We must willingly accept the necessity of transforming ordinary concepts into living forces if we wish to grasp the real nature, the central nerve, of supersensible knowledge. So is it, likewise, when we view the human being by means of what I described the last time as supersensible knowledge in Imagination. When we become aware that what lives in him is not only this physical body which we study in physiology, which we dissect in the medical laboratory and thereby develop the science of physiology, when we see that a supersensible being lives in him which is beheld in the manner I have described, we then come to know that this supersensible being is a sculptor that works upon the physical body itself. But it is necessary then to possess the capacity of going over from the ordinary abstract concepts which afford us only the laws of nature to an artistic conception of the human being. The system of laws under which we ordinarily conceive the human physical form must be changed into molded contents; science must pass over into art. The supersensible human being cannot be grasped by means of abstract science. We gain a knowledge of the supersensible being only by means of a perception which leads scientific knowledge wholly over into an artistic experience. It must not be said that science must remain something logical, experimental. Of course, such a demand can be set up; but what does the world care about what we set up as “demands”! If we wish to gain a grasp of the world, our process must be determined in accordance with the world, not in accordance with our demands or even with our logical thoughts; for the world might itself pass over from mere logical thoughts into that which is artistic. And it actually does this. For this reason, only he arrives at a true conception of life who — by means of “perceptive power of thought,” to use the expression so beautifully coined by Goethe — can guide that which confronts us in the form of logically conceived laws of nature into plastically molded laws of nature. We then ascend through art — in Schiller's expression “through the morning glow of the beautiful” — upwards into the land of knowledge, but also the land of reverent devotion, the land of the religious.
We then learn to know — permit me to say this in conclusion — what a state of things we really have with all the doubts that come over a human being when he says that knowledge can never bestow upon us religious and ethical impulses, but that these require special forces far removed from those of knowledge. I, likewise, shall never maintain, on the basis of supersensible knowledge, that any kind of knowledge as such can guide a human being into a moral and religious conduct of life. But that which really brings the human being into a moral and religious conduct of life does not belong in the realm of the senses: it can be investigated only in the realm of the supersensible. For this reason a true knowledge of human freedom can be gained only when we penetrate into the supersensible. So likewise do we gain real knowledge of the human conscience only when we advance to the sphere of the supersensible. For we arrive in this way at that spiritual element which does not compel the human being as he is compelled by natural laws, but permits him to work as a free being, and yet at the same time permeates him and streams through him with those impulses which are manifest in the conscience. Thus is manifested to man that which he vaguely senses as the divine element in the world, in his innocent faith as a naive human being imbued with religious piety.
It is certainly true that one does not stand in immediate need of knowledge such as I have described in order to be a religious and pious person; it is possible to be such a person in complete naiveté. But that is not the state of the case, as history proves. One who asserts that the religious and ethical life of man must come to flower out of a different root from that of knowledge does not realize on the basis of historical evolution that all religious movements of liberation — naturally, the religious aptitudes always exist in the human being — have had their source in the sphere of knowledge as supersensible sources of knowledge existed in the prehistorical epochs. There is no such thing as a content of morality or religion that has not grown out of the roots of knowledge. At the present time the roots of knowledge have given birth to scientific thinking — which is incapable, however, of reaching to the spirit. As regards the religious conduct of life, many people cling instead to traditions, believing that what exists in traditions is a revelation coming out of something like a “religious genius.” As a matter of fact, these are atavistic, inherited traditions. But they are at the present time so faded out that we need a new impulse of knowledge, not working abstractly, but constituting a force for knowledge, in order that what exists in knowledge may give to the human being the impulse to enter even into the conduct of practical life with ethical-religious motives in all their primal quality.
This we need. And if it is maintained on the one hand — assuredly, with a certain measure of justification — that the human being does not need knowledge as such in order to develop an ethical-religious conduct of life, yet it must be maintained, on the other hand, as history teaches in this respect also, that knowledge need not confuse the human being in his religious and his ethical thinking. It must be possible for him to gain the loftiest stages of knowledge, and with this knowledge — such, naturally, as it is possible for him to attain, for there will always remain very much beyond this — to arrive at the home in which he dwelt by the will of God and under the guidance of God before he had attained to knowledge. That which existed as a dim premonition, and which had its justification as premonition, must be found again even when our striving is toward the loftiest light of knowledge. It will be possible then for knowledge to be something whose influence does not work destructively upon the moral conduct of life; it may be the influence which kindles and permeates the whole moral-religious conduct of life. Through such knowledge, however, the human being will become aware of the profounder meaning of life — about which it is permissible, after all, to speak: he will become aware that, through the dispensation of the mysteries of the universe, of the whole cosmic guidance, he is a being willed by the Spirit, as he deeply senses; that he can develop further as a being willed by the Spirit; that, whereas external knowledge brings him only to what is indefinite, where he is led into doubt and where the unity which lived within him while he possessed only naive intimations is torn apart, he returns to what is God-given and permeated of spirit within himself if he awakens out of the ordinary knowledge to supersensible knowledge.
Only thus can that which is so greatly needed by our sorely tested time really be furthered — a new impulse in the ethical-religious conduct of life: in that, just as knowledge has advanced up to the present time from the knowledge of vague premonition and dream to the wakeful clarity of our times, we shall advance from this wakeful clarity to a higher form of waking, to a state of union with the supersensible world. Thus, likewise, will that impulse be bestowed upon the human being which he so imperatively requires especially for the renewal of his social existence at this time of bitter testing for humanity in all parts of the world — indeed, we may say, for all social thinking of the present time. As the very root of an ethical-religious conduct of life, understanding must awaken for the fact that the human being must pass from the ordinary knowledge to an artistic and supersensible awaking and enter into a religious-ethical conduct of life, into a true piety, free from all sentimentality, in which service to life becomes, so to speak, service to the spirit. He must enter there in that his knowledge strives for the light of the supersensible, so that this light of the supersensible causes him to awaken in a supersensible world wherein alone he may feel himself to be a free soul in relationship to the laws of nature, wherein alone he may dwell in a true piety and a genuine inwardness and true religiousness as a spirit man in the spirit world.
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