Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, January 29, 1918:
If we thus turn our attention to the most superficial difference, it may strike us that the formation of the head is more or less spherical; it is not a perfect sphere, but spherically constructed. Now the investigator into Spiritual Science must warn students not to expect external superficial analogies to underlie a search for knowledge; but the concept of the human head as approaching a spherical form is no superficial observation, for man is really a kind of duality, and the spherical formation of his head is in no wise accidental. We must bear in mind what we actually have before us in the human head.
The first indications of what is intended here is given in The Spiritual Guidance of Man, where I showed how the human head presents an image of the whole universe which surrounds us externally as a spatial globe, a hollow sphere.
Just as it is true that in the case of man (empirical embryology proves this) the head in its germinal rudiments is formed from the whole universe — the human head forms first in the maternal organism — so too is it true that, on the other hand, the original causative forces for this formation work from the whole cosmos, and man's head is an image of it.
That to which the head is attached (the skeleton), if carefully observed, is seen in its configuration, its form, to be more connected with the line of heredity, with the father and mother, grandfather and grandmother, than with the cosmos outside.
Thus even in relation to his origin, his development, man is primarily a dual being. On the one side his form is fashioned from the cosmos, which comes to light in the spherical form of his head; on the other, he is formed from the whole line of heredity, which can be seen in the rest of the organism attached to the head. The whole of man's outer formation shows him to be of a hybrid nature; it shows that he has a twofold origin.
What is really at the root of this? To draw a parallel between head-knowledge and heart-knowledge would not lead to much. One able to understand with the heart what the head knows would be ‘warmer’ in his knowledge than another. There would be a difference between the two men, but the difference would not be very great. If, however, facts were approached with the practical knowledge of Spiritual Science, they would appear in a very different light. We acquire knowledge, perception; it gradually comes to us. Then the following happens. Our relation to the world through our head, our perception and knowledge, takes place in a certain respect quickly; and the way in which we confront the world with the rest of our organism takes place slowly. Our head hurries on with its knowledge, the rest of the organism does not.
This has a profoundly deep significance. In scholastic education we see only the training of the head; nowadays people only receive education for the head. This can be done by scholastic training, for if the head has taken part slowly in the development of knowledge, only in exceptional cases does it close as late as the twentienth year of life — in the case of most people it does not keep open so long. The head is then ready with its knowledge, its assimilation, of the world. The rest of the organism needs the whole time up to death for this assimilation. We might say that in this respect the rate of the head is approximately three times as quick as that of the rest of the organism; the latter has more time and moves three times as slow; the rate is quite different.
Hence one who through knowledge has the gift of clearly observing such things is aware that having grasped something through the head, it must wait until he has united it with the whole man. In order to receive something really full of life, after this absorption through the head has lasted about a day, a man must wait three or four days until he has completely absorbed it.
The scientific spiritual investigator will never recount what he has received with the head alone, but what he has grasped with the whole man. That has an uncommonly comprehensive and profound significance. According to existing arrangements, we can only give our children a kind of head-knowledge; we do not give them a knowledge compatible with the rest of the organism. It stops at head-knowledge; a knowledge so prepared that it must be quickly accepted by the head and remembered later. Where it is a matter of education, however, one does not always remember later. One is thankful if the knowledge holds out even till the final examination. A knowledge in which the whole of the rest of the organism can be used would, under all circumstances, develop love, joy, and appreciation for it when one remembered it later. How to mold education so that a man may look back upon his school time with warmth and joy, and may wish himself back, is connected with one of the deepest secrets of the mysteries of humanity.
If we were to approach these mysteries as educators, a child might receive something so fruitful, so flourishing, that it would last until its death. Thus if he had received such things up to 25 years, and the time needed for this elaboration by the remaining organism was three times that period, it might take 75 years. Knowledge acquired by the head alone has not unlimited significance for man's whole being; it requires the inner deliberate experience gained by man in his whole being. Public life, however, is averse to this today, it will only accept head-wisdom. One can easily reckon the whole significance of what is intended by saying that up to 15 years of age a man might absorb through his head a certain number of ideas which, if directed to the administration of public affairs, would render him fit at 45 years of age to be chosen for state service of parliament, for he ought not to offer himself until he has become a whole man. Thus we may say that if at 15 years of age he can produce ideas of sufficient force to be elaborated by his whole nature, at 45 he would be mature enough to be chosen for the town council or parliament. The mode of view of the ancients, who possessed a living wisdom from the Mysteries, was based on such things. Today, on the contrary, the endeavor is to set the age limit as low as possible, for everyone is regarded as being as mature at 20 as man used to be at 80. Insistent demands, however, cannot decide these things, but only true knowledge.
The investigator of Spiritual Science can have some idea of how children ought to be taught in earliest childhood that man is an image of the whole universe, an image of the divinely wise cosmic ordering; and this should be grasped directly and simply, not by reciting Bible words imperfectly understood. All this must be drawn from the spirit or sources of Spiritual Science; then there will be a richer head-wisdom than that of today. During man's lifetime that will be a source of rejuvenation — whereas our present system of education is quite the contrary. If today, in spite of early education, we are in the fortunate position not to be terribly bad-tempered, it is because the present method of providing for the head (which was prepared approximately 400 hundred years ago and has now reached its zenith) has not yet been able to ruin so much of what still remains as hereditary culture from older times. If, however, we continue to instruct the head only, we are going the right way to become really bad-tempered.
In the last years before the war there was a great leaning towards ‘sanatoria’; great measures were taken to do away with ‘nervous conditions.’ This is all connected with the fact that the head is not given what the whole man needs. I have mentioned how seldom one finds the right thing done for these things, for I remember an occasion a few years ago when I went to visit someone at a sanatorium. We arrived at mid-day. All the patients walked past us. Some of these were remarkable persons; their nervous condition was partly written on their faces and partly on their fidgeting hands and feet. I then made the acquaintance of the most fidgety and nervous of them all — the medical superintendent. It must be said that a medical director cannot find a cure for his patients if he is himself the one who needs it most. In other respects he was an extremely loveable man; but he was an example of those who, in their youth at any rate, have not absorbed what can keep them young throughout their lives.
Such things cannot be changed by any kind of isolated reform, nor can the relationships be changed that way; they can only be improved when the whole social organism is improved. Therefore attention must be directed to that. The great cosmic laws have provided that man as a solitary individual cannot gratify his egoism in such spheres, but can, as it were, only find his welfare when he seeks it together with others.
One thing is necessary — I have often emphasized this: the renunciation of intellectual laziness, a fault so terribly persistent in relation to all questions of the philosophy of life. Our whole study of Spiritual Science shows us that man must go forward step by step, that he must be disposed to go into details and thence build up a whole, so that starting, as it were, from the nearest sensible, he can rise to the supersensible. This he can easily do, for anyone who regards the human head in the right way sees in it something modelled from the whole universe, and in the rest of the organism something also organized into the universe in order to come back in the next incarnation. By rightly observing what is obvious to the senses, one can rightly arrive at the supersensible.
One must, however, be willing to admit that if one wishes to understand the construction of man, the same trouble must be taken as would be necessary, for example, if one wished to understand the mechanical action of a watch; one would have to bear in mind the connection of the wheels, etc. Yet it is supposed that one can talk of man's highest being without the requisite trouble being taken to gain knowledge of man's nature. It is very frequently pleaded that ‘Truth must be very simple’ — and the accusation is made against Spiritual Science that it is very complicated. Man longs to acquire in five minutes — or less — what is necessary for the knowledge of his highest being — whereas he is by nature a complicated being, his greatness in the universe is due to that very fact, and we must overcome the tendency to indolence in respect of knowledge if we really wish to penetrate to the human entity.
In our time there is no understanding of what is needful for one who wishes to put himself in a position to penetrate even dimly the whole complexity of human nature; for because we only cultivate head-wisdom, because we do not wish the whole man to elaborate what the head learns, nothing is given to the head which can be worked upon by the rest of the man, and we thereby place man in the social order in such a position that his earthly life cannot become a reflection of a supersensible spiritual life. We are subject to a remarkable cleavage, one not like the others already mentioned, but an injurious cleavage which must be overcome.
This is connected with such facts as the good old practical wisdom of life: ‘The morning has both God and gold in its hand’ — which has been changed in course of time to ‘The early bird catches the worm.’ The good European saying has been Americanized.
It is astonishingly easy to perceive the cleavage in which man is involved through the spiritual ideas he has developed. It is precisely in them that he has become so remarkably materialistic. When these ideas come in the right way, however, materialism never arises from them. The simple existence of abstract ideas is the first refutation of materialism. In this duality we live. We have been tremendously intellectualized for four centuries; and in this spiritual, which we only possess in the abstract, we must find again the living spiritual. We have risen to objective concepts; we must get back to Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition. We have cast aside what has been handed down to us of old primeval wisdom in Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition. We must now recover it, after having so wholly discarded the richness of the knowledge of man's whole being. This is a truth which will fill us with a sense of the seriousness of Spiritual Science.
I may perhaps here introduce a few personal remarks, though not intended personally. A great proportion of the opposition to Spiritual Science can only be understood when man has in view its origin and development. Here or there someone appears, for instance, who turns furiously against Spiritual Science. There are other cases, but in many instances opposition arises as in the following concrete case.
In the book Riddles of the Soul I have described one such case: the false statements of Dessoir. I am now very curious, for something must inevitably follow from what a professor of the Berlin University is proved to have written. Let people but read the second article in Riddles of the Soul upon Professor Dessoir's method of working. Of course anyone who now writes on Dessoir without taking into account the article before us is accessory to these things; but today people will not take these things seriously; they excuse themselves by saying ‘I have not read it,’ as if someone who made a statement had not properly given his attention to the matter. Now it can easily be proved that Johannes Müller's accusations are untrue: namely, that my lectures pander to man's love of sensation. In any town where Spiritual Science has as yet no footing, very few people as a rule attend my lectures; where many come, it is because in such places Spiritual Science has been made known and worked for. I will not go further into the matter than to allude to the last part of Johannes Müller's article, which launches forth, saying that I speak of a ‘Divine Drama’ through which man is to be saved, and the like, and where he fills a column and a half by quoting a few sentences from Christianity as Mystical Fact, which he tears out of their context as they strike him, until through his omissions what he quotes becomes absolute nonsense. In my book on Christianity I said the very opposite of what he quotes of the ‘Divine Drama’ and its magic.
Johannes Müller excuses himself by saying that he was not able to understand my writings. Of that I am confident! Without understanding this book in the very least, he has undertaken to criticize it! I have often called attention to the fact that this book places the Mystery of Golgotha in contradistinction to all other Mysteries, as the central point of Evolution. Of this Johannes Müller has no perception. I should never expect him to understand my book, I do not think he could — yet he criticizes it. It is remarkable that this book was published in 1902; so that in 1906 it had been under discussion for four years. It was known that in the first edition I had set forth my relation to Natural Science on the one side and to Philosophy on the other. Christianity as Mystical Fact has since become known. Now if it was not known to Johannes Müller that is his affair; but I mention that it was known in 1906, and was just as much connected with my general philosophy of life as Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, for instance. Anyone who formed an opinion of me in 1906 ought to do so from the whole aspect of my conception of the universe, and should not really select fragments. In the year 1906 it is a fact that Christianity as Mystical Fact was four years old. In that year, however, Johannes Müller's book on The Sermon of the Mount was sent to me. The dedication of that book is: ‘To Dr. Steiner, in grateful remembrance of Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, Mainberg, 17. viii. 1906.’ This is one of those circumstances which I am compelled to ignore, for it was not possible to compromise in the direction of which I have spoken, and I considered it within my duty when approached in this way to be silent instead of saying: ‘I see your meaning on this or that point.’ Sometimes, however, silence annoys people more than anything else. I said that one should look for the opposition to Spiritual Science in its real relations.
I could tell of even more annoying things, but anyone who now reads Dr. Johannes Müller's articles against our friend Dr. Rittelmeyer will perhaps do well not to look for the opposition in these things alone, but in other things too, such as the few just cited. One must seek everywhere for much more sincere reasons than those lying on the surface. It is vexing when one man approaches another with ‘in grateful remembrance of the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity,’ and the other turns away and gives no answer.