Sunday, September 12, 2021

Meditation and Inspiration; physical, etheric, and astral; the lyre of Apollo



Anthroposophy and the Inner Life. Lecture 4 of 9

Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, February 1, 1924:

I shall now continue, in a certain direction, the more elementary considerations recently begun. In the first lecture of this series I drew your attention to the heart's real, inner need of finding, or at least seeking, the paths of the soul to the spiritual world. I spoke of this need meeting man from two directions: from the side of Nature, and from the side of inner experience.

Today we will again place these two aspects of human life before us in a quite elementary way. We shall then see that impulses from the subconscious are really active in all man's striving for knowledge in response to the needs of life, in his artistic aims and religious aspirations.

You can quite easily study the opposition, to which I here refer, in yourselves at any moment.

Take one quite simple fact. You are looking, let us say, at some part of your body — your hand, for example. In so far as the act of cognition itself is concerned you look at your hand exactly as at a crystal, or plant, or any other natural object. But when you look at this part of your body and go through life with this perception, you encounter that seriously disturbing fact which intrudes on all human experience and of which I spoke. You find that what you see will one day be a corpse; external Nature, on receiving it, has not the power to do anything else than destroy it. The moment man has become a corpse within the physical world and has been handed over to the elements in any form, there is no longer any possibility that the human form, which has been impressed on all the substances visible in his body, will be able to maintain itself.

All the forces of Nature which you can make the subject of any scientific study are only able to destroy man, never to build him up. Every unprejudiced study that is not guided by theory but controlled by life itself, leads us to say: We look at Nature around us in so far it is intelligible. (We will not speak, for the present, of what external cognition cannot grasp.) As civilised people of today we feel we have advanced very far indeed, for we have discovered so many laws of Nature. This talk of progress is, indeed, perfectly justified. Nevertheless, it is a fact that all these laws of Nature are, by their mode of operation, only able to destroy man, never to build him up. Human insight is unable, at first, to discover anything in the external world except laws of Nature which destroy man.

Let us now look at our inner life. We experience what we call our psychical life, i.e. our thinking, which can confront us fairly clearly, our feeling, which is less clearly experienced, and our willing, which is quite hidden from us. For, with ordinary consciousness, no one can claim insight into the way an intention — to pick up an object, let us say — works down into this very complicated organism of muscle and nerve in order to move, at length, arms and legs. What it is that here works down into the organism, between the formation of the thought and the perception of the lifted object, is hidden in complete darkness. But an indefinite impulse takes place in us, saying: I will this. So we ascribe will to ourselves and, on surveying our inner life, speak of thinking, feeling and willing.

But there is another side, and this introduces us again — in a certain sense — to what is deeply disturbing. We see that all this soul life of man is submerged whenever he sleeps and arises anew when he wakes. If we want to use a comparison we may well say: The soul life is like a flame which I kindle and extinguish again. But we see more. We see this soul life destroyed when certain organs are destroyed. Moreover, it is dependent on bodily development; being dreamlike in a little child and becoming gradually clearer and clearer, more and more awake. This increase in clarity and awareness goes hand in hand with the development of the body; and when we grow old our soul life becomes weaker again. The life of the soul thus keeps step with the growth and decay of the body. We see it light up and die away.

But, however sure we may be that our soul, though dependent in its manifestations on the physical organism, has its own life, its own existence, this is not all we can say about it. It contains an element man must value above all else in life, for his whole manhood — his human dignity — depends on this. I refer to the moral element.

We cannot deduce moral laws from Nature however far we may explore it. They have to be experienced entirely within the soul; there, too, we must be able to obey them. The conflict and settlement must therefore take place entirely within the soul. And we must regard it as a kind of ideal for the moral life to be able, as human beings, to obey moral principles which are not forced upon us. Yet man cannot become an ‘abstract being’ only obeying laws. The moral life does not begin until emotions, impulses, instincts, passions, outbursts of temperament, etc., are subordinated to the settlement, reached entirely within the soul, between moral laws grasped in a purely spiritual way and the soul itself.

The moment we become truly conscious of our human dignity and feel we cannot be like beings driven by necessity, we rise to a world quite different from the world of Nature.

Now the disturbing element that, as long as there has been human evolution at all, has led men to strive beyond the life immediately visible, really springs from these two laws — however many subconscious and unconscious factors may be involved: We see, on the one hand, man's bodily being, but it belongs to Nature that can only destroy it; and, on the other hand, we are inwardly aware of ourselves as soul beings who light up and fade away, yet are bound up with what is most valuable in us — the moral element.

It can only be ascribed to a fundamental insincerity of our civilisation that people deceive themselves so terribly, turning a blind eye to this direct opposition between outer perception and inner experience. If we understand ourselves, if we refuse to be confined and constricted by the shackles which our education, with a definite aim in view, imposes upon us, if we free ourselves a little from these constraints we say at once: Man! you bear within you your soul life — your thinking, feeling and willing. All this is connected with the moral world which you must value above all else — perhaps with the religious source of all existence on which this moral world itself depends. But where is this inner life of moral adjustments when you sleep?

Of course, one can spin philosophic fantasies or fantastic philosophies about these things. One may then say: Man has a secure basis in his ego (i.e. in his ordinary ego-consciousness). The ego begins to think in St. Augustine, continues through Descartes, and attains a somewhat coquettish expression in Bergsonism today. But every sleep refutes this. For, from the moment we fall asleep to the moment of waking, a certain time elapses; and when, in the waking state, we look back on this interval of time, we do not find the ego qua experience. It was extinguished. And yet it is connected with what is most valuable in our lives — the moral element!

Thus we must say: Our body, whose existence we are rudely forced to admit, is certainly not a product of Nature, which has only the power to destroy and disintegrate it. On the other hand, our own soul life eludes us when we sleep, and is dependent on every rising and falling tide of our bodily life. As soon as we free ourselves a little from the constraints imposed on civilised man by his education today, we see at once that every religious or artistic aspiration — in fact, any higher striving — no matter how many subconscious and unconscious elements be involved, depends, throughout all human evolution, on these antitheses.

Of course, millions and millions of people do not realise this clearly. But is it necessary that what becomes a riddle of life for a man be clearly recognised as such? If people had to live by what they are clear about they would soon die. It is really the contributions to the general mood from unclear, subconscious depths that compose the main stream of our life. We should not say that he alone feels the riddles of life who can formulate them in an intellectually clear way and lay them before us: first riddle, second riddle, etc. Indeed, such people are the shallowest.

Someone may come who has this or that to talk over with us. Perhaps it is some quite ordinary matter. He speaks with a definite aim in view, but is not quite happy about it. He wants something, and yet does not want it; he cannot come to a decision. He is not quite happy about his own thoughts. To what is this due? It comes from the feeling of uncertainty, in the subconscious depths of his being, about the real basis of man's true being and worth. He feels life's riddles because of the polar antithesis I have described.

Thus we can find support neither in the corporeal, nor in the spiritual as we experience it. For the spiritual always reveals itself as something that lights up and dies down, and the body is recognised as coming from Nature which can, however, only destroy it.

So man stands between two riddles. He looks outwards and perceives his physical body, but this is a perpetual riddle to him. He is aware of his psycho-spiritual life, but this, too, is a perpetual riddle. But the greatest riddle is this: If I really experience a moral impulse and have to set my legs in motion to do something towards its realisation, it means — of course — I must move my body. Let us say the impulse is one of goodwill. At first this is really experienced entirely within the soul, i.e. purely psychically. How, now, does this impulse of goodwill shoot down into the body? How does a moral impulse come to move bones by muscles? Ordinary consciousness cannot comprehend this. One may regard such a discussion as theoretical, and say: We leave that to philosophers; they will think about it. Our civilisation usually leaves this question to its thinkers, and then despises — or, at least, values but little — what they say. Well; this satisfies the head only, not the heart. The human heart feels a nervous unrest and finds no joy in life, no firm foundation, no security. With the form man's thinking has taken since the first third of the fifteenth century magnificent results in the domain of external science have been achieved, but nothing has or can be contributed towards a solution of these two riddles — that of man's physical body and that of his psychical life. It is just from a clear insight into these things that Anthroposophy comes forward, saying: True; man's thinking, in the form it has so far actually taken, is powerless in the face of Reality. However much we think, we cannot in the very least influence an external process of nature by our thinking.

Moreover, we cannot, by mere thinking, influence our own ‘will-organism’. To feel deeply the powerlessness of this thinking is to receive the impulse to transcend it.

But one cannot transcend it by spinning fantasies. There is no starting point but thought; you cannot begin to think about the world except by thinking. Our thinking, however, is not fitted for this. So we are unavoidably led by life itself to find — from this starting point in thought — a way by which our thinking may penetrate more deeply into existence — into Reality. This way is only to be found in what is described as meditation — for example, in my book: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment.

Today we will only describe this path in bare outline, for we intend to give the skeleton of a whole anthroposophical structure. We will begin again where we began twenty years ago.

Meditation, we may say, consists in experiencing thinking in another way than usual. Today one allows oneself to be stimulated from without; one surrenders to external reality. And in seeing, hearing, grasping, etc., one notices that the reception of external impressions is continued — to a certain extent — in thoughts. One's attitude is passive — one surrenders to the world and the thoughts come. We never get further in this way. We must begin to experience thinking. One does this by taking a thought that is easily comprehended, letting it stay in one's consciousness, and concentrating one's whole consciousness upon it.

Now it does not matter at all what the thought may signify for the external world. The point is simply that we concentrate our consciousness on this one thought, ignoring every other experience. I say it must be a comprehensible thought — a simple thought, that can be ‘seen’ from all sides [überschaubar]. A very, very learned man once asked me how one meditates. I gave him an exceedingly simple thought. I told him it did not matter whether the thought referred to any external reality. I told him to think: Wisdom is in the light. He was to apply the whole force of his soul again and again to the thought: Wisdom is in the light. Whether this be true or false is not the point. It matters just as little whether an object that I set in motion, again and again, by exerting my arm, be of far-reaching importance or a game; I strengthen the muscles of my arm thereby. So, too, we strengthen our thinking when we exert ourselves, again and again, to per-form the above activity, irrespective of what the thought may signify. If we strenuously endeavour, again and again, to make it present in our consciousness and concentrate our whole soul life upon it, we strengthen our soul life just as we strengthen the muscular force of our arm if we apply it again and again to the same action. But we must choose a thought that is easily surveyed; otherwise we are exposed to all possible tricks of our own organisation. People do not believe how strong is the suggestive power of unconscious echoes of past experiences and the like. The moment we entertain a more complicated thought demonic powers approach from all sides, suggesting this or that to our consciousness. One can only be sure that one is living in one's meditation in the full awareness of normal, conscious life, if one really takes a completely surveyable thought that can contain nothing but what one is actually thinking.

If we contrive to meditate in this way, all manner of people may say we are succumbing to auto-suggestion or the like, but they will be talking nonsense. It all turns on our success in holding a ‘transparent’ thought — not one that works in us through sub-conscious impulses in some way or other. By such concentration one strengthens and intensifies his soul life — in so far as this is a life in thought. Of course, it will depend on a man's capacities, as I have often said; in the case of one man it will take a long time, in the case of another it will happen quickly. But, after a certain time, the result will be that he no longer experiences his thinking as in ordinary consciousness. In ordinary consciousness our thoughts stand there powerless; they are ‘just thoughts’. But through such concentration one really comes to experience thoughts as inner being [Sein], just as one experiences the tension of a muscle — the act of reaching out to grasp an object. Thinking becomes a reality in us; we experience, on developing ourselves further and further, a second man within us of whom we knew nothing before.

The moment now arrives when you say to yourself: True, I am this human being who, to begin with, can look at himself externally as one looks at the things of nature; I feel inwardly, but very dimly, the tensions of my muscles, but I do not really know how my thoughts shoot down into them. But after strengthening your thinking in the way described, you feel your strengthened thinking flowing, streaming, pulsating within you; you feel the second man. This is, to begin with, an abstract characterisation. The main thing is that the moment you feel this second man within you, supra-terrestrial things begin to concern you in the way only terrestrial things did before. In this moment, when you feel your thought take on inner life — when you feel its flow as you feel the flow of your breath when you pay heed to it — you become aware of something new in your whole being. Formerly you felt for example: I am standing on my legs. The ground is below and supports me. If it were not there, if the earth did not offer me this support, I would sink into bottomless space. I am standing on something. After you have intensified your thinking and come to feel the second man within, your earthly environment begins to interest you less than before. This only holds, however, for the moments in which you give special attention to the second man. One does not become a dreamer if one advances to these stages of knowledge in a sincere and fully conscious way. One can quite easily return, with all one's wonted skill, to the world of ordinary life. One does not become a visionary and say: Oh! I have learnt to know the spiritual world; the earthly is unreal and of less value. From now on I shall only concern myself with the spiritual world. On a true, spiritual path one does not become like that, but learns to value external life more than ever when one returns to it. Apart from this, the moments in which one transcends external life in the way described and fixes attention on the second man one has discovered cannot be maintained for long. To fix one's attention in this way and with inner sincerity demands great effort, and this can only be sustained for a certain time which is usually not very long.

Now, in turning our attention to the second man, we find at the same time, that we begin to value the spatial environment of the earth as much as what is on the earth itself. We know that the crust of the earth supports us, and the various kingdoms of Nature provide the substances we must eat if our body is to receive through food the repeated stimulus it needs. We know that we are connected with terrestrial Nature in this way. We must go into the garden to pick cabbages, cook and eat them; and we know that we need what is out there in the garden and that it is connected with our ‘first’ or physical man. In just the same way we learn to know what the rays of the sun, the light of the moon and the twinkling of the stars around the earth are to us. Gradually we attain one possible way of thinking of the spatial environment of the earth in relation to our ‘second man’, as we formerly thought of our first (physical) body in relation to its physical environment.

And now we say to ourselves: What you bear within you as muscles, bones, lung, liver, etc., is connected with the cabbage, the pheasant, etc., out there in the world. But the ‘second man’ of whom you have become conscious through strengthening your thinking, is connected with the sun and the moon and all the twinkling stars — with the spatial environment of the earth. We become more familiar with this environment than we usually are with our terrestrial environment — unless we happen to be food-specialists. We really gain a second world which, to begin with, is spatial.

We learn to esteem ourselves inhabitants of the world of stars as we formerly considered ourselves inhabitants of the earth. Hitherto we did not realise that we dwell in the world of stars; for a science which does not go as far to strengthen man's thinking cannot make him conscious of his connection, through a second man, with the spatial environment of the earth — a connection similar to that between his physical body and the physical earth. Such a science does not know this. It engages in calculations; but even the calculations of Astrophysics, etc., only reveal things which do not really concern man at all, or — at most — only satisfy his curiosity. After all, what does it mean to a man, or his inner life, to know how the spiral nebular in Canes venatici may be thought of as having originated, or as still evolving? Moreover, it is not even true! Such things do not really concern us. Man's attitude towards the world of stars is like that of some disembodied spirit towards the earth — if such a spirit be thought of as coming from some region or other to visit the earth, requiring neither ground to stand on, nor nourishment, etc. But, in actual fact, from a mere citizen of the earth man becomes a citizen of the universe when he strengthens his thinking in the above way.

We now become conscious of something quite definite, which can be described in the following way. We say to ourselves: It is good that there are cabbages, corn, etc., out there; they build up our physical body (if I may use this somewhat incorrect expression in accordance with the general, but very superficial, view). I am able to discover a certain connection between my physical body and what is there outside in the various kingdoms of Nature. But with strengthened thinking I begin to discover a similar connection between the ‘second man’ who lives in me and what surrounds me in supra-terrestrial space. At length one comes to say: If I go out at night and only use my ordinary eyes, I see nothing; by day the sunlight from beyond the earth makes all objects visible. To begin with, I know nothing. If I restrict myself to the earth alone, I know: there is a cabbage, there a quartz crystal. I see both by the light of the sun, but on earth I am only interested in the difference between them.

But now I begin to know that I myself, as the second man, am made of that which makes cabbage and crystal visible. It is a most significant leap in consciousness that one takes here — a complete metamorphosis. From this point one says to oneself: If you stand on the earth you see what is physical and connected with your physical man. If you strengthen your thinking the supra-terrestrial spatial world begins to concern you and the second man you have discovered just as the earthly, physical world concerned you before. And, as you ascribe the origin of your physical body to the physical earth, you now ascribe your ‘second existence’ to the cosmic ether through whose activities earthly things become visible. From your own experience you can now speak of having a physical body and an etheric body. You see, merely to systematise and think of man as composed of various members gives no real knowledge. We only attain real insight into these things by regarding the complete metamorphosis of consciousness that results from really discovering such a second man within.

I stretch out my physical arm and my physical hand takes hold of an object. I feel, in a sense, the flowing force in this action. Through strengthening my thought I come to feel that it is inwardly mobile and now induces a kind of ‘touching’ within me — a touching that also takes place in an organism; this is the etheric organism; that finer, super-sensible organism which exists no less than the physical organism, though it is connected with the supra-terrestrial, not the terrestrial.

The moment now arrives when one is obliged to descend another step, if I may put it so. Through such ‘imaginative’ thinking as I have described we come, at first, to feel this inward touching of the second man within us; we come, too, to see this in connection with the far spaces of the universal ether. By this term you are to understand nothing but what I have just spoken of; do not read into it a meaning from some other quarter. Now, however, we must return again to ordinary consciousness if we are to get further.

You see, if we are thinking of man's physical body in the way described, we readily ask how it is really related to its environment. It is doubtless related to our physical, terrestrial environment; but how?

If we take a corpse, which is, indeed, a faithful representation of physical man — even of the living physical man — we see, in sharp contours, liver, spleen, kidney, heart, lung, bones, muscles and nerve strands. These can be drawn; they have sharp contours and resemble in this everything that occurs in solid forms. Yet there is a curious thing about this sharply outlined part of the human organism. Strictly speaking, there is nothing more deceptive than our handbooks of anatomy or physiology, for they lead people to think: there is a liver, there a heart, etc. They see all this in sharp contours and imagine this sharpness to be essential. The human organism is looked upon as a conglomeration of solid things. But it is not so at all. Ten per cent., at most, is solid; the other ninety per cent. is fluid or even gaseous. At least ninety per cent. of man, while he lives, is a column of water.

Thus we can say: In his physical body man belongs, it is true, to the solid earth — to what the ancient thinkers in particular called the ‘earth’. Then we come to what is fluid in man; and even in external science one will never gain a reasonable idea of man until one learns to distinguish the solid man from the fluid man this inner surging and weaving element which really resembles a small ocean.

But what is terrestrial can only really affect man through the solid part of him. For even in external Nature you can see, where the fluid element begins, an inner formative force working with very great uniformity. Take the whole fluid element of our earth — its water; it is a great drop. Wherever water is free to take its own form, it takes that of a drop. The fluid element tends everywhere to be drop-like.

What is earthly — or solid, as we say today — occurs in definite, individual forms, which we can recognise. What is fluid, however, tends always to take on spherical form.

Why is this? Well, if you study a drop, be it small or as large as the earth itself, you find it is an image of the whole universe. Of course, this is wrong according to the ordinary conceptions of today; nevertheless it appears so, to begin with, and we shall soon see that this appearance is justified. The universe really appears to us as a hollow sphere into which we look.

Every drop, whether small or large, appears as a reflection of the universe itself. Whether you take a drop of rain, or the waters of the earth as a whole, the surface gives you a picture of the universe. Thus, as soon as you come to what is fluid, you cannot explain it by earthly forces. If you study closely the enormous efforts that have been made to explain the spherical form of the oceans by terrestrial forces, you will realise how vain such efforts are. The spherical form of the oceans cannot be explained by terrestrial gravitational attraction and the like, but by pressure from without. Here, even in external Nature, we find we must look beyond the terrestrial. And, in doing this, we come to grasp how it is with man himself.

As long as you restrict yourself to the solid part of man, you need not look beyond the terrestrial in understanding his form. The moment you come to his fluid part, you require the second man discovered by strengthened thinking. He works in what is fluid.

We are now back again at what is terrestrial. We find in man a solid constituent; this we can explain with our ordinary thoughts. But we cannot understand the form of his fluid components unless we think of the second man as active within him — the second man whom we contact within ourselves in our strengthened thinking as the human etheric body.

Thus we can say: The physical man works in what is solid, the etheric man in what is fluid. Of course, the etheric man still remains an independent entity, but he works through the fluid medium.

We must now proceed further. Imagine we have actually got so far as to experience inwardly this strengthened thinking and, therefore, the etheric — the second — man. This means, that we are developing great inner force. Now, as you know, one can — with a little effort — not only let oneself be stimulated to think, but can even refrain from all thinking. One can stop thinking; and our physical organisation does this for us when we are tired and fall asleep. But it becomes more difficult to extinguish again, of our own accord, the strengthened thinking which results from meditation and which we have acquired by great effort. It is comparatively easy to extinguish an ordinary, powerless thought; to put away — or ‘suggest away’ — the strengthened thinking one has developed demands a stronger force, for one cleaves in a more inward way to what one has thus acquired. If we succeed, however, something special occurs.

You see, our ordinary thinking is stimulated by our environment, or memories of our environment. When you follow a train of thought the world is still there; when you fall asleep the world is still there. But it is out of this very world of visible things that you have raised yourself in your strengthened thinking. You have contacted the supra-terrestrial spatial environment, and now study your relationship to the stars as you formerly studied the relation between the natural objects around you. You have now brought yourself into relation with all this, but can suppress it again. In suppressing it, however, the external world, too, is no longer there — for you have just directed all your interest to this strengthened consciousness. The outer world is not there; and you come to what one can call ‘empty consciousness’. Ordinary consciousness only knows emptiness in sleep, and then in the form of unconsciousness.

What one now attains is just this: one remains fully awake, receiving no outer sense impressions, yet not sleeping — merely ‘waking’. Yet one does not remain merely awake. For now, on exposing one's empty consciousness to the indefinite on all sides, the spiritual world proper enters. One says: the spiritual world approaches me. Whereas previously one only looked out into the supra-terrestrial physical environment — which is really an etheric environment — and saw what is spatial, something new, the actual spiritual world, now approaches through this cosmic space from all sides as from indefinite distances. At first the spiritual approaches you from the outermost part of the cosmos when you traverse the path I have described.

 Diagram 3
(rötlich — reddish; Blau — blue)


A third thing is now added to the former metamorphosis of consciousness. One now says: I bear with me my physical body (inner circle), my etheric body (blue) which I apprehended in my strengthened thinking, and something more that comes from the undefined — from beyond space. I ask you to notice that I am talking of the world of appearance; we shall see in the course of the next few days how far one is justified in speaking of the etheric as coming from the spatial world, and of what lies beyond us (red) coming from the Undefined. We are no longer conscious of this third component as coming from the spatial world. It streams to us through the cosmic ether and permeates us as a ‘third man’. We have now a right to speak, from our own experience, of a first or physical man, a second or etheric man, and a third or ‘astral man’. (You realise, of course, that you must not be put off by words.) We bear within us an astral or third man, who comes from the spiritual, not merely from the etheric. We can speak of the astral body or astral man.

Now we can go further. I will only indicate this in conclusion so that I can elaborate it tomorrow. We now say to ourselves: I breathe in, use my breath for my inner organisation and breathe out. But is it really true that what people think of as a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen enters and leaves us in breathing?

Well, according to the views of present day civilisation, what enters and leaves is composed of oxygen and nitrogen and some other things. But one who attains ‘empty consciousness’ and then experiences this onrush — as I might call it — of the spiritual through the ether, experiences in the breath he draws something not formed out of the ether alone, but out of the spiritual beyond it. He gradually learns to know the spiritual that plays into man in respiration. He learns to say to himself: You have a physical body; this works into what is solid — that is its medium. You have your etheric body; this works into what is fluid. But, in being a man — not merely a solid man or fluid man, but a man who bears his ‘air man’ within him — your third or astral man can work into what is airy or gaseous. It is through this material substance on the earth that your astral man operates.

Man's fluid organisation with its regular but ever changing life will never be grasped by ordinary thinking. It can only be grasped by strengthened thinking. With ordinary thinking we can only apprehend the definite contours of the physical man. And, since our anatomy and physiology merely take account of the body, they only describe ten per cent of man. But the ‘fluid man’ is in constant movement and never presents a fixed contour. At one moment it is like this, at another, like that — now long, now short. What is in constant movement cannot be grasped with the closed concepts suitable for calculations; you require concepts mobile in themselves — ‘pictures’. The etheric man within the fluid man is apprehended in pictures.

The third or astral man who works in the ‘airy’ man, is apprehended not merely in pictures but in yet another way. If you advance further and further in meditation — I am here describing the Western process — you notice, after reaching a certain stage in your exercises, that your breath has become something palpably musical. You experience it as inner music; you feel as if inner music were weaving and surging through you. The third man — who is physically the airy man, spiritually the astral man — is experienced as an inner musical element. In this way you take hold of your breathing.

The oriental meditator did this directly by concentrating on his breathing, making it irregular in order to experience how it lives and weaves in man. He strove to take hold of this third man directly.

Thus we discover the nature of the third man, and are now at the stage when we can say: By deepening and strengthening our insight we learn, at first, to distinguish in man:

  1. the physical body which lives in solid forms on the earth and is also connected with the terrestrial kingdoms,
  2. the fluid man in whom an ever mobile, etheric element lives and which can only be apprehended in images (Bilder) — in moving, plastic images,
  3. the astral man who has his physical copy or image (Abbild) in all that constitutes the stream of inspired air.

This stream enters and takes hold of our inner organisation, expands, works, is transformed and streams out again. That is a wonderful process of becoming. We cannot draw it; we might do so symbolically, at most, but not as it really is. You could no more draw this process than you could draw the tones of a violin. You might do this symbolically; nevertheless you must direct your musical sense to hearing inwardly — i.e. you must attend with your inner, musical ear and not merely listen to the external tones. In this inward way you must hear the weaving of your breath — must hear the human astral body. This is the third man. We apprehend him when we attain to ‘empty consciousness’ and allow this to be filled with ‘inspirations’ from without.

Now language is really cleverer than men, for it comes to us from primeval worlds. There is a deep reason why breathing was once called inspiration. In general, the words of our language say much more than we, in our abstract consciousness, feel them to contain.

These are the considerations that can lead us to the three members of man — the physical, the etheric and the astral bodies — which find expression in the solid, fluid and airy ‘men’ and have their physical counterparts in the forms of the solid man, in the changing shapes of the fluid man and in that which permeates man as an inner music, experienced through feeling. The nervous system is indeed the most beautiful representation of this inner music. It is built from out of the astral body — from out of this inner music; and for this reason it has, at a definite part, the wonderful configuration of the spinal cord with its attached nerve-strands. All this together is a wonderful, musical structure that is continually working upwards into man's head.

A primeval wisdom that was still alive in Ancient Greece, felt the presence of this wonderful instrument in man. For the air assimilated through breathing ascends through the whole spinal cord. The air we breathe in ‘enters’ the cerebro-spinal canal and pulsates upwards towards the brain. This music is actually per-formed, but it remains unconscious; only the upper rebound is in consciousness. This is the lyre of Apollo, the inner musical instrument that the instinctive, primeval wisdom still recognised in man. I have referred to these things before, but it is my present intention to give a resume of what has been developed within our society in the course of twenty-one years.

Tomorrow I shall go further and consider the fourth member of man, the ego organisation proper. I shall then show the connection between these various members of man and his life on earth and beyond it — i.e. his so-called eternal life.


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