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'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