24 January 1922, Elberfeld
Die Menschenraetsel In Der Philosophie Und In Der Geistesforschung (Anthroposophie). (The Mystery of the Human Being. Lecture given at Zurich, Switzerland, October 9, 1916)
It is often said today that when man's spiritual life is in a confused, chaotic condition and human souls have lost their courage, their confidence, and their hope for the future, then all kinds of occult and mystical endeavors are likely to spring up. And in circles which are not inclined to make exact distinctions, Anthroposophy is often reckoned among such endeavors. This evening's subject, which concerns the nature of Anthroposophy, is intended to show you how little it is justified to confuse anthroposophical research with much else with which it is often confused today. Anthroposophy starts from that scientific seriousness and conscientious exactitude which have been developed particularly in the natural sciences in the course of recent centuries and especially in the nineteenth century. Anthroposophy, however, seeks to develop what can be achieved within certain limits by natural science, up to what can be called the supersensory worlds, up to the comprehension of those fundamental riddles with which the deepest longings of the human soul are concerned, the longing for the comprehension of the eternal in the human soul and of the relation of this soul to the divine, spiritual foundations of existence.
Although Anthroposophy begins from scientific foundations, it had to develop — since it is concerned with these comprehensive problems which concern all human beings — in such a way that it comes to meet the understanding of the simplest human heart, and the practical needs of human souls and spirits at the present time, when there is so much need for inner steadiness and certainty, for strength in action, and for faith in mankind and its destiny. Anthroposophy had to come to meet varied social and religious endeavors in the way that I will describe this evening, although having itself a thoroughly scientific origin. But Anthroposophy must take more seriously than do many who believe that they are standing on the firm basis of present-day scientific research, the possibilities which this research leaves open. Anthroposophy has to contemplate with particular attentiveness what are regarded by some careful thinkers today as the limits of science.
If we use the methods of scientific research, observation of the sense world, experiment, and thought, which combines the results of observation and experiment, and find in this way the laws of nature as we are accustomed to regard them, we easily come to the conviction that this research has its limits. It cannot reach beyond the world of the senses and its laws, and cannot comprehend more of the human being than that part of it which belongs to this sense world as the human physical, bodily nature. It has to accept that it has limits as far as the real value, dignity, and being of man are concerned, and that it cannot penetrate the real soul and spirit of man. Anthroposophy, if it seeks to be taken seriously, has to take conscientious account of these things. It has to see this danger seriously: one may not arbitrarily extend that thinking which has been acquired in natural science, beyond the sense world. It would be arbitrary to do so because this manner of thought has acquired its strength and its training through the use of the senses and at once becomes empty, vague and unsatisfactory if it attempts by itself to penetrate to regions which are beyond the sense world. You know that there are certain philosophical speculations, through which thought by itself attempts to go from the sense-given data to the supersensory. Such thinking, relying upon itself alone, attempts to make all sorts of logical inferences which lead from the temporal to the eternal. But anyone who in an unprejudiced way makes the attempt to satisfy the needs of his soul for a knowledge of the eternal through such logical inferences will soon be dissatisfied, for he will recognize that this thinking, which can observe the beings and phenomena of nature so confidently, must at once lose its confidence when it leaves the realms accessible to the senses. Hence the conflict of different philosophical systems; each chooses according to its subjective peculiarities the way in which it leads beyond the world of the senses and develops its own theory. No harmonious, satisfactory conception of the world can come about in this way. Anthroposophy has to see clearly how an unprejudiced mind must regard such ways of thought, which rely upon themselves alone. Here it sees one danger which must be overcome if the eternal in man and in the universe is to be truly known.
Thus Anthroposophy recognizes the limits set to our knowledge of nature, and it must recognize on the other hand how some more far-reaching minds look elsewhere for the help in answering the great riddles of existence, which natural science cannot give them. They turn to what is called mysticism or inner contemplation, where the soul seeks to turn and to descend into its own depths, and to discover there what cannot be found by science, or in the ordinary consciousness. But he who takes the search for the eternal as seriously as the anthroposophist must do, has to recognize in these other paths the illusions into which such mystics often fall. Anyone who can observe the life of the human soul without prejudice knows the meaning of the human memory in the whole life of the soul. Memories have their origin in the external perceptions of the senses; here we receive our impressions. We call up again the pictures of such impressions from our memories, often years later, and it may then happen that some external sense impression has been received by our soul, perhaps half unconsciously, without being observed with the necessary attentiveness. It has sunk into the furthest depths of the soul, and it comes up again, intentionally or unintentionally, years later. It may not reappear in its original form, but changed in such a way that it will only be recognized by someone with an exact knowledge of the soul's life. What was originally stirred in the soul by an outer impression has been received by all kinds of feelings and impulses of will, received indeed by the organic, bodily constitution; it may arise in the soul years later, entirely changed. He who has taken hold of it may believe that what is really only a transformed sense impression, which has passed through the most varied metamorphoses and has reappeared during mystical self-immersion, is the revelation of something that is eternal and does not originate from the external world of the senses. Anthroposophy has to see how mystics, who look for their revelations in this way, fall into the most grievous illusions; and it has to recognize that such mysticism is a second danger. It has to overcome the dangers which arise both at the limits of our knowledge of nature and at the limits of our own human soul life.
I had to say this first, in order that it can be seen how conscientiously Anthroposophy is alert to all the sources of error which can arise. For I will now describe the ways Anthroposophy itself adopts in order to reach the spiritual, supersensory worlds. I will have to describe much that is paradoxical, much that today is quite unusual.
It is easy to believe, and many people do believe, that Anthroposophy is nothing but a more or less fantastic attempt to acquire knowledge of worlds with which serious scientific research should have nothing to do. Anthroposophy sees clearly, in what ways knowledge about the spiritual is NOT to be achieved and in this way comes to a starting point for genuine research. Having learned about the ways which can lead to illusions and errors, it reaches a real preliminary answer to this question. It can say: With the ordinary powers of knowledge which we have in everyday life, and which are used by our recognized sciences, it is not possible to go further (because of the limits of our knowledge of nature and of mystical self-immersion) than external nature, and what is received by a man from this external nature into the life of his soul. If we are to reach further, we must call on powers in the soul's life which in our ordinary existence are still asleep, and of which man is ordinarily unconscious. Anthroposophy develops such sleeping powers in the soul in order that, when they are awakened, they can achieve knowledge of realms to which our ordinary powers cannot reach. Serious and exact researchers do indeed already speak today about all sorts of abnormal powers of the human soul, or of the human organism, through which they try to show that man is involved in other relationships than those recognized by ordinary biology or physiology. But Anthroposophy is not concerned with such abnormal powers of the soul either. It uses the normal powers of the human soul life, but develops these further. For this one thing is indeed necessary from the first which I would like to call intellectual modesty.
We must be able to say to ourselves: In early childhood we came into the world in a dreamlike condition, and could only use our own limbs very imperfectly, or were quite unable to orientate ourselves in the world. But through education and through life itself, powers which at first only slept in us developed out of the depths of our human constitution. And now that we possess the powers developed by education and by life we must be able to say to ourselves: Within our souls may sleep other powers also which could be unfolded from some starting point that life provides, just as the powers of the child have been developed up to the present time. That this is indeed the case can only be shown in practice, and this is what anthroposophical research does. First we have to consider the whole life of the human soul, in order that we can develop its powers further, from the condition in which we found them in ordinary life.
To begin with, we are concerned with the human power of thought on the one hand, and with the will on the. other. Between these two, between the thinking which has trained itself through the impressions of the senses, and also through the guidance given to us in life — between this power of thought and the power of will through which we can enter life as active human beings, lies the whole realm of our feelings. For anthroposophical research we shall be principally concerned in developing our powers of thought and will up to a higher level than they possess in ordinary life. For knowledge about the eternal cannot be achieved by outer measures, but only through an intimate education of the powers of the soul themselves. But when the power of thought on one side and the power of the will on the other, are developed further than in ordinary life, then the power of feeling, which is the deepest, most essential part of the human soul, will also be in some way transformed, as we shall see. To begin with, we are concerned with the question: How is the power of thought to be prepared for a higher stage of knowledge than that acquired in ordinary life?
Now in my book, “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment,” and in other books as well, I have described these methods and exercises. Today I will describe the development of the soul's capacities in principle, and must refer you to these books for the details. For an introductory lecture it must be sufficient to point out the fundamental principle, which makes clear the real purpose and essence of the matter.
The power of thought which we have in ordinary life depends upon the external impressions of the senses. These impressions are living ones. Before us stands the world of colors and tones, and from it we receive living impressions. There remain behind in our soul the thoughts formed through these impressions, and we regard these thoughts rightly as shadowy. We know that in ordinary life these thoughts have a lesser degree of intensity for the soul than the impressions of the senses. We know too that the ordinary thoughts connected with sense impressions are in a sense taken more passively by man than are the immediate sense impressions.
Now our first task is to take that very vitality with which the soul experiences the impressions of the senses as a standard for the enhanced and strengthened life of thought which is to be developed in Anthroposophy as an instrument of research. The life of thought is to be enhanced and intensified in the following way. What I have to describe will appear simple, though the science of the spirit as a whole, as it is intended here, is no simpler than research in an observatory, in chemical or physical laboratories, or in a clinic. What I am here describing in principle in a simple way demands in practice, according to a man's capacities, years, months, or weeks. There are many such exercises for the soul. I will choose a few characteristic ones.
First, we must observe how we really stand toward thought in ordinary life. Strange though it sounds, the unprejudiced observer of his own thought should really say: The expression, “I think” is not quite exact. Thought develops in contact with external things; we only become conscious because in a sense we look back on our own physical organism and regard ourselves in a way from outside, that this developing thought is bound to our physical organism. Hence we say, “I think.” For the ordinary consciousness this “I think” is by no means fully justified. Anthroposophical research works in a direction through which it can become fully justified. It takes for example a simple idea or a simple group of ideas, and puts it in the midst of the soul's whole conscious life. The whole conscious life of the soul is concentrated on this one idea or group of ideas. This can be achieved through practice; I have described particular exercises in the books I have mentioned.
These exercises can help one to guide one's attention in such a way that it disregards everything else which otherwise occupies the soul from outside or from within, and by one's own innermost decision, as otherwise happens only with tasks of a mathematical kind, one is exclusively concerned with a simple group of ideas or single idea. But it is best, and should really be so, that an idea of this kind is not taken from one's memory. In memory, all sorts of experiences are engaged in alteration and metamorphoses, as I have already indicated.
Therefore it is good to seek out the ideas upon which attention is to be directed, from a book, or something of the kind, which is quite new to one — like an entirely new sense impression to which the living attention of the soul can be directed, and which has its effects through itself alone. Or one can receive from a person, who has experience in these things, a group of ideas of this kind, in order to have something which is entirely new.
There is no need to fear that in this way another person acquires power over one's soul in an improper manner, for it is not a question of letting this group of ideas have an influence upon one, but of developing the soul's own strength through uttermost attentiveness. The result then is that just as the muscles of an arm can be strengthened by exercise, thinking as a power of the soul can be made stronger and more intensive by being concentrated with the uttermost attentiveness upon a definite group of ideas, and by the repetition of such exercises in a rhythmic sequence. In this way the life of thought itself, without being dependent upon the impressions of the senses, can be made as living and intensive as is otherwise the experience of an external sense impression. Before, we had only pale thoughts, as compared with the living sense impressions; now, through these exercises, which I call meditation or concentration, a thinking is to be developed which gains inner strength until it is just as vivid as are sense impressions.
Here you see at once, that anthroposophical research goes in the opposite direction from that followed in the development of certain pathological conditions. What comes about in visions and hallucinations, through medium-ship, or through suggestion under hypnosis and things of this sort, goes in a diametrically opposite direction from the extension of the normal power of thought in anthroposophical research. If a man develops anything which leads him to hallucinations or visions, through which he becomes susceptible to suggestion, the powers of his soul are diverted in a certain way from the sense impressions and stream down into his physical organism. A man who suffers from hallucinations and visions becomes more dependent upon his physical organism than he is upon external sense impressions.
But the anthroposophical path of knowledge aims at the kind of experience which the soul has with external sense impressions. One who practices meditation and concentration must devote himself by his own individual choice, with the attentiveness he develops by his own decision, to that content which he has placed in the midst of his consciousness. Something comes about in this way which is different in principle from all pathological conditions, which can only be confused with the anthroposophical path through misunderstanding. If a man becomes subject to hallucinations and visions, or if he becomes open to suggestions under hypnosis, his whole personality is submerged in this life of hallucinations and visions. Into this disappears his ordinary consciousness, with its power of healthy human judgment.
The opposite is the case when a kind of higher consciousness is developed through meditation and concentration, carried out in the way I have described. If a man really acquires a power of thought which is enhanced and strengthened in this way, he has indeed higher faculties of soul.
But the ordinary clear-minded human being as he is occupied otherwise in knowledge and the fulfillment of his duties, remains active, side by side with the new, in a sense, second personality. The everyday man stands beside this second personality, who possesses a higher power of knowledge; he stands beside him with the ordinary power of knowledge, actively testing and criticizing. That is a difference in principle, which cannot be emphasized enough, when anthroposophical knowledge is described. And then, when in this way, thinking has been strengthened by meditation and concentration, one becomes able to say at a certain point of development: Now I am really the one who thinks within me; now I have experienced in an increased measure my own I within the world of my thoughts. As I experience myself otherwise in the external life of the senses, I experience myself now in thought itself.
This thinking is transformed, however. It does not appear before the soul's gaze like the ordinary pale thinking which is developed for use in the sense world. It is an abstract thinking no longer; it is experienced as intensively as colors and tones and one feels oneself strongly within it. And at a certain point one knows that one is no longer thinking with the help of the bodily instrument. (For ordinary thought always uses the physical instrument; Anthroposophy acknowledges this completely.) Now thinking has detached itself from the nervous system. This is known through inner experience. One knows when the moment has come in which the soul can live independently in thoughts, which however are no longer abstract, but pictorial.
The soul now really experiences itself for the first time, and at a certain moment, when a man is sufficiently mature, the first result of anthroposophical research appears before the soul's gaze. The entire earthly life appears in a mighty single picture, stretching back from the present moment toward birth. Otherwise this earthly life can be reached by memory, but to begin with it is a subconscious or unconscious stream within the soul. With or without our own decision, a few memory pictures can be raised from time to time from this stream, which goes back into our early childhood; but the stream of memories living in the soul more or less unconsciously is not what is meant by the great picture of our lives described here, through which we have in a single moment the inner being of our human experience before us, insofar as this experience takes place on earth. It is not as if we had particular events before us as they appear in memory; we have what can be contemplated as those impulses, which give us our abilities, that which gives us, from within, our moral powers, and that too which from within guides the powers of our growth and our assimilation. We have before us what I have called in the books I have mentioned the body of formative forces, or if we make use of older names which have always existed for such things, the human etheric body or life body.
This is a second, supersensory organism. It cannot be reached on the paths of ordinary natural science, or on the paths of logical thought alone; one must have developed what I have described as an enhanced power of thought, which is called, in the books I have mentioned, “Imaginative knowledge” — not as something concerned with fantasy, but because this thinking lives in the soul in a pictorial form and is itself knowledge. And so one experiences in addition to the external physical body, with its spatial limits, what I would like to call a time body, which is in constant movement, which can be perceived by the soul all at once, like a mighty picture of our life, and which contains everything that has worked from within upon our form, as far back as we can see in our earthly lives.
This body of formative forces, which is the first element in the higher, supersensory man, cannot be immediately represented in a drawing. Anyone who wished to draw it would have to realize that this is like painting a flash of lightning of which only a single moment can be represented. Anything drawn or painted of the etheric body would be like a flash of lighting, held fast only for a moment of its unceasing movement.
Through this the knowledge has been acquired that man in his inner being does not contain only the result of chemical and physical processes in his physical body; it has been learned in direct perception that man bears within him something akin to the nature of thought, and which can be reached through concentrated and strengthened thought processes. It is the first result of anthroposophical development, that one comes to know in perception this first super-sensory member of man's nature, the body of formative forces, or etheric body.
In order to reach further it is now necessary not only to do exercises of concentration and meditation in the way that has been described. It is necessary to observe that although one can give one's attention to such meditation and concentration by one's own decision with absolute clarity like a mathematician making his calculations, one gradually becomes completely absorbed in the subject of this concentration. It becomes difficult to detach oneself from the object of this uttermost attentiveness. Thus side by side with these exercises in concentration, it is necessary to do others which are entirely different. These have the aim of making possible the dismissal from the soul of all that has been placed before one's consciousness through one's own decision, and upon which one has concentrated. This must be dismissed with exactly the same clarity and conscious choice. By doing for a long time, in rhythmic sequence, such exercises in the rejection of ideas which first have been placed in the center of our consciousness with all our strength, a particular faculty of soul is acquired which has great importance for further research. One becomes able to achieve what I would like to call “an empty consciousness in full wakefulness.”
What is meant by this can become clear when we consider how a man who receives no external impressions, or has impressions that are similar to none at all, because they are monotonous or continually repeated, has his power of attention weakened. Under such conditions a man's consciousness becomes sleepy and dull. To achieve an empty consciousness without regular practice is impossible. It can be done only through practicing first an awareness of strongly intensified thoughts which are then dismissed from consciousness. Our consciousness can then remain so intensive and wakeful that it can retain this wakefulness, even when it has at first no content. This empty consciousness has to be achieved if one wishes to reach beyond the first result of anthroposophical research, the power of perceiving in a single picture the soul's inner being since birth.
If such exercises in the dismissal of ideas have been practiced long enough, and a certain maturity in doing this has been achieved, one will be able to dismiss this whole picture of life, which I have described, after it has been present to the soul. A second stage of higher knowledge is achieved if one can dismiss from consciousness (without letting this consciousness then be filled by external impressions) this life picture, which consists of our entire inner human being as it reveals itself during this earthly life as something constantly mobile forming our body from within. This life picture is our inner, etheric, earthly manhood, our body of formative forces, which is to be dismissed from consciousness.
I have called the first stage by the name “Imaginative knowledge;” it gives us only our subjective inner being in a life picture, as I have described. One must be entirely clear that through this first stage of supersensory knowledge one has only this subjective inner being. Then one will not fall into illusions, and even less into visions or hallucinations. A spiritual researcher in the anthroposophical sense is completely clear about every step of his path of knowledge.
If an empty consciousness is achieved through the dismissal of this life picture, the second state of higher super-sensory knowledge begins. I have called it “Inspiration.” Nothing superstitious or traditional is meant by this, but simply what I myself describe. — A terminology is necessary. When this has happened — when an empty consciousness has arisen through the dismissal of the life picture, the body of formative forces — then there arises in the soul through Inspiration what the soul itself was as a being of pure soul and spirit before birth, or, more precisely, before conception, when it was within a world of soul and spirit. The great moment now comes in such research, where one comes to know in immediate contemplation what is eternal in man's nature.
You see, the one who speaks from anthroposophical points of view cannot point to abstract conceptions which prove through logical inference or in some way that immortality exists. Step by step, he has to show what the soul has to do in intimate inner exercises in order to reach that moment when it can perceive what lives as eternal being within our soul. It can perceive this eternal being in the soul at that moment when the soul united itself through conception with the physical, bodily forces which are derived from parents and grandparents.
You may ask: When through Inspiration something of soul and spirit can be perceived, how does one know that this is the spiritual entity of the soul before conception? I can only explain through a comparison what is experienced directly at this point: Anyone who remembers an earthly event has perhaps a picture of what he experienced ten years ago. The content of this picture tells him that he does not have something before his mind which is directly aroused by an event of the present. He knows that the content of the picture directs him to something which happened ten years earlier. What now is experienced through inspired consciousness shows through its own content that it is something utterly different from what is present in the physical, sensory nature, where the soul is within the body. Time itself is part of the experience, as with the memory of earthly events. The impression itself reveals that we are concerned with the life before birth, with the experience through which the soul passed in a pure world of soul and spirit, before it has entered through the mother's body into the physical, sensory nature, which clothes it during earthly life.
After this stage of inspired knowledge has been achieved, and the question of immortality opens out toward a certain solution in one direction, in the direction of unborn-ness, — through other exercises which again have the character of knowledge, the other direction of the problem of immortality can be pursued. This can only happen through certain exercises of the will. Again, you will find exact details in the books I have mentioned, but here I will describe the matter in principle.
Man's will does not think; it does not resemble ordinary thought. Ordinary thought is aroused through external impressions, while man's will originates from within his organism. But in ordinary life we experience what this will is, only in a peculiar way. Take the simplest decision of the will, for example, the movement of the arm or hand, which is carried out because of an impulse of will. What of this impulse of will is really present in consciousness? Ordinarily this is not considered. But methodical research must have a firm starting point. At first we have the thought: we intend to raise and move the arm or hand. How this thought then dives down into our organism, how it stimulates the muscles and takes holds of the bones, how will makes itself effective within our organism, is completely unknown to the ordinary consciousness. Only later through an external impression, with which he can connect a thought, is he aware of the arm or hand which has been raised; of what happens between the first thought and the last impression, it must be said by real knowledge of the soul: This is beyond the grasp of our consciousness just as our experience between falling asleep and waking is beyond our consciousness, with the exception of the chaotic dreams borne up out of the waves of sleep.
It can be said: Man is really entirely awake only insofar as his life of ideas and thought is concerned. Through the element of will, a kind of sleep is included in our waking life. Paradoxical as it sounds, it must be said: Between the thought, which aims at an impulse of will, and the executed action there is a transition which is entirely comparable with falling asleep and awaking. The thought falls asleep into the unknown realm of will and awakens again when we observe the executed action.
The more one penetrates into the mysteries of the will (I can only indicate this briefly) the more one realizes that between these two regions I have described, the thought of intention and the thought which takes account of the observed execution of the act, there is really a kind of sleep present in man's waking life. A great alteration in the nature of the will can then be achieved by exercises, by particular exercises of the will.
Of the many exercises for the will mentioned in my books, I will single out a few here. — The will can be exercised, for example, by the direct influence of thought. The capacities of thinking, feeling and willing, which we have to distinguish in abstract thought when we wish to describe anything about the soul, do not lie so far apart in the real life of the soul, but play into one another. Thus the will plays into our thinking, when we connect or distinguish thoughts.
Now one can perform an exercise of the will by thinking backwards by one's own decision, something which ordinarily is thought of forwards, in the sequence of the external facts. For example, one can think a play backwards, from the fifth act to the first, beginning with the last events of the fifth act and ending with the first events of the first act. Or one can feel in thought the last lines of a poem, or of a melody in reverse order.
An exercise which is particularly valuable is at evening to allow the experience of the day to pass in part vividly before the soul, beginning with the last event of evening and progressing toward the morning. Everything must be taken atomistically as possible; one must go so far as to imagine the ascent of a staircase in reverse, as if it were a descent from the top to the lowest step. The more one forms ideas in this way in an unaccustomed sequence which is not dependent on the external facts, the more one liberates the will, which is accustomed to abandon itself passively to the external facts, from these, and also from the physical body.
After doing such exercises, further support can be won through others which I would like to call “exercises in serious self contemplation and self education.” One must be able to judge one's own actions and impulses of will with the same objective detachment as one can judge the actions and impulses of will of another personality. One must become in a sense the objective observer of one's own resolves and actions.
And one must go further: If you observe life, you know how you have changed in the course of the years. Everyone knows how in the course of ten years he has changed in his whole mood and attitude. — But what has been made of us in the course of the years, has been achieved by life, by external reality. These things must be seen objectively; it must be recognized how passively man accepts this external reality.
But now a man can practice self-education actively, in order to find the way into higher worlds. He can take his self-education in hand, by deciding, for example: “You will overcome this habit.” He uses all his powers to overcome a particular habit, or to acquire some new quality. If through one's own training, one achieves what otherwise is attained only through the influence of life, one gradually acquires the detachment of the will from the physical bodily nature. Something now happens which again I can only describe in a paradoxical way.
These things sound paradoxical because present-day thought is unaccustomed to them, but they are absolutely secure results of the anthroposophical path of knowledge which can be followed in the way I am describing, in order to enter higher worlds.
Although it will sound strange, you can make a comparison between an eye in which the vitreous body is obscured, or which has some kind of cataract so that through some opacity it cannot serve for vision, and an eye which is entirely healthy and transparent. The eye, which does not draw attention through its own bodily nature but takes a selfless part in our whole organism, through this very fact serves for our seeing. In ordinary life, our whole physical organism is comparable to a great opaque eye. Through such exercises of the will, our entire organism is made transparent. This is not done in any unhealthy way but in a way that is thoroughly healthy for ordinary life.
Nothing which is abstract or unhealthy for ordinary life should be attempted for the sake of achieving an entry into higher worlds. — It is a spiritualization of the will. We penetrate into the realm lying between the two thoughts — the thought containing the purpose of an action, and the thought of the action after it has been perceived. By making our organism in a sense entirely transparent for the soul, we enter a spiritual world. This is our task!
Just as the eye is not in the organism for its own sake, the whole physical organism is no longer there when these exercises of the will are continued; in a sense it becomes transparent. And just as it is the physical organism which catches up our impulses of will and makes them opaque, put them to sleep, through its instincts and impulses, its emotions and its entire organic processes, — in the same way everything now becomes transparent, as through the transparent, vitreous body of the eye, what is material is transparent in the eye. Through thus forming our entire physical organism into a transparent sense organ, we have now raised to a higher level a power of the soul which many are unwilling to accept as a means of knowledge, as I well know. It should indeed not be regarded as a means of knowledge as it exists in ordinary life. But through its further development it becomes such a means. This is the power of love.
It is the power of love which in ordinary life gives men a value as social beings. Love is the best and noblest power in ordinary life, individually and socially. When it is enhanced, as it can be enhanced through these exercises of the will, and when these exercises of the will make our organism transparent in this way, love develops to a higher level.
We gain the power to pass over into objective spiritual reality and the third stage of knowledge begins, that of true Intuition, — what I have called “Intuitive knowledge.” The word intuition is used also in ordinary life, and I will return to this point. Not in the sense used in ordinary life, but in this developed form as I have explained it, am I using the phrase “Intuitive knowledge” here. This is a knowledge in which man stands within the spiritual after he has made his body in a sense transparent, has transformed it into a sense organ. Through this knowledge something fresh enters the consciousness of the soul; we now learn how man can live within the will which has become independent of the physical body.
Man lives with the thought, which he has strengthened and united with his will, outside his body; and this provides him with the reflection in knowledge of the process of death.
What happens at death in full reality: that the soul and spirit detach themselves from the physical body and, after the human being has passed through the gate of death, continue their own existence in the world of soul and spirit — this is perceived in a picture, in a reflection that is a basis for knowledge, through intuitive perception, when, through an exercise of the will, we have transformed our whole organism into a sense organ. Thus immortality consists of two sides; on the one hand, of Unbornness, and on the other side, of Immortality, in the exact sense, — the fact that the soul is not destroyed by physical death. The eternity of the human soul consists in Unbornness and Immortality. It can be perceived through real anthroposophical research. Thus man comes to know in direct perception his own eternal and immortal being.
But as man comes to know his own being of soul and spirit, he also comes to know the environment in its soul and spirit nature. Through Inspired and Intuitive knowledge he comes to know the world of soul and spirit, in which the human soul lives before conception and after death. It is a world of real spiritual beings. Just as the world which we perceive with our senses lies before us with all its beings, there lies before the soul which is learning to experience itself in its existence as soul and spirit, the world from which we came at conception and through birth, and into which we enter again at death. — And just as our own bodily nature falls away from us, there falls away the sensory, bodily element which related us to other human beings, and we find ourselves in company with other men through our existence in soul and spirit.
Thus immortality, and the period of our existence in the spiritual world, become real results of knowledge. And this world of soul and spirit which always surrounds us, and which cannot be investigated by thought relying on its own resources beyond the laws of nature — this world of soul and spirit which is hidden in the spiritual part of nature, as the colors and tones are hidden in the sensory world — appears before the perception which can be developed in the way that has been described. The whole of nature then becomes something different from which it was in sense perception. It is not as though external nature with its material qualities and substances were to disappear. Before supersensory knowledge all this remains in existence, just as the healthy human being with his sound human understanding remains side by side with the personality which develops as the possessor of higher power of knowledge. To external nature is added a supersensory, spiritual nature, if you will allow me the seeming contradiction.
I will give one example for this spiritual perception within nature: For our ordinary sight and scientific knowledge the sun with its definite outlines exists in cosmic space. Through astronomy and astrophysics we form a definite picture of the form of the sun as something present in physical space and having its effects there. However, the sun becomes something quite different for the kind of research which uses the higher faculties that I have described. Through this it can be learned that the physical body of the sun present in space is only the body for a spiritual reality — and that this spiritual reality fills the whole space accessible to us. What belongs to the nature of the sun fills all the space accessible to us, and passes as a stream of forces through minerals, plants and animals, and through our human organism as well. In a way it is consolidated or concentrated in the external, spatial body of the physical sun, but what belongs to the sun-nature is present everywhere.
Just as we learn about external nature by representing it in abstract thoughts, through which external nature lives on in pictures, in the same way the spiritual foundations of nature live on more deeply in our spiritual human being. If we observe our abstract thoughts within us, we recognize that they are pictures of external, perceptible nature. If we observe the spiritual element in the external world and perceive how what belongs to the sun-nature works on within our being, we really come to know our own organism. For we find what belongs to the sun's nature within our own human constitution, in all those forces which work particularly strongly while we are still growing; these are the forces permeating us in our youth and which have their point of departure particularly in our brain and work in a plastic and constructive way upon our physical organism especially during early childhood. We come to know what is akin to the sun-nature in our own organism. And we come to know our particular organs: heart, lungs, brain, and so on, with a characteristic development of the sun forces in each. We come to know each organ, as far as its constructive, formative forces are concerned by learning about its relationship with the sun-nature.
I do not hesitate to describe these things, which are assured results of anthroposophical research, although they still appear paradoxical and perhaps fantastic to man today.
Just as we come to know the sun-nature, we can come to know all that stands in relation to the moon. We know the physical outlines of the physical moon; but the moon-nature too fills the whole of cosmic space accessible to us, and has its effects in all realms of nature, — has its effects in plant, mineral and animal, — has its effects too in our physical organism. We come to know the moon-like forces in their work within the whole human being. These are the destructive powers, those powers which are particularly active as we grow old. But these destructive forces are always active, in youth as in old age, within the process of assimilation, side by side with the sun forces.
We come to know how the whole cosmos with its forces streams into man. We come to know all that is present in man as varied processes. We understand the connection of the universe with the human being. And as I could describe in principle what the sun-nature and moon-nature are, the same could be done for other forces in the universe as well. A more intimate relationship than that recognized by ordinary science becomes known in this manner between the human being and the spirit in the universe.
In this way I have reached the point where I can describe how Anthroposophy, although it has developed as knowledge of the supersensory in the way I have described, can come to meet practical life and every region of scientific study. First I must point out how man becomes transparent for knowledge in quite another way, when he is understood in his relationship to the universe. Even physical man becomes the sum of many processes; what appeared to us before as the separate organs of heart, lung and brain, is transformed in a way that we never imagined into processes, in their growth and change. We come to know how constructive and destructive forces are contained in every organ in a different way.
As spiritual physiology and biology can be built up, such knowledge proves itself fruitful, particularly in the field of medicine, for pathology and therapy. When the human organism becomes transparent in this way, abnormal constructive forces, processes of rampant growth, can be known for what they are in the human organism. The abnormal destructive forces, processes of inflammation for example, can be understood in their connections too. For example, one comes to know what exists as polar opposite to an abnormal construction, that is, a process of rampant growth, through understanding the cooperation of sun-nature and moon-nature. One comes to know the corresponding remedy in a plant or a mineral. One comes to know how a process of rampant growth in the human organism corresponds to a destructive process in a plant or a mineral, and similar things. In short, one can go on from mere experiment among remedies to clear knowledge of how everything in nature, through the constructive and destructive processes contained within it, and through the other cosmic processes at work in everything, has its effects in the human organism.
When this is worked out in detail, it proves so fruitful that quite a number of physicians have felt themselves called to take up a rational medicine of this kind. Already there exist clinics at Dörnach near Basle and in Stuttgart, led by trained physicians who have taken up in a fruitful way the results of anthroposophical research into the basic spiritual facts which can supplement all that external research into the human body and into remedies can discover.
It must be emphasized that neither in this field, or in any other, does Anthroposophy engage in any unjustified opposition against what is really justified as scientific in the present time. On the contrary, Anthroposophy, when it is rightly understood must build on exact scientific method. Recognized medicine is in no way to be attacked, but only to be developed further.
Another field is that of the arts. Anthroposophy has existed already for two decades. At a particular time, a number of friends of the anthroposophical conception of the world could feel the necessity of building of Anthroposophy its own home. For reasons which I cannot describe in detail here, this home was built near Basle.
How would this home have been built by a different spiritual movement? If something of the kind was necessary in another spiritual movement, an architect would have been chosen who would have erected a building in the Classical, Renaissance, Rococo, Romanesque or Gothic style, or in a mixture of these styles. This would have been an outer frame for what was done inside it.
Anthroposophy cannot act in this way. It does not desire to produce a theory — something only concerned with the intellect, with the head, — and which can be contained in any sort of building. Anthroposophy seeks to work upon the whole human being. Just as it makes use of the whole human being as a sense organ, so everything that comes into the world through it proceeds from the whole, the entire human being. One cannot imagine a nutshell being formed by any other laws than is the nut itself. It is the same when Anthroposophy has to build, paint or carve, in order to provide a surrounding for itself. Everything artistic then must in a sense proceed from the same laws from which proceed the ideas that are spoken from the rostrum, out of the perception of the spiritual world. Hence, an ordinary, existing style was formed. It may still be very imperfect — it is a first attempt, a first beginning.
What has to be attempted can be described in this way: The shape of every wall and column, all sculpture and painting at Dörnach had to manifest the same thing as do the words spoken from the rostrum when Anthroposophy expresses in ideas what can be discovered in higher words through immediate perception. The spoken word is only another form of all that should work in an artistic way as the surrounding; everything really has flowed into artistic form.
What did Goethe say, when he wished once to express his ideas of art in the most intimate way? He said “Art is a manifestation of secret laws of nature, which without it would never be revealed.” And he also said significantly, “The man to whom nature begins to reveal her most intimate mysteries, feels a deep longing for her most worthy interpretress, Art.” One feels this longing most of all when the spirit which works in nature reveals itself in one's soul through supersensory vision. For then one receives no abstract allegories, but a real spiritual formative power, which has a sense for the materials and which can be embodied in particular substances as true art. Anthroposophy thus has a fruitful effect upon the field of art in all its forms.
A third field where it is shown how Anthroposophy provides fertile new impulses for life, is education. This has often been described in detail in lectures and writings in connection with the foundation and rapid growth of the Waldorf School in Stuttgart. It is a question of transforming what Anthroposophy can give into immediate educational skills; it is not a question of imposing anthroposophical ideas upon the children in the school. Through the fact that Anthroposophy provides a real knowledge of man, it gives a spiritual foundation for carrying out in practice the good principles expressed by the great educators of the nineteenth century. In educational practice, a real knowledge of man is needed. When one has come to know the whole of the human being fully, in body, soul and spirit, it is possible to derive from the child's nature itself the curriculum and the aims of education for each year of the child's school life.
Finally, to mention a few other areas, I would like to point out that Anthroposophy can have a fruitful effect upon social life as well, since the knowledge it achieves is concerned with the whole human being. We have seen how the one-sided use of the way of thinking developed in natural science has its definite limits, and cannot reach the true being of man, so that this way of thinking, if it shapes social purposes, is bound to work destructively.
I do not think that today there is sufficient unprejudiced judgment in wide circles capable of realizing the destructive character, for all human culture, of what has become, in the east of Europe, practical reality — and realized illusions at the same time. Those social impulses are derived from taking into account external nature alone. Like a great threat, there hangs over our entire present-day civilization what has begun its destructive course in the east of Europe. [Steiner refers to the spread of Communism resulting from the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, October 1918. — Ed.]
If social impulses are deepened by considering not only in an external way what is instinctive and natural in man and reckoning free actions in a sense as more highly developed instincts, then the true freedom of man in the spirit can be recognized. I have attempted to do this in my “Philosophy of Spiritual Activity” [published at the beginning of the nineties] on the basis of such anthroposophical principles. In this way a sum of social impulses can arise which relate whole human beings to whole human beings, and which can correct and spiritualize what is hanging over human civilization in such a destructive way, as a threatening specter of the future.
These are a few examples which show how Anthroposophy can be fruitful for life. If one considers the ethical and moral life in an unprejudiced way, as I have attempted to consider it and to place it upon a secure basis in The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, one comes upon the concept of Intuition of pure thinking, through an unconscious moral Intuition of pure thinking, through an unconscious moral Intuition. The true moral impulses which arise from the conscience are moral; their true source through Inspired and Intuitive knowledge as I have described these today from the anthroposophical point of view.
Thus with its knowledge Anthroposophy comes to meet the most intimate and important feelings and impulses of the human soul, above all, religious devotion. It would be utterly misleading if it were said that Anthroposophy sought to institute a new sect or found a new religion. Since Anthroposophy stands upon the basis of knowledge in the way I have described today, it cannot have about it, or desire anything of a sectarian nature. Nor can it institute a new religion. But if the supersensory reveals itself to knowledge, this can only be of benefit for the religions, and the religious needs of mankind.
One would believe that the representatives of religious faiths must feel deep satisfaction if a spiritual stream appears in our time, able to confirm from the side of knowledge what is sought by faith. Fundamentally it is incomprehensible that the official representatives of religious faiths do not see in Anthroposophy a confirmation of religious life, but often regard it as if it were something hostile. If they really grasped the fundamentals of Anthroposophy, and did not regard it superficially, they would see in it the firmest basis for real piety and real religious life.
For when the light of knowledge comes to meet the seeking soul, not only from the world of the senses but from supersensory worlds as well, then faith is not harmed, but strongly supported; and ethically too, the soul acquires powerful sources of goodness. For moral action it receives meaning, security, and purpose for life, since it comes to know itself as a member of a spiritual world as the external body is a member of a physical world. In this knowledge of himself as a member of a spiritual world, man can come to recognize again his true human dignity and a true ethics and morality worthy of his manhood.
I would like to sum up, as in a picture, what I have tried to describe as the nature of Anthroposophy. We have the human being before us; we see the form of his physical body. We only come to know his whole being when we see how his physiognomy is the expression of his soul and spirit. We have in natural science, which is fully recognized in its justified purposes by Anthroposophy, in a sense the knowledge of the external body of the world. In the natural science of the physical we have something that is itself a kind of intellectual body. Just as we have only the whole of man before us when his soul and spirit is revealed through his physical bodily nature, in the same way we have the knowledge of the world in its entirety, only when as if through a kind of wonderful physiognomy, through all that science offers us in its facts, its experiments, its hypotheses, its natural laws — a cosmic knowledge in soul and spirit comes to expression. For that body of knowledge, given in external natural science, Anthroposophy seeks to be the soul and spirit of a real and complete knowledge of man and of the world.