The Mystery of the Trinity
Part 2: The Mission of the Spirit
IV. The Other Side of Human Existence
30 August 1922, Oxford
Since we can come together so seldom and would like to include as much as possible in these lectures, it could easily happen that too much is included. Nevertheless, today, from a certain point of view, I would still like to try to characterize for you what could be called the other side of human existence on earth. I would then like to relate that to the significance of a deeper spiritual knowledge of our time.
How much do we finally know about our existence if we use only our senses and the intellect bound up with those senses as our source of knowledge? Ordinary sense-consciousness only allows us to spend the waking part of our existence in full consciousness. The spiritual powers that lead the world did not add the sleeping state to human existence for nothing. From falling asleep to waking up a very great deal happens to the human being. Indeed, most of what the spirit has to effect through human beings in earthly existence is actually achieved during the sleep state.
During the waking state, all that can occur on earth is what we can undertake with ourselves and the things around us. But what higher, spiritual beings undertake with the human soul in human evolution, in order to bring the soul to complete development within earthly existence — this happens during the sleep state. We should not lose sight of the fact that modern initiation knowledge can look closely at the significance of the events that occur when the human being is asleep. Of course, these events occur not only for initiates but for all people; the development of all human beings depends upon them. The initiate can only draw attention to these sleep state events. However, every human being who gives any thought at all to the meaning of earth existence should increasingly feel and sense the significance of what occurs while he sleeps.
Today I would simply like to describe all that plays into the sleeping state of the human being. As you know, when a person falls asleep we characterize what happens externally by saying that the astral body and the I are loosened from the physical and etheric bodies. The I and the astral body are then in the spiritual world; they no longer permeate the physical and etheric bodies as they did in the state between waking and falling asleep. When we look at what happens with human beings in the sleeping state our attention is drawn to the various ways they are connected to the earth during waking. To begin with, we are connected to the earth through our senses — we perceive and know the appearances of the various kingdoms of nature. However, we are also connected with the earth through what we do unconsciously while awake. For example, we breathe — for the most part, unconsciously — and the entire earth, if I may put it this way, plays into the air we breathe. Innumerable substances dispersed in a very fine state are present in the air we breathe. Precisely because they are in this finely dispersed state they have an extraordinarily significant effect when inhaled into the human organism. What enters the human being when he perceives through his senses enters consciously. But a great deal also enters the human being unconsciously when he is awake. And this unconscious element has more substance than what enters through the abstract, ideal state of perceiving and thinking. The world around enters us in a more substantial form through our breathing.
If you would only take into consideration just how dependent the human organism is upon everything that it takes in with the various substances of earthly nourishment, then you would be able to acknowledge that there is much that affects us in our waking state. But this fact is of less interest to us today. We are much more concerned with what is working on the human being in his sleeping state. The point here is this: Just as we see external earthly substances connected with us during our waking state, so too, when we enter the sleeping state, we enter into a certain connection with the entire cosmos.
That is not to say that we should imagine a human being taking on the magnitude of the cosmos every night with his or her astral body — that would be an exaggeration — but we do grow into the cosmos every night. Just as we are connected here on earth during the day with the plants, the minerals, and the air, so too we are connected during the night with the movements of the planets and with the constellations of the fixed stars. From our falling asleep until our waking the sky full of stars becomes our world just as the earth is our world in the waking state.
Now, to begin with, we can distinguish various spheres through which we pass between falling asleep and waking. The first sphere we pass through is that in which the human I and the human astral body — that is, the human soul when asleep — feels itself connected with the movements of the planets. When waking in the morning and, as it were, having slipped into our physical body we can say that we have in us our lungs, our heart, our liver, our brain. Likewise when we enter the sleep state we must say that in the first sphere with which we come into contact after falling asleep — which is also the sphere we are again in contact with just before awakening — in this sphere we have within us the forces of planetary movement.
It is not that we take the entire movements of the planets into ourselves every night. But what we carry within us as an image or copy is a small picture, in which the movements of the planets are actually copied, reflected. And this is different with every human being. We can say that, when falling asleep, every human being experiences the movements of the planets. Everything that goes on as movement “out there” in the space of the universe between the planets is experienced inwardly in a kind of globe of planets in the astral body. That is the human being's first experience after falling asleep.
Do not ask, my dear friends, what this has to do with you. Do not say that you do not perceive this. You may not see it with your eyes nor hear it with your ears. But in the moment you fall asleep, at that moment, that part of your astral body that during waking permeates and is a part of your heart — that part becomes an eye. We see with this organ, which I will call a “heart-eye.” When we enter the sleep state this organ begins to perceive what is happening in the way I have just described. This heart-eye really does perceive what the human being experiences there — even if the perception is, for present-day humanity, very dim and obscure.
What we experience there is perceived by this heart-eye in such a way that, in the time after falling asleep when the physical and etheric bodies are lying there in bed, this heart-eye looks back at us. The I and the astral body look back at the physical and etheric bodies with the heart-eye. What the I and the astral body experience in their body inwardly as a picture of the movements of the planets, radiates back to the heart eye from their own etheric body. The I and the astral body see the mirror image of the planetary movement coming out of their own etheric body.
Upon awakening, because of the way the human being is presently constituted, we immediately forget the dim consciousness provided by our heart-eye during the night. This consciousness is dim and, at the most, can only be found echoing in certain dreams; in their inner flexibility these dreams still have something of the planetary movements. As we approach wakefulness, images from our lives settle into these dreams which, fundamentally speaking, are actually dependent upon the movements of the planets. The images enter at this point because the astral body is being submerged into the etheric body, which preserves our memories of earthly life.
The following is a specific example: You wake up in the morning; you have once again gone through the spheres of planetary movement. Let us say you have experienced there a special relationship between Jupiter and Venus because such an event is connected with your destiny, your karma. This could happen. You could have experienced a special relationship between Jupiter and Venus. If you could lift what was experienced there between Jupiter and Venus into the light of your day consciousness, then much concerning your human abilities would be clear to you. For those abilities have come from the cosmos, not from the earth. How you are related to the cosmos determines how you are gifted, how you are good, or at least how you are inclined to good or to evil. You would be able to see what Jupiter and Venus discussed with one another, and what you perceived with your heart-eye. (I could just as well say heart-ear, for it is hard to distinguish such things.) But this is all forgotten because it has been perceived so very dimly. As this exchange between Jupiter and Venus continues within you it causes corresponding movements in your astral body and something else, from your etheric body, mixes in — for example, what you experienced around noon when you were seventeen, or when you were twenty-five years old, say, in Oxford or Manchester or anywhere. Such earthly images are mixed with the cosmic experiences. The pictures in dreams do have a certain significance; but the pictures arc not what is of primary importance. They are, so to speak, the fabric woven to clothe cosmic events.
Concerning the experience that thus comes into existence for the perception of the heart, we can say that it is bound up with a certain anxiety. For almost everyone there are feelings of a spiritual kind of anxiety mixed in with this experience, especially when what was experienced cosmically shines back and echoes from the human etheric body. For example, this anxiety arises for the perception of the heart if what has been brought about through the special relationship between Jupiter and Venus radiates back with a ray — which would say a lot for your heart perception — radiates back from the human forehead, and if this ray is then mixed with the sound and light from another ray, say, from the region just below the heart. This perception of anxiety leads every soul not entirely hardened to such perceptions to actually say to itself in sleep: The mists of the cosmos have taken me into themselves. It really feels like you have become as thin as the mists of the world and are swimming like a cloud, just a part of cosmic fog, within the larger mists of the cosmos. This is the experience immediately after falling asleep.
Then out of this anxiety, out of this feeling of one's self as just another mist within the cosmic fog, something comes into the human soul that could be called devotion to the divine that is weaving through the world. Those are the two basic feelings that come over the human being in the first sphere after falling asleep: first that I am within the mists of the world, and then that I would like to rest in the bosom of God so as to be safe from dissolution in these mists. These feelings must be carried by the perception of the heart when we again awaken in the morning and enter into our physical and etheric bodies. If this experience were not carried over into life then all the substances we take into our bodies for nourishment the next day, or whatever else our metabolism may process — even if we starve, for then the substances are taken from our bodies — these substances would assume solely their earthly character and would thus bring about disorder in the whole human organism.
It is simply a fact that for the human waking condition the significance of sleep is enormous. In this epoch of earth's development man is still spared the task of having to carry the divine from sleep into waking. Because of the way human beings in the present age are constituted they could hardly muster the strength to carry these things in full consciousness from the other side of existence to this side of existence.
After the experiences connected with the planetary movements, the human being goes into the next sphere. In doing so we do not leave the first; it remains for the perception of the heart. The next sphere is much more complicated and is perceived with that part of the astral body that, during the day, during waking, permeates and is a part of the solar plexus, permeates and is a part of our entire limb system. The solar plexus and limb system of the human being, that part of the astral body that penetrates and permeates the solar plexus and the arms and legs — this part of the astral body perceives what happens in the night in the next sphere.
In the next sphere we feel the forces in our astral bodies that originate in the constellations of the zodiac. These forces come in two forms, the first consisting of those forces which come directly from the constellations of the zodiac, the other form arising when these forces from the zodiac pass through the earth. It makes a very big difference whether the zodiacal signs are above or below the earth.
In this sphere the human being perceives with what I would like to call “sun perception” because that part of the astral body connected with the solar plexus and the limb system is involved in the perception. I would like to call this perceiving part of the astral body the “eye of the sun” or the “sun-eye.” Through it we become aware of our entire relationship to the zodiac and the movements of the planets. In this sphere the picture is enlarged, we grow more into the picture of the cosmos.
This experience is again mirrored to us by our own physical and etheric bodies, which we are now looking at. What comes forth from our body every night is brought into connection with the entire cosmos, with the movements of the planets and the constellations of the fixed stars. The experience with the fixed stars may occur for some people half an hour after falling asleep, for some after a longer period and for others very shortly after falling asleep. A person experiences himself in all twelve constellations. The experiences with the fixed stars are extraordinarily complicated.
My dear friends, I believe you could have visited the most important regions of the earth as a world traveler and still you would not have had the sum of experiences that your sun-eye gathers for you from a single constellation of the zodiac. Because the people who lived in ancient times still had powerful dreamlike powers of clairvoyance and perceived, in a dreamlike way, much of what I have been describing, all of this was relatively less confusing to them. Today, a person's sun-eye can hardly come to any kind of clarity — and we must come to clarity even if we forget it in the day. We can hardly come to any kind of clarity concerning what we experience in twelve-fold complexity during the night unless we take into our hearts and minds what Christ wanted to become for the earth through the Mystery of Golgotha. Simply having felt what it means for the life of the earth that Christ went through the mystery of Golgotha, simply thinking about Christ in our ordinary life on earth brings such a tinge, such a hue, into our astral body, by the indirect path through the physical and etheric bodies, that Christ can become our leader through the zodiac from falling asleep to waking.
Once again the human being wonders: Will I be lost in the multitude of stars and their activities? But if we can look back to thoughts, feelings, and will impulses turned toward Christ during our daytime waking state, then Christ becomes a leader who helps us to bring order into the complex and confusing events of this sphere.
Only when we observe the other side of life do we realize the full significance of Christ for the earth life of humanity since the Mystery of Golgotha. In the present, ordinary civilization, there is actually no one else who understands what Christ must still become for the life of earth. All these things, which have not yet been experienced by many people, are wrongly explained. Only when you know what I have just explained can you understand the various ways in which people who have not yet been touched by the Christ event bring their nightly experiences while asleep into waking day consciousness. When we have gone through the misty existence in the sleep state and entered the second sphere we stand before a complicated and confusing world. Only when Christ steps forward as a spiritual sun and becomes our leader is complex confusion resolved into a kind of harmonious understanding.
This point is important because our karma appears, actually appears to our sun-eye, the moment we step into this sphere of whirling confusion, this sphere of planetary movement and of the fixed star constellations of the zodiac. All human beings perceive their karma, but only in the sleeping state. The afterimage or afterglow of this perception slips into our waking state through our feelings.
Much of the condition of soul that we can find in ourselves — if, to some extent, we strive for self-knowledge — is a very dim echo of this zodiacal experience. People can receive strength for their daily lives because Christ appeared as the leader and led them from Aries through Taurus, Gemini, and so forth, and explained the world to them in the night. What we experience in this sphere is nothing less significant than this: Christ becomes our leader through the complex and confusing events in the zodiac; he stands there as the being who leads us, who leads us from constellation to constellation, in order for us to take into ourselves, in an orderly fashion, the spiritual forces that we once again need — and they are, indeed, ordered — for our waking life.
Fundamentally speaking, this is what the human being experiences every night between falling asleep and waking. He experiences this because he is related to the cosmos as a soul and spirit. Just as he is related to the earth through his etheric and physical bodies, he is also related to the cosmos with his soul, with his spirit and his astral body. When the human being has separated from his physical and etheric bodies and so grown out into the cosmic world, he then feels within himself a strong kinship to the world he is entering. He feels this kinship in his experience of the pictures reflected back to him from what has been left lying in bed. He feels a strong tendency to move out beyond the zodiac with his inner life. But this he cannot do between birth and death because another element mixes into all these experiences during the time when the human being is asleep, another element which, compared with what comes from the planets and the fixed stars, is of an entirely different nature. This is the element of the moon.
During the night the element of the moon, even during the new moon, tinges to a certain extent the entire cosmos with a special something that is like a substance. This tingeing is also experienced by us. But we experience it in such a way that these moon forces hold us back within the world of the zodiac and lead us once again to waking. With a dimly conscious awareness we already experience this moon element in the first sphere. But during the second sphere we experience the secrets of birth and death in an especially powerful way. With an organ lying even deeper than the heart-eye and the sun-eye, with an organ that is, so to speak, apportioned to the whole human being, we actually experience every night how our soul-spirit being descends — that is, has descended — from the world of soul and spirit and has entered into physical existence through birth; and we experience how the body gradually goes over into death. The human being is actually always dying. In every moment he only subdues death until death then really occurs as a single event. But in the moment we experience how the soul, so to speak, goes through earthly nature, bodily nature, in this same moment we also experience — and through the very same forces — our connection with the rest of humanity.
You have to remember this: Not even the most insignificant encounter, insignificant relationship — or even the most decisive — is without a connection to our total destiny, to the total karma of the human being. All our involvement with other human beings, all human relationships, which have, of course, an intimate connection with the mystery of birth and death, appear, I would like to say, before our spiritual eye at this point during the second sphere. This comprehension of karma happens whether the souls with whom we have ever had a connection in past lives, or with whom we now, in this earth life, have a relationship, are presently in the spiritual world or are on the earth. We feel ourselves at this point to be in touch with and living within our total life destiny.
This experience is connected with the fact that all the other forces, those of the planets and the fixed stars, want to draw us out into the cosmos while the moon wants to put us again into the world of people, basically tearing us out of the cosmos. The moon has forces that are actually opposed to the forces of the sun as well as the forces of the stars. It constitutes our kinship to the earth. For this reason every night, in a certain sense, it brings us back from the experiences of the zodiac into the planetary experiences and once again into earthly experiences, in that we are brought back into the physical body of a human being. From a certain point of view this is the difference between sleeping and dying: When a human being merely falls asleep he or she maintains a strong connection to these moon forces. Every night, in a certain sense, these moon forces also point out to us again the meaning of our life on earth. But this can only be the case because we receive everything reflected back from the etheric body.
In death we pull the etheric body out of the physical body; the backward view of memories from the last life on earth then appears. For a short while, a few days, the etheric body permeates the cloud of which I have spoken. As I said, every night we experience ourselves as a cloud, as a cloud of mists in a world of fog. But this cloud of mists that we ourselves are, this cloud is without our etheric body during the night. When we die the cloud is, to begin with, in the first days after our death, with our etheric body.
Then the etheric body gradually dissolves into the cosmos and our memory disappears. And now, in contrast to what we had earlier when our experience of the stars was only radiated back from the human being, who remained lying in bed, now, after death, we have an immediate, inner experience of the movements of the planets and the fixed star constellations.
If you read my book Theosophy 33Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy: An Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Man, (Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1986). you will find, described from a certain point of view, what these experiences after death consist of. I describe what appears as if surrounding the human being between death and a new birth. But just as the world would have no color if there were no eyes in your body, no sounds if you were without ears, just as you could not breathe without lungs and a heart, so too, after death you would not be able to perceive what I have described as the soul world and spirit land, your environment in the spiritual world, unless you had Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and so forth. That is then your organism: with your cosmic organism you experience all of this. The moon can no longer bring you back because it could only bring you back to an etheric body; but your etheric body has been dissolved into the cosmos.
As I described the process in Theosophy, there is still so much left of the power bequeathed to the human being by the moon that after death we must remain a while in the soul world. We keep looking at the earth intently, until we go over into what I described as spirit land. There we experience ourselves as being beyond the zodiac, beyond the realm of the fixed stars. In this way we live through the time between death and a new birth. I could describe the details of this entry into, and life within, the spiritual world — the entry made every night. But the concepts I use for this description must not be pushed too far; these things can hardly be expressed with earthly concepts. Nevertheless, I can describe it to you as follows.
Picture a meadow and picture flowers in this meadow; from every blossom in the meadow and on the trees, a kind of spiral goes forth unwinding upward into cosmic space. The spirals contain the forces through which the cosmos regulates and effects the growth of plants on the earth. For plants grow not only out of their seeds; plants grow out of the cosmic, helical forces that surround the earth. These forces are also present in winter, also in the desert, and also when there are no plants present. In order to enter into the movements of the planets every night we must use these helical forces as a ladder. Using the ladder-like quality of the spiraling forces of the plants we climb up into the movements of the planetary world. With the force that the plant uses to grow upward, a force coming forth from its roots (you see, it has to apply a force in order to grow upwards) with this force the human being is carried into the second sphere that I described. When it comes to those experiences I have described for you — when we are beset by a certain anxiety and say: I am a figure of mists in the universal cosmic fog, I must rest in the bosom of God — when we consider these experiences with respect to conditions on the earth, then, again, the soul can say to itself: I rest in all of that which lays like a cosmic blessing over a field of grain when it blossoms, which lays over a meadow when it blossoms. Everything that sinks down to the plants lives and expresses itself in the spiraling lines of force, is, fundamentally speaking, the bosom of God, the bosom of God enlivened and active within itself. Therein the human being feels embedded in every period of sleep.
The moon leads us back again to our animal nature while the forces of plants constantly strive to carry us further out into the universe. In this way we are connected with the cosmos. In this way the cosmos works between our falling asleep and our waking. And the heart-eye, sun-eye, and human eye go through the night feeling things in a way similar to the way, say, that we experience any kind of relationship to another human being. But we are not told this, neither do we think this out by ourselves, but rather the plants tell us this, the plants, which give us a ladder to climb up into the planetary world where we are then forced out into the world of the zodiac.
One could have an experience like this: I have a relationship to a particular person; the lilies tell me, the roses tell me, because the forces of the roses, the forces of the lilies, the forces of the tulips have driven me precisely to this place. The entire earth becomes a kind of “book of life” that enlightens us about the human world, the world in which we live, the world of human souls.
The people of various ages and epochs have had these experiences in different ways. If you look toward old India you will see that those wanting to discover something through the sleeping state, through a relationship with the world of the stars, wanted information only from those fixed stars and constellations that happened to be above the earth at any given time. They never wanted connections to the constellations below, the constellations whose forces had to go through the earth. Just take a look at the Buddha posture or at the posture of any sage whatsoever from the Orient, who strives for spiritual wisdom through exercises! Look at how he crosses his legs one over the other and sits on them. He assumes this posture because he wants only his upper body and what is connected to the stars above to become active within. He does not want what also works through him through the sun-eye, what works through the limb system, to become active within. He wants the forces of the limb system more or less excluded. Therefore, you can see, in the position of every Oriental striving for wisdom, how he wants to develop a relationship only to what is above the earth. He wants only to develop those connections leading to knowledge in the soul realm.
The world would have remained incomplete if this had remained the only kind of search for knowledge, if, in order to acquire knowledge, humankind had been restricted to the Buddha posture alone. Already, during the age of the Greeks, a human being had to enter into a relationship with the forces encountered when he develops in the direction of those constellations that, at any given time, are below the earth. This tendency is hinted at in a wonderfully intimate way in Greek tales. You are always told of a kind of initiation in Greek tales. When it is said that certain heroes in Greece have descended into the underworld, that they have experienced initiation, this means that they have become acquainted with those forces that work through the earth. They have come to know the chthonic powers.
Every age has its special task. In order to teach other people, the Oriental initiate learned primarily about what was to be found before birth, before conception actually, that is, what lay in the soul-spiritual realms human beings live through before descending into the earthly world. What approaches us in such a magnificent way in Oriental writings and in the Oriental worldview comes to us because people back then could look into the life human beings led before they descended to the earth.
In Greece people began to know the forces that depended upon the earth itself: Uranus and Gaia. Gaia, the earth, stands at the beginning of Greek cosmology. The Greek always sought to find out about, to know, the mysteries of the earth itself, mysteries that were, of course, also cosmic mysteries that worked through the earth. The Greeks wanted to know about the mysteries of the underworld. In this way the Greeks developed a proper cosmology.
Consider how little knowledge of history (as we call it) the Greeks had. Yet the Oriental never had any at all. The Greeks were far more interested in what was going on when the earth was being formed in the cosmos and then later when the inner powers of the earth, the Titanic forces, fought against other powers. The Greeks pointed to these gigantic, powerful spiritual forces that form the foundation for earthly conditions and in which humanity is so entangled. It is incumbent upon us in the new age to understand history and be able to point out that humanity has come out of an old, dreamlike clairvoyant condition, that we have now arrived at an intellectually colored consciousness that is merely tinged with the mythical. We must now work our way out of this consciousness and once again into a seeing into the spiritual world.
This present epoch marks the transition to a conscious experience of the spiritual world that can only be achieved with effort. For this purpose we must, above all, look at history. We have, therefore, in our anthroposophical movement, again and again reviewed the various historical epochs from our time all the way back to the time when human beings still received knowledge from higher, supra-earthly beings. We have followed the historical development of humanity.
The external knowledge of our time views this historical development of man in a completely abstract way. What abstract lines are drawn when people today develop knowledge of history! Ancient peoples followed a history still clothed in mythos, a history that included nature and its events. We can no longer do that. But people have not yet acquired a faculty that would lead them to ask: What was it like when the first human beings received wisdom from higher beings? And what was it like as that wisdom gradually faded away? What was it like when a God himself descended in order to incarnate in a human body through the mystery of Golgotha, in order to fulfill a grand, cosmic mission with the earth, so that the earth could receive its meaning?
The whole of nineteenth and twentieth century theology suffers from the inability to understand the spiritual significance of Christ. You see, modern initiation science must bring this understanding. There must be a modern science of initiation that can penetrate once again into the spiritual world, that can speak once again about birth and death, about life between birth and death and life between death and a new birth, and about the life of the human soul in sleep just as we here today have spoken to one another. Once again it must be possible for man to know about this spiritual, other side of existence. All of humankind's progress in the future will be possible only if human beings also become acquainted with this other side of existence.
Once people turned to the upper worlds alone for their knowledge. This can easily be observed in the posture of the Buddha. Later people came to their cosmology by reading it out of the development of the earth; they were initiated in the Greek chthonic mysteries, as passages in the Greek myths recount again and again. Now that the secrets of heaven and the secrets of earth have been studied in the old science of initiation we need a modern science of initiation that can move back and forth between heaven and earth, that can ask heaven when it wants to know something about earth and that can ask the earth when it wants to know something about heaven.
If I may say so in all modesty, this is how the questions are posed and given preliminary answers in my book An Outline of Occult Science. 34Rudolf Steiner, An Outline Of Occult Science, vol. 13 in the Collected Works, repr. (Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1989). The attempt is made there to describe what the modern human being needs, just as the ancient Orientals needed the mysteries of heaven and the Greeks needed the mysteries of the earth. In our present age we should observe how things stand with this modern initiation and its relationship to modern man.
To characterize briefly the tasks that form the foundation of modern initiation I will say something now that I was already able to say to a few of you in Oxford during these days of my visit to England. Namely, I would like to begin by pointing out that while it was important for the most ancient initiates to look up into the spiritual world from which man descended when he clothed himself with an earthly body, and while for later initiates such things as I characterized by pointing to Greek portrayals of a descent into the underworld were important, it is the obligation of modern initiation, as I have already said, to seek as knowledge the rhythmical relationship of heaven and earth.
This can only be achieved if we consider the following. Certainly, we must know heaven, and certainly we must know the earth. But then we must also look at the human being, in whom, among all the beings around us, heaven and earth work together to create a unity. We must look at — that means with our sun-eye, with our heart-eye, with the entire human eye — we must look at the human being. The human being! For humanity contains infinitely more secrets than the worlds that we can perceive with our external organs of perception, that we can explain with an intellect bound to the senses. The task of present-day initiation knowledge is to come to know the human being spiritually. I would like to say that initiation science wants to come to know everything for this reason: in order to understand the human being through knowledge of the whole world, through knowledge of the whole cosmos.
Now compare the situation of the present-day initiate with the situation of the ancient initiate. Because of all the abilities that existed in the soul of ancient humanity the initiate then could awaken memories of the time before the descent into an earthly body. For this reason initiation for the ancient was an awakening of cosmic memories. Then, for the Greeks, initiation meant looking into nature. Modern initiates are concerned to know the human being directly as a spiritual being. Now we must acquire the ability to set ourselves free from the grasp of earth, from the ties connecting us with the world. I would like to repeat an example that I have just recently mentioned.
Achieving a relationship to the souls who have passed through the gate of death, who have left the earth, either recently or long ago, is one of the most difficult tasks of initiation knowledge. However, it is possible to achieve such a relationship by awakening forces that lie deeper in the soul. Here we must understand clearly, however, that we have to accustom ourselves, through exercises, to the language we must speak with the dead. This language is, I would like to say, in a certain sense, a child of human language. But we would go completely astray if we thought that this human language here could help us to cultivate communication with the dead. The first thing we become aware of is that the dead are only able to understand for a short time what lives as nouns in the language of earth. What is expressed as a thing, a closed off thing, the characterization of a noun, is no longer present in the language of the dead. In the language of the dead everything is related to activity and movement. For this reason we find that some time after the human being has passed through the gate of death, he has a real feeling only for verbs. In order to communicate with the dead we must sometimes direct a question to them by formulating it in such a way that it is understandable to them. Then, if we know how to pay attention, the answer comes after a while. Usually several nights must pass before the deceased person can give us an answer to our questions. But we must first find our way into the language of the deceased; finally the language appears for us, the language the dead actually have, the language the deceased has had to live into after death, distancing himself from the earth with his entire soul life. We find our way into a language that is not at all formed according to earthly conditions, but is rather a language arising from feelings, from the heart. It is a kind of language of the heart. Here, language is formed in the way vowels or feeling sounds are formed in human language. For example, when we are amazed we say “Ah!” or when we want to lead ourselves back to ourselves we speak the “ee” sound. Only in such instances do the sounds and sound combinations receive their due, their real meaning. And beginning with such instances language becomes something that no longer sounds bound up to the speech organ. It is transformed into what I have just described, a language of the heart. When we have learned this transformed language, the forces that rise from the flowers give us information about humankind and we ourselves begin to speak with what comes from the flowers. When we enter into the tulip blossom with our soul forces we express, in the Imagination of the tulip, what is expressed here on the earth in the formation of words. We grow again into the spiritual aspect of everything.
From the example of language, just characterized, you see that the human being grows into entirely different conditions of existence when he has gone through the gate of death. You see, we really know very little about a human being if we only know his or her external side; the modern science of initiation must know the other side. This begins with language. Even the human body, as it is described if you read the relevant literature, becomes something else for us. The body becomes a world in itself when we grow into the science of initiation.
While the initiate in ancient times reawakened an ability in people that had been lost, while he brought to memory what they had experienced before descending to the earth, the initiate of the present age must do something entirely new, something that represents progress in the human being, that will still have significance for us when humanity itself will one day have left the earth, indeed, when the earth is no longer even present in the cosmos. This is the task of modern initiation science. Out of this strength modern initiation science must speak.
As you know, from time to time the science of initiation enters into the spiritual development of the earth. This has happened again and again. The initiation science we need actually sees only a beginning in the assumptions of contemporary science. This initiation science will be increasingly contested. You will need strength to get through all that stands against modern initiation. Before modern initiation, which is a conversation with super-sensible powers, actually first received its proper power in the last third of the nineteenth century, the adversarial powers were already at work to bring about a condition of human culture and civilization, in many ways an unconscious condition, which actually amounts to a complete extermination of modern initiation.
Just consider how popular it has become to respond to everything that appears in the world as knowledge with the words: This is my point of view. People say “This is my point of view” without having gone through any kind of development. Everyone is supposed to make his own point of view count from the location where he just happens to be standing at the moment when he speaks. And people are offended, even angry, when a higher knowledge is mentioned, a knowledge that can only be acquired through the work of self-development.
When the possibility of achieving a modern initiation appeared, primarily in the last third of the nineteenth century, adversary powers were already at work. Above all they wanted to bring about a great leveling of people, also in the spiritual realm. There are many people I could mention through whom these enemies of modern initiation have worked.
My dear friends, you must believe that the words I must speak out of the spirit of this initiation science must also sound the way they do from the point of view of ordinary conditions here on the earth. If I attempt to make clear to you how the sounds of human language become different when language is to be used in the presence of the beings of the spiritual world, then you will not misunderstand me when I say: I myself will never misunderstand the great significance, spoken from the merely earthly point of view, of someone like Rousseau; and if I speak from the merely earthly standpoint I will set out with all élan to praise and speak well of Rousseau, just as others speak of him. 35Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–78), French philosopher. Influential in shaping Romanticism. Contending that people are good by nature and corrupted by civilization, Rousseau advocated a social contract to uphold the sovereignty of the people as a whole. But if I should rise to an attempt to clothe in earthly words what initiation knowledge says concerning Rousseau I would have to say that with his equalization, with his spiritual leveling, Rousseau represents the supreme babbler of modern civilization.
This is something that humanity cannot readily assimilate, that someone like Rousseau can be called a great spirit, a great personality, from the earthly point of view but — if we really want to get to know this person through the modern science of initiation (where we must know heaven and earth and describe the rhythm between them from both sides) — must be called the supreme babbler from the point of view of initiation. Only the harmony of what resounds from the one side and from the other side leads to a true knowledge of the human being. For this true knowledge of the human being must be built upon the same wisdom the old initiates build upon: Ex deo nascimur. All remembering must by built upon what comes to meet us when we look out into the world where, as I have today described the process, we have unconsciously allowed Christ to become our leader. But we must bring him into our consciousness more and more. Then we can recognize what belongs to death in the world as standing under the leadership of Christ. Then we can recognize that we live into the dead world with Christ: In Christo morimur.
Finally, because we are submerged in the grave of the earth and its life we experience with Christ the resurrection and the sending of the Spirit: Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus.
The modern initiate must strive above all for this Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus. If you consider this counsel and compare it with the modern attitude coming from science you will recognize that there will still be immense opposition, perhaps of a kind you cannot even imagine today, which will take the form of external actions and deeds that, above all, will have a tendency to make initiation science entirely impossible. What I would like to leave in your hearts, in your souls, when I speak in such an intimate circle of friends, is this: Through the descriptions given by modern initiation science, I would like to awaken strength so that a few people are actually present in the world who can find the proper place between what wants to come into the earthly world from spiritual worlds and what, from the direction of the earthly world, wants it to be impossible for spirituality to penetrate into the life of earth. This is what I have wanted to draw attention to, in such an intimate circle of friends. An opportunity had already been given to speak in a more external lecture, such as, to my great satisfaction, we were able to have in Oxford. Since the opportunity was given to describe the external side, so the esoteric side must also be handled in this smaller circle, it must also be described. I believe it would be good if you could get beyond the fact that there is much that sounds paradoxical when I speak out of spiritual worlds. It has to sound paradoxical because the language of spiritual worlds is so different from any earthly language. What should actually be expressed differently can only be brought into earthly language with a great exertion of force. Therefore, it should be understandable if some things are shocking when they appear unmediated as a simple description of spiritual worlds.
My dear friends, in addition to characterizing the fundamental intention that was behind today's lecture, I also want to express my deep satisfaction that I have been able to be here and speak to you in London. It is always gratifying. As I have already said, we are seldom together here. May what we can found in our hearts, in our souls, through such rare gatherings bring about a togetherness that should always be present among those who call themselves anthroposophists — a togetherness of hearts and souls extending over the whole world. Today's lecture has been given with this goal in mind, that we use such brief times together as an inspiration for the greater togetherness that unites all our hearts and all our souls. And to document, as it were, this intention I would like to add the following words. Speaking out of this frame of mind I would like to say: Let us remain together, my dear friends, even as we leave now to go in such widely separate directions.