Rudolf Steiner, The Hague, November 15, 1923:
My Dear Friends,
At present there is a general opinion that there are certain limits to human knowledge, not only temporary knowledge owing to the fact that one had not achieved everything in the time that has already passed, and one would have to leave some things for the future, but in quite a general sense one speaks today of limits of perception, limits to knowledge for humanity. One thinks that man is constituted in such a way that he can only know about certain things, while other things are above his ability to know about them; and that it is mainly the facts of the so-called supersensible world which man is supposed not to be able to perceive and for which he has to be satisfied with what is called a belief, an assumption arising out of obscure feelings and such like. Particularly the endeavors of the past centuries and of the present time, which have yielded the greatest successes in the field of natural science and which have also brought about the greatest practical results, are considered proof by contemporary humanity that one has to come to a halt at that which can be observed by the senses, which can be proved by experiments and so forth, namely the sense-perceptible real world. This is, when one speaks of man, only that world which man traverses between birth and death, or conception and death.
Now, it cannot be denied that natural science owes its great successes to the fact that it has limited itself to the exploration of every aspect of the sense world and does not in any way draw any conclusions from the sense world to the supersensible world. But on the other hand there is connected with this, as one believes, fully proven acceptance of limits to knowledge altogether, something inwardly immeasurably tragic for the sensitive human being, something tragic which today does not yet come to the consciousness of many people, but which lives in many human souls in vague feelings, in all sorts of subconscious sensations, making them unsure in life, even unsure and unable in outward actions, in relationships to their fellow human beings and so on. For it is gradually felt more and more that the limits at which one wants to stop in this way are not only those of an outward supersensible world, but that with these limits to knowledge, if rightly perceived, there is still something quite different involved. Man gradually feels that his own true being must be of supersensible nature, that his true being which as man gives him his value and dignity must be found in the spiritual, in the not-sensible. If one calls a halt to all knowledge before the supersensible, then one calls a halt before human self-knowledge. Then one renounces insight into the most precious, the most valuable, in the human being himself.
But thereby one also undermines one's real inward self-confidence. Whereby does man feel himself to be part of the natural world which today has been so successfully explored? Only because he bears this world of nature within himself in his outer physical body. Everything that exists in our surroundings as natural substances and natural laws we carry within us, at least most of it. Through this we can feel connected with physical nature. We would not feel that we existed in this physical nature if we were not part of it with our own body, or if we could not explore ourselves as physical beings. But in the same way is it with the supersensible, with the as truly felt spiritual inner being of man, even though men do not as yet bring it to full consciousness. If we cannot feel ourselves as belonging to a spiritual world, as beings who take into themselves and bear within themselves the forces and substances of the spiritual, then we cannot accept ourselves as spiritual human beings at all. But then we must lack the self-confidence toward that which after all we feel to be our most precious, our most dignified, that by which we actually are human beings, indeed want to be human beings. This has another side to it. We feel that that which we call our moral impulses, which we call the content of our moral-spiritual forces, does not flow out of natural life, certainly not out of what takes place in muscles and bones. We feel them to be coming from a spiritual world, but we experience uncertainty about this whole spiritual world if we have to call a halt before the supersensible with our perception.
And in this way present-day humanity cannot really build a bridge between that which in outer nature is to it a brutal — as I would like to call it — fact, and that which flows to it out of the most intimate spiritual inner life as the content of the moral world order. One does not have the courage to bring to full clarity what it is that the human soul has to contend with here. Natural science has worked thoroughly toward being able to say something, albeit hypothetically, about the present-day creatures out of which man is supposed to have developed. One describes, at least hypothetically, how once upon a time our present world is supposed to have developed out of the world mist. Hypotheses are also made about the end of our planetary system or the system altogether to which we belong. One imagines this whole system which exists in time as somehow contracting, constituting itself out of natural substances and natural forces. One imagines physical man then emerging out of a part of these forces at a certain time. Electricity, magnetism, warmth, and so on, they can be outwardly observed; there the thinking human being feels safe with the content of his consciousness. But when the need arises in him to think of that which does not come from his physical nature, the moral spiritual impulses as working in the world, when he must think of as working in the world what he brings about out of a spiritual elemental force, what now must also be in the world, when he must have experiences in the world which must not pass away together with that which passes away with the physical — then man has no stand to say to himself out of that which is accepted by the limits to knowledge: these moral forces are just as valid as that which comes out of the brute forces of physical nature.
From this there come to man today not only theoretical doubts but insecurity of the whole soul life, insecurity apparent everywhere even though people deceive themselves about this. For this is the very character of present civilization: that one deludes oneself about the deepest questions of civilization. But in the subconscious these questions are nevertheless active, they express themselves — albeit not in theories, but in the whole tenor of soul, in the confidence and capability of the soul life. That is the inner tragedy which can actually be noticed in the depths of every soul, even of the most superficial. And this is where then that arises which can seem paradoxical in the present time: there arises the longing in many people just for supersensible knowledge! One might say in the spiritual realm it is just the same as with hunger and thirst. One doesn't long for food and drink when one is satisfied, but one longs for them when one is hungry. And from an inmost need present humanity longs for the supersensible because it doesn't have it. While on the one hand philosophers and natural scientists today want to prove more and more that there are unsurpassable limits and borders before the supersensible, we see on the other hand an insatiable thirst of already many human souls for supersensible knowledge, and the number of these people will get ever greater.
To come to this supersensible perception there is a point of view, or I could rather say a method of investigation, of which I would like to speak to you today. But I do not want to speak to you of a method of investigation of the supersensible which today one often wants to achieve in a very easy way, but I shall speak to you of a method of perception which, although it is an absolutely intimate matter of the human soul, but in this just as scientific, indeed as exact, not only as an outer scientific result, but as the mathematical or geometric results of science itself.
But while one is striving toward such knowledge and just comes to a knowledge of that which is the supersensible in man, one immediately enters something which right from the start causes all kinds of doubts, causes uncertainties right from the start.
When we look outside we soon notice that the natural scientists and philosophers who speak of limits to knowledge are right as concerns the immediate outer perception. So we must look inside. But when we look inside and we remain within the ordinary consciousness, with that which we have in ordinary life and also in the usual science, then in the beginning nothing confronts us other than a kind of thought picture of the outer world again. When one is completely honest in one's striving for self-knowledge and asks oneself: What is there, when instead of looking out into the world you look back into yourself, what is there actually inside you? — Then one will have to realize that one finds the world inside again, albeit in a picture. What one has experienced has imprinted itself onto our life of concepts, of feeling. We experience as it were a thought picture and feeling picture of that which is outside as well. We have only directed our gaze backwards. This gives us at first nothing new, but only in a dimmed-down way in picture form that which is outside too. Only as a general feeling man senses that he is present in these weaving thoughts, ideas, and sensations as an I, as a self. But that is so general and undefined that initially he cannot do much with it.
That is why in the Middle Ages, in the times when one approached self-knowledge, knowledge of the human soul, in a more intensive way, one didn't initially pay much attention to that which one can gain by a merely backward directed self-observation during the ordinary consciousness, but one tried to achieve knowledge of the soul in a different way. This different way is actually interesting, and I must start from this different, often much desired way of knowledge of the soul, so that we can understand one another about the knowledge of soul which I actually mean. But I mention beforehand that I only start from this other knowledge of soul in order to explain what I want to bring, but that I don't want to attribute a special value to it. Therefore nobody should believe that because I start from the dream I already give it value for knowledge. However, this dream life is immensely meaningful.
Those who at some stage have sought knowledge of soul through the dream life will have noticed that in a certain sense the soul life appears much more characteristically in a dream than when one merely looks into oneself and, as one often says, wants to observe oneself. You have observed the dreams and have initially found two types of dream. As you know, the dream conjures up weaving pictures of a fantastic reality which is initially not as abstract as the thoughts we have in our day consciousness.
But the dream creates initially something which appears enigmatical, on the one side by its composition, on the other side by its content.
There are two things which man experiences as pictures in a dream. Initially, pictures of experiences which we went through during our life on Earth, reminiscences from life. This arises and shows us the one or other thing which we experienced many years ago. But what there asserts itself rises up next to other things in a connection with was not supplied by life. Occurrences which took place ten years ago are tied together with others which took place the other day. The most removed from one another comes together. By putting together fragments of life, dreams create impossible pictures, chaotic pictures. Everything which outer life gave to us by way of occurrences which we experienced is conjured up to us in dream in a chaotic fashion. That is one kind of dream. The other kind is that in which our own bodily condition is conjured up before us in a kind of symbolic image. Who would not have dreamt of suffering from the heat of a boiling hot stove? He has seen the flickering flames; he awakes and has strong palpitations of the heart. Or we dream that we are walking past a fence. We see how one or two poles are damaged and then we wake up with toothache. In the one case, when we dreamt of the boiling hot stove with its heat, it was a picture of our heart which was palpitating strongly. In the other case, when we dreamt of the fence, it was a picture of our row of teeth which somehow gave us pain. And someone who can penetrate more deeply into these things knows that a certain area of dreams is characterized by inner organs being shown to us symbolically in the dream. However, one must be quite knowledgeable about all the facts which come into play, if one wants to recognize in the symbols what actually expresses itself of the inner being of man in them. Then one will find that there is hardly an organ or an inner process which cannot be conjured up for us inwardly by dreams.
Now, former psychologists who have worked with dreams have developed a very valid view about the relationship of man to dreams. They said to themselves: that which we bear within us, we can only feel, but we do not see it, we don't have it in front of us like an outer object. But when we have our own heartbeat in front of us in the picture of a boiling hot stove, then we have at least a picture in our consciousness that we make for ourselves, that looks like the picture of an outer object. We have to be separated from the outer object if a picture of it is to arise in us. That which one is oneself, even if it is one's own body, one feels — one feels it sometimes painfully when something organic is not in order — but one does not look at it. When one looks at something in picture form one must be outside of it. And so the former psychologists, which still existed in the 19th century, argued: If I am dreaming in symbols about my own body and its processes, I cannot be in my body, for then I would not experience it. Therefore I must be outside my body in such a case. The picture in any case shows me something of an independent soul-spiritual life over against the body. And furthermore they argued: When I dream in any, however hidden way, of reminiscences of life, then the outer natural existence as it is would have to present itself to me. But there something is constantly changing; there the dream conjures up for me the most fantastic relationships. There again I must be inside, for nature as it usually surrounds me would not be able to show me the occurrences which I have experienced with it, nor the occurrences of human life which I have experienced, in quite a different order.
In this way something was put together of which one could say: It was a valid conviction for these former psychologists, that there they caught something of the soul in a condition where it is separated from the physical body. For firstly man cannot be united with his body if the occurrences of the body, even though only in symbols, in the dream appear to be separated. He must then be outside his body. But again, we must also be inside the reminiscences of our experiences, be together with them, when we have the second kind of dream, for nature does not alter the connection in which experiences have occurred. That we must alter ourselves. Therefore we must be outside, outside our body, when we have the first kind of dreams, and in the same way we must be inside our experiences in the second kind. That means we must actually be outside our physical body with our experiences of soul when we dream. Insofar as that which former psychologists said to themselves is absolutely indisputable, one cannot say anything against it.
But something else has to be said. The dream cannot give me any sure knowledge about the self. It can lead us to the way of how one can come to such a certainty. Because what we are inside during the time between going to sleep and awakening when we are outside the body, that which the dream is showing us there: that we certainly are not; for those are on the one hand pictures of our bodily interior, even symbols of this bodily interior, thus that again which is taken from our bodily interior. How can we, when sleeping and outside our body, be the same which we are in the interior of our physical body? So something else must be the case. We must be something outside our body, but that does not assert itself. We are initially not able to lay hold of the actual nature of the soul in the sleeping state. That conceals itself and masks itself at first; it surrounds itself with pictures of its own bodily nature and shows itself in relationship to its own life in arbitrary compositions of its experiences. The former psychologists have rightly deduced that we are outside our body when we dream — but that the dream shows us something about this being which is outside our body, that is not the case, although they believed it. Because it doesn't show us anything except what we have formerly experienced within the body, and our own body in symbols. Therefore if we are something outside our body, then this is masked in the dream, then the dream is wearing a mask in respect of this. If we want to discover our own being, then we must be able to take this mask off the dream — that is, off the soul — for the dream is this mask. Up to here a more intimate view of the dream leads us onto a path. As former psychologists realized that the dream ultimately doesn't show anything besides what it takes out of the sense world, they of course also had their doubts. And just as one could not believe to have certainty by means of an ordinary backward-looking self-observation, so one was also not satisfied with that which the observation of the dream world could give one. Over against this there now appears that which I always call the anthroposophical worldview or anthroposophical way of investigation. This initially maintains: If the dream shows us that we are something outside our body, then it proves itself to be too weak by itself to show, to reveal, its own being. To reveal itself it uses bits and pieces of reminiscences of life, of symbols of its own bodily nature. Therefore we have to strengthen the soul life so that we come to that which in the soul life stands masked before us in the dream. This one can do. One can do it by copying the dream in full consciousness by a systematically exact so-called meditative life as I have described it in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and other writings. But not copying it by artificially creating dreams, but awakening in the soul in full consciousness that which in dream arises spontaneously from the subconscious. One comes to this by accustoming oneself to proceed in the same way as the dream proceeds spontaneously — to proceed by imagining things which one knows well symbolically in inner meditation. The dream conjures up symbolically for us our own bodily nature.
One now practices — as neither our own inner being nor outer nature gives us symbols — strictly systematically to imagine symbolically. In this way concepts are by force of will brought into a symbol by us, just as the dream conjures it up in us spontaneously. It must be created by inner activity, but that means, the dream must be strengthened.
In outer life we give ourselves over to passive observations and perceptions. Then the inner activity is shadowy. Everyone really senses how shadowy the abstract concepts are, how the thoughts are given over to the outer world and then proceed in a shadowy way. Everyone speaks of the shadowy thought compared to concrete reality. But when one now rises to imagine symbolic things, one has to create these symbols.
And when one is a fully conscious human being and no fool, then one knows that one makes them oneself. Then one is by no means a dreamer but a normal waking person, nay even more than a normal waking person. To the dreamer the symbols come spontaneously, to the waking person the conceptual images come through outer stimulation. The waking person who makes alive within himself that which dreams give, who places before the soul symbols with all inner strength and imitates the dream in full consciousness, awakens himself as it were to a higher activity of thinking and imagining and with this to an altogether higher activity of soul than one has in ordinary consciousness. That however must then be really practiced quite systematically.
And likewise the other side of dream can be imitated. We take experiences from our life that can be separated from one another by years. We can combine them in such a way that the one stands next to the other, but now not chaotically as in dream but from a point of view which may perhaps be from fantasy, but which we quite consciously determine, which is not imposed on us by our inner being, but which we ourselves create inwardly. And in this way we gradually educate ourselves to remain in an inner life of soul; to remain strongly in a life of soul which proceeds totally from the inner activity.
Today one usually underestimates what actually happens there with the human being when he does such exercises, because one does not love the inner activity of thinking, because one already finds it very active when one lives in thoughts induced by outer observation. But he who in all seriousness becomes a true imitator of dream in full consciousness, experiences that he strongly intensifies his inner mobility of soul, that he definitely strengthens it. But he is, if he is no fool but a sensible human being, fully conscious that he himself is making all these pictures and life associations, that is, that he is living in illusion. With a dream one first has to wake up in order to realize the illusion of the dream from the point of view of waking life. The dream can only be unmasked from the point of view of waking; the dreamer imagines the content of the dream to be reality, although his feeling for reality is not such a fictitious one. He who becomes an imitator of dream becomes aware of how a living inner being, something active, quickening, is awakened in him, but how he has a content which is absolutely self-image, illusion. Therefore he comes to the point of not bothering with that which is present in him as content, but to concentrate on that which works within him, is active within him. In short, that which we usually only have as a general feeling of ego or self becomes a strongly felt inner activity. If one wants to become a spiritual scientist and not a vague mystic, one must remain conscious and exact. But if one persists in this, one will also come more and more to experience the nature of the illusionary. One knows: You imagine nothing, but you have an imagination. Through this one will also have the possibility one day to develop the capacity of soul with which one truly doesn't imagine anything and is yet as active as one has learnt it in the imitation of dream.
I point you here to an activity of soul which must absolutely be cultivated by the investigator of spirit. One usually believes, and those who judge things superficially often say it: spiritual investigation is something where man gives himself up to his thoughts and fantasies — that is easy, while to do research in the laboratory, the clinic, and the observatory is difficult, something where you have to renounce things. — But this is not so. Because that which one has to acquire as such an inner capacity of soul requires at least just as much time, nay sometimes much longer time of inner work than any outwardly acquired scientific ability as is common in natural science today. Those who want to gain knowledge about that which is here called spiritual investigation should not raise the objection: In natural science one must not be a dilettante if one wants to have a say, there one must really understand something. — What the spiritual investigator alleges is usually regarded as though it were gained effortlessly compared to that which in natural science is reached with much trouble. But it is only the path which is different. In natural science outer observations and facts are used to come to a conclusion, while the spiritual scientist must first develop his own inner capacity for observation. He develops it as an imitator of dreams but in such a way that in the meditative activity that which in dream is conjured up is overcome by him. In dream we do not become conscious of an activity, the images of the dream conjure it up for us; but on the first step of supersensible knowledge the illusion is totally perceived. One knows: you don't imagine anything — but one notices the inner strengthened, empowered activity and in the end learns by a lot of practicing how one can call up this activity without first needing an illusionary activity for this, without first having to imitate the dream. So it is in imitation that one develops this capacity of soul. Once the capacity is there, one knows what one can do with it. Because then one is in a state where one has an empty but very much awake consciousness, but also inner activity. After one has discarded the illusion of this activity, one has initially no content. But the state in which one lives just as one gets to the point of developing the capacity of inner activity without initially also having a content, this state demands a strong inner struggle. And actually this struggle which one needs for this is the touchstone and test whether this spiritual investigation is an honest and true one. For at that moment when one just gets ready to live with empty consciousness, with normal waking consciousness without this waking consciousness having a content, at this moment an unspeakable pain, an unlimited privation, spreads itself over the whole soul life. All that one can otherwise experience as pain in the world is really insignificant compared with this spiritual soul pain which one experiences at this moment of cognition. And one has to overcome this pain. For it is this pain which is the expression of a force which has its physical counter image in all sorts of forms of deprivations: in hunger, which instructs us to eat, in thirst, which forces us to drink, and so on. Now we feel something in the soul which has to come toward us and we feel it as an unspeakable pain. But when we live for a while in this pain, when we feel our inner being itself as one filled with pain, that is, when we are for a while pain, when our own human being is for our consciousness for a while nothing else but a conglomerate of pain, then this consciousness no longer remains empty, then this consciousness fills itself, and it now fills itself not with sense content which we receive through eyes, ears, and so on, but it now fills itself with spiritual content. And we receive as the first thing which comes to us as spiritual content in this way our own spiritual being as a unified spiritual organization — but living in time, not in space — as it extends from birth or conception up to the present moment to which we have lived the earthly life. Just as we can look into a spatial perspective and see objects which are far away again in perspective, so we can learn to look from the present moment of our life into our own past. We don't see the bodily at that moment, we only remember it, but we have to remember it, otherwise we are destroyed in our consciousness. But he who wants to become an investigator of spirit may not become a person inclined to fantasy nor a confused mystic, he must use his consciousness and his good sense just as a mathematician would for a mathematical problem. But just as we normally see objects of space in perspective, so we now look into a time perspective.
Everything that we have experienced in our existence now stands before us in a time tableau, but in a living time tableau. But not only that which we ourselves have experienced now stands before us thus, but also that which shows us how we have come into being, how inner spiritual soul forces have built up our body from birth or conception, how the sculptural forces are which have worked on our body. We see ourselves outwardly. But that which we see there, through which our own soul life stands before our soul, that now also differs qualitatively from the experience of this time tableau.
When one looks back on one's life in the usual way, one experiences the happenings as they come toward one: one experiences for instance how a person has come toward one, how he has approached one, lovingly or with hatred, how he did this or that as he came toward one. One experiences oneself in this memory picture in the way the outer world has come toward one.
In this other memory picture, however, which now stands there in real pictures of which one knows that they reflect the own spiritual nature of the human being just as the usual memory pictures reflect the outer nature, in this other memory tableau is reflected to us how we have approached the outer world. There is shown how one was oneself when for instance one approached another personality. How in our soul forces unfolded which found their satisfaction, their delight, their happiness just through that personality. One really looks at oneself how one was as earthly human being. And then one sees how now in the reality both sides in which the dream was masked flow together.
Now the dream becomes a fully conscious reality. It even becomes more than the ordinary consciousness sees. One initially sees the spiritual entity which lives inside the body, which during sleep is independent of it, indeed which is the creator of the body. This one sees. And then one realizes, this spiritual entity also contains, but in a spiritual way, metamorphosed, something like the laws of nature but — you are already protesting against it — in a spiritual existence. Into that which one here experiences, the moral world is already entering. In this the moral laws are already present in such a way that one now knows: in the same way in which one's own spirituality works, the moral laws are working. There the moral laws begin to stand with equal validity next to the laws of nature.
But, with this, one only gets as far as the experience of man's own spiritual existence in earthly being. If one wants to go further, one has to develop still other capacities in the soul. — The particulars about this you can read up in the above-mentioned books, for this can only be achieved by the practicing of many details. Here only the principle shall be described. — Imagine that at a certain time of day you are remembering back to the morning when you got up, or woke up. If you try hard, the course of the day up to this moment can stand before your soul. Now if you don't place the course of the day in such a way before your soul that you start with the morning, then go on to the experiences of the forenoon and so on, but if you place the course of the day backwards before your soul, so that you start at the certain time and now trace it backwards, then you can also say that you get up to the night when you have slept. But there you then don't add anything, there something remains empty, and that which connects again with the backwards-imagined happenings is the last experience before going to sleep, and then you can again place the course of the previous day before your soul.
In short, when the human being remembers in this way in ordinary life, there always remain gaps between the conscious experiencing — the gaps which we lived through unconsciously during sleep. Now in order to go further with the exercises which can link up with this backward experiencing, it is necessary to develop a very strong sense of reality. Such a sense of reality is initially not very prevalent among present-day people. It is even something which is not all that easy to achieve, because in relation to remembering, people usually remain with that which in some way is closely connected with their personality. In their thoughts they do not connect the threads toward the outer world so strongly that these threads to the outer world connect with their memories. The human being usually has no inclination at all to live in the outer world, in reality in the outer world, with his memories. How much this is the case, of this one can convince oneself in daily life. I have known people who for instance have seen a lady in the morning who had interested them very much, and when one asks them: What color was the lady's dress? — they don't know it. Therefore it is as though they had not seen the lady at all, for if they had seen her, they would surely also have seen the color of her dress. How tenuously is one thus connected with the outer world, if in the afternoon one doesn't even know what color the dress of a person was whom one had seen in the morning! Indeed, I have even known people who had been in a room and who didn't know afterward whether there were pictures in the room or not.
One can have the most unbelievable experiences in this regard. Therefore he who wants to acquire a sense of reality must first train himself to live fully also in the outer sense reality, so that that which he passes by stands before him as it is out there in the real world. Truly, the investigator of spirit does not become a man of phantasy; he must acquire a sense of reality to the point that it cannot happen to him that he doesn't know in the afternoon what dress the lady was wearing to whom he was speaking in the morning. He must really be able to live with a sense of reality already in the sense world.
Only when one trains oneself to connect that which one remembers of things to the outer world of reality, then one develops the sense which can achieve a fruitful remembering back for such a spirit knowledge. Because for human beings' usual capacity of remembering, the memory picture before the last going to sleep can very easily be joined to that after the last awakening. Without any difficulty people simply leave out that which lies between these two pictures as a night-abyss, they tie the picture of the first happening after waking up directly onto the last happening before going to sleep. They usually don't even notice with a lively consciousness that something lies between the two. But if one wants to acquire such a consciousness that one connects that which one has experienced inside with the picture which is there from the outer world, then one must realize that that which one experiences in the morning after waking up is connected with the whole of nature which makes an impression on us, is connected with the rising Sun, with all the impressions one has through the rising Sun, and so on — and that which one has as the last happenings before the last going to sleep is connected with something which in nature doesn't belong together, namely with that which one experienced after the last awakening. There one will notice with the pictures that are standing next to each other: there is something missing! — But by practicing this, by awakening again capacities of soul that don't exist in ordinary life, one gains the strength that as one looks back to where one now has the first picture after the last awakening and wants to proceed to the last picture before the last going to sleep, one now does not see a stretch of darkness in between, but sees that this darkness is beginning to light up spiritually, that something places itself into this darkness.
Just as in the day-waking states one only follows that which one has experienced, so there suddenly comes something in between the first experience after the last awakening and the last experience before the last going to sleep of which one now says: you remember something — only something which you haven't known before. It is just the same as in normal remembering, except that one hadn't known anything before of that which now surfaces. Now one begins to remember that which one has previously missed by sleeping through it, even while sleeping through it in dreamless sleep. The empty time which one is conscious of between the last experience before going to sleep and the first after waking up, this is now filling up. And just as our ordinary consciousness is filled with the experiences of natural existence, so our consciousness is now filled with that which surfaces like a remembrance, but of a remembrance of which one now knows that one has experienced it in the unconscious.
Our consciousness is now filled with the soul content which hasn't taken part in the outer experiences but has withdrawn from the outer experiences, has gone asleep. Now one learns to recognize how the sleeping soul is in reality when it doesn't have the strength to bring its experiences which it has during sleep in the spiritual world to consciousness in such a way as man in day-waking life brings to consciousness the happenings of physical life. Now one really gets to know the inner being of man as spirit and soul, and at this moment one sees beyond the earthly life. And one will only now be able to connect that which one sees in the described way like a great but concrete memory tableau of one's earthly life up to this point, to that which one was as a soul-spiritual human being in a purely spiritual world before one descended into this physical world through birth or conception.
And in the same way another experience joins this one. If one develops another capacity together with all this during one's practicing, a capacity which normally is not seen as a capacity of knowledge but which is one too, if one develops that which is love of soul, full devotion, to that which meets one, so strongly that this love remains with one even when one now looks at one's own self, that one can love that which appears as something new in the soul with a truly devoted love — then the possibility develops to free oneself in the waking state in full consciousness in one's inner experiencing from the bodily. But at this moment when one has freed oneself from the bodily in one's inner experiencing, one knows how it is with the human being when he lives his life without his body. And, in a picture, the fact of the passing through the gate of death, of dying, stands before one's soul. If one has once realized what it means to experience oneself free of the body in one's spiritual forces, then one also knows what one is in the spiritual existence after one has left the body and has passed through the gate of death. And one also gets to know the environment which will then be there for man. One learns to know how together with the body when it has been laid aside that falls away which connects us to the sense world. But that remains which formerly has fashioned us as a human being, the soul-spiritual of man.
In this way one gets to know the experiences which one has had with other people. But that which was within these sense experiences, how soul has found soul, what happened in the relationships with other people, those that were closer to one and those who were more distant, that which happened in space and time — the eternal-spiritual one gets to know, how it rids itself of the earthly form of experiencing.
And more and more the soul now experiences that which was spiritually present within it as relationships to other people. And that which otherwise is only the object of belief, certainty of knowledge. This human beings experience when they themselves have passed through the gate of death. That which the human soul usually longs for as immortality, only enters real human knowledge in this way. But only by recognizing the truly eternal in man by exercising our forces to such an extent that we recognize this eternal in our existence in the pre-earthly, spiritual-soul existence, we also gain that for ourselves which gives us certainty about life after death. There is no longer a word for the pre-earthly as something eternal in the human soul in today's civilization because we only know the one half of eternity: we speak of immortality. Older languages had the other side, the not-yet-being-born, that is, our existence before we entered earthly life. But only both sides — not-yet-being-born and immortality — constitute eternity. And it is a fact that man has to pay for his longing for immortality, that it becomes a mere belief, if he wants to forgo knowledge of not-yet-being-born, because he will only understand eternity when he recognizes both sides of eternity, the not-yet-being-born as well as the immortality of his being in unity. With this, then, man has advanced to a real taking hold of that which he is, to a real self-knowledge.
I have to emphasize again and again on such occasions that such a spiritual investigation can indeed only be made by someone who has acquired the relevant capacities by exercising, or in another way through destiny, but when the results of such an investigation are made known, they can be as plausible to everyone as, for instance, the results of astronomy. And just as one doesn't have to be a painter in order to experience the beauty of a picture — for if that would be necessary, only the painters would be able to experience it — just as little does one necessarily have to be a spiritual investigator oneself in order to take up the knowledge of spiritual investigation, although one can become one up to a certain degree, because man wants truth and not confusion and error. Just as one can stand before a painting and admire its beauties with one's healthy judgment, so one can experience that which is presented by spiritual investigation, if one does not oneself put obstacles in one's way, such as prejudices and the like. One can understand it when one dedicates oneself to it with one's sense of truthfulness, and the accusation of those who say of the adherents of spiritual science that they only believe blindly is absolutely unjustified. Especially in the present time Anthroposophy will be able to give human souls — if by using their sense of truth or by investigation in the indicated way to come to a self-knowledge of the human being — that for which they pine, as I have said in the introduction to today's lecture. Even though this demand of the times does not yet come to consciousness in many people, even if it only shows itself undefined or even just in unfitness in life — it is there in that which expresses itself so clearly in the civilization of the present time. Natural science and many philosophical worldviews speak of insurmountable borders of knowledge. With this the border which leads to man himself is insurmountable. But man cannot in perpetuity do without true self-knowledge.
In tomorrow's lecture I shall continue where I have left off today and depict the ethical-religious life, how it is enriched and made more inward within the human being. With this I shall then tomorrow give the application to the immediate practical life. In today's lecture I wanted first to show how this demand of our time, which as a demand of heart and soul appears in ever more and more people in the present civilization with its boundaries to knowledge, can be met by a real spiritual knowledge, by a knowledge of that which man wants to know about his own immortality and that which is connected with it — nay must know, because only in this way a true self-knowledge can be achieved, and only with this true self-knowledge a getting hold of oneself and a feeling of self can be connected. Because only through this, man will be able to stand before his own soul with its eternal nature, that he acquires knowledge of how he as spiritual-soul being is woven into the spiritual-soul sphere of the world, just as he has his existence in the physical world a physical being. Only when he has acquired a knowledge of himself as spirit among spirits will he also be able to acquire true inner security. Only when the human being knows his worth and dignity in the world, he stands in the world with that consciousness of himself as man, which out of an undefined feeling he can acknowledge as the only right human consciousness. And only because human beings will seek again for such a light of self-knowledge and spiritual knowledge of the world, only through this, the hunger of the present time for a true penetrating of the own human nature will be able to be satisfied. For humanity will not be able to manage with all the demands of the progressing civilization unless it realizes: self-knowledge of man cannot be anything else but knowledge of spirit, for man can only feel himself as true man if he recognizes himself as spirit among spirits, just as he can feel himself in his transient earthly existence as physical being among physical beings.
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