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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Riddles of the Soul
GA 21

4. An Important Characteristic of Spiritual Perception

The soul's perceptions in the realm of spiritual reality do not live on in the soul in the same way as those mental pictures do that are gained from sense perceptions. Although a comparison of spiritual perceptions with memory pictures is possible—as was shown in the first addendum to this essay— spiritual perceptions do not act like memory pictures in the soul. What is experienced as a spiritual perception cannot, in fact, be retained in this direct form as a memory picture can. If a person is to have the same spiritual perception anew, the perception must also be produced anew in the soul. This means that the relation of the soul to the pertinent spiritual reality must be sought again. And this renewal cannot be compared with the memory of a sense impression; it can only be compared to confronting the eye again with the same sense-perceptible object that made an earlier impression. What can be retained directly in one's memory from a real spiritual perception is not this memory itself, but rather the soul activity by which one attained the perception in question. If I am striving to renew a spiritual perception from the past, I do not seek a memory of this perception; I seek the memory that recalls the soul activity that led to the perception in the first place. The perception occurs then through a process that is independent of me. It is important to be fully conscious of these two different processes, because only through this consciousness can one achieve a correct knowledge of what is really spiritually objective.

The nature of these two processes is modified in actual practice, however, through the fact that the content of spiritual perception can be transferred from seeing consciousness into ordinary consciousness. This content then turns into an abstract mental picture in ordinary consciousness. And this mental picture can be remembered in the usual way.

But, precisely by careful training in the recognition of the following distinctions, which arise in the soul's life with a certain subtlety, one can achieve much in the way of a rightful, conscious relation of the soul to the spiritual world:

1. soul processes that lead to a spiritual perception
2. spiritual perceptions themselves
3. spiritual perceptions that are transformed into the concepts present in ordinary consciousness.