Valentin Tomberg

IN many different ways, Rudolf Steiner has shown how the forces at work in the human organism present a living contradiction. The human organization, as such, is a contradiction become flesh ; for constructive and destructive forces are continually at logger-heads there. And this struggle is -- itself -- human life.

In the philosophic language of Hegel we could say : In man is that 'place' in the world where thesis and antithesis are
adjacent to each other, and out of this adjacency arises a process which strives towards synthesis. This synthesis does not yet exist ; but the demand for it is unavoidable for the contradiction is there. The human organism, as such, is far from being a solution to the problem -- on the contrary, it is a concrete illustration of the problem. Through its own make up, the organism has within it demands for other conditions.

What we have here expressed abstractly can be made more vividly comprehensible by slating : The human organism is the arena for life processes and consciousness processes. The life processes are unconscious ; the consciousness processes are lifeless.

For me, my activity of digestion is unconscious while my activity of thinking is conscious. Further, through my digestive process my organism is built up, whereas through my thinking my organism is broken down. While I am thinking a death process takes place in my organism. An effect takes place which works contrary to the life processes. Every process of consciousness means the conquest of the life forces in an area in the organism -- however small it may be. Where the life forces are inhibited so that a space empty of life is made in the organism, consciousness lights up.

So a man, as long as he lives, stands within this contradiction: Death-bringing consciousness and consciousness-extinguishing life. This contradiction between light of consciousness and darkness of life is described in a dramatic manner at the beginning of St. John's Gospel : "and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." And all the words in this Gospel that follow contain a description of the solution to this contradiction of light and darkness.

The fact that St. John's Gospel is orientated toward this contradiction is not surprising because its existence has the greatest possible moral significance. It is to this contradiction in the moral life that St. Paul spoke such fiery words in the Epistle to the Romans, staling there that the darkness in man has power of life, while the light in man, though it makes visible the evil in darkness, lacks the power to overcome it. "The good that I would do, I do not ; but the evil which I would not do, chat I do," said Paul, thus pointing to the archetypal problem of moral life ; namely, the question : How can moral insight, once gained, work with the
same natural force as the instinctive urges work? How can the
power of the good be added to the insight into goodness ?

This question has been asked by all striving men. Schiller's
Aesthetic Letters, Goethe's Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, Dostoyevsky's whole life-work, the drama. Four Apocalyptic Beasts, by Albert Steffen -- all these works have as the central question : How can consciousness gain the power of life, and how can life shine with the clarity of consciousness ?

What is actually meant by this question ? An answer can be found if we consider certain results of anthroposophical research into man. According to this knowledge, man can be viewed as a duality consisting of one part that withdraws during sleep, and one part chat remains lying in bed. During sleep a division occurs : the ego and astral body separate from the life body and physical body. On awakening, both parts join together into a unity once more. But the polarity between the two parts is not reconciled through this unification. On the contrary, it actually gains a more intense reality, for the processes of consciousness of the astral body come right up against the life processes of the life body. Thus within the awake man, the contradiction arises which we have described above. And when now the striving ego of the man has gained moral insight so that it 'wants the good', then this insight is there, shining brightly and lighting up the primordial independent life stream, which, nevertheless, goes its own way. What Paul meant by the tragic contradiction between the "law" -- "the good, that I would do" -- and the power of evil in human nature -- "the evil, which I would not do" -- is an experience of the fact that the human ego can work on the astral body, but that it has not the power to substantially transform the life body and physical body. The contradiction between the moral law that throws its light on evil, thereby making it visible, but is then powerless to overcome it ; and the elemental power of the dark urges of evil -- this is the contradiction carried over into the moral realm of the ego and astral body on the one hand and of the life body and physical body on the other hand.

What is it, then, which gives the good, once seen, the power to be not only a
process of consciousness, but also to become a life process ? What is this power, capable of carrying moral qualities over into the biological realm so chat it may work with a vital strength ? Or, in other words, what is it that can give the ego the power to work not only on the astral body, but also deeper, into the life body ; yes, and even right down into the physical body ?

The answer given by Paul is : Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is that power who can give strength to the good in man, enabling it to work in that region of the human being where life and death battle each other. But this working of Christ Jesus should not be thought of as coming from without, like the working of natural forces. Although the Christ-power in man works with elemental force, it does not work in the same way as nature forces, for it works
through the human ego -- while nature processes take place outside the human ego. Natural processes compel the human being ; the Christ force does not compel man, it works without infringing upon human freedom in the slightest degree.

In order to understand how this is possible, we have to imagine that the human ego has a "front" and a "back". In
front of the ego of man is spread the whole world of appearances which the ego beholds and also influences. Behind the ego of man is a 'background' which is at first unknown to him. Out of this 'background' the ego receives prompting, just as from the foreground percepts impress themselves on the ego. The effects of nature proceed from the foreground, while the effects of the Christ power stream from the other side of existence, from the background. The Christ power streams from the background fundament of existence into the human ego, fills it, and thus bestows on it a strength which it does not have of itself - namely, the strength to bring the good, as an elemental force, down into the being of the world. This working of the Christ power -- offered to the ego of man as a gift, inwardly fulfilling, leaving him free -- was called by Paul "grace" (charis). Thus grace is a process through which the ego in its striving toward goodness receives the strength to achieve more than it could with its own forces alone.

To make this operation of grace possible, the ego must open itself to it. The ego must become permeable. This happens when the ego is
active. An ego that streams out forces, sending them out forwards, creates the possibility for a streaming in of forces out of its background. An ego that shuts itself off selfishly from the outer world does not make possible the working of grace from above. It congests in itself.

This opening of oneself to the influence of grace working into the ego from the background Paul called "faith"
(pistis). And in contrasting "righteousness through faith" with "righteousness through works", he meant to say that the "works" (the actions stemming from a human ego not streamed through by the Christ) extend their essential influence only to the astral body. In the physical and etheric bodies they operate only formally. On the other hand the working of "faith" ; that is, the Christ power acting through the human ego which has opened itself to it, penetrates right down to the profoundest depths of human corporeality, not formally but essentially. And this "faith" is also contrasted by Paul with the "wisdom of this world". For the "wisdom of this world" is chat which forces itself as given facts or natural law upon the human ego from without, from the foreground -- while "faith" is a free deed of the ego itself, in opening itself to the influence of Christ. We could show the difference between "faith" and the "wisdom of this world" more clearly in the following manner . Now nowhere is the difference between the "wisdom of this world" (a consciousness busy staling facts or reflecting on events) and "faith" (a consciousness creating out of its own being something new, not yet existent in the world) ; nowhere is the difference between them so clearly to be seen as in the problem of the Resurrection. The "wisdom of this world" (the world of what is given) teaches that according to its laws every individual existence ends with death. However, Resurrection cannot be established as a fact, nor accepted as an ordinary event. The Resurrection is not something which could happen without human cooperation, and it cannot happen without "faith". It is mankind's task for the future, the fulfillment of which cannot be expected of the world, but only of man's ego, through which the creative power of grace works from above downwards into the finished world of faces.

The Resurrection is the goal of the work of the human ego on the organism. This organism is -- as we attempted to show above -- a living contradiction. All consciousness unfolds in it on the basis of death processes ; all life unfolds in it by pushing back consciousness. This organism, being thus constituted, puts this question to the future : Is it possible to develop a consciousness that is not death producing, and to have a life that is conscious ?

Now the effect of Christ's power on the human organism consists in this : that there
consciousness processes begin which are at the same time life processes. And what we call "Christianity" is neither a system of dogmas, nor of rituals, but the coming into existence of essentially new processes in the human organism which gradually wrest the ground from the disintegrating processes of consciousness and from the up building processes of life. Within the organism -- where consciousness is only possible through death and life only through unconsciousness -- there comes into existence a new organism which consists of life-giving consciousness. There, where the life body holding together the mineral substances penetrates the physical body, arises a new body : the body of
love. Love is that cosmic essence which inwardly binds together consciousness and life into a unity. This love body is still small and weak -- it is as yet hardly perceptible behind the processes of death-giving consciousness and of unconscious life. But it will grow and gradually conquer ever more territory within the ordinary organism, the "old Adam".

On through the millennia, man will gradually array himself in the "new Adam", the love body, the Resurrection body. It is happening, but not of itself. It requires the working together of "faith" and "grace" in as much as a man freely opens himself up to the Christ power which then streams into him, so reorganizing him that in the future a body will be his which has been won from death.

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