Saturday, August 17, 2019
Man: Hieroglyph of the Universe. Lecture 9 of 16
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, April 25, 1920:
The task underlying our present studies is, in the widest sense, to try to understand the Universe through the relations existing between it and Man. I am far from wishing to convey the idea to those who have had certain glimpses into the Universe during the foregoing lectures that the truth of these matters can be found in any quick and easy way such as one hears of in ordinary Astronomy when it tells of the celestial motions. I would, however, like the friends who have come to the General Meeting not merely to hear something that comes right in the middle of a consecutive series, but in these few lectures held during the General Meeting, also to have a self-contained picture. I will therefore continue our studies of yesterday, giving indications of how the conception of the nature of Man leads to the conception of the Universe, its being and its movements. Of course, this subject is so vast that it is impossible to exhaust it for the friends who are now present. It will be continued later. For the benefit of those here for the first time to-night, I should like to put before them at any rate a few of the salient features of the subject embodied in previous lectures.
From other lectures you all know of the relation existing in human life between waking and sleeping. You know that in the abstract the relation is something like this: In the waking condition, the physical, etheric and astral bodies, together with the Ego-being, are in a certain inner connection; whereas during sleep, we have on the one side, the physical and etheric bodies united, and on the other — separated from them at any rate in comparison with the waking state — we have the astral body and the Ego. This, as you know, is merely an abstract assertion, for I have often emphasised that as regards all that belongs to the limb-nature — which is continued into the inner organisation, and is also the real bearer of metabolism — all this part of man, connected as it is at the same time with the human will, is really in a perpetual state of sleep. We must be absolutely clear that this state of sleep continues in regard to our inner organism, when we ourselves are awake. We can therefore say that the ‘Limb-man’ as carrier of the ‘Will-man’, is in a permanent state of sleep. The Circulation or ‘Rhythmic-man’, which may be described as in the middle between the Head-organisation and the Limb-man (the latter extending into the interior of man) persists in a continuous dream state. This is at the same time the outer instrument for our world of feeling. The world of feeling is rooted wholly within man's rhythmic organisation and while the metabolic man, together with its outward extension — the limbs — is the vehicle of the will, the rhythmic man is the vehicle of the life of feeling, and is related to our consciousness in the same way as our dream state to our waking life. Between waking and falling asleep, we are only really awake in our life of ideation and thought.
In this way we have set before us the fact that man, in his life between birth and death, is in an intermittent waking state in respect to his life of thought, in a dream state regarding his emotions and feelings, of which the rhythmic man is the vehicle; and he is in a state of continuous sleep as regards his limbs and metabolic system. We must realise at this point that really to comprehend human nature, it is necessary to fix our attention upon the fact of the extension of the limb-nature into the interior of man. All the processes that are ultimately connected with the abdominal region, everything connected with assimilation, digestion, as also with the secretion of milk in females, and so forth, all these processes are a continuation of the limb nature, directed inwards. So that in speaking of the will-nature or metabolic-nature, we do not mean only the outer limbs, but the continuation inwards too of this limb activity. In respect to all this, intimately connected as it is with the will-nature, man is continuously asleep.
This complicates the abstract idea we gain in the first place of the departure of the Ego and astral body; and it also necessitates a corresponding comprehension of another important fact.
When the materialistic physiologist of today speaks of the will, saying for instance, that it manifests in the movement of the limbs, he has in mind that some kind of telephonic signal is sent from the central organ, the brain, proceeds through the so-called motor-nerves, and thus moves the right leg, for instance. This however is quite unproven — in fact, a quite erroneous hypothesis! For spiritual observation shows the following: If a man's right leg is raised or moved by the will, a direct influence of the Ego-being of man takes place, acting upon that limb, so that it is really raised by the Ego-being itself; only, the process takes place in a state like that of sleep. Consciousness knows nothing of it. The nerve merely informs us that we have a limb, it tells us of the presence of such a limb. This nerve as such has no part in the activity of the Ego upon that limb. A direct correspondence exists between the limb and the will, which latter is associated in man with the Ego-being, and in the animal with the astral body. All that Physiology has to say in respect, for instance, of the speed of transmission of the so-called will, needs to be revised; it should be impressed upon us that here we have to do rather with the velocity of transmission in respect of the perception of that particular limb. Naturally anyone initiated into modern physiology can challenge this assertion in a dozen ways. I am well acquainted with these objections. But we have to try to rise a really logical thought process in this matter, and we shall find that what I say here corresponds with actual facts of observation, while what is said in physiological textbooks does not.
Sometimes indeed these things are so obvious as to be evident to all. Thus at a meeting of scientists in Italy — I think it was in the 80's of the last century — a most interesting discussion took place concerning the contradictions which came to light between the usual theory of the motor-nerves and the movement of a limb. As however the tendency to take notice of the spiritual aspect of things is absent in the physiology of today, even during a discussion such as this little was arrived at, except that contradictions existed in the hypothetical explanation of a certain fact. It would be extremely interesting if our learned friends, and there are such among us, were to investigate and test the physiological and biological literature of the last 40 years. They would make extremely interesting discoveries, were they to take up these subjects. They would find facts everywhere, which merely need handling in the proper way to confirm the findings of Spiritual Science. It would form one of the most interesting problems of the Institutes of Scientific Research which ought now to be erected, to proceed in the following way: International literature on the subject should first be carefully studied. We must take the international literature, for in English, and particularly in American literature, most interesting facts are substantiated, although these investigators do not know what to make of them. If you look into the discovered facts and substantiate them, there is but one step more needed in the sequence of investigation — given the right kind of vision in response to which the thing will, as it were, come out and show itself — and magnificent results would be arrived at today. Once we have advanced sufficiently to possess such an Institute, furnished with adequate apparatus and the necessary material, the facts will be found all around us, waiting as it were. Today people fail to notice the universal urge towards an Institute such as I have in mind, for the series of tests and experiments commenced are always discontinued just at the most critical moments, simply because people are ignorant of the ultimate direction of such experiments. Really important foundations would be laid by such an Institute, foundations for practical work. People do not dream at the present time of the technique that would result if these things were actually done, first as experiments and then building up from them further. It is only the possibility of putting it into practical effect that is lacking.
This is only by the way. To return to our subject, we have to do with a portion of man which sleeps even while he is awake. I now wish to bring to your notice a fact which has played an important part in all the older conceptions of the Universe. I refer to the assertion that the starting-point of the lower limbs is under the rulership of the Moon, while the region of the larynx, which we may consider as the meeting-point of the higher limbs, is associated with Mars. The man of today who is deeply involved in the modern conception of the Macrocosm, cannot of course make anything of such assertions; and the nonsense which hazy mystics and theosophists of today say or write about these things should not be awarded any special value, for these facts lie far deeper than, for instance, the repeated statements of materialistic theosophy that we have first coarse physical matter, and then other rather ‘finer’, then the astral still ‘finer’ and so forth. Those and similar things that pass for theosophy are in reality no spiritual teaching at all, but a spiritual untruth, for they are nothing more than a perpetuation of materialism.
Statements, however, that have come down to us as remnants of the ancient wisdom, have power to lead us to a state of real veneration and deep humility before that ancient knowledge of man, as soon as we begin to understand its meaning. These indications of an ancient wisdom persisted, not only till far into the Middle Ages, but even into the eighteenth century (where they may be found in the literature of the period), and perhaps into the nineteenth century, though here they have become merely copies, so to speak, and are no longer the direct result of an original primeval consciousness. And when these things are found introduced into quite modern literature, then they are still more certain to be copies. Up to the earlier part of the eighteenth century, however, we can still find traces of a certain consciousness of these things, and here again an association was thought of as between the nature of the Moon and this region of the human organism.
What I have just said — that man in relation to his will-metabolic nature is in a constant state of sleep — is most forcibly expressed in the lower limbs. In other words, through the metamorphosis which the arms and hands have undergone, man wrests from unconsciousness that which is really the sleep-nature of the limb-man. If to some degree we sharpen our sensitiveness for these things, we shall perceive what a really remarkable difference exists between the movement of a leg and the movement of an arm. The movements of the arms are free, and in a sense follow the feelings. The movement of the legs is not as free — I mean in respect to the laws by which we produce their movements. This, of course, is something which is not always noticed, nor sufficiently appreciated, as exemplified by the fact that the greater portion of the public attending our performances of Eurythmy are merely passive observers, and fail to notice that the leg movements are less articulated and the movements of the arms and hands more so. The reason for this is that, to understand the movements of the arms, a certain co-operation of the soul on the part of the observer is necessary. In our cinema age, people do not want to give this co-operation. While watching the movements of a dance where only the legs are in movement, and the arms at most are subject to arbitrary movements, there is little need either to think or feel in union with the dancer. This is by the way.
As we have seen, the most intensely unconscious process is in connection with the movements of the lower limbs. There, man is in a sense, fast asleep. How the will works into the legs or into the abdominal region, is entirely missed by man, owing to this state of sleep. In respect to this process, man's own nature sends back to him what is a reflection only of the process. Of course we follow the movement of our legs, but this observation does not make us conscious of the processes taking place in the nervous system as the will acts upon it; only the reflection of this becomes manifest to us. The nature of our lower man turns one side away, as it were, and only the other side is turned towards us. It is exactly the same with the Moon. She revolves round the Earth, and is altogether a most courteous lady, who never turns her back upon us, but shows us always the same side. She does not show us first one side, and then the other, while proceeding along her journey round the Earth. Nobody has ever seen her back. On account of this we never receive anything from the Moon which may be termed her own, but always a reflected light. In this fact we have an absolute inner parallel between the Moon-nature and the whole inner being of man. As we look up to the Moon, we understand her only as regards her outer formal side, but we should try to feel her inner relationship with the lower physical organisation of man. The deeper we go into these matters, the more we find this to hold good. It was the simple, instinctive observations of the Ancients which enabled them to realise these inner relations between human nature and the celestial bodies ...
Now let us take the other fact — that the arms, in their connection with the upper portion of the middle or rhythmic man, come awake in a sense in man; the movements of the arms can be taken as equivalent at least to the dream-state. We feel that the activity of the arms is related in a much nearer sense to human consciousness than is the activity of the lower limbs. Hence we find that a man who has elementary feelings, generally accompanies his speech, which is in close relation to the middle man, with a gesture of the arms, by way of emphasis or as a help in explaining his meaning. Speech is closely related to the upper part of the rhythmic-man. I do not suppose there are many speakers who use movements of the legs as a help for speech, or many audiences who would consider such movements attractive!
So if we feel in the right way this necessity or tendency in man's nature, we can also feel the real relationship between the hands and arms, which belong to the upper portion of the limb-man, and the middle-man or rhythmic-man, who has as his spiritual counterpart, the feeling nature. Quite naturally we try to support our speech, which is often in danger of becoming too abstract, by gestures of our arms and hands. We endeavour to project our emotional nature into our speech.
Today, in many circles — I will not name them — it is considered a sign of intellectual clarity to abstain as much as possible from using gesture in speech. We may however, look at the matter from another standpoint and say: If a person acquires the habit of putting his hands in his trouser pockets while speaking, it may not only mark him as a man of linguistic ability, but also perhaps as being somewhat blasé. That is another aspect of the matter. I am not speaking in favour of either of these points of view, but you will see how the nature of the arms clearly indicates their connection not only with the metabolic limb man, but also with the middle, the rhythmic or circulation man. This was understood and felt by the Ancients when they connected the combination of speech and arm-movement with the sphere of Mars. This planet is not so intimately connected with the Earth as is the Moon, nor is that which underlies the foundation of speech and the arm-organisation so intimately connected with the earthly man as is that which underlies the abdominal and leg-organisation. In a certain sense we can say: what in its activity corresponds to the lower limbs, works very strongly upon the unconscious man. What corresponds to the arms and hands, however, works very powerfully upon the semiconscious man. It is indeed a fact that no one with wholly unskilled hands, no one wholly unable to perform any dexterous movements with the fingers, can be a very subtle thinker. He would in a sense seek a coarse thought-mesh rather than fine links of thought. If he has coarse, clumsy hands, he is much more qualified for materialism than one whose hand movements are more adroit. This has nothing to do with having an abstract conception of the Universe, but with the true inclination to a spiritual view of the Universe, which always demands to be comprehended in finely-meshed thoughts.
All these matters are taken fully into consideration in a comprehensive educational science. You would probably be very pleased if you came to our Waldorf School and visited the classroom where, from ten o'clock, instruction is given in handicrafts. You would see the boys as well as the girls industriously absorbed in knitting or crochet. These things are the outcome of the whole spirit of the Waldorf School, for it is not a question of writing sundry abstract programmes, but of taking in earnest that for the whole training of human knowledge, one should as a teacher know the great difference it makes to the thinking whether I understand how to move my fingers dexterously, whether I am able in ordinary circumstances to cross the middle finger over the first, like a caduceus, or not. The movements of our fingers are to a great extent the teachers of the elasticity of our thinking. These things must be followed with understanding and discernment. It is comparatively easy to acquire facility in crossing the middle finger over the first with elasticity, making a serpent and the caduceus, but it is not so easy to do the same with the second and third toes. In this we see what great distinctions there are in the whole organisation of man. It is very important to bear this in mind, for the construction of the foot is intimately connected with our whole human earthly nature. By the organisation of our hands we raise ourselves above the earthly nature. We raise ourselves to the super-earthly. This was felt by the ancient wisdom, for it said that the lower man belonged to the Moon, but that the part of man which raised itself above the earthly nature belonged to Mars. Primeval Wisdom felt the organisation in the whole Universe in the same way as we feel the organisation there is in man. Materialism, however, has brought it about that we do not understand man any more. Again and again I must emphasise that the tragedy of materialism is that it turns its attention to matter, and all the time understands nothing at all of matter but simply loses connection with material existence. For this reason materialism can only cause social harm; for the socialistic materialists, the Marxists, are, as regards reality, just talkers. This they have learnt from the middle classes which have indulged in materialistic chatter for centuries; but they have not applied it to the social institution, and have remained satisfied with half-truths. A spiritual philosophy of life will once more reveal the nature of man, not in the abstract, but as possessing a concrete soul and spirit, which can work into each individual member of the human organisation.
One cannot advance in these things without constantly turning to the other side of life; for this development which our organisation manifests is two-fold, in so far as the upper man is a metamorphosis of the lower man from the last Earth-life. There is a point of time between death and rebirth when a complete reversal takes place, when the inner is turned to the outer, when what is presented as the connection between the organisation of the liver and that of the spleen is changed in the whole structure of its forces into, what becomes our hearing organisation when we are reborn. The whole of the lower man appears transformed. We have today in our lower man a certain relationship between the spleen and the liver. They slide into one another as it were. What is now the spleen slips right through the liver, and comes out, in a certain respect, on the other side, appearing again in the hearing organisation. So too with the other organs. People say that proofs should be found for repeated Earth-lives. Well, the methods by which such proofs can be found have first to be created. Anyone who is able to observe the human head in the right way, possessing a sense for such observation, comes to a way of understanding the transformation of the lower man into the human head; but he cannot understand it without filling in the intermediate stages of the experiences between death and rebirth.
In this connection very remarkable things are experienced. It may perhaps astonish some of you when I say that an artist who has become well acquainted with our conception of the Universe, said: “All that Anthroposophy says is very beautiful, but there is no proof. De Rochas, for instance, has given proofs, for he has shown how in certain conditions of hypnosis, reminiscences of former earth-lives may arise.” It seemed to he very remarkable that an artist of all people should have said such a thing. I might have assured him that it is as though I were to say to him: “My dear friend, your pictures tell me nothing; show me first the original of them, then I will believe that they are good”, or something of the kind. That of course, would be nonsense. As soon as he leaves his own domain, however, he has no power to understand how out of what he has before him, out of the true form of the human head, one can arrive at what is expressed in this human head. The picture must speak through itself, not through the mere likeness to the original. The human head speaks for itself. It corresponds to reality. It is the transformed lower man and points us back to the former Earth-life. One must however first provide what will make it possible to understand the reality aright.
The physical is thus seen to be a direct expression of the Spiritual. It is possible to understand the physical man as an expression of the Spiritual which is experienced between death and re-birth. The physical world explains itself and brings the spiritual world into this explanation. But we must first know this, saying to ourselves: The phenomena of nature are only a half, as long as we have them as mere sense-phenomena. We must first know this. Then we can find the bridge and understand the event that gave Earth its true meaning — the event of Golgotha: then we can understand how a purely spiritual event can at the same time enter right into physical life. If a man is not prepared to see the relation of the physical to the spiritual aright, he will never be able to grasp the fact that the Event of Golgotha is both a spiritual Event and an Event of the physical plane. When in the eighth General Ecumenical Council, in the year 869, the Spirit was eliminated, it was made impossible to understand the Event of Golgotha. The interesting point is that while the Western Churches started from Christianity, they took great care that the essence of Christianity should not be understood. For the nature and essence of Christianity must be grasped by the Spirit. The Western creeds set themselves against the Spirit, and one of the principal reasons why Anthroposophy is prohibited from the Roman Catholic side is that in Anthroposophy we have to relinquish the erroneous statement that ‘man consists of soul and body’ and return to the truth that ‘man consists of body, soul and Spirit’. The prohibition indicates the interest taken on that side to prevent man from coming to the knowledge of the Spirit, and so arriving at the true significance of the Event of Golgotha. Thus the whole knowledge which, as we see, throws so much light on the understanding of Man, has been entirely lost.
How then is an educational science to be constructed for the humanity of today, when the vision of the true nature of Man has been lost? To be an educationalist means to solve those sublime riddles which the child propounds to us, as it gradually brings forth that which has been laid into it between death and re-birth. The creeds however, reckon only with the post-mortem life — in order to humour human egotism; they have not reckoned that human life on Earth should be regarded as a continuation of the heavenly life. To demand of man that he should prove himself worthy of the claim made on him before he entered earthly life through birth, requires a certain selflessness of view, whereas the creeds have chiefly reckoned with egotism up to the present. Here, in Anthroposophy, whatever is of the nature of creed or faith gains, as it were, a moral colouring. Here purely theoretical knowledge is made to flow out into the higher ethical view and conception of the Universe. This should be understood by the friends of Anthroposophy. They should understand that in a sense, a moral inclination to spirituality is the preliminary condition for a knowledge of spiritual beings. In our present difficult time, it is specially necessary that attention should be paid to this moral side of the nature of the conception of the Universe. If we glance at what is taking place in the external world, we must say that empty talk, which is the sister of falsehood, is what has resulted from materialism, even for the ethical experience of humanity. This would become stronger and stronger if humanity were not helped by knowledge which leads to the Spirit, and which must be united with a raising of man's inner moral sense. We ought to acquire a realisation of how a spiritual-scientific conception of the world stands to the tasks and the whole dignity of Man and we should take this feeling as a starting point of our knowledge. This is only too necessary to mankind today, and one would like to find new phrases, new forms of expression in which to describe this aspect of the task of Spiritual Science!