Wisdom of Man, of the Soul, and of the Spirit
Part III: The Wisdom of Man
3. Imagination—“Imagination”; Inspiration — Self-fulfillment; Intuition — Conscience
15 December 1909, Berlin
Yesterday we found that in a certain way there is, after all, something like proof of the existence of the spirit that will satisfy our personal consciousness, provided the latter is rightly understood. We maintained that error and the possibility of correcting it are evidence of the existence of the spirit, in so far as our personal consciousness is concerned, and in order to understand this we cited an attribute of the spirit that appears self-evident. That is, its supersensibility, as we call it, for we based our statement on the fact that the root of error must be sought in the super-sensible realm. I said that it would naturally be impossible to present all the arguments necessary to prove such a matter in full detail, but that it might be extremely interesting to show how the possibility of error appears only in that realm to which man raises himself by casting off the coercion of the outer physical world through all that he can learn through perception alone.1Dr. Steiner could employ the non-German word Imagination in the sense familiar to students of anthroposophy, without much danger of confusion, because it is practically never used in German to mean ‘imagination’ in the common sense (that is Phantasie). In this lecture the two terms are offset, one against the other, and in translation a difficulty arises in our having but the one word in English: there is no synonym for ‘imagination’. The best solution available seems to be as follows: whenever ‘imagination’ is used in the ordinary sense (Phantasie) it will appear in inverted commas, but without these it has the technical meaning. If the reader will bear this purely arbitrary device in mind he should not be startled when he runs across something like “imagination leads to ‘imagination’.”
One fact suffices to indicate the method by which it could be shown that at bottom it is only through his own nature and being that man is exposed to the temptation to fall into error through a connection with the outer world. It has been repeatedly pointed out that modern science really gathers from all sides certain proofs of the conclusions arrived at by spiritual science, but the proponents of external science fail to interpret them with sufficient open-mindedness.
We will cite one of these facts, established by the naturalist, Huber, through the observation of caterpillars spinning a cocoon. There is a caterpillar that builds its web in successive phases or stages, so that one can describe the process as spinning in the first stage, second stage, and so forth, up to seven. Now, Huber took a caterpillar working on the third stage and set it on another web of which six stages were finished, and a strange thing happened. At first the caterpillar felt shocked, as one might interpret its behavior, but then it continued to spin, not the seventh stage, but the fourth, fifth, etc. It obeyed a sure inner life, following only its own dictates. When Huber took one of the caterpillars away from its own cocoon and put it in another that had also arrived at the third stage, it continued the work in the regular way. It was not reacting to an outer impression at all. It did not say to itself, “Now I must spin the fourth stage.” It was following an inner urge, and this it did even when the outer impression emanated from another stage.
This is an extremely important fact, because it shows that in animal beings outer impressions can in no way effect what in man we call right or wrong — the category “subject to error.” The human being can be confused by something external, because the nature of his organization is such as to cause him to obey not only his inner life of impulses, but the impulses entering from without as well. In this sense only man confronts an outer world. Fundamentally, this accounts for all possible illusions in respect to the concept of the spirit; at least, there is a connection.
Now, in order to find the right transition from science to our anthroposophical doctrine of the spirit, let us call to mind again what a keen teacher of the present, Brentano, brought forward to characterize the soul and its capacity as such, and to facilitate the right transition to the spirit realm I will indicate by diagrams on the blackboard what is in question.
Brentano classifies our psychic faculties as visualizations, reasoning and what we can call emotions — the phenomena of love and hate. Well, if we imagine the whole extent of our soul life as organized in this way, we should have to observe that visualizations and emotions, if closely studied, bear a different relation to the soul and to whatever else may enter our enquiry than do judgments. That is exactly what the soul-teachers, the psychologists, pride themselves on. They divide visualizations from reasoning because in reasoning they see something more than a mere combination of visualizations. Our psychologist by no means sees in this the essence of reasoning, where something is to be settled; nor can all this ever have any foundation as such, because, as he argues, when we combine visualizations it might also be a case of establishing the possibility of combining visualizations. If, for example, we were to combine the visualizations “tree” and “golden” — not “tree” and “green” — we would be forced to admit axiomatically that no tree is golden. Now, what is really the premise of the judgment in this context? It is that we should be able, so to speak, to form a valid proposition out of every such judgment. From the compound visualization, “a tree is green,” I can form the valid proposition, “a green tree is.” Not until then have I passed judgment. Only when I try to form the proposition do I know whether the combination of visualizations permits of establishing anything. “A golden tree is” — that won't do. So when one asks whether a judgment can proceed from a combination of visualizations, this would involve the second question: Can a valid proposition be formed in the case?
Now let me ask you this. If you were to traverse the entire extent of the soul life, searching everywhere in the soul, could you anywhere discover the possibility of simply forming a valid proposition out of a combination of visualizations? What can impel you to form the proposition, “a green tree is,” out of the compound visualization, “the tree is green?” What is it that induces you to do this? Only something that is primarily not within your soul, because in the whole realm of the soul you can find nothing of the sort. When you want to make the transition from the compound conception to the proposition, to the thesis that settles something, you must emerge from the soul life and seek something which, as your inner feeling tells you, is not of the nature of the soul but with which the soul makes contact. That means that there is no way of accomplishing the transition except through perception. When a combination of conceptions is joined by what we can call perception, then and only then is it possible to speak of forming a judgment within the present meaning.
This shows further that in the first instance we know nothing more of all that we visualize than simply that it lives in the soul, and that something more is needed if we are to pass from conception to reasoning. That emotions exist only in the soul everybody will doubtless believe even more readily than that this is the case with visualizations, for if they had their being anywhere but within the soul they could not bear so individual a character as they do in different people. We need waste no time explaining that emotions live primarily in the soul.
We must enquire next if it is in any way possible to maintain that visualizations and emotions live only in the soul. Although we know that without the aid of outer perception we cannot directly arrive at a verdict, because visualizations and emotions are inner processes of the soul, we must still ask whether anything justifies our speaking of visualizations and emotions as though they existed only within the soul. Well, in respect to visualizations we could first point out that when living in them we by no means feel as though we mastered them completely in our soul, as though they were not coercive or the like. We learned yesterday that error is of a spiritual, super-sensible nature and can enter the realm of our visualizations, but that the latter in turn can overcome error; otherwise, it would never be possible to get beyond error. Bearing this in mind we must recognize the fact that we have in our soul a kind of battlefield of a conflict between error and — well, something else. All error is of a spiritual nature, and we must have something adequate to oppose it, otherwise we could never rise above it. There is, indeed, a means of overcoming error, as everyone knows. Since error is spiritual, we cannot overcome it through mere perception from the sense world. In the lectures on Anthroposophy I pointed out that the senses as such do not err. Goethe once emphasized that. It is not the senses that err but what goes on in the soul; therefore, error can only be corrected within the soul, and primarily through visualization. It is by means of visualizations, then, that we get past error.
We found yesterday that in a certain way error is a sort of abortive species of something else, of something we could designate as precisely the element in us that raises us to higher regions of the soul life. The chief characteristic of error is its non-agreement with the world of perception, and we came to realize that on the path to the higher world we must devote ourselves in meditation, concentration, and so forth, to conceptions that also fail to agree with our perception. The rose cross itself, for example, is a conception that shares with error its lack of agreement with outer perception. We said, however, that when error is employed on the path of spiritual life it would have a destructive effect in us, and experience shows this to be the case.
How, then, can we achieve conceptions that, though at variance with the outer world of perception, nevertheless awaken higher soul forces in a healthy, normal way? How can we proceed from what is merely false to allegorical conceptions such as we have described? We can do this by not letting ourselves be guided by the outer sense world, the world of perception, in compounding such visualizations, nor, on the other hand, by forces that lead us into error. We must avoid both of these and appeal to forces in the soul, which, however, we must first awaken. The day before yesterday we characterized them as inner stirrings growing only out of the soil of morality and beauty. We must break, as it were, with impulses and passions such as are imprinted in us by a world that after all must be termed external; we must work within ourselves in order to be able to call up, quite experimentally, forces in our soul that at the outset we lack entirely. By doing this we learn to form allegorical conceptions that in a sense have a certain objective validity, though one not applicable to the outer world of perception.
We start by forming the conception of man as he presents himself to us in the present time, a being of whom, in a certain sense, he himself can by no means approve, with whom he cannot be satisfied, and of whom he must say that such as he is now, he must be conquered. Then, by the side of this conception we place the other: that he feels he must strive to realize his own higher nature, a nature that would give him complete mastery over all that in his present form he disapproves of. That this second conception cannot be classed as perception is shown by the fact that it does not refer to the present or the past, but to man's future. Then, from such stirrings, we combine conceptions that ordinarily, under the guidance of the world of perceptions, would not coincide. We bring together the black cross, symbol of what must be caused to die, and the red roses, symbol of the life that must arise from it. In inner meditation we visualize the rose cross, a visualization that can only be called unreal, yet did not come into being like an external error but was born of the noblest impulses of our soul.
We have, then, brought forth out of the noblest impulses of our soul a visualization corresponding to no outer perception and if we apply this visualization — that is, if we give ourselves up to it in conscientious inner devotion and let it work upon us — we find that our soul expands in a healthy way and attains to heights not reached before. Thus, experience shows the soul to be capable of development. By means of a visualization that is outwardly an error we have performed something that manifests itself as intrinsically right.
The next question is whether or not we can endow all that crowds into us through outer perception with power over such a visualization that has nothing in common with this outer perception. Can we lend it the power to exercise any force that will make of the visualization something different in our soul from what it makes of error? We must remember that the quality in us that has converted this allegorical visualization into something different from anything that could arise out of error is the opposite of what functions forcefully in error. We said that in error we felt the Luciferic forces; now we can say that in the transformation of an allegorical visualization in the soul, in the wholesome guiding of the allegorical visualization to a higher aspect of the soul, the lofty stirrings we feel are the opposite of Luciferic. They are of the nature of the divine-spiritual.
The deeper you penetrate into this interrelationship, the more directly you will feel the inner influence of the super-sensible through this experience of transforming an allegorical visualization. Then, when we see that the super-sensible effects something in us, achieves something, operates in us, then what had previously been mere visualization in the soul, abiding within the soul element, becomes something quite different, something that we must now term a conclusion such as the soul, as primarily constituted, cannot bring about through outer perception. Nor can a visualization perform in the soul what has been described. Just as visualization, when coming in contact with the ordinary outer world, leads to reasoning, so the inner life of a visualization, not lacking direction but amenable to guidance as set forth, leads out beyond the visualization itself and transforms it. It becomes something that may not be a verdict but is at least a visualization fraught with significance and pointing out beyond the soul. This is what in the true sense of the term we call imagination. Summing up: When visualization comes in contact with the outer world through perception, it points to reasoning, but through the inner process we have described it points to what we call inner imagination in the true sense.
Just as perception is not mere visualization, so imagination is not visualization either. By means of perception, the life of visualization comes in contact with a primarily unfamiliar outer world. By means of the process described, visualization adapts itself to what we may call the imaginative world. Just as there is a real transition from the mere conceptual complex, “a tree is green,” to the verdict, “a green tree is,” so there is an analogous transition from the mere life of conceptions to what is comprised in imagination, in a conception filled with other than the yield of a spatial outer world. There we have the process that in our imaginative life enriches our conceptions.
There is, however, something that intervenes between imagination and visualizations. Imagination has a way of announcing itself quite realistically the moment it appears. When our soul really attains to imagination, it senses in its life of visualizations something akin to what it feels in its life of perceptions. In the latter the soul feels — well, its direct contact with the outer world, with corporeality; in imagination it feels an indirect contact with a world that at first also appears to it as an outer world, but this is the outer world of the spirit. When this spirit begins to live in the visualizations — those that really attain to imagination — it is just as coercive as outer corporeality. Just as little as we can imagine a tree as golden when we are in contact with the outer world — just as the outer world forces us to visualize in a certain way — so we feel the compulsion emanating from the spirit when visualization rises to imagination. In that case, however, we are at the same time aware that this life of visualizations expresses itself independently of all the ways and means by which visualizations are ordinarily given a content. In ordinary life this takes place by reason of our having perceptions through our eyes, ears, etc., and of our nourishing the life of visualizations with these perceptions, so that it is filled from the content of our perceptions. In imagination we suffer our visualizations to be filled by the spirit. Nothing must intervene that might become the content of our soul by way of the bodily organs, nothing that enters us through our eyes or ears. We are directly conscious of being free of all that pertains to outer corporeality. We are as directly free of all that as we are — to use a material comparison — of the processes of the outer body during sleep. For this reason, as far as the total organism is concerned all conditions are the same during imagination as during sleep, except that imaginative consciousness takes the place of the unconsciousness of sleep. What is otherwise wholly empty, what has separated from the body, is filled with what we may call imaginative conceptions. So the only difference between a man in sleep and one in imagination is that the parts that in sleep are outside the physical body are devoid of all conceptions in ordinary sleep, whereas in imagination they are filled with imaginative conceptions.
Now, an intermediate condition can appear. It would be induced if a man in sleep were filled with imaginative conceptions but lacked the power to call them to consciousness. Such a condition is possible, as you can gather from ordinary life. I will merely remind you that in ordinary life you perceive any number of things of which you are not aware. Walking along the street, you perceive a whole world of things that you do not take into your consciousness. This is shown when you dream of curious things, for there are dreams that are indeed strange in this respect. You dream, for example, that a man is standing by a lady and the lady says this or that. Well, the dream remains in your consciousness, you remember it, but after you've thought about it you have to admit that the situation actually occurred, only you would have known nothing of it if you hadn't dreamed of the experience. The whole event passed your consciousness by, and not until you dreamed it did the picture enter your consciousness. That happens often.
Thus, perceptions that have occurred can leave consciousness untouched, and imaginations that indeed live in the soul can also leave consciousness untouched so that they do not appear directly. In that case they appear to consciousness in a manner similar to that of the perceptions we have just described. They appear to us in semi-consciousness, in dreaming. Imaginations of that sort can shine into our waking day-consciousness and there fluctuate and pass. An imagination of that sort does enter the everyday human consciousness, but there it experiences changes. It expresses itself in what is called ‘imagination,’ ‘imagination’ based on world truths, the real basis of all artistic creation, in fact, of all productive work of man.
Because this is so, Goethe, who knew well how art comes into being, often maintained that ‘imagination’ is by no means something that arbitrarily manipulates cosmic laws, but that it is subject to the laws of truth. Now, these laws of truth act absolutely out of the world of imagination, but here they integrate the ordinary world of perceptions in a free manner, so that true ‘imagination’ is something between ordinary conception and imagination. ‘Imagination,’ rightly understood, not conceived of simply as something that isn't true, bears direct witness to the progress of conceptions toward the point where they can flow over into the super-sensible region of the imaginative world. This is one of the points at which we are able to perceive the direct streaming in of what we can call the spiritual world into our ordinary world.
Now let us examine the other aspect, the emotions. It has already been said that the psychologist under discussion keeps within the soul, that he therefore follows up all that concerns impulses of will only as far as these remain within the soul, and that he stops short at the emotions. Everything that men do is motivated by a desire, a passion, an urge, that is, that element within the region of the soul that must be called emotion. Of course, nothing happens through emotions alone, and as long as we remain within the soul nothing need happen. No matter how violently we intensify any emotion, we cannot thereby make something happen that is independent of the soul because nothing that remains in the soul is a true expression of will. If the soul never emerged out of itself, but merely kept wanting to experience desires and emotions — anything from the deepest reverence to disgust — nothing would happen that is independent of the soul. When we recognize will in its true form as a fact, the region of emotions points out beyond the soul as well.
The manner in which this sphere of emotions points out beyond the soul is singular. What does it suggest first of all? Well, if we take the simplest expression of will — if we raise a hand, walk about, strike the table with some instrument or do anything else that involves the will — we see that something takes place in the realm of reality that we can call a passing over of our emotions by way of an inner impulse to the hand movement, to something that is certainly no longer in our soul. Yet in a certain way it is within us because all that happens as a result of a genuine will impulse when we set our body in motion, and as a continuation of this, something external as well, lies by no means outside the circle comprising the being of man. Here, through emotions, we are led on the other side into an externality, but into a quite different kind of externality, into our own corporeality, which is our own externality. We descend from our psychic to our bodily self, to our own corporeality, but for the moment we do not know how we accomplish this in external life. Imagine the effort it would cost if, instead of moving your hand, you had to construct an apparatus, possibly worked from the outside by springs or the like, that would produce the same effect as you do in picking up this chalk! Imagine that you would have to be able to think out all that and realize it by means of a machine. You can't think that out and there is no such machine; yet that apparatus exists. Something occurs in the world that is certainly not in our consciousness, for if it were we could easily build the apparatus. Something takes place, then, that really pertains to us, but of which we have no immediate knowledge.
We must ask what would have to take place to make us aware of a movement of the hand, or of any motion of the body obeying the will? Another reality as well, the one that is outside us, would have to be able to enter our consciousness instead of halting before it. We would need to have before us a process such as takes place in our own body without penetrating consciousness — a process equally external, yet connected with consciousness in such a way that we would be aware of it. We should have to have something that we experienced in the soul, yet it would have to be something like an outer experience in this soul. So something just as ingenious as the picking up of the chalk would have to take place in our consciousness — just as ingenious and just as firmly based on abiding external laws. Some external event would have to enter our consciousness, acting in accord with prevailing laws, that would have the following effect. We would not think, as we would in the case of actions of the will, “I will pick up this chalk,” and consider that as representing one side of our soul life, strictly divided off from something we don't recognize as an external perception but, rather, these two processes would have to coincide, be one and the same. All the details of the hand motions would have to occur within consciousness.
Now, that is the process that takes place in the case of intuition. We can put it this way. When we can grasp with our own consciousness something that comes to full expression within this consciousness — not merely as knowledge but as an event, a world event — we are dealing with intuition, or more precisely, with intuition in the higher sense, such as is meant in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. Within intuition, then, we are dealing with the governing will. While that shrewd psychologist, Brentano, finds only emotions within the soul, not will, because the will does not exist for ordinary consciousness, it remains for the consciousness that transcends ordinary consciousness to find something that is a higher event. It is the point at which the world enters and plays a part in consciousness. That is, intuition.
Here again we have a sort of transition, only it is a little less readily noticeable than the one leading from imagination to ‘imagination’. This transition sets in when we acquire such power of self-observation as to enable us not merely to will something and follow this by the deed, with thoughts and deeds standing dynamically side by side, so to speak, but to start expanding our emotions themselves over the quality of our deeds. In many cases this is even useful, yet it can happen in life that in performing an action we are gratified or disgusted by it. I don't believe an unprejudiced observer of life can deny the possibility of so expanding the emotions as to include likes and dislikes for one's own actions, but this co-experiencing of them in the emotions can be intensified.
When this has been intensified to the point of its full potentiality in life, this transition reveals what we can call the human conscience. All stirrings of conscience occur at the transition from the emotions to intuition. If we seek the location of conscience, we find it at this transition. The soul is really open laterally on the side of imagination and on that of intuition, but it is closed on the side where we encounter the impact, as it were, of outer corporeality through perception. It achieves a certain fulfillment in the realm of imagination, and another when it enters the realm of intuition — in the latter case through an event.
Now, since imagination and intuition must live in one soul, how can a sort of mediation, a connection of the two, come about in this single soul? In imagination we have primarily a fulfilled image of the spiritual world, in intuition, an event that impinges out of the spiritual world. An event we encounter in the ordinary physical world is something that leaves us no peace, so to speak. We try to understand it, then we seek the essence underlying it. It is the same in the case of an event in the spiritual world that is to penetrate our consciousness. Let us consider this more closely. How does imagination first of all penetrate consciousness? Well, we found it first on the side of the emotions, but there, though it enters consciousness, enters the soul, it does so primarily on the side of the emotions, not on the side of visualization. It is the same in the case of intuition. Intuition can enter the soul life without providing the possibility of being visualized. Imagination, too, can occur without our being aware of it, in which case we have ‘imagination’ directly affecting the world of visualizations. Intuition, however, is to be found on the side of the emotions.
You see, in the whole spiritual life of man intuition is linked with the emotions. I will give you an example, a well-known dream. A couple had a son who suddenly became ill and in spite of all that could be done he died within a day. The parents were profoundly affected. The son continually occupied their thoughts, that is, their memory; they thought of him a great deal. One morning they found that during the night both had had the same dream, which they recounted to each other. (You can find this dream cited by a certain materialistic interpreter of dreams who turns the most grotesque somersaults in attempting to explain it.) They dreamt that the son demanded to be exhumed, as he had been buried alive. The parents made all possible efforts to comply with this demand, but as they lived in a country in which exhumation was not permitted after so long a lapse of time, it could not be done. How can we arrive at a sort of explanation of the phenomenon presented in this dream? Well, one premise is obvious. The parents' continuous recollection of the son, who was present in the spiritual world as a spiritual being, created a bridge to him. Let us suppose you admit that a bridge to the deceased was built through memory. You cannot possibly assume that, when all the intervening veils have been pierced, enabling the deceased to influence the two people, and when both have the same dream in which he tells them, “I am buried alive; go and see!” — you cannot assume that he really said that. Instead, there simply came about a contact in the night between parents and son. He did tell them something, or endeavored to instill something into their souls, but since the parents had no way of bringing to consciousness what it was that the son had instilled into their souls, their accustomed conceptions stood in the way of the real events. What the son manifestly wanted was something quite different because such visualizations could only have been gathered from the visualization substance of their accustomed life.
The other part I will explain to you by means of another dream, the dream a peasant woman had. This peasant woman dreamt she was going to town, to church. She dreamt vividly of the long walk on the road and through the fields, of arriving in the town, entering the church, and listening to the sermon, which moved her deeply, but it was, above all, the end of the sermon that went to her heart. The pastor spoke there with special warmth, and with the concluding words he spread out his arms. Suddenly his voice was transformed. It began to resemble the crowing of a rooster. Finally it sounded actually like a cock crowing, and the outspread arms seemed to her like wings. At the same moment the woman woke up, and out in the barnyard the rooster crowed. This crowing of the rooster had produced the whole dream, but you will admit that it might have produced other dreams just as well. Suppose, for instance, that a thief had been awakened by it. He might have been wondering how to break a lock, and some other astute rascal had been giving him directions that then turned into the cock-crow. That might have been the conception. You see, it need have no connection with what really entered the soul. The peasant woman was floating, so to speak, in a world of devotion and, when this was shattered, she still had the feeling of being elsewhere, but her entire consciousness was filled by the cock-crow. What manifested itself could therefore only express itself in symbols.
When anyone gets practice in passing from such dreams to reality, he finds that before he can arrive at spiritual reality he must penetrate some form of emotion — a sorrow or joy, a tension of this or that feeling. He must form wholly new conceptions if he would arrive at what the spiritual world comprises, and as a rule spiritual events are much closer to the emotions than to conceptions. The conceptual life of dreams is not conclusive in reporting what has happened there. There we have the spiritual event impinging. We are present in the spiritual world throughout our sleeping life, but our visualization is unable to characterize what we visualize. A similar condition prevails between intuition and the emotions. That is why mystics arrive at a vague, hazy soul experience of the higher worlds before attaining to any concretely outlined conceptions of them, and many mystics remain satisfied with that. Those whose souls truly meditate in the higher worlds, however, all describe in the same way the conditions of blissful devotion, their frame of mind in directly experiencing the spiritual world.
If we then endeavored to proceed through intuition, which sways the soul, we would not get very far; instead, we must proceed more from the other side, must try to develop imagination, to focus our attention on the imaginative world, in order not merely to wallow in emotions but to arrive at concrete images. If we do that, a sort of contact enters our life between intuition, which is not yet understood but rather felt, and imagination, which still floats in unreality and consists only of images. This contact finally enables us to ascend to the plane we can describe by saying that we have arrived among the beings who bring about spiritual events. Approaching these beings is what we call inspiration, and in a sense we have here the reverse of the processes confronting us in the outer corporeal world.
In confronting the outer corporeal world we have, so to speak, the thoughts we frame about objects. The objects are given, and we think about them. Here it is the event, the “object,” that appears in intuition primarily as emotion, so that imagination as such would remain in suspension. Not until the two unite, until intuition streams into imagination and visualizations are set free by imagination so that we feel imagination as coming to us from beings, not until then does the essence of the beings stream into us as an event, and what the imaginations have provided flows into intuition. We perceive in the event a content comparable to that of visualizations. These thoughts, for the perception of which imagination has prepared us, we then perceive by means of the event provided by intuition.
I have described to you today how man ascends to the spiritual world on the other side of his soul life, as it were. I have anticipated a little in the matter of what only spiritual science itself can give, but I had to do this in order that tomorrow we might be able to understand each other more readily in the principal subject — a description of the spiritual world itself.