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.
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.”
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:.