Rudolf Steiner, December 28, 1911:
And when this takes place man finds that he has an altogether new way of beholding the world. The world has undergone a still greater change for him than was the case when he penetrated through sense appearance to the ruling will. When our etheric body grows together with the objects of the world, then we have the impression that we cannot let these objects remain as they are in our ideas and in our conceptions and thoughts. They change for us as soon as we come into relation with them.
Suppose a man who has already experienced the mood of surrender in his soul is looking at a green leaf, full of sap. He turns the eye of his soul upon the object before him, and at once he finds he cannot leave it as it is, this juicy green leaf; the moment he beholds it he feels that it grows out beyond itself, he feels how it has in it the possibility to become something quite different. You know that a green leaf, as it grows gradually higher and higher up in the plant, turns at last into the colored flower-leaf or petal. The whole plant is really no more than a transformed leaf. You may learn this from Goethe's researches into nature. So when the student beholds the leaf he sees that it is not yet finished, that it is trying to grow out beyond itself; he sees, in short, more than the green leaf gives him. The green leaf stimulates him to feel within him something of a budding and sprouting life. Thus he grows together — quite literally — with the green leaf, feeling in himself, too, a budding and a sprouting of life.
But now suppose he is looking at the dry and withered bark of a tree. If he is to grow together with that he cannot do otherwise than be overcome with a feeling of death. In the withered bark he sees — not more, but less than is there in reality. If anyone looks at the bark from the point of view of external appearance alone he can admire it, it can give him pleasure; in any case he does not see in the dead bark something that shrivels him, piercing him, as it were, in the soul and filling it with thoughts of death.
And here we shall have made an important transition to a new world-conception, where one will not be able to think of evil in any other way than as the destroying angel of death, who goes striding through the world, nor of good in any other way than as the creator of continual cosmic births, in great and small. And it is for Spiritual Science to awaken in man a sense of how through this spiritual world-conception he can deepen his whole outlook on life, as he begins to feel that the world of good and the world of bad are not merely as they appear to us in external maya, where we stand before them with our power of judgment and find only that the one is pleasing to us and the other displeasing; no, the world of good is the creative world, and the bad is the destroying angel who goes through the world with his scythe. And with every bad thing we do we become a helper of the destroying angel, we ourselves take his scythe and share in the processes of death and decay.
The ideas that we receive from a spiritual foundation have a strengthening influence upon our whole outlook on life. This strength is what men should now be receiving that they may carry it into the evolution of the future; for indeed they will need it. Hitherto good gods have taken care of man, but now the time has come in our fifth Post-Atlantean epoch when destiny, and good and evil, will more and more be given over into his own hands. Therefore it is necessary to know what good and evil mean, and to recognize them in the world — the one as a creative and the other as a death-dealing principle.