Sunday, January 22, 2017
The Sense Organs and Aesthetic Experience. Aristotle, Schiller, and the Truth. Uranus and Aphrodite. Maya-Maria.
The Riddle of Humanity. Lecture 9 of 15.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, August 15, 1916:
We have been busy getting acquainted with the way man's life processes and the sense-zones locate him in the cosmos, and we have tried to look at some of the consequences that follow from the facts on which this knowledge is based. Above all, we have to some extent cured ourselves of the trivial notion, held by many who want to befriend the spirit, that everything that can be referred to as ‘material’ or ‘perceptible to the senses’ is to be despised. For we have seen that here in the physical world it is precisely the lower organs and functions that reflect higher activities and relationships in the human being. In their present state, we can only view the senses of touch and life as being very dependent on the physical world — equally so the ego sense, the sense of thought, and the sense of speech. But we must accustom ourselves to seeing those senses that in the Earth sphere only serve the inner being of the organism as the shadowy reflections of something that is immense and significant for the spiritual world once we have passed through death: the sense of movement, the sense of balance, the sense of smell, the sense of taste, and, to a certain degree, the sense of sight. We have emphasized the fact that in the spiritual world the sense of movement enables us to move among the beings of the various hierarchies in accordance with the way they attract or repel us. After death we experience our connection with the hierarchies as spiritual sympathy or antipathy. Physical balance, as we know it here in our physical bodies, is not the only thing the sense of balance provides for us; it also holds us in balance between the beings and influences of the spiritual world. It is similar with the other senses: taste, smell, sight. And, in so far as a hidden spirituality plays into the physical world, it is of no use to turn to the higher senses for clarification. Rather we must enter the realms of the so-called lower senses. Mind you, these days it is not possible to speak about many of the highly significant things that lie in this direction. For today there are such strong prejudices that all one has to do to be misunderstood and accused of all kinds of things is to speak out about precisely those things that are interesting and significant in a higher spiritual sense. So, for the time being, I must forgo speaking about some of the interesting things that go on in the realm of the senses.
In this respect, the situation was much more favorable in earlier times. In those times, however, there were not the same possibilities of disseminating information, either. Aristotle could discuss certain truths much more unguardedly than they can be discussed today, when such things are immediately taken personally and awaken personal sympathies and antipathies. In Aristotle's works, for example, you can find profound truths about the human being which one simply could not explain to a large audience of today. I was referring to some of these in the last lecture when I said that the Greeks did not fall prey to materialism even though they knew more than we do of how our soul-spiritual nature is related to our physical, bodily nature. In Aristotle's writings, for example, you can find wonderful descriptions of the external appearance of a brave person, or a coward, or an indignant person, or of someone who is addicted to sleep. There, in a manner that from a certain point of view is correct, you find described what kind of hair and complexion and wrinkles cowardly people have, what sort of bodies drowsy people have, and so on. To say even this much would create problems these days; other things would be even more problematic. People of today take these things much more personally. In many respects they positively want to use the personal to keep themselves in the fog about the truth. That is why some circumstances today compel one to speak in more general terms if one wants to speak truthfully.
Specific insights about every kind of human being and every human activity await those who, in the right spirit, turn to our preceding considerations with the necessary questions. We have said, for example, that the human senses are presently located in more or less separate, static regions. They are just like the constellations, each of which remains motionless in its own region of the cosmos — in contrast to the planets, which appear, circling, wandering, changing their location in a relatively short time. Moreover, the boundaries of each sense region are fixed, whereas the life processes pulse through the whole organism and circulate through the individual sense-zones, permeating them with their influence.
Now, we also have said that our sense organs were more like vital organs during Old Moon. There they functioned more as vital organs, whereas the organs that are now vital organs were essentially more related to the soul. Consider, then, something that has been emphasized more than once: that sometimes people will regress to, or return to, an atavistic state that was a natural and usual state in an earlier time — in this case, during the Old Moon period. We have noted that there is a form of regression that revives the dreamlike imaginative vision of Old Moon. Today, such an atavistic regression into the visionary state of Old Moon is a form of illness.
Now I ask you please not to lose sight of something: namely, that the visions themselves are not pathological. If that were so, we would have to say that everything mankind experienced on Old Moon was the product of illness, for there one lived entirely in such visions. And we would have to say that Old Moon was an illness that humanity had to go through — an illness of soul, at that — so that the humanity of Old Moon was necessarily insane. Naturally, one cannot say this; it is utter nonsense. The pathological aspect does not lie in the visions themselves, but rather in the fact that they cannot be sustained by the human organization in its present, earthly form. The earthly, human organization adapts to such visions in a way that is not appropriate to them. Just consider: when someone has the kind of vision one had on Old Moon, this vision is only adapted for engendering the kind of feelings, activities, and acts that were appropriate to Old Moon. The illness consists in someone having such a vision here on Earth and responding to it in ways that only an earthly organization can respond. This only happens because the earthly organization cannot tolerate this vision with which it is more or less impregnated.
Take the most obvious, concrete kind of case: circumstances arise in which someone has a vision. Then, instead of remaining in quiet contemplation of the vision and relating it to the spiritual world, which is the only world to which it can rightly be related, the person applies it to the physical world and behaves accordingly. In other words, he starts to go berserk because the vision is doing what it should not do — permeating his body and bringing it into action. This is the most obvious kind of case. Today, when an atavistic vision arises that the body cannot tolerate, it does not remain in the domain which has brought it to life, which is where it should remain. A person becomes powerless if his physical body is too weak to stand up against the vision. If the physical body is strong enough to stand up against it, the vision is weakened. Then the objects and events in it cease to appear — falsely — as if they really belonged to the world of the senses, for that is how they seem to someone who is made ill by them. Thus, if the physical body is strong enough to counter the falsifying tendencies of an atavistic vision, the following occurs: in such cases, a person relates to the world in a fashion that is similar to that of Old Moon, and yet he is strong enough to reconcile this Moon mode of experience with the earthly organism in its present state.
What does this imply? It implies that this person has somewhat altered his inner zodiac with its twelve sense-zones. It is changed in such a way that what happens in this zodiac of the twelve senses is more like a life process than a sense process. Or, better expressed, one could say that events in the regions of the senses, events which actually do impinge on the sense processes, are transformed into life processes — so that the sense processes are lifted out of their present, dead state and transformed into something living: you still see, but something lives in that seeing; you hear, but simultaneously there is something living in that hearing. Something lives in the eyes or in the ears which otherwise only lives in your stomach or on your tongue. The sense processes are truly brought into movement. Then our modern sense organs acquire qualities that could otherwise only be possessed in the same degree by our vital organs. The forces of sympathy and antipathy flow strongly through our vital organs. Now just consider how much of our whole life depends on sympathy and antipathy — on which things we accept and take up and which we reject! And now those very powers of sympathy and antipathy, powers that are otherwise developed in the life organs, once more begin to pour into the sense organs. The eye not only sees red, it experiences sympathy or antipathy along with the color. The sense organs regain the capacity to receive and be permeated by the life forces. So we can say: in this way the sense organs are brought once more into the sphere of life.
For this to happen, there must be changes in the life processes. Through these changes, the life processes become more ensouled than they otherwise would be in earthly life. The ensouling takes place in such a way that three life processes — breathing, warming, and nourishing — are more or less united. Then they begin to manifest themselves more in the sphere of the soul. With normal breathing, one breathes the prosaic, earthly air; the normal process of warming involves earthly warmth; and so on. But when they are ensouled, the life processes are united by a kind of symbiosis. They cease to be separated in the way they are usually separated in the present-day human organism; they establish connections with each other. Breathing, warming, and nourishing unite to form an inner association with one another. And this is not nourishing in the coarse, material sense, but is rather the process of nourishing. The process occurs without it being necessary for anything to be eaten, and it does not occur on its own, as when we eat, but in conjunction with the other processes.
The four remaining life processes are united in a similar fashion. Secretion, growth, maintenance, and reproduction are united to form a single, more ensouled process, a life process that has more to do with the soul. And then these two parts can unite yet again — not just gathering all the life processes together so that they function as one, but by combining three of the processes in one group and the other four processes in another so that these two groups, in turn, can function in concert.
In this way three new soul faculties arise. In character they resemble — but are not identical with — the earthly faculties of thinking, feeling, and willing: here is another triad of soul faculties. The new faculties differ from thinking, feeling, and willing as they normally present themselves on Earth. They are more like life processes, but not so differentiated as the life processes otherwise are on Earth. When someone is able to sustain this sinking-back into Moon without lapsing into visions, a very intimate, subtle process takes place. The sense-zones are transformed into regions of life, the life processes are ensouled, and there arises a kind of understanding that is faintly suggestive of the Old Moon visions. Nor can a person remain constantly in this state, for then one would cease to be fit for life on Earth. To be fit for Earth one needs the kind of senses and vital organs we have described previously. But in special circumstances a person can enter into this other state. Then, if the state tends more towards the will, it leads to aesthetic creation; if the state tends more towards perception, it leads to aesthetic enjoyment. Truly aesthetic human behavior consists in the enlivening of the sense organs and the ensouling of the life processes. This is an extremely important truth about humanity; it explains much. This enlivening of the sense organs and this new life in the regions of the senses is to be found in the arts and the enjoyment of art. Something similar occurs with the vital processes, which are more ensouled in the enjoyment of art than they are in normal life. These days it is impossible to understand the full significance of the changes a person undergoes when he enters the artistic sphere, because a materialistic approach is incapable of grasping the facts in their full reality. Today a human being is seen as concrete and fixed. But, within certain limits, people actually are variable. This is demonstrated by the sort of variability we have just been observing.
Elucidations such as those that have just been presented contain far-reaching truths. To mention only one such truth: there is the fact that precisely those senses that are most adapted to the physical plane of existence are the senses that must undergo the most radical changes when they are led halfway back into a quasi-Moon existence. In order to serve someone who follows this road halfway back into the time of Old Moon, the sense of the I, the sense of thought, and the sense of physical touch must be wholly transformed, for these senses are robustly adapted to Earth existence.
It is of no use to art, for example, to confront the I or the world of thoughts the way we normally do. At the very most, you might find the usual relationship to the I and to thought in some minor arts. No art describes or portrays a person's I directly, in the way the person actually lives, standing within the real world. The artist must go through a process whereby the I is lifted out of the specialization it has acquired on Earth; it must give him a generalized sense of meaning, a sense for the typical. An artist does this as a matter of course. Similarly, an artist cannot directly express the world of thoughts in the way in which it is usually expressed here on Earth. Otherwise he would not be able to produce any poetry or works of art at all, but at the very most only didactic things, things that contain some lesson and are not artistic in the true sense of the word. The changes that the artist makes in the world that confronts him enliven the senses by leading them back to a previous condition in the way I have been explaining.
But, regarding this change in the senses, there is something else that must still be considered. I said that the life processes intermingle. Just as the planets come into conjunction, and just as their mutual relations are significant — in contrast to the immobile stars — the sense-zones can also come into motion; once they have been transposed to the planetary dimension of human life, they can come to life and attain to relationships with one another. This is the reason why artistic perception is never as restricted to specific sense-zones in the way in which our usual perception is. The particular senses also develop certain relationships with one another. Let us consider an example — say, painting.
A consideration that is based on true spiritual science would discover the following things. Sight, the sense of warmth, the sense of taste, the sense of smell — these have their discrete zones as far as normal sense observation goes. Their respective areas are separate. In painting, however, these sense regions merge in a remarkable fashion, not only in the concrete organs, but also in their spheres of influence as I have described them in preceding lectures.
A painter, or someone who is enjoying a painting, does not merely see the content as colors: the red or the blue or the violet. Instead, he actually tastes the colors, although of course not with the actual organ, or else he would have to lick the painting with his tongue, which he does not do. But a subtle process that is similar to the process of tasting nevertheless takes place in all those areas allied to the sphere of the tongue. When you use the processes of sensory perception to see a green parrot, your eyes see the green color. But when you enjoy a painting, other subtle, imaginative processes also participate in the act of seeing. These processes are associated with your tongue and belong to your tongue's sense of taste. They are similar to the subtle processes that occur when you taste something, when you eat your food. Now, the act of seeing simultaneously involves other processes — not the processes that actually happen on the tongue, but rather fine, physiological processes associated with these — so that in the deeper sense of the word the painter really does taste the colors.
And he smells the nuances of the colors — not with his nose but rather with the more soul-allied things that accompany the act of smelling from deeper in the organism. Therefore, the individual sense-zones begin to merge as they become areas more given over to the life process.
When we read a description intended for instructing us as to how something looks or how something happened, we employ the sense of speech, or the sense of word. Through it, we obtain information about one thing and another. But if we listen to a poem in the same way as we listen to straightforward information, we will not be able to understand it. The poem does manifest itself to the sense of speech, of course, but it cannot be understood solely through the sense of speech. In addition to the sense of speech, the ensouled senses of balance and movement must also be focused on the poem — not just the usual senses of balance and movement, but the ensouled senses. So we again see that the senses merge. The regions of the senses have become life regions and the sense organs function in combination. Furthermore, this whole process must be accompanied by life processes that relate to the soul instead of functioning like the usual life processes in the physical world.
Someone who engages the fourth life process so intensely that he sweats when he listens to a piece of music has gone too far; that is no longer appropriate to the aesthetic realm, for secretion has been taken as far as physical secretion. The first point is that the process should remain on the soul level and not lead to physical secretion, even though physical secretion is based on exactly the same process. The second point to note is that secretion should not emerge as a discrete process, but rather in an association of four processes — all of them on a soul level: secretion, growth, maintenance, and reproduction.
On the one hand, spiritual science has the task of linking the development of Earth to the spiritual worlds. From many points of view we have seen that mankind is headed for disaster unless this link is established. On the other hand, however, spiritual science must also revive the capacity for grasping and understanding the physical world in terms of the spiritual. Not only has materialism led to an inability to rise to the spirit, it also has led to an inability to understand the physical. The spirit is alive in everything physical. If it is lost sight of, it becomes impossible to understand the physical. Just ask yourselves, what could someone who knows nothing of spiritual realities know about the way an entire sense-zone can become a life-zone, and about the way vital processes can manifest as soul processes? What do contemporary physiologists know about these subtle processes that occur in us? Materialism has gradually brought us to such a pass that we have lost all contact with concrete reality. We live only in abstractions, and now we are abandoning the abstractions, too. At the beginning of the nineteenth century people still spoke of vital energy, or of life energy. Naturally, one cannot do anything with such an abstraction, for matters can only be grasped when one enters into the concrete. Once you have a full grasp of the seven life processes you are involved with the realities, and what matters is to reestablish a connection with reality. People try to put new life into all sorts of greyish abstractions, abstractions like elan vital. Even though they may intend exactly the opposite, they are only leading mankind deeper into the crudest materialism, materialism that stoops to mysticism. These abstractions say nothing; they simply testify to an inability to understand. The development of humanity in the immediate future depends on a knowledge of things that can only be discovered in the spiritual worlds. We must make real progress in our spiritual understanding of the world.
In this regard, we ought to go back to the good Aristotle, who was closer to the ancient vision than people are today. I only want to remind you of one characteristic thing about old Aristotle. A whole library has been written about the notion of catharsis, by which he attempted to show what is at the root of tragedy. He said: Tragedy is a unified presentation of events from human life, events which arouse fear and pity as they unfold; furthermore, the soul is purified because of the way this fear and pity unfold, and so the effects of the fear and pity are also purified. The age of materialism has written so much about this passage because it does not possess the organ for apprehending Aristotle. The only ones on the right track were those who saw that Aristotle's expression ‘catharsis’ is medical, or quasi-medical, and not so in the sense of today's materialistic medicine. The aesthetic experience of tragedy really does engender processes that reach right into the physical body and are the organic events that normally accompany fear and pity. It does this because vital processes are changed to processes of soul. A tragedy purifies these vital effects because they are simultaneously elevated to processes of soul. And if you read further in Aristotle's Poetics you will find a hint of this deep understanding of the aesthetic man — not understanding in the modern style, but out of the ancient traditions of the Mysteries. You will find yourself much more in the grips of immediate life reading Aristotle's Poetics than you ever will by reading the tract of some modern aesthetician who can only sniff around and dialecticize, but is unable to get hold of realities.
Schiller's Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man marks another high point in the understanding of aesthetic man. He lived in a more abstract time, however. Today we need to add the spiritual — the spiritually concrete — to the idealism of that time. But when we look at the more materialistic time of Goethe and Schiller, we see that the abstractions of Schiller's letters on aesthetics nevertheless contain something of what we have been talking about. It is only that the process has descended nearer to the physical plane — but only so that the material may be all the more thoroughly penetrated by an intensively grasped spirituality. What does Schiller say? He says: Humanity as it lives on Earth has two basic drives: it has rational impulses, and natural impulses. The logic of the impulse to reason functions as a natural necessity. One is forced to think in a certain way; thinking is not at all free. What avails it to speak of freedom as regards this sphere of natural necessity where one is forced to think that three times three is nine, and not ten? Logic implies a strict rational necessity. For this reason, Schiller says that the person who conforms to the necessities of pure reason is subject to spiritual compulsion.
Schiller contrasts the necessity of reason with the necessities of the world of the senses — of everything that lives in the drives and emotions. There, also, a person must follow a natural necessity rather than his own free impulses. Then Schiller looks for a middle condition between the necessities of reason and the necessities of nature. He finds it in what occurs when a person forms something aesthetically — when rational necessity inclines toward what the person loves or does not love, and when his thinking follows or avoids inner impulses and pictures instead of being bound by rigid, logical necessity. But this state also suspends natural necessity. For one ceases to follow, as through compulsion, the necessities of the natural senses. These necessities are ensouled and spiritualized. A person ceases simply to want what the body wants; instead, sensual pleasures are spiritualized. In this way, the necessity of reason and the necessity of nature approach one another.
Naturally, you must read Schiller's letters on aesthetics for yourselves; they are among the most significant philosophical productions of world history. There, living in Schiller's analyses, you will discover the very things you have just been hearing, only there they are described in metaphysical abstractions. The way vital forces are returned to the sense-zones is contained in what Schiller calls the freeing of natural necessity from rigidity. And what Schiller calls the spiritualization of natural necessity — he might more aptly have called it ‘ensouling’ — contains what we referred to as the functioning of the life processes as soul processes. The life processes become more ensouled, the sense processes come more to life — that is the true process that you will find described in Schiller's letters on aesthetics. There it is put more in abstract, rather ghostly concepts, because that was how it had to be in that era. At that time thinking was not yet spiritually strong enough, not strong enough to descend with the spirit into the regions sought by the seer. In those regions there is no opposition between matter and spirit; rather there is an experience of how the spirit everywhere saturates matter so that there is no possibility of ever bumping into spiritless matter. Contemplation that is merely mental is merely mental only because the person is not able to make his thoughts so strong and spiritual — so concretely spiritual — that the thoughts can cope with matter. In other words, he is not able to penetrate to what is truly material. Schiller is not yet able to see that the vital processes can function as soul processes. He is not yet able to go as far as to be able to see how the processes that work physically as nourishing, warming, and breathing can be formed into something that ceases to be material and instead lives and bubbles in the soul. When this happens, the material particles are scattered by the force of the concepts with which one grasps the physical process. And Schiller is equally unable to look up to the realm of the logical in such a way that he ceases to experience it as merely conceptual. He is not able to come to that stage of development, which can be reached through initiation, whereby the spiritual processes are experienced in their own right and whereby a living spirituality enters into what would otherwise be mere knowing. Thus the attitude that lives in Schiller's aesthetic letters is that ‘I do not quite trust myself to directly approach concrete experience.’ Nevertheless, that which one grasps more exactly when one tries to approach the realm of life through the spirit, and the realm of material through the living, is already stirring in these letters.
Thus we can see all areas of life struggling to move toward the goals of spiritual science. At the transition from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century there arose a philosophy which expressed a longing for greater concreteness. This philosophy had a more or less conceptual form, however, and the longing could not be satisfied. And because its initial vitality ebbed, this longing for greater concreteness gradually degenerated into the coarse materialism that has lasted from the second half of the nineteenth century into our own time. But something else must also be understood: For spiritualism to establish links only with the spirit is not enough; the material world must be conquered — we must learn to recognize the spirit in matter. That happens through such knowledge as we have been discussing. It leads one to discover new connections, such as the unique place of aesthetic man in Earth evolution. To a certain extent, aesthetic man lifts himself above the stream of development and enters a different world. And that is important. The aesthetically inclined person and the person who works in an aesthetic field do not act in a way that is entirely appropriate to someone on Earth, but rather their sphere of activity is in a certain way lifted out of the Earth sphere. With this discovery, aesthetics leads us to some profound secrets of human existence.
On the one hand, anyone who expresses such things as these is touching on the highest truths; on the other hand, what he says can sound virtually nonsensical — mad and distorted. But we will never understand life as long as we timidly hold ourselves back from the real truths. Take any work of art that you wish — the Sistine Madonna or the Venus of Milo: if it really is a work of art, it is not entirely of this Earth. It has been lifted out of the stream of earthly events. That is self-evident. And what lives in a Sistine Madonna or a Venus of Milo? That which lives in them also lives in the human being. It is a power that is not entirely adapted to Earth. If everything in humanity were adapted to the Earth, mankind would not be able to live on any other level. But not everything in the human being is adapted to the Earth and, for occult vision, not everything in humanity is attuned to being earthly man. There are mysterious forces that some day will provide mankind with the impetus to lift itself out of the sphere of Earth existence. Nor will we ever understand art as such until we see that its task is to point beyond the merely earthly and beyond what is solely adapted to the Earth — to point to the sphere where that which lives in the Venus de Milo truly does exist.
The more you cast your gaze toward the humanity of the future and toward the spiritual challenges of the future the more you must take certain facts into account, certain facts that are necessary to any truthful picture of the world. Today we still are living with many versions of the assumption that anyone who states something logical and who logically substantiates what he says is necessarily saying something significant about life. But being logical — logicism — is not enough on its own. And because people are always so satisfied when they can produce something logical, they maintain the truth of all imaginable kinds of worldviews and philosophical systems. And of course all of these can be supported logically: no one who is acquainted with logic would question that they are supportable by logic. But mere logical demonstration does nothing for life. What is thought, what is held in the light of consciousness, needs to be more than just logical, it needs to measure up to reality. What is merely logical is not necessarily valid; only what measures up to reality is valid. I will use just one example to show you what I mean. Suppose you are describing a tree trunk that is lying here before you. You can describe it quite systematically and demonstrate to someone that something really is there because you are describing it just as it is. All the same, your description is a lie. For what you describe does not exist in its own right and cannot possible be a tree trunk in the state in which it is now lying there, cut off from it roots and branches and twigs. It is only a part of existence when seen along with its branches, blossoms, and roots, and it is nonsense to think of the trunk as existing in its own right. It is not a reality when it is only seen as it is, lying there. It must be seen with all its shoots and with everything in it that enables it to come into being. One must become convinced that the trunk lying before one is a lie because the truth is before one only when the whole tree is there. Logic does not require us to see a tree trunk as a lie, but it accords with reality that we see it so and that we only accept the whole tree as the reality. A crystal is a truth. In a certain respect it exists in its own right, although only in a certain respect, mind you, for all is relative here, too. A crystal is a reality, but a rosebud is a lie if it is seen only as a rosebud.
So you see how all manner of things occur today because the concept of being in accordance with reality is lacking. Crystallography and, at a pinch, mineralogy are still sciences that accord with reality. But when you get to geology it no longer accords with reality, for it is an abstraction in the way the tree trunk is an abstraction. It is an abstraction, not a reality, even though it is lying there before you. Things contained in the Earth's crust came into being along with what grows out of the Earth's crust and thus cannot be conceived without it. We need philosophers who are not satisfied to limit themselves to their powers of abstraction, thinking up new abstractions. More, and increasingly more, there must arise a thinking that accords with reality and is not merely logical. Thinking alters the whole course of world evolution. For what is a Venus de Milo or a Sistine Madonna from the standpoint of thinking that accords with reality? If you take them just as they are before you, you are not in contact with reality. You must be enraptured. To see a work of art truly, you must be lifted out of the Earth's sphere and removed from it. To really encounter the Venus de Milo your soul must be different from the soul that responds to earthly things; precisely the things that do not exist on this earthly plane are what transport the soul to the plane where they really do exist — to the realm of the elemental world, which is where what is in the Venus de Milo really exists. One is able to stand before the Venus de Milo in a way that accords with reality precisely because she possesses the power to tear us away from mere sense-bound vision.
I have not the slightest desire to promote teleology in the negative sense of the word. Nor shall I say anything about the uses of art, for that would be adding pedantry and philistinism to teleology. I shall say nothing about the uses of art. But we can well speak of the sources of art and how art comes to be a part of our lives. We do not have time to cover the whole subject today, so I will just make a start with a few preparatory words. A counter-question leads us to part of the answer: What would happen if there were no art in the world? If that were so, all the forces that are now devoted to art and the enjoyment of art would be used to produce a life that runs counter to reality. If you were to remove art from the development of humanity, then human development would contain just as many lies as it now contains works of art! Here art displays that unique and dangerous relationship that arises when one nears the threshold of the spiritual world. Just listen yonder, where things always have two sides! If a person has a sense for being in accord with reality, then an aesthetic attitude gives him access to higher realities — but an aesthetic attitude leads someone who lacks the sense for being in accord with reality directly into a world of lies. There is always a dividing of the ways and it is very important to be aware of this fork in the road. This does not just apply to occultism; it already applies when you come to the realm of art. To bring about a way of seeing the world that accords with its reality is an aim of spiritual science. Materialism has given us a way of seeing things that goes directly against reality.
As contradictory as this all seems, it is only contradictory for those who judge the world according to their preconceptions, rather than in accordance with what is really there. We really do live in a phase of development in which the direct influence of materialism is putting more and more distance between us and the ability to comprehend what even a normal object of the senses is — an ordinary thing of the physical world. There have been some very interesting experiments that shed light on this problem. (see Note 13) They conform exactly to a materialistic way of thinking but, like so many things produced by materialistic thought, they support the development of precisely those abilities that mankind needs for developing a spiritual worldview. The following experiment has been carried out — I am taking just one example from among the many such experiments. A whole event was planned ahead of time: A person is to give a lecture in the course of which he says something injurious and upsetting about someone present in the audience. All of it is planned. The lecture is given word for word as planned beforehand. The person against whom the insult is directed is supposed to jump up and a real scuffle is to develop — this is how events are supposed to develop. During the course of the argument, the man who has jumped up is to reach into his pocket and draw out a revolver. Other details of the incident are planned out exactly. In other words, you must imagine the unfolding of a fully programmed, detailed scene. Thirty people were in the invited audience — not just any people, but advanced students of law, and lawyers who had already completed their studies. After the scuffle is over, each of the thirty was asked to describe what happened. Others who were privy to what was going on were there to ensure that protocol was followed and that the whole event went exactly according to plan. So each of the thirty is questioned. Each has seen the event. None of them is thick-headed. They are all educated people, the very ones who later will go out into life and investigate what really has occurred in the case of such a fracas or of other incidents. Yet of these thirty, twenty-six falsely described what they saw and only four could produce an acceptably accurate account — only four tolerably accurate accounts! Such experiments have been going on for years in order to demonstrate how the truthfulness of witnesses should be weighed in a court of law. Every one of the twenty-six sat there and could say ‘I saw it with my own two eyes.’ — One forgets to consider what is required in order to be able to correctly describe something that has occurred before one's very eyes!
We need to consider the art of maintaining a true perspective on what happens before our very eyes. Someone who is not conscientious towards events in the world of the senses will never be able to develop the feeling of responsibility and the conscientiousness necessary for viewing spiritual facts. Just look at this world of ours that is presently so under the influence of materialism and ask yourselves how many are aware that it is possible for twenty-six people out of the thirty who have witnessed an event to be unable to describe it without committing falsehoods, with only four who are able to give even tolerably accurate accounts. In view of something like this, you can begin to feel what immeasurable significance the results of a spiritual worldview have for ordinary life.
Now, you might ask yourself whether things were different in earlier times. Our current mode of thought has not always been current. The Greeks did not yet possess the abstract manner of thinking that we have — and need to have, in order to get about the world in a way appropriate for today. But the manner of thinking is not the important thing; the truth is what matters. In his own way Aristotle tried to use more concrete concepts to describe the inner aesthetic mood and the aesthetic attitude. But the aesthetic constitution was understood in an even more concrete, imaginatively clairvoyant fashion by the early Greeks, who were still connected with the Mysteries and who experienced pictures instead of concepts. In those times one looked back to the age of Uranus, who embodied everything that we can take in through our heads and through the powers that now are manifest in the outer world through the sense-zones. Uranus — the twelve senses — is wounded. Drops of his blood fall, foaming, into the ocean called Maya. Here you see the senses beginning to come to life and sending something down into the ocean of the life processes, and there below you see how the blood of the senses pulses through the life processes, which begin to foam up and become processes of soul. And the ancient Greeks' understanding of this led them to see how Aphrodite (see Note 14) — Aphrogenea, the goddess of beauty — is created out of the foam that arises when the blood of the wounded Uranus drips into the ocean of Maya. This, the more ancient of the myths about the creation of Aphrodite expresses the condition of the aesthetic man and is one of the most significant imaginations and one of the most significant thoughts in the whole of mankind's spiritual evolution. But still another thought needs to be placed beside the thought of this ancient myth which shows Aphrodite being born from the drops of blood of the wounded Uranus that fall into the sea — rather than as the child of Zeus and Dione. We need a further imagination — one that penetrates even more deeply into reality and goes beyond the realities of the elemental world into the physical realities. We need an imagination from a later age — one that approaches the physical-sensory world. Alongside the myth that shows how Aphrodite, beauty, was born into the world of mankind, we need to place the great truth about how original goodness entered into humanity. We need to show how the spirit descended into Maya-Maria, just as the drops of Uranus' blood trickled into the ocean whose name also was Maya — and how, out of the beautiful foam that arises [*The German for foam — Schaum — has many suggestive echoes. For example, there is the word schauen, ‘show’ or ‘spectacle’, and also ‘Schema’, which means ‘perceptible manifestation, semblance, or appearance’, and which refers to a concept that is central to Schiller's account of aesthetic man. (Tr. note.)], the herald who announces the approaching dawn of a new age is born. The sunrise that announces the eternal regency of the Good ... of understanding of the Good, The True-and-the-Good, the spirit. This is the truth Schiller intended when he wrote the words:
Only through beauty's dawn-lit gate
Can you pass into the realms of knowledge. (see Note 15)
The knowledge he refers to is primarily moral knowledge.
You can see how the tasks of spiritual science are growing — not mere theoretical ones, but real life tasks. In our day it is no wonder that the misunderstandings about spiritual science multiply among those who are not devoted to the truth. We have to accept that as an inevitable side-effect.
Many people have been caught in the grip of a most peculiar attitude towards the truth, especially in our materialistic age. And if I had to tell you about the letters I receive, then today I would have to make yet another addition to that part of our collection where the enemies of the truth are exhibited. I do not even like to mention the latest incredible nonsense, which came in a letter I received yesterday. Yes, my dear friends, this is something we must feel; just reflecting a little on it is not enough. For although our time demands it, bringing spiritual science to mankind in a form that is appropriate to our time is not such a simple task. One must speak out in spite of thereby being exposed to the dangers involved in telling numbers of people — and it truly is more than a few — about truths that not only touch upon what is highest and most holy, but that also go most deeply, affecting heart and soul. Think of the times when there were not a few sitting in the auditorium who later became thoroughgoing enemies and falsified what was being said! Those who, at any rate, still take the Society seriously must go through this experience of speaking to many people who, like yourselves, are supposedly friends, while knowing that in the past there have been some who turned out to be enemies — people who later falsified the truths they heard and used what they received here to attack the truth. One must always reckon — sometimes while watching it happen — on the possibility that the person who is listening to what is being said may turn against us in the way others have turned in the past. Today this must color our work in the realm of spiritual science: knowledge of the human soul takes on special significance.
Such things are not to be taken too lightly. Let us try to refresh our memory for a moment, our memory of truth's path as it has appeared in cosmic development, in the evolution of humanity, and remind ourselves of how much was involved in the progress of truth! I will not say any more about it today. But we have touched on an area that is closely related to the direct connections between this life and the spiritual world. Only by understanding it can we shed lights on such things. One must take such opportunities as this to touch on what today's representatives of the truth must undergo. And I hope that there are at least a few of you who know why every now and then I have something bitter to say about the way people relate to the truth, and that there are some who know that it is not quite truthful to say that I am the guilty one. Perhaps I might characterize our contemporaries' much-loved illogicality with an anecdote that would seem silly in other circumstances. But this false logic is used not in the service of the truth, but in the service of lies.
Once there was a man who took another man's estate away from him. After he had taken it, the former owner did not possess it as before, but instead had to begin all over again to work for what he already had earned once. A trial was conducted. The former possessor of the estate was there and also the man who had taken it away. Each had his own advocate. Now, advocates are not always there to present the unconditional, absolute truth, but rather to say what is useful to the person they represent. In this case, the advocate who was lodging the complaint was the first to speak, the one representing the man from whom something had been taken. And, indeed, to begin with he seemed on the way to convincing the court. But then the advocate of the man who had taken the estate away took the floor and said to the judge: ‘Your Honor, you have heard that my client confesses to having done everything that he has done. You have asked my client “Do you plead guilty, or not guilty?” To that my client answered, “I took all those things, but I do not feel that I am guilty.” And my client is entirely correct in saying this. He will concede that he took all those things; but he need not feel guilty about it. Nor can Your Honor find him guilty, for in order to establish the guilt one must go back to the original cause of the matter. Just consider, Your Honor: this man has become a thief. But he never would have become a thief if the other man had not possessed these things he took away from him! The original owner is the one who has trespassed! If he had never had the possessions, my client could never have become a thief! So he is truly the guilty one! It was only when my client saw that this man had these possessions that he was tempted to become a thief.’ And this advocate spoke so eloquently that the court finally declared ‘Yes, until today we have always believed that the thief is the guilty one. But all those who have believed that the person who takes something is guilty have been mistaken, for when one examines the real, original cause, one sees that the person from whom the things were taken, the original possessor, is the guilty one.’
Everyone will see that what I am telling you is utter nonsense. But this is exactly the sort of logic that is used today against spiritual science. Spiritual science makes its way into the world and accomplishes certain things. Then these things are distorted by people who say they only do so because they see the truth in spiritual science. They are using the same logic as someone who says that the person from whom something is taken is the guilty one because he has tempted the other to take it from him. Such is the logic abroad today, and if you will only take care to observe the life around you, you will see instances of this kind of logic.
Yesterday I was blamed — among other things — for everything that happens in the world when someone or other lies about spiritual science and commits certain acts. This is the same logic as that followed by one who says: ‘The real guilt does not lie with the person who takes, but with the person from whom something is taken, for he is the one who created the original cause of the theft.’