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Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.



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Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

Schmidt Number: S-3088

On-line since: 31st December, 2020


Lecture II

Dornach

25th July, 1915

Tree of Life - II

My dear friends,

We saw yesterday how the peoples concerned in forming world-history may be divided on the one hand into what may be called the continuous stream of evolving knowledge and wisdom, and, on the other, the life-element which at a certain time must unite with this wisdom. It is an example of the cooperation — immense in its consequences — of the different one-sided elements in world-existence in order to produce a complete and harmonious whole. And I have already pointed out how the after-effect is to be perceived right into our own times, on the one hand, of the lifeless knowledge-principle, the ageing wisdom-principle, and, on the other hand, of the life-without-knowledge, which unites itself like a young shoot in humanity's evolution with the knowledge-principle, brought down from antiquity and becoming dry and withered.

Now today we will consider the world of the same facts somewhat more subjectively, will give our attention to it in direct connection with a consideration of the nature of man. We will place once more before our soul the familiar fact of the rhythmic alternation that occurs in man's daily life; namely, that he alternates in the course of his daily life between the union of his four members — the physical man, the etheric man, the astral man and the ego-man — and a sort of separation of these four members into two and two — the union of the physical man with the etheric man, and of the ego with the astral man.

The alternation of sleeping and waking rests indeed upon this rhythmic succession of the more or less united condition of these four members and their separation. We have already spoken on one occasion of how the fact now expressed can be considered more closely and exactly, but for today's study what has been said can serve for a broad foundation.

If we think of the human being in sleep it can happen that, without any special development having been undergone, he has the following experience. A definite consciousness, particularly in specially clear and aware moments of waking up, can come before his soul that at the moment of waking he, as soul-being, lifts himself out of a living and weaving in what one might call a finely spiritualised existence.

It must strike most people, if the conditions are favourable, that they do not awake from sleep as if out of a nothingness, but as if they emerged from a full but much more etheric, lighter weaving and living than what we pass through from waking up to going to sleep. It will certainly have already struck many people, in waking, that they lived during sleep in an element in which they felt themselves to be actually cleverer than they were when awake. The majority of men must on awaking have said to themselves: Yes, this or the other came; it placed itself before my soul ... I knew quite exactly: I have experienced something there that I cannot bring clearly enough into the waking consciousness. And then one can find oneself quite stupid in contrast to the cleverness in which one was during this nocturnal weaving and living, in this far more etheric element than the life of the physical world is from waking up to going to sleep. One was with one's whole being — of this one must be clear — immersed in a weaving and living which is around us just as is the physical living and weaving for the physical consciousness, but which cannot be grasped by this physical consciousness, and is generally completely forgotten in the moment of waking.

But all the same, and even without any special occult training, a man can be clear that during sleep he was weaving in such an element as he cannot fully take with him into the waking life. This fact too, of which everyone can really very easily convince himself, is understood when we take the wonderful primeval two-fold saying to which we referred yesterday, that two-fold utterance which says: Because men have learnt to know or to distinguish good and evil, because they have eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they shall not eat of the Tree of Life.

What does it really mean: Not eat of the Tree of Life? You will perhaps no longer find incomprehensible what I have to say concerning these words if you bring before your soul in a reasoned way the meaning of ‘to have eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.’ Each can say to himself: If what we call the Luciferic temptation had not taken place, man would obviously be in a different position in this earthly life; for as he is now, the effect of the Luciferic temptation is mingled in his earthly life. This means: in our earthly life we attain to a certain kind of knowledge, a certain way of confronting things with our intellect and reason in order to get certain knowledge of the things of the world. Nevertheless it is quite clear that we should have had a different knowledge of things if the Luciferic temptation had not come to pass. This is exactly what the two-fold utterance implies. It means that the knowledge we obtain of the world and its phenomena is a knowledge that has entered through the Luciferic influence, a knowledge that represents the course of evolution which has entered through the partaking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. All our knowledge is the sort — such as it has become — that had to enter as a result of the testing [tasting?] of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Had man not partaken of this Tree, then a different knowledge must needs have been there from that which exists under the present ‘normal’ circumstances, where Lucifer works within our existence.

When you keep in mind that our whole everyday knowledge is really influenced by the fact of the Luciferic temptation, that our everyday knowledge is the fulfilment of our having eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it will no longer appear to you so inconceivable if I now bring before you a fact to be known from many occult perceptions. This is the fact that our nightly sleeping non-knowledge, the darkness of sleep which spreads out over our consciousness, is simply the effect of the not-being-allowed to eat of the Tree of Life. Had we been allowed to eat of this Tree then something similar would have come to pass for sleep as for waking. But this was not to happen. And thus for the sleep condition an unconsciousness has entered.

But now when this unconsciousness of sleep is overcome, when it is possible through a spiritual-scientific methodical development to know something of what really goes on in that weaving and living in an etheric element, then we become aware how we actually spend our life between going to sleep and waking. We spend this life from going to sleep to awaking — it is a fact that can shatter one — in, one might say, the arms of Lucifer. And one can understand the deep mystery that underlies this whole world of facts when we see: in the same moment that man was punished by being forbidden to eat of the Tree of Life, Lucifer was condemned to eat of the Tree of Life perpetually. And since Lucifer lays claim to what weaves and lives from falling asleep to awakening which appears to us so endlessly clever when it echoes to us in waking, then this weaving and living in what does not come to our consciousness (because Lucifer claims it for himself) has quite a definite result.

Thus we can say: Our living and weaving in the fine etheric element that I have indicated, is something of which Lucifer takes possession ... and because Lucifer takes possession of it, it comes about that something predestined for men by the Jahve-Godhead does not take place. It was destined for man by the Jahve-Godhead that on awaking he should possess in his etheric and physical bodies what is weaving and living there in sleep. I must draw this somewhat diagrammatically (see p.5a) so that you may perhaps see more exactly what we are concerned with. I might describe through this (red) the ego living outside the physical body during sleep; the part of our astral that lives during sleep outside the physical I will indicate through this (yellow); what of our physical body remains in bed through this (blue), and what of our etheric body remains in bed I will indicate with this (ochre yellow).

Now the following was determined from the beginning. It was designed for man by the evolving Jahve-Godhead that on his awaking the etheric weaving and living which has been described should dip down into both the etheric body and the physical body. You must not be horrified that it is Lucifer who weaves with us while we live in the fine etheric element from going to sleep to awaking. I have already in various lectures indicated that it is quite false if people think they must be on their guard against Lucifer in every sphere of life. That is a materialistic prejudice. Spiritual beings are not there because they actually ought not to be there. And most people act in a wrong may towards the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic beings when they seem to wish to have nothing to do with what is Luciferic or Ahrimanic. It is a matter of appreciating beings where they are in their element and knowing that they only work harmfully in elements where they do not belong. So it is right for earthly life that Lucifer lives and weaves, from our going to sleep to awaking, in the element of which we men are to know nothing, since we already have the other knowledge which is an effect of the tasting of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

But in the moment of waking, something comes in which we must unfathom if we would understand the necessary development of life that should come today through the world-concept of Spiritual Science. When in specially favourable moments one is aware in one's consciousness of this living and weaving like an echo; this interweaving of which we feel the after-experience, ought to come into our etheric body and physical body when we wake. For what is weaving there is our astral body. This lives and weaves in the swelling cosmic sea — and what it there weaves out, what it lives through and experiences, ought to come into our etheric body and also into our physical body.

If I wished to make a drawing of the intention of the Jahve Divinities guiding earthly evolution, I should have to draw this living and weaving in which our astral body dwells during the night so as to show that all this enters our etheric body as well as our physical body in our waking condition. That I have drawn here would show how the experiences of our astral body would be absorbed by the physical and etheric bodies when we wake up. This should have entered in the course of human earthly evolution or of earthly human evolution if the original purposes of the Jahve-deities could have been accomplished.

This, however, on account of the Luciferic temptation at that time, has not come about. Something else, however, happened, so we must draw the state of affairs which then entered somewhat differently.

If that is the physical body (blue) and that the etheric body (yellow ochre) (all schematically sketched), then the experience of the astral body really only comes into the etheric body, at most presses against the physical body and influences it somewhat. In reality it only enters the etheric body. I am not obliged to draw it like this (b) because it is kept back, because it halts through finding a boundary at the physical body, but because — through a secret pact between Lucifer and Ahriman which has appeared in consequence of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic interweaving in earthly evolution — because Lucifer in the moment of our waking hands over to Ahriman what actually ought to enter the physical body. That which would therefore be here (a) from the night's experience is not given over to our physical body, but to Ahriman in our physical body. To distinguish it as Ahrimanic I will draw it like this (yellow spots) — (c). And the important fact exists: Ahriman experiences in our physical body Lucifer's experiences during our sleep. This is, in other words, the reason why we cannot ourselves bring our night's experiences into our day-consciousness — because Lucifer hands them over to Ahriman at the moment of waking. Only while they strike their bargain and settle their pact with one another, something comes to our consciousness in the ordinary dream, while it is being passed from the hands of Lucifer into the hands of Ahriman. This too is one aspect of the sleep-life and dream-life.

Let us now consider the ordinary knowledge that we have during the time between waking up and going to sleep. This knowledge, such as we have it, is thus a consequence of the fact that we have partaken of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What happens is that during the day we gain knowledge about things. From waking to sleeping we gain knowledge of things, a knowledge that our intellect combines, putting one thing with another on the basis of the sense perceptions. We gain this knowledge of things, as must be self-evident to you, through our ego. It is a knowledge that man experiences as earth-man. Man as earth-man, has attained to knowledge because to his other three principles, brought over from Saturn Sun and Moon, the ego has been added upon Earth. As earthly man, in the ego, we experience the knowledge that is our ordinary human knowledge, all in fact which we can acquire about the world under the circumstances of our earthly existence. But the knowledge that we obtain like this has precisely the peculiarity of becoming obscured in our ego. It becomes obscured in our ego as soon as we go to sleep.

Hence arises this fact also: we gain knowledge from waking up to going to sleep, but the moment we go to sleep, it ceases to be in our consciousness, that is to say, it goes out of our ego. Philosophers who make the ego the basis of philosophy and then say: We can make the ego the foundation of philosophy because it is the permanent thing in human life between birth and death, utter a very common absurdity; for the ego, as man experiences it, is extinguished every night. So let us hold these facts before us; that we gain knowledge, that knowledge is however gained through the ego, and the ego is extinguished for our condition between falling asleep and awaking.

Whence does that come? This knowledge is really gained in the sphere of existence which we know to be assigned to Ahriman. We know, in fact, that Ahriman has his kingdom in the ordinary outer physical plane, because all death is allotted to him. (I spoke on this once in special detail in the lectures given in Munich.) [The Secrets of the Threshold’ Munich, 1913.]

We traverse Ahriman's realm with our consciousness from waking to going to sleep, and inasmuch as we develop our ordinary everyday knowledge in the way to which we are committed by the Luciferic temptation, it always brings us into the realm of Ahriman in the time we spend between waking and sleeping. We are actually always weaving and living in the kingdom of Ahriman with our ordinary search for external knowledge, for knowledge connected with the outer sense world.

Lucifer — we must always keep this separate — has brought this about, but it is not the kingdom of Lucifer in which we live and weave, but we live and weave and have our existence in Ahriman's realm; and indeed that is very easy to understand since Ahriman as we know is in our physical body. He helps us perpetually when we want to gain knowledge through the physical body. We gain knowledge in the first instance through the physical body, through the senses, the ordinary instruments of the physical body. There within sits Ahriman;

GA162, Lecture 2, Diagram 1

Lucifer gives to him in the moment of our waking, what he has experienced in us during the night. During the day, in connection with Ahriman, we strive after what we call our knowledge in the world; on our falling asleep Ahriman richly repays the gift which Lucifer gave him at our moment of waking.

Whereas at the moment of waking Lucifer gives over to Ahriman for our physical body what he has passed through with us during sleep, at the moment of our going to sleep, Ahriman gives over to Lucifer, what he has experienced with us all day. This then is handed over by Ahriman to Lucifer. And while our whole day's experience ought really to be carried over to the whole night's experience, and I should then have to draw the night's experience like this (a), the truth is that what was gained by day only passes into the astral body. In the ego it is seized by Lucifer (b) so that in the time from our sleeping to our waking up Lucifer experiences in us what continues to live and weave in us from the day's knowledge, from what we have gained for ourselves from waking to going to sleep. We can thus say: Ahriman, instead of ourselves, enjoys during the day our night experiences; and Lucifer instead of us, enjoys in our ego, during our sleep, our day's experiences. In our physical body Ahriman relishes his repast, in our ego Lucifer; Ahriman during the day, Lucifer during the night.

Now it is a matter of discovering the consequences for our human life of these facts. Let us first examine the fact that from our going to sleep to awaking, Lucifer claims our ego. This, you see, prevents us from re-living in the night the knowledge we experience by day, what we contemplate in the world, what judgments we make, what we differentiate, what we combine in the world. We should really live it through, if we could continue it during the night. According to the original purpose of the Jahve-deities we were to gain the knowledge during the day and live it through, work through it, during the night. Had this intention been realised, then we should have a quite different science from what we now have. We should have a science that was really a living science, where every concept which we experience would be alive in us, where, moreover, we should know that concepts which we form during the day are shadows of living beings, as I have often described; for during the night we should see clearly all that we experience during the day. During the day we form some or other concept; in the night all the concepts would wake up and live, and we should know that it was all elemental living beings. That is what we should know. From falling asleep to waking up we should know that what lives and weaves in the world is direct life; elemental working and weaving and life. This cannot be so for us because Lucifer seizes it, because Lucifer takes it away from us. And so he takes from us the life- of science. Every night he sucks out the life of science for himself, and for us remain only the abstract ideas, the dead concepts, which are given us through science. Humanity has a science that is sucked out by Lucifer, well sucked out by Lucifer!

That is the reason why science gives the impression that it cannot get near to what actually lives and weaves in things, why it appears as if one made dead concepts out of the living and weaving. Science seems a kind of compilation, something through which one feels one always stays outside life, never comes inside life. All that philosophers from time immemorial have sweated — I should say, have philosophised — over the boundaries of knowledge, over the impossibility of arriving at the basis of existence, rests upon the fact that they felt: Beneath what we can grasp in concepts lies the living life. This we cannot approach because Lucifer sucks it up and claims for himself, and so, in other words, makes the concepts dry and abstract.

Now let us take the other case. What would happen if we were not at the mercy of the fact that on waking up Ahriman lays claim to our night-experience? What would enter us on awaking? We should possess in our day consciousness the whole connection with our experiences of the night. In other words, we should bring the whole spiritual world into our day consciousness and in what we have as day-consciousness would intermingle what we have lived through in the night. We should not be able to have the sort of relation we have now between our day consciousness and the night experiences, since this exists by virtue of what Lucifer has effected in our day consciousness. But if Lucifer had not influenced this day consciousness in the way described we should approach things in quite a different way. Then our approach to them would be in harmony with what comes into us from our night experiences. That would produce a very considerable alteration in all that we experience during the day.

Our daily life consists, as you know, of observing things, forming ideas and concepts of them. Then of course we also combine ideas, but between birth and death we always couple together something that we have gone through in the day with something else that we have gone through by day. If the position were different, if the night experiences came properly into the life of day, then we should combine each day experience with what has stayed with us like a memory of the night experiences.

As it is now, we meet a person — and we say to ourselves: I know this person. But why do we say, I know this person? Only for the simple reason that we have seen him before in our day's experiences. We combine the one day experience with the other and that is expressed in our saying: We know this man. It would be entirely different if we were to bring in the night experiences in the way I have indicated. Then by day we should know: this or that spiritual being corresponds to him. We should have experienced him in the night, we should be able to identify him with his spiritual background; we should have the physical woven through by the spiritual. And thus would the whole world make itself concrete, woven through with the spirit. By reason of the Luciferic temptation, however, this cannot be, the spirit remains outside, it is not left for us. Ahriman claims it for himself, and so it remains in the etheric body alone (Diagram (b) page 5a). There it remains in the etheric body, it does not come to concrete form, it does not come to the point where one really sees it in the objects. One can only say: I feel in my etheric body that this spiritual element is there as something weaving and living. One feels it in the etheric body but one does not get it out into what one sees.

I hope you mark how this is: the spiritual element, instead of entering our physical body and showing itself to us at every turn, stays behind in the etheric. But we feel it in us and can say: The Spirit is there, it lives and weaves in the world but it does not make itself concrete for us. Above all, what we experience of the spiritual in this way, cannot become knowledge. It would be knowledge for us if it entered the physical body. It remains faith, since it is experienced merely in the etheric body. All that lies in mere faith as rejection of concrete knowledge arises from man's quite justifiable feeling that he will keep within normal life, he will not come to this making concrete, he is afraid of possible errors there.

Thus you see: Faith is Knowledge held back in the etheric body. The knowledge that we have by day is held back in the astral body, and is thus in the night knowledge held back in the astral body, becoming therefore devoid of life. On the other hand the living faith that is devoid of knowledge, because its knowledge is taken by Ahriman, confronts knowledge devoid of faith, the knowledge whose faith is taken away through Lucifer. See that here (p.9) we can add: Lucifer experiences in our ego Ahrimanic experiences.

I should like to epitomize in these two phrases what perhaps can remain in your memory from the extraordinarily important matters considered today. These studies have shown in particular the share of Ahriman and Lucifer in our life, have shown how Lucifer and Ahriman work together so that we may not possess the harmony between faith and knowledge, but have instead the wrong duality, of faith without knowledge, and knowledge without faith.

It is entirely false to think that we can ever flee from Ahriman or Lucifer. It is much more correct that Ahriman and Lucifer have their proper world mission, for all that has been Shown as happening, had to happen; mankind had to be led in the way we have described. Mankind had to be guided for a time through a stream which then found its outflow in what was depicted yesterday, in the gradually dying knowledge. There were certain peoples of the world with a predominating tendency which led to the condition which is sketched here (Diagram (c), p.5a) and there streamed towards this, as I described yesterday, a type of humanity from Central Europe who were so constituted that they had rather developed this condition (Diagram (b), p.5a).

And solely through the co-operation and harmonising of these two streams of humanity can the living grasp of the Christ Impulse come about.

For it is also possible for these two streams to fall apart and not reckon with each other in the comprehension of Christ and the Christ Impulse. Let us suppose that the one stream the stream issuing from Europe — is subject to the predisposition of being overpowered by Ahriman during the waking state. Let us suppose this stream became strongly developed and strove for an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. Then its development would lead it to reject the facts which are connected with the external occurrence of the Mystery of Golgotha; it wishes to have nothing through the physical body. Inasmuch as it is overpowered by Ahriman it will not penetrate into a concrete grasp of this whole great cosmic event of the descent of the Christ to Earth, and so on. It much prefers to find support in Jesus, through man's inner etheric nature, and founds a Jesus-ology, a science of Jesus; it rejects the part of the Mystery of Golgotha that takes effect outside in the world.

The predominance of this stream (diagram b) has little interest in the direct connection of man's inner nature with the man in Christ, with Jesus; it looks far more to what it is accustomed to look — the abstract grasp of what works out there in the cosmos — this stream strives towards a Christology. The other looks chiefly to Jesus, this one to Christ. One can only know the truth if one conceives of Jesus-Christ or Christ-Jesus as a unity in the way shown by Spiritual Science, which seeks to overcome both the one-sided aspects. It is just as clear that there is a Cosmic Being, the Christ, who was outside the earth sphere before the Mystery of Golgotha, and who through this Mystery came into the earthly sphere and so gave the whole human evolution a new impulse (so that an earthly event was prepared beforehand in the Cosmos), as it is clear that this event is intimately connected with Jesus of Nazareth. That is to say, one must be clear that the Christ, as He was before the Mystery of Golgotha, could not have brought the cosmic happening into the earthly happening without the physical human body of Jesus, and that He therefore had to go through the Mystery of Golgotha. We must be clear that it was necessary for the Christ to go through what He did go through, in the body of Jesus.

It is not a matter of Jesus alone or of the Christ alone, in a one-sided way, but of Christ Jesus. What happened on earth has not happened through the Christ, but through the fact that Christ lived in Jesus. A Christology is just as impossible as a mere Jesus-ology; the one and only possibility is a spiritual science of Christ-Jesus. The fact of the Mystery of Golgotha belongs of necessity to what had to enter earthly evolution.

Thus if that is to happen which is foreshadowed by the Mystery of Golgotha — namely, that a right relation shall enter between Lucifer and Ahriman in respect of what happens in the world through man, then it must be recognized how these two powers, Lucifer and Ahriman, work together in the human being. Man must confront this working together consciously. And this he will do when he seeks through Spiritual Science to characterise the two streams and thereby find the way to Christ-Jesus. This, too, is what is to be shown in that carved work which we venture to assume will one day find a place in an outstanding position in our Building. The Archetype of Man in the centre, the Ahrimanic and Luciferic beings at the sides. So that in the whole structure of the group we have a direct expression of what will be enacted in mankind's future evolution as regards the Trinity in place of what was enacted in the past. We have this expression in the triad: Christ-Lucifer-Ahriman.

We will speak of this next time.


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