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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 Four: The Skull of the Vertebrates


The Skull of the Vertebrates

5th October 1947.

This morning we shall have to deal with three more preparations: oakbark, nettle and valerian. Let us begin with the oakbark-preparation.

It is perhaps a most remarkable thing to take as a sheath for the oakbark the skull of a domesticated animal. Rudolf Steiner does not give any advice as to which skull should be used, and I have the impression that it does not make much difference whether you use the skull of a sheep, a cow or even a horse. The oakbark is pressed into the skull. What does the oakbark do in the skull? What does the skull do to the oakbark?

The oakbark is put into the place where the brain usually lies so that oakbark and brain so to speak change places. There is only one great difference — that everything else, apart from the skull, is no longer physically present. That means that the animal is killed; and you have just the skeleton. But in the skeleton there is something which replaces what previously was the brain. With this preparation, Rudolf Steiner says, one can actually prevent all plant diseases.

What is the brain, and what is the skull? Yesterday we spoke about two different planes, two different lands of space, within and without the human body. We spoke about the intestine, which is without; we spoke about the peritoneum, which is actually within the human body, and found two completely different regions. These were applied to our preparations. The skull cavity is something very special. To learn to understand what it is, one must again go back over the whole of embryology, indeed the whole of comparative anatomy, because only then will one be able to see into what one enters when opening the skull.

Today, when opening the human abdomen or the skull, one completely forgets what one does. When the surgeon says that there is space in the skull, he does not realise what he is doing during an operation. I do not refer to the mood in which the operation is performed; that is quite another matter. One does not realise into what secret cell one is actually permitted to go, when the skull is opened during an operation. The outer world goes right into the inside of our existence through the intestine, and through many other organs — the lungs, the liver etc. The lungs are open towards the outer world. I spoke about these completely closed up spaces like peritoneum and heart and all the blood vessels. But this holy cell of our skull derives from somewhere else. It appears when we study embryology that it derives from the spheres of the ether world. In the mammals, in earlier embryological times, you have here the amnion water, and this is the carrier of the etheric body. The uppermost layer of the skin, the ectoderm, folds in so that the amnion water is inside the tube, and then, at a later stage, the ectoderm folds together and all this is now within the body. (cf. Lecture III, Fig. 11.) In here, in the nerve tube, we now have the amnion.

Out of this very primitive spinal cord there develops the skull — not the bones of the skull, but the cave of the skull. This cave of the skull is the earlier part, and only later on the skeleton envelops it. It would not be wrong to say that the cerebro-spinal fluid is the direct daughter of the mother amnion; it is not a grandchild, it is a direct child of the mother amnion. Inside the skull we are actually in a region belonging to etheric space, and within this space it is possible for the brain, as the foundation and centre of our thinking power, gradually to develop throughout the whole evolution of mankind.

In the domesticated animals this evolution has come to an end; or, rather it has more or less reached a certain climax. And the animals wander, so to speak, in another direction; passing from the direct way, and wandering more or less downwards. So if you have this animal skull, you still have the inner space of the etheric world, but it encloses something which has not fully reached what it should reach in order to become the layer on which the human ego is able to unfold consciousness by the power of thought.

In the brain of the animals there is just the becoming of consciousness — the becoming of an ego-consciousness — but it is not, as we know, fully established. The brain is just growing and striving towards what man has achieved, but it has gone astray.

What Rudolf Steiner says about the oakbark is interesting. He says quite clearly that the oakbark is a substance which has not reached something, but it is on the way to reaching it. Because, he says, in oakbark you have a substance which is just in between a soil and the living plant. We know from the Agriculture Course that the stem of a tree is like the elevation of the whole soil, and on top of this the plant gradually develops. Imagine these huge oak trees, and how out of their whole metabolism, their whole life and existence, they build their earthy and really hard garment around their stem. This is still just alive but on the way to become soil.

One should learn to understand that the human brain has become pure soils and nothing else. Whereas the animal brain is like the bark of the tree trunk. So that as regards substance, a fully developed soil is like our human brain. If the soil is not properly developed, not properly treated, then it is like bark. It can be too much alive. We put the bark into the skull of an animal, because in the whole order of organic forces, the bark stands in the same region as the animal brain.

We should learn to see this enormous wisdom out of which Rudolf Steiner has given us these preparations. What is beyond measure, so to speak, is this balancing of world powers where we use bark and relate it to the brain of an animal by putting it into the cavity in which the brain has been.

Now we must take very seriously this indication of Rudolf Steiner's that this preparation can heal all plant diseases. How is this possible?

Rudolf Steiner himself lays great stress on the calcium content in the oakbark, and he says that it is also this calcium content which has so very much to do with the healing process. This of course is easy to understand if you can imagine how the calcium works upwards from the roots, ensuring, so to speak, both the proper sensibility of the plant and the rooting of the plant down into the soil.

But there is something else relating to the oakbark which has interested me for years. It is also a very good remedy, and therefore I have studied it. The oakbark is one of the few substances which contain not iron (although the oak tree is a Mars-plant) but what in chemistry we call the companions of iron — molybdenum, cobalt, zinc etc. If you were to study the periodic system of the elements, you would see the iron surrounded by exactly those elements which we find in the oakbark. If we ask ourselves where they come from, we could answer only with a picture. These elements are there as the remains of the planet which was destroyed during the evolution of earth existence in the fight between Michael and the Adversary. The hundreds of little planetoids in the region between Mars and Jupiter, and all these iron-accompanying elements, are just the remnants of that which was once a planet.

These elements have an enormous influence on the whole productivity of the soil, and it would be a useful task for our laboratories to investigate those elements not from a chemical but from a homeopathic point of view. All those elements of the oakbark, in homeopathic etheric forces, have helping powers for calcium in the prevention of disease in plant.

When we put the skull with the oakbark into the compost heap, we create something very special. It is quite different from all the other preparations. And I think we should also grow more and more aware how to place the different preparations into the whole compost heap. I am inclined to feel that after so many years it should not be just left to the discretion of those who use these preparations. One should at least have some idea how their radiations work, and in which way they are best placed in relation to each other. I will say a few words about this later on.

About nettles Rudolf Steiner says that when you put them into the compost heap they will make the compost heap sensible, and in turn the soil also will become sensible. I must add that the oakbark preparation placed into the compost heap, makes the compost heap not only sensible but conscious, which is much more. I cannot go into details, but one thing I say. What makes the animal conscious gives to man conscience and not merely consciousness. The same powers give a plant health. A healthy plant is healthy by virtue of the same powers which create in an animal consciousness, and which in man build up conscience.

It is these which are applied to the compost heap with the oakbark preparation. You give to the heap part of the same powers which in us light up as conscience, and there you create the brain. Rudolf Steiner describes the compost heap as a brain. You put into this a spark of health, for health in the plant means the proper relation to physical and etheric substances.

The nettle preparation should be prepared without a sheath. It is enveloped in peat and put into the soil, where it remains for a year. This is actually twenty four hours for the nettle, since for plants a year is like a day. The nettle has to be put into the soil, exposed for one whole in- and ex-haling period. You cannot fail to notice the warm interest and joy Rudolf Steiner feels for the nettle when he speaks about it. Be says that every human being should ‘wear it round his heart.’ I would fully agree. If one only had this strength around one's heart — the stinging strength as well as the comforting strength.

Now this nettle, which Rudolf Steiner connects with the heart, has to be put into the soil, and my impression is (I say it is only an impression and nothing more) that the nettle also has its sheath, but this sheath is as wide as Mother Earth.

From many indications which Rudolf Steiner gave to us doctors, we know that the lung is deeply connected with the earth itself. So that we can easily understand that the nettle is put into the soil, and the lung — the breathing, the ex- and in-haling of the whole earth — is put around it. It is not an animal organ, but the organ of the whole Mother Earth which surrounds the nettle.

These are the five preparations, and it seems to me that they should be placed into the compost heap in the following way. But this should not be a dogma at all. Say, you look upon the compost heap from above. I have the impression it would be good to insert the oakbark a little away from all the other preparations, because it is the most special one. Further on you should insert the nettle. Then you should have a region where the other three are inserted as you like, I would prefer or suggest that the dandelion, yarrow and chamomile should lie as shown in the diagram. (Fig. 14.)

  Figure 14
Figure 14
Click image for large view

In inserting these preparations we not only bring about a living process, but we make the compost heap into a ‘becoming being,’ with a physical and etheric body, and also what I can only call existentiality of consciousness. The more you study these preparations, the mere you will see that you make the compost heap slightly awake with the preparation made from oakbark, that the nettle preparation makes it dream, and that the other preparations bring about sleep.

We are dealing really with three regions within the compost heap, and as we are here in the sphere of the plant, we should imagine — yes, here are the roots, and this oakbark-skull preparation brings into the compost heap an existence like the seed from which the roots sprout into the soil. And here in this region you have all that is connected with the leaf process and the stem process (nettle preparation). Yesterday I pointed out the pollen and the fruit, the stamen and the pollen, so that you can see how in this compost heap, by inserting the preparations, you actually create nothing else but the archetypal plant. (Fig. 15.)

  Figure 15
Figure 15
Click image for large view

You now cover it and sprinkle it with valerian. Why do you do this? You enliven the Phosphorus-process, and this is a process which calls down the help of the Heavens, to help all that has been done. To call down the forces to act in the way we had intended these forces to act — this is actually done with valerian.

I could of course now speak at length about valerian as a medicine for men and animals. But here you use it not so much in a medicinal way, but much more generally. It is done — I hardly dare to say it for fear of creating a wrong impression — as one uses incense at the altar. You do something to call down the help of the Higher Worlds: — ‘Let the archetypal plant come down.’

To understand this means of course much more. It means that if we do everything in a proper way, we help to enliven those human beings who feed on all that we produce as farmers; we help them to create their archetypal plant within them. The archetypal plant is not only the possession of the plant kingdom, We as human beings also carry the archetypal plant within us, only we do so in an upside down way. This leads to a renewal of our whole physical existence. What Rudolf Steiner once called the ‘Phantom’ — this is connected with the archetypal plant within man which has to be built up in the course of time with the help of the impulse of Christ on Earth. By applying in practice what Rudolf Steiner gave at Koberwitz, we serve this purpose.

You see more and more that not only will these things become a practice, but, where men are following this practice, they will be relating the whole earthly existence again to the cosmos. The sprinkling of the compost heap with valerian is actually the most important process, and should live in our soul when we perform it. Something like the sprinkling of valerian, this calling down of the help of the Spirit for the work on Earth, should penetrate and infiltrate our whole existence as gardeners and farmers.

When I started this lecture course I said it seemed to me that all that Rudolf Steiner has given us in agriculture can only be compared with what once upon a time, in the ancient Persian Epoch, was given to man when he was taught the knowledge of wine and wheat, We must realise more and more what a holy gift we carry as we learn to practice it and to understand it. This is the only answer to all the divisions in agricultural thinking in the world today.

When Alexander the Great once wrote to Aristotle asking him why he gave all his esoteric writings to the world, and why he did not leave then entirely to Alexander, Aristotle answered: ‘You see, they may well be able to read them, but they will not understand them.’ — This we should also learn to know. They might use any of these substances; they can only misuse them if they do not understand them. Only if we try as farmers to develop more and more devotion towards spiritual knowledge shall we be able to be proper farmers. To cut away the preparations from Anthroposophy, to cut away all the teachings about farming from Spiritual Science, means to cut away a branch which, being cut off from the tree, would soon die. It is the farmer who runs the farm, and it is Anthroposophy in the farmer which runs the farm properly.

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