[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive and e.Lib

The Origin of the Animal World in the Light of Spiritual Science

A Lecture given
by Dr. Rudolf Steiner
Berlin, 18th January, 1912
GA 61

This is the 9th of 16 lectures given by Rudolf Steiner at Berlin, in Autumn of 1911 through the Spring of 1912. The title of the series of lectures is: Human History in the Light of Spiritual Investigation. It was published in German as: Menschengeschichte im Lichte der Geistesforschung. The lecture was transcribed from a typescript version, and the translator is unknown. It is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland. From GA# 61.

This e.Text edition is provided through the wonderful work of:
Various e.Text Transcribers
Book Cover Image

Search for related titles available for purchase at Amazon.com!

Lovingly typed and donated by an anonymous donor, this lecture has been made available to everyone.


Dr. Rudolf Steiner
Berlin, 18 January, 1912

If it was already somewhat difficult from the point of view of the ideas ruling at present to explain the origin of man spiritual-scientifically (what should have been done in the last lecture of this cycle) it will be today still less easy to speak about the origin of the animal world. For, if on the one hand the difficulty results from the fact that everything concerning the animal world is still much more remote for the human observation — at least seemingly — than everything concerning nature and essence of man, so on the other hand a quite special difficulty must arise because according to the present world conception, an influence of spiritual events, spiritual causes on the development and origin of animal existence will not at all be admitted. Instead, we find that in the course of the development of our mental life in the last periods the notion is formed quite specially that exactly the same causes, powers and realities partake in the development of animals' life as in the development of the lifeless, so-called inorganic nature, and we know that the greatest triumphs of natural science have been realized just in this sphere of the so-called pure natural development of living beings.

Now we must certainly say, on the one side the great longing aims at a pure natural development — as one usually says — that means such a development that only considers those powers which also rule in lifeless existence, and we see on the other side how a research moving in this direction thinks to hurry from triumph to triumph — nay, if we interpret it in the right sense, even does so. Nevertheless, on the other hand we can perceive how deeper thinkers who stand entirely on the basis of facts of natural science, and who are also fully acquainted with that which natural science has brought forward in recent times, are not in a position to share the opinion of those thinkers who want throughout to derive life from a mere union or a mere combination — although from a very complicated one — of those powers and events which are also present in lifeless nature. A great part of the thinkers of the present and the recent past did not take much trouble saying: up to a certain time probably the development of our earth has principally consisted in unfolding out of itself lifeless processes, and at a certain point of time some materials have joined in such a complicated way that the simplest living beings originated ... where after then the development progressed in such a way that out of these simpler living beings, in the struggle for life and in adaptation to the surrounding, so to speak, more and more complicated living beings have developed up to man. [Hint from the e.Ed: read the last sentence slowly.] But in contradiction to this idea many philosophers of recent time have argued that it is impossible to think that at any time, that which can be called in the real sense an original procreation or an issuing forth of the living from the lifeless, could arise out of a mere union of lifeless matter.

To such thinkers mentioned above Gustav Theodor Fechner, a man of genius in many ways, belongs. Because really important progress in natural science in various regions is connected with this personality, we should truly not pass by so lightly the theories of such a thinker as it is generally done today. Gustav Theodor Fechner cannot understand that the living ever could have developed out of the lifeless. It is much more obvious to Fechner to imagine that the lifeless can go forth out of the living through processes of isolation, because we see indeed that the inner life process of the living beings excretes the materials which, after having served a certain time in the life process, pass over to the rest of nature and belong then, as it were, to lifeless, to inorganic processes. So Fechner can well imagine that our earth at its starting point has been a single whole living being. This huge living being “earth” has done its breathing — so to say — from the cosmos and has perhaps also taken its nutrition from the (space of the) universe. Out of the entirety of this huge, enormous organism, which has once been our earth, on the one hand, living beings have developed as through a special constriction of that which in the huge earth organism has been living organs only, which thus became independent. And on the other hand — so Fechner imagines — those substances which today belong to the lifeless nature processes were excreted in a similar way as today substances are excreted from an organism after having served the living processes for a certain time. Thus, on the lines of this thinker, not the living came forth from the lifeless, but the lifeless came forth from the living. In a similar way, perhaps in a still more fantastic one, the natural investigator Wilhelm Preyer forms his own imagination. He has proved his legitimacy, his qualification for speaking about natural science not only through his abundant physiological and biological research, but also through his publications about Darwinism. Preyer also pictured to himself that the earth, at its starting point, was a kind of living being; he was always disinclined to speak of something lifeless in an absolute sense. He says we have really no right to look upon a flame as a kind of life process on the lowest level, a life process which is simplified, and has descended from a higher level; just so such life processes as we observe today could have developed in ascending. What Preyer means is: when a flame is burning, then it seems as if something like a life process is displayed to us in the consuming of the matter, in the entire method and way in which the burning, as a fact, presents itself to us. And he therefore supposes that it may not be out of the question that the earth itself was a huge life process, a life process that took place, nevertheless, under quite other conditions than the life processes of today. And so we see the most curious imagination has issued from the head of an investigator of nature, which Preyer expresses as follows: The earth could have been at the starting point of its evolution a huge enormous organism, the breathing of which we have to look for in the glowing vapors of iron, the blood flow of which we have to imagine in the glowing liquid metals, and the nourishment of which must have been brought about through meteorites drawn from the universe. This is certainly a peculiar life process, but this natural investigator thinks he couldn't go in another way if he were to trace back, not the living from the lifeless, but the apparently lifeless from the original living. And that which appears to us today as our life, in various realms appeared to him only as a life shaped especially, whereas the life of a burning candle seemed to him as a life formed backwards, in a certain way, so that the latter may appear to us outwardly as lifeless.

If we must say that such developments in recent mental life can show us — so to speak — how notable thinkers standing firmly upon the grounds of natural science, not only with regard to their convictions but also their comprehension, do not refer to the earth at all as the glowing liquid lifeless gas ball of the Kant-Laplace, but look upon the earth at its origin as a huge living being, in order to be able to explain that what is living today, this fact can, in some respects, teach us that it is, indeed, not so easy to trace back the living to the lifeless. Yes, we even must say that just the (human?) spirits having struck out in a new direction who have obtained the greatest results of research in natural science recently, cannot teach us that natural-scientific thinking has traced back all living to the lifeless, and that in this regard, natural science would just contradict what Spiritual Science has to say: that all substances, and then in general, all life can be traced back to spiritual causes. It is indeed true that the great results of natural science performed by Darwin or Lamarck or other pioneer spirits exclude any regard of spiritual causes, fundamental for these phenomena.

I have already, several times, pointed out a notable passage in Darwin's publications, in which this great pioneer points out the way in which he succeeded in showing the metamorphosis of one form of life into another, and how, by this experience, it seemed to him quite well possible to trace back today's complicated living beings to earlier, perhaps less complicated living beings and thus explain the variety of today's life forms, perhaps by means of a few differentiated original life forms. But then Darwin says, in a very characteristic manner: (in this way) we succeeded in tracing today's various forms of life back to an original one and in explaining the life of today, in its multifariousness, through evolution. But Darwin is speaking of these original forms of life in such a way that he assumes that — as he says literally — “the Creator once has poured life into them.” Yes, we may say outright that this natural investigator, Darwin, working in the midst of the 19th Century, was convinced he was authorized in his explanation of the metamorphosis of the species in living nature, by just simply assuming that he retraced back the development in nature to issue from the Creator. As we can know from Darwin's whole manner of thinking, he must have realized at once the insufficiency of his explanation if he were not permitted to assume the action of spiritual realities at any point in earth evolution. He felt himself firm and strong on the grounds he took a stand upon, just by saying that if we could assume there was life in its simplest forms created out of the spiritual, then we also could expect of this life of simplest forms full of such impulsion power, such impetus that it was able to transform itself to complicated and manifold forms. — And in a stronger sense, this can be applied to Jean Lamarck, who was the first to speak about the natural development of living beings to more and more complicated forms through adaptation to their surroundings. We see that Lamarck's idea is the following: We may assume a development from the outwardly unaccomplished to the outwardly more and more accomplished, because by so thinking we are not at all in contradiction to evolution as a whole being interwoven with, and inspired by, spiritual fundamental forces. How else could it be possible that there is a passage in one of Lamarck's fundamental works, which we can take quite literally, and which is just significant for the way and manner characteristic for earlier natural-scientific thinkers. Lamarck says in his “Philosophie Zoologique” (“Volksausgabe's Leipzig”, ed. Alfred Kroener, p. 21):

“As it had not been taken into consideration that the individuals of one specie must remain unchanged as long as the conditions mainly influencing their manner of life don't change, and as the ruling prejudices are in accordance with the assumption of this progressive generation of similar individuals, it is assumed that every specie is unchangeable and as old as nature, and that they are separately created by the sublime Originator of all things.”

Lamarck is conscious that he must break with the concept of the one and only creation of all species at their starting point, and that he must imagine the species, now around us, as having arisen through evolution. But then he continues as follows:

“Surely, everything exists only through the will of the sublime Originator of all things. But can we order His rules in the exercise of His will? Or could we decide the way and manner in which he has done this? Could not the Almighty Infinite create an order of matter (things?) unknown to us which lets all that we see and all that exists enter into it one after another? Whatsoever His Will may have been, the immeasurable magnitude of His Might is surely always the same, and in whatsoever manner He May have accomplished His Will, nothing can diminish His Magnitude.

“Thus honoring the dispensations of this infinite wisdom, I restrict myself to the limits of a simple observer of nature.”

Thus speaks he to whom one appeals today — quite rightly — when one speaks about the doctrine of evolution. But at the same time we see that this man has thereby pointed out to himself his program in the most distinct way. What is this program?

Lamarck argues that by ascertaining through observation all that is of service to the mere natural observer, the possibility results of imagining that organisms have gradually developed in a running(?) succession; however, we must also imagine that spiritual impulses were originally holding sway in the entirety of evolution, otherwise we have no firm basis at all. We recognize this by all means as the conviction of the pioneer Lamarck. And certainly in this case we must say: Thus this natural investigator has traced for himself his special program by restricting himself to the species of the outer world, and by not ascending farther to that which must be spiritually fundamental for the whole process of evolution. He consigns the spiritual to a world into which he is not inclined to penetrate, and which he presumes, from the outset, to be a region of total, unimpeded Will of the Creator — but he restricts himself to the presentation of what has emanated out of this Will of the Creator and what issues forth in the progress of evolution.

Now on the other hand we must again say, as matters stand today, that it can never result from the experiences or research of the natural-scientific observer, that at any time the living could have developed out of the lifeless on our earth, in the conditions which are available for today's external observation. The imagination that the living developed out of the lifeless is by no means a new one — it is, in truth, the older one. In this regard I have already emphasized that it was a great progress in natural science, if one goes back only about two centuries ago, when Francesco Redi spoke the sentence: “Living can only go forth from living.” It is interesting that throughout all the earlier centuries before Francesco Redi's time, it was assumed that not only simple, but also even very complicated, living beings could come forth out of mere lifeless matter. Not only was it assumed that out of the mud of the rivers, something lifeless for the outward consideration — lower animals such as rainworms, for instance — could develop without a living germ of the rainworm ancestor put into the mud, but it was also systematically assumed that animals up to the insects or still higher ones, could develop out of lifeless matter. It is interesting that we find in a work of St. Isidor, who died in 636, that it is quoted quite systematically that out of an ox corpse — that means something gone over already into the lifeless — that if it is beaten enough, a species of worms would develop which could become bees. Indeed, this man at the head of the erudition of his time not only indicated how bees could come out of an ox corpse, but he also tells us how in the same way hornets can develop out of horse corpses, drones out of mules and wasps out of donkey corpses. And as if this were not enough, it was alleged up to the 17th Century how mice, eels, and frogs originate out of that which is already transformed into the lifeless. And the belief that life can originate out of the lifeless in the simplest way, this belief was so strong that Francesco Redi narrowly escaped from the fate of Giordano Bruno, because he was so bold as to proclaim that the living can only originate from the living; for the supposition that living beings can originate out of lifeless matter could only depend on inexact observation, because the living germs of the living beings must have been already in the river mud if living should originate.

Spiritual Science must add to the achievements of Francesco Redi the sentence that the spiritual can only originate from spiritual. And because the entirety of earth evolution finally culminates in the spiritual, as it presents itself in a simple way and on an inferior level in the animal world, on a higher level in normal man, and on the highest one in the human spirit itself, thus this spiritual likewise originating itself at last out of the seeming unspiritual, can only be traced back to an original spiritual. If Spiritual Science is compelled today to state this fact, as we have heard in the earlier lectures and also in the past years in these cycles of lectures, and if in order to confirm further entirely in every region the sentence: “the spiritual can only originate from spiritual” it says, all that appears to us as matter is only a transformed spiritual — then it (Spiritual Science) is today not doomed to the fate of Francesco Redi or Giordano Bruno (for other things are now in fashion and people are no longer burned), but suffer other fates. It has today, anticipating, advocating a truth which will familiarize itself with the cultural life as likewise the sentence “living can only originate from living” has done, and therefore man will consider Spiritual Science as a revere [Printed here exactly as typed. e.Ed.], as something which is by no means based on the fundamentals of a real, scientific knowledge.

Now, at first an outline of what Spiritual Science has to say from its point of view about the question of the origins of the animal world will be outlined. Then it will be shown how the comprehension of Spiritual Science about the origin of the animal world can be entirely reconciled with the acquisitions of natural-scientific knowledge of the present, for I have set myself the task in these lectures to harmonize what Spiritual Science produces out of itself with the acquisitions of natural science.

Spiritual Science as such cannot go back to that which Gustav Theodor Fechner or Preyer have assumed as the original earth organism. On the other hand, however, we must emphasize again and again that no explanation will succeed in making it logically plausible, if only to some extent, that the manifoldness of the living beings could have, in earth evolution, developed out of a mere nebular organization, as assumed by Kant-Laplace's theory; unless we had, so to speak, to take up the expedients of the most recent mental attitude, if we would reconcile the origin of the organic or animal world with this idea. Then we would arrive at the method of thinking of the Swedish investigator Svante Arrhenius, today indeed very much admired, but not less fantastic: that germs of living beings got planted into the earth, from the space of the universe, by “compression (gravitation) of radiation” just — let us say — at the right time, when the earth was in a state to receive such germs. Everyone will realize very easily that such an explanation is no explanation, for we have then to explain where and how these living beings originated, even if they are only flown as simple germs into the earth through compression (gravitation) of radiation.

Spiritual Science must go back to a form of the earth where the earth does not present itself to us as so occupied and populated by such living beings as we know today. In a certain regard, Spiritual Science shows us something similar to what Fechner and Preyer have pictured to themselves by mere intellectual conclusions (deductions); namely, that the earth at and since its beginning has been a living being, which contained in itself gas and vapor, not only in a lifeless manner, as the theory of Kant-Laplace assumes. This theory can be explained very easily to the simplest pupil by saying: Look here, by mere rotation something can split off from a drop of a liquid, if we let it rotate, and as a little drop is thrown off it rotates around the big drop — thus in this way we originate a world system on a small scale. But doing this, we forget that we ourselves have moved this drop by rotation and that, in case such an event should have indeed happened once on a large scale — namely, that the planets have split off by means of the rotation of a gas ball — then a giant professor or a giant teacher must have ruled in the cosmos, for if we exercise an experiment we must consider all conditions and not forget our own part. If it is already impossible to explain from what we know at present the splitting off of the planets, from a gas ball which at any time may have existed, it is far less possible to explain life in a planetarian life without something living, if only lifelessness existed beforehand.

Spiritual Science leads us back to an earth which, indeed at its starting point, was not only full of life, but also spiritualized, impregnated, by spirit, so that we have to trace back earth evolution to an originally spiritualized earth being. If we picture this spiritualized earth being to our senses, as it were, in an image, this being would present itself to us in its substance in such a way that we have, comparatively around us today like the last reminders of this original state of the earth, moving, but not formed, living matter in the most inferior organisms, which are really not quite exactly easy to define as plant beings or animal beings. These most inferior organisms could really be defined as flowing life, for they appear at first as a round drop which changes its matter, so to say, through no outward cause with regard to shape and situation — lengthens into tentacles or feet, creeping over the ground, but has in itself no distinct shape. If we picture to ourselves these inferior organisms, this original life substance, then we have before us, in the sense of Spiritual Science, the whole of the original earth matter, and within this earth matter nothing at all that we have today as lifeless matter. The whole earth matter is, so to say, a living but still unformed substance, and Spiritual Science must imagine, aside from this unshaped substance, that which we call the formative principle, the transcendental formative principle, as something purely spiritual at the starting point of earth evolution.

We can imagine today what the earth had been at the starting point of its evolution along the lines of Spiritual Science, by imagining, as we have often done in previous lectures, the sleeping human being. Then we picture to ourselves sleeping man — we have the physical body, lying in bed, and this physical body is permeated with that which in a spiritual-scientific way we no longer call a material bodily form: the etheric body — but outwardly, comparatively, in the sphere of this physical body we have that which is within this physical body during the waking day life: the living life of the soul, which we call the connection between the ego and the astral body of man. So we have before us in man who is awake, the inner mental essence, or essential part of the soul nature, permeating the external bodily nature; but in sleeping man we have the external-bodily secluded from the inmost soul life. The inner soul life is unconscious in sleeping man of today. It is, as it were, not permeated with a real inner content, at least not consciously. But for a real thinker it is impossible to imagine that the sleeping man really still has this in himself, or that what is living and acting in sleeping man also brings about the appearance of soul life itself during waking. What else can we imagine, when we proceed to really logical thinking? Today we can only sketch it in rough outlines — but anyone who thinks logically cannot as a result come to any other conclusion — we can imagine nothing else than that the man, who is awake, practices, expresses his soul activity through the organs of his body, so that the man who is awake needs his bodily organs in order to develop consciousness, and that the bodily organs must be formed in such a way that when enlivened from the soul principle, they can be the bearers or mediators of the life of consciousness. But a man can never imagine that, by means of inner, living, organic action, that which comes into our consciousness as inner soul processes while awake can be produced in sleep. We only have to make a simple comparison, entirely sufficient for this purpose, to discover this fact.

Instead of the brain let us place, as the soul organ mediating our waking conscious state, the lung which breathes and mediates the life processes. Then we must say the lung breathes only by means of oxygen flowing into it from outside. But the action of the lung does not consist only in receiving the oxygen flowing into it, for the organic action cannot have an influence on the supply of oxygen. We cannot experience anything about the nature and substance of oxygen from the manner in which we nourish and enliven our lung, and the lung cannot be supplied with oxygen from inside, either. But just as we have to imagine the inner life process as going over into the lung, so we also have to imagine the inner life process going over into the brain and other organs during sleeping life. In the evening our organs are exhausted, because soul activity wears out the organs, and they must be impregnated again with a pure life activity in order to again be able to be mediators of soul activity. But just as the mere inner life activity cannot supply the lung with oxygen, the activity of the inner life cannot supply sleeping man with that which we can call the instincts, desires, and passions (emotions) of man. The nature of the soul life is not a consequence or result of the mere bodily activity of man, just as the nature of oxygen, which only unites itself with the lung from outside, is not the result of mere life activity. No one can escape the quite cogent conclusion that just as soul activity must flow into the organs for knowledge of man from outside on the moment of waking, likewise the oxygen flows into the lungs from outside, just as the oxygen as such exists in the outer world and imparts itself to the lung, with the only difference being that the lung is supplied with oxygen not alternately but always, because the lung does not sleep. Consequently, there must be something which, combining with the human ego, flows into the bodily function in the morning, when man wakes, and then works in the human soul organs. Thus we must conclude that in the life during sleep the spiritual is separated and we must regard this spiritual essence, as it were, as something that wakens in the morning apart from our bodily organs, to act as soul organs.

Consequently we have, comparatively speaking, in sleeping man a living organism, and floating over him a self-dependent, spiritual one. We must picture to ourselves the following: While we are awake, the soul processes, going on in us — that means the spiritual soul life — can really only effectuate certain processes, doubtlessly parallel with the soul processes in the organism. They are effects of the soul processes and cause fatigue, as it were — processes of dissolution of matter, whereas during sleep the body annuls these processes of fatigue.

In a similar way Spiritual Science reveals that the earth, at its starting point, had really consisted of a duality, of something not quite like sleeping and waking man, but that could be compared with what has been, so to say, moving life substance, as the last remainder of the simplest organisms are still today, but that which, in no way, have been organisms transformed into animal or human forms, not even into vegetable, plant forms. And so, if we have to imagine in connection with man's body that which is man's soul content hovering over him in sleep, so we have to picture to ourselves the earth, at its beginning, hovering over what we can call the spirit of the earth, the common, united earth spirit. And within this earth spirit we have to seek that which later becomes form in earth evolution — in this earth spirit we also, above all, have to seek that which affects stimulation of the flowing material substance, so to say the sleeping earth, so that the entire life substance comes into movement in various ways. Thus we have to imagine the stimulating causes as, I might say, spiritual streams from the surrounding of the earth, working into flowing, living matter (substance). At first these causes created in the flowing substance only such forms that did not solidify, but after having formed themselves for the time being, adopted their formless shape again, as the storm whips the ocean and forms it in various wave structures. Formed life must be derived out of formless living. The formative principle itself is to be imagined as a super-sensible, spiritual principle that was connected with the original earth substance. If today we would imagine something similar to this way of working in regard to the earth at its starting point — this reciprocal effect between spirit and matter — so could we imagine a more narrow region, where what happened was similar to what happened at the starting point of earth evolution. (Natural science of the future will prove this). We can still show something that affects unformed life substance. All those processes bringing forth our own spiritual life in brain substance or in blood substance can be compared to the processes which took place, at the earth's beginning, between the spiritual, formative principle and the living substance fundamental to the evolution of earth.

Such a thing is not able to be proved along the lines of our thinking today — it is to be proved only by Spiritual Science, that by means already described, for the whole of earth evolution something is produced, similar to what is produced in the single life of man in memory. By the training of certain forces, here also mentioned, which are resting in the depths of the soul, human memory expands, and man's spiritual outlook — and these powers are the same — the development of which enables the spiritual investigator to look immediately into the spiritual earth being. Thus matter and material life can be penetrated entirely by the spiritual view, and material processes in their existence can display themselves in such a way that not only present conditions, but also previous ones out of which they have developed, can confront the spiritual eye as living memory. Just as man in the present carries in himself that which has formed in the life of his soul since his childhood and can therewith follow the line of remembrance, so also he follows his soul life into earlier conditions; he can thus trace it back, how it has been not only now, but decades ago. If the spiritual outlook does not adhere only to external matter, but penetrates the surface of things and into a spiritual basis, then something works within the spiritual that puts man into a kind of world memory, which is also called reading in the Akasha Chronicle (see Rudolf Steiner, “From the Akasha Chronicle,” Ed. Phil. Anthropos., Dornach). Man is placed into a world memory, and through this he looks back into earlier original conditions of the earth.

Proofs are therefore only to be given in such a spiritual way and manner and if these things are then so investigated we have the means at our disposal to confirm what is brought to light through spiritual investigators and which reveal that a full harmony exists between that which things present to us still today, and that which the spiritual investigator must proclaim. For this reason, in a popular lecture one can take no other direction but to reveal what presents itself to the spiritual investigator, and what flows out of immediate spiritual observation, while placed by this spiritual-scientific observation, as it were at the starting point of earth evolution. At the same time, however, we must emphasize that in such conditions which we have to recognize as spiritual, the spiritual is much nearer to material production than the spiritual is today to material production. Today the spiritual uses the counter position, the resistance of the material body, so that it forms the spiritual soul-like in man only to those pictures of the material which we can put before our eyes in our imaginations. We don't accomplish a densification stronger than these pictures.

But Spiritual Science is based on the following idea. (The following lectures will draw your attention yet on the origin of matter.) All material being has been originally a spiritual one; once the spiritual was, when it itself had been creating matter, in a more original state, full of will and force, than it is today in man's spirituality. Therefore we have to imagine that what hovered over the earth as spiritual formative principle was more closely connected in a certain way to the original life substance than the soul hovering over sleeping man is connected today to his physical body. Progressing further, we have to imagine that through the interference of the super-sensible formative principle on substance, all that which is today called lifeless nature is originated. We have really to imagine that through the action of the formative principle such matter, which then becomes lifeless, has isolated itself out of a moving and stirred substance. Once again Spiritual Science is, in this way, closely connected with the investigations of Fechner and Preyer. But such unliving matter is again seized in a certain way by the formative principle, now proceeding in this lifeless matter as a crystallizing principle, so that we have to imagine all minerals issuing, going forth, from an originally spiritual, living matter, becoming lifeless and then seized by the formative principle. Therefore, when we speak about crystals, we can speak today not yet about life, but only recognize a transcendental formative principle. In another way, the formative principle was in force in the matter which remained as a living one. If today we put aside plants, we must imagine that under the influence of those substances which separated gradually as lifeless ones from the living one (and which grouped themselves in various ways) — earth differentiated, grouped itself so that we designate firm earth, liquid water, air, and so on. Further we must imagine that during this time the formative principle worked upon the entire living and lifeless substance, and that thereby the living-formed matter is exposed to the external lifeless. And while previously it was throughout only living, in itself, it now had to permeate itself with lifeless matter, because in the course of earth development the principle of nutrition — the taking in of non-living matter into living matter, became important.

Thus we see the living, so to speak, taking up the nonliving, which it had previously separated from itself in a certain way. Thereby the living on earth comes more and more into those conditions which signify themselves through the lifeless as the elements — earth, water, air, etc. and the formative principle can act in the necessary way only by forming the living, so that the shapes (forms) are adapted to the external elements.

Now we must imagine life on earth in such a way that in the course of time, by means of the formative principle, the living and the lifeless are kept separated in various ways. We must imagine that materials which today are fallen from the heights and are connected with the firm body of the earth, were in a medium earth period still dissolved (diluted), were present in the earth atmosphere as mist. We can absolutely speak about such an earth's age in which such an air veil, as it is today, was non-existent — and we must speak about mists and gasses, which nowadays have been consolidated and united with the earth for a long time. We must imagine the entire distribution of water and air in a middle earth period, in an entirely different way. We must imagine that the formative principle — which we should think of as purely spiritual — by working living substance into the lifeless, formed, matter, had to take from that latter the conditions for breathing, etc. Thus the formative principle had to create in this way the most varied forms adapted to the old earth conditions, which now do not exist at all. However, Spiritual Science now shows that the development progressed in such a way that, in those times, only a part of the living substance, as it were, was really formed and that, when the unformed matter was seized upon immediately by the spiritual principle, a part of the old, moving unformed, living substance was held back. In older times, when the earth was surrounded in quite a different way by layers of matter, which today as it is fall down because of compression, or are present in the inside of the earth in liquid form and literally lead a liquid life — that the formative principle was working, as it were, by crystallizing, into the living, forms which in today's conditions cannot exist any longer. Let us look at such a state, in which our earth did not have at all the planetary shape that it has today. At this time quite obviously other, different forms of living beings must originate, living beings which were adapted to the old conditions, and which nowadays could no longer exist. Now that may easily be accounted for, explained by the fact that many of these life forms had to die out entirely when the earth changed its formation. We find (which is geologically demonstrable and shown by paleontology) that animals have lived which, we have to imagine, were only adjusted, let us say to water, only coming to its present form, but still permeated with quite different substances, and we find other animals, as the saurian species, etc. To be brief: we can meet manifold animal species (forms) which were adapted to the conditions then. Aside from these, other forms originated which were adjusted to the conditions, so to speak, in such a way that they really could no longer be shaped out of the unformed, moving matter by the original formative principle, but which were able to transform themselves through successive generations, and to themselves improve by means of heredity in such a way that they developed the later forms out of the older ones. The new ones were then adapted to the new earth conditions. While those forms which in olden times were so strongly penetrated by the formative principle that they could not be reshaped had to die out, those organizations which had remained more movable in themselves, in which the living was not yet fashioned so strongly, could remodel themselves and thus develop themselves further on in successive generations.

With regard to man, development shows itself as follows: In olden times we cannot see him in such forms which can be seen with outer external eyes, but we find him in matter of such a fine, unfashioned moving kind, that in times where animals were already present, he could have become everything. Man was the last to descend out of the unformed into shape, into form. Whereas the animals, which are today on earth, had already earlier taken up the formative principle so that they had to reshape their earlier figure in adapting to the transformation of the earth, man did not prevail himself to descend in solid form, during old conditions, but waited until earth had approximately the distribution of air and water as it now has. As late as then a condensation of the scarcely-shaped matter into the human figure took place for man. Because man entered out of the unformed and into shaped form so late, he appeared so that he is therefore adapted not only to certain specific earth conditions, but to the whole earth. Going back to the animals, however, we must imagine their origin in such a way that determined forms had adapted themselves to quite determined territories of the earth. These animals then got the form, which by no means is still similar to today's offspring, but which was adapted to conditions then. But because they were adapted only to territorial conditions which in certain regions changed quickly, they could develop only in determined limits. But at the time when earth was liable to quick changes, man had not entered into a form, but only later, when it was possible to put formation into his bodily nature over the whole surface of the earth in such a way that he, as man, was adapted to the earth as a whole. Thus man could populate earth as a being which is adapted least of all to external conditions, and most of all to internal motive powers. Man was, from the outset, thus adapted to the formative powers in such a manner that his inner being corresponded with the spiritual, that the formative powers could work immediately in the soul, making his outer physical form an upright one, making his hands as living tools for the spirit, and his larynx a living instrument for the spirit. But all this could only happen when earth had passed through certain principles of formation (Gestaltungsprinzipien). Thus man had to be adapted no longer immediately to external life, but to that which determined out of his inner being, what was his figure and presentation in life (Sich-Darleben) — so that with man, the formative principle determines his figure indirectly through the spiritual, while with the animal the formative principle had to work much more into the lifeless and inorganic. We can today still perceive in animals how they have connected their entire soul life more closely with their bodily nature, whereas man is able to develop a soul life which can lift itself up beyond the life of the body.

Let us look at the animal, how its soul life is plunged entirely into the bodily life, as it is formed, how the delight of digestion impregnates the body, how the soul life immediately penetrates the body and shows itself connected with its bodily functions. If we compare the way in which man's soul life lifts itself up beyond the bodily nature as something independent, we will see then that man is fashioned as he is because the animal world, adapted to other conditions of our earthly being, is fashioned out of the unformed earlier than man is. In man, such a soul being independent of the bodily life could become active only because man is able, within his being of soul, to keep the formative principle when he passes through the gate of death, and discards, to begin with, his bodily life. Because the formative principle has seized the animal's soul so much earlier that an intense connection with the bodily life was produced and because the animal thereby had to be entirely absorbed by its bodily life — for this reason that which is experienced in the single animal does not get detached (free) from the bodily life. With man, it gets free; it also keeps a formative principle, aside from the organic, physical substance; it can form a new bodily life again after the time between death and a new birth. Only because being seized immediately by the formative principle, can man's spiritual-soul being have that independence which enables him to go from life to life, which enables him to pass his being in repeated lives. On the other hand, we see that the intense connection with the form of being which had to be produced in animal between alternative principles and living matter, brought it about that the formative principle, when the animal dies, is exhausted in the organic, and that animal's soul falls back again into a general, animal soul-life and continues, not individually, but in a general, animal-like way, in a living on of the animal's group soul, not of a single animal soul.

Thus we see that we have to seek the origin of the animal (like) in the fact that that which penetrates into man later and permeates him in a later state, penetrates into the animal earlier. The animal is, as it were, left behind by the continuous principle of development; it is a backward being compared with man, who is an advanced being. We can easily imagine how this formation came to pass through a simple comparison, if we picture to ourselves a liquid in a glass, in which a substance is dissolved in such a manner that we cannot distinguish it from the liquid. If we let this solution stand, then a sediment deposits itself and the finer liquid remains. In this way we have then to imagine the whole progress of earth evolution as the duality of the spiritual forming principle and the living substance below. And in the spiritual principle the formative principle for man is contained likewise. But for man the formlessness in this living substance remains the longest. For the animal, the shaping happens earlier so that in a time when man has, as it were, preserved himself still above in an unformed, thinner, finer substance, the animal being below is already consolidated and lives on in such a way that below it can only get at more and more rigid forms, which change in the course of time. Over against this man, relating to the form, can be traced back only to that which is originally in a formless living, but into which the spirit works as a motive principle and brings it gradually to the present figure. Progressing further on, we also have to imagine the animal forms such that they are not produced from a single animal form; but while here and there certain animals formed themselves, others remained behind that formed themselves later; others again descended still later, etc. And then man descended latest.

It is remarkable (peculiar) that that which now has been said is entirely explained in such books as for instance those by Haeckel if we read them in the correct way. Indeed, it is stated that in his external appearance man is to be traced back to the animal. But if we continue the scale (trace back the scale to its source) we see that man at last is to be traced back to something which cannot refer to the present earthly conditions, but to imaginary living beings. And just so with animals — we find those beings to which Spiritual Science points out as hypothetical beings — also in Haeckel's pedigree — only these trace back not to something formed, but to something formless. It is now not possible to argue this further, but it results from my Occult Science that that which presents itself now as earth has developed downward from earlier spiritual stages. That results in one not being able to say at all that Spiritual Science invents again, after all, only something unknown. No! At last the earth is traced back to earlier planetary stages of being, just as man, relating to his present life is traced back to earlier lives. And going back to earlier stages we find as the starting point of all life and of all matter, not only a living entity, but also a spiritual one. We recognize as the starting point of all life the spirit, which we experience in us ourselves. Thus we trace back foundations to the spirit, which is something we have in ourselves, that means to something known, that is in ourselves, while external science traces itself back to something unknown. Spiritual Science is in another, different position as is the present hypothetical doctrine of evolution. Spiritual Science traces evolution back not to something unknown, but to something which has been there, been present, as spiritual, and that also today can be experienced as spiritual. Only the spiritual living in us discloses itself in the same manner as it does in our glass; the thinner liquid is segregated from the more solid substance. The finer spiritual in man even disclosed itself as separated, secluded, just like the finer substance in the glass is segregated from the more solid one, which has been deposited.

Thus we must trace back the animal world to the fact that man, in order to cultivate his spiritual nature as he has it today, had to begin with to separate from the whole animal world, so that he could develop himself as a finer spiritual being, above the basis of the animal world, just as in our comparison, the finer substance reveals itself when it has separated out the more solid substance below, on the bottom. Today these events can be pointed out only inasmuch as they demonstrate the origin of the animal world. It must be left for another lecture to explain in detail how the spiritual and soul nature (Seelische) developed later. Still it must be mentioned that the facts of immediate sense perception do not at all contradict this principle, and that it will arrive at the knowledge that progress really could not be otherwise than that set forth today — because do animals present themselves to us so that we need to speak about a special spirituality, only present in man? On the contrary! It will reveal itself to closer observation that there is sometimes much more intelligence among the animal world, and that man must first gain his intelligence, and that perhaps man's priority to an animal exists in the fact that he can achieve his little intelligence. Everywhere we look into the animal world — with the structure of the beaver's dam, of the insects, with the wasps, etc., we see intelligence at work, spirit holding sway, which makes use of the animals. We cannot say that this intelligence is in the single animal. We only need to refer to how certain insects take care of their offspring — there we see that we have a super-sensible intelligence, ruling the species of animals, objective for the animal world, like matter itself is objective for the animal world. This we can perceive when the insect deposits its eggs so that the larva must live in quite different circumstances of life; perhaps the insect itself has lived in the air — the larva must live at first in the water. The insect doesn't know at all the conditions in which the larva must live; thus only an instinct, ruling it, can guide it to deposit the eggs there where the larva can live. Or let us observe animals such as the beaver, etc., which form with their organization, form what we can call outer architecture, grown from within themselves — then we are not far from admitting according to the laws of external observation that intelligence works into animal substance itself. When we look at man, we see that after he is present he has to appropriate, at first, those faculties which are already formed into animals. He is not so far advanced that he has within himself that which the animals have already formed in themselves. That is a measure by which we can see that the animals are formed earlier and that the forming of man is still going on after he is already born. Thus it is no proof that man originated from the apes when the natural scientist Emil Selenka found that the ape nature, in its embryo stage, is much nearer to man's figure, than the later ape's figure. On the contrary, we can assume from this fact that the plan for man's figure was a more original one than that for the ape's figure; only that man realizes his figure as late as he enters into earth evolution.

Everywhere natural science shows in its facts that that which Spiritual Science has to say is proved, confirmed, just through the most advanced science. Yes, we could go even farther — I don't shy away from doing so! — and show how natural science today brings to light, as it were, something against their theories, which furnishes full evidence for Spiritual Science. Just if we yield to such results of research as those about propagation of lower animals through the brothers Oscar and Richard Hertwig in 1875 (what later on is confirmed many times) that the principle of fertilization; for instance with the eggs of the sea-hedgehog (echinus) — can be replaced through the influence of acids, that consequently a fertilization can come about out of a seemingly purely inorganic process — it must be said that processes which today are bound to the principle of heredity can only be imagined, and can happen in such a way that they present themselves outwardly, while they have presented themselves quite differently in olden times. Thus we can speak very well about the fertilization of the living nucleus of the earth (which was unformed living matter) by the spiritual formative principle flowing around it, by agreeing with the facts of natural science, so that the living had fashioned (formed) itself out of the formative principle, and that then the lifeless separated from the living which was the uniform substance of the entire earth.

Contemplating the origins of the animal world it becomes clear to us that in truth the entire earthly existence reveals itself in such a way that we can understand it only along the lines of Goethe, who has said, but only by way of a hint, in such a way that results concerning the origin of man and animal, have reality for the spiritual researcher. For if we turn our gaze to the whole world, by what means, in truth, does all that which surrounds us gain its real worth, its value? Only, as Goethe says, through mirroring at last in a human soul. For Spiritual Science the natural earth process shows itself really progressing from the oldest forms to the youngest ones, in such a way that everything is composed towards presenting man as the flower of the earth form — as that which finally must be brought forth out of the earth process, as likewise blossom or fruit is brought forth, finally, out of the plant. Thus from the contemplation of the origin of the animal world as a fundamental conviction of spiritual-scientific knowledge, results what we can consider in the following words, enlightening the human being, awakening the consciousness of the dignity of man, which is built up on the basis of every other being (alles uebrigen Daseins), and at the same time really imposing on us a responsibility: because we could become man only because the whole rest of earth evolution was aimed at us, we must prove ourselves worthy of this earth by endeavoring to progress from one stage of perfection to another: for evolution shows us that it is aiming at the shape of perfection of man. And that imposes on us the obligation that binds us not to stand still, but to move upwards to more and more sublime forming of spiritual life. This spiritual life which man carries in him today could be built up only on the basis of what is lower by pushing off what is material. So we must likewise assume that we must push off and leave to lower elements that which we carry in us today in order to develop a still higher spiritual life in us. Considering this, we can say that it is true for man, but also establishes what follows as his highest duty:

The elements let permeate themselves
By forming spirit,
They must receive
The last impulse of power of the spirit;
To clothe the human being
Into spirit form and soul life!

The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com