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Wisdom of Man, of the Soul, and of the Spirit
GA 115
Part III: The Wisdom of Man

1. Franz Brentano and Aristotle's Doctrine of the Spirit.

12 December 1909, Berlin

This lecture cycle is to deal with the being of man from a particular point of view. Two years ago the physical nature of man was discussed from the viewpoint of anthroposophy; last year, in the lectures on psychosophy, our subject was the nature of the human soul; this year we shall discuss the spiritual nature of man. Today's lecture will be in the nature of a preparatory introduction.

Contrasting as it does with current usage, our division of the totality of the human being into his physical, soul and spiritual nature might attract notice, but within the realm of spiritual science there is naturally nothing startling about this. In fact, it is our aim to bridge by means of these lectures the gap between spiritual and external science.

Outside the circle of spiritual science, as you know, the total nature of man is thought of as consisting of but two parts, the bodily-physical and the psychic. In the realm of recognized science it is not customary nowadays to mention the spirit. Indeed, following certain premises, the result of reverting to the threefold organization of man (body, soul and spirit), as did the catholicizing Viennese philosopher, Günther, in the nineteenth century, raised scientific misgivings and also the blacklisting, in Rome, of Günther's interesting books. This was done because as early as 869, at the eighth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople, the Catholic Church, in contradiction to both the Old and the New Testaments, had abolished the spirit. It had guided the development of dogmatism in such a way that the organization of man was permitted to comprise body and soul only. Curiously enough, this catholic development has persisted into our present science. If we seek to ascertain from history why scientists admit only body and soul we find but one reason. In the course of time the spirit has been forgotten; the habits of thought prevalent in certain circles have lost the ability to accept the spirit along with the soul of man.

These lectures must draw attention to the links connecting us with what exists as psychology because, by studying what has just been said, we will be able to understand that there exists no authentic doctrine of the spirit—unless in Hegel's philosophy, and even that cannot properly bear the connotation, because it is really a doctrine of the soul.

The strange disappearance of the concept “spirit” from our present-day habits of thought becomes intelligible by considering the work of the most important investigator of the soul. Precisely in the work of this man, whose views come closest to the teachings of pure, scientific theosophy on the subject of the soul, we can see why present thought habits prevent us from arriving at the idea of the spirit. I refer to Franz Brentano, the distinguished psychologist whose standpoint approaches that of theosophy. He wrote a curious book, that is, he set out to write a curious book, a psychology. The first volume of this appeared in 1874, entitled Psychology from the Standpoint of Empiricism. The second volume was promised for the autumn of the same year, and the others were to follow in rapid succession, but this first volume remained the last; no further ones appeared. Now a new edition of a part of this first volume has been published under the title A Classification of the Faculties of the Human Soul, appearing simultaneously in Italian and German, and an appendix has been added.

In view of the promise contained in the first volume of this book, we, especially as anthroposophists, must deeply deplore the fact that its continuation never materialized. There is a definite reason for this, however, which is readily discerned by the spiritual scientist. It is clear to anthroposophical thinking that the thought habits of modern science prevented a continuation of that first volume. Brentano prided himself on proceeding from a purely methodic standpoint, on investigating the soul quite in accordance with modern scientific methods. Out of the spirit of present-day methods of investigating the soul a doctrine of the soul was to be evolved. When we find, among many other matters, a discussion of the problem of immortality, the fact that no sequel was forthcoming must indeed be painfully felt from the anthroposophic standpoint. I consider the book and its fate extraordinarily symptomatic of our present time. Brentano promised to deal with the immortality of the soul, and when we realize that, although he could not prove the fact of the immortality of the soul, he could at least prove that a man is justified in cherishing the hope of immortality, we are faced anew with the pity of his failure to get on. Only the first book was achieved, and it contains no more than a sort of demonstration of methodic psychology and a statement of the author's analysis of the human soul. Later we shall come back to the reasons why this book could not have had a sequel.

In order to show the links with modern science I must allude, in this introductory lecture, to the classification of psychical activity as set forth in the new edition of Brentano's work. In contrast to the current classification—thinking, feeling, and willing—Brentano offers another, the three members, visualization, reasoning and the phenomena of love and hate, or emotion. You will notice that in a certain way this classification suggests what was said in the lectures on Psychosophy, though the latter drew from another source entirely. It is not necessary to mention the meaning of visualization again, nor, in view of what we have to say here in an introductory way about Brentano's psychology, need we go into it in detail, because the concept “visualization” is one that we have established as the becoming conscious within the soul of the content of our thought. Any thought content lacking all emotion and brought about by a conclusion concerning something objective would be a visualization.

Now, reasoning is distinct from visualization. Reasoning is called a concatenation of concepts, for example, the rose is red. But Brentano says this definition does not cover reasoning; that on the contrary, when uttering the sentence, “the rose is red,” either you have really said nothing in particular, or else you have said something else in an obscure way, “the red rose is”—that is, there exists, among other things, the actual presence of a red rose. This interpretation contains much that is correct, as even a superficial examination of your own soul life will show. Whether I call to mind “rose” and “red,” or whether I connect the concepts, makes no material difference but there is an essential difference when I do the same thing in connection with cognition: a rose is. In that case I have done something that is not exhausted in visualization but that determines something in relation to reality. The moment I say, “The red rose is,” I have determined something. “The rose is red” tells nothing more than that in some man's soul the concepts “rose” and “red” have met. Nothing has been said about anything except the content of thought. But “the red rose is” determines something. According to Brentano, this is reasoning. You do not transcend visualization until you have expressed what constitutes a conclusion. It is not possible here to go into the extraordinarily ingenious evidence offered by Brentano.

Next, Brentano distinguishes the emotions, or phenomena of love and hate. Here again we have something more than mere conclusions. To say, “the red rose is,” is not the same as a feeling I may have in connection with a rose. Those are phenomena of the soul that can be grouped under the head of emotions. They are not objects; something is told about the experiences of the subject. On the other hand, Brentano does not discuss the phenomena of will because he does not see enough difference to warrant him in assuming stirrings of the will as distinct from other emotions. What you desire (will)1In addition to “willing,” wollen can also mean “desiring” or “wanting,” even “wishing” at times. Such interesting double meanings can be explained but not translated, so it remains for the reader to keep the explanations in mind whenever the terms recur. you desire (will) with love, and the willing is represented in connection with the phenomenon of hate by not-willing (not-desiring). You cannot undertake to separate the phenomena of will from the mere phenomena of love and hate and from those of visualization.

It is extremely interesting to note that so keen a thinker, in setting out to describe the soul life, should have classified it in this way. This classification has its origin in the fact that here, for once, is a man who took seriously the customary habit of ignoring the spirit. Others in a certain way mixed into the soul life what properly pertains to the phenomenon of the spirit, resulting in the creation of an ambiguous being, a sort of soul-spirit, or spirit-soul. All sorts of activities could be imputed to this spirit-soul. Brentano, however, made a serious attempt to answer the problem of what comprises the soul when considered wholly by itself. He took seriously this inclination to differentiate soul and spirit clearly. He was sufficiently astute to decide what features of the current concept of the soul would be unaccounted for if one disregarded the spirit. Had Brentano continued the work, it would have been interesting to note the dilemma he would have encountered. Either he would have seen that somewhere he must come to a dead end because somewhere the soul must enter into a relationship with the spirit, or he would have had to admit the necessity for advancing from the soul to the spirit.

Let us consider, as an illustration, the two extreme members of Brentano's classification: visualization, and the phenomena of love and hate. To begin with, visualization, in his doctrine, is what goes on in the soul. It determines nothing because, if something is to be determined, reasoning must enter in. That would imply that in visualization we could not emerge from the soul; that we could do so only in reasoning, not in visualization. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that in Brentano's system the phenomena of will coincide with the emotions. No psychologist such as Brentano can discover anything in the soul but phenomena of love and hate. That is true as long as we limit our observation to the soul: when we like something, we want (will) it. But in passing from the soul to reality in its entirety, we see that the relation of the soul to the outer world is not exhausted with the soul's emotional experiences. It is a different matter when the soul emerges from itself and passes over to willing. Advancing from mere emotions to willing is a step we must take out of the soul, not one that is consummated within the soul. However strongly emotions may grip us, they in no way affect the outer world. Within the soul we find only emotions.

That is the way visualization looks in such systems of psychology as Brentano's, like something confined within the soul, something unable to enter reality; emotions are pictured as something not rooted in will but exhausting themselves in the psychic premises of will. We shall see that the spirit enters in exactly where Brentano's characterization leaves off, and that visualization would indeed be exhausted at that point were it not for the bridge leading from the soul to the spirit. On the other hand, we shall find that wherever the actual transition is made from the emotions to the will, the spirit enters in. You see, then, that a blind alley was encountered during the last decades at exactly the point where spiritual-scientific research must step in if any progress is to be made. That was inevitable.

Passing on to something else, we find exactly what threads lead from modern scientific psychology to spiritual science. The same man whose work we have been discussing, Franz Brentano, occupied himself throughout a long scholarly life with Aristotle. It is a strange coincidence that just recently a book by Brentano on Aristotle has appeared, a presentation by this psychologist of his research in Aristotle, Aristotle and his Philosophy. Now, Brentano's standpoint is not Aristotle's, but in a certain respect he is close to him, and he has admirably presented Aristotle's doctrine of the spirit. A third book by Brentano appeared at the same time, Aristotle's Doctrine of the Origin of the Human Spirit.

It will be worthwhile to devote a little time to that work as well, because Brentano is not only the most interesting psychologist of our time but a man who knows his Aristotle, and in particular, Aristotle's doctrine of the spirit. Aristotle has given us a doctrine of the spirit that contains nothing whatever of what could be termed Christian concepts. It summarizes, however, all that was achieved in its field by Western culture in the last centuries preceding the birth of Christianity—achieved in such a way that in the fourth century B.C. it was possible for Aristotle to think scientifically about the relation of the spirit to the soul.

We can clearly read between the lines that with regard to the main issues Brentano does take the same stand as Aristotle. Therefore, by studying Brentano's relation to the Aristotelian doctrine of the spirit, we can infer to what extent the present-day non-spiritual-scientific doctrine of the spirit is justified in transcending that of Aristotle. It is extraordinarily interesting today to compare the Aristotelian and the spiritual-scientific doctrines of the spirit, in so far as they are strictly scientific.

I will sketch the former for you. Aristotle speaks unequivocally of the spirit in its relation to the soul and the body of man. He speaks of the spirit as of something superadded to the body and the soul out of spiritual worlds. Thus far Brentano does not depart in any way from Aristotle's standpoint because, like the latter, he is constrained to speak of the spirit as of something superadded to the human body and soul. Therefore, when a human being enters physical existence through birth, we are not dealing, in the Aristotelian sense, with something that is exhausted with the line of descent, but with hereditary traits. The soul element appears as something that weaves through the body and holds it together, but it is not thus exhausted in what man inherits from his ancestors in the way of body and soul, for spirit is added to it. When the human being appears upon the physical plane, the body and soul elements combine with the spiritual. According to Aristotle, the spirit as such is wholly absent when the human being enters physical existence. Instead, the spirit is an original creation of the Divinity, directly added out of the spiritual world to what is born of the father and mother. Thus Brentano's most recent book contains the clear definition, “When a human being enters existence he is created by father, mother, and the God. What pertains to soul and body is born of the father and mother, and some time after conception the spiritual element is added by the God.”

In view of this premise, that the spirit is given to man through actual creation (creatio), it is interesting to follow Aristotle's views on immortality. According to Aristotle, spirit-man had previously not existed at all; the God creates him. Neither for Aristotle nor for Brentano does this imply that the spirit ceases to be when soul and body pass through the portal of death. On the contrary, this spirit that has been created remains in existence after death, and although it had been specially created for this individual human being, it passes over into the spiritual world. It is further interesting to note that Aristotle, and really Brentano as well, follows the course of a human life through the portal of death and then has that which was created by God for the individual live on in a purely spiritual world. In Aristotle there is no thought of a return to a physical embodiment, so we are not dealing here with reincarnation.

Consider that what Aristotle sets up as the prerequisite of the birth of a man in one incarnation—an original creation of spirit—must occur at every incarnation because reincarnation would not be a new creation. This alone suffices to show that the doctrine of reincarnation would conflict with his doctrine of creation. Now, it is a curious point, and one that must be considered in studying Brentano's conclusions about Aristotle, that Aristotle arrives at no view of the life of the spirit after death, other than that the spirit finds itself in a rather theoretical situation because all activity that Aristotle is able to discuss presupposes the physical world and physical corporeality. The spirit, even the eternal God-Spirit, really plays only the part of an onlooker, so that in Aristotle's philosophy nothing of the specifically spiritual tie comes into consideration, other than the contemplation of life from birth to death. According to Aristotle, the soul must look to this one life of today and base all future progress on it, so what remains is the spirit looking back after death upon this one life. In one case the spirit may thus see its insufficiencies and its virtues; in another, an excellent life; in a third, possibly a life of lies and crime. Upon this it bases its further development in the spiritual world.

That is the way in which the spirit, in the Aristotelian sense, would carry on after death. We must ask ourselves, however, what unprejudiced thinking will have to say about such a doctrine of the spirit. Aristotle makes it clear that his life on earth is not a mere existence in the vale of tears, but that it is of great significance and importance. True, a good deal of what Aristotle imagines as the future progress of the soul remains vague, but one point is quite definite: that this one earth life has profound meaning later on. Had the God created the spirit-man without having him incarnate, he might have created the spirit in such a way as to enable it to continue its development. But within Aristotle's meaning that would not have been a complete development. Unmistakably, Aristotle considers a physical incarnation important, one of the aims of the Divinity being to introduce man into a physical body. It is inherent in Aristotle's view that it is not the Divinity's intention merely to create the spirit as such, but rather, to create it in such a way that further progress demands the garb of a physical earth body. Born with the spirit-man at the moment of his creation is the aim to attain to an earthly body. A divinely created human spirit that would not demand incarnation in a human body is unthinkable.

Now imagine a spirit looking back upon physical existence and let us say it finds the physical life of man imperfect. What must arise in this disembodied human spirit, according to Aristotle? Naturally, the longing for another physical incarnation. The spirit must feel this longing, otherwise it would have completely missed its purpose for, since the spirit needs incarnation in order to perfect itself, it must feel the longing for it. Therefore, it is quite impossible to speak, in Aristotle's sense, of a single effectual incarnation unless it were a perfect one; that is, a complete step in the development of the spirit.

Now consider this strange arrangement made by the God, as Aristotle sees it. We have the creation of the human spirit that belongs in the physical body and leaves it at death. Yet, if we think consistently along Aristotle's line of reasoning, in passing over, it carries with it the longing for a physical body without being able to obtain one. Since Aristotle does not assume reincarnation, it follows that the soul would have to live on with a longing for a new incarnation. Aristotle's doctrine calls for reincarnation but does not admit it. Nor can it be admitted, as we shall see, from another angle of Aristotle's doctrine.

We are dealing here with the shrewdest doctrine of the spirit, apart from that of spiritual science. It is a doctrine that continues to loom into modern thought, as in Brentano, in which unprejudiced thinking teaches us that the spirit, created by God and delivered into the earthly world, is equipped with a longing for incarnation. Thus we see how the Aristotelian doctrine, gleaming across the millennia and based upon a scientific foundation, is still capable of exerting a deep influence. We also see the need to transcend Aristotle if we would provide scientific substantiation for reincarnation. In dealing with the doctrine of the spirit we are at a turning point. Only spiritual science, by offering scientific evidence of reincarnation, can transcend Aristotle, but this scientific authentication has never before been achieved. That is why, basically, we are at the turning point regarding the doctrine of the spirit. Through spiritual-scientific research we can advance beyond Aristotle in a genuine and fundamental way and offer scientific demonstration of reincarnation.

Brentano arrived at an inherently incomplete doctrine of the soul, Aristotle at an inherently contradictory doctrine of the spirit. It is important to observe that so shrewd a man as Brentano could not get beyond Aristotle in dealing with the spirit, and that his doctrine of the soul came to a halt because he left the spirit out of account. We shall find the common root of these two cases in the fact that, even from the standpoint of modern science, it is impossible to arrive at an unequivocal view of life if spiritual-scientific research be rejected. Spiritual science alone leads to a satisfying, uncontradictory philosophy.