II. The Essential Nature of Mankind
In the observation of man from the point of view of a supersensible mode of cognition, the general principles of this method become immediately applicable. This observation rests upon the recognition of the “revealed mystery” within the individual human being. Only a part of what supersensible cognition apprehends as the human being is accessible to the senses and to the intellect dependent upon them, namely, the physical body. In order to elucidate the concept of this physical body, our attention must first be turned to that phenomenon which, as the great riddle, lies spread out over all observation of life, that is, to death and, in connection with it, to so-called lifeless nature — the mineral kingdom — which always bears death within it. We have, thereby, referred to facts that are only fully explainable through supersensible knowledge, and to which a large part of this volume must be devoted. Here, however, a few thoughts must first be offered for the sake of orientation.
Within the manifest world, the physical body is the part of man having the same nature as the mineral world. On the other hand, what differentiates man from the mineral cannot be considered as physical body. Especially important in an unbiased consideration is the fact that death lays bare the part of man that, after death, is of the same nature as the mineral world. We can point to the corpse as that part of man subject to the processes of the mineral realm. It can be emphasized that in this member of man's being, the corpse, the same substances and forces are active as in the mineral realm, but it is necessary to emphasize, equally strongly, the fact that at death the decay of the physical body occurs. Yet we are also justified in saying that while it is true that the same substances and forces are active in both the human physical body and the mineral, their activity during life is dedicated to a higher purpose. Only when death has occurred is their activity similar to that of the mineral world. They then appear as they must appear, according to their own nature, namely, as the dissolver of the physical bodily form.
Thus, in man we have to differentiate sharply between the visible and the concealed. For during life the concealed must wage constant battle against the substances and forces of the mineral element in the physical body. When this battle ceases, the mineral activity comes to the fore. We have thereby drawn attention to the point where the science of the supersensible must enter. It must seek that which wages the above-mentioned battle. It is just this that is hidden from sense-observation and is only accessible to supersensible observation. In a later chapter of this work we shall consider how the human being is able to reach the point where this hidden something becomes manifest to him just as the phenomena of the senses are manifest to the ordinary eye. Here, however, we shall describe the result of supersensible observation.
It has already been indicated that the description of the path on which man attains to a higher perception can be of value to him only after he has become acquainted in simple narrative form with the disclosures of supersensible research. For in regard to the supersensible realm it is possible to comprehend what has not yet been observed. Indeed, the right path toward perception is that which proceeds from comprehension.
Even though that hidden something, which in the physical body carries on the battle against disintegration, is only observable by higher perception, yet its effects are clearly evident to the reasoning power that limits itself to the manifest. These effects express themselves in the form or shape into which the mineral substances and forces of the physical body are fashioned during life. This form disappears by degrees and the physical body becomes a part of the rest of the mineral world when death has occurred. Supersensible perception, however, is able to observe, as an independent member of the human entity, what prevents the physical substances and forces during life from taking their own path, which leads to dissolution of the physical body. Let us call the independent member the ether or lifebody. — In order to prevent misunderstandings from the very beginning, two things should be borne in mind concerning this designation of a second member of the human entity. The word “ether” is used here in a sense quite different from the one in use in present day physics, which, for example, designates the vehicle of light as ether. Here, however, the word will be limited to the meaning given above. It will be used for what is accessible to higher perception and for what is recognizable to sense-observation only in its effects, that is through its ability to give a definite form and shape to the mineral substances and forces existing in the physical body. The word “body” also must not be misunderstood. In designating the higher things of existence, it is necessary to use the words of ordinary language, and for sense-observation these words express only the sensory. From the standpoint of the senses, the ether body is, naturally, nothing of a bodily nature, however tenuous we may picture it.1In his book, Theosophy, the author has discussed the fact that with the designation “ether body” or “life body” he has no intention of renewing the old concept of “life force” discarded by natural science.
Having reached, in the presentation of the supersensible, the mention of this ether body or life body, the point has also been reached where such a concept will have to encounter the opposition of many present-day opinions. The evolution of the human spirit has led to the point where in our age the discussion of such a member of the human organism must be considered as something unscientific. The materialistic mode of thought has reached the point of seeing in the living body nothing but a combination of physical substances and forces, like those to be found in the so-called lifeless body, in the mineral. The combination in the living is supposed to be more complicated than in the lifeless, however. Not so long ago, ordinary science, too, held still other points of view. Whoever has followed the writings of many serious scientists of the first half of the nineteenth century realizes that at that time “real natural scientists” were conscious of the fact that something exists in the living body besides what is present in the lifeless mineral. They spoke of a “life force.” This “life force,” to be sure, is not visualized as having the nature of the lifebody designated here, but an inkling that something of the kind exists, underlies such a concept. This “life force” was thought of as though supplementing in the living body the physical substances and forces as the magnetic force supplements the mere iron in the magnet. Then came the time when this “life force” was discarded from the store of scientific concepts. Purely physical and chemical causes were to suffice for everything. In this respect, a reaction has set in today among many modern scientific thinkers. It is admitted on many sides that the assumption of something similar to “life force” is not, after all, pure nonsense. The scientist who admits this, however, will not be inclined to make common cause with the point of view presented here concerning the life body. It is useless, as a rule, to enter into a discussion, from the standpoint of supersensible knowledge, with people holding such views. It ought rather be the concern of this knowledge to recognize that the materialistic mode of thought is a necessary concomitant phenomenon of the great progress in natural science in our age. This progress rests upon an enormous improvement in the means of sense-observation, and it lies in the nature of man, during his evolution, at times to bring to a certain degree of perfection particular faculties at the cost of others. Exact sense-observation, which has developed so significantly through natural science, caused the cultivation of those human capacities that lead into “hidden worlds” to retreat into the background, but the time has come again when this cultivation is necessary. Acknowledgment of the concealed, however, will not be won by contending against opinions that result with logical accuracy from the denial of the concealed, but by placing the concealed itself in the proper light. Then those for whom “the time has come” will acknowledge it.
It was necessary to speak of this here in order to keep people from assuming that the author is ignorant of the viewpoint of natural science when he speaks of an “ether body” that in many circles is considered as something purely fantastic.
This ether body, then, is a second member of the human entity. For supersensible cognition, it possesses a higher degree of reality than the physical body. A description of its appearance to supersensible perception can only be given in a subsequent chapter of this book after the sense in which such descriptions are to be taken has become clear. For the present it may suffice to say that the ether body penetrates the physical completely and that it is to be looked upon as a kind of architect of the latter. All organs are preserved in their form and shape by means of the currents and movements of the ether body. The physical heart is based upon an “etheric heart,” the physical brain upon an “etheric brain,” and so forth. The ether body is organized like the physical body, only with greater complexity. Wherever in the physical body separated parts exist, in the ether body everything is in living, interweaving motion.
The human being possesses this ether body in common with the plants, just as he possesses the physical body in common with the mineral element. Everything living has its ether body.
Supersensible observation advances from the ether body to a further member of the human entity. In order to aid the student in forming a visualization of this member, it points to the phenomenon of sleep, just as it pointed to the phenomenon of death when it spoke of the ether body. All human endeavor rests upon activity in the waking state, in so far as the manifest is concerned. This activity, however, is only possible if man again and again gathers new strength for his exhausted forces from sleep. Action and thought disappear in sleep; all suffering, all pleasure are submerged for conscious life. As though out of hidden, mysterious depths, conscious forces arise out of the unconsciousness of sleep as man awakens. It is the same consciousness that sinks into shadowy depths when we go to sleep and arises again when we awaken. The power that awakens life again and again out of a state of unconsciousness is, according to supersensible cognition, the third member of the human entity, We may call it the astral body. Just as the physical body is unable to retain its form by means of the mineral substances and forces contained in it, but only by being interpenetrated by the ether body, so likewise the forces of the ether body are unable, by themselves, to illuminate this body with the light of consciousness. An ether body, left entirely to itself, would have to remain in a continuous state of sleep. We might also say: it could only maintain a plant-existence within the physical body. An awakened ether body is illuminated by an astral body. For sense-observation, the activity of the astral body disappears when man sinks into sleep. For supersensible observation, the astral body still exists, but it appears to be separated or withdrawn from the ether body. Sense-observation is not concerned with the astral body itself, but only with its effects within the manifest, and during sleep these effects are not directly present. In the same sense that man has his physical body in common with the minerals, his ether body with the plants, he is, in regard to his astral body, of the same nature as the animals. Plants are in a continuous state of sleep. A person who does not judge accurately in these things can easily fall into the error of ascribing a kind of consciousness also to plants that is similar to that of animals and men in their waking state. That, however, can happen only if he has an unclear idea of the nature of consciousness. It is then stated that if an external stimulus is applied to the plant it makes certain movements like the animal. One speaks of the “sensitivity” of some plants that, for example, contract their leaves if certain outer stimuli act upon them. Yet it is not the characteristic of consciousness that a being reacts to certain stimuli, but that the being experiences something in its inner nature that adds something new to the mere reaction. Otherwise, one could also speak of consciousness when a piece of iron expands under the influence of heat. Consciousness is present only when, through the effect of heat, the being, for example, inwardly experiences pain.
The fourth member of his being that supersensible cognition must ascribe to man has nothing in common with the world of the manifest surrounding him. It is what distinguishes him from his fellow-creatures and through which he is the crown of creation belonging to him. Supersensible cognition forms a conception of this additional member of the human entity by calling attention to the essential difference in the experiences of waking life. This difference appears at once when man realizes that in the waking state he stands, on the one hand, always in the midst of experiences that of necessity come and go, and that, on the other hand, he has experiences in which this is not the case. This becomes especially clear when human and animal experiences are compared. The animal experiences with great regularity the influences of the outer world, and under the influence of heat and cold, pain and pleasure, under certain regularly recurring processes of its body, it becomes conscious of hunger and thirst. The life of man is not exhausted with such experiences. He can develop passions and desires that transcend all this. In the case of the animal it would always be possible, were we able to go far enough, to show where the cause for an action or sensation lies, outside of or within the body. With man this is by no means the case. He can produce desires and passions for whose origin neither the cause within nor without his body is sufficient. We must ascribe a special source to everything that falls within this domain. In the light of supersensible science this source can be seen in the human ego. The ego can, therefore, be called the fourth member of the human entity. — If the astral body were left to itself, pleasure and pain, feelings of hunger and thirst would take place in it; but what would not occur Is the feeling that there is something permanent in all this. Not the permanent as such is here called the “ego,” but what experiences this permanency. We must formulate the concepts precisely in this realm, if misunderstandings are not to arise. With the becoming aware of something enduring something permanent in the change of the inner experiences the dawning of the “ego feeling” begins. The fact that a being feels hunger, for example, cannot give it an ego feeling. Hunger arises when the renewed causes of it make themselves felt within the being in question. It pounces upon its food just because these renewed causes are present. The ego feeling appears when not only these renewed impulses drive the human being to seek food, but when pleasure has arisen at a previous appeasement of hunger and the consciousness of this pleasure has remained, thus making not only the present experience of hunger, but the past experience of pleasure the driving force in the human being's search for food. — Without the presence of the ether body, the physical body would decay. Without the illumination by the astral body, the ether body would sink into unconsciousness. In like manner the astral body would have to let the past sink, again and again, into oblivion, were it not for the “ego” to carry this past over into the present. What death is for the physical body, and sleep for the ether body, oblivion is for the astral body. One might also say that life belongs to the ether body, consciousness to the astral body, and memory to the ego.
It is even easier to fall into the error of ascribing memory to animals than it is to ascribe consciousness to plants. It is very natural to think of memory when a dog recognizes its master whom he has not seen perhaps for a long time. Yet, in reality, this recognition does not rest upon memory, but upon something quite different. The dog feels a certain attraction to its master. This attraction proceeds from the master's personality. This personality causes pleasure in the dog when the master is in its presence, and every time the master's presence reoccurs, it causes a renewal of this pleasure. Memory, however, is only present when a being not only feels with its experiences in the present, but when it retains also those of the past. One might acknowledge this and still fall into the error of thinking that the dog has memory. For it might be said that the dog mourns when its master leaves it, therefore it has retained a memory of him. That also is an incorrect conclusion. Through sharing the master's life, his presence becomes a need to the dog and it, therefore, experiences his absence in the same way that it experiences hunger. Whoever does not make these distinctions, will not arrive at clarity concerning the true relationships of life.
Out of certain prejudices, one might object to this exposition by maintaining that it cannot be known whether or not there exists in the animal anything similar to human memory. Such an objection, however, is the result of untrained observation. Anyone who can observe quite factually how the animal behaves in the complex of its experiences notices the difference between its behavior and that of the human being, and he realizes that the animal's behavior corresponds to the non-existence of memory. For supersensible observation this is quite clear. Yet, what arises as direct experience in supersensible observation may also be known by its effects in this domain through sense-perception permeated by thought activity. If one says that man is aware of his memory through inner soul-observation, something he cannot carry out in the case of the animal, one states something based upon a fatal error. What man has to say to himself about his capacity for memory he cannot derive from inner soul-observation, but only from what he experiences with himself in relation to the things and occurrences of the outer world. Man has these experiences with himself and with another human being and also with animals in exactly the same way. He is blinded by pure illusion when he believes that he judges the existence of memory merely by means of inner observation. The power underlying memory may be called an inner power; the judgment concerning this power is acquired, also in regard to one's own person, through the outer world by directing one's attention to the relationships of life. Just as one is able to judge these relationships in regard to oneself, so one can judge them in regard to the animal. In regard to such things our current psychology suffers from its wholly untrained, inexact ideas, deceptive to a great degree because of errors in observation.
Memory and oblivion signify for the ego what waking and sleeping signify for the astral body. Just as sleep permits the cares and troubles of the day to disappear into nothingness, oblivion spreads a veil over the bad experiences of life, blotting out a part of the past. Just as sleep is necessary for the restoration of the exhausted life forces, so man has to eradicate certain parts of the past from his memory if he is to approach new experiences freely and without bias. But precisely through forgetting, strength develops for perception of the new. Consider certain facts, like that of learning to write. All the details the child has to experience in learning to write are forgotten. What remains is the ability to write. How would man be able to write if at every stroke of the pen all the past experiences in learning to write were to arise again in the soul as memory?
Memory appears in various stages. Its simplest form occurs when a person observes an object and, after turning away, is able to call up its mental image, is able to visualize it. He has formed this image while perceiving the object. A process has taken place between his astral body and his ego. The astral body has aroused the consciousness of the outer impression of the object. Yet knowledge of the object would last only as long as the latter is present, if the ego were not to absorb this knowledge and make it its own. — It is at this point that supersensible perception separates the bodily element from the soul nature. One speaks of the astral body as long as one considers the arising of knowledge of an object that is present. What, however, gives permanence to this knowledge one designates as soul. From what has been said we can see at the same time how closely the human astral body is connected with that part of the soul that gives permanence to knowledge. Both are united into one member of the human entity. This union, therefore, may also be called astral body. If we desire an exact designation, we may call the human astral body the soul body, the soul, in so far as it is united with this soul body, we may call the sentient soul.
The ego rises to a higher stage of its being when it directs its activity toward what it has made its own out of the knowledge of the objects. This is the activity by which the ego severs itself more and more from the objects of perception in order to work within what it has made its own. The part of the soul in which this occurs may be designated the intellectual or mind soul. — It is characteristic of both the sentient and intellectual souls that they work with what they receive through the impressions of the objects perceived by the senses, and what is retained from this in memory. The soul is here completely surrendered to what is external to it. What it makes its own through memory it has also received from outside. But it can pass beyond all this. It is not alone sentient soul and intellectual soul. For supersensible perception it is easiest to give an idea of this passing beyond by pointing to a simple fact, the comprehensive significance of which, however, must be appreciated. This fact is the following: In the whole range of language there is one name that, through its very nature, distinguishes itself from every other name. That name is “I.” Every other name may be given by every man to the object or being to whom it applies. The “I” as designation for a being has meaning only when this being applies it to itself. The name “I” can never resound to the ear of a human being from without as his designation; only the being himself can apply it to himself. “I am an ‘I’ to myself only. For every other person I am a ‘you’ and everyone else is for me a ‘you.’ ” This fact is the outer expression of a deeply significant truth. The true nature of the “I” is independent of all that is external; therefore its name “I” cannot be called to it by anything external. Those religious denominations that have consciously maintained their relationship with supersensible perception designate the “I” as the “Ineffable Name of God.” By using this expression, reference is made to what has been indicated. Nothing of an external nature has access to that part of the soul with which we are concerned here. Here is the “hidden sanctuary” of the soul. Only a being with whom the soul is of like nature can gain entrance there. The God who dwells within man speaks when the soul becomes aware of itself as an I. Just as the sentient and intellectual souls live in the outer world, so a third soul member immerses itself in the Divine when the soul gains a perception of its own being.
The above conceptions may easily be misunderstood as an attempt to identify the I with God. But it has not been stated that the I is God, but only that it is of the same nature and essence as the Divine. Would anyone contend that a drop of water is the sea when he says that the drop is of the same essence or substance as the sea? If we wish to use a comparison, we may say that the drop of water has the same relationship to the sea that the I has to the Divine. Man can find the Divine within himself because his innermost being is drawn from the Divine. Thus he acquires, through this, the third member of his soul, an inner knowledge of himself, just as he gains through his astral body a knowledge of the outer world. Therefore, occult science can call this third member of the soul the consciousness soul; and, in this sense, the soul consists of three members: the sentient soul, the intellectual soul, and the consciousness soul, just as the corporeal part of man consists of three members — the physical body, the ether body, and the astral body.
Psychological errors of observation, similar to those already mentioned concerning the judging of the capacity of memory, make it difficult to gain the proper insight into the nature of the I. Much that people believe they understand can be regarded as a refutation of the above, yet it is in reality a confirmation. This is the case, for example, with the remarks about the I which Eduard von Hartmann makes in his Outline of Psychology 2Eduard von Hartmann, Grundniss der Psychologie, Vol. 111, p.55. Bad Sachsa, 1908. “In the first place, consciousness of self is more ancient than the word I. Personal pronouns are a rather late product of the evolution of languages and have only the value of abbreviations. The word I is a short substitute for the speaker's own name, but a substitute that each speaker, as such, uses for himself, no matter by what proper name others may call him. Consciousness of self can be developed in animals and in uneducated deaf and dumb persons to a high degree, even without reference to a proper name. Consciousness of the proper name can fully replace the lack of use of the word I. With this insight the magical nimbus is eliminated which for many people envelops the little word I; it cannot add the slightest thing to the concept of self-consciousness, but receives its whole content solely from the latter.” It is possible to be quite in agreement with such points of view; also with the contention that no magical nimbus be bestowed upon the little word, I, which would only dim a thoughtful consideration of the matter. But the nature of a thing is not decided by the way the verbal designation for this thing has gradually been brought about. The important point is the fact that the essential nature of the ego in self-consciousness is “more ancient than the word I” and that man is compelled to use this little word — endowed with the qualities belonging to it alone — for what he experiences, in his reciprocal relationship with the outer world, differently from the way the animal can experience it. Nothing can be known concerning the nature of the triangle by showing how the “word” triangle has been evolved; likewise, nothing can be decided concerning the nature of the I by knowing how this word has taken form in the evolution of language out of a different verbal usage.
The true nature of the I reveals itself only in the consciousness soul. For while the soul sinks itself into other things in feeling and intellect, as consciousness soul it takes hold of its own being. Therefore this I can be perceived by the consciousness soul only through a certain inner activity. The visualizations of external objects are formed just as these objects come and go, and these visualizations continue to work in the Intellect by means of their own force. But if the I is to observe itself, it cannot simply surrender itself; it must, through inner activity, first lift its being out of its own depths in order to have a consciousness of it. With the perception of the I, with self-contemplation, an inner activity of the I begins. Through this activity, the perception of the I within the consciousness soul has a significance for man quite different from the observation of all that reaches him through the three corporeal members and the two other members of the soul. The force that discloses the I within the consciousness soul is indeed the same force that manifests in all the rest of the world. This force does not, however, appear directly in the body and in the lower members of the soul, but reveals itself by degrees in its effects. The lowest manifestation is the manifestation through the physical body; this then mounts up by stages to what fills the intellectual soul. One might say that, with each step upward, one of the veils that envelop the hidden falls away. In what fills the consciousness soul, the hidden enters unveiled into the innermost temple of the soul. Yet it appears there only like a drop out of the ocean of all-pervading spirituality. Here, however, man must first take hold of this spirituality. He must recognize it in himself, then he will be able to find it also in its manifestations.
What here like a drop penetrates into the consciousness soul, occult science calls the spirit. Thus the consciousness soul is united with the spirit, which is the hidden in all that is manifest. If man wishes to take hold of the spirit in all manifestation, he must do it in the same way he takes hold of the ego in the consciousness soul. He must direct the activity that has led him to the perception of this I toward the manifest world. He, thereby, develops to higher stages of his being. He adds something new to the corporeal and soul members. The next thing is that he, himself, also conquer what lies hidden within the lower members of his soul, and this happens through his work on his soul, proceeding from the ego. How man is engaged in this work becomes evident if one compares a person who still surrenders himself to his lower passions and so-called sensual lust, with a noble idealist. The latter develops out of the former if he rids himself of certain low inclinations and turns toward nobler ones. In doing so he has worked on his soul, ennobling and spiritualizing it out of his ego. The ego has become master within the soul-life. This can be carried so far that no desire, no enjoyment can gain entrance into the soul without the I being the power that makes the entrance possible. In this way, the whole soul now becomes a manifestation of the I, as this was previously the case with the consciousness soul alone. In fact, all cultural life and all spiritual human endeavor consists in a work that has as its aim this rulership of the ego. Every human being living in the present age is engaged in this work whether he wants it or not, whether he is conscious of it or not.
Through this work, however, higher stages of the being of man are reached. Through it, man develops new members of his being. These lie as the concealed behind what is manifest to him. Not only can he become master of the soul by working on the latter through the power of the ego so that the soul drives the concealed into manifestation, but he can also extend this work. He can extend it to the astral body. The I thus takes possession of this astral body by uniting itself with the latter's hidden nature. This astral body, overcome and transformed by the ego, may be called the spirit self. (This is what, in connection with oriental wisdom, is called “manas.”) In the spirit self we have a higher member of man's being, one which, so to speak, exists within it as a germ and which emerges more and more as it actively works upon itself.
Just as the human being conquers his astral body by penetrating to the hidden forces standing behind it, so, too, in the course of evolution, does this happen with the ether body. The work upon the ether body is, however, more intensive than the work upon the astral body, for what is concealed in the former is enveloped by two veils, while the concealed in the astral body is veiled by only one. It is possible to form a concept of the difference in the work on these two bodies by pointing to certain changes that can take place in man in the course of his development. Let us call to mind how certain human soul qualities develop when the ego is working upon the soul; how passion and desire, joy and sorrow may change. It is only necessary to think back to the time of childhood. At that time, what was man's source of pleasure? What caused him pain? What has he learned in addition to what he was able to do in childhood? All this is only an expression of the way the ego has gained mastery over the astral body. For this body is the bearer of pleasure and pain, of joy and sorrow. Compare this with how little certain other qualities of man change in the course of time, for example, his temperament, the deeper peculiarities of his character, and so forth. A person, hot-tempered as a child, will often retain certain aspects of this violent temper in later life. This is such a striking fact that there are thinkers who wholly deny the possibility of any change in the fundamental character of a human being. They assume that this is something that remains unchanged throughout life, manifesting in one way or another. Such a judgment is merely based upon lack of observation. Anyone who has the capacity of observing such things can perceive clearly that also man's temperament and character change under the influence of his ego. To be sure, this change is slow when compared with the change in the qualities described above. The relationship between the two kinds of changes may be compared with the advancing of the hour hand of a clock in relation to the minute hand. The forces that bring about this change of character or temperament belong to the hidden realm of the ether body. They are of like nature with the forces that rule in the kingdom of life, that is to say, with the forces of growth and nutrition and those that bring about reproduction. Subsequent explanations in this book will shed the right light upon these matters. — The I is not working upon the astral body if the human being simply gives himself up to pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, but if the peculiarities of these soul qualities change. Likewise, the work extends to the ether body if the ego applies its activity to the changing of its traits of character, of its temperament, and so forth. Also on this latter change every human being is working, whether he is conscious of it or not. The strongest impulses producing this change in ordinary life are the religious ones. When the I allows the impulses that flow from religion to act upon it again and again, they form within it a power that works right into the ether body and transforms it in much the same way that lesser life-impulses cause a transformation of the astral body. These lesser impulses of life, which come to man through study, contemplation, ennobling of the feelings, and so forth, are subject to the manifold changes of existence; religious experiences, however, imprint upon all thinking, feeling, and willing a uniform character. They shed, as it were, a common, uniform light over the entire soul-life. A man thinks and feels this way today, tomorrow differently. The most varied causes bring this about. But if a person through his religious feelings, whatever they may be, divines something that persists throughout all changes, he will relate his current soul experiences of thinking and feeling to that fundamental feeling just as he does with his soul experiences of tomorrow. Religious creed, therefore, has a far-reaching effect upon the whole soul-life; its influence becomes ever stronger in the course of time, because it works by means of constant repetition. It therefore acquires the power of working upon the ether body. — The influence of true art has a similar effect upon the human being. If, through outer form, through color and tone of a work of art, he penetrates to its spiritual basis with thought and feeling, then the impulses that the I thus receives work down even into the ether body. If we think this thought through to the end we can estimate what a tremendous significance art has for all human evolution. We have referred here only to a few instances that give to the I the impulse to act upon the ether body. There are many similar influences in human life that are not so apparent to the observing eye as those that have been mentioned. But from these it is evident that hidden within man there is another member of his being that the I gradually develops. This member may be called the second spiritual member, the life spirit. (It is called “buddhi” in oriental wisdom.) The expression “life spirit” is the appropriate term for the reason that the same forces are active in what it designates as in the “life body”; only, in these forces, when they manifest themselves as life body, the human ego is not active. If they manifest as life spirit, however, they are permeated by the activity of the I.
The intellectual development of man, his purification and ennobling of the utterances of feeling and will are the measure of his transformation of the astral body in spirit self; his religious and many other experiences imprint themselves upon the ether body and transform it into life spirit. In the usual course of life this occurs more or less unconsciously. On the other hand, what is called initiation of man consists in his being directed by supersensible knowledge to the means that enable him to undertake this work on the spirit self and life spirit in full consciousness. These means will be discussed in later parts of this book. For the present, it was a question of showing that, beside the soul and the body, the spirit is also active within the human being. We shall see later how this spirit, in contrast to the transient body, belongs to the Eternal in man.
The activity of the I is not exhausted with its work upon the astral and ether bodies; it extends also to the physical body. A trace of the influence of the I upon the physical body can be seen when, for example, under certain circumstances a person blushes or turns pale. In this case the I is actually the cause of a process in the physical body. If, through the activity of the I, changes take place in man in respect of its influence upon the physical body, the I is actually united with the hidden forces of this physical body, with the same forces that cause the physical processes to take place. It can be said, then, that the I, through this activity, works upon the physical body. This expression must not be misunderstood. It must not be imagined that this activity is something grossly material. What appears in the physical body as gross matter is only the manifested part of it. Behind this manifested part lie the hidden forces of its being, and these forces are of a spiritual nature. We are not speaking here of work upon a material substance, of which the physical body seems to consist, but of the spiritual work upon the invisible forces that bring this body into existence and allow it to decay. In ordinary life this work of the I on the physical body enters human consciousness indistinctly. Complete clarity of consciousness in this respect is acquired only if man, under the influence of supersensible knowledge, takes this activity consciously in hand. Then the fact emerges that there is still a third spiritual member in man. It is what may be called spirit man, in contrast to the physical man. (In oriental wisdom this spirit-man is called “atma.”)
It is easy to be misled in respect of the spirit man, owing to the fact that in the physical body we see the lowest member of man's being, and it is, therefore, hard to be reconciled to the idea that work on the physical body brings into being the highest member of the human entity. But just because the physical body conceals the active spirit within it behind three veils, the highest form of human endeavor is needed to unite the I with this hidden spirit.
Thus in occult science man presents himself as a being composed of various members. Those of a corporeal nature are the physical body, the ether body, and the astral body. Those belonging to the soul are sentient soul, intellectual soul, and consciousness soul. The I, the ego, spreads out its light within the soul. The members possessing a spiritual nature are spirit self, life spirit, and spirit man. We see from the above descriptions that the sentient soul and the astral body are closely united and in a certain respect form a whole. In a similar manner, consciousness soul and spirit self are a whole, for the spirit flashes up within the consciousness soul and from there rays through the other members of human nature. With this in mind, we can also speak of the following membering of the human being. We may combine astral body and sentient soul into a single member, likewise consciousness soul and spirit self, and the intellectual soul we may call the I, since it partakes of the I nature and, in a certain respect, is already the I that has not yet become conscious of its spiritual nature. We have, therefore, seven members of man: 1. physical body, 2. ether or life body, 3. astral body, 4. I, 5. spirit self, 6. life spirit, and 7. spirit man.
Even for those who are accustomed to materialistic ideas this membering of man according to the number seven would not possess anything “vaguely magical,” which they often ascribe to it, if they but held to the meaning of the above description and did not, from the very outset, themselves introduce this magical element into the matter. It is from the standpoint of a higher form of observing the world and in no other way that we ought to speak of these seven members of man, just as we speak of the seven colors of light or of the seven tones of the scale, (considering the octave as a repetition of the tonic.) Just as light appears in seven colors, and tone in a sevenfold scale, so does the homogeneous human nature appear in the above-mentioned seven members. Just as the number seven in tone and color bears nothing of “superstition” in it, so is this also the case in regard to the sevenfold membering of the human being. (On one occasion, when this question was discussed verbally, it was said that in the case of colors the number seven does not hold good, since beyond red and violet there are other colors that are not visible to the eye. Even in this respect, however, the comparison with the colors agrees, for the being of man extends beyond the physical body on the one side and spirit man on the other, only these extensions are “spiritually invisible” to the spiritual means of observation in the same way that the colors beyond red and violet are invisible to the physical eye. This comment had to be made because the opinion so easily arises that supersensible perception is not particular with respect to natural scientific thinking, that it is amateurish in this regard. But whoever pays strict attention to what is meant by the statements made here will find that, in fact, they are nowhere in contradiction to true natural science — neither when facts of natural science are used for illustration nor when, in the remarks made here, a direct relationship to natural-scientific research is indicated.)