Saturday, July 31, 2021
Friday, July 30, 2021
Macrocosm and Macrocosm. Lecture 3
Rudolf Steiner, Vienna, March 23, 1910:
To obviate any possible misunderstanding, I want to emphasise that the aim of yesterday's lecture was not that of proving anything in particular but merely to point out that certain observations led spiritual investigators of bygone times to designate by similar names certain processes and objects in space and certain processes and happenings in our own daily and nightly experiences. The main purpose of the lecture was to introduce concepts that will be required in our further studies. The lectures given in this Course must be regarded as a whole, and the early lectures are in the widest sense intended to assemble the ideas and conceptions needed for the knowledge of the spiritual worlds that is to be communicated in those that come later. Today, too, we shall take our start from familiar experiences and pass on gradually to more remote realms of spirit.
We have heard in previous lectures that in respect of his inner being, in respect, that is to say, of his astral body and Ego, man lives during the sleeping state in a spiritual world and on waking returns into his physical and etheric bodies. It will be evident to anyone who observes life that when this transition from the sleeping to the waking state takes place, there is a complete change of experience. What we experience in the waking state denotes no actual perception or knowledge of the two members of our being into which we descend on waking. We come down into our etheric and physical bodies but have no experience of them from within.
What does a man know in ordinary life about the aspects presented by his physical and etheric bodies when seen from within? The essential fact of experience in the waking state is that we view our own being in the physical world from without, not from within. We view our physical body from outside with the same eyes with which we look at the rest of the world. During waking life we never contemplate our own being from within, but always from without. We really learn to know ourselves as men only from outside, regarding ourselves as beings of the sense-world.
There is, of course, an actual state of transition from sleeping to waking life. How, then, would it be if we were really able, on descending into our etheric and physical bodies, to contemplate ourselves from within? We should see something quite different from what we see in the ordinary way: we should know the intimate experiences sought by the mystic. The mystic endeavours to divert his attention entirely from the outer world, to shut out the impressions invading his eyes and other senses and to penetrate into his inmost being. But leaving aside experiences of this kind, we can say that in daily life we are protected from the sight of our inner being, for at the moment of waking our gaze is diverted to the external world around us, to the tapestry presented by the senses — the tapestry of which our physical body, when observed during waking life, is a part. Thus in the waking state the possibility of observing ourselves from within, eludes us. It is as though we had been led unknowingly across a stream: while we sleep we are on this side of the stream, when we are awake, on yonder side. If we were capable of perceiving anything from “this side”, we should be able to perceive our Ego and our astral body as we perceive outer objects in waking life; but again we are protected from perceiving our own inner being in sleep, for at the moment of going to sleep the possibility of perceiving ceases and consciousness is extinguished.
Thus between our inner and our outer world a definite boundary is drawn, a boundary which we can cross only at the moments of going to sleep and waking. But we can never cross this boundary without being deprived of something.
When we cross the boundary on going to sleep, consciousness ceases and we cannot see the spiritual world. On waking, our consciousness is at once diverted to the outer world and we are unable to perceive the spiritual reality underlying our own being. The boundary that we cross, the boundary that causes the spiritual world to be darkened at the moment of waking is something that interpolates itself between our Sentient Soul and our etheric and physical bodies. The veil that covers these two members on waking, the veil that prevents us from beholding the spiritual reality underlying them, is the Sentient Body, which enables us to see the tapestry presented by the outer world. At the moment of waking the Sentient Body is wholly concerned with the outer world of the senses and we cannot look within our own being. This body, therefore, constitutes a frontier between our life of inner experience and what spiritually underlies the world of the senses.
We shall realise that this is necessary, for what a man would see if he were to cross this stream consciously is something that must be hidden from him in the course of his normal life, because he could not endure it; he needs to be prepared for the experience. Mystical development does not really consist in penetrating by force into the inner world of the physical and etheric bodies, but in first making oneself fit for the experience and passing through it consciously.
What would happen to a man who were to descend unprepared into his own inner being? On waking, instead of seeing an external world, he would enter into his own inner world, into that which spiritually underlies his physical and etheric bodies. In his soul he would experience a feeling of tremendous intensity, known to him in ordinary life in a very faint and weakened form only. That is what would come over a man if he were able, on waking from sleep, to descend into his own inner being. An analogy — without attempting to prove anything — will help you to have an idea of this feeling.
There is in man what is called the sense of Shame, the essence of which is that in his soul he wants to divert the attention of others from the thing or quality of which he is ashamed. This sense of shame in connection with something he does not want to be revealed is a faint indication of the feeling which would be intensified to overpowering strength if he were to look consciously into his own inner being. This feeling would take possession of the soul with such power that it would seem to be diffused over everything encountered in the external world; the man would undergo an experience comparable with that of being consumed by fire. Such would be the effect produced by this feeling of shame.
Why should it have this effect? Because at that moment a man would become aware of the perfection of his physical and etheric bodies compared with what he is as a being of soul. It is also possible to form an idea of this by ordinary reasoning. Anyone who with the help of physical science makes a purely external study of the marvelous structure of the human heart or brain, or of each single part of the human skeleton, will be able to feel how infinitely wise and perfect is the arrangement and organisation of the physical body. By taking one single bone, for example the hip bone, which combines the utmost carrying capacity with the least expenditure of effort, or by contemplating the marvelous structure of the heart or brain, it is possible to have an inkling of what would be experienced if one were to behold the wisdom by which this structure was produced and were then to compare with this what man is as a being of soul in respect of passions or desires! All through his life he is engaged in ruining this wonderful physical organism by yielding to his desires, urges, passions and various forms of enjoyment. Activity destructive to the wonderful structure of the physical heart or brain can be observed everywhere in life. All this would come vividly before a man's soul if he were to descend consciously into his etheric and physical bodies. And the soul's imperfection compared with the perfect structure of the sheaths would have an overwhelmingly paralysing effect upon him if he were able to compare what is in his soul with what the wise guidance of the universe has made of his physical and etheric bodies. He is therefore protected from descending into them consciously and is deflected, on waking, by the tapestry of the sense-world outspread around him; he cannot look into his inmost being.
It is the comparison of the soul with what it would perceive if it had sight of what spiritually underlies the physical and etheric bodies that would evoke the intense feeling of shame; preparation for this is made in advance through all the experiences undergone by the mystic before he becomes capable of penetrating into his inmost being. To realise for himself the imperfection of his soul, to realise that his soul is weak, insignificant, and has still an infinitely long path to travel, is bound to arouse a feeling of humility and a yearning for perfection, and these qualities prepare him to endure the comparison with the infinitely wise structure into which he penetrates on waking. Otherwise he would be consumed by shame as if by fire.
The mystic prepares himself by concentrating on the following thoughts: “When I behold what I am and compare it with what the wise guidance of the universe has made of me, the shame I feel is like a consuming fire.” This feeling gives rise outwardly to the flush of shame. This feeling would intensify to such an extent as to become a scorching fire in the soul if the mystic has not the strength to say to himself: “Yes, I feel utterly paltry in comparison with what I may become, but I shall try to develop the strength that will make me capable of understanding what the wisdom of the universe has built into my bodily nature and to make myself spiritually worthy of it.” The mystic is made to realise by his spiritual teacher that he must have boundless humility. It may be said to him: Look at a plant. A plant is rooted in the soil. The soil makes available to the plant a kingdom lower than itself but without which it cannot exist. The plant can bow to the mineral kingdom, saying: I owe my existence to this lower kingdom out of which I have grown. The animal too owes its existence to the plant kingdom and if it were conscious of its place in the world would in humility acknowledge its indebtedness to the lower kingdom. And man, having reached a certain height, should say: I could not have attained this stage had not everything below me evolved correspondingly.
When a man cultivates such feelings in his soul, the realisation comes to him that he has reason not only to look upwards but to look downwards with thankfulness to the kingdoms below him. The soul is then filled with this feeling of humility and realises how infinitely long is the path that leads towards perfection. Such is the training for true humility.
What has been described above cannot of course be exhausted by concepts and ideas; if that were the case the mystic would soon have mastered it. It must be experienced, and only one who experiences such feelings over and over again can imbue his soul with the attitude and mood necessary for the mystic.
Then, secondly, the would-be mystic must develop another feeling which makes him capable of enduring whatever obstacles may lie in his path as he strives towards perfection. He must develop a feeling of resignation in respect of whatever ordeals he will have to endure in order to reach a certain stage of development. Only by proving himself victorious over pain and suffering for a long, long time can he develop the strong powers needed by his soul to overcome the inevitable sense of inferiority in face of what a wise World-Order has incorporated in the etheric and physical bodies. The soul must say to itself over and over again: ‘Whatever pain and suffering still await me, I will not waver; for if I were willing to experience only what brings joy, I should never develop the strength of which my soul is actually capable.’ Strength is developed only by overcoming obstacles, not by simply submitting to conditions as they are. Forces of soul can be steeled only when a man is ready to bear pain and suffering with resignation. This strength must be developed in the soul of the mystic if he is to become fit to descend into his inner being.
Let nobody imagine that Spiritual Science demands that a man living an ordinary, everyday life shall undergo such exercises for they are beyond his power. What is being described here is simply a narration of what those who voluntarily embark upon such experiences can make of the soul, that is to say, they can make the soul capable of penetrating into their own inmost being. In the course of normal life, however, the Sentient Body intervenes between what it is possible for the mystic to experience inwardly and what is actually experienced in the external world. That is what protects a man from descending into his own inner self without preparation and being consumed by a feeling of shame. In the normal course of life a man cannot experience what is thus screened from him by the Sentient Body, for there he has already reached the frontier of the spiritual world. A spiritual investigator seeking to explore the inner nature of man must cross this frontier; he must cross the stream which diverts normal human consciousness from the inner to the outer world. This normal consciousness, while insufficiently mature, is protected from penetrating into man's inner self, protected from being consumed in the fire of shame. Man cannot see the Power which protects him from this experience every morning on waking. This Power is the first spiritual Being encountered by one who is about to pass into the spiritual world. He must pass this Being who protects him from being consumed by the inner sense of shame; he must pass this Being who deflects his inward-turned gaze to the external word, to the tapestry of sense-phenomena. Normal consciousness becomes aware of the effect of this Being, but man cannot see him. He is the first Being who must be passed by one who desires to penetrate into the spiritual world. This spiritual Being who every morning stands before man and protects him while he is still immature from sight of his own inner self, is called in Spiritual Science, the Lesser Guardian of the Threshold. The path into the spiritual world leads past this Being.
Our consciousness has thus been directed to the frontier where we can dimly divine the existence of the Being known to the spiritual investigator as the Lesser Guardian of the Threshold. Here already is an indication that in waking life we do not see our true being at all. And if we call our own being the Microcosm, we must add that we never see the Microcosm in its pure, spiritual form, but only the part that our own being reveals in the normal state. Just as when a man looks in a mirror he sees an image, a picture, and not himself, so in waking consciousness we do not see the Microcosm itself but a reflected image of it. We see the Microcosm in its mirror image.
Do we ever see the Macrocosm in its reality? Again we can take our start from familiar experiences, leaving aside for the moment what a man undergoes in the course of the twenty-four hours of the day. We will think of the very simplest experiences that come to a man in the outer world of the senses. In that world he perceives an alternation between day and night-how the Sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening; he perceives how the sunlight illumines all the objects around him. What is it, then, that man sees from sunrise until sunset? Fundamentally speaking he does not see the objects themselves at all, but the sunlight which they reflect. In the dark we cannot see an object without illumination. Let us take the eye as representative of the other senses. What we see during the day are, in reality, the reflected rays of the Sun. This is how things are from morning until evening. But man has only a very imperfect perception of the cause which enables him to see objects in the outer world at all. If we look at the Sun directly, our eyes are dazzled. The very cause to which we owe the faculty of perceiving the outer sense-world, dazzles us. Thus during the day it is the same with the Sun outside as it is on waking with our own inner self. The forces within ourselves enable us to live and to perceive the outer world, but our attention is diverted from our own inner being to the outer world. It is the same with the Sun; it enables us to perceive objects but dazzles us when we attempt to look at it. Nor during the day can we perceive everything that is connected with the Sun. We see what the Earth reveals to us in the reflected sunlight.
Our solar system is composed not only of the Sun but also of the planets. By day the sight of them is denied us; the Sun dazzles our vision not only of itself but also of the planets. We look out into space knowing that although the planets are there, they evade our observation. Just as by day we are prevented from seeing our own inner self and by night the sight of the spiritual world is denied us in ordinary sleep, so, by day, when our gaze is directed outwards, the causes of our sense-perceptions are hidden from us. What lies behind the Sun and connects it with the other bodies belonging to the solar system, with the Beings whose outer manifestations we call Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and so on — whatever living co-operation there is between the Sun and these heavenly bodies is hidden from us by day. What we perceive is the effect of the sunlight. When we compare this state with the state in which the world around us exists by night, from sunset to dawn, we can perceive in a certain way what belongs to our solar system. We can look up to the starry heavens and among other stars behold the planets at times when they are visible; but while we can see them in the night sky, the Sun itself is invisible. We must therefore say what by day makes the sense-world visible to us, by night takes from us the possibility of seeing it. At night the whole of the sense-world is invisible.
Is it possible to discover, in connection with the nocturnal state, something analogous to the State of the mystic when he descends into his own inner world? In the modern age there is little consciousness of this analogous state, but there is something of the kind. It consists in the fact that, like the mystic, a man develops certain qualities of humility and resignation and other feelings too, the nature of which we can grasp by picturing the simplest of them. Man has these feelings in normal life-in a weak form, like the sense of shame, but nevertheless he has them. By enormously enhancing these feelings he prepares himself to have experiences by night which differ entirely from those of normal consciousness.
We all know that our feelings in spring are different from those we have in the autumn. When buds are bursting in spring and giving promise of the beauty and splendour of summer, the feelings of a healthy soul will not be the same as they are in autumn; with the approach of spring we feel the awakening of hope. The feeling is only slightly developed in an ordinary, normal man, but it is present, nevertheless. Towards autumn, the mood of hope and awakening connected with spring will be transformed into one of sadness, of melancholy; when we see the leaves falling, when we see bare, skeleton-like branches instead of the bright flowering shrubs of summer, our souls are steeped in melancholy; there is sadness in our hearts. In the course of the year, if we move in step with the phenomena of outer Nature, we can experience a cycle in our life of soul. But as these feelings are faint and feeble in normal life, man's sensibility to the transformations that take place from spring to summer and autumn and from autumn to winter is only slight.
Once upon a time — and it is still so today — a pupil of spiritual knowledge who was to take the opposite path to that of the mystic was trained in such feelings; in contrast to the mystic's descent into his own inner being, he was taught to live with the cycle of outer Nature. He learnt to feel with great intensity, no longer faintly as in ordinary life, the awakening of Nature and the sprouting of vegetation in spring; then, when he was able to surrender himself wholly to this experience, the feeling of dawning hope in spring became one of joyful exultation in summer. He was trained to have this experience of exultation. And again, when a man was so far advanced as to experience in complete self-forgetfulness the melancholy of autumn, he could pass on to experience a feeling of winter, intensified into a feeling of the death of all Nature at midwinter.
Such were the feelings awakened in the pupils who had undergone training in the old Northern Mysteries, of which only the external side is still known and that merely as tradition. The pupils were trained by special methods to accompany in their own life of feeling the cycle of Nature throughout the year. All the experiences which came to these pupils, for example on Midsummer Night, were indications of the crescendo of hope to exultation shared with Nature. The festival of Midsummer Night was intended to portray the enhancement of the feeling of awakening in spring to that of joyous exultation in the superabundant life of summer. And at the winter solstice the pupil learnt to experience — as an infinitely enhanced feeling of autumn — the decline and death of Nature.
Such feelings can hardly be felt with equal strength by a man today. As a result of the progress of his intellectual life during recent centuries, present-day man has become incapable of undergoing the intense, overpowering experiences which the best representatives of the original peoples of Middle, Northern and Western Europe were able to endure.
Having undergone such training, the pupils who had thus intensified their inner experiences found themselves possessed of a particular faculty — however strange this may sound — the faculty of seeing through matter, just as the mystic is able to penetrate into his own inner self. They were able to see not merely surfaces of objects but they were able to gee through the objects, and above all, through the Earth.
This experience was called in the ancient Mysteries: seeing the Sun at Midnight. The Sun could be seen in its greatest splendour and glory only at the time of the winter solstice, when the whole external sense-world had so to speak died away. The pupils of the Mysteries had developed the faculty of seeing the Sun no longer as the dazzling power it is by day, but with all its dazzling brilliance eliminated. They saw the Sun, not as a physical but as a spiritual reality, and they beheld the Sun Spirit. The physical effect of dazzling was extinguished by the Earth's substance, for this had become transparent and allowed only the Sun's spiritual forces to pass through. But something else of great significance was connected with this beholding of the Sun. The fact of which only an abstract indication was given yesterday, was then revealed in all its truth, namely, that there is a living interplay between the planets and the Sun inasmuch as streams flow continually to and fro — from the planets to the Sun and from the Sun to the planets. Something was revealed spiritually that may be compared with the circulation of the blood in the human body. As the blood flows in living circulation from the heart to the organs and from the organs back again to the heart, so did the Sun reveal itself as the centre of living spiritual streams flowing to and fro between the Sun and the planets. The solar system revealed itself as a spiritual system of living realities, the external manifestation of which is no more than a symbol. Everything manifested by the individual planets pointed to the great spiritual experience just described, as a clock points to the time of occurrences in external life.
All that man learns to experience by enhancing his sensibility withdraws, as the spiritual aspect of space, from the ordinary sight of day. It is also concealed by the spectacle presented at night. For what does man see at night with his ordinary Faculties when he looks up to the heavens? He sees only the external side, just as he sees only the external side of his own inner being. The starry sky we behold is the body of spiritual reality lying behind it. Wonderful as is the spectacle of the starry sky at night, it is nothing but the physical body of the cosmic spirit, manifesting through this body in its movements and in its outward effects. Once again for ordinary human consciousness a veil is drawn over everything that man would behold were he able spiritually to see through the spectacle presented to him in space. Just as we are protected in ordinary life from beholding our own inner being, we are also protected from beholding the spirit underlying the outer, material world; the veil of the sense-world is spread over the underlying spiritual reality. Why should this be so?
If a man were to have direct vision of the spiritual Macrocosm without the preparation that has been described — it is the opposite process to that undergone by the mystic — a feeling of the most terrifying bewilderment would come over him, for the phenomena are so mighty and awe-inspiring that the concepts evolved in ordinary life would be quite incapable of enabling him to endure this utterly bewildering spectacle. He would be overcome by a tremendous enhancement of the fear he otherwise knows only in a weak form. Just as a man would be consumed by shame if, without preparation, he were to penetrate into his own inner being, he would be suffocated by fear if, while still unprepared, he were to confront the phenomena of the outer world; he would feel as though he were being led into a labyrinth. Only when the soul has prepared itself through ideas and thoughts which lead beyond the realm of ordinary experience can it prepare itself to endure the bewildering spectacle.
Man's intellectual life today makes it impossible for him to undergo what could at one time be undergone by individuals belonging to an original population of Northern and Western Europe through an intensification of the feeling of spring and autumn. Intellectuality was by no means as general in those times as it is today. Men's thinking is utterly different from what it was in those olden days, when it was far less developed. But with the gradual evolution of intellectuality, the capacity for this experience of Nature was lost. It is, however, possible for man to have it indirectly, as if in reflection, when these feelings can be kindled, not by actual experience of the happenings in external Nature but by accounts and descriptions of the spiritual aspects of the Macrocosm.
At the present time, therefore, it is necessary for descriptions to be provided such as those contained, for example, in the book, Occult Science — an Outline, which has just been published. I say this without boasting, simply because circumstances make it necessary. Such descriptions are of realities which cannot be outwardly perceived, which underlie the world spiritually and can be seen by one who has undergone the requisite preparation. Let us suppose that such a book is not read in the way that books of another kind are read today, but that it is read — as it should be — in such a way that the concepts and ideas it presents in an unpretentious form induce in the reader feelings which are experienced in the very greatest intensity. Such experiences are then similar to those that were induced in the old Northern Mysteries.
The book gives, for example, an account of the earlier embodiments of the Earth, and if read with inner participation, a difference of style will be recognised in the descriptions of the Old Saturn, Old Sun and Old Moon conditions. By letting what is there said about Old Saturn work upon us, we shall induce a feeling consonant with the mood of spring, and in the description of the Old Sun-evolution there is something analogous to the emotion of exultation once experienced on Midsummer Night. The description of the Old Moon-evolution may evoke the mood of autumn and the whole style of the description of Earth-evolution proper will induce a mood similar to that prevailing when the time of the winter solstice is approaching. At the right place in the description of Earth-evolution an indication is given of the central experience connected with the mood of Christmas. [* See pp. 216-18 in the 1962-3 edition of Occult Science — an Outline.]
This knowledge can be given today in the place of experiences which man is no longer capable of undergoing because he has now risen from an earlier life in feeling to intellectuality, to thinking; hence it is through the mirror of thinking that feelings originally kindled by Nature herself must be influenced. This is how writings should be composed if they are to convey what it is the aim of Spiritual Science to convey, and the moods they generate must be consonant with the course of the year. Theoretical descriptions are quite senseless for they simply lead to spiritual matters being regarded just as if they were recipes in a cookery book!
The difference between books on Spiritual Science and other kinds of literature lies not so much in the fact that unusual things are described but mainly in how things are presented. From this you will realise that the contents of Spiritual Science are drawn from deep sources and that in accordance with the mission of our time, feelings must be quickened through thoughts. You will realise then that it is also possible today to find something that can lead again out of the prevailing confusion.
Now when guided by such principles, a man sets out along the path leading into the labyrinth of happenings in the spiritual Macrocosm, this is something that was prophetically foreshadowed among the original peoples of Northern Europe. The faculties enabling them to read the great script of Nature were still active in these peoples at a time when the Greeks had already reached a high stage of intellectuality. It was the mission of the Greeks to prepare what we today must bring to an even more advanced degree of development. A book such as Occult Science could not have been written in the days of ancient Greece, but Greek culture made it possible, in a different way, for one who ventured into the labyrinth of the spiritual Cosmos to find a thread that would guide him back again. This is indicated in the legend of Theseus who took the Thread of Ariadne with him into the labyrinth. Now what is the Thread of Ariadne today? The concepts and mental pictures of the super-sensible world we form in the soul! It is the spiritual knowledge that is made available to us in order that we may penetrate safely into the Macrocosm. And so Spiritual Science which, to begin with, speaks purely to the intellect, can be a Thread of Ariadne, helping us to overcome the bewilderment that might come if we were to enter unprepared into the spiritual world of the Macrocosm.
So we see that if a man wishes to find the spirit behind and pervading the outer world, he must traverse with full awareness a region of which in normal life he is unconscious; he must traverse consciously the very stream which in everyday life takes consciousness from him. If then he allows himself to be affected by feelings kindled by the cyclic course of Nature herself or by concepts and ideas such as those referred to, if, in short, he achieves real self-development, he gradually becomes capable of fearlessly approaching that spiritual Power who is at first invisible. Just as the Inner Guardian of the Threshold is imperceptible to ordinary consciousness, so too is this second Guardian, the greater guardian of the Threshold, who stands before the spiritual Macrocosm. He becomes more and more perceptible to one who has undergone due preparation and is making his way along the other path into the spiritual Macrocosm. He must fearlessly and without falling into bewilderment pass this spiritual Being who also shows us how insignificant we are and that we must develop new organs if we aspire to penetrate into the Macrocosm. If a man were to approach this Greater Guardian of the Threshold consciously, but still unprepared, he would be filled with fear and despair.
We have now heard how with his normal consciousness man is enclosed within the frontiers marked by two portals. At the one stands the Lesser Guardian of the Threshold, at the other, the Greater Guardian of the Threshold. The one portal leads into man's inner being, into the spirit of the Microcosm; the other portal leads into the spirit of the Macrocosm. But now we must realise that from this same Macrocosm come the spiritual forces which build up our own being. Whence comes the material for our physical and etheric bodies? All the forces which there converge and are so full of wisdom, are arrayed before us in the Great World when we have passed the Greater Guardian of the Threshold. We are confronted there not by knowledge only. And that is another point of importance. Until now I have been speaking only of knowledge that can be acquired by man but it does not yet become insight into the actual workings and forces of the Macrocosm. The body cannot be built out of data of knowledge; it must be built out of forces. Once past the mysterious Being who is the Greater Guardian of the Threshold, we come into a world of unknown workings and forces. To begin with, man knows nothing of this realm because the veil of the sense-world spreads in front. But these forces stream into us, have built up our physical and etheric bodies. This whole interplay, the interactions between the Great World and the Little World, between what is within and what is without, concealed by the veil of the sense-world — all this is embraced within the bewildering labyrinth. It is life itself, in full reality, into which we enter and have then to describe.
To-morrow we shall begin by taking a first glimpse into that which man cannot, it is true, perceive in its essence, but which is revealed to him as active workings when he passes through the one or the other portal, when he passes the Lesser and the Greater Guardians of the Threshold.
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Macrocosm and Microcosm. Lecture 2: Big Clock, Little Clock: Our Sleeping and Waking Life in Relation to the Planets
Rudolf Steiner, Vienna, March 22, 1910:
The relation between man's waking and sleeping states has been broadly described, and it was said that he draws from the latter the forces he needs during waking life in order to sustain his life of soul. These things are much more complicated than is generally supposed and today, as the result of spiritual research, there will be something more detailed to say about the difference between man's waking life and the state of sleep. Let me mention in parenthesis that there is no need to speak of all the hypotheses, some more interesting than others, that are advanced by present-day physiology in order to explain the difference between the two states. It would be easy to speak of these theories but this would only divert us from genuinely spiritual-scientific study of the two states. All that need be said is that modern science concerns itself only with the part of man which, during sleep, remains behind in the physical world. The fact that the Ego and astral body emerge from the physical and etheric bodies when man goes to sleep can be reality only to spiritual investigation, to the eyes of a seer. The whole process is completely foreign to modern physical science — which need not, however, be severely criticised on that account; in a certain respect it is justified in asserting a one-sided point of view. Man's Ego and astral body are in a spiritual world while he is asleep and in the physical world when he wakes and comes down into the physical and etheric bodies.
Let us now consider the sleeping human being. Quite naturally, normal human consciousness regards sleep as an undifferentiated state that is not a subject for further investigation. The question is rarely asked whether, during the time man spends at night in a spiritual world, an influence on his body-free soul is exerted by several forces, or by a single force only which permeates the spiritual world. Are we able to distinguish various forces to which he is exposed in that world during sleep? Yes, several quite different influences can be distinguished. The influences do not, of course, primarily affect the members that remain lying in bed, but they affect man as a being of soul when his astral body and Ego have emerged from his physical and etheric bodies.
By considering certain familiar experiences and facts we will now explore the different influences which are exerted upon the sleeping human being. A man has only to be more attentive to what happens to him when he goes to sleep and he will notice how the inner activity through which, during the day, he moves his limbs and brings his body into movement with the help of his soul, begins to flag. Anyone who practises a little self-observation at the time when he is about to go to sleep will feel that he can now no longer exercise the same control over his body. A kind of lethargy begins to overpower him. First of all he will feel incapable of directing the movement of his limbs by the will; control of speech is then lost. Then he feels that the possibility of entering into any connection with the outer world is slipping away from him, and all the impressions of the day gradually disappear. What disappears first is the ability to use the limbs and especially the instruments of speech, then the faculties of taste and smell, and finally of hearing. In this gradual cessation of the inner activity of the soul, man experiences the emergence from his bodily sheaths.
In saying this we have already indicated the first influence that is exerted upon man as a preliminary to sleep; it is the influence that drives him out of his physical and etheric bodies. Anyone who practises self-observation will notice how a power seems to be overcoming him, for in normal life he does not order himself to go to sleep, to stop speaking, tasting, hearing, and so forth. A power is now asserting itself in him. This is the first of the influences to be exerted from the world into which man passes at night; it is the influence which drives him out of his physical and etheric bodies. But if this were the only influence to be exerted, the outcome would be absolutely calm, unbroken sleep. This is of course known in normal life; it is the state induced by the first influence connected with sleep. But there are other kinds of sleep.
We all know the state of dream, when chaotic or clear pictures obtrude themselves into sleep. Were only the first influence at work, the influence that draws man into a spiritual world, sleep unbroken by any dream would be the result; but another influence becomes evident when sleep is broken by dreams. Two influences can be distinguished: the one extinguishes consciousness inasmuch as it drives us out of our bodily sheaths, and the second conjures the world of dreams before the soul, thrusts this dream-world into our sleep.
But some people have yet a third kind of sleep. Although this third kind occurs only rarely, everyone knows that it does occur; it is when a man begins to talk or act in sleep without the consciousness that is his in waking life. Usually he knows nothing the next day of the impulses which have driven him to such actions during sleep. The condition can be enhanced to the point of what is usually called sleepwalking. While he is walking in his sleep a man may also have certain dreams; but it is not so in the majority of cases; in a certain sense he acts like an automaton, impelled by obscure urges of which he need not have even the consciousness of dream. Through this third influence he enters into contact with the outer world as he does by day, only now he is unconscious. Such actions in sleep are therefore subject to a third influence.
Three influences, then, to which the human being is exposed during sleep can be clearly distinguished; they are always present, and spiritual investigation confirms this. In the great majority of people, however, the first influence predominates; most of their sleep is unbroken by dreams. The second influence, giving rise to the state of dream, takes effects at intervals in nearly everybody. But in by far the greater number of people these two states are so predominant that speaking and acting during sleep rarely occur. The influence that takes effect in a sleep-walker is present in every human being but in a sleep-walker this third influence is so strong in comparison with the other two that it gets the upper hand. Nevertheless every human being is liable to be exposed to all three influences.
These three influences have always been recognised in Spiritual Science as distinct from each other. In man's soul-life there are three domains, the first being mainly subject to the first influence, the second more to the second influence and the third more to the third influence. The human soul has a threefold nature, and it can be subject to influences of three distinct kinds. The part of the soul that is subject to the first influence which drives the soul out of the bodily sheaths, is known in Spiritual Science as the Sentient Soul; the part affected by the second influence which drives the pictures of dream into man's life of soul during sleep is known as the Intellectual or Mind-Soul; the third part, which in the case of most people does not assert its unique character during sleep because the other two influences predominate, is called the Consciousness or Spiritual Soul. Thus three influences are to be distinguished during the state of sleep; the three members of the soul which are subject to these three influences, are: Sentient Soul, Intellectual or Mind-Soul, Consciousness-or Spiritual Soul. When man is transported by one force into dreamless sleep, an influence from the world into which he passes is being exerted on his Sentient Soul; when his sleep is pervaded by dream-pictures, an influence is being exerted on his Intellectual or Mind-Soul; when he begins to speak or to act in his sleep, an influence is being exerted upon his Consciousness-Soul.
So far, however, we have considered only one aspect of man's life of soul during sleep. We must now describe the aspect of soul-life that is the opposite of the sleeping state. Let us think of a man who is returning from sleep to waking life in the physical world. What is happening to him when he wakes? At night a certain force is able to drive him out of his physical and etheric bodies because he succumbs to it. In later stages of sleep he succumbs to the other two influences — those that are exerted on the Mind-Soul and on the Consciousness-Soul. But when these influences have been exerted, the man is different; he undergoes a change during sleep. The evidence of the change is that at night he was fatigued but in the morning has become able to cope with his life in the physical world. What has happened to him during sleep has made this possible.
The same influence which makes itself felt in certain abnormal conditions in the dream-world is present through the whole of sleep, even when there are no dreams. The third influence, which takes effect in a sleep-walker but in other cases does not operate, is the one that is exerted on the Consciousness-Soul. When the influences on the Mind-Soul and Consciousness-Soul have taken effect, man is strengthened and energised; he has drawn from the spiritual world the forces he needs for his life during the next day in order to recognise and enjoy the physical world. It is primarily the influences exerted on the Mind-Soul and on the Consciousness-Soul which strengthen man during sleep. But when he is thus strengthened, the same influence which drove him out of his physical and etheric bodies brings him back again into them when he wakes in the morning. The same influence is being exerted then in the opposite direction, and it is exerted on the Sentient Soul. Everything connected with the Sentient Soul has become exhausted by the previous evening. But in the morning, when we are fresh again, we take renewed interest in the impressions of the physical world — colours, lights, objects — which will become causes of interest, pain or pleasure, inspire sympathy or antipathy in us. We are given up to pleasure, to pain, in short to the external world. What is it that is kindled in us when we are thus given up to the external world? What is it that feels pleasure and pain? What is it that has interests? It is the Sentient Soul. In the evening we feel the need of sleep, we feel that our lively participation in the outer world is exhausted; but in the morning it is refreshed again. We feel that the same manifestations of the Sentient Soul which flag at night, revive and reassert themselves in the morning. From this we can recognise that the same force which bore us out of ourselves brings the waking soul back again into the body. What at night seemed to be dying away is as if reborn. The same force is operating, but now in the one, now in the opposite, direction.
If we wished to make a diagrammatic sketch of what happens, it might be done in the following way, but I emphasise that it is meant only as an indication.
I have indicated by a dot the moment of going to sleep, when man is drawn into the subconscious; and by drawing loops I have indicated his surrender to the state of sleep and his awakening from that state. The lower loop indicates the course of life during the waking state and the upper loop the sleeping state. We can therefore say of the moment of going to sleep that a force, working on the Sentient Soul from the spiritual world, is drawing us into that world. This is indicated by the first section of the upper loop in the diagram. The second section of the same loop indicates the influence that is exerted upon the Intellectual or Mind-Soul, causing dreams. And the third section of the loop indicates the influence or force that is exerted on the Consciousness-Soul. In the morning, the same force that has drawn us into the sleeping state drives us out of it and into the life of day. This is the force that works upon the Sentient Soul. The same applies to the influences exerted on the Mind-Soul and on the Consciousness-Soul. During the night man moves around a kind of circle. On going to sleep he moves towards the region where the influence upon the Consciousness-Soul is strongest. From that point he moves again towards the force that works upon his Sentient Soul and brings him back into the waking state.
Thus there are three forces which work upon man during sleep. Since early times these three forces have been given definite names in spiritual science. These names are familiar to you, but I beg you now not to think of anything in connection with them except that they stand for the three forces which during sleep work upon these three parts of the human soul. It we were to go back to ancient times we should find that these designations were used originally for these three forces; and if the designations are now used in other ways, they have simply been borrowed. The force which works upon the Sentient Soul and at the times of going to sleep and waking drives man out of his bodily sheaths and eventually into them again, was designated in one of the ancient languages by a name that would correspond with the word “Mars”. The force which works upon the Mind-Soul after the man has gone to sleep and again before waking, that is to say, in two different periods, was designated by the word “Jupiter.” It is the force which drives the world of dreams into the Mind-Soul. The force which works upon the Consciousness-Soul during sleep and under special circumstances would make a man into a sleep-walker, was designated by the name “Saturn.”
We may therefore say, using the terminology of ancient spiritual science: “Mars” sends man to sleep and wakes him; “Jupiter” sends dreams into his sleep; and dark “Saturn” stirs into unconscious action during sleep a man who cannot withstand its influence. For the time being we will think of the original, spiritual significance of these names as denoting forces that work upon the human being during sleep, when he is outside his physical and etheric bodies in the spiritual world, not of their significance in astronomy.
Now what happens when man wakes in the morning? He actually enters a quite different world which he normally regards today as the only one belonging to him. Impressions from outside are made upon his senses, but he is unable to look behind these impressions. When he wakes from sleep, the whole tapestry of the sense-world lies outspread before him. But not only does he perceive this external world with his senses; together with every perception he feels something. However slight the pleasurable sensation may be on perceiving, for example, some colour, nevertheless a certain inner process is always present. All external sense-perceptions work in such a way that they give rise to certain inner states; everyone will realise that the effect of violet is different from that of green. It is the Sentient Body that enables the sense-impressions to be received; it causes men to see yellow, for example; but what we experience and feel inwardly as a result of the impressions made upon us by the red, violet or yellow colour — that is caused by the Sentient Soul. A fine distinction must be made between these functions of the Sentient Body and the Sentient Soul.
In the morning the Sentient Soul begins to be given up to the impressions of the outer world brought to it by the Sentient Body. The part of us (Sentient Soul) which during sleep was exposed to the Mars influence is given over on waking to the external world of the senses. Spiritual science again gives a special name to the whole of the external sense-world in so far as it arouses certain feelings of pleasure or pain, joy or sadness in our souls. But under that name we must think only of the influence working upon our Sentient Soul from the tapestry of the outer world of the senses; this force does not let us remain cold and impassive but fills us with certain feelings. So that just as the first influence exerted on the Sentient Soul after we go to sleep is given the name of Mars, the influence which takes effect on waking is called the force of “Venus”.
Similarly, an influence from the physical world is exerted during waking life upon the Intellectual or Mind-Soul when it is within the bodily sheaths. This is a different influence; it is the influence which enables us to withdraw from external impressions and to work upon them inwardly, to reflect upon them. Notice the difference there is between the experiences of the Sentient Soul and those of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul. The Sentient Soul has experiences only as long as a man is given up to the outer world; it receives the impressions of the outer world. But if for a time in waking life he pays no attention to the actual impressions of the outer world, if he ponders over them and lets the feelings of pleasure, pain, and so forth, merely echo on within him, then he is given over to his Mind-Soul. Compared with the Sentient Soul it has rather more independence. There are influences which enable a man during waking life not merely to stand gazing at the tapestry of the sense-world but to turn his attention away from all that, to form thoughts whereby he combines external impressions in his mind and enable him to make himself independent of the influences of the outer world. These are the influences of “Mercury.”
The influence of Mercury works during the day upon man's Intellectual or Mind-Soul just as the influence of Jupiter works upon it during sleep at night. You will notice that there is a certain correspondence between the influences of “Mercury” and of “Jupiter”. [* See, Human Questions and Cosmic Answers, lecture 2.] In the case of a normal person today the Jupiter influences penetrate into his life of soul as dream-pictures. The corresponding influences during waking life, the Mercury influences, work in a man's thoughts, in his inner, reflective experiences. When the Jupiter influences are working in a man's dreams, he does not know whence his experiences come; during waking consciousness, however, when the Mercury influences are working, he knows the source of them. In both cases, inner processes are being pictured in the soul. — Such is the correspondence between the influences of Jupiter and those of Mercury.
In the waking life of day there are also influences which work upon the Consciousness-Soul. What are the differences between Sentient Soul, Intellectual or Mind-Soul, and Consciousness-Soul? The Sentient Soul operates when we are merely gazing at the things of the external world. If we withdraw our attention for a time from the impressions of this outer world and work over them inwardly, then we are given over to the Mind-Soul. But if we now take what has been worked over in thought, turn again to the outer world and relate ourselves to it by passing over to deeds, then we are given over to the Consciousness-Soul. For example: As long as I am simply looking at these flowers in front of me and my feelings are moved by the pure whiteness of the rose, I am given up to my Sentient Soul. If, however, I avert my gaze and no longer see the flowers but only think about them, then I am given over to my Intellectual or Mind-Soul. I am working in thought upon the impressions I have received. If now I say to myself that because the flowers have given me pleasure I will gladden someone else by presenting them to him and then pick them up in order to hand them over, I am performing a deed; I am passing out of the realm of the Mind-Soul into that of the Consciousness-Soul and relating myself again to the outer world. Here is a third force which operates in man and enables him not only to work over in thought the impressions of the outer world, but to relate himself to that world again.
You will notice that there is again a correspondence between the activity of the Consciousness Soul in the waking state and in sleep. You have heard that when this influence is being exerted in sleep a man becomes a sleep-walker; he speaks and acts in his sleep. In the waking state, however, he acts consciously. At night, in sleep-walking he is impelled by the force of dark “Saturn.” The influence which during waking life works upon man's Consciousness-Soul in such a way that independence can be achieved in conditions of ordinary life, is called in Spiritual Science the force of the “Moon”. Here again, please forget whatever mental pictures you have hitherto connected with this word. You will presently understand the reason for these designations.
Thus we have found that man's soul in waking life and in sleep has three different members, that it is subject to three different influences. During the night when man is in the spiritual world he is subject to the forces designated in Spiritual Science as those of “Mars”, “Jupiter” and “Saturn”; his threefold life of soul by day is given over to the forces designated as those of “Venus”, “Mercury” and “Moon”.
This is the course traversed by man in the 24 hours of day and night. And now we will think of a series of phenomena which belong to a quite different domain but which for certain reasons can be studied in connection with what has been said. These reasons will be made clear as the lectures proceed. Please remember that many things said at the beginning of this Course will be explained only at a later stage.
You are all familiar with the ideas held by modern astronomical science of the course of the Earth around the Sun and also of the other planets belonging to the solar system. What is said in treatises of the usual kind represents, in the view of Spiritual Science, only the most elementary beginning. What takes place in the physical world is for Spiritual Science a symbol, an external picture, of inner, spiritual processes and what we are accustomed to learn about our planetary system from elementary astronomy can be compared, as regards what really underlies it, with what is learnt by a child about the movements of a clock. We explain to him what the twelve conventional figures stand for, and what the rotation of the two hands — one slow and the other quicker — means. The child will eventually be able to tell us from the position of the hands when, let us say, the time is half-past nine. But that would not mean very much. The child must learn a great deal more, for example, to relate the movement of the hands to what is happening in the world. When the hour-hand stands at six and the minute-hand at twelve, he must know what time of the day this signifies — namely that at a certain season of the year, if it is early morning, the Sun will be rising then. He must learn to relate what is presented on the face of the clock to conditions in the world and to regard what the clock expresses as a picture of them.
We are taught as children that the Sun is at the centre of the solar system and that the planets revolve around it-first the planet now called Mercury, then the planet now called Venus, [*In former times the names of these two planets came to be reversed. See later paragraphs of this lecture.] then the Earth plus Moon, then Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Astronomical maps of the heavens show us where Saturn or Jupiter or Mars are to be found in certain months of the year. When we have learnt to know the relative positions of the planets at definite times of the year, we have learnt as much about the heavens as a child has learnt about the clock when from the position of the hands he is able to say that the time is half-past nine.
But then we can go on to learn something else. Just as a child learns to recognise what conditions are indicated by the position of the hands of a clock, we can learn to recognise macrocosmic forces penetrating invisibly into space behind a great cosmic timepiece. We realise then that our solar system, with the planets in their different positions and mutual relationships, gives expression to certain macrocosmic powers. From this timepiece of our planetary system we can pass on to contemplate the great spiritual relationships. The position of every planet will become the expression of something lying behind and we shall be able to say that there are reasons for the various relationships in which, for example, Venus stands to Jupiter, and so on. There are actual reasons for saying that these conditions are brought about by divine-spiritual Powers, just as there are reasons for saying that the cosmic timepiece is constructed according to a definite plan. The idea of the planetary movements in the solar system then becomes full of significance. Otherwise the cosmic timepiece would seem to have been constructed haphazardly. The planetary system becomes for us a kind of cosmic clock, a means of expression for what lies behind the heavenly bodies and their movements in the solar system.
Let us first of all consider this cosmic clock itself. The idea of the planetary system having formed itself is easily refuted. You will all have been taught in school about the formation of the planetary system. You will have been told, in effect, that a gigantic nebula in the universe once began to rotate and then the Sun, with the planets around it, were formed by a process of separation from the nebula itself. This will probably have been demonstrated by an experiment. It is easy to rotate a drop of oil on the surface of water in a bowl. Tiny drops separate off and rotate around a larger drop which remains at the centre. The teacher will point out that this represents, on a minute scale, the formation of a planetary system and nobody will question it. But a sharp-witted pupil might say to the teacher: “You have forgotten something that in other circumstances it might be convenient to forget, but not in this case. You have forgotten your own part in the experiment because it is you who have rotated the drop of oil!” — For the sake of logic the most important factor of all should not be forgotten. It should at least be assumed that a colossal power in cosmic space brought the whole solar system into existence through rotation. The experiment in itself points to the fact that there must be something behind what is rotating; it points to the existence of forces which cause the movement that is perceptible to the eye. In the same way there are forces and Powers behind the great cosmic edifice of our solar system.
And now we will think of the outer aspect of this solar system. (See diagram). The Earth revolves around the Sun
at the centre. I will leave out details. At a certain time of the year the Earth stands at one point and at another time somewhere else. The Moon revolves around the Earth and the planets usually called Mercury and Venus are nearer to the Sun and revolve around it. I emphasise here that in the course of time a change has taken place in the names of these two planets. [* This change of names must be kept closely in mind when references are made to the two planets.] The planet that is called Mercury today was formerly called Venus, and the planet called Venus today was formerly called Mercury. Venus, (formerly Mercury) is nearer the Sun than the planet now called Mercury (formerly Venus). Then, farther away than the Earth, the diagram indicates Mars, Jupiter and Saturn revolving around the Sun. The relative positions are not strictly correct but that does not matter here. We will leave the other planets out of consideration today.
Now let us assume that as it revolves the Earth comes to a position between Mars and the Sun. This will very seldom be the case but we will assume for the moment that it is so. Then, in the space between Earth and Sun there will be the planets Mercury and Venus, and on the other side of the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Leaving aside the Earth, the sequence will be: Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, on one side; Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, on the other. A looped line (see diagram) drawn around the heavenly bodies is a lemniscate,
with the Sun at the centre of the loops-it is the same line as the one indicating the cycle of man's waking and sleeping life.
Thus it is possible — though not generally the case — for the planets to be arranged in the solar system in an order similar to that followed by man in completing the cycle of waking and sleeping. Taking the moment of going to sleep and that of waking as the centre, the same spatial order can be indicated for the planetary system as for the daily life of man.
The perspective here revealed is one of mighty forces underlying the order of our planetary system, regulating the great cosmic timepiece as our own lives are regulated through the course of 24 hours. The thought will then not seem absurd that mighty forces are operating in the Macrocosm — forces analogous to those which guide our lives during the day and night. As the outcome of such thoughts the same names came into use in ancient science for the forces of the universe as for the forces which work upon our own lives. The force which in the Macrocosm drives Mars around the Sun is similar to the one that sends us to sleep. The force in the Macrocosm which drives Venus around the Sun is similar to the one which regulates the Sentient Soul by day. Far-off Saturn, with its slight influence, seeing to resemble those weak forces that work, in special cases only, upon the Consciousness-Soul in people who are sleep-walkers. And the rotation of the Moon around the Earth is due to a force similar to that which regulates our conscious deeds in waking life. The spatial distances signify something that comes to expression in a certain respect in our own time-regulated life. — We shall go into these things more deeply and it is only a matter today of calling attention to them. — If we consider, quite superficially, that Saturn is the most remote planet and has accordingly the weakest effect upon our Earth, this can be compared with the fact that the forces of dark Saturn have only a slight effect upon the sleeping human being. And similarly, the force which drives Jupiter around the Sun can be likened to that which penetrates comparatively seldom into our lives, namely, the dream-world.
Thus we find a remarkable correlation between human life, the Microcosm, and the forces working in the great cosmic clock, driving the several planets round the Sun in the Macrocosm.
In very truth the world is infinitely more complicated than is supposed. Our human nature is comprehensible only if we take account of its kinship with the Macrocosm. Knowing this, spiritual researchers in all epochs have chosen corresponding designations for the Great World and the Little World — the latter being the seemingly insignificant bodily man enclosed within the skin.
I have only been able today to give a faint indication of correspondences between the Microcosm (man) and the Macrocosm (the solar system). But it will now be evident to you that such correspondences do indeed exist. As though from afar I have alluded to Beings whose forces work through space and regulate the movements of our planetary system just as the movements of the hands of a clock in the physical world are regulated. We have only so much as glanced at the frontier of the region where we may hope that spiritual worlds will reveal themselves to us. In the coming lectures we shall learn to recognise not only the planets as the hands of the great cosmic clock but also the actual Beings who have brought the whole solar system into movement, who guide the planets round the Sun and prove to be akin to what goes on in the human being himself. And so we shall come to understand how man is born as a Little World, a Microcosm, out of the Great World, the Macrocosm.
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Rudolf Steiner, December 3, 1911: “We have wireless installations — undreamt of by our ancestors — to transmit our thoughts all over the Earth, and what good does it do us? The most trivial, unproductive thoughts are sent hither and thither, and human ingenuity has to be strained to the utmost to enable us to transport from some far-distant region, by means of all kinds of perfected appliances, something for us to eat; or to travel at high speeds around the globe. But in our heads there is nothing worth sending from place to place, for our thoughts are cheerless; moreover, since we have had our present means of communication they have become even more cheerless than when they were conveyed in the old snail-like fashion.”