Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Cosmology, Religion and Philosophy
GA 25

VI. Transference from the Psycho-Spiritual to the Physical Sense-Life in Man's Development

IN the previous studies it was shown how a view of the eternal psycho-spiritual inner being of man can be attained through inspired and intuitive approach. Attention was drawn to the fact that the inner life of man was filled by reflections of cosmic happenings. In the last survey it was shown how man lives through such cosmic reconstructions during sleep. Man's inner world becomes the external world and vice versa: the spiritual part of the external world becomes an inner world.

During the state of sleep the physical and etheric organisms of man form an outer world for his psycho-spiritual nature. They remain there in the same way in which, in waking, they can become again the instrument of the psycho-spiritual man. Man carries the longing for these two organisms over into the sleeping state. As shown in the last review, this longing is connected with those spiritual activities of the Cosmos which are reflected physically in the appearances of the moon. Man is only subjected to these lunar activities through his being part of this earth. The contemplation of that state in which man finds himself in the purely spiritual world for a certain time before his turning towards earthly life makes it clear that then he is not subjected to the influences of these lunar activities.

In this state he does not recognize a physical and etheric human organism as belonging to him, as he does in sleep. But he recognizes them in other ways. He sees them as having their foundations in cosmic worlds, as growing out of the spiritual Cosmos. He contemplates a spiritual Cosmos which is the spiritual part of the cell of the physical organism, which at some future time he will put on. When we talk of a cell in this connection we designate something which in one sense is opposed to what we usually term cell. By ‘Cell’ we usually mean the small physical beginning of a growing organism. The spiritual organism on the other hand which man sees in connection with himself in his pre-earthly spiritual state, is large and contracts continually, as it were, to merge finally with the physical part of the cell.

In order to represent these relationships clearly we have to make use of expressions ‘Large’ and ‘Small’. But we must remember all the time that the happenings of the spiritual world are spiritual and that for them space, in which physical happenings move, is non-existent. The expressions used therefore are only similes for something spiritual, entirely non-spatial, purely qualitative.

During his pre-earthly existence man lives in the cosmic creation which is the spiritual germ of his future physical organism, and this spiritual stage is regarded as in unity with the whole of the spiritual cosmos and reveals itself at the same time as the cosmic body of the individual human being. Man feels the spiritual cosmos as his own innate powers. His whole existence consists in his experiencing himself in this cosmos. But he does not experience only himself in it. For this cosmic existence does not separate him from the other life of the cosmos, as does later his physical organism. Over against this existence he is in a kind of Intuition. The existence of other spiritual beings is at the same time his own existence.

Man has his pre-earthly existence in the active recognition of the spirit-cell of his future physical organism. He himself prepares for this organism by working in the spirit world on the spirit-cell together with other spirits in the world of spirits.

As during his existence on earth he perceives through his senses a physical world round him in which he is active, so in his pre-earthly existence he perceives his physical organism being built in spirit; and his activity consists in helping its construction, just as his activity in the physical world consists in helping to shape the physical things of the outer world.

In the spirit-cell of the physical human body which the psycho-spiritual man experiences in his pre-earthly existence, a whole universe is present, no less manifold than the physical outer world of the senses. Indeed intuitive knowledge may well say that man, incorporated in his physical body, though unknown to himself, carries a universe of such magnificence that the physical world cannot be remotely compared with it.

This universe it is which man experiences in a spiritual manner in his pre-earthly state, and in which he is active. He experiences it in its growth, its mobility, but filled with spiritual beings.

He has a consciousness within this world; with the Powers active in the growth of this Universe his own are bound up. His consciousness is filled with the collaboration of these spiritual cosmic powers with his own power. The state of sleep is in a sense a reconstruction of his activity.

But in its course of sleep the physical organism exists as an exclusive form, or system apart from and independent of the psycho-spiritual man. Here contemplation lacks the active powers representing the content of consciousness in the pre-earthly state. Therefore the state remains unconscious.

In the further course of pre-earthly existence the conscious recognition of the growth of the future earth-organism becomes fainter. It never disappears completely from view, but it fades by degrees. It is as if man felt his own cosmic world get further and further away, as if he was growing out of it. What is at first a complete fusion with the spiritual beings of the cosmos now becomes only a revelation of these beings. One might say that while at one time man had a true ‘intuition’ of the spiritual world, it is now changed into a real ‘inspiration’, in which his nature acts upon man, revealing itself from the outside. But with this a new phase begins within the psycho-spiritual man which might be identified with the ‘missing’ and the beginning of the ‘longing for the lost’. Expressions like these are used only to describe conditions of the supernatural world in terms of the natural world.

In such a state of ‘missing’ and ‘longing’ the soul of man passes a later period of its pre-earthly existence. It no longer has consciousness of the full reality of experience of a spiritual world, but only of a revealed reflection thereof, with, as it were, less intensity of being.

The human soul is now getting ready to experience the spiritual lunar activities, which up to now were beyond its sphere. It thus obtains a being through which it makes itself independent of the other spirit-beings with whom it lived before. One might say that at first its experience was permeated by spirit, and by God, and that later it feels itself as an independent spiritual being; the cosmos is now felt as an outer world, even though the experiencing of this revelation of the Cosmos is still a very intense one during the first phases, and only develops into a fainter one by degrees.

In this experience man therefore leaves the existence permeated by spirit, and felt as reality, in order to enter one in which he is faced by a revealed spirit-cosmos. The first phase of this experience is the reality of that which later on appears as religious learning to one's perception. The second is the reality of what, if described, will result in a true Cosmology. For here the physical human organism is viewed also in its cosmic cell-form without which it cannot be comprehended.

In the later phases man loses the capacity of viewing the spirit cosmos, which becomes less clear to the ‘spiritual eye’. On the other hand the experience of the inner soul which is connected with the spiritual lunar activities grows ever more intense. The human soul gets ready to receive from outside that which before she experienced within herself. The spiritual activity that has furthered the growth of the physical organism which man at first experienced consciously, is dropped by the organs of his soul, but it is transferred into the physical activity which reaches its climax in the reproductive development within the existence on earth. The previous experience of the human soul is transferred into this development as its directing force. Now for some time the human soul has its place in the spiritual world, for she no longer takes part in the shaping of the physical human organism.

In this phase she becomes ripe to satisfy with the etheric cosmos that which in her is ‘missing’ something or ‘longing’ for it. She attracts the cosmic ether. And according to the faculties remaining to her, from her collaboration in the human Universe she forms her etheric organism. Thus man gets used to his etheric organism before his physical organism receives him on earth. The events belonging to earthly existence and following an accomplished conception, and separated from the course of the last phases of the pre-earthly life of the soul, have brought the growth of the physical organism to physical cell-formation. With this the human soul which meanwhile has taken over her etheric organism, can unite. She can unite with it through the power of continued ‘longing’ and man thus begins his earthly career.

The experience of the human soul in taking unto itself the etheric organism, the increase in growth, as it were, of this organism out of the world-ether, is an experience foreign to earth, for it is passed through without the physical organism. It has it, however, as its ‘longed-for’ object. That which happens in the experience of the little child is an unconscious memory of this experience. But it is an active memory, an unconscious working of the physical organism which was once the inner world of the soul and now is the outer case of it. The formative creative work which man unconsciously applies to his own organism during its growth is the visible sign of this active memory. What philosophy is searching for, and what she can only achieve as an inner reality by fully conscious imaginative treatment of the child's earliest experience, lies in this active unconscious memory. This explains in some measure the nature of philosophy which sometimes seems nearer and sometimes further away from the world.