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 separating them.
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 these forces.
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 vegetable substance.
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 plant-like nature.
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 mineral forces.
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 whole organism.
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.