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The World of the Senses and the World of the Spirit
GA 134

Lecture III

29 December 1911, Hannover

You will have been able to see from yesterday's lecture that there is a connection between the physical body of man and what we call the world of the senses. We saw how the human physical body is of the same substance as we find in the sense world outside us—the substance that we spoke of yesterday, and that we recognised to be of the nature of will. In the sense world outside us and in the human physical body as well, we have active ruling will. To this extent it is, therefore, true to say that the physical body of man is a part of the external world of the senses. You will remember that we went on to speak of how behind the world of the senses lies a world of coming into being and passing away, and in this latter world we found wisdom; we found that its true form may be described as active ruling wisdom. And what we call the etheric body of man is really composed of the substance of wisdom. Now the etheric and physical bodies of man have something more inserted into them, they contain within them an astral body and an ego; for as we know, man as a whole, as we encounter him on earth, is a conjunction of physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego.

At this point I shall have to direct your thought to a matter which may perhaps be a little difficult, but which, when we have once grasped it, will help us very greatly in our understanding of the world and especially of the nature of man himself. You will be ready to accept the assumption that physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego must at some time have been brought together and formed into a whole. Now it is a fact that if one who has developed clairvoyance tries to observe how the four members of man's nature are joined together, then he has the impression—we shall see later why it is important to consider this impression—he has the impression that they are united in an irregular manner. In the human being of the present day we find them combined in such a way as to force us to conclude that at one time or other a disorder and an irregularity has come in. That is a remarkable fact and demands our attention—that an investigation of the four members of man's being leads to the conclusion that they are not placed one into the other as they originally belonged together, but that a disarrangement has at some time come about. This is the impression they make upon one.

Now here we have once more an opportunity of seeing what infinite depths are contained in the primal truths of religion if they are but rightly understood. For what we have expressed as a disarrangement is marvelously described in the Bible in the words that are spoken to man by Lucifer, when he is trying to tempt man. He says: “Your eyes shall be opened and you shall distinguish between good and evil.” In these words lies a very deep truth. We are not to understand that the eyes only are to be opened. The eyes are here representative of all the senses. If we understand Lucifer's words aright we may render them as follows: “All your senses shall work in a different way from the way they would work if you were going to follow the Gods and not me”—i.e. Lucifer. Owing to the influence of Lucifer the senses have a different form of activity from what they would otherwise have. It is extraordinarily difficult for a man of the present day to picture to himself how the senses work, and I shall have here to say something that will strike you as absurd, in my endeavour to make clear for you how the senses would work if no disorder had come into the conjunction of the four members of man's nature through Lucifer. It must sound absurd, because it is almost impossible to believe that some other form of activity in the senses was the original right one, rather than the activity we experience in them. If you are asked the question: What are the eyes of man really for? then what is more natural and obvious than to answer: Why, of course, for seeing. And from that aspect there is certainly some justification for calling a man a fool who says the eyes are not for seeing. In reality, however, if we go back to the beginnings of Earth evolution we find that the eyes of man did not originally belong to the faculty of seeing: that they do so now is due to the temptation of Lucifer. It is like this. The power of vision that man has was not intended to press through the eye and go out beyond to reach so-called “things”; what should have happened if all had gone forward in accordance with the original purposes of the Gods was that in every act of seeing man should become directly conscious of his eye—that is, he should not see the external object, but feel and experience his own eye. He should become aware of the activity that is going on in the eye itself. As it is to-day he is not aware of this but only of what happens by means of the activity in the eye, he is aware of the external object with which he is confronted. He ought really to be involved in his seeing at a much earlier stage, and not only when the seeing has reached the object; in the eye he ought to be already conscious of himself. The activity of the eye—this is what he ought to feel.

In the case of the eye such an experience is scarcely possible to-day unless one has undergone special occult development. With the hand it is possible. A man can at least distinguish whether he is catching hold of an object with his hand or whether his hand is merely moving freely in an aimless way. In the latter case he is conscious only of the actual activity of the hand itself. But if to-day a person directs his power of vision to the eye he sees nothing. This is how it stands with present-day man. It was not, however, so intended from the beginning. The intention was that when the human being considered his eye or his ear or any of his sense organs, he would perceive the ruling will of which we have spoken, he would really swim in the ruling will and recognise the fact from the peculiar manner in which it affected his eye, etc. His experience with the eye would thus have been similar in every respect to his experience with the hand. When you take hold of an object you discover that it is hard or soft, according to whether it yields to your touch. But you are all the time really aware of what you yourself are doing with your hand. This is how it would be also with the eye. But that could only be if the etheric body were rightly fitted into the physical body. Only then should we be able directly to perceive our eye and feel its connection with the ruling will. The etheric body is, however, not rightly fitted into the physical body. That is the remarkable fact we have to recognise. But this is only one example of the disarrangement that exists in the human being. There is no single member of man's nature that is rightly fitted into the other members, everything is in disorder. If it had not been for the Luciferic influence at the beginning of Earth evolution all the members of man's being would have been placed within one another quite differently. That is the point I want to make clear to-day; I want to show you the particular and significant results that have followed on the disorder brought about by Lucifer's influence in the connections between the four members of man's being.

It will be helpful at this point if I begin to write down the facts in tabular form on the blackboard. See table.

We will take first the relation that exists between the physical body and the etheric body which is inserted into it. If, as was originally intended by the Gods who guided human evolution, the etheric body had been poured into the physical body in a perfectly regular manner, then the human being would experience all around him—I can assure you it is hard to find words for it when there is no such experience!—something like a perpetual flowing and trickling of ruling will. Everywhere he would perceive differentiated will, for he would detect a certain difference in the workings of the will according as he was conscious of directing his eye or his ear or some other organ on the world around him. All these organs in their variety would only afford him the possibility of experiencing will in as many new ways, but it would always be will, flowing will. That is what would have happened if the etheric body had been fitted into the physical body in the way that was intended by the Gods. It is, however, not the case. What has happened is that the etheric body is not completely within the physical body, it has, as it were, left a piece of the physical body for itself, it does not penetrate the whole of it; with the result that the physical body has from a certain aspect a surplus of its own activity which it should by right not have. Thus there are places in the physical body of man which are not filled with the etheric body as they should have been in accordance with the original intention of the Divine Spiritual Beings who guide Earth evolution. And these places where the physical is not properly penetrated by the etheric body are where the sense organs have come to development. It is owing to this fact that the sense organs have attained their present form. Hence it is that in the case of every sense organ we find the very remarkable phenomenon of a purely physical activity from which the prevailing life activity is completely excluded.

For consider how you have, for example, in the eye something you can compare with the purely physical workings of a camera obscura, of a photographer's apparatus. It is just as if a piece had been left out in the general penetration of the etheric body. And that is what has actually happened. It is the same with the peculiar inner ear where there is a kind of keyboard in the labyrinth of the ear. The etheric body has been, as it were, pushed back and you have activities that are purely physical in character and are not penetrated with the etheric body. This is the origin of what we call sense impressions. The experience of colour is due to the fact that the etheric body does not penetrate the organ of vision in the proper way, and that consequently purely physical activities are carried on there. And it is the same with all the senses, there is a preponderance of physical body over etheric body. We can, therefore, set this down as our first result. In the relationship between physical and etheric body we have to do with a condition which we may call a preponderance of physical over etheric body. Were this preponderance of the physical body not present then we should not have around us, as we have to-day, the whole expanse of the world of the senses, but man's connection with the world around him would be that he would perceive it all as flowing, surging, ruling will. Were it not for this preponderance of the physical over the etheric body, man would not feel himself to be passive, but active, as he does when he stretches out his hand. We are here stating a fact of extraordinarily deep interest that is actually manifest to higher and occult observation—the fact that the whole world of the senses depends on this, that the etheric body has been, so to say, held up from entering into the sense organs, and that where these are situated there the purely physical world has found place in man.

And now we come secondly to the relation between etheric body and astral body. Again there is not a right and proper penetration the one of the other, but a preponderance shows itself of the etheric body over the astral body in the nature of man. A very slight degree of clairvoyance will quickly lead to an investigation of this preponderance of etheric body over astral body. It does not take much to perceive it. If there were no such preponderance then among other things man would never be able to shed tears. If you observe some one weeping, excreting from the glands of the eye that singular salty fluid, then if you have a slight degree of clairvoyance you will notice at once that there is in this case a too great activity of the etheric body in relation to the activity of the astral body. What he experiences astrally the human being is unable to impress fully into the life of the etheric body; the etheric body has a preponderance over the astral body and this comes to expression in the fact that the etheric body works back on to the physical and presses out the tears from it. And it is the same with all processes of glandular excretion in the human being. They all depend on a preponderance of etheric body over astral. The disturbance of balance, when its effect is continued on into the physical body, comes to expression in the various glandular excretions. Otherwise no excretion would take place when the glands were active; but the activity of the astral body, if it were to coincide with the etheric body, would be used up in the inner movement and activity of the glands. The glands would not expel anything, they would fulfil their whole function in themselves. No expulsion of matter would take place. Thus you see how tremendous to an occult observation appear the consequences of the Luciferic temptation. If Lucifer had not entered into the world order nobody would ever, for example, be able to perspire, but instead of the activity that takes place in perspiration, there would be in the corresponding organs an activity and movement that exhausted themselves inside the organs; nothing at all would be expelled from the glands. So that we may put down as our second point a preponderance of etheric body over astral body. If the peculiar nature and appearance of our sense world is to be traced to the first preponderance, the preponderance of physical over etheric body, then this second preponderance, that of etheric over astral body, must be regarded as the cause of what we may call our impressions and sensations. For man's whole general feeling of his bodily condition comes from this preponderance of etheric body over astral body. It is the subjective expression of this preponderance.

But now, if we would continue the train of thought, we must not proceed diagrammatically. If you were to proceed diagrammatically it would, of course, be perfectly easy, you would simply have to say: He has demonstrated to us a preponderance of physical body over etheric body, and then a preponderance of etheric body over astral body, and now we come to a preponderance of astral body over ego. This is how you would proceed to complete the scheme on purely intellectual foundations. You would, however, get no true result; the train of thought cannot be continued in that way at all. As a matter of fact, whenever you receive a communication of an occult fact and set out to draw conclusions with your intellect in a schematic way, you will always find that reality gives quite a different result. It is no use trying to carry on the train of thought in an intellectual way; sometimes it will be correct for a while, but then it will fail. And here the fact is that we have to take as our third disarrangement an inverted preponderance, namely, a preponderance of astral body over etheric body. Thus it is once more the relationship of these same two bodies that concerns us, and this time occult observation discovers a preponderance of the astral over the etheric body. And this preponderance is the one that in the eyes of man is the most important of the three. For when you consider the human being from a perfectly material point of view you can really imagine him to be as he is pictured in many materialistic books, namely, as nothing else than a great big apparatus of digestion, a sort of machine that eats and digests and builds up its body out of the substances it has received in eating and has elaborated in all kinds of ways. As a matter of fact you find the human being described in this way in books that are written from a materialistic outlook; the picture they give is little more than of a great digestive apparatus, that takes in food, works it up and distributes it to the muscles, bones, sinews, etc. If you look away from all that man is through the fact that he perceives the world of the senses and through the fact that in the whole feeling he has of his body he experiences various glandular processes of excretion—if you look away from all this and consider the human being merely from the point of view of the receiving of nourishment, investigating what happens with the substances from the time they are received through the mouth until the time they are absorbed into the blood stream, then you have before you a material process which is the ultimate physical expression of the preponderance of the astral over the etheric body. You will remember that whenever we consider the world from a spiritual point of view we always have to see behind every phenomenon of the senses a spiritual reality. What the senses can perceive is no more than the external appearance. And so behind all these coarser processes of the receiving and the elaboration of nourishment we have to look for spiritual forces, and these spiritual forces are to be found in the preponderance of the astral over the etheric body. This preponderance is expressed in the normal physical organic life-processes.

It is indeed a strange conclusion to which we have come, and I beg you to regard it closely. You must be clear that the very thing that materialism often sees as the whole human being, the very thing that for most people is the principal concern and care of life—to receive nourishment and to bear it to the various organs of the body—has only come into existence through the fact that the Luciferic influence has given rise to a preponderance of the astral over the etheric body in man. In other words, if it had not been for Lucifer, if Lucifer had not at the beginning of the evolution of man shifted in this way the relationship between the astral and etheric bodies, then the human being would not eat and digest and work over the substances as he does to-day. What, from a materialistic standpoint, is the principal thing about a human being is thus all due to a Luciferic action, for it is nothing else than the result of a displacement between astral and etheric body. The astral body has through Lucifer come in for an extra share of activity and has thereby achieved a preponderance over the etheric body. It is Lucifer's doing and it has had the result of making man a receiver of coarse material nourishment. For man was not destined to receive material nourishment, he was intended to have a kind of existence that did not require it. This fact brings to expression in a marvellous way how through the temptation of Lucifer there has come about what we may call the “expulsion from Paradise.” For to be in Paradise means nothing else than to be a spiritual being and to have no need of physical nourishment. That which appears to the vast majority of people who are materialistically inclined as the greatest pleasure in life—when we see it for what it is, is their expulsion from Paradise. Human beings have not only been punished by being obliged to receive and digest food, but they have been doubly punished. For the very event which as related in the symbols of the Bible was seen to inflict the greatest loss and sorrow to man, the very event which by the expulsion from Paradise makes it necessary for man to take physical food, has become for the majority of human beings one of the keenest enjoyments of life! Such a change has man undergone that to be outside Paradise has become his greatest pleasure. It is indeed a strange fact in human life that we here have to face, but it must be learned and known.

Finally we come to a fourth disarrangement. And the fourth concerns the relationship between the ego and the astral body. Here the Luciferic displacement has brought about a preponderance of the ego over the activity of the astral body. You see what it is that is missing; we have no preponderance of astral body over ego. Such a thing does not exist. One must not just make a diagram, one must always proceed according to observation. As we have seen, in the astral body and etheric body we have first one relation and then its reverse, whereas here we only have the preponderance of ego over astral body. This means that the ego or I has not that relation with the astral body which it was originally intended to have before the entrance of the Luciferic influence; it is more egoistic than it ought to be. This has happened through the Luciferic influence. What then exactly took place to bring about this fourth preponderance? In order to understand this we need first to have a clear idea of what would have been the right and proper relation between I and astral body.

The only way to come to know the right and true relation is to re-establish it. In the human being as he stands to-day in the world, subject as he is to the Luciferic influence, the relation between I and astral body is not in order; the I has the preponderance. Man is more I-ish than he should be. (You must forgive the strange expression; it is literally true.) Now we have in these lectures been pursuing a consideration which leads us to see what the I of man ought really to be like. A right and proper relationship will come about when man undertakes a wise and energetic and patient self-discipline and acquires the qualities we have described under the names of wonder, reverence, feeling in harmony, surrender. The ego will then stand in such a relation to the astral body that an unprejudiced observer will have the impression that the relation is now a true one, that the ego has now cancelled and undone what came in through the Luciferic influence. Only by developing these four qualities of the soul in the very highest degree can the original relationship be righted again. And how does the ego stand then to the astral body? The relationship is a very remarkable one. You can form an idea of it if you will follow attentively some of the chapters in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. As man is to-day, he is perpetually intimately interwoven with his thinking, feeling and willing. It is not easy to discover a condition in external consciousness where man is merely in his ego and not interwoven with thinking, feeling and willing. Make the experiment of trying to grasp the pure thought of the I. Our friends make valiant attempts to grasp the pure thought of the I when Dr. Unger makes the demand upon them again and again to think this thought of the I apart from all thinking, feeling and willing. They are left breathless in their efforts! (See “Principles of Spiritual Science,” by Carl Unger.)

You see how difficult it is to come to the I of man even in thought, to say nothing of actually separating it in reality from thinking, feeling and willing. In the ordinary way man's soul is traversed all the time with thoughts and feelings and impulses of will, as well as with desires. His ego is never for a moment separated from thinking, feeling and willing. But this separation is what we attain by means of the four conditions of soul as I described them. We become able to stand outside thinking, feeling and willing, and to look upon these as something outside ourselves. Our own thoughts must then be as indifferent to us as are the objects around us. We no longer say: I think—for our thinking has for us the appearance of a process that goes on of itself and is no concern of ours. And it must be the same with feeling and willing. If one reflects a little one is bound to admit that although it may be possible to have this before one as an ideal some day capable of fulfilment, yet man is, as a matter of fact, so mixed up with his thinking, feeling and willing that it is an exceedingly difficult matter for him to extricate himself. He would find it most difficult to go through the world saying to himself: Here am I going through the world, and with me all the time is a companion who hangs on to me because I have grown together with him, who is like a kind of double. All my thinking, feeling and willing go on alongside of me. I am not that which thinks and feels and wills, I am what I am in my I, and I walk by the side of what I carry around with me like three sacks, one filled with my thinking, one with my feeling and one with my willing. But until we have come to a practical realisation of this “three sacks” theory we shall not be able to form any correct idea of how the ego would now stand in relation to thinking, feeling and willing if all were as originally intended by the divine beings before the Luciferic influence interposed. Man was destined to be an onlooker of himself, it was not intended that he should live inside himself. For what was really the nature of the original temptation? Let us put it as tritely as possible:—

Lucifer approached the human I or ego, which man ought to have preserved in all its purity beside the astral body that had been given to him on the Moon, and said something like this: “Look here, Man! It is tedious to go wandering about always with this one single centre-point of ‘I am’ and merely to be able to look on at the rest; it would be much more amusing to dive down into thy astral body. I will give thee the power to do this, and then thou wilt not any longer be standing there on one side with thine ego and looking on at thy double, but thou wilt be immersed in thy double. And then needst not fear that thou wilt be overwhelmed and drowned, I will provide for that, I will give thee some of my own power.” Thereupon the ego of man did dive down into the astral body and was saved from drowning by being inoculated with Luciferic power. And the Luciferic power that man then received was the preponderance of the I over the astral body, it was the excessive egoism, which is a Luciferic quality in man. And what is this quality actually? How does it manifest in life? It shows itself to begin with in the fact that we are involved and entangled first in our thoughts, and then also in our feelings and our impulses of will. In the first place with our thoughts. If it had not been for Lucifer man would never have hit upon the ridiculous idea that he has an intelligence inside him and that he himself cherishes thoughts within him. He would have known that the thoughts are outside him and that he has to look on at his thinking. Man would always have considered and contemplated, and waited till the thought was given to him, waited until the purpose and meaning of the thinking was revealed. You will find this set forth, for example, in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. Man would never have had the idea that he has to connect together all kinds of thoughts and form a judgment or opinion within himself. This forming of judgments within ourselves, independent of revelation, is a Luciferic nature in us. And the whole intelligence of man, in so far as he regards it as his property, is a mistake. It is nothing but the temptation of Lucifer that makes man imagine he should have intelligence. And now you will understand how this intelligence, having come about through a shifting of this kind, can by no means be taken as the criterion for all human comprehension of reality.

I pointed out in my lectures in Carlsruhe (From Jesus to Christ) that for a man who builds upon his intelligence it seems quite reasonable to say: “If I am to understand the Resurrection as part of the Mystery of Golgotha I must simply discard my intelligence altogether. For everything it says contradicts the Resurrection.” So says the man of the nineteenth century, so says even the theologian of the nineteenth century in so far as he is a theologian of the liberal school. But how should he ever expect that the Mystery of Golgotha—a deed that is not entangled with the Luciferic influence, a deed that lies altogether outside Lucifer's domain and came into the world for the very purpose of vanquishing Lucifer—how could he expect that he could ever grasp such a deed with an intelligence that he owes to Lucifer? Nothing can be more obvious than that these things can never be grasped with a man's own intelligence. For his intelligence is Lucifer's gift to him and is not adapted to understanding things that have nothing to do with the working of Lucifer. You see what deep connections lie behind these things. Were the Mystery of Golgotha comprehensible with human intelligence, then, my dear friends, there would have been no need for it to take place. The Mystery of Golgotha would have been quite unnecessary. For the very purpose of it is to balance out the disorder which arose through the Luciferic influence. The Mystery of Golgotha was enacted in order to cure man of that singular arrogance and pride which manifests in a desire to comprehend everything by means of the intellect. This is the very place where we can perceive how limited is the intellect as such. I have frequently protested against the idea that human knowledge is limited, but the intellect as such is certainly limited.

  • 1. Preponderance of physical body over etheric body.
  • (a) The sense world.
  • 2. Preponderance of etheric body over astral body.
  • (b) The whole feeling of the body.
  • 3. Preponderance of astral body over etheric body.
  • Normal organic bodily processes.
  • 4. Preponderance of I over astral body.
  • N.B.—At (b) Lucifer and Ahriman meet.

Let us now study this table and discover where was the starting point of the shifting or displacement that occurred in man's nature. It is obvious that the first disarrangement to come about was what we have called the preponderance of the I over the astral body. All the Luciferic influence over man began with this—that Luciferic power was given to the I and the I got impurely mixed up with thinking, feeling and willing, and then maintained the Luciferic preponderance over the astral body. The astral body in consequence was able to gain an ascendancy on its part over the etheric body. And thus the whole balance in man was upset. It is just as though by the Luciferic influence a blow had been dealt at the astral body, and the astral body had passed it on and so gained an ascendancy over the etheric. But it can go no further that way. The etheric body does not hand on the blow. It is like hitting a rubber ball. You can push into the ball for a certain distance but then it comes back again. So we can speak of a preponderance of astral over etheric body, and then the story is reversed. For now it is the etheric body that rebounds and asserts a predominance over the astral, giving us a reverse predominance of what we had before. And then follows the predominance of physical body over the etheric body. These latter two strike in the opposite direction. Why do they strike back? It comes about because while here Lucifer is striking in, Ahriman, in the physical and etheric body, is striking back from the other side. Here in the middle, where you have on the one hand the ascendancy of etheric body over astral body and physical body over etheric body, and on the other hand the ascendancy of astral body over etheric body and I over astral body—here in the middle you have Lucifer and Ahriman in collision. Here they come up against one another. Thus, there is in man a centre point where Lucifer and Ahriman meet in their own true nature. And man can either swing in the direction of Lucifer and bore his astral body deeper than is right into his etheric body, or he can take hold of the impetus in the power of Ahriman and strike the etheric body too deep into the astral body. Such are the dynamic effects with which we have to deal.

Our next step will be to realise that everywhere in man's nature we actually have to do with the working of forces. Except for one instance, namely in the case of a preponderance of astral over etheric body, where we have to consider the taking of food and the elaboration of substances in digestion—nowhere but in this one instance have we come across a working of matter. This leads us to feel a necessity to investigate from an occult point of view the nature of what we call substance or matter; and with this question we will begin our considerations tomorrow.