Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Way of Anthroposophy: From Strength to Strength

Diagram 4

An extract from
Wonders of the World, Ordeals of the Soul, Revelations of the Spirit. Lecture 8 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 25, 1911:

... Let us call to mind the figure there described, the figure we know as Capesius. We know from both these two plays of mine the experiences which he has undergone. We have seen how little by little he draws near to the spiritual life, how to begin with the sound instinct, which has alienated him from the kind of scholarship he had hitherto pursued, gives him premonitions of it but no more. He begins to suspect that there is a higher reality behind the world of the mind. It is mainly because he gives rein to these premonitions, it is because he allows them full play, that he inevitably becomes impressed by the exoteric teachings of spiritual science. The communications of spiritual science differ fundamentally from those of other scientific or literary discourse. Whereas the other simply appeals to our intellect, and perhaps indirectly through our intellect to our feeling, a man is only allowing spiritual science, or occult science, to work upon him rightly if he is stirred to the inmost depths of his soul, if his soul is turned inside out, so to say, if it is completely changed by what flows therefrom, not as abstract content, but as life itself.
Something like that is what Capesius is depicted as feeling in the first scene of the second play, after he has wrestled with himself as a result of his premonitions, and then plunged deeply into the writings of Benedictus, into the ‘Book of Life’. And that not only causes him to ponder, to rack his brains to try to get at the meaning of what he reads, as he would do whatever he was reading, but he feels the spiritual world break in upon him in a way he does not understand. It has yet another effect upon him. It would be easy to compare the mood which prevails in the first scene of the second play with the mood at the opening of Goethe's Faust; it is however essentially different. The mood of Faust merely shows that, having arrived at a certain scepticism, a certain doubt, as to all knowledge, a man then has an inner urge to find other ways of obtaining knowledge than the usual ones. In Capesius's case something else happens. To begin with he is torn in two, because it makes him recognize doubt, persistence in ignorance, as man's greatest sin. He learns to acknowledge that something lies in the depths of the human soul of which the normal consciousness is quite unaware. A treasure slumbers in the deepest strata of our souls; we are harboring something in depths of soul which the normal consciousness is at first incapable of recognizing.
When we enter fully into the meaning and the true significance of spiritual science we realize that it is no mere selfish yearning, but deep-seated duty toward the macrocosmic forces not to allow the buried treasure in our souls to be wasted. We come to realize that deep down in every man there lies something which once upon a time the gods implanted in him out of their own body, their own substance. We come to feel: ‘The gods have sacrificed a piece of their own existence, they have as it were torn away a fragment of their own flesh, and have deposited it within human souls.’ We men can do one of two things with this treasure, this divine heritage. We can out of a certain indolence say: ‘What do I want with knowledge? The gods will soon direct me to my goal!’ But they do not do so, for they have buried this treasure within us in order that we may bring it to the light of day out of our own freedom. Thus we can let this treasure go to waste. That is one of the courses which the soul can take. The alternative is that, recognizing our highest duty toward the heavenly powers, we should say to ourselves: ‘We must raise up this treasure, we must lift it out of the hidden depths into our consciousness.’
What are we doing when we bring up this treasure out of the unconscious? We give it a different form from the one it had earlier in the body of the gods, but in a mysterious way we give it back again to the gods in the form which it has acquired through us. We are not cultivating in our knowledge any private concern of our own, we are not doing anything merely in the interests of our own egotism, we are simply carrying back into the higher worlds, in the changed form which it has acquired through us, the noble heritage which the gods have given us, so that they may share it with us. But if we neglect this treasure, if we allow it to deteriorate, then we are in a very real sense being egotistic, for then this treasure in our souls is irrevocably lost to the world-process. We are allowing our divine heritage to go to waste, if we are reluctant to recognize its presence in us.
The mood of Capesius springs from this. In the first scene of the second play he feels it his duty not to stick fast in doubt, not to persist in the feeling that one can know nothing; he feels that it would be a violation of his duty to the cosmic powers to allow the treasure in his soul to go to waste. Only he feels to begin with incapable of using the apparatus of his body to draw out these riches, and that is what causes the conflict in his soul. There is nothing of the Faustian attitude here. On the contrary, Capesius says to himself: ‘You must acknowledge that you cannot persist in your ignorance; you may not surrender to the feeling which overtakes you when you think how little strength our customary life has placed at our disposal for drawing out this treasure.’ 
Then there is only one resource left to us: confidence in our own soul. If the soul patiently develops what lies within it, little by little, then the strength which it feels as yet to be inadequate is bound to become ever greater, until it will at length really be able to fulfill its obligations toward the cosmic powers. This trust in the soul's powers of endurance and its fruitfulness must uphold us when, as often, because we only bring with us strength drawn from the past, we feel afraid, not knowing what to do; when it seems: ‘You must, and at this moment you cannot.’ All the soul's ordeals are like this. From this fear, this feeling of impotence, we at first shrink back, and it is only when we find the strength which arises from this confidence in ourselves, from this trust which grows in us gradually through our deepening in spiritual science, that we are able to pass safely through such trials.


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