Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, November 4, 1910:
Psychosophy: The Wisdom of the Soul. Lecture 4 of 4.
Monday, December 5, 2016
Consciousness and the Soul: How we roll
A more intimate understanding of what was said yesterday and what still remains to be said will be brought about by endeavoring to compare the youthful Goethe's poem you just heard [TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: The title of the poem that was recited at the beginning of this lecture is Poetic Thoughts on Jesus Christ's Descent into Hell. Like The Wandering Jew it is here omitted, but again, a little imagination on the part of the reader will adequately fill the gap.] with that of Hegel, recited yesterday. This comparison will be enlightening as emphasizing the difference in the souls of the two personalities in question. Try to sense the profound difference between the two poems. Lack of time restricts us to a mere mention of certain aspects, but we shall be able to understand each other.
The poem you heard yesterday (Eleusis) was written by a philosopher who reached tremendous heights of pure thought. We saw that thought itself become poetically creative, as it were, in Hegel. We felt mighty thoughts bearing upon the Mysteries, the enigmas of the world. At the same time we sensed a certain awkwardness in the poetical treatment of the material; poetry is not this man's chief mission. He wrestles with the poetic form, and we have the impression that the thought had to struggle to reach that realm where poetic form becomes possible. Clearly, not many such poems could have been written by Hegel.
Let us compare this poem with the other from a definite point of view. In the first lecture an altered version of a youthful poem by Goethe was read to you, showing how two souls lived in his breast. Today, you heard another poem by the young Goethe that needed no alterations. The form in which it was written, with its mighty images, would have been worthy of the mature Goethe as well. In this poem we see working in Goethe a soul force totally different from the one activating Hegel. Unfailingly, a wealth of compelling imagery flowed into the young Goethe. His innate genius was such that an abundance of teeming images streamed into his soul life. We become aware that when the grandeur of the subject overwhelms him, much of what remained in his other poem to mar it has here been overcome by a powerful soul life that seeks to express itself in telling images.
We find three points of interest in the poems recited. In Hegel, the thought is the motive force. It achieves images only with a struggle, and the intensity of this struggle is still discernible even in the pale images. In Goethe, on the other hand, a totally different soul force is at work, thundering along in mighty images. We perceive how this soul force can be impaired in another way, as in The Wandering Jew that has remained a fragment because of the conflict between the two soul forces. This points to the manifold nature of the soul life. In Hegel we find a thought force that penetrates with difficulty into that other soul force that was the stronger one in Goethe. On the other hand, we see how the best force in Goethe's soul bores its way into something opposed to it. Let us keep that in mind.
Now we will resume our psychosophic studies. Remember what we found at work in the soul life: reasoning, and the experiences of love and hate that originate in the capacity for desire, but we could group this differently. By the power of reasoning we mean mental activity, the faculty that desires to understand the truth. We encounter an entirely different soul force when we think of the soul as being interested in the outer world, in one way or another. The soul is interested in the outer world in so far as love and hate take an active part in the latter.
Even so, the phenomena of love and hate have nothing to do with the power of reasoning. Interest and the power of reasoning are two forces acting quite differently in the soul. For example, were you to seek will in the soul, imagining it to be a function by itself, you would discover interest in what is willed. In short, interest awakened by love and hate, and reasoning. Aside from these experiences you would find nothing in the inner region of the soul. They exhaust the content of the soul life.
In the foregoing, however, one of the most important features of the soul life, one that we encounter at once, has been left out of account. It is what we designate with the word consciousness. Consciousness is an integral part of the soul life. When we search the content of the soul life from every aspect, we encounter the power of reasoning, and interest, but in dealing with the inner peculiarities of the two soul forces we may count them among the elements of the soul life only in so far as we can ascribe consciousness to the soul.
Now, what is consciousness? I shall not proceed to define the word but will merely characterize. If you approach the concept “consciousness” in the light of what we have already studied, you will see that in view of the continuous stream of visualizations the condition of consciousness in the soul does not, after all, coincide with the soul life. Why is that? We have seen, you know, that the soul life differs from the condition of consciousness through the fact that a visualization can live on in the soul without entering consciousness. A conception out of the past lives on in our soul life. We can recall it, but if we do so only after a day or so, not immediately, it was not in our consciousness in the interim, it was only in our memory. Memory is not always conscious. The conception, then, existed in the soul but was momentarily not in our consciousness. Consciousness is not the same thing as the continuous stream of the soul life. We must put it this way. Representing the visualizations, which we may possibly remember some time, by an arrow pointing in the direction taken by the stream of visualizations in time, we thereby include all the visualizations flowing out of the past into the future. In order to be conscious of them we must first call them up out of the unconscious life of the soul by an act of will.
When the soul is awake, the condition of consciousness is something that pertains to the soul life, but not in the sense that everything pertaining to it must pertain to the condition of consciousness as well. On the contrary, consciousness illuminates but a part of the soul life. If you ask the reason, someone could answer, “Well, what you designate ‘the continuous stream of visualizations’ is nothing but the established and permanent arrangement of nerves and brain, and all that is needed is that at a certain moment the brain arrangement should be illuminated by consciousness.” That would, indeed, be the case if the perception had not been robbed of something in becoming a visualization. In that case the perception would not have to be transformed into a visualization. The latter, however, is a response, a perception from within, that has robbed the outer perception of something that was not always linked with consciousness, but, rather, that must be illuminated by it.
Next we ask how it is possible to throw light upon this continuous stream that embraces unconscious visualizations, to illuminate it in such a way that its content can become visible in memory. A certain fact of the soul life such as can occur on the physical plane will serve to illustrate. It is a fact totally ignored by physiology, but we are concerned with facts, not prejudices. We have many kinds of feelings, for example, longing, impatience, hope, doubt, and finally such feelings as apprehension, fear, etc. What do they tell us? Examination shows them to have something strangely in common. They all refer to the future, to something that may eventuate and that is hoped for. Our soul life, then, is so constituted that in our feelings we take an interest not only in the present but in the future as well, and a lively one at that. It is even stronger in the case of pronounced desires. Just try watching the upheaval in your soul when you desire something that is to materialize in the future! You can go farther; try to hunt up in your memory what you experienced as joy or sorrow in your youth, and compare it with similar feelings you have had recently. Try it, and you will see how pale such memories remain when you try to freshen them up. In the present, such memories are fresh and strong, but the farther we are removed from them, the paler they become.
I should like to ask how many people bemoan something that happened to them ten years before, provided the cause has ceased to exist? There is a tremendous difference in the way we look at the future and the past. Only one possible explanation of this fact exists. What we call desire simply does not flow in the same direction as the stream of visualizations, but the latter comes to meet it. A powerful light will be thrown upon your soul life if you will take this one fact for granted. Desire, love, hate, wishes, interest, and so forth, form a current flowing from the future into the past, that is, toward you.
It would take days to elaborate that in detail, but the riddles of consciousness will be solved and the whole peculiar nature of the soul life clarified if you start with the premise that the current of desire, love and hate comes to meet you out of the future, and meets the current of visualizations flowing out of the past into the future. At every moment you are actually in the midst of this encounter of the two streams, and considering that the present moment of your soul life consists of such a meeting, you will readily understand that these two currents overlap in your soul. This overlapping is consciousness.
If at any moment of the present you search your conscious soul life, you will find there something that acts out of the past into the future and something that runs from the future into the past. Consciousness can be explained in no other way than by the overlapping of these two streams, and if you will visualize all the damming up that comes about here, you will see that the soul takes part in all that flows out of the past and in what streams to meet that current out of the future. Observing the conscious soul life at any given moment, you will see a certain interpenetration of these two streams. Here are all the conceptions you have brought along, there is everything that flows out of the future into the past, meeting the current of visualizations as interest, wishes, desire, and so forth.
Since these two currents can be distinguished quite clearly, we will designate the soul life by two names, though the names themselves are immaterial. If I were giving a public lecture, I should choose curious names, as is customary. For example, I could call one current A and the other B; then you could get right to work on an equation, where A and B would be useful. The names are not what matters, yet I should here like to select names that will recall to your mind what you must already know from another angle, so that you can contemplate it from two aspects. First, from that of the pure empiricist who can choose any names he likes for the proven results of his researches, that is, where the name is immaterial, and second, from the point of view of one who selects such names because he observes the facts clairvoyantly. Thus, we will designate the current of visualizations, flowing from the past into the future, “the etheric body of the soul,” and the other, the current of desires, running from the future into the past, “the astral body of the soul.”
Consciousness is the meeting of the astral and etheric bodies. You can test this. Try to recall all that you have learned from the research of clairvoyant consciousness about the etheric and astral bodies, and to apply it here. You only need ask yourselves what brings about the damming up, the intersection of the two streams. The answer lies in the fact that the two currents meet in the physical body. Assume for the moment that the physical and etheric bodies were removed. What would happen? The current from the past to the future would be missing, and the other, the astral current, would have an unobstructed course. Now, that is exactly what occurs immediately after death, with the result that during the period of kamaloka consciousness runs backwards. Thus in following our psychosophic paths we rediscover what we learned by way of exact theosophy.
Many of the results of clairvoyant research will at first contradict observations made on the physical plane because the latter must first be properly arranged but, when this is done, the results of clairvoyant research can invariably be verified. The results of the two methods will coincide.
Now we will examine another phenomenon of the soul life, in common parlance called “surprise,” “amazement.” What exactly is this? When can we be surprised by something we encounter? Only when, at the moment of encountering it, we are not at once in a position to reason when our judgment is not immediately equal to coping with the impressions made upon our soul life. The moment our reasoning becomes equal to the task, amazement ceases. Something our reasoning can at once cope with causes us no surprise at all, surprise doesn't enter. In encountering a phenomenon and experiencing surprise, amazement — perhaps even fear — that is, in receiving a conscious impression without our reasoning having time to intervene, feelings arise, but not at first reasoning. In seeking the reason for this we must realize that our state of interest, our capacity for desire, cannot flow in the same direction as the power of reasoning, otherwise the two would coincide; therefore, reasoning must be something different from ordinary interest.
Neither can reasoning be identical and flow together with the soul current from the past to the future. Otherwise, reasoning would continuously coincide with the current of visualizations and the entire soul life would have to take part whenever we reason. Visualizations would have to have ceased at this moment. Reasoning, however, is conscious; yet at the moment of reasoning, how far we are from facing all the visualizations our soul embraces! Reasoning is not able instantaneously to grasp the continuous stream of the soul life, hence these two cannot coincide either. Nor can reasoning coincide with the current from the future to the past, otherwise, fear, anxiety, amazement, surprise would not be possible. Reasoning, therefore, coincides with none of these currents.
Keeping this fact in mind, let us now examine the continuous stream of the etheric body that flows from the past to the future. It discloses, indeed, something highly peculiar, namely, that it not only can flow along in the soul unconsciously, so to speak, but can become conscious. Let us keep clearly in view that unconscious conceptions passing through the soul life can become conscious. They are always present, but not always conscious. Let us try by a simple example to focus our attention upon the moment at which such unconscious visualizations become conscious. You are walking through a picture gallery and stop to look at a picture. At this moment the same picture bobs up in your consciousness; you have seen it before. What was it that called up this memory? Well, it was the impression of the new picture that magically and visibly conjured up before your mind's eye the old visualization of the picture. If you had not encountered the picture, the old visualization would not have been stimulated to come to the surface. You can understand this process by explaining it as follows. What I term my ego has entered anew upon an interrelationship with the picture by confronting it.
The circumstance that your ego receives something new into itself acts upon something that is contained in the continuous stream of the soul life and thereby becomes visible again. Let us try to get a picture of this by means of which we can describe the process. Think of all the objects that are at the moment behind you, but without turning around; you cannot see them. Under what conditions can you see them without turning around? When you hold up a mirror. Something similar must take place between the visualizations that live along unconsciously in the soul and the process produced by a new impression. The latter mixes with your old visualizations in such a way as to render these visible to the mind's eye.
Then, what is it that blots out the view of the old visualization, rendering it invisible? It is your ego that stands in the way and, when a new process provides the impulse for a reflection, the result is the process of memory, of the becoming conscious of the old visualization. The stream of memory runs backward to the old visualization, just as the light rays run backward to the mirror, thence to be reflected forward.
Enquiring next into the cause of such a reflection, let us recall the highly significant fact that man's retrogressive memory stops at a certain point. From that time back to birth he remembers nothing. Where does memory of past events commence? In fact, which processes of human life are the only ones that return to memory at all? Only those in which the ego participated, which the ego had really assimilated because it is at about the same time, according to the demands of a certain law, that the child can start to develop his ego visualization. Only such visualizations are remembered at all in our physical life as were received while the ego took part as an active force, conscious of itself.
What about this ego during the first three years of a child's life? At first it receives all impressions unconsciously, so to speak; it is not itself present. Then it begins to unite with all visualizations received from without. That is the moment at which the human ego begins to stand in front of its visualizations, placing these behind it. Up to that time the whole life of ego visualizations was lived purely in the life of the present; now it emerges, faces the future in freedom, and is equipped to receive whatever comes to meet it out of the future, but past visualizations it places behind itself.
What must take place at the moment when the ego begins to assimilate all visualizations, when it becomes conscious? The ego must join the continuous current we have called the etheric body. At the moment when the child begins to develop an ego consciousness the stream of life has made an impression on the etheric body, and therewith the capacity for ego consciousness comes into being. Ego perception can never come to you from without; the visualizations relating to the physical world are what is given from without. Previous to the moment at which the child begins to sense his own ego, he cannot feel his own etheric body, but from then on the ego reflects back into itself the current of the etheric body. This gives you the mirror as well. To sum up: While all other visualizations — those that relate to physical space — are received by the physical human being, the ego consciousness, the ego visualization, arises when the ego fills out the etheric body and is reflected, as it were, from its inner walls. The essential feature of ego consciousness is that it is the etheric body being reflected inward.
What can bring about this inner reflection? The inner delimitation of the etheric body. Only through this does the ego become conscious as the result of inner reflection. We learned, you remember, that the astral body comes to meet the etheric body. It is the ego that fills out the etheric body and, through inner reflection, becomes conscious of it as such. This ego consciousness is powerfully gripped by all interest, all desires, for these implant themselves firmly in the ego. Nevertheless, even though this takes place to such a degree that we characterize it as egotism, there is something peculiar about this ego perception, something in a certain way independent of desires. There is a certain demand that the human soul makes upon itself, readily attested by the soul; every soul knows that mere desire cannot possibly call forth the ego. However much you want to do it, it cannot be done. Ego consciousness does not consist of the stream of desires any more than it does of the stream of visualizations. It is an element fundamentally different from either, but one that assimilates both streams. We can represent this state of affairs graphically by drawing the ego current at right angles to the stream of time. That gives a correct picture.
That is the only way to account for all the psychic phenomena involved. You will always be able to cope with these if you assume a current running at right angles to the other two, to the one from the past to the future, and to the one from the future to the past. That is the current corresponding to the human ego element itself.
There is something else, something in the nature of a human-psychic experience, that is connected with the ego. It is the power of reasoning. This enters with the ego. If you visualize this picture, you will really be able to understand only the phenomenon of surprise, of interest, not the reasoning activity of the ego. The latter cannot possibly enter the process from the direction of the past, and unless the ego can enter simultaneously with desire, it is impossible for reasoning to meet the future-past current. What is indispensable if reasoning activity is to enter with the ego current? A reflection, and this must come about in such a way that the ego has the unconsciously flowing visualizations positively behind itself.
That would be the case if the ego current entered from the direction indicated by the arrow in the diagram, but were then to change its course within the body to that shown by the other arrow, toward the future. Now the ego has joined the current of the etheric body, has entered the etheric body — has itself, so to speak, become a mirror. This tallies strikingly with the facts. If the ego has the unconsciously onward-flowing visualizations behind itself, what does it encounter in front, toward the future? Imagine you are looking into a mirror. If nothing is behind you, you see nothing but an endless void, and at first that is man's view of the future. When do you see something there? Only when something out of the past appears. You see the past, not the future; the mirror shows you the objects that are behind you. Now, if the ego is reflected inwardly at the moment when the child arrives at self-consciousness, the entire soul life from then on signifies that experiences and impressions of the past are reflected as well. That is why you can remember nothing that occurred before the ego became a means of reflection. If something out of the past is to be seen in the mirror, you naturally see nothing of the future, just as you see nothing behind the quicksilver that lines the mirror.
It should be noted here that the child, when it is reflected in the etheric body at the inception of the ego, remembers nothing that happened previously. Everything is explained by the one essential fact that the human ego, in so far as it enters the etheric body and receives visualizations out of the past, itself becomes a reflecting apparatus impressionable to everything it receives from that time on.
Now let us recall the fact, already mentioned, that there are two kinds of memories, the one resulting from the external repetition of a perception, the other called up out of the soul by the power of the ego, without external repetition. What must occur if the ego is to reflect past events? We can say that, if you receive an outer impression through a picture you have seen before and which you encounter for the second or third time, the raying of the reflection from the other side is thereby held back in such a manner as to make it strike the inner soul mirror. What if no repetition of the outer impression occurs? In that case the ego itself must gather what is to be reflected from within, that is, it must create a substitute for what is otherwise effected by the outer impression.
What is this ego primarily as it appears in physical human life? It is the inner fulfillment of the etheric body. It must therefore itself be transformed into a mirror within the etheric body, and this is accomplished through the delimitation of the etheric body. With regard to your outer sense impressions you are sequestered by reason of being in a physical body, and it is due to this fact that what lives in the etheric body can be reflected. There must be, however, another force to account for what you remember freely. The etheric body must have a foil, like a mirror, and this is provided for the memories, which are called forth by the new impression, by the sense organs, the physical body.
In the absence of anything acting from without, we must seek the foil elsewhere. The only alternative is to employ as an auxiliary force what approaches the ego at right angles, that is, desire, or the current flowing toward us. This we use as a foil for the mirror. Only by appropriately strengthening the astral body can we call in the force of desire and develop out of the ego a force capable of recalling to our memory those visualizations that otherwise refuse to appear. Only by strengthening the ego, as it expresses itself in the physical world, are we able actually to use the current flowing out of the future and to make a mirror-foil of it. Solely by strengthening the ego, by making it master of what comes to us out of the future (astral body), can we do anything about the visualizations that refuse to be mirrored, refuse to surrender to us. If we cannot recall the visualization, it is because our desire lacks the requisite strength. We must take out a loan in order to be able to reflect it.
A strengthening of the ego can be brought about in two ways. In everyday life, for example, you experience things simply by following the continuous stream of experience. When a bell tolls you hear the first tone, the second, third, and so forth, in order; in a play you hear the various parts one after another, then you've finished. With your ego you live along in the continuous stream of etheric life but, if you systematically set about to experience the opposite stream of life, you follow the astral current. For instance, in the evening recall the events of the day in reverse order, or recite the Lord's Prayer backwards. You are then not following the usual ego current, which lives because the ego fills the etheric body, but the opposite one, and the consequence is that you incorporate forces out of the astral current. That is an extraordinarily good exercise for strengthening the memory.
There is another exercise for the same purpose. If someone suffers from a particularly poor memory, he can combat the condition by trying with all his might to take up some occupation of his youth. Supposing he is forty, and he tackles a book that had entranced him at the age of fifteen. If he keeps on trying religiously to become absorbed in it with the feeling of that earlier time, he draws strength from the backward-flowing current. You recall the same facts you did in the past, then the current out of the future comes to your aid. Why, for example, does an old man like to recall the occupations of his youth?
Such considerations can show you that actually your ego must fortify itself from the astral current that flows to meet the etheric current if it would strengthen the memory. If one were to pay careful attention to such matters in teaching, the effect would be highly beneficial. For example, seven school classes could be so arranged as to comprise a middle class, the fourth. In the fifth would be repeated in modified form what was studied in the third, in the sixth the subjects of the second, in the seventh, of the first. That would be an excellent way of strengthening the memory, and if people would put such things into practice they would see that ideas of that sort derive from the laws governing life.
From all this we perceive that in our ego visualization, our ego perception, we have something that must first come into being. . It arises in early childhood through the inward reflection of the etheric body. No wonder there is no ego visualization in the night, for when the ego is out in space during sleep, it naturally cannot be reflected in the etheric body. That is why it must submerge in unconsciousness at night. The etheric body is the current continuously flowing in time, and in the course of time it receives the ego visualization through the circumstance that what flows forward in the etheric body is illuminated from the other side by the astral body.
All that we have in the way of ego visualization is exclusively in the etheric body; it is merely the entire etheric body seen from within, reflecting itself within itself. Only the ego visualization is active in the etheric body, not the ego itself. What is the ego? It is the power of reasoning striking in at an angle. If you would comprehend the ego you must not turn to the ego perception but to reasoning. In relation to all else, reasoning is independent, and we must clearly distinguish between visualizing and reasoning. “Red” is not a verdict; reasoning stops at the sense perception. The moment, however, the verdict “red is” is pronounced — when the “red” is endowed with “being” — the ego stirs, the reasoning that is directed toward the spiritual. When the ego passes judgment based upon outer impressions, the latter are objects of judgment.
Now, if the ego is a being apart from all its visualizations and perceptions, as well as from self-perception (just as a reflected image is not identical with the object reflected), and if, further, it is the impetus of self-perception, a verdict must be possible in relation to which the ego, as in all reasoning, feels itself master, and not dependent upon outer perception. This occurs at the moment, not when you have the ego visualization, but when you pronounce the judgment “I is.” Thereby you have filled out with reasoning capacity what otherwise lives in the “I” without achieving consciousness. What was previously an empty bubble is now filled with the power of reasoning, and when the ego thus fills itself out the spirit is encompassed by reasoning.
Let us recall that reasoning is an activity of the soul, an inner activity; that soul activities arise within, in the inner soul life; that they lead to visualizations. Among the visualizations that appear, the ego visualization is one. True, we found that the ego visualization leads to a conception of the ego, but aside from that we could learn nothing about the ego. What we did learn, however, is that the ego visualization, though having the same character as other visualizations entering from the physical world, cannot originate in the outer world, the physical world. This being the case, and since reasoning, which is one of the elements of the soul life, must be applied to the ego, it follows that the ego must enter the soul life from the other side. This is conclusive evidence that just as the conception “red” enters the soul life from without and is then encompassed by a verdict, so something in the ego appears from the other side and acts in the same way.
When we say “I is,” we receive an impression out of the spiritual world and encompass it with a verdict. “Red” corresponds to physical conditions of existence. The verdict “red is” can, as such, come about only within the soul life through the agency of the physical world. “I is” comes from the other direction; so we say that this impression comes from the spiritual world. “I is” is a fact of the spiritual life, just as “red is” is a fact of the physical life. The usage of speech expresses this coming from the other side by exchanging “is” for “am”: I am. The ego can be admitted to have being [Sein, the infinitive “to be,” used here as a noun. Ordinarily it could be translated with “existence,” but here that would be a half-truth. The linguistic connection with “I is,” “I am,” etc., must be retained.] only when it can be encompassed by a judgment; when, just as in the case of “red,” something approaches the soul that can be encompassed by a verdict in the same way as can something coming from the physical world.
When I now draw a line indicating the fourth direction, upward from below, you will not be surprised that this represents a physical force. Graphically represented, the impressions of the physical world proceed upward from below and manifest themselves in the soul as sense impressions. In one plane the ego and its bodily-physical sense organs are opposed, in the other, the currents of the etheric and of the astral bodies. When the ego makes contact with the physical body through the eye, the ear, etc., it receives impressions of the physical world. These are then carried on in the soul by reason of the latter's possessing consciousness, which in turn arises through the impact of the etheric and astral bodies upon each other. The whole picture shows that a comparatively good diagram of the co-operation of the various worlds in the human soul can be had by opposing the ego and the physical body in one plane, and at right angles, the etheric and astral bodies.
Innumerable riddles will be solved for you if you will thoroughly work your way through this diagram. You will see that precisely this cross, intersected by a circle, gives you a good picture of the soul life as it borders below on the physical, above on the spiritual world. Now you must imagine the stream of time, and you must rise to a visualization of it, not as something flowing along smoothly, but as meeting the life of the senses. You must see that the life of the ego can be comprehended only when thought of as striking at right angles into the stream of time. With this in mind you will readily understand that quite different forces meet in our soul. Our soul is the stage, so to speak, where these forces encounter each other from many directions.
As an example, take someone in whom the reasoning ego preponderates. He will find it difficult to endow abstract concepts with sufficient body to make them appeal directly to feeling; that is, a man like Hegel, who is strong in reasoning, will not easily give in full measure of what speaks to the feelings. On the other hand, one whose every tendency tells of a rich astral life, who is full of interests that flow against the continuous current of the physical life, will bring with him into the world the gift for living
concepts, because he is open to the stream coming out of the future. He will not appear on the physical plane as a man of thought, but rather, he will prove how readily he can clothe his inner experiences in words that speak powerfully to men. Such a one was Goethe.
If you think of a man as bringing over from a former incarnation a tendency toward the one current or the other, you must imagine in Goethe's soul a predisposition for the stream out of the future. When he yields himself to it, he quite naturally gathers ideas of the future as vital concepts. Once Goethe permits all this to come into conflict with what has only been acquired in this incarnation, with the visualizations of the recently acquired etheric body, the result is something like what we designated worthless in his Wandering Jew.
On the other hand, when a Hegel brings with him the gift for extracting mighty conceptions from his reasoning, he struggles with the current that streams from the future into the past. The fact is, we incessantly place our ego in such a position as to cover up the continuous stream. The ego covers it and lets the endless current of desire come to meet it, and into this focal point we peer as into a mirror.
I have been able to evoke for you but little out of the infinite realm of psychosophy, but you will find the answers to many riddles of life by taking into account the presence of the unconscious visualizations of the etheric body. The physical body is in constant communication with the etheric body, and just because the visualizations are unconscious they can develop their lively activity in the other direction toward the physical side. Furthermore, precisely those visualizations that our consciousness is unable to call up out of our unconscious soul life are in this way immeasurably destructive; they develop destructive forces that penetrate our corporeality. It is a fact that something a person has experienced at the age of ten or twelve, and totally forgotten — something he is incapable of raising into consciousness because the ego lacks sufficient strength — continues to act in his etheric body and can impair his health. That means that in the etheric body there live visualizations that can cause sickness.
If you know that, you also know that there is a remedy. It consists in robbing these visualizations of their power by deflecting them in another direction. You can help the sufferer, if he is not strong enough to do so himself, by providing him with associations that will bring these visualizations to consciousness. That accomplishes a great deal. It is really possible to bring a person's conceptions to his consciousness and thus call forth health-giving forces.
Some of you will say that that sort of thing is being tried at the present time and, indeed, there are psychiatric cures that consist in calling forth visualizations. I cannot here mention the name of the school I have in mind because its aim is to unearth only visualizations of the sexual life — visualizations to which the matter here under discussion does not apply. In such cases it is of no avail, and for that reason the Freudian School in Vienna is such as to produce results that are the exact opposite of what is aimed at.
You will have gathered that, if one goes to work conscientiously and intelligently in observing life on the physical plane, the knowledge acquired on the psychosophic path verifies what reaches us through clairvoyant research, but the latter does not seek the facts in order to see whether they tally with conditions on the physical plane. On the contrary, the clairvoyant seeker is often surprised himself to find the results of his research so beautifully borne out on the physical plane. If reversed, the process would hardly yield accurate information. Research practised on the physical plane alone tends to group things in a wrong way and to meet facts with a slap in the face. The fundamental impression I hope you have gleaned from these lectures is one of justified confidence in clairvoyant research.
That is why, in addition to all that I tell you from clairvoyant sources, I am at pains to draw your attention from time to time in a matter-of-fact way to the laws of the physical plane because we are placed on this plane in order that we may learn to know it. We have a twofold duty. On the one hand, we must study the physical plane upon which the great world powers have not placed us fortuitously, and we must really identify ourselves with it by renunciative thinking. On the other hand, we have already arrived at the stage of human development at which we are aware that we can no longer cope with the physical plane without the aid of occult research. Science must inevitably err without occult science as a guide to point the lines of approach to all that can be learned through physical research. After the establishment of physical research at the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, this necessarily remained the center of interest; now the time is ripe for another sort of research to intervene and indicate the lines of approach. If the occultist will not only learn this but count it among his duties, he will have fulfilled the demands of our time, namely, to spread the conviction that we base firmly on the physical plane. Certainly anyone who has grasped the idea of the astral current flowing in from the future can be depended upon in this matter. That this is true I have already proved to you by a fact.
Only one of the many psychologists of the present has, with no knowledge of occultism whatever, approached the study of the soul with a fine schooling. He is Franz Brentano. He took up psychology in the eighteen-sixties and, although what he did amounted to no more than scholastic speculating, it was like a child's first steps in the doctrine of desire, feeling, and reasoning. What he says is all askew, but the tendency is significant. It could have been right had it not been for his complete ignorance of every occult context. The first volume of his work appeared in the spring of 1874 and the second was due in the fall of the same year, but to this day (1910) it has not appeared. He was bound to become mired, and from these lectures you will understand why. He had already defined and indicated what the second volume was to contain; he had planned to deal with the ego, with immortality. The stream of occult research, however, failed to enter from the other side; the fructifying element was not forthcoming. Franz Brentano lived as a child of our time, that is, he began to arrange facts into groups, so he could not get on. He is now living in Florence, an old man.
Wundt also wrote a psychology, but it is nothing but a tangle of concepts. It contains nothing about the real soul life, nothing but the author's preconceived opinions. Such people thrash empty straw, even when dealing with the psychologies of peoples and of languages. All sciences would come to a similar impasse unless something came to meet them from the spiritual side.
My dear friends, you have identified yourselves with a movement in which your store of knowledge can increase if you think of your present knowledge as a karmic fact. In that way you will have arrived at a crossroads, a vantage point from which vigorous co-operation in this work is clearly discernible as a task enabling you now or in a future incarnation to serve humanity. Do not think of that as an abstract ideal, but keep constantly returning to it in a practical way. This work must be made to bear fruit.