Macrocosm and Microcosm
9. Organs of Spiritual Perception. Contemplation of the Ego from Twelve Vantage-points. The Thinking of the Heart.
29 March 1910, Vienna
In speaking yesterday of the so-called Rosicrucian path into the spiritual worlds it was said that this is the most suitable path for modern man and most in keeping with the laws of the evolution of humanity. We described how by adopting certain measures for his life of soul, man rises to Imaginative Knowledge, Knowledge through Inspiration and Intuitive Knowledge. If there were at his disposal nothing except the methods he deliberately applies to his soul, the ascent through these three stages would be as indicated yesterday. First of all the organs of spiritual perception would have to be developed, and only after a period of renunciation would he be able to rise from a kind of shadowy, hardly noticeable perception, to genuine experience.
In the present epoch of evolution man is not obliged to rely only upon what he deliberately does to his soul. Although in a far distant future he will have to rely upon this, the laws of evolution will then be quite different, so that from the beginning he will enter consciously into the spiritual worlds. Certainly this is also possible today but only because something comes to man's aid, namely the strengthening forces of sleep.
We have not yet spoken of the effect of the strengthening forces of sleep upon one who is undergoing this process of spiritual development. If during his development a man had not the help of sleep, he would require a very long time before being able to notice the delicate experiences that occur as a result of the methods indicated. But because his life alternates between waking and sleeping, the forces of sleep come to his help while he is developing the organs of higher perception referred to yesterday as the lotus-flowers. Although at first it is not possible to perceive anything by means of the lotus-flowers, nevertheless during sleep forces are imparted to man out of the higher worlds, out of the Macrocosm. It is due to these forces that sooner or later, after a man has turned again and again to the symbols and has so strengthened himself inwardly that his life of soul is greatly enriched, these organs make real experience of the spiritual world possible, with some degree of vision. When Imaginative Knowledge is actually attained, it already enables man to have a certain insight into the higher world.
For a comparatively long time man will need to experience in deep meditation pictures that are taken from life and speak to the heart, or certain formulae in which great world-secrets are briefly expressed. Then, first of all at the moment of waking, but also when he turns his attention away from the experiences of ordinary waking life, he will notice that something stands before his soul which arises like the inner pictures he has formed for himself but is there before him like flowers or stones seen in ordinary consciousness; he has before him actual symbols or emblems which he knows he has not himself created. During the period of preparation, and through the care he exercises in building up his symbols, he learns to distinguish between illusory and true pictures. A man who prepares himself conscientiously and above all has learned to eliminate his own personal opinions, wishes, desires and passions from his higher life, who has trained himself not to regard a thing as true simply because it pleases him but to exclude his own opinion — such a man can immediately distinguish between a symbol or picture that is true and one that is false.
An activity now begins of which it is important to take account in connection with distinguishing between true and false pictures. It can only be called thinking of the heart. This is something that comes about in the course of the development of which we spoke yesterday. In ordinary life we have the feeling that we think with the head. That of course is a pictorial expression, for we actually think with the spiritual organs underlying the brain; but it is generally accepted that we think with the head. We have a quite different feeling about the thinking that becomes possible when we have made a little progress. The feeling then is as if what had hitherto been localised in the head were now localised in the heart. This does not mean the physical heart but the spiritual organ that develops in the neighbourhood of the heart, the twelve-petalled lotus-flower. This organ becomes a kind of organ of thinking in one who achieves inner development and this thinking of the heart is very different from ordinary thinking. In ordinary thinking everyone knows that reflection is necessary in order to arrive at a particular truth. The mind moves from one concept to another and after logical deliberation and reflection reaches what is called ‘knowledge’. It is different when we want to recognise the truth in connection with genuine symbols or emblems. They are before us like objects, but the thinking we apply to them cannot be confounded with ordinary brain-thinking. Whether they are true or false is directly evident without any reflection being necessary as in the case of ordinary thinking. What there is to say about the higher worlds is directly evident. As soon as the pictures are before us we know what we have to say about them to ourselves and to others. This is the characteristic of heart-thinking.
There are not many things in everyday life that may be compared with it but I will speak of something that may make it intelligible. There are events which bring the intellect almost literally to a standstill. For example, suppose some event confronts you like a flash of lightning and you are terrified. No external thought intervenes between the event and your terror. The inner experience — the terror — is something that can bring the mind to a standstill. That is a good expression for it, for people feel what has, in very fact, happened. Similarly, we may fly into a rage at the sight of some act we see in the street. There again it is the direct impression that evokes the inner experience. If we begin to reflect about what happened we shall find in most cases that we form a different judgment of it. Experiences which arise when an action or inner state of mind directly follows the first impression are the only kind in everyday life that may be compared with those of the spiritual investigator when he has to say something about his experiences in the higher worlds. If we begin to reason, to apply much logical criticism to these experiences, we drive them away. And furthermore, ordinary thinking applied in such cases will usually produce something that is false.
Essential as it is first of all to undergo the discipline of sound, reasoned thinking before attempting to enter the higher worlds, it is equally essential to rise above this ordinary thinking to immediate apprehension. And just because it is necessary to have this faculty of immediate apprehension in the higher world, the preparatory training in logical thinking is essential, for otherwise our feelings would quite certainly lead us into error. With ordinary intellectual thinking we are incapable of judging rightly in the higher world, but equally we are incapable of judging rightly in that world if we have not first trained our intellectual thinking in the physical world, and then, at a suitable moment, are able to be oblivious of it. Some people consider that this characteristic quality of the higher kind of thinking, the thinking of the heart, is a reason for discarding ordinary logic altogether. They say that as it has eventually to be forgotten there is no need to assimilate it first of all. But in saying this they disregard the fact that logical thinking is a training for making oneself a different man. In logical thinking we experience above all a kind of conscience, and by developing that we establish in the soul a certain sense of responsibility towards truth and untruth, without which nothing can be achieved in the higher worlds.
Admittedly, there is great cause to disregard thinking during the ascent into the higher worlds, for in the ordinary life of today man experiences — or can at least experience — these three stages. — The majority of people are at the stage where in their normal consciousness an immediate, innate feeling tells them: this is right, that is wrong; you ought to do this, you ought not to do that. A man usually lets himself be guided by this kind of spontaneous impulse. Not many people take the trouble to reflect upon what are their most sacred treasures. Because they were born, let us say, in Middle Europe and not in Turkey, they have an inherent tendency to consider Christianity, not Mohammedanism, the true faith in Europe. This must not be misunderstood. Further reflection upon it leads to a true understanding of life. In by far the great majority of people an immediate feeling determines what they consider to be true or false. That is the first stage of development.
At the second stage man begins to reflect. More and more people will be prone to abandon their original feeling and to reflect about the circumstances and conditions into which they have been born. This is why there is so much criticism today of creeds and of sacred traditions from the past. All this criticism is the reaction of the intellect and the reasoning mind against what has been accepted out of feeling and left unproven by the intellect. Modern science is dominated by the same attitude of mind that adopts a critical attitude to whatever is innate or traditional. What is universally called science is, after all, essentially the work of the same soul-forces that have been characterised above. Everything is focussed upon outer knowledge and upon perceptions made either directly through the senses or through enhancements of sense-perceptions by means of instruments such as the telescope, microscope and so forth. The observations made are then formulated into laws with the help of the intellect.
Thus there are these two stages in the development of the human soul. In respect of what a man accepts as true he may be at the stage where he is guided by primitive, undeveloped feeling, feeling that is inborn or has been acquired through education. A second factor is what is called intellect, intelligence. But anyone who has a little insight into the nature of the soul knows that a very definite quality of this intelligence is that it has a deadening effect upon the emotional life. Is there any close observer who could fail to realise that all purely intellectual development deadens feeling and emotion? Hence those who out of certain primitive feelings — which are entirely justifiable at one stage of development — incline towards this or that truth are reluctant to let these beliefs be affected by the withering and devastating effect of intellectuality. This reluctance is understandable. If, however, it goes so far as to make people say that in order to rise into the higher worlds they will avoid all thinking and remain in their immature emotional life, then they can never reach the higher worlds; all their experiences will remain on a low level. It is inconvenient, but necessary, to train the power of thinking — which is of course invaluable for life in the external world, although for those who aspire to reach the higher worlds thinking serves merely as a preparation, as training. The validity of truths of the higher worlds cannot be established through logic. The thinking that is applied to machines, to the phenomena of outer nature, to the natural sciences, cannot be applied in the same way to experiences connected with the higher worlds. Anyone who understands this will not sing the praises of what is usually called ‘intellect’ in connection with knowledge of the higher worlds, for if anyone were to attempt to draw intellectual conclusions about these worlds he would only be able to produce commonplace truths of little depth, whereas for the external physical world the application of thinking is absolutely necessary. Without intellect we could not construct machines, build bridges or study botany, zoology, medicine, or anything else; its use in those domains is apparent inasmuch as it is applied to the immediate objects.
For higher development, intellect has approximately the significance that learning to write has in youth. Learning to write is the exercise of a faculty that must be behind us when it has to be applied; it has significance only when we have got beyond it. As long as we are still learning to write we cannot express our thoughts through writing; we must be able to write before we can learn anything from what is written. So it is too, with thinking. Anyone who wants to undergo higher development must for a certain time also undergo training in logical thinking and then discard it in order to pass over to thinking with the heart. Then there remains with him a certain habit of conscientiousness with regard to the acceptance of truth in the higher worlds. Nobody who has undergone this training will regard every symbol as a true Imagination or interpret it arbitrarily; but he will have the inner strength to draw near to reality, to see and interpret it rightly. The very reason why a thorough training is necessary is because we must then have an immediate feeling as to whether something is true or false. To put it exactly, this means that whereas in ordinary life we use reflection, in the higher worlds our thinking must previously have been developed sufficiently to enable us to decide spontaneously about truth or falsity.
A good preparation for such direct vision is a quality that must also be acquired and in ordinary life is present only to a very small extent. Most people will cry out if, let us say, they are pricked by a needle or if very hot water is poured over their heads. But how many really feel anything akin — I say expressly akin — to pain when a foolish or absurd statement is made? Countless individuals can tolerate that quite easily. But anyone who wants to develop the immediate feeling of one thing being true and another false, in such a way that the Imaginative world plays a part in the experience, must so, train himself that error causes him actual pain and that the truth also to be encountered in physical life gives him gladness and joy.
To acquire this quality is an exacting process and it is connected with the effort involved in the preparation for entry into the higher worlds. To be indifferent to truth and error is of course more comfortable than to feel pain in face of error and joy in face of truth. There is plenty of opportunity today to feel pain at the foolishness of the contents of many books! Pain and suffering in face of the ugly, the untrue and the evil, even when only in our environment and not actually inflicted on ourselves; pleasure in the beautiful, the true, the good, even when we are not personally concerned — all this forms part of the training for the thinking of the heart.
There is something else too which forms part of the training. Whoever ascends into the Imaginative world must acquire another quality that he does not possess in everyday life. He must learn to think in a new way about what is called contradiction or agreement. In the ordinary way many a man will feel when certain statements are made that the one contradicts the other. Yet we may find that two persons in exactly the same circumstances have quite different experiences. The description of this experience given by one of them may be altogether different from that given by the other; yet both of them may be right from their own standpoint. For example, one person may say: I have been in such and such a place; the air was bracing and I was much refreshed. — We listen to him and believe what he says. The other may say about the same place: It is no good; I lost all my energy there and found it a most unhealthy spot. Again we can only believe him. In fact, both of the two may be right. The first person was a robust, healthy individual, who being anxious to accomplish a great deal in a short time, was over-worked and fatigued. He was able to feel the refreshing effect of the air. The second, a sickly man, could not stand the bracing air and his condition deteriorated. Both statements are right, because the antecedents of the visits to the place were different. Contradictory statements may be reconciled if all the factors are taken into consideration.
But the matter becomes much more complicated when we rise into the higher worlds. In the physical world it may happen, for instance, that someone hears a statement in one lecture about a subject, and in another lecture something apparently different. Applying the standard recognised in ordinary life he says: This cannot be true, for the two statements contradict each other. — Suppose that in an earlier course of lectures someone has heard it stated that a human being descends to a new birth through astral space with extreme rapidity when he has to find the place where he is to incarnate. Such a case was observed and it was mentioned in a lecture. Elsewhere it has been said that the human being has worked for a very long time at the qualities and traits he finally assumes in the family and race into which be is born. It is easy to find contradiction here, yet both conditions are true to experience. The following analogy will help to resolve the apparent contradiction. Suppose that someone has for five or six days been carefully carving something for himself; on the seventh day, although he knows for certain that it had been finished the day before, be cannot find it and has to look everywhere for it. Both facts are true. And when incarnation is to take place something similar holds good in the higher worlds. Preparation has been made but because experiences in the higher worlds are so complicated, it is possible that just at the moment when a human being is about to descend from those worlds to unite with the etheric and physical bodies, he is still obliged to seek for them because a clouding of consciousness has taken place. Consequently he has now to seek for what he himself, with a higher grade of consciousness, had prepared.
From such an example we can see that something is essential when we rise into the higher worlds. We must always be mindful of the circumstance that in trying to enter into the realm of Imagination, the matter in question presents itself to us in a definite picture. If through the thinking of the heart we have acquired a strong enough feeling of the truth of this picture, it may happen that when, at another time, with trained clairvoyance, we follow a similar path, we arrive at a quite different Imagination, yet immediate feeling again says: That is true! We must be aware of this for it is naturally confusing to one who is entering the world of Imagination. But the confusion is cleared up if our attention is duly directed to it. We shall acquire the right attitude to this whole question by seeking for our Ego itself in the Imaginative world.
We have described how it is possible to look back upon the Ego from outside. On passing the Guardian of the Threshold the Ego is objectively before us. But we may look at this Ego once, twice, three times, four times, and each time obtain different pictures. According to conditions prevailing in the physical world we might say to ourselves: Now I have seen what I am in the higher world. And the second time: Now I have found myself again and am something different. And the third time again we find something different. — When through the training described we enter the Imaginative world and see a picture of our Ego, it is essential to know that twelve different pictures of the Ego can be seen. There are twelve different pictures of every single Ego, and only after contemplating it from twelve different standpoints have we a complete picture. This view of the Ego from outside corresponds exactly to what is reflected in the relationship of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac to the Sun. Just as the Sun passes through the twelve constellations and has in each a different power, just as it illumines our Earth through the course of the year and even of the day, from twelve different stations, so the human Ego is illumined from twelve different stations in the higher world.
Therefore in rising into the higher worlds we must realise the necessity of not being satisfied with one standpoint only. [* See Human and Cosmic Thought. Four lectures given in Berlin, January 1914.] We must train ourselves in this in order to escape confusion. We can only do so by accustoming ourselves in the physical world to realise that salvation is not achieved by contemplating any matter from one standpoint only.
There are people who are materialists, others are spiritists, others monists, others dualists, and so forth. The materialists insist that everything is matter; the spiritists assert that everything is spirit and attribute importance to spirit alone; the monists declare that everything proceeds from unity. In the outer world people fight and wrangle with each other on every possible occasion — the materialists against the spiritists, the monists against the dualists and so on. But everyone who wants to prepare himself for real knowledge must pay heed to the following facts. — Materialism has a certain justification; we must learn how to think, as the materialist does, in terms of the laws of matter, but this thinking must be applied to the material world only. We must comprehend these laws, for otherwise we cannot find our bearings in the material world. If someone were to attempt to explain a clock by saying: ‘I believe there are two little demons sitting inside it and making the hands go round. I do not believe in machinery,’ — such a man would be laughed to scorn, for a clock can be explained only by applying the laws of the material world. Those who try to explain the movements of the stars by material laws are simply telling us of a mechanical system. The mistake does not lie in materialistic thinking itself but in the supposition that it can explain the whole universe and that there is no other valid kind of thinking. Haeckel does not err when explaining by the laws of materialistic morphology phenomena of which he has exceptional knowledge; if he had confined himself to a certain category of phenomena he could have performed an enormous service to humanity.
It can therefore be said that materialistic thinking has its justification, but in a certain domain only. Spiritual thinking must be applied to whatever is subject to the laws of spirituality and not to those of mechanics. When someone says: ‘You come along with a peculiar psychology alleged to have its own laws, but I know that there are certain processes in the brain which explain thinking’ — he is introducing matters of a different nature, and in another domain he is making the same mistake as the man who believes in the two demons in the clock. As little as the clock can be explained by demons, as little can thinking be explained by movements of atoms in the brain. Again, anyone who attributes fatigue in the evening to the accumulation of toxins may be giving the right explanation as far as the outer facts are concerned, but as far as the soul is concerned he is explaining nothing whatever, for a spiritual explanation is essential there.
And then take monism. By attempting to explain the world only from the aspect of harmony, one is bound to arrive at unity, but it is abstract unity and means impoverishment. Philosophers whose only aim is to arrive at unity have in the end gained nothing at all. I once knew a man whose aim was to explain the whole world in a couple of sentences and he finally came to inform me with great glee that he had actually found two simple formulae which could explain every possible phenomenon in the world! This is an example of the one-sidedness of monistic thought. Such thinking must be widened through proceeding from very different points and finally reaching unity.
By adopting different standpoints we can educate ourselves to view things from many angles — a faculty that is so necessary for experiences in the higher worlds. We should spare no efforts to prepare ourselves to view the Ego from twelve standpoints. But there is little understanding today for such a degree of objectivity. Anyone who has attempted to achieve it will be able to tell of the remarkable reaction in the world when anyone sets aside his personal point of view and surrenders himself to the views held by another. For example: I myself have endeavoured to portray Nietzsche as he must be portrayed by anyone who sets aside his own opinion and personality and enters right into his subject. This is the only way of bringing about genuine understanding but people who read what I said and then my next book, insisted that in the latter I was inconsistent. They could not understand that I was not a disciple of Nietzsche, for I had portrayed him in a positive way. This is tantamount to saying that anyone who steeps himself in Haeckel in order to expound Haeckel's philosophy must also be one of his adherents.
This power of emerging from oneself in order to describe something objectively, as it were with the eyes of a different viewpoint, is a quality that it is necessary to acquire, for that alone can lead to far-reaching truth. Nobody gets anywhere near the real truth if he stands at a particular spot and gazes, let us say, at a rose-bush, but only if he photographs it now from one standpoint, now from another, and again from another. By such means we train ourselves to acquire what we need as soon as we rise into the higher worlds. Confusion is inevitable in the higher worlds if we enter them with personal opinions for then we immediately have delusive images of truth before us.
To develop the thinking of the heart we must have the power to go out of ourselves and look back upon ourselves from outside. In normal consciousness a person stands at a certain place and knows that in saying, “That am I”, he means the sum-total of what he believes and stands for. One who rises into a higher world, however, must be able to leave his ordinary personality behind, to go out of himself and say with the same feeling: “That is you.” The former ‘I’ must be able in the true sense to become a ‘you’, just as we say ‘you’ to another person. This must become an actual experience; it is attainable in the physical world through training. We must first do relatively simple things in this way, and then we earn the right to think with the heart. All true presentations of the higher worlds proceed from the thinking of the heart although outwardly they often seem to be purely logical expositions. Whatever is described in Spiritual Science has been experienced with the heart and must be cast into forms of thought intelligible to reasoning people.
That is where the thinking of the heart differs from subjective mysticism. Anyone may experience the latter for himself but it is not communicable to another, nor does it concern anyone else. True and genuine mysticism springs from the capacity to have Imaginations, to receive impressions from the higher worlds and then to co-ordinate these impressions by means of the thinking of the heart, just as the things of the physical world are coordinated by the intellect.
Something else is associated with this, namely that the truths imparted from the higher worlds are tinged with something like the heart's blood. However abstract they may seem to be, however completely they may be cast into forms of thought, they are tinged with the heart's blood, for they are direct experiences of the soul. From the moment a man has developed the thinking of the heart, he experiences something that seems like a vision; yet what he experiences is not a vision but the expression of a soul-and-spiritual reality, just as the colour of the rose is its outer manifestation, the expression of its material nature. The seer directs his gaze into the Imaginative world; there he has the impression, let us say, of something blue or violet, or he hears a sound or has a feeling of warmth or cold. He knows through the thinking of the heart that the impression was not a mere vision, a figment of the mind, but that the fleeting blue or violet was the expression of a soul-spiritual reality, just as the red of the rose is the expression of a material reality. Thus do we penetrate into the realities, into the spiritual Beings themselves, and we have to unite with them. That is why all research in the spiritual world is linked in a far higher sense and to a far greater extent than is the case in other experiences, with the surrender of our own personality. We become more and more intensely involved in the experience; we are within the Beings and things themselves. We must experience their good and bad qualities, also their beautiful and ugly qualities, what is true in them and what false. If we are really intent upon experiencing truth, we must not only perceive error but experience it in the Imaginative world with pain. We must not merely look at ugliness in such a way that it has no effect upon us, but we must experience it as inwardly hurtful.
The training described above is particularly suitable for people of the present day and through it we can learn to experience the good, the true, the beautiful, but also ugliness and error, without being involved in the latter, for the thinking of the heart is able to discriminate.
In giving descriptions from the spiritual worlds, in translating our experiences into terms of logical thought, we feel as if we were approaching a hill on which there are wonderful rock-formations which must be hewn out in order to build houses for men. In the same way our experiences in the spiritual worlds have to be translated into logical thoughts. When anyone wants to communicate to other human beings what he has experienced through the thinking of the heart, he too must translate it into logical thoughts. But logical thoughts are merely the language in which, in Spiritual Science, the thinking of the heart is communicated. There may be someone who finds difficulty in the communications of a genuine spiritual investigator, and says: “I hear only words; they convey no thoughts to me.” That may be the fault of the one who is speaking, but not necessarily so; it may be the fault of the listener who can hear only the sound of the words and is incapable of advancing from the words to the thoughts. It may be the fault of a person who clothes allegedly spiritual truths in thoughts that fail to convey to others any evidence of the thinking of the heart. But it may equally be the fault of the listener who is incapable of detecting truths behind the thoughts which are like words conveying the findings of the thinking of the heart.
Whatever can be communicated to mankind from the thinking of the heart must be able to be cast into clearly formulated thoughts. If this is not possible it is not ready to be communicated. The touchstone is whether the experiences can be translated into lucid words and clearly defined thoughts. Thus even when we hear the deepest truths of the heart stated in words, we must accustom ourselves to perceive behind them the thought-forms and their content. The student of Spiritual Science must acquire this faculty if he desires to help in spreading through mankind whatever can be revealed from the Spirit. It would be sheer egoism if anyone wished to have it for himself alone; mystical experiences, like intellectual experiences, must become the common heritage of mankind. Only by realising this can we understand the mission of Spiritual Science for mankind — a mission which must become more and more effective as time goes on.