Agriculture Lecture 5 – Oak and Skull

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Oak and Skull – Preparation 505

Now let us start all over again. With each preparation, I think it is advantageous to get a general orientation, as we progress. Let us once more consider the life of organisms, the organisms of the earth, the general life processes, the general tendencies, the metabolic processes in the organism and make our way to specific life processes.

Let us start with the organism of the earth. If we look at the earth as related to the etheric, we can identify four spheres. We can start with the lithosphere, the sphere of the solid. This is a very small portion of the earth. Next comes the hydrosphere. It is the liquid sphere that covers six-sevenths of the earth and rises into the next sphere, the atmosphere. The atmosphere is the airy domain. It contains the gaseous elements, as well as trace elements from the kingdoms of nature; the mineral, plant, animal and man. And finally, we come to the thermosphere, the warmth sphere that extends to the stratosphere. We can carry this sphere to the region of the cold and then to the warming. Then there is a sudden drop of temperature. Here, we are out of the sphere of the earth. Rudolf Steiner indicates that the earth as a telluric entity extends as far as the warmth, as far as the thermosphere of our stratosphere as just indicated. At Rudolf Steiner’s time the stratosphere was not so well researched as now.

This then is a general, but physical makeup of our earth. The spheres do not make the earth into an organism but lay the basis for this.

If we turn to the plant we can also identify the spheres and ethers connected with the plant. We relate the root to the lithosphere, to the solid, to the salt process. The leaf we associate with the hydrosphere, the liquid, the mercurial element. The bud and flower we connect with the airy. The warmth sphere we connect with this stage of activity where color and volatile substances are produced in the flower and leaf. The warmth-airy we relate to the sulphur process. Finally, we come to the fruit and seed domain of the plant. Here the thermosphere is active to ripen the fruit and mature the seed.

We can, as well, identify the working of the solid, watery, airy and warmth in animal and man just as we have in the organism of the earth and the plant. The four spheres work to bring about the states of matter, and create an essential basis for unfolding life as process. The latter is essential for a living organism.

If we progress to the general metabolic activities, we take up the transformations of substances connected with life as an activity of an organism. We used the deer antler and the horn to exemplify two metabolic tendencies. The radiational processes of the antler, if carried to an extreme, leads to explosion. The consolidative processes inherent in the horn, if carried to the extreme, leads to implosion. When these two tendencies are balanced (the radiational and the consolidative), we have a dynamic image for grasping an organism and the metabolic processes of an organism. The more radiational, we can relate to respiratory-metabolism-catabolism. The consolidative, we can relate to anabolic non-respiratory metabolism. Perhaps we can speak of aerobic and anaerobic metabolism as is current today. However, the anabolic process considered here is not the same as the anaerobic metabolism of the biochemistry today. The biochemical anaerobic metabolism of biochemistry has catabolic processes inherent in the chemism of substance. The consolidative activity we are discussing here is more up-building than the anaerobic-metabolic processes considered in our present day chemistry. This I see as a result of not grasping “life” more fully. The anabolism as indicated by Rudolf Steiner is an extensive up-building process and synthetic activity.

We can still make another step. The metabolic processes of anabolism and catabolism, of aerobic and anaerobic metabolism can be evolved and refined to serve much more specific life processes. The seven life processes as described by Rudolf Steiner, I see as quite specific processes compared to anabolism and catabolism. We have spoken of warming, the warming process, the breathing process, the nutritional process, the excretory-secretory process, the maintaining process (essentially transformative metabolic activity), the growing process and the reproducing process. One of the reasons for taking up the seven life processes is that I think, in the case of this particular preparation, we may well have a good basis for focusing on the growth process. Again, I suggest we consider the seven life processes as more specific than the general up-building and breaking down processes of all living organisms. A way to consider the difference between anabolism-catabolism and life processes is to relate the metabolic activities to the play between astral and etheric. The astral and etheric work dynamically to bring about substance changes. The astral works to bring about catabolism, the etheric to bring about anabolism. The seven life processes are concerned with the etheric as the etheric serves as a vehicle for the ego-organization of a living organism.

Now once more let us focus on the ABC of plant identification. We spoke of the round calcium formative form, structured by the calcium process and of the elongate vine-like siliceous structuring activity. The two processes are determinative of the plant structure above the earth.

When we look at root forms of plants we can speak again of two general tendencies. Rudolf Steiner has spoken of the root forms as earthly and cosmic. The earthly root is ramified, arborizing and horizontal in orientation. The cosmic root is more vertical, tending to become a solitary structure, but not absolutely so. I associate the earthly root with the actual earthly domain, the earth and inner planets. The cosmic root I associate, with the formative, which is connected with the outer planets and the zodiac as well. We can also read the working of the planets in plant colorings. Blue can be connected with Saturn, yellow with Jupiter, red with Mars, and green with the Sun.

The next step in reading the form of the plant is to focus on the tree. The tree has been described by Rudolf Steiner as a mound of earth thrown up and the crown-leafy portion, the colored region, descending out of the cosmos as an incarnating herb. The two tendencies establish an earth circulatory-respiratory system in the plant, such as the xylem and phloem channels. The radiant herbaceous form I take it, also indicates the working of a cambial process in the plant. Varying combinations of the two tendencies, a mound with a hollow and a descending radiational form, bring about the major form of a plant; tree, bush or herb. The outer form then helps point to earth and cosmos, as well as to metabolism. The herbaceous form we can connect with the radiational-catabolic. The more consolidative of the element we can associate with the compactive, the anabolic. With this script, we can try to read the varying plant substances used in the preparations.

Now let us step over to the preparations and try to identify them as they relate to the various spheres, the various etheric spheres of existence. Now, we can make a list, beginning with the preparations related to light-warmth. These are A) 501the silica-horn, and B) 502 the yarrow. These I relate to light and warmth because they are either hung in the atmosphere in summer or buried in the earth in summer. Next comes the dark-warmth. I would relate these to A) 504 the chamomile preparation which is placed into the intestine of the cow and buried in the winter, and B) 500 the horn manure which is also buried in the earth in winter, and C) 506 the dandelion preparation which is buried in the earth first in winter and then in summer.

Let us move on from the sphere of warmth to that of the air. Valerian, 507, is the preparation that is ensheathed in the sphere of air.

If we go on to the watery sphere, we can contemplate the oak bark preparation which is placed in a skull, preparation 505. Running water is very essential to the making of this preparation.

Finally, the solid becomes a sheath with the preparation 504, the nettle preparation. The nettle is placed within the earth for a year. One would have to say that it is exposed, to the dark earth element, for an entire year. Thus, we can relate the preparations and their sheaths to the ether spheres. However, it is also possible to relate the preparations to the life processes. It is to this aspect that I would now like to turn.

Let us begin, not with silica or manure in the horn, but with preparation 502. This is yarrow in a stag’s bladder. We have been over this. This plant has a strong sulphury working. It carries a dynamic calcium process into inflorescence. This calcium process leads to oil formation in the plant and a hollow space within the stem. At the same time the plant finds an intimate relationship with the earth. Sulfur is found in the roots and also potassium, in small amounts. We have identified this preparation as one that works intensely with the sulphury, permitting the plant being to incarnate through potassium-potash. We have called the preparation made with yarrow the incarnator preparation. We have related it to the son principle, since we draw the plant being out of the cosmos into earthly incarnation. The form of the yarrow inflorescence is somewhat that of a convex dome, a composite raying structure that relates the plant to the cosmos, while at the same time, bringing the sulphury of the inflorescence into the root as actual sulfur. This is a working of incarnation, the work of potash.

If we go on to the preparation 503, the chamomile preparation, we can see that the plant carries on a lively sulphury process, as in the case of yarrow. This is reflected in the oil formation. The dynamic of the plant, the astral radiational process is thrown back onto the plant (a calcium process), to produce a gastrulation form within the center of the blossom. This process extends into the stem so that a hollow stem is created. This is a plant that is very much connected with earth. It will grow on the poorest soil. We can relate this plant to an almost conceptive-reproductive process. The gastrulary blossoms can remind us of many wombs, which help suck the being of the plant out of the cosmos and into the earth. The plant thus serves as a stimulator of the processes of reproduction, as a receiver. In this sense we can speak of the mother female-like element at work in this plant. The chamomile is identified as matricaria-mother. The preparation is noted for its storing calcium activity for the living plant.

As we go on to the preparation 504, the nettle, we have identified this as a being who differentiates between the iron process of the cosmos and the earth. We have suggested that this points to the male-female element that has to be served in the reproductory processes. The balancing of the two was identified as the process in the plant that is a balancer of the cosmic-meteoric iron process and the earth-iron process. The balancing of these two processes, we spoke of as a kind of a mercurial-like healing activity that is inherent in the urtica. The urtica, as we noted, has a very lively calcium-like process, which hollows out the plant, and works at the production of the ammonia substance, which is located on the hairs of this plant. The hairs belong to the leaves. This preparation is placed in the earth itself. It can be considered to be the real healer for the cosmos and the earth. It is ensheathed in the earth that is also a cosmic body. The plant and preparation-works as a healer, as a furthering of the breathing of the earth with the cosmos. This I gather is one of the great secrets of iron.

These three preparations are very much connected with conception, reproduction and respiratory incarnation. They serve the reproductory process. They stimulate the two aspects of reproduction, that is, male and female activity. It should be very carefully pointed here that we are not talking about anything sexual. We are noting male and female activities as they serve conception, reproduction and breathing incarnation but there is nothing of a sexual element involved in what we are discussing. This is because we are not talking about reproduction either in an animal or in man. We are talking about processes as they occur in relationship to a plant and the earth. This is, of course, a very new aspect when considering the pure life processes inherent in fathering, mothering, male activity, female activity and birthing. We are speaking of that with which we usually associate with animal or human sexuality. Here, we are speaking of earth and plant life processes. This opens the door to another vista of the whole process of conception, reproduction and breathing incarnation.

Thus, we are now prepared to move towards the oak and the skull. It is here that Rudolf Steiner speaks extensively of healing and with a little thought we can perhaps glean why this is the case. Let us begin by looking at the oak. The oak, the white oak, is a mighty tree. It stands in nature like a wonderful representation of the balance between heaven and earth, not in the form of the herb stinging nettle, but in the form of a tree. The strength of the earth can be seen in the trunk and its excrements, the bark. The trunk is carried up into the bough of the tree where the life and the cosmic processes are well reflected. There in the bough we find the processes of round-cosmic gall formations. There we also find the inscription of earthly-cosmic evolution in the form of the acorn. As students of spiritual science we have often met the image of the acorn as the early and almost first form of earth evolution in Polaria. Here, in a way, the sphere of the earth-fire and the cosmic-fire are present in the form of an acorn. This is an image of the period of Polaria as it reaches into Hyperborea. The acorn is a reflection of this very ancient time. The oak tree carries this history, world history in the crown of its being. We can also consider the formation of the gall, the spherical round pigment-producing, color-producing sphere, that grows on the surface of the leaf of this tree. The gall produces a poisonous substance, known as gallic acid. If it is consumed it poisons. The substance of the gall is used for writing, it is used to make ink; it is used for script. Here we have a kind of cosmic-earth process, which I think, points us back much more to the time of Lemuria. Both the acorn and the gall are found in the crown of this tree carrying activities of cosmic memory.

The crown is intense green in color. As the course of the seasons pass, this green leaf becomes brown, hardened cellulose, chitinous. The leaf forms a residue in the bough of the tree which at times can stay on the tree from one season to another. I would suggest that here we see something of the coming forth of the Atlantean period out of the previous evolutions that have just been mentioned. Something of an earthly permanence appears. Thus, we can say the tree in its activity carries the memory of the cosmos. It is a carrier of cosmic memory. It produces script substance and, as well, can make an indelible earthly record in its leaf.

If we look at this tree, we watch its growth, its unfolding, it reminds us very much of the phase in life when the human being begins to unfold physically in a most dramatic form. This is the period of adolescence. Dynamic unfolding, purely physical growth, strength of physical growth all become evident in adolescence. The revelation of growth is typical of the adolescent period. This is true for the female as well as the male. We often use the male as an example of the physical unfolding and strength, but in fact, sometimes the most dramatic expression of growth unfolding physically is that of the female. As we know, at this period the human organization has to unfold with a force and a dynamic but this dynamic has to be so regulated so that pure growth can be transformed to become the carrier of the soul life. Adolescence requires an incredible dynamic of life activity but at the same time a dampening of life. Run away life is easily seen in the straggling adolescent. This never occurs with the oak. I would like to suggest that the oak with its acorn, that points back in history, the gall nut that points back in history, the leaf that carries history, suggests this metamorphosis of life into structures that serve for memory, for soulness. This tree becomes a wonderful expression of man, becomes a wonderful expression of the mediation between cosmos and earth, between growth and soul life. There is growth and unfolding from the earth, there is an indwelling from the cosmos for the sake of soulness. The tree is a Mars revelation. As tree it mediates the two poles that we have spoken of in relationship to the urtica. Here, however, we are not speaking of the male and female polarity between heaven and earth, but the actual unfolding of the human being in his soulness by a further transformation and metamorphosis in metabolism that permits soul life to occur and evolve memory. We have growth, we have dampening of growth, and we have a metamorphosis of growth for formations that are cosmic recollections, cosmic-recollective forms.

It seems to me that these contemplations might give some clue as to why the oak was held to be so precious by the Druids. It is the Druid tree, the tree of the physician. The oak speaks to the depths of what the Druid had to bring forth for mankind; the physician. The Druid was a physician-priest. The tree is revelation of the earth, of the cosmos, an image of the etheric that has to be transformed. This transformation of the etheric-form, serving the physical to serve the soul, is a basic transformation needed for health, or the well being of the plant, animal and man. This tree, as keeper of cosmic memory, is a carrier of this past. It lays a ground for the future. This is a holy tree, hallowed by its memory capacity. It permitted an insight into cosmic memory so that the future could be anticipated. One could say it serves so that the future incarnation of the Sun-Being could be anticipated. It seems to me this is a rather wonderful contemplation that one can carry in relationship to the oak. The oak helps carry the past for the sake of the future.

Now let us go a little further in regard to the oak because we have to concern ourselves here with the bark of this plant. Rudolf Steiner is pointing to the bark of this tree.

We can look at the calcium in the bark and consider it as excrement. It is what is cast out of the life of the plant so that, in fact, there is not only the process of calcium. This calcium process is what is used for memory formations – the round acorn, the round gall and the curled rounded leaf. This relates the calcium process, not to what we have indicated before with the chamomile or the horn manure preparations, bringing the earthly to the plant, but here we see calcium process serving cosmic memory activity. The soul-life of the cosmos is brought to this. Cosmic soul-life is brought to the tree because the calcium is excreted into the bark. The tree in contemplating cosmic memories excretes calcium into its bark. As the tree contemplates the script, it excretes and produces an organ of contemplation in its bark. This conceptive activity is not a physical conception but is of a memory conception of that which is carried in the cosmos by mankind’s deeds. The tree conceives – contemplates.

In a way, if we look at the bark of the oak, it sometimes makes the inner side of our skull prickle. It is almost as if we are looking at the surface and convolutions of the brain. The sculpting of the bark is reminiscent of the convolutions and the fissures of the neocortex of the human cerebrum. The bark excrement carries the calcium as substance and the configuration of the bark resembles our own instrument used to reflect in remembering, that is, our brain.

To comprehend this bark even more fully, it is well to consider the processes that are involved with tannic acid. As we know, tannin is used extensively to harden the skin of animals to make leather. Inherent in it is a hardening, a formative element. As we contemplate that the calcium process is precipitated in the bark like the salting-precipitating of our thinking-recollecting, we call to mind the structuring of our brain. We can ask what structures our brain. It is myelin, and particularly, the U-fibers of the cortex that structures the brain surface. The myelin precipitation, the myelin excrement, structures the brain. The myelin is phosphorus-salty substance, wound in layered spirals around nerve fibers as insulation and structure element. In the case of the oak it is tannic acid. This substance is the vehicle that structures this bark into ridges, into crevices, into mobile rows and convolutions. The structuring we would have to attribute to the activities surrounding the production of tannin. It is interesting that tannin is a hydrocarbon, water-carbon. The exact chemical makeup is not certain. Tannin in its chemical makeup apparently is as elusive as the humus makeup in the soil. What is generally known as tannin, particularly tannic acid, is a fairly long-chained hydrocarbon, with 28 carbon units. But there is also associated with tannin, what is called gallotannic acid. Interestingly, tannic and gallic acid is produced by the gallnut. Some gallic acid is also produced in the leaf of the tree. This gallotannic acid is called tannic acid also. It appears that gallic acid contains an aliphatic or a cyclic-carbonaceous structure. Gallic acid is connected with the color substance of the gallnut. It may be that the gallic acid is important in the odor of the bark, as cyclic compounds tend to be volatile. This may be what one can smell when one smells bark. In the long chain tannic acid, we have a kind of a vine-like siliceous process active chemically. With gallic acid there is a reflection of a kind of calcium process that produces the benzene ring structure of gallic acid.

In my reading so far, and particularly, in looking into the work done by the Kolisko’s it is just the tannic acid process, the formative element that one wants to eliminate by creating the preparation. In the preparation we are concerned with a calcium substantial process. This substantial process should not serve growth, but should serve higher faculties in man, that is, his cerebral, reflective process when he conceives spiritually. The tannic-formative element that is created in the crown and dips into the bark is eliminated in the bark. It is just this tannic-formative element that we want to eliminate from the preparation. In order to manage this, we place this substance in the skull of an animal and then into water. We need calcium process without the tannic-gallic acid activity.

This now leads us over to the consideration of the skull. I take it that the skull should be from an animal that is an ungulate. The animal should be herbivorous, and preferably a ruminant. It does not have to be a horned animal. The preparation is created by placing chopped up oak bark (crumbly in texture), into the brain cavity of the skull of an animal. It is then very important that this skull with the oak bark be placed into a watery circumstance where there is a kind of colloidal transformation taking place. Scum or slime needs to form. Thus scum water is to the oak bark, what clay is to the soil. The scum that Rudolf Steiner speaks of, the watery, metabolic, colloidal substance, is like placing the skull into a clay-watery environment, but a clay that is very watery. The water should be running, at least at intervals and preferably with the rain, rainwater. It is as if one wants to subject the skull with the tremendously formed, calcium-laden oak bark, into this process. We want cosmic forces of winter, of rain, of flowing water to help transform and eliminate the tannic and gallic acid process in the oak bark.

If we dwell on the skull of an animal for a few moments, we can carry some of our previous considerations of the ruminant into this contemplation. Let us consider a cow’s skull. It does not have to be a cow’s skull. However, I would like in this case to consider the cow skull. If we look into the brain cavity of such a skull, we can see how this cavity is raised above the digestive-metabolic stream of the animal. This stream runs from the mouth through the inner core of the animal, to the far end, to the anus. Much takes place in the abdomen of the cow. This activity is lifted out of the abdomen, and is carried forward and upward into the brain, into the skull cavity. The brain of this animal, or any ruminant, is very much alive with processes brought forward and elevated out of the intestinal-abdominal region.

As we will hear later, the brain is nothing but a wonderful reflection of the convolution and configuration, as well as the excretion activity of the intestine in the abdomen. So we might think that activity and substance of the cow is the manure and excretion process brought forward and elevated in the brain cavity. The crude manure activity, transformed and excreted, is metamorphosed in the brain cavity of the skull. Brain substance is metamorphosed dung and brain activity is metamorphosed excretion activity. Brain substance and activity is an, inner, loftier excretion originating in the intestine. Intestinal content is excreted into the skull. It forms brain substance, on a level above the intestine. The process is not as alive as in the intestine. Nitrogen process is connected with kidney radiations and has to penetrate brain substance. In the case of the excreted dung the manure is full of plant substance from what has been consumed. There is as well, the nitrogenous breakdown material that comes from the lining of the intestinal itself. The excreted dung becomes a basis for further life of plants. The eliminated, excreted brain substance becomes the basis for the sense life and consciousness of the animal. The cow’s consciousness is but slightly elevated above the vegetative state.

Now, we take the skull of this animal, and take out the brain. We eliminate that which belongs to such a lively metabolic animal. We place in its stead, the oak bark. We have already identified the oak bark as a brain substance of this tree. It is formed out of the earth and cosmos. The bark is created so that the tree can reflect the cosmic-memory active in the bough that in turn fashions the bark. As a cosmic memory is active and helps form the crown of the tree, this can be reflected in the bark. The bark permits the cosmic reflective activity. This bark is what we use as a basis for the preparation.

Within the skull of this animal, which is through and through metabolic, we place cosmic reflective, cosmic-memory reflection substance. We eliminate the form element in the bark by permitting tannic acid to be transformed and washed away. It is this process of reflection, cosmic reflection, that we want to give to the earth. In turn, the plant can be cradled in this cosmic reflective activity of the earth, to carry it over to man through the plant.

We might call this preparation, the recollector. The recollection here is conceptive but it is also cosmically reflective. There is a reflection and recollection of the dynamics of cosmic memory. Cosmic memory lives – is active. We want to help the earth, we want to help the plant so that when man or animal consumes the plant, and this process flows over. Man needs a basis for cosmic memory. This should be built into the life of the physical makeup of the human organism.

Thus we have identified our preparations: preparation 502 as the incarnator, 503 as a reproducer, 504 as the balancer, the regulator and 505 as the healer-recollector.

We cannot complete this discussion without pointing out that we are dealing here with the mystery of the skull. Here we can consider not only the oak in relation to the Druid, but also the skull in relation to the events of Golgotha. Golgotha means skull. The mystery of the skull is what we can contemplate in relation to this preparation. This preparation can point to the Mystery of the Skull, to the events that occurred nearly two thousand years ago. There, in the land of Palestine, an event occurred. With the dying process inherent in the human head, and in the processes of the skull mystery, there comes a new impulse that eventually leads this head, this skull, this encased dying process, into the future. Needed is not just the memory of physical events. Needed is a living memory of cosmic events. It is to this end that the events of Golgotha took place. Ordinary memory has to pass over to cosmic memory. Man needs to find himself as a citizen of the earth and cosmos. This preparation points to this need and its fulfillment.