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On the Sheath of the Preparation

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On the Sheath of the Preparation

On the Sheath: Lecture Three: Intestines, Mesentery and Digestion

LECTURE THREE

Intestines, Mesentery and Digestion

4th October 1947.

We shall discuss this morning the two preparations which deal with dandelion and chamomile on the one hand, and the intestine and the mesentery on the other. In doing so, I am very much aware of our lack of knowledge and understanding of everything connected with the metabolism of the human being and the higher animals. The metabolic process, the process of digestion, is still, for the scientist as well as for us who try to follow up Spiritual Science, if we are honest with ourselves, hardly anything but a mystery and a riddle.

I remember that Rudolf Steiner once said to certain priests who asked him to speak about it, that what goes on within the human — and he made a point of the human — digestive tract, is only revealed there where the priests handle at the altar the Holy Host. So one can imagine that one might have an idea, a certain notion, of what takes place within as well as around the intestines; but to know — this is still not possible for us. Probably it will take hundreds of years of most earnest study before the minute etheric, astral and spiritual processes which work there right into matter, are revealed to us.

Therefore you will understand that when we now speak about these preparations which are enveloped by the intestines or the mesentery, one just tries to go in the right direction, but one is very, very far away from reaching the goal. All that I am going to say this morning must therefore be approached with great care. I do not say that all this is so; I can only say I try to understand it in this way; nothing else.

One has to ask oneself what these organs are and in what relation they stand to one another. Usually one has a general idea what the intestine is — this tube, into which we stuff our food, and in which in some way or another, the food is digested. And the mesentery, even for a professor of anatomy, is just nothing but that on which the intestines hang.

Where do the intestines lie? They do not lie in the abdomen. We can of course open the wall of the abdomen, but you will never see the intestines, you will see the outer covering of the intestines, but not the intestine itself. The mesentery lies in the abdomen, but the intestine lies within the mesentery. What is the space in which the intestines lie? It is the outer world. The intestinal tube is surrounded by muscles and by connective tissue. This connective tissue and the muscles are lined by the so-called peritoneum. (Fig. 8.)

  Figure 8
Figure 8
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Outside you have skin, and between skin and peritoneum you have muscles and so on. The peritoneum covers every part of the intestines and the inner abdominal wall. The mesentery is all the tissue which connects the different convolutions of the intestines with the linings of the abdomen, but they can lie in any kind of direction. (The German ‘Gekroese’ means something frill-like.)

In an animal, the intestine is nothing else but a part of the outer world. (Fig. 9.) The peritoneal lining is something completely different. When you study the whole comparative anatomy of the peritoneum you begin to realise that in the animal and human body there exist only two parts which, as regards their space, belong to the inside of a body and are completely the animal's own. They do not belong in any way to the outer world. These two things are the inner linings and the inner holes of the heart, with the blood vessels and lymph vessels, and the peritoneum. In the higher animals and in the human being, these have no connection whatever with outer space, They are completely cut off from outer space. All the other organs take outer space into themselves.

  Figure 9
Figure 9
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In the development of the animal from the stage of the gastrula to that of the blastula, a kind of folding process takes place, and this folding process proceeds until you have a primitive animal which is nothing else but the outside, the combined mouth and anus, and the intestine. (Fig. 10.) The outer world is drawn into the animal body and thereby creates the intestine. From this intestinal tube there develops the liver, the bladder, the pancreas, the lungs and so on.

  Figure 10
Figure 10
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When you study the formation of the nervous system, you also see the primitive outer layer of the human embryo. This is surrounded by the amnion which contains water. The nervous system develops as a result of the skin folding in, and this folding process continues until eventually a cord is formed. The skin closes, so that what was outside is now inside. (Fig. 11.) Therefore even the cavities of the nervous system are outer space; they are watery space. This is very important.

  Figure 11
Figure 11
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The blood vessels, the heart and the peritoneum develop in the embryonic form itself, creating space, so to speak, out of nothingness. You must imagine a convolution of cells gradually building up a kind of hole so that the cells are outside and an inner hole comes into existence. In this way is created within the animal body a new space which has nothing to do with outer space. This is only true of the peritoneum and the blood vessels. Therefore it would not be wrong to say that the cavity of the peritoneum is of the same kind of space as that within our heart and our whole blood vessel system. That is the real inmost side of our existence, the true counterpart of the outer world. If you use intestine and mesentery, to make two preparations, you use two different kinds of space qualities. We use in the intestine a part of the outer world, whereas in the mesentery we use a part of the inner world of the animal. Therefore you put into the one chamomile, into the other dandelion.

If we study the comparative anatomy of the peritoneum, we can ask where in the whole evolution of animals the peritoneum comes into existence for the first time. The Echinoderms are the first animals which have a so-called ‘Wassergefaess-system,’ which means a system lying between the intestine — the endoderm, and the skin and nerves and senses — the ectoderm.

The starfish, the sea-urchin — all the echinoderms — have a very special form which you find nowhere else in the animal kingdom. It is a fivefold symmetry. The echinoderms have a very hard calcified outer layer, and the intestine is in the centre. (Fig. 12.) Between the skin and the intestine you have the first stage of a mesentery. You have a definite impression that all these animals are built not from within towards the outside, but that their whole form derives from forces streaming from outside towards the centre. Of course the echinoderm's body must be there as a certain centre of activity to receive these forces, but I see these forces as coming from outside. The sea-urchin, the starfish — all the echinoderms — are actually nothing else but the most wonderful image of the etheric forces freely working round some centre. It is just in these animals that for the first time a space is created within the peritoneum.

  Figure 12
Figure 12
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All the echinoderms stand under the sign of Taurus. If you now go to the opposite side of the zodiac, you come to the sign of Scorpio, and here stand all those animals which are amphibians. In these animals there is something which again shows the fivefoldness, but in a different and not such a beautiful way.

Just imagine a frog which starts to hop. You have the fivefold form as in the sea-urchin, but now the fivefoldness is something quite different. (Fig. 13.) The amphibians and the animals which for the first time in evolution develop breathing in such a way that breathing becomes active, and in- and ex-haling are related to a lung. In connection with this they develop legs for the first time. There you have again the fivefoldness with its centre inside working outwards; whereas in the echinoderms it streams from the outside inwards.

  Figure 13
Figure 13
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In these two groups of animals is revealed the whole process of calcium and silica. Calcium is related to those animals in which there is activity from the centre outwards. They have a centre, and all the unfortunate things connected with our being within a body, but they are able for the first time to sound from within — even if this is nothing else but ‘Crak ... Crak ...’ That we take air into us and pour air out; that we exhale and inhale; that we are so related to our astral body that we can develop desires and wishes — these are the signs of calcium.

Although the echinoderms have a calcified skeleton, they are built up by the forces of silica. It is not the substance which gives the idea of calcium; it is the process. Silica can use calcium as carrier. We must differentiate between the direction of the forces — whether they come from within and go towards the cosmos, or whether they stream in from the cosmos towards the centre.

You will remember that Rudolf Steiner relates the process of chamomile to the process of calcium, and the process of dandelion to the process of silica. To enhance silica, you use dandelion, to enhance calcium, you use chamomile.

When you watch this picture and add a few anatomical notes, you will see that in the intestine two processes are going on: The intestine is lined with the so-called villi. For ordinary science these are the organs which suck the food substance out into the space around the intestines. This is rather as though one were to say that when for instance a calf is sucking at the udder, it gives milk into the udder. You have the udder (because the intestinal villi are like an udder) and there around is the mouth of the calf. The food comes into the intestine and science thinks that the villi take food substance into them as if the udder would suck the milk from the calf. But it is just the other way round.

In the intestines a process is going on which stream in and not out. What streams in is secretory substances, all the digestive juices and ferments which have to be mixed with the food, so that the food can be continuously and completely destroyed. The outer wall of the intestine is much stronger than any concrete barrier. Nothing can go outwards through the wall of the intestine. The secretions can penetrate the wall, but what we digest as food does not penetrate physically through this wall. Behind the wall are tiny holes connected with all the lymph vessels which line the outside of the intestines. They join together into larger lymphatic vessels and gradually they form the thoracic duct.

What is the function of the lymph vessels? I will try to give a picture: One should imagine that the lymph vessels build within our abdomen a vast sea or lake. Downwards into this lake streams what Rudolf Steiner calls a ‘cosmic nutrition stream.’ The etheric forces which feed us and which stream into us by means of our sense organs, eyes, ears, and even the skull, these forces, gradually streaming down, turn into matter; but they materialise actually only on the spot where they meet the ocean of the lymph. Imagine that a rain of manna, of etheric substances, streams through our sense organs into our body and falls lower and lower; and this rain turns into substance. When it reaches this space near the lymph vessels, it settles down, and it appears to us as if the food substances have penetrated through the intestinal wall into the lymph vessels.

Within the lymph vessels the ‘cosmic nutrition stream’ becomes matter. From the food itself only very few substances go through the intestinal wall. If you consider the physical and the cosmic nutrition streams, and see how the peritoneum is connected with the cosmic nutrition stream, and the intestines with the earthly nutrition stream, you will understand that you have two polar opposites: when you take the intestine and stuff it with chamomile, or when you take the mesentery and bring into it the plant dandelion.

These two plants also are polar opposites, and yet they are closely related to one another. In trying to understand the whole setting and nature of chamomile I always think of two other compositae which are closely related to it, namely calendula and arnica.

It is very interesting that the petals of arnica are not equally developed, one or two of them being almost always misshapen. When you go through these three flowers, you go out of the watery succulence of calendula into the uprightness of arnica. Chamomile is a flower which tries to fly away. It also has the strongest scent of the three, a pungent, wonderful scent which penetrates not only the flower, but right into the leaves. In chamomile something tries to fly away from the earth. It is this that you catch when you take the chamomile and put it into the intestine. You use these airy, flying-away forces, this scent which wants to go away from the earth, and you bring it into the most earthly destructive surrounding, the wall of the intestines.

Then you put it into the soil where it is surrounded by the cosmic summer forces when the sun shines on to the snow. In these sausages the calcium processes are brought together. The exhalation process of the chamomile is necessary so that the central and centralised forces of calcium (radial as in the frog) can really be brought to the compost heap and from there to the soil. You catch the ‘desires of the calcium’ and you surround them by that which contains our earthly nutrition stream and destroys it. This you expose during winter to the cosmic summer forces under the soil.

Dandelion is different. It is a plant with hundreds of secrets. Who, as a child, did not love it? With its ‘clock?’ You will not find anything more expressive of the workings of silica. Dandelion builds a kind of rosette on the ground with its leaves, and then with a very succulent stem it grows up, unfolding its fullness of yellow petals. From somewhere quite different there comes down what I can only call the spiritual silica process which builds the ‘clock,’ so that this is created out of the whole cosmos. It would be quite wrong to use the ‘clock’ for making the preparation. You must take that which is just ready to receive the ‘clock.’ This is the flower.

We now take the flowers and put them into the mesentery which is the carrier of the cosmic nutrition stream. Within this cosmic nutrition stream the fructification process goes on, developing the silica processes which you then give to the compost heap, and from there to the soil.




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