The Cosmos reveals itself to man, first of all, from the aspect of the Earth and from the aspect of what is outside the Earth, viz. the world of the stars.
Man feels himself related to the Earth and its forces. Life gives him very clear instruction regarding this relationship.
In the present age he does not feel himself related in the same way to the stars that are around him. But this lasts only so long as he is not conscious of his etheric body. To grasp the etheric body in Imaginations means to develop a feeling that we belong to the world of the stars, just as we have this feeling regarding the Earth through the consciousness of the physical body.
The forces which place the etheric body in the world come from the Cosmos around the Earth; those for the physical body radiate from the center of the Earth.
But together with the etheric forces which stream to the Earth from the sphere of the Cosmos there come also the World-impulses which work in the astral body of man.
The ether is like an ocean in which the astral forces swim from all directions of the Cosmos and approach the Earth.
But in the present cosmic age only the mineral and plant kingdoms come into a direct relation to the astral, which streams down to the Earth on the waves of the ether; not the animal kingdom and not the human kingdom.
Spiritual vision shows that in the animal embryo there lives not the astral that is now streaming to the Earth, but that which streamed in during the Old Moon period.
In the case of the plant kingdom we see how its manifold and wonderful forms are developed through the astral loosening itself from the ether and working over to the world of plants.
In the animal kingdom we see how, from out of the Spiritual, the astral which was active in very ancient times — during the Moon evolution — has been preserved, and works as something stored up and preserved, remaining on at the present time in the spirit-world, and not coming forth into the etheric world.
The activity of this astral is, moreover, mediated by the Moon-forces, which have likewise remained in the same condition, from the previous stage of the Earth.
In the animal kingdom we have, therefore, the result of impulses which manifested themselves externally in Nature in a previous stage of Earth-existence, whereas in the present cosmic age they have withdrawn into the Spirit-world which actively penetrates the Earth.
Now, it is manifest to spiritual vision that within the animal kingdom only the astral forces which have been preserved in the present Earth from the former period are important for the permeation of the physical and etheric bodies with the astral body. But when the animal is once in possession of its astral body, the Sun-impulses appear actively in this astral body. The Sun-forces cannot give the animal anything astral; but when this is once in the animal, they must set to work and foster growth, nutrition, etc.
It is different for the human kingdom. This, too, receives its astrality to begin with from the Moon-forces that have been preserved. But the Sun-forces contain astral impulses which, while they remain inactive for the animal kingdom, in the human astral continue to act in the same way in which Moon-forces worked when man was first permeated with astrality.
In the animal astral body we see the world of the Moon; in the human, the harmonious accord of the worlds of the Sun and Moon.
The fact that man is able to receive, for the development of self-consciousness, the spiritual which rays forth in what belongs to the Earth depends upon that which belongs to the Sun in the human astral body. The astral streams in from the sphere of the universe. It acts either as astrality which pours in at the present time or as astrality which streamed in in ancient times and has been preserved. But everything that is connected with the shaping of the ego as the vehicle of self-consciousness must radiate from the center of a star. The astral works from the circumference; that which belongs to the ego works from a center. From its center the Earth as a star gives the impulse to the human ego. Every star radiates from its center forces which mould or shape the ego of some being.
This shows the polarity existing between the center of a star and the sphere of the cosmos.
From the above it may also be seen how the animal kingdom still stands there today as the result of former evolutionary forces of the Earth's being, how it uses up the astral forces which have been preserved, and how it must disappear when these have been consumed. Man, however, acquires new astral forces from that which belongs to the Sun. These enable him to carry on his evolution into the future.
From all this it may be seen that the nature of man cannot be understood unless we are just as conscious of his connection with the stars as of his connection with the Earth.
And that which man receives from the Earth for the unfolding of his self-consciousness depends also upon the Spirit-world active within all that belongs to the Earth. The circumstance that the Sun gives to man what he needs for his astral depends upon the activities which took place during the Old Sun period. At that time the Earth received the capacity to unfold the ego-impulses of humanity. It is the Spiritual from that period which the Earth has preserved for itself from the Sun nature; and it is preserved from dying out through the present activity of the Sun.
The Earth was itself Sun at one time. Then it was spiritualized. In the present cosmic age, what belongs to the Sun works from outside. This continually rejuvenates the Spiritual which originated in ancient times and is now growing old. At the same time, this which belongs to the Sun and acts in the present preserves that which belongs to a former period from falling into what is Luciferic. For that which continues to work without being received into the forces of the present succumbs to Luciferic influences.
We may say that man's feeling of belonging to the cosmos beyond the Earth is in this cosmic epoch so dim that he does not notice it within his consciousness. And it is not only dim, it is drowned by his feeling of belonging to the Earth. As man is obliged to find his self-consciousness in the elements of the Earth, he so grows together with them during the early part of the age of the Spiritual Soul that they act upon him much more strongly than is compatible with the true course of his soul-life. Man is to a certain extent stupefied by the impressions of the world of the senses, and during this condition, thought which is free and has life in itself cannot rise within man.
The whole of the period since the middle of the nineteenth century has been a period of stupefaction through the impressions received by the senses. It is the great illusion of this age that the overpowerful life of the senses has been considered to be the right one — that life of the senses whose aim was to obliterate completely the life in the cosmos beyond the Earth.
In this stupefaction the Ahrimanic powers were able to unfold their being. Lucifer was repulsed by the Sun-forces more than Ahriman, who was able to evoke, especially in scientific people, the dangerous feeling that ideas are applicable only to the impressions of the senses. Thus it is exactly in these circles that one can find so little understanding for Anthroposophy. They stand face to face with the results of spiritual knowledge and try to understand them with their ideas. But these ideas do not grasp the spiritual because the experience of the ideas is drowned by the Ahrimanic knowledge of the senses. And so they begin to fear that if they have anything to do with the results of spiritual investigation, they may fall into a blind belief in authority.
In the second half of the nineteenth century the cosmos beyond the Earth became darker and darker for human consciousness.
When man becomes able to experience ideas within himself once more, then, even when he does not support his ideas on the world of the senses, light will again meet his gaze from the cosmos beyond the Earth. But this signifies that he will become acquainted with Michael in his own kingdom.
When once the Festival of Michael in autumn becomes true and inward, then this thought will arise in all sincerity in the mind of him who celebrates the festival, and it will live in his consciousness: Filled with ideas, the soul experiences Spirit Light, when sense-appearance only echoes in man like a memory.
If man is able to feel this he will also be able, after his festive mood, to plunge again in the right way into the world of the senses. And Ahriman will not be able to injure him.
Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society (in connection with the foregoing study: Man in his macrocosmic Nature)
168. In the beginning of the age of the Spiritual Soul, man's sense of community with the cosmos beyond the Earth grew dim. On the other hand — and this was so especially in men of science — his sense of belonging to the earthly realm grew so intense in the experience of sense-impressions as to amount to a stupefaction.
169. While he is thus stupefied, the Ahrimanic powers work upon man most dangerously. For he lives in the illusion that the over-intense, stupefying experience of sense-impressions is the right thing and represents the true progress in evolution.
170. Man must find the strength to fill his world of Ideas with light and to experience it so, even when unsupported by the stupefying world of sense. In this experience of the world of Ideas — independent, and in their independence filled with light — his sense of community with the cosmos beyond the Earth will re-awaken. Hence will arise the true foundation for festivals of Michael.
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