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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Freedom - Immortality - Social Life
GA 72

III. What Spiritual Science Has to Say About the Eternal Aspect of the Human Soul and the Nature of Freedom

23 November 1917, Basel

Many people still consider anthroposophy, for example, as an uninvited guest within a society. One behaves rather refusing at first. Other scientific currents are well-invited guests of the modern spiritual striving because of the already recognised needs of the human beings. However, if one notes that the uninvited guest has something to bring that one had lost and that can be very valuable, nevertheless, in a certain respect, then one begins to treat the uninvited guest somewhat different from before. Anthroposophy is in this situation. It has to speak of spiritual-mental goods, which in a certain respect the modern civilised humanity has lost and which it has to receive again. They got lost because humanity had a certain instinctive cognition during millennia for that what is considered there; humanity cannot retain this instinctive cognition in the same way in future, it has even lost it up to a certain degree.

Just as little humanity could adhere to the medieval astronomy, it could adhere to the old instinctive knowledge about the being of the soul and with it about the real core of the human being. In the talks that I have held here weeks ago it was my task in particular to explain how in justified way the scientific thinking has taken possession of the human souls and has influenced the whole cultural development more and more. However, this scientific cognition is not suited on the other side to unveil the secrets of his own soul being to the human being, just if it wants to remain strong in the area that is assigned to it. This scientific imagination has the peculiarity that it destroys the old instinctive knowledge of the soul as it were.

Spiritual science wants to illuminate the spiritual area consciously with controlled cognition and to bring consciously again, what the human beings have lost as instinctive knowledge. Most certainly, the human beings who feel this anthroposophy as an uninvited guest will consider it just as a very welcome guest—I hope—if they have realised that this guest brings the knowledge of a lost treasure for life.

If we consider the different representations of the human soul and its being as they have appeared in the time in which the scientific way of thinking already had an impact, we realise that two of the most important questions, which were typical of the old doctrine of the soul, have disappeared almost from the scientifically oriented view of the soul. These two main questions are the question of immortality and the question of freedom. I have spoken in the last talks to what extent the question of immortality had to disappear more and more from the horizon of modern science, and I have already said that it should be my task today to approach the soul problem from the viewpoint of an at least sketchy consideration of the human freedom.

If natural sciences extend their way of thinking to the soul, they must focus their attention at first to what extent the soul has its basis in the bodily of the human being. However, this scientific view completely depends on considering the course of the outer processes causally, also of the soul processes as they take place in time. The scientific way of thinking can consider the soul only in the closest connection with the body. However, the body completely belongs to the material coherence of the outer world. The scientific way of thinking finds laws of this coherence. Nevertheless, these laws lead away from any consideration of the human soul life.

I would like to bring in one example only, while natural sciences took possession more and more of the consideration of the soul life, they also tried to apply their laws to the consideration of the soul. There they cannot but consider how a human action, how a human will impulse, how everything that the human being undertakes from his soul flows out of his bodily experience. They must experiment in their way as they are accustomed in their scientific field, and they feel deeply contented if they find with their experiments that also the soul life does not break what is ascertained scientifically for the outer natural life. One has only to consider such a thing that physiologists have experimentally found the amount of energy which the human being or the animal have taken up with their food is the amount of energy which the human being or the animal develop if they have emotions. The biologist Max Rubner (1854-1932) experimented with animals where he could show that everything that expresses itself as power in movements, in actions of animals is nothing but calculable energy of the food that they have taken up. Atwater (Wilbur Olin A., 1844-1907) carried out experiments that show that this law also applies to the human being. Everything that we exert in the work with movement and the like can be calculated as a transformation product of that what we take up materially with food as energy and transform it into warmth and the like in ourselves.

Thus, natural sciences trace the soul life back to the so-called principle of conservation of energy. They cannot but say from their viewpoint: where should something mental intervene of its own accord in the human being, create anything new like by a miracle if one can prove that everything that is active from the human being outwardly is only a transformation product of that what the human being takes up from the world? If the human emotion is that what the body has taken up in itself, then the principle of conservation of energy is fulfilled. Nowhere a new force appears; everything that appears as energy is only something that was already there. One cannot say if the human being accomplishes a so-called free, arbitrary action, it comes out of his soul, because then as if a new force would join the forces out of the blue which are already there.

Of course, someone who has familiarised himself with scientific mental pictures feels such a thing as a closed line of thought. Because this is in such a way, anthroposophy that wants to extend scientific severity to the spiritual area has a hard time. But not from some abstract sentences, but from the whole spirit of that what I have to bring forward in these talks should arise that anthroposophy does not contradict natural sciences, but that it continues and develops these natural sciences completely, although it follows a way from the sense-perceptible area to the spiritual life.

However, it meets countless prejudices there. As an anthroposophist, one knows best of all how enchanting prejudices are and how they evoke opposition. Since “proofs,” as one knows them in the usual science and in the usual life, absolutely exist within anthroposophy; but one has to understand them different from the “proofs” of the usual science. Above all that what one wants to investigate is a given. Nobody can deny that the world of the senses puts questions to us. This is not the case with anthroposophy. There the world itself must be disclosed first, about which one has to talk. Hence, a lot of the validity of anthroposophy depends on the fact that one realises: the preparatory work in the own soul that the spiritual researcher has carried out is necessary to come into the world at which he wants to look.

In science, one works on a certain basis, and then only the intellectual activity begins. In anthroposophy, the soul has to work at first, and its work is not something that finds laws about other things, but its work is something at first by which it prepares itself to observe what it concerns in the spiritual world, actually.

There one recognises that for the anthroposophically oriented spiritual science the following must be demanded what the present acknowledges only reluctantly: if one wants to attain insight of the supersensible world, one has to develop the appropriate abilities in the soul. Then it is possible to develop abilities from the undifferentiated human soul that lead to the view of the spiritual world.

Today I do not want to go into this preparation. Today I would like to refer only to my books, in particular to my writings How Does One Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds? and Occult Science. An Outline, in which I have shown what the soul has to carry out with itself, so that it becomes able to perceive in the spiritual world. It can attain this ability only if it makes its inner being independent from the body. Because I do not want to be repetitive, I will today not speak of how one attains such abilities. I would like only to state something of the peculiarities of this spiritual way into the supersensible area.

I would like to pronounce a truth which appears weird at first, concerning this way. The spiritual researcher must develop abilities of a path of knowledge that refers to things, which every human being would like to do the object of his consideration unless some scientific or other prejudices retain him from it. The everlasting of the soul, the nature of the human freedom and everything that is associated with it are questions for every human being. The old instinctive knowledge dealt with them. The spiritual-scientific knowledge has to go such a path of knowledge, which refers to something that everybody desires. However, the ways into this supersensible area are less popular, are almost rejected because of certain peculiarities of the human nature. There one has to consider the following in particular.

Forming mental pictures and concepts we are used to founding them on something essential that approaches us regardless of these mental pictures and concepts. We are connected as physical human beings with that which exists about which we form our mental pictures to which they refer. However, we are not immediately connected with that what the supersensible knowledge refers to. Hence, this supersensible knowledge makes use of a bigger strength of the soul than the knowledge of the sense-perceptible outside world that just is there from the start. Many people shrink from this inner strengthening of the soul life because it does not immediately refer to a being and appears as something fantastic. One can understand very well that someone who does not penetrate deeper into the matter considers the mental pictures and concepts of spiritual science as fantasy pictures because he is accustomed only to accept the mental pictures of the physical reality. However, that of the supersensible world in which the human being is interested above all must be grasped in such mental pictures of the supersensible cognition, which must be pulled out of the depths of the soul. This can happen only with stronger forces than they are necessary in the everyday life.

In the today's talk, I do not want to speak how one investigates them, but how they are in a certain respect.

The human being is used: if he forms a mental picture of something that proceeds as it were in reality, he just has a picture of something real; then he can remember it; it remains in his memory. This is a peculiarity of our usual imagining, which gives us life security, so that we can keep that, what depicts the outer world. If the spiritual researcher brings up those forces from the depths of his soul that enable him to behold into the supersensible world, he can look with the “beholding consciousness” as I have called this ability in my book The Riddle of Man. However, if he wanted to keep the beheld in mind in the same way as something of the outer sense-perceptible world, he would do a vain attempt at first. Experiences of the spiritual world, experiences that refer to the everlasting, to the immortal of our soul can be recognised with supersensible cognitive forces; but they cannot be added to the memory, they are fugitive as dreams are and are forgotten straight away.

Now you may say, may one consider this knowledge generally only as results of a fugitive dream?—One has to say, definitely yes, in a certain sense! Now the following is valid: one has to prepare the whole soul condition in a way to be able to behold into the supersensible realm; one must cause such an inner constitution every time anew so that the vision can appear. One can remember the activities that one carries out in the soul. If one has attained an insight of this or that event or being of the spiritual world, one knows which exercises one has to carry out, so that this vision can take place. Should this vision take place again after some time, one has to produce the same conditions in the soul. One can remember these conditions. What one beholds has to appear again anew. This is a big difference compared with the usual knowledge.

The spiritual researcher cannot experience something once—as paradox as it sounds—, and learn it by heart to bring it back to life again in himself like a memory.

No, if he wants to face the same spiritual being or the same spiritual event again, then he has to cause the opportunity in himself to experience it again. As weird as it sounds, if the spiritual researcher speaks of the most elementary truths—for example, during five successive days to any audience—, and he wants to speak in such a way that the spoken comes immediately from the spiritual experience, then he must do this spiritual experience every time anew. I want to express with it that one of the most important laws of our spiritual experience is: while our sensory images seem—it only seems so—, as if they could emerge later again from memory, as if they were a spiritual possession, this does not at all apply to the praxis of spiritual knowledge. One has to attain spiritual knowledge always anew.

Why do I explain just this? I would especially like to point out here that the appropriation of the spiritual-scientific way is by no means a necessity for everybody who wants to deal with spiritual science. Indeed, today it is a general aspiration to get to know to a certain degree what one should believe; and in this respect, it is justified if those who hear about spiritual science and its results ask, how can I myself conceive of such things?—However, the essentials of the relation of the human being to spiritual science are not at all that one becomes a spiritual researcher. Since the spiritual-scientific way can give life something, and the immortal life, too, only if that which appears in the vision is transformed into usual concepts. The spiritual researcher could be an ever so sophisticated being concerning supersensible knowledge, as a human being he would have nothing over any other human being because of his vision; since everything that takes place in this vision is only a way, is not the goal. The goal is to transform that what is attained with the vision into human concepts, in those mental pictures, which we have just attained in the outer sense-perceptible world even if a lot must seem to be pictorial what we express with such mental pictures attained in the sense-perceptible world.

Unless anybody wants to become a spiritual researcher, he could adopt what the spiritual researcher finds with his research. The results which he gets are clear for themselves if one is only enough unbiased. The possession of this knowledge in the usual human imagination—not in the supersensible beholding—constitutes the real treasure for life. The spiritual researcher would have nothing of his spiritual research if he wanted to indulge himself only in the supersensible beholding; this would be more transient than the usual outer sensory results. The point is that the transient vision is transformed into usual mental pictures. The soul can take them with it if it enters another spiritual life after death. You cannot take the visions as such with you, only that which the vision brings.

I have to say this once with any sharpness because even with many persons who are within the anthroposophic movement the prejudice prevails, as if a withdrawal from the outer world, from life, or a mystic deepening is important. That is not the point. The point is that one finds with certain soul exercises what applies to the supersensible world and that it can be transformed into usual human concepts. Nevertheless, it is entitled if the desire exists that everybody wants to behold into the spiritual world to a certain degree.

Literature accommodates this wish. This just corresponds to a demand of our time to believe not only, but to behold independently. However, this is not the central issue. When I have described the path of knowledge in detail with which one enters in the spiritual world, it is first to satisfy the mentioned needs, secondly, however, mainly because the spiritual researcher has to regard as a goal to give an account of how he has come to his truths.

Then, however, also that who reads such a writing as, for example, How Does One Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds? or the second part of my Occult Science, can realise from the way, how the spiritual researcher describes the spiritual-scientific path that it does not concern any speculative fiction but a real entering into the supersensible world. He can realise as it were how an account is given of a reality.

This is something again that one has to add to the fact that in many respects the proofs that the spiritual researcher has to adduce have to be different from usual. The spiritual researcher has just to claim that one acknowledges the entitlement of the way that he gives bit by bit and which leads into the spiritual world. However, if he emphasises such a special peculiarity of the vision as the just suggested one is—that the beholding into the spiritual world does not at all comply with our usual soul life—, then I do this just because I want to characterise the supersensible world which you enter there.

For the usual soul life it is typical that we keep in mind what we have taken up once from the sense-perceptible world; this does not apply to the vision. While I pronounce such a thing, I point to the fact that the existence in the spiritual world is quite different from the existence in the sense-perceptible world. I state peculiarities of the spiritual world as it were; I show that one enters into a world that does not at all combine with our body as the sense-perceptible world combines with it. The sense-perceptible world combines in such a way if we perceive it with our body that we can keep the percepts in mind. The spiritual world is so far away from our body that it does not cause the changes in our body that induce memories.

This is just a peculiarity of the spiritual world that you have to consider. The right knowledge of this peculiarity is just a proof, that you are with the vision in a world that is not at all concerned with our body. That is why it is completely entitled to say, while everything that is perceived in the body causes memories more or less, that which is perceived if the soul is beyond the body, like in the vision, does not cause any memories because it is only related to our supersensible soul, not to our body.

Other peculiarities of the supersensible world are also mentioned for the same reason and in the same sense. In the usual sense-perceptible world, the matter is as follows: if you repeat a mental picture over and over again—how much educational is based on it!—, then it becomes more familiar to us, we can keep them better in mind, it combines better with our soul. The opposite is the case for what we experience in the spiritual area. As weird as it sounds, one can almost say, if I have a spiritual experience and I try to have it once again, it is not easier but more difficult. One cannot exercise to get spiritual experiences better and better.

With it something very typical is connected. There are persons who strain to get insights of the spiritual world by certain soul exercises. Forces slumbering in the depths of every soul are called that way. Thereby once a blissful, often great experience takes place, fugitive like a dream. It may not appear again for a second or third time even if the person concerned makes any effort to cause the same soul condition again. One can almost say, a right spiritual experience escapes from us if it has been there once, and we must make stronger efforts if we want to get it again.

Often those are surprised who have made the first efforts that a very significant spiritual experience does not always re-appear. I also bring in this to show how the experiences of the seer are quite different from the experiences that one has in the sense-perceptible world.

Another peculiarity is the following: you feel, while you advance in spiritual knowledge, that you have to cope with the events that face you spiritually with the ripe state of your power of imagination if you do not want to get to fantastic images. Hence, you have to realise that the preparation for the vision is of particular importance. You must already have developed a ripe and versatile power of imagination, so that you can cope with the spiritual experiences. This is again completely different from the usual sense-perceptible world. There this area of perception is spread out before us; we get more and more images of this area; we enrich our images with it. After we have had the perception, we enrich our mental pictures. With the spiritual experiences, it is just the opposite: We have first to make our mental pictures rich and versatile, so that they are prepared if we want to have supersensible experiences. This is something else than it is in the usual life and in the usual science.

With that, I wanted to indicate that the way leads us to quite different experiences and percepts in the supersensible area. Many people shrink from this other kind of perceiving, from this quite different kind of having concepts and mental pictures. Hence, spiritual science will depend, above all, on the fact that the human beings again find courage and strength to form such mental pictures that are not borne by the available sense-perceptible world.

However, mainly the scientific way of thinking develops these mental pictures. Because it has achieved great results, it has led the human beings away from the spiritual cognition for a while. Nevertheless, it will lead them back again to this spiritual cognition. Just because it points always to the material and the human beings also see through the material more and more, they will be urged to acknowledge that one has to search the spiritual in another way.

There I would like to show using certain research results of spiritual science how human knowledge will generally become something else if bit by bit the spiritual science intervenes in the pursuit for knowledge. Those listeners who listen to me more often know that I speak about something personal only reluctantly. However, I would like to indicate something because it is associated as it were with that which I have to argue: what I say now about the relation of soul and mind to the body is the result of my research for more than thirty years. Since in the spiritual area one does not obtain the things as in the laboratory one can infer from any object or any process what is to be said about it if one has developed the method. The spiritual research proceeds mainly in time. It concerns that then only one conceives of certain things if one can relate experiences with each other that are widely separated in terms of time.

The progress of the usual scientific knowledge and of the usual consciousness to the spiritual-scientific knowledge can be compared with the unmusical listening of single tones and the musical understanding of melodies or harmonies. If one hears a single tone, it is a perception just of this single tone; it is a single experience. If one wants to enter into the world of music, the single tone is to be related to other tones, and then it becomes what it is only because it is related to other tones. In the usual percipience, the soul relates to a sensory outside world. This one can compare with the perception of the single tone. In the spiritual cognition, the soul has to relate to that what proceeds in time. I want to indicate only that it is, for example, of big importance that the spiritual researcher is able to experience that which he experiences in his soul today not only as a single event of the immediate present existence but that he can relate it to an experience which maybe dates back a year as well as a tone of a melody relates to another tone of the melody if a musical conception should be there.

As one is connected by the usual percipience with the soul, with something spatial, one is connected by the spiritual experience at first with the present experience, relates it then to something that is brought up vividly from the past. One looks from an event of the past at a present experience and then from an event which is even further away. While looking within time, the soul experiences are structured, so that one may say, the usual cognition becomes something like a musical overview of the mental.

The soul is thereby not only enabled to adopt what it experiences in the body. But it relates what it experiences and remembers between birth and death—like the ear relates a tone to another in a melody—, to that which is there before birth or conception and which is there after death. However, the soul has to prepare itself for it while it relates single experiences like the tones of a melody to each other within the life between birth and death; it not only lives through the single experiences, but also extends the experience over time and experiences the different gradations, the differentiations in time like inner music.

What also appears is not only inner music, but also something that is like inner reading or listening of words where one hears not only tones which relate to other tones of melodies or harmonies, but also express a sense. Then that will originate for the spiritual researcher which I can characterise in such a way that I say, the usual scientific consideration looks at the things as one would look at a printed page if one described the form of the letters only. This method, applied to nature, is natural sciences. This is a description of the letters. The spiritual researcher learns to read. He goes adrift completely from reading letters. What he finds in nature as something supersensible relates to that what is spread out in nature before the senses like the sense of something read and heard that one takes in to the single tones that form the words, or to the single letters that are printed on paper.

However, this depends on an inner progress to which one also comes if one is not an esoteric student, but if one only grasps the concepts and mental pictures of spiritual research. One gets to know the world as it were in its real harmony; one gets to know the sense that is behind this “sounding” world, comparatively spoken.

In such a way, something has arisen to me spiritual-scientifically in the course of more than three decades that I would like to pronounce as the coherence of the mental-spiritual with the bodily that will also arise to natural sciences, which are still far away from it in the next time. Since spiritual research and natural sciences will meet each other in the middle, spiritual research from the spiritual side, natural sciences from the material side.

What I have to bring forward I have found spiritual-scientifically. However, already the modern natural sciences, physiology and biology, offer sufficient opportunity to harden completely what I have now to bring forward as a spiritual-scientific result. Considering the coherence of the soul with the body one cherishes, I would almost like to say, a fateful one-sidedness.

If you take a textbook of psychology, you will realise that you find a consideration of the nervous system as introduction. This is completely entitled from the scientific point of view. One can absolutely say, the naturalist can only relate the soul unilaterally to the nervous system. An entire consideration of life proves something else, namely that only one part of the mental experience may be directly related to the nervous system, namely only the imagining activity. So that we can say, the whole imagining activity finds—we use the term—its physical counter-image in the nervous system.

The nervous system is the physical basis of the imagining activity, but not of the emotional life. The scientific psychologists put the emotional life in second place. Theodor Ziehen (1862-1950) does not regard—rightly from his point of view—the emotional life as something independent; he speaks only of the “emotional emphasis of the mental pictures.” Every mental picture would have as it were an “emotional nuance.” This contradicts the usual soul experiences. For these the emotional life is as real as the imagining activity. It is not only any “emotional nuance” of our mental pictures, but the emotional life develops beside the imagining activity. If one relates this emotional life directly to the nervous life as the imagining activity refers to it, one commits an error. Since as the imagining activity is directly associated with the nervous system, the emotional life is directly associated with all rhythmical processes of respiration and blood circulation especially with the subtler ramifications of the rhythmical system. These rhythmical processes are the physical basis of the emotional life.

I know very well that numerous objections may arise if I pronounce such a thing. I cannot come on everything, but I would like to mention one thing only, bring in one example only how one has—indeed, much more precisely than the “exact” science—to bear down on these things if one wants to recognise them in their true figure.

There, for example, somebody could say, oh well, there comes somebody and explains amateurishly that the emotional life seizes the rhythmical processes in the body as directly as the imagining activity seizes the nervous life. Does he not know that, for example, if any musical impression takes place in us, we take it in with the ear that it is delivered at first as an image that in this living in the musical image the aesthetic experience is contained that it is nonsense to say, the feeling, which is connected with a musical impression, is not a result of the imagining activity?

I know that this objection, actually, must be generally valid for the today's mental pictures; however, it is not valid for the reality. We have only to realise that that which we take in as the sound picture with our ear is not yet the musical experience. It becomes musical experience only if the sound image is coming up to meet what reaches the brain from the ramifications of the respiratory rhythm. The rhythm of breathing, which reaches the brain, meets the sound image, which penetrates into the brain; it is the bodily counter-image of the musical impression. The whole emotional life is originally associated with the rhythmical life in our body.

Thirdly, we have the will in our soul. As well as the imagining activity is associated with the nervous life, the emotional life is associated with the rhythmical interplay of the forces which originate from the respiratory rhythm and from the blood rhythm, any will impulse is associated with metabolism. As weird as it sounds, all will processes are directly expressed in metabolic processes. I have published these scientific results in my last book The Riddles of the Soul for the first time, indeed, in a shorter form because of the present paper shortage.

However, one has to envisage that the nervous system, the rhythmical system, and the metabolic system are not next to each other in the organism. The nerves must be also nourished, of course. So that perpetually food processes take place in the nerves. Of course, all organs of the rhythmical movements must be nourished, too

Three members of the organism penetrate each other. But a precise research shows that that which is metabolism, for example, in the nerves has nothing to do with imagining but with the will process, which extends also into the imagining. Of course, if I want to imagine anything, I will imagine it; directing my attention upon the imagining is already a will process.

The embryonic state that is associated with the will is also associated with the metabolism in the nervous system. But the essentials of imagining are connected with processes which have nothing to do with the metabolism, but, on the contrary, which deal with a metabolic destruction which deal with something in the nerves that can be compared not with metabolism, but rather with a withdrawal of metabolism, with the emergence of hunger. Save that, one deals with a destruction in the nervous system that must not be confused with the destruction in the whole organism.

Such mistakes have happened. Just while I point to such mistakes, I can emphasise the characteristic of anthroposophy compared with older and even today-approved spiritual currents. Who does not know that what the new spiritual science attempts to attain with inner soul exercises which are not concerned with anything bodily, one tried to attain in former times on such ways which were much concerned with all kinds of bodily performances, with asceticism. Think only that certain mystics produced their union with the spirit by starving, by destruction of the organism. True spiritual research has nothing to do with those ways. However, spiritual research must point to the fact that a destruction that is not abnormal but normal, takes place in the nervous system if the imagining should find its expression by the nervous system. I have pointed out in the talk that I have here held weeks ago that the consciousness that one experiences in the imagining activity is associated with death. I have even pronounced the sentence: while we are imagining, we die down perpetually in the nervous system.

Only if such mental pictures are formed, natural sciences will be able to meet spiritual research. Hence, we have to say, the tripartite soul life, imagining, feeling, and willing, is connected with the whole body, not only with a part of the body; since the whole body is involved with its three organic members, the nervous system, the rhythmical system and the metabolic system. Our soul life is not unilaterally connected with our nervous system, but the whole soul finds its expression in the whole body. This is a result of spiritual science that thinking, feeling, and willing have their counterparts in the body.

However, just as these three members of the human soul life have their bodily counterparts, they have their spiritual counterparts. As imagining is connected with the nervous system, it is connected with something spiritual that can only be grasped with spiritual cognition, which I have called the Imaginative knowledge. It is the first level of spiritual knowledge, the first level of the beholding in the spiritual world.

As well as we find the nervous system as a bodily counterpart of the imagining activity, we find the imagining activity arising from something spiritual that can only be grasped with the first level of supersensible beholding with the so-called Imaginative knowledge. In a reality that appears in pictures, one can recognise what corresponds spiritually to the imagining activity. At the same time, we face what penetrates our whole existence from birth or conception until death as body of formative forces. While the substances of our physical body are substituted perpetually, the uniform body of formative forces that is at the same time the spiritual basis of our imagining activity remains to us from birth until death.

Let us consider the emotional life. To the bodily side it is connected with the respiratory rhythm and the blood rhythm; on the other side it is associated spiritually with something spiritual that can be grasped on a higher level of vision that I have called the Inspired knowledge in my writings, which does no longer need pictures, but arises without pictures in the supersensible world. However, if this spiritual origin of our emotional life is figured out with supersensible knowledge, it is not that which extends from birth to death, but which we possess in the spiritual world, before we go by birth to the bodily life with which we walk through the gate of death. Since uniting spiritually with that what forms the spiritual basis of the emotional life means: extending the vision beyond birth and death.

In such a way as our will life is associated with the metabolism of the body, it is associated with the highest that the human being can attain in vision, with that what I have called Intuitive cognition. I do not mean the usual washed out intuition, but that what I have characterised in my books as an Intuitive knowledge: I have called the real settling in the spiritual world Intuitive knowledge. This is the highest spiritual level that the human being can attain.

Now the strange appears: while the metabolism is the lowest of the body side, is that what spiritually corresponds to the will the highest that forms the basis of our being. What we have to acknowledge as the highest between birth and death, the nervous system that corresponds to the imagining activity is based on the lowest of the spiritual world, namely that what one can attain with Imaginative knowledge.

The human being realises one thing in particular if he gets to know the relationship of his spiritual-mental with this spiritual to be grasped with Intuition. However, I can characterise this only in the following way. It is not only anything that one experiences in the vision but something that every human being can experience who understands the results of spiritual research with common sense. If one accepts these spiritual-scientific results really, one gets to know what spirit is, then this means something special. This event may be described because it intervenes as something particular in the soul, this event that wakes our internal consciousness for the first time: now I know what, actually, spirit is what the everlasting is in my soul.

One can call this experience only in such a way that one says, it is an inner karmic experience. The whole human life changes possibly, gets another direction under the influence of this experience which makes known itself in the fact that we know what spirit is in us. We thereby do not need getting dull towards other karmic experiences. Indeed, we experience events in the outer life where we are on top of the world or down in the dumps. The spiritual researcher does not want to get dull towards these experiences. On the contrary, he becomes more sensitive of them because he also figures out the spiritual side of all that.

Whatever meets him in the outer life, the intervention of that what is the experience of the spirit, of the everlasting in itself is a bigger break in life, a more radical karmic situation. One recognises with it how one causes karma, because one must cause spiritual knowledge with own forces as one causes twists and turns in life, while spiritual knowledge becomes a vital question of the very first degree. This gives the understanding of the remaining human destiny, but also full understanding of Intuition. Then one notices with which the human will is associated on the spiritual side.

Then one evokes a force by such a karmic intervention in the soul life that does not only lead the supersensible cognition to that which appears in the life between birth and death, not only to that what takes place in the life between death and a new birth but to that everlasting-spiritual core that works in the repeated lives on earth. What the human being represents in his innermost core, he recognises it as associated with the impulses which have been there in former lives on earth. What he experiences now as destiny, while he performs own actions, becomes to him if the knowledge has become destiny, in such a way that he also knows it as basis of the following life on earth.

With the coherence of the tripartite soul life one gets to know the transient in the human being. With the relation of these three soul members with the spiritual one gets to know the immortal, the everlasting that goes through births and deaths, so that one surveys this entire human life which proceeds in successive lives on earth and in intermediate spiritual lives between death and a new birth. Thus, one beholds into the everlasting in the human life other than with philosophical speculations.

Not with conceptual analysis or conceptual synthesis spiritual research attempts to lead into that everlasting while it evokes the view of this everlasting. What we are as temporal-bodily beings has developed from the everlasting which consists of the Imaginative, Inspired and Intuitive part, as our body consists of the nervous system, the rhythmical system and metabolism.

These are some research results about the everlasting in the human soul. The human freedom can only be attributed to this everlasting. The naturalist must stop within the transient experience: in the nervous system, in the rhythmical system that he does not at all investigate even in this respect, and in the metabolism that he confuses with the nervous life even today, while he also looks in the metabolism for the basis of the nervous life. The naturalist must stop within this material life. Hence, he also finds something for every act of volition that produces this act of volition. However, if one recognises the everlasting in the soul, one recognises that this everlasting has contents in itself which are independent of the bodily life, then that becomes reality which one experiences as freedom internally. Why?

Well, I have just explained in the last talks and in the today's one that in us a destructive process must take place that consciousness is similar in a way to death that there are death processes in the nervous system if we form a conscious mental picture. However, thereby it arises to spiritual research that not everything that belongs to the soul being is an outflow of the bodily being, but that the bodily being is only the basis of the soul experience and that this soul experience finds just its basis in the bodily life if this bodily life does not develop its growing forces, but if these growing forces are diminished. Processes of degeneration in us form the basis of the conscious soul life. Natural sciences will discover that this truth complies absolutely with the scientific results.

I point only to the fact that the nerve cells are not divisible, for example, while the reproductive cells are divisible. The typical abilities of the growing cells have just been diminished in the nerve cells and in the red blood cells for the same reason. No plant-like growing corresponds in the body to the conscious life but destructive processes. So that—where in us conscious life should develop—the bodily life must be deleted first.

Spiritual science recognises the soul life in its independence. With it, the concept of freedom gets a sense only, and it becomes completely compatible with the concept that natural sciences develop completely rightly in their area, with the concept: that our organism causes everything that appears in our actions, in our will impulses. These scientific mental pictures exist completely rightly.

Nevertheless, the organism just causes,—just because it serves as basis of the consciousness—that it annihilates its processes that it withdraws compared with the conscious processes. With it, the concept of freedom gets sense that we can characterise possibly in the following way with a comparison: the child is physically a result of the parents; but it goes adrift from the parents. If we look for the causes, we have to search them with the parents. However, if the child has grown up and acts independently, we cannot always ascribe its actions and that what it is to the parents. If the child carries out this or that, after it is thirty years old, we do not ascribe the causes to the parents. Thus, the spiritual life goes adrift from the bodily life, so that the law of the conservation of energy is accomplished after any causality. However, as with the child the cause is in the parents, and the child grows up and becomes independent, the soul life evolves into the independence from the body in which are the causes of the soul life.

With it, I have pointed out comparatively how the concept of freedom receives a sense, while we do not explain this soul life from the bodily conditions, but from the independent spiritual life that goes through births and deaths. We can ascribe freedom to this spiritual-mental being. Freedom was philosophically treated always in such a way that one spoke of either-or: either the human being is free, or he is not free. I have already shown in my Philosophy of Freedom that one copes with the concept of freedom if one envisages the independent soul life. However, this independent soul life is only gradually gained in the course of the physical human development. One cannot say that the human being is either free or is not free. One can only say that freedom is something that the human being acquires in the course of his development that he approaches it more and more. He approaches it, while he supplies the forces to the internal spiritual-mental being, which strengthen it in such a way that it can develop causality for the human action, for the human will.

This is a weird contradiction, isn't it? On one side, one states that from the body between birth and death everything has to come that the human being puts into his action; on the other side the independent free soul life is claimed.

I would like to bring to mind again by a comparison what it concerns. Let us assume that we have an air-evacuated container. The air flows into it if we open this container.

The free human decision is related in this way to an intended action. The following will already turn out by spiritual research: if the human being does not follow the impulses of his instincts, but that what I have called the purely spiritual impulses in my Philosophy of Freedom to which he has to bring himself. Then he does not let that willing immediately take place which originates from bodily causes. Indeed, the free action also takes place in such a way that bodily causes are there. However, these bodily causes are first prepared in such a way that the free concept, the free mental picture spiritually creates a void as it were, and the effect on our body follows that action which is completely conceived by our soul. As the air streams from without into the void after purely natural causes, the body carries that out according to its laws, which are now purely scientific ones, what was prepared only in it, while the free soul decision created the basis.

Tomorrow we will build on this concept of freedom, and then I will still explain it further. I wanted to show how the concept of freedom is only conceivable if one rises by spiritual research to that soul life which is independent of the bodily life. The free action only originates from the Intuitive, Inspired, and Imaginative parts of the human being.

What arises from spiritual science for the social-moral concepts that are for our tragic present of so big significance what arises for legal concepts, for the outer social life, I want to explain tomorrow. Today I only wanted to show that anthroposophy can absolutely compete concerning the seriousness and the precision of its research with natural sciences. However, I also wanted to show that for the spirit quite different ways must be taken that spiritual research itself throws its light also on nature that the whole spiritual-mental human being is assigned to the whole physical human being, his nervous system, rhythmical system and metabolism. Just because spiritual science will work with natural sciences in harmony, something great will arise for the progress of humanity.

Today one often likes to refer to Goethe. I have said in the last talk here that I would like to call my spiritual science “Goetheanism” and the building in Dornach “Goetheanum.”

The young Goethe already looked at nature not as anything that can be exhausted by such mental pictures as the modern monistic or similar worldviews have them. However, Goethe already appealed as a young man to nature in his prose hymn Nature: “She has thought and is continuously reflecting.” Spiritual science does not at all struggle for words. If anybody wants to call that “nature” what consists of matter and spirit in the world and looks for the spirit in nature only, then he may call the whole universe “nature.” If he goes so far like Goethe saying: “Nature thinks and is continuously reflecting”—even if not as a human being, but as nature, then already the concept of spirit is included for such a thinker like Goethe in the concept of nature.

To those who would like to derive from this recognition of the concept of nature that the Goethean view is consistent with any view of the limits of knowledge that one cannot penetrate into the spiritual world one has to answer repeatedly as Goethe did to the very meritorious physiologist Albrecht Haller (1708-1777) who was absolutely right from his viewpoint saying:


“No created mind penetrates

Into the being of nature.

Blissful is that to whom she shows

Her appearance only!”


Goethe protested against this naturalist. By his protest, he made clear that the human being can find those cognitive forces in himself that do not put the spirit as something unfathomable to him, but as something into which he can enter gradually with industrious, exact spiritual research. Since Goethe argued in old age against Haller's words on basis of a matured knowledge:


O you Philistine!

Do not remind me

And my brothers and sisters

Of such a word.

We think: everywhere we are inside.

“Blissful is that to whom she shows

Her appearance only!”

I hear that repeatedly for sixty years,

I grumble about it, but covertly,

I say to myself thousand and thousand times:

She gives everything plenty and with pleasure;

Nature has neither kernel nor shell,

She is everything at the same time.

Examine yourself above all,

Whether you are kernel or shell.


These words make us aware of the true Goetheanism, which acknowledges the possibility to penetrate with the human mind into the spirit of the universe and to recognise the immortality and freedom of the human nature.

Tomorrow, I would like to speak how necessary it is for our practical life to envisage such social ideas that originate from spiritual research to show that spiritual research is an uninvited guest only for those who attribute no other needs to the human being than those, which can be satisfied with the mechanistic knowledge. If one still gets to know other needs of the human being, one will also recognise the necessity of spiritual research in the social-moral area.