The Life of the Earth in the Cycle of the Year – Reading 2


“We may say, therefore, that the least we can achieve when it comes to Easter is to realise the earth itself is a living entity. It grows young when it lets plants sprout, just as a child is young when the baby hair grows. An old man loses his hair, just as the earth loses its plants in autumn. That is a life which merely has a different rhythm, young in spring, old age in autumn, youth again, old age again.

Now let us see what this imagination perceives during the course of a year in the way of earth activity when it is supplemented by inspiration, and we will direct our soul’s gaze first to the winter. Outwardly, frost and snow cover the ground, and the germs of the earth beings, of the plants, so to speak, are received back into the earth. All that is connected with the earth as germination — we can here ignore the world of animals and men — is withdrawn by the earth into itself. In addition to the familiar burgeoning life of spring and summer, winter shows us dying life. But what does this dying life of winter mean in a spiritual sense? It means that those spiritual beings whom we call elemental spiritual beings — beings that constitute the life-giving principle proper, especially in plants — withdraw into the earth itself and become intimately connected with it. Such is the imaginative aspect of the earth in winter: it takes into its body, as it were, its spiritual elemental beings and shelters them there. In winter the earth is at its most spiritual; that is, it is most fully permeated by its elemental spirit beings.

Like all supersensible observation, all this passes over into feeling, into sensibility, in the one who envisions it. As one feelingly observes the earth in winter and sees the snow on the ground, one knows that this makes a covering for the earth’s body so that within it the elemental spirit-beings of earth life themselves may dwell. With the coming of spring the relation of these beings to the earth is transformed into a relation to the cosmic environment. Everything in these beings that during the winter had produced a close relationship with the earth itself becomes related to the cosmic environment in spring: the elemental beings seek to escape out of the earth; and spring really consists of the earth’s sacrificial devotion to the universe in letting its elemental beings flow out into it. In winter these elemental beings need repose in the bosom of the earth; in spring they need to stream up through the air, through the atmosphere — to be determined by the spiritual forces of the planetary system, namely, of Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and so on. Nothing that can act upon the earth spirits from the planetary system does so in winter: this commences in the spring. And here we can observe a more spiritual cosmic process, and compare it with a corresponding but more material one in the human being: our breathing process. We inhale the outer air, hold it in our own body, then exhale it again. In-breathing, out-breathing — that is one component of human life.

… Advancing from spring toward summer, the earth more and more loses its inner spirituality. This spirituality, these elemental beings, pass from the terrestrial to the extra-terrestrial realm and come wholly under the influence of the cosmic planetary world; and in a former epoch this was celebrated in the great and profound rites performed in certain Mysteries at the height of summer, the season in which we have instituted the Festival of St. John. This was the time when the initiates of yore, the Mystery priests of those sanctuaries where the St. John Festival was celebrated in its original significance, were deeply permeated with the contemplation: That which in the winter time, during the winter solstice, I had to seek by gazing into the interior of the earth through the blanket of snow that became transparent for me, that I will now find by directing my vision outward; and the elemental beings that during the winter were determined by what pertains to the inner earth, these are now determined by the planets. From the beings which in winter I had to seek in the earth I gather, at the height of summer, knowledge of their experiences with the planets. — And just as we experience our respiratory process unconsciously, simply as something inwardly a part of our existence, so man once experienced his existence as part of the course of the seasons in the spirituality that pertains to the earth. In winter he sought his kindred elemental nature-beings in the depths of the earth, in midsummer he sought them high in the clouds. In the earth he found them inwardly permeated and saturated with their own earth forces coupled with what the moon forces have left behind in the earth; and in the summertime he found them given over to the vast universe.

And when summer begins to wane after the St. John season, the earth starts inbreathing its spirituality again; and once more the time approaches for the earth to harbor its spirituality within.”

R.Steiner, Michaelmas and the Soul Forces of Man, Lecture 4, 1 October 1923, CW223