Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Man in the Light of Occultism, Theosophy and Philosophy
GA 137

Lecture VI

8 June 1912, Oslo

My dear Friends,

IT will perhaps surprise you that in the course of these lectures we should devote so much time to considering the nature of what is after all the external part of man, his form and figure. If, however, you want to penetrate further into the knowledge which true occultism can give, you cannot omit from your study of man the aspects with which we are now dealing. Call to mind how often in the course of your studies you have met with the thought that in his outer form and figure man is a temple of the Godhead. So he is, and this is what we have all the time in mind while we study as it were the building stones of the temple, as we began to do yesterday and shall still continue doing for a little while. We shall see that when we take the trouble to search in the human figure for the hidden secrets of the spiritual world, we arrive in this way at knowledge that is of the utmost importance for the human heart and soul.

Yesterday we studied man in his twelve members. Now these twelve members appear at first sight to form a unity. They are, however, in reality not a unity, and it is important to recognise this. For, the moment we are awake to the fact that the external unity of the human form is only apparent, the moment we realise that the whole form and figure of the body, as we see it and can have knowledge of it here in earthly life, is but a semblance—in that moment we can also begin to understand how it is with the I, the centre point of man's consciousness.

We saw yesterday how this ego of ours is snatched away from us every night, and how it can therefore only be for man a picture; for no reality could be torn from him in this way in the night. Every night something of man's ego (which otherwise goes with him through the whole of earth life) is withdrawn; and the Divine Powers have so ordered things that precisely what man loses in this way is given to him in the external body; it is attached instead to the body. This is how it comes about that man is able to look upon his body as a unity. In reality it is no unity. In reality it is composed of members that are built up together in a most complicated manner.

We are here approaching one of the most important mysteries of man's being, that will lead us to delve deep into the primal secrets of existence.

One of there mysteries we touch already in the external world; and it will be important for us also to take the road from without inwards in order to receive out of this consciousness the idea that has no object. Man as we see him in the world consists of three parts, and we are dealing all the time with an appearance if we simply treat these three parts of man as a unity. For man's form, which yesterday we saw to be composed of twelve members, is really divided into three, and we must learn to understand how man has in him as it were, three men. Let us now place before us these three men in succession.

Yesterday, when we recounted in order the members of man's form, we began with what we called his upright posture; and then we went on to speak of how man is orientated in a forward direction,—to express it better, for the act of speaking. We have, therefore, as second member the forward direction, the direction for speaking. The third, you will remember, was symmetry. Taking for the moment just these three members of man's nature, we have there one part of the human form as we behold it externally in space.

Let us now see whether we cannot, by following a purely external perception, find something else to which we can apply the word symmetry,—and which in its external appearance offers to a careful observation many interesting problems. By symmetry we mean, of course, that man's form shows a two-sided development. This quality of symmetry is present in all the organs of the head, but as we go downwards from the head we come to a part of the human figure where it is even more particularly in evidence. You will remember that we gave to “upright posture” the name of Aries and the Sign ♈, and to “orientation to the formation of sound” the name Bull (Taurus) and the Sign ♉, and to “symmetry” the name Twins (Gemini) and the Sign ♊. These are the names given to the first three members of man's organism. Then we come to something which seems to follow as a kind of continuation of the head and manifests in quite a special way the property of symmetry. I mean the arms and hands. It is to these that I will ask you now to give your consideration.

Man's arms and hands attach themselves to the head part of man in such a way as to prefigure in a striking manner what we have in the lower man as thigh, leg and foot. If you consider the animal kingdom you will at once be struck with the similarity of these last organs with those which in man, as arms and hands, are different. You will be able to make very important observations by devoting careful study and thought to the difference there is in man between arms and legs, and between hands and feet, in contradistinction to those animals that stand nearest to him.

Let us now take the names we employed yesterday for the legs and feet and apply them in a corresponding manner to the arms and hands which are joined on to the head and which—as quite a superficial observation will enable you to see—have spiritual connection with the whole thought world of the head. You will not find it unreasonable or inappropriate if we now apply to these arms and hands that are connected with the head, the same terms that we used yesterday for legs and feet, and name this symmetrically extended continuation of the head in the following way. First we have, as fourth member, the upper arm, and to this we give the same designation as we gave to the thigh,—Archer (Sagittarius) ♐. We note a difference between the elbow and the knee, there being no development in the elbow to correspond to the knee-cap, but in spite of this the similarity is sufficiently obvious. And so we give to the elbow the Sign and the name we gave to the knee,—Goat (Capricorn) and ♑. We allot to the lower arm the same Sign as we took for the leg, the Sign of Waterman (Aquarius) ♒, and the hands are denoted with the same Sign as we gave to the feet,—the Sign of Fishes (Pisces) ♓. And now if we take these members of man's nature all together, by themselves, comprising as they do the whole head and arms, we have a seven-membered man. That is an important perception. When you reflect on how this complete sevenfold man receives nourishment—the nourishment is of course brought up to it from the rest of man—then the idea will not be utterly grotesque if we imagine for a moment that this sevenfold man might receive its nourishment from without, like a plant which finds nourishment prepared for it in the world outside, and merely receives it and works upon it. We could quite well imagine that the same thing happened for this sevenfold man, and that it did not get whatever it needs for the maintenance of the brain and so forth from the other parts of man's nature, but instead directly from the external world. This sevenfold man would then be directly and immediately linked with the external world.

It is essential for the occultist to come to an understanding of this sevenfold man if he is to raise himself in a right way to the level of a higher consciousness. What we have just been describing must at some time find place in his mind,—this possibility of a sevenfold man, from which one thinks away all the remaining parts and members of the present-day human being.

Let us now go on to consider the second man. We shall best understand the second man if we pursue the following train of thought. The essential organ of the head is, as you will easily see, the brain. Now man has something else in his form that is similar to the brain. It differs from the brain of the head in what is apparently a detail, but really a point of great significance. Man has actually something like a second brain; it is the brain of the spinal cord, which is enclosed in the spinal column.

I will ask you to dwell for a little on this thought. Try to imagine that the spinal cord is nothing else than a strange and peculiar brain. It is quite possible to feel it as a brain that has been elongated and has become like a slender staff,—just as we can also see the brain as an inflated spinal cord. It will help us here if we picture man assuming for the moment the same posture in the world as the animals still have today,—that is to say, with his spine not vertically upright but parallel with the surface of the earth. Then you would have a brain that has simply been pulled out into the form of a staff. And now observe the human being as you would then have him before you, parallel with the surface of the earth, his back lying horizontal in space. In this position the spinal cord can very well pass for a kind of brain. And now we note something very strange and remarkable,—namely, that we have again appendages right and left, though of course exceedingly different from the arm appendages we had before. But imagine a condition where man had not developed symmetry as far as he has today (when the two arms are very nearly alike) but here one arm had experienced a peculiar development of its own which distinguished it very clearly from the other. In the present day there is even a tendency—and it is a foolish one!—to discard righthandedness and cultivate an equal left and righthandedness. But imagine now that the left arm were on the contrary to grow into a completely different organ; then it will not seem to you impossible or absurd to refer in the way we shall now do to two other appendages.

Consider the human being in this position, with his spinal column above, lying horizontal, and joined on to it on one side the head and on the other side the feet. You have there before you two appendages, as you had previously in the arms. You can regard the head as one arm and the two feet together as the other arm. At first hearing, it sounds very strange: but when you reflect that in the lower animal kingdom forms occur which are not very different from what I have described, the idea will perhaps not strike you as so grotesque, after all.

As a matter of fact, this idea must find place in our mind, if we are to have understanding of the whole being who is in truth a three-membered being. Then we can actually say that we have here appendages,—only unsymmetrically formed; twins, shall we say, that are not alike. In effect, we come to perceive that we have before us something like a repetition of the first sevenfold man.

Let us begin then by assigning to this horizontal man the two dissimilar Twins. For we can again call the two side appendages Twins (Gemini). In the horizontal man, head on the one side and feet on the other belong together; they are arranged in a mutual relationship, and we denote them in this connection with the name Twins (Gemini).

And now we must go back to what we have seen to be a brain. Remember what we said before. We only get the picture of man at which were now looking by turning him. We have before us the middle part of man, the body as such. This we must regard as a world enclosed in itself, and moreover as a world which we are thinking of as containing within it the second man. Thus we have the covering-in or the enclosing of this second man, and within, above, a kind of brain. The enclosure—the shroud or encasement, as it were—we designate as Crab (Cancer). The whole enclosure of the breast takes on quite a new character through the fact that we have turned man in order to obtain a correct picture of it.

Now let us see what members we can find within this enclosure of the breast. We have only to follow the members as we took them in their sequence yesterday, as far as the place where it ceases to be possible still to reckon them as part of the breast or middle man. There is no question about the whole interior to which we gave the name of Lion (Leo) ♌ and which is concentrated in the heart. This is the third member. Then you will remember we saw how man is really divided within into two members, an inner content that is enclosed by Crab (Cancer) ♋ and an inner content that is enclosed by the wall of the abdomen. Anatomically man's body is quite exactly divided off by the diaphragm into an upper and a lower cavity; what is below the diaphragm has also to be reckoned in with the middle man. We call it by the name Virgin (Virgo) with the Sign ♍.

We come then to the place of balance, where man begins to be no longer shut away within his own form but to open himself to the world outside. When he uses his legs he is making contact with what is outside him. The place of balance is the boundary where the entirely “within” comes to an end. This fifth member is called Scales (Libra) and is given the Sign ♎.

From the whole way in which the organs of reproduction are placed in man, you will see they must obviously be counted in with the middle man; and so we have, as sixth member, the reproductive organs, Scorpion (Scorpio) with the Sign ♏.

And now nothing remains to be done but to define the appendage that forms the second of the Twins. If you consider what the thigh is for man, and observe how its movement is conditioned by the nature of the middle man (for the thigh is closely connected with the whole muscular system of the middle man), you will see that we must reckon it also as a member. As far as the knee, man is middle man; the forces of middle man enter into the thigh and extend to the knee. Moreover, we have already included the thigh as one of the Twins. The head on one side and the thigh on the other constitute the pair of Twins. The thigh, then, we denote with the Sign ♐ and we call it Archer (Sagittarius).

When you go further and consider the feet, you find that whereas the thigh still preserves an intimate connection with the middle man, knee and leg and foot require the support of the earth. The thigh, it is true, uses this support, but the leg and the foot are only there at all because man has to stand firm and upright on the earth. In the thigh we have still to do with a continuation of the middle man. If it were not adapted to the other members of leg and foot, the thigh would, in fact, be able to assume a different form and enable man to be a creature of the air. Quite different organs might then be developed beyond it, appropriate for swimming or flying. These would be set in motion by means of the thigh, but everything else about them would have to be adapted to their purpose.

You see, therefore, that the remaining parts of man's form do not require to be reckoned in with the middle man, so that we have now again a sevenfold man. It is the second. If you look at the difference between the two, you will find it is quite astounding. In the first seven-membered man we have, to begin with, all the important sense organs, situated in the head. And when we count in with this first sevenfold man, as indeed we must, the arms and hands, then we have included in it organs that have a distinctive quality which none but a purely external and materialistic observation could fail to recognise. For the organs we call arms and hands would, if we studied them seriously, reveal in a high degree the sublime significance of the nature of man.

If we wanted to speak of art in Nature—and the whole of what man rightly regards as the Temple of God is wonderfully imbued with Nature's art!—we could find no better expression of it than in the marvellous construction of man's hands and arms. Take the corresponding organs in other creatures that are related to man. Look, for instance, at the wings of a bird,—an animal far removed from man. The wings are the fore limbs of the bird, they are comparable with what we have in man as hands. The bird could not fly without wings. Wings are organs that are useful and necessary for its existence—in the fullest sense, organs of utility. The human hand is not in the same sense an organ of utility at all. True, we can develop it to become so, but it requires development. We cannot fly with it, nor swim with it, and it is even clumsy at climbing, at which the fore limbs of the ape—the animal that is most nearly related to man—are very clever. We might almost say that, looked at purely from the standpoint of utility, there is very little meaning or purpose in the form of the hands. If, however, we observe all that man has to do in the course of evolution with his hands, we find them to be most precious possessions. When it is a matter of bringing to outward expression what the mind and spirit are able to achieve, then the hands show their value.

Think of the most simple and elementary movements of the hand. Does not the hand, when it accompanies the word with gesture, turn into a most expressive organ? In all the different movements and positions of the hand do we not often see revealed something of the inner character of the human being? Suppose for a moment that the hands were adapted for purposes of climbing or swimming; or suppose man needed his hands to help him move about on the earth. The world might be so ordered that we did not have to learn to walk, but made use of our hands to help us. For note, we have to learn to walk by making movements that are quite unsuited for the purpose—pendulum-like movements with both legs. We do not generally remark how ill-adapted for the end in view are the movements of the leg; there is no single animal that does not have its legs much more usefully placed and adjusted than man has! And as for our hands, they have nothing whatever to do with this realm of our existence. But now suppose it were not so, suppose man found it easier, more natural, to move about with the help of his hands. In that case you would have to think away the whole of human culture! What does an artist not do with his hand? All art would be simply non-existent, had the hands been organs of utility.

This is a fact that has to be brought home to the aspirant after occultism,—that in arms and hands we have wonderful organs deeply and strongly connected with the spiritual life that is lived by man on earth. When we consider how man has a sense contact with the external world in his head where the sense organs are chiefly localised, and then works with the external world by means of his hands, when we consider how he can prepare in his head what he then shows to the external world with his hands and bequeaths to it as art and culture,—then we begin to see the true character of this first sevenfold man It is the essentially spiritual man, it is man in his connection with the external world. If we look at these seven members and see how they form a self-contained whole then we behold how in this sevenfold man the earth process becomes conscious for man. This first seven-membered man is thus to be regarded as the spiritual nature of the human being; it is the spiritual being of man, in so far as he is earth man.

Let us now look at the second man. The fact that the middle man has Twins which show such totally different developments on the two sides, gives it a double relation with the outside world It is connected with the outside world on the one hand through the head,—for it has knowledge in the head; and on the other hand, through the fact that man is a creature that moves about on earth and can direct his motion from within. Finally it is also connected with the outside world by means of the reproductive organs which make possible the physical continuity of man. Were it not for these three members,—the Twins on the two sides, with the reproductive organs—there would be no connection with the outside world. These three members in the middle organism enable man to have connection on the one hand with the earth process and on the other hand with the continued evolution of earth man, with the sequence of the generations and the reciprocity of sex.

When, however, we turn to those middle members that we denote with the words Cancer, Leo, Virgo and Libra, we find that they are only there for the inner man himself—I mean of course “inner” in the bodily sense. This bodily inner nature of man has, it is true, continuations in two outward directions in what are for it the Gemini; but for the rest it is entirely occupied with the inner organism For man's inner organism it is of the very greatest significance that he has a heart, but it is of very little interest for external nature, and of just as little interest that he has an abdomen.

We have, therefore, three members that are of importance for external earth nature and four others that serve especially man's own inner organism. Whilst the head man lives essentially in the outside world, by virtue of the senses as well as by virtue of the mechanism of arm and hand, here we have paramountly a life inside the organism. Far-reaching differences thus exist between these two men, the middle man and the head man.

We must now pass on to consider a third man. To enable us more easily to form a mental picture of this third man, we will take it in the reverse order, beginning from the other end. We shall find that this third man separates itself off from the other two in a perfectly natural and obvious manner.

Let us begin with the seventh member, the feet. We know from yesterday's lecture that we confer upon the feet the name of Fishes (Pisces) and the Sign ♓. The human form is here wholly adapted to the outside world. If you think it over a little you will find there is no question about it. For it is essentially the form of the foot that makes it possible for man to be a creature who moves about on the earth. Everything else required for walking man has to learn. It is in right accordance with nature that man has to place upon the earth the broad sole of his foot, so that the extended surface of the foot is not directed inwards but to the earth. And now since what we call the leg belongs to and corresponds to this foot nature, we must reckon as sixth member the leg, to which we give the name Waterman (Aquarius) and the Sign ♒.

We come then to the fifth member, the knee, which is here to be regarded in no other way than as forming a necessary mechanical resting place for the thigh. Because man has to bring his whole middle man into connection with the lower man—the foot and leg—therefore must there be this partition at the knee. Think how difficult it would be to walk if the lower leg and foot were not separated off in this way. Walking would be a still more difficult matter than it is, if leg and thigh were made of one single piece! If we did not need to walk, the middle man would not concern us. As it is, however, we need the middle man and consequently also require the knee as connecting member. We call it Goat (Capricorn) with the Sign ♑. This is the fifth member.

The fourth, the thigh, we have already considered and we have seen that it belongs to the middle man. The thigh would have to be there even if man had another kind of movement. If, for instance, he were to fly or swim, he would still need the thigh, though it might have to assume another form. If man is to be able to walk on the earth, not only must the foot and leg and knee be adapted to the ground but also the thigh must be in right relation and proportion to these members. It must be so formed as to correspond in the right way to the three lower members, You will recognise this when you observe that in so far as the thigh is in correspondence with the middle organs it is of the same kind in birds, in four-footed animals and in man; in man it is only differently developed. Thus, the thigh belongs to man in so far as he has an animal nature. We give it the name of Archer (Sagittarius) and the Sign ♐.

It can easily be seen that the organs of reproduction are on the one hand formed from within, and on the other hand in their functions are adapted to the work outside. Let me say in passing, we must speak of these things quite objectively, and consider aspects of them that can only be considered when the subject is treated with scientific seriousness. The reproductive organs are adapted to external nature in the sense that they relate one sex to the other. The organ of the male is not only formed from out of the middle man, but it is also given an outward direction and its form adapted to the reproductive organ of the female. We have, therefore, to speak of the reproductive organs as the third member, which we name Scorpion (Scorpio) and denote by the Sign ♏.

We come next to what is called the Scales (Libra), the place of balance in man. The external form of the region of balance is sufficient evidence that we have here a member of the middle nature of man. Bear in mind that it is because man has become upright that he had to have here this organ of balance. It must be developed in such a way as to enable him to become an upright being. Compare the region of balance in a four-footed animal with the same in man, and you will recognise that this member of balance is different according as the upper part of the body has an upward direction or rests horizontally on the legs and feet. Thus, the place where the balance is situated and which we designate as Libra has to be reckoned as the second member of the lower man.

And now we come to something that cannot but meet with misunderstanding on the part of present-day science. We have so far considered a sixfold man; we have studied the third man beginning from below upwards and found in him these six members. When we considered the other two, the first and the second sevenfold man, we took as our starting-point in each case a brain. In considering the head, we began with the brain and that led us to the arms and hands. Then we learned to see a second brain, a brain that is like an elongated staff but yet is truly brain,—the spinal cord. As you will know, the difference between the spinal cord and the brain of the head, though apparently only small, is really very great. The spinal cord is the instrument for all movements that man is obliged to perform; the movements that we call involuntary movements are controlled by the spinal cord. When, on the other hand, we employ the instrument of the brain, thought inserts itself between perception and movement. In the spinal cord all connection with thought is lacking. There movement follows directly on perception. In the case of the animal the spinal cord plays a greater part than it does in the case of man, and the brain a lesser part. Most animals perform their actions quite involuntarily. Man, however, by virtue of his superior brain, wedges in thinking between perception and movement; consequently his deeds show a voluntary character.

Let us now try to picture the third man in such a way that in it too we discover a kind of brain. As you know, there is in man a third system of nerves, distinct from those of the brain and of the spinal cord. It is the sympathetic nervous system, the so-called solar plexus, situated in the lower part of man and sending its fibres upwards, parallel with the spinal cord. It is a nervous system that is separate from the other two and, in relation to the brain proper, may be regarded as a peculiar, undeveloped brain, When we follow the human form upwards beyond Libra we find this remarkable sympathetic nervous system, the solar plexus, extended like a brain of the third man. With the special organs we have already enumerated there is thus connected also what we have to regard as a kind of third brain,—the solar plexus.

Now, a vital connection exists—and this is what external science cannot but find difficult to accept—between the solar plexus and the kidneys. As the substance of the brain in the head and the fibres of the nerve tracks belong together, so do the kidneys belong to the brain of the abdomen, the solar plexus. In fact, the solar plexus and the kidneys form, together, a peculiar kind of subordinate brain. Reckoning this brain as part of the lower man, we can designate it with the term Virgin (Virgo) ♍. We have therefore now our seventh, or rather our first, member, made up of the connection of solar plexus with kidneys; and at this point we reach the termination above of the third sevenfold man.

Man is thus found to be threefold in his composition. These three men work into and with one another, and no understanding of the nature of the human being is possible until one knows that in him three human beings are in reality active. Three sevenfold men work together in man.

The last-named brain takes extraordinarily little interest in the external world. Its sole purpose is to maintain man's inner parts in an upright position. All the rest of the organs in the lower man are adapted to the external world—although in quite a different manner from the head man. Man's relation in his head to the external world is expressed in the fact that he re-forms the earth world to a world of human culture. On the other hand, in the outer as well as the inner organs of the lower man we have to do with something that belongs to and serves the human being himself. It is only because we do not take the trouble to think accurately on these matters that we fail to observe the enormous difference there is between these three men within the whole human being

Occultism has always given the name of Mysterium Magnum, the Great Mystery, to the wonderful secret of man's nature, the outer aspect of which we have here been considering. This aspect of the Mysterium Magnum is visible in the external world; only, we are not as a rule in a position to understand it, because we do not from the outset distinguish, in what appears to be a unity, a three times sevenfold being.

We may now pass on to consider the other aspect of this mystery. We spoke earlier of the ego nature of man, and we said how it has the appearance of being a unity. We saw also how this unity is continually being broken, continually being interrupted by sleep. If you will read Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment you will find a remarkable fact described, how when the disciple of occultism takes the step that leads him out of his ordinary consciousness a strange thing happens with his ego, with his consciousness. He is divided into three members, and so effectually that he is overpowered by these self-dependent members within him—the thinking soul, the feeling soul and the willing soul. In ordinary life these three things—thinking, feeling and willing—are united in the ego-nature, in the ego-consciousness. In our ordinary everyday consciousness they play into one another. As soon, however, as we take one step towards a higher consciousness, thinking, feeling, and willing fall apart. This is a fact to which the aspirant after occultism must give heed. When he passes out beyond his consciousness, he finds himself divided into three, he finds his ego unity split up into a thinking man, a feeling man and a willing man.

There you have the other aspect of the Mysterium Magnum. When man takes the plunge, as it were, when he really steps right over the bounds of his consciousness, then his ego unity divides into three, just as the apparent unity of the external human figure, as soon as we come to study the body more closely, divides into three,—into three seven-membered men.

Thus our inner ego-nature, no less than our external form, is a unity that is divisible into three. Outer man divides into the seven-membered head man, the seven-membered middle man and the seven-membered foot man. Correspondingly, the inner ego of the human being divides, as soon as it takes the first step into the occult realm, into three parts or members,—the thinking man, the feeling man and the willing man, who stand each over against the other in complete independence. That is the second aspect of the mystery.

Both of these facts must be recognised by the disciple of occultism, when he takes the first step into a higher consciousness. (We shall speak further tomorrow about the meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold.) For as consciousness is then divided into three parts, so too if we go forward in the right way, we learn to perceive in the manifest external form of man a three times sevenfold being We have here two aspects of a many-sided and many-membered mystery,—the Mysterium Magnum. Of other aspects we shall have to speak later. For the moment we have indicated the very first and most elementary beginnings of this great and wonderful mystery. This is why, when you come to a particular stage in occult development, you are met on all sides with the formula (expressed in many different ways): The great secret is—“Three are one and one are three.” For the occultist this formula signifies what I have here described to you; herein it has its full and true meaning. Only when people misunderstand it and make it into a materialistic dogma, is its true meaning lost. If, however, you will take it in the sense I have explained, it can be a right symbol for the truths with which we have been dealing today. The formula becomes then an expression of the Mysterium Magnum. If we want to find our way aright into the realm of occultism—and this is what we are attempting here, in many connections—then we must learn to understand this mysterious and apparently contradictory formula: Three are one and one are three. To the mediaeval disciple of occultism again and again were the words spoken: “Give heed to what is said to thee; so mayst thou understand the mystery of how the Three can be at the same time One, and the One at the same time Three.”

Upper Man
1. Upright Position
2. Direction forwards
3. Symmetry
4. Upper Arm
5. Elbow
6. Lower Arm
7. Hands
Middle Man
1. Head and Feet, Twins
2. Breast enclosure
3. Interior, Heart
4. The second Interior part of man
5. Balance
6. Organs of Reproduction
7. Thigh
Lower Man
1. Feet
2. Leg
3. Knee
4. Thigh
5. Organs of Reproduction
6. Balance
7. Kidneys, Solar Plexus