Monday, August 21, 2017
Rudolf Steiner, "Verse for America"
May we be centered in the feeling
of compassionate love in our hearts
as we seek to unite with human beings who share our goals
and with spirit beings who, full of grace,
look downward on our earnest, heartfelt striving,
strengthening us from realms of light
and illuminating our love.
Supersensible Knowledge. Lecture 3.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, November 8, 1906
The next three lectures of this winter's cycle will have more of an inner connection than the others, that is: Today's upon the origin of suffering, the next upon the origin of evil, and the following: Illness and Death. Yet each of these three lectures will be complete and comprehensible in itself.
When man looks at the life around him, when he examines himself and tries to investigate the meaning and significance of life, he finds before life's door a remarkable figure — in part a warning figure, in part a completely enigmatic one: Suffering.
Suffering, so closely bound up with what we shall consider in the next lectures on evil, illness and death, seems to man sometimes to grip so deeply into life as to be connected with its very greatest problems. Hence the problem of suffering has occupied the human race since earliest times, and whenever there is an endeavor to estimate the value of life and to find its meaning, people have above all tried to recognize the role played by suffering and pain.
In the midst of a happy life suffering appears as a destroyer of peace, as a damper-down of the pleasure and hope of life. Those who see the value of life in pleasure and happiness are those who feel the most this peace-destroyer, suffering. How else would it be explicable that in a people so full of joy and happiness of life as the Greeks, such a dark spot in the starry heavens of the beauty of Greece could arise as the saying of the wise Silenus? Silenus in the train of Dionysos asks: What is the best for man? The best for man is not to be born, and if he is once born, then the second best is to die soon after birth. Perhaps you know that Friedrich Nietzsche in seeking to grasp the birth of tragedy out of the spirit of ancient Greece linked on to this saying in order to show how, on the basis of Greek wisdom and art, suffering and man's sadness over suffering and all connected with it play a role full of significance.
But now we find another, hardly much later, saying from ancient Greece. It is a short phrase which shows how a glimmering arises that the pain and sorrow of the world do not play merely an unhappy role. It is the expression which we find in one of the earliest Greek tragedians, Aeschylos, that out of suffering grows knowledge. Here are two things brought together, one of which no doubt a great part of mankind would like to blot out, whereas it looks on the other, knowledge, as one of the highest possessions of life.
People at all times have believed that they must recognise that life and suffering are deeply entwined — at least the life of modern man and of the higher creatures on our globe. Thus at the beginning of the Biblical story of Creation the knowledge of good and evil and suffering are intimately bound up with one another. Yet we also see on the other hand, in the midst of the Old Testament conception how, out of a dark view of sorrow, a bright light-filled one dawns.
When we look around us in the Old Testament and study the Creation story in regard to this question it is clear that suffering and sin were brought together, that suffering was looked on as the consequence of sin. In the modern mode of thinking, where the materialistic concept of the world penetrates everywhere, it is no longer easy to grasp how the cause of suffering can be sought for in sin. But through spiritual research and the power to look back into earlier ages, it will be found to be not so meaningless to believe in such a connection. The next lecture will show us that it is possible to see a connection between evil and suffering.
But for ancient Jewry it was impossible to explain the cause of suffering. We see in the centre of this view that brings suffering and sin into connection the remarkable figure of Job. It is a figure which shows us, or is meant to show us, how suffering and unspeakable pain can be connected with a completely guiltless life, how there can be unearned pain and suffering. We see dawning in the consciousness of this unique tragic personality, Job, yet another connection of pain and suffering, a connection with the ennobling of man. Suffering appears to us then as a testing, as the root of a climbing upwards, of a higher development. Suffering in the sense of this Job-tragedy need in no way have its origin in evil, it can itself be first cause, so that what proceeds from it represents a more perfect phase of human life. All of that lies somewhat remote from our modern thinking, and the generality of our modern educated public can find but little connection with it. You need only think back in your life, however, and you will see how perfection and suffering very often appeared together and how mankind has always been aware of this connection. Such a consciousness will form a bridge to what we are to consider today in the light of spiritual investigation, namely, the connection between suffering and spirituality.
Remember how in some tragedy the tragic hero has stood before your eyes. The poet leads the hero again and again through suffering and conflicts full of suffering until he comes to the point where pain reaches its climax and finds relief in the end of the physical body. Then there lives in the soul of the spectator not alone sympathy with the tragic hero and sadness that such sufferings are possible, but it appears that from the sight of suffering man was exalted and built up, that he has seen the suffering submerged in death and that out of death has come the assurance that victory exists over pain. Yes, even over death.
Through nothing in art can this highest victory of man, this victory of his highest forces and impulses, victory of the noblest impulses of his nature be brought so sublimely before the eyes as by a tragedy. When the experience of pain and suffering has preceded the consciousness of this victory, and, from the deeds that can again and again take place before the eyes of the spectator in the theatre, we look up to what is still felt by a great part of modern humanity as the highest fact of all historical evolution; when we look up to the Event which divides our chronology into two parts — to the Redemption through Christ Jesus — then it can strike us that one of the greatest upliftings, one of the greatest upbuildings and hopes of victory which has ever taken root in the heart of man has sprung from the world historic sight of suffering. The greatly significant feelings, cutting deep into the human heart, of the Christian world-conception, these feelings which for so many are the hope and strength of life, give the assurance that there is an eternity, a victory over death. All these supporting and uplifting feelings spring from the sight of a universal suffering, a suffering that befalls innocence, a suffering occasioned through no personal sin.
So we see here too that a highest element in the consciousness of humanity is linked to suffering. And when we see how these things, small and great, ever again rise to the surface, how they actually form the elemental part of the whole of human nature and consciousness, then it must indeed seem to us as if in some way suffering is connected with the highest in man.
This was only meant to point to a basic impulse of the human soul which continually asserts itself and which stands as a great consolation for the fact that there is suffering. If we now enter more intimately into human life we shall find phenomena which show us the significance of suffering. We shall have to point here symptomatically to a phenomenon which perhaps seems hardly connected; but, if we nevertheless examine human nature more closely, we shall see that this phenomenon too points to the significance of certain aspects of suffering.
Think once more of a work of art, a tragedy. It can only arise if the poet's soul opens wide, goes out of itself and learns to feel another's pain, to lay the burden of a stranger's suffering upon his own soul. And now compare this feeling not perhaps just with a comedy — for then we should get no good comparison — but with something which in a certain way also belongs to art, with the mood which gives rise to caricature. This mood, perhaps with ridicule and derision, draws in caricature what goes on in the soul of the other and appears in external action.
Let us try to put before us two men of whom the one conceives an event or a human being tragically, while the other grasps it as caricature. It is not a mere comparison, not a mere picture when we say that the soul of the tragic poet and artist appears as if it went out of itself and became wider and wider. What, however, is revealed to the soul through this expansion? The understanding of the other person. One understands the life of another through nothing so much as by taking upon one's own soul the burden of his pain. But what must one do if one wants to caricature? One must not go into what the other feels, one must set oneself above it, drive it away, and this driving from oneself is the basis of the caricature. No-one will deny that just as through tragic compassion the other personality becomes deeply comprehensible, what appears in the caricature is what lives in the personality of the caricaturist. We learn to know the superiority, the wit, the power of observation, the phantasy of the one caricaturing rather than the one caricatured.
If we have shown in some way that suffering is nevertheless connected with something deep in human nature then we may hope that through a grasp of the actual nature of man the origin of pain and suffering can also become clear to us.
The spiritual science which we represent here takes its starting point from the fact that all existence has its origin in the Spirit. A more materialistic view sees Spirit only as a crowning of perceptible creation, above all as a fruit of physical nature from which it proceeds.
In the last two lectures (11 and 25th October 1906) it was shown how in the light of spiritual research we have to picture the whole man — the physical or bodily, the man of soul and the spiritual man. What we can see with our eyes, perceive externally through the senses, what materialism considers the sole being of nature, is to spiritual research nothing but the first member of the human being — the physical body. We know that in respect of its substances and laws this is common to man with all the rest of the lifeless world. But we know too that this physical body is called to life through what we call the etheric or life-body. We know this because for spiritual research the life-body is not a speculation but a reality which can be seen when the higher senses slumbering in man have become open. We look upon the second part of the human being, the etheric body, as something which man has in common with the rest of the plant world. We regard the astral body as the third member of man's being; it is the bearer of sympathy and antipathy, of desire and passion which man has in common with the animal. And then we see that man's self-consciousness, the possibility of saying “I” to oneself, is the crown of human nature, which man has in common with no other being. We see that the “I” arises as the blossoming of the three bodies, physical, etheric and astral. So we see a connection of these four bodies to which spiritual research has always pointed. The Pythagorean “quadrature” is nothing else than the four-foldness, physical body, etheric body, astral body and I or ego. Those who have occupied themselves more deeply with spiritual science know that the I works out from itself what we call Spirit-Self or Manas, Life-Spirit or Budhi, and the actual Spirit-Man or Atma.
That is once more put before you so that we may orientate ourselves in the right way. Man therefore appears to the spiritual investigator as a four-membered being. Now comes the point where genuine spiritual research, which sees behind the beings with the eyes of the spirit and penetrates to the deeper laws of existence, differs profoundly from a purely external way of observing. It is true that as man stands before us we say too that chemical and physical laws must be the foundation of the body, of life, the foundation of sensation, consciousness, self-consciousness. But when we penetrate existence with spiritual science we see that things are just the reverse. Consciousness, which arises out of the physical body, which in the sense of phenomenon appears to be the last, is to us the original creative element. At the base of all things we perceive the conscious Spirit and therefore the spiritual researcher sees how senseless is the question: Where does the Spirit come from? — That can never be the question. It is only possible to ask: Where does matter come from? For spiritual research matter has sprung from Spirit, is nothing but densified Spirit.
As a comparison, picture a vessel with water in it. Think of one part of the water being cooled down until it turns to ice. Now what is the ice? It is water, water in another form, in a solid condition. This is the way that spiritual research looks at matter. As water is related to ice so is Spirit to matter. As ice is no more than a result of water, so is matter nothing else than a result of Spirit, and as ice can become water again, so can Spirit originate again out of matter, can proceed from matter, or, reversed, matter can again dissolve into Spirit.
Thus we see Spirit in an eternal circulation. We see the Spirit which flows through the whole universe, we see material beings arise out of it, densifying, and we see again on the other hand beings which cause the solid to evaporate again. In all that surrounds us today as matter is something into which Spirit has flowed and become rigid. In every material being we see rigidified Spirit. As we need only bring the necessary heat to the ice to turn it into water again, so we need only bring the necessary Spirit to the beings around us to renew the Spirit in them. We speak of a rebirth of the Spirit which has flowed into matter and is hardened there. Thus does the astral body — the bearer of likes and dislikes, of desires and passions — appear to us not as something which could originate from physical existence, but as the same element as lives in us as conscious Spirit, as what appears to us as the element flowing through the whole world and being dissolved again out of matter, through a process of human life. What appears as last is at the same time the first. It has produced the physical body and likewise the etheric body, and when both have reached a certain degree of development appears to be born out of them anew.
This is how spiritual research looks at things. Now these three members — we only use words for clarifying — appear to us under three distinct names. We perceive matter in a certain form, appearing to us in the outer world in a certain way. We speak of the Form, of the shape of matter and of the Life which appears in the Form and lastly of Consciousness which appears within the Life. So we speak as of three stages: physical body, etheric body, astral body, and also of three stages: Form, Life, Consciousness. Only from Consciousness does Self-consciousness arise. We shall not occupy ourselves with that today but only in our next lecture.
People at all times and particularly in our own day have pondered much over the actual meaning of life and its origin. Modern natural science has been able to give few clues to the meaning and nature of life. One thing, however, the more recent natural science has accepted for some time, something which has been expounded again and again as a fact by spiritual science also. This is namely: Life within the physical world is fundamentally distinguished as to substance from the so-called lifeless only through the manifoldness and complexity of its formation. Life can be present only where a much more complicated structure is found than exists in the realm of the lifeless. You know, perhaps, that the basic substance of life is a kind of albuminous substance for which the expression “living albumen” would not be out of place. This living albumen differs essentially from dead lifeless albumen through one characteristic. Living albumen disintegrates directly it is forsaken by life. Dead albumen, that for instance of a dead hen's-egg, cannot be kept for any length of time in the same condition. It is the essential character of living substance that the moment when life has left it, it can no longer hold its parts together. Although we cannot go further into the nature of life today, yet one phenomenon can point to something that is deeply connected with life and characterises it. And what is this characteristic? It is just this peculiarity of living substance that it disintegrates when life has gone out of it. Think of a substance denuded of life — it decays, it has the peculiarity of dispersing. What then does life do? It sets itself again and again against disintegration; thus life preserves. That is the youth-giving element of life: it ever resists what would take place in its substance. Life in substance means: resistance to decay. Compare with life the external process of death and it will be clear that life does not show what characterises the process of death — the disintegration in itself. Far more does it ever and again rescue substance from decay, sets itself against decay. Thus, inasmuch as life ever renews the substance which is falling to pieces in itself, it is the foundation of physical existence and of consciousness.
This has not merely been a verbal explanation; it would have been one if what it signifies were not continuously carried on. You need, however, only observe a living substance and you will find that it continually takes up matter from outside, incorporates it into itself, inasmuch as portions of itself become destroyed: a process through which life perpetually works against destruction. We have, in fact, to do with a reality.
To throw off old material and form new again — that is life. But life is not yet sensation, not yet consciousness. It is a childish kind of imagination that makes many scientists have such a false idea of sensation. To the plants to which we must ascribe life, they also attribute sensation. If one says that because many plants close their leaves and flowers on an external stimulation, as if they felt it, then one could also say that blue litmus paper, which goes red through outer stimulus, has sensation. We could also ascribe sensation to chemical substances because they react to certain influences. But that is not enough. To have sensation the stimulus must be reflected inwardly. Only then can we speak of the first element of consciousness, of sensation and feeling. And what is this first element of consciousness? When in further investigation of the world we raise ourselves to the next higher stage and try to comprehend the nature of consciousness, we shall not do so immediately, but shall nevertheless feel it dawn a little into the soul, just as we could explain a little the nature of life.
Consciousness can arise only where there is life, can spring only from life. If life arises out of apparently lifeless matter, since the combination of the material is so complicated that it cannot preserve itself and must be seized upon by life in order to prevent continual decay, then consciousness appears to us within life as something higher. Whenever life is continually destroyed as life, where a being stands close to the threshold between life and death, where life threatens all the time to vanish again from the living substance, then consciousness arises. And as in the first place substance would have disintegrated if life did not permeate it, so now life seems to us to be dissipated if a new principle, consciousness, is not added to it. We can grasp consciousness only by saying: Just as life is there in order to renew certain processes, for lack of which matter would decay, so is consciousness there to renew again and again the life that would otherwise die.
Not every life can always renew itself inwardly in this way. It must have reached a higher stage, if it is to renew itself from itself. Only a life that is so strong in itself that it perpetually bears death within can awaken to consciousness. Or does no life exist which in every moment has death in itself? You need only look at the life of man and remember what was said in the last lecture: “Blood is a very special fluid”. Human life renews itself continually out of the blood, and a clever German psychologist has said that man has a double (Doppelgänger) from whom he continually draws strength. But the blood, has another power as well: it continually creates death. When the blood has deposited the life-awakening substances on the bodily organs, then it carries the life-destroying forces up again to the heart and lungs. What flows back into the lungs is poisonous to life and makes life continually perish.
When a being works against disintegration and decay then it is a living being. If it is able to let death arise within it and to transform this death continually into life, then consciousness arises. Consciousness is the strongest of all forces that we encounter. Consciousness, or conscious spirit, is that force which out of death, which must be created in the midst of life, eternally makes life arise again. Life is a process which is concerned with an outer world and an inner world. Consciousness, however, is a process which has to do only with an inner world. A substance which can die externally cannot become conscious. A substance can only become conscious that creates death in its own centre and overcomes it. Thus death — as a gifted German theosophist has said — is not only the root of life but also the root of consciousness.
When we have grasped this connection then we need only look at the phenomena with open eyes and pain will appear comprehensible. All that gives rise to consciousness is originally pain. When life manifests externally, when life, air, warmth, cold encounter a living being then these outer elements work upon it. But as long as they only work upon it, as long as they are taken up by the living being, as they are taken up by the plant as bearer of internal life-processes, so long does no consciousness arise. Consciousness first arises when these outer elements come into opposition with the inner life and a destruction takes place. Consciousness must result from destruction of life. Without partial death a ray of light is not able to penetrate a living being, the process can never be stimulated in the living being from with consciousness arises. But when light penetrates into the surface of life, produces a partial destruction, breaks down the inner substances and forces, then that mysterious process arises which takes place everywhere in the external world in a quite definite way. Picture to yourselves that the intelligent forces of the world had ascended up to a height where outer light and outer air were foreign to them. They remained in harmony with them only for a time, then they came to completion and an opposition arose. If you could follow this process with the eye of the spirit, then you could see how when a ray of light penetrates a simple being, the skin becomes somewhat transformed and a tiny eye appears. What is it therefore that first glimmers there in the substance? In what does this fine destruction (for it is destruction) manifest? In pain, which is nothing else than an expression for the destruction. Whenever life comes up against external nature destruction takes place, and when it becomes greater even produces death. Out of pain consciousness is born. The very process which has created your eye would have been a destructive process if it had gained the upper hand over the nature that had developed up to the human being. But it has seized upon only a small part with which out of the destruction and partial death it could create that mirroring of the external world which we call consciousness. Consciousness within matter is thus born out of suffering, out of pain.
When we realise this connection of suffering and pain with the conscious spirit that surrounds us, we shall well understand the words of a Christian initiate who knew such things fundamentally and intuitively, and saw pain at the basis of all conscious life. They are the words: In all Nature sighs every creature in pain, full of earnest expectation to attain the state of the child of God. — You find that in the eighth chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans as a wonderful expression of this foundation of consciousness in pain. Thus one can also understand how thoughtful men have ascribed to pain such an all-important role. I should like to quote just one example. A great German philosopher says that when one looks at all Nature around one, then pain and suffering seem to be expressed everywhere on her countenance. Yes, when one observes the higher animals they show to those who look more deeply an expression full of suffering. And who would not admit that many an animal physiognomy looks like the manifestation of a deeply hidden pain?
If we look at the matter as we have just described it then we see the origin of consciousness out of pain, so that a being who builds consciousness out of destruction causes a higher element to arise from the decay of life, creates itself continuously out of death. If the living could not suffer, never could consciousness arise. If there were no death in the world never in the visible world could Spirit exist. That is the strength of the Spirit — that it remoulds destruction into something still higher than life, and so in the midst of life forms a higher state, consciousness. Ever further and further we see the various experiences of pain develop to the organs of consciousness. One sees it in the animals which for an external defence have only a reflex consciousness, just as man shuts the eye as protection against a danger to it. When the reflex movement is no longer enough to protect the inner life, when the stimulus becomes too strong, then the inner force of resistance rises up and gives birth to the senses, sensation, eye and ear. You know perhaps from many a disagreeable experience, or perhaps even instinctively, that this is so. You know indeed out of a higher state of your consciousness that what has been said is a truth. An example will make it still clearer. When do you feel certain interior organs of your organism? You go through life and do not feel your stomach or liver or lungs. You feel none of your organs as long as they are sound. You feel them only when they give you pain, and you really know that you have this or that organ only when it hurts you, when you feel that something is out of order there and that a destruction-process is beginning.
If we take this example and explanation then we see that conscious life is continually born from pain. If pain arises in life it gives birth to sensation and consciousness. This giving birth, this bringing forth of a higher element, is reflected again in consciousness as pleasure, and there would never be a pleasure unless there had been a previous pain. In the life below which just raises itself from physical material, there is as yet no pleasure. But when pain has produced consciousness and works further creatively as consciousness, then this creating is on a higher level and is expressed in the feeling of pleasure. Creation is based on desire and pleasure. Pleasure can only appear where inner or outer creation is possible. In some way creation lies at the base of every happiness, as every unhappiness is based on the necessity of creation.
Take something that expresses suffering on a lower level, the feeling of hunger, for instance, which can destroy life. You meet this with nourishment, and the food taken in becomes enjoyment because it is the means of enhancing, producing life. So you see that higher creation, pleasure, arises on the basis of pain. Thus before the pleasure there is suffering. The philosophy of Schopenhauer and Eduard von Hartmann can therefore say with justification that suffering is a common feeling of life. However, they do not go back far enough, to the origin of suffering, do not come to the point where suffering is to evolve to something higher. The origin of suffering is found where consciousness arises out of life, where spirit is born out of life.
And therefore we can also understand what dawns in man's soul of the connection of suffering and pain with knowledge and consciousness, and we could still show how a nobler, more perfect state is born out of pain.
Those who have heard my lectures fairly often will remember the allusion to the existence of a sort of initiation, whereby a higher consciousness enters and man raises himself from a mere sense-perception to the observation of a spiritual world. It was said that forces and faculties slumber in the human soul which can be drawn out of it, just as the power of sight can be produced through operation in someone born blind, so that a new man arises to whom the whole world seems transformed to a higher stage. As in the case of one born blind, so do things appear in a new light to the spiritually born. Yet this can come about only if the process which has just been described is recapitulated on a higher level, when what is united in the average man becomes separate and a kind of destruction-process enters the lower human nature. Then the higher consciousness, the beholding of the spiritual world, can enter.
There are three forces in human nature: thinking, feeling and willing. These three depend on the physical organisation of man. Certain acts of will appear after certain thought and feeling processes have taken place. The human organism must function in the right way if these three forces are to harmonise. If certain transmissions are interrupted, certain parts diseased, then no proper harmony exists between thinking, feeling and willing. If the organs of will are crippled a man is unable to transform his thoughts into will-impulses. He is weak as a man of action; he can doubtless think, but cannot resolve to put thoughts into reality. Another case is when a person is not in a position to let his feelings be guided rightly through thoughts, to bring his feelings into harmony with the thoughts behind them. Insanity is fundamentally nothing else than this.
A harmony between thinking, feeling and willing is to be found in the normally-constituted man of today as against a sufferer. This is right for certain stages of evolution, but it must be noted that this harmony exists in present-day man unconsciously. If he is to be initiated, however, if he is to see into the higher . worlds, then these three members, thinking, feeling, willing, must be separated from one another. The organs of will and feeling must suffer a division, and therefore the physical organism of an initiate is different from that of a non-initiate. Anatomy could not prove that, but the contact between thinking, feeling and willing is interrupted. The initiate would be able to see someone suffering deeply without being stirred by any feeling, he could remain quite calm and merely look on. Why is that so? In an initiate nothing must be inter-linked unconsciously; he is a compassionate man out of freedom and not because something external compels him to be. That is the difference between an initiate and a non-initiate. Such a higher consciousness creates, as it were, a higher substance and the human being falls apart into a feeling-man, a will-man and a thought-man. Ruling over these three there appears for the first time the higher, new-born man, and from the level of a higher consciousness the three are brought into accord. Here again must death, destruction, also intervene. Should this destruction arise without at the same time a new consciousness springing up, then insanity would appear. Insanity would therefore be nothing else than the condition in which the human entity was shattered without the creation of the higher, conscious authority.
So here too there is a double element: a kind of destroying process of the lower by the side of a creating process of the higher. As poison is created in the blood in the veins, and as in the normal man consciousness is created between the red and the blue blood, so in the initiated man the higher consciousness is created inwardly in the co-operation of life and death. And the state of bliss arises from a higher pleasure, creation, that proceeds from death.
This is what man instinctively feels when he senses the mysterious connection between pain and suffering and the highest that man can attain. Hence the tragic poet, as his hero succumbs to suffering, lets this suffering give rise to the feeling of the victory of life, the consciousness of the victory of the eternal over the temporal. And so in the destruction of the earthly nature of Christ Jesus in pain and suffering, in anguish and misery, Christianity rightly sees the victory of eternal life over the temporal and transitory. So too our life becomes richer, more full of content, when we let it extend over what lies outside our own self, when we can enter into the life that is not our own.
Just as we create a higher consciousness out of the pain stimulated through an external ray of light and overcome by us as living being, so a creation in compassion is born when we transform the sufferings of others in our own greater consciousness-world. And so finally out of suffering arises love. For what else is love than spreading one's consciousness over other beings? When we deprive ourselves, give away, make ourselves poorer to the extent that we give to the other being, when we are able, just as the skin receives the ray of light and is able out of the pain to form a higher being, an eye; when we are able through the expansion of our life over other lives to absorb a higher life, then love, compassion with all creatures, is born in us out of that which we have given away to the other.
This also underlies the expression of the Greek poet: Out of life grew learning; out of learning, knowledge. Here again, as already mentioned in the previous lecture, a knowledge based on the most recent research of natural science touches the results of old spiritual investigation. The older spiritual research has always said that the highest knowledge can proceed solely from suffering. When we have a sick limb and it has given us pain, then we know this limb best of all. In the same way we know best of all what we have deposited in our own soul. Knowledge flows from our suffering as its fruit.
The same too underlies the Crucifixion of Christ Jesus which was soon followed, as Christianity teaches, by the outpouring into the world of the Holy Spirit. We now understand the coming forth of the Holy Spirit from the Crucifixion of Christ Jesus as a process indicated in the parable of the grain of corn. The new fruit must arise from destruction, and so too the Holy Spirit, which poured itself out over the Apostles at the Feast of Pentecost, is born from the destruction, the pain endured on the Cross. That is clearly expressed in St. John's Gospel (7.39) where it is said that the Spirit was not yet there, for the Christ was not yet glorified. One who reads this Gospel more deeply will see for himself that significant things emerge from it.
One can hear many people say that they would have not missed pain, for it had brought them knowledge. Everyone who has died could teach you that what I have now said is true. Would people fight against the destruction going on in them up to actual death if pain had not stood continually beside them like a guardian of life? Pain makes us aware that we have to take precautions against the destruction of life. Out of pain we create new life. In the notes of a modern natural scientist on the expression of the thinker, we read that on the countenance of the thinker something lies like a repressed pain.
When there is the enhancement which flows from knowledge attained through pain, when it is therefore true that from suffering we learn, then it is not without justification — as we shall see in the next lecture — that the Biblical story of Creation brings the knowledge of good and evil into connection with pain and suffering. And so it has always been rightly emphasised by one who looks deeper how the origin of purification, the lifting up of human nature, lies in pain. When the spiritual-scientific world-conception with its great law of destiny, karma, points from a man's present suffering to what he did wrongly in earlier lives, then we understand such a connection only out of man's deeper nature. What we brought about in the external world in an earlier life is transformed from base forces into lofty ones. Sin is like a poison which becomes remedy when it is changed into substance of life. And so sin can contribute to the strengthening and raising of man; in the story of Job pain and suffering are shown to us as an enhancement of knowledge and of the Spirit.
This is meant to be only a sketch which is to point to the connection between earthly existence and pain and suffering. It is to show how we can realize the meaning of suffering and pain when we see how they harden, crystallize in physical things and organisms up to man, and how through a dissolution of what has hardened, the Spirit can be born in us again, when we see that the origin of suffering and pain is in the Spirit. The Spirit gives us beauty, strength, wisdom, the transformed picture of the original abode of pain. A brilliant man, Fabre d'Olivet, made a right comparison when he wished to show how the highest, noblest, purest in human nature arises out of pain. He said that the arising of wisdom and beauty out of suffering is comparable to a process in nature, to the birth of the valuable and beautiful pearl. For the pearl is born from the sickness of the oyster, from the destruction inside the pearl-oyster. As the beauty of the pearl is born out of disease and suffering, so are knowledge, noble human nature and purified human feeling born out of suffering and pain.
So we may well say with the old Greek poet, Aeschylus: Out of suffering arises learning; out of learning, knowledge. And just as in respect of much else, we may say of pain that we have grasped it only when we know it not only in itself but in what proceeds from it. As so many other things, pain too is known only by its fruits.
We look outward
With our world-engendered eyes,
And what we see thus binds us
To world delight and world despair.
It binds us unto all
That springs to life there, but not less
To all that plunges there
Into the dark abyss.
But we also behold
With our spirit-entrusted eye.
What we thus behold binds us
To spirit hope and spirit’s upholding power.
It binds us unto all
That roots within eternity
And bears within eternity its fruits.
Yet we can only then behold
When we feel the inner eye
Itself as God-given spirit organ,
Which at the focus of the soul,
Within the temple of our body,
Fulfills the deed of gods.
Humankind is in forgetfulness
Of the Godhead’s innermost.
We, though, will raise it and take it
Into our consciousness, flood it with light
And then bear it over dust and ashes—
The divine flame in the human heart.
So may the lightning shatter into dust
Our sense-built houses.
We will erect instead soul houses
Built on knowledge,
Upon its iron-firm, light-woven web.
And downfall of the outer
Shall become uprise
Of the soul’s own innermost.
For pain passes upon us
From powers of material force,
But hope illumines
Even when darkness enshrouds us,
And it will one day
Emerge within our memory
When at length, after the darkness,
We may live again in light.
We do not want this clear illumining
To be in future brightnesses denied us
Because we have not now,
In pain, implanted it in our souls.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Happy is the moment, when we sit together,
With two forms, two faces, yet one soul,
you and I.
The flowers will bloom forever,
The birds will sing their eternal song,
The moment we enter the garden,
you and I.
The stars of heaven will come out to watch us,
And we will show them
the light of a full moon –
you and I.
No more thought of “you” and “I.”
Just the bliss of union –
Joyous, alive, free of care, you and I.
All the bright-winged birds of heaven
Will swoop down to drink of our sweet water –
The tears of our laughter, you and I.
What a miracle of fate, us sitting here.
Even at the opposite ends of the earth
We would still be together, you and I.
We have one form in this world,
another in the next.
To us belongs an eternal heaven,
the endless delight of you and I.
– Version by Jonathan Star
(From a translation by Shahram Shiva)
“A Garden Beyond Paradise:
The Mystical Poetry of Rumi”
Bantam Books, 1992
I cannot think of permanent enmity between man and man, and believing as I do in the theory of reincarnation, I live in the hope that if not in this birth, in some other birth I shall be able to hug all of humanity in friendly embrace. ~ Gandhi
Rudolf Steiner, "Verse for America"
May we be centered in the feeling
of compassionate love in our hearts
as we seek to unite with human beings who share our goals
and with spirit beings who, full of grace,
look downward on our earnest, heartfelt striving,
strengthening us from realms of light
and illuminating our love.
|"Let brotherly love continue." — Hebrews 13:1|
"Every human being shall see in each and all of his fellow-men a hidden divinity... that every human being is made in the likeness of the Godhead. When that time comes there will be no need for any religious coercion; for then every meeting between one man and another will of itself be in the nature of a religious rite, a sacrament." — Rudolf Steiner
"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." — Matthew 5:44
|The Himalayan Institute|
"This is my commandment: that you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." — John 15:12-13
"Love all, and exclude none." — Swamiji
"Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins." — 1 Peter 4:8
|Namaste: I salute the blood of Christ in you|
|Life is an open book — read it and weep for joy!|
Washed in the Blood of the Lamb are We
Awash in a Sonburst Sea
You—Love—and I—Love—and Love Divine:
We are the Trinity
You—Love—and I—We are One-Two-Three
Two—Yes—and One—Yes—and also Three:
One Dual Trinity
Rudolf Steiner: "Eclipses of the Sun and Moon, recurring as they do in the course of every year, may really be looked upon as safety valves. A safety valve is there to avert danger, to provide an outlet for something or other — steam, for instance — at the right moment. One of the safety valves which makes its appearance in the cosmos, and to which we give the name of a solar eclipse, serves the purpose of carrying out into space in a Luciferic way the evil that spreads over the Earth, in order that evil may work havoc in a wider, less concentrated sphere. The other safety valve, the lunar eclipse, exists for the purpose of allowing the evil thoughts which are present in the cosmos to approach those human beings who are desirous of being possessed by them."
Human Questions and Cosmic Answers. Lecture 1.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, June 25, 1922:
It is exceedingly difficult for modern consciousness to see any relation between the soul and spirit of man and the purely material, physical world around him; and there is, indeed, some justification for the failure to understand Anthroposophy when it says that the soul and spirit of man — that is to say, the astral body and ego — leave the physical and etheric bodies and continue to exist outside them.
Where, then, are the astral body and ego? This is the question put to us by people who draw their knowledge from the materialistic consciousness of the present day. They naturally cannot conceive that an element of soul may find its place within the bounds of space. At most they can recognize that somewhere or other air exists and that space is pervaded with light — but the idea that soul and spirit exist in space is, for them, beyond the realm of possibility.
This impossibility is but a short way from that other impossibility of conceiving whither the soul and spirit pass when, at the moment of death, they leave the human body. True, modern man says he can “believe” in such things. The moment, however, he begins to make use of his own powers of thought, he finds himself immersed in endless conflicts. These conflicts cease when he strives upward to Spiritual Science. But the ideas which have then to be assimilated are somewhat strange and unfamiliar to modern man, and he can approach them only slowly and by degrees. At this point let us turn to the consideration of certain facts of spiritual history which today are but little known in the outer world.
We know that the old traditional conceptions, which were incorporated later on into various religions and became matters of faith, may be traced back to primeval wisdom. We know that in ancient times there existed the Mystery centers which really fulfilled the functions alike of churches, places of learning, and schools of art. These Mystery centers were the source of all the knowledge which flowed into the masses of the people, and of the impulses determining their activities.
In these centers the initiates dwelt — men who by dint of special training had attained to higher knowledge. As a result of the tests through which they had passed, they had entered into a definite relation with the cosmos — a relation which enabled them to learn, by giving heed to cosmic processes, to the progress of cosmic events, what they wished to know with regard to the world.
It is only the later, more or less corrupt forms of such an understanding that have been preserved for us in external history. You know that in Greek temples, where the oracles were given, certain individuals were wont to pass into a mediumistic condition, and when, at certain times, vapors rose out of the earth, these individuals fell into a state of consciousness which at the present day would be called “trance” by those who persist in maintaining a superficial attitude toward spiritual things. No true knowledge, no knowledge corresponding to reality can ever be attained through trance; everything is a confused jumble and has no foundation in fact. But in times when the old methods of entering into relationship with the cosmos had already deteriorated and become corrupt, people turned to the oracles as a last resource. And all that was revealed from this trance-like consciousness was looked upon as a revelation of the aims of the divine-spiritual beings behind all cosmic processes. Men ordered their lives in accordance with the utterances of these oracles.
Now, at the time when men turned to the oracles, they had already lost the faculties which had once been possessed by the initiates in the Mysteries. That was why they relied upon other and more external means for regulating their actions. I shall now try to make clear to you one of the ways by which, in very ancient times, those initiated into the Mysteries penetrated into the secrets of the universe, into secrets which expressed the purposes of the divine-spiritual beings whose mission it is to direct and govern the phenomena of Nature. Such initiates, after they had undergone a long period of preparation during which they so worked upon their whole being that they were able to observe the more subtle life-processes, finally reached a point in their development when, gazing upon the rising Sun, they entered into a definite mood. This was a practice to which the old initiate constantly applied himself. He tried to become spiritually receptive to all that took place at daybreak. When the Sun was slowly rising above the horizon, a feeling of awe and intense inner devotion was called up in the soul of the initiate. It is difficult today to form any conception of this mood — it was a feeling of the deepest reverence combined with a yearning for knowledge.
A last echo of this mood can, I think, still reach us from the outer world when we read the wonderfully beautiful description of the rising Sun by the German poet and writer Johann Gottfried Herder. This description was, however, written more than a hundred years ago, and it differs from anything that might emanate from some of the insignificant modern poets. For Herder looks upon the sunrise as a symbol of all waking life — not only in Nature, but also in the human soul, in the human heart. The feeling of dawn within the human soul itself, as though the Sun were rising from inner depths — this was wonderfully portrayed by Herder when he tried to show how the poetic mood entered into human evolution, and how this poetic feeling had once upon a time been quickened by all that man could experience when he looked at the rising Sun.
Still more intensely was the mystery of the sunrise felt by a man such as Jacob Boehme, whose first work was called, as you know, Aurora, or the Coming of Dawn. And the following words from Goethe's Faust: “Up, Scholar, away with weariness — bathe thy breast in the morning red,” are not unconnected with the secrets of the dawn.
The farther we go back in the history of human evolution the more wonderful do we find the moods that were awakened in the human soul at the moment of sunrise, when the first rays of the morning Sun carried down on their waves the pulsating, quickening light of the cosmos. And in the centers of the Mysteries the old initiates, when they had prepared themselves in a definite way, were able, just at this moment of sunrise, to put their most solemn and sacred questions to the cosmic spirits, and to send these questions, rising from the depths of their hearts, far out into cosmic space.
Such an initiate said to himself: “When the Sun sends the first rays of light down upon the Earth, that is the best time for man to send his questions out into the wide spaces of the cosmos.” And so the old initiates poured out into cosmic distances the riddles which filled their souls and hearts. They did not, however, look for answers in the trivial way that we are used to in our physical science; they entered into a mood in which they said: “We have now given over our riddles and our questions to universal space. These questions rest now in the cosmos; they have been received by the gods.”
People may think as they like about such things. They were as I have described them; such were the practices in ancient times. Then the initiates waited, and again at night-time they made their hearts ready. But now they did not give themselves up to a questioning mood; they made themselves receptive, and in a devotional mood they stood awaiting the rays of the full Moon as it rose above the horizon. They felt that now they would receive an answer from the cosmos. In the older Mysteries this was a very usual procedure. At certain times questions and riddles were sent out into cosmic space, and the answers were sent back to Earth by the gods through the rays of light from the full Moon.
In this way man communed with the cosmos. He was not then so proud that he turned over certain questions in his head, as a modern philosopher might do, and then immediately expected an answer. He was not so conceited as to believe that he could sit down with a piece of paper in front of him and by means of the human brain alone solve the great riddles of existence. Rather did he believe that he must hold counsel with the divine-spiritual powers working and weaving in the cosmos if he was to discover the answers to cosmic riddles. For he knew: “Outside me, in the cosmos, I do not find merely the content of my ordinary sense perceptions. A spiritual element is everywhere living, working, and weaving. And at the moment when the rays of the Sun penetrate to me, I can myself send out to meet them the whole content of my will.” This secret has been completely lost to modern research. At one time, however, such things were understood by man and lived in him as true knowledge and wisdom. In Europe, one of the last to reserve this tradition was Julian the Apostate. He was imprudent enough to take these things seriously, and as a result he fell a victim to his enemies.
Nowadays men describe the Sun by saying that it sends its rays down upon the Earth. The old initiate would have said: “That is only the physical aspect. The spiritual truth is that men live upon the Earth, and upon the Earth they develop their will, and while the rays of the Sun pour down from the heavens upon the Earth, man can send his will out into the direction of the Sun — far out into cosmic space.” On the waves of the will which as it were streams out from the Earth toward the Sun, the old initiates sent forth their questions into the cosmos. And while a man of today says: “There on the other side is the Moon, and the Moon sends its rays down upon the Earth” — the old initiate said: “That again is only the physical aspect. The truth is that thoughts are brought down to the Earth on the waves of the moonlight.” Thus the old initiate entrusted his questions to the rays of will which stream up from the Earth toward the Sun, and he received the answers from the rays of thought which come down to the Earth from the Moon.
Modern science knows only one side of the picture. The scientist sees only the physical properties of Sun and Moon. The old initiate said: “While the Sun continually sends its light down upon the Earth, the Earth sends its rays of will — the combined will-forces of all the human beings living on Earth — into the cosmos. And when man allows the light of the Moon to shine upon him, rays of thought are sent down to him from out of the cosmos.”
The human organism has undergone many changes. Anyone, therefore, who is today seeking supersensible knowledge cannot proceed in the old way. Man's power of understanding is cruder than it was in ancient times. It is true, of course, that even today the rays of his will stream out into the cosmos. But he no longer feels that the rays of his will could carry his questions out into the cosmos; they no longer burn within him, as once they did. He has become too intellectual, and the intellect cools the intensity of all questions. We have very little feeling for the insatiable yearning which once existed in man for knowledge of the most sacred riddles of the universe. We are no longer passionately eager for knowledge; we are merely inquisitive and would like to know everything as quickly as possible without taking the trouble really to understand the world around us.
In our present age only lovers like to dream in the moonlight! Men of learning would deem it frightful superstition if they were asked to believe that answers to the most burning riddles of existence could be brought down to them by the rays of the Moon. For modern man the world is utterly bereft of the spirit, and he understands nothing of the spirit which reveals itself everywhere in the world; or, if he speaks of the spirit he does so in a vague, pantheistic sense, with no concrete knowledge of how, for instance, the rays of the will are related to the rays of the Sun, how human forms of thinking are related to the light coming from the Moon.
By means of an initiation suited to modern times, however, we are enabled to enter once more into relationship with the cosmos and with the spirit of the universe. The only difference is that the modern intellect has to do it in another way. The preparatory exercises leading to initiation are described in my books, particularly in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. The purpose of such exercises is to bring the man of today to a point at which it is possible for him really to receive answers to his questions — not merely in his modern pride to turn the questions over in his head, and expect answers to arise from his own brain. The latter method may indeed result in exceedingly clever ideas; but mere “cleverness” can never lead to true answers to the riddles of life. This continual turmoil in his head shuts man off from the universe.
The modern initiate must also ask questions, but he must have patience and not expect to receive the answers immediately. The modern initiate gradually reaches a stage in his development at which he no longer merely observes the outer world in order to satisfy his curiosity with the impressions received through his eyes, ears, and other senses. True, he receives external impressions by means of his senses, but while he observes just as definitely, just as intimately as others, all that is around him — the flowers, the Sun, Moon, stars, other human beings, plants, and animals — while he turns his senses in all directions, and allows all these external impressions to flow through and into him, he sends out to meet them a current of force from his own being. And it is this force which represents the question he wants to ask.
Such a man looks, maybe, at a beautiful flower. He does not, however, look at it merely passively, but fixes his gaze upon its yellow color, and allows yellow to make an impression upon him. At the same time he sends his question out toward the yellow of the flower; he plunges the questions and riddles of existence into the color yellow, or perhaps into the rosy color of the sunrise, or into some other perception. He does not render up all the questions of his heart to one particular impression — as, for example, to the impression of the rising Sun — but he pours them out into each and all of his sense perceptions. Were he now to expect to receive his answers from these sense perceptions themselves, it would be just as if an old initiate had sent his problems out toward the sunrise and had then expected the answers to come from the Sun, instead of waiting, as we know he did, until the time of the full Moon. The old initiate had to wait at least fourteen days; for it was at the time of the new Moon that he put his questions to the rising Sun, and he received his answers only when the Moon was full.
A modern philosopher would hardly be prepared to wait as long as fourteen days. By that time he would expect his book to be in the hands of the printers; or, let us say, he would have expected this before it became so difficult to find a publisher! Today, however, he must again learn to have patience. When a man delivers his questions over to the impressions of his senses, when he allows these questions to be plunged in all manner of things, he must not expect that these same sense impressions will immediately bring him anything in the nature of a revelation. He must wait — and this is easy for him if he has carried out the preparatory exercises for a long enough time — wait often for a long, long while, until at last all that he has rendered up to the world outside rises up within him in the form of an answer. Should you throw out questions at random, in a haphazard kind of way, you might perhaps receive fortuitous answers of a kind — answers which might afford certain people a measure of egotistical satisfaction — but of one thing you may be sure: they would not be real answers. You must cast your problems into flower and ocean, into the great vault of heaven and its stars, into everything which comes to you as an impression from without — and you must then wait until sooner or later the answers emerge from your innermost being. You have not got to wait for exactly fourteen days; it is not for you to determine, as the old initiates were able to do, the duration of the period. You have merely to wait until the right moment comes, the moment when all that was previously external impression becomes inward experience, and the answer rings from your own inner being
The whole art of spiritual investigation, of investigation of the cosmos, consists in being able to wait, in not imagining that answers will be immediately forthcoming. It follows also, as a matter of course, that definite questions must be put if answers are to be obtained. Should you enquire from those who have already obtained true knowledge, as this is understood in the sense of modern initiation, you will hear the same thing from them all. Such a man may perhaps tell you the following story: “When I was thirty-five years old I became aware of this or that great problem of existence, and all that I had experienced in connection with it entered profoundly into my being. At that time I entrusted this problem to some particular impression which came to me from the outer world; and when I was fifty years old the solution to the problem arose from within me.”
In days of old, the initiates placed their questions within the womb of space in order that out of space they might be born again. The solar element passed through a lunar metamorphosis. Today the riddles that man would fain unravel, all that he fain would learn in converse with spiritual beings, must first be laid by him within the stream of time. The cosmic element must appear once more, born out of the human soul after a period of time determined by the cosmic powers themselves. But it is necessary for man to reach a point where he is able to feel and know when a divine, cosmic answer stirs within him, and to distinguish between such an answer and one that is merely human.
Thus the real content of ancient initiation is still present, but in another form. It is, however, necessary to be quite clear about the following. If a man desires to penetrate into the great mysteries of existence, he must be able to enter into a spiritual relationship with spiritual beings, with cosmic beings. He must not remain a hermit in life, he must not try to settle everything to please himself in his own egotistical way. He must be willing to wait until the cosmos gives him the answer to those riddles and problems which he has himself sent out into cosmic space.
It is evident that if a man has once learnt to send the forces of his soul out into the cosmos and to receive cosmic forces into himself he is much better able to understand the mysteries of birth and death than he was before he had attained to such knowledge. When a man has begun to understand how the element of will inherent in the soul streams out toward the rays of the Sun, how it streams into all the sense impressions he receives from the outer world — he also begins to understand how his soul and spirit stream out into the universe on the waves of a spiritual element, of a cosmic element, when his physical body has fallen a victim to the forces of death. Moreover, he learns to understand how spirituality is brought back again to Earth by the Moon, by the moonlight. He realizes that his highest thoughts are given back to him from cosmic space. For although in this present age thoughts rise up from within man's own being, it is, nevertheless, the lunar element in the human organism that generates the thoughts.
In addition to all this, a man who has had these experiences learns to measure the true significance of certain transitory phenomena which stand, as it were, midway between processes regarded as physical and cosmic in their nature, and those which are cosmic and spiritual. The man of today, owing largely to his materialistic education, describes everything from the physical point of view. He says: “An eclipse of the Sun is due to the fact that the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth, cutting off the rays of the Sun.” This is a physical explanation, built up from physical observation and as obvious as if we were to say: “Here is a light, and there an eye. If I place my hand in front of the eye, the light will be darkened.” As you see, it is a purely physical, spatial explanation, and that is as far as modern consciousness goes.
We must strive once more for a true knowledge of such phenomena. They are not of everyday occurrence, and on the comparatively rare occasions of their appearance they should be studied not only from their physical but also from their spiritual aspect.
At the time of a solar eclipse, for instance, something totally different takes place in the part of the Earth affected from what is happening when there is no eclipse. When we know that on the one hand the rays of the Sun penetrate down to the Earth and on the other hand the forces or rays of will stream out to meet the Sun, it is possible to form some idea of how a solar eclipse can affect these radiations of will which are altogether spiritual in their nature. The sunlight is blocked by the Moon; that is a purely physical process. But physical matter — in this case the body of the Moon — is no obstacle to the forces streaming out from the will. These forces radiate into the darkness, and there ensues a period of time, short though it may be, in which all that is of the nature of will upon the Earth flows out into universal space in an abnormal way. It is different altogether from what takes place when there is no eclipse. Ordinarily, the physical sunlight unites with the radiations of will streaming toward it. When there is an eclipse, the forces of will flow unhindered into cosmic space.
The old initiates knew these things. They saw that at such a moment all the unbridled impulses and instincts of humanity surge out into the cosmos. And they gave their pupils the following explanation. They said: Under normal conditions the evil impulses of will which are sent out into the cosmos by human beings are, as it were, burned up and consumed by the rays of the Sun, so that they can injure only man himself, but can do no universal harm. When, however, there is an eclipse of the Sun, opportunity is given for the evil which is willed on Earth to spread over the cosmos. An eclipse is a physical event behind which there lies a significant spiritual reality.
And again, when there is an eclipse of the Moon, the man of today merely says: “Now the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon; hence we see the shadow cast upon the Moon by the Earth.” That is the physical explanation. But in this case also the old initiate knew that a spiritual reality was behind the physical fact. He knew that when there is an eclipse of the Moon, thoughts stream through darkness down upon the Earth; and that such thoughts have a closer relationship with the subconscious life than with the conscious life of the human being. The old initiates often made use of a certain simile when speaking to their pupils. It is, of course, necessary to translate their words into modern language, but this is the gist of what they said: “Visionaries and dreamers love to go for rambles by moonlight, when the Moon is full. There are, however, certain people who have no wish to receive the good thoughts coming to them from the cosmos, but who, on the contrary, are desirous of getting hold of evil, diabolical thoughts. Such people will choose the moment of a lunar eclipse for their nocturnal wanderings.”
Here again we approach a spiritual reality in a physical event. Today we must not absorb such teaching in its old form. Were we to do so we should be led into superstition. But it is very necessary to reach a point at which we are able once more to perceive the spiritual which permeates all cosmic processes. Eclipses of the Sun and Moon, recurring as they do in the course of every year, may really be looked upon as safety valves. A safety valve is there to avert danger, to provide an outlet for something or other — steam, for instance — at the right moment. One of the safety valves which makes its appearance in the cosmos, and to which we give the name of a solar eclipse, serves the purpose of carrying out into space in a Luciferic way the evil that spreads over the Earth, in order that evil may work havoc in a wider, less concentrated sphere. The other safety valve, the lunar eclipse, exists for the purpose of allowing the evil thoughts which are present in the cosmos to approach those human beings who are desirous of being possessed by them. In matters of this kind people do not, as a rule, act in full consciousness, but the facts are nevertheless real — just as real as the attraction of a magnet for small particles of iron. Such are the forces at work, in the cosmos — forces no less potent than the forces we analyze and investigate today in our chemical laboratories.
Man will not be able to free himself from the forces in his being which tend to drag him downward until he develops in himself a certain feeling for spiritual concepts such as these. Then only will the path leading to a true comprehension of birth and death be opened up to humanity. And such a comprehension and understanding is sorely needed by humanity today, when men are plunged in spiritual darkness. We must learn again what it really signifies when the Sun sends its light toward us. When the sunlight streams toward us the surrounding space is made free for the passage of those souls who must leave their physical bodies and make their way out into universal space. When the Sun sends its light down to Earth, the Earth sends human souls out into cosmic space, where these souls undergo many metamorphoses. Then, in a spiritual form, they approach the Earth once more, passing in their descent through the sphere of the Moon, and taking possession once again of a physical body which has been prepared for them in the stream of physical heredity. It will not be possible for us to enter into a right relationship with the universe until such time as we begin to feel and experience these things in a real and living way.
Today we learn astronomy, spectroscopy, and so on. We learn how the rays of the Sun penetrate down to Earth, and we fondly imagine that there is nothing more to be said. We learn how the rays of the Sun fall upon the Moon, and from the Moon are reflected back again to Earth, and we look upon the moonlight in this way only, taking into consideration merely its physical aspect. By such means the intellect is brought into play. Intellectual knowledge cuts man off from the cosmos and tends to destroy inner activity of soul. This inner life of soul can be reawakened, but man must first win back for himself his spiritual relationship with the cosmos. This he will be able to do only when he is once more to say to himself: “A man has died. His soul is radiating out toward the Sun. It streams out into the cosmos, traveling the path made for it by the rays of sunlight, until it comes into a region where space has an end, where one can no longer speak in terms of three dimensions, but where the three dimensions are merged into unity. In this region, beyond space and beyond time, many and various things happen: but later on, from the opposite direction, from the direction of the Moon, of the moonlight, the soul returns once more and enters into a physical human body, is born again into earthly life.”
When man learns once more that the souls of the dead go out to meet the light rays of the Sun, that the shining beams of the Moon draw the young souls back again to Earth, when he learns to feel concretely how natural processes and phenomena are everywhere permeated with spirit — then there will arise once more on Earth a knowledge which is at the same time religion; a truly devotional knowledge. Knowledge that is based entirely upon materialism can never become religion. And religion that is founded on faith alone, that does not spring from the fountain of knowledge, can never be made to harmonize with all that man sees and observes in the universe around him. Today men still repeat certain prayers from ancient times. And if anyone maintains — as I have done in the booklet entitled “The Lord's Prayer” — that deep spiritual truths are concealed in these ancient prayers, the clever modern people say: That is mere visionary dreaming, mere fantasy. But it is not fantasy; it is based on knowledge of the fact that these prayers, which can be traced back to ancient times, and which tradition has preserved for humanity, have been conceived out of a profound understanding of cosmic processes. We must win back for ourselves once more a knowledge and an understanding that will enable us to call up in our souls a feeling akin to religion whenever we are confronted by great cosmic events. We must be able to say, with the men of old: “O Sun, thou sendest toward me the rays of thy light. These rays form a pathway to me upon Earth — and along this pathway, but moving in the other direction, the souls of human beings, the souls of the dead, stream out into cosmic space.” And again: “O Moon, thou shinest down with gentle radiance upon the Earth from thy place in the heavens. And borne on the waves of thy gentle light from, far cosmic spaces, are those souls who are on their way once more into earthly existence.”
That is how we can find again the connection between the light and radiance of the outer world and all that lives and weaves in the inner being of man himself. We shall then no longer say thoughtlessly: “Man is surrounded by the physical universe and he can form no conception of what will become of his soul when, separated from the body, it passes out into this purely material universe.” On the contrary, we shall know that while the piercing rays of the Sun make their way through space, they are all the time working toward the forces streaming out from the human will, and preparing a pathway for them. We shall recognize also that the Moon does not shed its gently undulating light over the Earth without aim or purpose, but that a spiritual element surges and streams through space, borne on the waves of the moonbeams.
When once perceptions such as these enter into our consciousness we shall no longer be able to look with indifference on a plant, let us say, when it is bathed in the light of the early morning sun. For at such a moment very special processes are taking place in the plant. It is then that the juices in the plant are carried up by its delicate vessels into blossom and leaf. It is then that the rays of the Sun, as they fall upon the plant, make way for the forces of will coming from the Earth. And it is not only the juices described by our modern scientists which stream through the plant at such a moment; those forces of will which have their seat in the depths of the Earth stream upward also from the root of the plant into its flower. And in the evening, when leaves and petals close, when the rays of the Sun no longer prepare a pathway for the emanations of will streaming upward from the earth, the inner activity of the plant ceases for a time, and its life rests.
The plant, however, is also exposed to the gentle light of the Moon. The moonlight does not cast its spell on lovers only — it has an influence too on the sleeping plant. Interwoven with the moonlight, cosmic thought streams down into the plant and works within it.
Thus in the plant world we learn to look for the combined forces of earthly will and cosmic thought. And we study the form of many different plants in order to discover how far each one is woven out of cosmic thought and of earthly will. And when we learn how spiritual, healing forces spring up from these cosmic thoughts, and from this earthly will, the healing properties of plants make themselves known to us, and we learn to see in the plant the medicinal herb. But it is only when one has attained to an intimate knowledge of cosmic processes that it becomes possible to recognize the remedial potentialities of the several plants.
We must win this knowledge afresh. We must reach the point when we can understand how the human head is actually molded in the image of the Earth herself. In the human embryo it is the head which first takes shape. It is molded in the likeness of the Earth, and the rest of the body is joined on to it. When the human head is bathed in light, and the sunlight penetrates it, then that which in the human head is analogous to “earthly” will shines out into the cosmos with a living power.
If now we consider a plant whose root contains the forces of earthly will in marked degree, we can be sure that the root of such a plant seeks continually to evade the light of the Sun; and we can be equally sure that it is specially subject to the influence of the moonlight, which, feebly though its rays seem to us to shine down upon the Earth, nevertheless penetrates right through to the roots of the plants.
If, by burning the root of such a plant, we bring to it the element of light, and if we preserve the ashes thus obtained and make a powder out of them, then we have the means to prove how such a powder is able, by virtue of the cosmic processes inherent within it, to work upon the human head, for the forces of will in the head are similar in their nature to the forces of will in the Earth. The point is that we should learn to fathom the connection which everywhere exists between matter and spirit — a connection which does not differ whether we are dealing with the smallest particle of matter or the greatest mass. Then we shall be able to do something which at present holds good only for mathematics: we shall be able to apply to the whole realm of nature truths which first come to us as purely spiritual apprehensions.
A cube, we know, is made up of six squares. Such a thing can be spun out of thought; it is a thought-picture. In salt, in ordinary cooking-salt, we find the cube again in nature herself, and here we discover the connection between a spiritual principle — something “thought out” — and a material substance in outer nature. But I ask you: — What does the average man of today know of the degree in which spiritual forces — cosmic forces of thinking, earthly forces of will — are present in the root of any particular plant? And yet the process is the same as that which we carry out today, albeit in the most abstract manner possible, when we first conceive of the cube, and then proceed to find it again in ordinary salt.
What we do today only when we are thinking in terms of mathematics we must learn to do again with everything that comes within the range of the human soul. The study of mathematics does not, as a rule, give rise to a devout, religious attitude of mind. Such a man as Novalis could, it is true, be rapt in devotion when given up to the study of mathematics. For Novalis, the science of mathematics was a great and beautiful poem. But one comes across few people who enter into a devout mood of soul when studying mathematics!
When, however, we go a step farther, when we conjure up the spirit from the depths of man's being and bear this spirit out into the cosmos, where of course it already is (one merely learns to recognize it again) — then science becomes permeated with religion; harmony between religion and science is once again achieved.