Animal kingdom

From Anthroposophy

The current animal kingdom is one of the Four kingdoms of nature, that have their group I on the astral plane, and only physical bodies on Earth (see Schema FMC00.142B below). The animal kingdom receives its form and intelligence from the animal group soul and the formative forces of the third elementary kingdom, both working from the astral world (see Schema FMC00.175A below)

During the Old Moon evolutionary stage, the then highest kingdom of 'animal-man' developed (see Schema FMC00.181 on Group souls of humanity) as the original thoughts of the angels, from the substance sacrificed by the SoM.

On Earth, this kingdom of 'animal-man' further developed into two kingdoms:

As a result, Man 'pushed down' the current animal kingdom and was and is able to rise in its own development thanks to the animal kingdom (see the development phase of the Centaur), just as he owes his own development to all other lower kingdoms. Man wil redeem the animal kingdom in the sixth Condition of Life (CoL) on Earth, see Earth rounds perspective.


  • animals have not been able to develop the I-principle, and are characterized by a horizontal rather than a vertical spine. This uprightness is a first characteristic of the Human 'I'-principle, see the faculties of the threefold soul of Walking Speaking Thinking (WST) that distinguish Man from animals.
  • animal shapes and forms as the physiognomical expression of human passions
    • a large part of our present higher animals consists of human beings who were so entangled in their passions that they became hardened in these forms and fell behind in evolution. In animals we see our own past, although these have not the same form as that in which they appeared in past ages, for millions of years have passed away since then, as over such long periods animal shapes were in a state of material self-metamorphosis (1908-08-11-GA105)
  • 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). See Elementals of nature.
  • the rate of procreation of animals varies greatly (eg between elephant, oyster, aphid, vorticellae) (1922-09-27-GA347)

specific categories within the animal kingdom

  • ants and Bees - see 'Discussion' area below, note [1] - Group souls of Ants and Bees
  • butterflies (1923-10-08-GA351)
  • elephants (oa premonition of death explained) (1924-01-07-GA352)
  • horses (oa 1913-02-18-GA069E)
  • animal wisdom: beaver lodges and wasps' nests (1923-01-10-GA348)
  • birds and animals in the Lemurian epoch (1922-09-20-GA347), turtles and crocodiles (1923-09-20-GA347)

symbolism of animals and animal forms:

  • snake, fish, butterfly, bee and their relation to the elements: the snake as earth being, the fish as water being, the butterfly as air being, and the bee as warmth-being (1907-09-14-GA101)
  • animal forms as language of inspiration consciousness or clairvoyance (like plant for imagination, and human I for intuition): the dove for the Holy Spirit, lamb for Christ, Sphinx as examples of inspired imaginations in ancient clairvoyance (1922-07-28-GA214)
  • the horse as a symbol of intelligence (1908-06-24-GA104)


  • there are sixteen groups of animals that gradually “precipitated out” of the spiritual world, just as there are sixteen groups of human instincts and passions. (1909-05-17-GA104A)
  • at the end of our Earth evolution certain animals will have developed karma, they will have reached the point where it will be possible to speak of guilt and atonement (1904-01-12-GA090A)
  • evolutionary explanation for the development of vertebrates and invertebrates (as related to the departure of the Sun, see Iwer Thor Lorenzen in Further reading section below)
  • 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)

metamorphosis in the animal kingdom

  • most famous example of caterpillar and butterfly
  • as researched by Goethe and picked up further by a.o. Lorenzen (1973) and Suchantke (1994) - see references below


Schema 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.


Schema FMC00.210A shows another illustrated version of the Schema FMC00.210.


Schema 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.


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


Schema FMC00.518 illustrates the consciousness of the four kingdoms of nature at different planes of consciousness.

Only Man has individualized Human 'I' consciousness as he was and is in the process of detaching himself from the various granular levels of the group souls of humanity through the process of individuation and Development of the I.

In the animal kingdom, a collective of animals part of a certain species have their group soul on the astral plane, the working group of the animal group soul intelligence can be seen for example in flocks of birds and herds.

The plant kingdom has its group soul on the lower spirit plane. The astral body of the Earth forms the common astral body for the whole plant kingdom, the I of the plant is in the center of the Earth. The astral world does not penetrate the individual plant but merely touches it through the 'kiss of the Sun', which is the origin of the blossom causing the appearance of the flower.

The mineral kingdom is frozen and chaste and has the group soul in the higher spirit world.

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.


Schema FMC00.175A is a simplified variant of Schema FMC00.175 that summarizes the formative forces proceeding from The elementary kingdoms, all three active and interpenetrating all the time. They work together with the intelligence of the group soul from the different worlds.


Schema 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


edited machine translation, SWCC.

[discussing the Lemurian epoch] ... But then there are two genera of Lunar Pitris who had reached a fairly normal development, namely such that they were already able to form a kind of karma within themselves, a karma similar to that which will be the karma of our animals at the end of our earth evolution. Certain animals will have reached the point where it will be possible to speak of guilt and atonement. Our animals do not have this yet, but they will have it at the end of their development. The karmic principle was already present in some species. In other species it was only in the process of development, and in still others it was only present in a hint.


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.


is on the Animal Soul


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.


Now the whole of our fifth epoch of human evolution (including the various stages of civilization from the ancient Indian to our own), really exists in order to develop intelligence and reason and all that belongs to them. Nothing of this existed in the Atlantean epoch. Memory was present and also other qualities, but to develop the intelligence and what pertains to it — the turning of the attention to the outer world — is the task of the fifth epoch. If we direct our spiritual vision to the surrounding world and inquire, To what do we owe the fact that we have become intelligent; what animal form have we put forth from ourselves in order to become intelligent?” curious and grotesque as it may appear, it is nevertheless true to say that if there were not around us the animals which belong to the horse nature, Man would never have been able to acquire intelligence.

In former times men were aware of this. All the intimate relations existing between certain races of men and the horse originate from a feeling which may be compared with the mysterious feeling of love between the two sexes, from a certain feeling of what one owes to this animal. Hence when the new civilization arose in the ancient Indian age, it was a horse that played a mysterious role in religious ceremonial, in the worship of the gods. And all customs connected with the horse may be traced back to this fact. If you observe the customs of ancient peoples who were still clairvoyant such as, for instance, the old Germans, and notice how they placed horse-skulls in front of their houses, this leads you back to the fact that these people were aware that man has grown beyond the unintelligent condition by separating out this form. There was a profound consciousness that the acquisition of cleverness is connected with it. You need only remember the Odyssey and the wooden horse of Troy. Such legends contain deep wisdom, much deeper than our science contains. Not without reason is such a type as the horse employed in legend. Man has grown out of a form which once contained within it that which is now embodied in the horse; and in the form of the centaur, art still represented man as connected with this animal in order to remind him of the stage of development out of which he had grown, from which he had struggled free in order to become the present human being.

What thus took place in bygone times in order to lead to present humanity will be repeated at a higher stage in the future. It is not the case, however, that this would in the future have to run its course in the physical world. Those who become clairvoyant at the boundary between the astral and the spirit worlds can see how Man continually purifies and develops that which he owes to the separation from the horse nature. He will accomplish the spiritualizing of the intelligence.

After the great War of All against All he will elevate to wisdom, to spirituality, that which today is merely reason, merely cleverness. This will be experienced by those who then will have reached the goal. The fruits of that which was able to develop in humanity in consequence of the separation of the horse nature will be manifested.


covers 'Animal forms as the physiognomical expression of human passions'

[animal forms and shapes]

There were at this time very few of the higher kinds of animals; the Earth was peopled by the lower animals and man. And if one were companionable — and such indeed we all were fundamentally — one could find one's fellowman through the expression they gave to this or that thought, or to this or that passion.

What really are all such expressions? What are the physiognomical expressions of passions and thoughts?

They are the shapes of animals. When we observe the form of animals we see in the higher orders of the animal kingdom nothing but thoughts and passions of all sorts worked into a great piece of tapestry. Everything that moves within the human astral body today, and remains hidden, was such a strong force at that time that it imparted at once to the soft body (which was really only formed out of fire-mist) the shape which was the expression of that passion. A large part of our present higher animals consists of human beings who were so entangled in their passions that they became hardened in these forms and fell behind in evolution.

Anyone who looks with really occult perception on his environment can express his feeling approximately as follows: In the course of becoming an I, I have passed through that which I now see in lions and snakes; I lived in all these forms, for in my inner being I experienced the qualities which are expressed in these animal shapes.

Those human beings who were capable of rising, who maintained their inner centre, found a certain balance, so that they have within them only the possibility of these passions, which are, however, of a soul nature only, and take on no external form. This is what Man's higher development means. In animals we see our own past, although these have not the same form as that in which they appeared in past ages, for millions of years have passed away since then. Let us suppose that passions such as are now found in lions were made manifest at that time in Man's outward form, giving him the semblance of a lion, that this form then hardened, and the genus lion originated. Since that time, however, the genus lion has also passed through further development, and because of this the present lion has no longer the same form as at that time. The present lion is the descendant of a genus that branched off from the human long ages ago. In the various animals we have, in a certain sense, to see our degenerate descendants; this should help us to look with understanding into the world around us.

We must not, however, imagine that all the animal forms we see around us, and which represent certain conditions of hardening, are the result of evil human passions. Passions were necessary; Man had to experience them in order that he might absorb from them into his own nature all that was useful; so that when we look back into such periods of the Earth's evolution we find in our environment animal shapes that are in a state of material self-metamorphosis.

These are the expressions of passions, and working in them we find those spiritual beings with whom we have become acquainted in previous lectures. We have to think of the earth as being still of a soft substance, and spiritual beings working upon this substance, and forming the various animal-like shapes.


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.


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.


part one covers the animal world, and uses the archetypal language of eagle, lion and cow to describe the subsystems of Man - see Man as a threefold being.

  • 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.


[1] - 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. Rudolf 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, the 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 the characteristic that they have the group soul on the budhi plane (re other lecture reference, to be added). We can deduce the ants do not operate in the same way, it can be deduced they probably have the group soul in the spirit world.

See more on the topic page: Bees

[2] - Various biological research

1) For morphogenetic fields, see wikipedia page: morphogenetic field

2) For Ernst Haeckel's (1834-1919) concept of phylogeny, see: Recapitulation#.5B1.5D - Haeckel.27s theory of recapitulation

3) Rupert Sheldrake (1942) developed the concept of morphic resonance that posits that "memory is inherent in nature" and that "natural systems... inherit a collective memory from all previous things of their kind."

This does not find acceptance with contemporary mineral science who positions this as pseudoscience. More on this on worldview wars and relationship between mineral and spiritual science.

Nevertheless, Sheldrake asks scientific attention and research for unexplained phenomena such as animal migration and the homing of pigeons, and animal precognition (incl. premonitions of earthquakes and tsunamis). See eg the book: 'Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home' (1999).

These phenomena are to be understood by the animal group soul and formative forces (see Schema FMC00.175A above)

Related pages

References and further reading

  • Wolfgang Schad (1935)
    • base work was the 1971 DE version published in 1977 in EN:
      • Man and mammals: Toward a biology of form (1977 in EN, original in 1971 as 'Säugetiere und Mensch. Zur Gestaltbiologie vom Gesichtspunkt der Dreigliederung' with new DE edition 2012)Threefoldness in Humans and Mammals - Toward a Biology of Form
    • this book was published by Adonis Press in a limited 'interim' expanded version as 'Understanding Mammals' which the author didn't have the chance to fully review. That complete review did happen eventually, and let to the publication of a new two volume work with a new title:
      • Threefoldness in Humans and Mammals: Toward a Biology of Form
  • Hermann Poppelbaum:
    • 'Man and animal' (EN in 1931, DE original 1931)
    • 'A new zoology' (1961)
  • Karl König:
    • 'Bruder Tier : Mensch und Tier in Mythos und Evolution'
    • 'Animals - an imaginative zoology' (revised EN edition 2013, essays in DE between 1956-1966)
      • in different chapters are covered:
        • seals
        • migration of salmon and eels
        • elephants
        • the bear tribe and its myth
        • swans and storks
        • the dove as a sacred bird
        • the sparrows of the earth
        • dolphins
        • cats and dogs - companions of Man
        • brother horse
  • F.H. Julius
    • Das Tier zwischen Mensch und Kosmos (1970)
  • Charles Kovacs: 'The human being and the animal world' (first published 2008)
  • Iwer Thor Lorenzen:
    • Ideen zur Metamorphose und Entwicklungsgeschichte der Insekten (typoscript 1936)
    • 'Basic questions of evolution' (1958-60 in DE), Chapters 1 and 3
    • 'Grundzüge einer Metamorphose der Tiere (in anknüpfung an Goethe)' (1973)
  • Leendert F.C. Mees: 'Tiere sind, was Menschen haben' (DE in 1987, original in NL 'Dieren zijn wat mensen hebben')
  • Andreas Suchantke
    • 'Metamorphosen im Insektenreich: Beitrag zu einem Kapitel der Tierwesenkunde (1994)
    • Metamorphose: Kunstgriff der Evolution (2002 in DE), in EN as: 'Metamorphosis: Evolution in Action' (2011), reprint 2019 in DE as 'Metamorphose: Kunstgriff des Lebens'
    • Der Vogel und sein Evolutionsmotiv
  • Rupert Soskin: 'Metamorphosis: Astonishing insect transformations (2015)
    • modern high quality photographic illustrations
  • Eugen Kolisko
    • Zoology for Everybody
      • No 2 - The Birds
      • No 3 - The Mammals
      • No 4 - The Protoza
      • No 5 - The Coelenterates and Echinoderms
      • No 6 - Tunicates & Molluscs
      • No 7 - Insects
      • No 8 - Amphibians & Reptiles
  • Malcolm Lyall-Watson (1939-2008)
    • Whales of the World: A Field Guide to the Cetaceans (1981)
    • Elephantoms: Tracking the Elephant (2002)
    • The Whole Hog: Exploring the Extraordinary Potential of Pigs (2004)
  • Craig Holdrege
    • The Flexible Giant: Seeing the Elephant Whole (2003)
    • The Giraffe's Long Neck: From Evolutionary Fable to Whole Organism (2005)
    • Do Frogs Come From Tadpoles? (2017)
    • Seeing the Animal Whole: And Why It Matters (2021)

Further links, see also: