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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Cosmosophy I
GA 207

Lecture II

24 September 1921, Dornach

Yesterday I spoke of how we find within the human being a kind of source of destruction. I showed that as long as we remain within ordinary consciousness we retain memories only of the impressions of the world. We gain experience of the world, and we have our experiences through the senses, through the intellect, through the effects generally upon our life of soul. Later we are able to call up again our memory of the afterimage of what we have experienced. We carry as our inner life these afterimages of sense experiences.

It is indeed as though we had within us a mirror, but one that works differently from the ordinary spatial mirror. An ordinary mirror reflects what is in front of it, whereas the living mirror we carry within us reflects in quite another way. It reflects in the course of time the sense impressions we receive, causing one or another impression to be reflected back again into consciousness, and so we have a memory of a past experience.

If we break a spatial mirror, we see behind the mirror; we see into a realm we do not see when the mirror is intact. Correspondingly, if we carry out inner exercises of the soul, we come, as I have often suggested, to something like a breaking of the inner mirror. The memories can, as it were, cease for a brief time—for how long a time depends upon our free will—and we can see more deeply into our inner being. As we look more deeply into our inner being behind the memory-mirror, then what I characterized yesterday as a kind of source of destruction meets our gaze.

There must be such a source of destruction within us, for only in such a source can the I of man solidify itself. It is actually a source for the solidification and hardening of the I. As I said yesterday, if this hardening of the I, if this egoity, is carried out into social life, evil arises, evil in the life and actions of human beings.

You may see from this how truly complicated is the life into which man is placed. What within the human being has a good purpose, without which we could not cultivate our I, must never be allowed outside. The evil man carries it into the outer world; the good man keeps it inside him. If it miscarried outside, it becomes wrong, it becomes evil. If it is kept within, it is the very thing we need to give the human I its rightful strength.

There is really nothing in the world that would not, in its place, have a beneficial significance. We would be thoughtless and rash if we did not have this source within us, for this source manifests itself in such a way that we can experience in it something we would never be able to experience in the outer world. In the outer world we see things materially. Everything we see, we see materially, and following the custom of present-day science we speak of the conservation of matter, the indestructibility of actual matter. In this source of destruction about which I spoke yesterday matter is truly annihilated. Matter is thrown back into its nothingness, and then we can allow, within this nothingness, the good to arise. The good can arise if, instead of our instincts and impulses, which are bound to work toward the cultivation of egoity, we pour into this source of destruction, by means of a moral inclination of soul, all moral and ethical ideals.Then something new arises. Then in this very source of destruction the seeds of future worlds arise. Then we, as human beings, take part in the coming into being of worlds.

When we speak, as one can find in my Outline of Occult Science, of how our earth will one day face annihilation, and of how through all kinds of intermediate states of transformation the Jupiter existence will evolve, we must say the following. In the Jupiter existence there will be only the new creation that already is being formed today in the human being out of moral ideals, within this source of destruction. It is also formed out of his anti-moral impulses, out of what works as evil from his egoity. Hence the Jupiter existence will be a struggle between what man on earth is already bringing to birth by carrying his moral ideals into his inner chaos and what arises with the cultivation of egoity as the anti-moral. When we look into our deepest selves,therefore, we are gazing upon a region where matter is thrown back into its nothingness.

I went on to indicate how matters stand with the other side of human existence, with the side where sense phenomena are spread out around us. We behold these sense phenomena spread around us like a tapestry, and we apply our intellect to combine and relate them in order to discover within these sense phenomena laws that we then call the laws of nature. With ordinary consciousness, however, we never penetrate through this tapestry of the senses. With ordinary consciousness we penetrate the tapestry of sense impressions just as little as we penetrate with ordinary consciousness the memory-mirror within. With a developed consciousness, however, one does penetrate it, and the human beings of ancient Oriental wisdom penetrated it with a consciousness informed by instinctive vision. They beheld that world in which egoity cannot hold its own in consciousness.

We enter this world every time we go to sleep. There the egoity is dimmed, because beyond the tapestry of the senses lies the world where, to begin with, the I-power, as it develops for human existence, has no place at all. Hence the world conception of the ancient Oriental, who developed a peculiar longing to live behind the sense phenomena, used to speak of Nirvana, of the dispersing of the egoity.

Yesterday we drew attention to the great contrast between East and West. At one time the Oriental cultivated all that man longs to behold behind the sense phenomena, and he cultivated the vision into a spiritual world that is composed not of atoms and molecules but of spiritual beings. This world was present for the ancient Oriental world conception as visible reality. In our day the Oriental, particularly in Asia but also in other parts of the world, is living in the decadent stages of development of this inner yearning to reach the world behind the sense phenomena, while the human being of the West has cultivated his egoity, has cultivated all that we have characterized as the hardening and strengthening taking place within the source of destruction in man's inner being.

In saying this we are already on the way to suggesting what it is that must necessarily be absorbed into man's consciousness, now and in the near future. If the pure intellectualism that has been developing since the middle of the fifteenth century were to continue, humanity would fall entirely into decline, for with the help of intellectualism one will never penetrate beyond either the memory-mirror or the tapestry of the world of the senses spread out before us. Man must, however, acquire once more a consciousness of these worlds. He must acquire a consciousness of these worlds if Christianity is again to be able to become a truth for him, for Christianity actually is not a truth for him to-day. We can see this most clearly when we look at the modern development of the idea of Christ—if indeed modern times may be said to have any such development at all. The truth is that for modern man in the present stage of evolution it is impossible to arrive at an idea of Christ as long as he makes use only of the concepts and ideas that he has been cultivating as natural science since the fifteenth century. In the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries he has become incapable of forming a true idea of Christ.

These things must be regarded in the following way. The human being beholds the world all around and uses the combining faculty of his intellect, which he now has as his modern consciousness, to build up natural laws. Following a line of thought that is perfectly possible for the consciousness of the present day, he comes to the point at which it is possible for him to say, “This world is permeated with thought, for the laws of nature are apprehended in thoughts and are actually themselves the thoughts of the world.” If one follows the laws of nature to the stage at which one is bound to apply them to the coming into existence of man himself as physical being, one has to say, “Within that world which we survey with our ordinary consciousness, beginning with sense perception and going on as far as the memory-mirror, a spiritual element is living.” One must actually be ill, pathological, if, like the ordinary atheistic materialist, one is not willing to acknowledge this spiritual element. We live within this world that is given for ordinary consciousness; we emerge into it as physical man through physical conception and physical birth. What is observable within the physical world can only be contemplated inadequately if one fails to see as its foundation a universal spiritual element.

We are born as physical beings from physical stock. When we are born as little babies, we are actually, for outer, physical perception, quite similar to a creature of nature. Out of such a creature of nature, which is basically in a kind of sleeping condition, inner spiritual faculties gradually develop. These inner spiritual faculties will arise in the course of future evolution. If we learn to trace back these emerging spiritual faculties in the same way that we trace the gradual growth of the limbs, we find that we must look for their source beyond birth and conception. Then one comes to the point of thinking in a living and spiritual way about the world, whereas before, in one's consideration of outer nature, one built up only abstract laws. One comes, in other words, to an affirmation of what may be called the Father God.

It is very significant that scholasticism in the Middle Ages maintained that knowledge obtainable by ordinary observation of the world through ordinary human reason included knowledge of the Father God. One can even say, as I have often expressed it, that if anyone sets out to analyze this world as it is given for ordinary consciousness and does not arrive at gathering up all the natural laws in what is called the Father God, he must actually be ill, pathological in someway. To be an atheist means to be ill, as I have said here once before.

With this ordinary consciousness, however, one cannot go farther than this Father God. This far one can go with ordinary consciousness, but no further. It is characteristic of our times when such a significant theologian as Adolf von Harnack5 Adolf von Harnack, church historian, 1851–1930. says that Christ the Son does not really belong in the Gospels, that the Gospels are the message of the Father, and that Christ Jesus actually has a place in the Gospels only insofar as He brought the message of the Father God. Here you may see quite clearly how with a certain inevitability this modern thinking leads people to recognize, even in theology, only the Father God and to understand the Gospels themselves as containing no more than the message of the Father God. In the sense of this theology, Christ has worth only insofar as He appeared in the world and brought to human beings the true teaching concerning the Father God.

Two things are implied in this. First, the belief that the message of the Father God cannot be found by an ordinary study of the world. The Scholastics still maintained that it could. They did not imagine that the Gospels were to speak of the Father God; they assumed that the Gospels were to speak of God the Son. That people can come forward with the opinion that the Gospels actually speak only of the Father God is proof that theology, too, has fallen into that way of thinking which has been cultivated as the peculiarly Western method.

In early Christian times until about the third or fourth century A.D., when there was still a good deal of Oriental wisdom in Christianity, human beings occupied themselves intently with the question of the distinction between the Father God and God the Son. One could say that these fine distinctions between the Father God and the Son God, which so engaged people's attention in the early Christian centuries, under the influence of Oriental wisdom, have long ceased to have meaning for modern man, who has been occupied in cultivating egoity under the influences I described yesterday.

A certain untruth has thus found its way into modern religious consciousness. What man experiences inwardly, through which he arrives at his analysis and synthesis of the world, is the Father God. From tradition, he has God the Son. The Gospels speak of Him, tradition speaks of Him. Man has the Christ; he wants to acknowledge Him but through inner experience no longer actually has the Christ. He therefore takes what he should apply actually only to the Father God and transfers it to the Christ God. Modern theology does not actually have the Christ at all; it has only the Father, but it calls the Father “Christ,” because at one time it received the tradition of the Christ being in history, and one wants to be Christian, of course. If one were honest, one would be unable to call oneself a Christian in modern times.

All this is altogether different when we go further East. Already in Eastern Europe it is different. Take the Russian philosopher of whom I have frequently spoken—Soloviev.6 Vladimir Soloviev, Russian philosopher, 1853–1900. You find in him an attitude of soul that has become a philosophy and speaks with full justification, with an inner justification, of a distinction between the Father and the Son. Soloviev is justified in speaking in this way, because for him both the Father and the Christ are experiences. The human being of the West makes no distinction between God the Father and Christ. If you are inwardly honest with yourselves, you will feel that the moment you wish to make a distinction between the Father God and Christ the two become confused. For Soloviev such a thing is impossible. Soloviev experiences each separately, and so he still has a sense for the battles, the spiritual battles, that were fought during the first Christian centuries in order to bring to human consciousness the distinction between the Father God and God the Son.

This, however, is the very thing to which modern man must come again. There must again be truth in calling ourselves Christians. One must not make a pretense of worshipping the Christ, attributing to Him only the qualities of the Father God. To avoid this, however, one must present truths such as I indicated yesterday. That is the only way we can come to the twofold experience, the experience of the Father and the experience of the Son.

It will be necessary to change the whole form of our consciousness. The abstract form of consciousness with which modern man is raised, and which actually does not permit the recognition of more than the Father God, will have to be replaced by a much more concrete life of consciousness. Needless to say, one cannot present such things before the world at large today in the way I have described them to you here, for people have not yet been prepared sufficiently by spiritual science and anthroposophy. There is always the possibility, however, of pointing out even to modern man how he carries in his inner being a source of destruction and how in the outer world there is something in which the I of man is, as it were, submerged, where it cannot hold itself fast—just as in earlier times people were told about the Fall of Man and similar things. One must only find the right form for these things, a form that would enable them to find their way into ordinary consciousness—even as the teaching of the Fall of Man used to give instruction concerning a spiritual foundation of the world, a form that would have a different authority from our teaching concerning the Father God.

Our modern science will have to become permeated with ways of looking such as those we have expounded here. Our science wishes to recognize in the inner being of man only the laws of nature. In this source of destruction, however, of which I have often spoken here, the laws of nature are united with the moral laws; there, natural law and moral law are one. Within our inner being matter, and with it all the laws of nature, is annihilated. Material life, together with all the laws of nature, is thrown back into chaos, and out of the chaos a new nature is able to arise, saturated with the moral impulses we ourselves lay into it. As we have said, this source of destruction is below our memory-mirror. If we let our gaze penetrate far below this memory-mirror, there at last we observe what actually is always within the human being. A human being is not changed by knowledge: he merely comes to know what he is like, what his normal condition is. Man must learn to reflect on what he is and how he lives.

When we are able to penetrate into this inner core of evil in the human being and are able also to become conscious of how into this inner evil, where matter is destroyed and thrown back into its chaos, moral impulses can find their way, then we have really found in ourselves the beginning of spiritual existence. Then we perceive the creating spirit within us, for when we behold moral laws working upon matter that has been thrown back into chaos, we are beholding a real activity of the spirit taking place within us in a natural way. We become conscious of the concrete, spiritual activity that is within us and that is the seed for future worlds.

What can we compare with what is announced in our inner being? We cannot compare it with what our senses at first convey to us of outer nature. We can compare it only with what another human being communicates when he speaks to us. Indeed, it is more than a metaphor when we say that what takes place in our inner being speaks to us when moral and anti-moral impulses unite themselves with the chaos inside us. There actually is within us something that speaks to us. There we have something that is not mere allegory or symbol but actual fact. What we can hear outwardly with our ears is a language toned down for the earthly world, but within our inner being a language is spoken that goes out beyond the earth, because it speaks out of what contains the seeds of future worlds. There we truly penetrate into what must be called “the inner word.” In the weakened words that we speak or hear in conversation with our fellow men, hearing and speaking are separate and distinct, whereas in our inner being, when we dive down below the memory-mirror into the inner chaos, we have a substantiality where speaking becomes at the same time hearing. Hearing and speaking are once more united. The inner word speaks in us, the inner word is heard in us.

We have at the same time entered a realm where it no longer makes sense to speak of subjective and objective. When you hear another human being, when he speaks words to you that you perceive with your sense of hearing, you know that this being of another person is outside you, but you must give yourself up, must surrender yourself, as it were, in order to perceive the being of another person in what you hear him saying. On the other hand, you know that the actual word, the audible word, is not merely something subjective but is something placed into the world. Hence we find that even with the toned-down words that we hear and speak in our conversation with other human beings, the distinction between subjective and objective loses meaning. We stand with our subjectivity within objectivity, and objectivity works in us and with us in that we perceive. It is the same when we dive down to the inner word. It is not merely an inner word; it is at the same time something objective. It is not our inner being that speaks: our inner being is merely the stage upon which speaks the world.

It is similar for one who has insight to see, behind the tapestry of the senses, a spiritual world, a world wherein spiritual beings of the higher hierarchies rule and weave. To begin with, he perceives these beings through an imagination; for his vision, however, they become permeated with inner life in that now he hears the Word, apparently sounding to him through himself but in reality from out of the world.

By means of love and devotion man therefore penetrates the tapestry of the senses and sees beyond; and the beings who reveal themselves to him when he thus offers up his own being in full devotion—these beings he comes to perceive with the help of what he recognizes in his inner being as inner word. We grow together with the outer world. The outer world begins to resound cosmically, as it were, when the inner word is awakened.

What I have been describing to you exists today in every human being, but he has no knowledge of it and therefore no awareness, no consciousness of it. He must first grow into such a knowledge, into such an awareness. When we learn to recognize the world with the ordinary consciousness that provides us with our intellectual concepts, we really come to recognize only the passing and the past. When we behold in the right way that with which our intellect provides us, we basically have a view back upon a world that is passing away. We can, however, find the Father God with the intellect, as I have said. What sort of consciousness,then, do we develop in relation to the Father God? The consciousness that the Father God lies at the foundation of a world revealing itself to our intellect in the course of passing away.

Yes, it is indeed so—since the middle of the fifteenth century man has developed through his intellect a special faculty for studying and observing what is perishing in the world. We analyze and test the world-corpse with our intellectual, scientific knowledge. And theologians such as Adolph Harnack, who hold to the Father God alone, are really expounders of that part of the world that is perishing and that will pass away with the earth and disappear. They are backward-pointing individuals.

How is it then, finally, for a person who has entered so much into the spirit of what from childhood has been crammed into him as the modern natural scientific way of thinking? He learns that out there in the world are outer phenomena that arise and pass away but that matter persists, matter is the indestructible thing, and that if the earth comes to an end matter will never be destroyed. Certainly, he is told, a time will come when the earth will be one vast cemetery, but this cemetery will be composed of the very same atoms and molecules, or at least the same atoms, as are already there today. One thus applies all one's attention to what is perishing, and even when studying what is unfolding, one really studies only how what is perishing plays into what is unfolding.

It would never be possible for an Oriental to participate in this; we can see this even in the European Orient, in Eastern Europe, in the subdued philosophical feeling of Soloviev. He does not bring it to expression clearly—at least as clearly as it will have to be expressed in general consciousness in the future—but it is evident that Soloviev has still enough of the Oriental in him to see everywhere, within what is perishing, crumbling, dissolving into chaos, what is unfolding anew, the birth of what shall be in the future.

If we wish to see the reality, the actuality, we must envision it in the following way. All that we see with our senses, all that we also see of other human beings with our senses, will no longer exist one day; whatever makes itself known to eye, ear, and so on, will at some time in the future cease to be. Heaven and earth will pass away, for what we see of the stars by means of our senses also belongs to the things that are transient. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the inner word that is formed in the inner chaos of the human being, in the source of destruction, will live on after heaven and earth are no longer there; it will live on just as the seed of this year's plant will live on in the plant of next year. In the inner being of man are the seeds of world-futures. And if into these seeds human beings receive the Christ, then heaven and earth may pass away, but the Logos, the Christ, cannot pass away. Man bears in his inner being what will one day exist when all he sees around him will have ceased to be.

He must be able to say to himself: I look up to the Father God. The Father God lies at the foundation of the world that I can see with my senses. The world of the senses is His revelation, but it is nonetheless a perishing world, and it will drag the human being down with it if he is completely absorbed in it, if he is able to develop a consciousness only of the Father God. Man would then return to the Father God; he would be unable to evolve any further. There is also a new world unfolding, however, and it takes its beginning from man himself. When man ennobles his ethical ideals through the Christ consciousness, through the Christ impulse, when he forms his ethical ideals as they should be formed through the fact that the Christ has come to earth, then something comes to life in the chaos within him, seed is sown for the future, which is now not a perishing but an unfolding world.

One must have a strong feeling for the perishing and the unfolding worlds. One must feel how there is in nature a perpetual dying. Nature is colored, so to speak, by this death. In contrast to this, however, there is also in nature a continual unfolding, a continual coming to birth. This does not color nature in a way visible to the senses; yet if we approach nature with open hearts it is perceptible there.

We look out into nature and see the colors, all the colors of the spectrum, from the red at one end to the violet at the other, with all the shades in between. If we were now to mix these colors in a certain way—make them “color” one another—they would receive life. They would together become the so-called flesh color [Inkarnat], the color that emanates from man. When we look at nature, we are looking in a certain sense at the outspread colors of the rainbow, the sign and symbol of the Father God. If we look at man, however, it is the flesh color that speaks out of the inner being of man, for in man all the colors interpenetrate, thus taking on life, becoming living in their interpenetration. When we turn to a corpse, however, this power to take on life is entirely absent. There, that which is man is thrown back again into the rainbow, into the creation of the Father God. For the source of what makes the rainbow into the flesh color, making it into a living unity, man must look into his inner being.

Yesterday and today I have tried to lead you, perhaps in a complicated way, to an understanding of this inner being of man in its true significance. I have shown you how outer matter is thrown back into nothingness, into chaos, so that the spirit may become newly creative. If one looks at this new creativity, one realizes that the Father God works in matter, bringing it to its completion (see drawing below, bright). Matter confronts us in the outer world in the greatest variety of ways, so that it is visible to us. Within our inner being, however, this matter is thrown back into its nothingness and then permeated with pure spiritual being, with our moral ideals or anti-moral ideas (red). There new life springs up.

The world must appear to us in its double aspect. We see first the Father God, creating what is outwardly visible; we see how what is outwardly visible comes to an end in man's inner being, where it is thrown back into chaos. We must feel intensely how this world, the world of the Father God, comes to its end; only then will we be able to reach an inner understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. It will become clear to us through this how the very thing that comes to an end, the creation of the Father God, is endowed with life once more by God the Son; a new beginning is made.

Everywhere in the Western world it can be seen how since the fifteenth century there has been a tendency to study and investigate only the perishing, the corpse-like part of nature, which is all that is accessible to the intellect. All so-called education or culture [Bildung] has been formed under the influence of a science that concerns itself only with what is dead. This kind of culture is directly opposed to real Christianity. Real Christianity must have a feeling for what is living but must also be able to separate this feeling of what is reviving from what is passing away. Hence the most important idea that must be connected with the Mystery of Golgotha, is the idea of the Risen Christ, the Christ Who has vanquished death. What matters is to comprehend that the most important idea is that of Christ Who passes through death and rises again. Christianity is not merely a religion of salvation; the Oriental religions were also that. Christianity is a religion of resurrection, a religion that awakens again to life what would otherwise be nothing but matter crumbling away into nothingness.

Out in the cosmos we have the crumbling away of matter in the moon, and in the sun we have a perpetual coming into being, forever new and fresh. Seen spiritually, seen through spiritual vision—when we get beyond ordinary sense perception and reach the point where Imagination is active—we can see in the moon a continuous process: it is continuously splintering and scattering itself abroad. There, where the moon is situated, its matter splinters and disperses like dust into the world. The matter of the moon is perpetually being gathered from its environment and then splintered and scattered (see drawing, above). If one looks at the moon in the consciousness of Imagination, one sees a continuous convergence of matter in the place where the moon is; it gathers there, and then it splinters and is scattered like dust into the world. The moon is actually seen like-this (drawing, below): first a circle, then a smaller, narrower circle, becoming ever narrower until the circle becomes the moon itself. Then it dissolves, splinters; it is strewn out over the entire world. In the moon, matter cannot tolerate a center. Matter concentrates toward the center of the moon but cannot tolerate it;it stops short there and disperses like cosmic dust. It is only to ordinary, sensory vision that the moon appears peaceful.It is not peaceful. It is continuously gathering matter together and scattering it.

When we come to the sun, we find it is all quite different. Already in Imagination we are able to see how matter does not splinter in this way at all; true, it does approach the center, but then it begins to receive life in the rays of the sun that stream out from the center. It does not splinter and disperse; it becomes living and spreads out life from the center in every direction. Together with this life it develops astrality. In the moon there is no astrality; there the astrality is destroyed. In the sun, astrality unites itself with all that streams forth. The sun is in truth something that is permeated with inner life, where the center is not only tolerated but has a fructifying influence. In the center of the sun lives the cosmic fructifying activity. In the contrast between sun and moon we thus see a cosmic manifestation of two opposite processes: in the moon matter is thrown back into chaos, while in the sun it is perpetually unfolding, springing and welling up with renewed life.

When we dive down into our inner being, we look into our inner chaos, into our own moon nature. That is the inner moon. Matter is destroyed there, as in the outer world it is destroyed only where the moon is. Then, however, the radiance of the sun penetrates our senses; the sun's radiance enters our inner moon nature. The matter inwardly dissolving there into dust is renewed by the sun's radiance. Here, in the inner being of man, matter is continuously falling under the moon influence, and just as continuously man absorbs through his senses the radiance of the sun (see drawing, left). Such is the relationship in which we stand to the cosmos, and so one must have the capacity to perceive these two opposite activities in the cosmos: the moon nature directed toward splintering and scattering, and the quickening, life-giving radiance of the sun.

Through both these experiences one comes to behold, in what is splintering and crumbling to dust, the world of the Father God, which had to be there until such time as the world changed into the world of God the Son, which basically has its physical source in what is sun-like in the world.What is of the moon nature and the sun nature relate to one another as Father God to Son God.

During the early Christian centuries these things were seen instinctively. Now they must be known again with full presence of mind if the human being wishes to be able to say of himself in all honesty: I am a Christian. This is what I wished to present to you today.