Clairsentience – Smell and Taste – Reading 1


“Walk through an avenue of lime trees in bloom, and try to visualise what happens as you pass between the trees, enveloped in the scent of the lime blossoms. Realise that something is taking place between this fragrance of the limes in flower and, so to speak, the nerve ramifications in your olfactory organs. Turning your conscious thought to this process of perception, you become aware of a certain opening-out or release of the capacity for smelling, which meets the scent of the lime blossom. And you conclude that a process takes place through which an internal sphere in yourself opens to meet something outside, and that the two combine in some way to produce something by virtue of their inner kinship. So you must say that what is diffused in the air as scent from the lime trees — arising without a doubt from an interplay between the flowers and the whole extra-terrestrial environment as they open out towards it — is inwardly felt by you through your sense of smell. There you undoubtedly have something that passes from the etheric body to the astral, for otherwise you could not perceive it, and there would only be the mere process of life. The perception of smell itself proclaims the participation of the astral body. And that which reveals the kinship with the external world, simultaneously shows that the production of the sweet fragrance of the lime blossoms is the polar process to that taking place in your olfactory organs. The fragrance flowing from the blossoms shows the interaction of the plant-etheric with the astral element that embraces it and fills the surrounding universe. So in our sense of smell, we have a process that enables us to take part in the relationship between the plant-life of the earth and the astral element outside the earth.

Now take the sense of taste, and, as an example, something not unlike the scent of the lime blossom, though appealing to another sense, say the flavour of liquorice or of sweet ripe grapes. Here we have to do with a process in our taste organ in contrast to that of smell. You know how closely related they are; and you will also realise the resemblance between what happens functionally in the two cases. But you must, at the same time, understand that tasting is a much more organic and internal process than smell. Smelling is far more a surface activity; a participation in extra-human processes widely diffused in space. But that is not so with taste. Taste reveals certain properties inherent in the substances themselves, and therefore closely interwoven with matter. You can learn more of the internal quality of plants by taste than by smell. Call some intuition to your aid and it will help you to know that all connected with the solidification of matter in plants, and all that is revealed in the organic processes of solidification, is disclosed if we taste the contents of the plant. The essential nature of the plant defends itself against solidification and this is manifested in the tendency of the plants to be fragrant. So you really cannot doubt that taste is a process associated with the relationships of the etheric and the physical.

Now compare smell and taste. As you react to the plant-world through both these senses, you experience the twofold relationship which the etheric has to the astral on one side and to the physical on the other. You literally enter the etheric, or its expression, if you study these two processes of taste and smell. Where they occur in man, there is a physical revelation of the etheric in its dual relationship to the physical and the astral.”

R. Steiner, Spiritual Science and Medicine, Lecture 8, 28 March 1923, CW312