A New Zoology

Man as a Compendium of the Animal Kingdom

The Anthroposophist view of evolution is that the other kingdoms of nature have emanated from man (the reverse of the conventional position).  Although (to me at least) logically absurd from the perspective of the physical plane, this leads to some interesting methodological conclusions, as indicated by the following passage by Dr Poppelbaum:

Archetypes through time
"Whoever studies the impressive pageant of animal forerunners of man through the ages, be it only by looking carefully at Figure 5 (above), can have an intimate experience of the manifold work of the invisible "sculptors" whose continued efforts have brought about a final comprehensive masterpiece. Successive waves of a formative ocean beat against the rocks of time until man finally stepped ashore.  He bears within him the results of all the preceding ages, and yet he is not a mere summary, but something new which sprang from a mighty synthesis.'
[H. Popplebaum, A New Zoology, p.31]

The reference is here to archetypes or morphotypes in successive areas.  Again, the Anthroposophical position is teleological and anthropocentric.  Science is non-teleological and (ideally!) non-anthropocentric (at least it strives to be).  My own position (for what it is worth) is teleological yet non-anthropocentric.

Dr Popplebaum continues:

"The mistake of the Darwinian era was to see in man only the traces which he has in common with one of the phyla, the vertebrates. The new zoology can see in man the central unity which holds all animal phyla together."

This is not strictly correct.  Biological science emphasises the relationships between all the phyla (the phylogenetic "Tree of Life").  This is done (unlike Anthroposophy) non-anthropomorphically.  However it is true that structural comparisons - what is called homology - e.g. the human hand and arm and the bird's wing - are done primarily within the vertebrates.  The further away from the vertebrate pattern one goes, the harder it is to find points of common reference.  Dr Poppelbaum suggests a completely different (intuitive-imaginative) approach.  It is this alternative approach that is the most profound contribution of the Anthroposophical Zoology, even (to my mind) compensating for the many absurdities inherent in the associated cosmology!

"Each phylum has given a share to be rediscovered in man. We need only to understand the elements of his complex architecture in a new way. Then we can see how it has been composed of all the animals' contributions, some of them overlapping and almost blotting each other out, but still persisting in a more subtle manner. Let us make an attempt to look at man's being with the eyes of an imaginative, yet realistic, morphology."
The Tripartite Organisation:
summing up

I would go further than this even, and suggest that each phylum can be rediscovered in every other phylum (a sort of fractal holography), and that this pattern, which is inherent in all nature and all the universe,  reflects the original configoration of the  archetypal being (the "cosmic man" or "primordial person") to descend into evolution.

Here of course we are in deep metaphysics, but I suggest this as part of my quixotic project to integrate knowledge and the sciences within a "higher" esoteric framework.

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page uploaded 2 January 2000, relocated, last modified 23 December 2001