The Real Being of Man
This lecture is the 8th of 18 lectures given by Dr. Rudolf Steiner at Dornach, Switzerland in January through April of 1921. This lecture series is entitled, Man's Responsibility for World Evolution through His Spiritual Connection with the Planet Earth and with the Stars Above. It is the first of five lectures, from the above series, entitled, The Responsibility of Man for World Evolution, and is also known as, Concerning the Real Being of Man.
29 January 1921, Dornach
From the different considerations we have brought forward, you can see — even though this may not be externally noticeable — that as inner connection exists between the chief beings who dwell on a planetary-cosmic body at a given time, and that cosmic body itself. From the most diverse point of view this connection between man and the entire earth life can be studied, with all that belongs to it. We will keep this in mind to-day from one particular point of view, and from that, form certain ideas concerning the real being of man.
We know that man has passed his life on earth in a succession of incarnations. These successive incarnations bring him to a far more inward connection with his own planet, as such than do the epochs of time which lie between his death and re-birth. The times which man passes between death and re-birth are for him times of a more Spiritual existence, and during such times he is himself more withdrawn from the Earth than at the times between birth and death.
To be withdrawn from the Earth of to stand in a more intimate connection with the Earth, signifies also certain relationships with other beings, because, my dear friends, that which we call the external, sensible, perceptible sphere of the Cosmos is finally, merely the expression of certain relationships between Spiritual beings. Although to physical vision the Earth appears as it presents itself to the Geologists, in such a way that they regard it simply as a stony mass surrounded by an atmosphere, that fundamentally is simply an external illusion. What appears thus as this stony mass is simply the body for certain Spiritual beings. And again, that which appears to us as being outside the Earth, that which shines down on to our Earth as the world of the Stars, even that as it appears to our external sense perception, is merely the external sensible expression of a certain relationship of Spiritual Beings, of the Hierarchies. What appears to us as the Earth filled with gravity — that which approaches us very closely because it forms the firm basis on which we develop our life between birth and death — through what is presented to us as the external physical Earth, we develop especially our life between birth and death. Through everything which shines down to us from cosmic space, and with which we seem to have far less connection, with that which shines down to us from the world of Stars, with that we are more closely related between death and re-birth. We can even say it is more than a picture, it is a reality of the deepest significance when one says: that man descends out of the starry worlds to physical birth in order to fulfill his existence between birth and death. Only we must not imagine that the reflection of the Universe which we see when we speak so the starry world from the earthly point of view, is also the view presented to our super-sensible perception between death and re-birth. That which appears simply externally to us here on Earth as the starry world, then reveals itself in its nature, in its Spiritual being. We have then to do with the inner aspect of what, while we are on Earth, simply reveals its external aspect. Indeed we must admit that both when we look down on to the Earth as will as when we look up to the Cosmos, in so far as we are dealing with a sense impression we always have a sort of illusion before us; and we only come to the truth when we can penetrate to those Beings who lie at the bottom of this illusion, with their various degrees of Cosmic self-consciousness.
Whether man looks up or down, I must therefore call it illusion; the truth, the Being , lies behind this illusion. That illusion which reveals itself both above and below is connected with the fact that on the one hand our life between death and re-birth, is subject to the possibility of being drawn out of the path of complete human development. Here on Earth between birth and death we may become too allied to the Earth; we can, as it were, develop in ourselves the instinct, the impulse to become too much related to the earthly powers, just as in the life between death and re-birth we can also develop too strongly the impulse to become too closely related to the Cosmic powers outside the Earth. Here on Earth we stand too close to the external, pictorial expression of certain Beings that veil themselves in sensible materialities; here we are in a sense, too far removed from the inner Spirituality. When we develop between death and re-birth, we are fully in Spirituality. And so whereas here on Earth the possibility threatens us of hardening in Physical existence, when we are living between death and re-birth the possibility threatens us of being drowned in Spiritual existence.
Both these possibilities depend on the fact that besides those powers which one has in mind when one speaks of the normal Hierarchies, such as the elementary Beings in the three kingdoms of mature, or man himself, or the Hierarchies next to him, when one speaks in the sense of true Spiritual Science of these who are in their right Cosmic age, besides these there are other Beings, who seek to develop their nature at the wrong time, inopportunely. These are the Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings of whom we have often spoken and of whom you will already have formed the idea that the Luciferic beings as such, present themselves as they do because they now reveal themselves as they should have revealed cells in an earlier Cosmic age; and the Ahrimanic beings are those as such, ought not to have revealed themselves, as they now reveal themselves, until a later Cosmic epoch. The Luciferic beings are backward, retarded cosmic spirits; the Ahrimanic beings are the opposite — they are premature cosmic beings. The Luciferic beings are those who rebelled in a sense against sharing all the time allotted them for their evolution; they did not evolve so far, because they rebelled against fully sharing that evolution. So when they reveal themselves to-day, they appear at an earlier stage of existence.
The Ahrimanic beings, on the other hand, if we may so express it, could not wait for a later age to become that which they were intended to become, they could not wait for the development of what was laid down in them. They want to be that now. Therefore they harden themselves in present existence, and show themselves now in that form which they should rightly attain only in a later development of cosmic life.
We look out into the space of the Cosmos at the ensemble of the Stars — what is their appearance? We only have that special vision of the Stars, of the Milky Way, of the Heavens bedecked the , because it is the revelation of the Luciferic nature of the Cosmos. That which shines down to us, which surrounds us so radiantly, is the revelation of the Luciferic nature of the Cosmos. It is that which is as it now is because it has remained behind at an earlier stage of its being, and when we turn away from the Cosmos to the earthly soil upon which we walk, the soil is rigid and hard because, rolled up together within it, as it were — are the Ahrimanic beings, those beings who now reveal artificially the stage which they ought to show at a later stage of their development. Hence we are confronted with the possibility, that whenever we give ourselves to the sense world, then, through our vision of the heavens, and make ourselves more and more Luciferic. Thus if, in the life between birth and death, we have a special inclination to give ourselves up to the vision of the heavens, that signifies nothing immediate or direct, but simply something which remains to us as an instinct along into the time we pass before our physical birth or conception. It is an instinct remaining to us from the time we passed through in the Spiritual world, when we lived with the between death and rebirth. We then entered into too close a cosmic relationship with cosmic worlds, we came too similar to them, and from those worlds there has remained to us that inclination which indeed does not express itself as any very strong inclination inhumanity, but simply as a desire, which has remained, to give ourselves utterly up to that sense-vision of the starry world. We developed that inclination if, through our karma which we fulfill here between birth and death, we develop such a tendency that between death and the pre-birth we sleep too strongly, if, in the Spiritual world we develop too little inclination to have a full consciousness there.
Now on the other hand, being entirely devoted to the life on Earth, is a state which we directly develop here between birth and death. That is the real Ahrimanic possibility in the life of humanity. The Luciferic possibility is connected with what we prepare in ourselves through too close a relationship with the Spiritual world of visions, and the Ahrimanic relationship we assimilate here on Earth, yet between birth and death we develop too strong inclination on what surrounds us as the external world sense.
If we grow too strongly into the Earth, if, as it were we grown so strongly in to the Earth that we have no tendency to guide our soul towards the super sensible, then we enter into an Ahrimanic relationship.
Now all this has a deeper significance for the entire evolution of a human being. For as between death and the re-earth we can sink, down in the world, and thus become something which here on Earth can no longer find the right equilibrium between the spiritual and material world, and because we can develop too strong a relationship to this super-Earth, thereby as these things increase in number more and more in our soul, we can become foreign to our Earthly existence. We are now approaching that epoch of time when such things are lying within the sphere of man's own decision, and already, under certain circumstances, in our next incarnation,unless we can find the right equilibrium between the Spiritual and material world, we can come in to an incarnation in which we cannot grow up, cannot grow old. That is even now a possibility which stands before us as a certain danger — that we may be unable to grow old. We may be re-born, but the Luciferic beings can hold us back at the childhood stage. They can suspend something over us, so that we cannot mature. Those human beings who give themselves up so willingly to a nebulous mysticism, who have such a horror of sharp clearly defined thinking, who rebel against forming clear concepts of the world, and those persons also who rebel against developing their inner soul powers, the inner activity of their souls, who want more ar less to dream through life, those persons in their next incarnation will be exposed to the danger of not being able to grow up, of remaining childish in the evil sense of the word. That is a Luciferic impulse which will come to mankind in this way. That means, of course, that these human beings will not be able in their next incarnation to enter fully into the life on Earth; they will, as it were, not be able sufficiently to draw themselves out of the Spiritual world to enter properly on to the Earth. The Luciferic powers, who once entered into a union with our Earth, endeavour to find such instincts in man that his development on Earth will reach such a stage that human beings will remain children, and will not we able to age. The Luciferic powers would like to bring it to pass that at a certain stage in the future, there shall be no old people on the Earth, but only human beings who pass through life in a certain delusion of youth. In this way the Luciferic powers would be able to bring the entire Earth into ONE body as it were, one body having a common soul, in which all the individual souls of humanity will be dissolved. One common soul-element of the Earth, united with one common body of the Earth; to make the Earth a great organic being endowed with one common soul, in which the separate souls of humanity lose their individuality.
If you remember, my dear friends, I have often told you that the important thing in earthly development does not lie in the mineral, plant, or animal kingdom. All those are simply “windfalls” of evolution; they are not the essential point of evolution, for that plays its part within the limits of the human skin. There are forces in the organisation of man himself which are the forces of development of our planet. If you recollect this, you will understand that what is finally to become of our Earth is not to be grasped by physical conceptions, our physical conceptions have but a limited interest. We only gain ideas concerning what the Earth is to become, when we know the human being himself. But this human being can inter into a union with those Luciferic powers which have united themselves with the Earth, and this brings it about that the Earth, as it were, carries beings who are too little individualized. It may thus become a common being, an indefinite communal being, with a common soul-quality. That is what the Luciferic powers are striving for, and if you take that picture which so many nebulous mystics regard as the most desirable future, which they always describe as a merging oneself into universal being, a kind of longing to disappear into a pantheistic whole, in such things you can perceive what already lives as a Luciferic tendency in many a human soul.
On the other hand the Ahrimanic beings have also united themselves with the Earth; but they have the opposite tendency. They work above all through those forces which can draw our organism to themselves between birth and death, and permeate our organism through and through with cleverness, with intellectuality, fill us more and more with understanding; for our waking-intelligence depends upon the union of the soul with the physical body, and if that intelligence hypertrophies and becomes too strong, we become too closely related to physical existence, and then too, we lose our equilibrium. Then appears the inclination in man which hinders him from oscillating in the right way in the future between Earthly life and Spiritual life, between death and rebirth.
What lies in the striving of Ahriman is, to hold man back in such a way that he cannot in his next incarnation pass in the right way through earthly life and super-earthly life. Ahriman wants to keep humanity back from undergoing any future incarnations. He wants to make man of such a nature in this incarnation that he already experiences everything which he can possibly experience on earth. That can only be done intellectually — one cannot do it with one's full humanity. But it is absolutely possible for man to become so clever that in his cleverness he can form ideas for himself of everything which can possibly exist on the Earth That is the ideal of many human beings, to get into their minds an idea of everything which can possibly be on the Earth, but one cannot have those experiences which one will only have in future lives; one cannot get those beforehand. One can only, in this life get the images intellectually, pictures which then harden in the physical body and when one also gets a deep disinclination to undergo future incarnations, it seems a kind bliss not to desire to appear again on the Earth.
In this decadent life in the East (I have often told you how this Eastern civilisation came to its decadence) — in this decadent life in the East Ahriman can especially produce this confusion. In the East the people are more ruled inwardly by the Luciferic powers, therefore Ahriman can attack their being from outside; and just because they are inwardly governed by Lucifer, therefore Ahriman can fill them with a desire to conclude their life on Earth in a particular nation, no longer wanting to appear within a physical body. That can be put forward as an ideal by certain teachers of humanity — of course, those who work in the service of Ahriman — ideal that man should strive to finish with the Earth on one incarnation, before the Earth has attained its goal, and from that time no longer have to appear again in physical existence.
You know, my dear friends, that amongst all the Theosophical teachings which have been slavishly borrowed from the modern decadent life of the East, something appears which has never been taken over into our Anthroposophical view, i.e. — to regard it as a special grade of perfection in a man when he no longer wants to appear in life on Earth. That is an Ahrimanic application, and through this something terrible is produced, Through this Ahrimanic idea, the Earth might become — no longer one great organism with unified common soul, (which Lucifer desires to bring about), but will follow the opposite path, by becoming super-individualised: Human beings would then reach such a stage of Ahrimanic evolution that, although they would indeed die, yet the terrible thing would occur that after death they would be like the Earth, they would cling to the Earth, and the Earth itself would simply be an expression of these single individual human beings. The Earth would be a colony of these separate individual human souls.
That is what Ahriman is striving for with the Earth — to make it simply an expression of this intellectuality, to completely intellectualise the Earth. Humanity must begin to recognise to-day that the fate of the Earth itself depends on the will of the human beings. The Earth will become that which man himself makes of it, not that which the physical forces are making of it. Those physical forces will fall away and be of no significance for the future of the Earth; but the Earth itself will simply be what man himself makes of it.
We are now living in that decisive hour of human evolution in which man can undertake one of three things: One, to pass his life in a nebulous mysticism, in dreaming, he can be insnared by physical existence in a brooding inner life, (and what is the life of sense but such a brooding). He can live in a nebulous mysticism, in a dream-condition, in which he can no longer form clear concepts of life. That is one thing which may become the inclination of humanity.
The second possible inclination of man is, to permeate himself utterly with intellect and understanding, to scrape together everything which the intellect can accumulate, to despise everything which poetry or fantasy pours over Earth-existence, and simply to turn to what is mechanical and pedantic. Human beings are now faced with the decision — either to become Spiritual voluptuaries entirely absorbed in their own existence — (Because, my dear friends, whether one spends one existence in a nebulous mysticism or in sensible lusts, these are simply two sides of one and the same thing); or, on the other hand, to absorb themselves in dry, barren thinking — dividing and separating everything up according to rule. Those are two possibilities.
The third is to seek the balance between the two. One cannot speak of equilibrium in the same definite way as one can speak of either of those other two extremes. The balance must always be striven for, so that one can look both to the right and the left, without being drawn too strongly towards either; and pass through life holding both in equilibrium, regulating and ordering the one through the other.
This Cosmic Hour of Decision stands today before the human soul. Man can decide to follow the Luciferic temptation and not allow the Earth to complete its development, but to let it remain behind like the Old Moon — to make it what I might call a caricature of the Old Moon, to turn it into a great organism having an individualised dreaming soul. in which human souls are contained as in a great common Nirvana. Or, on the other hand, men can decide to pass over into that super-intellectual stage, to abandon the community of Earth, to wish to have nothing in common with one another, but to allow their bodies to ossify and harden by pouring too much intellect and understanding into them. A nebulous mysticism and voluptuousness will turn the body into a pulp; while super-intellectuality and understanding will turn it into stone. Our modern humanity is tending not to desire equilibrium, but wants either the one or the other of these two.
We can see already on the one hand, how more and more the Western instincts are developing, which run towards intellectualism, understanding and pedantry; which judge everything in such a way that man thereby forces his intellectuality too strongly into his body. On the other hand, from the East we see the other danger threatening for man to kindle and consume his body. We see that in the views of the decadent East; and we can see in developments in Eastern Europe the same thing appearing, only in another aspect, in the terrible social struggles now going on there. Already the Hour of Decision has come to humanity, and humanity must resolve to find that equilibrium. You see that what is put before humanity as a task today, can only be recognised out of the depths of the knowledge of Spiritual Science. We must assimilate these ideas which can draw our attention to the possibilities of human development on one side or the other. On the one side is the dissolution in Nirvana, which has already become a holy doctrine of the East, but which today has grown far away from the ancient ideas of Nirvana which then was a striving towards an Equilibrium based on the ancient clairvoyance. That which the decadent Oriental understands today by Nirvana is simply the world under the sway of Lucifer. And that which increasingly strives to come about from the efforts made in the West, from these strivings which develop out of our modern civilisation in so far as that is not permeated with Spiritual knowledge, simply means the mechanising of the world; an effort to make the processes of human existence more and more mechanical. An Ahrimanisation on the one side, and a Luciferisation on the other.
If the things described from a certain point of view in the last lecture as the chaotic life of recent times without any sense of guidance, be continued into the future, then, without a shadow of doubt, you will see the Ahrimanisation of Mankind. This can only be checked if into this super-intellectual life, this super-individualised existence of mankind, this existence of man today which is being more and more permeated by egoism, there is brought a perception of the Spiritual world, Above all it is necessary that into different sciences this Spiritual impulse should come, for otherwise, in time to come they will rule as an abstract authority over humanity, and it will be dominated entirely by these various sciences, which would batten them down with authoritative power, and Ahrimanise them — It is especially important in our modern times, when the social riddles of life beat in strongly on human evolution, especially now is it important to elevate one's perception to that which can reveal the connection of man with his planetary life.
The old ideas of man's relationship with a Spiritual world contained in the different creeds, have been crippled in various directions, crippled on the one side and reduced to a merely abstract intellectual understanding, such as threatens to happen for instance in the Evangelical Confession, or on the other to an external principle of power, as happens in the Roman Confession, These are but different expression of what threatens man today, What is really necessary is, that man should find his inner orientation, that he should attain an inner impulse in order to have a free vision, so that he can look up to that which unites him with his planet, and through his planet with the whole Cosmos. He must feel today — Geology is not knowledge of the Earth; that vision of a stony colossus, on which are oceans of water, and surrounded by air — that is not the Earth; and what surrounds us as the Milky Way and Suns, is not the Cosmos. The Universe consists of Ahrimanic beings below, and Luciferic beings above, which shine through the external sense illusion. And then we have the beings of the normal Hierarchies, to whom man can elevate himself when he can break through both sense-illusions and come to the truth; for the real beings do not appear in this external sense illusion, they only reveal themselves, as it were shining through this external sense-appearance.
Man of today must recognise: “I can perceive the Earth. If I am able to see that what appears below on the Earth appears as the outflow of Spiritual beings, then I can perceive what lives in the Seraphims, Cherubims and Thrones. But if I an not able to present to myself Spiritually what lives on the Earth, I yield to the illusion of what appears to me physically on the Earth. If I look up to the world of the Stars and form ideas only about what I can see sensibly, I Luciferise myself.” But if I am in a condition to take what appears in the external illusion, and break through that to the spirit, then I can say: “Yes, I can see the Stars, the Milky Way, Suns appear to me. But they announce to me Kyriotetes, Exusiai, Dynamis — Spirits of Wisdom, Motion and Form. Then only do I find equilibrium”.
There is no question of our speaking of Cosmic beings as better than Earthly beings, it is a question of our being as better than Earthly beings, it is a question of our being able everywhere to penetrate through that sense-illusion to the true essence, to the real beings behind, with whom we as human beings are actually connected. Sense-appearance is the right way and interpret it, the Spiritual beings are there. Then we have them. Sense-appearance as such, is not deceptive; it is only our interpretation of sense-appearance which can be deceptive, our too strong relation with the Earth on the one side and the super-earth, what is outside the Earth on the one side and the super-earth, what is outside the Earth, on the other, when we traverse it between death and rebirth.
Man today, hardly experiences anything of such ideas if he only turns to what has gradually developed within our civilisation. The fact that all that was once different, has been utterly and entirely forgotten by civilisation today. People certainly do read with a certain curiosity what has been written about the things in Nature in the 12th centuries, but they do not read it with sufficient understanding. If they did, they would see that the time in which men began to think as they think now, is really only a few centuries ago — that in the 11th, 12th, 13th and even 14th centuries, they thought quite differently about the things of the external world. They did not merely see Stone in the stony, and Earth in the earthy, but they saw the Stony and Earthy as the body of Divine Spiritual beings; in the Stars they did not see merely what is seen today, but the revelations of the Divine Spiritual. It is only in the last century that man was first reduced to having a Geology and a Cosmology, instead of a Geosophy and a Cosmosophy. Now through his Cosmology man would become Luciferic, through Geology he would become Ahrimanic, unless he can struggle to equilibrium through a Cosmosophy and Geosophy; and Anthroposophy alone combines them, because man is fundamentally born of the entire Cosmos. Anthroposophy consists of these two “sophies”, Cosmosophy, a wisdom of the Cosmos, and Geosophy, a wisdom of the Earth; and so on. We only understand man aright when we know how to bring him into Spiritual relation with the Universe. Then we shall not seek him one-sidedly only in relationship with gravity, that would be working for the Ahrimanic being; but we shall endeavour to pour an impulse into his will, which will give him the power henceforth to find the equilibrium between Light on the one hand and gravity on the other; between the tendency to the Earthly and the tendency to become Luciferic. Man must attain this equilibrium, and he can only do so when he can add the super-sensible to his sensible concepts.
Now, my dear friends, in conclusion, something quite paradoxical. Just place before your souls, that of which it has been said that man needs to know it, so that thereby he can face a decision in this Cosmic age. Just consider that we must really speak of a possible Ahrimanising or Luciferising of the world. Place that before your souls, and consider it is an important affair of humanity, and then, my dear friends, take what you can read in the ordinary literature of today — that which comes to you as Spiritual life out of the lecture rooms, and the other Educational Institutes. Just consider the great cleft between these, and you will realise what is necessary for man so that he can rise above the decadence of his modern life. What is so urgently necessary is Earnest labour in Spiritual spheres. One can only begin that, if one is resolved to take earnestly such ideas as those we have considered today.
And of these same things we will speak further in the next lecture.