Tuesday, September 21, 2010
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow"
Rudolf Steiner, from a lecture given September 28, 1923:
One who simply grows up into our modern civilization observes the things of the outer world: he perceives them, forms abstract thoughts about them, possibly derives real pleasure from a lovely blossom or a majestic plant; and if he is at all imaginative he may even achieve an inner picture of these. Yet he remains completely unaware of his deeper relation to that world of which the plant, for example, is a part. To talk incessantly about spirit, spirit, and again spirit is utterly inadequate for spiritual perception. Instead, what is needed is that we should become conscious of our true spiritual relations to the things around us. When we observe a plant in the usual way we do not in the least sense the presence of an elemental being dwelling in it, of something spiritual; we do not dream that every such plant harbors something which is not satisfied by having us look at it and form such abstract mental pictures as we commonly do of plants today. For in every plant there is concealed — under a spell, as it were — an elemental spiritual being; and really only he observes a plant in the right way who realizes that this loveliness is a sheath of a spiritual being enchanted in it — a relatively insignificant being, to be sure, in the great scale of cosmic interrelationship, but still a being intimately related to man.
The human being is really so closely linked to the world that he cannot take a step in the realm of nature without coming under the intense influence exercised upon him by his intimate relations to the world. And when we see the lily in the field, growing from the seed to the blossom, we must vividly imagine — though not personified — that this lily is awaiting something. (Again I must use men's words as I did before to express another picture: they cannot quite cover the meaning, but they do express the realities inherent in things.) While unfolding its leaves, but especially its blossom, this lily is really expecting something. It says to itself: Men will pass and look at me; and when a sufficient number of human eyes will have directed their gaze upon me — so speaks the spirit of the lily — I shall be disenchanted of my spell, and I shall be able to start on my way into spiritual worlds. — You will perhaps object that many lilies grow unseen by human eye: yes, but then the conditions are different, and such lilies find their release in a different way. For the decree that the spell of that particular lily shall be broken by human eyes comes about by the first human glance cast upon the lily. It is a relationship entered into between man and the lily when he first lets his gaze rest upon it. — All about us are these elemental spirits begging us, in effect, Do not look at the flowers so abstractly, nor form such abstract mental pictures of them: let rather your heart and your Gemüt enter into what lives, as soul and spirit, in the flowers, for it is imploring you to break the spell. — Human existence should really be a perpetual releasing of the elemental spirits lying enchanted in minerals, plants, and animals.
An idea such as this can readily be sensed in its abundant beauty; but precisely by grasping it in its right spiritual significance we can also feel it in the light of the full responsibility we thereby incur toward the whole cosmos. In the present epoch of civilization — that of the development of freedom — man's attitude toward the flowers is a mere sipping at what he should really be drinking. He sips by forming concepts and ideas, whereas he should drink by uniting, through his Gemüt, with the elemental spirits of the things and beings that surround him.