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Freedom - Immortality - Social Life
GA 72

IX. How Does One Justify the Anthroposophical Psychology?

9 December 1918, Basel

Someone who pursues the spiritual life in the present recognises that many contemporaries search something exceptionally uncertain that they — if they want to form mental pictures of their human condition — do not know with which they should comply.

If you go into the reasons impartially why their search is so uncertain, you find probably that just the scientific insight into the outer processes of the world existence and the consequences arising from it for the practical life cause that.

One may easily say that this scientific insight, this habit of understanding the world scientifically works on the human being that the fact is associated with it that it is impossible to penetrate into the mental area in this way. Perhaps it will arise just from the today's considerations that it is connected with the triumph of scientific knowledge that natural sciences cannot explain the human soul life with their means.

However, this scientific way of thinking arrogates all habitual ways of thinking of the modern human being to itself in a way. It has changed certain mental pictures of the soul structure. If one sees back how before the rise of the modern cultural life the world was considered, it becomes apparent that the human being of that time formed mental pictures of the world that were suitable to get to information of the natural processes and of the soul life at the same time. Today one does not always note because we are not used to observing the development of the soul life properly how much the today's mental pictures differ from the older ones.

On the other side, all confessions are echoes from old times. In them, a certain way has remained to think about the human soul and its position in the world. The scientific authority has made that totter.

Today the human being is no longer content with that what is delivered to him from old times because he is accustomed to look scientifically at the world, and wants to have explanations about the position of his soul in the universe and his development from science. However, there one has just to admit that that which science offers cannot satisfy him. If one considers that what, for example, a philosophical psychology just offers, the human being who tries honestly to approach this psychology can find nothing of which he can make anything. There are striking examples of the fact that that is right which I have just said.

There is the strange philosopher Richard Wahle who is oddly discontented with his science which pretends to be able to give some indication of the most essential in the human being, but to which he cannot ascribe that it can give such explanation. I have pointed to that already last time.

I am not at all willing to awaken the belief that such single personalities with their views have a deeper influence on the thinking, on the mental pictures of the contemporaries. I believe that the opposite is true: in such personalities appears what pulsates in many contemporaries.

Well, this philosopher talks oddly about his philosophy. He says, one can compare the philosophers of former times — he is also extremely discontented with them — with cooks and waiters in a restaurant who pass rotten dishes to the people. However, one can compare the modern philosophers to cooks and waiters who are standing and have nothing to do in the restaurant. — So this philosopher wants to say about his science that it was good for nothing in old times, could not give any explanation of the most important in the human being and that it is not only good for nothing today, but also offers nothing.

As odd it is, if a man thinks about his science in such a way, nevertheless, it is justified that such phenomena appear in our time. Since with the appearance of the modern natural sciences mental pictures have formed which are substantially different from the old mental pictures that matched nature and spirit equally well according to the need of the past.

Psychology has not changed the old mental pictures. It has stopped at the old mental pictures with which the human being cannot be content just today because he has learnt to think scientifically, and because in him the unaware demand awakes to be able to investigate the soul also in such a way as natural sciences investigate the outer nature. This causes an inner conflict just with the best of our time.

This inner conflict comes to light in the fact that they have to recognise: in psychology that what is offered, consists partly of empty phrases. One wants to explain what is a mental picture, a feeling, or a will impulse. One wants to take this as starting point of the question for the transient or everlasting being of the soul. Someone who approaches these things with common sense notices very soon that he has, actually, nothing substantial, nothing real in that which is said about the soul life that the old mental pictures have lost their carrying capacity compared with the scientific mental pictures and that new ones have not yet been formed.

That is why people look around instinctively for a new psychology, for a new knowledge of the soul. However, there is not yet clarity in the public consciousness how one should search.

From these undergrounds, the anthroposophically oriented spiritual science has originated. One considers it today often as anything and everything, but not as that what it is. As the outflow of any sectarian current as something that wants to found a new religion or as the case may be. No, this anthroposophically oriented spiritual science wants to be that what the modern human being needs most of all.

It wants to give that with which one can comply if one should search the riddle of the human soul life in the modern sense. Indeed. The ways that this spiritual science has to take are so unusual to the modern thinking that many people find it difficult how one speaks about these things; others find it paradoxical or fantastic. However, every newly appearing spiritual achievement shares this fate with anthroposophy.

Hence, I would like to speak in particular about the most important soul questions and their coherence with the bodily life from the viewpoint of this science. At the beginning, I would like to point out that spiritual science is not that which a big part of our contemporaries imagines. On the contrary, the scientific progress urgently demands it. This scientific progress has just brought one thing nearer to the human beings with a certain authoritative habituation of thinking. This is the belief that there are certain limits of knowledge, which one cannot cross.

One says to himself, perhaps there is nothing beyond these limits of knowledge. On this side of the limits of knowledge is only the material world. — That is why either one has generally to refrain from assuming a mental-spiritual life, or alternatively one has to say to himself, one cannot cross the limits which separate us from this mental-spiritual life. It is this essential point which those realise who contemplate much about such things which, however, vaguely, subconsciously and instinctively worries all thinking human beings today. From this viewpoint, just spiritual science begins. Since it takes two inner experiences as starting points of this soul science, they are associated with the appearance of the limits of knowledge. It does not want to be contradictory in amateurish way to natural sciences if they arrive at limits of knowledge, no, it just tries to cope with the experience of the limits of scientific knowledge properly. Spiritual science does not theorise, but it attempts with the scientific methods to progress to cognition with the help of scientific mental pictures. It tries to find its way with full inner clearness to the point where one can have the feeling: here you stand at the limits of scientific knowledge. — Then it tries to experience what one can experience at these limits of knowledge.

Lo and behold, this psychology or soul science has to admit these limits of knowledge at first. Just while it familiarises itself thoroughly with how natural sciences do research, it gets to an experience at the limits of knowledge which I want now to characterise.

It says to itself, one can pursue processes of nature with scientific thinking, but one will always arrive at certain cornerstones of knowledge that one cannot pass. I could bring in many such cornerstones, but I want only to state “energy and matter.” The human being can realise if he develops scientifically that he can make progress with dismembering physical processes that then he feels compelled, however, to accept certain concepts, just energy and matter. He has to say to himself then, compared with these concepts that show realities in the sensory world you do not get further, there you cannot enter with natural sciences.

If you do not take the Kantian view one-sidedly as starting point, but check this inner experience at the limits of knowledge impartially, you ask yourself, why does this scientific method put us to such a limit, to certain cornerstones of thinking? — The human beings normally do not get on it because they do not order their thinking in such a way as I want to characterise it after, and, hence, they do not get to the observation of the inner life. They do not note that the human being himself is to blame for the fact that he has to approach such cornerstones. The human beings cannot ask themselves: why do we face such cornerstones? They cannot go over from such an experience to another scientific experience, to a soul experience. If you become able of it in a way, you experience limits of the scientific knowledge on one side.

Then you try on the other side to obtain clarity about the inner experience that you simply have if you face another person. You will note if you have developed your soul life: facing a physical process scientifically analysing is a different thing than facing a person with whom you want to consort, to come close emotionally. You notice if you can compare now in this area that that soul force which enables you to face the person with understanding builds a bridge between human being and human being and makes the human life only possible. This soul force — because it is always between us because it must also always be there because it cannot be neutralised if we do research scientifically — leads us to the limits of knowledge.

We could not simply feel love or sympathy from person to person if we did not have the soul force that obstructs the scientific cognition. Because the human being is a whole because he must also have the capacity for love and because this capacity for love is continuously active if one recognises scientifically, the scientific limits arise. The same force that allows us to love puts scientific limits to us. The spiritual researcher recognises if natural sciences were not put at limits, the human being could not love.

This one important experience activates the inner driving forces of the soul, so that one gets to the anthroposophically oriented spiritual science. You must not be an opponent of natural sciences; you must be able to react to them if you want to be active spiritual-scientifically. However, you have to change that what the naturalist normally has as a theory only into experience, and then from the experience appears that this is in such a way as I have just explained it with the peculiar interaction of the scientific cognitive faculties and the capacity for love.

Some people realise this consciously, some unconsciously. They feel it instinctively. Then they turn in another direction to overcome the limits of scientific cognition and to get to a knowledge of the soul. Then they search in mystic way what natural sciences cannot offer.

You realise from that which I have said that one cannot get with natural sciences to any soul research. However, one does wrong by spiritual science if one confuses it with mysticism. Since just as the spiritual researcher must have experienced that it is impossible to find his way to the mental area with scientific knowledge, so that he has the right starting point, he must also have the other experience that shows that the usual mysticism does not enter into the soul life.

Spiritual science imitates neither natural sciences nor mysticism. However, it has to have gone through the mystic experience, as well as it must have gone through the experience with natural sciences. As it has arrived at the limits of the scientific knowledge, it must get the insight on the other side that it is impossible to penetrate into the inner life with mysticism and to find thereby the core of the human soul, the connection with the everlasting. The spiritual researcher has also to know the mystic limits well. He has to recognise on the mystic ways that he enters into something uncertain that finally says nothing to him. Of course, this is only a sensation at first. If he continues investigating, he finds that also an inner soul force is active which prevents from obtaining a psychology with mysticism as the capacity for love prevents from getting to a psychology scientifically.

There appears the following: if the human being makes an effort ever so much with the usual consciousness to descend in his inside, nevertheless, he finds nothing but what has slipped in the soul life during the life between birth and death in any way. Of course, on this point scientists who tend to mysticism become entangled in a big vagueness. They often believe to be able to get out this and that with contemplation what can give some indication of the riddles of this soul life. However, today we have already advanced so far with researching the physical processes of the human being that we are no longer deterred by such a contemplation if we go forward thoroughly.

I want to bring in an example from literature as evidence as it were, so that you can check it.


(As in the previous talk, Steiner describes Louis Waldstein's experience where he was made smile while reading a title of a book because a hardly audible melody elicited a pleasant memory in him unconsciously.)


You realise how the human soul life functions, actually, how little one is inclined to pay attention in the usual life to this inner soul life and its structure.

However, the expert of this inner soul life knows first that a lot of that which the human being believes that he has not experienced it most certainly but originally gets out of the soul, is nothing but any memory of the childhood or youth or as the case may be. As mystic one is often inclined to believe, for example, that one can bring out something of his soul; and, besides, one brings out memories of his youth or as the case may be. But the expert knows that not only these impressions can change in the course of time that they become something quite different, yes ,that they change into symbols and are not at all similar to the original if they emerge again. Nevertheless, one deals with nothing but with that what one has just brought up. Thus ,there is many a mystic who gets percepts of the divine from his subconscious, of the eternity of the soul, great truths, as he means, and lo and behold: the great truths are nothing but the transformed tones of a barrel organ which have remained as memories. With it, I want to say only how necessary it is if one talks of mysticism to pay attention to these things.

It is true, spiritual science is not an intellectual game, but is scientifically founded. That is why it looks closely at the inner soul life. Then there it gets the result, why with the methods which I immediately want to characterise one finds an inner soul force that prevents us from descending in the everlasting core of the human being.

In exactly the same way as the capacity for love prevents us from penetrating into the inside of nature, there is a soul force which prevents us from descending in our inside. Without this inner soul force, our usual consciousness is not healthy. It is simply the memory that holds us together as human beings in our consciousness between birth and death. This memory power prevents that we look down into our everlasting because we can look with the usual consciousness only at that surface at which our experiences are reflected. Thus the memory power sets limits to us which the mystic experiences.

This is the second experience. The one is that you cannot get to the mental area with natural sciences; the other is that you cannot penetrate into your inside with mysticism because the memory power opposes. If one experiences spiritual research intensely, has experienced these things, one attains the force for further things just with the disappointments of these experiences, with the inner tragedy of these experiences. What does this other consist of? This other consists of the decision to renounce on one side to penetrate with the usual consciousness into the riddles of the things; but also to look for another consciousness at the same time. Both experiences induce the spiritual researcher to add another consciousness to the usual one.

The new psychology has to add to the old, no longer suitable psychology that one cannot get any information about the soul life with the usual consciousness, neither scientifically nor mystically, but that it must evolve into another consciousness.

Hence, the spiritual-scientific research develops such method by which a science is searched which does not only research with the usual consciousness, but which changes the soul into another state of consciousness in which one investigates the soul life. This new psychology is able not only to speak about words as the official psychology does today, but also to approach mental realities.

Now I want to indicate the methods of the development of the consciousness only in principle, which is able to lead into the riddles of the soul life. There you must develop a certain soul force at first that transforms your memory. The memory prevents us from penetrating into the human soul core.

You find viewpoints among the methods in my writings how one gets around to carrying out such internal soul performances without appealing to the memory. I may state here how I have noticed decades ago how difficult it is to change this inner soul force to get to soul research.


(As in the previous talk, Steiner tells how difficult it was for him as pupil to keep mathematical formulae in mind that he had to derive them, therefore, always ad hoc.)


I found out for myself that in the fact of not reflecting the memory is contained a soul arrangement. This was for me the starting point to look then further for those methods that I have described in my books and which consist in the fact that one envigours the imagining with meditation as usually the internal soul life with perceiving.

It is a certain liveliness in our soul life if we perceive with the senses and accompany the percepts with our mental pictures, isn't that so? While meditating you make this different. While meditating you use mental pictures that you have formed yourself that you can exactly survey with which you exactly know that they do not contain any memories, but you have created them yourself, you can survey them clearly.

To such mental pictures you dedicate yourself, strengthen the inner soul force gradually, — without getting to imagining with the outer percepts — so that it comes to life as the mental stay in percipience which is accompanied by mental pictures. However, you note something else if you pursue this spiritual research. It becomes obvious that the mental pictures that you grasp then, just the most essential, the most important and most basic ones, must be created always anew that they do not transition into memory. These mental pictures live in the soul without appealing to the memory.

What I say to you now, is just simple experience, it is something that one can only describe; of course everybody can say, this must be proved first. Inner experience does prove it. Not by spiritistic arrangements, not by any outer mechanistic things, but only by the fact that one evokes this quite different consciousness that does not appeal to memory you get around to beholding into the real spiritual life.

Since only such mental pictures that do not appeal to memory are suitable to lead into the spiritual life. Indeed, they only deliver pictures of this spiritual life at first. While the human being if he perceives with his senses has immediately the feeling — the epistemologists may argue against that — that he faces reality, the human being knows also if he advances to such imagining which does not appeal to memory that he can experience something with these mental pictures that he cannot experience, otherwise, but only in pictures. Now he gets clear on this level of the soul life, which he has reached in this way that he is related to the sense-perceptible world with his body as he is related with his soul to a spiritual world that emerges to him in pictures at first. A soul science of the present and the future is not possible, because the old one is no longer useful due to the scientific imagining, without this great experience.

It is significant that another consciousness can develop from the usual one and that this other consciousness gives information: not only a sense-perceptible world surrounds the human being, but also a spiritual world. As it is true that every human being lives with his body in the sense-perceptible world, it is true that he is with his soul in a spiritual world, in a world of macrocosmic beings. The human being if he has this experience ceases speaking with unclear pantheism: there is spirit and spirit and spirit... [Gap in the transcript].

Pantheism is nothing but an illusionary worldview. That what appears, indeed, only in pictures at first, is a concrete spiritual world that faces the soul in details as spiritual beings as the sense-perceptible world faces the soul in concrete details. However, these are pictures.

That is why I call the level of consciousness that the human being attains the Imaginative consciousness in meditative way. The spiritual world approaches the human being, as the sense-perceptible world approaches him in colours, in light and darkness. However, he also has the consciousness if he develops his imagining only, that he deals with pictures. You realise that a development of imagining is necessary if the human being should become able to behold into the spiritual world that way.

If the human being wants to get beyond the pictures to spiritual realities and beings, he has to develop not only the imagining but also the will. As we imagine in the usual consciousness, actually, only by the way and form thoughts about the outside world, — but this is more or less a concomitant —, the will is a concomitant for the usual consciousness.

We can observe the will as a rule only in such a way that we direct our activities upon the outside world. However, thereby we do not get to know the will really. If we think about the will, we do not cope with it. You normally do not look into this area. You realise with the usual consciousness only that the human being goes over from his inner life to an outer life, while he lets his will transition into the action, while his outer life just becomes a copy of his will impulses. By the observation of this will with the usual consciousness, you cannot penetrate into the being of the will.

It is about the following: as the imagining is developed to the Imaginative knowledge while one produces a certain relation to memory, a certain relation of the human will to the capacity for love has to be produced. This happens by the fact that as it were inner light is brought in the will that the human being becomes much more active internally in his will than he is usually. Thereby he can bring in the will into another sphere.


(As in the previous talk, Steiner mentions two ways of writing, a body-conditioned one and a kind of painting or drawing which such persons show who exhibited great capacity for love in their youth.)


This only shows that with the usual writing the human organisation is usually involved. However, he can also slip that in the writing what works, otherwise, only in the intellectuality or in the knowledge, he can slip the observation, the imagining in. However, this is connected internally. Even as it is connected with love if a person copies the letters in his whole life in such a way as if he were a painter or illustrator, the love penetrates objectively always into the will if the ability of observing joins the will. You can attain this with strict self-discipline, namely in the following way.

Someone who can look back only a little at his life knows that today he has another spiritual condition than ten years ago. Not only because we change because of new experiences, but also because our habitual ways of thinking have changed. However, we do this unconsciously for the most part. Life, education, the conditions bring us forward. Somebody who wants to research spiritually must be able to pursue this inner development consciously. He has to develop the power in himself that he really changes by his mental pictures, by his ideas. This simply belongs to the preparation of spiritual research.

You cannot penetrate into the inside of the spiritual life if you cannot incorporate the same development impulses by imagining. Consider only how the usual life works in this respect. People often have the best intentions if they want to cast off this or that quality or to appropriate this or that quality. They appropriate other qualities, but by education, by the conditions, by the outer life. Nevertheless, just the inner soul life is not strong enough to intervene in the will.

However, the methods that I have described in my books enable the core of the person to settle down into the will. Then a special development of the capacity for love takes place. While on the one side one has to develop an ability in the spiritual research, which does not appeal to memory, on the other side one has to develop an ability, which immensely deepens the capacity for love, makes it objective.

Since what militates against the fact that our innermost mental pictures transform us? Nothing but self-love. The possibility to change by inner imagining is because you can change self-love into objective love. If you progress this way, you can attain a state of consciousness that is different from the usual one. Then you may say to yourself, I have pictures; I know, there is a spiritual world around me in which my soul lives. Now I know: these pictures correspond to a reality that I touch because I have developed an impulse with systematic efforts.

You face now not only the pictures of spiritual beings but also the spiritual reality itself. You have attained this level. You have got out another consciousness from the usual one. You can now really figure out the human soul life with these just described abilities. Above all one thing becomes obvious that the spiritual researcher can describe only how he gets to these things. Then people may easily say: where are your proofs? — The proofs just are that he describes how he has got to these things that one can check these things with common sense and that every person can get around to them if he checks the things.

That which can appear, for example, as a first possibility if you have appropriated the abilities of this supersensible consciousness is that you can now give some indication of the rhythmical change of waking and sleeping what you could not do up to now because of the thresholds, the mystic one and the scientific one. If you have developed this consciousness, you wake in such a way that you know clearly: from falling asleep until awakening I had an inner soul life that is different from that while I am in my body, at no time I was in nothingness. Now you notice that beside the bodily processes the soul processes take place that they are drowned only from awakening until falling asleep by the bodily experiences. The human being lives from falling asleep until awakening in the spiritual world beyond his body and that which he experiences there is extinguished when he wakes up and enters into his body because he needs the bodily tools to get percepts. It is an echo there in the human being; but you recognise clearly that you have lived in the spiritual from falling asleep until awakening if you have learnt to live in such mental pictures that do not appeal to the memory.

Since this is just the interesting: we have a soul life from falling asleep until awakening, but we forget because we were trained to know that only with the usual consciousness that we can keep in mind. So that the healthy soul life can be, we cannot grasp the mental pictures of sleep in the usual consciousness, which are not designed to become memories in the usual sense but to be forgotten. We can grasp them only if we have a soul life that is not designed to oblivion but to memory.

Hence, we may say, as you look back at the room if you have advanced in the room, you can look back, if you have awoken, at that what you have experienced. Remembering changes into inner looking back. However, because you develop such abilities, it is given at the same time that these abilities of a supersensible consciousness increase more and more and you become more able to study the soul life.

You can study as a first, for example, the emotional life. It is good if you take your starting point from the emotional life and are oriented towards the experience of awakening and falling asleep with the developed abilities of the supersensible consciousness. If you investigate the feeling of the human being at any time of his life with the consciousness of which I have just spoken, the strange comes to light that in this emotional life everything flows together at one moment that one has experienced before and what one will still experience after.

I have attempted to ascertain this matter spiritual-scientifically with examples with which one can ascertain this, for example, with Goethe. One takes his feeling life in 1790. Now one can study what Goethe had experienced what he had thought and felt until 1790 and that what he experienced then from 1790 to 1832: if you take the basic character of the experiences before and after 1790 as effective, you find the emotional state of Goethe in 1790. The emotional state of a human being at any time is the confluence of his immediate past since his birth, and of that which he will experience until his death.

You will receive interesting results, for example, in the following way with this new psychology: you look for the soul life of persons shortly before they die. Someone who has an unbiased view realises everywhere that a rapid death expresses itself just in the emotional life; since the emotional life is the confluence of that what was there before, and what will be after, what is already there, however, like the summer lightning of the future, which expresses itself in the colouring of the feelings. Thus, you get to know the inside of the course of life, which consists mainly of flowing feelings. Then you can ascend, after you have investigated the feeling in this way, to imagining. However, you can explain the imagining only if you have enabled yourself by the development of the supersensible consciousness to look, for example, really at the moment of awakening where the awakening makes its impression in the body. You know that awakening is immersing in the body.

You recognise the independence of the soul in this way. Now you get to know that this awakening of the mental takes place repeatedly as it were in short, successive rhythms in the usual thinking and imagining. These rhythms take place in the ongoing usual consciousness what you hardly note what single modern psychologists have noted; John Ruskin (1819-1900, English art critic, social thinker) describes this in detail.

Hence, the real process is always in such a way that only a miniature of awakening is there. You are awaking perpetually if you go over from non-imagining to imagining. This is exceptionally important.

If you get to know the nature of imagining this way, you can build the bridge between imagining and awakening, you know that the imagining is only a minor awakening, you also know that the independent soul moves to and fro in the bodily. While one builds the bridge from imagining to awakening on the one side, one can get the ability to build the bridge from awakening to immersing of the mental in the bodily at conception or birth on the other side.

The spiritual-scientific psychology is able to point to this continuous way. If you get to know the imagining in its reality, the straight bridge leads from imagining to awakening, from observing the transition of the independent soul life to the bodily life, but from there the other bridge leads to the beholding of the spiritual life before conception. Someone who can bring that what he has developed in the supersensible consciousness into the usual imagining knows that he not only looks back at the former spiritual life, but he knows that this former spiritual life also works on the present imagining.

Here is the point where one can laugh even today or mock if spiritual science points to a pre-birth spiritual life of the soul, points to former lives on earth which one gets to know from own experience. One may laugh; but the way can be indicated with which this is scientifically investigated, after one has brought about the possibility of this scientific investigation.

As well as I have shown today how spiritual science originates, how it looks for the immortal of the human soul with conscientious research, and gets to the certainty of the immortality of the human soul by immediate perception, spiritual science is suitable to perform that which I shall bring forward the day after tomorrow of which many people believe today to perform it with quite different means. You cannot investigate the soul life unless you penetrate into the supersensible consciousness. You cannot investigate the basis of the social structure of the human society unless you penetrate with the means of the higher consciousness into the basis of the moral, the religious, the sociopolitical life in modern sense. It becomes necessary also historically that the human being, so that he can fulfil the big demands which face him from the necessities of the evolution, penetrates with this supersensible consciousness into that what people are thinking, doing and willing. I would like to show that the day after tomorrow. Today, however, I wanted only, I would like to say, to deliver the preparation of this talk which is more keeping with the times.

One has either to look for these new ways, which I have indicated, for a new psychology to satisfy the biggest inner needs or one would generally have — what would be unfortunate — no psychology. One will either search a new anthroposophic psychology or renounce any psychology. However, humanity will never do this.

Hence, someone who knows the spiritual way has the consciousness and hope that this spiritual way does not originate from mere subjective arbitrariness, but that it arises from the social progress of the human race and that, therefore, humanity will take it.