Rudolf Steiner, February 14, 1907:
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Wisdom and Health
Rudolf Steiner, February 14, 1907:
Spiritual science aims to be an influence in practical life, to be a source of strength and confidence. It is for people who wish to be effective in life, not for the merely curious. Knowledge of the spirit has always existed. It has been fostered in circles where it was recognized that human beings are capable of developing spiritual forces of greater capacity than the ordinary intellect. In these circies there was awareness of the fact that healing was connected with holiness; it was felt that the Holy Spirit was the wholly healthy spirit that united itself with mankind's soul to bring healing to the world.
This aspect is the one least understood. Spiritual knowledge guides the human soul away from narrow attitudes and egoistical aims; it points to universal issues that unite the individual with the cosmos. Nevertheless, the higher forces it bestows often are used as an incentive for egoistical striving. It is often made to serve egoism despite the fact that its very nature is to lead human beings away from the personal; people demand that through spiritual science egoistical wishes should be fulfilled from one day to the next.
There once existed in Africa a brotherhood — the Therapeutae, which fostered spiritual knowledge. In the region where Christianity arose, the same sect was known as the Essenes. The narre indicates that the brotherhood was concerned with healing, which they practiced by combining their spiritual insight with knowledge of matter. When spiritual knowledge is absorbed, healing forces are absorbed also. Spiritual science is an elixir of life; though it cannot be proved by argument the proof will be seen when it is assimilated, then applied to life, and health follows.
However, a person might as well know nothing about spiritual science if all that person can do is talk glibly about reincarnation and karma. If its effect is to be experienced, a person's whole inner being must be steeped in spiritual science; one must live it every hour of the day, and calmly be able to wait. In this connection Goethe's saying is apt: "Consider the what, but even more consider the how." Spiritual science is rightly understood if it is assimilated like a spiritual food, and allowed to grow and mature within a person. It is rightly understood if, in moments of sorrow or happiness, of devotion and exaltation, or when life threatens to fall apart, a person experiences the hope, strength and incentive to action it brings.
Spiritual science must become a personal quest. The striving human being, looking at the stars, will recognize the eternal laws that guide them through cosmic space. When clouds sail across the vault of heaven, when the sun rises in splendor, or the moon in silent majesty, a person will see all these phenomena as the expression of soul-spiritual universal life. Just as we recognize the look an a face, or the movement of a hand as the expression of the soul and spirit in human beings, when we look at the past we look at the same time up to the spirit whose imprint in the physical is everywhere in evidence.
Absorb the spirit, and you absorb health-giving forces! Not, however, in lazy comfort; there are people who entertain the most trivial notions while declaring that all one needs is to be in tune with the infinite. That has nothing to do with knowledge of the spirit. Spiritual knowledge must penetrate a human's innermost being. It is not through some magical formula that we discover the spiritual world. What is required is that we enter with patience and love into every being, every event. The spiritual world is there and should not be sought as if it has no connection with the physical. Wherever we find ourselves placed in life, there we must seek it; then spiritual knowledge becomes a personal quest.
There are people who have no sense for music or paintings; likewise there are people with no sense for what is spiritual. The following incident illustrates a common notion of what is spiritual: One evening in a small town, a strange light was noticed to pass across the church wall. Soon it was a topic of conversation all over the town. As no natural explanation was found, it was determined that it was a spiritual phenomenon. Actually, the fact that it was seen by many already made this highly unlikely. If a person was able to perceive a genuine spiritual event, certain spiritual organs and capabilities must first be developed. In our time this is a rare event; so the fact that the strange light was seen by many people is a sure proof that it was not a spiritual manifestation. And indeed an explanation was soon forthcoming: An elderly lady with a lantern was in the habit of walking her dog in the evening. On one particular night the light happened to be noticed. Investigation of such meaningless suppositions was pointless. The most significant spiritual manifestations are to be found in the objects and events around us every day.
Wisdom is science, but also more than science. It is science that is united with, not apart from, reality. At any moment it can become decision and action. Someone who is knowledgeable about scientific laws is a scientist; someone who immediately knows how to apply knowledge so that it becomes reality is wise. Wisdom is science becoming creative. We must so contemplate, so merge with the laws of nature that they become an inner force. Through his contemplation and exact observation of individual plants, Goethe arrived at his inner perception of the archetypal plant. The idea of the archetypal plant is a product of spiritual intuition; it is a plant-image that can come to life within us; from it numberless plants can be derived which do not as yet exist, but could exist. In someone who has become a sage laws are not bound to the particular, they are eternal living entities. This is the realm of Imagination; of ideas that are not abstract but creative images. Abstract concepts and ideas may lead to science, but not to wisdom. Had Goethe remained at the conceptual stage, he would never have discovered the archetypal plant. It must be seen so vividly and so exactly that one can draw it, including root, stem, leaves and fruit, without it resembling any particular plant. Such an image is not a product of fantasy. Fantasy is related to imagination as shadow is to reality; however, it can be transformed and raised to become imagination.
We may not as yet have access to the world of imagination, but it is a world that is attainable.
We must develop soul forces that are objective, comparable to the forces active in our eyes. We would be surrounded by perpetual darkness if the eyes did not transform the light falling upon them into colored images and mental pictures. Anyone who believes we must just wait for some nebulous manifestation of the Spirit to appear has no comprehension of the inner work required of human beings. The soul must become active, as the eyes are active transforming light. Unless the soul creates pictures, and images within itself, the spiritual world cannot stream in. The pictures thus created will maintain objectivity provided they are not prompted by egoistic wishes; when their content is spiritual, then healing forces stream into a person's soul. When the ability is attained to transform the concepts of spiritual science into vivid pictures full of color, sound and life; when the whole world becomes such a picture, then this wisdom becomes in all spheres of life a healing force, not only for ourselves, but for others, for the whole world. Even if the pictures we create in the soul are not accurate, it will not matter; they are corrected by that which guides us. Paracelsus was a sage of this kind. He immersed himself in all aspects of nature and transformed his knowledge into vigorous inner forces. Every plant spoke to him, revealing the wisdom inherent in nature.
Animals have wisdom of a certain kind; their instincts are wise. However, they do not individually possess a soul. Animals share a group soul that as spiritual wisdom influences them from outside. All animals whose blood can be mixed without ill effect have a common soul, that is, a group soul. Wisdom thus acting from outside has become individualized in humans. Every human being has his own individual soul whose influence comes from within. The price human beings pay is loss of certainty. Uncertainty is characteristic of human knowledge and scientific pursuit. Human beings are obliged to grope their way; they must search, select and experiment. However, they have the possibility to evolve, to reach higher stages; the knowledge they are obliged to attain through effort, through trial and error, they can transform so that it becomes wisdom once more. What is already in existence must, as it were, become recast within human beings, must become color-filled, light-filled, sound-filled imagination; then they attain wisdom.
Paracelsus had attained such wisdom; he approached every plant, every chemical substance and instantly recognized its healing properties. An animal immediately knows, through its unconscious instincts, what is beneficial for it. Paracelsus knew through conscious wisdom that illness would benefit from a particular substance.
The Therapeutae and Essenes [ Essenes (200 B.C. to A.D. 100) were a sect that flourished in Palestine. In their monastic community, they strictly observed the law of Moses. ] had the same kind of wisdom. It is insight that cannot be attained through experiments; knowledge is transformed into imaginative wisdom. The plant then discerns its own image in the human soul and changes it; in that instant the human being not only senses, but also knows what healing properties the plant possesses. Spiritual science has no objections to natural science; in fact, no one who is serious in his spiritual scientific striving will neglect to acquaint himself with the achievements of ordinary science; he will, however, go further; he will transform such knowledge into creative wisdom. We know that the human being consists of physical body, ether body, astral body and the ”I.” Ordinary knowledge penetrates only as far as the astral body of which it becomes a part, whereas imaginative knowledge reaches the ether or life body, filling it with the Life Spirit, making human beings powerful healers.
The immense difference between the effect of abstract concepts and that of imaginative knowledge is easiest to see in an incident where the effect was painful in nature: A man was present when his brother had a leg amputated. As the bone was cut it made a strange sound; at that moment the man felt a fierce pain in his leg at the place corresponding to where his brother's Operation was taking place. For a long time he could not rid himself of the pain, even when his brother no longer felt any. The sound emitted from the bone had, through the Power of imagination, impressed itself deeply into the man's ether body and produced the pain.
A physician in Berne once made an interesting experiment. He took an ordinary horseshoe and connected to it two wires of the type used in electrical machinery. Everyone thought the gadget must be electrified, and those who touched it were certain they felt an electric current; there were even some who were convinced they experienced a violent shock. All these effects were produced simply by what the persons concerned imagined to themselves; no remonstration convinced them otherwise. People became rich by manufacturing pills from ordinary bread. The pills were supposed to cure all kinds of illnesses, but were especially popular for curing sleeplessness. A lady, a patient in a sanatorium, took such a pill regularly every evening and enjoyed sound sleep. One night she decided to take her own life and swallowed as many of these pills as she could lay her hands on. It was discovered, and the doctors were greatly alarmed; she showed all the signs of someone dying. One doctor remained calm, the one who had manufactured the pills.
Human beings have a natural ability to turn the merely known into vivid images. Hypnotism relies on this fact. The hypnotist excludes the astral body and introduces a pictorial content directly into the ether body, but this is an abnormal process. The pictures we ourselves produce are imprinted on the ether body. If they are derived from the spiritual world they have the power to eradicate unhealthy conditions, which means that harmony is brought about with universal spiritual currents. This brings about healing because unhealthy conditions always originate from egoism, and we are now lifted above our ordinary mental life, which is dimmed. This process must occur every so often, for example during sleep; then the astral body, together with the “I,” separates from the physical and etheric bodies and unites with the spirit of the earth. From this spiritual region the astral body imprints health-giving pictures into the ether body. This process is unconscious except in highly evolved human beings.
It was Plato who said that eternal ideas are behind everything. The clairvoyant sees the spiritual in every plant whose very form is built up from such spiritual images. These eternal ideas, these spiritual images, human beings are able to absorb and thus become creative. Their health-giving effect acts throughout nature. Strictly speaking, it is only a human being that becomes ill; only people take the spirit into their inner being and must bring it to life once more. Imaginative wisdom will bring a person health. When knowledge is transformed into wisdom, the spirit creates the imagination. Spiritual science is such wisdom, and has the ability more than anything else to be a healing force, especially in the sense of preventing illness. This, admittedly, is not easy to prove. However, through spiritual science, life-giving forces flow into human beings keeping them youthful and strong.
Wisdom makes a person open and receptive because it is a foundation from which love for all things grows. To preach love is useless. (The Therapeutae and Essenes were wise; they were also most compassionate and loving.) When wisdom warms the soul, love streams forth; thus we can understand that there are people who can heal through the laying on of hands. Wisdom pours forces of love through their limbs. Christ was the wisest and therefore also the greatest healer.
Unless love and compassion unite with wisdom, no genuine help can be forthcoming. If someone lying in the street with a broken leg is surrounded by people full of compassion, but without knowledge, they cannot help. The doctor who comes with knowledge of how to deal with a broken leg can help, for his wisdom transforms his compassion into action. Basic to all help provided by human beings is knowledge, insight and ability.
We are always surrounded by wisdom because wise beings created the world. When this wisdom has reached its climax it will have become all-encompassing love. Love will stream towards us from the world of the future. Love is born of wisdom, and the wisest Spiritual Being is the greatest healer. From Christ is born the Holy — that is, the Healing — Spirit.