Animal kingdom

From Anthroposophy

The current animal kingdom

  • developed during the Old Moon evolutionary stage
    • as the original thoughts of the angels
    • from the substance sacrificed by the SoM
  • came down to mineral physical earth before Man in the Lemurian epoch, see also Book of Genesis
  • have their group I on the astral plane, and only physical bodies earth


  • There sixteen groups of animals that were gradually “precipitated out” of the spiritual world, just as there are sixteen groups of human instincts and passions. (1909-05-17-GA104A)
  • Certain of our current animals have their characteristics because in the Atlantean epoch, these were developed and trained into new species artificially, through cross-breeding (1904-09-03-GA091)
  • A whole series of animals draws too much out of the group soul, which remains in our evolution and works as the fourth class of elemental spirits called Salamanders. They are detached group souls of animals whose individual souls or "I-like beings" cannot return into the group soul, because they have carried their development beyond the normal point. (1908-05-16-GA102)
  • specific categories within the animal kingdom: Bees, Butterflies, Ants, ..


FMC00.210 shows the famous diagram by Poppelbaum and the evolution of nature's kingdoms (left) and finally the descent of Man and the appearance of physical mineral Man (right). See also FMC00.209.


Another illustrated version of the above schematic, FMC00.210A:


FMC00.221 is a more recent version of Poppelbaum's diagram (FMC00.210) by Dankmar Bosse in 'The mutual evolution of earth and humanity' (see references below). The evolution of the human vertebrate branch is shown schematically in counter-running evolutionary spirals. The outer thick arrows show the discontinuous sequence of finished forms, in opposite direction are thin arrows (center outwards) from soft-bodied conditions to hardening species. The dotted circle shows the boundary between soft-bodied and fossil-preserved forms.


FMC00.221A shows the original in German, for reference


Schema FMC00.149 from the Four kingdoms of nature, shows how the animal kingdom evolved from the previous planetary stages. This part of evolution lagged behind and was not able to develop and I on Earth.


FMC00.147 provides an overview to contemplate how the kingdoms of nature on Earth originate in previous evolutionary stages.


Schema FMC00.142B is lifts out one aspect from Schema FMC00.142, graphically depicting the origin of nature's kingdoms as offsprings of the spiritual hierarchies in previous evolutionary stages.


Lecture coverage and references


We must be clear about the fact, that as long as an animal remains an animal, Manas does not work in the animal world on the physical plane, but on a higher plane. Let us recall an animal: under the circumstances, it differs from Man through the fact that its Manas is not inside it, but remains on a higher plane; so that if we wish to imagine this more concretely, we would have to think of the animal as made of threads.

The intellect exists on a higher plane and works into the lower one. This is the case in Man's lower organs. A thigh, for example, is made in such an artistic way, that one could not have shaped it in a more ingenious way even with the most concise art of engineering.

To train the animal means that Manas can do nothing if the animal has no organ for it. If the brain cannot be used for counting, then Manas cannot count. If you prepare the animal's brain for counting, then you give Manas the opportunity to influence an animal from the higher plane down. Hence, only occultists and mysticists should undertake is. Otherwise, one may do something that would cause damage in the universe.

In the Atlantean epoch, the animals were developed and trained into new species artificially, through cross-breeding. Our animals now owe them their higher qualities. Thus, one must not wonder, that certain animals are Man's rivals in terms of their skills and abilities.


There also exist in astral space natural elemental beings. They proceed from the Group Souls of animals. For each animal group a being exists on the astral plane which unites what is present in the single animals. We meet these also in astral space. Every animal draws its own nature after it astrally like a trail. What is thus formed can however not work so harmfully as what the human being creates in the way of elemental beings. This astral trail is rendered harmless because it is annulled by the Group Souls of the animals.

1907-03-16-GA097 is on the Animal Soul

1907-12-04-GA098 on The Elementary Kingdoms

..the group-souls of the animals reside on the astral plane, but there is another species of Egos, dwelling upon the astral plane, which work upon the human being and vitalize his blood, when the I of man has abandoned it. ...

.. The Beings of the third Elementary Kingdom have a warmth body on the astral plane. During the night, they permeates the blood of Man with warmth. They are the companions of the Group souls of the animals — they belong to the same region.

In our astral body, in addition to our I, live spiritual beings whose I dwells upon the astral plane. These Beings permeates the astral body just as maggots live in cheese. This is the third Elementary Kingdom: it is the kingdom which forms impulses and passions of an animal nature [in us].

The animals received their shape, or form — a form determined by instincts and desires — from the Beings belonging to the third Elementary Kingdom.

And the animal is endowed with instincts, etc., owing to the added activity of the third Elementary Kingdom.


.. animals have body and soul, they are connected with their so-called 'group I', and this is itself of a spiritual nature. In the single animal standing before us in the physical world we have indeed a being possessing only body and soul, but it is continued, as it were, towards the higher worlds and linked to spirituality. I have often used a certain comparison in respect of the animal group I: if there were a partition here and I stretched my fingers through it without your seeing me, but only the ten fingers, you would yet say that the fingers must come from someone who is invisible to you. It is just the same with the group Is; they are invisible and concealed for physical perception, but they exist nevertheless. The animal belongs to a group and the various animal groups are connected with the group Is above. It is therefore only when we refer to the single animal here on the physical plane that we can say animals have body and soul. What we see has a continuation into the astral.

[on Salamanders]

Salamanders are a fourth kind of nature spirit. The Gnomes, Sylphs, Undines, are beings which have remained behind. But the Salamanders in a certain way are human, since they have partially developed the fourth principle. They are not advanced enough, however, to be able to assume human shape.

Where does this fourth species come from?

You know that when we trace man back in his evolution we come to more and more spiritual forms. Man has progressed little by little to physical existence. We know that the different animal species have been gradually ejected, so to speak, as the retarded brethren of the advancing human evolution. Man attained such advanced development by being the last of all to take a physical form. The other animal creatures are at a backward stage because they were not able to wait, because they pressed into the earthly organs and physical organization earlier. But the animals have group souls which work into the physical world though they exist only on the astral plane. We see the wisdom given by the Moon to our evolution most. comprehensively developed in the animal kingdom by the group souls. Man creates his civilization through wisdom, but he must not ascribe wisdom to himself. Any human wisdom is not merely in man, but is present in a far more comprehensive way in our whole earth planet. One who sets great store by mankind may say: “What strides humanity has made in wisdom! The recent inventions for instance are a witness to it.” And now think of your school days and the principal discoveries that were told us then. Perhaps you will also remember the discovery of paper. Human wisdom got to the stage of inventing paper. It was certainly an achievement of human wisdom. But the wasp knew it much earlier still! You all know wasps' nests. They are made of the same substance as the paper made by man. We could go through all nature and we should find ruling wisdom everywhere. How much earlier than man the wasp spirit discovered paper! The individual wasp does not do it, it is the group I.

So we see that what constitutes human wisdom is interwoven and impressed into the whole earth. But the relation of the animal to its group soul is only up to a certain point what it actually ought to be from the cosmic standpoint. What is this relation of the group soul to the single animal? Take perhaps the group soul of an insect species. When the single insect dies it is exactly the same for the group soul as when you lose a hair and an-other grows. The animal forms that come into being are only fresh creations of the group soul. You can follow up the animal ranks for a long way and everywhere you will find that what is on the physical plane has just the same action as a cloud dissolving and reforming. The group spirit is metamorphosed and its physical members merely renew themselves. That happens however only up to a certain stage, after which something else takes place in the animal kingdom. This is very important just when you come to the so called higher animals. Precisely there something occurs which no longer seems quite to fit in with what I have been describing.

Let us take as a marked case the apes. The ape, for instance, brings too much from the group soul down into its own individual existence. Whereas in the relatively lower animal the whole physical form goes back into the group soul, the ape keeps something in the physical organization which cannot go back. What the ape detaches from the group spirit can no longer return. So too in the case of man, you have the I which goes from incarnation to incarnation and is capable through development of reaching our different stages. Here too there is no possibility of returning into the group spirit. The ape has something which is similar to the human I.

A whole series of animals draws too much out of the group soul, others again draw something out in another way. And this remains in our evolution and works as the fourth class of elemental spirits. They are detached group souls of animals whose individual souls cannot return into the group soul, because they have carried their development beyond the normal point. From countless animals such I-like beings remain behind. They are called Salamanders. That is the highest form, for they are I-like.


It was also necessary for the beings on the earth to pass through their stages of evolution at very different times. If a portion of humanity in the early stages of the Atlantean epoch had not wanted to descend into a 'densified' physical body, then the human form would have remained as it was - with all the instincts, desires, and passions still expressed in the physical form. However, there were beings that became solid, hardened at that time. Animals are nothing more than beings that entered into a hardened, dense condition too early. What the human being carries in the astral body today in terms of desires and passions has come to expression in the physical body of the various animals. Each of the groups of animals developed a particular instinct, and is “congealed” or solidified in it. During the Lemurian age it was the mammals; they are human passions that have congealed into a rigid form. What we carry within ourselves presents itself as a picture in the various animals. With human beings, the instincts have been gradually refined and we can hide them in our heart. The lowest instincts of the human being were first to fall into the physical world during eruptions of natural forces in the earlier times of Lemuria. The apes represent, so to speak, the last lower instincts to fall or be pushed into physical matter before the soul of the human being was itself hardened in matter.

With some animals, horses for example, we still find today as a peculiarity the etheric body of the head extending beyond the physical head. That was the case with Atlantean human beings. A certain point in the human etheric body moved into the corresponding part of the physical body only in the last third of the Atlantean age. Only then were human beings able to develop a physical form appropriate for the spirit.

There are sixteen groups of human instincts and passions and so too, are there sixteen groups of animals. Zoology will one day understand how these sixteen groups were gradually “precipitated out” of the spiritual world. We can easily say how the various parts of the mammal groups were created. The formation of hoofs, for example, occurred when, in a very special way, animal nature closed off from the outer world. Claws were created through aggression. The hoofed animals express a very different stage of evolution than animals with claws. We see just such a contradiction expressed in the forms of the centaur and the sphinx.


The animal kingdom could never have developed alongside the human kingdom today if certain beings had not remained behind at the end of the Old Saturn stage in order, while mankind on Old Sun was already developing a level higher, to form a second kingdom and come forward as the first ancestors of our present animal kingdom.

Thus this remaining behind was absolutely necessary as a base for later formations.

Now a comparison may explain why beings and substances had to remain behind. The development of man had to progress by degrees, and it could only do this in the same degree to which man refined himself. Had he always worked with the same forces with which he had worked during the Old Saturn stage, he would not have progressed, but would have remained behind. For this reason he had to refine his forces.

  • As an illustration, let us suppose we have a glass of water in which some substance is dissolved. Everything in this glass from top to bottom will be of the same colour, the same density, etc. Now let us suppose that the grosser substances settle to the bottom; then the purer water and the finer substances remain above. The water could only be refined by separation of the grosser parts.

Something like this was also necessary after the Old Saturn evolution had run its course, so that such a sediment appeared, and the whole of humanity separated from something, retaining all the finer parts. That which was left formed later the animal kingdom. By means of this separation man was able to refine himself, and rise a stage higher. At each step certain beings have to be separated, in order that man may rise higher and higher.

Thus we have a humanity which has only become possible through man's freeing himself from the beings which live around him in the lower kingdoms. At one time we were bound up with these beings, with all their forces, in the stress of evolution like the denser constituents in the water. We have uplifted ourselves from them and in this way our development has been made possible.

Thus we look down upon the three kingdoms of nature around us, and see in them something which had to become a basis for our development. These beings have sunk in order that we might be able to rise. In this manner we look upon the subordinate kingdoms of nature from the proper aspect.

1912-04-13-GA136 sketches the group I of the animals as offspring of the SoM

[Group ego of animals]

Till now I have only been able to say that the occult vision which raises itself to the first of the super-sensible worlds lying above us, does not find in the physical world with regard to the animal, what he finds there with regard to man — namely, the ego; for that which in man we call the ego, the I, can only be found for the animal on the astral plane, in the super-sensible world; there only it has the center of its activity. Occult science cannot ascribe an ego to the animal in the physical world. It does not deny an ego to the animal, but states that what can be designated as the ego of an animal, is only to be found in the astral world. Objection may easily be raised to the fact that an ego is denied to the animals, even to the higher animals, on the physical plane, whereas it might be said, and indeed often is said — that with regard to their actions animals display an extraordinary intelligence, a quite wonderful comprehension, so that much that the animals does on the physical plane can be likened to what man does. Now, those who express themselves thus have not grasped the fundamental principle of this matter. It would not occur to anyone who penetrates into these matters, to deny what we call human soul-forces to animals on the physical plane.

There is no question of that. In this sphere lies the foundation of manifold mistakes and misunderstandings. Thus, misunderstanding would at once arise if a certain materialistic Darwinism were to say in our time: “Indeed you Anthroposophists look at the matter as though man were definitely to be sought on a higher stage of spirituality than the animal; whereas we see that the animal develops intelligence, so much intelligence, so much even of a certain instinctive morality exists in the animal kingdom, that what man has in his soul-forces may well be but a sort of higher stage of what we meet with in the animal kingdom.” The point of view here involved is quite erroneous. No unprejudiced study would deny intelligence, even reason, to the animal kingdom. We need only consider such facts as that man, comparatively late in his evolution arrived at the discovery of paper. The discovery of paper by human intelligence is represented in our historical descriptions as a very great acquisition; and in a certain respect it certainly is a sign of human progress. Yet the wasps knew this art millions of years ago; for the material of which the wasps build their nests is really paper. We can therefore say: “That which the human intellect as such accomplishes, that the animal kingdom already possesses far, far down in its ranks.” It would not occur to an unprejudiced observer to deny human soul-forces, as such, to the animal; indeed in the realm of occultism we are even convinced that sagacity and intelligence in the animals is much surer, more precise, and much more free from error than in man. The essential point is that in man all those soul-forces relate to an ego in the physical world, an ego which is developing itself individually in a physical world, going through an individual development and education.

[Differentiation of species through planetary forces]

.. as regards the animals belonging to any one group, we know that the circle of their development depends simply on the species, the genus, to which they belong; but the case of man who develops himself as an individual is quite different. If we direct our gaze to the animal kingdom, we find in the animal world the most varied forms, which differ far more from each other than do the human races. Certainly we find great differences in the human races, all over the earth, but if we compare these with the great difference of the animals from the imperfect up to the more perfect species, we notice how powerful is the differentiation in the animal kingdom; quite different from that in man.

On what then does this depend? We can best obtain an approximate answer, if we first of all ask: What causes the variety of groups in the animal kingdom, the different species, which we find characteristically spread over the globe?

Occult vision shows us that the cause of the varieties of the animal species does not simply originate on the earth; rather does the animal species receive its forms from cosmic space, and indeed the forces which produce the one species come from a different part of cosmic space from that whence come the forces which produce another. The forces which construct the various animal-forms, stream down upon our earth-planet from the other planets of our planetary system. We may actually divide the whole animal kingdom into six or seven principal groups, and these chief groups have the highest group-egos. These have the impulse for their activity in the six or seven principal planets belonging to our System; so that the forces which form the principal groups of the animals work down spiritually from the planets.

In saying this we have at the same time given the concrete explanation of what is actually meant when we speak of group-egos of the animals. It means that in the animal dwell spiritual forces, belonging to beings not to be sought upon the earth itself, but outside the earth in cosmic space, and indeed primarily in the planetary world. The Regents, as it were, of the principal group-forms of the animals live on our planets; they had to withdraw into these planets in order to work down with their forces at the right distance from the earth and from the right direction. For only from these directions in space can that come which builds up the principal animal forms in the right way.

[Beyond seven principal animal forms, differentiation through zodiacal sign]

Now if the planets were only to allow these forces to stream down upon our earth, we should not actually have the multiplicity in the animal kingdom we now have, we should only have seven principal forms. Once upon a time, in far distant ages, there were only the seven principal animal forms; but these seven forms were very mobile, determinable, so soft and plastic in their formation that they could easily be transformed; one special form into another and again other forms into others; this actually occurred at a later period of time. The seven principal forms date far, far back; but then appeared other forms in addition to these, and as it were, worked either to strengthen or hinder the forces of the planets.

I shall now have to explain how these other forces came into being. If we direct our ordinary vision to the heavenly spaces we may easily believe that everything is actually of like form; but this is not the case. If we direct our gaze to a certain direction in space, occult vision perceives something quite different in one direction from what it sees in another. Space is by no means a homogeneous affair; it is not alike on all sides; for different forces work from the different directions of space. The whole of cosmic space is filled with spiritual beings of the different hierarchies working in different ways from various directions on to the earth. In those past ages when man had a certain original primitive clairvoyance, the following was clear to him: “If at a particular hour of the day I direct my gaze to one part of the heavens I encounter certain forces, while in another direction I encounter certain other forces.” And men were also aware that from certain points specially precise and definite forces worked down from cosmic space, which were of quite particular importance to the earth. These are all arranged in the stellar circle of cosmic space which has since ancient times been called the Zodiac. Men did not then speak without reason of the Zodiac or Animal Circle; they knew why it was so called.

In the heavenly spaces the case is as follows. The forces which worked down from the planet Mars, for instance and brought about in the still plastic animal substance, one of the seven principal forms, worked in a different way according to whether Mars stood before one sign of the Zodiac or before another. The Zodiac was divided into Twelve Signs, which represent the constellations, and according as the Martian forces which affect one animal form, stood before Aries, or Taurus, or any other constellation, their influence varied. In this way the seven different forms were modified.

A number of different animal forms were thus made possible; and if you consider that to this must also be added the fact that Mars, for instance, can work qualifyingly when he stands before Leo so that he supplants the Lion in relation to the earth; or that from the other side he works qualifyingly when the earth is between the sun and Mars; you see that there are a very great number of possibilities.

All these forces have worked together to differentiate the seven original groups of the animal kingdom; so that the whole multiplicity of our animal forms on the earth arose from the fact that the forces of the planets are actually the abode of the group-souls, the group-egos of the animals; and that these beings fulfil their tasks from these centers, for only from there can they do so. For only because that particular group-soul of an animal form which was to work down from Mars selected that position in the heavens can it exercise the corresponding result upon the earth below.

Here lie the forces which brought about the multiplicity of our animals; and when we use the expression, “The animal group-ego is to be found on the astral plane,” that really means that when occult vision wishes to seek the group-ego of any animal form, he must not seek for it on earth, but on one of the planets.

That which with regard to man is to be found on the earth, occult vision can only discover for the animal outside in cosmic space, amongst the planets. Just as, for instance, a man who has to accomplish something upon the earth which necessitates various standpoints, must adapt himself to these, so must the group-ego which dwells on a planet pass through cosmic space in front of the Zodiac, in order to differentiate its forces from there. If we bring the facts just stated into connection with the fact that the impulse for the animal forms is continually sought to-day in some principle of the earth itself — in the struggle for existence — or in natural selection or the like — then the facts which have come into being through the efforts of Darwin, for example, are magnificent in so far as he did not go beyond the facts. For unconsciously Darwinism has described the mobility of the original animal forms and how they were actually created from the basic forms. But, according to the whole predisposition of our times, man has looked away from the fact that the forces which create those forms work down from cosmic space; and that therefore the creators of the animal forms are to be sought in the world of the planets which belong to our planetary system, but are outside our earth.

[Animal group soul offspring of SoM]

Of what nature are the spirits which we have now described as the group-souls of the animals and which have their dwelling-place upon the various planets?

It is then seen that these group-egos of the animals are the offspring of that category of spiritual beings to which I have referred in this course of lectures as the Spirits of Motion. Thus we must look upon the group-souls of the animals as the offspring of the Spirits of Motion.

Now the Spirits of Motion actually gave out of their own substance the astral body to man, during the ancient Moon-condition. In order to complete the matter we may therefore say: This earth was preceded by the Moon-condition, during which man received his astral body from the Spirits of Motion. In other words. When the earth was Moon — the old Moon, not the present one — (the present moon is only a detached portion of the earth itself, whilst the ancient moon was an earlier incarnation of our earth) — whilst the earth was in this ancient Moon-condition, the Spirits of Motion hovered as it were, over this old Moon and allowed their own substance to trickle in, to stream in to what man had brought over from previous conditions. So that what man acquired as astral body — which was new to him, for at that time he had only his physical and etheric bodies — was derived from the Spirits of Motion. The ancient Moon has disappeared; the earth has been formed; the Spirits of Motion have developed off-spring, besides carrying on their own evolution. These are the beings we designate as the group-egos of the animals; they have not taken up their abode upon the earth but upon the other planets, in order so to work upon the earth from there as to bring forth the animal forms, in the manner we have described. We can, in a certain sense, describe the group-egos as offspring of the beings of the Second Hierarchy.

1923-GA230 part one covers the animal world, and uses the archetypal language of eagle, lion and cow to describe the subsystems of Man 1923-10-19-GA230

  • The bird is essentially head. Its plumage corresponds to the power of thinking in man. In the bird breathing dominates and lightens all other systems.
  • In the lion there is balance between breathing and blood (Circulation, which latter the digestion is there to serve. All parts of the lion reveal the mastery of the rhythmic system.
  • The cow is all digestion process, and the entire universe works in its digestion.
  • Man is a harmonious synthesis of bird, lion and cow, in which creatures he sees also his soul powers reflected.
  • Stages in the development of the butterfly in relation to the sun. These stages compressed in the case of the bird. Bird plumage corresponds to momentary thought, the butterfly to memories.


  • The sun in relation to outer planets. How it works on the eagle in connection with the outer planets, especially Jupiter.
  • The lion is pre-eminently the sun animal. It has perfect balance between inner and outer.
  • The sun in connection with the inner planets works on digestive processes, exemplified by the cow. Its forces also work through the earth, and produce the heaviness in the cow nature.
  • The cosmic urge today to separate the three systems of man. The alluring calls of eagle, lion and cow, and their dangers for West, Centre and East. Possible mechanization of the earth and its consequences for the planetary system. A wrong way of using the secret of the cow.
  • The counterparts to the animals in the African fable, and the fable retold for modern times.


  • what man is at present unable to do is performed by the eagle (type of the birds) and the cow (type of the essential animal). Through its feathers the eagle carries spiritualized earth substance into the spiritual world: through its digestive processes the cow gives materialized spirit substance to the earth.
  • Rejoicing of earth-spirits in the activities of the cow, and of air and fire spirits in activities of the eagle.
  • The lion as organizing the right balance between eagle and cow.


Group souls of Ants and Bees

Both ants and bees are examples of animals who have their group soul at higher planes than the other normal animals. Steiner points out the key difference between ants and bees in respect of their group soul in several lectures. See o.a. 1905-06-18-GA091, 1905-12-28-GA090B.

  • In the first GA091 lecture a table is given showing that the 'animal state' [editor: or 'community-based-animals'] group soul is on the 'mental plane' (which is interestingly drawn separately of and above rupa and arupa planes of the spirit world). We could assume (hypothesis only) that the person who made the drawing was not sure where to put this, and/or that Steiner left it open to position the group soul exactly versus the others.
  • In the second GA090B lecture it is pointed out that bees are of a different and higher nature than ants.

The selfless nature of bees is mapped to characteristic that they have the group soul on the budhi plane (re other lecture ref). We can deduce the ants do not operate in the same way.

See more on the topic page: Bees

Related pages

References and further reading

  • Hermann Poppelbaum: 'Man and animal' (DE original 1931)
  • Karl König: 'Animals - an imaginative zoology' (revised EN edition 2013, essays in DE between 1956-1966)
  • Charles Kovacs: 'The human being and the animal world' (first published 2008)