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Man—Hieroglyph of the Universe
GA 201

Lecture Thirteen

9 May 1920, Dornach

I have now brought together many and various matters which may help us to a perception of the structure of the Universe in its relation to Man. We have seen—and this must be emphasised again and again—that the Universe cannot be grasped without Man. That means that it is not possible to understand the Universe in itself, without keeping in mind Man and the relation of the Universe to him. If one wishes to form in a very simple way an idea of Man's connection with the Universe, one need only think of a theme in elementary astronomy—the so-called ‘obliquity of the ecliptic’—that is, the oblique position of the Earth's axis in relation to the line, the curve, which passes through the Zodiac. This obliquity of the ecliptic may be understood and even interpreted as you will; with such interpretations we are not for the moment concerned as to whether they accord with reality or not; we are concerned rather to bring a certain fact to your notice. If the Earth's axis—the axis on which the Earth turns daily—were perpendicular to the plane through the Zodiacal ecliptic, then day and night would be equal throughout the year over the whole Earth. If the Earth's axis lay in the ecliptic, then over the whole Earth one half of the year would be day and one half night. Both extremes do in a certain respect actually occur at the equator and at the poles. But in between lie regions where the length of day varies in the course of the year. We need only reflect a little on this matter to arrive at the tremendous significance for the whole evolution of earthly civilisation, of the position of the Earth's axis in cosmic space. Just reflect, we could all of us throughout the Earth be only Eskimos if the axis lay in the ecliptic; were it vertical to the ecliptic, the whole Earth would be filled with the kind of civilisation that prevails at the equator.

Thus as regards the position of the Earth's axis, no matter how it may be interpreted—of course an understanding of the truth depends upon what interpretation we give it, but any interpretation will serve to make one perceive the connection between Man, his culture and civilisation, and the structure of the Universe; and the fact behind the interpretation, whatever the latter may be, compels us to regard Man and the Earth as forming part of the Universe, and not, in respect of man's physical being, as though he could be considered independently. This cannot be done. As physical being, Man is not a reality in himself, but only when regarded as one with the whole Earth, just as a hand severed from the human organism cannot be regarded as in any true sense a reality: it dies, it is only thinkable in connection with the organism. A rose, when plucked, dies, and as a reality it is only conceivable in connection with the rose-tree which is rooted in the Earth; so too, to estimate Man in his entirety, in his totality, one cannot regard him as simply enclosed in the boundaries of his skin.

Thus what we experience on Earth must be considered in connection with the Earth's axis. It is important in a view of the Universe based on reality that what is a partial truth should not be interpreted as a whole truth. We come to comprehend in its reality the whole man as a being of soul and spirit by not considering him as a reality in his physical nature. He is a reality as a being of soul and spirit, a complete independent reality, a true individual. What he inhabits between birth and death—the physical and etheric bodies—are not realities in themselves, they are members of the whole Earth, and as we shall presently see, they are even part of another whole.

This brings us to something which must be observed still more closely. I must again and again point out one thing. The ideas we form of man almost always tend, unconsciously, to our regarding him as a solid body. True, we are aware that he is not precisely a hard body, that he is to some extent plastic, but we are very often unaware that he consists of far more than 75% fluid, of which only the residue can be regarded as solid mineral being. Man is really 75% a water being. Now I ask you, therefore, is it possible to describe the human organism, as is usually done, in sharp outlines—saying: ‘Here we have the lobes of the brain, here this organ’, and so forth, and then assume that the solidly circumscribed organs combine in their activity to bring about the activity of the whole organism? There is no sense whatever in that. It is a question of bearing in mind the fact that Man within the limits of his skin, is, as it were, surging water; that what is purely inwardly surging fluidity also has a meaning, and that we should not describe Man as if he were more or less a solid body. In Spiritual Science this has a very deep significance. For precisely when we consider the solid in Man, which is in a manner connected with the external minerals, we find that the solid in the human being has a certain relation to the Earth.

We have observed the various relations of Man to the world around him, we will now establish the relation of his solid substance to the Earth. This connection exists; the watery element in Man has, however, primarily no connection with the Earth but with the planetary Universe outside, and especially with the Moon. Precisely as the Moon, not directly but indirectly, has a relation to the ebb and flow of the tides, to certain configurations of the fluid part of the Earth, so too it has a connection with what takes place in the fluid part of the human organism. I described yesterday that we have on the one side the astronomy that applies to the Sun—and also to the Earth. We ourselves are part of that astronomy, for we are organised into it as organisms containing solid substances. Lunar astronomy however, is different. We are organised into lunar astronomy in so far as it is connected with our fluid constituents. Thus we see that the forces of the Cosmos work into the solid and fluid parts of our physical nature.

This has a still greater significance, which is, that what we call our Ego has primarily a direct influence on our solid man, and that what we call our astral body has an indirect influence on our fluid man—so that what works from the soul and spirit upon our organisation, comes, through our bodily nature, also into connection with all the forces of the Cosmos. These movements of the Cosmos have always been a subject of observation, from the most varied points of view. When we look back to the ancient Persian civilisation we find that even then researches were made into the movements of the Universe. These researches were also made by the Chaldeans and by the Egyptians, and it is not without interest to study the attitude of the Egyptians to movements of the Universe. They had, of course, for what were apparently quite material reasons, to study the connection of the Earth with the outer Cosmos, for their land depended upon the inundations of the Nile which took place precisely when the Sun was in a definite position in the Universe. This position could be determined by that of Sirius; so that the Egyptians had arrived at making observations as to the position of the Sun in relation to what we now call the Fixed Stars. Especially in the Egyptian sacerdotal colonies, in their Mysteries, extensive researches were made into the relation of the Sun to the other stars. As I have already said, the Egyptians knew perfectly well that each year the Sun appeared to have shifted its position in the heavens in regard to the other stars, and they calculated thereby that the stars—whether apparently or really is immaterial just now—as they daily moved round the heavens, had a certain velocity, and that the daily movement of the Sun had also a certain velocity, but not quite so great as that of the stars. The Sun always lagged somewhat behind. The Egyptians knew and recorded the fact that the Sun lagged behind about one day in 72 years, so that when a particular star which rose with the Sun in a definite year rises again 72 years later, the Sun does not rise with it but 24 hours later. A star belonging to the world of fixed stars, a star in the Zodiac, outstrips the Sun by one day, one full day, in every 72 years. Multiply 72 by 360 and we obtain 25,920 years. That is a number which we often meet with. It is the time needed by the Sun in its lagging behind to get back to its starting-point; having thus gone round the whole Zodiac. The Sun is therefore exactly one degree behind in 72 years, for a circle has, as we know, 360 degrees. According to this reckoning, the Egyptians divided the great year—which really comprises 25,920 years—into 360 days; but such a day was 72 years long. And 72 years, what is that? It is the average limit of duration of man's life. Certainly there are individuals who live to be older, others not so old, but in general it constitutes the farther limit for human life. Thus one can say: The whole connection in the Universe is so constructed that it sustains a man's whole life for a solar day, which is 72 years. True, man is emancipated from that. He can be born at any time; but his life here as physical man between birth and death is arranged according to the solar day. Referring to historical records, one generally finds that the ordinary year of the Egyptians was reckoned as 360 days (not 365.25 as it actually is), until later on it was found to accord so little with the course of the stars that the other 5 days had to be inserted. How came it that the Egyptians originally took 360 days for the year? In the cosmic year a degree—that is, a 360th part—is actually a cosmic day of 72 years. Thus in the Egyptian Mysteries it was taught that man is so connected with the Cosmos, that the duration of his life is one day of the cosmic year. He was thus organised into the Cosmos. His relation to the Cosmos was made clear to him through connections which belong to the decadence of the whole evolution of the Egyptian people.

The essential nature of man and his connection with the Cosmos was not then made known to the wide mass of the Egyptians—that is characteristic of the time. It was said that if all men knew the nature of their being, how it is organised into the Cosmos, and that the duration of their own life has its part in the duration of the Sun's revolution, then those who felt themselves organised into the Universe would not allow themselves to be ruled, for each would regard himself as a member of the Universe. Only those were allowed to know this who it was believed were called to be leaders. The rest were not to possess such knowledge of the Cosmos, but a knowledge of the day only. This is connected with the decadence of the Egyptian civilisation. It was certainly necessary in regard to many other things, that immature people should not be initiated into the Mysteries, but this was extended to such things as gave power to the leaders and rulers.

Now, very much of what permeates our human souls today is derived from oriental sources. Traditional Christianity too contains much which has come from oriental sources; and especially into Roman Christianity a strong impulse has descended from Egypt. Just as the Egyptians were kept in ignorance concerning their connection with the Cosmos, so in certain circles of Romanism the view prevails that people must be kept in ignorance of their connection with the Cosmos which comes about through the Mystery of Golgotha. Hence the fierce conflict which arises when, from an inner necessity of our age, we emphasise that the Event of Golgotha is not simply something which must be regarded as outside the rest of cosmic conception but rather as inserted into it, when we show how what took place on Golgotha is really connected with the whole Universe and its constitution. It is regarded as the worst heresy to describe Christ as the Sun-Spirit, as we have done.

It must not be supposed that the point at issue is not well-known; but just as the Egyptian priest knew quite well that the ordinary year has not 360 days but 365.25, so certain people are perfectly well aware that the matter with which the Christ Mystery deals is also connected with the Sun Mysteries. But present-day humanity is to be hindered from receiving this knowledge—the very knowledge that it needs; for as I have already said, the materialistic view of the Universe is much preferred by that side to Spiritual Science. Materialistic science also has its practical consequences, in which again the present time may be compared with ancient Egypt. I call attention to the fact that the Egyptians as such were thus dependent upon the course of the Sun, on the relation of the earthly to the heavenly, as regards their external civilisation. The withholding of the knowledge of the connection of cosmic phenomena and their effect on the cultivation of the land, represented a certain power in the hands of the declining priesthood, for thereby the Egyptian labourers had to submit to direction from the priests, who had the requisite knowledge.

Now if the European and American civilisations were to retain their present character, adhering only to the materialistic, Copernican view of the Universe—with its off-shoot, the Kant-Laplace theory—a materialistic cosmogony must necessarily arise concerning earthly phenomena, biological, physical and chemical. It would be impossible for a cosmogony of this kind to include the moral world order in its structure. It could not embrace the Christ-Event, for it is impossible to be a believer in the materialistic view of the world and at the same time a Christian; that is an inner lie, it is something that cannot be, if one is honest and upright. Hence it was inevitable that the practical consequences should be seen in Europe and American culture, of the split between materialism on the one hand and a moral cosmogony on the other, and along with the moral cosmogony, also the contents of the religious faiths. This result was evidenced in the fact that men who had no external reason for being inwardly dishonest, threw faith overboard, and established a materialistic cosmogony for human life also. Thereby the materialistic cosmogony became a social cosmogony. This would however have the further consequence for our European and American civilisation that man would have a materialistic cosmogony only and would know nothing of the Earth's connection with cosmic powers, in the sense that we have described it. Within a certain caste, however, the knowledge of the connection with the cosmogony would remain, just as the Egyptian priests kept the knowledge of the Platonic year, the great cosmic year and the great cosmic day; and such circles could hope then to rule the people who under materialism degenerate into barbarism.

Of course these things have been said today only from a sense of duty towards truth; but they must be said out of such a duty to truth. It is of importance that a certain number of people should realise how necessary it is to give the Mystery of Golgotha its cosmological significance. This significance must be recognised by a number of people, who must on their part, undertake a certain responsibility that the fact should not remain hidden from earthly humanity—the fact that humanity is connected with the non-earthly Spirit, who lived in Palestine in the Man Jesus, at the beginning of our era. It is necessary that the knowledge of the entrance of Christ from the non-earthly world into the Man Jesus of Nazareth, should not be withheld. To such penetration belongs the overcoming of that dishonesty which is so general today in questions of cosmic conceptions and of faith. For what is done today? We are told on the one hand that the Earth moves in an ellipse round the Sun and has evolved in the sense of the Kant-Laplace theory, and we subscribe to this; and on the other hand we are told that at the beginning of our era such and such events took place in Palestine. These two things are accepted, without being connected; people accept them and think it of no consequence. It is not without consequence however, for it is much less evil when a lie is consciously accepted, than when it takes shape unconsciously, and degrades Man and drags him down. For if we consider a lie as it appears in a man's consciousness, every time he falls asleep it leaves his physical and etheric bodies with his consciousness, and lives on in spaceless, timeless being, in the eternal being, while Man is in dreamless sleep. There is prepared all which can result from the lie in the future; that is, everything is made ready to correct it, if it is in the consciousness. But if it is in the unconscious, it remains with the physical and etheric bodies lying in bed. When Man is not occupying these bodies, it then belongs to the Cosmos, and not to the earthly Cosmos alone, but to the whole Cosmos; there it works for the destruction of the Cosmos; above all, for the destruction of the whole of humanity, for this destruction begins in humanity itself.

Man can escape what threatens humanity in this way, by no other means than by striving after inner truth as regards such supreme questions of existence. Thus there is a kind of appeal to humanity today from out of the impulses of our time to realise that a materialistic astronomy knowing nothing of how at a definite point of time the Event of Golgotha took shape, should no longer exist. Every astronomy which includes the Moon in the structure of the Universe just the same as the Sun and Earth, instead of allowing the two streams to run in with one another, but still as separate streams—every such astronomy is no Christian astronomy but a heathen astronomy. Therefore every theory of evolution which describes the Universe homogeneously must from the Christian stand-point be rejected. If you follow my book, Occult Science, you will see how, in the description of the Saturn and Sun periods, the stream divides into two, which then intermingle and work together. Here we have two streams. In the descriptions usually given, however, the ideas are in accordance with the continuation of the pagan development. And you will find this true down to the very details. You know that Darwinian theorists describing the evolution of the organic form, would say: First there were simple organic forms, then more complicated forms, then more and more complicated forms, and so forth, up to Man. But this is not so. If we take Man as three-membered, his head alone is the development from the lower animal form. What is added to it has arisen later. Thus we cannot say that in our vertebral column we have something which transforms itself into head, we must say: Our head certainly arose from earlier structures which were spine-like; but the present spine has nothing to do with that development, it is a later appendage. What is now our head-organisation has arisen from a differently formed spine.

This I say for those who are interested in the theory of descent. I mention it so that you may see that a straight line leads from cosmic considerations to consideration of what lies in human evolution, and so that you may see the necessity for an enlightened Spiritual Science in all different realms of knowledge and of life. For science must not simply continue to develop, as did the science of the last century, under the influence of the materialistic view of the Universe, which is itself a child of the materialistic comprehension of Christianity. We owe materialism to the materialisation of the Christian view of the Universe. The teaching of the cosmic Christ must be re-established in opposition to the materialised form of Christianity we have today. This is the most important task of our time; and until its importance is realised, man will not be able to see clearly in any domain.

I have wanted to tell you these things, because they will enable you to understand better why ill-willed opponents fight so strenuously against what we are bringing before the world today. I was obliged to connect this whole study with a kind of cosmology, with the consideration of which we will continue in the next lecture.