Anthroposophy has Something to Add to Modern Sciences
VI. The spiritual scientific make-up of psychology
10 October 1917, Zurich
From the foundations of psychology to the vital questions concerning the boundaries of human existence
It is understandable that in this scientific age people want to turn to a scientific psychology, especially with regard to the major riddles of life and the world, the riddles of the soul. However, if one is able to sum up the present situation in scientific psychology it has to be said that it is going through a kind of death, for its traditions come from ancient times and whilst it is meant to be in many ways a science, without bias, people are in fact working with those traditions.
Speaking about the scientific basis of higher insight here the day before yesterday I mentioned the name of a present-day philosopher, Richard Wahle. 100Wahle, Richard (1857–1935) Das Ganze der Philosophie und ihr Ende. Ihre Vermächtnisse an die Theologie, Physiologie, Aesthetik und Staatspädagogik, Vienna and Leipzig 1894. Ueber den Mechanismus des geistigen Lebens, Vienna and Leipzig 1906. He is not very widely known. Yet his views are extraordinarily significant, especially what he says about modern scientific psychology in his books. I would say that the approach used by this philosopher is of symptomatic importance especially for those who are able to think scientifically today. I won’t say that he is someone likely to have much of an influence, nor that he has actually had much influence, but his approach is important from the symptomatic point of view. In many respects it could tell us the way in which we have to think today to be in accord with the demands generally made in science. I am therefore able to say that on the one hand the spiritual science of which we are speaking here can agree with what such a philosopher says with regard to psychology, although on the other hand, as we shall see today, it has to be the absolute opposite of such ideas. This philosopher is well versed in the way of thinking and the attitude to research which people can have now if they are highly educated in today’s scientific way. That is why anyone who tries to approach the life of the psyche with the ideas that are current in science today will of necessity come to realize that the psychology which is generally on offer is dying.
In external terms this is evident from the fact that this philosophical psychology is gradually disappearing again from professorial chairs at universities, whilst at the same time there is a growing desire to put people who think in natural scientific ways, from physiology or another natural science, on the chairs previously held by philosophers. It is hoped by many that the enigmas of the psyche, which earlier on were to be investigated by a specific psychology, may be solved by considering the physiology of the brain, the physiology of nerve structures and the like.
If we really go into all justifiable natural science to be found in psychology, we realize that in the usual psychology people speak of many things that really can no longer be said to be valid ideas today. They speak of forming ideas, of thinking as such, of feeling, of will impulses, memory, attention, and so on. And if we try in all honesty to go into the things this psychology offers in this respect, to meet the needs of the human soul, the vitality the human soul needs, all we have in the end are really just words. And we have to say that if we consider the historical evolution of human cultural life we can say to ourselves — I can only mention it here, for today’s lecture would be too long if I were to give the proof — that in earlier times, when those concepts of thinking, of memory, attention and so on were first created, people had very different ideas about natural phenomena, ideas that would indeed serve to understand the inner life in a way adequate to those earlier times. But things that were established then and have become like spectres that still haunt psychology, turn into mere word shell, mere word, in the light of the scientific thinking which all human beings have today, albeit subconsciously, if they have made any effort at all in culture and academic learning.
Something else also comes into this. For centuries, we may reasonably say, psychology has developed in the academic caste, and within this academic caste has assumed the form we get today in the usual lectures or publications on psychology.
Someone wanting to learn something out of the fullness of life about these most important existential questions which after all culminate in questions as to the divine nature of the cosmic order and as to immortality — someone seeking information concerning these questions in modern psychology will be disappointed. Franz Brentano, 101See note 18. a serious and profound investigator of the psyche who died here in Zurich last year, made great efforts to gain insight in psychology, but remained caught up in the old ideas about the psyche that have become mere words. He said a very important thing: If we look at modern psychology it will be found that psychologists think they can try and establish insights concerning the development of ideas, concerning feelings and will impulses, and also concerning attention, love and hate; yet if they seek to stick to natural science they will not go beyond this circle. Franz Brentano went on to say that however much one might say about these elementary aspects of the inner life, none of it could replace the great question which Plato and Aristotle put long ago: whether it is possible to discover something about the part of our inner life that remains when the mortal bodies which hold that inner life pass away in death. This is what an acknowledged expert in modern psychology said.
In the science of the spirit which takes its orientation from anthroposophy, the aim is to achieve a renewal of psychology on the basis of what I said here the day before yesterday. The aim is to go beyond mere word shells and investigate the reality of the inner life. The way this is done does, of course, still have to take fully into account today the objections and opposition that may come from conventional psychologists. One must be able to wrestle with everything that exists in the recognized approach to psychology. On the other hand the conditions I have outlined for the renewal of psychology should lead to knowledge of the psyche, a view of the psyche that can now truly feed the souls of striving humanity in a much wider sense and can — to use a commonplace term — be popular in the best and highest sense of the word.
Psychology must be taken out of the academic caste where, to put it metaphorically, it has become guilty of falling into abstractions. These may be brilliant, but they cannot in any way provide psychologists with insights into the boundary issues of human existence which justifiably are of burning interest in the inner life of man.
Human thinking has changed completely compared to earlier times, when the ideas used in psychology which have now become words originated. Because of this, the new psychology must also let go of the starting points people wanted to use in their desire to continue further and further into the realm of the psyche. There must be new starting points. These are such that having come to them we can only base ourselves on premises like those of which I spoke the day before yesterday, and that means remaining true to the way of thinking that has been trained in the natural sciences. We cannot simply ask: What is an idea? We cannot simply want to observe what ideas are, what thinking or will are, or what memory is, and so on. Just as modern natural science in laboratory and clinical practice starts from entirely different premises than the natural science of earlier times, so psychology must relate to the realities of life which, however, must first be distilled out, I would say, from the wholeness of human life.
Initially there are two moments in human life where the newer psychology should come in. From there it can then go back again to concepts of idea, will and so on, so that they in turn will gain full soul value. These two starting points or moments are, however, most difficult to observe, truly no easier to observe than many a process in nature that will only reveal itself when one uses carefully prepared methods and experiments. These moments flit past in human life, and their nature is such, in a way, that it is impossible to take hold of them in conscious awareness. We must first train our minds, as it were, so that we can catch hold of them. They are the moments of going to sleep and waking up.
Going to sleep and waking up are the moments in human life when the whole state of consciousness changes and the human being moves from one state of soul into another that is radically opposite. I need not say much to show that these brief moments are difficult to observe. For when we go to sleep our conscious awareness goes, and we therefore do not observe the moment of going to sleep. When we wake up, we can sense that we are tearing ourselves away from some kind of life in progress; but anyone who tries to pick up experiences he had in sleep with the conscious mind will very soon and very easily discover that he fails in this.
Here we can only train soul observation, using the means I briefly referred to the day before yesterday and about which I am now going to say more, to observe the moments of going to sleep and waking up. This training must involve a degree of strengthening, greater power given first of all to the life of ideas itself, and then also to the life of will. But the inner processes, subtle processes in the psyche, that will give such strength and power to the life of will, do differ quite considerably from anything we are used to in our everyday inner life.
The other day I called the process which strengthens the life of ideas meditation. If you use methods given in my Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and also in my Occult Science and other books to let ideas and conscious awareness be present in the mind, thinking not just in the usual sense but resting on your thinking, doing so more and more, you let your thinking enter into the soul and your soul into your thinking in a completely different way than you usually do. You then strengthen the life of ideas to such effect — as I said, details of the methods are given in my books — that you can form ideas in a way that is as lively and active as you normally know only when your mind is involved with sensory perceptions of the outside world.
Goethe had an inkling, even if initially it was only an inkling, of this way of forming ideas — having taken up something Johann Christian Heinroth 102 Goethe’s essay ‘Bedeutende Foerdemis durch ein einziges geistreiches Wort’ (1823). See note 10. Goethe received Johann Christian Heinroth’s Lehrbuch der Anthropologie (Leipzig 1822) on 29 October 1822. In his Annals for the year he wrote: ‘Heinroth’s anthropology gave me insights into my approach to the study of nature just when I was endeavouring to produce my natural scientific journal.’ had said, for Goethe considered his own thinking too be too object-bound. He was able to say that he believed he was gradually able to think in such a living way that the inner strength and inner intensity of this thinking was equivalent to the mental activity which otherwise only exists when we consider the natural world outside us with our eyes, use our ears to follow events in the natural world, and so on.
It is possible to strengthen the life of ideas so much and be so intensive in this that we may say: This life of ideas itself becomes a form of direct vision; the activity is like that of direct vision; and the life of the senses is taken into the sphere of ideas in such a way that the senses are not involved although the vitality of their life is retained.
This is one aspect — strengthening the life of ideas. As you progress further and further in this a power of observation will indeed develop which is unknown in our ordinary state of mind. We need this if we are to investigate the moment of going to sleep and that of waking up in the way in which we investigate objects and events in everyday life using the methods of natural science.
It will also be necessary to train the will in a certain way. This can only be done by self control as we pay attention to something in life that is usually little regarded. In ordinary life we go along, accompanying anything we perceive in the world outside with our inner life experience. Now it is necessary to go beyond this to something else. We must turn our attention to the fact that our inner life is changing, being transformed, developing year by year, month by month and indeed day by day and hour by hour. We do not normally bring this development process in the life of the psyche into the sphere of the will. We let it flow on. With a little bit of self education we do take care to get rid of habitual faults and acquire certain virtues, abilities and so on. Something very different will have to come into our life, however, if we are to gain the self control of the will of which I am speaking. People must be able to gain the inner insight that there is something in them which they can bring into the will, I might say, bringing it into the will in such a way that self cultivation, self control will look very difficult to them, yet at the same time also appear as desirable as only the acts of will relating to wholly inevitable drives in human life normally are.
Let us look at this from another point of view. There are today particularly many people who consider themselves capable — well, maybe I am putting this in somewhat radical terms, but you’ll find such a radical view justifiable if you think more deeply about our present time — of reforming the whole world. They have ideas, as it were, as to what should happen so that people could live together happily, the social order in life was right, and so on. An enormous number of programmes exist in this area. In reality more or less everyone is a kind of reformer in his mind as soon as he begins to think about the outside world; it is just that the world does not give them the opportunity to bring their reforms or perhaps also their revolutionary ideas to realization.
Here indeed the will impulse, the desire extends to the world outside. We must know, however, that there is something in the human being to which intentions and impulses may be directed just as well that will take the individual from one period of life to another, and indeed just from one week to the other. We must know that in no way do things get going on their own in the human being, the way he mostly wills it, but that human beings are able to use their will to follow their development in time. And when the will comes in with such method in that area, the way I have described it in the books I have mentioned, you get that inner strength, the inner vision, a direct vision of the will element which we will never gain in our relationship to the outside world. You get the direct vision of the will which has to be added to the strengthening in the life of ideas I have just mentioned if you are to be able to observe the moments of going to sleep and waking up.
However, before you come to investigate those moments of going to sleep and waking up, having strengthened your inner life, you come to realize that the concepts humanity has today, and these cannot be the concepts of the old way of looking at nature, will only give you a view of the life of ideas that leads human beings to non-reality, their feeling life into confusion and their life of will to incomprehensibility.
Essentially what we have to say has also been said by the philosopher I mentioned when he spoke of philosophy having come to an end, of philosophy dissolving, handing over to physiology, and the like. He already had a feeling, though it was not entirely clear, about the concepts we are able to have today, concepts that are infinitely useful in the study of the natural world around us and for introducing to human life what is really the most essential content of a new civilization. He felt that these concepts, useful as they are when applied to outside things, do not answer the question, when we want to study the soul: What are the ideas we have of things? But it is because of them that in the life of ideas we can directly come to the ‘I think, therefore I am not,’ 103See Rudolf Steiner on the subject in the lecture given on 8 October 1918 (in this volume). and discover the non-reality of the inner life.
We come to realize that the more we enter into the life of ideas, the less are we able to say what the soul is if we consider the life of ideas merely the way it is in ordinary life and not in the way of which I have been speaking. We come to realize that the life of feelings we know in the ordinary life of the psyche is confused, and that the life of the will is wholly incomprehensible. Hence the interesting phenomenon that it is exactly people who think in the natural scientific way as they write works on psychology that are highly significant today believe they are able to say something about the life of ideas when they are in fact considering the physiology of the brain. They then reach a point, however, where they say to themselves that the physiology of the brain does not determine anything. Read the relevant chapters in Theodor Ziehen’s book on physiological psychology 104See note 72. and you’ll find that what I have been saying is true for a renowned natural philosopher of our time.
We have to say, therefore, that this natural scientific way of thinking more or less shows what Schopenhauer also did not perceive, or only half perceived, though he had an inkling of it. This is that the will is something we cannot reach with the ideas of recent times, and that it is something incomprehensible.
It is a good preparation for the newer kind of psychology if we understand this non-reality of the soul in the life of ideas, this confusion in our life of feeling, this incomprehensibility of acts of will. Having gained clarity in this way — paradoxical though this may sound, but we have after all gained clarity about one thing — we can penetrate further. We can then use the thinking which has been made more acute, stronger, through meditation, and the life of the will that has subjected itself to self control to pay real attention to the moment, let us say, first of all of waking up. The moment of waking up can then enter into the field of observation in the soul in a quite specific way. We will experience something when considering the waking-up process that cannot be experienced in an untrained inner life. If we have gained the necessary calm by training in the way I have mentioned, we will be able to establish immediately after waking up that the whole of the inner life which was there in the unconscious on waking up has gone away. Only it does not have one quality, this life which the soul has in the time from going to sleep to waking up — it does not evoke memory of itself. You realize this when a significant moment arises: All the time you were asleep you let the soul flow in the same life in which is also flows when you are awake; but this flow of the soul in sleep does not become imprinted into your power of memory. It is therefore forgotten as you wake up. This is the essential point.
Memory is important in everyday life — as I said the day before yesterday. Forgetting is equally important, with the soul’s experience such that it can also forget what it has lived through. It is important for the development of the soul principle, for its continued flow between birth and death, and so on. Indeed, it is only if we are able to observe the moment of waking-up in this way that we get an idea of the significance which sleep really has in the life of the human soul. We come to realize that our life could not continue if it were wholly filled with things that become memories and that the memory principle loses its power to let our life flow on. We need to fall asleep in order that we may forget what we live through in the time when we are asleep. Our ordinary, everyday inner life will feed the soul and give it life if it is forgotten, not if it is remembered. Remembering things depletes the soul. Forgetting restores the vital energies of the soul.
This is how you get a definite insight into the vital process which is reflected in our waking up. And with this you perceive the inner life, though it really takes the form of a review in reverse. But now the ordinary conscious awareness was there between going to sleep and waking up is not poured out over it. You gain tremendously much in thus being able to perceive the inner life of the soul, for it will give you the basis for a level of understanding.
No one can truly grasp what it means to say: I form an idea, and what it means to say: I develop a thought in my soul, unless he is actually able to observe the moment of waking. For when we progress from merely being awake, merely living our life in the waking state, to active thinking, to developing an idea of a thought, this is qualitatively, though to a lesser degree, exactly the same inner process as waking up. You need to strengthen the transition from the sleeping to the waking state in order to know the waking up, and you have then created a basis for yourself for the principle that will answer the question: What actually happens in my psyche when I form an idea? The power we develop in the soul when we form an idea is the same as the power we must develop, though much more powerfully so, when we wake up. When we wake up, it is the unconscious mind which does it. And what the unconscious does as we wake up comes to conscious awareness if we make the inner effort that lets us think and form ideas in conscious awareness and with a will.
Here we get a quite specific view concerning the way in which ideas are formed. The mere shells of words that have come from an earlier psychology are given real content again. We realize that forming ideas is a weaker form of waking up that comes whilst we are in the waking state. This is an important insight. If we connect this insight into the nature of ideation with the nature of the waking-up process, it becomes possible to make the ideation in our everyday life, which otherwise really takes us into the non-reality of inner life, into something that is real. By connecting ideation with waking up, it becomes possible to relate to a factual element that does not depend on us.
Having made the connection with this waking-up process and thus got to know the nature of ideation, let us turn to the moment of going to sleep. Just as meditation is a special help in exploring the moment of waking up, so self control over the will is a special help in exploring the moment of going to sleep. Control of the will makes it possible to enter into the process, observing our going to sleep, truly observing how something happens as we enter into sleep that is similar to the forgetting that comes on waking up, becoming aware that memory of the inner life is extinguished during sleep. Otherwise we may always be in dispute, saying that somehow the body is always involved in what the soul experiences in sleep. If we are able to grasp the moment of going to sleep consciously, by controlling the will, we find that we enter into the same inner life which we leave when we wake up, but that we enter into it in such a way that all possibility of perceiving things through the senses comes to an end. We then come to realize what it means to say that on going to sleep we enter into a realm that lies beyond the senses. We come to know this because we find that on thus entering into the other realm we experience something that cannot come to conscious awareness in the kind of conscious awareness we usually have in our inner life. This is bound to the organization, dependent on the organization, between birth and death. We find that we become independent on the organization, something about which illustrious people may be in dispute for ever. The matter needs to be observed; we then find that on going to sleep we enter into the realm that lies beyond the senses.
And we then see the difference which exists between the inner life when we leave it on waking up and the inner life into which we enter on going to sleep. They are the same in so far as they are supersensible by nature; but by means of the observation I have characterized we note an essential difference. An analogy will help you to see this.
The difference is like the way a child differs from an old person. Both are human beings, but they are at different stages of life, different age levels. In the same way both forms of inner life are supersensible by nature — the inner life from which we rise on waking up and the inner life into which we enter on going to sleep. However, the inner life into which we enter on going to sleep is the ‘child’, and the inner life from which we waken is the one which has grown ‘older’. We follow a road from going to sleep to waking up. The inner life changes so that — no analogy is ever perfect — the element into which we enter is similar to the one from which we wake the way a child is similar to a very old person, both being human. This is a subtle difference that has to be noted. It provides something of a basis on which we can come closer to an important element in our investigation of the inner life, and that is the life of feelings.
The life of feelings, a mere collection of words in our customary psychology today, can only be truly understood if we study it on the basis of which I have been speaking, that is after we have come to perceive the supersensible inner life by observing the moments of waking up and going to sleep. There is one other important aspect of going to sleep which we must consider before we come to the life of feelings. We have to ask: What is it, really, that changes in a specific way in the inner life as we go to sleep? What is the effect of leaving the reality perceptible to the senses on going to sleep and entering into supersensible reality? It is the transformation of the will. And the process which is a more powerful one when I go to sleep also happens to a lesser degree when I resolve something in my will. We cannot grasp the will unless we do so on the basis of the going-to-sleep process.
The reality of the will in the depth of our inner life is wholly beyond comprehension in our life of ideas, just like anything that happens during sleep. This is why you do not find anything about the will in natural scientific works on psychology. It cannot be grasped because the life of ideas does not go that far. But if we know the process of going to sleep, we know that our ordinary inner life becomes submerged in an act of will, though to a lesser degree than it does when we go to sleep. Every resolution is a lesser form of going to sleep that happens when we are fully awake.
If we keep apart these two realities — waking up and going to sleep — one of which becomes explicable in relation to the life of ideas, the other with reference to the life of the will, which becomes explicable if we consider the process of going to sleep, we can begin to take a real look at the enigma presented by our life of feeling. A possibility arises of bringing clarity into the confusion which we usually see in the life of feelings. How do we bring clarity into something? By means of perceptive insight. There is nothing else. I could bring detailed epistemological proof, but that would take us too far today. With perceptive insight, clarity is brought into something if there is a clear and real distinction between the one who perceives, the one who is gaining insight, and the object perceived.
This is what makes the life of feelings always confusing for our ordinary life in the psyche. In everyday life we do not need to distinguish between two things unless we wish to gain perceptive insight into the ordinary life of feelings. These are two things of intrinsic value and they are opposite to one another, just as we are opposite to the world we perceive outside through the senses — world perceived through the senses there, human being there. In the same sense two things are opposites in the life of feelings. Which are they?
We can only perceive them, subject and object, if we are able to investigate them on the basis of ideas gained in the way I have been describing. We then come to perceive who it is who actually feels, and we discover what can actually be perceived in the life of feelings. The remarkable fact emerges that the one who feels is always the one — and this does seem a paradox — whom we have not yet lived through. If we feel something now, at this moment, it is the human being in us whom we are only now beginning to live and will continue to live tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, next year, and until we die. When we feel, the subject, which is otherwise unknown, is our life, which is in us from the moment when we have the feeling to our death. And we perceive the life we have lived through from birth to the moment when we feel — a vast prospect in investigation, that the life of feeling lies in this starting point.
You can do a number of things — I would not talk about these things in this way if I had not done these investigations in many different fields; a large number of investigations and challenges lie in this field — you can do a number of things to prove what I have just been saying in a wholly natural-scientific way. You only need to take sensibly written biographies and relate them to the requirement I have just mentioned. Take a sensible biography of Goethe. Consider Goethe in 1790; study him the way he was from 1790 until his death in 1832. Try and get a clear picture of the specific things Goethe went through from 1790 until his death, and consider the way in which it would have been perceptible in Goethe’s life of feelings in 1790. Then consider his life, his inner life, the way the outside world touched him, from his birth in 1749 to 1790. And in getting a clear idea of how the Goethe from 1790 to 1832, who was already there, inwardly perceived during one moment in 1790 what he had lived through earlier — every feeling. Every feeling we have is such that our future essential nature perceives our past essential nature.
You can also do other things. You might try and develop an eye for people whom you saw die, where you had the opportunity to share their life, perhaps for a short time, from a certain point in time until their death. Try and bring this clearly to mind — how they lived then and what their human nature was. And then try and get a clear picture — you’ll always be surprised by the result — for instance of the situation being one where death was approaching, the actual character, of how the essential nature was poured out over the life of feelings.
These are two possible ways. Other things become apparent in a genuinely natural-scientific way, though this comes close to the most profound and inward interests of human nature when you investigate what I have so briefly referred to as the life of feelings. The life of feelings, the essential nature of feeling, will then not be the empty shell of words which we have in ordinary scientific psychology today. If you want to simply inwardly observe feeling in all its confusion, you cannot in fact observe anything. Just as you cannot scientifically observe water unless you separate it into hydrogen and oxygen, so you cannot observe the life of feelings in a scientific way unless you are able to separate it into what the human being was before he had the feeling and in what comes afterwards, unless you know the active principle which lies deep down in there like a seed, just as the seed is active in this year’s plant for the plant that will grow next year.
Studying the life of feelings in this way you will find that your ideas come to be filled with real strength. And you will gain a psychology for the life of feelings which is alive from the very beginning, which we live everywhere, and which we fill with life ourselves. And if we know that anything we feel in a moment does not exist in isolation, then the moments in our inner life will also be connected with the whole process of our development from birth to death. Future and past in our development on earth will then come together in every single feeling, even the least of them. In the same way, though it is best to do so only after investigating the life of feelings, you can, under the conditions I have given, turn to the life of ideas. The results will be even more surprising, the reason being that people will consider them paradoxical because it is something they do not know, neither according to the ideas which arise in the ordinary way in our inner life nor according to the ideas held in modern science.
If you discover that every forming of an idea, of a thought, is a attenuated form of waking up, and if in your inner observation you bring together the active element in the forming of ideas and the waking-up process, then connecting a mental image with waking up, which is a true activity, you enter into a current in your vision that carries you along, showing you that waking up, too, is an attenuated form of something more powerful. This other, more powerful element which you then perceive just as if, having seen the image of a person, you then meet the real person, is the insight that the forming of an idea and every waking up is a recapitulation, attenuated to become an image, of something we may call entering into life on earth through conception and birth.
The thread you have thus spun simply widens out as an inner connection has been made in your perception between waking up and forming an idea. The power gained in this way widens out, so that you do not observe the two in isolation but in their whole context. It widens out because you realize that in forming ideas as such we do not live in reality but have an image. Yet the very insight that we have an image, something that is not real, gives us the strength to come to something that is real, and we find that every time the forming of an idea or waking up is a process of entering into the physical world, a process attenuating reality to image, going through the process of putting on a physical body, of going through conception and birth.
You then realize where something comes from that has occupied the minds of serious investigators for a very long time. If you make the effort to consider what has occupied human minds from the time of Locke, Hume and Bacon, you will find that these investigators were never in a position to form adequate ideas about the way the life of ideas relates to the real world outside which we perceive through the senses. They were unable to find an answer to the question as to how, when we observe the reality outside, using the senses, the idea which is supposed to correspond to that reality enters into the human mind.
If one has the preconditions of which I have spoken, you’ll realize that there is a problem about this question as a question. I might characterize this as follows. Let us assume someone makes the observation that carbon dioxide is exhaled by human beings. If he then assumes that the carbon dioxide comes from the lung and has therefore been produced there, he has the wrong idea. It is equally wrong if a superficial view, which is of course quite natural for our ordinary inner life, leads to the thought that the power to form ideas comes from the body. It certainly does not come from the body!
Whatever may be active there in the body, in the inner life, it is only image attenuated to image on entering into the life of the senses. And the power we have in us when we form ideas is the same power — this is what you will discover — that was active before you ever came in contact with the world perceived through the senses at your conception. It is the power which shines across through time, from the period before birth and indeed conception. This is thinking in us, and not we ourselves in the here and now. This is why scientists were unable to discover how the forming of ideas comes to human beings. Because of this we also find that the forming of ideas is something unreal. From birth, or conception, the forming of ideas has transformed its reality into bodily life. The spiritual, supersensible principle active in us which can only show itself as we wake up and as we go to sleep, when we are not in our bodies, now lives powerfully in the forming of ideas. Gaining insight into the way ideas are formed we are taken to life before birth, to life outside the body. This is done in a wholly scientific way which we have learned to use in modern natural science.
There is no need to malign the more recent science of the spirit with its anthroposophical orientation by saying that it rehashes old ideas taken from Buddhism and the like. It does not do so. Instead, inner strength is gained in the life of the psyche by consistently adhering to the natural scientific way of thinking. However, being thus consistent it takes us beyond what natural science itself can give. When we truly grasp the process of forming ideas, we see it to be image, an attenuated image of what we lived through before we were in a physical body, when we were in the world that lies beyond the physical before we were born or conceived.
From the world of ideas a tangible bridge is created to the ability to grasp the supersensible and immortal human being. The boundary questions in our existence are found if we grasp the elementary phenomena of the inner life in the right way. It is this which truly matters.
We can then also observe the following in more detail. How is it, really, with this pre-birth life that has faded to become ideation? We may ask ourselves: What would happen if what is not real but mere image in ideation were truly to enter into the life of the body, not as image but as reality?
Now we come to something that is highly significant. Taken out of its spiritual scientific context it will of course seem rather odd at first, and I’ll therefore first look at something that is closer to hand. If we make the life of ideas into immediate reality we get something that is particularly common in natural scientific research, except that people doing such work do not see it in its whole cognitive context. For when we do experiments we are not looking at the natural world, we are looking at something the human mind has put together. However, whenever we force nature into our experiment we actually have to kill its living reality. We really have a nature before us that we have killed when we do an experiment; for the experiment is entirely made up according to the non-real methods the human mind uses in forming ideas. If we take this further, of course, it will help us to realize what would actually happen to us if the forming of ideas did not enter into our lives in an attenuated form, remaining merely an image of the pre-birth existence we had before conception, but if it were to be reality, the kind of reality we have in the field we perceive through the senses in life, it would immediately kill us.
That is the situation in life. Something we live through in an image or an idea and which is an echo with image character, if I may put it like this, of our non-physical life before conception, would kill us if it were to become as real as the living human body. It would be a poison in us, penetrating us as we would be penetrated if we were to produce an artificial human being and force him through our blood and through our muscles. We see that in the natural context the non-physical enters into us as a reflection of itself in image form.
We may then move on to consider the will, complementing the thought which is thus stimulated from the one side.
We investigate the will by considering it in connection with going to sleep. We find that when we are awake during the day an attenuated going-to-sleep process is present in every act of will, so that we go down into the non-physical world. When we have established this link between the act of will and the process of going to sleep, we have again gained the power in our investigation to continue the steps we took in observing the psyche with regard to going to sleep. What we had so far gained in taking those steps then widens out, for our observation will extend not only to going to sleep but to death. And we come to perceive what dying means for the human being.
In science, things like these are often taken the easy way today. Concepts like death or dying are more or less treated in a way that would be like saying: A knife is a knife. And they give you a razor to cut up your meat. A knife may be a cutting tool, but a razor has to be used and handled differently from a table knife.
Death is today seen as something people want to investigate as such. The approach used in the science of the spirit is less easygoing, for here one aims for reality and does not seek to shape reality according to preconceived concepts and ideas. Here one must ask specifically: What is death in the plant world? What is death in the animal world? What is death in the human world? For death does not equal death, just as knife does not equal knife. People like to denigrate the science of the spirit by saying that its concepts are confused, dark and nebulous. Its distinguishing characteristic is, however, that one always seeks to enter into the most open fairway, and this science demands clarity, succinctness and unbiased observation as preconditions for human ideas. People who say that in the science of the spirit one works with confused ideas are merely bringing their own confused ideas into the science of the spirit.
Once the bridge has been built between the act of will and the process of going to sleep, looking at sensory perception takes you forward across this bridge to see what death is in the human being. You then find that the powers that take the human being out of the world perceived through the senses at the moment of death also take effect in the human act of will, though not in the fully developed but rather in a more embryonic form. Every time we will something, making our intentions come true in actions, we configure something that relates to dying the way the child relates to the old man in terms of being human.
This also builds a bridge between the principle which in form of elementary soul phenomena dies in the will in our everyday conscious awareness, with this will an attenuated dying process just as forming ideas is an attenuated process of getting born and being conceived through the soul. It is merely that forming ideas has image quality, whilst will intent is embryonic. Will intent is a reality; it is not image but reality. But it is an act that is not as yet completed. If it were to be complete, if the act of will were to be fully grown, it would always be a process of dying. What makes the will into will is that whatever evolves in will intent remains embryonic and does not enter into existence in reality. For if it were to develop further from the embryonic state of will intent and gain full strength, it would always be a dying process. In our will intent we are potentially dying all the time. We bear the powers of death in us. And for someone able to penetrate the soul as an investigator, every act of will is an attenuated dying process that has remained embryonic.
In the genuine observation of the psyche which has developed more recently, an elementary act of soul thus also makes the connection with the great boundary riddles of human existence. We then come to perceive not only the triad of being born, waking up and developing a thought but also the triad of will intent, going to sleep and dying. We can actually gain our orientation from the going-to-sleep process by investigating this process, where we enter into the sphere beyond the senses, withdrawing from the senses; here we have the process of dying in embryo. And we perceive dying to be a transition from the world perceived through the senses to the world that is beyond the senses. Will intent can only be perceived in its embryonic state because we have previously realized that on going to sleep it is the young life of the soul which the soul perceives. Otherwise we would never be able to bring the embryonic nature of will intent before the inner eye in any way whatsoever.
You see that thinking, feeling and will intent are understood on the basis of facts. By becoming facts in the anthroposophically orientated psychology that must evolve, they take us at the same time to the great boundary issues of human soul life. No one is fantasizing about some kind of immortality but an investigation is made into the nature of ideation. This will in one respect take us to immortality, to life before birth. The will is investigated. It takes us to immortality after birth. And when these are taken together we come to immortality as a whole, the eternal quality of human nature which has its roots in the world beyond that perceived by the senses.
Through meditative life — I can refer to it only briefly — we thus come to perceive more and more how unreal the ordinary I is, for it has wholly and entirely given over its existence to the body. And in pursuing this non-reality in a way similar to the way in which we have pursued the other elements that come into the inner life, we also gain insight into repeated lives on earth, an aspect which seems so incomprehensible to people today — the repeated lives on earth through which the human being goes, with lives in the world of the spirit coming in between.
This general outline which, as I said, does still sound strange today, need not necessarily be taken to be the logical conclusion. For someone who takes the route of genuine study of the psyche which has been characterized today, the insights that take him through the forming of ideas and through the will and bring the non-physical to such immediate, factual reality out of the moments of going to sleep and waking up, lead to the realization that we go through repeated lives on earth.
Having shown you how the connection can be made from a psychology that once again is concerned with realities to the great boundary issues of human existence, I still have to point out to you that the state of soul on which this is based and which must enter into scientific research again if we are to have a true psychology, must indeed evoke a quite specific constitution of the inner life for specific elements or moments in doing research, but not for the whole of everyday life. For to gain true insight in the way I have been describing today we must be able to attach special significance in life to our waking up and going to sleep. It means we should not merely live the inner life as something that happens by the way, which is how we live through it in the ordinary way. We must strengthen our thinking in the way I have described and gain self control in the will so that we live the inner life to a higher degree than we live our ordinary lives. The precondition for this investigation of the soul is a state of soul which is little known in everyday life. It will be easiest for me to characterize it in the following way.
If you are really active in ordinary life and not a lazy person, you will after a certain number of hours during which you have been awake feel the need to sleep, to be at rest and sleep. Just as you live through this physical existence in your ordinary waking life, so you need to be able to live in such a natural, matter-of-course way through the inner life as an investigator of the psyche, an inner life that comes with strengthened thinking and self control in the will.
Then it must also be possible for certain phenomena to occur. For example the kind of thinking which we are accustomed to in ordinary life can really go on and on without hindrance. Sometimes it might really give one the horrors, especially when one hears people gossiping over their tea cups or other things, to think of the ways in which people can go on thinking all the time, accompanying external life with their thoughts. This is something you cannot do with the inner life that takes you into the soul’s reality in the way I have described. When an investigator of the psyche works the way he is meant to do in anthroposophy, so that he will truly obtain the kind of results I have spoken of today, he will very soon feel — in the way he is working, for example, with regard to anything he seeks to elicit from the element or moment of going to sleep and waking up, so that he may then develop it further with greater acuity of thinking and to support the will — he will very soon feel, with as much necessity as we otherwise feel when we have done hard physical work with our muscles, hands and arms, that he cannot go on working. That is the inner feeling one gets after doing investigations in the way I meant today for just a short time. You can’t go on, you need to relax. And you find this relaxation in everyday life. Care is thus taken to see that the true psychologist does not turn into a dreamer or solitary visionary, an eccentric. If he investigates the soul in the right way, which I have described, he will speak of getting tired in the soul just as the physical body grows tired if we labour long and hard in the ordinary sense. And just as you need rest and sleep for this, so you need here to change to everyday life, the absolutely cheerful, hard-working and quite ordinary everyday life. We need this in a healthy way, not in the way of an eccentric. The investigator of soul and spirit needs this as much as we need sleep in ordinary life.
Someone who does not dream up all kinds of fantastic and unreal things about the life of the psyche but enters into the true nature of it in the kind of serious way I have described, with simple phenomena taking us to the most sublime questions of immortality and indeed to accepting the truth of immortality, will never be someone who is useless in ordinary life. Entering into the world beyond that perceived through the senses demands that he stands firmly, robustly in waking life, taking it fully and soundly, just as sound waking life calls for a change in the form of sleep. This is the one thing, There are other things as well, which I must leave aside today. But I wanted to speak of these difficulties to show the kind of inner condition one has to develop if one wants to be a true psychologist in the newer, anthroposophical sense.
I would have liked to have seen a possibility to speak directly about natural science, social science, about religion and history, which would complement this quite appropriately. But it is not to be, though there is a suggestion that further lectures may follow.
You will have seen — this is what I'd like to say in conclusion — that with psychology, too, even if it is based on anthroposophy, it truly is not a matter of somehow just talking and talking, using confused ideas, but that even where we consider the question of immortality, it must be a matter of proceeding in a serious and properly trained way in the psychology that takes its orientation from anthroposophy. However, it will be possible for this serious, specially trained approach — where we still have to struggle today to come to terms with ordinary psychology and therefore use the kind of expressions I have been using today — gradually to take us closer and closer to the popular way of thinking. For this psychology will take matters of the soul out of the scholar’s study. It will be possible to offer the results of its investigations to every human heart and every human soul. We’ll not face the danger of really only counting on abstract, prepared questions such as What is the forming of ideas? What is will, memory, attentiveness? What is love and hate? Instead it will build a bridge from the ordinary everyday phenomena of forming ideas, feeling and doing things out of the will to life before birth and after death, to the life that exists beyond sensory perception, if I may put it like this, and human immortality.
Such a psychology will be able to meet the hopes — as the psychiatrist Brentano 105Brentano, Franz. Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt 1. Band. Leipzig 1874. called them, though he himself did not find them fulfilled — the hopes of Plato and Aristotle that psychology will help us to know something about the best part of our essential nature, something which remains when the mortal earthly body decays. Brentano, a great mind, attempted to develop such a psychology on the basis of scientific thinking. He did not want to move on to genuine investigation in the fields that go beyond sensory perception. Since he was however honest enough to go only as far as he was able to go, this led to the remarkable result that this scientist wrote the first volume of his psychology in 1873, promising his publisher — the first volume appeared in the spring — that the second would follow in the autumn, and then the third and the fourth. Those further volumes never appeared. To anyone who knows Brentano’s story — I described it in my obituary, which is the third chapter in my book Von Seelenrätseln — this was not only for external reasons but the fact that Brentano felt a need to approach phenomena of the psyche with concepts that were not the traditional ones. Yet for the reasons I discussed the day before yesterday, which still live in the subconscious of people today, he shrank back from making the transition to investigative work in the sphere beyond anything perceived by the senses. When this transition can be made, we shall have a psychology that will interest not only academics but can be grasped by the whole of humanity. It can be the basis for a truly healthy human life, for it will not stop at things that can only be made interesting in artificial ways in a scholar’s study but will pour forth on everything that wells up in every healthy human heart, the soul of every healthy human being as a need to gain insight in the spirit. The psychology of which I am speaking, a psychology that goes into spheres beyond those perceived by the senses will be a popular psychology for everyone as the basis for a healthy religious life.
Anyone who knows psychology and its present situation will be able to say to himself — and I would like to conclude with this as something that throws a light, as it were, on our time and into the future — anyone who knows what can be gained with supersensible investigation in psychology will say that a psychology — and perhaps today’s attempt to characterize it has been very inadequate as yet — a psychology that truly takes us to the question of the soul’s immortality, to the most sublime phenomena of the soul, must be the psychology for the future. For as we have seen exactly from our look at psychology as it is current today, either it will have no future at all, as philosophers like Richard Wahle say, who are perfectly right about this, or this future will be the way it will have to be if it arises from the anthroposophical view of the world.
Questions and answers
Following the lecture given in Zurich on 10 October 1918
Question. How do feelings relate to bodily life, seen from the spiritual scientific point of view?
This is the very question, and it is a most interesting one, which I have tried to consider in the appendix to my book Von Seelenrätseln. There I also said that in the science of the spirit, such questions must have highly significant preconditions. You can only talk in the right way about such issues — spiritual science is strongly connected with our personal life — by speaking of your own investigations. I may say that I have indeed been working with questions that go in this direction for more than 30 years, and that 1 considered these things from many different points of view before I dared to talk about them in public the way I did after 30 years in that book, just touching on the subject. For questions like this only find an answer if you go back to them again and again in your investigations — questions as to the essence of the whole life of the psyche, as to the way the whole life of the psyche relates to the bodily sphere.
And I found — time is short; permit me therefore to give just a brief indication — that conventional science is altogether not investigating these relationships in an adequate way. The way people usually talk when they want to investigate these relationships is to put the soul on one side and bodily life on the other. But this causes total confusion. You don’t get anywhere at all. You will only get results — you’ll discover this if you carry out a serious investigation — if you place the life of the psyche on one side, that you truly differentiate it into living in one’s thinking, living in one’s feelings, living in one’s will intent. Once you have differentiated the life of the psyche so that you have a proper overview, you can relate it to bodily life. And you will find that every element in this life of the psyche has quite specific relationships to life in the body.
First of all you have to consider the life of forming ideas, of thinking. This relates to life in the nerves if we understand it rightly in a scientific way. The mistake people usually make is to relate the whole life of the psyche to life in the nerves. Of course it is still quite unacceptable today to hear the truth on this subject. It will, however, soon be known. Today, people relate the whole life of the psyche, including feeling and will intent, to life in the nerves. But we should only relate thinking life to life in the nerves.
This will also make it clear that there truly is a real connection — like the real connection between someone standing in front of a mirror and the mirror itself — between thinking and the life of ideas on the one hand and life in the nerves on the other. For someone who seeks the truth and not preconceived notions, it will be apparent that the life of feelings relates to something quite different, compared to the way in which thinking life relates to life in the nerves. The life of feeling demonstrably relates to life in the body in such a way that everything rhythmical in the life of the body corresponds to it — the whole life of rhythms, blood rhythm, respiration, and altogether everything that moves in rhythms. This is a direct connection, not one first mediated by the nerves. It is immediate.
One should not presuppose that confused notions are used in spiritual science. Instead one is working towards much more sustainable ideas than those used in conventional science, where confusion often reigns. We need only to be factual, investigating such real things as an impression gained in music, for instance. The spiritual investigator knows all the objections that may be raised; he raises them himself and does not even need to hear them from people who want to raise them, for he has sufficient practice in raising them himself. People will say that we hear musical notes with our ears, and the experience therefore arises with an impression made on the senses. No. The matter is not as simple as that but rather completely different. The situation is that there is indeed a relationship between the actual musical experience, which we have in our feelings, and everything that is rhythmical in our bodies.
You need only think of a hidden rhythm. Specific movements arise in the diaphragm, for instance, when we breathe in. As a result, the cerebrospinal fluid continually surges up and down in the head. This is a rhythmical inner process that corresponds to an experience of music in the soul. Because this rhythmical element, this rhythmical experience impacts on sensory impression, the experience of music arises in the harmony between the human bodily rhythm and the impression gained through the sense of hearing.
The important point is, however, that an impression on the sense of hearing only becomes the experience of music if it comes up against the inner rhythm in the human soul. A psychological study of the experience of music is enormously interesting. It merely substantiates what I am saying, which is that the life of feeling relates to the life in rhythmic movement inside the human being.
And the life of will — strange though it may also seem — relates to metabolism, metabolism in the widest sense. It appears to be most materialistic of all, although the life of will is actually the most supersensible of all. Energies enter into the life of matter. One day, when natural science sees itself in the right light, scientists will be able to take further — not actually generate, but take further — what I have said with regard to the life of will. They will find — the beginnings are already there — that with every act of will specific poisons arise out of the human organization itself, and that ‘in terms of the physical body’ what happens in the will process is really a toxic process. This will build a bridge between the act of will, which really is death in embryo being a toxic process, a kind of poisoning, and death itself, which is merely an act of will on a larger scale. I have thus shown how these three — will, feeling and thinking — relate to bodily experience. I could only do it briefly, so that I may now move on to the other question which exactly because of this last question is to some degree connected with what I have just been saying.
Question. How does the science of the spirit relate to psychopathology’, that is, to diagnosing mental diseases and so on?
There cannot be real diseases of the mind or soul — I can only say this briefly — and diseases of the psyche are really always in some way diseases of the organism. The organism cannot be used as an instrument in the right way. And just as we cannot perform the necessary function if the instrument is useless, so the organism, in living out the life of the psyche, cannot do so in the right way. This does not lead to materialism but actually to proper insight into the supersensible. One thing is particularly interesting here. It is interesting that insight gained in the science of nature, where we are more and more compelled to do experiments abstracted from nature, does indeed help us to gain the scientific insights that provide the basis for technology. But the more we experiment, I would say, the more do we come to the scientifically established conviction of which Goethe had an inkling when he said that all experimenting done with tools, external tools, really takes us away from the world of nature. 106 Goethe’s actual words were: ‘The human being as such, in so far as he uses his sound senses, is the greatest and most accurate physical apparatus there can be, and it is indeed the greatest evil in modern physics that experiments have been separated off from the human being, as it were, and the aim is to gain insight into nature only from what artificial instruments show, thus limiting it and providing proof.’ Sprüche in Prosa, see note 10.
Goethe also had the right feeling for the other thing, the opposite. This is most interesting. Whilst experimentation does not tell us anything worthwhile about the natural world at a deeper level but only about the most superficial connections in it, abnormal developments given in nature itself take us into those deeper backgrounds. An experiment pushes us out of those backgrounds, as it were; abnormal developments take us deeper into nature.
Oddly enough, experimentation is singularly unfruitful in the psychology which seeks to base itself on physiology — not in all areas, but certainly in the areas that matter most. Something which is extraordinarily fruitful is observation of brain traumas and of other disorders in the organism which also make the life of the psyche appear abnormal. We are able to say that whilst experimentation separates us from the world of nature, observing the sick organism bring us together with it. Again a paradox, but we should not be afraid of reality, should not be afraid, even unconsciously so, when wanting to enter into the real world. The condition of the brain, also in the case of criminals, for example, takes us deeply into the secrets of nature. This branch of natural science is not fruitless, but it is connected with what the science of the spirit is able to establish — that everything connected with the will — and the will, though an independent entity, influences all else, including our thinking — is in a sense, in a certain respect, connected with the development of toxic states, abnormalities in the human organism.
And if the misfortune should happen and the human organism grow abnormal, then because of the very fact that the supersensible is driven out of the abnormal organism — for it only fits rightly in a normal organism; if the brain is injured, therefore, the supersensible is driven out — then it is because of this that the person, who may otherwise continue to be connected with the supersensible, is unable to gain his orientation, he loses it. Things that are often considered to be pathological in the psyche are therefore due to a physical abnormality.
We are thus able to say that we must really study the will in order to perceive why the study of abnormalities in the brain and so on gives such deep insight into certain conditions of the psyche. Just as we take everything supersensible out of the body on going to sleep and enter into the life of the psyche, but in a healthy way, so does an organism which has become abnormal push the supersensible out when there is pathology. We then enter into that life in a disoriented way, whilst we enter in a healthy way, which helps us to cope with the situation, when we enter into healthy sleep.