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An Occult Physiology

An Occult Physiology: Man's Inner Cosmic System

Schmidt Number: S-2404

On-line since: 30th April, 2008



23rd March, 1911.

OUR discussion of yesterday, dealing primarily with the significance of one of those organs which represent an “inner cosmic system” of man, will be continued to-day. We shall then find the transition leading to a description of the functions of the other human organs and organic systems.

It was said to me yesterday in connection with my reference to the spleen that there might arise an apparent contradiction as regards the very important function ascribed to the spleen in the entire being of man; that this contradiction might well appear as a result of the reflection that it is possible to take the spleen out of the body, actually to remove it, and yet not leave the man incapable of living.

Such an objection is certainly justified from the standpoint of our contemporaries; indeed, it is unavoidable in view of the fact that certain difficulties present themselves even to those who approach the spiritual-scientific world-conception as thoroughly honest seekers. It was possible to point out only in a general way in our first public lecture [ 1 ] how our contemporaries, especially when conscientiously schooled in scientific methods, find difficulties as soon as they choose the road that leads them to an understanding of what may be presented out of the occult depths of cosmic Being.

Now, we shall see in the course of these lectures how, in principle, so to speak, such an objection gradually disappears of itself. I shall, however, to-day call your attention in a prefatory way to the fact that the removal of the spleen from the human organism is thoroughly compatible with everything discussed yesterday. If we really wish to ascend to the truths of spiritual science, we must accustom ourselves gradually to the fact that what we call the human organism, as seen by means of our external senses, and also everything we see in this organism as substance, or it might, perhaps, be better to say as external matter, that all this is not the whole man; but that, underlying man as a physical organism (as we shall explain further) are higher, super-sensible human organisms called the ether-body or life-body, the astral body and the ego; and that we have in this physical organism only the external physical expression for the corresponding formation and processes of the ether-body, the astral body, etc.

When we refer to an organ such as the spleen we think of it in the spiritual-scientific sense, realising that not only does something take place in the external, physical spleen, but that this is merely the physical expression for corresponding processes which take place in the ether-body, for example, or in the astral body. We might say moreover, that the more any one of the organs is the direct expression of the spiritual, the less is the physical form of the organ, that is, what we have before us as physical substance, the determining factor. Just as we find in looking at a pendulum that its movement is merely the physical expression of gravitation, even so is the physical organ merely the physical expression of the super-sensible influences working in force and form — with this difference, however, that in the case of such forces as that of gravitation when we remove the pendulum, which is the physical expression, no inner rhythm due to gravitation can continue. This is the case, of course, in inanimate, inorganic Nature; but not in the same way in animate, organic Nature. When there are no other causes present in the organism as a whole it is not necessary that the spiritual influences should cease with the removal of the physical organ; for this physical organ, in its physical nature, is only a feeble expression of the nature of the corresponding spiritual activities. On this point we shall have more to say later.

Accordingly when we observe the human being, with reference to his spleen, we have to do in the first place, with that organ only; but beyond that with a system of forces working in it which have in the physical spleen only their outward expression. If one removes the spleen, these forces which are integral parts of the organism still continue their work. Their activities do not cease in the way in which, let us say, certain spiritual activities in the human being cease when one removes the brain or a portion of it. It may even be, under certain circumstances, that an organ which has become diseased may cause a much greater hindrance to the continuation of the spiritual activities than is brought about by the removal of the organ concerned. This is true, for example, in the case of a serious disease of the spleen. If it is possible to remove the organ when it becomes seriously diseased, this removal is, under certain conditions, less hindering to the development of the spiritual activities than is the organ itself, which is inwardly diseased and therefore a constant mischief-maker, opposing the development of the underlying spiritual forces.

Such an objection a man may make if he has not yet penetrated very deeply into the real nature of spiritual-scientific knowledge. Though readily understood, this is one of those objections that disappear of themselves when one has time and patience to go more deeply into these matters. You will generally find the following to be true: When anyone approaches what is given out through spiritual science with a certain sort of knowledge gathered from all that belongs to present-day science, contradiction after contradiction may result till finally one can get no further. And, if a man is quick to form opinions, he will certainly not be able to reach any other conclusion than that spiritual science is a sort of madness which does not harmonise in the slightest degree with the results obtained by external science. If, however, a man follows these things with patience, he will see that there is no contradiction, not even of the most minute kind, between what comes forth from spiritual science and what may be presented by external science. The difficulty before us is this, that the field of anthroposophical or spiritual science as a whole is so extensive that it is never possible to present more than a part of it. When people approach such parts they may feel discrepancies such as that which we have described; yet it would be impossible to begin in any other way than this with the much needed bringing of the anthroposophical world-conception into the culture and knowledge of our day.

Yesterday I endeavoured to explain the transformation of rhythm, in the sense I explained, which is undertaken by the spleen in contrast to the rhythmless manner in which human beings take their external nourishment. I took what was said in this connection as my point of departure because it is in itself fundamentally the most easily understood of all the functions belonging to the spleen. We must know, however, that although it is the easiest to understand it is not the most important, it does not constitute the chief thing. For, if it were, people could always say: “Very well, then; if the human being were to take pains to know the right rhythm for his nourishment, the activity of the spleen viewed from this aspect would little by little become unnecessary. From this we see at once that what was described yesterday is the merest trifle. Far more important is the fact that in the process of nourishment we have to do with external substances, external articles of food, their composition and the form and manner in which they exist in our environment. So long as one holds to the conception that these nutritive substances are so much dead bulk, or at best masses containing that sort of life which one generally assumes to be in plants and other articles of food, it may certainly appear as if all that is necessary is for the external substances taken into the organism as nutritive matter to be simply worked over by means of what we call the process of digestion in its broadest sense.

Many people, it is true, imagine that they have to do with some sort of indeterminate substance taken in as food, a substance quite neutral in its relation to us which simply waits, when we have once taken it in, till we are able to digest it. But such is not the case. Articles of food are, after all not just bricks which serve in some sort of way as building material for the construction they are to help in erecting. Bricks are included in the architect's plan in any way he pleases to use them because they represent in relationship to the building a mass in itself quite inert. This is not true, however, of nutritive matter in its relation to the human being. For every particle of substance we have in our environment has certain inner forces, its own conformity to law. This is the essential element in any substance that it has its own inner laws, its own inner activities. Accordingly, when we bring external nutritive substances into our organism, when we insert them into our own inner activity, so to speak, they do not simply consent to this at once as a matter of course but attempt first to develop their own laws, their own rhythms and their own inner forms of movement.

Thus, if the human organism wishes to use these substances for its own purposes it must first destroy their rhythmic life, as it were, that vital activity which is peculiarly their own. It must do away with these, not merely working over some indifferent material, but working in opposition to certain laws characteristic of these substances. That these substances do have their own laws can soon be felt by the human being when, for instance, a strong poison is conveyed through the digestive canal. He soon feels, in such a case, that the particular law belonging to this substance has mastered him, that these laws now assert themselves. Just as every poison has in general its own inner laws by means of which it carries out an attack on our organism, so it is with every substance, with all the nutriment that we take in. It is not something neutral, but rather it asserts itself in accordance with its own nature, its own quality of being. It has, we may say, its own rhythm. This rhythm must be combated by the human being, so that it is not only a case of working over neutral building material within man's inner organisation, but rather that the peculiar nature of this building material must first be mastered.

We may say, therefore, that in those organs which our food first encounters inside the human being we have the instruments with which to oppose in the first place, what constitutes the peculiar life of the nutritive substance “life” here to be conceived in its wider meaning, so that even the apparently lifeless world of nature, with its laws of movement, is included. That which the food has within it as its own rhythm, which contradicts the human rhythm, must be modified. And in this work of change the organism of the spleen is, so to speak, the outpost. In this changing of the rhythm, however, in this work of re-forming and of defending, the other organs we have mentioned also participate; so that in the spleen, the gall-bladder, and the liver we have a co-operating system of organs whose main function it is, when food is received into the organism, to repel what constitutes the particular inner nature of this food. All the activity first developed in the stomach, or even before the food reaches it, and everything which is then brought about by the secretions [ 2 ] of the gall, and which takes place further through the activity of the liver and the spleen, all of this results in that warding off we have mentioned of the peculiar nature of the nutritive substances.

Thus our food is adapted, we may say, to the inner rhythm of the human organism only when it has been met by the counter-activity of these organs. Only, therefore, when we have taken in our nutriment, and have exposed it to the activity of these organs, do we have in us something capable of being received into that organic system which is the bearer, the instrument, of our ego. Before any sort of external nutritive substance can be received into this blood of ours, so that the blood shall become capable of serving as the instrument of our ego, all those forms of law peculiar to the external world must be set aside, and the blood must receive the nutriment in such form as corresponds to the particular nature of the human organism. We may say, therefore, that in the spleen, the liver and the gall-bladder as they are in themselves and as they react upon the stomach, we have those organs which adapt the laws of the outside world, from which we take our food, to the inner organisation, the inner rhythm, of man.

This human nature, however, in all its working as a totality and with all its members, confronts not only the inner world; it must also be in a continual correspondence or intercourse with the outside world, in a continual living reciprocal activity in relation to that world. This living interaction with the world outside is cut off by the fact that, in so far as we come into connection with it through our nutritive material, the three organ-systems of the liver, the gall-bladder, and the spleen are placed in opposition to the laws of that world. From this side, through these organs, conformity to external law is eliminated. If the human organism were exposed only to these systems of organs it would shut itself off completely, so to speak, from the outside world, would itself become, as a system of organs, an entity completely isolated in itself. Something else, therefore, is necessary. Just as the human being needs, on the one hand, organ-systems by means of which the outside world is so reshaped as to be in accordance with his inner world, so must he be in a position also, on the other hand, to confront the outside world directly with the help of the instrument of his ego: that is, he must place his organism, which otherwise would remain a kind of entity isolated within itself, in direct continual connection with the outside world.

Whereas the blood enters into connection with the external world from the one direction, only in such a way that it contains that part of this world alone from which all forms of law peculiar to it have been cast aside, from the other side it enters into relation with this external world so that it can in a certain sense come into direct contact with it. This happens when the blood flows through the lungs and comes into contact with the outer air. It is there renewed by means of the oxygen in this outer air, and is brought into such a form that nothing can now weaken it in this form; so that the oxygen of the air thus actually meets the instrument of the human ego in a condition that conforms with its own essential nature and quality of being.

There appears thus before our eyes this truly remarkable fact: that what we may call the noblest instrument possessed by man, his blood, which is the instrument of his ego, stands there as an entity that receives all its nourishment, everything that it takes from the life of the outside world, carefully filtered by the organ-systems we have characterised. In this way the blood is made capable of becoming a complete expression of the inner organisation of man, the inner rhythm of man. On the other hand, however, in so far as the blood comes into direct contact with the outside world, with that particular substance in the external world that may be taken in as it is, in its own inner form of law, its own vital activity, without needing to be directly combated, to that extent is this human organism not something secluded within itself but at the same time in full contact with the world outside.

We have, accordingly, in this blood-organism of man, looked at from this standpoint, something very wonderful. We have in it an actual, genuine means of expression of the human ego, which is in fact turned toward the external world on the one side, and on the other toward its own inner life. Just as man is directed through his nerve-system, as we have seen, toward the impressions of this outer world, taking the outer world into himself; as it were, through the nerves by way of the soul, just so does he come into direct contact with the outer world through the instrument of his blood, in that the blood receives oxygen from the air through the lungs. We may say, therefore, that in the system of the spleen, liver, and gall-bladder, on the one hand, and in the lung-system on the other, we have two systems which counteract each other. Outer world and inner world, so to speak, have an absolutely direct contact with each other in the human organism by means of the blood, because the blood comes into contact on the one side with the outer air and on the other with the nutritive material that has been deprived of its own nature. One might say that the action of two worlds comes into collision within man, like positive and negative electricity. We can very easily picture to ourselves where that organ-system is located which is designed to permit the mutual rebounding of these two systems of cosmic forces to act upon it. Upward as far as the heart there work the transformed nutritive juices, inasmuch as the blood, which carries them, streams through the heart; inward to the heart, inasmuch as the blood flows through it, works the oxygen of the air which enters the blood directly from the outer world. We have in the heart, therefore, that organ in which there meet each other these two systems into which the human being is interwoven and to which he is attached from two different directions. The whole inner organism of man is joined to the heart on the one side, and on the other, this inner organism itself is connected directly through the heart with the rhythm, the inner vital activity, of the outer world.

It is quite possible that when two such systems collide the direct result of their interaction may be a harmony. The system of the great outside world or macrocosm presses upon us through the fact that it sends the oxygen or the air in general into our inner organism, and the system of our small inner world or microcosm transforms our nourishment; therefore we might imagine that these systems, because of the fact that the blood streams through the heart, are able in the blood to create a harmonious balance. If this were so, the human being would be yoked to two worlds, so to speak, providing him with his inner equilibrium. Now, we shall see later in the course of these lectures, that the connection between the world and the human being is not such that the world leaves us quite passive — that it sends its forces into us in two different ways, while we are simply harnessed to their counteracting influences. No, it is not like that; but rather, as we shall more and more learn to know, the essential thing with regard to man is the fact that at last a residue always remains for his own inner activity; and that it is left ultimately to man himself to bring about the balance, the inner equilibrium, right into his very organs. We must, therefore, seek within the human organism itself for the balancing of these two world-systems, the harmonising of these two systems of organs. We must realise that the harmonising of these two organ-systems is not already provided through that kind of conformity to law operating outside man and that other kind of conformity to law which works only within his own organism, but that this must be evoked through the help of an organ-system of his own. Man must establish the harmony within himself. (We are not now speaking of the consciousness, but of those processes which take place entirely unconsciously within the organ-systems of the human being.) This balancing of the two systems, the system of spleen, liver, gall-bladder on the one hand and the lung-system on the other, as they confront the blood which flows through the heart is, indeed, brought about. It is brought about through the fact that we have the kidney-system inserted in the entire human organism and in intimate relationship with the circulation of the blood.

In this kidney-system we have that which harmonises, as it were, the outer activities due to the direct contact of the blood with the air and those other activities proceeding from the inner human organism itself in that the food must first be prepared by being deprived of its own nature. In this kidney-system, accordingly, we have a balancing system between the two kinds of organ-systems previously characterised; and the organism is in a position by means of this system to dispose of the excess which otherwise would result from the inharmonious interaction of the two other systems.

 Diagram 13
Diagram 13
Click image for large view
 Diagram 14
Diagram 14
Click image for large view

Over against the entire inner organisation, the organs belonging to the digestive apparatus (in which we must include the organs we have learned to know as liver, gall-bladder, and spleen), we have placed that system for which these organs primarily develop their preparatory activity, namely, the blood-system. But also over against this blood-system we have placed those organs which work, on the one hand to counteract a one-sided isolation, but on the other hand to create a balance between the inner systems we have mentioned and what presses inward from without. If we think, therefore, of the blood-system with its central point, the heart, as placed in the middle of the organism — and we shall see how truly justifiable this is — we have adjoining this system of blood and heart, on the one side the spleen, liver, and gall-bladder systems, and connected with it on the other side the lung and kidney systems. We shall emphasise later on how extremely close this connection is between the lung-system and the kidney-system. If we sketch the systems side by side we have in them everything belonging to the inner organisation of man which is related in a special way, and which so presents itself to us in this relationship that we are obliged to look upon the heart, together with the blood-system belonging to it, as by far the most important part. Now, I have already pointed out, and we shall see even more definitely to what an extent such a giving of names as we have described is justified, that in occultism the activity of the spleen is characterised as a Saturn-activity, that of the liver as a Jupiter-activity, and that of the gall-bladder as a Mars-activity. On the same basis on which these names were chosen for the activities here referred to, occult knowledge sees in the heart and the blood-system belonging to it something in the human organism which merits the name Sun, just as the sun outside merits this name in the planetary system. In the lung-system, there is contained what the occultists, according to the same principle, characterise as Mercury, and in the kidney-system that which merits the name Venus. Thus, by means of these names, we have pointed out in these systems of the human organism, even if at the present moment we do not in the least undertake a justification of the names, something like an inner world system. We have, moreover, supplemented this inner world system in that we have placed ourselves in a position to observe the relationship which manifests itself in the very nature of man as holding good for the two other organ-systems having a certain special connection with the blood-system. Only when we observe these things in such a way do we present something complete in respect to what we may call the real inner human world. In the following lectures I shall have occasion to show you that the occultists have actual reasons for conceiving the relationship of the sun to Mercury and Venus as being similar to that which we must necessarily think of as existing between the heart and lungs and kidneys respectively, within the human organism.

We see, therefore, that in the instrument of our ego, our blood-system, expressing its rhythm in the heart, something is present that is determined to a certain extent in its entire formation, its inner nature and quality of being, by man's inner world system; something that must first be embedded in the inner world system of the human being before it can live as it actually does live. We have in this human blood-system, as I have often stated, the physical instrument of our ego. Indeed, we know that our ego as constituted is only possible by reason of the fact that it is built up on the foundation of a physical body, an ether-body, and an astral body. An ego free to fly about in the world by itself, as a human ego, is unthinkable. A human ego within this world, which is the world that for the moment concerns us, presupposes as its basis an astral body, an ether-body, and a physical body.

Now, just as this ego in its spiritual connection pre-supposes the three members of man's being we have just named, so does its physical organ, the blood-system, which is the instrument of the ego, presuppose likewise on the physical side corresponding images, as it were, of the astral body and the ether-body. Thus the blood-system can carry out its evolution only on the basis of something else. Whereas the plant simply evolves out of inanimate and inorganic nature, in that it grows directly out of this, we must say that in the case of the human blood-organism the mere outer world cannot serve as a basis in the way that it serves the plant, but this outer world must first be transformed by way of our nutrition. And just as the physical body of man must bear within itself the ether-body and the astral body, so what streams in with the food must first be transformed before that which is the instrument of the human ego can merge itself with these transformed nutritive substances.

Even though we may say that the nature of this physical organ, this physical instrument of the human ego, is determined in the lung-system by the outer world, it is nevertheless so determined by the outer world that it is, after all, an organ of the human bodily organisation. Here again we must differentiate between what comes to man from outside in the form of air (is breathed in and enables him to permeate his blood directly with the rhythm belonging to the outer world) and what approaches the blood, the living instrument of the ego in the organism, not directly, but, as has already been described, by the roundabout path of the soul: everything, namely, that man takes in by receiving the impressions of the outer world through the senses, so that the senses then convey these impressions to the tablet of the blood.

We may, therefore, state it thus: Not only does man come by means of the air into direct physical contact with the outside world, in that this contact works right into his blood; but by means of the sense organs he also comes into contact with the outside world in such a way that this contact is a non-physical one, taking place through the process of perception which the soul unfolds when it comes into relation with its environment.

We here have something like a higher process in addition to the process of breathing, something like a spiritualised breathing process. Whereas through the breathing process we take the outer world in the form of matter into our organism, we take, through the process of perception, by which I mean here everything that we work over inwardly in connection with the external impressions we receive, something into our organism which is a spiritualised process of breathing. And there now arises the question: “How do these two processes work together?” For in the human organism everything must have a reciprocal, a counterbalancing activity. Let us for a moment put this question still more exactly, for certain essential things will depend upon an accurate presentation.

In order to be able to convey to our minds the answer which we shall give to-day hypothetically, we must first understand clearly how an interaction, a reciprocal activity, can take place between all that works through the blood, all that the blood has changed into through the fact that the different processes have come about under the influence of the inner world system, and what we carry on as processes of external perception. For, in spite of the fact that the blood is thus filtered, and even though so much care has been taken to make it the wonderfully organised substance it is, so that it can be the instrument of our ego, in spite of this it is nevertheless primarily a physical substance in the human organism, and belongs as such to the physical body. At first, therefore, there seems to be a very great difference between this human blood, which has been prepared as it has, and what we know as our processes of perception, everything, that is, which the soul performs. Indeed, this is an undeniable reality, for anyone would have to be remarkably lacking in ability to think, who would deny that perceptions, concepts, feelings, and will-impulses exist just the same as does a blood-substance, a nerve-substance, a liver-substance, a gall-substance. As to how these things are connected world-conceptions might begin to conflict. They might dispute, let us say, as to whether thoughts are merely some sort of activity of the nerve-substance, or something of that sort. It is only at this point that the conflict can begin between the different world-conceptions. No world-conception can dispute over the obvious fact that our inner soul-life, our thought-life, our feeling-life, everything which builds itself up on the foundation of external perceptions and impressions, presents a reality in itself. Note well that I did not say, in the first place, “an absolutely isolated reality,” but “a reality in itself,” for nothing in the world is isolated. The words “reality in itself” are intended to indicate what may be observed as being real within our inner world system; and to this last belong all our thoughts, feelings and so forth, quite as truly as do the stomach, the liver, and the gall-bladder.

Yet something else may strike us when we see these two realities side by side — everything on the one hand which, even though so thoroughly filtered, is none the less physical, namely, the blood; and on the other hand that which at first appears, indeed, to have nothing at all to do with anything physical, namely, the content of the soul-life, consisting of feelings, thoughts and so forth. As a matter of fact this very aspect of these two kinds of reality presents man with such difficulties that the most varied answers, offered by the most diverse world-conceptions, have come to be associated with it.

There are world-conceptions, for instance, that believe in a direct influence upon physical substance of everything connected with the soul, with thought and with feeling, as if thought could work directly upon physical substance. In contrast to these, there are others which assume that thoughts, feelings, and so forth, are simply the products of the processes that take place in physical substance. The dispute between these two world-conceptions has through long periods of time played an important role in the outside world, but not in the field of occultism, in which it is considered a dispute over empty words.

Since no ultimate agreement was reached, there has appeared during more recent times still another conception bearing the strange name of “psychologic-physical parallelism.” If I were to express it rather trivially I might say that since the disputants had no longer any other resource, not knowing whether spirit works upon the processes of the physical body or whether these bodily processes influence the spirit, they concluded that there are two processes running parallel courses. They argued: at the same time that man thinks, feels and so forth, certain definite parallel processes are taking place in his physical organism. The perception, “I see red,” would according to this correspond to some sort of material process. But they do not go any further than to say that it “corresponds.” Indeed, this is a mere expedient which leads them out of all their difficulties, but only in the sense that it sets these aside, not that it overcomes them. All the disputes that have arisen on this basis, including the futility of the psychologic-physical parallelism, result from the fact that people insist upon deciding these questions on a basis upon which they simply cannot be decided. We have to do with non-material processes when we consider the activities of our soul-life as inner life; and we have to do with material processes when we centre our attention upon the blood, the most highly organised thing in us. If we simply compare these two things, physical activities and soul-activities, and then seek by means of reflection to find out how each of them works upon the other, we shall not arrive anywhere. Through reflection one may find all sorts of arbitrary solutions or non-solutions. The only way to determine anything in regard to these questions is actually to establish a higher knowledge. This does not limit itself either to viewing the outer world with the physical senses or to thought that is bound up with a merely physical external world, but elevates itself to a certain extent to what leads beyond the physical, and likewise to that which leads into the super-physical world from our own inner soul-life which indeed we experience in the physical world. We must ascend, on the one hand, from the material to the super-sensible, the super-material. On the other hand, we must ascend also from our soul-life to the super-physical, that is, to that which lies at the basis of our soul-life in the superphysical world; for our soul-life, with all its feelings, etc., is, of course, something that we experience in the physical world. We must, accordingly, ascend from both sides to a super-physical world.

Now, in order to ascend from the material side to the super-physical world, those soul-exercises are necessary which enable man to look behind the external, the sensible, behind that veil, of which I spoke yesterday, into which are woven our sense-impressions. Moreover, such sense-impressions as these we also have before us, of course, when we observe the whole external organism of man. And when we descend to the very finest element of the human organism, to the blood, we are, nevertheless, dealing with a merely physical-sensible thing when we observe it, at first, with the physical senses, or at least with the instruments and methods of external science, which give us just such a picture of the blood as would an external eye if it could see this blood directly.

We have said, then, that with the help of such soul-exercises as lead up into the super-sensible world, we can penetrate into the foundations of the physical world, into the super-sensible element in the human organism. In doing this, the first super-sensible thing we meet in this human organism is what we call the ether-body. This ether-body (and we shall describe it still more accurately from the standpoint of occult physiology) is a super-sensible organisation, which we first think of simply as the super-sensible basic substance out of which the sensible or physical organism of man is constructed, and of which it is a copy. Of course the blood is also an impress or copy of this ether-body. Thus we have already at this point, by coming only one stage beyond the sense-organism, something super-sensible in the human ether-body, and the question now arises: are we able to approach this super-sensible also from the other side, from the side of the soul-life, from what we experience in the sensations, thoughts and feelings that we build up on the basis of our impressions of the outside world?

We have already seen that we cannot approach the physical organism directly, for the physical and material place themselves in our way. Can we approach the ether-organism? It is clear that we cannot approach it as directly as we can our soul-life. When we are at work in our soul what at first happens is that we receive external impressions. The outside world acts upon our senses, and we then work over the external impressions in our soul. But we do more than that, we store up, so to speak, these impressions which we have received. Just think for a moment about the simple phenomenon of memory, when you recall something that you experienced, perhaps years ago. At that time, on the basis of external perceptions, certain impressions took form, which you then worked over, and which you draw up to-day out of the depths of your soul, and to-day there comes to you the memory, it may be something quite simple: the memory of a tree, let us say, or an odour. Here you have stored up something in your soul which could remain yours from the external impression and the elaboration of it in your soul, something that can form in you the recollection.

We now find, however, through observation of the soul-life attained through exercises of the soul, that in the moment when we have developed our soul-life far enough to be able to store up mental pictures in the memory we are not working with our soul experiences only in our ego. We first confront the outside world with our ego, take impressions from it into our ego, and work these over in our astral body. But, were we to work them over only in the astral body, we should straightway forget them. When we draw conclusions we are at work in our astral bodies; but when we fix impressions within us so firmly that, after some little time has passed, or indeed after only a few minutes, we can again recall them, we have stamped upon our ether-body these impressions received through our ego and worked over in our astral body. In these memory-pictures, accordingly, we have drawn out of our ego down into our ether-body that which we have lived over inwardly as activity of soul in our contact with the outer world. Now, if we have something which impresses upon the ether-body our memory-pictures taken, as it were, from the soul, and if from the other side we recognise the ether-body as that super-sensible expression of our organism which is nearest to the physical, the question then arises: How does this impressing come about? In other words, when the human being works over external impressions, makes them into memory-pictures, and in doing so thrusts them into his ether-body, how does it happen that he does actually bring down into the ether-body what the astral body has first worked over and what now presses against the ether-body? How does he transfer it?

This transfer takes place in a very remarkable way. If we observe the blood — let us now imagine ourselves within the human ether-body — quite schematically as it courses through the heart, and think of it as the external physical expression of the human ego, we thereby see how this ego works, how it receives impressions corresponding with the outer world and condenses these to memory-pictures. We see, furthermore, not only that our blood is active in this process, but also that, throughout its course, especially in the upward direction, somewhat less in the downward, it stirs up the ether-body, so that we see currents developing everywhere in the ether-body, taking a very definite course, as if they would join the blood flowing upward from the heart and go up to the head. And in the head these currents come together, in about the same way, to use a comparison belonging to the external world, as do currents of electricity when they rush toward a point which is opposed by another point, so as to neutralise the positive and the negative. When we observe with a soul trained in occult methods, we see at this point ether-forces compressed as if under a very powerful tension, those ether-forces which are called forth through the impressions that now desire to become definite concepts, memory-pictures, and to stamp themselves upon the ether-body.

 Diagram 15
Diagram 15
Click image for large view

I shall, therefore, draw here the last out-streamings of these ether-currents, as they flow up toward, the brain, and show their crowding together somewhat as this would actually appear. We see here a very powerful tension which concentrates at one point, and announces: “I will now enter into the ether-body!” just as when positive and negative electricity are impelled to neutralise each other. We then see how, in opposition to these, other currents flow from that portion of the ether-body which belongs to the rest of the bodily organisation. These currents go out for the most part from the lower part of the breast, but also from the lymph vessels and other organs, and come together in such a way that they oppose these other currents. Thus we have in the brain, whenever a memory-picture wishes to form itself, two ether-currents, one coming from below and one from above, which oppose each other under the greatest possible tension, just as two electric currents oppose each other. If a balance is brought about between these two currents, then a concept has become a memory-picture and has incorporated itself in the ether-body.

Such super-sensible currents in the human organism always express themselves by creating for themselves also a physical sense-organ, which we must first look upon as a sense-manifestation. Thus we have within us an organ, situated in the centre of the brain, which is the physical sense-expression for that which wishes to take the form of a memory-picture; and opposite to this is situated still another organ in the brain. These two organs in the human brain are the physical-sensible expression of the two currents in the human ether-body; they are, one might say, something like the ultimate indication of the fact that there are such currents in the ether-body. These currents condense themselves with such force that they seize the human bodily substance and consolidate it into these organs. We thus actually get an impression of bright etheric light-currents streaming across from the one to the other of these organs, and pouring themselves out over the human ether-body. These organs are actually present in the human organism. One of them is the pineal gland; the other, the so-called pituitary body: the “epiphysis” and the “hypophysis” respectively. We have here, at a definite point in the human physical organism, the external physical expression of the co-operation of soul and body!

 Diagram 16
Diagram 16
Click image for large view

This is what I wished in the first place to give you by way of general principles. With this we conclude to-day's lecture, and to-morrow we will continue our discussion further and find yet more to add to it. It is always important to hold firmly and clearly to the thought that we can always investigate the super-sensible, and can ask ourselves whether the physical expression of the super-sensible world that we should expect to find is actually present. We see. here that these sense-expressions of the super-sensible actually do exist. Since we have here, however, a question of an entrance gate from the sense-world to the super-sensible, you will understand that these two organs are in the highest degree puzzling to physical science, and you will, therefore, be able to get from external science only inadequate information with regard to them.


1.  How May Theosophy be Refuted? delivered 19th March, 1911. Not published in English.

2.  For a fuller explanation of the terms translated in these Lectures as secretion and excretion. see note on p. 79.

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