Sunday, January 9, 2011
Biodynamic Yoga: The Elements of Spiritual Striving
Fire – Working, Active Will
Air – Courage
Water – Feeling
Earth – Thought
"The esoteric path is either difficult or it is no path at all!"
Rudolf Steiner, January 6, 1924 [Course for Young Doctors, lecture 5]
I have now studied your questions, which are all connected with the matters of which we spoke yesterday. A first category of questions has arisen out of a certain uneasiness. Single questions will find their answer in the course of the lectures: in the case of others which are fundamentally similar, it will not be possible to give theoretical answers — the answers will only emerge as a result of the whole course of lectures. Fundamentally, the trend of all these questions is: How can those who are attending this course develop their medical work in association with Dornach? The true development of the impulse of which I spoke in the esoteric sense yesterday and shall speak of again tomorrow — this true and real development of our work is the foundation of everything, although, naturally, such matters can only be inadequately dealt with in so few lectures. To begin with, I will make certain general remarks in connection with what was said yesterday.
Little is accomplished, my dear friends, if we simply direct a person's general attention, or if he does this himself, from the material world to the spiritual world. In every sphere of life — and most strongly of all in the medical sphere and for the physician — this general indication towards the spiritual does correspond with an innermost need of the soul. But in many respects this need requires much greater definition and clarity and also possibly most important of all — a greater inner strength than that with which it usually arises. It is a striving in you, my dear friends, but a definite path must be taken. The impulse toward this path can, in the first place, be given by me, but having received this impulse you yourselves must continue to work in association with Dornach — definitely those of you who have set yourselves this task.
It is not enough to strive, in a general way, toward the spiritual; this striving towards the spiritual must be concrete and real in every domain of life. We must enter into a real communion with the being of the world, with the being and reality of the external cosmos. Man has no experience of the cosmos today, and because he does not experience the cosmos he does not experience spirituality, for spirituality can only be acquired by way of the cosmos.
In its external form, medical science yields no spiritual knowledge concerning existence. It is only by being able to place things in their whole cosmic connection that we learn to see through the veil of nature to the spiritual forces behind her.
For more than twenty years now within the Anthroposophical movement, it has been possible to study and to get a very exact knowledge of the difficulties that may arise in the pursuit of the spiritual life. And it may sound rather trivial when one describes, in a few brief words, in what these difficulties have consisted. They have consisted simply in the fact that those who were striving for esotericism in some domain or other wished to make things too easy, too comfortable for themselves. The esoteric path is either difficult or it is no path at all! Esoteric development is not to be obtained along an easy or comfortable path. We must take in complete and solemn earnestness the general and often repeated statement that it is a matter of overcoming difficulties, of man growing out of and beyond himself.
From now onward, from the time that began with our Dornach Christmas Foundation Meeting, a kind of change must take place in our whole conception of the anthroposophical movement. This change must also take place in the individual sections of the work. And you who are seeking to find your path in the medical sphere must, from the very beginning, share in this essential change. There can be no question of regarding the esoteric path as a mere adjunct to life; one's path of life must be completely filled with esoteric impulses. The help that can be given will be given in the lectures. But, as I shall say at the end of this lecture, something else must be added as well.
Let us first consider one particular detail. For if you have not the will to enter into details in spiritual studies, you will not be able to find the way to the spiritual. Let it not be imagined that one can really find the spiritual as a dreamer, or as a person who gives himself up to all kinds of vague inspirations and the like. The spiritual must be attained today by the most intensely earnest, inner striving. And it can only be attained through the knowledge that comes from the spiritual world.
I have already said that much can be learned from the world of the plants. And now let us think of a plant. People study plants today by looking at the root, stem, leaves, flowers, pistil, stamens, seed. The seed develops in the ovary, and then people describe what they thus see in the plant more or less as they would describe an armchair, adding that they often sit in one! This, more or less, is the way in which a plant is described. We are told how the roots are set in the soil, how they draw in physical and chemical forces and substances, how the saps rise up through capillary action, or the like. To speak of a spiral arrangement of the leaves is considered an error, an aberration. At any rate, it is not known that this spiral arrangement is connected with the cosmos. So far as the blossoms and flowers are concerned, the most that can be said is that botanists picture some kind of force in connection with the colors and substances of the flowers, or with fertilization. The whole thing is described entirely from the external point of view, just as one describes how a person sits in an armchair. Yes, but the reality that must be grasped simply cannot be grasped by these methods. In studying a plant we must realize that a wonderful mystery is indicated as it stands there with its root sunk in the soil. The stem with the leaves points to another mystery and the processes in the blossom to yet another mystery.
Think of it, my dear friends — the root, sinking into the soil, represents the end of the plant existence in the direction of the solid earth. But this root could receive nothing from the soil if the soil of the earth had not first come under the influence of the cosmic environment. The cosmic environment, not only the warmth and light of the sun but also those forces which proceed from the rest of the planetary system belonging to the earth, influence the earth from the surface a little way inwards. And the forces that are quickened in this way in the earth's substances make it possible for the root to be within the earth.
Now in the human head we find the same forces that play around the roots of plants, but in the human head we find them in quite a different form from that in which they exist around the roots of plants in the soil. Inner perception of these things will never unfold if we go no further than what can be learned today from natural science. Many of your questions speak of this as the chaotic knowledge given you by contemporary natural science. What is necessary is to understand, out of real experience, the nature of what was once called the earthy, the watery, the airy, the fiery. For if you simply go on speaking about hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus in the way modern chemistry speaks, these things will always remain something quite external. You will never be able to think in any other way than that you stand there as a human being and somewhere outside there is oxygen or nitrogen. What modern physiology or chemistry tells you about oxygen or nitrogen is something quite direct. Physiology tells you that nitrogen exists in the organism, but you do not experience nitrogen in the organism. What is necessary is to take one's start from what can be experienced. And things that can be experienced must be deeply united with our whole being, if it is our aim to place ourselves in the service of the shaping of the world. And that is what we are doing when we heal.
Now so far as one of the elements of antiquity is concerned, everyone can know that he experiences it. This element is warmth, warmth as a quality of nature. We experience warmth, for we feel warm, or we feel cold. We are not as external to warmth as we are to oxygen and nitrogen.
It was characteristic of the ancient study of nature that it took as its fundamental element something that could actually be experienced, something in which a man can be, not something that he must remain outside of. Let us first take this element of warmth, of fire, because here it is easiest to grasp the factor of actual experience. We know that as human beings we experience warmth. Now what is for the plant the earth, the earthy element, is for the human head, warmth.
Suppose you have here the earth, and 'think away' from it what appears to you as the earthy element; also think away the fluid and the airy, but let the warmth remain, so that you have a kind of ‘soil’ of warmth. You can picture this quite easily. (Fig. I) Now take the whole thing and turn it around, so that what was formerly below is now above — it is a polar opposite. (Fig. II)
You can now say: I behold the root of the plant, it is within the earthy soil; I behold the human head, it is in the 'warmth' soil, but the soil is in the reverse position. That is because what happens here (Fig. I) lies four stages further back than this. (Fig. II) If you speak of what goes on in the plant root as an earth happening, you must speak of what goes on in the human head, out of the warmth, as a Saturn happening. Between them are Sun and Moon happenings. And now 'think away' from the human head everything that came into it at later stages. Think away the earthy, the watery, the airy, and picture merely the warmth working in the human head, the warmth that provides the rest of the organism with differentiated warmth — and then you have the human head as it is today, a miniature Saturn. In the human head today you have the old Saturn organization. And if you understand the connection, then you say to yourselves: In the cosmos, untold millennia ago, there was a structure that anticipated everything that exists today as warmth in the human head. And the plant root in the earthy element today creates an image of the condition that thus preceded it.
There you have a connection. You behold ancient Saturn in the warmth organization of the human head. But if this act of beholding is to be true, it must be connected not merely with theoretical ideas but with inner, moral impulses. Looking at the human head must be an experience that moves us inwardly; we feel that the human head is the living, embodied remembrance of a very ancient evolutionary period of the cosmos, of the old Saturn period. Try, for once, to let this feeling permeate you. I am a human being who has reached a certain age. My childhood stands before me; the remembrance of childhood rises up. As one who has grown older, I sink myself into the remembrances of my childhood. This in itself gives rise to a certain inner experience which we can confront with moral power. And now expand this feeling to the point where you say to yourselves: “As a human being I was present during the old Saturn period. If, in this present time, I understand my head truly, it is like a living remembrance of a primeval evolutionary period of the cosmos.” All that takes shape through the remembrances of childhood is infinitely multiplied when contemplation of the living head leads us back to the time of Old Saturn.
Such knowledge is only of value when it is steeped in moral feeling, when one can really be filled with awe by the fact that our own activity leads us into a real experience of the cosmos. Meditation, above all for the physician, does not consist in merely brooding over thoughts; meditation consists in actually bringing such interrelationships before the soul and having, in regard to them, manifold feelings through which one may experience all kinds of inner shocks and emotions. Suppose I meet a human being whom I have not seen for, say, forty years. As he comes before me in his present form, the picture of his childhood stands before my soul. I see him before me as a child. This gives rise to certain inner emotion or shock. I look at the root nature of the plant; I acquire the capacity to relate this root nature to the human head; and the human head leads me back to the time of Old Saturn. Meditation must penetrate to the very soul; it must quicken a deep inward life.
This is an indication of how, after the foundation has been laid by a course of exoteric study, everything in the esoteric domain must aim at promoting intuitive experience of the cosmos in connection with the whole being of man.
For just as the Old Saturn existence can arise within you when you study the connection between the human head and the root of a plant, so too can the Old Sun existence arise within you when you study the connection between the human heart and the development of the stem and leaves of a plant. The stem and leaf development in the plant is, again, a remembrance that has now become living, of the Old Sun existence.
The flower in which the seed is produced is connected with the human metabolic system, the limb-metabolic system. And when we study what goes on in the flower in connection with the metabolic or limb system in man, a remembrance of the Old Moon period arises.
And if you have this inner experience, if in deepest meditation you feel these connections inwardly, then you experience still more.
Something of great significance is experienced. If with this deepened feeling you turn your soul to the root of the plant, you will begin to feel as if no plant root were really still, but as if it were moving. You learn to recognize this movement. I can only give an outline of these things. I can only point to an impulse, to the way in which inner experience must be built up and how knowledge of nature becomes a real wisdom. You will experience this movement in the root of the plant. And contemplating it, you will feel as if, together with the root, you were moving through cosmic space. Through this very experience, in which you seem to be in the chariot which travels with you through the cosmos with the swiftness of the plant root, you will discover that what you are really experiencing is the movement of the planetary system through cosmic space. In the root of the plant you experience the movement of the whole planetary system through cosmic space.
And if then, in the same way, you experience the growth of the leaves, again you experience a movement in which you yourselves participate. And this is the true movement, the inwardly experienced movement of the earth.
Movement of planetary system: root
Movement of what constitutes connection between stem and leaf: movement of the earth
What the Copernican system has to say about the revolution of the earth around the sun is nothing but a series of constructions. The true movement of the earth becomes an inner experience when we deepen ourselves in the connection which exists between stem and leaves. In your contemplation of stem and leaves you move, together with the earth, in the wake of the sun, so that the earth really seems to be doing what the Copernican system describes. But the movement is, in reality, a much more complicated one.
If you contemplate the processes in the blossom around the stamens and the pistil deeply enough, you will experience the movement which the moon carries out around the earth. In experiencing the flower you experience the movement of the moon — a movement that is already separate from the earth. The planetary system as a whole is experienced in the root of the plant, the earth's movement in the stem and leaves; the moon's movement, which has been separated off, is experienced in the generation of the seed in the plant.
I say this to you, my dear friends, in the first place, in order that you may learn to have insight into things of which ordinary science takes no account at all, because it considers that such matters are neither knowable nor worth knowing. But they must be known — otherwise nothing of reality can be known.
And I tell you all this for yet another reason. I do not think that, in the ordinary way, anybody gets a shock or feels emotion from what he learns about the plants. It causes him no inner concern — he simply assimilates it. And he experiences nothing at all, in reality. But in a second medical course such as that of which we spoke, if you begin to know the planets' movements, the earth's movement, the moon's movement from your contemplation of the plants, the minerals (though here things are rather different), and also of the human being — then these things will not leave you indifferent.
It is essential for us today, my dear friends, to bring activity of knowledge into these things. The heart feels that these are the ways which knowledge should take. But what is offered to the heart is something that is merely didactic, containing nothing of the realities. People think they have the realities in what is nothing more than a tiny fragment.
What is the attitude of science today? It always seems to me to be rather like this: suppose someone were to go to Dresden and were looking at the Sistine Madonna. A scientist might come up to him and say: This Sistine Madonna is, after all, nothing but an external impression which comes to you from outside. Then he might proceed to take the Madonna out of the frame and break it up into fragments, getting smaller and smaller until they were mere atoms. And then he might say: Now you have real knowledge of this Madonna.
But this is all wrong. If we want to have a real understanding of the Sistine Madonna we must first be able to enter into the aims of religion, then into all that poured into this Madonna figure from Raphael's spirituality, then into many other things too, but this is the first: we must try to enter into the intentions of the Gods, of the Divine Spiritual Beings behind the physical world. This would have to form part of the second medical course of which I have spoken. Only in such ways is it possible to bring people near to reality.
If you will take what I have just said as a stimulus, you will understand the two meditations which will awaken the power of medical understanding within you. In this meditation you may proceed as follows: First of all you can deepen yourselves in contemplation of the external phenomenon of fire, of fire that gives warmth, realizing in this contemplation that this external manifestation of fire is maya, semblance, illusion. Behind the fire there is something quite different. Behind the fire there is working, active will.
You may ask: Yes, but how do I get to know that there is active, working will behind the fire? All true esoteric instruction addresses itself to the powers in the pupils themselves. If you will allow what I have said today really to enter into your hearts, there will arise within you the realization that wherever there is fire, there, too, is active working will — just as when you see the form of a human countenance, a human figure, you realize that here there is spirit and soul. Wherever you have fire, even in the tiniest match, there is active, working will.
In order that you may also be able to penetrate the other substances of nature, you must reach the point where a burning match is no longer merely the external phenomenon that would be described today, but where you actually see it as active, working will. When you are able in this way to transform your minds and hearts, you will find that your soul learns to experience quite differently, to have quite a different attitude to the environment in which you find yourselves. You will find that your own working, active will is akin to fire. You will live out into the world from your own inner being and you will have a much more subtle and delicate perception of fire than before, because you realize its kinship with your own will. You will find this kinship wherever there is fire. You must learn to realize: I am really within this fire, for it is active, working will; it belongs to me, just as my own finger belongs to me.
Air must be encountered in you as courage. Wherever wind blows, you will experience it in your own soul as courage. What you see in outer nature as air — this is courage. Courage is air. This must be an experience in your soul.
Water is the outer manifestation of feeling. In feeling there is the same inner activity as is present in the external world in water. Water is feeling.
Earth, solid earth, is the same as thought. In thought, life freezes.
If you can grasp these four points in meditation: if you can learn to think of fire as active, working will — if you can take the external appearance of fire as manifestations of this active will — if you see in the fire this active will just as you see spirit and soul in the form of a human being — if you can feel that the external form of the fire is maya; if you can feel that the blowing wind and the clouds are phenomena which are a revelation of courage; if you can see water as an expression of feeling; and the earth as something that resembles your own thoughts — then you will discover that this organic process, which arises in your own being as an earthly going out from the head and stretching downwards, is a continuation of the earth formation, the uniting of a substance of earth formation which has weight, and this is the nature of thought.
If you then pass to the breathing and feel how in the breathing the aeriform nature of the human being is circulating, then you will recognize in the activity of man's aeriform nature everything that may be called activity in the human being, that takes him into the outer world, in order that he may assert himself within this outer world. And you will try to learn from the study of many phenomena in outer nature,what it is that happens to the air in the human being.
And you will know that the watery organism of man, the fluid organism with its inner mobility, is the seat of feeling, the feeling that flows in the centrifugal and centripetal directions.
You will know that the movement of air is a semicircular movement, from above downwards. You will know that what lives in the fluid nature has a centrifugal and centripetal movement in man and strives everywhere to hold the balance.
Thus from observation of what exists outside in nature you will find the transition to what happens with these elements in the human being.
The essential point is that we shall not rest content with observation of the ordinary kind, for this makes us earthy ourselves, dried up and rigid, and we lose our mobility.
Much has been given in what I have sketched today. Intermediary stages have been left out because it would take too long to give you every detail. I can only give suggestions. You will have realized from what I have said that the whole method, the whole way, of medical study must become different.
And now see to it that what I have told you here really bears fruit within you. Many of the questions which you have put with heavy hearts and which I have read with a heavy heart because they point so tellingly to what is needed in our times will be answered if you always remain in connection with the Goetheanum. If you do this, your medical studies, wherever they may be, will constantly be enriched.
It is, of course, essential that you should realize the necessity of earnest striving, earnest learning. You must work seriously and earnestly. And you must have a second feeling which arises in you in all sincerity — you must decide whether you will follow this feeling, or whether you will not. This feeling must be that the enrichment of medical study is to proceed, in future, from Dornach; in Dornach we shall try to give the enrichment that is so needed today. You must choose the path you are going to take in medicine. For one thing, there will be the problem of karma. In the nature of things, those who want to heal must have an intimate understanding of karma in the world. I shall speak of this again. In healing, one cannot run counter to karma; one can only heal in accordance with karma. But where karma is concerned one cannot say superficially: When someone is ill, it is his karma to remain ill; and when he is well again, his karma has given him health. It is not right to speak thus. The question of how karma works in human life needs a real, fundamental deepening, a cosmic deepening. These things will be taken care of in Dornach for those who seek them.
I have already said that in the future, impulses will be given from esoteric sources, for account must be taken of the realities which exist and which were reckoned with in the foundation of the General Anthroposophical Society at the Christmas Meeting. As I said yesterday, the question of others copying the remedies causes me no anxiety, if in Dornach it is really understood that esoteric medical study must be carried on in a much deeper connection with Dornach. To this end it will be necessary to carry out this medical work in the same way as other branches of the spiritual life in Dornach.
In the life of the Anthroposophical Society it was always the case that those who wanted to become esotericists did not pay enough heed to the inner conditions of the esoteric life. And so the years went by. It has only been in two spheres that we have been able to achieve what is necessary, namely, in the sphere of General Anthroposophy and in the sphere of Eurythmy and the Art of Speech. But the independent, inner activity that has developed in these spheres must be developed in all the Sections now to be formed. And to this end you must really submit to the conditions that will be made; you must submit to them in full confidence and trust.
One of these conditions is that I shall carry out everything connected with the medical sphere in association with Dr. Wegman, who in the course of years within the anthroposophical movement has prepared herself for medicine and whose place in this medical movement is such that it will be led by her in association with me. And so those who join Dr. Wegman with confidence will get help from Dornach as they go along. An arrangement will have to be made that those who want to remain permanently connected with the Section for the renewal of medicine shall address themselves, with their requests, to Dr. Wegman, in complete confidence.
Periodically — perhaps about every month — we will answer, in a circular letter, the questions of those who, at the end of this lecture course, want to become pupils at the Goetheanum. It will be the same in all the sections. This circular letter will answer the questions put by individuals, and all those who are members of the corresponding section will receive the answers. But unless there is inner confidence there will be no success. A real link will be created by these means, and all your human and medical needs will be satisfied.
This is how things will be arranged to begin with, until we can take further steps. The great failing that has existed in the esoteric life hitherto is that people have been arrogant enough to think that they should always receive their esoteric exercises from me. They all wanted to come to me, not to others. That is where the esotericism has foundered hitherto. For inner, occult reasons, the only possible way is for what lives in the wellspring of esotericism to be led and guided by the personalities who are suited for this work. This leadership by persons who are destined for it by fate — this is part of esotericism. It is a principle that has been rejected because people were immodest. If this principle is not adopted we shall not make progress, even in the newly founded Anthroposophical Society.
Thus I have sketched, and I will still further develop, how the true esotericism must work on into the future. Tomorrow I will try to answer the greater part of the questions which have been put and will all amount to this: How can I find my way into a training that has its center in Dornach? You will be able to find the way, but you must have confidence. It is not a matter of belief in authority but of an intelligent building upon an inner foundation, and an acceptance of conditions that are created by destiny.
Fire – Working, Active Will
Air – Courage
Water – Feeling
Earth – Thought