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



Highlight Words

Mystery Centres

Schmidt Number: S-5510

On-line since: 10th November, 2004

LECTURE XI.

THE SECRET OF PLANTS, OF METALS, AND OF MEN

Dornach, December 15th, 1923.

FROM what I gave out in my lecture yesterday it may perhaps be comprehensible to you that I should say of Aristotle, who really gathered together the whole knowledge, the sum total of the cognition of the ancients in the fourth pre-Christian century, that in spite of the fact that he only sent out a kind of system of logic into central Europe, yet he himself stood firmly based on the Greek Mysteries, and indeed on all the Mysteries of that time. Indeed we must even say that anyone who can follow such things as world-views and philosophies not merely with the intellect and the understanding, but is able to absorb them into his feeling, will be able to sense, even in the logical presentations of Aristotle, that a certain inner connection with the secrets of nature underlies the Aristotelian logic and philosophy. It was the fate of Aristotle then, if I might express it in this way, his own personal path of evolution to have to pour out this logical system into Europe. It may even be said, by way of illustrating the peculiar fact underlying these remarks, that it would be inconceivable to think of Plato as the teacher of Alexander, whereas, as we know, Aristotle was able to fulfil that task and to become the teacher of Alexander.

Plato only carried on in his own way the ancient Mysteries, though in a more ideal form. But just through the ideas that filled him he became that personality whose teaching led men away from the secrets of nature, whereas Aristotle continually drew them back to these; and this you can gather from the short representations I give in my book, The Riddles of Philosophy. We only learn to know the fun case when we can form an idea of the content of that seven years' instruction which Aristotle gave to his pupil Alexander the Great. I will try and compress into a short space the content of this instruction, drawn as it was from those ancient Mysteries.

Now when a man spoke in those ancient times in an authentic way about nature, people did not understand by the word “nature” that which our modern natural scientists understand; i.e., the merely earthly phenomena from which all the extra-earthly phenomena, the entire phenomena of the heavens, are excluded; but at that time they incorporated the human being himself into the world of nature in the very widest sense of the words. This could be done, because, at that time men sought the spirit in nature; it would not have occurred to them in those ancient times to regard man as being devoid of soul and spirit.

This Mystery-instruction taught men to regard nature in such a way as expanded far out into the Cosmos, in so far as the Cosmos was accessible to man through his relationship and affinity with it. All instructions, all teaching which was taken seriously in those ancient times was not an appeal to the human intellect or to the outer powers of observation of man. What we today regard as knowledge played no important role in those days, even in the time of Aristotle. If the historians of the different sciences today wish to write a history of their own scientific thinking they should really begin with Copernicus or Galileo, because when they go back beyond this in time what they have to say is not really adequate; and if they then approach Greek knowledge, what they have to give is purest phantasy. What they do is simply, in a sense, to prolong the present back into the earliest times; but it is no reality that they describe. Even at the time of Aristotle, even by Aristotle himself, such teachings as were taken earnestly were so given that they were connected with a complete transformation of human nature; with an appeal, not only to human thought and observation, but to the whole of human life. Man was to become a different being through knowledge, a being quite different from what he was without it. The essential point in these Mysteries was that man, through the knowledge he acquired therein, was to become a quite different being from what he was before. Actually, in the time of Aristotle the attempt was made to bring about this transformation of man's nature by causing to work upon his soul two polarically opposite feelings. The pupil who sought instruction and who was gradually to acquire this knowledge was exhorted to feel himself intensely as man in his relation to nature around him. The pupil was told: “See how thou breathest the air which in summer is warm and in winter is cold. Thou breathest the air in such a way that in winter thou canst perceive thine own breath in the form of vapour or mist; but in summer when thou breathest the warm air, it is invisible.”

Such a phenomenon was made the starting-point for instruction. The connection with nature was not made by saying: “Here is a body with this or that temperature. I heat it in a retort and then it undergoes transformation.” No, the starting-point was man himself, and he was made to realize his connection with the process of breathing. Gradually he was led, on the one hand, to realize and feel the warm air. He was told: “Picture to thyself what warm air is. Warm air seeks to rise, to ascend, and thou must feel, when this warm air approaches thee, that something really wants to bear thee out into the wide spaces of the Cosmos. Then, in contrast with this realize cold water in any form. Simply feel it; thou dost not feel at home in this. In the warm air thou canst feel at home in such a way, that this warm air seeks to bear thee up into the wide spaces of the Cosmos; but in the cold water thou feelest strange, not at all at home in it. Thou feelest, when thou withdrawest from cold water, leaving it to have its way outside, that is something which concerns it alone; it then transforms itself into the snow-crystals for example, the snow-flakes which fall on the earth, and thou feelest thyself to be in thy proper place observing them from without. Thou canst really only feel the warm air within thee and wouldst like to be carried upwards by this warm air into the wide spaces of the cosmos; but the cold water thou canst feel only outside thyself, and in order to have relationship with it thou wouldst like simply to observe it in its results, by means of thy senses.”

These were the two polar opposites with which the pupil was confronted. He was taught to feel that the words “outside” and “inside” are simply empty expressions, which really have no meaning; but such phrases as “warm airiness,” “cold wateriness” mean a great deal. These are contrasts through which man can feel himself fitted in to the world with the innermost part of his being. The word “outside” then signifies that which is cold and damp, “inside” that which is of the nature of warm air. Man felt this contrast qualitatively, and felt his relation to the world qualitatively. He spoke no longer of things, but of man himself, and it was said that the warm air leads one to the Gods, to the Divine Beings in the heights, and that the damp and cold leads down to the subterranean demons.

But this journey towards the subterranean demons is at the same time connected with a knowledge of nature; only the disciple had to take with him into these lower regions that which he had discovered and experienced through the warm air in the heights, so that what is below might not injure him.

When, with this inner feeling for the contrast between the warm air and the damp cold, when, armed with this feeling he approaches nature, he could, through the deeper experience of its objects and processes gain a deep insight into the being of the Cosmos. Today the chemist investigates hydrogen and ascribes to that element certain properties which he has discovered. Then he observes cosmic space and sees there something which reveals the same characteristics as hydrogen in the laboratory, so he concludes that hydrogen exists even in the cosmic spaces.

Such an argument would at the time of Aristotle have seemed foolishness, for then one approached things in a different way.

When the inner experience of the pupil had been deepened through that which has just been described he was led to the observation of that which really lives in the plants, as they unfold their blossoms outwardly and strive upwards towards the cosmos. Plant knowledge was that to which the pupil was led next. “Look into the opening corona of the plant, and observe how it radiates towards the wide spaces of the cosmos; realize the impression that this makes upon thee.”

When the pupil with these deepened feelings of which I have just spoken looked at the opening blossoms, there arose in him an inner knowledge, an inner illumination; flowers became to him the announcers of cosmic secrets in the wide spaces of the earth. Flowers spoke to him of the wide cosmic spaces and then, in a penetrating way, though only by means of indications the pupil was led by the teacher to discover within himself the secrets which streamed from the wide spaces of the cosmos into the being of the plant. Thus the pupil was gradually led to answer this question of the master: “What dost thou really perceive when thou gazest into the opening calyx of the flower, into the self-opening blossom, in which the stamens appear and radiate towards thee? What dost thou really perceive there?” And the pupil answered: “These plants tell me that they are compelled by the heavy cold earth to take up their abode upon it, but that, in reality they have not originated in the firm hard earth, they have only been imprisoned in it. In truth, they are beings born of water, and have their real true existence, as beings of water, in a previous condition of the earth.” (I am referring to that condition of the earth described in my Outline of Occult Science as the Old Moon-period.)

The pupil was led to say: “It is really the secrets of the moon which left the earth, and which still preserves something of the pre-earthly Moon condition, which are reflected to me out of the flowers.” For the plants did not say the same thing to the pupil every night. When the moon was in the constellation of Leo flowers said something quite different to what they did when the moon was in that of Virgo or Scorpio. That which the moon experienced as she went through her orbit round the Zodiac, these experiences were related by the flowers on the earth. The flowers on the earth told the secrets of the cosmos outside. In truth, through all this that was revealed to him the pupil said out of the innermost of his heart:

I look into the flowers;
They reveal their relationship with the moon-existence
They are subdued by the earth; for they are water-born.

The pupil could feel this because he had previously experienced the effect of chilling water. He had experienced this chilling, and through this experience he had acquired his knowledge of the plants.

When the pupil had been made sufficiently acquainted with the secrets of the moon, revealed to him by the plants growing out of the earth, he was led on further to the metals of the earth, to the principal metals, Lead, Tin, Iron, Gold, Copper, Quicksilver, Silver, as I explained to you in the last lecture in a different connection. When he had developed such an intensified life of feeling as I have indicated, he then made himself acquainted with the metals, and experienced what they so mysteriously relate; and through the metals he experienced the secrets of the entire planetary system. For lead told him about Saturn, tin about Jupiter, iron about Mars, gold about the Sun, copper about Venus, quicksilver about Mercury, and again silver about the Moon, in so far as she does not stand in close relationship with the earth, but belongs to the whole cosmos. Just as the blossoms revealed their secret to the pupil, so now he learned the metallic secret. First he learnt the secret of the plants, secondly that of the metals.

This secret of the metals which was given in the Eleusinian Mysteries, through that mighty planetary globe which, as I described in the last lecture surrounded the male statue, this secret of the metals still formed part of the instruction given, even at the time of Aristotle; and in this secret of the metals there was revealed the secret of the planets. Man's feelings were not then so coarse as they are today. When he approached the metal lead it did not merely appear in its lead-grey colour to the eye, but the lead-grey made a peculiar impression upon the inner eye. In a certain sense the leaden-grey colour of the fresh metal lead extinguished the other colours, and he felt that he participated in this lead-grey metallity. He came into another condition of consciousness and experienced something different from the present. He was filled with a feeling, a mood, as if the whole pre-earthly period of the earth rose before him. It was as if the present were toned down through the lead-grayness. Saturn nature revealed itself.

As regards gold, we know that according to external analogies the ancients saw in gold a representative of the sun. That was in truth not merely an external play of analogy that the sun was regarded as something precious in the heavens and gold as something valuable on earth. Really, nothing is too stupid for the man of today when he wishes to regard the ancients as stupid. When man regarded the metal gold, with its self-contained shining yellow colour, its modest mien and yet proud standing in the world, he actually felt how this is related to the entire blood-circulation of man. He felt in the quality of gold: “Thou art within that, thou feelest thyself as part of that.” Through this feeling he came gradually to comprehend the nature of the sun; he felt the relationship of the quality of gold with that which works from the sun in the blood of man.

Thus he gained a perception of the entire planetary system by means of the different metals, and the pupil, who did not think about these things as intellectually as we do today, conceived the following formula:

I think about the metals;
They reveal their relationship with the planets
They are subdued by the earth; for they are born of the air.

Actually the metals which are today in the earth came out of the cosmos in an airy form, and only gradually became fluidic during the ancient Moon-period. They came over in airy form when the earth was in the ancient Sun-condition; they attained a fluid form during the Moon-period, and then they became subdued by the earth and reduced to solid form during the earth evolution. That was the second secret which was revealed to the pupil.

The third secret was to rise before the pupil when he learnt to observe how, over the surface of the earth, man and the various peoples differ. One may turn towards Africa, with its peculiar hot climate, and there find human beings who differ externally, even to the colour of their skin, from the men of Greece. One can go over to Asia, and there again find human beings different. The Greeks had a fine feeling for these external differences of man.

One of the most interesting documents which has come down from Aristotle to posterity is his writing on physiognomy; by which however is not to be understood merely the physiognomy of the face, but the physiognomy of the whole man was studied with the intention that thereby one should learn to know the true nature of man; how he has either curly or smooth hair, according to the different climates in which he lives; how not only the colour of the skin but the whole expression of the human being changes according to whether he is born in one climate or another.

Thus, just as one learned to see the reflection of the moon secrets in flowers, and the reflection of the planets in metals, so now one learned to know the real secret of man on earth through this third instruction. The natural science of that time accomplished an extraordinary amount through study of the manifold nature of man and thereby obtained an answer to the question: What was the real intention of the Gods in regard to man's primeval form?

Through the different forms, through the varied physiognomy of man over the whole earth, in the living way it was brought before the disciple, the secret of the Zodiac dawned within him. The Zodiac works on the elements of the earth and its connection with the planetary system and with the moon brings the winds at the appropriate season in one direction or another, brings also warm air to one part of the earth and cold damp to another part, thereby cutting deeply into human life. The natural scientist of those times sought the causes for these things in the influences which came from the Zodiac, influences which, modified by the planets, by the sun and the moon, then streamed on to the earth.

It was of especial interest to the natural scientists of that time to say: Here is a man with black curly hair and with a red countenance, with his nose fashioned in this or that way. He is a, man who indicates the sign of Leo, how Leo pours down its forces, strengthened or weakened by the other planets according to the position they occupy. This is a man who inwardly according to his karma carries in his liver certain characteristics. Such a characteristic in the liver, which, for instance brings about a disposition to melancholy in the life of the soul is brought about because, at a certain point of time Venus is brought into a certain aspect to Juniper, which fact influences the rays of Leo. I look into the special construction of the liver, and in this I see a cosmic determination. I see how man is affected by this cosmic determination. I can extend this to the qualities of the different races upon the earth. I see in what man experiences by reason of his atmospheric environment the secret of the Zodiac.

While the pupil was thus guided, again there arose in his heart a knowledge which he clothed in somewhat the following form:

I experience the secrets of the Zodiac in the manifold nature on man;
The relationship between the manifold nature of man and the fixed stars presents itself to my soul;
For the life of human beings is on account of this manifold nature made subject to the earth;
They are beings born of the warmth.

(Human beings are born of the warmth ether under the influence of the signs of the Zodiac. They are warmth-born.)

So man felt himself in his physiognomy as one born of warmth, only transformed during the Moon-existence, and again transformed during the earth-existence; he acquired the original basis of warmth during the ancient Saturn-time. In the same way he felt the metallity of the earth as born of the sun and the air; flowers and everything of a plant nature as born of the moon and water. He could thus feel these things because of the preparation he had undergone, because he had to some extent grasped them through the feelings stimulated in him for the perception of the elements of warm air and of cold water.

The pupil observed man in such a way that the feeling arose that man works on the elements of warm air intermingled with the elements of coldness and water. He observed man in the time of Aristotle by studying his physiognomy in such a way that he could answer the question: “How much does a man give us of the elements of warmth and air, how much does he take from us of the elements of coldness and water?” In regard to what had been developed in the soul the pupil regarded the human beings around him, and gradually learnt to regard the whole of nature in this way. This was the preparation for what later on poured over from Africa into Spain, and spread into certain regions in Central Europe as the ancient alchemy, the true alchemy — to regard everything in nature, in the cosmos, every flower, every animal, even every cloud, every formation of vapour, sand and stones, sea and river, forest and meadow in the light of the impression they give of these elements of warmth and air or of coldness and damp.

The pupil thus developed in reference to the world of nature a fine power of feeling for four qualities; in experiencing the warm air the feeling for warmth was developed in him, and at the same time a feeling for the element of air and its relation to warmth. Out of the coldness there developed the feeling for the difference between moisture and dryness; and he developed a delicate power of sensing these differences, because through these capacities of feeling he stood with the whole of his being in what the world offered.

From this standpoint, in which the pupil of Aristotle, Alexander the Great was trained, it is quite possible to understand the whole environment in which these two men lived. As Alexander was permeated with what came through such a power of feeling, he perceived the whole Greek nature, as revealed in Macedonia, in the two qualities, the quality of dampness and the quality of air. They evoked his attitude of mind at a given period in his life. He really felt that through the special kind of initiation which he had received at the hands of Aristotle, he understood the basic character of the immediate world which he experienced, but he experienced it only as the half of a whole world. “That can only be half of the world,” he said to himself. “That can only be the half.” You remember that at that time everything pertaining to nature was brought before the disciple in such a way that he really experienced nature. The following instruction could now be added to the study of the purely natural.

Aristotle's pupil Alexander the Great had learnt of his own accord to feel what the climatic influences, what the winds carried from the north-west as the elements of cold and damp, and what the winds carried from the south-west as the elements of warmth and damp, but that, to him, was only one half of a world-feeling. This was amplified in his instruction, and there arose in his own inner being the idea that to this there belonged what drifted over from the north-east, the dry cold, and what drifted over from the south-east, the dry warmth. Thus from the four directions of the wind he had learnt to distinguish the feeling of dryness, of warm dryness, of damp warmth, and of damp cold; and as a true man of that epoch he sought to reconcile these opposites.


 Diagram 1
Diagram 1
Click image for large view
 

Here in Macedonia he experienced only cold dampness or warm dampness. That must be united with the cold dryness and with the fiery dryness; that which drifts over from the north, from Asia must be united with that which drifts over from the south from Asia. From this arose that irresistible urge towards the Asiatic expeditions. By this example you will see that at this epoch of time things were somewhat different from what they were later.

Think of our modern education, of what a prince is taught today. Just think of how a prince is educated and trained for journeys of conquest. Try and imagine what relation exists between the instruction in physics which his teacher gives him and what he experiences on his warlike expeditions. Try and think of the connection between the two. The reports do not as a rule produce anything pertaining to his actions on his journeys of conquest. From such examples you can see very clearly how far removed today is the knowledge which should be brought to man for the development of his inner being, from what man himself is in his external life. At the time to which we are now alluding the endeavour was made to establish a complete unity between the knowledge which inwardly forms and fashions a man and that which he does when he stands in the world and acts.

Ancient history is taught in the schoolroom (today) but at that time the schoolroom was related to the Mysteries, and the Mysteries signified the world. A knowledge of the world was the result of the forces which predominated in the Mysteries. That gave man the impulse to carry over to Asia what was then this natural science. Then in a weakened diluted form it later came across over Spain, through Europe. One can still trace it in what Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme, Gichtel, and various others wrote and taught, culminating in such spirits as Basilius Valentinus and others.

But at first, that which was clothed in mere thought-forms, in mere logic, had to transcend all else, and the rest had to wait.

The time has now come when this other has fulfilled its task of waiting, when it must again be found as the sum total of natural knowledge. Alexander had first to bury these secrets of nature in Asia, for only their corpses were brought over to Europe. But not these corpses have now to be galvanized to life; the primeval living secrets must themselves be found again today. The necessary enthusiasm for this can indeed only come about when a really warm feeling is developed for what once existed at this turning point of time.

One must really develop a living realization of the fact that these conquests, these expeditionary journeys undertaken by Alexander which appeared externally as mere journeys of conquest were undertaken in order to find the other side of the compass in addition to the side which was known; to add the other half to that half of the world which was known. It was absolutely the search of a personal experience, and this personal experience consisted in a certain inner dissatisfaction, a certain inner discomfort which was felt in this environment of cold dampness and warm dampness, and a realisation that other feelings had to complete these.

To what extent this is of great historical significance in the evolution of the entire west, I will explain in the lectures which will be given in the near future, at the meeting of the delegates, concerning the occult basis of the historical life of humanity on the earth.

  1. The secrets of the Plants

    I gaze at the flowers; they reveal their relationship with the Moon-existence; they are subdued by the earth, for they are water-born.

  1. The secret of the Metals

    I think about the Metals; they reveal their relationship with the Planets; they are subdued by the earth, for they are air-born.

  1. The secret of Man

    I experience the secrets of the Animal Circle (Zodiac) in the manifold nature of man; the relationship of this manifold nature of man with the fixed stars comes before my soul; for man lives in subjection to the earth in this manifold nature he is warmth-born.




Last Modified: 29-Aug-2017
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com
[Spacing]