An Occult Physiology
5. The Systems of Supersensible Forces
24 March 1911, Prague
It will be my task to-day, before we continue our studies, to present certain concepts which we shall need to use in the further development of our discussions. In this connection it will be especially important for us to come to an understanding as regards the meaning of that which we call in a spiritual-scientific, anthroposophical sense, a “physical organ,” or rather the “physical expression of an organ.” For you have already seen that we have a right to say with regard to the spleen, for example, that, as something material, the physical spleen may even be removed or become useless without thereby causing the activity of what we call “the spleen” in the anthroposophical sense to be eliminated. We must say, then, that when we have actually removed a physical organ such as this, there still remains in the organism the inner vital activity which should be carried on by the organ. From this we already see, and I beg you most earnestly to adopt this concept for all that follows, that we can think away, as it were, everything physically visible and perceptible in an organ such as this (it is not possible in the case of every organ) and yet there still remains the functioning, the activity of the organ, with the result that we must consider what then remains as belonging to what is super-sensible in the human organism. But, on the other hand, when we speak on the basis of our spiritual science about such organs as the spleen, the liver, the gall-bladder, the kidneys, the lungs, and the like, we are by no means referring when using these names, to what we can see physically, but rather to force-systems that are in reality of a super-sensible nature. For this reason, precisely in the case of such an organ as the spleen we must think, to begin with, when we speak about it from the spiritual-scientific standpoint, of a force-system not physically visible to external sight.
Let us then, in the first sketch that I shall draw here, think of a force-system not physically visible. This would represent a force-system visible only to super-sensible vision; and a system such as that in the region of the spleen, for example, would be visible only as a super-sensible force-system. Now if we bear in mind that, in the actual human organism which we have directly before us, this super-sensible force-system is filled out with physical matter, we must ask ourselves how we shall have to think of the relationship between it and that which is sense-perceptible matter.
I am sure it will not be difficult for you to believe that forces not visible to the senses can traverse space. One need only recall, for example, the following: Anyone who had never heard anything about the reality of air in a bottle would be rather surprised if we were to place an empty bottle on a table and tightly insert a funnel in it, when, on pouring water quickly into the funnel the water in the funnel is held there and cannot flow down into the bottle because the latter contains air. He would then become aware of the fact that there is, indeed, in the bottle something invisible to him which holds back the water. If we imagine this concept carried somewhat further, it will not be difficult to think that space around us may likewise be completely filled with force-systems which are obviously of a super-sensible nature, moreover, of such a super-sensible nature that not only can we not cut through them with a knife, but that they cannot be affected when any physical matter such as the kidneys, embedded within these force-systems, becomes diseased. We must realise, therefore, that the relation between a super-sensible force-system of this sort and what we see as a physical-sensible organ is such that physical matter, belonging to the physical world fits itself in and, attracted by the force-centres, deposits itself within the lines of force. Through the depositing of the physical matter in the super-sensible force-system does the organ become a physical thing. We may say, therefore, that the reason why, for instance, a physical-sensible organ is visible at the place where the spleen is located is that, at this point, space is filled in a certain definite manner by force-systems which attract the material substance in such a way that this deposits itself in the form in which we see it in the external organ of the spleen when we study it anatomically.
So you may think of all the different organs in the human organism as being first planned as super-sensible organs, and then, under the influence of the most varied sorts of super-sensible force-systems, as being filled with physical matter. Hence, in these force-systems which at different points of the organism deposit physical matter within themselves, we must recognise a super-sensible organism which is differentiated within itself and which incorporates physical matter within itself in the most diverse ways. We have thus obtained, not only this one concept of the relation of the super-sensible force-systems to the physical matter deposited in the organs, but also the other concept of the process of nourishing the organism as a whole. For this process of nourishing the entire organism consists in nothing else, after all, than in so preparing the nutritive substances taken in that it is possible to convey them to the different organs, and then in the incorporating of these substances by these organs. We shall see later how this general concept regarding the process of nutrition, which appears to be a power of attraction in the different organ-systems for the nutritive substances, is related to the coming into existence of a single human being, the embryonic development of the single human being which takes place before birth. The most comprehensive concept of nutrition, accordingly, is this: that by means of a super-sensible organism, the different nutritive substances are absorbed in the greatest variety of ways.
Now we must bear clearly in mind that man's ether-body, the super-sensible member of the human organisation nearest to the physical body, is the coarsest, so to speak; but that it underlies the entire organisation as its super-sensible prototype, is differentiated within itself, and contains the most manifold sorts of force-systems, in order that it may incorporate in the greatest variety of ways the substances taken in through the process of nutrition. But, in addition to this etheric organism, which we may look upon as the nearest prototype of the human organisation, we have still a higher member in the so-called astral body. (Just how these things are inter-related we shall see in the course of these lectures.) The astral body can become a member of the organism only when the physical and the etheric organisms have each been prepared according to its disposition. The astral body is that which presupposes both the other organisms. We have, moreover, the ego; so that the human being is composed of a union of these four members.
Now, we may picture to ourselves that even in the ether-body itself there are certain force-systems that attract to themselves particles of food taken in, and then shape these in quite definite ways in the physical organism. But we can also picture to ourselves that such a force-system is determined not only by the ether-body but also by the astral body, and that the latter sends its forces into the ether-body. If accordingly we first think away the physical organ and conceive the physical matter as cut out we have, first, the etheric force-system and next the astral force-system, which in turn permeates the etheric force-system in a perfectly definite manner. Indeed we may also conceive radiations passing down into these from the ego.
Now there may be organs which are so incorporated in the whole organism that their essential characteristic, for example, lies in the fact that the etheric currents in them are, as yet, very indefinite. We find, therefore, if we investigate the space in which such an organ is located, that the etheric portion of the human organism in this spatial formation is very slightly differentiated in itself, contains very little in the way of force-systems; but that, to make up for this, these weak forces of the ether-body are influenced by strong astral forces. When, therefore, physical matter is incorporated into such an organ as this, the ether-body exercises only a slight force of attraction and the chief forces of attraction must be exercised by the astral body upon the organ in question. It is as if the relevant substances are brought, as it were, by the astral body into this organ. From this we see that the values of the human organs here in question vary considerably. There are certain organs which we have to recognise as being determined principally through the force-systems of the ether-body; and others which are determined, rather, through the currents or forces coming from the astral body; whereas others again are to a greater degree determined through the currents of the ego.
Now, as a result of all that has thus far been presented in these lectures, one may say that especially that organic system conveying our blood is essentially dependent upon the radiations going forth from our ego; and that the human blood, therefore, is connected essentially with the currents and radiations of the human ego. The other organ-systems, with what they contain, are determined in the greatest variety of ways by the super-sensible members of man's nature.
But the reverse situation may occur when we consider the physical body per se, which, indeed, disregarding for the moment its higher members, exhibits likewise a force-system. For it represents, to begin with, what we may conceive as the combination of all the substances taken in from the outer world which at the same time have brought into it their own inner forces, even though in a transformed condition. Thus the physical body is also a force-system; also a force-system; so that we may also imagine cases in which this physical organism with its force-system works back upon the etheric, or even upon the astral, force-system, indeed even as far back as the ego-system. Not only may we conceive that the etheric force-system is seized upon by the astral- or the ego-system, but it is equally possible that there are organic systems which are specially requisitioned by the physical force-systems, in which cases it is the physical force-systems that prevail. Organ-systems of this sort, in which the physical body preponderates over the others, and which are therefore only to a lesser degree influenced by the higher members of the human organisation — while on the other hand more strongly influenced by the laws of the physical body — these are more especially the organ-systems which serve in a very comprehensive sense as organs of secretion and excretion, 1Absonderungsorgane. The term Absonderung is applied in these lectures to the process whereby various organs take out a portion of the nutritive matter and hold this for use (=secretion) and at the same time reject the rest of the matter (=excretion), either discharging this portion out of the body or passing it on to be discharged. The important aspect of the process, from the point of view of these lectures, is that of separation, implying resistance, through which alone man can become conscious of himself. Hence the term excretion is used for Absonderung except where secretion is obviously required. as glandular organs or secretory and excretory organs in general. All organs of secretion, therefore, organs which secrete substances directly in the human organism, are induced to do so — a process that has its essential significance purely in the physical world — chiefly through the forces of the physical organism. Wherever in the human body there are organs such as these, existing for the special purpose of being used by the physical organism to secrete substances, such organs, when they become ill or are removed — which means when they become useless in some quite definite way — cause the ruin of the organism so that it cannot any longer continue its normal development.
In the case of an organ like the spleen, with regard to which the statement was ventured in yesterday's lecture that, when it becomes ill or in any way useless, its own function is affected less than would be true in the case of other organs, we see that it is very specially influenced by the super-sensible portions of man's nature, by the ether-body and more especially by the astral body. And we see that in the case of some other organs the physical forces predominate. The thyroid gland, which in certain disease conditions becomes enlarged into the so-called goitre, may have a very injurious influence upon the whole organism, because the activities which it especially has to manifest are such that what it brings about in the physical world as a physical process is absolutely essential to the general economy of the human organism.
Now there may be organs that are to a very high degree dependent upon the other, the super-sensible force-systems of the human organism, but which are none the less closely bound to the physical organism and are induced through its forces to secrete physical matter. Such organs, for example, are the liver and the kidneys. These are organs which, like the spleen, are dependent upon the super-sensible members of the human organisation, the ether-body and the astral body, but which are seized upon by the forces of the physical organism, and are drawn downward in their activities even into the forces of the physical organism. It is, therefore, of far greater importance for them to be in a healthy condition as physical organs in the human organism than for other organs, those, for example, in which conditions are such that the physical demands are far outweighed by what is derived from the other members, so that we have in the spleen an organ of which we can say that it is a very spiritual organ, that is, the physical part of this organ is its least significant part. In occult literature which has come forth from circles where something was really known about these matters, the spleen has always been looked upon as a particularly spiritual organ and is described as such.
Thus we have now arrived at what we may call the concept of the “complete organ.” An organ, as such, may be looked upon as a super-sensible force-system; although physical-sensible substances are stored up, as it were, in the organs through the entire process of nutrition. Another concept we must acquire raises this question: What is the significance in general of taking in something, whether it be a physical substance or what is received through the influence of our soul-activity; for example, through perception? And what is the significance of the excreting 2See footnote, p. 79. of a physical substance?
Let us begin with the process of excretion in its most inclusive sense. We know, in the first place, that from the food taken, a large portion of the material substance is excreted. We know, further, that carbonic acid is excreted from the human organism through the lungs; that, after the blood has been sent out of the heart and through the lungs in order to be renewed, the carbonic acid is thrown off. We have, then, another excretory process through the kidneys, but also one through the skin. In this last process which goes on primarily in the forming of perspiration, but also in everything occurring by way of the skin which must be classed as an excretory process, we have those excretory processes in the human being which take place at the outermost circumference of the body, its outermost periphery. Let us now ask ourselves the question: What is the full significance of the excretory process in the human being?
Only in the following way can we be clear as to the significance of a process of excretion. You will see that, without such concepts as we are developing to-day, it will be impossible for us to get any further with our study of the human organism. I should like, in order to be able gradually to carry forward our thinking to the essential nature of a process of excretion, first to submit for your consideration another concept which has, to be sure, only a remote similarity to the excretory processes, but which can nevertheless guide us to them, namely, the concept of the becoming aware of our Self.
Think for a moment, how is it really possible after all to affirm that there is such a thing as the becoming aware of one's Self? If you move incautiously in a room and stumble against some external object you say that you have run into something. This impact is actually a becoming aware of your own Self in such a way, that the collision has in reality become for you an inner occurrence. For what is the collision with a foreign object so far as it affects you? It is the cause of a hurt, a pain. The process of feeling pain takes place entirely within yourself. Thus an inner process is called forth by the fact that you come into contact with a foreign object, and that this constitutes a hindrance in your way. It is the becoming aware of this hindrance that calls forth the inner process which, in the moment of collision, makes itself known as pain. In fact, you can easily conceive that you do not need to know anything else whatever in order to experience this becoming aware of your Self except the effect, the pain, caused by coming into contact with an external object. Imagine that you stumble against an object in the dark without knowing at all what it is, and that you hit it so hard that you do not even stop to think what it might be, but notice only the effect in the pain.
In this case you have felt the blow in its effect in such a way that you live through an inner process within yourself. You are not inwardly conscious of anything but an inner process in such a case, where you think of the blow as having taken place in the dark and of your having experienced its effect in pain. Of course, you say to yourself “I have run into something,” but this is nevertheless a more or less unconscious conclusion resulting from your inner experience of the outer object.
From this you can see that man becomes aware of his inner Being in the sensing of resistance. This is the concept we must have: becoming aware, consciousness of inner life, of being filled with real inner experiences through the sensing of a resistance. This is somewhat the concept which I have here developed in order to be able to make the transition to another concept, that of the excretions in the human organism. Let us suppose that the human organism takes into itself in some way or other, into one of its organ-systems, a certain kind of physical substance, and that this organ-system is so regulated that through its own activity it eliminates something from the substance taken in, separates it from the substance as a whole, so that through the activity of this organ the original complete substance falls apart into a finer, filtered portion and a coarser portion, which is excreted. Thus there begins a differentiating of the substance taken in, into a substance that is further useful, which can be received by other organs, and another that is first separated and then excreted. The unusable portions of the physical substance are thrust away in contrast with the usable portions, an expression here justified, and we have such a collision as I described roughly in the case of one's running against some outer object. The stream of physical matter as a whole, when it comes into an organ, runs against a resistance as it were; it cannot remain as it is, it must change itself. It is told by the organ, as we might say: “You cannot remain as you are; you must transform yourself.” Let us suppose that such a substance goes into the liver. There it is told, “You must change yourself.” A resistance is set up against it. For further use it must become a different substance, and it must cast off certain portions. Thus it happens in our organism that the substance perceives that resistance is present. Such resistances are to be found within the entire organism in a great number of different organs. It is only because secretion takes place at all in our organism, because we have organs of secretion, that it is possible for our organism to be secluded within itself; to be a self-experiencing being. For only so can any being become conscious of its own inner life, through the fact that its own life meets with resistance. Thus we have in the processes of secretion processes important for human life — processes, in other words, by means of which the living organism secludes itself within itself. Man would not be a Being secluded within himself if such processes of secretion did not take place.
Let us suppose that the flow of nourishment or of oxygen that has been absorbed, were to pass through the human organism as if through a tube. The result, if no resistance were offered through the organs, would be that the human organism would not be conscious within itself of its own inner life but would experience itself; on the contrary, only as belonging to the great world as a whole. We might, to be sure, imagine also that the crudest form of this resistance were to appear in the human organism, that the substance in question might knock itself against a solid wall, and turn back again into itself. This would not, however, make any difference to the inner experience of the human organism; for whether a flow of food or of oxygen were to pass through the organism, entering at one end and passing out at the other, being reflected back on itself as through a hose, this would not make any real difference to an inner experience of the human organism. That this is so we can at once gather from the fact that, when we bring it about in our nervous system that a concept turns back into itself, we thereby lift our nervous system right out of the inner experience of the human organism. It makes no difference why the human organism is left unaffected, whether because the streams entering from without are completely reflected or merely pass through. What makes it possible to realise the inner life of the human organism is the processes of secretion.
Now if we observe that organ which we must consider the central organ of the human organism, the organ of the blood, noting how it continually renews the blood in one direction by taking in oxygen, and if we see in this organ the instrument of the human ego, we may then say that if the blood were to go through the human ego unchanged, it could not in that case be the instrument of the human ego, that which in the very highest sense enables man to be conscious of his own inner life. Only through the fact that the blood undergoes changes in its own inner life, and then goes back as something different, in other words, that something is excreted from the changed blood, only because of this is it possible for man, not only to have an ego, but to experience it inwardly with the help of a physical-sensible instrument.
We have now enunciated the concept of the process of excretion. We shall next have to ask ourselves how it is with that excretion pertaining to the outermost boundary of the human organism. It will certainly not be difficult for us to conceive that the human organism as a whole must operate in such a way that this excretion can take place just where it does, on the periphery. For this purpose it is necessary that, confronting all the streams of the human organism, there should be one organ which is connected with this most extensive of all the processes of excretion. And this organ which is, as you will readily surmise, the skin in its most comprehensive sense together with everything pertaining to it, presents most directly to the view what we call essential in the human form. When we picture to ourselves, therefore, that the human organism can be inwardly conscious of its own life at its outermost periphery only through the fact that it has placed the organ of the skin where it confronts all its various streams, we are obliged to see in the peculiar formation of the skin one of the expressions of the innermost force of the human organism.
How shall we think of the skin-organ with everything pertaining to it? We shall see later in detail what it is that pertains to it, but to-day we shall characterise these relationships as a whole.
Here we must be clear about one thing. In what belongs to our conscious inner experience, about which we can still have a kind of knowledge through some sort of self-observation, there is not to be included that structure which comes to expression in the form of our skin. Even though we are still actively sharing in the fashioning of the outer surface of our body, this active sharing is such that we may say all directly voluntary action is completely excluded. It is true that as regards the mobility of the surface of our body, in our facial expression, gestures, etc., we have an influence which still extends to what we may call our conscious activity; but in the actual formation we have no longer any influence. It must, of course, be admitted that man does have a certain influence within narrow limits upon the outer form of his body through his inner life between birth and death. With regard to this anyone can convince himself who has known a man at a certain definite time of life, and who then sees him again after perhaps ten years. Especially is this true if, during these ten years, this man has gone through profound inner experiences, and especially those connected with the acquiring of knowledge, not such knowledge as constitutes the subject-matter of external science, but rather those which cost blood and are connected with the destiny of the whole inner life. We then see, indeed, how within certain narrow limits the physiognomy changes; how to a certain extent, therefore, man does have within these limits an influence upon the formation of his body. Yet he has it only to a very slight degree, as anyone will have to admit; for the most essential share in the forming of man is not entrusted to his volition with the help of what reaches him through his consciousness. On the other hand we must admit that the entire human form is adapted to man's essential being. Anyone who looks into these things will never for a moment imagine that what we mean by the whole range of human capacities could develop in a being having any other form than the human form as it exists in the physical world. Everything in the way of human capacities is related to this human form. Just suppose for a moment that the frontal bone were in any other position with relation to the whole organism than what it is; in that case you would have to suppose that this different position of the frontal bone, this changing of form, would presuppose at the same time entirely different capacities and forces in man. It is possible, indeed, to make a study of this in mankind as one comes to see clearly that there are different capacities among human beings having a different outer formation of the head or other organs. This is the way, then, that we must create for ourselves a concept of the conformity of the human form to man's being in its totality, of the complete correspondence between the outer form and the essential quality of man's entire being. What lies in the forces that are active in this adaptation has nothing to do with what enters into man's own activity within the compass of his own consciousness. Since, however, man's form is connected with his spiritual activity, and with his soul-life as well, it would not be possible to imagine otherwise than that the forces which bring about the human form are those which come from another direction, to meet the forces that man himself develops within his form. Here within him are the forces of intelligence, of feeling, of temperament, etc. These the human being can develop only in the physical world, as conditioned by his particular form. This form must be given to him. Whatever capacities of ours need this form must receive it already prepared, if I may express it thus, from corresponding forces of a similar kind, which, working from the other direction, first build up the form in order that these capacities may be used as they ought to be used. It is not difficult to gain this concept. We need only think of a case like the following. When we have a machine which is to be used for some intelligent activity, some activity that has a purpose, we have to do in the first place with the machine and this purposeful activity. In order, however, that the machine may come into existence, it is necessary that similar activities be carried out, which assemble the parts of the machine and give form to the whole. These activities must be similar to those which are later carried on by means of the machine itself. We must say, therefore, that when we observe a machine it is wholly and absolutely explicable on mechanical principles; but the fact that the machine is adapted to its purpose requires us to suppose that it came into existence through the activity of a mind which had thought out that purpose beforehand. This spiritual activity has withdrawn, to be sure, and does not need to be brought forward when we wish to explain the machine scientifically; yet it is there, behind the machine, and first produced it.
So likewise can we say that, for the developing of our capacities and powers as human beings, we need above all those systems of forms which lie within the moulding of our organism. There must be behind this human form, however, forces that do the forming, which we can as little find in the already fashioned form as we find the builder of the machine in the machine itself.
Through this idea something else will become quite clear to you. A materialistic thinker, for instance, might come forward and say: “But why do we need to assume that there are intelligent forces and beings behind that which gives form to our physical world? We can, indeed, explain the physical world through itself, by means of its own laws: a watch or a machine, for example, can be explained by means of its own laws.” Here we have arrived at a point where the worst kind of errors appear, on this side and that, where from the anthroposophical standpoint also, or among those who stand for some other spiritual world-conception, such errors occur. If it should be disputed, for example, by a spiritual-scientific world-conception that the human organism as it presents itself to us and which we are now observing according to its form, can be explained purely mechanically, or mechanistically through its own laws, that would naturally be going too far and would be quite unjustified. The human organism is, indeed, absolutely and entirely explainable out of its own laws, just as is the watch. Yet it does not follow from the fact that the watch can be explained by means of its own laws that the inventor was not behind the watch. This objection, accordingly, answers itself through the very fact that it must be admitted that the human organism must be explained on the basis of its own laws.
When we think, therefore, from the point of view of spiritual science, we have first to seek behind the form of a man as a whole for the form-creative beings — that is for what underlies this entire human being. If we wish to form a concept of how the human form comes to be at all, we must think of it as coming about on the one side through the fact that the form-giving forces unfold themselves, and that in the building up of this human form they at first enclose themselves within it. We have presented to us, accordingly, in the formation of the skin, the most extensive circumference spatially of that which stands for the self-enclosing of the formative forces in man. We might draw a sketch and think of of these form-giving forces in man as flowing outward and enclosing themselves within the outer form, which shall here be indicated simply by the line AB. It will becom clear to us that we shall have further need for this concept in order to understand what goes on at this outermost circumference of the human being, anywhere inside the skin. There is something else, however, about which we must be clear: that not only within the human skin do we find such enclosing, but also within the human organism itself we have the same sort of self-enclosing of the activity and fullness of being which work into it from outside. You need only reflect upon all that has been said up to this point and you will remember that we do find just such self-enclosing activity inside the human being, one in which we take no more part than in the forming of our skin-surface. We mean here those very activities which come about in the organs of the liver, the gall-bladder, the spleen, etc. That which streams into the organism by means of the forces contained in the nutritive substances is stopped by these organs. Something is pushed against it; a resistance is set up in opposition to it. In other words here in these organs the external vital activity of these substances is transformed. Whereas, therefore, in the case of the form-giving forces within us, it is necessary to think of these as being active as far as the skin, and whereas outside the skin we find no more form-giving forces, we must picture to ourselves that in the case of those forces which enter into us with the stream of nutrition or air, there is not a complete enclosing of what finds its way inward as currents from without, but rather there takes place a transformation. We must not think of these organs as stopping something, as is the case with the skin, but must rather think that the vital activity of the substances is so changed by them that the stream of food taken in by these organs (a) is then conveyed further in a changed form (b) after it has met with resistance. Thus we have here to do with a process of change, and this concerns especially those particular organs which we have characterised as the inner cosmic system in man. They change the external movements of the substances. These are forces which, in contrast to the form-forces that build up the whole organism, we may call forces of movement. Within our inner cosmic system these forces, which transform the inner vital activity of the nutritive substances, themselves become movement; so that we can rightly speak here of forces of movement in these organs.
We are now far enough advanced in our considerations to be able to say that there are forces which work from outside into the human organism, forces whose activity we cannot compass within the horizon of our consciousness. All that we can refer to as “activities” in this case takes place below the threshold of our consciousness, for certainly no one in a normal state of consciousness can observe the activity of his liver, his gall-bladder, spleen, etc. And now, since our whole nervous system is a member of our organism, the question arises: what prevents this nervous system from knowing something about the formation of the organs in this organism? This certainly does take place there; the forces that give us our form are at work in our organism, and similarly those within our inner cosmic system which change the movement and the vital activity of substances. How does it come about that we know nothing of all this?
The nervous system of our brain and spinal cord is intended, in a normal state of consciousness, to convey external impressions to the blood, that is, to take the impressions in as physical processes in such a way that these processes beat against the blood, as it were, and in doing this inscribe themselves upon the instrument of the ego, the blood, so that the outer impressions are thereby transferred to it. And just as truly the branches of the sympathetic nervous system which, with its ganglions and ramifications, stands guard over the inner cosmic system, are intended to keep the processes that go on in this inner cosmic system from approaching as far as the blood, to hold these processes back, so to speak. You have now heard something more in regard to what I have previously touched upon, namely, that the sympathetic nervous system has a function contrary to that of the nervous system of the brain and spinal cord. Whereas the latter must make the effort to convey external impressions to the blood in the best possible way, the sympathetic nervous system, with its opposite activity, must be continually holding back from the blood, from the instrument of the ego, the transformed vital activities of the substances that have been taken in. If we observe the digestive process, we have there, first, the taking in of external nutritive substances; then the holding back of the vital activities peculiar to these nutritive substances, and the transformation of these by means of the inner cosmic system of man. The vital activities of these substances, accordingly, are changed into other sorts of vital activities. In order that we need not, placed as we are in the world, continually perceive inwardly what goes on in our inner organs, this entire stream of processes must be held back from the blood by means of the sympathetic nervous system, whereas that other nervous system goes to meet what is taken in from outside.
Here, then, you have the function of the sympathetic nervous system, which becomes a part of our organism for the purpose of holding our inner processes, not allowing them to penetrate to the ego-instrument, the blood. I called your attention yesterday to the fact that the outer life and the inner life of man, as they are expressed in the ether-body, present a contrast; and that this contrast between the inner life and the outer is expressed in tensions which finally come to a climax, as we saw, in those organs of the brain called the pineal gland and the pituitary body.
Now, if you put together yesterday's and to-day's discussions, you will be able to understand that everything which beats in upon us from outside, in order to stand in the closest possible contact with the circulation of the blood, strives to unite with its counterpart, with what is held back by the sympathetic nervous system. For this reason we have, in the pineal gland, the place where what has been brought to the blood by means of the nervous system of the brain and spinal cord unites with what approaches man from the other direction; and the pituitary body is there as a last outpost to prevent the approach of what has to do with the life of the inner man. There are opposite to each other, at this point in the brain, two important organs. Everything that we live through in our inner organisation remains below our consciousness; for it would, indeed, be terribly disturbing to us if we were to share consciously in our whole process of nutrition. This is kept back from our consciousness by means of the sympathetic nervous system. Only when this reciprocal relationship between the two nervous systems, as this is expressed in the state of tension between the pineal gland and the pituitary body, is not in order does something result which we may call a “glimmering through from the one side to the other,” a being disturbed on the one side by the other. This takes place when some irregularity in the activity of our digestive organs expresses itself in our consciousness in feelings of discomfort. In this case we have a raying into the consciousness, although very obscure, of the internal life of the human being, which has first been changed with the help of the inner cosmic system from the form it had in the life outside. Or in special emotions, such as anger and the like — which have a particularly strong influence on man, originating in the consciousness, we have a breaking through from the other direction into the organism. We then have one of these cases in which emotions, unusual inner disturbances of the soul, can influence in a specially harmful way the digestion, the respiratory system and also, consequently, the circulation of the blood and everything that lies below consciousness.
It is thus possible for these two sides of human nature to act reciprocally upon each other. And we are obliged to state that, as human beings, we actually stand in the world as a duality: a duality in the first place which has, in the nervous system of the brain and the spinal cord, instruments that bring external impressions to the blood, the instrument of the ego. From this whole stream of soul-life is held back, by means of the sympathetic nervous system, everything in the way of inner realisation of the life of the organs. These two streams confront each other all along the line, so to speak; but we find their special expressions in those two organs of which we spoke at the close of yesterday's lecture. From this point we will continue our considerations in the next lecture.