Plant and Butterfly
“Now let us consider these other germs which were entrusted to the earth at the time when the third metamorphosis, the Moon-condition, arose. These germs, you see, now came under the influence of earth-activity — of the watery earth-moon activity — just as the insect germs had formerly come under the influence of the sun-activity and of what is beyond the sun. And through the fact that these germs came under the influence of earth-water-activity, they became the plant-germs. And the germs which remained behind in the upper regions, these remained insect-germs. When the third metamorphosis began — through what at the time was of a sun-nature becoming transformed into what was of the nature of moon-earth — the plant-germs came into being, during this third metamorphosis of earth-evolution. And what you now have in the butterfly, under the development of the extraterrestrial cosmos, this whole development from the germ, through the caterpillar, through the chrysalis to the butterfly — this you are now in a position to follow in the plant. In that the seed became earthly it was not the butterfly which developed; but when the seed became earthly, entrusted to the earth — not now to the sun — the plant root developed, the first thing to arise out of the germ. And instead of the caterpillar creeping out, under the influence of the forces which proceed from Mars, the leaf arises, creeping upwards in spiral formation. The leaf is the caterpillar which has come under the influence of what is earthly. When you see the creeping caterpillar, you have, in the upper regions, what corresponds, below, to the leaf of the plant; the leaf develops out of what became root through the fact that the seed was transplanted from the region of the sun to the region of the earth.
Proceeding further upwards, we find contracted to the calyx what is of the nature of the chrysalis. And finally the butterfly develops in the blossom, which is coloured, just like the butterfly in the air. The circle is completed. Just as the butterfly lays its egg, so does the blossom develop within itself the new seed for the future. So you see, we look up towards the butterfly, and we understand it to be the plant raised up into the air. What the butterfly becomes from egg to full development under the influence of the sun with the upper planets, the plant becomes here below under the influence of the earth. When the plant comes into leaf (see diagram) we have from the earth-aspect the influence of the moon, then the Venus-influence and the Mercury-influence. Then there is a return to the earth-influence. The seed is again under earth-influence.
…It is a unique experience to see an insect poised on a plant, and at the same time to see how the astrality holds sway above the blossom. Here the plant is striving outwards from the earthly. The plant’s longing for the heavenly works and weaves above the iridescent petals of the blossom. The plant cannot of itself satisfy this longing. Thus there radiates towards it from the cosmos what is of the nature of the butterfly. In beholding this the plant realizes the satisfaction of its own desires. And this is the wonderful relationship existing in the environment of the earth, namely that the longings of the plant-world are assuaged in looking up to the insects, in particular the world of the butterflies. What the blossoming flower longs for, as it radiates its colour out into world-space becomes for it fulfilment in knowledge when the butterfly approaches it with its shimmer of colours. Out-streaming warmth, out-streaming longing: in-streaming satisfaction from the heavens — this is the interplay between the world of the blossoming plants and the world of the butterflies. This is what we should see in the environment of the earth.”
R. Steiner, Man as Symphony of the Creative Word, Lecture 4, 26 October 1923, CW230