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- Man or Matter - 70/74 -
muscular system is capable of this vibration because during the body's initial period of growth the bones increase in length to a much greater extent than do the sinews and muscles. Hence the latter arrive at a condition of elastic tension not unlike that of the strings of a musical instrument.10
In the case of bodily movement, therefore, the muscles are tone-producers, whereas in acoustic perceptions they are tone-receivers. What, then, is it that prevents an acoustic perception from actually setting the limbs in motion, and, instead, enables our sentient being to take hold of the astral impulse invading our muscles?
This impediment comes from the contribution made by the nervous system to the auditory process. In order to understand the nature of this contribution we must remember the role played by the blood in seeing. It was found by us to consist in the bringing about of that state of equilibrium without which we should experience light merely as a pain-producing agent. Similarly, the perception of sound requires the presence of a certain state of equilibrium between the nerve-system and the limb-system. In this case, however, a lack of equilibrium would result not in pain, but in ecstasy. For if acoustic impressions played directly into our limb-system, with nothing to hold them in check, every tone we encounter would compel us to an outward manifestation of astral activity. We should become part of the tone-process itself, forced to transform it by the volitional part of our astral organization into spatial movement. That this does not happen is because the participation of the nervous system serves to damp down the potential ecstasy. Hence it is more or less left to the sentient part of the astral organization - that is, the part free from the physical body - to partake in the astral processes underlying the tone occurrences.
Our discussion has reached a point where we are able to answer a question which first arose in the course of our study of the four ethers, and which arises here anew.
In studying the chemical or sound ether we were faced with the fact that part of the etheric realm, although in itself accessible to the spiritual part of the sense of sight, offers supersensible experience comparable to the perception of sound. Conversely, we are now met by the fact that it is spiritual hearing which gives access to the immediate perception of a realm of forces which is not only the source of acoustic phenomena, but the origin of all that manifests in nature in the form of sulphurous, saline and mercurial events, such as the world of colours, electricity, magnetism, the manifold rhythmic occurrences on the earth (both taken as a whole .and in single organisms), etc. - all of which are taken hold of by quite other senses than that of hearing.
At our first encounter with this problem we remarked that in the supersensible no such sharp distinctions exist between different sense-spheres as are found in body-bound sense-perception. At the same time we remembered that even in physical perception we are inclined to attach acoustic attributes to colours and optical attributes to tones. In fact, it was precisely an instance of this kind of experience, namely, our conception of tone-colour, which gave us our lead in discussing the acoustic sphere in general. Our picture of the particular interaction of the two polar bodily systems in the acts of seeing and hearing now enables us to understand more clearly how these two spheres of perception overlap in man. For we have seen how the system which in seeing is the receiving organ, works in hearing as the responding one, and vice versa. As a result, optical impressions are accompanied by dim sensations of sound, and aural impressions by dim sensations of colour.
What we are thus dimly aware of in physical sense activity, becomes definite experience when the supersensible part of the senses concerned can work unfettered by the bodily organ. Clear testimony of this is again given to us by Traherne in a poem entitled Dumnesse. This poem contains an account of Traherne's recollection of the significant fact that the transition from the cosmic to the earthly condition of his consciousness was caused by his learning to speak. The following is a passage from the description of the impressions which were his before his soul was overcome by this change:
'Then did I dwell within a World of Light Distinct and Seperat from all Mens Sight, Where I did feel strange Thoughts, and such Things see That were, or seemd, only reveald to Me ...
'... A Pulpit in my Mind A Temple, and a Teacher I did find, With a large Text to comment on. No Ear, But Eys them selvs were all the Hearers there. And evry Stone, and Evry Star a Tongue, And evry Gale of Wind a Curious Song.'11
We have obtained a sufficiently clear picture of the organization of our sense of hearing to see where the way lies that leads from hearing with the ears of the body to hearing with the ears of the spirit, that is, to the inspirative perception of the astral world.
In the psycho-physical condition which is characteristic of our present day-consciousness, the participation of our astral organization in any happenings of the outer astral world depends on our corporeal motor system being stimulated by the acoustic motions of the air, or of some other suitable medium contacting our body. For it is only in this way that our astral organization is brought into the sympathetic vibrations necessary for perceiving outer astral happenings. In order that astral events other than those manifesting acoustically may become accessible to our consciousness, our own astral being must become capable of vibrating in tune with them, just as if we were hearing them - that is, we must be able to rouse our astral forces to an activity similar to that of hearing, yet without any physical stimulus. The way to this consists in training ourselves to experience the deeds and sufferings of nature as if they were the deeds and sufferings of a beloved friend.
It is thus that we shall learn to hear the soul of the universe directly speaking to us, as Lorenzo divined it, when his love for Jessica made him feel in love with all the world, and he exclaimed:
'There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st But in his motion like an angel sings, Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubim, - Such harmony is in immortal souls. But whilst this muddy vesture of decay Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.'
* * * (c) KEPLER AND THE 'MUSIC OF THE SPHERES'
'One must choose one's saints .. . and so I have chosen mine, and before all others, Kepler. In my ante-room he has ever a niche of his own, with his bust in it.'
This opinion of Goethe's must surprise us in view of the fact that Kepler was the discoverer of the three laws called after him, one of which is supposed to have laid the foundation for Newton's mechanical conception of the universe. In what follows it will be shown how wrong it is to see in Kepler a forerunner of the mechanistic conception of the world; how near, in reality, his world-picture is to the one to which we are led by working along Goetheanistic lines; and how right therefore Goethe was in his judgment on Kepler.
Goethe possessed a sensitive organ for the historical appropriateness of human ideas. As an illustration of this it may be mentioned how he reacted when someone suggested to him that Joachim Jungius - an outstanding German thinker, contemporary of Bacon, Van Helmont, etc. - had anticipated his idea of the metamorphosis of the plant. This remark worried Goethe, not because he could not endure the thought of being anticipated (see his treatment of K. F. Wolff), but because this would have run counter to the meaning of man's historical development as he saw it. 'Why do I regard as essential the question whether Jungius conceived the idea of metamorphosis as we know it? My answer is, that it is most significant in the history of the sciences, when a penetrating and vitalizing maxim comes to be uttered. Therefore it is not only of importance that Jungius has not expressed this maxim; but it is of highest significance that he was positively unable to express it - as we boldly assert.'12
For the same reason Goethe knew it would be historically unjustified to expect that Kepler could have conceived an aspect of the universe implicit in his own conception of nature. Hence it did not disturb him in his admiration for Kepler, that through him the Copernican aspect of the universe had become finally established in the modern mind - that is, an aspect which, as we have seen, is invalid as a means of forming a truly dynamic conception of the world.
In forming his picture of the universe, it is true, Copernicus was concerned with nothing but the spatial movements of the luminous entities discernible in the sky, without any regard to their actual nature and dynamic interrelationships. Hence his world-picture - as befits the spectator-form of human consciousness which was coming to birth in his own time - is a purely kinematic one. As such it has validity for a certain sphere of human observation.
When Kepler, against the hopes of his forerunner and friend, Tycho Brahe, accepted the heliocentric standpoint and made it the basis of his observations, he did so out of his understanding of what was the truth for his own time. Kepler's ideal was to seek after knowledge through pure observation. In this respect Goethe took him as his model. Kepler's discoveries were a proof that man's searching mind is given insight into great truths at any stage of its development, provided it keeps to the virtue of practising pure observation.
It has been the error of Newton and his successors up to our own day, to try to conceive the world dynamically within the limits of their spectator-consciousness and thus to form a dynamic interpretation of the universe based on its heliocentric aspect. This was just as repellent to Goethe as Kepler's attitude was attractive.
But by so sharply distinguishing between Newton and Kepler, do we not do injustice to the fact that, as the world believes, Kepler's third law is the parent of Newton's law of gravitation? The following will show that this belief is founded on an illusory conception of the kind we met before. As we shall see, Kepler's discovery, when treated in a Keplerian way, instead of leading to Newton, is found to be in full agreement with the very world-picture to which our own observations have led us.
It is an established conviction of the mathematical scientist that, once an observed regularity in nature has been expressed as a mathematical equation, this equation may be transformed in any
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