Supersensible Knowledge. Lecture 2 of 2.
Rudolf Steiner, Vienna, September 29, 1923:
On last Wednesday I had the opportunity to explain to you how a supersensible knowledge may come into existence out of the further development of those capacities of the human soul which belong to our everyday life, and which are recognized also in science when methodically applied. I undertook to show how a systematic further development of these capacities of the soul actually brings about for the human being a form of perception whereby he can become aware of a supersensible world, just as he becomes aware of the physical sensible world environing him by means of his physical senses. Through such vision we penetrate upward not only to an abstract sort of conviction that, in addition to the world of the senses, there exists also a world of the spirit, but to acquisition of real knowledge, to a real experience of spiritual beings, which constitute the environment of man himself to the extent that he lifts himself up into a condition of spirituality, just as plants and animals constitute his environment in the physical world.
Such a supersensible knowledge is something different in its entire nature from that which we designate as knowledge in ordinary life and for our everyday consciousness, as well as in ordinary science.
In this ordinary knowledge we come into possession, in a certain sense, of ideas — for example such ideas as embrace the laws of nature. But this possession of ideas does not really penetrate into the soul in such a way as to become an immediate power of the soul, comparable as a spiritual power to muscular force as this passes over into activity. Thoughts remain rather shadowy, and everyone knows through immediate experiences how indifferent, in a certain sense, is the reaction of the human heart to thoughts when we are dealing with matters which affect the human heart in the profoundest degree.
Now, I think I have shown already in the first lecture that when a human being actually penetrates into the spiritual world by means of such a perception as we have in mind here, he then becomes aware of his supersensible being as it was before it descended to the earthly existence. And the fact that he achieves for himself something of this kind as regards his own self in its relationship to the spiritual world does not leave his heart, the needs of his profoundest sensibilities, unaffected to the same extent as in the case of abstract forms of knowledge. It is certainly true that one who has himself led a life devoted to the acquisition of knowledge does not undervalue all the inner drama of the soul associated with the struggle for knowledge even in the ordinarily recognized sense, yet the knowledge that we thus acquire remains, nevertheless, mere pictures of the external world. Indeed, if we are scientifically educated at the present time, we are generally proud of the fact that these pictures merely reflect, in a certain sense, quite objectively the external world and do not dart with such inner force through the life of the soul as, in the case of the physical body, the circulating blood drives its pulsing waves through man's being. The fact is that what is here meant by supersensible knowledge is something which acts upon the human being in a manner entirely unlike that of ordinary knowledge. And in order that I may make myself perfectly clear precisely in reference to this point, I should like to begin with a comparison — which is, however, something more than a comparison, something that fits the matter completely in its reality.
I should like to begin with the fact that the human being, even in ordinary life, lives in two states of consciousness — we might say three states, but let us consider sleeping and dreaming as constituting a single state of consciousness — that he is separated completely from the external world during sleep, and that a world existent only within him reveals its effects in dreams in a grotesque and often chaotic manner. Even though we are in the same space with many other persons, our dream world belongs to us alone; we do not share it with the other persons. And a profounder reflection upon the world of dreams is the very thing that may show us that what we have to consider as our own inner human nature is connected with this dream world. Even the corporeal nature of man is reflected in a remarkable way in dreams: it is mirrored in fantastic pictures. One condition or another affecting an organ, a condition of illness or of excitation, may emerge in a special symbol during a dream; or some noise occurring near us may appear in a dream in a very dramatic symbolism. The dream creates pictures out of our own inner nature and out of the external world. But all of this is intimately connected, in turn, with the whole course of our life upon earth. From the most remote epochs of this life the dream draws the shadows of experiences into its chaotic but always dramatic course. And the more deeply we penetrate into all this, the more are we led to the conclusion that the innermost being of man is connected, even though in an instinctive and unconscious manner, with that which flows and weaves in dreams.
One who has the capacity, for example, for observing the moment of waking and, from this point on, fixing the eye of the mind upon the ordinary daily life, not in the superficial way in which this usually occurs, but in a deeper fashion, will come to see that this waking life of day is characterized by the fact that what we experience in a wholly isolated manner during sleep and during dreams, in a manner that we can share with other persons at most only in special instances — that this soul-spiritual element sinks down into our corporeal being, inserts itself in a way into the will, and thereby also into the forces of thought and the sense forces permeated by the will, and thus enters indirectly, through the body, into a relationship with the external world. Thus does the act of waking constitute a transition to an entirely different state of consciousness from that which we have in dreams. We are inserted into the external course of events through the fact that we participate, with our soul element, in the occurrences of our own organisms, which are connected, in turn, with external occurrences. Evidences of the fact that I am really describing the process in a wholly objective way can, naturally, not be obtained by the manner of abstract calculation, nor in an experimental way; but they are revealed to one who is able to observe in this field — particularly one who is able to observe how there is something like a “dreaming while awake,” a subconscious imagining, a living in pictures, which is always in process at the bottom of the dry, matter-of-fact life of the soul, of the intellect. The situation is such that, just as we may dive down from the surface of a stream of water into its profounder depths, so may we penetrate from our intellectual life into the deeper regions of the soul. There we enter into something which concerns us more intimately than the intellectual life, even though its connection with the external world is less exact. There we come also upon everything which stimulates the intellectual life to its independent, inventive power, which stimulates this life of the intellect when it passes over into artistic creation, which stimulates this intellectual life even — as I shall have to show later — when the human heart turns away from the ordinary reflections about the universe and surrenders itself to a reverent and religious veneration for the spiritual essence of the world.
In the act of waking in the ordinary life the situation is really such that, through the insertion of our soul being into the organs of our body, we enter into such a connection with the external world that we can entrust, not to the dream, but only to the waking life of day, responsibility for the judgment which is to be passed upon the nature of the dream, upon its rightness and wrongness, its truth and untruth. It would be psychopathic for anyone to suppose that, in the chaotic, though dramatic, processes of the dream something “higher” is to be seen than that which his waking experience defines as the significance of this life of dreams.
In this waking experience do we remain also — at about the same level of experience — when we devote ourselves to the intellectual life, to the ordinary life of science, to everyday knowledge. By means of that absorption, immersion, and I might say strengthening of the soul about which I spoke on the previous occasion, the human being exercises consciously at a higher level for the life of his soul something similar to what he exercises unconsciously through his bodily organization for the ordinary act of waking. And the immersion in a supersensible form of knowledge is a higher awaking. Just as we relate any sort of dream picture to our waking life of day, through the help of our memory and other forces of our soul, in order to connect this dream picture, let us say, with some bodily excitation or external experience, and thus to fit it into the course of reality, so do we arrive by means of such a supersensible cognition as I have described at the point where we may rightly fit what we have in our ordinary sensible environment, what we fix by means of observation and experiment, into a higher world, into a spiritual world in which we ourselves are made participants by means of those exercises of which I spoke, just as we have been made participants in the corporeal world in the ordinary waking by means of our own organism. Thus supersensible knowledge really constitutes the dawn of a new world, a real awaking to a new world, an awaking at a higher level. And this awaking compels him who has awaked to judge the whole sensible-physical world, in turn, from the point of view of this experience, just as he judges the dream life from the point of view of the waking life. What I do here during my earthly life, what appears to me by means of my physical knowledge, I then learn to relate to the processes through which I have passed as a spirit-soul being in a purely spiritual world before my descent into the earthly world, just as I connect the dream with the waking life. I learn to relate everything that exists in physical nature not “in general” to a fantastic world of spirit, but to a concrete spiritual world, to a spiritual world which is complete in its content, which becomes a visible environment of the human being by reason of the powers of knowledge I have described as Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition.
But, just as a person feels himself in ordinary life to be in different states of soul when awake and when dreaming, so does the whole state of soul become different when one arrives at this higher awaking. For this reason, in describing supersensible knowledge in the manner that I have employed here, we do not describe merely the formal taking of pictures of the supersensible world, but the transition of a person from one state of consciousness into another, from one condition of soul into another. In this process, however, even those contents of the soul in which one is absorbed in ordinary life become something entirely different. Just as one becomes a different person in ordinary life through awaking, so does one become, in a certain sense, a different human being through this supersensible knowledge. The concepts and ideas that we have had in ordinary consciousness are transformed. There occurs not only a conceptual revolution in a person consisting in the fact that he understands more, but also a revolution in his life. This penetrates into the profoundest human conceptions. It is precisely in the profoundest human conceptions, I wish to say, in the very roots of the soul being, that a person is transformed through the fact that he is able to enter into the sphere of this supersensible knowledge — something which happens, of course, only for momentary periods in one's life.
Here I must call your attention to two conceptions that play the greatest imaginable role in everyday life. These are conceptions completely and profoundly valid in ordinary life which take on an utterly different form the moment one ascends into the supersensible world. These are the two concepts on the basis of which we form our judgments in the world: the concepts true and false, right and wrong. I beg you not to imagine that in this explanation I intend, through a frivolous handling of the problem of knowledge, to undermine the validity of the concepts true and false, right and wrong. To undermine something which is wholesome in ordinary life is by no means in keeping with a genuine supersensible knowledge. This higher knowledge enables us to acquire something in addition for ordinary life, but never subtracts from it. Those persons who — whether really or in sentimentality — become untrue in their ordinary lives, unpractically mystical for this aspect of life, are also unsuited for a genuine supersensible knowledge. A genuine supersensible knowledge is not born out of fantastic persons, dreamers, but out of those very persons who are able to take their place in their full humanity in earthly existence, as persons capable in real life. In other words, it is not our purpose to undermine what we experience in our everyday lives, and what is bound up in its very depths with the concepts true and false, right and wrong; on the contrary, truthfulness in this sphere, I should like to emphasize, is strengthened in one's feelings by that very thing which now comes about in connection with a higher knowledge by reason of a metamorphosis, a transformation, of the concepts true and false, right and wrong.
When we have really entered into this higher, supersensible world, we do not any longer say in such an abstract way that a thing is true or false, that it is right or wrong, but the concept of the true and the right passes over into a concept with which we are familiar in ordinary life, though in a more instinctive way; only, this concept belonging to the ordinary life is transmuted into a spiritual form. True and right pass over into the concept healthy; false and wrong pass over into the concept diseased. In other words, when we reflect about something in ordinary life — feel, sense, or will something — we say: “This is right, that is wrong.” But, when we are in the realm of supersensible knowledge, we do not arrive at this impression of right or wrong but we actually reach the impression that something is healthy, something else is diseased.
You will say that healthy and ill are concepts to which a certain indefiniteness is attached. But this is attached to them only in the ordinary life or the ordinary state of consciousness.
The indefiniteness ceases when the higher knowledge is sought for in so exact a manner as I have explained in the first lecture. Precision then enters also into what we experience in this realm of higher knowledge. Healthy and ill — these are the terms we apply to what we experience in association with the beings of the supersensible world of whom we become aware through such a form of knowledge.
Just think how deeply that which becomes an object of supersensible knowledge may affect us: it affects us as intimately as health and illness of the body. In regard to one thing that is experienced in the supersensible, we may say: “I enter livingly into it. It benefits and stimulates my life; it elevates my life. I become through it in a certain way more ‘real.’ It is healthful.” In regard to something else I say: “It paralyzes — indeed, it kills — my own life. Thereby do I recognize that it is something diseased.” And just as we help ourselves onward in the ordinary world through right and wrong, just as we place our own human nature in the moral and the social life, so do we place ourselves rightly in the supersensible world through healthy and ill. But we are thus fitted into this supersensible world with our whole being in a manner far more real than that in which we are fitted into the sense world. In the sense world we separate ourselves from things in this element of the right or the wrong. I mean to say that right does not benefit us very intensely and wrong does not cause us much distress — especially in the case of many persons. In the supersensible world it is by no means possible that experiences shall touch us in this way. There our whole existence, our whole reality, enters into the manner in which we experience this supersensible world. For this realm, therefore, all conflict of opinion ceases as to whether things are reality or mere phenomena; whether they manifest to us merely the effects produced upon our own sense organs; and the like — questions about which I do not wish to speak here because the time would not suffice. But everything about which people can argue in this way in relation to the physical reality — to carry on such discussion with reference to the spiritual world really has no significance whatever for the spiritual, supersensible world. For we test its reality or unreality through the fact that we can say: “One thing affects me wholesomely, another thing in an ill way — causing injury,” I mean to say, taking the word in its full meaning and weight. The moment a person ascends to the supersensible world, he observes at once that what was previously knowledge void of power becomes an inner power of the human soul itself. We permeate the soul with this supersensible knowledge as we permeate our bodies with blood. Thus we learn also in such knowledge the whole relationship of the soul and the spirit to the human body; we learn to see how the spirit-soul being of man descends out of a supersensible prenatal existence and unites with the inherited body. In order to see into this, it is necessary first to learn to know the spirit-soul element so truly that through this reality, as healthy or diseased, we experience the actuality in our own — I cannot say body here, but — in our own soul.
Supersensible knowledge, therefore — although we make such a statement reluctantly, because one seems at once to fall into sentimentality — is really not a mere understanding but an ensouling of the human being. It is soul itself, soul content, which enters into us when we penetrate to this supersensible knowledge. We become aware of our eternity, our immortality, by no means through the solution of a philosophical problem: we become aware of them through immediate experience, just as we become aware of external things in immediate experience through our senses.
What I have thus described is exposed, of course, to the objection: “To be sure, one may speak in this way, perhaps, who participates in such supersensible knowledge; but what shall anyone say to these things who is himself not as yet a participant in this supersensible knowledge?” Now, one of the most beautiful ways in which human beings can live together is that in which one person develops through contact with the other, when one goes through the process of becoming, in his soul nature, through the help of the other. This is precisely the way in which the human community is most wonderfully established. Thus we may say that just as it is not possible for all persons to become astronomers or botanists and yet the results of astronomy and botany may possess importance and significance for all persons — at least, their primary results — and can be taken in by means of the insight possessed by a sound human intellect, it is likewise possible that a sound human mind and heart can directly grasp and assimilate what is presented by a spiritual-scientist who is able to penetrate into the supersensible world. For the human being is born not for untruth, but for truth! And what the spiritual-scientist has to say will always be clothed, of course, in such words and combinations of words that it diverges, even in its formulation, from what we are accustomed to receive as pictures out of the sensible-physical world. Therefore, as the spiritual-scientist lays open what he has beheld, this may work in such a way upon the whole human being, upon the simple, wholesome human mind, that this wholesome human mind is awakened — so awakened that it actually discovers itself to be in that state of waking of which I have spoken today. I must repeat again and again therefore that, although I have certainly undertaken to explain in such books as Occult Science — an Outline, and Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, and in other volumes, how it is possible to arrive through systematic exercises at what I must designate as “looking into the spiritual world,” so that everyone possesses the possibility today, up to a certain degree, of becoming a spiritual-scientist, yet it is not necessary to do this. For a sound human constitution of soul is such that what the spiritual-scientist has to say can be received when it comes into contact with the human soul — provided only that the soul is sufficiently unprejudiced — as something long known. For this is precisely the peculiar characteristic of this spiritual research, this supersensible knowledge to which we are referring: that it brings nothing which is not subconsciously present already in every human being. Thus every one can feel: “I already knew that; it is within me. If only I had not permitted myself to be rendered unreceptive through the authoritarian and other preconceptions of natural science, I should already have grasped, through one experience or another, some part of what this spiritual research is able to present as a connected whole.”
But the fact of such a thing as this transformation of the concepts true and false into the healthy and the diseased renders the inner experience of the soul more and more intense. At a higher level man places himself more intensely within a reality than he places himself in the physical reality through the ordinary waking of the daily life. In this way feelings, sentiments, experiences of the soul are generated in relationship to these items of knowledge, which are altogether exact, just as they are generated through our being confronted by external things. That which the supersensible knowledge can bestow lays hold upon the whole human being, whereas it is really only the head that is laid hold of by what the knowledge of the senses can bestow. I trust you will permit me to visualize this relationship of supersensible knowledge to the complete human being by referring to something personal, although the personal in this realm is also factual, for the facts are intensely bound up with the personal.
In order to render it clear that supersensible knowledge cannot really be a mere head-knowledge, but lays hold upon the human being in a vastly more living and intense way than head-knowledge, I should like to mention the following. Whoever is accustomed to a living participation in ordinary knowledge — as every true supersensible knower should really be — knows that the head participates in this ordinary knowledge. If he then ascends — especially if he has been active through his entire life in the ordinary knowledge — to supersensible knowledge, the situation becomes such that he must exert all his powers in order to keep firm hold upon this supersensible knowledge which comes upon him, which manifests itself to him. He observes that the power by means of which one holds fast to an idea about nature, to a law of nature, to the course of an experiment or of a clinical observation, is very slight in comparison with the inner force of soul which must be unfolded in order to hold fast to the perception of a supersensible being. And here I have always found it necessary not only, so to speak, to employ the head in order to hold firmly to these items of supersensible knowledge, but to support the force which the head can employ by means of other organs — for example by means of the hand. If we sketch in a few strokes something that we have reached through supersensible research, if we fix it in brief characteristic sentences or even in mere words, then this thing — which we have brought into existence not merely by means of a force evoked through the nerve system applied in ordinary cognition, but have brought into existence by means of a force drawing upon a wide expanse of the organism as a support for our cognition — this thing becomes something which produces the result that we possess these items of supersensible knowledge not as something momentary, that they do not fall away from us like dreams, but that we are able to retain them. I may disclose to you, therefore, that I really find it necessary to work in general always in this way, and that I have thus produced wagon-loads of notebooks in my lifetime which I have never again looked into. For the necessary thing here lies in the activity; and the result of the activity is that one retains in spirit what has sought to manifest itself, not that one must read these notes again. Obviously, this writing or sketching is nothing automatic, mediumistic, but just as conscious as that which one employs in connection with scientific work or any other kind of work. And its only reason for existence lies in the fact that what presses upon us in the form of supersensible knowledge must be grasped with one's whole being. But the result of this is that it affects, in turn, the whole human being, grasps the whole person, is not limited to an impression upon the head, goes further to produce impressions upon the whole human life in heart and mind. What we experience otherwise while the earthly life passes by us, the joy we have experienced in connection with one thing or another, joy in all its inner living quality, the pain we have experienced in lesser or deeper measure, what we have experienced through the external world of the senses, through association with other persons, in connection with the falling and rising tides of life — all this appears again at a higher level, at a soul-spiritual level, when we ascend into those regions of the supersensible where we can no longer speak of the true and the false but must speak of the healthy and the diseased.
Especially when we have passed through all that I described the last time, especially that feeling of intense pain at a certain level on the way to the supersensible, do we then progress to a level of experience where we pass through this inner living dramatic crisis as supersensible experiences and items of knowledge confront us: where knowledge can bestow upon us joy and pleasure as these are possible otherwise only in the physical life; or where knowledge may cause the profoundest pain; where we have the whole life of the soul renewed, as it were, at a higher level with all the inner coloring, with all the inner nuances of color, with all the intimate inwardness of the life of the soul and the mind that one enjoys through being rooted together with the corporeal organization in everyday existence. And it is here that the higher knowledge, the supersensible experience, comes into contact with that which plays its role in the ordinary life as the moral existence of the human being; this moral existence of the human being with everything connected with it, with the religious sentiment, with the consciousness of freedom.
At the moment when we ascend to a direct experience of the health-giving or the disease-bringing spiritual life, we come into contact with the very roots of the moral life of man, the roots of the whole moral existence. We come into contact with these roots of the moral existence only when we have reached the perception that the physical life of the senses and that which flows out of the human being is really, from the point of view of a higher life, a kind of dream, related to this higher life as the dream is related to the ordinary life. And that which we sense out of the indefinite depths of our human nature as conscience, which enables us to conduct our ordinary life, which determines whether we are helpful or harmful for our fellow men, that which shines upward from the very bottom of our human nature, stimulating us morally or immorally, becomes luminous; it is linked up in a reality just as the dream is linked up in a reality when we wake. We learn to recognize the conscience as something existing in man as a dimly mirrored gleam of the sense and significance of the spiritual world — of that supersensible world to which we human beings belong, after all, in the depths of our nature. We now understand why it is necessary to take what the knowledge of the sense world can offer us as a point of departure and to proceed from this to a supersensible knowledge, when we are considering the moral order of the world and desire to arrive at the reality of this moral world order.
This is what I endeavored to set forth thirty years ago as an ethical problem, merely as a moral world riddle, in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. Without taking into account supersensible knowledge, I sought by simply following out the moral impulses of the human being to establish the fact that the ethical arises in every instance not out of the kind of thinking which simply absorbs external things — external occurrences or the occurrences of one's own body — but out of that thinking life of the soul which lays hold upon the heart and the will and yet in its very foundation is, nonetheless, a thinking soul life, resting upon its own foundations, rooted in the spiritual nature of the world. I was compelled to seek at that time in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity for a life of the soul independent of the corporeal being of man, a life that seems, indeed, a shadowy unreality in comparison with the solid reality of the external world of the senses, but which is rooted in its true nature in the very spiritual foundations of the universe. And the fact that the ethical impulses proceed from this kind of thinking, purified from the external world of the senses but wholly alive within man, gives to the human being his ethical character. When we learn to see now through supersensible knowledge that what is rooted in us as our conscience is, in its essence, the mirroring within our inner being of the real spiritual world which weaves and breathes throughout the world of the senses, we then learn to recognize the moral nature of man as that which forever unites us without our knowing this, even when we sense it only as a still small voice within us, with that spiritual world which can be laid open to us through supersensible knowledge.
But let no one say that this supersensible knowledge is meaningless, therefore, for our moral life for the very reason that we have the voice of conscience, for the reason that we possess the practical intentions of life for its individual situations. Especially will one who sees that the ancient spiritual traditions, supersensible knowledge handed down from primeval times and continuing until now, have faded away and continue their existence today as pale religious creeds, will be able to see that man stands in need of a new stimulus in this very sphere. Indeed, many persons are the victims of a great delusion in this field. We can see that scientific knowledge, which is considered by many today as the only valid knowledge — that the form which this scientific knowledge has taken on, with its Ignorabimus, “We cannot know” — has caused many persons to doubt all knowledge, in that they say that moral impulses, religious intentions, cannot be gained out of any knowledge whatever, but that these ethical-religious impulses in the conduct of life must be developed out of special endowments belonging to man, independent of all knowledge. This has gone so far, indeed, that knowledge is declared not to possess any capacity for setting in motion in the human being such impulses as to enrich him in his moral-religious existence through the fact that he takes in his own spiritual being — for this is really what he does take in with supersensible knowledge. It has gone so far that people doubt this possibility! On the other hand, however, especially if one is not such a practical person as the so-called practical persons of our present-day life, who merely follow a routine, if one takes the whole world into account, on the contrary, as a genuinely practical person — the world consisting of body, soul, and spirit — one will certainly see that in the individual life situations for which we may be permeated in actual existence with moral-religious content, more is needed than the faded traditions, which cannot really any longer inspire the human being in a completely moral sense. One recognizes something of this sort.
Permit me to introduce here a special example.
Out of everything that fails to satisfy us in that which confronts us today also in the educational life, what concerned us when the Waldorf School was to be founded in Stuttgart on the initiative of Emil Molt was to answer the question how a human being ought really to be educated. In approaching this task, we addressed this question to the supersensible world of which I am here speaking. I will mention only briefly what sort of purposes had then to be made basic.
First of all, the question had to be raised: “How is a child educated so that he becomes a real human being, bearing his whole being within himself but also manifesting his whole being in the ethical-religious conduct of life?” A genuine knowledge of man in body, soul, and spirit was necessary for this. But such a knowledge of man in body, soul, and spirit is entirely impossible today on the basis of what is considered valid — most of all such a knowledge as may become actually practical so that it enables one to lay hold upon the manifold duties of life. In connection with this let me discuss the question by pointing out to you very briefly that what we so generally feel today to be a just ground for our pride — external science, dealing through observation and experimentation with material substance — is not qualified to penetrate into the secrets of the material itself. What I shall introduce here now will be stated very briefly, but we can find it set forth with all necessary proofs in my writings, especially in the volume Riddles of the Soul. When we pay attention nowadays to ordinary science, we receive the conception, for example, that the human heart is a kind of pump, which drives the blood through the organs like a pumping machine. Spirit-science, such as we have in mind, which introduces us to a view of what constitutes not only the physical body of the human being but his spirit-soul nature, shows us how this spirit-soul nature permeates the corporeal nature, how the blood is driven through the human being not as if by the action of the “heart pumping machine,” but through the direct action of the spirit-soul nature itself; how this spirit-soul nature so lays hold upon the circulation of the blood that it is this spirit-soul element which constitutes the force that causes the blood to pulse through our organism. But the heart is then looked upon as something like a sense organ. As I consciously perceive the external world with my eyes, and through my concepts make this something of my own, thus do I likewise perceive through this inner sense organ of the heart — again, in an unconscious way — that which I develop unconsciously through my spirit-soul forces as the pulsation in my blood. The heart is no pump; the heart is the inner sense organ through which we perceive what the spirit-soul nature develops inwardly in connection with our blood, just as we perceive through the external senses the external world. The moment that we pass over from an intellectual analysis of the human organism to a vision of the whole human being, the heart reveals itself in its true essence, in its true significance — as an inner sense organ. In the heart the effects of the circulation of human blood, with its life impulses, are manifest; the heart is not the instrument causing this pulsation.
This is an example of the tragic fact that the very science bearing a materialistic coloring is not able to penetrate into the secrets of the material life; an example of the fact that we do not penetrate into the secrets of the material life until we do this by observing the spirit in its true work, in its creative work upon matter.
When we become aware through such supersensible knowledge, on the one hand, of the creative spirit in the very course of material occurrences, we become aware on the other hand of the power-filled spirit — not merely of the abstractly thinking spirit — of the real spirit in its essence. Then only does there result a genuine knowledge of man, such a knowledge as is needed if we wish to develop in the growing child that which can live and breathe in the human being until death, full of power, suited to life, corresponding with reality. Such an intensive vitalizing of the knowledge of man causes the educator to see the child as something fundamentally different from what he is to the merely external observer. In a fundamental sense, from the very first moment of the earthly life, the growing child is the most wonderful earthly phenomenon. The emergence out of the profoundest inner nature, at first mysteriously indeterminate, of something that renders the indeterminate features more and more determinate, changing the countenance, at first so expressionless, into an expressive physiognomy, the manner in which the vague, unskillful movements of the limbs come to correspond to purpose and objective — all this is something wonderful to behold. And a great sense of responsibility is necessary in bringing this to development. If we stand in the presence of the developing human being in such a way that we say, with all the inner fervor associated with supersensible knowledge: “In this child there is manifest that which lived as spirit and soul in the pre-earthly existence in supersensible beauty, that which has left behind, in a certain sense, its supersensible beauty, has submerged itself in the particular body that could be given to it in the course of physical heredity; but you, as a teacher, must release that which rests in the human body as a gift of the gods, in order that it may lay hold year by year, month by month, week by week upon the physical body, may permeate this, may be able to mold it plastically into a likeness of the soul, you have to awaken still further in the human being that which is manifest in him” — if we stand thus before the child, we then confront the task of educating the child not with intellectual principles, but with our whole human nature, with the fullness of our human heart and mind, with a comprehensive sense of human responsibility in confronting the problem of education. We then gradually come to know that we do not have to observe only the child if we wish to know what we must do with him at any particular time, but that we must survey the whole human being. This observation is not convenient. But it is true that what is manifest in a person under certain circumstances in the period of tenderest childhood, let us say, first becomes manifest in a special form as either health-giving or disease-bringing only in high old age after it has long remained hidden in the inner being. As educators, we hold in our hands not only the immediate age of childhood but the whole earthly life of the human being. Persons who frequently say from a superficial pedagogical point of view that we must present to the child only what it can already understand make a very serious mistake. Such persons live in the moment, and not in the observation of the whole human life. For there is a period of childhood, from the change of teeth until adolescence, when it is exceedingly beneficial to a child to receive something that it does not yet understand, something that cannot yet be made clear to it, on the authority of a beloved teacher — to the greatest blessing for this human life, because, when the child sees in the self-evident authority of a teacher and educator the embodiment of truth, beauty, and goodness, in a certain sense, when it sees the world embodied in the teacher, the effect of this is the awaking of the forces of life. This is not something which contradicts human freedom; it is something which appeals to self-evident authority, which in its further development becomes a fountainhead of strength for the whole life. If, at the age of 35 years, we bring something into our heart and mind which is suited by its nature only now to be understood by us as mature persons, but which we took into our hearts upon the authority of a beloved teacher personality even in our eighth year — if we bring that up into consciousness which we have already possessed, which lived in us because of love and now for the first time at a mature age is understood by us, this understanding of what was present in us in germ is the fountain for an inner enrichment of life. This inner enrichment of life is taken away from the human being when, in a manner reducing things to trivialities, only that is introduced to the child which it can already understand. We view the mode of a child's experience in the right way only when we are able to enter into the whole human being and, most of all, into that which enters as yet primarily into the human heart.
For example, we become acquainted with persons who radiate a blessing when they enter the company of other persons. Their influence is quieting, bestowing peace even upon excited persons whose tempers clash with one another. When we are really able to look back — as I said, this is not convenient — and see how such persons, apart from their innate qualities, have developed such a quality also through education, we often go back into a very tender age of the life where certain teacher personalities have stood very close to these children in their inner heart life, so that they learned to look up with reverence to these personalities. This looking up, this capacity for reverence, is like a mountain brook which flows into a crevice in the rock and only later appears again on the surface. What the soul acquired then in childhood exerts its influence below in its depths, manifesting itself only in high old age, when it becomes a power that radiates blessing.
What I have just introduced to you might be indicated in a picture if we say that, in relationship to the universe as well, the human being may be so educated that he may transmute into forces of blessing in high old age the forces of reverence of his tender childhood. Permit me to indicate in a picture what I mean. No one will be able to open his hands in blessing in old age who has not learned in tender childhood to fold his hands in reverent prayer.
This may indicate to us that in such a special case a life task, education, may lead to an ethical-religious attitude of mind; may indicate how that which our hearts and minds, and our wills, become as a result of entering livingly into spirit-knowledge may enter with vital reality into our conduct of life, so that what we develop otherwise, perhaps, only in an external and technical way shall become a component part of our moral-religious conduct of life. The fact, however, that instruction and education in the Stuttgart Waldorf School, and in the other schools which have arisen as its offshoots, have been brought into such an atmosphere does not by any means result in a lack of attention to the factual, the purely pedagogical; on the contrary, these are given full consideration. But the task of education has really become something here which, together with all its technique of teaching, its practice of instruction and everything methodical, at the same time radiates an ethical-religious atmosphere over the child. Educational acts become ethical-religious acts, because what is done springs from the profoundest moral impulses. Since the practice of teaching flows from a teacher-conscience, since the God-given soul nature is seen in the developing human being, educational action becomes religious in its nature. And this does not necessarily have any sentimental meaning but the meaning may be precisely what is especially necessary for our life, which has become so prosaic: that life may become in a wholly unsentimental sense a form of divine service to the world, as in the single example we have given of education, by reason of the fact that spiritual science becomes a light illuminating the actions of our life, the whole conduct of life. Since supersensible knowledge leads us not to abstractions but to human powers, when these forms of knowledge gained through supersensible cognition simply become immediate forces of life they can flow over into our whole conduct of life, permeating this with that which lifts the human being above his own level — out of the sensible into the supersensible — elevating him to the level of a moral being. They may bring him to the stage where he becomes in consecrated love one with the Spirit of the World, thus arriving at truly religious piety.
Indeed, this is especially manifest also in education. If we observe the child up to his seventh year, we see that he is wholly given over, in a physical sense, to his environment. He is an imitator, an imitative being even in his speech. And when we observe this physical devotion, when we observe what constitutes a natural environment of the child, and remains such a natural environment because the soul is not yet awake, then we feel inclined to say that what confronts us in a natural way in the child is the natural form of the state of religious consecration to the world. The reason why the child learns so much is that it is consecrated to the world in a natural-religious way. Then the human being separates himself from the world; and, from the seventh year on, it is his educational environment which gives a different, dimly sensed guidance to his soul. At the period of adolescence he arrives at the stage of independent judgment; then does he become a being who determines his own direction and goal from within himself. Blessed is he if now, when freed from his sensuous organism, he can follow the guidance of thought, of the spirit, and grow into the spiritual just as he lived in a natural way while a child in the world — if he can return as an adult in relationship to the spirit to the naturalness of the child's feeling for the world! If our spirit can live in the spirit of the world at the period of adolescence as the body of a child lives in the world of nature, then do we enter into the spirit of the world in true religious devotion to the innermost depths of our human nature: we become religious human beings.
We must willingly accept the necessity of transforming ordinary concepts into living forces if we wish to grasp the real nature, the central nerve, of supersensible knowledge. So is it, likewise, when we view the human being by means of what I described the last time as supersensible knowledge in Imagination. When we become aware that what lives in him is not only this physical body which we study in physiology, which we dissect in the medical laboratory and thereby develop the science of physiology, when we see that a supersensible being lives in him which is beheld in the manner I have described, we then come to know that this supersensible being is a sculptor that works upon the physical body itself. But it is necessary then to possess the capacity of going over from the ordinary abstract concepts which afford us only the laws of nature to an artistic conception of the human being. The system of laws under which we ordinarily conceive the human physical form must be changed into molded contents; science must pass over into art. The supersensible human being cannot be grasped by means of abstract science. We gain a knowledge of the supersensible being only by means of a perception which leads scientific knowledge wholly over into an artistic experience. It must not be said that science must remain something logical, experimental. Of course, such a demand can be set up; but what does the world care about what we set up as “demands”! If we wish to gain a grasp of the world, our process must be determined in accordance with the world, not in accordance with our demands or even with our logical thoughts; for the world might itself pass over from mere logical thoughts into that which is artistic. And it actually does this. For this reason, only he arrives at a true conception of life who — by means of “perceptive power of thought,” to use the expression so beautifully coined by Goethe — can guide that which confronts us in the form of logically conceived laws of nature into plastically molded laws of nature. We then ascend through art — in Schiller's expression “through the morning glow of the beautiful” — upwards into the land of knowledge, but also the land of reverent devotion, the land of the religious.
We then learn to know — permit me to say this in conclusion — what a state of things we really have with all the doubts that come over a human being when he says that knowledge can never bestow upon us religious and ethical impulses, but that these require special forces far removed from those of knowledge. I, likewise, shall never maintain, on the basis of supersensible knowledge, that any kind of knowledge as such can guide a human being into a moral and religious conduct of life. But that which really brings the human being into a moral and religious conduct of life does not belong in the realm of the senses: it can be investigated only in the realm of the supersensible. For this reason a true knowledge of human freedom can be gained only when we penetrate into the supersensible. So likewise do we gain real knowledge of the human conscience only when we advance to the sphere of the supersensible. For we arrive in this way at that spiritual element which does not compel the human being as he is compelled by natural laws, but permits him to work as a free being, and yet at the same time permeates him and streams through him with those impulses which are manifest in the conscience. Thus, however, is manifested to man that which he vaguely senses as the divine element in the world, in his innocent faith as a naive human being imbued with religious piety.
It is certainly true that one does not stand in immediate need of knowledge such as I have described in order to be a religious and pious person; it is possible to be such a person in complete naiveté. But that is not the state of the case, as history proves. One who asserts that the religious and ethical life of man must come to flower out of a different root from that of knowledge does not realize on the basis of historical evolution that all religious movements of liberation — naturally, the religious aptitudes always exist in the human being — have had their source in the sphere of knowledge as supersensible sources of knowledge existed in the prehistorical epochs. There is no such thing as a content of morality or religion that has not grown out of the roots of knowledge. At the present time the roots of knowledge have given birth to scientific thinking, which is incapable, however, of reaching to the spirit. As regards the religious conduct of life, many people cling instead to traditions, believing that what exists in traditions is a revelation coming out of something like a “religious genius.” As a matter of fact, these are the atavistic, inherited traditions. But they are at the present time so faded out that we need a new impulse of knowledge, not working abstractly, but constituting a force for knowledge, in order that what exists in knowledge may give to the human being the impulse to enter even into the conduct of the practical life with ethical-religious motives in all their primal quality.
This we need. And if it is maintained on the one hand — assuredly, with a certain measure of justification — that the human being does not need knowledge as such in order to develop an ethical-religious conduct of life, yet it must be maintained, on the other hand, as history teaches in this respect also, that knowledge need not confuse the human being in his religious and his ethical thinking. It must be possible for him to gain the loftiest stages of knowledge, and with this knowledge — such, naturally, as it is possible for him to attain, for there will always remain very much beyond this — to arrive at the home in which he dwelt by the will of God and under the guidance of God before he had attained to knowledge. That which existed as a dim premonition, and which had its justification as premonition, must be found again even when our striving is toward the loftiest light of knowledge. It will be possible then for knowledge to be something whose influence does not work destructively upon the moral conduct of life; it may be the influence which kindles and permeates the whole moral-religious conduct of life. Through such knowledge, however, the human being will become aware of the profounder meaning of life — about which it is permissible, after all, to speak: he will become aware that, through the dispensation of the mysteries of the universe, of the whole cosmic guidance, he is a being willed by the Spirit, as he deeply senses; that he can develop further as a being willed by the Spirit; that, whereas external knowledge brings him only to what is indefinite, where he is led into doubt and where the unity which lived within him while he possessed only naive intimations is torn apart, he returns to what is God-given and permeated of spirit within himself if he awakens out of the ordinary knowledge to supersensible knowledge.
Only thus can that which is so greatly needed by our sorely tested time really be furthered — a new impulse in the ethical-religious conduct of life: in that, just as knowledge has advanced up to the present time from the knowledge of vague premonition and dream to the wakeful clarity of our times, we shall advance from this wakeful clarity to a higher form of waking, to a state of union with the supersensible world. Thus, likewise, will that impulse be bestowed upon the human being which he so imperatively requires especially for the renewal of his social existence at this time of bitter testing for humanity in all parts of the world — indeed, we may say, for all social thinking of the present time. As the very root of an ethical-religious conduct of life, understanding must awaken for the fact that the human being must pass from the ordinary knowledge to an artistic and supersensible awaking and enter into a religious-ethical conduct of life, into a true piety, free from all sentimentality, in which service to life becomes, so to speak, service to the spirit. He must enter there in that his knowledge strives for the light of the supersensible, so that this light of the supersensible causes him to awaken in a supersensible world wherein alone he may feel himself to be a free soul in relationship to the laws of nature, wherein alone he may dwell in a true piety and a genuine inwardness and true religiousness as a spirit man in the spirit world.
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