The Human Soul and the Animal Soul
I. The Human Soul and the Animal Soul
10 November 1910, Berlin
You may have noticed that the lecture today on “The Human Soul and the Animal Soul” is to be followed by another in a week's time on “The Human Spirit and the Animal Spirit.” The reason why spirit and soul must be dealt with in two separate lectures will not become completely clear until the next lecture has been given. In the meantime let it be emphasized that when life and existence are viewed in the light of spiritual science, the task is in one respect more difficult than it is in modern science as we know it today, where concepts and ideas which — if things are to be truly comprehended — must be kept separate, are thrown together. And it will be realized that the riddles connected with soul and spirit in animal and in man cannot be solved unless the distinction between soul and spirit is clear and unambiguous.
When we speak of “soul” in the sense of spiritual science, the idea of inwardness, of inner experience, is always bound up with this concept. And when we talk of “spirit” with reference to the world around us, we are clear that in everything we can see or with which we can be confronted, there is a manifestation of spirit. Man would find himself involved in a strange self-contradiction were he not to take for granted the presence of spirit in all the phenomena of existence around him. Without falling into disastrous self-contradiction, nobody can have an intelligent grasp of the external world unless he admits that what he eventually finds in his own spirit concerning this external world — the concepts and ideas he acquires in order to understand outer phenomena — has something to do with the things themselves. If when a man believes he has learned anything from the concepts he has formed about the things of the outer world, he will not admit that there lives in these concepts something that is contained in the things themselves, he can never advance to knowledge — if he is to be true to himself and understand the nature of his own acts of cognition. He alone can speak of knowledge in the real sense who says to himself: “What I can ultimately discover and retain, what I can bring to realization in my spirit in acts of knowledge, must be contained, primarily, in the things themselves. And insofar as I take something into my spirit from the things of the world, no matter to which kingdom they belong, then in all kingdoms I must presuppose the existence of spirit.”
This acknowledgment, of course, will not always be forthcoming. But it can only fail to be made when a man has given way to the self-contradiction referred to above. Therefore in speaking of “spirit” we realize that it reveals itself in all worlds, and we try to understand how it pours into, becomes manifest, in these worlds. We speak differently of “soul.” We speak of “soul” when the spiritual — that which we assimilate with our intellect, our reason, and through which we cognize things — when a being experiences the spirit inwardly. We ascribe soul to a being which not only takes in but inwardly experiences spirit, creates out of the spirit. Thus we speak of the soul only when spirit is active in a being confronting us. In this sense we find spirit inwardly creative in man and in animal.
If one clings to current ideas it is easy to disavow many things and above all to disavow the results of spiritual investigation which make it clear that man is not a single-membered but a many-membered being. There are, of course, very many people today — one can well understand this, one can feel with them and discern what is in their minds — who, from their point of view, have reason to be skeptical when it is said as the outcome of spiritual investigation that man must be thought of as composed not only of the physical body that is perceived through the senses and investigated by science, but also of a higher body, the so-called “etheric body” or “life-body” — which is not to be associated with the hypothetical ether of physics. Equally, according to spiritual science, there is a third member of the human being; namely, the astral body; and also a fourth member, the “Ego,” the “I.”
If the existence of these members is not acknowledged, it is extremely easy, from the standpoint of modern scientific research, to deny the validity of what is stated by spiritual science; it is easy because before the validity of these things can be recognized the whole character and method of spiritual-scientific research must to some extent be understood.
To the spiritual investigator himself, these four members of the human being — physical body, etheric or life body, astral body and ego — that is to say, one visible and three invisible, super-sensible, members — are realities because he has developed the faculties slumbering in his soul in such a way that he can perceive the “higher” bodies of man just as ordinary eyes can perceive the physical body. These “higher” members of man are realities, and as invisible members underlie the visible member, the physical body. But although they are perceptible realities only to the spiritual investigator, it may nevertheless be said that thinking can apprehend what is meant when reference is made to these higher members of man's being. In the etheric body the spiritual investigator recognizes the bearer of all the phenomena of life, of the living, in man. Death ensues when the physical body is deserted by the etheric or life body. Therefore the spiritual investigator sees in this etheric or life body that which prevents the physical body from coming under the sway of the physical and chemical forces active in the physical body. The moment death occurs the physical body becomes a combination of purely chemical and physical forces and processes. That the human body during life is extricated from the sway of these chemical and physical processes which take possession of it immediately [after] death occurs, is due to the etheric or life body. During life the etheric body wrenches the chemical and physical substances and forces from their purely physical operations and surrenders them again to these physical activities only at the moment of death.
It is very easy to argue against this, but these arguments fall to the ground when the matter is more deeply understood. Quite apart from the fact that the etheric body is a reality to the spiritual investigator, logical thinking will itself disclose that a living organism is inconceivable without the existence of an etheric or life body. Therefore in spiritual science we ascribe an etheric body also to the plants. We say: Whereas man has still higher super-sensible members — the astral body and the “I” — the plant has only physical body and etheric body; and a mineral, as we see it in the outer world, consists of physical body only.
Of the animal we say that an astral body is membered in the physical body and etheric body — associating with these terms for the time being nothing beyond what has just been said.
In the astral body, the spirit which, in the crystal, for example, produces the structure, becomes inward, inwardly and organically formative. In an animal the sense organs, the functions of the animal soul, arise out of the inner organization itself. Whereas in the mineral the spirit expends itself in elaborating the form, it remains inwardly alive in the animal. And we speak of this inner, living activity, this existence of the spirit within the animal organization itself, as an activity of the astral body. But of man we say that in him the astral body is also permeated by an “I,” an ego, and we shall presently see what significance this has for human life.
What do we really mean when we speak of “spirit”? We ascribe to spirit that reality which we ourselves experience, as it were, in our intelligence. Through our intelligence we execute one thing or another; we bring the forces of different beings into an ensemble. This creative intelligence of ours has a particular characteristic. In that it enters into us in temporal existence, and is a creative force, we form a concept of intelligence, of reason, of creative intelligence, and then we look at the universe around us. — We should have to be very shortsighted before we could possibly ascribe intelligence, all that we call “spirit,” to ourselves alone. The incapacity to penetrate the riddles of existence is due, fundamentally, to the fact that man is nevertheless prone to ascribe intelligence to himself alone and can never answer the question: How comes it that I am able to apply intelligence to existence. But when we look around us and see that the things of space and time manifest in such a way that our intelligence can apprehend the existence of law, then we say: What lives within us as intelligence is also outspread in space and time, is actively at work in space and time. When we look at the lifeless realm of nature, we say that there the spirit is, as it were, frozen into matter, that our intelligence can apprehend, can lay hold of what comes to expression in the forms, in the law-determined workings of matter — and thereby we have in our intelligence a kind of reflection of the spirit weaving and working through the world. If we thus contemplate the spirit in the great universe, and then compare the way in which it is frozen, as it were, in the lifeless realm of existence with the way it confronts us in the animal, we say to ourselves: If we look at any particular animal, we see before us a self-enclosed existence, creative in the same way as the spirit outspread in space and time is creative. And a feeling will dawn in us of why those who knew what they were doing called this spirit working actively in the animal, the “astral body.” They turned their eyes to the great universe through which the stars move in their courses and which men apprehend through their intelligence, and they said: “The spirit lives in the ordering of the universe and in a single animal organism we see a certain conclusion, we see the spirit confined within the space bounded by the animal's skin.” That which is active in the animal and is identical with what is outspread in space and time, they designated as the “astral body” in the animal organism.
Now between a dim feeling of the kinship of what comes to expression in the animal with what is spread out in space and time, and the knowledge resulting from strict investigation carried out by spiritual science, there is a long, long path. But this feeling is a trustworthy guide and it will enable many a man, before he himself is capable of this investigation, to perceive the truth of what the spiritual investigator says. When we observe how this spirit which with wonder and awe we see outspread in time and space, works in the animal, we can say: In the animal we see springing forth from its very organism the spiritual activity which is made manifest in all the laws of spatial and temporal existence. There is no need to study strange or rare phenomena, for those lying close at hand will suffice. A man of discernment need not go far field to perceive how, from the activity of animals, there go forth workings of the spiritual which are also to be discovered in the whole range of existence. — When he sees the wasp building its nest, he says to himself: There I can see intelligence springing forth as it were, from the animal organization itself; the intelligence which I perceive out yonder in the cosmos when I direct my own intelligence to the laws of existence, that same intelligence I perceive in the spirit that is working in the animal organization. Observing the activity of this spirit in the animal organization — no matter where — he will say with truth: This spirit that is active in the animal organization, this inwardness of the spirit in the animal, far surpasses what man is able to produce in the way of intelligence! An example lying near to hand has often been mentioned. — What a long time man has had to wait in the course of his existence before his own intelligence rendered him capable of producing paper! Think of the forces of intelligence which man was obliged to apply and master in his own soul life before he was able to produce paper. You can read in any simple textbook of history what a great event it was when men succeeded in making paper. But the wasps have been able to do it for thousands of years! For what is to be found in the wasps' nest is exactly the same as what man produces as “paper.”
So we see unmistakably that what flows out of man's intelligence in his struggle for existence, springs from the animal organism with full vigour of life. But as people generally go the wrong way to work, they have been indulging for a long time in strange speculation as to whether the animal is intelligent or not intelligent — never noticing that the essential point has been ignored. For the question cannot be whether the animal is or is not intelligent, but whether in all that it accomplishes, the animal unfolds what man can perform only through his intelligence. Then the answer can be given that in the animal there is an inwardly creative and powerful intelligence, operating directly out of animal life. And it will then be possible to have an inkling of what the spiritual investigator observes in the astral body and which he sees inwardly and outwardly active in the animal, in that the intelligence is creative in the organism itself, and creates from out of the organism. The spiritual investigator speaks of the astral body when there are present in the organism, organs which, through their activity, accomplish something that man can accomplish only through his intellect. And we see how this inner, spiritual activity is distributed as it were among the different animals, how it comes out in the faculties and skill of the various animal species. One species can do this, another that — and this is due to differentiation of the astral body in the various animal species.
We come now to consideration of the individual activity of the spirit in the animal organism. This inner working of the spirit in an organism, this experiencing of the spirit in its activity, is what we call soul experience. Now when we study this soul experience without bias or preconceptions, we find that it develops quite differently in man and in the animal. A great deal has been and is still being said on the subject of instinct in the animal and conscious activity in man. It would be well, in this connection, to cling less to words and to keep the real point more in mind — to try to understand the nature of instinct. Our study has already shown that instincts may far outstrip human intelligence, and that the qualities here brought into evidence are not to be connected with the word “instinct” in its ordinary sense. Man is so ready to ask in his infinite pride: “Am I not greatly superior to the animal?” But he would also do well to ask: “In what respect have I remained behind the animal?” Then he would find that he has remained behind the animal in respect of many faculties — faculties which are innate in the animal, but which man, if he is to develop them himself, has to acquire and master by dint of effort.
Man comes into existence at birth as a helpless being, whereas when the animal is born, natural forces abound in its organism and it brings with it as inherited “capital,” as it were, what enables it to live as it has to live. We do not, of course, ignore the fact that, to begin with, the animal too has much to learn. — The chick is able to peck as soon as it is born but cannot at once distinguish between what is good or not good for it, between what it can or cannot digest. But that is only for a short time. The point is that certain faculties of the animal come into evidence in a way which makes it obvious that they lie in the line of heredity, they are truly innate, and they emerge at the proper time. The fact that some faculty does not begin to function until a particular time is no proof that it could have been acquired only after cultivation. The whole organization of animals and also of plants makes it obvious that something which lies in the line of heredity can emerge only when the organization of the being in question has already been in existence for a considerable time. Just as a human being gets his second teeth without having to wait until he himself acquires them by his own efforts, so it is with certain faculties and abilities of the animal. These faculties come into evidence only later, but for all that they belong to heredity. Take the hermit crab as an example. When it has lived for a time it has the urge to search for a snail shell, because the back of its body is too soft to be a firm support. This search for a snail shell in order to have protection for the back of its body is undertaken at a definite time out of the urge of self preservation, but then it occurs with certainty — that is to say, it is innate in the very organization of the hermit crab. Thus the moment the animal comes into existence we can perceive the whole circuit of its life in broad outline; the manner in which the animal is to develop is laid down at the moment of its birth and is then further elaborated. In this process of development and elaboration we recognize the activity of the spirit, and in the way in which the animal participates in the process we recognize its life of soul.
If the expression is not misunderstood, one could call the soul life of the animal an “enjoyment of the spirit within the organism,” and if we keep this idea in mind it will be a great help in characterizing this soul life. But then we shall see — for the time being we will confine ourselves to the higher animals — that this experiencing of spiritual activity by the animal is largely expended inwardly, that it lives itself out inwardly. Soul experience in the animal consists in the hankerings of its organs, in the cravings of its organs — and especially in the activity of those organs that are directed to the inner life. An inkling of how the animal as it were “enjoys” the work of the spirit within it can be gained — although full clarity can be reached only by spiritual investigation — by observing an animal engaged in the process of digestion. While an animal is digesting its food, that is to say, is experiencing the inner activity of the spirit, it has its greatest feelings of well being. In its soul, the animal experiences the inner, bodily reality in which the spirit is directly at work. Thus in the animal kingdom, soul experience is in a certain way bound up with the bodily nature. It is a delightful sight to see a herd of cattle lying down to digest immediately after grazing and to observe the soul life that is kindled in each animal. This experience is even more intense in animals which sink into a kind of digestive sleep. They are then experiencing the activity of the spirit in their organs.
In the animal, the activity of the spirit is closely knit to the organization. In that the spirit has built up a certain sum total of organs, the animal has to bring to expression the manner in which the spirit has worked in and is manifest in the organs; and it is not possible for the animal to go beyond the bounds of the spirit manifesting in the organs. When we observe the outer, psychic life functions, the outer life processes of the animal in this or that species, we see how closely the expressions of soul life are bound up with its inner organization, that is to say, with what has been wrought in the animal by the spirit. If we notice under what conditions an animal shows fear, we can say: When it shows fear, this is due to its particular organization. Again, when an animal shows a tendency to thieve, we can say the same.
What has here been said from the standpoint of spiritual science has been well put in the essay entitled “Is the Animal a Being of Intelligence?” by Zell, a writer of great value in the realm of research into the animal soul. Although this short essay is written from a different standpoint, it gives most useful examples of how psychic experience in animals is bound up with their organization, and it can be taken as confirmation of what the spiritual investigator discovers from quite another side.
Soul life in the animals is graduated in many variations in the different animals because, in creating the organs, the spirit has in each case given them a particular stamp. But we see that the spiritual activity of creation — which is anchored in the astral body — expends itself in organic formations, in what the animal actually brings with it into the world. In creating these specific formations, the spirit expends itself. The animal brings with it into the world what it is able to bring and what existence allows it to experience. It can go very little beyond this. This is evidence that the spirit has spent itself, has poured itself out, in the fashioning of the organs. In the formation of the organs, however, the species of animal is revealed to us. Therefore to the question: “What is it that the animal enjoys and experiences in its life of soul?” we can answer: From birth until death the animals' experiences are determined by its species. — It experiences in its soul life, and from out of its own organism, what it has been given by the spirit to accompany it into existence.
Goethe was one who reflected deeply about the life of the animals and of man and he wrote these fine words: “The animals are instructed by their organs — so said the men of old. I add to that: men, too, but they have the advantage of being able to instruct their organs afresh.” (Letter to Wilhelm von Humboldt, 17th March, 1802.)
These are words of great profundity. Of what is an animal capable in life? What its organs make possible. And so an animal is nervous, courageous or cowardly, rapacious or gentle, according to how the spirit has poured itself into its organization. The creative activity of the spirit has poured itself into its organization. The creative activity of the spirit in its organs is mirrored in the soul life and soul experiences of the animal. This means that soul experience in the animal is confined within its species; it cannot go beyond the species, the genus; it experiences itself as species, as genus.
Contrast with this, man's life of soul. Man's life of soul as it comes to expression in his willing, his feeling, his thinking, in his cravings, his interests and in his intelligence, is something that when he enters existence at birth is not bestowed upon him by heredity and cannot be passed on by the man himself to his descendants. Far too little attention is paid to this latter fact. Yet it is of infinite importance, a fact upon which all observation of life should be based, and which may be put in somewhat the following way. — As soon as an animal or human being has acquired the power to reproduce his kind, the development of the etheric body is, to a certain point, complete. This etheric body has the power to bequeath what it contains within it to the descendants. But if a human being lives beyond this point he cannot bequeath to his descendants faculties which still remain to be developed. That is obvious. The moment a human being reaches puberty, he possesses all the faculties upon which hereditary transmission depends. Therefore faculties which remain capable of development after the time of puberty cannot be possessed by man in the same way as those which originated in the etheric body and can be transmitted by heredity. This is a cardinal truth of which sight must never be lost.
An important consideration in the study of human life is that from birth to death a man is capable of learning new languages, and what is equally significant is that if a man were to grow upon a distant, uninhabited island, he could not develop this faculty at all. The same applies to the faculty of forming concepts, and the development of the mental picture of the “I.” These are things which have nothing to do with heredity, and which cannot be transmitted by heredity, because they do not belong to the species or genus. In what does not belong to heredity, in faculties that remain capable of development beyond and apart form heredity, man has something that is not conditioned by the species or genus, but belongs to the individuality. And in the faculty of speech, in the possibility of forming ideas, and in the experience of the Ego concept, there lies what man himself so brings into the world that by means of it he instructs his organs afresh, teaching them what they have not yet received, but which they must acquire.
This is a “transaction” between the human being and the spirit, lying beyond the horizon of what he is able to experience. Its results cannot be transmitted nor received into the qualities which lie within the line of heredity. Man unfolds something which cannot flow into the species, which is removed from the species. Insofar as man is a generic being, he has inherited all the faculties accruing to him as a generic being, just as the animal has inherited them; only he does not inherit as much skill, as much spirit, as does the animal. There is still something besides, which man can acquire as individuality. And the life of the spirit connected with these non-inherited qualities, constitutes his soul experiences — which transcend those of the animal. In that man enjoys the fruits of his work and activity insofar as they are acquired in life through qualities that are not inherited, he unfolds a life of soul transcending that of the animal.
Man comes into existence with less skill than the animal. He is less skillful for the reason that the transaction with the spirit cannot be undertaken until some time after birth, whereas in the animal it has already been completed. Thus in its life of soul the animal enjoys what heredity can bequeath to it. That is to say, the soul life of the animal points to the past. And the moment we see the soul life of the animal passing into death, all that the animal can experience through its species also passes into death. Everything that is individual soul experience in the animal is something that has come to it from the past. In its existence the animal expends its life of soul and there is no basis for immortality. On the other hand, what is experienced in the animal soul lives on, ever and again, in the life of the species. Therefore in the sense of spiritual science we speak of a species — soul of the animal, which constantly arises anew, constantly lives on within the species. No one who desires clear concepts can deny the justification of this. The work of the spirit in the animal genus and species is experienced in the single animal individuality. But we see, too, that this experience points to the past, and that the very moment this past is exhausted, when the soul life must go towards death, towards its ending, the sunset glow begins.
It is different when, without preconceived ideas, we observe the soul life of man. There we see that when man is born, something comes with him that has not been expended in his organs; we see how he works further upon his organs, how he really teaches his organs. From this, however, we realize that in his individual life man is in direct interconnection with the spirit; he experiences in his life of soul not only what is transmitted to him by the past, but also what comes from outside to meet him in life, what is presented to him directly as spirit.
Thus man's life of soul is twofold: like the animal, his soul experiences the species to which he belongs as a human being; this he lives out as a being of the past, and it is this that goes forward to death when the spirit withdraws from the organs, when the organs begin to lignify, to wither away. But man's own dealings with the spirit do not belong to his organs; this is something that man has taken into his etheric body independently of the organs. Hence it is something that does not relegate him to the past that is inherited but is a seed for further life. In the measure in which we see that the inner man emancipates himself from his organs, that is to say, becomes individual, in that same measure we can say with logical truth that here we see the immortal part of man crystallize out of the bodily life.
So do we learn to feel that this grows in the human being, whereas in respect of what has been inherited he experiences the past in his life of soul. Thus there grows in man something that goes forward to the future that cannot be absorbed into the line of heredity. This is evident if we observe the life of soul in man and in animal. We see how closely the soul life of the animal is bound to its organism, how closely its faculties and skill, indeed all its experiences, are bound up with its organs and with its inherited characteristics. We can rightly observe the soul life of the animal only when we look for it in the self enjoyment of its bodily nature. That is the essential point. We see very little of the essential nature of an animal by watching the delight it takes in the outer world — but a great deal when we observe how it experiences its own digestion. The highest level of experience in the soul life of an animal lies within the boundaries of the organs. In its soul experiences the animal spends itself within its organization; and what remains to it for its outer life is significant for the animal only insofar as it can be experienced inwardly in its life of soul. It is of course the case — and this is also confirmed by the spiritual investigator — that the heights where the eagle passes its existence do give rise to experiences in its life of soul. But this experience lies in the activity of what lives in its organs and comes to expression within them. In man, soul experience emancipates itself from the inner enjoyment, the inner experiencing of the organs — and man has to pay the price for this. The animal has a certain security in its instincts; it knows which food is harmful and which is good for it. The animal injures itself very much less than it is injured by man. Animals are injured most of all when man keeps them in captivity. But in the freedom of nature, when the animal follows what is innate in its organism, its instincts are unerring, because it is so closely united with its organs. The human being, on the other hand, emancipates himself from his organs; and the consequence is that he can no longer directly adhere to what is good or bad for him. He becomes insecure. And whereas the animal displays passions that are in keeping with its organs, the human being unfolds passions which are possibly far more injurious and are not fitting for his organs. Whereas the spider spins its web with unerring certainty and it would be absurd to talk to it of reasoning, man is obliged to think a great deal before he can perfect any handiwork. For he can make great errors. Man's life of soul has emancipated itself from his bodily nature, but at a cost.
But man can unite with the spirit from the other side; he can receive into his soul what the spirit conveys to him. He is able to receive the spirit without the spirit having first to pour through the organs, through the bodily nature, whereas the animal is dependent upon how the spirit pours into its organs. The animal experiences within itself how the spirit flows into its organs. Man, on the other hand, wrests his organs away form the life of soul and thus experiences the direct inpouring of the spirit into his soul.
Once we have grasped what the spirit really is and how the spirit lives itself out within the soul, these things are of infinite significance. We shall, however, have to wait for the lecture on “Human Spirit and Animal Spirit” before they can be fully clarified. But when we think about the inner life of soul we get a feeling of the difference between man and animal if we contrast the inward bodily life of the animal soul with the outward bodily life of the human soul. Because of this outward bodily life, the human soul can become spiritually more inward. The fact that the human soul can delight in the things of the external world, can take in what the spirit in its external manifestations says to the soul, man owes to the circumstance that his soul has emancipated itself from the bodily nature, has separated from the inward bodily experience of the spirit and has gained the certainty of experiencing the spirit itself at the cost of uncertainty and lack of skill, of imperfectly developed instincts.
It is quite easy to say: How is it possible to speak of an animal “soul,” since “soul” implies the notion of inwardness and man cannot look into the inner life of another being. The people who base themselves on this glib objection are the very ones who refuse to listen to any talk of soul experience, because — so they contend — soul experience can only be “within ourselves” and can therefore be inferred in another being only by analogy. But if these things are taken as they really are and not talked about in the abstract, it is quite clear that the very way a being lives reveals what it actually experiences inwardly. Anyone who refuses to believe that a being lives according to what it experiences inwardly will be incapable of any real observation of the world. Admittedly, without demonstration, there is no absolute guarantee in direct observation that the animal experiences something in its life of soul when it shows pleasure in digesting. But a man who compares things in the world, and does not confine his observation to one phenomenon only, will soon recognize that there are many good reasons for speaking in this way. Once we have acquired a feeling of the difference of soul experience in the animal and in the human being, this feeling and perception will help us to understand the nature of soul life in the animal. Above all we shall feel with greater and greater clarity how man's life of soul is emancipated from spirit as a bodily experience. It is the spirit that creates the organs and works in the organism, building it into what it is, and when we speak of the building of the organs we are speaking of the spirit as it works in the etheric body. When the astral body inserts itself into the organization, this spirit can, under certain preconditions, be experienced in a particular way. If we take seriously what has been said above about physical body, etheric body and astral body, we can say: In human beings and animals the physical body is the lowest member of their being; the etheric body so fashions the chemical and physical substances that they become life processes. The etheric body lives within the physical body, comprises and embraces the chemical and physical processes. In all this lives the astral body, experiencing — as soul experience — everything that is going on in the etheric body. Thus the etheric body is the active, creative principle working on the physical body, and the astral body is that part of the animal or human being which experiences the deeds of the etheric body. Thus the physical body is united with the etheric body in the building up of the organs; and the etheric body is united with the astral body in the inner experiencing of this upbuilding and activity of the organs. Everything in the physical body, the etheric body, and the astral body is mutually related.
Now what is it that evokes soul experience of a particular kind? That which pours, as it were, over the whole inner organization in man and animal. We can best understand this particular kind of experience by observing it in certain circumstances. Is there anyone who is not familiar with the characteristic form of soul experience which is present only while the animal is growing and the size of its organs is increasing and which stops when growth is completed? What expresses itself there in the experience of exuberant energy is connected with certain work that is being performed by the etheric body on the physical body and is an indication that the work is proceeding in the proper way. But what stands out prominently in this condition is always present as a certain feeling of well being in the soul, a feeling of life, of comfort or discomfort; and this depends upon whether the etheric body has or has not command over the physical organization, is able to master it or not. If the etheric body is unable to assert itself properly in the physical organs, this expresses itself in the astral body in a feeling of discomfort. But if the activity of the etheric body can everywhere find access to the physical organs, if that activity can take effect with the help of the physical organs, this engenders the feeling of general well being in men — either in a subtler or cruder form. If indigestion occurs, this can only mean that the etheric body cannot carry out an activity which it ought to carry out. This makes itself manifest in the accompanying discomfort. Or let us suppose someone has so exhausted himself by thinking that the organ of the brain “goes on strike.” In such a case the etheric body is still able to think, but the brain is no longer able to participate. Then the thinking begins to cause headaches; and from there the discomfort spreads into the general feeling of life. This is particularly intensified when the part of the organ that is built up by the etheric body is completely disorganized. We say then: “It is as though the skin cannot expand when outer heat makes it want to expand,” or, “I feel as if a burning brand is being held to my head.” In such a case the etheric body is meeting with resistance. Not being absorbed or seized by external impressions, it then comes up against a physical body to which it is not adjusted, and this expresses itself in the astral body as a feeling of pain.
So we understand “pain” in the astral body by conceiving it as the expression of weakness of the etheric body in relation to the physical body. An etheric body that is in harmony with its physical body works back upon the astral body in such a way that the feeling of well being is an inner experience of health. On the other hand, an etheric body that is at odds with its physical body works back upon the astral body in such a way that pain and discomfort are bound to arise in it. Now we shall be able to realize that because in the higher animals — it will be better to speak of the lower animals in the next lecture — the life of soul is so intimately bound up with the bodily nature, this soul experience will be much more deeply felt — as will also be the case in a disordered body — than it can be in a disordered human body. Because the soul life of man is emancipated from the inner, bodily experience, pain that is merely due to bodily circumstances is far less torturing, it gnaws much less deeply into the soul than in the higher animals. We can also observe that bodily pain in children is a much keener psychic pain than in later life, because in the measure in which the adult human being becomes independent of his bodily organization, he finds in the qualities which arise immediately out of his soul, the means to struggle against bodily pain; whereas the higher animal, being so closely bound up with its bodily nature, feels pain with infinitely greater intensity than man. Those who maintain that human pain can be more intense than pain felt by the animals, are talking without foundation. Pain in the animal is far, far more deep-seated than purely bodily pain in man can ever be.
So we see that in rising above this bodily nature, man draws out something from the innermost depths of his being; namely, his “I”, his ego. That which he does not inherit, which can sustain its existence above and apart from the species, which he must develop more and more through his individuality — that pertains to the ego. It is this that must enter human existence; it cannot be imparted by heredity, for it proceeds from the human individuality which comes from the spiritual realms into existence at birth and after death returns again to the spiritual realms. Therefore we speak of a core of being in man which passes on from life to life, because we can apprehend it in actual existence, provided only that we observe life with unprejudiced eyes.
I have tried today to indicate how it can be established from direct experience that we may speak of a being in man who is not inherited but enters human existence from quite another side and when what man inherits is dissolved by death can pass into another spiritual existence. When further principles of spiritual science are understood, this needs no more explanation because spiritual investigation relies on direct vision and can bring from quite another side the proof and evidence for what was intended to be made clear today from experiences of everyday life. But it is also possible for spiritual science so to relate together these everyday experiences that they reveal to us that which can establish in man the hope — based upon observation of facts — of an enduring life of soul that transcends bodily existence.
So we see how observation of existence everywhere confirms the words of Goethe already quoted. Soul experience in the animal is enclosed within the circle of its organs. The organs are everywhere the masters, fashioned by the spirit in order that the animal can experience a soul life in keeping with its organs and is able to make use of them. Man, on the other hand, enters existence in such a way that his organs themselves give him no guidance upon what he must take from life and impress into his life of soul. But just here we find that which gives him his guarantee of immortality, that which is eternal because it cannot originate in heredity.
That is what Goethe meant by the words: “The animal is instructed by its organs, but man has the advantage of being able to instruct his organs afresh.” Anyone who understands this in the right way — that in the course of his existence man is capable of teaching his organs afresh — will say to himself: How a man teaches his organs becomes manifest in the life of soul and here his union with the spirit is revealed, a union that is indissoluble because it does not spend itself and does not come from the past but points the way to, and is the seed for, the future, the means whereby man can attain that which in his soul will engender the power to vanquish the old death in life that is ever and again renewed.