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The Human Soul in Relation to World Evolution

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The Human Soul in Relation to World Evolution

Schmidt Number: S-4830

On-line since: 31st May, 2019

LECTURE IV

Dornach, 6th May 1922

May main concern yesterday was to show that the human soul is an active being, that she permeates the human organism with creative activity. When contemplating the soul one must always keep in mind that, provided one grasps the human organism in its totality as it appears to external sight, it reveals itself as an expression of the soul. And insofar as the organism is mobile and in constant transformation, it must also be seen as the soul's creation. However, this is only one side of soul life; today we shall begin to investigate the other side.

Let us look for a moment at man in relation to his environment, bearing in mind what was said in the first lecture of this course. The first thing that one notices in this relationship is that man's life of soul is separate, is external to the beings and objects which surround him. It cannot be said that we are within the chair on which we sit or within the table at which we stand. We see the outside of these things, and we are outside of them even with our soul life. In fact, we are just as much outside part of our own organism.

To fully realize this, you need only think through what has often been mentioned in regard to our will impulses: the fact that we first have the thought, the mental picture that we want to lift an arm, then after the thought has disappeared somewhere into the organism, we have the phenomenon of the lifted arm. But what goes on in the organism after we first had the thought, up to the moment when the arm movement is seen — we cannot even say after the thought has worked, for the effect of the thought does not enter our consciousness — lies outside the awareness of the human soul

to begin with. It is, in fact, as much outside the soul as the table or chair. Just as I do not penetrate the chair so do I not penetrate into what takes place within me when a will impulse is carried out. However, as soon as man attains higher, supersensible cognition he becomes aware of what actually takes place. For ordinary consciousness the situation is that man, through his senses, perceives the outside of things: color, sound, warmth and so on. This aspect of things then continues within him; i.e., he forms mental pictures of them. That is the situation when man's attention is directed towards the external world.

When man looks within himself he becomes aware first of all that he retains mental pictures of the things he has observed. These can be called up again, or at least that is how it appears; we have seen that the situation is somewhat different, but for ordinary consciousness that is how it appears. The mental pictures are saturated with feelings which, dream-like, well up from our human nature. In short, we also see a world when we turn our attention inwards; this world presses towards us from within as much as do color and sound from without. In a certain sense we are as much outside of what meets us there as we are outside the things that meet us in the external world.

However, this situation changes both in regard to the external as well as the internal world when we ascend to higher knowledge in the way that has often been described in lectures and in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment. The first to be attained is imaginative cognition, then inspired cognition. This may be well known to you. When this happens then the situation that can be called “the-standing-outside-of-things” becomes different.

Through imaginative cognition of the external world we first attain pictures. When these are dealt with appropriately they become pictures of what surrounds us as an external spiritual world. Already at this point inspired cognition must step in. Through inspired cognition we attain insight into an external spiritual world which surrounds us, just as the sense world of color, sound, warmth and so on, surrounds us. When we stand before this whole world, which is now an external spiritual world, we must constantly be aware that it is something which is apart from ourselves. In this spiritual world we discover elemental beings and also beings of the higher hierarchies. All this is something other than what we are ourselves. We do learn to know ourselves ever more as spiritual beings, but we also learn to distinguish ourselves from all other beings.

While we carry out exercises which lead us to knowledge of the external spiritual world, we also make progress in the inward direction. What we first discover is that, from the viewpoint of the soul, we come to value our head with its knowledge rather less. By contrast, we become very aware of that knowledge which is more concentrated in the heart, not so much in the physical heart as in the etheric and astral heart. At this point something of the greatest significance becomes crystal-clear knowledge.

Let me make a drawing of what it is that man discovers when he progresses in the inward direction: Imagine this to be the heart (see drawing, red lines) and above the heart all that which man prizes so highly on the physical plane — his thoughts. This web of thoughts man feels to be located in his head and when without higher knowledge he contemplates his being as a whole, he feels the thoughts to be — what shall I say — the more aristocratic part of human nature. But thoughts themselves do not care particularly about the person as such. Let us say we think of a triangle; we have to devote ourselves to the thoughts concerned with the triangle. His lordship, the thought, does not care whether I have a headache or a stomachache. To him it makes not a scrap of difference what condition I am in. Nor does he care whether I am sad or cheerful, whether something is painful or enjoyable. Within the consciousness of my head the thought of triangle rules supreme with a certain nonchalance, not caring about my subjective well-being. This is the reason why people, whose main concern is their subjective wellbeing, fall asleep when one mentions thoughts that have no concern for their subjective state.


 Diagram 1
Diagram 1
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Well, the life of thought is, in a certain sense, a distinguished world, unconcerned about subjective states. However, when man sends his subjectivity into this distinguished realm, thus making it feel closer to his human nature, then his feelings pass through his heart. Rays from the head shoot, as it were, down into the lower part of man and from there well up again (see drawing, arrows). But what is it that wells up?

From below there arise feelings, instincts, urges, passions; everything active in man's nature bursts forth (red arrows). Within all this subjectivity, which is part of man, wells up also the effect of everything that seethes in the organism itself. The effects of whatever processes that are taking place in the stomach or intestines or in any other bodily function burst forth and come up to meet him together with the instincts and passions, so that one can indeed say that there, above, a distinguished world exists. Distinguished it may be but, as it has no concern for subjectivity, it contains no soul life. Thoughts in themselves are not subjective; for them it is quite immaterial whether Smith thinks of a lion or a triangle or whether Jones thinks of them. Thoughts are not concerned about subjects. The soul aspect only becomes evident when out of man's inner being there well up feelings or instincts which saturate the thoughts. Subjectivity only enters when, for example, Smith, being a hero, thinks of a lion and there well up within him feelings of a kind that make him unafraid of a lion; whereas when Jones, being a coward, thinks of a lion, he immediately wants to flee. The thought “lion” is universal; it contains no soul element, it is spiritual. Soul comes into it when it meets the instinctive element within man. That is what imbues the thought “lion” with a soul content which in Smith's case makes him think of some instrument with which to attack the lion and defend himself, come what may; or in Jones' case makes him think of how fast he can run, and so on. In ordinary life thoughts are imbued with soul because in one way or another the soul element always rays into the spiritual.

However, when the ascent has been made first to imaginative cognition, and then to inspired cognition, things become different. At first there is a great struggle to beat back the instincts and desires which are now all the more in evidence for being undisguised. They must not be allowed expression; they must be vanquished completely. However, something else rises towards the heart, which has now become a wonderful sense organ — a great etheric sense organ as large as the whole blood system. Towards this heart there now rise, not what lives in instincts and passions but another kind of thought complex (white arrows). These thoughts come up to meet the thoughts which have their origin in the external world and have made the head their abode in such an aristocratic manner. But the thoughts now rising through the heart to meet them are mighty pictures which do not in any way express what otherwise rises up within the organism. They express what man was before birth.

Man learns to know himself in his existence within the spiritual world before he was born (or conceived) on earth. That is what comes up to meet him. He is transported into his existence in the spiritual world before he descended into physical embodiment. This occurs, not through what lives in his passions and desires, but through what meets him when he has attained imaginative and inspired cognition. As he learns to know his own being within the spiritual world, he also learns to distinguish himself from what, to imaginative and inspired cognition, otherwise surrounds us as an external spiritual world. In that world we learn to know elemental beings, angels, archangels and so on. Out of the wisdom itself we learn to know our own being, now widened beyond earth existence.

This also leads to a significant insight into the working of the soul. We gradually come to recognize that the soul is completely poured out within the head. It has shaped the head in its own image (see drawing, blue) and organized it for the external world, so that the latter can imprint itself and become mental pictures which we retain in memory, whereas within the rest of the organism, as I indicated yesterday, the soul life does not unite so intensely with the physical; it remains more separate. Therefore, when the heart becomes sense organ we can look down into the flaming, scorching, burning emotions, desires and passions on the one hand, but also into that which lives alongside them, yet never unites with them: our eternal being.


 Diagram 2
Diagram 2
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It now becomes clear that as far as the head is concerned our soul is buried within it; there the soul rests. The head is essentially an external organ, organized for reflecting the physical environment; in the head we grasp the external physical world. We grasp ourselves when we look through the heart into the depth of our being. For ordinary consciousness the waves of emotions are all that are thrust up from that depth. When we gain more insight through higher knowledge then our eternal being comes up to meet us. Then our soul learns to unite itself with that spiritual being which is ourself. We are not part of the spiritual environment which we see outside. We are that which we behold through our heart when it has become sense organ. The path which otherwise led only to the experience of our soul's external side, its urges and desires, now leads us into the eternal soul within us, which is saturated with spirit. The eternal soul is as spiritual as the spiritual environment. We have come into a sphere where soul and spirit are one.

No matter how much you seek within the brain, only what is physical is to be found there; in the head you are yourself physical. Yet the brain is the main field of research for modern psychology. It is said that psychology investigates the soul, but only the brain is investigated. This can be done because the brain is an expression of the soul which lies entombed within it. The soul rests like a corpse within the brain and this corpse is the subject of modem psychology. The soul itself is beneath the heart where it is united with the spirit. Only its external aspect unites with the instincts and desires; the soul's inner being does not.

Now we discover something else. Let us look once more at a sense organ, at the eye; to begin with you look around you with physical sight. Let us for the moment disregard the fact that we usually come together under artificial light. It can easily be proved, in a roundabout way, that that, too, has something to do with sunlight; but for the moment we will disregard this kind of light. Let us imagine a lecture given on a beautiful morning in an open field, where instead of this dreadful light we should have sunshine. Something like that is, after all, a common enough experience. There we would have the sun everywhere, for the sun is more than just the disc or sphere up there, for it radiates everywhere. When its rays fall on a flower they are reflected back to us. The sun penetrates our eyes, and it is thanks to the sun that we see the flower and form a mental picture of it. Everywhere we see objects because of the sun. It is easy enough to recognize that insofar as we see objects illumined it is the sun which, via the eyes and brain, is the mediator of the external physical knowledge we gain of these objects. However, it is not only through our eyes that the sun mediates knowledge of the external world. There is a deep element of truth in the words heard in “Faust target=_blank>Faust”: “The sun-orb sings in emulation mid brother spheres his ancient round.”* [Bayard Taylor's translation. “Sun-orb sings ...,” “Faust I,” Prologue. ] This cosmic harmony is indeed present and insofar as it manifests in our atmosphere it is also ultimately a reflection of the sun. Thus, sound, too, comes in a certain roundabout way from the sun. Everything that is perceptible in the external physical world comes from the sun: warmth, sound, everything, only not as directly as light.

And now I must say something which no doubt sounds surprising when first heard. It may, to begin with, be difficult to understand, but not after it has once been thought through as we are accustomed to do in Anthroposophy: We are, in reality, within the sun. We are within the external physical-etheric aspect of the sun in all that which we externally perceive because of the sun's presence, and our senses' inner connection with what the sun enables us to perceive.

However, when we attain imaginative and inspired cognition — that is, when through the heart we penetrate further into our own being — then we experience the sun differently. At a certain point, when inspired cognition begins and we are within a world of pictures which at the same time are realities, we become aware, as if through a sudden jolt of soul and spirit, that we have arrived within the sun.

This is an experience of immense significance. On earth the sun shines on us; as human beings we perceive things around us because they reflect the sunlight. But the moment we ascend to inspired cognition, when for us the heart becomes a sense organ, we suddenly experience ourselves within the sun. We no longer look up and see the sun move in its orbit — I am taking into account only the sun's apparent movement — rather do we feel that with our heart we are within the sun and moving with it. For us the heart is in the sun and the sun becomes our eye with which we behold what begins to appear around us. The sun now becomes our eye and our ear and our organ of warmth. We no longer feel that we are outside the sun; rather do we feel transported into the sun and existing within the light. Formerly we were always outside the light, but now that we have plunged with our being into the heart we have the feeling that our relation to the world is such that we are within the light, that our being is light. Within the undulating, weaving light we touch the spiritual beings with the organs of light which we now possess. We are now, in our soul being, akin not to the world outside the sun, but to the world within it. And I want to emphasize that our being becomes linear, so much so, that we feel we are within the sun's linear path. When we advance just a little further in higher cognition we feel ourselves to be not only within the sun but also to a certain extent beyond it (see drawing). Formerly we were tiny human beings there below and we looked up at the sun. But now that we have come into the sun we feel we are, with our soul being, within the sun and the world which was formerly around us is now within us (see drawing, green).


 Diagram 3
Diagram 3
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Only when this insight has been reached do we begin to understand that this is where our soul being goes when in ordinary life we sleep. We are then where, in order to perceive, we must look through the sun. The reason we see nothing is because we go as souls into a world that can only become understandable to us when it reflects the sun. We have to get further out beyond the realm of the sun sphere; this can be achieved only through inspiration and intuition. Not until we are beyond the sun sphere do we perceive anything; this is because we, as human earth beings, press through all kinds of objects belonging to the earth when we go out of our physical and etheric bodies. We do this from falling asleep till waking. At first, we do not see ourselves. When we have attained spiritual sight, we perceive other beings. We can only perceive ourselves when through schooling we come out into the realm where we were between death and a new birth.

What is it that separates us from the realm in which we live between death and rebirth? There is only one answer: the sun. As human beings we are born into the physical world. Before conception — that is, before we came down — we had no connection with the external physical sun, only with the spiritual behind the sun. We then descended into the physical world, where the sun shines everywhere. And here we take into our thoughts — that is we form mental pictures of — what the sun makes physically visible. The physical sun prevents us from seeing the spiritual. And when, after falling asleep, we are out there among the physical objects which the sun made visible, then we are too weak to see beyond the sun's domain. And we see nothing within its domain because during earthly life we are adapted to our physical body but not to beholding the beings that surround us in the external world — elemental beings and spirits of the higher hierarchies.

So you see from this aspect, too, it is clear that the soul as such can be known only to a consciousness higher than the ordinary one. It also makes it clear that the soul has a deep inner kinship with all that makes up the world. It is intimately bound up with the whole world evolution. When we inhabit our body, then it is the sun that makes the external world visible, audible and so on; but it also prevents us from beholding the spiritual world. When we ascend to the spiritual world we come, in a certain sense, to the other side of the sun. In physical life we are this side of the sun's being, and when we advance to the spiritual world we come to the other side. Our consciousness, in the transition from this side of sun life to the other side, is as I have just described it: We feel ourselves to be within the sun, making with it the passage through the cosmos. Thus, we cannot learn to know the soul without relating it intimately to the whole being and evolution of the world.

Our physical body places us alone, isolated, as it were, at a particular spot on earth. The physical body is adapted to the external sun and prevents us from uniting our soul with the cosmos. Our isolation is due to our organism. In reality, man lives within the sun's radiance. Viewed purely externally we know that sunlight mingles with moonlight. Externally, the sun illumines the moon; on moonlit nights the moon reflects the sunlight. The sun's light then comes to us from the moon. When the sun's light comes from the moon there is a kind of shadowing or dimming of light. This has an effect on everything coming into the world under the influence of the moon.

From the moon comes more than the silvery light which, when reflected by objects, gives them such hazy outlines compared with their sharp contours in daylight. More than reflected sunlight reaches us from the moon; its influence is active in all the beings on earth who are capable of propagation. The moon is active in all reproductive and hereditary forces.

If man were under the influence of the sun only, he could still be man on earth, but he could not bring forth another human being. If sunlight alone were always present the earth would be in a state of permanence, of duration. No being would perish, no new one arise. Neither heredity nor propagation would exist. One can say that the sun is the primordial physical force on earth. It expels soul life from the head and makes everything into pictures. In the ordinary life of soul, we become real human individuals only through our instincts and emotions. In our higher soul life, we attain reality when through the heart we behold the spirit, and when we come outside the sun's domain. In order to prevent the primordial sun force from being all powerful and enduring, and in order to prevent plants, animals and also man from permanence, but enabling them to die away after bringing forth new life, there is intermingled, in the course of world evolution, the moon element with that of the sun. Thus, the moon element, too, is incorporated into man.

When a new human being enters the world, moon forces are always active. The sun forces then do not merely reach the surface but enter right into man's inner being and exclude him from a certain sphere. Thus, we have, on the one hand, the mighty sun power and, on the other, excluded from it, a certain aspect of our external evolution because there the moon element enters.

To illustrate this, I must draw man's being as a diagram with the moon element inserted (drawing, orange). In this part the sun influence is excluded insofar as it is active in man's being as a whole. There the moon influence asserts itself. So, you see that in the external physical world something is taken away from the primordial sun influence. Therefore, what in propagation is under the influence of the moon cannot develop in the external world. That in which the moon forces are most active is withdrawn from the external world — except in the lowest animals, where a part of the process takes place externally in that their eggs are laid in the sun to be hatched.


 Diagram 4
Diagram 4
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However, this moon influence is counter-balanced: what on the one hand is taken away from the sun, to enable earthly propagation and heredity to occur through the moon's influence, is given back to the sun on the other. And in that this is given back the sun is not just the physical entity of which external science speaks. To the sun belongs a spiritual sun, a kind of higher sun (see drawing, orange). This higher sun acts as much on man as does the moon, which is a kind of lower sun. In our age not much that makes sense is known about the moon's influence in earth evolution; but nothing whatever is known about the higher sun. While the moon has a powerful influence on man's physical nature, the higher sun has a powerful influence on his soul nature.


 Diagram 5
Diagram 5
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This was known in earlier times through instinctive clairvoyance. It was known that not only can man physically extend his being, as it were, by bringing forth another human being; he can also extend his being on the spiritual side of his nature. This was indicated in the case of especially spiritual people, people gifted with receptivity for true spirituality, in that they were depicted with halos. This was to indicate that they were under the influence of the spiritual sun, that they were therefore more than the result of the influence coming from sun and moon. Just as man in his ability to bring forth his kind extends, on the physical side, beyond the limits of his physical body, so does his being extend also on the spiritual side. Through the higher sun he extends beyond that part of his soul that is bound up with the body. He towers into the spirit and he therefore, in the view of people in earlier times, wore a halo. In later times when halos were indicated they were invariably depicted as caps set on the head, because there was no longer any knowledge of the true connections with man's being. A halo is not a cap, it is something that man attains through the higher sun. It is a widening into the spirit of his own soul to the extent that it becomes visible in the etheric.


 Diagram 6
Diagram 6
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When we learn through Anthroposophy to understand why ancient atavistic clairvoyance depicted the halo we not only gain a deep insight into man's soul and spirit, but also into what could be known through the dreamlike clairvoyance. It gave access to true reality, and modern man is very foolish when he suggests that halos were given certain people merely out of fantasy. That was not the case; they were to indicate that those who wore them were predominantly influenced by the higher sun, the soul-spiritual aspect of the sun. So you see that, on the one hand, man is excluded from the physical aspect of his being where the moon exerts its influence in propagation and heredity. On the other hand, the sun regains in the higher sun what it lost for the earth through the moon; and insofar as man partakes of the higher sun he already, in his etheric body, reaches into the spiritual.

These things must be presented to indicate how intimately the soul of man is connected with the evolution of the world. One simply cannot speak about man's soul without speaking also about world evolution. The moment insight is gained into the true nature of the human soul, insight is also gained into the nature of the sun. Man has an impulse towards physical evolution through his inherent hereditary characteristics; this connects him strongly with matter. On the other hand, through permeating his corpse-like, lifeless head-spirituality with the forces of the higher sun, thus ensouling it, he is connected with the spiritual world. Man's soul nature continually projects into his mental pictures. We saw that in the case of Smith, in whom, because he was a brave fellow, courageous feelings arose into his mental picture of a lion; whereas in Jones, who was cowardly, there arose feelings urging flight. We see here how thoughts become ensouled by what arises out of man's organism; for, in the last resort, what thus projects into man's thought life, arises from the processes going on in his organism. But equally, there streams in from the other side, from the spiritual sun, not urges and passions, but the World Soul.

This is a point on which we must be quite clear: There streams into man's life of thought the outcome of his instinctive animal life. This ensouls the thoughts and mental pictures, which would otherwise remain cold and prosaic (see drawing, red lines). But, equally, what streams into his life of thought from the spiritual aspect of the sun also ensouls his thoughts (yellow lines). It is simply prejudice to maintain that someone who does not live merely in emotion, but is able to receive into his thoughts what streams in from the higher sun, is as dry and prosaic as someone who lives merely in abstract thoughts.


 Diagram 7
Diagram 7
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People are afraid of the spiritual in its pure cosmic aspect. They feel that as far as their thought life is concerned they are already sufficiently cold and arid. They are afraid that if they also take in universal thoughts they will become quite stiff. But the very opposite is the case. One becomes just as inwardly warm; one is filled with just as much enthusiasm — albeit pure, spiritual warmth and enthusiasm — as one does from what rises into the life of thought through instincts and cravings harbored in the animal organism.

In my book, Goethe's World Conception, I have drawn attention to the fact that it is possible to bring warmth into the life of thought by other means than through instinctive life. Certainly passions and cravings make thoughts warm with animal warmth. However, another kind of warmth exists which comes from the world, from the higher sun. It makes one glow, not with animal warmth, but with warmth of the higher hierarchies above man. This I could at least indicate in Goethe's World Conception when I spoke about how wrong it is to regard someone as a dry stick who is filled with thoughts and ideas permeated with a purer warmth, and even be afraid of becoming a dry stick oneself by entertaining such thoughts. This fear stems from the fact that it happens all too often to those who occupy themselves with the arid ideas so prevalent today.

I have tried to describe the nature of the soul in connection with world evolution. Tomorrow we shall look at some special aspects of the life of soul.




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