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Cosmosophy II
GA 208

Lecture VI

30 October 1921, Dornach

So far we have attempted to see the human being in relation to the universe as regards form and as regards life. We found that human beings relate in different ways to the universe at the head end and at the limb end. All these things essentially hold true for the period of human evolution in which we are today, i.e. the post-Atlantean period, and it has to be understood that anything we are able to say about the phenomena of this world always applies only for specific periods, for the world is in a process of evolution and changes radically from one stage of evolution to the next.

We saw that human beings tear themselves away, as it were, from the relationship to the zodiac. Unlike the animal head, which lies within the zodiac, the human head has been lifted out of it, going through an angle of about 90 degrees. The head end of the human being is fully in a way of life that inclines towards inorganic, lifeless nature. Here life is more or less in decline; it is dying. Both form and life tear themselves away from their connection with the cosmos, and because of this enter into a kind of frozen state, the beginning of lifelessness.

Essentially we are the outcome of previous development in this area. Think of the individual aspect of the human being and the fact that the human head is the metamorphosis of the other person who lived on earth before, and you will recall that the head points to the past, whilst the limbs point to the future.

The head part of the human being also points to the cosmic expanses of the past in another way. As you know, the head is the principal bearer of the sense organs and these had their origin on ancient Saturn. The most highly developed senses—other senses developed on ancient sun and moon—go back to the earliest stages of cosmic earth evolution. Everything connected with the human head therefore points to the past and in some respects it would be right to say: The mineral world evolved in the course of earth existence, and the human head, being the oldest part, is more than any other part involved in this process of mineralization.

Tearing themselves away from the cosmos, human beings keep the form that is no longer connected with the cosmos during their life between birth and death, and they also keep the life that is dying and becoming mineralized. We may also say that if human beings had kept the animal form, that is, if their heads had maintained the orientation given by the zodiac and therefore the weightier life that is to be found in the animal head, they would be entirely the outcome of earlier times in their heads. The head would have something that would immediately make it apparent that it has arisen out of the whole past cosmic evolution. By tearing the head away from this, human beings are in a way destroying their cosmic past.

It is tremendously important that we consider the things that were presented yesterday and the day before and realize that in the development of the head human beings essentially destroy their cosmic past. In fact, they go beyond the actual mineralization process, entering into a process in which matter is finely dispersed to an extraordinary degree. Organic forms are of course also to be found in the head, and embedded in the organic element is a process in which matter is reduced to dust to a degree that actually goes beyond the mineral level. Fig. 18.

If we look at the human head in the right way we have to say it is the focus of a process in which matter as such is reduced to nothing and it is this which makes it the bearer of a distinct inner life. The generally accepted materialistic view is entirely wrong when it comes to the form of the human head. Thanks to the head being part of the organism, human beings have a life of thoughts and ideas. This becomes possible because the material life is reduced to dust in a strange process which you may be able to picture as follows.

human head
Fig. 18

Imagine—as I said, it is a picture, but it will give you some idea of the extremely subtle process involved—imagine, then, a painting, Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, for example. For the painting to exist in this world, it is necessary for it to have physical substance. Imagine that the physical substance falls to dust, but a fine etheric tissue would remain. So now the Sistine Madonna has turned into dust, but everything that was painted by using physical paints, including the nuances of colour, continues to exist in etheric form and someone with etheric perception would be able to perceive the etheric form that remains.

That is what the thinking process is like, the process of forming ideas. When we become conscious of a thought or an idea, this is due to the fact that because the head has been taken out of the wholeness of the cosmos, as we have seen yesterday and the day before, matter loses all significance and human beings face the constant need to let their heads come alive again because they are always disintegrating, and dying in every detail. The etheric aspect of their heads lifts out of it in the process (Fig. 18, red line on the outside) and thoughts evolve. Matter turns to dust and falls away, as it were, and the etheric remains and that is how people become aware of their ideas.

You’ll remember me saying that in the senses we already have something of a physical apparatus. The eye is a physical apparatus, except that the human ether body is active in it. There it already is the way I am now also going to describe for the rest of the head, for nerve tissue. Please take careful note of what I am going to say now. In the senses, and especially in the senses connected with the head, a separate etheric principle is active in the process of perception. In the sphere of the senses, therefore, we have a kind of independent etheric process.

Take the eye. It is a physical apparatus, but the etheric is active in it. Independent etheric life is to be found in an organ that is all the time tending to disintegrate and is really a mechanical, if not sub-mechanical, object. This is the situation in the sphere of the senses.

In the sphere of the nerves, which is an inward continuation of the sphere of the senses, the situation is such that the ether body is more closely bound up with the physical substance, but the whole of our life of the nerves wants all the time to become life of the senses. Imagine, therefore, that you are seeing a coloured surface. The ether body moves independently in this process of sensory perception. If you now leave this process aside and give yourself up to the life of the nerves, the whole sphere of the nerves becomes sphere of the senses and you have a idea of the coloured surface in your mind. We may say that in so far as human beings are nerve human beings, they become entirely sphere of the senses in their mental images or ideas.

Now comes the reaction. The senses are geared towards the physical and are able to take things in continually. The organism of the nerves takes in what the senses present to it. It changes into sphere of the senses and in doing so it partly dies. It seeks to become all eye, or all ear, for instance. To prevent this happening, the vital principle, the principle of life, enters from the rest of the organism and pervades it and the human individual lets the idea go, as it were.

To sum up, we may say that towards the head end, human beings destroy their past. They thus become human beings with nerves and senses that hold images and they have a living experience of images that moves in the etheric realm. You see if we base ourselves on the spiritual science of anthroposophy it is perfectly possible to describe the life of ideas that arises in the conscious mind.

As human beings develop their head end with regard to form, they do so in a way that in the present age exposes them to the influence of forces that evolve in the cosmos when the sun is in the Fishes, the Ram, the Bull, and so on, but they lift their heads out of this, as far as the form is concerned. The result is that the head does not become an animal head but assumes what we may call the “human vertical”, whilst the animal remains within the zodiac.

With regard to life we are able to say that towards the head end, life evolves under the influence of the outer planets Saturn and Jupiter, as we saw yesterday. But human beings lift their life out of this, and thus the following happens: If those planets were never blocked out by the sun, the whole life of the nerves would increasingly become life of the senses. People would perceive with their eyes, or their ears, but this would continue on into the life of nerves. The life of the twelve senses would be in total, inorganic chaos in their life of nerves. Due to the fact that those outermost planets are blocked out, the life of nerves is torn out of the life of senses, and human beings are able to be conscious and act with deliberation in the life of ideas—entering into sensory function and leaving it again by deliberately suppressing ideas, and so on.

Thus an independent etheric principle is active in the senses during sensory perception and a reduced life of senses that is bound to the physical body is active in the nerve organism.

The whole has image quality because by going into the vertical human beings destroy the principle that would give them not image quality but the quality of physical substance. Animals remain within the zodiac and have only dream images and not the conscious images that human beings have. Dream images grow out of the vital principle of the organism; conscious images are lifted up into an etheric life that has become independent of the physical body. It is important to realize that human beings develop an independent etheric life towards the head end because they raise that part out of both the zodiac and the movements of the planets. Then the astral body and the I enter into the independent etheric life and are able to take part in the thought and idea activity of the ether body.

We thus see that the nature of the soul principle can be understood if we know that human thought life has soul quality, that is, it does not take part in material life.

We have seen how human beings develop with regard to both form and life at the other extreme. The day before yesterday we saw that human beings become active in the world through their limbs; going back to ancient Greek times we saw how they became hunters, animal breeders, tillers of the soil and traders who sailed the oceans. Human beings continue in these activities by withdrawing from the influence of the relevant images in the zodiac. Animals remain fully under the influence of Archer, Goat, Water Carrier and Fishes and therefore develop forms that relate to the earth. A study of the zodiac will show why animal limbs have developed in a particular way. Human beings develop their system of limbs in such a way that they relate it to the earth when those zodiacal images are beneath the earth, when the earth is at that point in the zodiac in the northern hemisphere for a time. This is also why the geography of the earth offers different living conditions. Human beings are however able to transfer something they have developed in one place to another. I am speaking of things that apply to earlier times; today the different human forms mingle on the globe and the study of geography will no longer give a real idea of the way human beings relate to the macrocosm.

Here, then, human beings tear themselves away from the line of the zodiac in a different way, entering into the “human vertical” in the opposite direction. They remain fully exposed to the constellations of the zodiac with regard to form and to the outer planets with regard to the head, but withdraw from both influences by standing on the earth and letting the earth cover up the other side. Saturn and Jupiter influence human beings by letting their light shine on the earth. Living in images in their heads, human beings also receive the images of those starry worlds, just as they receive images of the planetary movements by developing the principle of life towards the head end. Images from the cosmos, the macrocosm, are taken up into the life of images that human beings develop.

At the other end, images are taken up and thus the forms develop that I showed you the day before yesterday—the limbs, forms that are the opposite of those seen in the head. Human beings also develop activities that are beyond the influence of the macrocosm, that do not allow those influences to enter.

At the head end, therefore, human beings destroy their past. The opposite is the case at the limb end. If we stood on a transparent earth so that both zodiac and planetary movements could influence us from the other side as well, we would not be able to act freely and independently but only under the influence of the life of the planets and fixed stars. Freedom of action is only possible because the earth blocks out the life of the planets and fixed stars. Furthermore, if we were fully exposed to them, then in view of the special nature of the human life span, with repeated earth lives, the life of our limbs would grow wooden, it would harden in itself. We would be unable to let matter fall to dust, and our organic substance would become cornified (horn-like) before it matured. Human limbs would be cornified in a way that is utterly different from the hoofs of horses or cows—almost all the way up. We are protected from this horny development because as human beings we are lifted out of the zodiac.

The process which results from this is the opposite of the process of reducing to dust in the head, where the past is destroyed and matter turns to dust. Development of the limb end is such that matter is not allowed to reach full cosmic maturity. It is held back. We have fingers and toes because we do not allow our limbs to reach their full growth potential. If they did, we would not just have nails but our arms and legs would be completely stiffened and cornified. By holding our limbs back we are able to develop the will in them, and this provides the basis for future lives on earth. If we allowed the limb person to reach full maturity, life would consist of one life on earth only. We preserve the basis for our future by not letting the limb person grow to maturity.

Thus we have a complete contrast: When it goes in the direction of thought, our inner life becomes a life in images; when it goes in the direction of our limbs, life becomes material, it is flesh and organic matter—“young”, I’d say. It does not cornify and grow old and because of this it is possible for the flesh to fall away and the image of youth to go through death and into the next life on earth.

Fig. 19

There (Fig. 19) the will is able to develop, and we may say that the “will-end” of the human being is organic development not taken to its conclusion. At the head end we were able to speak of image quality, and here we must speak of something else. Organic development not taken to its conclusion remains germinal, an embryo capable of further development. At the head end we have something like an oyster shell, pure matter that has been secreted out. At the limb end we have something that is embryonic.

Here (above) we can say we have living inner experience of a purely etheric principle—the image. Here (below) we live not in the image but in germinal life and we know ourselves to be bound up with matter, which is also why we are able to move our limbs. We do not have much physical movement in the head, except in so far as our senses are transformed into limbs, so that in the head, too, we are human beings with limbs. One thing is also always to be found in the other, that is a basic principle. In a sense our eyes are also hands, in so far as they are able to move. Nevertheless, the head is largely immobile, and the lobes of the brain and similar structures in particular are incapable of voluntary movement. Even the outside of the head does not show much mobility; it is quite rare even for people to be able to move certain ear muscles; if they can, it provides them with an excellent opportunity for showing off.

Life experienced in organic substance does not allow conscious awareness to arise and this makes it possible for us to develop the will. (Up) here, then, we destroy physical matter, and (down) here we retain, in embryo, the powers for our next life on earth when physical substance falls away from us at death.

Between the two lie the life of breathing and the life of circulation, as we called them yesterday. We also saw that with regard to form this area relates to the constellations of the zodiac that lie between the upper and the lower ones.

If we consider the present-day fixed stars to be Ram, Bull, Twins, Crab, Lion, Virgin, Scales, Scorpion, Archer, Goat, Water Carrier and Fishes, we need to relate these four (Fishes, Ram, Bull, Twins) to the head. Under their influence and in accord with the planetary movements that are above the earth, the head is given a dying life that offers experience of life in images, an inner life of ideas. The four opposite constellations—it would have been slightly different in ancient Greece—would be Virgin, Scales, Scorpion and Archer. The constellations that lie between the upper and lower ones would relate to the rhythmical aspect of the human being, just as in planetary life Mars and Mercury hold a middle position. Here, we may say, the human being swings to and fro between image and embryo. The life of breathing and of the blood illustrates this quite beautifully. We take in oxygen which gives life and is connected with the limb organism and with everything that is mobile in us. We combine the oxygen with carbon, a substance that initially has a stimulant effect on the life of the nerves and senses, bringing in an element of death, and is then cast out as a dying element. Here we have in physical, material terms the continuous contrast of extreme life in oxygen and extreme death in carbon: dying and enlivening, dying and enlivening. Life swings to and fro between these extremes.

At the level of soul life it is like this: we have inward experience of something that on the one hand is still purely etheric, like the life of thoughts; but the ether body takes hold of certain glandular structures and these glands secrete matter. At the physical level, therefore, the ether body acts on the glands. Glands do not make a connection with etheric life, the way muscles do—which are essentially part of the limb organism but secrete matter when etheric life takes hold of them. Etheric life and physical, material life therefore do not fuse completely, and we have a stage of transition. Matter is taken hold of but it also resists and is secreted out. If you study muscles and bones, the elements of the limb system, you find that matter is rigorously taken hold of by the human ether body, most of all in the bones. Nothing falls to dust and is dispersed, everything stays fresh and alive. In the head, none of the matter is taken hold of, but as the head develops, matter falls to dust. Unbound, etheric activity develops to become the life of thought. When the ether body takes hold of the glands, it unites with them but they resist. Muscle tolerates the ether body and take it into itself. Glands do not tolerate it; they immediately secrete matter and drive out the ether. At the soul level this is the life of feeling.

life of feeling
Fig. 20

We can now get a real idea of the life of thought. Matter is not put to use, it only goes as far as the etheric, and conscious awareness lives in this etheric element. In the life of feeling, the ether body takes hold of glandular life, which does not tolerate it. Yet for the time that the ether body vanishes into glandular life, before secretion actually comes into effect, human beings are without their ether body, which has vanished into the glands. At that point they find themselves only in their I and astral body, and that is how it is when we feel.

idea—ether body, astral body, I
realm of feeling—astral body, I
life of will—I

If we take the ideas that come in the life of thought—the life of the physical body is cast off; human beings experience themselves in ether body, astral body and I. In the human head the I is active in the astral and the ether bodies and rejects the physical element; the I is thus able, with the aid of the astral body, to experience thoughts, thinking, in the ether body. In the realm of feeling human beings have the ether body taken away from them when it takes hold of glandular life; it is withdrawn from them until the gland has taken the secretory activity to its conclusion. The ether body is therefore in the physical body and human beings have only the astral body and I available for conscious inner life. Experience is at the level of feelings and dream-like in quality, because we enter into the physical body.

In their life of will, human beings enter completely into organic matter with the ether body. When we are awake, the ether body takes the astral body with it, and this enables us to move our limbs. The astral body is also taken into matter and is therefore withdrawn from us so that we have conscious awareness only of the I.

Thus we find that the inner life and the physical life are related at every level. Basing ourselves on the science of the spirit we merely need to have a clear picture of the way in which I, astral body and ether body are involved in the physical body and we perceive the difference between the inner life of thought, the inner life of feeling and the inner life of will. We find that the inner life of thought is in the dying part of the organism which has torn itself away from the upper part of the world of the fixed stars and the upper world of the planets, and become a life in images by reducing the past to dust. We find that in the middle, or rhythmical region we are able to share in life relating to the past and therefore also to the macrocosm, which has evolved out of the past; yet we also react to this because there is a continuous rhythmical element—on the one hand the rhythm of oxygen combining with carbon, and on the other that of glands being taken hold of and responding with secretion. When the macrocosmic life in us is taken hold of and takes hold, the microcosm, that is, the individual human being, reacts. We live in rhythm not only inside ourselves but with the world; we open up to the cosmos and take it back into ourselves. We are half-way individual beings and move rhythmically to and fro between macrocosm and microcosm, and this is where we are alive and active in our feelings. Here we can see exactly how the physical, material aspect of the organism interacts with the element of soul and spirit. In the life of the will, physical matter is most strongly taken hold of and this is where we are most of all mere microcosm, withdrawing entirely from macrocosmic activity in becoming active ourselves.

Living in the northern hemisphere, we withdraw from the other fixed stars and planets in our own way; people living in the southern hemisphere do the same in a similar way, and the whole does, of course, rotate. In our limbs we are therefore entirely microcosm between birth and death, in a world of our own which therefore is also able to take itself forward into a future. We are today developing the will as the youngest element in the inner life. This is still entirely dependent on the physical body for support; it allows only the I to find to itself, with the astral body and the ether body caught up in the physical body.

We shall never understand the inner life unless we are able to differentiate between I, astral body and ether body. Anyone who does not have a real, inner grasp of these will never be able to understand the life of thought, the life of feeling and the life of will. What happens when people refuse to grasp this reality today?

What happens is that people who carry some authority stand there and tell people that it is not really possible to know anything about the inner life, though certain phenomena suggest that something exists that has soul quality, which they call “psychoid”. Giving an explanation of the way Descartes15René, Descartes (1596–1650), French philosopher and mathematician. and Spinoza16Baruch Spinoza (1632–77), Dutch-Jewish philosopher and theologian. endeavoured to discover the nature of this interaction, they are unable to be anything but abstract—the body on one side, the soul on the other. It will never be possible to get at the truth in this way, because the relationship between soul and body is different in the life of thought, the life of feeling and the life of will. People will not get to the truth if they insist on making one big muddle of the whole inner life and talk of a “psychoid” element rather than giving real consideration to the way the I, astral body and ether body are related in real life. It is as if someone were to refuse to look at the real human being and talk about an “anthropoid” in order to avoid speaking of the anthropos17Anthropos, Greek for “human being”. That kind of science is anthropoid-sophy rather than anthroposophy; it is psychoidology.

If we give real consideration to the life of soul and spirit, we can give full detail of the “interactions” and so on, as people call them. There will be no need to cut out bits of the liver, or the brain, and present them neatly as abstract tissues, the way anatomists do. Instead we must know that the relationship of the human being to the cosmos is different at the head end and the limb end. At the head end we reduce it to dust, destroying the past. At the limb end we do not allow growth to reach its full potential but remain embryonic.

The worst thing is when people leave truth aside and speculate on the nature of the physical body as well as of soul and spirit. Using worn-out old words and making them into -oids, they fail to grasp the real truth. There are people nowadays who have no notion of how to get from a word to a concept. Someone called Arthur Drews18Arthur Drews (1865–1935), a professor of philosophy who gave a number of lectures against anthroposophy in the autumn of 1921. See his Metaphysik und Anthroposophie, Berlin 1922, esp. the chapter on perception of the supersensible. has been giving lectures to non-conformist religious and monist congregations in Germany today, both of which live on the dregs of the materialistic science that goes back to the 1860s and 70s. He has studied Hartmann’s philosophy19Eduard von Hartmann (1842–1906), German philosopher—as a young man he would always dance attendance on him—but he really only took in the words, which roll about in his head like the balls in a pin-ball machine, and he has no idea of how to get from word to concept. And he uses these words from Hartmann’s philosophy, words that whizz around in his head as if in a pinball machine, to criticize anthroposophy!

Those are the fruits of education in our modern civilization, where people refuse to give serious consideration to the methods available for gaining real insight into the relationship between human being and cosmos. These enable us to describe the human form and human life on the basis of the cosmos and to understand that because human beings are specifically torn away from the cosmos they have dying life at one end, which enables them to develop an inner life of ideas based on images, and a life that remains embryonic at the other extreme, which allows the will element to develop.

These things sound incomprehensible to the people involved in the official science of today, and as a rule—not always but as a rule—we cannot expect them to gain access to them, for essentially they have lost all real understanding with their kaleidoscope of words. For anyone who knows the real situation, those lectures about psychoids are essentially no more than word kaleidoscopes; the things said about Descartes, Spinoza and so on, right up to Fechner,20Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801–87), German philosopher and psychologist. have no inner connection and are kaleidoscopes of words. The scraps of words that whirl around in confusion can only gain inner meaning through insight into I, astral body, ether body, and so on. It seems a pity that one has to talk about the present time like this; but when it comes to the “intellectual life”, as it is called, we have to speak about the present age like this. The philosophers have no longer been able to get their bearings because decades ago their words have lost all meaning.

The latest thing is to appoint modern scientists as professors of philosophy. They are asked to hand down philosophy. It started with Mach,21Ernst Mach (1839–1916) Austrian physicist and philosopher. and today Driesch22Hans Driesch (1867–1914), German zoologist and philosopher. is one of the main representatives of the species. Scientists are being appointed as professors of philosophy because the philosophers no longer have anything meaningful to say, whilst scientists at least still have the faculty of external observation. What they say about philosophy is, of course, even more empty of meaning than the things said by philosophers, who at least still had the words. This really has been a strange development. We have seen philosophy, which still had meaningful content in the first half of the 19th century, evaporate completely in the wordy works of someone like Kuno Fischer,23Ernst Kuno Fischer (1824–1907), German philosopher who wrote a major history of modern philosophy, books on logic and metaphysics and on Kant, Descartes, Goethe, Lessing and Schiller. for instance. But in his day the chairs of philosophy were still held by philosophers, even if their philosophy no longer had inner meaning.

It is absolutely necessary that we realize this clearly and that there are at least a few people in the world who see through all the glitter of those “psychoids” and know that we are deeply in decadence, particularly in the field of academics. You can’t know this strongly enough, and I think it will be good for you to enter deeply into the things I have tried to put before you in these three lectures.

We have seen that on the one hand man appeared to be connected with the universe in outer form and in the way of life, but that he has renounced the universe at the head end and at the limb end, so that we are only wholly given up to the rhythm of the universe in so far as we are rhythmical human beings; renounced in order to develop the life of thoughts as life in images, that is, independent of physical matter, at one end, and at the other end to develop the life of will by keeping matter at an embryonic level, not letting it assume the rigid form that the macrocosm is able to impose. The limb end is thus kept mobile and has the potential to evolve and progress from earth to existence on Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan.

Hold on to these things and you can see that the insight gained in anthroposophy really wants to take hold first of all of our sense of truth, secondly of our sense of aesthetics—when you study the human form as it arises out of the macrocosm—and thirdly also in the direction of what is good and of religious life. These three lectures are particularly able to show the profound justification of the statement that has been made so many times here, in courses and also on other occasions, that we must look for a synthesis, bringing together in harmony religion, art and science. This cannot be achieved unless we come to a genuine cosmology which clearly shows the reality of the human form and of human life.

Something else we need is a theory of independent activity in the inner life, a theory that shows us the true nature of man, who has torn himself away from the cosmos at either end. And we also need to know the qualities which human beings develop independently, relating to future worlds which will take the place of the earth within the macrocosm. This will lead to deeply religious inner responses and feelings.

If human civilization is to show true progress we need a cosmology that includes the human being and does not leave humanity aside the way our present-day cosmology does. We also need a theory of independent activity and we need ethics that are able to show that the potential for good which they hold is the seed for worlds. We need ethics that have reality, their values not abstract but having the power in them to come to realization. Cosmology, a theory of independent activity and ethics—these are the things humanity will need to be able to rise to something higher.