Life and Form – Reading 1


“How does life change over into form? Through coming up against resistance, through not manifesting all at once in one particular shape. Take note, for instance, how life in a plant – let us say a lily – speeds on from form to form. The life in the lily has fashioned, has elaborated, the form of the lily.

When this form has been created, life overcomes it and passes over into the seed to be reborn as the same life in a fresh form. And so life strides onward from form to form. Life itself is formless and could never perceptibly manifest its vital forces. The life of the lily, for instance, exists in the first lily and progresses to the second, third, fourth and so on. Everywhere there is the same life which appears in a limited form, spreading and interweaving. The fact that it appears in a limited form is a restriction imposed upon this universal flowing life. There would be no form if life were not restricted, if it were not arrested in its flowing force which radiates in all directions. It is just what remains behind, which, from a higher stage, appears like a fetter; it is just out of this that form evolves in the great cosmos.

What comprises life is always set in the framework of a form which was life in an earlier time.”

R. Steiner, The Temple Legend and the Golden Legend, Lecture 6, 11 November 1904, CW93


“When a crystal is smashed it is its form alone that is destroyed. This can, however, be reconstructed somewhere else, independently of the form that was destroyed. When a salt crystal comes into existence in nature it need not necessarily do so out of another crystal. It can only arise from the substance of salt and disappear again as form. That is the characteristic of formless substance. In the case of the plant, the form cannot come into existence in the same way, out of substance, out of the formless. The plant — this is its essential characteristic — must develop out of a parental plant. The form must pass over from progenitor to offspring in the case of the souls of the beings in the realm of form; procreation takes place as the result of transmission of the form. The form alone, nothing else, is contained in the seed.

It is a superficial belief of science that there is no great difference between plant seed and animal egg. In the animal egg, form and life are transmitted from progenitor to off-spring: Life is transmitted. In the seed of the lily nothing except the form is preserved and it is transmitted to the new lily. What happens in the mineral is that the forces that, so to speak, implant the form arise in the higher realm of Devachan. In the case of the crystal, the formlessness shoots as it were into the form confronting the eye. We must, therefore, say that the whole planet upon which plant life unfolds is surrounded by collective life containing the impulse that enables the life of the plant to arise from it, and from the plant seed only the form. From the life of the old lily nothing passes over to the flower bed or flower pot in which the seed is lying. That the new lily is imbued with life is due to the fact that the seed has been received into the universal life of our earth.”

R. Steiner, Rosicrucian Esotericism, Lecture 2, 4 June 1909, CW109