Monday, March 7, 2011
Thinking, Feeling, Willing. The Study of Man: lecture 5 of 14
Rudolf Steiner to the first Waldorf teachers just before the opening of the first Waldorf school, Stuttgart, August 26, 1919:
Yesterday we discussed the nature of will in so far as will is embodied in the human organ. Today we will use this knowledge of man's relationship to will to fructify our consideration of the rest of the human being.
You will have noticed that in treating of the human being up to now I have chiefly drawn attention to the intellectual activity, the activity of cognition, on the one hand, and the activity of will on the other hand. I have shown you how the activity of cognition has a close connection with the nerve nature of the human being, and how the activity of will has a close connection with the activity of the blood. If you think this over you will also want to know what can be said with regard to the third soul power, that is, the activity of feeling. We have not yet given this much consideration, but today, by thinking more of the activity of feeling, we shall have the opportunity of entering more intensively into an understanding of the two other sides of human nature, namely cognition and will.
Now, there is one thing that we must be clear about, and this I have already mentioned in various connections. We cannot put the soul powers pedantically side by side, separate from each other, thus: thinking, feeling, willing, because in the living soul, in its entirety, one activity is always merging into another.
Consider the will on the one hand. You will realize that you cannot bring your will to bear on anything that you do not represent to yourself as mental picture, that you do not permeate with the activity of cognition. Try in self-contemplation, even superficially, to concentrate on your willing: you will find that in every act of will the mental picture is present in some form. You could not be a human being at all if mental picturing were not involved in your acts of will. And your willing would proceed from a dull instinctive activity if you did not permeate the action which springs forth from the will with the activity of thought, of mental picturing.
Just as thought is present in every act of will, so will is to be found in all thinking. Again, even a purely superficial contemplation of your own self will show you that in thinking you always let your will stream into the formation of your thoughts. In the forming of your own thoughts, in the uniting of one thought with another, or passing over to judgments and conclusions — in all this there streams a delicate current of will.
Thus actually we can only say that will activity is chiefly will activity and has an undercurrent of thought within it; and thought activity is chiefly thought activity and has an undercurrent of will. Thus, in considering the separate faculties of soul, it is impossible to place them side by side in a pedantic way, because one flows into the other.
Now, this flowing into one another of the soul activities, which is recognizable in the soul, is also to be seen in the body, where the soul activity comes to expression. For instance, let us look at the human eye. If we look at it in its totality we shall see that the nerves are continued right into the eye itself; but so also are the blood vessels. The presence of the nerves enables the activity of thought and cognition to stream into the eye of the human being; and the presence of the blood vessels enables the will activity to stream in. So also in the body as a whole, right into the periphery of the sense activities, the elements of will on the one hand and thought or cognition on the other hand are bound up with each other. This applies to all the senses, and moreover it applies to the limbs, which serve the will: the element of cognition enters into our willing and into our movements through the nerves, and the element of will enters in through the blood vessels.
But now we must also learn the special nature of the activities of cognition. We have already spoken of this, but we must be fully conscious of the whole complex belonging to this side of human activity, to thought and cognition. As we have already said, in cognition, in mental picturing, lives antipathy. However strange it may seem, everything connected with mental picturing, with thought, is permeated with antipathy. You will probably say, “Yes, but when I look at something I am not exercising any antipathy in this looking.” But indeed you do exercise it. When you look at an object, you exercise antipathy. If nerve activity alone were present in your eye, everything you looked at would be an object of disgust to you, would be absolutely antipathetic to you. But the will, which is made up of sympathy, also pours its activity into the eye — that is, the blood in its physical form penetrates into the eye, and it is only by this means that the feeling of antipathy in sense perception is overcome in your consciousness, and the objective, neutral act of sight is brought about by the balance between sympathy and antipathy. It is brought about by the fact that sympathy and antipathy balance one another, and by the fact also that we are quite unconscious of this interplay between sympathy and antipathy.
If you take Goethe's theory of color, to which I have already referred in this connection, and study especially the physiological-didactic part of it, you will see that it is because Goethe goes more deeply into the activity of sight that there immediately enters into his consideration of the finer shades of color the elements of sympathy and antipathy. As soon as you begin to enter into the activity of a sense organ you discover the elements of sympathy and antipathy which arise in that activity. Thus in the sense activity itself the antipathetic element comes from the actual cognitive part, from mental picturing, the nerve part — and the sympathetic element comes from the will part, from the blood.
As I have often pointed out in general anthroposophical lectures, there is a very important difference between animals and man with regard to the constitution of the eye. It is a significant characteristic of the animal that it has much more blood activity in its eye than the human being. In certain animals you will even find organs which are given up to this blood activity, as for example the ensiform cartilage, or the “fan.” From this you can deduce that the animal sends much more blood activity into the eye than the human being, and this is also the case with the other senses. That is to say, in his senses the animal develops much more sympathy, instinctive sympathy, with his environment than the human being does. The human being has in reality more antipathy to his environment than the animal, only this antipathy does not come into consciousness in ordinary life. It only comes into consciousness when our perception of the external world is intensified to a degree of impression to which we react with disgust. This is only a heightened impression of all sense perceptions; you react with disgust to the external impression. When you go to a place that has a bad smell and you feel disgust within the range of this smell, then this feeling of disgust is nothing more than an intensification of what takes place in every sense activity, only that the disgust which accompanies the feeling in the sense impression remains as a rule below the threshold of consciousness.
But if we human beings had no more antipathy to our environment than the animal, we should not separate ourselves off so markedly from our environment as we actually do. The animal has much more sympathy with his environment, and has therefore grown together with it much more, and hence he is much more dependent on climate, seasons, etc., than the human being is. It is because man has much more antipathy to his environment than the animal has that he is a personality. We have our separate consciousness of personality because the antipathy which lies below the threshold of consciousness enables us to separate ourselves from our environment.
Now, this brings us to something which plays an important part in our comprehension of man. We have seen how in the activity of thought there flow together thinking (nerve activity as expressed in terms of the body) and willing (blood activity as expressed in terms of the body). But in the same way there flow together in actions of will the real will activity and the activity of thought. When we will to do something, we always develop sympathy for what we wish to do. But it would get no further than an instinctive willing unless we could bring antipathy also into willing, and thus separate ourselves as personalities from the action which we intend to perform. But the sympathy for what we plan to do is predominant, and a balance is only effected by the fact that we bring in antipathy also. Hence it comes about that the sympathy as such lies below the threshold of consciousness, and part of it only enters consciously into that which is willed. In all the numerous actions that we perform not merely out of our reason but with real enthusiasm, and with love and devotion, sympathy predominates so strongly in the will that it penetrates into the consciousness above the threshold, and our willing itself appears charged with sympathy, whereas as a rule it merely unites us with our environment in an objective way. Just as it is only in exceptional circumstances that our antipathy to the environment may become conscious in cognition, so our sympathy with the environment (which is always present) may only become conscious in exceptional circumstances, namely, when we act with enthusiasm and loving devotion. Otherwise we should perform all our actions instinctively. We should never be able to relate ourselves properly to the objective demands of the world, for example in social life. We must permeate our will with thinking, so that this will may make us members of all humanity and partakers in the world's process itself.
Perhaps it will be clear to you what really happens if you think what chaos there would be in the human soul if we were perpetually conscious of all this that I have spoken of. For if this were the case man would be conscious of a considerable amount of antipathy accompanying all his actions. This would be terrible! Man would then pass through the world feeling himself continually in an atmosphere of antipathy. It is wisely ordered that this antipathy as a force is indeed essential to our actions, but that we should not be aware of it, that it should lie below the threshold of consciousness.
Now, in this connection we touch upon a wonderful mystery of human nature, a mystery which can be felt by any person of perception, but which the teacher and educator must bring to full consciousness. In early childhood we act more or less out of pure sympathy, however strange this may seem; all a child does, all its romping and play, it does out of sympathy with the deed, with the romping. When sympathy is born in the world it is strong love, strong willing.
But it cannot remain in this condition; it must be permeated with thought, by idea, it must be continuously illumined as it were by the conscious mental picture. This takes place in a comprehensive way if we bring ideals, moral ideals, into our mere instincts. And now you will understand better the true significance of antipathy in this connection. If the impulses that we notice in the little child were throughout our life to remain only sympathetic, as they are sympathetic in childhood, we should develop in an animal way under the influence of our instincts. These instincts must become antipathetic to us; we must pour antipathy into them. When we pour antipathy into them we do it by means of our moral ideals, to which the instincts are antipathetic, and which for our life between birth and death bring antipathy into the childlike sympathy of instincts. For this reason moral development is always somewhat ascetic. But this asceticism must be rightly understood. It always betokens an exercise in the combatting of the animal element.
This can show us to what a great extent willing in man's practical activity is not merely willing but is also permeated with idea, with the activity of cognition, of mental picturing.
Now, between cognition or thinking on the one hand and willing on the other hand we find the human activity of feeling. If you picture to yourselves what I have now put forward as willing and as thinking, you can say: From a certain central boundary there stream forth on the one hand all that is sympathy, willing, and on the other hand all that is antipathy, thinking. But the sympathy of willing also works back into thinking, and the antipathy of thinking works over into willing. Thus man is a unity because what is developed principally on the one side plays over into the other. Now, between the two, between thinking and willing, there lies feeling, and this feeling is related to thinking on the one hand and to willing on the other hand. In the soul as a whole you cannot keep thought and will strictly apart, and still less can you keep the thought and will elements apart in feeling. In feeling, the will and thought elements are very strongly intermingled.
Here again you can convince yourselves of the truth of these remarks by even the most superficial self-examination. What I have already said will lead you to this conviction, for I told you that willing, which in ordinary life proceeds in an objective way, can be intensified to an activity done out of enthusiasm and love. Then you will clearly see willing as permeated with feeling — that willing which otherwise springs forth from the necessities of external life. When you do something which is filled with love or enthusiasm, that action flows out of a willing which you have allowed to become permeated by a subjective feeling. But if you examine the sense activities closely — with the help of Goethe's theory of color — you will see how these are also permeated by feeling. And if the sense activity is enhanced to a condition of disgust, or on the other hand to the point of drinking in the pleasant scent of a flower, then you have the feeling activity flowing over directly into the activity of the senses.
But feeling also flows over into thought. There was once a philosophic dispute which — at all events externally — was of great significance — there have indeed been many such in the history of philosophy — between the psychologist Franz Brentano and the logician Sigwart, in Heidelberg. These two gentlemen were arguing about what it is that is present in man's power of judgment. Sigwart said: “When a man forms a judgment, and says, for example, ‘Man should be good,’ then feeling always has a voice in a judgment of this kind; decision concerns feeling.” But Brentano said, “Judgment and feeling (which latter consists of emotions) are so different that the faculty of judgment could not be understood at all if one imagined that feeling played into it.” He meant that in this case something subjective would play into judgment, which ought to be purely objective.
Anyone who has a real understanding for these things will see from a dispute of this kind that neither the psychologists nor the logicians have discovered the real facts of the case, namely that the soul activities are always flowing into one another. Now consider what it is that should really be observed here. On the one hand we have judgment, which must of course form an opinion upon something quite objective. The fact that man should be good must not be dependent on our subjective feeling. The content of the judgment must be objective. But when we form a judgment something else comes into consideration which is of a different character. Those things which are objectively correct are not on that account consciously present in our souls. We must first receive them consciously into our soul. And we cannot consciously receive any judgment into our soul without the cooperation of feeling. Therefore, we must say that Brentano and Sigwart should have joined forces and said: True, the objective content of the judgment remains firmly fixed outside the realm of feeling, but in order that the subjective human soul may become convinced of the rightness of the judgment, feeling must develop.
From this you will see how difficult it is to get any kind of exact concepts in the inaccurate state of philosophic study which prevails today. One must rise to a different level before one can reach such exact concepts, and there is no education in exact concepts today except by way of spiritual science. External science imagines that it has exact concepts, and rejects what anthroposophical spiritual science has to give, because it has no conception that the concepts arrived at by spiritual science are by comparison more exact and definite than those commonly in use today since they are derived from reality and not from a mere playing with words.
When you thus trace the element of feeling on the one hand in cognition, in mental picturing, and on the other hand in willing, then you will say: feeling stands as a soul activity midway between cognition and willing, and radiates its nature out in both directions. Feeling is cognition which has not yet come fully into being, and it is also will which has not yet fully come into being; it is cognition in reserve, and will in reserve. Hence feeling also is composed of sympathy and antipathy, which — as you have seen — are only present in a hidden form both in thinking and in willing. Both sympathy and antipathy are present in cognition and in will, in the working together of nerves and blood in the body, but they are present in a hidden form. In feeling they become manifest.
Now what do the manifestations of feeling in the body look like? You will find places all over the human body where the blood vessels touch the nerves in some way. Now, wherever blood vessels and nerves make contact, feeling arises. But in certain places, e.g., in the senses, the nerves and the blood are so refined that we no longer perceive the feeling. There is a fine undercurrent of feeling in all our seeing and hearing, but we do not notice it, and the more the sense organ is separated from the rest of the body the less do we notice it. In looking, in the eye's activity, we hardly notice the feelings of sympathy and antipathy because the eye, embedded in its bony hollow, is almost completely separated from the rest of the organism. And the nerves which extend into the eye are of a very delicate nature and so are the blood vessels which enter into the eye. The sense of feeling in the eye is very strongly suppressed.
In the sense of hearing it is less suppressed. Hearing has much more of an organic connection with the activity of the whole organism than sight has. There are numerous organs within the ear which are quite different from those of the eye, and the ear is thus in many ways a true picture of what is at work in the whole organism. Therefore the sense activity which goes on in the ear is very closely accompanied by feeling. And here even people who are good judges of what they hear find it difficult to discriminate clearly — especially in the artistic sphere — between what is purely thought element and what is really feeling.
This fact explains a very interesting historical phenomenon of recent times, one which has even influenced actual artistic production. You all know the figure of Beckmesser in Richard Wagner's “Meistersinger.” What is Beckmesser really supposed to represent? He is supposed to represent a musical connoisseur who quite forgets how the feeling element in the whole human being works into the thought element in the activity of hearing. Wagner, who represented his own conceptions in Walther, was, quite one-sidedly, permeated with the idea that it is chiefly the feeling element that should dwell in music. In the contrast between Walther and Beckmesser, arising out of a mistaken conception — I mean mistaken on both sides — we see the antithesis of the right conception, viz. that feeling and thinking work together in the hearing of music. And this came to be expressed in a historical phenomenon, because as soon as Wagnerian art appeared, or became at all well known, it found an opponent in the person of Eduard Hanslick of Vienna, who looked upon the whole appeal to feeling in Wagner's art as unmusical. There are few works on art which are so interesting from a psychological point of view as the work of Eduard Hanslick On Beauty in Music. The chief thought in this book is that whoever would derive everything in music from a feeling element is no true musician, and has no real understanding for music: for a true musician sees the real essence of what is musical only in the objective joining of one tone with another, and in Arabesque, which builds itself up from tone to tone, abstaining from all feeling. In this book, On Beauty in Music, Hanslick then works out with wonderful purity his claim that the highest type of music must consist solely in the tone-picture, the tone Arabesque. He pours unmitigated scorn upon the idea which is really the very essence of Wagnerism, namely that tunes should be created out of the element of feeling.
The very fact that such a dispute as this between Hanslick and Wagner could arise in the sphere of music is a clear sign that recent psychological ideas about the activities of the soul have been completely confused —otherwise this one-sided idea of Hanslick's could never have arisen. But if we recognize the one-sidedness and then devote ourselves to the study of Hanslick's ideas, which have a certain philosophical strength in them, we shall come to the conclusion that the little book On Beauty in Music is very brilliant.
From this you will see that, regarding the human being for the moment as feeling being, some senses bear more, some less of this whole human being into the periphery of the body, in consciousness.
Now, in your task of gaining educational insight it behooves you to consider something which is bringing chaos into the scientific thinking of the present day. Had I not given you these talks as a preparation for the practical reforms you will have to undertake, then you would have had to plan your educational work for yourselves from the pedagogical theories of today, from the existing psychologies and systems of logic and from the educational practice of the present time. You would have had to carry into your schoolwork the customary thoughts of the present day. But these thoughts are in a very bad state even with regard to psychology. In every psychology you find a so-called theory of the senses. In investigating the basis of sense-activity the psychologist simply lumps together the activity of the eye, the ear, the nose, etc., all in one great abstraction as “sense-activity.” This is a very grave mistake, a serious error. For if you take only those senses which are known to the psychologist or physiologist of today and consider them in their bodily aspect alone, you will notice that the sense of the eye is quite different from the sense of the ear. Eye and ear are two quite different organisms — not to speak of the organization of the sense of touch, which has not been investigated at all as yet, not even in the gratifying manner in which eye and ear have been investigated. But let us keep to the consideration of the eye and ear. They perform two quite different activities; so that to class seeing and hearing together as “general sense-activity” is merely “grey theory.” The right way to set to work here would be to speak from a concrete point of view only of the activity of the eye, the activity of the ear, the activity of the organ of smell, etc. Then we should find such a great difference between them that we should lose all desire to put forward a general physiology of the senses as the psychologies of today have done.
In studying the human soul we only gain true insight if we remain within the sphere which I have endeavored to outline in my Truth and Science, and also in The Philosophy of Freedom. Here we can speak of the soul as a single entity without falling into abstractions. For here we stand upon a sure foundation; we proceed from the point of view that man lives his way into the world, and does not at first possess the whole of reality. You can study this in Truth and Science, and in The Philosophy of Freedom. To begin with, man has not the whole reality; he has first to develop himself further, and in this further development what formerly was not yet reality becomes true reality for him through the interplay of thinking and perception. Man first has to win reality.
In this connection Kantianism, which has eaten its way into everything, has wrought the most terrible havoc. What does Kantianism do? First of all it says dogmatically: we look out upon the world that is round about us, and within us there lives only the mirrored image of this world. And so it comes to all its other deductions. Kant himself is not clear as to what is in the environment which man perceives. For reality is not within the environment, nor is it in phenomena: only gradually, through our own winning of it, does reality come in sight, and the first sight of reality is the last thing we get. Strictly speaking, true reality would be what man sees in the moment when he can no longer express himself, the moment in which he passes through the gateway of death.
Many false elements have entered into our civilization, and these work at their deepest in the sphere of education. Therefore we must strive to put true conceptions in the place of the false. Then, also, shall we be able to do what we have to do for our teaching in the right way.