A lecture given in Christiania, 26th November, 1921. Lecture 2 of 8 from the volume: The Reality of the Higher Worlds (also published under the title, Self-consciousness: The Spiritual Human Being). The volume of the Complete Edition of the works of Rudolf Steiner containing the original text of the this lecture, among eight others, is entitled: Die Wirklichkeit der Hoeheren Welten, (No. 79 in the Bibliographical Survey, 1961).
Translated by persons unknown from Shorthand reports unrevised by the Lecturer. Published by kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung and in agreement with the Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co.
Paths to Knowledge
(Christiania, Nov. 26, 1921)
ANTHROPOSOPHICAL PUBLISHING COMPANY
Printed by Lawrence Bros.
PATHS TO KNOWLEDGE OF
I have been asked to speak to-day on the subject: Paths leading to higher, that is to super-sensible knowledge. As not all of you were present at my last lecture, it will be necessary to weave into this lecture some of the more important things explained yesterday.
The spiritual science of Anthroposophy strives above all towards a full harmony with the scientific truths which have emerged in the course of the past centuries. Anthroposophy is in no way directed against the efforts of natural science, as so many people believe; on the contrary, those who honestly and earnestly stand within our anthroposophical movement appreciate most of all such men as can fully judge the achievement of our modern times, resulting from scientific conscientiousness, from inner scientific feeling. It is however true that one cannot penetrate into the super-sensible worlds with the aid of the generally accepted science, and in regard to this point Anthroposophy in a certain way shares the views of the officially recognised scientists.
Anthroposophy clearly recognises that people are quite right when in regard to natural science they speak of boundaries to human knowledge. Anthroposophy also recognises that one cannot step beyond these boundaries with the ordinary forces of human understanding. Consequently Anthroposophy does not even attempt to discover paths to super-sensible knowledge by applying the forces of ordinary consciousness and ordinary knowledge, but it strives not only as regards the results of scientific investigation to begin where ordinary science must come to an end, but through its methods Anthroposophy also strives to begin where the generally accepted science must come to a final point in regard to a knowledge of external Nature and also of the physical nature of the human being.
Consequently Anthroposophy must not only speak of different subjects, but it must also speak in a different way. Nevertheless it is in full harmony with scientific conscientiousness and scientific discipline. Its starting point is to draw out of man’s inner being latent forces, to rouse slumbering forces of knowledge enabling the human being to penetrate into the super-sensible worlds.
Anthroposophy does not say that special qualities and capacities are needed for a knowledge of the super-sensible worlds, it does not declare that such a knowledge is based on qualities which can only be possessed by a few people, but it takes as its foundation forces which can be drawn out of every human soul, forces which transcend those which we inherit, as it were, from childhood onwards and which also transcend those which we gain through ordinary education, through an ordinary schooling.
A person who wishes to become a spiritual investigator, in the anthroposophical sense of this word, must set out from the point where he stands in ordinary life and in ordinary science; from there he must guide his development of his own accord. The forces which should be developed first of all are the forces of thinking. This is a first step in such a development, and we shall see that this does not imply the development of one-sided intellectual forces of thought, but the unfolding of the whole human being. But a beginning must be made with a particular exercise in thinking.
The kind of thinking to which we are accustomed in ordinary life and also in ordinary science is given up to external observation and follows, as it were, the thread of external observation. We direct our senses towards the external world and link our thoughts with perceptions transmitted by the senses. The observation of the external world provides a firm support, enabling us to connect our experiences with the contents of our soul.
It has been the endeavour of science, and rightly so, to develop more and more the support given by external observation. Observation has been enhanced by the use of scientific experimental research, where every single condition leading to different manifestations can be clearly surveyed, so that the processes become, as it were, quite transparent.
For the attainment of its task, the spiritual science of Anthroposophy must deviate from this way of thinking which is entirely directed towards the objective reality outside. Anthroposophy must above all strengthen and intensify thought within the human being. In the public lecture which I gave yesterday I remarked that a muscle grows stronger if it does a certain work and that the same applies to the forces of the soul. When certain definite concepts which can easily be surveyed are again and again set at the centre of our consciousness by systematic practice, so that we completely surrender to such concepts, our thinking power grows stronger.
This intensification of the forces of thinking must of course be reached in such a way as to maintain throughout our clear and complete willpower. A person who wishes to become a spiritual investigator in the anthroposophical sense, may therefore take mathematics above all as an excellent example for the scientific mentality of modern times.
Though it may sound strange and paradoxical it must be said that an anthroposophical spiritual investigator who wishes to transcend the stage of dilettantism, must in the first place observe a rule which already existed in the old Platonic school: That no one can penetrate into real spiritual-scientific knowledge unless he has a certain mathematical culture.
What particular result can the human soul gain through mathematics? The result that everything which confronts the soul through mathematics can be inwardly surveyed, is inwardly transparent, and that mathematics contains, as it were, nothing to which we submit unconsciously, without the application of our will.
The spiritual science of Anthroposophy is naturally not mathematics. But a significant example may be found in the way in which one penetrates into mathematical thought. It is not mathematics in itself which constitutes this example, but — if I may coin this expression, — “mathematizing,” the activity of mathematical thinking. If such a “mathematizing” culture shows us how to transcend any illusionary or suggestive element, we shall be particularly successful in concentrating upon concepts which can be surveyed and which are quite new to us.
Such concepts can be obtained from an experienced spiritual-scientific investigator, or in some other way we may seek to develop concepts which do not live in our memory. They are set in the centre of consciousness, and we then concentrate upon them with the whole life of our soul, with all our power of concentration. Our attention is turned away from everything else, and for a certain space of time which must not be too long, we try to concentrate ourselves upon such a concept, or complex of concepts.
Why must such a concept or complex of concepts be something quite new? When we draw reminiscences out of memory, we can never be quite sure of what takes place within our organism, where processes may lead to certain experiences coming from the unconscious spheres outside the soul. Our cognitive power can only act freely when we confront a sense-perception, for it can be envisaged at any moment and because we are quite sure that a sense-perception is not drawn in some fantastic way out of the reminiscences of our life.
The same applies to that which we now allow to fill our consciousness with the exclusion of all sense-perceptions and to which we yield completely. Though we have no sensory perceptions, we are inwardly just as living as is ordinarily the case with external sense perception. The first thing which should be borne in mind when treading the path to higher knowledge, is that our thinking, which is free from sense impressions, acquires an inner activity which completely claims the attention of our soul, in the same way in which this attention is ordinarily claimed only by an external sense perception. One might say: What we ordinarily experience in connection with an external sense impression, we should learn to experience in connection with that intensified thought-activity which is completely permeated by a clear, conscious will.
This in itself sets up a strong barrier against anything which seeks to enter human consciousness in the form of suggestions, illusions, visions or hallucinations. Spiritual-scientific knowledge, in our meaning of the word, is not understood in the right way if people say: By his exercises, a spiritual investigator might after all be led to hallucinations or to similar results, he may be led into all kinds of pathological conditions of the soul. But those who earnestly consider the way in which Anthroposophy describes the path leading to higher knowledge, will see that this kind of spiritual investigation reveals most clearly of all the true nature of illusions, hallucinations or mediumistic phenomena. It rejects all this severely, as pathological elements; in fact, the results obtained by real spiritual research, clearly enable us to perceive the worthlessness of such phenomena.
Then one comes to quite a new way of thinking. The old way of thinking which is used in ordinary life and in ordinary science, remains. But a new way of thinking is added to it, if we do the exercises principally characterised as thought-exercises (you will find them in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, or in my Outline of an Occult Science) and if we constantly practise them in a systematic way. (One person will need longer time for the attainment of results, and another person a shorter time). These thoughts, constituting a systematic practice, should be carried out in our consciousness as an inner soul-development.
I might describe this new way of thinking which is added to the old way of thinking in the following way.
Perhaps you will allow me to make a personal remark; which, however, is not meant personally, but, as you will readily admit, it belongs to the objective part of my descriptions. In the early nineties of the nineteenth century, I wrote my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity in order to show that freedom really lives in man’s ethical, moral life. There it has its roots. The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity called forth many misunderstandings, because people simply cannot penetrate into the way of thinking which is employed in this book.
My Philosophy of Spiritual Activity already employs that form of thinking which must be gained by systematic practice in order to reach a knowledge of the higher worlds. It is a first beginning in this direction, a first step which anyone can make in ordinary life. Yet it is at the same time a first step leading to a knowledge of the higher worlds.
Ordinary thinking (it suffices to bear in mind the true nature of the ordinary way of thinking, in order to see that my remarks are justified)—ordinary thinking really consists of spatial perceptions. In our ordinary thinking everything is arranged spatially. Consider that even time is led back to space! For time is expressed by the movements of the clock. The same process in fact is also contained in our physical formulae. In short, we finally must come to the conclusion that ordinary thinking is a combining way of thinking, one that collects scattered elements. We use this way of thinking in our ordinary sound conditions of life, and in ordinary science.
But the kind of thinking which should be used for the cognition of higher worlds and which is gained with the aid of the exercises I have described, is one which I might call morphological thinking, one in which we think in forms.
This way of thinking is not limited to space; it lives within the medium of time, in the same way thinking lives within the medium of space. This thinking does not link up one thought with the other; it sets before the soul a kind of thought-organism. When we have a conception, an idea or a thought, we cannot pass over at will to another. Even as in the human organism we cannot pass over at will from the head to any other form, but must first pass over to the neck, then the shoulders, the thorax, etc., even as in an organism everything has a definite structure which must be considered as a whole, so the thinking which I characterised as morphological thinking must be inwardly mobile. As stated, it lives within the medium of time, not of space. But it is inwardly so mobile that it produces one form out of another, by constantly growing and producing an organic structure.
It is this morphological way of thinking which should be added to the ordinary way of thinking. It can be attained through exercises of meditation which are described in principle in some of my books. These exercises strengthen and intensify thinking. The morphological way of thinking, the thinking activity which takes its course in forms and pictures, enables us to reach the first stage in the knowledge of super-sensible worlds, namely the stage described in my books as imaginative knowledge.
Imaginative knowledge does not as yet supply anything pertaining to an external world. To begin with, it leads only to man’s self-knowledge, but it is a far deeper knowledge of self than the one which is ordinarily reached by self-contemplation. This imaginative knowledge brings forms into our consciousness, forms which are experienced just as livingly as any sense-perception. But they have a peculiar quality of their own.
Our ordinary thoughts could not live within our consciousness in a sound way if we were unable to remember them. In regard to spiritual health and a sound development of soul-life, a very great deal depends upon our remembering capacity, upon our memory. Only those who have a continuous memory in their waking-life condition, a memory which goes back to a certain moment in childhood, can be said to be of sound mind.
Perhaps you will also have heard of the terrible condition of certain psychopathic people due to the fact that certain memories are blotted out. Psychiatry knows this state in which memories are blotted out, and it shows us the great importance of a continuous memory if the human soul is to live in a sound condition. This applies to the ordinary development of thought.
But it does not apply to the way of thinking just characterised as morphological or imaginative thinking. When our eye, or some other sense-organ is turned to some external object, the perception can be experienced only as long as our sense-organ is exposed to it. In the same way morphological thinking, or imaginative thinking, only exists while we experience it, and what thus arises within imaginative thinking cannot in the ordinary sense be impressed upon our memory. It must be called forth every time afresh, if it is to be experienced.
Those who reach such an organic-morphological way of thinking which develops as it were into a living process of growth, cannot retain the results of this thinking in their ordinary memory. Freedom, too, can only be characterised by ascending to such growing, constantly developing way of thinking. This is why my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity gave rise to so many misunderstandings. But it had to be transmitted through this method of thinking, because freedom is a spiritual experience and it is impossible to come to it with ordinary combining thinking.
Beginners in the method of spiritual science generally think that an imaginative experience can be impressed on the soul like any other thought. But this is not the case. An imaginative thought vanishes from our consciousness. The only thing which can be retained is the way in which the imaginative experience was reached. The conditions can be reconstructed, thus giving rise to the experience. If we wish to see again a flower which we have already seen, we must return to it and look at it; in the same way, the inner processes leading to an imaginative experience must be recalled, if we wish to have this experience again.
A spiritual-scientific content cannot be remembered without further ado. This even applies to the most elementary things in honest spiritual-scientific investigation. Here again, allow me to mention something personal, but which is also an objective fact.
You see, what an anthroposophical investigator of spiritual science has to say, cannot, as it were, be transmitted day by day in the form of lectures, in the same way in which natural-scientific facts are generally advanced. Scientific facts can be remembered, they live in our memory and can be set forth with the aid of memory. But the facts which a spiritual-scientific investigator has to advance, must come from his inner living experience. He cannot prepare himself in the same way in which one generally prepares lectures based on memory. The only thing he can do is to reconstruct the conditions enabling him to experience the most elementary facts of spiritual science.
We should realise that the spiritual science of Anthroposophy leads in its very first steps to a development of otherwise dormant forces of the human soul, and we should not think that any results can be reached in regard to higher worlds through ordinary philosophical speculations.
The imaginative knowledge described to you just now, leads, as already stated, to a kind of self-knowledge. Finally it leads us to a great tableau in which we simultaneously survey all the organic elements that have built up our whole life from our earthly birth onwards. Inwardly we perceive the creative formative forces which build up the human being and we first perceive them in connection with our own self.
We can see this tableau in the same way in which certain people in danger of death (even natural-scientific thinkers admit this), for instance, when they are drowning, see before them a weaving, living picture of their past life; we do not however, see it as a memory-picture, we do not look upon the small details of life, but we survey its chief facts, the forces which made us progress. We see, as it were, a deeper memory-tableau. At the same time, this tableau does not merely set before us the ordinary thinking life of the soul, but that inner life which works upon the physical organism from the soul.
This conception leads to a standpoint that makes it appear childish that even in the first decades of the 19th century people should have spoken in a speculative way of vital forces, of vitalism. Anthroposophy does not speak of such a vital force. It speaks instead of the conception of life, of what I call the etheric body, or body of formative forces, which represents on the one hand a soul-element, and on the other, a condensed, intensified soul-element which works upon the physical organism.
We are thus led to a deeper knowledge of the soul and also to a deeper knowledge of the way in which the soul-element works within the organism. Let me now give you an example, an elementary but characteristic example:
You know that recognised modern psychology does not go beyond certain speculative ideas in regard to the connections which exist between the soul and the body. The soul is described as if it were the body’s motive force, and scientists with a more materialistic mentality consider the body as a plus, which as it were, produces the soul. Most frequently of all modern psycho-physicists speak of parallelism, viz., that psychic phenomena and bodily phenomena follow a parallel course, and so forth. But all these things are mere speculations, simply based on the fact that people are unwilling to penetrate with the scientific spirit that prevails elsewhere into the psychical-bodily life of man.
You are all acquainted with the physical concept of latent heat contained in every object, but which does not manifest itself as heat. But this heat can be freed, it is said, if certain conditions are created, and in that case it manifests itself. But before the heat appeared, it existed in the objects as a latent force, where it gives rise to something which does not reveal itself outwardly through heat-processes. We therefore speak of latent heat and of heat which is set free.
This conception — of course, duly modified and extended — should be applied to the soul-life, by observing it in a concrete way, and not speculatively. We can observe the child’s growth until the time of its second dentition around the seventh year. Far more than one generally thinks is connected with this second dentition. If we observe the soul-bodily processes in an unprejudiced way, we can see that after the second dentition the child’s whole way of thinking, its whole life of representation and feeling, in fact the whole life of the soul, undergoes a complete change.
When the child changes its teeth, it reaches a final point in regard to a certain direction of life. After the second dentition, the human being no longer requires certain forces for the development of his physical organism which he formerly required. The forces which push out (if I may use this trivial expression) the second teeth are not merely localised in the human head, but they are forces which work in the whole body and manifest themselves locally when the second teeth appear. They exist however in the whole physical organism.
Those who observe this whole process as objectively as natural scientists are accustomed to observe and think in natural science, reach the point of recognising that the forces which push out the second teeth were latent forces, bound up with the physical organism. They gave the child’s physical body its structure, but with the second dentition they were set free, so that they can now appear in the child as soul-spiritual forces.
Here we may see concretely how the soul-spiritual forces and the bodily organisation are inter-related. This is not seen speculatively, but in a real, concrete way. Those who only wish to observe the soul at one moment and then the body, may speculate or experiment for a long time, yet they will only come to quite abstract results in regard to the connection which exists between the soul and the body. But those who observe the processes in the sequence of time, will find that after the second dentition certain soul-forces appear in the child revealing a more sharply outlined concept of memory, more sharply outlined feelings, and they will know that these are forces in the soul which were set free and which now manifest, whereas formerly they were submerged in the physical organism. Observations, not mere speculative thought, shows them the connection between the body and the soul.
This example shows us how we should investigate the inter-activity of soul and body with the aid of imaginative thought. We gain insight into the activity of the soul-spiritual forces in the physical-bodily organisation. This is what is presented in the tableau which I have described.
If we have reached the point of developing this imaginative way of thinking, we must proceed further with the strength thus gained. Even as a muscle grows stronger through practice, so the thinking power grows stronger if we do these exercises which are described in greater detail in the books mentioned. If we develop within us an intensified thinking endowed with plastic forces which lives in time, other forces of our soul may be developed and intensified.
The ordinary thoughts of life come and go, or we try to get rid of them either by discarding them from our soul, or the organism sees to it that we forget them, and so forth. But the thoughts of the kind described, which are called up in our consciousness for the sake of gaining higher knowledge, cannot be blotted out as easily as ordinary thoughts. A great effort must be made to forget them. This is a second kind of exercise: an artificial forgetting, as it were, an artificial suppression of thought.
If we have practised this artificial suppression of thought for a sufficiently long time, corresponding to our individual development and predispositions, we become able to suppress the whole tableau of which I have spoken, so that our consciousness is quite empty. The only thing which should remain to us is our calm thinking power, permeated by the will. But this thinking now appears in a new form.
I have now described to you two ways of thinking: the ordinary way of thinking which is connected with space, and a way of thinking which has a growth of its own, in which one thought always grows out of the other, even as in a living organism one limb is connected with the other.
If this morphological way of thinking is practised for a certain time, we gradually develop a third way of thinking, which we need in order to ascend to a higher stage of super-sensible knowledge. We need this kind of thinking when we rise to a stage which is higher than that in which we merely survey our own organisation.
Imaginative knowledge leads us to a survey of our own organisation, so that we say to ourselves: Here on earth, the soul-spiritual element, which is super-sensible, works upon the physical body. We must use this morphological way of thinking, for otherwise it is not possible to understand what takes place in the medium of time and works upon the physical body out of a super-sensible sphere, for this is something which undergoes continual metamorphoses. Our thinking must become mobile and our thoughts must be inwardly connected with each other. Mere combining thought cannot grasp the life which proceeds from the spirit, this can only be grasped by an inwardly living thinking.
But still another way of thinking must be developed if we wish to rise up to the next stage of super-sensible knowledge. Let me use an example in order to explain this to you. Even this example is difficult to penetrate, but I think you will be able to grasp what I mean.
Let us bear in mind the fact that Goethe tried to interpret the single cranial bones as metamorphoses of the vertebrae. In the single bones of the skull Goethe perceived transformations of the vertebra. Though somewhat modified, modern science also adopts this view, but it is no longer entirely in keeping with Goethe’s conception; nevertheless this view is valid to-day.
It does not suffice, however, to consider the purely morphological derivation of the cranial bones. We must go further if we wish to understand the relationship of the human head to the remaining human organism (we will restrict ourselves to the skeleton). We must not only envisage a transformation, but something very different. Let us ask, for instance: What relation exists between the bony system of the arms or legs and the bony system of the cranial bones, of the bones of the head? Here it is the case that the metamorphoses through which one form gives rise to the other can only be grasped if we bear in mind that this is not only a spatial metamorphosis taking place within the medium of time, but that quite another process takes place which is very difficult to understand, namely, a kind of turning over, a reversal.
If you wish to grasp the mutual relation between the bones of the leg and the bones of the skull, you must compare the external surface of the skull with the inner surface of a hollow bone, let us say of the upper thigh bone. This means that the inner side of the thigh bone must be turned inside out, so that also its elasticity would change; its inner surface would in that case be turned outwards and correspond to the external surface of a cranial bone; and vice versa, the outer surface of the thigh bone would not correspond to the outer surface of the cranium, but to its inner surface.
Imagine this process of metamorphosis like a glove which is turned inside out, but at the same time the elasticity of the glove undergoes a change. A new form arises. It is as if the glove is not only turned inside out, but takes on quite a different shape through the new elasticity.
You see, as a first indication of this third kind of thinking I must bring before you a very complicated process. This kind of thinking does not only live in constantly changing forms, but it is able to reverse the inner structure, so as to change its form.
This can only be achieved through the fact that now our thinking no longer lives in the medium of time, for in this process of reversion the subject of our thoughts transcends space and time and penetrates into a reality which lies beyond space and time.
I know that we cannot immediately become familiar with this third kind of thinking, which differs so greatly from the combining and the plastic ways of thinking. It is not easy to penetrate into this third kind of thinking, which dives down, as it were, into spacelessness and timelessness; it is not easy to understand that it reappears in a changed form turned inside out.
Anthroposophy does not wish to speak of the higher worlds in the amateurish way adopted by so many people, but because Anthroposophy is as honest as any other honest science it must point out that it is not only necessary to abandon the sphere of higher science, but that it is even necessary to acquire a completely new way of thinking.
If we wish to advance to a qualitative thinking man’s inner forces must be held together in an entirely different way, for the whole quality of our thinking undergoes a change during this process of reversal, when the inner is turned into the outer.
When we succeed in submerging our thought into a qualitative element, it is possible to ascend to that stage of knowledge of the super-sensible worlds which follows the stage of imaginative thought.
If the tableau of which I have spoken has been suppressed, so that an empty consciousness is established, then we have an empty consciousness for a certain time; this can be achieved if we suppress merely a concept. But when such a reality is suppressed, when we suppress forces which are constantly at the service of growth and nutrition during our earthly existence, we dive down into a completely new world. We then really are in the higher worlds and the ordinary physical world lies behind us like a memory. We must have it as a memory, for otherwise we should not be of sound mind; without memory we should be psychopaths, subjected to hallucinations and to illusions.
If we proceed in the right way along the path of spiritual investigation, we maintain our calm thoughtful consciousness permeated by the will even when we ascend to the highest worlds and there can be no question of falling a prey to hallucinations or suggestions.
When we are subjected to hallucinations or suggestions, the ordinary consciousness is entirely supplanted by a pathological consciousness. In the state of consciousness which Anthroposophy strives to reach for the attainment of knowledge of higher worlds, the essential thing is to maintain our ordinary consciousness in its full extent, so that we keep our sound common sense and our calm state of mind while ascending to the higher worlds. Even the thinking strengthened with the reversion of thought already mentioned, or the super-morphological thought, even this exists only for the sake of penetrating in full consciousness into the higher worlds. We then really experience the higher worlds and their spiritual contents.
Through the imaginative consciousness which enables us to gain a conception of the forces working in us from birth onwards, a conception of super-sensible forces working upon the physical body, we gain knowledge of that part of our being which existed before our birth, or before we were conceived within the physical world, when we still lived in a soul-spiritual world surrounded by soul-spiritual beings, even as here on earth, during the time between birth and death, we are surrounded by physical beings.
In short, we experience the eternal kernel of man’s being, when we look behind birth into that stage of existence through which we passed before the earth received us into the physical stream of heredity; we experience man’s eternal being in his spiritual environment.
Thus it is neither speculation, nor a system of thought that has led us to a knowledge of the higher worlds; it is a beholding. Even as the development of the body, from the embryonic stage onwards, gives us a conception of the external physical world, so the steps described to you in principle (details can be found in the books I have mentioned) lead us to a knowledge of soul-processes and enable us to live in a spiritual world in which we existed before birth and into which we enter when we pass through the portal of death. Objective vision leads to a knowledge of the higher worlds.
I have now described to you in the first place a path of knowledge. But this is incompletely described if it is merely described as a path of knowledge, for the experiences which we gain call for something besides a mere activity of thought. Though it may be difficult to acquire these two higher forms of thinking, there is something else which presents far greater difficulties.
If here in the physical world we preferably cling to observation and experiments, it is because in a certain way this sets our mind at rest in regard to the reality of our knowledge. From the standpoint of a theory of knowledge one may dispute about the true nature of sense-perceptions and their relation to reality, etc., but this is not the point just now; the point is that sense-perception gives us a guarantee for the truth of our soul’s experience, the reflected images of our sense-perceptions which arise in the soul; we set our minds at rest by leaning upon the external reality.
The disease of spiritism has arisen in recent times; which in just such a way seeks to establish the reality of the spiritual by external observation. One cannot of course be a stronger materialist than by being a spiritist. Spiritism is but the enhanced form of materialism, for in spiritism people not only wish to establish the reality of physical substance, which they perhaps consider as the only reality, but they even wish to show that the spirit appears in the same form as matter, i.e. that the spirit itself is nothing but matter. What arises in the form of spiritism is the last phase of materialism and draws out of it the last consequences. [See Rudolf Steiner: “Geschichte des Spiritismus” and “Geschichte des Hypnotismus and Sonnambulismus.”]
Real spiritual science seeks for an ascent into the spiritual worlds and not a drawing down of the spiritual worlds into material processes.
But when we ascend to the spiritual world in the manner described we no longer have the support which the external world provides, as it were, for our soul-experiences. We need something which gives the certainty that we are not floating in emptiness, that our soul-experiences in the higher worlds are not mere fancies; we need a support in the same way in which the external sense perceptions give us a support in our ordinary life. This again can only be reached through the development of inner forces.
Please do not misunderstand me. I do not mean that the forces which we already have in ordinary life (one has to speak in terms taken from ordinary life) suffice. We must develop forces even in spheres which are not the spheres of thought, in order to reach not only vision, but vision rooted in reality.
The assurance which our sense-perceptions provide from outside, consists in the fact that one sense supports the other. When we have an impression of sound or of sight, we do not immediately know whether this is a hallucination or not. We can only be sure of the impression gained, when we are supported — I might say — by the sense of gravitation, when another sense comes to our aid, when an impression which is not sufficiently guaranteed by the sense of sight or hearing can be supported by some other sense.
What is it that gives us the right to speak of reality in the physical world? Several things may be taken into consideration. I should have to speak for hours from the standpoint of a theory of knowledge (of course, I cannot do this now) in order to prove the fact which I now briefly wish to summarize. But if you follow the corresponding train of thought you will see that the following fact can be accepted: In the physical world we designate a fact as “real” when it influences us in such a way that we should be obliged to deny our own existence were we to deny the existence of that thing. If you not only hear the sound of a bell, but if you can touch it and discover its connection with other things, you would have to blot out your own self if you were not able to say that the external object is real, when you experience its reality within your soul. An external object can be called real, if we should have to deny our own reality in denying the reality of the object.
What we describe as reality is therefore intimately related with our own reality. That is why forces must also be drawn out of our own reality, which is a soul-spiritual reality, and these moral forces may be compared with an object which I grasp and which shows itself to be heavy. Within our own being we must seek supporting forces for the reality of the spiritual worlds into which we penetrate in the way I have described.
This can only be done if we develop certain moral qualities which we already have in our ordinary ethical attitude in life; the moral forces must be strengthened in the same way in which we strengthen the force of thought. These moral forces should not only be developed for the sake of our ethical life, they must be further strengthened.
Let me now speak to you only of two kinds. The first is what we call moral courage, or courage in general; this should be intensified in the same way in which the forces of thinking are intensified. The forces of courage within us may be intensified if the retrospective tableau arising through imagination is placed before the soul and we then look upon it and experience it in the right way. We then discover a higher kind of courage in our own life; when diving down into this tableau we discover inner forces of courage which are greater than those which we generally use in our external life, which is more or less passive. This courage should be intensified.
There is another moral force which should be intensified. Whereas courage is generally connected with the life of feeling and resembles an inner sense of sureness, a certain inner power, it is necessary to unfold certain forces which are connected with the will and which consist, for example, in the fact that at certain given moments we determine to do something, which we set about to do at some later time, by establishing with an iron will the conditions which enable us to carry out our resolution. An Anthroposophical spiritual investigator should carry out these exercises quite systematically. He should inwardly connect his present will-impulses with impulses that were in him at a former time.
In our ordinary life we give ourselves up to the present. But in the life which is to bring us into higher worlds we must visualise with an inner continuity of the will. Throughout many years we should be able to hold a purpose in mind and carry out at some later time things which we once resolved to do. This unfolds strong forces which support the will; it develops a strong current of volition which we ourselves establish within us.
This a special form of self-discipline. We are then no longer dependent on external circumstances or on ideals which induce us to do certain things, but by the will-impulse we inwardly connect in a soul-spiritual manner a later moment of our soul-life with an earlier moment. If a higher form of courage unfolds within our soul, if we develop the continuity of our will-impulses so that our will-impulses endure over the gulfs of time then we come to the point of ascending into the higher worlds, we shall be able to verify the reality of what we then perceive in the same way in which we do this in regard to the external physical world. The reality which we perceive there must be verified with the aid of inwardly intensified forces.
Hence the path leading to the spiritual worlds is not the development of a one-sided cognitive force, but the development of the whole human being in the direction of thinking, feeling and will, which implies a striving after knowledge, an aesthetic striving and an ethical striving. This path leading to the higher worlds is at the same time a religious immersion, a religious deepening of the human being.
There is one essential point which should be borne in mind: In modern times, even as through science to a great extent doubts have arisen in regard to the spiritual worlds, so through science these spiritual worlds must be conquered again. It is shortsighted to believe that the religious life must suffer through the fact that it is possible to ascend to the spiritual worlds with the same clear consciousness that we have in the physical world.
Those who advance criticism in this respect, generally do so because they think that the spiritual science of Anthroposophy remains within the limits of the intellect and rationalism. This is not the case. The whole human being, with his feeling and his will, flows into the development of thought, which is acquired in the manner I have described. The path leading to higher worlds indicated by the spiritual science of Anthroposophy is the unfolding and the development of the whole human being. Even as in ordinary physical life thinking grows out of the organism like a flower, so higher knowledge grows out of the fully developed human being, who unfolds all his forces harmoniously and intensively along the path leading to the higher worlds.
Through the development of mere thinking we only come to a world of images. If reality is to be perceived within this world of images, we must develop in the way I have indicated the courage contained in moral forces, the will contained in our character, our own individual will which we maintain throughout periods of time.
These two forces, and others, which you will find described in the books already mentioned before, should be intensified. The human being as a whole must be led in a soul-spiritual way into those other worlds in which he lives before he is conceived by physical forces and enters physical life on earth or in which he lives after passing through the portal of death.
If we wish to ascend to this life with knowledge, if we wish to acquire the vision of the super-sensible worlds, the whole soul-spiritual being of man must be led towards them — not only some vague part of him which desires to become acquainted with these worlds theoretically.
The spiritual science of Anthroposophy can therefore fructify the whole life of man. Anthroposophy does not seek in some abstruse mystical way to estrange us from the world, but strives on the contrary to lead us into practical life, into a life which is truly practical. That is why it can be so fruitful for science and art, social and religious life—in short, for the most different spheres of life.
I can only give a few indications in this connection.
If we can see the life-tableau of retrospective vision of which I have spoken, a tableau which is in reality a structure of formative forces moving in the stream of time, if we can recognise this structure, we can also see how the human body arises out of this system of forces and how it develops. For it is only an external illusion to speak of the heart, the lungs, etc.; in reality, the heart is a process, and the external spatial form of the heart is merely the process which is held fast for a time. This applies to every organ. What is retained for a moment within a certain shape, can be perceived. But we cannot perceive the incessant life-process giving rise to health and illness unless we attain to a knowledge of the super-sensible formative forces of the body.
Medicine, and therapy in particular, can be essentially fructified by spiritual science, and we have already opened Clinical-therapeutic Institutes in Stuttgart and Dornach where the sickness of humanity can benefit from knowledge derived from Anthroposophy.
Spiritual science can fructify life in many other directions. When a School for Spiritual Science was opened at Dornach it was not possible to give it any ordinary kind of frame. What the friends of our anthroposophical world-conception had in mind when they wished to erect a building for a school of spiritual science was something quite special. Let me explain this by a comparison.
Take a nut with its shell. An unprejudiced person will think that the nut’s shell must have the form which it has, because the nut itself has a definite form. The shell forms part of the nut. When a spiritual world-conception, such as that contained in the Anthroposophical movement, is called into life, the members may find themselves in the position to erect a building and they may think: Let us go to an architect who will draw us a plan in this or in that style, in accordance with traditional customs, or something thought out which would not in any way be connected with the things which are to be cultivated within it — just as if the nut’s shell were not to fit the nut!
Since Anthroposophy is not a mere theory, and does not merely live in words, the Anthroposophical Movement can therefore not proceed in this way, not even in regard to its frame. At Dornach, the words which resound from the speaker’s platform, the scenes on the stage, whatever art is presented through word or movement from the stage, must have exactly the same inner essential style as that which is expressed in the walls, in the external architecture of the Building. Even as the shell of the nut is formed by the same forces which formed the nut, so the Anthroposophical realities which come to expression in the world must have an artistic frame and call into being a new style of architecture.
It was therefore an organic necessity for a new style of architecture to arise in Dornach. This new style is simply the externally visible part of the reality which lives soul-spiritually in the world. One will be able to see what is the intention of Anthroposophy to-day just through the fructifying influence which it exercises also upon the artistic spheres of life.
In Eurhythmy, which is only a beginning, we called into life a human art of movement in which the single artists or the groups of artists do not dance or pantomime, but in which the forms of movement constitute a speech based on laws just as strict as those of spoken language, or a visible song, similar to that which one ordinarily hears in the form of sound. Eurhythmy is entirely drawn out of the law of man, in spirit, soul and body.
Through Anthroposophy we have thus been able to exercise a fructifying influence on many different spheres of art.
In my Threefold State the attempt has been made to face the great social problems of the present time from the anthroposophical standpoint. Those who bear in mind that from the anthroposophical standpoint the whole human being has to be taken into account in the social question, and not only that part which is accessible to a rationalistic science, to Marxism and similar directions of thought, must admit that forces which penetrate into the higher spiritual worlds can also penetrate into the social laws of human life, for these in fact are soul-spiritual laws pertaining to the higher worlds; they can also lead us to laws which are able to call into existence satisfactory social conditions in human life. For it is a spiritual element which unites human beings in their life in common, and physical links are simply formed out of the spiritual.
The terrible catastrophe of the present time and the decadent forces which now hold sway are largely due to the fact that people forget this spiritual foundation. Humanity must again permeate itself with the spirit.
Anthroposophy has also had a fructifying influence on education, pedagogy. At the Waldorf School at Stuttgart, founded by Emil Molt, the results of anthroposophical research in the direction of a true knowledge of man are applied to the developing human being, to the child. The paths which lead us to the higher worlds also enable us to observe the child year by year and week by week, as it develops from birth to puberty; it enables us to see in the child the forces which it brought with it from the spiritual worlds and which the teacher or the educator must conjure forth.
I can only give a few indications in this direction, for at the Waldorf School we have tried to develop all these things in detail into an art of education. These are a few examples showing how Anthroposophy can influence different spheres of life.
I already told you that Anthroposophy can also fructify religious life, because it leads in a scientific way to the higher worlds and because it shows us the true nature of man’s eternal being which he bears in his transient earthly existence as an ever-developing spiritual element not accessible to the ordinary forces of cognition. It shows this eternal essence in its own element, in the super-sensible worlds. Higher vision can discover it there. Here it is concealed, because when it enters earthly life through birth it becomes absorbed by the physical form. But this fact does not deprive the spirit of its living forces, for the physical substance only conceals it. The spiritual can however be perceived in physical substance, in matter. An aid to such an insight is provided by the paths leading to the super-sensible worlds, which Anthroposophy seeks to indicate.
Anthroposophy does not wish on this account to lead us away from the ordinary world into asceticism, but it opens out the paths to the spirit, to the super-sensible worlds in such a way that with the aid of the spirit we can once more form and shape material, practical life.
The essential thing is to recognise a creative power in the spirit. The spiritual world would be weak indeed were we to experience it only as an uncreative element transcending matter. There are many people who say: The physical aspect of the world is something low, let us rise above it; let us abandon matter in order to reach high spiritual spheres.
Many things assuredly must be overcome in order to attain a knowledge of this spirit, but when we have reached it through love (and it can only be reached through love, through religious devotion and warmth, for the development of the moral capacities mentioned above lead us, through love, into the super-sensible worlds) then we take hold of the spiritual, super-sensible essence as we approach matter. For the strong spiritual element is not one which flees matter, but one which forms matter, which can be spiritually active within matter. This is one aspect.
On the other hand let me tell you one other thing which should be borne in mind, my dear fellow-students, namely that the spiritual science of Anthroposophy, as it is meant here, treads the paths leading to the super-sensible worlds in such a way that the results obtained along these paths do not stand outside the ordinary natural-scientific facts and their operations, but penetrate them as a soul-spiritual force.
Even as a person is a full human being in the true meaning of the word because here on earth he lives in a physical body which bears within it a soul-spiritual element, so science can only be science in the full meaning of the word if it is not a mere knowledge of the external, physical reality, but if this knowledge can be permeated by the knowledge of the spiritual worlds. For this reason the spiritual science of Anthroposophy wishes to set itself within the other science by meeting the demands of the being and nature both of man and of the universe. Even as in his physical life man must bear within him spirit and soul, so a real spiritual science which opens up true reliable ways into the super-sensible spiritual worlds, must become the spirit and soul of ordinary science dealing with the physical world. And even as the spirit and the soul in man do not fight or rebel against the body, but should harmonise with it fully, so the spiritual science of Anthroposophy should be in full harmony with real, genuine knowledge of nature and history.