By Bertram von Zabern, M.D.
Issue: Fall 2002, Rhythm and Water - Issue #29
In Search of the Water of Life By Bertram von Zabern, M.D. In the wonderful Grimm's fairy tale of the same name, we learn how the search for "The Water of Life" becomes a life's journey. To find this water, such virtues as modesty, courage and simplicity are needed. If found and carried in honesty, it heals all illnesses and destinies. In a time when science has become unable to comprehend or even touch the mystery of life, this fairy tale gives us a glimpse of an answer.
Why is it that more than any of the other elements, water is the bearer of life? Indeed, life starts as a tiny watery drop, the ovum. The embryo grows in the womb, suspended in water. The fully developed human body consists of as much as 60% water. The properties of water are by no means understood. They contradict the rules of physics and chemistry, and for reasons unexplained by molecular science, H2O forms not a gas, like the comparable H2S, but a liquid. What makes this more puzzling is the fact that in the process of cooling, water does not become steadily denser, as would be expected. Instead, it reaches a point of highest density at 4°C (39°F), and then expands at lower temperatures. The result is that the colder ice swims on top of the slightly warmer water, while in other substances the colder part becomes denser than the warmer and sinks to the bottom. Imagine the consequences if water behaved like other liquids. In the cool regions the oceans and lakes would be cemented with ice from the bottom upward, and life would be impossible. Through the oddity of water's being densest at 39°F, ice can float on top of the seas and protect the maritime life underneath. While the laws of physics fail to explain the peculiar properties of water, these properties necessarily derive from the laws of life.
The miracle of organic growth is usually approached by science on an atomistic level. "Information" or a "plan" is supposed to be coded into the DNA molecules of the genetic material of a cell. By means of this molecular blueprint the growing organism "knows" how to form its fully developed shape. While the molecular concept of life has led to successes in genetic engineering, it has estranged research from the reality of life. Genetic engineering deals with atoms, but never explains how these atoms "know" anything?
A hundred years ago Rudolf Steiner articulated a diametrically different view of life. Rather than looking for material, intracellular causes of organic growth, he pointed to ethereal forces radiating in from the periphery. By analogy, it can be seen that a painting of a great artist cannot be understood by analyzing the chemical components of the paint. Mere analysis of the compounds ignores that the he painting was alive first in the mind of the artist, and that it comes to life again in the mind of the admiring viewer. In contradiction to the current materialistic conception, this view sees ethe real forces as a radiation of spiritual activity comparable to the artist's vision, although of a much higher intensity. It is easier for our everyday intellect to calculate molecules than to view a glimpse of divine creative power. To empower science research to approach life, Steiner offered techniques for developing meditatively enhanced thinking, which he called intuition. When we reflect on the inner life of thinking rather than on mathematical equations, thought life then becomes a window capable of accessing the organic life processes.
The contemplation Goethe gave in his Metamorphosis of Plants is an apt example. He asked: Is there anything we can call "a whole plant" at a given moment? If we look at the blossoming plant in summer, we do not see its sprouting in spring, its bearing fruit in fall or its leafless rest in winter. The whole plant is perceived in viewing all of its life stages together. That is possible only when the viewer unites memory, expectation and outer perception into one picture. He then accesses organic life through thought life. In Goethe's words, "It is an idea I can see with my eyes."
A true scientist has no choice but to develop an artist's eye for the floating pictures of living things. If a frog is alive, the water in the frog, in its tissues and in its cell plasma would be considered to be alive, too. Once the life of the water is discovered, we are close to the discovery of the Water of Life.