Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts
25. The Sense- and Thought-Systems of Man in Relation to the World
When man first applies Imaginative Cognition to the contemplation of his own human being, he begins by eliminating his own sense-system from the field of vision. As he now observes himself, he becomes a being without the system of senses. Not that he ceases to have before his soul pictures such as were previously conveyed by the sense-organs. But he ceases to feel himself connected with the outer physical world through the sense-organs. The pictures of the outer physical world which he now has before his soul are no longer conveyed by the organs of sense. His very vision of them is proof of the fact that even through the sense-connection with the outer world of Nature, he has yet another connection with this world — one that does not depend on the senses. It is a connection with the Spirit that is embodied in the world of Nature.
In such vision, therefore, the physical world falls away from man. It is the earthly world that falls away. Man no longer feels this earthly world upon him.
It might be imagined that he would in the same moment lose self-consciousness. For this would seem to follow from our previous studies, which showed self-consciousness to be an outcome of the connection of man with the Earth-nature. But it is not so. Man preserves what he has gained through the earthly nature, even when, after having gained it, he divests himself of it in the conscious activity of higher knowledge.
By the above-described, spiritually Imaginative vision, the fact is revealed that man's sense-system is not, fundamentally speaking, at all intensely connected with his being. It is not really he who lives in this sense-system, but his environment. It is the outer world with its nature which has built itself into the sense-organisation of man.
Therefore, when he becomes an Imaginative seer, man really regards his sense-system as a portion of the outer world.
It is indeed closer to his being than the world of Nature around him; but still, it belongs to the outer world. It is only distinguished from the remaining outer world in this, that man can dive down into the latter with activity of knowledge through sense-perception and in no other way. Into his own sense-system, on the other hand, he dives down with conscious inner experience. The sense-system is a part of the outer world; but into this outer world man penetrates with his own being of soul-and-spirit, which he brings with him as he descends from the Spirit-world and enters Earth-existence.
Except for this fact that he fills it with his own being of soul-and-spirit, man's sense-system is of the outer world, just as is the plant kingdom that is spread around him. The eye in the last resort belongs to the world and not to man, just as the rose which man perceives belongs not to him, but to the world.
In the age of cosmic evolution that man has just passed through, thinkers arose who declared that colour, sound, warmth-impressions and the like were not really in the world, but in the human being. The ‘red colour,’ they say, is not anything at all out there in the world-environment of man; it is but the effect of an unknown reality upon him. But the very opposite of this conception is the truth. It is not the colour which, with the eye, belongs to man; it is the eye that with the colour belongs to the world. During his life on Earth man does not let the Earth-environment pour in upon himself, but grows outward — from birth to death — into this outer world.
It is significant that at the end of the Age of Darkness, when men stared out into the world without even dimly experiencing the light of the Spirit, the true idea of man's relationship to his environment was replaced by its very opposite.
When, in Imaginative Cognition, man has eliminated that environment in which he lives by means of his sense-system, there enters into the sphere of conscious experience another system — namely, that which is the bearer of his Thought, even as the sense-system is the bearer of his picture-world of sense-perception.
And now man knows himself to be connected through his thinking system with the cosmic environment of the stars, even as he previously knew himself to be connected through his sense-system with the Earth-environment. He now recognises himself as a cosmic being. His thoughts are no longer phantom-shadow pictures. They are saturated with reality, as sense-pictures are in the act of sense-perception. And if at this stage the knower passes on to Inspiration, he becomes aware that he can cast aside this world of which the thinking system is the bearer, just as he can cast aside the earthly. He sees that with his thinking system, too, he belongs, not to his own being, but to the world. He realises how the world thoughts hold sway in him by means of his own thinking system. Here again he becomes aware that he thinks, not by receiving images of the world into himself, but by growing outward with his own thinking Organisation into the Thinking of the world.
Both with respect to his sense-system and his thinking system, man is world. The world builds itself into him. In sense-perception and in thought, he is not he himself, but part of the contents of the world.
Now into his thinking system man penetrates with his own being of soul-and-spirit, which belongs neither to the earthly world nor to the world of stars, but is of a wholly spiritual nature and thrives in man from life to life on Earth. This being of soul-and-spirit is accessible only to Inspiration.
Thus man steps out of the earthly and cosmic systems of his nature, to stand before himself as a being of pure soul-and-spirit through conscious Inspiration.
And in this being of pure soul-and-spirit he meets the life and law of his own destiny.
With the sense-system man lives in his physical body, with the thinking system in his etheric body. Both systems having been cast aside in living activity of knowledge, he finds himself in his astral body.
Every time man casts aside a portion of the nature which he has assumed, the content of his soul is indeed impoverished on the one hand; and yet on the other hand it is enriched. The physical body being eliminated, the beauty of the plant world as the senses see it is before him no longer, save in a far paler form; but on the other hand the whole world of elemental beings dwelling in the plant-kingdom rises up before his soul.
Because this is so, the man of true spiritual knowledge has no ascetic attitude to what the senses can perceive. In the very spiritual experience, there remains alive in him the inner need to perceive once more through the senses what he now experiences in the Spirit. In the full human being, seeking as he does to experience the whole reality, sense perception awakens the longing for its counterpart — the world of elemental beings. Likewise the vision of the elemental beings kindles the longing for the content of sense-perception once again.
Thus in the fullness of the life of man, Spirit longs for sense and sense for Spirit. There would be emptiness in spiritual existence, if the experiences of the conscious life in the senses were not there as a memory. There would be darkness in the life of sense-experience, if it were not for the active force of the Spirit which lights into it, albeit subconsciously at first.
Hence, when man will have made himself ripe to experience the activity of Michael, it will not mean that souls become impoverished in their experience of Nature. On the contrary, they will be enriched in this respect. And in the life of feeling, too, man will not tend to withdraw from sense experience, but will be glad and eager to receive the wonders of this world of the senses more fully yet into his soul.
Further Leading Thoughts, issued from the Goetheanum (with regard to the foregoing study: The Sense- and Thought-Systems of Man, in relation to the World)
171. The Organisation of the human senses belongs not to man's own nature, but is built into it by the outer world during his earthly life. Spatially though it is in man, in its real essence the perceiving eye is in the World. Man with his soul and spirit reaches out into that which the World is experiencing in him through his senses. He does not receive the physical environment into himself during his life on Earth, but grows out into it with his own soul and spirit.
172. Likewise his thinking Organisation: through this he grows out into the existence of the stars. He knows himself as a world of stars; he lives and moves in the Cosmic Thoughts, when in the living experience of Knowledge he has put away the Organisation of the senses.
173. When both are put away-the earthly world and the world of the stars as well-man stands before himself as a Being of soul, and spirit. Here at length he is no longer of the World; here he is truly man. To become aware of what he experiences here, is Self-knowledge; even as it is World-knowledge to become aware in the Organisation of the senses and of thought.