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The Inner Nature of Music and the Experience of Tone

Inner Nature of Music: Lecture VII


Recently, I have called attention repeatedly to the fact that, just as one can give a biographical description of man's waking life, so one could offer one of the time spent during sleep. Everything the human being experiences during his waking hours is experienced through his physical and etheric bodies. By virtue of the appropriately developed sense organs in the physical and etheric bodies he is conscious of this world, which, as his environment, is related to the physical and etheric bodies; it is at one with them, so to speak. Since man at his present level of evolution has not similarly developed soul-spiritual organs in his astral body and “I” that would serve as super-sensible sense organs — to coin a paradoxical expression — he cannot bring his consciousness into what he experiences between falling asleep and awakening. Only spiritual vision, therefore, could survey that which would be contained in the biography of this “I” and astral body, which runs parallel to the biography that we come to with the help of the physical and the etheric bodies.

If one speaks of man's waking experiences, they necessarily include what, together with him and caused by him, takes place in his physical-etheric environment. One therefore must speak of a physical-etheric environment or world in which man exists during this waking life. Likewise, man is in another world during sleep; this world, however, is totally different from the physical-etheric world. Just as the physical world is our environment when we are awake, so super-sensible vision is in a position to speak of a world that surrounds us similarly when we sleep. In this lecture we shall bring before our souls some of the aspects that can illuminate that world. The basic elements for it are described in my book, An Outline Of Occult Science. [Rudolf Steiner, An Outline Of Occult Science, Anthroposophic Press, Spring Valley, N.Y., 1972.] There you will find described in a certain way, though in a sketchy form, how the realms of the physical-etheric world — the mineral, plant, animal, and human realms — continue upward into the realms of the higher hierarchies. We shall now take a closer look at this.

When in the waking state, we turn our eyes or other sense organs in the direction of our physical-etheric environment, we perceive the three, or four, realms of nature, namely, the mineral, plant, animal, and human realms. Ascending to those regions that are accessible only to super-sensible consciousness, we find a continuation, as it were, of these realms: the realms of the Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai, Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes, and so forth (see following diagram.)

We therefore have two worlds interpenetrating one another, the physical-etheric world and the super-sensible world. We already know that during sleep we are indeed in this super-sensible world and have experiences there, despite the fact that, due to the absence of soul-spiritual organs, these experiences do not reach ordinary consciousness.

To arrive at a more specific comprehension of what the human being experiences in this super-sensible world, one must describe this world in the same way as one describes the physical-etheric world by means of natural science and history. Regarding the super-sensible science that concerns the actual course of events in the world in which we exist as sleeping human beings, we naturally must select particular details to begin with. Today, I shall select one event of profound significance for the whole evolution of humanity in the last few thousand years. We have already discussed this event repeatedly from the viewpoint of the physical-etheric world and its history. Today, we shall discuss it from another viewpoint, that of the super-sensible world. The event to which I refer is one that falls in the fourth century A.D.

I have described how the whole composition of human souls in the West becomes different in that century. Without spiritual scientific insight into this matter, one actually no longer understands how human beings sensed and felt before the fourth century A.D. We have frequently described, however, this composition of soul, this feeling. We have described in different words what human beings experienced in the course of that age. Now we shall take a brief glance at what the beings who belong to the super-sensible realm experienced during that same time. We shall turn to the other side of life, as it were, and take the viewpoint of the super-sensible realm.

It is a prejudice of contemporary, so-called enlightened human beings to believe that their thoughts are confined only to their heads. We would discover nothing of the things around us through thoughts if these thoughts were only within the heads of man. He who believes that thoughts are only in the human head is as prejudiced as one — paradoxical as this might sound — who believes that the drink of water with which he quenches his thirst originated on his tongue instead of flowing into his mouth from the glass of water. It is as ridiculous to claim that thoughts originate in the human head as it is to claim that the drink of water originates in the mouth. Indeed, thoughts are spread out all through the world. Thoughts are forces that dwell in all things. Our organ of thinking is simply something that partakes of the cosmic reservoir of thought forces, absorbing thoughts of itself. We therefore cannot speak of thoughts as if they were the possession only of the human being. Instead, we must be aware that thoughts are world-dominating forces, spread out everywhere in the cosmos. These thoughts, however, do not freely float about, as it were, but are always borne and worked upon by some beings; and, most important, they are not always borne by the same beings.

When we make use of the super-sensible world, we find through super-sensible research that, up into the fourth century A.D., the thoughts with which human beings made the world comprehensible to themselves were borne outside in the cosmos (I could also say, “they flowed out” — our earthly terms are ill-suited for these sublime occurrences and states of being), that these thoughts were borne or flowed from those hierarchical beings that we designate as the Exusiai or beings of form (see following diagram).

If, out of the science of the mysteries, an ancient Greek wished to give an account of how he actually had acquired his thoughts, he would have had to do it in the following way. He would have said, “I turn my spiritual sight up toward those beings who, through the science of the mysteries, have been revealed to me as the beings of form, the forces or beings of form. They are the bearers of cosmic intelligence, they are the bearers of cosmic thoughts. They let thoughts stream through all the world events, and they bestow these human thoughts upon the world so that it can experience them consciously.” A person who, through a special initiation, had gained access to the super-sensible world in those ancient Greek times and had come to experience and behold these form beings, would, in order to form a correct picture, a true imagination of them, have had to attribute to them the thoughts that stream and radiate through the world. As an ancient Greek he beheld how, from their limbs, as it were, these form beings let stream forth radiant thought forces which then entered the world processes and there continued to be effective as the world-creative powers of intelligence.

 Diagram 10
Diagram 10
Click image for large view

He thus could say that in the cosmos, the universe, the Exusiai, the forces of form, have the task of pouring thoughts into all the world processes. A material science describes human deeds by noting what people do individually or together. In focusing on the activity of the form forces of that particular age, a super-sensible science would have to describe how these super-sensible beings let the thought forces stream from one to the other, how they received them from one another, and how, in this streaming and receiving, the world processes are incorporated that appear outwardly to man as natural phenomena.

The evolution of humanity now approached the fourth century A.D. In the super-sensible world, thought brought about an extremely significant event; namely, the Exusiai — the forces or beings of form — gave their thought forces up to the Archai, to the primal forces or primal beginnings. (See diagram above) The primal beginnings, or Archai, took over the task formerly executed by the Exusiai. Such things happen in the super-sensible world. This was a particularly sublime and significant cosmic event. From that time on, the Exusiai, the form beings, retained only the task of regulating the outer sense perceptions, therefore ruling with the particular cosmic forces over everything existing in the world of colors, tones, and so forth. Concerning the age that now dawned after the fourth century A.D. a person who can discern these matters must say that he beholds how the world-dominating thoughts are passed on to the Archai, the primal beginnings, how what eyes see and what ears hear, the manifold world phenomena engaged in perpetual metamorphosis, are the tapestry woven by the Exusiai. They formerly bestowed the thoughts on human beings; they now give human beings their sense impressions, while the primal beginnings bestow the thoughts on human beings.

This fact of the super-sensible world was mirrored below in the sense world. In the ancient age in which lived the Greek, for example, thoughts were objectively perceived in all things. Just as today we believe that we perceive the color red or blue streaming forth from an object, so the ancient Greek found not only that he grasped a thought with his brain but that the thought streamed forth out of the things, just as red or blue streams forth. In my book, The Riddles of Philosophy, [Rudolf Steiner, The Riddles of Philosophy, Anthroposophic press, Spring Valley, N.Y., 1973.] I have described the human side, so to speak, of the matter, how this important process of the super-sensible world is reflected in the physical-sensible world. There, I employed philosophical expressions, because philosophical terminology is a language for the material world. When one discusses the matter from the viewpoint of the super-sensible world, however, one must speak of the super-sensible fact that the task of the Exusiai passed on to the Archai.

Such things are prepared in humanity through whole epochs of time and are connected with fundamental changes in human souls. I said that this super-sensible event took place in the fourth century A.D., but this is only an approximation, a mean point in time, as it were. This transference of a spiritual task took place over a long period of time. It had been prepared already in pre-Christian times and was completed only in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries A.D. The fourth century is just the mean century, which is mentioned so as to pinpoint something definite in the historical development of humanity.

This is also the point of time in humanity's evolution when the view of the super-sensible world began to vanish completely for man. The consciousness of the soul ceased to see supersensibly, to perceive, because this human soul surrendered itself to the earth. You perhaps will understand this more clearly if we shed light on it from yet another angle.

What is really implied here? What am I trying to point out so intensely? It is the fact that human beings feel themselves more and more in their individuality. As the world of thoughts passes from the form beings to the primal beginnings, from the Exusiai to the Archai, man increasingly senses the thoughts in his own being, because the Archai live one level nearer man than the Exusiai. Now, when man begins to see supersensibly, he has the following impression. He realizes that this [see diagram] is the world that he perceives as the sense world. One side [yellow in diagram] is turned toward his senses, the other [red] is already hidden from the senses. Ordinary consciousness knows nothing of the relationships that are to be considered here. Supersensible consciousness, on the other hand, has the impression that between man [see diagram] and the sense impressions there are the Angeloi, Archangeloi, and Archai; they are really on this side of the sense world. Though one does not see them with ordinary eyes, they actually are situated between man and the whole tapestry of sense impressions. The Exusiai, Dynamis, and Kyriotetes are actually located beyond this realm; they are concealed by the tapestry of sense impressions.

 Diagram 11
Diagram 11
Click image for large view

A human being having super-sensible consciousness senses that the thoughts are coming closer to him since having been given over to the Archai. He senses them as being located more in his world, whereas formerly they were located behind the appearance of things; they approached man, as it were, through the red or blue color, or the tone of c-sharp or g. Since this transference of thoughts, man feels a freer association with the world of thoughts. This also gives rise to the illusion that man himself produces the thoughts.

In the course of time, the human being evolved to the point where he could enclose in himself, as it were, what formerly offered itself to him as objective outer world. This came about only gradually in human evolution. Going back into the distant past of human evolution, to the ancient Atlantean time preceding the Atlantean catastrophe, picture to yourselves the human configuration at that time, as described in my books, An Outline Of Occult Science or Cosmic Memory. [Rudolf Steiner, Cosmic Memory, Harper & Rowe, New York, 1981.] As you know, human beings of that time were formed completely differently. The substance of their bodies was more delicate than it became later in the post-Atlantean age. For this reason, the soul element also stood in a different relationship to the world — all this is described in the above books — and these Atlanteans experienced the world completely differently. I just wish to point out one aspect of their particular kind of experience. Atlanteans could not yet experience musical intervals of thirds, not even fifths. Their musical experience really began with feeling the sevenths. They then felt further intervals, of which the seventh was the smallest. They missed hearing thirds and fifths; these intervals did not exist for Atlanteans.

The experience of tone structure was completely different, and the soul had a completely different relationship to the tone structure. One who lives musically only in sevenths, with no intervals in between, as naturally as did the Atlanteans does not even perceive the musical element as something that occurs around or within him. The moment he perceives the musical element he feels transported out of his body into the cosmos. This was the case with the Atlanteans. Their musical experience converged with a direct religious experience. Their experience of the seventh did not make them feel that they themselves had something to do with the appearance of the interval of the seventh. Instead, they sensed how the gods, who pervaded and wove through the world, revealed themselves in sevenths. The statement, “I make music,” would have made no sense to them. The only meaningful thing for them to say was, “I live in music made by the gods.”

In a much diminished form, this musical experience still existed in the post-Atlantean age during the period when people lived mainly in the interval of the fifth. This must not be compared to man's present-day feeling for the fifth. Today, the fifth gives man an impression of being something external that lacks content. Man experiences something empty in the fifth, though in a positive sense of the word empty. The fifth has become empty because the gods have withdrawn from human beings.

Still, in the post-Atlantean age too, man experienced in the internal of the fifth that the gods actually lived in these fifths. Only later, when the third appeared in the musical element — both major and minor thirds — the musical element submerged itself, as it were, into human feeling [Gemüt]; hence, man no longer felt transported from his body while experiencing music. Man was definitely transported in musical life during the true era of the fifth. In the era of thirds, however, which as you know dawned only relatively recently, man is within himself when he experiences music. He brings the musical element close to his corporeality. He interweaves it with his corporeality. Along with the experience of the third, therefore, the difference between major and minor keys arises. Man becomes aware of what can be experienced through the major key on the one hand and the minor key on the other. With the third and the appearance of major and minor keys, the musical experience now links itself with uplifting, joyous human moods and with depressed, sad moods, which the human being experiences as a bearer of his physical and etheric bodies. In a manner of speaking, man withdraws his experiences as a bearer of his physical and etheric bodies. In a manner of speaking, man withdraws his experience of the world from the cosmos and unites it with himself. Formerly, his most important experience of the world was such — this was definitely still the case in the “fifth-era,” if I may put it like this, but much more so in the “seventh-era” — that it directly transported him, that he could say, “The world of tones draws my ‘I’ and my astral body out of my physical and etheric bodies. I interweave my earthly existence with the divine-spiritual world, and, on the wings of the tone structure, the gods move through the world. I participate in their moving when I perceive the tones.”

In this specific area you can see how cosmic experience draws near to man, as it were; how the cosmos penetrates man; how, when we go back to earlier ages, we must seek in the super-sensible for the most important human experiences; and how the age is approaching when man as an earthly sense phenomenon must be taken along, as it were, when the most important world events are described. This occurs in the age before which the dominion over thoughts passed from the form beings to the primal beginnings. This is also reflected in the fact that the ancient “fifth-era,” which preceded the above cosmic event, passes on to the “era of thirds” and the experience of major and minor modes.

It is of special interest regarding man's musical experience to go back into a still earlier time, an age of human earthly evolution reaching back into the dimmest primeval past, which can be brought into view by super-sensible vision. We arrive at an age — you find it described as the “Lemurian Age” in my Occult Science — in which generally man cannot perceive the musical element that can become conscious in him in an interval within one octave. In that age, man perceives only an interval that surpasses one octave:

c d e f g a b c d

He perceives only the above interval c to d above c1. In the Lemurian age we discover a musical experience that excludes hearing any interval within one octave; the interval instead reaches to the first tone of the following octave. It is difficult to put into words what the human being experienced then, but perhaps one can form an idea of it if I say that Lemurian man experienced the second of the next higher and the third of the second higher octave. He experienced a kind of objective third, and there he also experienced both major and minor thirds. It is not a third in our sense, of course, because one has an actual third only when I take the prime in the same octave and the tone that I refer to as being the second-nearest to the prime. Because ancient man was able to experience such intervals, however — we should say today, prime in the first octave, second in the next, third in the third octave — he perceived something like an objective major and minor mode, not one experienced within himself but one that was felt to be an expression of the soul experiences of the gods. One cannot say that Lemurians experienced joy and suffering, exaltation and depression, but one must say that, due to the particular musical sensation of the Lemurian age, when, in a completely transported state, human beings perceived these intervals, they experienced the god's cosmic sounds of joy and lamentation. We thus can look back upon an epoch of the earth actually experienced by human beings when what man experiences today in major and minor modes was projected, so to speak, into the universe. What today he experiences inwardly was once projected out into the universe. What today wells up in his life of feeling [Gemüt], in his sensation, he perceived — transported from his physical body — as the experience of the gods. Our present inner experience of a major musical mood was perceived by Lemurian man, when he was transported from his physical body, as the cosmic song of jubilation, as the cosmic music of jubilation, produced by the gods as an expression of joy over their world creation. What today we know as an inner minor mood experience, man perceived in the Lemurian age as the overwhelming lamentation of the gods concerning the possibility that humanity could fall victim to what subsequently has been described by the Bible as the fall into sin, the falling away from the benevolent divine-spiritual powers.

This is something that sounds forth to us from the wonderful knowledge of the ancient mysteries, which at the same time was in itself artistic; it is not an abstract description of how humanity once passed through the Luciferic and Ahrimanic seduction and temptation and experienced such and such a thing. Human beings actually heard how, in primeval times, the gods made jubilant music in the cosmos because they rejoiced over their cosmic creativity. They also heard how the gods prophetically envisioned man's fall from the divine-spiritual powers and brought this to expression in their cosmic lamentation. This knowledge, which later took on increasingly intellectual forms, resounds as an artistic conception from the ancient mysteries. From this we can gain the profound conviction that it was only a single source from which flowed knowledge, art and religion. From this the conviction must grow in us that we must return to that human soul composition, and it will arise again if the soul perceives [erkennt], through the religious welling up in it, the artistic streaming through it. Such a composition of soul will understand vividly once again what Goethe meant when he said, “Beauty is a manifestation of secret natural laws without which these phenomena would have remained forever hidden.” The secret of human evolution within earthly existence, within earthly becoming, betrays itself to us by this inner unity of everything that man, perceiving religiously and artistically, must go through with the world, so that along with the world he can experience his entire development.

The time has come when man must become conscious again of these matters, because otherwise the soul qualities of human nature will simply deteriorate. Through the increasingly intellectual, one-sided form of knowledge, man of today and the immediate future would have to become arid in his soul; the arts, grown one-sided, would dull his soul; and the one-sided religion would drain him of his soul altogether, if he were unable to find the path that could lead him to an inner harmony and union of these three; if he could not find the way to rise out of himself — in a more conscious way than was formerly the case — and once again to see and hear the super-sensible together with the sense world.

When, with the air of the science of the spirit, one looks back at the ancient, great personalities of the dawning Greek culture, whose descendants were men like Aeschylus or Heraclitus, one finds that, in so far as they were initiated into the mysteries, these personalities all had the same feeling born out of their knowledge and their artistic forces of creativity just as Homer did, who said, “Sing, O Muse, to me of the wrath of Achilles,” not as something personal pervading them but as something they accomplished in their religious experience in community with the spiritual world. It motivated them to say the following: in primeval times, human beings actually experienced themselves as human beings by withdrawing from themselves during their most important human activities — I explained to you that this was in the case of music, but it was like this also in forming thoughts — and communing with the gods. Human beings have lost what they thus experienced. This mood of the loss of an ancient cognitive, artistic and religious treasure of humanity weighted heavily on the deeper Greek souls.

Another mood must come over modern man. By unfolding the appropriate forces of his soul experience he must reach the point where he rediscovers what once was lost. I would like to put it like this: man must develop a consciousness — after all, we live in the age of consciousness — of how that which has become inward can once gain find the way out to the divine-spiritual. In one realm, for example, this will be accomplished when the inner wealth of feeling experienced in a melody one day will be discovered in the single tone, at which time the secret of individual tone will be experienced by man. In other words, man not only will experience intervals but will be able to experience the single tone with the same inner richness and inner variation of experience that he can experience today with melody. As yet, today, man can hardly imagine what this will be like.

You see, however, how matters proceed from the seventh to the fifth, from the fifth to the third, and from the third down to the prime, the single tone, and so forth. What was once the loss of the divine must transform itself for human evolution if humanity on earth is not to perish but to continue its development. The loss must transform itself for earthly humanity into a rediscovery of the divine.

We understand the past correctly only if we are able to confront it with the right image for our evolution in the future; if deeply, deeply shaken we are able to feel what a profound person could feel in ancient Greek times, “I have lost the presence of the gods”: if, with a shaken, but intensely and warmly striving soul, we are able to counter this with the resolve, “We shall bring the spirit that is within us like a seed to blossoming and fruition so that we can find the gods once again!”

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