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On the Sheath of the Preparation

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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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On the Sheath of the Preparation

On the Sheath: Lecture One: Horn and Antlers


Horn and Antlers

2nd October 1947.

It is not very easy for me to speak about the agricultural preparations, and especially the sheaths used, because I have seldom made them myself. On the other hand I have given much thought to what Rudolf Steiner gave to the world when he gave us the knowledge of these preparations. He has shown us the way to make the soil healthy, and thereby improve the health of animals and men.

These preparations bring about balance in the life of the Earth. We cannot take too earnestly what the spiritual leader of our epoch thereby has given us. The balancing forces for the whole of life of all kingdoms of nature have been handed over again to mankind. This is an event corresponding to what happened in the Persian Epoch, when grain was developed out of grass. I am convinced that what we received at Koberwitz is of the same importance. We must use the Methods Rudolf Steiner indicated with great exactitude and with an over increasing attention to the details. Without this the balance of time whole household of nature would soon come to an end. A spiritual issue stands behind the content of the Koberwitz Course. An image will arise in us when we try to understand this spiritual issue. How is it possible that these simple preparations can bring about changes in nature? What impulse stands behind this?

We are dealing with alchemical processes. Such processes must appear as a secret to those who cannot understand them, and their meaning will remain secret even after all technical details have been published.

What can be said in these four mornings will be just the first few steps towards an understanding. We must bear this in mind. You do not merely take substances, but you apply to then certain alchemical methods. The substance itself is being surrounded by another substance which is not used as a substance but acts as a sheath. It is the form of the bladder, the intestines, the skull and so on which acts; not the substance of these organs.

The substance of the preparations is taken from the mineral and the plant kingdom; the sheaths are taken from the animal kingdom.

In making the preparation we put together what is otherwise separated, except in the process of digestion. This is, as I said, an alchemical process, because when substance and sheath have been brought together, they are exposed to processes of earth and cosmos, by being buried in the ground or being hung up in the air. The preparation is ready for use only at the end of a definite period.

The substance of the preparation is taken from one kingdom of nature; the sheath from another. But together they are put into the soil or exposed to the sun. This is a process of fertilization, of growth, culminating in the end in the formation of an embryo. The dandelion, for instance, is fructified first (by preparing it) and then placed into the sheath of a mesentery. The egg of an animal is laid on the ground, or in leaves, and is then exposed to the cosmos. After months the new organisation is ready, that is the process which lies behind all embryological development.

A whole organic being is prepared through the sequence of these preparations. For preparation 5O4, the stinging nettle, for instance, the soil is the sheath, and it will be shown later on how the soil can be understood as the lungs. All three systems are used; skull, intestines, horn, mesentery, all these formations are also used as sheaths. (Fig. 1.)

  Figure 1
Figure 1
Click image for large view

Why has "Antlers and Horn" been chosen as title of this lecture if we do not use the antlers as a sheath? Because we can understand the horn only by looking at the antlers, the antlers by looking at the horn.

A fundamental fact we must realise is that horns and antlers are possible only among mammals. Horns and antlers are polar opposites, as far as their substance is concerned.

The horn grows out of the skin, is a remnant of the skin as the nails are. The antlers, on the other hand, are just bone substance. Both grow in the region of the frontal bone; the horn out of the skin, the antlers out of the bone. The bone is the most highly developed organ in the animal kingdom. All animals have a skin, but only from the fishes onwards do animals have bones.

The horns grow gradually over a period of years. Layer after layer is steadily added from outside. The antlers behave quite differently. They grow up in spring and are shed in the autumn. This process is repeated again in the next year. Formation in spring, shedding in autumn; and so it goes on.

The antlers grow richer in form with each successive year. They become more beautiful and ramified. Goethe speaks of the spiral and the vertical tendency in the plant. The horn represents the spiral tendency, the antlers the vertical. Both together might create the plant.

What lies behind this difference? Where are our horns and antlers? The horn grows in one direction, towards the centre. The horn seeks a central point, coming from the periphery, but it never reaches this central point. The antlers grow outwards; they seek the periphery. What does the horn seek in growing towards the centre? What do the antlers seek in growing towards the sphere?

The stag is a very peculiar animal. During the last fifteen or twenty years, much study has been devoted to a great riddle which has been puzzling foresters and similar experts. When hinds are killed in October or November, no embryos are found in their uterus, although mating takes place in August or at the beginning of September. Why can no embryo be found in October or November? The fructification, i.e. the coming together of egg and sperm, takes place; but it has been discovered that the embryo does not begin to develop until about the 24th or 25th December. (This is not a statement made by Anthroposophists, but by expert foresters who have nothing to do with Spiritual Science.) The development after this date is quick, right up to the time of birth. For orthodox science of course no explanation of this phenomenon is possible. — The antlers are a ‘thorn in the flesh of science.’ They are regarded as a weapon or as a wedding garment, but why should they be shed during the hardest season, in winter? Science can give no answer.

This answer can only be found if the male and female deer are seen together as a unit. From Christmas onwards, when the embryo develops within the female organism, then the antlers are shed. After the young one has been born and while the female deer is barren, the male deer, the stag, grows the antlers. During the whole year the creative process goes on in the whole realm of the deer: during the winter in the female, during the summer in the male. The antlers surround something like an embryo. In the female uterus there is a physical embryo; the antlers surround an etheric embryo. (Fig. 2.)

  Figure 2
Figure 2
Click image for large view

The anatomist Soemmering, writing in 1850 about the antlers, and describing their growth in spring, said something to this effect: ‘the rush of blood towards the frontal bones reminds me of the rush of blood towards a gravid uterus.’ — The antlers are the remnants of this blood rush.

The whole ‘deer-hood’ is built into the cosmic forces, it has little to do with the earth.

The cow and the horn are just the opposite. What expands in the deer, is kept back in the cow. The cosmic process takes place within the cow. In the horn you have preserving (bewahrunde) forces. What forces are these? The horn is what we carry as cochlea in the inner ear. This is the organ through which we can hear sounds. A cow hears by moans of the horn the sounds of the chemical ether in the digestion. In this process of hearing, measure and number of alchemical processes are inserted (eingebaut). The horn becomes the ear of the whole metabolism of the cow.

We use as sheaths what has to do with listening. The antlers are the speaking powers in us; the horns are the listening powers in us. If the larynx could develop at its pleasure, so to speak, it would grow into antlers. By pressing together the inner ear, we develop our horn. The same processes underlie speaking and the growth of the embryo, but in different regions. In speaking we create, only not a whole human being as in the embryo.

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