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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Cosmology, Religion and Philosophy
GA 25

X. On Experiencing the Will-part of the Soul

WHEN the ordinary consciousness sets Will in action there is a part of the astral organism at work which is more loosely connected with the physical organism than the part which corresponds with feeling. And already this part of the astral organism corresponding with feeling is more loosely connected with the physical organism than is the part corresponding with thinking. At the same time we have in the astral organism of the will the true nature of the Ego. While something psychic-spiritual which is continually active in the rhythmical part of the physical organism corresponds with feeling, the will-part of the soul continually permeates the metabolic organism and the organization of the limbs. But it is only actively connected with these parts of the human body while in the act of volition.

The connection between the thinking part of the soul and the head-organization is a surrender of the psychic-spiritual to the physical. The connection between the feeling soul with the rhythmical organization is an alternate surrender and drawing-back. But the connection of the will-part to the physical is at first felt to be something unconsciously psychic. It is an unconscious longing for the physical and etheric event. This will-part is by its own nature prevented from being resolved into physical activity. It stands back from it and remains psycho-spiritually alive. Only when the thinking part of the soul extends its activity into the metabolic and limb-organization, the will-part is stimulated to surrender itself to the physical and etheric organization and to be active in it. The thinking part of the soul is founded on a destructive activity of the physical organism. During the making of thoughts this destruction extends only to the head-organization. When the will ordains something the destructive activity of metabolism and of the limb-organization takes charge. The thought-activity flows into the organization of trunk and limbs, where a corresponding destructive activity of the physical organism takes place. This stimulates the will-part of the soul to oppose this destruction with a re-building and the dissolving organic activity with a constructive one.

Thus life and death are warring together in the human being. In thought is manifest an ever dying activity while will stands for something life-awakening, life-giving.

Those exercises of the soul which are undertaken as exercises of the will, aiming at supernatural vision, are successful only when they become an experience of pain. The man who succeeds in raising his will to a higher level of energy will feel sorrow. In former epochs of the development of mankind this pain was directly occasioned by ascetic practices. They reduced the body to a state which made it difficult for the soul to absorb herself in it. This caused the will-part of the soul to break away from the body and to be stimulated to independent experiences of the spiritual world. This kind of practice is no longer suitable to the human organization which has reached the present moment of earthly development. The human organism is now so constituted that the presentation of the ego-development in it would be disturbed if we went back to the old ascetic practices.

At present we must do the opposite. The soul exercises now wanted to set free the will-part of the soul from the body have been characterized in the previous studies. They do not achieve the strengthening of this soul part from the direction of the body, but from the direction of the soul. They strengthen the soul and spiritual part of man and leave the physical part untouched.

Our ordinary consciousness makes us realize already how the experience of sorrow is connected with the development of psychic experience. Whoever has gained any kind of supernatural knowledge will say: The happy, joy-giving events of my life I owe to fate; but my really true knowledge of life I owe to my bitter and sorrowful experiences.

If the will-part of the soul has to be strengthened as is necessary for the attainment of ‘Intuitive cognition’ we must first strengthen the desire which in ordinary human life is satisfied through the physical organism. This is done by the exercises described. If this desire becomes so strong that the physical organism in its earthly form cannot be a foundation for it, then the experience of the will-part of the soul enters into the spiritual world and intuitive vision is attained. And then in this vision the spiritual-eternal part of the soul grows conscious of itself. Just as the consciousness living inside the body realizes the body in itself, so spiritual consciousness realizes the content of a spiritual world.

In the alternating processes of destruction and construction of the human organization, as they are manifested in the thinking, feeling and willing organization of mankind, we must recognize the more or less normal course of human life on earth. It differs in childhood from that of the grown-up man. The task of the true pedagogue is a perception of the effect of the destructive and constructive activities in childhood and of the influence of education and tuition upon them.

A true educational science can only arise from the supernaturally-derived knowledge of the human nature complete in its physical, psychic and spiritual being. A knowledge keeping solely within the limits of what is attainable to natural science cannot be called a foundation of a true educational science.

In illness the more or less normal course of the inter-relation between the constructive and destructive elements is disturbed throughout the whole organization—or in separate organs. We get there an overbalancing either of construction in a prolific life or of destruction in shifting forms of single organs or processes. What exactly happens in this case can only be seen in the whole by someone who has complete knowledge of the human organization, according to its physical, etheric and astral organism, as well as to the nature of the ego; and the cure can be found only by means of such knowledge. For in the realms of the outer world are to be found mineral and herbal things in which constructive knowledge recognizes forces which counteract certain kinds of too strongly stimulating. or too actively lowering forces in the organism. In the same way such a counteraction can be found in certain functions of the organism itself, which in a state of health are not applied or stimulated. A genuine medical knowledge, a real Pathology and Therapy can be built up only on a knowledge of the human being which embraces spirit, soul and body, a knowledge, moreover, which knows how to value the products of Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition. The demand for such a medical science is to-day called childish, because we view everything from the ground of a physical science. From this point of view this is quite intelligible, because according to it one has not the least idea how much more is a complete knowledge of the human being than mere knowledge of the human body. We can genuinely say that Anthroposophy is aware of the objections of its opponents and knows how to appreciate them. But just for this reason we also know how difficult it is to convince these opponents.

The will part of the soul experiences also what passes in the feeling parts, unconsciously as far as the ordinary life of the soul is concerned; but in the depths of man's organization it occurs as a combination of facts. The evaluation of human earth-activity completed through feeling and will is there transformed into an effort to contrast in further experiences a more worthy deed with a less worthy one. The whole moral quality of the man is unconsciously experienced; and from this experience is formed a kind of spiritual-psychic being which during life on earth grows up in the unconscious region of the human being. This spiritual-psychic being represents whatever earthly life produces as a desirable objective, unattainable however by man in earthly life, because his physical and etheric organism with their forms predestined from former earth life, make it impossible. Therefore man strives through this spiritual-psychic being or nature to form another physical and etheric organism, through which the moral results of the earth-life can be transformed in the subsequent existence.

This new form can be achieved only if man carries with him this spiritual-psychic nature through the gates of death into the supernatural world.

Immediately after death the psychic-spiritual man retains for a short time the etheric organism. In his consciousness at this point he has no more than an indication of the moral value which has unconsciously arisen during earth-life in the spiritual and psychic part of him. For man is there completely pre-occupied with the vision of the etheric cosmos. In the following longer state of experience (which I have called the Soul-world in my Theosophy) a clear consciousness of this moral valuation is actually present, but not yet the strength to begin working at the construction of the spirit-cell which is to be a future physical earth-organism. Man then still has a tendency to look back at his earthly life because of his moral qualities acquired there. After a certain time man can find the transition to a state of experience in which the tendency is no longer there. (In my Theosophy I have called the region here traversed by man the real domain of the spirit.) From the point of view of the supernatural thought-content to which man attains—after death—in the cosmic consciousness—we might say: For a short while after death man lives turned towards the earth and is permeated with those spiritual activities which have their outward reflection in the physical phenomena of the moon. Outwardly he has been separated from the earth, but he is indirectly connected with it through a spiritual-psychic content. Everything of world-spiritual value that man during his presence on earth has developed into a real value in his astral organism (or as expressed above: in the unconscious region of his soul-life according to feeling and willing), all this is permeated by the spiritual moon-activities already described. This moral being with its spiritual quality is related by content with the spiritual moon-activities, and it is they which hold man bound to earth. But for the development of the spirit-cell for the future physical organism he must also sever himself psycho-spiritually from the earth. This he can only do by cutting himself loose at the same time from the region of the moon-activities. There he must leave behind that moral quality-being with which he is related. For the working for the future physical organism in conjunction with the spiritual beings of the supernatural world must take place unhampered by that quality-being.

Man cannot obtain this severance from the region of the spiritual moon-activities through his own psycho-spiritual powers. But it has to be done nevertheless.

Before the mystery of Golgotha the science of initiation could speak to man as follows: At a certain period of existence after death, human experience has to be withdrawn from the lunar sphere which keeps man within the region of planetary life. Man cannot himself bring about this withdrawal. Here it is that the being, whose physical reflection is the sun, comes to man's aid, and guides him into the sphere of pure spirit in which he, himself and not the spiritual moon beings are active. Man then experiences a stellar existence in such a way as to view the spiritual patterns of the fixed star constellations from the farther side, as it were; from the periphery of the cosmos. This vision is non-spatial even though the stars are made visible to him. With the powers now permeating man his ability to form the spirit-cell of physical organism out of the cosmos grows. The divine in him brings forth the divine. Once the spirit-cell has ripened, its descent to earth begins. Man enters once more into the lunar sphere and finds there the being of moral-spiritual quality which he left behind at his entry into the pure stellar existence; he adds it to his psychic-spiritual being to make it the foundation of his destined future life on earth.

The Initiation-science of Christianity finds something else. In the absorption of the strength accruing to the soul through the contemplative and active sympathy with the earthly life of Christ and the Mystery of Golgotha, man gains, already while still on earth and not aided only by the solar-being after death, the faculty of withdrawing from the lunar activities at a certain point after his earthly existence, and of entering into the pure stellar sphere. This faculty is the spiritual counterpart, experienced after death, of the freedom brought about in earthly life by the ego-consciousness. Man then takes over in the period between death and re-birth his moral-spiritual quality-being, left behind in the lunar sphere, as the designer of his fate which he can thus experience in freedom in his new existence on earth. He also carries within him in freedom the earthly after-effect of his god-filled existence between death and rebirth as religious consciousness.

A modern science of Initiation can recognize this and can see the activity of the Christ in human existence. It adds to a living Philosophy and to a Cosmology which recognizes also the spirit cosmos, a religious knowledge which recognizes the Christ as the mediator of a renewed religious consciousness and as the leader of the world in freedom.

In these studies I have not been able to do more than sketch a possible beginning of a Philosophy, a Cosmology and a Religious Cognition. Much more would have to be said if the sketch were to be converted into a coloured picture with all its colours.