Earthly Death and Cosmic Life. Lecture 7 of 7
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, March 26, 1918:
The subconscious part consists in developing, below the threshold of consciousness, a better and more sublime feeling than any we can develop in ordinary consciousness. This feeling can only be described as the knowledge always in the hidden subconscious part of the soul that we must be thankful for every experience of life, even the smallest. Our difficult experiences may for the moment cause us pain, but to a wider view of existence, even painful experiences so present themselves that, not in the surface regions but in the subconscious soul, man can be thankful for them, thankful that life is unceasingly supplied with gifts from the universe. This exists as a real subconscious feeling in the soul.
The other direction of feeling is that we must unite our own ego with every being with whom we have anything to do in life. Our actions extend to other beings, some, it may be, even inanimate; but wherever we have done anything, wherever our being has been united with another in action, something remains; and this remainder establishes a permanent relationship between our being and everything with which we have ever been connected. This feeling of kinship is the foundation for a deeper one, a feeling generally unrecognized by the higher soul: a feeling of oneness with the surrounding world.
In a materialistic view of life, this disposition to confidence in life is very difficult to find. It resembles gratitude to life, but is quite another feeling alongside of it; for confidence in life consists in a steadfast disposition of soul, so that life, however it may approach us, has under all circumstances something to give us, so that we can never degenerate to the thought that life could have nothing more to give us. True, we pass through difficult and sorrowful experiences, but in the greater life relations these present themselves as something that most enriches and strengthens us for life. The chief thing is that this enduring disposition existing in the lower soul should be raised to the higher — the feeling: ‘O Life! Thou raisest me and bearest me, thou providest for my progress.’
It is not a matter of having confidence in particular things; that belongs to another sphere. Man has confidence in one thing and not in another, according as the things and beings present themselves; but the point is for him to have confidence in the general life, as a whole, in the common relationships of life, for if he can draw up any of the confidence always present in the subconsciousness, a way is opened for the real observation of the spiritual guidance and wise disposition of life. Anyone who is observant, not in theory but with feeling, says again and again: ‘As the occurrences of life follow one another, they mean something to me when they take me into themselves; they have something to do with me in which I can have confidence.’ This prepares him for the real gradual perception of what spiritually lives and weaves in these things. Anyone who has not this confidence closes himself to this.
We must realize that if this feeling is to meet with the discarnate dead, no longer incorporated in a physical body, it must be modified, and different from the perceptions and feelings which are extended to friends in the physical body. True, we have confidence in a man in the physical body and this will be useful for the conditions after death; but it is necessary that this confidence should be augmented by the universal, common confidence in life, for the relations of life after death are different. It is not only necessary to ‘remember’ the confidence we had in him in life, but we need to call forth freshly animated confidence in a being who can no longer waken confidence by his physical presence. For this it is necessary that we should ray something into the world, as it were, which has nothing to do with physical things; for the above-described universal confidence in life has nothing to do with physical things.
What a man needs in this respect is the possibility through life itself to rejuvenate and refresh again and again his feelings towards what must be encountered in life. We can so squander life that after a certain age we begin to feel more or less ‘tired,’ because we have lost the living share in life and are not able to bring sufficient zest to it for its phenomena to give us joy. Just compare the two extremes: the grasp and acceptance of experience in early youth — and the weary acceptance of life's phenomena in later age. Just consider how many disappointments are connected with this. There is a difference in whether a man is able to make his soul forces take part in a continual resurrection so that each morning is new to his psychic experience, or whether, as it were, the course of his life has wearied him for the appreciation of its phenomena.
We do not, however, notice that many mysteries underlie human life, and in this connection one significant mystery. Reference has already been made to it in former lectures from another point of view. Man is a manifold being. We will first observe him as a twofold being. This twofold nature is expressed even in his outer bodily form, which shows us man as a head, and as the remaining part. Let us first divide man in this way. Were we to keep this difference in structure well in mind, we should be able to make very significant discoveries in natural science.
If we observe the structure of the head purely physiologically, anatomically, it presents itself as that to which the more material history of evolution, known as the Darwinian theory, may be applied. In respect of his head, man is placed, as it were, in the stream of evolution; but only in respect of his head, not as regards the rest of his organism. In order to understand the descent of man, we must think of the head alone, disregarding the proportion in size, and consider all attached to it. Suppose evolution took such a course that in time to come man developed certain additional organs of still greater significance; this development, this metamorphosis, might go even further. This was actually the case in the past: man was, long ago, actually a head-being only, developing little by little and becoming what he is today. What is attached to the head, although physically larger, only grew there later. It is a younger structure. As regards his head, man is descended from the oldest organism; all the rest grew later.
The reason why the head is so important to the present man is because it remembers former incarnations. The rest of his organization is, on the other hand, a preliminary condition for later incarnations. In this respect man is a twofold being. The head is organized quite differently from the rest of the organism. The head is an ossified organ. The fact is that if man had not the rest of his organism, he would certainly be very spiritualized — but a ‘spiritualized animal’ only. Unless the head were inspired thereto, it would never feel itself as ‘man.’ It points back to the old epochs of Saturn, Sun, and Moon, the rest of the organism only to that of the Moon, and indeed to the later part of that period; it only grew on to the head-part and is really in this respect something like a parasite.
We may well think of it in this way: the head was once the whole man; below, it had outlets and openings by which it fed. It was a very peculiar being. As it developed, the lower orifices closed to the environment, and therefore were no longer able either to serve for nourishment or to bring the head into connection with the influences streaming in from the environment; and because the head also ossified above, the remaining part of the body then became necessary. This part of the physical organism only came into being at a time when it was no longer possible for the rest of the animal creation to take form.
It may be said that this is difficult to imagine. The only reply is that man must take the trouble to realize that the world is not so simple as some would like to believe, some who prefer not to think much in order to understand it. In this respect men experience a number of ideas by which they claim that the world is easy to understand, and they have very remarkable views. There is an abundance of literature by those who hold Kant as a great philosopher. That is due to the fact that they understand no other philosophers, and have to exercise much thought-force to understand Kant. As he was to them the greatest philosopher (in their own opinion men often consider themselves to be the greatest geniuses!) they can understand none of the others. It is only because Kant is so difficult to understand that he is regarded by them as a great philosopher. With this is connected the fact that man is afraid to regard the world as complicated, as requiring the power of thought for its comprehension.
These things have been described from various points of view, and when some day my lectures on ‘Occult Physiology’ are published, men will be able to read how it can be proved by embryology that it is foolish to say that the brain has developed from the spinal cord. The opposite is the case: the brain is a transformed spinal cord of former times, and the present spinal cord is only added to the brain as an appendage. We must learn to understand that what seems the simplest part of man has come into being later than what seems the more complicated; what is more primitive and at a more subordinate stage has come into being later.
The condition for the head is that as a rule it closes its development about the 20th year; as regards the head we are old at 20; it is only because we obtain refreshment from the rest of the organism, which develops three or four times as slowly, that we continue our life agreeably. The development of our head is quick, that of the heart, of the rest of the organism, three or four times slower; and in this duality we live our earthly life. In childhood and youth our head organism can absorb a great deal, therefore we study during that time; but what we then received must be continually renewed and refreshed, must be constantly encompassed by the slower evolutionary progress of the rest of the organs, the progress of the heart.
Let us ask ourselves how many today, when they look back to an achievement in childhood, upon all they experienced then, upon what their teachers and relations said, are able to remember more than: ‘You must do this,’ are able to plunge again into what was experienced in youth, looking lovingly back to the handclasp, to every single remark, to the sound of the voice, to the permeation with feeling of what was offered them in childhood, experiencing it as a continual fount of rejuvenation? It is connected with the rates of development we experience within us that man must follow the quicker development of his head, which closes about the 20th year, and that the slower progress of the heart, the evolution of the rest of him, has to be nourished throughout his life. We must not only give the head what is prescribed for it, but also that from which the rest of the organism can again and again draw forth restorative force for the whole of our lives.
For this it is necessary that every branch of education should be permeated by a certain artistic element. Today, when people avoid the artistic element, thinking that to foster the life of fancy — and fancy carries man beyond mere everyday reality — might bring fantasy into education, there is no inclination whatever to pay attention to such mysteries of life. We need only look to certain spheres to see what is here meant — for it does, of course, still exist here and there — and we shall see that something can be realized in this way; but it must be realized by man's again becoming ‘man.’ This is necessary for many reasons; we shall draw attention to one of them.
To make such demands today would, I know, simply mean for the present time one of two things. Either it would be said that anyone who demands such tests is quite crazy, such a man does not live in the world of reality; or if reluctant to give such an answer, they would say: ‘Something of the kind does take place; we all want that.’ People suppose that results come about from this training, because they only understand the subject in so far as they bring their consideration to bear upon it.
For this, however, we must, in a sense, not need to ‘grow old;’ it is urgently necessary that there should be no occasion to grow old in soul. When we observe how many comparatively young people there are who are dreadfully old and how few regard each day as a new experience given them, as to a lively child, we know what must be achieved and given by a spiritual culture in this domain.
Ultimately the feeling here meant is the feeling which acquires the perennial hopefulness of life and enables us to experience the right relation between the living and the so-called dead. Otherwise the facts which should establish our relationship to one of the dead remain too strongly in the memory. A man can remember what he experienced with his dead during life. If, however, when the dead is physically absent we cannot have the feeling that we can always revivify what we experienced with him during life, our feeling and perception are not strong enough to experience this new relationship that the dead is still present as a spiritual being and can work as a spirit. If a man has grown so deadened that he can no longer revive anything of the hopefulness of life, he can no longer feel that a complete transformation has taken place. Formerly he could help himself by meeting his friend in life; now the spirit alone can come to his help. He can meet him, however, if he evolves this feeling of the ever-enduring stimulation of the life-forces, in order to keep the hopefulness of life fresh.
To perceive ourselves as separated men depends on each one having been drawn out of the general fluid — as we must picture a very early period — like a drop; and in such a way that the individual souls did not flow together again, but each soul-drop was held together as though in a sponge. Something like that really occurred. Only because we as human beings are in etheric and physical bodies are we separated from one another, really separate. In sleep we are only separated by a strong longing for our physical body. This longing which draws us ardently to the physical body divides us in sleep; otherwise we should drift through one another all night long. It would probably be much against the grain of sentimental minds if they knew how strongly they come into connection with other beings in their neighborhood. This, however, is not so very bad in comparison with what might be if this ardent longing for the physical body did not exist as long as man is physically incorporated.
Let us think of a particular group of Angels and Archangels. In the life between death and rebirth, thousands of Angels and Archangels belong to one soul; imagine only one of all these thousands, taken away and replaced by another, and we have the region of the next soul.
If we concentrate through the presence of the dead upon a directly present interest, if in this way we feel the dead living immediately beside us, then from such things as have been discussed today we become more and more conscious that the dead really do approach us. The soul will develop a consciousness of this. In this connection we must have confidence in life that these things are so; for if we do not have confidence but are impatient with life, the other truth obtains. What confidence brings is drawn away by impatience; what man might learn through confidence is made dark by impatience. Nothing is worse than if by our impatience we conjure up a mist before the soul.