The Influence of Spiritual Beings Upon Man. Lecture 10
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, June 4, 1908:
What we have now been studying for some time in our Group lectures is meant as a completion or expansion of the subjects that have occupied us during the winter. It may well be that a remark here or there seemed somewhat aphoristic, and we want by means of these studies to enlarge or round off thoughts and concepts that have been aroused in us.
In the last lecture we were particularly occupied with the presence of all sorts of spiritual beings which are to be found, so to speak, between the sense-perceptible kingdoms of nature that surround us. We saw especially how in the place where the beings of different nature-kingdoms come together, where the plant is pressed close to the stone at a spring, where ordinary stone impinges on a metal as constantly occurs under the earth, where there is a communion as between bee and blossom, how everywhere in such spots forces are developed which draw various beings, whom we have called elemental beings, into earthly existence. Moreover, in connection with these elemental beings we have been occupied with the fact of a certain cutting off, a detaching, of beings from their whole connection. We have seen that the elemental beings called by spiritual science “Salamanders” have in part their origin from detached parts of animal group souls. These have, as it were, ventured too far forward into our physical world and have not been able to find their way back and unite again with the group soul, after the death and dissolution of the animal. We know that in the regular course of our life, the beings of our earth, the beings of the animal, plant, mineral kingdoms, have their “ego soul” — if one may so call it, have indeed such ego souls as man, differing only in the fact that the ego souls of other beings are in other worlds. We know that man is that being in our cycle of evolution who has an individual ego here on the physical plane — at least during his waking life. We know further that the beings which we call animals are so conditioned that — speaking loosely — similarly formed animals have a group soul or group ego which is in the so-called astral world. Further, the beings which we call plants have a dreamless sleeping consciousness for the physical world here but they have group egos which dwell in the lower parts of the devachanic world; and, finally, the stones, the minerals, have their group egos in the higher parts of Devachan. One who moves clairvoyantly in the astral and devachanic worlds has intercourse there with the group souls of the animals, plants, and minerals in the same way as here in the physical world he has intercourse during the day with other human souls or egos.
Now, we must be clear that in many ways man is a very complicated being — we have often spoken of this complexity in different lectures. But he will appear more and more complicated the further we go into the connections with great cosmic facts. In order to realize that man is not quite the simple being which he may perhaps appear to a naive observation we need only remember that by night, from going to sleep to waking up, the man of the present evolutionary cycle is quite a different being from what he is by day. His physical and etheric bodies lie in bed, the ego with the astral body is lifted out of them. Let us consider both conditions, and in the first place the physical and etheric bodies. They lie there, and if we disregard the transitional state of dream, they have what we may call a sleep consciousness devoid of content, perceptions, or dreams. But the ego and the astral body outside have, in this present cycle of evolution, just the same dreamless sleep consciousness. The sleeping man, whether in the members remaining here in the physical world, or in those which are in the astral world, has the same consciousness as the plant covering of the earth. We must occupy ourselves a little with these two separated parts of the sleeping human being.
From other lectures we know that the man of the present time has arisen slowly and gradually. We know that he received the first rudiments of a physical body in the embodiment of our Earth lying in a primeval past which we call the Saturn evolution. We know that then in a second embodiment of our Earth, the Sun evolution, he received the etheric or life body, that in the third embodiment, the Moon evolution, he also received the astral body, and that in the present Earth embodiment of our planet he acquired what we call the ego. Thus the human being has evolved quite slowly and gradually. This physical body which man bears today is actually his oldest part, the part that has gone through most metamorphoses. It has undergone four changes. The first rudiment, received by man on ancient Saturn, has gone through three modifications, on the Sun, on the Moon, and finally on the Earth, and is expressed in man's present sense-organs. They were quite different organs on ancient Saturn, but their first rudiments were there while no other part of the physical body as yet existed. We can look on ancient Saturn as a single being, entirely consisting of sense-organs. On the Sun the etheric body was added, the physical body went through a change, and the organs arose which we call today the glands, though at first they existed merely in their rudiments. Then on the Moon, when the physical body had undergone a third transformation through the impress of the astral body, were added those organs which we know as the nerve organs. And finally on the Earth was added the present blood-system, the expression of the ego, as the nervous system is the expression of the astral body, the glandular system of the etheric body, and the senses system the physical expression of the physical body itself. We have seen in former lectures that the blood system appeared for the first time in our Earth evolution and we ask: Why does blood flow in the present form in the blood channels? What does this blood express? Blood is the expression of the ego, and with this we will consider a possible misunderstanding, namely, that man actually misunderstands the present physical human body.
The human body as it is today is only one form of many. On the Moon, on the Sun, on Saturn, it was there but always different. On the Moon, for instance, there was as yet no mineral kingdom, on the Sun there was no plant world in our sense, and on Saturn no animal kingdom — there was solely the human being in his first physical rudiments. Now, when we reflect on this we must be clear that the present human body is not only physical body, but physical-mineral body, and that to the laws of the physical world — hence it is the “physical body” — it has assimilated the laws and substances of the mineral kingdom, which permeate it today. On the Moon the physical human body had not yet assimilated those laws: if one had burnt it there would have been no ash, for there were no minerals in the present earthly sense. Let us remember that to be physical and to be mineral are two quite different things. The human body is physical because it is governed by the same laws as the stone; it is at the same time mineral because it has been impregnated with mineral substances. The first germ of the physical body was present on Saturn, but there were no solid bodies, no water, no gases. On Saturn there was nothing at all but a condition of warmth. The modern physicist knows of no such condition because he thinks that warmth can only appear in connection with gases, water, or solid objects. But that is an error. The physical body which today has assimilated the mineral kingdom was on ancient Saturn a nexus of physical laws. We are physical laws working in lines, in forms, what you learn to know as laws in physics. Externally the physical human being was manifested on Saturn purely as a being which lived in warmth. We must thus clearly distinguish between the mineral element and the actual physical principle of man's body. It is physical law which governs the physical body. It belongs, for example, to the physical principle that our ear has such a form, that it receives sound in quite a definite way; to the mineral nature of the ear belong the substances which are impregnated into this scaffolding of physical laws.
Now that we have become clear about this and realize particularly how the sense-organs, glands, nerves, and blood are the expressions of our fourfold nature, let us turn again to the observation of the sleeping human being. When man is asleep the physical and etheric bodies lie on the bed, the astral body and the ego are outside. But now let us remember that the astral body is the principle of the nervous system and the ego that of the blood system. Thus during the night the astral body has deserted that part of the physical body of which, so to say, it is the cause — namely, the nervous system. For only when the astral body membered itself into man on the Moon could the nervous system arise. Thus the astral body callously leaves what belongs to it, what it is actually due to maintain, and in the same way the ego deserts that which it has called into life. The principles of the blood and of the astral body are outside, and the sleeping physical and etheric bodies are absolutely alone. But, now, nothing of a material physical nature can subsist in the form which has been called forth by a spiritual principle when this spiritual principle is no longer there. That is quite out of the question. Never can a nervous system live unless astral beings are active in it, and never can a blood system live unless ego beings are active in it. Thus you all meanly desert in the night your nervous and blood systems and relinquish them to other beings of an astral nature. Beings which are of the same nature as your ego now descend into your organism. Every night the human organism is occupied by beings fitted to maintain it. The physical body and the etheric body which lie on the bed are at the same time interpenetrated by these astral and ego beings; they are actually within the physical body. We might call them intruders, but that is in no sense correct. We ought in many ways to call them guardian spirits, for they are the sustainers of what man callously deserts in the night.
Now, it is not so bad for man to leave his bodies every night. I have already said that the astral body and the ego are perpetually active in the night. They rid the physical body of the wear and tear which the day has given, which in a broad sense we call fatigue. Man is refreshed and renewed in the morning because during the night his astral body and ego have removed the fatigue which were given him by the impressions of daily life. This all-night activity of the astral body in getting rid of the fatigue substances is a definite fact to clairvoyant perception. The ego and astral body work from outside on the physical and etheric bodies. But in the present cycle of his evolution man is not yet advanced enough to be able to carry out such an activity quite independently. He can only do so under the guidance of other, higher beings. So the human being is taken every night into the bosom of higher beings, as it were, and they endow him with the power of working in the right way on his physical and etheric bodies. These at the same time are the beings — that is why we may not call them intruders — who care for man's blood and nerve systems in the right way in the night.
As long as no abnormalities arise, the cooperation of spiritual beings with man is justified. But such irregularities can very well enter, and here we come to a chapter of spiritual science which is extraordinarily important for the practical life of the human soul. One would like it to be known in the widest circles, and not only theoretically but as giving the foundation for certain activities of the human soul life. It is not generally imagined that the facts of the soul life have a far-reaching effect. In certain connections I have also called your attention to the fact that it is only when viewed in the light of spiritual science that events in the life of the soul can find their true explanation. We all know the deep significance of the statement: “Regarded from the spiritual-scientific aspect a lie is a kind of murder.” I have explained that a sort of explosion really takes place in the astral world when man utters a lie — even, in a certain way, if he only thinks it. Something takes place in the spiritual world when a person lies that has a far more devastating effect for that world than any misfortune in the physical world. But things which one relates at a certain stage of spiritual-scientific observation, characterizing them as far as is possible then, gain more and more clearness and confirmation when one advances in the knowledge of spiritual science.
Today we shall learn of another effect of lying, slandering, although these words are not used here in the ordinary crude sense. When more subtly, out of convention, for instance, or out of all sorts of social or party considerations, people color the truth, we there have to do with a lie in the sense of spiritual science. In many respects man's whole life is saturated, if not with lies, yet with manifestations bearing an untruthful coloring. The enlightened materialist can at any rate see that an impression is made on his physical body if he receives a blow on the skull from an axe, or if his head is cut off by the railway, or he has an ulcer somewhere, or is attacked by bacilli. He will then admit that effects are produced on the physical body. What is not usually considered at all is that man is a spiritual unity, that what happens in his higher members, the astral body and ego, has positive effect right down into his physical nature. It is not considered, for instance, that the uttering of lies and untruthfulness, untruth even in the affairs of life, has a definite effect on the human physical body. Spiritual vision can experience the following: If a person, let us say, has told a lie during the day, its effect remains in the physical body and is to be seen by clairvoyant perception while the person sleeps. Let us suppose this person is altogether untruthful, piling up lies: then he will have many such effects in his physical body. All this hardens, as it were, in the night, and then something very important happens. These hardenings, these “enclosures,” in the physical body are not at all agreeable to the beings who from higher worlds must take possession of the physical body in the night and carry out the functions otherwise exercised by the astral body and ego. The result is that in the course of life and by reason of a body diseased — one might say — through lies, portions of those beings who descend into man at night become detached. Here we have again detachment processes, and they lead to the fact that when a man dies his physical body does not merely follow the paths which it would normally take. Certain beings are left behind, beings which have been created in the physical body through the effect of lying and slander, and have been detached from the spiritual world. Such beings, detached in this circuitous way, now flit and whir about in our world and belong to the class that we call “phantoms.” They form a certain group of elemental beings related to our physical body and invisible to physical sight. They multiply through lies and calumnies, and these in actual fact populate our earthly globe with phantoms. In this way we learn to know a new class of elemental beings.
But, now, not only lies and slanders but also other things belonging to the soul life produce an effect on the human body. It is lies and slanders which so act on the physical body that a detaching of phantoms is caused. Other things again work in a similar way, on the etheric body. You must not be amazed at such phenomena of the soul: in spiritual life one must be able to take things with all calmness. Matters, for example, which have a harmful result on the etheric body are bad laws, or bad social measures prevailing in a community. All that leads to want of harmony, all that makes for bad adjustments between man and man, works in such a way through the feeling which it creates in the common life that the effect is continued into the etheric body. The accumulation in the etheric body caused through these experiences of the soul brings about again detachments from the beings working in from the spiritual worlds, and these likewise are now to be found in our environment — they are “specters” or “ghosts.” Thus these beings that exist in the etheric world, the life world, we see grow out of the life of men. Many a man can go about among us, and for one who is able to see these things spiritually, his physical body is crammed, one might say, with phantoms, his etheric body crammed with specters, and as a rule after a man's death or shortly afterwards all this rises up and disperses and populates the world.
So we see how subtly the spiritual events of our life are continued, how lies, calumnies, bad social arrangements, deposit their creations spiritually among us on our earth. But now you can also understand that if in normal daily life the physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego belong together, and the physical body and etheric body have to let other beings press in and act upon them, then the astral body and the ego are not in a normal condition either. At any rate they are in a somewhat different position as regards the physical and etheric bodies. These two have in sleeping man the consciousness of the plants. But the plants on the other hand have their ego above in Devachan. Hence the physical and etheric bodies of sleeping man must likewise be sustained by beings which unfold their consciousness from Devachan. Now, it is true that man's astral body and ego are in a higher world, but he himself also sleeps dreamlessly like the plants. That the plants have only a physical and an etheric body and that man in his sleeping condition possesses further an astral body and ego makes no difference as regards the plant-nature. True, man has been drawn upward into the spiritual, the astral world, but yet not high enough upward with his ego to justify the sleep-condition. The consequence is that beings must now enter his astral body too when the human being goes to sleep. And so it is: influences from the devachanic world press all the time into man's astral body. They need not in the least be abnormal influences, they may come from what we call man's higher ego. For we know that man is gradually rising to the devachanic world, in as much as he approaches ever nearer to a state of spiritualization, and what is being prepared there sends its influences into him today when he sleeps. But there are not merely these normal influences. This would simply and solely be the case if human beings were fully to understand what it is to value and esteem the freedom of another. Mankind at present is still very far removed from that. Think only how the modern man for the most part wants to over-rule the mind of another, how he cannot bear someone else to think and like differently, how he wants to work upon the other's soul. In all that works from soul to soul in our world, from the giving of unjustifiable advice to all those methods which men employ in order to overwhelm others, in every act that does not allow the free soul to confront the free soul, but employs, even in the slightest degree, forcible means of convincing and persuasion, in all this, forces are working from soul to soul which again so influence these souls that it is expressed in the night in the astral body. The astral body gets those “enclosures,” and thereby beings are detached from other worlds and whir through our world again as elemental beings. They belong to the class of demons. Their existence is solely due to the fact that intolerance and oppression of thought have in various ways been used in our world. That is how these hosts of demons have arisen in our world.
Thus we have learnt again today to know of beings which are just as real as the things which we perceive through our physical senses, and which very definitely produce effects in human life. Humanity would have advanced quite differently if intolerance had not created the demons which pervade our world, influencing people continually. They are at the same time spirits of prejudice. One understands the intricacies of life when one learns about these entanglements between the spiritual world in the higher sense and our human world. All these beings, as we have said, are there, and they whiz and whir through the world in which we live.
Now let us remember something else which has also been said before. We have pointed out that in the man of the last third of the Atlantean age, before the Atlantean flood, the relation of etheric body to physical body was quite different from what it had been earlier. Today the physical part of the head and the etheric part practically coincide. That was quite different in ancient Atlantis; there we have the etheric part of the head projecting far out — especially in the region of the forehead. We now have a central point for the etheric and physical parts approximately between the eyebrows. These two parts came together in the last third of the Atlantean age, and today they coincide. Thereby man is able to say “I” to himself and feel an independent personality. Thus the etheric and physical bodies of the head have joined together. This has come about so that man could become the sense being that he is within our physical world, so that he can enrich his inner life through what he takes in through sense impressions, through smell, taste, sight, and so on. All of this becomes embodied in his inner being so that having obtained it he can use it for the further development of the whole cosmos. What he thus acquires can be acquired in no other way, and therefore we have always said we must not take Spiritual Science in an ascetic sense, as a flight from the physical world. All that happens here is taken with us out of the physical world and it would be lost to the spiritual world if it were not collected here first.
But humanity is now getting nearer and nearer to a new condition. In this post-Atlantean age we have gone through various culture epochs: the old Indian, the ancient Persian, lying before the time of Zarathustra, then the epoch which we have called the Babylonian-Assyrian-Chaldean-Egyptian, then the Greco-Latin, and now we stand in the fifth cultural epoch of the post-Atlantean age. Ours will be followed by a sixth and a seventh epoch. Whereas in the course of past ages and up to our own time the united structure of our etheric and physical bodies has always grown firmer, more closely united inwardly, man is approaching a period in the future when the etheric body gradually loosens itself again and becomes independent. The way back is taken. There are people today who have a much looser etheric body than others. This loosening of the etheric body is only right for man if during his different incarnations in those cultural epochs he has absorbed so much into himself that when his etheric body goes out again it will take with it the right fruits from the physical sense world of the earth, fruits suitable for incorporation into the increasingly independent etheric body. The more spiritual are the concepts which man finds within the physical world, the more he takes with him in his etheric body. All the utilitarian ideas, all the concepts bound up with machine and industry which only serve outer needs and the outer life, and which man absorbs in our present earthly existence, are unsuitable for incorporation in the etheric body. But all the concepts he absorbs of the artistic, the beautiful, the religious — and everything can be immersed in the sphere of wisdom, art, religion — all this endows man's etheric body with the capability and possibility of being organized independently. Since this can be seen in advance, it has often been emphasized here that the world-conception of spiritual science must send its impulses and activities into practical life. Spiritual science must never remain a conversational subject for tea-parties or any other pursuit apart from ordinary life; it must work its way into the whole of our civilization. If spiritual-scientific thoughts are one day understood, then men will understand that everything our age accomplishes must be permeated by spiritual principles. Many human beings, among them Richard Wagner, foresaw in certain fields such a penetration with spiritual principles. Some day men will understand how to build a railway-station so that it streams out truth like a temple and is in fact simply an expression suited to what is within it. There is still very much to do. These impulses therefore must be effective, and they will be effective when spiritual-scientific thoughts are more fully understood.
I still have a vivid recollection of a rectorial address given about twenty-five years ago by a well-known architect. He spoke about style in architecture and uttered the remarkable sentence: “Architectural styles are not invented, they grow out of the spiritual life!” At the same time he showed why our age, if indeed it produces architectural styles, only revives old ones and is incapable of finding a new style because it has as yet no inner spiritual life. When the world creates spiritual life again, then all will be possible. Then we shall feel that the human soul shines toward us from all we look at, just as in the Middle Ages every lock on a door expressed what man's soul understood of outer forms. Spiritual science will not be understood till it meets us everywhere in this way as if crystallized in forms. But then mankind too will live as spirit in the spirit. Then, however, man will be preparing more and more something that he takes with him when he again rises into the spiritual world, when his etheric body becomes self-dependent. Thus must men immerse in the spiritual world if evolution is to go further in the right way.
Nothing symbolizes the permeation of the world with the spirit so beautifully as the story of the miracle of Pentecost. When you contemplate it, it is as though the interpenetration of the world with spiritual life were indicated prophetically through the descent of the “fiery tongues.” Everything must be given life again through the spirit; that abstract intellectual relation which man has to the yearly festivals must also become concrete and living again. Now, at this time of Pentecost, Whitsuntide, let us try to occupy our souls with the thoughts that can proceed from today's lecture. Then the Festival, which as we know is established on a spiritual foundation, will again signify something living for man when his etheric body is ripe for spiritual creation. But if man does not absorb the Whitsuntide spirit, then the etheric body goes out of the physical body and is far too weak to overcome what has already been created, those worlds of specters, phantoms, demons, which the world creates as phenomena existing at its side.