Man — Hieroglyph of the Universe
14 May 1920, Dornach
The essential part of our present study is to recognise how the two streams of the world's history, the heathen stream and the Christian stream, meet in our life, how they work into one another and are connected with the events in the whole Universe. In order to search more closely into this, we must first consider the following. It is essential that we should discriminate as exactly as possible wherein the heathen world-conception, taking it in the widest sense (for indeed, it is still and must remain at the basis of our modern conception of the Universe) — wherein this heathen world-conception differs from the Christian, which has only in a very small degree, in its full reality, passed into the minds of men. The point is, as I have often pointed out, that we have now come to a time when what we may call the cosmogony of Natural Science, and what we call the Moral Order of the Universe — to which of course, also belongs the religious view of the world — stand side by side, utterly unconnected. For the man of today, more than he is aware of, the occurrences belonging to natural and moral happenings are two things wholly apart, which he cannot at all unite if he wishes honestly to hold the position of modern cosmogony. That is why the greatest part of the advanced theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries actually has no Christology. I have often remarked on the existence of such books as Adolf Harnack's The Nature of Christianity, in which there is no reason whatever why the name of Christ should be mentioned; for what appears therein as ‘Christ’ is no other than the Deity met with in the Old Testament as the God Jehovah. There is really no actual difference between Harnack's ‘Christ’ and the God Jehovah — that is, there is no difference between what is said of the Christ-Being and what followers of the Old Testament view of the Universe said of their Jehovah. If we take the idea of Christ held today by many persons and compare it with what they have otherwise as their view of life, there is no reason whatever why they should speak of Christ and Christianity, for to speak of Christ and Christianity — and Nationalism, for example — as many do today is an absolute contradiction. These things only escape notice because people today avoid courageously drawing the logical conclusion of what they see before them. The widest rift however, the widest gulf, exists between the view of things held by natural science and what is held by Christianity; and the most important task of our time is to build a bridge over the gulf. The conception of the Universe held by natural science is absolutely the off-spring of the nineteenth century; and it is well not always to describe these things in the abstract, but to look into them a little in a concrete way.
I have often mentioned the name of a prominent personality of the nineteenth century, one who directs our attention directly to the conception of the Universe held by natural science — I refer to Julius Robert Mayer, whom we must associate with the nineteenth century view although in his case it leads to some misunderstanding. You know how in a popular way it has been said that the assertion of the law of the conservation of force originated with him — or, to speak more accurately, the law that the Universe contains a constant sum of forces which can be neither increased nor lessened, and can only be changed into one another. Heat, mechanical force, electricity, chemical force, all change one into the other; yet the quantity of the force existing in the Universe remains always the same. Every modern physicist holds this view. Although in popular consciousness men are not aware of this law of the conservation of force and energy, they think of natural phenomena in a way that they can only be thought of when one is under the influence of this law. I want you clearly to understand what I mean. There may be something in the action of a being that corresponds to a certain principle, even when that being is not in a position to understand that principle. Suppose, for instance, that one wished to make a dog understand that a double quantity of meat means that a single quantity has been taken twice over; it could not be done. The dog could not take that in consciously, but practically he will act according to this principle; for if he has the chance of snapping at a small piece or at one twice the size, he will as a rule, seize the larger, other conditions being equal. And a man can stand under the influence of a principle without explaining it to himself in abstract form as such. Thus we may say: Certainly most people do not think of the law of conservation of force, but they do picture the whole of Nature in a way that is in accordance with the law, because what they were taught in school was taught on the assumption that the law of conservation of force exists. It is interesting to see how Mayer's line of thought expressed itself when he had to put it clearly to others who did not as yet think along the same lines.
Julius Robert Mayer had a friend who kept a record of many of their conversations. He relates many interesting facts, facts by which one can examine thoroughly the mode of thought of the nineteenth century. In the first place, to give something quite external, I will choose the following. Julius Robert Mayer was so thoroughly steeped in the whole mode of ideas leading to that of the conservation of force, of the mere transmutation of one force into another, that as a rule, whenever he met a friend in the street he could not help calling to him from a distance: ‘Out of nothing, nothing comes!’ Visiting his friend one day — Rümelin was the friend's name — knocking at the door and opening it, these were his first words, even before greeting his friend: ‘Out of nothing, nothing comes.’ So deeply was this saying rooted in Mayer's consciousness.
Rümelin tells of a very interesting discussion in which he, not as yet knowing very much of the law of the conservation of force, wished to have its nature explained. Julius Robert Mayer, who came from Heilbronn — (his monument stands there) — said ‘If two horses are drawing a carriage and they go for some distance, what will happen?’ — ‘Well’, said Rümelin, ‘the travelers in the carriage will arrive at Ohringen.’ — ‘But if they turn and go back without having done anything in Ohringen, and return to Heilbronn?’ ‘Well,’ replied Rümelin, ‘in that case the one journey has so to speak cancelled the other, so that there is apparently no result; yet there is the actual effect that the travelers came and went between Heilbronn and Ohringen.’ ‘No’, said Mayer, ‘that is only a secondary effect; it has nothing to do with what actually happened. The outcome of the expenditure of force on the part of the horses, that is something quite different. Through this expenditure of force, first the horses themselves grew hotter, secondly the axles of the carriage round which the wheels moved became hotter, and thirdly if we were to gauge with a delicate thermometer the grooves made by the wheels in the road, we should find that the warmth within them was greater than at the sides. That is the actual result. In the horses themselves, matter was also consumed through the transmutation of substance. All this is the actual effect. The other effect, that the people traveled backwards and forwards between Heilbronn and Ohringen is a secondary effect, but not the actual physical occurrence. The actual physical occurrence was the spent force of the horses, the transmutation into increased heat of the horses, the increased heat in the axles, the heat-consumption of cart-grease through friction in the wheels, the warming of the tracks on the road, and so forth.’ When one measures — as Mayer then did and specified the corresponding amount — one finds that the whole of the force which the horses exerted passed without remainder into heat. The rest is all a secondary matter, a side issue.
This has of course a certain influence on our conception of things, and the ultimate result is that we must say: ‘Well, we must free natural occurrences from everything that is a side issue in the sense of strict scientific thought, for side issues have nothing to do with scientific thought in the sense it is understood in the nineteenth century. The secondary effect is right outside the bounds of the events of natural science.’ If, however, we ask: How does what we may call natural moral law come to expression? In what are human worth and human dignity expressed? Certainly not in the fact that the force (energy) of the horses is transmuted into the heat of the carriage axles; no, in this case the secondary effect is the chief point! Let us reflect however, how in all that is considered in natural science, this secondary effect is wholly omitted. The men of the nineteenth century, and even Kant in the eighteenth, formed their view of the origin of the Universe simply out of the principles which Julius Robert Mayer so sharply defined, when he separated out what belongs to nature alone from all that was for him merely secondary effect.
If we bear this clearly in mind, we are obliged to say: The Universe must thus be constructed from the principle we recognise as Nature-Principle; all that has taken place through Christianity, for instance, is just a secondary effect, like the fact of the persons journeying by coach from Heilbronn to Ohringen, for what they had to do there does not come into consideration in the view of Natural Science. Yet, do these two streams not cross in some way or other?
Let us suppose Rümelin had not been satisfied, but had raised the following objection — I know it does not hold good for the physicist of today, but it is applicable to the construction of a general view of the Universe — suppose the following was said: If the people who were traveling from Heilbronn to Ohringen had chosen not to do so, the horses would not have expended their force, the transmutation into heat would not have taken place, or it would have happened at a different place and under different conditions. Thus in our consideration of what happened in accordance with natural science, we are limited to that part of the event which does not lead us to the ultimate cause. The event would never have taken place if the travelers had not supposed they had something to do in Ohringen. Thus what natural science must regard as a side-issue enters notwithstanding into natural occurrences. Or, suppose that the travelers had something to do in Ohringen at a definite hour. Suppose the carriage axles not only became hot, but that one of them broke — in that case they could not have continued their journey. What happened, the breaking of the axle, would then of course be explicable scientifically, but what occurred through this natural phenomenon — namely, that something planned could not be carried out — might, as can easily be imagined, have tremendously far-reaching consequences, leading moreover to other natural processes, which would in their turn have led to further consequences.
Thus we see that even when one stands on purely logical grounds very significant and grave questions arise. We must at once say, that these cannot be answered by the conception of the Universe arising from the hypothesis of our modern training; they cannot be answered without Spiritual Science. They can in no wise be answered without it; for before the tendency to the natural-scientific mode of thought arose, which was first brought to such exactness by Julius Robert Mayer, there was not that sharp line of division between the natural-scientific mode of thought and moral thought. If we consider the twelfth or thirteenth century, we find that what people had then to say of the moral order and the physical order always harmonised. Today people no longer read seriously; but if you read such works — I might say, there are not many things left from olden times which have come down to our days quite unadulterated — but if you take works which are like stragglers of the old cosmic conceptions, you will discover many things that prove how in earlier times the Moral was carried into the Physical, and the Physical raised to the Moral. Read one of these — now already somewhat falsified yet still fairly readable — read one of the writings of Basil Valentine. When you read there about metals, planets, medicinal drugs, in almost every line you will come across adjectives applied to the metals — good, bad, sagacious metals, and the like; which show that even in this domain some moral thinking was introduced. That of course could not be done today. Abstraction has gone so far that natural phenomena have been severed from all the secondary effects, as we may see in Julius Robert Mayer; one cannot say that it was the kindness of the horses' feet which moved them to use up the axle-grease by the warmth produced by their movement! It is not possible in this scientific connection to bring in any kind of moral category. There are two domains, the natural and the moral, and these stand quite definitely side by side. If the world-happenings were as shown by that kind of presentation, man could not exist at all in our world, he would not be there — for what is the reason for the present physical form of man?
When I speak here of the physical form of man, I must ask you to take the word ‘form’ seriously. The natural philosophers of today do not take the expression ‘human form’ seriously. What do they do? Like Huxley and others, they count the bones of man and of the higher animals, and from the number of these they draw the conclusion that Man is only a more highly evolved stage of the animal. Or they count the muscles and so forth. We have repeatedly had to point out that the essential point is that the line of the animal spine is horizontal, while the human spine is vertical; and although certain animals raise themselves, the position with them is not characteristic, what is characteristic of the animal is the horizontal line of the spine. Upon this depends the whole formation. Thus I ask you to take seriously what I wish to express by the word ‘form’.
This form of man; where must we look for its origin, its primary physical origin, in a spiritual way in the Universe? I have already touched on this point in these lectures, I have pointed to the starry heavens which move — whether apparently or actually is immaterial at the moment — round the Earth; the Sun also. Thus the Sun takes the same way; but if we take into consideration what we now know, namely that the Sun shifts its point of departure every Spring, remaining behind a little in relation to the stars, we come to a specially important fact. The change in position of the Vernal Point can be seen in the fact that the constellation in the following year rises earlier than the Sun and sets earlier, showing us that the Sun remains behind. I have pointed out that even the old Egyptians knew that if the circle is divided into 360 degrees, the Sun remains one day behind in 72 years. That is, in 360 times 72 years, or 25,920 years, it remains the whole circle behind, and returns to the star from which it started 25,920 years before.
Thus we have the fact that in the Universe the stars travel round, and the Sun goes round — I will not go into the question as to whether this revolution is only apparent or not, the important point under consideration is that the Sun travels more slowly, remaining behind one degree of the cosmic circle in 72 years; and 72 years, as I have already indicated, is the normal maximum duration of a man's life. Man lives 72 years, exactly the period the Sun remains one degree behind the other stars.
We have lost the right feeling for these things. Even as late as in the Hebraic Mysteries, the teacher still impressed very strongly upon his scholars that it is Jehovah who brings it about that the sun lingers behind the stars and, with the force which the Sun thus kept back, He fashioned the human form, which is His earthly image. Thus, mark well, the stars run their course quickly, the Sun more slowly, and so a slight difference arises which, according to these ancient Mysteries, was that which produced the human form. Man is born out of time, he is so born that he owes his existence to the difference in velocity between the cosmic day of the stars and the cosmic day of the Sun. In modern parlance we should say: If the Sun were not in the Universe as it is, if it were just a star like other stars, having the same velocity as other stars, what would be the consequence? It would be that the Luciferic powers alone would rule. That this is not so, that man is able to withhold himself from the Luciferic powers with the whole of his being, is due to the circumstance that the Sun does not share in the velocity of the stars but lags behind them, not developing the Luciferic velocity but the velocity of Jehovah. Again, if there were only the Sun velocity and not that of the stars, man would not be able to run on in front of the rest of his development with his mental powers, as he does at present. Such a condition would not fit well into his whole evolution. In our time this is very striking. If we have studied Spiritual Science seriously, we know that a man of 36, for instance, understands things he could not at 25. Experience is necessary for the comprehension of certain things. This is not admitted today, for a man of 25 feels himself complete. He is only complete as regards mental powers, but not in experience, for experience is gained more slowly than understanding. If this were taken into account, we should not find that the young people of today have already formed their point of view, for they would know that they could not do so before acquiring a certain amount of experience. Understanding travels with the stars, experience with the Sun. Assuming that human life is 72 years (unless events of Nature intervene causing Man to die older or younger), we say that it lasts the time the Sun takes to retrograde one degree. Why is this? The reason lies in a certain fine adjustment in the Cosmos. Our preliminary study obliges me to ask you to follow me for a little while into this domain.
If we consider a lunar eclipse occurring in a certain year, then there will be a certain date when the eclipse can occur. The lunar eclipse occurs on the same date about every 18 years, and in the same constellation. There is a periodical rhythm in the lunar eclipse, a rhythm of 18 years. That is just a quarter of a cosmic day and just a quarter of a man's life. Man, if I may so express it, endures four such periods of darkness. Why? Because in the Universe everything is in numerical harmony. On the average, Man has in accordance with the rhythmic activity of his heart, not only 72 years of life, but 72 pulse beats, and approximately 18 respirations — again the quarter — in the minute. This numerical accord is expressed in the Universe by the rhythm between the 18 years — the Chaldean Saros period, so-called because the Chaldeans first discovered it — and the Solar period; and it is the same rhythm as is also to be found in man in the inner mobility between his respiration and his pulse-beats. Plato said, not without reason: ‘God geometrises, arithmetises’ ... Thus our 72 years of life, to which is co-ordinated also our heart and pulse activity, goes through the Saros period four times; because in our heart and pulse activity we have our breathing activity, as it were, four times over. Our whole human organism is constructed on the lines of the Universe, but we only see into its significance when we bear in mind another connection.
As I said in one of the foregoing lectures, we only gauge correctly the movement of the Moon, its revolution round its axis, when we connect its revolution not with the day of the Sun, but with the day of the stars. If we have the solar time in view, we must consider a shorter time, 27.5 days for the revolution of the lunar day. I have told you that the Moon's revolution is not such as quite to accord with that of the Sun, but with the time of the stars. Hence we only understand our lunar movement aright when we do not think of it as belonging to the solar movement, but to that of the stars. In a certain sense therefore, the solar movement is outside the system to which the Moon and stars belong. Thus we are so situated in the Universe that on the one hand we are co-ordinated to the stellar-lunar system, and on the other to the solar movement.
Here we see the gradual divergence of the solar and the stellar astronomy. As we have seen, if we have one astronomy only, everything falls into confusion. We can only reach a right understanding if, not limited to one astronomy, we say: On the one hand we have the starry system which, in a certain respect, contains within it the Moon; and on the other, the system to which the Sun belongs. They mutually interpenetrate. They work together. But we are wrong if we apply the same law to the two.
When we realise that we have two quite different astronomies, we shall say: The cosmic happenings in which we are involved have two origins, but we are so placed that these two streams flow together in us. They fuse in us human beings. What is it then that takes place in us? Suppose that only what is admitted by the natural scientist took place in us — all sorts of things would take place in the human organism, movements of substances and so forth; these would extend over the whole organism, also to the brain and consequently to the senses. What then would the consequence be if the whole transmutation of substances which goes on in the human organism and which is inserted into the Cosmos as I have explained — if this metabolism were to extend to the brain? We should never be able to have the consciousness that we ourselves think. Oxygen, iron and other substances, carbon and so forth — of these we should say, in their mutual relations, ‘they think in us’. But as a matter of fact we are not conscious of any such thing. There is no question of its being in our consciousness. What we have as a fact of consciousness is the content of our soul-life. That can exist under no other hypothesis than that the whole of this quite material happening is demolished, is annihilated, and that in us there actually is no conservation of force and substance, but room is made by the annihilation of substance, for the development of the thought life. In fact, Man is the one arena in which an actual annihilation of substance takes place. We shall never realise it so long as we are only conscious of what is outside ourselves.
Now, if we start from the assumption that after 72 years the Sun lags one degree behind in the celestial sphere, that there is this difference of velocity between the movement of the stars and that of the Sun (which difference works in us, converges, as it were, in us); and if we then picture to ourselves how the formation of our head comes from the starry heavens, and how when we, according to a very beautiful saying, first ‘see the light’, we become involved in the Sun's movement, then we must say: There is in us a continual tendency to work with a lesser velocity over against the more rapid velocity of the stars. The action of the stars in us is opposed. What is the effect of this opposition? It is the destruction of what the stars bring about in us materially, its destruction; thus, the destruction of the purely material law comes about through the solar activity. Hence we may say: In our progress through the world as human beings, if we kept pace, as it were, with the stars, we should accompany them in such a way as to be subject to the material law of the Universe. But this we are not. The solar laws oppose it, they hold us back. There is something within us which holds us back. The resultant of the two activities in us could be exactly calculated, for instance, in the following case. (The calculation cannot be followed up here, first because it would take too long and secondly because you would not be able to follow it). Here, let us say, a certain movement occurs (arrow pointing downwards), i.e. a flow takes place with a certain velocity; and the stream then fuses with another stream — it must be assumed that the other flow is going not in the same
but in the opposite direction (arrow upwards). The two streams flow therefore into one another. Or imagine a wind whirling with a certain velocity from above downwards, and another from below upwards, and they whirl into one another. If we take the difference of velocity between the downward and the upward current, relating the latter to the former in such a way that a difference in velocity results bearing the same relationship as the difference in velocity between the stellar time and the solar time, then through the rotation a condensation arises which receives its own distinct form. One whirls downwards, and because the other whirls upwards driving with a greater velocity, the lesser velocity would be that driving downwards, which gives here (see diagram) through the collision, a condensation, a certain figure. This figure, disregarding imperfections, is a silhouette of the human heart.
Thus, through the meeting of the Lucifer stream and the Jehovah stream, it is possible to construct exactly the figure of the human heart. It is constructed simply out of the revelations of the Universe. It is absolutely true; the Sun-movement is an expression of a slower movement which meets a quicker movement, and we are so inserted into the two movements that the silhouette of our heart arises; and on to it the rest of the human form is fitted. We see from this what Mysteries are actually hidden in the Cosmos, for as soon as we admit we have two astronomies, which work together in their results — what is the result? The human heart. The whole outlook of modern natural science is based on the fact that it does not distinguish these two streams from one another. This brings upon it the tragic fate, that the harmonious working is split apart, leaving on the one hand, the events in Nature, as reasoned by Julius Robert Mayer; and on the other hand, the ‘secondary results’, because people are unable to unite cosmically in thought what works together from these two streams. Thus for man's thinking the world falls asunder in two extremes.
Here lies the cosmic aspect of something tremendously significant in regard to the understanding of Man and the Universe. Unless man can renew, on that basis of thought which we are giving today, the knowledge contained in the ancient Mysteries at the time when man was awaiting Christianity — as I have described in the book, Christianity as Mystical Fact — unless we can bring this ancient knowledge to life in a present form, as must be done, all knowledge remains an illusion; for that which comes to expression with such clarity in the human heart is to be found everywhere. Everywhere the events that happen are explainable through the union of two streams, arising from different sources.
In the insertion of the Mystery of Golgotha into the evolution of our Earth, we have to do with an Event of a totally different nature from all the rest of the happenings of Earth-evolution; and this we shall never understand unless we begin by learning to understand the Cosmos itself.
What I have said today is intended as a preparation or groundwork on which we shall be able to build up in our lectures of to-morrow and the day after.