Mineral science

From Anthroposophy

On this site, the term 'mineral science' is used as a respectful term for contemporary mainstream 'material(istic)' science that focuses on the purely sensory aspects of physical reality, specifically the workings of the mineral element and scientific thinking, and this mainly since the new forms of thinking in the 15th century.

Note on terminology

The term 'mineral' is used rather then the term 'materialistic' because the latter has a negative sound to it, meaning only caring about the physical matter aspects. Also the term 'physical' is not ideal because in physical reality we can observe much which is the effect of the spiritual (see table).

To avoid misunderstandings about the term 'mineral':

  • mineral does not relate to mineral as in mineral stones, rather:
  • talking in the language of the four elements, mineral science actually encompasses the study of the laws of the element 'earth', and not the other elements water (etheric - as we find it in 'life' in the plant kingdom), air (astral - as we find it in the animal kingdom), and warmth (spirit, as we find it in Man). See Schema FMC00.255 and 1921-06-24-GA205 below, as well as Spectrum of elements and ethers for contextual reference.
  • to further clarify the term 'mineral' as used in spiritual science, this is also the fourth of the seven kingdoms, see Three dimensions of evolution where Earth is currently going through the fourth Condition of Life (CoL, or 'round').


  • the mineral science that developed since the 15th century, taking into account only the mineral element in the physical, and the worldview that followed from it, was a requirement for humanity from the perspective of the development of the I. Man had to be asleep of the spiritual for a period of time (and similarly so, have no knowledge of reincarnation), in order to develop the I and independent thinking freedom. However this is a phase, that will be followed by a next phase that will re-introduce the spiritual in new ways in future cultural ages on Earth, this also has to be put in context of the karma of humanity. (1916-10-01-GA171)
  • natural or mineral science is attributable to the inspiration of archangel Gabriel. The tendency of this scientific inspiration is to create a world-picture that promotes understanding of the material world alone, and is connected with the physical brain. (1913-05-02-GA152)
  • See also the topic page on the Relationship between mineral and spiritual science


Schema FMC00.255 shows four types of earthly and cosmic laws. The physics of the current materialistic or mineral science is extremely successfull in describing the laws for the element earth, on our planet earth. However 'life', as we see it in the plant world, is governed by different laws, these are those of the etheric world and formative forces. Still other laws exists apply for the astral and spirit worlds.


Schema FMC00.008 illustrates that we can discern the manifestation of the various worlds in the kingdoms and in Man. Mineral science uses the scientific framework and knowledge of mineral matter (the first column 'mineral') to study and try to explain all the rest.


Historical development

Typically science puts forth the development of physics as the foundation for the current worldview, we can sketch that as follows in a quick high-level overview:

  • 1610-1704: foundations of astronomy, mechanics, optics, differential calculus
    • Starting with pre-runner Copernicus (1543, Revolutionibus heliocentric model), the basis for the current mineral science was laid in the period 1610-1704 by Galileo (1610, telescopic astronomical observations), Kepler (1609-1619 laws of planetary motion), Huygens (1656 pendulum clock, 1678-1690 wave theory of light), Newton (1687, Principia and 1704 Optics), and Leibniz (and Newton) (1675-1684, differential calculus)
  • the next century (1709-1795) brought especially technical inventions and innovation that changed the world, oa steam engine and its applications (but lots more), and as well as oa Bernouilli (1734-8, hydrodynamics), Lavoisier (1789, conservation of mass)
  • 1800-1860: foundations for thermodynamics and electromagnetism
    • 1800-1830: Volta (1800, first battery), Ørsted (1820, electromagnetism) and Ampère (1820), Faraday (electromagnetic motor, 1821), Ohm (1827)
    • 1840-1855: von Mayer and Clausius (1842-1850, first law thermodynamics), and Thomson-Kelvin and Clausius (1851-4, second law thermodynamics)
    • 1860: Maxwell (1861-62, equations electromagnetism)
    • 1858: Kekulé and Couper (1858, structural basis organic chemistry)
  • 1870-1940: applied electromagnetism, relativity theory and quantum physics
    • Crookes (1870-75, cathode ray vacuum tube, electron rays), Hertz (cathode X-ray experiments), Rontgen (1895, X-rays from Crookes tube), Fleming (1905, vacuum tube), Hertz (1886-1889, electromagnetic waves as per Maxwell’s equations/term), Michelson-Morley (1887, interferometer, ether), Thomson’s experiment (1899, photo-electric effect, UV light in Crookes’ tubes)
    • Einstein (1905, Annus Mirabilis papers: light quanta, mass-energy equivalence E=mc2, special relativity), Ricci-Curbastro (1900, tensor calculus), Geiger-Marsden and Rutherford (1908-1913, atomic model with nucleus and electrons), basis for Bohr’s (1885-1962) atom theory in 1913, Nernst (1906-12, third law thermodynamics)
    • 1924-1930: Heisenberg (1927, uncertainty principle), Schrodinger (1926, wave equation), De Broglie (1924, wave properties of matter), Dirac (1930, quantum theory &  equation)
    • 1924-1931: cosmology: Hubble, Lemaitre and Friedmann, Einstein (big bang expanding universe)

The experimental findings around the tube (1870-1905) would be the basis for the first radios, amplifiers, computers (1940s-50s), and screens/televisions (cathode ray tube), those around electromagnetic waves would be the basis for radio waves, radar, broadcasting. So this gave the impulse for the 20th century technological development. Similarly we see the start from 1900 onwards of a new wave of theoretical physics based on conceptual thinking and mathematics started.

Not mentioned in the above impressive overview is the development of the other sciences:

  • the living nature's kingdoms: biology, botany, zoology, paleontology, agriculture
  • the earth: geology, meteorology, oceanography,
  • the human being: psychology, medicine, anatomy

Of course these areas also developed strongly over centuries, but not to the same extent as the exploits of 'mastering the mineral'. However the above 'mastery of the mineral influenced these 'areas of the living' to a considerable extent, as the mineral and mathematical way of looking at the world was also used in these other areas. Illustrations are eg genetics and chemistry in medicine, carbon dating in archeology and geology, etc.

Lecture coverage and references

1905-05-29-GA093 (SWCC)

At the present stage of evolution, Man belongs with his physical nature to the mineral kingdom. Physical, chemical and mineral laws hold sway over man's physical body. Yet even as far as his spiritual nature is concerned, he belongs to the mineral kingdom, since he understands through his intellect only what is mineral, Life as such, he is only gradually learning to comprehend. Precisely for this reason, official mineral science disowns life, being still at that stage of development in which it can only grasp the dead, the mineral. It is in the process of learning to understand this in very intricate detail. Hence it understands the human body only in so far as it is a dead, mineral thing. It treats the human body basically as something dead with which one works, as if with a substance in a chemical laboratory. Other substances are introduced into [the body], in the same way that substances are poured into a retort. Even when the doctor, who nowadays is brought up entirely on mineral science, sets about working on the human body, it is as though the latter were only an artificial product.

Hence we are dealing with man's body at the stage of the mineral kingdom in two ways: man has acquired reality in the mineral kingdom through having a physical body, and with his intellect is only able to grasp facts relating to the mineral kingdom. This is a necessary transitional stage for man. However, when man no longer relies only on the intellect but also upon intuition and spiritual powers, we will then be aware we are moving into a future in which our dead mineral body will work towards becoming one that is alive. And our science must lead the way, must prepare for what has to happen with the bodily essence in the future. In the near future, it must itself develop into something which has life in itself,recognise the life inherent in the earth for what it is. For in a deeper sense it is true, it is the thoughts of man that prepare the future. As an old Indian aphorism rightly says: What you think today, that you will be tomorrow.

The very being of the world springs out of living thought; not from dead matter. What outward matter is, is a consequence of living thought, just as ice is a consequence of water; the material world is, as it were, frozen thoughts. We must dissolve it back again into its higher elements, because we grasp life in thought. If we are able to lead the mineral up into life, if we transform [it into] the thoughts of the whole of human nature, then we will have succeeded, our science will have become a science of the living and not of dead matter. We shall raise thereby the lowest principle [of man] — at first in our understanding, and later also in reality — into the next sphere. And thus we shall raise each member of man's nature — the etheric and the astral included — one stage higher.

1916-10-01-GA171 positions, in the overall development of humanity (and it's I-consciousness) the need for the materialistic worldview and phase of 'mineral science' only (just like there was a period with no knowledge of reincarnation, as explained in other lectures). It positions the relativity of worldview and scientific advances.

Our age stands under all these influences — the thinking and the entire configuration of our age — that I have sought to characterize. Now one definite peculiarity is to be emphasized for this age.

According to prevalent belief, it stands, not only with both feet, but also with hands and, in fact, the whole body, within reality. It is the pride, not to say the arrogance, of our age that people believe they are standing deep in reality. They are immensely proud of it. But as a later age will show, as regards thought, our age is by no means rooted in reality; it is far less so than was an earlier age. What will a later age teach? Well, it will naturally not deny that our age has produced great thoughts and achievements.

The Copernican world conception makes its appearance; Galileo creates modern physics; Kepler modern astronomy; we have galvanic, voltaic electricity appearing, with all that grows out of it; we have the steam age, and so forth.

Thus, the thoughts that have been formed in this age are striking; they are grand. Over and over again people emphasize, though they may not express it in the same words, how conscious they are that we have made such fine progress, in contrast to the silly superstitions of people in earlier ages. In short, men are entirely convinced that Copernicus, for example, finally established the fact that the sun stands still, or perhaps has a movement of its own. In any case, it does not move around the earth every twenty-four hours, but the earth itself revolves, and also moves around the sun in the course of the year, etc. These things are well known. They are understood today as if man had finally cast off the ancient superstition of the Ptolemaic world conception and had set truth in place of the former error. Earlier humanity believed all sorts of stupid things because it trusted its senses. The men of more recent times, however, have at last arrived at seeing that the sun is in the center and Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn move in ellipses around it — Uranus and Neptune being further out. At last, one knows this. At last, one knows that in the course of the year the earth revolves around the sun, and so on. In fact, one has made wonderfully fine progress!

We are no longer far distant from the time in which we will understand what all this means. The true reality was of no consequence at all to the spiritual powers upon whom Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo were dependent; it was rather to bring definite faculties into the human head. What matters is the education of mankind through the education of the earth.

Thus, mankind has to be obliged for a time to think in this way about the cosmos in order to be educated in a certain way through thoughts. It is with this that the wise guidance of the world is concerned. If one should begin to look at the matter spiritually — not merely externally, mathematically or physically as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and especially their successors have done — one would come to yet other remarkable things.

One will say, “Good, now we have a physical cosmic system; when we study it we must, as we know, calculate it and treat it geometrically as is taught today in practically every elementary school.”

But spiritually, things are otherwise. You see, to an observer able to behold the spiritual, the following is presented, for example. He comes upon a certain movement of the sun; it takes this course.

...[explanation - see Leminiscatory timespace]

The other picture will be added, and only from a combination of the two will a later humanity attain the concept it must have.

You see, I am now telling you these things, but imagine for a moment that you relate what I have said to an astronomer. He would say, “Someone has lost his senses, has gone mad, to present such things. They are out of the question.” But it was not so long ago that the members of a famous Academy of Science also said, when meteoric stones that fall to the earth were spoken of, “That is a senseless statement!” This happened not at all long ago; many similar things could be recorded.

Today, in orthodox physics, one recognizes the so-called law of the conservation of energy as something fundamental. The first to speak of it, Julius Robert Mayer, was confined in a madhouse. One could, of course, relate hundreds of such stories. But the point is this, that you see from what I have told you — I have given it only as an example — how the nature of thinking in astronomical fields, that wonderfully effective thinking from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, has had rather the faculty of bringing men away from reality. Men do not at all stand, as they believe, with both feet, both hands and the body in the real, but they give themselves up to the most fantastic ideas and imagine these to be reality. Men had to be educated like this in these centuries. They had to give themselves up to fantastic ideas about outer nature so that they might not be merged in the external events in the old way, but that, by virtue of these fantastic ideas, they might all the more obtain a feeling of the inner ego. This feeling has been greatly intensified in men during the last few centuries precisely through these fantastic materialistic ideas. That had to happen; the feeling of the ego had at some time to be engendered in the development of mankind's history. I have chosen an astronomical example, but it could be shown in every sphere how human evolution followed a course in the centuries just past that drew man away from true reality.


The humanity of our age had to break away completely from such a relationship with the heavens because it had the task of finding the path away from the ambiguity of impulses and instincts, and of forming the pure I. The I did not act strongly at a time in which men made themselves mere instruments of heavenly activities, nor did it work strongly in the ages when the priest taught his immediate pupils, “There stands the Pleiades. When they are there, we must begin the days of Isis; then we must see that what we learn prophetically is the best way to proceed in the coming year.” They placed themselves as completely within the course of the universe as a cell is incorporated into our organism. Humanity could only become individual, personal, if in a definite epoch it were torn out of this connection, if all these human faculties of spirit that mediated such connections passed into a state of sleep. Thus a sleep regarding the spiritual was prepared, and mankind has slept most deeply in respect of spiritual matters ever since the fourteenth century. It has been a sleeping culture but now the time has come for an awakening.

Do not say, “I wish to criticize Creation and the Creator; why has he let me sleep?” This means putting oneself with one's intellect above cosmic wisdom. During the course of the earth stage, human evolution must go through its sleep periods just as much as the individual man must sleep in the course of twenty-four hours. Spiritual faculties, which is to say, a concept of the world in the sense of these faculties, slept deeply in the centuries indicated. On the other hand, man dreamt of geometrical lines in space; he dreamed the dream of the Copernican, the Galilean and the Darwinian world conception. Man needed this dream, this training, even the illusion of experiencing a special reality through the dream. Ultimately, it is the same with our sleep. In the evening we are tired and we go to sleep. Then we wake up refreshed with an inner feeling of reality. If humanity had developed the ancient spiritual faculties further, if these had not slept, men would have been tired out and would not have reached reality. They came to reality precisely by the fact that in their thinking and reflecting, and also in their social organizations, they had left reality. Because these capacities slept, past centuries have brought renewal and refreshment to mankind. In a certain respect, humanity has even become freer than it was in earlier centuries, and it will have to regain spiritual knowledge — and later spiritual power — in order to progress even further on the path of freedom.

Such things can be known. But again today's true materialist will say, “Well, and what if they are known!” I have, in fact, found materialists who say, “Good gracious, why must I think about the life of the soul after death. I shall see all that when death has arrived. Why need I bother now in the physical body about this life after death?” This seems to be quite plausible, this idea that it would be really unnecessary, here in the physical body, to bother about the super-sensible life. But this is not the case; it was so only in an earlier age when man was not yet ready for freedom. Today, the position is such that certain thoughts can only be grasped by the super-sensible hierarchies if men grasp them here in earthly existence. The gods only think certain thoughts if they live in human bodies. These thoughts must be carried into the spiritual world through the gate of death; only then can they be active. It is truly so; one who will not think about the super-sensible is like a farmer who says to his neighbor, “You are a silly fellow. Every year you put by a certain part of the grain for seed. I only became a farmer this year, but I am not as foolish as you. I shall grind it all, eat it and calmly wait. The grain will certainly grow again by itself.” Such a farmer resembles a person who is not willing to hear that, as well as consuming what we experience in the world, we must also lay aside certain seeds in the soul to guide it along its path in the spiritual worlds. Inasmuch as we pursue the science of the spirit, we are creating the right seeds for the present time. And the science of the spirit must be pursued.

You see from this that our time can become ever more clear to us through the spiritual understanding of its fundamental character and nature. This deepening of our inner faculties that must be striven for in order to come to a more real astronomy, for example, must also be striven for in social thinking. Regarding our thinking, we — or at any rate, most of us — have become as much asleep and dreaming in outer lives as we are in regards to astronomy, for instance, which I chose for an example. In the centuries gone by, and right up to today, very much has become veiled from humanity. Nor will what was present earlier appear again — investigations, for instance, through a priestess of Isis or through the Celtic druidical mysteries in which a priestess was similarly employed. To seek in that way to know about the action here of the spiritual will not recur; much more inward ways will be found, ways much more suited to future humanity. But they must be found.


It must never be asserted that these things that relate to past ages will arise again in the same way. They will arise quite differently. But a knowledge will again be won for humanity that will be directly fitted for entering practical life. A spiritual knowledge — but just because it is spiritual, a practical knowledge — will again appear in which the things around us will be fully mastered. Neither an Isis nor an Osiris cult will appear. Something else will arise that will bear the traces of our having passed through the centuries since the Isis and Osiris cult existed. It will show that the new science of the spirit must be sought with full consciousness and in freedom. But the things that have taken place must be tested a little in their reality. History must be different from what it so often is today, when people merely make researches in documents and records.


Today, the science of the spirit is still largely held to be foolish. But when it has really been understood, it will be seen to contain a science much more real than the scientific dream of the past centuries. Quite different practical operations, practical mastery of the outer world, will come to light when the time arrives. It is not yet time today; mankind must first have knowledge and know in the spirit of spiritual science before it can act in the spirit of the science of the spirit.

I wanted to go into this in order to point out precisely at this time how it is only through a true understanding of what has happened that an understanding can also be reached of what has to happen. In the future, humanity must be guided beyond many things with whose karma mankind is heavily burdened in our present grievous and painful times. Today mankind is burdened with the karma of the dream life of the past centuries.

This mystery must first be grasped on its depths; then it will be easier to understand our sorrowful present and also to understand how humanity must gradually prepare a different karma for the future.


Only now, in our own age, is there again such an influence, a direct inspiration from Michael. Preparation for this direct inspiration from Michael has been going on since the sixteenth century. At that time it was the archangel nearest to Michael who gave mankind the inspiration that has led to the great achievements of natural science in modern times. This natural science is not attributable to the inspiration of Michael but to that of one of his companions, Gabriel. The tendency of this scientific inspiration is to create a science, a world-picture that promotes understanding of the material world alone, and is connected with the physical brain. Within the last few decades Michael has taken the place of this Inspirer of science, and in the next few centuries will give to the world something that in a spiritual sense will be equally important — indeed more important, because it is more spiritual — immeasurably more important than the physical science which has advanced from stage to stage since the sixteenth century. Just as his companion Archangel endowed the world with science, so will Michael in the future endow mankind with spiritual knowledge, of which we are now only at the very beginning.


We must admit that science in the present-day sense of the word can reach only to a certain level. It reaches only as far as the mineral element in the mineral, plant, and human kingdoms.

Already in the plant kingdom science must change into art; still more so in the animal. It is sheer nonsense to try to understand the animal form in the way the anatomists and physiologists do. And as long as we do not admit that it is nonsense, the shadowy intellect cannot really be transformed into a living, spiritual grasp of the world.

1921-06-24-GA205 (and the follow up lecture of the next day) explain the four types of lawfulness that related to the four elements of earth (mineral), water (etheric), air (astral), and warmth (spirit). See Schema FMC00.255 above.

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