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Cosmology, Religion and Philosophy
GA 25

IV. Exercises of Cognition and Will

We said that for the development of ‘inspired cognition’ one of the basic exercises is to banish from the consciousness pictures which have arisen in it in meditation or in the sequel to the process of meditation. But this exercise is really only a preliminary one to another. By the banishing we get to the point of visualizing the course of our life in the way our last survey demonstrated. We attain also to a view of the spiritual Cosmos in so far as this can express itself in etheric life. We receive a picture of the living etheric Cosmos projected on to the human being. We see how everything which we can call heredity passes on in a continuous process from the physical organisms of the ancestors to the physical organisms of posterity. But we see also how a repeatedly new effect of the etheric cosmos occurs for the facts of the etheric organism. This fresh effect from the etheric cosmos works in opposition to heredity. It is of a kind which affects only the individual man. It is specially important for the teacher to have an insight into these things.

To progress in supernatural knowledge it is necessary to perfect the exercise of banishing the imaginative pictures more and more. Through it the energy of the soul for this banishing is continually strengthened. For at first we attain only to a review of the course of our life since birth. What we have there before us is indeed something psychic and spiritual, but at the same time it is not something which can be said to have an existence beyond the physical life of man.

In continuing these exercises of inspiration it becomes clear that the power of obliterating the imaginative pictures grows ever greater, and later becomes so great that the whole picture of one's life's course can be banished from the consciousness. We then have a consciousness that is freed also from the content of our own physical and etheric human nature.

Into this in a higher sense empty consciousness there then enters through a higher inspiration a picture of the psychic-spiritual nature as it was before man left the psychic-spiritual world for the physical, and there formed union with the body which exists through conception and the development of the embryo. We get a vision of how the astral and Ego-organization covers itself with an etheric organization which comes from the etheric Cosmos, and with a physical one which arises from the sequence of heredity.

Only in this way do we acquire knowledge of the eternal inner being of man, which during his life on earth exists in the reflection of the soul's imagination, feeling, and Will. But we acquire also through it the idea of the true nature of this imaginative presentation; for in point of fact this is not present in its true shape within the limits of the earth-life.

Look at a human corpse. It has the shape and the limbs of a man, but life has gone out of it. If we understand the nature of the corpse, we do not regard it as an end in itself, but as the remains of a living physical man. The external forces of Nature, to which the corpse is surrendered, can destroy it well enough; but they cannot construct it. In the same Way, from a higher stage of vision, one recognizes earthly human thought to be the dead remains of that living thought which belonged to man before he was transplanted from his existence in the spiritual, psychic world into his life on earth. The nature of earthly thought is as little comprehensible from itself as the form of the human organism is from the forces which work in the corpse. We must recognize earthly thought as dead thought, if we want to recognize it rightly.

If we are on the way to such a recognition, we can then also completely see the nature of earthly will. This is recognized in a certain sense as a more recent part of the soul. That which is hidden behind the will stands to thought in the same relationship as, in the physical organism, the baby does to the old man on his deathbed. Only with the soul, babyhood and old age do not develop in sequence after one another, but exist side by side. We see, however, from what has been explained, certain results for a Philosophy which intends to form its ideas only on the experience of life on earth. It receives as contents only dead, or at least, expiring ideas. Its duty therefore can be only to recognize the dead character of the thought-world and to draw conclusions from what is dead on the basis of something which was once living. Just so far as one keeps to the method of intelligible proof, one can have no other aim. This purely ‘intellectual’ Philosophy therefore, can lead to the true nature of the soul only indirectly. It can examine the nature of human thought and recognize its transitoriness, and so it can indirectly show that something dead points to something living, as the corpse points to a living man.

Only ‘inspired cognition’ can arrive at a real vision of what is the true soul. The corpse of thought is again animated in a certain sense through exercises for this inspiration. We are not, it is true, transferred back completely into the condition that existed before life on earth began; but we bring to life in us a true picture of this condition, from the nature of which we can realize that it is projected out of a pre-terrestrial existence into a terrestrial one.

By means of developing intuition by exercises of the Will it comes about that the pre-terrestrial existence which had in thought died out during the earth-life is brought to life again in the subconscious mind. Through these exercises man is brought into a condition by means of which he enters upon the world of the spiritual, apart from his physical and etheric organism. He experiences what existence is after the dissolution from the body; he is given a pre-vision of what really happens after death. He can speak of the continuity of the spiritual part of the soul after going through the gates of death.

Again the purely intellectual conceptual Philosophy can attain to the recognition of the immortality of the soul only by an indirect way. As it recognizes in thought something that can be compared with a dead body, so in the will it can establish something comparable with a seed. Something that has life in itself, which points beyond the dissolution of the body, because its nature shows itself, even during life on earth, independent of it. So, since we do not stand still at thought, but use all soul-life as experience of self, we can reach an indirect realization of the everlasting nucleus of the human being. Further we must not limit our contemplation to thought, but subject the interchange of thought with the other forces of the soul to philosophical methods of proof. But still with all this we come only to experience the everlasting human nucleus as it is in the earth-life, and not to a vision of the condition of the human spirit and the human soul before and after it. This is the case, for instance, with Bergson's Philosophy, which rests on a comprehensive self-experience of what is evident in the earth-life, but which refuses to step into the region of real supersensible knowledge.

Every Philosophy which remains within the sphere of the ordinary consciousness can reach only an indirect knowledge of the true nature of the human soul.

Cosmology if it is to be of a kind that the total human being is influenced through it, can be acquired only through the imaginative, inspired and intuitive knowledge. Within ordinary consciousness it has only the testimony for the human soul-life that dies out and re-awakens like seed. From this fact it can formulate ideas based on unprejudiced observations which point to something Cosmic, and lay it open. Still, these ideas are only that which pours into the inner being of man from the spiritual Cosmos, and moreover reveals itself in a changed form within him. Philosophy indeed had in former times a branch called Cosmology. But the real subject matter of this Cosmology were ideas which had become very abstract, which had by tradition subsisted from old forms of Cosmology. Humanity had developed these ideas at a time when an old dream-like Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition still existed. They were taken out of their tradition and woven into the material of pure intellectual, logical or dialectic demonstration. Men were often quite unconscious of the fact that these ideas were borrowed; they were considered new and original. Gradually it was found that in the inner life of the spirit no real inner connection with these ideas existed. Therefore this ‘rational Cosmology’ fell almost completely into discredit. It had to give place to the physical Cosmology, built up on the nature-knowledge of the physical senses, which, however, to the unprejudiced eye, no longer embraced man in its scope.

A true Cosmology can arise again only when imaginative, inspired and intuitive knowledge are allowed their place, and their results applied to the knowledge of the universe.

What has had to be said concerning Cosmology applies still more to knowledge of a religious kind. Here we have to build up knowledge which has its origins in the experience of the spiritual world. To draw conclusions concerning such experience from the subject-matter of ordinary consciousness is impossible. In intellectual concepts the religious content cannot be opened out but only clarified. When one began to seek for proofs of God's existence, the very search was a proof that one had already lost the living connection with the divine world. For this reason also no intellectualistic proof of God's existence can be given in any satisfactory way. Any theory formed from the ordinary consciousness alone is obliged to work into an individual system ideas borrowed from tradition. Formerly, philosophers tried to get also a ‘rational Theology’ from this ordinary consciousness. But this compared with the Theology based on traditional ideas suffered the same fate as ‘rational Cosmology’, only still more so. Whatever came to light as a direct ‘God-experience’ remains in the world of feeling or will, and in fact prevents the transition to any method of conceptual proof. Philosophy itself has fallen into the error of seeing in a purely historical religion religious forms which have existed and still exist. It does this from an incapacity to attain through the ordinary consciousness to ideas on a subject which can be experienced only outside the physical and etheric organism.

A new basis for the knowledge of the religious life can be won only by a recognition of the imaginative, inspired and intuitive methods, and by the application of their results to this life.