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Human Questions and Cosmic Answers
GA 213

3. The Relation of the Planets to Man's Life of Soul

1 July 1922, Dornach

In the lecture yesterday I described the external aspect, as it were, of what I am going to speak about today.

I tried to show how man and the cosmos together form one whole, and how what is present in the individual human being is connected in manifold ways with processes and with beings of the cosmos. If what I shall be saying today is not to seem groundless and incomplete, you must bring it into relation with the two preceding lectures.

The individual human being can be viewed in his external aspect, as he appears to ordinary sight, or to anatomy and physiology. But he can also be viewed in his inner aspect, so that his qualities of soul, his spiritual forces, are revealed.

The “whole” that is composed of man together with the cosmos may also be contemplated in two aspects. But these aspects will be the reverse of those presented by the individual man. In his case we speak of an outer and an inner aspect. When we speak of the universe, the cosmos, and of man as a member of this universe, ordinary feeling will tell us that the words must be used in the reverse way. We are actually within this cosmic existence when we think of it as purely spatial; from our own point of vision we look outwards. When, therefore, we are speaking of the universe from the human standpoint, we are speaking from within the universe, for we are standing at some point within it. Seen from this point of view the universe presents to us its physical, material aspect.

The human being presents his physical aspect when we view him from outside, and his aspect of spirit-and-soul when we view him from within. The universe presents its aspect of spirit-and-soul when we view it from outside. The concepts that must be applied here will be difficult, for they have almost entirely dropped out of use in modern language. But modern language cannot penetrate directly into the realm of the spiritual. Words that are suitable have first to be coined. Any attempt to fathom the realities of the spirit-and-soul by using words with their ordinary meanings is an absurdity.

In order to picture what I have just tried to characterise, the following must be said. In the case of a human being we speak of his external aspect as that which presents itself to the senses. If we speak of him from the inner aspect, we speak of his nature of spirit-and-soul. In the case of the universe, the cosmos, we must picture the reverse: we are at some point within the universe and from there it presents its physical aspect to us. If we are able to view the universe from outside, the aspect of spirit-and-soul is revealed to us. The natural question is this: Is it possible to view the universe from outside?

As we know, man alternates between the conditions in which he lives from birth until death and those he experiences between death and a new birth, and it is the external aspect of the universe that reveals itself during his existence between death and a new birth. If you will read in my book, Theosophy, the description given of the conditions in which man lives between death and a new birth you will find it amply indicated there that words must be used in a different sense.

The world, the universe, in which we find ourselves between birth and death is manifold enough, but it becomes even more manifold, far richer, when contemplated during the life between death and a new birth. Naturally, in such descriptions, a few selected details only can be mentioned. And it has always been my endeavour to add more and more information about matters which, at the beginning, are presented in an elementary way. I want to speak today of the spirit-and-soul of what was described yesterday in its material-physical aspect—the aspect of the cosmos viewed from within. I want now to describe what reveals itself when the cosmos is viewed from outside, when it is contemplated from a vantage-point of spirit-and-soul on the path of the experiences stretching between death and a new birth. From the different studies pursued here you know that this kind of contemplation is necessary, and you know too that no ordinary, logical exposition of the subject could ever reach the reality. It can therefore only be a matter of describing the vista that reveals itself when the methods referred to in anthroposophical literature are applied.

A vantage-point of vision lying outside the physical-material cosmos is reached only by degrees. When a man has reached this vantage-point—it cannot be until some while after his death—then for the first time he finds the solution of those questions which cannot be solved by the intellectual methods we employ while in the body. Such questions have, of course, constantly formed part of philosophical discussions: Is the world of space, the spatial cosmos, finite or infinite? However much discussion there may be—Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is right in this respect—questions such as those of the spatial or temporal limits of the manifested universe will never be led to a conclusion by discussion carried on from within the physical body. Under these conditions it is equally possible to prove that the universe is finite or that it is infinite. The questions are resolved only when the vantage-point of vision can be shifted, when a man is able to contemplate the world from the other side—not, therefore, from a point within it, but from outside it. In the middle stages at least of the life between death and a new birth, man is on yonder side of the boundary of the material-physical cosmos. The boundary of the material-physical cosmos actually lies midway between what is seen from the earthly viewpoint and what is seen during the life between death and a new birth.

This too is wisdom: To know what questions can indeed be asked in earthly existence but not answered there, because thinking can take place only on the physical foundations of the bodily nature. Such questions can be answered only when, outside this physical existence, a man is able, either through initiation or through death, to change the vantage-point of his vision.

Now if this vantage-point is, in fact, changed, we experience it from within; we are not within it as we are between birth and death, but we experience it from outside, view it from outside. But the strange fact is that the manifoldness presented by human beings disappears when we pass into yonder world. And whereas we behold many structures, many configurations, of the cosmos—actually as many as there are human souls connected with the earth—when we are looking back upon the earth we see man once only, both in time and in space. Between death and a new birth we behold many worlds and only one “manhood,” one human nature.

Without pondering upon this in meditation from every angle—it is of tremendous importance although in human words no more than the merest indications can be given—it is really not possible to have a clear conception of the radical difference in the picture of the world when it is experienced between birth and death and when it is experienced between death and a new birth. Between birth and death we experience one world and many men; during the life between death and rebirth we experience many worlds—representing our unitary world—and only one human nature. When from our life between death and rebirth we look back upon earthly life, men are not seen in their manifoldness but all are embraced in one single human nature. Everything, therefore, is completely reversed and attention must be called to this radical reversal. For it is essential to realise once and for always how impossible it is to acquire adequate ideas of the spiritual world without concepts that have been completely re-cast. With the easy-going methods by which people usually want to gain ideas of the spiritual world, it is simply not possible to reach ideas that conform with the reality. Man must be willing to metamorphose his ideas, even to the point of complete reversal. That is what many people are not willing to do, hence the battle that is waged against a true science of the spirit.

I explained to you yesterday in greater detail how man is related to the Sun-nature on the one side and to the Moon-nature on the other, but also to the natures of the several planets. This was all considered from the standpoint of Earth-evolution. I explained the way in which man is related to the Venus-nature, to the Mercury-nature, and so on, saying that through modern spiritual science we are led again, by an entirely independent path, to knowledge that was cultivated in the ancient Mysteries, through an inspired, dreamlike wisdom. Everything I said yesterday was a presentation of the subject from one aspect. As long as we endeavour to acquire knowledge as the initiate in the ancient Mysteries sought to acquire it during the life between birth and death, we gain ideas about our planetary universe such as were presented yesterday. But the moment we reach a vantage-point outside the cosmos in which we live between birth and death and view its aspect of spirit-and-soul from without, at that moment all the detailed matters referred to yesterday also reveal to us their other aspects, their reversed aspects.

It was said that the Mercury-forces in the world—whether in their material or in their planetary aspect—help man as a being of spirit-and-soul to take hold of the solid constituents of his organism. The Venus-forces enable him to take hold of the fluids in his organism. The moment we reverse this whole conception, all these qualities, too, are revealed to us in a quite different guise. If, leaving Neptune and Uranus out of account, we begin with Saturn, the outermost planet of our system, it becomes possible—in contemplating the Saturn-existence as it were from the other side of existence—to understand, by means of all the faculties we possess between death and a new birth, the real nature of man's life of instinct.

The essential nature of the life of instinct which wells up in man from subconscious depths of his being cannot be fathomed and understood by means of the faculties acquired only on the Earth; it must be fathomed either between death and rebirth, or in the realm of higher, super-sensible knowledge, in Initiation-Science.

So we may say: If, with the eyes of spirit, we contemplate the Saturn-nature from the viewpoint of the Earth, we gain an idea of the forces which help man to feel himself as an independent being of spirit-and-soul in face of the chemical processes working in his organism. The Saturn-existence viewed from outside, in its aspect of spirit-and-soul, reveals to us those forces in the cosmos which implant instincts into man's nature.

The Jupiter-existence reveals those elements in man which are more definitely of the nature of soul than are his instincts, namely, his inclinations, his sympathies. For whereas instincts are still entirely of an animal nature, in inclinations an element of soul (animal-psychic) is already evident.

The Mars-existence reveals all those impulses which are not, indeed, the moral commandments a man imposes on himself, but moral impulses which spring as it were from his whole character and fundamental disposition. Whether a man is courageous in his moral conduct or whether he is slack in this respect depends upon the forces that come into our ken when we view the Mars order of existence from the other side.—I am speaking, not of the fully conscious moral impulses described in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity as rooted in pure thinking, but of moral impulses in which there is invariably a considerable degree of unconsciousness.

When, therefore, we are considering man's connection with these outer planets, we are led more to the qualities which in a sense are actually bound up with the human organism. What is born with a man, stems from the cosmos, the universe; what wells up in the form of instincts from the whole organism is of the nature of Saturn; what wells up in the form of inclinations, sympathies, is of the nature of Jupiter; what wells up in the form of active forces of initiative but is bound up with the organism, is of the nature of Mars.

We come now to those qualities which are a more integral part of man. They also reveal themselves to our vision, inasmuch as they proceed from forces in the cosmos. Leaving aside the Sun-nature for the present, there is, for example, Mercury. It will not generally be believed that man's cleverness, his sagacity, is also grounded in the universe. This is true, nevertheless. And if, entirely without any preconceived ideas, you look at the phenomena of the universe, you will say to yourselves: The activity which your intelligence finally discovers in itself is present in the phenomena of the universe. Intelligence is manifestly present in these phenomena. Now the forces which represent this element of intelligence in the cosmos, and are born with us as our intellectual gifts, our sagacity—these forces pertain to the Mercury-nature in the universe.

The Venus-nature has been amply described in traditions and manifests in everything that constitutes love. The Moon-nature comes to expression in the activities of imagination, of phantasy; also in those of memory—not the organic activity underlying acts of remembrance but the activity that is present in the forming and shaping of mental pictures, of ideas. The pictures of memory are really identical in nature with the pictures of imagination, only they arise as faithful reproductions of the corresponding experiences. Therefore we can say: Imagination or phantasy, and memory, the more inward qualities and capacities, are connected with the forces of the Moon, Venus and Mercury.

When we contemplate the material-physical aspect of Jupiter, for example, that is to say when we contemplate Jupiter from within the universe, it represents the concentration of those forces—in the sense indicated yesterday—which make it possible for man not to flow away in the light but to maintain himself as an independent being of spirit-and-soul within the light. If the Jupiter-forces are viewed in their aspect of spirit-and-soul, that is to say, from without, then Jupiter reveals those forces which man has within him in the form of inclinations, sympathies and the like. In its outermost aspect Jupiter enables the soul-life to maintain its own independent footing in face of the light. In its aspect of spirit-and-soul, Jupiter enables inclinations, sympathies, to arise, to take shape, to be engendered.

When man is passing through these stages after death, or also in the process of Initiation—as I have described them in the book Theosophy—there comes a certain point of time when he ceases to see the stars—whether planets or fixed stars—as they are seen from the earth by means of the senses. It is quite understandable that he should cease to see the stars; but he does not cease to know about them. He knows, firstly, what I described yesterday. And from a certain point of time onwards he comes to know the nature of the stars from the moral aspect. He is now looking back upon the cosmos. But he sees the cosmos as a moral reality, not as a physical reality. And after the intermediate condition during which he sees what I described yesterday, he then sees from outside, especially during the middle period between death and a new birth, not what could be called Saturn in our parlance, but the surging life of instinct in the cosmos which then becomes part of himself when he again passes into physical embodiment on the earth. He sees the weaving life of inclinations, sympathies, and so on.—Materialistic thought may, of course, deny all this, but to do so is about as sensible as to deny the reality of the spirit and soul of a man when confronting the physical body.

This vision of the cosmos, of the planetary world, in their moral aspects fills man's existence between death and a new birth. These perceptions are, however, dependent in a certain respect upon how he passes through the gate of death. He beholds the life of instinct, of inclinations, of moral impulses and so on in accordance with the unconscious understanding he acquired during his life on earth.

For example, a man who during his life has been on friendly terms with many individuals who are what is called “unconventional” in some respect, a man who is not a philistine in his attitude to others but has a certain kindly understanding of them, letting them be as they are instead of criticising—such a man acquires for himself, in addition to the understanding by which his consciousness is already enriched, an abundance of unconscious forces. A great deal is gained from letting other human beings be as the are, trying to understand them, not picking them to pieces with criticism; but as well as this understanding, in itself an asset to his consciousness, he acquires, as I say, a wealth of unconscious impulses. Equipped with these impulses, he will then be well able to observe the mysteries of the Saturn-existence from the other side of life, from the side of the life between death and a new birth.

The mysteries of planetary existence reveal themselves in many different aspects. According to a man's capacity for understanding them, he combines these forces into a whole and so incorporates them into his own nature when he returns into earthly existence.

And now you can surely feel that through this vision a man gains knowledge and experience, just as he does here on the earth. On the earth he gets to know one human being after another; thereby he acquires knowledge of man. He also gains experiences in accordance with what is revealed to him from the other side of life. But these latter experiences, which are acquired during the second half of the life between death and a new birth, become creative forces, and the man bears them into the organism he receives through heredity. You will realise that this is connected with the forming of karma, that something takes place here which may be called the technique of the forming of karma. Between death and a new birth man acquires the experiences that are necessary to enable him to implant his karma into his nature, through these visions that come to him from the other side of life.

I have had to describe these matters with a certain subtlety because they are subtle in themselves, and because it is necessary to stress that concepts must be radically transformed if the universe is to be understood. For in everything we see here on the earth, physically to begin with, but then also through deepened spiritual perception, the one side only of existence is revealed. Indeed when we look outwards, the cosmos too reveals only this one aspect of existence. The other aspect reveals itself only when we are able to contemplate the cosmos while we are outside the body, in an existence that is purely of the nature of spirit-and-soul. And then the cosmos is revealed in its aspect of spirit-and-soul, in its moral aspect.

In very ancient times of human evolution on the earth, men still brought many “cosmic remembrances” with them when they came into physical existence. Compared with the men of today these primeval men were more animal-like in outer appearance (although the whole crude theory of man's descent from animals is a fallacy)—but for all that, in earthly existence too, they knew something of the other side of life. They had brought this knowledge with them into bodies that were still incompletely developed. In the course of evolution, man has progressively lost his remembrance of the other side of existence in which he lives between death and rebirth; and so he is now obliged to rely upon the experiences offered by earthly existence. Only so can man incorporate into himself a power which can be incorporated into him nowhere else in the universe. For the power to act out of freedom must be, and is, acquired during earthly existence; it will then remain throughout man's earthly and cosmic future.

Because, to begin with, these things naturally come as a shock to people, it is still necessary in public lectures to speak in abstract concepts of the fact that while man is within an existence of spirit-and-soul, the universe reveals its reverse aspect. But, as you see, it is also possible to describe the detailed, concrete facts of planetary existence—and one could also go farther out into the world of stars—and in so doing show how man is connected with the whole cosmos.

Only with these data of knowledge as a foundation is it possible to speak of the fact that the cosmos as it reveals itself when contemplated from the earth is firstly the physical cosmos (including the earth), then the etheric cosmos. But in ordinary physical space there are, in reality, only the physical cosmos and the etheric cosmos. The moment when, passing through the gate of death or through initiation, man becomes able to experience himself purely as a being of spirit-and-soul—that is to say, to contemplate the universe from the other side—conceptions of space cease to have any meaning for him. As long as the words of human language have to be used, we can say: When we contemplate our spatial universe from outside, it still appears to us as if it were spatial, but it no longer is so. For in truth it must be said: Here we look outwards from a single point, but we must imagine the point dispersed. The point is no longer a point, it is dispersed.

We embrace space within ourselves as it were, and behold the non-spatial; just as here we look at space from one single point, when we are outside our body we look back from out of space upon the point. And with this is connected the experience of beholding as many worlds as there are human souls connected with the earth, and only one human nature, one “manhood.”

We are each and all of us a single human being when we look at ourselves from outside. That is why the science of Initiation speaks of the mystery of number, because even number itself has meaning only from this or that particular point of vision. What here on earth is a unity—the cosmos—is a plurality when seen from outside. What here on earth is a plurality—namely, human beings—is a unity when seen from outside. To regard something as a plurality or as a unity is also maya, is also illusion, for if viewed from an entirely different point of vision, a unity may reveal itself as a plurality and a plurality as a unity. This is something that has also formed part of mathematical science in the course of its evolution on earth. I have spoken of this before.

Today we count by adding one unit to another. We say: one, then two, then by adding another unit we have three, and so on. But in very ancient times men did not count like this. They counted in this way: the unit is one, in the unit there is two, then, still in the unit, three. They did not add one unit to another but the unit was that which embraced all numbers. In the unit all numbers were contained. In our time the unit is contained in all the numbers; in ancient mathematics all the numbers were contained in the unit. This conception sprang from the different modes of thinking, which were in turn connected with the remembrances of an extra-cosmic science still surviving in very early times of evolution.

Inclinations, sympathies
Moral Impulses
Sagacity, Cleverness
Phantasy, Imagination, Memory