Spiritual Science as a Foundation for Social Forms. Lecture 13.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 4, 1920:
Yesterday I tried from a certain angle to point out the need for a structural organization of the social order. At the same time I drew attention to the fact that what in spiritual science may be termed presentation of proof consists in recognizing that these facts under discussion are supported from the most varied aspects; finally, that the degree of conviction increases in proportion to the amount of such support.I should like to repeat briefly what has been brought forward. We are familiar with the constitution of the human being; we know that we are composed of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and what we call the ego. We are also aware, however, that this constitution of man is something that is, so to speak, in a state of flux. You can follow my descriptions in my books Theosophy and Occult Science and you will learn from them that physical, etheric, astral body, and finally also the ego are not really something static. Instead, you will find that the purpose of human evolution consists in the very fact that man, throughout his repeated lives on Earth, works upon these members of his organization. Thus, after a certain time, after a certain number of incarnations, he is born in such a way that it is possible to say that he normally consists, as it were, of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. Then, however, he first begins to work on his ego, continuing this work through a number of incarnations. When the ego has been strengthened, having completed a certain amount of work on itself, this work then passes over to the astral body. Again, when, with the help of the ego and through its own efforts, the astral body has in this manner completed inner work upon itself, then this activity passes over to the etheric body, and finally to the physical body. Here, however, we already enter the realm of the distant future. For you know that the human being essentially retains his outer form throughout the incarnations that we trace in the first place. You also know from my Occult Science that this human form has undergone fundamental changes in the course of time and will also continue to do so in the future. These changes, these metamorphoses, are imposed upon it by the activity of the more refined members of the human organism, the astral and etheric bodies, in their work of perfecting the physical body. Ultimately, in distant future times, man's physical body, too, will assume different forms.
Now, this work that the human being performs upon the members of his organism is connected with the human environment, just as man is similarly connected since his primal beginning with his natural environment through his individual members.
We must indeed be clear about one thing. Let us take the physical body of man. It stands as a unique phenomenon within the natural order. In a way it is lifted out of this natural order. If we are sufficiently observant of the strong differentiation existing between the human being and the various species of the animal kingdom, we cannot help but say that the human being should not simply be placed at the end of the animal kingdom as the evolution theorists would have it. He is not only a composite of all animal forms in the entire animal kingdom; he is also a composite at a higher stage. Therefore we can class this physical body of man with nothing but itself. In all that surrounds us, in all our natural environment, we are unable to find anything that could be placed in the same category with the physical body of the human being. This human physical body, then, stands by itself.
Proceeding inward, we now advance to the etheric body. Here we reach man's next, and already mobile, component. In a way that some of you may feel is peculiar, I have already described to you the extent of the etheric body's mobility. It has the tendency to confront the animal world in a certain way, having a particular affinity with this realm. I have said that when we confront an elephant, a donkey, a calf, or other animal shapes, our etheric body has the inner tendency to imitate the given form, to become similar to it. It is prevented from carrying this out entirely, but it has the inner tendency to assume these animal forms. It has a special kinship with them. Due to the forces concentrated in the physical body, the etheric body is prevented from realizing these tendencies, but it strives to do so. One of the first experiences of initiation is the emergence of this inner tension and urge in regard to the animal world, of wishing to become like the animals. Thus we can say that concerning his physical body the human being is not related to the animal world, but his etheric body displays a quite decided kinship with that world.
We now advance to the astral body. Here we come across a similar inner relationship to the plant world. When the astral body faces the plant kingdom, it has the tendency to become plantlike, that is, to become like the particular plant it confronts. I said to you yesterday, rather as an aid for your memory, that if we stand in front of a donkey that is eating thistles, our etheric body desires to resemble the donkey and the astral body the thistle. This is a fact. In this way, we are related to the kingdoms of nature surrounding us. With our astral body, we are related to the plant world.
Etheric Body: Animal WorldAstral Body: Plant WorldEgo: Mineral World
As I have said, in regard to our ego we are related to the mineral world. That seems natural, for it is something inaccessible to immediate consciousness, something that we can also establish most easily in regard to ordinary consciousness. In fact, we owe the entire content of our consciousness to this kinship with the mineral world. We form the content of our consciousness essentially out of the mineral realm. I have told you that it is due to the fact that man's ego in its present condition is organized in the direction of the mineral world that we are unable through our scientific efforts to advance to an apprehension of the plant world, let alone the animal world. We are unable to lay hold of the living and continue to argue back and forth whether the living can be comprehended or not. Only people who, like Goethe, proceed from a different manner of perception can acquire an awareness of the fact that the living can, in a certain way, be entered into. In the same manner as ordinary consciousness merely traces man's kinship to the mineral world, initiation, of course, offers the possibility of tracing inwardly what takes place in the astral body in regard to the plant world, or in the etheric body regarding the animal world.
I also told you that the human being works on his ego. Throughout his repeated Earth lives he develops his ego. He thus transforms the content born out of the mineral kingdom. He creates from it his science, his art, and his religion. Everything that in this way appears as the content of culture and civilization is, basically speaking, transformed mineral kingdom.
Imagine, for example, that you are looking at a Greek statue. There is, of course, no life in it. All that is circumscribed by the mineral, however, such as form and structure, has been attained by you because of your transformation and here it is an artistic transformation — of the images and sensations you have been able to receive directly into your consciousness from the mineral kingdom.
So it is with the other contents of culture. In every cultural content, insofar as it consists of art, science, and religion, is expressed what the ego has achieved as work upon itself, naturally in cooperation with other humans, and what is, essentially, transformed content derived from the mineral kingdom. Whoever pursues these matters without prejudice will find that in the activity of the ego he is dealing with a transformed content won from the mineral kingdom.
By strictly defining what lives in man's social environment, we discover the following. Everything brought into being because the ego transforms the content gained from the mineral realm and forms it into a cultural life (which then exists in our midst as art, as literature, science, religious denominations or the contents of their creeds, in fact all that is essentially comprehended by means of the ego's self-transformation) defines quite clearly what we call the cultural realm of the threefold social organism. Here you have, then, the possibility of strictly defining the spiritual or cultural domain of the threefold social organism. Such a spiritual domain would not exist at all were the ego not to transform its own being so that it can work artistically, religiously, and scientifically on what is derived from the mineral kingdom.
We transform our astral body, too, though not in the same conscious manner in which we transform our ego. If we survey the content of our culture, we find its most conscious component parts to be those from the spiritual domain just characterized. Only half conscious are the concepts that regulate the life between man and man (although here they have come into existence most poignantly) and comprise the life of rights and all that pertains to the sphere of rights — namely, the relationships between man and man. Anyone who cannot comprehend the difference between a concept belonging to the religious, scientific, or artistic sphere with one pertaining to the sphere of rights, of the state, is without doubt not a good psychologist or observer of the soul. In a very different way do we regulate the relations, the dim awareness, between people: What is my duty to the other person? What are his rights and what are mine? All these questions playing between man and man issue from a much dimmer consciousness than that which deals with science, religion, and art. The realm of interplay between man and man, where matters cannot be decided by individuals as in science, art, or religion, which can be determined only by human social life, by agreement and reciprocal understanding, is the realm that comprises the life of jurisprudence or the state, the sphere of rights of the threefold social organism.
We experience with an even duller consciousness a third domain that comes into existence because we transform our etheric body. This is a domain of which we acquire an awareness in a most indirect manner through all kinds of vague dietetic rules and so forth. It is a domain which we experience almost in a state of sleep and which sends its effects into full consciousness to such a slight degree that not even the relations between people can throw light on it. The domain of rights can be illuminated by the mutual agreement between people, and it constitutes a certain ideal of our social order that in the sphere of rights we have introduced full democracy where all people of legal age are equal and can secure their rights through mutual understanding. The dullness of consciousness which has as its content the transformation of the astral body suffices for the individual when he is sustained by an understanding with his fellowman. The human being must grasp science on his own; religion he must generate for himself; art he must bring forth from the wellspring of his individual being, the innermost fountain of his personality. These must proceed from the most wide awake, clearest consciousness. Here he must rely entirely upon himself, upon his individuality. One even considers it somewhat abnormal that associations have recently cropped up from time to time in the arts. As a rule, they usually consisted only of two people, as when playwrights collaborate. Occasionally one reads in theater programs, “Popular Comedy by X. Y. and U. Z.” In most instances, however, as those familiar with this field know, it is not a proper association of two. As a rule, some elderly gentleman who in his youth had written plays, but whose talent, if such it can be called, has since evaporated, enters into an agreement with an as yet unknown young man, lets him write the drama, makes a few corrections, and has now added his name to it. Thus the young playwright, too, has slid into the limelight. In this manner, “associations” have come about in this area, but anybody senses that this is something abnormal, for what actually belongs to the spiritual sphere must also belong entirely to the personality of an individual. By comparison, with regard to the settlement of rights, the human being is able to manage if, as an individual personality, he has the support of another individual. This, however, does not suffice in reference to a sphere into which consciousness does not really penetrate. In the etheric body, where etheric processes run their course, it is not enough if man as an individual confronts another individual. Where man as an individual confronts mankind as a whole, it is necessary to form associations; it is necessary that judgments or decisions be formulated by individuals in association, hence, that individuals pool their experiences. Deeds and accomplishments then must spring from associations, not from individual personalities. Here we are referred to a life where the individual person can do nothing by himself, where he can accomplish something only when he is part of an association, and where the association enters into reciprocal relationships with another association. In short, we are directed to what really takes place within the human social community in this duller consciousness: the economic sphere of the social organism.
Thus we can say that if we look in a backward direction at what the human being represents today, in the direction of nature, we find him grounded with his etheric body in the animal world, with his astral body in the plant world, with his ego in the mineral world. He does, however, transform these existing component members of his. He transforms his etheric body; as a consequence of this, the economic sphere arises around him in the life of the human community, the economic life in which, in turn, he is grounded with his etheric body in the outer world, in the social organism. With his astral body, man is anchored in the rights sphere of the social organism; with his ego he is grounded in its cultural sphere. Thus, as human beings, we stand linked together with the three kingdoms of nature on the one side; on the other side, we are linked with the social life in accordance with the three members of the social order: the spiritual, the rights, and the economic.
Etheric Body: Animal World Economic SphereAstral Body: Plant World Rights SphereEgo: Mineral World Cultural Sphere
We must now proceed from the basis of a completely clear manner of conception in order to deepen still further this whole insight we have thus gained. Let us keep well in mind that the social order in its structural organization is brought about by the metamorphosis of our etheric body, astral body, and ego that we carry out in successive Earth lives. Looking at it in this way we find, as it were, what man contributes on his own to the emergence of the social life by means of the structure of his organism. The social life, in turn, reacts upon the human being. Up to now we have considered the will aspect of the social life. We observed how it comes into existence, how it flows out of the configuration of human nature. Keep in mind that it is present in reality when it has flown out! So, the economic sphere flows out of the etheric body or out of the transformation of the latter; the rights sphere arises from the astral body; the spiritual or cultural sphere from the transformation of the ego. Now, these three spheres, having thus issued forth, are then realities and in turn react upon the human being. First he produces them out of his own being; then they react upon him.
You see, we must also take into consideration this second form of human interaction. We can say of it that it is more from the aspect of cognition. What we have considered so far, namely, the manner in which the human being brings about the threefold social organism, was more from the will aspect. Now we turn more to the cognitive side, and consider what kind of impressions arise when man's environment reacts in turn on him. Then observation shows that the spiritual sphere reacts upon the human physical body, although only to a very slight degree in the present incarnation. To be sure, it can to some extent be noted that the human being, as he develops within a certain relationship to his environment, adopts something from his environment insofar as it is the cultural sphere. If a person grows up in an artistic atmosphere, one who is sensitive to this will note it in his physiognomy. A prosaic environment will, likewise, be noticeable. However, this is only a matter of a most delicate nuance of life. For the most part, we can say that in regard to the way it is formed in this Earth life, man's physical body does not exhibit a strong influence from the spiritual environment. All the stronger is this influence in regard to the following Earth lives. It is true that in our subsequent incarnations our physiognomy will bear the marked result of our spiritual environment in this life. The way we look today, the kind of physiognomy we now possess, is essentially due to the influence of the spiritual environment in which we spent our previous Earth life. If one has a feeling for this — although this is possible, I might say, only in a certain general sense — one can, indeed, see in the face of a person the sort of environment in which he lived in previous Earth lives. Certain discrepancies also arise from matters such as these, which at times confront us quite emphatically in human life.
Imagine, let us say, that in regard to his former incarnation a person descends from a cultured family; he now grows up in an uncultured family. His face then bears that subtle nuance of life that I spoke of before, although perhaps to a trifling degree. Perhaps in his face he strongly reveals what he brought over from his former Earth life. Often it is only in this context that one understands how it is possible that a crude fellow can sometimes have quite delicate features. The things in human life are related, indeed, in decidedly complicated ways.
Now we can say: Yes, but the human being does not take along his physical body into his next Earth incarnation; after all, he discards it. This is true of the physical substance, but I should like to repeat what I said some time ago [drawing]. What you actually behold as the physical body in its form is not the physical organism of man; it is the form. Into this form, matter is merely inserted. It is absorbed by the form. The form is something absolutely spiritual, and I refer to this form when I speak of the effect of the spiritual sphere upon the physical body. What is discarded are only the material particles that are built into the form. The form man possesses is not laid aside; on the contrary, it sends it effects into the next life, especially what is developed through the agility and nimbleness of the limbs, hands and arms, feet and legs. This comes to expression in the shape of the head in the next incarnation.
The physical organism, then, decidedly bears its traces into the next Earth life, carrying them into it in accordance with the provision of the cultural sphere that surrounds it in this life.
The rights sphere, on the other hand, reacts upon the etheric body. After death, while the physical body — its material substance, not the form — is delivered over to the Earth, the etheric body is surrendered to the cosmos and dissolves into it. What is present and active as forces in it, however, is borne across into the next Earth life, or at least affects it. Actually, however, through spiritual science we can know empirically that it does so only to a very slight degree. Whereas the form of the physical body powerfully transmits its effect into the next Earth incarnation and, along with it, all that it has gained from the cultural sphere surrounding the physical body, what now comes from the rights sphere in the etheric body works, first of all, upon the cosmos. This is a most important discovery made by the science of initiation.
We live in this world. Because of the way and manner in which we have been placed into the social context of the world, we have a certain state of mind. We confront those with whom we come into contact in life with certain rights' concepts or concepts and sensations resembling the feelings of rights. This gives our soul a certain configuration. Simply speaking, let us say that I have a certain relationship to ten people in life. The one I love, the other I hate, I am indifferent to the third, I am dependent on the fourth, the fifth is dependent on me, and so on. In the most diverse ways, then, my rights and duties concerning these ten persons are outlined. All this crystallizes into a certain soul state in me, but not only in a superficial manner, for the emotional fiber of my soul is conditioned by it. This position within the social order from the viewpoint of the rights sphere brings about a certain configuration of my etheric body, which is transmitted to the cosmos upon my death. After this body separates from me, what vibrates in my etheric body here [on Earth] continues to vibrate in the cosmos, causing further reverberations.
Unfortunately such things pass entirely unnoticed by what today is called science. Consequently this science has no consciousness of the more intimate relationships between human life and cosmic life. The course taken by wind and weather today, hence the manner in which the rhythm of our external climate develops, is essentially the continuation of rhythms brought about by the life of rights in the social organism of past ages.
The human being stands indeed in a certain relationship to outer reality, even the reality of nature. It is important to realize that what develops all around us as the sphere of rights is not something merely abstract, man-made, arising and again disappearing; instead, what is at first a thought content having its being initially in the realm of rights, lives in a subsequent age of Earth existence in the atmosphere, in the vibrations, in the entire configuration, and in the movements of the atmosphere.
If man understands this properly, it gives him a sense of his connection with the entire life of the Earth. Only this allows him to realize how significant it is whether he develops one or another kind of political life, a good or bad life of rights. All things physical, in fact, derive originally from something given order or disorder by spirit. Spiritual science, therefore, must insist that the human being has a fully alive, conscious evolutionary connection with the cosmos.
What is it like today? In our present era of decadence we have reached the point where we apprehend nature with abstract concepts. We construct a natural science that is actually devoid of all that lives in the human being, a natural science offering a content that fundamentally is not the content of human life; and what the human being experiences within himself stands in no relationship to what is occurring outside him. This is one side of the picture.
On the other side, the human being, though completely separated, as it were, from this knowledge of nature that he develops, is supposed to advance to a sort of awareness of God, or to a consciousness of his relationship to God. Both these views will have nothing to do with each other, really cannot have anything to do with each other because of the manner in which they have evolved to the present day. Spiritual science, on the contrary, shows in concrete detail how the human being is not only connected with the whole world, but how he himself cooperates with it. Out of what arises we can interpret the way man has lived in previous Eearth lives. In earlier incarnations, we founded legal systems. Now we live again. We have a certain kind of weather, wind, and so forth, seasons with this or that configuration. Now we experience externally, in the atmosphere, what once upon a time we set up as the order of justice. Here, man in his consciousness grows into what surrounds him as his environment. We no longer talk here abstractly and in general of man's having a consciousness of God within him, of forming a unity with the surrounding world; here we learn to recognize in detail how this unity is constituted, how the human being is joined with the entire universe.
Just think: What would we know of the human being if we had no idea that it is the blood of his head that flows through his legs, if, therefore, insofar as it is enclosed within the skin, we did not consider the entire circulation processes in the organism? In the same way that we cannot consider the head by itself, for instance, ignoring the connection to the remaining organism, we must not consider the human being in one Earth life by itself; instead, we have to focus on the cycle of metamorphosis. What at one time is a social system of rights conceived by the mind will become an order of nature at another, albeit distant, future time. With the help of spiritual science one can see how the thought-out political order of one age is connected with the atmospheric order of nature of another time.
If these views evolve in such a manner that man's sense of participation in the world, his feeling of oneness with it, is thereby intensified, then indeed will that indispensable reconciliation take place between science and religion that is absolutely necessary to the upbuilding of our social life.
Just as the rights sphere acts upon the etheric body and the cultural sphere upon the physical body, so does the economic sphere act upon the astral body, and we may say that it is just upon this innermost principle of human nature that the economic sphere acts. You must distinguish the following: The economic sphere originates from the etheric body, but when, in turn, it reacts upon the human being, it reacts upon the astral body. The reaction is unlike that which proceeds from the human being. It is impossible merely to construe these matters schematically, for they must be derived empirically from observation. Because the economic sphere acts upon the astral body, brotherliness that should exist in the economic sphere is borne through the portal of death, for the human being takes along his astral body for a certain time. What is thus established by virtue of brotherliness in the human soul is carried through death into the spiritual world, and there continues to be effective as such. Thus what has already been discussed by me from other points of view appears again from this particular aspect.
The economic sphere — that is to say, the manner and method by which, in associations, we form the basis for our economic decisions and actions together with our fellow men — reacts on man's astral body and shapes it. It is, in fact, this formation of the astral body, attained because of brotherliness in the economic sphere, which the human being carries through death. As an idealist or perhaps even a mystic, one ought not to hold the economic sphere in particularly low esteem, for it is just in this sphere that we can develop brotherhood, as has often been pointed out. The spiritual element that is brought into the apparently material life is the very aspect acquired by the human being for his higher realm. What we establish in the cultural or spiritual sphere we draw from the mineral kingdom; it is something that we basically carry within our predispositions that we bring with us through birth. What we implant in the economic sphere, on the other hand, is something so strongly united with the soul that we bear it with us through the portal of death.
The facts are such that we must say, yes, people believe themselves to be idealists, or mystics, and feel obliged to disdain materialism, but no one becomes an idealist by disdain of materialism. Rather, he is an idealist if he knows how to spiritualize matter. What counts is not that we confront the economic life in false abnegation, that we scorn and slight it, but that we shape the economic life so that it bears the impression of the spirit everywhere, that this economic member of the social organism becomes a sphere molded and impregnated with the spirit by man. This is what is essentially decisive for the future.
And on a small scale, as I have already mentioned, this does make itself felt through the fact that people believe they are idealistic and spiritual if they deny the spirit any material tribute and think: It is not necessary really to offer this or that sacrifice to the spirit. The spiritual is, after all, spiritual — so they say — one must esteem it highly, not drag it into the dust by giving money, of all things, as an offering for it! By that token a proper idealist would be one who says to himself, “Oh, I revere the spirit, but I keep my wallet closed and do nothing for the care of the spiritual life!” One despises matter, despises above all the worst, the most Ahrimanic, form of matter, closing one's purse tightly so as to make sure that nothing can escape to sustain the life of the spirit. These are facts that in some degree are connected with the state of mind so easily arising in idealists and mystics. Matter is scorned rather than spiritualized. Where does this contempt for matter come from? It arises because today's idealists and mystics are frequently the greatest materialists, because they are so controlled by matter that they can resist it in no other way than by dreaming themselves into a contempt of it. Their contempt, however, is only imagined. They despise matter, because they themselves cannot cope with it. They are too deeply immersed in it.
We must be clearly aware that certain feelings and attitudes exist in our time that are really only masks. Many a person parading around as a mystic today is just a materialist, as I have had occasion to explain from other aspects in the last few weeks. From what I have tried to bring close to you today it becomes apparent, above all else, how through spiritual science the feeling of solidarity between the human being and the world can awaken and become more and more intense. In our present time this is necessary!
Actually, man has been able to arrive at a certain point in his evolution because he did not have to contribute anything to it. In the course of Earth's evolution we have proceeded from the beginning of earthly existence itself. In the beginning of Earth evolution divine spiritual beings provided for us; they incorporated into the Earth's organization the soil, the climate, finally even the cultural life. You know that there were great teachers in the Mystery centers, whose teachers were in turn the gods themselves. Thus, nothing human had been stored up; instead, the divine had been taken over. The gods had provided for mankind everything that was at hand in good order. This has essentially vanished in our time; I have shown you this in the most varied connections. The catastrophic character of our age is connected with this dissipation of the primeval, divine content and the creation of a new content by human beings on their own. They then create this new content not merely for human life in the cultural, political, and economic sphere, but also for what issues forth from these domains into the life of nature; and the future of the Earth must be man's own creation, his own concern.
In regard to humanity's present mentality, therefore, the views of a person like Spengler are quite correct, unless men awaken that inner fountain which can give rise not only to creative impulses for the activities of the cultural, political, and economic spheres, but which must act creatively out of these spheres for all of Earth life, including the life of nature itself. For civilization will not only pass over into barbarism, as Spengler has already proven scientifically, but the whole Earth will approach its doom, will never reach its goal. If only people would imbue themselves with this awareness that the future events of Earth evolution depend on humanity itself! For then, out of this feeling, the powerful impulse could emerge that we need today in order to lead the obviously declining order of the world again into an ascending direction, in order to challenge the drowsy souls who refuse to see what is actually happening, in order to transform these sleepy souls into awakened ones. We need an alert humanity today. Only a watchful mankind can survey what occurs around it and know the tasks placed upon it by the course of human evolution, in regard to which present mankind is being confronted with severe tests.
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