Rudolf Steiner Archive 

Man and Cosmos

Rudolf Steiner Archive Document

Lectures Section

The third of twelve lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in 1923 at Dornach, Switzerland. These lectures are from the lecture series entitled, A Living Knowledge of Nature, the Fall of the Intellect into Sin, the Spiritual Resurrection, and published in German as, Lebendiges Naturerkennen, Intellektueller Suendenfall und Spirituelle Suendenerhebung.

By Rudolf Steiner

The translator is unknown
Bn 220; GA 220; CW 220

The third of twelve lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in 1923 at Dornach, Switzerland. These lectures are from the lecture series entitled, A Living Knowledge of Nature, the Fall of the Intellect into Sin, the Spiritual Resurrection, and published in German as, Lebendiges Naturerkennen, Intellektueller Suendenfall und Spirituelle Suendenerhebung.

This translation is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland. From Bn 220, GA 220, CW 220.

Thanks to a donation by the Los Angeles Rudolf Steiner Library, this Lecture has been made available.

Man and Cosmos

The Widening of Man's Perception.

Water Divining.

Dornach — January 7, 1923

My dear friends:

As the last lecture of our Science Course, I should like to conclude by bringing forward something linking the various things we have considered, something which at the same time brings forward from out of Spiritual Science comprehensive results concerning man, which should show how man is really inserted into the entire cosmos. Now as we speak of man we first of all direct our attention to his physical organisation and then to that which is revealed to spiritual investigation as his etheric body; then we go on to speak of the astral body and of the ego-organisation. But we do not yet understand these various members of man's being if vie simply say these things one after another in sequence, for each of these four members of his nature is inserted in its own special way into the cosmos. Only when we understand how each particular member is differently inserted into the cosmos can we form for ourselves an idea of the relation of man to the world around him.

If we now observe man as we have him before us, then we have these four members of human nature permeating each other; they are united in an interplay of work, but in order to understand them one has first, as it were, to part them asunder and consider each by itself in its special relationship to the cosmos. We cannot do that today in a comprehensive manner, but only from a certain point of view, and this is what we shall try to do in the following;

Diagram 1
Let us turn our attention first rather to the periphery of man, to his exterior, to that which limits him. Then, in the first place we come up against his sense organs. Now we know, of course, from other Anthroposophical lectures, that we only discover senses in man when we penetrate further into the inner part of the body, beneath the surface of his form, but they are however essentially those senses which inform man of his own inner being, although of course in an unconscious way. We have to search for them on the inner side of the surface of man. We must say that that which is sense in man is to be sought for near the surface. One need merely consider one of the most obvious senses, for instance, the eye or the ear, and one will find that man must receive certain impressions from outside. How these sense organs function can only be considered in detail in a more intimate discussion. Exact investigation is necessary and we have been doing this for many years. But as things present themselves in everyday life, we can say that such a sense as the eye or the ear perceives things through external impressions. It can easily be seen that as man is placed within the sphere of the earth the chief direction in which the results of things strikes him so that he can thereby come to sense impressions, is horizontal, — speaking approximately. And a more exact observation would show absolutely that the assertion I have just made is perfectly correct, and if it appears as if we could ever perceive in another direction, that appearance rests really on a deception. Every direction for man's perception on earth finally has to fall in the horizontal direction, and by horizontal I mean that line which is parallel to the earth. And so if I draw it diagrammatically I must say: If here is the surface of the earth and man standing on it, then the chief direction of his perception is that line which runs parallel with the earth. In that direction run all our perceptions and if we consider we can easily say: The perceptions we get in this way, come from outside and proceed inwardly. What do we bring to meet those perceptions? We bring to meet them our thinking, our forces for forming ideas. You need merely bring this process to your consciousness and you will say: "If I look with my eyes, an impression comes from outside, but meeting that come the forces for idea, for thought, and these come from within to meet whatever I see.

Diagram 2
“If I look at a table, the impression comes from outside. The fact that I can keep that in memory comes from inside." And so we must now say: "If we imagine a man diagrammatically we have the direction of perception going from outside inward and we have the direction of idea going from inside outward." What we are thus keeping in mind, refers to the perceptions of the everyday life of the human being, of those human beings who live the ordinary life on earth. That is what I must call the state of ordinary everyday consciousness.

But if you go through the literature of Anthroposophy you will find there exists possibilities for other degrees of consciousness. There exist other states of consciousness than the everyday consciousness of earthly man. And now I beg you, attempt — even if merely approximately — to form a picture of what man thus perceives. What exists on the earth you see in colours, you hear it in tones, you perceive it by sensations of warmth, and so on. Then you create for yourselves contours for what is perceived and thereby you see things with form, and so on.

Everything that we know in our environment in this way forms the content of the ordinary everyday consciousness, but there exists other possibilities of consciousness which remain more unconscious for ordinary earthly man. Those degrees of consciousness are forced down into the depths of the soul life within, although, as regards human life, they have just as great and often a far greater significance for man's total life than the consciousness I have just mentioned.

For instance, as regards the whole constitution of man on earth, that which exists inside the earth is just as important as that which exists on the surface of the earth. It is only the environment of the earth, that which is around and on the earth, that is perceptible to the ordinary senses, that meets the thought forces coming from within and therefore forms the content of the consciousness of the ordinary everyday life.

But now let us look within the earth. A simple consideration can tell us that the inner part of the earth is shut off from ordinary consciousness. Certainly we can dig a short way into the earth, and as we dig into the earth, making our little holes — let us call them mines — we can see into them but in just the same way as we look at the surface of the earth. It is the same as if we looked at the corpse of a man. If we look at a corpse We do not observe the man, but a relic of the man. And whoever sees these things aright must say: That is the opposite of a MAN. The reality of man is the man walking about, fitted with muscles, bones and so on, which he carries in himself. And so the body, muscle, nerve, heart and lung structure correspond as a truth to the living man, but when I look at a corpse that does not correspond to the man. In what I am observing when I have a corpse before me, there is no reason for heart muscle, bones and lungs, and so they start decaying. But a corpse is an untruth and as it is it cannot exist, and so it decays. It is not a reality. And similarly what I find in the inner part of the earth by digging a hole is not a reality, because the whole earth as such works on the whole human being standing upon it. And so you must say that the environment (Ungebung) of earth works on the senses of man and is understood by the intellectual processes of his ordinary earthly consciousness. But what is inside the earth works also on man, but not in the horizontal direction; it works from below upwards and goes through man.

It works from below upwards, and during ordinary consciousness man does not perceive what works from below upwards in the same way as he perceives what is in his environment horizontally through his ordinary senses. For if man in the same way could perceive what works upwards from the earth as he perceives what is in the environment of the earth (without digging a hole) he would have a kind of eye or touch — as it were — to meet the earth, just as one meets the air when one grips anything. But if you look through the air you are not digging a hole through it; it would be just as sensible to make a hole through the air in order to see objects through it as to dig a hole in the earth (a mine) in order to perceive what is inside the earth.

But if you do not need to dig a hole to see inside the earth, you must have a sense-organ which can see without digging. Then the earth would become transparent for you, and that is just what happens for a man under certain conditions, but not for man's ordinary consciousness. The earth is transparent for man, but the perceptions do not come to his ordinary consciousness. And what man would perceive if the earth were transparent in this way, would be the differentiated metallity of the earth, the different metals in the earth. Just think for a moment how many metals are contained inside the earth.

Now, just as you can look in your environment of air and perceive animals, plants, minerals, works of art of various kinds, so in the same way you could perceive the metals inside the earth. But the perceptions of the metals inside the earth — when they really come to your consciousness — are not objective perceptions, but spiritual imaginations. And these imaginations are all the time coming from inside the earth into every human being. Just as the impressions of sight come along horizontally, so continually from below there stream up the radiations of the metals, not the perceptions of sight, but the radiations of the metals. These work into man as pictures, as imaginations. Man does not perceive these pictures with his ordinary consciousness: they are toned down and hidden from ordinary consciousness, because earth consciousness is of such a nature as to be unable to perceive imaginations. And so man weakens down these imaginations and they become his feelings.

Just think. If you take for example all the gold in the earth in all the cavities in the earth (in order to distinguish them I will mark this here with a definite colour — red, the gold), if you think of all that gold, then in reality your heart is receiving a picture which corresponds to the gold in the earth. But that picture is not an objective perception, it is an imagination and therefore is not perceived by your ordinary consciousness, but is toned down to an inner feeling for life, a feeling for life which most men cannot even clearly indicate, much less bring to a corresponding picture in their consciousness. And that is just the case with every other organ in your body. For instance, your kidneys perceive all the copper in the earth in a definite picture. They are all subconscious impressions which express themselves only in your general inner feeling, so that you can say: If in a horizontal direction the perceptions from the earth's environment come to man and he meets them from within with his power of thought, from below upwards there come all the metallic perceptions and man meets these with his feelings.

But for this "feeling" consciousness everything is chaotic and unreal, and out of this whole chaos there only emerges in his ordinary consciousness a general awareness of his life. But if earthly man had the power for these imaginations, then he would know at once that his nature is connected with the metallity of the earth. In reality every human organ is a sense organ, and if we use it — or appear to use it — for anything else, that in reality is only a proxy. It is still a sense organ. Its use on earth is only a kind of proxy, because with every organ man in reality perceives something. Man is absolutely and utterly a great sense organism differentiated into the single organs as special sense-organs.

Now you see, just as man from below has metallic perceptions, and these correspond to his life of feeling, we have our feeling — as it were — as a kind of counterpart to everything which works by way of metal from the earth upon us. In the same way our thought force is a kind of counterpart to what penetrates man in his environment by way of perception. And now from above downwards, out of cosmic spaces, there works from the heavenly bodies that which is the essence of the movement and form. And so, just as we have our sense perceptions for ordinary everyday consciousness, we have for the consciousness of inspiration, the streaming down of something from the planetary movements, from the constellations of the fixed stars, and just as we let our thought forces stream against the ordinary sense perceptions, in the same way we let a force stream against the starry impressions that come down to us. And this force is that which lies in the force of our will. If we could only deal with it with inspired consciousness we should see it in the way I have outlined.

And so you may say that when we study man in a certain way, in the first place, we see just that part in which he is really awake — that is his life of sense and thoughts. We are only awake in ordinary consciousness in our perceptions and thoughts. Contrasted with this, our life of feeling is a dream; it is no more clear or intense than our dreams save that dreams are but pictures, whereas the life of feeling just runs its course in the way familiar to all of you. But at the back of all your feeling there lies the metallic working of the earth, and still deeper — as I have often explained — is the consciousness of your will. Man does not know what his will within him really is. I have often put it as follows by saying: Man has an idea that he will stretch his arm out or seize something with his hand. He has the idea with his waking consciousness, and can see himself performing the act of gripping something. But what really transpires in him, this plunging of the will into the muscle, remains utterly strange to his ordinary consciousness, just as the events of deep dreamless sleep.

And so in feeling man dreams, in will he sleeps. But this sleeping will ("sleeping" for the ordinary consciousness), is just what is sent out to meet the starry impressions, just as the sense impressions of ordinary consciousness are met by his thoughts. And — as I have told you — what he dreams in his feelings is the counterpart of the working of the metals. Therefore, it is thus that when we as human beings on the earth awake, we perceive things around us. And then our power for forming thoughts work against this. For this we need a physical and etheric body, because without these we could not develop those forces which work as thought along that horizontal direction.

Diagram 3

[Note: the image quality in the typescript page was very poor, so the image was re-created by the e.Librarian]

And so if we put this diagrammatically, we can say: Physical body and etheric body (white and lilac). They will themselves for the day consciousness with the impressions of the senses and thoughts. When man goes to sleep then his astral body and his ego organisation are outside the physical and etheric bodies. Now it is the astral body and the ego which receive these impressions from below and above. It is the astral body and the ego which really sleep in what streams from the earth as metal and what streams from above from the planetary movements and the constellations of fixed stars. (Arrows). The astral body and the ego sleep in both of these cases. And so what exists in the environment of the earth, but not arising through the horizontal working of forces but through forces working from above downwards and from below upwards, that is our environment when we sleep at night. Now if you can make the attempt to come out of your ordinary consciousness to imaginations, so that you really have the occult imaginative consciousness before you, then, because of the present epoch of human evolution it would happen that at once all your human organs would be seized by this imaginative consciousness. Not merely, for example, the heart alone would be seized. All the organs would be seized at the same time. The heart perceives the gold which is in the earth, but it does not perceive the gold by itself, because the state of affairs is as follows: As long as the ego and astral body are in such a union with the physical and etheric bodies, as is the case with waking man today, he cannot be conscious of an occult perception. It is only when — as is the case with imagination — the ego and the astral body are free to a certain degree and independent of the physical and etheric bodies, that we can say the astral body and ego in the region of the heart become capable of knowing something of the streaming of the metals in the earth. And we must add, the centre for the working of the gold stream lies in the astral body in the region of the heart. Therefore, one can say the heart perceives, but it is the astral body (which is, as it were, in that part where the heart lies) that is the real perceptive organ. Of course it is not the physical organ which perceives, it is the astral body. If now the imaginative consciousness is gained, then the entire astral body and the entire ego organization must be in such a condition that those parts which correspond to each human organ in man have perception. That means that man is then able to perceive the whole metallity of the earth, but of course differentiated He is only able to perceive details if he trains himself for this and makes it the object of a special occult study. Then he would get to know the metallity of the earth in detail.

Now this knowledge is something which must not became the ordinary knowledge of man for our present civilisation, because he would at once place that knowledge in the service of his utilitarian and egoistic life. For this is a cosmic law, if — even to the tiniest degree — anyone was to place the metal-knowledge of the earth at the service of the ordinary utilitarian life, at once his imaginative cognition would be taken from him. But it can happen, through a diseased condition in man, that the inner connection which should exist between the astral body and the organs is broken through, and that man, even while awake, really sleeps in a very delicate way. Of course, when he really sleeps at night he is outside his physical and etheric bodies and the astral body and the ego exist by themselves. But there also exists such a gentle sleep (that is by day — it is hardly noticed) that when a man is in such a condition he may appear extraordinarily interesting to someone else. And then such a man would be looked upon as being wonderfully mystical, having mystical eyes, etc., this can occur, because a gentle sleep is taking place while such men are awake. There is always a kind of vibration of the physical and etheric bodies, together with the ego organisation and astral body — they oscillate to and fro. And such men as I have just mentioned are adapted to become metal diviners. The power to feel special metals inside the earth, seen from the point of view of man, rests always on a diseased disposition. Of course, as soon as one looks at these things merely technically, desires arise to place them in the service of technique on earth. The world can be absolutely indifferent, if I may speak crudely, as to whether a man is a little diseased or not as long as he can be used, because, as a rule, the means towards this or that utilitarian result are disregarded. But inwardly, seen from a higher point of view, there is always something diseased when a man perceives not only the things in a horizontal direction in the earth's environment, but also downwards, not through holes, but directly.

Then, of course, it is necessary that what man perceives he expresses, but he cannot express this in his ordinary way. If one holds a pen to write something, in the writing is the ordinary life of thought, which is a dead thing. And so you have the ordinary power of thinking, that illuminates your perception, and for that you can make signs, or talk, or write. In the same way, when man perceives through his diseased condition special metals in the earth, he can make other signs. I remark here expressly that water (for the occultist) is a metal, so that when a man perceives special metals (and such diseased persons can be trained not merely to perceive unconsciously but also to make unconscious signs for their perception) a twig can be put into his hand and with it he unconsciously makes signs.

And on what does this rest? On the gentle gap between the astral body and ego on the one side, and the physical and etheric bodies on the other side. And thereby man does not only perceive what is beside him, but excludes his physical body, making it a sense organ, and perceives the inner part of the earth without digging holes: But when the vertical direction, which is usually the normal direction of feeling, is active, it cannot be expressed, like thought, in words, but only in signs as I have indicated. Similarly, one can simulate those perceptions which man receives from above downwards; these have another inner character, they do not correspond to metallic perceptions, they are inspirations which give one again the movements of the stars or starry constellations. And, just as man can perceive the constitution of the earth below, so he can perceive above something which also appears because he is in a diseased condition, his ego being partly freed from his astral body. He then perceives that which really gives to the world its division into time, which gives the flow of time to the world. Thereby he sees more deeply into the happenings of the world, not only according to the past, but also certain events which do not arise out of the free will of man, but out of the necessity of the cosmic ordering. He can then see to a certain extent prophetically into the future, because he sees into the ordering of time.

I merely want to indicate to you how through a diseased condition man can extend his powers of perception, but he can also extend them in a healthy way through Imagination and Inspiration. Now what is health and disease in this field may become clear to you if I add the following remarks. You will agree with me that it is quite good for an ordinary man when he has, let us say, a normal sense of smell, he can perceive certain things around him through his smell. But if for certain things in his environment he has an abnormal smell, then he suffers from an idiosyncrasy. For instance, human beings exist who really become very ill if they are in a room where there is one single strawberry. They need not eat it, they merely smell it. Now, of course, this is not very desirable and it might happen in certain circumstances that a certain person comes along who does not pay much regard to human beings, but pays regards to the fact that somewhere strawberries have been stolen or, let us say, some other objects which smell. And to track out these objects one might apply these powers. If man could develop his powers for smell as a dog does, human beings could be used instead of bloodhounds — but one dare not do this. You will therefore understand when I say here that those perceptive powers which detect the forces coming from above and from below should not be developed in a wrong way, so that they are connected with disease, for they would work very destructively on the whole human organisation. And so to train metal diviners specially would be just like training human beings as police dogs, as bloodhounds. Only, if I might put it so, in the latter case one is entering into a sphere which in a far more intense way concerns human punishment.

Those things which appear before you in ordinary life usually in a dilettante or confused or nebulous way, you may perhaps be able to estimate when you see their place in man's relationship to the universe. That is one side of these matters, but there is another. There also exists a justified application of such knowledge. One who possesses Imagination dare not apply the imaginative power of his astral body which is rooted in the sphere of his heart, in order to procure gold for human beings, but he can apply it in order to learn for himself the true tasks, the inner structure of the heart. He can apply all these things to gain human self-knowledge, and this corresponds in ordinary life to the normal use of the power of sight or any other power. And one only learns to know the organs of man when one can add to them what can be brought together from below and from above. For example, you can get to know the heart when through imagination you perceive the gold content of the earth, as it streams out, and through inspiration perceive the will stream coming down from the sun. When you perceive the co-operation of the sun stream from above (when the sun is in the zenith) with the gold stream below, you get to know the heart of man. Similarly, with all the other organs. Man, when he wants to know the elements of this knowledge, must let the forces out of the cosmos stream into his consciousness.

We have here entered a sphere which points in a far more concrete way (than has been possible before) to man's connection with the cosmos. Now, if you take those lectures I have given concerning the evolution of Natural Science in our age and which are just finished, together with the lectures which we have had amongst ourselves, you can see that what man knows at his present stage of knowledge is that which is dead. He does not even know himself in his real nature, but only the dead part of himself. And a real knowledge of man in his entirety can only flourish when one can bring together not only what one knows as the dead organs of man, but in addition what streams in from below and above. Thereby one acquires cognition with full consciousness. A former instinctive knowledge knew many of these things, but that was a consequence of a different relationship of the astral to the etheric body than is the case today. Today these have such a relationship that man on earth can become a free being, but for this it was necessary that he should get to know what was dead in his environment. And so man knows what is dead around him (red) he does not know the basis of the life of the past through that which streams up from the metallic nature of the earth (yellow), and the animating forces from above which come as the working of the stars and starry constellations. But these work in every organ of man, this trinity; of what is dead, of the physical substance, as such; of the life basis or the psychic; and of the animating principle or the spiritual.

And so right into the very details of man's organisation, everywhere we must seek for the physical corporeal part, for the psychic soul part, and for the spiritual. That must be the starting point which must be won in a reasonable way from a right evaluation of what we have recognised as the results of Natural Science. Everywhere it must be recognised that the present stand of Natural Science leads, as I have mentioned in the Science lectures, to the grave of the earth, to what is dead. And we must find out of the earth-grave the living. And that we find when — as a matter of fact — we become aware of how modern Spiritual Science has to rekindle old presentiments. Presentiments of these things have always been there, and therefore I advise those (I have been giving different advice to different workers in different spheres) and I should now like to advise those who work in the sphere of literary history, whenever they want to speak of Goetheanism to go back to Goethe's presentiment which can be found in the second part of WELHEIM MEISTER. On the one side a being appears who shares the movements of the stars because of a diseased soul and spiritual condition. And so in WILHEIM MEISTER we find an astronomer on the one side, but there stands opposite this being another person who is a metal diviner, who is Montanus, the miner, standing at the side of the astronomer. We might almost call him a geologist. There is a deep presentiment, far deeper than any which have arisen as physical truth in Natural Science since Goethe — great as these are — because all the achievements of Natural Science belong to the environment (namely, that which works horizontally). And Goethe has indicated in the second part of WILHELM MEISTER in the Travels that which belongs to those worlds with which man is connected above through the stars and below through the depths of the earth. Such things could be found very, very often both in the utilitarian as also in the luxury sciences, if we now speak so rightly with the materialistic consciousness of the present, for example, in literary history. But all these things will first be elevated as real treasures of knowledge, when on the one hand Goetheanism is taken earnestly and on the other Spiritual Science. Much of which Goethe had a presentiment is illuminated through Spiritual Science. Through all this, however, my dear friends, I should like to point out also that when there is any talk of cultivating scientific endeavours within our Anthroposophical Movement one has to be extremely careful. One has on the one side modern Chemistry, Physics, Physiology, and on the other side one has the real stream of Anthroposophical living knowledge into which one will try to draw those single sciences. And one often desires to hear that chemists, physicists, physiologists, doctors, are beginning to talk Anthroposophy. That will not lead further than single specialists coming and compelling Anthroposophy to talk chemically, physically, or physiologically. Thereby Anthroposophy will merely awaken enmity, opposition. One will only come forward when Anthroposophy shows itself not as Chemistry, Physics, Physiology, but when Anthroposophy shows itself even to the specialists just as Anthroposophy, and not something which — according to its terminology — is taken from something else, or whose terminology is applied to something else. It is a matter of indifference whether one uses Anthroposophical or any other terms when one talks of hydrogen or oxygen; one can keep to the old terms if one likes. The essential is that one takes Anthroposophy as it is, with the whole of one's nature, then one will as Anthroposophist be a chemist, physicist or doctor in the right way.

This Science Course was laid upon me, and I just wanted to give it a description of the history of the scientific mode of thought, and to illuminate it with considerations which might be useful. Now of these things I will speak further in my next lecture for those who can be here, but I cannot say when that will be as I have to go to Stuttgart for a few days, where the English friends have gone to see the Waldorf School. But I will let you know when the next lecture will take place.


Diagram 4

[Note: this image was drawn on the back of one of the pages in this typescript edition]

We need your support!

We are a small nonprofit with the expenses of a large website. Your generous financial gifts make this venture possible. If you can't contribute now, please visit our Help Out page for additional ways to support our work in the future. Thank you!

External Links