'The Eye is Created By the Light, For the Light' (Goethe) --| Life & Disintegration |--- The meaning and origin of life have always been subjects of much discussion, not least in our time. Modern natural science has not discovered many points of reference in this field. However, natural science has recently arrived at a conclusion that spiritual science has always maintained, namely, that organic and inorganic substances do not differ as far as the actual substances are concerned. The only difference lies in the fact that organic substances are more complex in their composition. Life can arise only where there are substances of varied and complex structure. As you may know, the basic substance where there is life is a white-of-egg-like substance which could well be called 'living albumen'. It has one important characteristic that makes it differ from lifeless albuen; it begins to deteriorate the moment life has left it. That is why eggs, for example, do not stay fresh for long. The essential character of living substance is that it cannot remain a unity once life has departed. Although we cannot today go into the details about the nature of life, we can consider this one essential characteristic of living substance, the fact that it disintegrates the moment life has gone from it. A complex structure composed of various substances will disintegrate if not permeated with life. That is its most characteristic feature. SO WHAT DOES LIFE DO? IT PERESERVES, IT CONTINUOUSLY OPPOSES DISINTEGRATION. Life has the ability to rejuvenate because it continuously opposes what wwould otherwise take place in substances it permeates. When a substance contains life it means that disintegration is being fought. Life posseses the exact opposite qualities to those of death; instead of causing substances to fall apart, it continually holds them together. Thus life becomes the foundation of physical existence and consciousness by constantly preventing disintegration [this is its 'ether / plant growth' body - ed.] This is not just a verbal definition; what it points to happens all the time. You only have to observe the simplest form of life and you will find that substances are perpetually being absorbed and incorporated while bodily particles deteriorate; it is the latter process that life continuously works against. Thus, we are dealing with an actual phenomenon. Life means that new substances are formed and old ones thrown off. But life is not yet either sensation or consciousness. Certain scientists fail to understand sensation and ascribe it to plants that have life but not sensation. This childish notion comes about because there are plants that close their leaves and blossoms in response to external stimuli. One could just as well ascribe sensation to blue litmus paper that turns red in response to external stimuli, or to chemical substances as they too react to certain influences. But that is not enough. If sensation is to occur, there must be an inner mirroring of the stimulous; only then can we speak of the lower form of consciousness, sensation and feeling. But what exactly is it? If wwe are to gain insight into this next higher stage of evolution, we must approach it gradually as we did the nature of life. Consciousness arises from life; it can only come into being where life already exists. It reveals itself as higher than life; the latter seemingly arises out of lifeless matter of such complexity that unless seized by life it disintegrates. CONSCIOUSNESS ARISES AT THE BORDER BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH, THAT IS TO SAY, WHERE LIFE CONSTANTLY THREATENS TO DISAPPEAR FROM SUBASTANCE, AND WHERE SUBSTANCE IS CONTINUALLY BEING DESTROYED. Substance disintegrates unless held together by forces of life. Life dissolves unless a new principle, that is, consciousness, is added. Consciousness can only be understood when it is recognized that it constantly renews life that would otherwise disolve, just as life forces renew certain processes without which matter would decay. [here, the 'astral / animal' body - bearer of passions and desires is added]. Not every form of life can renew itself from within. It must first have reached a certain higher level. Only when the force of life is strong enough constantly to endure death within itself can it awake to consciousness. To be aware of life that at every moment contains death, you need only look at life within the human being, and bear in mind what was explained in the lact lecture 'Blood is a very special Fluid' [it is the bearer of the EGO, which lives within the *heat* -ed], and that within human beings, life is constantly renewed through the blood. As a psychologist with insight remarked: 'In the blood man carries within him a double from whom he constantly draws strength'. But blood contains yet another force: it continuously produces death. When it has taken life-giving substances to its organs, it carries away destructive elements back to the heart and lungs. What returns to the lungs is poisonous, destructive to life. [some commentary additions (ed): - Man exhales CO2, inhales O2 - plants reciprocate this process - they take in the CO2, and give off the O2. - Man cannot eat physical matter that has not lived/GROWN. - Thus, man is dependent on PLANTS for oxygen and food in an entirely recriprocal and continuous breathing relationship. - Plant growth, when impregnated with passions and desires, becomes MEAT.] A being whose nature works against disintegration is a being possessing life. If it is able to let death arise, and continuously transform that death into life, then it is a conscious being. Consciousness is the strongest of all forces. Death must of necessity arise in the midst of life; consciousness, or conscious spirit, is the forces that eternally wrenches life from death. Life is both an inward and an external process, whereas consciousness is a purely inward one. A substance that dies outwardly cannot become conscious. Consciousness can only arise in substance that can generate death within itself and overcome it. As a perceptive person once remarked: 'From death springs not only life but consciousness'. Once this connection is recognised, the existence of pain becomes comprehensible. It is pain that originally gave rise to consciousness. When the life within a being is exposed to light, air, heat or cold, then these external elements act in the first place on the living being. This influence does not give rise to consciousness in plants because here the effects are simply absorbed. Consciousness only arises when there is conflict between the external elements and the inner life-force, causing a breaking-down of tissue. Consciousness can only arise from the inner destruction of life. Unless a partial death takes place in the living being, the process that gives rise to consciousness cannot be initiated; beams of light cannot penetrate to the surface of life, causing partial destruction of the inner suubstances and forces. It is this that produces the mysterious process that is occuring everywhere in the external world. You must visualize that the cosmic forces of intelligence had reach a level of evolution so high that the external light and air became alien. There had been harmony for a time, but through the higher perfection of cosmic forces, conflict arose. If you could follow with spiritual sight WHAT HAPPENS AT THE POINT WHERE A SIMPLE LIVING CREATURE IS PENETRATED BY A BEAM OF LIGHT, YOU WOULD SEE ALTERATION IN THE SKIN; A TINY EYE BEGINS TO APPEAR. A delicate form of destruction occurs that is experienced as pain. From this pain consciousness is born. Wherever the element of life meets the external world, a process of destruction occurs; if great enough, the outcome is death. The pain gives rise to consciousness. The process that originally created our eyes could have resulted in complete destruction had it gained the upper hand. But it seized upon only a small part of the human being, and through partial destruction, partial death created the possibility for that inner reflection of the outer world to arise that we call 'consciousness'. Thus consciousness within matter is born out of suffering and pain. (Rudoolf Steiner, Supersensible Knowledge, pp. 54-58) --


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this page last updated: February 15, 2001