• The Origin of the Animal World in the Light of Spiritual Science (Fechner)

        To such thinkers mentioned above Gustav Theodor Fechner, a man of genius in many ways, belongs. Because really important progress in natural science in various regions is connected with this personality, we should truly not pass by so lightly the theories of such a thinker as it is generally done today. Gustav Theodor Fechner cannot understand that the living ever could have developed out of the lifeless. It is much more obvious to Fechner to imagine that the lifeless can go forth out of the living through processes of isolation, because we see indeed that the inner life process of the living beings excretes the materials which, after having served a certain time in the life process, pass over to the rest of nature and belong then, as it were, to lifeless, to inorganic processes. So Fechner can well imagine that our earth at its starting point has been a single whole living being. This huge living being “earth” has done its breathing — so to say — from the cosmos and has perhaps also taken its nutrition from the (space of the) universe. Out of the entirety of this huge, enormous organism, which has once been our earth, on the one hand, living beings have developed as through a special constriction of that which in the huge earth organism has been living organs only, which thus became independent. And on the other hand — so Fechner imagines — those substances which today belong to the lifeless nature processes were excreted in a similar way as today substances are excreted from an organism after having served the living processes for a certain time. Thus, on the lines of this thinker, not the living came forth from the lifeless, but the lifeless came forth from the living. In a similar way, perhaps in a still more fantastic one, the natural investigator Wilhelm Preyer forms his own imagination. He has proved his legitimacy, his qualification for speaking about natural science not only through his abundant physiological and biological research, but also through his publications about Darwinism. Preyer also pictured to himself that the earth, at its starting point, was a kind of living being; he was always disinclined to speak of something lifeless in an absolute sense. He says we have really no right to look upon a flame as a kind of life process on the lowest level, a life process which is simplified, and has descended from a higher level; just so such life processes as we observe today could have developed in ascending. What Preyer means is: when a flame is burning, then it seems as if something like a life process is displayed to us in the consuming of the matter, in the entire method and way in which the burning, as a fact, presents itself to us. And he therefore supposes that it may not be out of the question that the earth itself was a huge life process, a life process that took place, nevertheless, under quite other conditions than the life processes of today. And so we see the most curious imagination has issued from the head of an investigator of nature, which Preyer expresses as follows: The earth could have been at the starting point of its evolution a huge enormous organism, the breathing of which we have to look for in the glowing vapors of iron, the blood flow of which we have to imagine in the glowing liquid metals, and the nourishment of which must have been brought about through meteorites drawn from the universe. This is certainly a peculiar life process, but this natural investigator thinks he couldn't go in another way if he were to trace back, not the living from the lifeless, but the apparently lifeless from the original living. And that which appears to us today as our life, in various realms appeared to him only as a life shaped especially, whereas the life of a burning candle seemed to him as a life formed backwards, in a certain way, so that the latter may appear to us outwardly as lifeless.

    The Origin of the Animal World in the Light of Spiritual Science
    A Lecture given
    by Dr. Rudolf Steiner
    Berlin, 18th January, 1912
    source : http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/19120118p01.html

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