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Knowledge as a Source of Healing
GA 198

Lecture I

20 March 1920, Dornach

What holds good for people today as an almost undisputed authority is science; science in the sense in which it is pursued in the educational institutions of the country. We have often spoken of how far the validity of science can go, and it has also been pointed out that people today must free themselves from its authority. I want now to show how it has become a characteristic phenomenon—but only of the last three or four centuries—to regard medicine as one of these sciences which hold sway as authorities. Indeed, everything connected with medicine is just one science among others—a science the effects of which are intended to bring about the healing of the sick. Today it is hardly realised that this relation of medicine to the other sciences, and to the whole field of knowledge, has come about only during the last three or four centuries. For the further back we go in human evolution the more do we find how everything that could be cultivated by man in the way of science, of knowledge, was considered to be more or less of a medical nature—as having to do with healing. And when we look back to those olden times, particularly to the development then of occult science, we see that with the concept of this occult science, of this body of knowledge, there is always bound up the concept of healing. In any healing, spiritual science was always involved. Thus, at that time it could never have been said: Medicine is one science among many!—In those days when pure intellect was not thought to have any place in occult science it was said In all science, in all knowledge, we must search for what aims at healing the whole human being.—This thought arose in the soul when they spoke.

But now the question necessarily comes up: What was there in those days to be healed? In this age of materialism a man is said to be ill when anything abnormal is noticed in him, either outwardly in his physical functioning or in his behaviour towards the material world. This material concept of illness is indeed, strictly speaking, a product of man's recent evolution, a product of the post-Grecian age. For in the. Greece of that time, where men were more awake and more receptive towards the world than those who came later, there still persisted the concept of illness—and of the tendency to illness—which prevailed in all ages up to the last two or three centuries B.C. Such matters as these have to be somewhat emphasised in order to be understood and perceived in their real significance. In those olden days people were convinced that all human beings permanently carried within them the seeds of illness. That in reality everyone went about the world with the predisposition to illness, was the prevailing conception. All men needed help at least in warding off illness; they needed healing the whole time—such was the opinion. Perhaps those things can be better understood if this notion of them is compared with one we come across a good deal, particularly now in connection with our social affairs and social demands. Many people today consider themselves called upon to make a stir about what is necessary in social, or other matters, for the future betterment of mankind. What conditions would be were their ideas to be carried out, they picture as a paradise on earth indeed, the realisation of certain ideas is even said to mean the dawn of the millennium. Certainly this may be well meant, though it has its roots in poor understanding and still poorer intelligence. But it may have the effect of merely exciting people in the agitator's way. For what could have a more powerful effect of this kind, particularly in a materialistic age, than the promise of a paradise on earthy And if besides they are told it will happen before they die, it is highly probable they will support anyone making the promise. Compared with that, anything like the idea of the “Threefold Commonwealth” appears hard indeed, for it does not speak of a paradise on earth but of a social organism in keeping with life—an organism which can really live. Over against the conception which includes this possible paradise on earth, and is supposed capable of bringing men health by putting their ideals into effect merely through improving conditions on the physical plane—over against this way of thinking lies another.

This other way of thinking, which held good in ancient times and had a quite different shade of feeling, I was trying to describe when I said: All human beings, in so far as they live and work on the physical plane, are to a certain extent hampered by the pre-disposition to sickness, and need constant healing. This conception is founded on what might be expressed thus—that here in the physical world a man is able to deal with the organisations necessary on the physical plane—with his domestic affairs; his rights and so on. But when all this is carried out through his own power alone, when nothing plays a part which has not to do with external institutions, the physical organism of man becomes more and more unhealthy. Ordinary measures are then quite unable to promote a sound social organism but only one that becomes weaker and weaker. For this to be avoided it is necessary for spiritual life to run side-by-side with the measures taken for the physical world. Then this spiritual life has the effect of paralysing the germs of sickness always being produced in men. All knowledge was worthless for mankind—so it was thought which did not tend to counteract the poison constantly forming in the social organism. The process of cognition is a healing process. It was considered in those olden days that, were knowledge at fault in any particular epoch, the social organism would become sick. Hence, from the first, cognitional power was recognised as a healing force; only in the course of time did the doctor, the teacher, the priest become separate individuals, independent of a leader with knowledge of the Mysteries who was also responsible for the ordering of society as well as being doctor, teacher, priest and so on, All these faculties were originally combined in one man possessing the knowledge which, owing to its particular character, acted as a healing factor for mankind. Later only were they to be differentiated. At that period of human evolution, too, far less attention was paid to individual illness than is the case today. Certainly opinions were formed about individual cases, but they were not told to the patient for fear of hurting his feelings and horrifying him. On the other hand, the measures taken, drawn as far as possible out of the deep sources of knowledge, were considered a social cure.

Such a conception, it is true, could prevail in its fullness only at a time when a man's attitude to himself was quite different from what it is today. We have frequently spoken of how the intellectualism, that now takes such a prominent place in the acquiring of knowledge, is really, in its present form, only three or four hundred years old. This intellectualism, which sees its ideal in the natural laws perceived through abstract concepts, has little to do with the human personality, I have often described what effect this has. Picture anyone studying science today, any branch of science, in one of the usual centres of learning in the civilised world. The student site there listening to the lecturer only with his head, with his understanding, his intellect; and he watches experiments being made. In all this very little part is taken by his soul, his heart, his being as a whole. It was very different in the old Mysteries when there was no question of remaining aloof. All that worked on the head, on the intellect, at the same time affected the entire man, laying hold of his heart, soul and will, so that his whole being could participate. By thinking in the abstract, by the abstract investigation of nature, our very life has become abstract, so much so that today a man hardly possesses the organ capable of seeing rightly what once was bound up with the whole social life of mankind. We have often spoken hero about what in past ages of Judaism was called the “fearful, the inexpressible, name of God”, which eventually found utterance in the word “Jahve.” Why did the name inspire fear? It was because through the very power of the sound, the everyday mood of the one who uttered it, his everyday consciousness, was obliterated and another world arose before him. Because it necessitated the withdrawal of the ordinary consciousness, utterance of the word was dangerous. A man actually felt that when this name vibrated through him he was wafted to another world, where everything was different from the physical world,—This is a mood of soul of which people no longer have, nor can have, any notion. For today, a combination of sounds has no such shattering effect.

All this has to do with the constitution of man's soul and body from which in those times there was more to draw upon than there is now Today the organic plays the greater part—hunger, thirst, various emotions, desires, the promptings of heart and soul, sympathies and antipathies. All that arises in this way out of man's organisation is, strictly speaking, part of him as an individual—an individual human ego. In the case of the men of old, in addition to hunger, thirst, and the desires of ordinary life, revelations of the divine arose. They felt in what had to do in this way with their own bodily nature and with their own soul, the presence of God. Who worked in them as well as in nature. What arose in these men of olden times made them capable of seeing in surrounding nature not what we see today but the spiritual. Present-day man is not disposed to allow that the very faculty of perception in those earlier days was different from what it is in man today.

One can certainly understand this prejudice, this assumption that the world was always seen in the way we see it today. For those who want proof in such matters, however, even external facts show clearly that the Greeks themselves—so we need not go far back in man's evolution—saw surrounding nature differently from how we do. To spiritual science with its spiritual vision this is perfectly clear, but the knowledge, thus brought to the surface so vividly through spiritual vision, can be arrived at also through physical facts, if we look, for instance, in Greek literature and notice the use of the Greek word chloros. By this they meant green, but curiously enough they used the same word for golden honey and the golden leaves in autumn; it was also applied to the gold of resin. And the Greeks had a word to describe the darkness of hair, which they used as well when speaking of lapis lazuli, that blue stone. No-one can assume the Greeks had blue hair;. So there is ample proof of such things, from which it can be seen that, as a people, the Greeks were simply incapable of distinguishing yellow from green, and that they did not perceive blue as the colour we do but saw everything tinged with the vividness of red or gold. We find all this confirmed by a Roman writer who speaks of how the Greek painters only used four colours—black, white, red, yellow. Judging from our present theory of colour we must say: The Greeks were essentially blind to the colour blue; they did not see the blue in green but only the yellow. The surrounding world had, for them, a much more fiery aspect, for they saw it all with a reddish tinge. The metamorphoses of human evolution thus affect even the way in which a man sees, and as we have said this is capable of external proof. To spiritual vision it is perfectly clear that the whole colour-spectrum of the Greeks was on the red side—that they had little feeling for the blue and violet. For them the violet was much redder than we see it. Were we, according to our present visual conception, to paint the landscape as a Greek saw it, we should have to use quite different colours from those we ordinarily do. They had no knowledge of what we see as nature, and the nature they saw is an unknown world to us. The evolution of mankind progresses indeed by metamorphoses. The point is that the time when intellectualism arose and men became inclined to meditation—the Greeks had little inclination that way—they lived objectively in the world of nature—was the time when a feeling was acquired for the dark colours, the blue, the blue-violet. It was not only the inner nature of the soul that was changed, but also what passed over fror the soul into the senses.

You can therefore say that today, in this fifth postAtlantean period, we are indeed different men in our sense-faculties from the characteristic men of the fourth period, the Greco-Latin people. This is all connected with what has been said before. During the time when spiritual forces still arose from the emotions, from sympathies and antipathies, even from the body in its hunger, thirst, its satiation, these spiritual forces poured into the sense-organs. And these spiritual forces, streaming up from the lower bodily nature to pour themselves into the sense-organs, are those which play the chief part for the eyes in giving life to the various shades of yellow and red, enabling these colours to be perceived. The time has now come when the reverse is the most important task for mankind. The Greeks were still organised in such a way that their beautiful world-concep tion was mediated through their senses, into which flowed their organic life permeated by spirit. In the course of centuries this spirit-filled organic life has been suppressed by men. Out of our soul, out of our spirit, we must infuse it with fresh life; we must acquire the faculty for making our way into soul and spirit—as spiritual science enables us to do. But acquiring this faculty through spiritual science we shall take the opposite direction. In the case of the Greeks the streams came from the body to pour into the eye (see red in diagram I); the reverse must take place with us; we have so to develop soul and spirit that the streams (see blue in diagram I) from the soul and spirit reach the human organisation; and we must receive these streams in the other senses as well as in the eye. The way for mankind in future must be in the reverse direction to that of the middle of the fourth post-Atlantean culture-epoch. Then the reflective man will once again become a knower of the spirit, but in another form, because of what comes to him from above. We have grown to be sensitive to the blue side of the spectrum.

If I wanted to make a diagram L should have to draw it in the following way: The Greek was susceptible to red, lived in red and was familiar with the red part of the spectrum (see left of diagram II). We, however, must grow more and more accustomed to this part (see right of diagram II). But by doing so, and in that we find blue and blue-violet increasingly attractive, our sense-organs have necessarily to undergo change,

The sense-organs must become quite different in their finer structure from how they were. What then gradually pours into the sense-organs in a natural way, develops through the eye, for example. Imagination; through the ear. Inspiration; through the sense of warmth, Intuition. Thus there must be developed:

through the eye: Imagination,
through the ear: Inspiration,
through the warmth-sense: Intuition.

In the course of human evolution the finer structure of manes organisation goes through a metamorphosis, becomes different.

People today must be awake to such things, for they are standing at a momentous cross-roads; it is indeed a time when it has to be decided whether they can take the way enabling them to receive impressions from above. Pure intellectualism does not suffice; we must permeate intellectualism with spirit and soul. Then what develops within us as spirit and soul will work into the human organisation. But what if we do not develop it? When any organ is destined for a purpose for which it is not used, it perishes—is killed. There you have in the human organism itself what a past age, out of the assumptions of the time, accepted for the evolution of mankind. Just consider your eyes—into those eyes must be poured what should stream from above as spiritual life into the people of the future. Should this not come about, the eyes are doomed to suffer. Through their very nature they must deteriorate; and it is the same in the case of the ears, the same with the sense of warmth, What kind of knowledge then must we look for? A knowledge that will heal our organism of its tendency to sickness. We have to find our way back to perceiving that all knowledge—in so far as it is connected with man should be of a healing nature. We must return to the concept that we have to seek knowledge for this healing virtue, that medicine is not just one science among others, but that in the process of human evolution all knowledge must be a healing factors. This is because human beings all the time need that what arises in them on the physical plane should be healed. The man who promises an earthly paradise is not speaking rightly; he alone tells the truth who makes it clear: When everything has been done to establish good earthly conditions, a man has still to seek his connection with the spiritual world. For even the best conditions on earth need perpetual healing—healing that penetrates right into the human organism, as this, too, is always prone to sickness. In so many words: There must be a spiritual life in men with power to form healing forces out of itself.

Among the many grounds, which, out of the anthroposophical world-conception, have contributed to giving life to the idea of the “threefold” are those you may gather from what I have been saying today. For this idea of the “threefold” is such that, look where you will in man's present evolution provided you can observe in the right way—the need for this membering into three is manifest to those who have a faculty for seeking the truth. Those with a little logic who, hearing about this “threefold” idea cannot immediately grasp it, or perhaps find it at variance with some other idea, should wait till they learn more about it. Then they will see that there is not just one proof nor one source alone for proving the necessity for the “threefold”, but that these are numberless. For wherever you look you find instances bearing independent witness to what I might describe as the present necessity for spreading this idea of the “threefold” in our social organism. And one of the most important spheres of all lies in the knowledge and understanding of the being of man himself. But where do we find science—so proud of its abstraction—turning its attention to the concrete?—The Greeks were still distinctly conscious that when they gave rein to their feelings the divine revealed itself to them. And we must acquire the faculty for bringing down spiritual forces of the soul from the spiritual heights; they must reveal nature to us, show us what nature is In other words we must grow to realise that we cannot learn to know nature by perceiving it outwardly, but only with sense-organs strengthened by what comes from above—with an eye made keen by Imagination, an ear sharpened through Inspiration, and a sense of warmth through Intuition—that is to say, through selfless experience of the things and processes surrounding us.

Out of the will to heal has science developed.
Into the will to heal must science return.

What we look upon as science today, showing such veneration for its authority, is only an intermediate state: which state, however, is leading in the social sphere to the most terrible conflict.

We shall continue on this theme tomorrow.