The Meditating Farmer – Reading 1
“But now we still have to consider something important in this field: You know that the air which belongs to the immediate surroundings of our earth consists of oxygen and nitrogen, Nitrogen is, to begin with, of little use for our physical life. Oxygen we inhale; in the body it undergoes a change and carbon dioxide is formed, which we exhale. So the question might arise: Then what exactly is the main importance of nitrogen, which does not enter into chemical combination with oxygen, but lives out there in a kind of intimate mixture with oxygen? In nitrogen we cannot live; for that, we need oxygen. But without nitrogen our ego and our astral body when outside the physical body during sleep, could not exist. We should perish between going to sleep and waking if we could not immerse ourselves in nitrogen. Our physical body and our etheric body need the oxygen from the air; our ego and astral body need nitrogen.
The nitrogen is a substance which brings us into intimate connection with the spiritual world. It is the bridge to the spiritual world in the state in which our soul lives during sleep. Take what I said before, together with what I have now said about nitrogen. Nitrogen draws the cosmic element in from the circumference. From within us, it prepares us for the cosmic element. Outside, it allows those parts of us which are not properly of the earth to live in themselves, so to speak, as forces of spirit-and-soul. Hence it is not for nothing that there is a considerable admixture of nitrogen in the air, for nitrogen carries the physical death-forces and the spiritual life-forces of earthly existence. And when between falling asleep and waking we escape from the physical death-forces to another existence in our soul-life, we immerse ourselves in the nitrogen-element, which forms the bridge between our life of spirit-and-soul and the cosmos. With our earthly-personal existence we are rooted in carbon; with our life of soul-and-spirit, in nitrogen. In earthly existence, carbon and nitrogen are related to one another and to man as I have just described.
Look at carbon; it is contained in ordinary coal, in graphite, in the diamond. These are three different forms in which carbon can occur. What you see as carbon in the black, sooty coal and in the diamond and in graphite, we also carry within us in a different form. We are — not to a very great extent, it is true, but to a small extent — a little piece of diamond and this holds us firmly within our earthly house. That is where our spirit-and-soul are at home when within the body.
Nitrogen, which occurs in the various nitrogen-compounds, nitric acid, and in saltpeter and so on, is the element which always allows us to emerge from ourselves, as it were. As I said, it forms the bridge to the spirit-and-soul element in the cosmos. This too must be discovered again through the new spiritual science. It was once within the realm of earthly knowledge, but only in a dreamlike way. It was perceived with the old clairvoyance by the ancient Initiates.
As I have often said, true respect for an ancient Initiate begins when we rediscover things we cannot learn from tradition. Only when we can find them ourselves can we also value them as tradition. And as we proceed to rediscover them, we also feel a true reverence for what was once the primeval wisdom of mankind.”
R. Steiner, Human Questions and Cosmic Answers, Lecture 4, 2 July 1922, CW213