The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
GA 162

6. Tree of Knowledge II

8 August 1915, Dornach

My dear friends,

Let us remember that the human being was built up in a long, complicated evolution through the Saturn, Sun, Moon stages and the Earth as far as its development has progressed. We have stressed that the first rudiments of the sense-organs were present in the time of ancient Saturn, and that of course they were not then adapted for making perceptions as the human being makes perceptions today. During the Saturn condition they were still lifeless germinal organisms, which then underwent changes and only through the various processes which have acted on man from the cosmos have become capable of perceptions. 1This important lecture was unfortunately only available in a much abbreviated transcript.

The first thing, however, which is revealed with particular clearness, when we regard the whole course of human evolution, is that these sense-organs as such have to do with what we can call physical operations. On Old Saturn the first germ of the sense-organs arose as a purely physical rudiment, for the development of the human sense-organs advances by the incorporation of the physical into whatever else is forming in man, so that the sense-organs are today essentially physical organs. You will easily be able to recognize the eyes, the ears, etc., as physical organs. To be sure, the lower sense are more of a chemical nature, but nevertheless that all has to do with the physical-chemical.

We must grasp the matter thus — the human being thrusts forward into the world as the most external of evolved members; what we can call his physical quality (Physikalisches). This physical nature of the sense-organs can be seen in the fact that during sleep the ears are naturally influenced just as they are during waking life; only the ego and astral body are not concerned with them. If we had our eyes open during sleep, it is obvious that just the same would happen as during waking. We can summarise it by saying: man thrusts out into the world his external faculties of perception.

The diagram I have sketched here is to be understood as the incorporation of the entire sense apparatus in our organism. And if I now include the etheric body, it naturally interpenetrates to some extent the sense apparatuses, else they would not be life apparatuses; but outside the sphere of the etheric something remains which is entirely physical. So the relationship must be drawn in this way, with something left outside the ether-body.

In a similar way I must then draw the relation of the astral body in its activity to the other organs. I must draw it so.

And if I further wished to insert the ego I must do it schematically in the following way. This ego would open itself naturally to the spaces of the whole cosmos.

Naturally, this is drawn schematically and we must be clear that if we did not sketch it as a diagram, but really made a drawing of the human being, it would look far more complicated.

Now you can conclude from this that the sense is, as it were, a thin zone, a thin outer zone of the physical, of what in fact works as the external world. You can indeed follow this with physical cognition: the eye can be looked on as a camera obscura, where the objects from outside create their images as in a photographic apparatus, and what is created within is then seized upon by the etheric body, astral body and ego. Thus we have a physical reciprocal action with the outer world which takes place in our periphery. And it is on this reciprocal action with the outer world that we first build up our soul process, insofar as the process is perception of the outer world and working-over of the perception in the soul.

What I have now depicted is how things would have stood with man if he had developed purely in the way the divine-spiritual beings had planned. But we know that Luciferic-Ahrimanic beings have asserted themselves. And here we can clearly and plainly on one spot seize the Ahrimanic and Luciferic spirits — regularly lay hold of them, one might say.

I might only draw the etheric body as far as here (see sketch).

This is the etheric body as it has developed from the time of the Sun-existence and through the Moon and Earth-existence. Thus, there remains, as it were, outside this etheric body which has progressed in the normal regular manner, the physical sense-zone. But if this were really to be the case in man (as in the drawing), if he had really only developed in this way, then the human being would always have had to wait for the physical processes to arise in his eye, his ear, etc.; and he would grasp these physical processes with his astral body and ego. He would always have a pictured image: in my eye is a colour, in my ear is a tone; he would not have his sense opened outwards, he would only have perceived what was within him, he would have the feeling: in me is a zone which is entirely interpenetrated with activities of the macrocosm, and I perceive them.

It is interesting that in the first years of childhood the child really has this consciousness, even if it is feeble and dreamlike. It pays no attention to the outer world, but observes the perceptions it has in its own inner being. This gradually comes to an end. Children are primarily interested in their own bodies, do not notice the outer world, but have a dreamy consciousness that they are enclosed as if in a sphere which really brings in the activities of the outer world like pictures. The child really feels its skin as a kind of enclosing sheath and pays attention to what takes place in it as paintings and tones.

We could now ask: why does that not remain so the whole life long? Because the Luciferic influence has entered and because it actually fills out that which has been formed as the normal progress in the etheric body from the time of ancient Sun. This means that Luciferic spirits thrust their influence from outside into the interior (see drawing).

Whereas man's etheric body works so from the inner periphery outwards, Lucifer works so inwards. And it is even true that something like etheric tentacles from Lucifer project into the physical apparatus of the eyes and the same in the case of the ears, etc. Everywhere Lucifer presses his arms into the senses, thrusting them in from outside. And in our senses there is the meeting between our own etheric activity, life activity, and that of Lucifer who thrusts his tentacles into them. So that we can say: the child's innocence only ceases because Lucifer gradually struggles through, he takes possession of the physical part of our senses, opens the eyes, opens the ears, so that we no longer perceive pictures as the effect of what the Gods give us, but our senses are opened outwards and we see the world itself.

It is extraordinarily important to grasp this. For only when science will one day be real spiritual science and what is now being said is understood, only then will the time have come when it will also be realised that Lucifer was somewhat audacious, when, in addition, he projected his activities behind the senses. There where the nerves terminate in the brain the Luciferic activity meets with the divine-spiritual activity which also moves along the nerve strands. If one wishes to draw the course of a nerve from outside one must so draw it that Lucifer thrusts forward and meets with and interlaces himself with the normal divine-spiritual activities. Thus the direction of the Luciferic working radiates from without inwards.

You see from this that it lay in the original divine-spiritual intention to give man up to himself, and inasmuch as he saw himself through himself, he would have worked upon the world inwardly. Lucifer has caused man in this respect to be torn away from himself and to behold the world round about him and be aware of it. This means: Lucifer has given man to the world, he has established him in earthly existence, he has led him out of himself. Deeply, deep significant are the words in the Bible: ‘Ye shall be as gods, your sense shall be opened ...’ for it was not intended to open them, but so to leave them that man in his thinking would look back to the old Moon-existence, and in this thinking would apprehend what the macrocosm brings about at his periphery, what had been given to it by the Gods.

Now the human being is, however, also set into the world as an ethical-moral being; for there is much we could not experience as human beings if we had not this projection into us of Lucifer's activity. We should never be angry, for instance, or frightened, we should never hate, never believe ourselves persecuted, develop no antipathy against anyone — none of this should we be able to do. If Lucifer had not previously worked upon him, man would never have arrived at incorporation in the language any abusive word or a word injuring another. Only through the working of Lucifer is it possible for us to be angry, anxious, develop hatred or injurious feeling toward another, or for us to insult him, etc., etc.

And one must not give oneself up to the slightest illusion in this respect. He who believes when he hates someone, that it is justified — may say so, it may be justified, but all the same Lucifer stands at the side. There is no other cause of anger, hatred or antipathy, than the Luciferic influence.

And now, through this having been possible, something else has become possible. It is only because Lucifer thus projects his tentacles in from outside, for instance, that it has become possible for the normally progressive gods to admit Ahriman from the other side, so that he takes hold from the other side. He penetrates not only speech but thinking, and out of this intermingling arises what has become hypocrisy, intentional or unintentional untruthfulness. We must never flatter ourselves that when we are hypocritical towards someone it is to be traced to anything but the alliance of Lucifer and Ahriman.

People are inclined, however, to skim over such things very lightly. For how often a man says: ‘I do this or that not for my own sake, but in the service of the world.’ I have often related the anecdote of the ‘Society for Selflessness.’ There was an esoteric section in which everyone was to think quite objectively, never in a relation to himself. The consequence was that once a member ... 2The rest was not incorporated in the notes. The contents are briefly given. came to another member and said: ‘I dare not, as you know, speak of myself, for that would be personal and against the rules of our Society. But I may speak about others; for I am quite selfless when I tell you what the others are like and all the bad things they are doing!’ ... and then he let himself go about the others. It is not a question as to whether a matter is personal or impersonal if someone believes he is selfless and then only unburdens his subjective opinions onto other people. Since the members of this Society might not speak of themselves, they always spoke about others, and what the others did to them. They did not become more selfless through this.

I desire by this example to say that it is not the point what one believes. A man can believe that he is employing every means in order to escape Lucifer and Ahriman: he is then only in the position of being somewhat more untruthful through this endeavour than he was before. At least, he did not say before that he wished to do the best, etc.; afterwards he expresses it all the same, inasmuch as he deceives himself as to the true situation in which he is.

We shall be clear about all these things, my dear friends, if we regard the true facts of the case, if we are clear that Lucifer and Ahriman are necessary in our earth-existence. One cannot escape them but can only come to the point of controlling them, of having them in full control.

One must be clear that with regard to the cooperation of Lucifer and Ahriman, precisely when one advances in spiritual science, the most varied complications are possible. A case which frequently occurs is the following. Someone has an antipathy to another person. It can be that the anger against this man, which is in the subconscious, presses up into the upper consciousness, presses outwards, and the consequence of this is that, whereas one has a subconscious ground for the antipathy, the anger alone becomes conscious. The hatred or antipathy presses outwards, presses into the sphere of Lucifer, and there, in Lucifer's sphere, arise the most vivid visions and imaginations of every possible thing this man is doing to one. And now in the subconscious the anger can press out and there then arise all sorts of imagined things that could proceed from the hated person. And the true causes of the antipathy are hidden behind what the man alleges he has undergone.

It is obvious that in face of such facts of the spiritual world, it can be asked: how does one protect oneself from such things? The answer could only be given by referring the questioner to a gradual working himself out of the illusions of life in which he is only too deeply held. The grounds of self-deception are above all present when a man thinks he does not in the least deceive himself but only looks at facts. Only the good will, therefore, to undertake one's self-development from this standpoint, only this helps one to escape from these things. One thing above all, my dear friends, is necessary: to understand how the impulses of spiritual science work when we strive for self-perfecting, but how much we are inclined to attribute far more selflessness to ourselves than we are really entitled to do. By saying this I wish to give you a golden rule.

Above all things we must be quite clear that as we advance in the spiritual scientific self-training, we must in the first place thoroughly work ourselves out of our dependence on the outer world. Lucifer has placed us in the outer world. We do not make progress if we let Ahriman transform for us something that we are really desiring, inasmuch as we say, ‘We will now carry out missions,’ and so on. The next step that we must take is a diverting of the world from us. We thereby confront the danger of being really more egotistic than we were before and this danger is not a slight one. One is, of course, not to let oneself be held back through this from making the way into the spiritual world, but the temptation to egotism is there. And as regards those people who, one must say, unhappily cannot yet see that the spiritual scientific world conception is necessary for our time and who, standing outside, say: these spiritual scientists certainly do not appear very agreeable (liebevoll). ... as regards these people we should not at once be arrogant and pooh-pooh this reproach, but should see its justification, its relative justification.

I do not know, my dear friends, if the man was right who lately asserted that, through his enhancement of egotism in a spiritual scientific movement, it was to be proved as a fact that there are people in spiritual scientific movements who after they have been there a short time quarrel far more than they did before. It may be softly whispered that discrepancies in such societies will most certainly not cease without further ado! But how much it would bring us forward if the following picture could be shown — that outside the contesting that surrounds this circle, Lucifer and his hosts were assuredly lurking — but could not get right in!

When, therefore, a man is in his ordinary waking state, there meet together in the periphery of his sense, the etheric of his own being and the etheric of the Lucifer-being. This is what underlies the words ‘Your eyes shall be opened’ ... Very special reference has always been made by all occult schools to this fundamental truth.

Cognition is, to be sure, on the one hand something that is to bring quite accurately to our consciousness what lies before us, — on the other hand, however, it is to guide us to accept things as they are. As long as we cannot take these things into our thoughts they remain in the sphere of sympathy and antipathy, and there they burrow. They are not somehow not there, if we know nothing of them: they are always there. And in this particular age mankind has reached the point of its evolution where such things must be known.

So we have furnished ourselves with a few items of more exact knowledge regarding our sense-periphery. Yesterday we spoke of how desire enters into sense-perception; now we have the actual reason for it. For Lucifer draws near and does not allow sense impressions to approach us as neutral objective happenings, but mixes his nature into them.

And if we pass inwards from the sense-periphery, my dear friends, we come to thinking, to the conceptual life. (Vorstellungsleben) We know that this conceptual life through Lucifer's influence seems to belong to us, whereas in reality we must perceive what we think in the sphere of the Old Moon which still endures. This gives us the whole meaning of the separation of the Old Moon from the Sun-Earth existence. For the fact that man today can at any time bring thoughts into his soul, is connected with the separation of the Old Moon from the Sun. The thought nature, as we men can grasp it, comes from the fact that something separated itself, as Old Moon, from the progressive Saturn-Sun-Moon existence. But how is it with what happened there, with what separated itself?

We men as physically incarnated beings can only understand this through spiritual science. The question is how these thoughts work upon that which separated, upon what lies outside thought. Our thought is stimulated by our astral body, but it works down into the etheric body. Now, one can observe: if this is a part of our etheric body to which one directs the trained eye of the spirit, one finds that when thoughts are stimulated in the astral body they then stream down as it were into the etheric body. (See diagram — MISSING). You must not imagine this spatially, but as forces: then one sees that these thoughts call forth movements, activities in the etheric body. The thoughts dissolve, as it were, and movement appears in the etheric body. It is as if the thought flows into the etheric substance out of the astral body and produces movement. Let us suppose that someone says, ‘I will now go away’ ... then the clairvoyant would perceive how the thought stream into the etheric body and calls forth movements, inner movements there, at first only such as these (see lower diagram). Thereby the etheric body can work in its turn on the physical body. And this working upon the physical body is now so that ... now just imagine for a moment: here this movement gets more and more active, and hence the etheric substance to some extent withdraws from the surroundings, it draws itself together ... there that will be very active, that is taken out of the surrounding ether.

Thus the thought streams in, calls up movement in the ether-substance, and the etheric substance calls forth hollowness here in its surroundings. For what the etheric substance requires it takes from its surroundings, and hollow spaces ensue. And these hollow spaces ensue when man thinks, or when the higher beings, Angels, Archangels, let their thoughts flow into him ... which indeed occurs continuously.

This means, we stand there, we see the etheric agitated through the thought activity, and in between are hollow spaces: and these hollow spaces are actually, fundamentally, the physical body. It is truly the case that the Real exists everywhere that the physical is not, and the physical, that is really nothing, it is a hollowness in the world.

What the ordinary materialistic physiologist studies by way of our head, my dear friends, is naturally not the thought in the astral body, nor the thought motion in the etheric body, but it is in reality the hollow head. And the reason why one cannot penetrate into this hollow space is because one can only advance as far as the real extends and there one comes up against the hollow space. So one cannot enter the hollow spaces. It is exactly as if you picture a column of Seltzer-water and there are bubbles of air in it: the thinner elements appear to the being who lives in the denser element as frightfully hard. So too we cannot penetrate into the actual hollow spaces, but only because there is nothing there, because it is a hollow. Thus if one would draw the human head occultly, one must not draw it so, but in the negative, and what remains inside as empty, that would be the human being (see diagram p.l2a). This means that where the painter generally lays on the colours and thinks he is painting man, he ought really to leave it empty: then one would be painting spiritually-realistically, for otherwise one paints where there is nothing and leaves free the part where there is something.

But this one already does in quite ordinary human sense perception, for human sense perception follows no other course than this. You see how we must take in hand an alteration in our ideas, if we wish to press forward to realities.