"Souls receptive to spirit perceive and treat other souls they encounter in life as equals in a great mystery." — Rudolf Steiner
Sunday, March 31, 2019
“The human being is the marriage hymn of the world.”
— Pico Della Mirandola
"Souls receptive to spirit perceive and treat other souls they encounter in life as equals in a great mystery." — Rudolf Steiner
"Souls receptive to spirit perceive and treat other souls they encounter in life as equals in a great mystery." — Rudolf Steiner
Washed in the Blood of the Lamb are We
Awash in a Sonburst Sea
You—Love—and I—Love—and Love Divine:
We are the Trinity
You—Love—and I—We are One-Two-Three
Two—Yes—and One—Yes—and also Three:
One Dual Trinity
"West-East Aphorisms" by Rudolf Steiner
We lose the human being from our field of vision if we do not fix the eye of the soul upon his entire nature in all its life-manifestations. We should not speak of man's knowledge, but of the complete man manifesting himself in the act of cognition. In cognition, man uses as an instrument his sense-nerve nature. For feeling, he is served by the rhythm living in the breath and the circulation of the blood. When he wills, metabolism becomes the physical basis of his existence. But rhythm courses into the physical occurrence within the sense-nerve nature, and metabolism is the material bearer of the life of thought; even in the most abstract thinking, feeling lives and the waves of will pulsate.
The ancient Oriental entered into his dreamlike thinking more from the rhythmic life of feeling than does the man of the present age. The Oriental experienced for this reason more of the rhythmic weaving in his life of thought, while the Westerner experiences more of the logical indications. In ascending to supersensible vision, the Oriental yogi interwove conscious breath with conscious thinking; in this way, he laid hold in his breath upon the continuing rhythm of cosmic occurrence. As he breathed, he experienced the world as Self. Upon the rhythmic waves of conscious breath, thought moved through the entire being of man. He experienced how the Divine-Spiritual causes the spirit-filled breath to stream continuously into man, and how man thus becomes a living soul. The man of the present age must seek his supersensible knowledge in a different way. He cannot unite his thinking with the breath. Through meditation, he must lift his thinking out of the life of logic to vision. In vision, however, thought weaves in a spirit element of music and picture. It is released from the breath and woven together with the spiritual in the world. The Self is now experienced not in connection with the breath in the single human being, but in the environing world of spirit. The Eastern man once experienced the world in himself, and in his spiritual life today he has the echo of this. The Western man stands at the beginning of his experience, and is on the way to find himself in the world. If the Western man should wish to become a yogi, he would have to become a refined egoist, for Nature has already given him the feeling of the Self. which the Oriental had only in a dreamlike way. If the yogi had sought for himself in the world as the Western man must do, he would have led his dreamlike thinking into unconscious sleep, and would have been psychically drowned.
The Eastern man had the spiritual experience as religion, art, and science in complete unity. He made sacrifices to his spiritual-divine beings. As a gift of grace, there flowed to him from them that which lifted him to the state of a true human being. This was religion. But in the sacrificial ceremony and the sacrificial place there was manifest to him also beauty, through which the Divine-Spiritual lived in art. And out of the beautiful manifestations of the Spirit there flowed science.
Toward the West streamed the waves of wisdom that were the beautiful light of the spirit and inspired piety in the artistically inspired man. There religion developed its own being, and only beauty still continued united with wisdom. Heracleitos and Anaxagoras were men wise in the world who thought artistically; Aeschylos and Sophocles were artists who moulded the wisdom of the world. Later, wisdom was given over to thinking; it became knowledge. Art was transferred to its own world. Religion, the source of all, became the heritage of the East; art became the monument of the time when the middle region of the earth held sway; knowledge became the independent mistress of its own field in man's soul. Thus did the spiritual life of the West come to existence. A complete human being like Goethe discovered the world of spirit immersed in knowledge. But he longed to see the truth of knowledge in the beauty of art. This drove him to the south. Whoever follows him in the spirit may find a religiously intimate knowledge striving in beauty toward artistic revelation. If the Western man beholds in his cold knowledge the spiritual-divine streaming forth below him and glancing with beauty, and if the Eastern man senses in his religion of wisdom — warm with feeling and speaking of the beauty of the cosmos, the knowledge that makes man free, transforming itself in man into the power of will — then will the Eastern man in his feeling intuition no longer accuse the thinking Western man of being soulless, and the thinking Western man will no longer condemn the intuitively feeling Eastern man as an alien to the world. Religion can be deepened by knowledge filled with the life of art. Art can be made alive through knowledge born out of religion. Knowledge can be illuminated by religion upheld by art.
The Eastern man spoke of the sense-world as an appearance in which there lived a lesser manifestation of what he experienced as spirit in utter reality within his own soul. The Western man speaks of the world of ideas as an appearance where there lives in shadowy form what he experiences as Nature in utter reality through his senses. What was the maya of the senses to the Eastern man is self-sufficing reality to the Western man. What to the Western man is ideology constructed by the mind was self-creating reality to the Eastern man. If the Eastern man finds today in his reality of spirit the power to give the strength of existence to maya, and if the Western man discovers life in his reality of Nature, so that he shall see the Spirit at work in his ideology, then will understanding come about between East and West.
In hoary antiquity the humanity of the Orient experienced in knowledge a lofty spirituality. This spirituality, laid hold upon in thought, pulsated through the feeling; it streamed out into the will. The thought was not yet the percept which reproduces objects. It was real being which bore into the inner nature of man the life of the spiritual world. The man of the East lives today in the echoes of this lofty spirituality. The eye of his cognition was once not directed toward Nature. He looked through Nature at the spirit. When the adaptation to Nature began, man did not at once see Nature; he saw the spirit by the way of Nature; he saw ghosts. The last residues of a lofty spirituality became, on the way from East to West, the superstitious belief in ghosts. To the Western man, a knowledge of Nature was given as Copernicus and Galileo arose for him. He had to look into his own inner nature in order to seek for the spirit. There the spirit was still concealed from him, and he beheld only appetites and instincts. But these are material ghosts, taking their place before the eyes of the soul because this is not yet inwardly adapted to the spirit. When the adaptation to the spirit begins, the inner ghosts will vanish, and man will took upon the spirit through his own inner nature, as the ancient man of the East looked upon the spirit through Nature. Through the world of the inner ghosts the West will reach the spirit. The Western ghost superstition is the beginning of the knowledge of spirit. What the East bequeathed to the West as a superstitious belief in ghosts is the end of the knowledge of spirit. Men should find their way past the ghosts into the spirit — and thus will a bridge be built between East and West.
The man of the East feels “I” and sees “World”; the I is the moon which reflects the world. The man of the West thinks the “World” and radiates into the world of his own thought “I”. The I is a sun which irradiates the world of pictures. If the Eastern man comes to feel the rays of the sun in the shimmer of his moon of wisdom, and the Western man experiences the shimmer of moon-wisdom in the rays of his sun of will, then shall the will of the West release the will of the East.
The ancient Oriental felt himself to be in a social order willed by the Spirit. The commandments of the spiritual Power, brought to his consciousness by his Leader, gave him the conception as to how he should integrate himself with this order. These leaders derived such conceptions out of their vision in the supersensible world. Those who were led felt that in such conceptions lay the main directions transmitted to them for their spiritual, political, and economic life. Views regarding man's relationship to the spiritual, the relationship between man and man, the handling of the economic affairs were derived for them from the same sources, commandments willed by the spirit. The spiritual life, the social-political order, the handling of the economic affairs were experienced as a unity. The farther culture progressed toward the West, the more relationship of rights between man and man and the handling of economic affairs were separated from the spiritual life in human consciousness. The spiritual life became more independent. The other members of the social order still continued to constitute a unity. But, with the further penetration of the West, they also became separated. By the side of the element of rights and the state, which for a time controlled everything economic, there took form an independent economic thinking. The Western man is still living amid the processes of this last separation. At the same time, there arises for him the task to mold into a higher unity the separated members of the social life — the life of the spirit, the control of rights and of the state, the handling of economic affairs. If he achieves this, the man of the East will look upon this creation with understanding, for he will again discover what he once lost: the unity of human experience.
Among the partial currents whose interaction and reciprocal conflict compose human history, there is included the conquest or labor by man's consciousness. In the ancient Orient, man labored in accordance with an order imposed upon him by the will of the Spirit; he was either a master or a worker. With the migration of the life of culture toward the West, there came into human consciousness the relationship between man and man. Into this was woven the labor which one performs for others. Into the concepts of rights there penetrated the concept of the value of work. A great part of Roman history represents this growing together of the concepts of rights and of work. With the further penetration of culture into the West, economic life took on more and more complicated forms. It drew labor into itself when the structure of rights which this had hitherto taken on was not yet adequate for the demands of the new forms. Disharmony arose between the conceptions of work and of rights. The re-establishment of harmony between the two is the great social problem of the West. How labor can discover its form within the entity of rights, and not be torn out of this entity in the handling of economic affairs, constitutes the problem. If the West begins to advance toward this solution, through insight and in social peace, the East will meet this with understanding. But if this problem generates in the West a stand in thinking which manifests itself in social turmoil, the East will not be able to acquire confidence in the further evolution of humanity through the West.
The unity between the spiritual life, human rights, and the handling of economic affairs, in accordance with an order willed by the Spirit, can survive only so long as the tilling of the soil is predominant in economics, while trade and industry are subordinate to agricultural economics. It is for this reason that the social thinking of the ancient Orient, willed by the Spirit, bears with reference to the handling of economic affairs a character adapted to agricultural economics. With the course of civilization toward the West, trade first becomes an independent element in economics. It demands the determination of rights. It must be possible to carry on business with everyone. With reference to this, there are only abstract standards of rights. As civilization advanced still farther toward the West, production in industry became an independent element in the handling of economic affairs. It is possible to produce useful goods only when the producer and those persons with whom he must work in this production live in a relationship which corresponds with human capacities and needs. The unfolding of the industrial element demands out of the economic life associative unions so molded that men know their needs to be satisfied in these so far as the natural conditions make this possible. To discover the right associative life is the task of the West. If it proves to be capable of this task, the East will say: “Our life once flowed into brotherhood. In the course of time, this disappeared; the advance of humanity took it away from us. The West causes it to blossom again out of the associative economic life. It restores the vanished confidence in true humanness.”
When the ancient man composed a poem, he felt that spiritual Power spoke through him. In Greece the poet let the Muse speak through him to his fellowmen. This consciousness was a heritage of the ancient Orient. With the passage of the spiritual life toward the West, poetry became more and more the manifestation of man himself. In the ancient Orient, the spiritual Powers sang through man to men. The cosmic word resounded from the gods down to man. In the West, it has become the human word. It must find the way upward to the spiritual Powers. Man must learn to create poetry in such a way that the Spirit may listen to him. The West must mould a language suited to the Spirit. Then will the East say: “The divine Word, which once streamed for us from heaven to earth, finds its way back from the hearts of men into the spiritual world. In the human word mounting upward we behold with understanding the cosmic Word whose descent our consciousness once experienced.”
The man of the East has no understanding for “proof.” He experiences in vision the content of his truths, and knows them in this way. And what man knows he does not prove. The man of the West demands everywhere “proofs.” Everywhere he strives to reach the content of his truths out of the external reflection by means of thought, and interprets them in this way. But what is interpreted must be “proven.” If the man of the West releases from his proof the life of truth, the man of the East will understand him. If, at the end of the Western man's struggle for proof, the Eastern man discovers his unproven dreams of truth in a true awakening, the man of the West will then have to greet him as a fellow-worker who can accomplish what he himself cannot accomplish in work for the progress of humanity.
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Friday, March 29, 2019
Rudolf Steiner: "Some people are destined by karma to announce prophetically what all of humanity will gradually, bit by bit, accept as the meaning of an epoch."
Rudolf Steiner: "Whoever does not believe in all humility that his wisdom is the sum of all wisdom – that his judgement represents the highest judgement – will soon be able to observe that there are people apart from himself who have more wisdom and judgement [than himself], and he will listen to these beings and allow himself to be instructed by them. He will, when he gains some insight, become aware that he still has a path to follow that others have gone long before him. The more understanding a person obtains, the humbler he becomes. The clearer the realization how much he still has to learn, the more he will be inclined to find those he can still learn from. Anyone who thinks that he has nothing to learn from others only proves thereby that he or she has still not advanced very far. The more advanced a person is, the more he comes to recognize that human beings are on different levels of development and that there have always been those who were more advanced than their brethren – the spiritual leaders of humanity who are more advanced in their development, the highly developed, the most advanced individualities of humankind."
This is what reading Rudolf Steiner is like
|Rudolf Steiner: The Wokest of the Woke|
The Gospel of Thomas, Saying 8:
And he said, "The one is like a wise fisher who cast his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of small fish. Among them the wise fisher discovered a fine large fish. He threw all the small fish back into the sea, and with no hesitation picked the great good fish. Whoever has ears, listen!"
* * * * *
Here's a thought experiment: If you could send a message to your 12-year-old self, and you were limited to 2 words, what would your message be?
For me the answer's easy: "Rudolf Steiner"
Steiner! Steiner! and more Steiner! always more Steiner!
Anthroposophy is the elixir of life!
"Dr. Steiner's Mind-Blowing Awesome Sauce! Too Much Ain't Enuff!"
The name of him whom Providence has chosen
That wondrous things on Earth he should achieve,
Whom I may often praise, though ne'er sufficing,
Whose destiny we scarcely can believe,
His name — it is Humanus, Saint and wise one,
The best of men whom I did e'er perceive:
--from "The Mysteries" by Goethe
Rudolf Steiner, Stuttgart, December 28, 1919:
From the views which have been presented here for some time, and more particularly from the considerations which have come before us these last few days, we see how essential it is for the further cultural evolution of mankind that what we may call the knowledge of Initiation should stream into it. We must say, absolutely without reserve: The deliverance of mankind from a downward evolutionary course depends entirely upon its turning to a revelation which can only come through Spiritual knowledge.
Although it might be said, with a certain amount of feeling or logic, that it would be difficult in our time for wider circles of people to accept such knowledge, which at first can only be given out by few who have reached the height of being able to see into the Spiritual World, all such objections, even when apparently justified, will not contradict the clamorous fact that without accepting that which is here called Anthroposophical Spiritual Science, civilization must sink into the abyss. The work of the Heavenly Powers upon the earth must cease if their further cosmic evolution is not united with mankind. The healing of mankind can only be brought about if a sufficiently large number of people permeate themselves with what we are trying to say here. For only he who will not, who absolutely will not look into what has happened in the whole world as the result of the last catastrophic years, only he can close his eyes to the fact that we are at the beginning of a process of destruction, and that nothing can bring us out of this process of destruction except something new. For what we seek within the destructive force itself can never be anything but a force of destruction. A power for building afresh can only be obtained from a source not belonging to earthly evolution up to the present time.
Now the results of the inflow from such sources are fraught with most significant difficulties. You have often been told that the Science of Initiation cannot be given to mankind haphazard, without preparation, because a certain receptivity is necessary. You have heard this continually; but it is exactly against this attitude of mind that man continually transgresses. Let us take a simple example. One of the first, most primitive demands relative to the acceptance of the Science of Initiation, is that every one should seek to strip off what we call Ambition, particularly when it expresses itself as a judging of others by one's self. Now, it is easy to see that this is exactly what takes place in the Anthroposophical Society. What would be the use of keeping silence about such matters? It is readily admitted that such is the case, but nevertheless the most fatal things in this direction exist within the Anthroposophical Movement, and mutual envy is on the increase. I shall merely indicate this aspect. Today I must speak of other great difficulties in the entrance of the Science of Initiation into our earthly civilization.
In the first place, that which belongs to the Mystery of the Will of Man must be pointed out to humanity in a comprehensive way. This Mystery of Man's Will has been veiled from modern culture especially since the middle of the fifteenth century, since the rise of the fifth post-Atlantean age. The modern theory of the universe knows the very least possible of the Will. We have often characterized this. A man when awake never experiences consciously the real nature of his Will. When awake he experiences consciously the nature of his Conceptions, when in a dreaming state he experiences the nature of his Feelings, but he is sleeping, even when he is awake, partially, with reference to his Will. We go through the world as so-called waking beings, but are only awake with regard to conceptions and ideas, we are only half awake in our life of feeling, and completely asleep in our Will. Let us not delude ourselves about this matter. We have ideas about what we will, but only when the Will becomes idea, when the Will is reflected by the intellect, can we experience it in our waking consciousness. What goes on in the depths of man's being, even if he only raises his hand, which means bringing his Will into operation, of this the ordinary man knows absolutely nothing. This means that the Mystery of Will is to the modern man entirely unknown, and with this is to be connected the fact that our entire modern civilization — especially that which has come about since the fifteenth century — is absolutely intellectual, a culture of the understanding; for the culture of Natural Science is an intellectual culture. The Will plays the least possible part in everything that we grasp with our intellect, our understanding. When we think, when we form ideas, the Will of course plays a certain part in the formation of the ideas, but only in a very fine state. Man does not notice how the Will pulsates in his perceptions and how in other ways the Will is working within him.
For man in this new age the Mystery of the Will is completely veiled by our exclusively intellectual culture. Only when we seek, through those means given by Spiritual Science of which I have often spoken to you, to investigate the Will, that is, when we try with the help of Imagination and inspiration to make those forces active which enable man to see into the workings, the machinery which is set going by Man's Will, then we notice that in our physical life between birth and death, the Will as a living entity is not bound up with constructive processes but only with destructive processes. I have often explained this. If constructive processes alone took place in our brain, if for instance, only that took place which results from the action of the life-forces upon our food, we should be unable to evolve a soul- and spirit-life by means of the apparatus of the nerves and the brain; only on account of the destructive process which is continually going on in our brain do the soul and spirit take root in what is being destroyed. It is just here that the Will works. Man's Will is essentially something which during our physical life works to a certain extent for the death of man. With reference to our head organization, we are continually dying; in every moment we die. We only live because the rest of our organization works against this continual dying in our heads, for which our Will is mainly responsible. Independently of us, there is continually taking place in our head, that which takes place objectively in the outer world when we pass through physical death.
Our corpse, in so far as we are human individuals and enter the world of soul and spirit through the gate of death, ceases to be a matter of importance to us, but it is of great importance to the Cosmos. This corpse in some way or other, it does not matter whether by cremation or burial, is given over to the elements of the Earth; there, in its own way it carries on what our human Will does partially to our nervous system, to our sense-organization in our life between birth and death. We have perception and thought because our Will destroys something in us. We give our corpse over to the Earth, and by the help of the disintegrating corpse, which only continues the same process which we partially carry on in life, the whole Earth thinks and has perception. I characterized this from another point of view a few months ago. That which continually takes place in the Earth through the interchange between the primal earth-substances, through the union (of these substances) with the dead human bodies, is an activity in all respects comparable with the activity of the Will which between birth and death is practised by us continually, unconsciously, while the working, the destroying like a corpse, goes on in our nerve and sense system. Between birth and death the Will, because it is united with our Ego, works through the destructive forces within the bounds of our skin. This same Will works cosmically through our corpse, in the thinking and forming of ideas by the whole Earth, after our death, when we have given our corpse over to the Earth. Thus, we are cosmically united with what we may call the Soul-spiritual process of the whole Earth existence. This conception is a very difficult one, for it places man concretely into that which is Cosmic in our Earth existence. It shows the relationship of man's Will to the manner of working of the universal Cosmic Will within the Earth existence, in the destruction, in the bringing about of death conditions.
But just as our further evolution in the Spiritual World after we have passed through the gates of death, is dependent upon our having left the corpse behind, upon the fact that we no longer work with these forces, but with others, so the healthy further evolution of the whole Earth depends on whether humanity on this Earth unites itself not now with forces of death, but with forces of life, forces which evolve in another direction than do the forces of death. To speak of this today when men are filled with personal ideas and feelings is indeed something fraught with bitterness, for the seriousness of such a truth is only experienced in the most limited degree. Man is unaccustomed to taking in these great truths with the deep earnestness with which they must be taken. Nevertheless, the further question must be asked: “How is that which lies in the Will of man as I have described it, related to the processes of destruction in outer nature? How is that in man's Will which I have described as its own particular characteristic, connected with these destructive forces in outer nature?” Here is something which stands before the man of today as the greatest illusion. What does the man of the present day really do when he looks at Nature? He says, “Here a natural process is taking place. It has arisen from another process which produced it and this again from another which caused it.” And so man finds a chain of causes and effects in the working of Nature and he is very proud when in this way he can grasp what he calls leading threads of casualty to be found in the outer world.
What is the result? If we ask some geologist, physicist, chemist or any right-thinking scientific investigator, his honest opinion, he will often be reluctant to give you the last consequence of his own World-Conception. But ask him if he does not think that the earth as we know it — stones, plants and many animals, too — would have evolved just in the way it has done, had Man not been present, he will reply: “Certainly. No houses would have been built, no machines, no flying machines would have been made by cows or buffaloes, and so on, but everything else which we can see is not the work of man, would be present from beginning to end just the same as if man had not been there, for a chain of causes and effects is found within external nature.” That which takes place later is the result of that which went before. According to present-day thought man has nothing to do with the formation of the chain. This view contains exactly the same mistake as the following. I write a word on the board. Every letter arises only because I have written it, and not because the previous letter has given birth to the next one. It would be utter nonsense to say: From the preceding letter there arises the following one. A thoroughly unprejudiced investigation of that which is essential in the processes of Nature convinces us of the mistake we make when we give ourselves up to the great illusion of modern science: Effects are the result of their causes. It is not so. We must look elsewhere for the true causes, just as we must seek in our intellect the reason of the letters following each other. Taken in the wide sense where do the primal causes for external happenings in Nature lie? That can only be determined by spiritual perception; these causes lie in Mankind. Do you know where you must look if you wish to gain an insight into the actual primal causes of the course of Nature on the Earth? You must investigate how the human Will, quite unknown to present-day consciousness, is to be found in the centre of gravity in man, that is, in the lower part of his body. Only a part of the Will is active in the human head; the chief part of the Will is centred in the rest of his organism. That which comes into existence in the course of external nature is dependent upon man's relation to his unconscious Will. So far we have only been able to cite one significant example as to the course of Nature, but it serves for the course of Nature as a whole. I have often pointed out that during the Atlantean epoch man gave himself up to a form of black magic. The consequence of this was the Glaciation of the civilized world. In a comprehensive sense, the whole course of Nature really is the result of the activity of Will, not in single individuals, but of the various forces of Will working together in humanity as a whole; forces which arise from — the human centre of gravity. If a being adequately developed, a being, let us say, from Mars or Mercury, wished to study the course of the Earth, i.e., wished to understand how the course of Nature went on there, this being would not describe Nature as one of our learned men would describe it, but looking down upon the world he would say: The Earth is there below me; I see there many points; in these points are centred the forces from which the course of Nature proceeds. But these points would not lie for him in outer Nature, but always within man. He, looking from without, would find that he must look upon the centre of man if he wished to find the cause of what takes place in the course of Nature. This insight into the connection of the human Will with the course of Nature as a whole must become an integral part of the Natural Science of the future, for Mankind. With such a Natural Science man will feel his responsibility in quite a different way from what he does at the present day. Man will rise from being a citizen of the Earth to being a citizen of the Cosmos. He will learn to look upon the Cosmos as a part of himself.
Directly our attention is called to such things, knowledge of them takes possession of us. This knowledge does not work in such a shadowy way as our intellectual knowledge does. It is taken far more from realities, and therefore it works in a much more living way. And because the way in which it works is so much more real than the shadowy knowledge of modern man, it is all the more necessary that man should take seriously what is revealed to him through this knowledge. One cannot be a citizen of the Cosmos on one side in the sense described above, and on the other side remain the old Philistine whom the last few hundred years, i.e., the period since the middle of the fifteenth century, has produced in the man of today. We cannot on the one hand consciously want to take a part in the processes of the Cosmos, and on the other hand wish to gossip with our fellow beings as is done so much in restaurants and clubs in this bourgeois age since the fifteenth century. At the same time another Ethics, another moral impulse must surge through mankind if the Science of Initiation is to enter in real earnest. For all that prepares in the wrong way, for the appearance of Ahriman on our earth, as I have told you, works especially strongly as a force hindering the entrance of the Science of Initiation. I have spoken recently about these facts, in order to give some indication of the spirit which should pervade our Christmas Festival this year. I will now only briefly recapitulate.
Looking back over the evolution of our earth we find, preceding our modern materialistic civilization, the Greco-Latin, which goes back to the eighth pre-Christian century. We see, about two hundred years after the beginning of this Greco-Latin time, something rising up, which we might describe as the old Life of Wisdom of earlier times percolating through the land of Greece. Nietzsche felt this to a remarkable degree, even if pathologically. From the beginning of his spiritual activity he felt himself an opponent of Socrates, and he was never tired of speaking of the greater value of pre-Socratic Greek culture than of the post-Socratic. It is certainly true that with Socrates a great age came in for Mankind, an age which reached its climax in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. But this age of Socrates has now run its course, has rightly come to an end. The Socratic age is that in which pure logic and pure dialectic arose from the earlier instinctive Wisdom. The rising of pure logic, of pure dialectic, out of the ancient clairvoyant Wisdom is the chief characteristic of our Western culture. This logic, this dialectic, has also impressed its stamp upon Christianity, for the theology of the West is a dialectic theology. But what rises in Greece as dialectics, as thought reduced to abstraction, goes back to the Mysteries of the East. Among these Mysteries were those which founded that civilization which later became the Chinese. Within the early Chinese civilization Lucifer was incarnated in human form. We must not conceal the fact from ourselves that Lucifer once lived in a physical body, as Christ during the time of the Mystery of Golgotha walked on earth in a physical body. But it is only a narrow-minded misunderstanding of the Luciferic incarnation if we look upon everything that has come through Lucifer as “Touch-me-not”. From Lucifer, for instance, has arisen the greatness of Greek culture itself, that unique ancient art, the artistic impulse of mankind, as we ourselves still look upon it. But in Europe all this has hardened into mere words, empty of content. It was through Luciferic wisdom that Christianity was first grasped in Europe. The important point is that in the Greek wisdom which developed as Gnosis in order to comprehend the Mystery of Golgotha, the old Luciferic Wisdom had cooperated, had given the old Gnosis its form. The fact that the Mystery of Golgotha had clothed itself in what Lucifer had given to the evolution of the earth, was the greatest victory for Christianity at that time. But when this Luciferic culture, to which, through the incarnation of Lucifer man was given over, was ebbing away, there flowed in gradually, that which was preparing for the coming incarnation of Ahriman in the Western World. When the time is ripe — and it is preparing itself — Ahriman will incarnate in a human body in the Western World. This fact must take place just as the others have taken place — viz. that Lucifer has incarnated and that Christ has incarnated. This fact is predetermined in the evolution of the earth. The all-important fact is simply this: to keep the fact in mind, that we shall rightly prepare ourselves for it, for Ahriman will not begin to work only when he has incarnated in a human body; he is now preparing his appearance from the super-sensible world. He is already working from thence into the evolution of mankind. From that side he is seeking his tools through which he prepares for what must come.
Now, it is essential for the favourable working of that which Ahriman will bring to humanity — he will bring advantageous gifts just as Lucifer did — that man shall take the right attitude. The all-important thing is that man shall not through sleeping miss the coming of Ahriman. When the incarnation of Ahriman takes place in the Western World we shall simply see inscribed in the local Register, the birth of John William Smith (of course, this will not be the name) and people will look upon the child as a citizen in comfortable circumstances like any other, and they will sleep through what has in reality taken place. Our University professors will certainly not trouble whether man sleeps through it or not. For them what has taken place will be merely the birth of J. W. Smith. But in the Ahrimanic age it is all-important that men should knower that they have here to do only externally with J. W. Smith, that inwardly Ahriman is present, and that they must not deceive themselves through sleepy illusion about what has happened. Even now we may not yield to any deception. These things are in preparation. Among the most important means which Ahriman has to work with from the other side, is the furthering of abstract thinking in Man. And because men cling so firmly today to this abstract thinking, they are working in the way most favourable for the coming of Ahriman. You must realize that there is no better way to prepare for the fact that Ahriman is endeavouring cunningly to capture the whole Earth for his evolution, than that man should continue to live an abstract life, steeping himself in abstractions, as he does in the social life of today. This is one of the ruses, one of the clever tricks, by which Ahriman prepares in his own way for his lordship over the earth. Instead of showing men today out of conclusive experience, what has to happen, leaders offer them theories on every subject, including the social question. To those who give out these theories, knowledge gained by means of experience is abstract, because they have no inkling of what real Life is. All this is preparation from the Ahrimanic point of view.
But there is also another form of preparation for Ahriman which can happen through an erroneous view of the Gospels. This, too, is something that must be made known at the present day. You know quite well that today there are very many men, especially among the official representatives of this or that form of religious confession, who are fighting to the uttermost against that new Christ knowledge which is arising among us out of the Science of Initiation. Such men, if they do not swear allegiance to mere Rationalism, accept the Gospels; but what do these men really know of the true nature of the Gospels? These are the men who, during the nineteenth century, have applied to the Gospels the historical-scientific method of the outer world. What has come from the Gospels through the scientific method of last century? Nothing else, except that the conception of the Gospels has gradually become completely materialized. Our attention was first drawn to the contradictions in the four Gospels. Then from the recognition of these contradictions came the slide downwards. Finally, what is the outcome of this Gospel investigation? What else is it but, I might say, lifting the Gospels off their hinges? What does such an investigator as the theologian, Professor Schmiedel of Basle, seek in the Gospels? He seeks to prove that they are not simply products of fantasy brought forward only to glorify Christ Jesus. And so there follow a limited number of now-famous points unfavourable to the Christ. These, he maintains, would have been omitted if the Gospels had only been written for the glorification of Jesus. We are, therefore, left with the feeling that he admits all the objections that are brought against Christ Jesus, so as finally to save for the Gospels a little label of this world's Science. Even this little label will give way. Man will gain nothing from this worldly Science. He will gain nothing as regards the genuineness of the Gospels from the way these people point it out. To have the right relation towards these Gospels we must know why they came into being, that is, we must know their real purpose. This knowledge can only be obtained through an understanding fructified by Spiritual Science.
If we sink ourselves in the Gospels, if we absorb their content and force, then we gain from them a soul-content. No outer historical science will explain the riddle of the Gospels; but we can sink ourselves in the Gospels, and then we receive a soul-content. This soul-content, however, is a great hallucination — certainly a most spiritualized hallucination, the hallucination of the Mystery of Golgotha. The highest that is to be gained from the Gospels is the hallucination of the Mystery of Golgotha, neither more nor less. Now, it is just this secret which is known to the more modern Catholic Church. For this reason the Gospels are not allowed to be studied by the laity, for it is feared that men will discover that they cannot have through the Gospels historical knowledge of the Christ Mystery, but only a hallucination of this Mystery of Golgotha. I might also say, an Imagination; for the hallucination is so spiritualized that it is an actual Imagination. But more than an Imagination is not to be gained from the content of the Gospels in themselves.
What is the path from Imagination to Reality? The path will be opened up through Spiritual Science, not through that which is outside Spiritual Science, but through Spiritual Science alone. That means that the Imagination of the Gospels shall be raised to Reality through Spiritual Science. It is of the most extreme importance to Ahriman so to prepare his incarnation that through Spiritual Science man shall not follow this path of Imagination in the Gospels on to the Reality of the Mystery of Golgotha. Just as it is in the greatest interest of Ahriman that man should keep up the love of abstraction, so it is in his greatest interest that man should cherish more and more a form of piety built upon the mere Gospels. When you think over this, you will realize that a great part of the creeds existing today is the preparatory work of Ahriman for his purposes in this earth existence. In what way could one serve Ahriman better than by resolving to make use of an external power commanding those who believe in, and submit themselves to this power, not to read any anthroposophical literature? No greater service could be done to Ahriman than to make sure that a great number of people do not read anthroposophical literature. I have already mentioned in these lectures who the people are that have resolved upon this course. The only way to present certain facts today is to place them unreservedly in the light of truth. It must be realized today that the progress of the World has a certain relationship to cosmic periods, limited through the Luciferic incarnation, which in time and space, lies before the Mystery of Golgotha. But in the way of this progress the incarnation of Ahriman in the West places itself, so that the forces in opposition are strengthened. The incarnation of Ahriman, in a future not very far distant, can be helped on its way just as well by an obscured worship of the Gospels as by abstract thinking.
Many people today experience an inner sense of comfort in shutting themselves off from these serious facts. Anthroposophists should not feel in this way; on the contrary, they should develop a definite impetus to do as much as possible to spread Spiritual Science among mankind. It is quite wrong to think as is so often done that we should come to an understanding with such people as those of whom I have spoken. It is foolish to believe we can come to an understanding with such people for they do not desire it. The point is to make clear to the rest of humanity what sort of people these are. We must speak out about such people. All that is possible has been done so that they can come to an understanding with us. They only need to read without prejudice what is there, to give it their serious attention. We must strictly discriminate between those persons who do harm to the progress of human evolution and other people to whom we must go and tell how such harm is brought about. The attempt to come to an understanding with the former has absolutely no sense and no meaning; for these men would outwardly incline to an agreement if they no longer had followers to support them. Then they would be ready of themselves to come to an understanding. The urgent need before us is exactly this, to open people's eyes. Only, unfortunately, too often within our own circle, the endeavour is made to come to a compromise in this respect, and the courage needed for unconditional acknowledgment of the truth is lacking. We must not ever be under the illusion that we can come to an understanding with this one or that one, who does not wish in any way to come to an understanding with us. What is required of us is courageously to stand up for the truth as far as we are able. This seems to me especially the outcome of an understanding of what is bound up with the evolution of Mankind.
Rudolf Steiner, from Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age [aka Eleven Modern Mystics, aka Mystics after Modernism]
Scholasticism is in the highest degree a product of human ingenuity. In it the logical faculty celebrated its greatest triumphs. One who aims to elaborate concepts in their sharpest and clearest contours should serve an apprenticeship with the Scholastics. It is they who provide the highest schooling for the technique of thinking. They have an incomparable agility in moving in the field of pure thought. It is easy to underestimate what they were capable of accomplishing in this field. For in most areas of learning the latter is accessible to man only with difficulty. Most people attain it clearly only in the realms of counting, of arithmetic, and in thinking about the properties of geometric forms. We can count by adding a unit to a number in our thoughts, without calling sensory images to our help. We also calculate without such images, in the pure element of thought alone. As for geometric forms, we know that they do not completely coincide with any sensory image. In the reality of the senses there exists no (conceptual) circle. And yet our thinking occupies itself with the latter. For objects and processes which are more complicated than numerical and spatial structures, it is more difficult to find conceptual counterparts. This has led to the claim made in some quarters that there is only as much real knowledge in the various fields of investigation as there is that in them which can be measured and counted. This is as decidedly wrong as is anything one-sided; but it seduces many, as often only something one-sided can. Here the truth is that most people are not capable of grasping purely conceptually when it is no longer a matter of something measurable or countable. But one who cannot do this in connection with higher realms of life and knowledge resembles in this respect a child who has not yet learned to count in any other way than by adding one pea to another. The thinker who said that there is as much true knowledge in any field of learning as there is mathematics in it, did not grasp the full truth of the matter. One must require that everything which cannot be measured and counted is to be treated in the same conceptual fashion as numerical and spatial structures. And this requirement was respected by the Scholastics in the highest degree. Everywhere they sought the conceptual content of things, just as the mathematician seeks it in the area of the measurable and countable.
In spite of this accomplished logical skill, the Scholastics attained only a one-sided and subordinate concept of cognition. According to this concept, in the process of cognition man produces in himself an image of what he is to grasp. It is quite obvious that with such a concept of cognition, one must place all reality outside of cognition. For in the process of cognition one cannot then grasp a thing itself, but only an image of this thing. Man also cannot grasp himself in his self-knowledge; what he grasps of himself is only an image of his self. It is quite in the spirit of Scholasticism that someone who is closely acquainted with it says (K. Werner in his Franz Suarez und die Scholastik der letzten Jahrhunderte [Francisco Suarez and the Scholasticism of the Last Centuries], p. 122): “In time man has no perception of his self, the hidden foundation of his spiritual nature and life; ... he will never be able to look at himself; for either, forever estranged from God, he will find in himself only a bottomless dark abyss and endless emptiness, or he will, blessed in God, and turning his gaze inward, find only God, Whose sun of grace shines within him, and Whose image reflects itself in the spiritual traits of his nature.” One who thinks about all cognition in this way has only a concept of that cognition which is applicable to external things. What is sensory in a thing always remains external to us. Therefore into our cognition we can only receive images of what is sensory in the world. When we perceive a color or a stone we cannot ourselves become color or stone in order to know the nature of the color or of the stone. And neither can the color or the stone transform itself into a part of our own nature. But it must be asked: Is the concept of such a cognition, focused as it is upon the external in things, an exhaustive one? — It is true that for Scholasticism all human cognition coincides in its essentials with this cognition. Another writer who knows Scholasticism extremely well (Otto Willmann, in his Geschichte des Idealismus [History of Idealism], V. 2, 2nd ed., p. 396) characterizes the concept of cognition of this philosophy in the following way: “Our spirit, associated with the body as it is in earthly life, is primarily directed toward the surrounding world of matter, but focused upon the spiritual in it; that is, the essences, natures, and forms of things, the elements of existence which are akin to it and provide it with the rungs by which it ascends to the super-sensory; the field of our cognition is thus the realm of experience, but we should learn to understand what it offers, penetrate to its sense and idea, and thereby open to ourselves the world of ideas.” The Scholastic could not attain a different concept of cognition. He was prevented from doing so by the dogmatic teaching of his theology. If he had fixed his spiritual eye upon what he considered to be a mere image, he would have seen that the spiritual content of things reveals itself in this supposed image; he would then have found that God does not merely reflect Himself within him, but that He lives in him, is present in him in His essence. In looking within himself he would not have beheld a dark abyss, an endless emptiness, nor merely an image of God; rather would he have felt that a life pulses in him which is the divine life itself, and that his own life is the life of God. This the Scholastic could not admit. In his opinion God could not enter into him and speak out of him; He could only exist in him as an image. In reality, the Divinity had to be presupposed outside the self. Thus it had to reveal itself through supernatural communications from the outside, and could not do so within, through the spiritual life. But what is intended by this is exactly what is least achieved. It is the highest possible concept of the Divinity which is to be attained. In reality, the Divinity is degraded to a thing among other things, but these other things reveal themselves to man in a natural manner, through experience, while the Divinity is to reveal Itself to him supernaturally. However, a difference between the cognition of the Divine and of the creation is made in saying that, as concerns the creation, the external thing is given in the experience, that one has knowledge of it. As concerns the Divine, the object is not given in the experience; one can only attain it through faith. Thus for the Scholastic the highest things are not objects of knowledge, but only of faith. It is true that, according to the Scholastic view, the relationship of knowledge to faith is not to be imagined in such a way that in a certain field only knowledge reigns, in another only faith. For “cognition of the existing is possible for us, because it originates in a creative cognition; things are for the spirit because they are from the spirit; they tell us something because they have a meaning which a higher intelligence has put into them.” (O. Willmann, Geschichte des Idealismus, V. 2, p. 383.) Since God has created the world according to His ideas, if we grasp the ideas of the world, we can also grasp the traces of the Divine in the world through scientific reflection. But what God is in His essence we can only grasp through the revelation which He has given us in a supernatural manner, and in which we must believe. What we must think concerning the highest things is not decided by any human knowledge, but by faith; and “to faith belongs everything that is contained in the Scriptures of the New and Old Covenant, and in the divine traditions.” (Joseph Kleutgen, Die Theologie der Vorzeit [The Theology of Antiquity], V. 1, p. 39.) — We cannot make it our task here to describe in detail and to explain the relationship of the content of faith to that of knowledge. In reality, the content of all faith originates in an inner experience man has had at some time. It is then preserved, according to its external import, without the consciousness of how it was acquired. It is said of it that it came into the world through supernatural revelation. The content of the Christian faith was simply accepted by the Scholastics as tradition. Science and inner experience were not allowed to claim any rights over it. Scholasticism could no more permit itself to create a concept of God than science can create a tree; it had to accept the revealed concept as given, just as natural science accepts the tree as given. The Scholastic could never admit that the spiritual itself shines and lives within man. He therefore drew a limit to the jurisdiction of science where the field of external experience ends. Human cognition could not be permitted to produce a concept of the higher entities out of itself. It was to accept a revealed one. That in doing this it actually only accepted one which had been produced at an earlier stage of human spiritual life, and declared it to be a revealed one, this the Scholastics could not admit. — In the course of the development of Scholasticism therefore, all those ideas had disappeared from it which still indicated the manner in which man has produced the concepts of the Divine in a natural way. In the first centuries of the development of Christianity, at the time of the Fathers of the Church, we see how the content of the teachings of theology came into being little by little through the inclusion of inner experiences. This content is still treated entirely as an inner experience by Johannes Scotus Erigena, who stood at the height of Christian theological learning in the ninth century. Among the Scholastics of the succeeding centuries this quality of an inner experience is completely lost; the old content is reinterpreted as the content of an external, supernatural revelation. — One can therefore interpret the activity of the mystical theologians Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, and their companions by saying: They were inspired by the content of the teachings of the Church, which is contained in theology, but had been reinterpreted, to bring forth a similar content out of themselves anew as an inner experience.
Nicolas of Cusa enters upon the task of ascending by oneself to inner experiences from the knowledge one acquires in the different sciences. There can be no doubt that the excellent logical technique the Scholastics had developed, and for which Nicolas had been educated, furnishes an excellent means for attaining inner experiences, although the Scholastics themselves were kept from this road by their positive faith. But one will only understand Nicolas completely when one considers that his vocation as priest, which raised him to the dignity of Cardinal, prevented him from making a complete break with the faith of the Church, which found its contemporary expression in Scholastic theology. We find him so far advanced along a certain path that every further step would of necessity have led him out of the Church. Therefore we understand the Cardinal best if we complete that step which he did not take, and then in retrospect illuminate what had been his intention.
The most important concept of the spiritual life of Nicolas is that of “learned ignorance.” By this he understands a cognition which represents a higher level, as opposed to ordinary knowledge. Knowledge in the subordinate sense is the grasping of an object by the spirit. The most important characteristic of knowledge is that it gives information about something outside the spirit, that is, that it looks at something which it itself is not. In knowledge, the spirit thus is occupied with things thought of as being outside of it. But what the spirit forms in itself concerning things is the essence of things. Things are spirit. At first man sees the spirit only through the sensory covering. What remains outside the spirit is only this sensory covering; the essence of things enters into the spirit. When the spirit then looks upon this essence, which is substance of its substance, it can no longer speak of knowledge, for it does not look upon a thing which is outside of it; it looks upon a thing which is a part of itself; it looks upon itself. It no longer knows; it only looks upon itself. It is not concerned with a “knowing,” but with a “not-knowing.” It no longer grasps something through the spirit; it “beholds, without grasping,” its own life. This highest level of cognition, in relation to the lower levels, is a “not-knowing.” — It will be seen that the essence of things can only be communicated through this level of cognition. With his “learned not-knowing” Nicolas of Cusa thus speaks of nothing but the knowledge reborn as inner experience. He himself tells how he came to have this inner experience. “I made many attempts to unite my thoughts about God and the world, about Christ and the Church in one fundamental idea, but of them all none satisfied me until finally, during the return from Greece by sea, the gaze of my spirit lifted itself, as if through an inspiration from on high, to the view in which God appeared to me as the highest unity of all contrasts.” To a greater or lesser extent the influences which derive from a study of his predecessors are involved in this inspiration. In his way of thinking one recognizes a peculiar renewal of the ideas we encounter in the writing of a certain Dionysius. Scotus Erigena, mentioned above, had translated this work into Latin. He calls the author “the great and divine revealer.” These writings were first mentioned in the first half of the sixth century. They were ascribed to that Dionysius the Aeropagite mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, who was converted to Christianity by Paul. Here we shall not go into the problem as to when these writings were really composed. Their contents had a strong effect on Nicolas, as they already had on Johannes Scotus Erigena, and as they must also have been stimulating in many respects for the way of thinking of Eckhart and his companions. The “learned not-knowing” is prefigured in a certain way in these writings. Here we shall record only the main feature of the way of thinking of these writings. Man first comes to know the things of the sensory world. He reflects on their existence and activity. The primordial foundation of all things must lie higher than the things themselves. Man therefore cannot expect to grasp this primordial foundation with the same concepts and ideas as he grasps the things themselves. If therefore he attributes to the primordial foundation (God) qualities which he knows from lower things, these qualities can only be auxiliary ideas of the weak spirit, which draws the primordial foundation down to itself in order to be able to imagine it. In reality, therefore, no quality which lower things have can be said to belong to God. It cannot even be said that God is. For “being” too is a concept which man has formed in connection with lower things. But God is exalted above “being” and “not-being.” Thus the God to Whom we ascribe qualities is not the true one. We arrive at the true God if we imagine a “Supergod” above a God with such qualities. Of this “Supergod” we can know nothing in the ordinary sense. In order to reach Him, “knowing” must flow into “not-knowing.” — One can see that such a view is based on the consciousness that out of what his sciences have furnished him man himself — in a purely natural way — can develop a higher cognition, which is no longer mere knowledge. The Scholastic view declared knowledge to be incapable of such a development, and at the point where knowledge is supposed to end, it had faith, based on an external revelation, come to the aid of knowledge. — Nicolas of Cusa thus was on the way toward once again developing that out of knowledge which the Scholastics had declared to be unattainable for cognition.
From the point of view of Nicolas of Cusa, therefore, one cannot say that there is only one kind of cognition. Cognition, on the contrary, is clearly divided into what mediates a knowledge of external things, and what is itself the object of which one acquires knowledge. The former kind of cognition rules in the sciences which we acquire concerning the things and processes of the sensory world; the latter kind is in us when we ourselves live in what has been acquired. The second kind of cognition develops from the first. Yet it is the same world to which both kinds of cognition refer, and it is the same man who shares in both. The question must arise, How does it come about that one and the same man develops two kinds of cognition of one and the same world? — The direction in which the answer to this question is to be sought was already indicated in our discussion of Tauler. Here this answer can be formulated even more definitely with regard to Nicolas of Cusa. First of all, man lives as a separate (individual) being among other separate beings. To the influences which the other beings exercise upon one another, in him is added the faculty of (lower) cognition. Through his senses he receives impressions of the other beings, and he works upon these impressions with his spiritual faculties. He directs his spiritual gaze away from external things and looks at himself, at his own activity. Thus self-knowledge arises in him. As long as he remains upon this level of self-knowledge he does not yet look upon himself in the true sense of the word. He can still believe that there is some hidden entity active within him, and that what appears to him as his activity are only the manifestations and actions of this entity. But the point can come at which it becomes clear to man through an incontrovertible inner experience that in what he perceives and experiences within himself he possesses not the manifestation, the action, of a hidden force or entity, but this entity itself in its primordial form. He can then say to himself: All other things I encounter in a way ready-made, and I, who stand outside them, add to them what the spirit has to say with regard to them. But in what I myself thus creatively add to things in myself, in that I myself live, that is what I am, that is my own essence. But what is it that speaks in the depths of my spirit? It is knowledge that speaks, the knowledge I have acquired about the things of the world. But in this knowledge it is not some action, some manifestation, which speaks; something speaks which keeps nothing back of what it has in itself. In this knowledge speaks the world in all its immediacy. But I have acquired this knowledge from things and from myself, as from a thing among things. Out of my own essence it is I myself and the things who speak. In reality I no longer merely express my nature; I express the nature of things. My “I” is the form, the organ, through which things declare themselves with regard to themselves. I have gained the experience that I experience my own essence within myself, and for me this experience becomes enlarged into another: that in me and through me the universal essence expresses itself, or, in other words, knows itself. Now I can no longer feel myself to be a thing among things; I can only feel myself to be a form in which the universal essence has its life. — It is therefore only natural that one and the same man should have two kinds of cognition. With regard to the sensory facts he is a thing among things, and, insofar as this is the case, he acquires a knowledge of these things; but at any moment he can have the higher experience that he is the form in which the universal essence looks upon itself. Then he himself is transformed from a thing among things into a form of the universal essence — and with him the knowledge of things is changed into an utterance of the nature of things. This transformation, however, can in fact be accomplished only by man himself. What is mediated in the higher cognition is not yet present as long as this higher cognition itself is not present. It is only in creating this higher cognition that man develops his nature, and only through the higher cognition of man does the nature of things come into actual existence. If therefore it is required that man should not add anything to the things of the senses through his higher cognition, but should express only what already lies in them in the outside world, then this simply means renouncing all higher cognition. — From the fact that, as regards his sensory life, man is a thing among things, and that he only attains higher cognition when as a sensory being he himself accomplishes his transformation into a higher being, from this it follows that he can never replace the one cognition by the other. Rather, his spiritual life consists of a perpetual moving to and fro between the two poles of cognition, between knowing and seeing. If he shuts himself off from seeing, he forgoes the nature of things; if he were to shut himself off from sensory knowing, he would deprive himself of the things whose nature he wants to understand. — The same things reveal themselves to the lower understanding and to the higher seeing, only they do this at one time with regard to their external appearance, at the other time with regard to their inner essence. — Thus it is not due to things themselves that at a certain stage they appear only as external objects; rather it is due to the fact that man must first transform himself to the point where he can reach the stage at which things cease to be external.
It is only with these considerations in mind that certain views natural science elaborated in the nineteenth century appear in their proper light. The adherents of these views say to themselves: We hear, see, and touch the things of the material world through the senses. The eye, for instance, communicates to us a phenomenon of light, a color. We say that a body emits red light when, by the mediation of our eye, we have the sensation “red.” But the eye gives us this sensation in other cases too. If it is struck or pressed, if an electric current passes through the head, the eye has a sensation of light. Hence in those instances also in which we have the sensation that a body emits light of a certain color, something may be occurring in that body which does not have any resemblance to color. No matter what is occurring in outside space, as long as this process is suitable for making an impression upon the eye, a sensation of color arises in me. What we perceive arises in us because we have organs that are constituted in a certain way. What goes on in outside space remains outside of us; we know only the effects which external processes bring forth in us. Hermann Helmholtz (1821–1894) has given expression to this idea in a clearly defined way. “Our perceptions are effects produced in our organs by external causes, and the way such an effect manifests itself is of course substantially dependent on the kind of apparatus acted upon. Insofar as the quality of our perception gives us information about the characteristics of the external influence by which it is caused, it can be considered as a sign of the latter, but not as a likeness of it. For of an image one requires some kind of similarity to the object represented: of a statue, similarity of form; of a drawing, similarity of the perspective projection in the field of view; of a painting, in addition to this, similarity of colors. But a sign need not have any kind of resemblance to that of which it is a sign. The relationship between the two is limited to this, that the same object, exercising its influence under the same circumstances, calls forth the same sign, and that therefore unlike signs always correspond to unlike influences ... If in ripening berries of a certain variety develop both a red pigment and sugar, then red color and sweet taste will always be found together in our perception of berries of this kind.” (cf. Helmholtz: Die Tatsachen der Wahrnehmung [The Facts of Perception], p. 12 f.) I have characterized this way of thinking in detail in my Philosophie der Freiheit [Philosophy of Spiritual Activity] and in my Rätsel der Philosophie [Riddles of Philosophy], 1918. — Let us now follow step by step the train of thought which is adopted in this view. A process is assumed in outside space. It produces an effect upon my sensory organ; my nervous system transmits to my brain the impression produced. Another process is effected there. I now perceive “red.” Now it is said: The perception of “red” is thus not outside; it is in me. All our perceptions are only signs of external processes, the real character of which we know nothing. We live and act among our perceptions, and know nothing about their origin. In line with this way of thinking one can also say: If we had no eye there would be no color; nothing would then transform the external process, which is unknown to us, into the perception “red.” For many this train of thought is something seductive. Nevertheless it rests upon a complete misinterpretation of the facts under consideration. (If many contemporary natural scientists and philosophers were not deluded to a truly monstrous degree by this train of thought, one would not have to talk about it so much. But this delusion has in fact vitiated contemporary thinking in many respects.) Since man is a thing among things, it is of course necessary that things should make an impression upon him if he is to find out anything about them. A process outside of man must give rise to a process in man if the phenomenon “red” is to appear in the field of vision. One must only ask: What is outside, what inside? Outside is a process which takes place in space and time. But inside doubtless is a similar process. Such a process exists in the eye and communicates itself to the brain when I perceive “red.” I cannot directly perceive the process which is “inside,” any more than I can immediately perceive the wave motion “outside,” which physicists consider corresponds to the color “red.” But it is only in this sense that I can speak of an “outside” and an “inside.” Only on the level of sensory perception does the contrast between “outside” and “inside” have any validity. This perception leads me to assume a spatial-temporal process “outside,” although I cannot perceive it directly. And, further, the same perception leads me to assume such a process within me, although I cannot perceive it directly either. But, after all, I also assume spatial-temporal processes in ordinary life which I cannot directly perceive. For example, I hear a piano being played in the next room. Therefore I assume that a human being with spatial dimensions sits at the piano and plays. And my way of representing things to myself is no different when I speak of processes within me and outside of me. I assume that these processes have characteristics analogous to those of the processes which fall within the domain of my senses, only that, for certain reasons, they are not accessible to my direct observation. If I were to deny to these processes all those qualities my senses show me in the realm of the spatial and the temporal, I would in truth be imagining something like the famous knife without a handle of which the blade is missing. Thus I can only say that “outside” occur spatial-temporal processes, and that they cause spatial-temporal processes “inside.” Both are necessary if “red” is to appear in my field of vision. Insofar as it is not spatial-temporal I shall look for this red in vain, no matter whether I look for it “outside” or “inside.” The natural scientists and philosophers who cannot find it “outside” should not attempt to look for it “inside” either. It is not “inside,” in the same sense in which it is not “outside.” To declare that the entire content of what the world of the senses presents to us is an inner world of perceptions, and to look for something “external” corresponding to it, is an impossible idea. Therefore we cannot say that “red,” “sweet,” “hot,” etc. are signs which, as such, are only caused to arise in us and to which something quite different on the “outside” corresponds. For what is really caused in us as the effect of an external process is something quite different from what appears in the field of our perceptions. If one wants to call what is in us signs, then one can say: These signs appear within our organism in order to communicate perceptions to us which, as such, in their immediacy are neither inside nor outside us, but rather belong to that common world of which my “external world” and my “interior world” are only parts. It is true that in order to be able to grasp this common world I must raise myself to that higher level of cognition for which an “inside” and an “outside” no longer exist. (I am well aware that people who rely on the gospel that “our entire world of experience” is made up of sensations of unknown origin will look down haughtily upon this exposition, in somewhat the same way as Dr. Erich Adikes in his work Kant contra Haeckel says condescendingly: “For the time being, people like Haeckel and thousands of his kind philosophize merrily on, without worrying about any theory of cognition or about critical introspection.” Such gentlemen of course have no suspicion of how paltry their theories of cognition are. They suspect a lack of critical introspection only in others. We shall not begrudge them their “wisdom.”)
It is just on the point under consideration here that Nicolas of Cusa has excellent ideas. His keeping the lower and the higher cognition clearly separated from each other permits him on the one hand to gain a full insight into the fact that as a sensory being man can have within himself only processes which must, as effects, be unlike the corresponding external processes; on the other hand, it preserves him from confusing the inner processes with the facts which appear in our field of perception and which, in their immediacy, are neither outside nor inside, but are elevated above this contrast. — Nicolas was “prevented by his priestly cloth” from following without reservations the path which this insight indicated to him. We see him making a good beginning with the advance from “knowing” to “not-knowing.” But at the same time we must observe that in the field of “not-knowing” he has nothing to show except the theological teachings which are offered to us by the Scholastics also. It is true that he knows how to develop this theological content in an ingenious manner: on providence, Christ, the creation of the world, man's redemption, the moral life, he presents teachings which are altogether in line with dogmatic Christianity. It would have been in keeping with his spiritual direction to say: I have confidence that human nature, having immersed itself in the sciences of things on all sides, is able from within itself to transform this “knowing” into a “not-knowing,” hence that the highest cognition brings satisfaction. Then he would not have accepted, as he has, the traditional ideas of soul, immortality, redemption, God, creation, the Trinity, etc., but would have upheld those which he himself had found. — But Nicolas, personally was so penetrated with the concepts of Christianity that he could well believe he was awakening his own proper “not-knowing” within himself, while he was only putting forth the traditional views in which he had been educated. — However, it must be considered that he was standing before a fateful abyss in human spiritual life. He was a scientific man. And science at first removes man from the innocent concord in which he exists with the world as long as the conduct of his life is a purely naïve one. In such a conduct of life man dimly feels his connection with the totality of the universe. He is a being like others, integrated into the chain of natural effects. With knowledge, he separates himself from this whole. He creates a spiritual world within himself. With it he confronts nature in solitude. He has become richer, but this wealth is a burden which he bears with difficulty. For at first it weighs upon him alone. He must find the way back to nature through his own resources. He must understand that now he himself must integrate his wealth into the chain of universal effects, as nature herself had integrated his poverty before. It is here that all the evil demons lie in wait for man. His strength can easily fail. Instead of accomplishing the integration himself, when this occurs, he will take refuge in a revelation from the outside, which again delivers him from his solitude, and leads the knowledge he feels to be a burden back into the primordial origin of existence, the Divinity. He will think, as did Nicolas of Cusa, that he is walking his own road, while in reality he will only find the one his spiritual development has shown him. Now, there are three roads — in the main — upon which one can walk when one arrives where Nicolas had arrived: one is positive faith, which comes to us from outside; the second is despair: one stands alone with one's burden and feels all existence tottering with oneself; the third road is the development of man's own deepest faculties. Confidence in the world must be one leader along this third road. Courage to follow this confidence, no matter where it leads, must be the other.
Addendum. In a few words I hint here at the road to the cognition of the spirit which I have described in my later writings, especially in Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten? [How Does One Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds?], Umriss einer Geheimwissenschaft [Outline of a Secret Science], Von Seelenrätseln [Riddles of the Soul].