Observing the animal form – Reading 5


“Think of the animal. There is something about an animal that is reminiscent of the human form — but reminiscent only to a limited extent. How is this? It is because the animal cannot be an after-copy of the planetary form that is inscribed in the ether. Man alone can become an after-copy of this form, because he follows the direction of that line which, as I told you, focuses for him the planetary form. If the human being were to remain a little child who never learns to walk but always crawls, if he were destined to this — which of course he is not — then he could not become an earthly image of the planetary forms. He must, however, become an image of them, he must grow up into the planetary forms. This the animal cannot do. The animal can only unfold its life in accordance with the movements of the planets; it can copy only their movements. You can see this revealed in every single part of the animal’s body. Take the skeleton of a mammal. You have the bones of the spine with their typical vertebra form. These are a faithful copy of the planetary movements. However many vertebrae a snake has, for example, every single one is an earthly copy of planetary movements. The Moon, as the planet nearest to the Earth, exercises a particularly strong influence upon one part of the animal: the skeleton develops, forming the different limbs; then it is all drawn together, as it were, in the vertebra form. After the Moon come the other planets, Venus and Mercury, moving in spiral forms. Then comes the Sun. The Sun influence tends, as it were, to finish off and complete the structure of the skeleton. We can even indicate a definite point in the spine where the Sun is working. It is where the spine begins to show a tendency to change into head-structure. In the head-structure we have the spinal vertebrae transformed. At the point where the bones of the spine rise up, become “puffed out” as it were — this is how Goethe and Gegenbaur describe it — to become head-bones, there work Saturn and Jupiter. When, therefore, we follow the direction of the skeleton from behind forwards, we must pass from Moon right through to Saturn if we are to understand the bony structure of the animal. We cannot relate the form of an animal to the ether form of the planets; we must go to the movements of the planets if we are to understand it. That which is worked by the human being into his glandular system is, in the case of the animal, worked into its whole form and structure. Of the animal, then, we have to say: It is not possible for the animal to arrange and order its being in accordance with the form or figure radiated by the planets. The animal can copy only the movements of the planets.

In ancient times men visualised this movement of the planetary bodies by saying: The paths of the planets go through the Zodiacal constellations. The Ancients knew how to describe the courses of Saturn and the other planets as each takes its way through the constellations of the Zodiac. From their knowledge of the animal, they understood the connection between the forms of animals and the Zodiac, — which is rightly called “Zodiac” (animal circle). The essential point for us is that the animal does not copy the forms inscribed in the ether by the planets; it is man alone who does this. Man can do it because his organism is adapted to take the upright posture. Therefore does the planetary form become in him an archetype, whereas what we find in the animal is only an imitation of the planetary movements.”

R. Steiner, Supersensible Man, Lecture 1, 13 November 1923, CW231