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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Man as Symphony of the Creative Word
GA 230

In this important series of lectures, given near the end of his life, Rudolf Steiner brought together many aspects of his research into man and nature.

  • The first three lectures show us man's inner relationship to the ancient and sacred animal representatives — eagle, lion and bull — and to the forces of the cosmos that form them.
  • This insight is deepened in the second group of lectures by approaching the plant and animal worlds in the context of spiritual evolution.
  • The third group gives a unique and intimate description of the elemental nature spirits — the purely spiritual beings that complement plants and animals — and the cooperation these beings offer to mankind.
  • In the fourth series man himself is placed in this harmony of nature — in the symphony of the Creative Word.

Translated from shorthand reports unrevised by the lecturer. The original German text is published in the Complete Edition of the works of Rudolf Steiner with the title: Der Mensch als Zusammenklang des schaffenden, bildenden und gestaltenden Weltenwortes. (No. 230 in the Bibliographical Survey, 1961.)

The Inner Connection of World-phenomenon and World-being
Lecture I October 19, 1923
Man as a macrocosm. The bird is essentially head. Its plumage corresponds to the power of thinking in man. In the bird breathing dominates and lightens all other systems. In the lion there is balance between breathing and blood (Circulation, which latter the digestion is there to serve. All parts of the lion reveal the mastery of the rhythmic system. The cow is all digestion process, and the entire universe works in its digestion. Man is a harmonious synthesis of bird, lion and cow, in which creatures he sees also his soul powers reflected. Gandhi and the cow. Stages in the development of the butterfly in relation to the sun. These stages compressed in the case of the bird. Bird plumage corresponds to momentary thought, the butterfly to memories. An African fable illuminates the poverty of logic.
Lecture II October 20, 1923
The sun in relation to outer planets. It works on the eagle in connection with the outer planets, especially Jupiter. The lion is pre-eminently the sun animal. It has perfect balance between inner and outer. The sun in connection with the inner planets works on digestive processes, exemplified by the cow. Its forces also work through the earth, and produce the heaviness in the cow nature. The cosmic urge today to separate the three systems of man. The alluring calls of eagle, lion and cow, and their dangers for West, Centre and East. Possible mechanization of the earth and its consequences for the planetary system. A wrong way of using the secret of the cow. The counterparts to the animals in the African fable. The fable retold for modern times. The right answer of man to the three alluring calls.
Lecture III October 21, 1923
Physical and spiritual substance. In the lower organization of man (limbs) spiritual substance predominates, in the upper (head) physical. Distinction between substance and forces. In the head, forces are spiritual, in limb system, physical. Use of this knowledge in healing. Man's two-fold debt to the earth in that he takes into death spiritual substance (of limbs) which the earth needs, and leaves behind physical substance (of head) which he has estranged from the earth. Hence arises imbalance and suffering of the earth to be rectified in future planetary epochs. But what man is at present unable to do is performed by the eagle (type of the birds) and the cow (type of the essential animal). Through its feathers the eagle carries spiritualized earth substance into the spiritual world: through its digestive processes the cow gives materialized spirit substance to the earth. Initiation Science lives in the feelings aroused by such knowledge. Rejoicing of earth-spirits in the activities of the cow, and of air and fire spirits in activities of the eagle. Criticism of a sequel to Albert Schweitzer's earlier book. The lion as organizing the right balance between eagle and cow.
The Inner Connection of World-phenomenon and World-being
Lecture IV October 26, 1923
Recapitulation of the four stages of Earth Evolution: Saturn (Warmth), Sun (Air), Moon (Water), Earth (Solid). Distinction between the upper nature of the first two, and the lower nature of the second two. Each stage of evolution leaves its effects in later stages, e.g. Moon forces left in the earth work in magnetism and gravity. The butterfly is a creation of the upper cosmic forces. Its egg is under direct influence of the sun, the caterpillar of Mars, the chrysalis of Jupiter, and the freed butterfly of the light permeated by Saturn. In the Moon evolution the plant germs separated and came under the influence of lower forces. The plant seed belongs to the earth; the leaf corresponds to the crawling caterpillar; the calyx to the cocoon; the flower to the freed butterfly. Influences of the lower planets — Moon, Venus, Mercury — supplant the upper planets which influence the butterfly. The butterfly is the freed plant, the plant the fettered butterfly. Their joy in each other. Artistic perception needed for true knowledge.
Lecture V October 27, 1923
Recapitulation. The butterfly continually gives spiritualized substance to the cosmos during life, not only, like the birds, at death. Butterflies are creatures of light-ether, birds of warmth. How warmed air penetrates bones, etc. of birds. A bird's physical body is merely its “luggage”. How the butterfly takes light-filled air into its body. Both bird and butterfly overcome gravity, while bats are subject to it. They dislike light, and their flight is mechanical. Butterflies see earth as mirror of cosmos, birds see what lives in air, bats begin to perceive things of earth but are full of listening fear. Butterflies are memories, birds are thoughts, bats are dreams. Bats also give off spiritualized substance but impart it to the atmosphere, as a kind of “magma” in the air. People were once taught to defend themselves against this which, when breathed by man, becomes the nutriment of the Dragon. The Michael impulse protects man today.
Lecture VI October 28, 1923
Man has the longest evolution, beginning with the head on Saturn, when butterflies also appeared. Man develops inwardly, the butterfly outwardly. Breast-system appears on Sun with the lion, which added head and limbs later. Digestive system appears on Moon with the cow, which added breast and head. Amphibians and reptiles are purely digestion animals. Fish appear when man develops reproductive organs. Butterflies and birds are a metamorphosed memory, in miniature, of the Beings of the Hierarchies man knew on Saturn and Sun. Hence they are rightly used as pictures of spiritual beings. On descending to a new incarnation man first encounters the butterfly “corona” shot through with rays from birds, i.e. the head nature. Fishes do not feel themselves as water-beings, but as beings enveloping water — as etheric creatures. They are aware of the “breathing” of the earth. The frog is connected with the astral of the earth, and responds to weather conditions. The Cosmos creates frogs, toads, snakes, etc. through same forces as digestion. Relation of toads to large intestine. Study of the mineral kingdom will reveal the future as study of animals has revealed the past. Formation of minerals. The pineal gland.
The Plant World and the Elemental Spirits
Lecture VII November 02, 1923
Mystery of plant life. Gnomes, which work in roots, are sense organs in which perceiving and comprehending are one. They despise human logic. Through the plant they gaze at the forces of the universe while remaining connected with the earth. The earth threatens them with the danger of becoming frogs or toads. Undines or water-spirits work in leaf formation, living in the moist air. They dream the chemistry of plant life. Their fear is to become fish. Sylphs live in warm air, especially in air movement caused by birds, which give them a feeling of ego. They bear cosmic love through the atmosphere, and are light-bearers, weaving archetypal plant forms out of light, which later fall down to the gnomes. Salamanders or fire spirits live in light-warmth which they carry to the blossoms in the pollen, which in turn the stamens carry to the seed-bud. All this is a male process. Fructification takes place in winter when seeds meet the ideal plant forms received by the gnomes. Goethe's instinctive feeling for this. Fire spirits feel their ego in connection with insects which actually live in their aura. Hence comes the power of butterflies to spiritualise matter. Gnomes and undines bear gravity forces of earth upwards to meet light and warmth sent down by sylphs and salamanders. Wonder of nature enhanced by spiritual science.
Lecture VIII November 03, 1923
Ancient powers of spiritual perception have withdrawn. Late evolved creatures, corresponding to head evolution in man, lack a bone system and are spiritually completed by gnomes. Gnomes form their bodies out of gravity. The acuteness of their attention to the world. They are masked behind our dreams. Undines support animals requiring a bony covering. They are hidden behind our dreamless sleep. Sylphs supply the limb-system to birds. They lie behind man's waking dreams. Fire spirits complete butterflies in their bodily nature. The butterfly, with its fire spirit, resembles a winged man. Fire beings stand behind waking consciousness and thoughts. Malicious gnomes and undines produce parasites. Relation of excretion to the brain. Malicious sylphs produce poisons, e.g. bella donna. Fire spirits and poisonous almonds. Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva.
Lecture IX November 04, 1923
For the gnomes solid earth is hollow and offers no resistance. They experience the different qualities of its substances. Their relation to the moon, and their different appearance at its phases. Their work in carrying over the hard structure from one manifestation to another. Undines and sylphs find their true life in death. Undines assimilate the colours of phosphorescent water, and offer themselves to the hierarchies. The sylphs carry the astrality of dying birds to the hierarchies. The fire beings do the same with the gleaming of the warmth ether on the butterflies' wings. All four classes of elemental beings are astonished at man's lack of awareness in sleep. They speak to man in admonishment. Their sayings, which form part of the creative Word.
The Secrets of the Human Organism
Lecture X November 09, 1923
Origin of the different systems of man. Limb system from the Earth, Metabolic system from the Moon, Rhythmic system from the Sun, Nerve-senses system from Saturn. All substances taken into the body must be transformed: Mineral into Warmth ether, Plant into Air processes, Animal into Water processes. Only the pure human may be saved. Carbon created in man disperses ether, which penetrates sense organs and opens man to spiritual influences. Metabolic processes would cause illness, if they were not kept in check by healing processes born on Sun. Breathing has a cosmic rhythm and restrains the circulation rhythm. Comparison with Saturn. Joy of the first two hierarchies in this healing process. Man's spiritual activity in relation to healing. Inflammation caused by blood processes entering nerves: swellings and growths, by nerve processes entering the blood. Relation of education to health. World healing processes in the function of metals. Human therapy a microcosm of world therapy.
Lecture XI November 10, 1923
All food must be transformed in the human organism. Mineral substance must be turned to warmth ether to receive cosmic forces for the building of the body. Children can only transform milk. Untransformed substances cause disease, e.g. diabetes. External warmth also must not enter the body. What root and flower in the plant say to man. Roots laid down when moon was united with the earth. The plant was liberated when the moon left the earth. Earthbound root and heaven-striving flower reverse their position when the plant becomes an air-being in man. In digestion pod-bearing plants (e.g. beans) do not reach the head. The reversal of the plant cannot properly take place in animal digestion. Elemental spirits of fear counter the animal's satisfaction in digestion. Kamaloka of carnivorous animals. Anthroposophy never fanatical (e.g. in diet) but only shows the truth. Milk working in the head for young children has its counterpart for old people in honey, the beestock being a head without a skull in outer nature. “A land flowing with milk and honey.”
Lecture XII November 11, 1923
The spiritual-moral has become convention today. Its real source is human understanding and love. Why do we see the opposite in actual life? Hatred and misunderstanding spring not from the spiritual but from the physical. The relation of the bone in man to hatred, and of the blood to misunderstanding and moral coldness. Terror in initiation in perceiving that the body is built of hatred and coldness, which always live in our sub-conscious. We take the coldness and hatred, learnt from the body into the spiritual world at death, where they are taken from us by the third and second hierarchies. This enables us to meet the first hierarchy at the “midnight hour”. Here man's form dissolves from head downward, and a new spiritual form created which becomes the head of the future man. Thinking with the limbs. Rhythmic and digestive organs by the second and third hierarchies. Hatred necessary for structure of bones. Today hatred and coldness not fully absorbed by human beings and enter civilization as a cancer. The antidote to this cancer is Waldorf education.