The Boundaries of Natural Science. Lecture 6 of 8.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, October 2, 1920:
Yesterday I closed with a consideration of what reveals itself at one boundary of scientific thinking as a real and true mode of cognition: I closed with a characterization of Inspiration. I have brought to your attention the way in which man enters through Inspiration a spiritual world: he knows that he is in this world and feels also that he is outside the body. I have shown you how the transition from the experience of a “toneless” musical element to a merger with an individuated element of being occurs. It also became clear in the course of yesterday's considerations of pathological skepticism and hypercriticism that pathological conditions can arise within man if he takes this step out of the body without the accompaniment of the ego, if he does not suffuse the conditions he experiences in Inspiration with full self-consciousness. If one brings the ego into Inspiration, Inspiration represents a healthy, indeed a necessary, step forward in human cognition. Yet in a cultural epoch such as ours, in which man's being is striving to free itself from the physical organism, one cannot allow this condition to come about in an instinctive, unconscious, unhealthy way without the emergence of the pathological conditions we discussed yesterday. For, you see, there exist two poles in human nature. We can either turn to what opens a free, spiritual vision of the highest realities, or, by shunning this, by not summoning sufficient courage to penetrate into these regions with full consciousness but allowing ourselves to be driven by unconscious forces within ourselves, we can call forth illness in the physical organism. And it would be a grave error to believe that one could guard against this illness by electing not to strive into the actual spiritual world. Illness will occur anyway, if the instincts are allowed to drive the astral body, as we call it, out of the organism. Yet especially at the present time, even if we do not investigate the spiritual world ourselves, we are fully protected against the pathological states that I described yesterday — even against those arising only in the soul — by seeking to comprehend rationally the ideas of spiritual science.
What is it, however, that we bear into the spiritual world when we take full consciousness with us? You need only follow somewhat man's development from birth to the change of teeth and beyond in order to realize that, besides the development of speech, thinking, and so forth, an especially important element in this human development is the gradual emergence and transformation of memory. If you then look at the course of human life, you will come to see the tremendous importance of memory for a fully human existence. If, as a result of certain pathological conditions, the continuity of memory is interrupted, so that we cannot recall certain experiences we have had, then a serious illness befalls us, for we feel that the thread of the ego, which otherwise runs through our lives, has been broken. You can consult my book Theosophy on this: memory is intimately connected with the ego. Thus in pursuing the path I have characterized we must take care not to lose what manifests itself in memory. We must take along with us into the world of Inspiration the power of soul that provides us with memory.
Just as in nature everything changes, however — just as the plant, in growing, metamorphoses its green leaves into the red petals of the flower — just as everything in nature is in constant metamorphosis, so it is with everything concerning human existence. If we really bear the faculty of memory out into the world of Inspiration under the full influence of ego-consciousness, it metamorphoses itself. Then one comes to realize that in the moment of one's life in which one investigates the spiritual world in Inspiration, one does not have the normal faculty of memory at one's disposal. One has this faculty of memory at one's disposal in healthy life within the body; outside the body, this faculty is no longer available.
This results in something extraordinary — something that, since I present it to your mind's eye for the first time, might seem paradoxical, yet that is fully grounded in reality. Whoever has become a true spiritual scientist, who enters and seeks to experience through Inspiration actual spiritual reality as I have described it in my books, must experience this reality each time anew if he wishes to have it present to consciousness. Thus whenever someone speaks out of Inspiration concerning the spiritual world — not from notes or from mere memory but when he expresses immediately what reveals itself to him in the spiritual world — he must perform the task of spiritual perception each time anew. The faculty of memory has transformed itself. One has retained only the power to call forth the experience again and again. For that reason the spiritual scientist does not have it so easy as one who relies on mere memory. He cannot simply communicate some information out of memory but must call forth anew each time what presents itself to him in Inspiration. In this matter it is essentially the same as it is in normal sense perception of the physical world. If you wish actually to perceive within the physical world of the senses, you cannot turn away from what you wish to perceive and still have the same perception in another place. You must return to the object. In the same way, the spiritual scientist must return to the same spiritual content of consciousness. And just as in physical perception one must learn to move about in space in order to perceive this or that in turn, the spiritual scientist who has attained Inspiration must learn to move freely within the element of time. He must be able — if you will allow me to use a paradoxical expression — to swim within the element of time. He must learn to travel along with time itself, and when he has learned this, he finds that the faculty of memory has undergone a metamorphosis, that the faculty of memory has transformed itself into something else. What memory performed within the physical world of the senses must be replaced by spiritual perception. This transformed memory, however, gives the spiritual scientist perception of a more encompassing ego. Now the ego is recognized to be more encompassing. When one has transformed memory, which contains the power of the ego between birth and death, the content of the ego cracks the husk that circumscribes but one lifetime. Then the fact of repeated earthly incarnations, alternating with a purely spiritual existence between death and rebirth, emerges as something that can be grasped as a reality.
On the other side, the side of consciousness, there emerges something different when one seeks to avoid what an ancient view of the spirit, that of the Vedanta, did not yet know. We in the West feel on the one hand the loftiness of the spiritual view when we steep ourselves in the ancient Oriental wisdom. We feel that in the Vedanta the soul was borne up into spiritual regions in which it could move in a way that the Westerner's normal consciousness can move only in mathematical, geometrical, analytic-mechanical thinking. When we descend into the expansive realms that in the Orient were accessible to normal consciousness, however, we find something that we Westerners, because of our more advanced state of evolution, can no longer bear: we find an extensive symbolism, an allegorization of the natural world. It is this symbolism, this allegorization, this thinking about external nature in images, that makes us clearly aware that we are being led away from reality, away from a true investigation of nature. This has become part of certain religious confessions. Certain religious confessions are at a loss how to proceed with this act of symbolization, of mythologization, which has become decadent. For us in the West, that which the Oriental, living in an illusory world, applied directly in this way to external nature, that with which he believed himself capable of arriving at insights concerning the natural world — for us at present this has value only as an exercise preliminary to further spiritual research. We must acquire the soul faculty that the Oriental employed in symbolism and anthropomorphism. We must exercise this faculty inwardly and remain fully conscious thereby: we lapse into superstitions, into rhapsodic enthusiasm for nature, if we employ this faculty to any end but the cultivation of our soul. Later I shall have occasion to speak here about the particulars of this — which, by the way, you can find in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment.
By taking this faculty that the Oriental turned outward and employing it inwardly, as an activity of inner schooling [Kraft des Übens], by first developing a pictorial representation in such a way within, one actually begins to arrive at new insights on the other side, on the side of consciousness. One gradually achieves a transformation of abstract, merely notional thinking into pictorial thinking. Then there arises what I can only call an experiential thinking [erlebendes Denken]. One experiences pictorial thinking. Why does one experience this? One experiences nothing other than what is active within the physical body during the first years of childhood, as I have described it to you. One experiences not the human organism that has taken static form in space but rather what lives and weaves within man. One experiences it in pictures. One gradually struggles through to a viewing of the life of the soul in its actuality. On the other side the content of consciousness gradually emerges within cognition: pictorial representation, a life within Imagination. And without entering into this life of Imaginations, modern psychology shall not progress. In this way, and in this way only, by entering into Imagination, there will arise again a psychology that is more than word-games, a psychology that actually looks into the soul of man.
Just as the time has come in which, as a result of general cultural relationships, man is gradually excarnating from the physical body and striving for Inspiration, as we have seen in the example of Nietzsche, the time has come in which man, if he desires self-knowledge, should feel himself led toward Imagination. Man must descend deeper into himself than was necessary in the course of previous cultural history. If evolution is not to lapse into barbarism, humanity must attain a true image of itself [Selbstschau], and humanity can accomplish this only by accepting the knowledge offered by Imagination. That man is striving to descend deeper into his inner self than has been the case in evolution heretofore is shown, again, in the phenomena of pathological diseases of a particularly modern form. These have been described very recently by those who are able to study them from the point of view of medicine or psychiatry. It is shown above all in the emergence of agoraphobia, claustrophobia, and astraphobia — illnesses of a sort that arise especially frequently in our time. Even if they usually are observed only as pathological conditions requiring psychiatric treatment, the more acute observer can see something else altogether. He sees agoraphobia, astraphobia, and so forth already emerging from the soul-nature of humanity, just as he saw Inspiration arising pathologically in Friedrich Nietzsche. Above all, he can observe states of soul that often appear outwardly normal from which emerges agoraphobia — morbid dread of open spaces. He sees emerging something that appears as astraphobia, a state in which one fails to come to terms with an inner sensation. This inner feeling can grow to the extent that the organs of digestion are attacked, and digestion is disturbed. He comes to know what might be called fear of isolation, agoraphobia, in which one cannot remain alone but only where there is company assembled all around and so forth. Such things emerge. These things show that humanity is presently striving for Imagination and that an illness that must otherwise become an illness of the entire culture can be counteracted only by developing Imagination. Agoraphobia — this is an illness that manifests itself in many people in a frightening way. These people grow up, and from a certain point in their lives onward remarkable conditions manifest themselves. If such a person steps out of the house into a square devoid of people, he is stricken with a fear that is entirely incomprehensible to him. He is afraid of something; he does not dare go a step further into the empty square, and if he does, it can happen that he falls down on his knees or perhaps even topples over in a faint. The moment that even a child comes, the sufferer grasps its arm or merely reaches out to touch the child: in this moment he feels himself inwardly strengthened again, and the agoraphobia subsides. One case that has been described in the medical literature is particularly interesting. A young man who felt himself strong enough even to become an officer is overcome by agoraphobia while on maneuvers as he is sent out to map some terrain. His fingers tremble; he is unable to draw. Wherever there is emptiness around him, or what he perceives as emptiness, he is beset with fears that he immediately senses to be pathological. He is in the vicinity of a mill. In order to be able to perform his duty at all, he must keep a small child at his side, and its mere presence is enough for him to be able to resume drawing. We ask ourselves: what is the cause of such phenomena? Why is it that there are, for example, people who, when they have somehow forgotten to leave open the door to their bedrooms at night — something that has perhaps long since become a habit with them — wake in the night dripping sweat and can do nothing but leap up to open the door, for they cannot stand to be in an enclosed space. There are such people. Some suffer to such an extent that they must have all the doors and windows open. If their house is on a square, they must leave open the door leading out, so that they know they are free and can get out into the open at any time. This claustrophobia is something that one sees emerging — even if it often does not emerge in so radical a form — if one is able to observe human states of soul more closely.
And then there are people who feel, even to a physical degree, something inexplicable happening within them. What is it? It is an approaching thunderstorm or some other atmospheric condition. There are otherwise intelligent people who must draw the curtains whenever there is lightning or thunder. Then they must sit in a dark room, for only in this way can they protect themselves from what they experience in the atmospheric conditions. This is astraphobia, or morbid fear of thunderstorms. What is the cause of these states that we observe already very clearly in the souls of human beings today, especially in those who for a long time surrender themselves devoutly to a certain dogmatism? In these people one observes precisely these states of soul, even if they have not manifested themselves yet physically. These states are just beginning to appear. Their emergence works to upset a balanced, calm approach to life. They also emerge in such a way that they call forth all kinds of pathological conditions that are ascribed to every sort of thing, because the physical symptoms of claustrophobia, agoraphobia, or astraphobia are not yet manifest, while they must actually be ascribed to the particular configuration of soul arising within man.
What is the cause of such conditions? They are the result of our need not only to experience the life of the soul discarnately but also to bring this experience of the discarnate soul down into the physical body. We must allow it to immerse itself consciously. Just as that which I have described to you in the course of these lectures gradually extricates itself from the body between birth and the change of teeth, so also that which is experienced externally, which we could call experience of the astral, immerses itself again in the physical organism between the change of teeth and puberty. And what takes place in puberty is nothing other than this immersion between approximately the seventh and fourteenth years. The independent soul-spirit that man has developed must immerse itself in the body again, and what then emerges as physical love, as sexual desire, is nothing other than the result of this immersion I have described to you. One must come to understand this immersion clearly. Whoever wishes to gain a true understanding of the basis of consciousness must be able to effect this in a fully conscious, healthy way, using such methods as I shall describe here later. That is to say, he must learn to immerse himself in the physical body. Then he attains an initial experience of what manifests itself as an Imaginative representation of the inner realm. Here a faculty of formal representation framed for an external, three-dimensional world of plastic forms is insufficient. To perform this inner activity one needs a mobile faculty of formal representation: one must be able to overcome gradually everything spatial in Imagination and to immerse oneself in the representation of something intensive, something that radiates activity. In short, one must immerse oneself in such a way that in descending one can still clearly differentiate between oneself and one's body. Whatever inheres in the subject cannot be known. If one can keep what one experiences outside from immersing unconsciously in the physical body, one descends into the physical body and experiences in descending the essence of this body up to the level of consciousness in Imagination, in pictures.
Whoever fails to keep these pictures separate, however, and allows them to slip into the physical body, confronting the physical body not as an object but as something subjective, brings the sensation of space down into the physical body with him The astral thereby coalesces with the physical to a greater degree than should be allowed. The experience of the external world coalesces with man's inner life, and because he makes subjective what should have remained objective, he can no longer experience space normally. Fear of empty space, fear of lonely places, fear of the astrality diffused through space, of storms, perhaps even of the Moon and stars, rise up within one. One lives too deeply within oneself. Thus it is necessary that all exercises leading to the life of Imagination protect one against descending too deeply into the body. One must immerse oneself in the body in such a way that the ego remains outside. One may not take the ego out into the world of Imagination in the way that one must carry the ego out into the world of Inspiration. Although one worked toward Imagination through a process of symbolization, through pictorial representation, in Imagination itself all pictures created by mere fantasy disappear. Now objective pictures emerge instead. Only that which actually lives within the human form ceases to confront one as an object. One loses the outward human form and there emerges a diversity of living forms from the human etheric. One now sees not the unified human form but the profusion of animal forms that interpenetrate and merge to create the human form. One comes to know in an inward way what lives within the realms of plants and minerals. One learns this through introspection. One learns what can never be learned through atomism and molecularism: one learns what actually lives within the realms of plants and minerals. And how is it that we avoid bringing the ego down into the physical body when we strive for Imagination? Only by developing the power of love more nobly than in normal life, where love is led by the powers of the bodily senses. Only by acquiring the selfless power of love, freedom from egotism not only regarding the realm of humanity but also regarding the realm of nature. Only by allowing all that leads to Imagination to be borne by love, by merging this power of love with every object of cognition that we seek in this manner.
Again we have divergent tendencies: the healthy tendency to extend the power of love into Imagination or the pathological tendency to expose ourselves to fear of what is outside. We experience what lies outside with our ego and then, without restraining our ego, bear it down into the body, giving rise to agoraphobia, claustrophobia, and astraphobia. Yet we enjoy the prospect of an extremely high mode of cognition if we can develop in a healthy way what threatens humanity in its pathological form and would lead it into barbarism.
In this way one attains a true knowledge of man. One surpasses all that anatomy, physiology, and biology can teach; one attains a true knowledge of man by actually seeing through the physical body. Oh, man comes to know himself in a way so different from that which nebulous mystics believe, who think that some abstract divinity reveals itself to them when they delve down within. Oh no, something rich and concrete reveals itself; something that provides insight into the human organism, into the nature of the lungs, the liver, and so forth. Only this can be the basis of a true anatomy, a true physiology; only this can serve as the basis for a true understanding of man and also for a true medical science. One has developed two faculties within human nature. On the side of matter is the faculty of Inspiration, developed by gradually discovering within matter a spiritual realm that expands out into the tableau Mr. Arenson has depicted for you here. The other faculty is developed by discovering within oneself the realms that I described as the basis of a true knowledge of man, of a true medical science, when I spoke here earlier this year before almost forty medical doctors.
These two faculties, however, those of Inspiration and Imagination, can join together. The one can coalesce with the other, but it must happen in full consciousness and by comprehending the cosmos in love. Then there arises a third faculty, a confluence of Imagination and Inspiration in true, spiritual Intuition. Then we rise up to that which allows us to recognize the external material world to be a spiritual world, the inner realm of the soul and spirit with its material foundations as a continuous whole; we rise up to that which grants us knowledge of the expansion of human existence beyond earthly life, as I have described it to you here in other lectures. One comes thus on the one side to know the realms of plants, animals, and minerals in their inmost essences, in their spiritual content, through Inspiration. By coming to know the human organs through Imagination one creates the basis for a true organology, and by uniting in Intuition what one has learned about plants, animals, and minerals with what Imagination reveals concerning the human organs, one attains a true therapy, a science of medication that knows in a real sense how to apply the external to the internal. The true doctor must understand medications cosmologically; he must understand the human organs anthropologically, or actually anthroposophically. He must come to grasp the external world through Inspiration, the inner world through Imagination, and he must achieve a therapy based upon real Intuition.
You see what a prospect opens before us if we are able to comprehend spiritual science in its true form. To be sure, this spiritual science still has to shed many externals and much that still adheres to it in the minds of those who believe they can nurture it with fantasies and dilettantism of every sort. Spiritual science must develop a method of research as rigorous as mathematics and analytical mechanics. On the other hand, spiritual science must rid itself of all superstitions. Spiritual science must truly be able to call forth in light-filled clarity the love that otherwise overcomes man if he calls it forth out of instinct. Then spiritual science will be a seed that will grow and send its forces out into all the sciences and thus into human life.
For this reason, let me bring to a close what I have had to say to you in these lectures with one more brief consideration. Beforehand I would like to say that there is, of course, still much that can be read between the lines of my descriptions. Some of this I shall make legible in two lectures this evening and tomorrow: they will elaborate what I could only intimate in the short time available to us for this course. Only what is gained by attaining Imagination on the one hand and Inspiration on the other, and then uniting Imagination and Inspiration in Intuition, gives man the inner freedom and strength enabling him to conceive ideas that can then be effected in social life. And only those who experience contemporary life with a sleeping soul can fall to see everything that is brewing in the most frightful way, threatening a horrific future.
What is the spiritual cause of this? The spiritual cause of this is something one can perceive by studying attentively recent human evolution as it manifests itself in extremely prominent individuals — how human beings strove in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to arrive at clear concepts, to arrive at truly inward, clear impulses for three concepts that are of the very greatest importance for social life: the concept of capital, the concept of labor, and the concept of commodities! Just look at the relevant literature from the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries to see how human beings strove to understand what capital actually means within the social process, to see how that which human beings strove to understand in concepts has passed over into frightful struggles in the external world. Just look how intimately the particular feeling emerging within humanity in the present age corresponds to what they are able to feel and think concerning the function, the meaning of labor within the social organism. Then look at the hopelessly inadequate definition of “commodity”! Human beings strove to bring three practical concepts into clear focus. In the course of life in the civilized world today one sees everywhere a lack of clarity regarding the triad, capital, labor, commodities. And one cannot rise up to answer the question: what function does capital have within the social organism? One is able to answer this question only when, out of a true spiritual science, by means of Imagination and Inspiration united in Intuition, one understands that a proper impulse for the functioning of capital can be found within the spiritual life as an independently subsisting part of the social organism. Only true Imagination can bring real comprehension of this part of the social organism. And one will come to realize something else as well. One will realize that one can come to understand labor's functioning within the social organism when one no longer understands what is produced by human labor in terms of the product, so that one no longer conceives commodities in the Marxist manner as congealed labor or even congealed time. Rather, one will realize that the results of human labor can be understood by arriving at a representation, at a free experience, of that which can proceed from man. The concept of labor will become clear only to those who know what is revealed to man through Inspiration.
And the concept of “commodity” is the most complicated imaginable. For no single man is able to comprehend what commodities are in their actual existence in life. Anyone who wishes to define commodities has not the slightest inkling what knowledge is. “Commodity” cannot be defined, for one can define in this sense or formulate conceptually only what concerns but one individual, what one man alone can comprehend with his soul. Commodities, however, always exist in the interaction between a number of human beings and a number of individuals of a certain type. Commodities exist in the interaction between producers, consumers, and those who mediate between them. The impoverished concepts of barter and purchase, products of a discipline that fails to recognize the limits of natural science, shall never prove adequate to an understanding of commodities. Commodities, the products of human labor, exist in the relationship between several individuals, and if a solitary man undertakes to understand commodities “as such,” he is on the wrong track. Commodities must be understood as a function of the socially contracted majority of human beings, of association. Commodities must be understood in terms of association; they must exist in association. Only when associations are formed that process what originates with the producers, businessmen, and consumers will there arise — not out of the individual but through association, through the worker associations — the social concept, the concept of “commodity,” that human beings must share before there can exist a healthy economic life.
If human beings would only take the trouble to ascend to that which the spiritual scientist can convey from the realm of higher cognition, they would find concepts giving rise to the social forms we must develop if we wish to reverse the course of a civilization on the decline. It is thus no mere theoretical interest, no mere scientific need, that underlies all we shall strive for here. It is rather the most urgent need that the work and the research we do here make human beings mature enough that they can go forth from this place to all the corners of the Earth, taking with them such ideas and social impulses as really can buoy up an age so rapidly sinking, and reverse the course of a world so clearly in decline.
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