True and False Paths in Spiritual Investigation
11. What is the Position in Respect of Spiritual Investigation and the Understanding of Spiritual Investigation?
Torquay, 22 August, 1924
A great deal of course could still be added to all that I have touched upon in these lectures, but we shall endeavour today to conclude them with a summary of the whole subject.
The approach we have taken throughout these lectures raises an important issue: What is the attitude to Anthroposophy, to spiritual investigation as presented by Anthroposophy? What is the position in regard to the understanding of anthroposophical teachings seeing that few today can have immediate access to spiritual exercises and practices which enable them to perceive and test thoroughly for themselves the anthroposophical descriptions of other worlds? This is a question that lies close to the hearts of those who feel an urge and even a longing to take up Anthroposophy. But this question is always seen in a false light, and is the more likely to be misinterpreted precisely because they are unable to grasp the right procedures such as I have advocated in these lectures.
People may ask: what is the use of all these descriptions of the spiritual world if I cannot look into that world myself? I should like, therefore, to touch upon this question in my cursory analysis today.
It is not true to say that one cannot acquire an insight into anthroposophical teachings and an understanding of them unless one can investigate the spiritual world oneself. I t is essential to distinguish, especially at the present time, between the actual discovery of facts relating to the different worlds and the comprehension of those facts. This distinction will be clear to you when you recall that man, as we know him today, belongs in fact to different worlds and that his experiences are derived from different worlds. Man as he is constituted today acquires his stock of knowledge and his consciousness of everyday existence in the course of his day to day experiences. During his waking life this consciousness which was the starting-point of our enquiry gives him a certain perspective over a limited field, over that aspect of the world that is accessible to sense-observation, and which can be grasped and interpreted by means of the intellect which he has developed in the course of evolution.
With his understanding man penetrates in his dreams into this world concealed behind the phenomenal world, in a vague, indefinite way as I have already pointed out. In his psychic life man contacts the world through which he passes between death and rebirth only in dreamless sleep, where he is surrounded by spiritual darkness and where he lives out a life which normally he cannot recall.
Man knows three states of consciousness — waking, dreaming and deep sleep. But he does not live only in the worlds to which this threefold consciousness gives access, for he is a being whose kingdom has many mansions. His physical body lives in a different world from his etheric body, his etheric body again in a different world from his astral body and both live in different worlds from the Ego.
And this threefold consciousness — clear waking consciousness, dream consciousness and sleep consciousness (one would like to say absence of consciousness but one can only describe it as diminished consciousness) — belong to the Ego as it is today. And this Ego when it looks inwards has also three states of consciousness. When it looks outwards, it knows waking (day) consciousness, dream consciousness and sleep consciousness. When it looks inwards, it knows clear intellectual consciousness; a sentient consciousness, a sentient life, though this is far more opaque and dreamlike than one usually imagines; it knows als1˃ a sentient life and finally the dim, twilight will-consciousness that resembles the state of deep sleep. Normal consciousness can no more explain the origin of willing than it can explain the origin of sleep. When a man performs an act of will it is accompanied by a thought which is clear and lucid. He then shrouds this thought in feeling which is more indefinite. The thought that is imbued with feeling passes down into the limbs; the process cannot be experienced by normal consciousness. To the kind of investigation of which I spoke yesterday and the day before, willing presents the following picture: whilst a thought wills something in the head and is then transmitted to the whole body through feeling, so that a man wills in the whole of his body, something akin to a delicate, subtle and intimate process of combustion sets in meanwhile.
When man develops Initiate-consciousness he is able to experience this life of will which is subject to the influence of warmth, but it remains wholly subliminal to ordinary consciousness. This is merely one instance which shows how what lies in the subliminal consciousness can be raised to the level of Initiate-consciousness.
When the information in the book I mentioned yesterday is made progressively more accessible to the public, people will realize that when we contemplate with Initiate-consciousness an act of will performed by man, we have the impression that we are watching the lighting of a candle or even the kindling of a warmth-giving light. Just as we have in this instance a clear picture of the external phenomenon, so we shall be able to see the thought as it is precipitated into the will. We then say: the thought develops feeling and from feeling — it follows a downward direction in man — proceeds a sensation of warmth, a flame in man. And this flame wills; it is kindled by degrees. We can represent schematical1y this normal consciousness in the following way:
Now although, in order to investigate the spiritual world, we must of necessity direct our consciousness to that world which we seek to apprehend cognitively, none the less, if the fruits of our investigations are to be communicated honestly, the ideas communicated verbally must be expressed in the language of other forms of consciousness.
You can now understand, perhaps, that this is a twofold process. In the first place, for example, we investigate the world of the human organs as I explained yesterday. We investigate the phenomena in question by utilizing the emergent forces in man as he draws near to the spiritual world during the course of his life. We then discover the relevant facts as they are revealed to the understanding. And there are men in the world who are aware of these facts and who communicate them to the world. When they are imparted to the world by such men they can be comprehended by normal consciousness if we look at them with the necessary objectivity. In the course of human evolution there has always been a minority who devoted themselves to investigation of the facts relating to the spiritual world and who then communicated to others the fruits of their investigations.
Now one factor today militates against the acceptance of such knowledge, namely, that as a rule people grow up in a social environment and under an educational system that conditions their habitual responses to such an extent that they can believe only in the world of fact, in the sensory world, and the rational information derived from the world of the senses. This habit is so strongly ingrained that people are inclined to say: At the university there are graduate members of the teaching faculty who, in addition to teaching, investigate certain factual aspects of the phenomenal world or confirm the findings of other research workers in this field. Everyone accepts their findings. Even though one does not investigate the facts oneself, one still believes in them. This boundless credulity is reserved especially for modern science. People believe things which, to those who have insight, are not only problematical, but definitely untrue. This situation stems from centuries of education. I would like to point out that this form of education was unknown to men of earlier centuries. They were far more inclined to believe those who made researches into spiritual facts since they still preserved something of the old insight into, and participation in the spiritual world that was consistent with their will and feeling. Today people are strangers to such knowledge. They are accustomed to an outlook which on the Continent is more theoretical and in England and America more practical, and which has now become firmly established.
On the Continent there exist detailed theories about these matters whilst in England and America there is an instinctive feeling for them which is by no means easy to overcome. During the course of centuries mankind has become inured to a scientific outlook that is related to the phenomenal world and has come to accept the findings of astronomy, botany, zoology and medicine, for example, in the form in which they are presented in recognized schools or centres of learning. A chemist, for example, undertakes a piece of research in his laboratory. People have not the slightest understanding of the technique involved. The work is acclaimed and they unhesitatingly declare: “Here is truth, here is knowledge that makes no appeal to faith.” But what they call knowledge is, in effect, an act of faith.
And amongst the methods adopted for investigating the phenomenal world, for ascertaining the laws of the phenomenal world through the instrument of reason, not a single one gives the slightest information about the spiritual world. But there are few who can afford to dispense wholly with the spiritual world. Those who do so, are not honest with themselves, they persuade themselves into it. Mankind feels an imperious need to know something about the spiritual world. As yet men ignore those who can tell them something about the spiritual world as it is known today, but they are prepared to listen to historical traditions, to the teachings of the Bible and sacred scriptures of the East. They are interested in these traditional writings, because otherwise they cannot satisfy their need for some sort of relationship to a spiritual world. And in spite of the fact that both the Bible and the Eastern scriptures have been investigated only by individual Initiates, people claim that they reflect a different kind of outlook, which bears no relationship to the knowledge of the phenomenal world, scientific knowledge, and depends upon faith and appeals to faith. And so a rigid line of demarcation is set up between science and belief. Men refer science to the phenomenal world and belief to the spiritual world.
Amongst the theologians of the Evangelical Church on the Continent — not amongst the theologians of the Roman Catholic Church who have retained the old traditions, and who do not accept the dichotomy of the Evangelicals or the natural scientists — there exist innumerable theories showing that there are definite boundaries to knowledge and thereafter faith steps in. They are convinced there can be no other possibility.
England is less hag-ridden because theorizing is unpopular. Here the traditional attitude is, on the one hand, to listen to what science has to say, and, on the other hand, to live reverently — I will not go so far as to say sanctimoniously — in faith and to keep the two spheres rigidly apart.
For some time past, laymen and scholars have adopted this point of view. Newton laid the foundations of a theory of gravitation, i.e. of a conception of space which, by its very nature, excludes any possibility of a spiritual outlook. If the world were as Newton depicted it, it would be devoid of spirit. But no-one has the courage to admit it. One cannot imagine a divine-spiritual Presence that lives and moves and has its being in the Newtonian world.
But not only the devotees of these ideas ultimately accept a conception of space and time that excludes the spiritual, but also those who undertake independent research work. Newton offers an excellent example of the latter, for he not only laid the foundation of a world-outlook which excluded the spiritual, but at the same time in his interpretation of the Apocalypse he fully accepted the spiritual.
The links between knowledge of the phenomenal world and knowledge of the spiritual world have been severed. Today the theorists set out to give solid proof of this dichotomy and every effort is made to inoculate the thoughts and feelings of those who distrust theory with this idea, so that ultimately they become conditioned.
On the other hand, man's intelligence, power of comprehension and ideation, his capacity for ideas, have today reached a point where, if he keeps them under conscious control, he can grasp by reason, though he cannot investigate by reason, the teachings of Initiation Science.
It is essential that the following point of view should find wider acceptance: that investigations into the spiritual world must be undertaken by those who, in their present life on Earth are able to call upon forces from earlier incarnations, for it is these forces which release the necessary powers for spiritual investigation; and further, that the results of these investigations shall be accepted by increasing numbers of men and incorporated into ideas which are comprehensible; and that, when the results of spiritual research are accepted by healthy understanding, a way is prepared for these other men, by virtue of this understanding, to have real experience of the spiritual world. For I have often said that the healthiest way to enter the spiritual world is first of all to read about it or to assimilate what we are told about it.
If we accept these ideas, they become inwardly quickened and we attain not only to understanding, but also to clairvoyant vision in accordance with our karmic development. In this respect we must give serious thought to the idea of karma. Today man is not concerned with karma; he believes that just as we analyse sulphur in the laboratory, so we can analyse by laboratory techniques the origin of so-called trans-normal phenomena; and that, as with sulphur, we must subject the individual who manifests abnormal forms of knowledge to experimental tests.
But mineral sulphur has no karma. Only the sulphur associated with the human body has karma, for only human beings are subject to karma. We cannot assume that it is part of man's karma to be experimented upon in a laboratory which would be a necessary prerequisite if the investigations were to have any value.
For this reason we have need of Spiritual Science. It would first of all be necessary to enquire into the karmic conditions which enable us to gain knowledge of the spiritual world through the agency of another. I have explained this clearly at the end of the later editions of my book Theosophy. But mankind today is not yet ready to accept this idea, not from incapacity, but from conservatism; but it is of immense significance.
It is essential to realize that we must not immediately undertake investigations into the spiritual world; but on the other hand if we do not adopt undesirable practices, such as experimenting with karma when there is no karmic necessity, or with mediums whose procedure we do not understand; and if we rely upon the everyday consciousness, which is the right condition of consciousness for this world, then we will attain to a perfect understanding of the communications of Initiation Science. We are greatly mistaken if we imagine that we cannot have such an understanding without first being able to experience the spiritual world for ourselves. To say, “what avails the spiritual world, if I cannot experience it for myself?” is to encourage yet another of the errors commonly committed today. This is to commit one of the greatest, most dangerous and most obvious of errors and must be clearly recognized by those who are associated with a Movement such as the Anthroposophical Society.
Man's existence here on the physical plane is bound up with existence in other worlds. To the unprejudiced mind this can be explained by the fact that man's experiences, as seen in the light of total human experience, are such that, in relation to the most vital questions in life they meet with incomprehension on the part of the ordinary daily consciousness because they appear unrelated, whereas in certain instances they are in effect closely associated.
In this brief account, therefore, I should like first to speak of man's entrance into the physical world and his exit, of birth and death.
Birth and death, the two most momentous events of our life on Earth, appear to ordinary consciousness to be isolated phenomena. We associate all that precedes birth, all that is related to human incarnation, with the beginning of our life on Earth, and death with its end. They appear to be dissociated. But the spiritual investigator sees them drawing ever more closely together. For if we take the path leading to the Moon mysteries and woo the night into the day in the manner described yesterday, then we perceive how, during the processes of birth, the physical body and etheric body progressively grow and flourish: how they develop out of the germ, gradually assume human form, and how during earthly life their vitality progressively increases up to the age of thirty-five, when it gradually decreases and a decline sets in. This process, of course, can be observed externally. But he who follows the lunar path, which I described yesterday, perceives that whilst the cellular life of the physical and etheric bodies grows, develops and assumes embryonic form, another form of life, which in Anthroposophy we call the astral body and Ego, is subject to the forces of decay and death.
When we uncover the hidden recesses of life — I gave a concrete description of this yesterday — we become aware of the birth of the physical and etheric and the death of the astral and Ego. We perceive death interwoven with life, the winter of life allied to its springtime.
And again, when we observe man with Initiate-consciousness, we are aware that, as his body declines, there is a burgeoning of the Ego and the astral from the thirty-fifth year onwards. This burgeoning life is retarded by the presence of dying forces in the physical and etheric being. Nevertheless a definite renewal does take place. And so by means of spiritual investigation we come to recognize the presence of death in life and life in death. Thus we prepare ourselves to trace back that which is seen to be dying at the time of birth to its pre-earthly life where it is revealed in its full significance and greatness.
And because we perceive the gradual burgeoning of the astral and Ego within the declining etheric and physical (for they are imprisoned within the etheric and physical), we prepare ourselves to follow them into the spiritual world after their release from the physical and etheric bodies at the moment of death. Thus we see that birth and death are interrelated, whilst to ordinary consciousness they appear to be isolated events.
All this information which is revealed by spiritual investigation can be grasped by ordinary consciousness as I indicated in the first part of today's lecture. At the same time one must be prepared to abandon the demands of ordinary consciousness for factual or scientific proof.
I once knew a man who maintained that, just as a stone falls to the ground, so if I pick up a chair and let go, it also falls to the ground since everything is subject to gravitation. Wherefore if the Earth is not supported, as it is claimed, it must of necessity fall. But he failed to realize that objects must fall to the ground because they are subject to the gravitational pull of the Earth, that the Earth itself however moves freely in space like the stars which mutually support and attract one another.
Those who, like the modern scientist, demand that proof must be supported by the evidence of the senses resemble this man who believed that the Earth must fall unless it is firmly underpinned. Anthroposophical truths are like the stars which mutually support each other. People must be prepared to see the whole picture. And if they can do this by means of their normal understanding they will begin really to grasp anthroposophical ideas such as the interrelationship of birth and death.
Let us go a little further and take the case of the man who is well grounded in the principles of modern science, but whilst alert and receptive to anthroposophical ideas has not yet learned to take the whole man into consideration, but only the separate organs in the manner described yesterday.
Through this knowledge of the organs acquired in the course of Initiation we are not only aware of birth and death, but of something quite different. In the light of this knowledge of the organs, birth and death have lost their usual significance, for it is only the whole human being who dies, not his separate organs. The lungs, for example, cannot die. Science today dimly realizes that when the whole human being has died, his single organs can be animated to a certain extent. Irrespective of whether a man is buried or cremated, his separate organs do not die. The individual organs take their path into that sphere of the Cosmos to which each is related. Even if man is buried beneath the earth, every organ finds its way into the Cosmos through water, air or warmth, as the case may be. In reality they are dissolved, but they do not perish; only the whole human being perishes.
Death, then, can only have meaning in relation to the whole human being. In the animal the organs die, whereas in man they are dissolved into the Cosmos. They dissolve rapidly. Burial is the slower process, cremation the faster. We can follow the individual organs as they take their path towards the infinite, each towards its own sphere. They are not lost in infinity, but return in the form of the mighty cosmic being whom I described to you yesterday. Thus, as we observe the organs with Initiate-consciousness, we see what really befalls the organs at death, namely, this streaming out of the organs into those regions of the Cosmos to which they are severally related. The heart takes a different path from the lungs; the liver from lungs and heart. They are dispersed throughout the Cosmos. Then the Cosmic Man appears; we see him as he really is, integrated in the Cosmos. And in the vision of this Cosmic Man we become aware of what is the source of successive incarnations, for example. We need this vision which has its origin, not in the whole man, but in the perception of the several organs, in order to be able to recognize once more, clearly and distinctly, the karmic return of former Earth lives in the present life.
It is for this reason that those who approached the spiritual world through the Moon path, mystics, theosophists, and so on, perceived the strangest phenomena — human souls as they had lived on Earth, gods and spirits — but could neither recognize nor decide what they were, nor give any definite assurance whether they were in the presence of Alanus ab Insulis, Dante or Brunetto Latini. Sometimes the entities were given the most grotesque appellations. And they were unable to determine whether the incarnations they contacted were their own or other people's, or what they were.
Thus the spiritual world is associated with the realm of Moon consciousness that has been wooed into the day; then, under the influx of the Venus impulses, this vision is lost and we now behold the spiritual world in its totality, but without that clear definition which it should possess. It is in this realm that we first begin to realize man's situation in the world as a whole and his position as a cosmic being.
In this connection, however, we cannot escape a tragic realization. For if man were simply the complete physical man he appears to be here on Earth, what a virtuous, docile and noble being he would be! Just as little as we can investigate death with normal consciousness — we can always understand death in the sense already suggested — just as little can we discover by means of the ordinary consciousness why human beings, with their candid faces — and there is no denying they have candid faces — have a capacity for evil. It is not the whole man who can become evil. His outer tegument, the skin, as such is noble and good; but man becomes evil through his individual organs; in his organs lies the potentiality for evil.
And thus we come to recognize the relationship of the organs to their respective cosmic spheres and also from what spheres obsession with evil originates; for fundamentally, obsession is inherent in the slightest manifestation of evil.
Thus our knowledge of the total man reveals first, birth and death; secondly, a knowledge of his organization reveals his relationship to the Cosmos in health and disease, namely, evil.
And so we can only perceive spiritually that Figure who experienced the Mystery of Golgotha when we are able to behold Cosmic Man through human organology. For it was as Cosmic Man that Christ came from the Sun. Until that moment He was not earthly man. He approached the Earth in cosmic form. How can we expect to recognize Cosmic Man if we have not first prepared ourselves to understand Cosmic Man as he really is! It is precisely out of this understanding of the Cosmic Man that Christology can grow.
Thus you see how true paths lead into the spiritual world, to a knowledge of birth and death and of the relationship of the human organism to the Cosmos, to the recognition of evil and to knowledge of Christ, the Cosmic Man. All this can be understood, when it is presented in such a way that the various aspects are shown to support each other. And the best means of finding one's own way into the spiritual world is through understanding and by meditating upon what is understood. Other rules for meditation then serve as additional supports. This is the right path into the spiritual worlds for human beings today. On the other hand, all experimenting with other paths which fail to use and maintain the normal channels of consciousness, all experimenting with trance conditions such as mediumism, somnambulism, hypnotism and so on, all investigation into world-events that cannot be apprehended by a consciousness that is a travesty of modern natural science — all these are false paths, for they do not lead into the true spiritual world.
When man is sensitively aware of the findings of spiritual investigation, namely, that through knowledge of the organs the Cosmic Man returns, that this “return” can to some extent lead to an understanding of Christ when all that is disclosed to occult investigation and insight is admitted into the Initiate-consciousness and becomes an integral part of his sentient life, then, through feeling, the Divine manifests in the terrestrial. And this is the province of art.
Through feeling, art embodies half consciously that which man receives from the spiritual world along those paths of return of which I have spoken. In all ages, therefore, it was those who were predestined to do so by their karma, who clothed the spiritual in material form.
Our naturalistic art has abandoned the spiritual approach. Every high point in the history of art depicts the spiritual in sensuous form, or rather raises the material into the realm of the spiritual. Raphael is valued so highly because, to a greater degree than any other painter, he was able to clothe the spiritual in sensuous representation.
Now in the course of the history of art there existed a general movement which tended more to the plastic or graphic arts. Today we must once again inject new life into the plastic arts, for the immediacy of the original impulse was lost years ago.
For centuries the impulse towards music has been growing and expanding. Therefore the plastic arts have assumed a musical character to a greater or lesser extent. Music, which includes also the musical element in the arts of speech, is destined to be the art of the future.
The first Goetheanum at Dornach was conceived musically and for this reason its architecture, sculpture and painting met with so little understanding. And for the same reason, the second Goetheanum will also meet with little understanding because the element of music must be introduced into painting, sculpture and architecture, in accordance with man's future evolution.
The coming of the figure of Christ, the spiritually-living figure, which I referred to as the culminating point in human evolution, has been magnificently portrayed in Renaissance and pre-Renaissance painting, but in future will have to be expressed through music.
The urge to give a musical expression of the Christ Impulse already existed. It was anticipated in Richard Wagner and was ultimately responsible for the creation of Parsifal. But in Parsifal the introduction of the Christ Impulse into the phenomenal world where it seeks to give expression to the purest Christian spirit, has been given a mere symbolic indication, such as the appearance of the Dove and so on. The Communion has also been portrayed symbolically. The music of Parsifal fails to portray the real significance of the Christ Impulse in the Cosmos and the Earth.
Music is able to portray this Christ Impulse musically, in tones that are inwardly permeated with spirit. If music allows itself to be inspired by Spiritual Science, it will find ways of expressing the Christ Impulse, for it will reveal purely artistically and intuitively how the Christ Impulse in the Cosmos and the Earth can be awakened symphonically in tones.
To this end we only need to be able to deepen our experience of the sphere of the major third by an inner enrichment of musical experience that penetrates into the hidden depths of feeling. If we experience the sphere of the major third as something wholly enclosed within the inner being of man and if we then feel the sphere of the major fifth to have the characteristic of “enveloping,” so that, as we grow into the configuration of the fifth, we reach the boundary of the human and the cosmic, where the cosmic resounds into the sphere of the human and the human, consumed with longing, yearns to rush forth into the Cosmos, then, in the mystery enacted between the spheres of the major third and major fifth, we can experience musically something of the inner being of man that reaches out into the Cosmos.
And if we then succeed in setting free the dissonances of the seventh to echo cosmic life, where the dissonances express man's sentient experiences in the Cosmos as he journeys towards the various spiritual realms; and if we succeed in allowing the dissonances of the seventh to die away, so that through their dying fall they acquire a certain definition, then in their dying strains they are ultimately resolved in something which, to the musical ear, resembles a musical firmament.
If, then, having already given a subtle indication of the experience of the ‘minor’ with the ‘major,’ if, in the dying strains of the dissonances of the seventh, in this spontaneous re-creation of the dissonances into a totality, we find here a means of passing in an intensely minor mood from the dissonances of the seventh, from the near consonance of these diminishing dissonances to the sphere of the fifth in a minor mood, and from that point blend the sphere of the fifth with that of the minor third, then we shall have evoked in this way the musical experience of the Incarnation, and what is more, of the Incarnation of the Christ.
In feeling our way outwards into the sphere of the seventh, which to cosmic feeling is only apparently dissonant and that we fashion into a ‘firmament,’ in that it is seemingly supported by the octave, if we have grasped this with our feelings and retrace our steps in the manner already indicated and find how, in the embryonic form of the consonances of the minor third, there is a possibility of giving a musical representation of the Incarnation, then, when we retrace our steps to the major third in this sphere, the “Hallelujah” of the Christ can ring out from this musical configuration as pure music.
Then, within the configuration of the tones man will be able to conjure forth an immediate realization of the super-sensible and express it musically.
The Christ Impulse can be found in music. And the dissolution of the symphonic into near dissonance, as in Beethoven, can be redeemed by a return to the dominion of the cosmic in music. Bruckner attempted this within the narrow limits of a traditional framework. But his posthumous Symphony shows that he could not escape these limitations. On one hand we admire its greatness, but on the other hand we find a hesitant approach to the true elements of music, and a failure to achieve a full realization of these elements which can only be experienced in the way I have described, i.e. when we have made strides in the realm of pure music and discover therein the essence, the fundamental spirit which can conjure forth a world through tones.
Without doubt the musical development I have described will one day be achieved through anthroposophical inspiration if mankind does not sink into decadence; and ultimately — and this will depend entirely upon mankind — the true nature of the Christ Impulse will be revealed externally.
I wish to draw your attention to this because you will then realize that Anthroposophy seeks to permeate all aspects of life. This can be accomplished if man, for his part, finds the true path to anthroposophical experience and investigation. It will even come to ~ass that one day the realm of music shall echo the teachings of Anthroposophy and the Christian enigma shall be solved through music.
With these words I hope to have concluded what I could only indicate in these lectures, to indicate the purposes I had in view.
I should like to add, however, that I hope to have succeeded in awakening in your souls some recognition of anthroposophical truths; and that these truths will grow and multiply and fertilize ever wider fields of human life.
May this cycle of lectures be a small contribution to the far-reaching aim which Anthroposophy sets out to achieve.