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Cosmosophy I
GA 207

Lecture X

15 October 1921, Dornach

I want to look back once more at our recent observations. We have tried to get some picture of how the human life of spirit, the human soul life, and the human life of the body are to be comprehended. When we visualize the human soul life, that is, what the human being feels occurring within himself as thinking, feeling, and willing, then of course we find that the thinking component, or what we experience directly as the content of our thoughts, occurs between the physical body and the etheric body, that feeling occurs between the etheric body and the astral body, and willing between the astral body and the I. We thus see that our thoughts, insofar as we are fully conscious of them, represent only what glimmers up to us from the depths of our own being and really can give the waves of the soul life only their form. Something like shadows is cast upward from the depths of the human being, filling our consciousness and constituting the content of our thoughts.

Were we to depict the matter schematically, we could render it in this way: physical body (see diagram, blue), etheric body (orange), astral body (red), and I (violet). Then we would have the thought content between the physical body and the etheric body. From my descriptions in the last lectures, however, you have realized that this thought content in its true nature is something much more real than what we experience in consciousness. What we experience in consciousness is, as I have said, only something that generates waves from the depths of our being up to the I. They rise up to the I. The feeling content lies between the etheric body and the astral body and in turn also rises up to the I; and the will content is located between the astral body and the I. It lies the closest to the I. We can say that the I has its most immediate experience of itself in the will, while feeling content and thought content rest in the depths of our being and only send their waves lapping upward into the I.

Now we also know, however, that the content of our willing, as experienced by us, is experienced dully. Of the will, as it manifests itself in an arm movement, in a leg movement, we know as little as we do of what happens between going to sleep and awaking. The will lives in us dully, and yet it lives really within the I as the I's most immediate neighbor. If we perceive the will consciously or, let us say, in an awake manner, we do so only through the projected thought shadows that come up from the depths of our being. The mental images that we experience consciously are the shadow pictures of a deep weaving of the soul but they are still only shadow pictures, while we experience the will in a most immediate way, though dully. We can have a waking, conscious perception of the will, however, only through the shadowy thought pictures.

This is how the matter appears to us when we study our human nature while focusing in particular on the inner depths. We see, I would like to say, how little of ourselves we contain in our consciousness, how little rises upward from our inner being to our consciousness. We understand, as it were, only little of what we are like on the inside in terms of our I, and we really perceive only the hue that our thought content casts upward into this dull, will-oriented I.

With our ordinary consciousness, we can actually see as an immediate reality little more of this thought-filled, dull I than what we feel of it shortly before awakening or shortly after dropping off to sleep. It is precisely into this dull I, however, that the world of sense perceptions breaks upon awakening. Just try to become aware once of how dull your life is between going to sleep and awakening, so that you experience this dullness almost as a void. Only upon awakening, when you open your senses to the outside world, will you be in a position—thanks to your sense impressions—really to experience yourself as an I. Now the appearance [Schein] of the sense perceptions penetrates the I. Now the appearance of the sense perceptions fills that dull being that I have just described, so really the I lives as a fully conscious entity in the earthly human being only when we are in a state of interaction with the outside world through our sensory pictures and through all that has penetrated our senses; and coming from within as the most illuminating response we can muster is the shadowed content of our thoughts.

One can say, then, that the sense perceptions penetrate in from without. The content of our willing is perceived only dully. The feeling content rises upward and unites with the sense impressions. We see red, and it fills us with a particular feeling; we see blue, we hear the notes C-sharp or C and have an accompanying feeling. Then, however, we also reflect on what these sense impressions are. The thought content, which comes from within interweaves itself with the sense impressions. Something from within unites with something from without. That we live in the fully awake I, however—this we actually 'owe to the appearance of the senses (Sinneschein), and to this our I contributes just so much by way of response from within as I have been able to describe here.

Let us note well this appearance of the senses. Let us look upon it and realize clearly that it is entirely dependent on our physical existence. It can fill us only as we, in waking condition, put forward our physical body to meet the outer world. This appearance of the senses ceases at the moment we lay down our physical body upon passage through the portal of death, as we have already discussed in the previous studies.

Our I, then, is awakened, as it were, between birth and death through the appearance of the senses. Of our actual nature as awake, earthly human beings, we can possess only so much as is enlivened by the appearance of the senses. Imagine vividly how the being that is the human I grasps this appearance of the senses—which is, after all, only an appearance—and interweaves it with our actual human being. Now consider how there an outer becomes an inner—you can see it, for example, when you dream; consider how a delicate tissue is spun inside of us, as it were, into which the sense impressions weave. The I appropriates what comes in through the sense impressions. The outer becomes inner. Only what does become inner, however, can carry the human being through the portal of death.

It thus is only a delicate tissue to begin with that the human being carries through the portal of death. His physical body he lays down. It had mediated the sense impressions for Therefore the sense impressions are only appearance, for the physical body is laid aside. Only so much of the appearance as the I has taken up into itself is borne through the portal of death. The etheric body is also laid aside a short time after death. When that happens, however, our being also lays aside what is between the physical body and the etheric body. This at first dissolves, as we have seen, in the cosmos at large, constituting only the seed for further worlds, but it does not really continue to live together with our human essence after death. Only what has crested upward like waves and has combined itself with the appearance of the senses continues to live. When this is pondered, one can acquire an approximate mental image of what the human being carries through the portal of death.

Because this is so, one must answer the question, “How can someone build a connecting bridge to a departed person?” in the following way: this connecting bridge cannot be built at all if we send abstract thoughts, non-pictorial mental images over to the departed human being. If we think of the departed one with abstract mental images—what is that like? Abstract mental images retain almost nothing of the appearance of the senses; they are faded, but also there lives in them nothing of an inner reality but only what is cast up to them from the inner reality. Only a tinge of the human essence resides in mental images. Therefore, what we grasp with our intellect is in truth much less real than what fills our I in the appearance of the senses. What fills our I in the appearance of the senses makes our I awake, but this wakeful content is only interspersed with the waves that crest upward from our inner being. If we therefore direct abstract, faded thoughts to a departed person, he cannot have community with us; he can do so very well, however, if we picture to ourselves quite intimately and concretely how we stood with him on such-and-such a spot, how we talked with him, how he asked us for this or that in his particular way. The thought content, the pallid thought content, will not yield much, but it will be much more effective if we develop a fine sensitivity for the sound of his speech, for the special kind of emotion or temperament with which he held conversation with us, if we feel the living, warm togetherness along with his wishes—in short, if we picture these concrete things but in such a way that our mental images are pictures: if we see ourselves, as we stood or sat together, as we experienced the world with him. One might easily believe that it is precisely the pallid thoughts that arc across death's gap. This is not the case. The vivid pictures arc across. In pictures from the appearance of the senses, in pictures that we have only owing to the fact of our eyes and ears, our sense of touch, and so on—in such pictures there stirs something that the dead person can perceive. For at death he has laid aside everything that is only abstract, pallid, intellectual thinking. Our pictorial mental images, insofar as we have made them our own, we do take with us through death. Our science, our intellectual thinking, all of that we do not take along through death. A person may be a great mathematician, may have myriad geometrical conceptions—all this he lays aside just as he does his physical body. The person may know a great deal about the starry skies and the surface of the earth. Insofar as he has absorbed this knowledge in pallid thoughts it is laid aside at death. If, as a learned botanist, a person crosses a meadow and entertains his theoretical thoughts about the flowers of the meadow, then this is a thought content that fulfills him only here on earth. Only what strikes his eye and is colored by his love for the flowers, what is given human warmth by the union of the pallid thought with the I experience, is carried through death's portal.

It is important that one know what can be acquired here on earth as real, human property in such a way that one can carry it through the portal of death. It is important that one know how the whole of intellectualism, which has comprised the centerpiece of human civilization since the middle of the fifteenth century, is something that has significance only in earthly life and that cannot be borne through the portal of death. One thus can say: the human race has lived throughout the past ages of which we have spoken—beginning with the Atlantean catastrophe, throughout the long ages of the ancient Indian civilization, the ancient Persian civilization, through the Egyptian-Chaldean times, and then through our era up to our time—the human race has not lived in all this time, that is to say up to the first third or so of the fifteenth century, such an outspokenly intellectual life as the one we hold so dear today as our civilized life. Before the fifteenth century, however, human beings experienced much more of everything that could be borne through the portal of death. Precisely what they have become proud of since the fifteenth century, precisely what makes life worth living for the cultured, the so-called cultured, world today, is something that is obliterated upon death. One could really ask, what is the characteristic feature of modern civilization? The most characteristic feature of all, which is so praised as having been brought about through Copernicanism, through Galileanism, is something that must be laid aside at death, something that the human being really can acquire only through earthly life, but also something that can be only an earthly possession for him. By developing himself up to modern civilization, man has attained precisely this goal of experiencing here between birth and death all those things that have significance only for the earth. It is very important for modern man to understand thoroughly that the content of what is regarded most highly, and especially in our schools, has an actual significance only for earthly life. In our ordinary schools, we instruct our children in everything that is modern civilization, not for their immortal soul but only for their earthly existence.

Intellectualism can be grasped correctly in the following manner. When the human being awakens in the morning, the sensory pictures come streaming in to him. He notices only that the thoughts interweave these sensory pictures like a delicate net, and he is actually living in pictures. These pictures vanish immediately when he falls asleep in the evening. His thought life vanishes too, but the appearance of these sensory pictures is nevertheless essential, for he takes with him through death as much of this as his I has made its own. What comes from within—the thought content—remains, as you know, for a few days after death in the form of a brief recollection, so long as the human being still bears the etheric body. Then the etheric body dissolves itself into the far reaches of the cosmos. There is a brief experience for the human being immediately after death regarding his pictures that contain the senses' appearance, insofar as his I has made it his own: he feels these pictures interwoven then by strong lines with what he has made his own through his knowledge. He lays this brief experience aside, however, along with his etheric body, a few days after death. Then he lives into the cosmos with his pictures, and these pictures become interwoven into the cosmos in the same way in which they were interwoven into his own being before death. Before death, the pictures in the sense perceptions are formed from within. They are grasped by the human being, I might say, insofar as it is delimited by his skin. After death, after passage of the few days when one still experiences the thought life—because one still has the etheric body, before the etheric body's dissolution—after these days the pictures become in a certain way larger. They expand in such a way that they now are absorbed from without, as it were, while during earthly life they were absorbed from within. Schematically one could draw the entire process, as shown below.

If this is the bodily boundary of the human being (see drawing, bright) acid he has his impressions in the waking state, then his inner experiences are formed by the sense impressions within his being. After death, the human being experiences his boundary as an encompassing feeling; but his impressions wander out of him, as it were. He senses them to be in his surroundings (red). Thus a person who during earthly life could say, “My soul experiences are inside of me,” now says to himself, after death, “My soul experiences are in front of me,” or, said better, “They are all around me.” They merge with the surroundings. Because of this they also become inwardly different. Let us say, for example, that this person, because he loves flowers, has strongly impressed upon himself in ever-repeated sense impressions a rose, a red rose; then, when after death he experiences this wandering out, he will see the rose larger, visibly larger, but it will appear to him greenish in color. The inner content of the picture also changes. Everything that the person has perceived of nature's green, insofar as he really has experienced this green nature with human participation, not merely with abstract thoughts, now becomes for him after death a gentle reddish environment of his whole being. The inner, however, wanders out: what the person calls his inner being he will have after death in his environment outside.

These realizations, then, which concern the human being, insofar as he in turn is connected to the world itself, we can acquire through spiritual science. Only by acquiring these insights do we receive a picture of what we ourselves actually are. We cannot get a picture of what we ourselves really are if we know ourselves only as we are between birth and death, with our inwardly woven thoughts. For these are the things that as such fall away at death. Of the senses' appearance there remains only what I have just depicted to you, and it remains in the way I have described.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, when the materialistic outlook and world conception of civilized humanity had reached a culmination, as I have often emphasized, there was much talk of how the human being, when he founds a religion or when he speaks of something divine-spiritual in the outer world, really only projects his inner being to the outside. You need only read such a thoroughly materialistic writer as Feuerbach,15Ludwig Feuerbach, 1804–1872. who had a strong influence on Richard Wagner, in order to recognize how this materialistic thinking sees nature as being all there is out there. That is to say, this materialistic attitude sees only the appearance of nature in the form in which it presents itself to us between birth and death and then believes that all thinking about the divine-spiritual is only the inner being of man projected outward. The result is that man feels comfortable only with the concept of the divine-spiritual as a projection of his inner being. This seeming insight received the name anthropomorphism. It was said that the human being is anthropomorphic; he pictures the world according to what lies within him. Then, of course, in the middle of the nineteenth century, the more representative among these materialistic thinkers coined a slogan that was meant to illustrate how splendidly advanced the world of human beings had now become in our modern age. They said: “The ancients believed that God created the world. We moderns, however, know that man created God; that is, God is a projection of man's inner being.” They said and believed this precisely because all they knew of our inner side was what has significance between birth and death. I reality it was not just an erroneous opinion that they formed; rather, they had formed a world view that was in fact anthropomorphic, for they had no other notions of the divine-spiritual than those that the human being had managed at last to cast, to project, out of himself.

Compare with that everything that I have described, for example, in my book, An Outline of Occult Science. There you will not see the world described like our human mental images from within. What I describe there as Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth evolutions the human being does not carry within him. One must first treat what the human being experiences after death, that is, what he can place in front of himself. There is nothing anthropomorphic here. This Occult Science is presented cosmomorphically; that is, the impressions are such that they are actually experienced as existing outside of the human being. These things therefore cannot be understood by those people who can experience in their conceptions only what lies within the human being, as has come to be the case especially in the intellectual age since the middle of the fifteenth century. This age perceives only what resides in the inner being of man and projects it outward. Never will one be able to describe an outer world as I do in that chapter of my Occult Science where the Saturn evolution is treated—not even in the simplest, most elementary phenomenon—if one only projects outside what exists in the inner being of man.

You see, the human being lives, for example, in warmth. Just as he perceives the world in color through his sense of sight, so he also perceives the world in warmth through his sense of warmth. He experiences the warmth in his human inner being, I might call it, insofar as it is delimited by his skin. Already, however, he is abstracting in his perception. Warmth perceived in the life of the world really cannot be pictured otherwise than by grasping it in its totality. There is always something adhering to warmth, however, which in terms of human experience can be expressed only by referring to the sense of smell. Warmth, perceived objectively outside ourselves, always has something of scent associated with it too.

Now read the chapter in my Occult Science about that process of our earth that lives chiefly in warmth: where these things are described you will find simultaneous mention of scent impressions. You see from this that warmth is not described in the same way in which man experiences it in intellectualism. It is placed outside the human being, and what he experiences here between birth and death as warmth comes back after death as a scent impression.

Light is something that the human being experiences really quite abstractly here on earth. He experiences this light by surrendering to a continuous deception. I'd like to point to it here too: I have written—let me see, it must be thirty-eight years ago now—a treatise, very young and green, in which I attempted to describe how people speak of light. But where is the light anyway? Man perceives colors; those are his sense impressions. Wherever he looks: colors, he perceives some shadings of colors even when he knows it is a shade. But light—he lives in light, and yet he doesn't perceive the light; through the light he perceives colors, but the light itself he does not perceive. You may gauge the degree of the illusions in which we live in this regard in the age of intellectualism when you consider that our physics offers a “theory of light”; then we attempt to give it some substance by considering it “a theory of light.” It has no substance. Only a theory of color has substance, not a theory of light.

Only the entirely healthy nature-appreciation of Goethe could suffice to create not a science of optics but a theory of color. We open our physics books nowadays and there we see light being created from scratch, as it were. Rays are constructed and reflected, and they perform all kinds of tricks. But it isn't real! One sees color. One can speak of a theory of color but not of a theory of light. One lives in light. Through the light and in the light we perceive color, but nothing of the light. No one can see the light. Imagine being in a space with light streaming through it, but there is not a single object in this space. You might as well be in the dark. In a space that is completely dark you would perceive no more than in the naked light, nor would you be able to differentiate between the two. You could differentiate only through an inner experience. As soon as a human being has gone through the portal of death, however, then, just as he perceived the scent that accompanied warmth he now perceives something about the light for which we in our present-day intellectual language do not even have an appropriate word. We would have to say: smoke [Rauch]; a flooding forth—he really perceives it. Hebrew still had something like that: Ruach. This flooding forth is perceived. That which alone could justifiably be called air is perceived there.

If we now consider what appears everywhere in our earthly circumstances as chemical reactions, we perceive them in their appearances, these chemical workings, these chemical etheric workings. Spiritually seen, without the physical body—again, therefore, after death—they provide what is the content of water.

And life itself: it is what comprises the content of the earth, of the solidity. Our entire earth is perceived from the viewpoint of the dead person as a large, living being. When we walk about here on earth, we perceive its separate entities, insofar as they are earthly entities, as being dead. On what do we base our perception of dead things at all, however? The entire earth lives, and it reveals itself immediately to us in its life if we glimpse it from the other side of death. If that is our earth, we only see a very small portion of it at any one time and are oriented to seeing just this small portion—only when we hover about it in spirit and moreover have outwardly an ability to perceive from without, so that the impressions are enlarged, do we perceive it as a whole being. Then, however, it is a living being.

With this, I have directed your attention to something that is extraordinarily important to call to mind




Smoke, Air

Chemical workings:




You see, I had a conversation once with a gentleman who said that we now know, finally, thanks to the theory of relativity, that we could just as well imagine the human being to be twice as large as he really is; it's all relative, everything just depends on the human viewpoint.

This is a completely unrealistic way of looking at the matter. For let us say—the picture doesn't quite fit, but let us say—if a ladybug is crawling about on a person, it has then a particular size in relation to that person. The ladybug doesn't perceive the entire human being but, in keeping with its own size, just a small portion of the person. And so for the ladybug the person on which it is crawling about is not living but rather is just as dead to the ladybug as the earth is to the human being. You must also be able to think this thought the other way around. You must be able to say to yourself: in order to be able to experience the earth as being dead, the human being must be of a particular size upon the earth. The size of the human being is not a coincidence in relation to the earth but is completely appropriate to man's entire life upon the earth. Therefore you cannot think of man—for example, in keeping with the relativity theory—as being big or little. Only if you think and imagine quite abstractly, quite intellectually, that man is big or little; only then can you say, “If we were organized a bit differently, man might appear twice as big,” and the like.

This stops when we take up a conception that goes beyond the subjective and that can keep in mind man's size in relation to the earth. After death the whole human being expands out into the universe and after a time following death man becomes much larger than the earth itself. Then he experiences it as a living being. Then he experiences chemical workings in everything that is water. In the airiness he experiences light, not light and air separately from one another but light in the air, and so on. The human being experiences, then, different pictures from those of our waking life between birth and death.

I said that we can take with us through death nothing of all that our soul has acquired in an intellectual way. Before the fifteenth century, however, man still possessed a kind of legacy from ancient times. You know, of course, that in ancient times this legacy was so great that the human being still had an atavistic clairvoyance, which then paled and dulled, withered away, and which has passed over into complete abstraction since the middle pf the fifteenth century. What the human being took with him through death of this divine legacy, however, is what actually gave man his being. Just as the human being here assimilates physical matter when he enters earthly existence via birth, or rather conception, so also was it the divine essence that he brought with him and carried again through death that gave him—the expression, if I may use it at all, is unusual, but will help make this clear to you—gave him a certain spiritual weight (a polar opposite, naturally, of any physical weight). The divine essence which he brought along and took with him through death gave him a certain spiritual weight.

The way people are being incarnated now, if they are really members of civilization, they no longer have this legacy with them. At most you can still detect it here and there: those people who are not really of our civilization (and they are becoming ever fewer) still have it in them. And it is a serious matter indeed for the evolution of humanity that the human being essentially loses his being through what he acquires through intellectual civilization. He is heading toward this danger, that after death he will, to be sure, grow outward so as to have the aforementioned impressions, but he can lose his actual being, his ‘I’, as I have already described yesterday from a different viewpoint. There is really only one avenue of rescue for this being, for modern and future man, and it may be recognized in the following: if we wish, here in the sense world, to take hold of a reality that makes thinking so powerful that it is not merely a pale image but has inner vitality, then we can recognize such a reality issuing from within the human being only in the kind of pure thinking that I have described in my Philosophy of Freedom as forming the basis for action. Otherwise we have in all human consciousness only the senses' appearance. If we act freely out of pure thinking, however, such as I have described in my Philosophy of Freedom, if we really have in pure thinking the impulses for our actions, then we give to this otherwise “appearance” thinking, to this intellectual thinking—in that it forms the basis of our actions—a reality. And that is the one reality that we can weave purely from within out into the senses' appearance and can carry with us through death.

What, then, are we really taking with us through death? What we have experienced here between birth and death in true freedom. Those actions that correspond to the description of freedom in my Philosophy of Freedom form the basis for what man can carry through death in addition to the senses' appearance, transformed in the way that I have described. Thereby he regains his being. By freeing himself from being determined in the world of the senses, he regains a being after death; he is thereby a real being. If we acquire this being, it is freedom that saves us as human souls from soul-spiritual death, saves us especially for the future.

Those people who abandon themselves only to their natural forces, that is, to their instincts and drives—I have described this from a purely philosophical standpoint in my Philosophy of Freedom—live in something that falls away with death. They then live into the spiritual world. To be sure, their pictures are there. They would gradually have to be taken by other spiritual beings, however, if the human being did not develop himself fully along the lines of freedom so that he might again acquire a being such as he had when he still possessed his divine-spiritual legacy.

The intellectual age thus is inwardly connected with freedom. That is why I could always say: the human being had to become intellectual so that he might become free. The human being loses his spiritual being in intellectualism, for he can carry nothing of intellectualism through the portal of death. He attains freedom here through intellectualism, however, and what he thus acquires in freedom—this he can take through the portal of death.

Man may think as much as he wants in a merely intellectual way—nothing of it goes through death's portal. Only when the human being uses his thinking in order to apply it in free deeds does that amount of it that he has acquired from his experiences of freedom go with him through death's portal as soul-spiritual substance, which makes him a being and not a mere knowing. In thinking, through intellectualism, our human essence is taken from us, in order to let us work through to freedom. What we experience in freedom is in turn given back to us as human essence. Intellectualism kills us, but it also gives us life. It lets us arise once again with our being totally transformed, making us into free human beings.

Today I have presented this as it appears in terms of the human being himself. What I have thus characterized today in terms of the human being alone I shall connect tomorrow with the Mystery of Golgotha, with the Christ experience, in order to show how in death and resurrection the Christ experience can now pour into the human being as inner experience. More of this tomorrow.