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|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture II|
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture II|
It must be answered, not to meet a human “need to know” but to meet man's universal need to become fully human. And in just what way one can strive for an answer, in what way the ignorabimus can be overcome to fulfil the demands of human evolution — this shall be the theme of our course of lectures as it proceeds.
To those who demand of a cycle of lectures with a title such as ours that nothing be introduced that might interfere with the objective presentation of ideas, I would like, since today I shall have to mention certain personalities, to say the following. The moment one begins to represent the results of human judgment in their relationship to life, to full human existence, it becomes inevitable that one indicate the personalities with whom the judgments originated. Even in a scientific presentation, one must remain within the sphere in which the judgment arises, within the realm of human struggling and striving toward such a judgment. And especially since the question we want above all to answer is: what can be gleaned from modern scientific theories that can become a vital social thinking able to transform thought into impulses for life? — then one must realize that the series of considerations one undertakes is no longer confined to the study and the lecture halls but Stands rather within the living evolution of humanity.
Behind everything with which I commenced yesterday, the modern striving for a mathematical-mechanical world view and the dissolution of that world view, behind that which came to a climax in 1872 in the famous speech by the physiologist, du Bois-Reymond, concerning the limits of natural science, there stands something even more important. It is something that begins to impress itself upon us the moment we want to begin to speak in a living way about the limits of natural science.
A personality of extraordinary philosophical stature still looks over to us with a certain vitality out of the first half of the nineteenth century: Hegel. Only in the last few years has Hegel begun to be mentioned in the lecture halls and in the philosophical literature with somewhat more respect than in the recent past. In the last third of the nineteenth century the academic world attacked Hegel outright, yet one could demonstrate irrefutably that Eduard von Hartmann had been quite right in claiming that during the 1880s only two university lecturers in all of Germany had actually read him. The academics opposed Hegel but not on philosophical grounds, for as a philosopher they hardly knew him. Yet they knew him in a different way, in a way in which we still know him today. Few know Hegel as he is contained, or perhaps better said, as his world view is contained, in the many volumes that sit in the libraries. Those who know Hegel in this original form so peculiar to him are few indeed. Yet in certain modified forms he has become in a sense the most popular philosopher the world has ever known. Anyone who participates in a workers' meeting today or, even better, anyone who had participated in one during the last few decades and had heard what was discussed there; anyone with any sense for the source of the mode of thinking that had entered into these workers' meetings, who really knew the development of modern thought, could see that this mode of thinking had originated with Hegel and flowed through certain channels out into the broadest masses. And whoever investigated the literature and philosophy of Eastern Europe in this regard would find that the Hegelian mode of thinking had permeated to the farthest reaches of Russian cultural life. One thus could say that, anonymously, as it were, Hegel has become within the last few decades perhaps one of the most influential philosophers in human history. On the other hand, however, when one perceives what has come to be recognized by the broadest spectrum of humanity as Hegelianism, one is reminded of the portrait of a rather ugly man that a kind artist painted in such a way as to please the man's family. As one of the younger sons, who had previously paid little attention to the portrait, grew older and really observed it for the first time, he said: “But father, how you have changed!” And when one sees what has become of Hegel one might well say: “Dear philosopher, how you have changed!” To be sure, something extraordinary has happened regarding this Hegelian world view.
Hardly had Hegel himself departed when his school fell apart. And one could see how this Hegelian school appropriated precisely the form of one of our new parliaments. There was a left wing and a right wing, an extreme left and an extreme right, an ultra-radical wing and an ultra-conservative wing. There were men with radical scientific and social views, who felt themselves to be Hegel's true spiritual heirs, and on the other side there were devout, positive theologians who wanted just as much to base their extreme theological conservatism on Hegel. There was a center for Hegelian studies headed by the amiable philosopher, Karl Rosenkranz, and each of these personalities, every one of them, insisted that he was Hegel's true heir.
What is this remarkable phenomenon in the evolution of human knowledge? What happened was that a philosopher once sought to raise humanity into the highest realms of thought. Even if one is opposed to Hegel, it cannot be denied that he dared attempt to call forth the world within the soul in the purest thought-forms. Hegel raised humanity into ethereal heights of thinking, but strangely enough, humanity then fell right back down out of those heights. It drew on the one hand certain materialistic and on the other hand certain positive theological conclusions from Hegel's thought. And even if one considers the Hegelian center headed by the amiable Rosenkranz, even there one cannot find Hegel's philosophy as Hegel himself had conceived it. In Hegel's philosophy one finds a grand attempt to pursue the scientific method right up into the highest heights. Afterward, however, when his followers sought to work through Hegel's thoughts themselves, they found that one could arrive thereby at the most contrary points of view.
Now, one can argue about world views in the study, one can argue within the academies, and one can even argue in the academic literature, so long as worthless gossip and Barren cliques do not result. These offspring of Hegelian philosophy, however, cannot be carried out of the lecture halls and the study into life as social impulses. One can argue conceptually about contrary world views, but within life itself these contrary world views do not fight so peaceably. One must use just such a paradoxical expression in describing such a phenomenon. And thus there stands before us in the first half of the nineteenth century an alarming factor in the evolution of human cognition, something that has proved itself to be socially useless in the highest degree. With this in mind we must then raise the question: how can we find a mode of thinking that can be useful in social life? In two phenomena above all we notice the uselessness of Hegelianism for social life.
One of those who studied Hegel most intensively, who brought Hegel fully to life within himself, was Karl Marx. And what is it that we find in Marx? A remarkable Hegelianism indeed! Hegel up upon the highest peak of the conceptual world — Hegel upon the highest peak of Idealism — and the faithful student, Karl Marx, immediately transforming the whole into its direct opposite, using what he believed to be Hegel's method to carry Hegel's truths to their logical conclusions. And thereby arises historical materialism, which is to be for the masses the one world view that can enter into social life. We thus are confronted in the first half of the nineteenth century with the great Idealist, Hegel, who lived only in the Spirit, only in his ideas, and in the second half of the nineteenth century with his student, Karl Marx, who contemplated and recognized the reality of matter alone, who saw in everything ideal only ideology. If one but takes up into one's feeling this turnabout of conceptions of world and life in the course of the nineteenth century, one feels with all one's soul the need to achieve an understanding of nature that will serve as a basis for judgments that are socially viable.
Now, if we turn on the other hand to consider something that is not so obviously descended from Hegel but can be traced back to Hegel nonetheless, we find still within the first half of the nineteenth century, but carrying over into the second half, the “philosopher of the ego,” Max Stirner. While Karl Marx occupies one of the two poles of human experience mentioned yesterday, the pole of matter upon which he bares all his considerations, Stirner, the philosopher of the ego, proceeds from the opposite pole, that of consciousness. And just as the modern world view, gravitating toward the pole of matter, becomes unable to discover consciousness within that element (as we saw yesterday in the example of du Bois-Reymond), a person who gravitates to the opposite pole of consciousness will not be able to find the material world. And so it is with Max Stirner. For Max Stirner, no material universe with natural laws actually exists. Stirner sees the world as populated solely by human egos, by human consciousnesses that want only to indulge themselves to the full. “I have built my thing on nothing”— that is one of Max Stirner's maxims. And on these grounds Stirner opposes even the notion of Providence. He says for example: certain moralists demand that we should not perform any deed out of egoism, but rather that we should perform it because it is pleasing to God. In acting, we should look to God, to that which pleases Him, that which He commands. Why, thinks Max Stirner, should I, who have built only upon the foundation of ego-consciousness, have to admit that God is after all the greater egoist Who can demand of man and the world that all should be performed as it suits Him? I will not surrender my own egoism for the sake of a greater egoism. I will do what pleases me. What do I care for a God when I have myself?
One thus becomes entangled and confused within a consciousness out of which one can no longer find the way. Yesterday I remarked how on the one hand we can arrive at clear ideas by awakening in the experience of ideas when we descend into our consciousness. These dreamlike ideas manifest themselves like drives from which we cannot then escape. One would say that Karl Marx achieved clear ideas — if anything his ideas are too clear. That was the secret of his success. Despite their complexity, Marx's ideas are so clear that, if properly garnished, they remain comprehensible to the widest circles. Here clarity has been the means to popularity. And until it realizes that within such a clarity humanity is lost, humanity, as long as it seeks logical consequences, will not let go of these clear ideas.
If one is inclined by temperament to the other extreme, to the pole of consciousness, one passes over onto Stirner's side of the scale. Then one despises this clarity: one feels that, applied to social thinking, this clarity makes man into a cog in a social order modeled on mathematics or mechanics — but into that only, into a mere cog. And if one does not feel oneself cut out for just that, then the will that is active in the depths of human consciousness revolts. Then one comes radically to oppose all clarity. One mocks all clarity, as Stirner did. One says to oneself: what do I care about anything else? What do I care even about nature? I shall project my own ego out of myself and see what happens. We shall see that the appearance of such extremes in the nineteenth century is in the highest degree characteristic of the whole of recent human evolution, for these extremes are the distant thunder that preceded the storm of social chaos we are now experiencing. One must understand this connection if one wants at all to speak about cognition today.
Yesterday we arrived at an indication of what happens when we begin to correlate our consciousness to an external natural world of the senses. Our consciousness awakens to clear concepts but loses itself. It loses itself to the extent that one can only posit empty concepts such as “matter,” concepts that then become enigmatic. Only by thus losing ourselves, however, can we achieve the clear conceptual thinking we need to become fully human. In a certain sense we must first lose ourselves in order to find ourselves again out of ourselves. Yet now the time has come when we should learn something from these phenomena. And what can one learn from these phenomena? One can learn that, although clarity of conceptual thinking and perspicuity of mental representation can be won by man in his interaction with the world of sense, this clarity of conceptual thinking becomes useless the moment we strive scientifically for something more than a mere empiricism. It becomes useless the moment we try to proceed toward the kind of phenomenalism that Goethe the scientist cultivated, the moment we want something more than natural science, namely Goetheanism.
What does this imply? In establishing a correlation between our inner life and the external physical world of the senses we can use the concepts we form in interaction with nature in such a way that we try not to remain within the natural phenomena but to think on beyond them. We are doing this if we do more than simply say: within the spectrum there appears the color yellow next to the color green, and on the other side the blues. We are doing this if we do not simply interrelate the phenomena with the help of our concepts but seek instead, as it were, to pierce the veil of the senses and construct something more behind it with the aid of our concepts. We are doing this if we say: out of the clear concepts I have achieved I shall construct atoms, molecules — all the movements of matter that are supposed to ex-ist behind natural phenomena. Thereby something extraordinary happens. What happens is that when I as a human being confront the world of nature [see illustration], I use my concepts not only to create for myself a conceptual order within the realm of the senses but also to break through the boundary of sense and construct behind it atoms and the like I cannot bring my lucid thinking to a halt within the realm of the senses. I take my lesson from inert matter, which continues to roll on even when the propulsive force has ceased. My knowledge reaches the world of sense, and I remain inert. I have a certain inertia, and I roll with my concepts on beyond the realm of the senses to construct there a world the existence of which I can begin to doubt when I notice that my thinking has only been borne along by inertia.
It is interesting to note that a great proportion of the philosophy that does not remain within phenomena is actually nothing other than just such an inert rolling-on beyond what really exists within the world. One simply cannot come to a halt. One wants to think ever farther and farther beyond and construct atoms and molecules — under certain circumstances other things as well that philosophers have assembled there. No wonder, then, that this web one has woven in a world created by the inertia of thinking must eventually unravel itself again.
Goethe rebelled against this law of inertia. He did not want to roll onward thus with his thinking but rather to come strictly to a halt at this limit [see illustration: heavy line] and to apply concepts within the realm of the senses. He thus would say to himself: within the spectrum appear to me yellow, blue, red, indigo, violet. If, however, I permeate these appearances of color with my world of concepts while remaining within the phenomena, then the phenomena order themselves of their own accord, and the phenomenon of the spectrum teaches me that when the darker colors or anything dark is placed behind the lighter colors or anything light, there appear the colors which lie toward the blue end of the spectrum. And conversely, if I place light behind dark, there appear the colors which lie toward the red end of the spectrum.
What was it that Goethe was actually seeking to do? Goethe wanted to find simple phenomena within the complex but above all such phenomena as allowed him to remain within this limit [see illustration], by means of which he did not roll on into a realm that one reaches only through a certain mental inertia. Goethe wanted to adhere to a strict phenomenalism. If we remain within phenomena and if we strive with our thinking to come to a halt there rather than allow ourselves to be carried onward by inertia, the old question arises in a new way. What meaning does the phenomenal world have when I consider it thus? What is the meaning of the mechanics and mathematics, of the number, weight, measure, or temporal relation that I import into this world? What is the meaning of this?
You know, perhaps, that the modern world conception has sought to characterize the phenomena of tone, color, warmth, etc. as only subjective, whereas it characterizes the so-called primary qualities, the qualities of weight, space, and time, as something not subjective but objective and inherent in things. This conception can be traced back principally to the English philosopher, John Locke, and it has to a considerable extent determined the philosophical basis of modern scientific thought. But the real question is: what place within our systematic science of nature as a whole do mathematics, do mechanics — these webs we weave within ourselves, or so it seems at first — what place do these occupy? We shall have to return to this question to consider the specific form it takes in Kantianism. Yet without going into the whole history of this development one can nonetheless emphasize our instinctive conviction that measuring or counting or weighing external objects is essentially different from ascribing to them any other qualities.
It certainly cannot be denied that light, tones, colors, and sensations of taste are related to us differently from that which we could represent as subject to mathematical-mechanical laws. For it really is a remarkable fact,a fact worthy of our consideration: you know that honey tastes sweet, but to a man with jaundice it tastes bitter — so we can say that we stand in a curious relationship to the qualities within this realm — while on the other hand we could hardly maintain that any normal man would see a triangle as a triangle, but a man with jaundice would see it as a square! Certain differentiations thus do exist, and one must be cognizant of them; on the other hand, one must not draw absurd conclusions from them. And to this very day philosophical thinking has failed in the most extraordinary way to come to grips with this most fundamental epistemological question. We thus see how a contemporary philosopher, Koppelmann, overtrumps even Kant by saying, for example — you can read this on page 33 of his Philosophical Inquiries [Weltanschauungsfragen]: everything that relates to space and time we must first construct within by means of the understanding, whereas we are able to assimilate colors and tastes directly. We construct the icosahedron, the dodecahedron, etc.: we are able to construct the standard regular solids only because of the organization of our understanding. No wonder, then, claims Koppelmann, that we find in the world only those regular solids we can construct with our understanding. One thus can find Koppelmann saying almost literally that it is impossible for a geologist to come to a geometer with a crystal bounded by seven equilateral triangles precisely because — so Koppelmann claims — such a crystal would have a form that simply would not fit into our heads. That is out-Kanting Kant. And thus he would say that in the realm of the thing-in-itself crystals could exist that are bounded by seven regular triangles, but they cannot enter our head, and thus we pass them by; they do not exist for us.
Such thinkers forget but one thing: they forget — and it is just this that we want to indicate in the course of these lectures with all the forceful proofs we can muster — that the natural order governing the construction of our head also governs the construction of the regular polyhedrons, and it is for just this reason that our head constructs no other polyhedrons than those that actually confront us in the external world. For that, you see, is one of the basic differences between the so-called subjective qualities of tone, color, warmth, as well as the different qualities of touch, and that which confronts us in the mechanical-mathematical view of the world. That is the basic difference: tone and color leave us outside of ourselves; we must first take them in; we must first perceive them. As human beings we stand outside tone, color, warmth, etc. This is not entirely the case as regards warmth — I shall discuss that tomorrow — but to a certain extent this is true even of warmth. These qualities leave us initially outside ourselves, and we must perceive them. In formal, spatial, and temporal relationships and regarding weight this is not the case. We perceive objects in space but stand ourselves within the same space and the same lawfulness as the objects external to us. We stand within time just as do the external objects. Our physical existence begins and ends at a definite point in time. We stand within space and time in such a way that these things permeate us without our first perceiving them. The other things we must first perceive. Regarding weight, well, ladies and gentlemen, you will readily admit that this has little to do with perception, which is somewhat open to arbitrariness: otherwise many people who attain an undesired corpulence would be able to avoid this by perception alone, merely by having the faculty of perception. No, ladies and gentlemen, regarding weight we are bound up with the world entirely objectively, and the organization by means of which we stand within color, tone, warmth, etc. is powerless against that objectivity.
So now we must above all pose the question: how is it that we arrive at any mathematical-mechanical judgment? How do we arrive at a science of mathematics, at a science of mechanics? How is it, then, that this mathematics, this mechanics, is applicable to the external world of nature, and how is it that there is a difference between the mathematical-mechanical qualities of external objects and those that confront us as the so-called subjective qualities of sensation, tone, color, warmth, etc.?
At the one extreme, then, we are confronted with this fundamental question. Tomorrow we shall discuss another such question. Then we shall have two starting-points from which we can proceed to investigate the nature of science. Thence we shall proceed to the other extreme to investigate the formation of social judgments.
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture III|
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture III|
We have seen that one arrives at two limits when one seeks either to penetrate more deeply into natural phenomena or, proceeding from the state of normal consciousness, to penetrate more deeply into one's own being in order to uncover the essential nature of consciousness. Yesterday we showed already what happens at the one limit to knowledge. We have seen that man awakes to full consciousness in coming into contact with an external, physical world of sense. Man would remain a more-or-less drowsy being, a being with a sleepy soul, if he could not awake in confronting external nature. And what has happened in the spiritual evolution of humanity, in man's gradual acquisition of knowledge about external nature, is actually nothing other than what happens every morning when we awake out of sleep or dream-consciousness by confronting an external world. This latter is a kind of moment of awakening, and in the course of the evolution of humanity we have to do with a gradual awakening, a kind of long, drawn-out moment of awakening.
Now, we have seen that at this frontier a certain inertia on the part of the soul very easily comes into play, so that when we come up against the extended world of phenomena we do not proceed in the manner of Goethean phenomenology by halting at this frontier and ordering the phenomena according to the representations, concepts, and ideas we have already gained, describing them in a systematic, rational manner, and so forth. Instead, we roll on a bit farther beyond the phenomena with our concepts and ideas and thereby create a world, for example a world of metaphysical atoms, molecules, and so forth. This world, when it is so constituted, is merely a fabrication of the mind, a world into which there enters a creeping doubt, so that we have to unravel again the theoretical web we have spun. And we have seen that it is possible to guard against such a violation of this frontier of our knowledge through phenomenalism, through working purely with the phenomena themselves. We have also had to show that at this point in our striving for knowledge something emerges that commends itself to our use as an immediate necessity: mathematics and that part of mechanics that can be comprehended without any empirical observation, i.e., the entire compass of so-called analytical mechanics.
If we call to mind everything comprehended by mathematics and analytical mechanics, we have before us the system of concepts that allows us to enter into phenomena with the utmost certainty. And yet, as I began to indicate yesterday, one should not deceive oneself, for the whole manner in which we call forth the notions of mathematics and analytical mechanics, this process within our souls, is entirely different from that employed when we experiment with or observe sensory data and then seek to comprehend them, when we try to gather knowledge from sensory experience. In order to arrive at the fullest clarity regarding these matters one must bring all one's mental energy to bear, for in this realm full clarity can be attained only with the greatest mental exertion.
What is the difference between accumulating knowledge from sensory experience in a Baconian manner and the more inward mode of apprehension we find in mathematics and analytical mechanics? One can sharply differentiate the latter from those modes of apprehension that are not inward in this way by formulating clearly the concepts of the parallelogram of motion and the parallelogram of forces. One theorem of analytical mechanics states that two angular vectors proceeding from one point result in a third vector. To say, however, that a vector of a specific force here [see diagram: a] and a vector of a specific force here [b] result in a third force, which can also be determined according to the parallelogram — that is another notion altogether.
The parallelogram of motion lies strictly within the province of analytical mechanics, for it is internally consistent and demands no external proof. In this it is like the Rule of Pythagoras or any other geometrical axiom, but the existence of the parallelogram of forces can be determined only by experience, by experimentation. In this case, we bring something into that which we work through inwardly: the force that can be given only empirically from without. Here we no longer have a pure, analytical mechanics but an “empirical mechanics.” One can thus differentiate sharply between that which is still actually mathematical — as we still conceive mathematics today — and that which leads over into conventional empiricism.
Now one stands before this phenomenon of mathematics as such. We comprehend mathematical truths. We proceed from mathematical phenomena to certain axioms. We weave the fabric of mathematics out of these axioms and then stand before an architectonic whole apprehended by the mind's eye [im inneren Anschauen]. If we are able by means of energetic thinking to differentiate sharply this inner apprehension from anything that can be experienced outwardly, we must see in this fabric of mathematics something that arises through an activity of soul entirely different from that which underlies our experience of the outer objects of sensation. Whether or not we arrive at a satisfactory comprehension of the world depends to a tremendous extent on our being able to make this clear distinction out of inner experience. We thus must ask: where does mathematics originate? Nowadays this question is still not pursued rigorously enough. One does not ask: how is this inner activity of the soul that we need in mathematics, in the wonderful architecture of mathematics — how is this inner activity of the soul different from that whereby we grasp external nature through the senses? One does not pose this question and seek an answer with sufficient rigor, because it is the tragedy of the materialistic world view that, while on the one hand it presses for sensory experience, on the other hand it is driven unawares into an abstract intellectualism, into a realm of abstraction where one is isolated from any true comprehension of the phenomena of the material world.
What kind of capacity is it, then, that we acquire when we engage in mathematics? We want to address ourselves to this question. In order to answer this question we must, I believe, have reached a complete understanding of one thing in particular: we must take fully seriously the concept of becoming as it applies to human life as well. We must begin by acquiring the discipline that modern science can teach us. We must school ourselves in this way and then, taking the strict methodology, the scientific discipline we have learned from modern natural science, transcend it, so that we use the same exacting approach to rise into higher regions, thereby extending this methodology to the investigation of entirely different realms as well. For this reason I believe — and I want this to be expressly stated — that nobody can attain true knowledge of the spirit who has not acquired scientific discipline, who has not learned to investigate and think in the laboratories according to the modern scientific method. Those who pursue spiritual science [Geisteswissenschaft] have less cause to undervalue modern science than anyone. On the contrary, they know how to value it at its full worth. And many people — if I may here insert a personal remark — were extremely upset with me when, before publishing anything pertaining to spiritual science as such, I wrote a great deal about the problems of natural science in a way that appeared necessary to me. So you see it is necessary on the one hand for us to cultivate a scientific habit of mind, so that this can accompany us when we cross the frontiers of natural science. In addition, it is the quality of this scientific method and its results that we must take very seriously indeed.
You see, if we consider the simple phenomenon of warmth that appears when we rub two bodies together, it would be utterly unscientific to say, regarding this isolated phenomenon, that the warmth had been created ex nihilo or simply existed. Rather, we seek the conditions under which this warmth was previously latent and now appears by means of the bodies. We proceed from the one phenomenon to the other and thus take seriously this process of becoming [das Werden]. We must do the same with the concepts that we consider in spiritual science. So we must first of all ask: is that which manifests itself as the ability to perform mathematics present in man throughout his entire existence between birth and death? No, it is not always present. It awakes at a certain point in time. To be sure, we can, while still remaining empirical regarding the outer world, observe with great precision how there gradually arise out of the dark recesses of human consciousness faculties that manifest themselves as the ability to perform mathematics and something like mathematics that we have yet to discuss. If one can observe this emergence in time precisely and soberly, just as scientific research treats the phenomena of the melting or boiling point, one sees that this new faculty emerges at approximately that time of life when the child changes teeth. One must treat such a point in the development of human life with the same attitude with which physics, for example, teaches one to treat the melting or boiling point. One must acquire the ability to carry over into the complicated realm of human life the same strict inner discipline that one can acquire by observing simple physical phenomena according to the methods of modern science. If one does this, one sees that in the course of human development from birth, or rather from conception, up to the change of teeth, the soul faculties enabling one to perform mathematics manifest themselves gradually within the organism but that they are not yet fully present. Now we say that the warmth that manifests itself in a body under certain conditions was latent in that body beforehand, that it was at work within the inner structure of that body. In the same way we must be entirely clear that the capacity to perform mathematics, which becomes most evident at the change of teeth and reveals itself gradually in another sense, was also at work beforehand within the human organization. We thus arrive at an important and valuable insight into the nature of mathematics — mathematics taken, of course, in the very broadest sense. We begin to understand how that which is at our disposal after the change of teeth as a soul faculty worked previously within to organize us. Yes, within the child until approximately its seventh year there works an inner mathematics, an inner mathematics not abstract like our external one but full of active energy, a mathematics which, if I may use Plato's expression, not only can be inwardly envisioned [angeschaut] but is full of active life. Up to this point in time there exists within us something that “mathematicizes” us through and through.
When we ask at first entirely superficially what can be seen by looking empirically at this “latent mathematics” in the body of the young child, we are led to three things resembling inner senses. In the course of these lectures we shall come to see that one can indeed speak of senses within as well. Today I want only to indicate that we are led to something that develops an inward faculty of perception similar to the outward perception developed by the eyes and ears, except that the former remains unconscious within us during these first years. And if we look within, look into our own inner organization not like nebulous mystics but with all our powers of apprehension, we can find within three functions similar to those of the outward senses. We find inner senses that exercise a certain activity, a certain inner mathematics, just in those first several years. One encounters first of all what I would like to call the sense of life. This sense of life manifests itself in later years as a perception of our inner state as a whole. In a certain way we feel either well or unwell. We feel comfortable or uncomfortable: just as we have a faculty for perceiving outwardly with the eyes, so also do we have a faculty for perceiving inwardly. This faculty is directed toward the whole organism and is for that reason dark and dull; yet it is there all the same. We shall have more to say about this later. For the moment I want to anticipate this later discussion only by remarking that this sense of life is — if I may use a tautology — especially active in the vitality of the child up until the change of teeth.
Another inner sense that we must consider when we look within in this way is that which I would like to call the sense of movement. We must form a clear conception of this sense of movement. When we move our limbs, we are aware of this not only by viewing ourselves externally but also by means of an internal perception. Also when we walk: we are conscious that we are walking not only in that we see objects pass and our view of the external world changes but also in that we have an internal perception of the movements of the limbs, of changes within ourselves as we move. Normally we remain unaware of the inner experiences and perception that run parallel to the outer because of the strength of the external impressions, much as a dim light is “extinguished” by a bright one.
And a third inward-looking faculty is the sense of balance. The sense of balance is what enables us to locate ourselves within the world, to avoid falling, to perceive in a certain way how we can bring ourselves into harmony with the forces in our environment. We perceive this process of bringing ourselves into harmony with our environment inwardly. We thus can truly say that we bear within ourselves these three inner senses: the sense of life, the sense of movement, and the sense of balance. They are especially active in childhood up to the change of teeth. Around this time of the change of teeth their activity begins to wane, but observe to take but one example, the sense of balance — observe how at birth the child has as yet nothing enabling it to attain the position of balance it needs in later life. Consider how the child gradually gains control of itself, how it learns at first to crawl on all fours, how it gradually achieves through its sense of balance the ability to stand and to walk, how it finally is able to maintain its own balance.
If one considers the entire process of development from conception to the change of teeth, one sees therein the powerful activity of these three inner senses. And if one can attain a certain insight into what is happening there, one sees that there is at work in the sense of balance and the sense of movement nothing other than a living “mathematicizing” [ein lebendiges Mathematisieren]. In order for it to come to life, the sense of life is there to vitalize it. We thus see a kind of latent realm of mathematics active within man. This activity does not entirely cease at the change of teeth, but it does become at that time considerably less pronounced for the remainder of life. That which is inwardly active in the sense of balance, the sense of movement, and the sense of life becomes free. This latent mathematics becomes free, just as latent heat can become liberated heat. And we see how that which initially was woven through the organism as an element of soul becomes free. We see how this mathematics emerges as abstraction from a condition in which it was originally a concrete force shaping the human organism. And because as human beings we are suspended in the web of existence according to temporal and spatial relationships, we take this mathematics that has become free out into the world and seek to comprehend the external world by means of something that worked within us up until the change of teeth. You see, it is not a denial but rather an extension of natural science that results when one considers rightly what ought to live within spiritual science as attitude and will.
One really must have experienced at some time what it is that leads from an abstract understanding of the geometrical forms to a sense of wonder at the harmony that underlies this inner “mathematicizing.” One really must have had the opportunity to get beyond the cold, sober performance of mathematics, which many people even hate. One must have struggled through as Novalis had in order to stand in awe of the inner harmony and — if I may use an expression you have heard often in a completely different context — the “melody” [Melos] of mathematics.
Then something new enters into one's experience of mathematics. There enters into mathematics, which otherwise remains purely intellectual and, metaphorically speaking, interests only the head, something that engages the entire man. This something manifests itself in such youthful Spirits as Novalis in the feeling: that which you behold as mathematical harmony, that which you weave through all the phenomena of the universe, is actually the same loom that wove you during the first years of growth as a child here an earth. This is to feel concretely man's connection with the cosmos. And when one works one's way through to such an inner experience, which many hold to be mere fantasy because they have not actually attained it themselves, one has some idea what the spiritual scientist [Geistesforscher] experiences when he rises to a more extensive grasp of this “mathematicizing” by undergoing an inner development of which I have yet to speak and which you will find fully depicted in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. For then the capacity of soul manifesting itself as this inner mathematics passes over into something far more comprehensive. It becomes something that remains just as exact as mathematical thought yet does not proceed solely from the intellect but from the whole man.
On this path of constant inner work — an inner work far more demanding than that performed in the laboratory or observatory or any other scientific institution — one comes to know what it is that underlies mathematics, that underlies this simple faculty of the human soul which can be expanded into something far more comprehensive. In this higher experience of mathematics one comes to know Inspiration. One comes to understand the differences between what lives in us as mathematics and what lives in us as outer-directed empiricism. In this outer-directed empiricism we have sense impressions that give content to our empty concepts. In Inspiration we have something inwardly spiritual, the activity of which manifests itself already in mathematics, if we know how to grasp mathematics properly — something spiritual which in our early years lives and weaves within us. This activity continues. In doing mathematics we experience this in part. We come to realize that the faculty for performing mathematics rests upon Inspiration, and we can come to experience Inspiration itself by evolving into spiritual scientists. Our representations and concepts then receive their content in a way other than through external experience. We can inspire ourselves with the spiritual force that works within us during childhood. For what works within us during our childhood is spirit. The spirit, however, resides in the human body and must be perceived there through the body, within man. It can be viewed in its pure, free form if one acquires through the faculty of Inspiration the capacity not only to think in mathematical concepts but to view that which exists as a real force in that it organizes us through and through up until the seventh year. And that which manifests itself partially in mathematics and reveals itself as a much more expansive realm through Inspiration can be inwardly viewed, if one employs certain spiritual scientific methods about which — as I have said — I plan yet to speak. One thereby gains not merely new results to add to those acquired through the old powers of cognition but rather an entirely new mode of apprehension. One acquires a new “Inspirative” cognition.
The course of human evolution has been such that these powers of Inspirative cognition have receded with the passage of time, after having been present earlier to a very high degree. One must come to understand how Inspiration arises within the inner being of man — that same Inspiration that survives in the West only in the diluted, intellectual experience of mathematics. The experience can be expanded, however, if only one comprehends fully the inner nature of that realm; only then does one begin to understand what lived in that earlier consciousness transmitted to us actually only from the East, from the Vedanta and the other Eastern philosophies that remain so cryptic to the Western mind. For what was it that actually lived within these Eastern philosophies? lt was something that arose through soul faculties of a mathematical nature. It was an Inspiration. It was not merely mathematics but rather something attained within the soul in a way similar to that in which one performs mathematics. Thus I would say that the mathematical atmosphere emanating from the Vedanta and similar ancient world views is something that can be understood from the perspective one attains in rising again to enter the realm of Inspiration. If one can raise to vivid inner life that which works unconsciously in mathematics and the mathematical sciences and can carry it over into another realm, one discovers the same mathematical element that Goethe viewed. Goethe modestly confessed that he did not have proficiency in mathematics in any conventional sense. Goethe has written on his relationship to mathematics in a very interesting series of essays, which you can find in his scientific writings under the heading “Relationship to Mathematics.” Extraordinarily interesting! For despite Goethe's modest confession that he had not acquired a proficiency in the handling of actual mathematical concepts and theories, he does require one thing: he calls for a phenomenalism such as he employed in his own scientific studies. He demands that within the secondary phenomena confronting us in the phenomenal world we seek the archetypal phenomenon [Urphänomen]. But just what kind of activity is this? He demands that we trace external phenomena back to the archetypal phenomenon, in just the same way that the mathematician traces the outward apprehension [äusseres Anschauen] of complex structures back to the axiom. Goethe's archetypal phenomena are empirical axioms, axioms that can be experienced.
Goethe thus demands, in a truly mathematical spirit, that one inwardly permeate phenomena with mathematics. He writes that we must see the archetypal phenomena in such a way that we are able at all times to justify our procedures according to the rigorous requirements of the mathematician. Thus what Goethe seeks is a modified, transformed mathematics, one that suffuses phenomena. He demands this as a scientific activity.
Goethe was able, therefore, to suffuse with light the one pole that otherwise remains so dark if we postulate only the concept of matter. We shall see how Goethe approached this pole; we modern must, however, approach the other, the pole of consciousness. We must investigate in the Same way how soul faculties manifest their activity in the human being, how they proceed from man's inner nature to manifest their activity externally. We shall have to investigate this. It shall become clear that we must complement the method of investigating the external world offered by Goethean phenomenology with a method of comprehending the realm of human consciousness. It must be a mode of comprehension justifiable in the sense in which Goethe's can be justified to the mathematician — a method such as I tried to employ in a modest way in my book, Philosophy of Freedom.
At the pole of matter we thus encounter the results yielded by Goethean phenomenology and at the pole of consciousness those attained by pursuing the method that I sought to establish in a modest way in my Philosophy of Freedom.
Tomorrow we will want to pursue this further.
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture IV|
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture IV|
Yesterday's considerations led us to conclude that at one boundary of cognition we must come to a halt within phenomena and then permeate them with what the phenomena call forth within our consciousness, with concepts, ideas, and so forth. It became apparent that the realm in which these ideas are most pure and pellucid is that of mathematics and analytical mechanics. Our considerations then climaxed in showing how reflection reveals that everything present in the soul as mathematics, as analytical mechanics, actually rests upon Inspiration. Then we were able to indicate how the impulses proceeding from Inspiration are diffused throughout the ancient Indian Vedanta: the same spirit from which we now draw only mathematics and analytical mechanics was once the source of the delicate spirituality of the Vedanta. We were able to show how Goethe, in establishing his mode of phenomenology, always strives to find the archetypal phenomenon while remaining within the phenomena themselves and that his search for die archetypal phenomenon that underlies complex phenomena is, inwardly, the same as the mathematician's search for the axiom underlying complex mathematical constructs. Goethe, therefore, who himself admitted that he had no conventional mathematical training, nevertheless sensed the essence of mathematics so clearly that he demanded a method for the determination of archetypal phenomena rigorous enough to satisfy a mathematician. It is just this that the Western wind finds so attractive in the Vedanta: that in its inner organization, in its progression from one contemplation to the next, it reveals the same inner necessity as mathematics and analytical mechanics. That such connections are not uncovered by academic studier of the Vedanta is simply a consequence of there being so few people today with a universal education. Those who engage in pursuits that then lead them into Oriental philosophy have too little comprehension — and, as I have said, Goethe did have this — of the true inner structure of mathematics. They thus never grasp this philosophy's vital nerve. At the one pole, then, the pole of matter, we have been able to indicate the attitude we must assume initially if we do not wish to continue weaving a Penelope's web like the world view woven by recent science but rather to come to grips with something that rests upon a firm foundation, that bears its center of gravity within itself.
On the other side there stands, as I indicated yesterday, the pole of consciousness. If we attempt to investigate the content of consciousness merely by brooding our way into our souls in the nebulous manner of certain mystics, what we attain are actually nothing but certain reminiscences that have been stored up in our consciousness since birth, since our childhoods. This can easily be demonstrated empirically. One need think only of a certain man well educated in the natural sciences who, in order to demonstrate that the so-called “inner life” partakes of the nature of reminiscences, describes an experience he once had while standing in front of a bookstore. In the store he saw a book that captured his attention by its title. It dealt with the lower form of animal life. And, seeing this book, he had to smile. Now imagine how astonished he was: a serious scientist, a professor, who sees a book title in a bookstore — a book on the lower animals at that! — and feels compelled to smile! Then he began to ponder just whence this smile might have come. At first he could think of nothing. And then it occurred to him: I shall close my eyes. And as he closed his eyes and it became dark all around him, he heard in the distance a musical motif. Hearing this musical motif in the moment reminded him of the music he had heard as a young lad when he danced for the first time. And he realized that of course there lived in his subconscious not only this musical motif but also a bit of the partner with whom he had hopped about. He realized how something that his normal consciousness had long since forgotten, something that had not made so strong an impression on him that he would have thought it possible for it to remain distinct for a whole lifetime, had now risen up within him as a whole complex of associations. And in the moment in which his attention had been occupied with a serious book, he had not been conscious that in the distance a music box was playing. Even the sounds of the music box had remained unconscious at the time. Only when he closed his eyes did they emerge.
Many things that are mere reminiscences emerge from consciousness in this way, and then some nebulous mystics come forth to tell us how they have become aware of a profound connection with the divine “Principle of Being” within their own inner life, how there resounds from within a higher experience, a rebirth of the human soul. And thereby vast mystical webs are woven, webs that are nothing but the forgotten melody of the music box. One can ascribe a great deal of the mystical literature to this forgotten melody of the music box.
This is precisely what a true spiritual science requires: that we remain circumspect and precise enough to refrain from trumpeting forth everything that arises out of the unconscious as reminiscences, as mysticism, as though it were something that could lay claim to objective meaning. For it is just the spiritual scientist who most needs inner clarity if he wishes to work in a truly fruitful way in this direction. He needs inner clarity above all when he undertakes to delve into the depths of consciousness in order to come to grips with its true nature. One must delve into the depths of consciousness itself, yet at the same time one must not remain a dilettante. One must acquire a professional competence in everything that psychopathology, psychology, and physiology have determined in order to be able to differentiate between that which makes an unjustifiable claim to spiritual scientific recognition and that which has been gained through the same kind of discipline, as, for example, mathematics or analytical mechanics.
To this end I sought already in the last century to characterize in a modest way this other pole, the pole of consciousness, as opposed to the pole of matter. To understand the pole of matter requires that we build upon Goethe's view of nature. The pole of consciousness, on the other hand, was not to be reached so easily by a Goetheanistic approach, for the simple reason that Goethe was no trivial thinker, nor trivial in his feelings when it was a matter of cognition. Rather, he brought with him into this realm all the reverence that is necessary if one seeks to approach the springs of knowledge. And thus Goethe, who was by disposition more attuned to external nature, felt a certain anxiety about anything that would lead down into the depths of consciousness itself, about thinking elaborated into its highest, purest forms. Goethe felt blessed that he had never thought about thinking. One must understand what Goethe meant by this, for one cannot actually think about thinking. One cannot actually think thinking any more than one can “iron” iron or “wood” wood. But one can do something else. What one can do is attempt to follow the paths that are opened up in thinking when it becomes more and more rational, to pursue them in the way one does through the discipline of mathematical thinking. If one does this, one enters via a natural inner progression into the realm that I sought to consider in my Philosophy of Freedom. What one attains in this way is not a thinking about thinking. One can speak of thinking about thinking in a metaphorical sense at best. One does attain something else, however: what one attains is an actual viewing [Anschauen] of thinking, but to arrive at this “viewing of thinking,” it is necessary first to have acquired a concrete notion of the nature of sense-free thinking. One must have progressed so far in the inner work of thinking that one attains a state of consciousness in which one recognizes one's thinking to be sense-free merely by grasping that thinking, by “viewing” it as such.
This is the path that I sought to follow — if only, as I have said, in a modest way — in my Philosophy of Freedom. What I sought there was first to make thinking sense-free and then to present this thinking to consciousness in the same way that mathematics or the faculties and powers of analytical mechanics are present to consciousness when one pursues these sciences with the requisite discipline.
Perhaps at this juncture I might be allowed to add a personal remark. In positing this sense-free thinking as a simple fact, yet nevertheless a fact capable of rigorous demonstration in that it can be called forth in inner experience like the structure of mathematics, I flew in the face of every kind of philosophy current in the 1880s and 1890s. It was objected again and again: this “sense-free thinking” has no basis in any kind of reality. Already in my Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethes World Conception, however, in the early 1880s, I had pointed to the experience of pure thinking, in the presence of which one realizes: you are now living in an element that no longer contains any sense impressions and nevertheless reveals itself in its inner activity as a reality. Of this thinking I had to say that it is here we find the true spiritual communion of humanity and Union with reality. It is as though we have grabbed the coat-tails of universal being and can feel how we are related to it as souls. I had to protest vigorously against what was then the trend in philosophy, that to which Eduard von Hartmann paid homage in 1869 by giving his Philosophy of the Unconscious the motto: “Speculative Results Following the Method of Scientific Induction.” That was a philosophical bow to natural science. I wrote to protest against this insubstantial metaphysics, which arises only when we allow our thinking to roll on beyond the veil of sense as I have described. I thus gave my Philosophy of Freedom the motto: “Observations of the Soul According to the Scientific Method.” I wished to indicate thereby that the content of a philosophy is not contrived but rather in the strictest sense the result of inner observation, just as color and sound result from observation of the outer world. And in experiencing this element of pure thought — an element that, to be sure, has a certain chilling effect on human nature — one makes a discovery. One discovers that human beings certainly can speak instinctively of freedom, that within man there do exist impulses that definitely tend toward freedom but that these impulses remain unconscious and instinctive until one rediscovers freedom in one's own thinking. For out of sense-free thinking there can flow impulses to moral action which, because we have attained a mode of thinking that is devoid of sensation, are no longer determined by the senses but by pure spirit. One experiences pure spirit by observing, by actually observing how moral forces flow into sense-free thinking. What one gains in this way above all is that one is able to bid farewell to any sort of mystical superstition, for superstition results in something that is in a way hidden and is only assumed on the basis of dark intimations. One can bid it farewell because now one has experienced in one's consciousness something that is inwardly transparent, something that no longer receives its impulses from without but fills itself from within with spiritual content. One has grasped universal being at one point in making oneself exclusively a theater of cognition; one has grasped the activity of universal being in its true form and observed how it yields itself to us when we give ourselves over to this inner contemplation. We grasp the actuality of universal being at one point only. We grasp it not as abstract thought but as a reality when moral impulses weave themselves into the fabric of sense-free thinking. These impulses show themselves to be free in that they no longer live as instinct but in the garb of sense-free thinking. We experience freedom — to be sure a freedom that we realize immediately man can only approach in the way that a hyperbola approaches its asymptote, yet we know that this freedom lives within man to the extent that the spirit lives within him. We first conceive the spirit within the element of freedom.
We thereby discover something deep within man that weaves together the impulses of our moral-social actions — freedom — and cognition, that which we finally attain scientifically. By grasping freedom within sense-free thinking, by understanding that this comprehension occurs only within the realm of spirit, we experience that while performing this we are indeed within the spirit. We experience a mode of cognition that manifests itself simultaneously as an inner activity. It is an inner activity that can become a deed in the external world, something entirely capable of flowing over into the social life. At that time I sought to make two points absolutely clear, but at that time they were hardly understood. I tried above all to make clear that the most important thing about following such a cognitional path is the inner “schooling” [Erziehung] that we undertake. Yes, to have attained sense-free thinking is no small thing. One must undergo many inner trials. One must overcome obstacles of which otherwise one has hardly any idea. By overcoming these obstacles; by finally attaining an inner experience that can hardly be retained because it escapes normal human powers so easily; by immersing oneself in this essence, one does not proceed in a nebulous, mystical way, but rather one descends into a luminous clarity, one immerses oneself in spirit. One comes to know the spirit. One knows what spirit is, knows because one has found the spirit by traveling along a path followed by the rest of humanity as well, except that they do not follow it to its end. It is a path, though, that must be followed to its end by all those who would strive to fulfil the social and cognitional needs of our age and to become active in those realms. That is the one thing that I intimated in my Philosophy of Freedom.
The other thing I intimated is that when we have found the freedom that lives in sense-free thinking to be the basis of true morality, we can no longer seek to deduce moral concepts and moral imperatives as a kind of analogue of natural phenomena. We must renounce everything that would lead us to ethical content obtained according to the method of natural science; this ethical content must come forth freely out of super-sensible experience. I ventured to use a term that was little understood at the time but that absolutely must be posited if one enters this inner realm and wishes to understand freedom at all. I expressed it thus: the moral realm arises within us in our moral imagination [moralische Phantasie]. I employed this term “moral imagination” with conscious intent in order to indicate that — just as with the creations of the imagination [Phantasie] — the requisite spiritual effort is expended within man, regardless of anything external, and to indicate on the other hand that everything that makes the world morally and religiously valuable for us — namely moral imperatives — can be grasped only within this realm that remains free from all external impressions and has as its ground man's inner activity alone. At the same time I indicated clearly in my Philosophy of Freedom that, if we remain within human experience, moral content reveals itself to us as the content of moral imagination but that when we enter more deeply into this moral content, which we bear down out of the spiritual world, we simultaneously enter the external world of the senses.
If you really study this philosophy, you shall see clearly the door through which it offers access to the spirit. Yet in formulating it I proceed in such a way that my method could meet the rigorous requirements of analytical mechanics, and I placed no value on any concurrence with the twaddle arising out of spiritualism and nebulous mysticism. One can easily earn approbation from these sides if one wants to ramble on idly about “the spirit” but avoids the inner path that I sought to traverse at that time. I sought to bring certainty and rigor into the investigation of the spirit, and it remained a matter of total indifference to me whether my results concurred with all the twaddle that comes forth from nebulous mystical depths to represent the spirit. At the same time, however, something else was gained in this process.
If one pursues further the two paths that I described on the basis of actual observation of consciousness in my Philosophy of Freedom, if one goes yet further, takes the next step — then what? If one has attained the inner experiences that are to be found within the sphere of pure thought, experiences that reveal themselves in the end as experiences of freedom, one achieves a transformation of the cognitional process with respect to the inner realm of consciousness. Then concepts and ideas no longer remain merely that; Hegelianism no longer remains Hegelianism and abstraction no longer abstraction, for at this point consciousness passes over into the actual realm of the spirit. Then one's immediate experience is no longer the mere “concept,” the mere “idea,” no longer the realm of thought that constitutes Hegelian philosophy — no: now concepts and ideas transform themselves into images, into Imagination. One discovers the higher plane of which moral imagination is only the initial projection; one discovers the cognitional level of Imagination. While philosophising, one remains caught within a self-created reality; now, after pursuing the inner path indicated by my Philosophy of Freedom, after transcending the level of imagination [Phantasie], one enters a realm of ideas that are no longer dream-images but are grounded in spiritual realities, just as color and tone are grounded in the realities of sense. At this point one attains the realm of Imagination, a thinking in pictures [bildliches Denken]. One attains Imaginations that are real, that are no longer merely a subjective inner experience but part of an objective spiritual world. One attains Inspiration, which can be experienced when one performs mathematics in the right way, when this performance of mathematics itself becomes an experience that can then be developed further into that which one finds in the Vedanta. Inspiration is complemented at the other pole by Imagination, and only through Imagination does one arrive at something enabling one to comprehend man. In Imaginations, in pictorial representations [bildhafte Vorstellungen] — representations that have a more concrete content than abstract thoughts — one finds what is needed to comprehend man from the point of view of consciousness. One must renounce proceeding further when one has reached this point and not simply allow sense-free thinking to roll on with a kind of inner inertia, nor believe that one can penetrate into the secret depths of consciousness through sense-free thinking. Instead one must have the resolve to call a halt and confront the “external world” of the spirit from within. Theo one will no longer spin thoughts into a consciousness that can never fully grasp them; rather, one will receive Imagination, through which consciousness can finally be comprehended. One must learn to call a halt at this limit within the phenomena themselves, and thoughts then reveal themselves to one as that within cognition which can organize these phenomena; one needs to renounce at the outward limit of cognition and thereby receive the spiritual complement to phenomena in the intellect. In just this way one must renounce in the process of inner investigation, one must come to a halt with one's thinking and transform it. Thinking must be brought inwardly to a kind of reflection [Reflexion] capable of receiving images that then unfold the inner nature of man. Let me indicate the soul's inner life in this way [see illustration]. If through self-contemplation and sense-free thinking I approach this inner realm, I must not roll onward with my thinking lest I pass into a region where sense-free thinking finds nothing and can call forth only subjective pictures or reminiscences out of my past. I must renounce and turn back. But then Imagination will reveal itself at the point of reflection. Then the inner world reveals itself to me as a world of Imagination.
Now, you see, we arrive inwardly at two poles. By proceeding into the outer world we approach the pole of Inspiration; by proceeding into the inner world of consciousness we approach the pole of Imagination. Once one has grasped these Imaginations it becomes possible to collate them, just as one collates data concerning external nature by means of experiments and conceptual thinking. In this manner one can collate inwardly something real, something that is not a physical body but an etheric body informing man's physical body throughout his whole life, yet in an especially intensive manner during the first seven years. At the change of teeth this etheric body takes on a somewhat different configuration [Gestalt], as I described to you yesterday. By having attained Imagination one is able to observe the way in which the etheric or life-body works within the physical body.
Now, it would be easy to object from the standpoint of some philosophical epistemology or other: if he wishes to remain logical, man must remain within the conceptual, within what is accessible to discursive thinking and capable of demonstration in the usual sense of the term. Fine. One can philosophise thus on and on. Yet however strong one's belief in such an epistemological tissue, however logically correct it may be, reality does not manifest itself thus; it does not live in the element of logical constructs. Reality lives in pictures, and if we do not resolve to achieve pictures or Imaginations, man's real nature shall elude our grasp. It is not at all a matter of deciding beforehand out of a certain predilection just what form knowledge must take in order to be valid but rather of asking reality in what form it wishes to reveal itself. This leads us to Imagination. In this way, then, what lives within moral imagination manifests itself as the projection into normal consciousness of a higher spiritual world that can be grasped in Imagination.
And thus, ladies and gentlemen, I have led you, or at least sought to lead you, to the two poles of Inspiration and Imagination, which we shall consider more closely in the next few days in the light of spiritual science. I had to lead you to the portal, as it were, beforehand, in order to show that the existence of this portal is well founded in the normal scientific sense. For it is only upon such a foundation that we later can build the edifice of spiritual science itself, which we enter through that portal. To be sure, in traversing the long path, in employing the extremely demanding epistemological method I described to you today — which many may feel is difficult to understand — one must have the courage to come to grips not only with Hegel but also with “anti-Hegel.” One must not only pursue the Hegelianism that I sought to depict in my Riddles of Philosophy; one must also learn to give Stirner his due, for in Stirner's philosophy there lies something that rises out of consciousness to reveal itself as the ego. And if one simply gives rein to this ego that comes forth out of instinctive experiences, if one does not permeate it with that which manifests itself as moral imagination and Imagination, this ego becomes antisocial. As we have seen, Philosophy of Freedom attempts to replace Stirner's egoism with something truly social. One must have the courage to pass through the instinctive ego Stirner describes in order to reach Imagination, and one must also have the courage to confront face-to-face the psychology of association that Mill, Spencer, and other like-minded proponents have sought to promulgate, a psychology that seeks to comprehend consciousness in a bare concept but cannot. One must have the courage to realize and admit to oneself that today we must follow another path entirely. The ancient Oriental could follow a path no longer accessible to us, in that he formulated his experiences of an inner mathematics in the Vedanta. This path is no longer accessible to the West. Humanity is in a process of constant evolution. It has progressed. Another path, another method, must be sought. This new method is now in its infancy, and its immaturity is best revealed when one realizes that this psychology of association, which seeks to collate inner representations according to laws in the same way one collates the data of natural phenomena, is nothing but the inertia of thinking that wants to break through a boundary but actually enters a void. To understand this one must come to know this psychology of association for what it really is and then learn to lead it over through an inner contemplative viewing [Schauung] into the realm of Imagination. Just as the Orient once saw the Vedanta arise within an element of primal mathematical thought and was able to enter thus into the spirituality of the external world, so we must seek the spirit in the way in which it tasks us today: we must look within and have the courage to proceed from mere concepts and ideas to Imaginations, to develop this pictorial consciousness within and thereby to discover the spirituality within ourselves. Then we shall be able to bear this spirituality back out into the external world. We shall have attained a spirituality grasped by the inner being of man, a spirituality that thus can bear fruit within the social life. The quality of our social life shall depend entirely on our nurturing a mode of cognition such as this, which can at the same time embrace the social. That this is the case I hope to show in the lectures yet to follow.
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture V|
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture V|
Today it will be necessary to come to terms with a number of things that actually can be understood only if one is able to overcome certain prejudices that have long been cultivated and zealously inculcated right up to the present day. Much of what shall be said here today, and further substantiated tomorrow, must be comprehended through raising oneself up to an inner viewing [Anschauung] of the spirit. You must consider that when the results of a scientific investigation of the spirit are met with a demand for proof such as is recognized by contemporary science or jurisprudence, or even contemporary social science — which is so useless in the face of life itself — one does not get very far at all. For the true spiritual scientist must already bear this method of demonstration within himself. He must have schooled himself in the rigorous methods of contemporary science, even of the mathematical sciences. He must know what mode of demonstration is demanded in these circles, and he must suffuse the processes of his whole inner life with this method: therein he builds the foundation for a higher mode of cognition. For this reason it is usually the case that when the demands of normal consciousness are placed before the spiritual scientist, he is thoroughly at home in the field from which the question stems. He has long since anticipated the objections that can be raised. One could even go so far as to say that he is only a spiritual scientist in the true sense of the word — in the sense in which we characterized spiritual science yesterday — to the extent that he has subjected himself to the rigorous discipline of the modern scientific method and knows at least the tenor of modern scientific thought quite well. I must make this one preliminary remark and add one other. If one cannot transcend the manner of demonstration that experimentation has made scientific habit, one shall never attain knowledge that can benefit society. For in a scientific experiment one proceeds — even if one cherishes the illusion that it is otherwise — in such a way that one moves in a certain direction and allows phenomena to confirm what lives within the ideas one has formulated as a natural law, or perhaps mathematically.
Now, when one is required to translate one's knowledge into social judgments, in other words, if the ideas that one has formulated as the natural laws of contemporary anthropology or biology or Darwinism — no matter how “progressive” this Darwinism might be — are to have validity; if one wants to translate them into a social science that can become truly practical, this knowledge obtained through experimentation is totally inadequate. lt is totally inadequate because one cannot simply sit in a laboratory and wait to see what one's ideas call forth when they are applied to society. Thereby thousands upon thousands of people could easily die or starve or be made to suffer in some other way. A great part of the misery in our society has been called forth in just this way. Because they have originated in pure experimentation, our ideas have gradually become too narrow and impoverished to subsist in reality, which they must be able to do if thought is ever to enrich the sphere of practical life. I have already indicated the stance the spiritual scientist must take regarding the two boundaries that arise within cognition — the boundaries at the poles of matter and consciousness — if he is to attain knowledge that can reflect light back into nature and at the same time forward into the social future. I have shown that at the boundary of the material world one must not allow one's thinking to roll on with its own inertia in order to construct mechanistic, atomistic, or molecular world conceptions tending toward the metaphysical but call a halt at the boundary and develop instead something that normally is not yet present as a faculty of cognition. One must develop Inspiration. On the other hand, I have shown you that if one wishes to come to an understanding of consciousness, one must not attempt, as Anglo-American associative psychology does, to penetrate into consciousness with ideas and concepts called forth by the natural world. It must be entirely clear in one's mind that consciousness is constituted such that these ideas culled from the external world can gain no access. We must abandon such ideas and seek rather to enter the realm of Imaginative cognition. In order to achieve self-knowledge we must permeate the concepts and ideas with content, so that they become images. Until the view of man which was born in the West and now has all of civilization in its grasp is transformed into Imaginative cognition, we shall never progress in coming to terms with this second boundary presenting itself to normal human cognition.
At the same time, however, one can say that humanity has evolved from certain stages, now become historical, to the point that requires that it progress to Inspiration on the one hand and Imagination on the other. Whoever is able to perceive what humanity is undergoing at the present, what is just beginning to reveal its first symptoms, knows that forces are rising out of the depths of human evolution that tend toward the proper introduction of Imagination and Inspiration into human evolution.
Inspiration cannot be attained except by exercising a certain faculty of mental representation in the way that I described in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, and shall describe at least in outline in the coming lectures. When one has progressed far enough in a kind of inner self-cultivation, a schooling of the self in a certain form of mental representation [Vorstellen]; when one schools oneself to live within the realm of representations, ideals, and concepts that live within the mind — then one learns what it means to live in Inspiration. For when one exercises consciously the faculty that otherwise “mathematicizes” within us during the first seven years up to the change of teeth (in normal life and in conventional science this occurs unconsciously), when one enters into this “living mathematics,” into this “living mechanics,” it is as though one were to fall asleep, entering not into unconsciousness or nebulous dreams but into a new form of consciousness that I shall begin to describe to you today. One takes up into full consciousness what otherwise works within as the sense of balance, the sense of movement, and the sense of life. It is as though one were to wrest from oneself what otherwise lives within as sensations of balance, movement, and life so that one lives within them with the extended mathematical representations. Tomorrow I shall speak about this at greater length. One passes over into another consciousness, within which one experiences something like a toneless weaving in a cosmic music. I cannot describe it otherwise. One unites with this weaving in a toneless music in a way similar to that by which one makes the physical body one's own through the activity of the ego in childhood. This weaving in a toneless music provides the other, rigorously demonstrable awareness that one is now outside the body with one's soul-spirit. One begins to comprehend that even in normal sleep one's soul-spirit is outside the body. Yet the experience of sleep is not permeated with that which vibrates when leaving the body consciously through one's own initiative, and one experiences initially something like an inner unrest, an inner unrest that exhibits a musical quality when one enters into it with full consciousness. This unrest is gradually elucidated when the musical element one experiences there becomes a kind of wordless revelation of speech from the spiritual cosmos. These matters naturally appear grotesque and paradoxical to these who hear them for the first time. Yet much has arisen in the course of cosmic evolution that first appeared paradoxical and grotesque, and human evolution will not advance if one wishes to pass over these phenomena only half-consciously or unconsciously. Initially one has only a certain experience, an experience of a kind of toneless music. Then out of this experience of toneless music there arises something which, when experienced, enables us to comprehend inwardly a content as meaningful as that which is conveyed to us when we listen outwardly to a man who speaks to us via sensible words. The spiritual world simply begins to speak, and one has only to begin to acquire an experience of this.
Then one comes to experience something at a higher level. One no longer only weaves and lives in a toneless music and no longer merely perceives the speech of the super-sensible spiritual world: one begins to recognize the contours of something that reveals itself within this super-sensible world, the contours of beings. Within this universal spiritual speech that one initially encounters there emerge individual spiritual beings, in the same way that we, listening at a lower level to the speech of another man, crystallize or organize — if I may use such trivial expressions — what reveals itself as his soul and spirit into something substantial. We begin to live within the contemplation and knowledge of a spiritual reality. This realm of the spirit replaces the vacuous, insubstantial, metaphysical world of atoms and molecules: it confronts us as the reality that lies behind the phenomena of the sense world. We no longer stand in the same relation to the boundary of the material world as when we allow conceptualizing to roll on with its own inertia, attempting to carry the kind of thinking developed through interaction with the sense world beyond the boundary. Now we stand in a relationship to this boundary of sense such that the spiritual content of the world suddenly stands revealed there. This is one boundary to cognition.
Ladies and gentlemen, humanity at this point in its evolution is yearning to step out of itself, to step out of the body in this way, and one can see this tendency exemplified quite clearly in certain individuals. Human beings seek to withdraw from their bodies that which the spiritual scientist withdraws with full consciousness. The spiritual scientist withdraws this in a way analogous to the way in which he applies inwardly obtained concepts in a systematic, organized fashion to the natural world. As some of you will know, for some time now a great deal of attention has been paid to a remarkable illness. Psychologists and psychiatrists term this “pathological questioning or doubt” [Grübelsucht; Zweifelsucht]; it would perhaps better be termed “pathological skepticism.” One now encounters innumerable instances of this illness in the most remarkable forms, and it is already necessary that the study of this disease in particular be promoted within the cultural context of our time. This illness manifests itself — you can learn a great deal about it from the psychiatric literature — in these people, from a certain age onward, usually from puberty or the period immediately preceding puberty, no longer being able to relate properly to the external world. When confronted with their experiences in the external world, these people are overcome by an infinite number of questions. There are certain individuals who, though they remain otherwise fully rational, can pursue their duties to a great extent and are fully cognizant of their condition, must begin to pose the most extraordinary questions if they are but slightly withdrawn from what normally binds them to the external world. These questions simply intrude into their life and cannot be brushed aside. They intrude themselves especially strongly in individuals with healthy, or even conspicuously healthy, organizations — in individuals who have an open mind and a certain understanding for the manner in which modern scientific thinking proceeds. They experience modern science in this way, so that they cannot understand at all how such questions arise unconsciously thereby. Such phenomena are evident especially in women, who have less robust natures than men and who also tend to acquire their knowledge of natural science, if they undertake to do so, not so much through the highly disciplined scientific literature but rather through works intended for laymen and dilettanti. For if at this time immediately before puberty, or just when puberty is on the wane, there should occur an intense preoccupation with modern scientific thought in the way I have just described, among such people a high incidence of this disease can be observed. It manifests itself in these people having then to ask: where ever does the sun come from? And no matter how clever the answers one gives them, one question always calls forth another. Where does the human heart come from? Why does it beat? Did I not forget two or three sins at confession? What happened when I took Communion? Did a few crumbs of the Host perhaps fall to the ground? Did I not try to mail a letter somewhere and miss the slot? I could produce a whole litany of such examples for you, and you would see that all this is eminently suited to keeping one uneasy.
Now, when the spiritual scientist comes to consider this matter he feels himself right at home. It is simply a manifestation of the element in which the spiritual scientist resides consciously when he achieves an experience of the toneless musical speech of spiritual beings through Inspiration. Those afflicted with pathological skepticism enter this region unconsciously. They have cultivated nothing that would enable them to comprehend the state into which they enter. The spiritual scientist knows that throughout the entire night, from falling asleep until waking, one lives in an element consisting entirely of such questions, that out of the sleeping state countless questions arise within one. The spiritual scientist knows this condition, because he can experience it consciously. Whoever approaches these matters from the standpoint of normal consciousness and seeks thus to comprehend them will perhaps make attempts at all kinds of rationalistic explanations, but he will not arrive at the truth, because he is unable to comprehend the matter through Inspirative cognition. Such a one sees that there are, for example, people who go to the theater in the evening and on leaving the theater are helpless to resist the countless questions that overcome them: what is this actress's relationship to the outer world? What was that actor doing some previous year? What are the relationships between the individual actors and actresses? How was this or that flat constructed? Which painter is responsible for each? and so on, and so on. For days on end such people are subject to the influence of this pesky questioner within. This is a pathological condition that one begins to understand only by realizing that these people enter a region the spiritual scientist experiences in Inspiration by approaching this realm differently from these afflicted with this pathological condition. Persons in this pathological state enter the same region as the spiritual scientist, but they do not take their egos with them; in a certain sense they lose their egos upon entering this realm. And it is just this ego that is the ordering faculty. It is the ego that is capable of bringing the same kind of order into this world as we are able to bring to our physical environment. The spiritual scientist knows that one lives in this same region between falling asleep and waking. Everyone who returns from the theater actually is deluged by all these questions in the night while he sleeps, but due to the operation of certain laws sleep normally spreads itself out over this interlocutor, so that one has finished with him by the time one awakes again.
In order to perform valid spiritual research, one must bear into this region unimpaired judgment, complete discretion, and the full force of the human ego. Then we do not live in this region in a kind of super-skepticism but rather with just as much self-possession and confidence as in the physical world. And actually all the meditative exercises that I have given in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, are intended in large part to result in a greater ability to enter this region preserving one's ego in full consciousness and in strict inner discipline. The purpose of a large part of the spiritual scientist's initial schooling is to keep him from losing the inner support and discipline of the ego while traversing this path.
The finest example in recent times of a man who entered this region without full preparation is someone whom Dr. Husemann has characterized here in another context. The finest example is Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche is, to be sure, an extraordinary personality. In a certain sense he was not an intellectual at all. He was not your conventional scholar. With the tremendous gifts of genius, however, he grew out of puberty into scientific research; with these tremendous gifts he was able to take in what the contemporary sciences can offer. That, despite having acquired this knowledge, he did not become a scholar of the conventional sort is shown quite simply by the polemics of so exemplary a modern scholar as Wilamowitz, who came out in opposition immediately after the appearance of the young Nietzsche's first publication. Nietzsche had just published his treatise, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, in which there resounds a readiness to undergo initiation, to enter the musical, the Inspirative — even the title reveals his yearning for the realm that I have characterized — but he could not. The possibility did not exist. In Nietzsche's time a conscious spiritual science did not exist, but in giving his work the title, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, he indicated that he wished to come to terms with a phenomenon such as Wagnerian tragedy out of this spirit of music. And he entered further and further into this realm. As I said, Wilamowitz immediately came out in Opposition and wrote his polemics against The Birth of Tragedy, in which he completely rejected from his academic point of view what Nietzsche, unschooled but yearning for knowledge, had written. From the point of view of modern science he was of course completely justified. And actually it is hard to understand how so excellent a thinker as Erwin Rohde could have believed a compromise was possible between this modern philology that Wilamowitz represented and what lived within Nietzsche as a dark striving, as a yearning for initiation, for Inspiration. What Nietzsche had acquired in this manner, had inwardly appropriated, grew out into the other fields of contemporary sciences. It grew into positivism, namely that of the Frenchman, Comte, and the German, Dühring. While cataloguing Nietzsche's library in the 1890s I saw with my own eyes all the marks Nietzsche had so conscientiously made in the margins of Dühring's works, from which he acquired his knowledge of positivism; I held all these books in my own hand. I could enter sympathetically right into the manner in which Nietzsche took positivism up into himself. I could well imagine how he then reverted to an extra-corporeal existence, where he experienced this positivism again without having penetrated into this region sufficiently with his ego. As a result, he produced works such as Human, All Too Human, exhibiting a constant oscillation between an inability to move within the world of Inspiration and a desire to remain there nonetheless. One notices this in the aphoristic progression of Nietzsche's style in these works. Nietzsche strives to bring his ego into this realm, but it tears itself away again and again: thus he produces not a systematic, artistic presentation but only aphorisms. It is just this constant self-interruption in aphorism that reveals the inward soul of this remarkable spirit. And then he rises to encounter that which has provided modern science, the contemporary physical sciences, with their greatest riddles. He rises up to encounter what lives in Darwinism, what lives in the theory of evolution, and attempts to demonstrate how the most complicated organisms have gradually arisen out of the most primitive. He penetrates into this realm, a realm into which I have sought in a modest way to bring inner structure and an inward mobility — you can follow this in the discussion of Haeckel in my book, The Riddles of Philosophy. Nietzsche enters this realm, and there emerges from his soul the notion of a kind of super-evolution [Überevolutionsgedanke]. He follows the course of evolution up to man, where this notion of evolution explodes to create his “super-man.” In following this self-progression of evolving beings he loses the content, because he is unable to obtain the true content through Inspiration: he is confined to the empty idea of “eternal recurrence.”
Only by virtue of the inner integrity of his personality was Nietzsche able to avoid what the pathologist calls “pathological skepticism.” It was something within Nietzsche, a prodigious health that Nietzsche himself sensed underlying his debility, that asserted itself and kept him from falling prey to complete skepticism, leading him rather to contrive what later became the content of his most inspiring words. No wonder, then, that this excursion into the spiritual world, this striving to proceed from music to the inner word, to inner being, culminated in the most unmusical of ideas — that of “the eternal recurrence of the same”— and the empty, merely lyrical “superman.” No wonder that it had to end in the condition that his physician, for example, diagnosed as an “atypical case of paralysis.”
Yes, this man who did not know Nietzsche's inner life, who was incapable of judging it from the standpoint of spiritual science and confronted the images and ideas of Nietzsche's inner life as a mere psychiatrist, without sympathetic understanding — this man found only an abstraction to answer the question posed by the concrete case before him. With regard to all nature du Bois-Reymond had said in 1872: ignorabimus. Confronted with exceptional cases, the psychiatrist says: paralysis, atypical paralysis. Confronted with concrete cases that reveal the essence of present human evolution, the psychiatrist can say only ignorabimus, or ignoramus. This is but a translation of what is clothed in the words “atypical case of paralysis.”
This eventually destroyed Nietzsche's body. It produced the condition that makes Nietzsche such a revealing phenomenon within our contemporary cultural life. This is the other form of the debility appearing in certain highly cultivated individuals, which psychiatrists term pathological doubt or hyper-skepticism. And the phenomenon of Nietzsche — here I must be allowed a personal remark — stood before my eyes the moment that, trembling, I entered his room in Naumburg a few years after his illness. He lay upon the sofa after dinner, staring into space. He recognized nobody around him and stared at one like a complete idiot, but the light of his former genius still gleamed within his eyes.
If one looked at Nietzsche knowing all one could about his world view, about the ideas and images that lived within his soul; if, unlike the mere psychiatrist, one stood before Nietzsche, this ruin of a man, this physical wreck, with this image in one's soul, then one knew: this man strove to view the world revealed by Inspiration. Nothing of this world came forth to him. And the part of him that desired to achieve Inspiration finally extinguished itself: for years the physical organism was filled by a soul-spirit devoid of content.
From such a sight one can learn the whole tragedy of our modern culture, its striving for the spiritual world, its inclination toward that which can proceed from Inspiration. For me — and I do not hesitate in the slightest to introduce a personal remark here — this was one of those moments that can be interpreted in a Goethean manner. Goethe says that nature conceals no secret that she is not willing to reveal in one place or another. No, the entire world contains not a single secret that is not revealed in one place or another. The present stage of human evolution conceals the secret that humanity is giving birth to a striving, an inclination, an impulse that rumbles within the social upheavals our civilization is undergoing — an impulse that seeks to view the spiritual world of Inspiration. And Nietzsche was the one point where nature revealed its open secret, where the striving that exists within humanity as a whole could reveal itself. We must seek this if all those striving for education, seeking within modern science — and this shall be the entire civilized world, for education must become universal — if humanity as a whole is not to lose its ego and civilization fall into barbarism.
That is one great cultural anxiety, one great threat to civilization, which must be faced by anyone who follows the contemporary progress of human evolution and seeks to develop a thinking that can grasp the realities of social life. Similar phenomena assert themselves on the other side as well, on the side of consciousness. And we shall have to study these phenomena on the side of consciousness at least in outline as well. We shall see how these other phenomena arise out of the chaos of contemporary life, phenomena that appear pathologically and have been described by Westphal, Falret, and others. It is no accident that these have been described only just in the most recent decades. On the other side, that of the boundary of consciousness, we encounter the phenomena of claustrophobia, astraphobia, and agoraphobia, 6“Astraphobia” = morbid dread of storms; “agoraphobia” = morbid dread of crossing, or being in, open spaces. just as we encounter pathological skepticism on the side of matter. And in the same way (we shall discuss this further) in which pathological skepticism must be cured culturally-historically through the cultivation of Inspiration — one of the great talks of contemporary social ethics — we are threatened with the emergence of the phenomena that I shall describe tomorrow: claustrophobia, astraphobia, and agoraphobia. These emerge pathologically and can be overcome through Imagination, which, when civilization has acquired it, shall become a social blessing for all humanity.
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture VI|
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture VI|
Yesterday I closed with a consideration of what reveals itself at one boundary of scientific thinking as a real and true mode of cognition: I closed with a characterization of Inspiration. I have brought to your attention the way in which man enters through Inspiration a spiritual world: he knows that he is in this world and feels also that he is outside the body. I have shown you how the transition from the experience of a “toneless” musical element to a merger with an individuated element of being occurs. It also became clear in the course of yesterday's considerations of pathological skepticism and hypercriticism that pathological conditions can arise within man if he takes this step out of the body without the accompaniment of the ego, if he does not suffuse the conditions he experiences in Inspiration with full self-consciousness. If one brings the ego into Inspiration, Inspiration represents a healthy, indeed a necessary, step forward in human cognition. Yet in a cultural epoch such as ours, in which man's being is striving to free itself from the physical organism, one cannot allow this condition to come about in an instinctive, unconscious, unhealthy way without the emergence of the pathological conditions we discussed yesterday. For, you see, there exist two poles in human nature. We can either turn to what opens a free, spiritual vision of the highest realities, or, by shunning this, by not summoning sufficient courage to penetrate into these regions with full consciousness but allowing ourselves to be driven by unconscious forces within ourselves, we can call forth illness in the physical organism. And it would be a grave error to believe that one could guard against this illness by electing not to strive into the actual spiritual world. Illness will occur anyway, if the instincts are allowed to drive the astral body, as we call it, out of the organism. Yet especially at the present time, even if we do not investigate the spiritual world ourselves, we are fully protected against the pathological states that I described yesterday — even against those arising only in the soul — by seeking to comprehend rationally the ideas of spiritual science.
What is it, however, that we bear into the spiritual world when we take full consciousness with us? You need only follow somewhat man's development from birth to the change of teeth and beyond in Order to realize that, besides the development of speech, thinking, and so forth, an especially important element in this human development is the gradual emergence and transformation of memory. If you then look at the course of human life, you will come to see the tremendous importance of memory for a fully human existence. If, as a result of certain pathological conditions, the continuity of memory is interrupted, so that we cannot recall certain experiences we have had, then a serious illness befalls us, for we feel that the thread of the ego, which otherwise runs through our lives, has been broken. You can consult my book, Theosophy, on this: memory is intimately connected with the ego. Thus in pursuing the path I have characterized we must take care not to lose what manifests itself in memory. We must take along with us into the world of Inspiration the power of soul that provides us with memory.
Just as in nature everything changes, however — just as the plant, in growing, metamorphoses its green leaves into the red petals of the flower; just as everything in nature is in constant metamorphosis, so it is with everything concerning human existence. If we really bear the faculty of memory out into the world of Inspiration under the full influence of ego-consciousness, it metamorphoses itself. Then one comes to realize that in the moment of one's life in which one investigates the spiritual world in Inspiration, one does not have the normal faculty of memory at one's disposal. One has this faculty of memory at one's disposal in healthy life within the body; outside the body, this faculty is no longer available.
This results in something extraordinary — something that, since I present it to your mind's eye for the First time, might seem paradoxical, yet that is fully grounded in reality. Whoever has become a true spiritual scientist, who enters and seeks to experience through Inspiration actual spiritual reality as I have described it in my books, must experience this reality each time anew if he wishes to have it present to consciousness. Thus whenever someone speaks out of Inspiration concerning the spiritual world — not from notes or from mere memory but when he expresses immediately what reveals itself to him in the spiritual world — he must perform the task of spiritual perception each time anew. The faculty of memory has transformed itself. One has retained only the power to call forth the experience again and again. For that reason the spiritual scientist does not have it so easy as one who relies on mere memory. He cannot simply communicate some information out of memory but must call forth anew each time what presents itself to him in Inspiration. In this matter it is essentially the same as it is in normal sense perception of the physical world. If you wish actually to perceive within the physical world of the senses, you cannot turn away from what you wish to perceive and still have the same perception in another place. You must return to the object. In the same way, the spiritual scientist must return to the Same spiritual content of consciousness. And just as in physical perception one must learn to move about in space in order to perceive this or that in turn, the spiritual scientist who has attained Inspiration must learn to move freely within the element of time. He must be able — if you will allow me to use a paradoxical expression — to swim within the element of time. He must learn to travel along with time itself, and when he has learned this, he finds that the faculty of memory has undergone a metamorphosis, that the faculty of memory has transformed itself into something else. What memory performed within the physical world of the senses must be replaced by spiritual perception. This transformed memory, however, gives the spiritual scientist perception of a more encompassing ego. Now the ego is recognized to be more encompassing. When one has transformed memory, which contains the power of the ego between birth and death, the content of the ego cracks the husk that circumscribes but one lifetime. Then the fact of repeated earthly incarnations, alternating with a purely spiritual existence between death and rebirth, emerges as something that can be grasped as a reality.
On the other side, the side of consciousness, there emerges something different when one seeks to avoid what an ancient view of the spirit, that of the Vedanta, did not yet know. We in the West feel on the one hand the loftiness of the spiritual view when we steep ourselves in the ancient Oriental wisdom. We feel that in the Vedanta the soul was borne up into spiritual regions in which it could move in a way that the Westerner's normal consciousness can only in mathematical, geometrical, analytic-mechanical thinking. When we descend into the expansive realms that in the Orient were accessible to normal consciousness, however, we find something that we Westerners, because of our more advanced state of evolution, can no longer bear: we find an extensive symbolism, an allegorization of the natural world. It is this symbolism, this allegorization, this thinking about external nature in images, that makes us clearly aware that we are being led away from reality, away from a true investigation of nature. This has become part of certain religious confessions. Certain religious confessions are at a loss how to proceed with this act of symbolization, of mythologization, which has become decadent. For us in the West, that which the Oriental, living in an illusory world, applied directly in this way to external nature, that with which he believed himself capable of arriving at insights concerning the natural world — for us at present this has value only as an exercise preliminary to further spiritual research. We must acquire the soul faculty that the Oriental employed in symbolism and anthropomorphism. We must exercise this faculty inwardly and remain fully conscious thereby: we lapse into superstitions, into rhapsodic enthusiasm for nature, if we employ this faculty to any end but the cultivation of our soul. Later I shall have occasion to speak here about the particulars of this — which, by the way, you can find in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment.
By taking this faculty that the Oriental turned outward and employing it inwardly, as an activity of inner schooling [Kraft des Übens], by first developing a pictorial representation in such a way within, one actually begins to arrive at new insights on the other side, on the side of consciousness. One gradually achieves a transformation of abstract, merely notional thinking into pictorial thinking. Then there arises what I can only call an experiential thinking [erlebendes Denken]. One experiences pictorial thinking. Why does one experience this? One experiences nothing other than what is active within the physical body during the first years of childhood, as I have described it to you. One experiences not the human organism that has taken static form in space but rather what lives and weaves within man. One experiences it in pictures. One gradually struggles through to a viewing of the life of the soul in its actuality. On the other side the content of consciousness gradually emerges within cognition: pictorial representation, a life within Imagination. And without entering into this life of Imaginations, modern psychology shall not progress. In this way, and in this way only, by entering into Imagination, there will arise again a psychology that is more than word-games, a psychology that actually looks into the soul of man.
Just as the time has come in which, as a result of general cultural relationships, man is gradually excarnating from the physical body and striving for Inspiration, as we have seen in the example of Nietzsche, the time has come in which man, if he desires self-knowledge, should feel himself led toward Imagination. Man must descend deeper into himself than was necessary in the course of previous cultural history. If evolution is not to lapse into barbarism, humanity must attain a true image of itself [Selbstschau], and humanity can accomplish this only by accepting the knowledge offered by Imagination. That man is striving to descend deeper into his inner self than has been the case in evolution heretofore is shown, again, in the phenomena of pathological diseases of a particularly modern form. These have been described very recently by those who are able to study them from the point of view of medicine or psychiatry. It is shown above all in the emergence of agoraphobia, claustrophobia, and astraphobia — illnesses of a sort that arise especially frequently in our time. Even if they usually are observed only as pathological conditions requiring psychiatric treatment, the more acute observer can see something else altogether. He sees agoraphobia, astraphobia, and so forth already emerging from the soul-nature of humanity, just as he saw Inspiration arising pathologically in Friedrich Nietzsche. Above all, he can observe states of soul that often appear outwardly normal from which emerges agoraphobia — morbid dread of open spaces. He sees emerging something that appears as astraphobia, a state in which one fails to come to terms with an inner sensation. This inner feeling can grow to the extent that the Organs of digestion are attacked, and digestion is disturbed. He comes to know what might be called fear of isolation, agoraphobias, in which one cannot remain atone but only where there is company assembled all around and so forth. Such things emerge. These things show that humanity is presently striving for Imagination and that an illness that must otherwise become an illness of the entire culture can be counteracted only by developing Imagination. Agoraphobia — this is an illness that manifests itself in many people in a frightening way. These people grow up, and from a certain point in their lives onward remarkable conditions manifest themselves. If such a person steps out of the house into a square devoid of people he is stricken with a fear that is entirely incomprehensible to him. He is afraid of something; he does not dare go a step further into the empty square, and if he does, it can happen that he falls down on his knees or perhaps even topples over in a faint. The moment that even a child comes, the sufferer grasps its arm or merely reaches out to touch the child: in this moment he feels himself inwardly strengthened again, and the agoraphobia subsides. One case that has been described in the medical literature is particularly interesting. A young man who felt himself strong enough even to become an officer is overcome by agoraphobia while on maneuvers as he is sent out to map some terrain. His fingers tremble; he is unable to draw. Wherever there is emptiness around him, or what he perceives as emptiness, he is beset with fears that he immediately senses to be pathological. He is in the vicinity of a mill. In order to be able to perform his duty at all, he must keep a small child at his side, and its mere presence is enough for him to be able to resume drawing. We ask ourselves: what is the cause of such phenomena? Why is it that there are, for example, people who, when they have somehow forgotten to leave open the door to their bedrooms at night — something that has perhaps long since become a habit with them — wake in the night dripping sweat and can do nothing but leap up to open the door, for they cannot stand to be in an enclosed space. There are such people. Some suffer to such an extent that they must have all the doors and windows open. If their house is on a square, they must leave open the door leading out, so that they know they are free and can get out into the open at any time. This claustrophobia is something that one sees emerging — even if it often does not emerge in so radical a form — if one is able to observe human states of soul more closely.
And then there are people who feel, even to a physical degree, something inexplicable happening within them. What is it? It is an approaching thunderstorm or some other atmospheric condition. There are otherwise intelligent people who must draw the curtains whenever there is lightning or thunder. Then they must sit in a dark room, for only in this way can they protect themselves from what they experience in the atmospheric conditions. This is astraphobia, or morbid fear of thunderstorms. What is the cause of these states that we observe already very clearly in the souls of human beings today, especially in those who for a long time surrender themselves devoutly to a certain dogmatism? In these people one observes precisely these states of soul, even if they have not manifested themselves yet physically. These states are just beginning to appear. Their emergence works to upset a balanced, calm approach to life. They also emerge in such a way that they call forth all kinds of pathological conditions that are ascribed to every sort of thing, because the physical symptoms of claustrophobia, agoraphobia, or astraphobia are not yet manifest, while they must actually be ascribed to the particular configuration of soul arising within man.
What is the cause of such conditions? They are the result of our need not only to experience the life of the soul discarnately but also to bring this experience of the discarnate soul down into the physical body. We must allow it to immerse itself consciously. Just as that which I have described to you in the course of these lectures gradually extricates itself from the body between birth and the change of teeth, so also that which is experienced externally, which we could call experience of the astral, immerses itself again in the physical organism between the change of teeth and puberty. And what takes place in puberty is nothing other than this immersion between approximately the seventh and fourteenth years. The independent soul-spirit that man has developed must immerse itself in the body again, and what then emerges as physical love, as sexual desire, is nothing other than the result of this immersion I have described to you. One must come to understand this immersion clearly. Whoever wishes to gain a true understanding of the basis of consciousness must be able to effect this in a fully conscious, healthy way, using such methods as I shall describe here later. That is to say, he must learn to immerse himself in the physical body. Then he attains an initial experience of what manifests itself as an Imaginative representation of the inner realm. Here a faculty of formal representation framed for an external, three-dimensional world of plastic forms is insufficient. To perform this inner activity one needs a mobile faculty of formal representation: one must be able to overcome gradually everything spatial in Imagination and to immerse oneself in the representation of something intensive, something that radiates activity. In short, one must immerse oneself in such a way that in descending one can still clearly differentiate between oneself and one's body. Whatever inheres in the subject cannot be known. If one can keep what one experiences outside from immersing unconsciously in the physical body, one descends into the physical body and experiences in descending the essence of this body up to the level of consciousness in Imagination, in pictures.
Whoever fails to keep these pictures separate, however, and allows them to slip into the physical body, confronting the physical body not as an object but as something subjective, brings the sensation of space down into the physical body with him The astral thereby coalesces with the physical to a greater degree than should be allowed. The experience of the external world coalesces with man's inner life, and because he makes subjective what should have remained objective, he can no longer experience space normally. Fear of empty space, fear of lonely places, fear of the astrality diffused through space, of Storms, perhaps even of the moon and Stars, rise up within one. One lives too deeply within oneself. Thus it is necessary that all exercises leading to the life of Imagination protect one against descending too deeply into the body. One must immerse oneself in the body in such a way that the ego remains outside. One may not take the ego out into the world of Imagination in the way that one must carry the ego out into the world of Inspiration. Although one worked toward Imagination through a process of symbolization, through pictorial representation, in Imagination itself all pictures created by mere fantasy disappear. Now objective pictures emerge instead. Only that which actually lives within the human form ceases to confront one as an object. One loses the outward human form and there emerges a diversity of living forms from the human etheric. One now sees not the unified human form but the profusion of animal forms that interpenetrate and merge to create the human form. One comes to know in an inward way what lives within the realms of plants and minerals. One learns this through introspection. One learns what can never be learned through atomism and molecularism: one learns what actually lives within the realms of plants and minerals. And how is it that we avoid bringing the ego down into the physical body when we strive for Imagination? Only by developing the power of love more nobly than in normal life, where love is led by the powers of the bodily senses. Only by acquiring the selfless power of love, freedom from egotism not only regarding the realm of humanity but also regarding the realm of nature. Only by allowing all that leads to Imagination to be borne by love, by merging this power of love with every object of cognition that we seek in this manner.
Again we have divergent tendencies: the healthy tendency to extend the power of love into Imagination or the pathological tendency to expose ourselves to fear of what is outside. We experience what lies outside with our ego and then, without restraining our ego, bear it down into the body, giving rise to agoraphobia, claustrophobia, and astraphobia. Yet we enjoy the prospect of an extremely high mode of cognition if we can develop in a healthy way what threatens humanity in its pathological form and would lead it into barbarism.
In this way one attains a true knowledge of man. One surpasses all that anatomy, physiology, and biology can teach; one attains a true knowledge of man by actually seeing through the physical body. Oh, man comes to know himself in a way so different from that which nebulous mystics believe, who think that some abstract divinity reveals itself to them when they delve down within. Oh no, something rich and concrete reveals itself; something that provides insight into the human organism, into the nature of the lungs, the liver, and so forth. Only this can be the basis of a true anatomy, a true physiology; only this can serve as the basis for a true understanding of man and also for a true medical science. One has developed two faculties within human nature. On the side of matter is the faculty of Inspiration, developed by gradually discovering within matter a spiritual realm that expands out into the tableau Mr. Arenson has depicted for you here. The other faculty is developed by discovering within oneself the realms that I described as the basis of a true knowledge of man, of a true medical science, when I spoke here earlier this year before almost forty medical doctors.
These two faculties, however, those of Inspiration and Imagination, can join together. The one can coalesce with the other, but it must happen in full consciousness and by comprehending the cosmos in love. Then there arises a third faculty, a confluence of Imagination and Inspiration in true, spiritual Intuition. Then we rise up to that which allows us to recognize the external material world to be a spiritual world, the inner realm of the soul and spirit with its material foundations as a continuous whole; we rise up to that which grants us knowledge of the expansion of human existence beyond earthly life, as I have described it to you here in other lectures. One comes thus on the one side to know the realms of plants, animals, and minerals in their inmost essences, in their spiritual content, through Inspiration. By coming to know the human organs through Imagination one creates the basis for a true organology, and by uniting in Intuition what one has learned about plants, animals, and minerals with what Imagination reveals concerning the human organs, one attains a true therapy, a science of medication that knows in a real sense how to apply the external to the internal. The true doctor must understand medications cosmologically; he must understand the human organs anthropologically, or actually anthroposophically. He must come to grasp the external world through Inspiration, the inner world through Imagination, and he must achieve a therapy based upon real Intuition.
You see what a prospect opens before us if we are able to comprehend spiritual science in its true form. To be sure, this spiritual science still has to shed many externals and much that still adheres to it in the minds of those who believe they can nurture it with fantasies and dilettantism of every sort. Spiritual science must develop a method of research as rigorous as mathematics and analytical mechanics. On the other hand, spiritual science must rid itself of all superstitions. Spiritual science must truly be able to call forth in light-filled clarity the love that otherwise overcomes man if he can call it forth out of instinct. Then spiritual science will be a seed that will grow and send its forces out into all the sciences and thus into human life.
For this reason, let me bring to a dose what I have had to say to you in these lectures with one more brief consideration. Beforehand I would like to say that there is, of course, still much that can be read between the lines of my descriptions. Some of this I shall make legible in two lectures this evening and tomorrow: they will elaborate what I could only intimate in the short time available to us for this course. Only what is gained by attaining Imagination on the one hand and Inspiration on the other, and then uniting Imagination and Inspiration in Intuition, gives man the inner freedom and strength enabling him to conceive ideas that can then be effected in social life. And only those who experience contemporary life with a sleeping soul can fall to see everything that is brewing in the most frightful way, threatening a horrific future.
What is the spiritual cause of this? The spiritual cause of this is something one can perceive by studying attentively recent human evolution as it manifests itself in extremely prominent individuals. How human beings strove in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to arrive at clear concepts, to arrive at truly inward, clear impulses for three concepts that are of the very greatest importance for social life: the concept of capital, the concept of labor, and the concept of commodities! Just look at the relevant literature from the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries to see how human beings strove to understand what capital actually means within the social process, to see how that which human beings strove to understand in concepts has passed over into frightful struggles in the external world. Just look how intimately the particular feeling emerging within humanity in the present age corresponds to what they are able to feel and think concerning the function, the meaning of labor within the social organism. Then look at the hopelessly inadequate definition of “commodity”! Human beings strove to bring three practical concepts into clear focus. In the course of life in the civilized world today one Sees everywhere a lack of clarity regarding the triad, capital, labor, commodities. And one cannot rise up to answer the question: what function does capital have within the social organism? One is able to answer this question only when, out of a true spiritual science, by means of Imagination and Inspiration united in Intuition, one understands that a proper impulse for the functioning of capital can be found within the spiritual life as an independently subsisting part of the social organism. Only true Imagination can bring real comprehension of this part of the social organism. And one will come to realize something else as well. One will realize that one can come to understand labor's functioning within the social organism when one no longer understands what is produced by human labor in terms of the product, so that one no longer conceives commodities in the Marxist manner as congealed labor or even congealed time. Rather, one will realize that the results of human labor can be understood by arriving at a representation, at a free experience of that which can proceed from man. The concept of labor will become clear only to those who know what is revealed to man through Inspiration.
And the concept of “commodity” is the most complicated imaginable. For no single man is able to comprehend what commodities are in their actual existence in life. Anyone who wishes to define commodities has not the slightest inkling what knowledge is. “Commodity” cannot be defined, for one can define in this sense or formulate conceptually only what concerns but one individual, what one man alone can comprehend with his soul. Commodities, however, always exist in the interaction between a number of human beings and a number of individuals of a certain type. Commodities exist in the interaction between producers, consumers, and those who mediate between them. The impoverished concepts of barter and purchase, products of a discipline that fails to recognize the limits of natural science, shall never prove adequate to an understanding of commodities. Commodities, the products of human labor, exist in the relationship between several individuals, and if a solitary man undertakes to understand commodities “as such,” he is on the wrong track. Commodities must be understood as a function of the socially contracted majority of human beings, of association. Commodities must be understood in terms of association; they must exist in association. Only when associations are formed that process what originates with the producers, businessmen, and consumers will there arise — not out of the individual but through association, through the worker associations — the social concept, the concept of “commodity,” that human beings must share before there can exist a healthy economic life.
If human beings would only take the trouble to ascend to that which the spiritual scientist can convey from the realm of higher cognition, they would find concepts giving rise to the social forms we must develop if we wish to reverse the course of a civilization on the decline. It is thus no mere theoretical interest, no mere scientific need, that underlies all we shall strive for here. It is rather the most urgent need that the work and the research we do here make human beings mature enough that they can go forth from this place to all the corners of the earth, taking with them such ideas and social impulses as really can buoy up an age so rapidly sinking and reverse the course of a world so clearly in decline.
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture VII|
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture VII|
It is to be hoped that my discussions of the boundaries of natural science have been able to furnish at least some indications of the difference between what spiritual science calls knowledge of the higher worlds and the mode of knowledge proceeding from everyday consciousness or ordinary science. In everyday life and in ordinary science our powers of cognition are those we have acquired through the conventional education that carries us up to a certain stage in life and whatever this education has enabled us to make of inherited and universally human qualities. The mode of cognition that anthroposophically oriented spiritual science terms knowledge of the higher worlds has its basis in a further self-cultivation, a further self-development; one must become aware that in the later stages of life one can advance through self-education to a higher consciousness, just as a child can advance to the stage of ordinary consciousness. The things we sought in vain at the two boundaries of natural science, the boundaries of matter and of ordinary consciousness, reveal themselves only when one attains this higher consciousness. In ancient times the Eastern sages spoke of such an enhanced consciousness that renders accessible to man a level of reality higher than that of everyday life; they strove to achieve a higher development, similar to the one we have described, by means of an inner self-cultivation that corresponded to their racial characteristics and evolutionary stage. The meaning of what radiates forth from the ancient Eastern wisdom-literature becomes fully apparent only when one realizes what such a higher level of development reveals to man. If one were to characterize the path of development these sages followed, one would have to describe it as a path of Inspiration. For in that epoch humanity had a kind of natural propensity to Inspiration, and in order to understand these paths into the higher realms of cognition, it will be useful if First we can gain clarity concerning the path of development followed by these ancient Eastern sages. I want to make it clear from the start, however, that this path can no longer be that of our Western civilization, for humanity is in a process of constant evolution, ever moving forward. And whoever desires — as many have — to return to the instructions given in the ancient Eastern wisdom-literature in order to enter upon the paths of higher development actually desires to turn back the tide of human evolution or shows that he has no real understanding of human progress. In ordinary consciousness we reside within our thought life, our life of feeling, and our life of will, and we initially substantiate what surges within the soul as thought, feeling, and will in the act of cognition. And it is in the interaction with percepts of the external world, with physical-sensory perceptions, that our consciousness First fully awakens.
It is necessary to realize that the Eastern sages, the so-called initiates of the East, cultivated perception, thinking, feeling, and willing in a way different from their cultivation in everyday life. We can attain an understanding of this path of development leading into the higher worlds when we consider the following. In certain ages of life we develop what we call the soul-spirit toward a greater freedom, a greater independence. We have been able to show how the soul-spirit, which functions in the earliest years of childhood to organize the physical body, emancipates itself, becomes free in a sense with the change of teeth. We have shown how man then lives freely with his ego in this soul-spirit, which now places itself at his disposal, while formerly it occupied itself — if I may express myself thus — with the organization of the physical body. As we enter into ever-greater participation in everyday life, however, there arises something that initially prevents this emancipated soul-spirit from growing into the spiritual world in normal consciousness. As human beings, we must traverse the path that leads us into the external world with the requisite faculties during our life between birth and death. We must acquire such faculties as allow us to orient ourselves within the external, physical-sensory world. We must also develop such faculties as allow us to become useful members of the social community we form with other human beings.
What arises is threefold. These three things bring us into a proper relationship with other human beings in our environment and govern our interaction with them. These are: language, the ability to understand the thoughts of our fellow men, and the acquisition of an understanding, or even a kind of perception, of another's ego. At first glance these three things — perception of language, perception of thoughts, and perception of the ego — appear simple, but for one who seeks knowledge earnestly and conscientiously these things are not so simple at all. Normally we speak of five senses only, to which recent physiological research adds a few inner senses. Within conventional science it is thus impossible to find a complete, systematic account of the senses. I will want to speak to you an this subject at some later time. Today I want only to say that it is an illusion to believe that linguistic comprehension is implicit in the sense of hearing, of that which contemporary physiology dreams to be the organization of the sense of hearing. just as we have a sense of hearing, so also do we have a sense of language. By this I do not mean the sense that guides us in speaking — for this is also called a sense — but that which enables us to comprehend the perception of speech-sounds, just as the auditory senses enable us to perceive tones as such. And when we have a comprehensive physiology, it will be known that this sense of speech is analogous to the other and can rightfully be called a sense in and of itself. It is only that this sense extends over a larger part of the human constitution than the other, more localized senses. Yet it is a sense that nevertheless can be sharply delineated. And we have, in fact, a further sense that extends throughout virtually all of our body — the sense that perceives the thoughts of others. For what we perceive as word is not yet thought. We require other organs, a sensory organization different from that which perceives only words as such, if we want to understand within the word the thought that another wishes to communicate.
In addition, we are equipped with an analogous sense extending throughout our entire bodily organization, which we can call the sense for the perception of another person's ego. In this regard even philosophy has reverted to childishness in recent times, for one can often hear it argued: we encounter another man; we know that a human has such and such a form. Since the being that we encounter is formed in the way we know ourselves to be formed, and sine we know ourselves to be ego-bearers, we conclude through a kind of unconscious inference: aha, he bears an ego within as well. This directly contradicts the psychological reality. Every acute observer knows that it is not an inference by analogy but rather a direct perception that brings us awareness of another's ego. I think that a friend or associate of Husserl's school in Göttingen, Max Scheler, is the only philosopher actually to hit upon this direct perception of the ego. Thus we must differentiate three higher senses, so to speak, above and beyond the ordinary human senses: the sense that perceives language, the sense that perceives thoughts, and the sense that perceives another's ego. These senses arise within the course of human development to the same extent that the soul-spirit gradually emancipates itself between birth and the change of teeth in the way I have described.
These three senses lead initially to interaction with the rest of humanity. In a certain way we are introduced into social life among other human beings by the possession of these three senses. The path one thus follows via these three senses, however, was followed in a different way by the ancients — especially the Indian sages — in order to attain higher knowledge. In striving for this goal of higher knowledge, the soul was not moved toward the words in such a way that one sought to arrive at an understanding of what the other was saying. The powers of the soul were not directed toward the thoughts of another person in such a way as to perceive them, nor toward the ego of another in such a way as to perceive it sympathetically. Such matters were left to everyday life. When the sage returned from his striving for higher cognition, from his sojourn in spiritual worlds to everyday life, he employed these three senses in the ordinary manner. When he wanted to exercise the method of higher cognition, however, he needed these senses in a different way. He did not allow the soul's forces to penetrate through the word while perceiving speech, in order to comprehend the other through his language; rather, he stopped short at the word itself. Nothing was sought behind the word; rather, the streaming life of the soul was sent out only as far as the word. He thereby achieved an intensified perception of the word, renouncing all attempts to understand anything more by means of it. He permeated the word with his entire life of soul, using the word or succession of words in such a way that he could enter completely into the inner life of the word. He formulated certain aphorisms, simple, dense aphorisms, and then strove to live within the sounds, the tones of the words. And he followed with his entire soul life the sound of the word that he vocalized. This practice then led to a cultivation of living within aphorisms, within the so-called “mantras.” It is characteristic of mantric art, this living within aphorisms, that one does not comprehend the content of the words but rather experiences the aphorisms as something musical. One unites one's own soul forces with the aphorisms, so that one remains within the aphorisms and so that one strengthens through continual repetition and vocalization one's own power of soul living within the aphorisms. This art was gradually brought to a high state of development and transformed the soul faculty that we use to understand others through language into another. Through vocalization and repetition of the mantras there arose within the soul a power that led not to other human beings but into the spiritual world. And if, through these mantras, the soul has been schooled in such a way and to such an extent that one feels inwardly the weaving and streaming of this power of soul, which otherwise remains unconscious because all one's attention is directed toward understanding another through the word; if one has come so far as to feel such a power to be an actual force in the soul in the same way that muscular tension is experienced when one wishes to do something with one's arm, one has made oneself sufficiently mature to grasp what lies within the higher power of thought. In everyday life a man seeks to find his way to another via thought. With this power, however, he grasps the thought in an entirely different way. He grasps the weaving of thought in external reality, penetrates into the life of external reality, and lives into the higher realm that I have described to you as Inspiration.
Following this path, then, we approach not the ego of the other person but the egos of individual spiritual beings who surround us, just as we are surrounded by the entities of the sense world. What I depict here was self-evident to the ancient Eastern sage. In this way he wandered with his soul, as it were, upward toward the perception of a realm of spirit. He attained in the highest degree what can be called Inspiration, and his constitution was suited to this. He had no need to fear, as the Westerner might, that his ego might somehow become lost in this wandering out of the body. In later times, when, owing to the evolutionary advances made by humanity, a man might very easily pass out of his body into the outer world without his ego, precautionary measures were taken. Care was taken to ensure that whoever was to undergo this schooling leading to higher knowledge did not pass unaccompanied into the spiritual world and fall prey to the pathological skepticism of which I have spoken in these lectures. In the ancient East the racial constitution was such that this was nothing to fear. As humanity evolved further, however, this became a legitimate concern. Hence the precautionary measure strictly applied within the Eastern schools of wisdom: the neophyte was placed under an authority, but not any outward authority — fundamentally speaking, what we understand by “authority” First appeared in Western civilization. There was cultivated within the neophytes, through a process of natural adaptation to prevailing conditions, a dependence on a leader or guru. The neophyte simply perceived what the leader demonstrated, how the leader stood firmly within the spiritual world without falling prey to pathological skepticism or even inclining toward it. This perception fortified him to such an extent on his own entry into Inspiration that pathological skepticism could never assail him.
Even when the soul-spirit is consciously withdrawn from the physical body, however, something else enters into consideration: one must re-establish the connection with the physical body in a more conscious manner. I said this morning that the pathological state must be avoided in which one descends only egotistically, and not lovingly, into the physical body, for this is to lay hold of the physical body in the wrong way. I described the natural process of laying hold of the physical body between the seventh and fourteenth years, which is through the love-instinct being impressed upon it. Yet even this natural process can take a pathological turn: in such cases there arise the harmful afflictions I described this morning as pathological states. Of course, this could have happened to the pupils of the ancient Eastern sages as well: when they were out of the body they might not have been able to bind the soul-spirit to the physical body again in the appropriate manner. One further precautionary measure thus was employed, one to which psychiatrists — some at any rate — have had recourse when seeking cures for patients suffering from agoraphobia or the like. They employed ablutions, cold baths. Expedients of an entirely physical nature have to be employed in such cases. And when you hear on the one hand that in the mysteries of the East — that is, the schools of initiation, the schools that led to Inspiration — the precautionary measure was taken of ensuring dependence on the guru, you hear on the other hand of the employment of all kinds of devices, of ablutions with cold water and the like. When human nature is understood in the way made possible by spiritual science, customs that otherwise remain rather enigmatic in these ancient mysteries become intelligible. One was protected against developing a false sense of spatiality resulting from an insufficient connection between the soul-spirit and the physical body. This could drive one into agoraphobia and the like or to seek social intercourse with one's fellow men in an inappropriate way. This represents a danger, but one which can and should — indeed must — be avoided in any training that leads to higher cognition. It is a danger, because in following the path I have described leading to Inspiration one bypasses in a certain sense the path via language and thought to the ego of one's fellow man. If one then quits the physical body in a pathological manner — even if one is not attempting to attain higher cognition but is lifted out of the body by a pathological condition — one can become unable to interact socially with one's fellow men in the right way. Then precisely that which arises in the usual, intended manner through properly regulated spiritual study can develop pathologically. Such a person establishes a connection between his soul-spirit and his physical body: by delving too deeply into it he experiences his body so egotistically that he learns to hate interaction with his fellow men and becomes antisocial. One can often see the results of such a pathological condition manifest themselves in the world in quite a frightening manner. I once met a man who was a remarkable example of such a type: he came from a family that inclined by nature toward a freeing of the soul-spirit from the physical body and also contained certain personalities — I came to know one of them extremely well — who sought a path into the spiritual worlds. One rather degenerate individual, however, developed this tendency in an abnormal, pathological way and finally arrived at the point where he would allow nothing whatever from the external world to contact his own body. Naturally he had to eat, but — we are speaking here among adults — he washed himself with his own urine, because he feared any water that came from the outside world. But then again I would rather not describe all the things he would do in order to isolate his body totally from the external world and shun all society. He did these things because his soul-spirit was too deeply incarnated, too closely bound to the physical body.
It is entirely in keeping with the spirit of Goetheanism to bring together that which leads to the highest goal attainable by earthly man and that which leads to pathological depths. One needs only slight acquaintance with Goethe's theory of metamorphosis to realize this. Goethe seeks to understand how the individual organs, for example of the plant, develop out of each other, and in order to understand their metamorphosis he is particularly interested in observing the conditions that arise through the abnormal development of a leaf, a blossom, or the stamen. Goethe realizes that precisely by contemplating the pathological the essence of the healthy can be revealed to the perceptive observer. And one can follow the right path into the spiritual world only when one knows wherein the essence of human nature actually lies and in what diverse ways this complicated inner being can come to expression.
We see from something else as well that even in the later period the men of the East were predisposed by nature to come to a halt at the word. They did not penetrate the word with the forces of the soul but lived within the word. We see this, for example, in the teachings of the Buddha. One need only read these teachings with their many repetitions. I have known Westerners who treasured editions of the Buddha's teachings in which the numerous repetitions had been eliminated and the words of a sentence left to occur only once. Such people believed that through such a condensed version, in which everything occurs only once, they would gain a true understanding of what the Buddha had actually intended. From this it is clear that Western civilization has gradually lost all understanding of Eastern man. If we simply take the Buddha's teachings word for word; if we take the content of these teachings, the content that we, as human beings of the West, chiefly value, then we do not assimilate the essence of these teachings: that is possible only when we are carried along with the repetitions, when we live in the flow of the words, when we experience the strengthening of the soul's forces that is induced by the repetitions. Unless we acquire a faculty for experiencing something from the constant repetitions and the rhythmical recurrence of certain passages, we do not get to the heart of Buddhism's actual significance.
It is in this way that one must gain knowledge of the inner nature of Eastern culture. Without this acquaintance with the inner nature of Eastern culture one can never arrive at a real understanding of our Western religious creeds, for in the final analysis these Western religious creeds stem from Eastern wisdom. The Christ event is a different matter. For that is an actual event. It stands as a fact within the evolution of the earth. Yet the ways and means of understanding what came to pass through the Mystery of Golgotha were drawn during the first Christian centuries entirely from Eastern wisdom. It was through this wisdom that the fundamental event of Christianity was originally understood. Everything progresses, however. What had once been present in Eastern primeval wisdom — attained through Inspiration — spread from the East to Greece and is still recognizable as art. For Greek art was, to be sure, bound up with experiences different from those usually connected with art today. In Greek art one could still experience what Goethe strove to regain when he spoke of the deepest urge within him: he to whom nature begins to unveil her manifest secrets longs for her worthiest interpreter — art. For the Greeks, art was a way to slip into the secrets of world existence, a manifestation not merely of human fantasy but of what arises in the interaction between this faculty and the revelations of the spiritual world revealed through Inspiration. That which still flowed through Greek art, however, became more and more diluted, until finally it became the content of the Western religious creeds. We thus must conceive the source of the primeval wisdom as fully substantial spiritual life that becomes impoverished as evolution proceeds and provides the content of religious creeds when it finally reaches the Western world. Human beings who are constitutionally suited for a later epoch therefore can find in this diluted form of spiritual life only something to be viewed with skepticism. And in the final analysis it is nothing other than the reaction of the Western temperament [Gemüt] to the now decadent Eastern wisdom that gradually produces atheistic skepticism in the West. This skepticism is bound to become more and more widespread unless it is countered with a different stream of spiritual life.
Just as little as a creature that has reached a certain stage of development — let us say has undergone a certain aging process — can be made young again in every respect, so little can a form of spiritual life be made young again when it has reached old age. The religious creeds of the West, which are descendants of the primeval wisdom of the East, can yield nothing that would fully satisfy Western humanity again when it advances beyond the knowledge provided during the past three or four centuries by science and observation of nature. An ever-more profound skepticism is bound to arise, and anyone who has insight into the processes of world evolution can say with assurance that a trend of development from East to West must necessarily lead to an increasingly pronounced skepticism when it is taken up by souls who are becoming more and more deeply imbued with the fruits of Western civilization. Skepticism is merely the march of the spiritual life from East to West, and it must be countered with a different spiritual stream flowing henceforth from West to East. We ourselves are living at the crossing-point of these spiritual streams, and in the further course of these considerations we will want to see how this is so.
But first it must be emphasized that the Western temperament is constitutionally predisposed to follow a path of development leading to the higher worlds different from that of the Eastern temperament. Just as the Eastern temperament strives initially for Inspiration and possesses the racial qualities suitable for this, the Western temperament, because of its peculiar qualities (they are at present not so much racial qualities as qualities of soul) strives for Imagination. It is no longer the experience of the musical element in mantric aphorisms to which we as Westerners should aspire but something else. As Westerners we should strive in such a way that we do not pursue with particular vigour the path that opens out when the soul-spirit emerges from the physical body but rather the path that presents itself later, when the soul-spirit must again unite with the physical organism by consciously grasping the physical body. We see the natural manifestation of this in the emergence of the bodily instinct: whereas Eastern man sought his wisdom more by sublimating the forces at work between birth and the seventh year, Western man is better fitted to develop the forces at work between the time of the change of teeth and puberty, in that there is lifted up into the soul-spirit that which is natural for this epoch of humanity. We come to this when, just as in emerging from the body we carry the ego with us into the realm of Inspiration, we now leave the ego outside when we delve again into the body. We leave it outside, but not in idleness, not forgetting or surrendering it, not suppressing it into unconsciousness, but rather conjoining it with pure thinking, with clear, keen thinking, so that finally one has this inner experience: my ego is totally suffused with all the clear thinking of which I have become capable. One can experience just this delving down into the body in a very clear and distinct manner. And at this point you will perhaps allow me to relate a personal experience, because it will help you to understand what I really mean.
I have spoken to you about the conception underlying my book, Philosophy of Freedom. This book is actually a modest attempt to win through to pure thinking, the pure thinking in which the ego can live and maintain a firm footing. Then, when pure thinking has been grasped in this way, one can strive for something else. This thinking, left in the power of an ego that now feels itself to be liberated within free spirituality [frei und unabhängig in freier Geistigkeit], can then be excluded from the process of perception. Whereas in ordinary life one sees color, let us say, and at the same time imbues the color with conceptual activity, one can now extract the concepts from the entire process of elaborating percepts and draw the percept itself directly into ones bodily constitution.
Goethe undertook to do this and has already taken the First steps in this direction. Read the last chapter of his Theory of Colors, entitled “The Sensory-Moral Effect of Color”: in every color-effect he experiences something that unites itself profoundly not only with the faculty of perception but with the whole man. He experiences yellow and scarlet as “attacking” colors, penetrating him, as it were, through and through, filling him with warmth, while he regards blue and violet as colors that draw one out of oneself, as cold colors. The whole man experiences something in the act of sense perception. Sense perception, together with its content, passes down into the organism, and the ego with its pure thought content remains, so to speak, hovering above. We exclude thinking inasmuch as we take into and fill ourselves with the whole content of the perception, instead of weakening it with concepts, as we usually do. We train ourselves specially to achieve this by systematically pursuing what came to be practiced in a decadent form by the men of the East. Instead of grasping the content of the perception in pure, strictly logical thought, we grasp it symbolically, in pictures, allowing it to stream into us as a result of a kind of detour around thinking. We steep ourselves in the richness of the colors, the richness of the tone, by learning to experience the images inwardly, not in terms of thought but as pictures, as symbols. Because we do not suffuse our inner life with the thought content, as the psychology of association would have it, but with the content of perception indicated through symbols and pictures, the living inner forces of the etheric and astral bodies stream toward us from within, and we come to know the depths of consciousness and of the soul. It is in this way that genuine knowledge of the inner nature of man is acquired, and not by means of the blathering mysticism that nebulous minds often claim to be a way to the God within. This mysticism leads to nothing but abstraction and cannot satisfy anyone who wishes to become a man in the full sense of the ward.
If one desires to do real research concerning human physiology, thinking must be excluded and the picture-forming activity sent inward, so that the physical organism reacts by creating Imaginations. This is a path that is only just beginning in the development of Western culture, but it is the path that must be trodden if the influence that streams over from the East, and would lead to decadence if it atone were to prevail, is to be confronted with something capable of opposing it, so that our civilization may take a path of ascent and not of decline. Generally speaking, however, it can be said that human language itself is not yet sufficiently developed to be able to give full expression to the experiences that one undergoes in the inner recesses of the soul. And it is at this point that I would like to relate a personal experience to you.
Many years ago, in a different context, I made an attempt to give expression to what might be called a science of the human senses. In spoken lectures I succeeded to some extent in putting this science of the twelve senses into words, because in speaking it is more possible to turn language this way and that and ensure understanding by means of repetitions, so that the deficiencies of our language, which is not yet capable of expressing these super-sensible things, is not so strongly felt. Strangely enough, however, when I wanted many years ago to write down what I had given as actual anthroposophy in order to put it into a form suitable for a book, the outer experiences an being interiorized became so sensitive that language simply failed to provide the words, and I believe that the beginning of the text — several sheets of print — lay for some five or six years at the printer's. It was because I wanted to write the whole book in the style in which it began that I could not continue writing, for the simple reason that at the stage of development I had then reached, language refused to furnish the means for what I wished to achieve. Afterward I became overloaded with work, and I still have not been able to finish the book. Anyone who is less conscientious about what he communicates to his fellow men out of the spiritual world might perhaps smile at the idea of being held up in this way by a temporarily insurmountable difficulty. But whoever really experiences and can permeate with a full sense of responsibility what occurs when one attempts to describe the path that Western humanity must follow to attain Imagination knows that to find the right words entails a great deal of effort. As a meditative schooling it is relatively easy to describe, and this has been done in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. If one's aim, however, is to achieve definite results such as that of describing the essential nature of man's senses — a part, therefore, of the inner makeup and constitution of humanity — it is then that one encounters the difficulty of grasping Imaginations and presenting them in sharp contours by means of words.
Nevertheless, this is the path that Western humanity must follow. And just as the man of the East was able to experience through his mantras the entry into the spiritual nature of the external world, so must the Westerner, leaving aside the entire psychology of association, learn to enter into his own being by attaining the realm of Imagination. Only by penetrating into the realm of Imagination will he acquire the true knowledge of humanity that is necessary in order for humanity to progress. And because we in the West must live much more consciously than the men of the East, we cannot simply say: whether or not humanity will gradually attain this realm of Imagination is something that can be left to the future. No — this world of Imagination, because we have passed into the stage of conscious human evolution, must be striven for consciously; there can be no halting at certain stages. For what happens if one halts at a certain stage? Then one does not meet the ever-increasing spread of skepticism from East to West with the right countermeasures but with measures that result from the soul-spirit uniting too radically, too deeply and unconsciously, with the physical body, so that too strong a connection is formed between the soul-spirit and the physical body.
Yes, it is indeed possible for a human being not only to think materialistically but to be a materialist, because the soul-spirit is too strongly linked with the physical body. In such a man the ego does not live freely in the concepts of pure thinking he has attained. If one descends into the body with pictorial perception, one delves with the ego and the concepts into the body. And if one then spreads this around and suffuses it throughout humanity, it gives rise to a spiritual phenomenon well known to us — dogmatism of all kinds. Dogmatism is nothing other than the translation into the realm of the soul-spirit of a condition that at a lower stage manifests itself pathologically as agoraphobia and the like, and that — because these things are related — also shows itself in something else, which is a metamorphosis of fear, in superstition of every variety. An unconscious urge toward Imagination is held back through powerful agencies, and this gives rise to dogmatism of all types. These types of dogmatism must gradually be replaced by what is achieved when the world of ideas is kept within the sphere of the ego; when progress is made toward Imagination, the true nature of man is experienced inwardly, and this Western path into the spiritual world is followed in a different way. It is this other path through Imagination that must establish the stream of spiritual science, the process of spiritual evolution that muss make its way from West to East if humanity is to progress. It is supremely important at the present time, however, for humanity to recognize what the true path of Imagination should be, what path must be taken by Western spiritual science if it is to be a match for the Inspiration and its fruits that were attained by ancient Eastern wisdom in a form suited to the racial characteristics of those peoples. Only if we are able to confront the now decadent Inspiration of the East with Imaginations which, sustained by the spirit and saturated with reality, have arisen along the path leading to a higher spiritual culture; only if we can call this culture into existence as a stream of spiritual life flowing from West to East, are we bringing to fulfillment what is actually living deep within the impulses for which humanity is striving. It is these impulses that are now exploding in social cataclysms because they cannot find other expression.
In tomorrow's lecture we will speak further of the path of Imagination and of how the way to the higher worlds is envisaged by anthroposophical spiritual science.
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture VIII|
|GA 322. The Boundaries of Natural Science — Lecture VIII|
The audience attending this series of lectures in 1920 was at once informed by Steiner that he proposed to consider the connections between natural science and social renewal.
Everyone agrees, he says, that such a renewal requires a renewal of our thinking (one must remember that he was speaking of the groping and soul-searching that followed the great and terrible war of 1914–18), yet not everyone “imagines something clear and distinct when speaking in this way.”
Steiner then sketches rapidly the effects of the scientific world-view on the modern social order. Scientific progress has made us very confident of our analytical powers. Inanimate nature, we are educated to believe, will eventually become transparently intelligible. It will yield all its secrets under scientific examination, and we will be able to describe it with mathematical lucidity. After we have conquered the inorganic we will proceed to master the organic world by the same means.
The path of scientific progress however has not been uniformly smooth. Steiner reminds us that by the end of the 19th century doubts concerning the origins of scientific knowledge had arisen within the scientific community itself, and in a famous and controversial lecture the physiologist du Bois-Reymond asked the question, How does consciousness arise out of material processes? What is the source of the consciousness with which we examine the outer world? To this du Bois-Reymond answers, Ignorabimus — we shall never know.
In this Ignorabimus Steiner finds a parallel to an earlier development, that of medieval Scholasticism. Scholastic thinking had made its way to the limits of the super-sensible world. Modern natural science has also reached a limit. This limit is delineated by two concepts: “matter”— which is everywhere assumed to be within the sensory realm but nowhere actually to be found — and consciousness, which is assumed to originate within the same world, “although no one can comprehend how.” Can we fathom the fact of consciousness with explanations conceived in observing external nature? Steiner argues that we cannot. He suggests that scientific research is entangling itself in a web, and that only outside this web can we find the real world. The great victories of science have subdued our minds. We accept the all pervading scientific method. It has transformed the earth. Nevertheless it seems incapable of understanding its own deepest sources. Scientific method as we of the modern world define it can bring us only to the Ignorabimus because it is powerless to explain the consciousness that directs it. In our study of nature, and by means of our concept of matter, we have made everything very clear, but this clarity does not give us Man. Him we have lost. And the lucidity to which we owe our great successes in the study of the external world is rejected by consciousness itself. For in the depths of consciousness there lies a will, and this will revolts when lucid science tries to “think” Man as it thinks external nature.
To conclude from this that Steiner is “anti-science” would be a great mistake. To him science is a necessary, indeed indispensable stage in the development of the human spirit. The scientific examination of the external world awakens consciousness to clear concepts and it is by means of clear conceptual thinking that we become fully human. Spiritual development requires a full understanding of pure thought, and pure thought is thought devoid of sensory impressions. “Countless philosophers have expounded the view that pure thinking does not exist, but is bound to contain traces, however diluted, of sense perception. A strong impression is left that philosophers who maintain this have never really studied mathematics, or gone into the difference between analytical and empirical physics,” Steiner writes. Mathematical thought is thought detached from the sense world, and as it is entirely based upon rules of reason that are universal it offers spiritual communion to mankind, as well as a union with reality. It is moreover a free activity. Spiritual training, says Steiner, reveals it to be not only sense-free but also brain-free. The operations of thought are directed by spiritual powers. Pure thinking leads to the discovery of freedom and leads us to the realm of spirit. And Steiner tells us explicitly that out of sense-free thinking “there can flow impulses to moral action. ... One experiences pure spirit by observing, by actually observing how moral forces flow into sense-free thinking.” This is something very different from mystical experience, for it is a result of spiritual training, of a sort of scientific discipline through which we discover more organs of knowledge than are available to those who limit themselves, as modern philosophers do, to scientific orthodoxy and to ordinary consciousness. In the last lecture of the present series Steiner speaks of advanced forms of consciousness, of a more acute inner activity, and of higher forms of knowledge.
Contemporary thinkers are often strongly attracted to these higher forms. They approach them enthusiastically, frequently write of them vividly but in the end reject them as retrograde or atavistic, unworthy of a fully accredited modern philosopher.
Paul Valéry, a poet who devoted years of his life to the study of mathematics and who wrote interestingly on Descartes and Pascal, provides us with an excellent example of this in his Address in Honor of Goethe. Goethe fascinates Valéry, for Goethe too was a poet who found it necessary to go beyond poetry — “the great apologist of the world of Appearances,” Valéry calls him. He says, “I sometimes think that there exists for some people, as there existed for him, an external life which has an intensity and a depth at least equal to the intensity and depth that we ascribe to the inner darkness and the mysterious discoveries of the ascetics and the Sufis.” Goethe is an investigative and not merely a reactive poet. Valéry greatly admires his botanical work, seeing in it one of “the profound nodal points of his great mind.” He goes on to say, “this desire to trace in living things a will to metamorphosis may have been derived from his early contact with certain doctrines, half poetic, half esoteric, which were highly esteemed by the ancients and which, at the end of the eighteenth century, initiates took to cultivating again. The rather seductive if extremely imprecise idea of Orphism, the magical idea of assuming the existence of some unknown hidden principle of life, some tendency towards a higher form of life in every animate and inanimate thing; the idea that a spirit was fermenting in every particle of reality and that it was therefore not impossible to work by the ways of the spirit on everything and every being insofar as it contains a spirit, is among the ideas which bear witness to the persistence of a kind of primitive reasoning and at the same time of an impulse which of its nature generates poetry or personification. Goethe appears to have been deeply imbued with the feeling of this power, which satisfied the poet
What Valéry assumes here is that there is only one single legitimate method of examining natural phenomena. As a poet he sympathizes with imaginative knowledge, as a thinker he strikes a note of regret and even condolence. “It is one of the clearest examples of transition from poetic thought to scientific theory, or of a fact brought to light by way of a harmony discovered by intuition. Observation verifies what the inner artist has divined. ... But his great gift of analogy came into conflict with his logical faculties.” And the logical faculties, strictly circumscribed, must be obeyed. Magic and primitive reasoning, alas, will not do says the analytical intellect of Valéry.
Steiner had devoted many years of study to Goethe. He was the editor of Goethe's scientific works and in his lectures often refers to him. And there is no nostalgia for “Orphism” in Steiner, no “magic” or “primitive reasoning.” He too is a modern thinker. What distinguishes him from most others is his refusal to stop at what he calls “the boundary of the material world.” And how does one pass beyond this boundary? By a discipline that takes us from ordinary consciousness and familiarizes us with consciousness of another kind, by finding the path that leads us into Imagination. “It is possible to pursue this path in a way consonant with Western life,” he writes, “if we attempt to surrender ourselves completely to the world of outer phenomena, so that we allow them to work upon us without thinking about them, but still perceiving them. In ordinary waking life, you will agree, we are constantly perceiving, but actually in the very process of doing so we are continually saturating our percepts with concepts; in scientific thinking we interweave percepts and concepts entirely systematically, building up systems of concepts. ... One can become capable of such acute inner activity that one can exclude and suppress conceptual thinking from the process of perception and surrender oneself to bare percepts.” This is not a depreciation of thought. Rather, it releases the imagination. One “acquires a potent psychic force ‘when one is able’ to absorb the external world free from concepts.” Steiner says, “Man is given over to the external world continually, from birth onwards. Nowadays this giving-over of oneself to the external world is held to be nothing but abstract perception or abstract cognition. This is not so. We are surrounded by a world of color, sound and warmth and by all kinds of sensory impressions.” The cosmos communicates with us also through color, sound and warmth. “Warmth is something other than warmth; light something other than light in the physical sense; sound is something other than physical sound. Through our sensory impressions we are conscious only of what I would term external sound and external color. And when we surrender ourselves to nature we do not encounter the ether-waves, atoms and so on of which modern physics and physiology dream; rather, it is spiritual forces that are at work, forces that fashion us between birth and death into what we are as human beings.” I have thought it best not to interpose myself but to allow Steiner to speak for himself, for he is more than a thinker, he is an initiate and only he is able to communicate what he has experienced. The human mind, he tells us, must learn to will pure thinking, but it must learn also how to set conceptual thinking aside and to live within the phenomena. “It is through phenomenology, and not abstract metaphysics, that we attain knowledge of the spirit by consciously observing, by raising to consciousness, what we would otherwise do unconsciously; by observing how through the sense world spiritual forces enter into our being and work formatively upon it.”
We cannot even begin to think of social renewal until we have considered these questions. What is reality in the civilized West? “A world of outsides without insides,” says Owen Barfield, one of the best interpreters of Steiner. A world of quantities without qualities, of souls devoid of mobility and of communities which are more dead than alive.
|GA 322. Natural Science and Its Boundaries — Natural Science and Its Boundaries|
|GA 322. Natural Science and Its Boundaries — Natural Science and Its Boundaries|
What I have been saying about the boundaries of man's knowledge of Nature should have given some indication at least of the difference between the cognition of higher worlds, as we call it in Spiritual Science, and the cognition of which we speak in our ordinary, everyday consciousness or in ordinary science. In everyday life and in ordinary science we let our powers of cognition remain at a standstill with whatever we have acquired through the ordinary education that has brought us to a certain stage in life, and with whatever this education has enabled us to make out of inherited qualities and out of qualities possessed by mankind in general. What is called in anthroposophical Spiritual Science the knowledge of higher worlds depends upon a man himself deliberately undertaking further training and development; upon the realisation that as life continues on its course a higher form of consciousness can be attained through self-education, just as a child can advance to the stage of ordinary consciousness. And it is to this higher consciousness that there are first revealed the things we otherwise look for in vain at the two boundaries of the knowledge of Nature, at the boundary of matter and at the boundary of ordinary consciousness.
It was of consciousness enhanced in this sense, through which realities at a level beyond that of everyday reality became accessible to men, that the Eastern sages spoke in ancient times, and through methods of inner self-training suited to their racial characteristics and stage of evolution, they strove to achieve this higher development. Not until we realise what it is that is revealed to man through such higher development can the meaning of the records of ancient Eastern wisdom be discerned.
In characterising the path of development adopted by those sages, we must therefore say: It was a path leading to Inspiration. In that epoch, humanity was, so to speak, adapted by nature for Inspiration. And in order to understand these paths of development into the higher realms of knowledge, it will be a useful preparation to form a clear picture of the essentials of the path followed by the sages of the ancient East. At the very outset, however, let me emphasise that this path cannot be suitable for Western civilisation, because humanity is evolving, is advancing. And those who in their search for ways of higher development see fit to return — as many have done — to the instructions given by ancient Eastern wisdom are really trying to turn back the tide of evolution, as well as showing that they have no real understanding of human progress.
With our ordinary consciousness we live in our world of thought, in our world of feeling, in our world of will, and through acts of cognition we bring to apprehension what surges up and down in the soul as thought, feeling and will. Moreover, it is through outer perceptions, perception of the things of the physical world, that our consciousness first awakes in the real sense.
The important point is to realise that for the Eastern sages, for the so-called Initiates of the ancient East, a different procedure was necessary from that followed by man in ordinary life in regard to the manner of dealing with perceptions, and with thinking, feeling and willing.
Some understanding of the ancient path of development leading into the higher worlds can be acquired by considering the following. At certain ages of life we develop the spirit-and-soul within us to a state of greater freedom, greater independence. During the first years of infancy it works as an organising force in the body, until with the change of teeth it is liberated, becomes free in a certain sense. We then live freely with our Ego in the element of spirit-and-soul, which is now at our disposal, whereas previously it was occupied with harmonising and regulating the body inwardly. But as we grow on into life there arise those factors which in the sphere of ordinary consciousness do not, to begin with, permit the liberated spirit-and-soul to develop to the point of penetrating into the spiritual world. As men in our life between birth and death we must take the path which places us into the outer world as beings qualified and fit for life in that world. We must acquire the faculties which enable us to establish our bearings in the physical world, and also those which can make each of us a useful member in the life of social community with other men.
Three faculties come into the picture here. Three faculties bring us into the right connection and regulate our intercourse with the outer world of men: speech, the capacity to understand the thoughts of our fellow-man, and perception of the Ego of another person. In speaking of these three faculties: perception of the sounds of speech, perception of thoughts, perception of the Ego of another human being, we are expressing something that appears to be simple but is by no means found so by earnest and conscientious seekers for knowledge.
In the ordinary way we speak of five senses only, to which one or two inner senses are added by modern psychology. External science presents no complete system of the senses. I shall be speaking to you some time on this subject and will now say only that it is an illusion to believe that understanding of the sounds of speech is implicit in the sense of hearing, or in the organisation which is supposed by modern physiology to account for hearing. Just as we have a sense of hearing, we have a sense of speech — a sense for the sounds of speech. By this is meant the sense which enables us to understand what is perceived in the sounds of speech, just as the auditory sense enables us to perceive tones as such. And if some day we have a really comprehensive physiology, it will be known that this sense for the sounds of speech is entirely analogous to the other, that it can rightly be called a sense on its own. It extends over a larger area within the human organism than several of the other, more localised senses, but for all that it is a definitely circumscribed sense.
We also have a sense, extending over nearly the whole of our bodily frame, for perception of the thoughts of another person. What we perceive in the word itself is not yet the thought it conveys. We need other organs, an organic apparatus different from that required for the perception of the word as such, when we want to understand through the word the thought which the other person is communicating to us.
We are also equipped with a sense that extends over the whole of our body: we can call it the sense for the perception of the Ego of another person. In this connection even philosophy has become childish in the modern age, for to-day one can, for example, often hear it argued: We meet another person; we see that he has a human form like our own, and because we know that as human beings we are endowed with an Ego, we conclude, as it were by subconscious inference, that he too must have an Ego within him. This is quite contrary to the psychological reality. A genuine observer knows that it is a direct perception, not an inference drawn from analogy, through which we perceive the Ego of the other person. There is really only one man — a friend or associate of the Göttingen school of Husserl, Max Scheeler by name — who has hit upon this direct perception of the Ego of another person.
Above and beyond the ordinary human senses, therefore, we have to distinguish three others: the sense for the sounds of speech, the sense for another person's thoughts, the sense for another person's Ego. It is primarily through these three senses that we establish intercourse with the rest of mankind. They are the means whereby we are introduced into social life among other human beings. But the path connected with the functions of these three senses was followed differently by the ancient sages, especially by the ancient Indian sages, for the purpose of attaining higher knowledge. In this quest for higher knowledge the soul of the sage did not endeavour to understand through the words the meaning of what another person was saying. The forces of his soul were not directed to the thoughts of another person in such a way as to perceive them, nor to the Ego of another in such a way as to perceive and experience this Ego. All such matters were left to everyday life. When after his efforts to attain higher knowledge the sage returned from his sojourn in spiritual worlds to everyday life, he used these three senses in the ordinary way. But when he was endeavouring to cultivate the methods for acquiring higher knowledge, he used them differently. In acts of listening, in acts of perceiving the sounds of speech, he did not allow the soul's force to penetrate through the word in order to understand what the other person was saying, but he remained with the word as such, without seeking for anything behind it. He guided the stream of soul-life only as far as the word itself. His perception of the words was thereby intensified, and he deliberately refrained from attempting to understand anything else through the word. With his whole soul he penetrated into the word as such, using the word or the sequence of words in such a way that this penetration was possible. He formulated certain aphoristic sayings, simple but impressive sentences, and tried to live entirely in the sound, in the tone and ring of the words. With his whole soul he followed the ring of the words which he repeated aloud to himself.
This practice then led to a state of complete absorption in the aphoristic sayings themselves, in the “mantras,” as they were called. The “mantric” art, the art of becoming completely absorbed in these aphoristic sayings, consisted in this. A man did not understand only the content and meaning of the words, but he experienced the sayings themselves as music, made them part of his own soul-forces, remained completely absorbed in them and by continually repeating and reciting them, enhanced the power of his soul.
Little by little this art was brought to a high stage of development and was the means of transforming into something different the faculty of soul we otherwise possess for understanding the other person through the word. Through the recitation and repetition of the mantras, a power was generated which now led — not to the other person, but into the spiritual world. And if working with the mantras had brought the soul to the point of being inwardly aware of the weaving flow of this power — which otherwise remains unconscious because attention is focussed entirely upon understanding the other person — if a man had reached the point of feeling this power to be an actual power of the soul in the same way as muscular tension is felt when the arm is being used for some purpose, then he had made himself fit to grasp what is contained in the higher power of thought. In ordinary life a man tries to find his way to the other person through the thought. But with this power he grasps the thought in quite a different way — he grasps the weaving of thought in external reality, penetrates into that external reality and rises to the level of what I have called “Inspiration.”
Along this path, instead of reaching the Ego of the other person, we reach the Egos of individual spiritual Beings who are around us just as are the beings of the material world. What I am now telling you was a matter of course for a sage of the ancient East. In his life of soul he rose to the perception of a spirit-realm. In a supreme degree he attained what can be called Inspiration and his organic constitution was suitable for this. Unlike a Western man, he had no need to fear that his Ego might in some way be lost during this flight from the body. And in later times, when owing to the advance in evolution made by humanity a man might very easily pass out of his body into the outer world without his Ego, precautionary measures were used. Care was taken to ensure that the individual who was to become a pupil of the higher wisdom should not enter this spiritual world without guidance and succumb to that pathological scepticism of which I have spoken in these lectures. In very ancient times in the East the racial character was such that this would not, in any case, have been a matter for anxiety, but it was certainly to be feared as the evolution of humanity progressed. Hence the precautionary measure that was strictly applied in the schools of Eastern Wisdom, to ensure that the pupil should rely upon an inner, not an outer, authority. (Fundamentally speaking, what we understand by “authority” today first appeared in Western civilisation.) The endeavour in the East was to develop in the pupil, through a process of natural adaptation to prevailing conditions, a feeling of dependence upon the leader, the Guru. The pupil perceived what the Guru represented, how he stood firmly within the spiritual world without scepticism, indeed without even a tendency to scepticism, and through this perception the pupil was able, on passing into the sphere of Inspiration, to maintain such a healthy attitude of soul that he was immune from any danger of pathological scepticism.
But even when the spirit-and-soul is drawn consciously out of the physical body, something else comes into consideration as well: a connection — a still more conscious connection now — must again be established with the physical body. I said in the lecture this morning that if a man comes down into his physical body imbued only with egoism and lacking in love, this is a pathological condition which must not be allowed to arise, for he will then lay hold of his physical body in a wrong way. Man lays hold of his body in the natural way by implanting the love-instinct in it between the ages of 7 and 14. But even this natural process can take a pathological course, and then there will appear afflictions which I described this morning as pathological states.
It might also have happened to the pupils of the ancient Eastern sages that when they were outside the physical body they found it impossible to connect the spirit-and-soul with the body again in the right way. A different precautionary measure was then applied, one to which psychiatrists — some at any rate — have again had recourse when treating patients suffering from agoraphobia. This precautionary measure consisted in ablutions, washings, with cold water. Expedients of an entirely physical nature were used in such circumstances. And when you hear on the one hand that in the Mysteries of the East — the Schools of Initiation that were to lead men to Inspiration — the precautionary measure was taken of ensuring dependence on the Guru, you hear on the other hand of the use of all kind of devices — ablutions with cold water, and the like.
When human nature is understood in the way made possible by Spiritual Science, customs that otherwise seem very puzzling in these ancient Mysteries become intelligible. Man was protected from a false feeling of space, due to a faulty connection of the spirit-and-soul with the physical body — a feeling that might cause him to have a morbid dread of public places, or also to seek social intercourse with other human beings in an irregular way. This is indeed a danger, but one that every form of guidance to higher knowledge can and must avoid. It is a danger, because when a man is seeking for Inspiration in the way I have described, he does in a certain sense by-pass the paths of speech and of thinking, the path leading to the Ego of the other person, and then, if he leaves his body in an abnormal way — not with any aim of gaining higher knowledge but merely owing to pathological conditions — he may fail to cultivate the right kind of intercourse with other men.
In such a human being, a condition which through properly regulated spiritual study develops normally and profitably, may develop in an abnormal, pathological form. The connection of spirit-and-soul with the body then becomes one which causes the man to have such an intense feeling of egotism in his body — because he is too deeply immersed in it — that he reaches the point of hating all intercourse with others and becomes an utterly unsocial being. The consequences of a pathological condition of this kind can often take a truly terrible form. I myself have known a remarkable example of this type of person. He came from a family in which there was a tendency for the spirit-and-soul to be loosened from the physical body in a certain way and it included individuals — one of whom I knew very well indeed — who were seeking for the path leading to the spiritual worlds. But in a degenerate member of this family the same tendency developed in a pathological form, until he finally came to the point where he would allow nothing whatever from the outside world to contact his own body. He was naturally obliged to eat, but ... we are speaking here among grown-ups ... he washed himself with his own urine, because any water from the outside world put him into a panic. I will not describe what else he was in the habit of doing in order to shut off his body entirely from the outside world and make himself into an utterly anti-social being. He did these things because his spirit-and-soul was too deeply immersed in his body, too strongly bound up with it.
It is entirely in keeping with Goetheanism to contrast the path leading to the highest goal at present attainable by us as earthly men with the path leading to pathological phenomena. Only a slight acquaintance with Goethe's theory of metamorphoses is needed to realise this. Goethe is trying to detect how the single parts of the plant, for example, develop out of each other, and in order to recognise the process of metamorphosis he has a particular preference for observing the states arising from the degeneration of a leaf, or of a blossom, or of the stamens. Goethe realises that precisely by scrutiny of the pathological, the essence of the healthy can be revealed to a perceptive observer. And it is also true that a right path into the spiritual world can be taken only when we know where the essence of man's being really lies, and in what diverse ways this complicated inner being can come to expression.
We see from something else as well that even in the later period of antiquity men of the East were predisposed by nature to live in the word itself, not to penetrate through the word to what lies behind it. An illustration of this is afforded by the sayings of the Buddha, with their many repetitions. I have known people in the West who treasured those editions of the Buddha's sayings in which the repetitions had been eliminated and the words of a sentence left to occur only once. Such people believed that through this condensed version they would get at the essentials of what the Buddha really meant. This shows that Western civilisation has gradually lost all understanding of the nature of Eastern man. If we simply take the literal meaning of the Buddha's discourses, the meaning which we, as men of the West, chiefly value, we are not assimilating the essence of these teachings; that is possible only when we are carried along with the repetitions, when we live in the flow of the words, when we experience that strengthening of soul-force induced by the repetitions. Unless we acquire a faculty for experiencing something from the constant repetitions and the rhythmical recurrence of certain passages, we do not get to the heart of what Buddhism really signifies.
Knowledge must be gained of the essence and inner nature of Eastern culture. Without this knowledge there can be no real understanding of the religious creeds of the West, for when all is said and done they stem from Eastern wisdom. The Christ Event itself is a different matter — it is an accomplished fact, and present as such in earth-evolution. During the first Christian centuries, however, the ways and means of understanding what came to pass through the Mystery of Golgotha were drawn entirely from Eastern wisdom. It was with this wisdom that the fundamental event of Christendom was first of all understood. But everything moves on, and what had once existed in the Eastern primeval wisdom, attained through Inspiration, spread across to Greece and can still be recognised in the achievements of Greek culture.
Greek art was, of course, bound up with experiences different from those usually connected with art to-day. Greek art was still felt to be an expression of the ideal to which Goethe was again aspiring when he spoke of the deepest urge within him in the words: He to whom Nature begins to unveil her manifest secrets, longs for her worthiest interpreter — art. The Greeks still regarded art as an initiation into the secrets of world-existence, as a manifestation not merely of human imagination but of what comes into being through interaction between this faculty and the revelations of the spiritual world received through Inspiration. But the spiritual life that still flowed through Greek art grew steadily weaker, until finally it became the content of the religious creeds of the West. Thus we must conceive the source of the primeval wisdom as a spiritual life of rich abundance which becomes impoverished as evolution proceeds, and when at last it reaches the Western world it provides the content of religious creeds. Therefore men who by then are fitted by nature for a different epoch can find in this weakened form of spiritual life only something to be viewed with scepticism. Fundamentally speaking, it is the reaction of the Western soul to the now decadent Eastern wisdom that gradually produces in the West the atheistic scepticism which is bound to become more and more widespread unless it is confronted by a different stream of spiritual life.
As little as a living being who has reached a certain stage of development — a certain age, let us say — can be made young again in every respect, as little can a form of spiritual life be made young again when it has reached old age. Out of the religious creeds of the West, which are descendants of the primeval wisdom of the East, nothing can be produced that would again be capable of satisfying Western humanity when this humanity advances beyond the knowledge acquired during the past three or four centuries from the science and observation of Nature. Scepticism on an ever-increasing scale is bound to develop. And anyone who has insight into the process of world-evolution can say with assurance that a trend of development from East to West is heading in this direction. In other words, there is moving from East to West a stream of spiritual life that must inevitably lead to scepticism in a more and more pronounced form when it is received into souls who are being imbued more deeply all the time with the fruits of Western civilisation. Scepticism is simply the outcome of the march of spiritual life from the East to the West, and it must be confronted by a different stream flowing henceforward from the West to the East. We ourselves are living at the point where this spiritual stream crosses the other, and in the further course of these studies we shall see in what sense this is so.
First and foremost, however, attention must be called to the fact that the Western soul is predisposed by nature to take a path of development to the higher worlds different from that of the Eastern soul. The Eastern soul strives primarily for Inspiration and possesses the racial qualities suitable for this; the Western soul, because of its particular qualities — they are qualities connected less with race than with the life of soul itself — strives for Imagination. To experience the musical element in mantric sayings is not the aim to which we, as men of the West, should aspire. Our aim should be different. We should not keep particularly strictly to the path that comes after the spirit-and-soul has emerged from the body, but should rather follow the later path that begins when the spirit-and-soul has again to unite consciously with the physical organism.
The corresponding natural phenomenon is to be observed in the birth of the love-instinct. Whereas the man of the East sought his wisdom more by sublimating the forces working in the human being between birth and the 7th year, the man of the West is better fitted to develop the forces at work between the time of the change of teeth and puberty, inasmuch as the being of spirit-and-soul is now led to new tasks in keeping with this epoch in the evolution of humanity. We come to this when — just as on emerging from the body we carry the Ego with us into the realm of Inspiration — we now leave the Ego outside when we plunge down again into the body; we leave it outside, but not in idleness, not forgetting or surrendering it, not suppressing it into unconsciousness, but allying it with pure thinking, with clear, keen thinking, so that finally we have this inner experience: Your Ego is charged through and through with all the clear thinking of which you have become capable. This experience of plunging into the body can be very clear and distinct. And at this point it may perhaps be permissible to speak about a personal experience, because it will help you to understand what I really mean.
I have spoken to you about the conception underlying my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. This book is a modest but real attempt to achieve pure thinking, that pure thinking in which the Ego can live and maintain a firm footing. Then, when this pure thinking has been achieved, we can endeavour to do something else. This thinking that is now left in the power of the Ego, the Ego which now feels itself a free and independent spiritual being — this pure thinking can then be achieved from the process of perception, and whereas in ordinary life we see colour, let us say, and at the same time imbue the perception with the mental concept, we can now lift the concepts away from the process of elaborating the perceptions and draw the perceptions themselves directly into our bodily constitution.
That Goethe had already taken the first steps in this direction is shown by the last chapter of his Theory of Colours, entitled “The Sensory and Moral Effects of Colour.” With every colour-effect he experiences something that at once unites deeply, not with the faculty of perception only, but with the whole man. He experiences yellow, or scarlet, as active colours, as it were permeating him through and through, filling him with warmth: while he regards blue and violet as colours that draw one out of oneself, as cold colours. The whole man experiences something in acts of sense-perception. The perception, together with its content, passes down into the organism, and the Ego with its thought-content remains as it were hovering above. We detach thinking inasmuch as we take into and fill ourselves with the whole content of the perception, instead of weakening it with concepts, as we usually do. We train ourselves in a particular way to achieve this by systematically practising something that came to be practised in a decadent form by the men of the East. Instead of grasping the content of the perception in pure, strictly logical thoughts, we grasp it in symbols, in pictures, allowing it to stream into us, so that in a certain sense it by-passes our thoughts. We steep ourselves in the richness of the colours, in the richness of the tone, by learning to experience the images inwardly, not in terms of thought but as pictures, as symbols. Because we do not permeate our inner life with the thought-content, after the manner of association-psychology, but with the content of perception expressed through symbols and pictures, the living forces of our etheric and astral bodies stream out from within and we learn to know the depths of our consciousness and of our soul. It is in this way that genuine knowledge of the inner nature of man is acquired. The obscure mysticism often said by nebulous minds to be a way to the God within leads to nothing but abstraction and cannot possibly satisfy anyone who wishes to experience the fullness of his manhood.
So, you see, if it is desired to establish a true physiological science of man, thinking must be detached and the picture-forming activity sent inwards, so that the organism reacts in Imaginations. This is a path that is only just beginning in Western culture, but it is the path that must be trodden if the influence that streams over from the East, and would lead to decadence if it alone were to prevail, is to be confronted by something equal to opposing it, so that our civilisation may take a path of ascent and not of decline.
Generally speaking, however, it can be said that human language itself is not yet sufficiently developed to be able adequately to characterise the experiences that are here encountered in a man's inmost life of soul. And it is at this point that I should like to tell you of a personal experience of my own.
Many years ago I made an attempt to formulate what may be called a science of the human senses. In spoken lectures I did to some extent succeed in putting this science of the twelve senses into words, because there it is more possible to manipulate the language and ensure understanding by means of repetitions, so that the deficiency of our language — which is not yet equal to expressing these super-sensible things — is not so strongly felt. But strangely enough, when I wanted many years ago to write down what I had given in lectures as pure Anthroposophy in order to put it into a form suitable for a book, the outer experiences, on being interiorised became so delicate and sensitive that language simply failed to provide the words, and I believe the beginning of the text — several sheets of print — lay for some five or six years at the printer's. It was because I wanted to write the whole book in the style in which it began that I could not continue writing, for the simple reason that at the stage of development 1 had then reached, language refused to furnish the means for what I wished to achieve. Then came an overload of work, and I have still not been able to finish the book.
Anyone who is less conscientious about what he communicates from the spiritual world might perhaps smile at the idea of being held up in this way by a temporarily insurmountable difficulty. But one who feels a full sense of responsibility and applies it in all descriptions of the path that Western humanity must take towards Imagination knows that to find the right words entails a great deal of effort. As a path of training it is comparatively easy to describe, and this has been done in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. But if one's aim is to achieve a definite result such as that of describing the essential nature of man's senses — a part, therefore, of the inner make-up and constitution of humanity — it is then that the difficulties appear, among them that of grasping Imaginations and presenting them in clear contours by means of words.
Nevertheless, this is the path that Western mankind must follow. And just as the man of the East experienced entry into the spiritual world through his mantras, so must the Westerner, leaving aside all association-psychology, learn how to penetrate into his own being by reaching the world of Imagination. Only so will he acquire a true knowledge of humanity, and this is essential for any progress. Because we in the West have to live in a much more conscious way than men of the East, we must not adopt the attitude which says: “Whether or not humanity will eventually master this world of Imagination through natural processes can be left to the future.” No — this world of Imagination, because we have passed into the stage of conscious evolution, must be striven for consciously; there must be no coming to a standstill at certain stages. For what happens then? What happens then is that the ever-increasing spread of scepticism from East to West is not met with the right counter-measures, but with measures ultimately due to the fact that the spirit-and-soul unconsciously has united too radically, too deeply, with the physical body and that too firm a connection is made between the spirit-and-soul and the physical body.
Yes, it is indeed possible for a man not only to think materialistically but to be a materialist, because the spirit-and-soul is too strongly linked with the physical body. In such a man the Ego does not live freely in the concepts of pure thinking. And when he descends into the body with perceptions that have become pictorial, he descends with the Ego together with the concepts. And when this condition spreads among men, it gives rise to the spiritual phenomenon well known to us — to dogmatism of all kinds. This dogmatism is nothing else than the translation into the domain of spirit-and-soul of a condition which at a lower stage is pathological in agoraphobia and the like, and which — because these things are related — shows itself also in something which is merely another form of fear, in superstition of every variety. An unconscious urge towards Imagination is held back through powerful agencies, and this gives rise to dogmatism of all types. These types of dogmatism must be gradually replaced by what is achieved when the world of ideas is kept firmly in the sphere of the Ego; when progress is made towards Imagination and the true nature of man becomes an inner experience.
This is the Western path into the spiritual world. It is this path through Imagination that must establish the stream of Spiritual Science, the process of spiritual evolution that must make its way from West to East if humanity is to achieve real progress. But it is supremely important at the present time for humanity to recognise what the true path of Imagination should be, what path must be taken by Western Spiritual Science if it is to be a match for the Inspiration and its fruits that were once attained by ancient Eastern wisdom in a form suited to the racial characteristics of the people concerned. Only if we are able to confront the now decadent Inspiration of the East with Imaginations which, sustained by the spirit and charged through and through with reality, have arisen along the path to a higher spiritual culture, only if we can call this culture into existence as a stream of spiritual life flowing from West to East, are we bringing to fulfilment what is actually living deep down in the impulses for which mankind is striving. It is these impulses which are to-day breaking out in cataclysms of the social life because they cannot find other expression.
In the next lecture we will speak further of the path of Imagination, and of how the way to the higher worlds is envisaged by anthroposophical Spiritual Science.
|GA 322. Natural Science and Its Boundaries — Paths to the Spirit in East and West|
|GA 322. Natural Science and Its Boundaries — Paths to the Spirit in East and West|
Yesterday I tried to show the methods used by Eastern spirituality for approaching the super-sensible world. I pointed out how anybody who wished to follow this path into the super-sensible more or less dispensed with the bridge linking him with his fellows. He preferred to avoid the communication with other human beings that is established by speaking, thinking and ego-perception. I showed how the attempt was first of all made not to hear and understand through the word what another person wished to say, but actually to live in the words themselves. This process of living-in-the-word was enhanced by forming the words into certain aphorisms. One lived in these and repeated them, so that the soul forces acquired by thus living in the words were further strengthened by repetition.
I showed how in this way a soul-condition was attained that we might call a state of Inspiration, in the sense in which I have used the word. What distinguished the sages of the ancient Eastern world was that they were true to their race; conscious individuality was far less developed with them than it came to be in later stages of human evolution. This meant that their penetration of the spiritual world was a more or less instinctive process. Because the whole thing was instinctive and to some extent the product of a healthy human impulse, it could not in ancient times lead to the pathological disturbances of which we have also spoken. In later times steps were taken by the so-called Mystery centres to guard against such disturbances as I have tried to describe to you. What I said was that those in the West, who wish to come to grips with the spiritual world, must attempt things in a different way.
Mankind has progressed since the days of which I was speaking. Other soul forces have emerged, so that it is not simply a matter of breathing new life into the ancient Eastern way of spiritual development. A reactionary harking back to the spiritual life of prehistoric times or of man's early historical development is impossible. For the Western world, the way of initiation into the super-sensible world is through Imagination. But Imagination must be integrated organically with our spiritual life as a whole. This can come about in the most varied ways: as it did, after all, in the East. There, too, the way was not determined unequivocally in advance. To-day I should like to describe a way of initiation that conforms to the needs of Western civilisation and is particularly well suited to anyone who is immersed in the scientific life of the West.
In my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, I have described a sure path to the super-sensible. But this book has a fairly general appeal and is not specially suited to the requirements of someone with a definite scientific training. The path of initiation which I wish to describe to-day is specifically designed for the scientist. All my experience tells me that for such a man the way of knowledge must be based on what I have set out in The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. I will explain what I mean by this.
This book, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, was not written with the objects in mind that are customary when writing books to-day. Nowadays people write simply in order to inform the reader of the subject-matter of the book, so that he learns what the book contains in accordance with his education, his scientific training or the special knowledge he already possesses. This was not basically my intention in writing The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. For this reason it will not be popular with those who read books only to acquire information. The purpose of the book is to make the reader use his own processes of thought on every page, In a sense the book is only a kind of musical score, to be read with inward thought-activity in order to be able of oneself to advance from one thought to the next. This book constantly expects the reader to co-operate by thinking for himself.
Moreover, what happens to the soul of the reader, when he makes this effort of co-operation in thought, is also to be considered. Anybody who works through this book and brings his thought-activity to bear on it will admit to gaining a measure of self-comprehension in an element of his soul-life where this had been lacking. If he cannot do this, he is not reading The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity in the right way. He should feel how he is being lifted out of his usual concepts into thoughts which are independent of his sense-life and in which his whole existence is merged. He should be able to feel how this kind of thinking has freed him from dependence on the bodily state. Anyone who denies experiencing this has fundamentally misunderstood the book. It should be more or less possible to say: “Now I know through what I have achieved in the thought-activity of my soul what true thinking really is.”
The strange thing is that most Western philosophers utterly deny the reality of the very thing that my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity seeks to awaken in the soul of the reader. Countless philosophers have expounded the view that pure thinking does not exist, but is bound to contain traces, however diluted, of sense-perception. A strong impression is left that philosophers who maintain this have never really studied mathematics, or gone into the difference between analytical and empirical mechanics. The degree of specialisation required to-day will alone account for the fact that a great deal of philosophising goes on nowadays without the remotest understanding of mathematical thinking. Philosophy is fundamentally impossible without a grasp of at least the spirit of mathematical thinking. Goethe's attitude to this has been noticed, even though he made no claim himself to any special training in mathematics. Many would deny the existence of the very faculty which I should like readers of The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity to acquire.
Let us imagine a reader who simply sets about working through The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity within the framework of his ordinary consciousness in the way I have just described. He will not of course be able to claim that he has been transported into a super-sensible world; for I intentionally wrote this book in the way I did so as to present people with a work of pure philosophy. Just consider what advantage it would have been to anthroposophically orientated science if I had written works of spiritual science from the start. They would of course have been disregarded by all trained philosophers as the amateurish efforts of a dilettante. To begin with I had to concentrate on pure philosophy: I had to present the world with something thought out in pure philosophical terms, even though it transcended the normal bounds of philosophy.
However, at some point the transition had to be made from pure philosophy and science to writing about spiritual science. This occurred at a time when I had been asked to write about Goethe's scientific works, and this was followed by an invitation to write one particular chapter in a German biography of Goethe that was about to appear. It was in the late 1890's and the chapter was to be concerned with Goethe's scientific works. I had actually written it and sent it to the publisher when another work of mine came out, called Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age. This book was a link between pure philosophy and philosophy based on Anthroposophy. When this came out, my other manuscript was returned to me. Nothing was enclosed apart from my fee, the idea being that any claim I might make had thus been met. Among the learned pedants there obviously was no interest in anything written — not even a single chapter devoted to the development of Goethe's attitude to natural science — by one who had indulged in such mysticism.
I will now assume that The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity has already been studied with one's ordinary consciousness in the way I have suggested. We are now in the right frame of mind to guide our souls in the direction briefly indicated yesterday — along the first steps of the way leading to Imagination. It is possible to pursue this path in a form consonant with Western life if we simply try to surrender ourselves completely to the world of outer phenomena, so that we absorb them without thinking about them. In ordinary waking life, you will agree, we are constantly perceiving, but in the very act of doing so we are always permeating out perceptions with concepts. Scientific thinking involves a systematic interweaving of perceptions with concepts, building up systems of concepts and so on. In acquiring a capacity for the kind of thinking that gradually results from reading The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, we become capable of such strong inner activity that we are able to perceive without conceptualising.
There is something further we can do to strengthen our soul-forces so that we are enabled to absorb perceptions in the way I have just described: that is, by refraining from elaborating them with concepts in the very act of absorbing them. We can call up symbolic or other kinds of images — visual images, sound images, images of warmth, taste, and so on. If we thus bring our activity of perception into a state of flux, as it were, and infuse it with life and movement, not in the way we follow when forming concepts, but by working on our perceptions in an artistic or symbolising manner, we shall develop much sooner the power of allowing the percepts to permeate us in their pure essence. Simply to train ourselves rigorously in what I have called phenomenalism — that is, in elaborating the phenomena — is an excellent preparation for this kind of cognition. If we have really striven to reach the material boundaries of cognition — if we have not lazily looked beyond the veil of sense for metaphysical explanations in terms of atoms and molecules, but have used concepts to set in order the phenomena and to follow them through to their archetypes — then we have already undergone a training which can enable us to keep all conceptional activity away from the phenomena. And if at the same time we turn the phenomena into symbols and images, we shall acquire such strength of soul as to be able, one might say, to absorb the outer world free from concepts.
Obviously we cannot expect to achieve this all at once. Spiritual research demands far more of us than research in a laboratory or observatory. Above all an intense effort of will is required. For a time we should strive to concentrate on a symbolic picture, and occupy ourselves with the images that arise, leaving them undisturbed by phenomena present in the soul. Otherwise they will disappear as we hurry through life from sensation to sensation and from experience to experience. We should accustom ourselves to contemplating at least one such image — whether of our own creation or suggested by somebody else — for longer and longer periods. We should penetrate to its very core, concentrating on it beyond the possibility of being influenced by mere memory. If we do all this, and keep repeating the process, we can strengthen our soul forces and finally become aware of an inner experience, of which formerly we had not the remotest inkling.
Finally — it is important not to misunderstand what I am going to say — it is possible to form a picture of something experienced only in our inner being, if we recall especially lively dream-pictures, so long as they derive from memories and do not relate directly to anything external, and are thus a sort of reaction stemming from within ourselves. If we experience these images in their fullest depth, we have a very real experience; and the point is reached when we meet within ourselves the spiritual element which actuates the processes of growth. We meet the power of growth itself. Contact is established with a part of our human make-up which we formerly experienced only unconsciously, but which is nevertheless active within us. What do I mean by “experienced unconsciously?”
Now I have told you how from birth until the change of teeth a spiritual soul force works on and through the human being; and after this it more or less detaches itself. Later, between the change of teeth and maturity, it immerses itself, so to speak, in the physical body, awakening the erotic impulse — and much else besides. All this happens unconsciously. But if we consciously use such soul-activities as I have described in order to observe how the qualities of soul and spirit can penetrate our physical make-up, we begin to see how these processes work in a human being, and how from the time of his birth he is given over to the external world. Nowadays this relation to the outer world is regarded as amounting to nothing more than abstract perception or abstract knowledge. This is not so. We are surrounded by a world of colour, sound and warmth and by all kinds of sensory impressions. As our thinking gets to work on them, our whole being receives yet further impressions. When unconscious experiences of childhood come to be experienced consciously, we even find that, while we were absorbing colour and sound impressions unconsciously, they were working spiritually upon us. When, between the change of teeth and maturity, erotic feelings make their first impact, they do not simply grow out of our constitution but come to meet us from the cosmos in rays of colour, sound and warmth.
But warmth, light and sound are not to be understood in a merely physical sense. Through our sensory impressions we are conscious only of what I might call outer sound and outer colour. And when we thus surrender ourselves to nature, we do not encounter the ether-waves, atoms and so on which are imagined by modern physics and physiology. Spiritual forces are at work in the physical world; forces which between birth and death fashion us into the human beings we are.
When once we tread the paths of knowledge which I have described, we become aware of the fact that it is the outer world which forms us. As we become clearly conscious of spirit in the outer world, we are able to experience consciously the living forces at work in our bodies. It is phenomenology itself that reveals to us so clearly the existence of spirit in the outer world. It is the observation of phenomena, and not abstract metaphysics, that brings the spiritual to our notice, if we make a point of observing consciously what we would otherwise tend to do unconsciously; if we notice how through the sense-world spiritual powers enter into our being and work formatively upon it.
Yesterday I pointed out to you that the Eastern sage virtually ignores the significance of speech, thought and ego-perception. His attitude towards these activities is different, for speech, perception of thoughts and ego-perception tend at first to lead us away from the spiritual world into social contact with other human beings. We buy our way into social life, as it were, by exposing our thoughts, our speech and our ego-perception and making them communicable. The Eastern sage lived in the word and resigned himself to the fact that it could not be communicated. He felt the same about his thoughts; he lived in his thinking, and so on. In the West we are more inclined to cast a backward glance at humanity as we follow the path into the super-sensible world.
At this point it is well to remember that man has a certain kind of sensory organisation within him. I have already described the three inner senses through which he becomes aware of his inner being, just as he perceives what goes on around him. We have a sense of balance, which tells us of the space we occupy as human beings and within whose limits our wills can function. We have a sense of movement, which tells us, even in the dark, that we are moving. This knowledge comes from within and is not derived from contact with outside objects that we may touch in passing. We have a “sense of life,” through which we are aware of our general state of health, or, one might say, of our constantly changing inward condition.
It is just in the first seven years of our life that these three inner senses work in conjunction with the will. We are guided by our sense of balance: and a being that, to begin with, cannot move about and later on can only crawl, is transformed into one that can stand upright and walk. When we learn to walk upright, we are coming to grips with the world. This is possible only because of our sense of balance. Similarly, our sense of movement and our sense of life contribute to our development as integrated human beings.
Anybody able to apply laboratory standards of objective observation to the study of man's development — spirit-soul as well as physical — will soon discover how those forces that form the human being and are especially active in the first seven years free themselves and begin to assume a different aspect from the time of the change of teeth. By this time a person is less intimately connected with his inner life than he was as a child. A child is closely bound up inwardly with human equilibrium, movement and processes of life. As emancipation from them gradually occurs, something else is developing. A certain adjustment is taking place to the three senses of smell, taste and touch.
A detailed observation of the way a child comes to grips with life is extraordinarily interesting. This can be seen most obviously, of course, in early life, but anybody trained to do so can see it clearly enough later on as well. I refer to the process of orientation made possible by the senses of smell, of taste and of touch. The child in a manner expels from himself the forces of equilibrium, movement and life and, while he is so doing, draws into him the qualitative senses of smell, taste and touch. Over a fairly long period the former are, so to speak, being breathed out and the latter breathed in; so that the two trinities encounter each other within our organism — the forces of equilibrium, movement and life pushing their way outward from within, while smell, taste and touch, which point us to qualities, are pressing inwards from without. These two trinities of sense interpenetrate each other; and it is through this interpenetration that the human being first comes to realise himself as a true self.
Now we are cut off from outer spirituality by speech and by our faculties of perceiving the thoughts and perceiving the egos of others — and rightly so, for if it were otherwise we could never in this physical life grow into social beings. [See previous lecture.] In precisely the same way, inasmuch as the qualities of smell, taste and touch wax counter to equilibrium, movement and life, we are inwardly cut off from the last three — which would otherwise disclose themselves to us directly. One could say that the sensations of smell, taste and touch form a barricade in front of the sensations of balance, movement and life and prevent our experiencing them.
What is the result of that development towards Imagination of which I spoke? It is this. The oriental stops short at speech in order to live in it; stops at thought in order to live in it; stops at ego-perception in order to live in it; and by these means makes his way outward into the spiritual world. We, as the result of developing Imagination, do something similar when we absorb the external percept without conceptualising it. But the direction we take in doing this is the opposite to the direction taken by an oriental who practises restraint in the matter of speech, thought-perception and ego-perception. He stays still in these. He lives his way into them. The aspirant to Imagination, on the other hand, worms his way inward through smell, taste and perception; he penetrates inward and, ignoring the importunities of his sensations of smell, taste and touch, makes contact with the experiences of equilibrium, movement and life.
It is a great moment when we have penetrated the sensory trinity, as I have called it, of taste, smell and touch, and we stand naked, as it were, before essential movement, equilibrium and life.
Having thus prepared the ground, it is interesting to study what it is that Western mysticism so often has to offer. Most certainly, I am very far from decrying the elements of poetry, beauty and imaginative expression in many mystical writings. Most certainly I admire what, for instance, St. Theresa, Mechthild of Magdeburg and others have to tell us, and indeed Meister Eckhardt and Johannes Tauler; but all this reveals itself also to the true spiritual scientist. It is what arises if one follows an inward path without penetrating through the domain of smell, taste and touch. Read what has been written by individuals who have described with particular clarity what they have experienced in this way. They speak of an inner sense of taste, experienced in connection with the soul-spiritual element in man's inner being. They refer also to smell and touch in a special way. Anybody, for instance, who reads Mechthild of Magdeburg or St. Theresa rightly will see that they follow this inward path, but never penetrate right through smell, taste and touch. They use beautiful poetic imagery for their descriptions, but they are speaking only of how one can smell, taste and touch oneself inwardly.
It is indeed less agreeable to see the true nature of reality with spiritually developed senses than to read the accounts given by a sensual mysticism — the only term for it — which fundamentally gratifies only a refined inward-looking egotism of soul. As I say, much as this mysticism is to be admired — and I do admire it — the true spiritual scientist has to realise that it stops half-way. What is manifest in the splendid poetic imagery of Mechthild of Magdeburg, St. Theresa and others is really only what is smelt, tasted and touched before attaining to true inwardness.
Truth can be unpleasant, perhaps even cruel, at times. But modern man has no business to become rickety in soul through following a vague incomplete mysticism. What is required to-day is to penetrate the true mysteries of man's inner nature with all our intellectual powers — with the same powers that we have disciplined in the cause of science and used to effect in the outer world. There is no mistaking what science is. It is respected for the very method and discipline it demands. It is when we have learnt to be scientific that we appreciate the achievements of a vague mysticism at their true worth but we also discover that they are not what spiritual science has to foster. On the contrary, the task of spiritual science is to reveal clearly the true nature of man's being. This in turn makes possible a sound understanding of the outer world.
Instead of speaking in this way, as the truth demands of me, I could be claiming the support of every vague, woolly mystic, who goes in for mysticism to satisfy the inward appetite of his soul. That is not our concern here, but rather the discovery of powers that can be used for living; spiritual powers that are capable of informing our scientific and social life.
When we have come to grips with the forces that dwell in our senses of balance, life and movement, then we have reached something that is first of all experienced through its transparency as man's essential inward being. The very nature of the thing shows us clearly that we cannot penetrate any deeper. What we do find is quite enough to be going on with, for what we discover is not the stuff of vague mystical dreams but a genuine organology. Above all, we find within ourselves the true nature of balance and movement, and of the stream of life. We find this within ourselves.
When this experience is complete, something unique has taken place. In due course we discover something. An essential prerequisite is, as I have said, to have worked carefully through The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. The Philosophy is then left, so to speak, on one side, while we pursue the inward path of contemplation and meditation. We have advanced as far as balance, movement and life. We live in this life, balance and movement. Parallel with our pursuit of the way of contemplation and meditation, but without any other activity on our part, our thinking in connection with The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity has undergone a transformation. We have been able to experience as pure thought what a philosophy such as this has to offer; but now that we have worked upon ourselves in another sphere, our inner soul life; this has turned into something quite different. It has taken on new dimensions and is now much more full of meaning. While on the one hand we have been penetrating our inward being and have deepened our power of Imagination, we have also lifted out of the ordinary level of consciousness the fruits of our thinking on The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. Thoughts which formerly had a more or less abstract existence in the realm of pure cerebration have now become significant forces. They are now alive in our consciousness, and what was once pure thinking has become Inspiration. We have developed Imagination; and thinking has been transformed into Inspiration.
What we have attained by these two methods in our progress along this road has to be clearly differentiated. On the one hand we have gained Inspiration from what was, to begin with, pure thought. On the other hand, there is the experience that comes to us through our senses of balance, movement and life. We are now in a position to unite the two forms of experience, the outer and the inner. The fusion of Inspiration and Imagination brings us to Intuition.
What have we accomplished now? I can answer this question by approaching it from the other side. First of all I must draw attention to the steps taken by the Oriental seer, who wishes to advance further after being trained in the mantras and experiencing the living word and language. He now learns to experience not only the rhythms of language but also, and in a sense consciously, the process of breathing. He has, as it were, to undergo an artificial kind of breathing by varying it in all kinds of ways. For him this is one step up; but this is not something to be taken over in its entirety by the West.
What does the Eastern student of yoga attain by consciously regulating his breathing in a variety of ways? He experiences something very remarkable when he breathes in. As he does so, he is brought into contact with a quality of air that is not to be found when we experience air as a purely physical substance, but only when we unite ourselves with the air and so experience it spiritually. A genuine student of yoga, as he breathes in, experiences something that works upon his whole being, an activity that is not completed in this life and does not end with death. The spiritual quality of the outer air enters our being and engenders in us something that goes with us through the gate of death. To experience the breathing process consciously means taking part in something that continues when we have laid aside our bodies. To experience consciously the process of breathing is to experience both the reaction of our inner being to the drawing in of breath and the activities of our soul-spiritual being before birth: or let us say rather that we experience our conception and the factors that contribute to our embryonic development and work on us further within our organism as children. Breathing consciously means realising our own identity on the far side of birth and death. Advancing from the experience of the word and of language to that of breathing means penetrating further into an inspired realisation of the eternal in man. We Westerners have to experience much the same — but in a different sphere.
What in fact is the process of perception? It is only a modification of the breathing process. As we breathe in, the air presses on our diaphragm and on our whole being. Brain fluid is driven up through our spinal column into our brain. This establishes a connection between breathing and cerebral activity. Breathing, in so far as it influences the brain, works upon our sense-activity in the form of perception. Drawing in breath has various sides to it, and one of these is perception.
How is it when we breathe out? Brain fluid descends and exerts pressure on the circulation of the blood. The descent of brain fluid is bound up with the activity of will and also with breathing out. Anybody who really makes a study of The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity will discover that when we attain to pure thinking, a fusion of thinking and willing takes place. Pure thinking is fundamentally an expression of will. So it comes about that what we have characterised as pure thinking is related to what the Easterner experiences in the process of breathing out.
Pure thinking is related to breathing out, just as perception is related to breathing in. We have to go through the same process as the yogi, but in a more inward form. Yoga depends on the regulation of breathing, both in and out, and in this way comes into contact with the eternal in man. What should Western man do? He can transform into soul-experience both perception on the one hand and thinking on the other. He can unite in his inner experience perception and thinking, which would otherwise only come quietly together in a formal abstract way, so that he has the same experience inwardly in his soul and spirit as he has physically in breathing in and out. Breathing in and out are physical experiences. When they are harmonised, we experience the eternal.
We experience thought-perception in our everyday lives. As we bring movement into our soul life, we become aware of rhythm, of the swing of the pendulum, of the constant movement to and fro of perception and thinking. Higher realities are experienced in the East by breathing in and out. The Westerner develops a kind of breathing process in his soul and spirit, in place of the physical breathing of yoga, when he develops within himself, through perception, the vital process of transformed in-breathing and, through thinking, that of out-breathing; and fuses concept, thought and perception into a harmonious whole. Gradually, with the beat of this rhythmical breathing process in perception and thinking, his development advances to true spiritual reality in the form of Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition.
In my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity I indicated as a philosophical fact that reality is the product of the interpenetration of perception and thinking. Since this book was designed to deal with man's soul activity, some indication should also be given of the training that Western man needs if he is to penetrate the spiritual world. The Easterner speaks of the systole and diastole, breathing in and out. In place of these terms Western man should put perception and thinking. Where the Oriental speaks of the development of physical breathing, we in the West say: development of soul-spiritual breathing in the course of cognition through perception and thinking.
All this should perhaps be contrasted with the kind of blind alley reached by Western spiritual development. Let me explain what I mean. In 1841 Michelet, the Berlin philosopher, published Hegel's posthumous works of natural philosophy. Hegel had worked at the end of the eighteenth century, together with Schelling, at laying the foundations of a system of natural philosophy. Schelling, with the enthusiasm of youth, had built his natural philosophy in a remarkable way on what he called intellectual contemplation. But he reached a point where he could make no further progress. His immersion in mysticism produced splendid results in his work, Bruno, or concerning the Divine and Natural Principle in Things, and that fine piece of writing, Human Freedom, or the Origin of Evil. But for all this he could make no progress and began to hold back from expressing himself at all. He kept promising to follow things up with a philosophy that would reveal the true nature of those hidden forces at which his earlier natural philosophy had only hinted.
When Hegel's natural philosophy appeared in 1841, through Michelet, the position was that Schelling's expected and oft-promised philosophical revelations had still not been vouchsafed to the public. He was summoned to Berlin. But what he had to offer contained no spiritual qualities to permeate the natural philosophy he had founded. He had struggled to create an intellectual picture of the world. He stood still at this point, because he was unable to use Imagination to enter the sphere of which I have been speaking to you to-day. So there he was at a dead end.
Hegel, who had a more rational intellect, had taken over Schelling's thoughts and carried them further by applying pure thinking to the observation of nature. That was the origin of Hegel's natural philosophy. So Schelling's promise to explain nature in spiritual terms was never fulfilled, and we got Hegel's natural philosophy which was to be discarded by science in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was not understood and was bound to remain so, for there was no connection between phenomenology, or the true observation of nature, and the ideas contained in Hegel's natural philosophy. It was a strange confrontation: Schelling travelling from Munich to Berlin, where something great was expected of him, and it turned out that he had nothing to say. This was a disappointment for all those who believed that through Hegel's natural philosophy revelations about nature would emerge from pure thinking. The historical fact is that Schelling reached the stage of intellectual contemplation but not that of genuine Imagination; while Hegel showed that if pure thinking does not lead on to Imagination, it cannot lead to Inspiration and to an understanding of nature's secrets. This line of Western development had terminated in a blind alley.
There was nothing — nothing permeated with the spirit — to set against Eastern teaching, which only engendered scepticism in the West. Anyone who has lovingly immersed himself in the true Schelling and Hegel, and has thus been able to see, with love in his heart, the limitations of Western philosophy, should turn his attention to Anthroposophy. He should work to bring about an anthroposophically orientated Spiritual Science for the West, so that we come to possess something of spiritual origin to compare with what the East has created through the interaction of systole and diastole.
For us in the West, there is the spiritual-soul rhythm of perception and thinking, through which we can rise to something more than a merely abstract science. It opens the way to a living science, which on that account enables us to live in harmony with truth. After all the misfires of the Kantian, Schellingian and Hegelian philosophies, we have come to the point where we need something that can show, by revealing the way of the spirit, how truth and science are related. The truth that dwells in a spiritualised science would be a healing power in the future development of mankind.
|GA 323. Third Scientific Lecture-Course: Astronomy — Lecture I|
|GA 323. Third Scientific Lecture-Course: Astronomy — Lecture I|
To-day I should like to make some introductory remarks to what I am going to lay before you in the coming days. My reason for doing this is that you may know the purpose of these talks from the outset.
It will not be my task during the following days to deal with any narrowly defined, special branch of science, but to give various wider viewpoints, having in mind a quite definite goal in relation to science. I should therefore like to warn people not to describe this as an ‘Astronomical Course’. It is not meant to be that. But it will deal with something that I feel is especially important for us to consider at this time. I have therefore given it the title “The relation of the diverse branches of Natural Science to Astronomy,” and today in particular I shall explain what I actually intend with the giving of this title.
The fact is that in a comparatively short time much will have to be changed within what we call the sphere of science, if it is not to enter upon a complete decline. Certain groups of sciences which are now comprised under various headings and are permitted to be represented under these headings, in our ordinary schools, will have to be taken out their grooves and be classified from quite other aspects. This will necessitate a far reaching regrouping of our sciences. The grouping at present employed is entirely inadequate for a world-conception based upon reality, and yet our modern world holds so firmly to such traditional classification that it is on this basis that candidates are chosen to occupy the professorial chairs in our Universities. People confine themselves for the most part to dividing the existing, circumscribed fields of Natural Science into yet further special branches, and they then look to the specialists or experts as they are called. But a change must come into the whole scientific life by the advent of quite different categories, within which will be united, as in a whole new field of science, things that today are dealt with in Zoology or Physiology, or again, let us say, in the Theory of Knowledge. The older forms of scientific classification, often extremely abstract, must die out, and quite new scientific combinations must arise. This will meet with great obstacles at first, because people today are trained in the specialized branches of science and it will be difficult for them to find an approach to what they will urgently need in order to bring about a combination of scientific material in accordance with reality.
To put in concisely, I might say: We have today a science of astronomy, of Physics, of Chemistry, of Philosophy, we have a science of Biology, of Mathematics, and so on. Special branches have been formed, almost, I might say, so that the various specialists will not have such hard work in order to become well grounded in their subject. They do not have too much to do in mastering all the literature concerned, which, as we know, exists in immense quantities. But it will be a matter of creating new branches which will comprise quite different things, including perhaps at the same time something from Astronomy, something from Biology, and so on. For this, a reshaping of our whole life of science will of course be essential. Therefore, what we term Spiritual Science, which does indeed aim to be of a universal nature, must work precisely in this direction. It must make it its special mission to work in this direction. For we simply cannot get any further with the old grouping. Our Universities confront the world today, my dear friends, in a way that is really quite estranged from life. They turn out mathematicians, physiologists, philosophers, but none of them have any real relation to the world. They can do nothing but work in their narrowly confined spheres, putting before us a picture of the world that becomes more and more abstract, less and less realistic.
It is the change here indicated — a deep necessity for our time — to which I want to do justice in these lectures. I should like you to see how impossible it will be to continue the older classifications indefinitely, and I therefore want to show how other branches of science of the most varied kinds, which, in their present way of treatment, take no account of Astronomy, have indeed definite connections with Astronomy, that is, with a true knowledge of universal space. Certain astronomical facts must perforce be taken into account in other branches of science too, so that we may learn to master these other fields in a way conformable to reality.
The task of these lectures is therefore to build a bridge from the different fields of scientific thought to the field of Astronomy, that astronomical understanding may appear in the right way in the various fields of science.
In order not to be misunderstood, I should like to make one more remark about method. You see, the manner of presenting scientific facts which is customary nowadays must undergo considerable change, because it actually arises out of the scientific structure which has to be overcome. When today facts are referred to, which lie somewhat remote from man's understanding, — remote, just because he does not meet with them at all in his scientific knowledge, — it is usual to say: “That is stated, but no proved.” Yet in scientific work is often quite inevitable that statements must be made at first purely as results of observation, which only afterwards can be verified as more and more facts are brought to support them. So it would be wrong to assume, for instance, that right at the beginning of a discourse someone could break in and say, “That is not proved.” It will be proved in the course of time, but much will first have to be presented simply from observation, so that the right concept, the right idea, may be created.
And so I beg of you to take these lectures as a whole, and to look in the last lectures for the plain proof of many things which seem in the first lectures to be mere statements. Many things will then be verified which I shall have to handle at first in such a way as to evoke the necessary concepts and ideas.
Astronomy as we know it today, even including the domain of Astrophysics, is fundamentally a modern creation. Before the time of Copernicus or Galileo men thought about astronomical phenomena in a way which differed essentially from the way we think today. It is even extraordinarily difficult to indicate the way in which man still thought of Astronomy in, say, the 13th and 14th centuries, because this way of thinking has become completely foreign to modern man. We only live in the ideas which have been formed since the time of Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus; and from a certain point of view that is perfectly right. They are ideas which treat of the distant phenomena of universal space, in so far as they are concerned with Astronomy, in a mathematical and mechanical way. Men think of these phenomena in terms of mathematics and mechanics. In observing the phenomena, men base their ideas upon what they have acquired from an abstract mathematical science, or an abstract science of mechanics. They calculate distances, movements and forces. But the qualitative outlook still in existence in the 13th and 14th centuries, which distinguished Individualities in the stars, an Individuality of Jupiter, of Saturn ... this has become completely lost to modern man. I will make no criticism of the things at the moment, but will only point out that the mechanical and mathematical way of treating what we call the domain of Astronomy has become the exclusive one. Even if we acquaint ourselves with the stars in a popular fashion without understanding mathematics or mechanics, we still find it presented, even if in a manner suitable for the lay-mind, entirely in ideas of space and time, of a mathematical and mechanical kind. No doubts of any kind exist in the minds of our contemporaries — who believe that their judgment is authoritative — that this is the only way in which to regard the starry heavens. Anything else, they are convinced, would be merely amateurish.
Now, if the question arises as to how it has actually come about that this view of the starry heavens has emerged in the evolution of civilization, the answer of those who regard the modern scientific mode of thought as absolute, will be different from the reply which we are able to give. Those who regard the scientific thought of today as something absolute and true, will say: Well, you know, among earlier humanity there were not yet any strictly scientifically formed ideas; man had first to struggle through to such ideas, i. e., to the mathematical, mechanical mode of regarding celestial phenomena of the Universe, a later humanity has worked through to a strictly scientific comprehension of what does actually correspond to reality.
This is an answer that we cannot give, my dear friends. We must take up our position from the standpoint of the evolution of humanity, which in the course of its existence, has introduced various inner forces into its consciousness. We must say to ourselves: The manner of observing the celestial phenomena which existed among the ancient Babylonians, the Egyptians, perhaps even the Indian people, was due to the particular form which the development of the human soul-forces was taking in those times. Those human soul-forces had to be developed with the same inner necessity with which a child between the 10th and 15th year must develop certain soul-forces, while in another period it will developing other faculties, which lead it to different conclusions about the world. Then came the Ptolemaic system. That arose out of different soul-forces. Then our Copernican system. That arose from yet other soul-forces. The Copernican system did not develop because humanity had happily struggled through to objectivity, whereas before they had all been as children, but because humanity since the middle of the 15th century needed precisely the mathematical, mechanical faculties for its development. That is why modern man sees the celestial phenomena in the picture formed by the mathematical, mechanical faculties. And he will some day see them again in a different way, when in his development he has drawn up out of the depths of the soul other forces, — to his own healing and benefit. Thus it depends upon humanity what form the world-concept takes. But it is not a question of looking back in pride to earlier times when men were “more childlike,” and then thinking that in modern times we have at last struggled through to an objective understanding which can now endure for all future ages.
There is something which has become a real necessity to later humanity and has given color to the requirements of the scientific mind. It is this: Men strive on the one hand for ideas that are clear and easy to control — namely, mathematical ideas — , and on the other hand they strive for ideas through which they can surrender most strongly to an inner compulsion. The modern man at once becomes uncertain and nervous when he does not feel the strong inner compulsion presented, for instance, by the argument of the Pythagorean theorem, but realizes, let us say, that the figure which is drawn does not decide for him, but that he must develop an activity of soul and decide for himself. Then he at once becomes uncertain and nervous and is no longer willing to continue the line of thought. So he says: That is not exact science; subjectivity comes into it. Modern man is really dreadfully passive; he would like to be led everywhere by a chain of infallible arguments and conclusions. Mathematics satisfies this requirement, at least in most cases; and where it does not, where man have interposed their own opinion in recent times, — well, my dear friends, the results are according! Men still believe that they are being exact, while they hit upon the most incredible ideas.
Thus in mathematics and mechanics men think they are being led forward by leading-strings of concepts which are linked together through their own inherent logic. They feel then as if they had ground under their feet, but the moment they step off it they do not want to go on any further. Concepts which are easy to grasp on the one hand, and the element of inner compulsion on the other: this is what modern man needs for his “safety.” Fundamentally, it is on this basis that the particular form of world-conception, supplied by the modern science of Astronomy, has been built up. I am not at the moment speaking of the single facts, but merely of the world-conception as a whole.
This attitude towards a mathematical, mechanical conception of the world has so penetrated the consciousness of humanity, my dear friends, that people have come to regard everything that cannot be treated in this way as more or less unscientific. From this feeling proceeded such a phrase as that of Kant, who said: In every domain of science there is only so much real science as there is mathematics in it; one ought really to bring Arithmetic or Geometry into all the sciences. But this idea, as we know, breaks down when we think how remote the simplest mathematical ideas are to those, for instance, who study Medicine. Our present division of the sciences gives to a medical student practically nothing in the way of mathematical ideas.
And so it comes about that on the one hand what is called astronomical knowledge has been set up as an ideal. DuBois-Raymond has defined this in his address on the limits of the knowledge of Nature by saying: We only grasp truths in Nature and satisfy our need of causality inasmuch as we can apply the astronomical type of knowledge. That is to say, we regard the celestial phenomena in such a way that we draw the stars upon the chart of the sky and calculate with the material which is there given us. We can state exactly: There is a star, it exercises a force of attraction upon other stars. We begin to calculate, having the different things, to which our calculations apply, visibly before us. This is what we have brought into Astronomy in the first place. Now we observe, let us say, the molecule. Within the complex molecule we have the atoms, exercising a force of attraction on one another, moving around each other, — forming, as it were, a little universe. We observe this molecule as a small cosmic system and are satisfied if it all seems to fit. But then there is the great difference that when we look out into the starry sky all the details are given to us. We can at most ask whether we understand them rightly, whether after all, there might not be some other explanation than the one given by Newton. We have the given details and then we spin a mathematical, mechanical web over them. This web of thought is actually added to the given facts, but from a scientific point of view it satisfies the modern need of man. And now we carry the system, which we have first thought out and devised, into the world of the molecule and atom. Here we add in thought what in the other case was given to us. But we satisfy our so-called need of causality by saying: What we think of as the smallest particle, moves in such and such a way, and it is the objective counterpart of what we experience subjectively as light, sound, warmth etc. We carry the astronomic form of knowledge into every phenomenon of the world and thus satisfy our demand for causality. Du-Bois Raymond has expressed it quite bluntly: “When one cannot do that, there is no scientific explanation at all.”
Yes, my dear friends, what is here claimed should actually imply that if, for example, we wished to come to a rational form of therapy, that is to say, to understand the activity of a remedy, we should have to be able to follow the atoms in the substance of the remedy as we follow the movements of the Moon, the Sun, the planets and the fixed stars. They would all have to become little cosmic systems. We should have to be able to calculate how this or that remedy would work. This was actually an ideal for some people not so very long ago. Now they have given up such ideals. Such an idea collapses not only in reference to such a far off sphere as a rational therapy, but in those lying more within reach, simply because our sciences are divided as they are today. You see, the modern doctor is educated in such a way that he masters extraordinarily little of pure mathematics. We may talk to him perhaps of the need for a knowledge of astronomy but it would be of no use to speak of introducing mathematical ideas into his field of work. But as we have seen, everything outside mathematics, mechanics and astronomy should be described, according to the modern notion, as being unscientific in the strict sense of the word. Naturally that is not done. People regard these other sciences too as exact, but this is most inconsistent. It is, however, characteristic of the present time that the demand should have been made at all for everything to be understood on the model of mathematical Astronomy.
It is hard today to talk to people in a serious way about such thing; how hard this is I should like to make clear to you by an example.
You know of course that the question of the form of the human skull has played a great role in modern biology. I have also spoken of this matter may times in the course of our anthroposophical lectures. Goethe and Oken put forward magnificent thoughts on this question of the human skull-bones. The school of Gegenbauer also carried out classical researches upon it. But something that could satisfy the urge for a deeper knowledge in this direction does not in fact exist today.
People discuss, to what extent Goethe was right in saying that the skull-bones are metamorphosed vertebrae, bones of the spine. But it is impossible to arrive at any really penetrating view of this matter today, because in the circles where these things are discussed one would scarcely be understood, and where an understanding might be forthcoming these things are not talked of because they are not of interest. You see, it is practically impossible today to bring together in close working association a thoroughly modern doctor, a thoroughly modern mathematician, — i.e., one who is master of higher mathematics —, and a man who could understand both of them passably well. These three men could scarcely understand one another. The one who would sit in the middle, understanding both of them slightly, would be able at a pinch to talk a little with the mathematician and also with the doctor. But the mathematician and the doctor would not be able to understand each other upon important questions, because what the doctor would have to say about them would not interest the mathematician, and what the mathematician would have to say — or would say, if he found words at all, — would not be understood by the doctor, who would be lacking the necessary mathematical background. This is what would happen in an attempt to solve the problem I have just put before you. People imagine: If the skull-bones are metamorphosed vertebra, then we ought to be able to proceed directly, through a transformation which it is possible to picture spatially, from the vertebra to the skull. To extend the idea still further to the limb-bones would, on the basis of the accepted premises, be quite out of the question. The modern mathematician will be able, from his mathematical studies, to form an idea of what it really means when I turn a glove inside out, when I turn the inside to the outside. One must have in mind a certain mathematical handling of the process by which what was formerly outside is turned inward, and what was inside is turned to the outside. I will make a sketch of it (Fig. 1) — a structure of some sort that is first white on the outside and red inside. We will treat this structure as we did the glove, so that it is now red outside and white inside (Fig. 2).
But let us go further, my dear friends, and picture to ourselves that we have something endowed with a force of its own that does not admit of being turned inside out in such a simple way as a glove which still looks like a glove after being inverted. Suppose that we invert something which has different stresses of force on the outer surface from those on the inner. We shall then find that simply through the inversion quite a new form arises. The form may appear thus before we have reversed it (Fig. 1): we turn it inside out and now different forces come into consideration on the red surface and on the white, so that perhaps, purely through the inversion, this form arises (Fig. 3). Such a form might arise merely in the process of inversion. When the red side faced inward, forces remained dominant which are developed differently when it is turned outward. And so with the white side; only when turned towards the inside can it develop its inherent forces.
It is of course quite conceivable to give a mathematical presentation of such a subject, but people are thoroughly disinclined nowadays to apply to reality what is arrived at conceptually in such a way. The moment, however, we learn to apply this to reality, we become able to see in our long bones or tubular bones (that is, in the limb bones), a form which, when inverted, becomes our skull bones! In the drawing, let the inside of the bone, as far as the marrow, be depicted by the red, the outside by the white (Fig. 4). Certain forms and forces, which can of course be investigated, are turned inward, and what we see when we draw away the muscle from the long bone is turned outward. But now imagine these hollow bones turned inside out by the same principle as I have just given you, in which other conditions of stress and strain are brought into play;
then you may easily obtain this form (Fig. 5). Now it has the white within, and what I depicted by the red comes to the outside. This is in fact the relationship of a skull-bone to a limb-bone, and in between lies the typical bone of the back — the vertebra of the spinal column. You must turn the tubular bone inside out like a glove according to its indwelling forces; then you obtain the skull-bone. The metamorphosis of the bones of the limbs into the skull-bones is only to be understood when keeping in mind the process of inversion, or ‘turning inside-out’. The important thing to realizes is that what is turned outward in the limb-bones is turned inward in the skull. The skull-bones turn towards a world of their own in the interior of the skull. That is one world. The skull-bone is orientated to the world, just as the limb-bone is orientated outward, towards the external world. This can be clearly seen in the case of the bones. Moreover, the human organism as a whole is so organized that it has on the one hand a skull organization, and on the other a limb-organization, the skull-organization being oriented inward, the limb-organization outward. The skull contains an inner world, the limb-man an outer world, and between the two is a kind of balancing system which preserves the rhythm.
My dear friends, take any literature dealing with the theory of functions, or, say, with non-Euclidean geometry, and see what countless ideas of every kind are brought forward in order to get beyond the ordinary geometrical conception of three-dimensional space; — to extend the domain — widen out the concept of geometry. You will see what industry and ingenuity are employed. But now suppose that you have become an expert at mathematics, who knows the theory of functions well and understands all that can be understood today of non-Euclidean geometry. I should like now to put a question concerning much that tends in this direction (Forgive me if it seems as if one did not value them highly, speaking of these things in such trivial terms. And yet I must do so, and I beg the audience, especially trained mathematicians, to turn it over in their minds and see if there is not truth in what I say.) The question could be put as follows: What is the use of all this spinning of purely mathematical thoughts? What is it worth to me, so to speak, in pounds, shillings and pence? No one is interested in the spheres in which it might perhaps find concrete application. Yet if we were to apply to the structure of the human organism all that has been thought out in non-Euclidean geometry, then we should be in the realm of reality, and applying immeasurably important ideas to reality, not wandering about in mere speculations. If the mathematician were so trained as to be interested also in what is real, — in the appearance of the heart, for example, so that he could form an idea of how through a mathematical process he could turn the heart inside out, and how thereby the whole human form would arise, — if he were taught to use his mathematics in actual life, then he could be working in the realm of the real. It would then be impossible to have the trained mathematician on the one hand, not interested in what the doctor learns, and on the other, the physician, understanding nothing of of how the mathematician — though in a purely abstract element — is able to change and metamorphose forms. This is the situation we must alter. If not, our sciences will fall into decay. They grow estranged from one another; people no longer understand each other's language.
How then is science to be transformed into a social science, as is implied in all that I shall be telling you in these lectures? A science which leads over into social science is not yet in existence.
On the one hand we have Astronomy, tending more and more to be clothed in mathematical forms of thought. It has become so great in its present form just because it is a purely mathematical and mechanical science. But there is another branch of science which stands, as it were, at the opposite pole to Astronomy, and which cannot be studied in its real nature without Astronomy. It is however, impossible, as science is today, to build a bridge between Astronomy and this other pole of science, namely, Embryology. He alone is studying reality, who on the one hand studies the starry skies and on the other hand the development of the human embryo. How is the human embryo generally studied today? Well, it is stated: The human embryo arises from the interaction of two cells, the sex-cells or gametes, male and female. These cells develop in the parent organism in such a way as to attain a certain state of independence before they are able to interact. They then present a certain contract, the one cell, the male, calling forth new and different possibilities of development in the other, the female. The question is put: What is a cell? As you know, since about the middle of the 19th century, Biology has largely been built upon the cell theory. The cell is described as a larger or smaller, spherule, consisting of albuminous or protein-like substances. It has a nucleus within it of a somewhat different structure and around the whole is an enclosing membrane. As such, it is the building-stone for all that arising by way of living organisms. The sex-cells are of a similar nature but are formed differently according to whether they are male or female, and from such cells every more complicated organism is built up.
But now, what is actually meant when it is said that an organism builds itself up from these cells? The idea is that substances which are otherwise in Nature are taken up into these cells and then no longer work in quite the same way as before. If oxygen, nitrogen or carbon are contained in the cells, the carbon, for instance, does not have the effect upon some other substance outside, that it would have had before; such power of direct influence is lost to it. It is taken up into the organism of the cell and can only work there as conditions in the cell allow. That is to say, the influence is exerted not so much by the carbon, but by the cell, which makes use of the particular characteristics of carbon, having incorporated a certain amount of it into itself. For example, what man has within him in the form of metal — iron for instance — only works in a circuitous way, via the cell. The cell is the building-stone. So in studying the organism, everything is traced to the cell. Considering at first only the main bulk of the cell, without the nucleus and membrane, we distinguish two parts: a transparent part composed of this fluid, and another part forming sort of framework. Describing it schematically, we may say that there is the framework of the cell, and this is embedded, as it were, in the other substance which, unlike the framework, is quite unformed. (Fig. 6) Thus we must think of the cell
as consisting of a mass which remains fluid and unformed and a skeleton or framework which takes on a great variety of forms. This then is studied. The method of studying cells in this way has been pretty well perfected; certain parts in the cell can be stained with color, others do not take the stain. Thus with carmine or saffron, or whatever coloring matter is used, we are able to distinguish the form of the cell and can thus acquire certain ideas about its inner structure. We note, for instance, how the inner structure changes when the female germ-cell is fructified. We follow the different stages in which the cell's inner structure alters; how it divides; and how the parts become attached to one another, cell upon cell, so that the whole becomes a complicated structure. All this is studied. But it occurs to no-one to ask: With what is this whole life in the cell connected? What is really happening? It does not occur to anyone to ask this.
What happens in the cell is to be conceived, my dear friends, in the following way, — though to be sure, it is still a rather abstract way. There is the cell. For the moment let us consider it in its most usual form, namely the spherical form. This spherical form is partially determined by the thin fluid substance, and enclosed within it is the delicate framework. But what is the spherical form? The thin fluid mass is as yet left entirely to itself and therefore behaves according to the impulses it receives from its surroundings. What does it do? Well, my dear friends, it mirrors the universe around it! It takes on the form of the sphere because it mirrors in miniature the whole cosmos, which we indeed also picture to ourselves ideally as a sphere. Every cell in its spherical form is no less than an image of the form of the whole universe. And the framework inside, every line of the form, is conditioned by its relationship to the structure of the whole cosmos. To express myself abstractly to begin with, think of the sphere of the universe with its imaginary boundary (Fig. 7). In it, you have here a planet, and there a planet (a,a1). They work in such a way as to exert an influence upon one another in the direction of the line which joins them. Here (m) let us say — diagrammatically, of course, — a cell is formed; its outline mirrors the sphere. Here, within the framework it has a solid part which is due to the working of the one planet on the other. And suppose that here there were another constellation of planets, working upon each other along the line joining them (b,b1).
And here again there might be yet another planet (c), this one having no counterpart; — it throws the whole construction, which might otherwise have been rectangular, out of shape, and the structure takes on a somewhat different form. And so you have in the whole formation of the framework of the cell a reflection of the relationships existing in the planetary system, — altogether in the whole starry system. You can enter quite concretely into the formation of the cell and you will reach an understanding of this concrete form only if you see in the cell an image of the entire cosmos.
And now take the female ovum, and picture to yourselves that this ovum has brought the cosmic forces to a certain inner balance. They have taken on form in the framework of the cell, and are in a certain way at rest within it, supported by the female organism as a whole. Then comes the influence of the male sex-cell. This has not brought the macrocosmic forces to rest, but works in the sense of a very specialized force. It is as though the male sex-cell works precisely along this line of force (indicated by Dr. Steiner on the blackboard) upon the female ovum which has come to a condition of rest. The cell, which is an image of the whole cosmos, is thereby caused to relinquish its microcosmic form once more to a changing play of forces. At first, in the female ovum, the macrocosm comes to rest in a peaceful image. Then through the male sex-cell the female is torn out of this state of rest, and is drawn again into a region of specialized activity and brought into movement. Previously it had drawn itself together in the resting form of the image of the cosmos, but the form is drawn into movement again by the male forces which are, so to speak, images of movement. Through them the female forces, which are images of the form of the cosmos and have come to rest, are brought out of this state of rest and balance.
Here we may have some idea, from the aspect of Astronomy, of the forming and shaping of something which is minute and cellular. Embryology cannot be studied at all without Astronomy, for what Embryology has to show is only the other pole of what is seen in Astronomy. We must, in a way, follow the starry heavens on the one hand, seeing how they reveal successive stages, and we must then follow the process of development of a fructified cell. The two belong together, for the one is only the image of the other. if you understand nothing of Astronomy, you will never understand the forces which are at work in Embryology, and if you understand nothing of Embryology, you will never understand the meaning of the activities with which Astronomy has to deal. For these activities appear in miniature in the processes of Embryology.
It is conceivable that a science should be formed, in which, on the one hand, astronomical events are calculated and described, and on the other hand all that belongs to them in Embryology, which is only the other aspect of the same thing.
Now look at the position as it is today: you find that Embryology is studied on its own. It would be regarded as madness if you were to demand of a modern embryologist that he should study Astronomy in order to understand the phenomena in his own sphere of work. And yet it should be so. This is why a complete regrouping of the sciences is necessary. It will be impossible to become a real embryologist without studying Astronomy. It will no longer be possible to educate specialists who merely turn their eyes and their telescopes to the stars, for to study the stars in that way has no further meaning unless one knows that it is out of the great universe that the minute and microscopical is fashioned.
All this, — which is quite real and concrete, — has in scientific circles been changed into the utmost abstraction. It is reality to say: We must strive for astronomical knowledge in cellular theory, especially in Embryology. If DuBois-Raymond had said that the detailed astronomical facts should be applied to the cell-theory, he would have spoken out of the sphere of reality. But what he wanted corresponds to no reality, namely that something thought-out and devised — the atoms and molecules — should be examined with astronomical precision. He wanted the astronomical type of mathematical thoughts, which have been added to the world of the stars, to be sought for again in the molecule.
Thus you see, upon the one hand lies reality: movement, the active forces of the stars and the embryonic development in which there lives, in all reality, what lives in the starry heavens. That is where the reality lies and that is where we must look for it. On the other hand lies abstraction. The mathematician, the mechanist, calculates the movements and forces of the heavenly bodies and then invents the molecular structure to which to apply this kind of astronomical knowledge. Here he is withdrawn from life, living in pure abstractions.
These are the things about which we must think, remembering that now we must renew, in full consciousness, something which was in a certain sense present in earlier times. Looking back to the Egyptian Mysteries, we find astronomical observations such as were made at that time. These observations, my dear friends, were not used merely to calculate when an eclipse of the Sun or Moon would take place, but rather to arrive at what should come about in social evolution. Men were guided by what they saw in the heavens, as to what must be said to the people, what instructions should be given, so that the development of the whole social life should take its right course. Astronomy and Sociology were dealt with as one. We too, though in a different way from the Egyptians, must again learn how to connect what happens in social life with the phenomena of the great universe. We do not understand what came about in the middle of the 15th century, if we cannot relate the events of that time to the phenomena which then prevailed in the universe. It is like a blind man talking about color to speak of the changes in the civilized world in the middle of the 15th century without taking all this into account.
Spiritual Science is already a starting point. But we shall not succeed in bring together the complicated domain of Sociology — social science — with the observations of natural phenomena, unless we first begin by connecting Astronomy with Embryology, linking the embryonic facts with astronomical phenomena.