Our bookstore now ships internationally. Free domestic shipping $50+ →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Individual and the All
GA 40

The world of ideas is the source and the principle of all being. In it there is infinite harmony and blissful peace. The being, which it did not illuminate with its light, would be a dead, unsubstantial one, which would have no part in the life of the world as a whole. Only what derives its existence from the idea, that means something in the creation tree of the universe. The idea is the spirit clear in itself, sufficient in itself and with itself. The individual must have the spirit in itself, otherwise it falls off, like a dry leaf from that tree, and was there in vain.

But man feels and recognizes himself as an individual when he awakens to his full consciousness. Thereby he has implanted the longing for the idea. This longing drives him to overcome the individuality and to let the spirit come to life in him, to be according to the spirit. Everything that is selfish, that makes him this particular, individual being, that man must abolish in himself, strip from himself, for it is this that darkens the light of the spirit. What arises from sensuality, from instinct, desire, passion, that only this egoistic individual wants. Therefore, man must kill this selfish wanting in himself; instead of what he wants as an individual, he must want what the spirit, the idea in him wants. Let the individuality pass away and follow the voice of the idea in you, for it alone is the divine! What one wants as an individual is a worthless point on the circumference of the whole world, disappearing in the stream of time; what one wants “in the spirit” is in the center, because the central light of the universe lives in us; such an act is not subject to time. If one acts as an individual, then one excludes oneself from the closed chain of the world's activity, one separates oneself. If one acts “in the spirit,” then one lives oneself into the general world activity. Killing of all selfhood, that is the basis for the higher life. For he who kills selfhood lives an eternal being. We are immortal in the measure in which we let die in us the selfness. That which is mortal in us is selfhood. This is the true meaning of the saying: “he who does not die before he dies, corrupts when he dies.” That is, he who does not let the selfhood in himself cease during the time of his life, has no part in the general life that is immortal, has never been there, has had no true being.

There are four spheres of human activity in which man gives himself fully to the spirit with the killing of all self-life: knowledge, art, religion and loving devotion to a personality in the spirit. Who does not live at least in one of these four spheres, does not live at all. Knowledge is devotion to the universe in thought, art in contemplation, religion in the mind, love with the sum of all spiritual forces to something which appears to us as a being of the world whole worth appreciating for us. Knowledge is the most spiritual, love the most beautiful form of selfless devotion. For love is a true light from heaven in the life of ordinariness. Pious, truly spiritual love ennobles our being to its innermost fiber, it elevates everything that lives within us. This pure pious love transforms the whole life of the soul into another that has kinship with the spirit of the world. To love in this highest sense means to carry the breath of God's life where usually only the most detestable egoism and careless passion can be found. One must know something of the holiness of love, only then can one speak of being pious.

When man has lived through one of the four spheres, out of the individual, into the divine life of the idea, then he has attained that for which the germ of aspiration lies in his breast: his union with the spirit; and this is his true destiny. But he who lives in the spirit lives freely. For he has got rid of everything subordinate. Nothing conquers him but that from which he gladly suffers compulsion, for he has recognized it as the highest.

Let the truth become life; lose yourself in order to find yourself again in the spirit of the world!