Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, May 1, 1920:
To understand the world without understanding Man is impossible. That is the net result to be derived from our studies here. And for that very reason I wish today to contribute a little more to the understanding of Man. Let us then start from the disparity between the organisation of the head and that of the limb man — a subject on which we have already frequently spoken here.
First of all I would remind you that the head-organisation, as it meets us in the life between birth and death, is the outcome of all those formative processes which have been undergone from the last death to the earthly embodiment of this present life. From this we must conclude that everything connected with the head-organisation does not, in its conformity to law, follow those rules and forces to which we are adapted as earthly beings. Through the bodily organisation which we receive in this particular incarnation we are adapted to Earth-life. We have spoken a little of how this is manifested. We complete one revolution, of taking nourishment and digesting it, every 24 hours. Thereby we are adjusted with respect to the cycle of nourishment and digestion to the movement of the Earth in 24 hours. Something is accomplished in us, as it were, resembling what takes place in the processes of the Earth within the Universe. Our head, however, we virtually bring with us in its organisation at birth; therefore the head is primarily adjusted not to earthly relationships, but to such as are really from beyond the Earth. The head therefore is in a peculiar position in relation to the rest of man. A comparison may serve to make clear the position of man's head during the early epochs of his Earth-life.
Suppose we were on board a ship. The ship makes various movements in different directions. If we have a compass, we see that the set of the magnetic needle does not follow the movement of the ship, but points always to the magnetic North Pole. It is independent of the movements of the ship. The ship's movements can indeed be themselves regulated by the constant position of the magnetic needle. In a sense it is the same with the human head. Man does many things in the physical world with the rest of his organism: the head in a sense has no part in what he does in earthly life. It is always organised with its inborn forces in accordance with the extra-earthly. It is a very important fact that we have in the human head something organised in this way for the extra-earthly. Nevertheless there is always an interaction between the organisation of the head and that of the rest of man. This interaction is only gradually brought to completion in the course of the time that passes between birth and death. The head, as we receive it from the super-earthly worlds at birth, is organised primarily for the life of ideation. It is in a sense so constructed that the life of ideas can use it as an instrument. If it were to develop only on the basis of the forces which it receives on leaving the super-earthly worlds, it would develop solely as an organ of ideation or thought; our connection with the world through the head-organisation would in course of time be entirely lost. We should, as it were, so pass through earthly life with our consciousness as to develop by means of the head ideas only — that is, no more than pictures of earthly life. We should become more and more conscious of extending beyond our organisation which is connected with the Earth-being, of extending beyond it with our head; as though through our head we were beings who were strange to the Earth and developed only pictures of all that is connected with earthly life.
This is not so, and precisely for the reason that the rest of the organism sends its forces into the head. If we enquire into the quality of these forces, which from childhood onwards are more and more directed from the rest of the organism into the head, if we wish to describe them, we must look for them particularly in the forces of the Will. The rest of the organism is continually impregnating the Thought-nature of the head with Will-forces. Thus we can say, in effect, speaking diagrammatically, that we acquire the head as the bearer of ideas, as the result of the foregoing incarnation; while the Will-forces are sent into it from the rest of the organism. What has just been said takes place not only in the life of soul, but shows its effects in the bodily life also.
As head-man we are born in this earthly world as beings of thought and ideation, and the forces of ideation are at first very powerful. They ray out from the head into the rest of the organism, and it is they which during the first seven years of life enable the forces which manifest in the second dentition to work out of the rest of our organism, these same forces consolidate in us also the life of Thought, which is not consolidated until we acquire the second teeth. They are the actual forces which produce the teeth; so that when we have the teeth, these forces are set free, and can assert themselves in the life of ideas. They can then form ideas, and in a corresponding way build the power of memory. Clearly outlined ideas can begin to find a place in our thought. As long however as we are employing the forces in the formation of the teeth, they cannot show themselves as true consolidating forces in the life of ideas.
As we grow beyond the seventh or eighth year, the Will which is essentially bound up with the lower man and not with the head, begins to manifest, and now comes the time when it would, as it were, shoot its forces up into the head. This cannot however come about so easily; for our head, which is organised for the extra-earthly, would not be able to receive these strong forces which the metabolic system, as vehicle of the Will, wishes to send forth to it. These forces must first be stemmed; they must make a halt until sufficiently filtered, toned down, given more of a ‘soul’ character, to make their influence felt in the head. This halt is made at the end of the second septennial period. When the Will-forces are arrested in the organisation of the larynx — for that is the way they manifest; in the male organisation they suddenly break forth in the change of voice. In the female organisation they manifest differently. These are the Will-forces coming to a standstill, as it were, before they reach the head. Thus we may say that at the end of our second septennial period, the Will-forces are arrested in the speech organisation. At that time they are sufficiently filtered and “souled” to make their influence felt in the head-organisation. Having reached the age of puberty, and the change of voice which runs parallel with it, we have reached the point when the faculty of thought and ideation can work together with the Will in the head.
Here we have an example of how with our Spiritual Science we can point concretely to events. The abstract philosophies which make their influence felt in modern times — Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Idea for instance — all remain in the abstract. Schopenhauer took pains to describe the world in its ideal character on the one hand, and its will character on the other; but he remains, as it were, in the mere abstract. So also does Eduard von Hartmann. They all remain in the abstract. To be concrete is to observe how, through these two halts — at the first and second septennial periods — in quite definite and distinct ways Idea and Will meet in the cosmic system of the human head. The essential thing is that we can point to that which is of the soul and spirit and show how it manifests and reveals itself in the outer physical world. So too, we see the forces of the head, which are sent forth to the body and manifest therein in the forming of the teeth, work together with the forces of the body sent to the head, which prepare themselves, by what they undergo in the formation of speech, to become true soul-will. In the formation of speech they are arrested and held back and only then do they press forward into the head.
Thus we must understand Man in his process of formation, and look at what actually goes on with him. I have said that the human head is no more adjusted to the earthly relations of man than is the magnetic needle to the movements of the ship. The needle is independent of them, and the human head is in the same way independent of the earthly connection.
Here we have something which gradually leads to the physiological concept of freedom. Here we have the physiology of what I have set forth in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, namely, that one can only understand freedom by grasping it in sense-free thinking — that is to say, in the processes taking place in man when he directs pure thinking by his Will and orientates it in accordance with certain defined directions.
We see how man comes step by step to study rightly the mutual relationship of the soul-and-spirit and the physical-corporeal, and how the process of speech-formation can be really understood by conceiving of it as a product of two sources from which the human being is supplied — the sources which are in the head-man on the one hand and in the limb-man on the other.
We can now experience more fully how impossible it is to say that some kind of communication of the will is carried from the brain through the motor nerves. The brain only derives its full power of volition from the rest of the organism. Of course you are not to imagine this as if you could draw it in a diagram, for the process of speech-formation not only was prepared earlier, but is something which goes through the whole of life and only appears in its most characteristic feature in the special time of transition. Thus we must understand clearly how man is adapted to an earthly as well as an extra-earthly life.
He is so adapted to earthly life that certain forces which the animal brings to their conclusion, man does not bring to a conclusion in his purely natural organisation. The animal is, as it were, born ready-equipped for all its functions. Man has to be taught to acquire these functions for himself. What thus takes place in man is really only an outer expression of something that takes place in him organically If we study the metabolism of the animal correctly, we find that it goes further than that of man. The metabolism of man must be held back at an earlier halting place. What in the animal is carried to a certain stage — must in man be arrested at an earlier stage. Superficially expressed, man does not carry digestion so far as the animal; the digestive process ceases earlier. He retains, through the arrested digestion, forces which become the vehicle for what he sends to the head through the Will.
As you see, human nature is complicated; and if one does not wish to take the trouble really to study its complications — why then, one arrives at a science such as we have in the external science of today! One does not arrive at the real nature of Man. The essential nature of Man will only be revealed when Spiritual Science is allowed to illuminate natural science. If however, it is with Man as I have described, and the connection between Man and the extra-human world outside him is as we have described it in these studies, then you will see that the extra-human world can only exist for Man if it has a certain resemblance to him, to his organisation. We have seen that as limb-men we are adapted to earthly relationships, but that through the head-organisation we have removed ourselves as it were out of earthly relations, like the ship's compass on the ship. Now something of this kind must take place also in the extra-human world. There must, for instance, be adaptation to the human limb-nature. Something must lift itself out beyond, there must be something that does not belong.
How does modern natural science study Man? It studies him as though he had no head. Of course it studies the head too, but how? As a kind of appendage to the rest of his organism. What natural science produces for the comprehension of human nature is only calculated to explain the part outside the head, not the human head itself; that must be explained from the spiritual world.
I might have used the following comparison. I might have said — I have already spoken of it recently — that the human head sits upon the rest of the human organism as people sit in a railway carriage. They take no personal part in the movement. They sit still and allow the carriage to move. In the same way, the human head sits at ease. It regards the rest of the organism which is adapted to the outer world, as its coach, and allows itself to be carried. It is itself organised for a very different world. And this is how it must be in the outer world also. A natural history of man, such as we have today, really speaks of a headless man, it does not understand his true nature at all. And an astronomy constructed on the same principles would not correspond to the whole extra-earthly world, but only to a certain part of it; the other part that is withdrawn from this main part, is not considered at all. As a matter of fact the trend of natural science for the last three or four centuries has been such that it has developed the movements of the Universe, disregarding a certain content of this Universe, just as the rest of natural science disregards the human head. Therefore astronomy has derived forms of movements such as ‘The Earth revolves in an elliptical path round the Sun’, which are as little correct for the Universe as the natural science of today is for the whole being of Man. They do not correspond to the actual facts. Hence we must so often point out that the Copernican view must be fructified by Spiritual Science. Many mystics, and theosophists too, are fond of preaching: ‘The world of senses around us is Maya.’ But they do not draw the ultimate logical conclusion, otherwise they would have to say: ‘Even the world of the Copernican system, this movement of the Earth around the Sun is maya, is an illusion, and must be revised.’ For we must realise that within it is something which can no more be recognised on the basis of the hypothesis employed by Copernicus, Galileo — or even Kepler — than the whole nature of Man can be understood from the principles of modern science.
Now when we come to treat of a subject like this, we must at the same time point to something which has already taken place in human evolution. If we call to mind what we have often said — that in olden times there was a kind of primeval wisdom of which man had but a dreamy atavistic consciousness, but which in its content far surpassed what we have since acquired — if we remember all this, we shall not find it difficult to bear in mind also that the idea of the world which was held in olden times was quite different from any cosmology possible today. For what was the cosmology of our forefathers — that is, of ourselves in our former Earth-lives? What was it?
The cosmology that man had in those times consisted far more than it does now in what man brought into the world at physical birth. We may still find in children, if we understand how to observe them aright, something like a picture of the world in which man lived before descending to physical life. In later life however, and indeed very early in later life, this picture vanishes. In olden times this picture endured. What existed in earlier epochs of spiritual evolution as an astronomical description of the solar or planetary system and its relation to man, was something man felt within him, although he experienced it in a dream-like state. Today we look back upon those times of our ancestors with a certain arrogance, yet they were times when we really knew there was something within ourselves that had connection with Mars, Mercury, and so on. That was part of the inner consciousness of the human being. It disappeared however as man developed further. In primeval times he saw only the outer constellation, but felt within himself an inner constellation, an inner cosmic system. Not only did he perceive a cosmic system outside him; but in his own head, which today is merely the vehicle of the — shall I say — indefinite life of ideas, there within, shone the Sun, with the planets circling round. In his head man carried this cosmic picture, and it had an inner force which worked upon the rest of the organism and influenced what he received at birth, or rather at conception, from the Earth-forces; that too was influenced, so that the rest of man was also drawn into this adaptation to the planetary forces.
And now we can carry the thought a little further. Man is born into this world, and as a heritage he receives — let us say — in the first place, the power to acquire his teeth, the milk-teeth. These are completed approximately in the circle of the first year. The second teeth need seven times as long; they are brought forth by the human organism itself. This points in the deepest sense to the fact that a certain rhythm which we bring with us at birth and which relates to the yearly revolution is slowed down by seven times in our earthly life. By seven times is the yearly revolution slowed down, and this is expressed in the fact that man has introduced into his division of time the relation of one to seven — day and week. The week is seven times as long as the day. This is an expression of how something takes its course in man which goes seven times slower than what he brings into physical existence at birth. Man will not understand the actual processes in the human being until he is able to see quite clearly and exactly how something within him which, as it were, was brought in from conditions outside the Earth, has to be slowed down by seven times during the earthly period.
The ancient Mystery teaching spoke much of these facts. If I were to express in our language what the old Mystery teachings — the ancient Hebrew Mystery teaching, for example — said from their atavistic knowledge of these matters, I should have to put it in this way. — The old Hebrew teachers explained to their pupils: Jehovah, who is the true Earth God, who added the Earth-organisation to that of Saturn, Sun and Moon — Jehovah has the tendency to slow down seven times what comes from the Moon-organisation. In relation to the course of the Earth something in the human being wants to go at accelerated speed. I might even say that the old Hebrew Mystery teacher said to his pupils: Lucifer runs seven times as fast as Jehovah. This points to two movements, two currents in human nature. These two currents also exist in extra-earthly nature — only there they are present in a somewhat different form. The thought however, which we here approach, is one not very easy to understand. We can perhaps gain insight into it by starting from social relationships, and then coming back to the cosmic-tellurian relationships.
I have often spoken in public lectures of something I should like to express here. When we contemplate the misery of the present time, we find the peculiar fact that the whole intelligence of modern humanity has developed in a way that is quite estranged from reality. It is a peculiar fact that, in practical life, we find more inefficient people than efficient. This is patent, for instance, as I have shown, in the fact that in the nineteenth century there was much discussion concerning the effect of the gold-standard upon international economic relations. You can go through the Parliamentary reports of that century, and try to form an idea from them of what people then thought would be the result of mono-metalism, the gold-standard. They regarded it as something which would make free trade possible unhindered by imposition of duty. Throughout the united economic domains of the world this was predicted wherever the gold-standard was extolled. What has actually come about? The imposition of duty. Little by little the actual relations have developed in such a way that everywhere duties have been imposed. That is the actual outcome.
Judging superficially one might say: Well, those people must have been very stupid! But they were not at all stupid; among those who had pledged themselves to the promotion of free trade by the gold-standard, were very able and clever persons, but they had no sense of reality, they reckoned only according to logic. They could not dive into the true relationships, any more than can our modern scientists comprehend the organisation of the heart, liver, spleen and so on. They make abstract theories and hold on to them; although they are materialists they remain rooted in the abstract. That is why such an occurrence is possible as that related in the following anecdote, which is founded on fact and is really very illuminating.
In a certain Academy of science there was a physiologist, a learned man, who developed a theory as to the varying length of time particular birds can fast. He made out a beautiful schedule. He had large cages of birds placed in his corridor and he starved those birds to ascertain how long they could live without food. He registered the times and obtained some lovely big numbers as a result. He elaborated these in a paper which he read at an Academical Meeting. Now in the same house there lived on the floor above another physiologist who did not apply the same methods. After the learned treatise had been read, he rose and said: ‘I must unfortunately object that these figures are not correct, for I had such pity on the poor birds that I fed them in passing.’ Now things do not always have to happen just like this! This is an anecdote. But it is founded on fact; and really much of the material underlying our exact science has been obtained in a like way. Someone in the background has ‘fed the birds’ instead of their having starved as long as the schedule showed. If one has a sense for reality, one cannot very well work with statistical methods of that kind; they do not hold out much promise. But this sense for reality is wholly lacking in modern humanity. Why is this so? It is due to a certain necessity of the evolution of humanity; and we can understand the matter as follows:
Picture it to yourselves in this way. The man of ancient times looked into this outer world. By means of all that he bore within him, he viewed the relationships and connections of the world outside. He formed also his theory of the stars from out of his own inner stellar system. He had ‘a sense for reality’ and he carried it in his senses. This sense for reality has disappeared in the course of man's evolution. It will have to be developed again, it will have to be developed to the same degree inwardly as it formerly was outwardly. We must really cultivate this sense for reality in our inner being by the training we receive in Spiritual Science; only then shall we be able to develop it in the world outside. If man were to keep straight on in the path in which he has been evolving with modern intellectuality, he would at length be quite unable to perceive what is going on around him, and then it could easily happen that while the cry is heard, ‘Free Trade is coming!’ in reality it will be Customs restrictions that are being established. This is continually happening in the various domains of so-called practical life. What happened then in a big thing happens today in small things everywhere. The ‘practical’ man predicts one thing, the opposite happens. It would be interesting to keep an account of what ‘practical’ men have predicted as ‘certain to happen’ during the last years of the war. Always the opposite came about, especially in the later years, precisely because there was no longer any sense for reality among the people. This sense however, can arise in no other way than by developing it first within. In future times no one will be considered a practical man or a thinker attuned to reality, who disdains to educate himself in his inner being through Spiritual Science, in a manner that cannot be done through the outer world today. We must carry into the world outside what we develop within. Hence the necessity for Spiritual Science; for people cannot arrive at the relation of the heart to the liver if they do not first acquire the method for it by means of a training in Spiritual Science. In earlier times people could say: the heart is related to the liver somewhat as the Sun to Mercury in the outer world; and man knew something of how this relationship of Sun to Mercury was drawn from the super-sensible world into the sense world. This is now no longer understood, nor can it ever be thoroughly understood if the foundation, the basic impulse for this comprehension, be not acquired from within. It is not through clairvoyance alone that man can make it his own. By clairvoyance the facts of Spiritual Science are investigated; but man acquires this sense when he enters with his whole thought and feeling into what has already been discovered by clairvoyant methods, and regulates his life accordingly. That is the essential point. What is of moment is to study the conclusions of Spiritual Science, not to satisfy a curiosity for clairvoyance. That must be emphasised again and again. For in the whole development of human culture, this application of the methods of Spiritual Science to outer life and to the knowledge of the great world, the world outside man, is of quite special importance.
When we consider what we thus have to look upon as the original head-organisation, when we consider it in the course of our life, we see how it gradually becomes permeated with all in our organisation that is adapted to the world outside. Thus we must learn to understand the world outside man from man's own organism, from the human limb-organisation; and there, only such things as I have already hinted at can help us. I have shown the contrast that exists between the waking and sleeping conditions of man. These are contrasting conditions, and when one condition is passing over into the other, that is to say, when we wake up and when we go to sleep, then we pass through a zero-point of our existence. The moment of awaking and the moment of falling asleep must have something to do with one another.
This indicates that if we try to turn the day-course of man into a geometrical figure, we can employ neither a circle nor an ellipse; for if we were to ascribe to the sleep condition one part of the ellipse, the conditions of awaking and falling asleep should fall apart; and this they cannot do. We shall see how even in outer appearance they present a similarity; they cannot fall apart. Thus we cannot draw the geometrical figure which is to correspond with man's daily round in a circular form nor in an elliptic form. We can only draw it as a looped line, a lemniscate. When we say: Man falls asleep out of the waking condition into the sleep condition, then with the lemniscate it is possible to show him coming out of sleep again through the same condition; and we have a curve, a line which truly corresponds to the daily course of human life. There is no other line for the daily course of life than the lemniscate, for no other line would lead the awaking through the same point as the falling asleep.
There is more than this. If we give attention to human evolution in childhood especially, we have to say: we wake up virtually the same as we went to sleep. We wake up the same in respect of the principal alternating conditions of
waking and sleeping. But if we rightly observe life, we cannot exclude the sleeping condition from human life as a whole. We instruct our children during the day. Out of all we bring to the child, much of it is not his at once, but becomes so only the next day, after the Ego and astral body have passed through the night-condition; only then does the child duly receive what we have given him by day. We must always have this in mind and regulate our teaching and education accordingly. Thus in regard to the alternating condition of day and night, we can say: we sleep, and on awaking come to the same place where we fell asleep; but in regard to human evolution, we shall have to say: we press forwards a little. We progress in another direction.
Hence we may not draw the line quite as a lemniscate; but in such a way that we come out a little further on, and so attain aprogressive lemniscate. (A).
Thus when we observe the alternating conditions of waking and sleeping, and continue the evolution, we obtain a spiral. This spiral is ultimately connected with our evolution, and our evolution again is connected with the whole cosmic system. Therefore we must seek this same line as the basis of the movements of the Universe. If, instead of abstract geometry, man had applied concrete geometry to celestial space, the concrete geometry that proceeds from a study of the whole man, he would have arrived at something different. For in the ancient wisdom one had this line (A). And one did not speak of Mars as moving along any other kind of line than this one. Gradually it was all forgotten. Man calculated instead of knowing. What was the result? It was a line which goes forward like this (B). But in that line one can get no further.
So man took this line and set circles upon it (C) and acquired the epicycloid theory.
The Ptolemaic theory is the last remnant of the old primeval wisdom. On its foundation Copernicus made a further simplification, and modern astronomy still speculates on that today — but in such a way that it much prefers to consider ellipses and circles than that inwardly curving line which presents a continuous spiral. Then people wonder that the observations do not agree with the calculations, and that fresh corrections have to be made continually.
Reflect how the whole theory of Relativity has been constructed on an error in Mercury's time of rotation. Only, the correction was attempted in a different way than would have been the case if one had gone back to Man's relation to the whole Cosmos. Of this more in the next lecture.
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