The Michael Mystery
XXV. Man's Sensing and Thinking Systems in their Relation to the World
When Man, in the study of his own human being, begins by applying the Imaginative mode of knowledge to himself, he strips off in contemplation his sense-system. He becomes for his own self-contemplation a being without a sense-system. He does not cease to have before his soul pictures such as were previously conveyed by the organs of sense; but he ceases to feel himself connected with the physical outer world by means of these organs. The pictures which he has before his soul of the physical world outside, are not now conveyed by the sense-organs. They are a direct proof of the fact that, through and beyond the sensory connection, Man has all the time another connection with the natural world around him — one that is not conveyed by the outer senses. It is his connection with the Spirit which finds embodiment in the outer world of Nature.
In contemplation of this kind, the physical world drops away from man. It is the earthly element that is falling off. Man feels this earthly element no more investing him.
It might be supposed that therewith his consciousness of Self would vanish. This would appear to follow from what was said in our previous studies, where the consciousness of Self was described as being a result of Man's connection with the Earth-Being. This is not however the case. What Man has acquired through the Earthly element still remains his, even when after acquiring it, he strips the earthly wrapping off him in the living experience of knowledge.
Seen as described — with spiritual, Imaginative vision — it is plain that Man's sense-system is not, after all, so very closely bound up with him. It is not really he who is living in this sense-system, but the World around him. The world has built itself with its own form of being into the sensory organism of Man.
To the man therefore, who views it with Imaginative vision, this sensory organism too is a piece of Outer World. It is a piece of outer world which certainly lies more close to him than the natural world around, but which is nevertheless outer world. It is distinguished from the rest of the outer world only by this, that into the latter Man can only enter with cognition through the medium of sense-perception, whereas into his sense-organism he enters livingly, in immediate acquaintance. The sense-organism is outer world, but into all the recesses of this outer world, Man stretches out his own being of soul and spirit, which he brings with him from the spirit-world on entering earthly life.
Except for the fact that Man enters his sense-organism and fills it with his own soul and spirit, this organism is as much ‘outer world’ as is the plant-world spread out round about him. The eye belongs, when all is said and done, to the World, not to Man; just as the rose which Man perceives belongs not to him, but to the World.
In the age through which Man has just passed in cosmic evolution, scientifically minded persons began to maintain the view that color, sound, heat-impressions, are not really in the World, but in Man. The supposed ‘red color’ is not — they say — a thing outside, in the real world-environment of Man, but merely the effect produced in the man himself by an unknown something. The truth however is the direct opposite of this. It is not that the Color together with the Eye is part of the human being; but that the Eye together with the Color is part of the World. Man is not passively taking into himself, all through his life on earth, a current of impressions from his earthly surroundings; but rather, he himself is growing out, from birth to death, into this world outside him.
It is significant that at the end of the ‘dark age,’ when Man stares out into the world without inwardly realizing so much as a dawning glimmer of the spirit's light, the true picture of Man's relation to this world about him should be converted into the direct opposite of the truth.
When in Imaginative knowledge man has divested himself of that first environing world in which he lives with his sense-organism, he becomes inwardly aware of another organism, by which the Thinking process is supported, even as the perception of sensory images is supported by the sense-organism.
And now he is aware that as Man he is connected by this Thinking organism with his cosmic environment of ‘Stars,’ even as he was hitherto aware of being connected through the sense-organism with his Earth-environment. He recognizes himself as a cosmic being. No more are his thoughts mere shadow-pictures; they are saturated with reality like the sense-pictures of sensible perception. And if the disciple of knowledge rises higher, namely to Inspiration, he becomes aware that he can again strip off this world on which the Thinking organism rests, just as, before, he stripped off the earthly one. He clearly perceives that with his thinking organism too, he belongs not to his own being, but to the World. He perceives how World-Thoughts are working through his own Thinking system within him. Once more he becomes aware that in his Thinking he is not taking into himself mere images of the World, but growing out with his own Thinking-organism into the World-Thinking.
Both in respect of his Sense-organism and of his Thinking system, Man is World. The World builds itself into him. Hence, in his sense-perception and in his thinking, he is not he himself; here, he is world-informed.
And into this Thinking organism, Man stretches forth that part now of his being of soul and spirit which belongs neither to the earth world, nor yet to the star world, but which is of a purely spiritual kind, and lives on from earth-life to earth-life within Man. This form of the soul and spirit is only accessible to Inspiration.
So Man goes out of his earthly and cosmic organism and stands before himself, through his Inspiration, as a being of pure soul and spirit.
In this, his purely spiritual being, Man meets with the ordering of his destiny of fate.
With his sense-organism Man lives in his physical body; with his Thinking organism in his ether-body. After both these organisms have been laid aside in the living experience of knowledge, he is in his astral body.
Every time that Man lays aside part of his acquired being, his soul becomes, it is true, poorer in content on one side; but at the same time, he becomes richer on the other. If with the laying aside of the physical body the beauty of the plant-world, as it shone upon the senses, now becomes faint and colorless. Man has before his soul, in place of it, the whole world of elemental beings who live in the plant kingdom.
Because this is so, a man whose knowledge is really spiritual will not be given to any tone of asceticism towards what the senses can shew him. Through all the inner experience of spiritual life, he still feels fully alive in him the need to behold over again, through the senses, what has been experienced in the life of the Spirit. In the whole man, striving after living knowledge of complete reality, the perceptions of the senses awaken a longing for their counterpart, the world of the elemental beings; so too the contemplation of the elemental beings awakens a longing for what the sense-perceptions have to give.
In the totality of human life, Spirit cries for Sense, and Sense for Spirit. Spiritual existence would be a void, did it not bear in it the mindfulness of what was experienced in the life of sense-perception. Sense-perception would be darkness, were there not at work in it — below consciousness at first, yet ever shedding light — the power of the Spirit.
Therefore, when Man shall have made himself ripe to realize, along with his realization of Nature's life, the action therein of Michael, there will be no impoverishment in all that the life of Nature gives to men's souls, but on the contrary, a greater wealth. Nor will the Feeling-life be in any way inclined to withdraw from the life of the senses; rather will there be a joyful readiness to welcome into the soul all the wonders of the sense-world.
The human sense-organism does not belong to the being of Man, but is built into it during earth-life from the World without. The seeing Eye is spatially in Man; essentially, it is in the World. And Man stretches forth his own essence — his own being of soul and spirit — into what the World is realizing in him through his senses. Man, during earth-life, does not take in the physical surroundings into himself; he grows out with his being of soul and spirit into these surroundings.
It is similar with the Thinking organism. Man grows out through his Thinking organism into the life of the Stars. He recognizes himself as Star-World. Man is living and weaving in the World-Thoughts, when in the living realization of knowledge, he has laid aside his sense-organism.
After both have been laid aside — both Earth-world and Star-world — Man stands before himself as a being of Soul and Spirit. Here he is no longer World; here he is in the truest sense Man. To awaken to what he here experiences is Self-Knowledge, even as it is World-Knowledge to awaken to perception in the Sense and Thought organism.