Cosmic activity is indeed the greatest of artists. The cosmos fashions everything according to laws which bring the deepest satisfaction to the artistic sense.
27 October 1923, Dornach
These lectures deal with the inner connection between appearance and reality in the world, and you have already seen that there are many things of which those whose vision is limited to the world of appearance have no idea. We have seen how every species of being — this was shown by a number of examples — has its task in the whole nexus of cosmic existence. Now today, as a kind of recapitulation, we will again consider what I said recently about the nature of several beings and in the first place of the butterfly. In my description of this butterfly nature, as contrasted with that of the plants, we found that the butterfly is essentially a being belonging to the light — to the light in so far as it is modified by the forces of the outer planets, of Mars, of Jupiter, and of Saturn. Hence, if we wish to understand the butterfly in its true nature, we must in fact look up into the higher regions of the cosmos, and must say to ourselves: These higher cosmic regions endow and bless the earth, with the world of the butterflies.
The bestowal of this blessing upon the earth has an even deeper significance. Let us recall how we had to say that the butterfly does not participate in what is directly connected with earthly existence, but only indirectly, in so far as the sun, with its power of warmth and light, is active in this earthly existence. Actually a butterfly lays its eggs only where they do not become separated from sun activity, so that the butterfly does not entrust its egg to the earth, but only to the sun. Then out creeps the caterpillar, which is under the influence of Mars-activity, though naturally the sun influence always remains present. Then the chrysalis is formed, and this is under the influence of Jupiter-activity. Out of the chrysalis emerges the butterfly, which can now in its iridescent colours reproduce in the earth's environment the luminous Sun-power of the earth united with the power of Saturn.
Thus in the manifold colours of the butterfly world we see, in the environment of earth-existence, the direct working of Saturn-activity within the sphere of the earthly. But let us bear in mind that the substances necessary for earth-existence are in fact of two kinds. We have the purely material substances of the earth, and we have the spiritual substances; and I told you that the remarkable thing about this is that in the case of man the underlying substance of his metabolic and limb system is spiritual whereas that of the head is physical. Moreover in man's lower nature spiritual substance is permeated with the activity of physical forces, with the action of gravity, with the action of the other earthly forces. In the head, the earthly substance, conjured up into it by the whole digestive process, the circulation, nerve-activity and the like, is permeated by super-sensible spiritual forces, which are reflected in our thinking, in our power of forming mental pictures. Thus in the human head we have spiritualized physical matter, and in the metabolic-limb-system we have earthized — if I may coin a word — earthized spiritual substantiality.
Now it is this spiritualized matter that we find to the greatest degree in the butterfly. Because a butterfly always remains in the sphere of sun-existence, it only takes to itself earthly matter — naturally I am still speaking pictorially — as though in the form of the finest dust. It also derives its nourishment from those earthly substances which are worked upon by the sun. It unites with its own being only what is sun-imbued; and it takes from earthly substance only what is finest, and works on it until it is entirely spiritualized. When we look at a butterfly's wing we actually have before us earthly matter in its most spiritualized form. Through the fact that the matter of the butterfly's wing is imbued with colour, it is the most spiritualized of all earthly substances.
The butterfly is the creature which lives entirely in spiritualized earth-matter. And one can even see spiritually how in a certain way a butterfly despises the body which it carries between its coloured wings, because its whole attention, its whole group-soul being, is centred on its joyous delight in the colours of its wings.
And just as we marvel at its shimmering colours as we follow it, so also can we marvel at its own fluttering joy in these colours. This is something which it is of fundamental importance to cultivate in children, this joy in the spirituality fluttering about in the air, which is in fact fluttering joy, joy in the play of colours. The nuances of butterfly-nature reflect all this in a wonderful way: and something else lies in the background as well.
We were able to say of the bird — which we regarded as represented by the eagle — that at its death it can carry spiritualized earth-substance into the spiritual world, and that thereby, as bird, it has the task in cosmic existence of spiritualizing earthly matter, thus being able to accomplish what cannot be done by man. The human being also possesses in his head earth-matter which has been to a certain degree spiritualized, but he cannot take this earthly matter into the world in which he lives between death and a new birth, for he would continually have to endure unspeakable, unbearable, devastating pain, if he were to carry this spiritualized earth-matter of his head into the spiritual world.
The bird-world, represented by the eagle, can do this, so that thereby a connection is actually created between what is earthly and what is extra-earthly. Earthly matter is, as it were, gradually converted into spirit, and the bird-creation has the task of giving over this spiritualized earthly matter to the universe. One can actually say that, when the earth has reached the end of its existence, this earth-matter will have been spiritualized, and that the bird-creation had its place in the whole economy of earthly existence for the purpose of carrying back this spiritualized earth-matter into spirit-land.
It is somewhat different with butterflies. The butterfly spiritualizes earthly matter to an even greater degree than the bird. The bird after all comes into much closer contact with the earth than does the butterfly. I will explain this in detail later. Because the butterfly never actually leaves the region of the sun, it is in a position to spiritualize its matter to such a degree that it does not, like the bird, have to await its death, but already during its life it is continually restoring spiritualized matter to the environment of the earth, to the cosmic environment of the earth.
Only think of the magnificence of all this in the whole cosmic economy! Only picture the earth with the world of the butterflies fluttering around it in its infinite variety, continually sending out into world-space the spiritualized earthly matter which this butterfly-world yields up to the cosmos! Then, with such knowledge, we can contemplate the region of the world, of the butterflies encircling the earth with totally different feelings.
We can look into this fluttering world and say: From you, O fluttering creatures, there streams out something still better than sunlight; you radiate spirit-light into the cosmos! Our materialistic science pays but little heed to things of the spirit. And so this materialistic science is absolutely unequipped with any means of grasping at these things, which are, nevertheless, part of the whole cosmic economy. They are there, just as the effects of physical activities are there, and they are even more real. For what thus streams out into spirit-land will work on further when the earth has long passed away, whereas what is taught by the modern chemist and physicist will reach its end with the conclusion of the earth's existence. So that if some observer or other were to sit outside in the cosmos, with a long period of time for observation, he would see something like a continual outstreaming into spirit-land of matter which has become spiritualized, as the earth radiates its own being out into cosmic space; and he would see — like scintillating sparks, sparks which ever and again flash up into light — what the bird-kingdom, what every bird after its death sends forth as glittering light, streaming out into the universe in the form of rays: a shimmering of the spirit-light of the butterflies, and a sparkling of the spirit-light of the birds.
Such things as these should also make us realize that, when we look up to the rest of the starry world, we should not think that from there, too, there only streams down what is shown by the spectroscope, or rather what is conjured into the spectroscope by the fantasy of the expert in optics. What streams down to earth from other worlds of the stars is just as much the product of living beings in other worlds, as what streams out from the earth into world-space is the product of living beings. People look at a star, and with the modern physicist picture it as something in the nature of a kindled inorganic flame — or the like. This, of course, is absolute nonsense. For what we behold there is entirely the product of something imbued with life, imbued with soul, imbued with spirit.
And now let us pass inwards from this girdle of butterflies — if I may call it so — which encircles the earth, and return to the kingdom of the birds. If we call to mind something which is already known to us, we must picture three regions adjoining each other. There are other regions above these, and again other regions below them. We have the light-ether and we have the warmth-ether, which, however, actually consists of two parts, of two layers, the one being the layer of earthly warmth, the other that of cosmic warmth, and these continually play one into the other. Thus we have not only one, but two kinds of warmth, the one which is of earthly, tellurian origin, and the other of a kind which is of cosmic origin. These are always playing one into the other. Then, bordering on the warmth-ether, there is the air. Below this would come water and earth, and above would come chemical ether and light-ether.
The world of the butterflies belongs more particularly to the light-ether; it is the light-ether itself which is the means whereby the power of the light draws forth the caterpillar from the butterfly's egg. Essentially it is the power of the light which draws the caterpillar forth.
This is not the case with the bird-kingdom. The birds lay their eggs. These must now be hatched out by warmth. The butterfly's egg is simply given over to what is of the nature of the sun; the bird's egg comes into the region of warmth. It is in the region of the warmth-ether that the bird has its being, and it overcomes what is purely of the air.
The butterfly, too, flies in the air, but fundamentally it is entirely a creature of the light. And in that the air is permeated with light, in this light-air existence, the butterfly chooses not air existence but light existence. For the butterfly the air is only what sustains it — the waves, as it were, upon which it floats; but the butterfly's element is the light. The bird flies in the air, but its element is the warmth, the various differentiations of warmth in the air, and to a certain degree it overcomes the air. Certainly the bird is also an air-being inwardly and to a high degree. The bones of the mammals, the bones of the human being are filled with marrow. (We shall speak later as to why this is the case.) The bones of a bird are hollow and are filled only with air. We consist, in so far as the content of our bones is concerned, of what is of the nature of marrow; a bird consists of air. And what is of the nature of marrow in us for the bird is simply air. If you take the lungs of a bird, you will find a whole quantity of pockets which project from the lungs; these are air-pockets. When the bird inhales it does not only breathe air into its lungs, but it breathes the air into these air-pockets, and from thence it passes into the hollow bones. So that, if one could remove from the bird all its flesh and all its feathers and also take away the bones, one would still get a creature composed of air, having the form of what inwardly fills out the lungs, and what inwardly fills out all the bones. Picturing this in accordance with its form, you would really get the form of the bird. Within the eagle of flesh and bone dwells an eagle of air. This is not only because within the eagle there is also an eagle of air. The bird breathes and through its breathing it produces warmth. This warmth the bird imparts to the air, and draws it into its entire limb system. Thus arises the difference of temperature as compared to its outer environment. The bird has its inner warmth, as against the outer warmth. In this difference of degree between the warmth of the outer air and the warmth which the bird imparts to its own air within itself — it is really in this that the bird lives and has its being. And if you were to ask a bird how matters are with its body — supposing you understood bird language — the bird's reply would make you realize that it regards its solid material bones, and other material adjuncts, rather as you would luggage if you were loaded, left and right, on the back and on the head. You would not call this luggage your body. In the same way the bird, in speaking of itself, would only speak of the warmth-imbued air, and of everything else as the luggage which it bears about with it in earthly existence. These bones, which envelop the real body of the bird, these are its luggage. We are therefore, speaking in an absolute sense when we say that fundamentally the bird lives only and entirely in the element of warmth, and the butterfly in the element of light. For the butterfly everything of the nature of physical substance, which it spiritualizes, is, before this spiritualizing, not even personal luggage but more like furniture. It is even more remote from its real being.
When we thus ascend to the creatures of these regions, we come to something which cannot be judged in a physical way. If we do so, it is rather as if we were to draw a person with his hair growing out of the bundle on his head, boxes growing together with his arms, and a rucksack growing out of his back, making him appear a perfect hunch-back. If one were to draw a person in this way, it would actually correspond to the materialist's view of the bird. That is not the bird; it is the bird's luggage. The bird really feels encumbered by having to drag his luggage about, for it would like best to pursue its way through the world, free and unencumbered, as a creature of warm air. For the bird all else is a burden. And the bird pays tribute to world-existence by spiritualizing this burden for it, sending it out when it dies into spirit-land; a tribute which the butterfly already pays during its lifetime.
You see, the bird breathes, and makes use of the air in the way I told you. It is otherwise with the butterfly. The butterfly does not in any way breathe by means of an apparatus such as the so-called higher animals possess — though these in fact are only the more bulky, not in reality the higher animals. The butterfly breathes in fact only through tubes which proceed inwards from its outer casing, and, these being somewhat dilated, it can accumulate air during flight, so that it is not inconvenienced by always needing to breathe.
The butterfly always breathes through tubes which pass into its interior. Because this is so, it can take up into its whole body, together with the air which it inhales, the light which is in the air. Here, too, a great difference is to be found.
Let us represent this in a diagram. Picture to yourselves one of the higher animals, one with lungs. Into the lungs comes oxygen, and there it unites with the blood in its course through the heart. In the case of these bulky animals, and also with man, the blood must flow into the heart and lungs in order to come into contact with oxygen.
In the case of the butterfly I must draw the diagram quite differently. Here I must draw it in this way: If this is the butterfly, the tubes everywhere pass inwards; they then branch out more widely. And now the oxygen enters in everywhere, and spreads itself out through the tubes; so that the air penetrates into the whole body.
With us, and with the so-called higher animals, the air comes as far as the lungs as air only; in the case of the butterfly the outer air, with its content of light, is dispersed into the whole interior of the body. The bird diffuses the air right into its hollow bones; the butterfly is not only a creature of light outwardly, but it diffuses the light which is carried by the air into every part of its entire body, so that inwardly too the butterfly is composed of light. Just as I could characterize the bird as warmed air, so in fact is the butterfly composed entirely of light. Its body also consists of light; and for the butterfly warmth is actually a burden, is luggage. It flutters about only and entirely in the light, and it is light only that it builds into its body. When we see the butterflies fluttering in the air, what we must really see is only fluttering beings of light, beings of light rejoicing in their play of colours. All else is garment, is luggage. We must gain an understanding of what the beings around earth really consist, for outward appearance is deceptive.
Those who today have learned, in some superficial manner, this or that out of oriental wisdom speak about the world as Maya. But to say that the world is Maya really implies nothing. One must have insight into the details of why it is Maya. We understand Maya when we know that the real nature of the bird in no way accords with what is to be seen outwardly, but that it is a being of warm air. The butterfly is not at all what it appears to be, but what is seen fluttering about is a being of light, a being which actually consists of joy in the play of colours, in that play of colours which arises on the butterfly's wings through the earthly dust-substance being imbued with the element of colour, and thus entering on the first stage of its spiritualisation on the way out into the spiritual universe, into the spiritual cosmos.
You see, we have here, as it were, two levels: the butterfly, the inhabitant of the light-ether in an earth environment, and the bird, the inhabitant of the warmth-ether. And now comes the third level. When we descend into the air, we arrive at those beings which, at a certain period of our earth-evolution, could not yet have been there at all; for instance at the time when the moon had not yet separated from the earth but was still with it. Here we come to beings which are certainly also air-beings, living in the air, but which are in fact already strongly influenced by what is peculiar to the earth, gravity. The butterfly is completely untouched by earth-gravity. It flutters joyfully in the light-ether, and feels itself to be a creation of that ether. The bird overcomes gravity by imbuing the air within it with warmth, thereby becoming a being of warm air — and warm air is upborne by cold air. Earth-gravity is also overcome by the bird.
Those creatures which by reason of their origin must still live in the air but which are unable to overcome earth-gravity, because they have not hollow bones but bones filled with marrow, and also because they have not air-sacs like the birds — these creatures are the bats.
The bats are a quite remarkable order of animal-life. In no way do they overcome the gravity of earth through what is inside their bodies. They do not, like the butterflies, possess the lightness of light, or, like the bird, the lightness of warmth; they are subject to earth-gravity, and they experience themselves in their flesh and bone. Hence that element of which the butterfly consists, which is its whole sphere of life — the element of light — this is disagreeable to bats. They like the dusk. Bats have to make use of the air, but they like the air best when it is not the bearer of light. They yield themselves up to the dusk. They are veritable creatures of the dusk. And bats can only maintain themselves in the air because they possess their somewhat caricature-like bat-wings, which are not wings at all in the true sense, but stretched membrane, membrane stretched between their elongated fingers, a kind of parachute. By means of these they maintain themselves in the air. They overcome gravity — as a counter-weight — by opposing it with something which itself is related to gravity. Through this, however, they are completely yoked into the domain of earth-forces. One could never construct the flight of a butterfly solely according to physical, mechanical laws, neither could one the flight of a bird. Things would never come out absolutely right. In their case we must introduce something containing other laws of construction. But the bat's flight, that you can certainly construct according to earthly dynamics and mechanics.
The bat does not like the light, the light-imbued air, but at the most only twilight air. And the bat also differs from the bird through the fact that the bird, when it looks about it, always has in view what is in the air. Even the vulture, when it steals a lamb, perceives it as it sees it from above, as though it were at the end of the light sphere, like something painted onto the earth. And quite apart from this, it is no mere act of seeing; it is a craving. What you would perceive if you actually saw the flight of the vulture towards the lamb is a veritable dynamic of intention, of volition, of craving.
A butterfly sees what is on the earth as though in a mirror; for the butterfly the earth is a mirror. It sees what is in the cosmos. When you see a butterfly fluttering about, you must picture to yourselves that it disregards the earth, that for it the earth is just a mirror for what is in the cosmos. A bird does not see what belongs to the earth, but it sees what is in the air. The bat only perceives what it flies through, or flies past. And because it does not like the light, it is unpleasantly affected by everything it sees. It can certainly be said that the butterfly and the bird see in a very spiritual way. The first creature — descending from above downwards — which must see in an earthly way, is disagreeably affected by this seeing. A bat dislikes seeing, and in consequence it has a kind of embodied fear of what it sees, but does not want to see. And so it would like to slip past everything. It is obliged to see, yet is unwilling to do so — and thus it everywhere tries just to skirt past. And it is because it desires just to slip past everything, that it is so wonderfully intent on listening. The bat is actually a creature which is continually listening to its own flight, lest this flight should be in any way endangered.
Only look at the bat's ears. You can see from them that they are attuned to world-fear. So they are — these bats' ears. They are quite remarkable structures, attuned to evading the world, to world-fear. All this, you see, is only to be understood when the bat is studied in the framework into which we have just placed it.
Here we must add something further. The butterfly continually imparts spiritualized matter to the cosmos. It is the darling of the Saturn influences. Now call to mind how I described Saturn as the great bearer of the memory of our planetary system. The butterfly is closely connected with what makes provision for memory in our planet. It is memory-thoughts which live in the butterfly. The bird — this, too, I have already described — is entirely a head, and as it flies through the warmth-imbued air in world-space it is actually the living, flying thought. What we have within us as thoughts — and this also is connected with the warmth-ether — is bird-nature, eagle-nature, in us. The bird is the flying thought. But the bat is the flying dream; the flying dream-picture of the cosmos. So we can say: The earth is surrounded by a web of butterflies — this is cosmic memory; and by the kingdom of the birds — this is cosmic thinking; and by the bats — they are the cosmic dream, cosmic dreaming. It is actually the flying dreams of the cosmos which sough through space as the bats. And as dreams love the twilight, so, too, does the cosmos love the twilight when it sends the bat through space. The enduring thoughts of memory, these we see embodied in the girdle of butterflies encircling the earth; thoughts of the moment we see in the bird-girdle of the earth; and dreams in the environment of the earth fly about embodied as bats. And you will surely feel, if we penetrate deeply into their form, how much affinity there is between this appearance of the bat and dreaming! One simply cannot look at a bat without the thought arising: I must be dreaming; that is really something which should not be there, something which is as much outside the other creations of nature as dreams are outside ordinary physical reality.
To sum up we can say: The butterfly sends spiritualized substance into spirit-land during its lifetime; the bird sends it out after its death. Now what does the bat do? During its lifetime the bat gives off spiritualized substance, especially that spiritualized substance which exists in the stretched membrane between its separate fingers. But it does not give this over to the cosmos; it sheds it into the atmosphere of the earth. Thereby beads of spirit, so to say, are continually arising in the atmosphere.
Thus we find the earth to be surrounded by the continual glimmer of out-streaming spirit-matter from the butterflies and sparkling into this what comes from the dying birds; but also, streaming back towards the earth, we find peculiar segregations of air where the bats give off what they spiritualize. Those are the spiritual formations which are always to be observed when one sees a bat in flight. In fact a bat always has a kind of tail behind it, like a comet. The bat gives off spirit-matter; but instead of sending it outwards, it thrusts it back into the physical substance of the earth. It thrusts it back into the air. And just as one sees with the physical eye physical bats fluttering about, one can also see these corresponding spirit-formations which emanate from the bats fluttering through the air; they sough through the spaces of the air. We know that air consists of oxygen, nitrogen and other constituents, but this is not all; it also consists of the spirit-emanations of bats.
Strange and paradoxical as it may sound, this dream-order of the bats sends little spectres out into the air, which then unite into a general mass. In geology the matter below the earth, which is a rock-mass of a soft consistency like porridge, is called magma. We might also speak of a spirit-magma in the air, which comes from the emanations of bats.
In ancient times when an instinctive clairvoyance prevailed, people were very susceptible to this spirit magma, just as today many people are very susceptible to what is of a material nature, for instance, bad smelling air. This might certainly be regarded as somewhat vulgar, whereas in the ancient instinctive time of clairvoyance people were susceptible to the bat-residue which is present in the air.
They protected themselves against this. And in many Mysteries there were special formulas whereby people could inwardly arm themselves, so that this bat-residue might have no power over them. For as human beings we do not only inhale oxygen and nitrogen with the air, we also inhale these emanations of the bats. Modern people, however, are not interested in letting themselves be protected against these bat-remains, but whereas in certain conditions they are highly sensitive, let us say, to bad smells, they are highly insensitive to the emanations of the bats. It can really be said that they swallow them down without feeling the least trace of repulsion. It is quite extraordinary that people who are otherwise really prudish just swallow down what contains the stuff of which I have spoken. Nevertheless this too enters into the human being. Certainly it does not enter into the physical or etheric body, but it enters into the astral body.
Yes, you see, we here find remarkable connections. Initiation science everywhere leads into the inner aspect of relationships; this bat-residue is the most craved-for nutriment of what I have described in lectures here as the Dragon. But this bat-residue must first be breathed into the human being. The Dragon finds his surest foothold in human nature when man allows his instincts to be imbued with these emanations of the bats. There they seethe. And the dragon feeds on them and grows — in a spiritual sense, of course — gaining power over people, gaining power in the most manifold ways. This is something against which modern man must again protect himself: and the protection should come from what has been described here as the new form of Michael's fight with the Dragon. The increase in inner strength which man gains when he takes up into himself the Michael impulse as it has been described here, this is his safeguard against the nutriment which the Dragon desires; this is his protection against the unjustified bat-emanations in the atmosphere.
If one has the will to penetrate into these inner world-connections, one must not shrink back from facing the truths contained in them. For today the generally accepted form of the search for truth does not in any way lead to actuality, but at most to something even less actual than a dream, to Maya. Reality must of necessity be sought in the domain where all physical existence is regarded as interwoven with spiritual existence. We can only find our way to reality, when this reality is studied and observed, as has been done here in the present lectures.
In everything good and in everything evil, in some way or other beings are present. Everything in world-connections is so ordered that its relation to other beings can be recognized. For the materialistically minded, butterflies flutter, birds fly, bats flit. But this can really be compared to what often happens with a not very artistic person, who adorns the walls of his room with all manner of pictures which do not belong to each other, which have no inner connection. Thus for the ordinary observer of nature, what flies through the world also has no inner connection; because he sees none. But everything in the cosmos has its own place, because just from this very place it has a relation to the cosmos in its totality. Be it butterfly, bird, or bat, everything has its own meaning within the world-order.
As to those who today wish to scoff, let them scoff. People already have other things to their credit in the sphere of ridicule. Celebrated scholars have declared that meteor-stones cannot exist, because iron cannot fall from heaven, and so on. Why then should people not also scoff at the functions of the bats, about which I have spoken today? Such things, however, should not divert us from the task of imbuing our civilization with a knowledge of spiritual truths.