Anthroposophy, An Introduction
3. The Transition from Ordinary Knowledge to the Science of Initiation
27 January 1924, Dornach
Today I should like to give another transitional lecture and indicate, from a certain aspect, the relation between exoteric and esoteric life; or, in other words, the transition from ordinary knowledge to knowledge attained through initiation. In this connection we must bear in mind what I have already explained in the News Sheet for Members when describing the Free College of Spiritual Science, namely: that the content of the Science of Initiation, expressed in appropriate words, can certainly be understood by everyone who is sufficiently free from prejudice. One should not say that a person must first be initiated himself in order to understand what the Science of Initiation has to give. Today, however, I should like to discuss the relationship of Anthroposophy to its source, which is the Science of Initiation itself. These three lectures will then form a kind of introduction to the composition of man (physical body, etheric body, etc.) which will be given next in the lectures of the General Anthroposophical Society.
When we consider the consciousness of present-day man, we are led to say: He stands here on the earth, and looks out on the wide spaces of the cosmos, but does not feel any connection between these and himself and what surrounds him on the earth, just consider how abstractly the sun is described by all who claim today to be the representatives of sound science. Consider, too, how these same savants describe the moon. Apart from the fact that the sun warms us in summer and leaves us cold in winter, that the moon is a favourite companion of lovers under certain conditions, how little thought is given to any connection between man, as he lives on earth, and the heavenly bodies.
Nevertheless, to know such connections, one need only develop a little that way of looking at things of which I spoke in the lecture before last. One need only develop a little understanding of what men once knew who stood nearer to the cosmos than we do today, who had a naive consciousness and an instinct for knowledge rather than an intellectual knowledge, but were able to contemplate the connection between individual heavenly bodies and the life and being of man.
Now this connection between man and the heavenly bodies must enter human consciousness again. This will come about if Anthroposophy is cultivated in the right way.
Man believes today that his destiny, his ‘Karma’, is here on the earth, and does not look to the stars for its indications. It is for Anthroposophy to grasp man's part in the super-sensible world. All that surrounds him, however, really belongs in the first place to his physical, or at most his etheric body. However far we look into the starry worlds we see the stars by their light. Now light, and all that we perceive in the world by light, is an etheric phenomenon. Thus, no matter how far we look in the universe, we do not get beyond the etheric by merely turning our gaze this way or that.
Man's being, however, reaches out into the super-sensible. He carries his super-sensible being from pre-earthly existence into the earthly realm, and carries it out again at death — out of the physical and the etheric too.
In reality there is in the whole of our environment on the earth or in the cosmos nothing of those worlds where man was before descending to earth and where he will be after passing through the gate of death. There are, however, two gates which lead from the physical and etheric worlds to the super-sensible. One is the moon, the other the sun. We only understand the sun and moon aright when we realise that they are gates to the super-sensible world, and have very much to do with what man experiences as his destiny on earth.
Consider, in the first place, the moon. The physicist knows nothing about the moon, except that it shows us reflected sunlight. He knows that moonlight is reflected sunlight, and gets no further. He does not take into account that the cosmic body visible to our physical eye as the moon, was once united with our earth-existence.
The moon was once a part of the earth. In primeval times it separated off from the earth and became an individual cosmic body out there in cosmic space. That it became a separate body is not, however, the important point; after all, that can also be interpreted as a physical fact. The important point is something essentially different.
If anyone, in full earnestness, extends his studies of human civilisation and culture back into remote times, he finds a wide-spread primeval wisdom. From this is derived much that endures today and is really much cleverer than what our science can explore. And whoever studies, for example, the Vedas of India or the Yoga philosophy from this point of view, will feel deep reverence for what he finds. It is presented in a more poetic form to which he is not accustomed today, but it fills him with deeper reverence the more deeply he studies it. If one does not approach these things in the dry, prosaic manner of today, but lets them work upon him in their stirring, yet profound, way, one comes to understand, even from a study of the documents, that Spiritual Science, Anthroposophy, must say from its own cognition: There was once a widespread primeval wisdom, though it did not appear in an intellectual, but rather in a poetic form.
The man of today, however, is constrained by his physical body to understand, through the instrumentality of his brain, what confronts him as wisdom. Now this brain, as his instrument of understanding, has only evolved in the course of long periods of time. It did not exist when the primeval wisdom was here on earth. Wisdom was then the possession of beings who did not live in a physical body.
Such beings were once companions of men. They were the great, original teachers of humanity, who have since disappeared from the earth. It is not only the physical moon that went out into cosmic space; these beings went with it. One who looks at the moon with real insight will say: There above is a world with beings in it who once lived among us on earth, and taught us in our former earthly lives; they have retired to the colony of the moon. Only when we study things in this way do we attain to truth.
Now today, within his physical body, man is only able to contemplate a very weak infusion — if I may use this term — of the primeval wisdom. In ancient times, when these beings were his teachers, man possessed something of this wisdom. He received it, not with his understanding but with his instinct, in the way by which higher beings could reveal themselves to him.
Thus everything connected with the moon points to man's past. Now, for the man of today, the past is over and done with; he no longer possesses it. Nevertheless, he bears it within him. And though we do not, in our present condition between birth and death, really encounter those beings of whom I spoke just now who were once earth-beings but are now moon-beings, we do meet them in our pre-earthly life, in the life between death and rebirth. That which we bear within us and which is always pointing to our earlier existence before birth — which speaks from our subconscious life and never attains full intellectual clarity, but has, on this account, much to do with our feelings and emotional disposition — this directs to the moonlight, not only the instinct of lovers, but the man who can value these sub-conscious impulses of human nature.
Our subconscious life, then, directs us to the moon. This may witness to the fact that the moon, with the beings who dwell there, was once united with the earth. In this sense the moon is a gate to the super-sensible; and one who studies it rightly will find, even in its external, physical configuration, support for this statement.
Just try to recall the way the moon, with its mountains, etc., is described. It all indicates that these mountains cannot be like those on the earth. The whole configuration of the moon is different. It is always stressed that the moon has neither air nor water, for example. The configuration of the moon is, in fact, like that of the earth before it became quite mineral.
I should have to read you a large number of my books and many passages from the lecture-cycles if I had to draw together what I am here presenting as a result of what has been worked out here. I only want to sketch, in an introductory way, how Anthroposophy proceeds. It leads us, in the manner described, from the physical to the spiritual again. Through Anthroposophy we learn to think in accordance with Nature. This men cannot do today.
For instance, men know today that the physical substance of their bodies is often changed in the course of life. We are continually ‘peeling off’. We cut our nails, for example; but every-thing within us is moving towards the surface until, at last, what was in the centre of the body reaches the surface and peels off-You must not believe, my dear friends, that the flesh and blood — or any physical substance — sitting on your chairs today would have sat on these chairs had you been here ten years ago. That substance has all been exchanged. What has remained? Your psycho-spiritual being. Today, at least, it is known to everyone that the people sitting here today would not have had the same muscles and bones had they sat here ten or twenty years ago; only, this is not always borne in mind.
Now, when people look up at the moon, they are conscious, to a certain extent, of its external, physical substance, and believe this was the same millions of years ago. As a matter of fact, it was just as little the same then as your present physical body was the same twenty years ago. Of course, the physical substances of the stars are not exchanged so quickly; still, they do not require so long a time as our physicists estimate in the case of the sun. These calculations are absolutely accurate — but they are wrong. I have often referred to this. You see, you may measure, for example, the changes in the inner configuration of a man's heart from month to month. You may estimate them over a period of three years. You may then calculate, quite correctly, what the configuration of his heart was three hundred years ago, or what it will be in three hundred years' time. You can arrive at some fine numbers; your calculations may be quite correct — only, his heart was not there three hundred years ago, and will not be there in three hundred years to come.
Geologists calculate in this fashion today. They study the strata of the earth, estimate the changes occurring in the course of centuries, multiply their figures and say: Twenty millions of years ago the earth was so and so. This is just the same sort of calculation, and just as sensible; for twenty million years ago all these strata were not yet there, and will no longer be in twenty million years to come.
However, apart from this, all the heavenly bodies are subject to metabolism, as man is. The substances we see when we look up at the moon were just as little there a certain number of centuries ago, as your own substances were on these chairs ten years ago. It is the beings themselves who sustain the moon, just as it is the psycho-spiritual in you that maintains your body. True, the physical moon once went out into cosmic space; but what went out is continually changing its substance, while the beings who inhabit the moon remain. It is these who form the permanent element of the moon — quite apart from their passage through repeated moon-lives. — But we will not go into that today.
When you study the moon in this way you acquire a kind of ‘science of the moon’. This science becomes inscribed in your heart, not merely in your head. You establish a relationship to the spiritual cosmos, and regard the moon as one gate thereto. Everything present in the depths of our being — not only the indefinite feelings of love, to mention these once again, but every-thing in the subconscious depths of our souls that results from earlier lives on earth — is connected with this ‘moon-existence’. From this we free ourselves in all that constitutes our present life. We are continually doing so. When we see or hear outer things with our senses, when we exercise our understanding — i.e. when we disregard what comes from the depths of our soul life and is clearly recognised as part of an active past, and turn to what draws us again and again into the present — then we are directed to the ‘sun-existence’, just as we are directed by the past to the moon-existence. Only, the sun works on us by way of our physical bodies. If we want to acquire independently, of our own free will, what the sun gives us, we have to exert that will: we must set our intellect in action. Yet, with all that we human beings of today understand through our busy intellect and our reason, we do not get nearly so far as we do instinctively — simply through there being a sun in the universe.
Everyone knows, or can, at least, know, that the sun not only wakens us every morning, calling us from darkness to light, but is the source of the forces of growth within us, including those of the soul. That which works in these soul-forces from out of the past is connected with the moon, but that which works within the present and which we shall only really acquire in the future through our own free choice, depends on the sun.
The moon points to our past, the sun to the future. We look up to the two luminaries, that of the day and that of the night, and observe the relationship between them, for they send us the same light. Then we look into ourselves and observe all that is woven into our destiny through past experiences undergone as men; in this we see our inner moon-existence. And in all that continually approaches us in the present and determines our destiny, in all that works on from the present into the future we see the sun-element. We see how past and future are weaving together in human destiny.
Further: we can study this connection between past and future more closely. Suppose two people come together for some common task at a certain time of life. One who does not think deeply about such things may say: He and I were both at Müllheim (let us say), and we met there. He thinks no more about it. But one who thinks more deeply may follow up the lives of these two who came together when one was, perhaps, thirty years of age and the other twenty-five. He will see in what a wonderful and extraordinary way the lives of these two people have developed, step by step, from birth onwards, so as to bring them together at this place. One may say, indeed, that people find their way to one another from the most distant places to meet about half-way through their lives. It is as if they had arranged all their ways with this end in view. Of course, they could not have done this consciously, for they had not seen one another before — or, at least, had not formed such a judgment of one another as would make their meeting significant. All these things take place in the unconscious. We travel paths leading to important turning points, or periods in our lives, and do so in deep unconsciousness. It is from these depths that — in the first place — destiny is woven. (Now we begin to understand people like Goethe's friend Knebel, whose experience of life was deep and varied and who said in his old age: On looking back on my life it seems as if every step had been so ordained that I had to arrive finally at a definite point.) Then the moment comes, however, when the relationship between these two people takes place in full consciousness. They learn to know one another, one another's temperament and character, they feel sympathy or antipathy for one another, etc. Now, if we examine the connection between their relationship and the cosmos, we find that moon-forces were active on the paths taken by these two people up to the moment of meeting. At this point the action of the sun begins. They now enter, to a certain extent, the bright light of the sun's activity. What follows is accompanied by their own consciousness; the future begins to illuminate the past, as the sun the moon. At the same time the past illuminates man's future, as the moon the earth with reflected light.
But the question now is, whether we can distinguish the solar from the lunar in man's life. Well, even our feelings can distinguish much, if we study them more deeply. Even in childhood and early life we come into contact with people whose relation-ship to us remains external; we ‘pass them by’ as they us, even though they may have a good deal to do with us. You all went to school, but only very few of you can say you had teachers with whom you had any deeper relationship. Still, there will be one or two of you who can say: Yes, I had a teacher who made such an impression on me that I wanted to be like him; or: He made such an impression on me that I wished him off the face of the earth. It may have been either sympathy or antipathy.
There are others, again, who only affect our understanding, so to speak, or our aesthetic sense at most. Just think how often it happens that we learn to know somebody and, meeting others who know him too, we all agree that he is a splendid fellow — or a terrible person. This is an aesthetic judgment, or an intellectual one. But there is another kind of judgment. There are human relationships that do not merely run their course in the above two ways, but affect the will; and this to such an extent that we do not merely say, as in childhood, that we would like to become like this person or that we wish him off the face of the earth — to mention extreme cases — but we are affected in the unconscious depths of our will life, and say: We not only look upon this man as good or bad, clever or foolish, etc., but we would like to do, of our own accord, what his will wills; we would rather not exert our intellect in order to judge him. We would like to translate into action the impression he has made upon us.
Thus there are these two kinds of human relationships: those that affect our intellect, or, at most, our aesthetic sense; and those that affect our will, acting on the deeper life of our soul. What does that mean? Well, if people act on our will, if we do not merely feel strong sympathy or antipathy towards then but would like to give expression to our sympathy or antipathy through our will, they were somehow connected with us in our previous life. If people only impress our intellect or our aesthetic sense, they are entering our life without such a previous connection.
You can see from this that in human life, especially in human destiny, past and present work together into the future. For what we experience with others, even though they have no effect on our will, will come to expression in a future life on earth.
Just as the sun and moon circle in the same path and are interrelated, so, in the human being, are past and future, moon element and sun-element. And we can come to look upon the sun and moon, not as external luminaries, but as mirrors reflecting, in the wide spaces of the cosmos, the interweaving of our destiny. Past and future continually interpenetrate and interweave in our destinies, just as moonlight passes into sunlight, and sunlight into moonlight. Indeed, the interweaving takes place in every case of human relationship.
Consider the paths travelled by two people, the one for thirty years, the other for twenty-five. They meet here, let us say. All they have passed through until now belongs to the moon-element in man. Now, however, through learning to know one another, through confronting one another consciously, they enter the sun-element of destiny, and weave past and future together, thus forming their destiny for future lives on earth.
Thus, from the way destiny approaches man we may see how, in the one case, a person acts on another through intellect or aesthetic sense, in another case through the will and the life of feeling connected therewith.
As I have said, I only want today to sketch these things in a brief, fragmentary way in order to show you the path of Anthroposophy and of its source — the Science of Initiation. We shall study the details in the future. As far as I have gone at present however, everyone can have direct, first-hand knowledge of these things. He can study his destiny with understanding. That peculiar, intimate, inner relationship in which another person speaks from within us — as it were — indicates tics of destiny from the past. If I feel that someone ‘grips’ me, not merely in my senses and intellect but inwardly, so that my will is engaged in the very way he grips me, he is connected with me by ties of destiny from the past. Such ties can be felt with a finer, more intimate sense.
One experiences this in an essentially different way, however, when one attains a certain stage of the path described in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, or in the second part of my Occult Science. When one attains initiation another person with whom one has ties of destiny is not only experienced in such a way that one says: He acts on my will, he acts in my will. One actually experiences the other personality as really within oneself. If an initiate meets another person with whom he has ties of destiny, this other person is present within him with independent speech and gestures — speaks from out of him, as one who stands beside us speaks to us. Thus the tics of destiny, which are usually felt only in the will, take such a form for the initiate that the other person speaks from out of the initiate himself. For one possessing the Science of Initiation a karmic encounter means, then, that the other person works not only on his will, but as strongly as a man standing beside him.
You see, what ordinary consciousness can only surmise by way of feeling and will, is raised for higher consciousness to full reality. You may say: That means that the initiate walks about with a group of people inside him with whom he is connected through destiny. That is actually the case. The attainment of knowledge is not a mere matter of learning to say more than other people while talking just as they do; it really means enlarging one's world.
Thus, if one intends to speak on the way Karma operates in human lives, fashioning mutual destiny, one must be able to confirm what one says from a knowledge of how others speak in one, how they really become a part of oneself.
If we then describe these things, they need not remain out of reach of one who has not been initiated; for he can and — if sane and healthy — will say: True, I don't hear a person speaking within me, if we are connected through destiny; but I feel him in my will, in the way he stirs it. One learns to understand this effect on the will. One learns to understand what is experienced in ordinary consciousness but cannot be understood unless we hear it described, in its true concrete significance, out of the Science of Initiation.
It was my special concern today to explain that this feeling of karmic connection with another, which otherwise enters consciousness in a kind of nebulous way, becomes a concrete experience for the initiate. And all that the Science of Initiation can achieve, can be described in this way.
There are many other indications of our karmic connections with other people. Some of you will know, if you study life, that we meet many people of whom we do not dream; we can live long with them without doing so. We meet others, however, of whom we dream constantly. We have hardly seen them when we dream of them the next night, and they enter our dreams again and again.
Now dreams play a special part in the subconscious life. When we dream of people on first meeting them, there is certainly a karmic connection between us. People of whom we cannot dream make only a slight impression on our senses; we meet them but have no karmic connection with them.
What lives in the depths of our will is, indeed, like a waking dream; but it becomes concrete, fully conscious experience for the initiate. Hence he hears those with whom he has a karmic connection speaking from within him. Of course he remains sensible and does not walk about speaking, as an initiate, from out of others when he converses with all sorts of people. Nevertheless, he does accustom himself, under certain conditions, to hold converse with persons connected with him through Karma. This converse takes place in a quite concrete way, even when he is not with them in space, and things of real significance come to light. However, I shall describe these things at some future time.
Thus we can deepen our consciousness on looking out into the wide spaces of the cosmos, and on looking into man himself. And the more we look into man himself, the more we learn to understand what the wide cosmic spaces contain. Then we say to ourselves: I no longer see merely shining discs or orbs in stellar space, but what I see in the outer cosmos appears to me as cosmically woven destiny. Human destinies on earth are now seen to be images of cosmically woven destinies. And when we realise clearly that the substance of a heavenly body is changing — is being exchanged, just as is the bodily substance of man — we know there is no sense in merely speaking of abstract laws of Nature. These abstract laws must not be regarded as giving us knowledge. It is just as in life insurance companies. To what do these owe their existence? To the fact that they can calculate a man's ‘expectation of life’. One takes a certain number of people aged twenty-five and, from the number of these who reach the age of thirty, etc., one can calculate the probable number of years a man of thirty will live. He is insured accordingly. Now, one gets on quite well with such insurance, for the laws of insurance hold. But it would not occur to anyone to apply these laws to his innermost being; otherwise he would say: I insured myself at the age of thirty, because my ‘probable death’ would occur at the age of fifty-five. I must die at fifty-five. He would never draw this conclusion and act accordingly, although the calculation is quite correct. The correctness of the reasoning has no significance for actual life.
Now we only arrive at laws of nature by calculations. They are good for technical applications; they enable us to construct machines, just as we can insure people in accordance with certain natural laws. But they do not lead us into the true essence of things, for only real cognition of the beings themselves can do that.
The laws of Nature, as calculated by astronomers for the heavens, are like insurance laws in human life. What a real Science of Initiation discovers about the being of the sun or moon is like my funding someone still living in ten years' time when, according to his insurance policy, he should have died long before. It lay in his inner being to live on.
Fundamentally speaking, actual events have nothing at all to do with the laws of Nature. These laws are good for applying natural forces; real Being, however, must be known through the Science of Initiation.
This concludes the third of the lectures in which I only wanted to indicate what the tone of Anthroposophy should be. We shall now begin to describe the constitution of man somewhat differently from the way it is done in my “Theosophy.” In doing this we shall build up an Anthroposophical Science, an Anthroposophical Knowledge from its foundations. You may regard the three lectures I have just given as illustrations of the difference in tone between the speech of ordinary consciousness and the speech of that consciousness which leads into the real being of things.