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  How Human Beings Relate to the Geological Base

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By: Cornelis Bockemuehl
(Original title: Der Bezug des Menschen zum geologischen Untergrund. Der Merkurstab 1996; 49: 382-91. English by J. Collis.

The relationship between human beings and the geological base of the area where they live is an important subject for anthroposophical medicine which has so far received little attention. The effect of our relationship with the "earth element" in our immediate environment is something of which we are not aware. This "element" affects us by the way it confronts us, a confrontation that can be extremely hidden yet very powerful. I shall give examples of how landscapes shaped chiefly by lime or, alternatively, by silica confront us in contrasting ways and will show how this is something we can leam to experience. This holds good not only for virgin regions undisturbed by human activity but is revealed in particular by the way human beings have shaped a landscape, for example, by cultivating it or building on it.

With regard to the way we relate to the "earth element," Rudolf Steiner specifically indicated the lungs as the organ connected with this, pointing to their "build" rather than the breathing function. In the same context, he mentioned the effect of physical exertion on the lungs. It seems he was drawing particular attention to the way human beings actively face up to their environment and also to the way this impresses itself even on the structure of the lungs in the course of a lifetime.

Seeking conscious experience of the bridge between lime and silica on the one hand and the human organism (lungs) on the other, it is important to realize that such experience can be brought to our awareness and cultivated in the way we confront the landscape of a region. The present paper will give concrete examples of how to do this.

Anthroposophical physicians are expected to take account of the geological base as an important factor in the health of their patients. Rudolf Steiner stated this, for example in the 9th lecture in Spiritual Science and Medicine.(1) This will be investigated in the present paper, which also builds on my earlier work on the subject of "lime and silica." About 8 years ago, one of the first steps was a study of the relationship between the actual, directly perceptible geological make-up of two regions (Jura and Black Forest) and the way geologists developed methods of working there which as time went on came to focus on specific and characteristic questions.(2) This was followed by the supervision of various theses on more agricultural themes by students of the anthroposophical study year in science. Finally came collaboration with landscape planners and designers in the context of annual conferences beginning in 1992 during which it became increasingly obvious how geology can be studied and made accessible to some extent as the "constitution" of a landscape.(3)

The present paper, written in 1994, endeavors to build a further bridge, this time to medicine. As a geologist, I put a number of "entirely naive" questions to physicians about the ideas and observations they have so far used to approach Steiner's "expectation" that they should make themselves familiar with the geological base of the locality in which they live and work. I sensed a degree of perplexity in their reactions. This is not intended as a criticism since I did not conduct a thorough survey; it is more that I have taken this as an opportunity to make some of the findings, still in their early stages, more widely known.

The most important reference work I have used is the above-mentioned lecture by Rudolf Steiner. He spoke of "meteorological influences" affecting the human being, differentiating these into the classic "four elements." "Earth" is taken as meaning "lime" and "silica." Essentially, this gives the basic polarity for the rocks that make up most of the geological base above which we live. This is the context in which rocks are discussed here.

We can begin by looking externally and objectively at the sequence of the "four elements," on one pole of which we are about to focus. An attempt to imagine the world minus the solid "earth" element shows immediately that this is no longer really possible because without solidity and firm contours nothing remains of which we can form an idea. In a world without "earth" there can be no forming of ideas and certainly no "encounter" with anything. If we take this exercise seriously (and it can, of course, be expanded to include the other "elements"), we can easily get beyond the idea of dealing with objects. The "elements" then become various modes in which the human being and the world relate to one another, ranging from the way we are be closely bound up with the warmth of "fire" right down to that "foreign" confrontation with "earth." In comparison with the latter even "water" is something far more "inward," with its "effect" only evident when we absorb it, for example by taking a medicine or being given an injection.

The starting point for the present paper was external observation taken further by inner deepening. An important precondition was the assumption that the key to the question of "human being and the world of rocks" must be sought in this realm -which is open to immediate experience, without any suppositions concerning possible "effects" of'an indefinable nature. With this in mind, I shall begin by describing a few impressions of landscapes as examples gathered during a small outing. These examples were not chosen from the open countryside or an area seen in overview but specifically from a built-up area that shows how human beings have shaped it.

First example: a walk from Reinach to Arlesheim
Those who know Domach are perhaps familiar with the neighboring small towns of Arlesheim and Reinach. Like Domach, Arlesheim is situated on the West-facing, loess-covered talus of the Jura mountains. Reinach, by contrast, lies in the Birs valley which is, geologically, the southern end of the Rhine valley ditch, on the coarse gravels of the ice-age "lower terrace."
Reinach - "lower terrace"
The tram stop "Reinach Dorf" can be taken as the "center" of Reinach. It is in the middle of a busy main road that carries the tramline from Basle to Aesch and closely skirts the "historical" village center with its old church. The main impression is of large, rather new buildings, both business and residential, and many shops. Everything is close together, but there are no uniform frontages except on the church side, where a few old, squat houses give the slightly forlorn appearance of being relics of the earlier village. The same goes for the village fountain.

Setting out eastwards through the old village center towards the Birs we find our earlier impression confirmed: despite the modem date and well kept appearance of the buildings and streets there is something untidy about the place. The scattered old farm-houses and barns look a little lost. The orientation of the village comes mainly from the more or less rectangular grid of the streets running from East to West and North to South. The ground is completely flat, and the hills glimpsed between the houses towards the West (Bruderholz), South (Blauen) and East (Gempen) look distant, like a stage backdrop rather than an integral part of the landscape.

Passing over a 10-20 m. high terrace with trees and shrubs we arrive in the "Reinacher Heide," which belongs to the meadow-loam valley of the Birs. The autobahn runs in a tunnel inside this terrace.

The "Reinacher Heide" is a green area that is now a nature reserve, although maintenance of the open, grassy spaces can only be achieved by extensive cultivation. The woods here are dense and low, giving an "ancient," "wild" and dank impression, in contrast to the grassy spaces that appear rather "dry," no doubt because of the purposely-maintained leanness of the soil and the alluvial gravel that shimmers everywhere. Even in the more open spaces you feel safely enclosed in a beautiful "natural island" that is scarcely affected by the surrounding world. Being in a dip means that no villages are visible from here. To the East and South the Jura hills rise up behind the trees, once again rather like "a stage backdrop." The absolute flatness of the area gives a feeling of "wide open spaces." Flowing a few meters below the level of the surrounding meadows, the Birs itself only becomes a feature of the landscape when you are directly beside it or on a bridge.

The industrial and commercial area of Arlesheim is situated on the Arles-heim side of the Birs, i.e. the right-hand, eastern bank, still within the meadow loam region. It is fairly new, most of it having sprung up over the last 20 years, and it is gradually pushing out the last remnants of agricultural use.

Arlesheim - slopes of the Jura mountains
We approach Arlesheim from the West up a steep slope (approx. 40-50 m altitude difference) through a little wood. At the bottom of the slope we had to cross beneath the railway, the second main traffic artery in the Birs valley. At the top of the slope, where the wood ends, we find ourselves in a residential area with detached houses and small blocks of flats with plenty of green spaces in between. Up a slight, though still obvious, gradient we arrive at the Basle-Domach tramline which here, too, manages to skirt the "historic center" of the village. Like Reinach, Arlesheim has no proper "center," but it does give a more "complete" impression. Ancient and modem are less sharply juxtaposed; and the well-kept impression is the same as that in Reinach.

The village gains its orientation from the very shallow but obvious bowl shape of the land opening out to the West. This gesture is enhanced by the way the Juras embrace the village from the East in an arc-shaped range of hills; you can actually sense this gesture under your feet as you walk. Here the mountains are no longer like "a stage backdrop" but actually belong to the landscape, creating a border.

Arlesheim village is largely free of commercial and industrial premises, these having been firmly "banished" to a different part of the landscape, the Birs flood meadows described above. Reinach is different, with the border marking the industrial estate a much more artificial, arbitrary affair.

At the risk of losing some detail, the above descriptions can be summarized:
Human intervention: completely man-made, almost arbitrary.
Geology: lower terrace.
Birs area
Human intervention: "border areas" where nature reserve and commercial
areas meet.
Geology: meadow loam flats.

Human intervention: a given ground structure is taken up and used.
Geology: talus, loess.

A link between geological base and human intervention in the landscape is obvious. One might wish to dispute any "effect" of the geological base on human beings by pointing out that people can do whatever they like nowadays in the way of shaping their environment. Or one might point out that today's structures are essentially "historically" predetermined by previous, older structures.

Both these objections are not sufficiently far-reaching. With the latter, it is easy to see it merely pushes the question back into the past. As far as the former is concerned, it is justified in principle, but the question still remains as to why people did actually build in one way and not another. In the final analysis, it is unanswerable unless we let our own experience on the spot play a part in the answer. Asked where we would most like to build our own house we unhesitatingly choose the most expensive residential area. So we "experience the evidence" by looking at the situation directly. This is the point of departure for all further considerations.

It is not easy to formulate "the obvious" adequately. Looking at the village centers of Reinach and Arlesheim we have to ask what is the difference in the way human beings relate to the landscape in each of these settings. It is not glaring, but it is discernible:

The geological base does not obtrude excessively; it invites (or invited)
people to shape their own environment freely. There is arbitrary scattering; and even the zoning regulations, which are supposed to work against this, have a somewhat arbitrary character.

The geological base has created a shape that literally "invites" human beings to settle within it. Thus, from the beginning it has played a part in determining the shaping of the community and even today there is some degree of harmony between environment and human intervention that imposes order on the whole. This is valid primarily for the overall scale rather than the detail in each area or the buildings on it.

The relationship of human beings with the landscape might also be described in terms of two kinds of encounter between individuals:

• At the moment of encounter I am met by a strong goal-oriented intention and impulse with which I have to reckon. It may conform with my own ideas; but if it does not, I shall "clash" with it.
• There is a degree of openness in the encounter; anything might happen; I do not immediately feel challenged to define my position. This, too, can be a positive or a negative experience, i.e. offering either greater scope for creative activity or a tendency to get lost in something indeterminate.
This polarity can be described as one of "will encounters." Sympathy and antipathy are also connected with this although this is not the level we refer to. Morphological and spatial experiences come into play in the way we encounter landscape, in the sense that this is where we are most directly concerned with the solid element. As I explained at the beginning, the type of encounter that corresponds with this element is one in which the confrontation is external, in which one "clashes" and where there is an opportunity to develop the will.

The lungs
The relationship between human being and geological base in connection with the lungs is not one of outer correlation but of inner experience which can be deepened through practice and brought through meditation to an understanding of how things hang together. In order to build a bridge across to the medical and organic aspects in the human being we need to develop a way of looking at human organs and illnesses in the way we have been looking at the geological base of a landscape. In the 9th lecture in Spiritual Science and Medicine, Rudolf Steiner gave suggestions as to how this might be done. I shall briefly explain what I make of these suggestions.

First, deeply hidden from consciousness, the previously-developed, immensely "profound" level of the links between the organism and its environment is mentioned. Steiner called it "astronomical" because it concerns the world in its totality, the "entire universe." Then he pointed to specific organs in relation to this, which "in a certain sense once more unlock the human organism." In this context, this surely means that the relationship of the organism with the world is more accessible to conscious contemplation. As far as the "natural" aspect of the matter is concerned, Steiner spoke in general terms of "what develops close to our earth," or what is "in the widest sense... meteorological."

After this, Steiner went on to use the terms "four elements" - in the sense mentioned here in the introduction - as various modes in which the human being and the external world relate to one another. He indicated specific internal organs for which one or another mode of relating is particularly meaningful. This can be shown in the form of a table (see below).

To focus specifically on the lungs, we have to go more deeply into the role they play in the way we "are confronted" by the outside world, i.e. how they mirror this in their diseases and to some extent even fix it organically in their "build."

The suggestion in the lecture in question is not to think of healing as being reduced merely to finding and applying medications - which in the

sense of the above table would mean more or less to limit ourselves to the "watery" mode of relationship between organism and world - but to learn to use the influence of the local landscape.

Lime/silica and the morphology of landscape
A few remarks may be added concerning the relationship between the morphology and the character of landscape on one hand and "lime" and "silica" on the other.

The most obvious morphological contrast between landscapes isbetween flat and mountainous regions. In theory both can take their character either from lime or silica. Flat countryside, especially when it is low lying, is the product of water's inclination to make the whole of the earth's surface flat. The coarse gravels and sands produced in the process become increasingly siliceous. The end product is pure quartz sand, which is termed "mature" sand. That is why Reinach is not only flatter than Arlesheim; it also has a more siliceous base. Birs-Aue is the region in which the present Birs has changed its course many times over the last centuries. In contrast, water no longer plays any part in forming the Reinach "lower terrace." Only the gravel still bears witness to water's activity during the ice age.

The geological base at Arlesheim consists chiefly of calcareous talus, from the immediately adjacent Jura, and of loess and weathered clay. Its origin is close by, and it is distinctly calcareous. Its direct link with the adjacent hills is also expressed morphologically in the slight bowl shape nestling among the slopes. This differs subtly but obviously from the plain of the Rhine/Birs valley, which manifests as a "waterless surface of water" in this landscape that has no morphological links with its surroundings.

The way we relate to a silica or to a lime landscape becomes apparent chiefly in the different way we meet it in "confrontation." One particular contrast became quite clear:

• Landscapes that make strong statements challenge us to reply with equally strong statements, as though drawing ourselves up to our full height inwardly. This might, for example, find expression in the way we place clear structures into this landscape. For some, however, it may be something that overtaxes their strength.
• Other landscapes present an abundance of gentle transitions. Here our shaping activity is not so much a matter of filling large areas and feeling overtaxed by having to do so. Rather we have to find what to do on a smaller scale, leaving many open, unshaped patches in between. Encountering this kind of landscape enables us to find free spaces easily, and then we gradually can take hold of these. On the other hand, a danger is that we might find ourselves sliding into some degree of chaotic formlessness.
Examples of the former type of landscape tend to be calcareous by
nature, the latter siliceous. On its own, however, this is too rigid a statement,
and the formulation requires further modification:
• Hilly landscapes are generally "more calcareous" in nature than entirely flat regions. Comparing calcareous with siliceous hills shows the trend clearly.
• In one sense all sediments, including quartz sandstone, can be "calcareous" because their layered structure forms landscapes with stronger contrasts than do gneiss, slate or granite.
Rather than diluting the points in this paper by relativizing my statements further, I shall go on to demonstrate how they can lead to fruitful results.

Goal of the work and practical suggestions
The foremost aim is to stimulate readers' powers of imagination rather than make generalized statements such as, "Lime always has this or that effect." This is all the more the case because the "constitution" of a landscape is always highly "individual," which is, in itself, a general characteristic of the "solid element." Apart from describing tendencies in general terms and pointing out possible directions in which to look, I shall also give a few practical suggestions about how to gain access to a landscape and its characteristics by approaching it via its geological base.

• The first step is to find out in detail about the local geology either from a good geological handbook or, better, from someone who knows the locality well. After this, your attention will initially be "riveted" not quite to a microscope but certainly to every boulder or outcrop of rock; your view will at first be a rather abstract matter of maps and diagrams.
• Next you need to widen the scope of your observations to take in a whole hill, valley, or plain, arid see how each of these relates to its surroundings. Your knowledge of the geological differences provides a background for this. A very practical way of doing this is to follow particular routes and observe how your overall perceptions of the landscape change. You might take the walks given as examples in this paper. If you do not explore the locality on foot, you will tend to look only from an "absolute" point somewhere up in the air that does not correspond to a real-life situation within the landscape. Also, walking about is an initial way of becoming active in the locality, above and beyond merely observing it.
• Your walks will be accompanied by your own experiences which you can now begin to characterize. Being open in carefully recording your own impressions and sensations is not so much a matter of excluding "all knowledge hitherto gathered" or switching off sympathy and antipathy, but of holding back the development of opinions or conclusions. One's feelings of sympathy or otherwise are not value judgments but merely subjective "facts," perhaps even pointers to other qualities yet to be discovered.
• Working in this way, and in conversations about it, I have found it important to hold onto one particular criterion that otherwise easily gets thrown overboard. That is: If I feel "totally different" in a place than I do anywhere else, I endeavor to find differences in the landscape tliat correspond to this sensation; I look for what my senses can tell me on tlie spot. With regard to feelings, one has to be particularly careful to recall this attitude to consciousness frequently, since it cannot always be taken for granted. In practice this means that I refrain from statements such as "Here, I can sense the calcareousness." Instead, I describe how my sensations are linked to the perceptible configuration of the landscape which is possibly brought about by the lime in the geological base.
• If you then finally arrive at a "picture of lime" or of "silica" in a landscape, these pictures are very mobile, not rigid like isolated statements or judgments. In every locality you then still have to test what exactly it is in this particular place that has the character of "lime" etc. If this appears too unsatisfactory or indeterminate, you only have to think of the role water plays in a landscape, which is perhaps a more obvious example: why is it that the most desirable residential areas are on some river banks and not on others although technically it would be equally possible to build there too? Apart from this, the "water element" always gives a landscape a special character of its own.
In order not to leave this final point as an abstraction I should like to conclude my discussion with a second example of a landscape. Here the "contradictions" to what has so far been sketched in the pictures of "lime" and "silica" bring in the necessary mobility.

Second example: Dortmund
I have chosen Dortmund because the landscape here is much less hilly than in the first example, which means that the morphology is less conspicuous. In spite of this, an obvious gesture can be detected in the Dortmund landscape. The route starts at the main railway station. Together with the whole town center, the station is situated on a North-facing, slightly tilted "slab" of cretaceous sediment (lime, marl, sandstone). Walk from here to the southern outskirts as far as Kirchhoerde, where we find ourselves standing on deposits of the carboniferous age containing the anthracite we all know about, but also sandy to clayey rocks. It is virtually impossible to observe the details of this geology on the surface, e.g. the marked folding of the carboniferous sediments. However, the environment of the Ruhr region has, after all, been well explored with mineshafts and tunnels.

To reach the town center from the station you have to ascend a flight of steps that leads straight towards the slender spire of St. Peter's Church, which places a conspicuous "marker" dividing right from left in the overall view of box-shaped, tightly-packed commercial premises. Like the whole of the center, Hellweg, the main shopping street, makes a very dense and narrow impression. It is not wide in relation to the height of the buildings fronting on to it. It is busy and bustling but does not give a "chaotic" impression -1 have always found it easy to get my bearings here. The actual center of the town is quite small and clearly defined, and there is a gentle upward slope towards the South.

Chemnitzer Strasse runs South away from the center. As the "urban character" steadily decreases there are fewer and fewer tall houses, and while at first there are no trees, they begin to appear first on one side of the street and then on both.

The break-off point
Chemnitzer Strasse, and with it the "actual" town of Dortmund, ends abruptly where it meets the Ruhr Through Route, an East-West motorway, exactly at the edge of the cretaceous slab already mentioned. On the other side of this border, between two landscapes that have been made even more conspicuous by human intervention, "something new" begins. The terrain now slopes down relatively steeply to the south. Westphalia Park, Westphalia Stadium and other sports facilities, as well as the Westphalia Halls are all situated on this slope. This region is obviously the outskirts of the town. Almost no one lives here, and there are many places where you can feel quite ill at ease on the way down to the Emscher, which is hardly visible as a river but merely looks like a "dip" in the terrain.

Urban districts to the South of the Emscher
Many small districts, each with its own distinct name, have grown together here, with smaller or larger gaps in between. The overall picture is one of small-scale variety rather than individual "small centers." Orientation is not helped either by the landscape or human intervention. Round every comer you can come on "something quite different," a little wood, a block of flats, a meadow, a fast road. In its topography, the geological base corresponds to this character with small waves of land that constantly alternate between rise and fall. Little streams that offer no kind of orientation flow along the small valleys. In this sense, the main road from Dortmund to Hagen does not follow any of these little valleys but tends to go straight across the hills where this is possible.

"Lime" and "silica" in both examples
In both examples the more "calcareous" region (Arlesheim, Dortmund's town center) is the one that has received a degree of order and orientation from the shape of the landscape to which human intervention has been adapted. In Arlesheim this impression is given by the "well-thought-out" aspect in contrast to the flat Reinach area. In Dortmund, it arises from the "clarity" of the slightly sloping but otherwise flat slab of cretaceous sediment.

Reinach and the southern suburbs of Dortmund may show only little resemblance in other respects, but in both examples this more "siliceous" region is the one that leaves you more free and tends more towards the arbitrary or chaotic.

This essay could not have been written without the collaboration of several physicians and my conversations with them: Christian Schikarski (Her-decke), Wolfgang Rissmann (Wiesneck, near Freiburg im Breisgau), Felix Baur (Basle) and Gisbert Husemann (Ostfildem, near Stuttgart). My thanks to Weleda (Arlesheim) for supporting the work financially for a whole year, and the scientific research institute at the Goetheanum and its staff under whose auspices the work was done.

Cornelis Bockemuehl
Natural Science Section at the Goetheanum
Huegelweg 59
CH-4143 Domach

1 Steiner R. Spiritual Science and Medicine (GA 312). Tr. not known. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1975, ninth lecture (29 March 1920).
"The lungs and their life are closely connected with the geological configuration of the given locality. There is a great difference according to whether the soil is mainly calcareous, as here in Domach, or siliceous, as in areas of Precambrian rock. The life of the lungs in the human being varies enormously, depending on the geological base of the locality. A physician beginning practice should really make it his first task to study the local geology very thoroughly; for such study is identical with a study of its inhabitants' lungs. What has to be fully realized is that more or less the most unfavourable case is when the lungs are unable to adapt to the environment at all.
Please do not misunderstand what 1 am saying. I am referring to the internal structure of the lungs and not to the function of breathing although this is, of course, in its turn affected by the adequate or defective structure of the lungs. What I am talking about is the dependence of the internal structure of the lungs on the environment. Whether they tend to be more encrusted or more mucoid depends essentially on the locality. Moreover the lungs in particular are very affected by physical exertion and are most certainly damaged in people who are obliged to perform physical work to the point of exhaustion.

2 Bockemuehl C. Betrachtungen zu Kalk und Schiefer. Elemente der Naturivissenscliaft 1989. 51/2.
3 An essay on this aspect of the subject "Lime and Silica" as the geological base of the landscape is in preparation.

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