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Man and the World of Stars
GA 219
The Spiritual Communion of Mankind

V. Spiritual Knowledge is a True Communion, the Beginning of a Cosmic Cult Suitable for Men of the Present Age

31 December 1922, Dornach

The fire which destroyed the First Goetheanum was discovered one hour after this lecture had finished.

The day before yesterday I spoke of how the cycle of the year can also be found in man. I pointed out that the forces of Nature around us group themselves into a sort of time-organism which we call the cycle of a year, so that we can see, during the course of a year, the interaction and cooperation of occurrences which otherwise appear like isolated processes and facts in Nature.

Now the essential difference between this Nature-cycle and its image in man is that events which take place successively in a particular region of the Earth, take place concurrently in man. Man, it is true, taken as a whole, resembles the Earth-globe taken as a whole, inasmuch as when it is Winter in one hemisphere it is Summer in the other, and so forth. In the case of the Earth, however, if we take the Winter influences as they work in one region and the simultaneous Summer influences working in another region, the two flow away from one another and neither is disturbed or weakened in its operation by the other. But now consider how it is with man. When he is asleep, his physical and etheric bodies are in a kind of Summer condition—a budding and sprouting life. Spiritual sight shows us this budding and sprouting Summer condition of man's physical and etheric bodies during sleep, when the Ego and astral body are separated from them. We can say that while man is asleep, there is a kind of successive Spring and Summer condition in the physical and etheric organism which he has left behind. At the same time the Ego and astral body, which still co-operate in supporting the human organism as a whole, are in a sort of Winter condition. Thus here again there are simultaneous Summer and Winter conditions, but in man they are not turned away from one another; on the contrary, they work into one another. And it is the same in our waking life. As long as man is awake, his physical and etheric bodies are in a kind of Autumn and Winter condition. Their organic life is waning, so to speak. On the other hand, the Ego and the astral body, stirred by external impressions and by the thoughts to which these impressions give rise in man, are in full Summer or full Spring conditions. So that once more we find inner Spring, inner Summer and inner Winter working together in man, not turning away from one another, but irradiating each other.

This is what actually takes place, as disclosed by the researches of Spiritual Science. If we wished to compare the entire Earth with man in respect to Winter and Summer, we should have to turn the Summer in the one hemisphere right round and superimpose it on the Winter in the other hemisphere. Were this possible we should have actually what may be described as Summer conditions cancelling Winter conditions, and Winter conditions cancelling Summer conditions—producing a kind of equilibrium. Now this is an important fact, not yet realized by external science, which in consequence is bound to misunderstand the essential nature of man. For in man, Summer and Winter—if I may allow myself the expression, for it really corresponds to what actually takes place—cancel one another.

It is true that man bears surrounding Nature in himself, but its activities cancel one another and a condition sets in which actually brings the activities of Nature to a state of rest. Even as in a balance that has weights in either scale, the pointer will come to rest at a certain spot and will at that spot be affected neither by the weight to the right nor by the weight to the left, but there will be equilibrium in respect to the forces which otherwise affect the beam, so there is in man a counterpoise resulting from opposing natural forces.

Anyone who studies what I said very briefly in my book Riddles of the Soul, about man as a threefold being—studying it really carefully, as people are not yet accustomed to do—will find that what I am now going to say is true. Man is membered into an organism of nerves and senses, a rhythmic organism, and an organism of trunk, limbs and metabolism. These three organisms work together and into one another. We may say that the organism of nerves and senses has its principal activity in the head. But the whole of man is head, after a fashion, functionally. And the same may be said of the other systems. If we take the two outer organisms, that of the nerves and senses and that of the trunk, limbs and metabolic activities, we find an actual opposition between them which is very plainly visible to a spiritual-scientific anatomy and physiology. Say, for example, we are walking. There is motion in our limb-organism, movement in space. To this motion there corresponds in a certain portion of our nerves and senses organism, our head organism, a kind of rest, proportional to the amount of activity or movement in our limb organism. Please try to understand this correctly. I said: a proportional amount of rest. Rest is generally thought of as absolute. A person who is seated, is seated, and people do not notice the degree of intensity with which he sits! This is permissible in ordinary life, where there is no need to make such fine distinctions. But it is not permissible in dealing with the organism of nerves and senses. If we run fast, if our limb organism moves fast, then in our nerves and senses organism there is a stronger desire to be at rest than if we were sauntering along slowly. And everything that happens in our limb organism—or indeed in our metabolic organism, when, for example, the digestive fluids are being kept active by intestinal movements—produces a tendency to rest in our nerves and senses organism. The fact comes to expression externally, as we know.

The head, the principal seat of the nerves and senses organism, is a lazybones compared with the limb organism. It behaves much like a man who sits in a cab and lets himself be drawn along by the horse. The man is at rest; and so does our head sit quietly on the rest of our organism. The head is not even interested if, for instance, I wave my arms! When I wave my left arm, a tendency to rest is set up in the right half of my head. And to this tendency to rest is to be ascribed our ability to accompany our movements with thoughts and ideas. It is quite a mistaken notion of materialistic philosophy that ideas originate from movements in the nerves. On the contrary, if they are ideas about motion in space, they are caused by tendencies to rest in the nervous system. The nervous system quiets down; and because it becomes quiet and abates its vital activities, thoughts find their way into this state of rest and become real for us. Anyone who can look at man with the vision of Spiritual Science and see what happens when he thinks and when ideas occur to him, can never be a materialist, for he knows that in the very same measure that thoughts, in their nature as soul-and spirit substance, become active and busy—in the same measure do the nerves grow quiet, lose their vitality and energy and even become numb. The nervous system must cease its material activities before it can make room for the soul-and-spirit element of thought. This will help to show us why we have materialism at all. Materialism dates from the time when science no longer understood matter. For material science is characterized by a total inability to conceive the nature of material occurrences, which it therefore endows with a number of non-existent attributes!

So you see there are opposite conditions in man, tending towards equilibrium. Just as there are present at Midsummer natural forces and activities that are directly opposed to those of the depth of Winter, so do we find opposing forces in the human organism, which however hold each other in balance. Yet we shall not think quite correctly about these opposing forces which balance one another until we divide man once more by separating his middle system, the rhythmic system, into two halves, a rhythm of the breath and a rhythm of the blood-circulation—even this discrimination is not absolutely exact, but it is near enough for our purpose—and speak of an upper and lower rhythmic system. Between the upper and lower halves is that part of man which, because it is influenced and permeated from above and below by opposite natural forces, strives most energetically to maintain equilibrium. So that man is divided as it were into two halves, an upper and a lower. The upper half embraces the nerves and senses system which extends, of course, over the whole body. The state of things therefore which I have to picture, is on the one hand a nerves and senses system with a breathing system belonging to it, and on the other hand a trunk, limbs and metabolic system with a circulatory system of the blood belonging to it. These two main systems work in opposite directions and cancel one another.

The organ in man in which the adjustment takes place, in which there is a continual struggle upwards and downwards to maintain equilibrium, is the human heart—which is far from being a pump, as modern physiology would have it, for the purpose of pumping blood through the body! It is, on the contrary, the organ which keeps the upper and lower systems in equilibrium. Therefore even in man's outer physical organism we find an expression of the spiritual events taking place within him, when we observe how Summer and W inter conditions are incessantly offsetting one another within him.

On Earth, Winter can prevail in one region precisely because Summer does not occur at the same time. Otherwise the Summer would balance the Winter, that is to say, there would be neither Winter nor Summer but only equilibrium. This is the real state of things in man. Man is a part of Nature, but since the natural forces oppose each other in his organism they cancel one another and it is as though he were a part of Nature no longer. But for that very reason, man is a free being. Natural laws cannot be applied to him, for in him there is not one set of natural laws, but two, working against one another, and cancelling each other out. And in this realm where natural forces cancel one another are to be found the soul and spirit of man, unaffected by the working of Nature and only to be recognized in their obedience to the laws of soul and spirit.

From this you can see what a fundamental change of method is necessary when we come to the observation of man, and why a mere application of the external laws of Nature, which are orientated in one direction only, is of no use at all.

But now that we have set before us the true nature of man, let us see what results follow. We have seen that man cannot be understood unless he is regarded as bearing within him, as it were, a piece of Nature, in such a manner that the counteracting natural forces cancel one another; and if we examine this piece of Nature in man with the eyes of Spiritual Science, we find it to be penetrated as to the physical and etheric bodies during sleep by mineral and vegetable modes of activity, which are seen to be in the Summer condition. If we are now able to observe in the right way this budding, sprouting life, we may learn to understand its real significance.

When does this budding and sprouting take place? When the Ego and astral body are not present, when they are away during sleep. And whence comes this budding and sprouting process? That is precisely what spiritual vision shows us. Let us picture man asleep. His physical and etheric bodies lie in the bed. Spiritual vision sees them as soil, as mineral matter, out of which plant life is sprouting. It is a different form of plant life, of course, from the one we see around us, but recognizable as such by spiritual sight. Above gleam the Ego and astral body like a flame, unable to approach the physical and etheric. Sleeping man therefore is a sort of budding, sprouting plot of ground, with a gleaming Ego and astral body belonging to it, but detached.

And when man is awake? I must describe this state as follows. The mineral and vegetable portions are seen to be withering and collapsing, while the Ego and astral body gleam down into them, and as it were, burn them up. This is waking man, with the mineral matter crumbling within him. The mineral element of man crumbles during his waking hours. There is a sort of plant-like activity which, although quite different in appearance, gives a general and universal impression of autumn foliage, of drooping, withering leaves which are dying and vanishing; and all through this fading substance, big and little flames are gleaming and glowing. These big and little flames are the astral body and the Ego which are now living in the physical and etheric bodies. And then the question arises: What happens to these gleaming and glowing flames during sleep, when they are separated from the physical and etheric bodies?

When this problem is attacked by the methods of occult science we find the solution to be a consequence you could yourselves draw from a comparison of various descriptions that I have given from time to time. The power which drives away the flame and gleam of the Ego and astral body, and which is then actively at work in the budding and sprouting vegetative life of the summer-like, sleeping physical body, and also in its mineral element, causing even that too to evolve a kind of life, so that in the course of its infinitesimal subdividing, it looks like a mass of melting atoms, a continuous mobile mass, everywhere active, fluid-mineral and yet airlike, at all points permeated by sprouting life—what is this inner power? It is the reverberating wave of our life before birth, whose pulsations beat upon our physical and etheric bodies during sleep. When we are awake during earthly life we still the pulsating vibrations. So long as the flame and gleam of the Ego and astral body are united with the physical and etheric bodies, we annul those impulses which spring from an existence preceding our earthly life and which we experience during sleep, we bring them to quiescence. And now we learn for the first time, from an inspection of ourselves, how to regard external Nature in the right way. For all natural laws and energies affecting external vegetable and mineral Nature resemble that which is mineral and vegetable in ourselves, permeated with sprouting life, during sleep. And so this means that as our sleeping physical and etheric bodies point to our own past, to a spiritual life in which we lived before birth, so does all external Nature that is vegetable or mineral point to a past. As a matter of fact, if we are to comprehend aright the natural laws and forces of our external environment, exclusive of the animal element and physical man, we must recognize that they point to the Earth's past, to the dying-away of the Earth. And the thoughts we entertain about external Nature are really directed to the dying element in Earth existence.

Now if this decaying Earth-nature is to be brought to life so that it can receive impulses for the future, this can come about in no other way than it does in man, that is to say, by the insertion of soul and spirit into mineral and vegetable. In the case of the animals, the soul element enters in, and then with man, spirit enters in.

Looked at in this way, the whole world may be said to be divided into two parts. When we look out upon external Nature, in so far as this is mineral and vegetable—and these constitute the principal part of it—we can compare it only with our sleeping physical and etheric organism. When we consider external physical activities, we must admit that all of them depend upon the physical activities in mineral and vegetable matter. Consider the process of nourishment. It begins with the taking in of mineral and vegetable matter. The animal takes it a step further in preparing it as food for man. But all external Nature depends, so far as its physical and etheric activities are concerned, on such an order of things as we find in our sleeping physical and etheric organism. Now in man the Ego and astral organism which we bear within us, and which, during our waking moments while our physical and etheric organism is in its Winter sleep, is in a condition of Summer, being stimulated by the outer senses and the thoughts that form themselves—this Ego and astral organism balances in waking hours the Winter condition of the physical and etheric bodies.

And when we come to apply the methods of Spiritual Science to the cycle of the year, we find in it too a spiritual Summer condition belonging to its Winter and a spiritual Winter condition belonging to its Summer. These conditions do not, however, balance one another as they do in man. On the contrary, they express themselves in opposite hemispheres, so that on the Earth, physical Winter is strengthened by the Winter of the soul and spirit, and physical Summer by spiritual Summer. Nevertheless these occurrences point to the fact that all surrounding Nature bears within it its past and its future, even as man does.

We have actually the present only in waking hours in our physical body in respect to its activities and laws. For during the sleep of our physical and etheric bodies we experience the inworking of a past, a past moreover that was spent in the spiritual world. We find the same thing in the vegetable and mineral worlds as we see them before us and experience their effects upon us. They too are a result of past existence. And they only become present through the Earth being permeated with soul and spirit even as man is. And in the present is contained the germ of the future. But if it is true—and the description I have given you is true—that our physical and etheric organism is an expression of the past precisely when it is independent of the activities of the soul and spirit, then in order to find that which works over into the future we must look to our Ego and astral body; and for the Earth too we must seek the future in that which is spiritual.

Man has evolved to a point when, by help of forces which of course are quite elemental, he has brought the Ego and astral body into companionship with his physical and etheric bodies. The mineral and vegetable world has not yet accomplished this. The Earth's ego and astral body surround the Earth with soul and spirit but do not permeate her mineral and vegetable activities. The mineral nature of the Earth, as observed by us, shows itself unable to let soul and spirit enter into it, and able only to let them surround it with light. The vegetable nature shows itself also unable to admit soul, but in a certain way the upper parts of the plant may be said to be touched with soul and spirit. Spiritual Science gives us the following picture of a plant. If I draw it with the root below, the stem in the middle and the blossom above, then I have to represent it as in contact with the astral world through its blossom. The astral world does not penetrate the plant; it merely touches it, and this touching is the origin of the blossom. The astral substance surrounding the Earth touches the uppermost portion of the plant, and the flower appears. I have often spoken of this in an analogy (which must of course be received with proper delicacy), saying that the flowering of the plant is the kiss exchanged between the Sun's light and the plant. It is an astral influence in which there is no more than a ‘touching.’

So that when we look into surrounding Nature, we do not see in the mineral and vegetable kingdoms exactly what we see in man. In ourselves as man we behold a mineral nature, a plant nature, an astral nature and an Ego nature, all belonging to one another. (We will leave the animals out for the time being and speak of them on some future occasion.) But we have to see in the mineral and vegetable world themselves that on which physical activity essentially depends. These worlds show themselves, in external Nature, altogether lacking in astral thought, as well as in self-conscious spiritual intelligence which is the product of the Ego. The latter are not to be found in the world outside, neither in the mineral nor in the plant. For mineral and plant are fundamentally results of the past.

If we observe the Earth's crust and its vegetation aright, we shall look upon all the life of the Earth and say: You crystals, you mountains, you budding and sprouting plants, I see in you monuments of a living, creative past which is now in process of dying. But in man himself, if we are able to have the right insight into this dying element that draws its energy from pre-earthly existence and exhausts itself and dies away in the physical and etheric bodies—in man we see this physical and etheric organism permeated by an astral body and Ego throwing light across into the future and able to unfold freely, on a plane of balanced natural energies, a life of thought and ideation. It may be said that we see in man past and future side by side. In Nature on the other hand, so far as she is mineral or vegetable, we see only the past. That element which already functions as future during man's present, is the element that confers freedom upon him; and this freedom is not to be found in external Nature. If external Nature were doomed to remain just what her mineral and vegetable kingdoms make her, she would be doomed to die, in the same way that the mere physical and etheric organism of man perishes. Man's physical and etheric organisms die, but man does not, because the nature of the astral and Ego within him carries within it, not death but an arising, a coming into being.

If therefore external Nature is not to perish, she must be given that which man has through his astral body and his Ego. This means that as man through his astral body and his Ego has self-conscious ideas, he must, in order to ensure a future to the Earth, insert into the Earth too, the supersensible and invisible that he has within himself. Even as man must derive his reincarnation in another earth-life from that in him which is supersensible and invisible, since his dying physical and etheric bodies are powerless to confer it, so can no future arise for the Earth from the mineral and vegetable globe that surrounds us. Only when we place into the Earth that which she has not herself, only then can an Earth of the Future arise. And what is not there of itself on the Earth is principally the active thoughts of man, as they live and weave in his own Nature-organism, which holds always a balance and is on this account self-dependent. If he brings these independent thoughts to a real existence, he confers a future on the Earth. But he must first have them. Thoughts that we make in our ordinary knowledge of Nature—thoughts about that which is dying away, are mere reflections—not realities. But thoughts we receive from spiritual research are quickened in Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition. If we accept them they become forms having independent existence in the life of the Earth.

Concerning these creative thoughts, I once said in my book entitled A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception, that such thinking represents the spiritual form of communion among mankind. For as long as man gives himself up to his mirror-thoughts about external Nature, he does nothing but repeat the past. He lives in corpses of the Divine. When he himself brings life into his thoughts, then, giving and receiving communion through his own being, he allies himself with the element of Divine Spirit which permeates the world and assures its future.

Spiritual knowledge is thus a veritable communion, the beginning of a cosmic ritual that is right and fitting for the man of today, who is then able to grow because he begins to realize how he permeates his own physical and etheric organism with his astral body and Ego, and how, as he quickens the spirit in himself, he charms it also into the dead and dying matter that surrounds him. And a new experience is then his.

When he looks upon his own organism in its solid condition, he feels that it links him to the starry universe. In so far as the starry universe is a being at rest, maintaining, e.g. in the signs of the Zodiac a position at rest in relation to the Earth, man is connected in his physical organism with these constellations in space. But by allowing his powers of soul and spirit to pour into this ‘form picture’ in space, he himself changes the world.

Man is also traversed in like manner by streams of fluid. The etheric organism lives in the fluids and juices of the body. It is the etheric body that causes the blood to circulate and that brings into movement the other fluids and juices in man. Through this etheric organism he is brought into touch, if I may so express it, with the deeds of the stars, with the movements of the planets. Just as the resting pictures in the heaven of the fixed stars act upon, or stand in relation to, the solid structure of the human organism, so do the planetary movements of the system to which we belong stand in relation to the fluids in man.

But as the world presents itself to our immediate vision, it is a dead world. Man transforms it by means of his own spirit, when he shares his spirit with the world, by quickening his thoughts to Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition, thus fulfilling the spiritual Communion of mankind. It is important that man should become conscious of this. The more lively and alert this consciousness becomes, the more easily does man find the way to this spiritual Communion. I should like to give you today some words that may serve as a foundation for this consciousness, words which, when allowed to act rightly upon the soul—and this means, they must be made to live over and over again in the soul until the soul experiences to the full their moving, living meaning—will then bring something into existence in the human soul which transforms the dead environment with which man is connected into a living one, and quickens the past to life in order that from out of its death may arise the life of the future. This can only happen when man becomes aware of his connection with the Cosmos in the following way:

In Earth-activity—(I am imagining the earthly matter which I take into myself with that which fashions the solid structure of my organism.)

In Earth-activity draws near to me,
Given to me in substance-imaged form,
The Heavenly Being of the Stars.

For it is a fact that when we take something that serves us as food and look upon its form, then we find in it a copy of the constellations of the fixed stars. We take it into ourselves. With the substance of the Earth that is contained in Earth-activity, we take into us the being of the stars, the being of the heavens. But we must be conscious that we as human beings, by a deliberate, loving act of human will, transform that which has become matter, back again into spirit. In this manner we perform a real act of trans-substantiation. We become aware of our own part in the world and so the spiritual thought-life is quickened within us.

In Earth-activity draws near to me,
Given to me in substance-imaged form,
The Heavenly Being of the Stars.
In Willing I see them transformed with Love!

And when we think of that which we take into ourselves to permeate the fluid part of our organism, the circulation of the blood and juices, then that, in so far as it originates on Earth, is a copy not of the heavens or of the stars but of the deeds of the stars, that is to say, the movements of the planets. And I can become conscious how I spiritualize that, if I stand rightly in the world; and I can speak the following formula:

In Watery life stream into me,
Forming me through with power of substance-force,
The Heavenly Deeds of the Stars—

that is to say, the deeds of the planetary movements. And now:

In Feeling I see them transformed with Wisdom!

While I can see how in will the being of the stars changes lovingly into the spiritual content of the future, I can also see how in feeling a wise change takes place when I receive into me, in what permeates my fluid organism, a copy of heavenly deeds. Man can experience in this way in his will and in his feeling how he is placed into the world. Surrendering himself to the supreme direction of the universe that is all around him, he can carry out in living consciousness the act of trans-substantiation in the great temple of the Cosmos—standing within it as one who is celebrating a sacrifice in a purely spiritual way.

What would otherwise be mere abstract knowledge achieves a relationship of will and feeling to the world. The world becomes the Temple, the House of God. When man as knowing man summons up also powers of will and feeling, he becomes a sacrificing being. His fundamental relationship to the world rises from knowledge into cosmic ritual.

The first beginning of what must come to pass if Anthroposophy is to fulfil its mission in the world is that man's whole relationship to the world must be recognized to be one of cosmic ritual or cult.

I have wished to say this to you, as it were, as a beginning. Next Friday I will speak further about the nature of this ritual in its relation to a real knowledge of Nature. I appointed this lecture for this particular day with a special end in view. For today, when that being of Time which is given in the cycle of the year is brought before our souls, when this year, at any rate for outward perception and experience, comes to an end, we should realize the nature of our relationship to Time—how it rests with us out of the past to form and shape the future, to work actively for the future, in order to create in the spirit.

One of the poems recited this afternoon began with these words: “Every year finds new graves!” That is profoundly true. But equally true is it that every year finds new cradles. As this year touches the past, so does it also touch the future. And today it is man's first obligation to grasp this future, to reflect that the budding and sprouting life in the external world contains within it the seeds of death, and that we must seek for life with our own power of action. Every New Year is a symbol of this truth. If we see on the one hand the graves, let us behold on the other hand, self-renewing life waiting to receive the seed of the future into itself.

It is our great task this day to observe how in the world around us it is New Year's Eve—all is passing and disappearing and dying away; but how in the hearts of men who are conscious of their real manhood, of their divine humanity, there must be the mood of New Year, the mood of the beginning of a new era, of the uprising of new life. Let us not merely turn with a superficial festiveness from a symbolical New Year's Eve to a symbolical New Year's Day; but let us so turn our thoughts that they may indeed grow powerful and creative, as evolution requires them to be. Let us turn our thoughts away from the dying phenomena which confront us everywhere in modern civilization, like old graves, away from New Year's Eve to New Year's Day, to the day of the Cosmic New Year. But that day will never dawn till man himself decides to bring it to pass.

In Earth-activity draws near to me,
Given to me in substance-imaged form,
The Heavenly Being of the Stars—
In WILLING I see them transformed with love!

In Watery life stream into me,
Forming me through with power of substance-force,
The Heavenly Deeds of the Stars—
In FEELING I see them transformed with Wisdom.

Geistige Kommunion.

Es nahet mir im Erdenwirken,
In Stoffes Abbild mir gegeben,
Der Sterne Himmelswesen:
Ich seh' im Wollen sie sich liebend wandeln.

Es dringen in mich im Wasserleben,
In Stoffes Kraftgewalt mich bildend,
Der Sterne Himmelstaten:
Ich seh' im Fühlen sie sich weise wandeln.