We must look at the animal world with this feeling: “You are out there, O animals, if you suffer, you suffer for something that benefits us humans. We humans have a chance to overcome suffering, you must endure it. We have left you the pain and we have kept the overcoming for ourselves.”
– Rudolf Steiner, GA120, “The manifestations of Karma”.
The three Kingdoms of Nature, mineral, vegetable and animal, are a precipitate of man’s spiritual evolution: when man passed his mineral stage some parts of his physical body of heat remained behind in evolution and became minerals. In the vegetable stage of man, some parts of his etheric body of gas remained behind and became vegetable. In the animal stage of man, some parts of his liquid astral body remained behind and became animal.
While man descends spiritually into evolution, from a spiritual unconscious to a material self-conscious stage, the Realms of Nature ascend into physical evolution, culminating in the physical incarnation of man himself. In other words, so that man may be “human being” fully; minerals, plants and animals have sacrificed themselves for man so that his evolution may proceed in accordance with the plans of the Spiritual Hierarchies.
Actually, the Ancient Saturn at that stage contained no other kingdoms than the human one. Everything was “man”. The other kingdoms appeared later, due to the fact that part of the original human substance did not become all “man,” but took other directions. The kingdoms inferior to man existing today are in fact “substance” that did not become human, that evolved into other forms. Every stone, every plant or animal, is a “missed man”.
– Rudolf Steiner
Precisely through this necessary cosmic sacrifice made by the kingdoms of Nature, man has contracted a debt that he will have to repay with the service offered to Nature itself: in this way man will compensate for the evolution of those who have fallen behind, evolving himself, according to the occult principle of “Blessed are the last who will be the first”.
In the future metamorphoses of the Earth, animals, plants and finally minerals are destined to become men, but this can only happen if and only if man, through his action, allows these kingdoms to evolve to his present stage of consciousness. But if man in his evolution does not know how to be an example of himself, elevating himself to his spiritual archetype, not even Nature will be able to learn to be man and therefore, will be involved in the descending evolution towards the Eighth Sphere, the counter-evolution of the Obstacles.
Christ is the Spirit of the Earth, the planet is his physical body. He is the representative of the future man, woven into the vital forces of Nature, the source of all healings: if destruction is inflicted on Nature because of materialism, Christ is as if he were suffocated by the extinction of the etheric-vital forces. “Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you.” The kingdoms of nature are also our neighbor, we are brothers in the plane of cosmic evolution.
If we want to be helpers of the plan of cosmic evolution, if we want to become friends of Christ, we are therefore called to cherish all Nature and her kingdoms. If Nature suffers, man must suffer with it, acting as the guardian of his future evolution. We are called to become the Guardian Angels of Nature.
I thank you, silent stone
and I bend down in front of you:
I owe my existence as a plant to you.
I thank you, soil and flowers,
you helped me become an animal.
And I bend before you:
and I bow before you.
I thank you, stone grass and animal
you all led me to myself.
We thank you, human being,
and we lay devoutly before you:
because we exist because you exist.
From divine unity and divine multiplicity
you still give thanks:
and in thanksgiving is the whole of existence intertwined.