|13th of July, 1941.
MAN'S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SURROUNDING WORLD
Lecture by Dr. RUDOLF STEINER, delivered at
NUREMBERG on the 1st of December, 1907.
Let me speak to you to-day of many different things which can easily
be linked together and in which you will readily discover a kind of
Let me speak to you above all of man's
connection with the surrounding world, of man's feelings towards this
world, and how these feelings can be deepened through a
spiritual-scientific world-conception. Above all, I wish to awaken in
you the feeling that a man with an average modern education does not
contemplate the world in the same way as a follower of spiritual
If spiritual science is to be raised from
the level at which it is understood by so many, from the level of a
theory, or number of teachings, to something which fills our whole
soul, purifying and ennobling all our feelings, if it is to be
raised to a real life-content, we must be able, as it were, to apply
to our daily life what we have received from spiritual science. We
have received spiritual science in the right way, if, for instance,
we regard a plant, a field, or an animal in a different way from
before, if we have feelings that differ from those which we had
before we acquired spiritual knowledge. We shall enter more deeply
into the meaning of these words, if we penetrate into the real nature
You are all familiar with the
self-consciousness of man. You know that we distinguish four parts in
the human being: His physical body, his etheric body, his
astral body and his Ego. What we call self-consciousness arises from
the fact that man grows conscious of his Ego. Self-consciousness does
not only enable us to gain knowledge of the surrounding world,
but also of ourselves; it enables us to know that each one of us is
an independent being.
The question now arises: How do matters
stand with the animal, the plant and the mineral? — Can we
speak in a certain sense of self-consciousness in the case of animal,
plant and mineral? People who simply say: “Why should not every
stone also have an ego, like man, only that man does not perceive
it” ... such people speak without any knowledge of things. For
upon the plane which we call the physical, only man is endowed with
self-consciousness, with an ego, — and the animal, the plant
and the mineral have no ego upon the physical plane. Man is
distinguished from animal, plant and mineral by the fact that he has
an Ego here, upon the physical plane, in the ordinary world.
But you must not think that my words imply a
hard and fast alternative. You must realise clearly that certain
higher animals, particularly animals that live much in the
company of man, such as domestic animals, have a kind of
self-consciousness, resembling that of the lower savages of to-day.
There are grades everywhere; we shall not speak now of the various
grades, but of the main facts to be found under average conditions.
From this standpoint, we may therefore say that, generally speaking,
we do not come across self-consciousness in animals, here, upon the
What kind of self-consciousness do animals
possess? You will easily come to an understanding if you ask
yourselves: Where is the self-consciousness of each of my fingers?
There you must say: My own consciousness is the self-consciousness of
my fingers. It cannot be thought of apart from my common
consciousness. My ten fingers have their common consciousness in my
Ego; there, they have their common Ego. The same applies to the other
members of the body. This constitutes my
Now transfer this concept to the concept of
an animal species. There you must say: Everything in the animal
kingdom which has the same form, all the lions, bears, frogs, fish
— all, these lions belonging together, are really connected in
the same way as my ten fingers. Distance does not count. If we were
to ask each finger as to its ego, it would have to answer: It is the
Ego of the man to whom we belong. In the same way, if you were to ask
a lion in a menagerie, or a lion in Africa, where its ego is to be
found, each would point to the common ego of the species, to the
All animals having the same form have a
common ego. Man differs from the animal through the fact that each
human being has his own Ego, whereas the animal has an ego common to
his species, a group-ego. You cannot find the egos of the animals in
the physical world, for they live in a world which we call the
astral plane. There, you will find one Being comprising all the
lions. Just as here, upon the physical plane, you may encounter an
individual human being enclosed within his skin, so — if you
were clairvoyant — you would encounter upon the astral plane
the Lion-ego, the Bear-ego, as self-contained Beings, as individual
Beings, like the human being here on earth. Upon the astral plane,
they are intelligent beings, who are not in any way behind man. The
single lion maybe inferior to man, but his ego is a very lofty Being,
who must understand and accomplish with penetrating wisdom the whole
task connected with the lions here on earth. These animal-egos are
therefore highly intelligent Beings.
If you were now to follow clairvoyantly these Beings who constitute
the collective egos of the animals, you would see that they exercise
a very strange activity. The animals’ tasks are ruled and
governed by the Beings whom we call the animal-egos. These
animal-egos constantly surround the earth.
Let me select one example out of many, in
connection with the task of these animal-egos. If you study a
well-known phenomenon, about which men have thought a great deal, if
you study the flight of the birds, you will find that the birds that
live in northern regions begin to gather in the autumn; they fly from
north-eastern to south-western regions, and then southwards. They
gather again in the spring and return north. At the foundation of
these bird migrations lies the breeding and hatching of the young,
etc. The spring migration is a kind of wedding flight. The regularity
of these flights is guided by the group-souls; they arrange
everything. You may even observe the different forms of these
flights: One species flies in this way, another in that way ... some
birds fly low over the ground, others high above the clouds. You may
find a deep wisdom in all these details. We may say: Everything that
constitutes the souls of the animals encircles our planet, encircles
our earth. This example shows us how the wisdom of the group-soul
rules the flight of the birds.
How do matters stand with plants? —
They only have a physical and an etheric body. Individually, they
have no independent astral body and no independent ego upon the
physical plane. If you could observe yourself during your night's
sleep, you would see your physical and etheric body lying on the bed.
What remains behind on the bed has the value of a plant; the plant
always consists of this. What lives in you during the day, when
you are awake, what is contained in your physical body, is outside
your physical and etheric body during the night.
In the case of the plant, the astral body
and the ego, which you lift out of your physical and etheric body
during the night, are always outside. But this going out of the
astral body and of the Ego is connected with something else.
Let us suppose that you were all to go to
sleep here — which would, of course, not be very desirable; in
that case, all your Egos and your astral bodies would be outside.
They would not be so separated, as they are now separated from one
another, while they live in the physical body: they would intermingle
more, they would form a more uniform mass, as if they were to dwell
in one another; they would dissolve, as it were, in a common astral
body of the earth, and out of this astral body of the earth, which is
mingled with that of the Sun, they would draw the strength which
eliminates fatigue. This is continually the case with the
In the plant you see before you a physical
and an etheric body. But the plant's astral body is outside.
The whole earth has an astral body in common, and that is the astral
body of the plants. And the earth also has a common Ego, so that you
must look for the ego of the plants in the common Ego of the whole
And now all the plants on earth appear to
you like your own fingers. The whole earth is an organism, and the
plants are literally its members, which share in the common
consciousness. What ensues from this, is literally true. You feel
pain, when someone hurts you, or cuts into your flesh.
Similarly the whole earth may feel pain under certain conditions. But
the earth does not feel pain when you pick a flower or cut off a
plant; this would not cause it pain. What causes pain to the earth
can be understood if we bear in mind the following:
The whole earth must be imagined as an
organism and all the plants as members of this common organism. The
plants growing upon the earth are connected with it more or less in
the same way as the milk is connected with the human being, or with
the animal. When the calf sucks the milk of the cow, the cow
experiences a feeling of well-being. The whole earth has this feeling
when you pick a flower or cut a plant. What the earth sends up to the
sun, what it sends out of itself, is in a different form that which
lives in the milk. But if you tear out a plant with its root, it is
the same as if you were to tear away a part of your body, or cut into
your flesh. The earth experiences something quite different when we
cut a plant which is firmly rooted in the ground — then the
earth experiences well-being —, or when we tear it out with its
root. This should not be judged morally, but in accordance with the
facts, and these are the facts.
Now try to feel, and not merely to think
such a truth. We can feel it in the following way: When we go out in
the autumn, and see a farmer mowing down the corn with the scythe,
those who know how matters stand can feel what is taking place, they
can feel the feelings of well-being and of joy which pass through the
astral body of the earth, while the corn is being cut. When the
reaper cuts down the corn at harvest time, the whole earth really
experiences joy. These kinds of feelings are experienced, when
we know how matters stand with the group-soul of animals, the
earth-soul of plants, the group-Ego, the Ego of the earth: In the
migrating flock of birds we can feel the wisdom; the wise influence
of the astral Beings who control them. We can even feel the wind of
wisdom, like a current of air. And if we know that in the
plants we confront the soul of the earth, we experience feelings and
sensations in everything that takes place in the plants. We
feel the cosmic Spirit in the environment of the earth, when we
observe the ego of the animals; and we feel the cosmic Soul, we
experience the feelings of Nature, when we regard the ego of the
This is indeed so. If we look upon the
teachings of spiritual science not merely theoretically, if they fill
our whole soul, we can feel the presence of the God who always passes
through Nature. When one man faces another, he knows — does he
not? — that a feeling heart beats in the other’s breast,
that he has feelings similar to his own, that he does not
merely form thoughts about him, but also feels with him. In the same
way, we gradually learn to experience something resembling the warm,
pulsing life, the warm feeling of Nature. Nature becomes for us a
living knowledge of spirit and soul.
Let us now imagine what it means to
spiritualise Nature through this teaching. We feel as if spiritual
science enables us to bear ourselves quite differently towards
everything, as if our feelings are purified and ennobled. What an
indifferent matter it is to an ordinary man when the scythe passes
through the corn, and cuts it down! And what a different experience
this is to a spiritual investigator, who follows the cutting scythe
with his heart, and who know that there below, where the scythe
touches, is a living Being, that the astral body of the earth
experiences pleasure. Thus Nature gradually becomes full of life for
us. This means that we must allow apparently abstract theories to
grow into living feelings and sensations. Every step in daily life
changes, when we thus allow theory to become feeling.
Now that we understand this, let us pass on
to another subject, which we may already have considered from another
aspect, but which will appear to us in a new light.
We raise our eyes to the moon and to the
sun. We have just heard that a knowledge harmonising with the spirit
may kindle in us feelings which enable us to participate in the
feelings of our environment. This also extends to lifeless objects,
even to the stones.
It is very strange how we may learn to judge
many things in our surroundings in a different way: Very often we get
quite a wrong conception of things. We think that we go out into the
world equipped with knowledge and want to see what is really taking
place, when something happens in the world outside. We may, for
instance, come to a quarry: There, the workmen are hammering and
quarrying the stone. There we come to the ego of the stone ... which
is not merely connected with our earthly planet, but with our whole
planetary system. The stone has its central point in that of the
planetary system. The stone also has feeling, but you must not think
that the stone feels pain when it is broken up or destroyed; on the
contrary, you may even notice immeasurable pleasure throbbing through
the quarry, when the men are working there. But when stone is joined
to stone, pain is felt. It is interesting to know this.
Once upon a time, the earth was a glowing,
molten mass; you could not have lived there, until it had cooled
down. Everything was dissolved in this glowing mass; it had to
consolidate, and this process was connected with pain, whereas the
earth feels joy, feels pleasure, when its surface is broken up. The
whole inanimate Nature suffers, so as to enable you to build
your dwelling places, and men who have insight are sensible of this
and hear the sighs of pain.
One day Nature will again dissolve into its
primeval elements. Lifeless Nature had to be drawn together with
pain, so that man might pass through his development. But when man
has become so spiritualised, that he no longer needs the solid
earth as a foundation, then the earth will be redeemed with him;
Lifeless Nature longs for this. What the Apostle Paul said, is true:
“The Whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain.” It
will be saved, when man approaches a spiritualised condition.
It can be noticed that children, who have a
certain feeling for the astral world, because they are differently
constituted from grown-ups, can feel something of the sensations of
lifeless objects that are being destroyed. Not always — for in
many cases it is just naughtiness — but sometimes children
destroy things so that they can participate in these feelings of
lifeless Nature. Indeed, we can see that they do not always destroy
things through naughtiness.
Things often present an entirely different
aspect from a spiritual standpoint. You can see, therefore, that the
whole earth is permeated with soul and spirit and that it is filled
with feeling. The wonderful part of spiritual science is that it
leads us into a living Nature. Now you can easily understand that
those who view things from the standpoint of occultists, must also
look upon the sun and the moon as endowed with soul and spirit, like
the human being.
Indeed, that part of the sun which we can
see when we look upon it with our physical eye, is connected with the
sun's whole being just as man's visible part is connected with his
whole being. The body of the sun is the body of the Sun's spirit, and
the body of the moon is the body of the Moon's spirit. In a
spiritual sense, sun, moon and earth belong together —
and this, to be sure, is a very complicated matter.
A whole number of spiritual beings, are
connected with the sun; their bodies, and not only their spirits, are
in the sun. When an occultist looks into the sun and perceives the
sun's rays, this is not only a physical phenomenon, but it is
connected with something else.
You can have an idea of what he thus
discerns, if you watch, for instance, the giving gesture of a woman
in the street, who raises her hand towards a child. You see the
movement of her hand and perhaps also the coin which falls into the
child's palm. Yet this is only the physical aspect. If you were to
penetrate into the process which is expressed by the physical action,
you would perceive compassion as the impulse which causes the hand to
move. In the child, too, you would see the external process as the
expression of a spiritual process, perhaps of gratitude.
He who only sees the sun's physical rays,
has the same relation to the spiritual seer, as he who sees only the
woman's or the child's physical gesture has to one who also perceives
the inner processes. He whose power of vision has been trained
through occultism to see the sun's rays coming towards us, also
perceives how spiritual beings pour out their feelings in the sun,
and how these feelings become deeds. Their deeds are what they send
down with the sun's rays. If you observe the astral body of the
earth, you will find in it something like gratitude which is felt by
the whole plant-world, as it receives the sun's rays.
Still more wonderful is the course of a whole year! When the plants
open out, this is a heart-felt psychic expression of the earth's
inner processes, and at the same time it expresses the feelings of
the creative, gift-bestowing Spirits of the Sun.
Now we should note a certain contrast, but
not an opposition, between the Spiritual Beings of the sun and those
of the moon. The earth, the sun and the moon belong together. In a
very remote past, they were one body. In a remote past, the sun
severed its connection with the earth, that is to say, with the
present earth and with the present moon.
Why did this take place? This can be
explained in many ways. But to-day we shall only give one of the many
reasons. When the sun dissolved its connection with the earth, all
the Beings whose nature was of higher substance than that which
remained behind, left the earth with the sun. For the sun can be the
dwelling place of far higher spiritual beings than man. Beings who
far surpass man left the earth and became the Spirits of the Sun, and
the sun became their dwelling place.
Consequently, if we look into the sun with
trained occult vision, we can see the physical sun as a body,
as the field of action and the dwelling place of lofty spirits, of
the Solar Spirits. For a while, they continued their development upon
the same planet upon which we now live, but afterwards they were
obliged to leave it, since, in order to continue their development in
a corresponding way, they took the finest substances away from it.
One of these Spirits of the Sun left the
others, for he had been given a special task — and remained
connected with the earth. Later on, the moon also went out from the
earth; the earth became independent, and this Solar Spirit, this
Spirit of the Sun, who first had quite another task, a task which was
not connected with the sun, is J a h v e, or J e h o v a, acting as
Jehovah left the earth with the moon, so
that when the earth was severed from the sun and from the moon,
certain lofty Solar Spirits live in the sun, and Jehovah in the moon.
The soul forces and the spiritual forces of these Beings shine down
upon the earth with the light that comes down to us from the sun and
from the moon.
Man could not have developed as he did, had
he been subjected to the exclusive influence of one of these Beings.
Man's development had to follow the course which it actually did
If the earth had only had the sun, and not
the moon, man would have been subjected to a constant and rapid
metamorphosis and would have developed very quickly. This would not
have been good for him; he would have hurried too much and passed
over certain stages of his development. The best forces for the
development of man are assembled in the sun: but a quick pace was to
be avoided. For this reason, Jehovah separated from the others, thus
retarding the whole pace of human development.
In the course of development, the forces of the sun and of the moon
work together and produce the right mean.
If only the forces of the moon had been
active, man would have withered; withered, lifeless natures, mere
forms, would have lived upon the earth, instead of living human
beings. If you go through a museum and look at statues, you see
before you the image of what the moon would have made of you:
soulless forms, of great beauty, certainly, but without soul. The
sun's forces bring life and movement into these stiff and rigid
forms, but under the influence of the sun's forces only, man would
have become spiritualised too soon.
The course of earthly development has been
arranged in this wise way, and this is why the sun and the moon, with
their forces and beings, had to separate from the earth.
If a clairvoyant person could have studied
the evolution of the earth from another planet, if he could
have watched its development, he would have seen a strange sight, Let
us suppose that someone follows the development of our earth from a
distant heavenly body: He would, in that case, see not only the
physical body of the earth, but also its astral body. If he were to
observe this astral body, he would perceive in it all kinds of
light-phenomena. He would follow these through thousands of
years; and then a moment arrives, when the astral body completely
changes, revealing new Colours and entirely new processes
There is such a moment, in the evolution of
the earth, if we consider the earth as an organism. Before this, the
astral body reveals definite colours; these colours change and are
quite different during the two epochs before and after. And if
the clairvoyant observer were to investigate this moment, he
would discover that it coincides with Christ's death on Golgotha.
When the blood streamed out of the wounds of Christ-Jesus, the whole
astral body of the earth changed: This is the cosmic mystery
revealing the significance of Christ's death.
This should not be considered merely with
the intellect; no occult training would suffice to feel the whole
significance of this event. This event took place; the blood streamed
out of the wounds of Christ-Jesus upon the Cross.
What occurred at that time in our world-system? What brought about
the change in the astral body of the earth?
The change was brought about through the
fact that from this moment onwards one of the Spirits of the Sun
united his astral body with that of the earth. We have already
explained that there are several Spirits of the Sun in all. One of
these, whom we designate as the Spirit of Christ, united his astral
body with that of the earth, when the blood streamed out of his
physical body. Since that time, the earth has undergone an essential
transformation, because it has become united with the body of Christ.
The Christ-principle descended from heavenly
heights; until the death of Christ Jesus upon the Cross it lived in
the body of the sun. Through Christ's death it became united with the
body of the earth. Since then, the earth, as a planetary body, is the
body of Christ. He became one with the earth.
Now we can understand in a deeper sense the
meaning of the words: “He that treadeth (eateth?) my bread,
treadeth me underfoot.” How infinitely deeper in its meaning is
even the Lord's Supper, if we know that the body of the earth is the
body of Christ!
What is the bread that is baked from the
grains of corn? How must the Spirit of the Earth address this Bread?
— “This is my body,” — words which should be
taken literally. And how must the Spirit of the Earth address the
sap-forces that stream through the plants? — “This is my
blood.” Just as the blood streams, through the veins of your
body, so does the blood in the sap of the plants literally stream
through the body of Christ, through the body of the earth!
Who would not own that this gives an
infinitely deeper meaning to the Holy Supper? What do we experience
when we feel that the astral body of Christ first unites itself with
the earth? What do we experience when we perceive the meaning of the
words which have just been quoted? What does the human being
experience when he penetrates into all this? How deep will be the
significance of a sacrament, such as the Mystery of the Lord's Supper!
Particularly through an occult study of
these processes, we learn to consider the whole life round about us
in a different way. We learn to understand the religious revelations,
by taking them literally. And when we learn to grasp them in the way
that is explained above, we begin to realise that all external
interpretations of religious documents must disappear. For
religious documents, which are drawn out of the deepest facts,
express these. Genuine religious documents contain nothing that does
not correspond with the great truths, such as the union of Christ's
Spirit with the earth, when His blood streamed out on Golgotha. How
immensely our feelings deepen, when we gain an insight into this mystery!
The task of spiritual science is to work in
such a way that man once more learns to awaken in his soul the
feelings which once lived in his forefathers — real feelings!
In the past, the early Christians could feel what we have now tried
to conjure up before our souls, through the teachings of spiritual
science. They could feel what we can now experience in our souls.
They could feel it deeply! These deep feelings continued to live in
them until materialism came, with its intellectual judgments.
Then the spirits withdrew, as it were, for nothing exercises such an
estranging influence upon spiritual beings as the intellect. When the
intellect dissects things and encompasses them in its caustic
criticism, it also drives away the spiritual beings from the
The myth of the good goblins has a deep
meaning; they really existed, when as yet the light of the intellect
did not enlighten man. This light drives away the goblins. Such
feelings existed, when the critical intellect had not as yet
permeated the human soul.
Spiritual science is there to give man again
warm, living feelings, which penetrate into the whole of
Nature, — in spite of the intellectual forces. The development
of the intellect could not be held back; the spiritual nature had to
withdraw for a time. But the spirit will return. We shall keep our
intellectual powers, and in addition gain warm and glowing feelings,
enthusiasm and compassion.
When we reach the sources of life, knowledge
and feeling will be one. A new life will spring out of religious
documents, when that for which Goethe longed, comes about. For, many
centuries ago, the majority of men could not read the Bible, although
they heard something of its contents. When the art of printing was
invented, they were able to read the Bible. But to-day, they no longer
read the deep, mysterious documents themselves; they only read the
opinions expressed on the Bible by critical Christians. Goethe longed
for an age in which men would once more learn to read the BIBLE, and
not books ON the Bible. For to-day, they read books on the Bible! For
a few pence, one can buy books proving that the Bible is a
patch work of single documents, like the Old Testament. A book
has even been written, where every sentence, printed in different
colours, shows what was written at an earlier and at a later date,
the additions, etc., etc. It is the so-called
These things are the outcome of the critical
intellect, which can only perceive that these things were written by
one or the other author upon the physical plane, It cannot see that
the authors of the biblical writings were all of them disciples of
great initiates, who possessed a direct insight into the spiritual
world. The essential thing is to recognise the true spirit in
the words, to penetrate into that which lies behind them, to
understand that the religious documents were written from the depths
of a true spiritual knowledge.
Thus we have seen in what way we should
understand these things, for only then can we learn what is important
to us, so that we may rise to the right and true feeling, which means
the right and true life.