The Supersensible in the Human Being and in the Universe
This lecture is the 4th of 5 lectures in the series entitled: Methods of Spiritual Research, the 9th of 10 lectures in the series entitled: Spiritual Research, Methods and Results, and the 1st of 4 lectures in the series entitled: Supersensible in Man and World. No GA Number has been assigned. The translator is Unknown.
1 November 1922, Rotterdam
Every unprejudiced person who experiences the life of the present time with a wakeful mind and heart feels that we are now living in a time that obstructs our path with obstacles that seriously handicap our life and existence. The times have become difficult. It would, however, be a mistake to think that the causes for the difficulties of the present time should be sought exclusively in the external world. Everything that faces us in the external world, particularly insofar as this world consists of human actions, has its ultimate root in the depths of the human soul. Yet we do not always see that we lose our strength, confidence and capacity, and, above all, our survey of life, unless we form out of the soul-spiritual depths of our being a conception of life that is able to give us inner strength.
As stated, we do not always realize this, particularly because we do not know that even our physical forces, which we apply to the physical world outside, ultimately depend on the soul life that surges and streams through our whole being. Consequently, those to whom it matters that in the wide sphere of modern civilization (for it is not a question of single, limited spheres) we should once more reach an ascending line of development, deriving from enthusiastic human hearts, those men should concern themselves with penetrating into human soul life and with asking in what way strengthening forces for our work, strengthening forces for an understanding survey of life and strengthening forces in general, may be awakened in the life of the human soul so that we may tread life's paths accordingly.
If we consider the conflict that is, after all, not noticed by so many people of the present time, we find that it faces us in the way in which it presents itself to our head and particularly to our heart; this antagonism derives from what we were able to gain in the form of knowledge and impressions resulting from the natural-scientific world conception that has reached such a great development in the past centuries.
The natural-scientific world conception achieved the greatest triumphs and transformed the whole life of modern times. Everything that faces us today in the external world, particularly if we live in a city, is the result of the modern, natural-scientific way of thinking, in the form in which it developed during the past centuries.
Natural-scientific thought is, however, faced by something else that springs out of the needs of the human heart, indeed of the whole human being; it is man's moral, or religious, world conception. If we observe human evolution to a certain extent, we must say that the further we go back into the evolution of humanity the more we find that in past times the human being derived everything that he believed to know, from a moral, a religious, world conception. When he looked out into Nature, he thought that he could perceive everywhere, behind the phenomena of Nature, spiritual Beings that guided and directed them. When he looked up to the stars he thought that the origin of the stars and the stars' movements were led and guided by divine spiritual Beings. And when he looked into his own soul, into his own being, he thought that the divine spiritual guidance and direction continued within him, and he assumed that if he but moved his arm, or took a walk in his daily life, this was in reality the work of guiding spiritual Beings that were active within him.
In the past, the human being did not really possess a conception of Nature as great and imposing as it is today. Many details clearly show this. Consider, for instance, how intimately human thought connected illness, indeed death, with what was designated as sin. People thought only a moral reason could be the cause of illness. Particularly in more remote times, they believed that death had been inflicted on the human race as the result of an original sin. Wherever they looked, they did not see phenomena of Nature in our modern meaning, but they perceived instead the ruling activity of divine spiritual powers, whose sphere of action within the human race was the moral world conception, and to whom the human being lifted up his heart and soul whenever he wished to feel himself within the everlasting, spiritual kernel of his being, in the bosom of the world's divine essence.
In addition to this moral-religious world conception, they had no conception of Nature. And at the present time our moral and religious world conceptions are nothing but remnants handed down to us from ancient times, when a moral-religious aspect of the world alone existed, without a conception of Nature.
Today we face a wonderfully developed conception of Nature and the human being had been included in this conception of Nature, for the Nineteenth Century has learned to reflect over the fact as to how man developed out of his natural foundations, as to how he gradually evolved from lower animal forms. The Nineteenth Century and, in a more perfect way, the beginning of the Twentieth Century, learned to think that everything we carry along with us in the shape of bodily members, as well as our life capacities, that all this is the result of heredity. Our modern epoch places the human being in the midst of Nature's order. We perceive everywhere the laws of Nature, and we cannot think of them as being in any way connected with a moral element.
The way in which plants grow, the way in which electricity and magnetism act through the processes of Nature, the way in which animals develop — indeed, man's own physical development — all this, upon which natural science has thrown so much light, is, to begin with, of such a kind that no moral thoughts can be brought into it. Although we may feel deep pleasure, profound satisfaction and indeed, in a certain respect, an aesthetic feeling of reverence in connection with Nature, we cannot feel any religious reverence towards the world's order of laws, if we only face that Nature which modern science sets before us.
Modern man thus reached the point of perceiving truth and reality and that which alone contains reality, in Nature. In spite of this, the longing for a moral world order asserts itself in the human heart; the need asserts itself of establishing a connection with a super-sensible element that corresponds to everything sensory in Nature; an impulse comes to the fore that seeks to have religious feelings towards powers that cannot speak to us out of the laws of Nature. Modern man will grow more and more confused if he persists in maintaining the old traditions of a moral or religious conception of the world. He will discover more and more contradictions between his own being and what a modern contemplation of Nature can offer. Thus the human being of modern times is in the midst of a conflict, when he looks upon the world that rises up before his soul out of the laws of Nature, when he looks upon a world that is completely permeated with the laws of Nature, that derives from the laws of Nature and must end, according to his hypotheses, through the laws of Nature.
Above this conception is the other aspect, concerning which he states that, in reality, it is this which makes him be a human being in the real sense of the word. Above this conception of Nature are his moral feelings, his religious feelings of reverence. The human being thus stands there facing the dread problem of life: “Am I in a position to give reality to what I produce through my moral sense, since Nature is unable to give it reality? Am I in a position to turn my moral sense towards something, after which it may truly and honestly strive, since it cannot turn towards that which faces it merely in the form of laws of Nature?”
The human being thus sees himself under an aspect according to which his moral ideals and religious feelings gradually seem to be hanging, as it were, in the soul atmosphere as something quite abstract, and that they are condemned, in a universe, based exclusively on laws of Nature, to be buried and lost, when the earth ultimately ends in a kind of death through heat.
The human being thus stands in the midst of a deep conflict. He is not always conscious of this conflict. Yet he is conscious of something else. He is conscious of the fact that he is estranged to the world, that he lacks the strength and joy enabling him to be active in the world and frequently, in order to find at least some kind of support for his moral and religious life, he turns back to all sorts of old world conceptions. He warms them up, because he is unable to find in his present environment knowledge of the super-sensible essence of man and of the universe.
Nevertheless, this super-sensible essence of man and of the universe can be found. This evening we shall speak of these possibilities.
Something that we encounter in the human being during his life was always felt to be something that stands in the midst of what is purely moral and religious and what is natural and sensory. In ancient times, when the world was only perceived under a moral and religious aspect, this “something” in man was contemplated in a way that differed from our present way of contemplating it. Only a one-sided manner of contemplation can place within the order of Nature what we thus encounter in the human being. There are, I might say, three things in man that oscillate between that which can be experienced, in spite of all, as a super-sensible element in the human being, and that part in him which is purely natural. Perhaps you may find it strange that I should emphasize these three manifestations of human nature; nevertheless, you will realize that these in particular, and their transformation and metamorphosis, can lead us to a contemplation of super-sensible facts and to super-sensible world conceptions.
The first thing which we encounter in man is the fact that when he experiences, as it were — as a small child — his first battles with the environing world, he rises from the stage of a being that does not as yet possess its own bodily position in the world, to that of a being that conquers its own bodily position; namely, the erect walk, the vertical position.
The second thing into which the human being gradually enters is speech: he learns to speak. Thought develops only out of speech. (Those who observe children in an unprejudiced way know this). To find our position and direction in the world, so that we do not look down to the earth like animals but look out freely into the world's spaces and up to the stars, to bear out our inner life to our fellow beings in the form of speech, to draw in the world's soul life in the form of thoughts — all this was experienced by an older world conception as something that constitutes, here below in the sensory world, a gift which the super-sensible world bestows upon the human being. The people of ancient times felt the connection of the super-sensible human being with the super-sensible world, when they looked upon these three peculiarities of human nature. The fact that we are structured in such a way, that our structure gives rise to our erect walk, to our free outlook into the heavenly spaces, this was considered by an older world conception that looked upon the moral and religious element in the world's order, as a gift of divine spiritual powers that were active in the human being. And man's capacity of learning to speak — this was looked upon still more as a gift of the divine spiritual powers. In ancient times of human evolution, when thoughts took hold of man's inner life, he could only say to himself: Angelic, spiritual Beings live in my thoughts. Indeed, we may say that only in the course of the Middle Ages man began to discuss whether or not his thoughts were his own creation or whether divine spiritual powers were active in his bodily organization through his thoughts.
These three gifts were consequently looked upon, in ancient times, as something that comes from the super-sensible worlds and penetrates into the human being, where it lives and weaves in the form of super-sensible gifts. For this reason, these three gifts bestowed upon the human being in his childhood were used as a connecting link, whenever the human being, living upon the earth and fulfilling his task upon the earth, was to be led up to the powers of a moral and religious order of the world.
I will not take into consideration the exercises done by the men of ancient times; for instance, when they regulated their breathing in order to obtain a super-sensible knowledge, in addition to their knowledge of the external world. I shall, however, look back upon opinions and exercises that lie far back in pre-Christian times; they are not the oldest, but they were particularly connected with the three peculiarities of human nature, characterized above.
In the Orient, where we may find in ancient times a powerful striving after a knowledge of the divine spiritual, we see that the Orientals first endeavored to develop what is contained in the power of orientation, in that force which impels them in their childhood to take up an erect walk and to look out into the world's spaces. Observe the postures, the bodily postures which the Oriental sage dictates to his pupil; by enabling him to tackle, as an adult, his power of orientation in a different way than the child — so that it differs from that which becomes, in the child its power of orientation, its erect walk — the Oriental sage wished to give his pupil the possibility of allowing the divine-spiritual world to influence his body. In the Orient, people said to themselves: When a child changes from its crawling walk to an upright walk, the divine spiritual world is active within it. When the pupil of the Oriental sage crossed his legs and bent the upper part of his body over his crossed legs, he took up a new posture. And when he grew fully conscious of this new posture, then he could be influenced by the divine spiritual world, which also influences the child, impelling it to take up its vertical position and erect walk. And when the human being, instead of learning to speak as is ordinarily the case in the sensory world, turns his speech inwards, then he transforms this divine gift into a clairvoyant, clairsentient power, enabling him to connect his own super-sensible essence with the super-sensible essence of the world.
In the ancient Orient, a certain discipline of breathing was therefore connected with a singing recitative form of uttering certain verses that were called “mantras”; these were not uttered in order to communicate with other human beings, but were turned inwards, so that they vibrated through the human organism; what is ordinarily turned outwards, was turned inwards, so that the whole human organism shared in the strength and power of these mantric words. What the child poured out, as it were, in its speech, as a gift bestowed upon it by the super-sensible world — thus enabling it to communicate with other human beings — this the pupil of the oriental sage poured into his own body. In his case, the words did not only vibrate outside, so that he could communicate with others, but the vibrations of his words penetrated into his lungs, continued to vibrate in his blood, and from there they vibrated with the breath up into his brain. Just as someone listening to our words can feel our soul's vibration, our soul's feelings through the words, so the Oriental sage could feel in the words vibrating through his body — could feel through this super-sensible experience of the mantric word — the super-sensible of the universe.
Just as the child develops thought from its speech, so the Oriental sage — when he experienced the super-sensible essence through the mantric word, the mantric verse — developed, as a third stage, a form of thinking that only lived within his own being, for the world's vibrations entered into him. Just as in ordinary speech our soul's vibrations go out to other human beings, so the world's vibrations entered the inner Word experienced by the Oriental sage. Then he did not commune with other human beings, or with human thoughts, but with cosmic thoughts; the spirit itself, the super-sensible essence of the world poured itself into his organism, in a super-sensible form.
This is how the human beings of ancient times sought to establish a connection between the super-sensible in man and the super-sensible in the universe. Everything that has been handed down to us in the form of a religious world conception, in the form of a moral world conception, everything that is contained in tradition, derives from this connection, which the human being once established between his own super-sensible element and the super-sensible in the universe.
For a certain time the human being stepped out of this life in common with the divine spiritual essence in the universe. The teachers who sought to penetrate into the super-sensible parts of the universe became more and more scarce; also, the number of those grew more and more scarce who felt the need for such teachings and wished to listen to the messages of these teachers in order to draw out of them nourishment for their souls. For a certain time, man passed through an epoch during which everything that had to develop within him, even his soul-spiritual development, had to be intimately connected with his body, with his physical frame his sensory life. For the human being of ancient times, who felt completely sheltered within a moral order of the universe, not contained in his own being but surging through the world, who felt completely sheltered in a divine spiritual world that completely eliminated Nature for him, this human being could never have attained a freedom that grows conscious of its own Ego, as a firm support in man's inner being, a freedom that does not make human actions derive in an immediate way from the divine spiritual, a freedom that seeks the motives of man's actions in the human being himself.
Humanity had to reach this Ego consciousness, this experience of freedom, and it has reached this point. But now we are facing a significant turning point in the evolution of humanity. We have lost the ancient connection with the Divine. It cannot even be found by those who — as already explained — warm up, in every way, the ancient paths of knowledge, in the direction of Gnosticism, or of Oriental occultism, in order to find in them that consolation which they cannot find in the natural-scientific conception of the present.
Spiritual science, that world conception of which I am now speaking, is frequently defamed when people accuse it of only intending to warm up the ancient Gnosticism, or Orientalism. This, however, is not the case. The spiritual-scientific world conception adopts the standpoint that the path into the super-sensible worlds can be found, if we apply the strict, exact method of thinking which is also applied in natural science and if we strengthen and sharpen this method of thinking in the right way.
Of course, also the three characteristic qualities of human nature that were characterized just now, and that were looked upon in the past as gifts of a moral-divine order of the universe, appear to a modern man — who is so powerfully influenced by the convincing authority of the natural-scientific world conception — only as natural, sensory gifts. Naturally, people endeavor to explain today (and from a certain standpoint this is justified) that man's erect walk is the derivation of his particular bodily structure, arising out of his life habits and, in its turn, out of the life habits of the animal world. They wish to explain in this way the different structure of the various parts of the human body and, as a consequence, as the outcome of entirely natural conditions, man's erect position and walk. They also try to explain human speech as the result of his natural organization, of the connection existing between the child's natural organism and the older human beings; they also try to explain thought, the activity of thinking, as something that is connected with the human organism.
How can it be otherwise? Has natural science not proved that thoughts are very much dependent on man's natural organization? If this or that part of the human brain is paralyzed a certain portion of the thinking activity is eliminated. We see everywhere that even the application of poisonous substances, acting in the human body, may handicap man's spiritual activity. The habit of considering everything from a natural-scientific standpoint set these three capacities above all; namely, man's orientation in the universe, learning to speak and learning to think, in a natural, sensory way within a natural, sensory order of the universe. And from there, other things, too, were set into this natural order of the universe.
We may think that what the human being becomes, to begin with, through his birth, or rather through his conception, as far as the earth is concerned, derives (for we can se it deriving outwardly from it) from a purely natural order of laws. Thus we may consider, on the one hand, birth — and in birth and heredity we may perceive everything that pulses and lives in the human being. If we contemplate, however, the other side, the side of death — we clearly perceive, if we are only willing to be just a little unprejudiced, that Nature does not take up again what we ourselves are, as human beings, but that Nature extinguishes us as human beings in the same way in which a candle flame is extinguished. A modern man thus believes that his life arises through germination and heredity. Yet he must also think that at the end of his earthly life he cannot see that his life continues in any way through Nature, just as if Nature were not in a position to take up his human essence but only in a position to destroy it. In the past, when man still possessed a moral and religious world conception, the great riddle was the riddle of birth, and in a later epoch, as well as for us, as modern men, this riddle of birth became the riddle of death. The riddle of how we enter the world through birth became the riddle of immortality.
For at that time, when human beings were able to contemplate the divine-spiritual worlds in a moral and religious way, thus gaining knowledge of these worlds, when they were able to connect man's super-sensible essence with the super-sensible in the universe, they asked themselves: How did man descend to the earth from the spiritual worlds in which he once lived? Everything that was connected with man's birth and that appeared in the form of natural processes in the germination was looked upon merely as the external expression of man's descent from divine-spiritual worlds into his physical life on earth. Birth was the great problem. “What is man's task on earth?” was the great question. Today, we look at the other side, at the side of death, when we wish to throw up the great problem connected with the true essence of man's innermost kernel.
The same problem can also be considered from another aspect. We may cherish the belief that our natural instincts, our blood, our flesh, our whole organization and nervous system, and a certain perfecting of all these instincts, give rise to our moral impulses, and the existence of these moral impulses also makes us deduce from them certain religious feelings. Consequently, our moral life and our religious feelings can, in a certain way, be deduced from a sensory order of Nature. Yet, we do not consider it necessary to speak, for instance, of requiting moral or immoral actions. We think that this would lead us too far into the egoistic sphere! We speak, however, of the fact that, if we only take for granted, as an all-encompassing element, the sensory order of Nature, then our moral actions must die out impotently in the world. The question arises: The smallest manifestations of the magnetic forces, the smallest manifestations of the electric forces, produce certain effects in the universe. This is the opinion of natural science. Why should the moral impulses and actions that spring out of us, produce no effect in the universe?
Also in this connection, we look towards the other direction. We may consider moral impulses as higher developed instincts and passions, but we cannot gather the significance of moral impulses for the future on the foundation of a purely natural and sensory world conception.
A certain number of men face these problems quite consciously today. Those who face them consciously must turn towards that which is described here as anthroposophical spiritual science. But a great number of men still face these questions unconsciously and more feelingly. They can no longer accept what ancient religious traditions have handed down to them; nevertheless, they feel instinctively: All this must have come from an ancient knowledge! It cannot have come from a belief forced upon man! Every religious belief has sprung out of an ancient knowledge, out of a connection of man's super-sensible with the super-sensible of the universe, as explained to you just now. But at the present time we can no longer tread this ancient path. Since then, humanity has taken on other forms of development. If this had not been the case, man would not have passed through that intermediate period during which he acquired a feeling of Ego consciousness and the experience of freedom. Man could not have lived entirely within the human physical body, if that had not been organized in an entirely different way during that intermediate period than during those ancient times, when confidence and recognition was given to those men who, with the aid of bodily postures, mantrams, and cosmic thoughts revealed to them, made known to others how man's soul, man's inner being, is connected with the super-sensible of the universe — that the human being is perishable only insofar as his body is concerned, and that he is an imperishable, eternal Being as far as his soul is concerned.
If a modern man tries to establish in the ancient manner a connection between the super-sensible of his own nature and the super-sensible of the universe (unfortunately many people do it today, with detriment to real knowledge), if he seeks, for instance, like the followers of Buddha, to acquire with the aid of special postures and the singing of mantrams cosmic thoughts revealing themselves inwardly, if he wishes to reach super-sensible knowledge with the aid of all these things, then he deranges his physical body, for the body of a modern man has a different structure from that of an older type of humanity. He would be unable to direct it towards the super-sensible. The older type of human body, which could be permeated through exercises in the manner described, did not as yet possess that firmness and consistency giving rise to a strong earthly Ego consciousness, to a strong earthly experience of freedom. The human organism has acquired a greater consistency. If a more accurate physiology, in the sense of an anthroposophical spiritual science, were acknowledged today, it would be possible to know that the solid parts in the bodies of modern men, particularly the salt elements, are developed more intensively than in the bodies of the men of former times who were able to follow exercises for the acquisition of higher knowledge of the kind described to you. But a modern human being must connect his own super-sensible part with the super-sensible in the universe in a different way. He must seek the moral and religious element in the world's order along different paths than those followed in the past.
That spiritual science, of which I am speaking, consequently seeks to penetrate into the spiritual world from two directions: In the first place, from the side of thoughts, and in the second place, from the side of the will. From the side of thoughts it tries to penetrate into the super-sensible world through the fact that we experience thought, which has rendered us such great services particularly in modern natural science, in the observation of facts and in experimentation, not only as a reproduction of the external world, but that we learn to live with thought in the inner stillness of our soul. This enables modern man to develop a spiritual-scientific method similar to that developed in the past through mantrams; except that mantrams were then something more spiritual even in the pure development of thoughts.
The details of the long path which we must tread in order to reach a genuine spiritual science and consequently a knowledge of the super-sensible worlds, are described in my books; for instance, in the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, and in the second part of my Occult Science, and in other books as well. Today I only wish to indicate quite briefly how it is possible to become a spiritual investigator at the present time, in keeping with the present constitution of humanity.
Not everyone needs to become a spiritual investigator, but certain people can become spiritual investigators. To a certain extent, it is indeed possible for everyone to reach at least the point of checking the results of spiritual investigation, if he makes a point of attending to the exercises described in the above-mentioned books. But those who wish to become spiritual investigators at the present time must no longer pursue this aim through the more sensory recitation of mantrams; they should instead pursue this aim through purely super-sensible exercises of thinking.
Today we have reached the point of exact thinking. When I contemplate the starry worlds through exact astronomy, I live in exact thoughts that have been reached in the sphere of physics and chemistry. We aim at this even in biological research, in the investigation of living beings, and we feel particularly satisfied in these spheres if we can investigate the external world of the senses in the way in which we are accustomed to orient our thoughts when we try to solve problems in mathematics. This fact has given rise to the saying: Nature contains real science, to the same extent in which natural science contains mathematics. For this reason, people talk of “exact natural sciences.” Through observation and experiments, everything is to be surveyed in the same way in which we survey problems that are to be solved mathematically. We speak of the exact sciences.
The anthroposophical spiritual science which is meant here speaks of an exact clairvoyance. The modern natural scientist investigates the world in an exact manner, and the one who becomes an anthroposophical spiritual investigator does something which is just as exact, but in another sphere. He gradually discovers hidden forces in the soul, which are not used in ordinary life and in ordinary science. He gradually discovers that in the small child the spiritual-super-sensible and the physical-sensory parts really co-operate without being as yet severed, and that afterwards the child pours out, as it were, in the sensory world outside — through its vertical walk, through its speech, and its capacity of thinking — what formerly lived within it in a super-sensible form. Everything that gushes down into the blood during infancy, that vibrates in the organs, is poured out when the human being begins to orientate himself in the external world. It is poured out through speech, and it is poured out particularly through his thinking.
But we can take this back; we can draw it in again. The Oriental pupil of the Oriental sage sought to reach, through a reverberation of speech, what we may designate as the connection of man's super-sensible with the super-sensible of the universe — but we modern men must turn thought itself towards our inner being. We should earnestly be able to admit that we have come far in the observation of external Nature. Before us stand the exact thoughts dealing with the forms and the movements of the stars. Before us stand the exact thoughts dealing with electric and magnetic effects, with the effects of heat and light. We look out into the world — exact thoughts reproduce this world within us. As spiritual investigators, we should be in a position to eliminate all these thoughts leading us out to the stars, to the phenomena of electricity, magnetism, and heat. Just as the ancient sage was able to turn his mantric speech inward, so that the Logos of the World could reveal Itself to him, so we must be able to turn inward the force of thinking. Just as we live with the external world through our senses — which are bodily organizations and which come to our aid so that we do not need to apply our own strength, our soul's own forces — in the same way we rise and render our thinking so strong through meditation that even though only our thoughts are developed within us, they are nevertheless as much alive as our ordinary sensory impressions.
Think, for instance: If you hear tones, if you see colors, if sensations of heat or of cold stream through your body, how living and intensive are their effects! Think how grey and abstract thoughts are in comparison to these sensations which you obtain from the external world. In meditation these thoughts, which merely connect themselves in a grey and abstract manner with the external world, which dawn within us because we surrender passively to observation through the senses, are now inwardly strengthened and intensified in such a way that they become exactly like sense impressions. In this way, we rise up to a new form of thinking. Whereas the other way of thinking — that which we have in ordinary life and ordinary science, is of such a kind that we feel ourselves living passively within it — in such a way that these thoughts are really devoid of strength and mere images depicting the external world — the form of thinking which can be reached through meditation enables us to live in the world of thoughts in the same way in which we live in our forces of growth, in hunger, thirst, and in our bodily feelings of well being! This is the result of meditation. But in order to vivify inwardly our life of thoughts in this manner, we must learn one thing — we must learn to weave inwardly in thoughts IN A LOVING MANNER.
If we wish to become spiritual investigators, it is necessary to PRACTICE just as devotedly as those who practice for years in a physical laboratory in order to become physicists, or those who practice for years in an astronomical observatory in order to become astronomers. Indeed, it is no easier to become a spiritual investigator than it is to become a physicist or an astronomer. Anyone who pays a little attention to what I have described in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, can check the statements of the spiritual investigator. Just as it is not necessary that everyone who takes up the results of astronomy in his world conception should become an astronomer, so it is not necessary that everyone should become a spiritual investigator, if spiritual investigation is to become an element of our civilization, of our cultural life. On the contrary the relationship between man and man, which will one day arise as a result — which must arise in a not too distant future of humanity if the decay is not to grow stronger and stronger — the social life in common among men, which will become a necessity and really is already a necessity at the present time, will be essentially vivified if a feeling of trust and confidence once more enters the social life of men, a feeling of trust that knows: The one who speaks to us out of his soul's depths of the spiritual, super-sensible worlds, because he has risen up to them as a spiritual investigator, deserves our trust. Where this intimate connection can be established between human souls, so that the intimacies of the super-sensible world and of man's super-sensible being can be communicated and exchanged — in a social order of this kind we shall find those living forces that are alone able to strengthen again our social life. For this reason it is unfounded and only rooted in human egoism to say: “I cannot, will not, recognize the results of anthroposophical investigation concerning the super-sensible, unless I can see these things with my own eyes.”
Every human being is organized in such a way that he is predisposed to truth, and not to untruth. Not everyone is able to investigate the super-sensible world, just as not everyone can paint a picture. But just as anyone can take up within himself a picture that is painted artistically, so can anyone take up the truth of spiritual science as it is meant here because, as a human being in the full meaning of the word, he is predisposed to truth, not to blind faith. He is predisposed to inner experiences. Spiritual science itself can only be gained through the fact that through meditation, through concentration within the life of thinking, we advance from the ordinary abstract way of thinking to an imaginative thinking, to a way of thinking that is inwardly alive. Cosmic thoughts live within this living way of thinking. Within this living way of thinking, the human being no longer feels himself imprisoned in his body. Within this living way of thinking he feels that he has reached the first stage enabling him to enter the super-sensible world.
Thus the human being of a more ancient epoch proceeded from something that was more connected with his sensory life; namely, from the Word which he turned inward. The human being of modern times must instead proceed from something more spiritual — from thought itself, which he turns inward. In this way he will find a connection with the super-sensible of the world and will once more be able to speak of this super-sensible essence of the world. If we thus penetrate, through inwardly vivified thought, into the super-sensible essence of the world and experience it with the super-sensible part in us, the words which we shall then form will not be empty words. Just as in the external world of the senses we are surrounded by many vegetable forms, by the animal forms, just as we are surrounded by that which shines down upon us from the stars, so, too, the world of the senses fades away, as it were, in the spiritual contemplation resulting from this imaginative way of thinking, and a spiritual world rises up before us. Now we no longer see the sun in its physical splendor, but we see a number of spiritual Beings, whose external image is the physical sun. Through the sun that appears to us physically, we penetrate to spiritual Sun Beings. In the same way we penetrate through the moon that appears to us physically, to spiritual Moon Beings. We learn to know that these spiritual Moon Beings lead the human soul through birth from the soul-spiritual worlds into life on earth, where the soul takes up its body from father and mother. We learn to know that the spiritual Beings of the Sun possess the forces that lead us out again, when we die. The super-sensible worlds show us the course taken by the human soul.
Knowledge deepens through the unfolding of the WILL. This is not achieved with the aid of bodily postures, as practiced by the Oriental of ancient epochs, but in a way similar to that in which THOUGHT becomes an exact clairvoyance, in the manner described. The will was also developed by repressing the external orientation, by crossing the legs and sitting upon them, so that other world currents streamed through the human being through this different bodily posture, resulting in a perception of the super-sensible. A modern man cannot follow this method, for he has an entirely different organism. A modern man must aim at the will itself. What the ancient Oriental developed in a more physical way, through bodily posture, by orienting his body to the east, to the west and to the south, would be pure charlatanry for a modern man. A modern man must school his will, in a DIRECT AND IMMEDIATE WAY. Here again, you may find quite a number of exercises in my books Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Occult Science, exercises of self-control, self-education and, above all, of a training of the will. Let me only give you a few indications.
If we reverse our thinking, if in the evening we picture, for instance, our last experience, then the one before that, and so on, until we come to our morning experiences — if we think in this way, whereas ordinarily our thoughts are accustomed to follow the external sensory happenings from the first to the last — if Nature's order of things therefore faces the soul, as it were, in a reversed sequence, we tear ourselves away from the ordinary sequence of Nature. We do so with the aid of our thinking, which in the ordinary course of life remains connected with the natural order, which ordinarily follows a sequence proceeding from earlier to later events. Now we think contrary to the natural course of events. This strengthens the will contained in our thinking activity. It does not strengthen our thinking, but the will contained in our thinking.
This is particularly the case if we concern ourselves with trifles and details. Imagine, for instance, the following: Today I went up a staircase; I imagine myself on the highest step, not on the lowest, and I go backwards. Instead of climbing upstairs, I go downstairs in my thoughts; I tear myself away from the real experience and imagine it in its reversed order. This strengthens the will that is contained in my thinking. I can also strengthen my will, for instance, by taking in hand my self-education, by saying to myself: I have this or that habit; let me change it; in three years' time, I must have acquired an entirely different life habit in regard to this or that thing. Thus there are hundreds and thousands of exercises that are direct exercises of the will, aiming at a direct transformation of the will, so that the will emancipates itself from everything that is enforced upon it by the bodily structure alone.
The modern man thus passes through an experience which is similar to that of the human being of former times, when he took up certain bodily postures. For the reasons explained above, we cannot return to these exercises of the past. But through the exercises described to you, the human being of modern times gradually reaches a direct connection between his own super-sensible essence and the super-sensible essence of the world.
Perhaps a comparison may help to explain what I really mean. Take, for instance, the human eye: what makes it really be our organ of sight? The cataract, which is a hardening of the crystalline lens, or of the eye's vitreous humor, shows us that the eye can no longer serve the process of sight if material substance asserts itself in the eye. In certain parts of its organ, the eye must be completely transparent, if it is to be used for sight. It must be unselfish, as it were, and then it can be of service to man.
When we intensify the will in the manner explained, our whole body becomes — if I may use this paradox — a soul-spiritual sense organ. In certain moments of cognition, our body is then no longer permeated psychically with passions, impulses and instincts, which render it unable to be transparent. Concerning our wishes, passions and instincts, it becomes as pure as the transparent eye in regard to material substance. And in the same way in which we perceive the world of colors through the transparent eye, so our body, which has become free from wishes and passions (it is not always in this condition, but those who practice this in accordance with the exercises described in the above-named books, can place it in this condition) now enables us to perceive the spiritual world, the super-sensible world, to which we belong as super-sensible human being, for we are this inwardly.
We thus learn to know the real super-sensible essence within us. If we have once perceived how matters stand in regard to the human being by rendering our body transparent in the described manner and by living in the purely super-sensible world, we have solved the riddle of death through spiritual vision, for in our contemplation we have before us life without the body. Then we know how we live when we have passed through the portal of death and have laid aside our body. We know what it is like to live in the world without a body. And in this way we learn to know our own super-sensible human essence. When we thus learn to know our own super-sensible human essence, when we see it pass livingly through the portal of death as soul, then we perceive it as something that can be taken up by the super-sensible world, just as it is released by the super-sensible world in conception and birth.
If we thus learn to perceive through living thought, which we acquire through meditation, the spiritual Sun world behind the sun, the spiritual Moon world behind the moon; that is to say, those soul-spiritual Beings that lead us into our earthly life and that lead us out again, we learn to know the super-sensible essence of the universe. And then we know that our living soul is taken up after death by the living essence of the universe, by the living essence of the cosmos, by the super-sensible universe. Just as our body is taken up by the physical world and is predestined to death, so that human soul is summoned to life within the eternal, by those Beings whom we perceive in the super-sensible element of the world.
We then recognize the course which has been followed by the civilization of humanity, and this gives us the strength enabling us to connect once more a morality and a religion with the natural order of the world — to do this just as exactly — from out of our own nature through a culture of the will consisting of scrupulous exercises — as the tackling of a mathematical problem through exercises of thought.
We need this today. The course taken by human evolution is also indicated in a wonderful way by the position which a real spiritual knowledge is able to assign to the Mystery of Golgotha within the evolution of humanity.
How did matters stand — let me indicate this briefly in conclusion — how did matters stand with the first followers of the Mystery of Golgotha, immediately after it had taken place on earth? They looked up to that Event which had been described to them as having taken place on Mount Golgotha. They looked upon the experiences of Jesus of Nazareth and felt: in the man, Jesus of Nazareth, lived the divine-spiritual being of Christ.
They felt that this divine-spiritual being of Christ had come down to them on earth, in order to bring them something which they sorely needed upon the earth. What brought about the fact that these first Christians accepted so unconditionally the wisdom contained in the Mystery of Golgotha? This was due to the fact that there were still remnants of old world conceptions, which said: The human being descended through birth from the super-sensible worlds into his earthly existence. In ancient times men still realized this clearly through their instinctive contemplation and from what they were told by initiates who were their teachers; they felt that a spiritual leader in the spiritual worlds had led them down into their physical life on earth. And because they knew how they had come down to the earth as spirits, they felt that they would also pass through the portal of death. The men of older times, connected no riddle, no terror with death, in the same way (please do not misunderstand the comparison; it is not meant to be depreciatory in regard to man) in which animals do not feel any problem of death, nor experience any terror of death.
The fact that man learned to experience death as a riddle, only came about in the course of time. Death became a riddle when man no longer possessed the key to the riddle of birth, when he no longer looked up to the soul-spiritual worlds, from which he had descended, when the disposition appeared in the development of humanity to look upon everything as something that only forms part of Nature. It was then that the riddle of death entered humanity; it was then that the real terror of death took hold of man.
The healing influence did not come from a theoretical knowledge, but it came through the fact that the Mystery of Golgotha took place on earth. The rest of an ancient wisdom enabled man to know that the Christ, who had appeared on earth in the human being, Jesus of Nazareth, was the same Being who led man down to the earth from soul-spiritual worlds, as a human soul. The first Christians knew that Christ had come down to the earth in order to give man on earth that impulse which can lead him beyond the riddle of death.
This shows us a connection which even St. Paul was still able to see: the connection between the riddle of death and the Mystery of Golgotha, the event which took place on Mount Golgotha. St. Paul thus explains to us that, as human souls, we can only go beyond death with our thoughts if we can look upon the Risen One, that is to say, upon the Christ who overcomes death.
Only an older wisdom enabled the first Christians to grasp — in the form of feelings, rather than in the form of a clear knowledge — the Christ as that Being who came down to the earth. Modern spiritual science, about which I spoke to you, teaches us to look once more into the spiritual world by leading us to spiritual vision outside the body, and this — when we have rendered our body transparent in the manner described so that we experience ourselves within that world in which we must live after having crossed the portal of death — this spiritual science draws our attention not only to the man, Jesus of Nazareth, but also to the divine-spiritual Christ, who came down to the earth from the super-sensible worlds, and who can strengthen the super-sensible in our own being. Through the strength that the Christ unfolds within us, in accordance with St. Paul's words — “Not I, but Christ in me” — through that strengthening we obtain the impulse enabling us to pass through death with Christ as living souls, so that we do not enter with blind eyes the spiritual worlds where we are welcomed by the Sun Being, but enter them instead with seeing eyes, through the Light that Christ brought down to the earth.
Anthroposophical spiritual science can thus kindle the religious-Christian life; the religious and Christian life can thus be deepened. The past centuries brought us the greatness of natural science. We cannot, however, discover in it a moral order of the world, for Nature reveals itself all the more faithfully, the less morality we bring into it. We cannot really yield ourselves to the laws of Nature as if they were a divine element, but we shall once more reach the point of connecting a moral, a religious element with Nature, if we learn to apply to thought the exact method which we apply to mathematics and natural science, so that thought is raised to the imaginative stage, and if we also learn to apply this exact method to our will, thus reaching an inner, idealistic magic, not an external charlantanish one.
Finally, what is the aim of that Anthroposophy concerning which I am speaking to you? It seeks to fill out that deep abyss in the life of modern man, which exists unconsciously in the life of all who are in any way connected with the world. It is the abyss between the natural, amoral order of the world, on the one hand, and the religious-moral, on the other. It seeks to fill out that abyss, so that in future we may once more gain a super-sensible essence in what we obtain, with the aid of the body, through Nature and the life of the senses. Into this super-sensible essence streams not only the morality of humanity, but the morality of the universe; not only the order of Nature, but the divine order.
In future, we shall find our way through cosmic-moral impulses which have become our own individual impulses, and by permeating ourselves with the divine consciousness, which we reach through a power of vision that has been sharpened spiritually. Thus we shall be able to solve those important questions and problems which we can feel today, if we do not sleep, but if we contemplate with a wide-awake impartiality the world round about us, and also that which can livingly pass from the present into the future as an impulse and hope contained in human hearts.