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An Outline of Occult Science by Rudolf Steiner


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With the consideration of man in the light of occult science, what this signifies in general, immediately becomes evident. It rests upon the recognition of something hidden behind that which is revealed to the outer senses and to the intellect acquired through perception. These senses and this intellect can apprehend only a part of all that which occult science unveils as the total human entity, and this part is the _physical body_. In order to throw light upon its conception of this physical body, occult science at first directs attention to a phenomenon which confronts all observers of life like a great riddle,--the phenomenon of death,--and in connection with it, points to so-called inanimate nature, the mineral kingdom. We are thus referred to facts, which it devolves on occult science to explain, and to which an important part of this work must be devoted. But to begin with, only a few points will be touched upon, by way of orientation.

Within manifested nature the physical body, according to occult science, is that part of man which is of the same nature as the mineral kingdom. On the other hand, that which distinguishes man from minerals is considered as not being part of the physical body. From the occult point of view, what is of supreme importance is the fact that death separates the human being from that which, during life, is of like nature with the mineral world. Occult science points to the dead body as that part of man which is to be found existing in the same way in the mineral kingdom. It lays strong emphasis upon the fact that in this principle of the human being, which it looks upon as the physical body, and which death reduces to a corpse, the same materials and forces are at work as in the mineral realm; but no less emphasis is laid upon the fact that at death disintegration of the physical body sets in. Occult science therefore says: "It is true that the same materials and forces are at work in the physical body as in the mineral, but during life their activity is placed at the disposal of something higher. They are left to themselves only when death occurs. Then they act, as they must in conformity with their own nature, as decomposers of the physical body."

Thus a sharp distinction must be drawn between the manifested and the hidden elements in man. For during life, that which is hidden from view has to wage perpetual war on the materials and forces of the mineral world. This indicates the point at which occult science steps in. It has to characterize that which wages the war alluded to, as a principle which is hidden from sense-observation. Clairvoyant sight alone can reveal its workings. How man arrives at awareness of this hidden element, as plainly as his ordinary eyes see the phenomena of sense, will be described in a later part of this book. Results of clairvoyant observation will be given now for the reason already pointed out in the preceding pages, that is, that communications about the way in which the higher sight is obtained can only be of value to the student when he has first become acquainted, in the form of a narrative, with the results of clairvoyant research. For in this sphere it is quite possible to understand things which one is not yet able to observe. Indeed, the right path to higher vision starts with understanding.

Now, although the hidden something which wages war on the disintegration of the physical body can be observed only by the higher sight, it is plainly visible in its effects to the human faculty of judgment which is limited to the manifested world; and these effects are expressed in the form or shape in which mineral materials and forces are combined during life. When death has intervened, the form disappears little by little, and the physical body becomes part of the rest of the mineral world. But the clairvoyant is able to observe this hidden something as an independent member of the human organism, which during life prevents the physical materials and forces from taking their natural course, which would lead to the dissolution of the physical body. This independent principle is called the etheric or vital body.