Sunday, January 31, 2021
The Human Body. The Study of Man: lecture 10 of 14
Rudolf Steiner to the first Waldorf teachers just before the opening of the first Waldorf school, Stuttgart, September 1, 1919:
We have spoken of the nature of man from the point of view of the soul and spirit. We have at least thrown some light on these two aspects. We shall have to supplement the knowledge thus gained by uniting the point of view of the body with that of the spirit and of the soul so that we may get a complete survey of man, and may be able to pass on from this to an understanding of his external bodily nature also.
First we will recall — what must have struck us from various aspects — that the human being has different forms in the three members of his nature. We have pointed out that the head is essentially round; that the true nature of the bodily head is given in this spherical form. Next we pointed out how the chest part of man is a fragment of a sphere. Thus if we draw it diagrammatically we give the form of a sphere to the head, and a moon form to the breast — realizing clearly that in this moon form a part of a sphere, a fragment of a sphere, is contained. We must consequently allow that the moon form of the chest can be completed. You will only rightly understand this central member of man's nature, the breast-form, when you regard it too as a sphere, but as a sphere of which only one part, a moon, is visible, and the other part invisible.
From this it is perhaps apparent that in ancient times, when men had a greater capacity for seeing forms, they were not wrong in speaking of the Sun as corresponding to the head, and of the Moon as corresponding to the breast form. And just as when the Moon is not full we see it only as a fragment of a sphere, so too we really only see in the breast form a fragment of the middle system of man.
From this you can understand that the head form of man is a comparatively complete, self-enclosed thing. The head form reveals, physically, that it is a thing enclosed in itself. It is, so to speak, just what it appears. The head form is the one that conceals least of itself.
The breast part of the human being, on the other hand, conceals very much of itself. It leaves part of itself invisible. It is very important for a knowledge of man's nature to realize that a large part of the breast portion is invisible. We can say that the breast portion of man shows its bodily nature in one direction, that is, towards the back; but towards the front it passes over into the soul element. The head is altogether body; the breast portion of man is body towards the back, soul towards the front. Thus it is only in that we have our head resting on our shoulders that we carry about a real body. We consist of body and soul in so far as we separate out our breast from the visible part of the breast system and allow it to be worked upon and permeated by the soul.
Into these two members of the human being, head and breast (more obviously of course in the breast portion), the limbs are inserted. The third principle is the limb man. How can we understand the limb man? We can only understand this third member when we realize that certain parts of the spherical form remain visible, as with the breast portion, only in this case they are different parts. In the breast system a part of the periphery remains. In the limb system it is more an inner part consisting of the radii of a sphere that remains over; so that the inner parts of the sphere are inset as limbs.
We never arrive at the truth — as I have often said to you on other occasions — if we only analyze things and divide them into parts. We must always interweave one thing with another; for this is the nature of living things. We can say: we have the limb man, which consists of the limbs. But the head also has its limbs. If you look carefully at the skull you find, for example, that attached to the skull are the bones of the upper and lower jaws. They are properly attached like limbs. Thus the skull, too, has its limbs: the upper and lower jaws which are joined to it. Only in the skull the limbs are stunted. In the other parts of man they have developed to their proper size, but in the skull they are stunted and are only a kind of bone structure. There is yet another difference:
If you observe the limbs of the skull — that is, the upper and lower jaws — you will see that the essential thing in them is that the bone should perform its function. If you examine the limbs which are attached to our whole body — namely, when you consider the limb man proper — you find the essential fact is that they are surrounded by muscles and blood vessels. In a certain way the bones of our arms and legs, hands and feet are only inserted into our muscle and blood system. But in the upper and lower jaws — the limbs of the head — the muscles and blood vessels have shrunken.
What does this mean? Muscles and blood are the organic instrument of the will, as we have already heard. Hence it is arms and legs, hands and feet that are principally developed for the will. Blood and muscles, which pre-eminently serve the will, are withdrawn, in a measure, from the limbs of the head, because what has to be developed in them is what tends to intellect, to thinking-cognition. If, then, you want to study how the will reveals itself in the outer bodily forms of the world, you must study the arms and legs, hands and feet. If you want to study how the intelligence of the world is revealed, then you must study the head, or rather the skull, as skeleton; you must see how the upper and lower jaws are attached to the head, and you must examine other parts of the head which are of a limb nature. You can regard all outer forms as revelations of what is within. And indeed you can only understand the outer forms when you look upon them as revelation of what is within.
I have always found that for most men there is a great difficulty in understanding the connection between the tubular bones of the arms and the legs and the shell-like bones of the head. Here it is particularly good for the teacher to master a conception remote from common life.
And this brings us to a very, very difficult chapter, to the hardest, perhaps, of all the conceptions we have to gain in these educational lectures.
You know that Goethe was the first to turn his attention to the vertebral theory of the skull, as it is termed. What is meant by this? It means the application of the idea of metamorphosis to man and to his form. When we consider the human spinal column we perceive that one vertebra lies above another. We can take out the single vertebra, with its projections through which the spinal cord passes. Now, Goethe was the first to observe (in a sheep skull, in Venice) how all head bones are transformed vertebrae. Imagine some organs puffed out and others indrawn — then you get the shell-like head bones out of the vertebral forms. This made a great impression on Goethe. It drove him to a conclusion of profound importance, namely: that the skull is a transformed, a more highly developed, spinal column.
It is comparatively easy to see that the skull bones arise out of the vertebrae of the spine through transformation, through metamorphosis. It is very much harder, very difficult indeed, to see the limb bones — even the limbs of the head, the upper and lower jaws — as a metamorphosis, a transforming, of the vertebral bones, or of the head bones (Goethe attempted to do this, but in an external way). Now, why is this so difficult? The reason is that a tubular bone, wherever it may be, is indeed also a metamorphosis, a remodeling of a head bone, but a remodeling of a quite special nature. It is comparatively easy to think of a spinal vertebra metamorphosed into a head bone when you think of some parts of it being enlarged and some diminished. But you cannot so easily get the shell-shaped head bones out of the tubular bones of the arms and legs.
To do this you have to adopt a certain procedure. You have to deal with the tubular bone of the arm or the leg as you do with a glove or stocking when you turn it inside out to put it on. Now it is comparatively easy to imagine what a glove or a stocking looks like turned inside out. But a tubular bone is not equal in all its parts; it is not so thin as to have the same form inside and out. The inside and outside are differently formed. If your stocking were of malleable material and you could give it an artistic form with all sorts of projections and indentations, and if you then turned it inside out, you would no longer have the same form outside as that which would now be inside. And it is like this with the tubular bone. You must turn the inside outwards and the outside inwards and then you get the form of the head bone. Thus human limbs are not merely head bones metamorphosed, they are, even more, head bones turned inside out.
How does this come about? It is because the head has its center somewhere within. It has its center centrically, if I may put it so. Not so the breast. Its center does not lie within the sphere. The breast has its center very far away. (In the drawing this is only partially indicated because it would be too large if the whole were shown.) Thus the breast has itserfar away. Now, where is the center of the limb system? This brings us to the second difficulty. The limb system has its center in the whole circumference. The center of the limb system is a sphere; namely, the opposite of a point: the surface of a sphere. The center is really everywhere; hence you can turn in every direction and radii ray in from all sides. They unite themselves with you.
What is in the head takes its rise in the head. What passes through the limbs unites itself within you. This is why I had to say in the other lectures that you must think of the limbs as inserted into the rest of our body. We are really a whole world, only what wants to enter into us from outside condenses at its end and becomes visible. A very minute portion of what we are becomes visible in our limbs. So that the limbs themselves are physical body, but the physical limbs are only the minutest atom of what is really in the limb system of man. Body, soul, and spirit are in the limb system of man. The body is only indicated in the limbs, But in the limbs there is also a soul part; and there is within them, too, the spirit part which embraces the whole world.
Now, we could also make another drawing of the human being. It could be said that man is, firstly a gigantic sphere which embraces the whole world: then a smaller sphere: and then a smallest sphere. Only the smallest sphere would be completely visible. The somewhat larger sphere would be partially visible. The largest sphere is only visible here at the end of it, where it rays in: the rest is invisible. Thus is the human form wrought by the whole world.
And again, in the middle system, the breast system, we have the union of the head system and the limb system. When you consider the spine with the ribs attached to it you will see that it tries to close up in front. At the back the whole is enclosed; in front an attempt only is made, it does not quite succeed. The nearer the ribs are to the head the more they succeed in making the enclosure, but the further down they are the more they fail. The last ribs do not meet because here the force which comes into the limbs from the outside is working against them.
Now, the Greeks still had a very clear consciousness of this connection of the human being with the macrocosm. And the Egyptians knew of it also, but in a somewhat abstract way. Hence, when you look at Egyptian — or indeed any sculpture of antiquity — you can see that this thought of the cosmos is expressed. You can only understand the works of the ancients if you know that their work was an expression of their belief: they saw the head as a small sphere, a heavenly body in miniature; and the limbs as part of a great heavenly body which presses its radii into the human form. The Greeks had a beautiful, harmonious and perfect conception of this, hence they were good sculptors. No sculptor of human form can be a master in his art today unless he is conscious of this connection of man with the universe. Lacking this he will only make a clumsy copy of the forms of nature.
You will know from what I have said to you that the limbs are more inclined towards the world, the head more to the individual man. To what then will the limbs especially incline? They will incline towards the world, to that world in which man moves and in which he is continually changing his position. They will be related to the movement of the world. Please understand this quite clearly: the limbs are related to the movement of the world. In that we move about the world and perform actions, we are limb men.
Now, what kind of task has the head with respect to the movement of the world? It rests on the shoulders, as I told you when speaking in another connection. And further, it has the task of bringing the movement of the world continuously to rest within itself. Place yourself with your spirit inside your own head; you can get a picture of how you are then placed by thinking of yourself, for a time, as sitting in a railway train; the train is moving forwards, but you are quietly sitting in it. In the same way your soul sits in your head, which quietly allows itself to be carried forwards by the limbs, and brings the movement to rest inwardly. If you have room you may even lie down in the railway carriage, you can rest — though this rest is really a deception, for you are rushing in the train (in a sleeper perhaps) across the Earth. Nevertheless you have the sensation of rest. Thus the head brings to rest in you what the limbs perform in the world by way of movement.
And the breast system stands between them. It mediates between the movement of the outer world and what the head brings into rest.
Now, as men, our purpose is to imitate, to absorb the movement of the world into ourselves through our limbs. What do we do then? We dance. This is true dancing. Other dancing is only fragmentary dancing. All true dancing has arisen from imitating in the limbs the movement carried out by the planets, by other heavenly bodies, or by the Earth itself.
But now, what part do our head and breast play in this dancing, this imitation of cosmic movement in the movement of our limbs? The movements we perform in the world are stemmed or stopped, as it were, in the head and in the breast. The movements cannot continue through the breast into the head, for the head, lazy fellow, rests on the shoulders and does not let the movements reach the soul. The soul must participate in the movements while at rest, because the head rests on the shoulders.
What then does the soul do? It begins to reflect from within itself the dancing movements of the limbs. When the limbs execute irregular movements the soul begins to mumble; when the limbs perform regular movements it begins to whisper: when the limbs carry out the harmonious cosmic movements of the universe, it even begins to sing. Thus the outward dancing movement is changed into song and into music within.
The physiology of the senses will never succeed in understanding sensation unless it can accept man as a cosmic being. It will always say that vibrations of the air are outside and that man perceives sounds within: how the vibrations of the air are connected with the sounds is impossible to know. This is what you find in books on physiology and psychology — in one of them it comes at the end, in the other at the beginning, that is the only difference.
Now, why is this? It comes about because those who practice psychology and physiology do not know that a man's external movements are brought to rest in the soul, and through this begin to pass over into tones.
The same is also true with regard to all other sense impressions. As the organs of the head do not take part in the outer movements, they ray these outer movements back into the breast, and make them into sounds and into the other sense impressions. Here lies the origin of sensation.
Here, moreover, lies the connection between the arts. The poetic, the musical arts, arise out of the plastic, the architectural arts: for what the plastic and architectural arts are without, the musical arts are within. A reflecting back of the world from within outwards — such is the nature of the musical arts. Thus does man stand amid the universe. You experience color as movement come to rest. You do not perceive the movement externally — just as when lying down in a train you may have the illusion of being at rest; you let the train move on its outward course. Similarly you let your body participate in the outer world in fine movements of the limbs of which you are unaware, while you perceive colors and tones inwardly. This you owe to the circumstance that you let your head, in its physical form, be carried at rest by your limb system.
I said that what I had to speak to you about today was indeed a difficult matter. It is particularly difficult because in this age nothing whatever is done to facilitate our understanding of these things. Care is taken that the accepted culture of our time should leave man in ignorance of such things as I have described to you today. What is it that comes about through our present-day education? Well, a man cannot altogether know what a stocking or a glove is like unless he turns it inside out, for otherwise he never knows the part which touches his skin. He only knows the part turned outwards. Similarly, as the result of present culture man only knows what is turned outwards. He has concepts for one half of man only; he will never understand the limbs. For the limbs have been turned inside out by the spirit.
Another way of describing our subject would be as follows: if we consider man in all his fullness, as we meet him in the world and consider him in the first place as limb man, he reveals spirit, soul, and body. If we consider him as breast man, he reveals soul and body. If we consider him as head man, he reveals body alone. The large sphere [see drawing]: spirit, body, soul. The smaller sphere: body and soul. And the smallest sphere: body only.
At the council of A.D. 869 the bishops of the Catholic Church forbade humanity to know anything about the large sphere. At that time they declared it a dogma of the Catholic Church that the middle sphere and the smallest sphere alone had existence, that man consists of body and soul only, spiritual characteristics being merely a quality of the soul. One part of the soul, it was held, was of a spiritual nature. Since the year A.D. 869 for Western culture derived from Catholicism there has been no spirit. But when relationship to the spirit was abolished, the relationship of man to the world was abolished also. Man has been more and more driven in upon his egotism. Hence religion itself has become more and more egotistic. And today we live in an age when once again, if I may say so, from a spiritual observation we must learn man's relationship to the spirit, and through it to the world.
Who is actually to blame for the materialism of natural science? It is the Roman Catholic Church which is chiefly to blame for our scientific materialism, because at the council of Constantinople in A.D. 869 it abolished the Spirit.
What actually came about at that time? Consider the human head. Its development in the course of natural evolution shows today that it is the oldest of man's principles. The head is evolved immediately from the higher animals, and, further back again, from the lower animals. With respect to our head we are descended from the animal world. There is no denying it — the head is only a further-evolved animal. If we look for the ancestry of our head we go back to the lower animals. Our breast was not joined to the head until later; it is not so animal as the head. We only received the breast in a later age. And the organs we human beings received last of all are the limbs. These are the most human of all. They are not remodeled from animal organs, they are added later. The animal organs were formed independently from out of the cosmos and given over to the animal, and the human organs were later formed independently and united with the breast.
The Catholic Church concealed the knowledge of man's relationship to the universe from him: that is to say, it concealed from him the knowledge of the true nature of his limbs; and in so doing it handed on to succeeding generations an incomplete knowledge of the breast and a complete knowledge only of the head, of the skull. Thus, materialism made the discovery that the skull is descended from the animals: and now it claims that the whole human being is descended from the animals, whereas actually the breast organs and the limb organization were only added later.
By hiding from man the nature of his limbs, and hence this relation with the world, the Catholic Church caused the later materialistic age to apply to the whole human being what only holds good for the head. The Catholic Church is really the creator of materialism in this domain of the doctrine of evolution.
It is the duty of the present-day teacher of youth to know these things. For he should take an interest in all that has happened in the world. And he should know the true grounds of the things which have happened in the world.
We have tried today to see clearly how it is that our age has become materialistic, taking our start from something quite different, from the spherical form, the moon form, and the radial form of the limbs. That is to say, we began with something seemingly quite remote in order to make clear to ourselves a tremendous fact in the history of civilization.
But a teacher above all, if he is to do anything with the human being, must be in a position to grasp the fundamentals of civilization. These are essential to him if he is to educate rightly out of the depths of his own nature through his unconscious and subconscious relations with the child. For then he will have due regard for the structure of man; above all he will perceive in it relationships to the macrocosm.
How different is the outlook which sees the human form merely as the development of some little animal or other, a more highly developed animal body. Nowadays, for the most part, though some teachers may not admit it, the teacher meets the child with the distinct idea that he is a little animal and that he has to develop this little animal just a little further than Nature has done hitherto. He will feel differently if he says to himself: here is a man, and he has connections with the whole universe; and what I do with every growing child, the way I work with him, has significance for the whole universe.
We are together in the classroom: in each child is situated a center for the whole world, for the macrocosm. This classroom is a center — indeed many centers — for the macrocosm. Think what it means when this is felt in a living way — how the idea of the universe and its connections with the child passes into a feeling which hallows all the varied aspects of our educational work. Without such feeling about man and the universe we shall not learn to teach earnestly and truly. The moment we have such feelings, they pass over to the children by underground ways.
In another connection I said how it must always fill us with wonder when we see how wires go into the Earth to copper plates and how the Earth carries the electricity further without wires. If you go into the school with egotistic feelings you need all kinds of wires — words — in order to make yourself understood by the children. If you have great feelings for the universe which arise from ideas such as we have discussed today, then an underground current will pass between you and the child. Then you will be one with the children. Herein lies something of the mysterious relationship between you and the children as a whole. Pedagogy in the true sense must be built on feelings such as this. Pedagogy must not be a science, it must be an art. And where is the art which can be learned without dwelling constantly in the feelings? But the feelings in which we must live in order to practice that great art of life, the art of education, are only kindled by contemplation of the great universe and its relationships with man.