms of anything occurring today can only be described as similar to our own internal-functioning, little known to external science, but already described to some extent in these lectures – as similar to that activity which functions all day in our own body when through work, through mental effort, we exert our muscles or the instrument of our brain — in short, our whole body. What is in operation here is the process we call “fatigue.” It is, in essence, a kind of destructive process of the organism. Therefore we can say: As we live our waking life today from morning till night, through thinking, feeling and willing, processes of destruction are working within us which we then feel us “fatigue.” A world-conception based on natural science would not readily admit that such processes of spirit-and-soul, working into matter as they do, underlie external effects in nature. But they functioned; they were at work in that mighty organism which the earth once was. And when the earth approached the time when granite and similar material segregated, it was laid hold of by all such destructive processes — which were the means whereby forces of spirit-and-soul worked upon matter. Into that organism into which formerly were worked not only the substances appertaining today to the plant, animal and human organisms, but also the substances which today constitute our earth-massif – into this organism flowed the effects of all these destructive processes that were due to the working of forces of spirit-and-soul. These destructive processes were introduced into the life of the great being “Earth” by forces which then brought about the ejection.- through a process of segregation, as it were — of those chemical substances which today are incorporated in the make-up of our earth, and which are not to be found in organic bodies.
Thus spiritual science leads us back to the earth as an organism — not to a primeval state in which the earth was, so to speak, dead matter; on the contrary, the earth was originally a mighty organism. From the point of view of spiritual science one must practically reverse the way of asking a question that is put quite wrongly today. No science which assumes that the earth was once a dead globe in which only chemical and physical processes were active will be able to explain how life could arise out of this dead globe. This is a highly controversial question; but as a rule it is put quite wrongly. For generally people ask: How could “life” have developed out of the lifeless? — But that is not how it is: the living is not preceded by the lifeless, but them reverse is the case; the lifeless is preceded by the living. The lifeless mineral is a product of segregation, as our bones are segregations of our organism. Similarly, all rock-material is a product of segregation in the earth-organism, and processes of spirit-and-soul forces — processes of destruction in the first place — are the means of producing such segregations in the organism of the earth. And were we to go further back we should see how this path would lead us much further still. We are led by what operates in the mineral domain to the earth as an organism, and indeed we already see, as we go still further back, that we are being led not only to an organism, but to a formation of our planet that is permeated with the working of forces of spirit-and-soul. No longer do we trace life back to the lifeless, but we trace the lifeless back to processes of segregation from the living, and we regard the living as a state emanating from the sphere of the spirit and of the soul. And the further we go back, the nearer we come to that sphere in which lies the real origin of the present minerals, the plant-forms and so on: we approach the Spiritual and we let spiritual science tell us that it was not merely out of a lifeless, fiery nebula that there came into existence all that we perceive in the manifold forms of earthly phenomena, but that all this has taken shape out of the Spiritual, that originally our earth was pure Spirit, and that the course of evolution was such that on the one side emerged those forms which tend more towards the mineral element, and that on the other side the possibility arose for certain new forms to develop, capable of responding to spiritual functions of a new order. For if we now proceed in the opposite direction and say: In the old rock-material we have something which segregated out of the original organism of the earth, and if we then go on to our present age, this segregation is going on all the time. Granite is merely the oldest segregation; but the processes which bring about the segregation will be ever less and less living processes; for more and more they will tend to be mere chemical, mere mechanical processes; so that at last, in our time, we still have only those effects due to water-action, which can be observed when, for instance, a river carries rock-material from one place to another. But what we perceive there as the result of mechanical-chemical processes is only the final product; this has turned into the minerals in accordance with the laws of nature; it is a state resulting from what was originally at work in the realm of the life-forces.
And so we see how actually in the course of the development of our earth something takes place in connection with the formation of the ground beneath us, which we find in a similar way in the individual human or animal organism. There we see, how a man lives to a certain age, how he then passes through the gate of death, leaving his body as a corpse, and we see the continuation of those processes which are purely mineral processes; during the body's lifetime, however, these chemical and physical processes were an integral part of those working through the forces of spirit-and-soul. Similarly we come back to a time of earth-existence when the processes which today are of a chemical and mechanical nature were caught up and perpetuated by organic — yes, by spiritual and soul-processes. But what is taking place on the ground formation of our earth is, so to speak, only the one stream, left from earlier — to begin with more living, organic processes — and then spiritual processes. This foundation had to come into existence, had to form itself, so that on its firm ground, life of a different order could function – that life which gradually became our life, in order that as time went on such cerebral instruments could develop in living beings which enabled them to become “inwardly” aware of the spirit, inwardly able to form thoughts and produce feelings which, as it were, repeat the outer processes in reflective and emotional awareness. Therefore the whole mass of our earth's substance had to be “sifted,” the present purely mineral substances had to be discarded — and those retained which today can form the organisms which are permeated by a part only of the substance of the old massif. These are the parts which only now can form themselves, for example, into what man is today. The spirit which lives in the human head, in the human heart, that is to say in a being whose organisation is as it were, more refined than that of the planetary being of the earth as a whole, this spirit could only originate in a being from which were eliminated those substances which today do not belong to organic 1ife. This “sifting” of the whole mass of our earth's substance had taken place, and the one part was given over as a foundation to the purely mineral life in order that on it can develop a new life, which we see entering its lowest form at the moment which in later times geology has marked as that of the emergence of the most primitive beings in Cambrian form.
When, with the outlook of spiritual science, we thus observe life as it is today, we shall have to say: This life was originally in the outer atmosphere encircling the earth; then it descended as it were, but could not set foot on the surface of the earth until after it had sent down in advance all that it needed of mass-substance — as a basis on which to function. The process of decomposition, caused by processes in the domain of the spirit-and-soul forces, introduces two currents which have since been in operation: an ascending current, which unfolded a life of a finer, higher order – this needed only a part of the mass-substances — and another current which continued the process of decomposition and provides a foundation for the finer organisms, which then culminate in the human being. The development of these finer organisms is in the ascendancy. Why? Because (and again this would not be admitted today) through having segregated the coarsest material as in a mighty process of elimination, which then became the surface of the earth, they were in a position to isolate themselves more or less from the earth and its inner processes — and are now open to cosmic influences streaming towards the earth from outside. They are now exposed to the more spiritual effects of the cosmos and it is to this that they owe the ascent from primitive forms of life to that of man.
Looking thus at the development of the earth, we regard the firm ground on which we walk – irrespective of the various processes — in such a way that we say to ourselves: On it we stand; it contains — in the granite and in the superimposed deposits — that which the kingdoms of the living beings could not use except as material ejected to form the ground on which to walk. And what exists as its continuation is a process of destruction and decomposition. That should logically lead to the following reflection – When the modern geologist gives us his explanation of the earth's crust with its valleys and mountains built up in successive layers, this would appear to be something like a decaying corpse, in which an old process of destruction and decomposition continues to work. From the standpoint of spiritual science, we move about on a ground in process of destruction which had to come about in order to give us the firm, solid ground we need when we consider the blossoming forces which point to the future and move in the opposite direction to those we encounter in the body of the earth; for these future-building forces are something which, independent of the solid ground of the earth penetrates into human souls, into human spirits, perhaps also into those beings which are outside the human element, and are only beginning their ascent on the foundation of the solid earth. In the latter itself we should, however, have something in a state of decomposition. From the point of view of spiritual science our earth would appear as a progressively disintegrating dead body, and the geological laws would at the same time be those governing the decomposition of the earth-corpse. And man on earth would be a being who lifts himself out of the dead earth body, just as the human soul, passing through the gate of death, rises from the corpse and abandons it to those forces which bring about its decomposition and destruction.
This may seem to be a gloomy picture. But it can only be so if one despairs of the spirit, regards the spirit as merely bound to matter, and believes that together with man's desertion of the living body of the earth, his end has come. But if we look at things as presented by a sound observation of nature, we shall say: In some way it must obviously come about that not only the individual human being but the whole of humanity gradually throws off the earth-body in order to be able to rise step by step to other realms of development. And so, from the standpoint of spiritual science, the mid-period of earth-evolution had already been passed ever since the time when “the oldest son of the earth” was segregated, and the beings which are beginnings in preparation for the future will unfold further on the foundation thus laid down.
What does modern geology say to this conception of spiritual science?
When dealing with words, theories, hypotheses, world-conceptions so light-heartedly and readily advanced by currents of thought on factional lines and the like, it is easy enough to demonstrate that spiritual science in itself is a contradiction of the way of thinking prevailing in natural science. But if spiritual science, which works as conscientiously and, methodically as any other science, is considered in relation to natural science, it is obviously necessary to pay attention to what natural science really has to say and, particularly in reference to what has been brought forward today, to raise the question: What has geology to say concerning the origin of the earth? — Nowadays, things of a very secondary nature are often presented to the general public in popular scientific publications and in the form of popular views of the world; and then it is said: “Science” has established this end that. If this is compared with what those half-crazy spiritual investigators say, it will strike a good many people as something which cannot be taken at all seriously. — For that is what will be said by many people who perhaps do not know much more about spiritual science than what has come to them indirectly through remote sources. But clearly there is need to turn to what real science and real spiritual science have to say. For spiritual science must not be regarded as being on a par with popular world-conceptions which are only seemingly derived from “science;” spiritua1 science must be examined with the sternness which should be applied to every true science and which its genuine investigators will always demand.
And now we come to somethin6 which I cannot describe to you better than by drawing your attention to a work by one of the most eminent geologists of our time, and which a well-known contemporary geologist has called “the geological epic of the nineteenth century,” namely “The Face of the Earth” by Eduard Suess. It can truly be said that this work, on which Suess has been engaged not merely for years but for decades, gives a comprehensive survey — compiled with the greatest care imaginable — of the investigations which geology, this youngest branch of natural science, has carried out in the course of a few decades. And what does this book show us?
Suess is a man who said: Let us for once set aside all the prejudices of the Neptunists, of the Plutonists, and all the theories amassed by the geologists of the nineteenth century; do not let us speculate, but let us observe the physiognomy, the picture presented by the earth's surface. Starting from a mental attitude based, it is true; on sense-perception but pure and unclouded by any theory or hypotheses. Eduard Suess arrived at results which differed from those that had been current for many decades. He came to the conclusion that the mountains which tower over us as seemingly mighty massifs, can after all only be likened to wrinkles on the peel of an apple, and can be explained in no other way than by assuming that certain forces of a purely physical-chemical nature are at work in the body of the earth-planet, as the result of which the unevenness, the valleys and mountains, the various layers and so on, have been formed; so that generally speaking, the distribution of water and land, the formation of continents and so forth, can be explained as the result of folds being formed, of certain forces piling up earth-massifs and thus forcing some particular masses of rock up into towering mountains. Other forces again have brought about the collapse of what has been piled on high; and in that way oceans are formed. In short, to such collapses, up-pilings, foldings and the like, he ascribes, for instance, the formation of the Alps. In an ingenious way we are thus shown that the face of the earth has emerged as the result of such aggregations, subsidences, foldings and so on. The formation of oceans and continents is explained asbeing brought about through certain subsidences causing the waters to be drained off in one direction, so that what had formerly been covered by sea becomes dry land. We are therefore concerned here with an earth-surface subject to processes due to a shaking up of earth-masses through mechanical forces, and to subsidences. And in trying to obtain a general picture of what is happening on the ground on which we walk, Suess arrives at an odd conclusion: that fundamentally the whole process that is taking place on the earth's surface is one of destruction, and that the ground where today we plough the fields and which yields to us the fruits of the earth, only came into existence through the occurrence elsewhere of foldings, subsidences — in short, through processes of destruction. I need quote only a short passage from this most important work of present-day geology and you wil1 see where Eduard Suess's purely sense-perceptive method of research has led this most conscientious natural scientist:
“... The collapse of the globe is what we are witnessing. True, it had already begun a very long time ago, and so the brevity of the span of human life lets us be of good cheer. Not only are there traces of it in the high mountain ranges. Great blocks of earth have sunk hundreds, yes, in certain cases, many thousands of feet, and not the slightest sign of graded subsidences on the surface, but only the differences in the kinds of rock or deep mining betray the existence of a fracture. Time has levelled everything. In Bohemia, in the Palatinate, in Belgium, in Pennsylvania, in numerous places, the plough draws its furrows above the mightiest fractures.”
(Eduard Suess, Das Antlitz der Erde, Vol. 1, page 778.)
Here we have the results of conscientious scientific research concerning the ground on which we walk. And now think of what spiritual science has to say about the inauguration of this process through a process of destruction proceeding from forces of spirit-and-soul, a process which on the one side has its continuation in the physical-mechanical process of destruction taking place on the earth's surface, and which careful research impels geology to admit. So it is in all fields. When you take the results of real research and go by facts, you will always find: here stands spiritual science with all it has to say out of clairvoyant research, and there, provided only that it is free from monastic, materialistic or other prejudices, natural science stands firmly on the pure and sound basis of facts; and everywhere, as you will see, spiritual science links up with natural science in such a way that the latter on the pure basis of facts provides ample proof of what spiritual science as such has to offer. Never are there any grounds for contradictions between spiritual science and true natural science. Contradictions arise only between a sound spiritual science which deals with realities, and the theories of phantasts and of those who, while they claim to be standing on the firm ground of science, at once lose their foothold when their theories do not concur with what the facts proclaim, and adhere to what they themselves would like to say about the facts. Spiritual science lets the spiritual facts speak for themselves and tell what they have to reveal of the cosmic mysteries; natural science speaks of what it has established by its own methods: the two are in full concord. If you ignore those popular works which declare this or that to be a “scientific fact” and go to the sources, then you will find, especially in the field of geology, that the geologists everywhere get to a certain point — and then put a question-mark. Arriving at those question-marks, one can take them as a starting-point for spiritual research. Then spiritual science tells us: if it is true what clairvoyance reveals, the external factual material must appear in this or that form. — In the case of geology it was this: if what spiritual science has to describe is right, then, with the present process of decomposition continuing, our globe must now be in a state of collapse. Geology, adhering to facts, has shown that according to the laws it is so! The findings of true natural science everywhere are in line with the results of spiritual scientific investigation.
When we consider the whole spirit and meaning of this exposition, we shall in no wise be taken aback by the thought that we are walking on ground which is a dead body in process of disintegration. For we realise that on this ground something has developed which again contains seeds for the future. The lectures to follow will show more and more clearly that just as man looks to his spirit, so the spiritual, which once created for its own purpose the ground on which we set our feet, is advancing towards future epochs when it will be revealed on ever and ever higher planes. And when such a man as the geologist Suess — because in his intercourse with nature he enters into all that is beautifu1, even in the destructive processes — expresses his admiration for the wonders of the Face of the Earth, he clothes it in his monumental work in these memorable words:
“In the face of these open questions we rejoice in the sunshine, in the starry firmament and in all the manifold features on the face of our earth, which has been created by these very processes — recognising at the same time the extent to which life is governed by the character and destiny of the planet.”
If even a geologist, rising above all pessimism, experiences such a moment in his soul, how much more does the spiritual investigator who knows the truth of the words of Goethe: “Nature has invented death in order to have abundant life,” and who also knows through perceptive cognition that it is true to say, “Nature has invented death in order to have ever higher and ever more spiritual life;” how much more must the spiritual investigator, knowing this, say: Although we have to regard that which has produced out of itself a higher life as a corpse in process of destruction, nevertheless in all that moves on this ground we see, lighting up seeds of what can quicken hope and assurance in our hearts and tells us: We walk on the ground which a primeval world has given us, and which, through a process of disintegration, or destruction, has let the ground under our feet become what it is. We walk on this ground, divining – as in the spirit we rise to heavenly heights — that in the course of future development we shall have to leave this ground at the right time, in order that we may be received into the fold of the spiritual world with which, if we have the right understanding, our inmost being feels so firmly united.