Metamorphoses of the Soul I
IX. Something about the Moon in the Light of Spiritual Science
9 December 1909, Berlin
The lecture I am to give today puts me in a difficult position. I want to make some remarks which fall outside the way of thinking now called “scientific”. Since the views of most people are largely formed by the ideas generally current in scientific and popular-scientific circles, and since the subject-matter of this lecture will be far removed from any such ideas, the public at large may be inclined to regard my statements as mere fancies, derived from quite arbitrary cogitations, rather than for what they really are: the outcome of spiritual-scientific research.
I would ask you, therefore, to take this lecture as a sort of episode in our winter series, intended to point in a direction to which I am not likely to return this year, though it may occupy us further next year. The reason for touching on it now, is to show that what we are dealing with this winter as a science of the soul, branches out in many ways that lead from the immediate realm of human soul-life to the great connections we find in the wide universe, the whole cosmos.
Finally, I must ask you to remember that this lecture will deal only with one short chapter from a very large volume. It must be seen in strict relation to its title, “Something about the Moon in the Light of Spiritual Science”. It will not attempt to be in any way exhaustive.
In all sorts of popular books you will find this or that said about the moon from the standpoint of science today. But all you can learn from these sources or from the scientific literature will leave you quite unsatisfied as regards the real questions concerning this strange companion of the earth. As the 19th century advanced, the statements of science with regard to the moon became more and more cautious, but also less frequent; but today they will occupy us hardly at all. The picture of the moon's surface given by telescopes and astronomical photography, the descriptions of its surface-markings as crater-like formations, grooves, plains and valleys and suchlike, and the consequent impressions one can gain of the purely spatial countenance of the moon — all this will not concern us. The question for us today is a truly spiritual-scientific one — whether the moon has any special influence on or significance for human life on earth.
A significance of this kind has been spoken of from various points of view in the course of past centuries. And since everything that happens on earth, year in and year out, is related to the changing position of the earth relative to the sun, and is subject to the vast influence of the sun's light and heat, it was natural to wonder whether that other heavenly luminary, the moon, might not have some importance for life on earth, and especially for human life. In the comparatively recent past, people were inclined to speak of the moon as having a fairly powerful influence on earthly life. Quite apart from the fact that it has long been customary to attribute to the moon's attraction the so-called ebb and flow of the sea, the moon has always been regarded as affecting weather conditions on earth. Moreover, as late as the first half of the 19th century, serious scientists and doctors collated observations of how the moon in its various phases had a definite effect on certain illnesses, and even on the course of human life as a whole. It was then by no means a mere popular superstition to consider the influence of the moon in relation to the ups and downs of fever, of asthma, of goitre and the like; there were still doctors who recorded such cases because they felt compelled to believe that the phases of the moon had some influence on the course of human life and on health and disease in particular.
With the rise of that scientific way of thinking which had its dawn and sunrise in the middle of the 19th century, the inclination to allow the moon any influence on human life diminished continuously. Only the belief that the moon causes the tides of the sea survived. And there was one very important scientist, Schleiden, 65Matthias Jakob Schleiden, 1804–1881, Professor of Botany at the University of Jena. who poured out the vials of his wrath on those who still believed in the influence of the moon, even if it were only on the weather or on some other terrestrial phenomena. Schleiden, who had done outstanding work in his own sphere by his discovery of the significance of the plant-cell, launched a vehement attack on another German natural scientist, Gustav Theodor Fechner, 66Gustav Theodor Fechner, 1801–1887, Professor of Physics at the University of Leipzig. See The Riddles of Philosophy, 1973 edition, pp. 279, 375ff., 376, 380, 383. Published by Anthroposophic Press, New York. notable especially for directing attention to certain subtle or frontier aspects of research. Thus in his Zend Avesta Fechner tried to show that the life of plants is endowed with soul, while in his Introduction to Aesthetics and his Elements of Psychophysics he achieved a great deal for the more intimate aspects of natural science. It may be better not to discuss this celebrated controversy about the moon without saying a little more about Fechner himself.
Fechner was an investigator who tried, with immense assiduity and great care and precision, to bring together the external facts in various fields of research; but he also used a method of analogies in order to show, for example, that all the phenomena of plant-life, and not only of human life, are ensouled. Starting with the phenomena of human life as it runs its course, he took similar facts and phenomena as they appear to observation in, let us say, the life of the earth, or of a whole solar system, or of the plant-world. When he compared these phenomena with those of human life, he found one analogy after another. Hence he concluded — to put it roughly — that in studying human life, with its ensoulment, we observe the occurrence of certain phenomena; and if in observing other phenomena we can establish certain similarities with human life, why should we not recognise the other phenomena as being also “ensouled”?
Anyone who stands on the ground of Spiritual Science, and is used to examining everything related to the spiritual in as strictly scientific a sense as the natural scientist applies to his studies of external phenomena, will feel that a good deal of what Fechner works out so cleverly is merely an ingenious game; and however stimulating a game of this kind may be, the greatest care must be taken in dealing with mere analogies. When a stimulating thinker such as Fechner employs this method, his work may be very interesting. But there are people of whom it can justly be said that they would like to solve the riddles of the world with as little knowledge and as much comfort as possible. And if they lean on Fechner and make his methods their own, we must remember that an imitator or a copyist does not by any means call forth in us the same feelings of satisfaction as does the man who was first in his own field — a man who we recognise as gifted and stimulating, even though we cannot credit him with anything more.
We have no need to characterise Schleiden any further than by saying that he discovered the significance of the plant-cell. Clearly such a man, who directed all his perceptive and cognitive faculties towards the immediately real — that is, towards what can be perceived with external instruments — will have little sympathy for analogies or with anything else that Fechner spoke of in his endeavours to show that plants are ensouled; for in Schleiden's view they are made up of single cells, and this fact naturally seemed to him, as its discoverer, a wonderful thing. So for Schleiden it was something of an outrage that speculations, with this brilliant model available as a starting-point, should prefer to deal with some even subtler relationships in nature. It was particularly Fechner's method of analogies that aroused Schleiden's wrath, and in this connection he touched on the question of the moon. With reference not only to Fechner but to all those who clung to the centuries-old tradition of attributing to the moon all sorts of influences on the weather, etc., he said that for these people the moon was like a cat in the house, held responsible for everything that cannot be otherwise explained.
Fechner naturally felt challenged as he was the main target of these attacks. He at once embarked on a work which — whether or not we agree with it — is highly stimulating. Although many details in it have since been corrected, Fechner's pamphlet, “Schleiden and the Moon”, published in 1856, is remarkably interesting. He had no need to go into the influence of the moon on the ebb and flow of the tides, for this was admitted even by Schleiden. It was the supposed connection of the moon with weather conditions that made the moon, for him, the cat of scientific research. Fechner therefore set out to investigate the very facts that his opponent brought against him, and from this material he drew some notable conclusions. Anyone who cares to check his procedure will find that in this investigation Fechner was an exceptionally cautious worker with a thoroughly scientific approach. His first conclusion from a mass of facts — which I need not repeat, for anyone can read them for himself — was that the quantity and frequency of rainfall were in many cases shown to be greater with a waxing than with a waning moon: greater when the moon approached the earth, smaller when it receded; and the proportion of rainfall during a waxing moon to that during the wane was 107:100. The recorded observations he used did not cover a few years only; some of them extended over many decades and concerned not a single locality but many parts of Europe.
In order to exclude chance effects, Fechner now assumed that some other condition, excluding the moon, might have produced this proportion of 107:100. He then studied weather conditions on the odd and even dates of the moon's phases, for he said that if the waning and waxing were not the cause, the odd and even days of the month would produce similar results. But that was not the case. Quite different figures emerged: the relationship was not constant but variable, so that here it could be attributed to chance.
Fechner himself realised that he had not achieved any world-shattering result; he had to recognise that the moon had no very great influence on the weather, but the facts did point to some influence. And he had, as you will have seen, proceeded quite scientifically, taking account only of observations carefully recorded for definite places. He made similar researches in relation to fevers and other bodily phenomena, and here too he obtained small positive results. It could hardly be denied that phenomena of this kind may take a different course under the waxing and under the waning moon. Thus the old view of the moon fought its last fight in the middle of the 19th century through the work of this highly gifted man, Fechner.
This example shows very well how wrong it is to accept the increasingly common assertion that science compels us to talk no more about the spiritual background of things, for science — we are assured — is on the verge of learning how to combine simple materials in such a way as to produce living substance. It is agreed that we have far to go before we can make protein from its constituents — carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and so on — but the whole tendency of science is to make us admit that one day it will be done. When it has been done, the only tenable outlook — so we are told by those who make these assertions — will be a monistic one which holds that a living, thinking being is made up of nothing but an assembly of material elements.
Anyone who talks in this vein will have drawn on the latest aims and achievements of science to convince himself that we are not justified in postulating something spiritual behind what we perceive with our senses or are told by external science; for happily — he will feel — we are long past the days when it could be claimed that some kind of vague life-wisdom lies behind the sense-perceptible world.
At this point we may well ask. Is it really science that compels us to reject spiritual research? Is that a scientific conclusion? I want to remain entirely on the ground of those who believe that in the not too distant future it will be possible to produce living protein out of simple substances. Is there anything in that which compels us to say that life is materially constituted and that we must not look anywhere for the spirit?
An ordinary historical observation will show how unnecessary this conclusion is. There was a time when it was believed not only that carbon, hydrogen, etc., could be used to produce living protein, but that a whole man could be built up from the necessary ingredients in a retort. The worth of this belief need not concern us — you can read a poetical treatment of it in the second part of Faust. The point is that there were times when people really believed — however crazy it may seem to us — that Homunculus could be put together out of separate components. Yet in those times no-one doubted that behind the sense-perceptible was the spirit. Hence you can prove historically that no “science” can compel us to reject the spirit, for this depends on something quite different — on whether or not a capacity to discern the spirit is there. Neither the science of today nor the science of tomorrow can ever compel us to reject the spirit. We can take a perfectly scientific standpoint, but whether or not we reject the spirit does not depend on science. It depends on whether or not we are able to discern the spirit, and science cannot determine that.
So, without agreeing from the spiritual-scientific point of view either with Schleiden or with Fechner, we can understand that Schleiden, with his eyes fixed on the sense-world, rejected everything that might be sought as soul or spirit behind the phenomena. But it was not on scientific grounds that he took this attitude; he was simply so inured to looking at visible things that he had no sympathy for anything else. Fechner was a quite different sort of man; his outlook embraced the spiritual, and though he made one error after another he was a man of different quality, one who sought the spirit. Hence his tendency was not to reject but to clarify the significance of the subtler influences of the heavenly bodies on one another. He said to himself: When I look at the moon, it is not for me merely the slag-heap it looks like through a telescope; it is ensouled, as are all other bodies. Hence the moon-soul must have effects on the earth-soul, and these come to expression below the surface of ordinary life or in weather phenomena.
Now it is noteworthy, and has often been pointed out here, that the method of spiritual-scientific research is directed towards the practical, and that the best proofs of what it has to say can be found in everyday life. And that is just how Fechner set about defending his views. He suggested that the dispute between Schleiden and himself over the moon could perhaps be best settled by their wives. He said: “We both need rainwater for washing, and it could be collected in relation to weather conditions. Since Schleiden and I live under the same roof and can collect water at definite times, I suggest that my wife collects it during the waxing moon and Schleiden's wife during the wane. I am sure she will agree in order not to put her husband's theory to shame, the more so as she sets no great store by it. The result will be that my wife will have an extra can for every fourteen cans collected by Frau Schleiden, but for the sake of overcoming a preconceived opinion she will surely make this sacrifice.” 67G. Th. Fechner, Professor Schleiden und der Mond, Leipzig, 1856, p.1 56.
Here, then, we have drawn on the history of thought to show how the moon and its influence on the earth were regarded not very long ago. Nowadays one might say that people are more advanced in their scientific outlook — as they would call it — and so have gone a step beyond Schleiden in the sense that they would treat as a superstitious dreamer anyone who clung to the belief that the moon could have anything to do with weather conditions and the like. Even among quite sensible people today you will find no other opinion than that the moon has influence only on the tides; all other opinions having been superseded.
If we take the standpoint of Spiritual Science, we are of course not obliged to swear to everything that was once part of popular belief. That would be to confuse Spiritual Science with superstition. Quite often today we encounter a piece of superstition — which is really a misunderstood popular belief and are told it is part of Spiritual Science. A superstition about the moon can indeed be seen at every street-corner, for it is well known that an emblem of the moon is attached to our barbers' shops — why? Because it was once generally believed that the sharpness of a razor was connected with a waxing moon. In fact there were times when no-one would have cared to shear a sheep during the wane, for he would have believed that the wool would then not grow again. This is a superstition very easy to disprove, for anyone who shaves knows that the beard grows again during the wane. In this realm it is just as easy to mock as it is hard, on the other side, to see clearly. For we are coming now to a particular question where at last we touch on Spiritual Science. It concerns the ebb and flow of the tides, universally regarded as coming under the influence of the moon.
The flood-tide is thought to be obviously connected with the attractive force of the moon, and is looked for when the moon reaches its meridian. When the moon leaves the meridian, the flood is expected to change to ebb. But we need only remark that in many places ebb and flow occur twice, while the moon stands at the meridian only once during the same period. And there are other facts. You can learn from travel-books that in many parts of the earth the flood by no means coincides with the moon's meridian; in some places it occurs up to two and a half hours later. Certainly, science has thought up excuses to account for this: we are told that the flood is retarded. But there are also certain springs which show an indubitable ebb and flow; in some cases the well ebbs when the ocean tide is at flood, and vice versa. We are told that these cases, too, are examples of retarded ebb or flow in some cases so retarded as to run into the other phase. Of course this kind of explanation can explain almost anything.
One question has been rightly asked: whence does the moon get this power to attract the sea? The moon is much smaller than the earth and has only about a seventieth of the earth's attractive power, while to set the great masses of the sea into motion would require millions of horse-power. Julius Robert Mayer 68Julius Robert Mayer, 1814–1878, doctor and physicist, discovered the law of conservation of energy in 1842. made some interesting calculations on this question and it leads on to numerous other problems. Hence we can say: Here is something which is regarded as scientifically irrefutable, and yet, although no objections to it are heard, it is in fact highly vulnerable.
One very significant fact, however, remains. Although the position and influence of the moon are such that it is hard to speak of an immediate relation of cause and effect, it holds true that a definite flood occurs every day — in relation to the moon's meridian — about fifty minutes later than on the previous day. The regular sequence of ebb and flow does therefore correspond to the course of the moon, and that is the most significant fact of all. Thus we cannot speak of the moon at its meridian as having an actual influence on flow and ebb, but we can say that the course of the moon's orbit does stand in a certain correspondence with the course of the tides.
Now, to go a little way into the spiritual-scientific way of thinking, I would like to refer to a similar fact which gave Goethe a great deal of trouble. Most people know very little about the preoccupations of this great genius of modern times, but anyone who, like myself, has spent many years in the study of Goethe's scientific writings and has seen his manuscripts in the Goethe-Schiller Archives at Weimar, makes some surprising discoveries. He will, for example, come upon the preliminary notes which Goethe later condensed into a few pages as his meteorology. 69Goethes Naturwissenschaftliche Schriften, as note 27, vol. 11, book 3, Meteorology, pp.323–398. He pursued these inquiries with enormous diligence and assiduity. Again and again he got his friends to collect facts and figures for him to tabulate. The purpose of these extensive studies was to show that the level of barometric pressure at various places is not due to chance but varies in some quite regular way. And Goethe did in fact assemble a great deal of evidence which indicated that in all sorts of places the rise and fall of the barometer were subject to a law which extended all round the globe. He hoped to disprove the assumption that air pressure depends entirely on external influences. He knew, of course, that densification and rarefaction of the air, resulting in pressure changes, were generally attributed to the moon, sun and other cosmic factors. He wanted to prove that whatever the positions of the constellations, whatever the effects of sun and moon on the atmosphere, a constant regularity in the rise and fall of air pressure prevails all round the globe. Hence he wished to show that in the earth itself lay the causes of the rise and fall of the barometer, for he believed that the earth is not the dead body it is usually taken to be, but is permeated by invisible elements from which all life flows, just as man has, in addition to his physical body, invisible elements which permeate him. And just as man has his in-breathing and out-breathing, where he draws in or releases air, so does the earth, as a living being, breathe in and out. And this in-breathing and out-breathing of the earth, as manifestations of its inner life, are registered externally in the rise and fall of the mercury in the barometer. Thus we have in Goethe a man who was convinced that the earth is a being imbued with soul and which behaves in ways that are comparable to the breathing process in human beings. Moreover, Goethe once said to Eckermann that he regarded the ebb and flow of the tides as a further expression of the inner vitality, the life-process, of the earth. 70Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe in the Last Years of his Life, conversation of 11th April 1827.
Goethe was by no means the only great thinker who looked with a spiritual eye on such things from this point of view. Materialistically minded people will of course find all this laughable; but among men who have a feeling for life, be it on such a particular level or more in general, there will always be those with ideas similar to Goethe's — for example, Leonardo da Vinci. In his outstanding book, where he sets out his comprehensive scientific views, the height of achievement for those times, we find him saying — and not meaning it merely as an analogy — that he really regarded the solid rocks as the skeleton of the earth, and that the rivers, streams and watercourses can truly be compared to the blood circulation in man. 71Leonardo da Vinci, der Denker, Forscher und Poet, from the published manuscripts; selection, translation and introduction by Marie Herzfeld (Jena, 1906), p.61 and following chapters. There you will find it stated also that ebb and flow are connected with a regular rhythm in the inner life of the earth. Kepler, too, spoke in a similar vein when he said that the earth could be regarded in certain respects as a gigantic whale and that ebb and flow were the in-breathing and out-breathing of this huge creature. 72Johannes Kepler, 1571–1630. Cf. for example in Harmonices Mundi book IV, chapter 7.
Let us now compare the facts mentioned earlier with such views as Goethe's on ebb and flow. Let us use the findings of Spiritual Science and our previous conclusions about the phases of the moon and the tides in relation, for example, to Goethe's views on the earth's inner life and breathing. For this we must build on the conclusions of Spiritual Science, which can be established only if researches are pursued by spiritual-scientific methods. Here we enter the highly dangerous realm where those who believe they have a firm foothold in modern science, will talk about the fantasies of Spiritual Science. Well, let them talk. It would be better if they were to take what is given as a stimulus; then they would be able to find proofs through a more intimate consideration of life.
In order to approach in the right way what the spiritual scientist has to say, let us consider man himself in relation to the world around him. As far as Spiritual Science is concerned, man has his origins not in the sense-world, but also in the spiritual foundations which lie behind the external physical world. Thus it is only as a being of the senses that man is born, from out of the sense-world. In so far as he is permeated with soul and spirit, he is born from out of the soul and spirit of the cosmos. And it is only when we find the way from man's soul and spirit to the soul and spirit of the cosmos that we are enabled to see something of the connection between the two.
In previous lectures we have discussed various phenomena of the inner soul-life of man. We found the soul to be not merely the nebulous something that it is for modern psychology. Among its members we distinguished, first, what we called the Sentient Soul. In this soul the ego, though dimly and scarcely aware of itself, experiences the impulses of pleasure and pain and everything that comes to it from the outer world through the sentient body. The ego is present within the life of the Sentient Soul, but as yet knows nothing of itself. Then the ego develops further and the soul advances to the stage of the Intellectual Soul or Mind Soul. And when the ego has carried still further its work on the soul, the Intellectual Soul gives rise to the Consciousness Soul. Thus in the structure of the human soul we distinguish three members: Sentient Soul, Intellectual Soul and Consciousness Soul.
The ego continues to work on these three members and brings man nearer and nearer to the peak of his developments. But these three members, since they carry out their work through man, have to live in his corporeal structure; in that way only can they accomplish their tasks. The Sentient Soul uses as its instrument the sentient body; the Intellectual Soul uses the etheric body. The Consciousness Soul is the first to use the physical body as bearer and instrument. Thus in man's corporeal structure we have first the physical body, which he has in common with the minerals. Next we have in man a higher part which he has in common with the plant world and everything that lives. The functions of growth, nutrition and reproduction in the plant are active also in man, but in man they are connected with the Intellectual Soul. The plant's etheric body is not permeated by the Intellectual Soul, as is the etheric body in man, just as the physical body is permeated by the Consciousness Soul. That which forms crystals in the mineral realm is permeated in man by the Consciousness Soul. In animals the astral body is the bearer of impulses and emotions; in man the astral body is inwardly deepened and is the bearer of the Sentient Soul. Thus the human soul, made up of Sentient Soul, Intellectual Soul and Consciousness Soul, dwells in his threefold corporeality, in the sentient body, etheric body and physical body respectively.
That is man's condition while he is awake. During sleep it is different. Then, leaving his physical and etheric bodies behind in bed, he goes out from them with his ego and astral body, together with those parts of his soul which permeate his etheric and physical bodies as Intellectual Soul and Consciousness Soul. Thus during sleep he lives in a spiritual world which he cannot perceive, simply because here on earth he is obliged to use his physical and etheric bodies as instruments for perceiving the surrounding world. When in sleep he lays these instruments aside, he is unable to perceive the spiritual world, since in ordinary life today he lacks the organs for it.
Now there is something else to say about these states of waking and sleeping. Our waking life is directly connected with the course of the sun — though indeed this is no longer quite true of people today, especially in towns. But if we look at simple country life, where this relation between outer nature and human living still largely prevails, we find that for most of the time people are awake while the sun is up and asleep while the sun is down. This regular alternation of waking and sleeping corresponds to the regular action of sunlight on the earth and all that springs from it. And it is not merely a picturesque way of speaking but deeply true to say that in the morning the sun recalls into the physical body the astral body and ego, together with the Sentient Soul, the Intellectual Soul and the Consciousness Soul; and while he is awake man sees everything around him by means of the sun and its radiance. And when man has once more united all the members of his being in daylight consciousness, it is the sun which summons him to ordinary life. We shall now easily recognise, if we are not taking a superficial view of these things, how the sun regulates the relationship of man to itself and to the earth. Let us now look more closely at three aspects of this relationship.
With regard to his threefold soul-nature, comprising Sentient Soul, Intellectual Soul and Consciousness Soul, man is inwardly independent; but he is not with regard to their bearers, the astral, etheric and physical bodies. These three sheaths are built up from the outer universe, and in order that they may serve man in his waking life, they are built up through the relationship between sun and earth.
As we have seen, the Sentient Soul lives in its instrument, the sentient body. The sentient body owes its characteristics to the region which a man calls his home. Everyone has a home somewhere, and it matters whether he is born in Europe or America or Australia. For the physical and etheric bodies it makes no direct difference, but it does matter directly for the sentient body. Although man is gradually becoming more free from these effects on his sentient body, we still have to say: human beings whose roots are in their native soil, human beings in whom a feeling for their homeland is particularly strong, who have not yet overcome by strength of soul the power of the physical and are drawn to their place of birth — if such human beings have to move to another region, they are not only apt to become bad-tempered and morose, but may actually fall ill. Sometimes, then, the mere prospect of returning home is enough to restore them to health, for the source of their illness is not in the physical body or in the etheric body but in their sentient body, whose moods, emotions and desires spring directly from the environment of their native land.
Through higher development, which enhances his freedom, man will overcome the influences which bind him to his native soil; but a comprehensive view shows that a man's situation on earth varies in accordance with the relation of the place where he lives to the sun; for the angle at which the sun's rays strike the earth varies from place to place. We can indeed trace in certain instinctive activities, which then become culturally assimilated, that they derive partially from the homeland of the people concerned.
Let us take two examples: the use of iron and the milking of animals for food. We shall find that it is only in certain areas of Europe, Asia and Africa that these two practices developed. In other areas they were unknown in early times. And where they came into use later on, they were introduced by emigrants from Europe. We can trace exactly how throughout Siberia the milking of animals dates from remote antiquity, and extends only as far as the Behring Sea; there is no record of it among the original inhabitants of America. It is similar with iron.
Thus we can see how certain instincts which exist in the sentient body are connected with a particular region where people live, and how they are therefore dependent in the first place on the relation of sun to earth.
A second dependence concerns the etheric body. As the bearer of the Intellectual Soul, the etheric body shows itself to be dependent in its activity on the seasons of the year; hence on the relation of sun to earth expressed in the course of the seasons. A direct proof of this can of course come only through Spiritual Science, but you can convince yourselves by external facts that this statement is correct. For example, it is only in regions where a balanced alternation of seasons occurs that the inner activity of the soul as Intellectual Soul can develop; this means that only in such regions can a necessary bearer or instrument of the Intellectual Soul evolve in the etheric body of man. In the far north we find that when elements of culture are brought in from elsewhere, the soul has great difficulty in struggling with the etheric body, which is having to live under conditions characterised by excessively long winters and short summers. The Intellectual Soul will then find it impossible to forge out of the etheric body an instrument it can easily handle.
If we go to the tropics, we find that the lack of regular seasons produces a kind of apathy. Just as the forces of plant life vary in the course of the year, so do the forces in man's etheric body: they find expression in the joy of spring, the longing for summer, the melancholy of autumn, the desolation of winter. These regular changes are necessary if a proper instrument for the Intellectual Soul is to be created in the human etheric body. Thus we see again how the sun affects human beings through its changing relation to the earth.
Now let us take the physical body. If the Consciousness Soul is to work right into the physical body, we must follow in ordinary life a rhythm similar to the alternation of day and night. Anyone who never slept would soon notice that he was unable to control effectively his thoughts about the world around him. A regular alternation of waking and sleeping builds up our physical body in a way that can provide an instrument for the Consciousness Soul. Thus we have now seen how man's three bodies, astral, etheric and physical, are built up by the sun.
But what external influences play into the human being while he is asleep, while he is living in the spiritual world and has left his physical and etheric bodies behind?
While we are asleep we get something from the spiritual world to replace the forces that have been used up by our activities during the preceding day. Is it possible in this case also to point to an external influence as we did with regard to the daytime waking hours? Yes, it is, and what we find is in remarkable accord with the length of the phases of the moon. I am not maintaining that this external influence coincides exactly with the moon's phases, or that the phases themselves produce corresponding effects, but only that the course of these effects is comparable with the course of the phases of the moon. I will give two examples to show what I mean.
You will be well aware that people who are given to creative thoughts and the free play of imagination are not equally productive at all times. Poets, for example, if they are honest with themselves, have to admit now and then that they are out of tune, unable to write anything. People who observe this in themselves know that the productive periods, for which a certain imaginative frame of mind and a warmth of feeling are necessary, alternate in a remarkable way with periods when nothing can be accomplished. They know, too, that the soul has a fourteen day period of productivity, after which anyone who has to do with creative thinking goes through an empty period, when the soul is like a squeezed out lemon. During this empty period, however, he can apply himself to working over what he has done. If artists and authors would take note of this, they would soon see how true it is.
This alternation of periods is influenced not by daytime conditions, but by the times when the soul and the ego are outside the physical and etheric bodies. And so, for a fourteen-day period, productive forces are, as it were, poured into the human being while he is independent of his physical and etheric bodies, and then, during the next fourteen days, no such forces are poured in. That is the rhythm. It applies to all human beings, but is more clearly evident in the sort of people we have just mentioned.
Much clearer still is the evidence from genuine spiritual research. This is not the kind of research that can be undertaken whenever one chooses, but it is dependent on a rhythmical pattern. This point has hardly ever been mentioned anywhere, but it is so. During spiritual research one is not sleeping — the world-spirit does not bestow its gifts in sleep! The physical body is inactive with regard to the outer world, yet one is not asleep, although the physical and etheric bodies have been left behind; Meditation, concentration and so on have strengthened the researcher's faculties to such a degree that consciousness is not blotted out when it goes forth from the physical body. Sleep does not supervene and the spiritual world can be perceived. For the modern spiritual researcher there are two periods: one of fourteen days when he can make observations: he feels particularly strong and communications from the spiritual world press in on him from all sides. Then comes a period during which he is particularly well able, thanks to the forces just received, to penetrate with his thinking the illuminations, the imaginations and inspirations that have come to him from the spiritual world, to work over them so that they may acquire a strictly scientific form. Inspiration and the technique of thinking follow a rhythmical course. The spiritual researcher does not need to bring about a co-ordination with external facts; he simply sees how these periods occur in alternation, as do full moon and new moon, with their intervening quarters. But it is only their rhythmical course that has a parallel in the alternation of full and new moon. The period of inspiration does not coincide with full moon or the working over period with new moon. All we can say is that a comparison is possible between the two periods and full and new moon. Why should this be so?
When we study our earth, we find that it has evolved out of an earlier state. Just as each one of us has come in soul and spirit from a former incarnation, so has the earth emerged from a former planetary incarnation. But our earth retains relics of events which occurred under earlier conditions during its previous incarnation. And these relics are to be found in the course of the moon round the earth, as we see it today. From a spiritual-scientific point of view the moon is reckoned as part of the earth. For what is it that keeps the moon circling round the earth? It is the earth itself, and here spiritual science and external science are in complete agreement. External science, too, regards the moon as having been split off from the earth, and having gained the force which keeps it in orbit through having once formed part of the earth. Thus the orbiting moon represents simply an earlier condition of the earth. The earth itself has retained in its satellite these earlier conditions because it needs to have them shining into the present. Can we find any reason for this need?
Let us take man himself and observe how he lives as a soul in his body and how he is exposed to the course of the sun. We then must say: For normal consciousness today, everything associated with the sun is restricted to the life between birth and death. This is something you can test — ask yourselves whether what normal consciousness experiences during waking hours, in its threefold dependence on native place, the changing seasons and the alternation of day and night, is not restricted to the life between birth and death. Man would have nothing else in his consciousness, nothing more would illuminate it, if there were only this action of the sun on the earth and only this relation between earth and sun. That which plays over from one incarnation to the next and appears again in a new life, must be sought in the soul-spiritual element which permeates man's outer body and during sleep passes as astral body and ego out of the physical and etheric bodies. At death also it leaves the body, and reappears in a new form at the next incarnation. Here there is a rhythm which directs our attention to a similar rhythm associated with the moon.
If now we consider human evolution, we see that the work of the ego on the Sentient Soul, Intellectual Soul and Consciousness Soul has developed only on earth under the conditions that prevail between earth and sun. But the earth's relation to the moon reflects a former condition in its own evolution. Man's present phase of evolution, through Sentient Soul, Intellectual Soul and Consciousness Soul, points to a period during which the bearers of the above soul-members, the astral, etheric and physical bodies, were being prepared. Then, just as the action of the sun is now still necessary for the proper development of these three bearers, the moon forces were at work in preparing them. Today the moon forces were once in harmony with man and prepared him to be what he is today; likewise the earth during its moon condition prepared our present earth. Thus we can say that the lower nature of man, on which are built the Sentient Soul, Intellectual Soul and Consciousness Soul, points back to earlier conditions which the earth has preserved in the orbit of the moon as we see it today.
We can see, too, how man's inner being, as he passes from one incarnation to the next, must have a rhythm corresponding to the moon's. During earlier stages of the earth's evolution, it was not the transitory physical that was associated with the moon, but the inner activity which was working on this physical, just as the external physical is today being worked on by the sun. The earth has preserved in the moon something of its earlier conditions, and so has man in his inner, eternal being. In this inner being he is now evolving those higher qualities which were formerly an external influence and which are now to be developed by his own inner capacities.
An essential point we must emphasise is that man grows out of these external influences. He becomes more independent all the time — e.g. he can sleep by day and stay awake at night. But he still has to order his waking and sleeping in accordance with the rhythm of the sun; he has to maintain the rhythm within himself. In earlier times, inner day and night corresponded closely to the sun's day and night; man was then more closely bound to his native soil. He becomes free and independent precisely by inwardly liberating the rhythm under which he lives; by retaining it as a rhythm, but no longer dependent on the outer world. It is as if we had a clock marked for 24 hours but set in such a way that it does not correspond with external time; e.g., when the clock says it is 12 o'clock, it is not 12 o'clock by the sun. Thus although the clock follows a 24-hour rhythm, the time it shows is its own, not that of the sun.
Thus man frees himself inwardly by making the external rhythm into an inner one. He has long since freed himself from the rhythm which connected his inner being with the moon. Hence we have emphasised that man lives through the phases of the moon inwardly, but these experiences are not caused by the moon in the sky. The course of the moon shows a similar rhythm because man has retained the rhythm inwardly, though outwardly he has made himself free and independent of it.
We are led in this way to regard the earth as a living being, but since it shows us only its physical body, with no evident signs of life or feeling or knowledge, its condition is nearer to that of the moon. Now we can understand why it is wrong, even taking only the external facts, to speak of a direct influence of the moon on the tides, and why we can say only that the ebb and flow of the tides corresponds to the phases of the moon. The tides, as well as the course of the moon are caused by deeper spiritual forces in the living earth.
Thus we see how Spiritual Science helps us to clarify external facts in a wonderful way. The tides correspond to an inner process in the living earth, which produces them and also the orbit of the moon. 73The correspondence between the moon's orbit and the tides can be led back to a joint cause, but the former does not cause the latter, just as the hand moving round the clock corresponds to the path of the sun, although no-one would suggest that the sun caused the clock-hand to move round. If you take the findings of Spiritual Science and then go through all the books where the phases of moon and earth and tides are recorded, you will understand the true relations between moon and earth and moon and man.
You can easily see that if a man loses his independence and sinks from a fully conscious into a less conscious or unconscious condition, he will regress to earlier stages of evolution. Man advanced from unconsciousness to his present state of consciousness, from his earlier dependence on the moon and its influence to his present independence from the moon and his dependence on the sun.
Because man was once directly dependent on the moon, it follows that if his consciousness is damped down, its functioning will be ordered by the course of the moon. This is an atavistic effect which brings out man's old connection with the moon's phases. A characteristic of mediums is that their consciousness is so far lowered that they revert to an earlier stage of evolution, and the old influence of the moon makes itself felt in them. It is similar in certain cases of illness where the consciousness is lowered. If you bear in mind the principles of Spiritual Science, you will be well able to understand these phenomena. The evidence for what Spiritual Science has to say can be found in all aspects of life.
One thing more. When someone is to be born again on earth after his sojourn in the spiritual world between death and a new birth, then, during the embryonic period, he passes through conditions which recall an earlier state of the earth. The embryonic period is still reckoned by science as covering ten lunar months; thus we have here a rhythm which runs its course through ten successive moon periods. We find also that each week in the ten-month period — that is, each phase of the moon — corresponds to a particular condition in the development of the embryo. Here, too, man has retained in himself the moon rhythm, as we may call it.
We could indeed mention a whole series of other phenomena connected with man's embryonic existence, before he emerges from the depths of nature into the light of day; they are of course not caused by the moon and do not coincide with the moon's phases but reflect the same rhythm, because they go back to primary causes which were present while the earth was passing through earlier conditions of existence.
Now I have thrown light on a subject which cannot be further illuminated in public. Thoughtful people will see that here a perspective is opened up into realms of life where Spiritual Science can indeed point the way to a great clarification of much in man that is hidden from external sunlight, that lies behind it. They are realms which have to be explored by a light different from the light of knowledge we have acquired through the light of the sun; namely by faculties which are not dependent on the service rendered by the sentient, etheric and physical bodies under the influence of the sun. A clairvoyant faculty makes itself independent of these three bodies; it can sink itself in inwardness and see into the spiritual world, and thus can open up a capacity for knowledge of what lies behind external sunlight and yet is full of light and clarity. But I must again emphasise that on the question of the moon an even more intimate light is needed if we are to get to the heart of it.
In conclusion, I am reminded of some verses by the German lyrical poet Wilhelm Muller: we are here concerned only with the last stanza. The moon is addressed and all sorts of intimate words pass between man and moon; and then, because the soul has spoken to the moon in a wonderful way:
This little song, an evening round,
A wanderer sings in full moonshine;
Those who read it by candlelight
Will always fail to get it right,
Childishly simple though it is. 74Wilhelm Müller, 1794–1827, known for the cycles of poems “Die Winterreise” and “Die schöne Müllerin” which were set to music by Franz Schubert. This poem is the last verse from “Mondlied”, from Liederder Griechen, 2nd edition, Leipzig, 1844.
That is rather how we should take what Spiritual Science has to say, as shown in our treatment of the moon and its significance for human life. The song of Spiritual Science about the moon can indeed be sung only if we have some understanding of the more intimate ideas of Spiritual Science. People who try to read the song by candlelight, by which I mean the telescope, and employ photographs of the moon, for so-called research — these people will hardly understand our song. But those who are ready to go even a little way into what life can tell us in all its aspects will say to themselves: It is really not so difficult! Anyone who seeks to understand the song that Spiritual Science sings about the moon — not by the candlelight of the telescope, but by the living light of the spirit, which shines even when all sense-impressions are absent — he will find that this song about the moon, and therefore about an important aspect of life, is truly quite easy, even if not childishly easy!