13 July 1924
This week something will be given in the communications addressed to members in these columns, which may serve to bring us to a further understanding of the weekly ‘Leading Thoughts’.
The understanding of anthroposophical truth can be furthered if the relation which exists between man and the world is constantly brought before the human soul.
When man turns his attention to the world into which he is born and out of which he dies, he is surrounded in the first place by the fullness of his sense-impressions. He forms thoughts about these sense-impressions.
In bringing the following to his consciousness: ‘I am forming thoughts about what my senses reveal to me as the world’, he has already come to the point where he can contemplate himself. He can say to himself: In my thoughts ‘I’ live. The world gives me the opportunity of experiencing myself in thought. I find myself in the thoughts in which I contemplate the world.
And continuing to reflect in this way, he ceases to be conscious of the world; he becomes conscious of the ‘I’. He ceases to have the world before him; he begins to experience the self.
If the experience be reversed, and the attention directed to the inner life in which the world is mirrored, then those events emerge into consciousness which belong to our life's destiny, and in which our human self has flowed along from the point of time to which our memory goes back. In following up the events of his destiny, a man experiences his own existence.
In bringing this to his consciousness: ‘I with my own self have experienced something that destiny brought to me’, a man has already come to the point where he will contemplate the world. He can say to himself: I was not alone in my fate; the world played a part in my experience. I willed this or that; the world streamed into my will. I find the world in my will when I experience this will in self-contemplation.
Continuing thus to enter into his own being, man ceases to be conscious of the self, he becomes conscious of the world; he ceases to experience himself, he becomes feelingly aware of the world.
I send my thoughts out into the world, there I find myself; I sink into myself, there I find the world. If a man experiences this strongly enough, he is confronted with the great riddles of the World and Man.
For to have the feeling: I have taken endless pains to understand the world through thinking, and after all there is but myself in this thinking ― this gives rise to the first great riddle. And to feel that one's own self is formed through destiny, yet to perceive in this process the onward flow of world-happenings ― this presents the second riddle.
In the experience of this problem of Man and the World germinates the frame of mind in which man can so confront Anthroposophy that he receives from it in his inner being an impression which rouses his attention.
For Anthroposophy asserts that there is a spiritual experience which does not lose the world when thinking. One can also live in thought. Anthroposophy tells of an inward experience in which one does not lose the sense-world when thinking, but gains the Spirit-world. Instead of penetrating into the ego in which the sense-world is felt to disappear, one penetrates into the Spirit-world in which the ego feels established.
Anthroposophy shows, further, that there is an experience of destiny in which one does not lose the self. In fate, too, one can still feel oneself to be active. Anthroposophy points out, in the impartial, unegoistic observation of human destiny, an experience in which one learns to love the world and not only one's own existence. Instead of staring into the world which carries the ego on the waves of fortune and misfortune, one finds the ego which shapes its own fate voluntarily. Instead of striking against the world, on which the ego is dashed to pieces, one penetrates into the self, which feels itself united with the course of events in the world.
Man's destiny comes to him from the world that is revealed to him by his senses. If then he finds his own activity in the working of his destiny, his real self rises up before him not only out of his inner being but out of the sense-world too.
If a person is able to feel, however faintly, how the spiritual part of the world appears in the self, and how the self proves to be working in the outer world of sense, he has already learned to understand Anthroposophy correctly. For he will then realise that in Anthroposophy it is possible to describe the Spirit-world which the self can comprehend. And this will enable him to understand that in the sense-world the self can also be found ― in a different way than by diving within. Anthroposophy finds the self by showing how the sense-world reveals to man not only sense-perceptions but also the after-effects of his life before birth and his former earthly lives.
Man can now gaze on the world perceptible to his senses and say: It contains not only colour, sound, warmth; in it are active the experiences passed through by souls before their present earthly life. And he can look into himself and say: I find there not only my ego but, in addition, a spiritual world is revealed.
In an understanding of this kind, a person who really feels ― who is not unmoved by ― the great riddles of Man and the World, can meet on a common ground with the Initiate who in accordance with his insight is obliged to speak of the outer world of the senses as manifesting not only sensible perceptions but also the impressions of what human souls have done in their life before birth and in past earthly lives, and who has to say of the world of the inner self that it reveals spiritual events which produce impressions and are as effective as the perceptions of the sense-world.
The would-be active members should consciously make themselves mediators between what the questioning human soul feels as the problems of Man and the Universe, and what the knowledge of the Initiates has to recount, when it draws forth a past world out of the destiny of human beings, and when by strengthening the soul it opens up the perception of a spiritual world.
In this way, through the work of the would-be active members, the Anthroposophical Society may become a true preparatory school for the school of Initiates. It was the intention of the Christmas Assembly to indicate this very forcibly; and one who truly understands what that Assembly meant will continue to point this out until the sufficient understanding of it can bring the Society fresh tasks and possibilities again.