from Human and Cosmic Thought. Lecture 4 of 4.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, January 23, 1914:
We have been concerned with the possible varieties of world-outlooks, of world-outlook-moods and so on, which can find place in the human soul, and, since I can take only single points of view from this wide field, I should like to illustrate one of these points of view by means of a special example.
Let us suppose that a person so lives in the world that among his natural predispositions we find the special forces through which he is influenced by the world-outlook of Idealism. We will say that he makes this world-outlook into a dominating factor in his inner life, so that the soul-mood which I designated yesterday as Mysticism, and called the Venus mood, flows towards Idealism and is nourished by its powers. Hence, if one speaks in the symbols of astrology, one would say that the spiritual constellation of such a man, according to his natural predispositions, is that Venus stands in Aries.
I remark expressly, so that no misunderstanding may arise, that these constellations are of much greater importance in the life of the person than the constellations of the external horoscope, and do not necessarily coincide with the “nativity” — the external horoscope. For the enhanced influence which is exerted on the soul by this standing of Mysticism in the sign of Idealism waits for the propitious moment when it can lay hold of the soul most fruitfully. Such influences need not assert themselves just at the time of birth; they can do so before birth, or after it. In short, they await the point of time when these predispositions can best be built into the human organism, according to its inner configuration.
Hence the ordinary astrological “nativity” does not come into account here. But one can say: A certain soul is by nature such that, spiritually speaking, Venus stands in Aries — Mysticism in the sign of Idealism. Now the forces which arise in this way do not remain constant throughout life. They change — that is, the person comes under other influences, under other spiritual signs and also under other moods of soul. Let us suppose that a man so changes that in the course of his life he comes into the soul-mood of Empiricism; that Mysticism has moved on, as it were, into Empiricism, and Empiricism stands in the sign of Rationalism. You see, as I drew it in the preceding lecture, going from inwards outwards in the symbolic picture, that Empiricism stands in relation to Mysticism as does the Sun to Venus. With regard to its mood the soul has progressed to Empiricism and has at the same time placed itself in the sign of Rationalism. The result is that such a soul changes its world-picture. What the soul formerly produced, perhaps as a specially strong personality in the time when in its case Mysticism stood in the sign of Idealism, this will pass over into another nuance of world-outlook. What the soul asserts and says will be different when in this way its world-outlook-mood has passed over from Mysticism to Empiricism, and the latter has placed itself in the sign of Rationalism. However, from what I have now explained, you can gather that human souls can have an inclination to change the sign and mood of their world-outlook. (See Diagram 11.) For these souls the tendency to change is already given. Let us suppose that such a soul wants to carry this tendency further in life. It wants to swing forward from Empiricism to the next soul-mood, i.e. to Voluntarism; and if it wants to swing forward also in the zodiacal signs, then it will come into Mathematism. It would then pass over to a world-outlook which in this symbolical picture leads away at an angle of 60 degrees from the first line, where Mysticism stood in the sign of Idealism; and such a soul, in the course of the same incarnation, would bring to expression a mathematical world-structure permeated by and based upon the will.
And now I ask you to notice how I work out this matter. It will be seen that two such constellations as are here present in the soul disturb each other in the course of time; they influence each other unfavorably when they are at an angle of 60 degrees with regard to each other. In physical astrology this a favorable constellation; in spiritual astrology this so-called sextile aspect is unfavorable. We can see this because this last position — Voluntarism in Mathematism — comes up against a severe hindrance in the soul. The soul is not able to develop, because it cannot find anything to lay hold of, since the person in question has no natural gift for Mathematism.
This is how the unfavorable character of the sextile aspect expresses itself. Hence this configuration, Voluntarism in the sign of Mathematism, cannot establish itself. The consequence is that the soul does not try to move forward in this way. But because it cannot take the path to Voluntarism in Mathematism, it turns away from the configuration it now has — Empiricism in Rationalism — and seeks an outlet by placing itself in opposition to the direction it cannot take. Such a soul, accordingly, would not swing forward to Voluntarism in the direction of Mathematism, but would place itself with Voluntarism in opposition to its Empiricism. The result is that Voluntarism would stand in opposition to Rationalism in the sign of Dynamism. And in the course of its life, such a soul would have as its possible configuration one in which it would defend a world-outlook based on a special pressing in of forces, of Dynamism permeated by will — a will that wants to effect its purpose by force. In spiritual astrology things are again different from what they are in physical astrology; in physical astrology “opposition” has a quite different significance. Here, “opposition” is brought about by the soul being unable to proceed further along an unfavorable path; it veers round into the opposing configuration.
I have shown you here what the soul of Nietzsche went through in the course of his life. If you try to understand the course he takes in his early works, you will find that the placing of Mysticism makes it comprehensible. From this period we have “The Birth of Tragedy”; “David Strauss, the Confessor and the Writer”; “The Use and Abuse of History”; “Schopenhauer as Educator”; “Richard Wagner in Bayreuth”. Then the soul of Nietzsche moves on; a second epoch begins. Here we find “Human, all too Human”; “The Dawn of Day”; “The Joyful Wisdom” — all proceeding from the oppositional configuration. These are writings based on the will to power, on the will saturated with force, with power.
Thus you see how an inner conformity to law exists between the spiritual cosmos and the way in which man stands within it. If we employ the symbols of astrology, but taking them to express something different, we can say: In the case of Nietzsche, up to a certain time in his life Venus stood in Aries, but when for his soul this configuration passed over into “Sun in the sign of Taurus”, he could get no further. He could not go with Mars into the sign of Gemini, but went in the oppositional position; thus he went with Mars into the sign of Scorpio. His last phase was characterized by his standing with Mars in Scorpio. But one can sustain this configuration only if one penetrates into the lower position (below the line Idealism — Realism in Diagram 11) where one plunges into a spiritual world-outlook, Occultism or something similar; otherwise these configurations must work back unfavorably upon the person himself. Hence the tragic fate of Nietzsche. One can go through with the upper configurations if one is able, owing to external circumstances, to place oneself in the world in a corresponding way. The configurations below the line from Idealism to Realism can be sustained only if one dives down into the spiritual world — a thing that Nietzsche could not do. By “placing oneself externally in the world” I mean placing by means of education, by means of external conditions; they come into account for all that lies above the line running from Idealism to Realism. Meditative life, a life devoted to the study and understanding of spiritual science, comes into account for all that lies below the line.
In order to grasp the importance of what has been sketched out in these lectures, we must know the following things. We must make it clear to ourselves what thinking really is; how it enters into human experience.
The uncompromising materialist of our day finds it suits his purpose to say that the brain forms the thought — more exactly, that the central nervous system forms the thought. For anyone who sees through things, this is about as true as to say when one looks into a mirror that the mirror has “made” the face. In fact, the face is outside the mirror; the mirror only reflects the face, throws it back. The experience a man has of his thoughts is quite similar. (We will leave aside for the moment other aspects of the soul.) The experience of real, active thinking no more arises from the brain than the image of a face is created by the mirror. The brain, in fact, works only as a reflecting apparatus, whereby it throws back the soul-activity and this becomes visible to itself. The brain has as little to do with what a man perceives as thoughts as a mirror has to do with your face when you see it in a glass. But there is something more than that. When someone thinks, he really perceives only the last phases of his thinking-activity, of his thinking experience. And now, in order to make this clear, I want to take up once more the comparison with the mirror.
Imagine that you are standing there and want to see your face in a mirror. If you have no mirror, then you cannot see your face. You may look as long as you like, but you will not see your face. If you want to see it, you must work up some material so that is reflects your face. That is, you must first prepare the material so that it can produce the reflection. Then, when you gaze at the surface, you see your face. The soul has to do the same with the brain. The actual perceiving of a thought is preceded by a thinking activity that works upon the brain. For example, if you want to perceive the thought “lion”, your thinking activity first sets in motion certain parts of the brain, deep within it, so that they become the “mirror” for the perception of the thought “lion”. And the agent who thus makes the brain into a mirror is you yourself. What you finally perceive as thoughts are the reflections, the mirror-pictures; what you first have to prepare so that the right reflection may appear is some part or other of the brain. You, with your soul-activity, are the very thing that gives the brain the form and capacity for reflecting your thinking as thoughts. If you want to go back to the activity on which the thought is based, then it is the activity which, from out of the soul, takes hold of the brain and gets to work there. And when from out of your soul you set up a certain activity in your brain, this brings about a reflection such that you perceive the thought “lion”. You see, a soul-spiritual element has to be there first. Then, through its activity, the brain is made into a mirror-like apparatus for reflecting the thought. That is the real process, but such a muddled idea of it prevails that many people nowadays cannot grasp it at all.
A person who makes a little progress in occult perception can separate the two phases of his soul-activity. He can trace how it is that when he wants to think something or other, he has first not simply to grasp the thought, but to prepare his brain for it. If he has prepared it so that it reflects, then he has the thought. When one wants to investigate occultly, so that one can picture things, one always has, first, the task of carrying through the activity which prepares the picturing. It is this that is so important for us to notice. For it is only when we keep these things well in mind that we have before us the real activity of human thinking. Now for the first time we know how human thinking-activity is carried out. First, this activity lays hold of the brain, in connection somewhere with the central nervous system. It sets in motion — let us say if we wish — the atomistic portions in some way, brings them into some sort of movement; by this means they become a mirror-apparatus; the thought is reflected, and the soul becomes conscious of the thought. Thus we have to distinguish two phases: first the work on the brain from out of the psychic-spiritual in preparation for the external physical experience; then the perception takes place, after the work on the brain has prepared the ground for this act of perceiving by the soul. In the ordinary way this preparatory work on the brain remains entirely unconscious. But an occult researcher must start by actually experiencing it. He has to go through the experience of how the soul-activity is poured in, and the brain made ready to reflect the thought as an image.
What I have now explained happens continually to a person between waking up and going to sleep. The thinking activity is always working on the brain, and so, throughout the waking state, it makes the brain into a mirror-apparatus for the thoughts. But it is not sufficient that the only thinking-activity worked up in us should be that worked up by ourselves. For one might say it is a narrowly limited activity that is here worked up in this way by means of the psychic-spiritual. When we wake up in the morning and are awake through the day, and in the evening fall asleep again, then the psychic-spiritual activity which belongs to the thinking is working all day long upon the brain, and thereby the brain becomes a reflecting-apparatus. But the brain must first be there; then, the soul-spiritual activity can make little furrows in the brain, or, one might say, its memoranda and engravings. The main substance and form of the brain must first be there. But that is not enough for our human life.
Our brain could not be worked upon by our daily life if our whole organism were not so prepared that it provides a basis for this daily work. And this work of preparation comes from the cosmos. Thus as we work daily at the “engraving” of the brain, which makes it into a mirror-apparatus for our daily thought, so, in so far as we cannot ourselves do this engraving, this giving form, form has to be given to us from the cosmos. As our little thoughts work and make their little engravings, so must our whole organism be built up from out of the cosmos, according to the same pattern of thought-activity. For example, that which appears to us finally in the sign of Idealism is present in the spiritual cosmos as the activity producing Idealism, and it can so work upon a man that it prepares his whole organism so that he inclines to Idealism. In like manner are the other varieties of moods and signs worked in upon men from out of the spiritual cosmos.
Man is built up according to the thoughts of the cosmos. The cosmos is the “great thinker” which down to our last fingernail engraves our form in us, just as our little thought-work makes its little imprints on our brain every day. As our brain — I am referring only to the small portions where imprints can be made — stands under the influence of the work of thinking, so does the whole man stand under the influence of cosmic thinking.
Take the example I gave you, the example of Nietzsche — what does it mean? It means that through an earlier incarnation Nietzsche was so prepared in his karma that at a certain point of time, by virtue of his earlier incarnation, the forces of Idealism and of Mysticism (working together because Mysticism stood in the sign of Idealism) so worked upon his whole bodily constitution that he was in the first place capable of becoming a mystical Idealist. Then his constellation altered in the way indicated.
We are thought out from the cosmos — the cosmos thinks us. And just as we, in our little daily thought-work, make little engravings in our brain, and then the ideas “lion”, “dog”, “table”, “rose”, “book”, “on”, “right”, “left”, come into our consciousness as reflections of that which we have prepared in our brain — i.e. just as we, through the working-up of the brain, finally perceive lion, dog, table, rose, book, on, off, right, write, read — the beings of the cosmic hierarchies work in such a way that they carry out the great thought-activity which engraves upon the world things far more significant than our daily thought-activity can accomplish. So it comes to pass that not only the tiny little markings arise and are then reflected singly as our thoughts, but that we ourselves, in our whole being, appear again to the beings of the higher hierarchies as their thoughts. As our little brain-processes mirror our little thoughts, so do we mirror the thoughts of the cosmos which are engraved upon the world. When the hierarchies of the cosmos “think”, they “think”, for example, men. As our little thoughts emerge from our little brain-processes, so do the thoughts of the hierarchies arise from their work, to which we ourselves belong. As parts of our brain are for us the reflecting-apparatus which we first work up for our thoughts, so are we, we little beings, the substance which the hierarchies of the cosmos prepare for their thoughts. Thus we might say, in a certain sense, that we can feel ourselves with regard to the cosmos as a little portion of our brain might feel with regard to ourselves. But as little as we, in our soul-spiritual nature, are our brains, so little are the beings of the hierarchies “we”. Hence we have an independent status in relation to the beings of the higher hierarchies. And we can say that while in a certain manner we serve them so that they may be able to think through us, yet at the same time we are independent beings with identities of our own, as indeed, in a certain way, the particles of our brain have their own life.
Thus we find the connection between human and cosmic thoughts. Human thought is the regent of the brain; cosmic thought is such a regent that we belong with our whole being to that which it has to accomplish. Only, because in consequence of our karma it cannot direct its thoughts on to us all equally, we have to be constituted in accordance with its logic. Thus we men have a logic according to which we think, and so have the spiritual hierarchies of the cosmos their logic. And their logic was indicated in the diagram I drew for you [see above]. As when we think, for example, “The lion is a mammal” we bring two concepts together to make a statement, so the spiritual hierarchies of the cosmos think two things together, Mysticism and Idealism, and we then say: “Mysticism appears in Idealism.” Imagine this first as the preparatory activity of the cosmos. Then resounds the Creative Fiat, the Creative Word. For the beings of the spiritual hierarchies the preparatory act consists in the choice of a human being whose karma is such that he can develop a natural bent for becoming a mystical Idealist. Into the Hierarchies of the cosmos there is rayed back something that we should call a “thought”, whereas for them it is the expression of a man who is a mystical Idealist. He is their “thought”, after they have prepared for themselves the cosmic decision — “Let Mysticism appear in Idealism.”
We have now, in a certain sense, depicted the inner aspect of the Cosmic Word, of Cosmic Thought. What we drew in a diagram as “cosmic logic” represents how the spiritual hierarchies of the cosmos think — for example: “Let Empiricism appear in the sign of Rationalism!” and so on. Let us try to realize what can be thought in the cosmos in this way. It can be thought: “Let Mysticism appear in the sign of Idealism! Let it change! Let it become Empiricism in the sign of Rationalism!” Opposition! The next move on would represent a false cosmic decision. After verification, the thought is changed round. The third standpoint must appear: “Voluntarism in the sign of Dynamism.” These three decisions, through being spoken over a period in the cosmic worlds, give the “man Nietzsche”. And he rays back as the thought of the cosmos.
Thus does the collectivity of the hierarchies speak in the cosmos! And our human thinking-activity is a copy, a tiny copy, of it.
Worlds are related to the Spirit — or to the Spirits — of the cosmos as our brain is to our soul. Thus we may have a glimpse into something which we ought certainly to look upon only with a certain reverence, with a holy awe. For in contemplating it we stand before the mysteries of human individuality. We learn to understand — if I may express myself figuratively — that the eyes of the beings of the higher hierarchies roam over the single individualities among men, and that individuals are to them what the individual letters of a book are to us when we are reading. This we may look upon only with holy awe: we are overhearing the thought-activity of the cosmos.
In our day the veil over such a mystery as this must be lifted to a certain degree; for the laws which have here been shown as the laws of the thinking of the cosmos are active in man. And the knowledge of them can help us to understand life, and then to understand ourselves; so that even when, for one reason or another, we have to be placed one-sidedly in life, we know that we belong to a great whole, for we are links in the thought-logic of the cosmos. And in learning to grasp these relations, spiritual science acts as our guide. It teaches us to understand our one-sided predispositions as much as it enlarges our all-round knowledge. Thus we can find the frame of mind which is necessary precisely in our time. For today, when in many leading minds there is no trace of insight into the relationships we have touched on here, we experience the effects of these relations or connections but do not know how to live under them. And thus they create conditions which call for adjustment.
Let us take the example of Wundt, whom I mentioned yesterday. His one-sidedness is brought about through a quite definite constellation. Let us suppose that he could ever struggle on to an understanding of spiritual science: then he would look upon his one-sidedness in such a way that he would say to himself: “Now because I stand here with my Empiricism, etc., I am in a position to do good work in certain fields. I will remain in these, and will make up for it in other ways through spiritual science.” To such a decision as this he would come. But he refuses to know anything about spiritual science. What does he do in consequence? Whereas he could carry out something good and productive in the constellation which is his, he turns what lies within his range into a complete philosophy. Otherwise he could probably do something greater, much greater; indeed he would be most useful if he would leave philosophizing alone and go in for experimental psychology — a thing he understands — and if he would inquire into the nature of mathematical conclusions — which he also understands — instead of making a concoction of all kinds of philosophy; for then he would be on the right lines.
But this must be said of many. Therefore spiritual science, while it must evoke the feeling by which we recognize how there should be peace between world-outlooks, must also point sharply to cases where persons go beyond the necessary limits set for them by their constellations. These persons do great harm by hypnotizing the world with opinions that get by without any attention being paid to the constellation behind them. All forms of one-sidedness that try to claim universal validity must be strongly repulsed. The world does not admit of being explained by a person who has special predilections for this or that. And when he wants to explain it on his own, and so to found a philosophy, then this philosophy works harmfully, and spiritual science has the task of rejecting the arrogance of this pretentious claim to universality. In our time, the less feeling there is for spiritual science the more strongly will this one-sidedness appear. Hence we see that knowledge of the nature of human and cosmic thought can lead us to understand rightly the significance and the task of spiritual science, and to see how it can bring into a right relationship other so-called spiritual streams, especially philosophic currents, in our time. It must be wished that knowledge of the kind that we have tried to bring together for ourselves in these four lectures should inscribe itself deeply into the hearts and souls of our friends, so that the course of the anthroposophical spiritual stream through the world would take a quite definite and right direction. It would thereby be recognized more and more how a man is formed through that which lives in him as cosmic thought.
With the aid of such an explanation as this we see more depth than we could otherwise do in a thought of Fichte's, where he says: “What kind of a philosophy a man has depends on the kind of man he is.” Yes, indeed, the kind of philosophy a man has does verily depend on the kind of man he is! The fact that Fichte (in the first period of the incarnation he was then living through as Fichte) could say, as the basic nerve of his philosophy of life: “Our world is the sensualized material of our duty” [see footnote 2] shows even as does the previously quoted saying (which he gave out later) how his soul changed its constellation in the spiritual cosmos. That is, it shows how richly this soul was endowed, so that the spiritual hierarchies could remold it so that through it they could think various things for themselves. Something similar could be said of Nietzsche, for example.
Many different ways of viewing the world emerge if one keeps before one's soul such things as have been described in these four lectures. The best we can gain from these descriptions is that with their aid we should come to look ever more and more deeply, with perceptive feeling, into the spiritual features of the world.
If only one thing were to be achieved by means of such a lecture-course as this, it would be that as many as possible of you should say to yourselves: “Yes, if anyone wants to enter into the spiritual world — i.e. into the world of truth, and not into the world of error — he must really set out upon the path! For much, much must be taken into consideration along this path in order to come to the sources of truth. And if at the beginning it might seem to me as if a contradiction appears here or there, if in one place or another I could not understand something, I will still say to myself that the world is not there in order to be grasped by every condition of human understanding, and that I would rather be a seeker than a man whose sole attitude toward the world is such that he only inquires ‘What can I understand?’ ‘What can I not understand?’”
If one becomes a seeker, if one earnestly sets to work along the path of the seeker, then one learns to know that one must bring together impulses from the most varied sides in order to gain an understanding of the world. And then one unlearns every kind of attitude toward the world that asks “Do I understand that?” “Do I not understand that?”, and instead one seeks and seeks and goes on seeking. The worst enemies of truth are cosmic conceptions that are exclusive and strive after finality; the conceptions of those who want to frame a couple of thoughts and suppose that with them they can dare to build up a world-edifice.
The world is boundless, both qualitatively and quantitatively. And it will be a blessing when there are individual souls who wish for clear vision with regard to that which is appearing in our day with such terrible overweening narrow-mindedness, and wants to be “universal”. I might say: “With bleeding heart I declare that the greatest hindrance to knowledge of how a preparatory work of thought-activity is carried out in the brain, how the brain is thereby made into a mirror and the life of the soul reflected from it — a fact which could throw endless light on much other physiological knowledge — the greatest hindrance to the knowledge of this fact is the crazy modern physiology which speaks of two kinds of nerves, the ‘motor’ and the ‘sensory’ nerves.” (I have touched on this in many lectures already.) In order to produce this theory, which crops up everywhere in physiology, it is a fact that physiology had first to lose all understanding. Hence it is a theory now recognized all over the Earth, and it acts as a hindrance to all true knowledge of the nature of thought and the nature of the soul. Never will it be possible to understand human thought if physiology sets up such an obstacle to true knowledge. But things have gone so far that an indefensible physiology forms the introduction to every textbook of psychology and teaching about the mind, and makes it dependent on this falsity. Therewith the door is bolted also against knowledge of cosmic thought.
One first learns to recognize what thought is in the cosmos when one comes to feel what human thinking is: that in its true nature it has nothing to do with the brain except that it is the master of the brain. But when one has thus recognized thought in its essence, when one has come to know oneself in thinking, then one feels oneself inwardly within the cosmic, and our knowledge of the true nature of cosmic thought. When we learn to know rightly what our thinking is, then we learn also to know how we are “thought” by the powers of the cosmos. Indeed we may gain a glimpse into the logic of the hierarchies. The single components of the decisions of the hierarchies, the concepts of the hierarchies, I have written down for you. In the twelve spiritual signs of the Zodiac, the seven world-outlook-moods, and so on, lie the concepts of the hierarchies; and human beings are constituted in accordance with the verdicts of the cosmos which result from these concepts. Thus we feel ourselves within the logic of the cosmos — that is (if we really grasp it), within the logic of the hierarchies of the cosmos. We feel ourselves as souls embedded in cosmic thought, just as we feel our thoughts, the little thoughts we think, embedded in our soul-life.
Meditate sometimes on the idea “I think my thoughts” and “I am a thought which is thought by the hierarchies of the cosmos.” My eternal part consists in this: that the thought of the hierarchies is eternal. And when I have once been thought out by one category of the hierarchies, then I am passed on — as a human thought is passed on from teacher to pupil — from one category to another, so that this in turn may think me in my true, eternal nature. Thus I feel myself within the thought-world of the cosmos.