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Man and the World of Stars
GA 219

V. Human Faculties and Their Connections with Elemental Beings

16 December 1922, Dornach

The faculties needed by man in order that he may be able to confront the world and work in it during earthly life are connected, as I have shown, with his activities in the spiritual world between death and rebirth. This means, however, that here on Earth man lives in certain spheres which on the Earth itself have no inherent reality, which manifest their reality only when observed in the supersensible realm.

We will turn our attention today to the three domains which actually comprise all human activity on Earth: to the thoughts through which man endeavors to assimilate Truth in the world; to feelings, in so far as in and through his world of feeling, man endeavors to assimilate the Beautiful; to his will-nature, in so far as he is meant to bring the Good to fulfilment through it.

When we speak of thoughts, we mean that domain through which Truth can be assimilated. But thoughts in themselves cannot be real. Precisely when we are clear that through our thoughts we have to inform ourselves about the truth of what is real, then it must also be admitted that thoughts, as such, cannot be anything real. Just imagine for a moment that you were to be fixed as firmly in your thoughts as you are in your brain or your heart; if that were the case, these thoughts would indeed be something real in themselves. We should not be able to assimilate reality through them. Nor could we ever express through human speech what human speech is intended to express if it contained full reality in the ordinary earthly sense. If every time we uttered a sentence we were obliged to work something heavy out of the mouth, we should be unable to express anything; it would rather be a matter of producing something. In this sense, what is spoken is not a reality in itself, but ‘signifies’ a reality, just as thoughts are not themselves a reality but merely signify a reality. And if we consider the Good, then we shall find that what is formed through physical reality can never be called the Good. We must bring up from the depths of our being the impulse to Goodness, at first as something entirely unreal, and then make it a reality. If the impulse to Goodness were to arise like hunger, as an external reality, Goodness is just what it could not be. Again, when you are looking at a statue it does not occur to you to think that you can converse with it. It is merely semblance; and in the semblance something is made manifest, namely: Beauty. So that in Truth, reality is certainly indicated; but Truth itself moves in an element of unreality; and it is the same with Beauty, the same with Goodness.

It is therefore necessary for man that his thoughts are not, in themselves, real. Just imagine—if thoughts were to wander around in the head like leaden figures, then, to be sure, you would be aware of a reality, but these leaden thoughts would not be able to signify anything to you, they would be something real themselves. As truly as Thoughts, as the Beautiful and the Good too cannot be directly real, so it is also true that reality is necessary in this physical-earthly world in order that we can have Thoughts, make the Beautiful manifest in the world through art, and also bring the Good to fulfilment.

In speaking of this I come today to a domain of Spiritual Science which can lead us very deeply into the spirituality that is around us here on Earth and is essential for earthly existence, but completely withdrawn from the observation possible to the senses and hence cannot be grasped by the ordinary consciousness which depends, as you know, entirely upon physical perception. The fact is that we are surrounded everywhere by spiritual beings of the greatest possible variety, only the ordinary consciousness does not perceive them. Their existence is necessary in order that as human beings we may be able to unfold our faculties, to have thoughts in their chimerical lightness and evanescence, so that they are not present in our heads like leaden weights, are not something real in themselves, but can ‘signify’ reality.

For this it is necessary that there should be beings in the world who prevent our thoughts with their non-reality from immediately vanishing from us again. We men are really too cumbersome, too ponderous, to be able without more ado to hold fast our thoughts with the ordinary consciousness. Elemental beings must be there, beings who help us ever and again to hold fast our thoughts. Such elemental beings are indeed present, only they are extraordinarily hard to discover because they always conceal themselves. When we ask: How does it really come about that we can hold fast a thought when it has no reality at all? Who is helping us to do this?—even then it is very easy to be deceived, precisely when the matter is considered in the light of Spiritual Science. For at the very moment we begin to ask ourselves the question: by whom are thoughts held fast for men?—through this very desire to know about the spirit-entities who hold thoughts fast, we are driven into the realm of the Ahrimanic beings; we plunge into the realm of these beings and very soon begin to believe—although it is of course a deceptive belief—that man must be supported by the Ahrimanic spirits in order to hold fast the thoughts, so that they shall not vanish the moment he grasps them. On this account, most people are—unconsciously—even grateful to the Ahrimanic beings for supporting them in their thinking. But it is misplaced gratitude, for there is a whole kingdom of beings who support us in our thought-world particularly, and who are by no means Ahrimanic.

These beings are difficult to find in the spiritual world, even for well-trained vision. One finds them sometimes by observing a very clever man at work; if one watches such a man one can perceive that he actually has a volatile, fleeting band of followers. He does not go about alone but has a fugitive following of spiritual beings who do not belong to the Ahrimanic kingdom, but who have an altogether remarkable character. One first really learns to know these beings when one can observe those other beings who belong to the Ahrimanic realm, to the elemental kingdoms, and therefore are not perceptible to the eyes of the senses, who are at work when forms in Nature, crystal forms, for example, arise. The activity of these beings underlies all form; you find them described in my Mystery Plays as beings who chisel and hammer out solid forms. If you think of the gnome-like beings in one of the Mystery PlaysNoteNumThe Soul's Awakening. Scene 2. you have there the beings who produce forms. Now these beings are sly and crafty—as you can see from the way I have presented them in the Play—and they mock at the scanty intelligence possessed by men. Call to mind those scenes from the Mystery Play if they are known to you.

Now if we observe a really clever man and perceive how he may have a retinue consisting of a whole host of such beings as I have described, we find that these beings are despised by the gnome-spirits of the elemental world because they are clumsy and, above all, because they are terribly foolish. Foolishness is their main characteristic! And so it can be said that precisely the very cleverest people in the world, when we can observe them from this aspect, are followed by whole troops of ‘spirit-fools.’ It is as if these foolish spirits wanted to belong to someone. And they are greatly disdained by the beings who fashion and shape forms in Nature in the way described in the Mystery Plays. We can therefore say: among the worlds unknown to begin with to ordinary consciousness, there is one that is peopled by a spirit-folk of ‘fools,’ fools who throng towards human wisdom and cleverness. In the present age these beings have actually no life of their own. They achieve a life by using the life of those who are dying, who are dying from illness but in whom life-forces are still present. These beings can only make use of a life that is past. Thus there are spirit-fools who use the life that remains over from men; they sate themselves with the life that lingers in cemeteries and such places.

It is when we penetrate into worlds like this that we realize how densely populated is the realm lying behind the world that is perceptible to the senses, how manifold are the classes of spirit-beings, and how closely connected these spirit-beings are with our faculties. A clever man pursuing his activities, who is merely clever and not clairvoyant, can hold fast his thoughts precisely through the fact that he is followed by this troop of spirit-fools. These spirit-fools rivet themselves to his thoughts, drag at them and give them weight, so that they remain with him, whereas otherwise they would quickly vanish from him.

These beings are, as I said, bitterly scoffed at by the gnome-like beings. The gnome-like beings will not tolerate them in their realm although they belong to it. The gnome-like beings drive the others away continually and there is a hard fight between the gnome-folk and this folk of spirit-fools through whom alone wisdom is made possible for man; otherwise the wisdom would be fugitive, would pass away the moment it came into existence, could not remain. As has been said, these beings are hard to discover because it is so easy to fall into the Ahrimanic sphere directly questions are asked about them. But one can find them on occasions such as I have just indicated, by observing very clever men who are followed by a whole troop of such beings. Apart from that, however, when there are not enough clever thoughts fastening on to men, these beings are to be found lingering, for example, in libraries—when the books contain clever material. When the contents of books are stupid these beings are not to be found; they are to be found only where there is cleverness. On that they rivet themselves.

This gives us some insight into a realm that surrounds us everywhere, that is present just as the Nature-kingdoms are present, that has something to do with our faculties, but is very difficult to assess. If we wish to do that we must rely upon those gnome-like beings and set some store by their judgment—and they, in fact, consider the other beings stupid and impudent.

But these other beings have yet another characteristic. When they are too severely persecuted by the gnome-like beings they escape into human heads, and whereas outside in Nature they are almost giants—of an enormous size—they become quite tiny when they are inside men's heads. One could say that they are an abnormal species of Nature-spirits, who are, however, intimately connected with the whole of human evolution on the Earth.

Beings of another kind live chiefly in the watery and airy elements, just as do those beings described in the Mystery Plays as the sylph-like beings. The beings to whom I am now referring have chiefly to do with the world of ‘beautiful semblance.’ They attach themselves less to men who are clever in the ordinary sense than to those who are genuinely artistic in nature. But these beings too are very hard to discover as they can so easily conceal themselves. They are to be found where there are genuine works of art, where, for instance, the human form or forms of Nature and so forth are portrayed in semblance. There they are to be found.

These beings too, as I said, can only be discovered with difficulty. When, for instance, we ask: How is it that beautiful semblance interests us, that there are occasions when we derive greater pleasure from a beautiful statue than from a living person (true, it is a different kind of pleasure, but for all that, greater), or that we are edified and delighted by melodies or harmonies? When we ask ourselves this we very easily fall into a different realm, into the realm of the Luciferic beings. It is not only the Luciferic beings who promote enthusiasm for art, but again there is a kingdom of elemental beings by whom interest in art is stimulated and kept alive in man. Without such beings, man would never be disposed to take an interest in beautiful semblance, simply because it is unreal.

Now the reason why it is so difficult to discover these beings is because they can conceal themselves even more easily than the spirit-fools, for they are actually only present where beauty makes its power felt. And when we are wrapt in enjoyment of the beautiful, then we certainly do not see these beings. Why is this?

In order to get a sight of them in a normal way, we must endeavor, while given up in some way to artistic impressions, to direct clairvoyant vision to the beings who are depicted in the same scene in the Mystery Play as nymph- or sylph-like beings; these beings too belong to the elemental Nature-kingdoms, and we must project ourselves into them. We must, as it were, look with these air- and water-beings at the others who are present whenever joy is taken in beauty. And as this is difficult, we must turn to other means of help. Now fortunately it is easy to discover these beings when we are listening to someone who speaks beautifully and whose language we do not properly understand; when we hear only the sounds without understanding the meaning. If we then abandon ourselves to the experience of this beautiful speaking—but it must be really beautiful speaking, genuine oratory, and we must not be able to understand it properly—then we can acquire the faculty, intimate and delicate as it is, of seeing these beings.

Thus we must try, as it were, to acquire the talent of the sylphs and to strengthen it through the talent that unfolds when we listen to beautiful speech without endeavoring to understand the meaning but having ears only for its beauty. Then we discover the beings who are present wherever beauty is and lend their support so that man can have a true interest in it.

And then follows the disillusionment, the great and terrible surprise. For these beings are in fact hideously ugly, the very ugliest that can be imagined; they are ghastly creatures, the very archetypes of ugliness. And if we have developed the requisite spiritual vision and visit some studio where artistic work is being done, we find that it is these beings who are present on Earth, like spiders on the ground of world-existence, in order that men may take interest in beauty. It is through these frightful spider-creatures of an elemental order that interest in beauty really awakens. Man simply could not have the right interest in beauty if in his life of soul he were not entangled in a world of hideously ugly spider-like beings.

When they are going through a Gallery, people have no inkling—for what I have said refers only to discovering the form of these beings, who are always present when anyone is delighting in beauty—people have no inkling of how they are strengthened in the interest they take in beautiful pictures by having these hideous spider-like creatures creeping in and out of their ears and nostrils.

Man's enthusiasm for what is beautiful arises on the foundation of ugliness. That is a cosmic secret, my dear friends. The spur of ugliness is needed in order that the beautiful may be made manifest. And the greatest artists were men who because of their strong bodily constitution could endure the invasions of these spidery beings in order to produce, let us say, a Sistine Madonna, or the like. Whatever beauty is brought forth in the world has been lifted out of a sea of ugliness through the enthusiasm in the human soul.

Let it not be thought that behind the veil of the material world, in the region beyond the threshold, we come into a realm of pure beauty. Do not imagine that anyone who is cognizant of these things speaks lightheartedly when he says that if men are not properly prepared they must be held back at the threshold of the spiritual world. For it is essential first of all to know the thoroughly unedifying foundations of all that in front of the curtain as it were, is uplifting and edifying.

Therefore if with spiritual sight we move about the elemental world belonging to air and water, again we see the great battle waging between the fleeting sylphs and undines and these archetypes of ugliness. Although I spoke of the latter as spidery creatures, the tissues of which they are formed are not like those of spiders as we know them, but they are composed of the elements of water and watery vapor. They are volatile air-formations, the ugliness of which is enhanced inasmuch as every second they have a different ugliness; each succeeding ugliness gives the impression of being even worse than its predecessor. This world is present in air and water together with everything that is delightful there.

And now in order that man may unfold enthusiasm for the Good, something else takes place. It can be said of the other beings that they are more or less actually there, but in the case of the beings of whom I am now going to speak it must really be said that they are continually coming into existence, whenever, in fact, a man has within him warmth of feeling for Goodness. It is in this warmth that these beings develop; their nature itself is warm and fiery; they live in the present but their inherent nature is similar to what I have described in the book Occult Science in connection with the Saturn-existence of man.

As man was in the Old Saturn-existence, so are these beings today. Their form is not the same but their nature is similar. It cannot be said of them that they are beautiful or ugly, or anything of that kind; they must be judged in comparison with the ordinary elemental warmth-beings who, as you know, also exist. All spiritual research in this sphere is extraordinarily difficult. It is very difficult to approach the beings who live entirely in warmth, that is to say, in ‘fire’ in the old sense, and when one does come upon them it is not very pleasant. One comes upon them, for instance, when lying in a high fever, but then as a rule one is not a really objective observer. Otherwise it is a matter of developing the requisite faculty for perceiving these warmth-beings by elaborating the methods indicated in my books. These warmth-beings have a certain relationship with the beings who appear, for instance, when a man has warm enthusiasm for the Good, but the relationship is of a very peculiar kind. I will assume hypothetically—for only in that way can I describe these things—that warmth-beings of the normal kind are present, originating in man's physical warmth, which as you know is greater than the warmth of the environment. Man has his own warmth, hence these particular beings are near him. And now, in a man who has enthusiasm for the Good these other beings make themselves manifest; they too are warmth-beings, but of a different kind. When they are in the neighbourhood of the normal fire-beings they immediately draw back from them and slip into the inmost recesses of man's nature. If one then makes great efforts to discover their essential characteristics in contrast to those of the normal warmth-beings, one finds that they have an inner, but very pronounced, bashfulness. They refuse absolutely to be observed by other beings of the spiritual world, and flee from them because they are ashamed of being seen; they flee first and foremost into the inmost nature of man. Hence they are hard to discover. Actually they are only to be discovered if we observe ourselves in certain moments that it is really not so very easy to bring about at will. Just suppose that in spite of not being in the least sentimental we are moved to tears simply by reading a scene in a book that grips us deeply and dramatically. Some great and good action is described, let us say, in a novel. If we have the power of self-observation we can discover how whole hosts of such beings (who have such delicate sensibility that they do not want to be seen by any other beings of the spiritual world) flee into our heart, into our breast, how they come to us, how they seek protection from the other warmth-beings and in fact from any other beings of the elemental spiritual worlds.

There is a significant force of repulsion between the normal warmth-beings and these other warmth beings with their intense bashfulness who live only in the sphere of man's moral life and who flee from contact with other spirit-beings. These beings are present in far greater numbers than is usually imagined and it is they who imbue man with enthusiasm for the morally good. Man would not readily acquire this enthusiasm for the morally good if these beings did not come to his aid; and when a man loves the moral, he has a real bond, an unconscious bond, with these beings.

Certain of their characteristics are such as may lead us to misunderstand this whole kingdom. For after all, why do these beings feel bashful and ashamed? It is actually because all the other beings in the elemental kingdoms of the spiritual world in which they live, disdain them, will have nothing to do with them. They are aware of this and the disdain to which they are subjected causes them to stimulate enthusiasm for the Good.

These beings have certain other characteristics of which I do not care to speak, for the human soul is so obviously upset at any mention of such hideous spidery creatures. I therefore prefer not to refer to certain of their peculiarities. But at any rate we have heard how what unfolds in the realm of the senses as the True, the Beautiful, the Good, unfolds from foundations which need the three spiritual kingdoms I have described, just as we on Earth need the ground on which we walk. These beings do not create the True, the Beautiful or the Good. But the thoughts which express the True, signify the True, need the spirit-dunderheads, so that they may move on their shoulders. The Beautiful that man produces needs the ugly water- and air-spiders so that it can raise itself out of this ocean of ugliness. And the Good needs a kingdom of beings who cannot show themselves at all among the other normal warmth-beings, who must always fight shy of them, and for this very reason evoke enthusiasm for the Good.

If these beings did not exist, then instead of thoughts in our heads we should have, if not exactly leaden soldiers, at least heavy vapors and nothing clever could possibly result. In order to produce the Beautiful we should need to have the gift of imbuing it with actual life in order that men's interest might be aroused. In order that here, in the world of the senses, there may be at hand what we need for the activity of thought, for the sense of beauty, for the will to arouse enthusiasm for the good—for this, three such elemental kingdoms are necessary.

The normal elemental kingdoms—that is, the kingdoms of the gnomes, sylphs, undines and salamanders, to use folk-terminology—are still at the stage of striving to become something in the world. They are on the way to having forms resembling those in our sense-world; the forms will not be the same, but one day they will become perceptible to the senses possessed by men today, whereas now, in their elementary existence, these beings are not perceptible to the ordinary senses.

The beings I have now described to you have in fact already by-passed the stage at which men and animals and plants are today. So that if, for example, we were able to go back to the Old Moon-existence which preceded the Earth, we should there encounter the beings found on Earth today as the bashful beings connected with moral impulses in man. On the Old Moon they would have been perceptible as a real animal world, spinning as it were from tree to tree. But you must call to mind the Old Moon-existence as I have described it in the book Occult Science. Everything in this Moon-existence was pliable and fluid and metamorphosis has continually taken place. Among the beings there, spinning in and out, were those hideous beings I have described, those spidery creatures permeating the Old Moon and visible there. And there were also present the beings who as spirit-fools accompany the wise on the Earth today. They were a factor in bringing about the destruction of the Old Moon, so that the Earth could arise. And even now, during Earth-existence, these beings have no pleasure in the formation of crystals, but rather in the breaking up of everything mineral.

Thus while we can say of the normal elemental beings that they will one day become visible to the senses, we must say of these other beings: once upon a time they were visible to the senses and have now sprung over into the spiritual—admittedly through their Luciferic and Ahrimanic natures. Thus there are two kinds of elemental beings—ascending and descending. We can say: on the ‘dung’ of Old Moon ugliness—which was there in profusion during the Old Moon-existence—on the ‘dung’ of Old Moon ugliness, our world of beauty springs forth.

You have an analogy in Nature when you carry manure to the fields and beautiful plants spring from it. There you have an analogy in Nature except that the dung, the manure, is also perceptible to the senses. So it is when the half-reality of the world of beauty is observed clairvoyantly. Try to envisage this half-real world of beauty, quite apart from the teeming life in the three kingdoms of Nature on the Earth; picture all the beautiful after-effects springing from the Earth. Just as lovely flowers spring up in a meadow, you must spiritually picture underneath it all the Moon-dung which contains the ugly spidery creatures I have described. Just as cabbage does not grow unless it is manured, as little can beauty blossom on the Earth unless the Gods manure the Earth with ugliness. That is the inner necessity of life. And this inner necessity of life must be known to us, for such knowledge alone can give us the power to confront with understanding what actually surrounds us in Nature.

Anyone who believes that beauty in art can be produced on Earth without the foundation of this ugliness is like a man who is horrified that people use manure, insisting that it would be far better to let beautiful things grow without it.—In point of fact it is not possible for beauty to be produced without the foundation of ugliness. And if people do not want to give themselves up to illusion about the world, that is, if they genuinely desire to know the essential and not the illusory, then they must acquire knowledge of these things. Whoever believes that there is art in the world without ugliness does not know what art is. And why not? Simply for the reason that only he who has an inkling of what I have described to you today will enjoy works of art in the right way, for he knows at what cost they are purchased in world-existence. Whoever wants to enjoy works of art without this consciousness is like a man who would prefer to do away with manure on the fields. Such a man has no real knowledge of what grows in Nature; he has, in fact, merely an illusion before him—plants of papier-maché, although real plants are actually there. Whoever does not feel ugliness as the foundation has not the right kind of delight in beauty.

Such is the world-order and men must acquire knowledge of it if they do not want to go on wandering about like earthworms, keeping to their own element and not looking upwards to what is real. Men can only develop the talents latent within them if they confront reality fairly and squarely. Reality, however, is not attained merely by talking time and time again of spirit, spirit, spirit, but by really coming to know the spiritual. But the fact has also to be faced that in certain regions of the spiritual world something like I have been describing to you today will be encountered.