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Truths and Errors of Spiritual Research
GA 69a

VI. Errors of Spiritual Research II

27 November 1913, Stuttgart

Preliminary remark: There are no notes of the talk Truths of Spiritual Research held in Stuttgart the day before.

It is almost as important in the area of spiritual science to get clear about the ways of error as about those of truth because it is in this field in such a way that truths have not only to be searched as in the outer life, but that they have to be attained. Those inner fights of the soul by which the truths in spiritual-scientific area are to be attained lead us often through errors which lurk wherever you go and whose kind has to be recognised and whose significance must be overcome. One disproves errors in the outer life and science; in the area of spiritual life, one has to combat them as real powers that face us on our ways for truth. Therefore, I would like to complement the yesterday's talk about spiritual-scientific truths with the consideration of the sources of error. There one cannot say that this or that is an error of spiritual research, but there it concerns the question how the searching soul may become a slave of error.

I have pointed out not only yesterday but also repeatedly that the spiritual researcher has to make the instrument out of himself with which he penetrates into the spiritual worlds. The spiritual researcher has to develop spiritual organs. As we have physical organs as human beings of the usual life to perceive the outside world physically, we can appropriate spiritual organs by the things that we have discussed sketchily yesterday. With spiritual senses—the term is inconsistent—we enter into the spiritual world to be able to recognise its characteristics and secrets. We have further to acquire the possibility to gain them with full consciousness what one can experience with such spiritual organs. Now I have to point out, of course, although it seems superfluous to many people, repeatedly that you cannot compare these spiritual organs to the sensory organs. These are extrasensory organs. Even as the world, which you visit with them, is extrasensory, these organs are also purely spiritual-mental organs. The consciousness is higher than that of the usual life and science.

We can still come to an understanding with each other if we know the sources of error in the spiritual area. We want to take some sources of error as starting point comparatively in the sensory-physical area. In what way can we get to errors in the outer view of the sensory world? I would like to bring in a concrete example. If an eye is faulty, it may be that we see the things always wrong by this defect of the eye. I would like to quote a famous naturalist who has such a defect as an example. He tells how he always believed to see this or that figure clearly in the dusk. This is based only on a defect of his eyes. When he once turned the corner in a foreign city, his eyes deceived him and he believed that a person who approached him wanted to harm him. He took out his defensive weapon to drive the non-existing figure away.

Faulty organs cause faulty vision in the sensory world. Now we can say comparatively, in spiritual research, the faulty organs that we appropriate by self-development outlined yesterday cause faulty vision, errors in our view of the spiritual world.

In what way do we get to such faulty organs? There I have to stress from the start that that which the spiritual researcher gains to himself by self-development always depends on the starting point which his soul takes. Self-development is based on the fact that we develop the mental forces which we already have in the usual life to higher levels. Everything depends on the fact that we take a healthy soul life as starting point and then develop the spiritual organs. It is necessary to start from common sense and healthy faculty of judgement to get spiritual organs by the characterised development that delivers truths and not errors in our views of the spiritual world. In particular, any kind of infatuation and speculative fiction interferes the spiritual development. Since infatuation and speculative fiction, wrong or untrue judging of the things here in the sensory world stick to the further spiritual development in the soul in a way, and this causes at last that spiritual organs develop which do not properly work.

We stand there immediately before a point, which we have to discuss if the ground of spiritual research should be healthy. I have pointed out already yesterday from another side that the confessors of spiritual science commit a mistake if they consider a person who can tell things of the spiritual world as a special person from the start because he is a seer. One has to consider the seer's gift only as something that has developed as a special quality of the person concerned to behold into spiritual world—as well as one academically studies to become a botanist, a zoologist or a mathematician. The more the confessors of spiritual science are clear about the fact that a person is not somebody special because he is a seer, the better it is. We should not condition the value of a person on his seer's gift; he himself is not at all allowed to do this. The value of a human being also of a seer depends on the fact that he has a healthy faculty of judging already here in the physical world. This leads to spiritual organs if one applies the discussed methods to the soul development. Unhealthy human mind leads to a pathological view of spirit that shows the spiritual world in a wrong form. I have to emphasise that.

The second point that matters is that we can form a right, conscious judgement within the spiritual world that we can orient ourselves in the right way, so that we deceive ourselves neither by our organs nor by our consciousness.

Now something can happen with the spiritual researcher that you can compare with the condition if here in the sensory world the consciousness of the human being is dazed or paralyzed, so that the person concerned cannot orient himself properly in the physical world.

The spiritual researcher can do a similar experience if he does not take as right starting point that means a morally healthy soul condition. A weak moral attitude dazes the higher consciousness.

The seer is not a special human being because he has the seer's gift, but his human value must be judged as that of the other human beings, too—by his healthy faculty of judgement and moral attitude. Only these two things still are infinitely important in the area of spiritual research as in the usual life because they are the basic conditions to discover the truths and to avoid errors.

We can still give other sources of error or rather characterise the ways of error different. There it is the best if we start from the usual sensory consideration of the things again. We all know that there is a materialist view of the outside world. We have to get clear in our mind spiritual-scientifically, how this materialist attitude can appear in the usual physical world. Spiritual science acknowledges that behind everything, also behind the material existence, something spiritual works that the material existence is only the expression of spiritual forces working behind it. In the field where the material works, actually, the spirit is also effective.

How do human beings become still materialists? Why do they misjudge that—where matter appears—this matter is only the revelation of the spirit? If we recognise the spirit everywhere, we have also to look for the causes in the spirit, why human beings may become materialists. Indeed, these are spiritual reasons in the human soul, forces, which work from the spiritual world into this human soul that take the human being to a materialist attitude. Among those spiritual forces which spiritual research brings home to us, we find the so-called ahrimanic forces referring to the Persian spirit Ahriman. These are certain spiritual forces that have an effect on the human soul in such a way that they veil everything to him that does not appear in dense materiality. It is true what Goethe and all those say who understand these things really: the outer view of the senses does not err—the judgement errs if certain forces in the human souls beguile it. The material phenomena do not say to us that they are only matter. The human souls judge about that which is a manifestation of the spiritual that it is only matter. In these human souls certain forces work, which daze them in such a way that they cannot realise that the material is only the expression of the spirit. That which Goethe expressed corresponds to a real being in the human soul: the ahrimanic or Mephistophelian forces work in the soul; and if one discusses these things, one gets quite appropriately to the quotation that the materialist attitude is true evidence of those forces to the spiritual researcher that veil the spiritual to him. These Mephistophelian forces make the human beings shy away from the spiritual.

If we want to look into the soul what goes forward in it, so that it cannot find the spiritual in the material, we can ask ourselves, why does the human being become, actually, a materialist? There we have to realise that the human soul has not only that as its contents, which happens in the usual consciousness, but there are also concealed depths of the soul that there is a subconscious soul life. Since everything that can appear in the consciousness can submerge in unaware regions and works there. It would be a brainless prejudice if one believed that that which one does not know were not effective. A drastic example of a work [of the subconscious], which lives out quite different, is the following: Luther (Martin L, 1483-1546) said once, if I am rather angry, I can pray and preach best of all.—Every soul expert understands that. The forces that work in the soul can change in manifold way. Rage is simply a soul force; if it submerges in the depths of the soul, it can appear in the consciousness quite different. If we bring the rage into the subconscious soul regions, it can appear as something that looks like its opposite. Praying and preaching mostly do not look like a fit of anger; but Luther knew that he could pray and preach best of all, [if he was angry].

The same applies to many emotions. One cannot prove them in the usual sense, but they turn out to be by the observation of the soul. Someone who investigates the soul finds which ways the different soul forces follow how they change if they are in the consciousness and how different they are if they submerge in the lower regions of the soul life. There is a force, which everybody knows if it appears in the upper regions of the consciousness: the fear. It is related to hatred. We often hate that in the upper region of the soul what we fear; but we have already squeezed it into the sub-consciousness. Hatred and fear are very intimately related to each other. However, fear is also related to laziness. Indeed, for the soul expert the fact comes to light that laziness is appealed to maintain this or that, not to change this or that, from the fear of insecurity in which one gets if one acts different [than usual]. The human beings are attached to something established because they fear change. Laziness is fear in the usual consciousness that was squeezed into the sub-consciousness.

If you now penetrate into the spiritual region, you have such experiences as I have told them yesterday about which you can say that the human being loses ground that he faces nothing to gain something new. The soul sometimes feels that darkly in the sub-consciousness of which it does not become aware. This fear is only the fear of everything that you experience if you penetrate into the spiritual world. You do not become aware of this fear, but the materialistically minded person has it in his soul depths. For the psychologist turns out that one becomes a materialistically minded human being because one has fear of uncertainty into which you get if you submerge in the spiritual. If you investigate the soul, you have to characterise the materialist human being as chicken-hearted; but it is in such a way. This is nothing but the disguised fear of spiritual life by which this spiritual life is suppressed. Thus, that remains concealed to the soul which is effective behind it. The demons of fear, the ahrimanic spirits, rage in the soul of the materialistically minded human being. Thus, he is a living proof of the work of the spirit. The spirit itself that beguiles the materialist into being a materialist. There one is reminded of a quotation of the poet who is very true:

Simple folk never sense the devil's presence,
not even when his hands are on their throats.

(Faust I, verses 1281-1282)

However, for us that is only important here: what does that exposure to the demons of fear cause that daze the soul? To characterise this mood we have taken the starting point from the physical-sensory world where one becomes materialistically minded by this soul mood.

However, the same mood can be there with a person who goes through a spiritual development or has got by some special conditions to a kind of beholding into the spiritual world. The cited demons of fear work not only on the materialistically inclined souls, but also on that who can already behold into the spiritual world. Then they have another effect. However, the effect can be characterised again, while we compare the deep experiences that we have there to that which has faced us. As everything appears to the materialist in unsubtle-material compression, these demons work on the human being who is minded as the materialist that they allow him only to behold what is not spiritual, but is dense and appears spooky. The subtlety of the spiritual gets lost to him. He does not search at all the spiritual; it is too fugitive to him, too mysterious. He does not regard the spiritual as something spiritual; it must be so unsubtle, so compressed, that it is as it were only a material appearance transferred to the spiritual. He searches such visions that are not spiritual but spooky.

With it, I do not want to say that the impressions that appear in this density are not right. If they have been caused as I have characterised them yesterday here, they are true of course. However, one interprets them normally wrongly. Such a person regards these spooky things, which he faces from the spiritual world, as the only real. He looks for nothing but ghosts, rather than spirits. However, thereby he gets to spiritual phenomena, to facts of the spiritual world, but he judges them wrongly. Let us take an example. Such a seer can look back to his former earth-life with the methods about which I have already spoken here. If he looks back, pictures may appear to him, facts which show the appearance of his former life. However, in reality it is not in such a way. In reality, he does not behold that which he was in reality, but he beholds what has separated like sheaths from him. He beholds what he should not behold if he wants to see the true, advancing reality. Thus, for example, such a person beholds a kind of a ghostlike world instead of the real spiritual world. He perceives a reality [and regards it as] the objective reality of a dead person, but that which he perceives is not the objective reality, but that which the dead person has just cast off—while he does not behold the advancing reality. Since with such a mood the seer considers that as something shadowy in which he is not interested. This is just that mood which does not lead to the spirit but always beguiles into interpreting inaccurately what we behold. We believe to behold a living soul, but we regard that which is doomed to die as something developing.

Thus, we realise that in the spiritual area the question of error is somewhat different. The error in the usual world can mostly be disproved; in the spiritual world is that vitalising which we can visit, so that the spiritual world has a significance for us, and confuse it with that which is doomed to die, to the abnormal. The contrast is another in the spiritual area than in the outer area. The concepts “true” and “wrong” change for the spiritual world. The fact that we confuse truth with error in the physical-sensory world corresponds in the spiritual world to the fact that we confuse the life promoting with that which is doomed to die. Hence, the relations are quite different. One has to get into the habit of feeling quite different compared with this world, to develop quite new concepts and ideas. From it arises again how it really is with the error. It is already a fatal error, if one regards the concepts and ideas as sufficient for the spiritual area.

I would like to use another comparison that characterises an error very often appearing in this field. Let us assume once that we have to deal with that which was formed in a mine by the forces, which are active and effective within the earth. Let us assume that a gap originates up to the surface of the earth. The sunlight penetrates into this gap; it can light up everything that has formed down there in the darkness. We can feel it as wonderful and marvellous how the sunlight falls on everything that could not originate on the surface of the earth. What the sunlight creates on the surface of the earth cannot be created in the same way in the depths, and that which has formed in the depth can maybe appear as a feast for our eyes if the sunlight penetrates through a gap.

It is true what I have stated before: if the spiritual researcher brings that which he has beheld in the spiritual world in concepts of common sense and interprets it, everybody can understand these things. You can understand the spiritual world not only if you yourself are a spiritual researcher but with your healthy human mind. Only the spiritual researcher can investigate this area. However, if the representations of the extrasensory worlds are given in concepts and ideas, one just feels induced to compare such a representation with the sunlight that falls through the gap in the tunnel, and then the usual human beings understand them who cannot penetrate with the concepts of the sensory world into those regions of spiritual truth.

We have also to figure out that the soul itself has do the step into the spiritual world if from this spiritual world the facts and beings should become obvious. This is a cliff that certain spiritual forces work into the soul, which ... . [Gap in the transcript]

Another cliff is if that seizes the soul about which I have just said that it must be defeated. We have said to understand each other that any egoity of a medium must be extinguished, so that the medium can be integrated [in the world being]. The spiritual researcher, however, who consciously does research must also blank out his egoity consciously if he faces the spiritual world. However, if the human being is confronted at this point with himself like a foreign being and looks back, if he experiences all that, then he notices only how self-love works in the human being. If one speaks in such a way, someone can easily come and say, yes, there somebody talks to us about overcoming the self and the like; nevertheless, these are easy things.—Someone who speaks in such a way speaks only about what he knows as self-love.

The spiritual researcher gets to know something quite different from self-love; when he has parted with himself this self-love becomes something like an invincible power of nature. It turns out to be invincible in a certain case: where the spiritual researcher does not come so far to remove his complete self. If self-love is to be recognised really in such a way that now he overcomes and defeats it, something develops in the soul that one normally does not recognise correctly. There some self-love remains that lives so intimately, so subtly in this soul that the spiritual researcher himself interprets that which lives there in him in quite wrong way. Here a very peculiar phenomenon appears:

Because the spiritual researcher believes to have removed his self-love from himself, he says to himself, you have removed your self-love; what you find now in yourself is something else than you yourself.—He calls this the divine in himself. However, because he has not succeeded in removing the self-love completely, he becomes a wrong mystic. He looks into his inside and believes to recognise his divine self, however, he adores only that which has remained of his self-love. Many adored gods of the wrong mysticism, the mysticism on misleading paths, are only the adored own beings, the adored own selves. God's love of mystics is often only disguised self-love.

There one faces a fateful field of spiritual-scientific error. It is often quite difficult to distinguish where the mystic really attains objective knowledge of spirit and where he only reveres the rest of his self as something higher in himself.

We can find something in the usual sensory area by which we can come to an understanding with each other about what appears with the mystic who is on wrong tracks. There we only need to point to a certain scientific direction that appeared in particular in the middle of the nineteenth century. This scientific direction does not believe at all that it is materialist, because it speaks of ideas in history. Thus, many researchers would refuse to speak of folk souls or spirits of time as realities that there are generally beings that manifest themselves really. One considered it as more correct to speak about ideas in the course of history. This appeared especially absurd with the “life of Jesus research” in the last time. There a direction became prominent which stated that the historical Jesus did not at all exist; within the community, in the ecclesiastical development just the Christ idea appeared.—One took the view that this was a more distinguished view if one did not acknowledge Christ Jesus as reality but only the idea that developed in history.

How do such ideas appear to that who figures the things out? They appear to him, as if he wanted to state that an only painted painter could paint a picture; in the same way an idea could work in history. Only beings but not ideas and thoughts can work. The beings that appear embodied in any way as human beings can work but not ideas and thoughts; these vanish as mere shades if one ignores the being and the essential. As reality that vanishes for such human beings as mere shades of thought what should have spiritual reality for the human beings who have become mystics because of unrecognized, disguised self-love. It is something that cannot be at all beyond their souls, it is effective only in their souls. The result of it is that such souls cannot advance to spiritual beings that must be there independent from them. They can advance only up to that which they can bring in to their selves, which they can consume as it were spiritually.

If one wanted to use a rather unsubtle comparison, I could say, someone who wants to become a seer may be able to behold spiritual beings that are independent from him, as well as one can see physical beings with physical eyes. He must be able to see, for example, a piglet that is separated from him. However, we assume that he cannot see a piglet if it is alive, but only if it is killed and carved, and he can eat and enjoy it then. Such a mystic is a spiritual gourmet. The spiritual gourmet does not turn his view to objective beings, but to the spiritual world in general, he does not take in beings, but only spiritual substances which he absorbs, but he never attains anything that is an internally enriched self, rather only a hollow self, so that his self balloons up to a kind of spiritual universe. Just because he impregnates his self with that which fits into his self he blankets the way to real spiritual beings and truth to himself, and he beholds that which weaves and works only in himself. Therefore, the history of mysticism is so difficult to study because one has to distinguish those mystics who can really part with their selves and can behold something essential, and those mystics who, actually, confuse self-love with God's love and perceive what fulfils their selves. They live only on their selves.

On one side [the view of the spiritual] in unsubtle-material densification in a kind of ghostlike vision, and on the other side the mystic adoration of the self—these are two main ways of error in the spiritual field.

It is imperative that the soul thereby finds the paths of truth that it really puts outside that it considers that objectively, which the human being is. Hence, it is so necessary to start with spiritual research and with the study of spiritual science to get to truth and not to error concerning the things that can save us mostly from self-love.

If a spiritual researcher who wants to investigate the intimacies of life and strives at first to visit human beings who have recently died in the spiritual world, that is if a human being becomes a seeker of spirit out of altruism, he may very easily stray to the one or the other side. The interest should be directed to that which leads us into the big world which does not touch us very personally because we can then get easier free from our personality. While visiting any soul that has recently died we are exposed to all possible personal errors. If we investigate which changes the soul has experienced in the course of its development, we are easily inclined to look at the thing subjectively from our intentions.

In my Occult Science, I have tried to take the starting point of that in which not only the single but also all human beings are interested. Since that is the point if we become spiritual researchers and want to become freer and freer from error that we learn to recognise ourselves as a product of the whole world. As we recognise other beings and things as products of the whole world, we can also explain ourselves as human beings from the whole world, in particular, while we envisage our spiritual-mental being. Indeed, we are a microcosm in the macrocosm. We are an image of the big world, and we have to compare that which the human being has in his soul, in his spiritual being to the whole universe. However, we cannot do this, as long as we stick in ourselves. Not before we have really come out of ourselves if we have ourselves besides ourselves, as we are as human beings, we can compare that to the world which we now face as an object.

Whom does it surprise if spiritual science often appears as foolish fantasy to the people? In physics, for example, one forgives that one distinguishes seven colours, that one has seven tones and the eighth tone as the octave in the acoustics. However, one does not forgive the spiritual scientist that he understands the human nature as seven-membered and puts it down to seven worlds merging into each other. Still the same thinking finds seven colours, seven tones in the octave in physics, and seven members of the human nature in spiritual science. It is the same thought; the one is not more than the other is.

However, you can recognise the coherence of the human nature with the big world only if you face this human nature in such a way that you consider it as a whole. The human being is a spiritual-mental being. Our reason can consider only sensorily. To get to spiritual truths—not to spiritual errors—, you must be able to recognise the human being outside him as a product of the whole world. This is exceptionally important. You have to consider the effects of the world on the human being. As long as you look only at the effects on the own being, you do not get to truth—only to error. The human being must be outside his self and then consider himself in proportion to the world; he has to be detached from himself.

This is the first condition that the human being puts himself in the position that not everything that he has developed in himself is stuck in self-love. What does that mean? What develops us spiritual-mentally? We do certain exercises to develop the soul: meditation, concentration, and so on. Certain soul processes thereby arise in us. As long as we practise them in such a way that we even have the slightest sensation that we ourselves are that which develops there, we cannot defend ourselves from error.

This is the one side of the matter. The mystic overcomes that so hard because he loses himself in his own self, only in subtle way. That which goes forward in us to raise us to higher worlds must be a world process, not a single process. We have to recognise the human being except ourselves; we have to experience the world in ourselves. These two big secrets lead to the way of truth and avoid the errors. The second is to recognise the nature of the human being outside of us, not in us, not only to experience the world outside of us, but also to experience the world in us as an objective world.

Someone who takes these two guidelines to reach the spiritual world advances gradually so far, that he can attain the knowledge of truth as experience. If you own truth in the spiritual area, you yourself become that which you have recognised as truth because you think your way into those beings. We experience the world and we feel it then, while we experience it, like a torch that lights up the spiritual world to us. We feel it as an invigorating element that turns out to be fertile, while it leads us from step to step on our pilgrimage. We feel the world, while it arises in us and for us human beings as that which germinates, sprouts, and proves to be effective. If you can feel in such a way, you can be sure that you live in spiritual truth.

However, the error is cold; it darkens the spiritual truth. Errors are in the spiritual world forces, are beings, but extinguishing, darkening forces. The more we familiarise ourselves with the error, the more we can feel: if you want to use it for understanding the world, the more it darkens everything. You realise that everywhere life freezes due to a force of death that it begins to rot as it were if you approach it with error. The error turns out to be something real that destroys. We must defeat it; we must let forces grow—not only judgements - to disprove it, so that it escapes from us. Then we fight our way through to truth. Therefore, the quest for truth in the spiritual area is just fighting with the error, and, hence, it is important to know the ways of the errors. That is why I had to draw the same attention to the ways of error as to the ways of truth.

Perhaps I could cause a feeling with these two talks how real the soul's way is which can lead into the spiritual regions, which only someone can have who considers that unprejudiced which I have brought sketchily and which one can hard transfer on someone who faces the matter only with prejudices. However, you could still say to yourself after such considerations, there many people judge about these spiritual researchers, but you see from that which they say how much they know of it.—You can already find out whether the objections are justified or unjustified if you put the question: does the person concerned know anything generally about that which spiritual research intends? Does he know anything about the serious fights, about the overcoming and deliverance from the sufferings that one has to experience?—I wanted to evoke a feeling that these things may not be taken at all frivolously by those who only must familiarise themselves with that which the soul has to experience to get to the truths of spiritual research. Then, however, one can experience something peculiar: then those who approach the results of spiritual research seriously are no more opponents. Maybe in no other area than in that of spiritual research you can say rightly, opponents are strictly speaking only those who do not know the matter. On the field where one knows it are no more opponents. The opponents become appreciators if they get to know the matter. You can leave it to everybody to convince himself.

In this feeling we can summarise, maybe not so much what I have spoken the day before yesterday and today, but how I have tried to show the things. This time I have tried intentionally to show the things completely after the soul experience, how the soul, so to speak, is gradually led and what it experiences. Thereby you can maybe receive the sensation of the seriousness of spiritual research. You must have this sensation at first, then arises that in the spiritual-scientific area, more than in any other field, to which a Goethean sentence applies which he had deeply experienced.

“You cannot disprove a wrong doctrine because it is based on the conviction that the wrong is true. However, the opposite can, must and should be pronounced again and again.”

If this also happens concerning spiritual science, it will become a part of our spiritual culture, as it has to be. Even if errors assert themselves, truth will find its way everywhere in the world. We do not need to be anxious about truth. If we represent untruthfulness by a personal error, it will not be harmful; we are convinced of that. However, if we represent the truth, it will find the ways, so that it can settle in the development of humanity. Since the earthly evolution of humanity is designed in such a way, that humanity finds its development only in truth. In this consciousness, you can look at spiritual science, in particular if you consider truth and error with it.

The spiritual researcher just removes the errors while he recognises them—and the truth will be victorious because it has to be victorious with its power.