Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Man—Hieroglyph of the Universe
GA 201

Lecture Six

18 April 1920, Dornach

We have seen that we must search for a harmony between the processes taking place in and with Man, and the processes that take place in the outer Universe. Let us once again recall briefly the point whither our study of yesterday led us. We said that Man had to be regarded, to begin with, from four points of view. Firstly, from the standpoint of the forces which are responsible for his form; secondly from that which comprises all the forces expressing themselves in the circulation of the blood, lymph, etc., in short the forces of internal motion. (You already know that the formative forces are to a large extent in a state of rest in the fully grown man, whereas the inner motion is in a state of continual flow.) Thirdly, we have the organic forces, and fourthly, the actual metabolism.

To begin with we must consider all that has connection with the formative forces. These are the forces which work outward from within until they reach the outermost periphery, the limits of man's circumference. If we formed a silhouette of man, seen as it were from all sides, we should comprehend and enclose the outermost extremities of the activities resulting from these inner forces, which build from within outwards.

Now it should not be difficult to understand that these forces of formation must be connected with other forces, which, like them, belong to the periphery of man, and are to be discovered there. These latter are the forces having their activities in the senses. The senses of man lie, as you know, upon the periphery. They are of course distributed over it and differentiated, but in order to come into contact with the forces acting in the senses you must look for them at the periphery, and this justifies us in saying that the formative forces must have a connection with the activity of the senses.

We shall perhaps understand this point better if we remember the words that Goethe quotes as having been uttered by one of the old mystics.

“Were the eye not Sun-like in itself,
How could we see the Sun?”

Now it cannot be the light-activity surrounding us all the time that is meant when the eye is said to be sun-like or light-like, for this light-activity can be perceived by the eye only when the eye is completely formed. It cannot therefore be this that is meant, when we are speaking of the building up of the eye. We must imagine this light-activity as something intrinsically different. And it is a fact that we arrive at a certain conception of what underlies this saying, if we follow man during the time between death and a new birth. For during this period his experiences consist in part—but of course, only in part—in a perception of the gradual transformation of the forces within him from the preceding physical life to the new one; and he perceives how the limb-man is transformed in the time between death and a new birth into the head-form. These experiences are no less rich in content than are those experiences we live through in this life, when we watch the gradual quickening of the plants in Spring and their decay in Autumn, etc.

All this building up that goes on in man in the time between death and re-birth is a great wealth of events, a wealth of real happenings which are by no means so easy to grasp as the mere abstract idea of them. All that takes place during this time to effect the transformation of the forces of the limb-man into those of the head for the new incarnation, is extraordinarily manifold. Man himself partakes in the process. He experiences for instance, something akin to the building up of the eye. But he does not experience it in the same manner as he did during the long evolutionary period, when he passed through the various evolutionary stages preceding our Earth, namely, those of Moon, Sun and Saturn. The forces of the Stellar Universe then acted upon him in a different way. This Stellar Universe was also in a different form from what it is now.

It is of great importance to form clear ideas on these matters. If we consider our present perceptions of what is around us, what are they? They are really pictures. Behind these pictures, of course, lies the real world; but it is the world that lies behind these pictures, which actually built up man before he had evolved sufficiently to be able to perceive these pictures. Today we perceive with our eyes the pictures of the surrounding world. Behind these lies that which has built up our eyes. This brings us to the truth: Had not the forces residing behind the picture of the Sun constructed the eye, the eye could not perceive the picture of the Sun.

The saying, you see, has to be modified, for while the perception of light today gives pictures, yet what first built up the organs into the periphery of man were not pictures, but realities. So that when we look around us in this world, what we perceive are really the forces that have built us up—our own formative forces. They have now drawn into us; that which acted from without up to the Earth period, now works from within.

We will retain this thought for our succeeding studies and will now bring together the first and fourth of these forces.

  1. Forces of Form.
  2. Forces of Inner Movements.
  3. Organic Forces.
  4. Assimilative, or metabolic forces.

Let us, for the moment, consider the last named. The process of metabolism has already become in some degree irregular; but there are natural causes which still lead Man to hold to a certain regularity in this respect; and you all know that he is inconvenienced if, for some reason or other, he fails in the rhythmic process of assimilation. He can deviate from it within limits, but he always endeavours to return again to a certain rhythm; and you know that this rhythm is one of the first essentials of physical health. It is a rhythm that embraces day and night. Within 24 hours the rhythmic process of metabolism is completed. Twenty-four hours after breakfast you again have an appetite for breakfast. All that is connected with assimilation is connected also with the day's course. I would now ask you to compare the solidity, the firmness of the bodily periphery with the mobility of the forces of assimilation. One can say that no alterations take place in the former, while assimilation repeats itself every 24 hours. A great deal takes place inside your organism, but your periphery remains unchanged. Now try to discover, in the outer world, something corresponding with this inner mobility in relation to firmness, that you find in Man. Look at the Universe of Stars. Note how the constellations move as little as do the particles on the surface of the human periphery. You will find that the constellation of Aries is always at a fixed distance from the constellation of Taurus, just as your two eyes remain at the same distance from one another. But apparently this whole stellar heaven moves; apparently it revolves around the Earth. Well, in respect of this, men are today no longer ignorant, they know that the movement is merely apparent, and ascribe its appearance to a revolution of the Earth upon her own axis.

Many have been the attempts to find proof for this revolution of the Earth on her axis. It was really only during the fifties of the last century that man began to have the right to speak of such a revolution, for it was only then that the pendulum experiments of Foucault showed this turning of the Earth. I will not go into this further today. We have however, in this way, valid proof of this terrestrial process, which repeats itself every 24 hours. It represents, in relation to the fixed constellations, the analogy of the rhythmic course of metabolism in man as compared to the fixed nature of his peripheric form; and here you can find, if you examine thoroughly all the conditions and relationships, exact evidence for the movement of the Earth in the processes of metabolism in man.

In these times we come across various so-called theories of relativity which claim that we cannot really speak of absolute motion. If I look out of the window of a railway carriage and think that the objects outside are moving, in reality it is the train and myself that are moving. Neither however can it be strictly proved that the world outside is not also moving in an opposite direction! All this kind of talk is, as a matter of fact, not of much value. For if one man walks forward and another man stands still in the distance while he approaches him it is, relatively speaking, immaterial whether he says: “I approach him” or “he approaches me”. Looked at in this way there seems to be no difference. Such considerations as this form, as you know, the foundations of the Einstein theories of relativity.

It is all very well—but there is a way whereby one can strictly prove the motion, for the person who remains at rest will not experience fatigue, whereas the one who walks will do so. By means of inner processes the absolute reality of motion can thus be proved; indeed there are no other proofs but the inner processes. Applying this to the Earth, we can truly speak there too of absolute motion, for through Spiritual Science we learn to realise that this motion is the equivalent of the inner motion of metabolism as compared with the fixed form of man. We should not lay so much stress upon the fact that the Earth rotates round its axis and thereby brings about an apparent Solar motion in space, but should instead relate this terrestrial motion to the whole Starry Universe; we should not speak of Sun days, but rather of Star days—which are not synonymous, for the Stellar day is shorter than the Solar day. A correction is always necessary in formulae dealing with the Solar day. Hence we can truly speak of this movement of the Earth on her axis as of something derivable from Man's nature; for as already pointed out, with the revolution considered in its relation to the fixed starry heavens is connected the inner motion of metabolism in Man. To sum up, the relation of metabolism in Man to the forces responsible for the form of Man is the relation of the Earth to the Heaven of Fixed Stars, which latter is represented for us by the Zodiac.

When we look at the Zodiac, it forms for us the outer cosmic representative of our own outer form. When we consider the Earth, we have before us the representative of the assimilative forces within us; and the relation of movement in each case corresponds.

Now it will be a little more difficult to find the relationship between (2) and (3), between Inner Movements and Organic Forces. We can however make the matter comprehensible in the following way. If you consider the movements within the human organism, you will readily conclude that they are something in Man that is in no way so fixed as his outer periphery. They are in motion. But something further is connected with this movement. The movements include that of the blood as well as the nerve-fluid, lymph, etc. We need not give a detailed list of them here, but there are seven of these inner movements. Connected with these movements are the individual organs. The forces of motion have produced, within their courses, these organs; in the latter we must recognise the results of these motions. I have often drawn attention recently to the real truth concerning the human heart. The materialistic view of the world, as I have pointed out, is of opinion that the heart is a kind of pump, forcing the blood through the whole body. But this is not the case; on the contrary, the pulsation of the heart is not the cause but the effect of circulation. Into the living inner motions or movements is inserted the functioning of the organs.

If we try to discover a cosmic equivalent for this, we will find it by observing, on the one hand, the movements of the Planets, especially if we consider their motions in relation to the movements of the moon. You will know—having already had this explanation in previous lectures—the connection between the lunar motion and the phenomena of the tides; and much more besides is connected with this lunar motion. Were we to study the phenomena of Nature more deeply, we should find that not only does light appear as a result of the sunrise, but other—and indeed more material—effects in our Earth-environment are to be connected with the planetary motion. When once this is made the basis of real, genuine study, we shall realise the harmony existing between many phenomena on the Earth and the motions of the planets. We shall study the effects of the planetary influence upon air, water and earth, in the same way as we have to study—in the human body—the influences upon their respective organs of the forces of inner movement existing in the circulation of the blood and in other circulations. In this way we shall discover a certain reciprocal action between the organic activities and the forces of inner movement. Just as we have already observed a correspondence between Earth and the Fixed Stars, so now we shall in fact have before us a similar correspondence between earth, water, air, fire (heat) and the planets—among which we reckon, of course, the Sun.

Thus we arrive at a certain relation between occurrences within the human organism and those taking place outside in the Macrocosm. For the present, however, we need concern ourselves only with the organic forces. How are they built up in the human body? They are built up in such a manner that as we follow the human life during the periods of this building-up process of the organs, we may recognise with a fair degree of accuracy that the process is related to the course of the year as metabolism is related to the course of the day. Observe how this building process takes place in the child, commencing at conception and proceeding until he first ‘sees the light of the world’ as it is beautifully expressed. After this, and especially during the first months after birth, the building-up process proceeds still further; so that, in very fact, we have here to do with a year's course. Then we have another period of about one year to the appearance of the first teeth. Thus, in the building process of the organs we have a yearly course. But this course stands in a similar relation to the forces of inner movement in Man as the varied conditions of the year's activity—Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter—do to the planets. Here again we discover something in Man that has correspondences in the Macrocosm. We cannot study these matters in any other way than by comparing details with each other. All I can do today is to draw your attention to certain facts that bear upon this subject, for were we to examine the connections in detail it would take us too long; but by studying certain relationships in Man during the actual building process of the organs, and seeing them in connection with the forces of inner movement, you can find everywhere analogies of that which takes place in the quarterly changes in the Seasons, as seen in their relationship to the forces of planetary motion. But we must avoid commencing our examination upon the basis of the heart being a pump; on the contrary, the heart must be viewed as a creation of the circulation of the blood. We must, so to speak, insert the heart into a living blood-circulation. The movement of the Sun too must be thought of as similarly inserted into the movements of the Planets. An unbiased examination of the intra-human conditions compels us to speak of a revolution of the Earth on her axis causing an apparent motion of the starry heavens—for this constitutes the equivalent of the movements connected with metabolism in their relations to the human outer form. But we cannot speak of a movement of the Earth around the Sun during the year. We cannot do this, if we understand the inner man which lives in close connection with the Macrocosm; for we must not conceive of that which moves towards the heart, in any other manner than we would the other flows of movement within man. We must therefore recognise that we are concerned not with an elliptical movement of the Earth in the course of the year but rather with a movement which corresponds to the Solar motion. That is, Earth and Sun move together in the course of the year; the one does not circle around the other. The latter opinion is the result of judging appearances; in actuality we have here the motion of both these bodies in space with a certain connection between the two. This is something in the Copernican theory that will have to be substantially corrected. But there is yet another way in which we must conceive the relation of man with macrocosmic nature.

What really is the nature of the process which we observe in the daily movement of metabolism? Only part of this process is carried on in such a way as to be accompanied by the phenomena of our consciousness, another part being accomplished while consciousness is shut off, while the Ego and astral body are separated from the physical and etheric. Now we must especially note the following. Man does not experience in the same way what takes place between awaking and going to sleep and what takes place between going to sleep and awaking. Just consider the relation between the two moments of time—going to sleep and awaking. If you do this with an unprejudiced mind, you will arrive at an unequivocal view of this matter. When you go to sleep, you are, as it were, at the zero of your being; the condition of sleep is not merely one of rest, it is the antithetical condition of the waking state. When you awake, you are, from the standpoint of your life, really in the same relation to yourself and your environment as you are at the moment of going to sleep. The one is the equivalent of the other, the only difference being that of direction. Awaking means passing from sleep to the waking state; falling asleep is the reverse. Apart from direction they are absolutely alike. Therefore if we could indicate the movements of metabolism by a line, then it cannot be a straight line or a circle, for they would not contain the points of awaking and of falling asleep. We must find a line which actually depicts the movements of metabolism, so as to contain these points, and the only one—search as long as you like—is the lemniscate. Here you have the point of awaking in one direction and the point of falling asleep in the other direction. The directions alone are opposite, the two movements being equal as regards life-condition. We can now distinguish in a real way the cycle of day and the cycle of night.

Whither does all this lead? If we have grasped the fact that the motion of the daily metabolism corresponds to the motion of the Earth, we can no longer, with the Earth here (diagram) attribute to any one point a circular motion. On the contrary, we must form the conception that the Earth in actual fact proceeds along her path in such a way as to produce a line like that of the lemniscate. The motion is not a simple revolution, but a more complicated movement; each point of the terrestrial surface describes a lemniscate, which is also the line described by the metabolic process.

We cannot therefore imagine the Earth's movement to consist merely of a turning round the axis, for in reality it is a complicated motion in which every point upon which you stand, describes—actually in order to form the foundation for the movement of your metabolic processes—a lemniscate. It is absolutely necessary to seek in the movements of the outer Universe the equivalent of movements taking place within Man. For only by a study of the changes within physical Man can we arrive at an understanding of the planetary motions exterior to Man. When a man sets his limbs in motion and becomes tired, we cannot go on arguing the point as to whether he is in relative or actual motion! It is out of the question to say: Perhaps the movement is only relative, perhaps the other man whom he is approaching is after all really approaching him! Theories of Relativity no longer hold water, when the inner motion proves that man moves. And it is impossible also to prove the movements in the interior of the Earth, except by means of the inner changes that go on in Man. The movements of metabolism, for example, are the true reflection of that which the Earth executes as motion in space. And again, that which we have termed the organ-building forces, active in the course of the year, are the equivalent of the annual motion of Earth and Sun together. We shall have occasion to speak more specifically of these things later; at the moment I should like to draw your attention once more to our model, where I have pointed out that the Earth moves behind the Sun in a screw-like line, the Earth moving along always with the Sun. And then if we view the line from above, we get a projection of the line and the projection shows a lemniscate.

Now all this will make it clear that we can certainly speak of a daily motion of the Earth around her axis, but by no means of a yearly motion of the Earth around the Sun. For the Earth follows the Sun, describing the same path.

Various other facts show that we have no right to speak of such a revolution. To give one instance, the fact that it was found necessary—I have spoken of this before—simply to suppress one statement of Copernicus. Were the Earth revolving round the Sun, we should of course expect her axis, which owing to its inertia remains parallel, to point in the direction of different fixed stars during this revolution. But it does not! If the Earth revolved round the Sun, the axis could not indicate the direction of the Pole-star, for the point indicated would itself have to revolve round the Polestar; it does not however do this, the axis continually indicates the Pole-star. That line which should be apparent to us and which would correspond to the progressive motion of the Earth in her relation to the Sun, is not to be found.

It is in a spiral, screw-like path that the Earth follows the Sun, boring her way, as it were, into cosmic space.

I have already indicated however that there is another movement which manifests in the phenomena of the precession of the equinoxes—the movement of the point of sunrise at the Spring-equinox through the Zodiac, once in 25,920 years. This also is the equivalent of a certain motion in Man. What can we find within Man corresponding to it? You may be able to come to a conclusion on this point from what I have said above. We have to find a motion equivalent to the relation of the Sun to the Fixed Stars, for the point of sunrise progresses through the complete Zodiac—or fixed stars—once in 25,920 years. The equivalent in Man is the relation between the forces of inner movement and the forces of form; this must therefore also be of long duration. The forces of inner movement in Man must change in some way, so as to alter their position in relation to the periphery of Man.

You will remember what I said about something that has been observable since the period of ancient Greece. I said that the Greeks used the same word for ‘yellow’ and ‘green’, that they really did not see blue in the same way as we do, but actually, as reported by Roman writers, realised and used four colours only in their art, namely yellow, red, black and white. They saw these four living colours. To them the sky was not blue as we see it; it appeared to them as a kind of darkness. Now this is an assertion that can be made in all certainty, and Spiritual Science confirms it. This change in Man has taken place since the time of ancient Greece. When you ponder over the fact that the constitution of the human eye has undergone such a degree of modification since the period of ancient Greece, you can then also conceive of other alterations in the human organism, taking place upon the periphery and occupying still longer periods of time for their accomplishment. Such alterations upon the periphery must of necessity bear a relation to the forces of inner movement, for, of course, they cannot be produced by the digestion or the organic functions. These peripheric modifications correspond, as a matter of fact, to the course of the vernal equinox in the Zodiac, to a period, that is, of 25,920 years. During this period the human race undergoes complete change. We must not make the mistake of thinking that previous to that time humanity appeared as we now see it. Consideration of the circumstances connected with physical existence makes it absurd to use the figures given us by modern geology for the purpose of following human evolution in time, for we can comprise this only in the period of 25,920 years, and part of that is still in the future. When the vernal equinox has come back again to the same place, the alterations that will have taken place in the whole human race are such that the human form will be quite dissimilar to what it is now. I have already told you something derived from other sources of cognition about the future of the human race and about its age. And here we see how the consideration of physical conditions compels a recognition of the same knowledge.

As a result of the above we arrive at the realisation that what we call the ‘movements of the heavenly bodies’ are not quite as simple as present day astronomy would have us believe, but that we enter here into extremely complicated conditions—conditions that can be studied from the standpoint of Man's connection with the Macrocosm. I have already been able to point out to you certain details of the motions of the heavenly bodies, and we shall in course of time learn more and more about them from other sources. You will be able already to see one thing—that man is not wholly dependent upon the Macrocosm. With what lies deep down in the subconscious, with the processes namely of assimilation, he is still in a certain way—but only in a certain way—bound to the Earth's daily revolution around her axis. Nevertheless, he can lift himself out of this connection. How is this? It is possible because man as he now is, built up in accordance with the forces of the periphery and of inner movement, with the forces too of the organs and of the metabolic system, is complete and finished in his dependence on the forces from without; and now he is able, with his complete and finished organisation to sever himself from this connection. In the same sense that we have in waking and sleeping a copy of day and night, having thus in ourselves the inner rhythm of day and night, but not needing to make this inner rhythm correspond with the outer rhythm of day and night (i.e. we need not sleep at night, nor wake during the day), so in a similar way does Man sever his connection with the Macrocosm in other departments of his existence. Upon this is founded the possibility of human free-will. It is not the present formation of Man that is dependent upon the Macrocosm, but his past formation. Man's present experiences are fundamentally a picture or copy of his past adaptation to the Macrocosm, and in this sense we live in the pictures of our past. Within these we are enabled to evolve our freedom, and from them we receive our moral laws, which are independent of the necessity ruling in our nature. It is when we understand clearly how Man and Macrocosm are related to each other that we recognise the possibility of free-will in Man.

Finally we must think over the following. It is clear that in Man the metabolic forces are still, in a certain respect, connected with the rhythm of his daily life. The forces of form have solidified. Now consider the animal instead of Man. Here we shall find a much more complete dependence upon the Macrocosm. Man has grown out of or beyond this dependence. The ancient wisdom therefore spoke of the Zodiac or Animal Circle, not of the Man Circle, as corresponding to the forces of formation. The forces of form manifest themselves in the animal kingdom in a great variety of forms, while in Man they manifest essentially in one form covering the whole human race; but they are the forces of the animal kingdom, and as we evolve beyond them and become Man, we must go out beyond the Zodiac. Beyond the Zodiac lies that upon which we, as human beings, are dependent in a higher sense than we are upon all that exists within the Zodiac, that is, within the circle of the fixed stars. Beyond the Zodiac is that which corresponds to our Ego.

With the astral body—which the animal also possesses—we are fettered to a dependence upon the Macrocosm, and the building up of the astral vehicle takes place in accordance with the will of the Stars. But with our "I" or Ego we transcend this Zodiac.

Here we have the principle upon which we have gained our freedom. Within the Zodiac we cannot sin, any more than can the animals; we begin to sin as soon as we carry our action beyond the Zodiac. This happens when we do that which makes us free from our connection with the Universal forces of formation, when we enter into relationship with regions exterior to the Zodiac or region of fixed stars. And this is the essential content of the human Ego.

You see, we may measure the Universe in so far as it appears to us a visible and temporal thing, we may measure its full extension through space to the outermost fixed stars, and all that takes place by way of movement in time in this starry heaven, and we may consider all this in its relation to Man; but in Man is being fulfilled something that goes on outside this space and outside this time, outside all that takes place in the astral. There beyond, is no ‘necessity of Nature’, but only that has place which is intimately connected with our moral nature and moral actions. Within the Zodiac we are unable to evolve our moral nature; but in so far as we evolve it, we record it into the Macrocosm beyond the Zodiac. All that we do remains and works in the world. The processes taking place within us from the forces of formation to the forces of metabolism, are the result of the past. But the past does not prejudge the whole of the future, it has no power over that future which eventuates from Man himself in his moral actions.

I can only lead you forward in this study step by step. Keep well in mind what I have said today and in my next lecture we will examine the matter from yet another point of view.