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Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts
GA 26

23. Where is Man as a Being Who Thinks and Remembers?

With his power to form ideas (thinking) and his experience of memories, man finds himself within the physical world. But wherever he may turn his gaze in this physical world, he will nowhere find with his senses anything that could give him the power to form ideas and to remember.

Self-consciousness appears in the act of forming ideas. This is, in accordance with our former studies, an acquisition man possesses from the forces of the Earth. But these earthly forces are such as remain concealed from the vision of the senses. During earthly life man thinks only that which his senses impart to him, but the power to think is not given him by anything of all that he thus thinks.

Where do we find this force which forms ideas (thought) and the pictures of memory out of that which belongs to the Earth?

We find it when the spiritual vision is directed to that which man brings with him from the previous Earth-lives. The ordinary consciousness knows nothing of this. It lives in man unconsciously at first; but when, after his spiritual life, man enters into earthly existence, it immediately shows itself to be related to those earthly forces which do not come into the sphere of sense-observation and sense-thought.

Man is not in this sphere with his ideas (thought), but with his will, which works in accordance with destiny.

When we consider that the Earth contains forces outside the sphere of the senses we may speak of the “spiritual Earth” as the opposite pole of the physical. It then follows that as a Willing being man lives in and with the “spiritual Earth,&148; while as a Thinking being he is indeed within the physical Earth, but as such he does not live with it.

Man as a thinking being carries forces from the Spirit world into the physical, but with these forces he remains a Spirit-being who only appears in the physical world, but does not form a union with it.

The thinking human being forms a mutual relationship during earthly existence with the ‘spiritual Earth’ only; and out of this mutual relationship his self-consciousness develops. We therefore owe the development of self-consciousness to spiritual processes which take place in man during earthly life.

If with spiritual vision we grasp that which is here described, we have before us the ‘human ego.’

With the experiences of memory we come into the sphere of the human astral body. In the act of remembering there stream into the present ego not merely the results of former Earth-lives, as is the case in thinking, but into his inner being stream the forces of the Spirit-world, which man experiences between death and new birth. This in-streaming takes place into the astral body.

Again there is no sphere within the physical Earth for the immediate reception of the forces which thus stream in. As a being who remembers, man cannot unite with the objects and processes perceived by his senses, any more than he can unite with them as a being who forms ideas.

But he forms a mutual relationship with that which is not indeed physical, but which transposes the physical into processes, into events. These are the rhythmical processes in Nature and in human life. In Nature, day and night alternate rhythmically, the seasons of the year follow in rhythmic succession, etc. In man, the processes of respiration and the circulation of the blood take place rhythmically; so do the alternating states of waking and sleeping, etc.

Rhythmical processes are nothing physical, either in Nature or in man. They might be called half spiritual. The physical as object vanishes in the rhythmic process. In the act of remembering, man's being is transposed into his own rhythm as well as into that of Nature. He lives in his astral body.

Indian Yoga wishes to submerge itself entirely in the experience of rhythm. It wishes to leave the sphere of thought, the sphere of the ego, and in an inward experience similar to memory look into the world that lies behind the one which it is possible for the ordinary consciousness to know.

It is not permissible for the spiritual life of the West to suppress the ego in order to ‘know.’ It must bring the ego (‘I’) to the perception of the Spiritual.

This cannot take place if we penetrate from the world of the senses to the world of rhythm, and so experience in the rhythm only the process in which the physical becomes half spiritual. Rather we must find that sphere of the Spirit world which reveals itself in rhythm.

Two things are therefore possible. Firstly, the experience of the physical in the rhythmical element as the physical becomes half spiritual. This is an older path, one not to be followed any longer at the present time. Secondly, the experience of the Spirit-world, which possesses as its sphere the cosmic rhythm within man and without him, just as man's sphere is the earthly world with its physical beings and processes.

Now to this Spirit-world belongs everything that takes place at the present cosmic moment through Michael. A Spirit such as Michael brings that which otherwise would lie in the Luciferic sphere into the purely human evolution which is not influenced by Lucifer—by choosing the world of rhythm for his dwelling-place.

All this can be seen when man enters into Imagination. For with Imagination the soul lives in rhythm, and Michael's world is the one which reveals itself in rhythm.

Memory stands already in this world, but not very deeply. The ordinary consciousness experiences nothing of it. But if we enter into Imagination there emerges first of all, out of the world of rhythm, the world of subjective memories; and this passes over at once into the archetypal pictures for the physical world which are created by the Divine-Spiritual world and which live in the etheric. We experience the ether which lights up in cosmic pictures and conceals within it the creative activity of the Universe. And the Sun-forces weaving in this ether are there not merely radiant, they conjure up the archetypal world-pictures out of the light. The Sun appears as the cosmic world-painter. It is the cosmic counterpart of the impulses which in man paint the pictures of thought.

(February, 1925)

Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society (in connection with the foregoing study: Where is man as a being who thinks and remembers?)

165. Man as a thinking being, though he lives in the realm of the physical Earth, does not enter into communion with it. He lives, a spiritual being, in such a way as to perceive the physical; but the forces for his Thinking, he receives from the ‘spiritual Earth,’ in the same way in which he receives his Destiny—the outcome of his former lives on Earth.

166. What he experiences in Memory is already within that world where in rhythm the physical becomes half spiritual, and where such Spirit-processes take place as are being brought about in the present cosmic moment by Michael.

167. He who learns to know Thinking and Memory in their true nature, will also begin to understand how man as an earthly being, though he lives within the earthly realm, does not become submerged in it with his full being. For as a being from beyond the Earth, he is seeking by communion with the spiritual Earth for his Self-consciousness—for the fulfilment of his Ego.