"What Is Man?", Page One

What soul has never gazed up at the night stars and pondered, "What are you to me?" So has shepherd David's cry rung down to us through the centuries:

When I look at thy heavens, the
work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars which
thou has established;

What is man that thou art mindful
of him,
and the son of man that thou
dost care for him?

Yet thou has made him little less
than the angels1
and dost crown him with glory
and honor. (Ps 8,3-5, emphasis mine)2

Certainly no writing could fully answer this question. Yet the contemplative soul should by now have begun to sense from what has gone before in this and Volume 1 that it is the image of what it looks out upon. It mirrors the starry heavens and images the divine Spirit that created it (Gen 1,26-27). The bathroom mirror throws back to it a like question, "Who am I?"

It is entirely appropriate to give credit to modern science for the endless discoveries, in ever accelerating array, that have brought to humanity modern conveniences unthinkable a few generations ago. Unfortunately, neither science nor its accommodating religion have endowed us with the divine wisdom and moral development to bring these benefits to the broader spectrum of humanity. Indeed, though crumbs sometimes fall ("trickle down") from their table, the benefits have increasingly gone to the haves, thus barring them from the moral high ground while widening the rift between them and the have-nots: spiritual starvation for the haves and bodily deprivation for the have-nots (Lk 16,19-31; Mt 25,31-46; 1 Jn 3,16-18). Nor is modern science and its friendly religion calculated to reverse this trend of declining morality so as to bring peace and goodwill to all God's creatures. Even the sociopolitical economic system we Americans so revere is not calculated to promote that harmony, for it also fails to understand the structure of the human being and the nature of its various needs.3

But we can hardly even begin to approach such harmony until we have more seriously and prayerfully pondered this age-old question, "What is Man?" A new and higher consciousness, not evident in the scientific, political and religious regimes of our day, must first dawn upon humanity. The Prodigal Son (humanity) has yet to emerge from "the valley of the shadow of death," its "pigpen" in the parable. The times of the Archangel Michael, the bestower of the Holy Spirit's divine intelligence, are upon us as we enter the third millennium.4 The message buried in the Bible and other ancient holy writings must be unveiled at a higher level of spiritual consciousness than is found in the spectrum of modern religious practice.

This is just summation. The reader who has not already felt it to some extent from what has gone before may also miss it here in this final essay. But the last of Steiner's three so-called "scientific lectures" calls forth astounding new images that can lift the receptive soul to a much higher vantage point whence to resolve our age-old query.

Steiner gave a series of eighteen lectures at Stuttgart from January 1 to 18, 1921, which he called "The Relation of the Diverse Branches of Natural Science to Astronomy."5 Contrary to his request, they have come to be called "the Astronomy Course," yet they are not such in any usual sense. Parts of it are difficult to comprehend, as one translator (Rick Mansell) has noted at times in his translation.6 Moreover, sometimes Steiner gives mathematical equations to express the concepts, and these equations are meaningful only to those adequately trained in mathematics. The reader desiring to consider them can find them in the library versions; I spare all others the difficulty of trying to follow this side of Steiner's diverse capabilities. I borrow only those of his penetrating concepts that will, I believe, point us to a higher level of cognition, e.g., "Come up hither, and I will show you " (Rev 4,1); cf. also Rev 21,10, "And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me. . . ."

Combining thorough observation, immeasurable intellect and sublime intuition, he gives us not dogma but pointers—the hallmark of all the great teachers. In Lect. 7, for instance, talking about how the horizontal forms of animals, as distinguished from the vertical orientation of both plants and humans, came into being, he said, "It is in the very nature of these lectures that I can only hint at such things. I have to leave out many of the connecting links appeal[ing] to your own intuition and trust that you will think it out." Even if I wanted to, I couldn't reflect all the approaches and nuances he gives in the eighteen lectures, nor would it be appropriate to try.

I shall attempt to express two concepts that seem appropriate for the purpose of this closing essay. The first is the existence of and creative relationship between radial and spherical forces, including their reflection in the lemniscate (figure eight form) and its presence in the human form. The second is the so-called "Cassini curve" and what it implies.

The Creative Forces and Forms
(Radial, Spherical and Lemniscatory)

The formation and progressive separation of the Sun, Moon and planets of our solar system as Steiner shows us is given in I-27. The earthly evolution of the four kingdoms in their mineral-physical condition7 progressed gradually during the course of these separations. The conditions and influences within the system changed from one stage to the next to accommodate the development of each in due course.8 The plant and human kingdoms have a radial relationship with the Sun, the plant's head being in the ground and the human's head being toward the Sun (see I-78). The intervening animal kingdom is oriented horizontally. While this jumps over a great deal, the general picture of these relative orientations points us toward the vertical and spherical forms and forces that interplay in the creative process.

It might fairly be said that Steiner picked up the work of Goethe and carried it far beyond, always with admiration and gratitude for his conceptual forerunner. In the "Light" essay we saw how he did this with color. Here he takes up Goethe's principle of metamorphosis (morphology). He saw Goethe as a genius in deriving the formation of the bones of the skull from those of the vertebrae. Steiner goes on with his illustration. We've previously seen how the human body (three bodies) comprises three distinct organic functions, thinking, feeling and willing—what we also call the nervous, rhythmic and metabolic systems, respectively. In ever so many ways the radial and spherical forces are reflected in these systems and the interplay between them, and this interplay images relationships in the heavens above us that prompt (and would appear to help answer) the ancient cry, "What is man?"

The Lord told Job (the archetypal human that is each of us and has no significant meaning otherwise) how ancient he was ("You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!"; Job 38,21) and posed many questions suggesting that Job had lost his (i.e., we have lost our) ancient insights. One of these questions points to the very things Steiner points to in these lectures: "Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?" (Job 38,33).


Blood, Page 22

"What Is Man", Page 2