Tuesday, March 31, 2015

13 ways of looking at my guru. #5: The Great Figure

"The Great Figure" by William Carlos Williams

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

The Twelve Human Senses and the Seven Life-Sustaining Processes


The Riddle of Humanity. Lecture 7 of 15.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, August 12, 1916:

When we speak of the great world and the small world, of the macrocosm and the microcosm, we are referring to the whole universe and to the human being. Goethe, for example, spoke in these terms in Faust. He called the whole cosmos ‘the great world’, and the human being ‘the small world.’ We have already had many occasions to observe how manifold and complicated are the relationships between man and the cosmos. Today I would like to remind you of some of the things we have spoken about at various times, connecting these with a consideration of humanity's relationship to the cosmos. You will remember that when we spoke of the senses and of what man, as the possessor of his senses, is, we said that the senses lead us back to the ancient Saturn phase of evolution. That is where we find the first impulses for the development of the senses, the first seeds of the senses. You will find these things described again and again in previous lecture cycles. Now, obviously, the early seed-like phases of the senses during the Saturn period are not to be imagined as if they already resembled the senses as we know them today. That would be foolish. As a matter of fact, it is extremely difficult to imagine what the senses were like during ancient Saturn development. It is already difficult enough to picture the senses as they were during the ancient Moon period. Even that far back in time they were thoroughly different from the senses we know now. Today I would like to throw some light on what the senses were like during the ancient Moon phase of evolution. By that time they were already in their third phase of development — Saturn, Sun, Moon.
As regards their form, the senses of today are much more dead than were the senses of Old Moon. At that period the sense organs were much livelier, much more full of life. Because of this they were not suited to provide the foundations for fully conscious human life, but were only suited to the dreamy clairvoyance of Moon man. Such clairvoyance excluded the possibility of freedom. There was no freedom to act or to follow impulses and desires. Humanity had to wait for the Earth phase of evolution before it could develop the impulse to freedom. Thus, the senses during Old Moon were not the basis for the kind of consciousness we now have, but rather for a consciousness that was both more dull and more imaginative than ours. As I have often explained, it was much more like today's dream consciousness.
People generally assume that we have five senses. We know, however, that this is not justified, but that, in truth, we must distinguish twelve human senses. There are seven further senses that must be included with the usual five, since they are equally relevant to earthly, human existence. You know the usual list of the senses: sense of sight, sense of hearing, sense of taste, sense of smell, and sense of feeling. The last of these is often called the sense of touch and is mixed together with the sense of warmth, although more recently there are some who distinguish the one from the other. In earlier times these two completely distinct senses were mixed together, confusedly, as a single sense. The sense of touch tells whether something is hard or soft, which has nothing to do with the sense of warmth. And so, if one really has a sense — if I may use that word — for the way humanity relates to the rest of the world, one will have to distinguish twelve senses. Today I would like, once again, to describe these twelve senses.
The sense of touch is the sense that relates us to the most material aspect of the external world. With our sense of touch we, so to speak, bump into the external world; through touch we are continually involved in a coarse kind of exchange with the external world. Nevertheless, the process of touching takes place within the boundaries of our skin. Our skin collides with an object. What then happens to give us a perception of the object must, as a matter of course, take place within the boundaries of our skin, within our body. Thus, what happens in touching, in the process of touch, happens inside us.
The sense that we shall call the sense of life involves processes that lie still more deeply embedded in the human organism. This sense exists within us, but we are accustomed to ignore it, for the life sense manifests itself indistinctly from within the human organism. Nevertheless, throughout all our daily waking hours, the harmonious collaboration of all the bodily organs expresses itself through the life sense, through the state of life in us. We usually pay no attention to it because we expect it as our natural right. We expect to be filled with a certain feeling of well-being, with the feeling of being alive. If our feeling of aliveness is diminished, we try to recover a little so that our feeling of life is refreshed again. This vital enlivening or damping down is something we are aware of, but generally we are too accustomed to the feeling of being alive to be constantly aware of it. The life sense, however, is a distinct sense in its own right. Through it we feel the life in us, precisely as we see what is around us with our eyes. We sense ourselves through the life sense just as we see with our eyes. Without this internal sense of life we would know nothing about our own vital state.
What can be called the sense of movement is still more inward, more physically inward, more bodily inward. Through feelings of well-being or of discontent the life sense makes us conscious of the state of the whole organism. Having a sense of movement, on the other hand, means being able to be aware of the way parts of the body move with respect to each another. I do not refer here to movements of the whole person — that is something else. I am referring to movements such as the bending of an arm or leg, or the movements of the larynx when you speak. The sense of movement makes you aware of all these inner movements that entail changes in the position of separate parts of the organism.
A further sense that must be distinguished is the sense we will call balance. We do not normally pay any attention to it. If we get dizzy and fall, or if we feel faint, it is because the sense of balance has been interrupted. This is exactly analogous to the way the sense of sight is interrupted when we close our eyes. When we relate ourselves to the world, orientating ourselves with respect to above and below and to right and left so that we feel upright, we are employing our sense of balance, just as we employ the sense of movement when we are aware of internal changes of position. Our sense of balance, therefore, is due to a distinct sense. Balance is a proper sense in its own right.
The senses mentioned so far involve processes that remain within the bounds of the organism. If you touch something, you have collided with an external object, it is true, but you do not get inside it. If you come up against a needle you will notice that it is pointed, but of course you do not get inside the point. Instead, you prick yourself, and that no longer has anything to do with touching. Everything that happens, happens within the boundaries of your organism. You can touch an object, to be sure, but everything you experience through touch takes place within your skin. Thus, experiences of touch are internal to the body. What you experience through the life sense is likewise internal to the body. It does not show you what is going on somewhere outside you; it lets you look within. Equally internal is the sense of movement: it is not concerned with how I can walk about in the world, but with the internal movements I make when I move part of myself or when I speak. When I move about externally there is also internal movement. But the two things must be distinguished from one another: on the one hand there is my forward movement, on the other, there is the movement of parts of me, which is internal. So the sense of movement gives us internal perceptions, as do the senses of life and balance. In balance, too, you perceive nothing external — rather, you perceive yourself in your state of balance.
The first sense to take you outside yourself is the sense of smell. With smell you already come into contact with the external world. But you will have the feeling that smell does not take you very far outside yourself. You do not experience much about the external world through the sense of smell. Furthermore, people do not want to have anything to do with the intimate connection with the world that a developed sense of smell can give. Dogs are much more interested. People are willing to use the sense of smell to perceive the world, but they do not want the world to come very close. It is not a sense through which people want to get very involved with the outer world.
With the sense of taste we get more deeply involved with the world. When we taste sugar or salt, the experience of its qualities is already very inward. What is external is taken inward — more so than with smell. So there is already more of a connection established between inner world and outer world.
The sense of sight involves us even more with the external world. In seeing we take into ourselves more of the properties of the external world than we do with the sense of smell. And we take yet more into ourselves with the sense of warmth. What we see, what we perceive through the sense of sight, remains more foreign to us than what we perceive through the sense of warmth. The relationship to the outer world perceived through the sense of warmth is already a very intimate one. When we are aware of the warmth or the coldness of an object we also experience this warmth or coldness — we experience it along with the object. On the other hand, in experiencing the sweetness of sugar, for example, one is not so involved with the object. In the case of sugar we are interested in what it becomes as we taste it, not in what it is out there in the world. Such a distinction ceases to be possible with the sense of warmth. With warmth we are already participating in what is within the object perceived.
When we turn to the sense of hearing, the relation to the external world acquires another degree of intimacy. A sound tells us very much indeed about the inner structure of an object — more than what the sense of warmth can tell, and very much more than what sight reveals. Sight only gives us pictures, so to speak, pictures of the outer surface. But when a metal resonates it tells us what is going on within it. The sense of warmth also reaches into the object. When I take hold of something, a piece of ice, say, I am sure that the ice is cold through and through, not just on its outer surface. When I look at something, I can see only the colors at its outer limits, on its surface; but when I make an object resonate, the sounds bring me into a particular relationship with what is within it.
And the intimacy is greater still if the sounds contain meaning. Thus we arrive at the sense of tone: perhaps it would be better to call it the sense of speech or the sense of word. It is simply nonsense to think that perception of words is the same as perception of sounds. The two are as distinct and different from one another as are taste and sight. To be sure, sounds open the inner world of objects to our perception, but these sounds must become much more inward before they can become meaningful words. Therefore it is a step into a deeper intimacy with the world when we proceed from perceiving sounds through the sense of hearing to perceiving meaning through the sense of the word.
And yet, when I perceive a mere word I am still not so intimately connected with the object, with the external thing, as I am connected with it when I perceive the thoughts behind the words. At this stage, most people cease to make any distinctions. But there is a distinction between merely perceiving words and actually perceiving the thoughts behind the words. After all, you still can perceive words when a phonograph — or writing, for that matter — has separated them from their thinker. But a sense that goes deeper than the usual word sense must come into play before I can come into a living relationship with the being that is forming the words, before I can enter through the words and transpose myself directly into the being that is doing the thinking and forming the concepts. That further step calls for the sense I would like to call the sense of thought.
And there is another sense that gives an even more intimate sense of the outer world than the sense of thought. It is the sense that enables you to feel another being as yourself and that makes it possible to be aware of yourself while at one with another being. That is what happens if one turns one's thinking, one's living thinking, towards the being of another. Through living thinking one can behold the of this being: the sense of the I.
You see, it really is necessary to distinguish between the ego sense, which makes you aware of the  of another person, and the awareness of yourself. The difference is not just that in one case you are aware of your own and, in the other, of someone else's I. The two perceptions come from different sources. The seeds of our ability to distinguish one another were sown on Old Saturn. The beginnings of this sense were implanted in us then. The basis of your being able to perceive another person as anwas established on Old Saturn. But it was not until the Earth stage of evolution that you obtained your own I; so the ego sense is not to be identified with the that ensouls you from within. The two must be strictly distinguished from one another. When we speak of the ego sense, we are referring to the ability of one person to be aware of the of another.
As you know, I have never spoken of materialistic science without acknowledging its truth and its greatness. I have given lectures here that were for the express purpose of appreciating materialistic science fully. But, having appreciated it, one must deepen one's knowledge of materialistic science so lovingly that one also can hold up its shadow side with a loving hand. The materialistic science of today is just beginning to bring its thoughts about the senses into some kind of order. The physiologists are finally recognizing and distinguishing the senses of life, of movement, and of balance from one another, and they have begun to treat the senses of warmth and touch separately. The other senses about which we have been speaking are not recognized by our externally orientated, material science. And so I ask you to carefully distinguish the ability to be aware of another from the ability you could call the consciousness of self. With respect to this distinction, my deep love of material science forces me to make an observation, for a deep love of material science also enables one to see what is going on: today's material science is afflicted with stupidity. It turns stupid when it tries to describe what happens when someone uses his ego sense. Our material science would have us believe that when one person meets another he unconsciously deduces from the other's gestures, facial expressions, and the like that there is another present — that the awareness of another I is really a subconscious deduction. This is utter nonsense! In truth, when we meet someone and perceive their we perceive it just as directly as we perceive a color. It really is thick-headed to believe that the presence of another is deduced from bodily perceptions, for this obscures the truth that humans have a special, higher sense for perceiving the of another.
The of another is perceived directly by the ego sense, just as brightness and darkness and colors are perceived through the eyes. It is a particular sense that relates us to another I. This is something that has to be experienced. Just as a color affects me directly through my eyes, so another person's Iaffects me directly through my ego sense. At the appropriate time we will discuss the sense organ for the ego sense in the same way that we could discuss the sense organs of seeing, of sight. With sight it is simply easier to refer to material manifestations than it is in the case of the ego sense, but each sense has its own particular organ. 
If you view your senses from a certain perspective you can say: each sense particularizes and differentiates my organism. There is a real differentiation, for seeing is not the same as perception of tone, perception of tone is different from hearing, hearing is not the same as perception of thought, perception of thought is not touching. Each of these senses demarcates a separate and particular region of the human being. It is this separation of each into its special sphere to which I want you to pay especially close attention, for it is this separation that makes it possible to picture the senses as a circle divided into twelve distinct regions.

The situation of these powers of perception is different from the situation of forces that could be said to reside more deeply embedded within us. Seeing is bound up with the eyes and these constitute a particular region of a human being. Hearing is bound up with the organs of hearing, at least principally so, but it needs more besides — hearing involves much more of the organism than just the ear, which is what is normally thought of as the region of hearing. And life flows equally through each of these regions of the senses. The eye is alive, the ear is alive, that which is the foundation of all the senses is alive; the basis of touch is alive — all of it is alive. Life resides in all the senses; it flows through all the regions of the senses.
If we look more closely at this life, it also proves to be differentiated. There is not just one life process. And you must also distinguish what we have been calling the sense of life, through which we perceive our own vital state, from the subject of our present discussion. What I am talking about now is the very life that flows through us. That life also differentiates itself within us. It does so in the following manner.


The twelve regions of the twelve senses are to be pictured as being static, at rest within the organism. But life pulsates through the whole organism, and this life is manifested in various ways. First of all there is breathing, a manifestation of life necessary to all living things. Every living organism must enter into a breathing relationship with the external world. Today I cannot go into the details of how this differs for animals, plants, and human beings, but will only point out that every living thing must have its way of breathing. The breathing of a human being is perpetually being renewed by what he takes in from the outer world, and this benefits all the regions associated with the senses. The sense of smell could not manifest itself — neither could sight, nor the sense of tone — if the benefits of breathing did not enliven it. Thus, I must assign ‘breathing’ to every sense. We breathe — that is one process — but the benefits of that process of breathing flow to all the senses.
The second process we can distinguish is warming. This occurs along with breathing, but it is a separate process. Warming, the inner process of warming something through, is the second of the life-sustaining processes. The third process that sustains life is nourishment. So here we have three ways in which life comes to us from without: breathing, warming, nourishing. The outer world is part of each of these. Something must be there to be breathed — in the case of humans, and also animals, that substance is air. Warming requires a certain amount of warmth in the surroundings; we interact with it. Just think how impossible it would be for you to maintain proper inner warmth if the temperature of your surroundings were much hotter or much colder. If it were one hundred degrees lower your warmth processes would cease, they would not be possible; at one hundred degrees hotter you would do more than just sweat! Similarly, we need food to nourish us as long as we are considering the life processes in their earthly aspects.
At this stage, the life processes take us deeper into the internal world. We now find processes that re-form what has been taken in from outside — processes that transform and internalize it. To characterize this re-forming, I would like to use the same expressions that we have used on previous occasions. Our scientists are not yet aware of these things and therefore have no names for them, so we must formulate our own. The purely inner process that is the basis of the re-forming of what we take in from outside us can be seen to be fourfold. Following the process of nourishing, the first internal process is the process of secretion, of elimination. When the nourishment we have taken in is distributed to our body, this is already the process of secretion; through the process of secretion it becomes part of our organism. The process of elimination does not just work outward, it also separates out that part of our nourishment that is to be absorbed into us. Excretion and absorption are two sides of the processes by which organs of secretion deal with our nourishment. One part of the secretion performed by organs of digestion separates out nutriments by sending them into the organism. Whatever is thus secreted into the organism must remain connected with the life processes, and this involves a further process which we will call maintaining. But for there to be life, it is not enough for what is taken in to be maintained, there also must be growth. Every living thing depends on a process of inner growth: a process of growth, taken in the widest sense. Growth processes are part of life; both nourishment and growth are part of life.
And, finally, life on earth includes reproducing the whole being; the process of growth only requires that one part produce another part. Reproduction produces the whole individual being and is a higher process than mere growth.
There are no further life processes beyond these seven. Life divides into seven definite processes. But, since they serve all twelve of the sense zones, we cannot assign definite regions to these — the seven life processes enliven all the sense zones. Therefore, when we look at the way the seven relate to the twelve we see that we have 1. Breathing, 2. Warming, 3. Nourishing, 4. Secretion, 5. Maintaining, 6. Growth, 7. Reproduction. These are distinct processes, but all of them relate to each of the senses and flow through each of the senses: their relationship with the senses is a mobile one. The human being, the living human being, must be pictured as having twelve separate sense-zones through which a sevenfold life is pulsing, a mobile, sevenfold life. If you ascribe the signs of the zodiac to the twelve zones, then you have a picture of the macrocosm; if you ascribe a sense to each zone, you have the microcosm. If you assign a planet to each of the life processes, you have a picture of the macrocosm; as the life processes, they embody the microcosm. And the mobile life processes are related to the fixed zones of the senses in the same way that, in the macrocosm, the planets are related to the zones of the zodiac — they move unceasingly through them, they flow through them. And so you see another sense in which man is a microcosm.
Now, someone who is thoroughly versed in contemporary physiology and knows how physiology is pursued today could well say to us: ‘This is all just clever tricks; it is always possible to find relations between things. And if a person has divided up the senses so as to come out with twelve, of course he can relate them to the twelve signs of the zodiac; and the same goes for distinguishing seven life processes which can then be related to the seven planets.’ To put it bluntly, such a person might believe that all this is the product of fantasy. But this is truly not the case, for the human being of today is the result of a slow process of unfolding and development. During Old Moon, the human senses were not as they are today. As I said, they provided the basis for the ancient, dreamlike clairvoyance of Old Moon existence. Today's senses are more dead than those of Old Moon. They are less united into a single whole and are more separated from the sevenfold unity of the life processes. The senses of Old Moon were themselves more akin to the life processes. Today, seeing and hearing are quite dead, they involve processes that occur at the periphery of our being.
Perception, however, was not nearly so dead on Old Moon. Take any of the senses, the sense of taste, for example. I imagine all of you know what that is like on Earth. During the Moon era it was rather different. At that time a person was not so separated from his outer surroundings as he is nowadays. For us, sugar is something out there: to connect with it we have to lick something, and then inner processes have to take place. There is a clear distinction between the subjective and the objective. It was not like this during Old Moon. Then, the process was much more filled with life and there was not such a clear distinction between subjective and objective. The process of tasting was more like a life process, more like — say — breathing. When we breathe, something real happens in us. We breathe in air but, in so doing, all the blood-forming processes in us are affected — all these processes are part of breathing, which is one of the seven life processes and does not permit of such clear distinctions between subject and object. In this case, what is outside and what is within must be taken together: air outside, air within. And something real happens through the process of breathing, much more real than what happens when we taste something. When we taste, enough happens to provide a basis for the typical consciousness of today, but on Old Moon tasting was much more similar to the dreamlike process that breathing is for us today. We are not nearly so aware of ourselves in our breathing as we are when we taste something. But on Old Moon, tasting was like breathing is for us now. Man on ancient Moon experienced no more of his tasting than we experience  of our breathing, nor did he feel a need for it to be otherwise. The human being had not yet become a gourmet, nor could he become one, for tasting depended on certain internal happenings that were connected with his processes of maintenance, with his continued existence on Old Moon.
Sight, the process of seeing, was also different on Old Moon. Then one did not simply look at external objects, perceiving the color as something outside oneself. Instead, the eye penetrated into the color and the color entered through the eyes, helping to maintain the life of the viewer. The eye was a kind of organ for breathing color. The state of our life was affected by how we related to the outer world through our eyes and by the perceptual processes of the eyes. On Old Moon, we expanded upon entering a blue region and contracted if we ventured into a red region: expanding-contracting, expanding-contracting. Color affected us that much. Similarly, all the other senses also had a more living connection, both with the outer world and with the inner world of the perceiver, a connection such as the life processes have today.
And what was the sense of another ego like on Old Moon? There could not have been any such sense on Old Moon, for it is only since the Earth stage of development that the has begun to dwell within us. The sense of thought, of living thought as I previously described it, is also connected with Earth consciousness. Our sense of thought did not yet exist on Old Moon. Neither did humanity speak. And since there was nothing like our perception of each other's speech, the sense of word was also absent. In earlier times the word lived as the Logos which streamed through the whole world, including humanity. It had significance to man, but was not perceived by him. The sense of hearing was already developing, though, and was much more filled with life than the hearing of today. That sense has, so to speak, now come to rest on Earth, to a standstill. When we listen, we stay quite still, at least as a rule. Unless a sound does something of the order of bursting an eardrum, hearing does not change anything in our organism. We remain at rest within ourselves and perceive the sounds, the tones. This is not how things were during Old Moon. Then the tones really came close. They were heard, but that hearing involved being inwardly pervaded by the tones, it involved inwardly vibrating with the sounds and actively participating in their creation. Man participated actively in the production of what we call the Cosmic Word, but he was not aware of it. Thus we cannot call it a sense, properly speaking, although Moon man participated in a living fashion in the sounds that are the basis of today's hearing. If what we hear today as music had been played on Old Moon, there would have been more than just an outward dancing! If that had happened, all the internal organs, with few exceptions, would have reacted the way my larynx: and related organs react when I use them to produce a tone. Thus, it was a conscious process, but a life process in which one actively participated, for the whole inner man was brought into vibration. These vibrations were harmonious or dissonant, and the vibration was perceived in the tones.
The sense of warmth was also a life process. Today we are comparatively calm when we regard our surroundings; we just notice that it is warm or cold outside. Of course we experience it to a mild degree, but not as during Old Moon, when a rise or fall in temperature was experienced so intensely that one's whole sense of life changed. In other words, the participation was much more intense: just as one vibrated with a tone, one experienced oneself getting inwardly cooler or warmer.
I already have described what the sense of sight was like on Old Moon. There was a living involvement with colors. Some colors caused us to enlarge our body, others to contract it. Today we can only experience this symbolically, if at all. We no longer collapse when confronted with red, nor do we inflate when surrounded by blue — but we did do this on Old Moon. The sense of taste has also been described already.
The sense of smell was intimately bound up with the life processes on Old Moon. There was also a sense of balance, it was already needed. And the sense of movement was much livelier. Today we have more or less come to rest in ourselves — we are more or less dead. We move our limbs, but not much of us actually vibrates. But just imagine all the movement there was to be aware of on Old Moon when tones generated inner movement.
Now, as for the sense of life, you will gather from what I have been saying that no sense analogous to our sense of life could have been present on Old Moon. At that time one was altogether immersed in life, in life as a whole. The skin was not the boundary of inner life. Life was something in which one swam. There was no need for a special sense of life since all the organs that today are sense organs were organs of life in those times — they were alive and they provided consciousness of that life. So there was no need for a special sense of life on Old Moon.
The sense of touch came into being along with the mineral world, which is a result of Earth evolution. On Old Moon there was nothing analogous to the sense of touch that we have developed here on Earth in conjunction with the mineral realm. There was no such sense on Old Moon, where it was no more needed than was a sense of life.
If we count how many of our senses were already to be found on Old Moon as organs of life, we find there were seven. Manifestations of life are always sevenfold. The five senses unique to Earth evolution fall away when we consider Moon man. They join the other seven later, during our Earth evolution, to make up the twelve senses, because the Earth-senses have become fixed zones as have the regions of the zodiac. There were only seven senses on Old Moon, for then the senses were still mobile and full of life. Thus there was a sevenfold life on Old Moon, a life in which the senses were still immersed.
This account is the result of living observations of a supersensible world which — initially — is beyond the limits of earthly perception. What has been said is just a small, an elementary, part of all that needs to be said to show that our account is not the product of arbitrary whims. The more one presses on and achieves a vision of cosmic secrets, the more one sees that all this talk about the relation of seven to twelve is not just a game. This relationship really can be traced through all the manifestations of life. The relation of the fixed stars to the planets is a necessary outer expression of it and reveals one of the mysteries of number that underlie the cosmos. And the relationship of the number twelve to the number seven expresses one of the mysteries of existence, the mystery of how man, as bearer of the senses and faculties of perception, is related to man as the bearer of life. The number twelve is connected with the mystery of how we are able to carry an I. The establishment of twelve senses, each at rest in its own proper region, provided a basis for earthly self-awareness. The fact that the senses of Old Moon were still organs of life meant that Moon man could possess an astral body, but not an I; for then the seven senses were still organs of life and only provided the basis for the astral body. The number seven is concerned with the mysteries of the astral body, just as the number twelve is concerned with the mysteries of the human I.

Monday, March 30, 2015

"Spring and All" by William Carlos Williams

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast—a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines—

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches—

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind—

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

One by one objects are defined—
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance—Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken

Today is the 90th anniversary of Rudolf Steiner's mahasamadhi

Rudolf Steiner

Revelation 19:5-10

And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

The Eagle

"The Eagle" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Rudolf Steiner: "Let us look at the bird in the air — the eagle, let us say, in his majestic flight — upon whom, as though by an outer gift of grace, the rays of the Sun and their action bestowed his plumage, bestowed his horny beak — let us look at this eagle as he flies in the air. Certain forces work upon him there. The Sun does not only possess the physical forces of light and warmth of which  we usually speak. When I described the Druid Mysteries to you, I drew your attention to the fact that spiritual forces too emanate from the Sun. It is these forces which give to the different species of birds their variegated colors, the special formation of their plumage. When we penetrate with spiritual perception into the nature of the Sun's working, we understand why the eagle has his particular plumage, and when we deepen our contemplation of this being of the eagle, when we develop an inner, artistic comprehension of nature which contains the spiritual within it, when we can perceive how formative forces work out of the impulses of the Sun — strengthened by other impulses of which I shall speak later — when we see how the Sun-impulses stream down over the eagle even before he has emerged from the egg, how they conjure forth the plumage, or, to be more exact, how they conjure it into his fleshy form, then we can ask ourselves: What is the significance of all this for man? The significance of this for man is that it is what makes his brain into the bearer of thoughts. And you have the right insight into the macrocosm, into Great Nature, when you so regard the eagle that you say: The eagle has his plumage, his bright, many-colored feathers; in these lives the self-same force which lives in you in that you make your brain into the bearer of thoughts. What makes the convolutions of your brain? What makes your brain capable of taking up that inner salt-force which is the basis of thinking? What really enables your brain to make a thinker of you? It is the same force which gives his feathers to the eagle in the air. Thus we feel ourselves related to the eagle through the fact that we think: we feel the human substitute for the eagle's plumage within us. Our thoughts flow out from the brain in the same way as the feathers stream out from the eagle." -- October 19, 1923

Edward Schuré on first meeting Rudolf Steiner: "I shall never forget the extraordinary impression made upon me by this man when he entered the room. As I looked at that thin, powerful face, at the black mysterious eyes flashing light as if from unfathomable depths, it struck me that for the first time in my life I was facing one of those supreme seers who have direct vision of the great beyond."


Rudolf Steiner

The name of him whom Providence has chosen
That wondrous things on Earth he should achieve,
Whom I may often praise, though ne'er sufficing,
Whose destiny we scarcely can believe,
His name — it is Humanus, Saint and wise one,
The best of men whom I did e'er perceive:
By origin another name he bears,
Which with illustrious ancestors he shares.

                —from "The Mysteries" by Goethe

The Anthroposophical Way: Knowledge in the Service of Christ

The Riddle of Humanity. Lecture 6 of 15.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, August 7, 1916:

When one is speaking of the being of man and of mankind's relation to the cosmos, some of what has to be said may seem complicated. When it comes to the human being — you may well say — is there anything that is not included! We are confronted, however, with the fact that a human being is formed in an intricate way from the entire cosmos, and we have to come to terms with it. It is especially important that people of our time begin to come to terms with these things, as otherwise it will be too late. Today men are living in an incarnation in which it is just possible to get by without knowing much about the complicated nature of the human being; but the time is coming — a time when these souls will again incarnate — when this will not be possible. Then souls will finally have to begin to know how humanity is related to the cosmos. You could say that we are still just within a period when the responsibility for holding together the different members of which a human being is composed has not yet been turned over to mankind itself. We are still living in an epoch when these various members hold together without our having to do anything, when the easy-going fellow can come to us and say ‘Really! This so-called anthroposophical wisdom is so complicated! But truth is simple, and anything that is not simple cannot really be true!’ Today, this speech is frequently heard. Those who are misled by Lucifer into speaking in such a fashion do not have the faintest inkling of how they befog their heads with this talk about the so-called simplicity of truth. They are unaware of how they are deceiving themselves. For the time will come when people will experience how complicated they are, a time when people will require knowledge in order to hold themselves together. But everything in the future has to be prepared, and the stream that carries a spiritual-scientific worldview has the task of preparing the development of earthly culture for the age when a person will have to know how to hold together the various parts of his being.


Let us remind ourselves of the fundamental truths that have been described in some detail over these last few days — of man's essentially dual nature, and of how his external body already reveals this dual nature. The body divides into two parts, which are built according to quite different principles — the head and the rest of the body. If we examine a human head as it is today, what we have is essentially the result of what became of the body in the previous incarnation. And, after we have passed through the period between death and a new birth, our present body, except for the head, will become the head of the next incarnation. Thus, the passage of a person through successive incarnations could be drawn as follows: Man has his head, and he has the rest of his body. What is now his head is essentially lost. When he once more receives a body from the earth, what is now the rest of his body appears, transformed, as the head of that next incarnation. Then this body, in turn, becomes the head of the following incarnation and he receives another body from his forebears, from the earth. The head is always lost. Naturally, we are talking about forces. Of course, the material of the rest of the body is also lost. But this material is not the essential thing — in the truest sense of the word it is maya — all the forces that reside in the body, exclusive of the head, are the essential thing. These forces are transformed into the forces of the head during our passage through the period between death and a new birth. And the forces that were bound up in our bodies during our previous incarnation really are present now in our heads. That was the basic concept whose particular details we were elaborating.
Now, in order to understand these things better and better, we want to call on the help of some other ideas that we have acquired. To begin with, we will ask: How will our present body become the head of our next incarnation? How are the forces of our present body transformed so that they can become the head of the next incarnation?
The transformation of our body into a head is hard to imagine at first. We need to ask ourselves: How is this transformation possible?
In order to answer that question we must review in our souls the things we have been saying about the part of the human soul that is concerned with knowledge and concepts. This is the part that is dependent on the head, and is concerned with truth and wisdom. Today, people usually believe that the knowledge we acquire is only there to give us pictures of the external world and to enable us to learn something about the external world. There are philosophical epistemologists who theorize endlessly about the interconnections between concepts and ideas, and about the mysterious connection between the nature of a concept and the thing that the concept represents. All such theories are afflicted by a common error. Initially, I can only explain this error by speaking pictorially. Imagine there is a botanist, a gardener, who wants to investigate the nature of a grain of wheat. As he sets about it, he says: ‘I will investigate it chemically to see what substances it contains. I will see if its constituents include all the things man needs in his grain and flour, and such, for nourishment.’ And the botanist then proceeds to seek for the nature of the grain of wheat in its relationship to human nourishment in order to explain why the grain of wheat contains what it does. A man who believed that he was discovering something essential about the nature of a grain of wheat by investigating its suitability as human nourishment would be making a curious mistake. The grain of wheat occurs as a part of the whole wheat plant, as its fruit. A person who wants to discover why it corresponds to the nature of a grain of wheat to be as it is, must investigate the manner in which a new wheat plant can develop from it. Whether or not it contains substances for human nourishment is a secondary matter. It has nothing to do with the inner nature of a grain of wheat. A person who investigates the utility of everything and wants to turn utilitarian knowledge into true science would investigate the grain of wheat chemically. He would discover that here nature provides something good for human nourishment. But that has nothing to do with the inner nature of a grain of wheat, or with the fact that a new wheat plant can grow from it.
To someone who approaches matters with clear ideas and in the spirit of knowledge, the philosophers of knowledge, the epistemologists, often resemble people investigating a grain of wheat by considering its value as food for human beings. For if one were to question a grain of wheat as to its original task, it would not say that it is originally here for the nourishment of mankind; rather would it say that its original task is to allow a new wheat plant to develop. When someone with clear ideas and a feeling for knowledge considers the epistemologists, he is confronted by mistakes such as the one I have just described. For building up a picture of the things around us is not the original purpose of what we call knowledge — of what lives in us as ideas, truth, and wisdom. Building up a picture of the things outside us is just as inessential to knowledge as nourishing human beings is inessential to a grain of wheat. Knowledge does not exist for the purpose of making pictures of external things; it exists for another reason. Its purpose lies in the way it lives and works and weaves in man. As we pass through our existence between birth and death, we gradually accumulate wisdom. We employ it to form a picture of the external world, just as we use a grain of wheat as nourishment. But we withdraw all the wheat that we use in this way from its original purpose of establishing new plants. We similarly withdraw from its original purpose all the knowledge that we use for taking hold of the external world. That is not the original purpose of the realm of truth and ideas. Why, then, does the realm of truth exist — why, I mean, in the sense that the grain of wheat is here to bring about a new wheat plant? Our involvement with knowledge and our efforts to achieve truth exist so that we can develop certain powers. These powers we develop during the period between birth and death are the very powers that transform our organism after death. That is to say, they transform its forces into the forces of the head! This extraordinary connection is what one discovers when one looks at man's passage between birth and death on the one hand, and between death and a new birth on the other. The primary purpose of the knowledge a person acquires is the transformation of the organism, exclusive of the head, into the head of the next incarnation. But there are so many people who acquire no knowledge at all, you will say, and so remain frightfully ignorant; only a few become clever — one usually counts oneself among these latter! But there is more than a little justification for those who say — and many, quite independently of one another, have said this — that a human being acquires more wisdom in his first three or four years than ... well, at the very least, than in his three academic years. In our first three years we really do learn a great deal that can only be learned on earth with the use of our head. We acquire the knowledge necessary for speaking, for understanding what is said, and much, much more. We really do learn a great deal. And that is included in the wisdom we accumulate.
People are actually not so different as regards the wisdom they acquire. In it surge and weave the forces that will transform our organism into a head during the passage from death to a new birth. The picture that we take into ourselves through ideas and knowledge is by its nature quite a complicated one. And it is only in dreams such as those of the Polish poet I cited yesterday that people are given a glimpse of what surges and weaves in among our fully-conscious ideas. But it is there, surging and weaving in us, in order that it can be led over after death to become the power that actually transforms our organism. With the exception of what we use to take hold of the external world, all that we acquire through knowledge accumulates and becomes the power that will transform our organism. In a certain sense, what we use for normal understanding of the external world is lost to our  development, it is withdrawn from our development. All the grains of wheat we use for nourishment are withdrawn from the plant's whole, ongoing process of development — and these are much more numerous than the grains that are strewn back over the earth. And this is how things are during our present phase of development. We connect ourselves with external things: we also withdraw very much more from the ongoing stream of human development than we retain. Think back to earlier times when human knowledge was obtained through atavistic clairvoyance. Men's attention was not so dissipated by the external world. The knowledge of such ancient peoples as the old Egyptians and Chaldeans was obtained through atavistic clairvoyance. It depended very little on external development. In this respect, our age is the opposite of that one. Today, much is taken in from what is outside, and, inwardly, very little is added to development. The Greek culture occupies a wonderful middle position, and this is not solely due to their special talents. These they certainly had, but with these alone nothing could have been accomplished. The relatively small patch of earth inhabited by the Greeks and their relatively slight knowledge of the rest of the world also contributed to the unity of their whole culture. They knew of little else beyond what lay in the direction of Asia Minor and Asia. They knew little about Africa, and nothing at all about America or most of Europe. The fact that Plato still possessed knowledge of morality, of sophrosyne and of dikaiosyne, is in many respects thanks to the fact that the external scope of Greek knowledge was so small. For that reason it was still possible to retain many of the spiritual forces of wisdom for developing the inner life. Nevertheless, the Greeks used less of these forces than the ancient Egyptians or Chaldeans had used, not to mention the ancient Persians and Indians. In our day, when the whole earth has gradually been explored and has become accessible, men seek to acquire as much external knowledge as they possibly can. How that has increased! If that were as intensive as it is extensive, then men would have infinitesimally little to take with them for the transformation of the physical body into the head of the next incarnation. They would have much, much less than a peasant has, particularly in the case of the most educated people. But, thanks be to God, most people have traveled without looking at very much. They have followed their Baedeker or other travel books closely. But, in spite of the great extent of their travels, they have not acquainted themselves with very much, so they have not withdrawn everything. Otherwise, those who rush about everywhere in search of sensations and who want everything they learn to come from outside themselves would be in danger. They would be in danger of arriving in the world in their next incarnation with a head formed from a body that had undergone very little transformation. It would have an animal-like appearance, for that would be the fate of someone who had not accumulated many formative forces.
Now, imaginative comparisons can be expanded. We have said that everything we use externally to develop knowledge and to learn about the external world is separated from its own true inner being — just as the grain of wheat that is used for food is separated from the inner nature of wheat. We can go on to ask: What are the further similarities between external knowledge, or what becomes outer knowledge, and the grain of wheat that is used as food? There are similarities, but they have to be elicited.
Let us once more consider the curious fact that a great number of grains of wheat are used as food for human beings instead of for the generation of new wheat plants. So we can say that the grains of wheat are removed from the direct line of their own ongoing development. Otherwise, a new wheat plant is generated from the grain, and this bears further grains of wheat, and so on. But countless grains are split away from this procession; they are transferred into an entirely different realm, that of human nourishment, and this has nothing to do with the ongoing stream.
Here nature gives you an opportunity to build a concept that must be carefully heeded if you want to achieve a realistic view of the world.


Our external science has gradually brought us to the terrible pass where everything has to be explained by cause and effect, so that a later event must always be explained as following from what came before. There is nothing more foolish than this undifferentiated picture of the world in which all effects can be traced back to a cause and every cause leads on to its effects. There are effects which have no causal connection to anything that preceded them. How could a grain of wheat contain the causes for its being used as human nourishment? Only in the context of a simple-minded teleology such as the one that was taken for granted in some quarters in the eighteenth century. According to this point of view, the presence of cork-like substances in nature was explained as the work of mysterious spirits who put them there so that they could be used to produce champagne corks! But on the contrary, the grains of wheat really do pass over into another sphere.
It is similar when we go about acquiring knowledge of external nature and of outer things. This transfers the things to another sphere. We human beings are able to extract a substantial portion of what is in us, in the form of matters concerned with truth, for the purpose of enabling the body of our present incarnation to be transformed into the head of the next incarnation. We can extract much for the sake of present knowledge, but we must take care that this knowledge is put to a different use. In a certain sense, the grains of wheat are ennobled by being used as human nourishment, so they receive a recompense for being separated from their own original nature. Something similar should come about in the case of external human knowledge, which is developed in a way that runs totally contrary to the nature of ideas and truth. In his heart, man should make a gift to the gods of all the truths acquired in the form of pictures of the external world. Man should always say to himself: When you obtain knowledge, you remove it from the progressive stream. Be clear that the acquisition of knowledge must be in the service of the gods. There is other knowledge, knowledge untouched by any awareness of the holy service that knowledge renders to developing humanity. Such knowledge is taken away from the external world, but it is not given to the gods, who would be nourished by what they thus would receive. The knowledge that is not gathered in this spirit, but is taken, instead, without thanks, is like grains of wheat that fall to earth and rot. In other words, it serves no goal at all — neither its own nor that of becoming nourishment for human beings.
Here we arrive at a point where you will feel how important it is that our spiritual-scientific efforts lead to some very definite practical results. For in our hearts we should cultivate a fundamental mood when we receive spiritual science. It must not become a thing we merely learn, or just a thing to be known. Therefore, we must unite knowing with the feeling that knowledge should be in the service of the gods, and that it is a fundamental sin against the divine meaning of evolution to profane knowledge by removing it from that for which the gods intended it.
I said that acquiring much external knowledge has only become possible in more recent times. For the ancient Egyptians, most knowing was an inward matter; external knowledge was comprised of only the most immediate things. During the Greco-Roman epoch it became possible for men to acquire more and more external knowledge. That is not very long ago. But at the same time there arose the possibility of discovering the path by which knowing becomes a holy service, for at this time the Christ brought his message to the Earth.
Here you have another relationship, which history makes clear to us. At the very moment in human development when knowing becomes predominantly a knowledge of the external world, the Christ appears from out of the spiritual world. And so does it becomes possible for a person who experiences the guidance of Christ to transform knowing into a holy service — by connecting it with the Christ. Today, mankind has not yet developed much feeling for knowledge as a divine service. But as mankind comes more and more to understand how Christ has brought the life of the gods into earthly life, it will also learn how to put knowledge at the service of the gods.
Thus we can live with everything of which our head is the outer sign. We can establish there a little plot that prepares for the transformation of our body into a head. As for the rest of knowledge, if we use it with the proper feeling, as I have just characterized it, the higher spiritual beings will receive nourishment from the concepts we use. In this way we strive for a knowing that serves the gods, in order that wheat may also be grown for the nourishment of mankind. This is already happening, but mankind still has to learn the measure of this mood. Through our feeling, knowledge will acquire the measure of the mood I have been describing. It is very, very important for the healthy development of humanity that such feelings be developed.
In the ancient Mysteries and Mystery schools it was simply taken for granted that those who acquired knowledge would treat it with holy regard. Indeed, that was one of the main reasons why not everyone was admitted to the Mysteries. Those who were admitted had to provide a guarantee that they would regard the knowledge as holy and would treat it as a service to the gods. The attitude was also engendered by atavistic feelings. Today, it is necessary for mankind to achieve this attitude once more. Humanity has passed through an age when it developed in accordance with materialism — and we know there are good reasons for this. Now, it needs to heal itself of materialism, and this will only happen when mankind is reunited with the feeling of holy service that was once a part of knowing. But in the future this will have to be brought about consciously. And that will only be possible if spiritual science spreads to more and more of humanity. Knowledge should not be like the seed that rots on the ground. Everything that is used for external convenience and arranging things mechanically is like the seed that rots. What is not placed in the service of the gods is lost. It is neither used to help us in our next incarnation, nor is it used to nourish the gods. Something really happens when the seed rots; this is a real process. When knowledge is wasted without being incorporated into the service of the gods and without becoming part of a divine process, a real process takes place. It would take us too far today if I were to speak about what the rotten grain of wheat signifies, but it is senseless for it to rot. Nothing can come of it — it simply dies. But Ahriman is able to do something with knowledge that is not acquired in the context of the service of the gods. This knowledge is taken over into the service of Ahriman and establishes his power. His servants introduce it into the world process and thereby create more obstacles for the world process than rightfully ought to be there or would otherwise have to be there. For, after all, Ahriman is the god of hindrance.
This will give you a glimpse of how far the significance of what lives in us in the form of ideas and truth extends. The next two lectures will be concerned with beauty and morality so that we can then bring all three things together. That will furnish us with another opportunity to deepen our understanding of the human being.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Alan Watts, trying hard to be the coolest guy you know

A prayer for awakening from sleep



O Ye!, from spheres of light stream through this head,
Move there in ways which spirits pure are led,
Damp well down his brain's insane confusion;
From his striving untangle all doubt's fire and fear,
To guide him within from pathways of illusion.

In daily experience four goals are clear;
Now lead him on untouched by apprehension.

First strive for countenance that fills with light,
Then spirit's quest for power hold fast.
Once lame-winged senses move again in flight,
His day in freedom can unfold.
Thus truest spirit duty it fulfills:
Through holy light to lead him where he wills

O Ye!, surround this head with airy circling,
Your paths in noble elfin fashion tracing,
And soften in the heart its harvest grim,
Remove reproach's bitter, glowing arrows,
Within him make all pure from horror's gleam.

Four in number are the nightly hollows,
Now, friendly, fill them up without a seam.

First lower head down on the pillow cool,
Bathe it then in dews from Lethe's flood released,
Soon limbs, cramp-stiffened, will again grow supple,
In rest, against the day his strength's increased.
Fulfill most comely duty of the elf,
Return to holy light man's self

O Ye!, stream through this head with strength to move,
And in good earthly deeds yourselves soon prove.
So boldly stamp out torment of absurdity,
Ennoble desire's power, wherein dark forces surge,
Abduct his soul away from spirit-fatality.

In human obsession, pathways four do merge,
Tear them away from embrace of infirmity.

Conquer the fires in which the senses groan,
Illumine that which dies in pleasure,
And hear how speak in ensouled tone
The powers that match eternal measure.
Attempt to strive in world-willed action,
Awaken him to life-benediction

from The Riddle of Humanity. Lecture 5. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, August 6, 1916