25 May 1907, Munich
In the last lecture yesterday we spoke of the kind of relationship which Rosicrucianism adopts to the human being and to culture in general. Although the actual data of knowledge concerning the higher worlds can be discovered only by the seer, by more highly developed spiritual faculties, nevertheless the Rosicrucian method is such that the wisdom it imparts can be understood by the logical intellect. The knowledge itself is discovered by the seer with higher faculties, but normal human reason is capable of comprehending it. Let it not be imagined, however, that what it is possible to say in a single lecture can hold its ground against all criticism; this could only be so if the statements were put to the test by all the means accessible to the human mind. In the last lecture we spoke of yet another characteristic of Rosicrucianism, namely, that this method aims at carrying Spiritual Science into practical life. That is why things are put forward in such a way that they can be made an integral part of life. Here too you must have patience; at the beginning it will seem as though many things are inapplicable in practical life. But when you are able to survey the whole, you will realise that what I have said is true. The Rosicrucian method of investigation is able to impart wisdom that can take effect in life.
First of all we will consider the several members of man's constitution. Only by advancing step by step and omitting nothing shall we be able to get a view of the organic whole. We shall also study the destiny of the human soul after death and the human being in his waking consciousness, in sleep and in death. We shall have to consider what is accomplished by man between death and a new birth. It is a widespread view that man is inactive after death but this is not the case. He has far rather to be intensely active, to create, to perform work that is of significance in the cosmos. We shall also have to speak of reincarnation and karma, of destiny in the evolution of man, of how humanity developed in days of yore and of evolution in the future. It will be my task today to give a brief description of the constitution and nature of the human being.
We must realise that the nature and being of man appear far more complex to spiritual perception than to ordinary sense-perception which is permeated by intellect and can only observe a very small portion of human nature as a whole. From the point of view of occultism, the physical body as we see it in front of us is actually permeated by the etheric body and the astral body. These three bodies are united and only when the etheric and the astral bodies are removed have we the real physical body of man before us. The physical body is that member which the human being has in common with the whole of physical Nature around him, in common with minerals, plants and animals.
The only correct view of the physical human body is to say that it corresponds with the extent of man's kinship with the mineral kingdom around him. But you must realise that this member of man's being is the one that can least of all be conceived of as separate from the cosmos. The forces working in the physical body pour in from the cosmos. Think of a rainbow. If a rainbow is to appear, there must be a particular combination of sunlight and rain clouds. The rainbow cannot be absent if this combination between sunlight and rain clouds actually exists. The rainbow is therefore a consequence; a phenomenon brought into being from without. The physical body too, is, in a way, a pure phenomenon. You must look in the whole surrounding universe for the forces which hold the physical body together. Where, then, are we to find, in their true form, these forces which cause the physical body to have the appearance it has? Here we are led into higher worlds, for in the physical world we see the physical body as a phenomenon only. The forces which give rise to this phenomenon lie in a very lofty spiritual world. We must therefore give some study to worlds which exist as truly as the physical world exists.
When the occultist speaks of higher worlds, he means worlds that are around us all the time, only the senses for perceiving them must be opened just as the eyes must be opened for the perception of colours. When certain senses of the soul, senses which lie higher than the physical senses, are opened, the world around us is pervaded by a new revelation known as the astral world. Rosicrucian Theosophy calls this world the Imaginative World — but “Imaginative” here denotes something much more real than the ordinary implication of the word. There is a constant flowing and ebbing of pictures; the colours that are otherwise chained to objects are involved in myriad transformations within the astral world. In the movement that has linked itself with Rosicrucianism this world is also called the “Elemental World.” These three expressions therefore: Imaginative world, Astral world, Elemental world, are interchangeable.
A still loftier world, revealed to yet higher senses, is that of the “Harmonies of the Spheres.” This higher world penetrates into the world of pictures and colours. It is called “Devachan”, “Rupa Devachan”, or also the “Mental world”; in Rosicrucian terminology it is known as the world of the “Harmonies of the Spheres” or the world of Inspiration, because sound or tone is the medium of the Inspiration when the corresponding senses have been opened. In the movement that has linked itself with Rosicrucianism, this world has been called the “Heaven world.” Lower or Rupa-Devachanic world, Devachan, the world of Inspiration, the Heaven world — these again are one and the same.
Still another world, revealed by even higher senses, is known in Rosicrucianism as the world of true Intuition, but “Intuition” here has a much higher reality than is contained in the word as used in everyday life. True Intuition is a “merging into” other beings, so that they are known from within themselves. In the movement that has linked itself with Rosicrucianism, this world of Intuition has been called the “world of Reason” (Vernunftwelt); it is so far above the ordinary world that it casts a shadow-image only into the world of men. Intellectual concepts are faint and feeble shadow-images of the realities in this higher world. In addition to the physical world, therefore, there are three other worlds. Behind the forces which hold the physical world together there are forces which are to be found in the highest world, the world of Intuition. In comparison with the “nature-forces” in this highest world, everything that the physicist discovers in the physical world is like so many faint shadow-images. For every concept you have, say of a crystal, or of the human eye, you would find, in this highest world, living Beings. A concept in the physical world is the shadow-image of Beings in this highest world. Thus the physical world is built up by forces which manifest, in their true form in Arupa-Devachan — to use the theosophical mode of expression.
We can form a still clearer conception if we think about the mineral kingdom from this point of view.
The human being has ego-consciousness, “I”-consciousness. We say that a mineral is without consciousness, but this is true only in the physical plane. In the higher worlds the mineral is not without consciousness. You will not, however, find the ego of the mineral world in the Elemental world; the ego-consciousness of the mineral lies in the highest of the worlds of which we have spoken. Just as your finger has no consciousness of its own, for its consciousness lies in your “I”, in your ego, so the mineral is connected with its ego by streams that lead into the very highest realm of world-existence. A fingernail is part of the human organism as a whole; its consciousness is in the “I”. A nail is related to the organism as the mineral is related to the highest spiritual world. There is one “I” belonging to the whole living organism and the nails, like the mineral, are an outermost manifestation of what has hardened within this life. The human physical body has this in common with the minerals: that the physical body, in so far as it is purely physical — has a consciousness belonging to it in the spiritual world above. Inasmuch as the human being is endowed with purely physical consciousness (although he does not know it), inasmuch as he has a physical body with its consciousness in a higher world, his constitution is such that the physical body is worked upon from above. What fashions the physical body is not under your control. Just as it is the “I,” the ego, which moves your hand, so is your physical body worked upon from a higher world, and the ego-consciousness belonging to the physical body gives rise to the physical processes of the body. The Initiate who attains to Intuition — he alone has such power over his physical body that no current passes through his nerves without his knowledge; not until man reaches this stage can he be a citizen of those spiritual worlds which govern and direct his physical body.
Man has his second member, the etheric or life-body, in common with the plants and the animals. It is visible to the seer and has approximately the same form as the physical body. It is a body of forces. If you could think away the physical body, the etheric body would be left as a body of forces, a body permeated with streams of forces which have built up the physical body. The human heart could never have assumed the form it actually bears if there were not in the etheric body an etheric heart; this etheric heart contains certain forces and currents and these are the builders, the architects, the moulders of the physical, heart. Suppose you have a vessel containing water and you cool the water until hardening, ice-formations appear in it. The ice is water, only the water has hardened and the forms of the ice-blocks were within the water as lines of force. Thus is the physical heart formed out of the etheric heart; it is simply a hardened etheric heart and the streams of force in the etheric heart have given the physical heart its form. If you could think away the physical body, you would see that the etheric body, especially in the upper parts, is almost similar to the physical body. This similarity, however, continues only as far as the middle of the body for there is great differentiation within the etheric body; you will realise that this is so when I tell you that the etheric body in the male is female and in the female, male. Without this knowledge much will remain incomprehensible in practical life. The etheric body appears like a form of light extending everywhere, but only slightly, beyond the form of the physical body. The human being has the etheric body in common with the plants. It is the same with the etheric as with the physical body: the forces which hold the etheric body together are found in the world of Inspiration, the world of Rupa-Devachan, the Heaven-world. All the forces, which hold the etheric body together, lie one stage lower than those which hold the physical body together. The ego-consciousness of the plants is therefore to be found in this world of Inspiration, of Lower Devachan, of the Harmonies of the Spheres. In this same world too, lies the ego-consciousness that pervades the human etheric body and lives within you without your being aware of it.
We come now to the third member of man's being, to the astral body — the “Soul Body” in Rosicrucian terminology. Man has the astral body in common only with the animals. The astral body is the bearer of feeling, of happiness and suffering, joy and pain, emotions and passions; wishes and desires, too, are anchored in the astral body. The astral body must be characterised by saying that there is within it that which is also present in the animal world. The animal world, too, has consciousness. The astral being of man and of the animal is held together by forces which have their seat in the Imaginative world or the “Elemental” world in Rosicrucian parlance. The forces which hold the astral body together and give it the form it has, are to be perceived in their true form, in the astral world. The ego-consciousness of the animal is also within this astral world. Just as in the case of a human being we speak of an individual soul, in the case of an animal we speak of a group-soul which is to be found on the astral plane. We must not think here of the single animal living on the physical plane but a whole species of animals — all lions, all tigers — have an ego in common, a group-soul to be found on the astral plane. So that the animal is really only comprehensible when it can be followed upwards to the astral plane. “Strands,” as it were, go forth from the lions, for example, and in the astral world unite into the group-soul that is common to the individual lions living on the earth. Just as the human being has an individual ego, so in every astral body there lives something of a group-ego; this animal-ego lives in the human astral body and the human being does not become independent of this animal-ego until he develops astral sight and becomes a companion of astral beings, when the group-souls of the animals confront him on the astral plane as individual animals confront him here. In the astral world there are beings who can only come down in fragments, as it were, to the physical plane as so-and-so many animals. When the life of these animals comes to an end they unite in the astral world with the rest of this astral being. A whole species of animals is a being on the astral plane, a being with whom converse can be held as with an individual here on earth. Although there is not exact similarity the group-souls are not incorrectly characterised in the second seal of the Apocalypse where they are divided into four classes: Lion, Eagle, Bull, Man (i.e., man who has not yet descended to the physical plane). These four Apocalyptic animals are the four classes of the group-souls which live in the astral world by the side of the human being with his individual soul.
And now we will think of that which man no longer has in common with the world around him; we will think of the “I”, the ego. By virtue of this fourth member of his being, man is the crown of physical creation; he has consciousness on the physical plane. Just as the mineral consciousness is in the world of Arupa-Devachan, the plant consciousness in Rupa-Devachan, the animal consciousness on the astral plane, so the ego-consciousness of the human being is in the physical world. In his “I,” man has something into which no other being or centre of consciousness intrudes.
Thus we have the fourfold human being: physical man, etheric man, astral man, ego or “I.”
This does not, however, comprise the whole of man's nature. Man had these four members in his very first incarnation on the earth and as he passes through successive incarnations, higher development takes place. He works, from the ego, upon the three other members. In the remote past, during his first incarnation on the earth, man was entirely under the sway of every emotion and desire; true, he also had an ego, but he behaved like an animal. If we compare this wild man with one who is a high idealist; the difference lies in the fact that the former has not yet worked from his ego upon his astral body. The next step in evolution is that man works upon his astral body. The result of such work is that certain fundamental properties of the astral body are brought under his own control. The average European allows himself to follow certain impulses and forbids himself to yield to others. As much of the astral body as a man has brought under the sway of the ego-that we call Spirit-Self (Manas). Manas is a product of the transformation of the astral body by the ego. In its substantiality, Spirit-Self is identical with the astral body; there is merely a different ordering of what was originally in the astral body but has been transformed into Spirit-Self.
A man whose development progresses acquires the faculty not only of working upon his astral body but also of working from the ego upon his etheric body. Let us be clear about the difference between working upon the astral body and working upon the etheric body. Think of what we knew at the age, say, of eight, and of what we have learnt since then. Obviously we have learnt a great deal. Everyone has assimilated a vast number of concepts and ideas which cause him no longer to follow his emotions and passions blindly. But if one remembers having had a violent temper as a child and then thinks of how far this violent temper has been conquered, it will be found that it is still apt to break out. Again, it is seldom that a man who once had a bad memory succeeds in fundamentally improving it or in enhancing the strength or getting rid of the weakness of his conscience. I have often compared the changes that a man brings about in his temperament and the like, with the slow progress of the hour hand of a clock. The essential characteristic of the pupil's Initiation is this: Learning is regarded as a mere preparation; much more is done for Initiation when the temperament itself is transformed. If a feeble memory has been changed into a strong one, if violence has been changed into gentleness, a melancholic temperament into serenity, more has been accomplished than the acquisition of great learning. Here lies the source of inner, occult powers, for this indicates that the ego is working upon the etheric body, not only upon the astral body.
In so far as they express themselves, these qualities are to be found in the astral body but if they are to be transformed, this must happen in the etheric body. What the ego has transformed in the etheric body is present in a man as Life-Spirit, in contrast to Life-Body. In theosophical literature, Life-Spirit is called “Budhi.” The substantiality of Budhi is nothing else than that part of the etheric body which has been transformed by the ego.
When the ego becomes so strong that it is able not only to transform the etheric body, but also the physical body — the densest of the principles in man and the forces of which extend into the very highest world — we say that a man is developing the very highest member of his being: Spirit-Man, or Atma. The forces for the transformation of the physical body lie in the highest world of all. The transformation of the physical body begins with the transformation of the breathing process, for Atma is Atmen — breath. This transformation causes changes in the constitution of the blood which works upon the physical body; man is here functioning in the very highest worlds.
Transformation can proceed in two ways and to be precise we must speak of an unconscious and a conscious transformation. In reality, every European, from out of his ego, has unconsciously transformed the lower members of his being. In the present phase of evolution he works consciously only in respect of the development of Spirit-Self (Manas) and he must be an initiate if he is to learn to work consciously at the transformation of his etheric body.
Thus even the most primitive human being in the very earliest stage of evolution has the three original members and within them the ego. Then begins the process of transformation. For long ages it proceeded unconsciously; humanity is now beginning consciously to transform the astral body. The Initiates are now consciously transforming the etheric body and in the future all human beings will consciously transform the etheric body and the physical body.
The three primeval members of man's nature are: physical body, etheric body, astral body — and then the “I,” the ego. The ego first transforms these three members. The process which has caused Manas, Budhi and Atma (Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Man) to arise as unconscious, germinal realities of being, lies in the past so far as present-day humanity is concerned.
Rosicrucian Theosophy makes the following differentiation: Sentient Soul, Intellectual or Mind Soul, Consciousness Soul (Spiritual Soul). The conscious process of transformation lights up for the first time in the Consciousness or Spiritual Soul. Here the ego begins consciously to work at the transformation. Spirit-Self is developed in the Consciousness Soul, Life-Spirit in the Mind Soul, Spirit-Man in the Sentient Soul. Thus we have, in all, nine members of man's nature.
Outwardly regarded, two of these members — Sentient Soul and Soul-Body interpenetrate, like a sword in its sheath; the Sentient Soul is within the Soul-Body, so that they appear as one. So is it too with Spirit-Self and Consciousness Soul. These nine members are thus reduced to seven:
Such is the inner constitution of man's nature which has, in reality, nine members, two and two of which coincide. Therefore the Rosicrucian method speaks of three times three members = nine, which is reduced to seven. We must, however, recognise the nine within the seven; otherwise we shall reach only a theoretical conception.
The transition from theory to reality can only be made by a study of man's essential nature.
The “I” lights up in the souls and then begins the work on the bodies.
The indications given today will be a guide to us to-morrow when we shall study the human being in sleep, in waking consciousness and in death.