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Where and How Does One Find the Spirit?
GA 57

I. Where and How Does One Find the Spirit?

15 October 1908, Berlin

We have spoken about the facts of the spiritual life through several years. Today a new series of talks begins. Who has already taken a program knows that the objects of this year's spiritual-scientific talks span a wide range. On one side, you find talks deeply intervening in our spiritual life; however, it should also be shown how just spiritual science is destined to intervene deeply in the objects of practical life. However—this should be expressly stressed in the introduction—the point of view should be fixed today; we want to orientate ourselves especially about the spirit as such today. This talk should be introductory, orienting, and programmatic.

If the word “spirit” is pronounced, one points to something that, as long as there is human longing and human hope, is the aim of all human beings, of the primitive ones as well as of the high developed ones. Nevertheless, one cannot say that that which just the word spirit means attracts a deeper understanding in our days.

Today the science of the spirit appears as the most popular and the most bewildering at the same time, because the human being cannot face the spiritual research indifferently and objectively. This question stirs up the deepest affects, the most intensive passions in our soul. The answers to these questions are relevant from the start to the human beings. If the human being looks only a little deeper into his soul, he notices that he has an opinion—even if he does not pronounce it—how the answer should turn out. All questions belonging here touch the human being in such a way that one can say, an answer can offend the one person in this way, the other person in that way. The one may feel sore just about a sober consideration; whereas the other thinks that the freedom of research or science is attacked if anybody exceeds the exact research only somewhat.

The characteristic of the human development has brought with it—especially since the boom of natural sciences—that today the conceivably highest confusion prevails about the view of the spirit, and especially in the circles which should foster just such a thing like the science of the spirit. If one wants to recognise something of the spirit, such a sum of fine and intimate concepts is necessary that here a confusion of ideas is extremely significant and detrimental. The modern human being is right if he turns to the fundamental principles of science first if he wants to know anything about the spirit. Then he must turn to psychology at first. It should be “the science of the soul.” It becomes soon clear just to somebody who approaches unprejudiced what one calls the science of the spirit what one understands today by the science of the spirit. Today, there is hardly anybody who speaks about these matters and does not confuse soul and mind. I want to go back to real phenomena.

There a book Outline of Psychology appeared before some time (1908) by a person (Hermann Ebbinghaus, 1850–1909, psychologist) who one regards as a significant expert of his discipline. It is an example how today the science of the soul is pursued. However, this is not my starting point to show which confusion of the concepts of soul and mind has happened. We read there on one of the first pages: if hypoxaemia occurs in the brain, the result is a faint, because then the mental ability stops or is reduced at least. However, a mental effort causes an influx of blood. Stimulants work on the brain via the nervous system, et cetera.—Now at first one has to point to the fact that someone who wants to bring, nevertheless, a “science of the soul” uses the expressions “soul” and “mind” or “spirit” as substantially synonymous, and is not aware of the fact that they are different things. Hence, there comes just the evil. The spiritual scientist would say, hypoxaemia and faint only paralyses the activity of the soul, however, the spiritual activity does not decrease. In addition, the activity of the soul causes influxes of the blood to the brain. Here the saying of Goethe applies that no matter is without spirit.—With faint, another spiritual activity exists, so that the soul withdraws from the brain and leaves the field to a spiritual activity different from that if the soul is present.

Modern psychology does not differentiate soul and mind. Therefore, it is important to form a clear concept of the mind first. This is very difficult. Today, people—driven by a power as it were—believe that everything is contained in material processes and want to look at the spirit only as an effect, as a consequence of the material. The spiritual researcher looks for the spirit not only in the human being, but also everywhere around us. It appears like an internal physiognomy in everything. It is spread out everywhere in the universe. No human being, no animal, no plant, no stone can be without having the spirit as basis. I like to use a picture. We imagine a water container in which the water is cooled bit by bit. Thereby ice may originate, so that we see some lumps of ice swimming in it. We imagine now that any being cannot perceive water, but only ice. There the ice would appear just only from the water; however, the being would deny the water. Everywhere only ice exists, but no water, this being would say.

Now the human beings behave similarly to mind and matter. As well as in our picture the ice originates from the water, there the matter originates from the original, from the spirit. Matter is nothing else than compressed spirit. It appears for the sighted human being from the spirit, to somebody who cannot see from nothing. Everything in the universe is compressed spirit. If now the materialist comes and says, what you call spirit does not exist, and then his logic is in a bad way, because he is only allowed to admit, actually, that he cannot perceive the spirit. Someone who has a healthy logic should talk with such a man only about something whose existence he has admitted, so about matter. If we speak of the soul, we are never allowed to separate the concept of inwardness from it which we see best of all in the soul of the human being.

An example shows the difference of mind and soul best of all. We imagine that we see an event before ourselves, which makes us tremble, which frightens us, for example, shooting a gun to us. A third person who sees this feeling of fear in us is able to say only that the other had this face which is dependent, however, on the state of the person. A human being who has maybe forgotten fear would face the danger intrepidly. However, that person faces the event with fear and fright. We call that something mental that is stimulated in our inside by an external perception that way. However, for the spiritual there is no outside and no inside. What is outside is inside, too. If you check your inside, you notice that there is a transition from the mental to the spiritual that, however, a difference exists between that which we call mental and which we call spiritual. About the sensations, which rise in us, one cannot argue, because they are different with the single human beings. In the one, a world of feelings would arise at the sight of a picture by Raphael, while a primitive human being feels nothing. In between there are still all possible gradations. Here we are concerned with something mental. However, mathematics, for example, gives us something spiritual, for example, in mathematics. Nobody can understand by experience what a circle is. An inner view is necessary for it. This is so easy, but people do not understand it. We know about that which is something spiritual that everybody can experience it as we do if he creates the necessary preconditions of it only. To the same extent as we realise that we advance from an inner experience to one which is accessible to all people, to the same extent we should realise that we go over from something mental to something spiritual.

If we assume that the human being rises to such a height that he is able to say something about a thing of the outside world about which the human beings can agree, he rises to the concept, to the idea of the thing. Then we should realise that that is the same, which was there before the thing, according to which the thing is created. Only someone can believe that he can obtain something spiritual from a world in which no spirit exists who supposes to obtain water from a glass in which no water is. If we look at any being of the outside world, so that we open ourselves not only to the uplifting, to the beautiful, but also to the sad, if we open ourselves to the real being of the things, we must understand that we let light up in ourselves what was there before the thing, from which it has originated. Thus, the physical appears to us like a compression of the spiritual.

Many a prejudice has its origin in the habit to imagine the outside world as something spiritless and to show the spiritual as something that the human being adds. He can only have that in his consciousness that is the effect of the outside world on him. Remember that one often says on this occasion, we can only know that a table exists, just the table in itself that has the given effects on us.—The fact that one can judge in such a way is an example that in wide circles is no understanding of the nature of spirit.

A simple picture can show us what the centuries-long research simply slides over if one asserts that the human being knows nothing about the thing in itself. If anybody says this, it seems obvious. Physics, science generally, point repeatedly to the fact that you do not at all perceive “yellow,” for example, but only movements of the ether. They cause the yellow colour in you, just as the movements of the air the tone. You do not come out of yourself; you see only what is in you.—A simple comparison extinguishes this whole conclusion. Imagine, you have a seal and sealing wax. The name Muller is imprinted. No trace of brass has gone over from the seal to the sealing wax. However, the point is the name that has been completely transferred into the sealing wax. Now the sealing wax could also say, I know nothing about the seal, because from the outside nothing can be transferred to me. Thus, it is with science to a T. The name Muller has been completely transferred onto the sealing wax. Who states that such an effect would not be possible does not understand that there is no border between the material and the spiritual. We have to figure out more and more the fact that the spirit has to do nothing with that which is in us, but that it is outside and in us. We have to distinguish soul and mind from each other. Then we have created a basis to know that all bases of life are bases of the spirit. Psychology tries more and more to lead back the spiritual to something purely physical. However, we had to experience that the spiritual was derived from physical and purely mechanical processes! The sciences that are not intentionally materialistic today are unaware of it.

Let us go back once again! Imagine how a faint originates from hypoxemia in the brain and thereby the soul is immobilised. We must approach this process with spiritual science. This shows us that the human being is not only this material being, which we can perceive with the external senses, but that he is a complex being. The physical body is a compression, a coarsening of something spiritual, of something finer, that there is a coarsening of the etheric body or life body at first. We see the human being literally as a water ball, which solidified partially as ice, so that the ice lump swims in the water from which it has formed like from a fine mother substance.

It is with the physical and etheric bodies in such a way. Matter is a form of spirit different from the spirit as such like the ice is another form of water. However, the etheric body is not yet the finest. It is the compression of the astral body. Now we have the human being already as a tripartite being. He has the physical body in common with all beings of the physical world. One can recognize the etheric body purely logically at first. If we take a rock crystal, it keeps its form, until it is destroyed from the outside. These are the essentials of the mineral. That does not apply to the plant, the animal, and the human being. We probably have the same substances in the human being, but these are so complex that the human body would break up immediately if it did not bear a fighter against the decay of the physical body in itself: this is the etheric body or life body. If the etheric body is outside, like after death, then only the physical body disintegrates. However, the etheric body or life body prevents the decay between birth and death. The human being has it in common with plant and animal, the astral body only with the animal. Here with the astral body, we have already arrived at finer and finer spiritual members, we have already come to the soul.

Spiritual science could speak of three human members, of body, soul, and mind. However, if we pursue this more exactly, we separate into physical body, etheric body, and astral body. If we have a human being before ourselves, we have the physical body at first, as far as one can see it physically. However, we also have the etheric body, the fighter against the decay. However, this is not yet the whole human being. Already the most primitive human being knows that joy and grief, desire and pain live in him. We call the bearer of that “astral body.” Materialists could argue that this is only an effect of the physical processes, that it is nothing real.

If this were the case, if these processes were only an outflow of physical processes, for example, of the blood circulation, it would be a mere quibble speaking of an astral body. However, the astral is not a result of physical processes, but the processes in the nerves are the results of the astral. That which excites joy and grief, desire and pain was there sooner than the physical body. We see how in us today, so to speak, the last rests of the immediate effect of the spiritual on physical processes express themselves. I have pointed to the senses of shame and anxiety already earlier. A human being turns pale because of fear. What has happened there? On the other hand, if the human being feels: something is in me that I would like to hide—and he blushes. The sense of shame and anxiety are soul processes, soul experiences. However, they express themselves in physical processes. If we are anxious, we like to take together all forces inside, assert ourselves; the blood contracts inside, as it were. It is almost corporeal: a direction, which is unconsciously materialistic, has turned the whole process upside down.

Pragmatism, which came from America, pronounced the view: if we face a loaded gun, not the fear makes us tremble, but something that goes out from the gun makes us tremble at first. The result of it is the appearance of fear. The human being cries not because he is sad, but he is sad because he cries. Materialism plays such pranks to you. However, spiritual science shows us that everything that happens, that trickling of water, or a process which we examine under the microscope or a human being, an animal, a plant, is also an outflow of something spiritual as something mental-spiritual is the cause of fear. Thus, we find the spirit everywhere round ourselves if we are only accustomed to look at everything as a physiognomy of the spirit. Everybody can attain the spirit in this way. On the other hand, one could say, there the human being sees the spirit through the veil of the material. Is it also possible, however, to see the spirit immediately? The human being must take the word “initiation” completely seriously. Goethe made so many remarks important for spiritual science, for example: “the eye forms in the light for the light.” From indifferent organs the eyes of the human being have gradually developed. Goethe has the certainty in common with all spiritual scientists that the human being looks back at a long, long development. If there had been no light, eyes would never have come into existence. As the animals lose the ocular light in dark caves, the light has formed the eye.

As true as without the eyes the world is dark and sinister for the human being, it is also true that the eye is formed in the light for the light, that there would be no eyes without light. In addition, the tones conjure up the ability of hearing, the smells the ability of smelling, and so on. It was in the past that way and even now it is that way concerning the physical organs of the human being. However, it is also for the spiritual organs in such a way. One can speak only of light and colour if the organs are there; but the light is there for a long time before. In addition, it is with the spirit. It also is there already before and is capable to wake up the slumbering spiritual abilities in the human being, which then perceive the spirit as the eyes perceive the light. The spirit forms the spiritual organs as the light the eyes. Thus, the human being can develop the spiritual organs, which the spirit formed for the spirit.

If anything appears to us as physiognomy of the spirit, we can grow into a spiritual world there, if we have the patience to develop and to form. So spiritual science speaks of the spirit still in another way. As we get to know by the botanist, the physicist, and others, what they fathom of the secrets of the physical world, there is and there has always been spiritual science. Today, the majority of the human beings know nothing about the concealed worlds of this spiritual science. At first, this science was fostered in the mysteries, unnoticed by the remaining world. Spiritual science must come out today and announce publicly what it has to say as the physical science announces its results publicly.

Just as the physical science uses external tools, the spiritual researcher must be his own tool. There have always been such researchers. Only somebody who develops the organs can tell how it is in the spiritual world. However, if it is pronounced, then the simple, healthy human mind suffices to understand it. Another development is only necessary to research. I would like to give you an example how by intimate processes spiritual development takes place. This way is not tumultuary. Many a human being becomes a citizen of the spiritual world, without his fellow men anticipating it. Nevertheless, large is the area that reveals us how to work on ourselves if we want to gain an insight of the spiritual world. I give an example how intimate this work is.

There are three levels of knowledge: at first the knowledge of the physical world, then imagination which, however, has nothing to do with speculative fiction; it leads in a certain way into the spiritual world. The inspired and intuitive worlds form the third level. One attains the imaginative level doing certain internal exercises patiently for a long time. These exercises do not deduct you from the external world, but make you more competent and more practical. However, at the same time they lead into the higher worlds.

There, for example, is such an instruction of a teacher to his pupil: have a look at a plant. It grows out of the ground, develops leaves, blossoms, fruits; have a look at this whole development of the plant how it develops chlorophyll, et cetera. The plant can be a model for the human being. As well as the plant is interspersed with the green colouring the human being is interspersed with the red blood. Although the plant is on a lower level than the human being is, nevertheless, it has something over him. Its substance, its matter, its chlorophyll is not interspersed with low desires and passions. The human being is no longer chaste and pure, but he had to pay his higher development with the fact that he took up desires and passions in himself. The expression of it is the red blood. Juxtapose both, and then think of the Goethean saying that is the saying of all spiritual teachers at all times:

And so long as you don't have it,
this: “Die and be transformed!”
you will only be a gloomy guest
on the dark earth.

(From Blissful Longing in the West-Eastern Divan)

That is the substance, which is penetrated with desires and passions and must be purified again, so that it is raised about itself, although it is on a higher level, and becomes again chaste and pure. The blood must be again the expression of this chastity and purity. Imagine the red rose; you face the chaste red plant sap. Admittedly, it is there still a plant sap, but you may see something before yourself in the red plant sap that can be to you like the dawn of a higher development of the human being, a symbol shows this: the black cross with red roses. Become engrossed in this symbol excluding any other thought, experience in it how the human beings have to develop up to the purity of the red rose petal. If you experience this, you experience the first trace of the spirit.

Thus, always other pictures are added to this picture. These pictures are there to conjure up the spiritual organs inside of the soul. Then this comes true for the human being that he finds any rest and help in the spiritual world. Therefore, spiritual science is of such an immense significance to the external world. It is true what Novalis says: the human being is the perfect tool, if he only wants to be it. In addition: the human being lives in a spiritual world that he can perceive if he is only elastic enough to develop the necessary organs in himself. In addition, true it is what Goethe lets Faust say:

This spirit world is not sealed off;

your mind is closed, your heart is dead!

go, neophyte, and boldly bathe

your mortal breast in roseate dawn!

Goethe spoke that way because he had recognised the spirit and wanted to put it up as a motto for all spiritual researchers.