Earthly Death and Cosmic Life. Lecture 5
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, March 12, 1918:
We must of course, realise that this quest does not run its course as do actions undertaken as a result of ordinary reflection. The latter follow a straight line; the actions which arise from the subconsciousness take place strongly and personally. But then they are fraught with meaning and purpose. It is not correct to speak of ‘unconsciousness’; we should say ‘subconsciousness’ or lower consciousness, for it is only ‘unconscious’ to our ordinary consciousness. In the case of the lady who so cunningly contrived to return to the house of her host, the lower consciousness was much more conscious in itself than was the lady herself in her higher consciousness. So too, is it with what leads us in life; so that our destiny is a specially woven tissue which leads us and is very, very conscious.
This does not prevent man from finding constant fault with his destiny; but if he could survey all the factors, he would find that he agreed to everything. The higher consciousness, not being so alert as the lower, judges the facts of the latter falsely, and says to itself: Something which I do not like has befallen me — whereas he has in reality, from a deep deliberation, sought what in his higher consciousness he considers ‘unsympathetic.’ A knowledge of the deeper connections would show that a more intelligent thinker within him sought the things which became his destiny.
Upon what does all this rest?
Only — man cannot think with his hands, he can only hold his destiny with them; hence he overlooks his destiny. The hands are just as much ‘organs of thought’ as the etheric part of the head. As regards thought, the latter does something very similar to what man does in life with his hands; with his hands he arrests within himself the stream of actions which traverses his destiny. Man is so organized that only the coarser reasoning activity of hands and arms comes to expression. Everyone knows that in the hands, above all in the fingertips, he has a special sense of perception; though there it only presents its coarsest aspect. Here we refer to something very delicate. The thinking which man there develops and can bring to expression through artistic activity is very faint, scarcely a glimmer; nevertheless the hands are so inserted into man's general organism that they are the organs of thought for his destiny. In the present cycle of evolution, man has not yet learnt to think with his hands. Were he to do so, were he to know their mysteries, they would introduce him to the fundamental laws of the relations of destiny.
Let us reflect: What is the position of the head in the animal? Its head rests directly over the Earth. The head is so placed in man that he carries it himself, whereas in the case of the animal it is the Earth which carries it; in man the central line of gravity of the head falls, so to speak, into the human organism before meeting the Earth; it passes through the diaphragm. Man stands in the same relation to himself as the animal stands to the Earth. If we take the central line of gravity of the animal's head, it falls directly to the Earth, without going through the diaphragm of the organism. The orientation of his organism to the whole cosmos is the essential point in man; and with this orientation the fact is connected that his arms and hands are organised differently from the corresponding limbs of the animal.
In future, Natural Science will begin to ask this question: How is man connected with dynamics, with the relation of forces to the universe? That man is not a quadruped but a two-handed being is due to the cosmos. He so deals with himself, when thus organized from the cosmos, that the central line of gravity of his head falls within himself, and he becomes his own Earth. Because in a particular way he has disconnected his hands and arms, he so lives as regards them that the hands on their part can grasp destiny, just as the organization of the head is connected with his upright position. Man has his more perfect brain because the central line of gravity of his head passes through him instead of falling directly to the Earth. In the universe there are forces everywhere, and when something is differently orientated, the whole is differently proportioned. This is admitted as regards inorganic nature, but is not as yet observed with regard to man. How the material works over against the spiritual in man is not at present considered, nor how in him the spiritual everywhere works through the material.
But man stands within life in yet another way. For as we have seen — if we do not only consider his head but his whole organism — man does in reality ponder his destiny: subconsciously he ponders his destiny, and so determines it and knows it. There is yet another thing in human life. We perform actions. These actions in our life call forth in us a certain satisfaction — or dissatisfaction. Suppose we have done a good action which has given satisfaction; or suppose we have to embark on an undertaking to guard against something unpleasant. Thus we have various things that man brings about in life by his actions, but we do not only form actions and experience conscious satisfaction or otherwise in so doing.
We can see this best if with Spiritual Science we investigate actions that enter less deeply into our lives, actions that need not even have moral significance, e.g., the act of chopping wood. The action we achieve when we are chopping wood causes us fatigue. Now, people have various ideas about fatigue. We know from the public lecture on ‘Nature and Her Riddles in the Light of Spiritual Research’ (7th March, 1918) that people imagine they fall asleep from fatigue, that the cause of falling asleep is fatigue. Everyone knows that fatigue arises as an attendant phenomenon of actions such as chopping wood; but this fatigue has a far deeper significance when examined in the light of Spiritual Science. It really is not in the least what it appears to us to be. We experience it as what we call fatigue, but it is something quite different.
We can easily realize that the fatigue aroused by such actions is a dual process. (Actions that enter more into our moral or intellectual life are only more subtle in this respect; the thing is not always so easily discerned as is an elemental act such as woodcutting.) It is a dual process. First we must use the springing and thriving forces of life connected with our growth; when these are exhausted a process of destruction takes place in our organism. This process is experienced as fatigue, which is really a stunning of consciousness, the deeper significance of which we experience as something quite other than as a mere consequence — in this case — of wood-cutting. Fatigue, for our ordinary life, is only a stunning of consciousness. What do we really experience?
We can understand this even better if, in order to keep in mind the spirituality of this radiation, we observe an action that is exposed to moral judgments. Suppose that instead of cutting wood we have done something to which a moral judgment is applicable. Moral judgments are as a rule thought of only within the narrow spheres of life; but they have in reality a far wider significance. Everything man does has a value for the whole course of human evolution. Even the individual action has a value in the general course of human evolution.
This judgment as to how much an action is worth in the progress of human evolution is usually just as little understood by the head as are the acts of destiny; but instead of allowing this judgment to pass through man's being as through a sieve, man rays it forth through the lotus-flowers, and it becomes a radiation of man's being. Man continually exercises a subconscious judgment, a valuation, of each one of his actions. He may be an ‘angelic’ being and do good to all men. The value of such modes of action as regards the whole evolution of humanity is judged in his subconsciousness — indeed very objectively — and often falls out quite other than one would suppose in the surface consciousness. Again a man may be a thief; while he commits the theft he judges his action quite objectively in its effects on the whole process of human evolution; and this he rays out before him unhesitatingly through the lotus-flower. In the same way as the judgments of our own destiny, which pass through our head as through a sieve, are retained by our arms and hands, so will the judgments which we pass on our actions, and even on the actions of our thoughts, be guided by us with the help of our astral lotus-flower organization; they will ray through our lotus-flower organization as a light going from us — and this light extends very far. It passes over into time, it does not remain in space.
That is why the lotus-flowers are so difficult to imagine, for they are in continual movement, are continually making the transition to time. Space there actually becomes time. Man casts a light before him in such a way that it passes into time, a continuous light which extends far beyond death. Throughout life there is One Who judges in our subconsciousness. As there is One within us Who thinks our destiny, so there is One Who passes judgment on all our actions; and we ray out this judgment as a light.
In the case of the animal this radiation through the lotus-flowers does not come into consideration. Why? This is connected with the orientation of the animal in the universe. Because man's spine is vertical, at right angles to that of the animal, he develops all that the animal cannot develop. For the animal's spine is horizontal and not vertical, and the two things neutralize one another. Hence the animal can set no ‘critic’ by its side, nor send any judgment of its actions in animal life into the future.
Much will transpire when Natural Science realizes that it is required to do more than merely hold the trivial view that the limbs of the animal can be compared in structure and form with those of man, or the head of the animal with that of man. Man has indeed a more perfect brain, but otherwise the human head does not differ so much from that of the animal; therefore the materialistic theory attaches man to the animal kingdom. What does, however, distinguish man from the animal kingdom is his orientation in the universe: were the scientists to study this, they would arrive at something very different from Natural Science. Here Spiritual Science will lead the way, as in all else, by pointing to definite life processes which will only be perceived when one has received appropriate direction from Spiritual Science.
Much of importance depends upon the relations which are set up between these two streams. If we consider the whole man in this way, thinking actually of the plane of the diaphragm, we have him ever there as a dual being; in the one being something, an experience, entering into man, stops short there, at the plane of the diaphragm, arrested by the force of the arms and hands, and this happens because man is a vertical being, not horizontal like the animal.
The other being — strange as it may sound, but the world is full of riddles — reveals himself in such a way that the legs and feet stand to him in the same relationship as do the hands and feet of the first being. This second being is connected with the Earth; for one really sees the rays coming through the Earth and penetrating man, through whom they are conducted by the lotus-flowers and ray out into the future.
These are the two streams, showing man as a dual being. In ordinary life these two streams are separated, and on this fact life rests. Were they united, life would not be as it actually is. For if they flowed together, man could not develop the ego-consciousness, since that depends upon their being kept apart.
And yet, they are only partly separated, for in one sense they do still flow together. It is so indeed. The stream which rays out from man, raying into the life between death and a new birth, can be united by man's own effort and development — outside the human being — with those other, incoming radiations which otherwise pass through the ‘sieve’ and are arrested by the arms. That is to say, it can be united with them before they pass through the ‘sieve.’ The two streams which otherwise pass through the body but cannot come together: if man takes hold of them in this way, they can be united with one another.
It is this union which makes it possible for man to meet with the dead — with those who have passed through the gate of death.