Nature to Sub-Nature
People talk of the Philosophic Age having been superseded,
about the middle of the nineteenth century, and having given
place to the Age of Natural Science. They talk too, as though
the Age of Natural Science were still in continuance at the
present day; although many at the same time lay stress on the
return to certain philosophic tendencies of thought.
This is all quite correct as regards the direction taken by the
new age in its lines of knowledge, but not in its lines of
life. With his mental imagery Man is still living in
Nature — even though he brings a mechanistic way of
thinking into his understanding of Nature. But with the life of
his Will he is living in a machinery of technical processes to
such an extent that this has long given an entirely new
colouring to the age of Natural Science.
one would understand human life, there are two sides from which
one must begin by regarding it. From his previous Earth-lives
Man brings with him the faculty of forming mental conceptions
of the cosmic influences that act from out of the Earth's
environment, and of those which are at work within the sphere
of the Earth itself. Through his Senses, he perceives the
cosmic element that is at work within the earthly realm;
through his thinking organism, he thinks the Cosmic that acts
upon the Earth from the surrounding Universe.
Thus he lives through his physical body a life of Perception,
and through his ether-body a life of Thought.
What goes on in the astral body and in the I, is at work in
more covert regions of the soul. It is at work, for instance,
in a man's destiny or fate. One must not however look for it,
to begin with, in the intricate complexities of human destiny,
but rather in the simple, elementary processes of life.
Man unites himself with definite Earth-forces, by the fact of
bringing his own body into bearing with the lines of these
forces. He learns to stand and walk upright; he learns, with
his arms and hands, to bring himself into poise with the
balance of the earthly forces.
Now these are not forces of a kind that work from without, from
the Cosmos; they are merely Earthly.
reality, nothing that Man experiences in his inner life is an
abstraction. He only does not perceive where the experience
comes from; and so, of his ideas about realities he makes
abstractions. Man talks about the Laws of Mechanics; he thinks
he has deduced them by abstraction from the complex of natural
phenomena. This is not however the case; but rather, everything
which a man realizes in his soul as a purely mechanical law, is
learnt from direct inward experience of his own bearings in and
towards the Earth-world (in standing, walking, and so on.)
This however marks the Mechanical as the purely Earthly. For
everything which exists in earthly form as Laws of
Nature — in colour, sound and so forth — is a gift from
out of the Cosmos. Only within the sphere of Earth does all
this realm of Nature acquire — engrafted into it — the
mechanical element, even as Man meets with this element in his
own life and experience only within the Earth-sphere. By far
the greater part of all that is at work through the agency of
technical science in the civilization of to-day is not
Nature, but Sub-Nature. It is a world which is emancipating
itself from Nature, downwards.
Observe how the Oriental, when in pursuit of the Spirit, seeks
to disengage himself from those states of equilibrium which are
due solely to the Earth. He adopts for meditation, a posture
which brings him solely into the cosmic equilibrium. The Earth
is then no longer exerting an influence upon the disposition of
his whole organism. (This is not put forward for imitation, but
only to make what was said more plain. Those who are acquainted
with my writings, know how the spiritual life of East and West
differ in his respect. )
Man needed this relation with the merely Earthly for the
evolution of his Spiritual Soul. But in more recent times there
came the tendency, everywhere, in his own doings as well, to
give practical effect to this element with which, as Man, he
must needs make himself familiar. And as he penetrates into
this merely Earthly realm, he encounters the world of Ahriman.
He must learn to bring himself and his own human being into
right relation with this Ahrimanic element.
yet, in the course hitherto taken by the Technical Age, he has
not found the way to readjust his human relation rightly to
this new civilization of Ahriman. Man must find the strength,
the inner faculty of knowledge and discernment, for his human
being not to be overwhelmed by Ahriman in the civilization of
Technics. Sub-Nature must be understood in this, its character
of under Nature. It will only be so understood if Man
rises at least as high in spiritual knowledge of that
super-Nature which lies outside the earthly sphere, as he has
descended in technical science below it into Sub-Nature.
The age needs a power of Knowledge that rises above
Nature, because it has inwardly to deal with an element which
is dangerously at work within its life, and which is one that
has sunk below Nature. Of course what is here meant is
not any sort of return to earlier states of civilization, but
rather that Man should find his way to bring the new conditions
of civilization into right relation with himself and with the
yet, there are but few who have any feeling of the important
spiritual tasks which Man has here before him. Take for
instance electricity — hailed at its discover as the very
soul of the natural world. Electricity must be recognized in
its own peculiar power to lead down from Nature to Sub-Nature.
Only, Man must not glide down with it.
the time when there was as yet no independent realm of Technics
apart from what may rightly be termed Nature, Man found the
Spirit in his contemplation of Nature. Technics,
becoming detached from Nature, riveted Man's eyes to the
mechanistic and material world as the scientific one whence his
knowledge must henceforth be derived.
Now in this world, of all the divine-spiritual life
connected with the first origins of human evolution, nothing
remains. The purely Ahrimanic dominates this sphere.
But in a Science of the Spirit the other sphere is created,
from which an Ahrimanic element is altogether absent. It is
precisely by taking into his mind that form of spiritual
intelligence to which the Ahrimanic Powers have no access, that
Man gains the strength to meet Ahriman in the world, to
encounter him here.
In the Age of Natural Science,
beginning about the middle of the nineteenth century, there
is in human civilization a gradual downslide of the
occupations and activities of men, not only into the lowest
regions of Nature, but down below Nature. Technical
civilization becomes Sub-Nature.
This makes it necessary for Man, in
living inner experience, to come to a Spirit-Knowledge in
which he rises as high above, into Super-Nature, as he does
down below Nature with his sub-natural, technical
occupations. He thereby creates within him the power,
not to ‘go under.’
An earlier view of the natural world
still contained within it the Spirit with which human
evolution is bound up in its first sources. Little by
little, this Sprit has vanished from Man's picture of
Nature; the purely Ahrimanic element has taken possession
of the picture, and has overflowed from thence into the
technical civilization of to-day.