T H E U N I V E R S E
by Dr. Rudolf Steiner
Dornach, 28 October, 1921
(From stenographic notes not revised by the lecturer.)
we shall study the human being
in regard to his form, and from this standpoint widen and
deepen what we have recently considered. If we envisage, to
begin with, the fact that the human form, of course,
depends in the widest sense on the whole life of man, we
should then consider first of all man's life as a
whole, in order to grasp the human form from within, in a
concrete way. To begin with, the human being forms part of
the whole universe, of the whole cosmos. And if you bear in
mind that in regard to the formation of the head, the human
being is in reality an image of the sphere, of the cosmic
universe, you will find, as it were, that as regards the
head, he is placed into the whole universe. But we can only
understand the way in which he is placed into it, and is at
the same time a self-contained being, by bearing in mind
man's connection with the whole environing world.
us first consider the human form
by saying: With his whole thinking, insofar as it is
connected with the head, man turns towards the whole
cosmos, and by bringing his head through birth, from the
spiritual world into physical existence, the human being,
enclosed within his body, may in a certain way look back
upon his real, inner soul-spiritual being, as it existed
during the time when he was not enclosed within a body.
Perhaps we obtain the best picture of what I mean by this,
when we consider how the human being attains knowledge by
looking back, as it were, into his own self. For when we
occupy ourselves with arithmetic and geometry, we look back
into ourselves. We recognize the laws of geometry simply
because we are human beings able to draw the spatial laws
out of our own being. But on the other hand, we know that
these laws fill out the whole universe. Consequently, when
we look out into the world, we have something which we
necessarily perceive through the eyes; but everything is
arranged geometrically, also the eyes, which are focused
geometrically. We may therefore say: insofar as man faces
the world with his thinking that is connected with his
head, he takes back, as it were, into himself, what is
spread out in the universe. Let us therefore imagine this
first stage of fitting himself into the cosmos by saying:
man takes in the universe, he looks back upon the universe,
as it were. By looking back upon ourselves, we discover the
universe. (See Table).
is man's most external connection with the universe out of which
he is built.
proceed further by envisaging in
the second place how the human being activates within him
what he takes in from outside. Consider that when the child
is born, everything which it experienced from death to a
new birth lives within its being; if the child could
develop a consciousness in this direction, it would be able
to look back on the experiences which it had before birth.
But these prenatal experiences then begin to be active in
the child. The human being does not only look back into his
own self in order to discover the universe anew within
himself, but he also looks out into the environing world.
He sees the world that surrounds him. We may therefore say:
He does not only take in the universe, but he looks out
into the universe around him (see Table) and takes in the
mobility of the universe. He grows inwardly mobile.
only need to clasp your left hand
consciously with your right one; you only need to touch
yourself — in order to remain completely within
yourself. You do something with your right hand, but you
are taking hold of something which is your own self. You
now touch yourself in the same way in which you feel about
and touch an external object. Every perception of the Ego,
of one's inner being, is really based upon this: To
take hold of one's own self. We also do it indirectly
with the eyes. When we envisage any point outside, the axis
of the right eye crosses that of the left eye, in the same
way in which our hands cross, when the right hand clasps
the left one. Animals have less inner life, because they
touch themselves much less. We may therefore say that the
third thing is: To experience or touch ourselves (see
Table). In reality, we are still in the external world,
when we thus grasp ourselves. We are not yet within our
let us now envisage the boundary
between the outer and inner life. Let us indicate this
process by moving the right hand, clasping the left one, up
and down, so as to describe a surface. This surface is
everywhere on ourselves. With our body's covering
sheath we enclose our inner being. We may therefore say
that the fourth thing is to encompass ourselves. (See
you penetrate in a living way
through feeling into your form, insofar as it is enclosed
by the skin, you will obtain this process of encompassing
We take in the universe and look back.
We look out into the universe.
We take in its mobility.
We grasp ourselves. (Touch ourselves.)
We encompass ourselves.
four things place before us the
gradual process of man's formation from outside
towards inside. We have, to begin with, the whole universe;
but we are still outside. Then the imitation of the
universe; but we have not yet reached our own being, for we
imitate the universe. If we touch ourselves, we reach
ourselves from outside. Only in the fourth stage we
the fifth stage, we must seek
something which is inside, which fills us out, surging and
weaving through us. We may therefore say: Five: That which
fills us out, surging and weaving through us.
comes the sixth stage: Through
the fact that we do not only have a skin, but that it is
filled out, and through the fact that we were thus able to
penetrate into our own being, a process begins which
dissolves the form, devolving it into something which does
not only fill out the human being inwardly, but makes him
like a fruit that has ripened. Let us follow the
fruit's development to the point where it is just
ripening; if it surpasses this point, it dries up. We may
therefore say: Six: Ripening.
this ripening process. By
growing mature, we begin, as it were, to decay inwardly. In
a very small measure, we cease to become human beings.
Although we are human beings, we become inwardly dust, so
to speak. We grow mineralized. With this we again fit
ourselves into the external world. We are completely within
our being, with that body which fills us out. Then, when we
become dust inwardly, we again fit ourselves into the
mineral world. We become, as it were, a body which has
weight. We may therefore say: Seven: We fit ourselves into
the inorganic world.
have once described to you that
when we weigh a human being, he stands there like a
mineral. This led us to the point of being able to say that
he fits himself into the inorganic world. We might also
say: He fits himself into the external forces of
At this stage, we do not only
fit ourselves into the external world, but we take in the
external world. We breathe, we eat, we absorb the external
world. In a preceding stage, we merely developed within us
forces which already existed within us; this stage of
development consisted essentially of this. Then comes our
inner life, but there we take into ourselves the external
world. When we reach this moment, we should, above all,
realize quite clearly that everything a human being takes
in from outside, is like something which should not really
form part of him. There are many erroneous conceptions in
the world regarding this process of absorbing substances
and forces from outside. In reality, everything we eat, is
a tiny bit poisonous. For life consists in taking in
nourishment and our not allowing it to become completely
one with us: we offer resistance, and life really consists
in this resistance, this defense. But of course, the
substances which we take in as nourishment are so slightly
poisonous that we are able to offer resistance. For if we
take a real poison, it destroys us, because we are unable
to defend ourselves against it.
may therefore say: When the
external world penetrates into us, a kind of poisonous
sting enters into us. (See Table.) We must use strong
expressions which do not exist in ordinary speech and
ordinary knowledge. When I explain these things to you, you
must therefore try to grasp what I really mean.
That which fills us out.
Fitting ourselves into the
inorganic world and seeking the balance.
brings us to the point of
absorbing what is outside. Consequently we began with the
forming of man out of the universe, proceeded to the
forming of man from within, and arrived at the point where
his inner life develops by offering resistance to the
external world. (See Table.)
the human being forms himself (at
least, his life and to some extent also his real form) in
accordance with his external attitude, his external
activities. But in the present time, our activities no
longer have a real connection with the human being; we must
go back into earlier times if we wish to grasp man in his
real connection with his environment, in which he
participates in the world's processes. At this point
we may say: The ninth stage represents one of man's
activities. He participates in the external world, by
taking his place culturally in the external life on earth.
He is, to begin with, a hunter. Nine: Hunter.
then progresses in his activities.
He becomes a breeder of animals. This is the next stage.
Ten: A breeder of animals. Eleven: He becomes a farmer;
that is the next stage of perfection. And finally, Twelve:
He becomes a trader. Later on you will see that I do not
include the activities which followed. They are of
secondary nature. Man's primary occupations are:
Hunter, breeder of animals, farmer and trader. This
characterizes man in regard to his form and the way he
lives upon the earth as a hunter, breeder of animals,
farmer, or trader. These are forms of human activities, of
human occupations upon the earth.
Breeder of animals.
following drawing [The drawing, showing the earth in the universe, cannot
be reproduced.] might be made, as an illustration
for the schematic table. Let us say, to begin with, that
here we have the earth. Let us suppose that we have the
human being upon the earth. In regard to these four form
principles, he would be dependent on the earth's
circumference; that is to say, he would be formed from out
the earth's circumference. Here (above), man is
formed from within. Let us leave this aside for the moment,
and consider how the human being is formed by the earth, as
a hunter, or breeder of animals; the result would be the
very opposite. For example, if here, at this point, we have
the influence of the constellations; that is to say, an
influence coming from the circumference, then the
constellations below the horizon (for the earth covers
them) would be able to influence man only by sending their
influence through the earth. Here the human being would
have to adapt himself to the earth in regard to his stars.
And what lies in the middle, would offer him the
possibility to develop himself inwardly.
may therefore say: The four upper
members of man's formation lead him out into the
universe; the last four members lead him to the earth, and
the stars come into consideration insofar as they are
covered by the earth. In the four central members the stars
and the earth maintain a balance.
dwells in his inner being.
see, even in ancient times these
things were felt and people said that a certain portion of
the starry sky influenced man so as to form him from
outside, from the universe. Of course, one had to accept
different stars according to the seasons. The
constellations change. But let us take, on a large scale,
the epoch in which we are living. If we adopt the
standpoint of a Greek reflecting over such things, we might
say: The stars in the proximity of Aries send their
influence from outside, also those in the proximity of
Taurus, and similarly the stars near Gemini and near
Cancer. These constellations, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and
Cancer enable man to look back, to be inwardly mobile, to
take hold of himself and to encompass himself. (See
other stars, on the opposite side
below, which are covered by the earth, enable man to be a
hunter through the influence of Sagittarius. He is able to
live as a breeder of animals by taming the goat: Capricorn.
He is able to live as a farmer, by — well, let us
first take the simplest farming existence — by
pouring out water, by walking over the fields with urns and
pouring out water: Aquarius. And he becomes a trader
through the influence of a star region holding that which
carries him over the sea. For in ancient times every ship
had the form of a fish. And two ships sailing side by side,
traveling as trading vessels over the sea, are really the
symbol of trade. So that by designating a ship as a
“fish,” we would obtain here, as a twelfth
the middle we have what lies in
between, filling out man; that is to say, the influence of
the blood, which fills the human being. How may this blood,
contained in man, best be symbolized? Perhaps by taking the
animal with the most intensive heart activity, the lion,
maturing process —
ripening: it suffices to look at the fields, at the
ripening wheat or corn: the ear of corn represents the
condition in which the fruit reaches the stage of
is the Virgin with the sheaf: Virgo. The chief thing here is the sheaf.
if we consider the moment when
man once more fits himself into the external world, or in
other words, seeks to establish the balance, we have Libra.
And where he feels the poisonous sting, where he feels that
everything is slightly poisonous, Scorpio.
Out of the Universe.
takes in the Universe and looks back.
looks out into the Universe. He takes in the mobility
of the Universe.
grasps himself (touches himself).
He encompasses himself.
Man's Formation from within.
What fills him out.
himself into the inorganic world and seeks
Formation of Man's Activities on earth.
The Extremities of Earth Man.
or Tamer of Animals.
past epochs, people really
experienced man's connection with the universe and
with the earth; but modern people are no longer able to
interpret such things. They say: Aries, Taurus, Gemini,
Cancer, Leo, and draw the corresponding signs**, but in
reality they do not have the slightest idea of what these
things really mean. For it is necessary to consider them in
the right way. If you look at an old picture of Aries, you
will see that this is not a materialistic or naturalistic
reproduction; its characteristic trait is that Aries is
always looking back; this gesture of Aries looking back is
the essential thing in the picture. We have this gesture of
Aries in the human being who is looking back on himself, on
the universe that lives in him. Aries should therefore not
be viewed merely in a naturalistic-materialistic way. The
picture reproducing Aries, the sign for Aries, is not
materialistic or naturalistic, but its essential
characteristic lies in the gesture of looking back.
you look at old pictures of
Taurus, you will find that he is always looking sideways
and jumping. Also in this case the gesture is the essential
thing, the gesture of looking around and activating the
universal principle that lives within. Here, too, the
gesture is the chief thing.
if you look at Gemini, you will
be confronted by one man on the right and another on the
left, yet they are always depicted in such a way that the
right hand of the man on the right is clasping the left
hand of the man on the left. Again, it is the gesture which
should be considered. It expresses the fact that man is
touching himself, feeling himself. The right and left side
of man are set forth as independent beings, because in a
certain way man is still outside and takes in his prenatal
being by touching or feeling himself.
is the self-encompassed being,
closed to the external world. Modern people also view the
sign of Cancer materialistically, naturalistically. But to
the people who took Cancer as the symbol for encompassing
oneself, the chief thing was that Cancer, the crab, can put
its claws round its victim, thus encompassing it. This is
contained in the word Cancer, which encompasses man. Cancer
is the encompassing element. It is really the symbol of the
human being who closes himself within his own self, who
does not only touch or feel himself, but who closes himself
from outside within his inner being.
with the strongly developed
heart system, is the true “heart animal.” The
lion may be considered as the “heart animal.”
The lion's qualities set forth the fifth member which
should be borne in mind.
the stage of maturity, we find
Virgo, the virgin with the sheaf, and the essential thing
is the sheaf, in which the fruit is on the verge of drying
up. And Libra, the scales, expresses that we seek to
establish the balance. Scorpio is, of course, the poisonous
sting. And Sagittarius is in reality an animal form ending
in a human being armed with bow and arrow. The Zodiac sign
for Sagittarius is a human being sitting like a centaur
upon an animal's body. It symbolizes the hunter.
is really a goat ending in
a fish tail — something which we do not find in
nature. For a goat with a fish tail does not exist. But
man, the breeder of animals, makes wild beasts as tame as
fishes. This is consequently an artificial symbol. Aquarius
stands for agriculture. In this sign people, of course, see
water and so forth, and this is spiritually justified. But
in this Zodiac sign you will always find a striding
character: A man striding along with two urns and pouring
water out of them. He is watering the earth and is
therefore a gardener, a farmer. Pisces, the fishes, is a
sign which I have already explained; it symbolizes trade,
for in the past, the ships were adorned with the heads of
fishes, for example of dolphins — even though
dolphins are not fishes — but the ancients thought
that they were fishes. This symbol therefore indicates the
character of trading.
should not consider things
schematically or superficially, as is so frequently the
case today, but we should set out from this development of
the human form, and from there endeavor to grasp
man's connection with the universe and with the
earth. This will gradually reveal the human being, from the
aspect of his form, as a member, a part of the whole
us now consider the question from
the following aspect. If, to begin with, we take everything
from the standpoint of the ancient Greeks — Aries,
Taurus, Gemini, Aquarius, Pisces — we may say, when
looking upon the human form: In regard to the shape of the
head (consider everything I have already explained to you)
the human being is formed from outside, from the cosmos.
Then forces begin to work inside. They give man the
possibility to become symmetrical. But in regard to the
influence of the last groups of stars, we must reverse
everything. The human being is also subjected to the
influence of the earth. He is influenced by forces. If this
is indicated more thickly on the drawing*, we may draw the
other forces more thinly on the other side and say: If a
human being particularly unfolds all that corresponds to
Sagittarius, shown here (you know that this is the Zodiac
sign of the upper thighs), he will have especially strong
upper thighs and be a hunter. If he is a breeder of animals
he must often bend his knees. If he is a farmer he must
walk and is therefore depicted as a striding man, etc. And
in regard to trading: If we look for a symbol connected
with the human being himself, we come across the feet.
These, in any case, are formed from outside.
the middle we find the region
where man forms himself. If I draw this form, it results
spontaneously from the twelve Zodiac signs. We may
therefore say: Here (in the middle), the universe or the
stars send their influences more into man's inner
being. Here (above), they influence him from outside, and
here (below), they compress him. But you will recognize in
this drawing the shape of the human embryo. When you draw
the human embryo, you must draw it in this way, if you
include the Zodiac; it can only be drawn in this way, in
accordance with its own laws. When you draw a figure
encompassing an angle of 180 degrees, you obtain a
triangle. When you draw the Zodiac, transforming it so that
it reveals its laws in regard to the earth, you obtain
through inner laws the shape of the human embryo. This
would constitute a direct proof that the human embryo is
formed out of the whole universe, that it is the product of
told you just now that we should
adopt the standpoint of the Greeks, but today we can no
longer set out from Aires; we must set out from the sign of
Pisces. We now live for many centuries under the sign of
Pisces. It is the sign which marks man's transition
to intellectualism. But if you go back to the point where
it was still justified to set out from Aries and it was
possible to speak of the Zodiac in the old meaning, you
will not obtain more than the callings represented by
Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces; namely,
hunter, breeder of animals, farmer, and trader. Everything
connected with industrialism, etc., already pertains to the
epoch of Pisces, and it is a repetition.
the following: We now live
in the age of Pisces. During this age developed everything
which constitutes the present civilization of machines. But
if we go back to the epoch of Aries, we still find the four
honest callings, and although they had already become more
complicated and modified, they placed man into nature. And
by going back still farther, to the epoch of Taurus, to the
third, second, first post-Atlantean ages, to the last
Atlantean epoch and to the last but one Atlantean epoch,
etc., we would finally come to Pisces. There we would find
that man was a completely etheric being and that he had not
yet come down to the physical world. In the age of Pisces
we find that he was an etheric being and in the present
time he is really repeating what he already passed through
at that time, when he developed into a human being. Since
the middle of the Fifteenth Century, he is repeating this
stage, but in an abstract way. In the past, he grew
concretely into his human development. Since the middle of
the Fifteenth Century, he is growing into his abstractions,
for a machine is also an abstraction. Since the return of
the age of Pisces, man has really sailed into the forces
which dissolve him. And when he will reach Aquarius this
dissolution will have progressed in an essential way; he
will then above all be unable to have the slightest
connection with the universe unless he clings to the
spiritual world. Just because of this repetition, man must
penetrate into the spiritual world.
also shows you that in reality
man is a threefold being; he is formed out of the cosmos
insofar as he has a head; he develops within his own self
and is only in correspondence with the external world
insofar as he has a thorax; he develops his extremities and
his metabolic processes by inserting himself into the
from another aspect we have
before us a threefold being. Consider that when the human
being reaches birth, the first four force impulses lie
within him; he unfolds them, but even then he is in a
certain sense a complete human being, except that the other
eight members are still in a rudimentary stage. The head is
a complete human being; the other members attached to it,
are rudimentary. The thorax, too, is a complete human
being, but the first four force impulses and the last four
are rudimentary. Also the limbs form a complete human
being, but the thorax and the head attached to it are
rudimentary. Three human beings are thus contained in man.
The first one, the head, is in reality the transformation
of the preceding incarnation. The thorax man is in reality
the present incarnation as such. And what the human being
does, the way in which he is active in the external world,
particularly what comes to expression in his limbs and in
his metabolic processes, carry him across into the next
incarnation. Man is therefore a threefold being also in
this connection. The human form may thus be studied as a
should really say: If we wish to
make a drawing of the human being we should have to draw
his head. We then have before us a complete human being.
You will gather this from the following fact: In the lower
jaw you really have the legs, except that there they are
turned backwards and the head is sitting on its legs. The
head is a complete human being, but its legs are reversed;
they form the lower jaw and man is sitting on it, so that
here I can draw a complete human being in a sitting
the thorax is a complete human
being. The arms are, as it were, the external
representatives of etheric eyes. And again, the limbs are a
complete human being. There, for example, the kidneys would
be the eyes. Also in regard to the human form we thus have
three human beings which are linked together. They
interpenetrate in such a way that the human being that has
hidden itself into the head which has become a sphere,
reveals to us what penetrated into the present life from
the preceding incarnation; the human being in the thorax is
really the human being of the present incarnation, and the
human being running about is the one that penetrates into
the next incarnation.
in a certain sense we may say:
Also man's whole attitude in the present reveals this
threefold character. Take the limbs and the metabolic
processes. In regard to these, man is able to produce a
complete human being. You only need to consider the human
germ, the human embryo in the mother's body, in order
to obtain metabolic man with his limbs, seeking to become a
complete human being. Take thoracic man and observe how the
head and the thorax still form a whole in the child, during
its infancy. This threefold aspect thus appears also in the
growing human being.
man outgrows infancy he must be
educated. The human being living in the head is the
educator and educates the other human being — the
childish head teaches the child (“Kindskopf den
Kindskopf”) — for in reality the human being
always remains a child in regard to his head. He only grows
old, that is to say, middle-aged, in regard to the middle
part, the thoracic man, and quite old in regard to the
metabolic-limb man. People notice this, as they grow old.
Even in accordance with the old riddle, “When young,
it walks on four legs; in middle age on two, and in old age
on three,” people notice that they grow old in this
connection. Also in regard to his head, man always remains,
as it were, the result of his past incarnation. The head
really remains a child throughout life. Indeed, we may say:
The science of education should try to solve the problem of
how the childish head, which is the teacher, should treat
the childish pupil in the right way.
things are apparently
humoristic, but they conceal a deep truth which should be
borne in mind, in order to obtain a correct view concerning
that in reality man's
head is the passenger conveyed by the remaining human being
— a passenger who is a spy. The head's legs are
always in a sitting posture, the head does not even attempt
to walk independently. It is always being carried, like a
man traveling by coach. In reality, the head is the
passenger in man.
man is instead the human
being's nurse. And limb-man is the worker, who is
employed as a slave, for it is really he who is passing
through life. We are head, as far as Cancer. We have this
from heaven, without any cooperation on our part. Here (in
the center) we must breathe and eat; this is our nurse. And
the real worker belongs to the sphere of Sagittarius,
Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.
see, this enables us to obtain
man's form in its connection with the whole universe.
It is only necessary to take things quite earnestly, even
if they are set before you more lightly and not
pedantically. They will show you that everything I have
explained to you today contains, on the one hand, the
possibility to grasp the human form out of the whole
cosmos, but on the other hand lies what may fill us, I
might say, with great reverence for the primeval wisdom of
men who were able to place into their Zodiac symbols such a
tremendously significant science of Man, drawn out of their
instinctive clairvoyance. Today, we have instead a science
in which people stare at Aries without knowing that its
characteristic lies in the fact that it turns backwards;
that the characteristic of Gemini lies in the fact that
they touch each other, clasp hands, and so forth.
Everything in the Zodiac symbols is immensely profound,
deeply significant — each gesture, every single sign.
And when the gesture itself is not the essential thing, as
in Leo, then the symbol is chosen in such a way that the
sign itself, I might say, expresses the gesture; the Lion
is chosen, because he has the strongest heart pulsation.
The Lion is the representative of the forces which fill out
the human being.
this way it is possible to draw to the surface again the
primeval wisdom of the ages, by finding it within ourselves.