The Study of Man
27 August 1919, Stuttgart
Up to now we have tried to understand the human being from the point of view of the soul, in so far as this understanding is necessary in the education of the child. We must keep the three standpoints distinct — the standpoints of spirit, of soul and of body, and, in order to arrive at a complete anthropology, we shall study the human being from all three. The first to be taken is the psychic, or soul point of view because this is nearest to man in his ordinary life. And you will have felt that in taking sympathy and antipathy as principal concepts for the understanding of man we have been directing our attention to the soul. It will not answer our purpose if we pass straight over from the psychical to the physical, for we know, from what spiritual science has told us, that the physical can only be understood when it is looked upon as a revelation of the spiritual and also of the soul. Therefore to what we have already sketched in general lines as a study of the soul we will now add a contemplation of the human being from the point of view of spirit, and finally we shall come to a real “anthropology,” as it is now called, a consideration of the human being as he appears in the external physical world.
If you want to examine the human being effectively from any point of view you must return again and again to the separation of man's soul activities into cognition (which takes place in thought) and into feeling and willing. Up till now we have considered thinking (or cognition), feeling and willing in the light of antipathy and sympathy. Now we will study willing, feeling and cognition from the point of view of the spirit.
From the spiritual point of view, also, you will find a difference between willing, feeling and thinking-knowing. If I may speak pictorially (for the pictorial element will help us to form the right concepts): when you have knowledge through thought you must feel that in a certain way you are living in the light. You cognise, and you feel yourself with your ego right in the midst of this activity of cognition. It is as though every part, every bit of the activity which we call cognition, were there within all that your ego does; and again what your ego does is there within the activity of cognition. You are entirely in the light; you live in a fully conscious activity, if I may express myself in such a concept. And it would be bad indeed if you were not in a fully conscious activity in cognising. Suppose for a moment that you had the feeling that while you were forming a judgment something happened to your ego somewhere in the subconscious and that your judgment was the result of this process. For instance you say: “That man is a good man,” thus forming a judgment. You must be conscious that what you need in order to form this judgment — the subject “man” the predicate “is good” — are parts of a process which is clearly before you and which is permeated by the light of consciousness. If you had to assume that some demon or some mechanism of nature had tangled up the man with the “being good” while you were forming the judgment, then you would not be fully, consciously present in this act of thought, of cognition: in some part of the judgment you would be unconscious. That is the essential thing about thinking cognition, that you are present in complete consciousness in the whole warp and woof of its activity.
That is not the case in willing. You know that when you perform the simplest kind of willing, for instance walking, you are only really fully conscious in your mental picture of the walking. You know nothing of what takes place in your muscles whilst one leg moves forward after the other; nothing of what takes place in the mechanism and organism of your body. Just think of what you would have to learn of the world if you had to perform consciously all the arrangements involved when you will to walk. You would have to know exactly how much of the activity produced by your food in the muscles of your legs and other parts of your body is used up in the effort of walking. You have never reckoned out how much you use up of what your food brings to you. You know quite well that all this happens unconsciously in your bodily nature. When we “will” there is always something deeply, unconsciously present in the activity. This is not only so when we look at the nature of willing in our own organism. What we accomplish when we extend our will to the outer world, that, too, we do not by any means completely grasp with the light of consciousness.
Suppose you have here two posts set up like pillars. (See drawing.)
Imagine you lay a third post across the top of them. Now notice carefully, please, how much fully conscious knowing activity there is in what you have done; how much fully conscious activity such as there is when you pass the judgment “a man is good,” where you are right in the midst of it with your knowledge. Distinguish, please, what is present as the activity of cognition here from that of which you know nothing although you had to do it with all your will: why these two pillars through certain forces support the beam that is lying on them? Up to now physics has only hypotheses concerning this, and if men believe that they “know” why the two pillars support the beam they are under an illusion. All the concepts that exist of cohesion, adhesion, forces of attraction and repulsion are, at bottom, only hypotheses on the part of external knowledge. We count upon these external hypotheses in our actions; we are convinced that the two posts supporting the beam will not give way if they are of a certain thickness. But we cannot understand the whole process which is connected with this, any more than we can understand the movements of our legs when we move forwards. Here, too, there is in our willing an element that does not reach into our consciousness. Willing in all its different forms has an unconscious element in it.
And feeling stands midway between willing and thinking-cognition. Feeling is also partly permeated by consciousness, and partly by an unconscious element. In this way feeling on the one hand shares the character of cognition-thinking, and on the other hand the character of feeling or felt will. What is this then really from a spiritual point of view?
You will only arrive at a true answer to this question if you can grasp the facts characterised above in the following way. In our ordinary life we speak of being awake, of the waking condition of consciousness. But we only have this waking condition of consciousness in the activity of our knowing-thinking. If therefore you want to say absolutely correctly how far a human being is awake you will be obliged to say: A human being is really only awake as long and in so far as he thinks of or knows something.
What then is the position with regard to the will? You all know the sleep condition of consciousness — you can also call it, if you like, the condition of unconsciousness — you know that what we experience while we sleep, from falling asleep until we wake, is not in our consciousness. Now it is just the same with all that passes through our will as an unconscious element. In so far as we as human beings are beings of will, we are “asleep” even when we are awake. We are always carrying about with us a sleeping human being — that is, the willing man — and he is accompanied by the waking man, by the man of cognition and thought: in so far as we are beings of will we are asleep even from the time we wake up until we fall asleep. There is always something asleep in us, namely: the inner being of will. We are no more conscious of that than we are of the processes which go on during sleep. We do not understand the human being completely unless we know that sleep plays into his waking life, in so far as he is a being of will.
Feeling stands between thinking and willing, and we may now ask: How is it with regard to consciousness in feeling? That too is midway between waking and sleeping. You know the feelings in your soul just as you know your dreams, only that you remember your dreams and have a direct experience of your feelings. But the inner mood and condition of soul which you have with regard to your feelings is just the same as you have with regard to your dreams. Whilst you are awake you are not only a waking man in that you think and know, and a sleeping man in that you will: you are also a “dreamer” in that you feel. Thus we are really immersed in three conditions of consciousness during our waking life: the waking condition in its real sense in thinking and knowing, the dreaming condition in feeling, and the sleeping condition in willing. Seen from the spiritual point of view ordinary dreamless sleep is a condition in which a man gives himself up in his whole soul being to that to which he is given up in his willing nature during his daily life. The only difference is that in real sleep we “sleep” with the whole soul being, and when we are awake we only sleep with our will. In dreaming as it is called in ordinary life we are given up with our whole being to the condition of soul which we call the “dream” and in waking life we only give ourselves up in our feeling nature to this dreaming soul condition.
If you look at the matter in this way, from the educational point of view, you will not wonder that the children differ with regard to awakeness of consciousness. For you will find that children in whom the feeling life predominates are dreamy children; if thought is not fully aroused in such children they will certainly incline to dreaminess. This must be an incentive to you to work upon such children through strong feeling. And you can reasonably hope that these strong feelings will awaken clear thought in them, for, following the rhythm of life, everything that is asleep has the tendency sometime to awaken. If we have such a child, who broods dreamily in his feeling life, and we approach him with strong feelings, after some time these feelings awaken of themselves as thoughts.
Children who brood still more and are even dull in their feeling life, will reveal specially strong tendencies in their will life. By studying these things you bring knowledge to bear on many a problem in child life. You may get a child in school who behaves like a true dullard. If you were immediately to decide “That is a weak-minded, a stupid child,” if you tested him with experimental psychology, with wonderful memory tests and all the other things which are done now in psychological pedagogical laboratories, and if you then said, “stupid child in his whole disposition; belongs to the school for the feeble-minded, or to the now popular schools for backward children,” you would be very far from understanding the real nature of the child. It may be that the child has special powers in the region of the will; he may be one of those children who, out of his choleric nature will develop active energy in his later life. But at present the will is asleep. And if the thinking cognition in the child is destined not to appear until later, then he must be treated appropriately so that in his later life he may be able to work with active energy. At first he seems to be a veritable dullard, but it may be that he is not that at all. And you must know how to awaken the will in a child of this kind. That means that you must work into his waking sleep-condition, his will, in such a way that later on — because all sleeping has a tendency to change into waking — this sleep is gradually wakened up into conscious will, a will that is perhaps very strong, only it is at present overpowered by the sleeping element. You must treat a child of this kind by building as little as possible on his powers of knowing, on his understanding, but by “hammering” in some things which will work strongly on the will, by letting him walk while he speaks. You will not have many such children, but in a case of this kind you can call the child out from the class — which will be stimulating to the other children, and educative for the child himself — and get him to say sentences and accompany his words by movements. Thus: “The (step) man (step) is (step) good (step).” In this way you combine the whole human being in the will element with the merely intellectual element in cognition, and you can gradually bring it about that the will is awakened into thought in such a child. It is not until we realise that in the waking human being we have to do with different conditions of consciousness, with waking, dreaming, and sleeping, that we are brought to a true knowledge of our task with regard to the growing child.
But now we can put this question: How is the true centre of the human being, the ego, related to these different conditions? The easiest way to arrive at a true answer to this is to postulate — what is indeed undeniable — that what we call the world, the cosmos, is a sum of activities. These activities express themselves for us in the different spheres of elemental life. We know that forces are at work in this elemental life. Life-force, for instance, is at work all around us. And between the elemental forces and life-force there is inwoven all that warmth and fire produces. Just think what an important part fire plays in our environment.
In certain parts of the world, for instance in South Italy, you only need to light a ball of paper and immediately great clouds of smoke will begin to rise out of the earth. Why does this happen? It happens because when you light the ball of paper and thus produce warmth you rarefy the air in this place, and what is usually at work in the forces under the surface of the earth becomes perceptible through the ascending smoke: the very moment you light the paper ball and throw it on the earth, you are standing in a cloud of smoke. That is an experiment that can be made by every traveler who goes into the neighbourhood of Naples. This is an example to show you that if we do not look at the world superficially we must recognise that our whole environment is permeated by forces.
Now there are also higher forces than warmth. They too are round about us. We walk among them continually in going about the world as physical men. Indeed our physical bodies are so constituted that we can endure this, though we are unaware of it in our ordinary knowledge. With our physical body we can pass through the world in this way.
With our ego, the youngest member of the human being, we could not pass through these world forces if this ego were to give itself up directly to them. This ego cannot give itself up to all that is round it and in the midst of which it is placed. This ego must still be guarded from having to pour itself out into the world forces. In course of time it will evolve so that it will be able to enter into these world forces. But it cannot do so yet. It is necessary, therefore, that in our fully awakened ego we be not forced to enter into the real world that is around us, but only into the image of that world. Hence in our thinking-cognition we have only images of the world — as already described when speaking from the point of view of the soul. Now we view it also from the point of view of spirit.
In thinking-cognition we live in images; and, in our present stage of evolution, while we live between birth and death in our fully wakened ego — it is only in images of the cosmos that we human beings can live, not yet in the real cosmos. Therefore when we are awake our body has to produce images of the cosmos for us. And then our ego dwells in these images.
Psychologists take endless trouble to define the relation between body and soul: they speak of the interplay between body and soul, of psycho-physical parallelism and many other things. All these are in reality childish concepts. For the process really at work is this: when the ego in the morning passes over into the waking condition, it enters into the body, but not into the physical processes of the body, only into the world of images, which the body creates from out of the external processes in the very depths of its being. In this way thinking-cognition is communicated to the ego.
In feeling it is different. There the ego does enter into the real body, not only into the images. But if, as it enters into the body, it were fully conscious, then (remember this is spoken now of the soul) it would literally “burn up” in the soul. If the same thing happened to you in feeling that happens to you in thinking when you penetrate with your ego into the images which your body has produced in you, you would burn up in your soul. You could not bear it. This penetration which is proper to feeling can only be experienced by you in a dreaming, dulled condition of consciousness. It is only in a dream that you can bear what really happens in your body in the process of feeling.
And what happens in willing you can only experience in a sleeping condition. You would experience something most terrible if in your ordinary life you were obliged to participate in all that happens when you will. The most terrible pain would lay hold of you if, for instance, as I have already indicated, you really had to experience how the forces brought to your organism by your food are used up in your legs when you walk. It is lucky for you that you do not experience this, or rather that you only experience it in a condition of sleep. For if you were awake it would mean the greatest pain imaginable, a fearful pain.
Hence you will understand it if I now characterise the life of the ego during what is usually called waking consciousness — which comprises: complete waking, dreaming-waking, sleeping-waking — you will understand it if I characterise what the ego actually experiences while it is living in the body in the ordinary waking condition. This ego lives in “thinking-cognition” in that it wakes up into the body; here it is fully awake. But it lives in it only in images. Hence man between birth and death lives in images only, when using his thinking-cognition unless he does such exercises as are indicated in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and How to Attain It.
Next the ego, in awaking, also sinks into those processes which condition feeling. In feeling life we are not fully awake, but dreaming-awake. How do we actually experience what we go through in feeling in this dream-waking condition? We actually experience it as what has been called “Inspiration,” inspired — unconsciously inspired — mental pictures. In the artist this is the centre whence rises all that comes out of the feelings into waking consciousness. There it is first worked through. There too are worked through all those “inklings,” which turn to image in waking consciousness. The “Inspirations” spoken of in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and How to Attain It are the same as these; only that the experience of the unconscious inspirations deep within the feeling life of every man is lifted, in these, into clarity and full consciousness.
And when especially gifted people speak of their inspirations they really speak of that which the world has laid into their feeling life and has avowed to come into their fully awake consciousness by means of their capacities. It is a matter of world content, no less than thought content is world content. But in the life between birth and death these unconscious inspirations reflect world processes which we can only experience in dreaming, for if we experienced them otherwise our ego would burn up in these processes, or rather it would suffocate. You sometimes find suffocation setting-in in abnormal conditions. Suppose you have a nightmare. This means that the interplay between man and the outer air has come into consciousness in an abnormal way because something in this interplay is out of order. In trying to enter the ego consciousness it does not become conscious as a normal mental picture, but as a tormenting picture, as a nightmare. And just as this abnormal breathing in a nightmare is tormenting, so the breathing process as a whole would be torment if man experienced his breathing with full consciousness. He would experience it in feeling, but it would be torment to him. For this reason it is dulled, and so it is not experienced as a physical process, but only in the dreamlike feeling.
And as to the processes which take place in willing as I have already indicated to you they would mean fearful pain. So that we can add a third statement: the ego in action of the will is asleep. What a man really experiences in such action, with a greatly dimmed consciousness (a sleeping consciousness in fact), is unconscious intuitions. A human being has unconscious intuitions continually; but they live in his will. He is asleep in his will. Therefore in ordinary life he cannot call up these intuitions; it is only at auspicious moments in life that they well up. Then in a dim way the human being participates in the spiritual world.
Now there is something remarkable in the ordinary life of man. We all know the full consciousness in complete awakeness that we have in our thinking-cognition. Here we are, so to speak, in the clear light of consciousness; here we find certitude. But you know that people when thinking about the world, sometimes say: “We have intuitions.” Vague feelings emanate from these intuitions. What people then relate is often very confused, but it can also be, unconsciously, quite well-ordered. Finally when a poet speaks of his intuitions, that is entirely right for he does not produce them immediately from the region nearest to him — from the inspired representations of his feeling life — but he brings them forth, these completely unconscious intuitions, from the region of his sleeping will.
Anyone who looks deeply into these things sees that what appear as the chances of life, are governed by deep laws. For instance, when you read the second part of Goethe's “Faust” you want to study deeply how the structure of this remarkable verse could be achieved. Goethe was already old when he wrote the second part of his “Faust” — at least the greater part of it. This was how it was written: His secretary John sat at the writing table and wrote what Goethe dictated. If Goethe had had to write it down himself he would probably not have been able to produce such marvelously chiseled verses in the second part of his “Faust.” While he was dictating in his little room in Weimar, Goethe continuously walked up and down, and this walking up and down is part and parcel of the conception of the second part of “Faust.” While Goethe was producing this unconscious willed activity in walking, something of his intuitions pressed upwards and this outer motion brought to light what the other man wrote down for him on paper.
If you want to make a diagram of the life of the ego in the body it is possible to make it in the following way:
|Knowing in images
|Intuitive or “intuited” willing
but if you do this you will not be able to make it clear why intuition, of which men speak instinctively, comes up more readily to the image knowing of every day than the inspired feeling which lies nearer to us. If you now want to draw the diagram correctly (for the above is not correct) you must draw it in the following way, and then you will be able to understand the facts more easily. For then you will say: knowing in images descends in the direction of arrow 1 into inspirations, and it comes up again out of intuitions (arrow 2). But this knowing, which is indicated by arrow 1 is the descent into the body.
And now observe yourself; you are at first quite quiet, sitting or standing, giving yourself up to thinking-cognition, to the observation of the external world. There you live in images. What further the ego experiences in the outward processes descends into the body — first into the feeling, then into the will. You do not notice what is in your feeling; neither at first do you notice what is in your will. Only, when you begin to walk, when you begin to act, what you first observe outwardly is not the feeling but the will. And then in the descent into the body and the re-ascent, which happens in the direction of arrow 2, it is nearer for intuitive willing to come to the image consciousness than for the dreaming inspired feeling. Hence you will find that people so often say: “I have a vague intuition.” In such a case what are called intuitions in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and How to Attain It are being confused with the superficial intuition of ordinary consciousness.
Now you will be able to understand something of the formation of the human body. Imagine to yourself for a moment that you are walking but observing the world. Imagine to yourself that it was not your lower body that was walking with your legs, but that your head had your legs directly attached to it and that it had to walk itself. Then your observing of the world and your willing would be woven into a unity, and the result would be that you could only walk in a sleeping condition. Because your head is placed upon your shoulders and upon the remaining part of your body, it is at rest there. It is at rest, and since you only move with these other parts of your body, you carry your head. Now the head must be able to rest on the body, otherwise it could not be the organ of thinking-cognition. It must be withdrawn from the sleeping-willing; for the moment you brought it into movement, brought it out of relative rest into independent movement, it would fall asleep. It allows the body to carry out the real willing, and it lives in this body as in a carriage and allows itself to be conveyed by this carriage. And it is only because the head allows itself, as in a carriage, to be conveyed by the body, and because it acts while it is being conveyed during the resting condition, that the human being is awake in action. It is only when you see things in such connections as these that you can come to a true understanding of the form of the human body.