Wonders of the World. Lecture 9
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, October 26, 1911:
Yesterday I had to point out how a kind of reversal of the forces which led to a densification of the body is taking place in the human organisation. As an example of this I drew attention to a kind of etherisation of the coarser physical substance of the blood which emanates all the time from our system of heart-and-blood circulation, with the result that the finest elements of the blood are passing over all the time into the same substance as that of which the human ether body consists. And we have seen that these etheric elements stream upwards from the heart in quite distinct currents and permeate the brain; we have seen further that it is in fact because this newly-formed element of our etheric body streams through the brain that we are able to develop knowledge which goes beyond the completely egotistic knowledge of what takes place within our own organisation. I tried to make it clear that unless these etheric streams were to rise up from the heart to the brain, only ideas, concepts, feelings connected with our own bodily organisation could find expression through the instrument of the brain.
The whole future evolution of mankind is involved in this process of which I have just told you. Let me remind you once more that Earth evolution was preceded by the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions, and that these preceding evolutions had resulted in the formation of an etheric man in the period of Earth-development prior to Lemuria. Before man entered upon his Lemurian development he was, even as regards his physical forces, a purely etheric form. A physically solid man such as we have today, with his thick physical blood, his system of nerves and bones and so on, did not exist before Lemuria. All the forces which we also have, in the physical body today, were at that time still in etheric form. This etheric human form was shadowy and phantom-like in comparison with the later man, it barely hinted at what was to crystallise out later as the denser man; and it has taken the Lemurian, the Atlantean and the post-Atlantean epochs to complete the densification.
Now in order to understand fully what is meant by ‘Wonders of the World, Ordeals of the Soul, Revelations of the Spirit’ we must look somewhat closely into this formation of man, we must see just how man gradually solidified out of that original shadow-form. Today let us try to picture to ourselves what the human being was like in this pre-Lemurian era. At that time man had only a kind of shadowy form, merely hinting at what came later. Into this Phantom [ 1 ] there entered the most diverse currents; the Beings of the higher hierarchies were working within it. At that time man did not walk upon the earth with his feet, he hovered as a Phantom in the periphery; it was only later that he so to say stepped down upon the earth.
The Earth itself was as yet in a more rarefied condition. All that the higher hierarchies wrought upon man poured into him in all kinds of currents, but while man lived upon the Earth in this way in phantom-form, the Earth too continued to develop, since it was by no means the solid lump of matter described by the geologists or the mineralogists or the physicists. To describe the Earth as the physicists and the mineralogists do is as if in describing man one were to confine oneself to the skeleton. What physical science describes is only a part of the Earth, it is its skeleton. There are yet other forces, quite other substantial things connected with the Earth, and these constitute it as an organism in which we are embedded.
Thus the Earth too has pursued its evolution, and during the course of the Lemurian, Atlantean and post-Atlantean evolutions other forces have streamed continuously towards man out of the Earth itself. We will now examine these forces more closely. First we must pay attention to certain forces which through the spiritual Beings of the higher hierarchies belong to the sub-earthly current to which I referred yesterday. These forces actually stream into man from below, they are directed upon man (if we are to express it spatially) from the Earth upwards. During the course of Earth evolution the forces of the higher hierarchies penetrated into man from below; these forces which, particularly during the Lemurian epoch but continuing also afterwards, streamed into man and co-operated in his formation — these forces are recognised by ordinary science as well as by Spiritual Science as in their nature working through the Earth. Everywhere on the Earth's surface, wherever one goes, these forces are present. They had another task in Earth evolution as well, but let us begin by trying to throw light on them in relation to beings of another kingdom, in the formation of which they were conspicuously active.
The zoologists and the naturalists will one day be very astonished to find how complicated has really been the formation out of the spiritual world of all that they represent by their abstract and tidy genealogical trees, from a certain aspect quite correctly. The relationships which they quite rightly recognise have been brought about as the result of very complicated currents arising from widely different spiritual directions. Actually it is quite wrong to describe the animals which are known in zoology as mammals as the Darwinists do. It is quite wrong to believe that one can draw a straight line from the very simplest mammals to the most complicated. In two different species of mammal very different formative forces are at work. The mammals which we have around us and which belong to the category of the ruminants — mainly domestic animals as you know — have in the course of their development been subjected to quite different spiritual conditions from, for example, the feline, the lion-like animals. We have to think of the spiritual forces as working specifically upon the group-souls of the animals and through the group-souls upon their physical forms. The influences which resulted the lion species did not begin to work upon the Earth until the approach of the Atlantean time and during that time, and these influences reached the Earth as if driven outward from its centre towards its surface. But the influences which worked during the Lemurian time — and which also worked upon the human being — are connected with what worked as formative force upon our ruminants, influences which esotericism summarises under the symbol of the bull. All this began at that time to exercise an influence upon man himself, working into his formation as if from the depths of the Earth towards its surface.
You must not be shocked if I say that if nothing else had worked upon man he would in his external form have resembled the bull. If these forces alone had worked upon man their effect would have been to make him like a bull. But little by little other forces working from within the Earth outwards laid hold of the human organisation. They are the same forces which exercised the main influence upon the other order of mammals. In esotericism these influences are summarised under the name lion. These forces enter into Earth evolution somewhat later. If the earlier forces had not been there, if these forces alone had worked upon man, his appearance would have resembled that of the lion, with all the characteristics of the leonine organisation. The complex human form has come into existence because it has been influenced not only by one current, but by several currents one after another.
You can now form some idea of why the animals resembling the bull remained bull-like, and those resembling the lion became lion-like; it is because the shadowy forms which underlay them were not organised in the same way as the preLemurian Phantoms of human beings had been. As a result of their preceding Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions the human Phantoms were so organised that they always waited for the right moment, that they allowed a variety of successive streams to work upon them one after another, in order that one stream should neutralise the other and thereby bring about a higher harmony. A bull would not remain a bull were the lion nature to work upon it and to modify its structure. The human being approached the Earth in such a way as to enable all these influences to work upon him.
It was not until Atlantis that something else happened which will throw a flood of light upon zoology when once it is recognised and made fruitful for external science. During the course of the Atlantean epoch quite other conditions came about. I have already said that these bull forces and these lion forces worked as if from the depths of the Earth towards its surface. The forces which were now to unite with these came from without, came from the periphery. During Atlantis we have to think of forces entering into man and fashioning him from below upwards, and other forces from cosmic space flowing into him in the downward direction. Thus the human Phantom again became exposed to fresh forces which now worked upon man from another, and an opposite, direction.
To get an idea of what these forces are like which stream upon the Earth from cosmic space we must ask ourselves which are the creatures upon whom they worked with especial intensity, unhampered by other forces. We can point to certain creatures in our environment upon which the bull forces and the lion forces coming from within the Earth have little influence, upon which on the contrary the forces working into the substance of the Earth from cosmic space are almost exclusively active. They are the creatures belonging to the bird kingdom. Our abstract zoology will one day be very much astonished to have to admit that the forces at work in the mammals are quite different from those which work mainly on the bird kingdom, and, in a broader field upon all things that propagate themselves by laying eggs outside their own bodies. In the case of all creatures in which reproduction takes place in this way, but especially in members of the bird kingdom, forces streaming in from cosmic space are predominantly at work. In esotericism these forces are comprised under the name eagle.
Now if we think of these forces, which come to expression pre-eminently in the formation of the bird world, as harmonised in man with the lion forces and the bull forces, so that they all become part of the original Phantom, then this harmony results in the present-day human form. If you consider the totally different world of the birds, you will not long be in any doubt that the whole structure of the bird is completely different from that of the mammal. Today I will not go into the structure of the other members of the animal kingdom. In the structure of the bird there is something very striking, even to clairvoyant sight. Whereas in the case of the mammals, wherever we turn our clairvoyant gaze, we find the astral body very strongly developed, in the case of the birds the most outstanding feature which meets the clairvoyant eye is the etheric body. For example, it is the etheric body, stimulated by cosmic forces coming in from space, which brings to expression the feathers, the plumage. The plumage is formed from without, and a feather can only come into being because the forces which work down upon the Earth from cosmic space are stronger than the forces coming from the Earth. The framework of the feather, what one may call its quill or spine, is of course subject to certain forces coming from the Earth, but it is the cosmic forces which contribute what is attached to the quill and constitute the bird's plumage.
It is quite different as regards creatures covered with hair. Forces working upward from the Earth, forces working in the opposite direction from those in the feathers of the birds, are predominantly at work in hair, and hair cannot become feather, because in the case of animals and men forces coming from cosmic space affect their hair but little. This seeming paradox fully expresses the reality, and if one cared to elaborate it one could say that every feather has the tendency to become a hair, but is not a hair because the forces of cosmic space work inward on the feather from all sides; and every hair has the tendency to become a feather, but does not become a feather because the forces which work from the Earth upwards are stronger than the forces which work from without inwards. If one takes such paradoxes seriously one discovers certain fundamental secrets in the constitution of our world.
Let us suppose that a man endowed with the ancient clairvoyance wanted — not simply to describe man, who really distorts the several streams which flow into him by harmonising them — but precisely to make manifest these different currents, he would have to say: ‘Something forms the foundation of the human being which cannot be seen physically, the archetypal Phantom which today only appears in physical form because man has harmonised the eagle, bull and lion influences.’ Anyone who wants to study the evolution of man must study man's archetypal Phantom as a super-sensible form. But in order to do this he would have to separate out again what has flowed together in man. He would have to realise that an etheric shadow-form lies behind the whole of human development, and that into this there enters and intermingles a bull-influence, a lion-influence and a bird-influence, in such a way that in the finished man of today they are no longer to be distinguished.
Suppose a culture-epoch — for instance, that of ancient Egypt — were trying to represent human evolution, were trying to put before man the immense riddle of human evolution, then the real man, the archetypal Phantom, which arose as the result of the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions, would have to remain invisible; but, as if out of the invisible, a composite figure would have to be formed, put together out of the forms of bull and lion, with wings such as an eagle has, such as birds in general have. If you recall the all-embracing significance of the figure of the Sphinx, which was intended to represent the great riddle of human evolution, then you have in fact what a clairvoyant culture, which was inwardly aware of the truth about humanity, put before this humanity. The features which stand out separately in the Sphinx are in human nature inwardly interwoven. For clairvoyant sight the human form has a very strange appearance. If one allows such a sphinx, made up of a lion-form and a bull-form, together with the wings of a bird, to work upon the clairvoyant vision, and if one completes it by adding the human Phantom which underlies it, if one weaves these elements together, then the human form as we have it today comes into being before us. The clairvoyant consciousness cannot then look upon a sphinx — which to begin with does not resemble a man at all — without saying to himself: ‘Thou art I myself!’
Now it should be noted that in the course of this study we have also thrown light upon the four members of man from another standpoint. A Phantom, a shadow-form, designated in esotericism as Man, came over as the product of the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions. In the process of the densification of this Phantom the influences named in esotericism, lion, bull and eagle are at work. And here we have the four esoteric symbols which together make up the human being and which have a profound meaning for human evolution.
We have said that in the course of humanity's evolution on the Earth, forces from without, cosmic forces, were at work, both upon the human being himself, and upon other creatures, especially the bird creation. That in fact came about during the Atlantean time; so that one can say that an influence from cosmic space came down into those parts of the human organisation to which normal human consciousness no longer reaches. This influence was at work in Atlantis, and of course it has also continued in the post-Atlantean time. This was the current coming from what I called yesterday the upper gods, the gods who were in a sense the representations of the sub-earthly, the Chthonic gods. They are Beings who were encountered by the pupils of the Greek Mysteries, who had to wrestle with the great riddle of the Sphinx. They had to behold the unconscious part of the human being in such a way that through self-knowledge they also arrived at the four-foldness of humanity.
What since the time of Atlantis had streamed into the subconscious from cosmic space, even into its baser elements, now at the Baptism by John in the Jordan began to flow into man's higher, more purified parts. That is a most significant event. These forces from cosmic space which since the time of Atlantis have worked continuously upon the formation of the Earth and of humanity, begin to stream in the purest way not only into the unconscious part of the human being, but in such a way that they can influence consciousness. That is why a pictorial image, one of the great symbols which have come down to us through occult and religious scriptures — the symbol of the dove, which we find in the Gospels — had to make its appearance.
How was it possible to describe this instreaming in its purest form from above? We know of course what took place in the Baptism in the Jordan. We know that at that time the threefold body of Jesus of Nazareth, which had been prepared through the two Jesus children, as is described in my little book The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind, was abandoned by its ego, which was the ego of Zarathustra, and on its departure there entered into this body the purest part of that stream which had been pouring in all the time from cosmic space, but hitherto only into that part of man which is today unconscious. Hence it was correctly symbolised in the form of a bird, the figure of the pure white dove, which represents as it were the purest extract of what in the ancient figure of the Sphinx was the eagle or cherubic element. That this cosmic stream should flow into the conscious part of the human being is essential to the perfection of humanity upon the Earth. In the picture of Jesus of Nazareth on the banks of the Jordan with the dove hovering over him we have in fact the expression of the Mystery which had now been brought to a certain conclusion.
Yesterday we were able to follow a little the cosmic history of this inward streaming from cosmic space. Why was this cosmic instreaming able to transmute itself into that Christpower, that Christ Impulse which, as it continues to work further upon the Earth, will permeate the human being completely? As man inwardly receives this Impulse he will more and more feel the truth of St. Paul's words ‘Not I, but Christ in me!’ As contrasted with the other three currents which were there as the outcome of earlier evolution, this new influence, which is the purest stream from above, will take hold of the human being, will encompass him to a greater and greater extent, will also liberate him ever more and more from what binds him to the Earth. Yesterday we spoke of the historical development of this stream and said that it was only able to be what it has in fact become because it had been prepared for upon the Old Sun.
Whereas the upper gods, those who, in the sense we explained yesterday, were the representations of the others, only wished to live in the finer elements — in the warmth, light, chemical and life elements —, this Being, who later through the Baptism by John in the Jordan descended to Earth, out of the most profound wisdom took with Him the forces to which our Earth evolution had already advanced on the Old Sun. We know from Spiritual Science that the condensation of the warmth element to air (warmth being the essential feature of the Saturn evolution) had already taken place during the Sun evolution. Whereas the other Beings among the upper gods refused to take the air element with them when they withdrew from development as a whole into cosmic space, this Being did take the air-element with Him, so that He remained related to the Earth. Thus through this Being there was outside in cosmic space all the time for all future evolution an element akin to the Earth — the element which had already on the Old Sun condensed to air or gas. If we gaze up into space, gaze up to the sun, as though with the eye of Zarathustra of old, we have to see it primarily as a survival of the ancient Sun, so to say as the ancient Sun planet come to life again, repeating in the present what existed during the Sun evolution.
Thus, expressed in terms of Spiritual Science, we have in the first place to see in the sun the dwelling place — or part of it at any rate, for this dwelling-place extends to the other planets as well — the most essential part of the dwelling-place of the upper gods, whom we designated yesterday as one stream of the divine world. But if you look at this whole sun with the clairvoyant eye, you see that everything in it which is those upper gods is there only in etheric form, from the warmth ether upwards to the light ether, the chemical ether and the life ether. But the sun as it moves in space today is not only there for clairvoyant sight as an etheric structure, it is also a globe of gas, it is condensed to the state of air. The sun would never have condensed to the state of air had not the Being of whom I spoke yesterday, the Being who descended to Earth with the dove in the Baptism by John in the Jordan, during the Sun evolution detached Himself from the Sun in a body of air and not merely in an etheric body. Thus when we look up at the sun we have to say: ‘The warmth, light and chemical impulses in the sun are connected with the other Beings, those who are only the ideas or representations of the lower gods; but the gaseous element in the sun is actually the body of Christ.’
Our modern materialistic science will one day come to learn once more the ancient doctrine of Zarathustra, will one day have to say to itself: ‘The sun as a globe of vapour outside in space is not merely what our astro-chemistry makes of it, not merely what our spectral-analysis reveals, but the sun as a globe of air or vapour there outside in the heavens is the pristine body of Christ, who was associated with the other upper gods, but was also connected with the being of the Earth.’ — That is what Zarathustra perceived when he expressed the Mystery of the Christ in the sun by the word Aura or Ahura Mazdao — the great wisdom-filled Spirit, the great wisdom, the great aura. And then what up to that time had existed solely in the sun, and yet was akin to the nature of the Earth, did in fact take possession in the mysterious moment of the Baptism by John in the Jordan, of the physical, etheric and astral bodies of Jesus of Nazareth. In the body of Jesus of Nazareth for the first time upon our Earth, the purified stream from cosmic space united with the newly arising etheric body streaming from the human heart to the brain. During the Baptism by John in the Jordan there took place a union between what was indeed a real stream that came from without, from cosmic space — being moreover permeated with airy substance — and the stream which rises upwards continuously as the finest etheric constituents of the heart-blood towards the head. This is what first gave to every human soul the possibility of permeating itself with that element out of cosmic space which is represented to us in the sign of the dove at the Baptism by John in the Jordan. In fact, through that event an intercourse was created between the entire universe, so far as it is accessible to us, and its purest extract, which previously, provisionally we might say, had co-operated in what is called esoterically the eagle-stream. It was a communication, an interaction, between all that streamed from the Earth and formed the human body from below upwards and what as macrocosmic stream worked into man from without. From this you see how we can enter ever more deeply into the Mystery which took place in Palestine. The more we ourselves advance in knowledge of what the world is, the better we come to understand the Mystery of Palestine.
Now we are bound to ask why the human being no longer sees or feels anything at all of this ctheric stream which flows upwards from his heart to his brain. Modern science is superficial, hence its attitude to history is also superficial, and it often takes age-old truths to be age-old errors. If you studied the Greek philosopher Aristotle you would find in his writings a remarkable teaching about the nature of man, a remarkable description of that ‘wonder of the world’, the human being. You would find a description of how extremely fine etheric elements flow from the heart to the head and there, as they contact the brain, cool down. Modern science of course says ‘Aristotle was certainly very intelligent for a Greek, but today every schoolboy knows that this was not so.’ But it is those who speak in this way of Aristotle who are in the wrong. The truth is that though Aristotle had not himself the clairvoyant consciousness which enabled him to know it for himself, he knew from old traditions what in still earlier times it had been possible to observe through an original, natural clairvoyance. This consciousness of etheric currents rising from the heart to the head was certainly to be found until far on into the Middle Ages, right on into the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. We find a certain awareness of it even in the works of Descartes. But according to historians of philosophy ‘Descartes has some fantastic tale about the vital spirits which flow from the heart to the brain, but that is just an old-wives' tale. Happily we know better than that.’
But it is not an old-wives' tale, it is the truth, a truth which originated in the time when such things could be perceived by a natural clairvoyance. How then must we put the matter from the point of view of modern clairvoyance, modern occult science? We may perhaps feel somewhat uneasy with the way in which Aristotle puts it, since of necessity he only drew upon tradition, the old clairvoyant forces being no longer at his disposal. But if by means of the esotericism which has been available since the thirteenth century one undertakes an investigation of the whole human being, then one perceives that in fact there is such an etheric current from the heart to the head.
One observes also something else. Not only does an etheric current go from the heart to the head, but astral currents are also present in this stream. If one looks closely at these currents it becomes clear that they contain both etheric elements, substances of the human etheric body, and substances of man's astral body. A substance streams from heart to head in which substantial elements both of the etheric and of the astral body of man are present. Now the brain is a most remarkable instrument of human nature. Owing to the way it has been formed since the last third of the Atlantean epoch, it has acquired one very peculiar quality. It arrests the astrality which rises up, prevents the astral current from passing through it, while it does allow the etheric current to pass. I repeat — the brain as physical instrument is an organ in which part of the current which comes from the heart is dammed up. The brain is permeable for the etheric current, but not for the astral one. The astral current is arrested in our brain; in the region of the head the seer perceives that astral currents rising upwards from the body spread out in the brain but are held up there, are allowed to pass through the brain not at all, or only to a very small extent. These upward astral currents which are arrested by the brain have a certain power of attraction for the external astral substantialities which are always around us in the astral substance of the Earth. Hence the astral body of man in the region of the head is as though knit together out of two astralities, out of the astrality which continually streams towards us from the cosmos, and the astrality in the human body which comes up from below and is attracted by the outer astrality.
Thus the astral body around the head, quite near the skin of the head, has a thickening, something like a cap — to put it rather grotesquely — made of astral substance — a cap which we wear all the time. We have in the region of the head an astral covering consisting of the thickening which arises through the knitting together of the inner and the outer astralities. The rays of the etheric body pass through this astral hood or cap, since they are not arrested by the brain, and the purer they are — that is, the less they still contain of the instincts, desires, passions and emotions of human nature — the lighter and more brilliant they appear. Thus the human aura, when seen from the front, acquires a kind of coronet, a wreath of astrality, through which the rays of the etheric body pass. That is the halo which those gifted with the ancient clairvoyance perceived in those whose etheric aura shone brightly because of the purity of their being. This is what we see depicted in pictures. That is what is meant by the halo, that is what becomes visible to the clairvoyant who clearly sees the aura round the head. The inner astral aura, the inner astral substance, through a peculiar characteristic of the brain, is retained and disposed around the head.
Please try to grasp this process very clearly. Etheric-astral substance in man flows from below upwards. This ethericastral substance expands in the brain in such a way as to fill it, but is held back there, just as a ray of light which falls upon a mirror is arrested and thrown back. Here we have the true mirroring-process. Because the astral stuff of the brain is held back, it reflects itself, and what in this way enters into you and is reflected, is your thought, your conscious feeling, what you normally experience as your soul-life. And it is only because this astral part is so to speak tied together or sewn together by the etheric currents streaming through the brain, which thus effect a union between the inner astrality and the outer, that knowledge of the outer world comes about. Everything that we know of the outer world we know because the outer astrality unites with the inner astrality by virtue of the strange astral cap or hood which everyone has.
Yes, my dear friends, even the history of civilisation will still be greatly enriched by means of occultism. Let me draw your attention to the fact that in ancient times men actually saw such things, and that the aura which was in olden times still visible was copied in men's clothing. Men adopted helmets because they were shaped like the astral cap or hood which crowns every man. All clothing originated in this way, through man's imitating in his dress the etheric or the astral element which he had around him. If we want to understand ancient garments, priestly robes in particular, if we want to know why this or that originated, we only need to be able to look clairvoyantly upon what surounds men as their etheric or astral auras. For the form of these auras was reproduced in ancient garments, and is still represented in the vestments connected with religious cults or rituals. Nowadays — I say this by the way — we have become so corrupted by materialism that we ignore the aura and will have nothing to do with the kind of clothing which represents what man bears within him. The craze for nudism has emerged in our time because the materialistic mind is no longer aware of those higher etheric and astral auras which men bear around them, and from which they have derived the shape of their garments. In olden times, though not so very long ago, the colours of these auras were reproduced in human clothing. If you look at pictures by the old masters the colour of the garments still bears witness to a vestigial consciousness of the aura. Notice how Mary is usually depicted with undergarment and cloak of specific colours. The painter could not give to Mary the yellow robe of the Magdalene! Why not? Because the aura of a Magdalene is quite different from that of a Mary! The painter of old brought very clearly to expression that the raiment represented what the human being carries around him supersensibly as a kind of clothing. And if you look at what the figures of the Greek gods wear, you see that not only their clothing, but also their helmet-shaped headdresses and the like — as apparent for example in the case of Pallas Athene — are due to the way the Greek sculptors were conditioned to think of the auras of their gods.
Thus you see that the man who has progressed to real spiritual knowledge of human nature has to admit: ‘All that you see around you is only a very superficial expression of your true being.’ When a man feels his consciousness strong within him he is driven to say: ‘This consciousness of mine only grasps a very small part indeed of human nature; there is something else working in me all the time.’
Now we are in a position to carry to completion what we have already said about the brain. If we go farther and consider the human being clairvoyantly in respect of other regions of his being, we find something most remarkable. Whereas the etheric and astral elements mount upwards as far as his brain, where the astral part is arrested and the etheric part protrudes beyond as a kind of corona, we see that the ego-part of man has been arrested earlier as a kind of inner aura in the region of the heart. The true inner ego-aura is already arrested in the region of the heart, it only presses upward as far as the heart, and there unites with a part of the outer aura, unites with the corresponding part of the macrocosmic aura. Two elements in fact are entwined in the heart — the element which enters from the cosmos, and the ego-aura which mounts up from below, but is dammed back in the heart. Just as the astral aura is arrested in the brain, so is the ego-aura held back in the heart, where it makes contact with an element of ego-aura coming from without. Hence the fact is that the real ego-consciousness of man does not take place in the brain. What I have said about the man of Atlantis, that his ego was drawn into him, must be thought of more explicitly as an incoming of the external cosmic ego, which since the time of Atlantis has advanced as far as the heart, where it has united with another stream which comes up from below and reaches the heart. Thus the heart is organically the place where through the instrument of the blood the real ego of man as it manifests in our consciousness comes into being.
Everything that I have just been telling you shows the place man holds in the macrocosmic world. We are all that; all that is in us. All that is taking place in us and the normal consciousness of present-day man grasps only so much of it as everybody of course knows, that is to say, only what lies on the surface. When you realise that the world-wonder — man contains such immensities, you can well imagine how complex and manifold is the world that lies about us and how our conscious knowledge merely skims the surface of the three kingdoms of Nature which are our environment. Yes; we must face the fact that our ordinary life of soul, our consciousness, stays on the surface and gives us knowledge of only the tiniest important part of the human being.
A time comes when what I have just been saying in such a matter of fact way penetrates and oppresses the man who is striving for higher knowledge, for super-sensible knowledge. He suddenly becomes aware: ‘The knowledge you have had hitherto has tended rather to conceal than to reveal.’ There he stands in all his human weakness before the wonders of the world. It is the very essence of what we must call the ordeals of the soul that this consciousness should not render him faint-hearted, impotent, that he should find that confidence to persevere of which I spoke yesterday. Strong, forceful energy, hope and confidence bring the soul through each trial, for these qualities enable it to face all that we have called the world-wonders—the riddles of the world. And the world displays ever more ‘wonders’ the further we penetrate into the super-sensible. But since each fresh marvel presents us with a fresh unknown, we are perpetually faced with new challenges. In everyday life for example it would be a test if, after having known a man for some time, believing him to be what he seemed to be, we were suddenly to discover him to be something quite different. We could then either break with him or rise above this difficulty and remain true to him. In that case we should have stood the test of friendship. Trials of this kind exist too as regards the world-wonders. We face them with all the ideas and feelings which our soul has acquired about them, but we are progressing and — not that the world is changing, but because we are penetrating further and further into it — fresh things are continually meeting us, and again and again we have to say ‘What you have perceived hitherto is maya.’ Then we can be assailed by doubt. Above all we can begin to feel that we have pressed on too fast — as Johannes Thomasius does in the last scene but one of The Soul's Probation. Hitherto he has made a certain picture of Lucifer which accorded with his soul's development, but it is only an image, a shadow. As he progresses further a deeper, more significant Lucifer appears to him, and he has to retrace his steps in order to get to know him in his fulness, and no longer as a shadow.
In the same way a man who has advanced to what for him is the next higher stage of clairvoyance can advance still further and say to himself, ‘What I have reached so far is nevertheless still only shadow, image; it must become more solid.’ Because we are all the time advancing we are faced by ever new configurations of the world. We can enter into these new configurations with stout souls, then we shall withstand the challenge and be able to derive from it ever fresh spiritual revelations. Every time a fresh spiritual revelation comes to us there will be a fresh test to surmount. At every stage of progress new ordeals arise, and we have to see it as the impulse for all higher development that our souls never need give up, but can undertake ever higher and perhaps severer tests. But if the soul withstands the test, spiritual revelations are never lacking; though it may be only after a long time that spiritual revelation gives to the soul what it has to go through ordeals to attain.
Thus we see that such ordeals are the goad which drives us upwards, and moreover that spiritual revelations coming from above are always the reward of effort. For this reason we must never rashly regard what can be attained at any one stage as the final goal. For example, we should be quite wrong to look upon what was expressed in our first Rosicrucian Mystery Play as our end. A man can be very expert in seeing images in the higher worlds and yet realise one day that he has only seen images and not realities. Then he is faced by the severe trial which Johannes Thomasius has yet to face when the second Mystery Play comes to an end. He then becomes aware that what he has seen is image, that he has not come to know reality sufficiently even on the physical plane to fill out his picture with reality. Then the soul is assailed by trials in which it has to learn how to develop the strength to impart content to what is at first merely image. We have to realise that we must not shrink from such trials, for every new configuration of the world which is presented to us furnishes us with new ordeals to be overcome; to come to an end of these trials would mean the death of true spiritual life. We have to recognise that we should not shrink from the trials, because they make us strong, strong to rise up into the spiritual world.