Michaelmas and the Soul-Forces of Man
30 September 1923, Vienna
In the first of these lectures I endeavored to set forth how Michael's Conflict with the Dragon persisted into the 18th Century as a determining idea, really a determining impulse in mankind; and in the second lecture I tried to show how a productive revival of this impulse may and really must be brought about. But now, before discussing particulars for a Michael Festival at the beginning of autumn, I should like today to speak about several prerequisites involved in such an intention.
The core of the matter is this: all impulses such as the Michael impulse depend upon man's attaining to super-sensible enlightenment concerning his connection not only with earthly but with cosmic conditions: he must learn to feel himself not only as an earth citizen but as a citizen of the universe, as far as this is perceptible either spiritually or, in image, physically. Nowadays, of course, our general education offers only the most meager opportunities for sensing our connection with the cosmos. True, by means of their materialistically colored science men are aware of earth conditions to the point of feeling connected with them, at least as regards their material life in the wider sense. But the knowledge of this connection certainly engenders no enthusiasm, hence all outer signs of such a connection have become very dim. Human feeling for the traditional festivals has grown dim and shadowy. While in former periods of human evolution festivals like Christmas or Easter exerted a far-reaching influence on the entire social life and its manifestations, they have become but a faint echo of what they once meant, expressing themselves in all sorts of customs that lack all deeper social significance.
Now, if we intend in some way to realize the Michael Festival with its particularly far-reaching social significance, we must naturally first create a feeling for what it might signify; for by no means must it bear the character of our modern festivities, but should be brought forth from the depths of the human being. These depths we can only reach by once more penetrating and entering into our relationship with the extra-terrestrial cosmos and with what this yields for the cycle of the seasons.
To illustrate what I really mean by all that, I need only ask you to consider how abstract, how dreadfully out of touch with the human being, are all the feelings and conceptions of the extraterrestrial universe that today enter human consciousness. Think of what astronomy, astro-physics, and other related sciences accomplish today. They compute the paths of the planets — the positions of the fixed stars, if you like; and from the results of research in spectral analysis they arrive at conclusions concerning the material composition of these heavenly bodies. But what have all the results of such methods to do with the intimate inner soul life of man? This man, equipped with all such sky-wisdom, feels himself a hermit on what he thinks of as the planet earth. And the present habits of thinking connected with these matters are at bottom only a system of very circumscribed concepts.
To get a better light on this, let us consider a condition of consciousness certainly present in ordinary life, though an inferior one: the condition of dream-pervaded sleep. In order to obtain points of contact for today's discussion I will tell you in a few words what relates to this condition. Dreaming may be associated with inner conditions of the human organism and transform these into pictures resembling symbols [See: Rudolf Steiner, Supersensible Knowledge (Anthroposophy) as a Demand of the Age; Anthroposophy and the Ethical-Religious Conduct of Life, Anthroposophic Press, New York.] — the movements of the heart, for example, can be symbolized by flames, and so forth: we can determine concretely and in detail the connection between dream symbols and our inner organic states and processes. Or alternatively, outer events of our life may be symbolized, events that have remained in us as memories or the like. In any case it is misleading to take the conceptional content of a dream very seriously. This can be interesting, it has a sensational aspect, it is of great interest to many people; but for those who see deeper into the nature of man the dream content as it pertains to the conception proper is of extraordinarily little significance. The dramatic development of a dream, on the other hand, is of the greatest import. I will illustrate this:
Suppose a man dreams he is climbing a mountain. It is an excessively difficult climb and becomes ever more so, the higher he goes. Finally he reaches a point where his strength fails him and conditions have become so unfavorable that he cannot proceed: he must come to a halt. Something like fear, something of disappointment enters his dream. Perhaps at this point he wakes up. — Now, something underlies this dream that should really not be sought in the pictures themselves as they appeal to the imagination, but rather in the emotional experiencing of an intention, in the increasingly formidable obstructions appearing in the path of this intention, and in the circumstance of encountering even more insuperable obstacles. If we think of all that as proceeding in an emotional-dramatic way we discover a certain emotional content underlying the actual dream pictures as dramatic content. — This same emotional content could give rise to quite a different dream. The man might dream he is entering a cave. It gets darker and darker as he gropes along until he finally comes to a swamp. There he wades a bit farther, but finally arrives at a quagmire that stops further progress. This picture embraces the same emotional and sentient dramatic content as the other; and the dramatic content in question could be dreamt in still many other forms.
The pictorial content of a dream may vary continually; the essential factor is what underlies the dream in the way of movements, tension and relaxation, hope and disappointment. Nevertheless, the dream presents itself in pictures, and we must ask, How do these arise? They do so, for example, because at the moment of awaking something is experienced by the ego and astral body outside the physical and etheric bodies. The nature of such super-sensible experiences is of course something that cannot possibly be expressed in pictures borrowed from the sense world; but as the ego and the astral body reunite with the physical and etheric bodies they have no choice but to use pictures from the available supply. In this way the peculiar dream drama is clothed in pictures.
Now we begin to take an interest in the content of these pictures. Their conformation is entirely different from that of other experiences. Why? Our dreams employ nothing but outer or inner experiences, but they give these a different contiguity. Why is this? It is because dreams are a protest against our mode of life in the physical sense-world during our waking hours. There we live wholly interwoven with the system of natural laws, and dreams break through this. Dreams will not stand for it, so they rip events out of their context and present them in another sequence. They protest against the system of natural laws — in fact, men should learn that every immersion into spirit is just such a protest.
In this connection, there are certain quaint people who keep trying to penetrate the spiritual world by means of the ordinary natural-scientific method. Extraordinarily interesting in this connection is Dr. Ludwig Staudenmaier's book on Experimental Magic. A man of that type starts with the assumption that everything which is to be comprehended should be comprehended according to the natural-scientific mode of thought. Now, Staudenmaier does not exactly occupy himself with dreams as such but with so-called mediumistic phenomena, which are really an extension of the dream world. In healthy human beings the dream remains an experience that does not pass over into the outer organization; whereas in the case of a medium everything that is ordinarily experienced by the ego, and the astral body, and that then takes shape in the pictures provided by the physical and etheric bodies, passes over into the experiences of the physical and etheric bodies. This is what gives rise to all the phenomena associated with mediumistic conditions. — Staudenmaier was quite right in refusing to be guided by what other mediums offered him, so he set about making himself into a sort of medium. He dreamt while writing, so to speak: he applied the pencil as he had seen mediums do it, and sure enough, it worked! But he was greatly astonished at what came to light: he was amazed at sequences he had never thought of. He wrote all sorts of things wholly foreign to the realm of his conscious life. What he had written was frequently so remote from his conscious life that he asked, “Who is writing this?” And the answer came, “Spirits.” He had to write “spirits!” Imagine: the materialist, who of course recognizes no spirits, had to write down “spirits.” But he was convinced that whatever was writing through him was lying, so he asked next why the spirits lied to him so; and they said, “Well, we have to lie to you — that is our way.” Then he asked about all sorts of things that concerned himself, and once they went so far as to say “muttonhead.” [Kohlkopf — literally “cabbage-head.”] Now, we cannot assume his frame of mind to have been such as to make him label himself a muttonhead. But in any case, all sorts of things came to light that were summed upon the phrase, “we have to lie to you;” so he reflected that since there are naturally no spirits, his subconscious mind must be speaking. But now the case becomes still more alarming: the subconscious calls the conscious mind a muttonhead, and it lies; hence this personality would have to confess, “In my subconscious mind I am an unqualified liar.”
But ultimately all this merely points to the fact that the world into which the medium plunges down registers a protest against the constraint of the laws of nature, exactly as does the world of dreams. Everything we can think, will, or feel in the physical sense-world is distorted the moment we enter this more or less subconscious world. Why? Well, dreams are the bridge leading to the spiritual world, and the spiritual world is wholly permeated by a set of laws that are not the laws of nature, but laws that bear an entirely different inner character. Dreams are the transition to this world. It is grave error to imagine that the spiritual world can be comprehended by means of natural laws; and dreams are the herald, as it were, warning us of the impossibility of merely extending the laws of nature when we penetrate into the spiritual world. The same methods can be carried over if we prepare ourselves to accomplish this; but in penetrating into the spiritual world we enter an entirely different system of laws.
The idea that the world can and should be comprehended only by means of the mental capacities developed in the course of the last three or four hundred years has today become an axiom. This has come about gradually. Today there are no longer such men as were still to be found in the first half of the 19th Century, men for example, of the type of Johannes Müller, Haeckel's teacher, who confessed that many a bit of research he was carrying on purely as a physiologist refused to be clarified as long as he thought about it in his ordinary waking condition, but that subsequently a dream had brought back to him the whole work of preparing the tissue when awake, all the steps he had taken, and thus many such riddles were solved in his dreams. And Johannes Müller was also one of those who were still fully convinced that in sleep a man dwells in this peculiar spiritual weaving, untouched by inexorable natural laws; where one can even penetrate into the system of physical nature laws, because underlying these there is again something spiritual, and because what is spiritual is fundamentally not subject to natural necessity but merely manifests this on the visible surface.
One really has to speak in paradoxes if thoughts that result quite naturally from spiritual research are to be carried to their logical conclusion. No one who thinks in line with modern natural science believes that a light shining at a given point in space will appear equally bright at a distance. The physicist computes the decrease in the strength of light by the square of the distance, and he calculates gravity in the same way. Regarding these physical entities, he knows that the validity of what is true on the earth's surface diminishes as we pass out into the surrounding cosmos. But he refuses to apply this principle to his thinking. Yet in this respect thinking differs in no way from anything we can learn about earth matters in the laboratories, in the operating rooms — from anything on earth, right down to twice two is four. If gravity diminishes by the square of the distance, why should not the validity of the system of nature laws diminish in a similar ratio and eventually, beyond a certain distance, cease altogether?
That is where spiritual science penetrates. It points out that when the Nebula of Orion or the Canes Nebula is to be the subject of research, the same course is followed as though, with tellurian concepts, Venus, for example, were to be illuminated by the flame of a candle. When spiritual science reveals the truth by means of such analogies people think it is paradoxical. Nevertheless, in the state in which during sleep we penetrate into the spiritual world, greater possibilities are offered us for investigating the Nebula of Orion or the Canes Nebula than are provided by working in laboratories or in observatories. Research would yield much more if we dreamt about these matters instead of reflecting on them with our intellect. As soon as we enter the cosmos it is useless to apply the results of our earthly research. The nature of our present-day education is such that we are prone to apply to the whole cosmos what we consider true in our little earth cell; but it is obvious that truth cannot come to light in this way.
If we proceed from considerations of this sort, a good deal of what confronted men in former things through a primitive, but penetrating, clairvoyant way of looking at things takes on greater value than it has for present-day mankind in general. We will not even pass by the knowledge that came into being in the pastoral life of primitive times, which is nowadays so superficially ignored; for those old shepherds dreamt many a solution to the mysteries of the stars better than can be computed today by our clever scientists with their observatories and spectroscopes. Strange as that may sound, it is true. By studying in a spiritual-scientific way what has been preserved from olden times we can find our way into this mysterious connection we have with the cosmos. Let me tell you here of what can be discovered if we seek through spiritual science the deeply religious and ethical, but also social import of the old Druidic Mysteries on the one hand, and those of the Mithras Mysteries on the other; for this will give us points of contact with the way in which we should conceive the shaping of a Michael Festival.
Regarding the Druid Mysteries, the lecture cycle I gave a few weeks ago in Penmaenmawr, [See: Rudolf Steiner, Evolution of the World and Humanity, Anthroposophic Press, New York (actually, Anthroposophic Publishing Company, London, 1926. Also in Evolution of Consciousness, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966. — e.Ed)] Wales — the spot in England that lies exactly behind the island of Anglesea — is of quite special significance because in that place many reminders of the old sacrificial sanctuaries and Mystery temples of the Druids are to be found lying about in fragments. Today these relics, these cromlechs and mounds, are not really very impressive. One climbs up to the mountain tops and finds stones arranged in such a way as to form a sort of chamber, with a larger stone on top; or one sees the cromlechs arranged in circles — originally there were always twelve. In the immediate vicinity of Penmaenmawr were to be found two such sun-circles adjoining each other; and in this particular neighborhood, where even in the spiritual life of nature there is so much that has a different effect from that of nature elsewhere, what I have set forth in various anthroposophical lectures concerning the Druid Mysteries could be tested with the utmost clarity. There is indeed a quite special spiritual atmosphere in this region where — on the island of Anglesea — the Society of King Arthur had a settlement. I must describe it as follows:
In speaking of super-sensible things we cannot form thoughts in the same way as we usually do in life or in science, where abstract thoughts are formed, conclusions drawn, and so forth. But to be reduced, in addition, even to speaking more or less abstractly — our language, which has become abstract, demands this — well, if we want to describe something in a spiritual-scientific way we cannot be as abstract as all that in the inner being of our soul: everything must be presented pictorially. We must have pictures, imaginations, before the mind's eye. And this means something different from having thoughts. Thoughts in the soul are extraordinarily patient, according to the degree of our inner indolence: we can hold them; but imaginations always lead a life of their own: we feel quite clearly that an imagination presents itself to us. It is different from writing or drawing, yet similar. We write or draw with our soul; but imaginations are not abstractly held fast like mere thoughts: we write them. In most parts of Europe where civilization has already taken on so abstract a character these imaginations flit past comparatively very quickly: depicting the super-sensible always involves an inner effort. It is as though we wrote something that would then be immediately wiped away by some demonic power — gone again at once. The same is true of imaginations by means of which we bring the super-sensible to consciousness and experience it in our soul.
Now, the spiritual atmosphere in the region of Wales that I mentioned has this peculiarity: while imaginations stamp themselves less readily into the astral element, they persist longer, being more deeply imprinted. That is what appears so conspicuous in that locality; and indeed, everything there points to a more spiritual way of retracing the path to what those old Druid priests really strove for — not during the decadence of the Druid cults, when they contained much that was rather distasteful and even nefarious, but in the time of their flowering.
Examining one of these cromlechs we find it to close off, in a primitive way, a certain space for a chamber that was covered for reasons having to do with the priest's purposes. When you observe sunlight you have first the physical sunlight. But this physical sunlight is wholly permeated by the spiritual activities of the sun; and to speak of the physical sunlight merely as does the modern physicist would be exactly the same as talking about a man's muscles, bones, blood, and so on, omitting all reference to the soul and spirit holding sway within him. Light is by no means mere phos: it is phosphoros, light-bearing — is endowed with something active and psychic. But this psychic element of light is lost to man in the mere sense-world. — Now, when the Druid priest entered this burying place — like other old cult sanctuaries, the cromlechs were mostly erected over graves — he set up this arrangement which in a certain way was impervious to the physical sun-rays; but the spiritual activities of the sun penetrated it, and the Druid priests were specially trained to perceive these. So he looked through these stones — they were always specially selected — into the chamber where the spiritual activity of the sun penetrated, but from which the physical effect was excluded. His vision had been finely schooled, for what can be seen in a primitive darkroom of that sort varies according to the date, whether February, July, August, or December. In July it is lightly tinged with yellow; in December it radiates a faintly bluish shade from within. And one capable of observing this beholds — in the qualitative changes undergone in the course of the year by this shadow-phenomenon enclosed in such a darkroom — the whole cycle of the seasons in the psycho-spiritual activity of the sun's radiance.
And further: these sun-circles are arranged in the number twelve, like the twelve signs of the zodiac; and on the mountain we had climbed we found a large sun-circle and nearby a smaller one. If one had ascended, perhaps in a balloon, and looked down upon these two Druid circles, ignoring the insignificant distance between them, the same ground plan would have presented itself — there is something profoundly moving about this — as that of the Goetheanum in Dornach which was destroyed by fire.
The old Druid priests had schooled themselves to read from what thus met their soul's eye how, at every time of day and at every season of the year as well, the sun's shadow varied. They could trace these shadow formations and by means of them determine accurately, this is the time of March, this is the time of October. Through the perception this brought them they were conscious of cosmic events, but also of cosmic conditions having significance for life on this earth. And now, think how people go about it today when they want to determine the influence of cosmic life on earthly life — even the peasants! They have a calendar telling what should be done on this or that day, and they do it, too, approximately; for the fundamental knowledge once available concerning these matters has vanished. But calendars there were none at the time of the old Druids, nor even writing: what the Druid priest was able to tell from his observations of the sun constituted men's knowledge of the connection between the heavens and the earth. And when the priest said: The position of the sun now calls for the sowing of wheat, or, it is the time to lead the bull through the herd, it was done. The cult of that epoch was anything but an abstract prayer: it regulated life in its obvious, practical demands in accord with the enlightenment obtained by communicating with the spirit of the universe. The great language of the heavens was deciphered, and then applied to earthly things.
All this penetrated even the most intimate details of the social life. The priest indicated, according to his readings in the universe, what should be done on such and such a day of the year in order to achieve a favorable contact with the whole universe. That was a cult that actually made of the whole of life a sort of divine worship. By comparison, the most mystical mysticism of our time is a kind of abstraction, for it lets outer nature go its way, so to speak, without bothering about it: it lives and has its being in tradition and seeks inner exaltation, shutting itself off and concentrating within itself as far as possible in order to arrive at an abstract connection with some chimerical world of divine spirit. All this was very different in those olden times. Within the cult — and it was a cult that had a real, true connection with the universe — men united with what the Gods were perpetually creating and bringing about in the world: and as earth-men they carried out the will of the gods as read in the stellar script by means of the methods known to the Druid priests. But they had to know how to read the writing in the stars. — It is profoundly affecting to be able, at the very spot, to transport oneself back to conditions such as I have described as prevailing during the height of the Druid culture. Elsewhere in that region as well — even over as far as Norway — are to be found many such relics of the Druid culture.
Similarly, all through Central Europe, in parts of Germany, in the Rhineland, even in western France, relics and reminders of the ancient Mithras Cult are to be found. Here again I will only indicate the most important features. The outer symbol of the Mithras Cult is always a bull ridden by a man thrusting a sword into the bull's neck; below, a scorpion biting the bull, or, a serpent; but whenever the representation is complete you will see this picture of bull and man surrounded by the firmament, and particularly the signs of the zodiac. Again we ask, What does this picture express? The answer will never be found by an external, antiquated science of history, because the latter has no means of establishing the interrelationships that can provide clues to the meaning of this man on the bull. In order to arrive at the solution one must know the nature of the training undergone by those who served the Mithras Cult. The whole ceremony could, of course, be run off in such a way as to be beautiful — or ugly, if you like — without anything intelligent transpiring. Only one who had passed through a certain training could make sense of it. That is why all the descriptions of the Mithras Mysteries are really twaddle, although the pictures give promise of yielding so much. The service of the Mithras Cult demanded in the neophyte a very fine and sensitive development of the capacity for receptive sentience. Everything depended upon the development of this faculty in him.
I said yesterday in the public lecture [See: Rudolf Steiner, Supersensible Knowledge (Anthroposophy) as a Demand of the Age; Anthroposophy and the Ethical-Religious Conduct of Life, Anthroposophic Press, New York.] that the human heart is really a subconscious sense organ: subconsciously the head perceives through the heart what goes on in the physical functions of the lower body and the chest. Just as we perceive outer events in the sense-world through the eye, so the human heart is in reality a sense organ in its relation to the functions mentioned. Subconsciously by means of the heart, the head, and particularly the cerebellum, perceives the blood being nourished by the transformed foodstuffs, perceives the functioning of the kidneys, the liver, and other processes of the organism. The heart is the sense organ for perceiving all this in the upper portion of the human being.
Now, to raise this heart as a sense organ to a certain degree of consciousness was the object in the schooling of those who were to be engaged in the Mithras Cult. They had to develop a sensitive, conscious feeling for the processes in the liver, kidneys, spleen, etc., in the human organism. The upper man, the headman, had to sense very delicately what went on in the chest-man and the limb-man. In older epochs that sort of schooling was not the mental training to which we are accustomed today, but a schooling of the whole human being, appealing in the main to the capacity for feeling. And just as we say, on the basis of outer optical perception, There are rain clouds or, the sky is blue, so the sufficiently matured disciple could say, Now the metabolism in my organism is of this nature, now it is of that. Actually, the processes within the human organism seem the same the year round only to the abstractionist. When science will once more have advanced to real truths concerning these things, men will be amazed to learn how they can establish, by means very different from the crude methods of our modern precision instruments, how the condition of our blood varies and the digestion functions differently in January from September, and in what way the heart as a sense organ is a marvelous barometer for the course of the seasons within the human limb-metabolic organism. The Mithras disciple was taught to perceive the course of the seasons within himself by means of his heart organization, his heart-science, which transmitted to him the passage of food transformed by digestion and taken into the blood. And what was there perceived really showed in man — in the motion of the inner man — the whole course of outer nature.
Oh, what does our abstract science amount to, no matter how accurately we describe plants and plant cells, animals and animal tissues, compared with what once was present instinctively by reason of man's ability to make his entire being into an organ of perception, to develop his capacity for feeling into an organ capable of gleaning knowledge! Man bears within him the animal nature, and truly he does so more intensively than is usually imagined; and what the ancient Mithras followers perceived by means of their heart-science could not be represented otherwise than by the bull. The forces working through the metabolic-limb man, and tamed only by the upper man, are indicated by all that figures as the scorpion and the serpent winding around the bull. And the human being proper, in all his frailty, is mounted above in his primitive might, thrusting the sword of Michael into the neck of the bull. But what it was that must thus be conquered, and how it manifests itself in the course of the seasons, was known only to those who had been schooled in these matters.
Here the symbol begins to take on significance. By means of ordinary human knowledge no amount of observation or picturesque presentation will make anything of it. It can only be understood if one knows something about the heart-science of the old Mithras pupils; for what they really studied when they looked at themselves through their heart was the spirit of the sun's annual passage through the zodiac. In this way the human being experienced himself as a higher being, riding on his lower nature; and therefore it was fitting that the cosmos should be arranged in a circle around him; in this manner cosmic spirituality was experienced.
The more a renascent spiritual science makes it possible for us to examine what was brought to light by an ancient semi-conscious, dreamlike clairvoyance — but clairvoyance, nevertheless — the greater becomes our respect for it. A spirit of reverence for the ancient cultures pervades us when we see deeper into them and rediscover, for example, that the purpose of the Mithras Cult was to enable the priest, by penetrating the secrets of the seasons' cycle, to tell the members of his community what should be done on each day of the year. The Mithras Cult served to elicit from the heavens the knowledge of what should take place on earth. How infinitely greater is the enthusiasm, the incentive, for what must be done on earth if a man feels himself to be active in such a way that into his activity there flow the impulses deciphered from the great cosmic script he had read in the universe; that he made such knowledge his starting point and employed the resulting impulses in the ordinary affairs of daily life! However little this may accord with our modern concepts — naturally it does not — it was good and right according to the old ones. But in making this reservation we must clearly understand what it means to read in the universe what should be done in the lives of men on earth, thereby knowing ourself to be one with the divine in us — as over against debating the needs of the social life in the vein of Adam Smith or Karl Marx. Only one who can visualize this contrast is able to see clearly into the nature of the new impulses demanded by the social life of our time.
This foundation alone can induce the right frame of mind for letting our cognition pass from the earth out into cosmic space: instead of abstractly calculating and computing and using a spectroscope, which is the common method when looking up to Mercury, Venus, Saturn, and so on, we thereby employ the means comprised in imagination, inspiration, and intuition. In that way, even when only imagination enters in, the heavenly bodies become something very different from the picture they present to modern astronomy — a picture derived partly from sense observation, partly from deductions. The moon, for example, appears to present-day astronomers as some sort of a superannuated heavenly body of mineral which, like a kind of mirror, reflects the sunlight that then, under certain conditions, falls on the earth. They do not bother very much about any of the effects of this sunlight. For a time these observations were applied to the weather, but the excessively clever people of the 19th Century naturally refused to believe in any relation between the various phases of the moon and the weather. Yet those who, like Gustav Theodor Fechner, harbored something of a mystic tendency in their soul, did believe in it. I have repeatedly told the story in our circles about the great 19th Century botanists Schleiden and Gustav Theodor Fechner, both active at the same university. Schleiden naturally considered it a mere superstition that Fechner should keep careful statistics on the rainfall during the full moon and the new moon periods. What Fechner had to say about the moon's influence on the weather amounted to pure superstition for Schleiden. But then the following episode occurred. The two professors had wives; and in those days it was still customary in Leipzig to collect rainwater for the laundry. Barrels were set up for this purpose; and Frau Professor Fechner and likewise Frau Professor Schleiden caught rainwater in such barrels, like everybody else. Now, the natural thing would have been for Frau Professor Schleiden to say, It is stupid to bother about what sort of an influence the moon phases have on the rainfall. But although Herr Professor Schleiden considered it stupid to take the matter seriously, Frau Professor Schleiden got into a violent dispute with Frau Professor Fechner because both ladies wanted to set up their barrels in the same place at the same time. — the women knew all about rain from practical experience, though the men on their professorial platforms took quite a different standpoint in the matter.
The external aspects of the moon are as I have described them; but especially after rising from imagination to inspiration are we confronted with its spiritual content. This content of the moon is not just something to be understood in an abstract sense: it is a real moon population; and looked at in a spiritual-scientific way the moon presents itself as a sort of fortress in the cosmos. From the outside, not only the light-rays of the sun but all the external effects of the universe are reflected by the moon down to the earth; but in the interior of the moon there is a complete world that nowadays can be reached only by ascending, in a certain sense, to the spirit world. In older writings on the relation of the moon to other cosmic beings you can find many a hint of this, and compare it with what can now be said by anthroposophy about the nature of the moon.
We have often heard that in olden times men had not only that instinctive wisdom of which I have spoken: they had beings as teachers who never descended into physical bodies — higher beings who occupied etheric bodies only, and whose instruction was imparted to men not by speaking, as we speak today, but by transmitting the wisdom in an inner way, as though inoculating the etheric body with it. People knew of the existence of these higher beings, just as we know that some physical teacher is present; but they also knew that these beings surrounded them in a strictly spiritual state. Everything connected with that “primordial wisdom,” recognized even by the Catholic Church — the primordial wisdom that once was available, and of which even the Vedas and the sublime Vedanta philosophy are but faint reverberations — all this can be traced back to the teaching of these higher spiritual beings. That wisdom, which was never written down, was not thought out by man: it grew in him. We must not think of the influence exerted by those primordial teachers as any sort of demonstrating instruction. Just as today, we learn to speak when we are children by imitating the older people, without any particular instruction — as indeed we develop a great deal as though through inner growth — so the primordial teachers exerted a mysterious influence on people of that ancient time, without any abstract instruction; with the result that at a certain age a man simply knew himself to be knowledgeable. Just as today a child gets his second teeth or reaches puberty at a certain age, so men of old became enlightened in the same way. — Doubtless many a modern college student would be delighted if this sort of thing still happened — if the light of wisdom simply flared up in him without his having to exert himself particularly!
What a very different wisdom that was from anything we have today! It was an organic force in man, related to growth, and other forces. It was simply wisdom of an entirely different nature, and what took place in connection with it I can best explain by a comparison. Suppose I pour some sort of liquid into a glass and then add salt. When the salt is dissolved it leaves the liquid cloudy. Then I add an ingredient that will precipitate the salt, leaving the liquid purer, clearer, while the sediment is denser. Very well: if I want to describe what permeated men during the period of primordial wisdom, I must say it is a mixture of what is spiritually wholly pure and of a physical animalistic element. What nowadays we think, we imagine our abstract thoughts simply as functioning and holding sway without having any being in us: or again, breathing and the circulation seem like something by themselves, apart. But for primeval man in earlier earth epochs, that was all one: it was simply a case of his having to breathe and of his blood circulating in him; and it was in his circulation that he willed. — Then came the time when human thinking moved higher up toward the head and became purer, like the liquid in the glass, while the sediment, as we may call it, formed below.
This occurred when the primordial teachers withdrew more and more from the earth, when this primal wisdom was no longer imparted in the old way. And whither did these primordial teachers withdraw? We find them again in the moon fortress I spoke of. That is where they are and where they continue to have their being. And what remained on earth was the sediment — meaning the present nature of the forces of propagation. These forces did not exist in their present form at the time when primordial wisdom held sway on earth: they gradually became that way — a sort of sediment. I am not implying that they are anything reprehensible, merely that in this connection they are the sediment. And our present abstract wisdom is what corresponds up above to the solvent liquid. This shows us that the development of humanity has brought about on the one hand the more spiritual features in the abstract sense, and on the other, the coarser animalistic qualities as a sediment. — Reflections of this sort will gradually evoke a conception of the spiritual content of the moon; but it must be remembered that this kind of science, which formerly was rather of a prophetic nature, was inherent in men's instinctive clairvoyance.
Just as we can speak about the moon in this way — that is, about what I may call its population, its spiritual aspect — so we can adopt the same course in the case of Saturn. When by spiritual-scientific effort, we learn to know Saturn — a little is disclosed through imagination, but far more through inspiration and intuition — we delve ever deeper into the universe, and we find that we are tracing the process of sense perception. We experience this physical process; we see something, and then feel the red of it. That is something very different from withdrawing from the physical body, according to the methods you will find described in my books, and then being able to observe the effects of an outer object on the human physical organism; to observe how the ether forces, rising from within, seize on the physico-chemical process that takes place, for example, in the eye during optical perception. In reality, the act of exposing ourself in the ordinary way to the world in perception, even in scientific observation, does not affect us very deeply. But when a man steps out of himself in this way and confronts himself in the etheric body and possibly in the astral as well, and then sees ex postfacto how such a sense-process of perception or cognition came about — even though his spiritual nature had left his physical sense-nature — then he indeed feels a mighty, intensive process taking place in his spirituality. What he then experiences is real ecstasy. The world becomes immense; and what he is accustomed to seeing only in his outer circle of vision, namely, the zodiac and its external display of constellations, becomes something that arises from within him. If someone were to object that what thus arises might be mere recollections, this would only prove that he does not know the event in question; for what arises there are truly not recollections but mighty imaginations transfused by intuitions: here we begin to behold from within what we had previously seen only from without. As human beings we become interwoven with all the mysteries of the zodiac; and if we seize the favorable moment there may flash before us, out of the inner universe, the secret of Saturn, for example, in its passage across the zodiac. Reading in the cosmos, you see, consists in finding the methods for reading out of the inwardly seen heavenly bodies as they pass through the zodiac. What the individual planet tells us provides the vowels of the world-script; and all that forms around the vowels when the planets pass the zodiacal constellations gives us the consonants, if I may use this comparison. By obtaining an inner view of what we ordinarily observe only from the outside we really learn to know the essence of what pertains to the planets.
That is the way to become acquainted with Saturn, for example, in its true inner being. We see its population, which is the guardian of our planetary system's memory; everything that has ever occurred in our planetary system since the beginning of time is preserved by the spirits of Saturn as in a mighty cosmic memory. So if anyone wants to study the great cosmic-historical course of our planetary system, surely he should not speculate about it, as did Kant and Laplace who concluded that once there was a primordial mist that condensed and got into a spiral motion from which the planets split off and circled around the sun, which remained in the middle. I have spoken of this repeatedly and remarked how nice it is to perform this experiment for children: you have a drop of oil floating on some liquid; above the liquid you have a piece of cardboard through which you stick a pin, and you now rotate the drop of oil by twirling the pin, with the result that smaller drops of oil split off. Now, it may be a good thing in life to forget oneself; but in a case like this we should not forget what we ourselves are doing in the experiment, namely, setting the drop of oil in motion. And by the same token, we should not forget the twirler in the Kant-Laplace theory: we would have to station him out in the universe and think of him as some great and mighty school teacher twirling the pin. Then the picture would have been true and honest; but modern science is simply not honest when dealing with such things.
I am describing to you how one really arrives at seeing what lives in the planets and in the heavenly bodies in general. By means of Saturn we must study the constitution of the planetary system in its cosmic-historical evolution. Only a science that is spiritual can offer the human soul anything that can seem like a cosmic experience. Nowadays we really think only of earthly experiences. Cosmic experience leads us out to participation in the cosmos; and only by co-experiencing the cosmos in this way will we once more achieve a spiritualized instinct for the meaning of the seasons with which our organic life as well as our social life is interwoven — an instinct for the very different relation in which the earth stands to the cosmos while on its way from spring to summer, and again from summer through autumn into winter. We will learn to sense how differently life on earth flows along in the burgeoning spring than when the autumn brings the death of nature; we will feel the contrast between the awakening life in nature during spring and its sleeping state in the fall. In this way man will again be able to conform with the course of nature, celebrating festivals that have social significance, in the same way that the forces of nature, through his physical organization, make him one with his breathing and circulation. If we consider what is inside our skin we find that we live there in our breathing and in our circulation. What we are there we are as physical men; in respect of what goes on in us we belong to cosmic life. Outwardly we live as closely interwoven with outer nature as we do inwardly with our breathing and circulation.
And what is man really in respect of his consciousness? Well, he is really an earthworm — and worse: an earthworm for whom it never rains! In certain localities where there is a great deal of rain, it is so pleasant to see the worms coming out of the ground — we must careful not to tread on them, as will everyone be who loves animals. And then we reflect: Those poor little chaps are down there underground all the time and only come out when it rains; but if it does not rain, they have to stay below. Now, the materialist of today is just such an earthworm — but one for whom it never rains; for if we continue with the simile, the rain would consist of the radiant shining into him of spiritual enlightenment, otherwise he would always be crawling about down there where there is no light. Today humanity must overcome this earthworm nature; it must emerge, must get into the light, into the spiritual light of day. And the call for a Michael Festival is the call for the spiritual light of day.
That is what I wanted to point out to you before I can speak of the things that can inaugurate a Michael Festival as a festival of especial significance — significant socially as well.