Corner icon Lectures Section image

Rudolf Steiner Archive

Calendar of the Soul

Week 27

When to my being's depths I penetrate,
There stirs expectant longing
That self-observing, I may find myself
As gift of summer sun, a seed
That warming lives in autumn mood
As germinating force of soul.

Southern Hemisphere
Week 1

When out of world-wide spaces
The sun speaks to the human mind,
And gladness from the depths of soul
Becomes, in seeing, one with light,
Then rising from the sheath of self,
Thoughts soar to distances of space
And dimly bind
The human being to the spirit's life.

—Translation by Ruth and Hans Pusch

See GA 40 for full calendar and German text.

Therapeutic Insights: Earthly and Cosmic Laws
GA 205

Lecture III

1 July 1921, Dornach

I would like today to consider briefly something in connection with the subject dealt with last week and also earlier, something that can lead on to the further development of our studies. In experiencing the world around us, we see, in the world and also in ourselves, many things as being abnormal, perhaps even diseased, and indeed, this is quite justified from one point of view; but when we perceive something as abnormal or diseased in an absolute sense, we have not yet understood the world. Indeed, we often block the path to an understanding of the world if we simply remain with such evaluations of existence as healthy and ill, right and wrong, true and false, good and evil, etc. For what appears as diseased or abnormal from one point of view is from another point of view fully justified within the whole of world relationships. I will give you a concrete case, so that you may see what I mean.

The appearance of so-called hallucinations, or visions, is looked upon quite rightly as something diseased. Hallucinations, pictures that appear before human consciousness and that do not reveal a corresponding reality upon closer, critical examination — such hallucinations, such visions, are something diseased if we consider them from the standpoint of human life as it unfolds between birth, or conception, and death. When we describe hallucinations as something abnormal, however, as something that certainly does not belong to the normal course of life between birth and death, we have in no way grasped the inherent nature of hallucination.

Let us now set aside all such judgments regarding hallucination. Let us consider how it appears when we observe someone during a hallucination. The hallucination appears as a picture that is bound up with the whole subjective life, with the inner life, in a more intensive way than the usual outer perception, which is transmitted through the senses. Hallucination is experienced inwardly far more intensely than sense perception. Sense perception can be penetrated at the same time by sharp, critical thoughts, but one who is under the influence of hallucinations does not permeate them with sharp, critical thoughts. He lives in a hovering, weaving picture element.

What is this element in which man lives when he is suffering from hallucinations? You see, we cannot understand this if we know only what enters ordinary human consciousness between birth and death. In this consciousness the content of hallucination enters as something that is unjustified under all circumstances. Hallucination must be seen from an entirely different point of view; then we can approach its essence. This point of view is found when in the course of development leading to a higher vision man learns to know the living and weaving that are active between death and a new birth, particularly the living and weaving of his own being, when this life is but a few decades from his approaching birth, or conception. If, therefore, we attain the capacity enabling us to live into what is experienced quite normally when a human being is nearing birth or conception, we live into the true form of what appears in life between birth and death in an abnormal way as hallucination.

Just as here in the life between birth and death we are surrounded by the world of colors, by the world that we feel with every breath of air, etc. — in short, by the world we picture to be the one we experience between birth and death — so our own soul-spiritual being lives, between death and a new birth, in an element that is altogether identical with what can appear in us as hallucination. We are born, as it were, out of the element of hallucination, particularly in our bodily nature. What appears as hallucination hovers and breathes through the world that lies at the foundation of our present one; in being born, we rise out of this element, which can then appear abnormally to the soul in the world of hallucinations. What are hallucinations, then, within everyday consciousness?

When the human being has passed through the experiences of the life between death and a new birth and has entered into physical, sensory existence through conception and birth, certain spiritual beings of the higher hierarchies, with whom we are already acquainted, have had an intuition, and the result of this intuition is the physical body. We may say, therefore, that certain beings have intuitions; the result of these intuitions is the human physical body, which can only come into existence by being permeated by the soul, rising out of the element of hallucination. What takes place, however, when hallucinations appear in a diseased way within ordinary consciousness? I can only make this clear in a pictorial way, but this is natural enough since hallucinations are themselves pictures. It is self-evident that in this case we can reach no result by using abstract concepts — we must explain it in a pictorial way.

Think of the following: as I have recently explained to you, the human physical body actually consists of solid substance only to the slightest extent necessary to preserve the solid contours. The largest proportion is watery; it also consists of the element of air, and so forth. This human physical body has a certain consistency, it has a certain natural density. If, now, this natural density is changed into an unnatural one, if it is interfered with — picture, symbolically, that the elasticity of this physical body were to be decreased — then the original hallucinatory element out of which it is born would be pressed out, just as water is pressed out of a sponge. The appearance of this hallucinatory nature is due only to the fact that the original element out of which the body arises, out of which it is formed, is pressed out of the physical body. The illness that expresses itself in a hallucinatory life of consciousness always points to something unhealthy in the physical body, which presses its own substance spiritually, as it were, out of itself.

This leads us to the fact that, in a certain sense, our thinking is indeed what materialists state it to be. Our physical body is, in reality, an image of what “pre-existed” before birth, or conception, in the spiritual worlds. It is an image. And thinking that arises in ordinary consciousness — that thinking which is the pride of modern man — is not unjustly described by materialists as something entirely bound up with the physical body. It is simply the case that this thinking, which has served modern man particularly since the birth of the modern scientific way of thinking, since the fifteenth century — this thinking perishes as such with the physical body, it ceases when the physical body ceases to exist. What you often find in the Roman Catholic philosophy of today — the philosophy current today, not the one of the earlier centuries — according to which the abstract, intellectual activity of the soul survives death, this is incorrect, it is not true. This thinking, which is characteristic of the soul life of the present, is thoroughly bound up with the physical body. The part that survives the physical body can only be perceived when we reach the next higher stage of cognition, in Imaginative cognition, in pictorial mental images, and so forth.

You might argue that in this case a person who has no capacity for forming pictorial mental images would not have immortality. The question cannot be posed in this way, however, for it means nothing at all to say that a person does not have pictorial mental images. You can say that in your everyday consciousness you do not have pictorial mental images, that you do not bring them into your everyday consciousness, but pictorial mental images, imaginations, are constantly forming themselves within us; it is just that they are used in the organic processes of life. They become the forces out of which man continuously builds up his organism anew. Our materialistic philosophy and our materialistic natural science believe that during sleep man rebuilds his worn-out organs out of something unspecified — out of what does not seem to concern modern science very much. This is not what takes place, however; rather, it is precisely during our waking life — even when we do not go beyond the everyday intellectual consciousness — that we are constantly forming imaginations; we digest these imaginations, as it were, by means of the soul element and build up the body out of them. These imaginations are not perceived as separate entities by our ordinary consciousness, because they are building up the body. The evolution to a higher vision is based upon the fact that we partially withdraw, as far as the outer world is concerned, this work from the physical body, and that we bring to consciousness what otherwise boils and seethes in the depths of this physical body. For this reason spiritual science should accompany this higher vision; otherwise such a vision could not continue for very long, since it would undermine the health of the organism. The imaginative activity is thus very present in the ordinary life of the soul, but between birth and death it is digested and absorbed by the body. We thus may say that here, too, an unconscious activity takes place during ordinary life, but that if it is brought to consciousness it reveals itself as hallucination. Hallucination consists entirely of something that is an ordered, elementary activity in existence. It must not, however, appear in our consciousness at the wrong time. Hallucination in its ordinary manifestation must remain, as it were, more in the unconscious realms of our existence.

When the-body presses out, as it were, its primal substance, it comes to the point of incorporating this pressed-out primal substance into ordinary consciousness, and then hallucinations appear. Hallucinating means nothing other than that the body sends up into consciousness what should really be used within the body for digestion, growth, etc.

This is also connected with what I have so often explained in relation to the illusions that people have in connection with certain mystics. They fear that we will strip the mystic of his holiness if we point out his foundation. Take, for instance, hallucinations that have a beautiful and poetic character such as those described by Mechtild of Magdeburg or St. Theresa. They are indeed beautiful, but what are they, in reality?

If we can see beyond the surface of such things, we shall find that they are hallucinations that have been pressed out of the organs of the body; they are its primal substance. If we wish to describe what is truly there when these most beautiful, mystical poems well up into consciousness, we must sometimes describe, in the case of Mechtild of Magdeburg or St. Theresa, processes very much akin to those of digestion.

We should not say that this takes away the aroma from some of the historical manifestations of mysticism. The great sensual delight that many people feel when they think of mysticism, or when they wish to experience mysticism themselves, can be guided back onto the right path, as it were. Many mystical experiences, however, are nothing but an inner sensual delight, which can indeed rise into consciousness as something poetic and beautiful. What is destroyed by knowledge, however, is only a prejudice, an illusion. He who is really willing to penetrate into the innermost recesses of the human being must participate in the experience that shows him, rather than the beautiful descriptions of the mystic, the conformations of his organs — liver, lungs, etc. — as they are formed out of the cosmos, out of the hallucination of the cosmos. Fundamentally, mysticism does not thereby lose its aroma, but rather a higher knowledge reveals itself if we can describe how the liver forms itself out of the hallucinating cosmos, how, in a certain sense, it is formed out of what appears condensed within itself as metamorphosed spirit, as metamorphosed hallucination. In this way, we look into the bodily nature and see the connection of this bodily nature with the whole cosmos.

Now, however, the very clever people will come — we must always consider these clever people when we present the truth, for they raise their objections whenever we try to do so — these very clever people will say: what is this you are telling us, that the human body is formed out of the universe! Why, we know very well that the human being is born out of the mother's body. We know what it looks like as an embryo, and so on! A thoroughly false conception lies at the basis of such objections, but we will bring them to mind once more, although similar things have already been contemplated on other occasions.

If we regard the various forms of outer nature — let us remain at first in the mineral world — we find the most manifold forms. We speak of them as crystal forms. We also find other forms in nature, however, and we find that a certain configuration, an inner configuration, arises when, let us say, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur are combined. We know that when carbon and oxygen combine and form carbon dioxide, a gas of a certain density arises. When carbon combines with nitrogen, cyanuric acid arises, and so on. Substances are formed that a chemist can always trace; they do not always appear in an outer crystallization, but they have an inner configuration. In modern times — this inner configuration has even been designated by means of the well-known structural formulae in chemistry.

Something has always been taken for granted in this, namely that the molecules, as they are called, become more and more complicated the more we ascend from mineral, inorganic substance to organic substance. We say that the organic molecule, the cellular molecule, consists of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sulfur. It is said that they are connected in some way but in a very complicated way. One of the ideals of natural science is to discover how these individual atoms in the complicated organic molecules are connected. Nevertheless, science admits that it will still be some time before we shall discover how one atom is connected with another within organic substance, within the living molecule. The mystery here, however, is this, that the more organic a substance is, the less one atom will be chemically connected with another, for the substances are whirled about chaotically, and even ordinary protein molecules, for instance in the nerve substance or blood substance, are in reality inwardly amorphous forms; they are not complicated molecules but inorganic matter inwardly torn asunder, inorganic matter that has rid itself of the crystallization forces, the forces that hold molecules together and connect the atoms with one another. This is already the case in the ordinary molecules of the organs, and it is most of all the case in the embryonic molecules, in the protein of the germ.

If I draw the organism here (see drawing), and here the germ — and therefore the beginning of the embryo — the germ is the most chaotic of all as far as the conglomeration of material substance is concerned. This germ is something that has emancipated itself from all forces of crystallization, from all chemical forces of the mineral kingdom, and so on. Absolute chaos has arisen in this one spot, which is held together only by the rest of the organism. Because of the fact that here this chaotic protein has appeared, there is the possibility for the forces of the entire universe to act upon this protein, so that this protein is in fact a copy of the forces of the entire universe. Precisely those forces that then become formative forces for the etheric body and for the astral body are present in the female egg cell, without fertilization yet having taken place. Through fertilization, this formation also acquires the physical body and the I, the sheath of the I, and therefore that which constitutes the formation of the I. This arises through fertilization, and this here (see drawing) is a pure cosmic picture, is a picture from the cosmos, because the protein emancipates itself from all earthly forces and thus can be determined by what is extraterrestrial. In the female egg cell, earthly substance is in fact subject to cosmic forces. The cosmic forces create their own image in the female egg cell. This is even true to the extent that in certain formations of the egg, in the case of certain classes of animals — birds, for instance — something very important can be seen in the form of the egg itself. This cannot be perceived of, of course, in the higher animals or in the human being, but in the formation of the hen's egg, you can find this image of the cosmos. The egg is nothing other than a true image of the cosmos. The cosmic forces work on this protein, which has emancipated itself from the earthly. The egg is absolutely a copy of the cosmos, and philosophers should not speculate on the three dimensions of space, for if we only rightly knew where and how to look, we could find presented everywhere clarification of the riddles of the world. The hen's egg is a simple, visible proof of the fact that one axis of the world is longer than the other two. The borders of the hen's egg, the eggshell, are a true picture of our space. It will indeed be necessary — this is a digression for mathematicians — for our mathematicians to study the relationships between Lubatscheffski's geometry, for instance, or Riemann's definition of space, and the hen's egg, the formation of the hen's egg. A great deal can be learned through this. Problems must really be tackled concretely.

You see, by placing before our souls this determinable protein, we discover the influence of the cosmos upon it, and we can also describe in detail how the cosmos acts upon it. Indeed, it is true that we cannot as yet go very far in this direction, for if human beings were able to see how such things can be extended, such a science would be misused in the most terrible way, particularly in the present time, when the moral level of the civilized population of the earth is extraordinarily low.

We have observed to some extent how our body comes to form mental images: it presses out of itself the hallucinatory world out of which it originated. We carry about with us not only the body but also the soul element. We will be able to observe this better if we leave out of consideration for the moment the soul element and look instead at the spiritual element. You see, my dear friends, just as here between birth and death we look at ourselves from outside and say that we carry a body, so we have a spiritual existence between death and a new birth. This corresponds to an inner perception, but between death and a new birth we speak — if I may express myself in this way — of our spiritual element in just the same way as we speak here in our physical life of our body. Here we are accustomed to speak of the spiritual as being the actual primal foundation of everything, but this is actually an illusory way of expressing it. We should speak of the spiritual as that which belongs to us between death and a new birth. Just as between birth and death we possess a body, just as here we are embodied, so between death and a new birth we are “enspirited.” This spiritual, however, does not cease when we take up the body that is formed out of the hallucination of the world; it continues to be active.

Imagine the moment of conception — or any other moment between conception and birth. The precise moment does not matter so much; imagine any moment in which the human being is descending from the spiritual into physical existence. You will have to say that from this moment onward, physical existence incorporates itself into the soul-spiritual element of the human being. The soul-spiritual undergoes, as it were, a metamorphosis toward the physical. The force, however, that was ours between death and a new birth does not cease at the moment when we enter physical, sensory existence; it continues to be active, but in quite a peculiar way. I would like to illustrate this schematically (see drawing).

Consider the force that has been active within you in the spiritual world since your last death and that works until what I shall call birth, your present birth. The forces of the physical and etheric bodies and so on continue to be active, followed by a new death. This force that we possess until birth persists, however — and yet we might say that it does not persist, for its actual essence has been poured into the bodily nature, spiritualizing it. What persists of this force continues at the same time in the same direction, only as pictures; it has merely a picture-existence, so that between birth and death we carry livingly in us the picture of what we possessed between death and a new birth. This picture is the force of our intellect. Between birth and death, our intellect is not a reality at all but is the picture of our existence between death and a new birth.

This knowledge not only solves the riddles of cognition but also the riddles of civilization. The entire configuration of our modern civilization, which is based upon the intellect, becomes evident if we know that it is a civilization of pictures, a civilization that has not been created by any form of reality but by a picture — although created by a picture of the spiritual reality. We have an abstract spiritual civilization. Materialism is an abstract spiritual civilization. One thinks the most finely spun thoughts if one denies the thoughts and becomes a materialist. Materialistic thoughts are really quite perspicacious, but of course they come into error, for the picture of a world, not a world itself, produces our civilization.

You see, my dear friends, this is a difficult conception, but let us make an effort to understand it. You find it easy to conceive pictures in space. If you stand before a mirror, you ascribe no reality to your reflection in the mirror; you ascribe reality to your own self, not to the picture. What thus occurs here in space also actually takes place in time. What you experience as your intellect is a reflected image, with its mirroring surface turned back to your former existence. In yourselves, in your bodily nature, you have a mirroring surface, but this mirror is active in time, and it reflects the picture of life before birth. The perceptions of existence are continually cast into this intellectual image: the sense perceptions. It mingles therein with sense perceptions, and for this reason we do not perceive that this is actually a reflection. We live in the present. If by means of the exercises I have described in my book, How to Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, we succeed in throwing out sense perceptions and living into this picture existence, then we really come to our life before birth, pre-existent life. Pre-existence then is a fact. The picture of pre-existence is indeed within us; we must only penetrate to it. Then we will succeed in perceiving this pre-existence.

Basically every human being is able, if he does not succumb to other phenomena, to fall into a healthy sleep when he shuts out sense perceptions. This is the case with most human beings. They shut out sense perceptions, but then thinking is also no longer there. If sense perceptions can really be shut out, however, while at the same time thinking remains alive, then we no longer look into the world of space but back into the time through which we lived between our last death and this birth. This is seen at first very unclearly, but one knows that the world into which one then looks is the world between death and this most recent birth. In order to reach the truth, a true insight, we must not fall asleep when sense perceptions are suppressed. Our thinking must remain just as alive as is the case with the help of the sense perceptions or when permeated by sense perceptions.

If we look through our own being toward pre-existent life, however, and then naturally continue our training, the concrete configurations also appear in the spiritual world. Then a spiritual environment rises up around us, and the very opposite takes place of what takes place in the physical world: we do not press out of our body its hallucinations; instead we pull ourselves out of our body and place ourselves into our pre-existent life, our life before birth, where we are filled with spiritual reality. We dive into the world in which hallucinations surge. And in perceiving its realities, we do not perceive hallucinations but imaginations. Thus we perceive imaginations when we rise to spiritual vision.

It is of course absurd, and even indecent, I might say, when someone who wishes to be a scientist today continually comes forward with the following objection to anthroposophy: anthroposophy probably offers merely hallucinations; it cannot be distinguished from hallucinations. Yet if these people were only to study more closely the entire method of investigation applied in spiritual science, they would find that exactly here a very sharp and precise boundary is made between hallucination and Imagination.

What lies between the two? I have already drawn your attention to the fact that between birth and death we assume a bodily garment, and between death and a new birth a spiritual garment. The soul element is the mediator between the two. The spiritual is brought into physical existence through the life of the soul. What we experience in physical life is, in its turn, brought into the spiritual through the soul element when we die. The soul element is the mediator between body and spirit.

If the body conceptualizes as body, it conceives hallucinations; that is, it brings hallucinations into consciousness. If the spirit conceptualizes as spirit, then it has imaginations; if the soul, which is the mediator between the two, begins to conceptualize, that is, if the soul conceptualizes as soul, then neither will the unjustified hallucinations pressed out of the body arise, nor will the soul penetrate to spiritual realities. Instead it will reach an undefined intermediary stage; these are fantasies. Picture the body; between birth and death it is not an instrument for conceptualizing. If between birth and death it conceptualizes nevertheless, it does so in an unjustified and abnormal way, and hallucinations thus arise. If the spirit conceptualizes in really rising out of the body to realities, then it has imaginations. The soul forms the mediator between hallucinations and imaginations in faintly outlined fantasies.

If the body conceptualizes as body, hallucinations arise.
If the soul conceptualizes as soul, fantasies arise.
If the spirit conceptualizes as spirit, imaginations arise.

In describing these processes, we are describing real processes. In intellectual thinking we have only the pictures of the soul's pre-existent life — the pictures, therefore, of a life that is permeated through and through with imaginations, a life that arises out of the hallucinatory element. Our intellectual life is not real, however. We ourselves are not real in our thinking, but we develop ourselves to a picture in that we think. Otherwise we could not be free. Man's freedom is based on the fact that our thinking is not real if it does not become pure thinking. A mirror image cannot be a causa. If you have before you a mirror image — something that is merely an image, and if you act in accordance with this image, this is not the determining element. If your thinking is a reality, then there is no freedom. If your thinking is a picture, then your life between birth and death is a schooling in freedom, because no causes reside in thinking. A life that is a life in freedom must be one devoid of causes.

The life in fantasies is not entirely free, but it is real, real as a life of conceptions (Vorstellungsleben). The free life that is in us is not a real life as far as thinking is concerned, but when we have pure thinking and out of this pure thinking develop the will toward free deeds, we grasp reality by a corner. Where we ourselves endow the picture with reality out of our own substance, free action is possible.

This is what I wished to present, in a purely philosophical way, in 1893 in my The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, in order to have a foundation for further studies.

Lecture II

26 June 1921, Dornach

Two days ago we spoke of the time in which people still had a kind of inward knowledge. We gave as an example what an ancient Greek would have thought about the contemporary scientific world conception. Then I tried to show you how such a Greek, from the point of view of Imaginative cognition, would have described what we are accustomed to calling the human etheric body in relation to the element of water.

I said that Imaginative cognition would reveal a certain relationship of the entire activity of water, that surging and weaving of the water element, the striving toward the periphery, the sinking down toward the earth, a relationship of these forces of unfolding toward the periphery and toward the center with the shapes, with the pictures of the plant element in its individual forms. We thus arrive here at a concrete formulation of the content of the Imaginative world, at least one part of the Imaginative world. Such a knowledge can only be attained practically for human perception if a development is striven for, as it has been described in my book, How to Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, whose goal is Imaginative cognition.

Even with Imaginative cognition, however, one remains unacquainted with what, in an earlier world conception, was called the element of air. This airy element, such as it was conceived in more ancient times, can be penetrated only by so-called Inspired cognition. If you attempt to clarify the following to yourself, you will approach this Inspired cognition, this experience of the airy element. I have often mentioned to you that the human being today is studied quite superficially. Just call to mind how anatomical and physiological pictures of the human being are made today. Sharp outlines are drawn around the inner organs — heart, lungs, liver, and so on — and certainly these well-defined contours, these boundary lines of heart, lung, and liver, have a certain justification. In using such lines, however, we draw the human being as though he were through and through a solid body, which he really is not. Only the slightest portion of the human being consists of solid mineral substances. Even if we were to take a maximum, as it were, we could consider at most a mere 8 per cent as solid in the human being; 92 per cent of the human being is a column of fluid. Man is not solid at all; the solid is only deposited within the human being. There is very little consciousness of this fact at present among the pupils of physiology, anatomy, and so on. We do not learn to recognize the watery human being, the fluid human being, when we draw him with solid boundaries to his organs, for the fluid human being is something that is in a continual streaming. His organism is something that moves continually .within itself, and into this fluid organism the airy organism now inserts itself. The air streams in, uniting with the substances within and, if I may describe it in this way, stirring them up.

By means of the fact that the human being has this airy element within, he actually forms a complete unity with the outer world. The air that is now within me will presently be outside me again. We cannot really speak of the human being as enclosed within his skin if we observe him with reference to this third element, the airy element. And even less could we speak of him as living contained within his skin if we contemplated him with reference to the warmth element, the element of fire. One cannot say that man is a self-contained being.

Now, however, let us take the entire human being, that is, the human being who is organized not only in the solid element but also in the fluid, airy, and warmth elements, in a configured, moving warmth. Let us compare this entire human being with the human being as he is when he is asleep, with his soul and spirit outside the physical and etheric bodies. What permeates the human being as soul and spirit from awakening to falling asleep is simply not there in the time between falling asleep and awakening. In that time the human being is in another world that is penetrated by another lawfulness. We must ask ourselves, now, which lawfulness permeates the world in which man finds himself between falling asleep and awakening.

Yesterday we mentioned four kinds of lawfulnesses: first, the lawfulness within the earthly world; second the lawfulness within the cosmic world; third, the lawfulness within the world soul; and fourth, the lawfulness within the world spirit. Where, then, is the human being with his soul and spirit — or with his soul aspect and his I— between falling asleep and awakening? A consideration of what we have said up to now will show that the astral body and I at this time (between falling asleep and awakening) are in the realm of the world soul and the world spirit.

1. Lawfulness within the earthly world.

2. Lawfulness within the cosmic world.

3. Lawfulness within the world soul.

} AstralBody,I

4. Lawfulness within the world spirit.

We must take very seriously something we mentioned two days ago, that with the first two worlds, the earthly and the cosmic, we have exhausted the whole realm of space. By entering the realm of world soul and world spirit, we have already gone beyond the realm of space. This is something we must dwell upon within our souls again and again: every time the human being sleeps, he is led not only outside his physical body but beyond ordinary space. He is led into a world that should not be confused at all with the world that can be perceived by the senses. All lawfulness that lies at the basis of the rhythmical human being — the human being whose fluid and also whose airy element is organized through rhythm — comes from this world. Rhythm manifests itself in space, but the source of rhythm, the lawfulness that produces rhythm, streams into every point in space from extra-spatial depths. It is regulated everywhere by a real world that lies beyond the sense world. If we are confronted with that wonderful reciprocal play that takes place within the human rhythms, through breathing and the pulse, we actually perceive something in this rhythm that is regulated from extra-spatial spiritual depths and brought into the world in which the human being also finds himself as physical man. It is impossible to understand the airy element if we do not reach such a concrete understanding of the rhythmical expression of man within this airy element.

If one grasps with Imagination what I described two days ago as the weaving and being of the plant world and, parallel with this, the weaving and being of the human etheric body, then one remains still within the world in which one normally resides. One must think of oneself as being transported from the earth, so to speak, and poured out into the entire cosmos. Then, however, in passing into the airy element, one must remove oneself from space. Then there must be the possibility of knowing oneself in a world that is no longer spatial but that exists only in time, a world in which only the time element holds a certain significance. In the times in which such things were still livingly perceived, it was seen that what belonged to such worlds could really be observed in the way that the spiritual played into human activity through rhythm. I pointed out to you how the ancient Greek formulated the hexameter: three pulse beats with the caesura, which gives a breath, and three more pulse beats with the caesura, or with the end of the verse, which gives the full hexameter. In two breaths one has the corresponding eight pulse beats. The harmonious resounding of the pulse beats with the breathing was shaped artistically in the recitation of the Greek hexameter. The way in which the spiritual, super-sensible world permeates the human being, how it permeates the blood circulation, the blood rhythm, synthesizes four pulse beats, four pulse rhythms, to one breathing rhythm — all this was reflected in every speech formation that is in the hexameter. All original strivings to build verse derive from this rhythmic organization of the human being.

The world from which this rhythmic self-activity derives becomes real for the human being only when he becomes conscious during sleep. The activity in which the sleeping, but conscious human being then lives plays into this rhythm. Ordinary everyday consciousness remains unconscious of what lies at the foundation of this, and this is even more the case with the ordinary, present-day scientific consciousness. If this does become conscious, however, there begins to appear before the human being something more than what I described yesterday as the surging, weaving plant world. Something appears that is not a picture merely of the ordinary animal world, which must be spatial; there appears now a very clear consciousness, one which, however, can appear only outside the body and never within it, a consciousness whose content consists of the concrete pictures out of which the shapes of the animals in space are formed. Just as our human rhythmic activity streams in from the extra-spatial, so do the shapes that then organize themselves into the different animals stream in from the extra-spatial.

The first thing that is experienced if one undergoes consciously what otherwise is gone through only unconsciously between falling asleep and awakening, immersing oneself in the world that is the source of our rhythm, is that the animal world in all its forms becomes comprehensible. The animal world in all its forms cannot be explained by means of outer physical foundations or forces. If a zoologist or a morphologist believes that the form of the lion, the tiger, the butterfly, the beetle, is able to be explained by means of something found in physical space, he is very much fooling himself. In physical space one can never find an explanation for the different forms of the animals. One encounters the explanation in the way I have described it only if one enters the third lawfulness, the lawfulness of the world soul.

Now, I would like to return to the conversation I presented two days ago between the ancient Greek and the modern scholar who knows everything — that is to say, although occasionally he admits to not knowing everything, he still pretends that everything is able to be explained along lines similar to his own way of thinking. The ancient Greek would say, “Nothing at all can be explained by your method, though it has a kind of logic. You list all kinds of abstract conceptual forms, so-called categories — being, becoming, having, and so on. This logic is something that is supposed to represent the lawfulness of the concepts, the ideas.” (I am thinking now of a Greek of the pre-Socratic age, a Greek of the time from which the philosophies of Thales, Heraclitus, and Anaxagoras emanated, of which only a portion survives today.) “What you call logic,” this Greek would say, “was first constructed by a human being, a human being who really no longer knew much about the mysteries of the world. This logic was first made by Aristotle, after he had thoroughly applied his mundane intellect to Platonism. Truly Aristotle was a great man, but he was also a great Philistine who completely corrupted the actual logic, who made real logic into an ephemeral web that is related to reality in the same way as a thinly spun phantom is related to something densely real. The real logic,” our ancient Greek, being a scientist in his way, would have said, “the real logic encompasses all those forms that become outward and spatial in the animal world and that one discovers on becoming conscious in the time between falling asleep and awakening. That is logic, that is the real content of the logical consciousness.”

In the animal world there exists nothing but that which exists also in the human being, but in the human being it is spiritualized and thus he can think. He can think the logical formulas that swim in the outer world in space and become animals. When, between awakening and falling asleep, we manipulate our conceptual forms in ordinary consciousness, connecting one concept with another, it is so that we actually do the same thing in the realm of ideas that the outer world does in shaping the various forms of the animals. Just as it is possible to observe one's etheric when turning one's gaze to the plants and thinking of this plant world as embedded in the element of water, so, in the same way, one's soul world — or it can be called the astral world — can be comprehended if one permeates oneself with this living weaving that becomes conscious between falling asleep and awakening, understanding thereby the outer shapes of the animal world. One must then think of one's own shaping of the world of ideas as woven into the rhythm of the airy element.

You can make yourself a quite concrete mental image from the many things I have pointed out to you concerning the human being. Take the following process quite concretely: you breathe in, and the air follows the well-known pathway to the lungs. In breathing in, however, the inhaled air presses upon the space containing the spinal cord and spinal fluid. This fluid surrounding the spinal cord rhythmically courses through the subarachnoid space of the brain. The cerebral fluid comes into activity, and this activity is the activity of thought. In reality, thought rides on the breath, which is transmitted to the cerebro-spinal fluid, and this fluid in which the brain floats transmits the rhythmical beat of the breath directly onto the brain. In the brain live the impressions of the senses, the impressions of the eyes, the ears, through nerve-sense activity. The breathing rhythm comes into confrontation with what lives in the brain from the senses, and in this confrontation develops the interplay between sensation and thought activity, that formal thought activity which outwardly has its life in the animal forms. It is this thought activity, which is brought about by the breathing rhythm, transmitting itself to the cerebro-spinal fluid in the subarachnoid space, that commingles with what lives in the brain through the senses. 'Residing there is everything that becomes active in us in the form of ideas out of the rhythm.

What is essential, my dear friends, is that you attempt gradually to penetrate into the way in which the spiritual plays into the physical world. The great cultural defect of our time is that we have a science that arrives at the spirit in abstract forms, in purely intellectual forms, whereas the spiritual must be conceived in its creative element, for otherwise the material world remains like something hard, unconquered, outside the spiritual. We must penetrate into how this element of the third and fourth lawfulnesses plays concretely into what we ourselves carry out.

It is one of the most sublime things that can become clear to us if we recognize the actual inner basis that can prevail in every breathing rhythm — what is not fulfilled but what could be fulfilled each time an inhalation plays into the cerebro-spinal fluid. Now comes the recoil, the response: the cerebro-spinal fluid is again pressed down through the subarachnoid space of the spine, and there is an exhalation. This is a surrender once again to the world, a merging with the world. However, in this I-becoming/merging-with-the-world lies in essence what is expressed in the breathing rhythm.

This is the way one must speak if one wishes to speak of the reality that is meant when speaking of the element of air, whereas in speaking about the earth one simply encompasses everything that is included in our seventy-odd chemical elements. You see, what becomes a corpse is subject to the lawfulness of the seventy-two elements. What brings this dead body into movement, however, so that it can grow, can digest, is something that streams in from the cosmos. Then what penetrates this organism so that it not only grows and is able to digest but unfolds itself continually in a rhythmical activity, in the pulse, in the breathing rhythm, comes from an extra-spatial world. We study this extra-spatial world in the air element, for that is where it reveals itself, just as we study the cosmic — and not the earthly — world in the water element, for that is where the cosmic is revealed. What is revealed to the present-day chemist or physicist derives only from the earth element differentiated in itself.

We can also find the transition to the warmth element or element of fire. This is really possible only in the moment that is a practical result when a human being attains the ability not only to move out of his body consciously but to immerse himself with this consciousness into other beings. There is something else to consider here. One may already have had the ability for a long time to move out of one's body; if a little egotism is retained regarding the world, however, one is able to grasp everything of which I have spoken up to now, but one cannot really immerse oneself in this outer world. One cannot surrender oneself to this outer world. If, however, elements of true super-sensible love can be added during an immersion into that world in which one lives between falling asleep and awakening, then one learns to recognize by experience the element of warmth or fire. Only then does one recognize the true being of man, for what is looked at outwardly through the senses is only a semblance of man, is the human being from the other side, from the side of semblance.

If one ascends to the element of water, one has, to begin with, the experience of the etheric being of man dissolving. The etheric being of man becomes, you could say, a miniature picture of winter, summer, autumn, and so on. If one comes to the element of air, one becomes aware of a self-sustaining, rhythmical movement. The contained human being, the human being as he is eternal man, can be known only within the element of warmth. There everything comes into connection once again: the weaving movement of the water element and the rhythms of the air come together. They harmonize and deharmonize themselves in the warmth element, in the fire element, and there one can recognize the real being of man. There one is essentially in the fourth lawfulness, the lawfulness of the world spirit.

In hearing about an earlier science of the four elements — earth, water, air, and fire — one should not picture that we have progressed so wonderfully far with our modern science. One should rather picture that an altogether different consciousness existed concerning the roots of the human being in super-sensible depths. Something was known, therefore, of the various relationships of the earth element to this super-sensible. The earth element is, as it were, entirely outside the sphere of the super-sensible. The water element already begins to approach it; this water element is already much more closely connected with the world of spheres spread in cosmic space than with what the earth itself is. We leave space altogether, however, if we look for the source of what is within us as the air rhythm — and therefore our air organization — for regarding our air organization we are rhythmicizing, derhythmicizing, and so on. Finally we come to the universally extraspatial, to that which overcomes time, when we come into the fire element, into the warmth element. Only here do we come to recognize the entire, self-contained human being. One really finds this, though in a corrupted form, if one rediscovers — and it is already necessary today that one rediscover it — the literature that appeared before the fifteenth century.

There appeared a few years ago the work of a Swedish scientist concerning alchemy. This Swedish scientist read about a process described by an alchemist, and he commented, “If you investigate this process today, it turns out to be pure nonsense; you cannot picture anything of what they are saying.” It is easy to grasp that the chemist of today, even the Swede, who is somewhat less prejudiced than the Central European, takes the expressions in which are clothed what once existed in the corrupted literature of ancient times and then finds that nothing emerges from them. I looked up the process that the good Swedish scientist could not understand in the same literature that he had read: the process described there was actually an aspect of the embryonic process, of embryonic development in the human being! This became clear very soon. One must be able to read such matters, however. The modern scientist reads in such a way that he applies the expressions and vocabulary that he has learned from his chemistry text. He puts up his flasks and test tubes and imitates the process described: nonsense! What he has read is actually describing a portion of the process that takes place in the mother's body during embryonic development. You thus can see the abyss that has appeared between what the modern scientist is able to read and what was once meant.

All things that were described in the ancient literature, however, have also been described again today under the influence of the concepts of a new spiritual science. If these writings are not rediscovered, one cannot read them at all. They existed in an entirely different way from the way we discover them today. They existed in an instinctive, atavistic way, but they did exist, and humanity lifted itself, as it were, beyond an understanding of merely the earth element. We must find entrance again into the elements that do not explain to us merely the corpse of the human being but the whole human being, the living human being. For this it is necessary that one learn to take quite seriously within our civilization what is presented in the question of pre-existence.

When the concept of pre-existence was cast out of Western cultural evolution, selfless research was actually cast out as well. When preachers today preach about immortality, as I have indicated often before, they appeal basically to human egotism. It is known that man feels uncomfortable, feels afraid, of the cessation of life. Of course, life does not actually cease, but in speaking about immortality one appeals not to the forces of cognition but to man's fear of death, to man's will to continue living when the body is taken from him; in other words, man's egotism is appealed to. This is not possible when one speaks about preexistence. It is actually inconsequential to people today — from the point of view of their egotism — whether or not they lived before they were born or conceived. They are living now, and of that they are certain, and they are not very concerned, therefore, with pre-existence. Rather they are concerned about post-existence, for although they are now living, they do not know whether they will continue to live after death. This is connected with their egotism. Since they are already living, however, they say to themselves — perhaps only unconsciously or instinctively if they have not trained in cognition — “I am living now, and even if I didn't exist before my birth or conception, it makes no difference to me if I only began to live then, as long as I can continue to live from now on.”

This is the mood on the basis of which feelings today are called forth, through which human beings become enthusiastic about immortality. In the known languages, therefore, we have a word for immortality that directs us to the eternity at life's end, but we do not have a word, in the ordinary languages of our culture, for “unbornness.” This is something we must gradually acquire. Such a concept would speak more to cognition, would speak more to a lack of egotism, to a cognition of man that is free of egotism. This must be appealed to once again. Furthermore, cognition must become permeated by morality, by ethics. Unless our laboratory table becomes a kind of altar, and unless our synthesizing and analyzing become a kind of art of the spirit, and we become conscious that in doing this or that we participate in world evolution, our cultural evolution will not progress. We will come into a frightful descent if wider and wider circles do not perceive that one must achieve cognition free of egotism, a morally permeated cognition that must overcome today's analysis and synthesis, which do not take the higher worlds into any account. One must come to understand again something of the rhythm that plays into our lives, something of what plays into warmth. Into the warmth plays the moral element; and in the simple variations of warmth, varying intensities of warmth, there is in reality a world-permeating morality in which the human being develops himself. All this must gradually become conscious in humanity. This is not merely what I would like to call an idealistic whim demanding of us to interpret the signs of our times; rather, the signs of the times themselves speak of this deepening toward the super-sensible that must be attempted.

Support Our Services

The Archive is a "pay what you can" service. If you or your organization use and value our work, please consider making a financial contribution. Visit our Help Out page for additional ways to support us. Thank you!

Please Donate!