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Spiritual Relation in the Configuration of the Human Organism
GA 218

Lecture I

20 October 1922, Dornach

When we consider man from the anthroposophical point of view, as we have done before, we first have to distinguish in him the physical organism. We have this physical organism penetrated by the etheric organism, and with this system which is formed by physical and etheric organism we have joined the astral organism and the ego. From the way that man goes into the sleeping state and from there over again into the waking state, we see that on one side the physical and etheric organism are connected more closely and on the other side ego and astral organism. Though in waking state these four members are united, yet in sleep they are separated, so that on one side ego and astral body, so to speak, hold together, and on the other side physical and etheric organism. So that the astral and etheric organism do not unite as strongly as, for example, ego and astral organism, or physical and etheric organism.

If we want to consider these things in detail, we have to put them before our soul once more in their effectiveness. Now, I would like to start with something concrete. What does it mean: man sees the surrounding world? If, for once, we look merely on the factual act, it means that something makes an impression on him. But if we have the whole human being in mind, we must ask: on what, in him, has the surrounding an effect?

For a superficial observation it might look as if the effect on the physical organism is that which comes about from seeing the surrounding. Yet it is not so. We do have, when we are seeing, the physical eye, (diagram, bright) but everything that goes on in the physical eye is only something mediating. In reality, what happens first is a play of processes in the ego and the astral organism. I will indicate this by mingling the eye with this (yellow diagram) as the ego (naturally, it then goes farther into the organism) and with this “red” as the astral organism. We have to be absolutely clear about this: what first comes into consideration in seeing, are the processes in the ego and in the astral organism.

You can acknowledge this immediately, if you observe your seeing not superficially, but in a more intimate way. You only have to call to your mind, if you can, while seeing somewhere a red color, distinguish yourself, in regard to your ego, from this red. You cannot do that. You are this red. You cannot distinguish yourself from the red. This red is something that fills your consciousness completely, you are nothing else than this red. You can realize this especially well, if you, let us say, imagine that this red is the only thing you see. You see a large surface. You first have to make it clear to yourself, while looking at this large red surface, that you are an ego. You have to separate first the ego. But, while looking at the large red surface, during this time, the red and the ego have flown together. And it is the same with the astral organism of man.

So, the first thing we have to look at, where we are seeing, are processes in the ego and the astral organism. With the eye, there comes into consideration (just see for once the complicated way in which the eye comes into consideration) that man has a kidney system,—I design it here schematically (diagram, dark blue). This kidney system belongs first of all to the physical organism of man and has in itself parts that are solid. You know, I have told you quite often: man does not have so extraordinarily much of the solid, the mineral, in himself: 90% of him is a column of water. Nevertheless, he has firm parts in himself. These solid parts really swim continuously in a liquid; in something watery. Therefore we have to look at the kidney system as the starting point of the watery, which is not only there in excretion of the kidney system, but goes through the whole organism; among others, it also goes up to the eye.

But this liquid that, as it were, radiates from the kidney system into the whole organism and also radiates into the eye, is by all means not a dead watery substance, but a living water. You would get a totally wrong idea of what the water (the watery) is in man, if you had the picture that within the living human organism, one might find water, as it runs in a brook (see diagram, blue). This is not the case. In the brook, we have dead water, in the human organism we have a living liquid. Not only the plasma-liquid is living, all that is liquid in the human body is living. And in this liquid there are finely dissolved those solid parts, mentioned before, which are carried forth as it were, on the waves of the watery, also up into the eyes. Two different things meet now in the eye, the etheric organism of man (blue) fills out the eye, which is the optic nerve of the eye; and what is streaming now into this liquid which is filled by the etheric organism,—that is the astral picture which arises in the human astral body (red). And this (yellow) is what arises through the ego. That is what streams into here, and also streams further on.

Therefore, there are coming together on one side in the human eye and also in the human optic nerve, the impression from outside, which had at first really been in the ego—and the astral body and then from inside the physical and etheric body—the physical born from the mineral parts of human nature and the etheric body on the liquid parts of the human body.

Now, it is so, that this does not stay with the eye. Instead, what the eye is mediating, radiates into the remaining organism. In seeing, we have to deal altogether with an encounter of those processes, which occur in an extraordinarily complicated way in the ego and astral body and those which come to meet these as physical and etheric bodies but as physical body in the mineral constituents and as etheric body on the waves of the living liquid.

What I have shown you here for the act of seeing, continuously occurs in the human organism. Continuously in the human organism the etheric body—I would like to say—under the impulse of the physical body and on the waves of the living water, meets the astral body with all that which outer impressions are under the impulse of the ego. On the ways and means, how these two currents meet our whole human constitution, our-whole inner situation depends, because they have to meet in the right way. What does that mean: to meet in the right way? Well, we have to deal again with something extraordinarily complicated. The head-organization of man is, at first so (see diagram 1) that the head is a plastic image of the forces which man had as a soul-spiritual being in pre-earthly life. The head is formed by plastic forces, it is also developed very early during embryonic life, and it retains really only the power to give form. If the human head did not have this power to give form (zu gestalten) it would be indeed only a dead body. This human head is a marvelous creation (Gebilde). It is a faithful impression of the physical, etheric, even of the astral and even of the ego; it is an image of their descent from super earthly worlds into earthly existence. The head forms itself truly as an image of those cosmic experiences, which man went through in pre-earthly existence and retains only the plastic formative forces. If we look at the child we see that all plastic formative forces start from the head. Man receives from his head radiating into the remaining organism that which gives the plastic configuration to his organs during his growth correspondingly.

Then, it is throughout only the plastic forming force, which goes out from the head. If something enters the head, as it happens in seeing, it is right away received in a way that a force is forming which wants to give shape. What is entering there the eye wants to take shape inside of man. Most of all it wants to form the nerves,'the nervous system, in a way that in the inner organism there will be, so to say, a copy of that which had been the outer impression (diagram). One can say in this direction (arrows from above downward) from the senses going inside, goes a forming force. This force wants to make man, as it were, into a statue. It is really so: everything we see, wants to make us into a statue in a certain fine way. Against this force—for example, from the kidney system (arrows from below to above) another force comes forth, which continuously dissolves. What wants to be formed there? Imagine, how that is. If I wanted to trace this down for you I would have to say: Coming from the eye a very fine picture wants to form; up to a physical shaping of forms this wants to go. There is always a tendency like that taking place, that salty substances which otherwise are dissolved stick together, that is, they want to become salt. So that we continuously have a tendency for form shaping. Now, from below there always arises a tendency to dissolve that again. So we have continuously a tendency in the human organism from without towards the inner that should become a statue, and from the inside continuously it is dissolved again.

This process that takes place through the encounter of the astral with the etheric, that comes to meet the astral on the waves of the watery, is of immense importance for human life, basically it really means the whole of human life.

Imagine, someone tells you something tonight. It is also an impression. It occurs differently in the way of the senses, than when you see a red plane, but it also is an impression. What has been communicated to you there, again wants to take form in you. If it can take on form, then it stays in you as remembrance. And if you happen to have a head which is very much inclined to salt (to pickle) right away all impressions, then you will have a marvelous memory. Like an automaton, you can always repeat everything that someone communicates to you. But with most people it is not that way, because with most people there is the strong tendency to dissolve this in turn; what, as radiation of the watery element in connection with the etheric body comes to meet the plastic formative forces, dissolves this again. In reality it is a warm current which continuously is dissolving. If one looks at this matter, something extraordinarily interesting will result.

If one wants to remember things as a human being—not as a human automaton—then one must not get such a rigid inner salt-formation right away, when someone tells us something, so one can always repeat (abtratschen—like a parakeet) the matter right away. There are such people, but they become dependent, they are not themselves any more, who remember things, but the things take hold of them, one becomes an automaton. If one wants to be an independent human being, the following procedures have to happen:

What someone is telling you, or what one reads is, at first, in the ego and the astral body and wants to penetrate now through the organization of the brain, of the head, first into the liquid, and then wants to consolidate,—to call forth a sort of mineral salt-like formation. But it is good when the inner current comes and extinguishes this presently, so that, at most, the impression penetrates the liquid (but it dissolves) and at present no rigid form can come about. Since, at present, it cannot become a firm shape, the matter remains in the astral body. Now one is asleep, the next night. There it goes out with the astral body and the ego. There it reinforces itself somewhat during the state of sleep. (See diagram 3, right) Then it comes back in again with awakening (left), and will possibly be extinguished again; and this happens as a rule three to four times. Only after the fourth, having been asleep, the extinguishing force will not be strong enough anymore, and then this is fixed so firmly, that this plastic formation (Gebilde), which cannot be dissolved in there anymore, becomes the basis for memory-representation, for recollection.

You will say: But I can remember those things also, that I have heard yesterday, when I did not sleep a couple of times afterwards. That is right, but this is not the question now. That you can remember those things which you have heard yesterday has its cause from the fact that the matter is still in the astral body, and perhaps makes, an impression into the ether body; but one does not forget really after one day, not after the second or the third. If the matter really is forgotten, then the inner dissolving force is still so strong after the fourth day, that the whole matter will be dissolved; then it is dissolved. Because, if it is, then there is so much strength existing, that it comes in a fourth time and can still be dissolved, then we forget the matter unrefutably.

You see, this is a very interesting fact. And this fact, which one can observe by the way of imagination, if one simply sees how things are remembered, leads us to something else. It leads us to the realization that the head of man is altogether a much slower fellow than the rest of man. When we talk about the threefoldness of man, and keep at first the rhythmic organization in the middle, on one side his nerve-sense organization, that is the organization of the head,—on the other side the metabolic-limb organism, then we can say: the head-organism in its whole development, in all its being and becoming takes up a much slower pace than the metabolic-limb organism. And it is so, that while this inner consolidating (diagram), this shape-giving, would take a second for any impression (it is not so, but I say it as an example) there would have been already four impacts of dissolving from the side of the kidney-system. This can be seen in the fact that our pulse beats four times, while we inhale once. The respiratory system works upward From the rhythmical system towards the head and imparts to it the four times slower beat. That which comes to expression through the four times faster beat of the blood circulation which brings about the dissolving factor. What expresses itself in the four times slower pace of the head has in its working all that which tends to solidify, which makes man into a statue.

It is indeed interesting that this encounter which I have described to you, that is, the surging upward of the thrusts coming from the kidney system and the downward beat of the thrusts, which derive from outer influence that indeed while the impression is happening, four times an attack of dissolving is made on one. And that is the reason that we have to sleep four times over it, so that the act of striking from outside will be sufficiently fastened.

All these things fit (gliedern sich) together in a marvelous way if one can enter truly into the inner configuration of the human organism. But this is still connected also with something else.

You see, in going upwards in man and coming to the head, we find a pace of life (lebenstempe) which is four times slower than the one we find when we go, for example, to the organs of digestion, or, let us say, to the kidney-system. The kidney system works very fast and brings its inner working to the etheric, which swims on the waves of the living water. If man closes his eyes and subdues his brain consciously and then looks through that which flows out from the kidney; these are the imaginations, which swim on the living water—in such a way that his own inner life presents itself to him in imaginations. This is an extraordinarily interesting formation (Gebilde). If there is here (see diagram 4) the kidney system, then from the kidney system the living water flows towards the whole organism. What is excreted there, is only the superfluous, which goes to the outside through the relatively solid influx; but at the same time, this living water, which is permeated by the etheric organism goes also towards the whole organism. But, when the kidney is sick, and because of the sick kidney a radiation which is too strong takes place, then all kinds of images will form in there and the well-known subjective phenomena will come about, that people with sick kidneys will show. What is working there, what basically is a thrust pulsated through by inner body warmth, what then meets with that which comes from the outside wanting to become a form, this works four times faster than what comes from the outside towards the inner. This shows itself again in certain periods of our life in so far as these periods are regarded as coming about from the etheric organism, which I have drawn here this way. We must speak of seven year periods as you know; of the change of teeth, of puberty and so on. But against these periodical rhythmic processes, which go on from seven to seven years, something coming from the head is working, that wants to slow down these processes, because the head is going at a much slower pace. The head arrives at the end of the 28th year only where the main organism of man is at the end of the seventh year. This is a very important secret of human individual development.

On the outside, it expresses itself only through the fact that we can call ourselves completely grown up inwardly and outwardly in the late twenties. Everything that comes from the head completes itself really only at this time. The head is in reality only seven years old at 28. So, this is something, which one has therefore in the entire being of man. As one has on one side respiration and blood circulation—how blood circulation is in relation to respiration—the same way in life, in the whole becoming of life, the processes of the head are in relation to the processes, which proceed from the digestive system, altogether form the metabolic limb system. That also has one to the other the beat, of one to four. This is of great importance for life. It means, for example, that everything we bring to a child in education or instruction between the seventh and 14th years lives only in the head very slowly and has come to an end there, so that it is caught up in the head up to the 35th year; only up to the 35th year of life its vibrations in the head have completely come to an end. Four times seven years come into consideration. (The four times seven year periods are repeated from the seventh year on) Then at 35 only, the head has really caught up.

This throws an extraordinarily important light on a right method of education and teaching. It shows you, that teaching and education must be arranged in a way that it lasts long enough. You can, if you look only out for that which the child takes up from the seventh year to the 14th year, and which occupies him and what he comprehends, teach the child what he wants to grasp at the present moment. But these processes in the metabolic-limb system of man which are first the physical carrier of what has been grasped, leave after seven years. Now something must remain, even when matter has left; must be taken up by the head, must last up to the 21st year. Then again, the physical matter is gone, it must last up to the 28th year, then again matter is gone and it still must last until the 35th year. Now it finally is entirely in the ether body and from there it is not so easily ousted because the ether body is not always excreted in the same way.

You see how in life things work into each other, that we truly have to know that, being 28 years old, we would be only seven years in reality, if we were a head being only. If we are 35 years old, we would be in fact only 14 years if we were only head. We are continuously attacked in our quiet development by the metabolic limb system in regard to what the head of man really wants. Therefore, if one wants to understand man one must not regard the substantial constitution of the rest of the body. Instead one has to see the interplay between the metabolic? limb system and the head organism in their rhythm. But this enters into every single organ.

Diagram 5
Diagram 5
Click image for large view

Take the eye. On one side you have the optic nerve, on the other side are blood vessels (diagram 5, red). Since the blood vessels spread,you have the metabolic-limb system in the eye. Through the optic nerve being there, you have the sense? nerve organism in the eye. Now look into the eye. There exists a relation of one to four among the processes in the optic nerve, the retina and the thrust of, the blood beat. Inside the eye things are continuously vibrating into each other, whose rhythms are related as one to four. On this vibrating into each other of two different rhythms the inner processes of the eye are based. What takes place in the arterial skin of the eye wants to dissolve; already in the eye, what wants to consolidate in the nerve of the eye. The nerve of the eye wants to create continuously forms with contours in the eye. The arterial skin with the blood flowing there wants to dissolve this continuously.

Diagram 6
Diagram 6
Click image for large view

It is not as coarse as one generally presents it; instead it is so that the arteries of the blood have their own course and the veins join in again (diagram red), so that not one also loins the other. In the eye especially, the artery runs so that the blood flows out so to say, and is there only then absorbed in turn by the vein, so that a slight flowing off and a reabsorbtion comes about in the eye.

It is an entirely false and coarse view, if one believes that arterial blood immediately goes over there into the veinous blood. It is not so. A fine flowing out and again an absorbtion takes place. In what takes place as the outflowing vibrates the rhythm of circulation and in the nerve adjacent to it, the rhythm of the respiration vibrates really in these two rhythms which hit into each other. Imagine these two rhythms were alike, then we would not see.

Imagine you run along next to a wagon. If you run just as fast as the wagon, you will not notice the wagon. But when you walk four times slower and yet hold the wagon, then you will notice the pull. The wagon will go on and you will have to hold back if you want to slow it down. And so it is inside the eye. That is the function of the optic nerve which wants to hold back the rhythm which is four times faster. In the arresting is formed what then is perception, which appears as perception of sight, just as you notice the wagon if you run times slower; if you run in the same speed you will not feel it.

And you yourself, how do you experience yourself as an ego? You experience yourself because your head runs four times slower than the rest of your organism. That is the inner sensing of one's self, the inner perception of one's self, the running after the tempo of the limb-metabolic organism with what is function of the head.

Numberless cases of illnesses in people are based on the following; a certain measure of balance exists for every organism between four and one. One can always say: according to the way a person is orgainized a certain measure of balance is there. Of course, it never is exactly one to four, but there are all kinds of possible conditions; in this way people are individualized. But for every human individuality a certain relationship exists. If that is disturbed and if conditions would arise, by which the relation is then not one to four, but one to 4 1/7 the dissolving force then works too strongly, then the person cannot become a statue sufficiently. You only have to remember certain forms of illness, where man dissolves too much in himself, and you have the type of such kind of illness.

The other condition can come about just as well. Then those phenomena appear, which present cramp-like conditions. When the astral forces vibrate too fast through the etheric and physical organism, when the astral forces quiver through too fast and do not approach slowly enough, the cramp-like phenomena come about.

For example, take the ordinary children's cramps. These common cramps are based on nothing else than on the necessity that with the child the astral organism and the ego have to permeate first the etheric and physical organism in the right way. Now imagine, the astral organism and the ego which vibrate then into the limb-metabolic man, are vibrating too fast. The other part of man cannot take that right away. If it vibrates in the right way then you have, for example a part of physical and etheric man, which have to be permeated by astral and ego-man so that it gets slowly permeated. I would like to say:: every current of the astral force seizes always in the right way a droplet of living water, through which the etheric flows. It adapts to each other, if the right tempo is in it. But if that vibrates in too fast (see drawing 6, red, light), then the astral bursts through the etheric and with that also through the living water, cramp-like conditions come about as can especially appear in children's cramps, because here the right rhythm must assert itself first in the entering of this streaming in. (red, blue drawing 7)

This has a far reaching meaning. It has for example, the meaning that a very bad form of illness, which causes much headache today, finds its explanation here at least: namely that the right beat together is disturbed in a special way. Such an illness for example, is the bitterly bad illness of polio, which can be explained this way, though the healing is not found at the same time, because conditions lying farther back have caused that things are not tuned in together.

Altogether it is possible only to look into the human organism if one can take into consideration such conditions seriously if one knows that in that, which is outside at night of one's physical and ether body, the impulses are lying for a much slower activity of life than in that part which remains back at night, if one knows that man sleeps not only in an abstract way with his ego and astral body outside of his physical and etheric body. At sleep man is nearly all limb-metabolic man up into the brain, because everything proceeds then under the influence of metabolic-man.

Now, inwardly man is in regard to what underlies the slow rhythm exposed to a high degree to the ahrimanic forces, in regard to all, that corresponds to the fast rhythm his exposure very strong to the luciferic forces. Therefore, you could also say if you might look once at the wooden carved group; here everything ahrimanic has the tendency towards the slow rhythm, which hardens the forms and makes them pointed and rigid. In all that is luciferic, everything is worked towards the fast rhythms which makes everything round, because it runs off faster and therefore rounds off everything; it does not make things rigid, but wave-like. You can see it at the plastic forms there, that one deals with a beating together in the relation of three or four to one.

These matters are important as well for the understanding of the healthy human organism as they are important for the understanding of the sick human organism. One will see how one will have need in science of this completion which can come only from the side of what is called here anthroposophical spiritual science. I will continue these considerations intending to close them off in a way that on one side out of man history, and on the other hand out of history man will come to meet us.