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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Original Impulses for the Science of the Spirit
GA 96

X. The Way to Higher Knowledge and Its Stages II: Imaginative Perception and Artistic Imagination

21 October 1906, Berlin

The second subject on which we have said occult teachers instruct their pupils is Imagination. With this, the individual does not go through life in the ordinary everyday way but in accord with Goethe s words ‘All things corruptible are but a parable’. Pupils will see something else in every animal and every plant. Thus the autumn crocus will be the image of a melancholy mind, the violet an image of being quietly in harmony with God, the sunflower an image of life bursting with energy, independence, ambition. Living in this way, pupils rise to imaginative perception. They’ll see something like a cold flame rise from a plant, a colour image that takes them to the astral plane. The pupils are thus guided to see things that are shown to them by spiritual entities from other worlds. It had to be said, however, that the pupils must strictly follow their occult teacher, who alone can tell them what is subjective and what is objective. The occult teachers are able to give their pupils the necessary security. The world of the senses gives this of its own accord by continually correcting our errors. The situation is different in the astral world. There one is easily deluded; there someone with greater experience has to be at one s side.

The teachers give their pupils who want to follow the Rosicrucian way a number of instructions. In the first place they give them a particular instruction once they have begun to reach the level of imaginative development. A teacher will then say: ‘Endeavour first of all to love not just individual animals, to develop a particular relationship to individual animals, to learn one thing or another from one animal or another, but try to develop a living inner feeling for whole groups of animals; you will then gain an idea of the nature of the group soul. The individual soul of man is on the physical plane, the individual souls of animals are on the astral plane. An animal cannot say 'I' to itself here on the physical plane.’

A question that is often asked is if animals do not have the kind of soul that human beings have. They do have such a soul, but the animal soul is up above on the astral plane. The individual animal relates to the animal soul the way individual organs relate to the soul in human beings. If your finger hurts, it is the soul which feels it. All the sensations of individual organs go to the soul. The same is the case for a group of animals. Everything an individual animal feels inwardly is felt inside it by the group soul. Let us take all the different lions, for example. The sensations felt by the lions all go to a soul they have in common. All lions have a common group soul on the astral plane. If you cause an individual lion pain, or if it feels inner gratification at something, this goes all the way to the astral plane, just as the pain in a human finger goes all the way to the human soul. Man is able to gain insight into the group soul if he is able to create a form for himself that contains all individual lions, just as a general concept contains all the individual forms belonging to it.

Plants have their soul in the rupa part of the devachan plane.67Rupa lokas (worlds) on the devachan = lower spheres in the world of the spirit, where forms still exist. By gaining an overview of group of plants and developing a particular relationship to the plant’s group soul, human beings learn to penetrate to the group souls of plants on the rupa plane. When it is no longer the individual lily, the individual tulip that is special to them, but when the individual plants merge for them in living, concentrated Imaginations that become images, human beings experience something completely new. It is important to have a very real image, individually created in one’s powers of imagination. One will then find that the earth’s plant cover, a flower-bedecked meadow, for instance, becomes something completely new and that the flowers become a genuine revelation of the earth’s spirit. That is the revelation of these different plant group souls. Just as human tears become a reflection of sadness felt in the soul, and the physiognomy comes to reflect the soul of a person, so does the occultist come to see the green of the plant cover as a reflection of inner processes, of the earth’s true life in the spirit. Some plants will then be like the earth’s tears for him, with the earth’s inner sadness welling forth. As in the case of someone who shares in the tremors and sorrow of others, so does a new, imaginative content enter into the pupil’s soul.

These are the moods a person must go through. If you go through the mood relating to the animal world, you find your way up to the astral plane. If you enter into the mood I have described for the plant world, you find your way up to the lower part of the devachan plane. You will observe the flame forms rising from the plants. The earth's plant cover will then be covered with a sum of configurations, the incarnations of light rays, that come down upon the plants.

We can also approach a dead stone in the the same way. There is a basic inner feeling relating to the mineral world. Let us take a rock crystal with the light shining through it. Looking at it we can say to ourselves that in a way this is an ideal picture of the human being himself. Just as the human physical body is physical matter, so a stone, too, is physical matter. But there is a future prospect, and the occult teacher guides his pupils towards this. Today human beings are still full of drives, passions and appetites. This fills our physical nature. But the occultist has an ideal before him. He will say to himself: ‘Our animal nature is gradually cleansed and purified until a level is reached where this human body can stand before us as chaste and free from desire as the mineral which desires nothing, with no wishes stirring in it when something comes near it. The inner material nature of the mineral is chaste and pure.’ This chastity and purity is the inner feeling pupils should have on looking at the world of rocks and minerals. These inner feelings are differentiated according to the different shapes and colours in which that world shows itself, but the basic inner feeling present in the mineral world is one of chastity.

Our earth has a quite specific configuration, a quite specific form today. Let us go back to earlier stages of its evolution. It once had a completely different form. Let us go back to Atlantis and earlier. There we come to increasingly higher temperatures, with the metals running about the way water runs on earth today. All metals have turned into those veins in the earth today because they were originally running streams. Just as lead is solid today and mercury liquid, so lead was liquid once, and mercury will one day be a solid metal. The earth is thus changing, and humanity has always been part of the different evolutional stages. The physical human being did not yet exist at the times of which we have been talking. But the ether body and the astral body were there, being able to live at even higher temperatures. As the earth cooled down, the outer bodies gradually developed around the human being.

New things were developing all the time in the human being in the course of evolution, and correspondingly new things also developed in the natural world around him. The beginnings of the human eye developed at the Sun stage of the planet. The ether body developed first, and then in turn created the physical human eye. Our physical organs developed from the more subtle ether body the way a piece of ice develops in water as it freezes. Physical organs developed inside the human being, and out there the earth grew solid. The development of an organ in the human being and the development of specific configurations in the natural world outside always ran parallel. When the potential for the eye developed in man, the chrysolite evolved in the mineral world. We can thus think of the same creative powers putting together chrysolite nature in the world of nature and creating the human eye.

We cannot be satisfied with general phrases in a given case, saying that man is microcosm and the world macrocosm, for occult studies have shown the true relationship between human being and world. When the physical organ for the ability to connect thoughts developed in Atlantean times, lead solidified in the outside world; it changed from the liquid to the solid state. Thus the same powers are active in the solidification of lead and the organism of rational thinking. We will only understand the human being if we are able to see the connections between the human being and the powers of nature. There is a particular group within the socialist movement which thinks differently from the other social democrats, being extremely moderate. This group within the socialist movement are the printers. And the reason is that printers work with lead. The tariff community between workers and employers developed first among the printers.68Tariff community, general labour contract. Lead taken in small quantities creates such an inner mood.

Another example taken from experience also shows how the nature of a metal influences a person. A gentleman had noticed that he found it easy to see analogies between all kinds of things. It was possible to conclude from this that he had frequent contact with copper. And that was indeed the case. He played the French horn in an orchestra, an instrument that contains a great deal of copper.

Once you study the relationship between the inanimate world outside and the human organism you find that the relationship between human beings and the world that surrounds them takes many different forms. An example is the relationship between the senses and precious stones. We have already seen the relationship between the eye and the chrysolite. In the same way a relationship exists between the organ of hearing and the onyx. This stone has a peculiar relationship to the movements of the I-life in man. Occultists have always made this connection. The stone represents life arising from death, for instance. Thus in Goethe’s Tale, the dead dog is changed into an onyx by the old man’s lamp. Goethe had an intuition here that came from occult knowledge. The relationship between the onyx and the organ of hearing is connected with this. Occult relationships also exist between the organ of taste and topaz, the sense of smell and jasper, the skin sense as man’s sense of temperature, and carnelian, the power of productive thought and carbuncle. The latter was used as a symbol of the productive powers of thought which arose in man at the time when the carbuncle developed in the natural world.

The occult symbols come from the depths of profound and real wisdom. Wherever you consider occult symbolism, you find genuine insight. Knowing the significance of a mineral you gain access to the upper parts of the devachan plane. Seeing a precious stone and gaining a real feeling of what this precious stone can tell us, we gain access to the arupa parts of the devachan plane. The occult student's horizons thus widen, with more and more worlds opening up to him.

He must not make do with general suggestions, but must gain access to the world-whole—bit by bit.

Looking at German literature we can also see that writers who know about mining have an instinctive intuition concerning the powers of minerals. Thus Novalis had studied mining science.69In Novalis' novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen. Körner70Körner, Karl Theodor (1791–1813), German lyric poet. In his poems Bergmannsleben (miner's life) and Berglied (mountain song) and his play Der Kampf der Geister mit den Bergknappen (struggle between the spirits and the pitmen). Notes taken of the lecture give the name as 'Kernig', clearly misheard. See Picht C. S. 'Theodor Körner and seine Beziehungen zum Reich der Steine', Das Goetheanum 1940; 19: Nr. 21.often made miners the people with occult knowledge in his works. As to Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann,71Hoffmann, Ernst Theodor Wilhelm (or Amadeus) (1776–1822), German writer, music critic and caricaturist. Reference here to 'Die Bergwerke von Falun' in his anthology Die Serapionsbrüder, 1. Teil, 1819. that strange individual who sometimes went deep into the secrets of nature in his art, especially in his short story The Mines at Falun, you can often sense echoes of occult relationships between the mineral world and the human being. This also shows the strange way in which great occult powers influence the artist’s imagination.

The true birth place of art were the mysteries. They were real and alive in astral space, where you had a synthesis of truth, beauty and godliness. This was very much the case in the mysteries of ancient Egypt and those of Asia, and also the mysteries of ancient Greece, especially in Eleusis. There the pupils would truly see spiritual powers coming down into the different forms that exist on earth. There was no other knowledge at that time than knowledge which was seen in this way. There was no other godliness than the harmony with God felt in the visions gained in the mysteries. Nor was there any other beauty than the beauty seen when the gods descended.

We live in a barbaric age, a chaotic age, an age lacking in style. In all the great periods in the arts creativeness came from most profound depths of the spirit. Looking at the images of Greek gods, you see exactly three types. Firstly there is the Zeus type, with Pallas Athene and Apollo also belonging to it. The Greeks were characterizing their own race in this. It was a specific shape given to the oval of the eye, to the nose, the mouth. Secondly you see the group that may be called the Mercury type. The ears are positioned quite differently, the nose differently, and the hair is woolly and crinkly. Thirdly there is the Satyr type, where we see quite a different shape to the angles of the mouth, a different nose, eyes and so on. These three types are clearly evident in Greek sculpture. The Satyr type is meant to represent a very ancient race, the Mercury type the race that followed it, and the Zeus type the fifth race.

Spiritual views of the world were part of everything in earlier times. During the Middle Ages this still showed itself in the work of craftsmen, with every door lock something of a work of art. Outer culture still showed us something that had been created by the soul. Our modern times are very different. The present time has only produced one style, and that is the style of the mercantile store. The large store will be just as characteristic of our age as Gothic edifices such as Cologne Cathedral are of 13th and 14th century medieval times. The new life comes to expression in these forms. As the knowledge given through the science of the spirit spreads, the world will have spiritual content again. And when this life of the spirit later comes to expression in outer forms we shall have a style that reflects this life of the spirit. The things that live in the science of the spirit must later come to expression in outer forms. We thus have to see the mission of spiritual science to be a cultural mission.