The Michael Impulse - Lecture VIIDornach, December 6, 1919
Please read our notes on this lecture.
My dear Friends,
You have heard me say on many occasions how necessary it is for a true understanding of the nature of the human being to recognize his division into three members, each of which is, relatively speaking, self-dependent. We have within the human being the head, the organs of the breast system, and the organs of the limbs. These are of course crude expressions that are only roughly true. Under the name of the limbs, for example, we have to include a good part of what is contained in the trunk of man. You will more over have gathered from my lectures as well as from what is given in my book, Riddles of the Soul, that there is a connection between the head of man and his life of thought and ideation; furthermore, that the whole rhythmic activity in man - roughly speaking, the breast system - is connected with the sphere of feeling; and finally the sphere of the will, which represents the essentially spiritual part of man, goes together with the system and organization of the limbs. Relatively speaking, these three systems of the human organism are independent one of another. Similarly is the life of ideas, the life of feeling and the life of will each self-dependent, although at the same time they work together.
Now, as you know, we can best comprehend the difference from a spiritual point of view between these three systems, when we observe them in the following way. In ordinary waking life man is really only fully awake in his head system - from the point of view of soul, in all that has to do with the life of ideas and thought. Everything that is connected with the life of feeling, that is, from a bodily aspect, with the rhythmic system, is a dream life. Even during the day time the life of feeling pervades our waking life with a life of dreams. What goes on in the sphere of feeling we know indirectly through ideas, but we can never know directly through the feelings themselves. The life of will is in still greater darkness; in its real content we have no clearer grasp of it than we have of the life of sleep. The recognition of these distinctions allows us to indicate more exactly than is usually done the character and extent of the subconscious states lying below the ordinary human consciousness. Subconscious ideas lie beneath the life of feeling; and if it is permissible to form a comparative, I can say that still more unconscious ideas lie beneath the life of will.
Now it is very important to realize that each one of the three systems contains within it thinking, feeling and willing. In the head system or the system of thought, a life of feeling and a life of will are undoubtedly also present; only they are much less developed than the life of ideas. Similarly, thoughts are present in the sphere of feeling, more feebly than in the sphere of the head and only coming to consciousness in a dreamlike manner. One thing is ordinarily quite disregarded, my dear friends, in our time of abstract science, and it is this. These subconscious members of the human being are more objective in proportion as they are less subjectively present in consciousness. What do I mean by that? I mean this. In our life of ideas, in our head life, we have processes of which we may say that they take place within us. On the other hand what we experience through our rhythmic system, the processes that go on in the sphere of our feeling, are by no means our own individual property. They take place within us and yet at the same time they represent objective world processes. I spoke of this last time from another point of view. This means that when you feel, you have of course an experience in yourself, but that experience is at the same time something that happens in the world and has significance there. And it is of extraordinary interest to follow up the world processes that lie behind our life of feeling. Let us suppose, you experience something that affects you very deeply in you life of feeling, some event that moves you to joy or to sorrow. Now, you know that the whole of life runs its course in such a way that we can separate it into periods of about seven years in length. Roughly speaking, the first is from birth to the change of teeth, the second to the age of puberty, the third to the beginning of the twenty-first year and so on. All these boundary lines are of course only approximate. Here then we have a division that shows itself in the course of human life.
The turning points in the evolution of the human being which we arrive at by this method are clearly marked in the earlier part of life - change of teeth and puberty - but later are more or less concealed, although they can be distinctly noted by one who knows. That which takes place in the soul and spirit of the human being about the twenty-first year of life is, for one who can observe it, just as clearly perceptible as the change at puberty is for external physiology. As a rule, however, it is less observed. The division into seven-year periods holds true, as a matter of fact, for the whole course of human life.
And now let us go back to the event that makes a strong impression on our life of feeling. Suppose the event happens between the change of teeth and puberty. A very remarkable thing then takes place, which in these days of crude observation is not generally observed. It takes place nevertheless. The impression made upon your feelings is there, and then gradually the vibrations of it die away in your consciousness. But something takes place in the objective world quite apart from what is in your consciousness, quite apart from any share your life of soul has in the matter. And this process that goes on in the objective world may be compared with the setting up of a vibratory motion. It vibrates out into the world. And the remarkable thing is that it does not go out and out endlessly into the infinite, but when it has spread itself out for a sufficient distance - when its elasticity so to speak is used up - then it swings back again and makes its appearance in the next seven-year period as an impulse that works upon your life of soul from without. I will not say that such an event always comes back seven years later - that would not be correct, for the lapse of time depends on the whole form and character of the individual life - but it falls into the course of the next seven-year period, although very often entirely escaping your notice.
Yes, my dear friends, we continually undergo experiences which strike in upon our feeling life and which are the reaction of the world to an experience we had in the sphere of feeling during the previous seven-year period. An event that stirs and moves our feelings resounds again into our life of soul in the next division of life. People do not usually remark such things. Anyone who takes a little trouble, however, can learn to observe them even externally.
Who of you has not at one time had the experience that someone you know well suddenly becomes dejected and out of humor? You have no idea what is the cause, a change has come over him 'outof the blue' as we say. If you follow up the matter and have the eyes of your soul open to observe the particular way such a man conducts himself in life, if you can feel what is in between the words he says - or rather what is within the words - then you will be able to go back to some earlier event that affected him deeply. And during the whole of the interval something has been going on in the world which would not have been going on if the man had not had that moving experience. The whole thing is a process which, besides being experienced by the man himself, takes place also as an absolutely objective experience outside him.
You will readily see how many opportunities there are for such things to go on outside us! They come about through our instrumentality, but they are none the less objective world processes. These processes become involved in all that is going on among the elementary beings outside us, including such elementary beings as I described to you recently. You will remember how I brought them together with the breathing and the whole rhythmic system in another connection. Now you can see them working together with the rhythmic system indirectly through stimulation of the feelings. When we understand these things rightly, we are led to the inevitable conclusion that man is continually creating around him as it were a great big aura. And into the waves that are thus thrown up, plunge elementary beings; they as it were mix themselves up in the whole process and are able to influence the reaction that comes back on to man - their power to do so, however, depending on the individual human being. Let us picture the whole process. Something moves you deeply. You ray it out all around you. When it comes back to you, it is not unchanged; in the meantime elementary beings have concerned themselves with it, and when it works back onto you, then, together with the process outside you, of which the elementary beings took hold, you receive also the influences and workings of these elementary beings. Man spreads abroad around him a spiritual atmosphere whereby he comes into contact with elementary beings; he and they mutually affect one another. All destiny that works itself out within the course of life is connected with these beings. For even within this life we have a kind of fulfillment of our destiny. If we have some experience today, then that experience has a significance for our later life. And this as a matter of fact is the way our destiny is molded. Elementary beings who feel attracted to us by reason of our nature work at the shaping of our destiny. There they attain to a feeling of themselves; there they work with us and upon us.
We have here obtained an insight into the mutual interplay between
man and his environment, and can see how spiritual forces are
at work in the environment. By following this interplay, we can
throw a light on many things that happen to man in the way of
destiny. An insight into these connections is nowhere within the
scope of the 'enlightened' knowledge of our times; we can only
find traces of it in traditions that have survived from earlier
times when man lived in more elementary stages of consciousness
and had more direct connection with reality. These traditions
you will find sometimes very beautifully brought to expression
in poems of earlier ages, where a destiny that befalls a human
being is referred to the intervention of elementary beings. One
of the most beautiful that has been preserved is a poem which
you often have presented to you in Eurythmy performance. In this
poem you can see how the elementary beings from the elf king's
realm intervene in the destiny of man. The poem runs thus:
There you have the elementary world interweaving in the destiny of man, in the very moment where his destiny strikes in upon him with the shock of illness and of death. Please note the words exactly. These things are not related in olden poems as they are in poems of recent times. (Herder took this from an old folk poem.) Of poems that are produced within the present day culture we may well say that about 99% are superfluous. The poems that are derived from an ancient knowledge are always to be distinguished by the fact that they are true to reality. It could not possibly have been said in this poem: "She . . . head, or on the mouth, or on the nose," but:
It must in this connection be an organ of the rhythmic system - therefore the heart.
What I want you to note is that here you have an absolutely faithful reproduction in poetry of what actually goes on around man in such an hour of destiny. It is in fact always going on around man, but it makes itself particularly strongly felt in connection with the phenomenon of this periodic return of experiences in the sphere of feeling. For these always come back to us in a changed form. They do not enter into our destiny in the same form as we sent them out, but only after they have passed through whatever the elementary beings have found to do with them. In the same way that we live within the external physical air or that we live among the products of the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms - in the very same way do we live with the subconscious parts of our nature in spiritual spheres. In particular with our rhythmic system we live in the spiritual sphere of the elementary beings. And there in that sphere is shaped so much of our destiny as can be shaped in the course of life between birth and death.
Only because in our head we are fully awake, do we rise up at all out of this interplay with the elementary beings. In respect of our head life alone we are not involved in the realm of the elementary beings. There in our head we so to speak emerge above the surface of the ocean of elementary existence, in which we as human beings perpetually swim. Here then you may see how experiences can come back in the form of destiny even within the ordinary course of life, when they are related to our rhythmic system. For the limb system too there is an interplay with the environment; only it is very much more complicated. Here again the events swing back; but they make a wider circuit and come back only in the next life or in one of the following earth lives. We may therefore say that what we call our destiny or karma need not be after all so very strange and unintelligible for us, when we can look upon it as no more than a further expansion of what can be studied in this return of experience within the single life. For the experiences do not come back unchanged, they have undergone very great change in the meantime.
Let me draw your attention to one single phenomenon of life in this connection. Wherever I have given lectures on education, I have always called attention to an important landmark in the course of life that occurs at about the ninth year. It is a turning point that should be very carefully marked in teaching. Up to that time one's teaching about nature should be entirely of the kind where the description of nature and her processes is connected - by way of fables, legends and so forth - with the moral life of humanity. Only at the ninth year may one begin to describe nature in a simple and elementary manner. Then the child is ripe for it. The whole arrangement and treatment of subjects is derived directly and entirely from an actual observation of the human being, down to the smallest detail. I have pointed this out in the article I wrote on the educational foundations of the Waldorf School. And I alluded there to this epoch of about the ninth year. We may characterize this moment of time by saying that the ego consciousness receives then a new form. The child becomes capable of taking note of external nature in a more objective manner. Earlier he unites whatever he sees in nature with his own being. Now the ego consciousness unfolds, as you know, the first seven-year section of life, at about 2 - 2 1/2 years of age. What happens is that it comes back again in the second seven-year period, at about the ninth year. This is one of the most striking 'returns' - this return of the ego consciousness at about the ninth year. It comes back in a more spiritual form, whereas in the second or third year of life it has more of a soul character. This is only one of the events which come back in a striking manner. The same observation can be made for less significant events.
The fact is, my dear friends, it will become urgently necessary for the future of human evolution to pay attention to these intimate things in the life of man. An insight into such things must gradually become part of the general culture. The general culture and education of mankind changes from epoch to epoch. We today, for example, are quite unhappy if at ten years old, our children cannot read or cannot do sums. The Romans were not so at all, they were unhappy if a child of ten did not yet know the twelve tables of the law. We however for our part do not put ourselves to great trouble to make our children acquainted with the terms of the law. Our poor children's minds would be in a sorry plight if we did! What is deemed necessary for the general consciousness of mankind changes from age to age; and we stand at this moment at the starting point of a new time, when the very evolution of the earth and mankind requires that these more intimate connections of man's life of soul shall become part of the general consciousness. Man will have to come to the point of knowing himself more exactly than has been held to be necessary hitherto. Otherwise these things will work back upon the whole disposition of human life a most untoward way.
Because we do not know that something which stirs us deeply has such an origin, it does not at all follow that nothing of the kind takes place in our life of soul. The things come back; they exercise their influence upon our life of soul. We cannot account for them. We do not attempt to bring them into our consciousness. The result is, we get into all kinds of strange conditions and states. Many people suffer a great deal in these days from conditions of soul which they simply accept and of which they have of course no idea that they are to be referred to earlier experiences. Whatever concerns our feelings always comes back in some form or other. You will probably remember the typical instance I have often given. If we teach a child to pray, that is to say, if we teach him to develop a prayerful mood and feeling, then the effect of it will swing back on to his life after many years. It comes late. It swings back in the interval, but then swings out again further; and only later, after a very long time does the feeling of prayer come back and manifest in a mood of blessing. As I have frequently said: No one will be able in old age to bestow blessing upon others, merely from his presence, from the imponderable things in his nature, who has not in his childhood learned to pray. Prayer turns into the power to bless. That is how things come back in life. And it is becoming imperative that men should understand these things.
The truth is that in men's failure to comprehend these things lies the cause why they cannot perceive the great significance of the Mystery of Golgotha. For, in effect, what meaning can it have for people who are completely caught in the toils of present-day education, when they hear it said: "After the Christ passed through the Mystery of Golgotha, He united Himself with the life of earth humanity?" People are not ready to form any idea of the reciprocal relation in which they stand with the very domain of life wherein the Christ is to be found. The influence of the Christ Impulse is not very noticeable in the ideas of our head. So soon however as we look down into the unconscious, so soon as we turn our gaze downwards into the sphere of feeling and into the sphere of willing, then we live, in the first place, in the sphere of elementary beings; but this sphere of the elementary beings is at the same time interwoven for us with the Christ Impulse. By way of our rhythmic system, physiologically speaking - that is to say, but way of our feelings - we dive down into that realm with which the Christ has united Himself. There we find, so to speak, the place where the Christ is really and truly to be found - quite objectively, not merely through tradition or through some subjective mysticism. And moreover we are living now in an epoch of time when the events that come from this place in the way I have just explained, are beginning to have a very great significance for the life of man. For they are beginning to exercise an unconscious influence upon man's decisions, upon all that men do; and this is true, even if they struggle against it. If only we will enter into this matter and understand it, then we shall be able to experience the influence consciously; and that will mean, we can reckon with it, we can as it were call to our help the spiritual worlds that belong to us, we can call upon them to work with us.
An external observation will suffice to show that in this matter we are standing at a turning point in the evolution of man. I need only refer you to one fact of which I have frequently spoken from one or another point of view. If we look at the ordinary accustomed treatment of history, we shall see that in reality, it has not yet reached an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. Only recall the history of the world as it is usually set before us. A description is given of the times of the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian kingdoms, of the ancient Persian and Egyptian kingdoms and of Greece and Rome; and then perhaps mention is made that the Mystery of Golgotha took place; and after that follows an account of the migrations of peoples, etc., etc. Some historians will then carry it up to the French Revolution or to Poincare; others to the downfall of the Echensollerns - and so forth. But in all this fable convenue that we are pleased to call 'history,' you will find absolutely no mention of the continued working of the Christ Impulse. From the point of view of history as it is conceived today, it is just as though the Christ Impulse had been simply struck out. It is not there. It is remarkable how, for example, an historian like Ranke, who was a Christian and who had a true appreciation of the Christ Impulse from a subjective aspect, simply cannot bring the Christ Event into his history. He does not know what to make of it. It plays no part at all in his conception of history. We may truly say that for man's knowledge of the spirit, as this manifests in history, Christianity is not yet there. It is our anthroposophical spiritual science which for the first time treats history in such a way as to reckon quite positively with the necessity that in the Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch the event of Golgotha should break in upon the course of historical evolution. The event has its place right within the picture we give of the history of man. Yes, and we go further. Not only do we receive the event of Golgotha into our picture of the history of man, we portray cosmic evolution too, so that the Mystery of Golgotha has place within it.
If you will study The Outline of Occult Science, you will find that we do not speak there merely of eclipses of the sun or eclipses of the moon or of explosions or eruptions in the cosmos, but we speak of the Christ Event as a cosmic event. Strange to say, whilst from the standpoint of human history, the so-called historians can find no possible way of including the Christ Event in the progress of the evolution of man, on the other hand the official representatives of religion are infuriated when they hear that an anthroposophical spiritual science has come into the field, which speaks of the Christ Event as an event in the whole cosmos. When they hear that the Christ Event is actually brought into connection with cosmic evolution, they begin to protest with vehemence. From this you can see how little readiness there is on the part of the churches to meet the requirements of our time; for it is essential that the Christ Event should in our time be brought into connection with the great events of the universe. It must be admitted that very often today even theologians speak of the Christ in no different way than they speak of any other divine being. They speak of Him no otherwise than the Hebrews of old or the Jews today speak of their Jahve. I told you a few days ago how one could take Harnack's book, The Essence of Christianity, and strike out the name of Christ wherever he uses it, substituting the general name of God, and yet not alter the sense; because the writer has no glimmering of the specific nature of Christianity. Why, his book The Essence of Christianity is, page for page, a description of the very opposite of the essence of Christianity. It does not treat of Christianity at all, it treats of a general Jahve teaching. It is important to point out these things, for they are deeply connected with what must and will come in our age. It is no vague consciousness of the presence of a general abstract spiritual world that is wanted: The evolution of human culture requires that man should bring into it a consciousness of the concrete spiritual world in which we live with all that we feel and will and do, and out of which we only lift ourselves in so far as we think. We only emerge from it so to speak with out head. It is actually so that in point of fact a wholly new kind of world conception becomes justified, when the endeavor is made to permeate all man's feeling and willing and doing with the Christ Impulse. It has only been possible for our astronomy and our theory of evolution to develop so entirely along the lines of abstract formulae in recent times, because the Christ Impulse has not take hold of man inwardly, but has remained a tradition. Even where it has taken hold of men subjectively, their inner experiences have not been at the same time objective world experiences - that is to say, experiences where we feel a mutual interplay between ourselves and all that is happening spiritually around us.
Here and there one sees people beginning to be very keenly aware of the need for a new impulse in the evolution of humanity. But it is with the greatest difficulty that they come to the point of resolving to enter into a concrete life of the spirit. When people speak of the spirit they always have more or less a desire to keep within the abstract.
I tell you, even the consciousness of how we stand in relation to our thoughts must change. I have already made reference to this from one aspect of another at different times. For, as I have repeatedly pointed out, anthroposophical spiritual science is brought forward at this present time in fulfillment of a definite purpose. It is not the result of some fancy or whim to create an enthusiasm for an ideal in this direction. It proceeds from an insight into man's needs at the present time. And we must again at this point relate the needs of the present day to certain powers of the soul that were present in earlier ages when man had a closer connection with his spiritual environment. For in earlier times the conditions of man's life of soul were quite different. As I have frequently explained to you, we cannot look for any further development of man from without. The impulses for the progress of human evolution must in future be called forth from within, they must proceed from our connection with the spiritual world; and we must not blind ourselves to the fact that, unless something is added by our own exertion to the experiences of life, these will tend increasingly to become experiences of decline. We find ourselves already in the descending evolution of the earth, and we must as human beings lift ourselves up by our own efforts if we are to transcend the earth evolution; for we can only emerge beyond it through our connection with the spiritual world. It is our strivings in the direction of knowledge that we shall have to feel as a force and power within us, enabling us as human beings to pass over into future stages of evolution. Mankind as a whole may thus be enabled to pass on, when the Earth dies away beneath them, even as on a smaller scale we each one of us pass on to the other stages of evolution when our body dies away and we go through the gate of death. We pass as individual human beings through the gate of death. That means we pass into the spiritual world; the body dies away beneath us. So will it be one time for mankind as a whole. Mankind will evolve over into the Jupiter existence. The Earth will become a corpse. We are even now in the dying stage of its evolution. The individual human being gets wrinkles and gray hairs. For the geologist who knows how to observe correctly, the Earth bears upon her today the unmistakable signs of old age; she is dying away beneath our feet. The spiritual quest we are engaged upon today is working counter to the aging process of the Earth. We must let this fact sink deep into our consciousness.
Earlier ages have from a different point of view spoken of the close relation between their Mystery knowledge and physical health and healing. This is a truth that must now begin once again to find its way into man's consciousness. All sincere endeavor after knowledge must give birth to the thought: I am thereby doing something to promote the further evolution of the whole of humanity. We shall obviously never come to this consciousness so long as we do not apprehend the concrete process that goes on around us in the way I have described. For until we recognize this, all we feel and will and do, we are bound to regard as our own personal affair. We have no idea that it is something which takes its course outside us as well as within.
And it will be necessary for the more exact branches of human knowledge to come into line with this extension of our thought and understanding of the world. And here allow me to refer to something that may perhaps not be fully intelligible to you all.
The more exact domains of knowledge are by no means yet at their zenith - far from it! For example, you can find today in the exact sciences the most impossible ideas. I will select just one, which may perhaps be generally intelligible. People have ordinarily the following trivial conception: out there somewhere is the sun, and from the sun light goes out in all directions just as from any other source of light. And you will find that wherever people follow this diffusion of light with mathematical ideas, they will say: You see, the light spreads out and out into the infinite, and then - why then it somehow or other disappears; it is gradually lost in its own weakness. But this is not so. Everything that spreads out or is diffused in this way reaches a boundary and from this boundary it swings back again, it returns back to its source, in a changed form. The sunlight does not go out into the infinite, but swings back on itself - not indeed as light, but as something else. None the less it does return.
So it is in reality with every light. And so it is with every
kind of activity. All activities and influences are subject to
the law of elasticity. The elasticity in them has always its boundary
or limit. An yet ideas such as I have described above pass current
in our so-called exact sciences; you will find them demonstrated
there today. People reckon far too little with actual facts. If
you were physicists, I would draw your attention to the way people
reckon with distance traversed and time. They call
the velocity, which is usually denoted by v, a function of distance
and time, and they arrive at the following equations:
v = d/t
But, my dear friends, that is absolutely false. The velocity is not a resultant; the velocity is the elementary principle or quality that something, be it material or spiritual, bears within it. And this velocity we analyze; we split it up into distance and time. We abstract the two things out of it - space and time. Space and time, however, are not real things in themselves. Velocities on the other hand, varying velocities, are real.
This observation I make for the benefit of the physicists. They will understand me, however, when I say that the theoretical foundations of our knowledge of time are determined by conceptions that are most unstable. These would indeed not be able to maintain their hold if we were in a position to grasp the spiritual in its concrete reality.
And this is the very thing that is required of us in the present Michael Age. It means that we must take full cognizance of the environment of man; we must know the various elementary and higher beings that are in his environment as surely as we know of the air and water around him. These are the things that are important for us; and they must once again become a part of the general education and culture as they were long ago in ancient times. People are not prepared to admit it. They will not admit that such momentous changes occur in human evolution as, for example, occurred at the turning-point in the middle of the 15th century. And yet it is quite possible to prove it from actual detailed facts.
Some Swede or Norwegian has recently written a book in which he gives many quotations from the alchemists. In particular he cites a passage where all manner of things are mentioned - mercury, antimony, and so on. An now our author, whom his book shows to be a most excellent chemist, says he can make nothing whatever of a certain recipe which is indicated by some alchemist. He cannot do so for the simple reason that when the chemist of today speaks of mercury or quicksilver, he means the external metal. But in the book from which he is quoting, the words mean something altogether different. They do not refer to the external metal at all, they refer to things that are present or processes that take place in the human organism. It is a knowledge of the inner being of man that is here in question. The words are written down in the sense in which they were present to the consciousness of the alchemist author. It is quite possible however to read them as if one were reading the description of a laboratory experiment that is worked out with retorts and such like! Only - one gets no meaning out of it! One can do no other than regard it all as nonsense. It has meaning however, so soon as we know what was meant by the words antimony, mercury, and so forth in those olden times. There was, it is true, a certain aspect in which they were applied to the external mineral, but they referred paramountly to inner processes of human nature, for which one had other means of approach than we have today. The literature that comes from before the 15th century has accordingly to be read with quite a different understanding than the literature which is produced after that date. Such things as these give opportunity to study even externally the thorough-going change that took place at that time in man's life of soul. For a long time now, in fact for hundreds of years, mankind has set no value on these things; but today we are living in an age when we must begin to place very great value upon them.
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