Ernst Haekel’s Biological Illustrations

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel 1834 –1919

As a teenager, one Christmas, I was given by my parents, a Dover copy of Ernst Haekel’s biological Illustrations. These had a profound effect on me. I have looked for the book in more resent years but could not find it and must have given it away or misplaced it at some point.. Steiner wrote and spoke on several occasions about Haekle. (see link below for more info on this). He said that reading Hakels scientific writings was good preparation for investigations into spiritual science.

Rudolf Steiner and Ernst Haeckel By Daniel Hindes

Ernst Haeckel’s Biogenetic Law (1866)

“The phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” was coined by Ernst Haeckel in 1866 and for many decades was accepted as natural law. Haeckel meant it in the strict sense: that an organism, in the course of its development, goes through all the stages of those forms of life from which it has evolved.”

Ernst Haeckel’s Biogenetic Law

Some of of Haekles ideas including his Biogenetic Law and especially his theories on race, have since been refuted but his Biogenetic Law was still being taught when I was in grade school. I remember that I liked the way it sounded and I never forgot it.

Even if there are flaws in Ernst Haeckel’s Biogenetic Law it seemed a usful and interesting concept, and along with illustrations I later saw of planetary evolution, paved the way for my exceptance and interest in reincarnation and Steiner’s lectures and writings on spiritual and cosmic evolution. I had to reconcile my own spiritual experiences and education in the humanities with my rational and scientific education.

I did not make the connection between Haekels wonderful illustrations and his scientific theories until much later. These illustrations alone would mark his place in history. His illustrations, popular in his lifetime, inspired Art Nouveau and , no doubt other contemporaries, artists of the 60’s and beyond:.

Google search for Haekel’s Illustrations

Fredrich Schiller on the Aesthetic Education of Man In a Series of Letters

I resently finished this book, Schiller being of interest to me in relation to Goethe and to the phenominon of Weimar Classicism, and its historical importance in the present world. I serindipidously found this book at the Freinsds of the Library store, in Brownsville Texas. Who else was reading Schiller here I couldn’t say. Even though the ideas embodied in Weimar Classicism were centered in and applied by specific artists and writers in Weimar durring Schiller’s and Goethe’s lives, the ideas stretch backwards and forwards in time and are, through interpolation and application, relevent today.

One of the main things I noticed and identified with is his deliniation between the sensual and the cognative experience of art, and a higher experience that assimilates both. This is perhap a gross simplification but it is remenisiant of Hegalian dialectic and Nietzsche’s aesthetics. For me these aesthetic perspectives resonate, as I also associate them both historically and in relation to Anthreoposophical aesthetics, specifically Steiner’s group sculpture and related sculptures and paintings.

Historically, the context may be interpreted in the dicotomy of the romantic and the classical movements in art. This can be deduced and applied forward and backwards in time ad infinitum. Some specific art historical examples might be, a comparison between Greek and Roman art of an earlier age, or the impressionist’s rebellion against accedemic art or even Courbet’s realism in contrast to the impressionists and impressionism v.s. post impressionism. Another past example would be Renaisance v.s. Manerist art. Michael Angelo encompassed both. These shifts between the sensual and the cognative or ideal can be seen even within art movements and practitioners. They are never simply a duality, for instance synthetic cubism v.s. analitic cubism. In post-modern art there is an argument that designates an end to the avant guard and this duality is less distinguishable between consecutive movements. However, the ideas can still be observed or applied, the sensual is always present in visual art. Even the most profoundly conceptual has visual componants. The most idealistic art relies heavily on sensual experience to convey concept. Conversly, often the most sensual art raises us to heights of contemplation. It is also inherrant in art that we deal atavistically, and towards fuller conciousness, with the sublime and with essential. and experiential spiritual realities.

I have digressed a little from the content of Schillers Letters. They are not an easy read, and if I do not do them justice here I appologize. For those interested, they are worth the effort.

Nicholas Konstantin Roerich (1874-1947)

“Versatile Russian-born painter, poet, writer, and mystic, and founder of the Agni Yoga Society. He was born in St. Petersburg on September 27, 1874, and educated at the University of St. Petersburg, becoming a graduate of the law school. He studied drawing and painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, and in Paris, France. In 1901, he married Helena Ivanov Shaposhnikov; they had two children. Both Nicholas and Helena Roerich were initially influenced by the theosophical writings of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the co-founder of Theosophy, and later by Rudolf Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy, and Alice A. Bailey.

(from: https://www.encyclopedia.com)

I have decided to post a few of the works by Nicholas Konstantin Roerich. I came across his work while looking into a call for grant submissions for spiritual art. His work is less fantastical than artists like Futsch but encompass pan-theistic ideas and a use of color tin which he seems to have grasped much of Stiener’s ideas of color. The influence seems to be tangible.

4 Versions after The Group by Steiner

I did these back in the 1990’s, some possibly in the early 2000’s. I was documenting my work this summer and moving much of it into storage for my daughter to renovate our house. I had to do it quickly so the quality of the images are not great and I only had time to photograph the works, not write down the dates. I think these are all oil on wooden panels.

Michael Slaying the 7-headed Beast

Egg tempera master copy from FSU class with Carrie Ann Baade.

Second image is a collaged apppropriation with the virgin of Guadelupe, sourced from a placemat used at a resturaunt that Nancy and I frequented while I was attending FSU. I could get a huge burrittto for only $2. The lower right corner have images of forms concurrent with my 3D practice and above that, a diagram of Rudolf Steiner’s color theory.

Meditative Symbols from the Esoteric School 1906

Rudolf Steiner

Above is a page from Start Now! a book of soul and spiritual exercise, edited by Christopher Bamford. These meditative symbols were preseted in the Esoteric School of the German Chapter of the Theosophical soiciety. I used them as a prompt for discussion in my Design I class today, 1/26/2022. I have given two assignments using line as the main element. We looked at works of art that predominantly use line, talked about what line is, and how it conveys meaning and then began the two assignments. The first assignment was to divide the paper into three sections. The section on the left was to use staight lines, the section on the right, curved lines, and the one in the center a combination of the two. It is interesting to see how every student interprets this assignment.

In my own mind, I relate these ideas to Hegalian dialectic (thesis/antithesis/synthesis). This may seem symplistic but it lends order to my somtimes cluttered mind. It is also usful to see this exersize and other similar exersizes in relation to Steiner’s group sculpture, adding deapth to simplicity. I do not always tell my student’s everything I am thinking. It is a secular state run university and I do not want to overload my students from the start, nor do I want to trigger too many snap judgements on the part of my students.

I created my own rendering of Steiner’s diagram, seen below. I aranged them in two collumns to fit my paper, reading from top to bottom and frome left to right. I started with blue line because I was not ready to comit to a darker black line. I had intended to somehow incorporate color but the more I thought about using color, the more I was uncertain how to accurately associate color with each symbol. What colors would be appropriate. I think this would require a longer process of rendering each line symbol six times, one for each primary and secondary coler. In this way I could see how each color changes the way we might interpret the symbol. I may do this at some point but for now I am simply struck by the inherant power of each symbol alone.

  1. What is to disappear and to rise again out of ones dissappearance.

I talked to my students about how we can see these figures in nature. You can see the first in the flow of water and clouds, and apparrant vortexes in cosmic space. It can also be seen in flowforms: https://www.bohemianstoneworks.com/portfolio-item/flowforms/

This figure can be related to the life cycles in nature. That which arises from the earth, falls into decay, then disappears back into the earth to arise again in new forms. The most obvious example being the seed or seed pod. The essence of the plant disapears into the seed but rises again as a new plant often with subtle changes. In sleep, our soul and spirit nature dissappears into the spiritual cosmos then reappears again, revitalized upon waking. In death this process seems more permanent, and in one sense it is. We will never wake into this same body again, but as the cycles of time continue, our soul natuere is reinvested in a new form, in a new body and a new life. The spirit continues to act in the physical world both recycling the physical substances our old worn out bodies once contained, but also the spiritual soul substance that we helped to develop in the life we lived.

2. How does the point become a circle, and the circle a point?

3. What is inside, what is outside?

What is above, what is below?

What is matter, what is spirit?

What is substance,what is etheric?

4. What isd Astral?

5. How do the spirits of sensation work on the bearer of substance?

6. How does the turn occur in evolution?

(Involution-Evolution)

Picture this asif the lines were clasps made of fishbone, but at every moment resisted their position with all their strength.

(More on each figures later)

Christmas Eve, 2021 Brownsville TX

My wife in bed by eight, 

Asleep by ten. 

Now fireworks are going off like bombs. 

Earlier she thought it was the wind. 

My thoughts range… 

Move through, 

Sift memory, 

My life

The compost heap of failed attempts 

At living right. 

The righteous cling to hollowed empty forms. 

The young abandon what they’ve never known, 

Believers now  

In this religion  

Of apparent truth, 

The ghost that matter 

Cannot exorcise. 

Apparently, there is no other choice. 

We hear the boom and ascertain a source. 

My heart remembers and my mind recalls

There is no reason to be otherwise. 

She took a scalpel as I held her hand

We cut the reason from our severed brow. 

Youth’s sorrow never may abate 

Until we’ve loved 

And held that infant child

Until we,

Like him, 

Have given up our lives. 

That Joy be Born

That joy be born
From unseen worlds
And senses form
For light ensouled


A light the eye
May only see
By seeing light
The light has made.


I’ve not forgotten,
Years ago
I traveled to this joy’s abode
A place where
light and joy are all.


I almost entered there,
But was
Returned to where the light
Is mixed
with dark.


Revealing darkness


Though we fall
to weeping and despair
Light pours from there to here.


Even in the darkest night
The Sun replenishes the Earth


Awakens us to boundless joy
Calls us to act in steadfast love.