Dornach, 24th April, 1924
After the fourth lecture of the Easter
Course for physicians and
medical students, Dornach, April 21–25, 1924.
(Rudolf Steiner said the following in
response to a question about
the grasping of the fluid man by imaginative perception.)
Now, of course, you will only be able to manage here if you proceed from a comprehensive view, and not from details. One would have to investigate such questions by proceeding from more comprehensive things and especially by meditating on some of the things which I already said. If we take the connections in nature in a comprehensive way — I will only speak of things which will gradually lead to imaginative thinking — we have the drop form. One generally thinks that a drop is held together from within, but it is also possible to think that it is formed from outside or from all sides. Then one has the circumference of the universe in the surface of a drop.
Of course, in these things one should realize that the imaginative idea must be true, and that the present-day ideas which one brings with one from one's general education diverge as far as is possible from the truth.
People have this idea today that there is an infinite space which has stars scattered in it. Now, to proceed from such an idea means that one is imagining things and is brutally ignoring everything but what one has made up in thought. Just take a report which was in the paper a little while ago, and which should be taken more seriously than one thinks; they were trying to show that the cosmos is not empty after a certain distance from the earth, but that it is solid and filled with crystallized nitrogen. Things are so confused today that such a view is possible. Of course, it is untrue, but in any case, these things show one how superficial the assumptions which have been derived from observation till now are. For today someone can just decide to imagine that we live here in an empty space with a slightly condensed earth at the center with solidified nitrogen all around, and that this simulates the starry heavens for us. Of course it is nonsense but it is true that if one reads the literature today one can pick up all kinds of ideas about the way the cosmos is constituted. This report on crystallized nitrogen might just as well have been an April fool's joke, and yet many people probably believe it. One is hardly anymore foolish if one believes this report than if one believes what is generally assumed today. The thinking which is accepted today is brutally materialistic for in reality the universe acts like a hollow sphere and as if forces from the periphery were going into it everywhere. One is really dealing with formations which can only be modified and differentiated in accordance with the stars, so that it is true that we have a copy of the configuration of the stars which we see outside in us. Thus we arrive at an imagination through the idea which our head shows us.
Speaking about heads, take a look at the way a bird is constructed. One is looking at a bird's structure or skeleton in the wrong way if one simply compares it with a whole mammal or human being. You can really only compare a bird's structure with a human head, and one has to imagine that one has a modified bird formation in the human head, and that the bird has the rest of its body attached in various ways as short appendages. Birds' legs are always stunted.
Now imagine that our drop is drawn out into a cylinder. If you expand the drop into a cylinder and you imagine that the part of the head which is differentiated by the cosmos remains, except that it becomes modified in many ways, because you draw the drop out into a cylinder, you then get the human torso. In order to imagine man's torso, one has to think that the skullcap is rudimentary. The third stage is to indent the cylinder here, and then you get the limb man. What I drew here is what you would initially get at the arms. You have to imagine that you expand this to get the arms, and that the second expansion is made through the creation of a second copy from within which comes from the moon. But let us omit the arms to make it easier. So you pass over from a sphere to an expansion and then to indentations. If you get used to making images through expansion and indentations in this way you are beginning to get what you need in order to really accustom your soul to work in the imaginative sphere. For basically all organized life consists of expansion and infolding and just think how wonderful that really is.
So let us say
that I imagine a sphere, and then an elongated sphere; this
is an expansion in an upwards direction which is brought
about by the periphery. If you think that the earth and its
forces here are a counterimage of the periphery then you have
the earth under the human being as that which indents him.
The cosmos expands up above and the earth indents down below.
Thus an image is brought from the cosmos and man is indented
by the earth. You can now ask what would happen if the earth
were not beneath you and the starry heavens weren't over you,
and you can answer this in an imaginative way And so if you
want to form imaginations you should get used to looking at
the universe as a whole when you pass over from solids to
fluids, and you should not just try to sort of re-educate
yourselves. You should gradually think: solid, sharp
contours, whereas the fluidic element is always battling
solids and is trying to insert them into the flow and the
stream of the entire universe. And you will then get to the
point of seeing this expansion and indentation everywhere,
and you will thereupon look for counterimages.
Embryologists proceed in such a way that one never really knows why things develop the way that they do. One proceeds from an egg cell and passes over into a clump of cells, and one sees how the thing suddenly folds in and becomes a gastrula. One should realize that what is really happening here is that the cosmos has the possibility of working upon the surface and that the earth can work upon the infolding process.
Take an epidermis cell near the surface. They exist everywhere. Such a cell is here near the surface. The terrestrial principle which brings about the infolding continues to work in the human being. And so these terrestrial principles continue to work everywhere. Thereby there is always a tendency to direct fluidic things in people, so that things always move along in this way and so that an indentation is pushed along; indentation — push from behind, indentation — push from behind, this goes in various directions. Now imagine that this occurs as if some kind of fluid would move forward and become rigid. Look at an organ from this point of view. You can see rigidified, solidified and infolded things everywhere in it, and on the other hand, you can see its outward bulges. Thereby you arrive at the organ's form and at a view of how forces work from various sides, and you see that all these organs are part of a unity. However, you should realize that you must proceed from a quite particular point, namely, from the plastic element. Now, you have already pointed out that one should grasp forms through modeling. But actually try to get a feeling for what happens by taking some soft, plastic material or clay with one hand and pushing it forward with the other hand. Try to observe what is happening at the same time. You get the feeling that the idea of empty space is pure nonsense. Space has different kinds of forces in it everywhere and in this way you gradually learn to understand plastic things.
Now, of course, if you want to understand man in a plastic way you must be able to go to extremes. Thus I can think of a sphere here. I imagine that the sphere becomes expanded on one side and infolded on the other. But now imagine that you go further and that you push it in so far here that you go beyond the expansion; then you get two formations. But now imagine that the formations do not just become acted upon from one side. Imagine that you make an expansion, infolding, expansion, infolding, and then another infolding from below and an expansion on the top, and if you do this three times you get a model of the forms of the two lungs. Thus you can gradually see how the whole human being is connected with such forces within, and then you can go on to the following.
This is a very important idea, and its pathological, therapeutic significance will become completely clear when the book which Dr. Wegman and I are publishing appears (Fundamentals of Therapy). There one will be able to see the connection which exists between a fully developed organ and its function. Let us take the organ's function. This is something which is kept in connection with fluids and which is fluctuating continuously—the same thing which closed the organ off produces the activity. So that you can ask: What is the movement of juices in the stomach? It is something fluid which is basically the same thing as the stomach which has become solid. If you imagine that the movement of juices has become rigidified, you have the stomach. If this were not the case, no organ could be healed. You can only work upon a fluctuating organ and not upon a solid organ.
in the same way that the human kidney does. If I give the
silica which is in equisetum to a patient I build up the
phantom of a kidney in his renal region. The phantom then
replaces the astral activity at this place. This presses out
old kidney substances and permits some new kidney substances
to form from what is in flux, just as it forms there in any
case after seven to eight years. However, one accelerates the
process by producing this phantom. One should realize that an
organ and the activity which forms it are always present
together, and that this activity always rigidifies into the
organ. This is where you encounter the fluidic human
But then you run into something else. You have to be able to press on to the idea that if I look at the solid human being I arrive at the pictures which one sees in anatomical books. But what we see there is only ten percent of the human being. As long as I look at these firm contours in the solid man a liver is a liver, a lung is a lung and a stomach is a stomach. But if I pass over to the fluidic man I will find that this stream of juices is particularly concentrated in the liver, let us say, and that it is constructing a liver out of fluids. However, every organ always wants to become the whole human being. This tendency is present in every organ in the fluid man. So that one should realize that if one cuts a liver out it remains a liver. But if I would take out the fluids with which the liver is created they would have the tendency to become a whole human being. You have to put this into an imagination: on the one side the tendency to take on contours, and on the other side the tendency to permeate everything.
If one is serious about these things they are really as follows. The meditation formulas are the beginning, and through them you will eventually be able to tell yourselves what I am telling you here. The beginning lies everywhere in the formulas, and they are the way to get into imagination oneself. Anyone who begins to meditate has an enormous inner desire in the beginning, but after a certain point when things begin to get serious something in him revolts, because the thing gets enormously complicated.
If one does not approach meditation in an extraordinarily serious way what happens to one is like what happens to someone who looks for Lucifer but sees a picture of Ahriman instead. Then the meditation works in such a way that one gets the opposite of what one is striving for. Or someone looks for Ahriman and sees a picture of Lucifer. That is the trouble. One usually becomes impatient and doesn't stick with it. It is not a question of time but of an intense application of patience, and then five minutes on a meditation can sometimes be a very long time. But it doesn't make any difference whether one loses one's patience in five months or in five minutes. You must have patience and then you will see that you can begin to understand things, and that you can pass over from the solid man to the fluid man.
If you then go on to the aeriform man you will need a musical principle. Here you have to understand the breathing process, and if you really meditate you will become attentive to your breath. The astral, aeriform man appears. You will begin to realize that most people go through life without any real self-knowledge. One learns to feel with one's breath. One of the things which happens first if one is in the habit of thinking in a mathematical or qualitative way is that one may suddenly ask oneself: Are you three halves? One feels as if one were three halves. Why is that? It is because one's breathing is beginning to make one feel that one has a threefold lung on one side and a twofold lung on the other. In this way one can ascend to the astral, aeriform element, by experiencing the proportions of one's inner structures through air.
A way to study the ego organization is to listen exactly to one's own speech. You can also get at the ego organization in a meditative way which ascends to a real understanding, if you take the skeleton of a dog or other mammal and concentrate very hard on its rear and front parts. One part is a modification of the other part. Then you have to pass over to cosmic aspects and think that the rear form was created by moon forces and the front one by sun forces and you should imagine how the sun looks at the moon, and then you have the animal's hindquarters on the moon side and its forequarters on the sun side. Then imagine that a modification of the sun and moon occurs so that man can stand upright and you will get a transformation. Thereby, the whole thing gets shifted up one level, and you can begin to grasp the ego organization. But you have to proceed in the following way: the spatial element must disappear into the plastic element, the plastic element into the musical element and the musical element into what has meaning.
If you proceed in this way, you are moving towards comprehensive things, and this is really the healthier way, because you can get completely confused the other way. You really have to start with these principles and not with the details.