Concerning The Nature Of The Sentient Organism
The form and organization of plants in the plant kingdom are
exclusively the result of the two fields of force: that which radiates
outwards from the earth and that which radiates in towards it; this is
not exclusively the case in animal or man. The leaf of a plant stands
under the exclusive influence of these two domains of forces; the lung
of an animal is subject to the same influences, but not exclusively.
For the leaf, all the formative creative forces lie within
these two domains while for the lung there are other formative forces
besides these. This applies both to the formative forces which give
the outward shape, and to those that regulate the inner movements of
the substances, giving them a definite direction, combining them or
It can be said of the substances which the plant absorbs that it is
not a matter of indifference whether they are alive or not, because
they attain the realm of the forces radiating into the earth. Within
the plant they are lifeless if the forces of the universe do not work
upon them; they come into life if they come under the influence of
But to the plant substance, even when alive, the past, present, or
future relative position of its members is a matter of indifference so
far as any action of their own is concerned. They abandon themselves
to the action of the external forces that ray in and out. The animal
substance comes under influences that are independent of these forces.
It moves within the organism, or moves as a whole organism in such a
way that the movements do not follow only forces radiating outward and
inward. Because of this the animal configuration arises independently
of the domains of forces raying outward from and inward to the earth.
In the plant, the play of forces here described gives rise to an
alternation between the conditions of being connected and disconnected
with the current of the forces that pour in from the periphery. The
single being of the plant thus falls into two parts. The one tends to
life and is wholly under the domain of the world-circumference; these
are the sprouting organs, growth and blossom bearing organs. The other
inclines towards the lifeless, it stays in the domain of the forces
raying outward from the earth; this part comprises all that hardens
the growth, provides a firm support for life, and so on. Between these
two parts, life is forever being kindled and extinguished; and the
death of the plant is only an increase of the effects of what rays out
over what forces ray in.
In the animal, part of the substantial nature is drawn right out of
the domain of these two kinds of forces. Another part is thus brought
about other than that which we found in the plant. Organ formations
arise which stay within the domain of the two realms of forces, but
others too come into being, which lift themselves out of this domain.
Between these two formations, reciprocal relationships take place, and
in these reciprocal relationships lies the cause why animal
substance can become the bearer of feeling. One consequence is the
difference, both in appearance and in constitution, between animal and
Thus in the animal organism we have a domain of forces independent of
those radiating outward from, and inward to the earth. Beside the
physical and the etheric, there is in fact the astral domain of
forces, of which we have already spoken from another point of view.
One need not be put off by the term astral. The forces
radiating outward are the earthly ones, those radiating inwards are
those of the cosmic circumference about the earth; in the
astral, something is present of a higher order than these
two kinds of forces. This higher presence first makes of the earth
itself a heavenly body a star (Astrum). Through the
physical forces the earth separates itself from the universe; through
the etheric it subjects itself to the influence of the universe upon
it; with the astral forces it becomes an independent
individuality within the universe.
In the animal organism, the astral principle is an
independent, self-contained part like the physical and the etheric. We
can therefore speak of this part as an astral body.
The animal organization only becomes intelligible by studying the
reciprocal relationships between the physical, the etheric and the
astral bodies. For all of these are present, independently, as its
three parts; moreover, all three are different from what exists
outside by way of lifeless (mineral) bodies or living bodies of a
True, the animal physical organism may be spoken of as lifeless; yet
it is different from the lifeless nature of the mineral, for it is
first estranged by the etheric and the astral organism from the
mineral nature, and then, by a withdrawal of etheric and astral
forces, it is returned to the lifeless realm. It is an entity in which
the mineral forces, those that work in the earth domain alone, can
only act destructively. This physical body can serve the animal
organization as a whole only so long as the etheric and astral
maintain the upper hand over the destructive intervention of the
The animal etheric organism lives as that of the plant, but not in the
same manner. For by the astral forces, the life has been brought into
a condition foreign to itself; it has in fact been torn away from the
forces raying in toward the earth and then returned once more to their
domain. The etheric organism is a structure in which the merely
plant-like forces have an existence too dull for the animal nature.
Only through the astral forces continually lighting up its manner of
activity can it serve the animal organism as a whole. When the
activities of the etheric gain the upper hand, sleep ensues; when the
astral organism becomes predominant, wakefulness prevails.
Neither sleeping nor waking may overstep a certain boundary in their
effect. If this were to happen in the case of sleep, the plant-nature
in the organism as a whole would incline towards the mineral; there
would arise a diseased condition, a hypertrophy of the plant-nature.
And if it happened in the case of waking, the plant-nature would
become entirely estranged from the mineral, the latter would assume
forms within the organism belonging, not to it, but to the external,
inorganic, lifeless sphere. It would be a diseased condition because
of hypertrophy of the mineral nature.
Into all the three organisms, physical, etheric and astral, [material]
substance penetrates from outside. Each of the three in its own way
must overcome the special nature of the [material]. Through this there
is a threefold organization of the organs. The physical organization
produces organs which have gone through the etheric and astral
organizations but are on the way back again to their realm. They
cannot altogether have arrived there, for this would mean death to the
The etheric organism forms organs which have passed through the astral
organization but are striving ever and again to withdraw from it; they
have in them a force towards the dullness of sleep, they incline to
develop this merely vegetative life.
The astral organism forms organs which estrange the vegetative life.
They can only exist if this vegetative life takes hold of them again
and again. Having no relationship either with the radiating outward or
with the radiating inward [field] forces of the earth, they would fall
out of the earthly realm altogether if it did not again and again take
hold of them. In these organs, a rhythmic interplay of the animal and
plant like natures must take place. This determines the alternating
states of sleeping and waking. In sleep, the organs of the astral
forces, too, are in the dull stupor of a plant-like life. They have no
active influence on the etheric and physical realm. They are then
entirely abandoned to the domains of [field] forces pouring in toward
and outward from the earth.