Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, November 30, 1923:
Friday, November 15, 2013
The Relation of Human Beings to the Earth
Mystery Knowledge and Mystery Centers. Lecture 4 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, November 30, 1923:
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, November 30, 1923:
The continuation of the studies we made here on the last occasion leads us today first of all to something which will furnish a preparation for the next two lectures. It leads us to glance at the connection of man, and indeed of the whole man, with our Earth. I have often said in various connections that man is subject to a kind of deception if he ascribes to himself a totally separate existence, if he ascribes to himself, as a physical human being, an independent separate existence. He is indeed independent and individual as a psychic and spiritual being; but as physical earth man he belongs to the Earth in its organic entirety, and this applies in a certain sense to his etheric body also.
I will describe to you today how this connection of man with earthly existence can appear to supersensible vision, and I will do so in a more narrative form by way of preparation for the next two lectures. Let us suppose that someone possessing Imaginative consciousness — which I have often described — takes a journey through the primeval Alps, among those rocks and stones which consist chiefly in quartz, i.e. in rocks containing silicates and other similar minerals. When we come into this primeval mountainous region we walk upon the hardest rocks on Earth, which when they appear in their own characteristic form have something virginal in them, one might say, something which is untouched by the ordinary everyday life of Earth. We can indeed understand Goethe quite well when, in one of the beautiful utterances we have often quoted here, he speaks of his experience among these primeval mountains. He speaks of the solitude he felt when sitting among these granite mountains, receiving impressions from those hard and stern rocks towering up from the Earth. Goethe addresses the granite as “the everlasting son of the Earth,” the granite which consists in quartz, i.e. in silicates, in mica and in feldspar.
Now, when a man approaches these primeval rocks with his ordinary consciousness he may of course admire them from outside. He is struck by their forms, by the perfectly wonderful primitive plastic art which is, however, extraordinarily eloquent. When, however, with Imaginative consciousness he approaches these rocks, the hardest on the Earth, he penetrates by their means directly into the depths of the mineral kingdom. He is then able to grow together as it were in thought with the rock. One might say that his soul-being extends everywhere down into the depths of the rock, and he actually enters in spirit as into a holy palace of the gods. The inner nature of these rocks reveals itself as permeable to Imaginative cognition, while the outer surfaces appear as the walls of this palace of the gods. But at the same time he has the knowledge that within this rock there lives an inner reflection of all that is in the cosmos. Once more the world of the stars stands before the man’s soul reflected in this hard rock. Finally he receives the impression that in every one of these quartz rocks something is present like an eye of the Earth itself for the whole cosmos.
One is reminded of the eyes of insects, those many-faceted eyes which divide all that approaches them from outside into very many separate parts. One would like to imagine, and indeed one cannot help doing so, that there are countless quartz and similar formations on the surface of the Earth that are just so many eyes of the Earth, in order that the cosmic environment may be reflected and the Earth can inwardly perceive it. Gradually one acquires the knowledge that each crystal form existing within the Earth is a cosmic sense-organ of the Earth.
This is the marvelous, the majestic, fact about the covering of snow, and even more about the falling snowflakes: that in each single one of these snowflakes there is a reflection of a great part of the cosmos, that with this crystallized water everywhere reflections fall to the Earth of parts of the starry heavens.
I need not mention that the stars are also there during the day, only that the sunlight is of course too strong for us to perceive them. The stars do not appear by day, but if you have at any time the opportunity of going down into a deep cellar over which there is a tower open at the top, then, because you are looking out of the darkness and the sunlight does not confuse you, you can see the stars even by day. There is a certain tower in Jena, for instance, from which one can see the stars during the day. I only mention this by the way to make clear to you that this reflection of the stars in the snowflakes and generally in all crystals is of course present also during the day. And it is not a physical but a spiritual reflection. The impression one receives of this must be communicated inwardly.
But this is not all. Out of the spiritual sense-impression which is thus received there arises in the soul the feeling that just as we live imaginatively into the crystal covering of the Earth so do we grow together with everything which the Earth experiences of the cosmos in this crystal covering.
In this way we extend our own being out into the cosmos. We feel ourselves one with the cosmos. And above all else it now becomes a truth, a deep truth to the imaginative observer, that what we call our Earth-body with all its various parts was once in the course of time born out of the cosmos; for the relationship of the Earth with the cosmos then appears most intensely before the eyes of the soul. Thus, through this experience of living ourselves into the millions of crystal eyes of the Earth we are prepared to feel the whole inner relationship of the Earth with the cosmos, to experience it in the sentient soul, the feeling soul.
Thereby, however, we feel ourselves as Man once again united with the Earth — I shall explain this point specially later on. For this process of the Earth being born out of the cosmos took place when Man himself was still a primitive being, not a physical but a spiritual being. But the process which the Earth then went through after it had been born out of the cosmos Man himself went through in his own being together with the Earth. It is really the case that the Earth once upon a time had the same inner relationship with the neighboring cosmos surrounding it as the human embryo has to the body of its mother before it is born. Later, however, the child begins to be independent. Similarly the Earth itself developed independence, whereas in the first Saturn period it was more united with the cosmos. This process of becoming independent was shared by man in such a way that he has learnt to say: The finger which I carry about on me is a finger only as long as it is a part of my organism; the moment I cut it off from my organism it is no longer a finger, it decays. In the same way, if we think of man as a physical being separated by a few miles from the body of the Earth, he would decay just as a finger does if it is cut off from the man's body. The delusion of man that as a physical being he is independent of the Earth arises only from the fact that he can move about freely on the surface of the Earth, whereas the finger cannot move about on the rest of his organism. If the finger could walk about on the rest of the body it would have the same delusion concerning man as he, as a physical being, has concerning the Earth. It is just through higher cognition that the intimate belonging-together of the physical man with the Earth is made clear.
That is the first acquaintance which man makes by means of Imaginative cognition when it is applied to the hardest part of the Earth's surface.
We can make further progress in this knowledge if we go somewhat deeper into the Earth and learn to know all that is in the interior of the Earth, in veins or lodes of metal, or anything of a metallic nature generally. Here we penetrate under the surface of the Earth; but here, when we meet what is metallic we come to something quite special, to an existence separate from the rest of the Earth. Metals have something of an independent nature in them, they can be experienced as something independent; and this experience has much, very much, to do with man.
Even one who has already attained a certain higher knowledge by Imaginative vision is not yet quite at home when he experiences the quartz and other rocks of the primeval mountains in such a way that by becoming one with the million eyes of the Earth he himself lives, feels, and projects himself in experience into the whole cosmos. When, however, such a man approaches the interior of the Earth there come to him the first impulses which accompany such a wonderful and deep experience as he may have in the stimulus to be had in a mine. Once, however, these impulses have come to him he only requires spiritual vision to be able everywhere to enter into relationship with that which is metallic, even if he does not go down into the borings of the mine.
But the first feeling of which I am speaking may be acquired with special intensity in metal mines. Even metal miners (though this is not so much the case as it was a few decades ago) who have inwardly grown up with their calling show something of what we may call a deep sense of the spiritual element in metals; for the metals not only perceive the environment of the cosmos but they speak, they speak spiritually. They relate things, they speak to us. And they speak in such a way that this language which they utter is very like that which one receives as an impression in another domain also.
When we succeed in setting up a psychic connection with human beings who are going through the development between death and rebirth (I have often mentioned this point before) we require for this a special language. The utterances of spiritualists are indeed childish in this domain for the reason that the dead do not speak the language of earthly man. Spiritualists believe that the dead speak in such a way that one can write down what they say, just as one may receive a letter from a contemporary, living here on the Earth. For the most part it is high-flown matter that comes from spiritualist sittings, but even among our living contemporaries on the Earth high-flown things are also written. But that is not the question here. The first necessity is to find the right approach to the language which the dead speak, which has no resemblance to any language on Earth. It certainly has a vocal-consonantal character, but not like that of earthly speech. This language, which can only be perceived by spiritual ears, is spoken also by the metals in the interior of the Earth. And this language through which man can approach those souls who are living between death and rebirth relates to us the memories of the Earth, the things that the Earth has experienced in its passage through Saturn, Sun, and Moon. We must let the metals relate to us what were the experiences of the Earth. The experiences of the whole planetary system (I have already spoken of this) are told us by that which Saturn has to communicate to the planetary cosmic system in which we live. What the Earth has undergone in the process, of this the metals of the Earth speak.
The language spoken by the metals of the Earth can assume two different forms. When this language has the ordinary form, so to speak, there appears before us what the Earth has gone through in its evolution beginning in the Saturn period. What you find in my Outline of Occult Science regarding this evolution originated, for the most part, in the way I have often described, through direct spiritual perception of the events. That is a mode of acquiring knowledge of these Earth processes which is somewhat different from the mode to which I am now referring. For the metals speak more — if I may express myself thus; it is of course somewhat oddly expressed — the metals speak more of the personal experiences of the Earth. They speak of what the Earth has experienced as a cosmic personality. Thus, if I were to take into account the narratives of the metals, to which one can listen by penetrating spiritually into the inner part of the Earth, I should have to add many details to what I have written about the Saturn, Sun, and Moon periods, etc.
The first thing, for example, would be that those forms of Saturn which you will find described in my Outline of Occult Science as forms which consist in differentiations of heat would appear as powerful gigantic beings consisting in heat; beings of heat who, even as early as the ancient Saturn period, had reached a certain density. If such a thing could be (of course it is impossible, but let us suppose it could happen) that an earthly man were to meet these beings, he could become aware of them, he would be able to lay hold of them. At a certain time, about the middle of this Saturn period, these beings were not merely spiritual beings but they also displayed a physical existence; if a man had touched them he would have been blistered. It would however, be a mistake to suppose that these beings had a temperature of millions of degrees of heat. That is not the case, but they had inwardly such a temperature that if one could have grasped them the contact would have caused blisters.
As regards the Sun period, we should have to relate how in these formations described in my Occult Science as present in the Sun period other beings appear, displaying wonderful transformations, wonderful metamorphoses. From gazing at, from observing, these self-transforming beings one receives the impression, for instance, that the metamorphoses described by classical authors such as Ovid have something to do with these communications imparted to us, naturally indirectly, by the metals. Ovid was certainly not himself capable of directly understanding the language of the metals, and what he describes in his Metamorphoses does not perfectly correspond with the impression which one receives; but in a certain sense the correspondence is conveyed.
Paracelsus again was a personality who lived much later than those to whom I have just referred. The most important things Paracelsus wanted to learn he did not learn at university. I cannot say that Paracelsus did not attend university, for he did, and I will not bring forward any objections against going to university, but Paracelsus did not go there to learn the most important things he wanted to know. He went everywhere where men could tell him more important things; he went to such men as metal-miners, for instance, and in this way he acquired a great part of his knowledge.
Now, anyone acquainted with the right way of gaining knowledge for oneself knows how extremely illuminating, for instance, the simple remarks of a farmer may be, a man who has to do sowing and reaping and all that is connected with work of that kind. You will say "Yes, but he does not understand the import of what he is saying." It does not matter to you whether the speaker understands or not, so long as you yourself understand when you listen to him. That is the important thing. Certainly in very few cases will the man himself understand what he says; he speaks from instinct. And even more fundamental things can be experienced in the case of those beings who understand nothing of what they say to us — from the beetles and butterflies, from the birds, and so on.
What could be learned in the mines in Asia Minor through the language of the metals was studied very deeply by Pythagoras, for example, on his wanderings, and from thence much penetrated into what became the Greek and Roman civilization. Then it appears in weakened form in such writings as Ovid's Metamorphoses. That then is one form of the language of the metals in the interior of the Earth.
The other form — grotesque as it sounds, it is nevertheless true — the other form is that in which this speech of the metals begins to develop cosmic poesy, when it passes over into poetic form. There actually appears in the language of the metals cosmic fantasy. Then there resounds out of this cosmic poetry that which constitutes the most intimate relations between the metals and man. Such intimate relations between man and metals indeed exist. The coarse relationships of which physiology is aware relate only to a few metals. It is known, for instance, that iron plays a great part in human blood; but iron is the only metal of this kind that does this. A certain number of other metals, such as potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, also play a certain role, but a larger number of important metals, important for the structure and functioning of the Earth, apparently play no part in the human organism, according to coarse external observation. But this is only apparently the case. When we go down into the Earth and there learn to know the color of the metals we also learn that metals are by no means confined to the interior of the Earth, but are everywhere in the surroundings of the Earth, though certainly in an exceedingly diluted form — I must here use the expression — in a super-homeopathic dilution they are distributed everywhere in the environment of the Earth.
Roughly speaking, we can have no lead in us, but speaking more accurately, we cannot exist without lead. What would become of man if lead did not work upon him from the cosmos, from the atmosphere; if in an infinitely finely divided state lead itself did not penetrate through his eye with the nerve-sense ray; if lead did not penetrate into the body through the breathing and in an endlessly finely-divided state enter into us through food? What would man be if lead did not work in him?
Man would indeed have sense-perceptions without lead. He would perceive colors, he would perceive sounds; but in his perceptions of colors and sounds it would be as if with every perception he became slightly unconscious. He would never be able to withdraw from his perceptions and reflect in thought, or form concepts of what he had perceived. If we did not take lead, as I have said, in super-homeopathic dilution into our nervous system and most of all into our brain we should be given up entirely to our sense-perceptions as to something outside of us. We should not be able to think about our sense-perceptions, nor should we be able to preserve the memory of them. This capacity is given us by the finely divided lead in our brain.
If lead be introduced into the human body in large quantities it results in the terrible lead-poisoning. But he who knows the connection can see from this lead-poisoning that, while lead when introduced into man's body in large quantities works excessive harm, in this fine super-homeopathic dilution it is something which causes as much to die off in man each moment as is necessary in order that he may become a conscious being, and not suffer unconsciousness through continual sprouting, budding, growing. For in sprouting and budding, in the over-pressure of the pure forces of growth, man becomes powerless.
It is thus that man is connected with all the metals, even with those concerning which our coarse physiology does not speak. The knowledge of these connections is the basis for a positive, genuine, true therapy; but instruction concerning these connections between the metals and man can only be given in that language which is the poetic speech of the metals in the Earth. Thus it may be said that concerning the past experiences of the Earth itself the ordinary language of the metals instructs man; but the metals instruct man concerning their curative properties when they become poetic, when their language becomes poetry.
This is indeed a noteworthy connection. From the cosmic aspect, medicine is cosmic poetry; indicating how many secrets of the world are contained in the fact that something which on one niveau of the world is harmful and brings about disease, on another niveau is most beneficent, most perfect, most beautiful. This is shown us when Inspired cognition penetrates to the veins of metal in the Earth, and to all that is metallic in the Earth.
We may enter into another relationship with the metals: that relationship which becomes apparent when they are subjected to the forces of nature — for instance, to fire or similar natural forces. Observe the remarkable form assumed in the Earth by antimony, a metal. It is composed of single spikes, which shows that when it is being formed it follows certain directions of force which are operative in the cosmos. This grey antimony has also the property that if it is heated and spread on glass it forms a mirror. Antimony has also other characteristics: for instance, that of exploding if it is treated electrically in a certain way and then brought to the cathode (the negative pole).
All these characteristics of antimony show the relation of such a metallic substance to the forces of the Earth and its environment. This, however, can be noticed in the case of all metals. We can observe all metals when they are subjected to fire, and we see how, if ever a higher temperature is developed, they pass over into that super-homeopathic condition and at this high temperature take quite a different form. In this respect the ideas of our modern physicists are the most limited one can imagine. For example, they imagine that when they melt lead it becomes softer and softer, and of course that is quite correct as far as it goes. It does become softer as the temperature grows higher; the lead becomes hotter and hotter. It becomes more fluid until it gives off lead fumes. But all the time something is being thrown off that does not go beyond a certain temperature. This they do not know. It is just this finest, this super-homeopathic, part of the lead which passes over continually into what I may call universal invisible life, and this is something which acts upon man.
The matter may be presented thus: In the Earth down below you have the various metals, but these metals exist also in a finely divided state everywhere above. I might say that these metals vaporize. Down below in the Earth we have the metals with their sharp contours, with their rigid forms, and still further down they would certainly be in a fiery fluid condition. But in the environment of the Earth they exist in this finely divided state; there they reveal themselves in continual radiations, so that a constant radiation goes out into the cosmos. The metals ray forth into space; but there is a certain elasticity in this cosmic space, and the forces which go forth in this way do not radiate without limit into space, as the physicists imagine to be the case with light rays. They proceed to a certain boundary and then return. One can observe this radiating back of the metals returning in all directions from the periphery of the cosmos as if they came from everywhere. One notices that these back-raying forces are active in that sphere of human life which is really the most wonderful and beautiful, that is, when, in the first years of its life a child learns to walk, speak, and think. The way in which a child raises itself from the crawling position to get its bearings in the world is really the most wonderful thing we can observe in earthly life — this realization of itself as a human being. Inwardly in these forces which I have so often described work the backward-raying forces of the metals. While the child learns to raise itself upright from its horizontal crawling position it is permeated by these metallic forces which are being reflected back. It is these forces which really raise the child up. If one can inwardly perceive and understand this connection, then at the same time one has another experience: one learns in his actions and in his being the connection of man as he lives here on the Earth with his former Earth lives.
It requires the same capacity to perceive the workings of metals in the cosmos as it does to perceive the karmic connection of successive Earth lives. These capacities are the same: the one arises with the other, and the one does not exist without the other. For this reason I said in a different connection that in the power of orientation, in the raising itself of the child from crawling to standing upright and walking, in learning to speak and in learning to think lies that which comes over from former earthly lives. Anyone who has a feeling for these things can see in the way a child makes its first steps, in the way it walks, whether it has the inclination to press more on the toes or the heel, whether it bends the knees more or less strongly — in all this anyone who has an eye for these things can see a karmic tendency from a former Earth life. This reveals itself primarily in the gait and it can now be perceived, because the capacity to see the backward-raying forces of the metals and the power to observe the connection of man with his former Earth lives belong together.
When people say Anthroposophy cannot be proved, that assertion is really without foundation. People are accustomed to prove things in such a way that sense perception is always brought forward as proof. That is just as if someone were to say: If you tell me that the Earth moves in cosmic space without support, that is impossible: the Earth must have something to rest on, otherwise it would fall. Now, cosmic bodies do mutually support one another, and only with regard to things of the Earth can one say that everything must have something to rest on. For the truths which concern everyday consciousness we demand proofs. The truths which relate to the spirit mutually support one another. But one must be able to trace this mutual support.
Some weeks ago I told you how, by observing the way a child or a man walks — whether he first raises his toes or his heel, whether he treads lightly or firmly, whether he bends the knees or holds them stiffly, etc. — that in all these things one can see the realization of his karma as the result of his former Earth life. Today I have shown you how the reflected forces of the metals enable one to recognize how the several lives on Earth are connected together.
Here we perceive two truths that mutually support each other. It is always the case that we must first hear a truth, then other things intervene, and then we hear the same truth again from a different point of view, then perhaps a third time. Thus do the truths of Anthroposophy support one another, as the heavenly bodies in the cosmos uphold and support each other. This must be so when we ascend from the truths which are valid for ordinary consciousness to those truths which are self-subsisting in the cosmos. And self-subsisting in the cosmos is that which is to be grasped through the knowledge given by Anthroposophy.
So we must really bring together all the truths which have been given out at different times, truths which really support one another, attract one another, and sometimes also repel one another, in this way showing the inner life of anthroposophical knowledge; for anthroposophical knowledge lives on its own inspiration. Other systems which obtain today depend upon the supports on which they rest, but anthroposophical knowledge is self-supporting.