Light and Weight – Reading 3


“I would like to begin today by showing you the process of plant development as such in its cosmic context. I have already drawn your attention to the fact that the inverse of this process is active in the human being on a functional level. This process of plant development needs to be described, at least sketchily, if we are to discover the plant world’s direct connection to the human being. If you look at plants, you will find their overall developmental process incorporates two distinctly opposite tendencies. One works toward the Earth. I pointed out yesterday that the Earth is, mounded up, as it were, in the trunks and stems of woody plants, so that a tree’s flowers and leaves are rooted in the trunk in the same way that a merely herbaceous plants or still lower plants are rooted in the ground.

This points to the plant’s Earth-directed tendency on the one hand. But on the other hand the plant strives upward, away from the Earth. It does so not only through a mechanical force that counteracts Earth’s gravity but also in all its developmental processes, even the internal ones. The processes taking place in the flower become differentiated from those taking place in the root. Flower processes become much more dependent than root processes on forces coming from outside the Earth. The dependence of the flower formation on forces that do not truly belong to the Earth is the first thing we must look at. Because of the reversal of the plant process in the human being at a functional level, a reversal I pointed to in earlier lectures, we will find that the forces used by the plant to initiate flower and seed formation are also present in the human abdomen in the elimination, secretion, and the organic basis of sexuality. Therefore, when we find this connection between the human being and the plant, even the details point to both extratelluric and earthy processes in the plant.

I must not omit to make you aware of the fact that what I am presenting here has not been taken from ancient medical works but is based on present-day spiritual scientific research. Some of my terminology, however, harkens back to this ancient literature because modern medical literature has not yet developed a terminology of its own in this field. But you would be mistaken if you were to believe that anything presented here is derived exclusively from ancient writings.

If you follow the process of plant growth as it moves upward, away from the earthly element, the first thing to become aware of is the spiral path of development of both leaves and flowers. The plant’s formative forces trace a spiral of sorts around the stem. This spiral path cannot be deduced from inner forces of tension within the plant but must be attributed to extratelluric influences and especially to the effects of the apparent path of the Sun. I say “apparent” advisedly, because the Earth’s motion in relationship to the Sun must be considered only relative, hence I say, “the apparent path of the Sun.” In certain respects, the clues to the movement of the stars that are found in the path of a plant’s developmental processes are much better than Galileo’s mathematical clues, because the plant is a faithful replica of what the stars are doing.

We would go completely astray, however, if we believed that the only developmental path that is active in the plant is the Sun-dependent one that moves upward from the Earth. In fact, the workings of the stars are combined with the movements of our planetary system that are brought about by the Sun. The Sun forces would take possession of plants completely and make them continue into infinity if it, in turn, were not counteracted by the forces of the so-called outer planets and their spirals. In actuality, the planets move in spirals rather than ellipses. By now, the entire Copernican view of the universe should be re-examined and replaced with another one. We must count Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn as belonging to the so-called outer planets. Uranus and Neptune belong to our solar system only from a purely astronomical point of view; they are actually entered the solar system as foreign bodies and were received as “guests,” so we are right to disregard them. In any case, the forces of the outer planets cause the upward-directed force to retreat. They bring about the development of flowers and fruit by restraining what would otherwise be expressed only in the spiral of leaves. If you study the plant growth above the leaves, you must attribute its origin to the forces that come about as the result of the Sun working together with Mars. Jupiter and Saturn.

Not only do these two elements work together, however, but they are also counteracted by what comes from the Moon, in particular, and also from the so-called inner planets, Mercury and Venus. Mercury, Venus and Moon engender the downward, Earth-directed tendency in the plant; their most characteristic expression lies in the development of roots. Everything that appears earthly is actually simultaneously influenced by the Moon and the inner planets. You might say that the plant is an expression of our entire solar system. Until we know how this solar system manifests in plants on the one hand and in human beings on the other, we cannot truly grasp the connection between the plant world and the human organism.

All you need to do is look at the fact that when you burn plants that tend to be rooty – that is, plants that are less involved in the process of flower and seed formation than those that tend toward flower formation – or the roots of any plant, the ash has many more constituents than it does when you burn flowers, mistletoe, or woody plants. This difference is simply due to the fact that the forces of the inner planets, the forces of Moon, Mercury, and Venus, have more effect on plants that tend strongly toward root formation. In their ashes, you will find iron, manganese, silica – in short, constituents that are direct remedies and function as such whenever anything derived from these plants is administered. In contrast, you find fewer constituents in the ash that results from burning the opposite type of plants. What is thus expressed in the combustion process is first and foremost a real outer documentation of the fact that a plant belongs not only to what can be found on Earth but also to the entire cosmos.

Look at the process of plant growth more thoroughly. If we are dealing with annual plants, the process breaks off at a certain season and draws to a close in seed formation. Thus we must attribute seed formation primarily to supra-earthly factors. The process is broken off, handed over to the earthly element; something that achieved a certain higher level in the old year must continue at a lower level in the new year. You can see a peculiar process in the totality of plant growth. Imagine that this is the Earth’ surface, and here you have the entire plant growing out of the Earth toward the supra-earthly influences. What is shaped by these influences is returned to the Earth and the cycle begins again. If you consider plant growth as a totality, each year the heavenly forces sink down into the Earth to unite with the Earth’s forces and repeat the cycle. Each year, the heavenly forces submerge the flowering, fruiting element into the root element to bring about the cycles to which all plant growth is subject.

This picture points out that what when we consider the Earth’s flora, we are actually concerned with the interaction between the Earth as a whole and factors beyond the Earth. This interaction extends not only to plant structure but also to a plant’s internal chemical activity and its entire system of organs. Just as earthly mechanics are overcome in the human form, extratelluric factors also overcome the earthly chemical activity of the pant. But once it has been overcome to a certain extent, it must be reincorporated into the earthly element to produce earthly chemical activity. At this point, you are not far from the realisation that earthly chemical activity is outwardly evident in ash and everything ash stands for; that is, earthly chemical activity can be expressed by what falls out of the living. Non-living substances, however, are subject to gravity, while the upward growth of the plant constantly overcomes gravity and other earth-bound forces, so we can speak of gravity and light as polar opposites. Light is what constantly overcomes gravity. And in a certain way, the plant is enmeshed in this struggle between heaviness and light, between what longs to become ash and what longs to become fire. Here we are pointed toward the polar opposites of ash formation and what manifests in fire, to the contrast between the ponderable and the imponderable. Here we have the plant in its cosmic context.”

R. Steiner, Introducing Anthroposophical Medicine, Lecture 6, 26 March 1920, CW312