The Cow as an Animal of Digestion – Reading 1


“In other connections I have often spoken of how enchanting it is to contemplate a herd of cattle, replete and satisfied, lying down in a meadow; to observe this process of digestion which here again is expressed in the position of the body, in the expression of the eyes, in every movement. Take an opportunity of observing a cow lying in the meadow, if from here or there some kind of noise disturbs her. It is really wonderful to see how the cow raises her head, how in this lifting there lies the feeling that it is all heaviness, that it is not easy for the cow to lift the head, as though something very special were within it. When we see a cow in the meadow disturbed in this way, we cannot but say to ourselves: This cow is astonished that she must lift her head for anything but grazing. Why do I lift my head now? I am not grazing, and there is no point in lifting my head unless it is to graze. Only look at the way she does it! All this is to be seen in the way the cow lifts her head. But it is not only in the movement of the lifting of the head. (You cannot imagine the lion lifting his head as the cow does.) It lies also in the form of the head. And if we further observe the animal’s whole form, we see it is in fact what I may call an extended digestive system! The weight of the digestion burdens the blood-circulation to such a degree that it overwhelms everything to do with head and breathing. The animal is all digestion. It is infinitely wonderful, when looked at spiritually, to turn one’s gaze upwards to the bird, and then to look downwards upon the cow.

…On the other hand, if I reverse the process, and allow what belongs to the astrality of a bird to sink down, thereby bringing about the transformation into the etheric and physical, the eagle would become a cow, because what is astral in the eagle is incorporated into the flesh, into the bodily nature of the cow as she lies on the ground engaged in digestion; for it belongs to this digestive process in the cow to develop a wonderful astrality. The cow becomes beautiful in the process of digestion. Seen astrally, something immensely beautiful lies in this digestion. And when it is said by ordinary philistine concepts, indeed by philistine idealism, that the process of digestion is the most lowly, this must be indicated as untruth, when, from a higher vantage-point, one gazes with spiritual sight at this digestive process in the cow. For this is beautiful, this is grand, this is something of an immense spirituality.

The lion does not attain to this spirituality, much less the bird. In the bird the digestive process is something almost entirely physical. One does of course find the etheric body in the digestive system of the bird, but in its digestive processes one finds very little, indeed almost nothing, of astrality. On the other hand, something is present in the digestive processes of the cow which, seen astrally, is quite stupendous, an entire world.
…Man is a “Little World”. He is indeed a Little World, and the Great World is within him; and all the creatures which live above in the air, and the animals on the face of the earth whose special element is the air which circulates around them, and the animals which have their special element below the surface of the earth, as it were, in the forces of weight — all these work together in man as a harmonious whole. So that man is in truth the synthesis of eagle, lion, and ox or cow.”

R. Steiner, Man as Symphony of the Creative Word, Lecture 1, 19 October 1923, CW230