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Man—Hieroglyph of the Universe
GA 201

Lecture Four

16 April 1920, Dornach

The fundamental nature and construction of the Universe cannot be conceived in its reality without continual reference to Man. Again and again we must try to find in the Universe outside, what exists in one way or another in Man. We will use these next three lectures for the purpose of obtaining, from just this point of view, a kind of plastically formed picture of the world, which can then lead on to the answer of the question: What is the relation between morality and natural law in Man?

When we study Man (I am here only repeating things that have already been spoken and written of from various standpoints) we find him first of all organised into what we may call higher Man and lower Man; and then we have what forms the connection between the two—the rhythmic Man, equalising or balancing the other two parts.

We have to observe first of all that a complete difference exists in the laws governing the upper and lower parts of man. We can realise this difference when we consider the fact that the ‘upper man’, who is regulated by the head, is in its origin the outcome of entirely different laws, belonging as it does to a different world from the world of the senses.

That part of us which in our last incarnation was a result of forces of the sense world, namely the limb man, has become what it now is, the head man, through a metamorphosis which takes place between death and a new birth—not in relation, of course, to the outer form, but in regard to the forces of formation. What is now the limb man becomes entirely transformed in its forces—transmuted in its super-sensible constitution between death and a new birth, and appears in our new Earth-life incorporated out of the Universe into our constitution. On to this is suspended, as it were, the rest of man—formed out of the world of sense. This fact we can find already proved clearly from Embryology, if we would only think rationally about embryonic facts. And thereby we have in our head organisation a system of laws not belonging to this world at all, save only at its origin—that is, in so far as it was present in a previous incarnation. But all that which has caused the transformation of limb man to head man is active in an entirely different world—the world wherein we live, in the interval between death and a new birth. Here, then, another world penetrates the world of the senses. Another world is manifested in the head organism of Man. In a certain sense the external world is brought into correspondence with this other world, in that the head projects the principal sense-organs outwards. The world that is extended in space and that runs its course in time, is perceived by man through his senses; it penetrates into man through his senses, and so it too belongs in a certain sense to the head organism. In relation to our limb man on the other hand, we are in a state of sleep. I have often spoken of this sleep-state of man in relation to his Will nature, in relation to all that exists in the limb man. We do not know how we move our limbs, how the will causes the movement; we only examine the movement afterwards as an outer phenomenon through our senses. We are asleep in our limb organisation, in the same sense as we are asleep in the Universe between going to sleep and awaking.

So here we have before us an entirely different world. We can say: we have a world which outwardly manifests all that speaks to our senses—all that we perceive through eyes, ears, etc. To this world we belong through that portion of ourselves which we have called the head man. Our connection with the world that lies behind this one is brought about by the limb man, but in it we are unconscious; we sleep into this world, whether we do so in the domain of our Will, or whether we sleep into the Universe between our going to sleep and our waking.

These two worlds are actually so constituted that the one is turned towards us, and the other away from us, as it were; it lies behind the world of sense although we have our origin in it. Man felt in olden times—and the East still feels it—that a reconciliation between the two is possible. As you know, we in the West search for the reconciliation in a different way; but the Easterns, even today, a line (sketch) still attempt to find it in a relatively conscious way, although their methods are already antiquated for the present humanity. The act of eating is symbolised by a line (sketch), for when we take food, the process following takes place in the sphere of sleep (unconsciously). We are not aware of what is really happening when we eat an egg or a cabbage; it takes place in the unconscious like the happenings of sleep. The cabbage and the egg manifest their exterior to our sense-perception. But the eating really belongs to the completely different world. The reconciliation however, is to be found in our breathing.

Although the latter is to a certain extent unconscious, it is not so in so great a degree as our eating. In spite of the fact that our breathing is not so conscious as our hearing and seeing, it is more conscious than the process of digestion for example; and while in the East today, the attempt to make the digestive process a conscious one has, as a rule, ceased (this used to be done in olden times), the breathing process is still in a certain sense brought up into consciousness. (The snake raises the process of digestion into consciousness, but the consciousness of the snake is of course not to be compared with human consciousness). There is a certain training of the breathing, where the inhaling and exhaling are regulated in such a way that the process is transformed into a sense-perception. Thus we find respiration inserted, as it were, between conscious sense-perception and the complete unconsciousness of assimilation and transmutation of physical matter. Man in fact dwells in three worlds; the one sensible to his consciousness, the other of which he remains entirely unconscious, and the third (breathing) acting as a connecting link or mediator between the two.

Now it is a fact that the process of breathing is also a kind of assimilation; at all events, it is a material process, though taking place in a more rarefied manner; it is an intermediate state between actual transmutation of matter assimilation and the process of sense-perception, the completely conscious experience of the external world.

In the state in which we find ourselves between falling asleep and awaking, we experience in the environment which then surrounds us, events which only enter into our every-day consciousness as dreams. Here man steps across into the world which is marked in our sketch, and the dreams reveal through their very nature how Man steps across. Consider for a moment how nearly related are dreams to the process of respiration—the rhythm of breathing—how often you can trace this rhythm in its after-workings when you dream. Man steps across the border, as it were, of the world of consciousness, when he dips ever so slightly into this other world in which he is when he sleeps or when he dreams. There lies also the world of ‘Imaginations’. In ‘Imaginations’ it is for us a fully conscious world, we have conscious perception in that world, which we merely sip, as it were, in our dreams.

We shall now have to consider a correspondence that is found to exist, an absolute correspondence, in respect of Number. I have already often drawn your attention to this correspondence between Man and the world in which he evolves. I have pointed to the fact that Man, in his rhythm of breathing—18 per minute—manifests something that is in remarkable accord with other processes of the Universe. We make 18 respirations per minute, which gives when calculated for the day, 25,920 respirations. And we arrive at the same number when we calculate how many days are contained in a normal life term of 72 years. That also gives about 25,920 days; so that something may be said to exhale our astral body and Ego, on falling asleep and inhale them again upon waking—always in conformity with the same number rhythm.

And again, when we consider how the Sun moves—whether apparently or really, does not matter—advancing a little each year in what we call the precession of the equinoxes, when we consider the number of years it takes the Sun to make this journey round the whole Zodiac, once more we get 25,920 years—the Platonic year.

The fact is, this human life of ours, within the boundaries set by birth and death, is indeed fashioned, down to its most infinitesimal processes—as we have seen in the breathing—in accordance with the laws of the Universe. But in the correspondence we have observed up to now between the Macrocosm and Man the Microcosm, we have made our observations in a realm where the correspondence is obvious and evident. There are however, other very important correspondences. For example, consider the following. I want to lead you through Number to something else I have to bring before you. Take the 18 respirations per minute, making 1,080 per hour and in 24 hours 25,920 respirations; that is, we must multiply: 18 X 60 X 24 in order to arrive at 25,920.

Taking this as the cycle of the precession of the equinoxes, and dividing it by 6o and again by 24, we would naturally get 18 years. And what do these 18 years really mean? Consider—these 25,920 respirations correspond to a human day of 24 hours; in other words, this 24 hour day is the day of the Microcosm. 18 respirations may serve as the unit of rhythm.

And now take the complete circle described by the precession of the equinoxes, and call it, not a Platonic year, but a great Day of the Heavens, a Macrocosmic day. How long would one respiration on this scale have to occupy to correspond with the human respiration? Its duration would have to be 18 years—a respiration made by the Being corresponding to the Macrocosm.

If we take the statements of modern astronomy—we need not interpret them here, we shall speak of their meaning later—we shall find that it is a matter of indifference whether we assume that the motion of the Sun is apparent, or the motion of the Earth; that does not concern us—but let us now take that which the Astronomer of today calls Nutation of the Earth's Axis.

You are aware that the Earth's axis lies obliquely upon the Ecliptic, and that the Astronomers speak of an oscillation of the Earth's axis around this point and they call this ‘Nutation’. The axis completes one revolution around this point in just about 18 years (it is really 18 years, 7 months, but we need not consider the fraction, although it is quite possible to calculate this too with exactitude.) But with these 18 years something else is intimately connected. For it is not merely on the fact of ‘Nutation’—this ‘trembling’, this rotation of the Earth's axis in a double cone around the Earth's centre, and the period of 18 years for its completion—it is not only on this fact that we have to fix our minds, but we find that simultaneously with it another process takes place. The Moon appears each year in a different position because, like the Sun, she ascends and descends from the ecliptic, proceeding in a kind of oscillating motion again and again towards the Equator ecliptic. And every 18 years she appears once more in the same position she occupied 18 years before. You see there is a connection between this Nutation and the path of the Moon. Nutation in truth indicates nothing else than the Moon's path. It is the projection of the motion of the Moon. So that we can in actual reality observe the “breathing” of the Macrocosm. We only need notice the path of the Moon in 18 years or, in other words, the Nutation of the Earth's axis. The Earth dances, and she dances in such a manner as to describe a cone, a double cone, in 18 years, and this dancing is a reflection of the macrocosmic breathing. This takes place just as many times in the macrocosmic year as the 18 human respirations during the microcosmic day of 24 hours.

So we really have one macrocosmic respiration per minute in this Nutation movement. In other words, we look into this breathing of the Macrocosm through this Nutation movement of the Moon, and we have before us what corresponds to respiration in man. And now, what is the purport of all this? The meaning of it is that as we pass from waking to sleep, or only from the wholly conscious to the dream state, we enter another world, and over against the ordinary laws of day, years, etc., and also the Platonic year, we find in this insertion of a Moon rhythm, something that has the same relationship in the Macrocosm, as breathing, the semiconscious process of respiration, has to our full consciousness. We have therefore not only to consider a world which is spread out before us, but another world which projects into, and permeates our own.

Just as we have before us a second part of the human organism, when observing the breathing process, namely the rhythmic man, as opposed to the perceptive or head man, so we have in what appears as the yearly Moon motion, or rather the 18-year motion of the Moon, the identity between one year and one human respiration; we have this second world interpenetrating our own.

There can therefore be no question of having only one world in our environment. We have that world that we can follow as the world of the senses; but then we have a world, whose foundations are laid within the laws of another, and which stands in exactly the same relationship to the world of the senses, as our breathing does to our consciousness; and this other world is revealed to us as soon as we interpret in the right way this Moon movement, this Nutation of the Earth's axis.

These considerations should enable you to realise the impossibility of investigating in a one-sided way the laws manifesting in the world. The modern materialistic thinker is in quest of a single system of natural laws. In this he deludes himself; what he should say is rather as follows. “The world of the senses is certainly a world in which I find myself embedded and to which I belong; it is that world which is explained by natural science in terms of Cause and Effect. But another world interpenetrates this one, and is regulated by different laws. Each world is subject to its own system of laws.” As long as we are of the opinion that one kind of system of laws could suffice for our world, and that all hangs upon the thread of Cause and Effect, so long shall we remain victims of complete illusions.

Only when we can perceive from facts such as the Moon's motion and nutation of the Earth's axis that another world extends into this one—only then are we upon the right path.

And now, you see, these are the things in which the spiritual and material (so-called) touch each other, or let us say the psychical and material. He who can faithfully observe what is contained within his own self will find the following. These things must gradually be brought to the attention of humanity. There are many among you, who have already passed the 18 years and about 7 months period in age. That was an important period. Others will have passed twice that number of years—37 years and 2 months—again an important time. After that we have a third very momentous period 18 years and seven months later, at the age of 55 years and 9 months. Few can notice as yet, not having been trained to do so, the effects and important changes taking place within the individual soul at these times. The nights passed during these periods are the most important nights in the life of the individual. It is here where the Macrocosm completes its 18 respirations, completes one minute—and Man as it were, opens a window facing quite another world. But as I said, man cannot yet watch for these points in his life. Everyone, however, could try to let his mental eye look back over the years he has passed, and if he is over 55 years old to recognise three such important epochs; others two, and most of you at any rate one! In these epochs events take place, which rush up into this world of ours out of quite a different one. Our world opens at these moments to another world.

If we wish to describe this happening more clearly, we can say that our world is at these times penetrated anew by astral streams; they flow in and out. Of course this really happens every year, but we are here concerned with the 18 years, as they correspond to the 18 respirations per minute. In short, our attention is drawn through the cosmic clock to the breathing of the Macrocosm, in which we are embedded. This correspondence with another world, which is manifested through the motion of the Moon, is exceptionally important. Because, you see, the world which at these times projects into our own, is the very world into which we pass during our sleep, when the Ego and the astral body leave our physical and etheric bodies. It must not be thought that the world composing our every-day environment is merely permeated in an abstract way by the astral world; rather should we say, it breathes in the astral world, and we can observe the astral in this breathing process through the Moon's motion or nutation. You will realise that we have here come to something of great significance. If you remember what I said recently, we may put it in the following way. We have, on the one hand, our world as it is generally observed; and we have in addition, the materialistic superstition that, for instance, if we gaze upwards, we see the Sun, a ball of gas, as it is described in books. This is nonsense. The Sun is not a ball of gas; but in that place where the Sun is, there is something less than empty space—a sucking, absorbing body, in fact, while all around it is that which exerts pressure. Consequently in that which comes to us from the Sun we have not to do with anything constituting a product of combustion in the Sun; but all that has been transmitted to the Sun from the Universe is rayed back.

Where the Sun is, is emptier than empty space. This can be said of all parts of the Universe where we find Ether. For this reason it is so difficult for the physicist to speak of Ether, for he thinks that Ether is also matter, though more rarefied than ordinary matter. Materialism is still very busy with this perpetual ‘rarefying’, both the materialism of natural science as well as the materialism of Theosophy. It distinguishes first, dense matter; then etheric matter—more rarefied; then astral matter—still more rarefied; and then there is the ‘mental’ and I do not know what else—always more and more rarefied!

The only difference (in this theory of rarefying) between the two forms of materialism is that the one recognises more degrees of rarefaction than the other. But in the transition from ponderable matter to Ether we have nothing to do with rarefaction. Anyone who believes that in Ether we have to do merely with a ‘rarefying’ process is like a man who says: ‘I have here a purse full of money; I repeatedly take from it and the money becomes less and less. I take away still more till at last none remains.’ Nothing is left—but yet he can go on! The ‘nothing’ can become less still; for if he gets into debt, his money becomes less than nothing. In the same way not only does matter become empty space, but it becomes negative, less than nothing—emptier than emptiness; it assumes a ‘sucking’ nature. Ether is sucking, absorbing. Matter presses. Ether absorbs. The Sun is an absorbing, sucking ball, and wherever Ether is present we have this absorbent force.

Here we step over into the other side, the other aspect of three-dimensional space—we pass from pressure to suction. That which immediately surrounds us in this world, that of which we are constituted as physical man and ether man, is both pressing and sucking or absorbing. We are a combination of both; whereas the Sun possesses the power of suction only, being nothing but ether, nothing but suction. It is the undulating wave of pressure and suction, ponderable matter and ether, that forms in its alternation a living organisation. And the living organism continually breathes in the astral; the breathing expresses itself through the Moon's motion or nutation. And here we begin to divine a second member or principle of the world's construction; the one member—pressure and suction, physical and etheric; the other, the second—astral. The astral is neither physical nor etheric but is continually inhaled and exhaled; and the nutation demonstrates this process.

Now a certain astronomical fact was observed even in the most ancient times. Many thousands of years before the Christian era, the Egyptians knew that after a period of 72 years the fixed stars in their apparent course gain one day on the Sun. It seems to us, does it not, that the fixed stars revolve and the Sun too revolves, but that the latter revolves more slowly, so that after 72 years the stars are appreciably ahead. This is the reason of the movement of the Vernal Point (the Spring Equinoctial point); namely, that the stars go faster. The Spring Equinox moves further and further away, the fixed star has altered its place in relation to the Sun. Briefly, the facts are that if we notice the path of a fixed star and notice the point where the Sun stands over it, we find that at the end of 72 years the star occupies the same position on the 30th December, while the Sun only reaches that point again on the 31st December. The Sun has lost a day. After a lapse of 25,920 years this loss is so great, that the Sun has described a complete revolution and once again is back upon the place we noted. We see therefore that in 72 years the Sun is one day behind the fixed stars. Now these 72 years are approximately the normal life period of Man, and they are composed of 25,920 days.

Thus when we multiply 72 years by 360, and consider the human span of life as one day, we have the human life as one day of the Macrocosm. Man is breathed out, as it were, from the Macrocosm; his life is one day in the macrocosmic year.

So that this revolution, this circle described by the precession of the Equinoxes, indicating the macrocosmic year, as already known to the Egyptians thousands of years ago (for they looked upon this period of 72 years as very important), this apparent revolution of the Vernal point is connected with the life and death of Man in the Universe—with the life and death, that is, of the Macrocosm. And the laws of the life and death of Man are something that we are compelled to follow. We have already found how nutation points to another world; as our sense-perception world points to one world, so nutation points to another, the breathing world. And now through what present-day astronomy calls ‘precession’, we have something we may again call a transition, a transition this time to a state of deep sleep, a transition to still another, a third world. We have thus three worlds, interpenetrating one another, inter-related; but we must not attempt simply to combine these worlds from the point of view of causality. Three worlds, a three-fold world, as Man is a three-fold being; one, the world of sense surrounding us, the world we perceive; a second world whose presence is indicated by the motions of the Moon; and a third which makes itself known to us by the motion of the equinoctial point, or we might say, by the path of the Sun. This third world indeed remains about as unknown to us as the world of our own Will is unknown to our ordinary consciousness.

It is important therefore to search everywhere for correspondences between the human Microcosm and the Macrocosm. And when today the Oriental, if only in a decadent way, seeks to acquire breathing consciousness, as was done in the ancient Oriental wisdom, it is the manifestation of the desire to stray across into this other world which otherwise he could only recognise through what the Moon, so to speak, wills in our world. But in those times when there was still an ancient wisdom coming to man in a different way from that by which we have today to seek wisdom—in those times man also knew how to see this working of inner law in other connections and correspondences.

In the Old Testament the Initiates, who were familiar with these matters, used always a certain image or picture—the picture, namely, of the relation between Moon-light and Sun-light. This we can find also in a certain sense in the Gospels, as I have recently shown you.

We generally speak of the Moon-light being reflected Sunlight. I am speaking now in the sense of physics, and I shall have to show later on that these expressions are really very inaccurate. The Moon-light represented in the Old Testament the Jahve or Jehovah power. This power was conceived as a reflected power, and the Initiates—though not of course the orthodox Rabbis of the Old Testament—knew: The Messiah, the Christ will come, and He will be the direct Sun-light. Jahve is only His advance reflection. Jahve is the Sun-light, but not the direct Sun-light. Of course, here we are speaking not of physical sunlight, but of the spiritual reality.

Christ entered into human evolution, He who had been present previously only in reflection, in an indirect way in the form of Jehovah. And there arose the necessity to think of the Christ, who lived in Jesus, as the result of a different set of laws from those appertaining to ordinary natural science. But if we do not admit this other set of laws, if we believe that the world exists only as the result of cause and effect, then there is no place for That which is the Christ. His place must be prepared for Him by our recognition of three interpenetrating worlds. Then there is created the possibility of being able to say: It may be that in this world of sense everything is related through the law of cause and effect as maintained by natural science, but another world permeates this one, and to this other world belongs everything that has happened in the world that has connection with the Mystery of Golgotha.

In our times, when the desire for an understanding of these matters is becoming more and more manifest, it is important to realise that this understanding must be sought through the recognition of these three interpenetrating worlds, which exist simultaneously and are entirely different one from another. This means that we must seek not for one system of laws only, but for three; and we must seek for them within Man himself.

If you consider well what I have just said, you will see that it will not do to adopt the methods of the Copernican system, and simply draw ellipses intended to show the path of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury and lastly of the Sun. That is not what is wanted at all. What is wanted is rather to look at the laws that are active in the worlds that are physically perceptible and see how these laws are cut across by an altogether different set of laws; and that especially the present Moon, in her motion, presents something that is in no way causally connected with the rest of the Stellar System, such as would be the case were the Moon a member of that System, like the other planets. The Moon however is to be referred to quite another world, which is, as it were, inserted into ours, and which indicates the breathing process of our Universe, as the Sun indicates the interpenetration of our Universe by the Ether.

Before one engages in Astronomy, one must educate oneself in a qualitative sense concerning that which moves in space, concerning the things that are interdependent in space. For one must be quite clear that Sun matter and any other matter—Earth matter for instance—can under no circumstances be brought into a simple relationship; because the matter of the Sun is, in comparison with the matter of the Earth, something absorbing and sucking, while the latter exerts pressure. The motions which express themselves in nutation are motions proceeding from the astral world, and not from anything that can be found in Newton's principles. It is just this Newtonism that has driven us so far into materialism, because it seizes on the uttermost abstractions. It speaks of a force of gravitation. The Sun, it says, attracts the Earth, or the Earth attracts the Moon; a force of attraction exists between these bodies, like some invisible cable. But if really nothing but this force of attraction existed, there would be no cause for the Moon to revolve round the Earth, or the Earth round the Sun; the Moon would simply fall on to the Earth. This would indeed have happened ages ago, if gravitation alone were acting; or the Earth would have fallen into the Sun. It is therefore quite impossible for us to look to gravitation alone for the means of explaining the imagined or actual motions of celestial bodies. So what do they do? Let us see! Here we have a Planet imbued with a constant desire to fall into the Sun—supposing we were to have the law of gravitation alone. But now we will suppose that this planet has at some time or other been given another force, a tangential force. This impetus acts with such and such a power, and the force of gravitation acts at the same time with such and such a power, so that eventually the planet does not fall into the Sun, but has to move along a line resulting from both forces.

You see that Newton's theory finds it necessary to assume some kind of original impetus, some kind of first push in the case of each planet, of each moving celestial body. There must always be some extra-mundane God somewhere, who gives this impetus, who imparts this tangential force. This is always presupposed; and remember, this assumption was made at a time when we had lost all idea of bringing the material and the spiritual into any kind of connection, when we were incapable of conceiving of anything but a perfectly external ‘push’.

Here we have an instance of the inability of materialism to understand matter. I have repeatedly drawn your attention to this of late. It follows, that therefore materialism is also unable to understand the motions of matter, and is compelled to give quite an anthropomorphic explanation of them, picturing God as a being with wholly human attributes, who simply gives the Moon a push and the Earth a push. The Earth and Moon then ‘attract’ each other—and behold, from these two forces, the push and the attraction, we have their movements in the heavens.

It is from ideas of this kind that the Solar system is constructed today. But to get a real understanding of the Universe it is absolutely necessary to look for the connection between that which lives in Man, and that which lives in the Macrocosm. For Man is an actual Microcosm in the Macrocosm. Of this we will speak further tomorrow.