Nature to Sub-Nature
It is said that the age of
philosophy was superseded by the natural-scientific age in the
middle of the nineteenth century. And it is also said that this
natural-scientific age continues still today, although many emphasize
that certain philosophical intentions have been reiterated.
All this corresponds to the paths of
knowledge which has been initiated in modern times, but not the paths
of life. Man still lives in nature with his thoughts, even though
he brings mechanistic thinking into his concept of nature. With his
volition his lives so much in mechanical, technical processes, that
it has imbued the natural-scientific age with a completely new
In order to understand human life,
one must begin by considering it from two sides. From his previous
earth-lives man brings his capacity to understand the cosmos acting
from the periphery into the earth. He perceives with his senses what
is acting on the earth from the cosmos, and through his thinking
organization he thinks about the cosmos acting on the earth from the
Thus through his physical body man
lives in perception, through his etheric body in thinking.
What happens in his astral body and
his I is at work in hidden regions of his soul. It is at work, for
example, in his destiny. However, one must not begin seeking it in
complicated situations of destiny, but in the elementary, everyday
events of life.
Man binds himself with with certain
earthly forces in that he orients his organism with these forces. He
learns to stand upright and to walk, he learns to position himself
with his arms and hands in the equilibrium of the earthly forces.
These force are not those which stream in from the cosmos,
rather are they simply earthly.
In reality nothing the human being
experiences is an abstraction. He only doesn't see where the
experience comes from, so he constructs abstractions from ideas about
realities. He talks about mechanical laws. He thinks he has
abstracted them from the world of nature. That is, however, not the
case; rather all the purely mechanical laws man experiences in his
soul are related to his orientation to the earth (standing, walking,
This clearly indicates that
mechanics are purely earth oriented. For the laws of nature
concerning color, sound and so forth have streamed to earth from the
cosmos. It is only in the earthly region where the mechanical is
implanted in the natural laws, as it is first implanted and
experienced by the human being on earth.
Far and away the most active element
that works through technology into today's civilization, and in which
it is so involved, is not nature, but sub-nature. It
is a world that emancipates itself downwardly from nature.
When the oriental strives for the
spirit he tries to leave the states of equilibrium which derive from
the earth. He assumes a position of meditation which brings him into
cosmic equilibrium. The earth no longer affects his organism's
orientation. (This is not for the purpose of imitation, but only to
clarify what is meant here. Anyone familiar with my writings knows
how in this respect spiritual life in the East and in the West
The human being needed this relation
to the earth for the development of his Consciousness Soul. In recent
times the tendency has arisen to experience in actual doing
everything man needs for this development. In settling in the
earthly region he encounters the Ahrimanic element. With his own
resources he must find the right relation to this Ahrimanic element.
But in the technological age he has
so far not been able to acquire the correct relationship to Ahrimanic
civilization. Man must find the strength, the inner cognitive force
in order not to be overwhelmed by Ahriman in this technological
culture. Sub-nature must be grasped as such. This is only possible
when man reaches at least as far up in outer-earthly "supra-nature"
as he has descended into technological sub-nature. The times require
knowledge that transcends nature, because it must get the better of
an dangerous inner life content which has descended to a level below
Of course we are not suggesting that
previous stages of civilization should be repeated, but that a way
must be found by man which leads to the correct relation between the
new cultural situation, himself, and the cosmos.
Nowadays only the fewest realize
what meaningful spiritual tasks await humanity. Electricity, which
after its discovery was celebrated as the soul of nature's existence,
must be recognized for its ability to divert from nature downwards to
sub-nature. Man must not allow himself to be diverted along with it.
the times when a technology independent of nature did not exist, man
found the spirit through
the observation of nature. Technology made independent of nature
caused humanity to concentrate on mechanistic materiality as the only
reliable science. In this all the divine-spiritual essence related to
the genesis of human evolution is absent. This sphere of activity is
dominated by the Ahrimanic.
spiritual science the other sphere is created in which the Ahrimanic
is not present. And it is just in the cognitive absorption of that
spirituality, to which the Ahrimanic has no access, where humanity is
strengthened in order to confront Ahriman in the world.
Goetheanum, March 1925