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Man and Nature

Man and Nature: Intellect in Man and Nature Bereft of the Gods

Schmidt Number: S-4169

On-line since: 8th May, 2013

Man and Nature

Rudolf Steiner Archive Document

Lectures Section

This lecture was given by Rudolf Steiner in July of 1920 at Dornach, Switzerland. It is lecture number 17 of 17 from the lecture series entitled, Healing of the Social Organism, published in German as, Heilfaktoren Fuer den Sozialen Organismus. This lecture is also known as, Man's Inner Being and the Earth's Future.

By Rudolf Steiner

Translatod by Rick Mansell
Bn/GA 198

This lecture was given by Rudolf Steiner in July of 1920 at Dornach, Switzerland. It is lecture number 17 of 17 from the lecture series entitled, Healing of the Social Organism, published in German as, Heilfaktoren Fuer den Sozialen Organismus. This lecture is also known as, Man's Inner Being and the Earth's Future.

It is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwalting, Dornach, Switzerland. From Bn/GA 198.

This e.Text edition is provided through the wonderful work of:
Various e.Text Transcribers

Thanks to a donation by the Los Angeles Rudolf Steiner Library, this Lecture has been made available.

Man and Nature

Intellect in Man and Nature Bereft of the Gods

Dornach, July 18th, 1920

In the lecture yesterday which dealt with Spengler's Decline of the West, I tried to bring home to you the significance of anthroposophical Spiritual Science by emphasising the difference between merely abstract concepts and that which also arises in the soul in the form of ideas and concepts but is, nevertheless, reality. Let us realise once for all that with his materialistic frame of mind, and his tendency to reject spiritual conceptions and occupy himself only with ideas concerning the natural world, man is making himself more and more akin to the material, is descending so deeply into the material world that he is no longer speaking falsely when he declares that it is the material substance of his body which thinks, that his brain actually does the thinking. Man is becoming a kind of automaton in the universe, and as the result of his denial of the soul and Spirit he is losing the soul and Spirit. I said before that this thought is by no means popular; people will not accept it because they cherish the belief that the soul-and-spirit will be saved to man for all eternity without any action being necessary an his part. By no means is it so. A man may give himself up to material life to such an extent that he severs himself from the soul-and-spirit altogether, sinks into the realm of the Ahrimanic Powers and passes with them into a cosmic stream which does not belong to our world. But thereby he loses his own Ego, for the Ego does not belong to the world of Ahriman and can only find its true path of development when a human being pursues the normal course of progressive evolution; that is to say, when he unites with the impulse of the Mystery of Golgotha and when he realises that in the pr sent age he must find a link with all that spiritual research can contribute to the civilised life of mankind. Since the middle of the fifteenth century man has been living through the phase of evolution in which, as he looks out into his environment, he sees nothing but the material world. And as he looks into his own being he intellectualizes the inner experiences of his life of soul; these become abstract and shadowy. This has been the tendency since the middle of the fifteenth century.

The thoughts and concepts with which we build up our picture of the world to-day, drawn as they are from the dicta of orthodox science, have no connection with existence as it actually is. Neither can they lead to the heart of reality. It is merely a convention to imagine that man's life of soul is fundamentally involved in the forming of abstract thought. These abstract thoughts are quite remote from reality; they are nothing but a series of pictures. We may say, therefore, that externally man perceives the material world and inwardly a world of pictures having no essential connection with existence. This has been the lot of mankind since the middle of the fifteenth century and we shall presently see what effect it has upon a conception of the universe to see, externally, nothing but the material world and, inwardly, to have experiences that have become a mere series of pictures. We may ask: Why is it that since the middle of the fifteenth century man's life of soul has gradually come to the point of having no more reality than a picture? The reason is that only in this way is it possible for man to attain his real freedom.

In order to understand this let us consider the world as it lies before us to-day and our own place in the world. To begin with we will think of the world, leaving aside the human being altogether. Locking at clouds, mountains, rivers, at the minerals, plants and animals, we ask: What is there, in reality, in the whole wide world, when we leave the human being out of the picture? In other words, we think of all that surrounds us in the mineral and plant kingdoms, and to a certain extent also, in the animal kingdom, but apart altogether from man. In reality, of course, this is quite impossible, but we will assume hypothetically a Nature divested of the human being. In this Nature that is divested of the human being, there are no Gods. That is what we must bring home to ourselves. In this Nature that is divested of the human being there are no Gods, any more than an oyster is there within an empty oyster-shell or a snail in an empty snail-shell. This whole world which we assume hypothetically, a world without the human being, is something which the Gods have separated off from themselves in the course of evolution, just as the oyster sheds its shell. But the Gods — the spiritual Beings — are no longer within it. The world that surrounds us, is a world of the Past. When we look at Nature we are looking at something which represents the spiritual Past, we are looking at a residue of the Spiritual. And that is why religious consciousness in the real sense can never arise from contemplation of the external world alone. Let us not imagine for a moment that any element of the life of the divine-spiritual Beings who work creatively in mankind, is contained in this external world. Elementary beings, spiritual beings of a lower order, are there, of course; but the creative spiritual Beings who should live in our religious consciousness belong to this external world only inasmuch as represents their shell, being a residue of spiritual evolution in the Past.

Certain outstanding personalities have felt the truth of these things. In the spiritual life of the nineteenth century the man who felt most deeply of all that the Nature surrounding man is a residue of divine-spiritual evolution was Philip Mainländer whose philosophy of self-destruction was born from the gravity of this knowledge and who finally put an end to his own life. It is often the destiny of human beings to steep themselves in one-sided truths of this kind and the inevitable consequence is that this destiny itself becomes one-sided and difficult to bear. Philip Mainländer, the unfortunate German Philosopher, is an outstanding example of this.

Having realised what has been put forward hypothetically in connection with external Nature, you may ask: Where then, are the Gods; where are the creative spiritual Beings? If I were to make a drawing, It should have to draw the Gods within the human being. The truly creative Gods have their habitat in the realm that is bounded by the human skin, within the organs — if I may use this expression. The being of man is now the bearer of the Divine-Spiritual. The Divine-Spiritual, the truly creative principles is within the human being. Try to picture to ourselves external Nature as it is to-day, and then a future lying thousands of years ahead — in this future there will be no clouds, no minerals, no plants, even no animals. There will be nothing left of all that now lives in external Nature outside the bounds of the human skin. What will continue its evolution is the soul and Spirit permeating the inner organisation of man. This will constitute the future. The Nature by which man is now surrounded will pass away, and the Human-Divine principle now within his being will become his outer environment.

Insight into the truth that the Divine-Spiritual — the only truly creative principle in our time — lives inside the bounds of the human skin, must be taken in deepest seriousness, for it lays upon man a responsibility in regard to the whole universe. It enables him to understand the words of Christ: “Heaven and Earth” — the world of external Nature — “will pass away but my words will not pass away.” And when in the individual human being the saying of St. Paul, “Not I but Christ in me,” is fulfilled, then the words of Christ will live in the individual human being. “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” or My words in the individual human being, namely all that lies inside the human skin and is received into Christ, this will not pass away.

All this is an indication of the fact that since the middle of the fifteenth century, through his abstract, intellectual concepts, man has been making his inner being empty and void. And to what end has he been making himself empty? It is in order to receive the Christ Impulse, the Divine Spiritual, into his inner being. I said that as we look into the external world, we see only the material. It is the divine Past. (In this residue of a divine Past there are, of course, the Elemental Spirits who have remained at lower stages of evolution.) As we look into our inner being, we see, to begin with, nothing but abstract concepts which can only become concrete and real when we receive the impulse of the Spirit into our being through Spiritual Science and unite the impulse of the Spirit with our inner life. Man has the choice — a choice which has become a matter of greater and greater seriousness since the middle of the fifteenth century — either to remain at a standstill with his abstract intellectual concepts or to receive into himself the living substance of Spiritual Science. Abstract intellectuality enables him to evolve a brilliant science of Nature, for intellectual concepts are dead and by their means he can unfold an admirable understanding of dead Nature. But all this mummifies him, makes him akin to matter, and leads him ultimately into the clutches of the Ahrimanic world. To further the Progress of earthly existence and the whole evolution of the earth, he must receive the Spiritual into his being, and in our time the Spiritual does not draw near to man by way of atavistic instinct. It must be reached by his own efforts. The assimilation of Spiritual Science is not, therefore, the assimilation of a theory but the development of something absolutely real, an impulse that will fill the otherwise empty recesses of the soul with spiritual substance.

In the mass to-day, men prefer to have this emptiness inwardly and the Past outwardly manifest before them. They will only admit the validity of thought when it has been proved by experiment and they resist the quickening impulses of spiritual life. The danger confronting the world to-day is not so much the spread of false theories but the loss of the very Mission of the Earth.

Only those who have really thought through and perceived the task of the human race will realise how much depends upon the assimilation of Spiritual Science. These souls will never lose sight of the importance of knowledge of the being of man, but in modern natural science and in the ancient religious tradition this knowledge simply does not exist. What is the trend of ancient religious tradition? It directs the minds of men to unworldly abstractions and is silent an the subject of the Gods indwelling the being of man, indwelling his very organism. This thought would he condemned by religious tradition as out-and out heresy. If any attempt were made to bring home to the traditional religions in Europe and America to-day the truth of the ancient saying that “the Body of man is the Temple of the Gods,” they would indignantly refuse to countenance such heresy.

And an the other hand we have a materialistic natural science which precisely because it is materialistic has no real understanding of matter. What does science really know about the functioning of the human brain, of the human heart? I have often told you, and I have also said in public, that one of the views held by modern science is that the human heart is a kind of pump which drives the blood through the body. This dictum of academic science is universally accepted but it is simply a piece of nonsense — pure nonsense. We shall never understand the essential nature of the heart we imagine that it pumps the blood in every direction and then lets it flow back again. The circulating blood itself is the living force. The driving force in the human organisation is contained in the blood, in the circulating blood, and the heart is the outward expression of this; the movement reveals itself in the heart. To say in accordance with modern science that the heart drives the blood into the Body, is rather like saying: “At ten minutes to nine one hand of the clock pointed to nine, and the other a little past ten, and these hands, in conjunction with the mechanism of the clock, drove me to the speaker's desk and left a great many still outside (because in the Anthroposophical Society people have a habit of unpunctuality). In reality, it is not so at all. Obviously the clock is simply an expression of what is happening — it is the expression and nothing more. The heart is not the pumping machine by means of which the blood is driven through the body; the heart is inserted into and is the expression of this whole system of movement.

Natural Science, as it is to-day, never leads into the inner being of man. All that science does is to make the inner into the outer by the dissection of dead bodies. But dissection of the dead body merely takes the inner and transfers it to the outer world. I mention this in order to bring home to you that in the spiritual life of to-day there is no inclination whatever to penetrate into the inner being and inner nature of man, and it devolves upon Spiritual Science to bring that real knowledge of man's being which scares the great majority of our contemporaries. Why are they scared? It is because religious traditions through the centuries have utterly hood-winked mankind so far as striving for real knowledge is concerned. Just think of the way in which the traditional creeds mystify human beings with apocryphal utterances culminating in a warning that it is not meet for man to know the Supersensible, that he may only have faith in it and feel its existence darkly. This is all done with the object of playing upon man's pride and self-conceit and also upon his inherent laziness. He must be led to believe that it is not necessary for him to think about the Divine, that his conception of the Divine must be a matter of instinct and dim feeling. But ideas that arise from this region of man's being are merely emanations from the organs — emanations which become illusions, and these illusions are distorted into all kinds of nebulous ideas by theologians and others who know quite well how much they can count an man's inherent love of ease.

The instinct for knowledge which alone can promote the earthly evolution of man and also lead him to the path of spiritual development, has been stifled and suppressed for many long centuries. People to-day are frightened at the very thought of developing knowledgE of realities or of experiencing the spiritual world. But to the extent to which they are frightened — to that extent do they sever themselves from the Spirit and soul and make themselves akin to the material.

It is so indeed; people are scared when the gravity of these things dawns upon them, because everything to-day is regarded from the external point of view. And here, in parenthesis, let me repeat certain remarks made a short time ago. In Stuttgart we have the Waldorf School. The Waldorf School was founded out of the very spirit of anthroposophical Spiritual Science; that is to say, fundamental principles of education and of teaching were laid before those who were specially Chosen to work in the School. Everything is a question of the Spirit in this art of education. Yet we are finding to-day, a sensation, that people visit the school and actually think that in a couple of hours or so they can inform themselves about the essentials of education there given. But it is of course only through Spiritual Science that one can gain insight into the spirit of the Waldorf School; it cannot be done by short brief visits which only disturb the teaching.

To assimilate anthroposophical Spiritual Science, however, is much more difficult and much less sensational than visiting the School as an outsider. As I have often said, the education at the Waldorf School takes account of the existence of the spiritual world, and, above all, of the pre-earthly existence of the human being. What is there to be said about this pre-earthly existence? We may take the year of our birth and say that this is the time when we descended to physical life on the Earth. Children born later have been living in the spiritual world while we were already on the Earth. These children have just descended to the physical world, whereas we ourselves have been living through our earthly existence for a considerable length of time. And they bring with them something of what they were experiencing in the spiritual world while we were already living in the physical world.

One can realise this quite clearly among children who are taught according to the principles of Waldorf School education. To give this kind of education is to prepare for the application in everyday life of thoughts and ideas which are the natural outcome of Spiritual Science. But it is precisely here that people are kept back by traditional religions, for the last thing these religions want is the development of inner activity in human beings. Inner activity leads to a real knowledge of the being of man and brings home the truth that the dwelling place of the Gods is inside the bounds of the human skin.

Suppose we see a planet in the sky. There is nothing of the Divine-Spiritual in anything upon that planet except in Spiritual Beings whose nature in some way resembles the nature of man. From these Beings the Divine pours its radiance upon us. Why, then, should this radiance be any the less because it shines from the bodies of men? You will begin to feel at home with this thought if you dissociate it from earthly life and relate it to conditions as they are upon another planet. Living an the Earth as you do, you will find that there is something oppressive, something rather coercive in the thought that you and your fellow men are bearers of the Divine-Spiritual. But if you turn the gaze of your soul to one of the other planets it will be much easier for you to grasp the fact that the Beings who there constitute the highest kingdom of Nature are the point from which the Divine Spiritual shines down upon you.

In a certain respect the thought we have been considering to-day amplifies the thought which occupied our minds in the last lecture, namely that something is unfolding in the inner being of man upon which the future evolution of the Earth essentially depends, but also that it lies within the powers of the human will to hinder the Earth's evolution, to receive the stream of Ahrimanic forces only. And to-day we added the other thought, namely, that Nature around is transient and external, for it already represents nothing more than a residue of Divine Spiritual creation. The process of Divine-Spiritual creation which dominates the present and will dominate the future, lies inside the bounds of the human skin. Strange as it may seem, it is therefore quite true to say that everything our eyes can see and our ears hear will all pass away with the Earth. Only that which is contained in the regions enclosed by the human skin lives over to the Jupiter stage of evolution, bearing existence as it is an the Earth into future conditions of planetary evolution.

When it is once realised that a knowledge of the nature of man is a burning necessity, the urge to understand the connection of the human being with the universe will again make itself felt. You know that man really lives between two extremes, the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic as we are accustomed to call them. We can also understand the nature of these two extremes from a more elementary point of view. Philosophers have declared again and again that Being in itself eludes the grasp of thought. This is quite true, for whence comes the sense of being, the feeling of existence which there is in man? The human being exists before he enters earthly existence through conception and birth; he exists in super-sensible worlds. From super-sensible worlds he descends into his earthly, material existence. Here he experiences something quite new, something he did not experience in the super-sensible worlds. He is encompassed by it as soon as he has descended to earthly existence. It is the attractive force of the Earth, gravity, ‘to have weight,’ as we say, but only by way of illustration. As you know, the expression ‘to have weight’ is drawn from the most palpable phenomenon of all. The fatigue of which we become aware is similar to ‘having weight,’ and what we feel in our limbs when they move is also akin to this. But because the fact of ‘having weight’ is merely the representative phenomenon, we can say: The human being places himself within gravity. And in a hidden way man always enters, a little more into this element of gravity when he approaches a thing of Earth and calls it real.

It is exactly the reverse when the human being is passing through his life between death and rebirth. Just as here on the Earth he is allied with gravity, in the life between death and rebirth he is allied with light, for ‘light’ too is used in a representative sense. Because we receive most of our higher sense-perceptions through the eye, we speak of the light. But what lives as light in the sense-perception of the eye is the same element that sounds in the sense-perception of the ear and reveals itself in different tones, just as the light reveals itself in different colours. And it is the same with the other senses. fundamentally speaking, the element we speak of in a representative sense as the light, just as we speak of gravity in a representative sense, is the ‘tincture’ of all the senses. We are received into the extreme pole of gravity when we descend to the Earth. We are received into the extreme pole of light when we are living in the spiritual world between death and a new birth. are, in reality, always in the middle condition between light and gravity; and every sense-perception, as we experience it here on Earth, is half light and half gravity. When, as the result of some pathological condition, or in dream, we experience without the element of our own gravity, we are experiencing only the Spiritual, as for instance in a dream or in delirium. Psychologically, delirium is a state in which the human being has experience:, but his own gravity is no factor in them. This state of balance between gravity and light into which we are placed, is something that is intimately connected with the riddle of the world, inasmuch as it is bound up with many of the experiences we have as beings of soul and Spirit in the world.

It will surely be obvious to you from what has been said that neither the traditional creeds nor the fantasies of natural science succeed in finding their way from merely abstract concepts into the light nor from sense perception down into gravity. People have become blind and deaf to these things. Man is bound to the Earth by gravity. He experiences gravity as the element which draws him to the Earth. Think of a crystal. A crystal gives itself its form. Within the crystal there is the same force which the human being feels drawing him downwards — the force which gives the whole Earth form. And now think of the oceans and seas. Here the Earth can give form, or rather the element of gravity gives the form. This very same force also gives the crystal its form but in this case it works from within. According to science, nobody knows what is behind matter or within matter. This is said to be a world-riddle. But inasmuch as we experience our own gravity, we experience what is behind the surface of matter; for in relation to the whole Earth we are placed within the same forces which are active in small bodies (as, for instance, the crystal) and by which the various parts are held together. We must reach the point of being able to recognise the small in the great, the great in the small and not to lose ourselves in speculation as to what presumably lies behind matter.

Knowledge of the Divine-Spiritual which transcends matter must be kindled by those forces in man's inner being which enable him to understand ideas such as that of the Temple represented in ancient tradition by the human being himself.

I have said many times that the sayings of ancient atavistic wisdom contain much that is worthy of deep veneration. In the present age it is our task once again to raise these truths from the depths of our being and to make then the guiding principles of life and action.

Last Modified: 03-Jul-2017
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