All the world knows that man inhales oxygen and exhales carbonic acid. In Yoga this has both a physical and spiritual significance. Man cannot inhale carbonic acid for the purposes of nourishing his being. He would die, whereas the carbonic acid keeps the plants alive. The plants provide man with the oxygen which gives him life; they renew the air and make it fit to breathe. On the other side, man and the animals provide the plants with the carbonic acid by which they, in their turn, are nourished. What does the plant do with the carbonic acid it absorbs? It builds up its own body. We know that the corpse of the plant is coal. Coal is thus crystallised carbonic acid.
The red blood in man must be refreshed and renewed with oxygen, for the carbonic acid cannot be used for the purpose of building up the body. The exercises of Yoga are a training which enables man to make the red blood into a body-builder. In this sense the Yogi works at his body by means of his blood, just as the plant works with the carbonic acid.
Thus we see that the power of transmutation in Nature is represented in coal which is a crystallised plant. The Philosopher's Stone, in its most general sense, signifies this power of transmutation.
The law of regression, as well as the law of ascension, is true for all beings. The minerals are plants which have degenerated; the plants are the remnants of animal life; animals and man (his physical body) have a common ancestor. Man has ascended, the animal has descended. The spiritual part of man proceeds from the Gods. In this sense, man is a God who has degenerated, and Lamartine's words are literally true: “Man is a fallen god who remembers the heavens.” Rudolf Steiner
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