"The actuality of thinking is life." —Aristotle
“To thee, O Flame, I commit what is mine on Earth, that the Gods may receive it when the smoke rises upward. May that which is borne upward by the Flame be changed into divine blessing and pour down again to Earth as creative, fructifying power!”
Supersensible Man. Lecture 5 of 5
Rudolf Steiner, The Hague, November 18, 1923:
My Dear Friends,
We have tried, so far as is possible in a few short hours, to picture the journey of man through the supersensible world. For that is the world in which man verily lives his life between death and a new birth. But in the physical world too, where man is living in his physical and etheric bodily nature, here too his forces extend into the supersensible world. In the physical world he feels his supersensible existence more or less as a riddle; and unless he be able to find at least a partial solution to the riddle, his soul will not attain inner harmony, inner balance, inner security. Nay, more, his life will lack energy and vigor; and human love that is really worthy of the name will be beyond him.
A study of man as he is on Earth presents an aspect in relation to his supersensible being which can give us insight into the reason why the Divine-Spiritual worlds have sent him down to this world of the physical senses. It is, after all, in the physical world that appeal has to be made to man to interest himself in knowledge concerning the supersensible world. We would have to deal quite differently with the riddles of the supersensible world if we were going to speak of them to the dead, to those who are passing through their existence between death and a new birth. It will accordingly be well, in bringing our study to a certain conclusion today, to take the indications that have been given in the last few days concerning the mysteries of the supersensible world, and let them light up again in our hearts in connection with the sojourn of man on Earth.
Let us think, to begin with, of man as he is here in earthly life — of ourselves, that is. We have in the first place our senses. Our senses give us information of all that is around us; they are the occasion of our earthly joy and happiness, and also of our earthly suffering and pain. We are apt to forget how very much sense impressions and sense experiences signify in life. Studies such as we have been pursuing in this course of lectures take us beyond the life of the senses into spiritual regions, and it might well seem that the tendency of spiritual science would be to lead to an undervaluing of the life of the senses, making us feel that it is, after all, of secondary importance and that we should flee from it even while we are still in earthly life. Such a feeling can never be the final outcome of spiritual science. It can only serve to bring home to us that there is an inferior way of taking the life of the senses incompatible with the dignity and nobility of human existence, but that it is possible for man to lose the life of the senses in its less worthy aspects, and find it again in its deeper meaning from a higher, supersensible angle of vision. We would naturally shrink from studying things in their spiritual aspect if we were obliged to tell ourselves that all the loveliness and wonder of the world of nature which makes such a deep impression on our souls, all the beauty of plants, of the blossoming flowers, of the ripening fruits, all the majesty of the starry heavens, mean so little in human life that they must be regarded as beneath our notice in comparison with spiritual-scientific knowledge. This is not so at all. If you look back to the impulses given by initiates and masters in different epochs for the enhancement of the dignity of human life, you will find that the words uttered by initiates never undervalue the beauty, the splendor, the majesty of the earthly life of the senses. Wonderful, full of poetry and artistic imagination are often the words used by initiates to express the most lofty supersensible truths! Think only of the image of the lotus flower — to take one example among many — and you will realize that the initiates have never considered it unworthy to speak of the development of spiritual life in imagery drawn from the world of the senses. They have invariably held that in the contemplation of the sense-world something is immediately present, or can at any rate be discovered, that leads man on to the highest.
The sense-world, however, as man perceives it in ordinary consciousness, cannot in itself afford him satisfaction. And for this reason: the impressions that come to man through his eyes, ears, and other senses are indeed connected with his ego, with its whole life and development, but they can do nothing to promote the inner stability of the ego. There they cannot help man. We turn our gaze outward to the beauty and splendor of the flowers; we have before us a world of infinite variety. We turn our gaze inward, to our ego; and for ordinary consciousness it seems, to begin with, as if this ego is vanishing away from us. It seems to be just a point within us, a spiritual point, capable of saying little more than the mere word “I.” Nor can we wonder at this. We need only consider how man's senses have to be wholly surrendered to the world if they are to mediate between him and the world. The eye, in order that it may see, must renounce itself. It must be completely transparent if the splendor and beauty of the outer world of sense is to shine through it in all the luster and radiance of color. It is the same with the other senses. We really know nothing of our senses. Is there, then, any way by means of which we can begin to know and understand what they are in their real nature? There is indeed — but here again we must tread the path which leads to the supersensible world. Knowledge even of the senses has to be sought in the supersensible world.
You are familiar with the descriptions I have given of the paths which lead to the higher worlds. Try to picture livingly the consciousness that can develop into Imaginative cognition. In a certain respect we withdraw from physical perception of the outer world when we enter into Imaginative cognition. But the most interesting thing of all that happens on this path is the following. I will describe it for you in a picture.
When, in meditation — in accordance with the exercises given in the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment — you draw near to the world of Imagination, when, that is, as a result of your strivings, your etheric being begins to emerge from your physical being and this first supersensible member begins itself to possess a kind of consciousness, you can as it were, “catch” yourself at a stage that lies between ordinary sense-perception and Imaginative vision. You have not yet advanced to a fully developed Imaginative vision, but you are on the way to it. We will now suppose that a man who is already on the way to Imaginative vision goes into some high mountainous region that is particularly rich in primeval silicious rock. Forces of soul will be readily quickened in him where there is an abundance of quartz-containing silicious rock. Certain inner faculties of soul can, as it were, suddenly spring to development as a result of a vivid impression caused by silicious rock on high mountains. Ordinarily this kind of rock is slightly transparent, slightly translucent. But when our faculties of soul have pressed forward to the stage of which I have spoken — at that moment silicious rock becomes wholly transparent. We climb up on to a high mountain, and behold, the silicious rock appears to us with the transparency of glass. We feel moreover that something is streaming out from our own being and uniting with it. Here, at the outermost surface of the Earth, by a kind of natural surrender of our consciousness we become one with the whole Earth's surface. It is as though our eyes were sending out rays that enter right into the silicious rock; and in that moment we begin to feel ourselves one with the whole Earth. When we have this experience, beginning at the same time to feel ourselves one with the whole world, with the cosmos, then, if we are to attain not to a dream, nor to any abstract thought, but to a first actual realization of oneness with the cosmos, we must carry the experience further. An inner consciousness can light up within us which I may perhaps express in the following words. “Thou, O Earth, art not alone in the World-All! Thou, O Earth, together with me and all the other beings upon thee, art verily one with the great World-All!” Living in this experience of oneness with the silicious rock, we no longer see the Earth separated from the rest of the universe. We see the Earth as an ether-sphere, emerging from the sphere of the cosmic ether.
This is a first feeling that can come over us. Many an ancient song, many an ancient myth, brimful of wonderful revelations, rings to us across the ages from a literature born in the time when mankind was possessed of instinctive clairvoyance. People read these songs and myths today, and like to persuade themselves that they are uplifted in heart and soul by what they read. But the truth contained therein eludes them. It is quite impossible to experience or to have any insight into the real mood and feeling of the Bhagavad Gita, for example, or of other Indian and Oriental literature, without having at least begun to learn, through spiritual knowledge, in how real a sense man can become one with the Earth and thereby one with the cosmos. Many a time the mood of such a song will have been born from a realization of oneness with the cosmos, a kind of “going in consciousness” with the light — even with the light that penetrates the hard silicious rock, so that now the light enfills and permeates it with the human soul itself, making this hard rocky substance into a cosmic eye through which man gazes out into the wide expanses of the cosmos.
It is indeed so, that when out of real knowledge we begin to describe supersensible man, we find ourselves quite naturally turning away from abstract, theoretical expressions. We cannot help speaking a language in which the whole feeling-content of the human soul is united with the ideas. In all our study of supersensible man we must realize in the depths of our hearts that knowledge of the supersensible cannot be clothed in words without making will and feeling one with thoughts and ideas, without letting our whole being pour into the words. Life has, we all know well, to be endured, and much that life brings is hard to bear. But for one who is conscious of the deeply human quality of supersensible knowledge, the thing that is hardest of all is to listen to this supersensible knowledge being expressed in theories and abstractions. The pain that is caused him by hearing people speak of the supersensible world in a theoretical manner is just like the physical pain caused to a finger by putting it into a flame.
When further progress has been made in supersensible knowledge, when, through Imagination, we understand the working of the supersensible forces in the human being during earthly life, then we can go on to attain the knowledge that belongs to Inspiration. Through Inspiration we can gaze into what man was before birth, before he descended to earthly existence, and also into what he will be when he has passed through the gate of death. We can look upon all that I have been describing to you in these lectures — the journey through the different planetary regions, where the forming of the “physiognomy” takes place, and then the process of metamorphosis from an earlier to a later earthly life. At the stage of Inspiration we can follow the human being in his whole journey through the several starry worlds.
Now this knowledge, by means of which we can penetrate to the depths of our inner being, receives a new quality, a new coloring, when we realize that what has been described in connection with the life stretching between death and a new birth lives within us even during our life on this physical Earth. It is all there within man when he is on Earth — tiny and insignificant as he appears from a spatial point of view, standing there in his physical body, enclosed by his skin. Within him live all the splendors of the cosmos, and we must not omit to tell of these when we are describing the true and essential being of man. Man belongs to the worlds of the stars and to yet higher worlds — the worlds of the Hierarchies. And in such measure as our knowledge is able to penetrate to what is thus living within us — this earthly heritage of what we were in our true being, between death and a new birth — we can at the same time do something more. We can penetrate to the depths of our Earth planet, to the veins of the metals — lead ore, silver ore, copper ore — we can learn to perceive what lives in the rocks through the presence there of the metals and their ores. Seen with the eyes of sense, the metallic substances are little more than indications of different kinds of earth. But if we are able to gaze into the Earth with that spiritually sharpened perception which we owe to the supersensible part of our being, the metallic substances in the Earth can give rise to wonderful experiences. The copper, silver, and gold within the Earth begin to speak a language full of richness and mystery. Then something happens which brings us — men living on the Earth — into close kinship with the living soul of the Earth herself. The metallic ores tell us something; they become for us cosmic memories.
Think for a moment how it is with you when in quietude of soul — inwardly active quietude of soul — you let old memories rise up within you, memories which bear on their wings many an event of long ago. You feel as if you were living through past experiences, as if you were together again with many a one who has been dear to you in the course of your life, maybe with many a one long since gone hence. You are wafted right away from the present moment, you are living in the sorrows and joys of days gone by.
An exactly similar experience arises — but on a majestic scale — when, imbued with a spirit-knowledge that is also felt, you become one with the veins of metal in the Earth. It is not now as it was with the silicious rock which carried you out with seeing eyes, out into the cosmic spaces; in this new experience it is as though you became one with the very body of the Earth. And as you listen inwardly to the wonderful story told by the metals, you say to yourself: “Now I am one with the inmost beat of the soul and heart of the Earth herself. I have memories which are not my own personal memories; memories of the Earth herself are sounding into my being — memories of earlier times, of ages when she was not yet the Earth we know, when there were no animals, no plants upon her surface, least of all any minerals in the bosom of the Earth. I remember, together with the Earth, those ancient days when the Earth was one with the other planets of our planetary system. I remember ages when there was no separate Earth, because the Earth was not yet dense, not yet firm in herself as she is today. I remember the time when the whole planetary system was a living organism of soul, and human beings indwelt this living organism in quite a different form.” Thus do the veins of the metals in the Earth lead us to the Earth's own memories.
Now, this experience leads us on to see quite clearly why it is that we have been sent down to the Earth by the divine beings who rule over the World Order.
Living thus in the Earth's memories, we feel for the first time the true measure of our thinking. Having once taken hold in this way of the Earth's memories, we feel how our thinking is bound up with the Earth. And the moment we make the Earth's memories our own, we have around us the beings of the Second Hierarchy, the Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes. This then is the way whereby we can have around us even in earthly life those beings who, as we have heard, are around us again during a certain period of our life between death and a new birth. We know now with full conviction that we come in contact with these beings of the Second Hierarchy while we are incarnated on Earth between birth and death. The task of these beings is not only that of working together with us between death and rebirth at the metamorphosis of our being; they have also their part in the whole forming and shaping of the cosmos. We are able now to see how these beings of the Second Hierarchy are entrusted by the spiritual World Order with the task of bringing about in the Earth what is wrought there by virtue of the metallic ores.
Let us look back once more at the experience we had with the silicious rock. We were not then able to grasp the fact of which I am now going to speak, for at that stage it was not sufficiently clear. Only now at last does full clarity come from the marvelous experience of perceiving the Earth's memories in the veins of the metals. Having once reached this further stage, we can go back again and understand something which perhaps, to begin with, we did not understand. When our consciousness is borne out into the universe on the wings of the light that fills and pervades the silicious rock, the beings of the Third Hierarchy — Angels, Archangels, and Archai — are all around us. We know now that what the ordinary eyes of sense tell us when we go up a high mountain is not really true. Neither do our eyes tell us true when we descend into the deep places of the Earth and gaze upon the veins of the metals. On a high mountain, among the silicious rock, around and over the rocky peaks weave the Angels, Archangels, and Archai; and when we go down into the Earth we find the beings of the Second Hierarchy moving in the paths of the veins of the metals. Once again therefore we can say to ourselves that even during earthly life we are in the company of spiritual beings who are connected with our own innermost being in the life which extends from death to a new birth.
In our life after death we pass consciously, after a time, into the world of the Angels, Archangels, and Archai. In the discarnate state we unfold a consciousness in which we know that these beings of the Third Hierarchy are around us, just as on Earth the three or four kingdoms of Nature are around us. When, in this higher state of consciousness, we behold the Angels, Archangels, and Archai, all that the senses on Earth can perceive has of course vanished, for our senses have been given over, with our body, to the elements. Between death and a new birth we can see nothing that the senses perceive in earthly life. But the Angels, Archangels, and Archai tell us — I can use this expression, for it exactly accords with the reality — the Angels, Archangels, and Archai relate to us the story of what they are doing down below on the Earth. They tell us that they are not only active in the life which we ourselves are now sharing with them. They whisper softly into our souls: “We take our share too in the creative work of the cosmos; we are creative beings in the cosmos, and we look deep down in the Earth and behold in what earthly forms the silicious rock and kindred substances are fashioned.” And then man realizes, when he is among the Angels, Archangels, and Archai, that he must come down again to Earth. He learns to know these beings of the Third Hierarchy between death and a new birth, and he hears them speak in wonderful manner of their deeds upon the Earth. He knows then that he can only behold these their deeds by descending to Earth, clothing himself in a physical, human body and partaking in the world of sense-perception.
The deepest mysteries of sense-perception — not only of perceptions connected with the silicious rock on high mountains, but the deepest mysteries of all sense-perception — are revealed to us in wonderful words by the beings among whom we live between death and a new birth. The beauties of material Nature on Earth are so full of greatness and mystery that the memories we take with us through the gate of death are only seen in their full and true light when we hear the Angels, Archangels, and Archai describing to us all that our eyes have been able to see, our ears to hear, and our other senses to perceive down here in earthly life.
Such is the connection between the physical and the superphysical; such too the connection of man's physical life with his superphysical life. The universe is full of splendor, and it is right that what we see in material existence should delight and uplift us. Its real mysteries we learn to know when we have passed through the gate of death. The more we have learned to rejoice in the physical world, the more deeply we have entered into all the joys which the sense-world has to bestow, the greater the measure of understanding we shall bring to the world of the Angels, who are waiting to tell us of these mysteries which here on Earth we do not yet understand and shall only learn to understand when we have passed over into the superphysical world. The same is true of our relation to the Second Hierarchy, the Exusiai, Kyriotetes, Dynamis, among whom we also live for a certain period between death and a new birth. We can, on Earth, come into a special relation to these beings when, following the path of the light into the veins of the metals in the Earth, we awaken within us the Earth's memories. But here again, only when we have come over yonder into the region of the beings of the Second Hierarchy are we able to understand all the experiences we have had on Earth in connection with the metals.
One of the most wonderful experiences man can have is to be able to investigate and prove the manifold connections that exist between the metals and the health of man, and I have good hope that the Anthroposophical Movement will do a great deal to open up the truly beautiful aspect of this field of knowledge. Every metal and every metal-compound has its relation to the health of man. As man goes through life, whether in health or disease, he is in connection all the time with that which gives to the Earth her memories — namely, the metals and their various compounds. We must get beyond mere theorizing as to the healing influences of lead and lead compounds, of copper and copper compounds, and so forth. These substances are all extremely significant and important remedies if we know how to prepare them in the right way, and we must not be satisfied with speaking in an abstract manner of the wonderful connections between the metals and the being of man. A feeling of holy awe does indeed even now arise within us when we contemplate the veins of metal in the depths of the Earth, but we must go a step further and develop also a deepened insight into the marvelous connection of the metals with the being of man — a connection which is revealed to us only when we have first studied the human being in health and in disease. As I indicated, it is to be hoped that the Anthroposophical Movement will be able to spread this knowledge in the hearts and minds of men, for it is of the greatest importance. In times gone by it was not so important, because men knew instinctively the connections, for example, between the lead-process or the silver-process with some process in the human head. In days of yore these connections were spoken of a great deal. Nowadays people read what was written long ago without understanding a single word. Approaching it from the point of view of modern science, they talk of it as if it were nothing but empty abstractions. When through Anthroposophical knowledge man attains to the deepened feeling and insight which can come to him in contemplation of the wonderful connection between the metals of the Earth and the sickness and health of the human being, then indeed he will carry up into the spiritual world through the gate of death something that will help him to understand the speech of the Second Hierarchy. The greatest mysteries of the world will be able to reveal themselves to him, precisely because he has prepared himself in this way on Earth and brings with him the necessary understanding. For it is really so, my dear friends. We learn what Anthroposophy has to teach us not merely for the sake of satisfying human curiosity, but in order that the knowledge may bear fruit after we have passed through the gate of death. For only what we learn and receive through spiritual science can bring us into a right relation between death and a new birth to those spiritual beings whom we must needs contact with our whole being, since it is they who are then our cosmic environment.
It is thus possible to give a detailed picture of how we come into relation with the beings of the Hierarchies between death and a new birth. But there is still a further experience that can befall us as we pass through those regions, and it must now be described.
When we can grasp the connection between the metals in the Earth and the being of man in health and disease, secrets of Nature are revealing themselves to us. Within these secrets something more lies hidden. We hear the beings of the Second Hierarchy speaking of the nature of gold, silver, lead, copper, and the other metals. But in our relation to the great spiritual world, it is with us now as it is here on Earth when we are beginning to learn to read and it dawns upon us that learning to read will enable us to fathom many a world-mystery which might otherwise remain forever beyond our ken. I say this only by way of comparison, for the speech through which we learn to understand the beings of the Second Hierarchy in a certain sphere of existence between death and a new birth — the speech which tells of the metals and their relation to man in health and disease — will only be true when, in the spiritual world, we can hear it not as prose but as cosmic poetry — let me rather say, when we ourselves rise to the level of cosmic poetry. At first we listen in much the same way as someone with no appreciation of poetry may listen to the recitation of a poem. But just as we can, on Earth, learn — unless we are quite devoid of poetic feeling — to appreciate what is contained in the swing of the verse, in the rhythm, in the whole artistic form of the poem, so is it possible for us, after death, to rise from the prose to the poetry of that world beyond the Threshold, from the speech of the Second Hierarchy which tells us of the relation of the metals to man in health and disease, to a higher stage, where we understand the mysteries of moral existence in the universe — that moral life in which not only human souls but the divine souls of all the beings of the Hierarchies are involved. We have come to a region where the mysteries of the life of soul begin to lie open before us.
Then we can go a step further. I have described the experiences that can be ours when we go up a mountain, and again when we go down a deep mine. It was all still and quiet; we contemplated the crystals at rest on the ridges of rock, and the veins of the metals at rest in the bosom of the Earth. Now we can go further and contemplate something else that is usually only regarded from the prosaic aspect of utilitarian considerations. Such considerations are not to be despised; we must always have our feet planted firmly on the Earth if we want to penetrate into the spiritual world healthy in soul and body. But suppose we are looking at a metal that is passing, under the influence of intense heat, from the solid into the liquid condition. Then, if we can get beyond the utilitarian point of view, wonderful revelations will be vouchsafed to us. If we walk through foundries and watch how the iron becomes glowing and fluid in the furnaces, above all if we can watch metallic ores such as antimony ore being led over from the solid into the liquid and by and by into other conditions, then if we can receive deep into our soul the impression of this destiny of metallic substance in fire, an entirely new element will be born in the spiritual knowledge that has awakened within us; we shall receive a strong and profound impression of the mysteries of our own existence.
Think of the human being in relation to the animal. (I have frequently spoken of this.) Anatomical comparisons such as are made today, comparing the bones, muscles, and even the blood of man and animal, reveal the existence of certain affinities. But the secret of what it is that places man higher than the animal cannot be discovered until we give attention to some facts that have more significance than is generally realized. The spine of the animal lies in the horizontal direction, parallel with the surface of the Earth, whereas man stands upright. The faculty of speech is denied to the animal, whereas man not only speaks, but from speech evolves thought. When we observe how the faculties of speaking and thinking begin to unfold in a little child and how its body rises into the upright position that it may have the right orientation for human life on Earth, we are then beholding the marvelous forces by means of which the child finds its bearings in the dynamics of the universe. And then we see how the forces of orientation living in the limbs of a little child express themselves also in the melody, in the articulation, of speech. We see the human being building and forming himself in the sense world. We see the formative forces working calmly and quietly within him. Wonderful it is beyond all telling to watch month by month how the little child gradually leaves off crawling and begins to stand upright, how his limbs and body orientate themselves to the dynamics of the universe! Then the faculties of speaking and thinking begin to emerge, as it were, from the bodily nature. There is no more beautiful sight than to watch a little child learning to walk, to speak, and to think. But now if on the one hand we can contemplate this process in all its wonder and calm majesty, beholding it with mind at rest, sensitive to its surpassing beauty, and if on the other hand we are able to look with a higher power of vision at the metals melting in the fire, then we can perceive there, in its spirit form, the force by means of which the child can learn to walk and to speak. The archetype of this power is revealed to us when the flames lay hold of the metal, melt it and make it fluid. The more fluid, the more volatile, the metal becomes, the more clearly are we able to perceive the inner resemblance between this process — which really constitutes the destiny of the metal — and the process which, smelted and volatilized in the fires of the cosmos, enables the little child to walk, to speak, and to think.
We know now that the activity of the beings of the First Hierarchy — the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones — is a twofold activity. They speak to us out of that spiritual world into which we pass during the middle period of our life between death and a new birth, they reveal to us there the mysteries of planetary life; and they work down also into the visible world. Here, in the visible world, the influences of Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones are active in the little child as he learns to walk, to speak, and to think, and we behold also their working wherever fire has part in the process of the Earth, wherever metals melt and are fused in fire. Our Earth has been built up by the smelting and fusing of metals in the cosmic fire. In the smelting of the metals by the cosmic fires, we see the deeds of Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones within the earthly world. We gaze back into remote ages of the past when the metals, all aglow and incandescent through the power of fire, played an essential part in the coming-into-being of the Earth's body. The Thrones, above all, were active in this process, though with them worked always the Seraphim and Cherubim. The Cherubim it is who play the chief part in the unfolding of the child's faculties of walking, speaking, and thinking. But everywhere the beings of the First Hierarchy work and weave together in unison.
With this kind of knowledge, death in earthly life is linked on to resurrection in the life beyond the Threshold. For when such knowledge reveals the kinship of the cosmic fires by which the metals are melted with the powers that make man truly man, then the whole world becomes one and we realize that there is no difference between the earthly life that stretches from birth to death and life in the spiritual world beyond the Threshold. The life between death and a new birth is a metamorphosis of earthly life. By knowing how the one passes over into the other, we realize that the one is but a different form of the other. When the soul is deepened by this knowledge, then an understanding of still other mysteries can be added. This further understanding can also be reached on quite another path.
If you think about what I have told you of the connection of the melting and dissolving of metals in fire with the unfolding of the faculties of walking, speaking, and thinking in the little child, if you place these pictures before your imagination, meditating upon them and deepening thereby your understanding, then a power will quicken and strengthen your soul and enable you to find the solution of a great riddle — the riddle of the working of karma, or human destiny. In between what happens when a child learns to walk, to speak, and to think and what happens when metals become fluid and volatile under the influence of great heat — amid all the sulphurous and phosphoric glow and gleam of color in the burning metal, amid the working of the right and true transition from animal to man that takes place in the little child as he learns to walk, to speak, and to think, karma stands revealed. There lies the way to a true understanding of karma. Karma is a supersensible reality that works straight into the very deeds and actions of man's life.
Rising up therefore in this way in meditation, we learn to know the mysteries of destiny that weave through our life. On the one side we have the picture of the destiny of the metal in the fire, on the other side the picture of the essential and primordial destiny of man when he descends to Earth, expressed in the learning to walk, to speak, and to think. Within these pictures man can find revealed as much of the riddle of destiny as he needs for his life.
So it is, that for the riddle also of human destiny supersensible man speaks into the world in which “sensible” man is living. Of this too I wanted to speak to you, for it belongs essentially in our study of supersensible man. Such a study can never be merely a matter of assimilating theories. In order to understand the being of man we must reach out on every hand to the mysteries of the universe — mysteries of Nature and mysteries of Spirit. For man is intimately and closely bound up with all the mysteries of the Natural as well as of the Spiritual Universe. Man is in truth a universe in miniature. Only it must not be imagined that what takes place out in the great expanses of the cosmos takes place in exactly the same way in the microcosm. The majestic flames of cosmic fire that rise up from the molten metals stream out to the boundaries of cosmic space — for boundaries there are! Try, my dear friends, to picture to yourselves these cosmic fires in which the metals are being smelted and made volatile. What is thus made volatile streams out into cosmic space, to return once again in powers of light, radiations of warmth and light. And what thus returns from cosmic space enables the tiny child who cannot yet speak or walk but only crawl, to become a child who stands and walks. Upward and outward radiate the streaming forces from the molten metals, and when they have gone far enough out into the cosmos they turn and come back again and are then the forces which enable the child to stand upright. Here you have a picture of ascending and descending cosmic forces, as they work in the universe, and of their many metamorphoses and variations.
You will now also be able to understand the true meaning of something which in days of yore was connected with the science of those times, namely, the priestly sacrifice. The sacrificial flame, together with what was burning in it, was sent forth into cosmic spaces to the Gods that it might come down again thence to work in the world of men. As he stood before the fire on the altar the priest would say: “To thee, O Flame, I commit what is mine on Earth, that the Gods may receive it when the smoke rises upward. May that which is borne upward by the Flame be changed into divine blessing and pour down again to Earth as creative and fructifying power!”
Thus, as we listen to the words of the priest of olden time, who is speaking of supersensible worlds, we may hear how he too gives utterance to the cosmic mysteries in the midst of which man stands.
This, my dear friends, is what I wanted to say to you about the supersensible nature of man, anthroposophically perceived and understood.
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