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Quartz crystal cluster from Tibet

Crystals (from Greekκρύσταλλος krýstallos "ice" or κρύος kryos "icy cold, frost"; Latincrystallum or crystalla (pl.); Middle High German: cristalle; Old High German: cristalla; derived from Indo-European: *kreu- "to congeal", "to coagulate", especially of blood, also in the sense of "bloody", "cruel", "raw") are an anisotropic, homogeneous, polyhedral bodies with a strict inner three-dimensional spatial order. From a spiritual-scientific point of view, the crystal form is the result of earlier and present (see below) cosmic forces which come from different directions and through which the Spirits of Form, which have also given man the I, manifest themselves as creatively shaping powers.

Crystal structure

Crystallography is used for the scientific investigation of crystals. Physically, the crystal structure can be determined by X-ray crystallography. The crystal lattice results as a three-dimensional periodic repetition of the elementary cell, which has the form of a parallelepiped spanned by three basis vectors. A single crystal or monocrystal, which forms a continuous uniform homogeneous crystal lattice but is often difficult to grow to a sufficient size, is best suited for structural analysis. Easier to produce polycrystalline aggregates can also be used nowadays, but provide less detailed images.

Rudolf Steiner describes crystal structure as the result of encounters of forces:

„e.g. direction of forces a b c act in space; by their meeting a resultant of forces is brought about, which acts as an atom of tetrahedral character.

Chemical elements are the expression of certain encounters of forces; that they reveal themselves as such is due to the fact that one force produces an effect in its encounter with another; while other effects of forces are ineffective against each other.

Crystals are the results of more complicated encounters of forces; atoms of the simpler ones.

Amorphous masses result from the neutralisation of the directions of force.“ (Lit.:GA 320, p. 192ff)

The forces are thereby to be regarded as one-sided spatial revelations of the formative spirit:

„Force is the unilaterally spatial revelation of the spirit. It cannot be said that force acts on matter, since matter consists only in the arrangement of the effects of meeting rays of force. One form of energy never passes over to another; just as little as the action of one man passes over to that of another. What passes over is only the arithmetical expression of measure. "If mechanical energy passes into heat energy," the real process is: a certain quantum of mechanical energy is able to excite a certain quantum of this revelation in a spiritual being that reveals itself as heat. (This is still the case in a healthy way with J. R. Mayer. It was Helmholtz who first confused the matter.)“ (Lit.: Contributions 122, p. 28)

From the diffraction pattern produced by the diffraction of the radiation at the crystal lattice, the crystal structure or the distribution of the electron density in the elementary cell can be calculated. This also allows conclusions to be drawn about the geometric arrangement of the atoms and molecules that make up the crystal. However, Rudolf Steiner already gave some thought to this:

„Spiritists claim that they have photographed spirits. Photographing is an external process, and I do not want to go on here about whether or not spirits can be photographed. But no more rightly than the spiritualists claim to have photographed spirits, certain physicists today claim to have photographed the configuration of atoms. Certainly, one can throw X-rays at crystals, one can make these X-rays reflect, the reflected rays interfere, and then photograph them, and one can claim that one is photographing the configuration of atoms. The essential question is: Are we really photographing the atomistic agents or are we photographing certain effects which come from the macrocosmic and which only appear at the points where we believe that the atoms are present? It depends everywhere on finding ways of thinking and imagining which are able to go in the right way from appearances to the essence of things.“ (Lit.:GA 73a, p. 43)

In fact, crystals and molecules must not be imagined in the naïve sense as objects composed of atoms with a defined spatial form, however useful this concept may be as an approximate solution to many practical problems, as long as one remains aware of its limitations. Modern quantum theory speaks a clear language here, which is why chemist Hans Primas also emphasises:

„Molecules, atoms, electrons, quarks or strings, however, are not building blocks of matter, they are not found things, but invented things, that is, constructions of those who investigate material reality. Nothing remains of the original concept of matter in today's physics.“ (Lit.: Primas 1992, p. 50)

Crystals were only formed during the evolution of the earth in the middle of the Lemurian period, when the Moon was pulled out of the Earth under the guidance of Yahweh and at the same time the solid earth element was formed. Until then, the physical Earth had only been formed down to the watery element, but this had increasingly solidified into a viscous amorphous glassy mass. Today most minerals are crystalline.

The crystals are transparent to the spiritual. For imaginative cognition, everything crystalline in the Earth, especially quartz and the like, but also the crystals of ice and snow, appear as cosmic sense organs, as it were the eyes of the Earth.

Rudolf Steiner explained in more detail that the forms of today's crystals can only be understood by seeing in them an interaction of cosmic forces of form which have already come over from the Old Moon, the previous incarnation of our Earth, and which are now confronted by constellations of cosmic forces of a similar kind, but which have a "deforming" effect, i.e. dissolving form. Thus, for example, a certain interaction of Mars, Venus and Mercury during the old lunar state is preserved in the tetrahedron form, which today's planetary constellations counteract in a form-dissolving way. Today's crystal form is the resultant of these two temporally offset effects.

„You must be clear about the fact that what is effective in any substance today, what is formative, potassium or sodium, for example, does not necessarily have to come into being in the universe today. It may be something that has come into being at some time, perhaps a very long time ago, and has been preserved, so that the original forms, the original crystalline forms of our elements - whether they are distinct crystalline forms or something else - have been formed out of the cosmos in prehistoric times, let us suppose during the lunar period, and that in these elements the tendency has remained to preserve these forms. We must therefore be clear: On the one hand, we have to do with the present-day forms which appear, as it were, in imprint, and which were formed in a very early period of cosmic development; on the other hand, again, we have to do with the effects of that which has now become of the factors around the Earth. So we are not dealing directly with our elemental forms, so that we could say with a cosmic effect.

Here somewhere would be the Earth, here the planets, and the planets effect something through their constellation. If, for example, we have Venus, Mars and Mercury here, it is not today that the constellation of Venus, Mars and Mercury, as they act on the Earth in mutual phenomena of force, will directly produce a tetrahedrally shaped body, but these Venus, Mars and Mercury will have created the tetrahedron during the lunar period. The fact that it appears today is because the lunar effect has been preserved. Whereas, when Mercury and so on work out of the cosmos today, they work according to the laws of the imponderables; they actually work against the ponderables. Formation, therefore, already has its cosmic origin, but every formation that occurs on Earth is deformed by that which today proceeds from the same cosmic planets that formerly produced the forms. So that we must, for example, regard an evaporation as a cosmic effect existing today, but a crystallisation as one in which the former is again produced in opposition to the present. There we have temporal effects that diverge.

Now you do not need to think of what I have now torn out schematically, in such a way, that there are only a few constellations, but there are very many constellations. If you imagine this, you will naturally get a complicated system, for instance a complicated system of curves, which you can imagine in the cosmos and in the Earth.

If you summarise the original places in the Earth, where the metal forms, by means of curves - these curves must be imagined in the interior of the Earth, because that is where the centre is; the metals, however, come to the surface in later epochs, but it is actually in the interior of the Earth the forces through which conservation takes place - and outside in the cosmos the forces that lead to the crystal forms, then we can also summarise these forces in the environment by means of curves. And there we have, if you now imagine this pictorially, a sphere and spherical shells intertwining in the most diverse ways and the resultant, which would arise from this, if I imagine the difference in forces between what is conserved there and what is in the cosmos today. If I now think of the differences of the forces in these two systems of forces, I actually get what represents the present state of cosmic action on the Earth. And within this must be everything that then comes to light in the periodic system. The periodic system is nothing other than the interaction of a pre-earthly state with a present cosmic state that surrounds the Earth. These are only hints to answer, but I think it can be understood.“ (Lit.:GA 73a, p. 426ff)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.