As promised in the February newsletter each newsletter until November will deepen the study of the chemical elements to reveal the Christ Element at work.
These articles will be taken from Dr Hauschka's book The Nature of Substance.
Nitrogen is of such a nature as to lend itself to being a carrier of feeling as well as of breathing. Everyone knows how closely related to feeling breathing is. When we feel joyful our breath quickens. When grief weighs on the soul, breath comes slowly and heavily. Sanguine people have a faster pulse and breath- count than melancholic natures do. Breathing is a constant rhythmic mediating between man and his surroundings. Every breath we draw brings the outside world into us. This enables us to have a feeling of our surroundings, similar to a touching with hands and fingers or a grasping with thought. One of the greatest achievements of the new approach to man inaugurated by Rudolf Steiner was the discovery that the breathing system is the physiological basis of feeling, as the nervous system is of thinking.
A distinctive social fact is that we all breathe the same air; there is nothing we do so much in common as breathing. All other possessions tend to be individually owned, and people even go out of their way not to share objects of personal use. No modern person likes to eat out of the same bowl with others. But we all enjoy the air in common. Certainly there are fresh—air fiends who even want their own air to breathe and cannot bear to be shut up with others in a single room. This is especially true of the English. And what is the reason for it, if not egoism? Is the fact of my inhaling something of another person’s being not a way of feeling what his nature is — feeling it lovingly?
Since carbohydrate is the substance of plants, they are bound to the soil and have the power neither of movement nor of feeling. The typical animal substance is protein. This is in part the product of cosmic movement, which comes to physical manifestation in nitrogen. And in the blossom, where plant and animal worlds touch and commingle, the plant-protein of the seed grows as the fruit of that meeting. In seeds, with their freedom to separate from the mother plant and seek new homes, plants acquire a certain mobility.
It is significant that nitrogen is found only in the free state in inorganic nature, and never as part of any chemical compound. Since nitrogen is the carrier of movement, it cannot be bound. It must be free to move. But technology has succeeded with enormous effort in tying nitrogen to oxygen. The two substances are forced under pressure through an arc of electric flame (in the Birkeland-Eyde & Schönherr process). This yields saltpetre, or nitric acid, a material used in the manufacture of nitro-cellulose (gun cotton), nitro-glycerine, picric acid, and all the other modern explosives. Saltpetre was even an ingredient of the old-fashioned gunpowder invented by the monk Schwarz.
Now what is an explosive if not imprisoned motion? And there is, in fact, scarcely a single explosive that does not contain imprisoned nitrogen.
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