Silica and Lime
The picture of the plant between lime and silica is already introduced in lecture 1 of the Agriculture Course:
“If there were only half as much silica in our earthly environment, then all our plants would have more or less pyramidal forms. All their flowers would be stunted and almost every plant would have a cactus-like shape. The cereal plants would look very strange: their stems would get thicker toward the bottom, even fleshy, and the ears would be stunted – there would be no full ears of grain at all. That’s on the one hand.
On the other hand, there are substances like lime, and related substances such as potash and sodium, which are also present everywhere in the Earth though not to the extent that silica is. If these were present in lesser amounts, we would get plants that had only very thin stems for the most part – a bunch of vines, as it were. The flowers would open, to be sure, but they would be infertile, and they would also not produce much foodstuff. Plant life as we know it today can thrive only when these two forces – the forces of substances like lime and like silica – are in equilibrium and are working together properly.”
What is interesting here is that Steiner does not say that silica does this or that lime does that, but presents a picture of equilibrium, asking what would happen to the balance in the form of the plant if there was less silica or lime in the plant’s earthly environment.
Rudolf Steiner returns to this picture in lecture six of the Agriculture Course, when he describes carbon’s role in the living substance of protein to be the form-giver, which has to find its balance in relation to the mineral earthly substances around it:
“Carbon serves as the actual form-giver for all plants, the shaper of their framework. But in the course of the Earth’s evolution, this task has been made difficult for carbon. It could easily shape the plants if it only has water beneath it, but now the lime is down there and interferes. Therefore, in order to go on shaping the plants, carbon now allies itself with silica, and then also with clay, because the resistance of the lime must be overcome. So, what is it like for a plant to be involved in all of this? From below, the lime is reaching out to grab it; from above the silica is trying to make it as thin and fine and fibrous as the aquatic plants; and in the midst is carbon, the real shaper of plant forms, keeping everything in order.”
Silica and limestone form strong themes within Rudolf Steiner’s mystery wisdom. Initiates of the past experienced silica’s connection to the formation of the plant imaginations in the body of the earth, while calcium with its desiring nature is connected with the breathing in of the animal forms into the earth. The plants in their selfless giving and the animals in their consuming desirous natures are connected to the silica and calcium gesture respectively, as question and answer. The stage of the earth described here by Steiner has an atmosphere of living substance, a protein albuminous substance, which through the activity of sulphur, finds its connection to the formative gestures of the mineral realm.