Materialism and the Task of Anthroposophy
5 May 1921, Dornach
The fourth post-Atlantean epoch, the epoch of the development of humanity's intellect, was guided by the Greek mystery centers. Initially, the mysteries provided the basis of this intellectual or mind culture for the general population of Asia Minor and southern Europe. The secret of human life and its connection with the sun played a major role in these mysteries. We know from the descriptions given in my book Theosophy how the ego lights up within man's intellectual or mind soul, after which it is meant to attain to its full inner power through the consciousness soul. Now, insofar as man's ego was destined to be developed during the age of the intellectual culture, the mysteries of that age had to be occupied with the secrets of the sun's life and particularly the sun's links with the human ego. You also know from my description in Riddles of Philosophy that the Greeks still perceived their ideas and concepts in the outer world, just as we today perceive colors, sounds, and so on. For the ancient Greeks, the element that dwells in concepts was not something merely created within the mind. It was something they beheld with the objects. In this respect, Goethe definitely possessed something of a Greek nature. He made this evident in the famous conversation with Schiller. When he heard Schiller say that his mental images — something conceptual and ideal — were not perceptions but ideas, Goethe replied that in this case he saw his ideas just as he saw external perceptions around him.
The Greeks' relationship to concepts was associated with a quite definite sensation the Greeks experienced when they directed their glance upon the outer world. In fact, they regarded the conceptual content that shone forth to them everywhere as the offspring of the sun's life. When the sun rose in the morning, they sensed the rising of conceptual life in space. With the setting sun they experienced the disappearance of the life of thought. We cannot understand the evolution of nations if we do not take into consideration this change in the soul life.
That faculty, my dear friends, has actually been lost from the soul life of human beings, namely, the faculty to sense and experience the spirituality of the whole environment. Today, a person sees the rise of the sun's round globe and only has an awareness of what is encountered there in the way of colored and shining atmospheric phenomena; it is the same when the sun is viewed as it disappears in the red glow of a sunset. The Greeks had the feeling that in the morning the world arose and bestowed on them their world of ideas. It vanished in the evening and a world then appeared that withdrew from them their world of ideas. In the darkness of night, they felt bereft of their ideas. When they looked up at the sky, which appears blue to us, but for which they used the same term as for “darkness,” they actually felt that the boundaries of space consisted of what was beyond conceptual life.
Where the Greeks saw the universe reaching a boundary, there ended for them the world of ideas with which the human being is endowed. Beyond this universe, the Greeks divined the existence of other worlds, the thought worlds of the gods. Those worlds seemed to them closely linked to what they designated as light.
They were revealed to them concentrated, as it were, in the sun's life, whereas, otherwise, they withdrew into the expanse of the dark cosmic firmament. We have to have insight into this quite different world of sensations if we are to understand the way in which this manner of perception in all its inner vitality affected the evolution of the human being for some time. We have to realize what the most advanced representatives of mankind felt when they could no longer experience the spiritual reflection of the sun's life in the cosmos upon them. And especially the most advanced representatives of humanity who had received their education in the Greek mysteries then experienced the Mystery of Golgotha as a salvation inasmuch as it once again brought about the possibility of enkindling this light within their being. The light such individuals had actually experienced earlier as a divine element they now wished to experience by means of participating with their soul and spirit in the events of the Mystery of Golgotha.
We do not acquire an actual knowledge of what has come to pass in mankind in the course of millennia when we merely study these things with the intellect. We have to focus on the transformation of the whole human mind and soul life. Living since the beginning of the fifteenth century in the age of the consciousness soul development, we have retained only the shadowy nature of our inner intellectual activity, of the spirituality of reason that existed in the fourth post-Atlantean period. I have outlined this here during the past few weeks. Now, once again, we have to struggle to attain an awareness of what can permeate our form of shadowy intellect with a living perception of the universe. It was precisely because of the modern culture of the shadowy intellect that the human being, in a manner of speaking, has been fettered to the earth. Today we actually consider only what the earth offers to us, particularly when we allow ourselves to be infected by the constantly expanding, purely scientific culture. People have no idea that they belong not only to the earth with their whole being but to the whole extraterrestrial universe as well. This knowledge of their connection with the cosmos beyond earth is something mankind must acquire once again.
We simply take earthly life today as the basis of our ideas and concepts and construe a view of the whole universe in accordance with conditions on earth. The resulting picture of the universe is then not much else than the transference of earthly conditions to extraterrestrial ones. Thus, by means of the tremendous achievements of modern science, through spectral analysis and other methods, a view of the sun was developed that is really modeled entirely upon earthly conditions. A conception is formed of what a luminous body of gas might look like. This conception is then transferred to what meets our eye as the sun in the cosmos. We must once again learn to use the materials of spiritual science to arrive at a conception of the sun. The physicist believes that the sun would present itself to him as a luminous sphere of gas if he were able to travel out into space. Yet, despite the fact that it reflects the cosmic light to us in its own way in the manner it receives it, the sun is a spiritual entity through and through. We are not dealing with a physical entity that moves about somewhere out there in the universe but with a completely spiritual being.
The Greeks still had the right feeling when they experienced the light, shining down upon them from the sun, as something that must be brought into a connec tion with their ego development insofar as this ego development is tied to the conceptual nature of the intellect. The sun's rays were to the Greeks something that enkindled their ego within them. It is therefore obvious that the Greeks still had a feeling for the spirituality of the cosmos. To them, the sun being was substantially a being related to the ego. The element the human being becomes aware of when he says "I" to himself, the force that works in him and enables him to say “I” to himself, this is what the Greeks looked at. They felt called upon to address the sun in the same way they addressed their ego, to regard the sun with the same feelings they had for their ego.
Ego and sun are the inner and the outer aspects of the same being. What orbits out there through space as the sun is the cosmic I. What lives within me is the human I.
One is inclined to say that this sensation is still faintly perceptible to those who have a somewhat deeper feeling of affinity for nature. The basis of such an experience has already vanished to a large degree. Yet, something is still alive in the human being today that is attuned to the rise of the sun in springtime, that can still experience the spirituality of the sunbeam and can feel how the ego is imbued with new life when the rays of the sun illuminate the earth with greater intensity. Yet, it is but a last, faint sensation that, even in this external manner, is dying out in mankind. It is about to disappear in the abstract, shadowy culture of the intellect that has gradually become prevalent in the whole of civilized life today. However, we must once again reach the point where some recognition can be gained of humanity's relationship with super-sensible existence. In this respect I want to point out a number of things today.
By bringing together all the references found here and there in anthroposophical literature, we shall be able, first of all, to comprehend once more the sun's connection with the ego. We shall be able to perceive the significant contrast between the forces radiating from the sun to the earth and those forces that are active in what we term the moon. Sun and moon are in a certain respect total opposites. Complete polarity exists between them. When we study the sun by means of spiritual science, we find that the sun sends down to us everything that fashions us into bearers of our ego. We owe to the rays of the sun what in fact bestows on us the human form and, in the latter, molds us into an image of the ego. What works in the human being from outside and determines his form from without even as early as the embryonic stage are influences from the sun. When the human embryo is developing in the womb, a great deal more is taking place than what present-day science is dreaming about, namely, that forces originate from the impregnated mother that then develop the human being. No, the human embryo merely rests in the mother's body; it is given form by the sun's forces. It is true, however, that we must bring these sun forces into connection with the moon's forces that have opposite effects. The moon forces become evident, above all, as the inner influence in the lower, metabolic nature of man. In drawing an outline, we may therefore say: The sun's forces are the element molding the human being from outside. What develops in the metabolic processes from within are the moon's forces, positioning themselves within the human organism and radiating outward from the center.
This does not contradict the fact that these moon forces also play a part, for instance, in forming the human countenance, They shape the face because the effects that proceed from the center, from the lower, metabolic system, exert an attracting power, as it were, from outside on the development of the human face. The moon forces have a differentiating effect on this development due to adding their influence to that of the sun's forces while counteracting the latter from within the human being. For this reason, the organism connected with human reproduction depends on the moon forces, which bestow the form. On the other hand, the result of procreation depends on the sun forces. With their whole being human beings are placed into the polarity between sun forces and moon forces.
In seeking the moon forces within the inner human organism, we have to distinguish them in the metabolic process from the forces originating within this process itself. The moon forces play into the metabolism but the latter possesses its own forces. These are the earth forces. The forces contained in food substances, in vegetables and other foods, work in the human being by virtue of their own nature. Here, they are active as earth forces. Metabolism is primarily a result of the earth's forces, but elements of the moon's forces work into them. If the human being possessed only the metabolic process with its forces, if only the substances of his foods would unfold their forces in his body after having been consumed, then he would have nothing but a chaotic play of all kinds of forces. The fact that these forces continuously work to renew the human being from within does not depend at all on the earth; it is due to the moon that is added to earth. The human being is shaped from within outwards by the moon, from without inwards by the sun. Inasmuch as the sun's rays are received through the eye into the human head organization, they also have an inward effect; nevertheless, they still work from outside in.
Thus, on the one hand, in regard to his whole ego development the human being depends on the influence of the sun; without the sun he could not be an ego dwelling solidly on the earth. On the other hand, there would be no human race, no propagation, if the moon were not the earth's companion. It is possible to say that it is the sun that firmly places the human being as a personality, as an individual, on the earth. It is the moon that conjured human beings in their multitude, in their whole evolution, upon the earth. The human race in its physical succession of generations is the result of the moon forces, which stimulate human beings. Man as a single being, an individuality, is the product of the sun forces. Therefore, if we wish to study the human being as well as the human race, we cannot study merely the conditions of earth. Geologists seek in vain to investigate the earth's conditions in order to comprehend the human being; they study in vain the other forces of earth so as to arrive at this understanding. Human beings are not primarily a creation of the earth. They are formed out of the cosmos; they are the offspring of the world of the stars, above all, of sun and moon. From the earth, only those forces are derived that are contained in matter itself. They are effective outside man and then continue their effects when, through eating and drinking, they have entered into the human being, but there they are received by something that is of an unearthly nature.
The processes that take place within the human being are by no means merely earthly ones; they are definitely something provided for out of starry worlds. It is this insight that human beings have to struggle to attain once again.
When we observe the human being further, we can take into consideration, first of all, that he is a physical body. This body absorbs the external foods. They in turn extend their forces into this physical body. But the latter is also taken hold of by the astral body, and in it the moon's influence is active in the manner I have just described. The sun's effect also plays into this astral body. Imbuing it with their forces, sun and moon permeate the astral body, and the latter works in the manner I have outlined above. The etheric body stands in the middle between physical and astral body.
When we study the forces coming from foodstuffs, we find, to begin with, that they are active in the physical body, and, in the manner I described earlier, are then taken hold of by the astral body containing the sun and moon influences. But in between the physical and astral bodies we find something else that is active in the etheric body. It, too, is not derived from the earth but from the whole surrounding cosmos. When we study the earth with its products in relation to the human being, the substances composed of solid, liquid, or aeriform ingredients, we see that they are consumed by the human being and then worked upon by the forces of sun and moon. In addition, there are also active in man forces that stream in from all directions of the universe. The forces active in the foodstuffs come from the earth. Those streaming into the human being from all corners of the universe are the etheric forces. They also take hold of the foodstuffs, but in a much more uniform manner, and transform them in such a way that they become inwardly capable of life. In addition, the etheric forces turn these foodstuffs into something that can inwardly experience the etheric element as such, namely, light and warmth. Thus, we can say that because of his physical body the human being is part of the earth, because of his etheric body he is related to the whole surrounding sphere, and because of his astral body man in connected above all with the effects of moon and sun.
Now, these effects of moon and sun contained in the astral body are in turn modified. They are modified to the extent that a powerful difference exists between the effects upon the upper human organization and those on the lower human organism.
Let us refer today to the part of the human being that is permeated by the bloodstream flowing upwards toward the head as “upper human organization”; let us refer to what lies below the heart as “lower human organism.” In viewing the human being thus, we have, first of all, the upper part including his head and whatever is organically connected with it. Its formation is dependent mainly on the sun's effects and also develops first during embryonic life. Already in the embryo, the sun's effects work on this organization in a quite special way, but these effects then continue after birth when the human being is present physically in the life between birth and death. Roughly speaking, what lies in this part of the human organism above the heart — a more detailed description would have to trace the blood circulation above the heart — is then modified in regard to the astral influences by Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars (see outline p. 248).
According to the Copernican world view, Saturn has forces it develops in its orbit around the sun and then sends down to the earth. It possesses those forces that are effective in the whole human astral body, particularly in the part belonging to the above mentioned upper organism of man. Saturn possesses the forces that stream into this astral body. As these forces penetrate and enliven the latter, they essentially determine the extent to which the astral body places itself in a proper relationship to the physical body. When a person cannot sleep well, for example, when his astral body does not properly emerge from the etheric and physical bodies, when it does not correctly reenter them upon awakening, or in some other way does not fit itself properly into the physical body, then this is an effect, but an irregular one, of the Saturn forces. Saturn is chiefly that celestial body that, by way of the human head, brings about a correct relationship of the astral body to the human physical and etheric bodies. By means of this, on the other hand, it is the Saturn forces that produce the connection between astral body and ego because of Saturn's relation to the sun. This relationship of Saturn to the sun's effect is expressed in regard to space and time in the fact that Saturn completes its orbit around the sun in a period of thirty years.
In the human being this relationship of Saturn to the sun comes to expression in the ego achieving an appropriate relationship to the astral body, and above all, in the proper incorporation of the astral body into the whole human organization. Thus, we can say Saturn possesses a relationship to the upper part of the whole human astral body. This relationship was definitely an important factor for people in ancient times. Even in Egypto-Chaldean times, going back to the third and fourth millennium prior to the Mystery of Golgotha, we would find that among the teachers, the sages in the mysteries, every individual was judged according to how he had determined his relationship to Saturn by the date of his birth. For these wise men knew quite well that depending on whether a person was born during one or another of Saturn's celestial positions, he was one who could use his astral body in the physical body in a more efficient or less efficient manner. Insight into such things played an important role in ancient times. The progress of mankind's evolution, however, is denoted precisely by the fact that in our age, which, as you know, began in the fifteenth century, we are freeing ourselves of the influences affecting us there.
My dear friends, do not misunderstand this. It does not mean that Saturn is not active in us today. It works in us just as it did in antiquity; the point is that we have to free ourselves from it. And do you know in what this freeing ourselves in the proper way from the Saturn influences consists? You free yourself most poorly from the Saturn influences if you follow the shadowy intellect of the present time. In doing so you actually permit the Saturn effects to run riot within yourself, to shoot hither and thither, and actually to turn you into what is nowadays called a nervous person. A nervous condition in a person is caused mainly by the fact that the astral body does not fit properly into the whole physical configuration. The nervousness of our age is due to this. Human beings must be induced to strive for real perception, for Imagination. If they remain with abstract conception, they will become more and more nervous, for they are actually growing out of the Saturn activity, which is nevertheless within them, shooting back and forth, pulling the astral body out of the nerves, thus making people nervous. In a cosmic sense, the nervousness of our age has to be recognized as an effect of Saturn.
Just as Saturn is chiefly involved with the upper part of the whole astral body inasmuch as the latter is connected with the whole organism through the nervous system, so Jupiter is active in thinking (see outline p. 248).
Human thinking, after all, is also based in a certain way on a partial activity of the astral body. I should say, a smaller part of the astral body is active in thinking than in sustaining the whole human being. It is Jupiter's effect that works in our astral body and, above all, strengthens our thinking. The effect of Jupiter deals mainly with the astral permeation and organization of the human brain.
Now, Saturn's effects actually extend over the whole of adult human life after the first three decades of our life. For our whole life and health depend on how we develop in our astral body during the periods of growth, and in fact, they only cease after age thirty. That is why Saturn requires thirty years to circle around the sun. This completely fits the human being. The thinking that develops in us has to do with the first twelve years of life. After all, what orbits out there in space is not without a connection to the human being.
Just as Jupiter has to do with thinking, so Mars has to do with speech.
Saturn — upper part of the whole astral body
Jupiter — thinking
Mars — speech
Mars separates a still smaller part of the astral body from its incorporation into the remaining human organization than the one that comes into play in regard to thinking. And it depends on the Mars effects within us that the forces can unfold that then pour into speech. The small revolution of Mars also has a bearing on this. A human being acquires the first sounds of speech within a time span that corresponds roughly to half the Martian orbit around the sun.
Ascending and descending development! We see how this whole development is linked with the forces of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars insofar as it is tied to the region of the human head.
We have thus considered the outer planets' activity in the human astral body. Whereas the sun is connected more with the ego, these three cosmic bodies, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, have to do with the development of what is tied to the astral body, namely, speech, thinking, and the whole conduct of the human soul in the human organism.
Besides the sun, which has to do with the actual ego, we also have in addition those planets called the inner planets. They are the ones that are closer to earth than to the sun, having their place between earth and sun, whereas, seen from the earth, the other planets, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, are on the other side of the sun. When we focus on these inner planets, we likewise arrive at a consideration of the connections between their forces and the human being. To begin with, we shall consider Mercury.
Similar to the moon, Mercury has its target points more in the inner being of man, working from outside only on the human countenance. In the part lying below the region of the heart, its forces are effective by taking hold inwardly of the human organization and, in turn, streaming forth from there. Mercury's chief task is to bring the astral body's activity into all breathing and circulation processes of the human being. Mercury is the intercessor between the astral body and the rhythmic processes in man. Thus, we are able to say that its forces intercede between the astral element and the rhythmic activity (see outline on p. 250). Due to this, similar to the moon forces, the Mercury forces also intervene in the whole human metabolism, but only insofar as the metabolism is subject to rhythm, reacting upon rhythmic activity.
Then there is Venus. Venus is active especially in the human etheric body, in what works out of the cosmos in the human etheric body and its activities.
Finally we have the moon, which we have already mentioned. It is the element in the human being that is the polar opposite of the sun forces. From within, it leads substances into the realm of life and therefore is also connected with reproduction. In the fullest sense, the moon stimulates inner reproduction as well as the procreative process of reproduction.
Saturn - upper part of the whole astral body
You realize now that what actually takes place in the human being is becoming evident to you in its dependence on the surrounding cosmos. On the one hand, with the physical body, the human being is tied to the earthly forces. On the other hand, he is linked to the whole cosmic environment with his etheric body. In that body, differentiations occur in the manner I have just outlined, and inasmuch as the differentiation proceeds primarily from man's astral body, the forces of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Venus and moon integrate themselves into this body. By way of the ego, the sun is also active in man. Now take into consideration that due to the fact that the human being is integrated into the cosmos in this manner, it makes a difference whether a person stands at a given spot on the earth, and Jupiter, for instance, shines down on him from the sky, or whether he is in a location where Jupiter is covered by the earth. In the first case, Jupiter's effects on the person are direct ones; in the second case, the earth is placed in between. This results in a significant difference.
We have said that Jupiter is connected with thinking. Let us assume a person receives the direct Jupiter influence during the period when his physical organ of thinking is in the stage of major development after birth. His brain will be formed into a quite special organ of thinking; the person receives a certain predisposition to thinking. Assume that a person spends these years in a place where Jupiter is on the opposite side of the earth, the latter thus hindering Jupiter's influences. Such a person's brain is less developed into an organ for thinking. If, on the other hand, the earth with its substances and forces is active in a person and everything proceeding from them is transformed, say, by the moon influences, which, in a certain sense, are always present, such a person turns into a dull dreamer, one who is barely aware. Between these two possibilities we find any number of variations.
Let us take the case of an individual possessing forces from his former incarnation that predestine his thinking to develop in a pronounced way in the earth life on which he is about to embark. He is on the verge of descending to earth. Since Jupiter has its set time for completing its orbit, he chooses the moment when he is to appear on earth, when he is to be born, so that Jupiter sends down its rays directly.
In this manner, the starry constellation provides the setting into which the human being allows himself to be born, depending on the conditions of his former incarnations.
Today, in the age of the consciousness soul, the human being must free himself increasingly from what is becoming evident to you here. It is a matter, however, of freeing oneself from these forces in the proper manner, of actually doing something I have indicated in regard to the Saturn effects, namely of trying to turn once again from the mere shadowy, intellectual developing of thoughts to a pictorial, concrete one. What is developed out of spiritual science in the way I described it in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds is also a guideline for human beings to become independent in the right way from the cosmic forces that are nevertheless active in them.
It depends on the starry constellations how a human being finds his way into earth life as he allows himself to be born. Yet, he has to equip himself with forces that make him independent in the right way from this starry constellation.
It is to such insights that our civilization must attain once again, insights concerning the relationship of the human being with the cosmos beyond the earth. Human beings must acquire an attitude that makes them realize that it is not only the ordinary forces of heredity acknowledged by today's science that are active in the human organization. In regard to the actual facts it is sheer nonsense, for example, to believe that the forces transmitted through heredity are contained in the structure of the female organism. Nowadays, heredity is an unclear, mystical concept; it is thought that the above forces then develop a heart, a liver, and so on. There would be no heart in the human organism if the sun did not incorporate it into the latter, and proceeding from the head at that. There would be no liver if Venus would not incorporate it into the human organism. And so it is with each single organ. They are certainly connected with extraterrestrial effects. The Jupiter forces are active in the human brain. The Saturn forces influence the healthy or pathological way in which the astral body is fitted into the physical organization. Human beings learn to speak because the Mars forces work in them; they become evident through speech.
These are matters humanity must once again learn to understand. We must realize that human beings cannot be explained by a science that merely considers earthly phenomena. Then, the connection between the human being and the earth will also become better known. After all, the other beings dwelling in our surroundings are also not merely creatures of the earth. To begin with, only the minerals are earth beings. Yet, in the minerals, too, changes have taken place that in turn were dependent upon forces in the earth's cosmic environment. Insofar as they are crystallized, all our metals owe their shape to extraterrestrial forces. They were formed when the earth had not yet evolved its own forces intensely but when forces from outside the earth were still active in it. Healing properties contained in minerals and particularly in metals are connected with the way the metals developed within the earth through cosmic forces.
When we go back in the post-Atlantean age to the first epoch, when the ancient Indian culture was at its prime, we see that the human being definitely experienced himself in the whole universe, as a citizen of the cosmos. Although he had not yet developed the faculties mankind is so proud of today, he was Man in the true sense of the word.
Subsequently, the human being was more or less diverted from the cosmic forces. Still, in the whole Chaldean epoch and early Greek time, we see that human beings looked up at least to the sun. In a certain sense, they were still like a kind of amphibian, a being that was happy when the rays of the sun poured down upon it and it no longer had to burrow in the earth's dankness. The human being had turned into an amphibian. Now, inasmuch as he believes he is related only to the earth's forces, one cannot even say any longer that man is like a mole. At most, he is really an earthworm that is aware of the return of something that rose in the first place from earth into space, namely, of rain water. This is the only thing the human being still perceives of extraterrestrial forces. But even earthworms perceive that — you could have seen it this morning if you had set foot in the streets! In his materialism, the human being today has basically turned into an earthworm. Once again, we must overcome this earthworm nature. We can do that only when we develop to the point of recognizing our connection with the cosmos outside the earth.
Therefore, my dear friends, the point is that we must bring it about in our age to lift ourselves out of our civilization and this earthworm-state to a new spirituality.