Our bookstore now ships internationally. Free domestic shipping $50+ →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Man and the World of Stars
GA 219

I. The Spirit-Seed of Man's Physical Organism. Walking, Speaking and Thinking, and Their Correspondences in the Spiritual World

26 November 1922, Dornach

These lectures will deal with the two states of life through which man passes: in the spiritual world between death and a new birth, and in the physical world between birth and death.

I want to remind you today of certain matters to which your attention was directed in recent lectures here. I said that during the very important period stretching between death and a new birth, man finds himself in the spiritual world with an essentially higher kind of consciousness than he has during his physical life on Earth.

When we are living here on Earth in our physical body, the earthly consciousness that is connected with the senses and nerves depends upon the whole organism. We feel ourselves as human beings in as much as within the boundary of our skin we have brain, lungs, heart, and the systems connected, with these organs. Of all this we say that it is within our being. On the other hand we feel ourselves connected with what is around us through our senses or through our breathing, or again through the taking of food. When we are living between death and rebirth we cannot, however, speak in the same sense of what is ‘within’ us. For directly we pass through the gate of death, even directly we go to sleep, the conditions of our existence are such that the whole universe may be designated as our inner being.

Thus whereas here on Earth our constitution as human beings is revealed by our organs and their interaction inside our skin, during sleep unconsciously but between death and a new birth in full consciousness, our inner nature is revealed to us as if it were a world of stars. We feel ourselves related to the world of stars in such a way that of the Beings of the stars we say that they are our inner nature, just as here on Earth we say that the lung or heart belong to our inner physical nature. From the time of going to sleep until that of waking, we have a cosmic life; from death until a new birth we have a cosmic consciousness. That which here on Earth is our outer world, particularly when we gaze out into the cosmic expanse, becomes our inner being after death.

What, then, is our outer world in that spiritual existence? It is what is now our inner nature. We fashion what is then our outer world into a kind of spirit-seed from which our future physical body on Earth is to spring into existence. Together with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies we elaborate this spirit-seed, and at a certain point of time in our life between death and a new birth, it is there as a spirit-entity, bearing within it the forces which then build up the physical body, just as the seed of the plant bears within it the forces which will eventually produce the plant. But whereas we picture the seed of the plant to be minute and the plant itself large in comparison, the spirit-seed of the human physical body is, so to speak, a universe of vast magnitude—although in the strict sense it is not quite accurate to speak of ‘magnitude’ in this connection.

I have also said that at a certain point this spirit-seed falls away from us. From a certain point of time onwards we feel: in association with other Beings of the Universe, with Beings of the Higher Hierarchies, we have brought the spirit-seed of our physical organism to a definite stage of development; now it falls away from us and descends into the physical forces of the Earth with which it is related and which come from the father and the mother. It unites with the human element in the stream of heredity and goes down to the Earth before we, as beings of spirit-and-soul, ourselves descend. Thus we still spend a certain period—although a short one—in the spiritual world when the nexus of forces of our physical organism has already gone down to the Earth and is shaping the embryo in the body of the mother.

It is during this period that we gather together from the cosmic ether its own forces and substances and so build up our etheric body to be added to our astral body and ego. Then, as a being of ego, astral body and etheric body, we ourselves come down to the Earth and unite with what the physical body—the seed of which was sent down earlier—has now become.

To anyone who observes this process closely, the relation of man to the Universe becomes very clear, above all if attention is directed to three manifestations of human nature to which reference has often been made here and at other places—I mean the three manifestations of human nature by virtue of which man becomes the being that he is on Earth.

When we are born we are quite different from the beings we afterwards become. It is on the Earth that we first learn to walk, to speak, and to think. The will that remains dim between birth and death, and feeling that remains half dim, are already present in a primitive form in the very tiny child. The life of feeling, although it is concerned entirely with the inner functions, is present in the very earliest years of childhood. The life of will is also present, as is proved by the movements, however chaotic, made by the little child. The reason why the life of feeling and the life of will become different at a later stage of existence is that thinking gradually begins to permeate feeling and will, making them more mature. Nevertheless they are already present in the tiny child. Thinking, on the other hand, is developed by the child only on Earth, in association with other human beings and in a certain sense under their instruction. And it is the same with the faculties of walking and speaking, which in reality are acquired before the faculty of thinking.

Anyone who has a sufficiently deep feeling for what is truly human will realize, simply by observing how the child develops through walking, speaking, and thinking, what a tremendously important part is played by these three faculties in the earthly evolution of man. But man is not only an earthly being; he is a being who belongs not only to the Earth with its forces and substances, but equally to the spiritual world; he is involved in the activities proceeding between the several Beings of the Higher Hierarchies. It is, so to speak, only with a part of his being that man belongs to earthly existence; with the other part he belongs to a world that is not the material world perceptible to the senses. It is in that other world that he prepares his spirit-seed. Let it never be imagined that man's achievements in culture and civilization on the Earth, however complex and splendid they may be, are at all comparable with the greatness of what is achieved by him together with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies in order to build this wonder-structure of the human physical organism. Nevertheless, what is thus fashioned—first of all in the spiritual world and, as I explained, sent down to the Earth before the man himself descends—is differently constituted from the being who is afterwards present here on Earth between birth and death.

The spirit-seed of his physical body built up by man in the spiritual world is imbued with forces. Its whole structure which afterwards unites with the physical seed—or rather, which becomes the physical seed of the human being by taking substances from the parents—is endowed with all kinds of qualities and faculties. But there are three faculties for which the spirit-seed receives no forces at all in the spiritual world. These three faculties are: thinking, speaking, and walking—which are essentially activities of man on the Earth.

Let us take walking, and everything that is related to it. I might describe it as the process whereby man orientates himself within the sphere of his physical existence on Earth. When I move my arm or my hand, that too is related to the mechanism of walking, and when a tiny child begins to raise itself upright, that is an act of orientation. All this is connected with what we call the Earth's force of gravity, with the fact that everything physical on the Earth has weight. But we cannot say of the spirit-seed that is built up between death and a new birth that it has weight or heaviness.—Walking, then, is connected with the force of gravity. It is, in fact, an overcoming of gravity, an act through which we place ourselves into the field of gravity. That is what happens every time we lift a leg to take a step forward. But we do not acquire this faculty until we are already here on Earth; it is not present between death and a new birth although there is something that corresponds to it in that world. There too we have orientation but it is not orientation within the field of gravity, for in the spiritual world there is no force of gravity, no weight. Orientation in that world is of a purely spiritual character. Here on the Earth we lift our legs to walk, we place ourselves in the field of gravity. The corresponding process in the spiritual world is that of becoming related to some Being of the Higher Hierarchies, belonging, let us say, to the rank of Angel or Archangel. A man feels himself inwardly near in soul to the influence of a Being, say, of the Hierarchy of the Angels, or of the Exusiai, with whom he is then working. This is how he finds his orientation in the life between death and a new birth. Just as here on the Earth we have to deal with our weight, in yonder world we have to deal with what proceeds from the several Beings of the higher Hierarchies by way of forces of sympathy with our own human individuality.

The force of gravity has a single direction—towards the Earth; but what corresponds to the force of gravity in the spiritual world has all directions, for the spiritual Beings of the Hierarchies are not centralized, they are everywhere. The orientation is not geometrical like the orientation of gravity, towards the center of the Earth, but it goes in all directions. According to whether man has to build up his lung or perform some other work together with the Beings of the Hierarchies, he can say to himself: The Third Hierarchy is attracting me, or the First Hierarchy is attracting me. He feels himself placed into the whole world of the Hierarchies. He feels himself, as it were, drawn to all sides, not physically, as through the pull of gravity, but spiritually, or also, in some cases, repelled. This is what corresponds in the spiritual world to physical orientation within the sphere of gravity on the Earth.

Here, on the Earth, we learn to speak. This again belongs to our inherent nature, but within the spiritual world between death and a new birth we cannot speak; the physical organs needed for speech are not there. In the spiritual world between death and a new birth, we have, however, the following experience.—We feel ourselves in rhythmically alternating conditions; at one moment we have contracted, as it were, into our own being; our higher consciousness also contracts. Between death and a new birth there are times when we shut ourselves within ourselves, just as we do while we are asleep on Earth. But then we open ourselves again. Just as on the physical Earth we direct our eyes and other senses out towards the Universe, so in that other world we direct our spiritual organs of perception outwards to the Beings of the Hierarchies. We let our being stream out, as it were, into the far spaces, and then draw it together again.

It is a spiritual breathing process, but its course is such that if we were to describe in earthly words, in pictures derived from earthly life, what man says to himself there in the spiritual world, we should have to speak somewhat as follows: I, as a human being in the spiritual world, have this or that to do. I know this through the powers of perception I have in the spiritual world between death and a new birth. I feel myself to be this human being, this individuality. As I breathe out on Earth, so do I pour myself out in soul into the Universe and become one with the Cosmos. As I breathe in on Earth, so do I receive back into myself what I experienced while my being was poured out into the Cosmos.—This is constantly taking place between death and a new birth.

Let us think of a man feeling himself enclosed within his own being and then as though expanded into the cosmos. At one moment he is concentrated in himself and then has expanded into the Universe. When he draws into himself again it is just as when we breathe in the air from the physical spaces of the Universe.

Now when we have poured our being over the Cosmos and draw it in again, it begins—I cannot express it otherwise—it begins to tell us what it was that we embraced when our being was outspread as it were, in the cosmic expanse. When we draw our being together again it begins to tell us what it is in reality, and we then say, between death and a new birth: The Logos in whom we first immersed ourselves—the Logos is speaking within us.

Here on the Earth we have the feeling that in our physical speech we shape the words when we exhale. Between death and a new birth we become aware that the words which are outspread in the Universe and reveal its essential nature, enter into us when our being is inbreathed and manifest themselves within us as the Cosmic Word. Here on Earth we speak as we breathe out; in the spiritual world we speak as we breathe in. And as we unite with our own being what the Logos—the Cosmic Word—says to us, the Cosmic Thoughts light up within our being. Here on Earth we make efforts through our nervous system to harbor earthly thoughts. In the spiritual world we draw into ourselves the Cosmic Thoughts out of the Cosmic Speech of the Logos when our being has been spread over the Universe.

Now try to form a vivid conception of the following. Suppose that you say to yourself between death and a new birth: I have this or that to do ... all that you have experienced hitherto makes you aware that you have this or that task to perform. Then, with the intention of performing it, you spread your being into the Universe; but the process of expansion is actually one of orientation.

When you say to yourself here on Earth that you must buy some butter ... that too signifies an intention. You set out for Basle to buy your butter there, and bring it home with you. Between death and a new birth you also have intentions—in connection, of course, with what has to be achieved in that other world. Then you expand your being; this is done with the intention of acquiring orientation—it may be that you are drawn to an Angel or perhaps to a Being of Will, or to some other Being. Such a Being unites with your own expanded being. You breathe in; this Being communicates to you its participation in the Logos and the Cosmic Thoughts connected with this Being light up within you.

When the spirit-seed of man comes down to the Earth (as I have said, he himself remains a little while longer in the spiritual world), he is not organized for thinking or speaking in the earthly sense, nor for walking in the earthly sense, when gravity is involved; but he is organized for movement and for orientation among the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies. He is not organized for speaking but for enabling the Logos to resound within him. He is not organized for the shadowy thoughts of earthly life, but for the thoughts that become radiant in him, within the Cosmos.

Walking, speaking, and thinking here on the Earth have their correspondences in the spiritual world: in the orientation among the Hierarchies, in the resounding of the Cosmic Word, and in the inner lighting up of the Cosmic Thoughts.

Picture vividly to yourselves how man goes out after death into the wide space of the Cosmos. He passes through the planetary spheres around the Earth. I have spoken of these things in recent lectures here. He passes the Moon-sphere, the Venus-sphere, the Mercury-sphere, the Jupiter-sphere, the Saturn-sphere. Having passed right out into the Cosmos he will see the stars always from the other side. You must picture the Earth and the stars around it. From the Earth we look up to the stars; but when we are in the Cosmos we look from outside inwards. The forces that enable us here on Earth to see the stars, give us the physical image of the stars. The forces that enable us to see the stars from the other side, do not allow them to appear to us as they do here, but from that other world the stars appear to us as spiritual Beings. And then, when we leave the planetary spheres—I am obliged to use earthly expressions—then, as conditions now are in world-evolution (the ‘now’ is, of course, a cosmic ‘now’ of lengthy duration), we realize with the understanding acquired through the higher consciousness belonging to our life between death and a new birth, what an infinite blessing it is for us that the forces of Saturn not only shine inwards into the planetary world of the Earth, but also outwards into the cosmic expanse. There, of course, they are something altogether different from the tiny, insignificant, bluish rays of Saturn that can be visible to us here on Earth. There they are spiritual rays, radiating out into the Universe—even ceasing to be spatial; they radiate into a sphere beyond space. They appear to us in such a way that between death and rebirth we look back in gratitude to the outermost planet of our earthly planetary system (for Uranus and Neptune are not actual Earth planets; they were added at a later stage). We are aware that this outermost planet not only shines down upon the Earth but out into the far spaces of the Cosmos. And to the spiritual rays which it radiates out into the Cosmos we owe the fact that we are now divested of earthly gravity, divested of the physical forces of speech, divested of the physical forces of thought. Saturn, as it radiates out into cosmic space is in very truth our greatest benefactor between death and a new birth. Regarded from a spiritual standpoint it constitutes, in this respect, the very antithesis of the Moon-forces.

The spiritual Moon-forces keep us on the Earth. The spiritual Saturn-forces enable us to live in the wide expanse of the Universe. Here, on Earth, the Moon-forces are of very special significance for us as human beings. I have explained that they play their part even in the everyday happening of waking from sleep. What the Moon-forces are for us here on Earth, the Saturn-forces that radiate into the Universe from the outermost sphere of our planetary system are for us between death and a new birth. You must not picture that from one side Saturn radiates towards the Earth and from another out into the Universe. It is not so. The physical Saturn appears like a hollow in this sphere of the cosmic Saturn which radiates, spiritually, into cosmic space. And from a certain point of time onwards after death, what thus radiates outwards hides everything earthly from us—hides it all with light.

Here on Earth, man is under the influence of the spiritual Moon-forces; between death and a new birth, he is under the influence of the Saturn-forces. And when he descends again to the Earth he draws himself away from the Saturn-forces and enters gradually into the sphere of the Moon-forces. What happens then?

As long as man is related to the sphere of the Saturn-forces—and Saturn is helped by Jupiter and Mars which have special functions to perform of which I shall speak on some future occasion—as long, therefore, as man is under the influence of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, he is a being who does not strive to walk or speak or think in the earthly sense, but to find his orientation among spiritual Beings, to experience the Logos resounding within him, to have the Cosmic Thoughts lighting up within him. And with these inner aims and intentions the spirit-seed of the physical organism is, in very truth, dispatched to the Earth.

In effect, the human being who is descending from the spiritual worlds to the Earth has not the least inclination to be exposed to earthly gravity, to walk, or to bring the organs of speech into movement so that physical speech may resound, neither has he any inclination to think with a physical brain about physical things. He has none of these faculties. He only acquires them when, as a physical spirit-seed, he is sent down from the sphere of the Saturn-forces to the Earth, passes through the Sun-sphere and then enters the other planetary spheres—the spheres of Mercury, Venus and Moon. The Mercury, Venus, and Moon-spheres transform the cosmic predisposition for spiritual orientation, experience of the Logos and lighting up of Cosmic Thoughts inwardly, into the rudimental faculties of walking, speaking, and thinking. And the actual change is effected by the Sun, that is to say, the spiritual Sun.

Through the fact that man enters the sphere of the Moon—and the Moon-forces are helped by those of Venus and Mercury—through this, the heavenly predispositions for orientation, for experience of the Logos, and for Cosmic Thought, are transformed into the earthly faculties. Thus to a child here on Earth, as he begins to raise himself upright from the crawling position, we ought in truth to say: Before you were received into the spheres of Mercury, Venus and Moon, yonder in the heavenly spheres you were organized for spiritual orientation among the Hierarchies, for inner experience of the resounding Logos, and for inner illumination with Cosmic Thoughts. You have accomplished the metamorphosis from yonder heavenly faculties into earthly faculties in that you passed through the whole planetary sphere, and transformation of the Heavenly into the Earthly was wrought by the Sun.

But while this is happening, something else of tremendous significance takes place. Passing from the heavenly into the earthly realm, the human being experiences one side only of the etheric world. The etheric world extends through all the spheres of the planets and the stars. But the moment the heavenly faculties are transformed into the earthly, the human being loses the experience of the Cosmic Morality. Orientation among the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies is experienced not merely as a manifestation of natural laws but as moral orientation. Likewise the Logos speaks in the human being not in an a-moral way as do the phenomena of Nature—for although they do not speak in an anti-moral way, they speak ‘a-morally.’ The Logos speaks morality; so too the Cosmic Thoughts light up as bearers of morality.

Saturn, Jupiter and Mars—this must be said despite the horror it will cause to physicists—Saturn, Jupiter and Mars contain, as well as their other forces, forces of moral orientation. It is only when man transforms the heavenly faculties that have been characterized into walking, speaking, and thinking that he loses the moral elements. This is of immense importance. When here on Earth we speak of the ether—in which we live when we are approaching the Earth in order to be born—we ascribe to the ether all kinds of qualities. But that is only one side, one aspect, of the ether. The other aspect is that it is a substance working with a moral effect. It is permeated through and through with moral impulses. Just as it is permeated with light, so it is permeated with moral impulses. In the earthly ether these impulses are not present.

Yet man as an earthly being is not altogether bereft of the forces within which he lives between death and a new birth. Even if by some decree in the divine World-Order, man on the Earth had no inkling whatever that as well as having a physical nature he ought also to be a moral being, it might conceivably be that his earthly faculties of walking, speaking, and thinking would be dimly felt to correspond to a heavenly Orientation, a heavenly Logos, a heavenly illumination with Cosmic Thoughts. True, without some inner stimulus man knows very little on Earth of these heavenly correspondences of his earthly faculties; but for all that he has faint inklings of them. If there were no after-effects of the Heavenly here on Earth, every link binding man with the spiritual world would have been forgotten, leaving not a single trace. Even conscience would not stir.—I will take my start from something quite concrete, and although what I shall now say will seem strange to begin with, it is in exact accordance with facts established by spiritual research.

Think of the Earth with the air around it; farther outward is the cosmic ether, gradually passing over into the spiritual sphere. Here on the Earth we inhale and exhale the air. This is the rhythm of breathing. But out yonder we pour our being into the Cosmos, receiving into ourselves the Logos and the Cosmic Thoughts. There we let the World, the Universe, speak in us. This too takes place in rhythm—in a rhythm determined by the world of the stars. Out in the Cosmos there is also rhythm. As human beings on the Earth we have the rhythm of breathing, which is related in a definite way to the rhythm of blood-circulation: four pulse-beats to one breath. In yonder world, we breathe out and breathe in again spiritually; this is cosmic rhythm. As men on Earth our life depends upon the fact that we take a definite number of breaths a minute and have a definite number of pulse-beats a minute. Out in the Universe we live in a cosmic rhythm, in that we breathe in, as it were, the moral-ethereal world; we are then within ourselves. And when we breathe it out again we are united with the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies.

Just as here in our physical body inside our skin, regular movements are set going rhythmically, so out in the universe the course and the positions of the stars set the cosmic rhythm into which we pass between death and a new birth. We live in the air, and in the air unfold our breathing rhythm with its extraordinarily true regularity. If the rhythm is irregular, this betokens illness for man. Out in the Universe—although we have first to pass through intermediate cosmic space—we experience the cosmic rhythm inasmuch as we are then living in the cosmic ether, permeated as it is with the moral element. Thus there are two different rhythms: human and cosmic. In truth they are both human rhythms, for the cosmic rhythm is the human rhythm between death and a new birth.

On the Earth, the Universe has, so to speak, the rhythm proper to mankind; in yonder world it has the rhythm in which we ourselves participate between death and rebirth. What, then, lies between the two? The rhythm proper to mankind gives us the faculty between birth and death to speak human words, to master human language. Cosmic rhythm enables us between death and a new birth to let the Cosmic Word resound within us. The Earth endows us with the gift of speech. The Universe, the spiritual Universe, gives us the Logos. You will realize that conditions are utterly different in the sphere where cosmic rhythm gives us the Logos, from conditions here on the Earth, where we articulate the human word in the air.

What, then, constitutes the boundary between the one realm and the other? Looking out into the physical world we have no perception of the cosmic rhythm. There is inner law and order in each realm, so what is it that lies between them? Between them—if I may put it so—is the boundary at which the cosmic rhythm breaks in that it is coming too near the Earth; between them is that which, in certain circumstances, may also bring the human breathing-rhythm into disorder. Between them, in effect, are all the phenomena pertaining to meteorology. If on the Earth there were no blizzards, storms, wind, cloud formations, if the air did not contain, in addition to oxygen and nitrogen for our breathing, these meteorological phenomena which are always there, however clear the air may appear to be—then we should look out into the Universe and be aware of a different rhythm—actually the counterpart of our breathing rhythm, only transformed into infinite grandeur. Between the two spheres of the World-Order lie the chaotic phenomena of wind and weather, separating the cosmic rhythm and the human breathing rhythm from each other.

Man on the Earth is subject to gravity. He co-ordinates his gait, every movement of his hands with this force of gravity. Out in the Universe the forces are altogether different. Orientation there is in all directions; the lines of force run from Being to Being of the Hierarchies. What is between the two? As meteorological phenomena are between heavenly rhythm and human rhythm on Earth, what is between the cosmic force that is the opposite of gravity and earthly gravity?

Now just as meteorological phenomena lie between the two rhythms, so between the force of gravity and the opposite heavenly force of orientation there lie the volcanic forces, the forces which manifest in earthquakes. These are irregular forces.

(Note by translator. At this point in the lecture, Dr. Steiner referred to the report alleging that Easter Island, far out in the Pacific Ocean with its marvellous relics of ancient civilizations had been destroyed by a terrible earthquake. It will be remembered that the report was afterwards found to have been incorrect.)

When viewed from the standpoint of the Cosmos in the way I have described, the forces working in meteorological phenomena are intimately connected with our breathing processes. What takes place in the operations of volcanic forces is connected with the forces of gravity in such a way that it would really seem as though from time to time the supersensible Powers were taking back fragments of the Earth by interfering with the laws of gravity and casting into chaos what the forces of gravity have gradually built up, in order to take it back again.

All earthly formations built up by the force of gravity are subject to these terrestrial phenomena. But whereas in the manifestations of weather the elements of air, warmth, and water are astir, in this case it is the solid and the watery elements that are involved. Here we have to do with forces that lead beyond the sphere of the regular laws of weight and gravity and which in course of time will do away with the Earth.

Now as well as the meteorological and volcanic manifestations there is a third kind of which I shall speak on another occasion. Ordinary science does not really know what to make of volcanic phenomena and often gives an explanation similar to the one I read just now in connection with the appalling earthquake which affected Easter Island. The author of an article on what was said to have happened was a geologist—therefore one possessed of expert knowledge in that particular domain. Having referred to what had happened, he added: When we reflect about the cause of these phenomena which recur from time to time and cause such destruction, we must include this recent earthquake in the category of tectonic tremors of the Earth.—What does this tell us? ‘Tectonic tremors of the Earth’ are tremors which cause an upheaval among portions of the Earth. So if we are to speak of the cause of such an upheaval, we must speak of the upheaval! Poverty comes from pauvreté!

It is indeed a fact that in order to see the connections between these things, we must approach the Spiritual. The moment we pass from the realm of ordinary natural law in some sphere—that of gravity, for example, or of rhythmic phenomena in the ether—the moment we pass from this into what is an apparent chaos (although through this chaos we are led into higher realms of the Cosmos) ... in other words, if we are to understand volcanic and meteorological phenomena, we must turn towards the Spiritual.

Happenings in world-existence that seem to be purely fortuitous—for so we call them—are revealed in the spiritual realm in their lawful setting. It is through the working of the meteorological domain that we, as human beings between birth and death, are taken out of the sphere in which we live between death and a new birth. If instead of the many abstractions current at the present time we are to speak concretely, we may say: In the Heavens man lives in a World-Order that is hidden from him here on Earth through the fact that he is involved in the meteorological phenomena of the surrounding atmosphere. The meteorological domain is the dividing-wall between what man experiences on the Earth and what he experiences between death and a new birth.

In this way I want, if I can, to show you the realities of these things, not merely to talk round them.