It would be sheer boundless arrogance for man to suppose that he has attained in the slightest degree to the wisdom inherent in the formation of the external physical body

Consider our physical body; we look on it as having been formed out of the spiritual world in the primordial past as a dwelling for the human soul. Only a materialistic mind could believe that this human body had not been born originally from the spirit. Seen merely from an external point of view, the physical body must appear a miracle of perfection. What do all our intellectual ability and technical skill amount to, compared with the wisdom manifest in the structure of the human heart? Or take the engineering technique that goes into the building of bridges, and so forth — what is it compared with the construction of the human thigh-bone, with its wonderful crisscross of support members, as seen through the microscope.

It would be sheer boundless arrogance for man to suppose that he has attained in the slightest degree to the wisdom inherent in the formation of the external physical body. And consider our soul-life, taking into account only our instincts, desires and passions — how do they function? Are we not doing all we can to undermine inwardly the wisdom-filled organisation of our body? Indeed, if we consider without prejudice the marvel of our physical organisation, we have to admit that our bodily structure is far wiser than anything we can show in our inner life, although we may hope that our inner life will advance from its present imperfection towards increasing perfection. We can hardly come to any other conclusion, even without clairvoyance, if we simply look impartially at the observable facts.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 59 – Metamorphoses of the Soul – Vol. 2: Lecture 8: Human Conscience – Berlin, 5th May 1910

Translated by Charles Davy and Christian von Arnim

Previously posted March 4, 2015

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About truths and opinions (5 – End)

If mathematical truths were not so simple and obvious then the passions aroused in acknowledging them would lead to many difficulties. For if covetousness entered in then perhaps many housewives would determine that 2 x 2 = 5 and not 4. These things are only so obvious and simple that they can no longer be clouded by sympathy and antipathy. Continually wider regions will be grasped by this form of truth and more peace can come to mankind if truth is grasped in this manner.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 102 – The Influence of Spiritual Beings on Man: Lecture IX – Berlin, 1st June 1908

About truths and opinions (4 of 5)

These most trivial of all truths, the arithmetical, geometrical, are found inwardly, and yet people do not dispute about them. They are in absolute agreement about them because man is far enough advanced to grasp them. Agreement of opinion prevails only as long as pure truth is not clouded by passions, sympathy and antipathy. A time will come, though it is still far distant, when mankind will be laid hold of increasingly by the knowledge of the inner world of truth. Then in spite of all individualism, in spite of truth being found by everyone for himself inwardly, harmony will prevail.  

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 102 – The Influence of Spiritual Beings on Man: Lecture IX – Berlin, 1st June 1908

The images of feelings and passions

Feelings and passions are (in the astral world) expressed by plant and animal forms. When man begins to behold his passions in the astral world he sees them as animal forms. These forms proceed from himself, but he sees them as if they were assailing him. This is because his own being is objectivised — otherwise he could not behold himself. Thus it is only in the astral world that man learns true self knowledge in contemplating the images of his passions in the animal forms which hurl, themselves upon him. A feeling of hatred entertained against another being appears as an attacking demon.

This astral self-knowledge occurs in an abnormal way in those who are troubled with psychical illnesses which consist in constant visions of being pursued by animals and menacing entities. The sufferers are seeing the mirror images of their emotions and desires.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 94 –  An Esoteric Cosmology – Lecture IX: The Astral World – Paris, 2nd June 1906

Translated by Rene Querido

Previously posted on July 31, 2016

After death – 4 of 5

In short, man lives through his experiences once more, but in a spiritual way, going backwards from death to birth.

As I said yesterday, it is a part of this experience to feel that beings whom, for the present, we may call ‘superhuman’, are participating in it. Pressing onwards through these spiritual counterparts of our experiences, we feel as if these spiritual beings were showering down their sympathies and antipathies upon our deeds and thoughts, as we experience them backwards. Thereby we feel what each deed done by us on earth, each thought, feeling, or impulse of will, is worth for purely spiritual existence. In bitter pain we experience the harmfulness of some deed we have done. In burning thirst we experience the passions we have harboured in our soul; and this continues until we have sufficiently realised the worthlessness, for the spiritual world, of harbouring passions and have outgrown these states which depend on our physical, earthly personality.

At this point of our studies we can see where the boundary between the psychical and the physical really is. You see, we can easily regard things like thirst or hunger as physical. But I ask you to imagine that the same physical changes that are in your organism when you are thirsty were in a body not ensouled. The same changes could be there, but the soulless body would not suffer thirst. As a chemist you might investigate the changes in your body when you are thirsty. But if, by some means, you could produce these same changes, in the same substances and in the same complex of forces, in a body without a soul, it would not suffer thirst. Thirst is not something in the body; it lives in the soul — in the astral — through changes in the physical body. It is the same with hunger. And if someone, in his soul, takes great pleasure in something that can only be satisfied by physical measures in physical life, it is as if he were experiencing thirst in physical life; the psychical part of him feels thirst, burning thirst, for those things which he was accustomed to satisfy by physical means. For one cannot carry out physical functions when the physical body has been laid aside. Man must first accustom himself to live in his psycho-spiritual being without his physical body; and a great part of the backward journey I have described is concerned with this. At first he experiences continually burning thirst for what can only be gratified through a physical body. Just as the child must accustom himself to use his organs — must learn to speak, for example — so man between death and a new birth must accustom himself to do without his physical body as the foundation of his psychical experiences. He must grow into the spiritual world.

There are descriptions of this experience which, as I said yesterday, lasts one-third of the time of physical life, which depict it as a veritable hell. For example, if you read descriptions like those given in the literature of the Theosophical Society where, following oriental custom, this life is called Kamaloka, they will certainly make your flesh creep. Well, these experiences are not like that. They can appear so if you compare them directly with earthly life, for they are something to which we are so utterly unaccustomed. We must suddenly adapt ourselves to the spiritual counter-images and counter-values of our earthly experience. What we felt on earth as pleasure, is there privation, bitter privation, and, strictly speaking, only our unsatisfying, painful or sorrowful experiences on earth are satisfying there. In many respects that is somewhat horrible when compared with earthly life; but we simply cannot compare it with earthly life directly, for it is not experienced here but in the life after death where we do not judge with earthly conceptions.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 234 – Anthroposophy, An Introduction – Lecture IX – Dornach, 10th February 1924

Translated by Vera Compton-Burnett

Previously posted on August 4, 2015