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Cosmosophy I
GA 207

Lecture VII

8 October 1921, Dornach

Our recent studies have led us to consider the relationship of the human being to the spiritual world, and this relationship has in its turn made it necessary for us to cast a glance at the development man goes through between death and a new birth. We will take this as our starting point today.

Yesterday we said that the human being carries through the portal of death what I called a mineral consciousness. It can be called this because essentially its content is the mineral world with its laws, and this consciousness therefore is tinged by, or rather steeped with man's moral feelings and experiences. Bearing with him what comes from these two directions, the human being makes his way in the world through which he journeys between death and a new birth. When we consider what the human being is after death, we find that the astral body and the I have wrested themselves free from what surrounded them as a kind of shell, that is, from the physical body and the etheric body.

Now, if we picture the cosmic evolution of humanity, together with the cosmic planetary bodies that have to do with it, we know, from the description given in my Occult Science, how in the past this cosmic evolution has gone through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions, and how the human being then arrived at the Earth evolution, in which he is still involved. We also know that essentially in the Saturn evolution the first rudiments of the physical body were formed as a kind of universal sense organ that was developed further in the Sun, Moon, and Earth evolutions. We know that the first rudiments of the etheric body were added during the Sun evolution, those of the astral body during the Moon evolution, and that the Earth evolution is actually the time during which the I of man is evolved.

When we consider the human being as a whole, we find that he has his ego through the bond of the human being with the earth, for through those forces that exist on earth the I is formed, is molded. If we now say, therefore, that the human being passes through the portal of death, bearing his I through it, he really takes through the portal of death all that he has from his earthly evolution, all that he acquires within the earthly evolution. We bear through the portal of death just what belongs to the earthly evolution, and it is during the earthly evolution that the mineral world has been added to the other kingdoms. This, too, you may gather from my Occult Science. The outer, mineral world is, therefore, bound up with the evolution of the I. That the I goes through the portal of death with a mineral consciousness is essentially connected with what the human being actually has gained from the earth.

If we comprehend the earth only in a general way, however, as it first appears to us as world body, we understand it very imperfectly. The earth as world body, as it were, is a being that may be compared to a large drop in the infinite ocean of space; but this drop is constituted in such a way that it is differentiated in its substance—it contains substances of varying weight, varying density. We need only observe the metals in the earth to find that they are of varying density. What the human being incorporates into himself from the earth with the mineral consciousness originates from the whole earth, and it originates simply because the earth is a complete planet in the cosmos. What is differentiated into the various mineral substances then works in such a way that the human being takes with him through the portal of death not only what his I has become but also, for a time, what was his astral body. This has been described in my books, Occult Science and Theosophy, as the passage of the human being through the soul world.

We may therefore say that when the human being leaves the earth he develops the mineral consciousness. At first, however, this consciousness is permeated with all that the human being takes with him from the differentiated earth, from the earth insofar as it consists of various substances. This constitutes the period of his passage through the soul world. We can therefore say that the human being takes with him something that then goes on further and that to begin with is not only his I but is in a certain way an astral fruit of the earth (see drawing, page 119).

If we then follow the human being further, after he has laid aside this astral fruit of the earth, as described in my book, Theosophy—where it is shown how a short time after death man completes his passage through the soul world—we find that his I goes on further. At first, however, it is permeated by mineral consciousness. When we raise our spiritual gaze to where the human being is, we fmd the mineral consciousness of the deceased human being, that is, the thought world, which is related to what is mineral. It is actually the case that this thought world borne by man through death works on earth, and also in the cosmos, upon what is the mineral kingdom (see drawing at end of lecture).

This is an extraordinarily noteworthy and significant relationship. When we look at our minerals here on earth, when we observe the mineral kingdom that is also in the clouds—for there, too, there are mineral effects—and ask ourselves what spiritual essences are at work there, we must answer that in these mineral formations, which show us their outer side when as human beings on earth we observe them with our physical senses—in all these mineral effects live the thoughts to which human thought comes after death. If we look at the mineral kingdom intelligently, allowing our gaze to peruse this mineral kingdom, we can say that in all this mineral activity there is working inwardly that which constitutes the consciousness of the dead at the beginning of their career beyond the earth. We must therefore—and not merely for outer reasons—call the mineral kingdom a non-living, dead kingdom: but we must also call it a dead kingdom in the sense that at first the human thoughts, the actual human thoughts that man harbors immediately after death, work into this mineral kingdom.

When the human being then continues his journey, he comes ever nearer the Midnight Hour of Existence. Both before and after this time he develops, in the sense in which I spoke yesterday, a consciousness that is more plant-like in nature; it is not the mineral consciousness he possessed before but a consciousness that arises through the human entity being permeated with plant-creating forces. The human being receives from realms beyond the earth something different from what the earth as such can give him; in addition to what the earth can give him, he receives what is a kind of higher consciousness, and it can become apparent to us that he develops a plant-like consciousness. During this time he works on the plant realm both on earth and in the cosmos (see drawing at end of lecture).

It is one of the secrets of existence that when we study the plant covering of the earth, all the vegetable existence, we are shown only its outer side; it also has an inner side. Naturally we must seek this inner side, not under the roots but above the blossoms. When we picture to ourselves the blossoming plant, we see its inner aspect in what inclines astrally toward the plants, in what lives astrally, as it were, and has its-outer expression in the plant covering, in the processes of fructification, in all, therefore, that is unseen. It may be said that if one observes the plant itself purely from root to flower, the inner side would be that which is over the flower. If, therefore, we consider what can be perceived outwardly of the vegetation as an outer side, then the inner side consists of the sphere of those forces that in part have their point of origin in the consciousness of human beings in the middle period of their existence between death and a new birth—before and after the Midnight Hour of Existence. We therefore must look upon the vegetation of the earth as being connected in its cosmic existence with the whole of human evolution.

If we can say regarding the mineral kingdom that in this dead kingdom live the weaving thoughts of human beings in the first half of their life between death and a new birth, then we must say that in the vegetation of the earth is outwardly revealed what lives inwardly in the universe, so that it constitutes the world of human consciousness in the middle period between death and a new birth.

The intimate relationship between the human being and the world about which we spoke yesterday made it possible to close yesterday's study with the words, “Knowledge of the world is knowledge of man, and knowledge of man is knowledge of the world.” This relationship reveals itself here in a quite special way. It shows us that here on earth we actually behold something of what the human being is between death and a new birth. If we look at the minerals, they reveal to us in a kind of outer picture what human beings do in an inwardly conscious way in the period immediately following death. When we look at the plant world, we see revealed what man does inwardly in the middle period of his evolution between death and a new birth.

To an unprejudiced view such things can be observed in a certain outer way. Whenever we consider Goethe's very peculiar nature—which is only an outstanding example—each time we are surprised afresh. What constitutes the peculiarity of Goethe's nature? For one thing, Goethe attempted again and again to become a draughtsman or painter. He never accomplished this, but the drawings and paintings he left are striking in their sureness of touch. When one considers Goethe's poems, especially some that are unusually characteristic in this respect, one says to oneself that though Goethe could not become a painter his poems are expressed in a kind of displaced painting. In his poems Goethe does a good deal of painting. If this were to be expressed in the same way as some modern talented critics do, for example, one might say (though I do not think that it is such a good thing to do) that Goethe had the tendency to become a bad painter; he carried his painting tendency into his poetry and therefore became in that way merely a painterly poet.

One may say further that those people were somewhat justified who described many of Goethe's poems as being smooth and cold as marble, even “Iphigenia” and “Tasso,” in a certain sense, but still more so “The Natural Daughter.” Goethe offered dramatic poems in which a sculptor actually lives, and as dramatic poems they do not breathe forth the inner life that permeates the poems of Shakespeare. In a certain respect they are poems that have stopped short and are expressed in sculptural form.

Briefly, Goethe can appear as a special genius, perhaps for the very reason that he never actually came quite fully into the world. He came to the world as a painter, but never became one. He then turned to poetry but brought things to expression in a way half-painterly. He never fully mastered the art of dramatic poetry. For this he had poetic inclinations but never actually became a real dramatic poet; he stopped short of this, turned back again, and brought it to expression in a sculptural way. When one studies Goethe correctly, one becomes conscious of something that is most characteristic of him—Goethe is a human being who was never really born quite right. He produced a theory of color but was never in a true sense a physicist. He occupied himself with natural science but never completely entered into its technicalities. In short, there was actually nothing in the world into which he entered fully—he never came into the world properly.

One might go even further, considering his relationships to women. These also developed only to a certain stage, never to the point to which they develop in ordinary human beings born correctly into physical life. One could find confirmation of this everywhere, if one feels and senses these things, and if only this feeling and sensation is not limited by ordinary pedantic, commonplace ideas and obvious objections to which I need not refer here in detail. About this thesis that Goethe was not entirely born the objection naturally may be made that he was indeed born on such and such a day in Frankfurt, as may be seen in any of his biographies. Let me draw your attention, however, to a matter that calls for comment, that he arrived in the world half dead, his body absolutely black. He therefore did not enter the world robustly but in a way that was half dead.

Let us follow his life and see how he never fully arrives anywhere—how he has setbacks, even to the point of illness. Everything is like this, even the way he went about in Weimar, inapproachable in a certain respect; one could say that he never entered fully into the world. This has its origin in the fact that he brought with him an especially large portion of the plant-like consciousness that is developed in the Midnight Hour of Existence. Hence, the urge he had toward developing the metamorphosis of the plant, in which he accomplished his greatest work: this wonderful view of the plant world.

I can well imagine that it sounds unusual to speak seriously about Goethe not having come fully into the world. There are many people who prefer to speak of the outer world as a kind of maya, speaking in general, in the abstract. When we explore how the individual stages of maya are differentiated, however, it must be admitted that it is absolutely a maya if one takes Goethe completely outwardly as do Mr. Lewes or Professor Bielscbowski,8 George Henry Lewes, 1817–1878, Life of Goethe, 1855. Albert Bielschowski, 1847-1902, Goethe, 1895-1904. for example. He is most definitely not like that, however; he is quite different. His nature is such that its essential origin is really discovered in the sphere that lies just in the middle of man's life between death and a new birth.

We now come to the third part of this development, when a new incarnation, a new earthly life, is drawing near. In this period, as you may easily imagine, the human being develops a more active consciousness (see drawing below, red). Outwardly he has a consciousness such as I described to you yesterday, but he works with what now lives in his consciousness—chiefly with all that develops here on earth as the animal world. At this point, however, we cannot say that when we look at the animal world outwardly this signifies only the outer side and that the inner side leads us to human thoughts or to the contents of human consciousness during the third part of his life between death and a new birth. We cannot really say this, but we can say that if we look at the animal world this animal world yields us a kind of inner aspect. The mineral and plant realms therefore show us their outer side, as it were—the plants to a lesser degree, but they may nevertheless be included. The inner side of the plant-like is presented to us, in addition to other things, by the state of consciousness of those who have passed through the portal of death and are on the way to a new earthly life. When we look at the animal realm, however, we must actually say that this gives us its inner side, its outer side being the group-souls of the animals, which ascend up to the creativity of hierarchies beyond the earthly. There in the animal realm we cannot find in the animals themselves what works out of the human being, out of human consciousness. Rather we can say that human thoughts live and weave in the animal group-souls, in what is developing in the whole world of the animal group-souls.

During this third period the human being actually lives through all the subtle and complicated configurations of the world of the animal group-souls. This is what now becomes the human world, this world of animal group-souls. Out of what he beholds there in the world of the animal group-souls, out of what passes there in and out of his consciousness, the human being builds up his own organs. He gradually draws together, as it were, what he sees there in the breadths of the world into the active beholding of his own being. Man forms his own organism—his inner organs—out of the sum total of the animal group-souls.

We might say that the human being then builds up the principal forms of his brain—of course at first as forces, not as a lump of matter, as such, but as forces—his lungs, heart, blood vessels, and so on. The human being builds up his individual organs out of the whole relationship of the animal group-beings. Thus, whereas in the first part of his super-sensible life, man constructs the outer world, he now recedes more and more into himself, finally building up the individual organs of his inner organism out of the entire world of animal group-souls.

In the last stage of his becoming, the human being then enters, as I told you yesterday, the sphere of the planetary forces. This is a later stage, as it were, that the human being undergoes. After having gone through his activity in and out of the animal group-soul system, he becomes dependent on what lives in the outer world, of what lives in the movements of the planets and their constellations. Through this the etheric body of man is prepared. Man is drawn toward a new birth. His etheric body is developed. In this etheric body there now become visible the webs of thought of which I have spoken, which are to be found between the etheric body and the physical body. Man thus now weaves into his system of organs what he has worked upon more out of feeling—feeling, however, that has been thoroughly permeated by thought. Around this he then forms a web of thought. This web of thought is therefore a result of what the human being has experienced from the working of the planetary world on his being that is approaching a new birth. He thus becomes ready to enter the sheath provided for him by what is accomplished in successive generations.

What, then, is the human being who descends? Immediately after death he poured out of himself into the outer mineral world the thought element, the mineral thought element, that he took with him. By virtue of having poured out these thoughts, will impulses and feeling content gradually press upward. All this then permeates him with the content of the plant-like consciousness. The human being now begins to work with the plant realm in the outer world; then he withdraws into himself again, works out of the animal consciousness of the group-soul activity of the animals, and builds up his organs, which he then surrounds in a certain way with the sheath woven out of the substance of thought. This is what then wants to descend into physical existence.

How does this incorporation into physical existence now take place? In earlier lectures, and also again yesterday, I have pointed out that in modern science it is expected by many that someday cells will be found to have the most complicated chemical structure for which the most complicated chemical formula will be discovered. That idea, however, is completely wrong. In the cell, even in the ordinary organic cell (see drawing below, bright), the chemical cohesiveness is not stronger than in an ordinarily complicated chemical compound; on the contrary, the chemical affinities become most chaotic in the fertilized germ-cell. The fertilized germ-cell is chaos in relation to what is material, chaos that disintegrates, chaos that really disintegrates. Into this disintegrating chaos pours what I have described to you as the human being, which was formed as I just described (lilac). What is actually physical is then formed, not through the germ itself but through the processes taking place in the mother's body between the embryo and the environment. What descends from the spiritual world is thus actually placed into the emptiness and is only then permeated with mineral substance. What we have described here is, as you may see, an absolutely transparent process.

We cannot look upon the animal consciousness as working back but must rather say that it works up into the animal group-souls (see drawing, page 119, red arrows). Then, when the human being reaches the planetary realm, he fashions man himself and incorporates himself in this way into the place prepared for him, as I have just described.

If you bear in mind the beginning and the end of life between death and a new birth, you certainly must say that things appear that can be related to one another. In what we may call the passage of the human soul through the soul world after death there arises something that still has a relationship to the earth, something that points the human being back to what is earthly. We know that then, as I have often described for you, the human being proceeds backward through his earthly life in about one-third of the time his life lasted. What he experiences in the passage through the planetary system before birth is, as it were, the polar opposite to this. Something is imparted to the human being that he brings down with him from heaven to earth. Just as he bears out into the soul world something of what is in his astral body, by means of which he lives backward through his earthly life, so he brings with him out of the cosmos something that then permeates his etheric body—something that has to do with his etheric body in the same way as what I have called the astral fruit of the earth has to do with our astral body. What he brings from the cosmos bears the same relationship to his etheric body as what he carries as astral fruit of the earth bears to his astral body.

I may therefore say that the human being brings with him from the cosmos the etheric cosmic fruit. This etheric cosmic fruit actually lives on in his etheric body. From the first moment of his birth, the human being has in his etheric body something like a cosmic force impelling him forward, which works through his entire life. Karmic tendencies remaining from the past unite with this cosmic impelling force and are active in it.

We thus are able to show how perceptibly karma is related to the real human being. While telling ourselves that the human being has a pre-existent life, that he comes down from spiritual heights into earthly physical life and incorporates his I and astral body into his physical body and etheric body, we may also say that the karma he brings with him from his former life on earth incorporates itself into the etheric impelling force that he brings along with him from the influence of the planetary system that preceded his earthly incorporation.

Now you can grasp quite vividly how all that inwardly urges and impels the human being can be quite practically calculated from the planetary relationships. In this way one can look intimately into what is working in the human being and follow it out of the physical, sense activity into the soul-spiritual world, whence man again carries it down into his physical, bodily existence on earth where it continues to work. These things can be given in all their particulars.

When a person becomes filled with ideas that come from this knowledge, he will say: I enter this earthly existence in the form of physical man and am apparently shut off from the rest of the world. This consciousness of being shut off is given me where my super-sensible aspect is laid into the place prepared for it by the earthly, physical existence. When I am incorporated into this sheath, however, I again grow more and more into the cosmos through my perceptions, through my experiences. I grow into it especially when I form such mental pictures of the human being's connection with the world.

Through anthroposophical spiritual science man thus learns to feel himself at one with the universe. He feels the world in himself and himself in the world. He feels the life of the macrocosm pulsing in his own inner being, and he feels how all that he inwardly experiences pulses forth again into the whole cosmos. His breathing becomes for him a symbol of all-embracing existence. The indrawn breath assumes the form of the human body and becomes inner life. The breath that leaves the organism spreads itself out again into the world. It is the same with the soul-spiritual: the whole cosmos is, as it were, breathed in soul-spiritually and becomes man. All that originates in the human being is breathed out again soul-spiritually and disperses itself in the cosmos until it reaches the very periphery of the cosmos. Then it returns once more to form the human being. In the human being we may see the image of the world, and in the world we may see the finely dissolved essence of the human being. We thus may come to an all-embracing knowledge of the world and of man in the words:

O Man, thou art the condensed image of the world!
O World, thou art the being of Man poured out into infinite space!

Man should acquire a consciousness that really unites his being with the cosmos, so that his future evolution may proceed in an upward, not a downward, direction.