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Cosmosophy II
GA 208

Lecture IV

28 October 1921, Dornach

Today, we’ll consider the human form and we shall see how much this will add to our subject matter and deepen it. The first thing to remember is that taken in its widest sense, the human form is of course connected with the whole of human life, and this is what we have to consider if we want to gain real inner understanding of it. Human beings are part of the whole universe, the cosmos. If you take it that the form of the human head primarily reflects the sphere of the cosmic universe, you may say that with regard to the head, human beings relate to the whole universe. However, to understand how human beings relate to this when at the same time they are also an entity that is complete in itself, we have to consider the way human beings relate to the world around them.

Let us begin by saying that in all their thinking, in so far as it is connected with the head, human beings turn to the whole cosmos. When at birth we bring the head into this physical world from the world of the spirit, we are encased in a living physical body and in a way able to look back to our inner reality of soul and spirit, and to a time when we were not encased in a body. It may be easiest to see what I mean if we consider how human beings gain insight and knowledge by looking back inside themselves, as it were. We are looking back inside ourselves, for instance, when we do arithmetic or geometry. We recognize the laws of geometry simply because we are human beings and are able to find the laws of physical space in ourselves. We also know that these laws fill the whole universe. This, then, is something we inevitably see when we use our eyes; everything is arranged in geometrical order; even the design of our eyes, and the way we are able to focus, is based on geometry.

Thus we are able to say that when we relate to the world through thinking, which is connected with the head, we take back into ourselves what lies spread out in the universe. One way we relate to the universe may therefore be seen as follows: The universe is reaching into us, and we are, in a way, looking back on it. This would be the way in which human beings relate to the universe, out of which they have been built, at the most superficial level.

We progress a little more if we now consider, in second place, how human beings make everything they take in from outside come alive in them. You see, when a child is born everything it went through between death and rebirth is inside it. If the child were able to develop the right kind of awareness, it would be able to look back on life before birth. Those pre-birth experiences then begin to stir. Human beings do not merely look back inside themselves to find the universe, but also look around them and see their environment. We are thus able to say: Apart from taking in the universe, we also look out into the universe around us, taking its mobility into us. We become inwardly mobile.

Now to the third aspect: In the first two, human beings are not really quite inside themselves. Having the universe inside us, say as geometry, we live in something that is really outside us. When the child begins to be inwardly mobile as it imitates the movements of the universe, it lives in something that is outside it. How does the human being become inward and become aware of self?

Just take your left hand in your right hand, thoughtfully—all you have to do is take hold of yourself and you remain entirely inside yourself. You are using your right hand for an activity, but it is you yourself you take hold of. You may take hold of other objects at other times, but in this case you take hold of yourself. All self-awareness, all inwardness, essentially is a matter of thus taking hold of oneself. We do something similar with our eyes. When we focus on a particular point, the right visual axis intersects with the left visual axis, just as the right hand takes hold of the left. Animals have less inwardness because they do much less of this taking hold of self. The third thing, therefore, would be experiencing or touching ourselves. There we are actually in the outside world and take hold of ourselves, and we are not yet inside our skin.

Let us now consider the boundary between outside and inside. We indicate the process by letting the right hand move to and fro over the left hand which it is holding. This defines a surface area we actually have all over, the covering which encloses everything inside. The fourth thing, then, is to enclose oneself. Get a real feeling for the way the skin encloses your form, and there you have the closing-off principle.

  1. The universe reaching in. Looking back
  2. Looking out into the universe. Taking in the mobility of the universe
  3. Experiencing self, touching self
  4. Enclosing ourselves.

These four things show how the human being is gradually given form from outside in. First there is the whole universe and we are outside ourselves; then imitation of the universe, where we have not yet come to ourselves. Taking hold of ourselves we find ourselves outside ourselves. With the fourth element we enclose ourselves.

For the fifth we have to look for something that is inside us, fills us, actively pulses inside us.

As to the sixth, since we not only have a skin but also something that fills it we are now inside ourselves, but this is also where the form is dissolved again; we have something that not merely fills us inside, but makes us like a fruit when it grows ripe. Take a fruit when it is just on the point of being ripe; once it goes beyond this point it starts to dry up. The sixth thing, then, is ripening.

But visualize this ripening process. As we grow ripe we begin, in a way, to decay inwardly. We cease a little bit to develop further as human beings. We are human but we decay inwardly, turning to dust, as it were. We become mineral and thus part of the outside world again. That which fills us is wholly inside. But as we fall to dust we become part of the mineral world again. We become a body that has weight, as it were. The seventh thing, then, is to become part of the inorganic world.

I have shown, on another occasion, that if we weigh a human being who walks this earth, that human being is just like a mineral. There we have the process of becoming part of the forces of outer nature. Just think—if you walk properly you involve yourself in the forces of physical nature, and if you do not walk properly you fall over. The first step in finding our place in the outside world is therefore to find our balance.

The eighth thing: We find that we do not merely become part of the outside world but also take it into ourselves as we breathe and when we eat. Before, we essentially only fathomed things that were already inside ourselves; it is a matter of being alive inside. But we take the outside world into ourselves, and at this point it has to be clearly understood that everything we take in from outside is something that does not really belong inside us.

People have the wrong idea about the way we take in things from outside. In principle, everything we eat is a little bit poisonous. Life consists in taking in food and not letting it become entirely part of ourselves, resisting it. This resistance, defending ourselves, is in fact life. The point is, however, that the foods we eat are not very poisonous so that we are able to hold our own against them. If we take in real poison it will destroy us, for we’ll not be able to defend ourselves.

Thus we may say: With the outside world, a poison sting enters into us. I have to use words that have real meaning, but today’s language and understanding does not have them. You’ll have to understand what I mean when I put these things before you.

  1. Something that fills us
  2. Ripening
  3. Becoming part of the inorganic world. Finding our balance
  4. Poison sting.

The human being is now at the point where the outside world is taken in. First we considered the way the human being is given form out of the universe. Then came the way the human being is given form from inside, and this has taken us to where the inner human being gains form by resisting the outside world.

But human beings create their form, or at least shape their lives and a little bit also their actual human form, according to the way they relate to, and are active in, the outside world. Today our activities no longer relate entirely to our human nature; we have to go back to earlier times to see human beings relating to the world around them in a way that makes them act in a truly human way. We are then able to say that in the ninth place, one human activity is to involve oneself in the outside world here on earth, and not in the universe. In their outside life in civilization people were first of all hunters.

They progressed by developing another activity—breeding of animals. That is the tenth stage, and the eleventh stage of perfection is to be a tiller of the soil. Finally the twelfth stage is to be involved in trade. - You’ll see later why I do not include other activities that followed. They were secondary. Hunting, animal breeding, tilling the soil and trading are the primary human activities.—This, then, defines the human form in relation to the earth:

  1. Hunter
  2. Animal breeder
  3. Tiller of the soil
  4. Trader

We might also show this in a drawing. Let us say this is the earth, and here we have the human being on earth. With regard to the first four form principles, form is given from outside, from the cosmos surrounding the earth (Fig. 9, left). Let us leave the middle principle aside for the moment and consider where the human being is formed by the earth to be hunter, animal breeder; here the opposite would be the case. Here the constellations influence the human being; but the influence of the constellations which are down there has to pass through the earth to reach the human being. This would mean that the human being would have to take his orientation from the earth where these stars are concerned. And the four middle principles would give human beings the potential to develop inwardly.

human on Earth
Fig. 9

Thus these four principles (Table below) take us out into the universe; the last four take us to the earth, with the stars involved covered by the earth. In the four middle principles, stars and earth are in balance, and we have human beings with an inner life.

People had a feeling for this in the past. They would say: One part of the starry heavens influences human beings by forming them from outside, out of the universe. Different stars had to be seen in that role through the ages, of course, for the constellations change. But let us take, broadly speaking, the age in which we live. An ancient Greek who had given some thought to these things would say: The stars that are in the region of the Ram are acting on us from outside, and so do those in the region of the Bull, the Twins and Cancer. Through them human beings have the principle in them that looks back, the one that is inwardly mobile, the one that takes hold of itself and the one that encloses itself. To the stars down there on the opposite side, which are covered by the earth, human beings owe their existence as hunters (Archer), animal breeders (Goat), tillers of the soil—walking across the field carrying urns to water the fields (Water Carrier), and we are traders thanks to the part of the starry heavens that takes us across the seas—in far distant times boats were built to look similar to fish, and two ships side by side that have sailed the seas in pursuit of trade are the symbol for trade. If we take the liberty and call the ships “fishes” we have the twelfth sign.

The human being formed out of the universe—head

1. Taking in the universe. Looking back—Ram
2. Looking out into the universe. Taking in the mobility of the universe—Bull
3. Taking hold of ourselves (touch)—Twins
4. Enclosing ourselves—Crab, Cancer

The human being formed from within—chest

5. That which fills—Lion
6. Ripening with ear of corn—Virgin
7. Becoming part of the inorganic world. Seeking balance—Scales
8. Poison sting Scorpion

Forms of Human activity on earth—limbs or earthly human being

9. Hunter—Archer
10. Animal breeder—Goat
11. Tiller of the soil—Water Carrier
12. Trader—Fishes

In the middle we have that which fills, that is, something which acts like the blood that fills human beings. The best animal to symbolize the blood is probably the Lion, because there we have the activity of the heart at its highest. Ripening—we only need to look at a field where the wheat or rye is getting ripe; the ear of com is exactly the stage at which fruiting becomes ripening—so we have the Virgin with the ear of corn, and it is the ear of com that matters. Human beings become part of the outside world again in seeking balance—Scales. And where we feel the poison sting, and feel that everything is slightly poisonous—Scorpion.

In the past, people really had a feeling for the way the human being is connected with the universe and the earth. In our time people say: Ram, Bull, Twins, Crab, Lion ... and draw those figures, but they no longer have any real idea as to their meaning.

It is important to see these things in the right way. If you look at an old illustration of the Ram, you’ll realize that it is not a naturalistic, materialistic image of a ram. The important characteristic is, again and again, the gesture of looking back. The way the Ram looks back is the way the human being looks back on himself as he looks back to the universe that lives in him. It is the gesture that counts.

Fig. 10

If you look at old pictures of the Bull you’ll find that the Bull always looks sideways and makes a leap. It is the gesture of looking around you and letting the general, universal principle come alive in you. Looking at the Twins you have one person on the right and another on the left, and always the right hand of the one on the right holds the left hand of the one on the left. This is the gesture of touching, feeling oneself. Two individual persons are shown in order to indicate that in a way the human being is still outside himself, and takes his pre-birth human being into himself by touching himself.

Closing off, enclosing oneself—Crab. The people who chose the Crab as the symbol for this enclosing gesture did so because the crab puts its claws around its prey. The word “cancer” actually still holds the meaning of enclose. The Crab is the symbol of the individual closing himself off, not merely touching and feeling himself but closing himself off from the outside and creating an inside.

The Lion is the animal of the heart, for the obvious reason that its heart is particularly well developed. It represents the qualities that come in fifth place.

With the quality of ripening, it is the ear of corn the Virgin holds that represents the fruiting quality when it is just on the point of drying up. The Scales show the search for balance, and the Scorpion is of course the poison sting. The Archer is really an animal form, the front part of which is a human figure with bow and arrow, like a Centaur astride an animal body. This is the hunter.

Capricorn, the he-goat, is really a goat with a fish’s tail, something which does not exist in the natural world. But human beings breed animals and thus make them as tame as tame fish. This, then, is a made-up symbol.

Agriculture is represented by the Water Carrier. There is a certain spiritual justification for thinking in terms of water, but what matters is the way he walks across the field. He holds an urn in each hand and pours water from these. This is the gardener and the tiller of the soil.

I have already suggested that the Fishes represent trade. People used to have fishes' heads up on the front part of their ships, heads of dolphins, for instance—dolphins are not fish, of course, but the ancients thought them to be. This symbol clearly points to trading activity.

Rather than consider these things in a superficial, schematic way, which is so often the case today, we have to look at the way the human being is given form and then see how this gives us the relationship to the universe and to the earth. Basing ourselves on the form, we gradually perceive the human being as part, as a member, of the whole universe. Another approach is the following. Let us take the Ram, for instance. Considering Ram, Bull, Twins, Crab, Lion, Virgin, Scales, Scorpion, Archer, Goat, Water Carrier and Fishes from the point of view of the ancient Greeks we may say: In the shape of the head, the human being is formed out of the universe. Then mobility develops inside and the potential for symmetry. Next, however, it will be necessary to see the influence of the last constellations in the list as having the opposite effect. In this case the influences come from the earth. Activities have an effect on human beings.

If we made the figure broad at the top (see Fig. 11), we’d best make it narrow (down) here, saying: When human beings want to be hunters the qualities we may take to be those of the Archer must be particularly well developed in them. To be animal breeders they have to bend their knees a lot. The tiller of the soil has to walk; he is therefore shown stepping out, and so on. Carrying on trade: If we want to look for a symbol in the human being, it has to be the feet. All these organs are also formed from outside in. The remaining part, where the human being develops himself, is in the middle.

Human embryo
Fig. 11

This figure I am drawing really arises from the twelve signs as if of its own accord. We are able to say: There (in the middle) the universe with its stars is more active in the inner human being; there (at the top) the stars act from outside, and there (below) they compress the human being. You can see that the form I have drawn is the human embryo. Basing yourself on the laws of zodiac, you really have to draw the human embryo like this, just as you get a triangle if you draw a figure that encloses 180 degrees. It is therefore immediately apparent that the human embryo is created out of the whole universe.

As I said, we have to take the point of view of the ancient Greeks to do this, for today we can no longer start with the Ram; we have to start with the Fishes. We have been in the sign of the Fishes for centuries now, and this marks the time of transition to human intellectual development. But if you go back to the time when it was right to start with the Ram and the zodiac could be seen the way the ancients saw it, you have not much more than Archer, Goat, Water Carrier and Fishes, or the occupations of the hunter, animal breeder, tiller of the soil and trader. Today we live in the age of the Fishes, during which the whole of our modern industrialized civilization has developed. Going back to the time of the Ram, we still find the four honest occupations—through modified to some extent and more complex—which place human beings in the world of nature.

Going back through the ages of the Bull, the third, second and first post-Atlantean ages, the last Atlantean age, the last but one, and so on, we would come to an earlier age of the Fishes, when human beings were still completely etheric and had not yet descended into the physical world. And because human beings were completely etheric in the earlier age of the Fishes, they are today essentially repeating everything they went through at that earlier time when they were in the process of becoming human. They have been repeating this from the middle of the 15th century, but in an abstract way. Then they were truly evolving their humanity; now they are growing into things that have been abstracted from them, for a machine is something that has been abstracted. With the new age of the Fishes, human beings are placed in something that is actually dissolving them. And when humanity enters another Water Carrier age, the process of dissolution will go a great deal further. Above all humans beings will not be able to relate to the world in any way at all unless they hold to the world of the spirit. It is exactly because of this recapitulation that humanity must move on into the world of the spirit.

Again it is possible to see that human beings are really threefold by nature: formed out of the universe in so far as they are head; developing inwardly, merely in concord with the outside world, in so far as they are chest; developing limbs and metabolism in so far as they make themselves part of the physical world, i.e. are limb people, or earth people (see Table above).

Threefoldness exists also in another respect. When we arrive in the world, the first four powers or impulses are already in us, though we only develop them afterwards. Yet in a sense we are also full human beings, for the potential for the other eight principles is also there. The head person is a whole human being, but the other parts are only rudimentary. The chest person is a whole human being, but the first and last four impulses are rudimentary. The limb person is a whole human being, but chest and head are rudimentary. So we really have three people in every human being. The first, the head person, is a metamorphosis of the previous incarnation. The chest person is the human being of the present incarnation in the true sense. And everything we do in the world around us, which comes to expression in our limbs and in our metabolism, takes us forward into our next incarnation. In this way, too, human beings are threefold by nature, and it is another way of studying the human form as a whole. We really ought to say that to draw a human being we ought to draw the head. This would be a complete human being. You can see it like this: The lower jaw really represents legs, except that in the head they point backwards; this person is sitting on his legs.

The chest person is another whole human being, with the arms more or less the outer representatives of etheric eyes. And the limb person is another whole human being, with the kidneys the eyes, for example. Even in terms of form and shape, we have three human beings fitted into one another. In the human being who has vanished into the head and become a sphere we see the previous incarnation coming alive, in the chest we have the actual human being of the present time, and in the person who is walking about we may see what will enter into the next incarnation.

In a sense we are also able to say that the way people comport themselves today shows a threefold nature. Take the human being of the limbs and metabolism: he is capable of engendering a whole human being. All you need is the human embryo in the mother’s womb and you see how the limbs and metabolism person wants to become a whole human being.

As to the chest person, look at a small baby and you can see how at that stage the head and chest still form a whole. Threefoldness therefore shows itself also in the way we grow up. And when we are no longer babies we are brought up and educated. The human head is the educator of other human beings—a child’s head, or a childish person, teaching another childish person, for essentially we are for ever children in the head. We only grow old, that is to middle age, in the middle, or chest person, and really old in our limbs. People find out about this when they get old. As the old riddle goes: We walk on all fours in our youth, then on two and later on three legs. People grow old in their limbs. In their head they always remain somehow the outcome of their previous incarnation, and throughout life the head is really a child’s head. Education theory will have to solve the problem of how the child’s-head teacher can best treat the child’s-head pupil.

These things can be amusing, but behind them lies a deep truth which must be considered if human beings are to see themselves in the right light.

Essentially the human head is a passenger carried by the rest of the human being. The legs of the head are always in a sitting position and it does not even attempt to do its own walking. The head is carried around like a passenger sitting in a coach. The chest person is the carer, and the limb person is the worker, used as a slave, and the one who really works his way through life. This is also why we have a head, in so far as we are head as a whole human being; I have said so many times. All the way to where we enclose ourselves, using the Crab principle, we are head. This is the gift of heaven and we do not have to contribute. Here (in the middle) we must breathe and eat: this is the the carer, the wet-nurse. And the true worker belongs to the sphere of Archer, Goat, Water Carrier and Fishes.

We are thus able to evolve the human form in relation to the whole universe. You need to take these things very seriously, even if they are presented with a fairly light touch and not in a pedantic way. Taking them seriously you will see that on the one hand everything I have said today holds the potential for understanding the human form out of the whole universe, and on the other hand it is something to make us feel the greatest respect for the perceptiveness of people in the past; out of instinctive clairvoyance they were able to gain the most tremendous knowledge of man from the signs of the zodiac. Today our knowledge is such that people goggle at the Ram but fail to realize that the way it turns around is the important thing; they goggle at the Bull and do not know that it is the way it leaps and looks sideways is what matters; and with the Twins the way one hand holds the other, and so on. Everything in those signs of the zodiac, every single gesture, is truly profound, and if there is no gesture, as in the case of the Lion, the symbolic element has been chosen in such a way that the sign itself has the gesture in it, with the Lion having the strongest heart beat. The Lion represents that which fills us. We can find the wisdom of those ancient days again if we look for it in ourselves.

Today I have been considering the human form, tomorrow I intend to consider human life in relation to the universe. In the following lecture we’ll consider the human soul in relation to the universe.