The Balance in the World and Man,
Lucifer and Ahriman
Dornach, November 21, 1914
In the lecture on the Kalevala, (14th November, 1914), I made a statement which you will probably not have found easy to understand. You will remember, I spoke of a “being” that stretches across Europe from west to east; and I spoke of it as having three limbs that reach out in an easterly direction. I said that for the ancient Finnish folk these three limbs were known as Wainamoinen, Ilmarinen, and Lemminkainen, and that they were what we today, in our more materialistic language, call the gulfs of Riga, Finland and Bothnia. You will probably have wondered how I could say that these gulfs had anything to do with a being, when they are obviously nothing else than extensions of the surface of the sea. There is no body; how then can it be possible to speak of a being?
I can well imagine that this difficulty might arise in your minds, and it is typical. For again and again you will find that truths which come from the spiritual world lay themselves open to the charge of being contradictory. The very fact that they do so is significant and is quite as it should be; and the only way to arrive at a satisfactory solution of the contradiction is in every case to make a still deeper study of the matter in question. And this I want to do today in respect of certain problems in spiritual knowledge. But first let me preface what I have to say with a few introductory words.
We will glance, to begin with, at some of the prejudices concerning the nature of man that are prevalent in the materialistic thought of our time. Let us take one example. Various physical processes are to be found in man, among others processes of the brain and nervous system; and it is common knowledge that when these processes take place, processes take place also in the soul. The conclusion is drawn that the processes in the soul are no more than the expression of the physical processes. The materialist studies what goes on in the body of the human being, finds there — or rather pre-supposes hypothetically — delicate nerve-processes, and says: The thinking, feeling and willing processes are in reality only accompanying phenomena of what is going on all the time as physical processes. This view is quite commonly held today and it will undoubtedly strike deeper and deeper root into the materialistic thinking of the near future. From the point of view of logic it is about as clever as the following would be. — Suppose someone walking along a road discovers tracks on it — here, parallel ruts, and here again, marks like the soles of human feet. He thinks this over and says to himself: “The material of which the road is made has undergone certain changes and influences, with the result that it has in some places become packed together so as to form ruts, whilst at other places it has been sucked downwards and we see on the surface what looks like the impress of a human foot.”
Such a conclusion is of course a crudely mistaken one, the truth being that a wagon has passed and made the two ruts with the wheels, and a man has also been walking on the road and made the other impressions with his feet. Not the nature of the soil, but the man and the wagon are responsible for the tracks.
The case is no different with the processes that go on in our nervous system! Whenever we think or feel or will, we are setting up processes that are of the nature of soul-and-spirit. And so long as we live in the physical world, these processes are united with the physical body, they leave their tracks in it — just as the wagon and the man leave their tracks behind in the road. But these tracks in the body have no more to do with the material of which the body is made than have the tracks in the road to do with the materials of which the road is constructed. In reality, the processes that take place in the matter of the brain and in the matter of the nerves have nothing whatever to do with the actual thought-processes. The relation between them is no nearer than the relation between what the man and the wagon are doing and what is going on in the surface of the earth over which they are moving. It is really quite important to take a little trouble to consider the matter in this light. For it reveals to one that the anatomist or physiologist who investigates merely the physical processes in the organism is like a spirit-being who moves about under the earth without ever coming up to the surface, and who has never even seen men or wagons. All he can do is to observe from below that unevennesses occur in the surface of the earth; he never comes close up to them, and he sees them always from the other side. Investigating them in this limited way, he imagines the earth itself has given rise to them by its own activity. The moment such a spirit were to come out on to the surface, he would become acquainted with the true state of affairs. This is exactly how it is with the anatomist and physiologist who work from the materialistic point of view. They are always under the earth — for to know nothing of Spiritual Science is to be “under the earth!” What they investigate is the material processes, and these have nothing to do with what is happening above in the realm of soul-and-spirit. It will be man's task in the near future to free himself from this anatomical and physiological thinking and work through to a spiritual-scientific thinking. Then he will feel as an underground imp might feel who was suddenly lifted up above the earth and saw for the first time how the tracks he had observed from below had really come about. Imps burrowing under the earth — that is what the scientists are, who take account only of the spiritual that is under the earth — for even the material is spiritual! And mankind will have to experience the great shock that must inevitably come when these underground imps come out into the open — into the realm, that is, of the soul-and-spirit.
These introductory words were necessary in order to prepare you for the subject of today's lecture, which I think you will find helps to solve the contradiction of which we were speaking — that the gulfs of Bothnia, Finland and Riga are obviously mere surfaces, and yet I spoke as though they were a being, or rather limbs of a mighty being stretching from west to east.
We are accustomed to speak of ourselves as beings of space, and we are right; as human beings we are spatial beings. When, however, we come to consider what we are in reality, that is quite another matter. The fact is, man is in reality something altogether different from what we imagine him to be when we look at him only in the outer Maya, in the phantasmagoria of external appearance. There he appears of course as a being of space, spatially enclosed within his skin. But directly we try to carry our thought a little deeper, we are confronted with three great problems or riddles in respect of the human form.
The first of these riddles conceals itself under all manner of puzzling and mystifying illusions. For the external Maya of appearance deceives us again and again in regard to our own existence; and you can find traces of this deception in the science of the present day, particularly at certain points where science is quite at a loss and has been forced to construct all manner of hypotheses. Hypotheses have for example been constantly brought forward to account for the fact that man has two eyes and two ears and yet does not see or hear double. How is it that these organs are symmetrically disposed? How is it that they are present not singly but in pairs? This simple fact offers science a hard nut to crack, and you have only to glance through the literature on the subject to find what a very great deal has been written on this question of why we see with two eyes and hear with two ears.
Man is really coarsely organized; we can sometimes find evidence of this in the very way we speak. For in reality we have also two noses! Only they have grown together and are not so obvious as the two eyes and two ears. Hence we do not speak of two noses, but of one nose; crudely organized as we are, we never discover that we have two! It is nevertheless the case that in all human perception a symmetry comes to expression, a right-and-left symmetry. Had he not two ears, two eyes, and two noses, man would not attain to the perception of his own I or Ego.
Correspondingly, man needs also for the Ego experience two hands. When we clasp the hands together and feel the one with the other, we immediately get something of an Ego experience. And it is really a similar process, when we unite into one whole the perceptions of two eyes or two ears. Every time we make a sense perception, we perceive the world from two sides, from left and from right. And to the fact that we have these two directions of perception left and right, and bring them together — to this fact we owe our Ego-nature as human beings. Otherwise we would not be I- or Ego-men at all. If, for example, our eyes were situated near our ears and we had no possibility of combining the lines of vision, we would always remain beings who are involved in a Group Soul. To be an Ego-being we must make the right and the left meet. Throughout the whole realm of human perception there is always this crossing of right and left in the middle. Look at this vertical line on the blackboard. Imagine that a plane projects out here from the blackboard along this line. Everything comes, from left and right, up to this line of incision. We, my dear friends, are ourselves actually in this plane. We are not in space, we are only in this surface, this plane. We are not beings extended in space, we are surface beings, that come about through the crossing of the impulse from the left with the impulse from the right. And if to the question: Where are you? you want to find an answer, not in accordance with Maya, but in accordance with reality, then you must not point to the space where your body is standing and say: “I am here,” but you will have to say: “I am in the place where my left man and my right man meet.” In reality you are there, and only there. Just as we had surfaces in the case of the being of whom I spoke before, surfaces where air and water meet, so in man we have the left half and the right half. In that being the two halves were different, in man they are alike; but man is also a surface being, man is a plane. It is Maya that we see him as having form and figure.
Whence then has man this form and figure? He has it because he stands in the midst of a battle. A being from the left is fighting in man with a being from the right. If we were able to be entirely within our left half we would have a powerful perception of the one being, and if we were in our right half we would have a correspondingly powerful perception of the other being. Our existence as a double being arises from the fact that the Luciferic being is fighting in us from the left and the Ahrimanic being from the right.
Let us try to make a picture of it in our minds. From the left the Luciferic being fights his way through and throws up, as it were, his fortifications, and from the right Ahriman fights his way through and throws up his fortifications. And all that you can do is to stand in the middle between the two. The left part of you — your left man, as it were — is the fortification set up by Lucifer, and your right man is the fortification set up by Ahriman. And the whole art of life consists in finding the true balance between them. We do it unconsciously whenever we perceive with the senses. When we hear with the left ear and with the right ear, and then unite into a single perception the impulses that reach us in this way, or when we feel with the left hand and with the right hand and unite the two perceptions, we are placing ourselves into the surface that lies on the boundary of the conflict between Lucifer and Ahriman. As narrow as — no, narrower than — the blade of a knife is the space that is left to us in the middle, where we have to play our part. Our organism does not really belong to us; we are a battlefield for the Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers — and for other powers too, of like nature with them, but into that subject we cannot enter now.
We men are thus in reality surface beings wedged between two entities that are no concern of ours! Our left man does not concern us, neither does our right man: what concerns us is the process that goes on between the two.
And now we can develop a little further the comparison I made use of before. For, as we all recognize, there are processes perpetually going on under the earth; but it is not these that make the tracks in the road. Similarly, what happens in you in the right and left half of your organism, all the processes that take place between Lucifer and Ahriman, have nothing whatever to do with the experience you have in your soul. What goes on down below the surface of the earth — the worms creeping about, the changes in temperature in accordance with the seasons of the year, and so forth — all this has no connection with the tracks that have come in the road, and it is these tracks that are comparable with what takes place in the organism of man. Our researches in physiology and anatomy reveal to us the fight that is being waged within us between Lucifer and Ahriman, but they do not compel us to give ourselves up to the superstition that the life of the soul owes its origin to these processes going on between Lucifer and Ahriman. That is a complete mistake; the life of the soul takes its course within the soul itself — that is to say, in the surface, in the plane, not in the spatial organism at all.
Now the working of Lucifer and Ahriman is not the same in all parts of the human organism, and it is interesting to observe its gradation. Beginning from the head, we find that there Lucifer and Ahriman have thrown up fairly equal fortifications; the left and right halves of the head are very similar. This means that the forces of left and right have in the head not much possibility of interplay and the surface between them is left comparatively undisturbed. There in the middle is the surface, with Lucifer on the left and Ahriman on the right; and because the left and right halves of the head are so similar in form, Lucifer and Ahriman spring back from one another, and in between them man is able to develop a quiet surface activity. Thinking, pure thought as such, is very little disturbed by Lucifer and Ahriman; because in the head they recoil from one another.
When, however, we follow the form of man further down, we find a change. On one side Lucifer works powerfully and builds up the stomach, on the other side Ahriman does the same and builds up the liver. The stomach is the means with which Lucifer fights from left to right; and no true understanding can come about of the relation between stomach and liver, until we see how Lucifer has built up the stomach as a kind of weapon of defence, and Ahriman the liver. These two — stomach and liver — are perpetually waging war one against the other, and physiology would do well to study the conflict. And if the heart of man tends to lean a little over towards the left, then that is an expression of the fact that Lucifer from one side and Ahriman from the other are trying each to grasp something for himself, The whole left and right relationship is an expression of the fight that is being waged in man between Lucifer and Ahriman. We said that in the case of man, what lies on either side of the middle surface is, generally speaking, alike. We have, however, already seen that this is true only for the upper part of man; as we follow the form of man downwards, the similarity gradually disappears. In the case of the being of whom I spoke before, with the three outstretched limbs — Lemminkäinen, Ilmarinen and Wainämöinen — the one half is air and the other water; the two halves are totally different in kind. And even in man, when we attain to clairvoyant knowledge it becomes clear to us that there are two distinct halves. For no sooner have we suggested away the physical body and turned our attention to the etheric body, than we find that the left half grows brighter and clearer than the right half. The left half is all shining and gleaming with radiant light, and the right half is wrapped in darkness and gloom. Yes, that is actually how it is with the left-right human being.
There are, however, other directions in accordance with which man takes up his position in the world of space. Expressed in the language of occultism, this means nothing else than that he is placed in still other ways into the midst of the fight between Lucifer and Ahriman. Let us go on, then, to consider how man stands in space with a forward and backward orientation, looking before and behind. Instead of observing him as a being of left and right, we will now direct our thoughts to the front and back of the human form. From this aspect also we find that man is not the being of space he appears to be. For as from left and from right Lucifer and Ahriman do battle with one another across man, and what shows in space is really only the barricades they put up one against the other, so also from behind Ahriman is fighting and from in front Lucifer. From behind Ahriman thrusts forward his activity, and from in front Lucifer thrusts forward his activity in opposition. Man stands in the middle between them. In connection, however, with the forward and backward direction in man we discover that Lucifer and Ahriman do not succeed in coming so close to one another as to leave nothing but a surface between them. We find here a somewhat different state of affairs. Ahriman comes only as far as the plane which can be drawn through the spinal column, and Lucifer as far as the plane which can be drawn through the breast bone, where the ribs end and meet. In between these two planes lies a space which separates Lucifer and Ahriman one from the other, where the effects of their working are thrown together in confusion. There they stand and fight — not at close quarters, but as though shooting at one another across the intervening space. And there stand we in the midst of the fight. Thus, in respect of the direction before and behind, man is a being that has space.
In the left-right direction the fight between Lucifer and Ahriman is waged principally in the sphere of thought. Thoughts are whirled across from left and from right and meet in the surface in the middle. Cosmic thoughts and cosmic forms of thought impinge upon one another here on the human surface in the middle. In the direction before and behind, Lucifer and Ahriman do battle more in the realm of feeling. And since here the opposing forces do not approach one another so nearly, in the space that is left between them we ourselves have room to be together with our own feelings. When we have thoughts that offer opposition to one another from left and from right, then we have the feeling that these thoughts belong to the world. With our thoughts we think the objects that are in the world outside. When we make our own thoughts, then these thoughts are a mere phantasmagoria; they do not any longer belong to the world. In our feelings, on the other hand, we belong to ourselves; for there Lucifer and Ahriman do not quite meet, there we have room to be active in between them. This is the reason why in our feelings we are so essentially within ourselves.
We human beings are creatures of the beings of the higher hierarchies, and they have created us in accordance with the manner of their working. We are beings of surface between left and right because the higher beings have made us so and placed us so into space. It is they, the Gods, who do not suffer Lucifer and Ahriman to come together in man. We are in this sense creatures of the good Gods. The good Gods, working out of their creative thoughts and purposes, took as it were this resolve. “A conflict is going on,” they said, “between Ahriman and Lucifer. We must set up a wall and enclose a region which they will not be able to enter, where they will not be able to carry on their strife at close quarters.” We human beings have thus been placed into the struggle between Lucifer and Ahriman as creatures of the good Gods; and the better we stand our ground in the struggle, the more truly are we creatures of the good Gods.
In respect of the before and behind, there the good Gods do not allow Lucifer to enter right into us; they created a barricade in the place where the ribs meet in the breast bone. And the wonderfully constructed tower that encloses the spine and the brain is a fortification the good Gods have erected against Ahriman. Ahriman cannot pass this line; all he can do is to send his arrows of feeling across to Lucifer. There in the space between stand we ourselves, separating the two from each other.
There is still a third direction in man, the direction from above downwards. Here again we have to make the discovery that the true state of affairs is not as it seems in external appearance. For from below upwards works Ahriman, and from above downwards Lucifer. Again we find that the good Gods have thrown up a barrier against Lucifer; at a certain plane in man his influence is held in check. You will find the plane by taking the skeleton and removing from it the skull. There where the skull rested on the cervical vertebrae, imagine a horizontal surface. This invisible horizontal surface is the barrier, where man can take his stand and hold up the Luciferic influence that comes from above. Lucifer can come no further, he can only shoot his arrows thence down into man. And his arrows are now arrows of will. From left to right fly arrows of thought, from front to back arrows of feeling and from above downwards as well as from below upwards, arrows of will.
Here, too, we have left to us an intermediate field of action. For about in a line with the diaphragm, you have the surface that acts as a barricade against the upward pressure of Ahriman. Ahriman can reach only as far as the diaphragm with his missiles of will, he can come no further with his will, with his essential being; and in between the two planes lies our own field of action.
You see how complicated the human being is! Take any one portion of the human figure — for example, the left side of the face. As a being of thought, Lucifer can fill entirely this left side of the human countenance; as a being of feeling he can also penetrate it up to a point; and as a being of will he can enter right into and through it from above. And you can go on to discover for every part of the body how Lucifer and Ahriman work in the human being of space by means of cosmic impulses of thought and feeling and will, remembering always that as beings of thought we are actually only surface beings, whilst as men of feeling we have a space between the before and the behind where we can unfold an activity of our own, and again as men of will we have a field of activity between the above and the below, between the surface we imagined drawn through the top of the cervical vertebrae and the surface of the diaphragm. You see, you have first to abstract all those parts that do not belong to man at all, before you can build up a true idea of the human form. Then, and only then, are you in a position to do this.
The truth is, the whole form of man has been put together by forces working from without. It receives its distinctive character from outside itself, and we do not understand the form of man so long as we consider it merely as it appears at first sight; we only understand it when we know how it is connected with the whole cosmos of space, when we are able to see how from right and left, from above and below, from before and behind, Luciferic and Ahrimanic forces are bearing in upon man, and giving him the character of a being of space.
And now, my dear friends, this is also the way in which you must approach something else that has been shaped and formed in accordance with the true cosmic working in the world. I mean our building here in Dornach. If you look at the Goetheanum [ The first building, destroyed by fire on New Year's Eve, 1922/23. ] merely in its outward appearance, you might be disposed to think that the actual building itself, the space occupied by the wood, was the most important part. That is, however, by no means the case. The most important part is what, judging by appearances, does not exist! Take any one of the forms; the essential part of that form is not the shaped and sculptured wood, but is where there is nothing — where the air bounds the wood. The way to obtain the true and real Goetheanum would be to take an immense mound of wax and make a model of the inside of the building, and then study this model or impression. What you go into when you enter the building, what you stand within and cannot see but can only feel — that is the thing that matters. I said once on a former occasion that our building is built on the principle of a “Gugelhopf” [ A shaped cake made in Vienna. Note by Translator. ] cake mould. Imagine you have a tin mould and you bake your cake in it. Which is the more important — the mould or the cake? Obviously the cake. What matters is that the cake should receive the proper “Gugelhopf” shape. As far as the mould is concerned, all that matters is that the mixture, when it is poured into the mould and baked, should turn into a cake of the desired form.
Similarly, in our building it is not the surrounding walls that are of importance, it is what is enclosed within the surrounding walls. And within the walls will be the feelings and thoughts of the people who are in the building. These will develop aright if those who are in the building turn their eyes to its boundary, feel the forms and then fill these forms with forms of thought. What is inside the building will be like the cake, and what we build is the mould that holds and shapes the cake. And the mould has to be of such a kind that it leads to the development of right thoughts and right feelings. This is the principle underlying the new art in contradistinction to the art of olden times. In the art of olden times the essential thing was what is outside in space; but in the new art something else is of account. What is outside is no more than the mould, and the essential thing cannot really be created by the artist at all, it is what is within.
Nor is this true only of plastic forms. It is equally true of painting. The important thing is, not what is painted, but the experience in feeling to which the painting gives rise. Painting too is no more than a cake mould!
The truth is, my dear friends, we have here touched the very heart and core of the moment in evolution in which we stand. This is the step in evolution that has now to be taken, the step forgive the trivial comparison — from the cake mould to the cake. The cake is in this case the Spiritual; to enter into the world of the Spirit — that is the direction in which all our endeavor must now be set. If we fail to recognize this fact, we shall never be able to appraise correctly what we are trying to do here in art. For if we look at this art from the standpoint of the old, we can very easily exclaim: “But I see nothing beautiful in it!” We mean, I see no beautiful cake mould — never suspecting that the mould is not what matters at all, but the cake that is to be inside it. When we once understand this principle in art, my dear friends, we shall be very near understanding the whole meaning and significance of the step forward in spiritual evolution which is to be made through Spiritual Science. Through Spiritual Science man must learn to work his way out of the “Gugelhopf” mould into the “Gugelhopf” itself. He must, for example, get free of the superstition that the origin of thought lies in the brain processes, when as a matter of fact in the processes that go on in the brain cosmic processes are at work and conflicts are being waged between Lucifer and Ahriman. Man must learn to see that the thoughts and feelings of the human soul are tracks graven into the twistings and turnings of these conflicts and have nothing to do with the material processes — in other words, with the Luciferic and Ahrimanic processes.
Let me draw another comparison. Suppose we were to go into a beautiful garden — beautiful particularly in the whole arrangement and lay-out of the flower beds — and we wanted to pronounce an opinion on this beautiful garden. And suppose we were able to look down a hole in the earth and spied there a little underground imp who said to us: “I will tell you how it is that here are roses and over there are violets, and why you find a bush in one place and flowers in another. For I creep about all the time under the surface, and I can see the earth and the soil which has caused all these flowers — violets, roses and the rest — to spring up.” We could answer: “Yes, you describe these processes very nicely; all that you tell me is quite true and must necessarily happen. But for the garden to come into existence as I see it, something else is required — gardeners must have been at work there. They work, however, in a region which you have never seen and about which you have never troubled your head at all.”
In like manner, we must learn to say to the anatomist and physiologist: “I find your activity when I look down through a hole in the earth. Down there you are creeping about and discovering processes which certainly have to take place, but which have nothing at all to do with what takes place in the soul and spirit above ground. And you will only be able to interpret correctly what takes place down below, when you study the relationships that hold sway between the Luciferic and Ahrimanic worlds and those other hierarchies who bring Lucifer and Ahriman into balance.”
Here we must refer to another fact in human evolution, that has hitherto only had influence in man's conception of the Ego, but that we shall learn to know in a much fuller and wider way through Spiritual Science. A time will come in the future when men will say: “We are told in the Bible of the breath of Jehovah which was breathed into man. But into what part of man was the breath breathed?”
If you recall all that I have said in this lecture, you will be able to see that the region into which the breath was breathed is the intervening region that is in between the onsets from before and behind and from above and below — there, in the middle, where Jehovah created man, as it were in the form of a cube. There it was that he so filled man with His own being, with His own magic breath, that the influence of this magic breath was able to extend into the regions in the rest of man that belong to Lucifer and Ahriman. Here in the midst, bounded above and below and before and behind, is an intervening space where the breath of Jehovah enters directly into the spatial human being.
What I have been giving you in this lecture is spoken in respect of the human being of physical space. As you see, even here we can widen our outlook and learn to behold man as he stands within the cosmos. But there are also moral and spiritual aspects of what is apparently external and spatial. And in these aspects too, where the workings of the human soul are concerned — if not in so striking a way as in the case of spatial man, yet here too, what meets us at first is found to be no reality, but only a phantasmagoria. In morality, in logic and in all the activity of the soul, Lucifer and Ahriman are working one upon the other, and man stands at the boundary between them. Of this most important and significant chapter in the understanding of the human being we will speak tomorrow.