St. Gallen, 15th November, 1917
Anyone who follows the evolution of the human spirit over the course of centuries, or perhaps millenia, will come to feel that this human spirit moves on to ever new achievements in the realm of knowing and in the realm of doing. There is no need to place too much emphasis on the word progress, for in the dismal time that has now befallen humanity this might call forth bitter doubt in many. If we observe this evolution of the human spirit, however, something else makes a clear impression on us, namely, that the forms and configurations taken by man's striving spirit vary essentially from century to century. And since today in our studies we are chiefly concerned with a striving for knowledge that wishes to penetrate humanity's evolution in a new way, we need only bear in mind, by way of example, how such conceptions, which are to some extent in conflict with the old ones, have difficulty gaining access to evolving humanity.
We should continually recall, for example, how difficult it was to bring the Copernican world view into people's habits of thought, habits of feeling — indeed, in certain realms this took centuries. This Copernican world view had broken with what people for a long time believed necessary to maintain as the truth about the structure of the universe on the basis of their sense perception. Then came the time when a person could no longer rely on what the eye saw as the rising and setting of the sun, as the sun's movement. He had to accept that, contrary to the visual appearance, the sun in a certain way, at least in its relation to the earth, stands still. Human habits of thought and feeling did not easily accommodate themselves to such sudden reversals of knowledge.
In the anthroposophically oriented spiritual science to which our considerations this evening are devoted, we have to do with an even greater reversal of this kind. Those who believe themselves convinced on firm scientific grounds of the content of this spiritual science also believe it necessary for it to have a decisive influence now and in the further evolution of human thinking, sensing, and feeling. It could also be said, if you will allow me these few introductory words, that the introduction of something like the Copernican world view was a matter of dealing with countless prejudices, with traditional opinions. People believed that if anything else were to supersede these it would upset all kinds of religious conceptions and things of that kind.
Many other objections concerning what we are to discuss this evening get in the way. Here the problem is not simply the prejudices such as those that confronted the Copernican theory, for example. In this case there is also the problem that in our time many people, indeed the majority of those considering themselves enlightened and cultured, not only bring with them their prejudices and preconceptions; they are actually ashamed of having to take seriously the realm about which anthroposophy has to speak. Such an individual feels he has to apologize not only to the world in general but to himself if he admits that it is possible to know about the things that are to be spoken of today in as thoroughly scientific a way as about the outer structure of nature. He believes that he has to regard himself as foolish or childish.
These things must be considered if we are to speak today about an anthroposophically oriented spiritual science. Anyone speaking out of knowledge of this science knows the objections that must arise today by the hundreds and thousands. He already knows these objections, because doubt is felt today not only concerning the specific truths and results of this spiritual science; there is also doubt that knowledge of any kind can be acquired concerning the realm with which anthroposophy occupies itself. The possibility of developing conceptual beliefs in the soul, general conceptual beliefs about the realm of the eternal, is certainly still acknowledged as justified by many today; but it is generally considered something dreamy or sentimental to believe that a really factual knowledge can be developed about the facts that can be drawn from the sense world concerning the immortal and eternal in the nature of the human being. This is particularly the case among those who believe themselves to be forming their judgments out of the presently recognized mode of scientific conception.
This evening we will have nothing to do with the dreamy and sentimental. We will rather be dealing with a realm in which you could say that the student, particularly the scientific student, shrinks from its first conditions. I would like to touch very briefly on the fact that this anthroposophically oriented spiritual science has no wish to be sectarian. It is completely misunderstood by anyone who believes that it wishes to arise in the way some new kind of religious faith is founded. It has no such wish. It wishes to arise today as a necessary result of the world view brought by natural scientific development, a general, publicly accepted conception among the widest circles of humanity. This natural scientific development today supplies so many concepts, which are in their turn the source of feelings and sensations. It provides the concepts for the most widely held world view. This natural scientific mode of observation sets itself the task of examining and explaining what is yielded to the outer senses, of examining what is accessible to human understanding by way of the natural laws about facts given to the outer senses.
If only one takes a quick look at what is living, it is possible to see how everywhere today natural science must consider origins, going back to what the construction of the seed reveals concerning growing, becoming, flourishing. (Though this is more prevalent in other realms, it is most clearly apparent in the realm of the living.) If the natural scientist wishes to explain animal life or human life in this sense, he goes back to birth, he studies embryology, he studies that from which growing and becoming evolve. The natural scientist returns to birth, to the beginning of what unfolds before the senses. And when natural science seeks an explanation for the world, it goes back with various hypotheses — with the foundations laid by geology, paleontology, with what the individual branches of natural science can reveal — forming conceptions out of this about the birth of the universe's structure, you could say. Even if one or another may have doubts about the justification for such a way of thinking, it is always being striven for.
The thoughts are well known that people have presented in order to fathom, if not the beginning of earthly evolution, at least far distant epochs (those epochs, for example, before the human being walked the earth) in order to explain in some way out of what went before, out of what lay in a germinal state, what follows, the consequences that the human being takes in of his surroundings through his senses. The whole Darwinian theory, or, if one wishes to leave that aside, the theory of evolution, is based on the search for origins, looking for the emergence of something out of something else, I would say that everywhere we find this thought of going back to youth and birth for explanations.
Spiritual science in the anthroposophical sense finds itself in another position. And by its point of departure it calls forth a vague opposition. Opposition without people being conscious of it; one could say that it calls forth an unconscious opposition, an instinctive opposition. Such opposition is often much more effective than the opposition that is clearly recognized, clearly thought through. In order to arrive at conceptions at all, an anthroposophically oriented spiritual science must not begin now with general, hazy concepts of spirit; to arrive at spiritual facts, it must make death its starting point. It thereby stands from the outset, you could say, in fundamental opposition to what is preferred today, namely to proceeding from birth, youth, growth, and the progress of development. Death encroaches upon life. And if you keep in touch with contemporary scientific literature, you can find everywhere that the conscientious scientist holds the view that death as such cannot be inserted in the series of natural scientific concepts in the same sense as other concepts.
The spiritual scientist must make death his actual starting point, death, the cessation, actually the opposite of birth. How death and all that is related to it encroaches upon life in the widest sense is the basic question. Death terminates what is perceptible to the senses; death dissolves what is becoming, what is developing before the senses. By the way that death encroaches on life, it can be conceived of as having no part in what is working and flourishing here in the sense world, springing forth and producing life. This is what yields the opinion that nothing can be known about what is concealed by death, as it were, cloaked by death. (Within certain limits this opinion is perfectly comprehensible, though totally unjustifiable.) And it is actually from this corner of human feeling that the objections rear up their heads, objections that obviously can be brought up against things that are the results of a science still in its youth today. For spiritual science is young, and for precisely these reasons just referred to, the spiritual scientist is in quite a different position from that of the natural scientist, even when speaking about things in the sphere of his own research. The spiritual scientist cannot proceed in exactly the same way as the natural scientist, who poses some fact and then proves it on grounds by which everyone is convinced: that it can be seen. The spiritual scientist, however, speaks about what cannot be perceived by the senses. Hence, in speaking about the results of his research, he is always obliged to indicate how such results can be reached.
There is a rich literature concerning the realm about which I will be speaking with you this evening. Believing themselves called upon to do so, critics constantly raise the objection when reading my writings, for example, that the spiritual scientist maintains such and such a thing but gives no proof, although this actually shows only how superficially things are read! He does offer proof, but in a different way. To begin with, he tells how he arrived at his results; he must first indicate the path into the realm of facts. This path is generally unknown, because it is not the customary one for today's habits of thinking and feeling. It must first be said that the spiritual investigator is forced by his investigation to conclude that with the methods and procedures by which the ordinary scientist comes to his brilliant results (not rejected by the spiritual scientist but admired) we do not arrive at the super-sensible. It is precisely this experience, namely, the very limitations of the methods of natural scientific thinking, from which the spiritual scientist makes his start. This is not done, however, in the way so prevalent today, which is to declare that certain things, beyond which the ordinary scientist does not go, are the limits of human cognition. No, it is done in such a way that an attempt is made to come to definite experiences that can be attained only at these limits. I have spoken about these boundaries to human cognition particularly in my most recent written work, Riddles of the Soul.
Those people who have not taken knowledge as something that falls into their laps from outside, those who have wrestled with knowledge, wrestled with truth, have always at least certain experiences at these limits of human cognition. Here it must be noted that times change, that the evolution of humanity undergoes changes. Not so very long ago, the most outstanding thinkers and those struggling for knowledge, when they stood before boundaries of this kind, thought that one cannot go beyond these boundaries, that one must remain there. Those of you in the audience who have often heard me speak here know how little it is my habit to touch on personal matters. When the personal has a connection in any way with the question under consideration, however, one may venture to refer to it briefly. I may say that what I have to say about experiences of this sort at the boundaries of cognition is the result of more than thirty years of spiritual research. And it was more than thirty years ago that these very problems, these tasks, these riddles that arise at the boundaries of cognition, made a significant impression on me.
From the many examples that can be cited about such boundaries, I would like to take one that has been referred to by a real wrestler with knowledge, Friedrich Theodor Vischer, the famous aesthetician who was also a philosopher of distinction, though perhaps little known during his lifetime and soon forgotten. A decade or so ago Friedrich Theodor Vischer wrote a very interesting treatise about a book, also very interesting, written by Volkelt concerning dream fantasies. Friedrich Theodor Vischer, in the course of this treatise, touched on a variety of subjects of no further interest to us here. But I would like to quote one sentence, a sentence that may perhaps be passed over in reading but a sentence that can pierce like lightning into the human heart and soul when these are permeated by a striving for knowledge, a true inner striving for knowledge. It is the sentence that burst upon Vischer when he was reflecting, meditating upon the nature of the human soul. Out of what he had gleaned about the human being from contemporary natural science, he deduced that the human soul cannot be merely in the body; this much is clear; but it is just as clear that it cannot be outside the body.
Here we have a complete contradiction, a contradiction that cannot easily be resolved. It is a contradiction that poses itself with immutable necessity if an individual is wrestling for knowledge in all earnest. Vischer was not yet able for the time was not sufficiently ripe — to press on from what we might call his position in knowledge, at these boundaries of knowledge, to press on from cognition in the ordinary sense of the word to inward experience of a contradiction of this kind. Yet from all directions today, from the most knowledgeable people, we hear a particular conclusion when they come up against such a contradiction. (There are indeed hundreds and hundreds of such contradictions du Bois-Reymond a physiologist of great intelligence, has spoken about only seven world riddles, but these seven can be multiplied by hundreds.) Our contemporary man of knowledge says that from this point on human cognition is able to go no further. He says this for the simple reason that at the boundaries of human cognition he cannot determine to go on from mere thinking, from mere mental activity, to experience.
It is necessary to begin at a place where such a contradiction obstructs the way, a contradiction not ingeniously thought out but one that is revealed by the riddle of the world; we must seek to live with such a contradiction again and again, to wrestle with it in everyday life, to immerse the soul in it entirely. We must have no fear while immersing ourselves in this contradiction (and a certain inner courage of thought is part of this), we must have no fear that this contradiction will be able to split asunder the conceptual powers of the soul, or that the soul will not be able to penetrate through it, and so on. I have described this very struggle at such boundaries in detail in my book, Riddles of the Soul.
When an individual comes to such a boundary with his whole soul, instead of with mere mental images, with mere clever thinking and mental strategies, he progresses further. He does not go further on a purely logical path, however, but on the path of living knowledge. I would like to describe what he experiences by means of a comparison, for the paths of the spiritual investigator are really experiences of knowledge, facts of knowledge. Language today has not yet acquired many words for these things, because words have been coined for what is acquired by outer sense perception. Hence what stands clearly before the eye of the spirit can often be expressed only by means of comparison. When we live into such contradictions, we feel as if we were at the border where the spiritual world breaks in; this is not to be found in sense-perceptible reality, where indeed it breaks in but does so from outside, as it were.
Now, whether or not this image is well-founded from a natural scientific point of view is not important here, for it can still be used by way of comparison. It is as if one of the lower forms of life had not yet developed the sense of touch but experienced only inwardly, experienced itself inwardly in constant stirrings of movement, in this way experiencing the borders of the physical world, the surfaces of single objects. A being that has not yet developed the sense of touch and experiences only the surfaces of sense-perceptible objects remains entirely shut within itself, unable as yet to feel, to touch, what is there outside it by way of sense impressions.
In the same way, a person struggling with knowledge feels himself purely soul-spiritually (we should not think here of anything material) when he comes to the kind of place I have just described. In the case of our rudimentary animal, the organism breaks through to the outer, sense-perceptible world by its impact with it, differentiating itself through the sense of touch, by which surfaces are touched and knowledge gained as to their roughness or smoothness, their warmth or cold. In the same way, when what has lived only inwardly opens itself to what is outside, the possibility is acquired to break through, as it were, just at the places we have described and to acquire a spiritual sense of touch. Only when a person has wrestled perhaps for years at these boundaries of cognition, struggling to break through into the spiritual world, can he first acquire real spiritual organs. I am speaking only in an elementary way of how this sense of touch is developed. To use these terms in a more definite way, however, we can say that by ever greater application of inner work, working away from being enclosed within oneself, spiritual eyes, spiritual ears develop. To many people today it still seems absurd to say that at first the soul is just as undifferentiated an organ as the organism of a lower animal, forming its senses out of its own substance and out of this substance developing soul concepts, spiritual organs differentiated as to their soul qualities, which then bring an individual face to face with the spiritual world.
It may be said that a systematically presented spiritual science, which is fully entitled to be called scientific, is something new in the progress of knowledge in human evolution. It is not new, however, in every respect. The struggle for it, the striving after it, is to be seen in the outstanding individuals of knowledge from the past. I have referred to one of these when I mentioned Friedrich Theodor Vischer. I would like to show from his own comments how he stood at such a border of knowledge, how he remained there, never making the transition from being inwardly stirred to actually breaking through the boundary to the spiritual sense of touch. Here I would simply like to read you a passage from Friedrich Theodor Vischer's works, in which he describes how he came to such a boundary where the spirit breaks through into the human soul in the course of his wrestling with natural scientific knowledge. This was at the time in which materialistically directed natural science posed many riddles for those struggling for knowledge in real earnest. Countless people claimed that the soul cannot be said to be anything but a product of material activity.
Here are his words: “No spirit where there is no nerve center, where there is no brain — so say our opponents. We reply: There would be no nerve center, no brain had they not been prepared for by countless stages from below upward; it is easy to speak mockingly of those who say that there is an echo of the spirit in granite and limestone. This is no harder than it would be for us to ask sarcastically how the protein in the brain rises to the level of ideas. Human knowledge cannot discriminate between stages. It will remain a mystery how it comes about that nature, beneath which the spirit must be slumbering, stands there as such a perfect counter-blow of the spirit that we bruise ourselves against it.”
Please take note of how this wrestler for knowledge describes how we bruise ourselves! Here you have the inner experience of bumping against something by one who wrestles for knowledge: “It is a forcible separation with the appearance of such absoluteness that with Hegel's ‘differentiation’ and ‘non-differentiation’ (ingenious as this formula is, though it says as good as nothing) the steepness of the apparent dividing wall is concealed. One finds the right appreciation of the cutting edge and the impact of this counter-blow in Fichte, but no explanation for it,”
Here we have a man's description of his struggle for knowledge in the time before there could be a decision, a spiritual scientific decision, not merely to come to this blow and counter-blow but to break through the dividing wall into the spiritual world. I can speak about these things only in principle here; you will find them described in detail in my books. Particularly in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and in the second part of my Occult Science, you will find all the details concerning what the soul must take upon itself in the way of inner activity and inner exercise (if I may use the expression) in order really to transform what is undifferentiated in the soul into spiritual organs able to behold the spiritual world.
A great deal is necessary, however, if an individual really wishes to make investigations on this path. So much is necessary just because in our age, due to the habits cultivated in the natural scientific sphere, in the sphere of the natural scientific world view, habits that are perfectly justified in their own field, a particular way of thinking has taken root in human life, a way that is opposed to the one leading to the spiritual world. Thus it goes without saying that from the side of natural science things are heard that demonstrate an utter lack of desire to know the actual facts about the spiritual world.
I will give just one example (as I have said, you can find more exact information in the books I have mentioned) of how the human being has to make every effort to acquire a totally different way of conceiving things. In ordinary life people are satisfied with concepts, with mental images of which it may be said that these concepts, these mental images are such that they offer a likeness to some external fact or object. This cannot satisfy the spiritual investigator. Even mental images, concepts, become something totally different in his soul from what they are due to modern habits of thinking. If I may use another comparison, I would like to show how the spiritual investigator stands today in relation to the world. Those who are materialists, spiritualists, pantheists, individualists, or monadists, and so on, all believe that in some way they can penetrate the world riddle. They try with definite mental images, concepts, to reach a picture of world processes. The spiritual investigator is totally unable to look on concepts in this way; his attitude toward them must be such that he is always clearly conscious of how, in a concept, in a mental image, he has nothing beyond what can be had in the outer sense world when, for example, one particular side of a tree or some other object is photographed and then another picture is taken from another side, from a third side, a fourth side, and so on. The pictures are different from one another. If combined mentally, they together present the tree as a formed mental image. But it can easily be said that one picture contradicts another.
Just consider how completely different an object looks when photographed from one side or another. The spiritual I investigator looks at the conceptions of pantheism, monadism, and so on as if they were simply different ways of looking at reality. Spiritual reality does not actually reveal itself at all to the life of mental images, the life of concepts, in such a way that it is possible to say that any one concept is a faithful image. We must always go all around the matter, forming manifold concepts from various sides. By this means we become capable of developing a much more flexible inner soul life than we are accustomed to when regarding the outer sense world. By doing this it becomes necessary to make our concepts far more alive. They are no longer simply images, but by being experienced they become much more alive than they are in ordinary life and for the things of ordinary life.
Perhaps you will understand me better if I describe it in the following way. Suppose you have a rose cut from the rose bush; you form your mental image of it. You are able to form this mental image yourself. You will often have the feeling about this mental image that it expresses something real for you, that the rose is something real. The spiritual investigator can never make any progress if he is satisfied with the mental image that the rose is something real. Pictured as a blossom on a short stalk, the rose is not real in itself. It can be real only when on the rose bush. The rose bush is something real. And the spiritual investigator must accustom himself to regarding every individual thing, to remaining conscious in what limited sense an issue is something real. People form mental images of these things, believing them to be something real. When the rose is in front of him on its stalk, the spiritual investigator must feel that it is not real; he must have a feeling for, an experience of, the degree of unreality contained in this rose as mere blossom.
By extending this to our observation of the whole world, however, the conceptual life itself is renewed, and we do not thereby get the crippled, dead mental images with which the modern natural scientific world view is satisfied; we get mental images that are living with the objects. It is true that in proceeding from the present habits of thinking, we at first experience a great deal of disappointment, disappointment that arises because what is experienced in this way differs a great deal from present habits of thinking. When speaking out of knowledge acquired in the spiritual world, much has to be said that seems paradoxical when compared with what is generally said and believed today.
A person today may be very learned in the sphere of physics, let us say; he may be an exceptionally learned person who quite rightly excites admiration by his erudition; but such an individual may work with clear concepts that have not been produced nor worked upon in accordance with what I have described, that is, without endowing the conceptual world with life. I have said something quite elementary, but this elementary statement must in the case of the spiritual investigator be extended over the whole observation of the world. I will offer an example. At the beginning of the century, Professor Dewar delivered a very important lecture in London. This lecture could be said to show in every sentence the great modern scholar who was as well acquainted with the conceptions of physics as a modern physicist can be. From his modern conceptions of physics, this scholar seeks to speak about the final condition of the Earth and about some future condition in which much of what is present with us today will have died away. He describes this correctly, because he bases his lecture on really well-founded hypotheses: he describes how one day after millions of years a condition of the earth will have to arise in which a great drop in temperature will occur; this can be well calculated, and this drop in temperature will bring about changes in certain substances. This can be calculated, and he describes how milk, for example, will not be able to maintain its fluid condition but will become solid; how the white of an egg smeared on a wall will become so luminous that people will be able to read a newspaper by its light alone, since so much light will come from the white of an egg; and many other such details are described. The consistency of things that can sustain hardly any weight today will be materially strengthened so that hundreds of pounds will be able to be supported by them. In short, Professor Dewar gives an imposing picture of the future condition of the earth. From the standpoint of physics there is nothing at all to be said against it, but for anyone who has taken living thinking into his soul, the matter has another aspect. When he turns to the conceptual forms of the kind given by the Professor, an example enters his mind that in its methods and manner of approach is very similar to the Professor's deductions and way of thinking.
Suppose, for example, we were to take a man of twenty-five and observe exactly how certain organs, the stomach for example, change from year to year in the course of two, three, four, five years (today such an observation can be managed; I need only remind you of X-rays). They take on different configurations. We can describe this in the same way that the physicist does when he compares successive conditions of the earth and then calculates what the earth will look like after millions of years. This can also be done in the case of the human being. The changes in the stomach or heart, for example, are observed, and a calculation then made of how this man will look after perhaps 200 years according to these alterations. We get just as well-founded a result if it is calculated what this man will look like after 200 years by taking into account all the individual perceptions. The only thing is that the man will have died long before this! He will no longer be there.
You see what I mean. What is important here is that in a particular case we know from direct experience that calculations of this kind do not correspond with reality, because, when 200 years have passed, the human body with its transformations will no longer be there; yet this same kind of calculation is made in connection with the earth. No heed is paid to the fact that after two million years the earth as a physical being will have been dead for a long time, will no longer be there. Thus the whole learned calculation about this condition has no value at all as a reality, because the reality it is applied to will no longer be there.
These matters are very far-reaching. In the case of the human being you can just as well calculate backward as forward; you might, in accordance with the small changes taking place in two years, calculate how a man looked 200 years ago, but he was not there then either! With this same method, however, the Kant-LaPlace theory was formulated. This theory assumes that there was once a condition of fog, a calculation that was based on our present condition. The calculation is entirely correct, the perceptions are good enough; it is just that the spiritual investigator becomes aware that at the time this primeval fog was supposed to be there, the earth was not yet born. The entire solar system did not yet exist.
I wanted to bring these calculations to your notice to show you how the entire inner life of soul must be raised out of abstractions, how it must immerse itself in a living reality, how mental images themselves must be living. In my book, The Riddle of Human Being, I have made a distinction between conceptions corresponding to reality and those corresponding to unreality. To put the matter briefly, the spiritual investigator must point out that his path is such that the means of knowledge that he uses must first be awakened, that he must transform his soul before being able to look into the spiritual world. Then the results take on a form enabling one to see that the spiritual investigator is not speculating as to the immortality of the soul or whether the soul goes through birth and death. His path of investigation leads him to the eternal in the human soul, to what goes through birth and death; the path shows him what lives as the eternal in the human being. He therefore seeks out the object, the thing, the being itself. If we reach the being, we can recognize its characteristics just as we recognize the color of a rose.
Hence it often appears as if the spiritual investigator were asserting that such-and-such is so. For when he presents evidence he must always indicate by what path he arrived at these things. He has to begin where the other science ends. Then, however, a real penetration is possible into spheres that may be said to take death as their starting point, just as natural scientific spheres take their start from birth and youth. We must simply be clear that this death is in no way merely the final event, as it is ordinarily regarded from the viewpoint of outer sense perception. It is rather something that has its part in existence in the same way that the forces called into life with birth have their part in existence. We do not meet death only through its taking hold of us as a one-time event; we carry the forces of death in us — destructive forces, forces that are continually destroying — just as we carry in us the forces of birth, the constructive forces that are given to us at birth.
To have real insight into this we have to be able to pursue research at a boundary between natural science and spiritual science. Today I am only able to cite the results of such research, of course; I only wish to arouse your interest. Were I to go into all the details of what I am suggesting, I would have to offer many lectures. If an individual is to pursue what has been suggested here, he must approach a boundary between natural science and spiritual science. It is widely believed today, and has been believed for some time, that the human nervous system, the human nerve apparatus, is simply an instrument of thinking, feeling, and willing, in short, an instrument for soul experiences, (Science today has for the most part gone beyond this belief, but the world view of the general public usually remains at the standpoint abandoned by science some decades before.) An individual who develops the soul organs — the eyes of the spirit, the ears of the spirit — as I have described at least in principle, comes to recognize the life of the soul.
Whoever really discovers this soul life knows that to call the brain an instrument of our thinking is much the same as to maintain the following. Let us say that I am walking over ground that has become sodden, and in it I leave my footprints. These footprints are found by someone else, who then wishes to explain them. How does he do this? He assumes that underneath in the earth all kinds of forces are surging up and down, and because they surge in this way they produce these footprints. Of course the forces in the earth have nothing to do with the fact that these footprints have been produced, for I myself left them there, but the traces I left can now be reflected upon. This is the way that physiologists today explain what goes on in the brain, what originates in the brain, because all thinking, all mental activity and feeling correspond to something in the nervous system. Just as my tracks correspond with my footsteps, so something actually in the brain corresponds with the impressions of the soul; but the soul has first to leave its imprint there. The earth is just as little an organ for my walking or footprints as the brain is the organ for processes of thinking or mental activity. And just as I cannot walk around without firm ground (I cannot walk on air, I need ground if I want to walk) so the brain is necessary; this is not, however, because it calls forth the soul element but because the soul element needs ground and footing upon which it expresses itself during the time that the human being is living in the body between birth and death. It therefore has nothing to do with all that.
The brilliantly intellectual natural science of today will come to full clarity when this revolution in thinking comes about to which I have referred here. This revolution is more radical than the transition to the Copernican world view from the world view held previously. In face of the real world view, however, it is as justifiable as the Copernican world view was in relation to what preceded it. When we have pressed forward on the path of investigation of the soul, we will find that the processes in the brain, in the nervous system, that correspond to the soul life are not constructive. They are not there so that the productive, growing, flourishing activity is present in the nervous system as it is in the rest of the organism. No! What the soul brings about in the nervous system is a destructive activity. During our waking consciousness outside sleep it is a destructive activity.
Only by virtue of the fact that our nervous system is inserted within us in such a way that it receives constant refreshment from the rest of the organism can there be constant compensation for the destructive, dissolving, disintegrating activity introduced into our nervous system by thinking. Destructive activity is there, activity qualitatively of the same nature as what the human being goes through when he dies, when the organism is completely dissolved. In our mental activity death is living in us continually. You might say that death lives in us continually, distributed atomistically, and that the one-time death that lays hold of us at the end of life is only the summation of what is continually working in us destructively. It is true that this is compensated for, but the compensation is such that in the end spontaneous death is evoked.
We must understand death as a force working in the organism, just as we understand the life forces. Look today at natural science, so thoroughly justified in its own sphere, and you will find that it looks only for the constructive forces; what is destructive eludes it. Hence external natural science is unable to observe what arises anew out of the destruction, not in this case of the body, for the bodily nature is destroyed, but of a soul and spiritual nature, now constructive. This aspect is always lost to observation, being accessible only to the kind of observation I have previously described. Then it becomes evident that, having meanwhile brought our life to this point, the whole activity of our soul does not work only in conjunction with the ground on which it has to develop and which, indeed, it acts upon destructively (in so far as the soul forms mental images, in so far as it is active); instead, the whole of our soul activity is attuned to a spiritual world always around us, in which we stand with our soul-spiritual element just as we stand in the physical, sense-perceptible world with our physical body. Spiritual science is thus striving for a real connection of the human being to the spiritual world that permeates everything physical to the actual, concrete, real spiritual world.
Then the possibility truly arises for a more far-reaching observation of how what is working and weaving within us as soul, working destructively within the limits I described, is a homogeneous whole. What I have called the development of the soul presses on from ordinary consciousness to clairvoyant consciousness. I have spoken about this in my book, The Riddle of Human Being. This clairvoyant consciousness creates the possibility of possessing Imaginative knowledge. This Imaginative knowledge does not yield what belongs to the outwardly perceptible; it yields to the human being himself (I would like to look away from the other world for the moment) what is not perceptible to his senses. To avoid misunderstanding I recently called what can be perceived at first by an awakened knowledge of this kind the body of formative forces. This is the super-sensible body of the human being, which is active throughout the whole course of our life, from birth, or let us say, conception, until our physical death. It also bears our memories, yet it stands in connection with a super-sensible entity, with a super-sensible outer world.
Thus, our sense life with the rest of its consciousness is there as a mere island, but around this island and even permeating it we have the relationship of the human body of formative forces to the super-sensible outer world. Here, it is true, we reach the point of bringing the whole conceptual world (not any different now from the way I have described it) into connection with the physical brain that provides the ground for all this; but we arrive at the insight that the body of formative forces is the carrier of human thoughts, that thoughts develop in this body of formative forces and that in thinking the human being lives in this body of formative forces.
It is different if we go on to another experience of the soul, namely to feeling. Our feeling, our emotions, our passions, stand in a different relationship to our life of soul from that of our thinking. The spiritual investigator finds that the thoughts we usually have are bound up with the body of formative forces. This does not apply, however, to our feelings, our emotions. Feelings and emotions live in us in a much more subconscious way. Thus they are connected with something far more all-encompassing than our life between birth and death. It is not as though the human being is without thoughts in the part of his life about which I am now speaking; all feelings are permeated by thoughts. But the thoughts by which feelings are permeated do not, as a rule, enter man's ordinary consciousness. They remain beneath the threshold of this consciousness. What surges up as feeling is penetrated by thoughts, but these thoughts are more far-reaching, for they are found only when an individual progresses in clairvoyant cognition, when he progresses to what I call the Inspired consciousness (I am not thinking of superstitious conceptions here). You may study the particulars of this in my books.
If we go deeply into what is actually sleeping in regard to ordinary Consciousness (in the same way that from going to sleep to awaking a person sleeps in regard to the ordinary images of the senses) we see that it surges up just as dreams surge up into our sleep. Feelings actually surge up from the innermost depths of the soul; it sounds strange, but it is so. But this deeper region of the soul that is accessible to Inspired knowledge is what lives between death and a new birth. It is what enters into connection with the physical through our being conceived or born, what goes through the portal of death and has a spiritual existence among other conditions until the human being is reborn. Whoever really looks into what is living in the world of feeling with Inspired knowledge sees the human being not only between birth and death but also during the time the soul undergoes between death and a new birth.
The matter is not quite so simple as this, however; it is indeed like this, but it is also shown how forces arise in the soul that make it possible to look upon the feelings, emotions, passions, that make it possible to live in them. Just as in the plant we see what has arisen through the forces of the seed, so we see something that has not arisen with our birth or conception but that has emerged from a spiritual world.
I know very well how many objections can be made to a conception of this kind by those who accept the natural scientific world view. Those who are familiar with this world view will find it easy to say, “Here he comes and like a dilettante describes how the aspects of the soul he wishes to encompass come from a spiritual world; he even describes their special configurations, the colors of the feelings and so on, as if, on the one hand, there were hints in these feelings concerning our life before birth and, on the other hand, something in these feelings that is like the seed of the plant, which will become the plant of the next year. Doesn't this man know,” people will say, “about the wonderful laws of heredity presented by natural science? Is he ignorant of everything that those who created the science of hereditary characteristics have brought about?”
Even if the facts indicated by natural science are entirely correct, it is nevertheless the case that concealed in the emergence of heredity are the forces through which we have been preparing ourselves for centuries and which we ourselves send down. From grandparents and parents, constellations are built up that finally lead to the material result with which we then sheathe ourselves when we leave the spiritual world to descend into the physical. Whoever really keeps in mind the wonderful results of modern research into heredity will find that what spiritual science finds out about the soul (yet in a quite different way, it might be said, in the entirely opposite way) will be fully confirmed by natural science, whereas what natural science itself says is definitely not confirmed in the least by natural science. I can only suggest this here. When we then enter the sphere referred to as that of the will, this totally eludes the contents of man's ordinary consciousness. What does a person know about the processes going on in him when the thought, I want something, shapes itself into a movement of the hand? The actual process of willing is asleep in the human being. Regarding the feelings and emotions it could at least be said that the human being dreams within the human being. This is the reason that the question of freedom is so difficult, because the will is sleeping in relation to the higher consciousness. We come to knowledge about what is going on in the will in clairvoyant consciousness only by reaching the stage of actual Intuitive consciousness. By this I do not mean the vague, everyday consciousness called intuitive, but rather what I refer to in my writings as one of the three stages: Imaginative, Inspired, and Intuitive cognition.
Here we come into the sphere of the will, into the realm that is supposed to live and work within us. This must first be drawn out of the deep regions of the soul. Then we find, however, that this element of the will is also permeated by thoughts, by the spiritual (in addition, the ordinary thought stands by itself). But in bearing the will within us, there works into this will something in addition to what we have experienced in the spiritual world in our feelings, working between death and a new birth. Something is active there that we have experienced in the preceding life on earth. The impulses of earlier earthly lives work into the will nature of the human being. In what we develop or what we cultivate in our present willing live the impulses for our lives on earth to come. For real spiritual science, then, the whole of human life separates into the lives lying between birth and death and those which, because all physical existence has to be built up out of the world, are experienced in far longer periods in the spiritual world. Out of such lives, out of repeated earthly lives, repeated spiritual lives, the complete human life is composed. This is not some fantasy, it is not a capricious thought, but rather something we find when we learn to turn the eye of the spirit to the eternal, the imperishable, in the human soul.
These things do not preclude human freedom. If I build a house this year in which I will live for the next two years, I will be a free man in this house despite having built it for myself. Human freedom is not precluded by this. One earthly life determines the other that follows. Only through a lack of understanding could this be represented as an infringement on the idea of human freedom.
Thus, in spiritual investigation by making death our point of departure, we gradually arrive at the spiritual facts. If in spiritual investigation one makes death the foundation, just as physical investigation is based on birth and embryonic life, this observation reveals the most varied things in individual detail. I will point to something specific here, because I would not like to remain with the indefinite but rather to quote concrete results of anthroposophical research. In the ordinary life of the spirit we are able to differentiate between the forcible entry of death due to an external cause and death that comes from within through illness or by reason of old age. We are therefore able to distinguish two different kinds of death.
Spiritual investigation that goes concretely into the nature of death discovers the following. Let us take as an example the entrance into life of violent death, be it through accident or some other cause. The entrance of such an event brings about an end to life in this earthly existence. The development of spirit consciousness for the spiritual world after death depends on this one-time entrance of death, just as the consciousness we are able to develop in life depends on the forces given us at birth (in the way that I have described). The Consciousness we develop after death is of a different kind. The consciousness developed here on earth stands on the ground of the nervous system, just as when I walk around on the ground my foundation is the ground. In the spiritual world the consciousness after death has different foundations, but it is definitely a consciousness. If a man dies a violent death this is not something that merely lays hold of his mental images. The mental activity of ordinary consciousness ceases with death, and another Consciousness begins, but this lays hold of his will which, as we have seen, passes over into the next earthly life. The spiritual investigator possesses the means to investigate what can arise in an earthly life if, in a previous earthly life, there has been a violent death.
Now when we speak of such things today, people will obviously condemn this way of speaking as foolish, childish, fantastic. Yet the results are attained just as scientifically (and it is only such results that I present) as the results of natural science. If a violent death intervenes in a life, it shows itself in the following life on earth, where its effect produces some kind of change of direction at a definite period in that life. Research is now being done concerning the soul life, but as a rule only the most external things are taken into consideration. In many human lives, at a particular moment, something enters that changes a person's whole destiny, bringing him into a different path in life in response to inner demands. In America they call these things “conversions,” wanting to have a name for such events, but we do not always need to think in terms of religion. A person on another path of life may be forced into a permanent change of the direction of his will. Such a radical change of the direction of his will has its origin in the violent death of his previous life. Concrete investigation reveals the tremendous importance of what happens at death for the middle of the next life. If death comes spontaneously from within through illness or old age, then it has more significance for the life between death and a new birth than for the next earthly life.
I would like to offer the following example so that you may see that I am not speaking about anything vague here. In fact, I am speaking about details arising in life's conditions that can be gained by definite perceptions. Spiritual investigation, which is something new even for those convinced of the immortality of the human soul, makes us aware that we must not speak in merely a general way about immortality. Instead, by grasping the eternal in the human soul, human life as such becomes comprehensible. All the strange processes that are observable if we have a sense for the course taken by the soul life, for the course of the soul life in the human being, all the wonderful events find their place if we know we are dealing with repeated earthly lives and repeated spiritual lives. In the spiritual world (I say this merely parenthetically) the human being lives with spiritual beings — not only other human beings who are closely connected with him by destiny and have also passed through the portal of death, but with other spiritual beings to whom he is related in the same way that on earth the human being is related to three kingdoms: the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms. The spiritual investigator speaks of particular individual spirits, particular individual spiritual beings, belonging to a concrete, individualized spiritual world, just as here we speak of individualized plant beings, animal beings, and human beings, in so far as they are physical beings between birth and death. It can be shattering to people when knowledge itself approaches the human soul in a totally different way. It is difficult to speak about these things so that they arise out of the dim depths of the spirit in a new way.
From what I have said you will have seen that knowledge about the spiritual world can be acquired. This knowledge has profound significance for the human soul; it makes the soul something different, as it were. It lays hold of the life of the soul, regardless of whether one is a spiritual investigator or has merely heard and understood the results of spiritual investigation and has absorbed them. It is of no importance whether or not one does the research oneself; the result can be comprehensible just the same. Everything can be understood if we penetrate it with sufficient depth. We only need to have absorbed it. Then, however, when we have grasped it in its full essence, it enters the human soul life in such a way that one day it becomes more significant than all the other events of life.
A person may have difficulties, sorrows, that have shattered him, or joy that has elevated him, or some truly sublime experience. It is not necessary to be indifferent to such experiences to be a spiritual investigator, someone who knows the spirit; one can participate as fully with the feelings as other people do who are not investigators of the spirit. But when someone penetrates with his essential being into what is given the soul by spirit knowledge, and when he becomes capable of answering the question, “What are the effects upon the soul of these spiritual results?” — when a full answer is given to the question of what the soul has become through this spiritual knowledge, then this event becomes more important than anything else in destiny, more important than any of the other experiences of destiny that approach the human being. Not that the others become less significant, but this one becomes greater than the others. Knowledge itself then enters through the human soul life in accordance with destiny. If knowledge thus enters through the human soul life, he begins to understand human destiny as such. From this knowledge comes the light that illumines human destiny.
From this moment on, an individual can say this: that if one has this experience of destiny so purely in the spiritual in this way, it becomes clear how one is placed into life in accordance with destiny, how our destiny hangs on threads spun out of previous lives, previous earthly lives and lives between death and a new birth, which again spin themselves out of this life and into a following life. Such an individual goes on to say that ordinary consciousness only dreams through its destiny; ordinary consciousness endures its destiny without understanding it, just as one endures a dream. Clairvoyant consciousness to which one awakes, just as we awake from a dream to ordinary consciousness, acquires a new relationship to destiny. Destiny is recognized as taking part in all that our life embraces, in the life that goes through all our births and deaths.
This matter should not be grasped in a trivial way, as if the spiritual investigator were to say, “You yourself are the cause of your own misfortune.” That would simply betray a misunderstanding and would even be a slander of spiritual investigation. A misfortune may not have its source at all in the previous life. It may arise spontaneously and have its consequences only in the life to follow and also in the life between earthly lives. We can see again and again that out of misfortune, out of pain and suffering, emerges a consciousness of a very different form in the spiritual world, Meaning enters the whole of our life, however, when we learn to understand our destiny, which otherwise we only dream our way through.
One thing particularly stands out when we bear in mind this knowledge of the spirit. We can no longer say, “If, after death, the soul enters another life, we can wait until this happens. Here we take life as it is offered us in the physical body; we can wait for what comes after death.” The matter is a question of consciousness. We may be sure that what happens after death is connected with the life we undergo in the body. Just as in a certain sense we have the Consciousness of our ordinary waking condition by means of our body, so after death we have a Consciousness that is no longer spatial, no longer built up out of the nervous system, but built up out of what has to do with time, built up out of looking backward.
Just as our nervous system in a way is the buttress and counterpart to our ordinary consciousness between birth and death, so our consciousness in the spiritual world between death and a new birth is founded on what takes place here in our consciousness. Just as here we have the world around us, so when we are dead we have before us our life as the significant organ. Hence, a great deal depends upon our consciousness in the physical body, which is able to extend into the consciousness we have after death. An individual may be occupied exclusively with physical conceptions grasped by the senses, as often happens in the habitual thinking of the present time; he may take into his consciousness and also in his capacity of memory, in everything playing itself out in his soul, concerns exclusively having to do with ordinary life. Such an individual, however, is also building up a world for himself after death! The environment there is built out of what a person is inwardly. A person born physically in Europe cannot see America around him, and just as he receives what he is born into physically as his environment, so to a certain extent he determines the environment, the place of his existence, through what he has built up in his body.
Let us take an extreme case, though one unlikely to happen. Let us take the case of someone who fights against all super-sensible conceptions, who has become an atheist, someone who doesn't even have any inclination to occupy himself with religion. Now I know that I am saying something paradoxical here, but it is based on good foundations anthroposophically: such an individual condemns himself to remaining in the earthly sphere with his consciousness, whereas another individual who has absorbed spiritual conceptions is transposed to a spiritual environment. The one who has absorbed only sense-perceptible conceptions condemns himself to remaining in the sense-perceptible environment.
Now we can work properly in the physical body because our physical body is, as it were, a sheath protecting us against the environment. And though we can thus work properly in the physical body when we are present in the physical world, we cannot do so if we hold to the physical world after death. We become destructive if we have physical conceptions in our consciousness after death. In speaking of the problem of heredity, I intimated how, when the human being is in the spiritual world, his forces lay hold of the physical world. Whoever condemns himself, by reason of his merely physical consciousness, to hold to the physical world becomes the center of destructive forces that lay hold of what is happening in human life and in the rest of universal life. As long as we are in the body, we are only able to have thoughts based on the sense-perceptible, we are able to have only materialistic thoughts: the body is a defense.
But how much greater a defense than we imagine! It seems strange, but to anyone who perceives the spiritual world in all its connections, one thing is clear: if an individual were not shut off from the surrounding world by his senses, if the senses were not curbed so that in ordinary consciousness he is incapable of taking up living concepts but takes up only those that are lifeless and designed to prevent him from penetrating into the spiritual environment, if an individual were able to make his conceptions active directly and did not have them merely within him after things have already passed through the senses, then even here in the physical world, if he were to develop his conceptual life, his conceptions would have crippling, deadening effects. For these conceptions are in a certain way destructive of everything they lay hold of. Only because they are held back in us are those conceptions kept from being destructive. They destroy only when they come to expression in machines, in tools, which are also something dead taken from living nature. This indeed is only a picture, but one corresponding with a reality. If an individual enters the spiritual world with merely physical conceptions, he becomes a center of destruction.
Thus I have to bring a conception to your attention as an example of many others: we should not say that we can wait until after death, because it depends on a person's nature whether he develops conceptions of the sense world or of the super-sensible world, whether he prepares for his next life in this way or that. The next life is indeed a very different one, but it is evolved from our life here. This is the essential thing that has to be comprehended. In spiritual science, we encounter something different from what is surmised. For this reason I must still make a few remarks in closing.
The belief might easily arise that anyone now entering the spiritual world must unconditionally become a spiritual investigator himself. This is not necessarily so, although in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, I have described much of how the soul must transform itself in order really to be able to enter. And to a certain degree, everyone is able to do this today, but it need not be everyone. What a person develops regarding the soul element is a purely intimate concern; what arises from it, however, is the formation of concepts of the investigated truths. What the spiritual investigator can give is clothed in conceptions such as I have developed today. Then it can be shared. For what a person needs, it is quite immaterial whether things are investigated by himself or whether he accepts them from some other credible source. I am speaking here from a law of spiritual investigation. It is not important to investigate the things oneself. What is important is for us to have them within us, for us to have developed them within. Hence, we are in error if we believe that everyone has to become a spiritual investigator.
Today, however, the spiritual investigator has the obligation (as I myself have had the obligation) to render an account, as it were, of his path of research. This is due not only to the fact that everyone today can, to a certain extent, follow the path I have described without harm, but it is also because everyone is justified in asking, “How have you arrived at these results?” This is why I have described these things. I believe that even those who have no wish to become spiritual investigators will at least want to be convinced of how spiritual investigators arrive at the results that everyone needs today, the results of those who wish to lay the foundation for the life which must develop in human souls for human evolution today.
The time is now over during which, in ancient times, so much was held back regarding spiritual research that brought about the evolution of the soul. In those ancient times, to impart what was hidden was strictly forbidden. Even today, those who know of these mysteries of life (of which there are not just a few) still hold these things back. Whoever has learned about these things merely as a student from another teacher does not under any circumstances do well to pass them on. Today it is advisable to pass on only what an individual himself has discovered, the results only of his own investigations. These, however, can and must be put at the service of the rest of humanity.
Already from the few brief indications I was able to give today it can become evident what spiritual investigation can mean for the individual human being, but it is not only significant for the individual. And in order to address this other aspect in closing with at least a few words I would like to point to something that is taken into consideration only a little today. There is a curious phenomenon to which I would like to direct your attention in the following way. In the second half of the nineteenth century we have seen the rise of a certain natural scientific orientation: the explanation of living beings connected with the name Darwin. Enthusiastic scholarly investigators, enthusiastic students have carried these things through the second half of the nineteenth century. Maybe I have already remarked upon the occurrence of a curious fact. Already in the 1860's, under the guidance of Haeckel, there developed a powerful movement based on a world view. This movement wanted to overthrow everything old and to restructure the entire world view in accordance with Darwinistic concepts. Today there are still numerous people who emphasize how great and significant it would be if there were no longer a wisdom-filled world-guidance but instead if the evolution of everything could be explained out of mechanical forces in the sense of Darwinism.
In 1867 Eduard von Hartmann published his Philosophy of the Unconscious (Philosophie des Unbewussten) and turned against the purely external view of the world represented by Darwinism. He pointed to the necessity of inner forces, although he did so in an inadequate way, in a philosophical way (he did not yet have spiritual science). Naturally those who were enthusiastic about the rise of Darwinism were ready to say, “That philosopher is simply a dilettante; we don't need to pay any attention to him.” Counterattacks appeared in which the “dilettante” Eduard von Hartmann was ridiculed and which asserted that the true, educated natural scientist need not pay any attention to such things.
Then there appeared a publication by Anonymous, which brilliantly argued against the publication of Eduard von Hartmann. The natural scientists who all thought as they did were in full agreement with this publication because Eduard von Hartmann was completely contradicted in it. Everything that could possibly be gathered from the basis of natural science was there used by the anonymous author against Eduard von Hartmann just as today so much is brought up against spiritual science. This publication was received very favorably. Haeckel said, “For once a real natural scientist has written against this dilettante, Eduard von Hartmann; here one can see what a natural scientist is able to do. I myself could write no better. Let him identify himself and we will consider him as one of us.” To state it briefly, the natural scientists spread a lot of propaganda in relation to this publication, which they welcomed highly because it solidified their position. The publication was very soon sold out, and a second edition became necessary. There the author revealed himself: it was Eduard von Hartmann!
In that instance someone taught the world a necessary lesson. Whoever writes about spiritual science today and reads what is written against it could without much effort invent everything that is brought against spiritual science. Eduard von Hartmann was able himself to make all the objections that the natural scientists made against him — and he did so.
But I mention this only in introduction to my main point. Oskar Hertwig is one of the most important students of Haeckel who entered upon the industrious, reliable, and great path of natural scientific investigation. Last year Hertwig published a very beautiful book, The Evolution of the Organism. A Rebuttal to Darwin's Theory of Chance (Das Werden der Organismen. Eine Widerlegung von Darwins Zufallstheorie). In this book he points to issues that were already raised by Eduard von Hartmann. Such a matter is pretty much without precedent: already the generation immediately following, which still grew up under the master, had to get away from something that had been believed could build a whole world view; it had even been believed that it could provide elucidation of the spiritual world. A good Darwinist contradicts Darwinism! But he does still more, and that is what is actually important to me.
Oskar Hertwig writes at the conclusion of his superb and beautiful book that the kind of world view that Darwinism represented does not stand there merely as a theoretical edifice; rather it intervenes in the totality of life, encompassing also what people do, will, feel, and think. He says, “The interpretation of Darwin's teaching, which because of its vagueness can have such varied meanings, permitted also a very varied application to other realms of economic, social, and political life. It was possible, just as it was from the Delphic Oracles, to use what was said as desired for specific applications to social, political, health-related, medical, and other questions and to support one's own assertions by basing them on the Darwinistically restructured biology with its immutable natural laws. If these supposed laws are not actually laws, however, could there not exist social dangers — because of their many-sided application in other realms? We had better not believe that human society can for centuries use expressions like, ‘a struggle for existence,’ ‘survival of the fittest,’ ‘the most suitable,’ ‘the most useful,’ ‘perfection by selection,’ etc., applying them to the most varied realms of life, using these expressions like daily bread, without influencing in a deep and lasting way the entire direction of idea formation! The proof for this assertion could easily be demonstrated in many contemporary phenomena. For this very reason the decision concerning the truth or error of Darwinism reaches far beyond the confines of the biological sciences.”
What arises in such a theory shows itself everywhere in life. Then a question arises from the realm of spiritual science that also intervenes in life. We live today in a sad time, in a tragic time for humanity. It is a time that has developed out of human conceptions, out of human ideas. Whoever studies interrelationships with the help of spiritual science knows about the connection of what we encounter externally today with what humanity is now tragically experiencing. A great deal is being experienced; people believe that they can encompass reality with their concepts, but they do not encompass it. And because they do not encompass it, because with natural scientific concepts reality can never be encompassed, reality grows over their head and shows them that human beings can take part in such events but that the result is the chaos by which we are surrounded today.
Spiritual science does not arise only through an inner necessity, though this is also true. It would have arisen through this inner necessity even if the outer events did not stand there as a mighty, powerful sign. Such signs are there, however, from the other side: that the old world views are great in the natural sciences but can never intervene formatively in the social, legislative, political spheres in the world, that reality grows beyond human beings, if that is what they want. These mighty signs point to the need for spiritual science, which seeks concepts that correspond with reality, concepts derived from reality and that are therefore also capable of carrying the world in the social and political realms. No matter how much one believes that the concepts customary outside spiritual science today will enable us to emerge out of the chaos, it will not happen; for within the reality the spirit prevails. And because the human being himself intervenes with his actions in this reality, in the social, in the political life, he requires the conceptions, the feelings, the will impulses that are drawn from the spirit in order to come to fruitful concepts in these realms. In the future politics and social science will need something for which only spiritual science can provide the foundation. This is what is particularly important for contemporary history.
In this lecture, which has already been long enough, I can only hope to offer a few impulses. I only wish to point out that what appears today as spiritual science in a systematic order is wanted by the best. If it were only up to me, I would not give a special name to this spiritual science. For more than thirty years I have been working on the greater and greater elaboration of the conceptions regarding reality that Goethe acquired in his magnificent theory of metamorphosis, in which he had already attempted to make the concept living as opposed to dead. At that time this was only possible in an elementary way. If one does not consider Goethe simply as a historical figure, however, if one considers him still as a contemporary, then today the Goethean teaching of metamorphosis transforms itself into what I call living concepts, which then find their way into spiritual science. Goetheanism is the term I would most like to use for what I mean by spiritual scientific investigation, because it is based on sound foundations of a grasp of reality as Goethe wanted it.
And the building in Dornach that is to be dedicated to this spiritual investigation, and through which this spiritual investigation has become more well known than it would have without the building, I would like most to call the Goetheanum, so that one would see that what arises as spiritual investigation today stands fully in the midst of the healthy process of the evolution of humanity. Certainly many today who wish to acknowledge the Goethean way of looking at the world will still say that Goethe was one who recognized nature as the highest above all and who also permitted the spirit to emerge out of nature. Already as a very young man, Goethe said, “Gedacht hat sie und sinnt bestaendig” (“She did think and ponders incessantly”), ponders incessantly although not as man but as nature. Even if one is a spiritual investigator one can agree with the kind of naturalism that, like Goethe, thinks of nature as permeated by spirit. And those who always believe that one must stop at the boundaries of knowledge, that one can't get any further there, can be repudiated with Goethe's words. Permit me, therefore, as I conclude here, to add the words that Goethe used concerning another accomplished investigator who represented the later Kantian view:
Into the inner being of nature
No created spirit penetrates.
Blissful those to whom she only
Reveals the outer shell!
Ins Innere der Natur
Dringt kein erschaffner Geist
Glueckselig, wem sie nur
Die aeussere Schale weist!
Next to these words Goethe placed others that show how well Goethe knew that when the human being awakes the spirit within himself, he also finds the spirit in the world and himself as spirit:
Into the inner being of nature
No created spirit penetrates.
Blissful those to whom she only
Reveals the outer shell!
This I hear repeated for sixty years
And damn it but secretly —
Nature has neither core nor shell,
She is everything at once.
Above all simply examine yourself
To see whether you yourself are core or shell!
Ins Innere der Natur —
Dringt kein erschaffner Geist.
Glueckselig, wem sie nur
Die aeussere Schale weist! —
So hoer ich schon an die sechzig Jahre wiederholen
Und fluche darauf — aber verstojileri, —
Natur hat weder Kern noch Schale,
A lies ist sie mit einemmale,
Dich pruefe du nur zu allermeist,
Ob du selbst Kern oder Schale seist!
Spiritual science wishes to work toward the human being learning to examine himself as to whether he is core or shell. And he is core if he grasps himself in his full reality. If he grasps himself as core, then he also penetrates to the spirit of nature. Then in the evolution of humanity in relation to spiritual science something occurs that is similar to when Copernicus pointed from the visible to the invisible, even of this visible itself.
For the super-sensible, however, humanity will have to stir itself to grasp this super-sensible within itself. To do this one does not need to become a spiritual investigator. One needs, however, to remove all prejudices that place themselves before the soul if one wishes to understand what spiritual science intends to say out of such a Goethean attitude.
I wished to offer today only a few impulses to stimulate you further. From this point of view it is always possible at least to stimulate something, but if one wanted to go into all the details, many lectures would be needed. But I believe these few comments will have sufficed to show that something needs to be drawn out of the evolutionary process of humanity, something that will first awaken the soul to full life. No one needs to believe that this will shrivel the soul, that it will kill off anything, not even the religious life. As Goethe said:
Whoever possesses Science and Art,
Has also Religion,
Whoever possesses neither of the two,
Had better have Religion!
Wer Wissenschaft und Kunst
Hat auch Religion,
Werjene beiden nicht besitzt,
Der habe Religion!
So one can say, as the modern way of thinking is evolving, whoever finds spiritual scientific paths will also find the way to true religious life; whoever does not find the spiritual scientific path will be in danger of losing also the religious path so necessary for the future of humanity!