A lecture given by Rudolf Steiner in Stuttgart December 9, 1922
Once before I spoke to you of certain spiritual facts concerning the relation of man to the supersensible worlds — or, as I might equally well express it, the relation of man's earthly life to his life between death and a new birth. For seen from a human point of view man's life between birth and death — interwoven as it is with the physical world of sense — may be held in the main to represent this physical world itself. While the life of man between death and a new birth, when he is altogether interwoven within the supersensible or spiritual world, represents — seen from a human standpoint once more — the supersensible world as such.
Today we will continue this line of thought for certain other facts and conclusions of great importance to human life.
Through anthroposophical Spiritual Science we become aware, above all, that man as he stands before himself in the physical world represents — within this physical world — a true image of the Supersensible. Consider on the other hand a mineral object. We cannot say that, such as it is, it is an immediate image of the Supersensible. As to what the mineral nature is, you may read of this in my Theosophy. Of man, however, we must say that in many respects he cannot be understood at all on the basis of what we see around us in the world of the physical senses. On this basis we can understand why, for example, salt assumes a cubical form. True, these things are not yet entirely clear to science today, but from what is already clear it can be said that a crystal of common salt is intelligible on the foundation of what can be ascertained directly in the realm of the sense-perceptible. A human eye or ear on the other hand are not intelligible on the basis of what the physical senses can perceive. Nor can they arise within this domain. The form of the eye or of the ear — both the inward form and the outer configuration — this is a thing that man brings with him as a plan or tendency through birth. Nor does he even receive it through the forces that work, say, in the process of fertilisation or in the body of the mother.
True, it is customary to force all these things which are not understood under the general title of heredity; but in so doing we do but give ourselves up to an illusion. For the truth is that the inner form of the eye or of the ear is already planned and laid out as it were in advance. It is built up in the Spirit, in the pre-earthly life of man, in communion with higher spiritual Beings, with the sublime Beings of the Hierarchies. To a very large extent, man between death and a new birth builds up his own physical body in a spirit-form — as it were a spiritual seed or germ. This Spirit seed, having contracted it sufficiently (if we may use this image), he then sends down into the line of physical inheritance. The Spiritual is thus filled with physical, sense-perceptible material, and so becomes the physical seed, perceptible within the world of sense. But the whole form — the inner form for instance of an eye, or of an ear — is formed and moulded by the work man does between death and a new birth in co-operation with supersensible, spiritual Beings. Therefore, we may say: Observe a human eye! We cannot assert that it is intelligible like the salt crystal, on the basis of what we see around us with our senses; nor can we say this of the human ear. Rather must we say: To understand a human eye or human ear we must have recourse to those Mysteries which are only to be discovered in the supersensible world. We must realise that a human ear, for example, is formed and created out of the supersensible world; and only after it has thus been formed can it undertake its task as a sense-organ — the task of physically hearing the sounds and notes within the atmosphere, within the sphere of Earth. In these respects, we may truly say, man is an image of processes and realities of Being in the spiritual worlds.
Let us consider such a thing in detail. Observe the inner formation of the human ear. Passing inward through the auditory canal you come to the so-called tympanum or drum. Behind this you find a number of minute bones, or ossicles. External science calls them ‘hammer’, ‘anvil’ and ‘stirrup’ (malleus, incus, stapes). Behind these again, you come to the inner ear, of the configuration of which I shall not speak in detail.
The names of these minute ossicles immediately behind the drum — the names, that is to say, which external science gives them — already show that this science is quite unaware of what they really are. For this is how it appears when illuminated with anthroposophical spiritual science. Passing now from within outward, that which adjoins the inward portion of the inner ear, and which science calls the stapes or stirrup, appears in the light of spiritual science as a metamorphosis of a human thigh-bone with its attachment to the hip. And the little bone which science calls the incus or anvil, appears as a transformed knee-cap. Finally, that which passes from the incus to the tympanum or drum appears as a metamorphosis of the lower part of the leg including the foot. But the ‘foot’ in this case rests not on the earthly ground but on the drum of the ear. Within your ear you actually have a human member — a transformed metamorphosed limb. You might also describe it thus: First, the upper arm (only that in the arm the ‘knee-cap’ is undeveloped, that is to say there is no anvil), and then the lower arm — the other ossicle which rests upon the drum. Just as you touch and feel the ground with your feet, so do you touch and feel the drum of the ear with the foot of this little ossicle. Only the foot with which you walk about is coarsely formed. Coarsely you feel the ground with the sole of your foot, while with this hand or foot which is there within your ear you constantly touch and feel the delicate vibration of the drum.
Let us now go farther back, within the ear. We come to the so-called cochlea or ‘snail-shell’. It is filled with a watery fluid, which is necessary for the act of hearing. What the ‘foot’ touches and feels upon the drum has to be transmitted back to this spiral cochlea, situated within the cavity of the ear. And now once more: Above the thigh we have the inner organs, the abdominal organs. The cochlea within the ear is none other than a beautiful, elaborate metamorphosis of these inner organs. And so you can imagine, there inside the ear there lies a human being, whose head is immersed in your own brain. Indeed, we bear within us a whole number of ‘human beings’, more or less metamorphosed or transformed, and this is one of them.
What does all this signify? If you study the origin and growth of man not only with the crude science of the senses; if you are aware that this human embryo as it develops in the mother's womb is the image of what went before it in the pre-earthly life; then you will also realise the following. In the first stages of development in embryonic life, it is above all the head that is planned and formed. The other organs are comparatively small appendages. Now — if it only depended on the inner potentialities inherent in the germ, within the mother's womb — these appendages, these little stumps which afterwards become the legs and feet, could equally become a kind of ear. They actually have the inner tendency, the potentiality to become an ear. That is to say, man might grow in such a way as to have an ear not only here, and here, but an ear downward too. I admit, this is a strange saying. Nevertheless, it is the truth. Man might become an ear downward too. Why does he not? Because at a certain stage of embryonic development he already comes into the domain of the earthly force of gravity. Gravity which causes the stone to fall to Earth — gravity, implying weight — weighs upon that which tends to become the ear, transforms it and re-shapes it. And so it becomes the lower man in his entirety. Under the influence of earthly gravity, the ‘ear’ which tends to grow downward is changed into the lower man. Why then does not the ear itself change in this way? Why do not its ossicles change into fine small legs right and left? For the simple reason that through the whole position of the human embryo in the mother body, the ear is protected from entering into the domain of gravity, as happens with the little embryonic stumps that afterwards become the legs. The embryonic ear does not enter the domain of gravity. Hence it preserves the plan and tendency which it received in the spiritual world in the pre-earthly life. It is in fact a pure image of the spiritual worlds. Now what is there in the spiritual worlds? I have often spoken of it. The music of the spheres is a reality. As soon as we come into the spiritual world which lies beyond the soul-world, we are in a world which lives altogether in sound and song, in melody and harmony, and harmonies of spoken sound. Out of these inner relationships of sound the human ear is formed. Hence we may say that in our ear we have an actual recollection of our spiritual and pre-earthly existence. In our lower human organisation we have forgotten the pre-earthly life; we have adapted our organism to the earthly force of gravity and to all that comes from the principle of weight. Thus if we rightly understand how the form of man comes into being, we can always tell, of any system of organs, how its configuration reveals either its adaptation to the Earth or its continued adaptation to the pre-earthly life.
And now remember: even after we are born, we still continue what was planned and begun in the embryonic life. To walk upright, to enter fully into the forces of gravity, is a thing we only learn to do after our birth. Only then do we learn to orientate ourselves into the three dimensions of space. But the ear tears itself free from the three dimensions of space and preserves its membership of the spiritual world. We human beings are altogether formed in this way. Partly we are a living monument to what we did in unison with higher Beings between death and a new birth; while on the other hand we also bear witness to the fact that we have incorporated ourselves into this Earth existence, wherein the forces of gravity and weight hold sway.
These transformations, however, not only take their course in the direction I have described, but in the opposite direction too. With your legs you walk about on Earth. And — if you will forgive my saying so — you either walk to good deeds or to bad; to better or to worse. Now as to the movements of your legs, on Earth, to begin with, it is no doubt a matter of indifference whether you walk to good deeds or to bad. But true as it is that the lower man is metamorphosed from the plan of an ear into that form wherewith he stands upon the Earth, it is also true that the moral effects which are brought about by your walking — whether you go out to do good deeds or bad — are all transformed after you pass through the gate of Death — not immediately but after a certain time — transformed into the sounds as of a heavenly speech and music.
Assume for instance that a man went out to do an evil deed. On Earth we can at most describe and register precisely how his legs were moving. But the evil deed clings to the movements of the legs when he passes through the gate of Death. Then, when he has laid aside his physical body and his etheric body, all that lay inherent in these movements of the legs is transformed into a harsh discord in the spiritual world. And the whole of the lower man is now transformed again into a head-organisation. The way you move here upon Earth — taking always the moral colouring, the moral quality of it — this is transformed into a head-system after your death. And with these ears you hear how you behaved morally down in this earthly world. Your morality becomes a beautiful, your immorality an ugly music. And the harmonious and dissonant sounds become the words, uttered as it were by the Hierarchies, the judges of your deeds, whose words you hear.
Thus you can see in the form of man himself, how the transformation from the Spiritual world into the world of sense, and from this world back again into the Spiritual, takes place by metamorphosis and metamorphoses again. Your head-system is exhausted in the present earthly incarnation. Here the head-system lives and thrives, in order to perceive the Spiritual within the realms of sense. But after death the head falls away. And the rest of the human being, with the exception of the head, is transformed again after death into a head-organisation in the Spirit, to become an actual head once more in the next earthly life. Thus the fact of repeated earthly lives is expressed in the very form and figure of man. No-one understands the human head, who does not regard it as the transformation of a human body — the body of the last earthly life. No-one understands the present body who does not see in it the germ of a head, for the next earthly life. To understand man fully, all that we perceive about him with our senses needs to be penetrated with ideas about the Supersensible.
We may adduce many another concrete fact in this direction. Last time I spoke to you here, I told you how man between death and a new birth experiences a condition wherein he becomes altogether one in his inner being with the Beings of the Hierarchies. He actually forgets himself, he is the Hierarchies himself. Nor would he ever become aware of himself unless he were able, in turn, to extinguish this feeling of the Hierarchies within him. Then, as it were, he goes out of himself, but it is just in so doing that he finds himself. Here upon Earth we find ourselves by looking away from the outer world and concentrating upon our inner being. Between death and a new birth we find ourselves by looking away from what is within us — that is to say, from the Hierarchies within us. In this way we become aware of ourselves.
Now the forces which remain to us from this ‘becoming aware of ourselves’ are none other than the forces of Memory, while the forces which remain to us from our union with the other Beings — the Beings of the Hierarchies — are the moral forces of Love whereby we on Earth expand our being in love to other beings. Thus in the faculty of Love here upon Earth we have an echo of the living in unison with the Hierarchies. While in Memory we have an echo of that other condition which was ours between death and a new birth, wherein we freed ourselves from the Hierarchies and found ourselves. As I said last time, this is not unlike the breathing process. We have to breathe in to fill ourselves with life. Then in a manner of speaking we breathe out the air of death. For life is impossible in the air which we breathe out. Likewise we breathe, as it were, in the Spirit, in the world between death and a new birth. We unite ourselves with the Beings of the Hierarchies and go out of them again. Here on this Earth we have a kind of echo of that heavenly breathing. In that we can walk here upon Earth, we adapt ourselves to earthly gravity. It is the principle of weight. I spoke in this connection of a transformed, metamorphosed ear. In like manner — if only we are able to look at it in the right way — we can still feel that we possess in our apparatus of speech and song a metamorphosis of what was planned in the spiritual World through which we passed in the pre-earthly life. It is only here on Earth that we adapt our organs of speech to human speech. In plan and tendency, between death and a new birth we receive unto ourselves the Logos — the Cosmic Word — the Cosmic speech. Out of this Cosmic speech our whole organ of speech and song is formed and created to begin with. Just as we transform this ‘ear’ that reaches downward, into the apparatus of walking and orientation in space, so do we transform the organ of speech and song. But in this case the metamorphosis is not so far-reaching. In the former case there remains behind, in the ear itself, a faithful image of what was formed in the pre-earthly life in spiritual worlds. With the organ of speech there is an intermediate position.
Not until we are here on Earth do we learn to speak. Yet this, in a deeper sense, is an illusion. In truth it is the Cosmic speech which forms our larynx and all our organs of speech and song. We only forget the Cosmic Logos, when we turn toward the Earth and pass through embryonic life. And we refresh once more what was impressed in our unconscious being, when in our early childhood we acquire human speech.
Nevertheless, in this human speech the earthly element is clearly perceptible, side by side with that which is formed out of the Spiritual. We could pronounce no consonants if we could not adapt ourselves to the things of the outer world. In the consonants we always have after-formations, imitations of what the outer world presents to us. Anyone who has a feeling for it will feel the one consonant reminiscent of something hard and angular, the other reminiscent of the quality of velvet. In the consonant we adapt ourselves to the forms and shapes of the outer world. In the vowels we give out our own inner being. He who says Ah, knows that in the Ah he expresses something that lives in his inner soul as a feeling of wonder or astonishment. Likewise in the O there is an inner quality. Every vowel expresses some element of the inner life.
In time to come there will be an interesting branch of knowledge, permeated with spiritual science. It will be found that in languages in which the consonants predominate, human beings can far less be called to account morally, because they are much less responsible for their deeds, than in those languages where vowels predominate. For the vowels are an echo of our living together with the spiritual Hierarchies. This is a thing that we bring with us, we carry it down on to the Earth and it remains with us; it is our own revelation. While in the consonants we adapt ourselves to the outer world. The world of consonants is earthly; and if we could imagine a language containing only consonants, an initiate would say of such a language: ‘It is for the earthly realm; and if you would possess the Heavenly, you must add the vowels to it. But have a care! for you will then become responsible to the Divine. You may not treat it so profanely then, as you can treat the consonants.’
The old Hebrews took this into account. Only the consonants are written out fully, the vowels only indicated. In our language in effect the Heavenly and Earthly sound together. Here once again we see how we have in the middle man something that is ordered as it were in two directions, towards the Heavenly and towards the Earthly. The head is altogether related to the heavenly. The other pole of man is related to the earthly, but strives towards the Heavenly — strives in such a way that it becomes the Heavenly, when man has passed through the gate of death. The middle man, to whom the breathing belongs — and with the breathing the activity of speech and song — brings the Heavenly and the Earthly together. Hence the middle man contains above all the artistic faculty of man, the artistic tendency, which is always to unite the Heavenly with the Earthly.
And so we may say: Regard the growing human being. He is born without orientation in the outer world. He cannot yet walk or stand. True, he has already the potentiality to enter into the ordering of earthly gravity. For he received this tendency already in the embryonic life before his birth, when — apart from the head — gravity took hold of him. An organ like the human eye or ear has in fact been wrested away from the incursions of gravity. The act of orientation in space now finds expression in the little child's learning to walk and to stand upright. We only finish learning this after our birth. For we are born not yet orientated for walking. If we retained the orientation we then have, we should at most perhaps be able to sleep on Earth. For in effect, the little bone in the ear, which represents the foot, is horizontally directed. We might at most be able to sleep, but we could not walk. Similar things would need to be said about the human eye.
This, then, is one thing that we finish learning here on Earth. We adapt to the earthly forces of gravity what we acquired in the pre-earthly life. And when we learn to speak and sing, it is a second act of adaptation: we adapt ourselves to our environment in the surrounding sphere, in the horizon of the Earth. Lastly we learn to think. For we are born in truth unorientated for walking and standing, and we are born speechless, and even thoughtless. It cannot be said that the little baby is already able to think. These three things, we finish learning on the Earth. Nevertheless they are metamorphoses of other faculties which we possessed in the pre-earthly life. For each one of the three is a living monument of what was planned in us in a spiritual form in our pre-earthly life.
Our Memory here on the Earth is the echo of our being-within-ourselves in the Spiritual World. And Love, in all its forms, is the echo of our being-poured-out into the world of the Hierarchies. We have, as we have seen, our bodily faculties: Walking, Speaking, Singing and Thinking (for it is only prejudice to imagine that thought on the earth is a spiritual faculty; our earthly thinking is essentially bound to the physical body, just as our walking is) — these outstanding faculties of the body are transformations, metamorphoses, of the spiritual. Then, in the soul, we have the outstanding faculties of soul: Memory and Love, once more as transformations out of the spiritual. And what have we spiritually on the Earth? It is our faculty of sense-perception. Our seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and so forth: all this is sense-perception; and the organs for this sense-perception, situated as they are at the outer periphery of our organism, are formed and built out of the highest Spiritual regions. Out of the harmony of the Spheres the ear is formed, so much so that it remains protected from the force of gravity. The whole way the ear is placed into this fluid has the purpose of protecting it from the force of gravity. The ear is situated in the fluid in such a way that gravity cannot come near it. Truly the ear is no earthly citizen; in all its organisation it is a citizen of the Spiritual world. Likewise the eye, and the other sense-organs too. Observe then the body in its Walking, Speaking, Singing, Thinking: we have the transformations of the spiritual from the pre-earthly life. Lastly the senses: they are the transformation of the highest Spiritual from the pre-earthly life.
Here it is that we with our anthroposophical spiritual science take our start on the one hand from Goetheanism, from what was already known to Goethe. We, of course, have to go farther, in a way entirely consistent with Goethe. I have often quoted Goethe's saying that ‘the eye is formed in the Light and for the Light’. Yes, my dear friends, but not in the light or for the light that we see. Consider a human being, a human countenance: the high forehead, the prominent nose, the eyes, the physiognomy. We add to it the living gesture. If we merely registered the spatial forms by some kind of apparatus, we should still have the forms. But when we see a human being, we are not content merely to photograph the spatial forms as with an outward apparatus. We look through the spatial movement of the gestures to the soul that lies behind. Likewise the sunlight: it penetrates towards us. There is the outer sun, the sunlight comes to us. That is only the ‘front’ of it; behind it is the ‘other side’ of the sunlight — the soul, the Spirit of the sunlight, and in this soul and Spirit we ourselves indwell between death and a new birth. There the Light is something altogether different. When you speak of the ‘look’ of a man, you mean the life of soul that comes out to meet you through his eyes; you really mean what lies behind the eye, within the soul. And if I now speak of the Spiritual in the light, I too mean what lies ‘behind’, within the sun. That is the Spirit, the soul of the light. The finished eye sees the ‘front’ of the light, the physical aspect; but the eye itself was formed by the soul and Spirit of the light, by that which lies ‘behind’. Thus having understood Goethe's saying, we should put it thus: ‘The eye which sees the light is formed by the soul and Spirit of the light, ere ever it assumes physical existence here on Earth.’
In the whole human being we see transformed spiritual being, which is to be transformed back again. At death you give your physical sense-organs to the Earth, but that which is living in the physical sense-organs lights up between death and a new birth, and becomes your inner being-together, your communion, with the spiritual Being of the Hierarchies. Now we understand how the earthly world of sound is the physical reflection of the heavenly harmony of the Spheres, and how man is a product not of these earthly forces but of heavenly forces, who places himself into the midst of the earthly. Moreover, we see how he places himself into the midst of the earthly. He would become an ear downward; and if he remained in this state he certainly would not walk, but would assume another kind of movement; for he would have to move on the waves of cosmic Harmonies, even as the tiny image, the little bone in the ear, moves on the waves of the drum. With the ear we learn to hear; with the larynx and other organs that lie towards and within the mouth itself, we learn to speak and sing. You hear some word, for instance Baum or Tree. You yourself can speak the word Tree. In your ear, in organs formed and modelled after heavenly activities, as I described just now, there lives what you express in the simple word Tree. Again, you yourself can say the word. What does it signify that you can say the word Tree? By the larynx, by the organs of the mouth, etc., the earthly air is brought into such formations that the word Tree is expressed. There in reality you have a second ear, over against your hearing. And there is yet a third, which is only insufficiently perceived. When you hear the word Tree, you yourself with your etheric body — not with your physical but with your etheric body — speak the word Tree very quietly to yourself; and through the so-called Eustachian tube, which passes from the mouth into the ear, the word Tree sounds forth ethereally, going out to meet the word that comes to you from without; and the two meet, and thus you understand the word. Otherwise you would only hear it and it would be nothing in particular. You understand it by saying back through the Eustachian tube what comes towards you from outside. In that the vibrations from outside meet the vibrations from within, and interpenetrate, the inner man understands what comes to him from without.
You see how wonderfully all things work and weave into one another in the human organism. But that is not all; another thing too is connected with it. Suppose it is your intention to learn about the human being, the organisation of his ear, his eye, his nose and so forth. Good and well! You say to yourself: science has made magnificent advances, and these advances of science — though they are a little expensive nowadays — still, you can buy them if you can obtain the necessary number of marks. You buy a text-book of anatomy or physiology according as you want to learn about the forms or the functions. You go to a University and listen to what is said there about the eye or ear; or you read it for yourself. But I think your heart will still be left cold. Let outer physical science describe the ear to you; your heart is left cold, it is not really interested. The thing is objective enough in that sense! But if I describe it to you as I have done just now, if I show how your understanding of the word Tree comes about; and how the ear is an after-image of Heavenly activities: I should like to know the soul whose life of feeling would not be stirred by this, who would not feel the wonder of it, who would not really feel with such a description. True, the description has been given imperfectly today; it could be given more perfectly. Then it would appear still more strongly. But in very truth, one would have to be inwardly dried up if at such a description one did not feel wonder and reverence for the Universe and for the way in which Man himself is placed out of the spiritual world into the physical. Such is the quality of anthroposophical Spiritual Science. It describes things no less objectively than ordinary science; for nothing at all subjective is mingled with it, when I describe how the ear is formed and shaped out of the Heavenly spheres. And yet the heart, the life of feeling, is immediately called into play. The second member of the human life of soul, intimately connected as it is with the wholeness of our humanity, is called into play. Whatever the head acquires through such a science, the heart is immediately taken hold of by it. Thus, anthroposophical science goes to the heart of man. It is not a science of the head, it is a science that goes straight to the heart. It fills not only the head, it fills and fulfils the human being of the blood, the circulation, the heart.
Or again, take in real earnest what I said just now. When we move our legs ... well, you can study the mechanism of the movements in the ordinary way. Take one of these textbooks of Physiology; let the mechanism of the movements of the legs be explained to you. One thing will certainly not be kindled in you — the feeling of responsibility. But when you discover that the good or evil purpose to which your legs are moving rings out towards you after death from the Divine Worlds as harmony or dissonance; that the Divine Words of Judgment on all your actions sound towards you; the moment you discover this, your science is accompanied by a feeling of responsibility, and this will then accompany also the actions of your Will. Not only our life of Feeling but our life of Will is called into play by what we learn — to begin with, for our heads — just as objectively as in outer science. Yet it strikes down into the man of Feeling and into the man of Will. Anthroposophical science speaks to the whole man. Increasingly in modern time we have come to regard that alone as science which speaks only to the head; but speaking only to the head, it leaves the Feeling cold and does not in any way call forth the Will. This is the critical point at which we stand. It follows that the knowledge of supersensible worlds must be attained by the whole man. Already when we arise to Imaginative cognition we must come to it by inner activity. Ordinary learning is acquired in certain circles (which are indeed well suited to this purpose) — it is acquired by ‘swotting’. Acquired thus, it is incorporated in the memory. But let us suppose that by such exercises as are described in ‘Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment,’ you reach Imaginative cognition. Or suppose you are so constituted that the world of spiritual concepts is already given to you as a native talent and predisposition of your life, as I described it in my book on ‘Goethe's World-conception.’ (For already then you are in the process of etheric cognition which is at the same time living inner experience.) Then you cannot give yourself thus passively to the world. Spiritual science cannot be ‘swotted’. That, maybe, is a bad joke, but after all, it is they who are only used to ‘swotting’ who chiefly look down on spiritual science. Spiritual science, as you are well aware, must be acquired with inner activity. We ourselves in our inner life must do something for it, we must be inwardly alert and quick. Even then, it will always happen that what we attain at first in spiritual Imagination is quickly lost. It is fleeting, it disappears quickly. It is not easily incorporated in our memory. After three days all that we have attained in this region — that is to say, only by the ordinary effort to bring it to Imagination — is certain to have disappeared. It is for the same reason that the memory in the etheric body after death disappears after three days. For it is the same activity after death, when we remember through the etheric body for about three days. The period varies; you can read about this in my ‘Occult Science,’ but we remember for approximately three days — that is to say, so long as we possess the etheric body. In the same manner he who has reached some discovery by etheric cognition knows that it will have flown away after three days, if he does not make every effort to bring it down into the ordinary concepts.
Formerly I always had recourse to the method of putting down at once, in writing or in little drawings, all that I attained in this way. For the head is called into play. It is not a question of mediumistic writing, nor does one write it down in order afterwards to read it. Indeed in my present way of life that would be immensely difficult. Recently when I was in Berlin I saw again what quantities of notebooks have accumulated there. If I wanted to read anything of it, I should not have it handy when I was in Stuttgart or in Dornach. No, it is not a question of reading it afterwards; the point is only to be engaged in this activity, which is an activity of the head. For then we unite the Imaginative thinking with the ordinary thinking. Then we can remember it, give lectures on it. If we did not make such efforts we could at most talk about it on the very next day. Afterwards it would have disappeared, just as the panorama of our life disappears three days after our death.
You see, therefore, that Imaginative thinking is already related to the whole human being. The whole human being must be living in Imaginative Knowledge. With the higher forms of Knowledge it is still more so. Therefore you need not wonder if the appeal of such knowledge is to the whole man. Then too we feel there is infinitely more in the world than is perceptible to the outer senses. And above all, we feel how it is possible to live in a world in which Space no longer has any meaning. Musical experience is already a foretaste, if I may so describe it, of the Non-spatial. For the spatial is outside of us; it is outwardly existent. But in the inner experience which is realised through music, the spatial element scarcely plays a part. There is at most an echo of it. And in Imaginative cognition, gradually, the spatial ceases altogether. All things become temporal. The temporal signifies the same for the Imaginative realm as the spatial element for the physical. Moreover, this will lead us to yet another thing, namely, that the element of time is really permanent; it is a thing that remains. He who arises to Imaginative knowledge gradually learns to perceive at every point of his past Earth-existence (and this is only the beginning). He may be quite an old man; he now becomes eighteen years old again. He perceives his youth as vividly as he perceived it when he was eighteen years old. Suppose for instance that when you were eighteen years old you lost someone who was very dear to you. Think how vivid the experience was at that time. Think how faint it is in your memory after thirty years. There need not even be a lapse of thirty years; it very soon grows faint, even with those who are most rich in feeling; and in outer earthly life it must be so. But though in the subsequent ‘present’ it fades away, it nevertheless remains, as an essential part of the human being; and we can actually transplant ourselves into it again. Indeed, after our death we are thus transplanted. Then we experience the same thing again with the same intensity. Whatever a man has gone through belongs to him. It remains; it is only for his perception, for his vision, that it is past. Hence, too, it has its real significance.
If you were born at the age of seven — if you lived till your seventh year in some other state of existence, say as an embryo — if you were only born at the age of seven, yet so as to receive your second teeth at once, having had the first already in the former state; then you could never become a religious man or woman. For the predisposition to a religious nature could not work on into an earthly life which had begun in that way. All the religious tendency which you possess — you bear it within you because the first seven years of your life are present in you. You do not perceive them as a living present; nevertheless they are there in you as such. In the first seven years of life we are absolutely devoted to the outer world; truly that is a religious feeling. Only we afterwards transfer it to another realm. In our first seven years we have an impulse of imitation for all things that surround us. Afterwards we have the same sense of devotion to the things of soul and spirit.
And if we were born in the fourteenth year of our life — born in the state of puberty — we should never become moral men and women. For the moral qualities must be acquired by the inner development of the rhythmic life between the seventh and the fourteenth year. Hence we can have so great an influence on the moral education of man, in the first or elementary period of school life.
All this we afterwards bear within us. Indeed we constantly bear everything within us. If you cut your toe, it is far removed from your head, but you still experience through the head the pain you feel there. If today you feel religious, there is active within you what you experienced in soul — only then it was in respect to the outer world — until your seventh year, until the change of teeth. Just as you experience the pain in the toe through the activity of your head, so what you experienced before your seventh year is still active in your fortieth year; it is still there.
There is an important consequence of this. Many people say, Anthroposophical spiritual science is all very well; it teaches us about the spiritual worlds. But why need we know all these things about the experiences between death and a new birth? When we die we shall go into those worlds in any case, we shall discover it all in good time. Why need we make an effort between birth and death? We shall go there, presumably, whatever happens.
It is not really so. For the life of time is a reality. As the spatial is a reality here in the physical, so is the temporal — indeed, even the super-temporal — a reality in the spiritual world. Here on Earth the child-like man is still within you in your later life. When you pass through the gate of death the whole of time is within you in a single moment. It belongs to you, it is part and parcel of you. As a man of the world of space you might say: 'What need have I of an eye? The light is there around me in any case. The eye is only there to see the light, and I have the light around me anyhow.' It would be the same, in another realm, to say ‘Why do we need a Spiritual Science here on Earth? When we enter the realm of Spirits the spiritual light will be around us anyhow.’ It is no wiser than to say, ‘The light is there in any case. Why should I need an eye?’ For what a man learns through Anthroposophical spiritual science is not lost to him in the spiritual world after death. It is the eye through which he then perceives the spiritual light. And if on Earth — this applies to the present stage of human evolution — he evolves no spiritual science, he has no eye through which he can see the spiritual world, and he is as if he were dazzled by what he experiences.
In ancient times people still had an instinctive clairvoyance as a late flower of their pre-earthly life. But this is past, it has died away. The old instinctive clairvoyance is no longer there. In the intervening stage of human evolution men have had to acquire the feeling of inner freedom. They have now entered once more upon the stage where they need an eye for the spiritual world into which they will enter after death. This eye they will not have if they do not acquire it here on Earth. As the physical eye must be acquired in the pre-earthly life, so must the eye for the perception of the spiritual world be acquired here on earth through spiritual science, active spiritual knowledge. I do not mean through clairvoyance — that is an individual affair — but through the understanding, with healthy intelligence, of what is discovered by clairvoyant research. It is simply untrue to say that one must see into the spiritual world oneself in order to believe what the clairvoyants see. It is not so. Use your healthy human understanding, and you will see that the ear is in truth an organ of Heaven. Such a fact can only be found by clairvoyant research. Once found it can be seen and recognised. We need only be prepared to think the thing out, and feel it through and through. It is this recognition by healthy human understanding of what is given out of the spiritual world — it is not the clairvoyance, but the activity of knowledge — which provides us with spiritual eyes after death. The clairvoyant has to acquire this spiritual eye just the same as other men. For what we gain by Imaginative Cognition, what we perceive in seership, falls away and vanishes after a few days. It only does not do so if we bring it down to the standpoint of ordinary understanding, and in that case we are obliged to understand it in the very same way in which it is understood by those to whom we communicate it. In effect, clairvoyance as such is not the essential task of man on earth. Clairvoyance must only be there in order that the supersensible truths may be found. But the task of man on earth is to understand the supersensible truths with ordinary, healthy human understanding.
This is exceedingly important. Yet this is the very thing which many people — including some of the finer spirits — at the present day will not admit. A little while ago, in Berlin, I had been explaining this point in a public lecture. Someone then described it as a special sin to say that the truth of Spiritual Science was to be seen with healthy human understanding. For he declared, quite dogmatically, that the intellect if healthy sees nothing spiritual; and, conversely, an intellect that sees spiritual things cannot be said to be healthy. This objection was actually made. Such a thing is characteristic, for what it amounts to in the long run is that these people are saying to themselves, ‘Anyone who asserts anything spiritual has a diseased mind.’ No further wisdom beyond this is required! But such wisdom, unhappily, is widespread nowadays. You see from this how true it is — what I have always said — that the time has come again when mankind absolutely needs to receive the spiritual, to incarnate the spiritual, and live with it. Hence, my dear friends, we should not only acquire anthroposophical spiritual science theoretically. In all of us who acquire spiritual science, the consciousness should live, that we are the kernel of a humanity which will grow and grow, until it comes about once more that only he who is conscious of his connection with the spiritual is seen as having found his full humanity. Then there will come over mankind a powerful feeling, a feeling that it is above all important to put into effect in education, in teaching. Ordinary head-knowledge is morally neutral. But we find the spiritual sphere, as soon as we reach up to it, permeated everywhere by morality. You need only remember what I said: It is in being together with the higher Hierarchies that we develop Love. Morality on Earth is only an image of the experience in heavenly spheres. And how do we experience that which we call the Good? We experience it thus: Man is in truth not only a physical but a spiritual being. And if he truly lives his way into the spiritual world, he learns to receive — with the Spirit — the Good into himself.
That, too, is the essential thought of the Philosophy of Freedom, — of Spiritual Activity. Man learns to receive, with the Spirit, what is Good. And if he does not receive the Good into himself, he is not a full human being, but stunted and crippled. It is as though both his arms had been shot away. If his arms are taken from him he is physically crippled; if the Good is lacking to him he is crippled in soul and spirit. Transform this thought, with all its influence on will and feeling, into a method of education. Educate in such a way that when the age of puberty arrives — for it must be developed by that time — man has the living feeling: ‘If I am not good, I am not a whole man — I have not the right to call myself a man.’ Then you will have good moral instruction, true moral teaching of mankind, as against which all emphasis on moral preaching and the like is worth nothing.
Educate the human being so that he feels the moral element within him as an essential part of his own human individuality, and feels himself crippled when he lacks it — feels that he is not a full human being when he does not possess it. Then, in fine, he will discover the moral life entirely within himself. Well may it be that all your philosophic pedants will call this a dreadful principle — un-German, or what you will. In truth it is the purest product of the German spirit. [see footnote] It is the principle that brings the Spirit as near as possible to Man himself — and not alone to Man in general, but to the single human individual directly, for this is necessary in our time. During the present epoch only the single human being — the individual himself — reaches his full responsibility.
Footnote: To find within oneself the source of moral impulses is of course, as Rudolf Steiner indicated from his Philosophy of Freedom onwards, a general human task. But to those who attacked his ‘ethical individualism’ as un-German, Rudolf Steiner could show that such thoughts had deep roots in German spiritual life — in Schiller, Goethe and Fichte, for example. (Tr.)