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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Anthroposophy, A Fragment
GA 45

IV. The Life Processes

Another type of activity plays into our sense life. Here, too, we can distinguish a number of different domains. The first to present itself is the process by which our body's inner life is supported from outside, namely our breathing. In the breathing process, our bodily life touches the outer world. It then receives from the outer world the strength it needs to continue. Our bodily life sets itself against the outer world in a way that it cannot maintain. These words more or less express that which can be said about what manifests itself to us about the breathing process without going into the results of sense-perceptible science. The latter belong to the field of anthropology. What has just been described is something We experience directly in our own life—in our own need for air, in observing how life is inhibited by lack of air, and so on.

A second process in this domain can be described as warming. To maintain bodily life, we must develop a certain degree of warmth in our body that does not depend on the warmth of our surroundings; rather the processes within the body maintain our own bodily Warmth within certain limits—independent of how warm It is outside the body.

A third process of this type is nourishing . Through this process, the life of the body enters into a relationship with the outer world so that the substances we have used are replaced. However, a fourth process must take place for the process of nourishing to occur. Already in the mouth, the food that is taken in must begin interacting with saliva secreted by the body, and a process of this sort continues to take place as digestion proceeds. This process can be seen as the fourth in this domain, and can be called secreting.

Observing our own bodies shows us that another process is connected with this one. In the secreting that serves the digestive process, the secreted substance is only capable of transforming our food so that it can enter into the life of the body. But it must also be possible to secrete substances that can become part of this bodily life. We must transform nutrients so that they can serve to build up the body. This is based on a process that goes beyond what has been characterized as secreting. We will call this the process of maintaining.

Yet another process becomes evident when we turn our attention to the growth of the human being. This transcends the process of maintaining, which would leave the body as it is at a certain point in time. An additional process is needed, one we can describe as the process of growing.

The processes of maintaining and growing reach their culmination when the completed human body takes on its very specific form. This taking shape of the human being, coming from within and culminating in a specific form, will be called the process of generating .

Reproduction can be seen as a repetition of this generating. What belongs to the individual body is generated in such a way that it remains united with the individual,while, in the case of reproduction, what is generated does not. Since we are concerned here, to begin with, only with the individual human being as a self-contained bodily entity, we will not take the reproductive process into account.

The processes that we have called breathing , warming, nourishing, secreting, maintaining, growing, and generating now are linked to inner experiences similar to the inner experiences in the I that link up with the processes of sensory perception. Breathing, warming, and nourishing are linked to emotional experiences that, under normal conditions, we are scarcely aware of, but immediately become prominent when the normal state is disturbed in one direction or the other. If breathing cannot proceed in the appropriate fashion, feelings of anxiety and similar feelings appear. A disturbance in the state of warmth announces itself in our feeling chilly or overheated. A disturbance in nourishing reveals itself in our feeling hungry and thirsty. We can say that the inner experiences linked to breathing, warming, and nourishing manifest in a sort of well-being or comfort. These experiences are always present; when a disturbance occurs, they are the basis for what comes to expression as feeling unwell, discomfort, hunger, and so on.

Genuine reflection on our own experience shows that similar feeling-like experiences are also associated with the processes of secreting, maintaining, growing, and generating. If we think about how excessive perspiration can signal a state of anxiety or fear, we will be able to acknowledge that, when secretion of this sort stays within reasonable bounds, it is associated with a feeling that expresses itself as comfort of a general sort, and we can also see that all secreting is accompanied by a state of feeling that, as long as it is proceeding normally, escapes conscious observation. Further self-reflection shows that such feeling experiences are also associated with the pro-cesses of maintaining, growing, and generating. We can sense, for instance, that teenagers' feelings of power are the expression of inner experiences linked to the process of growth.

These inner feeling experiences come to face the processes of breathing, warming, growth, and so on, in a way that is similar to how, in the I, the inner experiences arising in the wake of sense perceptions come to face the sensory processes. Thus it is possible to say, for example, that the relationship of breathing to a certain inner experience is similar to the relationship of hearing to the experience we call sound, although outer sense perceptions reverberate inwardly with a much greater degree of clarity than the other experiences just described.

Concealed, so to speak, under or within our I-human being,1The German Ich-Mensch—literally "I-human being"—has generally been translated in this text simply as "I-being."—TRANS. is another human being who is built up out of such inner experiences just as our I-being is built up out of our experiences of external sense impressions. This other human being is, however, really only taken notice of in life when its experiences are disturbed, causing it to make its presence known to the I-human being. We are, however, no more justified in lumping together the breathing process, for example, and the inner experiences accompanying it, which are feeling-like in character, than we would be in lumping together the process of sense perception with the related process taking place in the I.

We could easily be tempted to fail to recognize the particular character of these inner experiences and conclude that there is no significant difference between them and the ones that develop under the influence of sense impressions. Admittedly, the difference between these two types of inner experience—for example, between our sense of life and our inner, feeling-like experiences with regard to the processes of breathing or warming—is not particularly clear. However, this difference can be ascertained easily through more precise observation if we keep the following in mind.

Inherent in a sensory experience is the fact that a judgment can be connected to it only through the I. Everything We do under the influence of a judgment relating to sense perceptions must be such that we arrive at this judgment within the I. If, for example, a flower is perceived and judged to be beautiful, the I inserts itself between our perception and our judgment. The inner experiences called up by processes of breathing, warming, nourishing, and so on, indicate in and by themselves something similar to judgment, without the I coming in between. In the experience of hunger lies a direct indication of something, which corresponds to hunger, and which is connected with the hunger in the same way as that which the human being connects with a sense perception after having formed a judgment with regard to this sense perception. When we arrive at judgments relating to a sense perception, the activity of the I brings something together with the sense perception. Similarly, we see that something external to hunger has been connected with hunger, but without the I bringing about this connection. Thus, we may call this latter connection an instinctive manifestation. This holds true for all inner experiences related to the processes of breathing, nourishing, growing. Therefore, we must distinguish between comfort in breathing, well-being in warmth—to the extent that these are instinctive inner experiences—and the corresponding perceptions of the sense of life. To gain access to the domain of the sense of life, the wave of instinct must first wash up against the I-being, so to speak.

The framework of these inner experiences that take place behind the "I-human being" through the processes described here will be attributed to the "astral human being."2The German here is astraler Mensch—"astral human being." Sometimes, in what follows, it has been translated simply as "astral being."—TRANS. For the moment, we will associate nothing more with this term than what is described here. The I-being draws its experiences from the sense world by means of the instruments of our senses, while the astral being draws its experiences from the world given in the processes of breathing, growing, and so on. For the moment we will call this world "the world of life."

The forces building up our sense organs transcend what is sense perceptible. Similarly, for a world of life to exist, the organs of life must be constructed out of a world that transcends all life. Also, this world reveals itself in its effects: the building up of the organs of life. The distinct domains of the life processes—breathing, warming, nourishing, and so on—may be taken to indicate an equal number of domains in this world.

It can be further noticed that the domains of the individual life processes are less strictly separated from each other than are the domains of sense perception. The domain of the sense of smell, for example, is strictly separated from the sense of sight, whereas the domains of the life processes are closer together; they intermingle more. Breathing merges into warming, warming into nourishing.

Thus, anthropology points to essentially separate organs for sense perception, while for the life processes it points to organs that flow into one another. The lungs, the primary breathing organ, are connected to the organs of blood circulation, which serve the process of warmth, while these in turn flow together with the organs of digestion, which correspond to the process of nourishing, and so on.

This indicates that, in the world in which the forces building up these organs are found, the relationships among the corresponding domains are different from the relationships among the forces that build up the sense organs. The former relationships must be more mobile than the latter. The experiences of the sense of taste, for example, can meet the experiences of the sense of hearing only in the common I to which they belong. The feeling of growing, on the other hand, automatically encounters what presents itself in the breathing process. The feeling of strength associated with growing shows up in our comfort in breathing, warming, and so on, through a heightened inner life. Each experience of feeling of this kind can concur with a different one of the same kind. As we saw in the case of the sensory domains, we could use the image of a circle on which the individual domains were located, while the I moved through all of them. But from what we have seen thus far, a different image results with regard to the life processes. We can imagine each of these as being mobile and each one capable of superimposing itself on any of the others.

There are also clear relationships between our sense perceptions and our life processes. Let us consider the process of breathing as it relates to perceiving sound. In both cases, the corresponding bodily organ encounters the outer world. This indicates that what is revealed in the outer world relates to both. But it becomes evident that in the air, for example, two different things are revealed. One relates to how the organ of breathing takes shape and is placed in the service of the body, while the other relates to the structure of the organ of hearing. This allows us to realize that the forces shaping the organ of hearing must, in a certain sense, be of earlier origin than the ones shaping the organ of breathing. In the fully formed human body everything is interdependent. A human organ of hearing can develop from the inside outward only if the organ of breathing is predisposed exactly as it shows itself to be. Both the organ of breathing and the organ of hearing grow from inside the organism outward toward the external world, but the organ of breathing needs to be adapted only to the internal life of the body, while the organ of hearing has to be adapted to the other world, the realm of sound. When the organ of breathing grows out-ward from the body, only the constitution of the body itself needs to be taken into account; the organ of hearing, however, must grow outward in such' a way as to be adapted to the external world of sound. Nothing needs to precede the potential breathing organ; it grows in accordance with inner formative forces. The organ of hearing, however, must grow in the direction of an already existing tendency; its adaptation to the outer world must precede its unfolding out of the inner life of the body.

This shows that the forces that shape the organ of hearing into a sense instrument belong to a world that is of earlier origin or higher than the world where the forces are to be found that show themselves as the ones shaping, from inside the body outward, both the organ of hearing and the organ of breathing.

Something similar can be demonstrated with regard to other sense perceptions and life processes. Let us consider the sense of taste, which we can relate to secreting Just as we related the sense of hearing to the breathing process. The saliva in the mouth contains what is needed to dissolve our food and make it capable of being tasted. A train of thought similar to that followed above can show that the forces from which the organs of secretion take shape are of later origin than those through which the sense of taste comes about.

In line with these considerations, we can therefore presuppose the existence, within the human being, of a supersensible higher being, whose forces manifest in the activity of building up the human sense organs. Similarly, we may presuppose another supersensible being, whose activities manifest in the building up of the human organs of life. The world of the latter is felt by the astral human being as his instinctive inner experiences, while the world of the former reveals itself to the I-human being as sense-perceptible reality (the sense world) [indirectly]. But neither can the world of the first supersensible being become directly manifest through the senses, nor can the world of the second come to a direct manifestation in the astral human being.

We have said that, in the I, the supersensible world reveals itself in its intrinsic character as if condensed into one point. Similarly, we can recognize that in receiving feeling experiences that result from life processes, the astral human being receives the revelation of a supersensible world in which the organs of these processes (the life organs) acquire the essential character of (1) serving life, and (2) forming the sense organs out of themselves. These experiences are the expression of something with which the other instinctive experiences of the "astral being" flow together into one, revealing their greatest effectiveness as a shape-forming force.3See "alternate version of page 116" below for another version of this paragraph.

The I-human being and the astral being represent two parts of the human being which are active in inner processes. To make the I-human being possible, the forces of a supersensible world build up the sense organs. To the extent that the human body is the bearer of the sense organs, it shows itself to be built up out of a supersensible world. We will call this bearer of the sense organs the physical human body. The I-human being permeates it in order to live, with its help, in the sensory world. Thus we must see the physical human body as an entity built out of forces that are intrinsically related to the I itself. Within the sensory world, the physical human body can show itself only in its sense-perceptible manifestation; but, in its inner reality, it is an entity of a supersensible sort.

To make the astral being possible, a supersensible world builds up the organs of life. As we have seen, this world's forces are related to the astral human being's experiences. What builds up the physical being is revealed in the sensory world in the way described above. The forces that build up the organs of life can reveal themselves only in the instinctive feeling experiences stemming from the life processes, for they do not produce any sense organs, and only sense organs can give evidence of sense-perceptible things. The organs of life themselves are not organs of perception. Therefore, not Only do the forces that build up the organs of life remain Imperceptible to the senses, but also their manifestation In the human being cannot become sense-perceptible; it Can only be a feeling-like instinctive experience. This manifestation will be called the etheric human body. ("Etheric" in this sense refers only to what is meant here, and not to what is given the name "ether" in physics.) The etheric human body relates to the astral human being as the physical human body relates to the I-human being.4See "alternate version of page 117" below for another version of this paragraph.

The physical body is so constituted as to convey the experiences of the senses to the I; the ether body can be only indirectly and instinctively experienced by the astral human being. The I must relate to the physical human body as the astral human being relates to the etheric human body. Thus, the life processes presuppose the existence of forces to which they adapt in shaping sense organs, such as the organ of hearing, from within the body outward to correspond to experiences which they themselves do not serve. The sense organs, in turn, since they are supported by the life processes, presuppose the existence of the organs of life.

To the extent that it is the bearer of the sense organs, the physical human body is formed out of the higher spiritual world, and, to the extent that it builds up the organs of life, the etheric human body is formed out of the lower spiritual world. In the astral world, the astral human being enters into relationship with the life processes to the extent that they are revealed in our life instincts. In the physical world, the I-human being enters into relationship with the sense experiences that present themselves as the outer world (tone, sound, warmth, light, and so on), to the extent that these reveal themselves as the sensory world.

Alternate version of page 116:

We have said that, in the I, the supersensible world reveals itself in its intrinsic character as if condensed into one point. In the same sense, we can recognize that the second world described here shows itself in those feeling experiences of the astral human being that can be termed the life instincts. These experiences are an expression of something that flows together and forms a unity with the astral human being's other instinctive experiences, and are an image of a supersensible world in the same sense that the I-human being is an image of another such world.

Alternate version of page 117:

In order to make it possible for the astral human being to exist, another world, the world of life, exists in addition to the supersensible world we have characterized here and builds up the organs of life. As we have seen, the forces of this world are related to what the astral human being experiences in the life instincts. As described above, what builds up the physical human being reveals itself in the sense world. In the physical world, the forces that build up the organs of life can reveal themselves only M the life processes, for they create the life organs, which are the only means by which a life process can reveal itself. The life organs themselves are not organs of perception. For this reason, both the forces that build up the organs of life and the manifestation of these forces in the human being remain imperceptible to the senses. We will call this manifestation the "etheric human body." (We must think of the term "etheric" only in the sense of what is meant here, and not in the sense of what physics terms the "ether.") The etheric human body relates to the astral human being in the same way that the physical human body relates to the I-human being. By its very nature, the physical body is constituted in such a way that it makes itself sense-perceptible; the etheric body, however, as the producer of the life organs, can be experienced only indirectly and instinctively by the astral human being.

Thus, we can distinguish:

1) A supersensible world in which the forces for building up the sense world are present.

2) A supersensible world in which the forces for building up the life organs are to be found. This presupposes the existence of the first supersensible world. Therefore we may call the first the higher spiritual world, the second the lower spiritual world.

3) A world in which the astral human being relates to the life processes in such a way that they disclose themselves as the life instincts. This presupposes the existence of life processes, that is, of the second world, and will be called the astral world.

4) A world in which sensory experiences disclose themselves to the I-human being by means of the sense organs. This is the physical world, the sense world.