The Effect of Occult Development Upon the Self and the Sheaths of Man
25 March 1913, The Hague
We have now considered the changes in the physical body and etheric body of the student, in so far as they are experienced by him in the course of his endeavour towards development. If we wished to express the fundamental character of these changes we might say that in the course of his development he is more and more conscious inwardly of his physical body and etheric body. With regard to his physical body, we have emphasised that he feels the several organs becoming more and more independent the more he progresses — they become to a certain extent more independent of each other. We might say that the physical body as such feels as though it had more life within; and as to the etheric body, we emphasised that not only does it feel more alive, but grows altogether more sensitive, and permeated by a sort of consciousness; for it begins to sympathise with the course of outer events in a delicate manner. We pointed out that in his esoteric development the student grows more sensitive to the course of spring, summer, autumn and winter; this becomes very pronounced, so that the successive facts of time are more distinct from one another than is the case in the ordinary course of life; they become separate and differentiate themselves. Thus we may say that the student begins to experience sympathetically the processes in the external ether. This is the first beginning of his really becoming free from his corporeality. He becomes more and more independent of his own corporeality as he really begins to experience what goes on around him. He will experience spring, summer, autumn and winter within himself, as it were; but through this living in the outer he ceases to live in his own corporeality.
Now, in the last lecture we laid stress on the close association of all this with a gradual sensitiveness to one's own corporeality. As we become more independent of it, we gradually perceive it to be a sort of calamity; we notice that all that relates merely to our own corporeality becomes a sort of reproach. A very great deal is attained towards a higher development when we begin, in conceptions and feelings such as were described in the last lecture, to be no longer quite at one with our own human personality; and when we experience this to a greater and greater extent, a very great deal has been gained towards the higher spiritual experience.
In this lecture I will endeavour, by making a leap as it were, to strengthen the further progress of our observations — which we so far have followed more from within — by first trying to describe the standpoint of the human being, when with his astral body and his ego he has already become independent of his physical body and etheric body. We will speak of the intermediate conditions in the following lectures, but in order to make this, to a certain extent, easier to understand, I will put forward the hypothesis that ‘while in the middle of sleep’ we experience the moment when we become clairvoyant outside our body, and can look back at our physical and etheric bodies.
So far we have only taken a few steps towards this condition, we have reached the point of coming forth from ourselves to a certain extent, and have thus learned to experience such matters as the seasons of the year and the times of the day; we will now consider the conditions which would come about if, on the one hand, we had the physical body and etheric body, and on the other, we had lifted out the ego and astral body as occurs in sleep; and we will suppose that we could look back at the physical body and etheric body we had left behind. What we look back at then would appear to us in a very different light from that of conscious, ordinary life. For ordinary life, by means of our everyday observation, or by means of external physical science, we look at our material body, and see in it, with a certain justice in a physical sense, the crown of the earthly creation. We so divide this earthly creation that we speak of a mineral kingdom, a vegetable kingdom, an animal kingdom, and the human kingdom; and we see all the sundry qualities which have been spread over the various groups of animals, united, as it were, in this physical crown of creation, the human body. We shall see that external physical observation is, in a way, justified in this view, and the present lecture should not give rise to the thought that what may be seen in looking back at the physical and etheric body, if we suddenly became clairvoyant during sleep, can enable us to come to any final conclusion as to the physical body. It is only a moment of clairvoyant looking back, as it were, firmly retained. Such a moment may give rise to the following: We look back and first of all we see, so to say, our etheric body, which appears something like an articulated cloudy structure, a misty form showing various currents which we will describe more clearly later — a marvellously constructed form, which is in continual motion, never at rest or still in any part; and then we look at what is embedded in this etheric body, that is, our physical body. Now, remember we have been told that our own thinking must be laid aside. So we do not form our own thoughts about what we see there. First and foremost it is a fundamental requirement for this clairvoyant vision that we should let ourselves be entirely inspired, as it were, by the cosmic thoughts which flow into us. So we contemplate what we see there; but this works above all upon our feeling; it affects our feeling and will. As regards our thought, when we have really attained the detachment referred to, we seem to have lost our own thinking. Thus, with the feeling which we still retain, we look back upon what is there embedded in the misty structure, in the ever-moving misty structure of our etheric body, that is: our physical instrument. We first have a general impression. This general impression is such that what we thus see imbues us with infinite sadness, with terrible sadness. And it must be said, my dear friends, that this feeling of the soul, this dreadful sadness, does not depend at all upon the nature of the particular human being experiencing it, for it is quite universal. There is no man when he looks back in the manner described at his physical body, as it lies embedded in his etheric body, who would not be filled through and through with an immeasurable sadness.
All that I am now describing is expressed primarily in the feelings, not in thought. Immeasurable sadness, a feeling of great melancholy, overcomes when we look up to the cosmic thoughts which flow into us. These thoughts, which are not our own, but creative thoughts, weaving and working through the world, throwing light on this structure of our physical body, by the way in which they illuminate it, tell us what it really is that we see there. They convey to us that all we see is the last decadent product of an absolute splendour long passed by. Through what these thoughts say to us we receive the impression that what we see there as our physical body is something which was once mighty and glorious, now dried and shrivelled; a former glory once widely displayed, appears to us as a tiny shrivelled structure. That which is embedded in our etheric body appears as a last remembrance of long-past glory hardened into the physical. We look at the various physical organs which now belong to our digestive system, to the circulation of our blood and our breathing apparatus; we look at them from outside, seeing them spiritually — and behold, they so appear to us that we say: All we have before us in the physical body is the shrivelled, dried-up product of once-existing living beings, living beings with a glorious environment, now shrivelled, and withered. And the life possessed by the lungs, the heart, the liver and other organs to-day is only the last decadent life of a primevally powerful inner life. In this clairvoyant vision the organs gradually assume the form they once possessed. Just as a thought which we can only distantly remember in quite a hazy manner, grows into what it once was, if we take the trouble to draw it forth from memory, so does that which we bear within us, as the lungs, for example, and it appears as the lost remembrance of a primeval splendour and glory. We feel that it goes back again like a present thought to a distant memory, which then develops into what it formerly was. In our vision the lungs develop into the imaginative picture of that which was once known to the occultist as a recognised symbol, which he still knows to-day, as a symbol of the human form — into the imaginative picture of the Eagle. And we have the feeling that these lungs were at one time a being, not to be compared with the Eagle of the present-day animal world; for this, too, represents, though from another side, the decadent products of a formerly mighty being, which occultism designates as the Eagle. The occultist comes, as though in cosmic remembrance, to the Eagle which was at one time there. If we look back upon the heart, we feel in a similar manner that this, too, appears as a dried-up and shrivelled product, something reminding us of a long-past glory; and we feel as though that led back into primeval times, a far-distant past, to a being which the occultist designates the Lion. Then the organs of the lower part of the body appear as a memory of what in occultism is called the Bull, an ancient primeval being once alive in glorious surroundings, now dried up and shrivelled in the course of evolution, and appearing to-day as the organs of the lower part of the body.
Thus might I sketch what once existed, and what we still see when we observe these bodily organs, clairvoyantly, from outside. They are only roughly sketched; the Bull below, the Lion in the middle, and the Eagle above. Thus do we look upon something which once lived as three glorious, living beings in a primeval past. I will now draw these somewhat smaller, and only sketch them in diagram. (Diagram 2.)
Round these principal organs we can also see the others as they formerly were in a primeval past; and what appears in this way to clairvoyant vision may be compared to almost all the forms in the earthly animal kingdom.
If we once more turn our gaze back to the physical body embedded in the etheric body, looking at what anatomy calls the nervous-system, this also appears as a shrivelled, dried-up product. The nervous system, which at the present time is embedded in the physical body, appears to the retrospective clairvoyant vision as a number of wonderful plant-like beings, embedded in the etheric body, beings intertwined in various ways in and through the other beings known by animal names, so that we see plant-like entities passing through them in every direction. The whole of the nervous system resolves itself into a number of primeval plant-like entities, so that we actually see something like a mighty, outspreading plant, within which dwell the animal beings of which we have just spoken.
As already said, I am relating what is seen by the clairvoyant vision, which has been described as being exercised in a condition similar to sleep; that is, when we look from outside at the physical body embedded in the etheric body. When the student sees all this before him, he then says (that is, he is able to say this because, to a certain extent, the cosmic thoughts give this information, and interpret what he has before him), he says to himself: ‘All that I, as a human being, have within me is the withered and shrivelled remnant of what now appears before me clairvoyantly as though in cosmic remembrance.’ Now, it is important that the pupil should exercise continual self-control, and continual self-knowledge, while developing to this point. Self-knowledge enables him at this point to become aware of and to feel the following: ‘I am outside my physical body. That which appeared to me as my physical body embedded in the etheric body has transformed itself in my vision into what has just been described. What I behold does not now exist; it had to exist in a primeval past in order that my physical body which is there below might be able to come into being. In order that this shrivelled product might be formed, what I now see before me with clairvoyant vision had to exist at one time.’ The physical body makes this sad impression because we recognise in it the last withered product of the former glory, now appearing to the clairvoyant vision. I pray you, do not misunderstand what I am about to say; I am describing facts, and you will soon see how these facts, unravelled, constantly honour the wise guides of the world; we have only to learn the facts, and in the following lectures I will make clear what is in question. If introspection has been carried to this degree of development, the student then becomes aware that in the astral body in which he now is, outside the physical body and etheric body, he cannot do otherwise than recognise himself as an absolute egotist, as a being who knows nothing but himself, and he learns to recognise that there is reason enough to be sad. For the impulse now arises to know why this has come about, why all this has shrivelled up. And, now the question comes: who is to blame for this shrivelling together? Who has made the form which I see clairvoyantly before me, this wonderful plant-being with the animal-like, perfect structure within it — who has made this into the present shrivelled product, the physical body? There now sounds forth from oneself as an inner inspiration: ‘You yourself have brought it to this, you yourself! And the fact that you have become what you now are, you owe to the circumstance that you have possessed the power to impregnate all this glory with your own being. Your being has trickled like poison into this ancient glory, and it has reduced this ancient glory to what it now is!’ Thus it is we ourselves who brought this about, and the possibility of being a self such as we are, we owe to the circumstance that we ourselves sowed the seed of death in all this glory, and so impregnated it that it shrivelled up. Just as you may have a mighty tree growing in its glory and nourishing the various animals living upon it, and you pierce it so that from a certain spot it dries up, withers and shrivels to insignificance and with it die all the beings nourished by it, so the shrivelling of the human physical body is clairvoyantly unfolded before you. This is the awful impression produced by this moment of clairvoyant vision.
More and more the student is impelled in his astral body to understand how this came about. At this moment there actually appears to him among the archetypal animal beings, which he here perceives ... Lucifer at the back of the garden, as it were, twisting in and out. I have drawn it in diagram — Lucifer in a wondrously beautiful form, actually — Lucifer! Here, for the first time, through clairvoyant observation, he makes the acquaintance of Lucifer, and now he knows that this is what happened to the forces, now shrivelled in the physical human body, at the time when Lucifer appeared within this whole being which is now presented to him clairvoyantly.
And the student now knows that he was present in that far-distant past when all this, that appears to his clairvoyant vision, was a reality; he knows that he then vividly felt himself to belong to all this; he was within it, this was his kingdom, and within this kingdom Lucifer drew him to himself. Man united himself with Lucifer, with the result that the beings of the higher Hierarchies pressed from the back in currents of force which might be sketched in these lines, and pressed out the human being who united himself with Lucifer in these parts towards the front, as is visible to clairvoyant observation. In this part openings were formed; and, in the shrinking up, these openings have developed into our present sense organs. Through these openings the human being who previously lived in this part was pressed out, because he united himself with Lucifer. And because he was pushed out, he now lives in the world outside this structure, and this structure shrank together and is now his physical body.
Now imagine — in order to have a diagrammatical idea — the physical body of to-day growing larger and larger, all the organs becoming larger, all the organs of digestion, circulation and breathing developing as though into mighty, animal-like, living beings in growing larger, and the nervous system becoming plant-like beings, and the human being ruling in this mighty structure. On the one hand now appears Lucifer, and because the human being is attracted by Lucifer, beings belonging to the higher Hierarchies press from the back and press the human being out. By reason of the pushing out of the human being, the whole structure gradually shrinks into the small compass of the human body of to-day, and the human being, with his consciousness, with his whole day consciousness, is outside his body. The result is that man no longer knows, as he did before, what is within his body, only that which is outside. He has been chased out through the openings which are now the senses; to-day he is in the sense-world, and that in which he lived in the primeval past has shrivelled up and forms his inward parts.
I have now given you an idea of how, through clairvoyant observation, the student arrives at what is called Paradise. In fact, this was the conception of Paradise to which the students in the mystery-schools were led. ‘Where was Paradise?’ people ask. Paradise formed part of a world which is no longer present in the sense-world to-day. Paradise has shrunk together, yet multiplied; for Paradise has left behind the physical inward parts of the human body as its last relics; the human being himself has, however, been driven out of it, he no longer lives in these inward parts. He can only learn to know them by means of clairvoyance, as we have seen. A man knows of the objects outside him, he knows of what is before his eyes and about his ears. Previously he knew of what was within; but this within was grandiose, it was Paradise. Try now to form an idea of how man, through having become a being who spreads his consciousness over the external sense-world, actually compressed the world in which he dwelt before he entered the sense-world, into the withered or shrivelled-up product of the interior parts of his body.
Then the beings who first drove man out and then continued to work, made use of Ahriman and other spirits, whose activity they turned into good, forming the limbs, hands, feet, and countenance; these they formed, and thus made it possible for man to use this shrivelled-up Paradise by means of his hands and feet and that which passes through his sense organs into the inner parts of his body.
Thus before our spiritual vision we have seen, enlarged to gigantic proportions, the physical human body, which in its present condition represents the shrivelled-up product of the former Paradise. When we consider this, we may obtain some slight idea of how clairvoyance really progresses. We have seen how the student at first becomes more and more sensitive with respect to his physical body and etheric body. And now, by making a sort of leap forward over an abyss, we have seen what sort of impressions come when from outside the pupil looks back at his physical body embedded in the etheric body. I have said that the etheric body is itself in continual motion; when we look back into it from outside we see nothing really stationary in it, nothing is at rest, everything is in continual motion. Something is continually taking place; and the more we learn through spiritual training to observe what happens, the more does the tableau of these events enlarge, as it were, and everything becomes full of meaning. Just as, in a certain way, the physical body becomes the true Garden of Paradise, so also what goes on in the etheric body becomes significant processes.
We might now make the attempt to describe in a general way what facts and processes are to be observed when we look at the etheric body, and turn our attention away from the physical body. Now, we could really only see the physical body clairvoyantly in the way I have described, if we were suddenly awakened clairvoyantly from the very deepest sleep. Then would the physical body expand into the structure described. But the etheric body can, in a certain sense, be more easily seen; it may indeed be seen if we try in a certain way to seize the moment of going to sleep, so that we do not pass over at once into unconsciousness, but remain conscious for a time after having, with the astral body and the ego, left the physical body and etheric body. We then look principally at the etheric body, and see the moving realities in the etheric body in the form of very vivid dreams. We then see ourselves divided, as by a deep abyss, from what goes on in the etheric body; but we now see everything not as happening in space, but as events in time. When we are outside our etheric body we have to perceive these experiences of movement in the etheric body, as though we had slipped back into it again with our consciousness.
Thus we must feel as though we were separated from our etheric body by an abyss filled, as it were, with ether, with universal cosmic ether; as if we stood on the further shore of the etheric body, and there various processes took place. And as, in this case, all these processes take place in time, we feel like a wanderer returning to our own etheric body. In reality, we are going further and further from it, but in our clairvoyant consciousness we approach it. And in approaching this etheric body of ours we feel ourselves approaching something which thrusts us back. We come, as it were, to a spiritual rock. Then it is as if we were allowed to pass into something. At first we are outside, and then it is as though we were let into something, it seems as though we had first been outside and now were inside, but not in the manner in which we had been within it during the day. Everything depends upon being outside with the astral body and ego, and only looking in; that is to say, we are only inside the etheric body with our consciousness. And now we can see what is going on within it.
In a certain way, everything changes just as the physical body is transferred into Paradise; but that which goes on within the etheric body is in a still more interior connection with the everyday processes in man. Let us consider what sleep really signifies, what this ‘being outside the physical body and etheric body’ means. For we have assumed that the clairvoyant power is exercised at this moment through the person's suddenly becoming clairvoyant during sleep, or remaining consciously clairvoyant on falling asleep. Let us consider what sleep is! That which permeates the physical and etheric body with consciousness is now outside; within the body only vegetative processes take place — everything is done to restore the forces used up during the day. And we perceive all this, we perceive how the forces of the physical, particularly those of the brain, are renewed; but we do not see the brain as the anatomist does — we see how the man of the physical world, of whom we make use for our consciousness during our waking condition, we see how this man, who has indeed been forsaken by us, but who clearly shows that he is our instrument, lies enchanted in a castle, as it were. Symbolised by the brain lying within the skull, our human nature on the earth appears as a being under enchantment living in a castle. We see this humanity of ours as a being imprisoned and enclosed by stone walls. The symbol of this, the shrunken symbol, as it were, is our skull. We see it externally as a little skull. But when we look at the etheric forces which lie at its foundation, the earthly man actually appears to us as if he were within the skull, and imprisoned in this castle. And then from the other parts of the organism there stream up the forces which support this human being who is really within the skull as if in a mighty castle; the forces stream upwards; first the force which comes from that in the organism which is the outspread instrument of the human astral body; there streams up all that makes the human being ardent and mighty through his nerve fibres. All this streams together in the earthly brain-man; this appears as a mighty sword which the human being has forged on the earth.
Then stream up the forces of the blood. These, as we gradually learn to feel and recognise, appear as that which really wounds the brain-man lying in the enchanted castle of the skull. The forces which in the etheric body stream up to the earthly human being lying in the enchanted castle of the brain are like the bloody lance. And then we arrive at a unique perception. This is, that we are able to observe all that may stream up to the noblest parts of the brain. Before this we have not the slightest idea of it.
Thus you see that from a different standpoint I have come back again to what I have already touched upon in these lectures. No matter how much animal food a human being may eat, it is all useless for a certain part of his brain, it is merely ballast. Other organs may be nourished thereby, but in the brain there is something from which the etheric body at once thrusts back all that comes from the animal kingdom. Indeed, the etheric body even thrusts back from one part of the brain, from one small, vital part of the brain, all that comes from the plant kingdom, and allows only the mineral extract to be of value; there this mineral extract is brought into contact with the purest of what comes through the sense organs. The purest of light, the purest sound, the purest heat, here come in touch with the purest products of the mineral kingdom; for the most vital part of the human brain is nourished by the union of the purest sense impressions with the purest mineral products. The etheric body separates from this noblest part of the human brain all that comes from the plant or animal kingdoms. But all the things that the human being takes in as his food pass up also; for the brain also has less noble parts. These are nourished by all that streams up, by which the whole organism is nourished. Only the noblest part of the brain must be nourished by the most beautiful union of the sense perceptions and the highest part of the purified mineral extract. We now learn to recognise a wonderful cosmic connection between man and the whole of the rest of the cosmos. We can now see, as it were, a part of man wherein we perceive how human thought, by means of the instrument of the nervous system which serves the astral body, prepares the sword for human strength on earth; therein we become acquainted with all that is mingled with the blood, and to a certain extent contributes to the killing of the most precious thing in the brain. And this noblest thing in the brain is ever sustained by the union of the most delicate sense perceptions with the purest products of the mineral kingdom. And then, during sleep, when thought is not making use of the brain, there stream to the brain the products which have been formed lower down in the inner parts from the plant and animal kingdoms.
Thus, when we penetrate into our own etheric body, it is as though we had reached an abyss, and across it we could see what goes on in the etheric body; and all this appears in mighty pictures representing the processes of the spiritual man during sleep. The ego and astral body — the spiritual man — descends into the castle, which is formed of that which is only seen symbolically in the skull. Here the human being lies sleeping, wounded by the blood, the man of whom we see that thoughts are his strength — that which must be capable of nourishment by all that comes from the kingdom of nature, that which in its purest parts must be served by the finest, this we have described. All this symbolically represented resulted in the Legend of the Holy Grail. And the Legend of the Holy Grail tells us of that miraculous food which is prepared from the finest activities of the sense impressions and the finest activities of the mineral extracts, whose purpose it is to nourish the noblest part of man all through the life he spends on earth; for it would be killed by anything else. This heavenly food is what is contained in the Holy Grail. And that which otherwise takes place, that which presses up from the other kingdoms, we find clearly represented if we go back to the original Grail legend, where a meal is described at which a hind is first set on the table. The penetrating up into the brain where for ever floats the Grail, that is, the vessel for the purest food of the human hero who lies in the castle of the brain, and who is killed by everything else — all this is represented. The best presentation of this is not that by Wolfram, but it is best represented in an external exoteric way (because almost everyone can recognise, when his attention has been drawn to it, that this legend of the Grail is an occult experience which every human being can experience anew every night), it is best represented, in spite of the profanation which has even crept in there, by Chrestien de Troyes. He put what he wished to say in an exoteric form, but this exoteric form hinted at what he wished to convey, for he refers to his teacher and friend who lived in Alsace, who gave him the esoteric knowledge which he put into exoteric form. This took place in an age when it was necessary to do this, on account of the transition indicated in my book, ‘The Spiritual Guidance of Humanity.’ The Grail legend was made exoteric in 1180, shortly before the transition.
In the outer world these things still appear fantastic ideas, because the only reality recognised by the man of the present day is that which is outside him. Man recognises himself as the crown of creation in a much higher sense, when he sees his physical body in its original, sublime grandeur; and when he sees his etheric body working inwardly upon his physical body to reawaken into life that which has been injured and killed by the sting which I have spoken of as coming from the blood. The etheric body works upon that in order at once, so far as is possible to reawaken it to life; it maintains it throughout its period of human life, although, when born, it is already doomed to death. This the etheric body does by casting out of a small portion of the human organisation all that comes from the animal and vegetable kingdoms, keeping only the purest mineral extract, and bringing that in contact with the purest impressions from the external world of the senses. If this is really felt deeply enough, it enables us to see this noblest part in the human organism as the multiplied Holy Grail. I wished to-day to show by these two indications how typical imaginations appear, and how, to the true clairvoyance, the vision of the physical body gradually passes over into imaginations. And these two, the Paradise-Imagination and the Grail-Imagination, belong to the most sublime imaginations it is possible to experience — at least in this Earth-period.