The Bladder and Kidney Process
3rd October 1947.
This morning we will try to understand a little why yarrow is to be enclosed in the sheath of a deer's bladder, and why this preparation should be hung up for the whole or most of the summer so that the sun shines on it, and then, in winter, put into the ground, so that only after a year's circle, is the whole thing ready to be used.
It is the first herb-preparation with which Rudolf Steiner deals, and if you read what he has to say in this very important Fifth Lecture of the Agriculture Course, you begin to realise more and more how full of secrets this whole preparation is, and how Rudolf Steiner speaks about the yarrow in a way which gives indications but no more. He deals also with the bladder itself in a way which gives certain indications but leaves it to the pupils of Spiritual Science to grow more and more aware of the importance and meaning of such an organ.
All organs are a kind of scripture, and to understand the kidney, liver, heart or lung, one has to learn to read these letters which are written by the formative forces in Nature. You have to study the pure facts, and then see if these pure facts assemble themselves under certain headings so that at length you may be able to decipher the first word, and can listen to it.
What we shall try to work out this morning I consider only as a very first step. I shall have to approach it from various directions which may seem to be independent of one another, to begin with, but perhaps in the end you will have a certain impression of what it means to put a stag's bladder around a plant like yarrow.
I should like to start with a few observations which I have made during my many years as a doctor, especially during the years when I was dealing with many more patients than I have now. If I had a difficult case I used to watch the urine. If one takes the urine of a human being and leaves it standing vary quietly, not touching it or moving it at all, for 24 or even 48 hours, so that it is able to develop all that is in it, it opens up, certain substances fall out, certain clouds arise. You realise more and more that in the urine there works actually the inner weather of your patient. It shows you what 'weather' he had in himself — a rainy day, a cloudy day, sunshine or a thunderstorm — just before he passed the urine. But you also see that urine has certain connections with the atmosphere around so that a cloudy day outside reveals much more quickly a cloudy day within, and a sunny day outside reveals a sunny day within. Now this is not only a picture, but something one can watch. One can see that one's own weather is as changeable, as unforeseen, as quick in motion as the weather outside, and our urine is a perfect mirror of this ‘inner weather.’
The urine is gathered together in the bladder, and passed out of the body into the surroundings. What kind of organ is this bladder? I will try to go a few steps into embryology, and I am sorry that I have to go so far away from what you think agriculture is. When you follow up the development of the bladder in the course of human embryology, you find something which corresponds exactly to the development of the bladder throughout the whole animal kingdom. If you study the primitive intestines, you find that in all lower mammals, up to certain groups, there is no differentiation between the last part of the intestine and the bladder: the bladder and the rectum are one.
In the course of evolution, as well as in the course of embryological development, a septum gradually develops which brings about a division between the lowest part of the intestines and the bladder, so that in the end you have the bladder as a separate organ. (Fig. 3.)
If you open up the front part of the abdomen of an adult, you can see the bladder from in front, and then you will find that from it a kind of cord goes up just underneath the skin right to the point where the navel is. This cord apparently has no function, but when we were embryos the cord was a tube which issued from the navel, and, following the navel cord, ended in a tiny vesicle, the allantois. This is true of man, but if you follow up in lower animals, such as birds:, what the allantois is and what it means, you will find the following:
In a bird's egg, filled with a growing embryo of a bird, you will find that a great part is covered with an organ which provides for the breathing of the embryo, and this organ is again the allantois. — The same organ which develops into the very small vesicle in the higher animals. (Fig. 4.) In the whole of embryonic development there are sheaths surrounding the growing body of the embryo, and these are much mere complicated than the sheaths used in agriculture. The allantois is one of them.
As long as the human body is still unborn, and has not become the house of the supernatural beings which are coming down to earth, the allantois is, so to speak, the house and dwelling place for the astral body. Our astral body is situated around this organ during the embryonic period, and you will understand, therefore, that in a bird the allantois serves the breathing process during the development of the embryo within the egg.
Take this into consideration when trying to understand the direct connection between the allantois and the bladder during the embryonic period.
Now I approach the subject from still another direction. We have seen how in man or animal the bladder develops from the intestine — this takes place in the lower part of our body — but a similar partition also takes place in the upper part with the development of trachea and lungs, which brings about the whole foundation of the breathing process.
This breathing is not entirely cut off from the intestines. (Fig. 5.) The bladder, however, is cut off entirely from the intestines and only during the embryonic period has it still a connection with the allantois. The bladder itself starts to develop two tubes, one on each side, and these two tubes grow upwards and start to divide into several smaller tubes. These two tubes are the ureter, and they reach up into the hind parts of the abdomen and there come into connection with a certain organ called the metanephros. This is the organ which develops into the kidneys. The whole urinary system, therefore, develops out of two parts, one part being that which is cut off from the intestines and develops two branches which grow upwards and reach the kidneys. (Fig. 6.)
Where do the kidneys come from? If you study the kidneys in the whole course of evolution (even if this is not so noticeable in human evolution, it is clearly marked in the animal kingdom) you find they are neighbouring organs to the ear. Gradually they grow downwards from the ears and are first called pronephros. Then they grow and develop into the mesonephros, and when they reach the ureter, the urinary system is built up.
The urinary system is the organisation within us which deals with the whole water-household in preparing urine. If I were to ask you now what urine is, you would say the urine is the mirror of the whole ‘weather’ processes with in us. Do you know any kind of excretion which can be compared with urine? The tears. If you study the excretory organisation of the kidney, the bladder and the ureter, and the excretory organisation of our tears, you find two completely corresponding systems. Anatomically this is quite understandable. (Fig. 7.)
This is the reason why the kidneys, starting from the regions of the ears, gradually come down to meet what has been separated from the intestines. The development of the kidneys is exactly parallel with the development of the trachea and the lungs.
When we begin to take air into our body, not as do the insects where air simply streams through, but in an active process of inhalation and exhalation permeating the whole substance of our organisation, then the kidneys which develop first in the regions of our ears, gradually descend and reach what has become the bladder. If you read these letters in the book of comparative anatomy you can see the gradual penetration of our body by the inner astrality.
Since the Fall, the astral body and our higher being have more and more taken root in our body, and the kidneys are the organs which pave the way for the entrance of the astrality into our organism. The kidneys pull out astrality into our body, and the bladder opens up and takes hold of this astrality. As long as we are an embryo, the bladder, although more or less connected with the kidney, is not connected with it functionally. During this period the bladder processes are connected with the allantois.
Imagine the egg of a bird, say a hen. Underneath the surface of the calcified shell with its hundreds of pores, there is spread out the allantois. The allantois is the organ which leads oxygen in and carbonic acid out. The allantois replaces what is afterwards the lung. It is outside the body; it is a lung which you have taken out and put, so to speak, around you. This lung which you have around you, is now in direct contact with the whole astrality of the world, with the whole breathing process of the cosmos. The cosmic breathing process is more and more replaced by the astral body of man himself.
With the first breath after birth, the bladder opens up towards the kidney. The bladder is the organ in which all our astrality is gathered up. Therefore the urine is nothing else but the expression of the astrality within us; of the ‘weather’ in us. The kidney process is the organisation which leads the astrality into our whole body. Now you will understand why in the account of the Fall it is said that ‘their eyes were opened.’ Yes, their eyes wore opened and their kidneys moved down.
These two organs are actually a double mirror of the same process. You open your eyes and tears stream, because the pain of seeing the Maya around us brings about the weeping process within us. If you are completely overcome by the Maya, if you feel oppressed by all that is around you, you even start to weep so that other people know it. But our tears are constantly flowing, and so is our urine. Our tears are flowing in seeing the world around us; our urine is flowing through the astrality which continuously brings about the destructive processes within our body.
The destructive processes actually create continuously the ‘lower tears,’ those tears which have to shed nitrogen, uric acid and all the other substances contained in the urine. This has continuously to stream out, and for this there is put at the disposal of the inner astrality an organ which originally was united with the world astrality.
We are not continuously forced to pass urine, because something comforting is put in front of the urine, which still keeps within itself the memory of the world astrality. This is the bladder. The bladder, comforting in its cosmic roundness, keeps the urine so that we as human beings can consciously control the output of urine. The bladder is an organ which has still its cosmic memories but puts these memories at the disposal of the human consciousness. Therefore it helps to control the expressions of the inner ‘weather.’ If you deal with children such as those we deal with in Clent or Camphill, you will see how a child who is unable to control its inner ‘weather,’ is also unable to control its bladder; unable to control its urine. Where the astral body is actually within us, but is continuously given up to its own ‘weather,’ the urine and even the comforting process of the bladder do not work properly.
All this one has to learn when trying to understand the bladder of a stag. We know exactly how Rudolf Steiner describes this animal; how the deer is given up to the astrality of its surroundings, being itself so nervous, so sensitive, so open that through the antlers it is open to the whole cosmos around it.
You must imagine that the tops of the antlers are continuously piercing through the Maya world, and therefore bring this animal into direct contact with the astrality around. In such an animal the world astrality and the inner astrality come into a certain harmony. Outside weather and inside weather are harmonised with the help of the antlers. Therefore in a deer the bladder becomes the individualised expression of the world astrality. It is this way that we have to look at the bladder and to see why it is the bladder of the deer that is used.
Why do we put yarrow into it? The yarrow has a peculiar regional distribution. It does not grow in America or Australia. It grows in the whole of the Northern part of Europe and Asia, in Siberia and follows a human track beyond the Arctic Circle. Yarrow is a very tough plant, and also full of life. In Austria we say ‘It grows under the tooth of an animal’ (Es waechst dem Zahn der Tiere nach). It is so quick in growing that today it might be eaten up and tomorrow it has grown again. If we study the yarrow plant we see in its structure precisely the way in which the ureter divides into the kidneys. (Fig. 7.)
What does the yarrow seek? Rudolf Steiner describes yarrow as one of the plants wherein the elemental beings have in the most wonderful way distributed the sulphur and potash process. The yarrow grows in the North, because this is the region of ‘Nifelheim’ — the atmosphere of Atlantis before the rainbow could be seen. As a remnant of this, yarrow still grows, because this 'Nifel'-atmosphere is that in which astrality and etheric forces are still united; where water and air have not parted; where Noah could see the first rainbow. There is still this water penetrating the air. Urine is the water which continuously brings about the clearing of the air in us. Otherwise we should be embedded in the atmosphere of ‘Ni1ifelhem.’
Yarrow is a plant which still belongs to ‘Nifelheim,’ and this you take and put into the bladder and hang it up to expose it to the sun. Now you take this organ back to its former place so that it can be surrounded by and embedded in the world astrality which is filled with light and warmth. You take the yarrow up to its atmosphere where it longs to be. I would even say that the whole yarrow plant has no other task in the world but to come into the stags bladder and to be hung up during the summer in the atmosphere of light and warmth, there to take this summer astrality and bring it down into the earth again and so complete the process.
What does yarrow do when you put it into the compost heap? Rudolf Steiner says in the Fifth Lecture of the Agriculture Course that it opens up the soil for all the cosmic penetrations and radiations, for lead and tin and so forth. Thus it can be taken up into the life of the plant. You take the bladder and all its astrality and bring it back to its place with a plant which is still connected with ‘Nifelheim;’ and this is the right way for all the cosmic radiations down into the soil and the dung heap.