"Investigating and Formulating the Cosmic Word in Inhalation and Exhalation"
Part 1 of 2
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, April 1, 1922
Some spiritual realities are best approached through images. In such instances it is necessary to refrain from using habitual abstract and intellectual ways of speaking. This is certainly the case in what I will attempt to present today.
To make the matter as simple as possible, suppose we have an enclosed space with a window. Let us assume that light enters through this window and fills the space. Let us also assume that the space is filled with all sorts of transparent, domelike surfaces that reflect and transmit the light in a great variety of ways. Now suppose I allow steam to flow up through this enclosed space. There is also an outlet that allows it to flow out again.
This stream, however, is a living, feeling being. It flows into and through the sparkling light that is changed, reflected, and transmitted by the domes. Before leaving the enclosed space, the steam perceives whatever it can, touching and feeling the light to internalize an image of it.
Now let us assume that after a while, when the steam flows out, it is able to reproduce and express what it experienced inside the enclosed space in the sparkling, flickering light. Imagine an instrument of some sort that allows the steam to express its experience by sounding musical notes or the like.
Now imagine a different version of this picture. Instead of the enclosure, we have the interior of the human head, and instead of the window, the eye, which admits impressions of light. The transparent domes of the first illlustration are the nerves and convolutions of the brain. Instead of steam, imagine inhaled air streaming up and sensing everything that sparkles and flickers in the brain as a result of instreaming light and is then shaped into thoughts. The air then streams downward, following the spinal cord. Instead of an instrument, it encounters the human larynx, which allows it to express its experiences. Here you have an image of what actually happens in the human head.
Now let us go back to the first drawing. Suppose we shutter the window, so it is very dark inside the enclosure when the steam flows up into it. In this case the steam does not perceive the light that enters through the window and is dimmed and reflected in various ways. Instead the steam perceives forms inside the enclosure itself — perhaps shapes once constructed by a carpenter, for example. What the steam senses will be the results of the carpenter's actions, and when it flows out again, it will again be able to express what it perceived.
But now let us assume that the carpenter constructed the space in a very particular way. Let us suppose that he was the master carpenter of the universe and that he constructed the space in the image of the entire cosmos. What the steam then touches and senses when the window is shuttered is the mysteries of the entire cosmos. When the window is open, the steam perceives the light that sparkles in from outside, but when the window is shut, it perceives the room's contents, the image of the entire cosmos.
Imagine that we have here an image of the cosmos And, in fact, the marvelous convolutions of the brain really are an image of the entire cosmos. If we shut off our senses and then allow inhaled air to flow along the spine into the head, we can touch and sense the mysteries of the brain's inner space. But we must not simply allow the air to touch things willy-nilly, in a disorganized, chaotic fashion. This must be done systematically.
You know that if we want to confirm that a certain piece of fabric is made of silk, we have to touch it in a particular way. Our touch must be appropriate to what we are attempting to perceive. If we meet what we are touching halfway, we can recognize it for what it is.
Last week I mentioned that when the original ancient Eastern yoga was in full flower, its devotees were able to attain higher knowledge by manipulating their breathing. They knew that the configuration of nerves inside the head reflected cosmic mysteries and that they could grasp these mysteries if they managed their breathing appropriately. I am talking about the original yoga, not the decadent secondary developments we know as yoga today. As the devotees of the original yoga inhaled, they sent their breath up inside the dome of the head, which is an image of the entire cosmos. They shaped this stream of air into a sound somewhere between ah and o, or ah and u. Like hands whose shape we adapt to the outer objects we touch, the sound au was adapted to touching and sensing cosmic mysteries. The resulting perception then became conscious as the air was allowed to flow out again in a mood of absolute devotion. What was accomplished by inhaling, by touching with air imprinted with the sound au, was then offered to the world in a mood of devotion, allowing exhaled air to flow out in the sound mmm. The breath, shaped inside the body into the sound aum, received cosmic mysteries as reflected or reporduced in the nerves inside the head. Cosmic mysteries were brought to life, or to consciousness, as the air was exhaled in the sound mmm. This was the basis of the original yoga training.
A yoga student of ancient times experienced something like this: "The mysteries of the entire universe are in my head. I sense them when I inhale. When I inhale, I perceive cosmic mysteries. But I can hold on to them only as long as I maintain an attitude of absolute devotion to the cosmos. Otherwise they remain in the unconscious."
In other words, inhalation was shaped into the Cosmic Word, which weaves and surges as the force that creates the universe. When they grasped the Cosmic Word and then breathed out in absolute devotion to the cosmos, yoga students recognized inhalation as the revelation of the Cosmic Word and exhalation as its condensation and affirmation. Aum unites revelation and affirmation, bringing cosmic mysteries to life within the human being.
For us today, sound has moved up a step. It is expressed in real, concrete thought, not in intellectual thoughts. Inhalation becomes thought, and exhalation becomes the deliberate, living manifestation of thought. In other words, we separate the unified experience of inhalation as revelation and exhalation as affirmation into thought exercises and will exercises. Through thinking trained in meditation, we receive revelation; through will exercises, we affirm the revelation.
For modern humanity, what was once experienced in respiration and shaped into vowel sounds (in inhalation) and consonants (in exhalation) now manifests on the level of the soul, in thought that is contemplated inwardly but pervaded with will in devoted submission to the cosmos. The process is the same, but it has been ensouled and internalized. Nonetheless it still consists of perception and affirmation — perception of our internalized experience of cosmic mysteries, and affirmation of the cosmos and its spiritual foundation.
Let us look at this from a different perspective. It can be said that human beings are born out of light and that the interior of the human head — the entire nervous system — is a product of light. In addition to the eye, all the other sense organs also convey light. The eye is simply the organ that conveys light in the most obvious sense. We cannot say that blind people are totally cut off from light. It works within them; they simply do not perceive it consciously.
Sound also works within us — in the entire body and not just in the ear, which is simply an organ for perceiving sound. When we perceive a symphony, for example, we experience it with our whole body. In the inner process of listening to a piece of music, our respiration shifts into very specific rhythms. These rhythms are specific musical processes evoked by the composition. They are shapes in the element of air inside our body. As such, they bounce off the shapes of the brain, which force them back. This is what produces musical impressions. Inside us, sound is constantly touching and sensing light.
This concept is important to remember: Inside us, sound touches light. The sound in us, the sounding body, is actually an organ of touch for light. Light is the outer element, sound the inner element.
Thought : Inhalation : Revelation
Will : Exhalation : Affirmation
Sound (internal) touches light (external)
Human will touches cosmic thought.
The inner element touches the outer. We grasp an essential aspect of being human only when we understand that we are special beings, removed from the cosmic music of the spheres. As human beings, we feel our way around in the light; within us, sound discovers the nature of the cosmos in configuartions of light. Only in our era has human will begun to touch cosmic thought. Now will replaces sound; thought replaces light. As I have said before, these things are very difficult to formulate in abstract, intellectual terms, but the image that I attempted to present will make it accessible if you contemplate it a bit. The important point about human beings' relation to the cosmos is that the human head is an image of the entire cosmos.
. . .
continued: Part 2
Source: The Sun Mystery