A New Zoology

Beyond the formative or etheric body or energy field is the emotional-sensitive body or field. This is superbly described in the following passage is from Dr Hermann Poppelbaum's A New Zoology, pp. 12-15, who uses the extremely misleading anthroposophical term "astral body". In fact it is the lower and middle emotional or sensitive body being here described, equivalent to what Barbara Brennan calls the Second ("Emotional Body") and Fourth ("Astral Body") energy fields.

The animal kingdom, far from being a mere collection of adaptive structures, is like a thrilling show of highly original figures. We have only to learn to grasp the singular expression of every type just as we can appreciate the expression of human faces. True, an animal type shows a stationary, not a movable countenance. But apart from this limitation it is as telling as a human physiognomy.

Plants have no physiognomy to speak of. The major systematic divisions possess different architectural plans which we can clearly distinguish as we pass from Cryptogams to Phanerogams, from Cymnosperms to Angiosperms. One could speak of different styles according to which these groups are built. Animal groups, however, have more than style; they have physiognomical character. Each of the major types (phyla), as well as 'the classes and families, bears a characteristic stamp. Let us try to get this "stamped expression in our grasp. The effort "feels" quite differently from that required when recognizing plant types. We sense that in the animal an agent is present which seems to be almost entirely lacking in plants.

This agent welds the shape into an inseparable unity with the behavior. Behavior and shape are reciprocal and supplementary. They are indeed two aspects of the same thing, without a distinct limit between them. In all animals the body of formative forces (which keeps the architecture intact and transfers it to the progeny) is embraced and outshone by a "character-bestowing field" peculiar to the group. This super-imposed field which impregnates the living shape and moulds it, together with posture and motion and habits, into an expressive total, is an organized though invisible body of impelling forces, and as such clearly distinguished from the body of formative forces.

Rudolf Steiner, who was the first to draw this distinction clearly, has used the term "astral body" for the super-imposed agent as against the body of formative forces...

The "astral body" can be said to reach out beyond the mere organic processes which keep the bodily structure together. It is an individualizer in a way. Its main function is to bring the surrounding world into a deeper relation to the individual animal, to make it its concern so to speak. With its help the animal "experiences" the environment, whereas the plant is merely embedded in it.

Thus the animal is more awake than the plant, and the astral body can be called the awakener. External observation suggests indeed a very far extension of the animal consciousness into the surrounding world. Supersensible knowledge, making use of an intensified and conscious vision, sees the astral body interwoven even into extra-terrestrial facts...

Examples can easily be found to show that the astral body extends beyond the outline of the organism. The web of the spider is the visible continuation of the legs and jaws. It supplements the bodily equipment and "lays hands" on the surroundings. In a like manner the astral body may reach out and cover an associated plant species and weave a common pattern of belongingness between animal and plant. It really establishes the mutual dependence of plants and insects, with all their intricate so-called adaptations to each other. It makes for instance the head and proboscis of a moth fit into a blossom as tightly as a key fits into a lock. The two are made with and for each other, and the "gradually acquired mutual adaptation" of the Darwinians falls pitifully short of the actual facts.

Similarly, the bee is related essentially to the flower. It does not by accident cover its hairy underside with the pollen. Both, flower and bee, are woven into a common unity; not linked by a mean and cunning alliance in which both parties out-trick each other for their egoistic advantage. Tte astral body of the bee is super-imposed on the wisdom-filled form-pattern/which surrounds the flower-bearing top of the plant. There is a give and take between insect and plant which brings the invisible astral body almost before our senses.

There are associations also between two or more animal species, for instance between ants and their guests and slaves, which demonstrate clearly how various astral bodies can be attuned to and almost merged into each other....

Birds and insects, insects and flowers, fishes and birds, trees and birds, birds and mammals, "co-exist" in a much deeper sense than serving each other as food.

We must learn to appreciate again what nature has done by making each animal form an expressive creation. They all are cast in a significant and telling likeness, not only equipped to survive. Every species is an "original", and yet held together with others by their common origin from nature's shaping abilities.

As the astral body merges with its environment in an unbroken continuity it allows the animal to experience the surrounding qualities and substances. In fact, the animal does not "face" the environment as we human beings do. It is completely surrendered to it. The animal is in magical rapport with the living sphere to which it belongs.

This life sphere is so definite that it can be used for characterizing the corresponding animal type. The animal type is like a required supplement, a consummate response and cue for which the life sphere is waiting. The earthworm belongs to the fertile earth; the loose and dry powdery garden soil requires the wireworm. The caterpillar corresponds to the green parts of the plant, the chrysalis to the bud, and the butterfly to the flower. The animal form is like a goal for which the plant reaches out, but in vain. "The plant grows upward to meet an animal process which it never attains", Rudolf Steiner said in a course of lectures to doctors [ref]. This striving may attain visibility, condensed into an image, in the shape of a species of animal closely related to the plant, usually an insect in one of its phases. Just as the butterfly belongs to the blossoming plant, so the grasshopper belongs to the sprouting leaf of grass, the dragonfly to the waterplant, the beetle to root and seed. Lower down in the soil, similar correspondences continue right into the sphere of plant diseases and their so-called causes.

The task of a realistic science will be to study such correspondences without falling into the triviality of selectionism, and a workable concept will soon replace the outdated non-concept of competition. Such a real concept is that of the astral body working in and upon the animal's organism and connecting it with the surroundings. In plants there is no astral "body", merely a kind of astral fringe which does not penetrate the individual but borders on it from outside. In animals the astral body impregnates the organism and moulds it into a physiognomically expressive pattern.

It is interesting that two distinct faculties are being referred to here. The principle that confers basic emotional consciousness, the "irrational soul" or "animal soul" of Platonism and Kabbalah and the "sensitive soul" of the 9-principle version of Steiner's teachings regarding the self, is the the lower emotional body, Barbara Brennan's Second ("Emotional Body"). The more refined sensitive soul that reaches out and extends it's presence, like the spider that "lays hands", is Barbara Brennan's Fourth ("Astral Body") energy field body, which is actually described (in her book Light Ascending) as emitting cords or streamners and connecting to others.

"Geisteswissensehaft und Medizin". Dornach, Switzerland, 1920.

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page uploaded 12 December 1999, relocated, last modified 23 December 2001