Monday, June 6, 2016

Freedom and Love: The Message of Anthroposophy

Rudolf Steiner, the conclusion of a lecture given July 24, 1921, the last in a series of three lectures titled "Man as a Being of Sense and Perception":

...It is a question of grasping how the material, in its emergence from the spiritual, can be regarded as bearing witness to the spiritual world.

Again — and to-day I can only go as far as this — if you grasp the connection between the birth of memory and the forces of growth, you will thereby recognise an interplay between what we call material and what in later life, from seven to eight years of age onwards, develops as the soul-spiritual life. It really is a fact that what shows itself later in more abstract intellectual form as the faculty of memory is active, to begin with, in growth. It is really the same force. The same method of observation must be applied to this as is applied, let us say, when we speak of latent heat and free heat. Heat which is free, which is released from its latent condition, behaves externally in the physical world like the force which, after having been the source of the phenomena of growth in the earliest years of childhood, then manifests itself in the inner life as the force of memory. What lies behind the phenomena of growth in earliest childhood is the same thing as what later makes its appearance in its own proper form as the faculty of memory.

I developed this more fully in the course of lectures given here in the Goetheanum last autumn. [* Grenzen der Naturerkenntnis, 27th Sept. to 2nd Oct., 1920 (Translation not yet published.)] You will see how one can discover along these lines an intimate connection between the soul-spiritual and the bodily-physical, and how therefore we have in the faculty of memory something which on the one hand appears to us as of a soul-spiritual nature, and on the other hand, when it appears in other cosmic connections, manifests as the force of growth.

We find just the opposite when we consider the human capacity for love, which shows itself on the one hand to be entirely bound up with the bodily nature, and which on the other hand we can grasp, exactly like the faculty of memory, as the most soul-like function. So that in fact — this I will explain more fully in later lectures — in memory and love you have capacities in which you can experience the interplay between the spiritual and the bodily, and which you can also associate with the whole relationship between man and the world.

In the case of memory we have already done this, for we have related ideation with previous earth-lives, and the faculty of memory with the present earth-life. In later lectures we shall see that we can experience the same thing as regards the capacity for love. One can show how it is developed in the present earth-life, but passes over through the life between death and rebirth into the next earthly life.

Why are we making a point of this? Because to-day man needs to be able to make the transition from the soul-spiritual to the bodily-physical. In the soul-spiritual we experience morality; within the physical-bodily we experience natural necessity. As things are seen to-day, if one is honest in each sphere one has to admit that there is no bridge between them. And I said yesterday that because there is no such bridge, people make a distinction between what they call real knowledge, based upon natural causality, and the content of pure faith, which is said to be concerned with the world of morality — because natural causality on the one hand, and the life of the soul-spirit on the other, exist side by side without any connection. But the whole point is that in order to recover a fully human consciousness, we need to build a bridge between these two.

Above all we must remember that the moral world cannot exist without postulating freedom; the natural world cannot exist without necessity. Indeed, there could be no science if there were not this necessity. If one phenomenon were not of necessity caused by another in natural continuity, everything would be arbitrary, and there could be no science. An effect could arise from a cause that one could not predict! We get science when we try to see how one thing proceeds from another, that one thing proceeds from another. But if this natural causality is universal, then moral freedom is impossible; there can be no such thing. Nevertheless the consciousness of this moral freedom within the realm of soul and spirit, as a fact of direct experience, is present in every man.

The contradiction between what the human being experiences in the moral constitution of his soul and the causality of nature is not a logical one, but a contradiction in life. This contradiction is always with us as we go through the world; it is part of our life. The fact is that, if we honestly admit what we are faced with, we shall have to say that there must be natural causality, there must be natural necessity, and we as men are ourselves in the midst of it. But our inner soul-spiritual life contradicts it. We are conscious that we can make resolutions, that we can pursue moral ideals which are not given to us by natural necessity. This is a contradiction which is a contradiction of life, and anyone who cannot admit that there are such contradictions simply fails to grasp life in its universality. But in saying this we are saying something very abstract. It is really only our way of expressing what we encounter in life. We go through life feeling ourselves all the time actually at variance with external nature. It seems as if we are powerless, as if we must feel ourselves at variance with ourselves. To-day we can feel the presence of these contradictions in many men in a truly tragic way.

For example, I knew a man who was quite full of the fact that there is necessity in the world in which man himself is involved. Theoretically, of course, one can admit such a necessity and at the same time not trouble much about it with one's entire manhood. Then one goes through the world as a superficial person and one will not be inwardly filled with tragedy. Be that as it may, I knew a man who said, “Everywhere there is necessity and we men are placed within it. There is no doubt about it, science forces us to a recognition of this necessity. But at the same time necessity allows bubbles to arise in us which delude us with hopes of a free soul-life. We have to see through that delusion, we have to look upon it as hot air. This too is a necessity.”

That is man's frightful illusion. That is the foundation of pessimism in human nature. The man who has little idea of how deeply such a thing can work into the human soul will not be able to enter into the feeling that this contradiction in life, which is absolutely real, can undermine the whole soul, and can lead to the view that life in its inmost nature is a misfortune. Confronted by the conflict between scientific certainty and the certitude of faith, it is only thoughtlessness and lack of sensitivity that prevent men from coming to such inner tragedy in their lives. For this tragic attitude towards life is really the one that goes with the plight of soul to which mankind can come to-day.

But whence comes the impotence which results in such a tragic attitude to life! It comes from the fact that civilised humanity has for centuries allowed itself to become entangled in certain abstractions, in intellectualism. The most this intellectualism can say is that natural necessity deludes us by strange methods with a feeling of freedom, but that there is no freedom. It exists only in our ideas. We are powerless in the face of necessity.

Then comes the important question — is that truest? And now you see that the lectures I have been giving for weeks actually all lead up to the question: “Are we really powerless? Are we really so impotent in the face of this contradiction?” Remember how I said that we have in our lives not only an ascending development, but a declining one; that our intellectual life is not bound up with the forces of growth, but with the forces of death, the forces of decay; that in order to develop intelligence we need to die. You will remember how I showed here several weeks ago the significance of the fact that certain elements with specific affinities and valencies — carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur — combine to form protein. They do so not by ordinary chemical combination, but on the, contrary by becoming utterly chaotic. You will then see that all these studies are leading up to this — to make it clear to you that what I have told you is not just a theoretical contradiction, but an actual process in human nature. We are not here merely in order, through living, to sense this contradiction, but our inner life is a continual process of destruction of what develops as causality in outer nature. We men really dissolve natural causality within ourselves. What outside is physical process, chemical process, is developed within us in a reverse direction, towards the other side. Of course we shall see this clearly only if we take into consideration the upper and the lower man, if we grasp by means of the upper man what emerges from metabolism by way of contra-mechanisation, contra-physicalisation, contra-chemicalisation. If we try to grasp the contra-materialisation in the human being, then we do not have merely a logical, theoretical contradiction in ourselves, but we have the real process — we have the process of human development, of human becoming, as the thing in us that itself counteracts natural causality, and human life as consisting in a battle against it. And the expression of this struggle, which goes on all the while to dissolve the physical synthesis, the chemical synthesis, to analyse it again — the expression of this analytic life in us is summed up in the awareness: “I am free.” What I have just put before you in a few words — the study of the human process of becoming as a process of combat against natural causality, as a reversal of natural causality — we shall make the subject of forthcoming lectures.

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