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Man—Hieroglyph of the Universe
GA 201

Lecture Five

17 April 1920, Dornach

Our studies of the last few days will have made it clear to you that it is altogether impossible to look upon the configuration of the spatial Universe and its movements in the way that is adopted by modern science. For not only is the Universe regarded as entirely separate from Man, but even the separate celestial bodies, which appear to our sight as disconnected from each other, are each treated as being isolated, and then in their isolation their effects upon each other are observed. It comes to the same thing as if, for example, we were to study the human organism by examining first an arm and then a leg, in order afterwards to understand the complete organism from the way in which the single members work together. But the fact is, it is not possible to comprehend the human organism by studying its individual members; but all investigation of the body of man must have its starting point in the whole, from which we can then proceed to the separate parts.

The same applies to the solar system, and also to the solar system in its relation to the whole visible stellar Universe. For the Sun, Moon, Earth and other planets are only parts of the whole system. Why should the Sun, for instance, be considered as an isolated body? There is absolutely no reason why we should imagine the Sun to be merely just where we see it, limited by the boundaries within which our eyes perceive it. In this connection the philosopher Schelling was quite correct when he declined to ask the question, ‘Where is the Sun?’ with any other meaning than ‘Where is his influence felt?’ If the Sun acts upon the Earth, the effects of such activity must belong of necessity to the sphere of the Sun; and it is very wrong to extract a part from a whole and study that part by itself. But this is the very thing the modern materialistic conception of the Universe has set out to do, and its influence has grown stronger and stronger ever since the middle of the fifteenth century. This it is against which Goethe always fought, when he was alive, in his labours in the realm of natural science, and against which all true followers of his science must also fight. Goethe found himself compelled to draw attention to the fact that we must not study Nature without Man, without keeping in mind the relation of Nature to Man. The study of natural phenomena outside Man must have its basis in the understanding of the nature of Man.

The following example will show you the value of some of the assertions made by modern Astronomy. Modern Astronomy endeavours, with the use of all manner of arguments, to speak of an elliptic path of the Earth around the Sun; asserting that this motion was in the first place initiated by that tangential propulsion of which I spoke yesterday in connection with the gravitational attraction of the Sun. But Astronomy cannot, and does not, deny the fact that when speaking of attraction, not only does the Sun attract the Earth, but the Earth must also attract the Sun. This, however, obliges us to conclude that we cannot speak of a revolution in an elliptical path of the Earth around the Sun, for if the attraction be mutual we cannot have a one-sided motion of the Earth around the Sun, but both of them must revolve round a neutral point. In other words, this revolution cannot take place in a manner that would allow us to look on the Sun's centre as the pivot, but the pivot must be a neutral point situated between the centre of the Sun and the centre of the Earth. In telling you this I am not raising objections to Astronomy, I am merely telling you what you can find for yourselves in astronomical books. Thus we are compelled to admit the existence—somehow or other—of a pivot between the two spheres.

Our Astronomy, by way of consoling itself, maintains that this pivot or point lies within the Sun itself. Both Earth and Sun, then, revolve around this point. And so, once again, we get no direct revolution of Earth round Sun, but the Sun also revolves, revolving however around a point lying within itself. Thus exoteric Astronomy has come so far as to assume as pivot a point that is not the centre of the Sun, but lies in the line connecting Sun and Earth, yet still within the Sun. But now we are confronted with another difficulty. The size of the Sun has first to be calculated. (The truth of the above assumption depends upon the calculated size of the Sun.) Upon the result of such calculation is built a conclusion which must of course possess a certain limited validity (the calculations being made from evidence of the senses), but which need not necessarily be the criterion by which we judge the real being of what lies behind nature's phenomena.

Thus it is necessary to keep a strict eye upon modern Astronomy, as well as on other sciences, in order to discern the places—and they are numerous—where science over-reaches itself, and gets into difficulties.

This difficulty cannot be settled by studying the outer aspect of the phenomena; we can only arrive at a true result by examining the Universe in its relation to Man. We must, in the first place, take note of the previously explained connections between the Universe and Man; and then we must add a good many other facts, before we can produce a perfectly true world-picture. We have said before that we must imagine, first of all, ordinary ponderable matter—matter that can be weighed. Light we cannot weigh; it does not belong to the realm of ponderable matter, neither does warmth (heat). First then, we must imagine the ponderable, then we must set over against this the ether. We said it is wrong to consider the Sun as consisting of ponderable matter like the matter of the Earth. The Sun is something which is actually less than space—so to speak, a ‘hollowing out’ of space; it is something that sucks in, in contradistinction to the pressure of ponderable matter.

And we have to do not only with an aggregation (in the Sun) of this absorbent ether in the outer Universe, but also with the fact that this ether is distributed far and wide, Everywhere we find, coexisting with the force of pressure, the absorbent force. We ourselves carry this force of suction in our own etheric bodies.

With this we completely exhaust all that we call Space. Pressure and Suction—these two, we find in Space. But not only do we possess our physical body, composed of ponderable matter which it assimilates and again expels, not only have we also an etheric body, composed of absorbent ether, but we have in addition an astral body—if we may use the term ‘body’ in this connection. What does the possession of this third body imply? It means that we have within us something that is no longer spatial, though it has a certain relation to space. This relationship can be proved when we realise that during waking hours the astral body interpenetrates the etheric and physical bodies. But the etheric body acts very differently when we are awake and when we are asleep. A different relation is established between the etheric and physical bodies when we wake, and this is caused by the astral body. It is active, and works upon the spatial, though it is not itself spatial. It brings order and organisation into the correlations of space. This organising activity of the astral body within us takes place also in the outer Universe, where it manifests in the following way.

Try for the moment to consider Space alone, and out of the whole visible Heavens, let us consider the regions that are indicated by the Zodiac. I do not intend here to deal in detail with the several Zodiacal signs, but let us consider the directions to which we look in the heavens when we turn, for instance, towards Aries (Ram), in the Zodiac; then Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. All we have to note, in the first place, is that the space that lies before us as our visible Universe is divided in this way. The signs merely indicate the division, in so far as each of them denotes the boundary of a certain section of Space.

Now we must not imagine that these directions of space can be treated in such a manner that one might say: ‘There is empty space, and I just draw a line somewhere into it’.

There simply does not exist such a thing as mathematics calls ‘Space’; but everywhere are lines of force, directions of force, and these are not equal, they vary, they are differentiated. We can distinguish between these twelve regions by realising that if we turn in the direction of the sign Aries, the force we experience is a different one than it would be had we faced the sign Libra or Cancer. In each direction the force differs. Man will not admit this, as long as he lives merely in the world of the senses; but as soon as he ascends to the Imaginative life of the soul, he no longer experiences the directions in space as the same when facing Aries or Cancer, but feels their influence upon him as greatly differentiated.

To give you a parallel, I might put before you the following. Imagine that you arrange round you a circle of twelve persons in such a manner that those most sympathetic to you occupy one part of the circle, then come the less sympathetic, until on the other side you have all those who are antipathetic to you. (We are not, imagining the degree of sympathy or antipathy to result from any personal emotion; it may be merely a matter of outward appearances.) Now if you turn round within the circle, twelve pictures pass before your vision and at the same time you experience a graduated series of differentiated sensations. Man becomes aware of such a series of sensations if, after attaining to Imaginative perception, he moves around within the Zodiac. A similar gradation of sensation, a similar gradation of vision is produced in him, and it takes place within him the moment he escapes from the indifference of ordinary sense-existence. So when we are dealing with these various sections of space there is no sameness, for we must realise that each of these directions exerts a different influence upon us.

You see, here comes to light a fact intimately connected with the whole evolution of Man. Had he remained at the stage of the old consciousness, the atavistic picture-consciousness, he would still experience strongly the actuality of this differentiation in the various sections of the heavens; he would have been conscious of a sensation of sympathy towards one direction of Space and antipathy towards another. Man has however been extricated from this play of forces by which at one time he was consciously surrounded, and he has been extricated from it just through the fact that his present organisation has placed him into the sense-world. But that Man is really organised in accordance with cosmic laws can even now be proved, and by quite external experiments, if attention is paid to certain phenomena. For it is by no means mere nonsense to say that certain sicknesses can be cured more quickly if the bed of the patient is placed in the direction of East to West. It is no superstition but a fact capable of definite proof. But this is not intended as a recommendation to each of you to place your bed in a certain position! I have had so many experiences in this direction, that I feel it necessary to interject here a word of warning! It once happened to me in Berlin, for instance, that at the end of an anthroposophical discourse. I laid a certain emphasis upon the fact of being able to put on my galoshes when it was raining, without sitting down, saying that this could be done by first standing upon one leg and then upon the other, and I added ‘And one ought to be able to stand upon one leg!’ This was taken by some anthroposophists in such a way that I found upon returning from London to Berlin, that members of the Anthroposophical Society there were being recommended, as esoteric training, to stand upon one leg for a short time at midnight! Many assertions made about us have just as good a foundation. Time and again things of this sort get said and then find their way into this or that newspaper article by the pen of some well- or ill-disposed person—generally the latter. So I repeat, I have no wish at all to recommend you each to place his bed in one particular position. Nevertheless, this fact and many others show that even today, in the inner or subconscious part of his being, Man still stands in a certain relation to these exterior spatial differentiations, into which he has been placed.

Now through what means does Man possess these relationships? He possesses them through his astral body, which establishes these relations. They are only possible to him because through his astral body Man is a denizen of an astral world, a world which though acting upon Space is not itself spatial. We only conceive the Zodiac in its full meaning when we treat it as the representative of the astral world beyond.

And now, without having regard to present-day astronomical theories, let us examine these phenomena which appear to our sense of vision. We know that either actually or apparently the Sun passes through the Zodiac in various ways; in its daily course, in its yearly course, and again in its course through the Platonic year, through the precession of the equinoxes. This points to the fact that the effects upon us of that absorbent ether ball called Sun vary greatly, as they come from the different directions of Space. At one time the Sun's workings impinge upon us from a part we call Aries, at another time from a different section and so on.

Taking the case of an inhabitant of our own part of the globe, we can see that at any given time he has facing him one half of the Zodiacal signs, while the other half is obscured by the Earth. In other words, we are so placed in relation to this differentiation of Space, that we are turned directly towards the one part of the Zodiac while between the other and ourselves stands the Earth. Obviously this has nothing whatever to do with either an actual or an apparent motion; it is a simple fact that at any given moment we face one part of the Zodiac, while the other part is intercepted by the Earth. Now please try to imagine these sections of space with our Earth obscuring some of them. What does it signify for us? It is plain that the one half will influence us directly, the other not directly, but rather, shall I say, through its absence. At one time we have the direct working of these differentiated regions of space, at another time the working of their absence, the effect, as it were, of their non-presence. This fact is something which is active within us and enables us to some extent to bring into a kind of relationship that which is working directly upon us and that which is absent, from whose direct influence we are removed. For it opens up another possibility.

Let us say, from the direction of the Sign Cancer proceeds a certain kind of influence. This would be opposed by an influence from Capricorn, but the latter is taken away, is intercepted. Consequently I have in me the influence of Cancer and opposed to it the intercepted Capricornian influence; the influence of Cancer is thereby in a sense left in me, put into my hands, as it were. Of course, that which is absent cannot act upon me in the same way as that which is present; but I gain a certain influence as regards the Sign that acts upon me by reason of the opposition to its intercepted antithesis. Through the fact that I stand upon the Earth the celestial influences become quite different to what they would be, were I hovering freely in Space and directly exposed to them all.

I want you to note this point specially, and then you will realise that you cannot simply say: Above us we have the Signs Aries, Pisces, Aquarius, etc., and below Libra, Virgo, and so on, but you will have to conceive the whole as an organisation, with yourself harnessed into it. And as you progress, on account of the Earth's revolution, from sign to sign you are being carried through all these direct influences in turn. Here at one point, the Scorpio influence was taken away from you, and there at another point you have been carried into it. An analogy is the taking of food; you were hungry, the food was not there within you, but after the meal the food is present within you. The Scorpio influence was absent here, but at this other point became active. And so we form connections with the surrounding Cosmos as we come into different relations with it through the movement of the Earth. But is Man conscious of these varying influences, while yet on the physical plane? No, he is not; we have seen that the physical world takes him away from them. But the moment he withdraws with his astral body and Ego from his physical and etheric bodies, he finds himself within these forces; they act directly and strongly upon him. These extra-earthly, heavenly influences then make onset upon that part of Man which is no longer connected with the physical and etheric; they act upon it as powerfully as food upon the physical body. It is just this descent into the physical that is the cause of Man's withdrawal from these outer influences. We may therefore consider the astral body as being in a sense part of the celestial, and not of the terrestrial Universe, for when, together with the Ego, it is outside the physical body, we have to co-ordinate it to the non-terrestrial influences.

By considering the matter in this way, we are gradually brought to the conclusion that Man becomes receptive to these celestial forces in so far as he ceases to act through the organs of his physical body—that is to say, when he is, through this non-activity, more or less in a state of sleep. Man as a child is always more or less asleep, therefore the child is much more receptive to the celestial influences than the man. As he grows up he works his way further and further into earthly conditions. During childhood, all that is within the skin is still plastic and in a state of formation. The formative powers become less and less active with the years, until, at a considerably later point in life, they become very small indeed. This shows that the inner physical formation-process stands in a certain relation to the movements and configurations to the outer celestial Universe. But the part of our being which, as far as consciousness is concerned, remains in a continual state of sleep—such as our heart-activity, our digestive processes, etc.; in fact, all the inner physical processes—all this part of our being remains under the influences of the super-physical during the whole of our life. (These processes are induced in the same way as is the process that goes on when I take a step forward consciously, only they are all directed inward instead of outward.)

Let us take a characteristic example. By means of the inner movements of the intestines the chyme is propelled further on its path. These are internal movements within the boundary of the human skin, and therefore, as we have said, dependent upon what is beyond the Earth. Fundamentally, Man as Man is dependent only upon the terrestrial, upon ponderable-terrestrial matter, in all that affects him from outside his skin. But the moment any outer act or circumstance is translated into activity within the skin, then there begins in his organism an activity that is related to the super-sensible.

When you take a piece of sugar into the palm of your hand, you feel its weight physically, you raise it to your lips; the process is still physical. But as soon as you dissolve it on the tongue and it enters the sphere of taste, it no longer remains within the scope of Earthly processes but becomes subject to extra-Earthly forces.

In order to find the working of the extra-Earthly, we must penetrate into what is enclosed within the human skin. This will lead you to the realisation of the fact, that while you go about in the world, bearing round with you, as it were, your whole man, you are in the realm of the Earthly. But as soon as you come within, even only within the physical organisation, you are no longer in the realm of the Earthly, but have entered a sphere dependent upon extra-Earthly forces. You can easily prove for yourselves the fact that within you resides something that is not merged into earthly existence, if you carry your memory back to the oft-repeated fact, that the human brain floats in the meningeal fluid. If this were not the case, the pressure of the brain upon the organs placed on the floor of the skull would crush all the blood vessels. Any text book dealing with such matters will tell you the weight of the brain. If your choice is a ‘Bischoff’, you will notice he asserts that the female brain is much lighter than that of a male, which assertion was rendered absurd later on, to the delight of the ladies, when it was found upon examination, that the brain of Bischoff himself proved to be a good deal less in weight than the lightest of the female brains examined by him. This is only by the way, as an example of the general value of human judgements.

The human brain however, possessing as it does a considerable weight—at least 1,200 to 1,300 grammes—does not exert a pressure in anything like accord with its actual weight, but only, as we might say, a weight of comparatively few grammes, because of the upward pressure of the meningeal fluid. You remember the law of Archimedes, according to which the weight of an object is reduced by the weight of the water it displaces. Therefore the pressure of the brain is equal to only a few grammes because it floats in fluid. Had it a tendency to press downwards with its full weight, Man could not use his brain for thought. It overcomes its weight because it floats in fluid. We do not think with the matter of the brain, but with that which withdraws itself from the matter, with the upward striving forces, with that which grows beyond the Earth. And we must follow this out into all parts of Man's organisation. Just as we withdraw ourselves inwardly from the forces of terrestrial gravity in the case of the weight of the brain (exteriorly, of course, this is impossible, the brain upon the scales shows its full weight, even while within us), so do we similarly sever ourselves from earthly physical and chemical forces of other kinds.

What enables us to sever ourselves from these forces? It is the Ego and the astral body. As soon as these act upon the etheric and physical bodies in such a way as to withdraw the etheric from the physical, the absorbent force is then absent, and only ponderable matter remains. The ponderable matter is not part of the Earth, for the Earth does not retain it in its original form, but destroys it. The Earth-forces do not contain in them that which gives to Man his form. That is not difficult to comprehend, for we have seen that we sever ourselves inwardly from the Earth-forces. With all that is in him through his astral body and Ego, man is related to forces that are active beyond the Earth.

Our next question must be: What is the nature of this relation? To ascertain this, we must in a certain way study the whole quality and nature of Man. We find in the first place his complete form or figure. I do not mean by this the form which I would draw if I were to make a sketch of him, but the whole configuration, the whole formation of Man. It would include, e.g. the fact that the eyes are placed in the face, and the heels on the feet; for this is part of the inner configuration of Man in accordance with law.

Expressionistic painters may assert that Man could be drawn in such a way that his toe takes the place of his nose, or that one eye is placed here and the other in his hand. Yes, there really are such people, but they only show how little inner relationship they have with the world. We have indeed these days progressed so far in materialistic thought as to be able to depict single things separately, when they really belong together with the whole and ought not to be depicted each for itself.

We have therefore first Man's complete form; and this, as you know very well, is not produced as a figure is produced that is, for instance, carved in wood, but is formed from within. We cannot even re-carve any part that does not happen to meet with our approval. The human form is modeled by forces residing in the periphery and they are forces from beyond the Earth. Therefore when we contemplate a human form, we are looking at a product of the extra-earthly.

Secondly we can distinguish in Man, apart from his form, all that comes under the category of internal motion. Take, for instance, the blood and the other bodily juices; these possess internal motion. This also is produced from within; it is, so to speak, situated even deeper in Man than his form. The latter presses forward to the periphery, while internal motion takes place entirely within; and it is again a process that stands in relation with the world that is beyond the Earth.

Thirdly, the activity of the organs. Organs such as the lungs, liver, spleen, etc., are responsible for activities within Man, and it is these activities I will name as the third thing we find in Man. This need not cause you any surprise, rather should it lead you to seek the reason.

Consider for example, an important organ, namely, the heart, of which I have recently spoken repeatedly. We realise that in a certain sense, the heart has been welded together.

By following up Embryology, we find how the heart is gradually welded together or piled up, as it were, by the blood circulation, and is not a primary form. This is verified by Embryology. And it is the same with other organs. They are the results of these circulations, rather than the causes of them. Within the organs the circulation comes to a standstill, it undergoes a kind of metamorphosis, and proceeds further in a different way. To illustrate the idea, let us say we have a stream of water falling over a rock. It throws up a variety of formations and then flows on. These formations are caused by the forces of equilibrium and motion at this place. Now imagine that suddenly all this were to petrify; a skin would be formed like a wall, then the rest would flow on again, and we should have an organic structure formed. We should have the current going through the structure coming out again and flowing on further in an altered form. You can imagine something like this in the case of the flow of blood, as it circulates through the heart. I can only indicate these things here. They are well grounded, but here only an indication of them can be given.

Although the organs in the manner of their formation depend upon the flow of inner forces, yet they are something in the inner part of Man that again comes into relation with what is outside. We have here something which, as you can see from an example I will give, stands in closer relation with the Earthly; through these organs we are brought from the interior into contact with the exterior.

Take the case of the lungs. The lungs are organs, but they are at the same time the basis of respiration. As the instrument for the transmutation of inhaled oxygen into exhaled carbonic acid, the lungs form a relation with something that has significance for Man, but yet exists outside him in the realm of the Earthly. In this way we return, as it were, to the terrestrial environment by way of the organic activities. The moment we overstep, through organic activity, the boundary of our skin, we are outside, in the terrestrial sphere. You see, all these processes that take place entirely within us, the formation and regulation of fluidic movements, etc., stand in a relationship with the extra-earthly; whereas when we come to the organs we again approach the terrestrial. Here we have the union of Heaven and Earth in Man. The lungs are built up by the extra-Earthly, but what they do with the oxygen brings them into relation with the Earthly. And now, when Man takes up still more earthly substances and receives them into his organism, he comes into immediate contact, through the process of metabolism with the truly Earthly.

Thus we can study man from four different points of view: Complete Form, in so far as this is built up from within outwards; Internal Motion, Organic Activity and Metabolism. If we study the complete form, which is entirely constructed by inner forces, we find that it has the least connection of all with the Earthly. This point will be further explained tomorrow. We only begin to gain an understanding of the connection when we relate, as we shall do tomorrow, the complete form of Man to the Zodiac. The inner motion, the circulation of the blood, lymph, etc., can only be conceived in their reality, when related to our planetary system. And when we come to the activity of the organs, we are already approaching the terrestrial.

I gave you the example of the lungs, which, in respect to their internal construction, are formed by extra-terrestrial forces, but where they come into relation with oxygen, are in relation with the air. Other human organs come into relation with water, others again with heat, etc. Therefore, in studying the activity of the organs, we come into contact with the Elemental world—with fire, water, air. Only when our observations are centred upon actual assimilation, or metabolism, are we in the sphere of the Earth. The Elemental world is that which encompasses the Earth as the sphere of water and of air, and only when we encounter the process of metabolism, do we approach the relation of Man with the Earth itself.

In this way we can discover Man's relation to the Universe that surrounds him:

Zodiac:(1) Complete form
World of the Planets:(2) Internal Motions
World of the Elements:(3) Activity of the Organs
Earth:(4) Metabolism

And now consider, if we understand the form of Man in all its nature and conditions, and find the possibility of tracing it back to the Zodiac—that is, to the world of fixed stars—then and then only are we able to form, from Man, an idea of all that is visible to us in surrounding space; for it cannot be investigated by mechanical or mathematical means, but only through a knowledge of the complete form of Man. Neither are planetary motions to be examined merely by means of a telescope. With a telescope one finds their positions—setting it first to one star and then to the other, finding the angle, and in this way discovering the positions. What is actually present in the processes of the Planet-World is something that is formed from within outwards. It is by a study of the activities in the saps and juices in Man that we shall learn to understand the planetary activities. Similarly, if we comprehend our own organic activities, we shall also understand what goes on in the Elemental world; and when we are able to understand what happens in Man in the moment when earthly substance is introduced into his metabolic system, we shall possess the key to the Earth activities, and be able to separate them spatially from all extra-earthly activities.