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

Macrocosm and Microcosm

Schmidt Number: S-2206

On-line since: 7th July, 2002



The contents of today's lecture will be better understood if we begin by considering once again what it is that happens when man wakes from sleep, but we shall pay special attention now to what is working out of the spiritual world at the building up of his nature and constitution. When man wakes from sleep his whole being passes out of the Macrocosm into the Microcosm. It is quite understandable that in his normal consciousness he has very little knowledge of the interaction between Macrocosm and Microcosm. In the ordinary way he supposes that what he calls his Ego is within himself. But in view of the fact that while he is asleep he is outside his physical sheaths with his astral body and his Ego, it is obvious that during the hours of sleep the Ego must certainly not be sought within the boundaries of the skin but that it has poured into the worlds of which we have spoken: the Elementary World, the World of Spirit, the World of Reason, and also into the still higher world we are to consider today — the World of the spiritual Archetypes of all things. The Ego has poured into the cosmic expanse; hence the entry into the body on waking in the morning must not be imagined as though the Ego merely slipped back into the body. A kind of contraction of the Ego takes place on waking; it contracts more and more and then passes into the physical and etheric bodies in a certain consolidated form. But what is perceptible to clairvoyant consciousness is that the Ego is not by any means wholly within man during the hours of waking consciousness. To clairvoyant consciousness the Ego is always present in a certain way in man's environment and coincides only partially with what is perceived as the human physical body. Accordingly we may say that the Ego, in its substantiality, is also always present around us. What the clairvoyant sees as a kind of light-aura may be called the Ego-aura. Man is always surrounded by a spiritual cloud of this nature. The Ego is not to be looked for at any particular spot but it pervades man's whole Ego-aura. In the morning the Ego approaches from all sides, from all the Beings and Realities of the worlds we have called the World of Reason, the World of Spirit and the Elementary World.

Now let us consider more exactly how the Ego slips into the body, and ask ourselves: How is it that on waking we are suddenly surrounded with sense-perceptions, such as impressions of colour and light? For example, suppose the first sense-impression we have on waking is a blue surface, the colour blue. What is the explanation of this impression? Ordinary consciousness is completely at sea here. The reason is that when the Ego is passing out of the Macrocosm into the Microcosm, a kind of barrier is created against the in-streaming spiritual forces, against everything we call the Elementary World. Something is held back with the result that only a portion of the Elementary World flows in. If we see a blue surface in front of us, then, through this blue surface all these forces are flowing in, with the exception of a part of the Elementary World. The part of the Elementary World that is held back comes into our consciousness as a mirror-image, a reflection, and this reflection is the blue colour. The elements of fire, air, water and earth (spiritually conceived as belonging to the Elementary World) stream through the eye with the exception of what we actually see. Sense-perception arises through the fact that our eye holds back part of the light from the Elementary World, our ear holds back part of the sound, our other organs hold back part of the fire or warmth; what is not held back, streams into us.

We can now supplement what was said in the previous lectures, that the “eye is formed by the light for the light.”

That is to say, the eye is not formed by what is reflected, but by what comes to us with the light — and that is part of the Elementary World. Moreover something also streams in from the World of Spirit, indeed from all the worlds of which we have spoken. Accordingly we may say: At this particular point certain forces are held back by the eye, and also by the other senses; what does not stream into us, what is held back, is the sum-total of our sense-impressions. Thus it is what we do not let through that we see or hear; but what we do let through is what has formed the physical organism of the eye, for example. We hold back certain forces and allow certain others to pass through — these latter being forces of the Elementary World. If we look at the eyeball in a mirror, then too we see only what it does not let through. Thus in the Elementary World there are forces which have formed our sense of sight and also our other senses. As sense-beings we are formed out of the Elementary World; the world we see when we are able to look into the Elementary World is the world which builds up our senses.

At the inner “wall” of our organ of sight there is a kind of second mirror, for there, from a further world, other forces flow in — with the exception of those that are reflected. There the elemental forces themselves are held back and reflected; they cease to function and it is only the forces of the World of Spirit that stream through and are not reflected. These are the forces that form, for example, the optic nerve. Just as the eye has its optic nerve, so has the ear its aural nerves from the forces streaming in from the World of Spirit. From there stream the forces of Beings who are the builders of the whole nervous system. Our nerves are ordered according to the laws of the planetary world outside, for the planetary world is the outer expression of spiritual realities and spiritual worlds.

If it is the case that the World of Spirit works at the forming of our nervous system, it follows that underlying our nervous system there must be a certain law and order corresponding to that of the solar system. Our nervous system must be an inner solar system, for it is organised from the Heaven World.

We will now ask ourselves whether this nervous system really functions as if it were a mirror-image of the solar system out yonder in the Macrocosm. As you know, our measurement of time is governed by the relation of the planets to the Sun and again in the yearly cycle by the passage of the Sun through the twelve constellations of the Zodiac. That is an arrangement of time based upon the law contained in the number twelve as a number which expresses the movements taking place in the solar system. There are also twelve months in the year, and in the longest months there are thirty-one days. That again is based upon the mutual relations of the heavenly bodies and is connected with our time-system. There is a certain irregularity for which there is a good reason, but we cannot go into it now.

Let us try to picture this remarkable time-system in the universe and ask ourselves how these cosmic processes would be reflected in our nervous system. If the forces underlying the Macrocosm are also the forces which have formed our nervous system, we shall certainly find a reflection of them in ourselves; and in fact we have twelve cerebral nerves and thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves. The cosmic laws are actually reflected in these spinal and cerebral nerves. The existence of a certain irregularity is explained by the fact that man is destined to be a being who is independent of what is going on outside him. Just as the Sun's passage through the constellations of the Zodiac takes place in twelve months, and this is reflected in the twelve cerebral nerves, so the days of the month are regulated in accordance with the circuit of the Moon — twenty-eight days. How is the connection of the thirty-one days in the month with the human nervous system to be explained? We have three additional pairs of nerves, i.e. thirty-one in all, which makes us independent beings; otherwise here too we should be governed by the number twenty-eight. Here you can glimpse a deep mystery, a wonderful connection between our nervous system and what is expressed in the great symbols of space — symbols which in themselves are mirrorings of spiritual Beings and activities.

We come now to the third part of the reflection. Our nervous system is built up by the World of Spirit. At the point where the nerves pass either into the brain or into the spine, again a reflection takes place. At this point the stream from the World of Spirit is held back in the nervous system and what we have come to know in the World of Reason penetrates through. The forces of the Hierarchies work through at this point and the World of Reason builds up for us the brain and spinal cord that lie behind the nerves. In our brain itself and its elongation, the spinal cord, we have the product of all the activity originating ultimately in the World of Reason. Anyone who is able to survey the World of Spirit clairvoyantly can find exact images of the great cosmic prototypes even in the smallest reflections in the cerebral nervous system and the spinal nervous system. But the World of Archetypes, or Archetypal Images, streams right through us without our being able to hold it back.

In what way are we able in ordinary life to be conscious of anything? By being able to hold it back. We become aware of a part of the Elementary World by holding it back. We are a product of the Elementary World in our sense-organs and in becoming aware of the activity and functioning of our senses we become aware of the Elementary World. We are a product of the World of Spirit and become aware of that world — but only in reflection — when we become aware of the world connected with our nerves. What does man know of the Elementary World? As much as is mirrored for him by the senses: light, sounds, and so forth. What does man know of the World of Spirit? Just what his nerves reflect for him. The Laws of Nature as they are usually called are nothing else than a shadowy image, a faint reflection, of the World of Spirit. And what man takes to be his inner spiritual life, his reason, is a weak reflection of the outer World of Reason; what is usually called intellect, intelligence, is a faint, shadowy reflection of the World of Reason.

Of what should we have to be capable if we desired to see more than what has been described here? We should have to be able to hold back more. If we wanted to experience consciously the influence of the World of Archetypal Images we should have to be able to hold back this world in some way.

It is only possible for us to have physical sense-organs — eyes, for example — by admitting the Elementary World into ourselves and then holding it back. We can only have a nervous system by admitting the World of Spirit into ourselves and then holding it back; we can only have a brain and reasoning faculty by admitting into ourselves the World of Reason and then holding it back; thereby the brain is formed. If higher organs are to be formed, it must be possible for us to hold back a still higher world. We must be able to send something towards it, as in our brain we send that which holds back the World of Reason. Thus man must do something if he wishes to develop in the true way. He must derive forces from a higher world if in the true sense he wishes to develop to a higher stage. He must do something to hold back the forces of the World of Archetypal Images which would otherwise simply pass through him. He must himself create a reflecting apparatus for that purpose. The method of Spiritual Science, starting from Imaginative Knowledge, creates such an apparatus in the way in which the man of today can and should do this. What man normally perceives and knows is the external physical world. If he desires to attain higher knowledge he must do something to create for himself higher organs. He must bring a world that is higher than the World of Reason to a halt within himself, and this he does by developing a new kind of activity which can confront the World of Archetypal Images and, to begin with, hold it back. He engenders the new activity by learning to undergo inner experiences which do not occur in everyday life. A typical experience of this kind is described in the book, Occult Science — an Outline (Chapter V). It comes about by picturing the Rose-Cross. How should we proceed in order to have as a true experience within us this mental picture of the Rose-Cross?

A pupil who aspires to be led to higher stages of knowledge would be told by his teacher to contemplate, as a beginning, how a plant grows out of the soil, how it forms stem, leaves, flower and fruit. Through the whole structure flows the green sap. Now compare this plant with a human being. Blood flows through the human being and is the outer expression of impulses, appetites and passions; because man is endowed with an Ego he appears to us as a being higher than the plant. Only a fantastic mind-although there are many such — could believe that the plant has consciousness similar to that of man and could reflect impressions inwardly. Consciousness arises, not through the exercise of activity but because an impression is reflected inwardly, and this, man — but not the plant — is able to do. Thus in a certain respect man has reached a higher stage of development than the plant but at the cost of the possibility of erring. The plant is not liable to error, neither has it a higher and a lower nature. It has no impulses or appetites that degrade it. We may well be impressed by the chastity of the plant in contrast to the impulses, desires and passions of man. With his red blood man exists as a being who, in respect of his consciousness, has developed to a higher stage than the plant but at the cost of a certain deterioration.

All this would be made clear to an aspirant for higher knowledge. The teacher would tell him that he must now attain what, at a lower stage, the plant reveals to him; he must gain the mastery over his appetites, impulses and so forth. He will achieve this mastery when his higher nature has won the victory over the lower, when his red blood has become as chaste as the sap of the plant when it reddens in the rose. And so the red rose can be for us a symbol of what man's blood will become when he masters his lower nature. We see the rose as an emblem, a symbol of the purified blood.

And if we associate the wreath of roses with the dead, black, wooden cross, with what the plant leaves behind when it dies, then we have in the Rose-Cross a symbol of man's victory of the higher, purified nature over the lower. In man, unlike the plant, the lower nature must be overcome. The red rose can be for us a symbol of the purified red blood. But the rest of the plant cannot be an emblem in this sense for there we must picture that the sap and greenness of the plant have lignified. In the black wooden cross we have therefore the emblem of the vanquished lower nature, in the roses the emblem of the development of the higher nature. The Rose-Cross is an emblem of man's development as it proceeds in the world. — This is not an abstract concept but something that can be felt and experienced as actual development. The soul can glow with warmth at the picture of development presented in the symbol of the Rose-Cross.

This shows that man can have mental pictures which do not correspond to any external reality. Those who are desirous of having normal consciousness only, where the mental pictures always represent some external reality, will speak derisively of the Rose-Cross symbol and insist that mental pictures are false if they represent no external fact. Such people will ask: wherever is there any such thing as the Rose-Cross? Do red roses ever grow on dead wood? — But the whole point is that we shall acquire a faculty of soul that is not present in normal consciousness; that we shall become capable of elaborating mental images and conceptions which have a certain relation to the outer world but yet are not replicas of it. The Rose-Cross is related in a certain respect to the outer world, but it is we ourselves who have created the nature of this relationship. We have contemplated the plant and the ascendancy attained by man and we picture this to ourselves in the image of the Rose-Cross. Then we inscribe this symbol into our world of mental pictures and ideas. The same could be done with other symbols.

In order that we may understand one another fully, I will speak about another symbol. Let us think of the ordinary life of a man through the days of his existence. Day alternates with night, waking with sleeping. During the day we have a number of experiences; during the night, without our being conscious of it, forces are drawn from the spiritual world. Just as we have experiences in our conscious life, in the night we have experiences in the subconscious region of our being. If with the object of acquiring knowledge we take stock of our inner life from time to time, we certainly ask ourselves the question: What progress am I making? Has every experience during the day actually brought me a step forward? — There are grounds for a man to feel satisfied if he makes only a slight advance every day, having his daily experiences and deriving new strength at night. A great deal must, of course, be experienced every day if he is actually to become more mature. Ask yourselves what progress you have made in this respect in a single day. You will find that in spite of. innumerable experiences the advance made by the Ego from one day to the next is a very slow process in many cases and a great many experiences are unnoticed. If, however, we look back to the most favourable period of our life, to childhood, we see how rapidly the child advances in comparison what is achieved in later life. There are good grounds for stating that a traveler who devotes his whole energies to journeys round the globe in order to make progress through the acquisition of knowledge does not advance as far as a child advances through what he has learned from his nurse.

The advance made by the Ego can be indicated by a serpentine spiral. Two serpent forms, one light and one dark, wind around a vertical staff. The light curves represent the experiences of the day, the dark curves the forces working during the night. The vertical line indicates the advances made. Here, then, we have a different symbol representing the life of man.

We can make both complicated and simple symbols. The following would be an example of a simple one. — If we concentrate on a plant growing until the seed is formed and then gradually withering until everything except the seed has vanished, we can visualise this as a quite simple symbol of growth and decay.

In the Rose-Cross we have a symbol of man's development from his present stage to his purification; in the Staff of Mercury we have a symbol of man's development through the experiences of day and night and the advance made by the Ego. — Symbol after symbol can be created in this way.

Diagram 1

None of them mirrors any external reality; but by surrendering ourselves in inner contemplation to the meaning of these symbols, we accustom our soul to activities which it does not otherwise exercise. These activities finally engender an inner force which enables us to hold back the World of Archetypes or Archetypal Images in the same way as we have held back the other worlds.

The symbols need not only be pictorial; they may also consist of words into which profound cosmic truths are compressed. When cosmic truths are compressed into symbolical sentences we have there a force by means of which we can mould the substance of our soul. By working thus upon himself man consciously builds up that which the external world has otherwise accomplished in him without his aid, forming his brain out of the World of Reason, his nervous system out of the World of Spirit, his sense-organs out of the Elementary World. He himself builds organs higher than the brain, organs which are not outwardly visible to normal consciousness because they lie in a realm beyond the physical. Just as the eyes have been formed out of the Elementary World, the nerves out of the World of Spirit, the brain out of the World of Reason, go out of the World of Archetypal Images higher spiritual organs are formed and moulded, organs which gradually enable us to penetrate into the higher world and to look into it. These organs simply represent a development and continuation of the activity carried out at a lower stage. These higher organs of perception appear in the shape of spiritual flower-forms budding forth from man and are therefore called ‘lotus-flowers’, or also spiritual ‘wheels’ or ‘chakrams’.

In anyone who practises such exercises, new organs may actually become visible to clairvoyant consciousness. For example, one unfolds like a wheel or flower in the middle of the forehead. This is the two-petalled lotus-flower; it is a spiritual sense-organ. Just as a physical sense-organ exists in order to bring to our consciousness the world around us, so do the spiritual sense-organs exist in order to bring to our consciousness the world which cannot be seen with normal physical eyes. These so-called lotus-flowers are forces and systems of forces which bud from man's soul.

A second organ of this kind may be formed in the region of the larynx, another near the heart, and so on. These spiritual sense-organs — the word inevitably implies a contradiction but there is no better expression in modern language which is coined for the physical world — these spiritual sense-organs can be cultivated by the patient and vigorous practice of immersing oneself in symbolic mental pictures which are not pictures of anything in the external world and which in this respect differ from the mental pictures of ordinary consciousness in that they do not mirror anything external but work in the soul and produce forces which can hold back the World of Archetypal Images just as eyes, nerves and brain hold back the other worlds that are around us.

But to have arrived at this point is not enough. Anyone possessed of the faculty of clairvoyant vision can perceive these higher sense-organs in man. But these organs themselves must now be further developed. So far they have been formed out of a world higher than those worlds out of which our human constitution is otherwise built up. Now comes the second stage, the preparation for actual vision. The form taken by the process of preparation is that anyone who has attained Imaginative Knowledge through the development of the lotus-flowers and is conscious of having attained it, now passes on to something rather more difficult, to a higher stage of inner work and effort.

The first stage consists in elaborating numbers of symbolic mental pictures — which are given in every school for genuine spiritual training and vary according to a man's individuality, so that the higher sense-organs may be developed with patience and endurance. At the next stage, as soon as the man has acquired a certain skill in picturing such symbols, he must reach the point of being able to exclude the pictures from his consciousness and to concentrate only upon the force within him that has created them. In forming the picture of the Rose-Cross we took account of the plant and of man, and only afterwards built up the symbol. Now we eliminate from our consciousness this symbol as well as that of the Staff of Mercury, concentrating upon the activity we ourselves have exercised in building up the pictures. This means that we direct our attention to our own activity, ignoring the product of it. This is even more difficult. We say to ourselves after having created a symbol: How did you do this? — Most people will need to make many, many attempts in order to pass from the symbol itself to the activity which created it. The process will take a very long time. Again and again it will be necessary to create the symbols until we reach the point where we can dismiss them, in order then to experience something quite new, without seeing anything external, namely, the activity which created them.

If after practising this for a long time we feel a kind of seething and eddying within us, a certain progress has been made. We can then actually experience the moment when we do not merely possess higher organs or lotus-flowers but see flashing before us a new realm of which hitherto we had no inkling; we have reached the stage where we have a new field of vision and have our first insight into the World of Spirit.

The experience is as follows. — We have already left the ordinary outer world, we have lived in a world of symbols, and now we eliminate the symbols and pictures; then we have black darkness around us. Consciousness does not cease but seethes and eddies, stirred by our own activity. At an earlier stage we held back the World of Archetypal Images, now we hold back the World of Reason too, but not in the same way as before; we hold it back from the opposite side. We hold back what otherwise flows into us. Previously we saw only the shadow-pictures of the World of Reason in our own intellectual activity; now we see the World of Reason from the other side; we see the Beings known as the Hierarchies. Little by little everything now becomes filled with life.

This is the first step to be taken. But that is not all. A further step consists in acquiring the power also to suppress our own activity. First of all the pictures have been suppressed and now our own activity. If he really makes the attempt the pupil will again realise how difficult this is; it is a longer process for it will usually happen that he then falls asleep. Yet if any consciousness at all is left to him, he has advanced to the point where he holds back not only the World of Reason but the World of Spirit too. He now sees the World of Spirit from the other side and the spiritual Realities and Beings in that world. Whereas the previous stage of knowledge, when the activity creating the symbols is held back, is known as Inspiration (Knowledge through Inspiration), this further stage, when we also eliminate our own activity, is called Intuition. Through Intuition we glimpse the true configuration of the World of Spirit which otherwise we see only in its shadow-pictures, the laws of Nature. We now become conscious of the Beings and their activities which have their outward expression in the realities and laws of Nature.

We have now described a path of knowledge differing somewhat from the one that is followed when a man simply becomes conscious of entering into or passing out of the World of Spirit when he goes to sleep or wakes. This method first creates the organs in that the World of Archetypal Images is held back and its forces used for the creation of these organs that are needed by man, and then he is led through Imaginative and Inspired Knowledge into the World of Spirit into which he is now able to gaze. But when he has reached the stage of Intuitive Knowledge, he can also grow into the Elementary World in such a way as not to enter it unprepared but fully prepared, seeing it before him as a final experience. Certainly this path is a hard one for many people because it demands much renunciation. A man must first practise for a long time with symbols and wait until the requisite organs are formed. But to begin with he cannot see with these organs. It is very often the case today that people do not want to go along a sure path but above all to see something quickly, to have rapid success. Success will surely come but it must be achieved by practising a certain renunciation. First we must work upon ourselves for a long time in order little by little to find entrance into the higher worlds; and truly, what we first see of the World of Reason and of the World of Spirit is a very colourless vista. Only when we come back from these realms into the Elementary World, when we are far advanced in Intuitive Knowledge — only then does everything acquire colour and vividness, because then it is all permeated by the Elementary World and its effects. It is only from the vantage-point of Intuitive Knowledge that these things can be described.

Moreover only when we have joy in building up the symbols, when we work with patience and perseverance at the development of the organs, can we be aware of a certain progress; but although at the beginning we see only little of the higher worlds, it is a sure path and one that protects us from illusions. The reward comes only later, but it is a path that is a safeguard against idle phantasy. If we have worked our way to the stage of Imaginative Knowledge, we already stand in the world immediately above our own; and we feel that we have membered into ourselves something from a higher world. Then we gradually rise to higher and higher stages and finally achieve a real understanding of the higher worlds.

You will find an outline of this process of development in the book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment and in the later part of the book, Occult Science — an Outline. The accounts given there are intended for a rather wider public and are therefore somewhat condensed. I wanted today to speak of certain more intimate matters which will add something to what is contained in those books on the subject of the path to higher knowledge.

I have tried to make it clear that in the Microcosm, in the nervous system, in the brain, men are mirror-images of the activities and Beings of the Macrocosm. It has been shown that before we begin to work on ourselves in order to unfold higher qualities, other work has already been applied to our development as human beings. We have realised that we are actually only continuing the work that has already been applied to us. Just as our physical constitution has been built up out of the higher worlds, so do we ourselves build up our ‘spiritual man’. We transcend our ordinary selves by advancing in our development. Nobody who takes the concept of evolution seriously can doubt that such further development is possible. Those who believe that what is actually there has risen from earlier Stages of existence to the present one must also admit that development can go forward. But because man has become a conscious being, he must also take his development consciously in hand. And he can tread in full consciousness the path of development that has been described. If he needs a teacher, he no longer needs him — as was the case when the old methods were in use — as one who takes something away from him or allows something to stream to him; in such circumstances those who were guided by the teacher were not independent. Today we have been learning about a path entirely in keeping with the consciousness of modern humanity, for one who takes this path entrusts himself to another in no other sense than a pupil entrusts himself to a tutor in mathematics. If he did not assume that the tutor knows more than he knows himself, he certainly would not go to him. In the same sense we entrust ourselves to a leader or teacher who gives us nothing more than indications. At every step we remain our own master while scrupulously following the indications given. We follow the indications given by the teacher as we should do in the case of those given by a tutor in mathematics, only now our whole soul is engaged; it is not a matter of applying our intellect to the solution of a mathematical problem. It is the essence of the new method of Initiation that it takes account first and foremost of the independence of the human being; the Guru is no longer a Guru in the old sense but only in the sense that he gives advice as to how progress can be made.

The successive epochs change and man is constantly passing through new stages of existence. The methods for promoting development must therefore also change. Different methods were necessary in earlier times. The method called the Rosicrucian after its most important symbol is the one most appropriate and fitting for the soul of modern man.

So we see how, in addition to the older methods, there also exists the appropriate modern method which leads man in the way indicated into the higher worlds. A mere outline has been given today. To-morrow we shall describe how man, if he works upon himself, grows step by step into the higher worlds and how they are gradually revealed to him. We have described what man has to do in order to apply the new methods and to-morrow we shall speak of what he becomes and what is eventually revealed to him.

The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com