Riddles of Philosophy
VIII. A Brief Outline of an Approach to Anthroposophy
If one observes how, up to the present time, the philosophical world conceptions take form, one can see undercurrents in the search and endeavor of the various thinkers, of which they themselves are not aware but by which they are instinctively moved. In these currents there are forces at work that give direction and often specific form to the ideas expressed by these thinkers. Although they do not want to focus their attention on the forces directly, what they have to say often appears as if driven by hidden forces, which they are unwilling to acknowledge and from which they recoil. Forces of this kind live in the thought worlds of Dilthey, Eucken and Cohen. They are led by cognitive powers by which they are unconsciously dominated but that do not find a conscious development within their thought structures.
Security and certainty of knowledge is being sought in many philosophical systems, and Kant's ideas are more or less taken as its point of departure. The outlook of natural science determines, consciously or unconsciously, the process of thought formation. But it is dimly felt by many that the source of knowledge of the external world must be sought in the self-conscious soul. Almost all of these thinkers are dominated by the question: How can the self-conscious soul be led to regard its inner experiences as a true manifestation of reality? The ordinary world of sense perception has become “illusion” because the self-conscious ego has, in the course of philosophical development, found itself more and more isolated with its subjective experiences. It has arrived at the point where it regards even sense perception merely as inner experience that is powerless to assure being and permanence for them in the world of reality. It is felt how much depends on finding a point of support within the self-conscious ego. But the search stimulated by this feeling only leads to conceptions that do not provide the means of submerging with the ego into a world that provides satisfactory support for existence.
To explain this fact, one must look at the attitude toward the reality of the external world taken by a soul that has detached itself from that reality in the course of its philosophical development. This soul feels itself surrounded by a world of which it first becomes aware through the senses. But then it also becomes conscious of its own activity, of its own inner creative experience. The soul feels, as an irrefutable truth, that no light, no color can be revealed without the eye's sensitivity for light and color. Thus, it becomes aware of something creative in this activity of the eye. But if the eye produces the color by its spontaneous creation, as it must be assumed in such a philosophy, the question arises: Where do I find something that exists in itself, that does not owe its existence to my own creative power? If even the manifestations of the senses are nothing but results of the activity of the soul, must this not be true to even a higher degree with our thinking, through which we strive for conceptions of a true reality? Is this thinking not condemned to produce pictures that spring from the character of the soul life but can never provide a sure approach to the sources of existence? Questions of this kind emerge everywhere in the development of modern philosophy.
It will be impossible to find the way out of the confusion resulting from these questions as long as the belief is maintained that the world revealed by the senses constitutes a complete, finished and self-dependent reality that must be investigated in order to know its inner nature. The human soul can arrive at its insights only through a spontaneous inner creativity. This conviction has been described in a previous chapter of this book, “The World as Illusion,” and in connection with the presentation of Hamerling's thoughts. Having reached this conviction, it is difficult to overcome a certain impasse of knowledge as long as one thinks that the world of the senses contains the real basis of its existence within itself and that one therefore has to copy with the inner activity of the soul what lies outside.
This impasse will be overcome only by accepting the fact that, by its very nature, sense perception does not present a finished self-contained reality, but an unfinished, incomplete reality, or a half-reality, as it were.
As soon as one presupposes that a full reality is gained through perceptions of the sensory world, one is forever prevented from finding the answer to the question: What has the creative mind to add to this reality in the act of cognition? By necessity one shall have to sustain the Kantian option: Man must consider his knowledge to be the inner product of his own mind; he cannot regard it as a process that is capable of revealing a true reality. If reality lies outside the soul, then the soul cannot produce anything that corresponds to this reality, and the result is merely a product of the soul's own organization.
The situation is entirely changed as soon as it is realized that the human soul does not deviate from reality in its creative effort for knowledge, but that prior to any cognitive activity the soul conjures up a world that is not real. Man is so placed in the world that by the nature of his being he changes things from what they really are. Hamerling is partly right when he says:
Certain stimuli produce the odor within our organ of smell. The rose, therefore, has no fragrance if nobody smells it. . . . If this, dear reader, does not seem plausible to you, if your mind stirs like a shy horse when it is confronted with this fact, do not bother to read another line; leave this book and all others that deal with philosophical things unread, for you lack the ability that is necessary for this purpose, that is, to apprehend a fact without bias and to adhere to it in your thoughts. (Compare pages of this volume.)
How the sensory world appears when man is confronted with it, depends without a doubt on the nature of the soul. Does it not follow then that this appearance of the world is a product of man's soul? An unbiased observation shows, however, that the unreal character of the external sense world is caused by the fact that when man is directly confronted by things of the world, he suppresses something that really belongs to them. If he unfolds a creative inner life that lifts from the depths of his soul the forces that lie dormant in them, he adds something to the part perceived by the senses and thereby turns a half-reality to its entirety. It is due to the nature of the soul that, at its first contact with things, it extinguishes something that belongs to them. For this reason, things appear to the senses not as they are in reality but as they are modified by the soul. Their delusive character (or their mere appearance) is caused by the fact that the soul has deprived them of something that really belongs to them.
Inasmuch as man does not merely observe things, he adds something to them in the process of knowledge that reveals their full reality. The mind does not add anything to things in the process of cognition that would have to be considered as an unreal element, but prior to the process of knowledge it has deprived these things of something that belongs to their true reality. It will be the task of philosophy to realize that the world accessible to man is an “illusion” before it is approached in the process of cognition. This process, however, leads the way toward a full understanding of reality. The knowledge that man creates during the process of cognition seems to be an inner manifestation of the soul only because he must, before the act of cognition, reject what comes from the nature of things. He cannot see at first the real nature of things when he encounters them in mere observation. In the process of knowledge he unveils what was first concealed. If he regards as a reality what he had at first perceived, he will now realize that he has added the results of his cognitive activity to reality. As soon as he recognizes that what was apparently produced by himself has to be sought in the things themselves, that he merely failed to see it previously, he will then find that the process of knowing is a real process by which the soul progressively unites with world reality. Through it, it expands its inner isolated experience to the experience of the world.
In a short work, Truth and Science, published in 1892, the author of the present book made a first attempt to prove philosophically what has been briefly described. Perspectives are indicated in this book that are necessary to the philosophy of the present age if it is to overcome the obstacles it has encountered in its modern development. A philosophical point of view is outlined in this essay in the following words:
The initial form in which reality confronts the ego is not its true manifestation but the final form, which the ego fashions out of it, is. The first form is altogether without significance for the objective world; it is of importance only as a basis for the processes of cognition. Therefore, it is not the form of the world that is presented by theory that must be considered subjective but the one the ego encounters initially as in mere perception.
A further exposition of this point of view is given in the author's later philosophical work, Philosophy of Freedom (1894) (translated also with the title, Philosophy of Spiritual Activity). There an attempt is made to give the philosophical foundations for a conception that was outlined in Truth and Science.
It is not due to the objects that they are given to us at first without their corresponding concept, but to our mental organization. Our whole being functions in such a way that from every real thing the relevant elements come to us from two sources, from perceiving and from thinking. The way I am organized for apprehending the things has nothing to do with the nature of the things themselves. The gap between perceiving and thinking exists only from the moment that I, as a spectator, confront the things.
And later on it is stated:
The percept is that part of reality that is given objectively; the concept the part that is given subjectively, through intuition. Our mental organization tears the reality apart into these two factors. The one factor presents itself to perception, the other to intuition. Only the union of the two, that is, the percept fitting systematically into the universe, constitutes the full reality. If we take mere percepts by themselves we have no reality but rather disconnected chaos. If we take by itself the law and order connecting the percepts then we have nothing but abstract concepts. Reality is not contained in the abstract concept. It is, however, contained in thoughtful observation, which does not one-sidedly consider either concept or percept alone, but rather the union of the two.
In accepting this point of view we shall be able to think of mental life and of reality as united in the self-conscious ego. This is the conception toward which philosophical development has tended since the Greek era and that has shown its first distinctly recognizable traces in the world conception of Goethe. The awareness arises that this self-conscious ego does not experience itself as isolated and divorced from the objective world, but its detachment from this world is experienced merely as an illusion of its consciousness. This isolation can be overcome if man gains the insight that at a certain stage of his development he must give a provisional form to his ego in order to suppress from his consciousness the forces that unite him with the world. If these forces exerted their influences in his consciousness without interruption, he would never have developed a strong, independent self-consciousness. He would be incapable of experiencing himself as a self-conscious ego. The development of self-consciousness, therefore, actually depends on the fact that the mind is given the opportunity to perceive the world without that part of reality that is extinguished by the self-conscious ego prior to an act of cognition.
The world forces belonging to this part of reality withdraw into obscurity in order to allow the self-conscious ego to shine forth in full power. The ego must realize that it owes its self-knowledge to a fact that spreads a veil over the knowledge of the world. It follows that everything that stimulates the soul to a vigorous, energetic experience of the ego, conceals at the same time the deeper foundations in which this ego has its roots. All knowledge acquired by the ordinary consciousness tends to strengthen the self-conscious ego. Man feels himself as a self-conscious ego through the fact that he perceives an external world with his senses, that he experiences himself as being outside this external world and that, at a certain stage of scientific investigation, he feels himself in relation to this external world in such a way that it appears to him as “illusion.” Were it not so, the self-conscious ego would not emerge. If, therefore, in the act of knowledge one attempts merely to copy what is observed before knowledge begins, one does not arrive at a true experience of full reality, but only at an image of a “half reality.”
Once this is admitted to be the situation, one can no longer look for the answer of the riddles of philosophy within the experiences of the soul that appear on the level of ordinary consciousness. It is the function of this consciousness to strengthen the self-conscious ego. To achieve this it must cast a veil over the connection of the ego with the objective world, and it therefore cannot show how the soul is connected with the true world. This explains why a method of knowledge that applies the means of the natural scientific or similar modes of conception must always arrive at a point where its efforts break down. This failing of many modern thinkers has previously been pointed out in this book, for, in the final analysis, all scientific endeavor employs the same mode of thinking that serves to detach the self-conscious ego from the true reality. The strength and greatness of modern science, especially of natural science, is based on the unrestrained application of this method.
Several philosophers such as Dilthey, Eucken and others, direct philosophical investigation toward the self-observation of the soul. But what they observe are those experiences of the soul that form the basis for the self-conscious ego. Thus, they do not penetrate to the sources in which the experiences of the soul originate. These sources cannot be found where the soul first observes itself on the level of ordinary consciousness. If the soul is to reach these sources, it must go beyond this ordinary consciousness. It must experience something in itself that ordinary consciousness cannot give to it. To ordinary thinking, such an experience appears at first like sheer nonsense. The soul is to experience itself knowingly in an element without carrying its consciousness into that element. One is to transcend consciousness and yet be conscious! But in spite of all this, we shall either continue to get nowhere, or we shall have to open new aspects that will reveal the above mentioned “absurdity” to be only apparently so since it really indicates the direction in which we must look for help to solve the riddles of philosophy.
One will have to recognize that the path into the “inner region of the soul” must be entirely different from the one that is taken by many philosophies of modern times. As long as soul experiences are taken the way they present themselves to ordinary consciousness, one will not reach down into the depths of the soul. One will be left merely with what these depths release. Such is the case with Eucken's world conception. It is necessary to penetrate below the surface of the soul. This is, however, not possible by means of the ordinary experiences. The strength of these rests precisely in the fact that they remain in the realm of the ordinary consciousness. The means to penetrate deeper into the soul can be found if one directs one's attention to something that is, to be sure, also at work in the ordinary consciousness, but does not enter it while it is active.
While man thinks, his consciousness is focused on his thoughts. He wants to conceive something by means of these thoughts; he wants to think correctly in the ordinary sense. He can, however, also direct his attention to something else. He can concentrate his attention on the activity of thinking as such. He can, for instance, place into the center of his consciousness a thought that refers to nothing external, a thought that is conceived like a symbol that has no connection to something external. It is now possible to hold onto such a thought for a certain length of time. One can be entirely absorbed by the concentration on this thought. The important thing with this exercise is not that one lives in thoughts but that one experiences the activity of thinking. In this way, the soul breaks away from an activity in which it is engaged in ordinary thinking.
If such an inner exercise is continued long enough, it will become gradually apparent to the soul that it has now become involved in experiences that will separate it from all those processes of thinking and ideation that are bound to the physical organs. A similar result can be obtained from the activities of feeling and willing and even for sensation, the perception of external things. One can only be successful with this approach if one is not afraid to admit to oneself that self-knowledge cannot be gained by mere introspection, but by concentrating on the inner life that can be revealed only through these exercises. Through continued practice of the soul, that is, by holding the attention on the inner activity of thinking, feeling and willing, it is possible for these “experiences” to become “condensed.” In this state of “condensation” they reveal their inner nature, which cannot be perceived in the ordinary consciousness. It is through such exercises that one discovers how our soul forces must be so “attenuated” or weakened in producing our ordinary form of consciousness, that they become imperceptible in this state of “attenuation.” The soul exercises referred to consist in the unlimited increase of faculties that are also known to the ordinary consciousness but never reach such a state of concentration. The faculties are those of attention and of loving surrender to the content of the soul's experience. To attain the indicated aim, these abilities must be increased to such a degree that they function as entirely new soul forces.
If one proceeds in this manner, one arrives at a real inner experience that by its very nature is independent of bodily conditions. This is a life of the spirit that must not be confused with what Dilthey and Eucken call the spiritual world. For what they call the spiritual world is, after all, experienced by man when he depends on his physical organs. The spiritual life that is here referred to does not exist for a soul that is bound to the body.
One of the first experiences that follows the attainment of this new spiritual life is a true insight into the nature of the ordinary mental life. This is actually not produced by the body but proceeds outside the body. When I see a color, when I hear a sound, I experience the color and the sound not as a result of my body, but I am connected with the color, with the sound, as a self-conscious ego, outside my body. My body has the task to function in a way that can be compared with the action of a mirror. If, in my ordinary consciousness, I only have a mental connection with a color, I cannot perceive it because of the nature of this consciousness, just as I cannot see my own face when I look out into space. But if I look into a mirror, I perceive this face as part of a body. Unless I stand in front of the mirror, I am the body and experience myself as such. Standing in front of the mirror, I perceive my body as a reflection. It is like this also with our sense perceptions, although we must, of course, be aware of the insufficiency of the analogy. I live with a color outside my body; through the activity of my body, that is, my eye and my nervous system, this color is transformed for me into a conscious perception. The human body is not the producer of perceptions and of mental life in general, but a mirroring device of psychic and spiritual processes that take place outside the body.
Such a view places the theory of knowledge on a promising basis. In a lecture called, The Psychological Foundations and Epistemological Position of Spiritual Science, delivered before the Philosophical Congress in Bologna on April 18, 1911, the author of this book gave the following account of a view that was then forming in his mind.
On the basis of epistemology one can reach a conception of the ego only if one does not think of it as being inside the bodily organization and as receiving impression “from outside.” One should conceive this “ego” as having its being within the general order (Gesetzmässigkeit) of the things themselves, and regard the organization of the body merely as a sort of mirror through which the organic processes of the body reflect back to the ego what this ego perceives outside the physical body as it lives and weaves within the true essence of the world.
During sleep the mirror-like relation between body and soul is interrupted; the “ego” lives only in the sphere of the spirit. For the ordinary consciousness, however, mental life does not exist as long as the body does not reflect the experiences. Sleep, therefore, is an unconscious process. The exercises mentioned above and other similar ones establish a consciousness that differs from the ordinary consciousness. In this way, the faculty is developed not merely to have purely spiritual experiences, but to strengthen these experiences to such a degree that they become spiritually perceptible without the aid of the body, and that they become reflected within themselves. It is only in an experience of this kind that the soul can obtain true self-knowledge and become consciously aware of its own being. Real experiences that do not belong to the sense world, but to one in which the soul weaves and has its being, now rise in the manner in which memory brings back experiences of the past. It is quite natural that the followers of many modern philosophies will believe that the world that thus rises up belongs in the realms of error, illusion, hallucination, autosuggestion, etc. To this objection one can only answer that a serious spiritual endeavor, working in the indicated way, will discipline the mind to a point where it will clearly differentiate illusion from spiritual reality, just as a healthy mind can distinguish a product of fantasy from a concrete perception. It will be futile to seek theoretical proofs for this spiritual world, but such proofs also do not exist for the reality of the world of perceptions. In both cases, actual experience is the only true judge.
What keeps many men from undertaking the step that, according to this view, can alone solve the riddles of philosophy, is the fear that they might be led thereby into a realm of unclear mysticism. Unless one has from the beginning an inclination toward unclear mysticism, one will, in following the described path, gain access to a world of spiritual experience that is as crystal clear as the structures of mathematical ideas. If one is, however, inclined to seek the spiritual in the “dark unknown,” in the “inexplicable,” one will get nowhere, either as an adherent or as an opponent of the views described here.
One can easily understand why these views will be rejected by personalities who consider the methods used by natural science for obtaining knowledge of the sense world as the only true ones. But whoever overcomes such one-sidedness will be able to realize that the genuinely scientific way of thinking constitutes the real basis for the method that is here described. The ideas that have been shown in this book to be those of the modern scientific method, present the best subject matter for mental exercises in which the soul can immerse itself, and on which it can concentrate in order to free itself from its bondage to the body. Whoever uses these natural scientific ideas in the manner that has been outlined above, will find that the thoughts that first seem to be meant to depict only natural processes will really set the soul free from the body. Therefore, the spiritual science that is here referred to must be seen as a continuation of the scientific way of thinking provided it is inwardly experienced in the right way.
The true nature of the human soul can be experienced directly if one seeks it in the characterized way. In the Greek era the development of the philosophical outlook led to the birth of thought. Later development led through the experience of thought to the experience of the self-conscious ego. Goethe strove for experiences of the self-conscious ego, which, although actively produced by the human soul, at the same time place this soul in the realm of a reality that is inaccessible to the senses. Goethe stands on this ground when he strives for an idea of the plant that cannot be perceived by the senses but that contains the supersensible nature of all plants, making it possible, with the aid of this idea, to invent new plants that would have their own life.
Hegel regarded the experience of thought as a “standing in the true essence of the world;” for him the world of thoughts became the inner essence of the world. An unbiased observation of philosophical development shows that thought experience was, to be sure, the element through which the self-conscious ego was to be placed on its own foundation. But it shows also that it is necessary to go beyond a life in mere thoughts in order to arrive at a form of inner experience that leads beyond the ordinary consciousness. For Hegel's thought experience still takes place within the field of this ordinary consciousness.
In this way, a view of a reality is opened up for the soul that is inaccessible to the senses. What is experienced in the soul through the penetration into this reality, appears as the true entity of the soul. How is it related to the external world that is experienced by means of the body? The soul that has been thus freed from its body feels itself to be weaving in an element of soul and spirit. It knows that also in its ordinary life it is outside that body, which merely acts like a mirror in making its experiences perceptible. Through this experience the soul's spiritual experience is heightened to a point where the reality of a new element is revealed to the soul.
To Dilthey and Eucken the spiritual world is the sum total of the cultural experiences of humanity. If this world is seen as the only accessible spiritual world, one does not stand on a ground firm enough to be comparable to the method of natural science. For the conception of natural science, the world is so ordered that the physical human being in his individual existence appears as a unit toward which all other natural processes and beings point. The cultural world is what is created by this human being. That world, however, is not an individual entity of a higher nature than the individuality of the human being.
The spiritual science that the author of this book has in mind points to a form of experience that the soul can have independent from the body, and in this experience an individual entity is revealed. It emerges like a higher human nature for whom the physical man is like a tool. The being that feels itself as set free, through spiritual experience, from the physical body, is a spiritual human entity that is as much at home in a spiritual world as the physical body in the physical world. As the soul thus experiences its spiritual nature, it is also aware of the fact that it stands in a certain relation to the body. The body appears, on the one hand, as a cast of the spiritual entity; it can be compared to the shell of a snail that is like a counter-picture of the shape of the snail. On the other hand, the spirit-soul entity appears in the body like the sum total of the forces in the plant, which, after it has grown into leaf and blossom, contract into the seed in order to prepare a new plant. One cannot experience the inner spiritual man without knowing that he contains something that will develop into a new physical man. This new human being, while living within the physical organism, has collected forces through experience that could not unfold as long as they were encased in that organism. This body has, to be sure, enabled the soul to have experiences in connection with the external world that make the inner spiritual man different from what he was before he began life in the physical body. But this body is, as it were, too rigidly organized for being transformed by the inner spiritual man according to the pattern of the new experiences. Thus there remains hidden in the human shell a spiritual being that contains the disposition of a new man.
Thoughts such as these can only be briefly indicated here. They point to a spiritual science that is essentially constructed after the model of natural science. In elaborating this spiritual science one will have to proceed more or less like the botanist when he observes a plant, the formation of its root, the growth of its stem and its leaves, and its development into blossom and fruit. In the fruit he discovers the seed of the new plant-life. As he follows the development of a plant he looks for its origin in the seed formed by the previous plant. The investigator of spiritual science will trace the process in which a human life, apart from its external manifestation, develops also an inner being. He will find that external experiences die off like the leaves and the flowers of a plant. Within the inner being, however, he will discover a spiritual kernel, which conceals within itself the potentiality of a new life. In the infant entering life through birth he will see the return of a soul that left the world previously through the gate of death. He will learn to observe that what is handed down by heredity to the individual man from his ancestors is merely the material that is worked upon by the spiritual man in order to bring into physical existence what has been prepared seedlike in a preceding life.
Seen from the viewpoint of this world conception, many facts of psychology will appear in a new light. A great number of examples could be mentioned here; it will suffice to point out only one. One can observe how the human soul is transformed by experiences that represent, in a certain sense, repetitions of earlier experiences. If somebody has read an important book in his twentieth year and reads it again in his fortieth, he experiences it as if he were a different person. If he asks without bias for the reason for this fact, he will find that what he learned from his reading twenty years previous has continued to live in -him and has become a part of his nature. He has within him the forces that live in the book, and he finds them again when he rereads the book at the age of forty. The same holds true with our life experiences. They become part of man himself. They live in his “ego.” But it is also apparent that within the limits of one life this inner strengthening of the higher man must remain in the realm of his spirit and soul nature. Yet one can also find that this higher human being strives to become strong enough to find expression in his physical nature. The rigidity of the body prevents this from happening within a single life span. But in the central core of man there lives the potential predisposition that, together with the fruits of one life, will form a new human life in the same way that the seed of a new plant lives in the plant.
Moreover, it must be realized that following the entry of the soul into an independent spirit world the results of this world are raised into consciousness in the same way that the past rises into memory. But these realities are seen as extending beyond the span of an individual life. The content of my present consciousness represents the results of my earlier physical experiences; so, too, a soul that has gone through the indicated exercises faces the whole of its physical experience and the particular configuration of its body as originating from the spirit-soul nature, whose existence preceded that of the body. This existence appears as a life in a purely spiritual world in which the soul lived before it could develop the germinal capacities of a preceding life into a new one. Only by closing one's mind to the obvious possibility that the faculties of the human soul are capable of development can one refuse to recognize the truthfulness of a person's testimony that shows that as a result of inner work one can really know of a spiritual world beyond the realm of ordinary consciousness. This knowledge leads to a spiritual apprehension of a world through which it becomes evident that the true being of the soul lies behind ordinary experiences. It also becomes clear that this soul being survives death just as the plant seed survives the decay of the plant. The insight is gained that the human soul goes through repeated lives on earth and that in between these earthly lives it leads a purely spiritual existence.
This point of view brings reality to the assumption of a spiritual world. The human souls themselves carry into a later cultural epoch what they acquired in a former. One can readily observe how the inner dispositions of the soul develop if one refrains from arbitrarily ascribing this development merely to the laws of physical heredity. In the spiritual world of which Eucken and Dilthey speak the later phases of development always follow from the immediately preceding ones. Into this sequence of events are placed human souls who bring with them the results of their preceding lives in the form of their inner soul disposition. They must, however, acquire in a process of learning what developed in the earthly world of culture and civilization while they were in a purely spiritual state of existence.
A historical account cannot do full justice to the thoughts exposed here. I would refer anyone who seeks more information to my writings on spiritual science. These writings attempted to give, in a general manner, the world conception that is outlined in the present book. Even so, I believe that it is possible to recognize from it that this world conception rests on a serious philosophical foundation. On this basis it strives to gain access to a world that opens up to sense-free observation acquired by inner work.
One of the teachers of this world conception is the history of philosophy itself. It shows that the course of philosophical thought tends toward a conception that cannot be acquired in a state of ordinary consciousness. The accounts of many representative thinkers show how they attempt in various ways to comprehend the self-conscious ego with the help of the ordinary consciousness. A theoretical exposition of why the means of this ordinary consciousness must lead to unsatisfactory results does not belong to a historical account. But the historical facts show distinctly that the ordinary consciousness, however we may look at it, cannot solve the questions it nevertheless must raise. This final chapter was written to show why the ordinary consciousness and the usual scientific mind lack the means to solve such questions. This chapter was meant to describe what the characterized world conceptions were unconsciously striving for. From one certain point of view this last chapter no longer belongs to the history of philosophy, but from another point of view, its justification is quite clear. The message of this book is that a world conception based on spiritual science is virtually demanded by the development of modern philosophy as an answer to the questions it raises.
To become aware of this one must consider specific instances of this philosophical development. Franz Brentano in his Psychology points out how philosophy was deflected from the treatment of the deeper riddles of the soul (compare page of this volume). He writes, “Apparent as the necessity for a restriction of the field of investigation is in this direction, it is perhaps no more than only apparent.” David Hume was most emphatically opposed to the metaphysicists who maintained that they had found within themselves a carrier for all psychic conditions. He says:
For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I can never catch myself at any time without a perception and never can observe anything but perceptions. When my perceptions are removed for any time, as by sound sleep, so long am I insensible of myself and may truly be said not to exist. (Treatise of Human Nature, Part IV, Sect. 6.)
Hume only knows the kind of psychological observation that would approach the soul without any inner effort. An observation of this kind simply cannot penetrate to the nature of the soul. Brentano takes up Hume's statement and says, “This same man, Hume, nevertheless, observes that all proofs for the immortality of the soul possess the same power of persuasion as the opposing traditional views.” But here we must add that only faith, and not knowledge, can support Hume's view that the soul contains nothing more than what he finds there. For how could any continuity be guaranteed for what Hume finds as the content of the soul? Brentano continues by saying:
Although it is obvious that a denial of a soul substance eliminates the possibility to speak of an immortality in the proper sense of the word, it is still not true that the question of immortality loses all meaning if a supporting substance for psychic activity is denied.
This becomes immediately evident if one considers that, with or without supporting substance, one cannot deny that our psychic life here on earth has a certain continuity. If one rejects the idea of a soul substance, one has the right to assume that this continuity does not depend on a supporting substance. The question as to whether our psychic life would continue after the destruction of our body will be no less meaningful for such a thinker than it is for others. It is really quite inconsistent if thinkers of this school reject the essential question of immortality as meaningless also in this important sense on the basis of the above-mentioned reason. It should then, however, be referred to as the immortality of life rather than that of the soul. (Brentano, Psychology from the Empirical Standpoint, Bk. I, Chap. 1.)
This opinion of Brentano's, however, is without support if the world conception outlined above is rejected. For where can we find grounds for the survival of psychic phenomena after the dissolution of the body if we want to restrict ourselves to the ordinary consciousness? This consciousness can only last as long as its reflector, the physical body, exists. What may survive the loss of the body cannot be designated as substance; it must be another form of consciousness. But this other consciousness can be discovered only through the inner activity that frees the soul from the body. This shows us that the soul can experience consciousness even without the mediation of the body. Through such activity and with the help of supersensible perception, the soul will experience the condition of the complete loss of the body. It finds that it had been the body, itself, that obscured that higher consciousness. While the soul is incarnated, the body has such a strong effect on the soul that this other consciousness cannot become active. This becomes a matter of direct experience when the soul exercises indicated in this chapter are successfully carried out. The soul must then consciously suppress the forces that originate in the body and extinguish the body-free consciousness. This extinction can no longer take place after the dissolution of the body. It is the other consciousness, therefore, that passes through successive lives and through the purely spiritual existence between death and birth. From this point of view, there is reference to a nebulous soul substance. In terms that are comparable to ideas of natural science, the soul is shown how it continues its existence because in one life the seed of the next is prepared, as the seed is prepared in the plant. The present life is shown as the reason for a future life, and the true essence of what continues when death dissolves the body is brought to light.
Spiritual science as described here nowhere contradicts the methods of modern natural science. But science has to admit that with its methods one cannot gain insight into the realm of the spiritual. As soon as the existence of a consciousness other than the ordinary one is recognized, one will find that by it one is led to conceptions concerning the spiritual world that will give to it a cohesion similar to that that natural science gives to the physical world.
It will be of importance to eliminate the impression that this spiritual science has borrowed its insights from any older form of religion. One is easily misled to this view because the conception of reincarnation, for instance, is a tenet of certain creeds. For the modern investigator of spiritual science, there can be no borrowing from such creeds. He finds that the devotion to the exercises described above will lead to a consciousness that enters the spiritual world. As a result of this consciousness he learns that the soul has its standing in the spiritual world in the way previously described.
A study of the history of philosophy, beginning with the awakening of thought in Greek civilization, indicates the way that leads to the conviction that the true being of the soul can be found below the surface of ordinary experience. Thinking has proved to be the educator of the soul by leading it to the point at which it is alone with itself. This experience of solitude strengthens the soul whereby it is able to delve not only into its own being but also to reach into the deeper realities of the world. The spiritual science described in this chapter does not attempt to lead behind the world of the senses by using the means of ordinary consciousness, such as reflection and theorizing. It recognizes that the spiritual world must remain concealed from that consciousness and that the soul must, through its own inner transformation, rise into the supersensible world before it can become conscious of it.
In this way, the insight is also gained that the origin of moral impulses lies in the world that the soul perceives when it is free of the body. From there also the driving forces originate that do not stem from the physical nature of man but are meant to determine his actions independent from this nature.
When one becomes acquainted with the fact that the “ego” with its spiritual world lives outside the body and that it, therefore, carries the experiences of the external world to the physical body, one will find one's way to a truly spiritual understanding of the riddle of human destiny. A man's inner life is deeply connected with his experiences of destiny. Just consider the state of a man at the age of thirty. The real content of his inner being would be entirely different if he had lived a different kind of life in his preceding years. His “ego” is inconceivable without the experiences of these years. Even if they have struck him serious blows of fate, he has become what he is through them. They belong to the forces that are active in his “ego.” They do not merely strike him from outside. As man lives in his soul and spirit with color that is perceptible only by means of its mirror-effect of the body, so he lives in union with his destiny. With color he is united in his soul life, but he can only perceive it when the body reflects it. Similarly, he becomes one with the effect of a stroke of destiny that results from a previous earth life, but he experiences this blow only inasmuch as the soul plunges unconsciously into events that spring from these causes. In his ordinary consciousness man does not know that his will is bound up with his destiny. In his newly acquired body-free consciousness he finds that he would be deprived of all initiative if that part of his soul that lives in the spiritual world had not willed its entire fate, down to the smallest details. We see that the riddles of human destiny cannot be solved merely by theorizing about them, but only by learning to understand how the soul grows together with its fate in an experience that proceeds beyond the ordinary consciousness. Thus, one will gradually realize that the causes for this or that stroke of destiny in the present life must be sought in a previous one. To the ordinary consciousness our fate does not appear in its true form. It takes its course as a result of previous earthly lives, which are hidden from ordinary consciousness. To realize one's deep connection with the events of former lives means at the same time that one becomes reconciled with one's destiny.
For a fuller coverage of the philosophical riddles like these, the author must refer to his other works on spiritual science. We can only mention the more important results of this science but not the specific ways and means by which it can become convincing.
Philosophy leads by its own paths to the insight that it must pass from a study of the world to an experience of it, because mere reflection cannot bring a satisfactory solution to all the riddles of life. This method of cognition is comparable to the seed of a plant. The seed can work in a twofold way when it becomes ripe. It can be used as human food or as seed for a new plant. If it is examined with respect to its usefulness, it must be looked at in a way different from the observation that follows the cycle of reproducing a new plant.
Similarly, man's spiritual experiences can choose either of two roads. On the one hand, it serves the contemplation of the external world. Examined from this point of view, one will be inclined to develop a world conception that asks above all things: How does our knowledge penetrate to the nature of things? What knowledge can we derive from a study of the nature of things? To ask these questions is like investigating the nutritional value of the seed. But it is also possible to focus attention on the experiences of the soul that are not diverted by outside impressions, but lead the soul from one level of being on to another. These experiences are seen as an implanted driving force in which one recognizes a higher man who uses this life to prepare for the next. One arrives at the insight that this is the fundamental impulse of all human soul experience and that knowledge is related to it as the use of the seed of the plant for food is comparable to the development of the grain into a new plant. If we fail to understand this fact, we shall live under the illusion that we could discover the nature of knowledge by merely observing the soul's experiences. This procedure is as erroneous as it is to make only a chemical analysis of the seed with respect to its food value and to pretend that this represents its real essence. Spiritual science, as it is meant here, tries to avoid this error by revealing the inner nature of the soul's experience and by showing that it can also serve the process of knowledge, although its true nature does not consist in this contemplative knowledge.
The “body-free soul consciousness” here described must not be confused with those enhanced mental conditions that are not acquired by means of the characterized exercises but result from states of lower consciousness such as unclear clairvoyance, hypnotism, etc. In these conditions no body-free consciousness can be attained but only an abnormal connection between body and soul that differs from that of the ordinary life. Real spiritual science can be gained only when the soul finds, in the course of its own disciplined meditative work, the transition from the ordinary consciousness to one with which it awakens in and becomes directly aware of the spiritual world. This inner work consists in a heightening, not a lowering of the ordinary consciousness.
Through such inner work the human soul can actually attain what philosophy aims for. The latter should not be underestimated because it has not attained its objective on the paths that are usually followed by it. Far more important than the philosophical results are the forces of the soul that can be developed in the course of philosophical work. These forces must eventually lead to the point where it becomes possible to recognize a “body-free soul experience.” Philosophers will then recognize that the “world riddles” must not merely be considered scientifically but need to be experienced by the human soul. But the soul must first attain to the condition in which such an experience is possible.
This brings up an obvious question. Should ordinary knowledge and scientific knowledge deny its own nature and recognize as a world conception only what is offered from a realm lying outside its own domain? As it is, the experiences of the characterized consciousness are convincing at once also to this ordinary consciousness as long as the latter does not insist upon locking itself up within its own walls. The supersensible truths can be found only by a soul that enters into the supersensible. Once they are found, however, they can be fully understood by the ordinary consciousness. For they are in complete and necessary agreement with the knowledge that can be gained for the world of the senses.
It cannot be denied that, in the course of the history of philosophy, viewpoints have repeatedly been advanced that are similar to those described in this final chapter. But in former ages these tendencies appeared only like byways of the philosophical inquiry. Its first task was to work its way through everything that could be regarded as a continuation of the awakening thought experience of the Greeks. It then could point the way toward supersensible consciousness on the strength of its own initiative and in awareness of what it can and what it cannot attain. In former times this consciousness was accepted, as it were, without philosophical justification. It was not demanded by philosophy itself. But modern philosophy demands it in response to what it has achieved already without the assistance of this consciousness. Without this help it has succeeded in leading the spiritual investigation into directions that will, if rightly developed, lead to the recognition of supersensible consciousness. That is why this final chapter did not start by describing the way in which the soul speaks of the supersensible when it stands within its realm. Quite to the contrary, an attempt was made to outline philosophically the tendencies resulting from the modern world conceptions, and it was shown how a pursuit of these innate tendencies leads the soul to the recognition of its own supersensible nature.