Wednesday, November 5, 2014
The Nature of Original Sin
Rudolf Steiner, December 8, 1908:
We will keep to our set programme, and in the group meetings this winter we will work through a series of apparently widely divergent aspects of human health and illness. And later on these various aspects will group themselves into a whole and culminate in an understanding of certain things towards which we will gradually work our way. In the first lecture of this series we made a kind of classification of illness types, and last time we attempted to portray the text of The Ten Commandments. All that goes beyond this text will follow in the course of the coming meetings. Our main concern last week was to acquaint ourselves with the content and the actual trend of the Commandments. Today we want to speak of other aspects that will not appear to be directly connected with the preceding or following talks, for they are a series of aspects the comprehensive meaning of which will not dawn on us until later.
We will start today by looking at an important moment in man's earthly evolution. Those of you who have been working in the anthroposophical movement for some time have long been familiar with it; the others will gradually accustom themselves to this way of thinking.
The moment in human evolution we want to recall lies a long way back. If we go back through post-Atlantean times and then through Atlantean times as far as ancient Lemuria we come to that moment when the division of the sexes took place in the kingdom of man on earth. You know that before this we cannot speak of such a division of the sexes in the human kingdom. I want to emphasise that we are not speaking of the very first appearance altogether of two sexes in earthly evolution or in evolution as a whole, in so far as it comprises the kingdoms that are around us. Phenomena that doubtlessly belong to bisexuality occur earlier. But what we call the human kingdom did not divide into two sexes until Lemurian times. Prior to that the human shape was formed differently, and both sexes were in a way contained within it undifferentiated. We can form an external picture of the transition from dual sexuality to the division into sexes if we visualise how the earlier dual sexed human being gradually developed in such a way that in one group of individuals the characteristics of the one sex, the female, became more pronounced, whilst in the other group the characteristics of the male sex developed more strongly. This was still a long time before the sexes separated, when there was progressive development in one direction or the other, at a time when man still lived in a very insubstantial material body.
We have focused our attention on this moment in time to start with, because we want to enquire into the meaning of the arising of the two sexes. It is only when we have a spiritual scientific basis that we can enquire into such a meaning, for physical evolution receives its meaning from higher worlds. As long as we are in the physical world, if we consider it let us say philosophically, it is somewhat childish to talk of purposes. And Goethe and others were right to make fun of the people who talked of the purposes in nature, as though nature in her wisdom had created cork so that man could make stoppers with it. This is a childish way of looking at things and can only lead to our missing the main point at issue. This view would be similar to thinking of a clock as having little demonic beings behind it wise enough to make the hands go round. In actual fact if we want to know how the clock works we must go to the mind that produced it, namely the clockmaker. And similarly, when we want to understand purpose in our world, we must step beyond the physical world and enter the spiritual. Thus purpose, meaning and goal are words that we can apply to evolution only when we consider them on a spiritual scientific basis. It is in this sense that we ask the question: What is the meaning behind the two sexes gradually developing and then inter-working?
The meaning will become clear to you when you see what we call fructification, the reciprocal influence of the sexes, (as) replacing something else that had previously existed. You must not think that fructification appeared for the first time at the moment when the division into sexes occurred in human evolution. That was not so. We must picture to ourselves that in the times preceding bisexuality this fructification took place in quite a different way. Clairvoyant vision can see that there was a time in mankind's earthly evolution when fructification happened in connection with the intake of food, and those beings which in those early times were male-female received fructifying forces with their food. This food was still of course of a much more delicate nature, and when human beings partook of nourishment in those times there was something else contained in these nourishing fluids which gave these beings the possibility of bringing forth another being of like kind. You must realise, however, that the nourishing fluids taken from the substance of their surroundings did not always contain these fructifying fluids, but only at quite definite times. This depended on the changes that took place, comparable to today's seasonal changes, changes of climate, and so on. The nourishing foods imbibed from the surroundings by these beings of bisexuality had the power of fructification as well at quite definite times.
If with clairvoyant consciousness we look further back still, we find another peculiarity in the propagation of ancient times. What you know (of) today as the difference between the various individualities, which expresses itself in the multiformity of life in our present cycle of humanity, these differences did not exist before the arising of the sexes. A great uniformity was there then. The beings that arose then were similar to one another and to their forefathers. All these beings that were still undivided into two sexes were outwardly very similar, and their characters were more or less the same too. That men were so much alike did not have the disadvantage in those times that it would have at the present time. Just imagine how infinitely dull human life would be if people were to come into the world today with identical appearance and character, and how little could actually happen in human life, as everybody would want to do the same thing as everybody else. But in ancient times this was not the case. When man was still as it were more etheric, more spiritual, and not so firmly embedded in matter, then at birth and on into childhood human beings were really very similar to one another, and the teachers would not have needed to notice whether the one child was a scamp and the other a gentle little being. Although the people were different in character at different times, they were in a certain way all fundamentally alike. Each person, however, did not remain the same throughout his life. Because man was still in a softer, more spiritual body he was much more open to the permanent influences coming from the environment, so that in those ancient times these influences brought about tremendous changes in him. Man became in a certain way individualised because, having a nature as soft as wax, he became more or less an impress of his surroundings. At a quite definite time in his life, which would coincide nowadays with puberty, it became possible for him to let everything that happened in his environment work upon him. The difference between the various times that were comparable to our present day seasons was very great, and it was of great importance to a man whether he lived in one part of the earth or another. If he traveled just a short distance over the earth, that had a great influence on him. If people go on a long journey nowadays, however much they see, they return on the whole the same as when they went away, unless they are very impressionable. This was different in olden times. Everything had the greatest influence on people, and so long as they had a body of soft material they could actually become gradually individualised in the course of life. Then this possibility ceased.
Something further that reveals itself to us is that the earth itself became denser and denser, and to the same extent as the substance, let us say the earthy nature of the earth intensified, this uniformity became harmful. For this gradually reduced mans capacity to change. He became as it were very dense at birth. This is the reason why men nowadays change so little during their life. And this led Schopenhauer to think that men were absolutely incapable of bringing about any basic changes in their character. The reason for this is that men are embodied in such dense substance. They cannot easily work on the substance or change it. If, as once was the case, men could still alter their limbs at will, and make them long or short according to their need, then man would, of course, still be very impressionable. Then he would really be able to take into his individuality the power to change himself Man always has an inner contact with his environment, especially his human environment. To make this quite clear I would like to tell you something that you may not have noticed before but which is nevertheless true.
Imagine you are sitting facing someone and speaking to him. We are referring to ordinary human relationships in the normal course of life and not to someone who is specially deeply schooled in occultism. Two people are sitting together, one talking and the other just listening. It is generally imagined that the one who is listening is doing nothing. But that is not true. In things like this we still see the influence of the environment. It is not noticeable to outer perception, but inwardly it is very clear, in fact striking, that the one who is merely listening is joining in everything the other one is doing.
He even imitates the movements of the vocal cords, and speaks with the speaker. Everything you hear you also say with a gentle movement of the vocal cords and the other speech organs. It makes a great difference whether the speaker has a croaky voice and those are the movements you have to imitate, or whether he has a pleasant voice. In this respect the human being does everything the other person is doing, and as this is really happening all the time, it has a great influence on a man's whole development, though only in this limited respect. If you imagine this last remains of man's participation with his surroundings vastly increased, you get an idea of how the man of ancient times lived and felt with his environment. Man's faculty of imitation, for instance, was developed on a tremendous scale. If one person made a gesture, then everyone else made the same gesture too. Only a few insignificant things in certain particular directions remain of this today, like for instance when one person yawns, other people do too. But remember that in these ancient times it was entirely a question of their having a dim consciousness with which this power of imitation was connected.
Now as the earth and everything upon it became denser and denser man became less and less capable of transforming himself through the influence of his environment. In comparatively late Atlantean times a sunrise, for instance, had a powerfully creative effect upon man, because he was completely open to its influence and underwent sublime inner experiences, which, if they continually recurred, changed him tremendously in the course of his life. This diminished more and more and gradually disappeared altogether the more humanity progressed.
In Lemurian times, before the moon left the earth, mankind was in a dangerous predicament. It was in danger of becoming rigid to the point of mummification. Through the gradual departure of the moon from the evolution of the earth this danger was averted. At the same time as the moon departed, however, the division into sexes took place, and with this division came a new impulse for the individualisation of man. If it had been possible for human beings to propagate without the two sexes, this individualising would not have taken place. The present diversity among men is due to the inter-working of the sexes. If there was only the female element, human individuality would be extinguished, and men would all become alike. Through the co-operation of the male element human beings are individual characters from birth. So the significance and meaning of the inter-working of the sexes is to be found in the fact that through the separating off of the male element the individualising of man at birth has replaced the old kind of individualisation. What was achieved in earlier times by the whole surrounding environment was compressed into the inter-working of the sexes, so that individualisation was pushed back to the arising of the physical human being at birth. That is the significance of the inter-working of the two sexes. Individualisation happens by way of the effect of the male sex on the female.
Now this came about at the expense of something else, and when I describe the situation I beg you to take it as applying strictly to human beings, for when we are based on spiritual science we must not assume that what applies to man also applies to animals. Health and illness, in their more delicate aspects, are subject to quite different causes in human beings than in animals. So what is being said applies solely to man, and we will begin by looking at the finer aspects.
Imagine yourself actually there in those ancient times when man was entirely given up to his surroundings, and the surroundings entered into him and on the one hand fructified him with the nourishing juices it offered him, and on the other hand he became individualised through its influence upon him. Now we know when we base ourselves on spiritual science that everything around us which influences us, be it light or sound, heat or cold, hardness or softness or this or that colour, is the revelation, the external expression of something spiritual. And in those ancient times man did not at all perceive external sense impressions, he perceived the spiritual. When he looked up to the sun he did not see the physical ball of the sun but that which is preserved in the Persian religion as ‘Ahura Mazdao, the Great Aura’. The spiritual part, all the spiritual sun beings appeared to him, and it was the same with the air, water and the whole environment. Today when you drink in the beauty of a picture, you can have something that is as it were distilled from it, only in those times it was far richer. If we wanted to speak as they did in those times we would not be able to say: ‘This or that tastes in some particular way’; but we would have to say: ‘This or that spirit does me good!’ This is what it was like when men were eating — an activity quite different from what it is today — and quite different, too, was the time when the forces of fructification were received: it was a phenomenon of the spiritual environment. Spirits overshadowed man and stimulated him to bring forth his kind, and this was also experienced and seen as a spiritual process.
Then little by little it became impossible for men to see the spiritual in their environment. It became more and more veiled from sight, especially during their day consciousness. Little by little men lost sight of the spirit behind things, and they only perceived the external objects which are the outer expression of these. They learnt to forget the spiritual background, and the influence of the spirit grew less and less the denser man's body became. Through this densification man became a more and more independent being and shut himself off from his spiritual surroundings. The further we go back into these ancient times the more spiritually godlike was this influence that came from the surroundings. Human beings were really organised in such a way that they were a likeness of the spiritual beings hovering round them in their environment; images of the gods who in older times were present on earth.
Through the inter-working of the two sexes in particular this was lost more and more, and the spiritual world withdrew from men's sight. Men beheld the sense world more and more clearly. We must picture this situation vividly: Just imagine, in those times man was fructified from the spiritual world of the gods. It was the gods themselves who gave forth their forces and made men like themselves. That is why in those ancient times what we call illness did not exist. There was no inner disposition to illness, and it could not be there because everything that was in man and that worked upon him came from the health giving divine-spiritual cosmos. The divine-spiritual beings are full of health, and in those days they made men in their image. Man was healthy. But the nearer he came to the time when the inter-working of the sexes came about and together with it the withdrawal of the spiritual worlds, and the more independent and individual man became, the more the health of divine-spiritual beings withdrew from him and something else took its place. What happened in reality was that this inter-working of the sexes was accompanied by passions and instincts aroused in the physical world. We must look for this incitement in the physical world after human beings had reached the point when the two sexes were sensually attracted to one another. This was a long time after the sexes already existed. The effect of the sexes one upon the other — even in Atlantean times — happened when physical consciousness was actually asleep, during the night. It was not until the middle of Atlantean times that what we call the attraction of the sexes began, what we might call passionate love; that is, sensual love that mingled with pure super-sensual or platonic love. There would be much more platonic love if sensual love did not enter into it. And whereas everything that formerly helped to form man came from the divine-spiritual environment it now came more from the passions and instincts of the two sexes working one upon the other. The kind of sensual longing that is stimulated by seeing the outer appearance of the opposite sex is bound up with the working together of the two sexes. And therefore something was incorporated into man at birth that is connected with the particular kind of passions and feelings human beings have in physical life. Whilst in earlier times man still received what was in him from the divine-spiritual beings of his surroundings, he now acquired something through the act of fructification which, as an independent, self-contained being, he had taken into himself from the world of the senses.
After human beings had been separated into two sexes they passed on to their descendants what they themselves experienced in the sense world. So we now have two types of human being. These two types live in the physical world and perceive the world through their senses, and this leads them to develop various externally aroused impulses and longings, especially those arising from their own externally stimulated sensual attraction to one another. What now confronts man in an external way has been drawn down into the sphere of the independent human being, and it is no longer in full harmony with the divine-spiritual cosmos. That is imparted to men through the act of fructification, it is implanted into them. And this worldly life of theirs, received not from the world of the gods but from the external side of the divine-spiritual world, is passed on to their offspring through fructification. If a man is bad in this respect, then he passes worse qualities on to his descendants than another person who is good and pure.
And this is the true meaning of ‘original sin’. That is the concept of original sin. Original sin is brought about by man coming to the point of transferring to his offspring his own individual experiences in the physical world. Every time the sexes glow with passion the ingredients of the two sexes combine in the human being who is descending from the astral world. When a human being incarnates he comes down from the Devachanic world and forms his astral sphere in accordance with his particular individuality. Something of what belongs to the astral bodies of his parents — their impulses, passions and desires — combines with this astral sphere so that he thereby shares in the experiences of his forefathers. What descends through the generations in this way, what is actually acquired as human attribute through the generations and is handed down as such, is what we have to understand as the concept of original sin. And now we come to something else: an entirely new impetus entered humanity through the individualisation of man.
In earlier times the divine-spiritual beings — and they were absolutely healthy — made man in their own likeness. But now man, as an independent being, detached himself from the all-embracing harmony of divine-spiritual health. In a certain respect he set himself up in his individualism against the whole of this divine-spiritual environment. Imagine that you have a being developing entirely under the influence of his environment. What he expresses will be the environment. Imagine, though, that he shuts himself off in his skin, then in addition to the characteristics of his environment he has his own characteristics as well. And indeed, with the division into sexes men became individual and developed their own individual characteristics. And there was contradiction between the great divine-spiritual harmony with its health and the individualism of man. And through this individuality continuing to work, through it becoming a really effective factor, the possibility of becoming ill has entered into human evolution. This is the moment when the possibility of illness first occurred in human evolution, for it is bound up with the individualisation of man. When man was still connected with the divine-spiritual world the possibility of illness did not exist. It came about at the same time as individualisation, and that is the same time as the division into sexes. This holds good for human evolution, and you must not apply it in the same way to the animal world.
Illness is indeed a result of these processes I have just described, and you can see that it is really the astral body in particular that is originally influenced in this way. The human being draws the astral body into his organism himself to begin with as he comes down from the Devachanic world, and there it encounters what flows into it through the inter-working of the two sexes. So the astral body is the part of man that shows most clearly the non-divine. The etheric body is more divine, for man does not have so great an influence on that, and the physical body is the most divine of all; it is God's temple, for it is completely withdrawn from man's influence. Whereas in his astral body man seeks all kinds of pleasures and can have all sorts of desires that have a harmful effect on the physical body, even today his physical body is still such a wonderful instrument that it can withstand heart poisons and other harmful influences of the astral body for decades. And so we have to admit that because of all these things that occur in the human astral body it has become the worst part of man. Whoever looks deeper into human nature will find that the deepest causes of illness lie in the astral body and in its bad effects on the etheric body, and by way of the etheric body on the physical body. Now we will understand a number of things that cannot be understood otherwise. I will now speak of ordinary mineral medicaments.
A medicament from the mineral kingdom works in the first place on man's physical body. Now what is the significance of man giving his physical body a mineral medicament? Please note that we are not going to speak of any plant medicaments but purely mineral ones, what is prescribed in the way of metals and salts and so on. Suppose someone takes one or another mineral medicament. Something very remarkable is then seen by clairvoyant consciousness. This clairvoyant consciousness can carry out the following feat — it always has the ability to divert its attention away from something. It is possible to divert the attention from the whole physical body. Then you still see the etheric body, the astral body and the ego aura. You have suggested away the physical body through strongly negative attention. Now if someone has taken a mineral medicament, you can remove everything from your attention and just direct your clairvoyant vision to the mineral or metal that he now has within him. That is, you suggest away everything in him of the nature of bone, muscle, blood and so on, and turn your attention solely to the particular mineral substance that has permeated him. Something very remarkable presents itself to clairvoyant consciousness. This mineral substance has become very thinly diffused and has itself acquired the human form. You have before you a human form, a human phantom consisting of the substance taken in by the man. Supposing the person has taken antimony, you have before you a human form of very finely diffused antimony, and it is the same with every mineral medicament a man takes. You create a new man within you consisting of this mineral substance; you incorporate it. Now let us ask ourselves what the purpose and significance of this is?
The significance is that if you were to leave a man as he is and withhold from him the medicine he really needs, then because of certain bad forces in his astral body the astral body would work on the etheric body and the latter on the physical body and gradually destroy it. You have put a double into the physical body. This works to prevent the physical body obeying the influences of the astral body. Imagine you have a bean plant. If you give it a prop it winds up it and is no longer blown by the wind. This double made out of the incorporated substance is a prop like this for the man. It attaches the physical body to itself and removes it from the influences of the astral and etheric body. In this way you make the human being's physical body independent as it were of his astral and etheric body. This is the effect of a mineral medicament. But you will immediately see the bad side of it, for it has a very serious drawback. Since you withdraw the physical body artificially from its connection with the other bodies you have weakened the influence of the astral and etheric body on the physical body and have made the physical body independent. And the oftener you take such medicines the more the influence of the astral and the etheric body disappears, making the physical body a hardened, independent being, subject to its own laws. Imagine what people are doing who take mineral medicaments of this sort all their lives. A man who has in course of time taken a lot of these mineral medicaments has within him a phantom of all these minerals, a round dozen of them. It is as though the physical body were surrounded by solid walls. And what kind of influence can the astral and etheric body still have on it? Such a person is actually dragging his body around with him and has very little power over it. If a man who has been dosing himself in this way for a long time applies for treatment to someone who wants to treat him psychologically and work especially on his finer bodies, he will discover that he has become more or less unreceptive to psychological influences. For by making his physical body independent in the first place, he has deprived it of the possibility of being affected by anything that might take place in his finer bodies. And this has happened mainly because the human being has so many phantoms in him that are not in harmony, that they pull him hither and thither. If the human being has deprived himself of the possibility of working from out of his soul and spirit, he need not be surprised if spiritual treatment is not very successful either. In cases of psychological treatment, therefore, you should always give consideration to the kind of person the patient is. If he has made his astral or etheric body powerless by making his physical body independent, then it will be very difficult to help such a person by means of spiritual treatment.
So now we understand how mineral substances affect a man. They create doubles in him that preserve his physical body and remove it from the possible harmful effects of his astral or etheric body. Because materialistic medicine is ignorant of man's higher members, almost all our present-day medicine works in the direction of treating the physical body in some way or another only.
We have begun today by looking at the effects of mineral substances. Some time we shall have to speak of the effects of plant forces and animal substances on the human organism, and then we shall go on to those influences or remedies that work from one being to another in a psychic or spiritual way. But you will see that it is essential for our studies for us to acquire once again such concepts as the concept of original sin and understand it correctly. With certain things nowadays people just do not see what lies in front of them and show no understanding for them at all.