The Red Admiral

From our dear Dr. Dann…

Harris 1766 The Aurelian

The Whittlesey Red Admiral

 

“Oh! Miss Clarke ­– the butterfly!”

All the other girls had been quietly working at their desks on February 9, 1928, when the solitary Red Admiral had appeared in a corner of the classroom window, in the exact spot where both Miss Clarke and her pupil had seen it together the year before. This was the 17th year in a row that a Red Admiral butterfly had come to this corner of this window, of this particular Girls National School in Whittlesey, England – a modest Fenlands village about 90 miles north of London.

Three days later a letter came to Miss Clarke at her 95 Station Road home, from Mr. Charles Fort of 39A Marchmont Road, London, inquiring if the Red Admiral had yet appeared. Fort had first read about the faithful Whittlesey Red Admiral the previous spring; the London Daily Express reported on its March 2nd appearance that year, consistent with the previous 16 years, when it had typically arrived at the end of February or the first of March. He had written to Miss Clarke, who had verified the Express’s story – though she confessed she had not been present for every one of the 16 annual appearances. In reply to Fort’s second inquiry, she wrote:

As I am writing, the visitor is fluttering about the window, and seems quite lively. Last year’s visitor lived about a month after its appearance, and then we found it dead.

There is nothing else that I can tell you about our annual visitor, but really it does seem remarkable.

What made this perennial visitation of special note was not just the recurrence in such an exact and unlikely spot, but its unlikely timing, for in good years Red Admirals migrated north to the Fenlands in late April or May.

It seems equally worthy to note that Charles Fort, the indefatigable chronicler of all Prodigies and Wonders, wrote to Miss Clarke at all, much less on two occasions. He did not write to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to verify the report that their expedition in July 1927 had found copious quantities of manna draped upon the leaves of tamarisk trees. He neglected to investigate further the notice regarding the millions of mice that had manifested that summer in the fields of Kern County, California. These were but two mysteries among thousands that he had scribbled onto the one-and-a-half by two-and-a-half inch scraps of paper he used for notecards. From just such miniscule notes, he had already fledged The Book of the Damned (1919) and New Lands (1923), a pair of brilliantly witty critiques of contemporary natural science that doubled as invitations to muse on the possibilities of other worlds. These two tomes had been researched at the New York Public Library; for four years now he had been living in London, just a ten-minute walk from the British Museum, where he carried out his research in its library – the world’s largest.

Charles Fort was in 1927 the world’s premier diagnostician of Planet Earth’s infinite strangeness, gazing relentlessly into that “Super Sargasso Sea” he imagined hovering close at hand. He was interested in the extra-zoological fall from the sky of both vertebrates – fish, frogs, tadpoles, snakes – and invertebrates – periwinkles, worms, ants, aphids, bees, beetles, fireflies, hummingbird hawkmoths, ladybirds. Fort had catalogued and questioned them all, both the reports of their sudden and unprecedented appearances in particular places and their notable instances of scarcity. To date, however, his collection of insect enigmas had been strictly collective, plural, and populous, not singular, like the Whittlesey Red Admiral.

Singular, but multiple, since, like most of the world’s 28,000 species of butterfly the Red Admiral – Vanessa atalanta – lives out its entire life cycle in less than a year. The adult butterfly’s life span rarely goes beyond the month reported by Miss Clarke. Seventeen seasons would demand seventeen individual Red Admirals to have made the journey to Miss Clarke’s classroom window. How did they communicate – and then triangulate – this specific and altogether anonymous locale? Might they have, like the super-navigating hounds and felines of legend – sixth sense-scented their way to that window, to the delight of the girls and their teacher? Or was the expectation of delight the very signal that brought them, a pheromone of a very different color and taste than that imagined by orthodox science?

Gathering material in 1927 for his third manifesto, tentatively titled Skyward Ho!, Fort sought “the underlying oneness in all confusions,” by way of a simple polarity – continuity vs. discontinuity. The Red Admiral qualified as a conspicuous hybrid, “remarkable,” as Miss Clarke said, for both its continuity – its fidelity of appearance – and its “discontinuity” with all the world’s other Red Admirals, who, on February 9th (at least those at latitude 52 ½º North) were fast asleep, awaiting the warming Sun that would come after the spring equinox. In the vast profusion of preposterous, grotesque, and seemingly inexplicable incidents that made up Skyward Ho! (which, in keeping with the mercurial Mr. Fort, was also christened at various stages God and the Fishmonger, The Time Has Come!, and its eventual title – Lo!), the Whittlesey Red Admiral was easily overlooked by even the most careful reader.

A Barnumesque menagerie roamed through the 15 page-chapter in which Charles Fort had pinned the Whittlesey Red Admiral. Millions of African snails, Achatena fulica, suddenly appeared in a four-square-mile corner of Kalutara, Ceylon in 1910. For good measure, simultaneous with this unprecedented appearance (the snails had never been seen before in that area) there was an invasion of unusually large scale insects. In September 1929, a 31-inch-long alligator was killed in the Hackensack Meadows. A distinct biogeographical discontinuity, but matched with a chronological continuity, for the New York Sun had reported that 4 days later a 28-inch-long alligator was found in a small creek near Wolcott, New York – about 300 miles north of the meadowlands. Along with the Kern County mice explosion of 1927, Fort was aware that mice by the multitudes had also manifested in May 1832, in the fields of Inverness-shire, Scotland; according to the Magazine of Natural History the witness had compared the markings of these mice with ones pictured in books, but they did not match. The field guides contained no images of the speckled snakes that fell at Hawthorne, Massachusetts, and the venomous Egyptian adder that in 1920 was found in Gower Street, just a stone’s throw from the British Museum, was but one of three that showed up in as many days. Neither the butcher nor postman nor physician who dispatched them checked a field guide before killing the snakes. Over the next three weeks, continuity mixed promiscuously again with discontinuity, as adders appeared outside of the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Westminster, under a mat at Morpethmansions, and in a field in Willesden, North London.

Next there were eels and crayfish, drained ponds that filled with tench, and ditches into which spontaneously generated perch. Science in 1902 reported on a pair of squid caught in Lake Onondaga in western New York state; Fort failed to find convincing the Princeton University invertebrate paleontologist Prof. Arnold Ortman’s explanation that fishermen used squid for bait. Fort coined scientific-sounding neologisms for them all – “localized repetitions,” “persisting translator currents,” and simply “teleportations.” Stepwise in the direction of the Whittlesey Red Admiral, Fort persisted, offering as further evidence of discontinuity the periodic appearances and disappearances of Barbary apes at Gibraltar; a parakeet in a Scotland farm yard; and a shower of flesh and blood in Los Nietos Township, California. This last disgusting datum seems calculated for literary effect, set as it was cheek-to-jowl with the uniformed schoolgirls of Whittlesey and the dainty recurring Red Admiral.

Poltergeist-producing girls had long been a preoccupation of Fort’s, so it is not surprising that he sandwiched the Red Admiral between that long list of zoological oddities and an anthropological one, from France in 1842. On the last day of that year, two girls had been out picking up leaves near Clavaux when they saw stones falling around them with “uncanny slowness.” Returning with their parents, the two girls were suddenly seized and dragged “as if into a vortex.” Fortunately, the parents pulled them back. Struck by the odd calculus of this New Year’s Eve occurrence of the “taking” of girls for the “giving” of stones, Fort dubbed the phenomenon a “reciprocating current.” No such reciprocation had the world known when Manhattan socialite Dorothy Arnold disappeared while walking through Central Park on December 12th in 1910 – until Fort noticed the New York Sun report on December 13th that a swan had appeared upon the lake near the 79th Street entrance, Miss Arnold’s destination. Duly noted, this “now you see it!” prestidigitation took its place as the final word – for the moment – on 20th century teleportations of butterflies and girls.

 

* * *

 

Remembered as the decade of jazz and flappers and flivvers, the 1920s were also marked by episodes of spectral hauntings and cultural clashes that suggested that despite the best efforts of modern science – which Fort called “Exclusionism” or “Taboo” – numerous ghosts dwelled restlessly in the Rationalist machine of 20th century Western civilization. The most noticeable ghost went by the irresistible moniker of “Relativity,” and was the darling of newspaper reporters and novelists, who made much more hay of its supposedly world-shattering revelations than the physicists who created it could. Darwinism’s promise of putting an end to the age of miracles was at the moment seriously shaken by the ghost of neo-Lamarckism, as theories of the inheritance of acquired characteristics (attractive even to Darwin himself) proliferated. More unsettling were the ghosts that floated about outside the scientific realm. In the wake of World War I’s carnage, millions of grieving men and women found comfort in the chimeras of Spiritualist séances and automatic writing sessions. Cambridge and Columbia and Clark and dozens of other well-respected universities saw their boldest thinkers investigate mediums and magic; at just about the same moment as Fort was puzzling over the Red Admiral, J. B. Rhine invented parapsychology at Duke University. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published photographs of supposed fairies from Cottingley, and received front-page coverage. In 1926, in the wake of scores of reports of strange lights and alien visitations, Fort wrote to the New York Times from London to ask why the Martians have “not landed, say in Central Park, and had a big time of it – monstrous parade down Broadway, historic turn-out, eruptions of confetti from skyscrapers?” Instead of ridicule, Fort received a deluge of further reports.

At first glance, the Whittlesey Red Admiral would hardly seem such a ghost, and yet, there it is, an interruption in the fabric of normality that Fort felt as worthy of consideration as Percival Lowell’s peevishly migrating “planet” or the deaths coincident with the opening of the Tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amen, or the Halloween productions of modern Spiritualism. Set against such sensational spectres, the modest Red Admiral loses its lustre, and all who hear the tale can be excused for being incurious. Fort’s gift, in an age of home economics, Taylorism, and behaviorism was, like Barnum, to make the familiar strange. In the 1920s, this task would largely fall to the pop culture realm of horror and science fiction, to H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, Weird Tales and Amazing Stories. Fort never needed to make anything up; thousands of eyewitnesses the world over merely matter-of-factly spoke about what they had seen. As a pioneering phenomenologist, Fort singlehandedly tackled a century-plus (he drew the limit for his studies at 1800) reportage of weird and amazing factual un-natural history, and wrestled mightily with its implications, rather than sweeping it into the “cold case” dustbin of the inexplicable, or explain it away in the manner of the dogmatic scientists. The world is infinitely richer for his bold bricolage of the bizarre.

 

* * *

 

It is not insignificant that that London Express item named the butterfly, and that Fort repeated it. Elsewhere in his encyclopedia of animal anomalies, there are episodes of “moths” and “butterflies,” but no specific names are given. Whether this is an artifact of the witnesses’ or the journalists’ uncertainty remains an open question. One of the charming discoveries one makes when encountering Fort’s oeuvre is just how well acquainted people outside London and New York were with the natural world. In 1927, most people still lived largely outside, where they had unfettered opportunity to observe and ponder the world’s daily revelations underfoot and in the open sky. But this was changing, and increasingly the metropolitans regarded the reports from the far-flung field as light entertainment rather than serious science. Editors immediately dispatched reporters to interview Einstein and Eddington; farmers and fishermen who saw stuff falling from the sky would have to wait.

The gap opening up between rural acumen and urban ignorance of natural history did not go unnoticed by professional natural scientists. The initial decades of the 20th century saw the enthusiastic embrace of “nature study” – a curriculum dedicated to acquainting street urchins and middle-class suburban kids alike to the wonders of the natural world. As handy and ubiquitous miniatures suited to the small worlds of children, insects were the ideal subjects of study, and these were the decades that turned Luna moths and Monarchs and tent caterpillars into Lilliputian pop stars.

The nature study industry was a distinctly northern hemisphere enterprise, centered in London, New York, Boston, and Chicago – all places where the Red Admiral was a familiar harbinger of spring, denizen of summer, and disappearing act in fall. The principal questions about Red Admiral natural history centered on its fluctuating population biology, and whether it was principally a long-distance migrant like the Monarch or a hibernator, like a few other familiar northern Nymphalid butterflies – the Comma, Peacock, Large and Small Tortoiseshell, and Painted Lady – since both patterns occurred in the species.

The Red Admiral was circumpolar, as ubiquitous as the stinging nettle plants upon which its caterpillars fed. It was cosmopolitan, not just in the technical biogeographic sense of widespread distribution, but its habits guaranteed that it showed up in a variety of habitats – including urban ones. It was conspicuous, its scarlet bands arcing across black backgrounds making it instantly recognizable, even at a distance. It was relatively large and long-lived as temperate region butterflies go, and its populations fluctuated dramatically enough that people noticed their abundance in good years and scarcity in bad ones. Most important of all, the Red Admiral was “friendly,” frequently alighting on shirtsleeves and skin. Sometimes they seemed to seek humans out in preference to nectar-laden blossoms.

As early as 1833, pioneer naturalist and polymath Frederick Corbin Lukis, of the Isle of Guernsey, struck by the “familiar disposition” of Vanessa atalanta, had noticed this trait, even suggesting that this singularly amiable butterfly might some day be tamed. Lukis described how, coming upon a horde of Red Admirals feasting on the juice of ripe green gage plums in an orchard, he coaxed one onto his finger:

I next applied a feather in the same way, smoothed its soft plumes, and continued this operation for some time, without alarm or fear being manifested. The next day I visited the tree again, and felt much pleased to find the same individuals at work. A greater intimacy now ensued between us; and I was enabled to exhibit these familiar feats before several friends, who smiled at hearing I had tame butterflies in my garden.

 On one “calm sultry day, at noon, the best time for this amusement,” Lukis took a familiar Red Admiral off a flower, placed it on his face, and it walked over to his mouth and inserted its tongue between his lips. Though he then flew off, he kept returning to Lukis’s face or clothes. He made a study of the other common butterflies – Painted Ladies, Large and Small Tortoiseshells, but Vanessa atalanta easily proved the most “docile.” The great British Aurelian Edward Newman was clearly partial to Vanessa atalanta; the introduction to his Illustrated History of British Butterflies (1871) was headed by drawings of the four stages of the Red Admiral’s life history. He noted that atalanta “occasionally departs so far from the ordinary habits of butterflies as to have been detected wandering about by night.”

Newman placed Vanessa atalanta squarely in the group of ten British butterflies that hibernated “in the perfect state,” that is, as imagos – winged adults. “Some hide in barns, stables, churches, or outhouses, always crawling up among the beams or rafters; they especially delight in pig styes,” he reported. Newman complained of the observant “country gentlemen” with “ready pen” who every year would write to their local paper of their great discovery of a mid-winter butterfly, since all these hibernating butterflies could regularly be found to crawl out of their hiding places on warm winter days. The so-called “January thaw” of New England, wrote artist-naturalist William Hamilton Gibson, come as it might in December or February, could always be counted upon to produce members of the familiar “angle-wing” group – the Comma, Tortoiseshells, Painted Lady, and the Red Admiral. Hundreds might be found hanging in a crevice between the boards of a shed; they fell to the earth like bark scales or old shingles when dislodged. Gibson even commented that “any one of these angle-wing butterflies may be kept in domestication through the winter months, becoming very tame and familiar.” American lepidopterist Samuel H. Scudder in 1881 declared that the Red Admiral “hibernates in both countries alike” in the imago state.

Charles Fort’s natural history knowledge in 1927 was rather thin. Growing up in Albany in the 1880s, he had caught the typical schoolboy collecting bug, and kept a small cabinet of minerals, stuffed birds and eggs, even small formaldehyde-filled bottles containing the sort of critters that he would later chronicle as falling from the sky. Moving to Brooklyn at age 18 in 1892 to take a job at the Brooklyn World, he left his naturalist days behind. In confronting the mystery of the Whittlesey Red Admiral, he lacked even the most rudimentary life history and behavior knowledge of this admittedly common creature. When, in the winter of 1929, Charles Fort wrote his third letter to Miss Clarke, he had not studied up on Red Admiral natural history. He assumed each of the animals which came to that window in the Whittlesey school to be sharp “discontinuities,” who by some mysterious process communicated across the generations to find that spot.

Possessed, ourselves, of just the barest bit of natural historical knowledge of Vanessa atalanta, we may find we are unsympathetically disposed towards Charles Fort’s choice of the Whittlesey Red Admiral as in any way remarkable. This species of butterfly above all others is widely known to seek human company, and in its imago state, even at northerly locations, it is regularly reported to awake in winter and fly about. Where, then, is the mystery?

 

* * *

 

A couple of days after coming upon Fort’s account of the Whittlesey Red Admiral, I stumbled upon an article by Glastonbury wizard Stanley Messenger, entitled “Butterflies: Their Unrecognized Paranormality.” An amateur lepidopterist for most of his then (in 2000) 83 years, Messenger offered some unsolved mysteries from a lifetime of observations. He was convinced that many species of butterfly had such an intense presence that it suggested intention – even a desire to communicate. It almost seemed to him that different species represented different aspects of human temperament. His reflections were neither anthropomorphic nor sentimental, but real imaginative pictures that felt worthy of the magnificent picturing that characterizes the butterfly’s wings.

At the end of this article, Stanley Messenger makes an astonishing statement: The Red Admirable recognizes and settles on the awakened human heart chakra.

Fort never heard back from Miss Clarke in 1929. “Maybe a third letter was considered too much of a correspondence with somebody who had not been properly introduced,” he wrote. “Anyway, people do not like to go upon record, in such matters.”

The Whittlesey Girls National School was demolished in the 1950s. Stanley Messenger died in 2012, leaving behind no trace of field notes or further reflections on the relationship of the Red Admiral to the chakra of the human heart.

It is time to go on record.

 

 1: The Whittlesey Red Admiral

In early February of 1928, in the corner of a classroom of a school in Whittlesey, in the English Fenlands north of London, for the 17th year in a row, a Red Admiral butterfly appears, conspicuously out of season. The event draws the attention of Charles Fort, chronicler extraordinaire of all things anomalous, and becomes a small footnote in his four-volume savage critique of contemporary natural science. The Whittlesey Red Admiral is but one of many 1920s “ghosts in the machine” – phenomena which refuse to surrender to the explanations of materialist science – as modernity sets in.

Though Fort was no lepidopterist, and had not the skills nor the inclination to inquire further into the natural history of Vanessa atalanta, there is in Great Britain a long and august history of observation of the Red Admiral. In 1833, pioneer naturalist and polymath Frederick Corbin Lukis, of the Isle of Guernsey, struck by the “familiar disposition” of Vanessa atalanta, suggests that this singularly friendly butterfly might someday be tamed. In the 1920s, despite a century of field observation, there are other mysteries about the Red Admiral’s habits and behavior, including whether it is a long-distance migrant, like the Monarch, or perhaps an occasional hibernator.

In the midst of a fruitless search for information about Miss Clarke, the Whittlesey Girls School, and any extant local lore of the Whittlesey Red Admiral, the author stumbles on Glastonbury wizard Stanley Messenger’s declaration that Vanessa atalanta “alights upon the awakened heart chakra.” Can there truly be some as yet undescribed invisible relationship between the Red Admiral and the human heart?

 

2: The Mneme: “Universal, Plasmatic Memory”

In 1927, despite the death blow dealt to the theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics by the suicide in the wake of accusations of scientific fraud of Austrian experimental zoologist (and composer) Paul Kammerer, the nature, action, and extent of some elusive “universal, plasmatic memory” is an enormous question for biologists and laymen alike. Kammerer’s lectures, both in Europe and in the United States, excited widespread notice and excitement, since they seemed to point both to the limits of natural selection as an explanation for evolutionary change, and to the possibilities of a program of positive eugenics, where social progress could be encouraged through ameliorating the environment rather than limiting reproduction of the unfit.

Though renowned for his experiments with the spadefoot toad and various salamanders, Kammerer, a gifted and sensitive keeper of animals as well as pioneer experimentalist, began his research at the Prater Vivarium on the inheritance of biological characteristics with the Small Tortoiseshell, Vanessa urticae, the Red Admiral’s closest relation. Applying British biologist Richard Semon’s Bergsonian concept of the “mneme” – hereditary memory – in new and daring ways, Kammerer seemed at the forefront of an entirely new biology.

Long forgotten, due to Kammerer’s dramatic and tragic suicide (and the seizure by his critics – mostly dogmatic proponents of natural selection – upon this event as the certain death knell of neo-Lamarckism), is Das Gesetz der Serie (1919), his work on the “law of the series.” Given to a kind of borderline mania in his attention to daily events, Kammerer had for decades kept detailed notes about coincidences of events, names, numbers, people, and other phenomena. Antedating Carl Jung’s theory of “synchronicity,” Kammerer’s law of the series delved into the very sorts of spectral, liminal events that so fascinated Charles Fort, and reveal much about the nature of his speculations about the function and mechanisms of biological memory – in butterflies, salamanders, spadefoot toads – and, by extension, man.

 

3: Speak, Memory

“Out of nowhere came a Red Admiral butterfly. . .” wrote Vladimir Nabokov, in his novel King, Queen, Knave, which he was composing in Berlin in 1927. Though a gifted amateur lepidopterist and close observer of butterflies who had published his first paper in The Entomologist at age 21, while studying at Cambridge University, Nabokov upon graduation dedicated himself to a literary career, and both butterflies (including his favorite the Red Admiral) and memory play a conspicuous role in his third novel.

Through his passion for and intense empirical examination of butterflies, Nabokov had become a trenchant critic of natural selection, invoked at large by scientists to explain mimicry, which was so spectacularly displayed in the Lepidoptera. Running throughout both Nabokov’s biological studies and his novels are the twin threads of mimicry and memory, presenting an insoluble mystery. Nabokov cannily disguised within his work a mystery about his gifts of visual memory and literary creativity that point toward another dimension of the Red Admiral mystery – the limits of vision for penetrating beyond the physical world. Nabokov’s synaesthetic and eidetic perception suggested to Nabokov that he might use his sensory gifts to penetrate beyond the physical to the spiritual world.

 

4: The Paranormality of the Butterfly

Taking up the challenge of Stanley Messenger’s declaration that the Red Admiral “alights upon the awakened heart chakra,” the author ponders whether this creature has some special affinity for human beings, particularly their hearts. Employing phenomenological methods, he investigates the ecology and biogeography of the Red Admiral, focusing on the host plant for the caterpillar – Urtica dioicae, Stinging Nettle, whose medicinal properties, leaf shape, and overall form strongly suggest that it is a “heart” organism. He also “discovers” that there is partially traced upon the wings of the Red Admiral the figure of the heart.

At the Newfoundland Insectarium, founder and director Lloyd Hollett recounts his “threshold” experiences with the Red Admiral, and the many other tales that he heard from others, of both the Red Admiral and other butterflies’ sudden and mysterious appearance at moments of bereavement for lost loved ones.  Thousands of individuals have told such tales in online forums, once again suggesting some continuity with the mystery of the Whittlesey Red Admiral.

 

5: The Cosmic Embodiment of Memory

In Dornach, Switzerland, in the autumn of 1923, Rudolf Steiner gave a series of six lectures on the nature of the butterfly that open with a novel observation about the symmetry of plant and butterfly metamorphosis, and then unfold a dazzling panorama of cosmic evolution, in which the butterfly is intimately involved with the destiny of the earth and humanity. Steiner asserts that the butterfly’s egg is a picture of human thinking and that the caterpillar, cocoon, and imago stages of the metamorphic series are pictures of the process of memory arising from perceptions. He then says that the butterfly wing is the most spiritualized substance upon the earth, and that butterflies continually restore spiritualized matter to the Earth’s cosmic environment, such that it forms an actual corona around the planet that, when carried into cosmic space by “fire-spirits” (or “salamanders,” the elemental beings of the Fire element), are able to provide a picture of Earth to Archangels. Even more provocatively, Rudolf Steiner – who always claimed that he would not utter a single fact that he had not verified repeatedly through his spiritual research – stated that the “butterfly corona” around the earth is what calls the disincarnate human soul back into earthly existence after its sojourn in the spiritual world.

This heterodox understanding is largely dependent upon Steiner’s unparalleled clairvoyance; his statements are discussed in light of the evidence that is offered by the physical senses.

 

6: The Heart is Not a Pump

Though this suite of lectures on the butterfly was given in Dornach, the opening lectures of the series were presented in Vienna, just a couple of weeks earlier, over the course of the Michaelmas season. Steiner gave two lectures that were open to the general public, the first on Michaelmas eve, September 28th. Without naming the Prater Vivarium or the Vienna Circle, the lecture was a powerful indictment of the radical abstractness of contemporary science, and called for a new way of studying nature, through the heart. In his private lectures to members of the Anthroposophical Society, Steiner elaborated upon this “new nature study.” Without explicitly drawing the link to his butterfly lectures, Steiner was laying down a potential research program for the future, to explore how the future fifth chamber of the heart will become an organ of perception that can solve such mysteries as the Red Admiral’s affinity for the human being.

 

7: Conclusion: The New Nature Study

In his 1923 Vienna lectures, Rudolf Steiner predicted that if a new heart-centered relationship with Nature did not develop in the 20th century, the elemental beings standing behind all natural phenomena would fall prey to “the Dragon.” Even the most cursory survey of contemporary natural scientific practice and pedagogy – in which nanotechnology, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence are all considered “cutting edge,” and where most practicing natural scientists lack the most elementary natural history knowledge – reveals that Steiner was absolutely correct.

The recognition and elaboration of the cosmic commensalism between the butterfly and the human heart is the first lesson of a New Nature Study, offering a renewed spiritual cognition of the natural world.