Saturday, September 30, 2023
[100 years ago today]
In the first of these lectures I endeavored to set forth how Michael's conflict with the Dragon persisted into the eighteenth century as a determining idea, really a determining impulse in mankind; and in the second lecture I tried to show how a productive revival of this impulse may and really must be brought about. But now, before discussing particulars for a Michael festival at the beginning of autumn, I should like today to speak about several prerequisites involved in such an intention. The core of the matter is this: all impulses such as the Michael impulse depend upon man's attaining to supersensible enlightenment concerning his connection not only with earthly but with cosmic conditions: he must learn to feel himself not only as an Earth citizen but as a citizen of the universe, as far as this is perceptible either spiritually or, in image, physically. Nowadays, of course, our general education offers only the most meager opportunities for sensing our connection with the cosmos. True, by means of their materialistically colored science men are aware of Earth conditions to the point of feeling connected with them, at least as regards their material life in the wider sense. But the knowledge of this connection certainly engenders no enthusiasm, hence all outer signs of such a connection have become very dim. Human feeling for the traditional festivals has grown dim and shadowy. While in former periods of human evolution festivals like Christmas or Easter exerted a far-reaching influence on the entire social life and its manifestations, they have become but a faint echo of what they once meant, expressing themselves in all sorts of customs that lack all deeper social significance.
Now, if we intend in some way to realize the Michael festival with its particularly far-reaching social significance, we must naturally first create a feeling for what it might signify; for by no means must it bear the character of our modern festivities, but should be brought forth from the depths of the human being. These depths we can only reach by once more penetrating and entering into our relationship with the extra-terrestrial cosmos and with what this yields for the cycle of the seasons.
To illustrate what I really mean by all that, I need only ask you to consider how abstract, how dreadfully out of touch with the human being, are all the feelings and conceptions of the extraterrestrial universe that today enter human consciousness. Think of what astronomy, astro-physics, and other related sciences accomplish today. They compute the paths of the planets — the positions of the fixed stars, if you like; and from the results of research in spectral analysis they arrive at conclusions concerning the material composition of these heavenly bodies. But what have all the results of such methods to do with the intimate inner soul life of man? This man, equipped with all such sky-wisdom, feels himself a hermit on what he thinks of as the planet Earth. And the present habits of thinking connected with these matters are at bottom only a system of very circumscribed concepts.
To get a better light on this, let us consider a condition of consciousness certainly present in ordinary life, though an inferior one: the condition of dream-pervaded sleep. In order to obtain points of contact for today's discussion I will tell you in a few words what relates to this condition. Dreaming may be associated with inner conditions of the human organism and transform these into pictures resembling symbols — the movements of the heart, for example, can be symbolized by flames, and so forth: we can determine concretely and in detail the connection between dream symbols and our inner organic states and processes. Or alternatively, outer events of our life may be symbolized, events that have remained in us as memories or the like. In any case it is misleading to take the conceptual content of a dream very seriously. This can be interesting, it has a sensational aspect, it is of great interest to many people; but for those who see deeper into the nature of man the dream content as it pertains to the conception proper is of extraordinarily little significance. The dramatic development of a dream, on the other hand, is of the greatest import. I will illustrate this:
Suppose a man dreams he is climbing a mountain. It is an excessively difficult climb and becomes ever more so the higher he goes. Finally he reaches a point where his strength fails him and conditions have become so unfavorable that he cannot proceed: he must come to a halt. Something like fear, something of disappointment enters his dream. Perhaps at this point he wakes up. — Now, something underlies this dream that should really not be sought in the pictures themselves as they appeal to the imagination, but rather in the emotional experiencing of an intention, in the increasingly formidable obstructions appearing in the path of this intention, and in the circumstance of encountering even more insuperable obstacles. If we think of all that as proceeding in an emotional-dramatic way, we discover a certain emotional content underlying the actual dream pictures as dramatic content. — This same emotional content could give rise to quite a different dream. The man might dream he is entering a cave. It gets darker and darker as he gropes along until he finally comes to a swamp. There he wades a bit farther, but finally arrives at a quagmire that stops further progress. This picture embraces the same emotional and sentient dramatic content as the other. And the dramatic content in question could be dreamt in still many other forms.
The pictorial content of a dream may vary continually; the essential factor is what underlies the dream in the way of movements, tension and relaxation, hope and disappointment. Nevertheless, the dream presents itself in pictures, and we must ask, How do these arise? They do so, for example, because at the moment of awaking something is experienced by the ego and astral body outside the physical and etheric bodies. The nature of such supersensible experiences is of course something that cannot possibly be expressed in pictures borrowed from the sense world; but as the ego and the astral body reunite with the physical and etheric bodies they have no choice but to use pictures from the available supply. In this way the peculiar dream drama is clothed in pictures.
Now we begin to take an interest in the content of these pictures. Their conformation is entirely different from that of other experiences. Why? Our dreams employ nothing but outer or inner experiences, but they give these a different contiguity. Why is this? It is because dreams are a protest against our mode of life in the physical sense-world during our waking hours. There we live wholly interwoven with the system of natural laws, and dreams break through this. Dreams will not stand for it, so they rip events out of their context and present them in another sequence. They protest against the system of natural laws — in fact, men should learn that every immersion into spirit is just such a protest.
In this connection, there are certain quaint people who keep trying to penetrate the spiritual world by means of the ordinary natural-scientific method. Extraordinarily interesting in this connection is Dr. Ludwig Staudenmaier's book on Experimental Magic. A man of that type starts with the assumption that everything which is to be comprehended should be comprehended according to the natural-scientific mode of thought. Now, Staudenmaier does not exactly occupy himself with dreams as such but with so-called mediumistic phenomena, which are really an extension of the dream world. In healthy human beings the dream remains an experience that does not pass over into the outer organization, whereas in the case of a medium everything that is ordinarily experienced by the ego, and the astral body, and that then takes shape in the pictures provided by the physical and etheric bodies, passes over into the experiences of the physical and etheric bodies. This is what gives rise to all the phenomena associated with mediumistic conditions. — Staudenmaier was quite right in refusing to be guided by what other mediums offered him, so he set about making himself into a sort of medium. He dreamt while writing, so to speak: he applied the pencil as he had seen mediums do it, and sure enough, it worked! But he was greatly astonished at what came to light: he was amazed at sequences he had never thought of. He wrote all sorts of things wholly foreign to the realm of his conscious life. What he had written was frequently so remote from his conscious life that he asked “Who is writing this?” And the answer came: “Spirits.” He had to write “spirits!” Imagine: the materialist, who of course recognizes no spirits, had to write down “spirits.” But he was convinced that whatever was writing through him was lying, so he asked next why the spirits lied to him so; and they said, “Well, we have to lie to you — that is our way.” Then he asked about all sorts of things that concerned himself, and once they went so far as to say “muttonhead.” [Kohlkopf — literally “cabbage-head.”] Now, we cannot assume his frame of mind to have been such as to make him label himself a muttonhead. But in any case, all sorts of things came to light that were summed up with the phrase “we have to lie to you;” so he reflected that since there are naturally no spirits, his subconscious mind must be speaking. But now the case becomes still more alarming: the subconscious calls the conscious mind a muttonhead, and it lies; hence this personality would have to confess, “In my subconscious mind I am an unqualified liar.”
But ultimately all this merely points to the fact that the world into which the medium plunges down registers a protest against the constraint of the laws of nature, exactly as does the world of dreams. Everything we can think, will, or feel in the physical sense-world is distorted the moment we enter this more or less subconscious world. Why? Well, dreams are the bridge leading to the spiritual world, and the spiritual world is wholly permeated by a set of laws that are not the laws of nature, but laws that bear an entirely different inner character. Dreams are the transition to this world. It is grave error to imagine that the spiritual world can be comprehended by means of natural laws; and dreams are the herald, as it were, warning us of the impossibility of merely extending the laws of nature when we penetrate into the spiritual world. The same methods can be carried over if we prepare ourselves to accomplish this; but in penetrating into the spiritual world we enter an entirely different system of laws.
The idea that the world can and should be comprehended only by means of the mental capacities developed in the course of the last three or four hundred years has today become an axiom. This has come about gradually. Today there are no longer such men as were still to be found in the first half of the nineteenth century, men for example of the type of Johannes Müller, Haeckel's teacher, who confessed that many a bit of research he was carrying on purely as a physiologist refused to be clarified as long as he thought about it in his ordinary waking condition, but that subsequently a dream had brought back to him the whole work of preparing the tissue when awake, all the steps he had taken, and thus many such riddles were solved in his dreams. And Johannes Müller was also one of those who were still fully convinced that in sleep a man dwells in this peculiar spiritual weaving, untouched by inexorable natural laws; where one can even penetrate into the system of physical nature laws, because underlying these there is again something spiritual, and because what is spiritual is fundamentally not subject to natural necessity but merely manifests this on the visible surface.
One really has to speak in paradoxes if thoughts that result quite naturally from spiritual research are to be carried to their logical conclusion. No one who thinks in line with modern natural science believes that a light shining at a given point in space will appear equally bright at a distance. The physicist computes the decrease in the strength of light by the square of the distance, and he calculates gravity in the same way. Regarding these physical entities, he knows that the validity of what is true on the Earth's surface diminishes as we pass out into the surrounding cosmos. But he refuses to apply this principle to his thinking. Yet in this respect thinking differs in no way from anything we can learn about Earth matters in the laboratories, in the operating rooms — from anything on Earth, right down to twice two is four. If gravity diminishes by the square of the distance, why should not the validity of the system of nature laws diminish in a similar ratio and eventually, beyond a certain distance, cease altogether?
That is where spiritual science penetrates. It points out that when the Nebula of Orion or the Canes Nebula is to be the subject of research, the same course is followed as though, with tellurian concepts, Venus, for example, were to be illuminated by the flame of a candle. When spiritual science reveals the truth by means of such analogies people think it is paradoxical. Nevertheless, in the state in which during sleep we penetrate into the spiritual world, greater possibilities are offered us for investigating the Nebula of Orion or the Canes Nebula than are provided by working in laboratories or in observatories. Research would yield much more if we dreamt about these matters instead of reflecting on them with our intellect. As soon as we enter the cosmos it is useless to apply the results of our earthly research. The nature of our present-day education is such that we are prone to apply to the whole cosmos what we consider true in our little Earth cell; but it is obvious that truth cannot come to light in this way.
If we proceed from considerations of this sort, a good deal of what confronted men in former things through a primitive, but penetrating, clairvoyant way of looking at things takes on greater value than it has for present-day mankind in general. We will not even pass by the knowledge that came into being in the pastoral life of primitive times, which is nowadays so superficially ignored; for those old shepherds dreamt many a solution to the mysteries of the stars better than can be computed today by our clever scientists with their observatories and spectroscopes. Strange as that may sound, it is true. By studying in a spiritual-scientific way what has been preserved from olden times we can find our way into this mysterious connection we have with the cosmos. Let me tell you here of what can be discovered if we seek through spiritual science the deeply religious and ethical, but also social, import of the old Druidic Mysteries on the one hand, and those of the Mithras Mysteries on the other; for this will give us points of contact with the way in which we should conceive the shaping of a Michael festival.
Regarding the Druid Mysteries, the lecture cycle I gave a few weeks ago in Penmaenmawr, [See: Rudolph Steiner, Evolution of the World and Humanity, Anthroposophic Press, New York (actually, Anthroposophic Publishing Company, London, 1926. Also in Evolution of Consciousness, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966. — e.Ed)] Wales — the spot in England that lies exactly behind the island of Anglesea — is of quite special significance because in that place many reminders of the old sacrificial sanctuaries and Mystery temples of the Druids are to be found lying about in fragments. Today these relics, these cromlechs and mounds, are not really very impressive. One climbs up to the mountaintops and finds stones arranged in such a way as to form a sort of chamber, with a larger stone on top; or one sees the cromlechs arranged in circles — originally there were always twelve. In the immediate vicinity of Penmaenmawr were to be found two such Sun-circles adjoining each other; and in this particular neighborhood, where even in the spiritual life of nature there is so much that has a different effect from that of nature elsewhere, what I have set forth in various anthroposophical lectures concerning the Druid Mysteries could be tested with the utmost clarity. There is indeed a quite special spiritual atmosphere in this region where — on the island of Anglesea — the Society of King Arthur had a settlement. I must describe it as follows:
In speaking of supersensible things we cannot form thoughts in the same way as we usually do in life or in science, where abstract thoughts are formed, conclusions drawn, and so forth. But to be reduced, in addition, even to speaking more or less abstractly — our language, which has become abstract, demands this — well, if we want to describe something in a spiritual-scientific way we cannot be as abstract as all that in the inner being of our soul: everything must be presented pictorially. We must have pictures, imaginations, before the mind's eye. And this means something different from having thoughts. Thoughts in the soul are extraordinarily patient, according to the degree of our inner indolence: we can hold them; but imaginations always lead a life of their own: we feel quite clearly that an imagination presents itself to us. It is different from writing or drawing, yet similar. We write or draw with our soul; but imaginations are not abstractly held fast like mere thoughts: we write them. In most parts of Europe where civilization has already taken on so abstract a character these imaginations flit past comparatively very quickly: depicting the supersensible always involves an inner effort. It is as though we wrote something that would then be immediately wiped away by some demonic power — gone again at once. The same is true of imaginations by means of which we bring the supersensible to consciousness and experience it in our soul.
Now, the spiritual atmosphere in the region of Wales that I mentioned has this peculiarity: while imaginations stamp themselves less readily into the astral element, they persist longer, being more deeply imprinted. That is what appears so conspicuous in that locality; and indeed, everything there points to a more spiritual way of retracing the path to what those old Druid priests really strove for — not during the decadence of the Druid cults, when they contained much that was rather distasteful and even nefarious, but in the time of their flowering.
Examining one of these cromlechs we find it to close off, in a primitive way, a certain space for a chamber that was covered for reasons having to do with the priest's purposes. When you observe sunlight you have first the physical sunlight. But this physical sunlight is wholly permeated by the spiritual activities of the Sun; and to speak of the physical sunlight merely as does the modern physicist would be exactly the same as talking about a man's muscles, bones, blood, and so on, omitting all reference to the soul and spirit holding sway within him. Light is by no means mere phos: it is phosphoros, light-bearing — is endowed with something active and psychic. But this psychic element of light is lost to man in the mere sense-world. — Now, when the Druid priest entered this burying place — like other old cult sanctuaries, the cromlechs were mostly erected over graves — he set up this arrangement which in a certain way was impervious to the physical Sun rays; but the spiritual activities of the Sun penetrated it, and the Druid priests were specially trained to perceive these. So he looked through these stones — they were always specially selected — into the chamber where the spiritual activity of the Sun penetrated, but from which the physical effect was excluded. His vision had been finely schooled, for what can be seen in a primitive darkroom of that sort varies according to the date, whether February, July, August, or December. In July it is lightly tinged with yellow; in December it radiates a faintly bluish shade from within. And one capable of observing this beholds — in the qualitative changes undergone in the course of the year by this shadow-phenomenon enclosed in such a darkroom — the whole cycle of the seasons in the psycho-spiritual activity of the Sun's radiance.
And further: these Sun circles are arranged in the number twelve, like the twelve signs of the zodiac; and on the mountain we had climbed we found a large Sun circle and nearby a smaller one. If one had ascended, perhaps in a balloon, and looked down upon these two Druid circles, ignoring the insignificant distance between them, the same ground plan would have presented itself — there is something profoundly moving about this — as that of the Goetheanum in Dornach which was destroyed by fire.
The old Druid priests had schooled themselves to read from what thus met their soul's eye how, at every time of day and at every season of the year as well, the Sun's shadow varied. They could trace these shadow formations and by means of them determine accurately: This is the time of March, this is the time of October. Through the perception this brought them they were conscious of cosmic events, but also of cosmic conditions having significance for life on this Earth. And now, think how people go about it today when they want to determine the influence of cosmic life on earthly life — even the peasants! They have a calendar telling what should be done on this or that day, and they do it, too, approximately; for the fundamental knowledge once available concerning these matters has vanished. But there were no calendars at the time of the old Druids, nor even writing: what the Druid priest was able to tell from his observations of the Sun constituted men's knowledge of the connection between the heavens and the Earth. And when the priest said: The position of the Sun now calls for the sowing of wheat, or, it is the time to lead the bull through the herd, it was done. The cult of that epoch was anything but an abstract prayer: it regulated life in its obvious, practical demands in accord with the enlightenment obtained by communicating with the spirit of the universe. The great language of the heavens was deciphered, and then applied to earthly things.
All this penetrated even the most intimate details of the social life. The priest indicated, according to his readings in the universe, what should be done on such and such a day of the year in order to achieve a favorable contact with the whole universe. That was a cult that actually made of the whole of life a sort of divine worship. By comparison, the most mystical mysticism of our time is a kind of abstraction, for it lets outer nature go its way, so to speak, without bothering about it: it lives and has its being in tradition and seeks inner exaltation, shutting itself off and concentrating within itself as far as possible in order to arrive at an abstract connection with some chimerical world of divine spirit. All this was very different in those olden times. Within the cult — and it was a cult that had a real, true connection with the universe — men united with what the gods were perpetually creating and bringing about in the world: and as Earth-men they carried out the will of the gods as read in the stellar script by means of the methods known to the Druid priests. But they had to know how to read the writing in the stars. — It is profoundly affecting to be able, at the very spot, to transport oneself back to conditions such as I have described as prevailing during the height of the Druid culture. Elsewhere in that region as well — even over as far as Norway — are to be found many such relics of the Druid culture.
Similarly, all through central Europe, in parts of Germany, in the Rhineland, even in western France, relics and reminders of the ancient Mithras Cult are to be found. Here again I will only indicate the most important features. The outer symbol of the Mithras Cult is always a bull ridden by a man thrusting a sword into the bull's neck; below, a scorpion biting the bull, or, a serpent; but whenever the representation is complete you will see this picture of bull and man surrounded by the firmament, and particularly the signs of the zodiac. Again we ask, What does this picture express? The answer will never be found by an external, antiquated science of history, because the latter has no means of establishing the interrelationships that can provide clues to the meaning of this man on the bull. In order to arrive at the solution one must know the nature of the training undergone by those who served the Mithras Cult. The whole ceremony could, of course, be run off in such a way as to be beautiful — or ugly, if you like — without anything intelligent transpiring. Only one who had passed through a certain training could make sense of it. That is why all the descriptions of the Mithras Mysteries are really twaddle, although the pictures give promise of yielding so much. The service of the Mithras Cult demanded in the neophyte a very fine and sensitive development of the capacity for receptive sentience. Everything depended upon the development of this faculty in him.
I said yesterday in the public lecture [See: Rudolph Steiner, Supersensible Knowledge (Anthroposophy) as a Demand of the Age; Anthroposophy and the Ethical-Religious Conduct of Life] that the human heart is really a subconscious sense organ: subconsciously the head perceives through the heart what goes on in the physical functions of the lower body and the chest. Just as we perceive outer events in the sense-world through the eye, so the human heart is in reality a sense organ in its relation to the functions mentioned. Subconsciously by means of the heart the head, and particularly the cerebellum, perceives the blood being nourished by the transformed foodstuffs, perceives the functioning of the kidneys, the liver, and other processes of the organism. The heart is the sense organ for perceiving all this in the upper portion of the human being.
Now, to raise this heart as a sense organ to a certain degree of consciousness was the object in the schooling of those who were to be engaged in the Mithras Cult. They had to develop a sensitive, conscious feeling for the processes in the liver, kidneys, spleen, etc., in the human organism. The upper man, the head-man, had to sense very delicately what went on in the chest-man and the limb-man. In older epochs that sort of schooling was not the mental training to which we are accustomed today, but a schooling of the whole human being, appealing in the main to the capacity for feeling. And just as we say, on the basis of outer optical perception: There are rain clouds, or The sky is blue, so the sufficiently matured disciple could say: Now the metabolism in my organism is of this nature, now it is of that. Actually, the processes within the human organism seem the same the year round only to the abstractionist. When science will once more have advanced to real truths concerning these things, men will be amazed to learn how they can establish, by means very different from the crude methods of our modern precision instruments, how the condition of our blood varies and the digestion functions differently in January from September, and in what way the heart as a sense organ is a marvelous barometer for the course of the seasons within the human limb-metabolic organism. The Mithras disciple was taught to perceive the course of the seasons within himself by means of his heart organization, his heart-science, which transmitted to him the passage of food transformed by digestion and taken into the blood. And what was there perceived really showed in man — in the motion of the inner man — the whole course of outer nature.
Oh, what does our abstract science amount to, no matter how accurately we describe plants and plant cells, animals and animal tissues, compared with what once was present instinctively by reason of man's ability to make his entire being into an organ of perception, to develop his capacity for feeling into an organ capable of gleaning knowledge! Man bears within him the animal nature, and truly he does so more intensively than is usually imagined; and what the ancient Mithras followers perceived by means of their heart-science could not be represented otherwise than by the bull. The forces working through the metabolic-limb man, and tamed only by the upper man, are indicated by all that figures as the scorpion and the serpent winding around the bull. And the human being proper, in all his frailty, is mounted above in his primitive might, thrusting the sword of Michael into the neck of the bull. But what it was that must thus be conquered, and how it manifests itself in the course of the seasons, was known only to those who had been schooled in these matters.
Here the symbol begins to take on significance. By means of ordinary human knowledge no amount of observation or picturesque presentation will make anything of it. It can only be understood if one knows something about the heart-science of the old Mithras pupils; for what they really studied when they looked at themselves through their heart was the spirit of the Sun's annual passage through the zodiac. In this way the human being experienced himself as a higher being, riding on his lower nature; and therefore it was fitting that the cosmos should be arranged in a circle around him; in this manner cosmic spirituality was experienced.
The more a renascent spiritual science makes it possible for us to examine what was brought to light by an ancient semi-conscious, dreamlike clairvoyance — but clairvoyance, nevertheless — the greater becomes our respect for it. A spirit of reverence for the ancient cultures pervades us when we see deeper into them and rediscover, for example, that the purpose of the Mithras cult was to enable the priest, by penetrating the secrets of the seasons' cycle, to tell the members of his community what should be done on each day of the year. The Mithras cult served to elicit from the heavens the knowledge of what should take place on Earth. How infinitely greater is the enthusiasm, the incentive, for what must be done on Earth if a man feels himself to be active in such a way that into his activity there flow the impulses deciphered from the great cosmic script he had read in the universe; that he made such knowledge his starting point and employed the resulting impulses in the ordinary affairs of daily life! However little this may accord with our modern concepts — naturally it does not — it was good and right according to the old ones. But in making this reservation we must clearly understand what it means to read in the universe what should be done in the lives of men on Earth, thereby knowing ourself to be one with the divine in us — as over against debating the needs of the social life in the vein of Adam Smith or Karl Marx. Only one who can visualize this contrast is able to see clearly into the nature of the new impulses demanded by the social life of our time.
This foundation alone can induce the right frame of mind for letting our cognition pass from the Earth out into cosmic space: instead of abstractly calculating and computing and using a spectroscope, which is the common method when looking up to Mercury, Venus, Saturn, and so on, we thereby employ the means comprised in imagination, inspiration, and intuition. In that way, even when only imagination enters in, the heavenly bodies become something very different from the picture they present to modern astronomy — a picture derived partly from sense observation, partly from deductions. The Moon, for example, appears to present-day astronomers as some sort of a superannuated heavenly body of mineral which, like a kind of mirror, reflects the sunlight that then, under certain conditions, falls on the Earth. They do not bother very much about any of the effects of this sunlight. For a time these observations were applied to the weather, but the excessively clever people of the nineteenth century naturally refused to believe in any relation between the various phases of the Moon and the weather. Yet those who, like Gustav Theodor Fechner, harbored something of a mystic tendency in their soul, did believe in it. I have repeatedly told the story in our circles about the great nineteenth-century botanists Schleiden and Gustav Theodor Fechner, both active at the same university. Schleiden naturally considered it a mere superstition that Fechner should keep careful statistics on the rainfall during the full moon and the new moon periods. What Fechner had to say about the Moon's influence on the weather amounted to pure superstition for Schleiden. But then the following episode occurred. The two professors had wives; and in those days it was still customary in Leipsig to collect rainwater for the laundry. Barrels were set up for this purpose; and Frau Professor Fechner and likewise Frau Professor Schleiden caught rainwater in such barrels, like everybody else. Now, the natural thing would have been for Frau Professor Schleiden to say: It is stupid to bother about what sort of an influence the Moon phases have on the rainfall. But although Herr Professor Schleiden considered it stupid to take the matter seriously, Frau Professor Schleiden got into a violent dispute with Frau Professor Fechner because both ladies wanted to set up their barrels in the same place at the same time. — the women knew all about rain from practical experience, though the men on their professorial platforms took quite a different standpoint in the matter.
The external aspects of the Moon are as I have described them; but especially after rising from imagination to inspiration are we confronted with its spiritual content. This content of the Moon is not just something to be understood in an abstract sense: it is a real Moon population; and looked at in a spiritual-scientific way the Moon presents itself as a sort of fortress in the cosmos. From the outside, not only the light-rays of the Sun but all the external effects of the universe are reflected by the Moon down to the Earth; but in the interior of the Moon there is a complete world that nowadays can be reached only by ascending, in a certain sense, to the spirit world. In older writings on the relation of the Moon to other cosmic beings you can find many a hint of this, and compare it with what can now be said by anthroposophy about the nature of the Moon.
We have often heard that in olden times men had not only that instinctive wisdom of which I have spoken: they had beings as teachers who never descended into physical bodies — higher beings who occupied etheric bodies only, and whose instruction was imparted to men not by speaking, as we speak today, but by transmitting the wisdom in an inner way, as though inoculating the etheric body with it. People knew of the existence of these higher beings, just as we know that some physical teacher is present; but they also knew that these beings surrounded them in a strictly spiritual state. Everything connected with that “primordial wisdom,” recognized even by the Catholic Church — the primordial wisdom that once was available, and of which even the Vedas and the sublime Vedanta philosophy are but faint reverberations — all this can be traced back to the teaching of these higher spiritual beings. That wisdom, which was never written down, was not thought out by man: it grew in him. We must not think of the influence exerted by those primordial teachers as any sort of demonstrating instruction. Just as today we learn to speak when we are children by imitating the older people, without any particular instruction — as indeed we develop a great deal as though through inner growth — so the primordial teachers exerted a mysterious influence on people of that ancient time, without any abstract instruction; with the result that at a certain age a man simply knew himself to be knowledgeable. Just as today a child gets his second teeth or reaches puberty at a certain age, so men of old became enlightened in the same way. — Doubtless many a modern college student would be delighted if this sort of thing still happened — if the light of wisdom simply flared up in him without his having to exert himself particularly!
What a very different wisdom that was from anything we have today! It was an organic force in man, related to growth, and other forces. It was simply wisdom of an entirely different nature, and what took place in connection with it I can best explain by a comparison. Suppose I pour some sort of liquid into a glass and then add salt. When the salt is dissolved it leaves the liquid cloudy. Then I add an ingredient that will precipitate the salt, leaving the liquid purer, clearer, while the sediment is denser. Very well: if I want to describe what permeated men during the period of primordial wisdom, I must say it is a mixture of what is spiritually wholly pure and of what is of a physical animalistic element. What nowadays we think, we imagine our abstract thoughts simply as functioning and holding sway without having any being in us: or again, breathing and the circulation seem like something by themselves, apart. But for primeval man in earlier earth epochs, that was all one: it was simply a case of his having to breathe and of his blood circulating in him; and it was in his circulation that he willed. — Then came the time when human thinking moved higher up toward the head and became purer, like the liquid in the glass, while the sediment, as we may call it, formed below.
This occurred when the primordial teachers withdrew more and more from the Earth, when this primal wisdom was no longer imparted in the old way. And whither did these primordial teachers withdraw? We find them again in the Moon fortress I spoke of. That is where they are and where they continue to have their being. And what remained on Earth was the sediment — meaning the present nature of the forces of propagation. These forces did not exist in their present form at the time when primordial wisdom held sway on Earth: they gradually became that way — a sort of sediment. I am not implying that they are anything reprehensible, merely that in this connection they are the sediment. And our present abstract wisdom is what corresponds up above to the solvent liquid. This shows us that the development of humanity has brought about on the one hand the more spiritual features in the abstract sense, and on the other, the coarser animalistic qualities as a sediment. — Reflections of this sort will gradually evoke a conception of the spiritual content of the Moon; but it must be remembered that this kind of science, which formerly was rather of a prophetic nature, was inherent in men's instinctive clairvoyance.
Just as we can speak about the Moon in this way — that is, about what I may call its population, its spiritual aspect — so we can adopt the same course in the case of Saturn. When by spiritual-scientific effort we learn to know Saturn — a little is disclosed through imagination, but far more through inspiration and intuition — we delve ever deeper into the universe, and we find that we are tracing the process of sense perception. We experience this physical process; we see something, and then feel the red of it. That is something very different from withdrawing from the physical body, according to the methods you will find described in my books, and then being able to observe the effects of an outer object on the human physical organism; to observe how the ether forces, rising from within, seize on the physico-chemical process that takes place, for example, in the eye during optical perception. In reality, the act of exposing ourself in the ordinary way to the world in perception, even in scientific observation, does not affect us very deeply. But when a man steps out of himself in this way and confronts himself in the etheric body and possibly in the astral as well, and then sees ex postfacto how such a sense-process of perception or cognition came about — even though his spiritual nature had left his physical sense-nature — then he indeed feels a mighty, intensive process taking place in his spirituality. What he then experiences is real ecstasy. The world becomes immense; and what he is accustomed to seeing only in his outer circle of vision, namely, the zodiac and its external display of constellations, becomes something that arises from within him. If someone were to object that what thus arises might be mere recollections, this would only prove that he does not know the event in question; for what arises there are truly not recollections but mighty imaginations transfused by intuitions: here we begin to behold from within what we had previously seen only from without. As human beings we become interwoven with all the mysteries of the zodiac; and if we seize the favorable moment there may flash before us, out of the inner universe, the secret of Saturn, for example, in its passage across the zodiac. Reading in the cosmos, you see, consists in finding the methods for reading out of the inwardly seen heavenly bodies as they pass through the zodiac. What the individual planet tells us provides the vowels of the world-script; and all that forms around the vowels when the planets pass the zodiacal constellations gives us the consonants, if I may use this comparison. By obtaining an inner view of what we ordinarily observe only from the outside we really learn to know the essence of what pertains to the planets.
That is the way to become acquainted with Saturn, for example, in its true inner being. We see its population, which is the guardian of our planetary system's memory; everything that has ever occurred in our planetary system since the beginning of time is preserved by the spirits of Saturn as in a mighty cosmic memory. So if anyone wants to study the great cosmic-historical course of our planetary system, surely he should not speculate about it, as did Kant and Laplace who concluded that once there was a primordial mist that condensed and got into a spiral motion from which the planets split off and circled around the Sun, which remained in the middle. I have spoken of this repeatedly and remarked how nice it is to perform this experiment for children: you have a drop of oil floating on some liquid; above the liquid you have a piece of cardboard through which you stick a pin, and you now rotate the drop of oil by twirling the pin, with the result that smaller drops of oil split off. Now, it may be a good thing in life to forget oneself; but in a case like this we should not forget what we ourselves are doing in the experiment, namely, setting the drop of oil in motion And by the same token, we should not forget the twirler in the Kant-Laplace theory: we would have to station him out in the universe and think of him as some great and mighty school teacher twirling the pin. Then the picture would have been true and honest; but modern science is simply not honest when dealing with such things.
I am describing to you how one really arrives at seeing what lives in the planets and in the heavenly bodies in general. By means of Saturn we must study the constitution of the planetary system in its cosmic-historical evolution. Only a science that is spiritual can offer the human soul anything that can seem like a cosmic experience. Nowadays we really think only of earthly experiences. Cosmic experience leads us out to participation in the cosmos; and only by co-experiencing the cosmos in this way will we once more achieve a spiritualized instinct for the meaning of the seasons with which our organic life as well as our social life is interwoven — an instinct for the very different relation in which the Earth stands to the cosmos while on its way from spring to summer, and again from summer through autumn into winter. We will learn to sense how differently life on Earth flows along in the burgeoning spring than when the autumn brings the death of nature; we will feel the contrast between the awakening life in nature during spring and its sleeping state in the fall. In this way man will again be able to conform with the course of nature, celebrating festivals that have social significance, in the same way that the forces of nature, through his physical organization, make him one with his breathing and circulation. If we consider what is inside our skin we find that we live there in our breathing and in our circulation. What we are there we are as physical men; in respect of what goes on in us we belong to cosmic life. Outwardly we live as closely interwoven with outer nature as we do inwardly with our breathing and circulation.
And what is man really in respect of his consciousness? Well, he is really an earthworm — and worse: an earthworm for whom it never rains! In certain localities where there is a great deal of rain, it is so pleasant to see the worms coming out of the ground — we must careful not to tread on them, as will everyone be who loves animals. And then we reflect: Those poor little chaps are down there underground all the time and only come out when it rains; but if it does not rain, they have to stay below. Now, the materialist of today is just such an earthworm — but one for whom it never rains; for if we continue with the simile, the rain would consist of the radiant shining into him of spiritual enlightenment, otherwise he would always be crawling about down there where there is no light. Today humanity must overcome this earthworm nature; it must emerge, must get into the light, into the spiritual light of day. And the call for a Michael festival is the call for the spiritual light of day.
That is what I wanted to point out to you before I can speak of the things that can inaugurate a Michael festival as a festival of especial significance — significant socially as well.
From the notes of a listener to an Esoteric Lesson given by Rudolf Steiner on March 5, 1911:
Two sayings are given to pupils in Rosicrucian schools to support them in their meditations: Beware of drowning in your esoteric striving. Beware of burning in the fire of your own ego.
There's an outer and an inner way to strive towards the spiritual.
Everything around us is like a veil, like a cover before the spiritual that we must punch through to get to the spiritual behind it. But in which direction? This cover surrounds us on all sides: above, below, front, back, right, and left. And inwardly, everything that we experience as joy, pain, etc., is like a veil, like fog that conceals the spiritual in us, and this spiritual is the same one that we find when we break through the outer cover.
So that mankind can evolve further and get into the spiritual there are always men from time to time who are more advanced than is permitted by the momentary stage of human development, and who have things to tell us about states of human evolution that reach far into the future. Such advanced beings must exist to lead men further. John, the writer of the Apocalypse, was such a man. When he wanted to write a revelation of the future, he told himself: If I write this book out of the whole surroundings in which I'm living here and now, it'll be influenced by the self that's in my body, since I'm connected with everything around and in me. I must free myself from all of this. He had to place himself on something like a rock that served him as a firm support, on which he didn't wobble and wasn't influenced by anything that surged around and in him. And he moved himself to the evening of September 30, 395 A.D., to the island of Patmos, as the Sun had already disappeared under the horizon, though its effect could still be felt, and as the Moon and stars appeared. The Virgin constellation was there in the western sky, irradiated by the last gleam of the Sun that had set, with the Moon under it. This picture is reproduced in one of the seals — the Virgin with the radiating Sun, and the Moon under her feet. Thus, all of these seals were produced out of deep mystical connections.
John broke through the cover that surrounds us in this one direction — that of Virgo. There are 12 of these signs. Seven of them are good — the ones reproduced in the seals; the other five are more or less dangerous. Just as John chose this particular point in time and space to become completely separated from himself and all temporal things around him, so a Rosicrucian pupil must acquire a firm foundation in himself. The best way to do this is to let theosophical teachings work on us. Our astral body and thereby our etheric body become expanded by listening to theosophical ideas. This is the effect on anyone who hears anything about theosophy. But the effect on those who are inclined toward theosophy is different than on those who aren't. The former feel the etheric body's expansion and fill it up with theosophical teachings, by accepting them. The other feel an emptiness in their etheric body through its expansion because they don't accept these ideas and so don't fill the expansion. Then doubt and skepticism arise through this emptiness. Whereas with the first men, it's like a pouring of oneself into the universe, which they can't let go too far, for they'll get a feeling of hollowness, of not feeling at home in these widths of space, like a fish that's taken out of water and can't live in air, because its organs haven't adapted themselves to this changed element. When a theosophist devotes himself to the teachings and his astral body expands evermore, he loses himself in this unfamiliar element. One must avoid drowning here. And this is possible if one studies theosophy seriously, takes it in, elaborates it, and grasps it with feeling, not just with thinking and will, but permeates it completely with feeling. One can only do this with great earnestness. One must gain a firm support within oneself — like John when he wanted to write the Apocalypse and he transported himself to the island of Patmos at sundown of Sept. 30, 395.
The configuration of the Sun, Virgo, and Moon on that evening can be checked astronomically, and this was done. From this materialistic science draws the conclusion: Therefore the Apocalypse was written at that time. And then we're told that science has ascertained this. That's the way science ascertains things.
On the inner path one finds all the joys and sorrows, pains and blissfulness that live in us. But all of this is attached to our lower, perishable ego. This whole desire-world surrounds us like a fog that covers the spiritual for us. It keeps us from seeing and noticing the spiritual. We must break through it to get to the spiritual. There are forces that approach an esoteric pupil to make this fog even denser. The fog gets even denser if we don't resist it. We must burn it to avoid burning in the fire of our passions. If we don't overcome this fog, if we don't resist its becoming ever denser through Luciferic and Ahrimanic forces, we're prisoners, as occultists say. There actually are men today who are born with great capacities and reach certain stages very quickly, but are then completely wrapped up in such a fog by the adversarial powers that they can't get out. One calls this occult imprisonment.
Our desire-world consists entirely of egoism. And we can only overcome this egoism in deep humility. Which thought can lead us to an overcoming of egoism? The thought that we already spoke about yesterday in the exoteric lecture, the thought that we killed Christ. We're murderers, yes, that's what we are. We can transform this fact, but only if we let Paul's words live and become truth in us, “Not I, but Christ in me.” We shouldn't kill the divine in us through egoism, through our life of desires, etc., we should let Christ live in us. We should begin to carry out this easy and yet so difficult thing in us with shivering earnestness.
We arose from the divine: Ex Deo nascimur. We should take all suffering upon us willingly and patiently with the thought that we killed Christ; we should devote ourselves to him completely and die in him: In Christo morimur. Then we'll be reborn, reawakened through the Holy Spirit: Per Spiritum Sanctum reviviscimus. This verse sounds different exoterically than esoterically, but the difference is in only one word that's left out in the esoteric version. As we leave this word out and don't speak this word in shy reverence for what this word expresses, our feeling goes out to what is left unspoken in shy reverence.
Ex Deo nascimur
In … morimur
Per Spiritum Sanctum reviviscimus.
This tells us that man arose from the spiritual; that he was originally contained in the spirit:
In the spirit lay the germ of my body.
And the spirit has imprinted in my body
The eyes of sense,
That through them I may see
The lights of bodies.
And the spirit has imprinted in my body
Reason and sensation
And feeling and will,
That through them I may perceive bodies
And act upon them.
In the spirit lay the germ of my body.
In my body lies the germ of the spirit.
And I will incorporate into my spirit
The supersensible eyes
That through them I may behold the light of spirits.
And I will imprint in my spirit
Wisdom and power and love,
So that through me the spirits may act
And I become a self-conscious organ
Of their deeds.
In my body lies the germ of the spirit.
Source: March 5, 1911. GA 266
Friday, September 29, 2023
Supersensible Knowledge. Lecture 2 of 2.Rudolf Steiner, Vienna, September 29, 1923
[100 years ago today]
On last Wednesday I had the opportunity to explain to you how a supersensible knowledge may come into existence out of the further development of those capacities of the human soul which belong to our everyday life, and which are recognized also in science when methodically applied. I undertook to show how a systematic further development of these capacities of the soul actually brings about for the human being a form of perception whereby he can become aware of a supersensible world, just as he becomes aware of the physical sensible world environing him by means of his physical senses. Through such vision we penetrate upward not only to an abstract sort of conviction that, in addition to the world of the senses, there exists also a world of the spirit, but to acquisition of real knowledge, to a real experience of spiritual beings, which constitute the environment of man himself to the extent that he lifts himself up into a condition of spirituality, just as plants and animals constitute his environment in the physical world.
Such a supersensible knowledge is something different in its entire nature from that which we designate as knowledge in ordinary life and for our everyday consciousness, as well as in ordinary science.
In this ordinary knowledge we come into possession, in a certain sense, of ideas — for example such ideas as embrace the laws of nature. But this possession of ideas does not really penetrate into the soul in such a way as to become an immediate power of the soul, comparable as a spiritual power to muscular force as this passes over into activity. Thoughts remain rather shadowy, and everyone knows through immediate experiences how indifferent, in a certain sense, is the reaction of the human heart to thoughts when we are dealing with matters which affect the human heart in the profoundest degree.
Now, I think I have shown already in the first lecture that when a human being actually penetrates into the spiritual world by means of such a perception as we have in mind here, he then becomes aware of his supersensible being as it was before it descended to earthly existence. And the fact that he achieves for himself something of this kind as regards his own self in its relationship to the spiritual world does not leave his heart, the needs of his profoundest sensibilities, unaffected to the same extent as in the case of abstract forms of knowledge. It is certainly true that one who has himself led a life devoted to the acquisition of knowledge does not undervalue all the inner drama of the soul associated with the struggle for knowledge even in the ordinarily recognized sense, yet the knowledge that we thus acquire remains, nevertheless, mere pictures of the external world. Indeed, if we are scientifically educated at the present time, we are generally proud of the fact that these pictures merely reflect, in a certain sense, quite objectively the external world and do not dart with such inner force through the life of the soul as, in the case of the physical body, the circulating blood drives its pulsing waves through man's being. The fact is that what is here meant by supersensible knowledge is something which acts upon the human being in a manner entirely unlike that of ordinary knowledge. And in order that I may make myself perfectly clear precisely in reference to this point, I should like to begin with a comparison — which is, however, something more than a comparison, something that fits the matter completely in its reality.
I should like to begin with the fact that the human being, even in ordinary life, lives in two states of consciousness — we might say three states, but let us consider sleeping and dreaming as constituting a single state of consciousness — that he is separated completely from the external world during sleep, and that a world existent only within him reveals its effects in dreams in a grotesque and often chaotic manner. Even though we are in the same space with many other persons, our dream world belongs to us alone; we do not share it with the other persons. And a profounder reflection upon the world of dreams is the very thing that may show us that what we have to consider as our own inner human nature is connected with this dream world. Even the corporeal nature of man is reflected in a remarkable way in dreams: it is mirrored in fantastic pictures. One condition or another affecting an organ, a condition of illness or of excitation, may emerge in a special symbol during a dream; or some noise occurring near us may appear in a dream in a very dramatic symbolism. The dream creates pictures out of our own inner nature and out of the external world. But all of this is intimately connected, in turn, with the whole course of our life upon Earth. From the most remote epochs of this life the dream draws the shadows of experiences into its chaotic but always dramatic course. And the more deeply we penetrate into all this, the more are we led to the conclusion that the innermost being of man is connected, even though in an instinctive and unconscious manner, with that which flows and weaves in dreams.
One who has the capacity, for example, for observing the moment of waking and, from this point on, fixing the eye of the mind upon the ordinary daily life, not in the superficial way in which this usually occurs, but in a deeper fashion, will come to see that this waking life of day is characterized by the fact that what we experience in a wholly isolated manner during sleep and during dreams, in a manner that we can share with other persons at most only in special instances — that this soul-spiritual element sinks down into our corporeal being, inserts itself in a way into the will, and thereby also into the forces of thought and the sense forces permeated by the will, and thus enters indirectly, through the body, into a relationship with the external world. Thus does the act of waking constitute a transition to an entirely different state of consciousness from that which we have in dreams. We are inserted into the external course of events through the fact that we participate, with our soul element, in the occurrences of our own organisms, which are connected, in turn, with external occurrences. Evidences of the fact that I am really describing the process in a wholly objective way can, naturally, not be obtained by the manner of abstract calculation, nor in an experimental way; but they are revealed to one who is able to observe in this field — particularly one who is able to observe how there is something like a “dreaming while awake,” a subconscious imagining, a living in pictures, which is always in process at the bottom of the dry, matter-of-fact life of the soul, of the intellect. The situation is such that, just as we may dive down from the surface of a stream of water into its profounder depths, so may we penetrate from our intellectual life into the deeper regions of the soul. There we enter into something which concerns us more intimately than the intellectual life, even though its connection with the external world is less exact. There we come also upon everything which stimulates the intellectual life to its independent, inventive power, which stimulates this life of the intellect when it passes over into artistic creation, which stimulates this intellectual life even — as I shall have to show later — when the human heart turns away from the ordinary reflections about the universe and surrenders itself to a reverent and religious veneration for the spiritual essence of the world.
In the act of waking in the ordinary life the situation is really such that, through the insertion of our soul being into the organs of our body, we enter into such a connection with the external world that we can entrust, not to the dream, but only to the waking life of day, responsibility for the judgment which is to be passed upon the nature of the dream, upon its rightness and wrongness, its truth and untruth. It would be psychopathic for anyone to suppose that, in the chaotic, though dramatic, processes of the dream something “higher” is to be seen than that which his waking experience defines as the significance of this life of dreams.
In this waking experience do we remain also — at about the same level of experience — when we devote ourselves to the intellectual life, to the ordinary life of science, to everyday knowledge. By means of that absorption, immersion, and I might say strengthening of the soul about which I spoke on the previous occasion, the human being exercises consciously at a higher level for the life of his soul something similar to what he exercises unconsciously through his bodily organization for the ordinary act of waking. And the immersion in a supersensible form of knowledge is a higher awaking. Just as we relate any sort of dream picture to our waking life of day, through the help of our memory and other forces of our soul, in order to connect this dream picture, let us say, with some bodily excitation or external experience, and thus to fit it into the course of reality, so do we arrive by means of such a supersensible cognition as I have described at the point where we may rightly fit what we have in our ordinary sensible environment, what we fix by means of observation and experiment, into a higher world, into a spiritual world in which we ourselves are made participants by means of those exercises of which I spoke, just as we have been made participants in the corporeal world in the ordinary waking by means of our own organism. Thus supersensible knowledge really constitutes the dawn of a new world, a real awaking to a new world, an awaking at a higher level. And this awaking compels him who has awaked to judge the whole sensible-physical world, in turn, from the point of view of this experience, just as he judges the dream life from the point of view of the waking life. What I do here during my earthly life, what appears to me by means of my physical knowledge, I then learn to relate to the processes through which I have passed as a spirit-soul being in a purely spiritual world before my descent into the earthly world, just as I connect the dream with the waking life. I learn to relate everything that exists in physical nature not “in general” to a fantastic world of spirit, but to a concrete spiritual world, to a spiritual world which is complete in its content, which becomes a visible environment of the human being by reason of the powers of knowledge I have described as Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition.
But just as a person feels himself in ordinary life to be in different states of soul when awake and when dreaming, so does the whole state of soul become different when one arrives at this higher awaking. For this reason, in describing supersensible knowledge in the manner that I have employed here, we do not describe merely the formal taking of pictures of the supersensible world, but the transition of a person from one state of consciousness into another, from one condition of soul into another. In this process, however, even those contents of the soul in which one is absorbed in ordinary life become something entirely different. Just as one becomes a different person in ordinary life through awaking, so does one become, in a certain sense, a different human being through this supersensible knowledge. The concepts and ideas that we have had in ordinary consciousness are transformed. There occurs not only a conceptual revolution in a person consisting in the fact that he understands more, but also a revolution in his life. This penetrates into the profoundest human conceptions. It is precisely in the profoundest human conceptions, I wish to say, in the very roots of the soul being, that a person is transformed through the fact that he is able to enter into the sphere of this supersensible knowledge — something which happens, of course, only for momentary periods in one's life.
Here I must call your attention to two conceptions that play the greatest imaginable role in everyday life. These are conceptions completely and profoundly valid in ordinary life which take on an utterly different form the moment one ascends into the supersensible world. These are the two concepts on the basis of which we form our judgments in the world: the concepts true and false, right and wrong. I beg you not to imagine that in this explanation I intend, through a frivolous handling of the problem of knowledge, to undermine the validity of the concepts true and false, right and wrong. To undermine something which is wholesome in ordinary life is by no means in keeping with a genuine supersensible knowledge. This higher knowledge enables us to acquire something in addition for ordinary life, but never subtracts from it. Those persons who — whether really or in sentimentality — become untrue in their ordinary lives, unpractically mystical for this aspect of life, are also unsuited for a genuine supersensible knowledge. A genuine supersensible knowledge is not born out of fantastic persons, dreamers, but out of those very persons who are able to take their place in their full humanity in earthly existence, as persons capable in real life. In other words, it is not our purpose to undermine what we experience in our everyday lives, and what is bound up in its very depths with the concepts true and false, right and wrong; on the contrary, truthfulness in this sphere, I should like to emphasize, is strengthened in one's feelings by that very thing which now comes about in connection with a higher knowledge by reason of a metamorphosis, a transformation, of the concepts true and false, right and wrong.
When we have really entered into this higher, supersensible world, we do not any longer say in such an abstract way that a thing is true or false, that it is right or wrong, but the concept of the true and the right passes over into a concept with which we are familiar in ordinary life, though in a more instinctive way; only, this concept belonging to the ordinary life is transmuted into a spiritual form. True and right pass over into the concept healthy; false and wrong pass over into the concept diseased. In other words, when we reflect about something in ordinary life — feel, sense, or will something — we say: “This is right, that is wrong.” But, when we are in the realm of supersensible knowledge, we do not arrive at this impression of right or wrong but we actually reach the impression that something is healthy, something else is diseased.
You will say that healthy and ill are concepts to which a certain indefiniteness is attached. But this is attached to them only in the ordinary life or the ordinary state of consciousness.
The indefiniteness ceases when the higher knowledge is sought for in so exact a manner as I have explained in the first lecture. Precision then enters also into what we experience in this realm of higher knowledge. Healthy and ill — these are the terms we apply to what we experience in association with the beings of the supersensible world of whom we become aware through such a form of knowledge.
Just think how deeply that which becomes an object of supersensible knowledge may affect us: it affects us as intimately as health and illness of the body. In regard to one thing that is experienced in the supersensible, we may say: “I enter livingly into it. It benefits and stimulates my life; it elevates my life. I become through it in a certain way more ‘real.’ It is healthful.” In regard to something else I say: “It paralyzes — indeed, it kills — my own life. Thereby do I recognize that it is something diseased.” And just as we help ourselves onward in the ordinary world through right and wrong, just as we place our own human nature in the moral and the social life, so do we place ourselves rightly in the supersensible world through healthy and ill. But we are thus fitted into this supersensible world with our whole being in a manner far more real than that in which we are fitted into the sense world. In the sense world we separate ourselves from things in this element of the right or the wrong. I mean to say that right does not benefit us very intensely and wrong does not cause us much distress — especially in the case of many persons. In the supersensible world it is by no means possible that experiences shall touch us in this way. There our whole existence, our whole reality, enters into the manner in which we experience this supersensible world. For this realm, therefore, all conflict of opinion ceases as to whether things are reality or mere phenomena; whether they manifest to us merely the effects produced upon our own sense organs, and the like — questions about which I do not wish to speak here because the time would not suffice. But everything about which people can argue in this way in relation to the physical reality — to carry on such discussion with reference to the spiritual world really has no significance whatever for the spiritual, supersensible world. For we test its reality or unreality through the fact that we can say: “One thing affects me wholesomely, another thing in an ill way — causing injury” — I mean to say, taking the word in its full meaning and weight. The moment a person ascends to the supersensible world, he observes at once that what was previously knowledge void of power becomes an inner power of the human soul itself. We permeate the soul with this supersensible knowledge as we permeate our bodies with blood. Thus we learn also in such knowledge the whole relationship of the soul and the spirit to the human body; we learn to see how the spirit-soul being of man descends out of a supersensible prenatal existence and unites with the inherited body. In order to see into this, it is necessary first to learn to know the spirit-soul element so truly that through this reality, as healthy or diseased, we experience the actuality in our own — I cannot say body here, but — in our own soul.
Supersensible knowledge, therefore — although we make such a statement reluctantly, because one seems at once to fall into sentimentality — is really not a mere understanding but an ensouling of the human being. It is soul itself, soul content, which enters into us when we penetrate to this supersensible knowledge. We become aware of our eternity, our immortality, by no means through the solution of a philosophical problem: we become aware of them through immediate experience, just as we become aware of external things in immediate experience through our senses.
What I have thus described is exposed, of course, to the objection: “To be sure, one may speak in this way, perhaps, who participates in such supersensible knowledge; but what shall anyone say to these things who is himself not as yet a participant in this supersensible knowledge?” Now, one of the most beautiful ways in which human beings can live together is that in which one person develops through contact with the other, when one goes through the process of becoming, in his soul nature, through the help of the other. This is precisely the way in which the human community is most wonderfully established. Thus we may say that just as it is not possible for all persons to become astronomers or botanists and yet the results of astronomy and botany may possess importance and significance for all persons — at least, their primary results — and can be taken in by means of the insight possessed by a sound human intellect, it is likewise possible that a sound human mind and heart can directly grasp and assimilate what is presented by a spiritual-scientist who is able to penetrate into the supersensible world. For the human being is born not for untruth, but for truth! And what the spiritual-scientist has to say will always be clothed, of course, in such words and combinations of words that it diverges, even in its formulation, from what we are accustomed to receive as pictures out of the sensible-physical world. Therefore, as the spiritual-scientist lays open what he has beheld, this may work in such a way upon the whole human being, upon the simple, wholesome human mind, that this wholesome human mind is awakened — so awakened that it actually discovers itself to be in that state of waking of which I have spoken today. I must repeat again and again therefore that, although I have certainly undertaken to explain in such books as Occult Science — an Outline, and Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, and in other volumes, how it is possible to arrive through systematic exercises at what I must designate as “looking into the spiritual world,” so that everyone possesses the possibility today, up to a certain degree, of becoming a spiritual-scientist, yet it is not necessary to do this. For a sound human constitution of soul is such that what the spiritual-scientist has to say can be received when it comes into contact with the human soul — provided only that the soul is sufficiently unprejudiced — as something long known. For this is precisely the peculiar characteristic of this spiritual research, this supersensible knowledge to which we are referring: that it brings nothing which is not subconsciously present already in every human being. Thus everyone can feel: “I already knew that; it is within me. If only I had not permitted myself to be rendered unreceptive through the authoritarian and other preconceptions of natural science, I should already have grasped, through one experience or another, some part of what this spiritual research is able to present as a connected whole.”
But the fact of such a thing as this transformation of the concepts true and false into the healthy and the diseased renders the inner experience of the soul more and more intense. At a higher level man places himself more intensely within a reality than he places himself in the physical reality through the ordinary waking of the daily life. In this way feelings, sentiments, experiences of the soul are generated in relationship to these items of knowledge, which are altogether exact, just as they are generated through our being confronted by external things. That which the supersensible knowledge can bestow lays hold upon the whole human being, whereas it is really only the head that is laid hold of by what the knowledge of the senses can bestow. I trust you will permit me to visualize this relationship of supersensible knowledge to the complete human being by referring to something personal, although the personal in this realm is also factual, for the facts are intensely bound up with the personal.
In order to render it clear that supersensible knowledge cannot really be a mere head-knowledge, but lays hold upon the human being in a vastly more living and intense way than head-knowledge, I should like to mention the following. Whoever is accustomed to a living participation in ordinary knowledge — as every true supersensible knower should really be — knows that the head participates in this ordinary knowledge. If he then ascends — especially if he has been active through his entire life in the ordinary knowledge — to supersensible knowledge, the situation becomes such that he must exert all his powers in order to keep firm hold upon this supersensible knowledge which comes upon him, which manifests itself to him. He observes that the power by means of which one holds fast to an idea about nature, to a law of nature, to the course of an experiment or of a clinical observation, is very slight in comparison with the inner force of soul which must be unfolded in order to hold fast to the perception of a supersensible being. And here I have always found it necessary not only, so to speak, to employ the head in order to hold firmly to these items of supersensible knowledge, but to support the force which the head can employ by means of other organs — for example, by means of the hand. If we sketch in a few strokes something that we have reached through supersensible research, if we fix it in brief characteristic sentences or even in mere words, then this thing — which we have brought into existence not merely by means of a force evoked through the nerve system applied in ordinary cognition, but have brought into existence by means of a force drawing upon a wide expanse of the organism as a support for our cognition — this thing becomes something which produces the result that we possess these items of supersensible knowledge not as something momentary, that they do not fall away from us like dreams, but that we are able to retain them. I may disclose to you, therefore, that I really find it necessary to work in general always in this way, and that I have thus produced wagon-loads of notebooks in my lifetime which I have never again looked into. For the necessary thing here lies in the activity; and the result of the activity is that one retains in spirit what has sought to manifest itself, not that one must read these notes again. Obviously, this writing or sketching is nothing automatic, mediumistic, but just as conscious as that which one employs in connection with scientific work or any other kind of work. And its only reason for existence lies in the fact that what presses upon us in the form of supersensible knowledge must be grasped with one's whole being. But the result of this is that it affects, in turn, the whole human being, grasps the whole person, is not limited to an impression upon the head, goes further to produce impressions upon the whole human life in heart and mind. What we experience otherwise while the earthly life passes by us, the joy we have experienced in connection with one thing or another — joy in all its inner living quality, the pain we have experienced in lesser or deeper measure, what we have experienced through the external world of the senses, through association with other persons, in connection with the falling and rising tides of life — all this appears again at a higher level, at a soul-spiritual level, when we ascend into those regions of the supersensible where we can no longer speak of the true and the false but must speak of the healthy and the diseased.
Especially when we have passed through all that I described the last time, especially that feeling of intense pain at a certain level on the way to the supersensible, do we then progress to a level of experience where we pass through this inner living dramatic crisis as supersensible experiences and items of knowledge confront us: where knowledge can bestow upon us joy and pleasure as these are possible otherwise only in the physical life; or where knowledge may cause the profoundest pain; where we have the whole life of the soul renewed, as it were, at a higher level with all the inner coloring, with all the inner nuances of color, with all the intimate inwardness of the life of the soul and the mind that one enjoys through being rooted together with the corporeal organization in everyday existence. And it is here that the higher knowledge, the supersensible experience, comes into contact with that which plays its role in the ordinary life as the moral existence of the human being; this moral existence of the human being with everything connected with it, with the religious sentiment, with the consciousness of freedom.
At the moment when we ascend to a direct experience of the health-giving or the disease-bringing spiritual life, we come into contact with the very roots of the moral life of man, the roots of the whole moral existence. We come into contact with these roots of the moral existence only when we have reached the perception that the physical life of the senses and that which flows out of the human being is really, from the point of view of a higher life, a kind of dream, related to this higher life as the dream is related to the ordinary life. And that which we sense out of the indefinite depths of our human nature as conscience, which enables us to conduct our ordinary life, which determines whether we are helpful or harmful for our fellow men, that which shines upward from the very bottom of our human nature, stimulating us morally or immorally, becomes luminous; it is linked up in a reality just as the dream is linked up in a reality when we wake. We learn to recognize the conscience as something existing in man as a dimly mirrored gleam of the sense and significance of the spiritual world — of that supersensible world to which we human beings belong, after all, in the depths of our nature. We now understand why it is necessary to take what the knowledge of the sense world can offer us as a point of departure and to proceed from this to a supersensible knowledge, when we are considering the moral order of the world, and desire to arrive at the reality of this moral world order.
This is what I endeavored to set forth thirty years ago as an ethical problem, merely as a moral world riddle, in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. Without taking into account supersensible knowledge, I sought by simply following out the moral impulses of the human being to establish the fact that the ethical arises in every instance not out of the kind of thinking which simply absorbs external things — external occurrences or the occurrences of one's own body — but out of that thinking life of the soul which lays hold upon the heart and the will and yet in its very foundation is, nonetheless, a thinking soul life, resting upon its own foundations, rooted in the spiritual nature of the world. I was compelled to seek at that time in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity for a life of the soul independent of the corporeal being of man, a life that seems, indeed, a shadowy unreality in comparison with the solid reality of the external world of the senses, but which is rooted in its true nature in the very spiritual foundations of the universe. And the fact that the ethical impulses proceed from this kind of thinking, purified from the external world of the senses but wholly alive within man, gives to the human being his ethical character. When we learn to see now through supersensible knowledge that what is rooted in us as our conscience is, in its essence, the mirroring within our inner being of the real spiritual world which weaves and breathes throughout the world of the senses, we then learn to recognize the moral nature of man as that which forever unites us without our knowing this, even when we sense it only as a still small voice within us, with that spiritual world which can be laid open to us through supersensible knowledge.
But let no one say that this supersensible knowledge is meaningless, therefore, for our moral life for the very reason that we have the voice of conscience, for the reason that we possess the practical intentions of life for its individual situations. Especially will one who sees that the ancient spiritual traditions, supersensible knowledge handed down from primeval times and continuing until now, have faded away and continue their existence today as pale religious creeds, will be able to see that man stands in need of a new stimulus in this very sphere. Indeed, many persons are the victims of a great delusion in this field. We can see that scientific knowledge, which is considered by many today as the only valid knowledge — that the form which this scientific knowledge has taken on, with its Ignorabimus, “We cannot know” — has caused many persons to doubt all knowledge, in that they say that moral impulses, religious intentions, cannot be gained out of any knowledge whatever, but that these ethical-religious impulses in the conduct of life must be developed out of special endowments belonging to man, independent of all knowledge. This has gone so far, indeed, that knowledge is declared not to possess any capacity for setting in motion in the human being such impulses as to enrich him in his moral-religious existence through the fact that he takes in his own spiritual being — for this is really what he does take in with supersensible knowledge. It has gone so far that people doubt this possibility! On the other hand, however, especially if one is not such a practical person as the so-called practical persons of our present-day life, who merely follow a routine, if one takes the whole world into account, on the contrary, as a genuinely practical person — the world consisting of body, soul, and spirit — one will certainly see that in the individual life situations for which we may be permeated in actual existence with moral-religious content, more is needed than the faded traditions, which cannot really any longer inspire the human being in a completely moral sense. One recognizes something of this sort.
Permit me to introduce here a special example.
Out of everything that fails to satisfy us in that which confronts us today also in the educational life, what concerned us when the Waldorf School was to be founded in Stuttgart on the initiative of Emil Molt was to answer the question how a human being ought really to be educated. In approaching this task, we addressed this question to the supersensible world of which I am here speaking. I will mention only briefly what sort of purposes had then to be made basic.
First of all, the question had to be raised: “How is a child educated so that he becomes a real human being, bearing his whole being within himself but also manifesting his whole being in the ethical-religious conduct of life?” A genuine knowledge of man in body, soul, and spirit was necessary for this. But such a knowledge of man in body, soul, and spirit is entirely impossible today on the basis of what is considered valid — most of all such a knowledge as may become actually practical so that it enables one to lay hold upon the manifold duties of life. In connection with this let me discuss the question by pointing out to you very briefly that what we so generally feel today to be a just ground for our pride — external science, dealing through observation and experimentation with material substance — is not qualified to penetrate into the secrets of the material itself. What I shall introduce here now will be stated very briefly, but you can find it set forth with all necessary proofs in my writings, especially in the volume Riddles of the Soul. When we pay attention nowadays to ordinary science, we receive the conception, for example, that the human heart is a kind of pump, which drives the blood through the organs like a pumping machine. Spirit-science, such as we have in mind, which introduces us to a view of what constitutes not only the physical body of the human being but his spirit-soul nature, shows us how this spirit-soul nature permeates the corporeal nature, how the blood is driven through the human being not as if by the action of the “heart pumping machine,” but through the direct action of the spirit-soul nature itself; how this spirit-soul nature so lays hold upon the circulation of the blood that it is this spirit-soul element which constitutes the force that causes the blood to pulse through our organism. But the heart is then looked upon as something like a sense organ. As I consciously perceive the external world with my eyes, and through my concepts make this something of my own, thus do I likewise perceive through this inner sense organ of the heart — again, in an unconscious way — that which I develop unconsciously through my spirit-soul forces as the pulsation in my blood. The heart is no pump; the heart is the inner sense organ through which we perceive what the spirit-soul nature develops inwardly in connection with our blood, just as we perceive through the external senses the external world. The moment that we pass over from an intellectual analysis of the human organism to a vision of the whole human being, the heart reveals itself in its true essence, in its true significance — as an inner sense organ. In the heart the effects of the circulation of human blood, with its life impulses, are manifest; the heart is not the instrument causing this pulsation.
This is an example of the tragic fact that the very science bearing a materialistic coloring is not able to penetrate into the secrets of the material life; an example of the fact that we do not penetrate into the secrets of the material life until we do this by observing the spirit in its true work, in its creative work upon matter.
When we become aware through such supersensible knowledge, on the one hand, of the creative spirit in the very course of material occurrences, we become aware on the other hand of the power-filled spirit — not merely of the abstractly thinking spirit — of the real spirit in its essence. Then only does there result a genuine knowledge of man, such a knowledge as is needed if we wish to develop in the growing child that which can live and breathe in the human being until death, full of power, suited to life, corresponding with reality. Such an intensive vitalizing of the knowledge of man causes the educator to see the child as something fundamentally different from what he is to the merely external observer. In a fundamental sense, from the very first moment of earthly life, the growing child is the most wonderful earthly phenomenon. The emergence out of the profoundest inner nature, at first mysteriously indeterminate, of something that renders the indeterminate features more and more determinate, changing the countenance, at first so expressionless, into an expressive physiognomy, the manner in which the vague, unskillful movements of the limbs come to correspond to purpose and objective — all this is something wonderful to behold. And a great sense of responsibility is necessary in bringing this to development. If we stand in the presence of the developing human being in such a way that we say, with all the inner fervor associated with supersensible knowledge: “In this child there is manifest that which lived as spirit and soul in pre-earthly existence in supersensible beauty, that which has left behind, in a certain sense, its supersensible beauty, has submerged itself in the particular body that could be given to it in the course of physical heredity; but you, as a teacher, must release that which rests in the human body as a gift of the gods, in order that it may lay hold year by year, month by month, week by week upon the physical body, may permeate this, may be able to mold it plastically into a likeness of the soul; you have to awaken still further in the human being that which is manifest in him” — if we stand thus before the child, we then confront the task of educating the child not with intellectual principles, but with our whole human nature, with the fullness of our human heart and mind, with a comprehensive sense of human responsibility in confronting the problem of education. We then gradually come to know that we do not have to observe only the child if we wish to know what we must do with him at any particular time, but that we must survey the whole human being. This observation is not convenient. But it is true that what is manifest in a person under certain circumstances in the period of tenderest childhood, let us say, first becomes manifest in a special form as either health-giving or disease-bringing only in high old age after it has long remained hidden in the inner being. As educators, we hold in our hands not only the immediate age of childhood but the whole earthly life of the human being. Persons who frequently say from a superficial pedagogical point of view that we must present to the child only what it can already understand make a very serious mistake. Such persons live in the moment, and not in the observation of the whole human life. For there is a period of childhood, from the change of teeth until adolescence, when it is exceedingly beneficial to a child to receive something that it does not yet understand, something that cannot yet be made clear to it, on the authority of a beloved teacher — to the greatest blessing for this human life, because, when the child sees in the self-evident authority of a teacher and educator the embodiment of truth, beauty, and goodness, in a certain sense, when it sees the world embodied in the teacher, the effect of this is the awaking of the forces of life. This is not something which contradicts human freedom; it is something which appeals to self-evident authority, which in its further development becomes a fountainhead of strength for the whole life. If, at the age of 35 years, we bring something into our heart and mind which is suited by its nature only now to be understood by us as mature persons, but which we took into our hearts upon the authority of a beloved teacher personality even in our eighth year — if we bring that up into consciousness which we have already possessed, which lived in us because of love and now for the first time at a mature age is understood by us, this understanding of what was present in us in germ is the fountain for an inner enrichment of life. This inner enrichment of life is taken away from the human being when, in a manner reducing things to trivialities, only that is introduced to the child which it can already understand. We view the mode of a child's experience in the right way only when we are able to enter into the whole human being and, most of all, into that which enters as yet primarily into the human heart.
For example, we become acquainted with persons who radiate a blessing when they enter the company of other persons. Their influence is quieting, bestowing peace even upon excited persons whose tempers clash with one another. When we are really able to look back — as I said, this is not convenient — and see how such persons, apart from their innate qualities, have developed such a quality also through education, we often go back into a very tender age of the life where certain teacher personalities have stood very close to these children in their inner heart life, so that they learned to look up with reverence to these personalities. This looking up, this capacity for reverence, is like a mountain brook which flows into a crevice in the rock and only later appears again on the surface. What the soul acquired then in childhood exerts its influence below in its depths, manifesting itself only in high old age, when it becomes a power that radiates blessing.
What I have just introduced to you might be indicated in a picture if we say that, in relationship to the universe as well, the human being may be so educated that he may transmute into forces of blessing in high old age the forces of reverence of his tender childhood. Permit me to indicate in a picture what I mean. No one will be able to open his hands in blessing in old age who has not learned in tender childhood to fold his hands in reverent prayer.
This may indicate to us that in such a special case a life task, education, may lead to an ethical-religious attitude of mind; may indicate how that which our hearts and minds, and our wills, become as a result of entering livingly into spirit-knowledge may enter with vital reality into our conduct of life, so that what we develop otherwise, perhaps, only in an external and technical way shall become a component part of our moral-religious conduct of life. The fact, however, that instruction and education in the Stuttgart Waldorf School, and in the other schools which have arisen as its offshoots, have been brought into such an atmosphere does not by any means result in a lack of attention to the factual, the purely pedagogical; on the contrary, these are given full consideration. But the task of education has really become something here which, together with all its technique of teaching, its practice of instruction and everything methodical, at the same time radiates an ethical-religious atmosphere over the child. Educational acts become ethical-religious acts, because what is done springs from the profoundest moral impulses. Since the practice of teaching flows from a teacher-conscience, since the God-given soul nature is seen in the developing human being, educational action becomes religious in its nature. And this does not necessarily have any sentimental meaning but the meaning may be precisely what is especially necessary for our life, which has become so prosaic: that life may become in a wholly unsentimental sense a form of divine service to the world, as in the single example we have given of education, by reason of the fact that spiritual science becomes a light illuminating the actions of our life, the whole conduct of life. Since supersensible knowledge leads us not to abstractions but to human powers, when these forms of knowledge gained through supersensible cognition simply become immediate forces of life they can flow over into our whole conduct of life, permeating this with that which lifts the human being above his own level — out of the sensible into the supersensible — elevating him to the level of a moral being. They may bring him to the stage where he becomes in consecrated love one with the Spirit of the World, thus arriving at truly religious piety.
Indeed, this is especially manifest also in education. If we observe the child up to his seventh year, we see that he is wholly given over, in a physical sense, to his environment. He is an imitator, an imitative being even in his speech. And when we observe this physical devotion, when we observe what constitutes a natural environment of the child, and remains such a natural environment because the soul is not yet awake, then we feel inclined to say that what confronts us in a natural way in the child is the natural form of the state of religious consecration to the world. The reason why the child learns so much is that it is consecrated to the world in a natural-religious way. Then the human being separates himself from the world; and, from the seventh year on, it is his educational environment which gives a different, dimly sensed guidance to his soul. At the period of adolescence he arrives at the stage of independent judgment; then does he become a being who determines his own direction and goal from within himself. Blessed is he if now, when freed from his sensuous organism, he can follow the guidance of thought, of the spirit, and grow into the spiritual just as he lived in a natural way while a child in the world — if he can return as an adult in relationship to the spirit to the naturalness of the child's feeling for the world! If our spirit can live in the spirit of the world at the period of adolescence as the body of a child lives in the world of nature, then do we enter into the spirit of the world in true religious devotion to the innermost depths of our human nature: we become religious human beings.
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.