Dornach, December 22, 1923.
perhaps say something further on the subject of Herr Dollinger's question.
He asked, on your behalf, for it is probably of interest to you all,
what the spiritual relationship is between the hosts of insects
which, fluttering about, approaches the plants and what is to be
found in the plants. I told you yesterday, for we began to answer
this question last time, that all around us there is not
only oxygen and nitrogen, but that throughout Nature there
is intelligence, truly intelligence. No one is surprised if one says
that we breathe in the air, for air is everywhere, and science
today is so widely included in all the school books that everyone
knows that air is everywhere, and that we breathe it in. All the same
I have known country people who thought this a fantastic idea,
because they did not know the air is everywhere; in the same way
there are people today who do not know that intelligence is
everywhere. They consider it fantastic if one says that just as
we breathe in the air with our lungs, so do we breathe in
intelligence, for example, through our nose, or through our ear. I.
have already given instances in which you could see that there is
We have been
speaking of an especially interesting chapter of natural science, of the
bees, wasps and ants. There is, may be, little in Nature which permits us
to look so deeply into Nature herself, as the activities of the insects;
the insects are strange creatures, and they have still many a secret to
It is interesting
that we should be discussing the insects just at the time of the centenary
of the famous observer of insects, Jean Henri Fabre, who was born on
December 23, one hundred years ago, and whose life time coincides
with the age of materialism. Fabre therefore interpreted
everything materialistically, but he also brought to light an
enormous number of facts. It is therefore quite natural that
we should remember him today when we speak of the insects.
I should like
to begin with, to give you an example of a species of insect which will
interest you in connection with the bees. The work of the bees is
perfected to a very high degree, but the most remarkable thing about
the bee is really not that it produces honey but, that it produces
the marvellous structure of the honey-comb entirely out of its own
being. The material it makes use of, it must itself bring into the
hive, but the bee actually works in such a way that it does not use
this material directly, but completely transforms it, completely
transforms what it brings into the hive. The bee works from out of
its own being.
Now there is
a kind of bee which does not work in this way, but shows, precisely in its
work, what immense intelligence there is in the whole of Nature. Let us
consider this bee; it is commonly called the wood-bee, and is not so
valued as the domestic bee, because it is mostly rather a nuisance.
We will consider this wood-bee at its work.
It is a
tremendously industrious little creature, a creature which in order to
live — not the individual bee, but the whole species — must
do a terrific amount of work. This bee searches out such wood as is no
longer on a living tree, but has been made into something. One finds
the wood-bee which I shall presently describe, with its nest in a
place where wooden rails, or posts have been driven in and the wood
is therefore apparently dead. The nests can usually be found in
wooden rails or posts, in garden benches, or garden doors, in fact
wherever one has made use of wood. Here the wood-bee makes its nest,
but it does so in a very singular way.
Click image for large view
yourselves a post
The wood is no longer part of a tree.
The wood-bee comes along and first of all bores a sloping passage from
outside. When it has got inside, when it has bored out a kind of passage,
it starts boring in quite a new direction. It makes a little ring-like
hollow, then flies off and collects all manner of things from round
about, and lines out the hollow with these. Having finished the
lining, it deposits an egg which will develop into a larva. This is
now inside the hollow. When the egg has been placed there, the little
bee makes a covering over it, in the centre of which there is a hole.
Now it begins to bore again above the cover, and makes a second
little hollow for the second bee that is to creep out, and having
lined it and left a hole it lays another egg. The wood-bee continues
in this way till it has constructed ten or twelve of these
superimposed dwellings; in each one there is an egg.
gentlemen, the larva can now mature in this piece of wood. The bee puts
some food next to the larva which first eats what has been prepared for
it, and grows till it is ready to creep out. First we have the time when
the grub becomes a cocoon, then it is transformed into a winged bee which
is to fly out. Inside there it is so arranged
(see Diagram 16),
that the larva now developed can fly out at the right moment. When the
time comes that the larva has developed, has turned into a cocoon,
and then into a complete insect, then it is so arranged that it is
able to fly out through the passage. The skill employed has enabled
the fully formed insect to fly out through the passage that was first
Well and good,
but the second insect that is a little younger, now emerges, and the third
that is still younger; because the mother insect had first to make
these dwelling-places, the creatures would not find any outlet, the
situation would be fatal to the larvae in the upper chambers, they
would slowly die. But the mother insect prevents this by laying the
eggs so that when the young larva creeps out, it finds this other
hole which I described, and lets itself down there, and flies out.
The third creature comes down through the two holes and so on.
Because each insect that comes out later is matured later, it
does not hinder the one below it which had emerged earlier. The times
are never the same, for the earlier has always already flown out.
gentlemen, the whole nest is so wisely planned that one can only wonder
Today when men
imitate mechanically, the things they copy are often of this kind, but
as a rule they are far less cleverly constructed. Things that exist in
Nature are extremely wisely made, and one must really say that there
is intelligence in them, real intelligence. One could give hundreds
and thousands of examples of the way the insects build, of the way
they set about their tasks, and how intelligence lives within these
things. Think how much intelligence there is in all I have already
told you about the farming ants which establish their own farm, and
plan everything with wonderful intelligence.
considering these insects, the bees, wasps and ants, we were at the
same time dealing with another matter. I told you that these creatures
all have a poisonous substance within them, and that this poisonous
substance is also, if given in the right dose, an excellent remedy.
Bee-poison is an excellent remedy; wasp-poison is the same, and the
formic acid secreted by the ants is a most especially good remedy. But
as I have already pointed out, this formic acid which we find when we
go to an ant-heap and take out a few ants and crush them, these ants
have the formic acid inside them; by crushing them we get the formic
acid. It is found more especially in the ants.
if you knew how much, (of course, comparatively speaking,) how much formic
acid there is in this hall, you would be greatly astonished. You
might say, surely we are not to look for an ant-heap in some corner!
But all of you, as many as are sitting here, are really yourselves a
kind of ant-heap, for every where in your limbs, muscles and other
tissues, in the heart and lung and liver tissues, above all in the
tissues of the spleen, everywhere there is formic acid; certainly, it
is not so concentrated as in the ant-heap, nevertheless, you are
quite filled with formic acid. It is a highly remarkable fact.
Why do we have
formic acid in our bodies? One must be able to recognise when a man has
too little of it. If someone seems ill, and people are mostly a little
ill, he might have one or another of a hundred different illnesses
which externally, would seem similar. One must know what is really
the matter with him; if he is pale or has no appetite, these are only
external symptoms. One must find out what exactly is wrong with him.
In many cases, the trouble might well be that he is not enough of an
ant-heap in himself, that he is producing too little formic acid.
Just as formic acid is produced in the ant-heap, so in the human
body, in all its organs, especially in the spleen, formic acid must
be vigourously produced. When a man produces too little formic
acid, one must give him a preparation, a remedy with which one can
help him to produce sufficient formic acid. One must learn to observe
what happens to a man who has too little formic acid in him. Such
observations can only be made by those who have a true knowledge of
human nature. One must make a picture of what is happening in the
soul of a man who, to begin with, had enough formic acid, and later,
has too little. It is a singular thing, but a man will tell you
the correct thing about his illness, if you ask him in the
right way. Suppose, for instance, you had a man who tells you:
“Why, good gracious, a few months ago I had ever so many good
ideas, and I could think them out well. Now I cannot do so any
longer; if I want to remember anything, I cannot do so.” This
is often a much more important symptom than any external examination
can give. What is done today is of course justifiable, one must do
these things. Today one can test the urine for albumen, or sugar and
so on; one gets quite interesting results. But in certain
circumstances, it can be far more important when a man tells you
something of the kind I have just told you. When a man tells you
something of this kind, one must of course, learn other things about
him also, but one can discover that the formic acid in his body has
recently become insufficient.
who still thinks only of externals, might say: “This man has too
little formic acid, I will squeeze out some formic acid, or get it in
some other way, and give him the right dose.” This could be done
for a certain time, but the patient would come to you and say it has done
him no good at all. What then is the matter? It really has not helped
him at all. It was quite correct; the man had too little formic acid,
and he has been given formic acid, but it did him no good. What is
the reason? You see, when you examine further, you come to this
point. In the one case formic acid has done no good, in another case,
it has continued to do good. Well presently one learns to see the
difference. Those who are helped by formic acid, will usually
show mucus in the lungs. Those who got no help from it, will show
mucus in the liver, kidneys, or in the spleen.
It is very
interesting. It is therefore a very different matter if the lung, for
example, lacks formic acid, or the liver. The difference is that the formic
acid which is in the ant-heap, can immediately take effect upon the lung.
The liver cannot do anything with the formic acid, it can make no use of
it at all.
further now comes in question. When you discover that a man's liver,
or more especially his intestines are not quite in good order, and if
one gives him formic acid it does not help him, though he actually has
not enough of it, then one must give him oxalic acid. One must take
wood-sorrel, or the common-clover that grows in the fields, extract
the acid, and give him this.
Thus you see,
anyone with lung trouble must be given formic acid, whereas if the trouble
is in the liver, or the intestines, he must be given oxalic acid. The
remarkable thing is that the man to whom one has given oxalic acid,
will before long himself change the oxalic acid into formic acid. The
main point therefore is, that one does not simply introduce such
things into a man's body, but that one knows what the organism can
bring about by means of its own resources. When you introduce formic
acid into the organism, it says; — “This is not for me; I
want to be active, I cannot work with ready-made formic acid, I
cannot take it up into my lungs.” Naturally, the formic acid
has gone into the stomach; from there it finally passes into the
intestines. Then the human body wants to be active, and say, as it
were: “What am I supposed to do now? I am not to make formic
acid myself, for formic acid is given me; have I to send this from
here up into my lungs? This I shall not do.” The body wants
oxalic acid, and from this it produces formic acid.
life consists of activity, not of substances, and it is most important
to recognise that life does not merely consist of eating cabbages and
turnips, but of what the human body must do when cabbages and turnips
are put into it.
You can see from
this what strange relationships exist in Nature. Outside there, are the
plants, The clover is merely especially characteristic, for oxalic acid
is to be found in all the plants; in clover it is present in greater
quantities, that is why it is mentioned. But just as formic acid is
everywhere in Nature and everywhere in the human body, so also is
there oxalic acid everywhere in Nature and in the human body.
Click image for large view
something further that is very interesting. Suppose you take a retort,
such as are used in chemical laboratories. You make a flame under it,
and put into the retort some oxalic acid — it is like salty,
crumbly ashes. You then add the same quantity of glycerine, mix the
two together, and heat it. The mixture will then distil here,
and I can condense what I get here
At the same time I notice
air is escaping at this point. Here it escapes. When I now examine this
escaping air, I find it is carbonic acid. Thus carbonic acid is
escaping here, and here, where I condense
I get formic
acid. In here, I had oxalic acid and glycerine. The glycerine
remains, the rest goes over there, the fluid formic acid dropping
down and the carbonic acid giving out the air.
when you consider this whole matter thoroughly, you will be able to say:
suppose, that instead of the retort we had here the human liver or
let us say some human or animal tissue, some animal abdominal organ,
liver, spleen or something of this nature. By way of the
stomach I introduce oxalic acid. The body already possesses something
of the nature of glycerine. I have then in the intestines oxalic acid
and glycerine. What happens?
Now look at the
human mouth, for there the carbonic acid comes out, and downwards from the
lungs formic acid everywhere drops in the human body in the direction
of the organs. Thus everything I have drawn here we have also in our
own bodies. Within our own bodies we unceasingly transform
oxalic acid into formic acid.
And now imagine
to yourself the plants spread out over the surface of the earth. Everywhere
in the plants is oxalic acid. And now think of the insects; with the
insects all this occurs in the strangest way. First think of the
ants; they go to the plants, to all that decays in the plants, and
everywhere there is oxalic acid, and these creatures make formic acid
from it in the same way that a man does. Formic acid is everywhere
looks out into the air and says: — Yes, in the air there is nitrogen
and oxygen. But gentlemen, in very, very minute quantities there is also
always some formic acid present, because the insects flutter through
the air. On the-one hand we have man. Man is a little world; he
produces formic acid in himself, and continually fills his breath
with formic acid. But in the great world without, in the place of
what happens in man, there is the host of insects. The great breath
of air that surrounds the whole earth is always permeated with formic
acid which is the transformed oxalic acid of the plants. Thus it
If one rightly
observes and studies the lower part of the human body with its inner organs,
the stomach, liver, kidneys and the spleen, and further within, the
intestines, it is actually the case that oxalic acid is perpetually
being changed into formic acid, this formic acid passes with the
inbreathed air into all parts of the body. So it is within man.
On the earth
the plants are everywhere, and everywhere the innumerable hosts of insects
hover above them. Below is the oxalic acid; the insects flutter towards
it, and from their biting into the plants formic acid arises and fills
the air. Thus we perpetually inhale this formic acid out of the
air. What the wasps have is a poison similar to formic acid, but
somewhat different; what the bees have in the poison of their sting,
though actually it pervades their whole body, is likewise a
transformed, a sublimated formic acid.
Looking at the
whole, one has this picture. One says to oneself: we look at the insects,
ants, wasps and bees. Externally, they are doing something extremely
clever. Why are they doing this? If the ant had no formic acid it
would do quite stupidly all that I have described as so beautiful.
Only because the ants are so constituted that they can produce formic
acid, only because of this, does all that they accomplish appear so
intelligent and wise. This also applies to the wasps and the
Have we not
every reason to say (for we produce this formic acid in ourselves): In
Nature there is intelligence everywhere; it comes through the formic acid.
In ourselves also there is intelligence everywhere because we have
formic acid within us. This formic acid could not be in existence had
not the oxalic acid first been there. The little creatures hovering
over the plants see to it that the oxalic acid is changed into formic
acid, that it is metamorphosed.
One only fully
understands these things when one asks: How is it then with the oxalic
acid? Oxalic acid is essential for all that has life. Wherever there is
life, there is oxalic acid, an etheric body. The etheric body brings
it about that the oxalic acid is renewed. But the oxalic acid never
becomes a formic acid that can be used by the human or animal
organism unless it is first transformed by an astral body from oxalic
into formic acid. The formic acid which I here extracted from the
oxalic acid, is of no use at all to the human or animal organism. It
is an illusion to think it can be of use; it is dead. The oxalic acid
which is produced in man, and through the insects is living, and
arises everywhere where sensation, or something of the nature of the
soul is present.
Man must produce
formic acid in himself if he wishes to bring forth something of the nature
of the soul out of the mere life-processes of the lower body where
the oxalic acid prevails. Then, in the formic acid of the breath
there lives the soul quality that rises up to, and can be active in
the head. The soul needs this transformation in man of the oxalic
into formic acid.
What then is
actually happening when oxalic acid is changed into formic acid? You see,
the first thing that I told you can show us this. The wood-bee which I
described, is especially interesting for it works in wood that is no
longer living. If this wood-bee could not make use of the wood in the
right way, it would seek a dwelling place elsewhere. It does not make
its nest in a tree, but in decaying wood, and where rails and posts
begin to rot away; there it makes a nest and lays its eggs.
If you study
the connection of the decaying wood and the wood-bee, wasps, etc., then you
find that similar processes of decay constantly take place in the human
body. If this process of decay goes too far, the body dies. Man must
constantly carry on in himself what happens externally; he must build
up cells, and this he can only do by transforming all that is
plant-like within him and permeated with oxalic acid; he must change
all this into formic acid so that all is permeated with formic
You will say:
What significance has all this for Nature?
Let us imagine
one of these decaying posts or rails. Should one of these wood bees never
discover it, a man would certainly not regret it, for these bees increase
quickly, and the post they have hollowed out would fall down the
following year. Men may not appreciate this, but Nature finds it
good, for if there were none of these creatures all woody substances
would gradually crumble into dust, and would become entirely useless.
The wood in which the wood-bees have worked does not perish in dust,
it is given new life. From all this decaying wood that is quickened a
little by the wood-bee, or by other insects, much arises which
rescues our earth from complete decay, from being scattered as dust
in cosmic space; our earth can live on it because it has been
quickened by the insects. As men we breathe in formic acid; in Nature
the formic acid is prepared by the insects from the oxalic acid of
the plants, and so works that the earth renews its life.
connection. We have man, and we have the earth. Let us take first a young
child, for a young child readily transforms the oxalic acid of the lower
organism into formic acid. The organs of a young child are
sufficiently supplied with formic acid; the human soul develops in
the child. We have the formic acid as the basis for the soul and
spirit. But when a man grows old and is unable to develop sufficient
formic acid, then the soul and spirit must take leave of the body.
Formic acid draws the soul and spirit to the body; otherwise the soul
and spirit must leave it. It is deeply interesting.
If for instance
you observe a man who has developed a number of independent inner processes,
you will find that it Is formic acid that helps him to master these
independent inner processes. The right relationship is then brought
about between the astral body and the physical body which were
hindered by these independent processes in the body. Formic acid is
always needed as the right basis for the soul and spirit. When the
body has too little it decays, and can no longer retain the soul; the
body ages and the soul must leave it.
We have then,
man on the one side and Nature on the other side. In Nature formic acid
is continually being prepared from oxalic acid, so that the earth may
always be surrounded not only by oxygen and nitrogen, but by formic
acid also. It is formic acid that prevents the earth from dying every
year, gives it each year renewed life. What is beneath the earth
longs as seed for the formic acid above, for renewal of its life.
Every winter the spirit of the earth actually strives to take leave
of the earth. The spirit of the earth benumbs the earth in winter, to
quicken it again in spring. This happens because what waits as seed
beneath the earth draws near-to the formic acid which has arisen
through the whole intercourse of the insect world and the plant world
throughout the preceding year. The seeds do not merely grow in
oxygen, nitrogen and carbon, but in formic acid; this formic acid
stimulates them in their turn to develop oxalic acid, so that once
more the formic acid of the succeeding year may come into
Just as in man
formic acid can be the basis for his soul and spirit, so the formic acid
which is spread out in the cosmos can be the basis for the soul and spirit
of the earth. Thus we can say that for the earth also, formic acid is
the basis for earth-soul and earth-spirit
(see Diagram 18).
Click image for large view
it is actually much more difficult to telegraph in a district where
there are no ant-heaps, for the electricity and magnetism necessary
for telegraphing depend on formic acid. When the telegraph wires go
through towns where there are no ant-heaps, it is from the fields
outside the town that power must be collected to enable the electric
streams to pass through the towns. Naturally, the formic acid is
present in the air of the towns also.
Thus we can say:
What is within man as production of formic acid, is also outside in external
Nature. Man is a little world, and between birth and death he is able
to produce formic acid from oxalic acid. When he can no longer do so,
his body dies. He must once more take a body which in childhood can
develop formic acid from oxalic acid in the right way. In Nature the
process is unbroken, winter-summer, winter-summer; ever the oxalic
acid is undergoing transformation into formic acid.
If one watches
beside a dying man one really has the feeling that in dying, he first tries
whether his body is still able to develop formic acid. When he can no
longer accomplish this, death takes place. Man passes into the
spiritual world, for he can no longer inhabit his body. Hence, we say
that a man dies at a given moment. Along time then passes, and he
returns to take another body; between whiles, he is in the spiritual
as I told you, when a young Queen slips out in the hive, something disturbs
the bees. Previously they had lived in their twilight world; now they see
the young Queen begin to shine. What is connected with this shining?
It is connected with the fact that the young Queen robs the old Queen
bee of the power of the bee poison. The whole departing swarm feels
this fear, this fear that they will no longer possess a sufficiency
of poison, will no longer be able to protect, or save themselves.
They go away just as the human soul goes away at death when it can no
longer find the formic acid it needs: so too, the older bees
go away when there is not sufficient formic acid, bee poison, in the
if one watches the swarm, still indeed visible to us, yet it is like
the human soul when it must desert the body. It is a majestic picture,
this departing swarm. Just as the human soul takes leave of the body,
so when the young Queen is there, the old Queen with her company leaves
the hive; one can truly see in the flying swarm an image of the departing
magnificent all this is! But the human soul has not carried the process
so far as to develop its forces into actual small creatures; the tendency
to do this is nevertheless there. We have something within us that we
wish to transform into tiny creatures, into bacilli and bacteria —
into minute bees. But we suppress this tendency that we may be wholly
men. The swarm of bees is not a whole man. The bees cannot find their
way into a spiritual world, it is we who must bring them into a new
incarnation as a new colony.
gentlemen, directly an image of re-incarnating man. Anyone who is able
to observe this, has an immense respect for these swarming bees with
their Queen, for this swarm which behaves as it does because it
desires to go into the spiritual world; but for this it has become
too physical. Therefore these bees gather themselves together, and
become like one body; they wish to be together, they wish to leave
the world. Whereas they otherwise fly about, now they settle on some
branch or bush, clustering together quietly as though they wish to
vanish away, to go into the spiritual world.
If we now bring
them back, if we help them by placing them in a new hive, then they can once
more become a complete colony.
We must say
that the insects teach us the very highest things of Nature. This is why
in bygone times men were always enlightened when they looked at the
plants; they possessed an instinctive knowledge of these things of
which I have been speaking to you, a knowledge completely lost to
modern science. These men observed the plants in their own way. When
people today bring into their houses a branch of a fir-tree for a
Christmas tree, they remind themselves that all that is outside in
Nature can also work in our human and social life. This fir branch
from which the Christmas tree is made should become for us a symbol
of love. It is commonly thought that the Christmas tree is a very old
custom, but the fir-tree has only been so used for 150 to 200 years.
In earlier times this custom did not exist, but another plant was
made use of at Christmas time. When the Christmas plays, for example,
were performed in the villages, even in the 15th and 16th Centuries,
there was always a man who went round to announce them who carried a
kind of Christmas tree in his hand. This was a branch of the juniper
that has such wonderful berries; the juniper was the Christmas tree.
This was because these juniper berries, so greatly loved by the
birds, contain something of that poison which must pervade all that
is earthly, so that this earthly may rise again in the spirit. Just
as the ants give to the wood, or the wood-bee to the decaying posts,
so when the birds eat the juniper berries every morning, a certain
acid, though a weaker one, is developed. People in olden days knew
this instinctively, and said to themselves: “In winter when the
birds come to eat the juniper berries the earth is quickened through
the juniper tree.” It was for them a symbol of the quickening
of the earth through Christ.
Thus we can say:
When we observe things in the right way, we see how the processes of Nature
are actually images and symbols of what happens in human life. These
men of olden times watched the birds on the juniper trees with the
same love with which we look at the little cakes and gifts on the
Christmas tree. To them the juniper tree was a kind of Christmas tree
which they carried into their houses; the juniper became a kind of
As you are now
all of you especially hard at work, we must close. I did not want today's
lecture to end without touching on a subject of real importance. I
have therefore spoken of the juniper tree which can truly be regarded
as a kind of Christmas tree, and which is the same for the birds as
the blossoms for the bees, the wood for the ants, and for the
wood-bees and insects in general.
I should like to wish you a happy, cheerful Christmas Festival, and one
which may uplift your hearts.