Sunday, July 8, 2018
Our Past (the Father), Our Present (the Son), Our Future (the Holy Spirit)
Cosmosophy. Volume 1. Lecture 5
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, October 2, 1921
I would like, in order to be aware of the connections, to recapitulate briefly what we have been studying during recent days in relation to cognition of the soul-spiritual life of the human being. In particular I would like to refer to the most important things in what has been said as a sort of prelude to what has still to be added as a temporary conclusion to these studies. Today I shall speak more of the results; I have already explained the process of observation in the past few days.
We have seen that in the space between the etheric body and the physical body there exists a sort of web of living thoughts. What exactly is this web of living thoughts? It is what we bring through birth into the earthly world from the soul spiritual world. It is necessary for one to imagine that what we possess within our thinking activity merely in pictures, what therefore only reflects something within our thinking activity, has an independent life of its own. What we feel in having thoughts, however, is not within this, but the web of thought is permeated by objective being, that is to say, it is a working, weaving, active web of thought. Indeed, it works on the human being during his whole life between birth and death, helping to shape him.
I beg you to keep what I just said fully in mind. One cannot say, for instance, that the human being is formed entirely by this web of thought, that man is thus woven entirely out of what one can call world thoughts. That is not the case, at least not regarding this web of thought to be found between the etheric and physical bodies. Man is definitely constituted by something else as well, which approaches him out of the universal cosmos, and what I have described as this web of thought is only weaving with it. We find it, as it were, in the place where our subjective thinking also lies, for we weave the subjective thoughts into this web of thought. The objective thoughts do not appear to the ordinary consciousness at all, but because the subjective thoughts, which are kindled through the outer world, have their life in this web, that which is the content of our thoughts comes to our consciousness.
This, then, is the human being from the one side. It is the human being from the side of the skin, insofar as the sum of the senses is basically embodied in the skin. As soon as we approach the sense world itself today, however, the fact is that we do not come right to the senses, in looking upon them as being what was incorporated into man when he entered existence through birth. We would have to draw it like this. If this is the web of thought between the etheric body and the physical body (see drawing, bright), it is surrounded from outside by the sense life incorporated in the skin (red). This sense life is thus formed out of the cosmos, as it were, and incorporated into the human being. It is what man has received as a gift, as it were, from the cosmos when coming in through birth he brings what at first is in his web of thoughts. Actually, when one speaks of the human being as evolving through the Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth evolutions, as I have described in my Outline of Occult Science, one at first finds this outer evolution, begun on Saturn, expressed mainly in the configuration of the sense organs. This is continued through processes from within into the glandular system, nervous system, and so on; what the human being receives as his organization out of the cosmos, however, proceeds from the senses.
What I have drawn here as a web of thought is something that belongs fully to the individual human being. It is incorporated from the etheric world when the human being enters existence through birth, yet it definitely belongs to the individual human being, that is, it has to do with the individual earthly evolution of the human being. One can thus say that this objective thought organization works upon us during our embryonic life and during our whole life from birth to death, but it is in no way all that produces the entire being of man.
On the other hand we have found what is of the nature of will, and we could say that this will nature develops between the astral body and the I. The I as possessed by the human being is entirely of a will nature. During the life between birth and death the I develops, as I have indicated, in such a way that the impulses of willing pass over into deeds of the human being, though not completely; certain things remain behind. What remains behind of a will nature passes over into future karma. When we therefore consider the human begin from the point of view of his physical body, we come in the web of thought to his past karma. Looking at man from the viewpoint of the I, we must be fully conscious that it is the I that actually lives fully in his deeds, actually only first awakes in the deeds of man. What the I withholds in itself is then carried through the portal of death and passes over into future karma, the karma that is coming into existence.
Viewed objectively, therefore, we find what is otherwise in us subjectively as soul life. We find it objectified. We find that we are able to consider it objectively. We find, however, when we look toward the relationship with the subjective, that on the one side we have the thought structure and on the other we have the will structure. In the middle, for subjective experience, stands feeling.
One can arrive at the actual essence of feeling only when one is clear that actually every separate feeling that man can shelter is woven into the whole life of feeling of the human being. The feeling life of man can really be studied only when we understand it in such a way that we say: in any moment of life we are permeated by the totality of our life of feeling. We could also say that we are in a certain mood of feeling [Gefahlstimmung]; in every moment of our life we are in a certain mood of feeling. We should try sometime — each one, of course, can only do it individually — to bring this mood to consciousness. Let us try to bring to consciousness how in some moment of his earthly life man is in a certain mood, a certain state of feeling. You know, of course, how mood has infinite variations. It is such that it can degenerate in one case into a sort of excess gaity; one person may be gay to excess, another suffers from depression, and a third is more equable. If we merely wish to examine this mood in some moment of life, there is no need to go into its ultimate cause; we need only look at the particular shading, the particular nuance of this mood, how in one person it can approach the deepest depression, in another it can be equanimity, in a third it can reach extreme gaiety, and how thousands of intermediate stages can lie between. This mood of feeling is actually different in every human being. Now, if one explores this mood in oneself through a kind of self-knowledge, one actually finds in this mood nothing other than subjective experience, shaded in all sorts of ways by outer events, but nevertheless subjective experience.
If one remains in this subjective experience, that is, in the actual inner weaving of soul, and does not advance to beholding these things objectively, one cannot clarify to oneself the nature, let us say, of this emotional mood of soul at some given moment. One can arrive already in ordinary life, however, at what this mood is, this mood living utterly and entirely in feeling. To do so one must have above all the ability to make psychological observations. One must have the possibility of investigating particularly outstanding personalities regarding the content of their feeling. Then one can have the following experience. Outer observation, it is true, will give only an approximation of the actual truth, but even this approximation is extraordinarily valuable.
We can, for instance, set ourselves the task of studying Goethe, whom one can follow very well from his diaries, his letters, and that which has flowed into his most characteristic works. Following his biography sometimes from day to day, sometimes from morning to afternoon, we can see in his case just what were the moods of his soul [Gemütsstimmung]. One can, for example, set oneself the task of studying in delicate psychological ways the mood of soul that Goethe had at some particular time, let us say in 1790. One will first try to describe it as precisely as possible. One can do this, one can describe this mood as precisely as possible, but then one is pointed in two different directions — it is extraordinarily important to bear this in mind — one is pointed in two directions: to Goethe's life before 1790 and to what he lived through after 1790. When from a psychological viewpoint one compares all that impressed Goethe's soul before 1790 with what then worked upon his soul up to his death — that is, when one brings into the present the preceding and the following part of life — then the wonderful fact emerges that every momentary mood in man represents a cooperation between what has gone before, what he knows and already has consciously encountered in life, and what is yet to come and is not yet given to his conscious experience. What is still unknown to him lives already, however, in the general mood of feeling. One thus can arrive biographically, I would like to say, at this secret of the mood of soul at any moment. Here one touches the borders of those realms of human observation that are gladly neglected by people who spend their lives without much thought. What the future brings to the human being, he still does not know — or so he imagines. In his life of feeling, however, he knows it.
One can go further and make more investigations, investigating for instance, the mood of soul of some person whom one has known very well and who died, let us say, a few years after one had grasped this mood of soul. Then one can see clearly how the approaching death and all connected with it had already thrown its light back on the mood of soul. If one goes into these things, therefore, one can really see the person's past from the life between birth and death and his future up to death playing into what lives in his soul by way of feeling. Hence man's life of soul [Gemütsleben] is so inexplicable to himself; it appears as something elemental since as feeling it is already colored by what is still to be experienced.
All this had to be taken into consideration at the time when I wrote my Philosophy of Freedom. Why did I have to stress that the free deed can proceed only from pure thought? Simply because if the deed is based on the feeling, the future is already playing into it, and therefore a really free deed could never arise out of feeling. It can arise only from an impulse truly based on pure thought. If you remember what I have presented in the last two days, you will be able to see the matter still more clearly. I have said that what actually takes place in us, what goes on in our human nature, is reflected up into our consciousness in feeling. If I make a sketch, I can say that in feeling there streams upward into our consciousness just what the experience of the feeling is, but downward there streams what can be experienced by Imaginative consciousness as dream pictures (see drawing), that is, what comes into play entirely in Imaginations. For the entire human being, therefore, the life of feeling runs its course in such a way that what we are conscious of as feeling streams upward (blue), and downward there streams into the organization what is actually picture, what is really seen when it is seen through Imaginative consciousness as picture (red, inside). For the ordinary consciousness this streams down into the whole human being as something quite unknown. Not indeed in the individual events, for they must first come about — I beg you to realize this — but in the general mood of life there lives in man as a sort of basic tone the outcome of his future experiences. It is not as if the pictures of what takes place lived there; the impressions of it live in the pictures.
You must not imagine these pictures that stream downward to be like a movie reeling off the future; you must rather picture them as the result of the impressions. Only in the case of certain people who have an atavistic clairvoyance can pictures arise that may be interpreted as pictures of definite facts, and then there can be a certain vision into the immediate future. Today, however, we shall mainly interest ourselves in the fact that what constitutes man's world of feeling descends into him in a pictorial way.
Now, as we pass over from feeling to willing, what enters man here, as I presented to you, presses outward and becomes his karma that is becoming, his future karma (red, outside). What arises in man through his feelings, therefore, has to do with his karma up to his death, while what arises out of the willing is concerned with his karma beyond death.
It is therefore fully possible to follow these things and study them in detail. As the development of anthroposophical spiritual science progresses, one never talks in an abstract way of mere concepts; one speaks rather of the concrete reality that lives in man, which, when he brings it to consciousness, can give him an explanation for the first time of what he actually is. You must receive a strong feeling, however, of how the will, depending as it does on the life of feeling, actually works into the future beyond death, how the will is the creator of future karma.
If we turn once more to the other side, to the web of thought that we found and that lives in man really between the etheric body and the physical body, we must be clear about the following. In experiencing something of the world through sense impressions and thus forming a sensory world conception, in working over these sense impressions thoughtfully, we actually weave with our subjectivity within this web of thought. What we experience in our soul as a result of the sense impressions we unite on the one hand with what is incorporated into us through birth as a web of thought. The objective web of thought, however, remains unconscious, and only that which we interweave, which we press in, as it were, out of our own inner activity of thought, enters our consciousness. It is actually as if the web of thought were there; the subjective thoughts strike against it, beat their way into this web of thought, and this web of thought then reflects our subjective thoughts in a helter-skelter way so that our subjective thoughts come into consciousness (drawing). Note that I say, in a helter-skelter way.
Let us say that you perceive some outer object, a cube, for example, a crystal cube: I will describe the exact process. First of all we see it. We do not stop short at seeing. We think about it, but the thought continues up to the web of thought, and the web of thought, which is incorporated into us through birth and which we have attached to ourselves when we were in the cosmos, which in fact we received through the cosmos — this web of thought is constituted in such a way that we now begin from certain hypotheses to form crystalline ideas that we build up out of our inner being. In forming thoughts, for example, of the isometric system, the tetragonal, the rhombic, the monoclinic, the triclinic, the hexagonal systems, that is to say, in thinking out crystal systems in a mathematical, geometrical way, we find that we can think out the crystal systems. This cube fits into the isometric system that we have cultivated in our inner being. In incorporating something such as, for example, the thought of the cube, into what are, as it were, a priori thoughts that we draw out of our inner being, we are, in this moment when subjective thoughts arise in us, led to the region of objective thoughts. What we cultivate as the geometric element, as purely geometrical-mechanical physics and so on, we draw out of this web of thoughts that is incorporated into us with our birth; the separate, individual elements that we incorporate into these thoughts that we develop about outer sense perceptions and impressions are those that become clear to us in letting them be reflected back to us. They must be permeated, however, by the web of thought living and forming in us eternally — the process at all events is eternal, if not in its individual forms, for these alter from incarnation to incarnation.
We live, therefore, in that we think and incorporate the thought element into our inner life of thought in such a way that we understand it; we live in such a way that we draw forth what is within this web of thought also for our subjective thinking.
Now, what I have just said is something that takes place in the human being continuously, that plays into man's life continuously. At the same time, however, you will see that if on the one hand we begin with feeling we observe what enters from feeling into the organism, what passes over into the will. What stops short in the will, as it were, remaining in the I, becomes future karma. All this brings us in the direction of man's future. If we look to the opposite side, to the web of thought toward which our subjective thoughts also flow, this brings us completely into the stream of the human past. Hence our past on this path, our completed karma, is also to be sought. In feeling, in the most essential sense, past and future meet each other in the human being. The human being is thus born, as it were, out of thoughts. He lives through feeling and weaves in his will what goes with him through the portal of death.
With these words we point to what we actually have subjectively in our life of soul between birth and death. We can go still further, however; we can turn our attention to the following. We can ask ourselves: what actually happens when the subjective thoughts, which we tie to the outer impressions, unite with what is certainly only the past, as I have just described? You see, the subjective thought becomes conscious to us first as thought. As thought it has a certain conceptual content [Vorstellungsinhalt]. We think a content when we think about the cube. You must be quite clear, however, about what I suggested two days ago, that in the life of soul we cannot simply separate thinking, feeling, and willing.
In willing all the motives of our moral thoughts are living. Also in thinking, however, in subjective thinking, we are conscious that not only do we have a thought content, but we link one thought to another, and we are conscious of the activity that links one thought to another. What, then, is at work in thinking? In a delicate way, the will lives in thinking, particularly in subjective thinking. We must be clear, therefore, that in thinking there lives on the one hand the content of thought and on the other hand the will's activity in thinking. Now, if the thoughts strike against us here (see drawing, page 82), they are reflected back to us, of course, as thoughts, but in the thoughts, in these subjective thoughts that we project inward, thrust inward toward the web of thought, the will in fact is also living. We cannot actually use this will in our ordinary consciousness; just think how it would be if this activity that I have pointed out to you here came quite clearly to expression in memory — in memory, the will must already have disappeared! It must still be active, but when the memory is complete, when the remembered thought is there, the memory certainly would not be pure, it would not clearly reflect what it should reflect as a past experience, if it were permeated by will! When you remember what you ate yesterday, you naturally can no longer alter the soup, for the will is already outside, is it not? The pure content of thought must arise. In reflecting, therefore, the will must be laid aside. Where does it go then?
Now, if I make the same drawing and have the web of thought here, and there the reflecting, then the content of thought simply enters the consciousness. The will content of the thought goes below and unites itself with the other content of will and feeling and passes into future karma, becoming thus a constituent of future karma (light shading; dark shaded arrows from above).
On the other hand, our will impulses are like a sleeping portion even during our waking life. We do not see down below into the regions where the will actually lives. We first have the thought of the will impulse. This then passes in an unconscious way, as it were, into willing, and only when willing is manifested outwardly do we observe again what happens through us, what we experience in ordinary consciousness through willing. With deeds we actually experience everything in the conceptual life; we dream of it in the life of feeling, but we sleep over it in the actual life of will.
It is thoughts, however, that we direct into this life of will. Yes, but when? Only when we do not surrender ourselves to our instincts, our desires, to the so-called lower human nature — for this is indeed down below — which urges us then to willing and to deeds. We receive our will, however, into that which constitutes our subjective experience when we control it with our pure thoughts, which are directed toward willing, that is to say, when we control it with our intuitively grasped moral ideals. We can give these intuitively grasped moral ideas to the thought-will on the path down below toward the region of the will. In this way our will becomes permeated by our morality, and hence in the inner being of man the struggle takes place continuously between what man sends down into the will region out of his moral intuitions and what rages and boils down below in his instinctive, dreamlike life. This is all going on in the human being, but what goes on in the human being down below is at the same time that in which his human future beyond death is being prepared. This future thrusts up into the region of feeling. This future actually lives in willing. It thrusts upward into the region of feeling, and more is woven into feeling than what I have already described as the mood of feeling that has a significance for the life between birth and death. In the general state of feeling that I have described as ranging from an extreme depression to complete wildness and excess of gaiety, there can take place everything in which the human past and the human future play into one another in the life between birth and death. Also what goes beyond death, however, penetrates into what comes up from below. And what is living there? Something lives there that we sense as something objective, because it emerges out of the regions where consciousness no longer participates. It is also something objective, because it has to do with the laws by which we bear ourselves as moral beings through death. What is reflected there is the conscience. Grasped psychologically, this is the actual source of conscience. If psychology really wished to approach these things, it would have to investigate the details of the soul life along these lines, and everywhere it would find confirmation of the guiding principles given by anthroposophical spiritual science, right into the most minute details of the life of soul.
We see, therefore, that our feelings stream toward our thoughts. They stream first toward our subjective thoughts and give them life, but they also strike against the objective web of thoughts, and in this we experience ourselves as given, as beings who have come into earthly existence through birth. On the other hand, we can experience ourselves as beings who go through death. One need only study the inner being of man and one finds proclaimed in that inner being something that points beyond man, that is, beyond birth and death; it points therefore into that world which is not encompassed within the sensory, for this world that is not encompassed within the sensory indeed gives us what actually exists in our inner being. It would be of especially great importance if there were research in a real psychology (what is considered psychology today is nothing but a sum of formalisms) into the mood of soul of the human being in a moment where past and future flow into one another. Much that is enigmatic in human life would be discovered in this way, and people would be convinced that a protest very easily made has, in fact, no basis. The protest that is often made is this: well, what would a man become if he were continually examining himself and gazing into his inner being in order to see from his subjective mood of soul what perhaps lay in his future? This protest is easily made, but it is only fanciful. It is imagined that the way in which the future appears is just the same as it is when actually beheld and experienced. The future is not reflected, however, as it is later experienced! It is experienced in intercourse with the outer world, in encounter with things in the outer world. What goes on inwardly in man manifests itself as a raying out and is something that can never mislead him on his life's path, however precisely he knows the human being. Generally, the protests against a knowledge of the human being arise out of fear based utterly on illusions, which one creates because one judges simply by the life of ordinary consciousness, because people will not rise to the view that as soon as consciousness ascends into higher regions it experiences something entirely new.
Yesterday I showed you how, when man comes through the portal of death, he develops himself with two longings that proceed on the one hand from the life of thought and on the other from the life of will. We saw how the thought life longs for cosmic existence and how the will life after death longs for human existence. This lasts until what I called the Midnight Hour of Existence, when a rhythmic reversal then takes place. The thought element then begins to long for the human state, and the will element begins to long to pour itself out into the cosmos. The will element thus lives in the inherited characteristics, while the element of thought lives in the individual, in what is incorporated into the new earthly life.
The will element surrounds us, as it were, in what we receive from our ancestors, seen outwardly in the inherited characteristics and inherited substances. The thought element is that which is incorporated into us, and during life we again unite this thought life with all that we draw up from the depths of the life of feeling and will. This thought life at first is incorporated into us not as something warm and living like our inner life generally. Were we to remain with the thought life as it was when we were born, we would become thought automatons, as it were, full of inner coldness. At the moment of birth, however, the individual inner being begins to stir out of the will and out of the feeling and to permeate with warmth and life that which had first become cold on the way from death to birth. Hence as human beings we have the possibility of permeating with individual warmth that which must constitute cold in us out of the wide universe.
Man thus incorporates himself into the spatial and into the course of world becoming. He thus stands within it. These things are completely hidden from present-day natural scientific thinking. Present-day natural scientific thinking does not wish to approach a true knowledge of the human being. Man thus experiences himself today — and will do so always more and more — in such a way that he cannot recognize in himself his actual being, though he may recognize much about the surrounding world. By reason of the present scientific education and education in general, man lives in such a way today that fundamentally he grasps nothing of his own being. This state will increase more and more. If it could be fully realized what comes to the human being directly through one-sided natural scientific knowledge, he would be entirely estranged from himself. His inner individual element would want to live upward and to melt, through its warmth, the ice masses that we have carried into earthly existence through birth. The human being would go to pieces in his soul in this process that inwardly overpowers him; it indeed goes on without his knowledge, but he can endure it for a long period only if he recognizes it. All the signs of the times point to the fact that the human being must really come to the self-knowledge characterized. It is simply the task of the present life of spirit in its progress toward the immediate future truly to embody these things in cultural evolution.
Education, however, has employed up to now great quantities of fear, great quantities of antipathy, to prevent the vindication of what is so necessary to humanity if it does not wish to sink into decline but to come to a new ascent.