It is only the whole human being who can die, not the individual organ

(Original title: Das einzelne Organ stubtnicht, sondem es stirbt der ganze Mensch- Der Merkwstab 1994; 47:465-7. English by A. R Meuss, FIL, MTA) Rudolf Steiner Jam Vol. 12, Nr. 1 Saying that everything has to be proved by using the external senses and the system of modern science is like someone who says: Without a large peg to support it, the earth must fall down. Anthroposophic like the stars. This is something that has to be realized. Once we have realized this, using our common sense, we really begin to grasp the ideas presented in anthroposophy, including such concepts as the drawing together of birth and death. Let us take this further, however.

Let us consider how someone who is well prepared in terms of modern science, but who also has a mind that is alive and receptive, comes to recognize not only the whole human being, but also the organs as I described them yesterday. 

You see, if we perceive the organs in the way that is possible by taking the initiation path, the inner eye perceives not birth and death but something entirely different. When organs are truly perceived, birth and death actually lose their usual meaning, for, in fact, it is only the whole human being who can die, not the individual organ. The lung does not die, for instance. Modern science has got some notion of this, realizing that when the whole human being has died individual organs can be vitalized on their own in a specific sense. Individual organs do not die, irrespective of whether the person is interred or cremated. Each individual organ finds its way out into the cosmos, according to its nature, even if the human body lies buried in the earth, with the soil covering it after burial; the organs find their way to the cosmos through water, air and heat. They dissolve but do not die; only the whole human being dies. 

We can only speak of death with reference to the whole human being. In the case of animals, we have to say that the organs die. The difference between humans and animals is that human organs dissolve. They dissolve quickly, rather like an unripe apple goes through the cooking process faster than a ripe one. Burial is the slow process, cremation the fast one. 

It is possible to study the specific nature of organs as they go out into infinity. Once out there in the cosmos they do not go out into limitless infinity, however, for there the macroscopic, the cosmic human being comes to meet us. 

Following those organs with initiate consciousness, we therefore see what really happens with the organs after death: according to their kind they go out into different regions of the cosmos. The heart goes somewhere different from the lungs, the liver to yet another place. They scatter throughout the cosmos. It is possible to see this if one goes through initiation and develops the consciousness that relates to the organs. Then the human being is revealed as truly part of the cosmos. And when we behold this human being, who is part of the whole cosmos, we are able to see, for instance, the basis of successive incarnations... 

On the other hand we come to realize something in connection with this which, I would say, is extraordinarily tragic. For if the human being were just the human being we see within his skin here on earth - ah, this would be such a good, gentle, noble creature! Just as we are unable to investigate death with our ordinary consciousness - we can understand it in the sense indicated above, but not investigate it - we are also unable to discover with our ordinary consciousness why people with their guileless faces - how guileless they all look - can also be so evil. The fact is that we do not grow evil as whole human beings. The skin is extraordinarily well behaved. We grow evil through individual organs. The potential for evil lies in the organs. And realizing the relationship between organs and individual parts of the world we also come to recognize the parts of the world from where obsession with evil comes, for essentially it is a matter of obsession even with even the least bit of evil. 

Perceptive recognition of the whole human being, thus, first of all shows us birth and death, and then, as we perceive the way the human being is organized, the relationship to the cosmos in health and disease: evil. 

The human form that went through the mystery of Golgotha, therefore, can only appear to the human soul if we are first of all able to see the cosmic human being on the basis of human organs. For Christ as a cosmic human being came from the Sun. He had not been an earthly human being before. He approached as a cosmic human being. How are we to recognize a cosmic human being if we have not prepared ourselves first to understand the cosmic human being as such! A true Christology can arise if we thus understand the cosmic human being. And you can see, therefore, that the true paths take us into the world of the spirit, guide us to perceive the nature of birth and death, the way human organs relate to the cosmos, guide us to recognize evil, and to recognize the cosmic human being: Christ. 

All this can be understood if it is presented in a way where everything supports everything else. And to gain such understanding is the best way of entering into the world of the spirit ourselves. We need to understand and to meditate on where we are in our understanding. The other rules given for meditation provide further support. But that is the proper way into the world of the spirit for modern people. All experimentation with different paths, paths not based on normal consciousness and preserving normal consciousness, all experimentation where the conscious mind is left out, as in the case of mediumism, somnambulism, hypnosis, etc., all exploration of such processes which exist in the world, processes that cannot be accessed by the conscious mind in a caricature of modern science, all these are false paths, for they do not lead to the world of the spirit. 

Rudolf Steiner 

From True and False Paths in Spiritual Investigation (GA 243). Lecture given in Torquay on 22 August 1924. Earlier (and better) translation edited by H. Collison (London: Anthroposophic Press 1927), later translation by A. Parker (London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1986).