[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib



Highlight Words

The Weaving and Living Activity of the Human Etheric Bodies

By Rudolf Steiner

GA 174a

From a lecture dated 20th March, 1916. (Stenographic notes unrevised by the lecturer.) All rights reserved. Lecture given in Munich. GA# 174a.

Copyright © 1940
This e.Text edition is provided through the wonderful work of:
The General Anthroposophical Society
Dornach, Switzerland
Book Cover Image

Search for related titles available for purchase at Amazon.com!


Thanks to an anonymous donation, this lecture has been made available.

THE WEAVING AND LIVING ACTIVITY OF THE HUMAN ETHERIC BODIES.

Lecture by R u d o l f   S t e i n e r

delivered at MUNICH on the 20th of March, 1916.
From stenographic notes unrevised by the lecturer.

For a gradual acquisition of that science which we designate as spiritual science, it is necessary that we should have the good will of filling out the thoughts and thought-connections which are indicated almost in the form of a plan with real ideas relating to those things which can at first only be given in a more general outline. We say that the human being consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, Ego, etc. This is quite correct, to begin with, for it is necessary that we should orient ourselves with the aid of encompassing schematic ideas. But if we wish to continue in the acquisition of spiritual science, we must penetrate more accurately into everything which has thus been given in a schematic form. We already possess quite a considerable number of lecture-cycles, which are read particularly within the more restricted circle connected with our Society; but these cycles of lectures still contain relatively little of what should be known to humanity in a near future, at least to a certain number of people! This would be most desirable. To begin with, we say: We designate as man’s physical body his external appearance, which can be perceived through the physical senses and which can be observed with the aid of that science that is linked up with the intellect, with experiments and observations. We know that the etheric body lies at the foundation of the physical body. Let us, first of all, cast our spiritual eye upon these two members of human nature.

Spiritual science as such, needs to say least of all (of course, this is at first only apparently the case) about the physical body, for the physical body is the only thing which the ordinary science, dealing with the physical world, is willing to contemplate with the aid of its methods. But although the physical body may at first seem to be what natural science considers, it to be, its true significance and its position within the universe can only be recognised if the higher members of the human organisation are also borne in mind.

You will undoubtedly recollect that man’s physical body, in the form in which it envelops him here upon the. earth, could only arise during the Earth-epoch, but it received its first foundation during the ancient Saturn-epoch. During the Sun, Moon and Earth epochs, it then underwent a constant transformation. It was gradually transformed under the influence of the processes which were taking place: it was transformed through the fact that the etheric body was incorporated with it. When the physical body passed on from the Saturn epoch to a new epoch, it had to change, for it became permeated with the etheric body. And it also had to change when it became permeated with the astral body upon the Moon. Not only has the astral body been added to the physical body, but the physical body has been transformed through the fact that the etheric body penetrated into it, as it were, during the Sun-epoch and the astral body during the. Moon-epoch, whereas the Ego is gradually developing in every direction here, upon the Earth; of course, it develops first of all within the astral body, then within the etheric body, but then also within the physical body.

If we now pass on from the human being to the cosmos, we only need to remember what is contained in our lecture-cycles. We must remember, in this case, that just as the first foundation of the physical body has been made possible through the outpouring, as we may call it, of the Spirits of the Will or the Thrones, so the transformation during the Sun-epoch became possible through the Spirits of Wisdom, and the transformation during, the Moon-epoch through the Spirits of Movement. The transformation during the Earth-epoch, that is to say, the change entailed through the fact that an Ego now dwells within the physical body, has been made possible through the Spirits of Form, This is a most significant fact, which we must bear in mind. When we encounter man’s physical body upon the Earth, we must think of it as being endowed with an Ego, and since it is endowed with an Ego, we must bear in mind that it has received a certain form, the form which is most appropriate to it. During the Moon epoch, it has merely received the inner movement which was most adapted to it. The form which was most suited to it, is a gift of the Spirits of Form, and is in keeping with the fact that an Ego had to be Implanted in it.

We may thus say: Our earthly body, which has a physical form, has been formed in such a way as to become a bearer of the Ego. Together with the Ego, the Spirits of Form gave the human physical body the form which it now has and which is in keeping with the fact that it is the bearer of an Ego. The beings that belong to the other kingdoms of Nature, have received their forms later. If you read the more intimate descriptions of the Moon-epoch, [See “THE AKASHA CHRONICLES” by Rudolf Steiner.] you will find that they describe all the other beings in such a manner that it is not possible to say that also these beings had their forms at that time. They are described with a certain mobility. Bear in mind, for instance, the description contained in my “Occult Science”.

Also the other kingdoms of Nature have received their stable forms through the Spirits of Form, during the Earth-epoch. Let us now contemplate the animal kingdom. Also the animal kingdom has its definite forms. It has acquired these forms only during the Earth. epoch. But think of the great difference between the forms of the animal kingdom and of the kingdom of man! If we cast our gaze over the surface of the earth, we may indeed find certain differences among men, but these differences belong to another field of study. We also come across certain differences in the external human form. All the interesting peoples which the West Europeans now lead into the field against Central Europe of course present a different aspect from the European populations! Differences can of course be perceived when we cast our gaze over the surface of the earth and study the form of various individual human beings. The colour of the skin must, for instance, be considered in connection with the bodily form. But if you compare the differentiations which exist in regard to the human being with the great differentiations which exist in regard to the various animal species, you will have to admit: The various species of animals differ far more from one another than the human beings. In comparison to the various animal species we can speak of an individual human species; in the human kingdom, however, we cannot find such a great difference as may be found, for instance, between a lion and a nightingale. If there would be such a great difference in the kingdom of man as that between a lion and a nightingale, we would not hear even such peculiar observations that it is not possible to notice the differences which exist among human beings. The fact to be borne in mind is that the animals show infinitely greater differences than the human being, within his own general human species.

Although the things which I have just now explained to you are undoubtedly right, they are only right within certain limits, if we consider them from the aspect of spiritual science. The following fact should be looked upon as a truth: In your thoughts and, in your observation, add the etheric body to man’s physical body and imagine that a certain experiment is to be made; in reality, of course, this experiment cannot be made. Imagine the following experiment and that you see it being enacted; imagine that the whole physical body of man can be separated from him, detached from him scientifically, piece by piece and that before we begin to detach the physical body from the human being we are in the position to invoke the Spirits of the higher hierarchies — to send an invocation to the Spirits of the Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai. We would have to utter this invocation in such a way that its request would be granted, namely, that the Spirits of the Angeloi, Archangeloi, and Archai might withdraw from the human being and cease; to influence his etheric body. We would, therefore — we cannot say, excoriate — but we would have to take away from the human being everything pertaining to his physical body and then we would have to ask the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai to withdraw their influences, so that man’s etheric body may be left entirely to its own resources, and may no longer be influenced by anything else. For the etheric body is subjected to certain influences; it is inserted in the physical body and the physical body has its own solid form, to which the etheric body must adapt itself. If you take a very soft piece of rubber and put it into a glass, it will adapt itself to the form of the glass and will no longer maintain its own form. But if you take it out of the glass, it will bound back into its own form. In a similar way, the etheric body must adapt itself to the physical body, without a form of its own. Consequently, if we draw away the physical body, we eliminate the forces to which the etheric body had to adapt itself; however, it would not immediately take on its own form, owing to the fact that the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai still work upon it, but we have asked them to withdraw, so that the etheric body can now obey its own forces to the fullest extent. In that case, the etheric body would take on its own elasticity. And this would be visible; we would see the etheric body jumping out. And what would occur? — You would have before you the whole animal kingdom! The etheric body would split up into portions, and these would show in their fundamental types the forms of the whole animal kingdom. In other words: etherically, the human being carries about within him the whole animal kingdom, which is simply held together by the form of his physical body and by the activity of the Beings of the above-named hierarchies. It is unquestionably true that the human being bears within him, as a disposition, the whole animal kingdom. From this standpoint, the animal kingdom differs from man only through the fact that every animal-species has assumed a form of its own, which it has developed independently into a physical shape. Consequently, the animal kingdom is the expanded etheric body of man,

A strange fact should be borne in mind. At the turn of the 18th and of the 19th century, something special arose within the world-conception of Europe, and we may observe this, for instance, more in detail in the case of Oken. From the standpoint of his time, the scientist Oken could not as yet speak of etheric bodies; indeed, he was far from doing so. But in his books we may find the following peculiar statement: “The animal kingdom is the human being, expanded.” This means that in his fantasy he had caught, a glimpse of the truth. It rose up on his spiritual horizon at a time when the great ideas of the Central European world-conception had developed. Indeed, this truth even rose up on Schelling’s horizon, and this same statement can also be found in Schelling’s books. Those who were unable to penetrate into such a lofty idea, which could not, of course, be developed fully, those who were unable to penetrate into such a great idea, went through a terrible time. We should think of Oken in such a way, that the things which he could not as yet grasp clearly, nevertheless lived within his soul as a marvellous conception, so that he could feel the single parts of the human being really consist of animal forms. He even had the courage to express this, but this courage very much annoyed the learned Philistines. Just think that Oken conceived the following idea: What is the tongue? — Well, he said that the tongue is a cuttlefish. Of course, the things which I have just explained to you lay at the foundation of this statement ... but just imagine what the learned Philistines thought about it! If we wish to grasp the development of man’s spiritual life we must become broad-minded and we must realise that things which may apparently sound like nonsense may bear within them a great truth. Oken subdivided the human being as follows: The tongue is a cuttlefish, other organs are something else. After all, it was merely the exact repetition of a truth which existed in a very ancient conception of man and which brought into evidence the fundamental types, subdividing the human being in accordance with the four fundamental animal types: Lion, eagle, angel and calf.

Thus we may say: Things are not as easy as they appear to be, for in reality, the human being bears within his etheric body the whole animal kingdom. As a philosopher might express himself, he bears it within him as a disposition.

Now you should bear in mind the following fact: If the things which I have just now described to you would not take place, if in addition to the fact that the physical body holds together the whole animal kingdom, the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai would not exercise their influence, then the process explained above would necessarily take place, when the human being lays aside the physical body and passes through the portal of death; namely, the etheric body would, in that case, jump out elastically into the world when the astral body and the Ego have abandoned it, and a whole etheric animal kingdom would rise out of the etheric body. But in reality, this does not take place; this animal kingdom does not rise out of the human being, for the etheric body detaches itself in an entirely different form; it detaches itself and becomes incorporated with the universal ether and interweaves with it. [Compare: “Inner Being of Man and Life Between Death and a New Birth”.]

What lies before us in that case? The fact that the Beings of the hierarchies of the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai work upon our etheric body and do not allow it to reach the point of splitting up into the animal kingdom. What does really take place? — You see, I would like to describe these things by drawing in a comparison. Here upon the earth we human beings work. We build machines, for instance, machines made of wood or of iron. Wood and iron are our fundamental materials. We use them to construct machines. The way in which these materials are put together is our own work, but wood and even iron are raw materials which we take from the earth. We take them from a kingdom which lies below our human kingdom.

If you now imagine that the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai live above us, you will also realise that these Beings do not exist in the universe simply in order to have a perpetual holiday. They have their work, tasks which they must fulfil. What do they really do? They, too, must use a material for their work, just as we use wood and iron which we take from the earth, and they, too, will work upon this material. Our etheric bodies are the material used by the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai. For the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai, our etheric bodies have the same value that the wood and iron which we take from the earth have for us, when we use them to build machines. The Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai work upon our etheric bodies, and when we walk about upon the earth and harbour, as it were, the thought (if we have such thought at all!) that we carry about within us our etheric body, believing that we carry it about as something that belongs to us in the same way in which the lungs that we carry about within us belong to us — then the whole essence of the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai is active around us and works out forms for the spiritual world, forms that are needed there, just as machines are needed here upon the earth. They work out what is needed in the spiritual world. What aids these spiritual beings in their work?

You see, throughout our life we think; we think, from the moment that we attain the capacity of thinking up to the moment of death. Our thinking consists therein that it weaves and lives in our etheric body. Yet, while we live within our physical body, we believe that only the things we mould in the shape of thoughts belong to us. But what we thus possess in the shape of thoughts, what we thus form and mould within our thoughts is, as it were, only the inner aspect of our whole thought-life. From outside, the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai work upon our thoughts, particularly in regard to our etheric body. As human beings, it is not at all unnecessary that we should think. Our thoughts are necessary not only for the physical earth, but also for the cosmos. For what we transform within our etheric body through our thinking, is employed during our earthly life as a material which is used in accordance with higher standpoints. While we pass through the world as thinking human beings, the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai work upon our thoughts, so that after our death something may arise that can be incorporated with the whole ether of the universe. When our astral body and our Ego lay aside our etheric body, they sew into the cosmos the wool of our etheric body, that has arisen essentially through our manner of thinking.

As human beings, we do not only live for ourselves; we also live for the whole universe. We know that Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan will follow our Earth. But all this must be prepared; it must be interwoven with the universe as forces. This entails work. It forms part of this work, for instance, that the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai carry it on in accordance with our thoughts. (Stupid thoughts are not the same kind of material as clever thoughts). Coarsely speaking, the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai work upon these etheric machines in accordance with the material that we supply to them, and these “machines” then exist, in order that the evolution of the universe may continue. When our etheric body is handed over to the cosmos after our death, this kind of work is therefore handed over at the same time to the Beings of the three, above-mentioned hierarchies.

Let us now contemplate from a similar standpoint man’s astral body. We always contemplate things from different standpoints, so that we always obtain other connections with the surrounding kingdoms, and those who cannot read (an encompassing view of things is needed in order to be able to read) may discover many contradictions in our descriptions, but this is only due to the fact that they ignore the standpoints from which these things are viewed.

You see, our astral body is connected with the earthly surroundings in a similar way as our etheric body. From the standpoint just indicated, our etheric body is the whole ANIMAL KINGDOM. Our astral body is, instead, the whole VEGETABLE KINGDOM. In exactly the same way in which I spoke to you of the etheric body in connection with the animal kingdom, I would now have to speak to you of the astral body in connection with the vegetable kingdom. All the vegetable forms of our earth are contained in the astral body. And again, we find that if nothing else were to occur, if the Beings of the higher Hierarchies would not work upon our astral body, if during the time between death and a new birth, when we live backwards through our life, nothing would occur except the fact that the astral body is discarded, then the astral body would appear as the whole vegetable kingdom outside in the world. Indeed, this would even take on the form of a sphere, it would follow its own elasticity. The astral body would really take on the form of a sphere; but it cannot do this because during our life between birth and death the Spirits of Form have been working upon our astral body, also the Spirits of Movement, the Spirits of Wisdom, and even the Spirits of the Will. When after years or decades we have lived backwards through our earthly life and have thus gradually freed the astral body from its connection with earthly existence, then the astral body will contain the results of a work, results that the Spirits of Form, the Spirits of Movement, the Spirits of Wisdom and the Spirits of the Will require in order to incorporate something with the cosmos, namely, to incorporate with it, what they MUST incorporate with it. Of course, what thus becomes incorporated with the cosmos is to our own profit; for this must be contained in the cosmos. However, this becomes inwoven with the cosmos in a manner that differs from the process described above.

When we discard our etheric body, this becomes inwoven, I might say, with the universal ether of the cosmos. But what appears now, as a woof woven out of our astral body as a result of the work of the Spirits of Form, the Spirits of Movement, the Spirits of Wisdom and of the Thrones, cooperates with our Ego that is passing through its time between death and a new birth and contains forces which must be active, in order that we may once more enter a new incarnation. Many things are needed in order that we may enter a new incarnation! Many things, indeed! To-day, the ordinary science of the physical world really knows quite a lot about the structure of the skull and of the human brain; such a lot, that many people find it is too much to learn all these things! It is undoubtedly a lot. But suppose that all the knowledge which is acquired through external science were to be considered from a particular standpoint ... from the standpoint that the _skull containing that wonderful structure of the brain has actually arisen, that it could really be formed in its minutest details, whereas if all this had to be formed with the aid of our ordinary external science, very little indeed could be achieved!

Here we face a significant mystery, a mystery that obtuse men (the sort of men whom we can really designate as obtuse) think to cope with so easily by saying: “Well, the human being simply arises! In the course of the generations, it so happened that human bodies develop spontaneously within the bodies of mothers. This is quite spontaneous.” Indeed, the arguments adopted by such people can be grasped ... but let me show you, with the aid of a comparison, how clever they really are!

For instance, you may take for granted that here in Munich there are certain Beings able to perceive many things, but unable to perceive man, and thus unable to see his activities. It is quite possible, to imagine this! But those Beings who cannot see man, nor his activities, may, for instance, be able to see — a clock. They would, therefore, know that there are clocks and also how they are made. They would not, however, see the man who makes the clock; they would only see how a clock arises from its single parts. They would perhaps see the different kinds of pincers taking hold of the clock’s parts, but they would see them gripping, as it were, out of the air. What a conception would these Beings have of a clock? They would not say: “In Munich there are clock-makers”, but they would say: “Clock-makers do not exist; the clocks arise spontaneously, of their own accord, for we can see how they form themselves.” This is the manner of thinking adopted by people who take for granted that things that gradually develop in a physical way must arise quite spontaneously! However, everything that arises is the result of actions fulfilled by spiritual Beings belonging to the higher Hierarchies. Indeed, the human being does not arise spontaneously, merely through the interchanging influence of father and mother and through what develops within the mother’s body, but the whole cosmos participates in his development.

Particularly the external world, as far as its highest regions, cooperates in the formation of the human head. It participates less in what is attached to the head, and participates in a particular way in the development of the human head. In a not too distant future, even ordinary science will learn to think differently in embryology concerning all the organs and also concerning the human head. It will discover that the other organs depend very strongly upon hereditary qualities, whereas the formation of the head depends upon them only very slightly. The form of the head is simply pushed together after the formation of the other organs. The whole cosmos participates in the forming of the head and the influences of the cosmos penetrate into the mother’s body. Those who do not see these forces ... well, also a farmer does not see the forces that are active in a magnet, but this does not prove the non-existence of these forces. What exists in the human head, has been worked out, as it were, in connection with all that the human being has received from the Spirits of Form, the Spirits of Movement and the Thrones, with what he bears along within his Ego, carrying it over into the time between death and a new birth, as a mighty spherical form. What is thus elaborated is gigantic; it is a sphere and within this sphere everything is worked out. [See Rudolf Steiner's “MACROCOSM AND MICROCOSM”. ]

Imagine a gigantic sphere, upon whose surface is engraved, as upon a globe, everything that must be worked into it in accordance with what the human being handed over, to begin with, to the universal cosmos through his etheric body, through the extract of his etheric body; this forms, as it were, something that is copied on to the surface of the sphere. We then work into it what should be engraved upon it in accordance with what we have brought along with us through the work done upon our astral body. And then comes the time — it begins with that moment designated by me as the world’s midnight hour — when the sphere gradually grows smaller and finally this sphere, upon which, the higher Spirits work, becomes quite small, it grows smaller and smaller, until it unites with the human germ conceived within the mother’s body. This, above all, gives rise to the form of the head. The gradual development of the form of the head is the result of centuries of work on the part of the higher Hierarchies.

Just imagine how man’s feelings in regard to his relationship with the world could be deepened if he would be aware of his position within the whole cosmic connections! The human being who carries his head upon his shoulders should learn to think in all humility, without any pride and arrogance, that human wisdom and all that may be found in it, contains very little indeed of what is required for the forming of the head bestowed upon the human being! Man bears within him everything that is contained in the cosmos. If we consider things from this standpoint, spiritual science acquires an immense value through, the fact that it becomes the point of departure for certain feelings, that may, indeed, endanger souls filled with pride and arrogance.

In my second Mystery Play I have alluded to this fact, in the scene where Capesius, conversing with Benedictus, feels the approach of truths telling him that the deeds of gods are needed in order to give rise to man. Truths of this kind may increase the vanity of many, who may at first be disposed to vanity. They may attribute enormous importance to themselves. Yet it would be far more reasonable to foster the feeling showing us how little of all that wisdom which gave rise to the human being really exists within our own consciousness! Of course, we may snare the opinion of those who say: “Of what use is it to know all these things? We can quite well do without this knowledge. Indeed, we can live quite comfortably without knowing, all these, things” ... Yet a great error is contained in the belief that we can quite well do without this knowledge! For, in reality, we cannot live without it. Indeed, at the present time we easily yield to the erroneous belief that we can lead quite a decent life without having a knowledge of the spiritual world; that is to say, that we can breakfast, etc., and do many things in between ... Undoubtedly, it is very easy to believe this at the present time; nevertheless, such a belief is not based upon truth. We should gradually be brought to the point of feeling that such beliefs are not based upon truth. For this reason, I mention a subject such as that of Planck. I mention Planck, that strange man, who lived for many years an extremely lonely life at Ulm and was not even offered a chair at the university of Tübingen, because nobody really understood his true value and significance; the significance of a man concerning whom obtuse persons would certainly say: “Towards the end of his life, he grew so nervous that he said all manner of things that sounded like megalomania.” Well, obtuse men may argue like that. But even someone who had not to endure the sufferings that Planck had to endure, would have grown nervous through the way in which his fellow men treated him, and he would also have uttered the words which may be found in Planck’s introduction to his “Philosophy of Nature and of Mankind”, the words of an ancient Roman: “Ungrateful country of mine! You shall not even have my bones!” I am quoting these words purposely; they were uttered in 1889, the year of Planck’s death, and they really convey exactly what we tried to explain just now.

The reality could be perceived by a man with idealistic conceptions, because the forces that develop within us when we are able to think in this manner, are, at the same time, the most practical thing in the world. The most practical thing is not at all as imagined by those who believe that they really are in touch with the most practical things in life; this can only be explained through the brutality with which they face life’s practical aspects. When I advance such examples, I only advance them in order to show you that all those human forces which are also needed in practical life, can give rise to clear thoughts filled with insight, only if the soul is fertilized by spiritual scientific truths.

Is it possible to-day that people actually believe that human life on earth is possible, without the slightest idea of spiritual scientific truths? Why do people believe such things? — Because they are so terribly short-sighted! If they were not so short-sighted, it would be possible to prove, even in an entirely external way, how mistaken are those who say: “Well, people simply believe that they need not concern themselves with a spiritual world. They are born without doing anything towards this, and they grow ...” Of course, some kind of education must be offered to man. Modern pedagogy is so extremely clever, that it sets up clever principles, reaching the gigantic heights of Forster’s pedagogy! And then we gradually become mature men, who concern themselves with the problem of what we should do, in order to give others something to eat and to drink.

Yet it was not always so within the human race. It is not so long ago that the present conditions arose, inducing men to believe that they can live upon the earth without possessing any spiritual knowledge. External proofs may be advanced, in support of this.

Let me advance one of these proofs. Probably, if we had time to spare (but here in Munich, people do not have much time), we might even come across a similar proof here in Munich. At the Museum of Art, in Hamburg we recently discovered a proof that may be advanced externally. It results from the following fact:

Let us bear in mind that great symbol at the beginning of the Old Testament: Adam and Eve’s Temptation, what is known to us as the Luciferic temptation. Let us think of this. When a modern painter paints this (his standpoint is quite an indifferent matter; it is all the same whether he is a realistic or an idealistic painter, an expressionist, impressionist, or futurist), he thinks that the reality can be conveyed best of all if he paints Adam and Eve in a more or less ugly way; between them, he will paint the Tree of Paradise and upon it the Serpent, with a real serpent’s head, as large as the Tree. Can this be termed realistic, in the true meaning of the word? I do not think so. Leaving aside the present assumption, it is impossible to believe that the archetypal mother Eve could have been so stupid as to be tempted by a real serpent. Imagine, a real serpent creeping through the green grass should have caught mother Eve! Even the present serpent can only be looked upon as a symbol of something else. Let us recall the thoughts that should really be connected with the Luciferic temptation. The serpent is Lucifer. It can only symbolize Lucifer. The fact that this being remained behind upon the Moon-stage of development, is connected with the Luciferic principle. It is therefore impossible to see Lucifer through physical eyes, for these have only developed upon the earth. Lucifer can only be perceived through the inner eye, and so he cannot resemble an earthly serpent that can be seen through our ordinary earthly eyes. Lucifer should be imagined as spiritual science is able to represent him. Imagine now that man carries upon him his head, as the most perfectly formed member of his body. Attached to it (it suffices if you study a skeleton) is the remaining organism; the spine is attached to the head. Everything that has, later on, developed physically, was formed in advance. If we go back into evolution, if we were to perceive Lucifer through our inner power of vision, we would see him in the form which he had upon the Moon, when he was preparing the earthly human head, a human head that was not so dense and solid as the present one, for it was inwardly mobile, manifold in its forms, and attached to it was a human spine, a spinal cord, that may be imagined in the form of a serpent’s body. Lucifer would, therefore, have to be painted with a countenance as expressive as possible, and attached to it, a serpent’s body, but one that resembles the archetypal human spine. This would be a kind of picture of Lucifer.

At the Museum in Hamburg there is a picture by Master Bertram representing a Story, of the Creation, and there the Paradise-symbol is represented in such a way that Lucifer is portrayed as described, exactly in accordance with spiritual science. In the 13th and 14th century, Master Bertram therefore painted Lucifer correctly, in a spiritual-scientific sense. This can be seen; it is a historical fact. We have frequently spoken of the ancient atavistic clairvoyance. What Master Bertram painted, shows that up to the 13th and 14th century it was possible to paint Lucifer correctly, in accordance with an ancient spiritual science. It can therefore be proved, it can be proved externally, that the human beings have become, so abandoned by the spirit as they are now, only a few centuries ago. This can be proved, and you will be able to discover such proofs.

In other words: What the obtuse people of to-day consider as the everlasting human nature ... the fact that they look out into the world through their eyes and then combine the things they see through their intellect, has become a human soul-quality only a few centuries ago. Before that time, man was aware of his connection with the spiritual world. This has faded. But we can learn to know that even in the 13th and 14th century people were still able to paint in such a way that this was in keeping with the ancient spiritual science. It is important to bear in mind such a fact. It shows us that the ancient spiritual science had to vanish for the sake of the development of human freedom, for in the 5th post-atlantean epoch arose something that has often been described: namely, the, consciousness-soul had to develop and consequently the old spiritual science had to recede. But it must be brought back again.

In regard to what constitutes the spirit of invention, the creative spirit, humanity still lives to-day upon the old inheritance in every sphere, upon the old inheritance that entered human evolution with the ancient spiritual science. When someone has a new idea to-day and invents something quite new, he does this because the ancient spiritual science still continues to be active. But in less than a hundred, in less than fifty years time, every kind of invention, every creative kind of thought shall have disappeared; it shall have disappeared even in the mechanical sphere, unless spiritual science influences humanity in a fruitful way. Spiritual science must begin to penetrate livingly into the development of the human race, for otherwise, the human race must grow barren.

In the sphere of art, this, fact is more or less evident to-day. In art it is strongly evident that the human beings are, as it were, abandoned by the spirit, seeing that they can only weave into their works of art what they find as a model, outside, in Nature; thus the inner fertilization on the part of the spirit is completely lacking.

These facts stand on one side. They show us how necessary it is for the human being to become aware of the fact that he is connected, as a whole human being, with Beings belonging to the higher kingdoms. We may think of people — some still exist to-day — who do not know that air exists. For them, space is empty. At least this fact does not reach their consciousness. After all, the physical body cannot be thought of without the environing air — for what would we be with our physical body without any air! We imagine that the physical body is closed up, because it is enveloped in its skin, — but here is the air outside the body: we breathe it in, and now it is inside us; we breathe it out, and then it is outside. Does not the air belong to the physical body in the same way as the muscles? Do you not have within you what is outside, and outside what is within? In the same way in which we are connected with the air in regard to our physical body, so we are connected, in regard to our soul-element, with the Beings that weave through the world as Spirits of Form, Spirits of Movement and Thrones; through our astral body we are united with the Beings who weave through the world as spiritual Hierarchies; they are incessantly active in us, just as the air is active within our physical body. If we know this, we have the right kind of consciousness of man’s being.

This is one aspect of the matter. But then there is still another aspect. Now I wish to awaken in you a conception of these things, by contemplating them from several aspects, as it is necessary to-day.

Read, for instance, (I might also indicate another example) Dostojevski’s “Karamasov Brothers”. Four characters appear, among others, in this book: the four sons of the old Karamasov, Ivan, Dmitri, Aljosha, Smerdiakov. It is very strange to see what an influence this novel of Dostojevski had, particularly in Europe. I would have to say many things if I wished to explain the whole way in which such things rise out of human life and pass through a soul such as that of Dostojevski where they develop into a work such as his “Brothers Karamasov”. Let me only say this: In spite of the greatest admiration which we may have for the penetrating psychological art (this is the name given to it by many modern people, because they know so little what psychology really is!), in spite of the penetrating insight of Dostojevski’s psychological art, also in spite of his fine and penetrating observation of life, those who have really reached the point of taking up spiritual-scientific conceptions not only in such a way as to say, man consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body and Ego, but so that they are filled with what may be experienced in connection with these members of human nature — those who strive to build up feelings in the way in which we endeavour to do it, will have an uncomfortable feeling when they read the frequently chaotic descriptions of the Karamasov brothers. For this book contains many things that may indeed be designated as fine observations of life, if we simply bear in mind an external, superficial observation of life ... for instance the fact that the eldest brother is the son of another mother and has an entirely different character than that of his two younger brothers; the fourth son is again the offspring of another mother (the old Karamasov is namely a thorough scoundrel!), whereas the third son has a most peculiar mother. One does not know if he is really the son of the old Karamasov ... But I do not intend to tell you the story of the book. Indeed, if we also bear in mind the aspect, who were the mothers, we may feel throughout: there is something behind all that! In fact, this is so, for a Central-European writer would not describe things in that way; he would describe things far more consciously and thus he would not bring into his description so many sub-conscious factors; as is the case with Dostojevski, he constructs more, and since he only brings into his book what he more or less knows, his book will not contain such a wealth of things as that of Dostojevski, who takes the things he writes from LIFE.

Life contains more than that which rises up in the consciousness of the human soul. Towards all these things we feel that in the case of Dostojevski we have before us an extremely chaotic mind, rendered chaotic through his epilepsy; but, in spite of this, many things passed through his entirely diseased soul, things which could pass through it, because human nature is, in our time, inclined, as it were, to reveal certain Things. We may then come to the following result: If we have acquired the right kind of feeling, the right kind of idea in regard to what is meant by physical body, etheric body, astral body and Ego, we shall find in the four Karamasov brothers four human beings who can only be understood in the right way if we say to ourselves: In one of them, we have before us a human being in whom the physical body is specially active; in the other one, a human being in whom the etheric body is particularly active; in the third one, a human being in whom the astral body is more active; and in the fourth one, a human being in whom the Ego is more active. It is indeed so: If you take the Karamasov brothers and study them from an inner aspect, you will be able to say that, in accordance with. the present cycle of human evolution, and in a case where everything is active in such a way that the poet is influenced and stimulated to describe things more from out his sub-consciousness, the various members of human nature are active so that in one brother one particular member has the upper hand, and in another one, another member; the four brothers therefore appear like the drawn-out image of humanity. In Dmitri we find that the Ego is preponderant; in Aljosha, the astral body; in Ivan, the etheric body; and in Smerdiakov, the physical body. Though at first this may seem strange, it is nevertheless so, from the standpoint of reality.

You see, here we have the strange case of a poet who produces chiefly from out his sub-conscious depths and even has a chaotic soul life owing to his epilepsy, but who is nevertheless pushed towards the reality and whose astral body, that is to say, his sub-consciousness, becomes connected with what weaves and lives in the world.

We may well believe that the experience of standing beneath the gallows and. being unexpectedly pardoned at the last minute (Dostojevski’s comrades have already been hung, while Dostojevski himself is facing the moment of being hung), is not an indifferent experience; indeed, such an experience awakens in a human soul altogether different feelings than those of a soul that has never passed through a similar experience. This is a fact that should be borne in mind. But all this shows us that at the present time, in particular, a soul of Dostojevski’s kind could be influenced by the real facts in such a manner that his soul felt induced to describe throughout his book, in a chaotic way, these four brothers, who possess the qualities just described, whom we can only understand if we know this and if we are able to feel it. In that case, we shall understand why the brother in whom the etheric body predominates and the one in whom the astral body predominates, must be the sons of a mother afflicted with hysterical fits. If we know this, the details in particular become wonderfully transparent. This reveals the tendency of our time within the sphere of a nation inclined to offer (I have already explained this to you), as it were, those blood qualities which must become united with the Central European qualities. We can grasp what is taking place, also in the case of men in whom these events are still inwoven unconsciously; but we can grasp this only if we understand spiritual science.

Even though it may seem stupid, let me nevertheless say that the world is deep, and that it is not such a simple matter to gain some knowledge in regard to it, nor to judge it; it is not so simple a matter as imagined by those who lead the usual kind of life. The human beings pass through life in a dream or in a state of intoxication. Yet great things are preparing and it is not so easy to attract people’s, attention to these things.

Through your Karma you belong to those who are gradually penetrating into these things; you have been listening to them for many years and have thus gradually become familiar with them, acquiring an idea of all that lies concealed beneath the surface of life. But in regard to outsiders: — we may sometimes allude to such things in their presence and the very people may be sitting there, who belong to the clever set and believe, above all, that the person who speaks in a spiritual-Scientific manner and mentions this or that thing to them, does not really know anything beyond what he is saying. They have not the slightest idea that this knowledge must be drawn out of an all-encompassing knowledge, one that can really be proved in every detail and that becomes interesting just when it can be substantiated through details.

That many things in human evolution must change, can be seen therein that I have put before you two facts: I have shown you, on the one hand, what is connected with the human being, but on the other hand, I have also shown you the way in which we should contemplate the events that are now taking place. If someone who knows nothing of microscopy looks through a microscope, he will see nothing whatever. In a similar way, nothing whatever can be discerned when we contemplate human experience. Nothing whatever can be discerned in the experiences of the East during the 19th century; nothing can be seen in a Dostojevski, who wrote the book, “The Brothers Karamasov”, a book that indicates a sub-earthly element. In the East, in the Russian East, people have become aware of this, for a certain attitude towards life has been designated, as “Karamasovshchina”. It is difficult to explain this word; it is a far more qualitative concept than, for instance, the word “Strizitum” (a word in Austrian dialect, indicating a loose, half rascally, half good-fellow attitude towards life). “Karamasovshchina” is a far more concrete thing. We may come across this in life itself and even in art, and in order to perceive what is taking place, it is easy to realise that when we contemplate things, it is necessary to have in our soul’s background a knowledge that can only come from spiritual science.

Even the external processes rising up before us at the present time in particular, reveal this necessity; if we only look upon life thoughtfully, they reveal the necessity to which I allude and which I illuminated from two aspects. For instance, a very distressing phenomenon of the present is the following one: — General opinions existed long before the war. Certain people were considered to be prominent in this or in that sphere. There was no reason to object to this because they really achieved extraordinary things in the meaning of modern civilisation. Then war broke out. These prominent people expressed their views, they wrote letters. It is almost incredible what nonsense these prominent men wrote! For instance, Krapotkin, who enjoyed a great reputation in England. But read the letters written by him at the beginning of the war! He was looked upon as a broad-minded free-thinker, yet how stupid were the letters he wrote!

These are weighty facts. Indeed, I might say: Particularly now that humanity is facing such a sudden and powerful situation, we can see how little their thoughts are capable of grasping something that does not, for once, break in upon mankind in accordance with an ordinary, easy programme. From their own standpoint, the ordinary Philistines are better off than others, for they judge things in accordance with their views. But how do these views generally arise? At the present time, people despise authority and have their own views! Yet their opinions are merely based upon the fact that they have forgotten where they have read them! These are the “individual opinions”, that are simply characterised through the fact that they have been read or heard somewhere. All these things show that particularly the so deeply incisive events of the present contain something that must become a distinctive mark of humanity: namely, the fact that many, many things in spiritual life must change completely; human beings must make up their mind not to pass through life in the same way as the materialists, who merely dream of the world ... Of course, they think that the others are dreaming, nevertheless it is THEY who really dream, for they have never really woken up properly. Spiritual life must indeed change, and this fact must penetrate into the consciousness of those who wish to become united in their heart with the true life-essence of the spiritual-scientific world-conception.

Earnest words had to be said at this meeting, simply because to-day things present such an aspect that every opportunity must be used which may, perhaps, not always be available. It is difficult to travel about, at present.

It is therefore necessary to discuss these earnest things. They are also connected with questions discussed on previous occasions, questions that may be considered in connection with those of to-day. I explained that our etheric body is not something that may be designated as the bearer of our thoughts; it does not simply evaporate: no, the etheric body does not evaporate ... it becomes inwoven with the world-ether. When, however, as is the case at present, hundreds and thousands of deaths prevent human beings from carrying their etheric bodies through several decades, as would be the case normally, when these etheric bodies are handed over to the spiritual world, then something arises which I have frequently described: They remain here, with that part of the etheric body which may still have been used, and this will be found ABOVE. But its INFLUENCE in the future will depend upon the constitution of the souls BELOW. Strength for a spiritual progress will in future be found by those souls below who say to themselves: Many men have passed through the sacrifice of death and if we grow conscious of the forces contained in what they leave behind, then a spiritual growth will be possible. Souls must be there who are open to the comprehension of the spiritual world. In that case, the forces existing through the death-sacrifices can become fruitful for the earth. Otherwise, they must fall a prey to Ahriman. It need not NECESSARILY arise that these forces become fruitful for the earth ... for this will depend either upon the greatest possible number of souls that are inclined to unite in their feelings with what has arisen spiritually through the death-sacrifices; it will depend upon the possibility of utilising this later on, or else it will depend upon whether this will fall a prey to Ahriman. Meditate this thought, for then it will acquire significance and you will be able to feel the words with which I once more wish to conclude my lecture:


Aus dem Mut der Kämpfer,
Aus dem Blut der Schlachten,
Aus dem Leid Verlassener,
Aus des Volkes Opfertaten:
Wird erwachsen Geistesfrucht,
Lenken Seelen geistbewusst
Ihren Sinn ins Geisterreich.

(TRANSLATION)

From the courage of the fighters,
From the blood of the battles,
From the suffering of the abandoned,
From the nation's deeds of sacrifice,
Shall spring forth a Spirit-fruit,
If souls, in spirit-consciousness,
Lead their heart and mind into the Spirit-realm.



Last Modified: 16-Oct-2017
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com
[Spacing]