Rudolf Steiner, The Hague, November 13, 1923:
My Dear Friends,
The theme proposed for our lectures is: Supersensible Man, as he can be perceived and understood out of anthroposophical wisdom. We shall try to give expression to this knowledge and understanding of man from many different sides; and as the number of lectures has unavoidably to be small, I will plunge at once into the heart of the subject.
To speak of man as a supersensible being at once raises the question of the way in which man is regarded at the present day. For a long time now there has been no mention of supersensible man, not even among persons of an idealistic turn of mind. The ordinary culture and knowledge of our age never speaks of the man who passes through births and deaths. In the course of centuries it has become quite natural to us to believe and even to teach our children in the schoolroom that the Earth is no more than a speck of dust, as it were, in the cosmos, while upon this speck of dust, as an infinitely smaller speck of dust, man moves through the universe with a delirious rapidity — man, who is utterly insignificant in relation to the great universe. Because this conception of the Earth as a speck of dust has permeated every mind and heart, men have completely lost the possibility of relating the human being to what lies beyond the earthly realm. Something is, however, speaking to men today, even if they do not realize it, even if it remains in the realm of the unconscious — speaking to them today in clear and unmistakable tones, urging them to turn their attention once again to the supersensible nature of their own being, and therewith of the universe. For in the course of the last few centuries, my dear friends, materialism has found its way into our very knowledge of man. What is this materialism, in reality?
Materialism is the kind of thought which regards man as a product of the substances and forces of the Earth. And although there are many who declare that the human being is not composed entirely of earthly substances and forces, we have, truly speaking, no science which concerns itself with whatever it is in man that does not originate from earthly substances; and when people declare today — in all good faith from their point of view — that the eternal in man can, nonetheless, be in some way apprehended, the statement is not really quite honest. It is not a matter simply of contradicting materialism. It is dilettantism to imagine that this is what we should be doing on every possible occasion. Theories based upon materialism, which either cast doubt upon or deny altogether the existence, or at any rate the possibility, of knowledge, of a spiritual world, are not of first importance; what is significant is the tremendous weight and power of materialism. Of what use is it in the long run when people say, either out of some inner perception or out of religious tradition, that the thinking, feeling, and willing of man must surely have an existence independent of the brain, if then modern science comes along and by one means or another — and it is generally, as you know, in pathological cases that research into the brain is instituted — disposes of the brain bit by bit and gives the appearance of disposing at the same time bit by bit of the human soul! Or what sense is there again in allowing intuitive feelings or religious tradition to speak of the immortality of the life of soul, and then, when a man is ill in his soul, be unable to think of anything that will help him except cures for the brain or the nervous system? It is materialism that has brought us all this knowledge and research. Many of those who are ready to refute materialism today do not really know what they are doing. They do not appreciate the tremendous significance of the detailed knowledge which materialism has brought in its train; they have no notion of the consequence of materialism for our whole understanding of man.
Let us then take this for our starting point. We will look at the human being and study him quite honestly from the aspect of what modern science knows about him. Such a study will reveal much. From all that physiology, biology, chemistry, and other sciences can contribute toward an understanding of the human being, we shall learn how the different known substances and forces of the world and the Earth come together to build up muscle, bone, nervous system, blood system, the several senses — in short, the whole human being of whom modern science speaks. Approaching modern science in this way in its most successful manifestation, we come upon a remarkable fact. Take, for instance, the knowledge comprised in what a medical student has to learn as the foundation for his work of healing. Having acquainted himself with certain preparatory sciences, he passes on to those which are fundamental to medicine. Let us imagine that we have before us, collected together in a handbook, everything he has to learn about the human organism, until he arrives at the point where he must pass on to specialized knowledge. If we now ask ourselves: — To what does all this knowledge amount? What does the student know of man? — we must answer: — He knows a great deal, he knows everything that can be known today. (For, when we turn to the psychologists, to those who set out to understand the life of soul, we find an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty.) In natural science we have no hesitation in recognizing sound and valuable results of research — so good indeed that the scientific lecturers are often unequal to their task. If students are apt to be bored by what they have to listen to in preparation for their medical studies, it is not the fault of natural science but of those who expound it. We should never speak of science as boring, but rather of boring professors! Truly the fault does not lie with science, for science has undoubtedly good solid matter to offer. However God-forsaken are many of those who expound science today, science herself has the cooperation of good Spirits. When, however, we turn from these achievements of genuine and scholarly research and listen to what psychologists and philosophers have to say about the soul or the eternal part of man, we very soon realize that, apart from what has come from earlier traditions, it is all words, words, words, which lead nowhere. If out of the deepest needs of his soul a man turns today to psychology or philosophy, he will not merely be bored, he will find nothing whatever to answer his questions. In our present age it is natural science alone that has something to offer to those who are seeking knowledge.
But now what does this natural science teach us about man? It speaks of that in man which comes into existence at conception or birth and passes away at death. Nothing more! If we are honest, we must admit that science has not anything more to offer. The only course left open to one who is a genuine seeker in this domain is therefore to turn his attention to what cannot, in our day, be attained by the accustomed methods of science, namely, to the founding of a real science of the soul and spirit, based, as was ancient spiritual knowledge, upon experience in and observation of the spiritual. Such a science is to be attained only by methods indicated in my books Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, Occult Science, and others — methods which enable a man actually to perceive the spiritual, and to speak of it as he speaks of that which lies before him in the world of the senses and has led to the development of a genuine and sound natural science. What the Earth has to offer to the eyes of sense, what can be made the object of experiment has not, of course, by any means been exhausted — although it is well on the way! But this can at most yield knowledge of man as a transient, material being, living in time. To look out beyond the earthly realm is not possible so long as we are trying to understand the human being by the methods of natural science. For if we have eyes only for the earthly we can see nothing but the transient part of man.
As we shall find, however, even this transient part of man can never be explained in and from itself. Even here we are led, perforce, to look away from the Earth to the Earth's cosmic environment. When modern science does this, it does little more than calculate the distances of the stars, describe their courses, examine them with a spectroscope, and state how far the phenomena of light which reveal themselves there admit of the conclusion that the stars contain the same substances as are found on Earth. This science of the world that is beyond the Earth does not, in point of fact, get beyond the Earth at all! It is powerless to do so. Today, therefore, I want to begin our study by placing before you certain facts for which we shall find detailed confirmation in the later lectures of the course.
If, instead of limiting our observation to the Earth, as is customary in science today, we direct our gaze to what lies beyond the Earth, to the world of the Stars, we have, first, the planetary system, those heavenly bodies which are manifestly connected in some way with the Earth, and which are involved both in movements which man thinks he has discovered to be movements around the Sun, similar to the movement of the Earth around the Sun, and also in movements which are performed together with the Sun in one direction or another in cosmic space. Such are the results that can be attained by observation and calculation; but they afford nothing that can be applied to the being of man himself. This kind of observation has indeed nothing to offer us for our knowledge of man.
Supersensible sight leads us at once to something new. We turn our gaze to the planetary bodies outside the Earth: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, then the Earth herself, Venus, Mercury, Moon — regarding the Moon not merely as a satellite but as a planet. Modern science calculates that Saturn, for example, with its immense orbit, takes a long time, thirty years, to move around the Sun; Jupiter needs a much shorter time; Mars still less, and so on. Let us say, we look out into the star-strewn heavens and see a star, a planet at a particular spot in the sky; somewhere else we see a different star — Saturn, Jupiter, or whatever it may be. Now, what is thus revealed to the eyes of sense — Jupiter here, Saturn there — has also an ether sphere. It is embedded in a fine, delicate ether-substance. If we can perceive the ether as well, we see that Saturn, for instance — this curiously formed planet, looking like a globe surrounded with rings — accomplishes something in the ether around it. Saturn is not inactive in relation to the ether in which the whole planetary sphere is contained and enclosed. Seen with the eye of the spirit, Saturn rays out forces. From Saturn radiates something that can be perceived as form. The physical planet Saturn is only one part of the picture — a part that gradually fades away before the eye of the spirit. One has the feeling that the Spirits of the World have placed Saturn there in this position in the heavens on our behalf, as it were, in order that we may have a direction in which to focus our gaze. To the eye of the spirit it is as if someone were to make a dot on the blackboard, draw something around it and then rub the dot out again. This is actually what happens in spiritual sight. Saturn is blotted out, but what is around Saturn becomes clearer and clearer and tells a marvelous story. If we have reached the point where Saturn itself is blotted out and we behold the “form” or “figure” that has been worked into the ether, we find that this form extends as far as Jupiter, where the same process is repeated. Jupiter is blotted out and what comes into being in the ether spreads out, spreads out very far; until once again a form arises in the ether, which combines with the form from Saturn to produce a picture in the heavens. We come to Mars, and the same thing happens again. Then we come to the Sun. Whereas the outer, physical Sun blinds and dazzles, we find it is not so with the spiritual Sun. All the dazzling quickly dies away when we gaze at the spiritual Sun, and a great, majestic, living picture arises from all that is inscribed into the ether — a picture that extends also to Venus, Mercury, Moon. We have, now, a complete picture with its different parts.
Some of you may here suggest that there will be occasions when Saturn, for instance, is standing at a place in the heavens where he cannot come in contact with the picture formed by Jupiter. In a wonderful way, this too is provided for. The contact is brought about in the following manner. If you were to start from a certain point lying in the East, in Asia, and draw a line right through the center of the Earth to the other side and then extend it out into the cosmos, you would have drawn a line that is of the greatest significance for the whole field of spiritual sight. When Saturn lies outside this line, we must carry over the picture that arises from Saturn to the line; this fixes it. The pictures are fixed by means of this line. Wherever we may have found the Jupiter-picture or the Saturn-picture — and they have to be sought for — they are fixed for our sight by being brought to this line. We have thus, finally, one single picture. Our planetary system presents a complete picture. Do you know what this picture is? We unriddle it and discover what it is — a great cosmic picture of the human skin with the sense-organs. If you take the skin of a human being, including with it the sense-organs, and try to draw the picture which corresponds to it in the heavens, it proves to be what I have just described. The planetary system inscribes into the cosmic ether what is present in the human being — differentiated and specialized by earthly conditions — in the spatial picture of the surface of the skin including the sense-organs. That, then, is the first thing. We discover a connection between the human being, on Earth, in respect to the form given him by the skin which encloses him, and the planetary system which shapes, forms, and builds into the ether the archetypal, heavenly picture of earthly man.
Now we make a second discovery. We look at the planets in movement. If we watch any particular planet, then the Ptolemaic and the Copernican systems will give us each a different picture of its course. That can very well be; the pictures of planetary movements can be interpreted in many ways. But what is far more important is that we should now be able to behold all these movements together. Suppose we are looking at Saturn, the planet that has the longest way to go and needs the longest time in which to complete his orbit. The movement of Saturn seen in conjunction with the movement of Jupiter gives a picture. Looking now at all the planets together in this way in their several movements, we have before us once again one complete picture, arising this time from the movements of the planets. The picture does not tally with the astronomical descriptions of the planetary movements. Strange to say, spiritual sight does not find the pictures of ellipses which you can see drawn in astronomical maps. When we follow Saturn, for example, with spiritual sight, he reveals to us something which, in conjunction with other movements, forms itself into a figure of eight, a kind of lemniscate. Into this form enter manifold other planetary movements. So, once again, we have a picture. This picture arising from all the planetary movements reveals itself to us as the heavenly picture of what comes to expression in the human being in the nerves and the neighboring glands. The archetypal picture of the human skin and sense-organs is found by spiritual sight in the order and grouping of the planets. We have now seen what happens when we pass from this to the picture of the planetary movements. If we draw an outline of the human form, we can have the feeling: This outline represents the form of the planetary system; but when we draw in the nervous system and the secreting glands, then with every stroke we are drawing a physical picture of the movements of the planetary system as they are seen with the eye of the spirit.
We can now take another step forward in our spiritual observation of the cosmos. Having reached the point where we obtain a picture of the movements of the planets by drawing into our outline of the human form the nerves and neighboring glands, we can go further. The several movements fade away. As we rise from Imagination to Inspiration, the movements vanish. This is of extraordinary significance. “Seeing” in the narrower sense ceases, and we begin to “hear” in the spirit. What was previously movement becomes dim and confused, until it is like a picture seen in a mist. But out of this misty picture the Music of the Cosmos begins to form — the cosmic rhythms become audible for us in the spirit. And we ask ourselves: What is it we must now add to our outline of the human form, to correspond with these cosmic rhythms?
In the sphere of Art, as you know, all manner of transformations are possible. When we have drawn our outline of man and then drawn within it the nervous system, we have the feeling that we have been literally painting or drawing. But now it is not so easy to paint what we hear in the realm of Cosmic Music, for it is all rhythm and melody. If we are to represent it in our picture, we must take a brush and, following the nervous system, quickly make here a dab of red, there a dab of blue, here again red, there again blue, and so on, all along the lines of the nervous system. Then at certain places we shall feel impelled to stop; we can go no further; we must now paint into the picture a definite “form,” to express what we have heard in the spirit. We can indeed transform it into drawing, but if we want to place it within the contour-line, we find that at certain points we are obliged to go beyond the line and paint a new and different form, because here the rhythm blue-red, blue-red, blue-red, suddenly becomes melody. We feel we must paint in this form — and the form is what the melody sings to us! Cosmic Rhythm — Cosmic Melody. When we have completed the picture, we have before us Cosmic Music made perceptible in space, the Cosmic Music which becomes audible to the ear of the spirit when the picture of the planetary movements grows dim and disappears. And what we have now drawn into our picture is none other than the path along which the blood flows. When we come to an organ — to heart or lung, or to organs which take into themselves either something from the outside world or substances from within the body itself — at these points we must paint a form which attaches itself in some way to the channels of the blood. Then we get heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach. From the Cosmic Music we learn how to draw these organs of secretion, and how to insert them into the blood system in our picture.
Now we go a stage further. We pass from Inspiration to Intuition. Something new arises out of the Cosmic Music. The tones begin to blend with one another; one tone works upon another and we begin to hear meaning in this Cosmic Music. The Cosmic Music changes into speech — Cosmic Speech that is spoken forth by the universe. At the stage of Intuition, what was known in earlier times as the Cosmic Word becomes audible. We must now draw something else into our picture of the human being. Here we must proceed just as we proceed in ordinary everyday writing, where we express something by means of words that are formed of letters. In our picture of man, we must express the meaning of the single Cosmic Words. We find that when we give expression to these Cosmic Words and bring that expression into the drawing, we have before us a picture of the muscular and bony systems in the human being, It is just as though someone were to tell us something which we then write down. Cosmic Speech tells us something — and we draw it into the picture. In what the world beyond the Earth tells us, we have thus been able to find the human being in his totality.
But now there is another and essentially different experience that comes to us in the course of this spiritual observation. Let us return to what was said at the beginning of the lecture about the form that is inscribed in the ether by the planetary bodies. While we are engaged in this spiritual observation, knowledge of the earthly vanishes for us; it remains as a memory only. But it must be there as memory; if it were not, we should have no stability, no balance, and these are essential if we are to be knowers of the spirit. A knowledge of the spirit that excludes physical knowledge is not good. Just as in physical life we must be able to remember — for if the faculty of remembering what we do and experience is lacking, we are not in good health — so in the realm of spiritual knowledge we must be able always to remember what is there in the physical world. In the sphere where we experience the formative activities of the planetary system, the other kind of knowledge which we had on Earth — all that is given us in the wonderful achievements of physical science — is for the moment entirely forgotten. However well and thoroughly we have known our Natural Science here on Earth, in every act of spirit-knowledge we have always again and again to remember it, we have to recall to our consciousness what we have learnt in the realm of the physical. We must say to ourselves at every turn: That is the solid ground upon which I have to stand. But it withdraws from us, it becomes no more than a memory. On the other hand, we begin now to have a new perception, which is as vivid in comparison with physical knowledge as is immediate present experience compared with remembered experience. We perceive that while we are beholding the form-giving power of the planetary sphere we are within an entirely new environment. Around us are the beings of the Third Hierarchy: Archai, Archangels, Angels. In this form-creating activity lives the Third Hierarchy. A new world arises before us. And now we do not merely say: From the world of the planets has come the human form in its Cosmic Archetype! Now we say: Beings of the Third Hierarchy — Archai, Archangels, and Angels — are working and weaving at this cosmic archetype of the form of man!
It is possible here in earthly existence to attain to perception of the world of the Hierarchies, by means of supersensible knowledge. After death, every human being must necessarily experience such knowledge, and the better he has prepared himself — as he can prepare himself — during earthly existence, the easier it will be for him. On Earth, when a man wants to know what he is like in his form and figure, he can look at himself in a mirror, or he can have his photograph taken. After death no such means exist — either for himself or in regard to his fellowmen. After death he has to look away to the formative working and weaving of the planets. In what the planets reveal, he beholds the building up of his form. There we recognize our own human form. And working and weaving through it all are the beings of the Third Hierarchy — the Angels, Archangels, and Archai.
We can now progress further on our upward path. When we have recognized that the weaving life of Angels, Archangels, and Archai is connected with the form of the human skin and the sense-organs that belong to it, we can advance a step further in our knowledge of man's relation with the world beyond the Earth. Only, let us first be quite clear how differently we have now to think of the human form or figure. Here on Earth we describe a man's figure, or perhaps his countenance. One man's forehead, we say, is of such and such a shape; another has a nose of a particular shape; a third has mournful eyes; a fourth laughing eyes — and so on. But there we stop. Cosmic knowledge on the other hand reveals to us in everything that goes to make up the human form the working and weaving of the Third Hierarchy. The human form is in truth no earthly creation — the Earth merely provides the substance for the embryo. The Archai, Archangels, and Angels work in from the cosmos, building up the human form. If we now advance further and come to perceive the confluence of the planetary movements, of which confluence the nervous system and the secreting glands are an after-copy, we find, interwoven with the movements of the planets, the beings of the Second Hierarchy: Exusiai, Kyriotetes, Dynamis. Beings of the Second Hierarchy are active in the shaping of the cosmic archetype of the nervous and glandular systems in man. It is thus at a later period after death — that is to say, some time after we have learned to understand the human form from its cosmic archetype — that we ascend to the world of the Second Hierarchy, and realize that the earthly human being to whom we now look back as a memory was fashioned and created in his nervous and glandular systems by the Exusiai, Kyriotetes, and Dynamis. Then we no longer regard the human being as the product of forces of electricity, magnetism, and the like; we gain knowledge of how he as physical man has been built up by the beings of the Second Hierarchy.
We go still further and ascend to the sphere of Cosmic Music — Cosmic Melody and Cosmic Rhythm — where we find yet another cosmic archetype of the being of man. This time we do not move onward in the Hierarchies. It is the same beings — the beings of the Second Hierarchy — who are at work here too, but they are engaged in a different kind of activity. It is difficult to express in words wherein their first work — upon the nervous system — differs from their work upon the rhythmic blood system, but we may think of it in the following way. In their work upon the nervous system, the beings of the Second Hierarchy are looking downward, toward Earth; in their work upon the blood system they are looking upward. Both the nervous system and the blood system (as well as the organs connected therewith) are created by the same Hierarchy, but their gaze is at one time turned toward the Earth and at another upward to the spiritual world, to the heavens.
Finally, at the stage of Intuition, where we behold how the muscular and bony system of man is woven into being by the world of the Cosmic Word, the Cosmic Speech, we come to the First Hierarchy — the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones. We have now reached the stage which corresponds approximately to the middle point of the life between death and a new birth, spoken of in my Mystery Plays as the “Midnight Hour of Existence.” Here we have to see how all those parts of man's organism which enable him to move about in the world are woven and created by the beings of the First Hierarchy.
Thus, when we look at the human being with supersensible knowledge, behind every part of him we see a world of spiritual, cosmic beings. When in our present age we try to understand man, we are accustomed to study first the bony system. We begin, do we not, with the skeleton — although even from a superficial point of view there is not much sense in that, for the skeleton has been formed and built out of the fluids in the human organism. The skeleton was not there first! It is merely a residue from the fluids, and can only be understood in that sense. But what is the usual method of procedure? We have to learn the various parts of the skeleton — arms, hands, bones of the upper arm, bones of the lower arm, bones of the hands, bones of the fingers, and so on. With most of us it is a question merely of learning it all by heart. We do the same with the muscles — although this is decidedly more difficult. Then we come to the various organs and learn about them too in the same way. And all these things we have learnt go round in our minds in a most confused way — a fact, let me say, that is not without significance! There lurks, however, in all healthy minds a longing to know more, a longing to know what is behind it all, to know something of the mystery of the world. A real study of man should begin with the skin and the sense-organs. This would lead us to the Hierarchy of Angels, Archangels, Archai. We should then go on to the nerves and glandular system; this would lead us to the Second Hierarchy, to Exusiai, Kyriotetes, Dynamis. And we would find these same beings at work when we came to consider the blood system and the organs directly connected with it. Then, passing on to what enables man to move — to his muscular and bony systems — we would reach the realm of the First Hierarchy, and see in the muscles and bones of the earthly human being the deeds of Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones.
It is possible thus to describe ascending ranks of Hierarchical Beings — from the Third to the Second to the First. As we describe all the influences that pour down upon the earthly world from the world beyond the Earth, and behold therein the deeds of the Hierarchies, a wonderful and amazing picture rises up before us. Gazing upon the ranks of the Hierarchies we see at work, below, beings of the Third Hierarchy — Angels, Archangels, Archai; then we behold beings of the Second Hierarchy — Exusiai, Kyriotetes, Dynamis — working and weaving together in the cosmos; finally, beings of the First Hierarchy — Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones. Only now at last does an intelligible picture of the human body rise up before our sight. We gaze upon the ranks of the Hierarchies and upon their deeds; and as we let the eye of the spirit dwell upon their deeds — lo, MAN stands there before us!
As you see, a mode of observation opens up here which begins at the very point where ordinary observation ends. Yet it is this kind of observation alone that can lead us beyond the gates of birth and death; no other can tell of what stretches beyond birth or beyond death. For all that has now been described becomes a matter of experience. In what way it becomes actual experience the coming lectures will show. On Earth we have around us the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms and also what the physical human kingdom accomplishes in the earthly sense. We direct our gaze to all that proceeds from mineral, plant, animal, and physical man. But when we have passed through the gate of death and are living between death and a new birth, we gaze upon activities of the spiritual world that are directed upon the being of man — we behold man verily as a product of the activity and deeds of the spiritual hierarchies. Moreover, as we shall come to see later, only in this light do the forms and structures of the other beings on Earth besides man become intelligible.
In preparation for the further lectures, let me also add the following. Think of the animal. There is something about an animal that is reminiscent of the human form — but reminiscent only to a limited extent. How is this? It is because the animal cannot be an after-copy of the planetary form that is inscribed in the ether. Man alone can become an after-copy of this form, because he follows the direction of that line which, as I told you, focuses for him the planetary form. If the human being were to remain a little child who never learns to walk but always crawls, if he were destined to this — which of course he is not — then he could not become an earthly image of the planetary forms. He must, however, become an image of them, he must grow up into the planetary forms. This the animal cannot do. The animal can only unfold its life in accordance with the movements of the planets; it can copy only their movements. You can see this revealed in every single part of the animal's body. Take the skeleton of a mammal. You have the bones of the spine with their typical vertebral form. These are a faithful copy of the planetary movements. However many vertebrae a snake has, for example, every single one is an earthly copy of planetary movements. The Moon, as the planet nearest to the Earth, exercises a particularly strong influence upon one part of the animal: the skeleton develops, forming the different limbs; then it is all drawn together, as it were, in the vertebral form. After the Moon come the other planets, Venus and Mercury, moving in spiral forms. Then comes the Sun. The Sun influence tends, as it were, to finish off and complete the structure of the skeleton. We can even indicate a definite point in the spine where the Sun is working. It is where the spine begins to show a tendency to change into head-structure. In the head-structure we have the spinal vertebrae transformed. At the point where the bones of the spine rise up, become “puffed out” as it were — this is how Goethe and Gegenbaur describe it — to become head-bones, there work Saturn and Jupiter. When, therefore, we follow the direction of the skeleton from behind forwards, we must pass from Moon right through to Saturn if we are to understand the bony structure of the animal. We cannot relate the form of an animal to the ether form of the planets; we must go to the movements of the planets if we are to understand it. That which is worked by the human being into his glandular system is, in the case of the animal, worked into its whole form and structure. Of the animal, then, we have to say: It is not possible for the animal to arrange and order its being in accordance with the form or figure radiated by the planets. The animal can copy only the movements of the planets.
In ancient times men visualized this movement of the planetary bodies by saying: The paths of the planets go through the zodiacal constellations. The ancients knew how to describe the courses of Saturn and the other planets as each takes its way through the constellations of the zodiac. From their knowledge of the animal, they understood the connection between the forms of animals and the zodiac — which is rightly called “zodiac” ("animal circle"). The essential point for us is that the animal does not copy the forms inscribed in the ether by the planets; it is man alone who does this. Man can do it because his organism is adapted to take the upright posture. Therefore does the planetary form become in him an archetype, whereas what we find in the animal is only an imitation of the planetary movements.
We have, then, before us a spiritual, supersensible picture of man. For in everything I have described — skin, nervous system, blood system, muscles, bones — there are, to begin with, only forces. At first it is all a kind of picture of forces. At conception and birth it joins with the physical embryo provided by the Earth and receives into itself earthly forces and substances. This picture — a purely spiritual but at the same time definite picture — is then filled out with earthly substances and forces. Man comes down to Earth as a being formed and fashioned by the Heavens. He is at first wholly supersensible, he is a supersensible being to his very bones. Then he unites with the embryonic germ; he takes it up. At death he lets it fall again; he passes through the gate of death — once more a spirit-form.
In conclusion, let us look once again at the human being as he passes through the gate of death. The physical form he could see when he looked into a mirror or at a photograph of himself is no longer there. Neither is it of any interest to him. The cosmic archetypal picture, inscribed in the ether — upon that he now turns his gaze. During his earthly life this archetypal picture was present in him; it was anchored, as it were, in his ether body. He was not conscious of it, but it was there all the time within his physical being. Now, after death, he sees what his own form really is. The picture he now sees is radiant and shining. The forces streaming from this archetypal picture have the same effect as a radiant body — only here it is to be understood in the etheric sense. The Sun shines physically. This cosmic picture of man shines spiritually; and because it is a spiritual picture it has power to illuminate quite other things. Here, in earthly life, a man who has done good or evil deeds may stand in the Sun for as long as he will: his hair and so forth will be lit up by the rays of the Sun, but not his good and evil deeds, as qualities. The luminous picture of his own form which a man experiences after death sends out a spiritual light which lights up his moral deeds. And so, after death, the human being discovers in the cosmic picture which is there before him something that illumines his own moral deeds. This cosmic picture is within us during earthly life, sounding faintly as conscience. After death we behold it objectively. We know that it is our own self, and that we must have it there. We are inexorable with ourselves after death. This luminous picture does not relent or react to any excuses such as we are wont to make in earthly life, where we are only too ready to make light of our sins and flaunt our good deeds. An inexorable judge shines out from man after death, shedding a brilliant light upon the worth of his actions. Conscience becomes, after death, a cosmic impulse which works outside us.
Such are the paths that lead from earthly man to supersensible man. Earthly man — the being who comes into existence at birth and passes away at death — can be understood in the light of Anthropology. Supersensible man, who merely permeates himself with earthly substances in order to manifest in the outer world, can be understood only in the light of Anthroposophy. And this is what we have set out to do in the course of these lectures.
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