6 October 1914, Dornach
Yesterday I tried to speak of certain inner experiences which can be called the ‘vowels’ of the spiritual world.
We heard how occult reading and occult hearing are very living inner experiences to which the whole personality, the whole soul must be dedicated. I mentioned three such experiences for which careful preparation has to be made. One of these arises when we learn gradually to enter with consciousness that supersensible world in which we always are, but unconsciously, and thereby reach the Gate of Death. I also spoke of the experience which comes when we acquire the so-called faculty of transforming ourselves into other beings. And then I tried to show how we can so regard evil in the world that we recognise its origin in a misuse of higher spiritual forces which in their place and in their own mode of working are entirely justified.
Another such experience comes if we. take in earnest something that is linked with the last. We must transform ourselves into other beings but in such a way that the threads of inner soul-experiences are held intact. If they cannot be held intact it is just the same as when a man on the physical plane cannot remember what happened yesterday or some years ago in his physical life. Just as this continuity of experience has to be maintained in normal physical life, so the connecting thread must be maintained through the transformations in the spiritual world. This means that when a human being has transformed himself into a certain being or event he must not lose himself. He must retain a kind of higher, purely spiritual memory of other forms, processes and beings of the spiritual world. In other words: man has to become a multiple being, to ‘split up’ as it were in the spiritual world, to be able to divide himself. This inner experience produces a strange feeling: ‘You are here, you are this being, but you are also another being. You are within separate beings.’ Without this feeling of multiplicity, we should never be able to attain a real picture, for example, of the Beings of the higher Hierarchies. Along the paths we described yesterday and along others too we can get a picture of the Angeloi, the Hierarchy immediately above us. But to reach a more spiritually adequate picture of the Archangeloi, we must understand through inner feeling something of the experience of being multiplied. For it is only gradually that we learn to understand these Beings of the Hierarchies. We only gradually learn to understand because in the physical world all human conceptions, all human thoughts are bound up with the ordinary conditions of space and time. But quite different conditions of space and time exist when we ascend to the Beings of the Hierarchy of Archangeloi.
Starting from the ordinary physical consciousness, we have a certain basic feeling which is quite natural to this physical consciousness. If, for instance, through seership, I want to approach a human being who is living between death and a new birth, then — I am not speaking of myself here but quite generally, of one who has seership and is seeking for a dead soul — I have this feeling: ‘The dead is there, together with me!’ So far as the time element is concerned I can seek him just as on the physical plane I can seek another human being who is a contemporary ... it is only a matter of finding the way to him. When we are seeking one who is dead, this idea is also quite correct. In a certain sense it is still correct when it is a question of finding a Being of the Hierarchy of Angeloi. But it is no longer correct if we are seeking for a Being of the Hierarchy of Archangeloi, because such a Being has concentrated his consciousness at a time that is not our present time.
Suppose this line represents the flow of time. If the seer lives at this point, 1914, and is seeking a dead soul or a Being of the rank of the Angeloi, he finds that Being somewhere in the spiritual world at the same point of time. But this does not succeed if we are trying, for instance, to find a certain Being of the Hierarchy of the Archangeloi.
In this case we have to transcend time, to overcome the principle of synchronism (Gleichzeitigkeit). In order to find a certain Archangelos we must go back, for example, to the fifteenth century. Thus we do not remain in our own epoch. Supposing this were the year 1914, we have to go back, say, to the year 146.5. and seek there (EE) for the Archangelos. His influence, it is true, rays over into our own epoch but here we have merely the influence, we do not find the Archangelos in his own real identity. Other Archangeloi must be sought for at different points (see the upper circles in the diagram). We have to go beyond time. It is a difficult conception, but we have to reach it.
We must realise that the name ‘Archangelos’ has meaning. We know for the first time why they have this name when we find them in the way described. They are ‘Angeloi of the Beginnings.’ They are always to be found at the beginnings of epochs of time on the stage of world-history. It is there that we find them in their full consciousness, in their real self; this remains through the following epochs in the influences streaming into the flow of time. To find the Archangeloi we must not remain in the present; we must go out of time and seek for the beginnings of epochs. Thus, nobody whose soul is only able to live, let us say, in October 1914, is in a position to find all the Archangeloi — perhaps not even one. This is possible only to one who can transfer his soul back into other epochs, in such a way that he can actually experience those other epochs, live in those other epochs.
But then it is necessary not to forget how we got there — just as in the physical world we must not forget what we did yesterday. This is a law of the multiplicity, of the outpouring into number.
And as regards the Primal Beginnings, the Spirits of Personality, the Archai, we find them only by going back to the middle of the Lemurian epoch, when the Earth was at the beginning of its physical evolution. There we find the Archai in their essential nature. We cannot find the Archai if we remain in the present.
Thus, you can see that the whole relation of the soul to time must change before we can penetrate into the spiritual world with knowledge.
What We experience in this way — or even if we envisage these things and continue to feel them inwardly — imparts a kind of mood to the soul, a feeling of being outpoured into spiritual reality. This again is a ‘vowel’ in the spiritual world.
You can see how in the way described a man becomes more and more independent of the standpoint of Space, of the standpoint of Time, which are his in the physical world. He does not only go out of himself, but also into something: into the living weaving and working of the Cosmos, not only one-pointedly, inasmuch as he experiences himself in the spheres of Space, but many-sidedly, inasmuch as he experiences himself in Time as a living being, having in himself the centres of consciousness of the Beings of the higher Hierarchies. When, therefore, a man no longer lives only in himself, no longer even in the Space and Time known to him as a physical being, but when he has ‘taken Space to his body’ and ‘Time to his soul’ — mark this well, for its full meaning only dawns upon us gradually — when he has taken Space to his body and Time to his soul, he then experiences something that is not an abstract feeling in spiritual generality, but a living weaving and working in a cosmic existence full of meaning. Everywhere there is meaning; it pours into his soul. Universal meaning, weaving and living in the Universe forms itself out of individual meaning. The meaning of things bursts forth like fruit out of many centres. And the Spiritual bursting forth in the single individual meanings weaves itself into a Cosmic Word that is full of meaning. Man lives and weaves within the Cosmic Word. This experience again is another vowel of the spiritual world — the original, primal vowel of the spiritual world. This experiencing of the Cosmic Word which must be pictured in its living wealth and not merely as a spiritual hearing, is Inspiration in the higher sense. With this Inspiration we can say: ‘What I know in this Cosmic Word, the Cosmic Word knows in me. It is not I who know, but the Cosmos knows in me. I fall short in knowledge of the Cosmic Word only because I am an imperfect instrument which can only let the Cosmic Word sound into me in broken streams. But it is the Cosmic Word itself which sounds in me.’
Humility increases the more we succeed in surrendering ourselves selflessly, without any pretentiousness in regard to our own achievement, our thinking, feeling and willing. The more we succeed in letting the Cosmic Word hold sway in the weaving of our own being, the more objectively do we reproduce, through the Cosmic Word, the mysteries pervading the universe.
Thus, again we have spoken of a cosmic vowel. As I can tell you only the essential principles, I wanted to give you an idea — although quite a primitive one — of what may be called the ‘vowels’ of cosmic Being.
When a man is inwardly schooled in such feelings as I have described them in these five cosmic vowels, when he can experience what can be experienced in the life of soul as an echo of these feelings, then the soul can listen to what is going on in the spiritual world and is there in the spiritual world. And then the spiritual world can speak to the soul.
What is it that happens when real communion with the spiritual world is cultivated in the way described? Ego and astral body — but the Ego has reached a higher stage because it has become selfless and has been submerged in the astral body — Ego and astral body are outside the physical and etheric bodies. With his Ego and astral body man is outside the physical and etheric bodies when, during life between birth and death, he is engaged in acts of spiritual perception; but he looks back to the etheric body and it is the etheric body that reflects these ‘vowels.’
The etheric body has the power of a seven-fold reflection. I have spoken of five of these reflections. There are still two other experiences of which we could speak if it were possible to go into greater detail. But the characteristic weaving and working of the etheric body, what it reflects in its life-processes, may be described as these ‘vowels.’ In other words: something happens in the etheric body when a man has developed the feelings connected with the experience of standing at the Gate of Death, or is able to face Evil with understanding, or when he lives in the Cosmic Word. According to the particular mood with which he confronts the spiritual world, something is reflected in the etheric body which he is then able to perceive. It is very difficult to describe these things. Cosmic Being reflects itself in a sevenfold way in the etheric body. Let me make a diagram.
If this represents man's etheric body (quite diagrammatically) — then, if a man confronts the spiritual world with the feeling that arises from the preparation for standing at the Gate of Death, his etheric body is as it were compressed up to here, at a, and acquires a certain radiance and resonance. And out of this radiance and resonance proceeds something that may be called one of the vowels of the spiritual world.
If a different mood is developed, the etheric body concentrates in another region — let us say, in the region of the heart (b). A different radiance and resonance are perceived, as emanating from the being into whom the Ego and astral body have been transposed.
What I have said up to now has referred to the ‘vowels’ of the spiritual world. But there are also ‘consonants’ of the spiritual world, twelve consonants. We get at these consonants most easily by taking the physical body in the same way as we have taken the etheric body with its ‘vowels.’ The physical body is then revealed in its twelve-foldness.
There is not sufficient time even to hint how we can experience the twelve-foldness of the physical body as we have experienced the seven-foldness of the etheric body. But this I must say: To a man who is conscious outside his physical and etheric bodies, they become something quite different from what they are when he is living in them. The etheric body, then, is what contains the life-process which makes us living beings. The physical body is that which builds up the organism of our senses. We are within and we use our physical and etheric bodies to make us the beings we are on the physical plane. But when, in the sense indicated, we are outside the physical and etheric bodies, they appear to us as signs. True, the etheric body is still composed of life; but its task, that of being the life-principle of our physical organism, does not now reveal itself. The etheric body reveals itself as the signs of the seven vowels. It becomes objective, something at which we look and which in its variability and mobility becomes the ‘vowels’ of the Cosmic All. We become as foreign to our etheric body as to the vowels of physical script. And we become as foreign to the physical body — which is now revealed as a totality of twelve consonants brought together- as we are to the consonants of ordinary script. And just as consonants and vowels interpenetrate in the words of ordinary script, enabling us to read or hear, so in the spiritual world do we hear or read the etheric body which reveals itself in a sevenfold aspect by being joined with two or with three consonants of the physical body. On the physical plane, when we meet a human being we can understand him because he speaks to us, perhaps also by gesture or facial expression — but we must have eyes to see and ears to let the word enter our soul. Just as everything that constitutes a relationship to other human beings is transmitted by way of the senses, a similar thing happens in the spiritual world.
We prepare ourselves, let us say, to find a human soul who is living between death and a new birth. We know through inner experience that we are now united with that soul, that we are having experiences with it at the same time and in the same place in the spiritual world. Just as in the physical world we have sense-organs in order to come, to terms with other human beings, so in the spiritual world we have to look back to the etheric body and the physical body. And in their interplay, they reflect how the single processes of the etheric body are joined with those of the physical body — vowel processes with consonant processes. This interplay expresses the speech that is going on with the soul of the dead and is therefore necessary for understanding that soul.
Try to picture the following. — In the spiritual world you are united with the soul of one who is dead and is living between death and a new birth. You look back on your physical form which you can observe because you lived or are living in it on the physical plane; you also look back on the etheric form, and this reflects back all that you speak with the dead, what he has to communicate to you, what he is thinking, feeling and willing. The etheric and physical bodies have become one collective sense-organ. And we can say: In our physical life we have received the physical and etheric bodies so that we may have sense-organs for the spiritual world. A new light is now thrown on the truth that life in the physical world is not merely life in a vale of sorrow of which we must long to get rid, as false asceticism teaches. We realise that life in the physical world has its sublime, divine mission. Within the physical world we acquire what becomes sense-organs for the spiritual world.
You will understand this still more precisely if I tell you about the perception of spiritual beings and happenings when we ourselves are living between death and a new birth, that is to say, when we are not seeing the spiritual world clairvoyantly from the physical plane but are united in the spiritual world with spiritual beings. As long as we bear a physical and an etheric body as a garment, so long have we instruments for reflecting; these bodies serve us as sense-organs. When we lay aside these bodies at death, we naturally no longer have them as external realities. You may easily ask: Does this mean that in the spiritual world between death and a new birth, we cannot become aware of what we experience in connection with the other beings and processes of the spiritual world? But then everything is different, we become aware of it differently I Even the seer in the physical world must have what he experiences in the spiritual world reflected by the physical and etheric bodies. This is correct as long as he is living in the physical world, as long as the physical body has not passed away through decay m•; to the physical world and the etheric body through dissolution into the spiritual world. When we are in the spiritual world and no longer have physical and etheric bodies, then we are able, out of what is the substance of the spiritual world, to form the world of signs out of which the physical body was put together, and also the world of signs out of which the etheric body was given shape.
Suppose, as a soul between death and a new birth, you are to live together with another human being. You are aware of this common life. What the other soul says to you or you say to him expresses itself spiritually in such a way that you inscribe into the spiritual world what, in other circumstances, would have been reflected. But now with your own power you inscribe the picture into the spiritual world. What you otherwise express in the signs of the physical and etheric bodies, in vowels or consonants, you now inscribe, you actually inscribe with your own power into the spiritual world, into the Akashic Record, what you are saying to the other soul — obliterating it again, figuratively speaking, when it is no longer needed.
These communications and experiences are to be read and heard in the spiritual world as the result of mutual activity on the part of the souls.
I gave the first indications of these things at the beginning of the chapter in my book Theosophy, where the so-called ‘Spirit-Land’ is described. It is there said that at a certain stage of development in Devachan, in the ‘Spirit-Land,’ the human being sees his previous incarnation in the ‘Continental Region’ of the Spirit-Land. It is an inscription of a spiritual record.
The ideal would be if study of a book like Theosophy were so zealous that many a reader, from the indications given there, would arrive at these things for himself. There is a very great deal in these books and merely through one's own reading — if the contents are read with the heart and experienced with deep inwardness — everything can be gleaned from them. But books on Spiritual Science are, as a rule, not read with the attention that they really require. If they had been so read, after Theosophy and Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and perhaps also Occult Science — an Outline, had been written, the lecture-courses could have been written or given by someone else than me. Everything, really, is contained in these books, only people do not generally believe it. And how much could be written if everything contained in the Mystery Plays were really to be assimilated 1 I am not saying this for advertisement's sake — I have already said enough about the humility of the occultist and the spiritual investigator — but I say it in order to stimulate genuine reading of the writings which had to be given out precisely in our epoch, and for which one really has, personally, so little merit.
So you see that the human being, as he lives on the physical plane, develops something in regard to the spiritual worlds which can be a seed for experiences in these higher worlds. The etheric body of man as it is in the physical world is not only his life-principle, but it is at the same time an instrument of preparation for unfolding understanding of the vowels of the spiritual world. And the physical body also is an instrument of preparation for experiencing the consonants of the spiritual world.
Much can be done if we try in all earnestness to get rid of the purely materialistic conception of the human physical body. Much can be done in the way of preparation in order that these feelings for the vowels and consonants of the Cosmos, these inner experiences and impulses in the soul may awaken. For this preparation we must call up an experience which, as regards development into the higher worlds, is somewhat similar to what a child must do in order to be able to read in the physical world — what it must do in order to learn the words of our physical language.
With the materialistic conception of the physical body, this body is taken just as it presents itself in the physical sense. It is as though somebody were to write down the signs: I N K. ... and then someone comes and says that he will investigate it. This is how we approach the physical body. It is looked at as though it were a scroll with flourishes going up here and down there ... and then it is described. Heart, lung, and so on, are described just as they present themselves externally.
This really is the way it is done. But the only people who get anything out of it are those who have learnt to read the word ‘ink’ out of the signs.
Thus, must we ascend from the physical plane into the higher spiritual worlds with the experiences of which we have spoken to-day. What we learn to read and hear in this way is an individual experience of the soul. But we can prepare if in the physical world we try to comprehend the physical body in its sign-nature. What is meant by this?
I will give you a brief example of understanding this sign-nature. I can do it only very briefly and must leave it to your own earnest meditation to see what is meant. For in many cases speech is not really adequate for understanding these things. It will become adequate only when Spiritual Science has worked for a while in the world and has given the words a stamp which really links them with spiritual activity and spiritual reality. Speech must become more pliant, and this will only be possible when contact with Spiritual Science has been cultivated for some hundreds of years and people have become accustomed to taking words differently from what is the case to-day when they are applied only to things and happenings of the physical plane. Now for the examples.
We find what transpires in the human head to-day enclosed in the bony formation of the skull. There it all is. With a few exceptions it is all physically shut up, as it were, inside. When we begin really to think about the human head, and not merely describe it in its material appearance, we find a tremendous significance in the fact that inside it complicated processes are going on which are shut in practically on all sides by a bony sheath. One part of the physical human being is separated off, surrounded on all sides by the hardest substance, namely that of the bones. It is, however, only a part of the human organism. The human being is by no means a simple entity! The primitiveness of the ideas prevailing at the present time are revealed by the criticisms of my books which grumble at someone who speaks of a Sentient Soul, a Mind-Soul and a Consciousness — or Spiritual Soul, whereas it was a splendid achievement — so it is said — to have been able to conceive of the soul as a unit. It is understandable that our materialistic culture should prefer the hotchpotch that goes by the name of Psychology to-day, to the real membering of the soul. These members of the soul are a reality; they belong to different worlds and are not designated without reason. It is comprehensible that modern culture should consider this foolish, but thereby it simply characterises itself, not what it condemns.
The physical organism of man is highly complicated and study of it may give rise to the following thoughts which may, certainly, seem foolish to those who call themselves scientists to-day. Yes … but St. Paul said that much that is wisdom in the eyes of God is foolishness in the eyes of men. And so perhaps it will be profitable to think of this ‘foolishness in the eyes of men’ which may be ‘wisdom in the eyes of God.’
Let us think about the following. — What about our hands? Our hands are quite definitely connected with our soul. If anyone has a living feeling for what goes on in his hands, it is not without significance if what he says to another human being expresses itself in the gestures of his hands. This means something in itself! I will pass over many of the intermediate steps, leaving this to your own meditation. Just suppose that as the result, not of a process emanating from the human body, but of a process rooted in the Cosmos, our hands were not formed in such a way that we could move them freely or make them follow our will. Suppose our hands were fettered to our body, were obliged to remain quite rigid, having been affixed to the body, as it were from outside, by external Nature. How would things be then? We should have hands but be unable to move them. But if we had hands and could not use them, we should still have the urge to do so! Although we could not move them physically, we should always be wanting to move the etheric hands! The physical hands would lie still, the etheric hands would move. This, in reality, is what we do with our brain. Certain lobes of the brain which now lie enclosed in the skull were freely mobile during the Old Moon evolution. To-day they are rigid and can no longer move physically. But they do move etherically, when we think. We move the etheric brain when we think. If we had not this firm skull enclosing the lobes of the brain, we should stretch out with these lobes and make gestures with them — gestures such as we now make with the hands — but we should not think. The lobes of the brain had first to be made physically rigid and it had to be possible for the etheric brain to tear itself free.
What I am now saying is not fantasy. The time will come when our hands and much else too will become rigid. This will be in the Jupiter epoch. That which to-day appears so free — attached as it were to the heart-region — will then be enclosed by a sheath, just as the brain to-day is enclosed by a skull. That which is most visibly expressed in the hands is something that is preparing to become an organ of thought. For the time being we have only rudimentary organs which at present are small structures because they have not fully developed. Suppose that to-day we had only certain portions of the skull here in front ... behind there are the shoulder-blades. They lie in the plane which later on will enclose the brain of the future. You have a true conception of the shoulder-blades in the human body when you regard them as small pieces of bone which really belong to a skull that will form — only the other parts have not yet developed. Therewith you have, as it were, added a second man to the first. Moreover — and here I shall say something very strange — there are other organs in the body which are also pieces of another skull which will develop in a still more distant future. These organs are now quite tiny compared with the organism as a whole: they are the knee-caps. The knee-caps are now these tiny surfaces — mere indications which later on will turn into a different spiritual organ. We characterise the human organism aright if we say (though this is only one isolated example): The human being has, in reality, three skulls. One is fairly well developed, shut off on all sides. The second has only pieces, in the shoulder-blades, the third only in the knee-caps. But the two latter — shoulder-blades and knee-caps — can, in thought, be expanded and rounded off into spherical forms. Thus, we get three brains. What we are as inner men is only slightly developed externally in the second brain. To-day it manifests externally; later on it will become an inner brain. When you make gestures with your hands to-day you are preparing for what will be thoughts later on — thoughts which will be quite as capable of grasping processes of the elemental world as your head now grasps the processes of the physical world. And strange though it sounds: everything lying outside and beyond the knee-caps, that is to say, the lower legs, the feet — these are still quite imperfect organs connected with the gravity of the Earth. These organs, in conjunction with what they receive spiritually from the Earth to-day, are preparing to become not only physical but spiritual organs, which will lead into the spiritual worlds when the Earth is replaced by the later Venus evolution. The present physical form must fall away and something else take its place.
So you see, much, very much is contained in the occult study of the world. The most important is not that we know: This or that book exists and contains this and that concerning the higher worlds. That is not the most important. What the books contain must, naturally, be assimilated because that is the only way of finding what is right and true. But the necessary thing is a certain ‘temper’ of the soul, whereby a man relates himself in a new way to the world, whereby he learns to have a different view of the things of the world. The important thing is that by this reading we prepare for the inner mobility and movement of the life of thought, for the weaving of thought, for the experience of thought-in-itself; that we also prepare to see the physical world in a different way. For even in their outer form things are not as they seem. Strange as it sounds, the shoulder-blade is not what you see physically. That it has such definite limits is Maya, is false. The shoulder-blade expands, when we really set about comprehending it, into an organ with much greater detail. And when we see a man kneeling, we should gradually get the impression: That is a false picture! The knee-caps there, those tiny parts, are illusory; this kneeling man is surrounded by a great spherical surface and he lives within that orb. The surface becomes a sphere and when a man prays he is preparing himself in the brain to live in the sphere in which he will live when the sphere of which the knee-caps are only tiny parts, encloses him.
Thus, we gradually learn to read in the physical world. We do not merely look at a man kneeling or making some gesture, but we begin to realise that although what presents itself immediately, is reality, none the less it is false and untrue. In the ‘letters’ we learn what the Cosmos is, not only in the present but what it expresses in its ‘Becoming.’ A man in prayer becomes, in his form, what the Venus man will sometime be. Thus, do we learn, step by step, to decipher, interpret, read in the true sense, and grasp the world as it really is. The physical world is no more than a written page before us. If we only stare at it, we can observe it without being able to read it at all. Neither do we know anything of the world if we look at it merely with the faculty of physical perception, for then we do not decipher, we do not really penetrate into the world. We must read the world, learn its meaning.
If we become more and more conscious that the world is a book which the Hierarchies have written for us, in order that we may read in it, then only do we become Man in the full sense of the word. The building on which we are working is intended in its form to draw out those feelings and intimate moods of soul which make us capable of reading the world and of hearing the secrets of the Universe. The building is as it is in order that it may draw out what is within us — a certain part, at least.
It is good, my dear friends, to take a picture in our meditations of the task which Spiritual Science has in the world over against what is in the world to-day; it is good to picture what must develop out of Spiritual Science and how Spiritual Science must find its way into the further development of history.
If only there could be in the Anthroposophical Society a body of human beings filled with the living consciousness that Spiritual Science has to be worked and woven into the evolution of humanity!
It was not merely in order to impart truths to you, but to stimulate such feelings in your souls, my dear friends, that I have given these lectures.