Observing the animal form – Reading 1


“We know that in the former condition of the earth there existed as an essential substance for the earth-evolution at that stage all that unpretentious chalk which we also have in the Jura mountains. In the chalk deposits, in the limestone rocks of the earth we have that which we wish now to consider. We must think of the earth surrounded by that which in the last lecture I called fluid albumen. We know that the cosmic forces worked into this fluid albumen in such a way that it coagulated into definite forms. And you have heard that while this condition of the earth existed there took place in a denser substance to an enhanced degree what we today have in the rising of the mist and the falling of the rain. The chalky element rises upwards, permeates that which had condensed in the fluid albumen, filling it with chalk so that it took on bony formations, and in this way the animals developed in the course of evolution on the earth. The animals were drawn down from the still albuminous atmosphere by that which lives spiritually in the element of chalk.

I also said that when man unites himself with the metals of the earth, then he feels everything which then happened as part of his own being; it is like a memory which rises within him. As regards this stage of evolution he does not feel himself as a tiny man enclosed in a skin; he feels himself as embracing the whole earth-planet. To express this in a somewhat grotesque way I should say: Man feels essentially his head as encompassing the whole earth-planet.

The processes which I pictured in the last lecture man feels as taking place within himself. But how does he feel this within him? All that I have pictured to you as the rising of the chalk, the union of this chalk with the coagulated albumen, again its descent and the drawing down with it the animals to the earth, is so experienced by man that he hears it. He experiences it inwardly. Only you must conceive of it as inner experience. He hears it. This creation which arises when the chalk fills out the coagulated albumen and makes it gristly and bony — that which is thus formed is something heard and felt as if through the ear. The mystery of the world is heard.

In actual fact man experiences in memory, through the memory produced by the metals, the past of the earth, as though one heard resounding what I have described and in this resounding there lives and weaves world-happenings.

What is it then that man hears? These world-happenings, in what form do they reveal themselves? They reveal themselves as the Word of the cosmos, as the Logos. The Logos sounds forth, the macrocosmic Word in this rising and falling of the chalk. And when man is able to hear this speech within him he perceives something else besides. The following becomes actually possible.

We stand before a human or an animal skeleton. That which the science of anatomy has to say about these forms is very superficial, it is really disgracefully superficial. What can we say when, with inner connection with its natural and spiritual being we look at a skeleton? We say: Do not merely look at it. It is shocking merely to look at the forms — the spinal column with its wonderfully moulded vertebrae piled one upon another, with the ribs proceeding from it which bend and curve in front and are so wonderfully articulated together; the way in which the vertebrae are changed into the bones of the skull, the articulation of which is still more difficult to perceive; how the bow-shaped ribs enclose the cavity of the chest; how ball-shaped joints are formed for the bones of the arm and the bones of the leg. Confronted with this mystery of the skeleton we cannot do otherwise than say something quite clearly defined.

We must say to ourselves: Do not merely look at all this but listen to it; listen how one bone changes into another. An actual speech is here.

If at this point I may make a personal observation it is this: Something very wonderful comes before us if, with a feeling for these things, we enter a natural history museum, for there we have a wonderful collection of musical instruments, forming a mighty orchestra, which resounds in a most wonderful symphony. I experienced this very strongly when I visited the museum at Trieste. There, owing to a quite special arrangement of the animal skeletons (which was done instinctively) the effect was that from one end of the animal the mysteries of the moon resounded, and from the other the mysteries of the Sun. The whole was as though permeated by resounding suns and planets. There one could feel the connection between this bony system of chalk composition, the skeleton, and that which once rang forth to man out of the weaving universe, when he himself was still one with this universe, when it rang forth as the mystery of the world, rang forth to man at the same time as his own mystery.”

R. Steiner, Mystery Centers, Lecture 6, 2 December 1923, CW232