Plant between Animal and Mineral Natures – Reading 2


“The Druid, then, lived with his Sun-Initiation within this activity of Nature, and he say as the unity I have described the sun and moon mediated through the activity of the Earth, the growth of the plant, the growth of root, leaf and flower; and all this not in the form of abstract laws as today, but of living elemental beings. Different elemental beings of sun and moon were active in the root, in the leaf and in the flower. He could also pursue in the wider realms of Nature what is so beneficially differentiated in root, leaf and flower. Through his imaginative gifts he could see the small elemental beings restricted to narrow limits in the root, and he knew that what lives in beneficial form in the root can free itself and expand to the gigantic. Thus he saw the large-scale activities of Nature as the small activities of the plant raise dot a gigantic power. Just as he had spoken of the elemental beings in the root of the plant, he could also speak of these root-beings as having expanded in a cosmically irregular way and manifesting in the formation of frost, dew and hail. On the one hand he spoke of the root-beings who were beneficially active, and of the giants of frost and ice which are these root-beings grown to gigantic size.

Again, he spoke of the elemental activities in the leaf of the plant, which permeate themselves with the forces of the air; he traced them into the distant spaces of Nature, and he then saw that, if what lives in the leaf frees itself and strives beyond its proper limits into the distances of Nature, it manifests in the surging of winds. The giants of wind and storm are the elemental beings of the plant grown beyond their size. And the element which is distilled in the flower the etheric oils with their phosphoric quality — if that is freed, it manifests itself as the giants of fire, among whom, for instance, Loki belongs. In this science of sun and moon, therefore, the Druid saw as a unity both that which lives in the narrowly restricted space of the plant and that which frees itself and lives in wind and weather.

But he went further. He said to himself: When that which lives in root, leaf and flower is contained within the desirable limits set by the good gods, normal plant-growth results. If it appears in hoar frost, that is the work of opposing beings: for the elemental beings growing into powers of opposition, create the harmful, devastating aspects of Nature. Now as a human being I can make use of the devastating activities of the beings who are the opponents of the gods; I can gather the hoar frost in appropriate ways, and the products of the storm and whatever is caught up in the surging of wind and rain. I can make use of the giant forces for my own purposes by burning the plant, for instance, and reducing it to ashes, to charcoal and so on. I can take these forces, and by using frost, hail and rain and other such things, or what the giants of fire control — things which are the expression of forces that have grown to harmful vastness — I can protect the normal growth of the plant. I can rob these giants of all this and can treat normal plants with it, and by applying these forces of the opposing powers I can make healing medicines out of the good elemental forces which have remained within their proper limits. And this was in fact one of the ways of making medicines out of plants, by employing frost and snow and ice and by the use of burning and calcinations. The Druid felt it to be his work to take whatever was harmful from the opposing giant powers and restore it to the service of the good gods.”

R. Steiner, Man in the past, the present and the future, Lecture 1, 14 September 1923, CW228


“The Sun-Initiation gave the Druid priest the spiritual impulse, and as a result he had his science of Nature. Our science of Nature is an earthly science. His was a Moon-science. The underlying Moon-forces, as they ray forth in the plants from the depths of the Earth, as they work in wind and weather and so forth — these he felt. He felt them, not in the abstract way, as we today — having an earthly science — feel the forces of Nature. He felt them in all their livingness.

And what was thus livingly revealed to him, this he felt as the elemental beings living in the plants, in the stones, in all things. These elemental beings, having their dwelling place in trees and plants and so forth, were enclosed in certain bounds. But they were not those narrow bounds that are set to man today. They were far wider. His science of Nature being a Moon-science, the Druid priest perceived how the elemental beings can grow and expand into gigantic size.

From this resulted his knowledge of the Jötuns, the giant-beings. When he looked into the root-nature of a plant beneath the soil, where the Moon-forces were living, there he found the elemental being in its true bounds. But the beings were ever striving to go forth and grow outward gigantically. When the kind of elemental beings who lived beneficially in the root-nature, expanded into giants, they became the giants of the frost, whose outward physical symbol is in the frost, who live in all that sweeps over the Earth as the destructive hoar frost and other destructive forces of the frost-nature. These were the loosened root-forces of the plants which lived within the frost, as it swept with its giant forces over the Earth, working destructively; whereas in the root-nature the same forces worked bounteously and beneficially. And what worked in the growth of the leaves, this too could grow to giant size. Then it lived as a giant elemental being in the misty storms that swept over the Earth, with all that they contained in certain seasons — with the pollen of the plants, and so forth.

And what lives gently, modestly, as it were, in the flower-forces of the plants, when this grows to giant size, it becomes the all-destroying fire.

Thus in the weather-processes the Druid priests beheld the forces of being expanded into giants — the same forces that lived within their right limits in the kingdoms of Nature. The chosen places where we find these old heathen centers of ritual show that what they received on the one hand through the Sun-circles and the cromlechs, was developed into the Earth-knowledge which was thus made possible. They developed it so as to be able properly to observe the mysterious working and weaving of wind and weather as they sweep over the Earth — the working together of the water and the airy nature, the hoar-frost oozing forth from the earth, the melting dew. It was through the Sun-Initiation and the knowledge of the Moon-beings that there arose this most ancient conception which we find at the very foundations of European culture.

Thus the Druid priest read and deciphered the cosmic secrets which his institutions of the Sun-Initiation enabled him to gain from the Cosmos. Thus, stimulated by the Sun-Initiation, he gained his knowledge from his science of Moon-nature. But with all this the whole social and religious life stood in close connection. Whatever the priest could say to the people arose on the spiritual foundations of this element in which the people lived. We see it best of all in what the Druid priests possessed as a science of healing. They saw on the one hand the elemental beings contained within their bounds in the various growths and products of the mineral and especially of the plant kingdom. Then they observed what happened to the plants when these were exposed to frost, exposed to the influences which the giants of the storm and wind carry through the airy spaces, or again, exposed to the seething of the fire-giants. They studied what the giants of frost and hoar-frosts, the giants of the storm, the fire-giants, if loosed and set free, would do to the plants. At length they came to the point of taking the plants themselves, and imitating within certain limits all that was indicated in outer Nature as the influence of the giants. They subjected the plants to a certain process, to the freezing cold process, the process of burning, the process of binding and solution.

The Druid priests said to themselves: “Looking out into this world of Nature we behold the destructive working of the giants, of frost and storm and fire. But we can take from these giants, from the Jötuns, what they spread so awkwardly and clumsily over the world; we can wrest it from them; we can harness once more within narrow limits these loosened forces of the Moon.”

This they did. They studied what takes place in the thawing earth, in storm and wind, in the fierce, seething heat of the Sun. All this they applied to the Sun-nature which lived in the plants and which they themselves received in their Initiation. And in so doing they created their remedies, their healing hers and the like, all of which were based upon the fact that the giants were reconciled with the Gods. In those times each single remedy bore witness to the reconciliation of the foes of the Gods with the Gods themselves.

What man received immediately under the influences of Sun and Moon, just as it was offered by Nature herself, this would be a food-stuff. A medicine, on the other hand, would be something that man himself created, in that he continued Nature beyond herself, harnessing the giant-force to place it in the service of the Sun.”

R. Steiner, Man in the past, the present and the future, 10 September 1923, CW228