Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Order and Irregularity in Nature and in Humanity
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, July 30, 1916:
Today I would like to begin by considering a simple fact of which everyone is aware. If we cast an understanding and observant eye over the variety of natural occurrences, we will notice that they seem to fall into two very different and distinct realms: one realm which manifests the greatest kind of regularity and order, and another realm of extensive disorder, irregularity, and virtually impenetrable interconnections. This, at any rate, is how we experience them. Even though there is a sharp dividing-line between these two realms, our normal natural sciences do not distinguish clearly between them. On the one hand we have all the things that happen with the regularity with which the sun rises and sets each morning and evening, and with which the stars rise and set, and with which all the other things associated with the rising and setting of the sun occur — such as the plants, which regularly send forth their growing shoots in the spring, develop through the summer, then fade away and disappear in autumn. And the realm of nature presents us with many other things in which we can see a similarly great degree of regularity and order.
But there is another realm of nature, one which cannot be experienced in the same way. One cannot anticipate storms in the way one can anticipate the sunrise and sunset each morning and evening, for storms do not occur with that kind of regularity. We can say that the sun will occupy a certain position in the heavens at ten o'clock tomorrow morning, but we cannot say that we will see a certain cloud formation in a certain position, let alone say anything about how the clouds will look. Nor can we predict, in the way we can predict the quarters of the moon, that here in our building in Dornach we are going to be surprised by a storm or shower at some particular time. It is possible to calculate eclipses of the sun and moon that will happen centuries hence quite accurately, but the occurrence of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions cannot be predicted with the same degree of certainty.
You see here two distinct realms of nature, one that manifests regularities our reason can grasp, and the other whose manifestations are irregular and cannot be experienced in the same way. Great regularity and extreme unpredictability are intertwined in what we call nature as a whole. I would like to describe the overall impression that nature makes on us at a given instant as a mixture of the orderly procession of regular events with those other events, the ones that can take us by surprise, even though they come again and again with at least a certain degree of consistency.
Now, there is a profound truth that we have considered from many points of view in the course of our studies here, the truth that man is a microcosm — that man mirrors the macrocosm and that everything that is to be found at large in the macrocosm can be rediscovered in some form in mankind. So we would expect to find these two spheres of nature expressed in some human form, one which exhibits great order, the other which exhibits a pronounced lack of order. Naturally, in a human life these would be expressed very differently from the way they are expressed out there in nature. Nevertheless, that twofold division of nature into order and irregularity should remind us of something in man. Now, consider the typical example I tried to present to you yesterday.
That typical individuality was well able to think logically. When it was a matter of logical thinking, he could reckon, pass judgements and regulate his life with a degree of order, overseeing it and planning and acting accordingly. In other words, he had access to everything that regularity can contribute to the functioning of our understanding, our reason, our capacity for experience, and our will-impulses. But, alongside these, this person also lived another life, a life that was expressed in those two works I described to you. From the little I have told you about the content of these books you can well imagine how stormy a life this was, how erratic when compared with what human reason has to offer. There were storms in the depths of that soul, profound storms, and these storms were lived out in the way we described yesterday. Such things truly do happen in the way thunderstorms and outbursts of wind and weather play into the regular procession of sun and moon, into the orderly succession of sprouting, fading away, and dying in the plant world. Into all that develops out of the human head and the regular course of the human heart come the storms we experience as waking dreams or as lightning flashes of genius. These flash through the soul and discharge themselves like storms. But be in no doubt about it, every human soul has the tendency to experience the very same things that Otto Weininger experienced in such an extreme, radically paradoxical fashion. They are there in the depths of every human soul. Ordinary people who are not so disposed, as Weininger was, to experience their own genius, express it through their dreams — but always as dreams. Everyone dreams and, in the final analysis, dreams are things that bubble up out of the depths of the astral realm. They make their appearance at times when the astral body is being reflected in the etheric body. Every human being possesses a day-to-day awareness that a man like Weininger dismisses as the pedantic consciousness of a philistine, and every human being possess that other consciousness, the one that bubbles up in dreams.
One should not say, you see, that these dreams and this world of dreams are only present at night when one knows one is dreaming or has been dreaming. For a human being is constantly dreaming. Real dreams, or what one calls real dreams, are only the results of a temporary view of the continuous stream of dreams. Actually, however, one is continuously dreaming. All of you seated here are dreaming. Alongside the thoughts expressed in this lecture which, I trust, are living in you, you are all dreaming. In the depths of your souls you are all dreaming. And the only thing that distinguishes the dreams you have now from the ones you have at night is that at the moment there are other thoughts that are more conscious and stronger, and which I would think outweigh the dreams in most cases. But when waking consciousness has been suppressed and, simultaneously, sleep is interrupted, then what is now being dreamed unconsciously can emerge for a while. That is when a conscious dream appears. The life of dreams, however, proceeds without any interruption.
The contrast in human nature between the regularity of normal thinking and the lack of it in dreams is really of this nature. A person is spiritually ill if he does not have access to the regularity of normal thinking, to the kind of regularity which governs the appearance of the sun at its appointed time. A person must be able to apply the canons of reason and distinguish one event from another. But alongside his healthy waking consciousness a person also has, living in the depths of his soul, this other realm that I have described as stormy and irregular.
The forces upon which waking consciousness is based really do mirror the astronomical pathway of the stars across the heavens. If the pathway of the stars were not a part of us, we would have no waking consciousness. But, as you can see from remarks I made in the lecture cycle The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Humanity, the very same external forces that can be observed at play in wind and weather, in storm and earthquake, are also at work in the depths of the human soul and they are reflected in the unconscious and half-conscious aspects of human life. In this respect, a human being is truly a microcosm in which the macrocosm is repeated.
These days there is a restricted awareness of such things, for we live in an age when humanity has been called upon to restrict itself more and more to the physical plane — to become materialistic. The cultivation of an understanding and a rationality divorced of spirituality is simply a symptom of this. But, as we have often explained here, humanity will also proceed beyond this age. And the spiritual-scientific movement should be preparing the manifestations of the spirit for the time to come.
Men are little aware that the spiritual world is connected with what they pursue here, with the events and facts of earthly existence. But mankind has not always lived in the spiritless style of today. Human institutions have not always taken so little account of the influences of the spiritual world on the physical world. Think of Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome. I once described to you how he wanted to set about establishing institutions here on the physical plane. The story is symbolic, but a significant fact lies behind the symbolism. In order to find out how the eras of history would unfold, he consulted the nymph Egeria, whose knowledge was derived from the spiritual world. Thereafter, he designated the era of Romulus as the first, his own as the second, and five others that would follow his, making a series of seven. There is something remarkable in this story about a king of Rome: the sevenfold order he constructs is the same as the order on which the seven members of our organism are based. In earlier times there was a tendency for physical life to be arranged so that its institutions reflected the demands of the spiritual world — so that they in some way reflected what happened in the spiritual worlds. Today, men take no account of this.
I have often mentioned how people have lost their sense of piety as regards establishing the time of the Easter festival, the festival of the Easter season. Today there are even some who want to set a fixed day for Easter Sunday, rather than following the present custom of determining the festival in accordance with the course of the stars. For it would simplify our account books if Easter were always to be, say, the first Sunday in April. Then one would no longer have to set up the books for a different Easter each year and it would be easier to close the accounts for the year. This is simply one crass example from among the countless examples that could be mentioned. It shows how little sense the men of today have for arranging their earthly institutions so that they will reflect what is happening in the spiritual worlds and in the stars. But it was not always so. There have been times when there was a profound awareness that a man's own life and the life he shares with other men should be an earthly reflection of what is happening in the spiritual worlds and is expressed in the stars. These were earlier ages, when atavistic clairvoyance was still present.
Let us look at an example from the ancient Hebrews. Their religious year, and thus the year that really mattered, was a moon year of 354 and 3/8 days. Now that is somewhat shorter than a sun year. So if one reckons in moon years, some days will be lost because the moon year does not entirely fill out a sun year. After a certain time, more and more days will have been left out. Then a balance would need to be established again. But the ancient Hebrews had a very special way of creating a balance between sun years and moon years. I will only go into this method briefly, since what we need today is to let the whole sense and spirit of the matter pass before our souls, not the particular details. Ancient Hebrew tradition recognized a so-called ‘Jubilee Year’. This was a year of universal conciliation and reconciliation. It was celebrated after 49 sun years, which add up to slightly more than 50 moon years. In such a year of reconciliation, people forgave one another for various things for which they held each other to be to blame: those who were debtors could be, or should be, released from their debts, property should be returned to those who had lost it, and such like. It was a year for balancing things out, for reconciling the 7 x 7 sun years with fifty moon years— actually 50 and 1/2 moon years, but one can call it 50 because this year lasted for a while and it furnished the starting point for one's reckoning. Thus, a Jubilee Period lasted 50 x 354 and 3/8 days; during this period one accumulated all the various things that would need balancing out. If one takes into consideration that this Jubilee Year was a time for reconciling 49 (which equals 7 x 7) sun years with 50 moon years, one can say that it is ordered in accordance with the number 7. Therefore the institution of the Jubilee Year was based on a certain awareness of the significance of sevenfoldness.
Today we want to make the spirit of the thing present for our souls, so we should give special heed to the following. We want to see what it would have been like to live in the ancient Hebrew times when one said: we experience the course of the days, one following after the other. After 354 days, a new year begins. And after experiencing 49 — or, respectively, 50 — years in a row, then begins a special festive year for humanity. And now just imagine how it would have been if, accompanying everything that people lived through, there was the awareness that it is 7, 8, or 9, years since the Jubilee Year, and that one would have to wait a certain number of years for the next Jubilee Year. Nor is this set up arbitrarily; it is established on the basis of an occult division according to certain numbers.
You need have no doubts that those who were living 24 years after a Jubilee Year would be reckoning back 24 years to the last Jubilee Year and 26 years forward to the next one. That gives you some degree of access to those times. In other words, the human souls here on earth were occupied with something that involved them in a particular numerical relationship, and this numerical order affected the way they felt things — this numerical order flowed through their souls in an uninterrupted stream. In the course of thousands of years, human souls became accustomed to living with what I have just characterized. And as you know, experiences that are repeated again and again are imprinted on life. They become part of the life that shapes the soul and gives it its configuration. Thus, investigating the ancient Hebrews, one discovers an awareness for a particular temporal order living in their souls, a particular temporal configuration which expressed itself in their awareness of the passage from one Jubilee Year to the next Jubilee Year. This gave every single day a special relationship to the passage of time. The soul had become accustomed to an order that was based, on the one hand, on 354, and on the other hand, on 49 (7 x 7) — or, respectively, 50. And this accompanied the soul wherever it went.
This is comparable to the way it is necessary to learn in one's youth the calculations that one will need to use later in life; once learned, they become a possession. A certain configuration has been established in the soul. We want to take note of that as we now move on to another consideration.
According to the calculations of today's astronomy, Mercury circles the Sun much more rapidly than the Earth does, so that if we refer to the revolutions of Mercury we obtain a picture of the Earth slowly moving about the Sun while Mercury moves quickly. Now keep the orbit of Mercury in mind. We want to take 354 of these — in fact, we can take 354 and 3/8 of them; and then we want to multiply yet again by 49 or, respectively, by 50. Simply picture these numbers. If you think of one orbit of Mercury as a kind of celestial day, then 354 of these Mercury orbits would be a kind of Moon year on the planet Mercury. Then take 49 or 50 of these: that would be one celestial Jubilee Year. Naturally, one celestial Jubilee Year is much longer than an earthly Jubilee Year, but of course it is calculated with reference to Mercury.
Thus we are calculating a Jubilee Year that is based on Mercury, just as the ancient Hebrews calculated a Jubilee Year based on Moon and, respectively, on Earth. For 354 and 3/8 times they experienced one Earth day after the other. One year had passed. That, multiplied by 7 x 7 (49 or 50), made up one of the ancient Hebrews' Jubilee Years. Corresponding to this would be 354 and 3/8 Mercury orbits multiplied by 50 (or 49). Naturally, that is an entirely different expanse of time, an entirely different expanse of time from an Earth year, although it is based on the same numbers.
Now let see how yet another number is determined. Now we take Jupiter. Jupiter is much slower, it moves much more slowly. It takes twelve years to go around the Sun once. Mercury moves much more quickly than the Earth, Jupiter much more slowly. Now we will take Jupiter and consider one of these years for Jupiter. Actually, it would be a Jupiter year, but because Jupiter is in the heavens where we can think on a very large scale, we look upon that as one Jupiter day. We will let one of the periods in which Jupiter circles the Sun correspond to one of our Earth days. Then 354 and 3/8 of these days would add up to a large Jupiter year of the kind based on the Moon: one large Jupiter year. We will not multiply it by 7 x 7, but only once, because it lasts so long. Using the same method, then, we have calculated one Jubilee Year for Mercury, and one for Jupiter — just a single, great year.
Then we consider yet another planet, one not known to the ancient Hebrews. They were, however, aware of its sphere, which they thought of as being beyond the planets; they thought of it as the crystal sphere that formed the vault of the heavens. Much later it was discovered that one could speak of Uranus as being there. But we can consider Uranus, even though it was discovered much later. The only difference is that the ancient Hebrews thought of a sphere in the place where Uranus was later located. We will take 49 (or 50) orbits of Uranus, which moves very slowly. And now we will compare all of this with Earth years.
Each of these would correspond to a definite number of Earth years, would it not? Thus, 354 and 3/8 x 50 revolutions of Mercury around the Sun would correspond to a certain period of Earth years. One great Jupiter year, consisting of 354 and 3/8 orbits, would correspond to another period of Earth years. And 49 (50) orbits of Uranus would give us yet another period of Earth years.
The extraordinary thing is that each of these yields the same number of Earth years. One obtains a given number of Earth years if one takes 50 (49) orbits of Uranus. One obtains the same number if one takes 354 and 3/8 orbits of Jupiter, or 50 x 354 and 3/8 of the orbits of Mercury: each yields that particular span of Earth years. In the case of Uranus, you multiply by 50, with Jupiter, you multiply by 354 and 3/8, and with Mercury, by 50 x 354 and 3/8 — in each case you obtain the period I have already called a celestial Jubilee Year (see Note 4) based on Mercury. All three planets give us the same number.
And how did the ancient Hebrews experience this number? The number is 4182. (Naturally, there are certain irregularities which play into this and which we are ignoring today.) In each of the three cases the number comes out at 4182. One has to say that this is approximate, but you can investigate it exactly, for the irregularities are balanced out by compensating movements: it comes to 4182 Earth years! And what would an ancient Hebrew have had to say about this? He could say ‘Here on Earth your soul experiences 354 and 3/8 x 50 days in each Jubilee Year, and that is one great year of reconciliation. But something is also happening out there where cosmic thoughts are formed. Out there live beings for whom one revolution of Mercury is equivalent to one of your Earth days. These beings also experience the macrocosm in other ways, for example, in a way that corresponds to your experience of a Jubilee Year. And such a being would tell you that one orbit of Mercury is equivalent to one day and that 354 and 3/8 x 49 (or 50) of these days is equivalent to one Jubilee Year reckoned on the basis of Mercury. The being would also tell you that this same number is identical to one Jupiter year and is also identical to 50 revolutions of the celestial sphere.’
The ancient Hebrews had reasons for calculating time from the beginning of the Earth in the following way — we also place an event at the beginning of our reckoning of Earth time, although it is a different event. According to their reckoning, 4182 years after the beginning of the Earth would be the time of a great cosmic year of reconciliation, the year in which the Christ would appear in the flesh. In other words, the ancient Hebraic culture lived in a time-span that extended from the beginning of the Earth to the appearance of Christ in the flesh. This span was that of a single Jubilee Year of Mercury, one great Jupiter year, or 50 revolutions of the outermost celestial sphere, which we now know as the orbit of Uranus.
In this wonderful example you see how the human soul was being prepared for the great, cosmic Jubilee Year. It was prepared by social institutions that based the temporal reckoning on 354 and 3/8 and 7 x 7, or 50. Thereby the soul was enabled to experience the ordering of the cosmos, which means that cosmic forms were inscribed in the soul. This is a tremendous thing. The connections are immensely profound.
And if you follow the thoughts of those who have emerged from Judaism, you will see that these souls bore thoughts of a cosmos inhabited by infinitely lofty beings. And they assumed that the laws governing the movements of the stars would announce to their interpreters the time of the Christ's descent from the sphere of the Sun to the Earth. The events out yonder were thought of in terms of 354 and 3/8 and 7 x 7. Out yonder, things were ordered so that someone who followed the clock of Mercury, counting one orbit of Mercury as one day, could determine the span of one Jubilee Year from the beginning of the Earth to the Mystery of Golgotha. Just as man thinks of the beginnings of earthly existence, so also do the cosmic beings think of that moment which for the ancient Hebrews marked the beginning of the Earth — but cosmic beings think on a cosmic scale. Meanwhile, here on Earth a human institution was preparing human souls for thinking the great thought that is spread out before them in the heavens; it was shaping their souls so they would be able to apply the thought to their own passage through time. Those who lived in the time of Christ's coming and who could understand the place of the Mystery of Golgotha in the course of time were men who had gone through this preparation and whose souls had been shaped by it. Thereby they knew: The Mystery of Golgotha is approaching. They were thereby enabled to write the Gospels, for they could understand what lay behind the descent of the cosmic Sun Spirit to Earth. Such an understanding presupposes that the soul has been prepared.
Here you have a wonderful example of how social institutions that have been spiritually ordered by initiates can prepare the human soul for understanding an event — or for comprehending it at all. What does this show us? It deepens our understanding of why we should use our waking consciousness to shape our human social life so that it is related to the world of the stars. The Mystery of Golgotha cannot be understood — one cannot bring it within the scope of reason — until one has understood the connection of reason itself to the course of the stars. This is expressed in numerical relationships. Thus, everything that is connected with our waking consciousness is connected — consciously or unconsciously — with the orderly procession of the stars. In this case it was consciously determined by initiates. And so, emerging from the depths of our souls, these things begin to make their appearance in the forms I have described to you, in dreams or in the lightning flashes of genius of a man like Weininger. As I explained yesterday, these things do not belong to the present course of the stars and will only be developed in later incarnations.
What, then, are these things connected with? All the things that are consciously or unconsciously thought by our heads and felt by our hearts — in short, everything connected with our waking consciousness — corresponds to the movement of the stars. What, then, corresponds to the things that go on in our more dreamlike or fantasy-filled states of consciousness and often fill our more inspired moods? These latter correspond more to the elemental world of natural events, the world on which such things as thunder and storms and hail and earthquakes depend. And in this fashion we can look deeply into nature. It begins to appear to us as it has appeared to men who are to some degree initiated and who have always asked ‘What, then, is this part of nature that is not regulated by the regular course of the sun and moon and their like — this part of nature that does not proceed regularly or in accordance with rules? What is this nature of rain, of hail, of storms, of thunder, of earthquake, of volcanic eruption?’ And these initiates have always answered: ‘Here nature appears as a somnambulist!’
And now let us look up at the procession of the stars. In its regular, numerical relationships, as in its occult connections, it presents us with the macrocosmic representation of our waking consciousness. Then let us contemplate our dream consciousness and everything that is to a greater or lesser degree expressed there. There we find mirrored all the irregular happenings of the external world. Looking up to the heavens, we behold the external, macrocosmic representation of our waking consciousness. Looking down towards the Earth and its manifestations, we find nature as a somnambulist, a somnambulistic dreamer, who is the mirror and the outer picture of what goes on in the depths of our souls. Our waking spirit thinks in accordance with astronomy. Our dreaming, fantasy-filled, often somnambulistic soul lives and weaves in harmony with the great, somnambulistic consciousness of earthly nature. That is a profound truth.
Between now and tomorrow, reflect on the extent to which astronomy is governing your waking consciousness, and the extent to which meteorology rules in your unconscious. Yesterday, Otto Weininger provided us with an example of a man in whom astronomy came to expression only to be obscured by meteorological clouds. We will speak further about this tomorrow.