Forces that work form the head in childhood – Reading 2


“I have already said that much can be learned from the world of the plants. And now let us think of a plant. People study plants today by looking at the root, stem, leaves, flowers, pistil, stamens, seed. The seed develops in the ovary, and then people describe what they thus see in the plant more or less as they would describe an armchair, adding that they often sit in one! This, more or less, is the way in which a plant is described. We are told how the roots are set in the soil, how they draw in physical and chemical forces and substances, how the saps rise up through capillary action, or the like. To speak of a spiral arrangement of the leaves is considered an error, an aberration. At any rate, it is not known that this spiral arrangement is connected with the cosmos. So far as the blossoms and flowers are concerned, the most that can be said is that botanists picture some kind of force in connection with the colors and substances of the flowers, or with fertilization. The whole thing is described entirely from the external point of view, just as one describes how a person sits in an armchair. Yes, but the reality that must be grasped simply cannot be grasped by these methods. In studying a plant we must realize that a wonderful mystery is indicated as it stands there with its root sunk in the soil. The stem with the leaves points to another mystery and the processes in the blossom to yet another mystery.

Think of it, my dear friends — the root, sinking into the soil, represents the end of the plant existence in the direction of the solid earth. But this root could receive nothing from the soil if the soil of the earth had not first come under the influence of the cosmic environment. The cosmic environment, not only the warmth and light of the sun but also those forces which proceed from the rest of the planetary system belonging to the earth, influence the earth from the surface a little way inwards. And the forces that are quickened in this way in the earth’s substances make it possible for the root to be within the earth.

Now in the human head we find the same forces that play around the roots of plants, but in the human head we find them in quite a different form from that in which they exist around the roots of plants in the soil. Inner perception of these things will never unfold if we go no further than what can be learned today from natural science. Many of your questions speak of this as the chaotic knowledge given you by contemporary natural science. What is necessary is to understand, out of real experience, the nature of what was once called the earthy, the watery, the airy, the fiery. For if you simply go on speaking about hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, in the way modern chemistry speaks, these things will always remain something quite external. You will never be able to think in any other way than that you stand there as a human being and somewhere outside there is oxygen or nitrogen. What modern physiology or chemistry tells you about oxygen or nitrogen is something quite direct. Physiology tells you that nitrogen exists in the organism, but you do not experience nitrogen in the organism. What is necessary is to take one’s start from what can be experienced. And things that can be experienced must be deeply united with our whole being, if it is our aim to place ourselves in the service of the shaping of the world. And that is what we are doing when we heal.

Now so far as one of the elements of antiquity is concerned, everyone can know that he experiences it. This element is warmth, warmth as a quality of nature. We experience warmth, for we feel warm, or we feel cold. We are not as external to warmth as we are to oxygen and nitrogen.

It was characteristic of ancient study of nature that it took as its fundamental element something that could actually be experienced, something in which a man can be, not something that he must remain outside of. Let us first take this element of warmth, of fire, because here it is easiest to grasp the factor of actual experience. We know that as human beings we experience warmth. Now what is, for the plant, the earth — the earthy element is, for the human head, warmth.

Suppose you have here the earth, and ‘think away’ from it what appears to you as the earthy element; also think away the fluid and the airy, but let the warmth remain, so that you have a kind of ‘soil’ of warmth. You can picture this quite easily. Now take the whole thing and turn it round, so that what was formerly below is now above — it is a polar opposite.

You can now say: I behold the root of the plant, it is within the earthy soil; I behold the human head, it is in the ‘warmth’ soil, but the soil is in the reverse position. That is because what happens here lies four stages further back than this. If you speak of what goes on in the plant root as an earth happening, you must speak of what goes on in the human head, out of the warmth, as a Saturn happening. Between them are Sun and Moon happenings. And now ‘think away’ from the human head everything that came into it at later stages. Think away the earthy, the watery, the airy, and picture merely the warmth working in the human head, the warmth that provides the rest of the organism with differentiated warmth — and then you have the human head as it is today, a miniature Saturn. In the human head today you have the old Saturn organization. And if you understand the connection, then you say to yourselves: In the cosmos, untold millennia ago, there was a structure that anticipated everything that exists today as warmth in the human head. And the plant root in the earthy element today creates an image of the condition that thus preceded it.

There you have a connection. You behold ancient Saturn in the warmth organization of the human head. But if this act of beholding is to be true, it must be connected not merely with theoretical ideas but with inner, moral impulses. Looking at the human head must be an experience that moves us inwardly; we feel that the human head is the living, embodied remembrance of a very ancient evolutionary period of the cosmos, of the old Saturn period. Try, for once, to let this feeling permeate you. I am a human being who has reached a certain age. My childhood stands before me; the remembrance of childhood rises up. As one who has grown older, I sink myself into the remembrances of my childhood. This in itself gives rise to a certain inner experience which we can confront with moral power. And now expand this feeling to the point where you say to yourselves: “As a human being I was present during the old Saturn period. If, in this present time I understand my head truly, it is like a living remembrance of a primeval evolutionary period of the cosmos.” All that takes shape through the remembrances of childhood is infinitely multiplied when contemplation of the living head leads us back to the time of Old Saturn.

Such knowledge is only of value when it is steeped in moral feeling, when one can really be filled with awe by the fact that our own activity leads us into a real experience of the cosmos. Meditation, above all for the physician, does not consist in merely brooding over thoughts; meditation consists in actually bringing such interrelationships before the soul and having, in regard to them, manifold feelings through which one may experience all kinds of inner shocks and emotions. Suppose I meet a human being whom I have not seen for, say, forty years. As he comes before me in his present form, the picture of his childhood stands before my soul. I see him before me as a child. This gives rise to certain inner emotion or shock. I look at the root nature of the plant, I acquire the capacity to relate this root nature to the human head, and the human head leads me back to the time of Old Saturn. Meditation must penetrate to the very soul; it must quicken a deep inward life.

This is an indication of how, after the foundation has been laid by a course of exoteric study, everything in the esoteric domain must aim at promoting intuitive experience of the cosmos in connection with the whole being of man. For just as the Old Saturn existence can arise within you when you study the connection between the human head and the root of a plant, so too can the Old Sun existence arise within you when you study the connection between the human heart and the development of the stem and leaves of a plant. The stem and leaf development in the plant is, again, a remembrance that has now become living, of the Old Sun existence.

The flower in which the seed is produced is connected with the human metabolic system, the limb-metabolic system. And when we study what goes on in the flower in connection with the metabolic or limb system in man, a remembrance of the Old Moon period arises. And if you have this inner experience, if in deepest meditation you feel these connections inwardly, then you experience still more.

Something of great significance is experienced. If with this deepened feeling you turn your soul to the root of the plant, you will begin to feel as if no plant root were really still, but as if it were moving. You learn to recognize this movement. I can only give an outline of these things. I can only point to an impulse, to the way in which inner experience must be built up and how knowledge of nature becomes a real wisdom. You will experience this movement in the root of the plant. And contemplating it, you will feel as if, together with the root, you were moving through cosmic space. Through this very experience, in which you seem to be in the chariot which travels with you through the cosmos with the swiftness of the plant root, you will discover that what you are really experiencing is the movement of the planetary system through cosmic space. In the root of the plant you experience the movement of the whole planetary system through cosmic space. And if then, in the same way, you experience the growth of the leaves, again you experience a movement in which you yourselves participate. And this is the true movement, the inwardly experienced movement of the earth.

What the Copernican system has to say about the revolution of the earth around the sun is nothing but a series of constructions. The true movement of the earth becomes an inner experience when we deepen ourselves in the connection which exists between stem and leaves. In your contemplation of stem and leaves you move, together with the earth, in the wake of the sun, so that the earth really seems to be doing what the Copernican system describes. But the movement is, in reality, a much more complicated one.

If you contemplate the processes in the blossom around the stamens and the pistil deeply enough, you will experience the movement which the moon carries out around the earth. In experiencing the flower you experience the movement of the moon — a movement that is already separate from the earth. The planetary system as a whole is experienced in the root of the plant, the earth’s movement in the stem and leaves; the moon’s movement which has been separated off, is experienced in the generation of the seed in the plant.

R. Steiner, Course for Young Doctors, Lecture 5, 6 January 1924, CW316