The Cow as an Animal of Digestion – Reading 3


“Thus the cow, lying in the meadow, is in actual fact spiritual substance, which earth-matter takes up, absorbs, makes similar to itself.

When the cow dies, this spiritual substance which the cow bears within herself can be taken up by the earth, together with the earthly matter, for the well-being of the life of the whole earth. And man is right when he feels in regard to the cow: You are the true beast of sacrifice, for you continually give to the earth what it needs, without which it could not continue to exist, without which it would harden and dry up. You continually give spiritual substance to the earth, and renew the inner mobility, the inner living activity of the earth.

When you behold on the one hand the meadow with its cattle, and on the other hand the eagle in flight, then you have their remarkable contrast: the eagle who, when he dies, carries away into the expanses of spirit-land that earth-matter, which — because it is spiritualized — has become useless for the earth; and the cow, who, when she dies, gives to the earth heavenly matter and thus renews the earth. The eagle takes from the earth what it can no longer use, what must return into spirit-land. The cow carries into the earth what the earth continually needs as renewing forces from spirit-land.

…And now you will wonder even less that a religious world-conception, which penetrates so deeply into the spiritual as does Hinduism, venerates the cow, for she is the animal which continually spiritualizes the earth, which continually gives to the earth that spiritual substance which she herself takes from the cosmos. And we must learn to accept as actual reality the picture that, beneath a grazing herd of cattle, the earth below is quickened to joyful, vigorous life, that there below the elemental spirits rejoice, because they are assured of their nourishment from the cosmos through the existence of the creatures grazing above them. And we would have to make another picture of the dancing, rejoicing airy circle of the elemental spirits hovering around the eagle. Then again one would portray spiritual realities, and in the spiritual realities one would see the physical; one would see the eagle extended outwards in his aura, and playing into the aura the rejoicing of the elemental air-spirits and fire-spirits of the air.

And one would see that remarkable aura of the cow, which so strongly contradicts her earthly nature, because it is entirely cosmic; and one could see the lively merriment in the senses of the elemental earth-spirits, who are thus able to perceive what has been lost to them because they are sentenced to live out their existence in the darkness of the earth. For these spirits what here appears in the cows is sun. The elemental spirits, whose dwelling place is in the earth, cannot rejoice in the physical sun, but they can rejoice in the astral bodies of the animals which chew the cud.”

R.Steiner, Man as Symphony of the Creative Word, Lecture 3, 21 October 1923, CW230