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Cosmosophy II
GA 208

Lecture XI

13 November 1921, Dornach

Yesterday we concentrated on the condition of the human astral body and I between going to sleep and waking up. Let us pick up the thread again. I said that if we consider the human physical and ether body during sleep and compare this to the I and astral body we have to say: The will-endowed or will-related I is given form out of the relationship it develops to the spirits of the other world during sleep. Using a diagram to show the I being given form, I said that if we see the furrowing given to the I (Fig. 42, light colour - white in diagram) as a kind of photographic negative—ignoring aspects of scale—the structure of the human brain would be like the Positive. The astral body would have to be envisaged as coloured by the soul element in its environment; I have shown this schematically by using a number of different colours (Fig. 43).

will-endowed I
Fig. 42
will-endowed I
Fig. 43

As I said yesterday, this does not cover the behaviour of the physical and ether bodies during sleep. Let us add this today. The human physical body is seemingly known in modern science, but it really and truly is only seemingly. Scientists take little account of the great difference between the human being in limbs and metabolism and the human being in the head. The constitution of the head person is a reflection of what the individual has been between death and rebirth. Again all aspects of scale are left aside.

Modern scientists take the structure of the physical brain to derive from the paternal and maternal organizations. Considering the matter from a number of different points of view, we have already realized that this is not the case. Put somewhat crudely and in radical terms, human beings develop in the physical world because initially substance is thrown into chaos in the maternal body. Into this chaotic matter, which is now outside the laws of both chemistry and physics, the powers to make the embryo what it will be are implanted out of the universe. The powers the individual has gained in the time between death and rebirth are inoculated, if I may put it like this, into these powers. The way I’d really like to put it is: With regard to form, the human being is implanted in the maternal body. Only the bed for the new human being is created in the maternal body, and the universe is constituted in such a way that if the opportunity is created for something specific to evolve, then this specific something will evolve.

The inner structure of the human head is such that in the first place it reflects what has been furrowed and coloured here during the previous life on earth, but in addition the whole universe may also be said to be re-created in this head. Modern science really does not have a very good grasp of the process by which insight and perception is gained. It is better to say: The complexity of the human brain really is a recreation of the universe. The form principles existing in the head cannot be penetrated by the 1 and astral body. They live an independent life in the human head, as I have shown before. Human beings know themselves to be I and astral body exactly because these two have an independent life. I and astral body can really only connect with the human being in limbs and metabolism. There they flourish, making us essentially into will-endowed creatures. This means that the human being of limbs and metabolism is essentially the dwelling place of the principle which on death returns to the world of the spirit. That world receives the individual human I and astral body and takes them onwards to new stages of existence. The human head, on the other hand, holds everything that comes from earlier lives, and from lives between death and rebirth, elements which have taken form in the head organization, as it were, and made themselves at home in it. The human head relates to the past, the human limbs and metabolism to the future. The rhythmical human being moves to and fro between past and future.

We need to see the physical human being in this light if we are to understand the form and structure of the limbs and their inner life. We then understand why the organization of the head is actually always breaking down, paralysing itself, whilst the organization of limbs and metabolism is always building itself up. We shall also understand why the organization of limbs and metabolism has to be connected with the chemical and physical nature of the earth, a connection which comes to expression in nutrition.

The human being of limbs and metabolism takes in elements which have a real need to develop further. In waking life, however, this human being needs to reckon with the forces that come from the earth itself. In this aspect we are subject to the earth’s gravity and to other earth forces. We are subject to the forces which enter into us with the food we eat. In this regard, therefore, we may be said to be entirely creatures of the earth. The evolution of form in limbs and metabolism had no part in what the individual lived through between death and rebirth, before entering into the present life on earth. This is the reason why the human being of limbs and metabolism also is not able to adapt to the spiritual universe outside when we are awake in life. In the waking state this aspect of the human being is given up to the physical earth.

This is not the case during sleep, however, for the human head contains the form principles of everything connected with the individual’s past, including life between death and rebirth. The forms of the organs in the human head contain subtle, fleeting images of the whole cosmos.

In waking life, the head, being all these images of the universe, is not able to influence the human being of limbs and metabolism. As the seat of the major sense organs, the head is continuously communicating with the earth world outside. In waking life, everything we see or hear influences us via the head. During sleep, the human head is not merely provided with physical nourishment. Physical nutrition, which essentially also happens in waking life, is not what matters most; something else is most essential for the human physical body during sleep.

The eye, for example, is not only the organization which provides for vision but at the same time it is also an image of the spiritual powers of the cosmos. Between death and rebirth the individual lives in the cosmos of soul and spirit. Like all organs in the head, the eye has a double function. The first is to enable communication with the outside world through vision, which happens during waking life. In the life of sleep, the eye and its surrounding parts, above all the surrounding nerves and blood, influence the physical organism in its metabolic and limb aspects. The powers of the eye closed in sleep influence the kidney system, for example, imbuing it with the cosmic image. Other organs in the head imprint other aspects of the cosmos on the human system of metabolism and limbs. For the physical body, therefore, the time we spend in sleep serves mainly to let the powers of the head structure the human being of metabolism and limbs (Fig. 42, reddish arrows). It is particularly during sleep that structuring powers radiate continually from the head to the lower human being, so that in sleep the soul and spirit aspect of the head is indeed the structurer of the human being of metabolism and limbs.

We have quite the wrong idea of creation if we see it as being limited to particular moments. We are in fact being created all the time. We are created out of the spirit every night; our system of metabolism and limbs is given structure and life out of the spirit night after night.

As you know, in modern materialistic science only the opposite of this is known, i.e. that the powers of the metabolism influence the used-up brain. That is only half the story, however, for as this effect is brought to bear from below upwards, the human being is enlivened out of soul and spirit in a process that takes the opposite direction. It is important to realize that these marvellous processes working from above downwards are governed by a high level of consciousness as we sleep, a level we human beings will not achieve until evolution on the planet Vulcan. It is the level of consciousness of the spirit human being. This level of consciousness is truly present in the human being today. It takes effect during sleep in the way I have just described. At our present level of consciousness we are not able to know our true nature well enough to be aware, under normal conditions, of the reality and activity of a level of consciousness which is infinitely higher than the conscious awareness we have of our daytime activities.

Real appreciation of such things is certainly dependent on human beings becoming more deeply religious through the science of the spirit. If people pursue activities in life that allow their true nature to be neglected so that it withers away, if they do not seek to implant in their physical bodies what can be implanted in them during life on earth, they bring destruction to something in themselves which, unknown to them in ordinary conscious awareness, is a much higher form of consciousness than they themselves are able to have.

Looking out into the universe we perceive a world which, if we gain real understanding, makes us go down on our knees in admiration. We must have the same attitude as we look, with real understanding, into the working of powers in our own inner nature that are greater than human powers. This, then, gives you an approximate indication of the situation in which the human physical body finds itself during sleep.

Apart from the physical body we also have an ether body (Fig. 42, hatched area). In the waking state this is continuously exposed to influences coming from the I, which is active in the world, and the astral body, which is connected with the I. In the waking state we always see the colours arising and fading away again and the other colouring effects which take place in the astral body and go across into the ether body. In fact, we see the ether body adapt itself to the astral body. We also see something enter into the ether body which is the I in its structuring. In short, in the waking state we see I and astral body play into the ether body. When asleep, the human being as I and astral body is outside the ether body, and the colouring of the astral body and structuring of the I do not enter into it. The ether body is then left to its own structuring principles. The way this comes to expression is that in sleep, the ether body assumes a structure that is an image of the universe and does so in a truly magnificent way.

The main substance of the etheric body is taken up by human beings as they move from pre-birth life to physical life on earth. Its composition depends on how the individual lived between death and rebirth. Everything the human being receives into himself from the universe—shown in symbolic form, as it were, in spiritual science as something the human being has taken in of the heavens from North, South, East, West—all this the etheric body bears within it. For the reasons given above, the ether body is unable to make this apparent in the waking state, but it does so in sleep. The human being is all memory then, to begin with memory of life on earth.

Occasionally people are aware that on entering into their etheric body they enter into a sea of images; they consider it part of their dreams. Anyone who has made the effort, however, to observe the sea of images which a person passes through, as it were, in the process of waking up, and observe the experiences made at that time, discovers that this ether body really contains the whole of our life on earth when we are asleep. In our sleep we are really alive and active in everything we have gone through in the ether body from the time we were born. It has however been structured for the ether body by cosmic powers. As astral body and I are not playing into it at this time, the ether body radiates what has been inculcated, inoculated into it at birth. The human ether body grows radiant (Fig. 43, yellow arrows).

This radiance of the human being in sleep is something truly significant. When the sun has gone down and the earth world is immersed in darkness of night, it represents the soul radiance of humanity, quite distinct from the physical radiance of the sun. Unfortunately, however, this soul radiance also contains everything the human being implants into the ether body via the astral body and I during life because he is bad, elements which are destructive and cause the ether body to wither. The evolution of the earth could not progress, however, without this radiance coming from human beings.

Someone equipped with the necessary organs who was out there in the cosmos, observing the earth from out there, would say: During the day you see the sunlight reflected from the part of the earth where the sun is shining; but when night covers part of the earth, the earth phosphoresces. The phosphorescence comes from the human ether bodies. The earth needs all this to progress in its evolution. If no human beings were asleep on earth, the vegetative powers of the earth would die down much more rapidly than they actually do. Human beings certainly do not exist on earth just for their own sake; they are not without significance for the way the earth as a whole is structured. For the whole of their life on earth, sleeping human beings radiate from their ether bodies into earth evolution what they have taken up in the world of the spirit between death and rebirth.

Thus we are able to say: For the physical body, radiation is from above downwards; for the ether body it is from the inside outwards. Human sleep definitely also has cosmic significance.

This is why I had to tell you yesterday that when an I and astral body return to the ether body it feels like autumn, and when they are free of the body in sleep it feels like spring or summer. It is indeed true that human beings become more sun-like or wintry in soul and spirit as the astral body goes in and out.

We may say, therefore, that during sleep the nature of the human ether body is such that the powers human beings gather between death and rebirth in the cosmos have a structuring effect on the earth. Again the level of consciousness is higher than that normally available for people’s waking activities. The consciousness of the life spirit is at work in the ether body’s activity during sleep. This is a level of consciousness human beings will only develop when our planet earth has reached its Venus metamorphosis.

We can see, therefore, that the relationship of I and astral body on the one hand, and physical body and ether body on the other, is such that they do not work together during sleep, but only from the time we wake up until we fall asleep. The relationship changes, with the swing of the pendulum moving between collaboration and non-collaboration. It is also the case that at the moment when I and astral body approach the physical and ether bodies on waking, and at the moment when they withdraw again on going to sleep, the interaction which occurs is governed by yet another level of consciousness which is above that used in human waking activity. We are able to influence our waking up and going to sleep in a certain, indirect way. But the subtle processes between I and astral body on the one hand and physical and ether bodies on the other as we go to sleep and wake up again are something our conscious human mind is not able to perceive.

I’d like to show this interaction with these arrows going in opposite directions (Fig. 43, blue). In this direction, in this interaction, as it comes to expression especially on waking up and going to sleep, though in a certain way it also continues in waking life and even during sleep, a principle comes into its own which we can say applies mainly to the astral body. We are able to say that the situation is such that the astral body is stimulated in a cosmic sense. Remember that from going to sleep to waking up the astral body is coloured in accord with its moral reactions, as I have shown yesterday. On waking up it enters into an ether body structured by the cosmos. It has to follow it and adapt to it. And we are able to say that cosmic astral powers influence human astral powers. This can be observed quite clearly in a specific case.

Imagine someone who has not gone through life between death and rebirth—which is true in the case of animals—and was newly created at birth, which is what Aristotelian philosophy postulates. This individual would not bring the effects of earlier lives on earth and between death and rebirth into the new life. His eyes, his senses would roam over experiences in the outside world, but he would have no concepts based on geometry and mathematics to make connections between them. This is just one instance, one of those where geometry, which holds true for the cosmos, enters into interaction with principles that apply only in the earth environment. Rational concepts of mathematics and geometry enter into empirical experience gained on earth. This interaction is continuous, and it takes place in such a way that the spirit self is the consciousness active in it. Observing the world from a mathematical point of view, people have no idea, of course, that as they do so, the spirit self has them by the scruff of the neck. They fail to take note of this because they limit themselves to the reflection of it which exists in ordinary human consciousness.

When the human being is finally neither sleeping nor in the process of waking up or going to sleep, when I and astral body have entered fully into ether body and physical body, we have the ordinary level of present-day conscious awareness, when we are given up to everything that is outside of spirit human being, life spirit and spirit self. When humanity will have reached the level of existence which it will have when the earth has gone through its metamorphosis into Jupiter existence, as described in my Occult Science, it will no longer be the case that people use geometry to create a cube in an external way, and then discover that this ideal cube form fits a salt crystal. Human beings will be given up to the outside world to such an extent that they will be in the salt themselves, as it were. There won’t be any salt of this kind on Jupiter, of course, but analogies like this help us to get a clearer picture of human life as it will be in the future.

Using the method we used yesterday to consider astral body and I, we can therefore also gain an idea of how physical and etheric body are during sleep. The physical body is actually self-structuring in limbs and metabolism during sleep, the ether body world-structuring.

Thinking back to what we were considering yesterday, we have to say: The human astral body moves out of the physical and ether bodies during sleep. The powers of soul in the universe stream into it, and the way they enter into it depends on the inner life of mind and soul. If someone is in sympathy with all that is good, the most beautiful powers of the universe will be able to enter. If people develop their inclinations towards evil, their astral bodies will wither away. During sleep, the astral body assumes different nuances of colour for different levels of feeling and inner responsiveness (Fig. 43, reddish, yellow, pink, mauve). We may say that individual people sparkle up in their astral bodies during sleep depending on the way they are. The astral body represents our inner state of heart and soul during waking hours. This, as it were, pours into the soul universe, and human beings experience themselves in this pouring-out process in so far as their inner state has changed, but in a situation where they encounter the world of the spirit in that inner state.

If human beings were able to enter into the consciousness of the life spirit when their astral bodies are active and alive out there, they would be able to speak to that which happens with their astral bodies. This actually happens, but at an unconscious level. Who would be speaking, if humans beings suddenly achieved the level of consciousness of the life spirit in their sleep? The only way of putting this is to say: The human astral body would be speaking, as judge over good and evil in the human being. So that we really have to say: In sleep, the astral body becomes the judge of the soul. Rightly understood, this statement is important for human life. It is a truth that shines out as if from beyond the threshold of the world of the spirit, a truth human beings should call to mind as often as possible.

Take the corresponding situation for the I. The I moves out of the physical and ether bodies, structuring itself in accord with the powers of the universal entities in the sphere of the spirit. It becomes what it can become in the light of how it lives in the physical body. If it were to come awake to the spirit human being level of consciousness, it would not merely speak to itself, as the astral body would if suddenly given the life spirit level of consciousness; the I would be given the level of consciousness which is active in the physical body it has left behind, sending powers from above downwards. If, then, human ‘I’s had this level of consciousness when out of the body during sleep, human beings would know not only the totality of judgements passed on them but they would see that which they are in the process of becoming, now as images, which will be the seed for future lives on earth.

I cannot think of any other way of putting this in a sentence than this: The I becomes its own sacrifice, a sacrifice brought by the spirit which is active in the body. A sacrifice may be such that it is accepted with pleasure, which may also be the case for the I when it is given structure out there. A sacrifice may also be such that it is rejected. These are the extremes. Mostly, of course, human beings experience something which lies more in the middle. But a sacrifice may be rejected, having been found unworthy. If human beings present themselves to the spirits of the universe in such a way that they have to wither away greatly because of experiences they had in their physical and etheric bodies during waking hours, they become rejects.

You see, therefore, that the idea of sacrifice is certainly applicable in this case. And it seems to me that these two statements: In sleep, the astral human being becomes the judge of the soul, and: The I becomes its own sacrifice, are extraordinarily important if we are to understand human nature fully.

If we consider what the instinctive judgements of humanity have achieved in the past, judgements made not with the clarity of mind we must use today to search for anthroposophical knowledge of the spirit, but from instinct, we become aware of images representing significant original wisdom possessed by humanity. I have spoken of this before. They come to expression in ancient myths and sayings and also in the rites which have survived in different religious systems.

This is why we feel profound reverence for traditional religious paintings and images of ancient rites if we understand them rightly. Essentially it is true to say that religious feeling can only come alive again in human hearts if insight into the world gained through the science of the spirit—insight that is more than mere words, but perceived in its deepest meaning—takes hold not only of the head, but of the whole human being. The science of the spirit must not only provide us with insight into the world but make us feel reverence for the spirit which is at work in the world. This has been particularly evident to us today.

This science of the spirit will be able to quicken religious feeling in human hearts. Humanity has however also gone through a time when people lived only for intellectualism, rationalism and the materialism connected with this—we know this had to be, for the sake of achieving independence. Today the greater part of humanity is still caught up in these things. There has to be a return, however, to perception of the spiritual in the world, to living beyond mere intellectual understanding of the world, beyond experience limited to the purely head aspect of the human being.

If we go back beyond the age of the intellect to the days when the religious images of old were still alive—also serving as images to convey insight well into the Medieval period of modern humanity—if we consider the images created in the performance of religious rites, we find something in all of these which is enormously similar, except that it was gained through instinct, to the insights we are now able to gain in the worlds of the spirit, though now in the light of clear conscious awareness.

I really have to say that if the idea expressed in the words: “In sleep, the astral body becomes the judge of the soul” comes from Inspiration, we find this well represented in Michelangelo’s fresco The Last Judgement on the altar of the Sistine Chapel. Here we have something that comes from time immemorial. It has merely assumed Christian form and with this become more traditional. Pictures like these were painted out of tradition. There were times in human evolution, however, when they were seen in a living way, when instinct made people see the inspired Imagination of human souls pass judgement on themselves in sleep.

Again, if we consider the image of the Lamb of God, which touches us so deeply, the image of the Christ uniting himself with the human I, entering into it, the thought of the I becoming the sacrifice as it enters into sleep arises in heart and mind—particularly when we contemplate the Lamb sacrificing itself—we discover how fittingly the image of the Lamb expresses the sacrificial nature of the human being in sleep. We discover that an instinctive, wisdom-filled consciousness gave rise to this image, which the I needs in its life on earth, because during sleep it becomes the sacrifice of its own selfhood.

We can do no other but again and again point out that the anthroposophical science of the spirit, as it evolves, seeks to develop completely clear concepts, the kind of clear concepts which otherwise exist only in mathematics, or geometry. But because the concepts gained in the science of the spirit have their roots in the living life of the cosmic spirits they are always such that they do not leave us cold, the way mathematical concepts do, but also fill us with the warmth of inner feeling and with will impulses to fire us. Here we see the close relationship between clear thinking, warmth of feeling and energy-laden will impulses. This, then, is a point of view which allows us to perceive human nature in its fullness.

Many aspects of history, too, only find their explanation if we are able to base ourselves on such a perception of the human being. Well into the Middle Ages, as I said, many people still understood the ancient images, in which the world is seen sub specie aeternitatis, in the light of eternity, a kind of understanding that still existed in the old instinctive life of wisdom and which has to be regained in clarity of mind, seeking to achieve it through the anthroposophical science of the spirit.

We sometimes see strange individuals come up in history, people who seem rather out of place in the present-day situation. Travelling in Italy, I once talked to a priest belonging to the Benedictine order in Monte Cassino. He told me that the list of saints in his breviary included the Saxon German emperor Henry II,41Henry the Saint (973–1024). also called “the Saint”—I do not know how far this is still mentioned in the history books. What Henry II was after was an Ecclesia catholica non Romana, that was his true aim, though he is called a saint. In his day, that is, in the 10th, 11th century, it was certainly still possible to speak out of real experience of old traditional wisdom and say that what had come into the world through Christianity should be an Ecclesia catholica, meaning a church for the whole of humanity in which the spirit reigns which was intended to come into the world through Christianity. But he wanted an Ecclesia catholica non Romana, for the Roman Catholic Church had become a worldly kingdom. Truth is that everywhere where kingdoms of the spirit become worldly kingdoms the ahrimanic principle takes hold of what lives as a holy of holies and has lived as such in the ancient wisdom possessed by humanity. In the days of Henry II, people were still strongly aware that it was possible to separate Ecclesia catholica and Ecclesia catholica Romana and that the desirable aim was an Ecclesia catholica non Romana.

As I said, Henry II is out of place as a saint in the breviary. The Ecclesia catholica Romana has not the least cause to include him among the saints, for he was one of the people who in a fiery, holy enthusiasm for a catholic church actually wanted to vanquish the Roman Catholic Church.

Historical facts like these ought to be brought to mind especially when reference is made to the tremendously important truths which can be brought back again to the surface of human awareness through anthroposophical science of the spirit. It is very necessary to point this out today, for individual instances which may disgust us as they come up from the Ecclesia catholica Romana right here on our doorstep42Diatribe entitled “The Secrets of the Dornach Temple” published by M. Kully in Basle, 1920-21. allow us to see how the ahrimanic spirit was able to enter into it. On the one hand we must not let this ahrimanic spirit deceive us into thinking that the Ecclesia catholica Romana does not hold the light-filled wisdom of eternity. When I was able to give a course here for theologians, it was evident that with the longing felt by Protestants to deepen Protestantism in its spiritual aspects, to get out of rationalism, out of intellectualism, it came as a real liberation for some of those present to hear the words: Ecclesia catholica non Romana. For today we have definitely reached a point where rationalism must be overcome just as much as the worldly nature of the Catholic Church has to be overcome; humanity must come together again in a life of the spirit that is for all, a life of the spirit to which none may lay claim who have any kind of desire to rule the world.

The ahrimanic spirit is a lying spirit. It may happen that lying minds fall so low in this lying spirit as to declare falsehood to be truth. It is necessary, therefore, that out of the depths of what is happening in the world we come to abhor lies utterly. We truly come to abhor lies if we are able to say, in full awareness: In sleep, the astral body becomes the judge of the soul. The I in sleep becomes the sacrifice of its selfhood.

Darkness is thrown on these profound truths by the ahrimanic spirit, which has also entered into the religious creeds of recent times. It will be up to people who in all honesty, and with some energy, profess themselves to be followers of anthroposophy not just to develop a superficial, intellectual liking for the wisdom anthroposophy is able to offer, but to develop real inner energy of feelings and will, and to let this energy unite with what mind and spirit are able to perceive of the world of the spirit through the science of the spirit which takes its orientation from anthroposophy.

This, my friends, is also intended to teach you how important it is to distinguish between the element to be found even in the traditional continuation of religious images and images created in religious rites and the way in which these are sometimes used today.

Surely all of us must feel the deepest reverence for something which is contained in the ritual of the Russian Orthodox Church, something which as it were shines out to us from the spiritually grey-haired ancient Orient. Our approach to these ritual acts can always be such that we penetrate through what is happening there to the tremendous depth which comes to revelation. Millennia and millennia of wisdom evolved from instinct come to expression in these ritual acts.

Years ago I attended such a ritual in Helsingfors.43Helsingfors, Easter 1912. See letter Marie Steiner wrote on 13 April 1912 to Mieta Waller: “There was an Easter celebration in the church ...”. Nachrichten der Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung Easter 1967, No. 7, p. 12. It was at Easter and it is fair to say this was one of the saddest events in my life to remember, to see how the popes, the most terrible inner liars, acted out their comedy based on eternal truth. That is how it is in the world today. Under the influence of ahrimanic materialism, lies are presented on the outside, and the deepest truth lies within, and the two are brought together in a truly dreadful way. You have to have a real feeling for this, or you will not develop the right energy in your understanding of the nature of the human being.

That was an extreme case, but the same happens everywhere today, with differing degrees of intensity. Anthroposophical awareness should be such that we see these things, and are able to distinguish clearly between truth and falsehood, a falsehood which under the pressures of external circumstances is very much hidden. We must always gain something from entering deeply into anthroposophy—for the human being as a whole and above all for the conscious awareness belonging to our age. This is what I wanted to say to you in connection with what we have been considering here.