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The Balance in the World and Man,
Lucifer and Ahriman
GA 158

Lecture III

Dornach, November 22, 1914

From the previous lecture you will have been able to see that the very form of man's body is a result of the co-operation of Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers.

It is particularly important in the present age for man to recognize this co-operation between Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers; for only by such recognition can he gradually learn to understand the forces that are at work behind the external phantasmagoria of existence. We know very well that we have no occasion either to hate Ahriman or to fear Lucifer, since their powers are inimical only when they are working outside the realm where they belong. We spoke on this subject at some length in Munich last year [ see Secrets of the Threshold, by Rudolf Steiner. ]; and we have also given indications in this direction in lectures here in Dornach.

When we saw last time how the physical spatial body of man owes its form to the interaction of Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers, we were dealing with the most external element of human life in which Lucifer and Ahriman play a part. We come a little nearer to the inner nature of man when we pass from the physical to the etheric body. The etheric body may be regarded as the shaper of the physical body. At the foundation of our physical organism—and embedded at the same time in the whole etheric world—lies this etheric organism, in perpetual inner movement. Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers are active here too, as well as in the physical body. Man as etheric being—and it is important to recognize the fact—is also placed into the counterplay of these forces.

In order to give focus to our study of this question, let us now turn our attention to the three fundamental activities of the human being in so far as he is not physical human being. I refer to the activities of Willing, Feeling and Thinking.

So long as we regard man in respect of his physical body alone, we do not of course see this willing, feeling and thinking. Only in its physiognomy or in the performance of certain gestures or the like, does the physical body give us any indication of what is in man's inner nature. The etheric body, however, which is in perpetual movement, is continually giving expression to man's thinking, feeling and willing.

A purely external science finds itself in difficulties when it comes to consider these activities of the human soul. If you will study the various philosophies you will find that one gives pre-eminence to the will, another to thought; and there are again others which consider feeling as the most important force in man. But as to how thinking, feeling and willing unite in man to form a whole—to that problem none of the philosophies of modern times can offer a solution. This inability to form a correct idea of the relationship between thinking, feeling and willing in the life of the soul is not unlike the difficulty someone might experience who, in order to relate himself rightly to the world around him, set out to form a clear conception of man as he appears in the external world. We do not know—so say the philosophers—whether the human soul in its essential nature has more the character of willing or feeling or thinking. It is exactly as if someone were to say: “I have no idea what a ‘man’ really is. One person brings me a five-year-old child and says: There is a man for you! Then another person comes along and points me out a much taller being, who is what is called ‘middle-aged.’ Finally a third person comes and shows me an entirely different being, with wrinkled countenance and grey hair. And now I am really at a loss to know what the being called ‘man’ is, for I have been shown three totally different beings with this name.” Of course the true answer is that they are all of them “man.” The one is very young, the second somewhat older and the third quite old; they are very different in appearance. But by taking all three ages together we acquire a knowledge of “man.” It is the same with willing, feeling and thinking. The difference there too is one of age. Willing is the same soul-activity as thinking, but willing is still a child. When it grows a little older, it becomes feeling, and when it is quite old it is thinking. The matter is made difficult by the fact that the different ages live together in our soul in these three activities.

We have explained on other occasions (and you may read of it in my book The Threshold of the Spiritual World) that when we leave the physical world we come into a world where the law of change prevails instead of the law of persistence or fixity. There all is in constant change; what is old can suddenly grow young again and vice versa. Hence in that world the three activities can and actually do appear at one and the same time. Willing shows itself contemporaneously as young willing, as older willing (i.e., feeling) and at the same time also as quite old willing (i.e., thinking). The different ages are in that world intermingled, everything is mobile. This is how it is with the etheric body of man.

These changes cannot, however, simply come about of themselves. To begin with, a uniform and single action of the soul does not come to consciousness at all in ordinary life, we are quite incapable of bringing such a thing into consciousness. If we think of the etheric body in the likeness of a flowing stream—for it is in the etheric body that we have to make our observations—then we are obliged to say that this stream of soul-activity does not come to consciousness at all in our life; but into this stream, into this perpetual movement of the etheric body that flows in the current of time, Luciferic—and again Ahrimanic—activity enters. Luciferic activity has the result of making the will young. When the activity of our soul is streamed through by Luciferic activity the result is will. When the Luciferic influence predominates, when Lucifer makes his forces felt in the soul, then will is active in us. Lucifer has a juvenating influence on the whole stream of our soul-activity.

When, on the other hand, Ahriman brings his influence to bear on our soul-activity, he hardens it, it becomes old, and thinking is the result. Thinking, the having and holding of thoughts, is quite impossible in ordinary life unless Ahriman exerts his influence within our etheric body. We cannot get on in our life of soul, in so far as this comes to expression in the etheric body, without Ahriman and Lucifer. If Lucifer were to withdraw entirely from our etheric body, we would have nothing to fire our will. If Ahriman were to withdraw entirely from our etheric body, we would never be able to attain cool thinking. In between stands a region where Lucifer and Ahriman are in conflict. Here they interpenetrate; their activities play into one another. It is the region of feeling. The etheric body has actually this appearance; one can perceive in it Luciferic light and Ahrimanic hardness. If you could look at it, you would not of course see it as we might try to show it in a drawing; you would see it all in movement. But there are places where the etheric body seems to be quite untransparent, as if it had ice tracings in it. Forms and figures show themselves which resemble the patterns made by ice on a window pane. These are hardenings in the etheric body, and they are the result in it of the life of thought. This freezing of the etheric body at certain places is due to Ahriman; his forces have found entry there by means of thought. There are also places which seem to be full of light. Here the etheric body is transparent and gleams and glows with light. It is Lucifer who sends his rays into the etheric body of man and makes there centers of will. Then there are regions in between, where the etheric body is in perpetual movement and activity. Here you see at one moment hardness—and then suddenly the hardness is caught by a ray of light and melts right away. Hardening and dissolving, in perpetual alternation—such is the expression of the activity of feeling in the etheric body.

Not only, therefore, is the form of the physical body of man called into being by the interplay of Luciferic and Ahrimanic forces—now creating a balance, now disturbing it again—but in the whole etheric body too, Luciferic and Ahrimanic forces are continually active. When the Ahrimanic forces gain the upper hand, we have an expression of thinking; when the Luciferic forces are in ascendance, we have an expression of willing; and when they are in mutual conflict one with the other, we have an expression of feeling. Thus do Luciferic and Ahrimanic forces play into one another in the etheric body of man. We human beings are as it were ourselves the resultant of these forces, we are placed into their midst.

Now we must not imagine that we are present in this interplay with our full Ego. Our earthly Ego, the Ego that we have acquired in the course of earth evolution, can only come to its full consciousness in the physical body. Not until the time of Jupiter will the Ego be able to unfold itself completely within the etheric body. In all that takes place within the etheric body the real Ego of the human being has no immediate part. Had the progress of world evolution gone on without the intervention of Luciferic and Ahrimanic forces, then man would have been an altogether different being. He would, for example, have been able to have perceptions in his physical body, but he would not have been able to have thoughts. The capacity to have thoughts he owes to the fact that Ahriman can acquire influence over his etheric body. And he has impulses of will because Luciferic forces can acquire influence over his etheric body. These forces are therefore necessary for man, they must needs be present.

We have said that with our earthly consciousness we cannot descend fully into the etheric body. Only in the physical body can we experience our full Ego-consciousness. With the etheric body we enter a world with which we cannot fully identify ourselves. And it is so, that when Ahriman enters into our etheric body, something more enters in with him besides the thoughts he forms there. Nor is it only impulses of will that enter our etheric body with Lucifer. And the same must be said of the feelings, the realm where the two are in conflict. In so far as Ahriman lives in our etheric body we dive down with our etheric body into the sphere of the elementary Nature spirits—the Earth, Water, Air and Fire spirits. We are not cognizant of the fact because we are not able to descend fully into our etheric body with our Ego. Nevertheless it is always so. Within this etheric body not only does there live the power of the thoughts that we ourselves think, but the influences also of the Nature spirits; these enter in and make themselves felt. When a man has met with these Nature spirits he is able afterwards to tell of some experience he has had which he did not have in his ordinary Ego-consciousness. For it is when he, is in an abnormal condition that man meets the Nature spirits, namely, when the etheric body is to some extent loosened from the physical body.

How can such a thing happen? It can happen in the following way. The etheric body of man is in communion with the whole surrounding etheric world, therefore also with the whole sphere of the Nature spirits. Let us imagine, to take a simple case, that a man is walking along a road. When he is walking along a road in the daytime with his ordinary consciousness, his etheric body is properly in his physical body and he perceives with his Ego-consciousness what one is normally able to perceive with the Ego-consciousness. But now suppose that he is walking along a path by night. When we walk along a path by night, it is generally dark, and this fact will of itself produce in many persons a “creepy” feeling. And just because he gets into this condition, then the peculiar sensations that he experiences enable Lucifer to seize hold of him. His etheric body becomes loosened from the physical body, and then this emancipated etheric body can enter into relation with the surrounding etheric world.

Now let us suppose that the man comes into the vicinity of a churchyard where etheric bodies are still present over the graves of recently deceased persons. In the condition in which he is, with his etheric body loosened, he is perhaps able to perceive something of the thoughts which are still remaining in the etheric bodies of the dead persons. Suppose someone has died only a short time ago leaving debts behind him; he died with the thought that he has incurred debts. Then it can be that this thought is still present in the etheric body of the person after he has died. We do not of course ordinarily perceive the thoughts in the etheric body of a dead human being. But for a man who has come into the condition I have described it might well be possible. He could enter into relation with the etheric body of the other and perceive within it the thought: “I have incurred debts.” And then because this experience strengthens the Luciferic power in him, there arises in him the feeling: “I must pay the debt for him.” He experiences in this way in his etheric body something he would never experience in the physical body in normal life. Such an experience does not happen to us in ordinary human life, and when it comes it makes an extraordinary impression upon our consciousness. For it arouses the knowledge: “I have had a strange and singular experience. I have not had this experience within the body, nor can I ever have it within the body.” We have the feeling quite distinctly that we are somewhere else than in our body, and that is a strange, an unaccustomed feeling. We experience at the same time an overpowering desire to return once more into the body, we long for help to return again into the body.

This feeling of longing to return attracts to us certain elementary Nature spirits for whom this very feeling in us is food and nourishment. They come, because they are attracted by the feeling, “I want to be drawn into my physical body,” and they help us to find the way back to it. If one is asleep in the ordinary way, one finds the way back quite easily. But when one has undergone an experience such as I have described, it is difficult to find the way back. You must not of course imagine that we see the situation as we perceive things in the physical body; no, we see it imaginatively, in pictures. Someone comes to us—it is really a Nature spirit, appearing perhaps in the guise of a shepherd, and gives us the advice: “Go to a certain castle, I will take you there in my wagon,”—or some similar words. The situation may even be still further developed. The body which we have left and outside of which we have had the experience, may assume the appearance of an enchanted castle from which we have to release someone when we return into it. So do we “imaginate” in pictures the longing for the physical body and the help that the Nature spirits bring to us. And then we come back into the physical body—that is to say, we wake up.

People who have had such experiences will tell us that they feel they have in actual reality come into contact in this way with the thoughts of a dead man. They say to themselves: “That feeling I had was not something that was merely in myself, it was no mere dream that I dreamed, it was a feeling that communicated to me something that was taking place in the world outside. It is of course all expressed in pictures, but it does truly correspond to an event.” I will now read to you such a picture, where a man narrates what he has experienced. As you will see, it was an experience somewhat similar to the one of which I have spoken. He describes it as follows. “When I had taken leave of the soldiers I met three men. They wanted to exhume a dead person who owed them three marks. I was filled with compassion and at once absolved the debt, in order that the dead man might rest in peace and not be disturbed in his grave. I walked on a little further. A strange man with pale countenance accosted me, invited me to mount a leaden carriage, and persuaded me to go with him to a castle. In the castle, he said, dwelt a princess, who had declared she would marry only a man who came to her on a carriage of lead. He turned to the driver and said: ‘Drive in the direction of the sunrise.’ Then came a shepherd who said: ‘I am the Count of Ravensburg.’ He ordered the driver to drive faster. We came to a door and we could hear a tumult within. The door was opened. The princess asked the man whence he came and how it had been possible for him to drive in company with that old man—and behold, I saw that he who had led me thither was a spirit. Then I entered in at the door and took possession of the castle.”

That is to say, he came back into his body. There you have the description of just such an experience as I have been speaking of.

And what is such an event, when it happens to someone who then tells others of it? It is a Märchen (a fairy-tale [ see Goethe's Standard of the Soul, by Rudolf Steiner. ]).

You must not imagine that an experience of this nature is the only way in which man comes into relationship with the external etheric world through his etheric body. There is another. And that is, in an activity which is only half conscious, an activity in which the Ego only half participates—namely, the act of Speech. Our speaking is not so conscious as our thinking. It is not the case that speaking is something which belongs to us and which we have in our power. In speech live etheric Powers, and a good part of our speaking is unconscious. The Ego does not reach fully down into speech. When we speak we are in communication through our etheric body with the surrounding etheric world. We learn to think as individuals, but not to speak. We are taught to speak through the fact that our Karma places us into a particular set of circumstances in life. We have already seen how we may come into relation with the Nature spirits in abnormal conditions when the etheric body is loosened, and now we find that inasmuch as we speak and do not merely think silently, we come into relation with the Folk Spirits. The Folk Spirits enter our etheric body and live there—without our being aware of it. This life of the Folk Spirit within the human being really belongs just as little to his fully conscious Ego activity as does the “Märchen” of which I have told you. So much, then, for the activity of Lucifer and Ahriman in man's etheric body.

The Luciferic and Ahrimanic forces enter also into the astral body. When we come to study the astral body of man, we must turn our attention to what is the distinguishing mark of the astral human being as he is on earth—namely, consciousness. In the physical body form and force are the essentials, in the etheric body, movement and life: in the astral body, consciousness. Now in the body of man we have not only one consciousness, but two; the ordinary waking state and the state of sleep. But, strange to say, neither of these two states is entirely natural to us. Natural would be for us an intermediate state between the two, a state which, as a matter of fact, we never really consciously have.

If we were perpetually awake we would scarcely be able to develop in a proper, orderly manner through the various ages of life. Something is always present in us which is less awake than we are in our day-consciousness, and only by virtue of this are we in a position to evolve and develop. Ask yourselves, how much do you expect to be able to evolve through all that you experience and receive in ordinary life? For the most part, we merely satisfy thereby our desire, our curiosity, or our need of sensation. It is not often we act with deliberate intent to place what we experience in waking day life in the service of our development. The truth is, development takes place through the fact that something is continually sleeping in us, even in the daytime. I am not alluding to the habit of dropping off to sleep in the daytime! But when man is wide awake by day, something still remains fast asleep in him, and this it is which brings it about that he does not remain for ever a child, but evolves further.

The ordinary waking state is what comes to consciousness through our astral body. In this ordinary waking state we are, however, too strongly awake, we are too intensely given up to the external world; we are, in fact, quite lost in it. How does this come about?

The reason is that the waking consciousness lives under the influence of Ahriman. Ahriman has great power over our waking consciousness. It is quite different in the case of the sleep consciousness. In sleep consciousness we are too little awake. We are too engrossed in our own evolution; we are so completely and so powerfully within ourselves that all consciousness is obliterated. In sleep consciousness, Lucifer has the upper hand.

This is then how the matter stands with our astral body. When we are awake, Ahriman has the upper hand over Lucifer, and when we are asleep Lucifer has the upper hand over Ahriman. They are in equilibrium only when we dream; there they pull with equal force, they strike a balance between them. The ideas which are called forth by Ahriman in day consciousness and which he causes to harden and crystallize, are dissolved and made to disappear under the influence of Lucifer; everything becomes pictures when Ahriman is no longer busy fixing them in rigid ideas. They melt and become mobile in themselves. A state of equilibrium is induced in a pair of scales by having both scale-pans equally laden; we have, then, not a state of rest but a state of equilibrium. It is the same with the life of man. We have not in man a state of rest, but a state of equilibrium; and the two forces which hold the scales and each of which at certain times brings extra weight to bear, are Lucifer and Ahriman. In waking consciousness Ahriman's side sinks down, in sleep consciousness Lucifer's. Only in the intermediate state, where we dream, are the two scale-pans held in poise, not at rest, but delicately poised in equilibrium.

We can go on to carry our study into still higher regions of human life. Here too we shall find evidence of how Lucifer and Ahriman fill the world with their inter-working. Two ideas play a great part in human life. One is the idea of duty. We might also say, when we consider it from a religious point of view, the idea of commandment or behest. We speak sometimes, do we not, of the “behest of duty.” The other idea, which can be placed over against it, is the idea of right (or rights).

If you will reflect a little on the part played in human life by these two ideas of duty and of right—I mean, the “right” one has to do this or that—you will very soon realize that they are polar opposites, and that men's inclinations are turned now more in the direction of duty, and now again in the direction of right. We live certainly in an age when people are more ready to speak of right than duty. All possible spheres of life claim their rights. We have Workers' Rights, Women's Rights, and so on and so on.

Duty is the opposite idea of right. Our age will be followed by an age when duties will be more regarded than rights, and this will be directly attributable to the influence of the anthroposophical spiritual world-conception. In the future—certainly, in a rather distant future—we shall have movements where less and less emphasis will be laid on the demand for rights and people will inquire more and more as to their duty. The question will rather be: What is our duty as man, as woman, e.g., in this or that situation of life? The present epoch that demands rights will be succeeded by an epoch that asks after duties.

We said that right and duty play into life like two polar opposites. Whenever a man turns his thought and attention to duty, he looks right away from himself. Kant has given great and grand expression to this fact. He pictures duty as a lofty goddess, to whom man looks up: “Duty, thou great and exalted Name, thou has nought to do with fondness nor with favor; all that thou requirest is to submit thyself and serve.” Man beholds duty, so to say, raying down upon him from regions of the spiritual world. In a religious sense, he feels duty as an impulse laid upon him by the Beings of the higher Hierarchies. And when man surrenders himself to duty, he goes right out of himself. It is in this going-out-of-himself in the feeling of duty, that man can begin to learn how to get beyond his ordinary self.

There is, however, a danger to man in all such going-out-of his ordinary self, in all such endeavor after spiritualization. If man were to give himself up entirely to this, he would lose the ground from under his feet, he would lose his feeling of gravity. Therefore he must endeavor, when he surrenders himself to duty, to find within himself at the same time something that shall give him weight, so that he may keep his sense of gravity. Schiller expressed it very beautifully when he said that man has the best relation to duty when he learns to love duty.

This is really saying a great deal. When a man speaks of learning to love duty he no longer merely surrenders himself to duty; he rises out of himself, taking with him the love with which otherwise he loves himself. The love that lives in his body, in his egoism—this love he takes out of himself, and loves with it duty. So long as it is self-love, so long is it a Luciferic force. But when man takes this self-love out of himself and loves duty in the way that otherwise he loves only himself, he releases Lucifer. He takes Lucifer into the realm of duty and gives him, so to say, a justified existence in the impulse and feeling of duty.

If, on the other hand, a man cannot do this, if he cannot draw forth the love out of himself and offer it to duty, then he will continue to love only himself; and since he cannot love duty, he is obliged to subject himself to her, he becomes a slave to duty, he becomes, as we say, a man who “does his duty,”—hard and cold and uninspired. He hardens in an Ahrimanic sense, notwithstanding that he follows duty devotedly.

You see how duty stands, as it were, in a midway position. If we surrender ourselves to her, she annuls our freedom, we become her slaves, because Ahriman draws near on the one hand with his impulses. But if we bring ourselves—if we bring all our power of self-love—as an offering and offer it up to duty, bringing thus to duty the Luciferic warmth of love, then the result is that, through the state of balance induced in this way between Lucifer and Ahriman, we find a right relation to duty.

Thus we are truly, in a certain connection, redeemers of Lucifer. When we begin to be able to love our duty, then the moment has come when we can help towards the redemption and release of the Luciferic powers; we set free the Lucifer forces which are held in us as by a charm, and lead them forth to fight with Ahriman. We release the imprisoned Lucifer (imprisoned in self-love) when we learn to love our duty.

Schiller sets himself this very question in his “Aesthetic Letters”: How is it possible to rise above slavery to duty and attain to love of duty? Of course he does not use the expressions “Lucifer” and “Ahriman,” because he does not see the problem in its cosmic aspect. Nevertheless these wonderful letters of Schiller on the Aesthetic Education of Man are directly translatable into Spiritual Science.

Right, on the other hand, immediately shows that it is united with Lucifer. Man does not need to learn to love his right, he loves it already! It is perfectly natural that he should do so. It is natural for Lucifer to be connected with right in man's feeling—man feels that this or that is his right. Everywhere that right asserts itself, Lucifer is speaking there too. It is very often only too evident how Lucifer makes his voice heard in the demand of some right. Here it is a question of calling in something that can be set over against right. We have to call in Ahriman to create a polarity to Lucifer. And this we can do by cultivating the polar opposite of love.

Love is inner fire, its opposite is calmness—the quiet acceptance of what happens in the world. As soon as we approach our right with this quiet and calm interest we call in Ahriman. It is not easy to recognize him here, for we set him free from his merely external existence, we summon him into ourselves and warm him with the love that is already united with right. Calm and peace of mind have the coldness of Ahriman; in the quiet understanding of what is in the world, we unite our warmth and our understanding love with the coldness that is in the world outside. And then we release Ahriman, when we meet what has come about with understanding, when we do not merely demand our rights out of self-love but understand what has come about in the world. This is the eternal battle that is waged between Lucifer and Ahriman. On the one hand man learns in a conservative way to understand the conditions that are in the world, he learns to understand how they have come about from cosmic, karmic necessity. That is one aspect of the matter. The other aspect is that he feels in his heart the urge to make new conditions possible, continually to let the old give place to the new. This is the revolutionary current in human life. In the revolutionary stream lives Lucifer, in the conservative stream Ahriman, and man in his life of right lives in the midst between these two poles.

Thus we see how right and duty show each of them a state of equilibrium between Lucifer and Ahriman. We only learn to understand how the physical body, the etheric body and the astral body manifest in life, or how duty and right come to expression in the life of duty and the life of right, when we learn to recognize the interplay of great spiritual Powers, above all of those spiritual Powers who bring about the state of equilibrium.

For just as what is in the external world stands under the influence of the spiritual forces that bring about balance, so does our moral life too belong in a world of polar opposites. The whole morale of human conduct, the whole ethical life of man with its poles of right and duty, only become comprehensible when we take into account the instreaming forces of Lucifer and Ahriman. And when we look at the life of man in history, that takes its course in an alternation between, on the one hand, revolutionary and warlike—that is to say, Luciferic—movements, and on the other hand, conservative—that is, Ahrimanic—movements, there too we find a condition of balance between Lucifer and Ahriman. In no other way is the world to be understood than by recognizing in it these opposite forces and influences.

What we behold in the world outside is dualistic, it shows itself to us in opposites. And in this connection Manichaeism, correctly understood, has its complete justification. How Manichaeism is fully justified even within a spiritual monism—of that we shall have more to say in the future. The object I have had in view in these lectures is to show you how the whole world is a result of the working of balance.

Particularly evident is the result of the working of balance in the life of art. With this as our starting-point we will go on in later lectures to consider the arts and their evolution in the world, and the part that has been taken by different spiritual Powers in the evolution of the life of art among mankind.