Rudolf Steiner, Vienna, June 5, 1922:
Nowadays, if you start to discuss, with someone who is interested in these matters, the possibility of achieving a knowledge of spiritual life in conjunction with the sensuous and physical world, you will generally meet with a sympathetic reception. At any rate, the question will be raised: Are there paths by which man can reach some kind of spiritual knowledge? even though it may often turn out that the only knowledge of a spiritual world allowed is one that takes the form of general concepts and ideas, a vague pantheism perhaps or a conception of life reminiscent of mysticism. If however you should then attempt, as it became necessary for me to do in my book Occult Science, to describe a real cosmology, a science of the origin and development of the world in specific terms, discussion with a rationalist is usually at an end. He reacts strongly to the suggestion that anyone today might be in a position, on some epistemological basis or other, to make a statement about a spiritual origin of the world, about forces operating spiritually in the world's development, and about the possibility that this development, after having passed through a sensuous and physical phase, might lead back once more into a spiritual form of existence. The reaction of the rationalist to such a suggestion, implicit in the specific descriptions in Occult Science, for example, is to avoid having anything to do with someone who makes claims of this kind. He will think that, if a man sets out to make specific statements about such matters, he is probably on the verge of losing his reason; at least, we cannot compromise ourselves by becoming involved in discussing these details.
It is naturally impossible, in a single lecture, to present any details of cosmology as they follow from the philosophy of life I am advocating. Instead, I should like today to try and show you how spiritual science can arrive at a cosmology and a knowledge of the spiritual impulses underlying the world's development. The reproach that is usually levelled at anyone who now attempts such a task is that of anthropomorphism, that is of taking features of human mental life and projecting them — in accordance with one's wishes or some other predilections or prejudices — onto the cosmos. A closer examination of the way in which the philosophy of life presented here attains its cosmological results, however, should be enough to demonstrate that there cannot be the slightest question of anthropomorphism. On the contrary, this philosophy seeks its data about the world and its development through a spiritual cognition that is just as objective as the scientific study of nature.
You will have gathered, from the lectures I have given so far, what the view of the world I am advocating aims at in its research methods. On the one hand, it desires to preserve everything that humanity has acquired over the last three or four centuries in scientific conscientiousness and a sure and careful method of seeking truth. In particular, this view of life certanly does not wish to exceed the limits of natural knowledge, in so far as this is appropriate, but to observe carefully where the limits of purely natural knowledge are located. The existence of such limits is much discussed today, and has been for a long time. We can say that the opinions of trained natural scientists on this subject today are founded on notions that more philosophically inclined minds derive from Kant, and other minds, to whom a more popular treatment appeals, from Schopenhauer and others. A great deal of material bearing on this point could be given.
Now it is probably true to say that Kant and Schopenhauer, and all those who follow in their wake, are dangerous guides to the discernment of the limits of natural knowledge, because these thinkers, very enticingly as I would say, stopped short at a certain point in their consideration of the human cognitive faculty and the capacities of the human psyche. They drew the line at a certain point; and their approach to this point is extraordinarily shrewd. Yet the fact remains that, as soon as we become aware of the need to consider man as a whole and to take into account all that can follow from man's physical and spiritual organism in the shape of cognitive activity and inner experience, we shall also realize that a one-sided critique of the cognitive faculty can only lead to one-sided conclusions. If we wish to examine the relation of man to the world, in order to establish whether there is a path that leads from man to knowledge of the world, we must take him as a whole and consider him in his entire being.
It is from this point of view that I should now like to raise the question: Assuming that the limits of our knowledge of nature, which scientists too have been discussing since Du Bois-Reymond (though they are viewed very differently today from the way he saw them half a century ago), did not exist, what would be man's position in the world? Assuming that man's theoretical cognitive faculty, by which he connects his concepts with observations and the results of experiments in order to arrive at the laws of the universe, could also penetrate without difficulty into the organic realm; if it could advance as far as life, there would be little reason why it should stop short of the higher modes of existence — the realms of soul and spirit. Assuming therefore that the ordinary consciousness we employ in the sciences and work with in ordinary life were able at all times not only to approach the outside of life, but also to penetrate below the surface of things to their inner being: if there were thus no limit of knowledge, what sort of constitution would a man need? Well, his relation to the world would be such that his entire being, his inmost experience, would be constantly entering into everything with its spiritual antennae. Though this may appear paradoxical to some people, a dispassionate observer of life and of the relationship of man to the world will realize: a being whose ordinary everyday consciousness was unlimited would inevitably lack the capacity to love.
And if we reflect on the significance of this capacity for our whole life, and on what we are in life because we can love, we shall conclude: on this mortal earth we should not be men, in the sense in which we must in fact be men, if we did not have love. But love demands that we should meet another individual, whatever realm of nature it may belong to, as self-contained individuals. We must not invade this other individual with our clear and lucid thinking; on the contrary, at the very moment when we develop love, our essence must become active — that part of us which is beyond clear and pellucid concepts! The moment we were able to invade the other individual with clear and lucid concepts, love would die. Since man must be a creature of love by virtue of his task on earth, and since when man has a certain capacity it conditions his whole being, we can conclude: man definitely needs limits to his knowledge of the outside world, and must not penetrate beyond them if, within his ordinary consciousness, he is to fulfil his task here on earth. The property that enables him to be a creature of love has its obverse side in his ordinary knowledge, which has to stop at the limit that is set for us in order that we may be creatures capable of love.
This is just an outline that each individual can fill out for himself; even so, it reveals something that has certain consequences. It shows, for example, that we must go forward from the premises of Kantian philosophy, and look at man as a whole, inhabiting life as a living creature. This is the first thing that the view of the world I am advocating has to say about the limits of scientific knowledge — and we shall be hearing more about them.
Here is one of the two guiding principles for any view of life and the world that is to be taken seriously today. The other, to which I have already drawn attention in the last few days, can be described by saying: any view of life and the world that is to be taken seriously today must not lose itself in nebulous mysticism. It is a fact that even noble minds at the present time, observing that natural science is limited and cannot provide us with a springboard into the spiritual world, throw themselves into the arms of mysticism, especially the older forms of humanity's mystical endeavour. Yet in face of the other kinds of knowledge man requires* today, this certainly cannot be the right way. Mysticism seeks, by looking within man, to reach the actual foundations of existence. But once again, human knowledge is limited when it comes to looking within man. Assuming that man were capable of looking into himself without limit, to the point where the deepest essence of human nature is manifest, where man is in touch with the eternal springs of existence and links his personal existence with that of the cosmos: what would he then have to do without? — Those who gain great inner satisfaction from mysticism often summon up the most varied things from within themselves. I have already indicated that what is brought up in this way ultimately turns out, on closer examination by a true student of the soul, to rest on some external observation. This observation sinks into subconscious depths, is permeated by feeling and will and organic process, and then appears again in an altered form. Anything observed can undergo a transformation or metamorphosis so great that the mystic will believe he is drawing from the depths of his soul something that must demonstrate the eternal foundations of the soul itself. Even such outstanding mystics as Meister Eckhart or Johannes Tauler are not completely free from the error that creeps in when we mistake altered concepts of ordinary consciousness for independent revelations of the human soul.
Objective reflection on this state of affairs, however, enables us to answer the question: What would man have to do without if, in ordinary consciousness, he could see right into himself at any moment? He would have to do without something that is essential for the well-ordered existence of our soul: a reliable memory.
For what is the relation of memory to the claims of mysticism? What I am now going to outline in a rather popular way I could also present quite scientifically. But we only need an explanation, and this can be conveyed in popular terms. When we observe the outside world and inwardly transform what we experience there as whole men, so that it can later reappear as memory, the spiritual result of our external observation actually falls on something like a mirror within us. This is a simile, but at the same time it is more than a simile. Impressions from outside cannot be allowed to stimulate us so much that we carry them down into our deepest self. It must be possible for outside stimuli to be reflected. Our organism, our human essence must behave like a reflecting device. Ought we, then, to break through this reflecting device in order to reach what lies behind the mirror?
That is what the mystic is trying to do, without knowing it. But we need our reliable, well-ordered memory. If there are any gaps in it, as far back into our childhood as we can remember, we shall fall victim to pathological mental states. Man must be so constituted that he retains the experiences that come from outside. He cannot therefore be so constituted that he can penetrate directly into his deepest self. If we make the mystic's attempt to penetrate into our innermost self with ordinary consciousness, we shall only reach the reflecting device. And it is right, from the point of view of our humanity, that we should there come up against the concepts we have absorbed from outside. Here again, we must look at the whole man, as he needs to be if he is to possess a memory, in order to see that mysticism is impossible for ordinary consciousness.
There are thus two limits to ordinary consciousness: a limit of natural knowledge, in relation to the outside, physical and sensuous world; and a limit in relation to mystical endeavours. And it is just from a clear insight into these two limits that there can in turn arise that other endeavour I have described here as befitting a modern search for the spiritual world. I mean the endeavour to draw from the soul dormant powers of cognition, so that by attaining a different form of consciousness we can see into the spiritual world.
With the kinds of knowledge I have been speaking of in the last few days, we can look at man as a creature capable of love and as a creature capable of memory. When we do so, we shall recognize that ordinary consciousness (operating through the senses, the intellect and the logical faculty) must call a halt in face of the outside world: for it is only by treating itself as a mere instrument for systematizing the outside world that it can become capable of developing further and creating that vitalized thinking of which I have spoken in previous lectures.
When we examine our own reaction to nature by means of this vitalized thinking, we find that, at the very moment when we have developed our logical faculty to the point where it provides a means of systematizing external phenomena, our ordinary consciousness is extinguished in the act of cognition. However clear our consciousness is up to a certain point in a given process of knowing nature, at this point it really goes over in part into a state of sleep, into the subconscious. Why is this? It is because at this point there must come into operation the faculty that diffuses something more than abstract thinking into the world around us: one that carries our being out into it.
For inasmuch as we love, our relationship to the world around us is not one of cognition but one of reality, a real relationship of being. Only by developing vital thinking are we able to carry over our experience into the reality of things. We pour out our vitalized thoughts; follow up the beginnings of spiritual life that exist outside (in the shape of spiritual world-rhythm and appearance); and, by cultivating empty consciousness as I have described, advance further and further into the spiritual world, which is linked with the physical and sensuous one. Compared with ordinary consciousness, we feel, in a super-sensible act of cognition of this kind, as if we have been awakened from sleep. We eavesdrop on our being as it becomes a living thing.
Here is something that can make a more shattering impression on the seeker after spiritual experience than anything he can obtain by repeating the experience of the profoundest mystic.
More moving than the latter's absorption in his inner self is the moment of realizing that, at a certain instant of higher cognition, man must pour out his own self as being into the outside world, and that the act of cognition transforms mere knowledge into real life, into a real symbiosis with the outside world.
At first, however, this is linked with an appreciable intensification of the sense of self. What happens is something like this: in ordinary cognition of the outside world, our ego goes as far as the frontiers of nature. Here, the ego is repulsed. We feel surrounded on all sides by psychic walls, so to speak. This in turn has repercussions on the sense of self. The sense of self has its own strength, and it gets the right temper precisely through the fact that, along with this feeling of something like confinement, there is intermingled that self-surrender to the world and its creatures that comes of love. In super-sensible cognition, the self is made even stronger, and there is, we may say, a danger that it will transform the love that rightfully exists on earth into a selfish submersion in things, that it will effusively thrust and insinuate itself into things. By so doing, the self will expand.
That is why, in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, I attach so much weight to the preparatory exercises. These exercises are aimed at self-discipline in relation to the sense of self, and at helping us to develop the necessary capacity for love in ordinary life and ordinary consciousness, before attempting to move into the super-sensible world by means of higher knowledge. We must be mentally, physically and spiritually healthy in this respect, before we can enter the spiritual world in a way that is healthy. If we are, then no one will be able to raise the more or less philistine objection that there is something uncomfortable about listening in to our own capacity for love. To do so makes a shattering impression, it is true. We see ourselves as never before in ordinary consciousness. What we attain in higher cognition, however, does not incorporate itself into the memory — if it did, we should be capable of marching through life fondly contemplating our own capacity for love, which would make us inadequate as people. And, remembering this, you will know what to make of these demands on super-sensible knowledge.
So much for the relation of super-sensible knowledge to the capacity for love, from an intellectual standpoint. But what do we experience as a result of it?
It is clear from what I have said already that we effuse our intensified self into our surroundings. In this way the self moves forward to the spiritual sphere, and we now come up against the curious fact that, by making ourselves increasingly able to enter into the outside world, we actually arrive at knowledge of our psychic and our spiritual self.
Goethe's instinct in rejecting the knowledge of self that results from brooding introspection was, I would say, a healthy one. He had hard things to say about this kind of mystical self-knowledge. Man can attain true self-knowledge only if, by strengthening his otherwise dormant powers of knowledge, he attains the capacity to explore with his self the outside world. It is in the world outside that man finds his real knowledge of self! We must learn to reach a true knowledge of the world, in the modern sense, by turning many familiar concepts almost back to front. And so it is with the concept of self-knowledge: look out at the world, travel further and further into the distance; in strengthening, by the development of cognitive powers, your capacity to explore these distances, you will find your real self. We can therefore say: the cosmos allows us to penetrate it to gain super-sensible knowledge; and what it gives back to us as a result of this penetration is precisely our knowledge of self.
Let us look at this other aspect of experience, which is sometimes sought by a false mystical path. I have shown how the human will can be developed, and how it is possible to develop dormant powers. The will can be developed to such an extent that the whole man becomes a kind of sense-organ, or rather spirit-organ — becomes, that is, as transparent in soul and spirit as the human eye is transparent. We need only recall how selfless (in a material sense) the human eye must be to act as the organ of sight. If the eye were to fill with self-assertive material, our field of vision would at once grow dim. Our entire human nature must come to be like this, on the spiritual plane. Our entire being, soul and spirit, must become transparent. With what is vital in our will, we can then enter the spiritual world even during our earthly existence. There now supervenes, however, what I already hinted at yesterday: by seeing the spiritual world, we are enabled to comprehend our inner self. And, as I explained yesterday, when as physical and sensuous beings we confront the outside world, we enter into its sensuous and physical phenomena with our entire being, and carry away with us psychic memory-images. Indeed, our soul is made up of these images. We can say therefore: what is physical and sensuous without is seen as semblance within. Conversely, I would say: in attaining the capacity to look out, through the spirit-organ that is our self, into the outside world as a spiritual one, with spiritual entities and events, we perceive our own inner physical body. We learn to know the substance of our lungs, heart and other organs. The spirituality of the outside world is reflected by the physical nature within us, just as the physical outside world is reflected by our spiritual, abstract nature.
But the way thus opened up to us of learning to know ourselves by contemplating the outside world, turns out to be a very concrete one. We come to know the place of the individual organs in man's total substance. Gradually, we learn to perceive the harmony between the individual processes in these organs.
The first discovery we make is as follows: what the mystic is angling for in his clouded waters turn out, ultimately, to be transformed memories; but they often contain an admixture of something produced by an organic activity. He doesn't know this, of course. He believes that he is piercing the internal mirror that underlies memory. He is not piercing it. The processes of our organic being beat like waves upon the other side of the mirror. The mystic is not aware of what is really going on: he is only aware of a change in the memories that are reflected. Without becoming guilty of philistinism in the process, we are forced to reduce much that is beautiful, poetic, mystical, to prose and say: much that this or that mystic has drawn up from his soul in this way is not the expression of spiritual existence, but only a consequence of the surge of inner organic processes. Wonderful mystical accounts of ancient and recent times — from which those who take pleasure in such things can gain an extraordinarily poetic impression — are in the last analysis, for anyone who can see things objectively, no more than the expression of inner processes in human nature itself. It seems philistine to have to say: something mystical makes its appearance; it strikes us as poetic, and yet to anyone who understands, it represents the impact of certain vital processes on the memories. For the serious seeker after knowledge, it does not become entirely valueless on that account. For the truth in anything that is said does not reside in the way in which it is presented, which may be agreeable to limited minds, but rather in the fact that a genuine attempt is being made to get nearer to the root of the matter.
The nebulous mystic remains caught in ordinary consciousness. The man who goes beyond this and, after first ensuring his psychic health by means of preparatory exercises that emphasize the formation of a healthy memory, pierces this mirror of memory and really looks into himself, will see there the effects of wide-ranging processes, originating in the spiritual outside world and continuing still in the spiritual world. In this way we come to know man, and to say to ourselves: what the abstract idealist may regard as something base in man, because he is looking at it only physiologically or anatomically, from the outside — man's inner organism — is a wonderful consequence of the entire cosmos.
And when we really come to know this inner organism, this is what we discover: when we look into our spiritual self and go back in memory over much that we have experienced in life, we can then, from what we revive within us at a congenial hour, conjure up these experiences before our mind's eye, if only as shades. From the image-content our soul has absorbed from the outside world, we can once again conjure up this world before our soul in a way that satisfies us. If we also learn to know our comprehensive inner organism, and learn how its individual parts are spiritually derived from the cosmos, our entire being, as we now perceive it, will present itself as a record of cosmic memories. We look into ourselves, not now with the eye of the nebulous mystic, but with an awakened “mind's eye,” and can perceive the nature of our lungs, our heart, the whole of the rest of our organism, looked at spiritually, inwardly. All this presents itself to us as memory of the world, recorded in man just as our memory of the life between birth and the present is recorded in the soul. There now appears in us what we can call knowledge of man as a memory of the world, a replica of the world's development and of the course of the cosmos.
The first thing to do is to familiarize yourselves with the detailed exercises that must be undertaken before man arrives at such a knowledge of self — not the brooding self-knowledge of ordinary introspection, as it is called, but the self-knowledge that sees in each of our internal organs something like a combination of spiritual elements resulting from certain spiritual processes in the cosmos. Once they have understood this aspect of man, people will no longer accuse us of transposing what is in our soul anthropomorphically into the world, in order to explain the world in a spiritual way. Instead, they will say: We first attempt, cautiously and seriously, to penetrate inside man, and there will then be revealed to us the cosmos, just as when we look at memories the sum of personal experience reveals itself.
Such things may appear paradoxical to present-day consciousness, and yet this consciousness is on the way to apprehending them. There is a longing to follow up certain trends of thought that are already there. When men do so — a certain amount of practice is, of course, required — the thoughts that lie along these lines will develop more and more into vitalized thoughts. And when, in addition to this, the will has been developed, men will enter increasingly upon this kind of self-knowledge and see that, whilst on the one hand the continual advance of the self into the outside world leads to knowledge of self, penetration into the depths of man's nature leads outward from man to knowledge of the world.
To cultivate a disinterested approach to these matters, it is necessary to look at the nature of man in a way that is different from that usually adopted today. People today dissect man's bone system, muscle system and nervous system, and take the results as a definition of his physical being. They can then envisage man as if he were a creature of solid material constituents. Yet everyone today knows that, essentially, man is not made up of solid constituents: for the most part — some ninety per cent, in fact — he is a column of water. Everyone today knows that the air I have just breathed in was previously outside in the world, and that the air I now have functioning within me will later be outside once more and belong to the world. And finally, everyone can comprehend that the human organism has a continuous exchange of heat. When we look at man in this way, we gradually escape from our illusion of his solidity. We recognize it as an illusion, and yet we cling to it in our soul, as if believing that man resembled the rough sketch anatomy gives of him. With equal justification, we shall come to regard the liquid in man as part of his being — what vibrates, surges and creates in man the liquid being. We shall come to perceive that the air in man is also part of his being. And finally, we may come to comprehend that the air inside us that vibrates, surges, moves up and down, diffuses itself through the currents in our veins and functions within us, is warmed in some places and cooled in others.
The soul-spiritual element that we carry within us today in this more or less abstract form suffers from a marked semblance character, so that we can really only perceive it from within, as we say. Nor can we escape from this perception from within by looking at what physiology and anatomy tell us about man. All the magnificent results that ordinary science has achieved present us with a solid shape of complex structure; yet it is one quite different in kind from what we observe within us when we visualize our thinking, feeling and volition, and we cannot find a bridge from one to the other. We can watch the struggles of psychologists to establish a relationship between what they comprehend in its abstractness and semblance nature — the only way that is open to their inward perception — and what exists outside. The two things are so far apart that we cannot establish a connection between them directly, through ordinary consciousness. But if we proceed without prejudice and fix our eyes, not upon an illusion of the solid man, but upon man as a being of liquid, a being of air and heat, then by a process of empathy with ourselves we shall become aware of the flow of heat and cold in the currents of our respiratory circulation, if we provide a basis on which we can do so.
We can reach such a basis by the path of higher knowledge as I have tried to describe it in the last few days. In learning to apprehend the air that vibrates inside us, we remain more or less within the physical realm; but when we apprehend it and then transfer the vitalized thinking that detects something of reality within, the bridge is established for us. And if we become aware of man down to the details of his temperature variations, and condense the psychic element until, out of its abstractness, it attains to reality, we shall find the bridge.
Condensed in this way, the life of the soul can link itself with rarefied physical experience. When we begin to penetrate ourselves and thereby perceive how vitalized thought moves in our being of air, if I may so express myself, in which there are certain temperature variations, we gradually see how in fact differences of thought can also operate in our human organism. Thus, a sympathetic thought, for example the verdict: “Yes indeed, the tree is green,” does in fact induce a state of heat, whereas a thought in which antipathy is present, a negative judgment for example, has a chilling effect on our air-heat substance.
In this way, we see how the psychic element continues to vibrate and create through finer materiality into denser materiality. We find it possible to direct our path of knowledge into the human organism too in such a way that we start with the psychic and go on into the material.
This in turn makes it possible for us to advance further and further towards what I have just been describing: an inner knowledge of the human organism. For the psyche will not unveil itself to us until we can trace the various levels of materiality — water, air and fire — in the individual organs. We must first condense the psychic element; only then shall we reach man's physical nature and come in turn, by passing through this, to the spiritual basis of our physical organism. Just as, when we sink shafts into ourselves with the aid of memory, we discover the laid-up experiences of our individual existence on earth, so too, in thus descending into the whole man, we shall find the spiritual element that has come down from the spiritual world through conception, foetal development and so on. In clothing itself in us, with what it acquires from the earth, this spiritual element becomes world-memory. We find the cosmos stored up as recollection inside us. And we thus find it possible — exactly as in ordinary consciousness we can remember the individual experience of personal existence — to survey the cosmos through inward contemplation.
You will perhaps ask: Yes, but when we get back to very early states of the earth by means of this world-memory, how can we avoid the danger of a general description of spirit usurping the concrete world-recollection? Once again, we only need to make a comparison with ordinary memory. Because our memory is well ordered, we shall not, in feeling some experience that has taken place ten years before float to the surface, refer it to events that have only just taken place. The content of the memory itself helps us to date it correctly. Similarly, when we understand our organism aright, we find that each of its separate parts points to the relevant moment in the world's development. In the last analysis, what natural science produces theoretically by extending its observations from the present back into earlier ages can only properly be completed by man's self-contemplation, which leads to a real world-recollection, a world-memory. Otherwise, we shall always be condemned to fall into curious errors when we construct hypothetical theories of world-evolution.
What I am about to say may sound trivial, but it will illustrate my point. The so-called Kant-Laplace theory, now of course modified — the theory of how the individual bodies in the solar system split off from a nebula in the universe — is commonly illustrated by taking a drop of oil, making a hole in a circular piece of card, fastening a pin through it, and rotating the drop of oil by means of the pin. Individual droplets separate off and continue to revolve round the main drop. A miniature solar system forms, and from the standpoint of the ordinary scientist one can say: The same thing, on a larger scale, took place out there in space! But something else is also true: anyone demonstrating something like this, to illustrate the origin of our solar system, would have to take all the factors into account; he would thus have to take into account the teacher standing there and rotating the drop of oil. He would have to place an enormous teacher out in space, to rotate the cloud. This point, however, has been forgotten in the experiment I have described. Elsewhere in life, it is a very fine thing to forget the self; but in an experiment, in illustrating important and serious problems, one must not forget such things. Well, the philosophy of life I am advocating does not forget them. It accepts what is justified in natural science, but also adds what can be seen in the spirit. And here, of course, we do not find an enormous individual, but rather a spiritual world, which has to be superimposed on the material development. We thereby permeate the Kant-Laplace primal nebula which, perhaps rightly, has been posited, with the spiritual entities and forces operative in it. And we permeate what will become of the earth in the so-called heat-death, of which present-day science speaks, with spiritual entities and forces. After the heat-death, these will then carry the spiritual element out into other worlds, just as the spiritual element in man is carried out into other worlds when the body disintegrates into its earthly elements. In this way we attain something significant for our time.
I have demonstrated, I think, that what is ordinarily apprehended only in abstract cognition — the spiritual element, which cannot be reconciled with the material — is infinitely far removed mentally from matter. What has followed from this for our entire cultural life? Because in ordinary consciousness we are unable to reconcile the spiritual and the material, we have a purely material view of the world's history: we form concepts of a purely physical process, with a beginning conceived in purely physical terms, in accordance with the laws of mechanics, and an end conceived, in accordance with thermodynamics, as the heat-death of the earth. At the same time, we are aware of ourselves as men, standing inside this process and evolving from it in a way that is certainly unintelligible to present-day science. If we are honest, however, we have to admit that we can never connect up our mental experience with what goes on outside in the material sphere. And at this deepest level of the soul, interwoven with our thinking, feeling and volition, are moral impulses and religious forces. They live within us, in the spiritual element we cannot reconcile with the material.
And so, perhaps, the man of today, with his consciousness, may conclude: natural science leads us only to a material process; this alone makes up exact science; for moral impulses and religious forces, we require concepts of faith!
This view, however, is incompatible with a serious life of the soul. And in their unconscious minds, serious people today feel (though they may not admit) that the earth has evolved from the purely material. From this emerges a kind of bubble. There arise cloud-formations, and indeed shapes thinner even than clouds, mere illusions. In these exist the greatest value we can absorb as men, all our cultural values. We go on living for a while, and one day there supervenes the earth's entry into its heat-death, which can be foretold on external scientific evidence. At this point, it is as if all life on earth is buried in an enormous graveyard. The most valuable things that have arisen from our human life, our finest and noblest ideals, are buried alongside what was the material substance of the earth. You can say that you don't believe it. But anyone who reacts honestly to what is often thought about these things today by people who reject independent spiritual research, could not avoid the inner dissonance and pessimism that arise in face of the question: What is to become of our spiritual activity if we regard the world in a purely material sense, as we are accustomed to do in exact science as it is called? This is the origin of the wide gulf that yawns in our time between religious and moral life and the natural approach to things.
It seems to me that, in these circumstances, a genuine seership, an exact vision is called for, one suited to modern man, to establish a bridge between spiritual and material, by providing a basis of reality for the spiritual and taking from the material its coarseness as I would call it.
That is above all what we bring before us when we look at things as we have done today. We have seen the spiritual in man himself gradually passing over into his heat and air variations. By descending into the coarser material sphere and seeing how the finer element flows into vitalized thinking, we shall we able to think our way into the cosmos and understand correctly something like the heat-death of the earth — because we know how our own human heat in its differentiation is permeated by vitalized thinking. And from the standpoint of the world-memory that appears in ourselves, we can look at what is spiritually active in the material processes of the world. In this way we arrive at a real reconciliation between what presents itself to us spiritually and what presents itself to us materially.
There is, it is true, much in people's hearts today that still militates against such a reconciliation. For in recent centuries we have grown accustomed to count truths as exact only where they rest upon a solid basis of sensory observation, in which we surrender passively to the outside world. What has been observed on this kind of solid basis is then built up into natural laws and natural theories; and theories are accepted as valid only when they rest upon this solid basis of sensory observation.
Those who think like this are people who will only admit ordinary gravity to operate in space, and who say: “The earth has its gravity, and bodies must fall towards the earth and have a support, because they cannot float about freely in space.” This is true, so long as we are standing on the earth and considering the earth's gravity in relation to its immediate surroundings. But if we look out into space, we know that we cannot say: “The heavenly bodies must be supported,” but must say: “They support one another.” We need to attain this attitude, in a form appropriate to the spirit, for our inner universe of knowledge.
We must be capable of developing truths that specifically do not require the support of sensory perception, but support one another as do the heavenly bodies in space. This is, in fact, a precondition for the attainment of a real cosmology, one that is not made up simply of material processes, but in which the material is shot through with soul and spirit. And such a cosmology is needed by modern man. We shall see how he needs it even for his immediate social tasks. But not until we perceive how the really significant truths support one another shall we understand how we can win through to a cosmology of this kind.
Such a cosmology results when we accept as valid the way in which true self-knowledge is attained. We do not attain it anthropomorphically, by going out into the universe with our own experience of self. By entering the outside world, we discover more and more about our ego and so achieve knowledge of self. And when we then go down into it, our inner self becomes world-memory and we learn world-knowledge. Many people already sense the nature of the secret pertaining to knowledge of the world. I should like to express in two sentences what they divine. Self-knowledge and world-knowledge must be truths that mutually support each other. And of this nature, moving to and fro in a pendulum motion, are the truths that are attained by the philosophy of the world and of life I am here describing: as self-knowledge and as world-knowledge. The two sentences in which I should like to sum this up are the following:
If you would know yourself, seek yourself in the universe; if you would know the world, penetrate your own depths. Your own depths will reveal to you, as in a world-memory, the secrets of the cosmos.