Therapeutic Insights: Earthly and Cosmic Laws
3 July 1921, Dornach
After the studies we have been conducting recently, a basic fact of human life and nature will be able to stand clearly before our soul. It is precisely when we consider a more exact relationship of the human being to his environment that the riddle always arises: how did it come to be that one cannot penetrate into the real nature of the outer world? This outer world lies before us in its phenomena, in its events, and even if we have only a feeble need for knowledge we must presume that behind these phenomena that lie before us as colored, as resounding, as warming world, and so on, the real nature of reality is concealed. There is, as it were, a veil there, and only behind this veil is the nature of reality to be found.
A similar riddle exists in relation to what is within the human being. In the last few days I have suggested that this inner element of the human being reveals the riddles of its organs only if one really arrives at this inner element. The fact is, however, that to begin with in ordinary consciousness one cannot see so deeply down into one's own inner being that one is able really to penetrate the nature of the lungs, liver, and so forth, in the way we described yesterday.
This fact of the existence of two riddles — the riddle regarding the unknowableness of the outer world and the riddle of the unknowableness of the inner world — can be understood out of the knowledge of the whole being of man, if one permits oneself to consider once the whole human nature, which shows only one side between birth and death, having its other side between death and a new birth.
Let us study the human being as he presents himself to us here between birth and death. We need only look at an aspect of the inner soul that is connected with our entire, normal daily life. We need only consider the inner fact of memory. I spoke yesterday of how this memory actually is based upon a reflecting-back on the outsides of the inner organs. We need this memory, however, for our soul life. I have often pointed out facts that show how the disturbance of this memory can undermine the entire normal life between birth and death. I told you of an example showing that the capacity for memory can extinguish itself in the human being. Such cases are well known. You can read in psychological literature of numerous such cases. It is a well-known fact that this can occur, and in a lesser degree this phenomenon is much more frequent than is generally realized. With such human beings, you need only picture that these processes — without the person knowing it in the ordinary sense of the word — are just as they are for you during sleep every night: consciousness is extinguished. Such an abnormal discontinuity of consciousness, however, has an extraordinarily significant influence upon the whole consciousness of the personality. A human being who has undergone such an experience is not quite able to get along with himself; there is something horrifying in his life afterward. From this you can see how important it is for the ordinary life between birth and death — except during the sleeping state — to have continuity of consciousness.
This continuity of consciousness is closely connected with our memory. We need this memory, therefore, in order to maintain our ordinary life normally. When one undergoes an occult development, another fact arises, the fact that it is necessary to develop soul forces that actually, during the moments of spiritual seeing, also extinguish ordinary memory. As long as one maintains this ordinary memory, one is basically unable to see into the spiritual world. Pupils of an occult development usually experience that when they begin to work on their development they have certain visions; then later they begin to complain that they no longer have these visions — the visions stay away. The reason for this is that for such visions — if they are genuine, true visions, and not hallucinations — there is really no memory. It is not possible to recall a vision, for the vision is something real. If you look at a piece of chalk and then look away, you have a memory picture. If, however, you wish to have the chalk before you, the real chalk, then you must return again to the perception; you must have the reality before you again. To experience this reality, memory is of no help at all. If you touch a hot iron, you burn yourself. Regardless of how much heat you retain in your memory, however, you cannot burn yourself. You must return to the real experience, because the vision brings you into connection with something real and not a mere picture. It is a matter, then, of returning to the vision and not merely recalling it, for a real seeing is a real occult experience and cannot become recollection; one can come to it again only in an indirect way. One can say to oneself that before the vision appeared we had gone through this or that in ordinary consciousness. This can be recalled, and one must call this stage back to the point when the vision appeared. One returns to this point. The vision cannot appear directly; rather one must retrace the path, as it were. This is not taken into account by many people, who believe that a vision can be recalled in the ordinary sense.
One must therefore undermine memory in a certain respect in occult development. This is absolutely necessary and cannot be prevented. It therefore must be said that one who strives for such an occult development must above all be certain that in ordinary life he is a reasonable person, that is, that he has no false mystical tendencies but has a healthy intellect and a sound memory. He who in ordinary life already has a tendency to wallow in unclarity and sentimentality is not fit to undergo an occult development. One absolutely must have the ability to recall the events of the day in full clarity before one can risk pressing forward to visions for which there is no such recollection.
The precautions that are recommended for an occult development are actually rooted in the nature of occult development itself. You thus can say that for the ordinary consciousness there is memory, and it is part of normal life between birth and death to have this memory.
Now I can sketch for you how human nature relates to the possession of this memory. Let me sketch it in this way (see drawing, pg. 84). What I am drawing now does not exist in this way but can be perceived in the etheric body. With this line I am indicating schematically that which is really extended over the whole body, and you would have to picture that from the head — and therefore from the sense perceptions, the sense organs — up to this line is what is outside the organs. This line represents the schematic borderline for the organs of the human being: this is the point of reflection, and beyond this line, therefore, lie heart, lungs, liver, and so on. Here (arrows) is where the reflection occurs. This line is symbolic of the human memory. You can actually picture that we have within us a kind of membrane that is really the membrane separating the etheric body from the astral body; in reality, however, it is not spatial — I have merely indicated it schematically. What is perceived is thrown back by the force of the organs that are behind it. It is thereby reflected, but reflected here, and we cannot see through it in ordinary consciousness; we cannot see through this memory membrane into the inner element of the human being; the memory conceals from us the inner element of man. It must conceal man's inner being, for otherwise the human being would not be normal in the ordinary life between birth and death. Memory is what closes off for us our ordinary consciousness from what is within. As soon as this memory is interrupted, as soon as it is torn, as happens through occult development, we see into our organs, as I described it yesterday.
Now, you see, we have the answer to the riddle of the not-being-able-to-look-within. This inner element must be concealed, for otherwise we would not be able to be normal in life between birth and death. We need this memory. The inner element of our self is thus hidden by our memory reflection. This understanding is what is necessary for a solution to this riddle.
From the other side, from the direction of the outer world, we see the veil of the senses spread out, as it were, and we do not see behind it. Let us look at the matter in this way, asking ourselves: how would it be if we were not to perceive the veil of the senses, behind which lies the essence of the world: let us say that the sense veil were perforated everywhere — if one could look through it everywhere, how would it be then? We would always flow with our perception, with our observation, into the objects. We would merge with'the objects. We would not be able to differentiate ourselves from the objects. What would be the result? We would never be able, if we were not able to differentiate ourselves from the objects, to develop feelings of love, for love is based upon the fact that one does not flow over into the other but rather remains an individuality, separated and yet “feeling across” (hinueberfuehlt). We are organized in such a way that we are capable of love between birth and death. In occult development this capacity for love must be replaced by Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition; we must, so to speak, break through the capacity for love. It would ruin our life totally and we would become brutal and cold if in our ordinary life we did not have love. Therefore it is necessary for one who attempts an occult development from this direction to develop above all, to the highest degree, the capacity for love. If he has developed it in such a way that he cannot lose it through occult development, that he maintains it in spite of this occult development, then he can dare to penetrate through the veil of the senses and look into the real objectivity. You thus see the second riddle placed before your soul. The human being must be organized in such a way that he is able to have memory and able to love. Because he must be capable of love, he is unable with his ordinary consciousness to see behind the veil of the senses, and because he must be able to remember, he is unable to look into his own inner being.
This is really the truth of the Kantian philosophy that is so erroneous. Kant wished to investigate human subjectivity, and he concocted a few abstract concepts that actually do not say anything. In reality it is so that we must understand the human being between birth and death as a being capable of both memory and love. In this life the human being learns to know what lives in sensation; he learns to know what lives in love, and this he must carry through the portal of death. We are here on earth, therefore, in order to bring to fruition in ourselves these two faculties.
Now, if the human being, through memory, must hold apart his perceiving and thinking being, which pushes against the veil of the senses here, then he develops, primarily through the head (though the human being is head in total), the life that we designate as the life of consciousness. This life of consciousness goes no further than the thought. The thought becomes memory picture, but we do not penetrate any further than to the memory picture. There the thought is stopped. Only through the fact that it is stopped there can it return again as memory. There the thought is stopped, and our normal life between birth and death actually consists of preventing the thought from descending into the organs. Its forces do descend, as I described yesterday, but the thought as such, as it lives in us as picture, we must not allow to descend into the organs. At the moment when we die, the thought becomes what it should not become in the ordinary consciousness; the thought then becomes Imagination. This Imagination, which in occult development is striven for with all one's effort, occurs when the human being passes through death. All his thoughts become pictures; the human being then lives entirely in pictures. One therefore can understand the dead only if one learns to know this picture-language. Immediately after death the thoughts transform themselves into pictures. The human being lives with these pictures for some time between death and a new birth. Then the pictures gradually become Inspiration. The soul thus in fact grows further. The pictures become Inspiration; then the human being begins to perceive the music of the spheres. The music of the spheres becomes something real for him: he lives in the world of world-tones. Finally he grows together with the objective-spiritual universe: his soul becomes entirely Intuition. He becomes, as it were, one with the universe.
When this Intuition has existed for some time, we are at the same point at which the world Midnight Hour occurs, of which I also spoke yesterday. Now the return path begins, and Intuition is suited to take up something of what the human being has left behind in having lived here on earth. When the human being goes through the portal of death, he lives by virtue of forces other than those that here on earth we call the will. He lives into more cosmic forces. The will becomes absorbed, let me say; the will gradually disappears. When the human being has arrived at the Midnight Hour of the world, however, that is after he has gone through the Imaginative stage, the stage of Inspiration, the Intuitive stage, and arrives, as it were, at the height of life between death and a new birth, then Intuition fills itself again with will. The thought again becomes permeated by will, and this will saturates the soul more and more; the soul wrestles through again to Inspiration and then to Imagination, undergoing Imagination for some time; then it is again ripe to be embodied here. Out of the pictures is formed, in the way I have described, what appears as the transformed metabolic-limb man of the previous incarnation. You see, therefore, that through those stages that are striven for in occult development, the human being ascends to the Midnight Hour of the world and then takes the reverse path down again to Imagination, arriving again at thought formation when he embodies himself (see drawing).
During this entire time the human being absorbs the will, and now, coming again into physical existence, we see how what works in out of the cosmos, what he absorbed from the previous incarnation, is as in a picture, and the will is still within this picture. We thus have here will-saturated Imagination.
When the human being therefore arrives at a new physical life, still before his conception, he does indeed have an Imagination, but a will-saturated Imagination. Out of the Imagination, which is essentially what existed already as picture, arises the head and what belongs to it, as well as the will, which takes hold now of the new limbs and the metabolism. This thus distributes itself over the head and the rest of the human being. The head is essentially, let me say, crystallized, frozen thought; what lives in the rest of the human being is organized will. Actually the human being can truly awaken only in the head. After all, you know your thoughts — your mental images in ordinary consciousness — one can say this about all present-day human beings. What happens in the will, as I have often mentioned, is just as unknown to man as what happens in sleep. How does one know, when one lifts an arm in ordinary consciousness, what is taking place? One perceives that an arm is lifted — we have this mental image — but the act of will as such remains in sleep, similar to the period between falling asleep and awakening. One therefore can say that regarding the metabolic-limb system, man also sleeps during the day. He awakens actually only in relation to the head-man. This all works together again.
You see, official science today speaks of a certain logic. It speaks in the logic of the mental image, of making judgments, and of drawing conclusions. Picture such a conclusion. The well-known conclusion, which resides in all logic, is related to the famous logical personality: all human beings are mortal; Caesar is a human being; therefore Caesar is mortal. This is the conclusion, and every part of the conclusion is a judgment: “All human beings are mortal” is a judgment; “Caesar is a human being” is a judgment; “therefore Caesar is mortal” is a judgment. The whole is a conclusion. Man, Caesar, are mental images. If you question a person today who is one of the very clever people — we must always consider the very clever people, for they determine the prevailing tone — he says, “Everything actually takes place in the nervous system; the nervous system is the mediator of the mental image, judgment, conclusion, even of feeling and will.” Already with this kind of forming mental images, making judgments, drawing conclusions, things are not as present official thinking believes them to be. Only forming mental images as such is actually the concern of the head. When you make a judgment, then you must feel, through the mediation of the etheric body, how you stand on your legs. You do not really make judgments with your head at all; you make judgments with your legs, although with the legs of the etheric body. He who makes judgments even when he is lying down stretches his etheric legs. Making judgments is not based on the head; it is based on the legs! Of course nobody believes this today; nonetheless it is true. Drawing conclusions is based on the arms and hands, and generally upon that which lifts man out of what the animal also has. The animal stands on its legs; the animal is itself a judgment, but it does not draw conclusions. The human being draws conclusions; for that purpose his arms have been liberated; that is what his arms are there for, not for walking. The human being has his arms free so that he can be a being that can draw conclusions. What happens when one stretches one's etheric legs or when one moves one's astral arm is a judgment, is a conclusion, which merely reflects itself in the head as mental image and then actually becomes a mental image. One thus needs the entire human being, not merely the nerve-sense human being, in order to arrive at judgments and conclusions.
Now, if you take this into consideration, you will say to yourself: the human being really lifts judgments and conclusions out of his limb system. These are fundamentally already acts of will, and this comes out of a much more indefinite state than forming mental images. We basically experience the same thing when we finish drawing a conclusion as when we wake up in the morning: we have lifted it out of the depths of our being. That which has become old from the previous life to this life, which lives itself out in the head, leads us to be able to have mental images. In the head we are old in relation to the cosmos when we are born. Our will is able to renew itself because in relation to the cosmos we have become young. What we carry with us as our head is always reminiscent of the previous incarnation. It is the old element. The metabolic-limb system, however, has been conquered by the will in entering this incarnation. It is actually mediated by the mother's body. The rest of the body — this can be confirmed by an outer, empirical study of embryology — is actually constructed from out of the cosmos in the mother. The head is simply a copy of the cosmos, brought about by outer forces. Whoever wishes to deny this should also say that it is nonsense that the magnetic field of the earth positions the needle of the magnet. The physicist goes beyond the magnet's needle if he wishes to explain it; the physiologist, the embryologist, the biologist, remains in the mother's body when he wishes to explain the embryo. That is just as nonsensical as if one wished to explain the needle of the magnet only out of itself. One must proceed out to the whole cosmos.
In development we have, to begin with, the head, and the rest of the body is only attached to it; this part the will conquers for itself, having approached Imagination during the passage through life between death and a new birth from the Midnight Hour of Existence onward. Now, when we study this human being (see drawing, page 84) we find that everything pertaining to thinking and perception lies above the membrane of memory, while everything pertaining to willing lies below this membrane. The will works up from below, works up out of the unconscious, and one finds it only in the way that we explained yesterday. There the will works upward. In regard to the will, we are sleeping. We thus actually have the human being as a duality in the life between birth and death. It is true the human being is a monad, but he is this in regard to the whole world, and this monadic quality must be brought about in becoming; he must renew it again and again. In reality, however, the human being between birth and death is dualistic: the thought, to some extent, with the perception on one side, the will with the feeling (Gemüt) on the other side.
The human being is thereby actually the average, I would like to call it, of two worlds. Be honest and ask yourselves, in every moment of your lives what do you have in consciousness? Your memory pictures — what you experienced at age two, three, five, or six — are the content of your consciousness. What comes through from below, welling up out of the will, is love, the capacity for love. The human being is actually nothing other than what in the average of two worlds appears as memory pictures and love. Basically the human being is organized in such a way that above is a world that is cosmic thought, while below is a world that is cosmic will. The human being is continually a point of attack for Lucifer from the side of will and a point of attack for Ahriman from the side of thought (see drawing, page 84). Ahriman continually strives to make the human being all head. Lucifer continually strives to cut the head off so that the human being cannot think at all, so that everything streams out in warmth by way of the heart, overflows with world love, flowing into the world as world love, as an excessively sentimental cosmic being flows out.
In our age, in our highly praised civilization, it is chiefly Ahrimanic influences active in us. These Ahrimanic influences have always been sensed by sensitive human beings. When I was still a very young man, I spoke once with an Austrian poet who was quite well known at that time; he had a fine feeling for what is emerging in our civilization, and he expressed it in a half-pictorial way; this half-pictorial quality was for him, however, a reality. He said to me — and it seems to me as if it were happening today — “Considering how we human beings are today, and especially if things continue along the lines they are going now, humanity will actually be confronted by a terrible fate, for the human being will gradually lose the agility of his limbs; he will no longer be able to walk properly; he will always want to ride a bicycle and to travel mechanically. He will lose the agility of his hands, and everything will become technical. Just as a muscle atrophies if it is not used, so everything in the human body will atrophy and the human being will become merely a head. The head will become bigger and bigger until finally the human being will just roll along, with the rest of his organism totally crippled.”
This picture hovered like a nightmare before this Austrian poet — Hermann Rollett was his name — and he described it very visually, for it weighed upon him terribly, this picture that human beings will become rolling heads due to our civilization. There is something quite true underlying this picture, however. What underlies it is that, in fact, in our time the powers are extraordinarily strong that would like to develop our heads more and more. With the physical head they will not succeed so well, but with the etheric head they will be more successful. It is therefore so, in fact, that in our time the Ahrimanic powers would like to make us thoroughly head-men; they would like to transform us completely into mere thinkers.
For the human being in a healthy development, however, the other pole exists, the will pole, which always counteracts this so that when we die the will has grasped the thought. Thought must not yet be alone. You see, when we are born, we have gathered new will, but the thought separates itself and finds our head; the will takes hold of the rest of the body. While we live on the earth there is within us a continual interaction between will and thought. The will takes hold of the thought, and we must carry this fusing of will and thought through death. Ahriman would like to prevent this. He would like for the will to remain separate, for the thought alone to be particularly cultivated. We would lose our individuality if we were finally to arrive at the point toward which Ahriman strives. We would completely lose our individuality. We would arrive, in the moment of death, at an excessively, intensively cultivated thought. We human beings would be unable to hold this thought, and Ahriman could lay hold of it himself and integrate it into the rest of the world so that this thought would work further in the rest of the world. This is, in fact, the destiny that threatens humanity if we persist in the present-day materialism; then Ahrimanic powers would become so strong that Ahriman could steal thoughts from the human being and incorporate them into the earth in their effectiveness, so that the earth, which actually ought to come to an end, would become consolidated. Ahriman works toward consolidating the earth, toward the earth remaining as earth. Ahriman works against the saying, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” He wishes the words to be cast aside and heaven and earth to remain. This can be accomplished only if the thoughts of human beings are stolen, if human beings are deindividualized.
If Ahriman could continue to work as he has been able to especially since the year 1845, human brains would become more and more rigid, and human beings would live as though subject to compulsive thoughts, to materialized thoughts, as I explained yesterday. This would show itself particularly in human beings being guided in their education in such a way that they would no longer have mobile thoughts; rather, when they reached a certain age, they would have completely fixed thoughts. Now ask yourselves whether that is not already true to a great extent in our time! Just think how fixed the thoughts of many human beings are today. Is it possible to teach much to human beings today? Their thoughts are so rigid, so solid, that it is almost impossible to teach them very much. This is already being used by Ahriman. Ahriman strives more and more to intensify the process of making thoughts into compulsive thoughts. An active product in the scientific realm of these compulsive thoughts is atomism. In atomism, the spirit behind the veil of the senses is not intimated but only atoms, everywhere vibrating, whirling atoms. Of course you cannot reach behind the veil of the senses in any other way than with thoughts. Ahriman, however, has confused people so much already that they have materialized their thoughts. They no longer believe that they themselves have actually merely constructed a world with thought-atoms; they consider this as reality. They therefore have externalized the thoughts. This is a thoroughly Ahrimanized world. Today we have an Ahrimanized science, Ahrimanized through and through.
That this is actually the case can sometimes be encountered in a frightening way. I received, for example — maybe thirty-five years ago — a manuscript. It was a very scholarly manuscript. It intended to give the human differential — I am telling you a true story! By the human differential was meant the differential that if one integrates it will result in the human being. If one therefore integrates from foot to head, one will get the human being. It was a very scholarly treatise, and the physician who brought it to me said, “You may meet the author personally,” for he was in his clinic. When I became acquainted with the man, he said, “Yes, this is so; I have experienced it myself. I consist altogether of differential atoms. Everywhere there are differentials, and I am only an integral.” He conceived himself as differentiated exclusively into atoms; that was an intellectual-Ahrimanic form of consciousness. In the last analysis, however, it is merely the system of atomism grown rigid. When this manuscript was brought to me, I was led to recall that there is a LaPlacian world formula: according to it, it should be possible, by integration from the processes of atoms, to calculate, by inserting a specific value, when, let us say, Caesar crossed the Rubicon, or something similar! Here one does not integrate from foot to head, but rather one merely needs to integrate from the world's beginning to its end. This can be done simply by bringing atoms into the world formula in the appropriate way. This whole way of thinking looks suspiciously similar to the treatise of the man who considered himself an integral locked in between the borders of foot and head. By viewing such matters correctly, one can receive clear insight into the progressively Ahrimanic nature of our culture.
This must, of course, be counteracted, which can happen only if our concepts are again led to have a pictorial quality, so that we do not merely work with abstract concepts but rather bring to our concepts a pictorial quality. Then, when passing through the portal of death, we will already be bringing pictures with us, and we will find the connection to what the world demands. Otherwise humanity approaches the danger of losing itself. What actually ought to be individualized by the flowing of the will into the thoughts will become mineralized, will be made into universal earth. The earth thus would become a world- being, but humanity would in terms of its soul flow into a great cemetery.
Such overviews of civilization must occasionally be made. In our time it is absolutely essential to make such overviews, for whoever is able to oversee more precisely the matters of evolution today knows how rapidly this ossification of our civilization is approaching us. On this occasion I would not like to forget to mention that until the year 869 A.D., until the Eighth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople, man's members were considered to be body, soul, and spirit. At this Eighth Ecumenical Council, the following formula, to which I have repeatedly drawn attention, was established for the West: it must not be believed that man consists of body, soul, and spirit, but only of body and soul, and the soul has a few spiritual properties. This decision then passed into the world. In the Middle Ages it was heresy to believe that man consisted of body, soul, and spirit. Today philosophy professors discover by means of "unprejudiced science" that man consists only of body and soul. This "unprejudiced science" is nothing but a decision by the Eighth Ecumenical Council. That, however, strives toward something else. One could say that through this Eighth Ecumenical Council humanity has lost the consciousness of the spirit, which must be regained. If we proceed further along the path I have just described to you, however, humanity will also lose consciousness of the soul.
Among the materialists of the nineteenth century, this consciousness of the soul had already disappeared to such an extent that it was said that the brain secretes thoughts just as the liver secretes bile. It seemed, therefore, as if only a consciousness of the bodily processes remained. In fact, already today, without people knowing it, there are all kinds of underground societies that work toward things that lead in a direction similar to the one decided upon in 869 at the Council of Constantinople. They work to explain that man does not consist of both body and soul but rather that man consists only of the body and that the soul is merely something that develops out of the body. It is therefore impossible, if you take this viewpoint, to educate man from the aspect of soul; one must find a substance, a material substance, that can be injected into a human being at a certain age; then he will develop his talents by injection. This tendency definitely exists. It is right in line with the Ahrimanic development: no longer establish schools in order to teach, but inject certain substances instead. This is possible. It is not as if it were not possible. It is indeed possible, but the human being is made thereby into an automaton. One would speed up immensely what would otherwise be achieved by means of developing ready-made thoughts, with an education that overpowers thinking. There are already such substances that can be developed, substances that if injected at seven years of age, for example, could make the public schools altogether expendable; the human being would then become a thought automaton. He would become exceptionally clever but would not have a consciousness of it. This cleverness would just run off like a machine. What do many people today care, however, whether the human being has an inner life or not, as long as outwardly he walks around and does this or that? Such human beings that submit themselves by preference to the Ahrimanic civilization — and they do exist today — strive for such ideals. After all, what could be more tempting than the attitude, such as today is spreading far and wide, which would prefer to find an injectible substance to struggling with the children for years and years? One must present these things as being drastic. If one does not present the situation as being drastic, humanity today would not notice toward what goals it is striving. By such an injectible substance, one would simply achieve a loosening of the etheric body in the physical body. As soon as the etheric body is loosened, the play between the etheric body and the universe would become exceedingly lively, and man would become an automaton. The physical body here on earth must be developed through spiritual will.
Out of the full consciousness that one faces when confronting the automization of the human being, the methods for the Waldorf School, the pedagogical methods for the Waldorf School, were discovered. In this regard they should be motors of civilization that will lead again to a spiritualization, for basically — one can already say this — today above all it is necessary for the spiritual life among human beings to be particularly nurtured. One therefore should look courageously upon all that appears as symptoms of the improvement of individual human beings. I have often mentioned before how humanity strives today to place routine in place of a real practice of life — routine, which is truly the mechanization of life.
I was overjoyed recently when I read that there are still people who, going beyond the ordinary routine of life, have already perceived the practical life as something important. Recently a news item spread through the world, describing how Edison tested the people he wished to prepare for some sort of practical work. It did not interest him at all whether or not a merchant was able to keep books. That, he said, can be learned in three weeks if one is a reasonable, intelligent person. None of these specialties interested him at all; these one can learn. When Edison wished to know whether people would be of any use in practical life, however, he tested them by asking them questions like, "How large is Siberia?" Thus when he wished to discover whether someone was a good bookkeeper, Edison did not ask whether he could conduct an audit properly, but he asked, “How large is Siberia?” or “If a room is five meters long, three meters wide, and four meters high, how many cubic meters of air are contained in this room?” and similar questions. He posed questions like, “What is standing at the place where Caesar crossed the Rubicon?” and so on, just general questions. And according to the extent to which a person could answer such questions, Edison hired him as a bookkeeper, or whatever. He knew that if a person could answer such a general question this was a proof that his schooling had not been in vain, that as a child he had developed mobile thoughts, and this is what Edison demanded.
This is how practical life really should be conducted, whereas in recent times we have steered precisely in the opposite direction, succumbing more and more to specialization, so that finally one could really despair of finding the people needed for practical life. It is impossible to get anyone to do something outside the pigeonhole into which he wants to fit. Already today it must be said that in this way too we must work toward the mobility of thoughts. If there is such a working toward the mobility of thoughts, then these thoughts will not harden, and Ahriman will be in a difficult position. You can see yourselves, if you look at life, how few Edisons there are who have such practical principles. It is necessary to work toward a pictorial quality of concepts; whoever works toward the pictorial quality of concepts will no longer be able to say that he does not understand spiritual science. It is precisely that tug which a person giyes himself in order to receive from abstractions the pictorial quality of concepts that presents on the one hand the possibility of grasping that the earth evolved out of ancient Moon, Sun, Saturn; on the other hand, for the inner life, the life of feeling intermingles with the pictorial conceptions, with the imagination. The fully human being thus will arise.