The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

From Elephants to Einstein
GA 352

The truly remarkable lectures — or, more accurately, question and answer sessions — contained in this book, form part of a series (published in eight volumes in the original German) dating from August 1922 to September 1924. This series features talks given to men involved in various kinds of building work on Rudolf Steiner's architectural masterpieces, the first and second Goetheanums. (The destruction by fire of the first Goetheanum necessitated the building of a replacement.) A vivid description of the different types of workers present, as well as the context and atmosphere of these talks, is given by a witness in the Appendix to this volume.

The sessions arose out of explanatory tours of the Goetheanum which one of Steiner's pupils, Dr Roman Boos, had offered. When this came to an end, and the workers still wished to know more about the 'temple' they were involved with and the philosophy behind it, Dr Steiner agreed to take part in question and answer sessions himself. These took place during the working day, after the mid-morning break. Apart from the workmen, only a few other people were present: those working in the building office, and some of Steiner's closest co-workers. The subject-matter of the talks was chosen by the workers at the encouragement of Rudolf Steiner, who took their questions and usually gave immediate answers.

Translated by A.R. Meuss FIL, MTA

I. Pachyderms. Nature of shell/carapace and skeletal development January 7, 1924
Resin in ant heaps and damage caused by carpenter bees. Where elephants go to die. The animals' premonition of death. Man has paid for his freedom by losing most of his faculty of premonition; animals do not have freedom, everything about them is unfree, but they have great powers of premonition. The elephant's mind, able to remember everything, especially what happens inside him. Shell and carapace development in lower and higher animals. External skeleton interiorized through the blood. Self awareness and firm skeleton. Skeleton and periosteum. The spirit sits in the skeleton.
II. Poisons and their effect on humans January 19, 1924
Arsenic and its toxic actions. All substances in the human body are produced by man himself; he creates them out of the universe. The astral body produces arsenic; large amounts of this kill people, small amounts make them sick; very small amounts in finely dispersed form are medicinal. Toxic effects are studied most easily in their weak form. Mineral poisons, the body's self-help against them and antidotes. Children with rickets do not produce enough lead. Protein, always present in human beings, continually dissolves the lead. Plant poisons make life move towards sentience. Tannic acid counteracts plant poisons. Animal venoms only take effect in the blood; they can only be got rid of by the antidote we ourselves create in the blood. Humans are also continually producing animal venoms, e.g. when suffering from diphtheria. Formic acid and renewal of the earth within the universe. The supersensible human being needs ptomaine for life. Gout and rheumatism. Mineral poisons make the physical body enter into the ether body. Plant poisons make the ether body enter into the astral body. Animal venoms make the astral body enter into the I.
III. Nutrition January 23, 1924
Excess protein in the diet causes hardening of the arteries in later life and makes people susceptible to all kinds of infectious diseases. Protein has to be completely metabolized by the ether body. To have proper nutrition for the heart, chest, etc., human beings must eat fats. The ether body prevents the putrefaction of fats, the astral body their going rancid. Copper and arsenic to combat diseases due to rotten protein in the gut or to rancid fats. The I combats fermentation of sugar and starch. Excessive potato consumption harmful for the head. Potato diet and materialism. Further harmful effects of eating potatoes. The I is mainly active in the head, the astral body in the chest, the ether body in the abdomen. Internal smell of rotten eggs is combated in spas smelling of rotten eggs. Medicinal quality of rotten egg smell. Many diseases are due to nutrition.
IV. The human eye. Albinism February 2, 1924
The finer structure of the iris differs from one person to another. Anatomy of the eye. Cornea, chorion, retina, optic nerve and blind spot. We see with the supersensible I. Black or blue eyes. Brown eyes. Colouring of eyes and paleness of body in albinos. Nature of albinism. Iris diagnosis. Eye diagnosis in general. Albinism due to irregularities in the way the I processes sulphur and iron. Anaemia due to irregularities in the way the astral body processes iron.
V. Fluid cycle of earth in relation to universe February 9, 1924
Water is really the earth's blood circulation. Water begins to circulate in its fresh, salt-free state and ends in the oceans in the salty state. Underground salt streams from mouths to sources of rivers. Salt water has little connection with cosmic space. Fresh water springs are the eyes of the earth. In reproduction, the heavenly element is acting on the earth. Experiments concerning the role of the spleen. Dr Kolisko's work on splenic function and the platelet question. Reproduction and development of sense organs in saltwater fish. Migration of salmon. Migration of birds. Left side of human body has more of the earth forces, right side more of etheric forces of the heavens. Emancipation of human beings from the earth. Halibut and plaice. Flowers as bearers of light and roots as bearers of salt. How the earth feeds itself and how human beings feed themselves.
VI. Human clothing February 13, 1924
Need to protect ourselves from the environment. Animals largely have ready-made protection. The way the pelt or plumage of an animal develops is mainly connected with sun activity. Humans have independence by not having the outer protection of animals but being more exposed to environmental influences. Emancipation of humans from external nature. Clothing has two functions — to protect from the outside world and to adorn. The decorative aspect of clothing has gone through tremendous development. Early peoples felt the astral body to be coloured and made it visible in their clothing. Colours worn for rituals. Tubular form of trouser and stove-pipe hat. Floating and close-fitting garments. Bourgeois style of clothing developed out of protective function. Origin of medals. Toga reflected supersensible body. Modern men's morning coat a cut-down toga. How the belt evolved. Modern clothing has largely become grey and colourless. Origin of military uniforms. Flags and group souls. Altar images, family portraits and landscape paintings. Raphael's Sistine Madonna a banner for processions. Tattoos. National costumes. Clothing has essentially developed from the need for protection, but even more so the need for adornment.
VII. Effects of arsenic and alcohol February 16, 1924
Poisoning of children who are fed arsenic. Arsenic acts especially on the astral body and above all on breathing. Obesity caused by arsenic. A little arsenic present in all foods. Castrate voice. Lung not only serves respiration but also important in nutrition. Most diseases of the lung due to lung not being properly nourished. Information needed rather than legislation. Ban on alcohol imports. Human being produces alcohol in the body and this is needed as a preservative. Wine is created by the sun principle coming from beyond this earth. Anthracite deposits everywhere harbour very ancient sun forces. Alcohol affects the astral body in adults and above all the I itself. Particularly harmful for children. Goldfish and how they thrive in water full of sun and warmth. Shirt is chest system, coat is head system. Tails and top hat were originally combined in a coat.
VIII. Connection between higher aspects of the human being and the physical body. Actions of opium and alcohol February 20, 1924
Green colour of plants. Colour of fish. Significance of lateral stripes on fish. Loosening of ether body and astral body before death and the opposite condition when the astral body enters too deeply into the physical body. Confession made due to loosening of conscience along with the ether body. Sin against human freedom. Misuse of spoken and written word. Alcohol influences mainly the I. Opium acts particularly on the astral body.
IX. Anabolism and catabolism in the human organism. Significance of secretions February 23, 1924
Urinalysis. Difference between old and new medicine. Human soul and spirit active in afterbirth. The eye is a secretion. The whole brain is a secretion. Thinking activity consists in the brain being secreted, excreted by thinking. Physical body and ether body build up, astral body and I destroy. The spiritual depends on destruction, not construction. We break matter down and eliminate it throughout life. Sweat is secreted out as a function of the ether body, urine one of the astral body. Intestinal secretions are specifically under control of the I. Everything concerning health or illness basically depends on how the astral body functions. Urine examined for protein and sugar. Colour changes and cloudiness or clarity of urine. The 'much pharmacy' of old. The astral spectre of urine, sweat and intestinal contents—the 'mummy7. Horse and cow dung. The supersensible animal and the supersensible human being lives in the secretions. Tumours and inflammation.
X. Einstein's theory of relativity. Thinking divorced from reality February 27, 1924
Popular presentation of Einstein's theory of relativity. Concerning the question of absolute rest or absolute motion and the nature of relative rest and relative motion. Einstein's view that one can only say that things are relatively at rest or in motion. Strange consequences of Einstein's theory. Spread of theory of relativity. Debate about it with university professors. Size of human being is not relative but determined by cosmic space as a whole. Debates on gravity in Rudolf Steiner's young days. Early and late Einstein. Plateau's experiment. Theory of relativity has logic but no feeling for reality.