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Anthroposophy has Something to Add to Modern Sciences
GA 73

I. Anthroposophy and Psychology

5 November 1917, Zurich

Anthroposophy and psychology. Spiritual scientific findings concerning the human soul

Reference to ‘anthroposophy’ in this lecture is not to something coming from a sectarian movement or spiritual stream, but to something much more general and human—a spiritual stream that arises with an inner necessity at this time from the scientific approach that has evolved into its present form in recent centuries.

Please do not, however, think of this approach, which we refer to as ‘anthroposophy’, as the kind of logical consequence arising from consistent judgements based on scientific postulates. No, the idea is that this anthroposophy must develop in its own right, as a living structure, living experience, in an age when we have to think scientifically about many issues in life and in the world. It is more like a live offspring—if I may put it like this—of the scientific way of thinking than just a logical conclusion drawn from it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will have to try and make these four lectures on widely different fields in modern science into a whole. This means that individual lectures cannot be complete in themselves, and I would ask you to keep this very much in mind.

Beginning the series of lectures with a look at the relationship between anthroposophy and psychology seems natural and indeed obvious since in aiming to be orientated towards the world of the spirit, and seeking to obtain its findings from that world, we will have to be concerned in anthroposophy with the most inward affairs of the human being, that is, with human psychology. That is one side of it. On the other hand we have to consider that in the course of recent centuries, especially the 19th century, the science called psychology has taken on a very different character from that which it had just a short time before. It is exactly because scientific thinking has been applied in many spheres of life that psychology has become more of an enigma perhaps, has been found to be more full of riddles relating to life than any other field of scientific endeavour in recent times. It was only natural that in the light of the great, tremendous results achieved in scientific research, views and approaches based on scientific methods took hold, as it were, of everything that comes within the horizons of human knowledge. The scientific approach has therefore also extended its power, we might say, to the field of psychology in more recent times.

Let me immediately deal with a prejudice or misunderstanding that arises only too easily when it comes to anthroposophical research. People may say that those who do research with an anthroposophical orientation are not prepared to take account of the scientific advances made in recent times. The opposite is the case. The other lectures I will be giving here will show that modern science is in fact only given its proper due by providing it with the firm foundation which anthroposophy or the science of the spirit is able to provide for it. To some degree this will be evident as soon as we consider the relationship between anthroposophy and human psychology. Modern science is justified in making it an ideal to keep all natural processes that have been studied, the content of natural developments and facts of nature, separate from anything that has soul quality, never allowing anything that comes from subjective, psychological experience and therefore arises as inner experience, to be brought into scientific observations and experiments. That is the only way in which anyone using this modern scientific approach can hope that human beings will not cloud the objective view taken of facts in nature with anything they bring to nature out of inner inclinations or experiences.

It was only natural that such an ideal would give psychology a particular character, for in earlier times the soul did not relate to the outside world in the way it now must do in the scientific study of nature. Anyone who is seeking to get a feel for the scientific thinking and the views of the world held in earlier centuries, will find that in those earlier times people did not neatly keep the facts of nature which they sought to explain and understand apart from the soul’s inner response to these facts and to the symbolic, shall we say, or other ideas developed in relation to them. In a way, the experiences people had in relation to nature were mixed up with the objective facts of nature. However, as science itself was not yet free then from some of the things that came from the soul, people did not find themselves as puzzled as they do today when it comes to psychology. If you found soul qualities revealed in nature herself, and gained soul qualities as well as purely material facts from nature, you were also much more likely than now seems possible—when the aim is to consider nature in such a way that anything ‘subjective’, any soul quality, is ignored—to think that you might learn something about how soul quality was created in the nonphysical world so as to be in harmony with what you would observe in nature and world. If you have a scientific approach where the greatest ideal is thought to be that anything to do with the soul is excluded, so that concepts, ideas and methods must be developed that are based on exclusion of the soul element, how can you use such methods to study and gain any kind of insight in the sphere of the soul? How can anything learnt in modern science, where the soul element is excluded, be applied to a study of the inner life?

Nevertheless, we shall see in the third lecture how physiology and another science which has a great future and is currently in the process of having chairs established at universities—experimental psychology—will gain sound foundations if it proves possible to develop a psychology that is a science of the soul in spite of the modern scientific ideal. The approach which is to be presented here does not in any way go against everything that has come to the inner life out of modern science when this served as an aid. Quite the contrary! The work which has been done in psychology laboratories more recently will truly bear fruit and gain real significance when seen from a particular anthroposophical point of view.1See Steiner R. Von Seelenrätseln, IV. Skizzenhafte Erweiterungen des Inhalts dieser Schrift, 8. Ein oft erhobener Einwand gegen die Anthroposophie. GA 21.

Now we may ask ourselves: What do human beings really want when they approach the natural world using the methods applied, and rightly so, in modern science? What do people want to discover in that world? We could talk about this for hours; let me give a brief idea of how the question might perhaps be answered.

Human beings develop certain needs as their inner life evolves, for the simple reason that they have inner experiences in the psyche, whilst the realities of nature proceed outside them. Modern science is developing out of those needs. People want to be able to cope with the questions that arise inwardly, with the riddles and doubts that may arise in the psyche when they consider the world of nature. And they want to have an image of nature where justice is also done to their inner experiences. It is really the observer who establishes the directives, the trends in modern science. We only have to recall the words if Du Bois- Reymond2Emil Du Bois-Reymond (1818–1896). Swiss-born professor of physiology in Berlin. Lecture entitled ‘Ueber die Grenzen des Naturerkennens’ given in Leipzig on 14 August 1872. in his famous talk on the limits of science: ‘Insight is gained into nature when our need for causality is met—something subjective, therefore, something based in human experience.’ The postulate is, however, that such a subjective, personal inner experience, with its doubts and questions, comes up against the outer processes in the world of nature as though against a sphinx. Those natural events do not at first sight match the image we have of them in our souls. We can alter the first image which has arisen at first sight, doing so with the processes that occur in the soul, and exactly in this way arrive at modern science.

Can we do the same with regard to the inner life? This is a question we do not always answer with sufficient clarity and accuracy. We cannot relate to the psyche in the same way as we do to the natural world, posing our questions in our usual state of mind. The life of the psyche happens inside us. We can merely experience it, live through it. We will not gain anything, however, by categorizing whatever we have come to know there the way we do when we categorize the natural world according to laws so as to arrive at a science of nature. This inner life can be known as it occurs in ordinary everyday life; but in thus living in it there is really no reason for us to treat it in the same way as we do the facts of the natural world. These take us into the unknown, as it were, at every step, but when it comes to the inner life we are right inside it. We have to train ourselves to consider specific questions in natural science if with regard to the inner life we want to use a method similar to the one generally used in natural science.

Now we might say that with the natural world, the observer is inevitably someone on the outside, but when it comes to the inner life, there is no outside observer. This makes some people doubt that it will be possible to observe the inner life. They are unable to see how such a split might happen, so that one has the evolution of the inner life and at the same time is also an observer.

But it is exactly this strange paradox which has to come about if we want to develop a psychology that will rank equal with natural science, or, I would say, is in the spirit of the demands made in modern science. The question concerning the observer of the inner life must be taken seriously and considered in its full significance and depth. Nothing that lives in us can directly observe this inner life. Where scientists studying the natural world who want to be true to the ideal of modern science remove everything that has soul quality from their way of thinking, making the psyche stand aside completely, as it were, psychologists must go exactly the opposite way today. They must not take away anything that is inner experience but must bring something into those inner experiences; they must penetrate those inner experiences with something that does not exist in our ordinary conscious minds. Psychologists must go exactly in the opposite direction! Modern science has grown great by going its way, and because of this the psychologist must go the opposite way. The big and significant question is, how can this way be found?

Some of the things I am going to say now will sound strange. But perhaps you need to consider that anything new in the course of cultural development has always seemed strange to begin with. Just think of the great, revolutionary scientific achievements—how people felt about them, and the troubles and strife they caused. Human beings are very much closer to the psyche than they are to the natural world. No wonder then if with regard to psychology, as a more recent science, many things will come up again that have also been known in the evolution of natural scientific research.

With anthroposophically orientated psychology it has to be clear from the beginning that, as I said before, the conscious awareness we have in everyday life and which is also commonly used in ordinary scientific research, will not be enough. Psychology is going to be a challenge to conscious awareness. In a book published a year ago,3Steiner R. The Riddle of Man. Tr. W. Lindemann. Spring Valley: Mercury Press 1990. I dealt with the subject of psychology as follows. If the soul is basically unable to know anything about its everyday experiences but is only able to live in them the way one lives in the natural world outside before one has gained an image of it through natural science, this indicates that the soul must change if it is to observe facts relating to itself. This will mean quite a few difficulties with today’s dominant school of thought. The current idea is not to touch the soul, whatever we do, but to leave it as we have received it ‘from the hands of nature herself’, as the saying goes, and to direct scientific study to what lives in the psyche. Psychology will, however, need to draw powers from deeper sources, from spheres that lie hidden from ordinary experience, to gain methods of observation and of forming ideas that differ from those we have in ordinary life.

Let me tell you briefly and simply what has to happen to the human psyche if it is to be a real observer of its own inner experiences or, to put it in a better way, awaken the inner observer who lies hidden in it, so that it may investigate its own inner life. Our thinking, all the ways of forming ideas we develop in the study of the natural world, will not be what we need when it comes to the psyche. You will soon note, especially if you struggle inwardly to gain insight, that all those ideas do not take us beyond the facts that can be observed in natural science; they do not get us anywhere near the realm of the psyche.

The situation changes the moment we reach the points—I call them the frontier posts in our search for knowledge—where the human being is full of doubt to begin with and keeps saying to himself: This is as far as we can go in our search for knowledge with what has been granted to humanity; we cannot go beyond this. Just consider how people whose thinking is wholly based on the modern scientific way and who seek to dig down deeper and deeper into existence in their thoughts then come to such frontier posts. Let me give you some examples to show how someone struggling to gain insight truly comes to quite specific points in his inner life.

The first example I would like to give is one I found with a seeker who may not be appreciated so much as a philosopher but is all the more highly esteemed as a person, and that is the well-known aesthetician Friedrich Theodor Vischer.4Vischer, Friedrich Theodor (1807–1887). Altes und Neues. Stuttgart 1881, Erste Abteilung. In his review of Volkelt’s interesting small book on dream fantasy5Volkelt, Johannes. Die Traum-Phantasie. Stuttgart 1875. he put all his inner energies into raising the question as to what the relationship might be between human soul and human body.

There is a difference between considering the issue from a philosophical perspective, taking a conventional view and applying only the rational mind to it, or letting hard effort in thinking create the inner experience of truly facing something like a sphinx. It was out of such apprehensions—one can see it from the way it all goes—that Friedrich Theodor Vischer, known as ‘V Vischer’, asked himself this question. He wrote: ‘The human soul cannot be in the body; yet it also cannot be anywhere but in the body.’6Vischer, Friedrich Theodor, loc. cit. I, S. 194: ‘The soul, as the highest union of all processes, cannot, however, be located in the body, though it does not exist anywhere but in the body.’ Completely contradictory! The contradiction arises, however, not because it has been dragged in by logic, but out of the fullness of inner thought, a contradiction one is wrestling with, a contradiction that may be the beginning of an inner drama in the struggle to gain insight. And we should not fight shy of such dramas that bring living inner experience if we want to develop a true psychology.

This, then, is one of the highly significant questions at the frontier posts of knowledge. There are many of them. Du Bois-Reymond spoke of seven riddles of the world.7Du Bois-Reymond, as note 2. ‘The seven riddles of the world’ lecture was given at a public meeting at the Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin to celebrate the Leibniz anniversary on 8 July 1880. Publ. Leipzig 1882. We might refer to hundreds of such questions, both lesser and greater. We may stop at them, saying that this is as far as the human ability to know things goes, but if we admit to this it merely means that we lack courage in the quest for knowledge. What matters here is that we must be able to let such questions live on in us, in the fullness of our inner life, not seeking to consider them rationally, bringing all our inner powers to bear, but to live through them and have the patience to wait and see if something of a revelation will not come from the outside. And this does happen.

If we do not seek to meet such questions with preconceived ideas but enter into the billows, as it were, which such questions raise in the human soul, we come to a completely new living experience which we cannot have in our ordinary state of mind. Let me give you an analogy for this living experience. It is an elementary experience in the psyche and an elementary experience for the genesis of an anthroposophically orientated psychology. We simply must take it in its full reality, not in an abstract, dead sense. Let us think—it does not matter here if the analogy has full justification or not, for it will tell us what it is meant to tell us—let us think of an animal that is very low down in the evolutionary scale, a creature that does not yet have a differentiated sense of touch relating to the outside world. It is more or less just rummaging around inside as it experiences life and bumps into physical objects that exist around it. Now imagine such a life form gaining perfection in terms of the theory of evolution. What can evolve in this case? Where a lower animal merely bumps into objects outside and experiences those bumps inwardly in a completely undifferentiated way, differentiation in the course of evolution causes this to develop into a sense of touch. In the scientific theory of evolution, the differentiation of life in the senses is, I would say, generally presented as bumping into things and differentiation developing from this. The process which here happens externally, physiologically, or physically if you like—with a differentiated sense of touch developing merely from bumping into things—repeats itself purely at the level of the soul, if we take things in a truly living way, as we arrive at those frontier posts of knowledge with the psyche fully involved in the process. First you will feel as if you were in the dark in the world of mind and spirit, bumping into things everywhere. The fact that questions like those asked by Vischer have arisen proves that we live in darkness of soul, in an existence that is grounded in the world of the spirit and touches on that world. But the element which thus comes up against the world of the spirit now needs to be differentiated.

If we truly live with such frontier issues, something enters into the soul, is brought to it by revelation, which previously existed as little for the soul as sensory perception based on a differentiated sense of touch existed for a creature that had not yet developed such a differentiated sense of touch but merely bumped into things. We have to live with and through those frontier issues, the countless, tormenting, sphinx-like questions, so that we may know that the methods we can gain through working with nature, the methods which truly meet the ideal of the modern scientific approach, only take us to the point, where soul and spirit are concerned, where we bump into those boundaries. From there, life itself must forward.

And it can move forward. This can only be empirical fact. I am talking about something which every thinker who bases himself on modern science has perceived only too clearly, too significantly. The time when the soul truly expands its sphere of life into these boundary areas of knowledge can only come slowly as we patiently feel our way. I have given examples of such boundary issues in a brief chapter I have just written in the book which is due to appear shortly.8See Von Seelenrätseln (note 1), Kap. IV, 6, S. 150 ff.

Let me refer to another such fundamental boundary issue which we find in the work of Friedrich Theodor Vischer. It is an example of how someone who is beginning to live with the drama of insight and knowledge in himself in a very real way comes to the matter I have just been characterizing, inwardly feeling his way and not yet outwardly differentiated in feeling one’s way in mind and spirit. When Friedrich Theodor Vischer was struggling with these issues, the time had not yet come for the soul to break through the boundaries it had met. Vischer wrote:

No mind without a nerve centre, nor a brain, say our opponents. We say: no nerve centre and no brain unless there has been preparation in countless stages, starting from below; it is easy to be derisory about the spirit bumbling about in granite and limestone—no harder than it would be for us to ask derisively how the protein in the brain manages to get to something as sublime as ideas. Human powers of insight lack the ability to establish levels or degrees. It will remain a secret how it comes about that nature, and the spirit must surely slumber beneath her, is there as such a perfect counter thrust of the spirit that we—please note his choice of term here—

get bumps and bruises from it; it is a forcible separation that seems so absolute that Hegel’s concepts of being other and being outside oneself, however brilliantly formulated, really say practically nothing, simply covering up the abruptness of the apparent dividing wall. Fichte gives proper recognition to the fine edge and impact in this counter thrust, but no explanation.9As note 4, S. 229 f.

There can be no more accurate description of this inner life. First it feels itself bumping into the world of the spirit when such boundary issues come up, and it longs to let this process of coming up against the world of the spirit become differentiated and be a real way of feeling one’s way in that world, with, to use Goethe’s words, a mental organ developing.10‘We learn to see with eyes of the spirit. Without them we stumble about blindly as in anything else and thus also in the study of nature.’ Goethe, Erster Entwurf einer allgemeinen Einleitung in die vergleichende Anatomie, ausgehend von der Osteologie VII, B (1795), in Naturwissenschaftliche Schriften herausgegeben und kommentiert von Rudolf Steiner in Kuerschners Deutsche National-Litteratur (1883-97), 5 Bände, Nachdruck Dornach 1975, GA Bibl.-Nr. la-e, Bd. 1, GA Bibl.-Nr. la, S. 262. With ref. to ‘ears of the spirit’, see also Goethe’s Faust 2, Act 1, Pleasing landscape, ‘Hark, the Hours, with furious winging, Bear to spirit-ears the ringing Rumours of the new day-springing.’ Tr. P. Wayne. Penguin Books 1959. Where Goethe spoke of eyes and ears of the mind, we might say that organs of touch11Spiritual organs of touch - see questions and answers following the lecture. arise in the mind at a most elementary level as we live in these things. It is truly a vital process, a growth process; it is not a matter of simply applying what one has previously learnt in the sciences; it is something as real as the way a child grows, but it takes the soul into regions it has not known before.

People are often mistaken about this. Thus the philosopher Bergson,12Bergson, Henri (1859–1941), French philosopher. who has grown famous, makes one of the absolutely basic errors in this field. Henri Bergson says we cannot comprehend the world with the analytical mind, and especially cannot comprehend the inner life in this way, for in the psyche, and in the whole of existence, everything is evolving, flowing, vital. What is he thinking? That what we need does already exist and we can look for it with powers we already possess. In this, however, he is greatly mistaken. It does not lead to anything that can truly explain the psyche, for the soul must go beyond itself; it must develop something it does not yet have. The soul does not think that the life which it is to explore does already exist, but that it must first be gained.

Many people are really scared—if I may use the term—of entering deeply into the inner drama of gaining insight and knowledge. They believe it will take them into the abyss of subjectivity, the abyss of individual nature. If they were really to enter into this abyss in the way which has just been described, they would find that in doing so they would find something inside themselves that is as objective as are the things we find when we consider the natural world. It is merely an illusion to think that in living through the drama of insight one person would find one thing, and another something else. In a certain respect individual experiences have to differ because they are different aspects, different views of the same thing seen from different sides. Yet if we take photographs of something from different angles and those photographs look different, this does not mean to say that the thing itself does not present something objective in those aspects. We should not be dogmatic about anything someone has gathered from the psyche in this way, making his particular formulation into dogma and believing in it as one believes in any dogma or law of nature. No, we have to be clear in our minds that however subjective something perceived with the mind’s organs of touch may be, seeing that it represents a particular angle—if the methods I have presented only in principle are developed further, organs will truly develop in soul and spirit that may be compared to eyes and ears of the mind—if the world of the spirit is characterized on the basis of a mind that has vision of the kind I referred to in my book,13Steiner R. The Riddle of Man (note 3). then something described by an observer may be a subjective aspect; but if we accept it we approach the world of the spirit in the same way as we have a true image of a tree even if it is only from one angle. This is something that needs to be understood, especially in this particular field.

When human beings go beyond themselves in their inner life, something arises which I have described in my book How to Know Higher Worlds. There you find a detailed description of what the soul has to do so that it may go beyond itself in this way. Today I have, of course, only been able to give the principles. If you take what it says in the book to a certain level you will discover why I called the experiences, which are of a completely new kind compared to our ordinary conscious awareness, ‘imaginations’, seeing in images, and referred to the level of awareness which develops as ‘imaginative awareness’.

This imaginative awareness has nothing to do with fantasy. Its content is new compared to what one has known before. ‘Imaginative awareness’ is a term like many others. What matters is that the imaginations or inner images we gain, enriching our inner life, clearly show that they are, well, let us say reflections of a non-physical reality, just as our usual ideas of things are reflections of outer physical reality.

I have now described the process in which the soul rises above itself at the first level to gain imaginative insight. With this imaginative insight one is in fact living in a state for which we have to use a paradoxical term, and this can of course be the subject of derision in view of general thinking habits today. It is that in uniting the soul with the living inner experiences thus gained we are living out of the body. This is the crux of the matter. And above all we learn to distinguish experiences which we have gained in this way, without making use of the body, from those gained in the outside world which we have perceived through the senses; above all, however, also distinguish them from anything by way of visions, hallucinations or illusions.14See also public lectures Errors in Spiritual Investigation given in Berlin on 6 March 1913; tr. WW. Ringwald, A. Wulsin. Spring Valley: Mercury Press 1983 (from GA 62), and ‘Die Wege der übersinnlichen Erkenntnis’, Berlin, 21 Nov, 1912, in Ergebnisse der Geistesforschung, GA 62. Lectures to members in Dornach on 1 and 2 July 1921 in Steiner R. Therapeutic Insights (from GA 205), tr. M. Laird-Brown, A. Wulsin, G. Kamow. Spring Valley: Mercury Press 1984.

For this is something we must always remember. The way which is shown here goes in the opposite direction to the one which we may call pathological, the way that leads to illusory and visionary life. Those who find their way to a life in images know that anything we perceive with the senses, perceive with normal senses in the world of nature, is of a higher quality than anything that may present itself in visions or hallucinations. If we give ourselves up to visions we enter more deeply into our living physical body, becoming more closely bound up with it; we bring soul quality into the living body but we do not come free of it.

In the third lecture we will consider the human being as part of the natural world, and we will then realize why the contents of visions can be confused with perceptions made in the spirit. Today we are talking about the inner life, the psyche, and it is important to make the distinction quite clear—a visionary goes down into the life of the body, whilst someone seeking imaginative insight enters into a life that is wholly in the soul sphere, and this leads to experience lived independently of the body.

As I said, this is highly unusual in present-day thinking. Someone wanting to reach the world of the spirit on an amateurish basis, with amateurish ideas, would greatly like to think of this world by taking external sensory perceptions for a model; he would greatly like—we can see this in spiritualism, which is so disastrous—to have factual things in the spirit, just as one sees factual natural effects if one performs a physical experiment in a laboratory. He wants a tangible spirit. Yet the things we find in imaginative perception do not compare with anything tangible. In my book15See Von Seelenrätseln ( as note 1). I compared this—one can only offer an analogy, for it is not the same—with the memories of past events which we think we call up from the depths of our inner life. The tenuous nature of such memories, which are entirely nonphysical, having soul quality, is the only thing in which it is possible to experience the spirit in which the psyche has its roots. It is just that the images seen independently of the body do not relate to anything one has known in the physical world. They have their own content which tells us that we have entered into a new, non-physical world, a world we did not know before. One gradually has to familiarize oneself with a very different way of inner experience, for the I will not have the support of the physical organs through which we gain our sensory perceptions. It takes some time to get used to this kind of life.

Above all it is this: I may have compared the images gained in the new way with memories of past events, but everything that arises by way of such images, and which therefore is a reflection of a spiritual reality, has one peculiarity which it is hard to get used to, and that is the peculiarity that the more perfect such a non-physical perception is, the less are we able to recall it afterwards. We are used to remembering things that have gone through our minds. Those non-physical experiences do not generate an immediate power to remember. The process is very different. I described it in the above book. It goes like this: If you want to have a specific non-physical image you have to prepare for this, exercising the soul so that it will develop the inner powers by which the image may be revealed. We can remember the things the soul does, what it undertook to gain that image vision. It is then possible to call the image up again. So once you have had a spiritual experience in imaginative insight you will not easily remember it; you have to go through all the inner preparation again; this you can remember. You can say to yourself: you did this, and you did that; do it again and you’ll have the experience again. Only if we succeed in bringing copies of it, as it were, back to our ordinary conscious mind, to our ordinary thinking, as ideas will we be able to recall those copies. But the actual nonphysical image has to be new every time, otherwise it is not the real thing.

Another peculiarity is this. Ideas we gain in our life in the outside world are produced all the more easily the more often we produce them. We get a degree of practice in this, and these things become habit. This is not the case when we have living experience of non-physical images, genuine spiritual realities. It is rather the opposite. The more often we seek to have a non-physical image under the same conditions, the more vague does it grow. Hence you have the strange situation, really quite paradoxical, that students in the life of the spirit who make efforts to gain certain non-physical images will have them and then be surprised that they cannot have them again. The ability to produce something again is often lost very quickly, the second or third time, and we then have to make new efforts, over and over again, to call up something which is escaping us, as it were, having come to us just once from the world of the spirit.

You will find all the individual exercises that will help to overcome the problem in my book How to Know Higher Worlds, though even there it is just a brief outline of things I have said on the subject since.

Another peculiarity is that you will only manage to cope with such imaginative ideas if you have gone through inner training to develop a life of thinking, forming ideas, inner responses and of will that provide reference points, so that one may bring ideas into the non-physical images. If you do not pay careful attention to this, you may fall into inner confusion and darkness, though this would not be pathological. Again and again you come to say to yourself: Here you learn something out of the spirit which you cannot yet understand, for you have not developed concepts that go sufficiently deep for this. At that point you have to stop, you have to find another way, trying to take your ability to form ideas in the world of the senses further, so that you may on a later occasion understand what you have not been able to understand before.

In short, I could mention many more such characteristics. You come across lots of things that take you aback and are paradoxical compared to the inner experiences we have in our ordinary state of mind. Yet it is only when we have torn the soul element away, as it were, from the living body that we are in the world of the spirit. No one can deny this experience, which is spiritual.

With the development which I have been describing so far, you are able to gain certain insights. You come to see that apart from the physical body, which is part of us and which is the object of anatomy, physiology and of modern science altogether, something else is also truly our own. In my more recent books I have called it the ‘body of creative powers’, so that there may be no misunderstanding; previously I called it the ‘ether body’.16Also called ‘formative forces body’ by some translators. [Tr.] For basic details see Steiner R. Theosophy (various translations) I, 4; Steiner R. Occult Science (GA 13; various translations), chapter on essential nature of humanity, and subsection on human ether body. It is really a second element in us, and can never be perceived by ordinary sensory perception, ordinary inner experience. It can only be perceived if this inner experience progresses to become the capacity for vision in images. For this body of creative powers does not exist in space; it is something which lives only in time, but lives in time in such a way that everything which is active in our physical body from birth or conception to death, let us say, wells forth from this body of creative powers. We have a second body in us, a body of creative powers. It becomes a reality for us when we gain the power of awareness in images.

This awareness will not, however, take us beyond the principle which is with us from birth to death as our body of creative powers. This may sound odd, but that does not matter. We are able to go beyond it if we find additional ways of inwardly strengthening the soul, which has now become free of the body. Exercises have to be done again and again, with patience, to develop a completely new relationship to the principle we call the life of ideas or concepts.

In ordinary life we bring objects around us to mind by forming ideas of them. When we have an idea of something we think we possess whatever we are inwardly able to have of such an external object. This is a notion we must abandon when we come to gain experience in the spiritual realm. We need to be able, as it were, to put ourselves in a position where we let our ideas of things be like forces and powers that fight one another in the inward drama of gaining insight and knowledge. We have to develop the ability to let one idea enter into conflict with another. We must long to characterize anything we have characterized from one point of view also from another. At this level terms like materialism, idealism, spirituality, sensuality, and so on, all become empty phrases, for all of them, woven from the webs of concepts we have, prove to be like photographs taken from different angles.

We come to realize that in the realm of the spirit we have to deal with our concepts the way we work with our sense organs in the sphere of the senses. We walk around objects. We do not consider concepts as snapshots but merely as something which characterizes objects for us from one perspective or another, giving a one-sided view.

The spiritual scientist will therefore develop an inner tendency to characterize things from one angle, and then to characterize them also from the opposite angle. He will above all feel a longing to develop certain ideas and then refute them again, thus truly going through this inner combat. I am just giving some important inner aspects which one has to make progressively come true when a certain point has been reached at the frontier post of knowledge and insight.

The soul then continues to develop. It manages to develop the faculty I have called ‘inspired insight’ in my books. Please leave aside all superstition or prejudiced ideas with regard to this. The soul then separates from the body to a higher degree. Having gained this level of insight and knowledge one is not merely able to perceive the body of creative powers which is with us in time, from birth to death, but also spiritual realities that are outside our bodies, just as we see physical realities with our physical eyes. In my next lecture I will be speaking of the spiritual reality outside the human being. Now I am first of all going to talk about what the human being sees with this inspired insight, a spiritual reality that lies within him.

Something arises in inspired insight which does not live in our existence between birth and death; it lived before us, before we entered into the earthly body at birth, or, let us say, conception. It will live with us when we enter into the world of the spirit at our death. It has united with the physical genetic material we have from our parents and ancestors; it has penetrated this physical material. Inspired insight will truly allow us to perceive what preceded our physical existence at the soul level, what happens after our physical death, for we learn to see, in the spirit, the part of us which is wholly independent of the physical body. The body of creative powers is still bound to our physical existence; it will disperse when it is cut off from this physical existence. The principle which inspired insight is able to perceive does not disperse; it remains by itself; it is the part of us which goes through births and deaths. In the field of inspired insight the human being is able to investigate properly what connects him with worlds that are wholly of the spirit, what works most powerfully so that he becomes this particular human being when physical genetic material connects with his spiritual part.

The third ability we acquire is called intuition. This is not the kind of vague idea generally called an ‘intuition’ but something else. I’ll just refer to it briefly. At the third level of spiritual insight you can become fully aware—this will happen at a particular point of time in our inner development—that you are someone else, that through the efforts you made as you progressed through vision in images and inspiration you have truly found an inner observer in you.

Something significant then occurs in the drama of insight and knowledge, as I have called it. At this point we may say: You can see that it is not only this physical body of ours which the spirit has helped to create; you come to see that our soul itself, with its feelings, tendencies, ambitions, affects and will qualities, has come to be what it is through spiritual processes. The drama thus becomes an inner stroke of destiny.

You may have destiny experiences in life that make you shout for joy or feel very low, you may know the worst and also great happiness—the things you experience when you perceive the development not only of the physical aspect but of also of the soul principle, are a stroke of destiny, an inner stroke of destiny that means more to someone who experiences it to the full in the drama of knowledge and insight than the highs and lows, pleasures and pain of destiny experiences in everyday life.

If this is possible, if there truly is this inner power to bring about change, so that the inner eye perceives not only the physical and bodily aspect out of the spirit but the soul principle itself within the process of spiritual evolution, then intuitive perception arises. A sphere is entered which encompasses repeated earth lives, the ability to look back on earlier lives on earth, and the certainty that this life on earth will be followed by others. Knowledge is gained that the whole of human life consists of successive lives on earth, with lives in the world of the spirit in between them that extend from death to rebirth.

With all this, the inner eye needs to be directed to something for which a relationship with the natural world outside has not really trained it. With reference to the natural world we always ask about the origin and cause of facts. When it comes to things of the spirit, questions as to origin and causes will not serve. When the realm of the spirit opens up to someone in the way I have mentioned, he finds that everything that has to do with growth, thriving, progression and development has retrogressive development mixed in with it, with existence progressively crumbling away and destruction in progress all the time. This is what made individuals who were able to see this—perhaps not in this modern way, but in the ways in which such things were known in the past—say that insight into the spirit takes us to the gates of death.17In his Phaedo (67 d-e), Plato had Socrates say: "... people really do not seem to have an idea that men who are faithful followers of philosophy are in life, in their whole lives, concerned over nothing but their dying and their death. And if that is true, it would be entirely wrong to think of death all one's life and then in the hour of death turn against one’s own wish and goal." Sec also Rudolf Steiner on Arnold Fortlage in the lecture of 7 November 1917 in this volume. You come to realize that conscious awareness, life in mind and spirit, and living in the spirit in full conscious awareness can only arise if a principle that makes existence crumble away enters into all our growth, healthy development and progression. You come to see that death is but a single major event which we can think of as divided up, broken up into its atoms, as it were, and happening in us all the time when we gain conscious awareness in physical life. In this world, to know is to enter a little bit into something that will come all at once when we go through the gates of death.

You get to know the relationship between the conscious mind and the process of dying. In doing so, you also get to know how this conscious awareness goes through the gates of death, and that death actually awakens us to a different conscious awareness. We enter into this when we lay aside our physical body. We lay this aside, as it were, merely in order to gain such insight in images, inspiration and intuition.

If you want to get a real idea of gaining insight in the spirit, you have to get used to seeing your relationship to the world in a very different way from the one you have been used to. Above all it is necessary to give up the idea that you can somehow find the spirit by interpreting the material world, looking at it critically in some way, and by finding laws based on the material world. The laws we discover in relation to the material world only apply in that world. You will not find the spirit by interpreting the world you perceive through the senses; when you are in the physical body you find the spirit in connection with the world of the senses; but you find it through independent life in the realm of the spirit.

Let me clarify this by using an analogy. When we read sequences of words, which are letters put in a row, we do not say: There’s a vertical line, there’s a horizontal line; we do not identify the letters but consider the row of letters or words as a whole, and an inner content then arises. This content has nothing to do with identification of the letters. You must have learned to read. And something quite different from the identity of individual letters arises in the reader’s mind. You cannot find the spirit which you discover from the letters by looking in the printers’ letter case. Nor can you find the life of the spirit by spelling out nature. You will only find it if you let the soul rise beyond itself and thus find the element which extends from the spirit itself into this physical life, in so far as the soul finds itself living in the physical world between birth and death.

You see, this leads to a psychology that can well hold its own side by side with the natural sciences. It does not transfer the methods developed in the study of nature to the psyche, nor does it stop at the inner life as we know it in everyday life. Instead it brings an objective principle into the inner life, and out of this the psyche experiences itself. The living body has also been born out of this principle, as we shall see in the third lecture.

These are first, elementary indications; you will have to refer to my books for the rest. They show how human beings can find the immortal element that lies in them, and how a psychology with this anthroposophical orientation truly guides us in this direction. Then such things as happened to Franz Brentano,18Brentano, Franz (1838–1917), German psychologist and philosopher. Rudolf Steiner had written about Franz Brentano in an essay on the future of psychology in 1893 (in Methodische Grundlagen der Anthroposophie, GA 30), referring to his views on extending the natural scientific approach to certain areas, for instance in psychology. The essay concludes: ‘General acceptance of Brentano’s statement would for me mean the general decline and decay of philosophy.’ Rudolf Steiner also wrote extensively in appreciation of Brentano, e.g. in Von Seelenrätseln (note 1), and spoke about him in a lecture he gave in Berlin on 12 December 1911 (in A psychology of Body, Soul and Spirit, GA 115, tr. M. Spock; Hudson: Anthroposophie Press 1999). the great psychologist who died in Zurich in March this year, need no longer happen. Brentano was a significant figure, but also a tragic one in the way he bore with his thinking. He came to the study of psychology at a time when the modern scientific way of thinking was developing. He wanted to apply this approach to the inner life. One can get no further with this approach, however, than to compare ideas as to how feelings want to rise in the soul, what attention is and so on in outer physical life. In his work on psychology from the empirical standpoint—in the first volume he wrote, which has remained the only one—Franz Brentano regretted the things psychology could not achieve, saying: What help is it to us, even if we are thoroughly scientific in our approach, to compare ideas, make associations of ideas, the way inclinations and disinclinations arise, and so on, if the great hopes held by Plato and Aristotle cannot be fulfilled. They hoped that with psychology we would gain insight into how the better part of our nature lives on when we have gone through the gates of death.19The actual words are: ‘For the hopes Plato and Aristotle had of gaining certainty concerning the continued existence of the better part of us once the body has dissolved, the laws of association of ideas, the development of convictions and opinions and the budding and growth of pleasure and love would be anything but genuine compensation ... And if the difference between the two views did truly mean accepting or rejecting the question of immortality, it would have to be considered highly significant for psychology, and we would inevitably have to enter into a metaphysical investigation of substance as the vehicle for states and conditions.’ Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkte, Leipzig 1874, S. 20.

Franz Brentano regretted the fact that he did not have the means of tackling these problems. It is remarkable to see how he struggled with them to the end of his life. The straight, honest nature of his struggles is evident especially from the tragic circumstance I referred to in an obituary for Franz Brentano which appears in the third chapter of my above-mentioned book. He was always saying he would continue his book on psychology, the first volume of which had been published. The work was intended to be in four or five volumes. The first volume appeared in the spring of 1874. He promised the second for the autumn of that year, to be followed by the rest. He did not publish any of those, however. He wanted to master the inner life with the modern scientific method; he wanted to set about this in a straight and honest way. If he had been able to do so, if the modern scientific method had not been like a dead weight on his powers of investigation because he misunderstood it, he would have been able to enter through the gates into a life in the spirit that gathers something from the depths of the soul that cannot be there if one has only the methods of modern science.

We can see from the tragedy of Franz Brentano’s life as a scientist—and of the lives of many others, but especially in his case, because he was such a significant figure who at the same time was absolutely honest—that there is a need for a psychology that can only be found through inner experiences gained out of the living body. Then the great problems can be considered again, issues that must be foremost in the minds of those who consider their own inner life—the problem of immortal life, if we find the truly immortal part by the methods I have described, and also the problem of free will, which we are going to consider later on in these lectures. These are the two most important and compelling problems. But look at the works on psychology published in recent years. These problems are completely left aside in them; indeed, they have disappeared from psychological studies, simply for the reasons we have been considering today.

There is more to it, however, than being able to work with those great questions. The insights psychologists are seeking with methods they have developed by going more deeply into the modern scientific approach can only be fully clear if one can consider them from the point of view which I have indicated. That is the way it is. Modern science will prove valid on the one hand, the science of the spirit and spiritual investigation on the other. But it is just the way it is when one is digging a tunnel from two sides and must have worked things out carefully in advance so that one may meet in the middle. Spiritual science and natural science must come together if the knowledge and insight sought by humanity is to be a whole.

Let me give you just one example of how ordinary psychology, too, can be conquered if we enter the higher regions which I have briefly outlined today. Among the questions considered by people who do research in psychology are those concerning memory or recall. It is enough to drive you to despair to see how the memory problem is dealt with in the ordinary approaches to psychology. There you can really see the frontier posts in the process of gaining insight. Someone has an idea which he develops from something he has perceived through the senses; this idea then ‘goes down’ into the soul sphere; it ‘vanishes’, as they say, and later the person is able to recall it. Where has it been?

I won’t go into everything that has been said on the matter for centuries. On the one hand people say that such ideas vanish into the unconscious and then come up again across the threshold to conscious awareness. I’d like to know someone who is able to find any real meaning in such words as he says them. All meaning is immediately lost when you talk of ideas ‘going down’ and ‘coming up’. You can say anything; but you cannot envisage it; for it does not relate to any kind of reality. Psychologists more inclined towards physiology will talk about ‘traces engraved’ in the nervous system or brain; these traces then ‘call’ the ideas ‘up again’. People try painfully to explain how the idea which has gone down is dug out from those traces. As I said, it can drive you to despair when you consider the different approaches to psychology. Just think of how much serious, noble, genuine research effort goes into working on these problems. We certainly would not deny that such honest and genuine work is being done.

In truth, however, this simple fact relating to the inner life can only be seen in the right light if we consider it with the power in our souls that has the spiritual organs to observe the ordinary inner life, too, from the point of view taken in the world of the spirit. You then find that there is no question of an idea which I have ‘going down’ to anywhere or ‘coming up’ again somewhere. People altogether have the wrong idea of memory. An idea I form on the basis of something perceived in the world around me does not live in me as something real at all, but as a mirror image which the soul creates by means of the body’s mirroring. We will go into this in the third lecture. And this idea lives only now! It is no longer there once I have lost it from the inner life. There is no such thing as ideas going down and coming up again, thus creating memories. The commonly held idea of memory is wrong.

What matters is this. Having sharpened the soul’s power to see things in the spirit, you see—you can observe this in the spirit just as you observe things in the world outside—that something else is going on at the same time as we form an idea based on something we have perceived. It is not the process of forming the idea but this other, unconscious process running parallel to it which produces something that does not come directly to conscious awareness but lives on in me. So if I have an idea, a subconscious process develops that is wholly bound up with the physical body. When occasion arises to call this process up again, the idea forms again because the soul now looks to this process, which is a purely bodily one. A remembered idea is a new idea created from the depths of the living body. It is like the earlier idea because it has been called up in the unconscious process that had been produced in the living body. The soul reads the engram engraved in the body, as it were, when it recalls an idea.

This, then, does correct the ideas ordinarily held by psychologists. You now have the right idea instead of something perceived in entirely the wrong way in ordinary experience. I could go through the whole of psychology with you and show you many points where genuine insight shows that the inner experiences which people think they have prove to be illusory. People have quite wrong ideas about the inner life, and these need to be corrected by the soul coming free of the body and then observing its life from a truly spiritual point of view.

It is exactly with ideas like these, which on the one hand really make the spirit accessible to scientific study, that on the other hand the fruits of faithful hard work with the modern scientific method in experimental psychology and physiological psychology as well as other fields find their right place. Anthroposophically orientated spiritual science is neither hostile nor unsympathetic towards such work. Knowing that the ordinary methods developed in the study of the physical world cannot solve but only raise questions, real questions, work done in spiritual science can make the results of natural scientific investigation truly fruitful by casting a new light on those questions.

The work done in anthroposophically orientated spiritual science is truly moving towards natural science, like digging a tunnel from opposite directions. Another example will show this. Scientists with a Darwinian orientation have recently made some very interesting findings, which I am going to tell you about in a minute. But first let me say that the unconscious activity which underlies memory recall is something different from the powers of heredity or of growth, but, having developed parallel to the forming of ideas, it is also related to those powers. Powers that take effect at an unconscious level when we form an idea on the basis of sensory perceptions are related to the powers that grow in us. They create dispositions in the living body that can later be read, leading to memory recall. Genuine observation in the soul gives us a clear idea of how the powers of memory relate to those of heredity and growth. A bridge is built—we will be saying more about such bridges in the next few days—between soul and spirit on the one hand and the living body on the other.

Consider how Darwinian Richard Semon starts with heredity in his very interesting book, with the emergence of characteristics, and then brings these hereditary powers together with the powers of memory.20Semon, Richard (1859–1919). Die Mneme als erhaltendes Prinzip im Wechsel des organischen Geschehens. Dritte Auflage, Leipzig 1911. Semon explored changes in organic matter (plant, animal, human) due to external stimuli. He called them engrams and the ‘sum of engrams an organism possesses’ its ‘engram resource’, distinction having to be made between an ‘inherited and an individually acquired engram resource’. ‘The name I give to the phenomena in an organism resulting from the presence of a particular engram or sum of engrams, is “mnemic phenomena”. The quintessence of an organism’s mnemic faculties I call “Mneme”.’ S. (page) 15. Semon deliberately avoided the terms ‘memory’ and ‘recall’, using instead a terminology that ‘permitted’ him ‘to abstract from this completely whether or not the material processes concerned manifest through higher conscious sentience in the given case or not.’ S. (page) 390. The scientist thus sees a relationship between hereditary and memory powers. The psychologist has come to connect the unconscious powers that lie behind heredity with those of memory recall.

These things happen quite independently of one another. What Richard Semon called ‘mneme’ in his most interesting book agrees with the views held in anthroposophically orientated psychology, where consideration extends to regions in the human being that are also studied by modern scientific methods. We will speak of this in the third lecture.

What I have been saying today at an elementary level about the results of genuine spiritual experience in the soul that provide the basis for a more up-to-date psychology, must inevitably sound strange in many ways to people used to thinking in the way that is usual today. This is perfectly understood by someone who is in the midst of these things, yet perhaps one may also say that it needs more than just hearing an interesting lecture. You need to enter deeply into the serious process of spiritual scientific investigation. You will find that one’s powers are used differently from the way they are in natural science, but that the route followed in anthroposophical research is no less serious, no less demanding than the route taken in natural scientific research. The fact is, however, that the fruits, the results of natural science only provide the starting point for spiritual research. We come to concepts, ideas and natural laws when we want to investigate the natural world. We make it our premise that the work done in natural science takes us to the frontier posts from which we set out to make investigations in the science of the spirit and in anthroposophical psychology.

I would say, therefore, that psychology based on anthroposophy should not be said to go against the justifiable demands of today’s natural scientific way of thinking. Quite the contrary. It does not reject anything resulting from justifiable investigations in natural science. Nowhere does it oppose such justifiable science. However, it cannot stop at merely drawing logical conclusions from things that are already given in natural science. Spiritual science is not a philosophy where one merely wants to draw conclusions based on natural science. No! In anthroposophically orientated spiritual science we have to adopt a different device, the device that this spiritual investigation must follow from natural science not as an abstract logical conclusion, but as a live offspring.

The spiritual investigator holds the belief, which is stronger than the belief of many a natural scientist who rejects spiritual investigation, that natural science is sufficiently robust not only to lead to its logical consequences but to bring forth, from itself, as it were, something that is very much alive. This has its own vital energies and must thrive by having its own independent life. This is what the science of the spirit should be, a science which natural science itself demands.

Questions and answers

Several questions related to repeated lives on earth.

Ladies and gentlemen, the nature of the questions which have been asked is such that a brief answer cannot be satisfactory. One would indeed have to speak volumes to answer them in full. First of all we have the question:

What purpose does reincarnation serve?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, essentially the question as to purpose—I have to answer in a scientific way, otherwise it is just empty words—and the question as to reason—I am afraid I cannot go into the question as to whether teleology is justifiable or not—is a question arising in the physical world and therefore has validity in the physical world. Reincarnation—if we want to use this term for repeated lives on earth—I like to avoid jargon, which is why I spoke of ‘repeated lives on earth’—is governed by laws that belong to the world of the spirit and have significance in that world. This is something people find most difficult to get used to—that in moving from the physical world to the world of the spirit one must also change, or metamorphose, one’s concepts, and that concepts which apply in the physical world lose in significance, in importance, when we enter into the world of the spirit. Once you have started to know the nature of the spiritual world you do not really ask about the ‘purpose of the human being’ the way one would ask about the purpose of a machine, and certainly not about the ‘purpose of reincarnation’.

I said in my lecture that the way of thinking developed in the natural sciences is essentially the way of thinking developed in relation to the physical world around us. It will at best lead to the right questions being asked. One must then, however, seek to obtain the answers from the world of the spirit.

Someone asking: ‘What purpose does reincarnation serve?’ will of course have a reason for asking. There is a need to know, despite the fact that the question as to the purpose is not really applicable in the sphere one is dealing with. I would, however, ask you to consider the following. I would like to say that I have to bring together the building blocks needed to answer these questions. The science of the spirit is not like something you can quickly make your own by using a small handbook. It is in fact a very comprehensive field.

When we ask questions in life, one way is to continue with further questions until we come to an end. But this may not apply in every case. You see I am asked a question like this one hundreds of times. On many occasions I have said the following on the subject: People wanting to go from Zurich to Rome may want to know the route. And indeed, if no one in Zurich is able to give them the exact route, in every detail, they may decide that they don’t want to go to Rome after all. On the other hand there may be people who’ll be happy to know the route from Zurich to Lugano, and once in Lugano will be satisfied to learn how they should go on from there, and later on again how to go further. This is an analogy. It is meant to say that when we are in one life on earth, this has relevance for subsequent lives on earth. We have a progression. We are going to gain things in other lives on earth that we are not going to gain in this one. We go through experiences that present different trials and learning experiences. If we were able to answer all questions in this life on earth, then this life would not generate future lives on earth.

For the science of the spirit, it is therefore a matter of presenting the fact of reincarnation, if I am to use that term. Just as an individual gives purpose to a particular life on earth out of a free impulse, so he will give successive purposes, with one arising from the other, to repeated lives on earth. And he will not imagine that he can define the whole compass of human existence—which involves a number of lives one earth—in one of those lives. You altogether get out of the habit of producing definitions meant to be comprehensive when you enter into the true inner life in the spirit. Definitions are quite useful in ordinary physical life; in the life of the spirit, where it is all about perspectives, we are reminded, when someone just asks for definitions, of the example of a definition given in Greek literature. Asked how to define a human being, it was said—for definitions must always refer to individual characteristics—that a human being was a creature with two legs and no feathers.21Diogenes Laertius (2nd century AD), Greek writer. Peri bion doniaton kai apophthegmaton ton en philosophia endokimesanton (lives of the Greek philosophers). Book 6, ch. 2, 40: ‘When Plato made the definition that man is a two-legged featherless creature, and people applauded this, he [Diogenes of Sinope] plucked a cockerel and brought him to the school, saying: This is Plato’s man.’ The next time someone brought along a cockerel which he had plucked—a ‘human being’!

Well, I do of course know the requirements for a proper logical definition. However, from the spiritual point of view, definitions show definite bias. So do all statements of purpose, of causality, and so on. Reality is something into which you find your way, in which you are alive and active, but you do not define it using biased terms. You will find the purposes in successive lives on earth. But when someone asks about the ‘purpose of reincarnation’, this lacks substance.

Question. Is reincarnation a product of ideas developed in the spiritual realm?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, one might say so. One will, however, have to take into account what I said in my book. The kind of ideas we have in our ordinary way of thinking are not really true ideas from the spiritual point of view. They have been deprived of life and are like corpses of ideas. This is the strange thing. Much more lives in the soul than does normally come to conscious awareness. Much of it is partly deprived of life because we would be unable to bear it in our ordinary way of thinking. It is then like the corpse of an idea. Hence the abstract notions we have. They are really only a reflection, something that arises and passes away again. We do not remember it at all, as I have shown in the lecture. Behind it, however, is the living, spiritual reality which enters into vision in images, which goes through death and does live in the powers of reincarnation. Perhaps this would answer the question.

Question. Does reincarnation follow absolute established laws rather than being the outcome of creative etheric powers?

Only life between birth and death, or rather conception and death, is the outcome of creative etheric powers. The principle we are calling ‘reincarnation’ is subject to much higher spiritual laws. It is difficult to say if it is ‘established law’; it is simply a fact. Repeated lives on earth are a fact. ‘Outcome of creative etheric powers?’ Human beings only acquire an ether body as they are moving towards conception; they lay it aside again after death; the body of creative powers is not eternal, as I said in my lecture. But the powers to be considered when we speak of the laws of reincarnation do not enter into the human I’s awareness nor do they enter into the sphere of the ordinary physical world.

You see, the way would open up for many people even in this realm if we were only to look for it in the right way. The point is—and I have spoken of this with reference to individual instances—that experiences gained in the world of the spirit seem paradoxical compared to those we have in everyday life. In many respects the things you find in the other world are completely different from those we know in the physical world. We have to say that with their capacity for forming ideas based on experiences gained in natural life, through natural events, human beings are hardly able to go beyond ideas relating to space. Honest and more accurate self knowledge shows how little we are able to go beyond concepts of space. Just consider, how do we gain ideas of time? Really from ideas of space. Changes in space, the sun’s and moon’s changes in position, and indeed the hands of a clock in our case—that is how we gain our ideas of time. In reality they are ideas of space. The spiritual principle, on the other hand, lives in time even in its lowest form, which is the body of creative powers. Here we need a real idea of time!

Very few people are able to get a real idea of time today. And one is even less able to get a real idea of the different velocities—not times, therefore, but velocities—that apply in the realm of soul and spirit. Our inner life depends on the fact that our thinking, the forming of ideas, for instance, goes at quite a different speed from our feeling, and this again goes at a different speed from our doing. These things—that different velocities are layered one inside the other in the inner life—actually cause conscious awareness to arise in us. Conscious awareness only arises where something meets with interference. This is actually why it is also related to death—for death interferes with life. But it is altogether the situation that interference occurs. This is why Bergson’s view is so wrong, for instance, that one should always look to life and movement;22Bergson, Henri (1859–1941), French philosopher and Nobel Prize winner. His views on our inability to grasp life, or anything that moves, in our thoughts are above all presented in La pensée et le mouvant. Essais et conférences, 3rd edn, Paris 1934, especially in the lecture given in Bologna on 10 April 1911, entitled ‘L’intuition philosophique’. instead we come to the nature of movement by impeding it, and to the nature of life by seeing how death takes hold of life. To enter into the essential nature of life is something different from having a view of life.

All this makes us realize that the nature of law itself changes when you enter into the life of the spirit, and many people find this highly inconvenient. They therefore do not even take courage and enter into that life with their concepts and ideas, for those concepts and ideas would have to change. In genuine spiritual investigation you essentially get to know this very, very well. I do not like to bring in anything personal, for personal elements have not much to do with being objective. But many years ago an important question arose for me which has proved fruitful in a particular field. Herbart23Herbart, Johann Friedrich (1776–1841), German philosopher and educationist. See his Psychologie als Wissenschaft neu gegruendet auf Erfahrung, Metaphysik und Mathematik, Koenigsberg 1824. and other psychologists applied arithmetic or mathematics to research in their field; they tried to calculate facts relating to the psyche. Eduard von Hartmann24Hartmann, Eduard von (1842–1906), German philosopher. even tried to calculate facts that must be taken in a moral sense when he undertook to establish the basis of pessimism mathematically. He put all pleasures on the debit side of life and all negative experiences on the credit side, and then said: the negative experiences show a surplus; therefore life is bad.

I have shown the whole of this to be nonsense. You will find the proof I gave in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity25See Steiner, Rudolf The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (GA 4), Tr. R. Stebbing rev. Bristol: Rudolf Steiner Press 1963. ch. 13. A number of other translations have been published, the most recent being Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path. A Philosophy of Freedom. Tr. M. Lipson. Hudson: Anthroposophic Press 1995. written in 1894. If you want to speak of calculations, you have to make quite a different start, not establishing the balance by subtraction but writing a division, a fraction, making all pleasure, delight, experiences that prove elevating in life the enumerator and all pain and suffering the denominator. Let us look at this division. When would life seem to be no longer worth living? If the denominator were zero, if there were no pain at all, the figure would be infinitely great. But the denominator would have to be infinitely great if the fraction were to equal zero. This means that life would no longer seem worth living only if the pain was infinitely great. This cannot be decided by any kind of abstract reckoning but only by life itself. Life does its reckoning in this way.

When it comes to the psyche, we cannot do calculations about inner events the way Herbart or Hartmann wanted to do it. Life gives the result, and when you get up into the worlds of the spirit the result divides up—a sum into summands, a fraction into enumerator and denominator. You get exactly the opposite. Here in physical life, you have the individual summands and enumerators and denominators and then get your result. There it is the other way round. You have the result, it is inner experience, and the individual elements that lead to the result go into the world of the spirit. So you see, many of our ideas have to be completely rethought if we want to cross the threshold from the physical world to the world of the spirit.

Perhaps the things I have said in connection with this question will give you the idea that this science of the spirit really is not something straight off the bat, nor is it the offspring of fantasy. It is something which, as I said in the lecture, needs no less effort to gain than any other kind of scientific work. Only the powers needed for this belong to another sphere. We therefore have to say that there is a law to the progression of repeated lives on earth. But the nature of this law is something we must first of all get hold of. This is why I said it is not a matter of interpreting natural phenomena but of truly rising above them so that we may live freely in the spirit inwardly. This, then, answers the question.

Now a strange question—strange after this lecture: Question: Which are the spiritual organs of touch?

Well, we should not think of this as something physical. I made it quite clear that it is something that exists in the realm of soul and spirit and can only be compared with something that arises from memory. If you want the kind of answer where you have the specific ‘spiritual organs of touch’ and are then looking for a generic term, you’ll not achieve anything. Instead, we have to find our way through, as I have shown. The soul reaches limits, differentiates and develops ‘spiritual organs of touch’ which in the realm of soul and spirit can be compared to the organs of touch we have in the physical realm, just as we may compare ‘eyes of the spirit’ and ‘ears of the spirit’ with physical eyes and physical ears.

Question. Are there clear definitions of what we understand by 'belief’?

I would really need to give you the history and origins of the word ‘belief’ to make the answer complete, and then show how the different kinds of belief evolved from this. Let me say the following, however. In more recent times the meaning of the word ‘belief’ has been limited to ‘taking something to be true’ on a subjective basis—insight, therefore, that is not real insight but a subjective surrogate of insight. The word did not always have such a limited meaning. To understand the background to the idea of belief we have to consider the following.

In today’s lecture I mentioned just briefly that the soul related to reality in a different way in earlier times. It has only come to stand apart from the reality of the natural world in more recent times. In those earlier times, when the soul was still more closely connected with the spiritual reality and had developed an inner awareness of soul content that was other than it has to be now in modern anthroposophy, people knew that if they took something to be true, this was not just a theoretical attitude, for their believing something to be true also had the power of living reality in it. If I have an ideal and believe in my ideal, this is not just a matter of letting the idea of the ideal be present in the mind; a power of soul connects with the ideal. And this is part of the human being’s reality. Human beings are involved in creating reality. Here ‘belief’ means a positive way of generating inner power.

The concept ‘belief’ is presented in a similar way in Ricarda Huch’s interesting book on Luther’s faith.26Huch, Ricarda (1864–1947), German novelist and historian. Luthers Glaube, Briefe an einen Freund (Luther’s faith, letters to a friend), Leipzig 1916. See also Rudolf Steiner's lecture on Luther given in Berlin on 11 September 1917, in Karma of Materialism (GA 176) tr. R. Stebbing; New York & London: Anthroposophic Press & Rudolf Steiner Press 1985. There, too, the concept of belief is found to be not just believing something to be true but connecting oneself with the reality as it evolves. I would like to say that when one is in the power of belief, one has something in oneself like the seed which a plant holds in itself; it is not yet a real plant but has the power to grow into a real plant.

Belief thus should not be the image or reflection of an insight but an element in the realm of ideas that connects with a genuine power, so that we are wholly within reality with our belief. And if someone were to insist that belief gives him no insight, he would nevertheless have to admit that if he uses the concept ‘belief’ in this way, the reality in it places him in the real world.

These are just hints, brief comments.