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  The Transformation of Substance to Consciousness

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By: Christa van Tellingen-van Heek, M.D.
(From a lecture given at the Medical Section Meeting Feb. 15,1996, Copake, NY.)

As energy is released out of matter - whether in physical, chemical or nuclear processes in nature or processes in the human body that become the basis of consciousness - the process always entails waste products. Until recently these waste products were brought back into the cycle of life through the natural processes in the ecological system, both in nature itself as well as in the human body. These natural processes are based on the substances of formic acid and oxalic acid. A similar process takes place with regard to the human conscious experience, especially thoughts, in the universe. This process was seen and described by Rudolf Steiner as the Midnight Sun experience. Attention is drawn to our responsibility for the waste products we produce - in nature, in the human body, as well as in the processes related to our consciousness - that do not directly fit into the ecological system. In an ecological system the parts always relate to the whole in a lawful harmonious manner according to the so-called Golden Mean. This is also true in social life.

An in-depth study of Fundamentals of Therapy by Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman, especially Chapter 17, together with work on specific meditations regarding the Midnight Sun revealed the inner relationship of processes in nature and the human body with the Midnight Sun experience of the ancient initiates also described by Steiner.

Scientific research of the last thirty years has increasingly made us aware of the relationship between substance and consciousness. This research postulates that states of consciousness are but the result of a relative mixture of certain substances in the brain. In anthroposophical medicine we can follow this postulation to the point where we question the origin or cause of the mixture of substances.(9)

Of course, the effect of substances on consciousness has been known for thousands of years. In the ancient Mysteries, substances were used to bring adepts to a certain state of consciousness in the initiation process; now, this has become decadent to the point of the drag dependency problem of our time (including alcohol, tobacco and coffee).

How substances relate to consciousness was the core of the Rosicrucian teachings, the last of the Mystery teachings in the Middle Ages. The alchemists' work with substance was aimed at transforming consciousness. Rather than ingesting it, they brought it into different states and mixtures with specific processes.

Transformation of waste products in nature, in the human body and in the universe
We see in the human body a constant transformation of substance to consciousness. We eat, and through digestion and metabolism substance is brought to an ever higher level of being - from mineral to plant-like to animal-like to, finally, human substance (Fundamentals of Therapy, Chapter 3-6).(1)' It is at this point that food can be the basis for human consciousness. There are certain substances (hallucinogenic drugs, prescription and entertainment drugs) which only allow certain states of consciousness; these usually also create some form of dependence.

In nature, substance is brought into different energy states through physical, chemical, or nuclear processes. The Rosicrucians transformed it to consciousness through observation and contemplation. The thoughts, feelings and will impulses that resulted from observation and investigation were their field of study, and they sought to purify and heighten their state of consciousness through their alchemical work.

These two aspects of transformation of substance to consciousness - in the human body through metabolism and in nature through observation and participation of the human being - have been investigated to some extent in anthroposophical medicine. If we look at these two processes more closely, we become aware that a universal principle prevails where these processes take place in the human body or in nature.

The process of building up substance in the human body can be observed in the metabolism; however, a break-down process sets in when substance becomes the bearer of ordinary consciousness. We can experience the effect through our tiredness in the evening. The investigation of nature by ordinary science is also based on this principle of breaking down - taking the subject apart and breaking it down into its smallest possible parts. Consciousness is always accompanied by a break-down process in the natural world.

In the first lecture to curative educators,(10) Rudolf Steiner makes clear that our ordinary consciousness is a reflection of a higher consciousness that we carried before we were born. The reflective mirror is our physical body. Our soul-spiritual being from our life between death and rebirth is reflected as our earthly thinking, feeling, and willing. Thus, our ordinary consciousness which has thinking/ feeling, and willing as a content is a reflection of a cosmic process.

We can investigate the transformation of substance on three different levels:


Transformation of substance in nature and the human body
For investigational purposes, another universal principle becomes visible in the break down process of substance in nature: when one part of a whole rises, another part has to descend. Wherever humanity uses nature it has to learn to deal with "waste products". This is a global problem. There are similar consequences for the process of consciousness in the human body. Rudolf Steiner describes that: as we think, a fine precipitation of calcium salts takes place, and the functioning of the ego organization is dependent on processes in the body that go toward the lifeless salt processes. Here, too, "waste products" are created that have to be dealt with. (Interestingly, calcium carbonate precipitates in hot water and dissolves in cold water.)

Before the technical developments of the last 150 years, dealing with waste products was an unconscious process, one that was taken care of for us by the gods through ecological cycles, in nature as in the human body. When plants die in the Fall, when trees die and fall over, a substance becomes free that was stored in the plant's cells during its life - the plant could not do anything with it during its lifetime. It is increted in crystallized form as a waste product into vacuoles in the cells; this substance is oxalic acid." We know it by the sour taste, for instance, of wood sorrel. It is an end-product of the breathing out process of the plant at night, the process opposite to building up in photosynthesis. It becomes free when the plant dies, and then the ants can break this substance down further into formic acid. According to Steiner, formic acid can penetrate lifeless substance and bring it back into the life cycle making it permeable to new life forces from the universe. This is the basis of the formation of compost. He also mentions that if it weren't for a fine amount of formica in the atmosphere, we could not have telegraphic communication. Thus, in Nature dead material is brought back into the sphere of life as compost so that the earth does not become a heap of dead matter as life dies away. We see this process in our woods and gardens.

In the human body, the substance that has to become dead in order that we can think and the ego organization can function in our body undergoes a similar process. Organic forms of oxalic acid are formed in the metabolism of sugar between the stomach and liver processes in the etheric body. The lung/breathing processes break this down further into organic forms of formic acid in an oxidative, burning process in the astral body (Krebs cycle). Rudolf Steiner sees a fine rain of formica drops dripping down from the lungs. These processes bring the matter that was on the way to death - to becoming waste product - back into the cycle of life in our body (Fundamentals of Therapy, Chapter 17).(1)

In modern waste products, however, we have to face this process consciously, and we are not yet doing a very good job of transforming the waste we create to become part of the ecological cycle.

The Midnight Sun - Transformation of substance in the universe
In the universe, an equivalent process takes place. Today, our ordinary consciousness produces dead thoughts. They have to be dead in order that we have a place of freedom where no spiritual beings will influence our thoughts. Over eons the cosmic intelligence (the order of mutual relationships of the Hierarchies) has descended from the state of being to revelation of beings, to just living thoughts (in Greek times), to now dead thoughts since the advent of the consciousness soul. In the Fifteenth Century, the First Hierarchy implanted the thoughts into our head. How these dead thoughts do not become waste products in the cosmos is described by Rudolf Steiner in a few lectures from Christmas 1906 to June 1924.(2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

At Christmas 1906,(2) Rudolf Steiner described this process as it was experienced in all of the old Mysteries - in the so-called "small" mystery process. On Christmas Eve at mid-Winter, when the life forces have most drawn back from the earth, the adepts were brought into a cave and had the following experience:

The pupils gathered in the early evening. In quiet contemplation they had to make clear to themselves what this most important event signified. In deep silence they sat together in the darkness. By the time midnight drew near, they had been sitting in the dark room for hours. Thoughts of eternity pervaded their souls. Then, toward midnight, mysterious tones arose, resounding through the room, rising and diminishing. The pupils who heard these tones knew that this was the music of the spheres. Then the room became dimly lit, the only light emanating from a dimly-lighted disc. Those who saw this knew that this disc represented the earth. The illumined disc became darker and darker, until finally it was quite black. Simultaneously, the surrounding space grew brighter. Those who saw this knew that the black sphere represented the earth. The sun, however, which ordinarily irradiates the earth, was concealed; the earth could no longer see the sun. Then around the earth-disc, at the outer edge, rainbow colors formed, ring upon ring. Those who saw it knew that this was the radiant Iris or Rainbow. At midnight a violet-reddish circle gradually arose in place of the black earth sphere. On it a Word was written. This Word varied according to the peoples whose members were permitted to experience this Mystery. In our language, the Word would be Christos. Those who saw it knew that this was the sun, which appeared to them at the midnight hour, when the world around rests in deepest darkness. The pupils were now told that what they had experienced was called, "Seeing the sun at the midnight hour."(2)

In 1912-1913, during the tune of the founding of the Anthroposophical Society out of the Theosophical Society, several lectures(3,4,5,6) were given in which the experience of the Sun at Midnight was mentioned, always indicating that this was one of the highest, most impressive and magnificent of experiences for the initiates. For the old initiates, it is clear that this experience is related to a process that humanity and the earth have to go through in the future, a complete darkening of consciousness for humanity and an isolation of the earth in relation to the universe. This is followed by a new state symbolized by the darkness of matter becoming enlightened with a violet-reddish glow or by the earth becoming sun. The Christ being plays a central role in this transformation as is signified also by the moment of birth of the Jesus and by the words of John the Baptist: He must increase. I must decrease.

The Threefold Sun
We can see three stages in this process. The first one is the lighting up of the disc, the earth, which then becomes dark. The second stage is the lighting up of the surroundings in rainbow colors - this can also be seen as the "halo" phenomenon around a shadow on the clouds at midday. The third phase is the lighting up of the disc with the name Christos on it. The earth has become sun.

Walter Buehler(13) describes a threefold light organism of the earth - related to the northern lights at midnight, the rainbow at sunrise and sunset and the lightning at midday. These can be related to this phenomenon.

On 6 November 1921, Rudolf Steiner speaks about the knowledge of the Threefold Sun - the Light, the Life and the Love of the Sun.(14)

In the sixth lecture on this subject, given in 1921,(7) this threefold process of transformation of the earth is related to the Rosicrucian sayings: Ex Deo Nascimur, In Christo Morimur, Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus. Rudolf Steiner points to an experience of the Midnight Sun for the human being of today, which can be felt as a warning but also as a hope-bringing experience:

Behold the Sun/ At the midnight hour./
Build with stones/ In lifeless ground.

So find in destruction/ And in death's dark night/
Creation's new beginning,/ Living morning light.

The Powers on high make known The eternal Word Divine;/
The Depths must guard their own/ Peace, in their sacred shrine.

In darkness living -/Create anew a Sun.
In matter weaving/ Know joy of Spirit won.(2,7)

The midnight sun experience in the "great" Mysteries and in our time
Finally, at St. John's in mid-Summer 1924(8) in the series of karma lectures, Rudolf Steiner describes how this was experienced in the "great" Mysteries. He relates how, through this, the initiate knew of the work of the Hierarchies within him all the time forming his karma. He became aware of the direct and immediate interrelation of the universe, the earth and the human being. An initiate would have said the following to himself regarding this experience:

When I stand in the open fields in the daytime, when I direct my gaze upwards and give myself up to the impressions of the senses, then I behold the sun; I see it in its dazzling strength at noontide, and behind the dazzling strength of the noontide sun I behold the working of the spiritual beings of the Second Hierarchy in the substance of the sun. Before my initiation the substance of the sun vanished from me at the moment of its setting. The shining radiance of the sun vanished in the purples of sunset. Before my initiation I went through the dark path of night; and in the morning, when the dawn came, I remembered this darkness. Out of the dawn the sun shone forth again and took its course onward towards the dazzling brightness of noon. But now, having attained to initiation, when I experience the dawn and behold the sun as it passes from dawn onward through its daily course, a memory of my life during the night-time awakens within me. I know what I have experienced in this night life; I remember clearly how I beheld a blue, glimmering light arise from the evening twilight and gradually spread, traveling from West to East. I remember how I beheld the sun at the midnight hour, at the opposite point in the firmament to where it had stood in its noontide, dazzling strength. I saw it gleaming there behind the earth, full of deep and solemn meaning. I beheld the Midnight Sun.(8)

Again, it is mentioned that this is a deeply moving experience for the one who has it. In our time, we can become conscious of this experience of the night. Rudolf Steiner says we have to be awake and look at the blue-red glow of the Midnight Sun more exactly. Then we begin to see the forms of the beings of the Second Hierarchy, Exusiai, Dynamis, and Kyriotetes. We can observe that the beings of the Third Hierarchy are also working in this image in a light yellow color. We direct our attention to the earth's surface, where
human beings are asleep and leave behind in bed their etheric and physical bodies, where the thoughts and sense impressions from that day have been imprinted. In these traces of the thoughts and ideas the beings of the Third Hierarchy experience what we have experienced during the day; they pick them like fruits and carry them out into the universe to make them part of universal working. We actually can see the Third Hierarchy soar out of the beings of the Second Hierarchy, through the earth to the sleeping human being and back again to carry the dead thoughts up as fruits to the Second Hierarchy. Behind the Second Hierarchy we see playing in red-like lightning the beings of the First Hierarchy. The lightning strikes from behind the Second Hierarchy through the earth to that part of the human being that is outside the etheric and physical bodies - the astral body and the ego.

Of course, this deeply moral experience only becomes conscious after meditative preparation. We become aware that the Hierarchies are at work in and with us all the time and that this is how they form our karma. Usually, the human being only experiences this after death; but it is possible to experience the Iris, the Rainbow, at midnight after sufficient preparation. Then, we realize that our thoughts and ideas are realities and that we will meet them again in the world around us through the deeds of the Hierarchies. The Third Hierarchy brings traces of their imprints up to the Second Hierarchy; the First Hierarchy can bring them back into physical-material reality around us. This is the experience of the Midnight Sun. So we see how the effects of our deeds, be it in nature or in the human body through our consciousness or in the universe, were taken care of by the gods. They healed what we (unconsciously) destroyed so that we and the earth could continue. Rudolf Steiner tells us how we have to atone for our deeds through our karma but that the effects of our deeds on the world are taken on by Christ. In other words: when I hit someone, I will have to experience his pain and amend it with him or her through my karma; but the effect of my negative deed on the earth and the universe is not removed by my karmic amendment, it is taken on by Christ.

In time to come, we will have to become aware of our moral responsibilities more and more when we experience the radiance of the rainbow at the midnight hour, the Sun at Midnight. That makes us stand actively within the question of the waste products we produce as humanity, both on the earth and in our body as well as in the universe. We will have to work towards a thinking that is not just filled with ideas but that is warmed with ideals and that stands actively within the world.

The third part of the Midnight Sun experience - that was seen as the lighting up of the name Christos out of the darkness in the "small" mysteries or as the work of the beings of the First Hierarchy into our astral body and ego in the "great" mysteries - brings this universal process back to the earth, it points to finding our responsibility on the earth. This can be seen in relation to substance when we go back to Chapter 17 of Fundamentals of Therapy in which Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman explain the role of formica and oxalis. We can see the oxalic acid that becomes freed when the plant dies to be related to the dead thoughts of the human being taken up by the Third Hierarchy. The activity of the ants producing formic acid corresponds to the radiance of the Second Hierarchy.

This chapter ends with thoughts on calcium, the substance that carries in itself the sounding of the Logos, the Cosmic Word as it is made visible in the physical material world by the First Hierarchy in order that we develop ego consciousness. It is discussed in relation to its healing properties in bleeding processes, when the ego-organization needs strengthening.

The Rosicrucians were aware of the effect of their deeds in the universe and sought to purify themselves in order that their thoughts, feelings and will impulses would not bring destructive elements into their surroundings. They strove to give their souls an upbuilding quality as described in the sixth day of the Chymical Wedding.(15) They wanted to deepen their knowledge of nature through the insights of spiritual science so that they could discover the laws of social life, says Steiner. The experience of the Midnight Sun gave them such insight and the Chymical Wedding was actually an address to the heads of state, the political leaders of that time.(16)

Walter Buehler makes this visible in his discovery of the mathematical geometric relationship of the rainbow to the measure of the Golden Mean. In the Golden Mean the newly-created parts always relate to the whole in a lawful, harmonious manner.(13)

We can experience this threefold harmonious lawfulness in the life of the Anthroposophical Society as well as in society at large. Rudolf Steiner speaks to the importance of the recognition of the threefoldness of society at the end of this century so that chaos does not rule social life.(17) We can strive toward this ecology of social life as we relate within our family or work situation, as our work or institution finds its place within the Anthroposophical Society and as the Anthroposophical Society finds a harmonious and lawful relationship to society at large.

Christa van Tellingen-van Heek, M.D.
7953 California Avenue
Fair Oaks, CA 95628

1 Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman, Fundamentals of Therapy, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1983. (GA 27)
2 Rudolf Steiner, Signs and Symbols of the Christmas Festival, lecture report 12/17/1906, p. 52. Anthroposophical Press, New York, 1969. (GA 96)
3 Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature, 04/04/1912, Anthroposophical Press, New York, 1988. (GA 136)
4 Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature, 04/11/1912, Anthroposophical Press, New York, 1988. (GA 136)
5 Rudolf Sterner, Man in the Light of Occultism, Theosophy and Philosophy, 06/09/1912, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1964. (GA 137)
6 Rudolf Steiner, The Mysteries of the East and of Christianity, 02/04/1913, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1972. (GA 144)
7 Rudolf Steiner, The Christmas Festival and the Cosmic Conception of Christ, 12/26/1921, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1967. (GA 209)
8 Rudolf Steiner, Karmic Relationships, Vol. u, 06/27/1924, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1972. (GA 236)
9 Siegwart M. Elsas, Toxin Production And Protein Degradation In The Nervous System, JAM Vol. 11 No. 2, Summer 1994.
10 Rudolf Steiner, Curative Education, 06/25/1924.
11 Christa van Tellingen, Oxalis acetosella. Circular Letter #4 page 83, Medical Section of the School for Spiritual Science, Easter, 1994.
12 Christa van Tellingen, Introduction to the following article, JAM Vol. 9 No. 2, Summer 1992, page 31.
13 Walter Buehler, Der Funkelnde Tropfen (The Sparkling Drop), Merkurstab, Special Edition for Gisbert Husemann's 80th Birthday, 1987.
14 Rudolf Steiner, The Sun Mystery in the Course of Human History, November 6, 1921, Rudolf Steiner Press, London 1978. (GA 208)
15 Johann Valentin Andrae, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz, anno 1459, in Paul M. Alien with Carlo Pietzner, A Christian Rosenkreuz Anthology, Rudolf Steiner Publications, New York, 1968.
16 Rudolf Steiner, Die spirituellen Hintergruende der aeusseren Welt, lectures of 9/30/17,10/8/17 & 10/12/17, Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Domach. (GA 177)
17 Rudolf Steiner, The Festivals and their Meaning, lecture of 4/2/23 Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1981. (GA 223)

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