In his lectures on the teaching of cell biology
in the upper grades of the waldorf schools, Rudolf
Steiner suggested that cell biology be described from a cosmological
Cell structures In his course on the relation of the different sciences to astronomy, when talking
of cells, he mainly points to the cell as a cosmos and the inner relation
between structures in the cell and structures in the solar system (solar
systems) (first lecture).
Not so much was
known in his days as today about the subtle and intricate inner structures
of the cell. Much more can surely be developed in this field today.
Cell biographies - cell cycles Another perspective is however the temporal perspective
on the life of the cell.
Here, I feel,
it it much easier to come to an understanding and picture of the development
of cells as a mirror of the development of cosmos. If you look at the cell
cycle of eukaryote cells with its interphase and its division stages (mitosis and meiosis),
it is difficult not to feel enjoyment at the beauty of its inner order.
This is clear in a number of aspects for interphase and mitosis. I have
not worked on with meiosis yet.
PERSPECTIVE OF ISOLATED STAGES This is the way one part of the life cycle of
an animal cell; mitosis, rather normally is depicted in biology books.
The picture is taken from "Cell and Molecular Biology" by Robertis and
Robertis (1979, p 384). The accompanying text describes the stages depicted
in its details.
the nucleoli and chromosomes, shown as thin threads; in the cytoplasm the
aster with pairs of centrioles are shown.
a more advanced stage of this phase in which the chromosomes have shortened.
The primary constriction with the centromeres is shown; in the cytoplasm
the spindle is formed between the asters.
prophase or prometaphase, the nuclear envelope disintegrates and the
chromosomes become attached to the spindle fibers.
the chromosomes are arranged along the equatorial plane.
the daughter chromosomes, preceded by the centromeres, are moving toward
the daughter nuclei are in the process of reconstitution, cell cleavage
At times the cycle is really depicted as a cycle,
but the normal way of depicting the stages of mitosis is that of separate
stages, in a way that is very difficult to look through and come to an
understanding of (Storer et al: General zoology
(6th ed). McGraw-Hill Book Company 1979, p 59, Gardner E J, Snustad D P:
Principles of genetics. John Wiley & Sons 1984, p 42), even though the pictures
in themselves are correct and at times beautiful.
THE CELL CYCLE VIEWED FROM THE PERSPECTIVE
OF ITS INNER ORDER If you have developed an understanding of the
nature of the basic stages of evolution and their relation to one another,
in a way that anthroposophy makes possible, you can approach the cell cycle
with other eyes.
You then see its
inner regularities and symmetries in a new light.
I have tried to
make a preliminary sketch of the cell cycle in this perspective, as I so
far have understood it.
The basic order
of the cell cycle is that of its two phases; interphase and division.
Viewed from the
perspective of anthroposophy, you can experience this as a reflection of
the pralaya phase of cosmos - when it has withdrawn into itself,
and is not as easy to come to an experience of for the clairvoyant researcher
- and the manvantara phase - when cosmos appears again, developing
through a number of stages, more visible in an external form.
The common terminology
for the cell cycle today looks at it as consisting of two main stages,
one when the cell is synthesizing and doubling its DNA, the so called S-phase
and the phase when it falls apart into two new cells (in mitosis). The
stages between these two stages are viewed upon as "gaps" and have therefore
been termed Gap one and Gap two.
INTERPHASE If you look at the interphase from a more "balanced"
perspective, you see too that it depicts an inner polarity between the
so called G zero phase and the S phase.
During the G zero
phase, the cell, viewed from this perspective, lives through a completely
"altruistic" phase, completely serving the organism, in which it is embedded.
During the S phase,
the cell has completely withdrawn from its service to the organism, and
is dedicated only to blowing itself up, "egotistically", making its DNA
double as "big" as before.
To what possible
extent this regularity reflects the inner stages of the pralaya stage of
cosmos, I have as yet no picture of.
The G one stage
falls into two parts. One is the one following the telophase and cytokinesis
of the cell at the end of mitosis, before the cell takes up its service
to its host organism. In the figure this has been termed the G one a phase.
The other is the stage when the cell has stopped serving its host organism,
but has not yet started to synthesize DNA during the S phase. In the figure
this stage is marked as G one b. This stage constitutes the symmetry point
The S phase is
followed by a phase when the cell is no longer synthesizing DNA, but has
not yet started the mitosis. This phase is termed G two, also in the figure.
MITOSIS Mitosis starts with the appearance of the chromosomes
as thin threads inside the nucleus, at the same time as the cell becomes
spheroid. They approach the nuclear envelope, and the nucleoli shrink and
disintegrate. This is the prophase of mitosis.
At the end of
prophase the nuclear envelope too disintegrates, mixing the nuclear material
with the cytoplasm. This event has its mirror in the renewed formation
of nuclear envelope from parts of the endoplasmatic reticulum at the end
of anaphase, as a beginning of telophase.
characterized by this forming of the two nuclear envelopes around the two
groups of chromosomes that have been gathered at the two poles of the cell
at the end of anaphase.
goes over into cytokinesis, when not only the two nucleuses are
formed as separate units, but also the cytoplasm is divided into two parts
by the formation of cell walls (in plant cells) or a constriction in the
equatorial region (animal and human cells) dividing the structure into
two new cells.
and cytokinesis constitute two distinct phases at the end of mitosis. If
there is a strict inner order of mitosis, this implicates that the prophase
preceding prometaphase also should be characterized by two distinct phases,
in the figure termed prophase a and prophase b. I think this is also the
case and that the clue to them are to be found in the polarization of the
centrioles during prophase a, and among other things the forming of the
spindle during the second part of prophase, in the figure termed prophase
The stage when
the chromosomes have formed and constitute the equatorial plate during
metaphase is the symmetry point of mitosis. In the figure this has been
termed metaphase b.
This is preceded
by the collecting of the chromosomes by the spindles and the moving of
the chromosomes to the equator of the cell.
This process has
its mirror in the separation of the double chromatids during the anaphase.
To what extent
this stage b of the metaphase also constitutes a separate stage in the
same sense as the other stages of mitosis is not yet clear to me. But I
have the feeling it does.
Parts of this
reasoning may seem speculative, but I feel it has a sound ground in what
can be seen in the microscope when looking at dividing cells.
A problem that
has to be more investigated and meditated upon is of course the finding
of the essence of and turning points between the stages of mitosis that
are not yet clear from the above description; i.e. the two sub phases of
prophase and of metaphase.
One of the many
other problems is of course the question of the dynamics of the process
and the not altogether clear relation between the times the cell spends
in each stage.
Well, this has been a suggestion at least, to
a partial answer to what could be meant by "describing the cell from a
As a summary,
I would say that what can be seen and has been described above of the cell
cycle, with its 5 interphase-stages (G one a, G zero, G one b, S
and G two) and its 7 mitosis-stages (prophase a, prophase b,
metaphase a, metaphase b, anaphase, telophase and cytokinesis)
seems to support Steiners suggestion to develop the understanding of the
biology of the cell also from a cosmological perspective.
(For some info on the
the times spent in interphase and mitosis for different types of cells,
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was written on August 3, 1997.
and has last time been slightly
edited on January 7, 2005
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