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Where and How Does One Find the Spirit?
GA 57

XI. The Invisible Human Members and Practical Life

18 February 1909, Berlin

If there is talk of the practical significance of the invisible, particularly of the invisible in the human being, I would like to illustrate by a comparison what I meant. Those people are practical who turn their look, their view to the supersensible view of existence, and those are impractical who stop at the only exterior, at the mere physical. Is anybody, actually, the true practitioner who has a horseshoe-shaped iron as a magnet before himself and uses this thing for anything that appears useful to him by all appearances? On the other hand, is such a person not impractical in the true sense of the word, and practical only someone who says to himself: in this piece of iron something rests that makes a lot of higher, nobler application possible to me than the mere inspection allows to suppose. — This is, of course, only a comparison, because we are not allowed to compare the higher forces about which we speak today with any natural force. However, practical is only someone who chooses the internal forces from the things and can use the things corresponding to their true values. Compared with those who can be led by a certain practical sense one could quote Fichte's word of the practical significance of ideals. Fichte (Johann Gottlieb F., 1762–1814) tried to explain the determination of the human being using high ideals.

In the introduction to his lectures on The Vocation of the Scholar (1794), he protests that none who speaks from such high idealistic viewpoints knows what can be objected to it, namely, that ideals cannot be shown directly in practical life. Perhaps, those who put up these ideals know this better than the opponents do. “We state only that reality has to be assessed and modified according to them by those who feel sufficient strength in themselves. Assumed, they could also not convince themselves, they lose very little, after they are once what they are; and, besides, humanity loses nothing. It becomes thereby only obvious that one does not count on them in the plan of the improvement of humanity. This will continue its way without any doubt; the benevolent nature may provide for them rain and sunshine, wholesome food and undisturbed circulation of humours at the proper time and — clever thoughts as well!” I want to point to this in particular. We briefly want to imagine the invisible members of the human nature. Spiritual science speaks of these invisible members of the human nature, but not as of anything that is there, as of an adjunct of the visible, but it speaks just of the spiritual as of the creative of the visible.

An almost obvious example is the following: everybody — also someone who cannot see into in the workshop of spiritual life — should imagine the senses of shame and anxiety repeatedly, so that he learns to believe that the supersensible is the reason of the sensuous. What are they? They are soul experiences undoubtedly to someone who does not think complicatedly. Anything, we must say, is there that threatens us; the soul feels threatened. This expresses itself as sensations of fear. Indeed, we could state various physical mediations. This would be easy, of course, and the modern researcher would hardly be able to state anything that the spiritual scientist would not know, too. Nevertheless, the matter is that the blood is forced back from the surface of the body to the centre.

We have a material process resulting from a soul process. The same is the case with the sense of shame. Again, we have a rearrangement of the blood, a change of the circulation caused by something spiritual. What one sees here in microcosm and what one can observe to a bigger extent, if because of a sad event tears are shed shows that the soul can cause bodily processes. Today, of course, there are people under the influence of our not evidently but latently materialistic way of thinking who also assert materialistic views here. I have also quoted the sentence of a certain worldview: one cries not because one is sad, but one is sad because one cries. This sentence came, actually, from somebody who thought idealistically, but one interpreted it wrong.

These are full-grown materialistic ways of thinking. Who has retained a piece of healthy thinking from the materialistic basis of our time sees in such evident connections between physical facts and spiritual-mental facts something that can make him gradually understand that spiritual science must say from its point of view: everything material has a spiritual origin.

Thus, something mental forms the basis of that which we see in the human being, what we can seize with hands with him. It is not the influence of the physical but just the primal ground of the physical. We call that a physical body in the human being, which he has in common with all beings surrounding him, which he has in common with the mineral world. The next, supersensible human member is the etheric body or life body. It prevents the physical body to being a corpse during the whole life, to following the principles of the physical only. Plants and animals also have such an etheric body, which one can deduce by thinking of someone who thinks philosophically only. It is real to the clairvoyant like the physical body.

A spiritual way of thinking defends itself with pleasure to understand the human body as a machine, however, does not need to defend itself if one is not a “carriage pusher of thinking from within.” One can absolutely say, the human body is a complex mechanism if one wants to include the physical and chemical in the mechanic. However, behind any machine, a builder and preserver must be, so also here, and this is the etheric body or life body, that is a loyal fighter against decay. Only at death, it separates from the physical body, and then the physical body follows as a corpse its physical laws. Then it is a corpse. The etheric body is something more certain than the mere physical body.

If we keep on studying the human being, we get to another member of his being, which every human being could already realise if he said to himself, I face a human being, a physical body, and an etheric body. Is there nothing else included in this human being than what one can see from without, what physiology et cetera disclose to us? Oh, there is something else: the sum of emotions, sensations, desires and wishes, pains and sufferings, impulses and passions.

All that represents the astral body. Now one could say, nevertheless, one cannot imagine that these things form a concluded reality. However, the spiritual scientist can perceive this clairvoyantly. There the astral body exists as the physical body exists. Nevertheless, the healthy human mind could also already say to itself that such a thing as an astral body must be there. Why could it say that to itself? I want to give you an example where, so to speak, with hands is to be seized how the astral body works, actually. There are people who say when the human being enters the physical world; he is not yet as developed as later. The external science can determine that, indeed, the senses and their organs exist in the brain that, however, the connections of the single senses in the brain develop relatively late. One can really study how the connecting nerve cords develop from the hearing to the facial sphere and make the human being the thinker finally. So — the materialist concludes — one sees how the internal parts develop bit by bit and then the world of sensations, images, sufferings, joys, complexes of thought et cetera flashes in the human being. — Imagine this development of the human brain. The complex lines of thought, which solve the world riddles, develop bit by bit. Are we then allowed to call that a mere mechanism which has developed, which builds itself up?

One can also admire a marvellous construction, as for example that of a clock. However, he would be a fool who wanted to believe that the clock has originated by itself. Who is able to do something, can develop only what he is able to do. Someone who had seconds, minutes, the principles of the clock in himself has joined it; one has thought ahead what we then reflect. Is there nothing that joins these connecting cords in the brain in such a way that you become a thinker finally? I mean, a healthy thinking would have to realise that for that which develops a master builder must exist who joins the cords, so that you can become a thinker. We are loyal only to ourselves and to our healthy human mind if we say, an astral body has to have constructed the physical brain. In the first weeks, months, years of the child, the astral body constructs the instrument only, which is able later to solve the world riddles. Who does not believe this, acts just as anybody who wants to use a machine, but denies that a constructor was there who has built it. The time will already come when again healthy judgments prevail in the human being, when they say to themselves that first the spiritual master builder must be there if anything should originate. This master builder has been already there before the human being is born.

The third human member is this astral body, that which forms the basis of the material again. The fourth human member is the ego, which makes the human being the crown of creation. The human being has the physical body in common with all minerals, the etheric body with all plants, and the astral body with the animals. He rises above the three physical realms by the ego. Therefore, all religions have probably directed their attention to the fact that there is only one name, which differs from all other. There is one thing that can be never called from the outside: this is in us as our core. No name can come from without that signifies us. Therefore, “I” was in the old Hebrew religion the inexpressible name that was inexpressible for all others.

These are the four lower members of the human nature from which only one is visible. The three others are real, are the primal grounds of the real. Any member is a basic being and cause for the next lower body; the ego-bearer for the astral body, the astral body for the etheric body, the etheric body for the physical body. Any experience of the ego imprints itself on the astral body. Here all experiences of the ego express themselves. Any momentary imagining, judging and feeling originate in the human being that way.

What lives in the astral body, expresses itself, imprints itself on the etheric or life body, and thereby it becomes permanent, not momentary, but keeps itself in a certain way. Let us assume that we pass momentary judgment; we make a mental picture about this or that. If we form a mental picture repeatedly, it becomes a habitual mental picture. Because it becomes a habitual image, it imprints itself in the etheric body. What lives in our memory, what we keep in mind from day to day, lives in our etheric body or life body. The fact that we play a piano piece once is in our astral body; the fact that we acquire the talent, the habit of playing is in the etheric body. All habits are in the etheric body or life body. If we pass moral judgment, it is again an action of the astral body. If a certain direction of judging imprints itself on us by repeated judgments, the moral judgment becomes a permanent once, it becomes conscience. The moral judgment is an experience of the astral body; the conscience is an experience of the etheric body or life body. Thus, we see how by the interaction of the higher members with the lower ones the whole human life builds itself up from within outwardly.

As far as the human being is a mere physical being, he has the etheric body or life body in common with the plants. What allows the humours to ascend in the plants, what causes that they subsist, reproduce, this causes the same in the human being. However, on this etheric body or life body custom, skill, conscience is imprinted top-down. Something mental-spiritual is imprinted on the human beings top-down. The experiences of the higher members are transferred more and more to the lower members. It is important for the human being to know that the higher members work into the denser members. Thus, the human being can work into the lower members in healthy, practical way.

The human being can ruin again, what nature has given him. As with the plant only malformation could originate if the etheric body or life body did not regulate what goes forward, an internal malformation originates in the human being if he works wrong inside, from the ego on the lower members. The astral body must be penetrated by the experiences of the ego in a healthy way. Who does not admit that an astral body builds on the brain of the child will also not realise how important it is that the ego has a proper effect on the astral body. Who realises this, however, says to himself, you are able to keep on working where nature has stopped. If you allow the whole scale of sensations to take place in healthy way, this continues working on your physical body, on your brain, and thus you build up your physical body during your whole life.

How many human beings walk around today with writer's spasm? The human body is wonderfully constructed. The human being adjusts his hand with everything that he does to the world outdoors. This cooperation of the hand with the outside goes adrift in certain ways from him if he is not able to set his hand aglow, to invigorate it with his inner life. This is a similar process, as if one gets artificial teeth. It is essential that all that we can get as our own is set aglow and invigorated by our ego. You get trembling hands only if the hands go adrift from the remaining forces to some degree. These are matters which one takes into consideration most intensely again in a not so distant future, and then one will realise what it means to grasp the spirit of the human being again.

I want to make clear this at an example. We remain in our field. It will become apparent how that which happens in the spirit really seizes the human being and makes him suitable or unsuitable for life, practical or impractical. Let us take a person who is impractical for life because he suffers from certain sensations of anxiety, so that thereby nervousness originates. This word already sounds the whole sum of lacking practice. Any human being who does not control himself completely in any respect is characterised as nervous, or one uses the catchword of genetic predisposition if anything is absent or exists that makes the human being impractical for life. All these things do not originate from a careful observation of the real facts, but because one has no palate for the spiritual due to the materialistic way of thinking.

It is important to pursue whether in the first times of life, when the invisible works so intensely on the visible, everything proceeds properly and is not disturbed. What is omitted here cannot be corrected later. If something is not formed well enough, the manifold discrepancies originate in the whole life. The human being, who is not able to let harmonising experiences surge up and down in the astral body, will always make himself impractical for life in certain ways. Instead of searching for genetic predispositions of fear and anxiety, we should rather look for something that is formed by this or that experience which has a solidifying effect on the physical body. It could be, for example, — however, it needs not always be in such a way — that a considerable part of claustrophobia was caused possibly by a particular way of parenting in the human being. He does not get loose from this evil because he lacks the means to stir it up again. Imagine children who recognise all festivities, actually, all the year round, only because they are showered with presents! They receive more than they can destroy. This abundance of undeserved gifts immobilises certain striving forces, which would generate healthy self-assurance. Such a thing can slumber in the human being during the time when the external education fulfils him or a new occupation absorbs him; but this appears once in the form of claustrophobia.

One cannot realise this if one does not understand what it means that the astral body changes itself bit by bit into that which the human being is in his physical, discernible behaviour. On the other hand, we can find — if particular states of unsuitability appear anyhow — that something presses on his soul. He cannot say it, cannot confess it, and thinks to have to conceal it. Because the human being does not find the way to the word, it seizes the lower members and works on them. What a soothing effect experiences the human being if he can confess such a thing! Then he has the feeling, now it is no longer lying on my heart like a stone, and this feeling of relief works recovering. Confession is an important remedy in this respect. The denominations have known this well. There we realise how the invisible inside of the human being works on the visible. Even certain reasonable doctors already realise that one cannot cure unsuitability for practical life by systematic application of cold water (Kneipp cure), but in such a way that one has to induce a kind of confession, has to detach something from the human being if healing should take place.

We want to look at the reverse now. There are reasonable doctors who say to themselves, one has to turn to the soul of the human being if one wants to know how the human being becomes unsuitable in certain respects. These doctors know that joy and desire are remedies, that they work recovering, that they soften again, what is solidified and ossified, and bring it under our control. However, this is not enough, just as little as it is enough if anybody says, the concealed secret must be detached from the soul of the human being. They do not know that everything that is experience of the inside has a big significance even if it appears wrong. Should we cancel everything mysterious in the human nature because it appears wrong with some persons? Should we make the doctors father confessors, as it one demands here and there? It can also be infinitely recovering for the soul if it is able to draw the veil of secret about some things. A Persian saying says, one saves the time that one uses for silent reflection, before one says something, in relation to the time of remorse about that which one has said thoughtlessly! Goethe pronounced the word of the “obvious secret” not without reason. In everything sensuous that surrounds us, we can realise something mysterious, something that lies so deeply in the things and that one cannot pronounce; however, it still flows from soul to soul. Health spreads out if the human being can feel the secret of life that way.

Spiritual science maintains this secret of life. Indeed, it does not make it easy for the human beings to approach the things. It is not so comfortable to approach them. Spiritual science can only stimulate, only say, this and that exists. Then the human being has to approach and co-operate. It may be uncomfortable, but it is infinitely healthy. The innermost member of the human being is thereby stimulated; spiritual science works immediately on the ego. If we hear anything about the evolution of the planets, if to us is told about the invisible members of the human nature, what goes from life to life with the human being — with all that one appeals immediately to the ego. All these world-enclosing ideas do not remain dry ideas and abstractions. They emit warmth and bliss; warmth and bliss irradiate and penetrate the astral body of the human being. Contentment and bliss originate from that which spiritual science offers. What sets the human being aglow as warmth, as fire keeps moving to his life body. The forces of spiritual science itself penetrate all forces of the etheric body, and the etheric body transfers the forces again to the physical body, it transfers it as a skill, in such a way that, for example, the hand becomes dexterous and practical if the great, elated ideas of spiritual science flow into the physical body.

Spiritual science makes the brain a flexible, pliable tool, so that it can get away from prejudices. Spiritual science works strongly down until the physical body of the human being. Up to the practical movements, he can be immersed in spiritual science. I want to give you an example of that. It helps, indeed, if one makes gymnastics possible to the child. This is an exceptionally healthy exercise if one makes it properly. Already in the talk on education, I have drawn your attention to the fact that it is important to remain aware that the human being is not only a physical apparatus, but is spiritualised by higher members. One should be able to project oneself completely into doing gymnastics to share any emotion of the etheric and the astral bodies. I knew a gym teacher, who was a big theorist. He knew the human physical body to a hair's breadth. He also had to give theoretical physical education. It does not matter that one knows the physical exactly, but that he experiences an increase of the inner ease with any exercise. One should experience purposefully what should be the single exercise. Who has a living feeling, not only an abstract idea of the physical body knows that one can have a living feeling for everything that the child experiences, for example, while climbing up a ladder.

A sort of gymnastics is imaginable that works so harmoniously on the cooperation of the etheric and the physical bodies that the best basis is laid of a good memory in old age. In addition, that which takes action visibly is properly understood only if it is understood from spiritual science. We would have the best means against the dwindling memory in old age in gymnastics if one wanted to do physical education from spiritual science.

Spiritual science is no theory, nothing dogmatic, but bestows something living to life. Once one will realise that only by spiritual science the human being can become a true practitioner of life. Someone only is a practical person who can use this life who is not its slave. The human being should always control his outer nature with his invisible members. The human being becomes a practitioner only down to the last detail of his life if he is the guide of the bodily. That human being is a practical person who can understand out of a true understanding of his members what Fichte said, but what is often misunderstood. This will be the ideal of the human being if he controls the visible from his invisible again: “The human being can what he has to do; and if he says: I cannot, he does not want it.”