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The World of the Senses and the World of the Spirit
GA 134

Lecture IV

30 December 1911, Hannover

It is only by means of conceptions which are comparatively difficult that the nature of what is commonly called matter can be grasped. If we wish to give some description of matter in an occult sense we have first to ask, what is its outstanding characteristic? And if we proceed to investigate without prejudice we find that it is its extension in space. No one would think of ascribing occupation of space to feeling, thought or will. It would be ridiculous to suggest that some thought—let us say the thought you have about a hero—were five square yards larger than the thought you have about any ordinary person. One sees at once that this feeling of space, this extension in space, cannot be applied at all to things of the soul. But there is another characteristic of matter, namely weight. This, as we shall see in the course of these lectures, is not so simple. For merely in observing the world we do not so immediately notice anything of the weight, but only of the extension in space.

Now we know that this extension is usually reckoned according to three dimensions, height, breadth and depth or length. It is, you will agree, a common, almost a trivial truth that things are extended in space according to three dimensions. We must, therefore, recognise as the most evident characteristic of matter its extension in three dimension. Now, as we saw, we cannot apply conditions of space to what lies in the soul. It is, therefore, obvious that something else must exist in the world, other than what fills up space as substance or matter. For we have evidence, even on the physical plane, of processes and conditions that are not extended in space—soul experiences, as we call them.

Now if we approach soul experiences with as little prejudice as we did the conditions of matter in space we shall very soon find in them another quality without which these soul experiences would not be there at all. And that is, we are bound to admit, that soul experiences take their course in time. Although we cannot say that a feeling or an impulse of will is five yards long or five square yards in size, yet we must admit that what we think or feel, in short all soul experiences, take their course in time. It is not only that we need a particular period of time for experiencing them, but also one soul experience comes earlier, another later. In short, what we, experience in the soul is subject to time. Now as a matter of fact, in our reality, in all that surrounds us and in what we ourselves are, space and time conditions are everywhere mixed. In the outer world things happen in such a way that they are spread out in space and also follow one another in time, each requiring for itself a certain time. Before we can come to the occult truth about all this we must put the question: How then does space stand in relation to time? And so, you see, in this anthroposophical course of lectures we come quite innocently up against a very great philosophical question, one upon which—to speak metaphorically—countless heads have been broken! We come, that is, to the relation of time to space. Perhaps it will not be easy for you to follow the train of thought fully now that we have in such an innocent way come up against the relation of time to space; for the greater number of you have had no special philosophical training. But if you will take a little trouble to try to follow, you will see how fruitful such thoughts are, and how, if you work them over in meditation, they can lead you further in your study.

It is good to take your start from the time which you experience in your own soul. Ask yourself how you experience time in your own soul? Let me speak more clearly. I do not ask you to think of time as you see it on the clock; there you only compare your inner experience with outer processes. I want you now to put right out of your mind all reading of the clock and other outer events. Consider only how does the time relationship express itself in your soul? Ponder over it as deeply as you will, and you will find that you can think of nothing as a standard for time but the following: you can grasp a thought when it is aroused in you by some external perception. You are looking at something, and a thought or idea arises in your soul. When you enquire more exactly into the relationship between yourself and the idea or the thought, you have to answer: While I have the thought, I myself am actually the thought. Try and think the thing over to the very end and you will say: While I am engrossed in the thought, then I am, in my innermost being, the thought. It would be mere prejudice to say that together with this concept you had also the idea of the “I am.” The “I am” is not there while you have surrendered yourself to the thought. You are yourself the thought. Without a certain practical training you cannot be something else simultaneously with the thought which you hold.

Firstly then, man is in the thoughts and feelings which are directly given to him. Suppose you let this piece of chalk incite you to a thought; then, if you exclude everything else, if you are absorbed in the idea that has been stimulated in you by the perception of chalk, your inmost being is one with the idea of chalk. But now suppose you have grasped this idea and all at once you remember that yesterday you also saw chalk; and you compare the idea of chalk that has been given you by direct perception with what you experienced yesterday. And you will be aware that though you are completely identified with the chalk observed to-day you cannot identify yourself with the chalk of yesterday. This latter is a memory picture and must remain so. You have truly become one with the chalk of to-day, but the chalk of yesterday has become something external for you. The chalk observed to-day is identified with your own inner being of to-day; your memory picture is, to be sure, something upon which you look back, but in comparison with the other it is objective and external. And it is the same with everything you have experienced in your soul with the exception of the present moment. The present moment is for the moment your inner being; everything that you have experienced—you have rid yourself of, it is already outside you. You may imagine, if you wish to have a picture of it, that the present moment with your concepts is a snake, and what you put outside you is the cast-off skin of the snake. And as the snake casts its skin again a second and a third time so you can have ever so many cast-off ideas which are for you something external in comparison with your temporary present inwardness. That is to say, as far back as you can remember, you have continually been making outward what was first inward. The idea of the chalk, for example, which you now have, the very next moment you have made it external to you, while you yourself have passed on to something else. That is to say, you are working at a continual exteriorisation. You are perpetually creating something within you and then leaving it behind; this innermost that you have in you at once becomes an outer, just like a sloughed skin. Our soul-life consists in this—that the inner is continually becoming an outer; so that within our own being, within this inner spiritual process, we are able to distinguish between the real innermost and the outer within the inner. We are all the time within our own being, but we have there to distinguish two parts: first, our real inwardness, and secondly, the part of our inwardness which has become an outer.

Now this process which we have seen accomplished of the inner becoming an outer—this really gives the content of our soul-life; for if you think it over you will find you can call your “soul” all you have experienced, right back to the time which you first remember in early childhood. One who has forgotten all that he has ever experienced would actually have lost his ego. Thus in the fact that we can put memories behind us, and yet keep them, like continually cast-off skins—in this possibility lies the reality of our soul-life. Now one can conceive of this reality of soul-life as being fashioned in all manner of different ways. Let me ask you to observe how in each single moment the soul is shaped differently from what it is in any other moment. Suppose you go out into a beautiful starlit night or suppose you listen to a Beethoven symphony; you have in those moments identified with your own inner being a wide region of soul-life. Suppose you step from this starlit night into a dark room; it is as if this soul-life of yours were suddenly shrunk together; only a few ideas are there. Or suppose the symphony comes to an end; then the region of ideas, in so far as they come from hearing, dwindles away for you. And when you sleep then your soul-life shrinks right up until you wake up again and spread it, like a bird ruffling its feathers. So you have a continuous re-shaping of the soul-life. And if we now draw—but this is only a symbol; for we must draw in space, and yet we mean time, which is not spatial—if we would draw the content of our life of soul, then we could form it in many different ways. Here (a) it is shrunk, here (b) it expands, we should have to think of it as shaped most variedly, while here (c) there is always the content of soul-life. From this symbol, making the invisible visible, you can recognise the shrinking and the enlarging. A soul-life which listens to a symphony is richer than one which hears only a single note. So one can say that the soul-life opens out and then draws itself together, expands and contracts—only as we say this we must not let any space conceptions mix in with it. During this expansion and contraction one thing is unquestionably present, and that is inner spiritual movement. Movement! Soul-life is movement.

Only we must think of movement not as movement in space but as we have described it. And this expansion and contraction gives forms. So you have movement, and the outer expression of movement in certain forms. But there are no space forms. The forms here meant are not spatial forms, but forms of expanding and contracting soul-life. And what lives in this expansion and contraction? You will get near the reality if you consider a little what must live therein. Therein live your feelings, thoughts, impulses of will, in so far as that is all spiritual. It is like water which swims along, moving in forms, but it is all spiritual. And now we shall need still another conception in order to realise the whole. We said: Thoughts live therein, conceptions, feelings, impulses of will. But the impulses of will are, in a certain sense, more fundamentally necessary than the thoughts themselves. For if you consider how this soul-life is at times in quicker motion and at times in slower motion, you will perceive that it is really will itself which brings it into motion. If you stimulate your will you can bring the thoughts and feelings into quicker flow; if the will is indolent then it all moves along more slowly. You need the will in order to expand your life of soul. So we have seriatim, first, Will; then, all that lives in feelings and conceptions, all that is within our soul-life—I say advisedly, our life of soul—and this we can grasp as a manifestation of Wisdom; then we have Movement—expansion and contraction; and then Form, which appears as the expression of movement. You can quite exactly differentiate within your soul-life: will, wisdom, movement, form. These weave and live within the life of soul.

It is a pity that this cycle of lectures could not last a month for then we could speak more exactly and fully. And you would see how it can be accurately established that there, in your own soul-life, a process takes place which has its root in the will, and contains within it wisdom and movement and form. Now you will see that the series we have here given for the life of soul follows, in a wonderful way, the names we had to give for the successive hierarchies—Spirits of Will, of Wisdom, and of Movement, and Spirits of Form. In presenting our soul-life in this manner we have, so to say, surprised the hierarchies in one spot, we have really caught them inside there. There they reveal themselves in a most singular way in the inner soul-life of man—and they reveal themselves in such a way that their activity is entirely unspatial. And if we have gained nothing more, we have at least established this important point; we have gained, as it were, a first conception of an important quality of these four hierarchies, namely that they are not of space. We know, therefore, that by “Form” is meant the unspatial spiritually formative power of form. That is very important. So when we speak of “forms” created by the Spirits of Form we do not mean external forms in space but those inner formations that only exist for consciousness and that we can grasp in the course of our soul-life. Everything passes there in time alone. Without time you cannot imagine it at all. If you look away from the illustration, which is of no importance for the thing itself, you must imagine it in so far as you remain within the soul-life, as unspatial space.

And so, my dear friends, when we say that the Spirits of Will worked first on Old Saturn, the Spirits of Wisdom on Old Sun, the Spirits of Movement on Old Moon and the Spirits of Form on the Earth, we must bear in mind the purely inner quality of the Spirits of Form, and we shall have to say: The Spirits of Form created man on the earth in such a way that he still has an invisible form. This agrees, in a wonderful way, with what emerged yesterday. Invisible forms, not forms of space, were first given to man by the Spirits of Form at the beginning of his earthly evolution. And now we must at the same time bear in mind that not only we ourselves but all outer objects that come to meet us, and of which we are aware in the outer world by means of our senses, are nothing less than an external expression of an inner spiritual. Behind every external material thing in space we have to look for something similar in kind to what lives in our own soul. Only, of course, we do not encounter it with the outer senses; it is behind what the outer senses offer.

How can we now represent an activity out beyond that of the Spirits of Form, beyond what they create as not yet spatial form? This is the question we now have to face. When this activity goes further—beyond will, wisdom, movement, form—still further beyond form, what happens then? That is the question. You see, if a process in the universe has come as far as Form—which is still altogether in the realm of soul and spirit, and is not spatial at all—if the process has advanced as far as this super-sensible form, then the next step is only possible through the form, as such, breaking up. And that is exactly what shows itself to occult knowledge. When certain forms, created under the influence of the Spirits of Form, have developed up to a certain point, then they break to pieces. And if you now fix your mind upon these shattered forms, if you think of something that arises through the breaking up of forms that are still super-sensible—then you have the transition from the super-sensible to the sensible and spatial. Broken-up form is matter. Matter, as it occurs in the universe, is for the occultist nothing more than form broken, shattered and split asunder. If you could imagine that this chalk were invisible and yet had this characteristic parallelepiped form, and if you were then to take a hammer and strike the chalk smartly so that it crumbled into a lot of little pieces, then you would have broken up the form. Supposing in the moment in which you broke up the form the invisible were to become visible—then you would have a picture of the origin of matter. Matter is spirit that has developed as far as form and then burst and broken into pieces and fallen together in itself.

Matter is a heap of ruins of the spirit. It is extraordinarily important to grasp this definition. Matter is a heap of ruins of the spirit. Matter is, therefore, in reality spirit, but shattered spirit.

When you come to think it over, my dear friends, you will perhaps say: “Yes, but we have spatial forms such as the beautiful crystals; in the crystals we have very beautiful spatial forms—and now you say that all matter is ‘a heap of ruins of the spirit,’ is ‘shattered spirit.’” Let me give you a picture of it.

Think of a falling cascade of water [see diagram (a)]. But imagine it is invisible, you do not see it. And here (b) you put an obstacle in its way. When the water strikes here (b) it scatters into drops (c). Now we are imagining that the cascade of water is invisible, but that what is broken up becomes visible. Then you would have here a cascade shattered in pieces, and would have a picture of the origin of matter. But now you must think away this obstacle down below, for it does not exist; if it did we should have to assume that there was already matter there. You must imagine it in this way. Without there being any such obstacle you have matter—spiritually, that is, supersensibly—you have matter in movement. In the act of assuming form, it is in movement; for movement precedes form. There is not anything anywhere but is permeated by the deeds of the Spirits of Movement. And this movement, this form, arrives at last at a point where it becomes, so to say, exhausted and splits asunder in itself. We must so grasp it that we have, to begin with, something streaming out which is entirely soul and spirit. Its impetus is limited, it comes, as it were, to the end of its energy, is thrown back upon itself and thus breaks to pieces. So wherever we see matter we can say: Behind this matter lies a super-sensible, which has come to the limit of its activity and there split up. But before it split up it still had—inwardly and spiritually—form. And when it shattered the spiritual form went on working in the separate scattered ruins. Where it works strongly, then, after the breaking and scattering, the lines of the spiritual forms continue, and in the lines they then describe we can still trace an after-working of the spiritual lines. There you have the origin of crystals. Crystals are reproductions of spiritual forms which through their own impetus still kept their original direction but in the opposite sense.

What I have here sketched for you is very nearly exactly what occult observation finds in the case of hydrogen. The origin of hydrogen is as though a ray rushed out from eternity, became exhausted and flew asunder; but we must draw it as if here the lines overshot themselves and so kept their form.

This is what hydrogen looks like to the occult observer. There is something like an invisible ray coming from endless world distances and finally breaking—like a ray which flies asunder. In short, matter everywhere can be called broken spirituality. Matter is indeed nothing else than spirit, but spirit in a broken-up condition.

There is still another difficult idea which I must place before you, which is connected with what I said at the beginning of the lecture. I said that within the soul and spirit itself we have to distinguish between an outer and an inner. Now it is of such contrasts that all space dimensions are really composed; so that everywhere where you have a dimension of space you can think of it as proceeding somewhere or other from a point. That point is the “inner,” and all the rest is the “outer.” For the plane, the straight line is an inner and all the rest an outer. Space is, therefore, nothing else than something that originates together with matter when spirit is shattered and thereby goes over into material existence.

Now it is extremely important to understand the following. Suppose this breaking-up of spirit into matter happens in such a way that the spirit breaks, shatters, of itself, without having come up against any kind of external obstacle that should cause it to split up and shatter. Imagine that the breaking-up takes place, so to say, in the void. If spirit breaks into the void then mineral matter results. Thus spirit must first of all actually break up in itself from out of spirit: then mineral matter arises. But now suppose you do not have a process that takes place in the universe in such a virginal way; suppose you have a breaking that takes place out of the spirit but finds a world already prepared; a breaking in pieces that does not take place into the void but, for example, into an etheric corporality that is already there. As I said, if it develops into the void the result is mineral matter. But we are supposing now that it develops into an already present etheric corporality. Thus the spirituality splits up and breaks into an etheric body, and the breaking material and the etheric body are already present and prepared. Not into the “virgin soil” of the world but into the etheric body, spirit breaks and becomes matter. And when this is the case plant matter originates.

Now yesterday we came across a peculiar etheric substance. You will remember what we wrote on the blackboard. We found an etheric body which outweighed the astral substance, which, so to say, overshot the astral substance. And we said that that was due to Luciferic influences which had been brought to bear upon man. But we found something more. We found also physical corporality which had a preponderance over etheric substance, that is to say over the etheric body. As a matter of fact, we found that first, did we not? I want you now to give your attention for a moment to this remarkable connection that we found in the badly combined organisation of man—a connection between the bodies which is really entirely due to Luciferic influence. There, where the physical meets with the etheric body and the etheric body is everywhere diverted by the preponderance of the physical body, we have, not a condition where spirit breaks and scatters merely into etheric substance as such, but where it rushes into a bodily condition that is certainly etheric, but which is outweighed by the physical. And when spirit breaks into such a substance, then nerve substance, nerve material, arises. Spirit streaming into etheric corporality that is overweighed by physical corporality gives rise to nerve matter.

We have now three stages in materiality. First, the ordinary mineral matter that we come across in the sense world. Then the matter that we find in the bodies of the plants; and, lastly, the matter that we find in the body of man and of animals, and that arises owing to the presence of irregularities in these bodies. Now think of all we should have to do if we wished to reckon up all the various conditions that give rise to the manifold kinds of matter in the world! We saw yesterday what a number of irregularities can occur through the Luciferic influence. We saw, for example, how the etheric body may outweigh the astral body. When spirit rushes into an astral body of this kind, that is, into an astral body which is outweighed by an etheric body, then we have muscle matter. This is why the matter of which nerves and muscles are composed has such a strange and unique appearance; you cannot compare it with anything else. It is because in both cases the matter comes into existence in such a complicated manner. It will help you to form a true picture if you think of the different results you obtain when you take some molten metal, and first let it spurt up into the air, then into water and then, let us say, into a hard firm substance. In a like complicated way do the various kinds of matter in the world arise. My main purpose in all I am telling you to-day is to show you into what depths of existence we have to descend if we want to investigate these things at their, foundation. Consider, for instance, a condition that takes us still further into matter; consider the irregularity brought about where the ego outweighs in its ego-ness the astral body, when you have spirit spraying and dispersing into this condition, the result—but only after long détours—is bony matter. It all depends ultimately, as you see, on the conditions under which the matter sprays up and scatters when it arises out of spirit. Keep well in mind what I have told you even if you have not been able to follow every thought in detail. You will have grasped the main point, which really comes to this—that we have to look upon matter always and everywhere as spirit that is splitting up and scattering, but that there can also be something already there which opposes the breaking spirit. And according as this or that meets it, the spirit will spray out into something different; and thus arise the various configurations of matter—matter that composes nerves, muscles, plants, etc.

But now a question will arise in your minds. You will ask: How would it have been with man if the Luciferic influence had not entered into him in this connection? We related yesterday how it would have been in many different aspects, but what would have happened in this connections. Well, you see, man could not have had such nerves as he has to-day. For these nerves only arise in their particular form of matter through the fact of the irregular connection of the bodies of man. Similarly he could not have had bones or muscles if it had not been for the Luciferic influence. In short, we have seen how the various kinds of matter arise through forms being spiritually poured into something which is only there at all because of Luciferic influence. None of these different substances—muscle, nerve, etc.—could have come into existence without the Luciferic influence. With still more intensity than we did yesterday must we ask the question: What then is man altogether as material man? Man as he meets us externally is simply and solely a result of the Luciferic influence. For unless the Luciferic influence had been there he would have had no nerves, no muscles, no bones in the present-day sense of the words. Materialism describes nothing but what Lucifer has made of man. Materialism is thus in the most eminent degree discipleship of Lucifer; it rejects all else.

Let us then ask: What would man be like if he had remained in Paradise? In order that tomorrow we may be able to carry our study further—and with rather easier conceptions—I will give you now to-day a brief sketch of what man would have become if it had not been for the Luciferic influence. If it had not been for this influence, then we should have in human evolution on the earth, to begin with, what came from the influence of the Spirits of Form. For the Spirits of Form were the last Spirits of the higher hierarchies who worked into man. Now these Spirits of Form created a purely super-sensible form—nothing spatial at all. What man would have been—I will only sketch it for you in quite a cursory manner to-day—what man would have been, no outer eye could see, no outer senses could perceive; for pure soul forms cannot be perceived by outer senses. What man would have been coincides with something I have described in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds—it coincides with what is there given as Imaginative knowledge. An “Imagination” would man have been, created by the Spirits of Form. Nothing of a sense nature, purely super-sensible Imagination.

If we were to draw a rough diagram of what man would have been like—(see following diagram)—we should have an Imagination picture of what the Spirits of Form created as an Imagination of man. But it would also be permeated with what remained over in man from the creative working of the earlier hierarchies. We should have to show it in our diagram as permeated first of all with what was left in man from the Spirits of Movement, the Spirits of inner Movement (2). That would reveal itself to us as what we have described in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds with the words “Inspired Knowledge.” For these movements would only be recognisable as Inspiration. This means that we should have first the complete man, consisting of Imagination, and then we should have as well movement—Inspiration. And what the Spirits of Wisdom give would be Intuition. This would be a positive inner content with which all the rest would be in a manner filled out. We must put here (3) Intuition, that is to say, immediate being—Beings. And the whole we would behold as proceeding out of the cosmos and enclosed in an egg-shaped aura which would be the outcome of the working of the Spirits of Will. Such would be the super-sensible nature of man, consisting of contents which would be accessible to super-sensible knowledge alone. Fantastic as it may appear, it is the real Man.

If we may say so symbolically, it is Man in Paradise, who does not consist of the material contents of which man now consists but who has a super-sensible nature throughout.

And what happened through the Luciferic influence. Breaking-up spirit (that is to say, matter), spurted, as it were, into the Imaginations, and the result stands there to-day in the bony system of man. The bony system is the Man of Imagination filled out with matter. Matter does not belong to what is really the higher Man; through the Luciferic influence it has been shot into what would otherwise only be Imagination. We must picture to ourselves—if such a thing were not absurd—that there was a time when one could quite easily pass through a human being, but that then these Imaginations drew together, and, in addition, were afterwards filled out with bony substance. Nowadays we should knock up against bones if we tried to pass through a human being. But man only later became impenetrable.

That which is in man from the Spirits of Movement is filled out with muscle substance, and that which would be perceived as Intuition is filled out with nerve substance. It is only when we get beyond all these that we come to the super-sensible. With the etheric body of man we are already in the super-sensible. The etheric body is to-day only in the smallest degree material; it appears as very fine jets or sprays of the etheric, giving rise to a matter finer than that of which nerves are made, a kind of matter that does not really come into consideration for us here at all.

So you see, man is really a being who has undergone a great coarsening in his nature. For were he as he was originally intended in the purposes of the Gods he would have no bones, but his form would consist in super-sensible “Imagined” bones; he would have no muscles to serve as an apparatus for movement, but he would have super-sensible substance moving within him; whereas now what moves in him has been everywhere interlarded with muscle substance. The super-sensible movement which was given to man by the Spirits of Movement has become physical movement in the muscles, and the intuition given by the Spirits of Wisdom has become in the man of the senses nerve substance. Nerve substance has been, so to say, crammed into the Intuition. And so when you find a drawing of the skeleton in an anatomy book you can think to yourself: It was originally intended to be a pure Imagination and has become so coarsened by the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences that it meets us to-day as dense, thick, hard bones that can be broken and fractured. So fast and firm have the Imaginations become! And now do you still say that man cannot find in the physical world any reflection of the world of Imagination! Whoever knows what the skeleton really is may find, when he looks at it, a picture of the world of Imagination. And when you see a picture of the man of muscle you really ought to say to yourself: That is an utterly unnatural picture, it is inwardly untrue. In the first place I see it, whereas I ought to hear it spiritually. For the true state of the matter is this—rhythmic movement has been interlarded, by a super-sensible process, with muscle substance which does not really belong to it at all; what remains ought not to be seen but heard, like the swaying movement of music. You should really hear Inspirations. And what you see pictured there as the man of muscle—are the Inspirations of Man made rigid in matter.

Finally we come to the man of nerves. The man of nerves we ought really neither to see nor to hear, but only to perceive in an altogether spiritual manner. From a cosmic point of view there is a complete distortion in the fact that we have visibly before us what should only be grasped in purest spirituality. It is in reality a spiritual sheath that has been, so to speak, injected with physical matter. We see before us visibly what should only be perceived as an Intuition. The expulsion from Paradise means simply this—that man was originally in the spiritual world, that is to say, in Paradise, and he there consisted of Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition—that is, he was in an entirely super-earthly existence. And then, owing to the very conditions he had himself induced under the Luciferic influence, he received into him an inrush of breaking spirit, of matter. Matter is thus something with which we are filled but which does not belong to us. We bear it in us, this matter, and because we bear it in us we must die a physical death. There you have, in point of fact, the cause of physical death, and of much besides. For inasmuch as man has left his spiritual condition he lives here in physical existence only until matter gains the victory over what holds it together. For the nature of matter is such that it is perpetually trying to break up and go to pieces, and the matter in the bones is only held together by the power of Imagination. When the power of the bones gains the upper hand then the bones become incapable of life. It is the same with the muscles and the nerves. So soon as the matter in the bones, muscles and nerves gains the upper hand over Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition and is able to break asunder, in that moment must man lay down his physical body. There you have the connection between physical death and the Luciferic influence. We shall follow it up tomorrow by showing how evil, too, and many other things—illnesses, etc.—have come into the world.