Cosmic and Human Metamorphoses
V. The Human soul and the Universe II
6 March 1917, Berlin
I have told you of the three meetings which the soul must go through in its life between birth and death, and which even while still in that life, bring it into touch with the Spiritual worlds. Today let us return to this subject, which on the last occasion was touched on in a preparatory way, as an episode, so to speak. We shall now go into it more minutely.
We noted that man in the middle of the intermediary state between sleeping and waking, has, as a rule, his meeting with the world which is related to our spirit self. (I say as a rule, because I am alluding to the normal sleep, at night.) He then meets with the world in which we place the beings of that Hierarchy which we designate as that of the Angels. Thus every time we pass through sleep, we pass in a sense, through that world in which these beings dwell; through the world which is nearest to our own physical world, reckoning upwards. Through this meeting we refresh and strengthen our whole spiritual being. Because this is so, because in the state of sleep man is in relation with the spiritual world, no merely materialistic explanation of sleep, such as is put forward by external science, can ever be satisfactory. Much of what goes on in man can be explained by the changes that take place in the body between waking up and going to sleep; we may try to explain sleep itself by means of these same changes; yet any such explanation must always prove unsatisfactory, for the reason that in sleep the afore-mentioned meeting takes place, and man enters into relation with the spiritual world; that makes the whole difference. Thus it is just when we consider the state of sleep that we can see that man, unless he consciously seeks a relation to the spiritual world, only arrives at half-true concepts and ideas, which indeed, because they change into life-falsify it, and at last actually bring about great catastrophe. These half-true concepts are indeed in some respects even worse than those which are quite false ones, for those who form the partly-true concepts and ideas rely upon them; they are able to prove them, for, being partly true they can be proved. An attempt to disprove them would bring no further illumination, for these ideas are, after all, partly true! Such concepts really falsify life even more than do the entirely wrong ones, which we can immediately recognise as false. One of these half -true concepts which external science today is to some extent giving up, though it is in a great measure still believed, is the idea I have often alluded to before, that we sleep because we are tired. We may say that this concept is only half-true, and is the result of a half-true observation. People think that the day's life tires out the body and because we are tired we must sleep! I have often, in former lectures, called attention to the fact that this concept does not explain how it is that people of independent means, who do no work at all, often fall asleep when the most stirring things relating to the outer world, are being discussed. It cannot be proved that these persons are tired out and therefore in -need of sleep. It is absolutely incorrect. If we believe that we are compelled to sleep by fatigue, we are only half-observing. We only notice that this is so when we compare the observations made on the one side, with what can be observed on the other, when we come in contact with the other half of the truth. You will presently see what I mean.
Sleeping and waking in individual human life follow each other in rhythmic succession, yet man is a free being, and can consequently interfere with this rhythm (this he does more by reason of circumstance than from what may be called freewill; but the circumstances are the bases of free life). Another rhythm which we have often placed in the same order as sleeping and waking, is that of the seasons of the year; the alternation of summer and winter (leaving the intermediate seasons out of account), but the ordinary consciousness does not connect them aright. It will occur to no one to say that because the earth is hard at work during the summer, unfolding the forces leading to the growth of plants and to much else besides, that thereby it grows tired and needs the rest of winter. Everyone would consider such an idea absurd and would say that the setting in of winter has nothing whatever to do with the summer-work of the earth, but is caused by the changed position of the sun in relation to the Earth. In this case everything is supposed to be brought about from without; in sleeping and waking it all comes from fatigue, from within. Now the one is just as incorrect as the other, or rather the one is only partly true and so is the other — for the rhythm of sleeping and waking is just the same kind of rhythm as that of winter and summer. There is just as little truth in saying that we only sleep because we are tired, as in saying that winter comes because the earth has exhausted herself in summer. Both these statements rest on the independent working of a rhythm, brought about by certain circumstances. The rhythm between sleeping and waking comes about because the human soul has need of the continually recurring meeting with the spiritual world. If we were to say we want to sleep and consequently feel tired, if we were to say that we enter the state in which we have need of one part of the rhythm, that of sleep, and consequently feel tired, we should be speaking more correctly than when we say that because we are tired, we must sleep. This whole question will become still clearer to us, if we simply ask: ‘What then does the soul do when it sleeps?’ The non-spiritual science of today has not the requisite understanding and cannot reply properly to such a question. You see, while we are awake, we enjoy the external world and the enjoyment of this lasts our whole life through. We do not merely enjoy the outer world when we convey good food to our palate, which is the sense in which we generally speak of ‘enjoyment’ because it is here directly applicable, but the whole time we are awake we enjoy the outer world; all life is enjoyment. Although there is much that is unpleasant in the world, much that is apparently no enjoyment, this is only an illusion, of which we shall speak in the subsequent lectures in other connections. In our waking state we enjoy the external world; in sleep we enjoy ourselves. Just as when we with our souls are in the body and through the latter enjoy the external world, so when we with our souls are outside our body, for in the life between birth and death we are still connected with the body: even when outside it — we then enjoy our body. The condition of sleep, of normal sleep, consists essentially in our having a deeper experience of our body, so that we enjoy it. We enjoy our body from outside. The right interpretation of dreams, of the ordinary chaotic dreams, is that they are the reflection of the enjoyment of his body which a man has in dreamless sleep.
You see this explanation of sleep is approximately that of the need of sleep felt by the man of independent means, of which I have already spoken. We cannot easily believe that he is really tired; but we can very readily believe that he may be so fond of his body that he would rather enjoy that than what often comes to him from the external world. He really loves it so much and is so fond of enjoying it, that he may even prefer that to listening to a lecture, let us say, which he is perhaps ashamed not to attend. Or perhaps a better example would be to say he would rather enjoy his body than listen to a difficult piece of classical music which sends him to sleep at once, if he is compelled to listen to it — sleep is self-enjoyment.
Now, as in sleep, in normal sleep, we have the meeting with the spiritual world, our sleep does not therefore consist merely of self-enjoyment, it is also self-understanding, to a certain degree self-understanding, a sizing-up of oneself. In this respect our spiritual training is really needed, so that people may learn to realise that in normal sleep they actually plunge down into the spirit and emerge from it when they wake up; it is necessary that they should learn to feel reverence for this meeting with the spirit.
Now, in order that we may not fail to understand completely, I will return once more to the so-called enigma of fatigue; for the commonplace consciousness may very likely lay hold of this point. It may say: Well, but we do really feel tired, and when we are tired we feel sleepy. This is a point which demands that a really clear distinction should be made. Certainly we do get tired with the day's work and while we sleep we are able to get over our fatigue. This part of the question is true: we are able to drive away fatigue by going to sleep. Yet sleep is not a result of the fatigue, but consists in the enjoyment we feel in ourselves. In this self-enjoyment, man acquires the forces through which he is able to drive away fatigue, but it does not follow that all sleep can do so; for while it is true that all sleep is enjoyment of self, yet it is not true that all sleep drives away fatigue. For a man who sleeps unnecessarily, who goes to sleep at every opportunity without any need for it, may just as well bring about a sleep in which there is no fatigue to be driven away, in which there is nothing but the enjoyment of self. In this kind of sleep, a man will certainly strive the whole time to drive away fatigue, because he is accustomed to do so while asleep; but if there is no fatigue, as in the case of the well-to-do man who falls asleep at a concert, he will simply keep on sweeping out his body, as he would do if the fatigue were there. If there is no fatigue, he goes on sweeping out unnecessarily, with the consequence that he sets up all kinds of bad conditions in his body. That is why these well-to-do men who sleep so much are the most troubled with all those fine things known as neurasthenia, and the like.
Through connection with spiritual knowledge, one may conceive a condition in which a man will be conscious of the following: ‘I am living in a state of rhythm, in which I am alternately in the physical world and in the spiritual world. In the physical world I meet with the external physical nature; in the spiritual world I meet with the beings who inhabit that world.’
We shall be able fully to understand this matter if we enter somewhat more deeply into the whole nature of man, from a particular point of view. You know that it is customary to consider the external science known as biology as a unity, necessarily divided into the head, breast, and lower part with the members attached thereto. In the olden times when man still possessed an atavistic knowledge, he connected other ideas with this division of the human being. The great Greek philosopher, Plato, attributes wisdom to the head, courage to the breast; and the lower emotions of human nature to the lower part of the body. What pertains to the breast-part of man can be ennobled when wisdom is added to courage, becoming a wise courage, a wise activity; and that which is considered the lower part of man, which belongs to the lower parts of his body, if it be rayed through with wisdom, that Plato calls ‘clothed with the sun.’ Thus we see how the soul is divided and attributed to the different parts of the body. Today, we, who have Spiritual Science, which to Plato was not attainable in like manner, speak of these things in much fuller detail. In speaking of the four-fold division of man, we begin at the top by speaking of his ‘I,’ his ego. All that a man can call his own in the soul and spirit sense in his physical life between birth and death, works through the instrument of the physical body; and we can ask concerning each of the four principles of man: with which part of his body is each physically connected A real and sufficiently penetrating spiritual observation shows us that what we call the ego of man — strange as it may seem, for the truth is often very different from what the superficial consciousness supposes — strange as it may seem, the ego of man is between birth and death, physically connected with what we call the lower part of the body. For the ego, as I have often said, is really a baby as compared to the other parts of man's nature; the germ of the physical body was already laid down in the Old Saturn epoch, the germ of the etheric body during the Old Sun, and that of the astral body during the Old Moon; but the ego was only laid down in our own earth-period; it is the youngest member of man's being. It will only attain the stage at which our physical body now stands, in the far-distant era of Vulcan. The ego is attached to the lowest bodily part of man, and this part is really always asleep. It is not so organised that it can bring to consciousness what takes place within it; what takes place there is, even in the normal waking periods, ceaselessly asleep. We are just as little conscious of our ego as such, in its reality, in its true being, as we are of the processes of our digestion. The ego of which we are conscious is but a reflex conception, the image of which is reflected into our head. We never really see or realise our ego, whether in sleep, when in normal conditions we are quite without consciousness, or in our waking state; for the ego is then also asleep. The true ego does not itself enter our consciousness, nothing but t a the concept of the ego is reflected therein. On the other hand, between sleeping and waking, the ego really comes to itself; only a man in normal deep sleep knows nothing of it, being himself still unconscious in this his deep sleep during the earth-period. Thus the ego is in reality connected with the lowest bodily part of man; during the day, in the waking time, it is connected therewith from within; and during sleep from without.
If we now pass on to the second principle in man's nature, to what we call the astral body, we find that as regards the instrument through which it works, it is, from a certain point of view, connected with the breast-part of man. Of all that goes on in this astral body working through the breast-part, we can, in reality, only dream. As earth-man we can only know something of the ego when we are asleep, consciously we know nothing. Of all that the astral body works in us, we can only dream. This is really why we dream constantly of our feelings, of the sentiments that live within us. They actually live a sort of dream-life within us. The ego of man is actually outside the region which we human beings, with our ordinary sense-consciousness, can grasp; for it is continuously asleep. The astral body is also in a certain respect outside that region too, for it can only dream. With respect to both these we are, in reality, whether asleep or awake, within the spiritual world; we are really and truly within that world.
What we know as the Etheric body, is, however, as far as the body is concerned, connected with the head. Through the peculiar Organisation of the head, the etheric body is able to be constantly awake when in the human body, when connected with the physical head. We may therefore say: The ego is connected with the lowest parts of our body; and the astral body with our breast-part. The heart — as to the workings of which we have no full consciousness, nothing but a dream-consciousness — beats and pulsates under the influence of the astral body. When the head thinks, it does so under the influence of the etheric body. We can then further differentiate our physical body, for in its entirety, it is connected with the whole external world.
We now see a remarkable connection: the ego is connected with the lowest parts of the body, the astral body with the heart; the etheric body with the head, the physical body with the whole outer world, with the environment. The whole physical body is really during the waking condition in constant connection with the outer environment. Just as we, with our whole body are in relation to the outer environment, so is our etheric body to our head, the astral body to the heart and so on. This will show you how really mysterious are the connections in which man lives in the world. In reality things are generally just the opposite to what the superficial consciousness may lightly suppose.
The lowest parts of man's nature are at present the least perfected forms of his being; hence these parts of the body, as such, correspond to what we have called the baby — our ego. Innumerable secrets of human-life lie concealed in what I am here referring to, secrets without number. If you go thoroughly into this subject you will understand above all, that the whole man is formed out of spirit, but at different stages. The head of man is formed out of spirit, but is more fully moulded, it belongs to a later stage of formation than the breast, of which indeed one might say, that it is just as much a metamorphosis of the head, as, in the sense of Goethe's theory of the metamorphoses of plants, the leaf is a metamorphosis of the flower. If we consider the rhythm between sleeping and waking from this point of view, we may say that the ego actually dwells during the waking time in all the activities in the human body, in all the lowest activities, which finally culminate in the formation of the blood. The ego is present in all these activities during the waking hours. These activities are those which are in a sense at the lowest stage of spirituality; for of course, everything connected with the body is spiritual. Now it must be carefully noted that while during the waking hours the ego stands at the lowest stage of spirituality, during the hours of sleep it stands with respect to man, at the highest stage. For consider the following: When we look at the head which we as human beings have today, that head is, as regards its outer form, the strongest manifestation of the spirit. It is the most representative of the spirit, its greatest manifestation; here the spirit has entered most deeply into matter. For that very reason there is here less left behind in the spirit itself. So much work has been spent by man on his head, to make its outer form a manifestation of the spiritual, that but little is left behind in the spirit. Whereas the lower members of the human bodily nature as regards their outer formation are the least spiritualised, have least been worked upon in a spiritual sense, there is on that account more of— what pertains to them left behind in the spiritual. The head, as head, least corresponds to the spiritual, for the reason that it has more spirit within it; the lower part of the body corresponds the most, because it has the least spirit within it. But in this greater portion of spirit which does not dwell within the bodily nature, the ego dwells during the hours of sleep.
Just reflect on this wonderful equalising process: while, as regards his body, man possesses a lower nature into which the ego immerses itself during the waking hours, this lower nature is only lower because the spirit has worked less upon it., because it kept back more of the spirit in the spiritual region. Yet in what it thus kept back, dwells the ego during sleep. During sleep, the ego is even now already present in that which man will only develop at a later epoch, which he will only then be able to develop and unfold. This at the present day is merely indicated and but little developed as yet in the bodily nature of man. Hence when the ego becomes conscious of the conditions in which it finds itself during sleep, when it really becomes conscious of this, it will be able to say to itself: ‘During sleep I am within that which is my holiest human predisposition; and when I come forth from sleep, I pass over from this holiest part of me, into that which gives but a faint indication of it.'
Through Spiritual Science such things as these must find their way into our feelings and inner sentiments, and live in them. Life itself will then become spiritualised by a magical breath of holiness. We shall then have a definite and positive idea of what is called the Grace of the Spirit, of the Holy Ghost. For we shall connect the realisation of this collective existence which runs its course in the rhythm between sleeping and waking, with the idea: ‘I am allowed to take part in the spiritual world, I am allowed to dwell in it.’ When we have once realised and felt this idea, this conception: ‘I am allowed to be within the spiritual world; grace is given me whereby I am permeated with the spiritual world, which is inaccessible to my ordinary earth-consciousness,’ — when we have thoroughly filled ourselves with that thought, we shall have also learnt to look up to the Spirit which reveals itself just as clearly, I might say, between the lines of life, as the outer world of nature reveals itself to our external eyes and ears. But the age of materialism has led man far from the consciousness of being rayed into and permeated in his whole collective existence by the Grace of the Spirit. It is of immense importance that this consciousness should be re-acquired: for the depths of our souls are more affected than we suppose by the general materialism prevalent in this age of ours. Yet the human soul is now as a rule too weak to be able to realise in itself those conceptions which could lift it out of and above materialism. One such conception is that of the holiness of sleep, which if once understood, we should then ascribe all those thoughts and conceptions in our waking life which do not connect us with matter, to that inward working of the spirit which follows upon sleep. We should not then look upon our waking state, which unites us with matter, as the only important thing to man, which would be like considering the winter as the important time for the earth; we should contemplate the whole. As regards the earth we contemplate it as a whole when we take the winter in connection with the summer; and as regards man, we contemplate him as a whole when we take the day, i.e., man in relation to matter — in connection with sleep, i.e., his relation to the spirit.
Now a superficial observation might lead one to say: ‘As man in his waking state is bound up with matter, he can know nothing of the spirit; yet he does know something of the spirit, even while awake.’ Now, man has a memory; and this memory does not only work in his consciousness, it also works subconsciously. If we had no memory, sleep could not help us at all. I want you to fix this fact very firmly in your minds, for it is very important. No matter how much we slept, if we had no memory it would not help us. For if we had no memory we should of necessity be led to believe that there was naught else but material existence. It is only because we preserve in our subconscious memory what we experience during sleep — although we may know nothing of it in our outer consciousness — only because we have a subconscious recollection of what we then go through, that we are not entirely given over to a materialistic mode of thinking. If man does not think merely materialistic thoughts, if he has any sort of spiritual ideas during the day, he owes it to the fact that his memory acts. For man, as he now is, as earth-man, — only comes into touch with the spirit during sleep.
The point is that if, on the other hand, we were now able to develop as strong a consciousness of what happens to us during sleep as, under certain circumstances, men of bye-gone times could do, we should never think of doubting the existence of the spirit. We should then be able to remember not only subconsciously, but in full consciousness, what we encounter during our sleep. If a man were to experience in full consciousness what he passes through in sleep, it would be just as absurd for him to deny the existence of spirit as it would be for a waking man to deny the fact that there were tables and chairs. The crucial point now is that mankind should once more become capable of properly appreciating the meeting with the spirit in sleep. This can only be done by making the pictures of the days experiences sufficiently vivid; it can only be done by entering deeply into Spiritual Science. In this study we occupy ourselves strongly with ideas drawn from the spiritual world. We compel our head — the etheric body of our head — to picture things which are in nowise connected with outer matter, but only have reality in the world of the spirit. This requires more application than it does to picture the things which are real in the world of matter. Indeed that is the true reason why many people do not go in for Spiritual Science. They find all kinds of reasons against it. They say it is not logical. If they were driven to prove in what it is illogical, they would be embarrassed: for it could never be proved that Spiritual Science is illogical. The real reason they turn away from Spiritual Science comes from something very different! In a scientific refutation it is perhaps allowable not to be quite polite, and we may, therefore, say that the non-recognition of Spiritual Science comes solely from laziness of soul. However industrious certain learned people may be as regards all the concepts relating to outer matter, yet when it comes to the force necessary for understanding the things of the spirit, they are idle and lazy; and it is because they will not arouse in themselves this necessary force, that they refuse to recognise Spiritual Science. For it requires more effort for thinking the ideas of Spiritual Science, than it does for thinking the ordinary thoughts connected with the things of sense. The latter really come of themselves; but the ideas not connected with material things, must be thought; one must wrestle with them and make a big effort. It is this shrinking from the necessary effort which is at the bottom of the non-acceptance of Spiritual Science; and this is what we have to realise. When however, the effort really is made to accept such concepts and ideas as are not connected with the material, and to think them out, such activity is aroused in the soul that it is gradually able to develop the consciousness of what goes on between falling asleep and waking, to realise that a meeting with the Spirit takes place then. It will certainly be necessary to unlearn certain ideas. Just think how little some of the leaders of spiritual life are capable of developing such ideas. What I am about to relate is of less frequent occurrence now, but those who are the present leaders were in many cases, in the days of their youth, so deeply immersed in the life of their day, that they drank themselves into the state called in German ‘Bettschwere.’ They drank so much that the necessary gravitation was established. Well, in such cases a man's ideas as well as his feelings as to what goes on in sleep, are certainly not adapted to elucidate the whole significance of sleep. A man may be extremely learned as regards everything connected with matter, but he is naturally not then able to gain an insight into what happens to him between his falling asleep and awaking.
When people make the necessary effort to think out to their conclusion ideas not connected with material things, they will be able to develop understanding of what I have called the first meeting, the meeting with the Spirit during sleep. Unless the world is to fall into a state of decadence, this understanding must before very long illuminate life, and fill it with sunshine. For if men do not take up these ideas, on what are their concepts to be based? They will only be able to form them by observing external conditions, by studying the external world. Ideas formed in this way alone, leave the inner part of the human being, his soul-part, in a state of inertia; that part of man which must under other circumstances be strongly exercised in spiritual concepts and ideas is left inert, unused: it dies. What is the result of this? The result is that man becomes blind, spiritually blind in his whole relation to the world. If he develops no ideas or concepts except such as he forms under the influence of outer impressions, he becomes spiritually blind; and spiritual blindness does indeed prevail to a great extent, in this materialistic age. In science this is only injurious up to a point, but in practical life this blindness to the real world is extremely harmful. You see, the further we descend into matter, the more things correct themselves in this materialistic age. For if a man builds a bridge, he is forced by circumstances to learn the proper rules of construction, otherwise when the first wagon crosses it, that bridge will collapse. It is easier to apply wrong conceptions in trying to cure anyone, for it can never be proved what a man dies of, or what makes him well. It does not at all follow that the ideas put into practice are necessarily the right ones. If one wishes to work in the realm of the spiritual, it is a much more serious matter; and it is, therefore, particularly serious that things are in a bad way in what are generally known as the practical sciences, Political or National Economy and the like. In this materialistic age people have become accustomed to be guided by the impressions and ideas formed in the outer world and to apply these to their doctrines of national or political economy, and in this way their ideas have become blind. Almost all that has hitherto been developed along these lines is but a blind idea. It must, therefore, follow as a natural consequence, that people with these blind notions are led along in leading strings by events, they yield themselves blindly to the course of events. If in this state they then intervene in them, well, what can we expect?
One possibility formed as a result of not taking up Spiritual Science is these blind ideas. Another possibility is that instead of being stimulated to form ideas by outer circumstances people may let themselves be stimulated from within; that is to say, that nothing but what lives in the emotions and passions is, in a sense, allowed to arise in the soul in this way a man certainly does not acquire blind ideas, but rather what we might call intoxicated ideas. People of the present day who are acknowledged materialists constantly swing backwards and forwards between blind ideas and intoxicated ideas. Blind ideas, in which they allow themselves to be blindfolded to what is going on, so that when they intervene they do so in the clumsiest way possible! Intoxicated ideas, in which they only give way to their emotions and passions, and confront the world in such a way that they do not really understand things, but either love or hate everything; and judge everything according to their love or hatred, their sympathy or antipathy. For it is only when, on the one hand, a man makes efforts in his soul to acquire spiritual ideas, and on the other develops his feelings for the great concerns of the world, that he can attain to clear-sighted ideas and conceptions. When we lift ourselves up to the thoughts given us in Spiritual Science of the great connections concerning which the materialistic view of the world merely laughs: of the ages of Saturn, Sun and Moon and of our connection with the Universe, when we fructify our moral feelings with the great goals of humanity, we can then rise above all the emotions displayed in sympathy or antipathy for anything in the world around us. And these emotions can be overcome in no other way.
It is undoubtedly necessary, that through Spiritual Science, a great deal that lives in our age, should be purified. For man, after all, does not allow himself to be entirely cut off from the spiritual world. He does not really allow himself to be cut off at all, he only allows himself to be apparently cut off. I have already called your attention to the way this is apparently done. When man, on the one hand swears only by the material and the impressions of the external world, the forces which are intended for the spirit still remain within him, but he then directs them to a false region and gives himself up to all kinds of illusions. That is why it is chiefly the most practical and materialistic people who are subject to the strongest illusions and give way to them. We see people going through life denying the existence of spirit and laughing heartily if they are told of anyone having had spiritual experiences. ‘He sees ghosts!’ they exclaim. Having said that, they consider they have broken the back of the matter. They themselves certainly do not see ghosts, in their sense of the word. But they only believe they see no ghosts; in reality they are incessantly seeing ghosts, they see them the whole time. One can put a man who is thus rooted in his materialistic view of the world to the test, and it will be evident that as regards what the next day may bring forth, he gives way to the worst illusions. This giving way to illusions, is nothing but a substitute for the spiritual, which he denies. If he denies the spiritual, he must then necessarily fall into illusion. As has been said, it is not easy to prove the illusions, existing in the many different departments of life, but they are everywhere prevalent, really everywhere. People are really fond of giving way to illusion. For instance, the following is a very frequent experience. Some one may say: ‘If I invest my money in this or that undertaking, it may be used for the brewing of beer. I refuse to use my money in that way, I will take no part in that.’ So he takes his money to the bank. The bank, without his knowledge, invests the money in a brewery. It makes no difference at all to the objective fact, but he is under the illusion that his money is not used for such base purposes as beer!
Of course, it may be objected that this is far-fetched, but it is not, it is really a thing that rules all life. People do not take the trouble today to become really acquainted with life, to be able to see through it. This, however, is of great significance. It is immensely important that we should learn to know what we ourselves are in the midst of. This is not easy today, because life has become complicated; nevertheless, what I have drawn attention to, is true. For, you know, under certain circumstances one might easily conceive an absurd situation. I will give you an example. There was once an incendiary, (this is a true story,) who ran out of a house which he had set on fire, having so arranged things that he allowed himself time to do so. He was caught and brought before the magistrates. On being questioned, he answered that he considered he had done a good piece of work, that he was not the one to be blamed, but the workmen, who had left a lighted candle in the house when they left it in the evening. If the candle had burnt out at night, it would have set the house on fire. He, therefore, set it on fire himself, before it was quite dark. In either case the house would have been on fire; he only set it on fire so that the fire might be speedily extinguished: for if a house is on fire in the daytime it may be saved, but at night it is a more complicated matter, and the whole house would then have been burnt to the ground. He was then asked why he did not put the candle out; to which he replied ‘I am a teacher of humanity; if I had blown out the candle, the workers, who were the ones to blame in the matter, would have gone on being careless, whereas now they can see for themselves what happens when they forget to blow out their lights.’
We may laugh at such an example as this, for we do not observe that we are continually doing the like. People are constantly acting in the same way as the man who did not put out the lighted candle, but set fire to the house. Only we do not notice this when we are disturbed by our emotions and passions, which cause an intoxication of ideas, and when the whole thing relates to the spiritual world. If we accustom the soul to that elasticity and flexibility, which is necessary for the forming of spiritual ideas, we shall so mould our thought that it will really find its way into life and be properly adapted to it. If we do not do this, our thought will never be fit to deal with life; it will not even be affected by it, except on the surface. That is why-to turn now to the deeper side of the question — the materialistic age really leads one away from an connection with the spiritual world. Just as we undermine our bodily health if we do not get our proper sleep, so do we undermine our soul-life if we do not spend our waking-time in the right way. If we only give way to outer impressions and live without being conscious of our connection with the spiritual world, we are not awake in the right way. Just as a man may by reason of certain conditions sleep restlessly, turning and twisting about, and thus undermine his physical health, so does a man undermine his spiritual health if he only yields to the external impressions of the world, if he is only subject to physical matter. This will prevent his experiencing in the right way that first meeting with the spiritual world, of which I have spoken. In this way he loses all possibility of rightly connecting himself with the spiritual world, during his physical existence. The connection with that world in which we spend our time when not in incarnation, into which we ourselves pass when we go through the Gates of Death, is thereby cut off.
Man must once again learn to understand that we are not here merely to build in the physical universe during our physical existence; he must learn to understand that we, during the whole of our existences are bound up with the whole world. Those who have already passed through the Gates of Death want to work with us on the physical world. This co-operation of theirs appears to be only a physical working with us, but everything physical is only an outer expression of the spirit. The age of materialism has estranged man from the world of the dead; Spiritual Science must re-establish the friendship between them. The time must once more come, when we shall cease to make the work of the dead for the spiritualisation of the physical world impossible, by estranging ourselves from them. For the dead cannot take part with hands in the events of the physical, they cannot accomplish physical work in that direct way. It would be foolish to believe that. The dead can work in a spiritual way. But to do so they need to have instruments placed at their disposal; they require the spiritual matter that lives here in the physical world. We are not merely human beings, we are also instruments, instruments for the spirits who have passed through the Gates of Death. As long as we are incarnated in physical bodies we use the pen or the hammer or the axe; when we are no longer incarnated in physical bodies the instruments we use are the human souls themselves. This rests upon the peculiar way in which the dead perceive, which I will just touch upon once more — I referred to this subject once before here.
Suppose you have before you a small vessel containing salt; you can see that. The salt looks like a white substance, like white powder. The fact that you see the salt as a white powder depends on your eyes. Your spirit cannot see the salt as a white powder; but if you put a little salt on your tongue and taste the peculiar salt taste, it is possible then for the spirit to become aware of it. Every spirit is able to perceive the taste of the salt in you. Everything that takes place in man through the external world, can be perceived by every spirit, including the human souls which have passed through the Gates of Death. Just as within us the world of sense extends to our tasting, smelling, seeing and hearing, so does the world of the dead reach down into what we hear, see and taste, etc. The experiences we have in the physical world are shared in by the dead, for these experiences do not only belong to our world but to theirs. They belong to their world when we spiritualise what we experience in the outer world with spiritual ideas. Unless we do this, if we merely experience the laws of matter, that to the dead is something which they cannot comprehend, it remains dark. To the dead a soul devoid of spirit seems dark. For this reason the dead have become estranged from our earth-life during the age of materialism. This estrangement must be got rid of. An inner common life of the so-called dead with the so-called living must take place; but that can only be when people develop in their souls those forces which are really spiritual, that is, when they develop such ideas, concepts, and images as deal with spiritual matters. When a man in his thinking makes an effort to reach the spirit, he will gradually reach it in reality. It signifies that a bridge is thrown across between the physical and the spiritual world. That alone can lead men across from the age of materialism to that age in which they will face the realities, neither blindfolded nor intoxicated, but with vision and poise. Having learnt to see through the spirit, they will attain vision and poise, and through the feelings and sentiments aroused in them by the great concerns of the world, they will attain the right balance between sympathy and antipathy, with respect to what our immediate surroundings demand of us.
We shall continue the considerations of these subjects in our next lecture, and go still more deeply from this aspect, into the ideas to be gained from the spiritual world.