Wednesday, August 28, 2019
"I am come to send fire on the earth"
Man: Hieroglyph of the Universe. Lecture 16 of 16
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, May 16, 1920:
When we try to ascertain man's position in the Universe as a whole, it is a question of turning our attention not only to Space but to Time. Anyone who follows the history of human evolution at all, will find that it is a peculiarity of the Oriental conception of the Universe to set Space in the foreground, not leaving Time wholly disregarded, but placing everything pertaining to Space in the foreground. The peculiarity of the Western conception of the Universe is to reckon to a very special degree with Time, and it is precisely this regard for the temporal in human evolution and the Universe which must have primary consideration in a right view of the Christ-Force. To recognise the full significance of the Christ-Force in human evolution on Earth, we must be able to place Man himself correctly in the whole Universe, in a temporal sense. The customary belief in the law of the conservation of force, and especially that of the conservation of substance, hinders this. The law of the conservation of force is one which would so place Man in the Universe that he stands there as a mere product of nature. Attempts have been made to discover the procedure of the transformation through combustion of what man takes in as nourishment, and to find out how the heat of combustion is set up and how other forces arise in man as transformed forces of the food. Such attempts have already been made in modern times by students. They are like thoughts which find expression somewhat in the following way. A man sees a building, he hears that it is a Bank, and endeavours by some method to calculate how much money is put into the Bank and how much taken out; and finding that the amounts are the same, draws the conclusion that the money has either transformed itself in there or has remained the same, but that there are no officials there in the Bank at all. This is approximately the logic of the thought that whatever a man has eaten may be found again in the transformed forces of his calefaction, his activity. Here too courage is lacking actually to put to the test the depth of thought underlying these modern principles. One might indeed arrive at many things by testing what we find in modern science; one has only to test its logic and more especially its reality.
Now the point is that on account of a mass of unreality and of illogical methods of thought, man is placed in the dilemma in which, as I have already pointed out, on the one hand stand ideals, as secondary effects, and on the other, natural occurrences; and we can find no means of building a bridge between them. At most an attempt is made today by chatterers in the sphere of philosophy to talk of natural occurrences in a way which flatters the primitive thought of man; this kind of talk has no desire to go into anything concrete, but prefers to acquiesce in such nonsense as that of Eucken or Bergson. What is of real consequence is, first of all, that one should ask oneself: What it is that man bears within him out of the whole compass of the Universe? What enables him as a member of the Universe so to work with his Ego, that one can see that what results from his activity is his own? Now of all things of the Universe, of all properties of being in the Universe, one such property is easier to study than others, if one only sets aside the prejudices of modern science, and that is the element of heat.
Certainly it must be said in the first place that even the animal world, and perhaps to some extent the plant world, have heat of their own; but the heat of the higher animal world and of man can be distinguished from other kinds of individual heat. And it is necessary to enquire now into what may be called the heat peculiar to man. For in this particular heat (leaving aside for the moment that of the animal, although what I am saying does not contradict the facts in the animal world; but it would lead us too far to include it in our present observations), in what man possesses as his own heat — in this he has his inmost corporeality, his inmost bodily field of activity. Our attention is not drawn to this, only because it escapes ordinary observation that the element of soul and spirit dwelling in man finds its immediate continuation in the effect it has on the heat within him. In speaking of man's bodily nature pure and simple, one should really speak of his heat-body. When we see a man before us, we are also confronted by an enclosed heat-space, which is at a higher temperature than its environment. In this increased temperature lives the soul and spirit element of man, and the soul and spirit in him is indirectly conveyed by means of the heat, to his other organs. In this way too, man's Will comes into existence.
The Will comes into being through the fact that in the first instance man's heat is acted upon, then his lung-organisation, thence his fluid-organisation, and thence only what is mineral or solid in his organism. Thus the human organisation must be represented as follows: The first part to be acted upon is the heat, then through heat the air is worked upon; thence an influence acts upon the water — the fluid-organism — and thence upon the solid organisation. (I have drawn attention to the fact that the solid part of man's organisation is the smallest, for he is more than 75% water-body.) This fact, that we really live and move in our heat element, is one of the physiological facts which we must keep carefully in mind, for we must not simply regard what forms an isolated heat-space as though it were just a space of pure uniform heat, having a higher temperature than the environment — no, we must regard it as having differentiated parts, warmer and colder. Just as our liver, lungs and so forth, differ from each other, so do the parts of our heat-organism; and this differentiation is continually changing inwardly. It is a constantly moving differentiation, and that which in the first instance unites with the activity of the soul and spirit has its being in this inner heat-organisation.
Philosophers today say that the effect of the soul and spirit upon the body cannot be perceived, because they imagine an arm as a sort of solid lever appliance; and of course they cannot see how the activity of the soul and spirit, which is conceived of as abstractly as possible, is to be transmitted to this solid lever-appliance. But one need only fix one's attention on the transition, and we find there that which has been organised for man out of the whole Universe. If we really study human thought, we find that the thought which asserts itself in our head has very much to do with this inner work that goes on within the heat-relationships. (This is not quite exactly spoken, but the inaccuracy can perhaps only be corrected in the course of time. We must try to get a complete picture, therefore I will begin with a more cursory description.) If we observe this inter-working of thoughts in the heat-space, in the isolated heat-space, it is evident that something like a co-operation of thought-activity and heat-activity takes place. In what does this consist? Here we come to something which demands very careful consideration.
Taking first the whole of the rest of man, and then his head, we can of course, trace a transmutation of matter (metabolism) from the former to the latter; and the fact that ultimately the head has to do with thought — that we perceive as a direct experience. Yet what really happens? We will lead up to this gradually by way of appropriate imagery. Let us suppose we have some fluid substance; we bring it to boiling point, then it evaporates, and changes into a more rarefied substance. This same process takes place far more intensely with human thought. All that plays its part as transmutation of substances in the human head, brings it about that all substance falls away like a sediment, it is precipitated, and nothing remains of it but the mere picture.
I will now use another example. Suppose you have a vessel containing a solution. This you cool down, which is again a heat-process. A sediment collects below, and above remains finer liquid. This is also the case with the human head; only here no substance whatever is collected above, nothing but pictures, all matter is expelled. This is the activity of the human head; it forms what are mere pictures, and expels the matter.
This process, as a matter of fact, takes place in everything that may be called the transition to pure thinking. All the material substance which has co-operated in the human inner life falls back into the organism, and pictures alone remain. It is a fact that when we rise to pure thought, we live in pictures. Our soul lives in pictures; and these pictures are the remains of all that has gone before. Not the substance, but the pictures remain.
What has just been presented can be followed into the thoughts themselves, for this process only takes place at the moment when thoughts change into mere pictures. At first thoughts live, as it were, embodied. They are permeated by substance; but aspictures they separate themselves out from this substance. If however, we go to work in a truly spiritually scientific way, we can quite easily distinguish pure thought, sense-free thought that has separated itself out from the material process, from all thoughts belonging to what I have called in these lectures the “instinctive wisdom of the ancients.”
This instinctive wisdom of the ancients, as we learn it today, bears in it, quite literally and exactly, the character of not being brought to such filtration of thought that all material substance fell away. Such falling away of all matter is a result of human development. Although not observed by external physiology, it is a fact that virtually — of course virtually and approximately — the thoughts of earthly humanity before the Mystery of Golgotha were always united with matter, and that at the time of the intervention of the Mystery of Golgotha in Earth-life, humanity had arrived at the point in evolution of being able to dissociate itself from matter in the inner process of thought; matter-free thought became possible.
This is not to be regarded as unimportant! It is indeed of the utmost importance that we should observe this development in earthly life — that man in his evolution has become free from the embodiment of thoughts; that they have changed to pure pictures. Thus we may say that up to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, embodied pictures lived in man; but after the Mystery of Golgotha, matter-free pictures lived in man. Before the Mystery of Golgotha, the Universe worked upon man in such a way that he could not attain to pictures free of the body, free of matter. Since the Mystery of Golgotha, the Universe has, as it were, withdrawn. Man has been transposed to an existence which only takes place in pictures.
What man felt before the Mystery of Golgotha as his connection with the Universe, that he related also to the Universe. He related human life on Earth to Heaven. This we can observe quite exactly. The Hebrew of old was clearly and distinctly conscious that the twelve tribes of old Israel were projections on Earth of the constellations of the Zodiac. The twelve-foldness of the Universe comes to expression in the life of man; and we may say that in those days the life of man was pictured as a result of the twelve-foldness of the Heavens, of the Zodiac. Every man felt the starry Heaven streaming into him; and above all a group of men felt themselves as a group into which the starry Heaven rayed. In the evolution of Hebrew antiquity we must go back to the time when we are told of the twelve sons of Jacob as the projection on Earth of the twelve regions of Heaven. Just as there was this in-streaming of the heavenly forces upon Earth-man in gray antiquity, so also, since in the different parts of the Earth's surface evolution came about at different times, in Europe we find a similar thing at a later time. We must go back to the Middle Ages and study the legends of King Arthur and his Round Table, those significant Celtic legends. For Mid-Europe developed later to the stage reached by the old Hebrews thousands of years before. Mid-Europe was only so far on at the time to which the Legends of Arthur and his Round Table are assigned. There was however, a difference. Hebrew antiquity evolved to the point where the in-streaming from the Universe still yielded embodied pictures. Then came the point of time when the body was withdrawn from the pictures, when the pictures had to be given a new substance. There was indeed a danger that, as regards his soul-life, man would pass completely into a picture-existence. This danger man did not at once recognise. Even Descartes was still floundering, and instead of saying: ‘I think, therefore I am not’, he said the opposite of the truth: ‘I think, therefore I am’. For when we live in pictures, we really are not! When we live in mere thoughts, it is the surest sign that we are not. Thoughts must be filled with substance. In order that man might not continue to live in mere pictures, in order that inner substance might once more be in the human being, that Being intervened who entered through the Mystery of Golgotha. Hebrew antiquity was the first to meet with this intervention of the central force, which was now to give back reality to the human soul that had become
picture. This, however, was not at once understood. In the Middle Ages we have the last ramifications in the twelve around King Arthur's Table; but this was soon replaced by something else — the Parsifal Legend, which places One man over against the twelve, One man, who develops the twelve-foldness from out of his own inner centre. Thus, over against that picture which was essentially the Grail picture, must be the Parsifal picture, in which what man now possesses within him, rays out from the centre. The endeavour of those in the Middle Ages who wished to understand the Parsifal picture, who wished to make the Parsifal striving active in the human soul, was to bring into the picture-existence that could crystallise out in man after all the materiality had filtered away — to bring into it true substance, inwardness of being. Whereas the Grail legend shows still the in-streaming from without, the Parsifal figure is now set over against it, raying out from the pictures that which can restore reality to them.
Inasmuch as the Parsifal Legend appeared in this form, it represented the striving of humanity in the Middle Ages to find the way to the Christ within. It represents an instinctive striving to understand that which lives as the Christ in the evolution of humanity. If one studies inwardly what was experienced in the form of this figure of Parsifal, and compares it with what is to be found in the modern creeds, one receives a strong impulse towards that which must happen today. People are now satisfied with the mere husk of the word ‘Christ’ and believe that they thus possess Christ, whereas even the theologians themselves do not possess Him but hold to the outer interpretation of the word. In the Middle Ages there was still so much direct consciousness left, that by comprehending the representative of humanity, Parsifal, men were able to wrest their way upwards to the form of Christ. If we reflect on this we receive the impression of man's place in the whole Universe. Throughout the world of Nature, conversion of forces prevails. In man alone matter is thrown out by pure thought. That matter which is actually cast out of the human being by pure thought is also annihilated, it passes into nothingness.
If we reflect upon this, we must think of all Earth-existence as follows: Here is the Earth, and on the Earth, man; into man passes matter. Everywhere else it is transmuted. In man it is annihilated. The material Earth will pass away in proportion as matter is destroyed by man. When, some day, all the substance of the Earth will have passed through the human organism, being used there for thinking, the Earth will cease to be a cosmic body. And what man will have gained from this cosmic Earth will be pictures. These however, will have a new reality, they will have preserved an original reality. This reality is that which proceeds from the force which, as central force, makes itself felt through the Mystery of Golgotha. Thus, when we look to the end of the Earth, what do we see? The end of the Earth will come when all its substance is destroyed as described above. Man will then possess pictures of all that has taken place in earthly evolution. At the end of the earthly period the Earth will have sunk into the Universe, and there would remain merely pictures, without reality. What gives them reality however, is the fact of the Mystery of Golgotha having been there in humanity; that gives these pictures inner reality for the life to come. Through the Mystery of Golgotha, a new beginning is set for the future existence of the Earth.
From this we can see that what is contained in our stream of evolution is not to be regarded merely as a continuous stream, where one thing is always related to another as effect to cause, but we must so consider the Earth-evolution that we recognise in the first place a pre-Christian evolution, out of which came all that men were able to think at that time, for what they were able then to think was contained in the Father-God, was imparted to the Earth through Him. The nature and work of the Father-God however, was such that what He created as Earth-evolution was given over to that part of Earth-evolution that tends to pass away. A new beginning was made with the Mystery of Golgotha. Of all that went before only pictures were to remain, as it were descriptive paintings of the world. These pictures were, however, to receive new reality through that which entered as Being into the evolution of the Earth through the Mystery of Golgotha. That is the cosmic significance of the Mystery of Golgotha; that is what I meant years ago, when I said: Christianity will not be understood until it has penetrated even into the physics of our Earth, until we understand how, even in physical things, the Christian substance works in the world-existence. We have not grasped Christianity until we can say to ourselves: Precisely in the domain of heat such a change is taking place in man that through it matter is being destroyed and a purely picture-existence comes forth out of the matter; but through the union of the human soul with the Christ-substance this picture-existence is made into a new reality.
If we compare this thought, showing us the interweaving of what man has transformed into soul and spirit with physical existence, if we compare this whole thought with the cheerless scientific thoughts of modern times which can lead only to a blind alley, we shall see its great and deep significance, and we shall see how we are to regard thoughts like those of Julius Robert Mayer, which are in reality that which falls away from cosmic existence, even as ice and snow melt before the Sun. Man however, retains these pictures, and they derive a reality for the future because a new substance has laid hold of them, the substance which has passed through the Mystery of Golgotha.
And through this, the thought of freedom is established for man and is united with scientific thinking. This comes about because man says: Not ‘conservation of matter and of energy’; but, ‘matter and energy have a temporal life allotted to them.’ We take part not in the developing material Universe, but in its decay, and we have now to raise ourselves out of it to mere picture-existence and permeate ourselves with That to which we can only devote ourselves with our free-will, to the Christ-Being. For He so stands in human evolution that man's connection with Him can only be a free one. Anyone who seeks to be constrained to recognise Christ cannot find His Kingdom, he can rise only to the Universal Father-God, who however, in our world, has now only a share in a decaying world, and precisely on account of the decay of His own world, has sent the Son. Spiritual cosmogony must unite with natural cosmogony, but they must unite in man — and that by a free act. Hence we can only say of one who wishes to prove freedom that he is still at an ancient heathen standpoint. All proofs of freedom fail; our task is not to prove freedom, but to take hold of it. It is grasped when one understands the nature of sense-free thinking. Sense-free thinking however needs again the connection with the world, and this connection it does not find unless it unites with what has been introduced into the evolution of the world as new substance through the Mystery of Golgotha.
Thus the bridge between natural and moral cosmogony lies in a right understanding of Christianity. It might at first appear very strange that just those who uphold the modern creeds — as well as ancient creeds that extend their influence into modern life — do not desire a science leading towards Christianity, but desire a science as materialistic as possible, so that an unscientific faith may hold its own alongside of it.
In this connection we might say: Modern materialism and reactionary Christianity are very closely related, for the latter has driven mankind into the conception that things spiritual must not be penetrated by true knowledge. Knowledge must be kept free from the Spiritual, must be kept away from it, must extend only to the material. Thus on the one hand stands the advocate of one or other creed, who says: Science extends only to what is sense-perceptible; all else must be grasped by faith alone. On the other side stands the materialist, who says: science extends only to what is sense-perceptible; and faith I have given up.
Spiritual Science is not related to materialism. Modern creeds are indeed very closely related to it; that is to say, old creeds as introduced into modern life are indeed closely related to materialism.
I think I have now shown how the possibility of permeating the moral law with what we can know of nature, and conversely, of permeating nature-knowledge with moral law — is bound up with Spiritual Science. For the phantom which figures today in external science as Man, that delusive picture which shows Man as a configuration of mineral substance, simply does not exist. Man is just as much organised into the Fluid element as into the Solid; he is organised also into the element of Air, and above all, into that of Heat. When we come as far as Heat, we find the transition to the soul-and-spirit nature, for in Heat we have already the transition from Space to Time; and that which is of the soul flows in the temporal. Beyond Heat we pass more and more out of Space into Time, and it becomes possible, by the roundabout way here indicated, to seek the moral in the physical. Indeed it might be said that one who thinks short-sightedly will scarcely arrive at the connection of the moral with the physical in human nature — for one might certainly go to meet death as a miscreant without dislocating a limb, but remaining a well-formed man. The heatcondition in the man is however not examined. The heat condition is changed far more subtly and delicately than is supposed, and works back upon what man carries through death. Today the method of study is such that we look up into abstraction, we have our thoughts up there; and we look down into the physical-material. We do not make the transition unless we pass over to the inwardly stirring heat lying between these, which has, at least for human instinct, still a physical as well as a soul aspect. We can develop warmth for our fellows morally — soul-warmth, which is the counterpart of physical warmth. This soul-warmth however, does not arise through a physical change in the sense of Julius Robert Mayer's theory; it arises — but how does it arise? I might say that here it gives palpable evidence of itself. Why do we speak of ‘warm’ feelings? Because we feel, we experience that the feeling we call ‘warm’ gives the picture of outer, physical warmth. The warmth percolates into the picture. What today is only soul-warmth will in a future cosmic existence play a physical part, for the Christ-Impulse will live therein. What today is simply picture-warmth in our world of Feeling — will live on, that it may become physical when the Earth-warmth has disappeared, for it is what the Christ-Substance, the Christ-Nature is. Let us try to find that delicate connection between external physical warmth and that which we instinctively call warmth of feeling; let us try to find it. Let us go to what Goethe said in his book called ‘The Material-Moral effects of Colours’, let us see how in his colour-perception he places the cooling colours on one side, and the warming colours on the other; how he unites the material-moral with the physical conditions which can to a certain extent be measured with a thermoscope, and shows how the element of soul interplays with the external and physical. Then we arrive at one aspect of how a moral cosmogony can be found in the study of Goethe.
The Jesuits of course hate this alliance. Therefore the best book on Goethe written out of the Jesuit thought is a poisonous book, a terrible book, though much more ingenious and effective than anything written about him elsewhere, because written with inner Jesuitical rhetoric. I refer to the three-volumed work on Goethe by Father Baumgartner. It is full of spite and malice, but it is both powerful and effective. We may be very sure that in that world, of which many people have no conception, a world which opposes us too, Goethe is better known than he is among more cultured circles. Those who appreciate Goethe and understand him from the positive standpoint, form but a small community. There is a large community of those who hate him; we do not conceive it half large enough. Some time ago I pointed out how little people are awake to what lives among us — I once said I would have liked counts to be taken at the door of all those who knew the German work, Weber's Thirteen Limetrees, a work that was truly Roman Catholic in the most positive sense. I should like to know how many it would be! The result would have been deplorable. Yet soon after publication this work ran through hundreds of editions. Have those who bring humanity forward any idea in their waking consciousness of how widespread these things are? That they have a widespread effect is certain; so too have those things from which the conflict with us proceeds. Whereas we have a small community which holds to Goethe, but is yet never able to point to anything of importance from Goethe's wisdom, the Jesuit book on Goethe is written with great cleverness and acumen — and that is precisely what we need, that we may be filled with spirit that is awake. Spiritual Science will surely succeed if a wakeful spiritual life really takes root in us.