Embryology: Images of Man 

In the 20 years that I taught at Warmonderhof (the school for biodynamic agriculture and horticulture in the Netherlands), embryology has been one of the subjects I taught. On these pages I will describe the content of the lessons: the development of the embryonic human being. At the beginning I describe the principles of the embryonic development of the plant and the (simple) animal, too, at the basis of phenomenology.

The basis of the classes was formed by a number of books by Blechschmidt and Wilmar. And I was in the fortunate position that I could follow a course on embryology by the embryologist Jaap van der Wal in my first year at the school. His course and later his website were a vital source of information for me.

One may wonder why a subject such as embryology is part of the curriculum of an agricultural training. Primarily the classes are about the development of the embryo itself, from which will
- I hope - become clear that we are human beings from the conception, only in a different form than we encounter after birth. This may lead to respect for unborn life: another reason for the lessons. A third reason is that many processes occur simultaneously and that it is an exercise to have them all in our consciousness at the same time. In addition, the development is a three-dimensional process that must be visualised from two-dimensional drawings; an appeal to the imagination. This makes it a difficult subject, stimulating the development of thought.

The embryonic development of man is described and represented in a large number of drawings, too, so that an image of the development can arise. My starting-point for the description is the anthroposophical view of man, which sheds a special light on embryology.

I do not describe the embryonic development in an anatomical or analytical way, but I try to find the inner movement, the coherence and the larger context by observing the changing forms and processes. This is more about understanding the language of the forms of living organisms than about a scientific explanation of these forms. This all aims for awareness for, as Goethe called it the "transcendental" quality of Life, and of man.

These 10 pages and the book have been written for the interested layman. On several occasions I made simplifications. If one wants to delve deeper, there are manuals and an informative website (www.embryology.ch) with drawings and photographs. For more background the website of the embryologist Jaap van der Wal (www.embryo.nl) may be consulted as well as several publications, see: sources. Unless otherwise specified the drawings are based on Moore's "Before we are born".

In the drawings - where appropriate - four colours are used: blue for the ectoderm, red for the mesoderm, green for the entoderm and yellow for the allantois.

The book can be downloaded (see: books-page).

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