Silica and Lime – Reading 1
“The earth was not always as it is today; it has undergone tremendous changes. If we go back to the times I have just indicated, to the Lemurian age and a little further back we find quite a different condition of the earth from what we have today.
Let us begin with the atmosphere in which we now live, and which we regard as non-living, lifeless; even this atmosphere shows itself in those early ages as something quite different. If we go still further back we have to observe something else. Today, we have this firm solid earth-kernel and around it the atmosphere. A similar mental picture might also be made even for those very ancient times, but there could be no question of there being round the earth anything like the air we now breathe. In the air we breathe today oxygen and nitrogen play the chief part, carbon and hydrogen play a less important part, and sulphur and phosphorous a still less significant one.
As regards those very ancient times it is really not possible to speak of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, sulphur and so on, simply because what the chemist calls by these names today did not exist in this ancient period. If a chemist of today were to meet a spiritual being of that time and speak of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc., that being would reply “such things do not exist.” It is possible to speak today of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, etc., but in those ancient times there was absolutely no possibility of speaking of these things for they could only be present as such after the earth had reached a certain density and had acquired forces such as it has within it today. Oxygen, nitrogen, potassium, sodium and so on, all the lighter so-called metals simply did not exist in that ancient epoch. On the other hand there was at that time around the earth, in the place where today we have the atmosphere something which was of an exceedingly fine fluid nature, of a consistency halfway between our present air and water. It was of a fluid nature, but in its fluidity it was similar to albumen; so that in reality the earth at that time was entirely surrounded by an albuminous atmosphere. The albumen in eggs today is very much denser, but it may be compared with that of which we are now speaking.
From this environment of the earth when later the earth become denser, what we now call carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and so on were gradually differentiated. They were not there in such a way that we can say this ancient albuminous atmosphere was composed of these elements, for it did not have these several elements as ingredients. Today we generally think of things as being formed by combination, but that is nonsense. What we know as certain higher substances are not always composed of what appears when they are analysed, for these things cease to be present in the higher substance. Carbon is not present there as carbon, nor oxygen as oxygen, but there is a substance of a higher nature. As I have said, this substance according to its qualities may really be described as albumen in an excessively fluid condition. The whole of this substance surrounding the earth at that time was permeated from the universe with cosmic ether, which gave it life. So that we have to represent to ourselves the cosmic ether as projecting into this substance and giving it life.
This substance lived because the cosmic ether projected itself into it. Not only was it alive, it was also differentiated in a remarkable manner, e.g. in one part there appears a large structure in which man would be suffocated, in another part another large structure appears in which man could specially have regained new life and activity if he could have been there at that time as a human being, and so forth. Formations arose, producing effects which remind one of the chemical elements of today, but chemical elements in our modern sense did not exist. Then the whole was pervaded by reflections of light, gleams of light, rays of light, sparkles of light. And finally the whole was warmed through by the cosmic ether.
Such were the characteristics at that early period of the earth’s atmosphere. The first thing to be fashioned from out of the cosmos is what I described in the last lecture as the very first primeval mountains. These were fashioned from out of the cosmos. Thus the quartz that is found out there in the primeval mountains in its beautiful form, in its relative transparency, was formed in the earth to a certain extent from out of the universe. That is why, today, if we transfer ourselves through Imaginative vision into these rocks of the primeval mountains into what are now the hardest formations of the earth they are to us as the eyes of the earth through which it gazes out into the universe. But also it was the universe which implanted these eyes in the earth. They are there now. The universe has placed them in the earth. The quartz, the silica and such like which then permeated the whole atmosphere and were gradually deposited as primeval mountains were not so hard as today. This only came afterwards, this hardened state through circumstances which developed later. All that was thus fashioned out of the cosmos in that far-off time was scarcely harder than wax.
If you go now into those mountainous regions and there see a quartz crystal, it is so hard that, as I have said before, if you were to knock your head against it your skull would crack but not the quartz. At that far-off time, however, because of the life which pervaded everything the quartz was actually as soft as wax. We may, therefore, say that these rocks of the primeval mountains came out of the cosmos as a kind of trickling wax.
All that thus slipped into the earth from out of the cosmos was transparent, and its relative hardness, its wax-like hardness can only be described by mentally employing the sense of touch. If we could have grasped it, it would have felt like wax.
It was in this way that these ancient mountains were deposited from out of the cosmos as a kind of wax-substance trickling in and then gradually hardening. Silica had a wax-like consistency at the time in which it was deposited out of the cosmos into the earth.
That which today is present more spiritually and which I described in the last lecture, viz. that by transposing oneself into this hard rock one has pictures of the cosmos — this phenomenon was at that time quite perceptible spiritually, and in such a way that when such silicates in the wax-like condition began to condense one could distinguish in them something like a kind of plant-form. Anyone who has looked round a little on nature knows quite well that something like distinctive marks of an ancient time are to be found in the mineral world today. We find stones, we take them in our hands, we look attentively at them, and we find they have within them something like the outline of a plant-form. At that time it was quite a usual phenomenon which came into this albuminous atmosphere, pushed in as it were as outlines which could not only be seen but which were substantially photographed in this wax-like body.
Then the peculiar configuration came about that the fluid albumen which existed in the atmosphere filled in these outline forms and thereby they became somewhat harder, somewhat denser. Then they were no longer merely outline forms. The silicious part fell away from them and was dispersed in the rest of the atmosphere. In the earliest part of the Lemurian epoch we have those gigantic floating plant-formations reminding us somewhat of the forms of the algae of today, which are not rooted in the soil, for as yet there was no soil there. They floated in this fluid albumen with which they were permeated and out of which they formed their own substance. Not only did they float in this fluid albumen, they also shone forth I might say, they lit up and then faded away. They were capable of transformation to the extent that they could arise and disappear.
Place this picture clearly before your minds. It is a picture which is indeed very different from anything around us today. If we as modern men could transpose ourselves into that ancient epoch, if, let us say, we could set up a little sentry box somewhere and watch what happened around, if from it we could look out into that ancient world we should see all round us, over there a plant-form shoots up, a tremendous plant-form, like our present algae (sea-weed) or even like a palm. But it shoots up. It does not grow out of the earth in spring and die down in autumn; it shoots up, appearing in the spring-time (the spring-time was much shorter then) and reaches a tremendous size. Then it disappears again into the fluid albumen-like element. Such an observer would see green ever appearing and then fading away. He would not speak of plants covering the earth but of plants which like air-clouds appear from out of the cosmos, become dense and then dissolve away, something which grows green in this element of albumen. Then in the time which would somewhat correspond to our summertime today he would say: This is the time when the environment of our earth grows green. But he would have to look up to the green rather than look down on it.
In this way the idea comes to us how the flinty part of the earth atmosphere draws down into the earth, and how the plant-force which is really out there in the cosmos attracts it up to itself, how the plant-world comes down to the earth from out of the cosmos. In the period of which I am now speaking we have to say: This plant-world is something which arises and passes away in the atmosphere.
Something else must also be said. If today as human beings we transfer ourselves through this relationship with the metallic elements of the earth back into those ancient times we feel as if all this belonged to ourselves, as if we had something to do with that which at that time within the atmosphere grew green and then faded away. When today we recall our own childhood our memory extends over a relatively short span of time. Yet just as we can recall a pain which we experienced in childhood — and that is something which belongs to us — in the same way in this cosmic recollection aroused by the metallic element of the earth we experience this process of the becoming green and fading away as something which belongs to us. Man was already at that time connected with the earth, that earth which lived in this watery albuminous atmosphere. He was united with it as a human being but in such a way that as man he was still wholly spiritual. We express a reality when we say: Man must acquire the concept that these plants which we see there in the atmosphere at that time are something separated, something thrown off from that which is human. Man puts this out of his own being which itself is still united with the whole earth. And he has this conception, or should have it, of something else that he places outside of him, something quite different. The following also happened. Everything I have hitherto described was brought about through the silica substance in the atmosphere having been already deposited in the wax-like substance of which I have spoken. But apart from that, this albuminous atmosphere extends everywhere. Upon this atmosphere the cosmos works. Upon this atmosphere there work the countless manifold forces which stream down to the earth from the cosmos everywhere, those forces of which our modern science has no wish to know anything. Hence our modern science is indeed no true knowledge, for the most various phenomena which occur on the earth would indeed not occur if they were not brought about by cosmic impulses and cosmic forces.
Because the learned men of today do not speak of these cosmic forces they do not speak of what above all things is reality. They take nowhere into account that which is really living. Even in the smallest particle which we look at under the microscope there live not only earthly but cosmic forces, and if this is not taken into account there is no reality.
Thus were the cosmic forces active at that time upon this fluid albumen in the environment of the earth. These cosmic forces worked on many parts of this albumen in such a way that they congealed, so that one could see everywhere albumen congealed by the forces of the cosmos; this cosmically congealed albumen swam in the earth environment. These forms of cosmically congealed albumen were not merely imaginary masses of clouds, they were living things having definite forms. These were actually animals which consisted in this congealed albumen thickened to the density of jelly or even to that of our present-day gristle. Such jelly-like animals existed in this fluid albuminous atmosphere. They had a shape which we find today on a smaller scale in our reptiles, in lizards and creatures of that kind; they were not so dense as these are, but they had gelatinous bodies and the power of movement. At one moment they had long limbs, at another these limbs were drawn back into the body. In short, everything about these limbs is like a snail which can extend and withdraw its feelers.
While all this was being formed outside something else was being deposited in the earth from out of the cosmos, another substance in addition to the silica, and that is what you find today as the chalk or limestone of the earth. If you go into the primeval mountains, or merely into the Jura mountains, you find this limestone rock. This limestone rock certainly came to the earth later but it came in the same way as the silica out of the cosmos on to the earth. Thus we find chalk as the second substance in the earth.
This chalk continually oozes in and the essential thing is that it works in such a way that the kernel of the earth gradually becomes denser and denser. In certain localities the silica incorporates itself into the chalk. But the chalk retains the cosmic forces. Chalk indeed is something quite different from the coarse material which the chemists of today represent it to be. It contains formative forces, relatively active though unrecognized.
Now we come to a peculiar thing. If we consider a somewhat later time than that which I have described in connection with the phenomenon of the arising and passing away of the green, we find that in this albuminous atmosphere there is a continual rising and falling of chalky substance. Chalk-mist is formed and then chalk-rain. There was a period on the earth when the water which today rises in mist and falls as rain was of a chalk nature which rose and fell, ascending and descending. Now the peculiar thing comes about that this chalk is specially attracted by the gelatinous, the gristly forms; it permeates them, impregnates them with itself. And through the earth forces which are in it (I told you the earth-forces are in the chalk) through these forces the whole gelatinous mass is gradually dissolved, the mass which, as we have seen, formed itself there as coagulated albumen. The chalk abstracts the albumen and carries it down nearer to the earth, and from this gradually arise the animals which have bones containing lime. That is what develops in the later part of the Lemurian epoch.
We have, therefore, first of all to look upon the plants in their most ancient form as pure gifts from heaven. In the animals, in everything possessing an animal form we have to see something which the earth, after the heavens had given it chalk, took and made into an earthly form. These are the marvelous things which we discover in those ancient times. We feel so bound up with these things that we feel this whole process as an expansion of the human being into the cosmos.
Such things naturally sound paradoxical because they touch upon a reality of which the man of the present day usually has no idea; nevertheless they are absolutely true. Does it not correspond with reality today when someone says from what he remembers: “When I was a child of nine years old I had a friend whom I fought or hurt?” That recollection is something which arises from within. The speaker may feel pleasure in it or not. It may cause him pain, but it arises within him. Similarly there arises in man through the relationship with the metals an enhanced human consciousness which becomes an earth consciousness: Whilst thou hast formed on the earth thy whole being from out of the heavens, by the descent thou hast separated the plants from thee. They are cast off from thee. Thou hast also cast off the animal nature. In the form of coagulated jelly or gristle thou didst will first of all that the animal nature should become a separate product from thyself. But in this case thou hast had to see how earlier earth forces have taken this work from thee and have fashioned the animal forms into another shape, which is a result of earth creation. In this way, in, a cosmic memory, one can see this as one’s own experience just as one can see the case I have just given you as an experience of a short earthly life. One feels oneself, as has been said, united as a human being with all these things.”
R. Steiner, Mystery Centers, Lecture 5, 1 December 1923, CW232