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Historical Necessity and Freewill
GA 179

4. The Rhythmical Relationship of Man with the Universe and with the World of the Dead

11 December 1917, Dornach

The subject that we shall discuss now is a very wide one, and today it will not be possible to deal with it as extensively as I should have liked. But we shall continue these considerations later on. In these considerations, I should like to give you a basis for the understanding of freedom and necessity, so that you may obtain a picture of what must be considered from an occult point of view, in order to understand the course of the social, historical and ethical-moral life of man.

We emphasized that, as far as the life between birth and death is concerned, we only experience in a waking condition what we perceive through the senses, what reaches us through our sense-impressions and what we experience in our thoughts. Man dreams through everything contained as living reality in his feelings, and he sleeps through everything contained as deeper necessity, in the impulses of his will, everything existing as the deeper reality. In the life of our feelings and of our will we live in the same spheres which we inhabit with the so-called dead.

Let us first form a conception of what is really contained in the life of our senses from an exterior aspect. We can picture the sense-impressions as if they were spread out before us—I might say, like a carpet. Of course, we must imagine that this carpet contains also the impressions of our hearing, the impressions of the twelve senses, such as we know them through Anthroposophy. You know that in reality there are twelve senses. This carpet of the sense impressions covers, as it were, a reality “lying behind”—if I may use this expression (but I am speaking in comparisons). This reality lying behind the sense perceptions must not be imagined as the scientist imagines the world of the atoms, or as a certain philosophical direction imagines the “thing in itself.” In my public lectures I have emphasized that when we look for the “thing in itself,” as it is done in modern philosophy and in the Kant-philosophy, this implies more or less the same as breaking the mirror to see what is behind it, in order to find the reality of beings that we see in a mirror. I do not speak in this sense of something behind the sense perceptions; what I mean is something spiritual behind the sense-perceptions, something spiritual in which we ourselves are embedded, but which cannot reach the usual consciousness of man between birth and death. If we could solve the riddle contained in the carpet of sense perceptions as a first step toward the attainment of the spiritual reality, so that we would see more than the manifold impressions of our sense-impulses—what would we see, in this first stage of solving the riddle, of solving spiritually the riddle of the carpet woven by our senses? Let us look into this question.

It will surprise us what we must describe as that which first appears to us. What we first see is a number of forces; all aim at permeating with impulses our entire life from our birth—or let us say, from our conception—to our death. When trying to solve the riddle of this carpet of the senses, we would not see our life in its single events, but we would see its entire organization. At first it would not strike us as something so strange; for, on this first stage of penetrating into the secret of the sense-perceptions, we would find ourselves, not such as we are now, in this moment, but such as we are throughout our entire life between birth and death. This life, that does not extend as far as our physical body, and that cannot be perceived, therefore, with the physical senses, permeates our etheric body, our body of formative forces. And our body of formatives forces is, essentially, the expression of this life that could be perceived if we could eliminate the senses, or the sense-impressions. If the carpet of the senses could be torn, as it were (and we tear it when we ascend to a spiritual vision) man finds his own self, the self as it is organized for this incarnation on earth, in which he makes this observation. But, as stated, the senses cannot perceive this.

With what can we perceive this? Man already possesses the instrument needed for such a perception, but on a stage of evolution that still renders a real perception impossible. What we would thus perceive cannot reach the eye, nor the ear—cannot enter any sense organ. Instead—please grasp this well—it is breathed in, it is sucked in with the breath. The etheric foundation of our lung (the physical lung is out of the question, for, such as it is, the lung is not a real perceptive organ) that which lies etherically at the foundation of our lung, is really an organ of perception, but between birth and death the human being cannot use it as an organ of perception for what he breathes in. The air we breathe, every breath of air and the way in which it enters the whole rhythm of our life, really contains our deeper reality between birth and death. But things are arranged in such a way that here on the physical plane the foundation of our entire lung-system is in an unfinished condition, and has not advanced as far as the capacity of perceiving. If we were to investigate what constitutes its etheric foundation, we would find, on investigating this and on grasping it rightly, that it is, in reality, exactly the same thing as our brain and sense organs from a physical aspect, here in the physical world. At the foundation of our lung-system we find a brain in an earlier stage of evolution; we might say, in an infantile stage of evolution. Also in this connection we bear within us, as it were (I say purposely, “as it were”), a second human being. It will not be wrong if you imagine that you also possess an etheric head—except that this etheric head cannot yet be used as an organ of perception in our everyday life. But it has the possibility of perceptive capacity for that which lies behind the body of formative forces, as that which builds up this body of formative forces. However, that which lies behind the etheric body as creative force is the element into which we enter when we pass through the portal of death. Then we lay aside the etheric body. But we enter into that which is active and productive in this body of formatives forces. Perhaps it may be difficult to imagine this; but it will be good if you try to think this out to the end.

Let us imagine the physical organization of the head and the physical organization of the lung; from the universe come cosmic impulses that express themselves rhythmically in the movements of the lungs. Through our lungs we are related with the entire universe, and the entire universe works at our etheric body. When we pass through the portal of death, we lay aside the etheric body. We enter that which is active in our lung-system, and this is connected with the entire universe. This accounts for the surprising consonance to be found in the rhythm of human life and the rhythm of breathing. I have already explained that when we calculate the number of breaths we draw in one day, we obtain 25,920 breaths a day, by taking as the basis 18 breaths a minute (hence 18 x 60 x 24). Man breathes in and breathes out; this constitutes his rhythm, his smallest rhythm to start with. Then there is another rhythm in life, as I have already explained before—namely, that every morning when we awake we breathe into our physical system, as it were, our soul being, the astral body and the ego, and we breathe them out again when we fall asleep. We do this during our whole life. Let us take an average length of life—then we can make the following calculation:—We breathe in and breathe out our own being 365 times a year; if we take 71 years as the average length of human life, we obtain 25,915. you see, more or less the same number. (Life differs according to the single human being.) We find that in the life between birth and death we breathe in and out 25,920 times what we call our real self. Thus we may say;—There is the same relationship between ourselves and the world to which we belong as there is between the breath we draw in and the elements around. During our life we live in the same rhythm in which we live during our day through our breathing. Again, if we take our life—let us say, approximately 71 years, and if we consider this life as a cosmic day (we will call a human life a cosmic day), we obtain a cosmic year by multiplying this by 365. The result is 25,920 (again, approximately one year). In this length of time, in 25,920 years, the sun returns to the same constellation of the Zodiac. If the sun is in Aries in a certain year, it will rise again in Aries after 25,920 years. In the course of 25,920 years the sun moves around the entire Zodiac. Thus, when an entire human life is breathed out into the cosmos, this is a cosmic breath, which is in exactly the same relationship with the cosmic course of the sun around the Zodiac as one breath in one day in life. Here we have deep inner order of laws! Everything is built up on rhythm. We breathe in a threefold way, or at least we are placed into the breathing process in a threefold way. First, we breathe through our lungs in the elementary region; this rhythm is contained in the number 25,920. Then we breathe within the entire solar system, by taking sunrise and sunset as parallel to our falling asleep and awaking; through our life we breathe in a rhythm that is again contained in the number 25,920. Finally, the cosmos breathes us in and out, again in a rhythm determined by the number 25,920—the sun's course around the Zodiac.

Thus we stand within the whole visible universe; at its foundation lies the invisible universe. When we pass through the portal of death we enter this invisible universe. Rhythmical life is the life that lies at the foundation of our feelings. We enter the rhythmical life of the universe in the time between death and a new birth. This rhythmical life lies behind the carpet woven by our senses, as the life that determines our etheric life. If we would have a clairvoyant consciousness, we would see this cosmic rhythm that is, as it were, a rhythmical, surging cosmic ocean of an astral kind. In this rhythmically surging astral ocean we find the so-called dead, the beings of the higher hierarchies and what belongs to us, but beneath the threshold. There arise the feelings that we dream away, and the impulses of the will that we sleep away, in their true reality.

We may ask, in a comparison, as it were, and without becoming theological: Why has a wise cosmic guidance arranged matters so that man—such as he is between birth and death—cannot perceive the rhythmical life behind the carpet of the senses? Why is the human head, the hidden head that corresponds to the lung-system, not suitable for an adequate perception? This leads us to a truth which was kept secret, one might say, right into our days, by the occult schools in question, because other secrets are connected with it; these must not be revealed—or should not have been revealed so far. But our period is one in which such things must reach the consciousness of mankind.

The occult schools that were inaugurated here and there keep such things secret for reasons that will not be explained today. They still keep them secret, although today these things must be brought to the consciousness of mankind. Since the last third of the nineteenth century, means and ways were given whereby that which occult schools have kept back (in an unjustified way, in many cases) becomes obsolete. This is connected with the event that I mentioned to you—the event which took place in the autumn of 1879. Now we can only lift the outer veil of this mystery; but even this outer veil is one of the most important pieces of knowledge concerning man. It is indeed a head that we bear within us as the head of a second man; it is a head, but also a body belongs to this head, and this body is, at first, the body of an animal. Thus we bear within us a second human being. This second human being possesses a properly formed head, but attached to it, the body of an animal—a real centaur. The centaur is a truth, an etheric truth.

It is important to bear in mind that a relatively great wisdom is active in this being—a wisdom connected with the entire cosmic rhythm. The head belonging to this centaur sees the cosmic rhythm in which it is embedded, also during the existence between death and a new birth. It is the cosmic rhythm that has been shown in a threefold way, also in numbers—the rhythm on which many secrets of the universe are based. This head is much wiser than our physical head. All human beings bear within them another far wiser being—the centaur. But in spite of his wisdom, this centaur is equipped with all the wild instincts of the animals.

Now you will understand the wisdom of the guiding forces of the universe. Man could not be given a consciousness which is, on the one hand, strong and able to see through the cosmic rhythm, and on the other hand, uncontrolled and full of wild instincts. But the centaur's animal nature—please connect this with what I have told you in other lectures dealing with this subject from another point of view—is tamed and conquered in the next incarnation, during his passage through the world of cosmic rhythms between death and a new birth. The foundation of our lung-system in the present incarnation appears as our physical head, although this is dulled down to an understanding limited to the senses, and what lies at the basis of our lung-system appears as an entire human being whose wild instincts are tamed in the next incarnation. The centaur of this incarnation is, in the next incarnation, the human being endowed with sense perception.

Now you will be able to grasp something else:—You will understand why I said that, during man' s existence between death and a new birth, the animal realm is his lowest realm and that he must conquer its forces. What must he do? In what work must he be engaged between two incarnations? He must fulfill the task of transforming the centaur, the animal in him, into a human form for the next incarnation. This work requires a real knowledge embracing the impulses of the whole animal realm; in the age of Chiron, men possessed this knowledge atavistically, in a weaker form. Although the knowledge of Chiron is a knowledge weakened by this incarnation, it is of the same kind. Now you see the connection. You see why man needs this lower realm between death and a new birth; he must master it; he needs it because he must transform the centaur into a human being.

What Anthroposophy sets forth has been attained only in single flashes outside the occult schools. There have always been a few men who discovered these things, as if in flashes. Especially in the nineteenth century a few scattered spirits had an inkling, as it were, that something resembling the taming of wild instincts can be found in man. Some writers speak of this. And the way in which they speak of these things shows how this knowledge frightens them. High spiritual truths cannot be gained with the same ease as scientific truths, which can be digested so comfortably by the mind. These high truths often have this quality; their reality scares us. In the nineteenth century some spirits were scared and tremendously moved when they discovered what speaks out of the human eye that can look round so wildly at times, or out of other things in man. One of the writers of the nineteenth century expressed himself in an extreme manner by saying that every man really bears within him a murderer. He meant this centaur, of whom he was dimly conscious.

It must be emphasized again and again that human nature contains enigmas which must be solved gradually. These things must be borne in mind courageously and calmly. But they must not become trivial, because they make human consciousness approach the great earnestness of life. In this age it is our task to see the earnest aspect of life, to see the serious things that are approaching and that announce themselves in such terrible signs.

This is one aspect, preparing the way for certain considerations that I shall continue very soon. The other aspect is as follows:—Man passes through the portal of death. Last time I mentioned the great change in man's entire way of experiencing things, by showing you how a connection with the dead is established—what we tell him seems to come out of the depths of our own being. In the intercourse with the dead the reciprocal relationships are reversed. When you associate with a human being here on earth, you can hear yourself speaking to him—you hear what you tell him, and you hear from him what he tells you. When you are in communication with the dead, his words rise out of your own soul, and what you tell him reaches you like an echo coming from the dead. You cannot hear what you tell him as something coming from yourself; you hear this as something coming from him. I wished to give you an example of the great difference between the physical world in which we live between birth and death, and the world in which we live between death and a new birth.

We look into this world when we contemplate it from a certain standpoint. When we look through the carpet woven by our senses, we look into the rhythm of the world—but this rhythm has two aspects. I will show you these two aspects of the rhythm in a diagram, by drawing here, let us say, a number of stars—planets if you like [The drawing can not be rendered.]. Here are a number of stars or planets—the planetary system, if you like, belonging to our Earth. Man passes through this planetary system in the time between death and a new birth. (A printed cycle of lectures contains details on these things.) Man passes through the planetary system. But in passing through the world which is still the invisible world, he also reaches—between death and a new birth—the world which is no longer visible, and is not even spatial. These things are difficult to describe, because when we imagine anything in the physical world we are used to imagine it spatially. But beyond the world that can be perceived through the senses lies a world which is no longer spatial. In a diagram I must illustrate this spatially. The ancients said:--Beyond the planets lies the sphere of the fixed stars (this is expressed wrongly, but this does not matter now), and beyond this lies the super-sensible world. The ancients pictured it spatially, but this is merely a picture of this world.

When man has entered this super-sensible world, in the time between death and a new birth, one can say (although this is also rendered in a picture):—Man is then beyond the stars, and the stars themselves are used by man, between death and a new birth, for a kind of reading. Between death and a new birth, the stars are used by man for a kind of reading. Let us realize this clearly. How do we read here on earth? When we read here on earth we have approximately twelve consonants and seven vowels with various variations; we arrange these letters in many ways into words; we mix these letters together. Think how a typographer throws together the letters in order to form words. All the words consist of the limited number of letters that we possess. For the dead, the fixed stars of the Zodiac and the planets are what the letters—approximately twelve consonants and seven vowels—are for us, here on the physical plane. The fixed stars of the Zodiac correspond to the consonants; the planets are the vowels. Beyond the starry heaven, the outlook is peripheral. (Between birth and death, man's outlook is from a center; here on the earth he has his eye, and from there his gaze rays out to the various points.) It is most difficult of all to imagine that things are reversed after death so that we see peripherally. We are really in the circumference, and we see the Zodiac-starsthe consonants and the planets—the vowels, from outside. Thus we look from outside at the events taking place on earth. According to the part of our being which we imbue with life, we look down on the earth through the Taurus and Mars, or we look through the Taurus, in between Mars and Jupiter. (You must not picture this from the earthly standpoint, but reversed—for you are looking down on the earth.) When you are dead and circle round the earth, you read with the help of the starry system. But you must picture this kind of reading differently. We could read in another way, but it would be more difficult, from a technical aspect, than our present reading system. It is possible to read differently—we could read in such a way that we have a sequence of letters—a, b, c, d, e, f, g, etc.—or arranged according to another system and instead of arranging them in the type-case, we could read in the following way:—If the word “he” is to be read, a ray of light falls on h and e; if “goes” is to be read, a ray falls on g, o, e, s. The sequence of the letters could be there, and they could be illuminated as required. It would not be arranged so comfortably, from a technical aspect—but you can picture an earthly life in which reading is arranged in this way—an alphabet is there, and then there would be some arrangement which always illuminates one letter at a time; then we can read the sequence of the illuminated letters, and obtain as a result, Goethe's Faust for instance.

This cannot be imagined so easily; yet it is possible to imagine this, is it not?

The dead reads in this way, with the aid of the starry system: the fixed stars remain immobile, but he moves—for he is in movement—the fixed stars remain still and he moves round. If he must read the Lion above Jupiter, he moves round in such a way that the Lion stands above Jupiter. He connects the stars, just as we connect h and e in order to read “he.” This reading of the earthly conditions from the cosmos—and the visible cosmos belongs to this—consists in this—The dead can read that which lies spiritually at the foundation of the stars. Except that the entire system is based on immobility—the entire godly system of reading from out the universe is based on immobility.

What does this mean? This means that according to the intentions of certain beings of the higher hierarchies, the planets should be immobile, they should have an immobile aspect; then the being outside engaged in reading would be the only one moving about. The events on the earth could be read rightly from out the universe if the planets would not move, if the planets had an immobile position.

But they are not immobile! Why not? They would be so, if the world's creation had proceeded in such a way that the Spirits of Form, or the Exusiai alone, had created the world.

But the luciferic spirits participated in this work, and interfered—as you already know. Luciferic spirits brought to the earth what used to be law during the Moon-period of the Earth, where several things were governed by the Spirits of Form; luciferic spirits brought this system of movement to the Earth from the Moon-period. They caused the planets' movement. A luciferic element in the cosmic spaces brought the planets into movement. In a certain respect this disturbs the order created by the Elohim; a luciferic element enters the cosmos. It is that luciferic element which man must learn to know between death and a new birth; he must learn to know it by deducting, as it were, in what he reads, that which comes from the movement of the planets, or the moving stars. He must deduct this—then he will obtain the right result.

Indeed, between death and a new birth we learn a great deal concerning the sway and activity of the luciferic element in the universe. Such a thing, like the course of the planets, is connected with the luciferic.

This is the other side that I wished to point out. But from this you will see the connection between the other life between death and new birth, and the present life. We might say that the world has two aspects; here, between birth and death we see one aspect, through our senses. Between death and a new birth we see it from the reversed side, with the soul's eye. And between death and a new birth, we learn to read the conditions here on earth in relationship with the spiritual world. Try to realize this, try to imagine these conditions. Then you will have to confess that it is, indeed, deeply significant to say that the world which we first learn to know through our senses and our understanding is an illusion, a Maya. As soon as we approach the real world, we find that the world that we know is related to this real world in the same way in which the reflection in the mirror is related to the living reality before the mirror, which is reflected in it. If you have a mirror, with several shapes reflected in it, this shows that there are shapes outside the mirror, which are reflected by the mirror. Suppose that you look into the mirror as a disinterested spectator. The three figures which I have drawn here [diagram not available] fight against each other; in the mirror you see them fighting. This shows that the mirrored figures do something, but you cannot say that the figure A, there in the mirror, beats the figure B in the mirror! What you see in the mirror is the image of the fight, because the figures outside the mirror are doing something.

If you believe that A, there in the mirror, or the reflected image of A, does something to B, there in the mirror, you are quite mistaken. You cannot set up comparisons and connections between the reflected images, but you can only say:—What is reflected in the mirrored images points to something in the world of reality, which is reflected. But the world given to man is a mirror, a Maya, and in this world man sees causes and effects. When you speak of this world of causes and effects, it is just as if you were to believe that the mirrored image A beats the mirrored image B. Something happens among the real beings reflected by the mirror, but the impulses leading to the fight are not to be found in the mirrored A and in the mirrored B. Investigate nature and its laws; you will find, at first, that such as it appears to your senses it is a Maya, a reflection or a mirrored picture. The reality lies beneath the threshold which I have indicated to you, the threshold between the life of thought and the life of feelings. Even your own reality is not contained at all in your waking consciousness; your own reality is contained in the spiritual reality; it is dipped into the dreaming and sleeping worlds of feeling and of will. Thus it is nonsense to speak of a causing necessity in the world of Maya—and it is also nonsense to speak of cause and effect in the course of history! It is real nonsense! To this I should like to add that it is nonsense to say that the events of 1914 are the result of events in 1913, 1912, etc. This is just as clever as saying:—This A in the mirror is a bad fellow; he beats the poor B, there in the mirror! What matters is to find the true reality. And this lies beneath the threshold, which must be crossed by going down into the world of feeling and of will—and does not enter our usual waking consciousness.

You see, we must interpret in another way the idea that “something had to happen” or “something was needed;” we cannot interpret it as the ordinary historians or scientists do this. We must ask:--Who are the real beings that produced the events of a later period, which followed an earlier one? The preceding historical events are merely the mirrored reflections—they cannot be the cause of what took place subsequently.

This, again, is one side of the question. The other side will be clear to you if you realize that only a Maya is contained in the waking reality embraced by our thoughts and by our sense perceptions. This Maya cannot be the cause of anything. It cannot be a real cause. But pure thoughts can determine man's actions. This is a fact taught by experience, if man is not led to deeds by passions, desires and instincts, but by clear thoughts. This is possible and can take place—pure ideals can be the impulses of human actions. But ideals alone cannot effect anything. I can carry out an action under the influence of a pure idea; but the idea cannot effect anything.

In order to understand this, compare once more the idea with the mirrored image. The reflection in the mirror cannot cause you to run away. If you run away it displeases you, or something is there which has nothing to do with the reflection in the mirror. The reflection in the mirror cannot take a whip and cause you to run away. This image cannot be the cause of anything. When a human being fulfills actions under the influence of his reflected image, i.e., his thoughts, he fulfills them out of the Maya; he carries out his actions out of the cosmic mirror. It is he who carries out the actions, and for this reason he acts freely. But when he is led by his passions, his actions are not free; he is not free, even if he is led by his feelings. He is free when he is led by his thoughts, that are mere reflections, or mirrored images. For this reason I have explained in my The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity that man can act freely and independently if he is guided by pure thoughts, pure thinking, because pure thoughts cannot cause or produce anything, so that the causing force must come from somewhere else. I have used the same image again in my book The Riddle of Man. We are free human beings because we carry out actions under the influence of Maya, and because this Maya, or the world immediately around us, cannot bring about or cause anything. Our freedom is based on the fact that the world that we perceive is Maya. The human being united himself in wedlock with Maya, and thus becomes a free being. If the world that we perceive were a reality, this reality would compel us, and we would not be free. We are free beings just because the world which we perceive is not a reality and for this reason it cannot force us to do anything, in the same way in which a mirrored reflection cannot force us to run away. The secret of the free human being consists in this—to realize the connection of the world perceived as Maya—the mere reflection of a reality—and the impulses coming from man himself The impulses must come from man himself, when he is not induced to an action by something that influences him.

Freedom can be proved quite clearly if the proofs are sought on this basis:—That the world given to us as a perception is a mirrored reflection and not a reality.

These are thoughts that pave the way. I wish to speak to you about things that lie at the foundation of human nature—that part of human nature that can perceive reality and has not attained the required maturity in one incarnation, but must be weakened in order to become man in the next incarnation. The centaur, of whom I spoke to you, who is to be found beneath the threshold of consciousness, would be able to perceive truth and reality, but the centaur cannot as yet perceive. What we perceive is not a reality! But man can let himself be determined by that part of his being which is no longer, or is not yet, a centaur; then his actions will be those of a free being. The secret of our freedom is intimately connected with the taming of our centaur-nature. This centaur-nature is contained in us in such a way that it is chained and fettered, so that we may not perceive the reality of the centaur, but only the Maya. If we let ourselves be impelled by Maya, we are free.

This is looked upon from one side. From the other side we learn to know the world between death and a new birth. That which otherwise surrounds us as the universe shrivels up, and enables us to read in the cosmos; the physical letters are a reflection of this. The fact that languages contain today a larger number of letters (the Finnish languages has still only twelve consonants) is due to the different shadings; but, essentially, there are twelve consonants and seven differently shaded vowels. The various shadings in the vowels were added by the luciferic element; what causes the vowels to move corresponds to the movement of the planets.

Thus you see the connection of that which exists in human life on a small scale; the connection between the reading of the letters that are here on the paper, and that which lives outside, in the cosmos. Man is born out of the cosmos, and is not only the result of what preceded him in the line of heredity.

These are some of the foundations that will enable us gradually to reach the real conceptions of freedom and necessity in the historical, social and ethical-moral course of events.