Spiritual Relation in the Configuration of the Human Organism
23 October 1922, Dornach
You will have seen from several earlier contemplations, that I do not like the phrase: “We live in a time of transition”, because every age is a time of transition — a transition from the earlier time to the later one. It is only a question of in how far a time is the time of transition — and just what is changing?
For the person who can see into the spiritual world, ours is indeed the time of an important transition.The wisdom of oldest time has always pointed to this important transition. During the epochs in which a spiritual world was still spoken of truthfully — if only out of dreamlike knowing — it was always said: after a certain time had passed, the so-called Dark Age will come to an end and a light-filled age would begin. If one now examines the words of the old wise men and takes them seriously, one indeed comes to realize that they meant that the transition from the Dark to the Light Age would occur around the turn of the 19th and 20th century — the time in which we now live. But we do not have to go through Anthroposophy to a renewal of the old dreamlike wisdom. I often have said that this is not the case, that with Anthroposophy it is the question of what one can acquire as knowledge in our time through spiritual research. Anthroposophy shall therefore not be the renewal of any kind of old wisdom, but a present-day mode of cognition. But as regards the transition from the Dark Age into the Light Age, present cognition has to completely concur with the old wisdom.
Although one can hardly say that we as mankind, especially as civilized European mankind, enter from worse conditions into better ones, what the old wisdom had in mind regarding the passing over into the light age, and what we also must think today, is nevertheless true. Only we must understand matters in the right way. I would like to make clear, with the help of an example, what the difference is between a Light Age — meant in this way — and a Dark Age.
Those people who once — in about the 5th pre-Christian millennium — spoke about such Dark and Light Ages, looked at this dark age as at the continuation of an earlier Light Age, and they expressed the opinion that, after the Dark Age had lasted for some time, a Light Age would come again. It would be instructive to look back and see how — mainly in human affairs — the Light Age, which once existed (approximately in the 7th or 8th millennium) was different from the later Dark Age, out of which we as mankind shall now emerge.
I would like to make that clear by an example — as I said — through the example of healing. The example of healing is very suitable in this respect, because one can see much by it. Namely, during that Light, or illuminated age, we did not look to the physical human body. One did not think of that at all. Altogether, one did not speak during that old Light Age of illness in the manner that one still speaks today of illness, but will speak no longer in the future. Of course one had in those olden times also the phenomenon that a person experienced the decay of his organs in this or that direction, that he simple was not healthy. However, one did not speak of illness, but said right out: Death exists and He takes hold of man. One saw something like a struggle between life and death in the situation where we would say today: this person is ill. So in those olden times one did not speak of illness and health when a person had become ill in the sense we understand, but one spoke about it in this way: in him death is fighting. And making well one regarded as combating, as driving out death in this way. Illness was only a special case of death, one might say, "a little dying", and health was life.
Why did one speak that way? One spoke that way because healing was then done entirely from the etheric body of man. One did not pay attention to the physical body; instead one was healing altogether in relation to the etheric body.
How was this done? Let us assume now, that a human being had become ill of something we would call pneumonia today. The form of illness in case of pneumonia was of a somewhat different type at that time, but one can nevertheless speak of this type of illness. One then said to oneself: this person has become too dependent on the region of the earth where he lives. This took place in times when migrations of people, when the moving away from places, was more unusual than today. People — at least the majority of people--mostly spent all their life at the same place. Nevertheless in such a case one said: this person has become too dependent upon the earthly spot where he was born. In those olden times one knew very specifically: man has already had a pre-earthly existence; through the survey, so to speak,through his destiny, he had decided about the place on earth himself. Therefore one said to oneself if a person has been taken ill before his 40th year or earlier by pneumonia, then he simply has not chosen his place on earth in quite the right way. He does not quite fit on this place on earth. In short, one derived the illness from the relation his human organization had to the spot on earth on which he was.
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If I would sketch this, it would be this way: (diagram 1). If one imagined the earth this way, one said to oneself: if the person lives there, then he is too strongly dependent upon this particular spot on earth. One has to heal him by freeing him inwardly from the outer dependence on this earthly spot. One can do this by bringing him into connection with the surrounding cosmos to the outer heavenly cosmos. Heaven is that which had been man's home before he came down to earth. He does not quite fit into the earthly surroundings. One has to heal him in bringing him into the right relationship to the cosmos. One did this in such a way that one said: since this person has too many effects of the earth in himself — because there is too much gravity, and what is connected with gravity, in him, one has to give him relief — one has to bring super-earthly forces into him. One said to oneself: In these or other plant-blossoms, super-earthly forces are working. Therefore one prepared these or other plants by extracting their juice. One said to oneself: this plant is blossoming at a certain season, it is blossoming at this season through the influence of the cosmos. One investigated now, how far this person is influenced by this season in particular. In olden times the dependence of a person upon the cosmic forces was investigated through a kind of horoscope. One gave then as medication something that brought his ether-body into a general vibration. One expressed it to oneself in the following way: If this is a man (diagram 2, red), then this will be his ether body. He became ill of pneumonia because his ether body in the region of the lung is too much inclined towards the earth (blue) and because the forces of the earth have too great an influence on him. Mow one simply imparts to him juices from plant blossoms, which will work in him and help him to overcome these forces (Yellow). In this way one imparted forces to him which brought him into connection with the cosmos. One was striving through this treatment to place the whole ether body into the right vibration to balance the different single incorrect vibrations. So one always was asking: what does one have to do regarding the ether body?
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Altogether, how could one proceed in such a way? One could do that, because one had a distinct picture of the human ether body. One did not only see the physical human body in those old times, but one saw the physical human body luminous, one saw the ether body. Man was a being of light, and as one judges today by a person's complexion, e.g., if someone is pale, that he is ill — in the same way one formed an opinion about his state of health by his ether body, by the color, if it became red, or blue or green. On what did one base one's knowledge of the human being in those times? On the light, on that which was Light in man. One has to take it quite literally: it was the Light Age, it was the age in which one really saw what was living in man as Light.
If you look at man from today's point of view in regard to health and illness, you will find that today, also, it must be said: light has a tremendous strong influence on human health. People have to take care that they receive the right quantity of light into their organism. We know that children who at a delicate age suffer from lack of light, will contract rickets or other illnesses ,which are throughout related to a lack of light. Of course these are related to other factors, too — an illness can never be derived from only one cause — but such cases as rickets, can connected throughout with lack of light. One can relate with certainty how frequently rickets occurs among children who live in city apartments, where little light enters, and how little children are inclined to rickets — approximately, of course — who can be exposed to light in the proper way. So we can rightly say today as well that the human being takes light into himself.
But the light that man receives today is — if I may express myself that way — mineral light. Man takes up that light which is radiated onto the earth, onto the minerals, and is radiated back to him, or else the light which he receives directly from the sun. It is mineral light. The light that falls on the meadows and on the trees is also conveyed to us in a mineral way. It is dead light that we absorb through our skin, throughout our whole human being. During that old light-filled age, which preceded our dark age, men were conscious that this dead light was of no meaning to them.
The research historian of today, as well as the cultural historian know absolutely nothing about such things. The light that we appreciate so much today was not considered worthy of appreciation by men of olden times. They differentiated between the light they appreciated and the light that is so much esteemed today. For example — we sit down at the table and have plates and forks and knives, and on the plate some kind of cake or something else that is edible. We then eat the cake; naturally, we also appreciate knives and forks, but we don't eat them, they are just there. What we value as light stood in relation to what the ancients valued as light much as the utensils stand in relation to the cake. But what they regarded as light comes from the plant kingdom. This we do not take up at all any more, as it was taken up in the old light ages. We enjoy ourselves today when we can walk in the sun. The man of old enjoyed himself when he walked over a meadow, or through the woods, because he absorbed into himself — through his skin — the light that the woods had first absorbed, which had been enlivened in the woods, enlivened on the meadow. The other, the dead light — that was an addition, “trimmings,” as it were. For us, the trimmings have become the main thing. The man of old lived in the light, which the flowers, the trees of the woods gave to him. For him that was a source of being quickened inwardly with light, with inner living light and not with dead light. With our abstract joy of the woods, with our abstract joy about flowers, with all that, we have, basically, what I might call philistinism, in the cosmic sense. It may still be very beautiful, but it is philistine in contrast to what was existing in the old people as inner jubilation of the soul in face of the wood, of the meadow, in face of all that was living outside. The man of old felt himself related with his trees, with all that was for him precisely the suitable plant. He felt sympathy and antipathy in the most animated way with this or that plant. We, for example, walk across such meadows as those around the Goetheanum in autumn. We judge in a philistine way: the meadow saffron, the colchium autumnale might perhaps be beautiful. The man of old passed by these plants and became sad, so that even his skin seemed to become somewhat dry. He even sensed something like his hair becoming limp. While, when he passed — let us say, by red blooming plants, they might be such plants as the poppy is today, his hair became downy, soft. Thus he experienced the light of the plants in an absolute way. It was the light-filled age, and his whole cultural life was directed accordingly. Accordingly it was also directed that he could heal — that is, could combat death — through observation and treatment of the ether body.
This remained effective for a long time and we still see, when we go back to the older Greek medicine, to Hippocrates, how one spoke then of the “humors” of man, of a black or light bile, of blood and of phlegm. This was really thought about as remembrances of the old light age. Phlegm was essentially taken to mean the ether body and blood, those vibrations which the astral body effects in the ether body, and so on, So these after-effects were still there, and basically only at the time of Galen did one start to rely on the mere physical world, including the remaining human cultural life. The conception of man, in as far as it should be the foundation for processes of healing, received a physical character. One looked at the physical body.
But it was in fact only at the great turn in the first half of the 15th century that one did not know anything at all any more of the human ether body, not even how it expresses itself in the temperaments; that one began to look more and more only at the physical body of man. The older physical medicine was still something else than it was to become later, mainly in the 18 and 19th centuries. The old physical medicine always had traditions, at least, of the earlier healing through the ether body. One really has the impression that in this older European medicine, one had retained old principles and had only carried them over into the physical. In a certain way the physical human organism still continued to be seen as under the influence of the etheric organism. Only in more recent times — in the time of Copernicus and Galileo — did one begin to observe more and more merely the physical human body and cease to know something the earlier times had known in an exact way. Today one thinks: if man eats this or that substance, which one finds out there in nature, it will stay basically the same inside the human organism. But that is not true. Only the salts remain approximately the same. But all that is there in the animal and plant kingdom becomes something entirely different in the human organism. The human organism changes it completely. One knew that the human physical organism “is not from this world” in its inner consistency and one knew fundamentally that becoming ill is nothing else than a continuation of what happens through eating. In fact there was a time, especially among the Arabian physicians, when one regarded every digestion as a partial process of illness, where one looked at digestion in a way that.was not really wrong; when man has eaten, he has brought something foreign into himself and that he really is “sick”. He must first, through his inner organism, through inner organic functions, overcome the illness. So that one continuously lives in a state of being “a little bit sick,” and “a little bit overcoming the illness.” One eats oneself sick and one digests oneself well again. This was in fact for some time, especially among Arabian physicians, a point of view which is altogether — if I may express myself that way — something quite healthy, because there exists no real borderline between what one calls today “eating oneself well” and “eating oneself ill.” Just think how easy it is to get one's stomach in disorder, something that — as one says — could normally still be overcome, quickly goes over into something one cannot overcome any more. Then one is simply sick. But the borderline is really not to be drawn at all.
It is just as difficult to draw a borderline regarding confusions between something that still can be evened out in a completely natural way and something where one has to come and give help through a process of healing. So once one correctly saw illness as a continuation of eating — eating that was not done correctly. One studied the daily process of digestion, that is: digesting oneself into health; this one studied.
In this respect it is quite a good practice if one person or another who cannot tolerate this or that food unsalted, adds more salt for himself. Somebody else even has to add pepper, others add paprika — isn't that so? Because he cannot digest the things just as they are, he adjusts them to his needs. There again is no borderline, if somebody needs pepper or paprika as a healing factor; there again is no borderline, if one gives more pepper or paprika, so one can digest oneself well, or if, when things get worse, one takes something out of the mineral kingdom. It does not matter if one then gives that as addition to the food, or as medicine. There again things flow into each other, there is again no borderline.
What was therefore known in a precise way was that if man takes something completely from the outer world, this will injure his inner organism and he must by all means overcome it. If finally I push a rusty nail into myself and my organism has to fester it out, or if I bring something into my stomach, which must not be allowed to stay that way, and my organism has to go through all these processes so it can assimilate this — these are only gradations of difference. But the knowledge that the human organism is not of this earth, and that it can sustain itself on this earth only if it is continuously stimulated to overcome the forces of this earth — this knowledge did exist. Namely, we do not eat to get this or that food into oneself, but we eat so that we can develop the forces inwardly which can overcome this food. We eat to bring forth resistance to this earth, and we live on this earth in order to bring forth resistance.
But this was gradually forgotten. One just took the whole matter in a materialistic way and finally one only still tried to see if this or that substance in these or other plants might give help. Yes, you see that is what was once meant, and what we again must have in mind regarding the dark age. Everything has simply become dark. In earlier times one looked at the light ether-body, and regarded this as man. Now one does not see anything of this light any more. One perceives only where there is matter, and one holds on to the dead light. But this dead light gives man only abstract conceptions, it has brought forth only intellectualism. But today we stand in a transition to the necessity to recognize the light again in a new way. Before, man knew within himself: he had this light ether body. Now we must increasingly develop such knowledge, and recognize the etheric in the outer world, especially in the plant kingdom.
Goethe made a beginning with this in his theory of metamorphosis, although he still put the whole into abstract conceptions. This must develop more and more into Imaginations. And we must be clear that we simply must reach the point of perceiving the being of the plant in luminous pictures. While man himself was luminous in the earlier light age, in the future nature around us, as far as it is plant-world, has to become aglow in the most manifold Imaginations of plant forms. And just with the help of these plant forms, luminously shining forth, will we be able to find new remedies in the plants. This necessity confronts us. While man in the earlier light age saw an inner light, people of the present age have the obligation of “seeing” in the outer world, to behold again a light, this light in the outer world.
This light can be kindled, if one deepens more and more the study of spiritual science. You may say: spiritual science, Anthroposophy — there also I read only concepts, and finally, if I read Occult Science, I also find only concepts there; that does not give me an occasion to really “perceive.” Yet, my dear friends, this Occult Science does have a twofold goal. The first is that one learns to know what is related there; but that is not the whole. If you have read my Occult Science like another book, then you will know only the match. But if you want to have fire, you must not say: this match is no fire! It is nonsense to say, if he gives me a match, that he gives me fire, it does not look like fire! Occult Science does not look like clairvoyance; that is like saying the match does not look like fire. Yet it will look like fire if you will but strike the match. And if it does not work the first time, you will strike another time, and so on. That is how it is with Occult Science. If you have read it like another book, then it is simply only “the match,” but if you have rubbed it in the right way in your whole human being, then you will see, it kindles! It has kindled only a little! But it does kindle, my dear friends. And the person who says: this remains far away from what one is striving for, namely clairvoyance, he will only look at the match and not strike it. But the fact is, one must first know the match, otherwise one will give oneself up to the illusion that one could kindle it with a pin. Of course, you cannot kindle it with a pin — that is, with modern science — you can do it only with a real match.
The human race is confronted precisely by this necessity and it may be especially shown in something such as medical knowledge and medical ability. If one will find the transition from a mere looking at the darkness in substances — in the way that one somehow looks at a plant blossom, as it is done today — to an imaginative way of looking, by “striking the match” — then one acquires the knowledge of how this or the other substance will affect the human being. And if one now thinks over the matter a little, one has to say to oneself: today's mankind is confronted with that: out of the darkness it should enter again into the light, it should learn to judge in a light-filled way.
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I want to make this clear once more by an example. Let us assume that a physician of today is making a diagnosis of, let us say, an enlargement of the heart. He does it the way it is done today. One cannot do much with such a diagnosis. Perhaps one has tried if this or that can help here. But the fact is that one does not have any comprehensive connections. One does not have anything comprehensive because one does not look through the whole matter. A real penetration of the whole would result in the following: Assume once that the human being, as I have, presented him quite often, renews his organism after seven years. But I also mentioned last time how this renewal comes about. There are always unfinished substances in a way sent upwards or also forwards or downwards by the kidneys' system. From the head the rounding off is done (diagram 3) so that continuously such waves (blue) are coming from the head-system, which give form, and that through the kidney-system such effects take place — four times faster — which are broken off and formed by the waves (red) as I described.
Take an organ such as the heart (orange). There too such an exchange takes place in every human after 7 or 8 years. The heart is being renewed. It is made anew. What you see at the fingernails, that they grow outwards and always grow again after one cuts them off, that is also the case with the whole human being: he renews the material substance from the center. Now assume once that the rhythmic man might not be in order, that it might be so for his organization, that the rays from the kidney system burst forth much too rapidly, so that the right relation of 4 to 2 is not there. That varies for the individual — every person is an individuality in this respect — but it is the case in regard to his whole construction as a human being. Assume then, that this is not in order, that the radiation from the kidney-system is pushing too fast. What will happen thereby?
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The following can happen. The process of renewal is indeed happening continuously; let us then imagine that the new heart moved in (red) before the old heart is completely ejected (diagram 4, light). Then it goes too fast. If the renewal goes on too fast, such phenomena as an enlargement of the heart occurs. First and foremost you can detect in the beginning of an enlargement of the heart that something is not in order in the activity of the kidney. Just where you take this matter of a renewal of the human being in 7-8 years seriously you will see: if that which will come as renewed substance is already there after 6 years, that which is there as the old heart has not yet been removed sufficiently and the organ expands, or tries at least to expand itself. That is how one must learn to look at things; one must learn to see things in living movement. That is what confronts us. One must see most of all what one always has seen in fixed limits. How does the physician today make a diagnosis?
The physician of today comes to a diagnosis in such a way that he likes best to trace down the contours of the heart to what it is as a finished organ. It is not so much the question of looking at what the finished organ is, since it simply is an organ that is always floating away and getting pushed back again. In this going away and pushing back there is something inwardly mobile. If I lay hold of it, it is essentially as if I were to lay hold of lightning — it is constantly in movement, Therefore if I want to comprehend man, I have to grasp him in his liveliness. This liveliness I understand and find today only if I understand the whole world, and man out of the world and cosmos. This is what we are confronted with: every thing has to pass over into knowledge that is flexible. It is something dreadful if we keep the children in school immobile. For example, it is always quite grievous for me to see the children use any kind of finished triangle, with which they make all sorts of things. This fixed object is really nothing. One should really have a kind in which the triangle can be shifted. This is the point: that the children get the conception in the right way that everything should be grasped in movement. (diagram 5).
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It is, of course, dreadfully
difficult to get an understanding in regard to these things with such
people who want their peace and quiet, who are already angry, when children
are making a row — and now the tools for instruction are making
a row! It is, of course, something dreadful: but it is so, we have to
change over to liveliness. All this taken together results in the challenge
to move upward into the light, luminous
age. Out of the dark age we must enter into the light luminous age.
And because people can not do it — that is, they imagine that they cannot do it — because people do not want it, because people cling to the old, and don't want to step into the new, and because the old does not fit any more — it is because of this that we experience the terrible catastrophes in our present time. And we will experience them still more if people don't want to take the trouble to enter into the new.
What occurs as catastrophe is the reaction of the dark age, which does not belong in our time. But it is, of course, terribly difficult to come to an understanding. At best something like an inkling appears in the contrasting attitude between the old people and youth today, like an inkling of the new light: filled age. Young people say as a rule: oh, the old people are philistines. This also has its forerunners. The great German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte had something of an inkling beforehand of this in making the classical declaration, that one really should kill all people at the age of thirty because man is only a decent human being up to his 30th year. This is a famous sentence of Fichte and since Goethe at the time that Fichte made this sentence was already considerably older, he was terribly annoyed and has ridiculed this whole theory in the second part of his Faust. It was really provoking for Goethe, of course! So one finds that youth agrees that the old people are philistines, but up to now no serious results have come about in this matter, because young people declare this up to a certain age and then become even greater philistines than the old ones have been. Even this side must be looked upon from an inner vantage point.
What I mean is the question that we already know: either Spenglerism — that is, the decline of the West — or taking the trouble to adjust ourselves to the new appearance of the light age in contrast to darkness, during which men were “earthworms” in regard to the cosmos. It cannot be different. But for a while in the course of history man had to he an earthworm because otherwise he would have been taken up completely by the light. He could strive to gain his freedom only during the dark age, and most of all during the termination of the dark age, in the more recent times. He could acquire his freedom only because the light left him unmolested so that he could lead an earthworm existence.
But now I tell you: men of the light ages preferred to receive the light of the plant world. The plants were, so to speak, drinking the cosmos light and man in turn drank the light out of the cup the plants presented to him.
Today we have only the dead light. But on the rays of the dead light Christ has come and has achieved the Mystery of Golgotha. That is the great cosmic Mystery of the newer time. Though we have the dead light — the dead light that cannot make us blessed — yet on this dead light's rays has Christ entered the earth and achieved the Mystery of Golgotha. And though outwardly we have around us the dead light we can bring the Christ in us to life. And with Christ in us in the right way we will enliven all of the light on earth around us — we will carry life into the dead light, we ourselves will have a reviving effect on the light. This means we must enter the new age with the right Christ impulse. The denial of the Christ-impulse is the basis of all that keeps men away from seeing rightfully how a dark age transits into the light age.
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It is really so. Where the
plant grows out of the earth (diagram 6) it develops the seed bud —
as I have shown you already — still through the forces of the
previous year; only the petals grow out of this year's light. What pulls
the plant out of the earth really comes from the previous year. So it
was actually conserved light which the plants once gave to man during
the old light age. We have to find the possibility to comprehend the
dead light with the mind and heart that is engendered in us if we receive
the strength of Christ in the living perception of the Mystery of Golgotha.
Then we will revive the light as I have indicated. But we can do that
only if we learn to try to look at all things in the way I have tried
to describe to you in these lectures.