Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, July 2, 1921:
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
The Connection Between Organic Processes and Our Soul Life
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, July 2, 1921:
Today I shall have something to add to what was stated yesterday. I am reminding you of something which most of you have already heard from me. When the human being passes through death the physical body remains behind within the earth-forces, the etheric body dissolves within the cosmic forces, and the human being finds his continuing life, his existence, throughout the realms which lie between death and a new birth. I said that we can follow up the formative forces within the human being himself which project from one life into the other.
We know that man is in essence a threefold being, with three independent members; I mean, in regard to the formative forces of the physical body, the physical organization. We have the system of the nerves and senses, which naturally is spread over the whole body, but is located primarily in the head; we have the rhythmic system, including the rhythm of the breath, circulation, and other rhythms; then we have the metabolic and limb organization, which we consider as one because man's movements are intimately and organically connected with his metabolism.
You know that each human being has a differently, an individually, shaped head. If we consider the forces which shape the human head — of course you must not think of the physical substances, but of the formative forces, of that which gives to the head its physiognomy, its entire character, its phrenological expression — if we consider these forces, we find them to be those of the metabolic and limb system belonging to the previous incarnation which have now become form. Thus we have in the head the transformation of the earlier metabolic organism, and if we consider what we possess as a metabolic and limb system in this present incarnation, these formative forces are found to be undergoing a metamorphosis and shaping the head for our next incarnation. Therefore, if we understand the building of the human form we can, as it were, look back, through a corresponding development of the idea of metamorphosis, from the human head of today to the metabolic system of the previous incarnation; and we can look from the present metabolic system forward to the head formation of the next incarnation.
This conception, which in our spiritual science and in the spiritual science of all ages plays a certain role, these truths concerning repeated Earth lives, remain by no means without substantiation, for whoever understands the human organism can read them directly from it. But the present trend of natural science is as far removed as possible from embarking upon the sort of investigation which would be necessary in this case. Of course one cannot escape, through the study of anatomy and physiology alone, the foolish conclusion that the liver and lungs may be investigated by the same method. One lays the liver beside the lungs upon the dissecting table and regards them as organs of equal value, since both consist of cells, and so on. In such a way one can obtain no knowledge of these things, and two organic systems which are as different from one another as the lungs and liver cannot be studied by an external comparison of their cellular configuration, as they must be according to present ideas.
If we really wish to discover the pertinent details, methods must be employed through which a conception of these things may be gained. If the methods which I have described in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment are sufficiently developed, then the human power of cognition is greatly strengthened. I am repeating here certain statements that I have already explained in lectures given last autumn in the Goetheanum building: Our ordinary cognition is strengthened, through which we look out with our senses at our environment, and through which we also examine our inner life, where we meet primarily our thinking, feeling, and willing. And if we broaden our knowledge to the degree possible through these exercises, which have been often described, then our view of the outer world changes, and in such a way that as a first result we realize the absolute folly of speaking of atoms in the manner of present world-conceptions. What is behind sense perception, behind its qualities, behind yellow and red, behind C sharp, G, and so forth, is not vibration but spiritual essentiality. The outer world becomes ever more spiritual the further we press forward in cognition, so that we really cease to take seriously all those constructions derived from chemical or other ideas. All atomism is thoroughly driven from our minds when we broaden our knowledge of the outer world. Behind the phenomena of the senses there is a spiritual world.
If, on the other hand, through such an enlarged vision we look more deeply into our inner life, there arises — not that confused mysticism which forms a justifiable transition, pointed out and explained yesterday — but there arises instead, when inner cognition is developed, a psychic knowledge of the organs. We learn really to recognize our inner organization. While our outer perception is more and more spiritualized, our inner perception is, first of all, more and more materialized. Working in this inner direction, not the nebulous mystic but the real spiritual researcher will become acquainted with each single organ. He learns to know the differentiated human organism. We attain to the spiritual world in no other manner than by this detour through the observation of our own inner materiality. Unless we learn to know lungs, liver, and so forth, we do not gain on this detour through our inner being any kind of spiritual enthusiasm which, freed of the confusion of mysticism, works toward a concrete knowledge of the inner organs.
At all events, we gain a more exact knowledge of the configuration of the soul. To begin with, we learn to give up the preconceived idea that our psychic constitution is merely an adjunct of the sensory and nervous system. Only the world of representations is correlated to the nervous system, the world of feeling not at all. The world of feeling is connected directly with the rhythmic organization; and the world of will is adjusted to the metabolic and limb system. If I will something, a corresponding activity is induced in my metabolic and limb system, the nervous system being there only in order that concepts may be formed in regard to what takes place in the will. There are no nerves of will, as I have often stated; the division of nerves into sensory nerves and nerves of will is absurd. The nerves are all of one kind, and the so-called nerves of will exist for no other purpose than the inner observation of the processes of will. They too are sensory nerves.
If we study this thoroughly we come at last to consider the human organism in its entirety. Take the lung organism, the liver organism, and so forth. Looking at them within, you reach a point when you survey, as it were, the surface of the several organs, naturally by means of spiritual sight. What exactly is this surface of the organs? It is nothing less than a reflecting apparatus for the soul life. Our perceptions, and also what we elaborate in thought, are reflected upon the surface of all our inner organs; and this reflection makes known our recollections, our memory during life. Thus, after we have perceived and digested something in thought, it is mirrored upon the surface of our heart, liver, spleen, and so forth, and what is thus thrown back constitutes our memories. And with a not very extensive training you may notice how certain thoughts shine back in memory from the whole organism. Very different organs take part in this. If it is a question of remembering, let us say, very abstract conceptions, then the lung surface participates strongly. If it is a question of thoughts colored by feeling, of thoughts which have a nuance of feeling, then the surface of the liver is concerned. Thus we can describe very well, and in detail, how the various organs take part in this reflection which makes its appearance as recollection, as the power of memory.
When we concentrate upon the whole soul nature we must not say: In the nervous system alone we have the organic correlate of the soul life, for the entire human organism is the correlated organization for the life of the soul.
In this connection much knowledge, once present as instinct, has simply been lost sight of. It still exists in certain words, but people no longer realize how wisdom is preserved in words. For example, if anyone in the time of the ancient Greeks had a tendency to depression when forming his recollections, they called it hypochondria, meaning a process of cartilage-formation or ossification of the abdomen where, as a result of this rigidity, reflection was brought about in such a way as to make memory a source of depression. The entire organism is involved in these things. That is something which must be kept in mind.
When speaking of the power of memory, I drew attention to the surface of the organs. In a certain sense everything experienced strikes the surfaces, is reflected, and that leads to recollections. But something enters the organism at the same time. In ordinary life this is transmuted, undergoes a metamorphosis, so that the organ produces a secretion. The organs having this function are mostly glandular. They have an inner secretion, which during life is changed into force. But not everything is thus transformed into organic metabolism, etc. Certain organs take up instead something which becomes latent within them, and constitutes an inner force; for example, all thoughts connected mainly with our perception of the outer world through which we form images of outer objects. The forces developed in these thoughts are, in a certain manner, stored up within the lungs.
You know that the inside of the lungs comes into activity through the metabolism, the movement of the limbs, and these forces are so transmuted that during the life between birth and death our lungs are somewhat of a reservoir of forces which are continually influenced by the metabolic-and-limb system. We find that at the time of death such forces have been stored up. The physical matter naturally falls away, but these forces are not wasted. They accompany us through death, and throughout the entire life between death and a new birth. And when we enter a new incarnation these forces which were in the lungs form our head outwardly, stamp upon it its physiognomy. That which the phrenologist, the craniologist, studies in the outer form of the skull would be found forecast within the lungs during the previous incarnation.
You see how definitely, from life to life, the transmutation of forces may be followed up. When this is done reincarnation will no longer be an abstract truth alone, but will be studied concretely, as one can study physical things. And spiritual science becomes valuable only when in this way we penetrate into concrete facts. If we speak only in generalities of repeated Earth lives, and so forth, then these are mere words. They have meaning only if we can enter upon the single concrete facts.
If that which has been stored in the lungs is not controlled in the right way it is squeezed out, as I said yesterday, much in the same way as a sponge is squeezed out, and then, from that which should form the head only in the next incarnation, there arise mainly abnormal phenomena which are usually called coercive thoughts, or described by some other term as illusions. It is an interesting chapter of a higher physiology to study in lung cases the strange notions which arise in the patient in the advanced stages of the disease. This is connected with what I have just explained to you, with the abnormal pressing out of thoughts.
You will see undoubtedly that the thoughts which are pressed out under these conditions are coercive because they already contain the formative forces. The thoughts which we ought normally to have in consciousness should be pictures only, they must not contain a formative force, and should not coerce us. Throughout the long period between death and rebirth these thoughts do coerce us; then they are causative, formative. During Earth life they must not overwhelm us; they should use their power only during the transition from one life to another. This is the point to be considered.
If you now study the liver in the manner I have just explained in regard to the lungs, you will discover that there are concentrated in the same way within the liver all the forces which in the next incarnation determine the inner disposition of the brain. Again by a detour through the metabolic organism of the present life, the forces of the liver pass over, this time not into the shape of the head, but into the inner disposition of the brain. Whether or not someone is to be an acute thinker in the next incarnation depends upon how he behaves in the present one, in order that thus, upon the detour through the metabolism there may arise within the liver definite powers. But if these are ejected during the present incarnation they lead to hallucinations or to powerful visions.
You see now concretely what I pointed out yesterday more theoretically: that these things arise, having been squeezed out of the organs, then force their way into consciousness. Out of the general hallucinatory life, which should extend from the end of one incarnation into the next, they assert themselves within a single incarnation and, in this way, make their abnormal appearance.
If you study in the same manner all that is connected with the kidneys and excretory system you will discover that they concentrate within themselves the forces which, in the following incarnation, influence the head organization preferably in the field of affective emotions. The kidneys, the organs of excretion, bring forth in preparation for the next incarnation essentially that which has to do with the temperamental tendencies in the broadest sense, but by a detour through the head organization.
If these forces are squeezed out during the present incarnation they display all the nervous symptoms connected with over-excitement of the human being, inner excitement specifically, hypochondriacal symptoms, depression, in short all the conditions connected particularly with this aspect of the metabolism.
In reality everything remembered with a strong ingredient of feeling or passion is also connected with what is reflected from the kidneys. If we consider lung or liver reflections we find them to be more often memory ideas, the memories proper. If we turn to the kidney system we see what sort of lasting habits we have in this incarnation; and within the kidney system are being prepared already the temperamental tendencies in the broadest sense which, by a detour through the head organization, are intended for our next incarnation.
Let us study the heart with the same idea. For spiritual-scientific research, the heart is an extraordinarily interesting organ. You know that our trivial science is inclined to treat knowledge of the heart rather lightly. It looks upon the heart as a pump which pumps the blood through the body. Nothing more absurd can be believed, for the heart has nothing to do with pumping the blood. The blood is set in motion by the full agility of the astral body and ego, and the heart's movement is only the reflex of these activities. The movement of the blood is autonomous, and the heart only brings to expression the movement caused by these forces. The heart is in fact only the organ that manifests the movement of the blood, the heart itself having no activity in relation to this blood movement. The present natural scientists become very angry if you speak of this. Many years ago, I think in 1904 or 1905, on a journey to Stockholm I explained this to a scientist, a medical man, and he was furious about the idea that the heart should not be regarded as a pump, that the blood comes into movement through its own vitality, that the heart is simply inserted in the general blood movement, participates with its beat, and so on.
Well, something is reflected from the surface of the heart which is not a matter of memory or of habit. The life processes become spiritualized when they reach the outer surface of the heart. For what is thrown back from the heart are the pangs of conscience. That is to be taken simply, entirely as the physical aspect. The pangs of conscience which radiate into our consciousness are that ingredient in our experiences which is reflected from the heart. Spiritual cognition of the heart teaches us this.
But if we look into its interior we see gathered there forces which again stem from the entire metabolic and limb organism, and because everything connected with the heart forces is spiritualized, that is also spiritualized within it which has to do with our outer life and deeds. And however strange and paradoxical it may sound to anyone clever in the modern sense, the fact remains that what is thus prepared within the heart are the karmic propensities, the tendencies of our karma. It is revoltingly foolish to speak of the heart as a mere pumping mechanism, for the heart is the organ which, through mediation of the limb and metabolic system, carries what we understand as karma into the next incarnation.
You see, if we learn to know this organization we learn to differentiate and recognize its connection with the complete life extending beyond birth and death. We look then into the whole structure of the human being. We cannot speak of the head in relation to metamorphoses, for the head is simply cast off, its forces having completed their activity in the present incarnation. That which, however, exists in these four main systems, in lung, kidney, liver, and heart, after making a detour through the metabolic and limb system, passes over, forming our head with all its predispositions and tendencies in the next incarnation. We must seek within the organs of our body the forces which will carry over into the next incarnation what we are now experiencing.
The human metabolism is by no means a mere simmering and seething of chemicals in a retort which modern physiology describes. You need only to take a step in walking and a certain metabolic effect is produced. The metabolism then taking place is not simply the chemical process which may be examined by means of physiology and chemistry, but bears within it at the same time a nuance of morality. And this moral nuance is in fact stored up in the heart and carried over as karmic force into the next incarnation. To study the human being in his entirety means to find in him the forces which reach over beyond Earth life. Our head itself is a sphere, and this form is modified only because the rest of the organism is attached to it. Our head is formed out of the cosmos. When we go through death we must, with the spiritual and soul organization which remains to us, adapt ourselves to the whole cosmos. The whole cosmos then receives us. Up to the middle of the period between two incarnations — I have called it in one of my Mystery Dramas the Midnight Hour of Existence — up to this time, if I may so express myself, we continue to spread out into our environment, and what thus goes out from us into the surrounding world gives the astral and etheric configuration for the next incarnation.
All this, coming in essence from the cosmos, is determined by the mother. Through the father and impregnation comes that which is formed in the physical body and in the ego. This ego, as it is then, after the Midnight Hour of Being, passes over into an entirely different world. It goes over into the world from which it can then follow the path through the paternal nature. This is an extremely important process. The period up to the Midnight Hour and the period from the Midnight Hour on — both between death and rebirth — are really very different from each other. In my Vienna lecture cycle in 1914 I pictured these experiences in their inner aspect. [Rudolf Steiner, The Inner Nature of Man, Vienna, Easter 1914] If we look at them more from the outside, we must say: The ego is more cosmic in the first half, up to the Midnight Hour, and prepares within the cosmos that which then enters the next incarnation indirectly through the mother. From the Midnight Hour of Existence on up to the next birth, the ego passes over into what the old Mysteries called the netherworld; and on the detour through this netherworld it passes through impregnation. There the two poles of humanity meet as it were, through mother and father, from the upper world and from the netherworld.
What I am now saying was an intrinsic portion of the Egyptian Mysteries which came out of the old instinctive knowledge, at least so far as is known to me. The Egyptian Mysteries led particularly to knowledge of what they then called the upper and the lower gods, the upper and the underworld of gods; and it may be said that in the act of impregnation a polar equilibrium of the upper and the underworld of gods is brought about. The ego between death and rebirth goes first through the upper and then through the lower world. In olden times there was not the strange nuance which many connect today with upper and netherworld. People of today nearly always look upon the upper as the good and the netherworld as the bad. This nuance was not originally connected with these worlds; they were simply the two polarities which had to participate in the general world creation. Humanity in the direct experience of the upper world viewed it more as the world of light, the netherworld more as the world of gravity. Gravity and light were the two polarities when expressed exoterically, and thus you see that such things may be described concretely.
In regard to the other organs, I have told you that the overflowing of organic forces may become hallucinatory life, especially that which is squeezed from the liver system. But if the heart squeezes out its contents it is really the collected forces, ejected and brought into consciousness, which call forth in the next incarnation that strange urge to live out one's karma. If we observe how karma works, it may be said that a figurative description from the human side might represent it as a kind of hunger and its assuagement.
That must be understood as follows: Let us proceed first from the standpoint of ordinary life. Let us take a striking case: A woman meets a man and begins to love him. As that is usually regarded, it is somewhat as though you were to cut out a small piece from the Sistine Madonna — for example, a little finger from the Jesus boy — and gaze at it. You have a piece of the Sistine Madonna, but you do not see anything. Neither do you see anything if you merely consider the fact that a woman meets a man and begins to love him. The matter is not like that. You must trace it backwards. Before the woman met the man she had been in other places in the world; before that she had been somewhere else, and still earlier somewhere else again. You can find all sorts of reasons why the woman went from one place to another. There is sense in it and, although it is naturally hidden in the subconscious, there is a connection throughout, and we can, by going back into childhood, follow the way. The woman in question — and this is directed at no one in particular — follows the path from the beginning which culminates in the event under discussion. The human being at birth hungers to do what he does, and he does not give up until he satisfies this hunger. The pressing forward to a karmic event is the result of such an obscure spiritual feeling of hunger. One is driven to it, as it were, by the whole self. The human being has forces within him which lead to later events, in spite of the freedom which nevertheless exists, but acts in a different field. Well, the forces which manifest in this way as hunger, leading to karmic satisfaction, are concentrated in the heart; and when they are pressed out prematurely and enter the consciousness during the present incarnation, they may create pictures which produce a stimulus, and then frenzy results.
Frenzy is nothing but the outburst in this incarnation of a karmic force intended for the subsequent incarnation. Think how differently we must accustom ourselves to look upon world events, having understood these connections. People put questions such as: Why did God create frenzy? Frenzy has plenty of good reasons for existence, but everything working in this world may appear at the wrong time, and the displaced manifestation, due in this case to Luciferic forces — everything premature in the world is brought about by Luciferic forces — this precipitate appearance of karmic forces intended for a later incarnation produces frenzy.
You see, what is to be carried over and continued in later incarnations may really be studied in the abnormalities of the present life. You may easily imagine what an important difference exists between what remains in our heart throughout our entire incarnation, and the condition it will be in after it has gone through the long development between death and rebirth, to appear then in a new life in the outer behavior of a human being.
However, if you look into your own heart you can see pretty clearly, though of course only in latency, not in a finished picture, what you will do in your next life. We need not confine ourselves to the general statement: what will take effect karmically in the next life is prepared in this one, but we can point directly to the receptacle in which the karma of subsequent incarnations is stored. These are the things which must be concretely regarded if we wish to practice genuine spiritual science.
You may imagine what enormous importance these things will attain when they are studied and made a part of the general education. What does present medicine know of the possibility of a liver or heart disease when it does not recognize the most important fact of all, that is, the actual purpose of these organs! And it does not know that. It does not even discover a correct connection between excitement hallucinations and the kidney system, nor of the quiet hallucinations, those which simply appear and are present as I have just explained, and are, so to say, liver hallucinations. Hallucinations which appear as though crawling on a human being so that the victim wants to brush them off come from the kidney system. These are the excitement hallucinations which have to do with the emotions and temperament. From such symptoms a much more exact diagnosis can be made than by the means in ordinary use today. And diagnoses based upon purely external evidence are very uncertain in comparison with what they would be were these things studied with the above-mentioned symptoms in mind.
Now, all these things are connected with the outer world. The lungs, as an inner organ or organic system, contain the compressed coercive thoughts with all that we receive and concentrate in that organ through perception of outer objects. The liver has an entirely different relation to the outer world. Because the lungs preserve the thought material, they are quite differently shaped. They are more closely connected with the earth element. The liver, which conceals in particular the quietly appearing hallucinations, is connected with the element of water; and the kidney system, paradoxical as it sounds, belongs to the element of air. One thinks naturally that this ought to be the case with the lungs, but the lungs as organs are connected with the earth element, though not with it alone. On the other hand, the kidney system — as an organ — belongs to the element of air, and the heart system to that of warmth, being entirely formed out of that element. Hence, this element which is the spiritual one is also the one which takes up the predisposition of our karma into the delicate warmth structures of the warmth organism.
Since the human being as a whole stands in a relation with the outer world, you can readily realize that the lungs have a particular relation to the outer world in connection with the earth element, and the liver in regard to the watery element. If you examine the earthly qualities of plants you will find in them the remedies for diseases which originate in the lungs. (This is of course to be considered in its broadest implications.) If you take what circulates in the plant, its circulation of juices, you will have the remedy for all disturbances connected with the liver. Thus a study of the reciprocal relation of the organs with the outer world offers in fact the foundation for a rational therapy.
Our present therapy is a jumble of empiric notes. One can reach a really rational therapy only by studying in this way the reciprocal relations between the domain of the human organs and the outer world. Of course the voluptuous longing for subjective mysticism must then be overcome. If the aim is to reach no farther than the well-known “little divine flame” of Meister Eckhardt, and so on; if only the outpouring of inner delight is the aim, and the beholding of beautiful images without penetrating this element to the definite configuration of the inner organs, then important therapeutic knowledge cannot be acquired. For this knowledge is gained upon the path of genuine mysticism which advances to the concrete reality of the inner human organism.
We learn, by the detour through this inner knowledge, to discern the passage through the incarnations. In just the same way, when we regard the outer world, in penetrating this carpet of the sense impressions, we attain to the spiritual. We rise into the world of the spiritual hierarchies, which we did not reach through the detour of inner mysticism. The hierarchies are found through a more profound contemplation of the outer world. Upon this path there follow results which may be first expressed by analogies; yet they are not mere analogies, for there exist deeper connections and relations.
We breathe, do we not? And I recently reckoned for you the number of inhalations during twenty-four hours. If we count 18 breaths to the minute, we have in an hour 60 x 18, and in 24 hours 25,920 inhalations in a day and night.
Let us take another rhythm in the human being, the rhythm of day and night. When you awake in the morning you draw into your physical and etheric bodies the astral body and ego. This is also breathing. In the morning you inhale the astral body and ego, and when you fall asleep at night you exhale them again; thus one complete breath in 24 hours, in one day. That is 365 such breaths in a year. And take the average age of a human being, 72 years, and you have approximately the same result. If I had not started with 72, but somewhat lower, I should have reached the same figure. That is to say, if you take the entire earthly life of a human being, and count each single day, each falling asleep and awakening, as one breath, you have then in an entire life as many inhalations and exhalations of the astral body and ego as you have in and out breathings in 24 hours. You make in the course of your life as many in and out breathings of the astral body and ego as you make daily in your in and out breathing of air. These rhythms correspond absolutely, and show us how man is fitted into the cosmos. The life of one day from sunrise to sunset, as a single circuit, corresponds with an inner sunrise and sunset that lasts from birth to death.
You see, the human being becomes a part of the whole world organism; and I should like to close these considerations by pointing out to you an idea, asking you to think about it rather thoroughly, and to make it a subject of meditation. Science today postulates a cosmic process, and within this cosmic process the Earth once arose. In the end the Earth, when entropy is fulfilled, will be consumed in cosmic heat. If today we form for ourselves a concept such as the Copernican, or any modification of it, then we take into consideration only the forces which formed the Earth out of the primeval nebula, and human life really becomes a sort of fifth wheel on the wagon; for the geologist and the astronomer do not consider mankind. It does not occur to them to seek in any sense within mankind itself the cause of a future world organism. The human being is everywhere present in this cosmic process, but he is the fifth wheel on the wagon. The world process takes its course, but he has nothing to do with it. Consider it in this way: the world process comes to an end, ceases, is dispersed in space. It stops, and the causes of what ensues are always within the human being himself, inside his skin; there they find their continuation.
The inception of what is now the world lies far back within man of primeval ages. It is thus in reality. The books of ancient wisdom tell us this in their own language, and the saying of Christ-Jesus points to these things: Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. All that constitutes the material world is dissolved, but that which issues from the spirit and soul and is expressed in words survives the destruction of the Earth and lives on into the future. The causes of the future exist within us, and need not be investigated by geologists. We should seek them among the inner forces of our organism which pass over into our next Earth-life first, but then continue into other metamorphoses. Hence when you search for the future of the world you must look within man. Everything external perishes utterly.
The nineteenth century erected a barrier against this knowledge, and this barrier is called: the law of the conservation of energy. This law carries forward the forces of man's environment; but all these will dissolve and disappear. Only that which arises within humanity itself can create the future. The law of the conservation of energy is the most false imaginable. In reality its result is simply to make mankind a fifth wheel in the creative process of the cosmos. Not the statement of the law of the conservation of energy is correct, but that other saying: Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. These two are in diametrical contrast; and it is simply thoughtlessness when today certain members of this or that positive denomination wish to be believers in the Bible and, at the same time, adherents of the theories of modern physics. This is sheer dishonesty which claims today to be something culturally creative. This dishonesty must be driven from the field of creative culture — which it actually opposes — if we are to emerge from these forces of decline into ascending powers.