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Cosmosophy I
GA 207

Lecture VI

7 October 1921, Dornach

We have seen how the study of the conditions of soul of the human being leads us into the spaces, as it were, between physical body, etheric body, astral body, and I; the study of the spiritual conditions in the human being, however, leads us beyond the phenomenon of the human being as he is here in his life between birth and death out into the vast spiritual universe. One might say that insofar as the human being is spirit he stands absolutely in relation to the whole spiritual universe. Hence it is only in this connection with the entire universe that we can study what takes place in the human being as spiritual events. The soul element is, so to speak, man's intimate inner life, taking its course in a threefold form in such a way that the thinking aspect is situated between physical body and etheric body, the feeling aspect between etheric body and astral body, and the aspect of willing between astral body and the I. We therefore remain in our study of the soul element entirely within the human being. As soon as we approach the actual spiritual events, however, we must leave the human being as he usually confronts us as a self-contained being in the world between birth and death.

Now we know—and eight days ago we were speaking of this from another viewpoint—that when we first ascend into the spiritual we come to beings who are arranged above the human being in the same way as the human being has his place above the animal, plant, and mineral realms. As we ascend we therefore have—names add nothing to the matter—the angeloi or angelic beings, the archangeloi or arch-angelic beings, and the archai or primal beings, time spirits. We have already characterized from various points of view these beings who constitute the realm we encounter when we perceive the position of human beings in regard to the spiritual. The beings whom we designate as angeloi or angels are those who have the strongest relationship to the individual, to the single human being. The individual human being actually has a relationship to the hierarchy immediately above him such that he in a way—this is not expressed very exactly, but it can be said in the way that it is commonly expressed—develops a certain relationship to such an angelic being.

Those that then make up the second hierarchy above him are the archangels. We can say of them that among their functions is that which works as folk spirit, that which therefore embraces groups of those belonging together as a people, although here there are all possible gradations.

When finally we ascend higher, to the archai, we have the guiding beings throughout certain epochs of time, beyond the differentiations among peoples. These are certainly not the only functions, let us say, of these beings, but to begin with we receive certain conceptions if we keep to these particular functions that they perform.

Just as we can make man's physical life on earth comprehensible by asking ourselves what kind of relationship the human being has to the animal organization, to the plant organization, and to the mineral organization, so we must also ask ourselves, in order to learn what man is as a spiritual being, what kind of relationship he has to these ascending stages of beings in the spiritual.

For this we must proceed in the following way. Let us picture from certain viewpoints the way in which the human being goes through the portal of death. We know that in this age of earthly evolution that encompasses many years we live as human beings in such a way that there are present in the ordinary consciousness the laws underlying the mineral realm. From birth to death man fills himself, we might say, with everything that makes the mineral realm in a certain sense comprehensible, and he has a feeling that with the concepts and ideas at his disposal he is able to understand the mineral realm.

It is not the same where the plant realm is concerned. You know that science stops short on coming to the plant realm; at best it holds to the ideal that the complicated combination of the plant cells, of living cells generally, will one day be explicable in their structure. As I have explained to you, this is beginning completely at the wrong end, because the structure of the plant, or of living cells generally, is not distinguished by being a particularly complicated structure but by the chemical structure passing into chaos. Man, however, does not get beyond the concepts of the mineral realm. With his mineral concepts he comes still less—if I may venture to say so—to what concerns the animal realm or even to self-knowledge. All this must be given by spiritual-scientific investigations. The human being thus adopts a mineral consciousness, let us call it, that is, a consciousness adapted to the mineral realm. The human being carries the outcome of this consciousness, the weaving of which takes place between birth and death, with him through death. When he therefore goes through the portal of death and lives in the spiritual realm itself, he can journey through his further existence-with what became of this consciousness.

There is essentially something else, however, that pushes up into this consciousness. What penetrates up into this mineral consciousness, in spite of not belonging to it, what colors it, is the moral consciousness. This is what arises out of all the processes of consciousness connected to our will impulses, to our conduct. What we feel as satisfaction about this or that, what we feel as remorse, as reproach and the like, all this gives color, as it were, to our mineral consciousness and is something that the human being takes with him through the portal of death. One can therefore say that the human being goes through the portal of death with a mineral consciousness colored by moral experience; with what becomes of this consciousness, he then lives further in the spiritual realm.

Man not only understands the mineral world through this mineral consciousness, but through this mineral consciousness he develops his relationship to the being from the hierarchy of the angels, therefore to that being to whom he wishes to turn as the nearest to his individual development. When the human being has gone through the portal of death, it is a question of how far, through the consequences of his mineral consciousness, he can preserve intact his relationship to this angel being. He can do this only in accordance with what from the moral side has colored this mineral consciousness, for after death this mineral consciousness strives, as it were, to spread itself out in the world. It strives to become cosmic, to adapt itself to the whole universe; it strives to get beyond what is individual.

We can also say that in life between birth and death man is nearest to the angel being when he is living in the condition out of which dreams arise, which certainly also have something to do with his individual being, and which on the one hand deny and on the other hand hold fast to this mineral-thought being. Man would be unable to find even the subconscious relationship to the hierarchy of the angels were not this mineral consciousness colored by the conditions that in a certain sense he sleeps through but that reach up out of the sleeping condition and live out their life in the world of dreams. The dream itself, though in its outlines it does not adhere to outer sense reality and often actually denies contact with it, is nevertheless woven out of the same substance as the world of thoughts is woven between birth and death. In going through the portal of death, therefore, in order to maintain the relationship to his angel being, the human being takes with him what he has developed in himself within his mineral consciousness.

Now in the way we live today in humanity's present epoch man—especially when he reckons himself to be among the most enlightened—penetrates but little with his moral experience into what he possesses as mineral consciousness. On the contrary, he makes every possible effort to hold this mineral consciousness quite apart from the moral sphere. He would like at least to set up these two worlds; on the one hand he would like to study what ultimately may be comprehended in the realm of mineral nature, and the mineral nature in the plant, animal, and human realms, and would then like to study the moral element as something surging up from his inner being. It is not harmonious with the spirit of the time to think of what lives in nature as being at the same time permeated with moral impulses. There yawns an abyss between what is of a moral and what is of a mineral nature. The human being does not easily find the bridge to incorporate the moral into the mineral nature. I have often drawn attention to how man pictures the evolution of the earth to be a purely mineral affair, from the content of the Kant-Laplace theory up to the mineral nature of modern thinking, and how man eliminates everything in the way of moral feeling. It thus comes about that the human being is able to develop only an extremely slight relationship to the being of the angeloi; in our present age he cannot unite himself intimately with his angel being, to use an ordinary expression.

If the mineral consciousness were completely separated from moral coloring, then at what I call the Midnight Hour of Existence man would face the danger of entirely losing the necessary connection with his angel being. I say he would face the danger. Today only a small number of people face this danger, but if a spiritual deepening of the whole evolution of humanity on earth does not come about, a deepening of human thinking, human feeling, and human willing, then what lives as a danger may be realized. Then there would be countless human beings who, on approaching the Midnight Hour of Existence between death and a new birth, would have to sever the relationship to their angel beings. It is true that the angel being would always keep the relationship on his part, but it would remain one-sided, from his side to the human being. The human being between death and a new birth would not be able to reciprocate adequately. We must be perfectly clear that in our modern civilization, hastening as it is toward materialism, the human being injures his relationship to his angel being, so that this relationship becomes ever looser.

Just when the human being is approaching the Midnight Hour of Existence, however, he must enter into relationship to the archangelic beings through the angel being. Should this relationship be of such a nature—as it may well be when man is living in the spiritual world—that it not only comes from the side of the angel being to humanity but can be reciprocated by the human being, then man must absorb a spiritual content, which means that he must color his moral impulses religiously.

If the present trend of evolution persists, the human being of today faces the danger of his connection with the angel being becoming so slight that he cannot form any inner relationship to the archangelic being. The archangel, however, participates in bringing man back into physical life. This archangelic being is particularly involved in building up the forces that bring man back into the community of a certain people.

When human beings live inwardly unspiritually—as has been the case for centuries—the relationship of the archangel to the human beings develops one-sidedly, and then man does not grow into his people with the inner soul being, but he is inscribed from outside, as it were, by means of the world order, into the people that the archangel is assigned to guide. One does not arrive at an understanding of our present age, which may be characterized by the one-sided way in which the peoples are cultivated, until one knows that this actually may be attributed to the souls who have recently come down to earthly existence having a loose relationship to their angel beings and by reason of this having no inner relationship to the archangelic being—thus growing into their people only from without. The people thus remains in them as an impulse from outside, and it is only through outer impulses that human beings take their place within a people, through all sorts of impulses inclining toward chauvinism. He who stands within his people with soul—and this is the case with very few people today—will be unable to develop in the direction of chauvinism, of one-sided nationalism; he takes up the fruitful forces within the people and develops these, makes these individual. He will not boast of his people in a one-sided way. He will let his people flow into his being as color, as it were, flow into his human manifestations, but will not parade this outwardly, and particularly not in an outwardly hostile attitude toward others.

The fact that today it is exactly this that provides the keynote for world politics—that all relations built on peoples create such difficulties today for human evolution—all this rests entirely on what I have been indicating. If the bond that begins in the-Midnight Hour of Existence—before and after this, throughout long periods—cannot be ensouled by one's taking the appropriate religious inwardness through the portal of death—a religious feeling that is spiritual and not merely a matter of lip service—then the archangel is able to work only on what is plant-like in the cosmos and what as plant-like nature is imparted to the human being. Through very subconscious forces connected with his plant nature, which means with that which is placed in him by his breathing condition and is modified by all that has to do with conditions of language, by everything, therefore, that in language pushes in a plant-like way into the human organism, through all this man can be guided only by his archangel. It then happens that when the human being is born, when he grows as a child, he grows into his language in a more-or-less outer way. Had he been able to find the relationship, the inner relationship of soul, to his archangel through his angel, he would then have grown with his soul into all that had to do with his language, he would have understood the genius of the language, not merely what constitutes the outer mechanical aspect of it.

Today, however, we can see how strongly it is the case that in many respects the human being is an imprint of the mechanical in his language, so that actually he does not bear the element of language as a keynote in his entire being but receives an exact imprint of it. One can see quite clearly how the facial expression itself is an expression of the element of language. What confronts us in the people, what confronts us as their unique, national physiognomy, comes to man from the archangels in a completely outer way.

What takes place outwardly in humanity, insofar as it works into the spiritual of the human being, actually can be explained only through the kind of study we pursue in an anthroposophical spiritual science. All modern anthropology and things of that kind are actually what might be called a mere playing with terminology. In what is written today by anthropologists or their kind about the configuration of humanity on the earth, about the differentiation of humanity, we really in many respects have nothing to orient us, no guiding viewpoint, because what is there understood as concept is merely the classification of outer characteristics. One could just as well redistribute the whole picture. A real content streams into the matter only if it is studied spiritually. Then, however, one must not shrink back if in this study real, concrete spiritual beings arise.

One sees from this that only spiritual deepening can heal the damages of our modern age. The damages of today, insofar as they confront us in public life, are founded on the loose relationship of the human being to his angel and the consequent loose bond with the archangel, who is thus able to have an influence only from outside.

When a human being between death and a new birth undergoes his further evolution, which after the Midnight Hour of Existence leads him once more into physical, earthly life, he enters especially the realm of the archai, of the primal spirits. These archai, these primal spirits, in the present cosmic evolution have to do with leading the human being back into the earthly limits of his being.

When the human being passes through the portal of death his further life takes its course in such a way that he experiences to begin with the consequences of his mineral consciousness with its moral coloring—thereby expanding himself, as it were, over the world. Then, after the Midnight Hour of Existence, he draws himself together again. First he is led over into the plant element, which is incorporated into him. The more nearly he approaches earthly life, the more he draws himself together, so that he is able to be born once more as a being enclosed in his skin.

What must happen to a human being when he enters the realm of the archai is an incorporating, a densification, of the plant element into the animal element. In passing through the Midnight Hour of Existence, a man acquires first the forces—naturally not the organs but first the forces—which determine his breathing and also the differentiated breathing. The concentration of these forces into the actual forces of the organs comes about only after the Midnight Hour of Existence, comes about only in the realm of the archai. Man becomes, so to speak, ever more and more human. The fact is, however, that this cosmic activity exercised upon the human being as forces coming from the archai actually organizes him in such a way that the organs tend toward the animal structure. If we perceive the human being in his relationship to the cosmos we find that while the human being is striving away from the Midnight Hour of Existence toward a new life on earth he is subject to cosmic laws, just as here on earth he is subject to earthly laws. We may say the following: the human being is defined from the immeasurable expanses of the universe, in that he draws himself together more and more. Up to the Midnight Hour of Existence there is, as it were, an expansion of man, by means of his mineral consciousness, into the breadths of the universe (see drawing, arrows), into the immeasurable breadth of the universe. When the Midnight Hour of Existence arrives (see drawing, blue) those forces incorporate themselves into the human being that work in him as plantlike forces. Man returns from this Midnight Hour of Existence in order to confine himself within the appropriate limits for earthly life (arrows going in). This Midnight Hour of Existence is altogether a tremendously significant moment in human evolution.

While after his death a human being lives on into the cosmos, he becomes increasingly one with the world. He hardly distinguishes himself from the world. Expressing myself figuratively—naturally out in the cosmos we cannot speak of physical organs, but you will understand me if I present this to you in images taken from physical existence—I might say: man learns, as it were, how the eye grows together with the light and then no longer distinguishes the eye from the light, or the sound from the ear. By expanding himself out into the cosmic breadths he grows together with the universe.

Having passed the Midnight Hour of Existence, where he begins to draw himself together in order to become once more a being with limits, there dawns in him a kind of objective conception: this is not the world, this is the human being. A consciousness grows more and more intense in the human being—a consciousness that is most intense when the human being returns into earthly life. As here on earth, however, the content of our consciousness is the minerals, the plants, the animals, the mountains, rivers, clouds, the stars, sun, and moon, so on our way back to the earth the being of man is the main conception.

It is really so that if we take the seemingly quite complicated world that lies outside our skin, with all that is within it, if we take the world with its soul and spiritual elements, it is indeed most complicated; what lies within our skin, however, is just as complicated and is different from the world outside only in size, but the size is not important. Between birth and death our world is what lies outside our skin; what is within we cannot really observe except in what during life man certainly is not, namely, the corpse. From the Midnight Hour of Existence, however, until the next life on earth, the human world, the inner being of man, is his body, soul, and spirit (see drawing, right, blue). There man is, as it were, the world. Up to the Midnight Hour of Existence we gradually lose the world as we know it through the mineral consciousness; we lose it by living into the world as though it were our self, our whole, all-embracing self, so that we no longer distinguish between our self and the world. In returning, our world becomes the human being. We do not behold the stars, we behold the membering of the human limbs; we do not behold all that is contained in the universe, let us say, between stars and earth, we behold what is within the human organization, insofar as it is formed out of spirit and soul. We behold the human being, and what we thus behold is what leads us to our renewed existence on earth. We behold the human being receiving his form.

In the time of the Midnight Hour of Existence we live in the human being who is forming himself in accordance with the plant-like. When we come into the region of the archai we live in what forms the organs of the human being, in the sense of animal forces. I have said that just as between birth and death we are dependent on what works on us from the earth, so we are dependent, in that we are outside in the universe, on what is beyond the earthly—it is no longer a question of space, but naturally we can only present this in spatial terms. The moment we pass through the archai, we can express the laws that work in us in the sense of the universe—in the same way, as during our life here in an earthly community we test the laws of the earth by the laws of modern physics—we can express these laws by relating ourselves to Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, and so on.

By relating the positions of the sun to these stars, to the heaven of the fixed stars in general, in the constellations of the sun with this heaven of fixed stars we have the laws that prevail in the realm of the will of the archai. The will that prevails there, which permeates these laws, is the will of the archai.

If we were to look outside for natural laws corresponding to our natural laws, as natural laws correspond to us here on earth during earthly existence, we would have to look to these constellations of the stars. We remain a long time in the kingdom where we are dependent on the star constellations—though not more dependent than we are dependent here on earth on natural laws where our will works also, which is something higher than the laws of nature. There too we may not speak of the cosmos in the sense of a cosmic law that works with mechanical necessity. What we find in the constellations of the stars, however, is the expression, as it were, the image, of these laws that work upon us there. As formerly, when we were in the kingdom of the archangeloi, the laws of the plant-like worked upon us, so now there work upon us the laws holding good in the animal realms.

When these things are found again through spiritual science, one comes upon the tremendously significant fact that the people in ancient times who used to acquire knowledge from certain dreamlike visions of the universe, which were then lost, that these people really showed a touch of atavistic genius, one could say, in naming this picture circle, which represented for them the heaven of the fixed stars, the Zodiac (Tierkreis, “animal circle”). I can only think that our new science of the spirit, which shows us these things again, is led from a completely different basis to an understanding of what was once grasped in a dimly sensed knowledge. It is tremendously moving when one finds the teaching about the Zodiac and its influence on the human being preserved from ancient times and when one then—quite apart from what has been preserved—with the means at the disposal of present-day spiritual science, comes once more to connect knowledge with the constellations of the sun, with the zodiacal signs, in other words, with the heaven of the fixed stars.

It is this that links the more recent science of the spirit so closely to the wisdom of the ancients. Between our time, when we wish to make spiritual science our quest, and this period when the wisdom of the ancients held sway, we have an age that was indeed necessary for the striving after human freedom; this age basically, however, was an age of darkness.

We thus come into the realm of the archai and receive and incorporate into us that which is our animal nature. What is our animal nature? Our animal nature is above all what gives us our organs, which even in number are very similar to the organs of the higher animals. Before we approach birth, however, we are stripped—if I may so express it—of the realm of the Zodiac and enter the realm of the planets—Saturn, Jupiter, and so on. In entering the realm of the planets, and thus in coming nearer to the earth, nearer the point of time when we take on the boundaries of our human form, what is incorporated into us out of cosmic law as the animal nature is given its direction, if I may express it in this way. Before we sink down into the planetary system, and therefore into the forces of the planetary system, our vertebral column, for example, has not taken on a direction away from the earth, which would raise the head aloft. We are more subject to the directional forces governing the posture of the animal. Everything, for example, that designs the hands as the organ of our soul element, not only as an organ for grasping or for walking—what makes of them organs that can act freely out of the impulses of the soul element, all this we owe to this planetary influence. All that helps us to be truly human, right into the lowest stages of our animal organization, we have by virtue of the constellations of the moon with the rest of the planets.

We are made human, therefore, as we return through the planetary system. I told you that man himself, man as he forms himself, is the world that is living in our consciousness during our return journey from the Midnight Hour of Existence. We also see how at first everything is present in him that ultimately pulsates in rhythm with the animal forces. We live through this in such a way that we actually experience a kind of decline, a kind of icy process. All this, however, is loosened on our entering the planetary realm, and this first forms the cosmic world, which we see as the human world, the world represented by the earthly human being who Wrests himself away from the animal element, who grows out of the animal element. All this now fills us; it becomes the content of our consciousness. We carry in us as a system of forces that which the cosmos has given us.

Thus we descend soul-spiritually from the spiritual worlds. We have lived through the worlds in which we were in direct touch, stood in connection with, angels, archangels, archai. We descend as man. It is true, however, that if, in the way characterized, we have failed to establish an intimate relationship to our angel being, we have difficulties when penetrating into the planetary region, because we have been unable to make any divine-spiritual connection with the world of the archai. Outwardly we become incorporated into a people. The archai are then obliged to work into us, as it were, only from outside. Through this we are given a definite place on the earth, for all the forces of the archai tend toward that end. The archangels give us our place among a people and our particular place within this people is then determined by the archai. Not imbued with soul and spirit, however, we grow in an outer, mechanical way into this environment.

This is a characterization of our modern age—that the human being no longer has that inner relationship, that intimate inner relationship, that he had to his environment in more ancient times, when he grew into this immediate environment also with his soul. This is still maintained at best in a caricaturish way—as a caricature, I repeat—when today, even if it is already coming to an end, children perhaps grow up in some particular castle after previously having been attracted to their ancestors. Here we will have a relationship that in earlier ages had to do with the soul element. Today a human being is pressed into his environment in such a way that he basically has little inner relationship to the place in which he finds himself, to which his karma takes him in an entirely outer way, so that he feels his whole placement into physical existence as something external to him.

When man's being is formed through education and life in such a way that he is filled with soul, filled with spirit, and comes to a spiritual conception of the world, he will then carry this through life between death and a new birth so that he does not lose the inner connection with his angel, so that through his archangel his soul is carried into his particular people, and so that he is not placed in a merely outer way into his immediate existence by the world of the archai. He should rather be able to absorb once again into his animal organization something that he experiences in such a way that he says: there is a deep significance in the fact that just from this place where my consciousness first gradually awakens, where my education is carried on—that just from this place I am to unfold my activity in the world. This is certainly something that should lead us to bring about reform in education, so that the human being once more feels that from the place where he is educated he takes something with him that gives him his mission in the world. When this is so, a human being grows beyond the merely outer realm of the archai. He will experience the forces directing human beings in a way that is permeated by soul and spirit, and he will grow into his new life in a way different from what is frequently the case today.

What happens, then, when the human being enters a new earthly life? His consciousness is filled with the way in which he is building himself up from within as a human being. He is filled with a world that he beholds, a world of activity, not a mere world of thought. As I have already mentioned, after the Midnight Hour of Existence this world gradually takes on the tendency of the will toward being human, and the human being immerses himself into what is offered him through heredity in the generations, through the substance he receives from his ancestors. Into this he immerses himself. He envelops himself with the physical sheath; he enters the physical world. On observing the human being spiritually, we can actually find out about the content of the soul element when he is immersing himself in a new life in physical existence.

Of all the realms lived through by the human being between death and a new birth it is natural that a human being comes into the closest relationship to the angeloi, archangeloi, archai, but these things stand in further relationship to the higher hierarchies. Between death and a new birth a human being thus pursues his course through a realm in which his relationship to that realm depends on what he carries through the portal of death. The extent to which he has succeeded in permeating with his mineral consciousness that which as spirit wishes to rise out of the depths of his being determines to what extent he can become intimate with his angel being. By being able to be intimate in this way with his angel being, however, he grows into the world of the archangeloi, so that knowing, as it were, experiencing their forces out of himself, he can consciously reciprocate and proceed further, so as to become the individualized being he must gradually become if the world is to move toward its ascent and not its decline.

It is perfectly possible to give from the most varied points of view a deeply significant description of this life between death and a new birth. One point of view is to be found in the lecture course I held in 1914 at Vienna;7 Inneres Wesen des Menschen und Leben zwischen Tod und neuer Geburt, Vienna 1914, Bibl.-Nr. 153. today I have been developing another point of view for you. All these points of view are intended to lead to increasing knowledge of the human being from his spiritual aspect. Those who are unwilling to explore a whole spiritual world in this way will never be able to grasp the spiritual in man himself. Just as we must go into the spaces between physical body, etheric body, astral body, and I in order to penetrate the soul element in its objective nature, so we must proceed out of the human being into the spiritual world to study his relationship to this spiritual world. Then we discover what actually weaves and lives in the human being as the spiritual. It is only the love of comfort today that makes man speak of the spirit in general terms. We must become capable of speaking about the spirit in all its particulars, just as we do of nature. Then there will arise a real human knowledge; as man needs it, the primeval saying of truth will be fulfilled, the saying that sheds its light from ancient Greece, the fulfillment of which must continue to be striven for by the human being—the truthful saying, “Know thyself.”

Self-knowledge is knowledge of the world, and world knowledge is knowledge of self, for if we are living between birth and death, the stars, the sun, the moon, mountains, valleys, rivers, and the plants, animals, and minerals are our world, and what lives within our human boundaries is what we are. If we are living between death and a new birth, then we are what is concealed as the spiritual behind sun, moon, and stars, behind mountains and rivers, and our outer world is then the inner being of man. World and man alternate rhythmically, the human being living both physically and spiritually. For the human being here on earth the world is what is outside. For the human being between death and a new birth the world is what is within. Hence it is a question only of alternating through the times for man to be able to say that, in the most real sense, knowledge of man is knowledge of the world; knowledge of the world is knowledge of man.