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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Nine Lectures on Bees
GA 351


10 November 1923, Dornach

Extract from a Lecture given by Dr. Steiner at Dornach,
November 10, 1923.

... THERE is something that exists in Nature which is like a head without a bony skull; something in which the same forces work from outside that work within the head.

Now a bee-hive is similar to a head which is open on all sides. What the bees do is really the same, only in the outer world, as the head carries out in man's inner organisation, only in the hive it is not cut off and separated, but operates, and is brought about from without. Thus we have in the bee-hive under external spiritual influences, the same that in the head is under inner spiritual influences.

In the hive we have also honey, and when as grown-up human beings we take it and eat it, the honey supplies us with what we need in the way of formative forces, from outside. It is the same force which milk supplies for the head during babyhood. So long as we are little children we strengthen these formative forces in the head when we take milk. At a later age we also need formative forces, and we must therefore eat honey. We do not need to take a large quantity, it is merely a question of absorbing the forces within the honey.

Extract from a Lecture given at Dornach, December 30, 1923.

WE can actually find certain places in Nature where the physical forces of the earth enter into the midst of the etheric forces that stream in from all sides. You may imagine albumen, for instance, as a substance present in the physical earth. So long as sulphur, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen are in any way chemically recognisable in it, the albumen is in fact subject to the earthly forces. But the moment it enters the sphere of the reproductive process, it is lifted out of the physical forces. The forces of the circumference of the universe begin to work upon it in its disorganised condition. A new albumen comes into being as an image of the whole universe.

But you see, sometimes the following situation arises. The dis-organisation, the breaking down of the albumen cannot go far enough. You may have albuminous substance of this kind in connection with some animal, for example. For reproduction to take place, it must be possible for it to be broken down completely, so that it may submit itself to the forces of the whole Cosmos. But the animal is somehow prevented from delivering over, for purposes of reproduction, such albuminous substance as would be able straightforwardly to submit itself to the whole macrocosm. To be capable of reproduction, albuminous substance must in fact, submit itself to the whole macrocosm. But the animal is in this case, somehow unable to form albuminous substance capable of reproduction without further assistance. This is the case with the gall-wasp. What then does the gall-wasp do? It lays its egg in some part of a plant. Again and again you may find these galls, in oaks, or in other trees where the gall-wasp or fly lays her eggs. In a leaf, for example, you see these remarkable formations. Within each one is the egg of a gall-wasp. Why is the egg of the gall-fly laid in an oak-leaf so that the oak-apple arises in which the egg is enclosed, and now capable of development? Could it not have developed freely? It is for this reason. The plant-leaf contains within it an etheric body adapted to the whole cosmic ether, which now comes to the aid of the egg of the gall-wasp. By itself, the egg is helpless. Thus the gall-wasp deposits it in a portion of the plant, which already contains an etheric body related to the whole system of the cosmic ether. The gall-wasp comes to the oak in order to bring about a complete breaking down of its albumen, so that the world periphery may be able to work via the oak-leaf, via the oak. The egg of the gall-wasp alone would be doomed to destruction, for it cannot be broken down, it is held together far too strongly.

Here indeed, we gain an insight into the strange workings of Nature, a working present in other places also. Assume for example, that the animal is not only unable to provide a germ substanceable to expose itself to the cosmic ether, but is also not even able to transform any substances within it into inner means of nourishment, that is, to use them for its own inner nourishment. The example of the bees lies near at hand. The bee cannot eat anything and everything; it can only eat what the plant has already prepared for it; and here is the strangest fact of all. The bee goes to the plant, seeks out the nectar, absorbs it, assimilates it within, and then builds up the wonderful cell structure of the honey-comb which we so greatly admire. Here we can observe two of the strangest and most wonderful processes; the bee sitting on the flower and sucking in its juices, and then having returned to the hive, building up from within itself, in connection with the other worker-bees, the cells of wax that they may fill them with honey.

What is actually taking place? You must carefully observe the shape of these cells. They are similar in form to something else we find in Nature, though here the hollowed space is filled up; they are formed like quartz crystals, like the crystals of silicic acid. If you go into the mountains and examine the quartz crystals you will find that you can draw them in the same form, but the cells the bees make are of wax, and the quartz crystals are of silicic acid.

When we follow this up further, we find that long ages ago, at a certain definite point in the evolution of the earth, these quartz crystals were first formed in the mountains. They were formed under the prevailing etheric and astral forces, with the aid of silicic acid. There you have the forces that come from the circumference, working as etheric and astral forces, and forming the quartz crystals in the siliceous substance. Everywhere in the mountains you can find these crystals with their wonderful hexagonal forms. What you find in the solid crystals, you find again as hollow forms, as hollowed spaces, in the waxen cells in the bee-hive.

The bee takes up from the flower that which once upon a time brought the quartz crystal into being. The bee takes it from the flower, and from the substance of her own body makes an image of the quartz crystal. A process takes place between bee and flower that is similar to what took place in past ages in the Cosmos. I tell you these things that you may understand how necessary it is not merely to be aware of the presence of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen, of which all analysis is pitiably abstract, but to take into account the marvellous formative processes, the intimate inner conditions that prevail in Nature and her processes.


1. At the conclusion of one of the foregoing lectures, (December 10, 1923) a question was asked about the disease of “foul-brood.” Dr. Steiner replied that as he had not yet studied this disease he could not make a definite statement. It might possibly be the result of a deficiency in the balance of the uric acid in the Queen bee. He said further: “The bee has also uric acid in its organism, and the cause of the disease will be found to be a wrong relationship in the uric acid.”

2. In answer to a question as to the development of the bees from wasps, referred to in the same lecture, Dr. Steiner said: “This development occurred during the ancient Atlantean civilisation, when the individual animal forms were not so firmly established as today, when there were no such clearly defined boundaries between the different species. Today, such a thing would no longer be possible.”