Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The wellspring of our being : "In this nothingness I will find the All" : each of us is a note in the symphony of life

My soul magnifies the Lord and delights in his name

Rudolf Steiner: 
     "If, during our life after death, we look back at our death, above all we have the feeling and the ideational impression that where we died, from then on, there is nothing, not even space. As I said, it is difficult to describe, but it is so: nothing is there. And expressed in an outer way: the whole thing from its foundations appears splendid, exalted, because everywhere other than that place a new world arises for us. The flooding spiritual world surges in from all sides, but nothing is there of the place where we died.
     To describe these things theoretically in this way might seem grim, but there is nothing grim after death about this perception. A deep fulfillment wells up in the soul from this perception after death. One learns to expand into the whole world and to look back upon something in the world that is as if empty. And from this arises the feeling: that is my place in the world; the place that is made of all the far expanses, and that is mine. And one has the perception that precisely from this emptiness one gains a sense of the meaning of the whole world; that every single human existence ~ one has it of course first as an explanation for oneself ~ must be there. "This place would always be empty if I were not there" ~ so each soul tells itself. The perception is that each one is given a place as a person in the universe. This perception, which is incredibly warming internally, arises from this observation: the whole world is there and the whole world has sent forth, as out of a symphony, the single note that is the person. And this note must be there, or there would be no world. This feeling is what arises from looking back on our experience of death. It remains because it primarily gives self-awareness to the I-consciousness between death and rebirth."

What the Lord requires

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?  —Micah 6:8

"He must increase : I must decrease."  —John 3:30
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.  —Luke 9:23-24

The Himalayan Institute
"We lose more and more of our true inner human expression when we become the expression of our own separate existence; we lose ourselves by seeking ourselves, we withdraw from the world which we refuse to love. It is only when we love the world that we truly experiences ourselves." ~Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts

The Golden Rule of the Path of Wisdom

For every step forward you take in the acquisition of knowledge,

take three steps forward in the improvement of your moral character.

Source: Rudolf Steiner

Spiritual Wisdom in the Early Christian Centuries

Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, July 16, 1922:

I have said on many occasions that at the time when medieval culture had reached its prime, two streams of spiritual life were flowing through the ripest souls in European civilization — streams which I have described as knowledge through revelation and knowledge acquired by reason, as we find it in Scholasticism. Knowledge through revelation, in its more scholastic form, was by no means a body of mystical, abstract, or indefinite thought. It expressed itself in sharply defined, clear-cut concepts. But these concepts were considered to be beyond the scope of man's ordinary powers of cognition and must in every case be accepted as traditions of the Church. The Church, by virtue of its continuity, claimed the right to be the guardian of this kind of knowledge.
The second kind of knowledge was held to be within the scope of research and investigation, albeit those who stood wholly within the stream of Scholasticism acknowledged that this knowledge acquired by reason could not in any sense be regarded as knowledge emanating from the supersensible world.
Thus when medieval culture was at its prime, it was realized that knowledge no longer accessible to mankind in that age must be preserved as it were by tradition. But it was not always so, for if we go back through the Middle Ages to the first Christian centuries we shall find that the characteristics of this knowledge through revelation were less sharply emphasized than they were in medieval culture. If one had suggested to a Greek philosopher of the Athenian School, for instance, that a distinction could be made between knowledge acquired by reason and knowledge through revelation (in the sense in which the latter was understood in the Middle Ages), he would have been at a loss to know what was meant. It would have been unthinkable to him that if knowledge concerning supersensible worlds had once been communicated to a man by cosmic powers, it could not be communicated afresh. True, the Greeks realized that higher spiritual knowledge was beyond the reach of man's ordinary cognition, but they knew too that by dint of spiritual training and through initiation a man could unfold higher faculties of knowledge and that by these means he would enter a world where supersensible truth would be revealed to him.
Now, a change took place in Western culture between all that lived in the centuries when Greek philosophy came to flower in Plato and Aristotle and the kind of knowledge that made its appearance about the end of the fourth century A.D. I have often referred to one aspect of this change by saying that the Mystery of Golgotha occurred in an age when very much of the old initiation wisdom was still living in men. And indeed there were many who applied their initiation wisdom and were thus able, with supersensible knowledge, to realize the significance of the Event on Golgotha. Those who had been initiated strained every nerve to understand how a being like the Christ, Who before the Mystery of Golgotha had not been united with earthly evolution, had passed into an earthly body and linked Himself with the evolution of man. The nature of this being, how He had worked before His descent to the Earth — such were the questions which even at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha men were trying to answer by means of the highest faculties of initiation wisdom.
But then we find that from the fifth century A.D. onward, this old initiation wisdom which had lived in Asia Minor, Northern Africa, in Greek culture, had spread over into Italy and still further into Europe, was less and less understood. People spoke contemptuously of certain individuals, saying that their teachings were to be avoided at all costs by true Christians. Moreover, efforts were made to obliterate all that had previously been known of these individuals.
It is strange that a man like Franz Brentano should have inherited from medieval tradition a hatred of all that lived in personalities like Plotinus, for example, of whom very little was known but who was regarded as one with whom true Christians could have no dealings. Brentano had allowed himself to be influenced by this hatred and vented it on Plotinus. He actually wrote a polemical thesis entitled Was für ein Philosoph manchmal Epoche macht, and the philosopher is Plotinus, who lived in the third century A.D. Plotinus lived within the streams of spiritual life which were wholly exhausted by the time of the fourth century A.D. and which in the later evolution of Christendom people tried to cast into oblivion.
The information contained in textbooks on the history of philosophy in regard to the outstanding figures of the early Christian centuries is usually not only scanty in the extreme but quite incapable of giving any idea of their significance. Naturally it is difficult for us in modern times to have any true conception of the first three or four centuries of Christendom — for example, of the way in which the impulses living in Plato and Aristotle were working on and of thought which had in a certain respect become estranged from the deeper Mystery wisdom, although this wisdom was still possessed by certain personalities in the first three or four centuries after the coming of Christ.
Very little real understanding of Plato is shown in modern textbooks on the history of philosophy. Those of you who are interested should read the chapter on Plato in Paul Deussen's history of Greek philosophy, and the passage where he speaks of the place assigned by Plato to the Idea of the Good in relation to the other Ideas. Deussen says something like this: Plato did not admit the existence of a personal God because, if he had done so, he could not have taught that the Ideas subsist in and through themselves. Plato could not acknowledge God as a being because the Ideas are primary and subsistent. True — says Deussen — Plato places the Idea of the Good above the other Ideas, but he did not thereby imply that the Idea of the Good stands above the others. — For what is expressed in the Idea of the Good is, after all, only a kind of family likeness which is present in all the Ideas. — Such is Deussen's argument.
But now let us scrutinize this logic more closely. The Ideas are there. They are subsistent and independent. The Idea of the Good cannot be said to rule or direct the other Ideas. All Ideas bear a family likeness, but this family likeness is actually expressed through the Idea of the Good. Yes — but whence are family likenesses derived? A family likeness is derived from stock. The Idea of the Good points to family likeness. What can we do except go back to the father of the stock!
This is what we find today in famous histories of philosophy, and those who write them are regarded as authorities. People read such things and never notice that they are out-and-out nonsense. It is difficult to imagine that anyone capable of writing such absurdities in connection with Greek philosophy could have anything very valuable to say about Indian wisdom. Nevertheless, if we ask for something authoritative on the subject of Indian wisdom today we shall certainly be advised to read Paul Deussen. Things have come to a pretty pass!
My only object in saying this is to show that in the present age there is little real understanding of Platonic philosophy. Modern intellectualism is incapable of it. Nor is it possible to understand the tradition which exists in regard to Plotinus — the so-called Neo-Platonic philosopher Plotinus was a pupil of Ammonius Saccas, who lived at the beginning of the third century A.D. It is said that Ammonius Saccas gave instruction to individual pupils but left nothing in writing. Now the reason why the eminent teachers of that age wrote nothing down was because they held that wisdom must be something living, that it could not be passed on by writing but only from man to man, in direct personal intercourse. Something else — again not understood — is said of Ammonius Saccas, namely that he tried to bring about agreement in the terrible quarrels between the adherents of Aristotle and of Plato, by showing that there was really no discrepancy between the teachings of Plato and Aristotle.
Let me try to tell you in brief words how Ammonius Saccas spoke of Plato and Aristotle. He said: Plato belonged to an epoch when many human souls were treading the path to the spiritual world — in other words when there was still knowledge of the principles of true initiation. But in more ancient times there was no such thing as abstract, logical thought. Even now (at the beginning of the third century A.D.) only the first, elementary traces of this kind of thinking are making their appearance. In Plato's time, thoughts evolved independently were unknown. Whereas the initiates of earlier times gave their message in pictures and imaginations, Plato was one of the first to change these imaginations into abstract concepts and ideas. The great spiritual picture to which Plato tried to lift the eyes of men was brought down in more ancient times merely in the form of imaginations. In Plato, the imaginations were already concepts — but these concepts poured down as it were from the world of Divine Spirit. Plato said in effect: the Ideas are the lowest revelation of the Divine Spiritual. Aristotle could no longer penetrate with the same intensity into this spiritual substance. Therefore the knowledge he possessed only amounted to the substance of the ideas, and this is at a lower level than the picture itself. Nevertheless, Aristotle could still receive the substance of the ideas in the form of revelation. There is no fundamental difference between Plato and Aristotle — so said Ammonius Saccas — except that Plato was able to gaze into higher levels of the spiritual world than Aristotle. — And thereby Ammonius Saccas thought to reconcile the disputes among the followers of Aristotle and Plato.
We learn, then, that by the time of Plato and Aristotle, wisdom was already beginning to assume a more intellectual form. Now in those ancient times it was still possible for individuals here and there to rise to very high levels of spiritual perception. The lives of men like Ammonius Saccas and his pupil Plotinus were rich in spiritual experiences and their conceptions of the spiritual world were filled with real substance.
Naturally one could not have spoken to such men of outer Nature in the sense in which we speak of Nature today. In their schools they spoke of a spiritual world, and Nature — generally regarded nowadays as complete and all-embracing — was merely the lowest expression of that spiritual world of which they were conscious.
We can form some idea of how such men were wont to speak if we study Iamblichus, a man possessed of deep insight and one of the successors of Ammonius Saccas. How did the world appear to the soul of Iamblichus? He spoke to his pupils somewhat as follows: — If we would understand the universe let us not pay heed to space, for space contains merely the outward expression of the spiritual world. Nor let us pay heed to time, for only the illusory images of cosmic reality arise in time. Rather must we look up to those powers in the spiritual world who are the creators of time and of the connections between time and space. Gazing out into the expanses of the cosmos, we see how the cycle, repeated visibly in the Sun, repeats itself every year. But the Sun circles through the Zodiac, through the twelve constellations. It is not enough merely to observe this phenomenon, for three hundred and sixty heavenly powers are working and weaving therein, sending forth the Sun forces which flood the whole universe accessible to man. Every year the cycle is repeated. If these powers alone held sway, there would be three hundred and sixty days in a year. But there are, in fact, five additional days, ruled by seventy-two sub-heavenly Powers, the planetary Spirits. I will draw (on the blackboard) this pentagonal figure, because one to five is the relation of seventy-two to three hundred and sixty. The five remaining days in the cosmic year which are abandoned, as it were, by the three hundred and sixty heavenly powers, are ruled by the seventy-two subheavenly powers. But over and above the three hundred and sixty-five days, there are still a few more hours in the year. And these hours are directed by forty-two earthly powers. — Iamblichus also said to his pupils: The three hundred and sixty heavenly powers are connected with the head organization of man, the seventy-two subheavenly powers with the breast system (breathing process and heart) and the forty-two earthly powers with the purely earthly system in man (e.g. digestion, metabolism).
In those times the human being was given his place in a spiritual universe, whereas nowadays we begin our physiological studies by learning of the quantities of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus, limestone, etc., within the human organism. We relate the human being to a lifeless nature. But Iamblichus would have taught how the organism of man is related to the forty-two earthly powers, the seventy-two subheavenly or planetary powers, and the three hundred and sixty heavenly powers. Just as today man is said to be composed of earthly substances, in the time of Iamblichus he was known to represent a confluence of forces streaming from the spiritual universe. Great and sublime was the wisdom presented in the schools of learning in those days, and one can readily understand that Plotinus — who had reached the age of twenty-eight before he listened to the teachings of Ammonius Saccas — felt himself living in an altogether different world. He was able to assimilate some of this wisdom because it was still cultivated in many places during the first four centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha. With this wisdom men also tried to understand the descent of the Christ into Jesus of Nazareth and the place of Christ in the realms of the spiritual hierarchies, in the great structure of the spiritual universe.
And now let me deal with another chapter of the wisdom taught by Iamblichus. He said: There are three hundred and sixty heavenly powers, seventy-two planetary powers, forty-two earthly powers — in all, four hundred and seventy-four divine beings of different orders. Look to the far East — so said Iamblichus — and you will there find peoples who give names to their gods. Turn to the Egyptians and to other peoples — they too name their gods. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans — all will name their gods. The four hundred and seventy-four gods include all the gods of all the different peoples: Zeus, Apollo, Baal — all the gods. The reason why the peoples have different gods is that one race has chosen twelve or maybe seventeen gods from the four hundred and seventy-four, another race has taken twenty-five, another three, another four. The number of racial gods is four hundred and seventy-four. And the highest of these gods, the god who came down to Earth at a definite point of time, is Christ.
This wisdom was well suited to bring about reconciliation between the different religions, not as the outcome of vague sentiment but of the knowledge that the different gods of the peoples constitute, in their totality, one great system — the four hundred and seventy-four gods. It was taught that all the choirs of gods of the peoples of ancient times had reached their climax in Christianity and that the crown of wisdom was to understand how the Christ Being had entered through Jesus of Nazareth into His earthly activity.
And so, as we look back to an earlier spiritual science (which although it no longer exists in that form today, indeed cannot do so for it must be pursued now-a-days in a different way), the deepest respect grows up within us. Profound wisdom was taught in the early Christian centuries in regard to the supersensible worlds. But knowledge of this spiritual universe was imparted only to those who were immediate pupils of the older initiates. The wisdom might only be passed on to those whose faculties of knowledge had reached the stage where they were able to understand the essence and being of the different gods.
This requisite of spiritual culture was recognized everywhere in Greece, in Egypt, and in Asia Minor. It is, of course, true that remnants of the ancient wisdom still existed in Roman civilization. Plotinus himself taught for a long time in Italy. But a spirit of abstraction had crept into Roman culture, a spirit no longer capable of understanding the value and worth of personality, of being. The spirit of abstraction had crept in, not yet in the form it afterwards assumed, but adhered to all the more firmly because it was there in its earliest beginnings.
And then, on the soil of Italy at the beginning of the fourth century A.D. we find a school which began to oppose the ancient principle of initiation, the preparation of the individual for initiation. We see a school arising which gathers together and makes a careful record of everything originating from ancient initiation wisdom. The aim of this school — which lasted beyond the third on into the fourth century — was to perpetuate the essence of Roman culture, to establish historical tradition as against the strivings of individual human beings. As Christianity began to find its way into Roman culture, the efforts of this school were directed to the elimination of all that could still have been discovered by means of the old initiation knowledge in regard to the presence of Christ in the personality of Jesus.
It was a fundamental tenet of this Roman school that the teaching given by Ammonius Saccas and Iamblichus must not be allowed to pass on to posterity. Just as in those times there was a widespread impulse to destroy the ancient temples and altars — in short to obliterate every remnant of ancient heathendom — so, in the domain of spiritual life, efforts were made to wipe out the principles whereby knowledge of the higher world might be attained. To take one example: the dogma of the One Divine Nature or of the Two Divine Natures in the Person of Christ was substituted for the teaching of Ammonius Saccas and Iamblichus, namely, that the individual human being can develop to a point where he will understand how the Christ took up His abode in the body of Jesus. This dogma was to reign supreme and the possibility of individual insight smothered. The ancient path of wisdom was superseded by dogma in the culture of the Roman world. And because strenuous efforts were made to destroy any teaching that savored of the ancient wisdom, little more than the names of men like Ammonius Saccas and Iamblichus have come down to us. Of many other teachers in the southern regions of Europe not even the names have been preserved. Altars were destroyed, temples burnt to the ground, and the ancient teachings exterminated, to such an extent indeed that we have no longer any inkling today of the wisdom that lived in the south of Europe during the first four centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha.
Again and again it happened, however, that knowledge of this wisdom found its way to men who were interested in these matters and who realized that Roman culture was rapidly falling to pieces under the spread of Christianity. But after the extermination of what would have been so splendid a preparation for an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha, it was only possible to learn of the union of Christ with Jesus in the form of an abstract dogma laid down by the councils and colored by the Roman spirit. The living wisdom was wiped out, and abstraction, albeit working on in the guise of revelation, took its place.
History is well-nigh blank in regard to these things, but during the first centuries of Christendom there were a number of men who were able to say: “There are indeed initiates — of whom Iamblichus was one. It is the initiates who teach true Christianity. To them, Christ is Christ indeed, whereas the Romans speak merely of the ‘Galileans.’ ” This expression was used in the third and fourth centuries A.D. to gloss over a deep misunderstanding. The less men understood Christianity, the more they spoke of the Galileans; the less they knew of the Christ, the more emphasis they laid on the human personality of the ‘Galilean.’
Out of this milieu came Julian, the so-called Apostate, who had absorbed a very great deal from pupils of men like Iamblichus and who still knew something of the spiritual universe reaching down into every phenomenon of nature. Julian the Apostate had heard from pupils of Iamblichus of the spiritual forces working down into every animal and plant from the three hundred and sixty heavenly powers, the seventy-two planetary powers, and the forty-two earthly powers. In those days there were still some who understood what was, for example, expressed in a most wonderful way in a deeply significant legend related of Plotinus. The legend ran: There were many who would no longer believe that a man could be inspired by the Divine Spirit and who said that anyone who claimed to have knowledge of the divine-spiritual world was possessed by a demon. Plotinus was therefore carried off to the temple of Isis in Egypt in order that the priests might determine the nature of the demon possessing him. And when the Egyptian priests — who still had knowledge of these things — came to the temple and tested Plotinus before the altar of Isis, performing all the ritual acts still possible at that time, Lo! instead of a demon there appeared the Godhead Himself!
This legend indicates that in those times men still acknowledged that at least it was possible to prove whether a good god or a demon was possessing a human being.
Julian the Apostate heard of these things. But on the other side there came insistently to his ears the words of a writing which passed into many hands in the Roman world during the first Christian centuries and was said to be a sermon of the Apostle Peter, whereas it was actually a forgery. In this document it was said: Behold the godless Hellenes! In very creatures of nature they see the Divine-Spiritual. This is sinful, impious. It is sacrilege to see the Divine-Spiritual in Nature, in animal and in plant. Let no man be so sinful as to believe that the Divine is present in the course of the Sun and Moon. — These were the things that dinned in the ears of Julian, now from one side, now from another. A deep love for Hellenism grew up within him and he became the tragic figure who would fain have spoken of Christianity in the light of the teachings of Iamblichus.
There is no telling what would have come to pass in Europe if the Christianity of Julian the Apostate had conquered instead of the doctrines of Rome, if his desire to restore the initiation training had been fulfilled: the training whereby men could themselves have attained to knowledge of how the Christ had lived in Jesus and of His place among the other racial gods. Julian the Apostate was not out to destroy the heathen temples. Indeed he would have been willing to restore the temple of the Jews at Jerusalem. His desire was to restore the heathen temples and he also had the interests of the Christians at heart. Truth and truth alone was his quest. And the great obstacle in his way was the school in ancient Rome of which I have spoken — the school which not only set out to exterminate the old principle of initiation but did in fact succeed in exterminating it, wishing to put in its place recorded traditions of initiation wisdom.
When the moment had arrived, it was easy to arrange for the thrust of the Persian spear which caused Julian's death. It was then that the words were uttered which have never since been understood, not even by Ibsen, but which can be explained by a knowledge of the traditions of Julian's time: ‘The Galilean has conquered, not the Christ!’ For at this moment of death it was revealed to the prophetic vision of Julian the Apostate that henceforward the conception of Christ as a Divine Being would fade away and that the ‘Galilean,’ the man of Galilean stock, would be worshipped as a God. In the thirtieth year of his life Julian the Apostate had a pre-vision of the whole of subsequent evolution, on into the nineteenth century, by which time theology had lost all knowledge of the Christ in Jesus.
Julian was ‘Apostate’ only in regard to what was to come after. The Apostate was indeed the Apostle in respect of spiritual realization of the Mystery of Golgotha. — And it is this spiritual realization that must be quickened again in the souls of men.
Newer geological strata always overlay those that are older, and the newer must be pierced before we can reach those that lie below. It is sometimes difficult to believe beneath what thick layers the history of human evolution lies concealed. Thick indeed are the layers spread by Romanism over the first conceptions of the Mystery of Golgotha! Through spiritual knowledge it must again be possible to penetrate through these layers and so rediscover that old wisdom which was swept away from the domain of spiritual life just as the heathen altars were swept away from the physical world.
Egyptian priests declared that Plotinus bore a god within him, not a demon. But in the West the dictum went forth that Plotinus was assuredly possessed by a demon. Read what has been said on the subject, including the thesis by Brentano which I have mentioned, and you will find the same. According to the Egyptian priests, a god and not a demon was living in Plotinus, the philosopher of the third century A.D. But Brentano states the contrary. He declares: Plotinus was possessed by a demon, not by a god!
And then, in the nineteenth century, the gods became demons; the demons, gods. Men were no longer capable of distinguishing between gods and demons in the universe. And this has lived on in the chaos of our civilization.
Truly these things are grave when we see them as they really are. I wished today to speak of one chapter of history and from an absolutely objective standpoint, for what comes to pass in history is after all inevitable. Necessary as it was that for a season men should remain without enlightenment about certain mysteries, enlightenment must ultimately be given, and — what is more — received.

Source: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA/GA0213/19220710p01.html

Monday, September 18, 2017

Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow.

“Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow.” — Goethe

Faux Pas

Dear Miss Manners:

    What do you consider a good conversation opener?

Gentle Reader:
    Almost anything except, "I've been on a wonderful journey of self-discovery lately, and I'd like to share it with you."

Alchemy 101. Silica and Carbon; Nitrogen and Lime

Human Questions and Cosmic Answers. Lecture 4.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, July 2, 1922:

I have lately been describing to you man's relationships to the surrounding world, as they appear when we turn our attention away from the Earth and more to the starry world, especially to the world of the planets. Today I should like to add, aphoristically at least, some of the observations and experiences gained by spiritual vision concerning man's relationship to his immediate earthly environment.
In the ordinary way man looks at things in his environment without discrimination and arrives at fallacious conceptions of being and reality. Let me remind you of what on various occasions I have already given as an illustration. When we look at a rock-crystal, we can say, from an earthly point of view: “This crystal is a self-contained entity.” In its finished form we can always see something complete in itself.
This is not so, if, for instance, we pick a rose and take it into our room. As a rose with its stem, just by itself, it is altogether unthinkable within the compass of earthly existence. It is thinkable only while it is growing on its stem on the rose-bush with its branches and roots. In other words, to speak in accordance with reality, we must not call the rose an entity in the same sense as a rock-crystal. For in terms of reality we must speak in that way only of something which, relatively at least, can exist in itself. Certainly, from a different aspect, the rock-crystal cannot be regarded as something that has an independent existence either, but then it is seen from a different point of view. For simple observation, the rock-crystal as a conceptual entity is quite different from the rose.
Unfortunately, far too little attention is paid to such things, and this is why human thinking is so far from grasping reality and men find it so difficult to bring clear concepts to bear upon what spiritual observation has to say. Clear concepts could be attained easily enough if only people would pay the necessary attention to such simple matters.
When we reflect upon our immediate earthly environment we find, to begin with, various kinds of soil on the surface. If you look around in our own neighborhood, you find limy soil. Further south you find slaty kinds of soil. I will confine myself, first, to these two main kinds of earth: the limy kind, the lime-formation, which, especially as Jura-limestone, you can observe here in our immediate surroundings, and the slate-formation, where the rock, the mineral, is not in such a compact form as in the limestone-formation, but where it is schistous. Just think of shale, even of gneiss, of mica-schist and the like, which you find in the central Alps. Here are two great and important opposites: slate-formation and lime-formation.
Judged by present-day conceptions, these mineral deposits represent something that can be explained only in terms of mineral-physical laws. No account is taken of the fact that the Earth is one whole. Let us consider the science of geology as it is today.
The different kinds of earth, the deposits of ore, of metals, of minerals in general in the various earth-layers, are observed. But the Earth is not regarded as if it were also a dwelling place for the living world of plants and human beings. To have such a conception of the Earth is rather like regarding the human skeleton as having an independent existence. Taking a human skeleton by itself, you must, to be correct, say: that is not a self-contained entity. Nowhere in the world can such a thing as a human skeleton originate by itself. It exists as the remains of a whole human body, but it could never materialize without the supplementary action of muscles, nerves, blood, and so on. Therefore we must not look upon the human skeleton as an independent entity or attempt to explain it as such.
Nor is it possible for anyone who thinks in actualities, and not in abstractions, to apprehend the Earth with its various rock formations without reflecting that the Earth is a totality; that the plant, animal, and human kingdoms belong to it, just as muscles, blood, and so on belong to the human skeleton.
We must therefore be clear in our mind what it means to study the Earth in terms of geology. It means forgoing at once any chance of reaching realities. We do not arrive at anything real. We arrive at something that can be found within a planetary being only when this contains the plant world, the animal world, and the human world.
If, first of all, we observe what, as part of the Earth skeleton, pervades the Earth as slate formation, we see that its external appearance differs very considerably from that of the concentrated compactness of the lime formation. And indeed, if we make use of the methods which have been applied to the broad outlines of Earth evolution in my book Occult Science, we have to trace the difference between the slate and lime formations to the relation between one or other of these to man, to animal existence, to plant existence. We must see how what belongs to the Earth as soul and spirit is related to these rock materials.
We cannot understand a human skeleton if we do not connect it ultimately with man's will nature; and we cannot understand the slate formation, or the lime formation, unless we connect them with the tasks which these formations have to perform for what is also present in Earth existence as spirit and soul. And then we find an intimate connection between all that is slate formation and plant life; between all that is lime formation and animal life.
Certainly, as the Earth is today, the mineral element contained in slaty matter can naturally be found also in the plants. The mineral substance to be found in animal matter has its origin in very diverse formations. But that is of less importance just now; the important thing is that to spiritual observation and to spiritual experience the particular way in which plant life, the whole plant world, belongs to the Earth reveals itself as having a certain special relationship to the slate formation.
If I am to sketch it diagrammatically, it will be somewhat like this (a drawing is made on the blackboard): Here is the Earth, with some accumulation of slate formation on it, and then the plants growing out of the Earth toward the outer universe. Spatially, the plants need by no means coincide with the slate formation, just as, for instance, a thought, which is based on the instrument of the brain, need not coincide with a movement of the big toe. We are not concerned here with spatial coincidence, but with apprehending the nature of the slate formation when we try to do so not only through chemical and physical examination but also through penetrating to the essence of this slaty formation by means of spiritual investigation. Then we shall come to the conclusion: If the forces inherent in slaty matter were to act upon the Earth only by themselves, they would have to be connected with a condition of life which develops in precisely the same way as the plant world.
The plant world develops in such a way that it represents only physical corporeality, etheric corporeality; that is, in the actual plants themselves. But when we come to the astral element of the plant world, we must imagine this astral element of the plant world as an astral atmosphere which encompasses the Earth. The plants themselves have no astral bodies, but the Earth is enveloped in an astral atmosphere, and this astrality plays an important part, for instance, in the process of the unfolding of blossom and fruit. The terrestrial plant world as a whole, therefore, has one uniform, common astral body which nowhere interpenetrates the plant itself, except at most in a very slight degree when fructification begins in the blossom. Generally speaking, it floats cloud-like over the vegetation and stimulates blossom and fruit formation.
What unfolds here would fall into decay but for the astral forces which emanate from the rock material of the slate formation. Thus we have in the slate formation all that which tends to turn the whole Earth into one organism. Indeed, we must see the relation of the plants to the Earth as being similar to that of our hair to ourselves, as being of one and the same order. And what holds this whole organization of the world together are the forces that radiate from the rock material of the slate formation.
In due course these things will also be substantiated by natural science. It will, for instance, be said: Man has his physical body and his etheric body. His organization as a whole is based on a plant existence. Man can in fact be regarded as a plant being on which has been superimposed what is animalistic and human.
When the human being in health or illness is treated with mineral substances deriving from slate formations, it will be possible to perceive, even externally, the action of these particular minerals; and it will be of special importance to know which types of disease in the human organism are due, for example, to over-exuberance of the plant element.
Over-exuberance of the plant element must always be combated by treating the affected person with schistous mineral substance. For everything that belongs to this slate substance keeps the plant element in man — if I may put it that way — in a normal condition, in the same way as it perpetually normalizes plant existence on Earth. The plant life of the Earth would tend to spread with over-exuberance into outer cosmic space were it not kept in check by the radiations from the mineral forces of the slate formation. One day people will have to study from this point of view a living geography and geology of the Earth; it will be realized that a study of what constitutes the skeleton of the Earth, as it were, must be pursued not only from the geological angle but in relation to the being of the Earth as a whole  in relation to its organic life and its nature of soul and spirit.
Now, the entire plant world is intimately bound up with the Sun forces, with solar action. The effects produced by the Sun are not confined to the emanations of warmth and light radiating from the etheric-physical rays of the Sun, for the warmth and light are permeated through and through by spirit and soul. These forces of spirit and soul are allied with those pertaining to the slate formation. That in a certain way everything of a slate nature is spread all over the Earth is connected with the fact that plant life on the Earth exists in manifold forms. The spatial aspect is — as I said — of no immediate importance; it must not be imagined, for example, that the slate formation has to be here or there in order that plants may grow out of it. The radiations of the slate formation stream out; they are carried all over the Earth by all kinds of currents, especially magnetic currents, and on these Earth-encircling radiations of the slate formation the plants live. Where, on the contrary, the slate formation is in itself developed to the highest degree, plant life cannot thrive today because there the life-forces of the plants are drawn too forcibly into the earthly element and therefore cannot unfold. There, the forces which fetter the plant to the earthly element are so overpowering that the unfolding of plant life — in which the cosmic forces must also play their part — is prevented.
To account for the nature of the slaty element in the Earth is possible, therefore, only if one can go back, in the sense in which it is described in my Occult Science, to the time when the Earth itself had a Sun existence. It was then that the slaty element within the Earth was being prepared. At that time, when the Earth had a Sun existence, the physical part of the Earth had advanced only to a state of sprouting plant life. The Sun existence was such that no definite plants or animal beings could develop there. Plants as they are today were non-existent, but the Earth itself had a kind of plant existence, and out of this plant existence there emerged on one hand the plant world, while on the other hand a hardening took place of what in the plant world are also formative forces, a hardening into slate formation.
When, however, we look at the lime formation, it reveals itself to supersensible vision as intimately connected with all that permeates animal existence on the Earth with — shall I say — independence. The plant is tied to the ground, is connected with it, as our hair is connected with the skin on which it grows. The animal moves about. But the radiations of the lime formation are connected less with this movement as such, which is a local movement, than with the independent build of the animal form.
When you look at a plant you can see that with its root it turns earthward; it grows into the Earth — is, as it were, drawn toward the center of the Earth — and then unfolds outward. The plant's structure gives a clear indication of its complete adaptation to Earth existence. Naturally, a more complicated plant form calls for a more complicated description, but on the whole it remains essentially the same. The plant is not independent. Where it enters the soil it contracts, unites itself with the Earth; where it rises up it spreads out and turns toward the light that radiates in all directions. This structure of the plant is best understood if studied in connection with its intimate relation to the plant's position in respect of the Earth.
It is true that in their basic design some features of the animal form — for instance the horizontal position of the spine, the functioning of the limbs in a downward direction — point to an adaptation to Earth existence. All the same, by its natural form the animal has detached itself and has become independent of the earthly. You can discern in every animal shape not only its adaptation to the earthly element, like that of the plant, but something entirely independent, a form set in itself. The fact is that even in respect of its structure the animal has been released from the grip of the Earth.
Now, supersensible observation has revealed that everything that radiates from the light of the Moon, everything that streams as reflected sunlight from the Moon on to the Earth, and also streams into our thought-life as formative force — all this works, too, in the shaping of the animal forms. Essentially, all that is indeterminate, formless will-force in the animal is to be found within the sphere of the direct light from the Sun. But all that gives the animal its independent form, which is not adapted to the earthly element, is, in the true sense of the word, woven out of the gleaming moonlight.
All forms on the Earth are shaped by the Moon forces. That the animals have different forms is due to the fact that the Moon passes through the signs of the Zodiac. According to whether the Moon stands in the sign of the Ram or the Bull or the Twins, the lunar formative forces act in their different ways on the animal world. This also establishes an interesting connection between the Zodiac and the animal form itself, of which the ancient dreamlike wisdom was dimly aware. What draws these forms down on to the Earth — forms which would otherwise dissipate into a kind of fog enveloping the Earth — are the forces streaming from the lime formation. The mineral element on Earth does not radiate from radium only. Thus on the one side we have in the slate formation that which binds the plant to the Earth, and in the lime formation that which draws from the Moon forces all that lives in the specific build of animal forms. And so spiritual perception tells us how the slate formation on the Earth is connected with the structural nature of the plant world, how the lime formation is connected with the structural nature of the animal world.
We must realize that such attributes as we find, for instance, in the lime formation are also to be found in every detail of organic life. It can be observed quite exactly, if one is properly equipped for such investigations, that there are, for example, people who show a marked tendency to skeleton formation. I do not mean that they have a strong skeleton, but that they have many lime deposits in the rest of their organism as well. There are, if I may say so, people who are richer or poorer in lime content.
But you must not think of this in a grossly material sense; it should naturally be conceived as being present in a homeopathic form, but it is of great significance. People with a greater lime content are as a rule cleverer, capable of forming a combination of subtle ideas and of resolving them again under the scrutiny of searching analysis. You must not think that by saying this I am giving a materialistic explanation of the human being. I should naturally never dream of doing any such thing; for the fact that one person deposits more lime than another is connected with his karma. So it is that in both past and future everything has its connection with the spiritual. And a truly penetrating knowledge of the world is not based on any vague talk about the “spiritual” and the “material,” but on a mental outlook which recognizes how the spiritual works creatively by shaping out of itself the material world. A man who, as the result of his former earthly lives, has acquired a predisposition for becoming a particularly clever person in his next incarnation, for example a particularly good mathematician, develops between death and a new birth those forces of spirit and soul which later deposit the lime substance in him.
We have to be dependent on lime deposits within us if we want to become clever. We have to rely more on deposits of clay substance — which exists for instance in slate formations — if it is primarily a matter of developing the will.
There can be no true conception of the material unless it is understood in its constant interrelation with the spiritual. We can say, therefore, that the lime formation carries those radiations and currents which are concerned not only with building up animal life in all its forms on the Earth, but also with providing the material foundation we need for the shaping of our thoughts. Outside in space are the manifold animal forms; within us, in our intellect, are the thought forms. These are, in fact, the animal forms projected into the spiritual. The entire animal kingdom is at the same time intellect. And this whole animal kingdom projected into man's inner life, so that it appears there in mobile thought forms, is the intellect. But as the animal kingdom needs the lime formation to build up its forms in the outer world, so we need, as it were, a fine inner lime deposit, a lime formation, in order to become clever.
This must, of course, not be carried too far. If a man were to deposit lime in excess, he would forfeit his cleverness; it would not remain his own. He would, as it were, bring about an objective cleverness in which his own personality would have no part. Everything has its limits. And as we follow up these things further, we come to interesting discoveries about the extent to which the mineral element plays its part in the life of man, animal, and plant. When we consider all that works in us as lime forces, we are led — as I have said — to what struggles for expression in the formative forces and helps us to develop inner firmness.
Man's connection with the forces of clay, of the clay-slaty element, on the other hand, leads him to fight against this inner firmness; to dissolve it, liquefy it and make it plant-like. Man is always in a sense the embodiment of a kind of interaction between the lime element and the slate element — by which, of course, I mean the inner forces they contain.
Now we can look more closely at the slate element. In much of it we find flint and silicious substances, especially those to be found in the rock crystal, in quartz. In their radiations and currents the forces of quartz are also fully active in man himself; and if he possessed only these quartz-like forces which he takes in with the harder slaty element, he would be in constant danger of his spirit and soul striving to return to what he was in his pre-earthly life. The quartz element always wants to draw man away from himself, to take him back again to his still unembodied being. To counteract this force, another force is needed, and this is the force of carbon.
Man has carbon working in his organism in manifold ways. Carbon is observed by natural science today only in its outer aspect, merely by physical and chemical means. In reality, carbon is the element which makes us always remain with ourselves. Carbon, in a sense, is our house; we dwell in it; while silica always wants to take us back in time to where we were before we took possession of our carbon house.
This means that a constant struggle is waged in us between the forces of carbon and those of silica. And our life is woven into this battle. If we consisted only of carbon — for instance, the physical plant world has its foundation in carbon — we should be completely Earth-bound. We could not have the slightest inkling of our extra-terrestrial existence. The fact that we can know about it we owe to the silica element in us.
If one has insight into all this, one also discovers the healing forces contained, for instance, in silica, in quartz or flint. Where an excessive inclination toward carbon causes a person to become ill — this applies, for example, to all cases of illness due to certain deposits of metabolic products — then silicious substances provide the remedy. Especially when the deposits are peripheral or in the head, the healing properties of the silica element are a strong antidote.
You can see that if one gets to the heart of these matters, with a comprehensive knowledge that combines nature knowledge and spiritual knowledge, seeking the spiritual in all purely material things, and finding the material again in all that is spiritual, the spiritual being conceived as creative power — you can see that only such knowledge can furnish a clue not only to an understanding of human existence but also to the methods which must be applied when human existence suffers from functional disturbances.
A point of special importance is that attention should be paid to what lives as the nitrogen element in man, to nitrogen as such and to its combinations. The fact that man has nitrogen in his system enables him, as it were, to remain always open to cosmic influences. This again I can best illustrate by a diagram. — Let us assume that this represents the human organism. (A sketch is made on the blackboard.) The fact that man has nitrogen, or bodies containing nitrogen, in his organism ensures that the laws governing the organism keep, as it were, within their confines everywhere; along these lines (in the diagram) indicating the nitrogen in the body, the latter ceases to impose its own laws. This allows the cosmic laws to enter freely everywhere. Along the nitrogen line in the human body the cosmic element asserts itself in the body. You can say: "As far as nitrogen is active in me, the cosmos, right to the most distant star, works in me. What there is of nitrogen forces in me draws the forces of the whole cosmos into me. If my organism had no nitrogen content, I should be shut off from everything that comes in from the cosmos.” And when it is important that the cosmic forces should unfold in a special way, for example in human propagation when in the body of the mother the embryo develops — the embryo which as you know, is moulded from the cosmos — this is made possible only because the nitrogen-containing substances open the human being to the influences of the cosmos. But everything in the universe and in human existence is so ordered as not to go to extremes. Indeed, if one-sided action were allowed to prevail, everything would lead to extremes. If nitrogen, which impels man always to expand, spiritually, into cosmic space, could exert its full force on the human organism, it would work together with the silica element — which induces man, I might say, to lose himself in the spiritual past — and the effect would be that man would constantly lapse into unconsciousness.
Now, it is always interesting when observing anything in nature or in man to find that important things play a double role. Thus the lime element, which gives man the physical stamp for cleverness, also counteracts the effect of nitrogen. So that we can say: On the one hand, silica and carbon form polaric opposites in man; on the other hand, nitrogen and lime do the same:
Silica — Carbon.
Nitrogen — Lime.
The lime substances in man so regulate him that he always re-asserts his own organization in face of the force which, through the medium of nitrogen, seeks to work into him from the cosmos. Through nitrogen, the cosmic forces enter; through lime action, that which issues from the human organism opposes and balances it. So that in many different places in the human body an influx of cosmic forces and likewise an expulsion of cosmic influences takes place. It is a ceaseless pendulum movement: nitrogen effect — lime effect, lime effect — nitrogen effect. Thus we can not only relate man to the starry world, but also give him his place in his immediate earthly environment.
In the last number of the periodical Das Goetheanum I used an aphorism to emphasize that in reality materialism as a world conception does not arise from the fact matter is too well known; on the contrary, too little is known about it. What is really known about carbon? That it is to be found in nature as coal, as graphite, as diamond. These bodies are then described according to their physical characteristics. But it is not known that carbon is the element which holds us firmly within ourselves, so that we are a self-contained human organism, and that this is constantly challenged by the silica element, which seeks to draw us away from ourselves.
We learn to understand matter only when we learn to know it also from its spiritual aspect: There is matter; it is penetrated by spirit. You get nowhere if you are content with a vague, nebulous play of fancy and declare: Where there is matter there is spirit. It is not sufficient to know: lime, silica, carbon, nitrogen, contain spirit — that goes without saying, but it is not enough. One must also know how the different substances are, as it were, embodiments, “substantiations,” of spiritual processes. One must also be able to see how the lime element acts on the inner organization of man; how the nitrogen element always aims at permeating him with cosmic impulses.
The plants, which must always maintain a relationship to the cosmic element as they grow up from the Earth out into the cosmos, need nitrogen combinations for their growth; and it will be possible to study plant growth, too, in the right way if proper attention is paid to the relevant connections just mentioned. These matters have, in the first place, their scientific side  we learn to know the world only when we understand the true nature of things  but they also have their practical side. And one really never gets beyond the most primitive aspects if one cannot assess things in their wider connections. One will then have to go into details and find out how the required nitrogen combinations enter into plant growth. As you know, this alone is a very important subject of study; but in agriculture, too, this study can be complete only if pursued by the methods of spiritual science. Spiritual science alone is the true science of reality.
You see, everything I have been describing has to be re-established through the methods of spiritual science as they are available today and as they will be more and more developed in the future. For an older science received these things through a kind of dreamlike clairvoyance. We must attain a fully conscious clairvoyance. This, as you know, is a subject I have dealt with on very many occasions.
Today we cannot simply imbibe again the things that once became known to men with the aid of a quite different human make-up. It is, of course, folly for people to devote all their studies to ancient science, for that will not help them to understand things. The ancient things themselves cannot be understood either, unless they are illumined spiritually in the right way. And yet it is remarkable how practically everywhere today the scientific mind, through a kind of instinct, turns to what was once found through dreamlike clairvoyance.
Take a specific case. The old initiates took for granted the presence of lead everywhere in earthly existence — because to the radiation of lead they attributed what works in the human form from the extreme top, from above downwards. In the widely distributed lead on Earth they saw something that is connected with the inner structure of man, especially also with human self-consciousness. Naturally, the modern materialist would say: But lead has nothing to do with the human organism. In answer to that the initiate of old would have told him: It is certainly not, as you imagine, the gross lead substance that we have in mind, but the forces emanating from exceedingly fine lead constituents; and such lead is very widely distributed. That is what the ancient initiate would have said.
What does the modern student of natural science say? He says: There are minerals which give off radiations, among them the so-called radioactive ones. The radiations of uranium are, of course, known; it is known that certain rays — alpha rays, they are called — stream out; then, the remaining part, in the course of further radiation, undergoes certain changes, even comes to possess — as the chemists say — a different atomic weight. Briefly, in radioactive matter, transmutations take place. In fact there are people today who are already talking about a kind of revival of the old mystical metamorphoses of matter. But now, those who have investigated such matters say: These radiations give rise to something which appears as a terminal product, no longer radioactive, and this has the properties of lead. Thus you can learn strictly from the investigations of modern science that there are radioactive substances; within the source of these radioactive radiations there is something which, in accordance with its inherent forces, is in course of formation. There is always a lead-content at the bottom.
You see, the researches of modern natural science are getting critically near to ancient initiation science. And just as today modern scientists cannot help discovering the presence of lead right under their noses, as it were — or at least under the noses of their physical instruments — so they will also find out things about the other metals. Then it will gradually dawn upon them what was meant when it was said that lead is to be found everywhere in nature. You see, it is only through spiritual science that one can discern what is implicit in the discoveries of natural science — discoveries with which, in the context of ordinary general knowledge, one hardly knows what to do.
But now we still have to consider something important in this field. You know that the air which belongs to the immediate surroundings of our Earth consists of oxygen and nitrogen. Nitrogen is, to begin with, of little use for our physical life. Oxygen we inhale; in the body it undergoes a change and carbon dioxide is formed, which we exhale. So the question might arise: Then what exactly is the main importance of nitrogen, which does not enter into chemical combination with oxygen, but lives out there in a kind of intimate mixture with oxygen? In nitrogen we cannot live; for that, we need oxygen. But without nitrogen our ego and our astral body when outside the physical body during sleep, could not exist. We should perish between going to sleep and waking if we could not immerse ourselves in nitrogen. Our physical body and our etheric body need the oxygen from the air; our ego and astral body need nitrogen.
 Nitrogen is a substance which brings us into intimate connection with the spiritual world. It is the bridge to the spiritual world in the state in which our soul lives during sleep. Take what I said before together with what I have now said about nitrogen. Nitrogen draws the cosmic element in from the circumference. From within us, it prepares us for the cosmic element. Outside, it allows those parts of us which are not properly of the Earth to live in themselves, so to speak, as forces of spirit and soul. Hence it is not for nothing that there is a considerable admixture of nitrogen in the air, for nitrogen carries the physical death-forces and the spiritual life-forces of earthly existence. And when between falling asleep and waking we escape from the physical death-forces to another existence in our soul-life, we immerse ourselves in the nitrogen element, which forms the bridge between our life of spirit and soul and the cosmos. With our earthly personal existence we are rooted in carbon; with our life of soul and spirit, in nitrogen. In earthly existence, carbon and nitrogen are related to one another and to man as I have just described.
Look at carbon; it is contained in ordinary coal, in graphite, in the diamond. These are three different forms in which carbon can occur. What you see as carbon in the black, sooty coal and in the diamond and in graphite, we also carry within us in a different form. We are — not to a very great extent, it is true, but to a small extent — a little piece of diamond, and this holds us firmly within our earthly house. That is where our spirit and soul are at home when within the body.
Nitrogen, which occurs in the various nitrogen compounds, nitric acid, and in saltpeter and so on, is the element which always allows us to emerge from ourselves, as it were. As I said, it forms the bridge to the spirit and soul element in the cosmos. This too must be discovered again through the new spiritual science. It was once within the realm of earthly knowledge, but only in a dreamlike way. It was perceived with the old clairvoyance by the ancient initiates.
As I have often said, true respect for an ancient initiate begins when we rediscover things we cannot learn from tradition. Only when we can find them ourselves can we also value them as tradition. And as we proceed to rediscover them, we also feel a true reverence for what was once the primeval wisdom of mankind.
At the next opportunity I will speak about the connection between all these rediscoveries and the Mystery of Golgotha. For this, I needed spiritual-scientific and natural-scientific premises; and after all, these deliberations will in themselves have helped to throw light on a number of questions concerning the world and human existence.