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Basic Concepts in Plant and Animal


Growing and Dying- How to Make a Form

Plant and animal processes- also described as life and soul or etheric and astral, are essentially different. Understanding the more complicated concepts starts with grasping the more basic principles. The plant and animal way of making similar forms shows us essential inherent facts about where the etheric is working and where the astral is working. In the beauty of nature we can find leaf forms that are shaped somewhat like a human hand with more or less differentiation. How does a leaf make this form and how do we see this form arise in an animal? It is actually quite different.


Growth and More Growth

The leaf has a basic way of making complex shapes. It grows. And it can vary growth differently over place and time to develop complicated structure. In the above Sweetgum leaves there are five centers of growth that divide faster than the leaf material in the indentations. This differentiated growth is how plants make their “hands” and other even more complicated shapes. This perpetual growth typifies the etheric life process. This article describes very scientifically how plants differentiate growth centers.

The Duck Tells Us a Secret

What happens in the animal (and human) realm? Clearly we need to grow in order to have a form. This part happens as we develop in the embryo. What if this growing happens without another process? The duck tells us the answer. What is normal in one animal may not be normal in another. Our fingers are freed to do more individualized tasks by a death process. Apoptosis is coordinated cell death. The astral, regulating forces work in from the periphery and form the organism. It is a delicate interplay that we can see in the entire later stage of embryology. The astral is working to ensoul- it makes hollow organs and shapes by coordinating death in specific parts of the organism’s structure. 


A Miraculous Interplay

Too much working inwards by the astral during development can cause deformities we actually see in real life. The hand can be split too deeply causing congenital hand defects. The etheric may be hindered at an early point in the development of the extremity. Thalidomide was a tragic example of this. Life and death processes must work in a musical way to form the human body and all the animal forms in nature. 

Ensouling Forms

The first intervention of the astral body is the process of gastrulation– this starts in the second week of development as a hollowing out of the sphere of cells that makes up the embryo. Tom van Gelder makes a humanized approach with Anthroposophic methodology into understanding embryology. For now it is important to note that these hollow forms are made ready by and for our soul process. We can understand how the flowers express “soul language” as the forms that are the closest to this hollowed ensouled form. Most musical instruments are “ensouled” in this way- they are capable of making music by having a hollow element. Architecture gives us a space to ensoul and can easily invoke emotions when constructed according to humanized principles. One group exercise with clay can help deepen these concepts. Each person can form a ball in their hands as perfect as possible. After each stage they can be passed around with eyes closed to emphasize the tactile element. Next, the ball is “gastrulized” -an indent is formed and deepened to hollow this clay form out. There is a clearly sensed difference between these stages and it is a wonderful exercise to artistically and humanly understand this phase of embryology. The development of inside and outside is essential for soul processes.