At all times this second world has been called the world of the Elements. Here the terms oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, etc., are meaningless, they are applicable only to the world between birth and death. In the second world it is only meaningful to speak of the elements earth, water, air, fire and light, and so on. For the specific characteristics of hydrogen, oxygen, etc., are wholly unrelated to the senses. What the chemist discovers about the scent of violets or of asafoetida, namely, that the one is pleasant and the other highly unpleasant, everything named after its chemical composition — none of this is of any significance. In the second world all manifestations of scent or smell are spiritualized. From the standpoint of the second world it would be described as aeriform; but it is a rarefied air, an air wholly permeated by spirit. Our senses therefore are rooted in the world of elements where it is still meaningful to speak of earth, water, fire and air. (Steiner 2010:33)
We thus enter the spiritual world in the right way. We realize that if we had been endowed only with sense organs, with the eye and its optic nerves, the nose and its olfactory nerves and the ear with its acoustic nerves, and that if all these nerves were connected at their point of origin, we should be unaware of the existence of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and so on, and of all we perceive between birth and death. We would be looking into the world of Elements — everywhere around us we would perceive earth, water, air and fire. We would not have the slightest interest in differentiating further between the solid and the gross material, the fluid and the aqueous element. As beings of physical sensibility we are familiar with the world of Elements. But the moment we become aware of what I have already described, we realize also that in man the sensory nerves which run back to the cranial cavity are more differentiated, more specialized and form in that area the first indications of the brain. In consequence we do not enter more deeply into ourselves; we become more extroverted and add to the nature of the four elements, earth, fire, air and water, our experiences between birth and death. (Steiner 2010:33)
STEINER, Rudolf. 2010. True and false paths in spiritual investigation. (Trans.: A. H. Parker) London: Rudolf Steiner Press.