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Mystery Centers
GA 232

Lecture II

24 November 1923, Dornach

If we seek to continue the study of the soul-nature to which we devoted our attention in yesterday's lecture, and investigate the activity of the soul-nature in physical man in reference to those things which we also discussed yesterday we are led in two directions. Memory points the soul back into former experiences; thinking leads the soul, as I explained yesterday, into etheric existence. That which can lay hold of man, even more strongly than memory, so strongly that the inner impulses pass over into his bodily substance, I called in yesterday's lecture, gesture. In observing gesture and its nature we have advanced to the revelation of the soul and spirit in the physical.

The whole entrance of man into physical earthly life is a taking possession of the physical by the soul and spirit, and if, to begin with, we limit our considerations to memory, we find that this consists in what we experienced at an early age being carried over into later years.

The question now arises just as memory points back to things in the past course of earthly life, is there anything in human life that points us still further back? Can we look back to that which lies before the entrance of man into earthly life?

Here we come to two things, namely, that which man has undergone spiritually and psychically in pre-earthly existence (which we will leave to a later consideration) and something else connected with the physical bodily nature which man as an individual being brings into it. I mean, everything which we are accustomed from our natural-scientific ideas to designate as heredity. Man bears within him right into the tendencies of his own temperament those impulses, those characteristics which play so great a part in the soul, and which are connected with that which was peculiar to his physical ancestors.

Of course our modern humanity treats such things with superficiality, with foolishness. For instance, this very morning I read a book which deals with a ruler of a well-known royal house, now extinct. This book devotes itself to the question of heredity in this house. Qualities are mentioned which can be traced back in heredity to the seventh century. In this book dealing with heredity there occurs a peculiar sentence, running somewhat as follows: “In this royal house there are members who show clearly that they incline towards extravagance, to absurdities of life, excesses, and so on. Yet there are also members of this house who have none of these tendencies.” As you see, this is a peculiar kind of thinking, for one might really suppose that a writer who makes a remark of this kind would have to admit that one cannot draw conclusions from such circumstances. But if you go into many of the things which at the present time lead to what are called well-founded views you will find many things of this kind.

Even though the prevailing views on heredity may appear somewhat superficial one must admit that man does carry inherited characteristics within him. That is the one side; man has often to fight these inherited characteristics. He must, as it were, strip them away in order to attain that for which he was prepared by the life before earthly existence.

The other side to which our attention is drawn is that which man acquires through education, through intercourse with his fellowman, and also through intercourse with external nature. From the habits acquired through observing the lower kingdoms of nature, this is called the adaptation of man to the conditions around him. As you know, our modern natural science considers these two impulses of heredity and adaptation the most important influences on living beings.

When we penetrate into these facts we feel, if we regard them without prejudice, that unless a man finds his way into the spiritual world he can come to no conclusion about such things. We will therefore today consider in the light of spiritual knowledge things which we meet with in life at every turn.

For this we must go back to something which has occupied us repeatedly in former studies. We have often had to refer to the exit of the moon from the earthly planet, and have shown that the moon was formerly united with the earth-planet, and, at a definite point of time left the earth in order to influence it from afar. I have also pointed out that a spiritual cause underlies this exit of the moon. I have told you how once upon a time on the earth there lived super-human beings who were the first great Teachers of humanity, and from whom proceeded what on the basis of our human earthly thought may be designated the Primeval Wisdom, which is everywhere to be found as an original woof or weft, which is of deep significance and arouses reverence even in the shape of the fragmentary remains which exist today. This wisdom was once the content of the teachings of these great superhuman Teachers at the starting-point of earthly human evolution.

These Beings found their way into the moon-existence and are there today, united with the moon. They belong to the population of the moon, as it were. Now the point is that when man passes through the gate of death he travels by a series of stages through the realm of the planetary world which belongs to our earth. We have already considered how, after having passed through earthly existence, he enters first into the sphere of activity of the moon, then into the sphere of activity of Venus, Mercury, Sun, and so on. Today it may interest us to learn how he comes into the sphere of the moon-activity.

I have already indicated how the life of man can be followed with Imaginative vision beyond the gate of death, and that that which man is as spirit appears after he has laid aside the physical body which is given over to the elements of the earth, and after he has seen his etheric body taken up by the etheric sphere which is united with the earth; there still remains the spirit and soul part of man, the ego and the astral body.

If with Imaginative vision we follow what thus goes through the gate of death it always presents itself in a form. That is the form which gives actual shape to the physical substance which man carries in himself. This form, compared with the robust physical body, is but a kind of shadowy picture, but on the soul's feeling and perception it makes a powerful and intense impression. In this form the head of man appears but faintly to the gaze of the soul. The rest of it is robust, and gradually on the passage between death and rebirth this form transforms itself into the head of the next incarnation.

We must here say something about this form which can be seen by Imaginative vision after a man has gone through the gate of death. It bears a true physiognomical expression. It is in a sense a true image of the way in which the man here in his physical earthly life was good or evil. Here in physical earthly life a man can conceal the fact as to whether good or evil prevails in his soul, but after his death he can no longer conceal this. When therefore we look at the spirit-form which remains after death we see that it bears the physiognomical expression of what the man was on earth.

One who carries through the gate of death that which is morally evil united with his soul bears a physiognomical expression through which he becomes outwardly similar, if I may say so, to Ahrimanic forms. It is absolutely a fact that, during the first period after death, a man's whole feeling and perception is conditioned by that which he can reproduce in, himself.

If he has the physiognomy of Ahriman because he has carried moral evil in his soul through the gate of death, he can only reproduce, which means perceive, what bears a likeness to Ahriman. He is in a sense psychically blind to those human souls who have passed through the gate of death, having a good moral disposition. Indeed, that belongs to the severest judgment which man can suffer after he has passed through the gate of death, that in so far as he himself is evil he is only able to see those beings like unto himself, because he can only reproduce in himself that which forms the physiognomy of evil men.

Having passed through the gate of death he now enters the sphere of the moon. There he comes into the presence of super-sensible, super-physical beings, but always such as are similar in physiognomy to himself; thus he who carries evil through the gate of death comes into the vicinity of Ahrimanic forms. This passage through an Ahrimanic world has in the case of certain human beings a quite definite significance in the whole connection of cosmic events; and we shall understand what really happens there if we bear in mind the actual purpose of the journey of the wise human Guides of old to the moon-colony of the cosmos.

Besides the Beings of the higher Hierarchies whom we usually call angels, archangels and so on, there are also, bound up with the whole cosmic evolution those Beings who belong to the Luciferic and Ahrimanic kingdoms. These Beings work in the whole cosmic connection just as do those who are developing normally. The Luciferic beings work in such a way that they seek to draw further away from physical materiality that which has the tendency in itself to press forward to that materiality. In the sphere of humanity the Luciferic beings work so that they use every opportunity to lift man away from his physical body. The Luciferic beings endeavour to make of man a purely spiritual psychic etheric being. The Ahrimanic forms however endeavour to separate off everything from man which can develop him towards a psychic and spiritual nature, which should now develop in humanity. They would like to change what is sub-human—that which lies in the impulses, instincts, and so on, and which expresses itself in the body—and transform it into the spiritual. To transform man into a spiritual being is the tendency both of the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic beings. Lucifer seeks to draw out of man the spirit and soul, so that he should no longer trouble himself about earthly incarnations but wish to live solely as a being of soul and spirit. The Ahrimanic beings on the other hand prefer not to trouble at all about the soul and spirit of man; but that which is given him as a covering, as a garment, as an instrument, namely the physical and etheric bodies, these they seek to separate and bring into their own world.

Man is on the one hand facing the Beings of the normally developing Hierarchies, but because he is woven into the whole of existence he faces also the Luciferic and Ahrimanic forms.

The point is that every time the Luciferic forms make efforts to approach man their object is to estrange him from the earth. On the other hand, when the Ahrimanic forms make efforts to dominate him they seek to make him more and more earthly, although they also wish to spiritualise the earth into dense spiritual substance and permeate it with dense spiritual forces.

When we discuss spiritual matters we have to use expressions which may perhaps appear grotesque in such a connection, but we must make use of human language. Therefore permit me to use ordinary human words for something which takes place purely in the spirit; you will understand me. You will have to raise what I must express in this way into the spiritual.

The same beings who as the great Teachers brought that ancient wisdom to man at the beginning of earthly existence withdrew to the moon in order, so far as lay in their power, to bring the Luciferic and Ahrimanic elements into the right relation to human life. Why was this necessary? Why did such exalted beings as these great primeval Teachers decide to leave the earthly sphere in which they had worked for a time, and proceed to the moon-sphere outside the earth, in order as far as was possible to bring the Luciferic and Ahrimanic elements into the right relationship with man?

When man, as a being of soul and spirit, descends to the earthly sphere from his pre-earthly existence he traverses that path which I have described recently in the course of lectures on Cosmology, Religion and Philosophy. He has a definite spiritual-psychic existence. He unites this with what is given him on the pure line of inheritance through father and mother, with the physical embryonic existence. These two, the physical embryonic and the spiritual existence interpenetrate each other. They unite with each other; and in this way man comes into earthly existence. But in that which lives in the line of inheritance, in that which comes down from the ancestors in the way of inherited characteristics is contained that which gives the Ahrimanic beings their point of attack on the nature of man. The Ahrimanic forces dwell in the forces of heredity, and when man carries in himself many of these inherited impulses he has a bodily nature into which the ego cannot enter very satisfactorily. It is indeed the secret of many human beings that they have within them too many of these inherited impulses. This is called today “being burdened with heredity.” The consequence of this is that the ego cannot enter fully into the body; it cannot completely fill out all the individual organs of the body. So the body in a sense develops an activity of its own side by side with the impulses of the ego which actually belongs to this body. Thus these Ahrimanic powers, in making efforts to put as much as possible into heredity, succeed thereby in making the ego fit very loosely into the human being; that is the one thing.

Man is however also subject to the influence of external conditions. You may realize how strongly man is subject to this influence from external conditions if you consider all the influence which climatic or other geographical conditions have on him. This influence of the purely natural environment is indeed of extraordinary significance to man. There were even times when this influence of the natural environment was utilized in a special way in the guidance of the wise Leaders of humanity.

When, for example, we consider something very remarkable in Ancient Greece, the distinction between the Spartans and the Athenians, we must say this difference which is described in a very superficial way in our ordinary history books rests on something which goes back to the regulations of the ancient Mysteries, which worked so as to bring about different results for the Spartans and the Athenians.

In ancient Greece much attention was paid to gymnastics as the chief factor in the education of the child; for according to the Greek method, by acting on the body in a certain way they also worked indirectly on the soul and spirit. But this took place in one way by the Spartans and in a different way by the Athenians. By the Spartans it was above all considered necessary to allow the boys to develop in such a way that through their gymnastic exercises they acquired as far as possible that which worked inwardly on the body, by means of the body alone. Therefore the Spartan boy was urged to do his gymnastic exercises regardless of the weather.

This was different by the Athenians. The Athenians laid great stress on their gymnastic exercises being adapted to the climatic conditions. They were very careful to see that the boy carrying out his gymnastic exercises should be exposed to the sunlight in the right way. To the Spartans it was a matter of indifference whether their exercises were performed in rain or sunshine, but the Athenians demanded that the climatic conditions, especially the sun-effects, should act as a stimulus to them.

The Spartan boy was so treated that his skin was made impermeable, so that everything which he developed in himself might come from the inner corporality. The skin of the Athenian boy was not massaged with sand and oil, but he was exposed to the action of the sun.

That which can come into man from outside, from the effects of the sun thus passed over into the Athenian boys. The Athenian boy was stimulated to be eloquent, to express himself in beautiful words. The Spartan boy, on the other hand, was shut up in himself, by means of all kinds of massage with oil; indeed with massage of the skin with sand and oil he was trained to develop everything in himself independently of external nature. He was thus made to drive back into his inner nature all the forces which human nature can develop, and not to bring them out.

Thus he did not become eloquent like the Athenian boy, but was in this way made to be reticent, to speak very little, to remain quiet. If he said anything it had to be significant. It had to have content. The Spartan speeches, which were but seldom heard, were noted for the weight of their contents. The Athenian speeches were noted for the beauty of their language. All this was connected with the adaptation of man to his environment by means of a corresponding system of education.

You can also see this elsewhere in the relationship brought about between man and his environment. Men from southern regions on whom the external sun-effects work become rich in gesture; they also become talkative. There develops in them a language which has melody because in their development of inner warmth they are connected with the external warmth. Men of northern regions, on the other hand, develop in such a way that they do not become talkative, because they have to retain in themselves their bodily warmth as impulse. Just consider the men of the north. They are known by their silence. They can sit together for whole evenings without feeling impelled to utter many words. One man may ask a question. The other may perhaps answer him with a “no” or “yes” after two hours, or perhaps not till the next evening. That is connected with the fact that these men of the north are obliged to have within them a stronger urge towards the creation of inner warmth, because warmth does not penetrate into them from outside.

Here we have something which may be called the adaptation of man to external conditions of a natural kind. Then observe how all this is active in education and in the general life of soul and spirit. Now just as the Ahrimanic beings have an essential influence on what lies in heredity, so the Luciferic beings have an essential influence on adaptation. Here they can get at man when he is developing his relationship with the outer world. They entangle the human ego in the outer world; and in so doing they often bring this ego into confusion as regards Karma.

Thus whereas the Ahrimanic beings can put man into a state of confusion in reference to his ego as regards his physical impulses the Luciferic beings put him into confusion as regards his Karma; for that which comes from the outer world by no means always lies in Karma, but has first to be woven into a man's Karma by means of many threads and connections so that in the future it may lie in his Karma.

In this way the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic influences are intimately connected with human life and have to be regulated. They must be regulated in the whole evolution of man. For that reason it became necessary for these primeval Teachers of humanity to leave the earth—on which they could not have undertaken this regulation because it cannot be undertaken during man's earthly life, and man, when outside his earthly life is not on the earth—therefore these primeval Teachers of humanity had to withdraw from the earth, and they pursued their further existence on the moon. Here I am obliged to clothe in human speech something for which one really requires quite other word-pictures. After these primeval Teachers of humanity had withdrawn to the moon they had to seek, during their moon-existence, for an arrangement with the Ahrimanic and Luciferic powers. Now the appearance of the Ahrimanic powers would be especially injurious to man in his existence after death if, during that existence, they could exercise their influence on him; for if man goes through the gate of death carrying the after-effects of anything evil in his soul, then, as I have already explained to you he finds himself entirely in an Ahrimanic environment, indeed, he even has an Ahrimanic appearance. He himself has an Ahrimanic physiognomy and he only perceives those human beings who also bear an Ahrimanic physiognomy. That must remain a purely psychic experience of man. If Ahriman could now intervene, if he could now influence the astral body, this would become a force which Ahriman would send into man which would not only balance itself karmically, but which would relate man closely to the earth and bring him into too strong a connection with the earthly. This is what the Ahrimanic powers are striving for. They desire, after death, while man in his spirit-form still resembles his earthly shape, gradually to insert themselves into those human beings in whom it is possible so to do because of the evil impulses which they carry through the gate of death. They wish gradually to permeate this spirit-form in as many such beings as possible with their own forces, to draw it down to earthly existence and to establish an Ahrimanic earth-humanity.

Therefore the primeval wise Teachers of humanity who now inhabit the moon made a contract with the Ahrimanic powers—which had to be entered into by those powers for reasons which I will later explain, according to which they allow the Ahrimanic powers to exercise influence in the fullest sense of the word on the life of man before he descends into earthly existence.

Thus, when man, in his descent into earthly existence, again passes through the moon-sphere, then, according to the agreement made between the wise primeval Teachers of humanity and the Ahrimanic powers, these powers have a definite influence on him. This influence manifests itself in the fact of heredity. As against this, because, through the efforts of the wise primeval Teachers of humanity this sphere of heredity had been allotted to them the Ahrimanic beings renounce what lives in man's evolution after death.

In reverse manner an arrangement was also concluded with the Luciferic beings by which these beings were only to have an influence on man after he has gone through the gate of death, and not before he descends to earthly existence.

Thereby, through the great wise primeval Teachers of humanity there came about a regulating of the influences of the Ahrimanic and Luciferic beings exercised outside the earth. We have already seen and only need to ponder the matter when it at once becomes clear that man is brought under the influence of nature through the Ahrimanic beings being able to work on him. Before his descent to the earth man is exposed to the influences of the impulses of heredity. Through the influences of the Luciferic beings he is exposed to those impulses which lie in his physical environment, in climate and such like, also to the impulses which lie in his psychic, spiritual and social environment through education and so on. Man thus comes into relationship with his natural environment, and into this environment both the Ahrimanic and the Luciferic influences can work.

I should now like to speak from quite another aspect concerning the existence of these Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings in this natural environment. I have already touched on these things in discussing the Michael-problem, but now I will try and make it more clear.

Picture to yourselves the change which takes place in our natural surroundings in the phenomenon of a rising mist. The watery exhalations of the earth rise. We live within the atmosphere which is saturated with this rising of the watery vapours of the earth. One who has developed spiritual vision discovers that something may live in this natural phenomenon which carries the earthly element upwards in a centrifugal direction.

It is not without reason that men who live in the mists are inclined to become melancholic, for there is something in the experiencing of the fog and mist which weighs down our will. We experience a weighing down of our will in mist.

Now by means of certain exercises one can so develop his imagination that he can himself weigh down his own will. He can do this by means of exercises which consist in man’s concentrating inwardly on certain organs of the body, and producing a kind of inner feeling of the muscles (when a person walks and feels his muscles that is different from contracting a muscle through concentration when standing still). When this exercise is regularly practised like the other exercises described in The Way of Initiation he then burdens his will through his own activity. He then begins to see what is present in the rising mist which can make a person morose and melancholy. He then sees, spiritually and psychically, that in the rising mist there, live certain Ahrimanic spirits. He must then say with spiritual cognition: In the rising mist there arise from the earth into cosmic space Ahrimanic spirits who thus extend their existence beyond the earth.

It is again different when, as here in the region of the Goetheanum where the beautiful neighbourhood offers so many opportunities, we turn our gaze evening and morning to the sky, and see the clouds upon which rests the sunlight. A few days ago you could see in the late afternoon a kind of red-golden sunlight incorporated in the clouds which produced the most beautiful forms in a quite wonderful way. The evening of that same day the moon shone with special intensity. But anywhere you may see the clouds with this illumination spread out over them in a wonderful play of colour. This can be seen everywhere; I am simply speaking of something which can be specially beautifully observed here.

In that radiating light which spreads out in the atmosphere over the clouds there live the Luciferic spirits, just as the Ahrimanic spirits live in the rising mist. In fact, for one who can see things of this kind in the right way, consciously, with imagination, allowing his ordinary thoughts to go forth and accompany the forms and colours of the changing clouds, giving play to his thoughts instead of their having sharp outlines, and who is able to change or transform them when the thoughts themselves expand or contract as they go out with these cumuli and accompany their form and colour—then he really begins to regard the play of colour in the clouds, especially in the evening or morning, as a sea of colour in which Luciferic shapes are moving. And whereas, through the rising mist melancholy feelings are aroused in man, it is now that his thoughts and at the same time to a certain extent his feelings learn to breathe as it were in a superhuman freedom on viewing this Luciferic flowing ocean of light. That is a special relationship with his environment which man can cultivate, for he can then really raise himself to the feeling that his thinking is like a breathing in light. Man then feels his thinking, he feels it like a breathing in the light.

If you voluntarily undertake these exercises you will understand better that part of my Mystery Plays where I speak of the Beings who breathe light. Man may even now get a premonition of what such Beings as those light-breathing Beings are, if he undertakes the exercises I have described.

We then discover how the Ahrimanic and Luciferic beings are incorporated into the phenomena of external nature. When we study the phenomena of heredity and of adaptation to environment in the human being we realize that in these man carries his soul and spirit into nature. If we observe phenomena of nature such as the rising mist and the clouds bathed in light we see how the Ahrimanic and Luciferic beings unite themselves with nature. But the approach of the human soul and spirit to nature through heredity and adaptation to environment is also, as I have shown today, only an approach to what is Luciferic and Ahrimanic.

Thus when we look at man's nature we find in it the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic influences; and in those phenomena of nature which hold within them that with which the physicist does not concern himself we again find the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic elements. That is the point from whence we can be led to observe an activity of nature upon man which extends beyond earthly existence.

Let us fix that firmly in our minds today. We find Ahriman and Lucifer in human heredity and in human adaptation to environment. We find Ahriman and Lucifer in the rising mist and in the light which pours down upon the clouds and is retained by them; and we find in man a striving to create rhythm and equilibrium between heredity and adaptation to environment. But we also find in nature outside the striving to create rhythm between the two powers whose existence in nature I have shown, the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic.

If you follow the whole process outside in nature you have a wonderful drama. Observe the rising mist and see how therein the Ahrimanic spirits strive outwards into cosmic space. The moment the rising mist forms itself into clouds, these beings have to give up their efforts and return again to the earth. In the clouds the presumptuous striving of Ahriman finds its limits. In the clouds the mist ceases, and with it the dwelling place of Ahriman; in the cloud the possibility begins for the light to rest upon the cloud—Lucifer resting on the clouds.

Grasp the full significance of this. Picture the rising mist with yellowish-grey Ahrimanic forms building itself into clouds; while in that which is formed in the flowing light above the clouds Luciferic forms are striving downwards, and you have the picture of the Ahrimanic and Luciferic in nature.

You will then understand the times when there was a feeling for what lies on the other side of the Threshold, for that which weaves and lives in the bright clouds, for that which weaves and lives in the mist rolling up; so that in those days painters, for instance, were in a quite different position from what they were later. Then, colour which to them was of a spiritual essence took its right place on the canvas. The poet, then conscious that the Divine, the Spirit spoke in him could say: “Sing, O Muse, of the wrath of Achilles,” or “Sing to me O Muse of the great traveler.” Thus do Homer's poems begin. Klopstock, who lived at a time when the sense for the divine-spiritual was no longer alive, put in its place: “Sing, Immortal soul, of the redemption of sinful men.” I have often spoken of this. Just as poets in olden times could speak thus, so the old painters, even at the time of Raphael or Leonardo could say, because they also felt it in their own way: “Paint for me, O Muse. Paint for me, O Divine Power. Direct my hands for me. Carry my soul into my hands, so that Thou canst guide the brush in my hands.”

It is really a question of understanding this union of man with the spiritual in all the situations of life, and most of all in the most important ones.

So let us keep this clear, that on the one side, in heredity and in adaptation to environment, we bring the human being to Lucifer and Ahriman; whereas, on the other side, in a true understanding of nature, we bring the Luciferic and Ahrimanic elements into external nature. From this viewpoint we will continue our observations in our next lecture.