Metamorphosis, in its original, literal sense, means transformation. Goethe introduced the term to botany for the regular change in leaf-shape along the shoot from the cotyledon up to the petal formation. Furthermore, the adaptation of the plant’s three basic organs; root, plant stem and leaf, to particular living and environmental conditions, is also called metamorphosis.The drawing shows a descending line and an ascending line, which, however, do not touch. Etheric growth follows, for example, this principle. It cannot be recognized through the senses but can be experienced by developing metaphysical vision.
The term ‚ether‘, as it is used here, should not be confused with the physical ether, which used to be taken for radio waves, for example. When one speaks of etheric forces with regard to food, this means much the same as speaking of sun forces, which live in plants. The ether actually has its origin in the sun and so is not dependent on the earthly world. While the earth is characterised by solid and mineral substance, the ether forms that more subtle element, which, on a cosmic level, provides the living or connecting essence for an entire, universal fabric.
This connecting, subtle substantiality is, in spiritual and occult traditions, brought into analogy with the element of water. However, water in its outer form must not be equated directly with ether. Water is only a kind of physical expression for the underlying being of more subtle substance, the ether. Nevertheless, waterpossesses nearly all analogies reminiscent of the life-giving and life-strengthening element of ether. A plant, without the addition of water, would not be capable of growth, chemical transformation, replication or of greening and blossoming,
Where, however, is the commonality between the outer nature of water and the warming and luminous forces of the sun? The sun sends out warmth and light and thus possesses that magnificent capacity to transform matter as well as all physical phenomena. In the light of the sun there lives the capacity to transform. This capacity to transform becomes outwardly visible in the plant and its various growth phases. With the light of spring, the plants begin to sprout and to germinate. The first leaves reveal their tender green and then rise up until they form flowers and fruit.
However, in order that transformation can occur, processes of breaking down must continuously meet with processes of building up. Something must literally be seized from matter, a substance taken from it, so that it is able to enter into the cycle of transformation and build a new and ensuing form. The concept of metamorphosis, the transformation of lower into higher forms, was developed by anthroposophy, for example, and describes the transformation in general which comes about through sun forces.